There you are, turning thirty years old. Have fun. It gets evil thirty days from now. (And smart move, not driving home later on.)
Even though you don’t remember taking it, you snap a good picture, 30-me.
And that was back before camera-phones. You went to a 7-11 and bought two disposable cameras to capture the beginning of your thirties. You even made one of your friends promise to keep track of them so they didn’t get lost or vomited upon.
It’s not as easy to take a selfie with a cardboard camera as it is with a smartphone. And maybe that is a good thing.
Luckily, you’re going to nearly drink yourself to death, then quit drinking, before social media truly takes off. So your jackassery, as well as those miserable moments when you were way-too-drunk to be in public, hasn’t been immortalized on the World Wide Web. (We don’t use that term very often in 2021. But seeing these pics of you brought it to mind.)
Who knows? If you kept your downward slide going for a few years longer, some smirky guy who had convinced himself that he was going to be a billionaire one day very easily could have created a website inviting the world to make fun of your alcoholism. And people who were worried about their own addictions or demons, but weren’t ready to admit it, would have happily obliged.
If you thought the country was self-serving and cutthroat on your birthday, August 11th, 2001, it’s going to mutate starting in a month. The Americans with the most advantages are going to turn a horrific act of terrorism into a business opportunity. Predators will flourish in the times ahead.
In these pictures, you are sick of your twenties and saw turning thirty as a chance to rid yourself of bullshit, start fresh. Thirty days after they get taken, a catastrophic event will knock you out of this zone.
Sometime in the summer of 2001, you read a news article about the Taliban’s destruction of ancient Buddhist relics in Afghanistan. That story stuck with you, the ugliness of it.
In the months following 9/11, the piece will come to mind a few times. Trying to make sense of that September day, you will wonder if the men who demolished the statues were aware of plans to strike the United States. You had no real reason for wanting to know this answer, it was just your psyche trying to process the trauma.
Not every psyche handles trauma in the same way. Our richest citizens, for instance, their psycho-ass-psyches process these feelings by figuring out how to profiteer off of them. After 9/11, they smelled money.
Humanity is going to become even worse, sorry to say. Interests will turn a “war on terror” into an excuse to rob the Treasury and rile up the xenophobes. Fast-forward to 2016: a white supremacist becomes President of the United States—with the backing of many of the nation’s richest citizens.
Nineteen years and eleven months after the worst strike on US soil since Pearl Harbor, white hypocrisy is in overdrive.
The United States of America is now more militant, but much less military.
Angry, racist chickenhawks are cool now, dude. Especially ones with gun collections, bulletproof vests, and 1950s-era views about women. This is masculinity, according to Fox News. In 2021, many GOP power brokers are men who dodged the Vietnam Draft, even though they supported the war. Their mojo has been thoroughly baked in—it owns the 2021 Right. Remember Cameron Alexander from American History X, the guy who Derek called a chickenhawk? In 2005, he changes his name to Steve Bannon and becomes a voice of influence. It is going to be armband-tastic.
The 2021 Right wing wants a police state. They also want to kill cops.
Okay, dude…very few of them want to personally murder cops. The world hasn’t gone that crazy. But way too many on the Right see cops as expendable in 2021. Their worldview is a tiered one and expendables like police officers don’t matter as much. Speaking of “mattering”…get ready for this group, Blue Lives Matter, to pop onto the scene. This crowd, you’ll discover, can bend their minds into pretzels defending any and every instance of police brutality involving Black and Brown folks—we are talking ANY AND EVERY ONE, even ones involving children. After the argument is over, the #bluelivesmatter crowd goes back to fantasizing about mowing down the cops who are trying to confiscate their guns.
It’s not just police. They defend white civilians’ rights to shoot people, too.
Sandy Hook. Charleston. Las Vegas. Aurora. Boulder. El Paso. San Bernardino. Sutherland Springs. Tucson. Orlando. Umpqua Community College. Thousand Oaks. Pittsburgh. Santa Fe High School. Stoneman Douglas High School. Mass shootings are a common occurrence now. And 30-me, before the bodies are cold, ammosexuals arrive on the scene to remind witnesses still in shock that the killers’ 2nd Amendment rights must be protected. In 2016, a Black military veteran will use an AK-47 to kill police officers in Dallas. Gundamentalists won’t lift a finger for him, though. Nooooo. They’ll cry crocodile tears instead. “Heyyyy…Black guys can’t kill cops—only we can kill cops!”
Those fellas in the ’90s who used the word “pedophile” as a slur a lot?
It’s possible that they might not have known its meaning.
’90s party days…funny flashback. Not a guy you knew well, but there was this bro. A giant heap of suburban sports-aggressiveness masquerading as toughness, wrapped in a belief that rich white men had superpowers and he was one decision away from becoming super-rich himself. His vapid mind was narrower than the width of a human hair and he called every person he even remotely disliked a pedophile. That word came out of his mouth often. But thinking back, there’s a decent chance he had no idea that “pedophile” meant “adult who sexually assaults children.” The modern Right still overuses this term. But if one of their crowd commits the act, the Right doesn’t flip out. Especially if the pedophile is rich and discreet. Just this week, another one got caught. He won’t get much static from the Right, I’m guessing.
Anti-Semitism is a much bigger problem. Much bigger.
And Anti-Semites behave like their most awful Jewish stereotypes.
The 2021 Right-winger feller wants it all: to live deceitfully, cheat, lie, connive others out of money, manipulate both interest rates and human beings alike. And since he was born chock-full of American Exceptionalism, he also knows that it is his right to hate every Jewish person. He rationalizes his hatred by labeling all Jews as inherently deceitful cheats and liars who connive and manipulate others out of money. Yeah, whiteboys want everything. I can’t remember if you, 30-me, were aware of who George Soros was back then. Well, according to Fox News, Soros is an evil human being who hoards money and only white Evangelicals and atheist incels should be able to hoard money.
Osama bin Laden had our number.
Looking back at September 11th, 2001, al-Qaeda understood our country in ways that we couldn’t. They didn’t care about knocking down buildings and killing thousands of Americans. They wanted our leaders and their rich owners to succumb to their worst tendencies. Immediately following the attack, we targeted innocent Muslims, both domestically and abroad. This practically recruited fighters to the fundamentalists’ cause. 30-me, our date of birth and my current age provide me with a clear dividing line to use as I write this post: sixty percent of life happened before 9/11, forty percent of it after 9/11. I can think about where you were back then, what was going on. I can compare this to the present. I remember enough about the country before the attack. The U.S.A. has lost its way. As I am posting this, the Taliban is retaking key cities and the previous Afghanistan leadership has fled the country. Nineteen years and ten months after we first put boots on the ground. Peace to those innocent Afghan citizens. Many more are going to die. We lost thousands of our own servicemen and servicewomen in that country. Peace to their families and peace to the veterans who served in this campaign.
Post-9/11, Dick Cheney will seem like the most evil American in history.
For a while, at least.
Before the attack, you thought Dick Cheney was just another Neoconservative. Like a lot of them, he gave off creepy-baby-eater vibes, but you were still fresh off the Bill Clinton years when Neocons did not have the advantage. Soon, dude, watch their vibes intensify…no…Nazi-fy. (Yeah, you still make up words when you write.) In the next few years, Cheney’s inhumanity and greed will exponentialize. Only here’s the thing: worse human beings are going to come along, ones more idiotic and genocidally-inclined—both qualities, together. You’ll appreciate Bill Maher’s phrase for them: “toddlers playing with loaded guns.” Godwin himself will suspend Godwin’s Law after fascism takes off. If Indiana Jones uttered his line, “Nazis…I hate these guys…” in 2021, a gang of twenty-something bros sporting Hitler-haircuts would appear out of thin air and screech, “Heyyyyy…define ‘Nazi’….”
“The Land of Opportunity” is too insecure and racist to have a black President.
In 2008 and 2012, you will volunteer for the campaign of the successor to George W. Bush. Our 44th President will break a barrier: the color line. Election Night 2008 will always stick out as a crystal-clear memory. It’s one a.m. You and a buddy you meet in the future are stumbling down Colfax, drunk, hooting and hollering after watching the election victory at The Bank Cafe with other political folks. Drivers honk at you guys, other drunkards walking along high-five you both. The slice of time feels like humanity stepped forward. And then…wait for it…wealthy racists are going to ruin it all. Even though this president will make them richer, wealthy racists will still do everything they can to hobble him. Still, that night rocked.
While pondering your fifty years on Earth, some Pew Research Center data will make scary-perfect sense.
“The share of American adults who live in middle-income households has decreased from 61% in 1971 to 51% in 2019.
During this time, the share of adults in the upper-income tier increased from 14% to 20%, and the share in the lower-income tier increased from 25% to 29%.”
The media and those in power don’t use the phrase “the American Dream” as much as they used to. One of those “uncomfortable” subjects—you know…systematically dismantling the middle class, stashing their money in the Cayman Islands, outsourcing jobs, not paying taxes to boot. The moneyed interests want a country where they can stifle talk about inequality with a quick mention of growth in the upper-income bracket. And, once they got to know someone better, they would pull that person aside and state their true feelings: “There are so many more poor people to gawk at and order around nowadays! WOOT-WOOT!!” If Friday Night Hangings made a comeback, the wealthy would be down with it.
Like I said, twenty years after your 30th birthday party, white hypocrisy is in overdrive.
Income inequality…this is a term you don’t know yet, 30-me. It fuels so many problems. The worst of your generation wants to grab every penny they can from Millennials and Gen Z. Since Ronald Reagan taught them to truck with authoritarianism, they’re naturally intimidated by Boomers and the few remaining WWIIers who have been extracting exorbitant amounts of wealth for decades.
So instead of standing up to greed, some of your Gen X peers have resolved to siphon off as much of the remaining dough as they can for themselves. While lining their pockets, they looooove to lecture young’uns about laying off the avocado toast. Gaslighting others like their dead relatives and coaches used to gaslight them makes life worth living, these fellas say.
Rentier capitalism is ruining the modern U.S.A. Ronald Reagan did a number on us. While you knew this fact back in 2001, it seems super-obvious as you see men your age take positions of power and influence. Many of them got the “willfully-ignorant, old white man” act down cold.
The world just received some extremely concerning news about climate change.
Some Gen Xers need to admit that they chose to ignore factual evidence about irreversible environmental damage. And they did it for the head-pats. True: the financial compensation was nice. The important-sounding business titles rocked. The gold-inlay business cards ruled. But they blew off reports about global warming for the head-pats.
Receiving pats on the head from aging sadists who pride themselves on the fact that they will be dead before their business investments do their most severe damage to the planet—this act of validation works like a drug with former Reagan Youth.
John Wayne skipped out on WWII because he was afraid that his mistress would cheat on him if he left town. He didn’t even hit the road to bang the drum for war bonds, like other entertainers who didn’t enlist. He was married and had kids, but his side-booty concerned him more. She is why he stayed in Hollywood while his peers did what they could for the fight against Germany, Japan, and Italy.
30-me: the idea that John Wayne is a spiritual godfather to the modern Right makes perfect, perfect, perfect sense—in metaphorical, metaphysical, cosmic, alchemical ways. In ways that could not make sense in August of 2001.
Lots of badness is coming, dude. It will warp reality.
30-me: our talk inspired a thought.
A #wealthtax levied against the richest Gen Xers to pay for climate change work is like preventing these Xers from making the same mistakes that older folks made. Yeah! We’re not doing it for the planet…we’re doing it for the bros.
Save the bros!
In truth, our generation can’t sell out the planet like previous generations did. Earth is at the critical stage.
I don’t have children, but I want children to look forward to the future. 30-me: some dads and moms make me wonder if they feel the same way.
The 2020 U.S. Census Report just came out. And guess what? Whites are on the decline as a percentage of the population.
Sure, you believe in diversity, 30-me. So do I. The thing is, at this exact moment, somewhere in this country, a Right-winger around fifty years old is sobbing to the Heavens. He is crying out, “THEY TOOK MY ‘MERICA AWAY…THEY STOLE ‘MERICA—PLEASE, PLEASE FORGIVE ME, KKK GRANDDADDY!! LONG-DEAD, GRAND-DRAGON-GRANDDADDY: PLEASE FORGIVE ME FOR LETTING THIS HAPPEN ON MY WATCH!!! PLEEEEEAAASSSEEEE FORGIIIIIVEEEEEE MMMEEEEEEE!!!!”
30-me: you and I ain’t him. We never were and we never will be.
So many problems in this stupid life, even at fifty. But we’re not those guys.
We can thank Mom and Dad for that.
Hey, drunk guy in the orange bowling shirt: aren’t I just a barrel of optimism, twenty years later? I’ve talked your ear off enough. From the look on your face, you’re wanting another drink.
Again: good call on not driving home.
Some earlier posts:
• Open letter to myself in February of 2009, Part I. Part II.
• NYC vacay. May, 2003.
• Bros: America’s new Jews.
• The era of anti-Semitic tightwaddery.
• Hitlerian hilarity: the years 2016 to 2020.
• When terms don’t mean what they seem to mean.
• Understand the “America” in “Make America Great Again.” Watch the movie Porky’s.
I also write fiction. I have two dark comedies available, Fearkiller (Volume 1) and Notes from Trillionaire Island: Fearkiller (Volume 2), as well as Revolutionizer Alpha, the first book in a sci-fi series. I also wrote a story about God. It was weird, but then I decided to make the story and its sequel free. And all of the sudden, it didn’t seem as weird. Writing about God is much less weird when you write about God without charging money for it. Here’s my professional site, my trade.