Friday, August 7, 2009

Shower thoughts

Yesterday morning some thoughts came together as I was sleepily getting into the shower. That seems to happen a lot.

This hasn't been a fun week, mainly because of a certain young man I love who is flushing his life down the toilet with alcohol. I'm very close to his whole family, and he's sort of like a younger brother to me. For years I've fretted and worried about him, and now I'm coming to terms with the fact that I can't stop what's happening to him. I can't fix it. I can't control it. In accepting that, I've felt the full pain of it, and it's almost enough to double me over. I said to Grace, "Is this pain what makes people become control freaks?" and she said "Hell yeah!" I can well imagine going to any lengths not to admit that there's nothing I can do.

Two nights ago I wrote that we're hard-wired to be uncomfortable with that which is unusual, such as homosexuality. The next morning, as those shower thoughts were coalescing, I remembered that I wrote those words just a few hours after picking up Invincible Iron Man #16 at the comic shop. That's when it all clicked into place. I realized that it's all about control.

In the comic book, protagonist Maria Hill flashes back to when the supervillain Controller sunk his electronic control device into the back of her neck. As he was doing so he intoned the word "Control". And it seemed to me that the writing carried a psychological dimension that wouldn't have been present in the halcyon days of moustache-twirling super-villains. The writer seemed to be presenting The Controller as the ultimate control freak: someone who controls people not just as a means to an end, but as a sick end in itself.

Why would a writer add that sense of perversion to an established character? Well, obviously the darker the better these days. But beyond that generality I think that it taps into a specific fixation with control. I think that, as the twentieth century's chickens came home to roost, people in the U.S. started to realize how little control they had over the world, and it fractured us even more than before. September 11 shone as the new pole star in our constellation of uncontrol. President Bush helped us turn away from that light and toward fractionation. He told us the great lie that we could be safe, and many swallowed it gladly. Anything to believe that someone had the world under control - that someone ever could.

So this week seems to be all about control for me. I'm thinking of how much it hurts not to have control, and the response to that pain: to try to gain contol, or at least the feeling of it. I want to kidnap that young man I love and lock him in a cage until he detoxes. But even if I did that, it wouldn't fix him.

You may want to put a cage around the lives and rights of people whose sexuality you don't like, but there are even more problems with that. First of all, they ain't broken, so you shouldn't be trying to fix them. Believe me. Just three nights ago I spent an hour talking to a gay reverend, and there was absolutely nothing out of place with this guy. He was kind and articulate and funny, and a pleasure to talk to. He was a whole human being, with no need or desire to be fixed. If you want to help him, to fix him... well, that's got nothing to do with him. It's about your need for control.

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