Thoughts On Evil

Stress And Frustration

There’s a lot of things I’ve seen this week with people justifying things because they prefer to have full, empirical evidence that something was wrong before they call it wrong.

They want to ask questions about preceding events and criminal history before determining if people should or should not be dragged off an airplane, complete with being bloodied, because they wouldn’t give up their seat.

They want to ask for the sources of scientific study used to determine whether or not 1 in 6 women are raped before allowing themselves to state fully that rape is wrong and happens far more frequently than it should.

To this I want to ask that, before you try to make oppression or misogyny or racism or so many other things an academic pursuit, please let these two words be your mantra: just don’t.

Just.

Don’t.

Not-So-Suddenly Seymour

little-shop-of-horrors-3

So there’s a guy. He’s a normal guy working at a plant shop in a somewhat run-down part of town in a plant shop. He’s been there a long time, working for a boss he somewhat likes and mostly loathes.

It is this character, Seymour, that we learn to identify with in this movie. We want something better for him. We want him to get the girl he likes, the nice house in a good neighborhood, and all the other things we want for ourselves.

So it comes to pass that this plant somehow magically appears from outer space as far as we know. Seymour is growing the plant and nurturing it, but it won’t grow. After a while, he figures out that he has to feed the plant blood to  nourish it.

This should have been a clear sign that things should stop, but he was finally getting a bit more success and attention, so the plant had to be fed.

Eventually, the plant needed more than his blood, but he has a conscious. A soul. He can’t do it… until he finds someone so repulsive that he can bear to kill them and feed them to the plant. The guy is abusive to his love interest. Surely, this makes sense and it is justified. We feel you, Seymour.

However, the one body isn’t enough. The plant must feed and Seymour must help. It grows and starts to encourage Seymour’s desires to be powerful and have good things. Seymour then feeds it his boss. Not directly, of course. He lures him in, gets him into a certain position, then watches as the plant eats his boss alive.

However, this new body is also not enough. Finally, the plant, having gained the power it needs, tricks the love interest into coming to the shop, because here’s the thing: it’s been helping Seymour, but only as a means to serve itself.

Seymour, who fed this plant body after body, draws the line at his love interest. You can’t do this to Audrey; she’s mine. So he tries to fight the plant and that’s when the plant reveals, in song, it’s ultimate plan and true nature.

This is where things get tricky. We like happy endings, so the movie gives us one. This plant , powerful beyond comprehension, is defeated by this one man and he and his love interest live happily ever after…

…except that’s not what actually happens. Here’s what actually happens. Watch it.

This isn’t a story with a happy ending. This is a story about a man who wanted power so badly that he was talked into sacrificing others.

This is a story about the very thing he fed – which was not looking out for anything but itself – grew large enough to consume him, multiply, infect the minds of others and encourage them down the same path.

This is a story of feeding something you don’t understand and believing that, because it benefits you, it is benevolent.

This is the America that voted Trump into presidency.

What will you do now, Seymour?

This Election In Free Verse: Part II

read for yourself. ignorance is bad.

Read.

It’s been about two weeks now since Trump became the President Elect and every day that passes proves my grieving more correct than even I wanted to be.

At some point during this election, people had their anger manipulated and took that anger to the polls instead of reason. They said they were the normal people, the working class, the silent and oppressed America. They said we made their children soft, called them racists and xenophobes for merely speaking their mind, emasculated their men, and eroded the values on which this nation was founded. They had to put a stop to it.

I cannot fathom having the ability to look past the blood and bodies and tears of so many to make a vote just so people will stop calling me names and be nice to me.

Hillary didn’t give them the voice they felt they needed. She was too much like what had already ruined everything. Too liberal not to mention democrat. Enough was enough. They couldn’t bother with a 3rd party vote because that wasn’t realistic. So they went to the polls and they voted the only person they felt would uproot this rotten, oppressive flow of everything awful.

And here we are with Nazis – erm, national populists – in an advisory position to the highest office in our nation and one of the most powerful in the world.

While I can understand that some people would have liked a different conversation on the topics of race, oppression, social justice, and other related issues, I cannot fathom having the ability to look past the blood and bodies and tears of so many to make a vote just so people will stop calling me names and be nice to me.

However, here we are because enough people had that same choice and made it only proving the outrage of so many to be completely founded. Yet, for all of this, there is something I fear only a bit more.

See, a bunch of people were able to vote for Trump because they had padding. Hillary was an open target with this email scandal and cold personality and all, so of course voting Trump was a good idea. She was heavily steeped in years within politics, so of course she’s corrupt. Right?

But now Trump has to stand alone. On his own merit. We knew he had none to truly speak of, but Hillary just couldn’t be a thing, so we shrugged off the locker room talk, the racism, the misogyny and laid a path for him straight into office. Well, now he has to step up and take his place as a leader. Here is an indicator of how he is doing so far:

This is where the largest question for me lies. Going into the office, we see inconsistencies and the tweets of a teenager (to be kind), but at some point, that silent-but-oppressed majority are going to have to confront Trump as he is and not as they wanted him to be.

When he is not who they hoped he would be, who will they blame for it?

  • They can’t blame Trump. He was every bit of who he said he was.
  • They can’t espouse the values of the populists because they are obviously bad.
  • They can’t bring themselves to admit they were wrong.

That leaves the rest of us who are already grieving because we knew what was at stake. So what then? What will happen when that silent-but-oppressed majority of people are made to suffer the same fate that they voted us into thinking to make things better for themselves?

What then?

This Election In Free Verse

read for yourself. ignorance is bad.

Read.

The grief hit me on the way home on election day and I couldn’t help thinking about how, no matter how things went, everyone was going to hurt.

Everyone.

I started to pray and the more I did, the more I felt like crying. It felt like something long coming. The stock market started crashing around the 60th electoral vote for Trump. I kept the page on, refreshing, not to see what the result would be, but to see how deep it ran.

That’s what happens when you’ve been paying attention. I woke up the next day to messages, mostly of surprise and shock, from every quandrant I live on (excepting Facebook). I felt conflicted because I felt nothing.

No shock, no surprise. Just… nothing.

I felt conflicted because I felt nothing.

I remembered the news for the last few years and the sentiments I’ve seen crossing social media about so many different social issues and they could be summed up as:

  • People being angry for being called privileged.
  • People being angry at being oppressed.
  • People being fed up with abuses of power at the civic levels.
  • People being angry at mainstream media for the way reporting has been handled.
  • People being terribly misinformed about social issues and what the implications of ignoring them are.
  • People being inflexible of mind and heart and unwilling to listen to… well… anyone.

None of this is recent. This is 2014. This is 2001. This is where the bodies and the blood and the anger led.

I wonder about the 6.6M or so people that voted for no one at all. Not even a 3rd party. They went to the polls and voted, but not for a presidential option. I wonder about the people that normally don’t vote that showed up to this one. I hear they were normal people who were tired of being made to feel bad about being white, straight, and male.

I try to imagine what it is like to be terrified for your life for any number of reasons and then watch as someone votes to bring that terror to power because they don’t like being called a name. I try to imagine being able to say things like this:

I think about the last time I felt either of those things and remember that, when I did, someone died. I then try to see things from his point of view and have to wonder as well: what would have happen if we had chosen a means of starting the necessary conversations that was less angry, more considerate, less militant. What then? Would that have helped?

Based on that, there’s a lot to be said about what we voted for, but I only want to mention the largest one which is this: we are in this together now.

I wonder if that would have been heard. So far, it hasn’t. o far, soft gets dismissed as drama and being too harsh gets people to lie in wait for voting day and make themselves known then.

I’m not a political science major, so for Clinton and for Trump alike, I only have what they said in this election season to gauge them on. Based on that, there’s a lot to be said about what we voted for, but I only want to mention the largest one which is this: we are in this together now.

I wonder if you can hear a chant of “my body, my voice” through blood. Through a body. Across an ocean. Through a wall of paper.

Whether we wanted it or not, whether we regret it or not, for better or worse and until the next four years are gone, we are in it now and we have to work through it even if we have to work through it with people that get make my mom text me at 9:30AM to ask if I’m OK. Even if we have to work through it surrounded by people that make my mom ask me to call her the moment I land somewhere just to let her know I’m alive.

I want to ask the people that voted for Trump because he wasn’t Hillary or because they felt disenfranchised how they feel. I hear that many of them don’t like or espouse what Trump stands for, but they saw no other alternative to make their voices heard.

I wonder if you can hear a chant of “my body, my voice” through blood. Through a body. Across an ocean. Through a wall of paper.

And then I return to my convictions and my basis of faith and I have to ask: how am I going to keep loving them, too. I don’t get exempted from that responsibility during wars or elections in spite of what people might tell you or behave like.

I’m a kaleidoscope:

  • I want everyone to listen and respond instead of reacting.
  • I want people to recognize issues and deal with them.
  • I want people not to fear for their lives.
  • I want to be angry, but I’m not even surprised, so I don’t know.
  • I want a world safe enough for my mom not to be concerned about me. I’m 34 right now.
  • I want my friends to not be terrified of existing.
  • I want to not have potential nazis in office.

Am I not as normal as these disenfranchised people? Don’t I have that right to peace? How do I even process this?

When do I get to stop asking?

I don’t know y’all. I don’t know.

Tragedy In Free Verse

overit

I’m trying to coax this one tear out of the corner of the room and get him to be a bit more social. I woke up to a day that should have had a trigger warning. The hashtag today had my uncle’s name and five kids.

I read this shortly after lunch today and slumped into my desk. I didn’t know this level of exhaustion was possible. I’m in mid-conversation about activism and the need to listen when this example descends from heavens…

…or hell.

My emotional conditioning is perfect, but I’m getting rusty; one person at the office says I should head home before I get back to my grind.

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by the constant stream of tragedy that you can only speak your mind in metaphor? I have.

I get in a car and when the driver asks me how I feel, I tell them I’m tired.

“What do you do?”

I explain my work and the Über driver agrees that it is likely a mental type of exhaustion. I couldn’t agree more. I tell her I decided to watch the news and that didn’t help. I say that I should just stop watching the news until November. When I hear the GPS give her the wrong directions, I correct them and we talk about the weather. I’m charming and funny and I try to give her life while I’m searching for a way to stop feeling like I’m drowning.

She says I made her day with all of my humor. My defenses are perfect; if I’ve learned anything as a black male at 34, it’s that you need to be safe enough for everyone to touch without feeling bad about it.

My DMs are full of people asking me if I’m OK. If I’m safe. If they can help me somehow. I tell them to just be present and wish with all my heart for a hug. Tré Melvin released a video that had a clip I’d been avoiding all day.

I think about how every single day this week, I’ve seen clouds coming well before the rain fell. Always dark, always looming. I come back to my room where I’m lying in bed and I wonder if this is why I hate waking up in the morning.

I read things I should know better than to read and I don’t even know how to be anything but in awe of how quickly we’ve tried to bury Alton’s murder under #alllivesmatter before we’ve even thought of burying the body.

I don’t even know how to be anything but in awe of how quickly we’ve tried to bury Alton’s murder under #alllivesmatter before we’ve even thought of burying the body.

I’m reminded that I need to continue being pleasant and funny and useful because not being those things means that someone might decide I should be dead otherwise. My friends know this down to their DNA; every new #deadblackman is a DM to me to be safe; they know there is no escape for me anywhere in America. The death of another black male is the same as my own.

I wish all lives really mattered. Even a little. Anil Dash posts something that almost makes me cry for the first time in a decade. A text comes to mind where I’m talking to someone that I spend a lot of time sad or angry about all of this and their response was:

Is this person meaningful or significant to you? If not, then you should know death is part of life like everything else.

They mean well, like so many do, but they have no fucking clue what grieving for two straight years feels like. I have to wonder if the bodies are forming a barrier that he can’t hear my voice through.

I’m bored and by this I mean that I’m too exhausted to enjoy anything. I’m in a drought for laughter and I spend a little bit longer in this 95+ degree heat in 80+% humidity to remind myself of what joy feels like. I’m more afraid of Florida than ISIS; ISIS is at least straightforward in their hatred.

I think about where I would go if things got really bad and there isn’t any safety here. I wonder when I’ll be mistaken for the wrong person at the right time and how many bullets I can handle before I breathe my last. I hope it’s 3, 7, or 13 as I have a like for those numbers.

I’m wondering if I should check my DMs on Facebook; I’m sure I have messages there to grieve over, too. I wonder if the idea of a blood bank for black people was a cruel joke considering how often police are trading bullets for cash.

I’m tired. Very, very tired.

Occupy Wall Street

I want to put my two cents in about the topic of Occupy Wall Street. If you don’t know what that is, read here. Where I am, in junction with that effort, they do things like this.

Now there are a number of things I think about this movement. For one, I can understand people that believe the movement to be a bit disorganized. I can even agree with that considering that, from what I understand, they try to avoid having only one, clear, overarching message other than “Stop being mean and stingy, you money-hoarding bastards…!” to which I can relate. However, this message isn’t enough for me. Let me explain this a bit.

I grew up, the oldest of six kids (eventually) and that meant low-income housing, welfare, medicaid, and so forth. The thing is, my mom determined that she would not remain in that and neither would her kids, so she did all she could to escape it and she did. I am proud of her for that and it has inspired me to wake up, kick ass, hustle and make things work when I need to. That said, I can’t comprehend that 20K+ people somehow have the idea that, because they are broke, they can just demand that a group of high-powered people fix that problem.

A couple of friends said that I should join the movement anyway, but I declined for a couple of reasons:

  1. i don’t know what’s going on. if you read my above explanation and are a part of the movement, you could clearly see and understand how far off-base I am from what’s really spurring these protests. It’s just what I’m seeing and the initial look is rarely complete, so I thought some research would be a good idea.
  2. it wasn’t my cause/you make me nervous. I avoid doing things just because large numbers of people do them without asking questions first. It makes me uncomfortable that there are so many people protesting without a single voice to go, “Oh, this is what we are protesting about…” because that basically means that the unseen people spurring everything on and keeping things organized can wield the power of pretty P.O’d masses of people in any way they see fit since the people in question are joined together by a relatively emotional topic.

That said, I did a bit of research. Lots of liberals and anarchist tendencies woven in here and there. This was interesting and explained the lack of central message; you can’t be an anarchist and establish well-defined order in protest. That makes no sense.

However, because of the second item I mentioned, I still shied away from joining the cause. It is not enough for me to hear someone say, “we’re protesting because people somewhere are rich and we’re not those people…” I needed more substance to grab. Remember, I grew up on welfare and all that. I grew up around people that were broke and just expected money to come from some magical place without trying to better themselves, so when I see people going, “Grrrawrwearebrokeandmad!!!!”, I don’t get it. My answer is something like, “Then get the tools you need to do something better. Go to school, google something, find out what you do well, kick ass, and make a profit, but stop complaining about it unless you’re going to make some movement…”

That would have been where my thoughts ended until I read this article. Read it, if you would.

This article made the whole concept of OccupyCityNameHere make so much sense that, honestly, had someone — anyone — walked up to me and explained it this way, I would be protesting every day afterward. It was respectful, well-thought out, and had no buzzwords.

Let me repeat that last item: no buzzwords.

I’m not a fan of marketing, even if I’m good at it, because I hate buzzwords. Even more when they aren’t explained in a way that connects with me. Let me rant here for one moment about the word solidarity.

I wasn’t born during the civil rights or any other major movement. I am not a social work major or master or anything like that. I’m some tech guy that loves people and watches anime. Use smaller words. Connect to me somehow. At least define the word. There aren’t many people in my generation, most of which is largely apathetic about political movements in the first place, that know that word. Break it down. Using these “big words” is like shining a flashlight in my eyes because I can’t see in the dark; I have light, but I still can’t see anything and neither can the other 50 people on my timeline that see the word solidarity.

Rant over. Now back to things that stood out to me about the article (which I’m hoping you read):

Here’s how a liberal looks at it:  a long time ago workers in this country realized that industrialization wasn’t making their lives better, but worse.  The captains of industry were making a ton of money and living a merry life far away from the dirty, dangerous factories they owned, and far away from the even dirtier and more dangerous mines that fed raw materials to those factories.

The workers quickly decided that this arrangement didn’t work for them.  If they were going to work as cogs in machines designed to build wealth for the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts and Carnegies, they wanted a cut.  They wanted a share of the wealth that they were helping create.  And that didn’t mean just more money; it meant a better quality of life.  It meant reasonable hours and better working conditions.

Eventually, somebody came up with the slogan, “8 hours of work, 8 hours of leisure, 8 hours of sleep” to divide the 24-hour day into what was considered a fair allocation of a human’s time.  It wasn’t a slogan that was immediately accepted.  People had to fight to put this standard in place.  People demonstrated, and fought with police, and were killed.  They were called communists (in fairness, some of them were), and traitors, and many of them got a lot worse than pepper spray at the hands of police and private security.

But by the time we got through the Great Depression and WWII, we’d all learned some valuable lessons about working together and sharing the prosperity, and the 8-hour workday became the norm.

The 8-hour workday and the 40-hour workweek became a standard by which we judged our economic success, and a reality check against which we could verify the American Dream.

If a family could live a good life with one wage-earner working a 40-hour job, then the American Dream was realized.  If the income from that job could pay the bills, buy a car, pay for the kids’ braces, allow the family to save enough money for a down payment on a house and still leave some money for retirement and maybe for a college fund for the kids, then we were living the American Dream.  The workers were sharing in the prosperity they helped create, and they still had time to take their kids to a ball game, take their spouses to a movie, and play a little golf on the weekends.

This is what I mean. The simplest person among us could understand this explanation and it gives appropriate context. From here, you could easily distill this and tie it to your own life circumstances. Or something like this:

I understand that a prosperous America needs people with money to invest, and I’ve got no problem with that.  All other things being equal, I want all the rich people to keep being rich.  And clever financiers who find ways to get more money into the hands of promising entrepreneurs should be rewarded for their contributions as well.

I think Wall Street has an important job to do, I just don’t think they’ve been doing it.  And I resent their sense of entitlement – their sense that they are special and deserve to be rewarded extravagantly even when they screw everything up.

Come on, it was only three years ago, kid.  Remember?  Those assholes almost destroyed our economy.  Do you remember the feeling of panic?  John McCain wanted to suspend the presidential campaign so that everybody could focus on the crisis.  Hallowed financial institutions like Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch went belly up.  The government started intervening with bailouts, not because anybody thought “private profits and socialized losses” was fair, but because we were afraid not to intervene –  we were afraid our whole economy might come crashing down around us if we didn’t prop up companies that were “too big to fail.”

So, even though you and I had nothing to do with the bad decisions, blind greed and incompetence of those guys on Wall Street, we were sure as hell along for the ride, weren’t we?  And we’ve all paid a price.

All the” 99%” wants is for you to remember the role that Wall Street played in creating this mess, and for you to join us in demanding that Wall Street share the pain.  They don’t want to share the pain, and they’re spending a lot of money and twisting a lot of arms to foist their share of the pain on the rest of us instead.  And they’ve been given unprecedented powers to spend and twist, and they’re not even trying to hide what they’re doing.

All we want is for everybody to remember what happened, and to see what is happening still.  And we want you to see that the only way they can get away without paying their share is to undermine the American Dream for the rest of us.

And I want you and I to understand each other, and to stand together to prevent them from doing that.  You seem like the kind of guy who would be a strong ally, and I’d be proud to stand with you.

This part, especially what I have bolded, sealed the deal for me in a good way. I understand a little bit better. Not the whole thing, but enough to think about this properly and that’s what I needed in all the tweets and other things I’ve been inundated with. It also addresses one other idea I’ve struggled with which is this: where does our responsibility come in?

I’m all about owning things responsibility-wise. We’re a democratic-republic here, so I think that, if someone in government messes up things and whatnot, we are all partly responsible as the people of this country because we vote them in and don’t call them out on their bullshit collectively. Period. At some point, even in a situation like Occupy Wall St, someone has to recognize that we are responsible, too.

The part I bolded points out that Wall St played a role. They are not the entire problem. That was important to me, too. In and of themselves, they aren’t bad, but messing things up and not owning responsibility equal to what they did is not okay. Not being responsible to the people you’re supposed to govern is not okay. Using money to try to quiet us forcefully when we protest and demand that you do your part to fix problems that you caused is extremely not okay and, from what I can see, that is a large part of the message of Occupy Wall St and others.

Knowing that, I’m asking fewer questions about what is going on and why and more about how I can contribute somehow. The more I see, the more I want to help and that’s good. I can join people in their suffering because I can relate and understand and even point out things that can help relieve it.

You’ll probably see more posts like these. I think it’s a good thing; I’ve never really been a political activist because it hasn’t meant much to me until now.

However, now is a good time to start something new, right?

Critique as a Lifesaver

I commented this on my friend’s FB wall, but since it seems no one got the message, let me post it here, publicly.

First: context.

My friend, Bert, shared his thoughts on Occupy Wall Street and that sparked a fair bit of debate. After sharing this link as a summary of his thoughts, he said the following:

This whole “Occupy Wall Street” movement may be the most useless protest I have ever seen. Standing in the road with no clear agenda or motive is ridiculous. You’re just succeeding in being an ass-ache to people trying to get to work. I’m sure that this will bring about MASSIVE economic change and fix our system. Way to go, idiots.

After a bit of back and forth, he clarified a bit:

I am absolutely willing to agree that this is something that needs attention. You’ll get no debate there. I want to see something that will succeed happen. The way we can do that is to usher in this change in a realistic and working manner. I feel that the current protest will not accomplish this. However, in our barest essential ideals you and I agree. I feel that pushing legislation and getting in the faces of representatives is the way to go about this, though. I simply wish that the energy would head in a direction such as that.

I understood this from post one, but again, he needed to make a final clarification after losing friends on facebook for doing what is typically done on a social networking site: sharing your opinions and thoughts.

I feel as though I need to make one more statement in regards to “Occupy Wall Street”. It appears my statements have caused multiple people to delete me as Facebook friends, which I find preposterous. It seems I should clarify a few things. First, I used the word “idiots” in my initial post and let me take that back. It was said out of frustration and was in poor taste. Second, Let me be clear: I fully support a movement for reform on Wall Street and within our government. Fully. I do not think that the current protest is going to work for various reasons that I have made apparent. I want to see a focused and decisive effort, not the unfocused and disorganized one we have. Third, Let me make something else clear: Distancing yourself from those who may disagree with you is not the way to go about making change. If you insist on covering your ears when met with some dissent, then who are you to critique Wall Street and Washington for doing the same when you oppose them? If you surround yourself with only people who agree with you, whose mind is there to change? I have managed to have open dialogue with supporters of the protest and even though we may not have agreed upon everything we did not end in anger. I feel as though we ended on an understanding of one another in the very least. Take my initial status in regards to this as an example of civil debate. The people who are willing to have said dialogue are the ones who are positive ambassadors for the protest. Deleting someone from your Facebook is not how you change their mind. That’s truly the strangest way I’ve seen to garner support for something. To those who have shown me respect in our discourse, good luck. Though I may not think your method is sound, I would like nothing more than for you to succeed. All of my criticisms are strictly there to try and aid the overall goal that we share. To those who could not I’m sorry to say that you embodied the things that you hate about the government, Wall Street, and those who refuse to listen to you with your actions. You’ve accomplished nothing in these actions except for losing any credibility your arguments may have had. I bear you no ill will, but you must see the error in your ways if you want to be an asset in any movement.
After reading this, I thought this blog needed to be written and could not wait, so let me point out a few things.
Critiquing is not bad. Let me repeat: critiquing is not bad. Being an asshat is one thing, but that wasn’t the case here. He pointed, clearly, and more times than I copied and pasted, that he wants the movement to succeed, but thinks that this particular means of doing so is not going to be effective and pointed out his reasons why. His biggest one is that he feels that the movement seems to lack focus, so the solution would be: create a focal point for the protest. The solution is going to take work, but it is simple. It would be different if he had picked some vague, unsolvable nonsense to point out, but he didn’t. I read the article; it made five points that were easy to follow. Five. For believing those things to be a valid point, he was alienated…
…or so I thought. After a bit more thinking, I’ve come to the conclusion that the ridiculous sense of entitlement we have is going to be the death of our relationships. Reactions like this to criticism with a clear intent to be helpful is going to be the biggest reason movements like this will fail. Listen careful to what I’m about to tell you: dissension done correctly is a great service to you. There is a massive difference between someone telling you “give up” and “do better”. The person who isn’t so caught up in the emotional high and self-importance of what they are doing realizes that and takes the dissension into account.
It’s a basic concept. If we’re driving down a road and I tell you, “this is a good way to get us lost…”, then turn your car instead of hating me for saving you time.
What is wrong with us? Do we really like having elephants in every room of our lives? I want to say I’m disappointed, but it’s so normal now I almost expect it. Someone please inform humanity that I’m trying to hang in there, but they’re making it hard.
Thanks.