American Graffiti – The Old Model of Sex

am graf.jpg

The rules of sex are both formal and informal for men and women, in America.

Boys and girls learn about love and sex in the climate of their youth.  They learn and practice the rules and taboos of their “tribe.”  When I was a boy, men were macho.  My dad was strong, facile, and strict.  Movies were John Wayne, Micky Spillane, and Gone with the Wind.  Just after World War II, society’s standards for men were macho, and aggressive; standards for women were demure, cosmetic, social accessories, fiercely-devout housewives, ardent lovers, and stalwart, protectors of children.

gwtw

Men pursued sexual contact, despite protests from a woman (e.g. Gone with the Wind).  “Wolf Whistles” were some crude men’s idea of how to get women’s attention.  Boys had a mandate to “get girls” (e.g. American Graffiti).  We had no idea how, but we could not let it be known we were kiss-less virgins.  Dates were events with timorous, sexual fumbles.  Men “scored” with women.  They used baseball as a metaphor.  First base was kissing; second base was touching breasts; you can guess third base and home run – and strike out.  Virginity was for boys to lose, and girls to keep; that was the battle of the sexes.

Boys’ bathrooms or gym locker rooms were the venues for lame boasts of conquest, and face-saving lies.  Every boy had a story to tell that would lift his score on the invisible scoreboard of manliness.  The desperate would name local, popular boy-legends; girls with “reputations.”

Anyone who watches the series “Mad Men,” sees the power structure, and vulnerability men and women accepted and took for granted.  Everyone tacitly agreed that powerful men can press themselves on women.  Today, we call them “predators.”

Women did not want these advances then, either.  They just learned to ignore or deal with it, and moved on.  It was job survival for a woman in the workplace to tactfully divert the advances of the men she worked with.

Then came the late 60’s,70’s, and 80’s; confusing and defining times for both sexes.  Young, unmarried women were “liberated.”  We had a mix of traditional and uninhibited values.  It was a second “suffrage.”  Some men and women connected in “adulterous” liaisons.  Others lived dual lives, with a traditional family, and a sexual second.  Some had “open” marriages that allowed sex with non-spouses.

This historic, buffet of choices causes conflict today.  The recent pillory and massacre of powerful men based on accusations of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances is a cultural sea change.  The information age is giving women a platform, permission, and encouragement to revolt against the subjugating, sexual power men have held over subordinate women forever.

This is a confusing time for men who like women.  Men are on notice to be “appropriate” with all women.  Are platonic friendships between men and women possible now?  What is “appropriate?”

Men want women to like them, but many are clumsy and clueless; women are different, subjective, fickle, ephemeral “mysteries” men cannot figure out; therefore, attractive curiosities.  Who will teach men how to be around women?  Where is the manual?  What parts of the way they grew up do they discard?  Straight men are in peril if they describe, notice, appreciate, comment, or have facial expressions in response to a woman’s appearance or attractiveness.  That surely limits the range of single men’s overtures to a potential mate. (e.g. “Hi, I noticed you from across the library, in the non- fiction section, I do not know anything about non-fiction, could you help me?  Could I bribe you with a coffee?”  Or, “Aren’t you the lady from my bank?  I always wondered what being a teller is like.  Would you have time to help me understand?   I’ll buy the coffee. What do you like?”)  Still pretty lame, but completely appropriate.

Women spend hours each day to prepare and present themselves to “others.”  Cosmetics, hair style, nail polish, clothes, whitened teeth, shoes, and body-shape are endemic elements of fashion and style in our culture.  Women often compliment or disparage other women for their presentation; that is not harassment, but it can be “shaming.”  Women take compliments from gay men as, well, compliments, because they figure sex is not their motivation.

When straight men compliment women, without sexual intentions, women might still accuse them of sexual aggression.  Absent comments, some women might feel ignored, or unattractive, but what are men to do?  Confused and threatened men can retreat into a “man’s world,” which is a safe, sane, and familiar cave.

 

Advertisements

The March? -Fog of Vague Purposes

Remember “Occupy Wall Street?” More currently, “Black Lives Matter?”  And the latest example, “Women’s March?”  They have this much in common:

  • Loose Organization
  • Diverse Membership
  • Aggregate Complaints
  • Unfocused Intentions
  • Non-Specific Proposals
  • Outdoor Meetings
  • Catchy Names

“Occupy Wall Street” was pretty much just news items about their encampment.  “Black Lives Matter” fails to note that Federal statistics show that 80-90% of murdered “black lives that matter” are victims of black killers.  Half of all murder victims, nationally, are black; blacks are less than 15% of the population.  Where is that protest and call to action?

In the context of this protest, do they mean “Black, Mexican, Muslim, LGBTQ, Women’s Lives Matter?”  Or do they mean “Black, Young, Men’s Lives Matter,” but this just happens to be a women’s march?  Just what do they mean?

It seems that the “Women’s March” was all about disappointment, fear, and frustration transformed into pink anger.  Disappointment that Hillary did not win, fear that women’s rights will be undermined, and frustration that women do not receive equal pay.

Trump became the effigy to blame for everything.

Misogyny:  How many participants, do you think, could cite specific instances when President Trump recently disrespected women who were not attacking him?  Where is the acknowledgement of the nonchalant treatment of wives and women by iconic presidents such as JFK, and Bill Clinton?

If the marchers are promoting equality for women, his business organizations reflect great respect for women by hiring them, promoting them into management and paying them well; sounds like equality to me.  Why not ask women who work for the Trump organization how they feel about their misogynist boss?

Immigration:  First, Trump got trapped in the “Newspeak” of the way we use “immigrant.”  Many foreign nationals, from many countries, apply for visas, “green cards,” and citizenship every year.  Those who gain permanent residence or citizenship can rightly be called immigrants.  A great number of Americans are immigrants or children of immigrants.

The proponents of unlimited immigration and aligned journalists fought to not use the legal term “alien.”  They insisted on substituting “______-immigrant” until it became commonplace.  The problem is that non-hyphenated, legal immigrants heard these “_______-immigrants” being criticized and threatened, and felt included in that group; they took personally the anger, fear, and distain.

By verbally lumping the “_______-immigrants” together with immigrant citizens, they built support for their open-borders philosophy.  If we had stuck with “aliens,” and “foreign nationals,” the citizens would not have felt combined with them.

Exactly, what did he say about Mexicans?  Not just the clips, the whole statements. He said that among the illegal migrants were, drug smugglers, human traffickers, fugitive criminals, including murders, and rapists.  Is that true?  Yes.  Trump’s opponents extracted this description and implied that he meant ALL Mexicans fit these profiles.

Muslims:  Trump wants to limit and vet prospective refugees entering the US from Islamist countries tied to terrorism.  He wants Muslim communities to help identify and thwart jihadist terrorists.

Women who live in Muslim countries might not be sympathetic with the complaints of the marchers; certainly, they would or could not march on their capitals protesting.  Why not ask Muslim-American women what they would face if they went home to Arabia and Africa?  What would you face going there as a Christian?  Count your blessings that you live here in America.

There are no government proposals or actions right now that threaten women; he just took office Friday.  All the rhetoric is about what could happen; what rights they fear might be lost; what affronts they fear they may face.  Fear is a factor, but not fact

The one thing that stands out to me is concern about reversing Roe v. Wade.  I understand opposition to abortion challenges.  I support safe, informed, reasoned choice for every woman.  So, focus on defending that right or you risk people writing you off as generally disappointed with the election results, and righteously irritated at the challenges of being a woman.

The last point is this:  What do you propose, aside from replacing Donald Trump?  Many commentators have shrugged their shoulders about the purposes of the march because the marchers are not clear about what they are championing.  It was a shame that all the time, money, effort, and commitment it took to get people on the streets ended in a fog of vague purposes.

Whining the Election – Trumpled Aspirations

Over the 52 years and 13 presidential elections I have been eligible to vote, I have never seen such sore losers, and humble winners.

I am disappointed with the disparate responses to the results of the 2016 presidential election.  Smug expectations from pollsters and pundits seem to have set a trap for Hillary’s disciples, and set a stage for impetuous, righteous indignation.  Rejection, disputation, refutation, spoilsport language, protests, and denial among disgruntled Clinton supporters is “over-the-top,” and “unpresidented.”  “He is not my president,” spake Gloria Steinem, Wednesday morning.  (Ironically, in the past, she also said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”) 

Why have Mrs. Clinton’s avid proponents gone off the rails into the deep waters of denial and despair?

I believe the presumption that Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead over Donald Trump was their downfall.  Belief in optimistic statistics led to haughty attitudes and supercilious sneers on the faces of Hillary’s fans.  The extreme vanity of the oracles’ predictions led to nasty, braggadocios, arrogance.  When pride met gravity, the indignity of the pratfall magnified the embarrassment of hubris. The expectations of overwhelming victory were shredded, by the unexpected appearance at the polls of hordes of angry, underserved workers.  The ambush of the uncounted, disenfranchised citizens prevailed.

The carefully crafted deception of optimistic unemployment statistics did not fool the people who took discounted wages and lesser jobs over the last eight years.  These voters had no voice among Democrats who applauded the “champion of hope” for his rescue of the economy, and restoration of the American Dream.  They were not deceived by or grateful for their thinly disguised demotions and the smiling, dismissive, carefully worded denigrations spun by an accommodating media on behalf of the Obama administration.

The scales did not fall from their eyes, because no scales formed as they lost their jobs, houses, cars, and pride.  The Affordable Care Act did not replace the healthcare insurance they lost when their employer dropped their health coverage; when they lost their jobs, their hopes were dashed by the failure of the “marketplace” to make personal health insurance and their out-of-pocket costs affordable.  Instead, they found themselves ravaged by astronomical premiums, deductibles, copays, and incredible prescription prices.  Hospitals and pharmacies raised their nominal, private pay prices to offset the discounts demanded by insurance providers.  The uninsured were left with impossible choices.

Promise after promise lay fallow by the roadside.  Example after example of the USA borrowing trillions of dollars to pay for the rest of the world’s problems and defense festered, while Americans suffered from the Great Recession.  Pact after pact, treaty after treaty left us at disadvantage.  Military efforts left us looking weak, as we shrank from conflicts under cover of spin.  Former allies spat disparaging invectives on our leaders.

Did Hillary’s followers believe she could pull us out of the ditch of weakness and doubt created these past eight years?  Did her apostles think her baggage and prevarications would evaporate by inauguration?  No wonder they were blindsided when Trump won.

American Royalty – Power Without Heart

 

The 2016 presidential campaign harkens back to the earliest years of our nation.  Democracy, Republic, Three Branches of Government, Bicameral Legislature, By The People, Checks and Balances were new ideas.  Did everyone agree?  Not in the slightest.  And they had not invented political correctness in the middle of the 18th century.

No; instead, anonymous, pamphlets of slanderous accusations and invectives, swirled like blizzards across the newly formed United States of America.  The reins of power were not certain or predictable. Contenders for office came from all walks of life with no “party” to promote them.

The evolution of America’s two major political parties took some time, but those in power were hardly poor or neutral; power is the ultimate opioid.  Despite conflicts, Democrats and Republicans play the same games; they expect to win and lose from time to time, but both sides know the rules of placating the masses by making them think they have a voice in what goes on.

Until recently, the pretense of two radically separate political bodies survived, and thrived.  Now, two is not enough, talk is not enough, rhetoric is not enough.  Americans are tired of the same old crap: “They” are bad, “We” are good.  We will fix (what they broke, again).  They found out that there is just one old machine with two faces; they do not want it anymore.

The 9/11 attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the mortgage fiascos, the collapse of investment banks, the explosion of college costs and debts, the Great Recession, the expansion of global terrorism, have shaken our confidence in America, in ourselves, and in our institutions.

We have lost the super in superpower.  Our military is so weak, we have to send the same soldiers back into combat again and again until they break; we spend millions of dollars on a drone strike to kill a dozen enemy soldiers so we can avoid American casualties.  The all-professional military means that average citizens are not involved; we do not feel like we are really at war.  What would make us think that?

The same old promises will not work on brand new problems any better than they did on the old problems.  Conspiracies seem to explain current events better than the lame “official” excuses and falsehoods WikiLeaks keeps uncovering.  And just maybe the truth is not that far off.

We have lost the attention span to take politicians seriously.  Incumbents no longer offer us advantages. Hence the wave of populism, barely dodged by the Democrats secret machine, and now staring the Republicans in the face.  The political czars are going to any length, including crossing over to the other side to avoid losing control of the constituencies they have cultivated.

The trouble is, the new constituencies are awakened, vocal, mobilized, and revolting against Big Brother.  They want purpose, they want independence, they want liberty, and at least a passing chance in their pursuit of happiness.

It looks like the machine, with all its money, influence, propaganda, connections, and experience may win again this time.  I am unhappy that my country, with all its advantages, cannot cultivate enough honorable leaders to field worthy candidates for president, and remain loyal when the voters speak.

Hillary Clinton Showed More Awareness of Her Speaking Voice

During Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech, I liked the improvements in her speaking voice.  I shake my head when I read that her supporters lecture us to be more politically correct; you cannot order us to, “stop not liking her delivery, you men do the same thing and get accepted.”  Listeners cannot escape their visceral responses.  I say, “Stop telling us how we should respond.”

Our culture has conditioned us to hear and respond to voices since we were babies.  We did not choose our responses; we grew them based on the events that accompanied the speaking.  We are sensitive to tones, overtones, undertones, volume, brittleness, rhythm, pace, inflections in both high-pitched and low-pitched voices.  We have all been soothed and yelled at by both men and women.  We know it when we hear it. Watch how babies respond to voices; that is our nature.

Before microphones, people speaking to large groups or singing had to amplify their voices, a kind of practiced yelling.  Preachers in churches, actors on stages, singers of opera, and teachers in classrooms had to speak/sing loudly to be heard.

The advent of microphones made this unnecessary. Radio and television stations discovered which kinds of speaking voices are soothing, grating, jarring, preaching, threatening, etc.  They just do not hire people who do not speak successfully to their audiences.

No amount of chiding, “people should not let shrill voices bother them, they should just hear the message,” will change our automatic responses.  The speaker must accommodate the listener, not the other way around.  That is what voice coaches do.

What I noticed, during Hillary’s speech, was how many times she caught herself when she started to elevate her voice for emphasis, and lowered it into a more powerful, conversational range.  There is no need for yelling with today’s microphones.

The finest example at the convention was Michelle Obama’s amazing speech.  Replay it to experience the smoothest, clearest, most comfortable, conversational speaking I have ever heard.  She made it easy to hear her very strong points without yelling, grating, or preaching.

So, let the critics of the voice critics relent; no one will take you seriously; no one will cheer if their ears are not happy.

“Equality” – An Evil Definition

What qualities are we trying to “E?”  Who decides “equal?”  How does anyone improve the qualities of another person?

When a political party adds a word to their platform, shouldn’t they define it?  Does anyone believe our human race was advanced and improved by denying the qualities that surpassed “normal” or “average?”

I cannot seem to find anyone anywhere who can or will say exactly what they mean by “equal,” or how “equality” will be achieved.

If fostering equality means reducing those who excel by taxation or regulation, what will that accomplish for the “unequals?”

What politicians are ready to point at individual citizens and say, “You are unequal, you are above equal, you are exactly equal.”?

Am I supposed to be so ignorant that I do not interpret this criminalization of success as a naked call for federal government stripping resources from those with money to finance distributions of resources to those who are “below equal.”?  Do I want to live in a communist society where everything is artificial, and nothing works?  No.

Millions of people have risked life and limb to get to the place where they are unencumbered by lack of opportunity – the USA.  They are here to improve their chances for a better life for themselves and their children.  They see that here they have a chance that their efforts will pay off.  Do they require a perfect environment?  Do they insist that the government remove the obstacles to their accomplishments?  No.

Oh, and by the way, where is the campaign for GLOBAL equality?  (Silence)  Hmmm, so giving up what we have that exceeds what other people have in other parts of the world is different.  Hypocritical at best.

Kurt Vonnegut was prescient in a short story he wrote in 1961, (just as George Orwell was in 1944 when he published “Animal Farm.”)

Read what he wrote.

 <HARRISON BERGERON by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr  1961

THE YEAR WAS 2081, and everybody was finally equal.  They weren’t only equal before God and the law. They were equal every which way.  Nobody was smarter than anybody else.  Nobody was better looking than anybody else. Nobody was stronger or quicker than anybody else.  All this equality was due to the 211th, 212th, and 213th Amendments to the Constitution, and to the unceasing vigilance of agents of the United States Handicapper General.

Some things about living still weren’t quite right, though.  April for instance, still drove people crazy by not being springtime.  And it was in that clammy month that the H-G men took George and Hazel Bergeron’s fourteen-year-old son, Harrison, away.

It was tragic, all right, but George and Hazel couldn’t think about it very hard. Hazel had a perfectly average intelligence, which meant she couldn’t think about anything except in short bursts.  And George, while his intelligence was way above normal, had a little mental handicap radio in his ear.  He was required by law to wear it at all times.  It was tuned to a government transmitter.  Every twenty seconds or so, the transmitter would send out some sharp noise to keep people like George from taking unfair advantage of their brains.

George and Hazel were watching television.  There were tears on Hazel’s cheeks, but she’d forgotten for the moment what they were about.

On the television screen were ballerinas.

A buzzer sounded in George’s head.  His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

“That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did,” said Hazel.

“Huh” said George.

“That dance-it was nice,” said Hazel.

“Yup,” said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. They weren’t really very good-no better than anybody else would have been, anyway. They were burdened with sashweights and bags of birdshot, and their faces were masked, so that no one, seeing a free and graceful gesture or a pretty face, would feel like something the cat drug in. George was toying with the vague notion that maybe dancers shouldn’t be handicapped. But he didn’t get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

“Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer,” said George.

“I’d think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds,” said Hazel a little envious.

“All the things they think up.”  “Um,” said George.

“Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?” said Hazel. Hazel, as a matter of fact, bore a strong resemblance to the Handicapper General, a woman named Diana Moon Glampers.

“If I was Diana Moon Glampers,” said Hazel, “I’d have chimes on Sunday-just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion.”

“I could think, if it was just chimes,” said George.

“Well-maybe make ’em real loud,” said Hazel. “I think I’d make a good Handicapper General.”

“Good as anybody else,” said George.

“Who knows better than I do what normal is?” said Hazel.

“Right,” said George. He began to think glimmeringly about his abnormal son who was now in jail, about Harrison, but a twenty-one-gun salute in his head stopped that.

“Boy!” said Hazel, “that was a doozy, wasn’t it?”

It was such a doozy that George was white and trembling, and tears stood on the rims of his red eyes. Two of the eight ballerinas had collapsed to the studio floor, were holding their temples.

“All of a sudden you look so tired,” said Hazel. “Why don’t you stretch out on the sofa, so’s you can rest your handicap bag on the pillows, honeybunch.” She was referring to the forty-seven pounds of birdshot in a canvas bag, which was padlocked around George’s neck.

“Go on and rest the bag for a little while,” she said. “I don’t care if you’re not equal to me for a while.”

George weighed the bag with his hands. “I don’t mind it,” he said. “I don’t notice it any more. It’s just a part of me.”

“You been so tired lately-kind of wore out,” said Hazel. “If there was just some way we could make a little hole in the bottom of the bag, and just take out a few of them lead balls. Just a few.”

“Two years in prison and two thousand dollars fine for every ball I took out,” said George. “I don’t call that a bargain.”

“If you could just take a few out when you came home from work,” said Hazel. “I mean-you don’t compete with anybody around here. You just set around.”

“If I tried to get away with it,” said George, ” then other people’d get away with it-and pretty soon we’d be right back to the dark ages again, with everybody competing against everybody else. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“I’d hate it,” said Hazel.

“There you are,” said George. The minute people start cheating on laws, what do you think happens to society?”  If Hazel hadn’t been able to come up with an answer to this question, George couldn’t have supplied one. A siren was going off in his head.

“Reckon it’d fall all apart,” said Hazel.

“What would?” said George blankly.

“Society,” said Hazel uncertainly. “Wasn’t that what you just said?

“Who knows?” said George.

The television program was suddenly interrupted for a news bulletin. It wasn’t clear at first as to what the bulletin was about, since the announcer, like all announcers, had a serious speech impediment. For about half a minute, and in a state of high excitement, the announcer tried to say, “Ladies and Gentlemen.”

He finally gave up, handed the bulletin to a ballerina to read.

“That’s all right-” Hazel said of the announcer, “he tried. That’s the big thing. He tried to do the best he could with what God gave him. He should get a nice raise for trying so hard.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” said the ballerina, reading the bulletin. She must have been extraordinarily beautiful, because the mask she wore was hideous. And it was easy to see that she was the strongest and most graceful of all the dancers, for her handicap bags were as big as those worn by two-hundred pound men.

And she had to apologize at once for her voice, which was a very unfair voice for a woman to use. Her voice was a warm, luminous, timeless melody.

“Excuse me-” she said, and she began again, making her voice absolutely uncompetitive.

“Harrison Bergeron, age fourteen,” she said in a grackle squawk, “has just escaped from jail, where he was held on suspicion of plotting to overthrow the government. He is a genius and an athlete, is under-handicapped, and should be regarded as extremely dangerous.”

A police photograph of Harrison Bergeron was flashed on the screen-upside down, then sideways, upside down again, then right side up. The picture showed the full length of Harrison against a background calibrated in feet and inches. He was exactly seven feet tall.

The rest of Harrison’s appearance was Halloween and hardware. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. The spectacles were intended to make him not only half blind, but to give him whanging headaches besides.

Scrap metal was hung all over him. Ordinarily, there was a certain symmetry, a military neatness to the handicaps issued to strong people, but Harrison looked like a walking junkyard. In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds.  And to offset his good looks, the H-G men required that he wear at all times a red rubber ball for a nose, keep his eyebrows shaved off, and cover his even white teeth with black caps at snaggle-tooth random.

“If you see this boy,” said the ballerina, “do not – I repeat, do not – try to reason with him.”

There was the shriek of a door being torn from its hinges.

Screams and barking cries of consternation came from the television set. The photograph of Harrison Bergeron on the screen jumped again and again, as though dancing to the tune of an earthquake. George Bergeron correctly identified the earthquake, and well he might have – for many was the time his own home had danced to the same crashing tune.

“My God-” said George, “that must be Harrison!”  The realization was blasted from his mind instantly by the sound of an automobile collision in his head. When George could open his eyes again, the photograph of Harrison was gone. A living, breathing Harrison filled the screen.

Clanking, clownish, and huge, Harrison stood – in the center of the studio. The knob of the uprooted studio door was still in his hand. Ballerinas, technicians, musicians, and announcers cowered on their knees before him, expecting to die.

“I am the Emperor!” cried Harrison. “Do you hear? I am the Emperor! Everybody must do what I say at once!” He stamped his foot and the studio shook.

“Even as I stand here” he bellowed, “crippled, hobbled, sickened – I am a greater ruler than any man who ever lived! Now watch me become what I can become!”

Harrison tore the straps of his handicap harness like wet tissue paper, tore straps guaranteed to support five thousand pounds.

Harrison’s scrap-iron handicaps crashed to the floor.

Harrison thrust his thumbs under the bar of the padlock that secured his head harness. The bar snapped like celery. Harrison smashed his headphones and spectacles against the wall.

He flung away his rubber-ball nose, revealed a man that would have awed Thor, the god of thunder.

“I shall now select my Empress!” he said, looking down on the cowering people.

“Let the first woman who dares rise to her feet claim her mate and her throne!”

A moment passed, and then a ballerina arose, swaying like a willow.

Harrison plucked the mental handicap from her ear, snapped off her physical handicaps with marvelous delicacy. Last of all he removed her mask.  She was blindingly beautiful.

“Now-” said Harrison, taking her hand, “shall we show the people the meaning of the word dance? Music!” he commanded.

The musicians scrambled back into their chairs, and Harrison stripped them of their handicaps, too.

“Play your best,” he told them, “and I’ll make you barons and dukes and earls.”

The music began. It was normal at first-cheap, silly, false. But Harrison snatched two musicians from their chairs, waved them like batons as he sang the music as he wanted it played. He slammed them back into their chairs.

The music began again and was much improved.

Harrison and his Empress merely listened to the music for a while-listened gravely, as though synchronizing their heartbeats with it.

They shifted their weights to their toes.

Harrison placed his big hands on the girl’s tiny waist, letting her sense the weightlessness that would soon be hers.

And then, in an explosion of joy and grace, into the air they sprang!

Not only were the laws of the land abandoned, but the law of gravity and the laws of motion as well. They reeled, whirled, swiveled, flounced, capered, gamboled, and spun.

They leaped like deer on the moon.

The studio ceiling was thirty feet high, but each leap brought the dancers nearer to it.

It became their obvious intention to kiss the ceiling. They kissed it.

And then, neutraling gravity with love and pure will, they remained suspended in air inches below the ceiling, and they kissed each other for a long, long time.

It was then that Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General, came into the studio with a double-barreled ten-gauge shotgun. She fired twice, and the Emperor and the Empress were dead before they hit the floor.

Diana Moon Glampers loaded the gun again. She aimed it at the musicians and told them they had ten seconds to get their handicaps back on.

It was then that the Bergerons’ television tube burned out.

Hazel turned to comment about the blackout to George. But George had gone out into the kitchen for a can of beer.

George came back in with the beer, paused while a handicap signal shook him up. And then he sat down again.

“You been crying” he said to Hazel.

“Yup,” she said.  “What about?” he said.

“I forget,” she said. “Something real sad on television.”

“What was it?” he said.

“It’s all kind of mixed up in my mind,” said Hazel.

“Forget sad things,” said George.

“I always do,” said Hazel.

“That’s my girl,” said George. He winced. There was the sound of a riveting gun in his head.

“Gee – I could tell that one was a doozy,” said Hazel.

“You can say that again,” said George.

“Gee-” said Hazel, “I could tell that one was a doozy.”>

 

“Harrison Bergeron” is copyrighted by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., 1961.