More Roseburg, in case you can possibly stand it

Within the last four hours, I’ve witnessed two white trash men walk to the door of their apartment in one of the nicer Section Eight-looking buildings, neither of them wearing shirts, even though it was already 11:30; a midget struggling with a stuffed full-sized Jansport school backpack and two plastic bag in front of a dumpster downtown; two mutually marginalizing men spending their late middle age in Starbucks discussing why men are so horny on Mars, women are so not really horny on Venus, why can’t pills somehow be used to sterilize horny boys in furtherance of a coming utopia, and how, no homo, men can be socially attracted to other men; and a less disturbed older lady telling her husband, gentleman friend, or hell if I know what the fuck how much she enjoys watching Chicago Fire. I’m still overhearing bits of the homoerotic coffeehouse realtalk, so stand by for updates in case there are some.

As Chief Boden always says, leaders lead from the front, and followers watch a black Englishman and an Australian ginger whose family back home are mostly nativist surgeons pretend to be stationhouse commanders in the Chicago Fire Department. #TheMoreYouKnow, of course. The relationship between Chicago Fire, mass ennui, and television viewers whose calling is to do something more with their lives than watch trashy, violent first-responder/second-city-themed soap operas all night is a sad and troubled one, so of course there are Roseburgers who can’t think of anything better to do than to keep watching that shit. We can’t all be above average, Keillor. Because there’s winners, and there’s losers, and that ain’t nothing but a huge fucking big deal in a country that treats its losers as badly as America does, you dumb Hoosier honky cat. John Mellencamp did go on Fresh Air to call the agent who furtively rechristened him Cougar a shyster, verbatim, so I was taking an equally indecent liberty with him above. Dude’s actually pretty woke. His audience may not catch the nuances, though, kind of like Ronald Reagan culturally appropriating Springsteen’s “Born in the USA” as an anthem of earnest patriotism.

(Live update: the no homo realtalk convention just broke up. The last comments I heard were “Jesse Ventura” and some references to what sounded like conspiracy theories about why Jesse Ventura’s sparse public appearances and/or mental state. We will now resume our regularly scheduled deprogramming.)

Roseburg is a loser sump. There are far too many seedy residential motels here for a city of not much over 20,000. One of them has a sign up saying that it rents rooms for as little as $125 a week. This country badly needs more cheap flexible-stay lodging. It also badly needs less of the sort of frighteningly degraded lodging stock that rents out for $125 a week, or close to double that in other rural counties on the West Coast. Some of these properties by their very condition declare, “You’re gonna like the way your car looks when it gets burgled. I guarantee it.” The decent and halfway-decent hotels here aren’t exactly cheap, either, so this is a great place to get screwed into a hole good and hard.

There’s no structural need to concentrate all the trashies, ex-cons, long-term unemployed, and other losers in one or two neighborhoods where there are hardly any middle-class eyes on the street. Then again, inexorable structural or socioeconomic realities are never what inspire the revolt of the elites. That’s just crude group selfishness acted out at the class level by the middle and upper classes. Christopher Lasch focused far too narrowly on the upper echelons in the cosmopolitan urban power centers. If the struggling lower parts of the middle class were inspired to identify with the lower classes, the precariat, and the down-and-out instead of with more secure upper-middles and affluenza sufferers who discreetly hold them in extreme contempt as unmotivated losers who fully deserve to serve as the hosts for their moral and financial parasitism, the homelessness problem would be a shadow of what it is today. The consensus would be that there but for the grace of God go we all, so public policy must be oriented to meet the basic needs of those who have fallen on hard times before it is redirected to further aggrandize the already affluent. Instead, we have a moral panic over opiate addiction, whose shorthand version tends to entrench the defamation of the homeless as a bunch of habitually irresponsible substance abusers. Never mind that public money is regularly handed out like Halloween candy to a rogue’s gallery of extremely wealthy and powerful special interests, why should a much smaller fraction of our hard-earned tax dollars be wasted on two-bit thieving local yokels who are always high on drugs?

The problem with the poor is always that they won’t get with the program. They drink too much. They smoke too much. They fuck too much. They eat too much junk food. They didn’t stay in school. Muh STEM. They’re obviously a basket of deplorables anyway. In the lower-middle class parts of Roseburg (e.g., the Green District), I came across several modest but striving nondenominational churches. The program that the poors around here won’t get with seems to include low church. Or, as they frame the argument in mainstream Republican circles, Ted Cruz and Rod Dreher go to church, so why the “Hell” don’t you? Get it? Snork snork.

Of course Christianity in places as constitutionally ugly as the inequitably misgoverned parts of the United States gets corrupted by politics to very profane ends. Can I get an Ephesians 3:20 amen to that, Pastor Joel? Amen. Amen. A-eheheheheh-mehehehehehen.

Take me to church. I’ll worship like a dog in the–shit, never mind, wrong kind of church. It’s like trying to go to mass and ending up at an altar call in front of a pickle barrel full of copperheads. Ireland today is unchurched enough to legalize same-sex marriage by a supermajority in a plebiscite and to give the world the singer-songwriter of some of the most eerily, irresistibly evocative secular music consciously exploring themes of irreverence and idolatry. Ireland yesterday was churched enough for the enforcement of peasant superstitions and the punishment of those (especially women) who had attracted the attention of its village gossips (also women? do bitches be snitches? #LeanIn #ImWithHer) by means of overbearing establishmentarian positive law. Hozier may not need hard drugs to be disturbed, but the drugs sure helped Jefferson Airplane.

The gosh-darn blasphemous secular music is reason enough to make your kids listen to K-Love instead. But have you ever listened to K-Love? As the unchurched kids say these days, gawd. They could play the Taylor Grocery Band from time to time (no, not the murder ballads), but that must not be shitty enough, either as music or as theology.

Moral panics over the corrupting influence of satanic music ignore questions of Christian ministry, including who will minister to the midgets downtown. Or, in this case, maybe just midget singular. Hell of a place to come across one within 24 hours of rolling into town, though. Are we our brothers’ keepers? Who am I kidding? This is America. Ain’t that. You and me, but mainly just me, because it’s easier to be a self-dealing narcissist when other people aren’t allowed to get in the way by asking for help.

According to television, the Las Vegas Strip has a community of lay midgets and dwarves that the police call in to minister to other midgets and dwarves who may be in danger of smallsploitation and/or annoying the fullsized and supersized by exploiting their own smallness for somewhat bigger money. Small measures for little people, sometimes featuring Wee Man. Social services in Vegas suck ass, of course, so this is probably just a case of deputies having the nearest do-gooder civilian on call relieve them of their duties but not their powers.

No, I was never trying to imply that my own television viewing habits are reputable.

If God’s favor is somehow upon this valley, I’d hate to see God’s disfavor. Nothing holy to see here, folks; might as well get back on the Interstate, probably.


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