Heroes

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“We can be Heroes, just for one day
We can be us, just for one day”

– Heroes

One of my heroes died yesterday.

I didn’t know how I would react to David Bowie’s death because like most of us, I had no idea that he was even ill.  Oddly enough, it had never even occurred to me that he could die.  Bowie seemed ageless, alien, and immortal to me.  He seemed to walk in a liminal place between this world and the Otherworld and my mind never imagined that he wouldn’t just always be there, singing, laughing, and creating beauty in our lives.

But of course David Bowie was all too human.   It seems that all of my heroes are imperfect, wounded, and mortal.  And like all of us, his time here was finite and brief.  I now live in a post-Bowie world, and I think that I feel perfectly fine with that now.  That’s not to say that I won’t miss him, but looking back on his life, his death, and his legacy, I can not help but feel anything but joy.

I found out about his passing early in the morning.  I had woken up too early and made the mistake of checking social media.  As the news hit me and the waves of conflicting emotions that accompany shocking events washed over me, I found that the predominate feeling that I had was a profound sense of gratitude to David Bowie for all he had given me and for all that he had given the world.

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“The boy in the bright blue jeans
Jumped up on the stage
And lady stardust sang his songs
Of darkness and disgrace”

 – Lady Stardust

I’m don’t think that there is an artist that’s had a greater influence on my life than David Bowie.  I discovered his music when I was 12.  I was an awkward and strange kid from a broken home, spirit bothered, picked on, and alone.  Bowie occupied this strange place in the musical pantheon of my youth.  He transcended genres and was respected by almost everyone.  David Bowie was unapologetically himself.  He was multifaceted, magical, and fae.  He lived his life and died his death in his own unique and beautiful way and I feel thankful that I was able to share in even a tiny part of it.

Bowie’s music and presence lifted me from a dark place in my life.  The years following that awkward 12 year old me were harsh and punishing.   My teenage years were marred by violence and abuse and Bowie inspired me to stand up and live the truth of who I was.  He showed me that it was OK to be different and odd, because Bowie was different and odd, and there was no way to deny that Bowie was fucking cool.  From Bowie I learned that there is no virtue in conformity, that beauty and magic come from the freaks and weirdos not the drones, and Gods knows  this world needs more beauty and magic and fewer drones.

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“Oh no love! you’re not alone
You’re watching yourself but you’re too unfair
You got your head all tangled up but if I could only make you care
Oh no love! you’re not alone
No matter what or who you’ve been
No matter when or where you’ve seen
All the knives seem to lacerate your brain
I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain
You’re not alone

Just turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on with me and you’re not alone
Let’s turn on and be not alone
Gimme your hands cause you’re wonderful”

 – Rock and Roll Suicide

So although the man himself has moved on, we are still left with his legacy and I am left with the gifts that I learned from him.  Those gifts tell me to create art, and to live life with joy and style.  They tell me to learn from the strange ones, and the misfits, and the monsters,that their truths are as important and often more important than average people’s.   They tell me to find the kids that don’t fit in, the weirdos, the freaks, and the outcasts, and remind them that they are not alone and that what makes them different is what makes them special, that what they might see as their burden can be their superpower, that they are important, and valuable, and beautiful no matter what anyone tells them.

and at the end of the day, we still have him.  When it all starts to overwhelm us we can always curl up and put on a copy of “Hunky Dory” or “Diamond Dogs”.  His body of work is vast and complex and he will always be a star in our sky.  For me, I will always have what he has given me, those things are not lost after a death.  For me, I will always be grateful to have had my life shaped by

Saint Bowie, Patron Saint of Enchanted Misfits

Thank you David, you will be missed.

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“Gentle hearts are counted down
The queue is out of sight and out of sounds
Me, I’m out of breath, but not quite doubting
I’ve found a door which lets me out!

When you rock ‘n’ roll with me
No one else I’d rather be
Nobody here can do it for me
I’m in tears again”

– Rock and Roll With Me

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The Power of Mockery

  
I once listened to the comedian Patton Oswalt talk about the capability of humor to diffuse and disempower frightening or horrible things.  

In the highly connected and recorded world that we live in today, it is easy for a comedian to fuck up, to try to make light of something and have it fall flat , or come off as insensitive, or be taken out of context, but a skilled comedian has the ability to poke fun of truely terrible issues and make us laugh about them. 

 Oswalt uses the example of classic Spider-Man comics to make his point about the power of humor and mockery to diffuse frightening situations.  Anyone who has read a Spider-Man comic knows that one of the defining factors of Peter Parker as Spider-Man is that he is a smart ass.  Spidey is constantly making mocking comments and insults while he is fighting a villain.  In the example Oswalt uses Spider-Man is fighting a bad guy that fits the evil mastermind trope.  During the fight, Parker is constantly mocking the powers, ego, and abilities of his opponent.  The villain, wrapped up in his own sense of importance, starts to be effected by the insults.  He becomes more and more angry, he starts to make mistakes, and Spider-Man triumphs.  What is happening here is more than just Stan Lee’s desire to add witty dialogue in his creation, Spider-Man is engaging in what I consider tactical mockery. 

Humor and mockery has the ability to take someone’s fear and replace it with courage and it can take power away from frightening and terrible things and render them impotent.  

This all leads me to talk about the Bundy clowns, the Brokeback Militia.

When I first heard the misleading news report about hundreds of armed militia members taking over a wildlife preserve in Oregon I was furious.  To be clear I am not pro government in any way.  Throughout my career as an activist I have faced off against a countless number of government agencies over a variety of issues.  I understand the overreach of the federal government and believe that our entire political process needs to be overhauled.  But, and this is a very important but, I do not believe in no government.  The laws that have been put in place to protect natural resources, endangered wildlife, and wilderness are the laws that I have put my life on the line to help create.

So when Aamon Bundy publicly states that he’ll leave Oregon when the government returns ranches to ranchers, forests to loggers, and mines to miners, he shows his true colonist nature.  I’ve seen what happens when the land is left to miners, loggers, and ranchers without any regulation at all.  Strip mining,  clear cutting, overgrazing.

So to be fair, the Oregon yahoos, although morally questionable and dangerously uneducated,  are not truely a threat to anyone but themselves and some protected bird species after their Slim Jims and Coors Light runs out.  They are a sad group of angry children, confused as to why the world isn’t the way it supposed to be in their ignorant and limited world view and religious indoctrination.  To them, they are white American men and the world should be their oyster.  When they are told No! and have their hand slapped they get angry and confused.

 As individuals and as a group they are nothing, the political relevance of a fart in the wind, but the philosophy that they represent, the philosophy of the white settler, of the conquistador, of the colonizer, the philosophy that says that we can do whatever we want and take whatever we want through force of arms is childish and toxic and should be called out and soundly mocked and discredited whenever it shows its face.

So we mock them, because there’s power in it.  We mock them because it takes something that is frightening and makes it ridicioulous.  We mock them because they see themselves as heroes and we want them and anyone else that is thinking about joining them to know that we see them as criminals, and bullies, and idiots.  We compare them to Brokeback Mountain and to terrorists, not because being gay is bad or that we want more people charged under terrorism laws, we do it because being seen as gay and being seen as the equalivant of Islamic terrorists makes them angry and makes them doubt themselves.  We mock them because it’s what they so desperately deserve and we mock them because their brand of willful ignorance, xenophobia, and sense of entitlement is worthy of mockery.