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Voyages of a Flying Dutchman

Reflections on our times from my vantage point in Maine. The Flying Dutchman: A ghostly galleon doomed to sail the seven seas against the wind for eternity…

Bitchin' Rights

Greetings to friends unknown:  This piece is about placing our petty complaints into proper perspective.  With a little humility and sensitivity we might all make the world a more pleasant place to live.  All we need to do is simply relinquish our bitchin' rights.  I hope you enjoy the reading.    ...RVT

 

Bitchin’ Rights

Roy Van Til

Vienna, Maine

July 2011

Welcome to a nation plagued by non-stop bitchin'.  Indeed, the whiners rarely pause for breath.  The self-pitying drone of gripers provides a background rumble of moaning that fills the public spaces, chokes the phone lines, suffocates the restaurants, and overflows the offices and supermarkets.  Tales of woe are recounted by the sad sacks of America in excruciating detail, complete with grandiose gesturing, dramatically overwrought vocal calisthenics, and heavy-handed hyperbole.  So they feel compelled to unleash a stream of self-righteous indignation at an endless list of life’s imperfections:

The regional jet they were stuck for two hours on the tarmac in Philly when those idiots ran out of pretzels.

The three weeks of damp and dreary easterlies in May that rotted out the seedlings in the raised beds and inconvenienced the photographer at their niece’s wedding.

The soaring price of fueling up the three-ton SUV in the driveway of their fortress.

The falling value of their McMansion that has more rooms than a game of Clue, with only two token residents to ever tread by mistake into the conservatory to find a candlestick from Pier One.

The ignorant, angry, partisan political bleating that never rests between elections.

The incessant complaints about brutally high taxes by those who have milked the bloody max out of every government program in existence.

And this is merely a partial list.  We have all heard them.  And we have all at one time or another joined in the chorus of embittered caterwauling about how tough things are.  But this caricature of the universal griping lacks the sardonic wit of a Rodney Dangerfield to soften the edges of the litany of complaints.  It may not be there in the first ten amendments, but we all seem to assert our absolute claim to an inalienable set of bitchin‘ rights.  But those alleged rights go way beyond our right to suffer in silence or to dash off fiery editorials to the local papers from the besieged sanctuary of our computer desks,  for we feel an obligation to complain as loudly and as often as possible to innocent colleagues in a carpool, entrapped family members in a kitchen, captive strangers on line at the market, hapless minimum wage clerks caught in the path of our discontent, or anyone else who wanders into the vitriolic eruption spewing forth from our poor, wretched, wronged personage.

But it was ten years ago that I declared total war on bitchin‘ rights.  My own, not those of others.  The torrents of negativity from the seven billion would of course continue until the end of time, but at least I would avoid piling on to the nauseating din of overstated misery.  Pan Am 103 blown to smithereens over Lockerbie was one warning shot across the bow of the collective bitchin’ establishment in the nineties, but 9/11 clinched it.  Until the end of time after that most hideous day of unspeakable horror, I swore to myself I would never gripe about any flight that I survived, regardless of the costs or discomforts or delays or jammed-in patellas or lack of macadamia nuts or soaring baggage charges.   Whenever I was tempted to complain when the world did not obey my self-deluded wishes to be treated like a king,  I would picture that the recipient of my acidic rant lost a child or a parent or a sibling or a lifelong friend in the Twin Towers or in a field in PA or at the Pentagon, and I would shut up about my petty problems.  After 9/11, I think we all lost our bitchin‘ rights for the rest of our lives.  It is now my custom after every flight, regardless of how the details went, to thank the captain and crew for the great flight, for I am truly grateful for their success at once more defeating gravity, just as I applaud the TSA for keeping out the lunatics, with my fragile self on board.  That sentiment also goes for feeling wounded by a tough day at the office.  The Type-A thick-necked boss might charge into your cubicle, fists clenched, his carotid throbbing, and with Roman candles flaming out his sphincter, ready to scalp your pathetic self into ignominy.  But compare that to a fully-fueled 767 heading at your flimsy desk at 450 mph at 9;11 in the morning, and you have lost your bitchin’ rights.  Let the boss blather on, but exult that your heartbeat and unquenchable human spirit continue onward in spite or the juvenile tantrum taking place in your grille.

And when I am tempted to launch into a senseless monologue about the unpredictable vagaries visited upon us by global weather systems, I stop all the bitchin‘ before it has a chance to build up its bilious momentum.  I picture that the person before me is from New Orleans or Tuscaloosa or Joplin, and they have lost every dream they ever worked for:  the trees they planted after the birth of a child, the irreplaceable photos and writings, the videos of school plays, the home they built or renovated by hand, the community they loved in its infinite architectural and arboreal detail, and in many cases they have lost forever their own family and dear friends they loved across a hometown ravaged by mindless forces of cruel and random origins.  Yes, once again I have lost my bitchin’ rights.  So now no matter what the particular weather may be on a given day, there is something miraculous about it:  How lush things are with all this rain... how welcome the cool breeze on a cloudy day...  how beautiful the drifts after the blizzard... how bright the flowers under the summer sun... how spectacular the mist in the valleys after a thunderstorm.  Okay, the survivors in Sumatra on Boxing Day or the humanity nearly destroyed in Sendai in the megaquake and tsunami or the communities in the path of a wildfire or the folks almost swept away by a raging flood on the Big Muddy and other countless near victims to come in ten thousand future disasters have not lost their bitchin‘ rights, even as countless others were snuffed out in those nightmarish moments ...but for most of us on most of the remainder of our days on this exciting planet, silence is golden.  The day may come when no one will begrudge us the right to bitch like banshees.  I doubt it is today.  As Henry David Thoreau put it, “Only that day dawns to which we are awake.”

At the risk of rambling on way too long, we must pay due respect to all the geo-grumps who move to Florida and complain about the hot humid weather, or live within earshot of Canada and gripe about how long the winters are, or want the whole world at their doorstep in LA and then tell their sorrowful tales of grid-locked traffic, or want a view of the Golden Gate or the skyline from their pint-sized 600 square foot apartment but harp interminably about the egregious rents in San Francisco or Manhattan. 

Tired of sweating?  Shut up and move to the frozen boonies north of Caribou.  Sick of freezing?  There are bargain rental condos available in the suffocating miasma of Brownsville.  Weary of bumpah ta bumpah traffic?  Ain’t no traffic copters above the gravel road between your farm and the feed and grain store in Fargo.  Want to find a bargain in housing?  Head to the Ogallala Aquifer and there’s still tons of elbow room, though finding employment on the High Plains is another matter.  But please, for the sake of my sanity and yours, cease the carping and grousing and grumbling and bellyaching and bewailing!

Perhaps this loss of bitchin’ rights can be extended to other arenas of our lives.   For instance, I have no right to bitch so loudly about the way we all bitch too much.  Bitch not that ye yourself be bitched!  And consider, if you will, just how endless this bloated blog would become if we were to open up the can of worms involved with bitchin' about jobs, income, aging, looks, obesity, neighbors, clothing, musical tastes, religion, politics, taxes, drivers, and all the other potentially corrosive irritants with the divisive power to turn otherwise rational people into vociferous volcanoes of violent invective.  There are those who bitch about sentences as long as the one you just suffered through...and those who would expurgate any extra excessive explosion of extraneous alliteration.  So let’s pick one particularly bitchworthy domain of social interaction to conclude this tirade:

The question of getting along with a spouse.

There are men and women out there living interminable lives of quiet or perhaps cacophonous desperation with a partner who never shares their bed...someone who refuses to share their interests...someone who nags them mercilessly about trivial matters...someone who expresses no discernible joy in their attributes...someone who undermines their self-concept with mean-spirited beratings...someone who expects to be taken care of and cooked and fussed over and protected...all because of a ceremony conducted decades before when the two were awash with raging hormones and barely old enough to know how terrifying the expression “for better or worse” can become when the sands of time begin to hasten the ‘til the death do us part” chapter, and far too optimistic to understand that “for richer, for poorer” did not constitute a guarantee of equal probability for those two possible outcomes.   But as cold and lonely and agonizing and impoverished as marriage can often turn out to be, almost every one of these hopelessly entrapped “lifers” has lost his or her bitchin’ rights! 

Consider these degrees of freedom:

A man may end up taking cold showers or getting to know his left hand way too well for decades of denial of the pleasures of the flesh while married, but such deprivation earns him no bitchin’ rights if his wife isn’t harboring a hornet’s nest of exotic, deadly, hideous diseases in her festering nether regions.  If his beloved hasn’t turned herself into a super-skank used for recreational quickies by every delivery stud in the county, he should count his marital blessings.  After all, it takes guts to avoid those cowardly solutions to not getting one’s way whenever he wants to do the tube snake boogie, as ZZ Top phrased it so well:  Physical and mental abuse, drug addiction, abandonment, cheating on the frigid partner, whores, rape, burundanga, suicide, etc.

A woman may not be fond of the way her husband dresses like a slob and farts like Krakatoa, but she’s lost her bitchin’ rights if her captive male of the species isn’t an abusive alcoholic, an ornery stoner, or a Louisville Slugger-wielding wife beater.

A guy may not be delighted that his once sleek and perky bride has allowed herself through years of lazy gluttony to become a cellulitic, stretch-marked, double-chinned, sagging sack of wrinkled flesh, but he has forfeited his bitchin’ rights if he himself has transmogrified himself into a flaccid, balding, gaunt, cartoonish buffoon who in maturity has lost all his alleged and probably overstated charms as well.  Dorian Gray was a fictional character.  St. Augustine was delusional.  As Jerry Hopkins and Danny Sugarman wrote in their biography of Jim Morrison, “It’s Earth.  No one here gets out alive.”

A girl who is badgered and criticized for every move by a snobbish and intolerant pack of snivelling inlaws has lost her bitchin’ rights if her own family is infamous for hatching and harboring all sorts of miserable miscreants in their household.  Flash to Ernie K. Doe singing "Mother In Law".

The point should be well taken that every marriage requires all sorts of indignities for both partners to suffer as the ravages of time and conflicting personalities and the horrific terror of aging take their inevitable toll on the fondest societally-fabricated illusions of our youth.  And those who run through a series of marriages after the savagery of divorce often repeat the mistakes of the past, for they personalized the failure instead of seeing it as the consequence of the mutual bondage inherent in every hopelessly optimistic regurgitation of marital vows.  And once in a while you hear of one of those fluke marriages based on love and mutual respect that just make the rest of humanity wonder about their own failures.  For example, my parents were happily married from 1935 until my father passed away in 2006. They had a fantastic run...and certainly good fortune played a big role in that astounding story of mutual devotion

But like cancer or injury by some cruel act of human or mother nature, the facts of a bad marriage are often best tolerated in a fatalistic manner.  If he or she is willing to stay with you in sickness or in bad health, in spite of all sorts of faults and your own disasters, come hell or high water or both at once, then you have lost your bitchin’ rights.   However, we all have our dealbreakers:  For example, one guy I know well would get the hell out of the house in a heartbeat and not look back if his wife were to smoke up the family’s pristine home with carcinogens, think Sarah Palin were an intellectual giant, indoctrinate their children with grotesque mythologies, or smash the HDTV with a flying rolling pin during the NBA playoffs, the World Series or Wimbledon.

 

I’d better stop this bitchin’ rant and go back to living my life...

RVT

 

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