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?

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.

Why Media Matters (but it’s really very little to do with media)

The typical nerd pursuits have seen their universes shaken up a lot over the last few years. It’s not all been bad, but there’s a lot of push back against the changes. The Hugo Awards drama has driven a world between the writing world. Video games have seen a virtual war between a more progressive side and a kind of old guard. Comic books have suffered numerous issues with the inclusion of minorities and women and the hiccups that these changes cause. Media in general has been shaken up when it comes to race, sexual orientation and gender.

Exhibit A: Captain America fucking up the day of some criminals while flying

These aren’t the most important subjects in the world.

Baltimore is has been the stage for riots for the last few days. There’s an election coming over the horizon. The Middle East is still on fire.

And yet I can’t stop coming back to these things because they’re in my life everyday. I’ve grown to appreciate comic books and I grew up with video games and fantasy fiction. They’re a part of who I am, but not who I am. For so many people these things are an integral part of their person and that’s why passionate fights come out of the changes.

This has been written about extensively from both sides of all issues. If your mind is already made up one way or another I’m not going to be able to change it, but I land firmly on the side of the progressive in every case. Companies have realized that appealing to a wider audience can get them the big bucks and doesn’t have to be hokey or pandering. What’s wrong with that?

I’ve been black my whole life. It’s not the kind of thing you can wake up one day and realize or suddenly become, but I haven’t always understood why women had issues with being seen in a sexual light or why gays deserved any rights. When you come from a state like Texas it’s easy to get inundated with the culture. It’s really in all American culture. You don’t understand why the poor don’t just “get a job and work harder” and maybe you think “sexual harassment is something cooked up by women to give them an excuse to get special treatment”.

These things are baked into the clay we’re molded from and it’s hard to chip away at that mindset. A kind of cognitive dissonance is at play too. Being black and thinking that I deserve to be afforded the same rights as anyone else while not thinking the same about women or gays requires a little bit of mental gymnastics. We think of ourselves ahead of others. We consider our own problems first.

We get mad at women because we feel like they owe us their bodies and their time simply because we exist and we’re asking for it. We feel like gays are different or without God and therefore should be looked at as subhuman.

It’s hard to remember when the switch clicked in my head. I remember the steps to get there: reading testimonials by women who had been looked at like juicy steaks their whole lives and felt up by men they trusted. Or getting so angry at a friend who I claimed to be in love with when she didn’t return my affection that I cut her out of my life. Or finding out how many women I cared about and knew for years had stories of sexual assault. Or getting to know gays as people and finding out people I knew were gay and there was nothing wrong with them. It didn’t make me feel any different about or around them.

I’d say it’s maturity and growing up, but then there are those twice my age with the mindset I had at sixteen. And it’s easy to slip back into the old habit of thinking badly about someone solely because they’re different than you.

The culture around us is built on a foundation of cultures from all over the world and attitudes and mores that are centuries old shape the world we live in. Even when you’ve realized the truth, you’re immersed in the lie and it’s hard to keep believing.

That’s where the comic books, video games and other media come in. Media is often our first interactions with some things. We see Asians on television and we figure they must all be like that; it’s easy to think that people are like the races in Lord of the Ring. Well, it’s easy to think that about people who aren’t like you. All blacks are athletic, love watermelon and crime. Asians are bad with women, but good at math and science. Hispanics are somehow both hard working and lazy. Liberals are degenerates who hate America. Conservatives are sexist bigots who love war. Gays are fashionable, nosey and annoying. Women are bad at math and emotional. Feminists are man hating lesbians.

I can go on like this all day.

For a long time we’ve seen these things played out in media. We’ve had them hammered into our heads in print and seen them run their course on the screen. The country has only started to come around from a lot of the older ones in the last one hundred years or so and it’s been a slow battle. The progressive attitude toward characterization of the “other” in media has got to grow up, because it’s where a lot of the kids being born now will get their first taste of the world out there and where a lot of us reinforce our worst fears and best realizations about people.

These groups aren’t homogenized. I know a woman who is a math genius. I know a Conservative guy who let me borrow gas money when I needed and has a teen daughter that he dotes on and used to bring to play Dungeons and Dragons with us. I know a really hood black guy that loves his comics and treats women with the utmost respect. I have a gay cousin that loves him some Jesus and I have women who are among my best friends…the whole point to this rant is that we don’t need to take what people are as who they are or all they are.

Bad people exist in every group, but there’s a lot of good out there and if we just stopped being so quick to judge we’d probably see more of it.

Now, I promise I haven’t smoked anything and I’m not drunk. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of making the mistake of pointing to a whole group as bad as anyone else. And to me this whole battle over media culture is bigger than the characters and fandoms housed inside of that culture. We need to all work for that.

I don’t think I’ll change any minds, but I hope I do.

Country Music

hill-country-road-trip-1_22298_600x450Lately, due to where I live, I’ve been immersed in this good ol’ boy country attitude that it so common down here in the South and I don’t think I can take it anymore. I spend a good deal of my time when I am out in public near where I work trying to avoid hearing the terrible country music.

I don’t think it’s the sound of the music as much as it is the subject matter. Talking about more trucks than cars and how folks are more patriotic and closer to God. Basically it’s the musical equivalent of a sub-culture patting themselves on the back for nothing. Why is having a truck, in and of itself, something to be proud of?  How do you assume that you’re more patriotic than other people?

It’s not all country. I don’t like the idea that an entire genre of music is exactly the same. There are great country songs and singers out there, but the new mainstream country scene is permeated with the kind of stuff that I’m talking about here. It just annoys me.

The funny thing is, that despite me not being country I grew up around some people that are really country. And they’re not all like in the songs, some of them like hard rock, drive cars, aren’t religious and one of them is a brilliant girl who works in an office and if you didn’t know where she was from you’d never guess. The point is that it’s not even all the people from these areas that spread this message.

This isn’t an attack on them or a lifestyle either. It’s just pointing out an issue I see within a sub-culture.

Seen Not Heard

masonpartyI often wonder how much of the way people discipline and treat their children is more about left over discontent for the way they were treated as a kid. Some of the harsh, archaic parenting methods we would scoff at these days are common place out here where I live and work. I understand some things, but other things are kind of symptoms of the changing times. Buying your kids the best new smart phone might be kind of pushing it, but it’s important for them to know how to use tablets and smart phones and especially computers.

Typing class isn’t something that’s as common as it once was. While some schools almost require kids to learn and read on iPads, some still house an dilapidated lab full of computers that still boot through DOS or Apple computers that predate the birth of the iPod. It’s hard to defend the notion that kids should be raised simple when the world is pushing further and further toward anything but.

Kids can still be kids and use electronics and also be treated with respect. The old saying “children should be seen and not heard” always struck me as the kind of thing e would expect to hear of Victorian women or the slaves that were blessed enough to be allowed to serve inside of the house. It’s sad that we can’t find medium ground between raising someone to be respectful and treating them like property.

I’m a while away from having kids myself, but I can say that one of the things that matters most to me is that I raise them in a way that’s compatible with a twentieth century mind set.

Realistic Racism?

Zero Punctuation does some of my favorite game reviews. Ben Croshaw, or Yahtzee as he is known, does an excellent job ripping into games. I don’t think I can remember a single review I’ve seen that wasn’t funny and I have seen a lot of them. A few weeks ago in his review of Bioshock Infinite he said that while the game was great that he had a problem with the villain and how he’s basically irredeemably racist in an unrealistic way. I don’t want to give too much background on this in case people haven’t played the game yet. But here’s a pretty spoiler free piece of a recording featured in the game. These are the words of the villain himself:

What exactly was the Great Emancipator emancipating the Negro from? From his daily bread. From the nobility of honest work. From wealthy patrons who sponsored them from cradle to grave. From clothing and shelter. And what have they done with their freedom? Why, go to [area of the game], and you shall find out. No animal is born free, except the white man. And it is our burden to care for the rest of creation.

When I heard this in the game it was like a kick in the nuts. I was in combat and I got so distracted I think I even died. I had to go back and listen to it again to make sure that I heard correctly.

I’m not here to gush about the game again, but the game does raise several serious topics and this is probably the biggest of them. Race plays a huge role in America to this day and to say that race doesn’t matter and that racism is dead is straight bullshit.

urlThere are some common lies about racism we need to all get out of the way before I even go on. 1. There is no such thing as reverse racism. Any race can be racist against any other, the idea of reverse racism is in and of itself racist. If you think that your race has to be separate from ordinary racism to the point of having their own term, that’s a problem. 2. Racism still happens. I don’t know how many times I have watched people try and claim that it doesn’t on TV and in person and online. But it still happens, end of story.

The idea presented in the above quote from the game used to be the standard rationalization for slavery. This excerpt by James Oakes speaks of paternalistic reasoning behind slavery and even goes a little bit into the idea of “Christian Stewardship”. These ideas, while not prevalent today, still exist in the minds of some and there have been issues where they reared their ugly heads in back-handed ways.

An American Pastor, Pat Robinson, is super famous and known around the country for being this revered man of God. A few years back when Haiti suffered their devastating Earthquake he made a remark that this had come to fruition as punishment for their deal with the Devil.

The deal to which Pat Robinson refers is the idea that the slaves held then by the French couldn’t have revolted against their white owners and won without the aid of the Devil. Similar allegations were made about the flood in New Orleans. It’s funny that whenever mostly black, mostly poor people are suffering from natural disasters we call it the Devil. When it’s done to other people here in United States we call it God testing them.

I don’t think Ben Croshaw will ever read this little blog, but if he did I would want him to know that it may be because he’s from a country that has grown past a lot of the racist issues. Issues that still plague the States and he doesn’t realize it. This kind of racism did exist and the traces of it can be found today.