Out with the old 


I'd like to backtrack about something I have said 1,000 times, which is that I'm sick of Oprah. True, she's harder to escape than a chatty neighbor, but I'd be wrong not to admit that I got sucked back into her hour-long gabfest a few weeks ago when I saw a show about women who were stuck in ruts, e.g., an office drone who would prefer to be a poet. Oprah and her femme psych genies give these women what they need, which is a kick in the ass, only they do it gently and helpfully, amid of cloud of words like "supportive" and "true self," and it works. If I were in a rut my advice to me would be "quit being such a baby," which is why Oprah takes limos and I drive a car with a hole in the roof. Oprah knows something.

Oprah's magazine this month is all about letting go, shedding the things that aren't working for you anymore -- mind sets, habits, lost love. Had I been giving the advice, it would have come out, "Jesus, just drop it," but smarty Oprah has poetic quotes from Joseph Campbell: "We must be willing to let go of the life we've planned in order to have the life that is waiting for us." After bad-mouthing Oprah, you can't imagine how it annoys me to read this, slack jawed, nodding, and think, wow, that's really true.

Done deals

Done deals

But it is really true. Concepts that outlive their usefulness are like one of those old women in "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?" makeup. You have to change with time or you end up sad, mad and a little scary. Oprah, of course, is talking about this on a personal level, how you need to get over your ex or give up the idea that you have to please everyone, but there are a few national concepts we should jettison in order to refresh our collective mental health as easily as the chipper, autonomous Oprah watcher.

Needlessly nosing into other people's lifestyles ought to be the first to go, an idea that came to a seriously twisted and complex point with the recent conviction of one Tom Green on bigamy charges. Green was convicted of failing to pay child support, is alleged to have committed welfare fraud and "married" his first wife when she was 13. (All his wives were young.) With such a real and serious crime like tax fraud on the table, why convict on what amounts to a lifestyle charge? For me one spouse would be one too many, but if consenting adults (adults being the key word) make the choice of multiple marriage, who cares? In addition to opening the worm can of religious freedom (Tom's a Mormon, SURPRISE!), basing a conviction on a lifestyle seems awfully needless. This cultural insistence that we all couple in the same manner belongs on the "let it go" list along with sodomy laws, the electoral college and the criminalization of marijuana.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the pain of cancer and AIDS was not sufficient grounds for the use of marijuana. What would you expect from a body who chose the president based on its own political bent? Decency? All eight of them should have had to go to the beds of the dying and deliver the message "screw you" in person. Pot isn't my drug of choice, but I can still see that the time, money and lives wasted on its demonization is a cockeyed tragedy we'll probably look back on one day with the same confused embarrassment we now associate with witchcraft trials. "It seemed like a good idea at the time ...," but really, it belongs on the pile of outdated concepts. Like the Bush family being in politics.

Passing gas

Passing gas

Speaking of ... did anyone else notice that we didn't have a gas crisis until we got an oilman in the White House? A friend of mine made this observation, and it says more about that issue than all the analyses in the world. We should have spent the past few decades learning how to let go of fossil fuels so we wouldn't fall into these crises, like Oprah might tell you to learn to let go of that ex so you wouldn't cry every time your song comes on the radio. If you don't move ahead you continually fall apart, and thinking we have a right to gas-guzzling SUVs forever is an idea it would do a world of good for everyone to let go of. It is the creatures that didn't evolve, after all, that end up in gas tanks.

It isn't so much these individual cases, which each have their own intricacies; it's the quickness to judge others while being slow to re-evaluate ourselves that eventually causes big problems on both an individual and a social scale. If science can decide to redefine the word "planet" and I can rethink my position on Oprah, we can all do it to some degree. We all have something that could use rethinking, and often it's the things we like thinking about the least.

Oh, come on. Don't make me suggest you start keeping a journal in support of your true self. I can only backtrack so far.


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