Post Election 2016

I had this brilliant post all figured out and then the election went and happened. I was going to ignore the whole thing regardless of who won, because before the whole thing was finished I hadn’t really considered the whole of what a Trump presidency meant.

I’ve been scared for a while that he’d win and despite the fact that everyone around me was telling me that it was impossible that someone like him could win–I’m not going to do the whole blame thing, though I think there’s a lot of it to go around (most of it resting squarely on the uneducated rural masses that seem to think a New York billionaire who’s never given a shit about them gives a shit about them), but I am going to say that the one thing that I’m tired of hearing is that people out there need to stop protesting.

I lived through eight years of President Obama being protested against about all the awful things that he was going to do that he has yet to do. Considering he’s only got a few weeks left in office I think we’re not going to see any of that shit.

People are scared that their rights to marry who they want, their right to control their reproductive freedom, their right to be who they are might be stripped away from them. Those are all very scary things that I guess wouldn’t matter if you’re straight and a guy.

It’s you’re right to protest and it’s your right to be scared. There’s good reason to be scared of a man who called a climate change “a Chinese hoax” while a good section of the part of the country that voted for him is burning in the middle of fucking November. And I haven’t even mentioned the whole racism thing. The country has been ablaze with racism. Someone posted racist bullshit on the wall at a college right north of me.

I don’t really think that Trump invented racism. I don’t think that’s even possible to claim that. I don’t even think he stirred it all up. A good section of the GOP did that, the online white nationalist presence in this country has been on fire online; Trump didn’t put them there. Trump even claimed not to know or like them. But they have been emboldened by all of this and that’s a genie that won’t be put back in the bottle easily.

Now, on a positive note, Trump has walked back like half of the shit he said already. So to any who voted to him on “policy” it looks like you shouldn’t get your hopes up.

 

Belonging 

I went out to see Doctor Strange on Thursday night. It was supposed to be the highlight of my day. I’ve been counting down the days over the last month. There’s a tiny theater connected to my neighborhood. It also happens to be in the same building as my favorite comic book store. I’m in the place about once a week and people know me and I know the area. 

The movie had been moved to a new auditorium and was starting late, but by the time I stopped bullshitting with the guys in the comic book store I was coming into the theater after most people had taken their seats. A woman pointed to the area where my seat was and I walked down the front part of he aisle (our theater has wide aisles in front of the seats for waiters to pass along without disturbing the viewers). The seat numbering seemed off and the seats in the area where the employee had pointed me to were filled. I was in seat 13 of the row I was on and I saw a seat marked 513 and assumed it was that one. 

Suddenly a bearded man around my age or a little younger stands up from a seat a little to my right and asks “Are you sure you’re in the right theater?” He doesn’t come toward me or really move except to point. “They’re playing the Madea movie in another one.”

Oh, I get it now. That’s very clever. Black people, as we know, would only come to the theater to see the latest Madea movie or tales of triumph set during slave times. I wasn’t sure if he was going to tell me how brace I was next. It was raining, after all, and we know the blacks can’t swim. 

He laughed after that and sat back down. I figured out my error a few seconds after ignoring him. There was a second set of white painted numbers on the bottom of the upturned seats. I found my chair near the middle of the row buffeted by a man playing on his phone and a man who would continually talk to himself and push down on the empty seat between us hitting me in the leg. 

The movie was really good and I was thrilled to see it. Did the small interaction at the start ruin it for me? No. I’ve had worse said about me, although I really hate Tyler Perry movies, so this is an insult on two levels. There’s not a moral to this story unless it’s this: these kinds of things happen. I went into public to enjoy a movie and a stranger made a racist joke. I’m minding my own business and it doesn’t matter. People feel the need  to comment on my race. I’m sure if asked this guy would be one of the ones who “has black friends” and “doesn’t see race”. 

Yeah, sure. 

Scared For The Future of My Country

I’ve been stressed. I stopped by Wendy’s earlier and couldn’t finish a medium meal, which is not normal for me. Sleep is hard to come by and in the mornings I’m awake but don’t want to get up.

I lay in bed on my phone talking to friends and trying to avoid the bad news on sites like Reddit or Facebook. I throw on the MBMBAM podcast, but part of the way through I realized I’ve zoned out and don’t know what they’re laughing at. I missed the entirety of the last goof.

Work is surprising in that it is calming. No one really brings up the outside issues there and not many people really talk to me. I kind of like it that way. But the fact of the matter is it’s an election year and the things coming out of this election are causing me to be really afraid for my country.

Think that a few years ago a statement about binders of women or a weird scream was enough to get you flack. I miss the days of Bush and Romney when I look at the candidate that people have chosen to support.

There’s such an undercurrent of hatred in this election and the odd thing is that the guy stirring it up is somehow saying he’s the victim. He’s calling Mexicans rapists and bragging about sexual assault. He’s saying he wants to bring back unconstitutional stop and frisk laws and that he wants to default on our debt (which puts the world economy at risk). He’s asking why we don’t use nukes more often.

Notice I didn’t cite any of that. Mostly because it doesn’t matter. I’m on a phone and I won’t waste my time making the buggy copy paste system work for people who either know all that already or refuse to believe it. Even though it’s fact. It’s recorded that Trump has said these things; we’ve become anti-fact.

And the thing is what he’s taken advantage of scares me as much as Trump, because it will continue win or lose. There’s not really a chance for a conversation with people who are threatening to commit acts of terror against foreigners or “grab their musket” if they don’t get their way.

I’m thinking maybe America isn’t the place for me and a lot of people seem to not want people like me here. I’m thinking maybe this doesn’t get better after this.

Since people question my personhood still of ponder the idea of women not being able to vote can we really even say that we tried?

The Wonderful World of Incels

My novel seems to be stuck in a permanent research phase somehow. When I think about the fact that I was closing out a final chapter a little over a year ago, it’s strange to realize that the stuff I had back then doesn’t work for me anymore. This all started as something I dreamed up (literally–I had a dream) on a cruise ship. I should have never had any aspirations about keeping everything exactly as it was in my mind.

The latest idea that I’ve started playing with is a character who represents the common, downtrodden type of guy that you’ll find pretty much anywhere there is discussion to be had about dating. These guys are lonely and consider themselves un-datable, but they place a large amount of blame on society for the way it is. Women want well off men. Women want men that look a certain way. They’ve come up with all sorts of shorthand for the things they regularly talk about like their in a NATO briefing. For the men that they consider adversaries, the ones that women actually scramble to date, they use the name Chads. Some of the time they just refer to the guy as if his name is Chad. Most desirable women are Stacy.

They refer to themselves as incels. It refers to involuntary celibates, but in reality there seems to be more to the culture than just that. They categorize and break themselves into smaller groups from there. A KV is a kissless virgin and I forget the other stuff they say, but I’m not digging out my notes.

There’s this whole culture of slang and meanings, most of it meant to show how much the world has wrong them and to some extent all men. Women being allowed to have choices is sometimes spoken about as the first real problem that caused a whole host of problems and there’s a special kind of cognitive dissonance there too. Under the surface there’s a dash of racism and alt-right politics thrown in.

See this is the problem with research. I’ve read a lot of these postings. I’ve studied what these guys say and the words they use and the tone in which they use them. No one can be 100% horrible, right? So there’s got to be some silver lining in these people, but that’s what making the character is for. I have to cook up some way to make these guys be awful, but still be people.

A little over a year ago I watched the Elliot Roger videos on YouTube, you can still find them there, and the most astonishing thing was that I could see instantly why he had problems attracting women. He moved in a way that was off–kind of like how people talk about the uncanny valley–he spoke and acted as if he had this over blown sense of self worth.

And he plain acted like he was entitled to women.

I see some of the same traits in the men calling themselves incels and Roger identified as one, so that makes sense. I don’t mean to make light of the problem that Roger and others like him represent, but I think that the sort of character who embodies all of these things would have to be an interesting villain. Some might have a hard time sympathizing with him; if you’ve ever had to deal with someone who was so obsessed with how they were missing out on relationships and sex, you would see what I mean. At the same time I don’t think you always have to sympathize with great villains to see where there coming from.

People will tell you that they don’t believe the level of villainy that we’ve seen happen in a given story, but then you look at the world around us and we can see some pretty terrible events unfolding. On a smaller scale, couldn’t it just be that someone really hates the world around him and doesn’t think it’s treated him fairly? Couldn’t someone just have had enough of their immediate surroundings and they’re just going through the motions until the right chance arises?

That’s what I’m looking at here.

Lost in Translation

I might have lost my first reader because of what I’ve been writing.

If you don’t write there’s this thing that seems to be something that even the most carefree, fearless of writers goes through–somehow, someday you’re going to write something that is going to get you into trouble. Writing has caused an uproar before, for sure. There’s what happened with Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code or the many people made about the portrayal of sex and just relationships in general in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Notice that both of those books sold very well.

That’s not an invitation to write the worst things that you can, but there’s obviously something to be said about the controversial selling or the shitstorm that brews around a thing actually helping to fuel its ascent.

We could only hope to be that lucky. In my case I passed a story along to a woman who I wouldn’t call a friend quite yet, but there was something budding there. She had asked to see something I was writing and as she actually reads a lot I thought that this could be a common ground for us.

I e-mailed the first chapter to her, because I almost never send out the complete manuscript, expecting to hear back in a couple of days. The idea was that she would read it and make some comment like “that was really cool, I’d read this” or “nah, not really my kind of thing”. In the past I’ve gotten either.

I’ll interject here that one of the things that I read in Stephen King’s On Writing that has always rang true with me was that the writer in us has this desire to find an ideal reader–usually a spouse or friend or family member whose feedback they write for. This person would be the audience you have in mind. Maybe not so much in the sense that they are the type of person that you’re writing for, but more that you write everything to filter through them. The writing process is lonely by necessity, even when you’re writing with a co-author. That first time that you hand someone the printed stacks of paper that are your novel or send out that little file attachment is a big step. Their impression of the thing is your first impression of what anyone else thinks.

And in a way I’m kind of searching for the person to be that. It takes more than just being the first to read a thing; they have to be honest enough and brutal enough to be willing to take a stab at something very personal that has, up until then, been your own little secret creation.

Sure, you learn to get hardened to criticism and to take it as a critic of what’s on the page and not you, but it’s still a part of you. It’s still a very vulnerable give and take relationship.

So when I didn’t hear back, I figured that it was because she didn’t like it and was scared of hurting my feelings. I actually like hearing someone didn’t like it, someone telling me that they loved it doesn’t usually tell me what needs to be fixed.

Something always needs to be fixed.

She and I talked over the next few days about photography and kind of joked around. We came to the point where she was going to meet up with me the other day and then the day of she backed out. And I did what I do when anyone does anything, even a small thing. I over analyzed it.  It really works in my favor some of the time. If there’s a problem that needs a high level of scrutiny I can do that.

The phrase she used was “no contact” and it seemed like a very specific sort of language to use with someone who you had very lighthearted contact with in the first place. Looking back over the conversations we’ve had since I got the iPhone (and looked for an excuse to text anyone I knew had one to see the little blue bubbles) there’s nothing alarming in my language with her. We had breakfast together once a while ago and haven’t seen each other sense, but I wondered what I’d said to get this response.

The old “what did I do that upset you so much” conversation isn’t one I usually have to have. I know what I’ve said, I probably said it on purpose. I was careful this time; I’m usually extra careful because i can get carried away with jokes that are too much for people and topics that shouldn’t be discussed.

Then I realized the only place I hadn’t been careful was my writing. The first chapter of the novel I sent her has some choice words in it and some choice imagery. She actually questioned it when she first started reading the whole thing, but that was the last conversation where we mentioned it. At that point she seemed fine with there being a little adult content. It wasn’t there for no reason, that’s for sure.

I think she read the rest of it either days ago or very recently and had been thinking it over. Is this the kind of person that I want to be friends with? Someone who would write this must be sick or someone who would write this must have a real problem. Authors aren’t the people they write about in their stories, although part of us does go into the process. I’m no more Lissette than I am any other character written by someone who just had the idea. But she’s up here in my head, she came from there and I can pull that personality forth and put it on the page (haven’t been doing it as much lately).

The writing scaring her is all that makes sense to me with the scant information that I have. This isn’t really the first time this has happened, but it is the first time that someone has not wanted to be my friend anymore because of it and it’s sad because she seemed really sweet and I wish her the best.

Does this mean that I stop what I was doing before or change how I have been writing, no. I don’t have direct feedback to know what it was that caused her issue nor do I want to be the kind of person who censors their writing. I’d rather write things better and strive to take offensive subjects in a thought provoking way, rather than hiding from them or appealing to the lowest denominator.

If I’m published someday I hope she sees the book in a store or while scrolling through Amazon and decides to take it look; I hope she gets that what I’m trying to say is clear. I hope she keeps turning the pages and finally gets what I’m trying to say.

South Park and Choosing to Care

I was a late comer to the South Park train. While a lot of kids were watching it all the way back in ’97,  I was aware of the show, but never seemed to see it. Comedy was a big part of my life growing up, though. I remember watching things like Mystery Science Theater on Comedy Central late at night and Comic View on BET when I happened to be over at my sister’s late enough.

I had a healthy appetite for comedy.

South Park was edited and aired in syndication around the time I was in high school, I think. By then I was old enough to get a lot of the jokes and the movie had come to cable, which I had seen a few times. I had a South Park shirt and considered myself a fan of the show. I thought the guys writing it ‘got me’–that they were the kind of guys I wanted to be like. I didn’t just want to not care on a personal, emotional level. Not caring needed to be the default reaction when faced with almost anything.

When you’re fifteen or sixteen it’s easy to see how this world view applies to you. It’s hard to find somewhere to fit in and when you’re already attending a school where graduating classes numbered under fifty students there was a good chance that you might not have the friend group that even outcasts had at bigger schools. Not caring seemed like a good way to deal with the pressure. What you don’t care about can’t hurt you.

South Park takes that to a deeper level. It poked fun at everyone, a thing I once greatly respected. It reinforced my notions about the world, or it reinforced the notions that I figured I should have: gays are weird and okay, as long as they’re not hurting anyone, but you’re not doing any disservice by calling people faggots as an insult. The younger generation is past racism completely, so all that’s left is to let all of the older people die off (there’s no way that racism is still really affecting us!). The choice between Presidential candidates means nothing, they’re both horrible.

From about ages fourteen to twenty I probably held some version of these beliefs and others that lined right up with the show. I didn’t mind when they took aim at targets that I cared about or liked or believed in. It was okay because they were making fun of EVERYONE, right?

As long as you’re indiscriminate in your fun poking, what’s the harm?

Fast forward to I’m thirty and I still love comedy. I still can’t get enough crude humor as evidence by me loving Doug Stanhope, watching Daniel Tosh, and being able to quote Hannibal Burress’s albums like scripture. Until a few months ago I thought South Park had been canceled. No one had mentioned the show in years around me (probably a testament to having friends that are ‘keepers’).

The internet was set on fire by this past years South Park seasonal target. PC culture, the new boogeyman of the Alt-Right, Brocialists, and just your garden variety bigot. This isn’t to say that there isn’t problems with hard-left liberalism, but to hear some people talk about it liberals are to blame for terrorism, the break down of the American family, and pretty much everything else under the sun.

To see South Park make season long antagonists out of PC culture seems less like the brave thing that people always claim that the show is and more like the expected thing for an audience that grew up watching the show. A lot of them became the adamant Bernie Sanders supporters that refer to Hillary Clinton as ‘a cunt’ every chance they get and don’t understand why it’s sexist (and unwarranted). They are the ones who refuse to look at race, sexual orientation, or gender even when it’s undeniably a factor (Elliot Rodger shooting, for instance).

I was a lot more moderate the right leaning when I started watching the show and I would say that I was more easily offended back then.  Me now still has a bit of that don’t care attitude. But I care when it counts. I care when you’re selling me a value system that’s flat out wrong and trying to reinforce views that don’t really work.

Yeah, it’s just a show. South Park isn’t the news or some politically commentary, except that it’s being used that way this past season and people have cited it before in the past to refer to their views. There are still some moments from the show that I can relate to, everyone expecting me to just like Family Guy because of my sense of humor (spoiler alert, I’ve hated Family Guy for almost the entirety of it’s run), but I think that I outgrew South Park years ago. I’m kind of glad that I did.

Some things are important to me and I don’t see that as a fault. Equal representation of all races and genders (at least in the sense of how they’re portrayed, because not all situations would have all types of people there) is important to me. Caring about politics is important to me, being well informed, and who gets elected is all important to me. PC culture isn’t such a dangerous thing that you need to go on about it for thirteen episodes or how ever long their seasons are.

And yeah, maybe the nearly one thousand words I spent on this was too much care, but I think it extends to more than South Park. And more importantly, it’s something that is relevant, because we live in a world where people actually don’t care enough.

Orlando

It’s one of them ones. These days come all too often.

Our country has been hit by tragedy after tragedy (from my perspective) since Oklahoma City (1995). Sure, you can look back and find Jones Town or something like that, but for the people right around thirty those things seem like the distant past. We’re never more than a year from the next school shooting, the next terrorism act, the next letter bomb, hijacking attempt, or mass shooting. While most of those things are spread out, the mass shootings have been like the grout that hold these events together.

There’s been over 160 mass shootings in the US since 2000, a number that seems to have increased after the turn of the century. 

Yet I’m shocked every time that it happens. You’d think after about twenty years of this shit-show and the last sixteen years of it being in overdrive, I’d be used to it. Orlando, Florida has just proven that I’m not and that really is how is should be.

We shouldn’t be used to fifty people dead because of who they loved and choose to spend their lives with. We shouldn’t be used to the conversations follow this; the excuses about guns not being the issue and the play that it’s emotional to try and do anything in the wake of tragedy. I’m sure the detractors will trip over themselves between deciding if they should be calling for more pressure to be put on Muslims, trying to defend guns, or worse–blaming homosexuals for what happened.

We shouldn’t think that those possibilities for this conversation could go down like that, but they probably will. I know my America and my America hasn’t been the best place lately. No man with a gun could change that.

Fifty human beings died because they choose to be themselves and it’s a tragedy. If you can’t tell I support gay rights mostly because who someone loves is none of anyone’s Goddamn business. But the bigger tragedy than the lives lost over something no one should be dying for in 2016 is the fact that it won’t change anything about how gays are treated or the struggles they face.

And if you’re thinking “this is it” or that “this is the straw that breaks the camels back” I ask you to remember just where it is you live.