A Mission Statement of a Sort

So, you may have noticed that I’m kind of an asshole. It’s okay–I certainly can be. Sean Johnson once said I was the nicest asshole he knew. I like that description. It fits. This blog is my attempt to be other things while I’m also a nice asshole.

I don’t blame my parents for how I turned out. I blame my friends. My dad never spoke negatively about anything. He was a mellow guy, and hyperbole didn’t occur to him. My mom was pretty conservative in her expression, too. She was constantly gasping and rolling her eyes at me. “Oh, Jason!” Then she’d smile a little, because even though she was shocked, she was also amused.

But with my friends, nothing was off limits. Mike, Rich, Jer, and I were fueled by repeated viewings of George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, and Monty Python. We were master practitioners of the quick barb and the absurd turn of thought. This prepared me well for the navy, an environment of congenial brutality. I survived by being verbally vicious with a smile on my face, and by being willing to push further than anyone else. When I was the FNG, the older guys were startled that when they gave me shit I gave them even more in return, and I was remorseless. Steve Hurley started calling me “Bastard Jason” because he couldn’t keep up. When I was in grad school, my name became a verb. To “benesh” a joke was to go too far. Just . . . not cool, man. Damn.

I think a lifetime of generalized anxiety disorder is the biggest contributing factor to my rhetorical style. I don’t do earnestness. Just about everything I say is a deflection or a subversion. In high school I was told after the fact that one of the girls in our social circle kind of liked me but wondered if I ever took anything seriously. Her instincts were good. I didn’t. I still don’t.

When I was a kid I associated myself with Loki, the Norse trickster god. Not because I read about him and said, “I want to be like that!” It was because I read about him and said, “Wow. That’s me!” Later, when I was studying philosophy, I aligned myself with the Cynics for the same reason. The sarcasm, the mockery, the rejection of cultural norms–it was all me.

Because of my Cynical expression, the targets of my ire can be hard to determine, but just about everything I say or write is pushback against sentimentalism. Against Kunderan kitsch. I appear to be an asshole because I’m constantly railing against emotional manipulation, which is the engine that drives American culture. Advertising, media, and politics are all suffused with it. Donald Trump is playing you for suckers. He doesn’t care about being president–he just wants the attention. And he’ll do as terrible a job as president as you can imagine. Hillary Clinton is also playing you for suckers. In her favor, though, is that along with that, she’s also a legitimate public servant with actual policy positions and reasonable political motivations. Even my guy Bernie is full of it. How many times has he invoked the children, or the troops, or the veterans to mobilize people. They treat these words like magic incantations, and people just suck it up. Yes! The children! The children!

Kitsch. Shit.

I have serious issues with the hyper-emotional mode of our social discourse, so I push back. I lash out. I crack wise. I step very intentionally across lines. Let’s face it, the people in my life who choose to remain are patient people. Some might call them indulgent. At times, I am a challenging person to defend to others. That’s not something that is liable to change, but that can’t be the totality of my contribution to cultural discourse, so here is this blog. In addition to my random crazy, I hope to use this space to trace out in detail many of the things that make me so furious. Mostly it’s for myself, but I’m doing it in a public space because I like to discuss and argue and banter. Plus, I know a lot of cool and insightful people who see the world very differently than I do, and I like getting their input. My usual snarky one-liners aren’t a very good invitation for conversation.

So let’s talk.

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