“The Oath” (2018)

In Ike (“Mad TV”) Barinholz’s savage (and somewhat uneven) comedy (he writes and directs) an extended family Thanksgiving is ripped apart by the varying reactions to a controversial White House policy demanding loyalty above and beyond the call of duty.  Funny and frightening, depending on your politics you might have been more comfortable had it been released during a different administration…or you might think it perfect right @#$$ now.




There is a scene where the secret police…ur…the “protection committee” branch of Homeland Security…force their way into Ike’s house and ask a series of leading, increasingly disturbing questions, leading to a “request” that he accompany them for a little drive. This, after citizens, political figures, and Hollywood personalities (amusingly, Seth Rogen) have been “disappeared”.  The scene spirals out of control, the family, some of whom have signed the “Oath”, growing more and more hysterical as the chaos they have seen on television reaches into their lives.


Why not sign the silly Oath, right?  It has nothing at all to do with them, their lives, their children.   Just do it, you idiot.  Ike sticks to his guns: no, he won’t. And as things get REALLY ugly, skirting out of even “dark comedy” territory, the question of “who is being reasonable?  Who is causing this problem?” could be legitimately debated by rational people.


After all…the Homeland Security people are just trying to help, right?  Just trying to make things better, right?  They know what we need better than we do.  They must.  They are the Government.




When you are a child, it is critical to have parents who understand the path of maturation, because you sure as hell don’t.   There will be times when what they say will seem totally contrary to your instincts and desires.  But if they love you, and know you will grow up to replace them and their generation, and have the wisdom that comes from observing and living their lives…they will lay out a series of challenges that make you a better, stronger human being. An adult, at least as smart and capable as they ever were. That’s what parents do.


But as an adult, there are few things more dangerous than someone who believes they know what is good for you better than you do.    That’s how you get re-education camps.   Justifications for slavery or even rape.   Torturing you to death to save your soul.  Anyone who thinks either side of the political spectrum has a monopoly on this has an agenda.


Be very, very careful.



A reader wrote to me about being on a convention panel where things got contentious.


“You were so very kind, and I always love what you have to say. I don’t want to ask you to do my emotional labor, I’ve got that one on lockdown ;), but would it be okay to ask you how you stay so compassionate in a world that feels like it’s going mad? It feels like there’s so much being said, some clashing even among our own (for example, lots of conflicting “DO THIS” and “DON’T DO THIS” within one group alone, as is common in queer or disabled circles)  that it feels hard to find footing. How do you do it? Does it worry you at all?”


Let’s relate this to the five-step process for creating social change, as it also relates powerfully to self care (and even finding your Soulmate!)


  1. Love yourself
  2. Love one other person
  3. Understand History without guilt, blame, or shame
  4. Avoid Trolls.  Instead, nurture your tribe
  5. Win with integrity.



“how you stay so compassionate in a world that feels like it’s going mad?”


I love myself, and I see myself in others.   Most violence stems from anger, which stems from fear.  Love and strength are the antidote for fear, and therefore if I love myself I will want to feel safe, which motivates me to find and nurture my own strength. That strength is then available to extend to others.



“It feels like there’s so much being said, some clashing even among our own (for example, lots of conflicting “DO THIS” and “DON’T DO THIS” within one group alone, as is common in queer or disabled circles)  that it feels hard to find footing. How do you do it?”


We can never be 100% certain of anything. And yet, we have to take action. If we wait until we have approval or agreement from everyone, even everyone on “our own side” we are not just paralyze, we are easily manipulated by others.   The core philosophical questions are: “who am I?” and “what is true?”


If you spend time, daily, sorting through these things, you come to conclusions. Those conclusions will NEVER match with what everyone else says.  Never.  Get over it.


And the people who are the most dangerous will be those who want to correct you “for your own good.”   Why?  Because they can sound so plausible.  They feel they are on the side of Good and Righteousness.   They attract followers that those who are honest about their greed and desire for power.   When you face these people, it requires strength and courage…not just to oppose them, but to oppose friends, family, and neighbors who are swayed by the logic without looking at the deeper implications.  People who have no deep sense of who they are, or what is true, and are willing to be filled up by anyone with a convincing spiel.


“I don’t know who I am” the child says.  “Tell me.”


Adults must do better, or the children are not safe.


The first two of the “Five Steps” awaken the powers that enable us to go deep, shed the ego shells, find courage beyond our ordinary selves.  It is why a healthy relationship with your own heart, your own “inner child” and a significant other are so important: they take us out of the ordinary world, to a place where you have the courage and clarity, the independence from outside demands, to think and feel for yourself.


You WILL be attacked and questioned and reviled.   The “Sleepers” want to have a nice dream, and if you awaken, they feel uncomfortable. The “Snakes” want you to stay asleep so that they can control you.  But the “Monsters” want you asleep so they can suck your blood.


Be careful.


“How do you do it?”


How? By starting every day by centering myself, meditating. By performing a Daily Ritual of motion, emotion, and focus.  Every day.   Six days a week.


“Who am I?” “What is true?”


There is no one on this planet who knows who I am better than I do. And anyone who says they do is AUTOMATICALLY either asleep, dreaming that they are awake…or in the snake/monster category.


Automatically.  Instantly.  And I can watch them with interest, as I would a predator seen through a sheet of glass. And if the glass breaks..?


That’s where the strength comes in.






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