Cognitive Dissent

Are we there yet?

I was born an agnostic bastard. My father was a lapsed Catholic, my mother a Southern Baptist. They were born in New Jersey and Kentucky respectively. They met and married at Camp Campbell in Hopkinsville, KY, the nuptials conducted by a justice of the peace. After my father was discharged while recovering from a broken back, they moved to New York City, where my father became a master machinist and my mother a housewife who eventually had four children, sold Avon cosmetics, made costume jewelry, and worked as a crossing guard.

Before they had a second child, they married again in a Catholic church so I could be baptized to save my worthless soul and my siblings would be born Catholic and saved as well. I was too young to tell them not to waste their time, but I suspect that happens to a lot of little kids whose arms are too short to give God a wedgie.

Because my imaginary soul was in danger of going to hell without proper and constant indoctrination, my parents argued and compromised and decided I should attend the Dutch Reform Church across the street (where I later joined a Boy Scout troop and got blown by Scoutmaster Armitage) instead of St. Francis of Assisi (where I would later be blown by Father Capaldi) until I was old enough to have my own paper route.

But to keep my grandmother happy, I had to go to Catechism class after elementary school twice a week where Sister Diana would rap my knuckles whenever I mentioned dinosaurs, nuclear bombs, and niggers, none of which seemed to fit in with the Catechism lessons.

This was back when I had to wear dog tags to go to school. Everybody had to wear them in case the Russians bombed the shit out of us with nuclear weapons. The idea was that if we didn’t have our dog tags, no one would be able to identify our bodies, and our families would not be getting the insurance money they were due after the Russians attacked.

During all the church-related horseshit, I only remember my mother participating in the religious crap that makes America so fucking ordinary by taking the kids to Robert Hall to buy Easter outfits. She may have attended our first communions and confirmations. I still take pride in receiving my confirmation with a sacrilege on my soul, having lied during confession prior to getting slapped by the bishop.

My father only went to church once, after Father Schaefer listened to my youngest brother confess to masturbating and responded by telling him that God would never forgive him. He was going to Hell, and his pecker would burn for eternity. My father went to church to kill Father Schaefer. I wish I could say my father was successful, but he was a failure.

It was a very strange time to grow up. Not as strange as it must be today for young kids in this crazy nation of miserable fucks, but my life was already pretty miserable before I got to junior high.

Not that I was unhappy. I enjoyed all sorts of shit. I liked reading, and I had friends in the neighborhood and at school and at the park where I learned to play handball and got quite good at it. I liked fishing in Long Island Sound, Great South Bay, and in the Atlantic Ocean.

I was a lefty. Still am. No thanks to Mrs. Milano. She wanted everyone to be righties. She made me write with my wrong hand in class, which resulted in terrible report cards home about my terrible penmanship. When we started having a lot of homework, I did it with my left hand, so Mrs. Milano called my parents to school to find out who was doing my homework.

This happened in the fourth grade, of course. In America, the fourth grade is where your dreams are crushed by socialization, and you begin to be sorted out by the educational system into crazies, worker drones, soldiers, inmates, and a few lucky kids who are given merit badges, which aren’t called that, of course, until you become a Scout. 

I forgot to mention that this was during the McCarthy era when America was also a scary place for many adults. My parents were actually afraid of Mrs. Milano. It was not a good time to stand out like a sore thumb. That was a popular saying at the time. It meant everyone should mind their manners and do what they were told, "or else". No one really wanted to find out what "or else" meant. Everyone figured it was probably pretty bad. Families in the neighborhood occasionally disappeared.

In elementary school, you got red, blue, green, silver, and gold stars you could paste next to your name on a big chalkboard in the back of the room. It was our earliest introduction to Capitalism. The stars were worthless, but for some reason the teachers were determined to make us want to earn and collect them, because the more stars we got, especially the gold and silver ones, the better we were treated. Kids with the fewest and least important stars were going to prison or die in the war.

Don’t ever let anyone fool you. America is always at war. It has always been at war. It will always be at war until America is no more. That’s why everyone else in the world is our enemy. You think that a bunch of guys from the Middle East just got drunk and decided to fly airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as a prank? They were getting even for America’s ongoing war against world peace. They chose September 11 because that was the anniversary of the US assassination of Salvador Allende during the Reagan administration.

When George W. Bush responded to 9/11 by calling for a crusade against terrorism, he re-ignited a religious war that predated America’s entry into it. 

Looking back on my early years, I can now say that all I learned was not to trust anyone about anything because everyone in a position of authority knew absolutely nothing of any value. They were believers. Believers are the worst form of humanity.

Later in college I discovered that there was a word for my world view. I was a cynic. I could trace my discomfort with humanity back to Diogenes, who died in Greece 300 years before Christ got people so pissed off they nailed him to a cross and then turned him into the cash cow that they still milk today.

Cynicism is a necessary survival skill when you’re committed to remaining a free citizen in this nation of miserable fucks.

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