I Like…

 

Days where the sky is overcast, but it’s windy and warm. I like watching little old people holding hands and walking down the sidewalk together. I like the cool side of the pillow. I like sauerkraut and kielbasa mixed with peas. I like walking barefoot down the driveway, and feeling the grit of the concrete pressing against my skin. I like being told an especially vexing riddle, and only given a short time to solve it. I like crossword puzzles. I like suddenly finding a dollar in my pants pocket when I come up a few pennies short at the register. I like dog nuzzles and cat whispers. I like surprise Skittles.

I like it, when I completely stand still, I can feel my heart beating in my chest. I like putting coins in busker hats regardless of what they’re playing. I like buying lemonade from kids trying to make some extra money during the Summer. I like laughing at silly jokes that were never funny, but were wonderful just because of the way the teller became tickled trying to get it out. I like wondering where the wind goes and what it sees.

I like it when a wish made from love comes true. I like it when I see little kids getting enough to eat. I like rubbing the back of a person who needs a comforting touch. I like it when I can feel the relief rolling off of another human being’s heart as they manage to acquire the medicine they need to live through the next month. I like hugging any person who just wants a hug. I like it when my hands heal and not hurt a soul. I like it when people are pulled from the muck and set upon solid ground. I like rejoicing for the glad hearts, and working to mend the broken ones. I like that spirit in every person that demands equality, love, and kindness. I like our remembrance of the lost and departed. I like our humanity when we truly humble ourselves.

I love what I like.

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A Nation Led By Gaslight

What is legal is not always moral or ethical, and what is moral and ethical is not always legal. We live in a society that likes to walk the line of thought that says if it’s legal it’s okay, and if it’s illegal it’s not okay. Of course I’m simplifying an extraordinarily complex issue into something easily handled, but this is a blog, not a film directed by Sidney Lumet, so I can afford to be a bit more artless about it.

I believe one should always do what is ethically and morally correct despite what is and is not legal. I realize that puts me in more than a bit of a quandary because society loves its rules, but I will not lie: I would break any law necessary in order to protect and/or save the life of another human being in need, depending upon whether or not I felt the need was that immediate, or if I found that, contextually speaking, those who could also fulfill this need are unavailable or would take too long to engage the process.

I believe it falls upon all of us to do the right thing when we reach such an intersection of decision. I would like to say we *must* do that thing, but I would not pressure anyone to do it unless they felt that they could.

So what am I saying? Am I saying that despite what the law may be in your particular area, should you dismiss it if the situation calls for it? Maybe. I won’t give the affirmative for a reason. Not a cover your ass reason, either, because too many people choose to cover their ass instead of just saying why they would or wouldn’t do something. I don’t give the affirmative because it all comes down to whether or not you are in a position to actually effect change without harming another.

That leads to a second question: Am I saying to flout the law entirely? Hell, no. Laws exist for a reason, and for the most part were created to protect people. There are times, though, where laws interfere with the protection of others, and they must be pushed aside.

It is not easy for me to type this, but I feel I must, because I believe I found the roots of my torment, the reasons why I had 14+ heavy anxiety attacks this week. I had them because I believe in doing the right thing, when that need presents itself, instead of ignoring it and letting others handle it further down the line. This is how I have always thought, but for years I have fought that thinking, because the law says one thing, the environment in which I live says another, and they all clash.

Why is it okay to let homeless people die in back alleys, while punishing people who want to give them money? Why is our collective sentiment “they had it coming” when someone is raped while wearing a skimpy dress? Why do we do this and still call ourselves a just and moral society because it falls well within the legality of our arguments?

The homeless man’s plight is sad, but I’m sure he did something to deserve it. Don’t give him money, he’ll just spend it on booze. He deserves what he’s got.

The rapist was wrong, but hey, the woman shouldn’t have worn that skimpy dress. She was kind of asking for it.

That black kid getting shot in the back while running away would have been sad, but he *did* have a criminal past, so he had it coming.

See this? You will hear this sentiment echoed from the top of our social chain all the way down to the bottom, and everywhere in between, by people who abide by the law in public. I say in public because no one abides by the law 100% of the time, because our legal system is a labyrinthine web that crisscrosses and contradicts itself depending upon where you are, what you’re doing, and who you are.

We watch as the cruel mete out “justice” under the name of the law. They attack those who fight to protect those they refuse to protect or are incapable of protecting. It is something that makes me angry, because in a court of law, the brute who wears a badge will handily defeat the citizen who has nothing to support him or her but their own personal ethical guidance.

We marvel at our military prowess, we fetishize stormtroopers and weapons of war. We are aroused by symbols of patriotism that ring hollow in our ears and hearts, but give us the motivation we need to stay in line, to do what we are told, because we believe that the higher, moral authority is the eye of the overseer, the one who claims to protect while also harming those sworn to their “care.”

I have wrestled with these thoughts for years, and kept them tight under wraps because the timbre of my thoughts and opinions are unpopular here in the United States, especially now, now in an era where we are seeing draconian desire writ large, a lust for wild law, and unremitting obedience. “If you just do what you’re told, you won’t die” have become the whispered watchwords riding the foreboding winds on a coming storm that will not be satisfied with keeping to one city, one state, one nation.

I believe the vast majority of people are good, and that includes our law enforcement. The problem is that a few bad apples spoil the bunch. The greater problem is those bad apples are either moved to a different bunch if they spoil the barrel, until that bunch, too, is spoiled. The very few that are tossed out are only done so once the damage has been done, and what’s worse? They all look alike on this side of the market stall. From here, they all look wholesome and shiny. You are told they are, that there are no bad apples in this bunch, so if you DO find a bad apple, it had to be something you did to find it, because until you did something, it didn’t exist.

We had the stone, bronze, and iron ages.

We had the dark ages.

We entered the Renaissance.

Then there was the industrial revolution.

We followed with the space age.

Then the information age.

Now we have entered the gaslight revolution.

We now live in an age where everything is wrong unless you’re told it’s right, and nothing is right unless it’s the right kind of right. Facts, truth, all meaningless here. You will be told exactly what your itching ears need to hear, so that you will go back to consuming. Your heart will be assuaged so that you will continue to push the lever that turns the gears which power the wheels of industry, of authoritarianism, of a so-called justice system, and all the while, the collective voices from the very top cry out “all who are crushed underneath had it coming to them.”

What’s worse is that most people will nod their heads and agree without question.

Look at the state of our incarceration system here in the United States: 1 in 31 U.S. citizens are either incarcerated, being paroled, or on probation. The United States has the largest prison population in the world.

You would think it would give people pause. You would think someone would say “well, even if they were a criminal, surely that didn’t mean they deserved to die.”

You would be wrong, but you are picking up what I’m putting down.

Instead, any kind of criminal history, especially if you are a person of color (and persons of color are *overwhelmingly* misrepresented in the prison system), seems to give anyone carte blanche to see you die, to see you suffer some awful fate.

I can only speak for what I see in the United States, but what I have seen so far is that no matter what you do, no matter for what reason, if you are found guilty, you had it coming to you. By “it” I mean whatever the people want to fulfill their bloodlust: whether it be shot by an officer while running away, hit by a car, raped in prison, all of these things are fitting for whatever you’ve done, even if what you have done doesn’t involve physically harming a single person.

I realize no other nation is perfect, either, but there are countries that have a rehabilitative system: no matter what you’ve done, you enter the system and attempts are made to change your behavior, to help you enter society on the positive side of it, rather than the negative. I understand that there are harsher punishments for some things, like rape and murder, as there *should* be, but even then an honest effort is made in the name of rehabilitation.

The U.S. justice system exists to punish, only to punish, and not just once, but over and over and over again. We create lists, and registries, and we make sure that even after people have served their sentence (whether warranted or not), they are followed by their crime forever after. They are told where they cannot go, what they cannot do, and you would think “if they cannot be trusted to be rehabilitated yet, why are they set free?” and the answer is simple: they were never rehabilitated, nor were they intended to be.

Here in the so-called Christian nation of the United States, your sin is with you forever, no matter what you have done to rectify it. Well, it is unless you have the wealth or influence to get out from under it, like our current President, and much of his staff.

Keep in mind, keep in mind, that all the while these things are going on, you are being told that what is legal is good, and what is illegal is bad. What is the law is ethical and moral, while what falls outside the law is immoral, and evil. You, that applies to you, citizen, and only you.

I would like to take a moment to elucidate on a few other things as well: Firstly, I am not in favor of some kind of anarchy. Anarchy is foolish. With anarchy, you replace a governing body having full authority with millions of governing bodies full of their own authority. I’m not in favor of a lawless frontier, nor am I in favor of people deciding to mete out punishment for those they feel are breaking the law. That is a surefire way to chaos, and while I think we have become far too authoritarian, I am in no way in favor of the kind of chaos those choices would bring.

What I am saying is that we need to stop looking at the law as if it is a moral arbiter, because it truly isn’t. Look at our history here in the U.S. We should know better than this. We should know better than almost anyone else (save a few other nations) what happens when we equate morality with legality.

If you have read this far, by the way, thank you. I seem to be venting my spleen, as I only planned a few words on the subject, and as of right now we’re on word number one thousand nine hundred and six.

Of course, some might wonder where I’m going with all of this. If things are so bad, what do you propose to do about it? Honestly? There are many things we can do about it, but it has to involve the fully informed collective will of millions of Americans who would step out of their comfort zones and embrace a change that would ultimately lead to a society that does not punish based on perception, and that enriches all lives regardless of their ability to return that generosity in kind, doing so without caring about what they may acquire in the process.

Yeah, you can see why this is a touch depressing. It’s anathema to the bulk of the state of this nation today. As of right now, we seem to have three pressing needs:

  1. Entertain me.
  2. Fulfill all of my basic needs.
  3. Give me want for things so that I work willingly to acquire them.

Note how I placed “Entertain me” at the first position? I do so because we desire to be entertained above all else. I believe a starving man would give up a basic meal in exchange for a vision of something tastier.

So what does “fulfill all of my basic needs” even mean? Sure, you can guess it means food, shelter, clothing, and such, but what else? Can you list any? I’m sure you could name me 5 other things right now you would consider a basic need.

The truth is that you need what you are told you need. Every single moment of every single day you are told what you need. Some of it you can push away because it’s so blatant that it doesn’t make it past the very first barrier of reason. The more insidious messages, however, burrow deep down into your brain, and become a part of your dreams. You realize it’s something you must have, something to which you are entitled, which leads to #3.

“Give me want for things so that I work willingly to acquire them.”

Now that you have your need, and your needs turned to dreams, you want to achieve them. The idea of achieving your dreams is a wonderful concept, one that I embrace because we all have dreams: dreams of finding love, of living in a happier world where the people we care about have what they need.

The need that burrows into your brain, however, is not a part of this wholesome concept. Rather, it is a manufactured need, one that can only be achieved by following a path laid out for you by those who really only want the money in your pocket. If you don’t have the money to achieve those dreams, they’ll supply you with other, more affordable dreams, and if you don’t have the money for that, well then you get to become the lesson for those who don’t try to follow their dreams.

You become the punishment, and punishing people is something we love to do here in the United States. We do it from on high, we do it from below, we do it to one another on whatever level playing field exists, and we do it with delicious malevolence.

Commit the sin of falling outside of the authorized moral and ethical boundaries (keep in mind that being poor is a moral failing in our society), and you will have wound up in the “they had it coming to them” camp. There is much suffering in this camp. Here you will find no joy, no peace of mind. You will be reminded every day that you caused your downfall, and that you deserve to stay there and rot, or worse. If your downfall was coupled with committing a crime, well all the more reason for you to stay, say those sitting on the legal (the always ethical and moral side, remember?) side of the system.

Perhaps you deserve worse. No, you do deserve worse. How can you eat, monster? How can you sleep, inhuman garbage? You deserve death. You deserve to be cast out of humanity. Why? Does it matter? You broke the law, or you became poor, or you did something that put you at odds with the holy patriotic vision of all that is good, moral, and just (for now).

We have moved into a dangerous age. Now, dangerous ages aren’t new, human societies go through them every so often, but this one is a bit different. Here, in this age, the danger is accompanied by the power of our technology: facial recognition, thumb print analysis, voice recognition, microphones and cameras everywhere, trackers, trackers, trackers all over everything. They can say where you are, and what you do, but they can’t say why, but then, here in the United States, we’ve grown kind of tired of asking why, and have decided there doesn’t need to be a reason, because one will come when it needs to come, and it will almost always reinforce the notion that the person in question had it coming to them.

Right now, we’re watching Nazis march in the open. There are police officers who blatantly murder, with full evidence on display, and are found not guilty. People in positions of authority who discriminate against people of color, against immigrants, against refugees, and they are given free reign to continue engaging in these practices, while still enforcing the letter of the law against the rest of us.

How much longer until it grows worse? Because while there are people fighting, they are outnumbered by the complacent, by the people who only wish to have their 3 greatest requirements fulfilled: They wish to be entertained, to have their basic needs met, and to be given wants in order to chase as their own, working as part of the machinery to keep those at the top sated, and those at the bottom starving for crumbs.

John, what do we need to do? How can we change things for the better?

We need compassion. We need to stop judging without mercy and start listening. We need to see people as worthy of love, of second, third, fourth, fifth, tenth chances.

We need to stop obeying the letter of the law, and embrace its spirit. We need to do what is right regardless of the legal complexities, and we need to understand that just because something is legal or illegal, does not make it moral or immoral.

We need to realize that it costs to do good, and that the system will sometimes punish those who do good because the system lacks the nuance necessary to understand it, or because the system is too old and out of date to address it.

We need to help our brothers and sisters up, not push them down for our amusement. To borrow a bit of religiosity on this one, we cannot ignore our sins while also crucifying people for theirs.

We need to stop constantly wanting. Our greed and lust has helped build this system, whether it be a lust for money, power, sex, blood, or distraction.

We need to ask questions. Don’t just assume, don’t just condemn, ask why. Find out the reasons behind the actions people take. Part of our problem here in the U.S. is that we want action now, and to hell with putting thought ahead of it.

 

There are some of you who will read this and might agree with some or even none of it. There will be those who will rush to judgment and use terms like “snowflake,” “liberal,” “socialist,” “bleeding heart,” “SJW,” or any of the other terms created to turn compassion into a crime instead of a virtue. I reject that perversion of virtue.

It has been in me, my entire life, to do good. I once told someone that should they ever find themselves in danger from those who seek to bring harm, to get behind me, and I would shield them from the danger. I do not take those words lightly. I realize that some day those very words, that very action I take every day, may come back on me and cause me great harm. It may tarnish my reputation, destroy my good name, or even kill me.

Even so, I will never stop doing good, and even should all of the world hate me, should they believe the worst of me, should all of the principalities and powers come down upon me, that it will still not deter me. I will never stop doing good. Please think on what I’ve said here today.

Don’t let them gaslight you.

 

I Am A Socialist

 

I am a socialist. I find the capitalist system to be corrupt, and while no system is flawless, socialism’s goals are inherently based on the advancement of human compassion rather than human greed. There is a *great* deal more to it than that, and I will cover it eventually, but for now, I can honestly say I no longer ascribe to the capitalist system as it currently stands.

Rolling Thunder

So I’m sure some folks noticed the significant increase in posts this past week. I seemed to be pouring some especially strong pathos onto the sidewalk.  Part of it has to do with my depression, of which most of you are aware. The vast majority of it, though has to do with the mind-breaking panic attacks I’ve been having all week. I’m not talking discomfort and unease, I’m talking gibbering terror, hyperventilation, extreme paranoia, absolute certainty of death, and the fear of losing everyone I love. These have been the strongest anxiety attacks I’ve ever had in my entire life.

For the past week, my life has been nothing but sheer terror followed by moments of calm (and a desperate attempt to return to normalcy), which are eclipsed by sheer terror once again. My heart wants to burst, my brain wants to melt down. I want to collapse into a ball and cry non-stop. I want to hide under my covers and make the world go away. I’m terrified people are going to harm me. Right now, I am having a lucid moment but I don’t know how long it will last before those icy tendrils grip my heart and brain again.

There is this constant chattering underneath my thoughts, a rumble that will not subside, as if a foreshock, or aftershock, is constantly making its presence known. It is this belief that something absolutely horrible is about to happen, something that may destroy my life forever. This buzzing and chattering exists even in my moments of “calm.” My mind has been doing nothing but creating nightmare scenarios, and I’m not talking outlandish ones, but ones that are entirely plausible, and they just won’t stop repeating themselves over and over and over again. I can’t eat without seeing them, I can’t sleep without dreaming of them.

This kind of thing does happen every so often, usually once every few years, but this has been, without a doubt, the absolute worst, on a magnitude I’ve never experienced before. I’m exhausted, I am divided inside, I feel left outside of the world, like I don’t belong, like I’m not welcome. I am in dire fear of the future.

 

Demons Dark And Subtle

 

We all have them: demons. I’m not talking your classic spiritual spook, or satanic specter. I’m referring to our inner feelings, the ones that stay covered under masks of supposed normalcy. If you think you’re the only one who walks with these horrible thoughts, and feelings, you are mistaken. Every single soul who walks this earth, who has ever walked this earth, who will walk this earth even after we are long gone, has these demons. It is something deep within the human psyche which we all are a part.

You may say “but you don’t understand, the feelings I have make me the worst person.”

No. Let me start by saying the thoughts you have, no matter what they are, do not define you as a person. We all have dark thoughts. Some have pitch black thoughts. Our brains are incredible, complex machines that we’re still working to understand, but even here and now we know that what thoughts pass through your brain do not make you a bad person.

Thoughts of murder, suicide, bigotry, sexual fantasies, things that you believe would make the collective world stop and gasp in horror, these are all thoughts people have, from the lowliest peasant to the mightiest King, and everyone in between. Every human being fights with, on some level, these thoughts and feelings every day.

Most people manage to put on a brave face every day, and they fight those thoughts. Sometimes, those feelings are blessedly asleep, and don’t bother you. Then there are the times when they torment you day and night, and you just want to curl up in a ball and cry, or much, much worse.

I can only speak for society here in the U.S., but it’s something we actively hide from one another. For some reason, having such thoughts is seen as a weakness, and admitting it even worse. It’s an awful, terrible situation, because people who wish to seek help cannot without experiencing life changing stigma, and so they go untreated. Those people self-medicate, and some decide it’s not worth being here at all, because who would love a monster? Yes, I would bet nearly all of us have had the “I’m a monster” thought pass through our heads at least once in our lives. Some of us have it every day.

Why this discussion?

As I said in a previous post, September is Suicide Awareness & Prevention month. I want you to know right now that no matter what thoughts have passed through your head, no matter what feelings have formed in your heart, you are not a monster. Like so many of us, you simply think things you would never act upon. It is so very human. So human. I realize that is difficult to believe, because there is a culture out there that seeks to silence and squelch all of those who don’t follow a set pattern they consider “normal.”

My friend, there is no such thing. Oh, sure, there are acceptable patterns of thought that get called normal, but keep this in mind: all throughout history, “normal” has changed with each generation. 50 years ago, it was normal to look at women as inferior to men. 150 years ago, it was normal to see a person of color as property to white men. 500 years ago, burning a person was an acceptable way to expel their witchery. 1,000 years ago, the acceptable way of thinking was to murder all who opposed your god.

In 100 years, I know that normal will once more have changed, even as it changes now. Just because you have thoughts that fall outside of what some consider “normal” does not make you abnormal, does not make you a monster, does not make you someone undeserving of love. When you are next out and about where you see other people, just know that behind the smiles, behind the frowns, behind the impassive faces, the stern looks, the judging eyes, there, too, is someone holding their demons at bay, and it is all within them that they should fear you will find them out, and that they will be exposed as some kind of fraud.

That is what so many of us fear, I wager, that we should be seen as frauds, as “not-people.” That, too, is a demon, one that is so ever pervasive, and even moreso in this day and age of instant anger and judgment against others.

You are not alone, you are not a monster for dealing with your demons, or for having bad thoughts and feelings, nor are you unworthy of love because of what passes through your mind. Thoughts and feelings, alone, do not make you unworthy of anything. Please don’t feel you have to bring harm to yourself because you have them.

Oh, and those people I mentioned before? The ones who demand we all be normal their way? They have those thoughts, too, and it terrifies them.

In love and peace,

John

September Is…

National Suicide Awareness & Prevention Month.

Do You Feel Bullied?
Teased?
Outcast?
Different from Everyone Else?

You Are Not Alone.

Every day, in places all over the world, people are bullied for no other reason beyond the simple fact that they are different in some way; perhaps they like different TV shows, maybe they practice a different faith, look a certain way, or perhaps they don’t fit into one specific gender role. There are people like them who are bullied every day; they are mocked, teased, made to feel inferior, and what these people need to know, just as you may need to know, is that they, and you, do not deserve to be bullied.

You Do Not Deserve To Be Bullied.

Yet, even with this knowledge, some feel that they have somehow brought it on themselves, that perhaps the world doesn’t want them; doesn’t need them; doesn’t think they are of any value, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. You deserve to be loved, and you have value.

You Deserve To Be Loved. You Have Value.

If you feel that you are not loved, that you are alone, or that you think that you are useless, or worthless, please make use of these resources below, because you shouldn’t be suffering in silence. There are people who want to help you, who can help you, to understand the feelings you’re facing, because you shouldn’t have to feel this way. That you are here means that you are a unique person, one who has thoughts and feelings that are worthy of sharing, and you are loved.

You Are Loved!

If you need assistance, please contact any of the organizations listed below.

The Trevor Project – 24 Hour Hotline (U.S.):
1-866-488-7386

The National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 24/7 Access (U.S.):
1-800-273-8255

National Runaway Safeline (U.S.):
1-800-786-2929

Suicide Prevention Hotline Site (International):
http://www.suicide.org/international-suicide-hotlines.html

Befriender’s Worldwide (International):
http://www.befrienders.org/directory

Or Call:
In the U.S.: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (488-7386)
In Canada: 1-877-OUT-IS-OK (688-1765)
In the UK: 0207 837 7324
In Australia: 1800 184 527
In New Zealand: (04) 473 7878

Please avail yourself of one of the contact numbers above. They can come to your aid immediately. Remember, you are loved, and if you don’t think you are loved, just know that I love you, and I don’t want you to suffer, I don’t want you to believe that you have to do something to yourself to make the world a better place. By being here, you already make the world a better place. You are loved; I love you.

John

I Want To Be Wonder Woman

 

This isn’t an expression of gender dysphoria, nor is it a statement where I wish to change my sex (not that I would necessarily complain, in all honesty). This is about the movie Wonder Woman, which I finally got to see today. Impatient to just wait for the movie on Blu-Ray (Sept. 19th), I made a digital purchase because for some reason they released it that way more than two weeks early.

I will not give any of the movie away, but suffice to say that for those of us who are feminists, this movie has been a long time coming, and it’s about goddamned fucking time.

Starring Gal Gadot, Robin Wright, Chris Pine, and a whole cast of other incredibly beautiful people, this movie takes place during WWI, which surprised me. Yeah, some of you knew that, probably most of you, but I had no idea. I purposely stayed away from every spoiler I could, though someone ALMOST told me a HUGE spoiler, but I shut them up in the nick of time.

Gal Gadot is perfect as Wonder Woman. I would believe she was born to play the role. She seemed so effortless. Everyone else performed admirably in their roles, but Gal Gadot did something for me I didn’t expect: she became Wonder Woman.

See, almost 40 years ago, a man named Christopher Reeve played a superhero role. As I’m sure most of you know, that role was Superman. Well, I wasn’t born then, but when I did get to see Superman: The Movie as a child, I wasn’t watching Christopher Reeve play Superman in a movie, I was watching Superman come to life. He leapt off of the comic book pages and onto the screen.

Gal Gadot gave me that Superman moment as Wonder Woman. I wasn’t watching Gal Gadot play as Wonder Woman in a movie, I was watching Wonder Woman come to life on the screen. Whomever chose her for the role, all I can say is that person deserves a huge fucking raise. She was phenomenal. Phenomenal.

There were points in the film where I started crying, not because of the war on the screen (though there are moments, folks), but just watching her. Watching her move, watching her speak, watching her take action, she was and is the living embodiment of all that is good and pure. I was overwhelmed a number of times. I caught myself nodding to things she would say, whispering “damn straight” and “you tell them, Diana!”

She made me want to hope and dream. It was amazing. If you haven’t seen this movie, please, please see this movie. I have it available as a digital stream, but I’m still buying the Blu-ray, because I want a physical copy, too. That eats up my entire entertainment budget for the month, but I don’t care. I want to support this film, I want to support Wonder Woman, I want to support Gal Gadot because she is Wonder Woman, and yes, I want women everywhere to rejoice and be proud, because Wonder Woman is the most amazing superhero I’ve seen ever since I believed a man could fly. ♥