The Agent’s Thought Dump: Part 2 – More Brain Droppings

So many thoughts. And yet so few words. Source: SwanWaters

So many thoughts. And yet so few words. Source: SwanWaters

Once again, I’ve hit a point where all the thoughts in my brain space have been taking up space while not being substantial enough for a full article. Combined with an upcoming and sudden moving day that threw off a few plans, I’ve been more creatively strained than usual.

So, it’s time once again to have a mental cleaning day in hopes relieving my stress. Let’s begin with the obvious thought that’s (I hope) on everyone’s minds…

How is America not imploding right now?

Seriously, have you seen the news lately? People are freaking out about gangs of creepy clowns, cities are without safe drinking water, oil companies are defiling people’s homes, and our primary choices for our future leader are a corporate-sponsored Dolores Umbridge and a mentally unstable, geriatric Oompa-Loompa. In the words of Dexter Holland, “s*** is f***ed up.”

It almost feels like everyone in my country is suffering some kind of short-term memory loss that makes them forget all of the madness going on around them as soon as they fall asleep so they don’t make forward progress on the problem. It’s gotten so bad that I’ve long since entered a state of ‘optimistic pessimism’ where I just hope for a civil war/dictatorship/apocalypse to happen so I can stop losing my mind over it.

On a lighter note, since this is about decompressing my stress…

I need to add One Punch Man to my watchlist

Have you seen this s***? It’s literally an anime comedy deconstruction of the western comic book-style superhero where a guy has phenomenal strength and speed but is tortured by the fact that having overwhelming power makes things too simple for him and all he wants is to be able to feel the emotions swirl inside him as he battles for the earth.

Basically, what if a normal guy had Superman’s power?

Add to that the fact that it seems hilariously over-the-top, and I can see why it’s taking off.

Speaking of anime that’s peaked my interest…

There is an anime where Buddha and Jesus are roomies

I wish I was talented enough to make that sentence up.

I’m not even joking; there exists a slice-of-life comedy called Saint Young Men where Gautama Buddha and Jesus Christ live on earth and share an apartment in modern day Tokyo while fumbling with mortal human culture to hilarious ends.

Screw political correctness; I need this to be dubbed into English. I must live in a world where Jesus identifies with us bloggers.

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Regarding the Anthem and Colin Kaepernick

Now if it were me, I’d be sorely tempted to use a different finger.
Source: The Press Democrat

So, right off the bat, I know nothing about most sports. I don’t follow football because seeing a bunch of oversized people covered in sweat slamming into each other a full speed is too brutish for my tastes.

That said, what I do know is social commentary on current events. I know a controversy when I see it. And what’s going down right now with Colin Kaepernick is just another media circus.

For those not in the know, Kaepernick is the quarterback for the San Fransisco 49ers who has been making headlines lately for opting to remain seated during the national anthem in protest of the recent string of police violence against African-Americans and other people of color. In interviews, he seems well aware that what he did doesn’t sit well with some people. However, he expresses no regret in, “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” and that he’s, “not looking for approval. … If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”

Now, we could throw around police statistics about crime and violence as it relates to ethnicity all day. But I want to focus on this moment – this single action.

Let’s start with the obvious fact; no one forced Kaepernick to stand nor could they force him to. He was, and should be, allowed to freely express himself in the manner of his choosing (provided said expression does no lasting damage to people or property) as granted by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

I actually had one friend (who, out of honor and respect, shall remain nameless) question me saying, “How do you hide behind the First Amendment, but don’t respect the flag that guarantees it?” My answer was simple; “By recognizing that the flag didn’t give us that freedom; hard-working, determined people did.”

… Which brings me to the bulk of argument.

I have not stood for the anthem or the pledge of allegiance since I was 15 years old. I’ve caught a lot of flack for being disrespectful and unpatriotic in the past for that choice. But there’s a reason why I don’t do it; that flag and the government it represents didn’t guarantee my freedom before and they don’t guarantee it now. That honor goes to people.

Strong people, brave people, people who risk their lives for decent men and women that can’t guarantee their freedom on their own, people like my own father – a sergeant first class who served in the army for years; these are the people you should be standing for; not some colored cloth on a pole that a cold, unfeeling, corporately driven government uses to blindfold you so you can’t see the shady things they do behind your back.

I reserve my respect for people on an individual basis based on the actions they have taken and what motivated those actions. I will recognize a group for doing some good, but I will not blindly throw blanket praise over the whole of them. And I will certainly not give that respect to a glorified sheet flapping in the breeze that did nothing but serve as a symbol of the people that profited the most from their effort.

The flag, the anthem, and all of their ilk are unfeeling symbols and, as a great man once said, “I leave symbols to the symbol-minded.”

Three Interesting American Statistics (That You Should Think About Before Saying Another Country Is Weird)

I have a deep fascination with other countries and the culture of their citizens. I often find that when I explore a persons culture deeper, I find new and interesting views and practices that I try to incorporate into my own life.

However, the problem with being a cultural hobbyist is that, when I share my discoveries with breathless enthusiasm to others, I will undoubtedly find that one person who responds with a shallow, “Man, those [insert nationality, culture, or creed here] are weird as hell.”

This is hair-pullingly frustrating to me since A) that’s a statement that smacks of insensitivity and general apathy for others in an increasingly globalized society and B) if they bothered to look outside of their own head space for a second and take an introspective look at ourselves, they’d realize that there’s a fair amount of evidence that maybe WE’RE the weird ones.

We do things so radically different from other counties that it’s kind of jarring to think how strange we look to them. For instance, did you know…

Americans Are REALLY Quick To Throw People In Jail

“What’s that; a litter bug walks free? Stone him!”
Source: economist.com

It’s a problem for everyone; eventually someone is going to think that they can do what ever they want, start doing things that hurt others, and some unfortunate judicial system is going to have the task of doling out the proper punishment. However, what’s considered right and wrong is dependent on how strict that country-in-question’s laws are.

Apparently, American laws are either shockingly strict or we have too many people that think that they’re above them. According to the International Centre for Prison Studies, there are 698 incarcerated Americans for every 100,000 American citizens. That gives us the world’s second largest prison population just behind The Seychelles in Africa and a population that’s more than twice the size of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Switzerland combined.

Now, I’m not saying that we are a bunch of up-tight jerks in this country, but I am saying that we would probably do well to reassess our laws to make doubly sure there are no victimless crimes on the list.

Americans Spend A Lot of Money On Schools (Which Doesn’t Seem To Change Much)

My taxes are paying for this?
Source: Deesillustration.com

We seem to like to talk about how we need to improve our education system in this country. Unfortunately, it seems that the answer always boils down to, “Throw money at the problem until it goes away.” But it’s somewhat obvious that doing so isn’t fixing anything.

Currently, the U.S. is fifth in school spending with a price tag of $115,000 per student. This wouldn’t be a problem if not for the fact that A) we are admittedly mediocre in terms of education and B) the Slovak Republic, who scored similarly to us in 2012 assessments, spends only $53,000 per student.

The actual factor seems to be socio-economic class rather than school funding. So, maybe we should focus more on helping people to help themselves first before giving that fat sack o’ loot to the local campus.

The Fat, Lazy American Stereotype Is Only Half Right

Apparently, you do and you just didn’t realize you’re using it.
Source: fitoverfourty.wordpress.com

If there’s one universal image of America in the minds of other countries, it’s the image of a rotund slob sitting in his reclining chair with a big bowl of Macaroni and Cheese. But the truth about that stereotype is much stranger than even most of us may know.

Yes, it is true that, among 11 to 15 year old Americans, 30 percent of them are medically classified as overweight or obese; making us the leaders in the obesity epidemic. But the problem is not with our lack of activity. According to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, 26.8 percent of those same 11 to 15 year olds perform moderate to vigorous exercise and physical activity daily. That makes us the third best among the other 33 OECD nations.

This leads me to two conclusions; that maybe there’s another reason why we’re all going the way of the Violet Beauregard and that maybe all the medical panic over this “obesity epidemic” is a load of crap and creampuffs.

New Old Glory: The Agent on The New Captain America

A new America for a new age.
Source: CinemaBlend.com

Recently, Marvel Comics announced news that would change the dynamic of their universe forever (or at least until they retcon it); Sam Wilson, the bird themed superhero formerly known as The Falcon would replace a de-powered Steve Rogers as Captain America.

This news was met with all of the rational logic that is to be expected of any die hard fan of anything – that is to say, crap hit the fan immediately and people started to panic asking if the change was for the best or not.

Well, for all of you Captain America purists, this should make your heads explode; I support this.

First of all, It’s not like Sam Wilson is a nobody in the Marvel Universe. He’s a long time friend and ally to The Avengers – especially to Steve Rogers. As a character, he has paid his dues and is probably the best person to stand in for Steve in a pinch.

Secondly, Steve as the Captain is a rather unfortunate anachronism. To the reading audience, He represented the United States’ values during World War II and the Cold War. While this serves the purpose of a time capsule of American history, from a story telling standpoint, our values have changed with our understanding of the world. We need a new hero to serve as our collective voice and desire.

Thirdly, for those ‘delightful’ people that are going to bring up changing the Captain’s race as an issue, the comic book industry – even after turning Nick Fury into Samuel L. Jackson, replacing the old Blue Beetle with a Hispanic teen, and making the golden age Green Lantern gay – is still HORRIBLY diversity deprived. As clunky as it may be to do it this way, I have no problems with writers wanting to insert a little variety in perspective via race, creed, gender, sexuality, or otherwise.

Besides, it’s not like there haven’t been black Captain Americas in the past. Josiah X and his father Isaiah Bradley‘s turns as the Captain allowed a great story to be told about internal government corruption as well as a stunning critique of the people responsible for the heinous Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment. Meanwhile, Isaiah’s grandson Elijah still serves as The Patriot; a young Captain America fighting for The Young Avengers

Lastly, this has the effect of making the Captain a legacy hero – one who passes his title down to one deemed worthy when he or she is know longer capable of or willing to continue their work (think The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride). I love legacy heroes, because they allow writers to tell new stories by reflecting on or reacting to previous mantle holders. Other great legacy heroes you may be familiar with include Robin, Green Lantern, The Flash, and – yes – even Batman.

So yes, I’m looking forward to seeing what Sam Wilson – one of the first African American heroes in comics and the only person in the Marvel Universe truly worthy to inherit the title of Captain America – does with his new responsibility to the people and his country. Be a good one, soldier.