Those of us tracking the behavior and movements of the Karen, that naturally occurring pest whose prevalence and destructive impact on the environment has only recently been exposed to a wider audience, might be interested in the existence of a related species. A member of the same family, the same genus in fact, it is no less harmful than its better known cousin, perhaps more so. It prefers to be known as the Kevin, and we are more than happy to oblige the creature this small concession.

Identifying the Kevin might prove more difficult than spotting the Karen, mainly because his powers of camouflage are more highly developed. While the Karen is easily provoked, and prone to excitability and inappropriate utterances, the Kevin lays low, presenting a docile affect, while at the same time offering himself up as proficient in any number of fields, more than willing to share his helpful expertise to anyone who inadvertently stumbles into one of his many realms.

While the Karen is usually married, the Kevin tends to be single. More often than not he fancies himself a musician, and wants you to listen to the songs he’s written. He’s an avid student of pop culture, and given half a chance, he’ll launch into an impassioned soliloquy on one of his many interests (films for example), often offering to supplement his lecture with ancillary materials. Whatever topic you find yourself discussing with him, you’ll find he has firm viewpoints regarding it, whether they’re informed or not.

When pressed, he’ll concede there are certain neighborhoods he’d never be caught dead in, because, well, you know. And he’s not particularly happy the direction society seems to be moving in because, well, aren’t they ever satisfied? I mean, what more do they want? Although he rarely reads past the headlines, he’s sure he has a firm grasp on the state of national and world affairs. Our advice when confronted with his unsolicited opinions is to nod sagely, and attempt to nudge the subject in a different direction.

His wide range of interests suggests a cosmopolitan inclination. He loves ethnic food, and can tell you where to go if you want it made they way the make it where they come from. And cheap too. He even dated someone from there once, and she cooked it for him just the way he likes it. He lives alone now, but only because he’s decided that’s for the best. Besides, now there’s room for his new guitar, or his new MIDI, or whatever it is he’s set up in the spare room, where he writes and records his songs, and uploads them to his Soundcloud account.

But don’t be fooled. His eclecticism is impressive, but it masks a limited, even stunted worldview. The more time you spend with him endeavoring under the impression that his varied interests represent some sort of broad acceptance, the more likely you are to be infected with his low-grade toxicity. Beware. He’s part of a silent herd. They roam the plains and swell the spaces of the numberless suburban and exurban apartment complexes that cluster around the endless strip malls and burger joints that are the true measure of this country.

The Karen shrieks, while the Kevin creeps. She’s trapped in the clutches of panic. He’s just waiting to collect his inheritance. When he finally realizes it isn’t forthcoming, what then?


Biden is such a cliche. He’s so obviously a collection of practiced gestures and rehearsed phrases. And behind the facade he’s not much more than a horse-trader in the mold of LBJ or Tip O’Neill. Which means he’ll drift in whatever direction the wind is blowing, his trained nose alert to the next deal, or the next election. The problem is he’s visibly slipping. His age is beginning to tell. The occasional slurred word. The brief, uninvited burst of stuttering. The transposition of numbers from two different data sets. The hesitations.

There’s no shame in it. We all grow old. We all slow down. But to hang on, long after one’s prime, is as telling an example of hollow ambition as one might find. Along with empty ambition travels the absence of a true philosophical core. The Senator is a loving man, a decent man, but he isn’t driven by necessity, as so many around him are. If he doesn’t choose his advisors and cabinet wisely, we are lost.

Mirror, Mirror

Over time, who you’ve become colors your outlook on many things, including who you think you were when you were young. Our projected identity, who we imagine we are to others morphs as we grow older, and if all goes well, into a more honest assessment, one that acknowledges our warts as well as our–perceived–virtues. In a perfect world, we unburden ourselves of the very need to know, or care, what others think of us. In an unforgiving world, it is essential that we are continuously forgiving ourselves, and allow the judgment of others to remain in their possession alone.

I’m not a doctor, but . . .

It occurs to me that the United States is undergoing the early stages of a psychological breakdown. Its personality is disintegrating. The identity it adopted, that of the noble defender of democracy inside and outside its borders, is finally being exposed for the fraud it always was. Calling itself “united” was always wishful thinking; now the description’s irony has displaced even that small innocence. From the beginning the country’s been riven with pathological guilt over what’s now euphemistically referred to as its original sin. At the same time, it’s refused to acknowledge it any meaningful way. As a result it’s never been comfortable with itself, often fractious, reliably of at least two minds on any given issue. Struggling with its self-hatred, it attempted suicide 155 years ago. It was young then. No longer persuaded by romantic notions of the glories of the warrior ethos, it’s gotten into the habit of inflicting upon itself painful, increasingly injurious incisions. The country’s unwritten history is a steady stream of rebellions and the inevitable massacres they attract. They are the nation’s simmering subconscious, repressed memories silently affecting everything that happens now. The country is sitting, metaphorically, on the floor, staring off into space while cutting itself. It must be careful, though. As it becomes numb to the pain, it will begin to aim for more tender, more vital areas, possibly bringing about inadvertently what it once failed to accomplish deliberately.

Could you just give the mustache a little twirl . . . ?

The choice between the Biden-Harris ticket and the Trump-Pence ticket is comically stark, almost as if our cultural psyche had decided the only way to smack itself out of its stupor would be to frame the characters and issues in the elemental terms of a Saturday morning cartoon, pitting the forces of sanity against the machinations of greed, dyeing them with primary colors, and arming them with their customary weapons.


Advertisements and commercials are capitalism’s secret agents. More than that, they’re moles. From their inception, they’ve insinuated themselves into the fabric of Western culture, burrowing so deeply we’ve forgotten they’re there. We’ve accepted them into our homes, into our cars, our places of work, our lives, until we’ve overlooked the fact that what once were guests are now squatters, and in exchange for their entertainment value, we’ve suspended our usual habit of demanding compensation for occupation.


I’M SICK AND GODDAMNED TIRED of listening to cable news hosts asking their guests to explain the reasons why a mass shooter ripped several lives from some innocent community; to divine the thought processes that led to the erasure of life at so profound a level. The time spent listening and watching might be worthwhile if any useful insights were offered. Instead we are fed lists and chronologies and family trees. But any discussion regarding structural and endemic causes is about as easily found as hen’s teeth. Likewise, motives and motivations are sought out to assuage the shock of such outrages as the caging of children, the targeting of a religious faith, or the bungling of a government response to a global pandemic.

What galls then is the hypocrisy inherent in the reflexive, reactionary aversion to hearing someone try to explain why poor people are poor, or why criminals are criminals. People born on the wrong side of the tracks need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, we are told. Their failure to do so is their failure to understand the essence of the American ethos, which we are reminded is the frontier spirit, the clear-eyed vision of manifest destiny. Suggest that we spend a fraction of what we spend on empire on education and community investments, and the snorts of derision can be heard for miles and miles. By the same token, conventional conservative wisdom tells us, criminals are by nature thugs, and therefore little better than animals, to which they may be occasionally, unfavorably compared. Moreover, the criminals need not have committed or even been convicted of a crime in order to be described as such. Preferable instead, and so much easier, to lump together the accused and the sentenced alike, the better to tar them all with the same broad brush.

God forbid we seriously consider the suggestion that the application of criminality as a description of a despised demographic is a political weapon that’s been in use at least since the dark days of the loathsome Lee Atwater. Long after Nixon’s death, a member of his administration came forward to admit that they were well aware that by criminalizing cannabis and heroin, they were in effect criminalizing American youth and African-Americans. The calamitous and tragic results were, in today’s parlance, not a bug, but a feature. But no defender of the status quo wants to hear criminals explained; they’re criminals after all, you can tell because that’s what we call them. The very thought of perceiving it any other way would be, for those secure in their comforts, like seeing a looming chasm opening up before them.

We all know the why, or can divine it easily enough from the available evidence, whether or not we care to admit it. It’s just that the prospect of uttering it aloud for some is all-too-terrifying. If the idea of seeing the world from another point of view unnerves you, then that’s your first clue your own worldview is suspect. Understanding the why for too many means seeing the world in a different way. It means relinquishing the habit of seeing the world as the inherited preserve of you and yours. Of the belief that life is a zero-sum game. It means treating the act of sharing not as a duty but embracing it as a joy. Living in the world is hard enough without insisting on plumbing the bottomless well of paranoid fears and sadistic and masochistic addictions we’ve created for ourselves. But the likelihood of seeing the preponderance of my fellow citizens embracing that truth? Well, that’s an evolutionary leap I don’t expect to see anytime soon, or during my lifetime, for that matter.

Although hope, at least for me, continues to spring eternal.