Monthly Archives: July 2010

A few weeks ago I went on vacation to Cedar Point amusement park and took notes so I could come back and blog about it, but put it off. I just found my notes today.

The trip itself harkened back to when I was a kid, and my dad and I would take a yearly trip to Cedar Point as a sort of father-son bonding thing. It’d been almost ten years since either of us went and we thought this year we’d revive the old tradition. Way fucking better than fishing, don’t you think?

My dad is the type who always thinks of the optimal. For this trip he wanted to plan it so that we got to the park at the exact moment it opened. Made sense to me, I just wish he’d checked to see when the park opened. We got there an hour early. At Cedar Point they will let you into the park, but unless you are staying on their resort you are kept in a small fenced in area, surrounded by gun-totting security, as you watch the resort guests riding coasters and wandering freely. Seriously. It was like the ultimate expression of a class system. Enjoyment for the richer folks, the poor are penned in under extreme security.

One security guard in particular caught my eye. He was a tall fella, maybe 30-40, in shape, with the most 1970s looking mustache, crew cut and sunglasses you can imagine. As he was standing guard over us he kept his arms crossed and head locked. Even when an employee came to ask him something, he did not make eye contact with her, but only tilted his head so as to keep eye contact with the rabble. I’ll point out in a moment how Cedar Point is the epitome of hyperreality, right down to their security guards.

Cedar Point, like any amusement park, operates on the principle of hyperreality–to steal Jean Baudrillard and Umberto Eco’s term and even to its application with amusement parks. Hyperreality is basically the idea that in the modern world we have created places and situations where faked or staged images of reality mimic what our biased and stereotyped ideals of reality are.

My own experience of the hyperreality really hit in Cedar Point’s Frontier Town. Frontier Town is a small section with wooden buildings that look like something off a Western movie set. Most the buildings, like most all the buildings in Cedar Point, are gift shops and junk food shops. Only with “authentically” Frontier-ish names like “The Saddle Shop.” It’s obviously not the real frontier, it’s not a museum either, it’s only reference point is our own beliefs of frontier-ness. And of course, in a world of hyperreality everything is hyperexpensive.

Mimicry exists throughout, but is always an exterior shell. I noticed a restaurant shaped like Caribbean beach houses (selling burgers and fries) and one modeled after New Orleans architecture (selling burgers and fries.) While I did not check to see what was on the menu at the Pagoda House, I would not be surprised if it was burgers and fries there too. Every artifice is easily scraped away in Cedar Point, pointing to an interior that seems frighteningly totalitarian in its uniformity. Oh yeah, did I mention that before we were allowed entry into the park we had to stand through a broadcast of “God Bless America”?

So although I paint a rather vulgar picture of Cedar Point, to where one might reasonably ask “why the hell did you go there if it’s so bad?” Certainly. The fact is I love roller coasters and so does my dad. There’s no other reason we’d go. The experience of rocketing around at high speeds, upside down and all is a blast–even when you have to wait an hour and a half for a two-minute ride.  And it doesn’t hurt my sense of praxis either. Sure, Cedar Point is a capitalist institution, but so was the company that made the computer I’m typing on.

Upon leaving the park we went through Sandusky, Ohio. Ohio is quite a state; never been able to escape from living out its post-industrial and post-agricultural stereotype of itself. Sandusky itself seems to have gained little from Cedar Point. Boarded up buildings and those left look desperate for renovation. Most my perceptions of Ohio are intuitive, but the whole place seems sad and defeated to me, whereas in Detroit things are going to hell but not so quietly. Detroit aims to go down in flames; Ohio with a sigh. So much is old in Ohio. Scrap collectors, used parts stores, fraternal lodges, second hand shops and factories are everywhere.  Where Cedar Point presents The Past as a form of entertainment for a non-existent nostalgia, in the rest of Ohio the past is life support.


One of the things I appreciate about the internet is how the greater anonymity makes strangers more willing to broach topics that would ordinarily be taboo in such situations as riding on a public bus. It also gives me a chance to hear opinions and thoughts I am not ordinarily exposed to within the social circles I keep.

A topic from the other day concerned the idea of being “color-blind” with regard to race in America. This idea of being color-blind is a major part of the discourse in the post-Civil Rights era, and not essentially a bad one. Sure, what could be more ethical and noble than following the precepts of Dr. King who asked us to judge people on character rather than race?

That is… if that’s what King actually said. People are most familiar with Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which I think more than earned it’s place in the annuls of history. What people seem to miss though is that King was speaking of a dream–in the sense of an event that is not real but is desired. And it’s on this axis that people often misconstrue his idea of a “color-blind” society in such a way that grossly violates King’s ideas and the entire Civil Rights movement.

While King dreamed of a raceless society, he was always aware that he lived in a racist one. And he knew that the solution to overcoming racial discrimination was not a matter of a mere shift in perspective, going spontaneously color-blind. Equality, as has been articulated a thousand times, requires justice. Without a redress of wrongs done and a correction, there is no justice in simply declaring even stevens.  The reality of social inequality would not evaporate by nullifying race; the inequalities would still be there, only instead of being there “because one is a minority” it’d be because “one was a minority.” Semantics wont fix up neighborhoods, schools or provide capital.

Another problem with “color-blind” is that it would take away our ability to know if equality exists or not. It’s not an opinion but fact that there is racial discrimination in society, but if we make race impermissible to talk about or see its every manifestation as an illusion we’d just be willing ignorance. Under that kind of hush-hush attitude it’s possible that racial problems could even get worse, as the perpetrators could not be made accountable.

So what is left? A vicious circle? We can never escape from race -thinking because we always need to be on guard for racism? Maybe, maybe not. I believe only the continuation of history will tell how far we can make it out of the circle. Certainly there have been changes. I’m thinking of an example of a black couple buying a movie ticket at a theater. Does race mean anything there? Probably not. But it wasn’t long ago where that couple might’ve been barred from that theater. On the other hand, maybe this same couple were denied a home that was later given to a white couple, even though their incomes & credit were better. Fact: it happens, all the more reason not to take absolute measures to a half-solved problem.

One of the most common reactions I get to such ideas is that of “victimization.” There is no justice needed for social problems, they say. That would only be “handouts,” which would degrade the self-confidence of minority groups. And, after all, “my Irish great-grandparents worked their way out of discrimination.” The only rational consequence of such ideas is to blame minorities for their situation. Talk about being blinded by color!

What this thought boils down to is insistence that racism is not a white problem. Blacks are simply in a disadvanted position because of some natural Act of God event or the actions of whites in the past, but the contemporary white has washed him/herself of prejudice, so they say. And it becomes a matter of collective guilt as well. A lot of whites react to the issue of white priviledge with a “well, I don’t discriminate!” declaration. Maybe, but nor do I rape, but I don’t deny that rape exists. Thing is, if whites continue to use social leverages to discriminate against blacks then the “victim card” rhetoric is all bullshit. It’s more a matter of a “denial card” at work.

My manifesto (simply): let’s not disregard race and hope for equality; let’s make equality then disregard race.

Yesterday a friend of mine committed a very serious faux pas, in my opinion. He made a statement, which is a tremendous pet peeve of mine, which I consider reprehensible, which I think merits a rant on my part. It was a very concise statement backed up with a news article. I’ll repeat their comment here for you:

“Nazi U.S.A.”

How often this suggestion is made, that the United States or one of its leaders is a Nazi. It’s been made at political protests on banners both under the Bush and Obama presidencies. I’m reminded of a half-joking theory someone once proposed about internet forums: all arguments will inevitably regress to an accusation of Nazism or a Hitler reference (sorry, I’m too lazy to give credit where credit should be due.)

Yesterday this “Nazi U.S.A.” statement was made in regard to an article claiming that the U.S. government was going to collect the Body Mass Index of all Americans who see a doctor. I don’t want to comment on the veracity of that claim. True or not, the hyperbole of comparing mandatory BMI collection to Nazism is recklessly stupid. My sarcastic reply was to say the reason Anne Frank was hiding in an attic was because the SS were after here with a scale and a measuring tape. Sarcasm, my reflex to absurdity.

No matter how pissed a government action or figurehead makes you, making an analogy to Nazism is being Hitler’s apologist. Equating Nazism with a relatively trivial event does not simply make the trivial event seem more significant, it also makes Nazism seem less significant. That’s how equivocation works. If I say, “my love is like a red, red rose” I’m not just making a statement about my love, but also one about roses. Saying obtrusive health data collection is as bad as WWII is the same as saying WWII was as bad as obtrusive data collection.

Now who, with any good sense or ethical logic, would say that the Shoah is on a moral tier with the health department taking your health information? Well, based on the comments left under the article, a lot of people do feel it’s a sensible reaction. One person even angrily spoke “ask a Jew about government intrusion!” Please, asshole, please. No Holocaust survivor is ever going to say their time in a concentration camp is like the CDC demanding his/her BMI. It’s not even a matter of being a little metaphorical; it’s psychotically illogical.

In my search for other great catastrophes in human history that could be sardonically applied to modern trivialties, I used a search engine to look for “worst disasters in history” or something like that. One of the first results to pop up linked to an Objectivist message board. Essentially, it was a tear-stained conversation about how 9-11 was definitely the WORST event in human history. Because 9-11 didn’t just harm people (who gives a shit about people?) but it was an attack on capitalism.

Now any ranking of tragic events is going to be subjective and tricky, and I feel it’s best to avoid such practice altogether. But that is only, and I mean ONLY, where relatively equal tragedies have taken place. But the genocide of millions of Jewish people does not ever “subjectively” stand next to what these Libertarians and Objectivists cry about. And those of us who would like to preserve the memory and dignity of those who died under WWII and the Shoah need not and should not be polite and kowtow to “everyone’s entitled to their opinion” when this egregious bullshit comes spewing forth.

Happy Fourth of July! May it be full of summer goodness and, if you’re so inclined, acts of patriotism.

I did what many do in Michigan on the 4th, went to one of our abundant lakes for a swim. The weather here is great, the water felt nice and it was good to be out. Went to one of my least favorite lakes (the good ones were “full”) that is known mainly for its boating. The water had a stench of gasoline about it; made me think of the Gulf of Mexico.

One event got me thinking about politics and religion and such. While I was taking a break from the water this father, who was camped out next to us, called his kids out of the water so they could join together and “pray for America.”

Now. I don’t have a qualm about praying for this country. At church we pray for national and world leaders, and for the wellbeing of our neighbors all the time. But today, perhaps it’s the sentiment of the holiday, my mind drifted to more sinister thoughts. Namely: theocracy.

You know what I’m talking about. Sticking monuments of the Ten Commandments in courthouses (to remind us all that worshipping Hindu gods, cheating on your wife and envying a neighbor goes against our laws.) Re-writing the curricula of Texan social studies classes to make John Calvin a founding father. Asserting that the United States has a national religion. The Moral Majority. On and on and on…

Or remember John Ashcroft’s controversial remark, “No king but Jesus?” Okay, I will be totally fair, in context he was citing an older source and wasn’t being literal; but, not everyone takes such a statement like that figuratively. The idea of centering American government on Christianity, not simply “inspired by the Gospels,” but as an infalliable rule of God through elected leaders is almost as common as it is comical.

But here’s the gapingfuckinghole in that theocratic bullshit: if you believe in your Bible then you should know that Jesus was already offered the job of kind of all nations. And you know what? He turned it down.