Sunday, September 22

Red Flags and Spider Bikes

I was the last of four children in my family.  There’s plenty of old black and white photographs of my older sisters, and even a few of my brother, but by the time I came along, my parents had pretty much “been there, done that” with the kids' pictures thing.  My family was too cheap to buy anything like a home movie camera, and consumer video cameras had not been invented yet, so there’s almost no record of my childhood existence.  All I have is my memories.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I consider myself lucky, because I realized what I just wrote in the preceding paragraph, when I was still quite young. That encouraged me to commit as much of my life experience as I could to memory.  I remember thinking to myself, “Now remember this, you’ll appreciate that you did someday.”  I remember how I was feeling at particular times, 30, even 40 years ago and more.

I remember how I viewed the world when I was young.  I lacked the knowledge and experience that I have now, but I also wasn’t the least bit jaded, bitter, or disappointed.  My evaluation of most things was based more upon whatever instincts I had at the time than anything else.  I did a lot of thinking when I was young, probably much more than most other kids.  I’d often ride my bike or walk my dog to some secluded place with a good view, to ponder whatever issues I may have been interested in at the time.  

By the way, this is my idea of what a bike should look like...

...and this is my idea of how they should be used and who should be using them.  Kids on an empty neighborhood street...

This wasn’t me, but it just as well could have been.  I kicked ass.

...not adults impeding traffic on a highway.  Here’s what should happen to them:

Every motorist's fantasy. Luckily for the grown men playing with children's toys on a public highway, they were all wearing their faggy little helmets, so none of them got hurt.

I don’t know if this was a brand name or anything, but our local generic term for a Schwinn Stingray or any other type of banana seat, high handlebar bike was spider bike, and they were the only bikes that were cool except for the homemade chopper.  That was the ultimate.

Now that’s what I’m talking about!

I kind of got off the subject here.  Let me go back up a few paragraphs, so I can recall what I was writing about...

...oh yeah, it was about what a good memory I have!  (Note to self: look up definition of irony)

Anyway, way back when - when I only had my instincts to guide me, I remember how red flags would automatically come up in my mind. That was whenever I felt that I was being force-fed opinions.  I don’t think that I was taught to be suspicious of such a thing, it’s just the way I have always been.

I would think to myself, “If what I’m being told is such an undeniable, universal truth, then wouldn’t I already have that opinion?  Why is whoever that is forcing their opinion upon me, so adamant that I accept it and believe them?”  

If I was already in agreement the propaganda that I was being fed, I would automatically reevaluate my position, even look for excuses to adopt the other point of view.

There were three things in particular that I remember questioning only because I had been told so often that I should think certain way about them.

  1. Senator Joe McCarthy was the greatest evil our country had ever seen. 

     I didn’t even know who Joe McCarthy was until I was instructed to hate him.  However my instincts told me a few things:

     -Communism is bad, because our enemies, the U.S.S.R. and China are communist nations. 

    -Joe McCarthy was an anti-communist, so how bad could he be?

    - I was being told to believe such a thing by a liberal. 

     Now I didn’t even know what a liberal was back then, but I my spider sense could pick up on one.  They were the people who were always trying to influence what I thought about things.  It turns out that my instincts may have been correct.
  2. Nixon was the greatest evil since McCarthy, and Watergate was the greatest injustice our country has, or ever will experience.  

    I thought at the time that Watergate was nothing more than some way to railroad Nixon out of office, and with hindsight, it’s looking more and more like that was the case.  We’ve seen plenty or greater injustices that have caused much more harm since then, and the ones who have been responsible for them, haven’t paid any price at all.

  3. I am racist and I should feel guilty about it.  

    The TV told me this - the TV!  Back in the early 70’s, they started those bullshit “public service” announcements during Saturday morning cartoons.  Up until then, I had nothing but pity for those less fortunate than myself.  I never even considered that the situations they were in, might have been their own fault, until I started hearing some voice from the TV implying that somehow, my family, my culture, and I were to blame.  We know who’s guilty here, and the white folks who share the blame are the ones who promoted replacing personal responsibility with government handouts. The same group behind the “You may not even know it, but you’re a racist” PSA’s.

Looking back, I can see that even if I was just a dumb kid, my instincts were correct. You should trust yours.

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