It’s Advent again, so the fuckers are back at the grocery stores and the shopping malls, making a din with their stupid little bells, vulgarly wishing the public a merry Christmas in their capacity as bagmen for one of the worst bottomfeeding charities in the country. Steinbeck was wise to the Salvation Army’s cruelty towards its impoverished, captive audience back when he deployed his famous Okies to the ass end of my homeland, so it has a track record for its horseshit. Maggie McNeill’s advice is to shut the Salvation Army out entirely and give the money saved to Toys for Tots instead. Basically, everyone with a head and a pair has nothing good to say about the entire organization. It figures, though, since it’s run–commanded, if you will–by grown-ass men and women who encourage strangers to address them by the commissioned titles of the army officer corps. It’s never Mr. Jack Hoff who wants to put in a good word for his charity on the local news; it’s Major Jack Hoff, and he’s dressed up like a pseudomilitary version of a mall cop. Where Paul Blart puts on cheap dress grays and a big hat and pretends to be a state trooper, Colonel Sanders from the Salvation Army puts on dress reds and pretends to be Patton, or maybe Qaddafi.
At first blush, the difference here is that the academy reject–I mean, mall cop–has authority that he abuses over visitors to his mall, Major Hoff has no such authority over any member of the public. That’s not quite true, unfortunately. The Salvation Army is uncannily adept at finding desperate, timid people who will submit to its authority because the alternatives are even worse. The meek in this case shall not inherit a thing; if they had an inheritance of any note, they wouldn’t need the Salvation Army. The SA–hey, wasn’t there an old German paramilitary organization of some sort by that name?–anyway, the SA doesn’t just habitually steal valor from the real Army; it habitually steals its valor in order to smear a layer of false temporal authority atop the religious authority it claims to degrade the poor in exchange for its providing them measly charity, if the spirit so moves its officer corps.
You may be able to see by now why prostitutes don’t dig this crew. No morally straight woman of any good sense would want to grovel for the “charity” of a “Christian ministry” that provides crucial, time-sensitive aid only in exchange for abject submission. (#TeshTips: A common Arabic term for submission is Islam. #TheMoreYouKnow) Watching David Vitter fill his diaper again is probably a better option, but I guess it depends. Don’t blame me; I already told y’all in the last post that I didn’t sleep too well last night. The Salvation Army has a beef with independent, self-reliant people, since they cannot easily be subjugated with offers of cheap emergency food or shelter, and it’s hard to find a person more independent and self-reliant than a prostitute. These are entrepreneurs, or else small business employees, who disregard the precious moral sensitivities of third parties not paying them for a good fuck, and the Salvation Army has some of the most precious sensitivities to be found anywhere in this great land. Far be it from the Salvation Army to wait for women to come to its ministers looking for alternatives to prostitution. No, its officers take the initiative to berate any prostitutes they find with reminders of their sin and demands for penance.
So did Daniel Holtzclaw. These people are on the same spectrum, with the same set of bigoted prejudices.
The Salvation Army routinely exploits the desperate and accosts the public at entrances to retail stores for cash money every winter, but from time to time it crashes headlong into an even deeper gutter. The other day, there was a story on the Redding ABC affiliate in which the commanding officer of the local barracks or what-the-fuck whined at some length about how finding volunteers is le hard and his fine organization is therefore forced to hire paid employees to jingle its bells. The reporter concurred tendentiously with him, since the ideal of hard journalistic objectivity is a farce at local television stations (and newspapers, I hate to say) whose procedure is to transcribe PR copy to fill the yawning gaps between outbursts of real news. These poor cosplay racketeers are forced to hire mercenaries to do what volunteers should jump at the chance to do out of the pure goodness of their hearts. It’s like a minimum-wage version of Blackwater, which is fitting for a city known to NorCal social services types as Minimum Wage with a View.
The most appalling thing about this “news” story was a breathless complaint about how it’s harder than one might think to find qualified employees because, while volunteers usually work for a couple of hours at a time, paid ringers work full eight-hour shifts. I found it just a bit unpleasant to listen to ten minutes of that shit this afternoon while I fressed on my Holiday Market hot foods, and I was on the far side of a four-foot-wide structural column from the bagmen, so eight hours right in the middle of it must be fucking awful. It also sounds like a great way to get repetitive stress injuries to the wrist for absolutely no good reason. I sustained mild repetitive stress injuries to the wrist last year from thirty hours a week suckering grape vines, and our boss got the same sort of injury badly enough that he spent at least one day with his dominant arm in a sling (and worked faster than either me or the other guy on the crew with his non-dominant hand, because he’s an American Gothic badass), but I didn’t mind because it was vineyard work and we were being paid twelve dollars an hour. We weren’t making minimum wage to bug the public for spare change, and we weren’t risking tinnitus from chronic exposure to set-frequency noise.
When I heard this obnoxious televised White Whine from the asshat in Redding, it immediately occurred to me, God only knows why, that instead of hiring x employees to work eight-hour shifts, the Salvation Army could hire 4x employees to work two-hour shifts and pay them a quarter as much to do a quarter as much work. The limited hours would make the job less than a quarter as shitty, and the pay grade would stay the same, specifically, super fucking low. Apparently the Salvation Army can’t do this because reasons. It isn’t because there isn’t a big reserve labor force in Redding that’s desperate for any extra gigs it can land. Maybe they’re spuriously afraid of extra liability. Who knows. There are probably legal obstacles to their paying their bagmen a set percentage finder’s fee for money received, and there are definitely legal obstacles to the ringers embezzling their idea of a fair cut, as if they were involved in any other seedy racket, but personally, I can’t condemn either of these options as they pertain to an organization that commissions fuckheads to pester me when I go into Bi-Mart for fireplace pellets. If ringers illegally embezzle from the pot, it’s only because they cannot legally embezzle from the much bigger pot. To do that, I assume they’d have to at least make captain.
It is our sacred duty as Americans to do everything in our power to graciously humor these pests in furtherance of their moral aggrandizement. Being short or sassy or sarcastic with them would upset the obnoxious, and that would be a huge party foul. I don’t make the rules here. I’m just reporting them; you decide whether to be a good American enabler of disingenuous assholes or to dishonor the dishonorable.
On my way down the hill into downtown Redding today, I saw something even more obnoxious than the worst annoyances I’ve suffered at the hands of the bell-ringers. Since it happened in Redding, I wasn’t surprised. In addition to having one of the highest per capita concentrations of registered sex offenders in the United States, Redding has one of the gnarliest church scenes in the country, attracting nondenominational moral busybodies and, possibly to C. S. Lewis’ grudging approval, religious mooches. These mooches are often religious in the traditional Catholic sense of being single, not gainfully employed, and maybe overly prayerful, but not in the traditional Catholic sense of having any duty to anyone but themselves, such as a religious order that might tell them to go to Oshkosh and wipe the asses of senile old nuns pending further instructions from mother superior.
Anyway, the great obnoxiousness I witnessed on my way down Placer Street, aside from the City of Redding’s Pennsylvania-style half-assed road repairs, was a late-model Toyota minivan festooned with one of the most obnoxious clutters of bumper stickers harping on quasi-religious straw man arguments and religious right hobbyhorses I’ve ever seen in one place. This shit splatter was in addition to yet another bumper sticker saying, “Life’s better with a Papillon.” Bitch has foo-foo lap dogs, too, then. Fucking lovely. I’d bet something I cherish, like the cranberry-orange morning bun I just saw in the bakery case, that she spends at least two orders of magnitude less on charity for the desperate poor than she does on grooming for her pet dog. (I’m averse to gambling, okay? Grandma was a devout Nazarene, and Grandpa went to Reno and gambled away the refrigerator installment money, for which he blamed Sears-Roebuck for the rest of his life.) I could be wrong about this, but I have a bad feeling. As to the other bumper stickers:
–“JESUS” with a sort of hang-ten/live-long-and-prosper hand jive sign. Uhh, okay.
–“God Bless America” written around one side of those Support our Troops/Komen for the Cure-style ribbons, with red and green Christmas tree-type deals on a white background on the other side. My first assumption was that there was some sort of Arab angle to this, since the national colors of many Arab countries are red, white, and green, instead of our red, white, and blue, but this woman provably is not down Arab nationalism, because:
–Another ribbon-type thingy, this one with a US flag on one side and an Israeli flag on the other, underscored with a good word of some kind for US-Israeli best buddies 4eva deal. The point here, of course, is that no matter what reprehensible, unconscionable, objectively evil things the State of Israel does to the second-class Arab citizens and generationally stateless refugees under its jurisdiction, it is our absolute biblical duty as Christians to preemptively absolve it of all moral responsibility for everything and for all time.
–“Merry Christmas: It’s worth saying.” This one had Merry and mas in white lettering and Christ in red, all on an emerald background but I’m too computer-retarded to do colors. You just have to be an asshole to put that on your car. There’s no other way. Vanishingly few people are ostentatiously offended enough to complain to others for wishing them a merry Christmas. This is a totally bogus straw man, no matter how many goobers fall for it. I’m not crazy about “happy holidays” myself, especially since it inspired that grating ditty by the same title, but let’s be straight here: the last week of December and the first of January include two of the most important bank holidays in the West within the space of eight days, and two or more is a plural. The extended holiday season, as defined by the national consensus, includes a third US bank holiday, Thanksgiving. You may have heard of it at some point. Feel free to be as pluralistic beyond this as you like, as pluralistic as our great land.
The people who fly this shit have exceedingly little to say, one way or the other, about Lent. They can’t even be bothered to denigrate it as a papist custom. Some of them, professing Christians all, can’t provide a layman’s definition of Advent because they haven’t heard of it. They hardly even have anything to say about Holy Week, by any name, or about Good Friday or Easter, which, don’tcha know, are kind of big deals in Christianity. If I went around wishing other Christians a blessed Lent, most of them would look at me like I’m a crank.
You know what it is. There’s no marketing angle to this other stuff. Especially Lent. “Don’t buy that meatloaf. It’s Friday.” “But it’s the same price as the sidewinder fries.” “How about you wait til Sunday to buy those ribs. There’ll be more of them.” “But muh foods.” I may be a shitty Christian a lot of the time, and a worse Catholic come spring (I’m the eatin’ kind), but I don’t have my head intractably lodged in my ass, if I do say so myself.
The problem, of course, is that it’s considered offensive in my country to recognize profanity and call it by its proper name. Boinking hookers is not profane, but vulgar. Discussing David Vitter’s diaper fun time for shits and giggles is not profane, but obscene. Dicking around with a troubled city’s lumpenproletariat in the selection of candidates for earsplitting minimum-wage seasonal gigs while complaining that there aren’t enough people willing to work for free shilling for one’s bottomfeeding charitable racket? Now, that’s profane.
This Honor Israel stuff? The truth is that Netanyahu is the only world leader I can approach, one former MontCo hanger-on to another, and call a wretched belligerent putz. It’s a Philadelphia thing. With other dishonorable world leaders, it isn’t. The moneyed Arab perverts who shit on rent girls aren’t from Philadelphia, at least as far as I know. I’m not from Philadelphia, either, but if I’m good enough to be polar-beared by two who are, I’m good enough to appropriate the city’s culture however I fucking well please. I think I sort of had the accent for a while, for what it’s worth. I’d like to imagine that I have a more pleasant voice than Michael Nutter’s, but I’ve heard recordings, and they aren’t flattering.
Out in Haddonfield, the local white meat youth broke into a vacationing neighbor’s house a few years back and had a party that involved leaving used tampons on the stoop and shitting on the grand piano. Bear with me; I’m still short on sleep. In the Badlands, the dark meat answer to this is going potty in the nearest train tracks because there’s less in the way of public restrooms than there is in the way of trashy folk, and people genuinely caught short. That isn’t transgressive, usually; the Haddonfield Special is. I’m tempted to suggest, pursuant to Brandenburg v. Ohio, that someone here in Redding drop trou and shit on that bitch’s minivan, but as a Catholic, I’m catechized to pray for mercy, not justice. As a Catholic, I also missed confession this afternoon in order to write about whatever crossed my mind and get my tires rotated, so there’s that.
I have no idea where I’m going with any of this any longer until I’m already there. I need a shower. No, not because I’m publishing things so nasty that they’d be interdicted by customs agents at the nearest border, but because I’m homeless and I haven’t showered or changed my clothes since yesterday afternoon. I’m subordinating my personal hygiene to my craft. I’m turning into a low-rent Bill Gates.
Until we convene again for our next round of stomach-turning commentary, to all a good night.