Years ago while out birdwatching, a real, live mink climbed a tree and sat there looking at me. At the time, I did not know mink could climb trees. Even with my keen interest in nature, there are still a lot of things I don’t know about a lot of things.
The mink sat there for a moment with its white chin glowing in the morning sun. Then it determined I was not a real threat and jumped down to the ground to continue on its journey catching frogs and mice and crayfish.
Mink are known to be aggressive little beasts. As members of the weasel family, they make their living hunting down everything they can catch. Mink are fast. They are agile. They can also be ornery when cornered. Spitting and hissing, they will not go down without a fight.
That’s why my brothers called me The Mink when I was a kid. Skinny and wiry like a weasel, I was given to fits of competitive fury. My brothers loved to tease me into that state of mind. They almost never failed to get a reaction out of me.
That is, until I grew up. Over the years, I learned that being that wildly competitive has its downfalls. During my entire competitive athletic career from middle school through college and beyond, that competitive fire burned brightly.
At one point post-college, I was so determined to succeed in running that I barely talked to others during training sessions at the University of Illinois-Chicago track. While not exactly anti-social, it was a methodology I adopted during that period of life because it felt like Me Against the World. I’ve heard it said of other runners as well. “When he’s out of shape, he’s a nice guy. When he’s in shape, he’s the biggest prick in the world.”
That was the modus operandi back in the 70s and 80s. During high school, you could count on zero mercy from your competitors. It was either “keep up or drop out” in training and in meets. And Good Luck trying to talk to a competitor before a race.
So it was not without some outside influence that The Mink persisted in my psychological makeup. From the earliest age, I was competitive to a fault. My best friend once told me in 7th grade while playing basketball with some local girls, “If you want them to like you, you have to let them win.”
But that didn’t necessarily work. It was too easy to be perceived as weak, and more than once the giggles of some popular girl told that story in bold relief. So I adopted a different approach. Treat women as equals, and let that define who you are. Neither better or worse at sports, or anything. And lo and behold, that’s what the women I met really wanted. Respect.
Thus began a transformative process that lasted for years. I was still The Mink on many fronts in life. But the competitiveness took on a different focus. I began to focus my competitiveness on concerns for equality and social justice. That had existed in me from an early age. I’d dealt with bullies and learned a few hard lessons about how and why they operate lie they do.
That evolved in me a will to stick up for anyone being bullied. It also gave me a keen sense of how to stand them down. Like the character Ralphie in A Christmas Story when he erupts on Scott Farcus, my internal fire boiled over on a number of occasions. Most of those fights I either won or got the hell out of there in a hurry. It pays to be faster than your enemies at times, but there are times when running away is neither helpful or constructive. So you knock Scott Farcus down and move on.
What I’m getting at here is that while I’ve evolved to some degree, an element of The Mink remains in me. It comes through in this blog in many ways, particularly on political and religious matters.
I write other blogs as well. One focuses specifically on religion and politics. It is titled GenesisFix, which echoes the title of my first published book, The Genesis Fix: A Repair Manual for Faith in the Modern Age. That book took seven years to complete. It began with an essay titled How The Earth Was Forgotten After Creation published in 1998. The book was completed in 2007.
You may note that it took almost the entire tenure of the Bush administration to complete. The Republican domination of American politics kept contributing new material. Along the way, reading books such as Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean and Sins of Scripture by Bishop John Shelby Spong provided additional motivation and inspiration. They called conservative presumptions (and assumptions) into question in bold and manifest ways.
My book The Genesis Fix focused on the ways literalism and legalism corrupt scripture to material aims and political authority. It was my response to the bully pulpit styles of evangelicals and fundamentalists turning religion into a tool for political power and economic exploitation while working against social justice, environmental conservation and civil rights. The Mink tried to rule that book, but I ultimately tempered the tone so that it was not a screed or a polemic. It proposes that the methods of teaching used by Jesus leveraged highly organic symbolism to convey spiritual truths. This connection to the earth and creation is the real source of wisdom in scripture, and it exists throughout the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. But people ignore it because literalism seems like it holds all the answers. But all it holds is a grip on blind authority. And that’s both a sad and dangerous thing for society.
The next book I wrote and published is titled The Right Kind of Pride. It is the chronicle of a cancer survivorship journey with my late wife. The book is available on Amazon.com and I have continued a blog in its name, therightkindofpride.com since its publication last year. One could argue it shows my gentler side. But really, some aspects of survivorship and grief require as much emotional grit and toughness as an Ironman Triathlon.
So there are many occasions and many ways in which The Mink emerges in this blog. That does not come without some legitimate challenges. As a devout liberal who frankly believes conservatism in its current form is a damaging influence on the world, I am sure some of my observations are offensive. I can’t help that. I’m not going to pull back on the things that matter.
One reader debates me regularly and that is appreciated because despite appearances, I do not always assume that I am right. But one habit, in particular, annoys him. This is what he wrote about it: “I’m immensely curious as to why you find it so necessary to take pot shots at those who see life a little differently than you. You write so well but in 66% of your posts you have to throw a nutty Liberal strawman jab in there. I realize you and I will never see eye to eye politically but this post would have been immensely better without the shot at the Bible thumpers.”
Well, for one thing, I may steal his accusation to create the name of my next rock band. Nutty Liberal Strawman would be a pretty great moniker for an Indie band.
And he’s likely correct that 66% of the time I throw in pot shots or grab a bit of philosophical prey and give it a shake in an attempt to do it in.
The Mink rails against people whose blind literalism undermines the true meaning of scripture. I stand accused. And am proud of that fact.
And The Mink questions people whose aggressive fealty to the actions of conservative leadership obscures the very apparent cognitive dissonance in voting for people working against the interests of the Middle Class and everyday citizens. Even while failing on social issues and civil rights, Republicans have succeeded in turning American democracy into an economic oligarchy. Those things are not conjecture. They are true. All economic indicators point to the fact that America’s wealth has been redistributed to the upper-upper 1% of America’s population. This is corporate socialism. Corporate welfare. It’s a fact, not a theory that this has happened.
Meanwhile, some 40% of Americans take the Bible literally, and that’s a serious issue not just for their politics and religion, but for the health of their souls and this world as well. Conservatives have this weird alliance between ardent capitalists and so-called Christians and its ultimate expression is media Christians making millions off sheeplike believers who send them money. Televangelists. Think about that for a moment. It’s a sickness.
What do all these things have to do with running, riding and swimming, you might ask? It’s simple. I believe these activities bring out critical aspects of human nature. They also affect our human relationships and our connections to the earth. So, I see connections between these “traits” in running, riding and swimming and the call to be better people in this world.
And sure, I could do some of the things I do in gentler fashion. But if I do not inject some sort of thought about these issues into a blog like this, some people would never hear them. It’s so easy to go “silo” in this world, to read only the material that affirms our narrow viewpoints. That’s why I go out there and read material by people with whom I do not agree. But I’ll tell you this much: I have long watched media like outlets such as Fox News, and the way they manipulate information is so obvious and egregious it is sickening. I have watched good, conservative people become corrupted by this brand of mind control for ill purposes. And that makes The Mink angrier than anything.
And for your information, I do not watch national media such as ABC, NBC or CBS. They all take the Bleeds It Leads approach, and they are not, as some people like to claim, a Liberal Media in any sense of the world. They are profit-driven, plain and simple. That’s enterprise, but it is not necessarily liberal or conservative. It just is.
But it’s the slogans we don’t hear on TV that are really killing us.
When people spout slogs like “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” I want to grab them by the proverbial neck and shout, “Do you even hear yourself? Do you know that’s insane?” Phrases like that are an excuse to exonerate gun owners from all responsibility. It’s a sickness of mind.
So I will admit that when The Mink encounters that level of incremental idiocy, The Mink rises in all its spitting fury, and on a regular basis.
It’s because I care that I enable The Mink to have its day and have its way. That’s because I’ve seen the good that can come from it.
I have stood up for fellow associates in the workplace who were being sexually harassed or treated without equity. I have gotten them justice and release from the prison of harassment, and gotten them paid for overtime they were otherwise being forced to work without pay.
The Mink in me made me do these things. And these things came with a personal cost but I did them because I believe in equality and fair treatment for all. Even if it costs me in the process.
I have worked on behalf of environmental causes and conservation, and seen these efforts deliver salvation for critical habitats. Because the wanton exploitation of this world is disgusting, and the fact that people using religious claims such as creationism and dominion to justify waste and pollution makes me really, really mad. It is unbiblical, and it is corrupt.
The Mink in me talks about these things with passion, and as a result, I have been laughed at in places like Rotary and BNI meetings where conservatives queue up like 8th-grade table mongers in childish disdain for “liberals” who actually act on their morality.
I have also been mocked in public by a former leading government official who now happens to be facing criminal charges for paying off one of his sexual conquests from his past. When I read about that it did not surprise me one bit.
So I have seen the way these people respond in public and behave, in private, like vicious rats. And The Mink knows that when instincts are strong, it is the right thing to speak out and stand up for what you believe.
I have long advocated for social justice and equality in the 4,000 + articles I have published on the Web the last 7-8 years. For that, I earned a Best Article of the Year from Yahoo! Associated Content. So I don’t think I’m speaking without some level of merit.
And I don’t feel unjustified or unqualified in taking “pot shots” through direct commentary and satire of things that are so obviously screwed up in this world. Right now the Clown Posse running for the Republican nomination is almost beyond parody, and yet I’m the one conservative trolls keep calling an “asshat” for raising questions about nutball zealots like Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and the King of all Clowns, Donald Trump.
That doesn’t mean I think Hillary Clinton is the perfect candidate either. I don’t like every single thing that Barack Obama has done either. But they aren’t trying to take away birth control from women or seeking to prevent black people from voting. Both Obama and Clinton have tried to act on behalf of everyday Americans in terms of health care access. Obama was a partial success with the Affordable Care Act, but you’ll notice the parts written by Republicans delivered all sorts of power to the health care insurance lobby, who are jacking prices and dropping plans simply because they don’t feel like they’re making enough money.
I lost the plan I had last year, and that doesn’t make me happy. But I’m not blaming Obama. He didn’t yank the plan. Blue Cross did. And if the conservative Right had their way, millions of Americans like me would be dumped from health care plans altogether.
And that makes The Mink rise up in fury against those types of idiotic motives. Same goes for scrapping Social Security and Medicare. We have a right to be spitting mad when the very people who raided Social Security for money now want to scrap it as insolvent. That’s criminal. It’s an insurance program paid by most Americans as an investment for old age. It’s not an “entitlement” as it has been cynically branded by the very same people who throw billions in corporate welfare at companies making billions in profits. This is a sickness of mind, you see.
So the competitive fury so valuable in sports like running, cycling and swimming has its role in the world of civil and social justice. I’m proud that The Mink has not died within me. Not entirely. Because there are too many people that have given up and ceased caring about the world. They mutely click Like on Facebook or Instagram for pictures of kittens but refuse to engage when they see exploitation taking place before their very eyes.
The real problem is they also click Like in the Voting Booth without really thinking. It’s as if the politicians they support are Cute Kittens. It’s so shallow and stupid, and it is the act of moral pussies to vote like that. For those reasons I’ll take being The Mink any day.