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My Virtual Valentine?

February is the month of love, but it sure doesn’t feel that way now. This feels more like a time of spousal abuse and sexual harassment than chocolate hearts and romance. Love is out of fashion, the culture doesn’t believe in it much anymore. A couple generations ago we were urged to “get on board the love train,” but that caboose ran off the rails.

What changed? Reality changed. We virtualized our lives and lost our real ones. The digital life is seductive but unsatisfying. Because it’s not alive at all.

Love is biological; it is not virtual. We are biological beings. If you sense a love deficit, and how can you not, it’s because you’re human.

Be my virtual valentine? It’s not enough, is it? That requires flesh and breath. The difference between real love and virtual love is the difference between intimacy and internet porn.

This isn’t just a rant by a superannuated technophobe. The spiritual emptiness of the digital life is no secret; it’s expressed all over our language and contemporary culture.

Consider the two meanings of the word surf. Ocean surfing has a mystical place in our imaginations. Surfers talk about bliss, being one with the wave, the ocean, mother earth. When you surf you feel your body move, and your spirit, too. Surfing, at its best, is reverence, it’s a living being floating on the mind of God.

Then there’s the virtual surf of bytes and bits. The detached, alienated connection with every other digital entity through a cold, hard screen. You surf a screen with your eyes and maybe your ears, not active but passively consuming. You are not biological, you are a digital end point, a receptacle.

That’s why there is so much anger in the digital world. Screens are cold, anger is hot. Anger penetrates the screen. And then us.

One kind of surfing produces joy, the other angst. One is biological, the other dry and dead as a zombie.

Which maybe explains why pop culture is so captivated by the zombie apocalypse. Maybe it’s because we’re already living it.

Why does anger seem more relevant than love these days? Because we’re trapped in a web that feels like landfill. A vast garbage dump, littered with jagged edges. Shards of life, shattered by rage.

For all the “likes” we tap online, there isn’t much liking going on. Mostly we fight and insult and snark at one another. And why not, it’s only a screen we’re insulting. We rarely do that face to face. Face to face anger is dangerous, painful and bad for your blood pressure.

A screen has no blood pressure, it’s ice cold and responds best to hot emotions. But that screen is reflective, the anger we pound into it bounces right back.

We don’t have a Valentine’s day for anger. That’s because we recognize anger as a vice. But we’re in an angry time. If an ad has a woman in it, she’s always “fierce.” As if anger was necessary to be fully human today.

On some level we feel the dead hand of the digital on our souls, and we fight against it. Our sports have become more and more extreme because only facing death makes us feel alive. Used to be you could just go bowling; now you have to jump off the Matterhorn in a wingsuit.

The allure of the virtual, and it’s emptiness, are on full display in cat videos. A cat video is cute, watching them is addicting, and really, what’s not to like about a cat video?

Nothing, except that a cat video can never be a cat. A cat video can’t purr, or scratch, or love.

Nobody understands the dangers of over-technologizing better than the tech moguls. Tech gurus are very open about the damage their products do to children. Most of them won’t let their kids use the media they make.

Here’s the thing, though. If virtual, non-biological life is bad for kids, it’s bad for everyone. It’s the same as smoking. We don’t let kids smoke, but that doesn’t mean it’s not bad for adults. Smoking doesn’t become harmless because you’re over 18.

There is no turning back the clock, I know that. The virtual isn’t going away, we need to transcend it. We need to reach for love. Not the virtual golem of digital anti-social social love, but the real, biological thing.

Because we’re biological creatures. Analogue beings lost in a digital maze. Pixilated and furious.

California: The Two-State Solution

California, you have the least equal citizens in America. Each Californian has one-twenty millionth of a vote in the United States Senate.

With 12% of the nation’s population, California has exactly 2% of the votes in the senate. Same as Wyoming, which means that for every vote a California citizen gets in the senate, a Wyomingite gets seventy.

This injustice, embedded in the Constitution, is old news. The framers gave each state two senators, regardless of population. They did this for two reasons: to placate the small states, which seems silly now, and to get the slave states to ratify, which was the mother of all corrupt bargains.

But you don’t have to reach back into ancient history to see the damage to big, underrepresented states like California. That malign two senator policy just cost California a beating in the new tax law, reducing our state and local tax deductions to a ridiculously inadequate $10,000.

In no democratic system imaginable could you pass a law so contrary to the interests of so many people. It couldn’t happen. But it did, because our votes don’t count for much. Our 40 million citizens are horribly underrepresented. The states of Wyoming, Delaware, Alaska, Vermont and both Dakotas, whose combined populations don’t reach 6 million, have six times as many senators than we do, twelve to our two.

The new tax law is a textbook case of taxation without reasonable representation. That’s supposed to be a mortal sin in America. We were founded in violent opposition to taxation without representation. It’s the kind of thing Americans won’t stand for.

Yet we put up with it and more. Stripping tax deductions, undercutting sanctuary city policies, defying marijuana legalization, selling oil leases where no sane Californian would allow drilling, California gets the middle finger from the Federal government because our 40 million are virtually disenfranchised in the senate. They shaft us because they can.

There is no chance in hell that we’ll ever get rid of the two-votes-per-state rule in the senate, though hell is where it belongs. But that doesn’t mean we’re helpless, my fellow Californians.

We can begin to rectify this blatant injustice by recourse to The Two-State Solution. Split our oversized state in two, and just like that, you double our senators.

There has been talk of a breakup lately from a right wing fringe group calling itself New California. They’ve declared independence from us commies on the “coast ” They also claim California is an ungovernable tyranny, which is a spectacularly moronic oxymoron.

But there is far sounder reason for breaking California into two states: Senators.

Cut California in two, north and south. Make the dividing line between North California and South California somewhere near San Louis Obispo. You’d still have two very populous states. Maybe 25 million below the line and 15 million above. But with one big difference. We’d have four senators, not two.

Two Californias, North and South. If it’s good enough for the Dakotas and the secesh Carolinas, it’s good enough for us.

Some could object that I’m only suggesting this drastic change because I’m sure that the two new states will elect four Democratic senators. Guilty as charged, but that’s not the only reason, and electoral politics change. California used to be reliably Republican, it could be so again.

But the moral argument is deeper and incontrovertible; it is profoundly undemocratic for forty million voters to have two lousy senators. Getting four doesn’t rectify that injustice, but it helps.

The Two-State solution will be good for the national economy, too. Think of all the fifty one star flags we’ll have to manufacture. Not to mention maps and fridge magnets, tee shirts and souvenir shot glasses.

Ok, that stuff will be great for China. But it won’t cost Russia a dime, so the current president shouldn’t mind at all.

Everything good will double overnight. Two state birds, two state flags, two state mottoes, (I suggest “Creative Destruction!” and “Lights, Camera, Action!”) and two state capitals. South California will produce the content that entertains the world. North California will create the media to distribute it globally.

The Two State Solution is a win-win for us. It’s a lose-lose for the tiny troglodyte states that harass and oppress us with impunity. But there are far more of us than them. And in a democracy, the majority rules.

Do you want to make America great again? Fifty one is greater than fifty. Enact the Two-State Solution, now.