Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Forgive me while my heart bleeds

I'm going to rip open my heart and let it bleed awhile. Some is personal, some is political, some is existential. Just indulge me a few minutes, please.

Got a note that made my day.

It was from a fellow "M*A*S*H" maniac. Total surprise. He'd found something I'd written on TV writer Ken Levine's blog some time ago about my favorite "situation tragedy" and its landmark last episode.

And he reminded me of a great quote by the greatest shrink since Sigmund Freud, Sidney Freedman:

"Anger turned inwards is depression. Anger turned sideways is Hawkeye."

Hawkeye, if I need to explain him, is Benjamin Franklin Pierce of Crabapple Cove, Maine, played to perfection on "M*A*S*H" by the peerless Alan Alda. Hawkeye is my hero. And he is as real to me as my own mother -- and almost as influential.

"M*A*S*H" made me a better human being. I say that straight, no hyperbole.

It taught me that it is OK to cry now and again, to wear my heart on my sleeve, to care about my fellow human beings no matter their nationality, faith, gender, race, philosophy, or political persuasion.

It taught me that military conflict -- seemingly romantic in children's books about the Civil War -- is pure hell, pure and simple. The blood is quite real and turns Technicolor red, and the scars, physical and mental, are deep and wide and take time to heal.

It taught me that television can be more than mindless mush, that even the medium Newton Minow famously called a "vast wasteland" is capable of rising above itself, altruistically plucking the heartstrings of its audience like a finely-tuned Stradivarius.

It taught me to love with a capital L. It taught me not to be quick to judge. It taught me that women are so much more than what I'd been led to believe. It taught me that life is fleeting. It taught me things that no textbook ever could.

We live in troubled times. Anger hovers over our earth like ominously crimson clouds. It has permeated everything. Politics. Personalities. Religion. Recreation. Common ground. Common sense.

I am a lifelong learner. As corny as it sounds, I view each day as an opportunity to improve, to love, to laugh, to live. 

And yet some people just can't be content with living their own lives. They want to tell you whom you can love, how you should act, what you can do in your own home, how you should think. And, by god, if you disagree, you're un-American, or anti-Christian, or a communist, or a racist, or a fascist, or a fool. If you don't have a substantive argument, don't worry. Just shout down your opponent and start name-calling. You can even make millions doing that for a living.

I met a woman at Dewayne and Bridget's wedding named Erin. She is now a minister and a wonderful writer. Here is the post she wrote today. I agree with every word. If you don't, that's your right.

 Here is the money quote:

"People on all sides of the aisle, and from many states of belief, have had enough. Enough of ’faith’ being hauled out as a mask for all manner of ills; enough of political parties aligning themselves with religious groups, in a country that is supposed to protect one from the other; enough of labels that divide and tear down, when the essence of both faith AND country call us to connect and build up. It is becoming fully and profoundly clear that nothing good comes from this kind of politicking or preaching. And I can only hope that it signals an impending shift in the conversation."

Amen and amen.

I don't recognize this country anymore. I don't recognize this hatred. I don't recognize this intolerance. If you think the so-called Founding Fathers fought for this, you need an enema, a history lesson, or a heart transplant.

My heart is broken. It's broken over all of this, over people enslaved in any kind of bondage, unable to free themselves of literal or figurative shackles of slavery.

Longtime friends and readers know that I have suffered from migraines for two decades. They're getting worse. Part of it is personal. Part of it is philosophical. Part of it is from physical and mental exhaustion. I'm looking for space, to quote that poet laureate John Denver, lost in the sadness and the screams.

To me, phrases like land of the free, home of the brave, and all people are created equal are more -- much more -- than star-spangled slogans spiffed up each summer for Independence Day.

So let's get serious. Turn down the volume and turn on your heart. Use your ears more than your mouth. For God's sake, use your brain.

Love. Laugh. Live.

Where have you gone, Hawkeye Pierce? Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you.


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