I had an abrupt and violent puberty. Somewhere between eighth and ninth grade, I grew from 5 feet 11 inches to 6 feet 5 inches — my face exploding in acne that caused your average dermatologist to salivate at the business prospect that was my unfortunate skin.

It was not pretty. Picture four feet of stork legs holding up a proportionally-skinny and elongated body, headed by a cantaloupe from an island where the military tested out the H-bomb. In the middle of the godforsaken melon is an elliptical hole filled with shiny orthodontics. This elliptical hole was good for two things: chewing obscene amounts of food and spouting blustery teenage word vomit.

For style, the storkelope is wearing a white-puka shell necklace and sporting the spiky wet-look hair my father referred to as a “hair-don’t.”

Fill this ignorant melon to the brim with sarcasm and tactlessness, and you have a pretty good idea of what we’re looking at.

Trevor in seventh grade
Observe the new teenager. Growth spurt is underway, and skin has begun to rebel. Maybe one day he will grow into that shirt. (Source: Trevor Belnap)

Though most of my cosmetic worries faded as I transitioned out of my teenage years, a chronic propensity for sarcasm and a deficit of tact lingers on.

Unavoidably, ignorance remains as well, though my education has at least made me aware of it. Another of my father’s favorite aphorisms comes to mind: If it were up your ass, you’d be aware of it. This was his way of saying, if you can locate a problem, you can begin to solve it.

In my case, certain books and key individuals made me aware of my predicament, which I find — more and more — is universal. I also believe the moment one breathes air, unfiltered through the bowels of ignorance, it’s universal to never wish to breathe the bowel-filtered air again.

Unfortunately, what’s not universal is people’s awareness of their own foul air. Lately, it seems like those who benefit from people having their heads firmly and decidedly planted where the sun refuses to shine are on an enthusiastic campaign to convince the rest of us to participate in their septic yoga.

These are the ones who still want to “debate” about the merits of climate science, despite perennial threats coming from rapidly-warming oceans — threats which are compounded by oil pipelines and fracking operations that continue to destroy our watersheds.

Augmenting the damage that will come from defunding science, the bowel-breathers consider coal mining and fracking as key means to free the U.S. from dependence on foreign energy markets.

This is like my teenage dermatologist prescribing hourly facials of bacon grease as a remedy for the acne. No thanks. I’ll take the scientifically-proven medicine and follow the directions on my Neutrogena.

These are the ones who want you to believe that refugees from countries destroyed by American weapons and U.S. foreign policy are coming here not to escape death or worse — but instead are sent here as Satan’s modern Trojan horse, straight from Hell to rape, enslave and murder us all.

Apparently, Satan isn’t a very good military strategist because the odds of being killed by a refugee are more than three billion to one. That’s billion with a B. If you like those odds, I suggest the lottery.

Most Powerballs have odds under 300 million to one, an order of magnitude better than the murdered-by-a-refugee odds. You’re also much more likely to be struck by lightning — thousands of times more likely, in fact — as you are to be hurt in any way by someone fleeing from their war-torn home.

Frankly, our diets are most likely to kill us, so the actual Trojan horse is probably our
indulgent lifestyles, but I digress.

To casually ban law-abiding immigrants from this country, and then justify the ban by pointing to the “potential for terrorism,” is asking us to seriously consider how willing we are to resist receding back into the treacherous darkness of adolescent fear and ignorance that characterizes the majority of recorded human history.

Though I have largely forgotten how cool I felt wearing those white shells or how uncomfortable I was washing my acne-ridden face, I haven’t forgotten what it felt like to
realize that most of my adolescent worldviews were painfully ignorant and uninformed.

Our country is going through a similar phase right now. We are in the midst of our own abrupt and violent puberty. A cursory glance at American history reveals some of the ugliest brutality the world has ever seen: millions of human deaths, countless wonders of nature destroyed, violent systemic oppression of people of color, women and LGBTQ people. I, along with many others, wanted to believe that though we hadn’t moved past those wounds yet, we were making strides of progress. With the Presidential election this year, it’s obvious we haven’t come as far as we thought.

We can either take this realization and use it to help us move beyond trying to “win” at being in the world or at being humans. Or we can — like an insulated teenager — remain with our heads firmly and decidedly up our asses.

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