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. 

Openly Racist

This comment was said on Reddit and I just wanted to save the argument that someone made against it here:

Here is the original comment:

As a brown person, I agree that blacks are now more openly racist than whites.

This reply struck me is exactly the answer that should be given.

It’s about power. Whatever class has less power gets to make fun of the class with more power. This is why it’s funnier to make fun of men versus women, it’s funnier to make fun of white people over black people, and it’s funnier to make fun of rich people then poor people. Society deems it uncouth to make fun of someone who has less social and economic power. The congress is a club for mostly white men. The senate is a club for mostly white men. Any private golf course is a club for mostly white men. White men, while feeling attacked because we are shunned if we are openly racist, still control the country. We also own it. Wanna know how many Black CEOs there are in the fortune 1000?

The people who feel the most cheated are poor whites. Why? They feel like they get screwed on both ends. They do not get to be openly racist, and they do get the privileges of power that wealthy whites get. Blacks do get more leeway when it comes to making fun of other races, anyone will admit that.

I will challenge all of you. Try and imagine what it would be like to wake up in a USA where every single congressman, senator and lawmaker was Black. Would you feel scared? Would you feel unrepresented? Would you feel angry? Would you feel uncertain? Or would you feel just fine.

You have no idea how you would feel. I know I woundn’t. So, until I live 50 years in the shoes of a black person, I am not going to judge them for how they feel. I do not feel guilty for being white, since I have nothing to do with it. I do, however, realize what it feels to live in a country where my heritage was a huge gap in my ability to rise to the top. And that was only 2 years.

That’s all that has to be said about that.

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.

Not A Call To Arms

There’s a series of age worn black and white photographs out there of Charles Bukowski. In them he is depicted with a cigar in his mouth as he smiles with some young woman on his lap. The photos depict him, at first, grasping her ass tightly as she looks into the camera and he’s leaned back proud and happy. The second one has him, sans cigar and sucking on her nipple (did I mention she’s totally nude, yeah she is?). In the third he’s fingering her with a determined look on his face.

I don’t know the context of the pictures or who took them. For what I’m about to describe I don’t think it matters. The content of the photos is important, but their origins don’t have much need here. You see, earlier today I watched a guy mount a defense against feminism based on the fact that people call Bukowski a misogynist. His evidence was these pictures.

It would see that somehow having sex with women means you couldn’t possibly hate them—in much the same way that I guess befriending blacks or being one means you can’t be racist…

It’s always funny to me how much effort people put into changing the minds of people who they disagree with. And really there’s all this talk about debating and making points and outreach, but there’s no reaching out to someone who has this kind of false logic. At least not from what I can see.

What do you tell someone who attributes something like that to being proof of this sweeping claim that requires a lot of looking over of years of work? I believe that we need to point out injustices when we see them and that it is the right thing to do, but I don’t think that we’re serving a purpose by going after someone so far gone that they resort to this kind of logic.

Why waste your time?

SJW

The first time that I heard the phrase was about seven or eight months ago. I can’t remember if it was on Reddit or some other forum site, but since then I’ve heard it thrown around by people all over the internet as if there’s some sort of Illuminati like council of women, minorities cuckolded white men who oversee which evil social cause they want to take up next.

And all that I can think is this is all very troubling. I’m not old enough to remember the big rights movements of the past, but it seems like there’s a disdain for the idea that maybe we shouldn’t treat one group of people like the default and the others like side characters.

I’ve lost some internet friends to this whole mess too. Not that officially had some moment where we just had a large falling out, but I’ve seen them now so filled with hatred and bitter over something—I don’t exactly get what—and they don’t have a way to discuss things on a normal level anymore. An old friend of mine writes me a private message on a forum complaining about the behavior of “these stuck up white cunts” right before he tells me a story of how it’s alright because the mod is “one of us”. Just who the fuck does he think “we” are? Is there a mouse in his pocket?

And I don’t know if it’s right to say there’s one source that’s to blame for the massive swell of this stuff popping up. What about this time and these people caused us to reach this point. The one thing that I will say is that if you’re seeing this kind of behavior from people around you, especially if you’re a minority or a woman how long is it going to be before you’re not “one of the good ones” and you’re on the receiving end of the hatred? You’re going to have to decide for yourself if you want to stick around to find out.

I used to think of the people I knew as mostly okay and the kind that mostly believed the same thing. Never really imagined I would read something from them where they try to say all blacks are the racist ones with their crying out that things are racist or that I would have to explain to them it’s not okay that women get paid less to do the same work (what kind of Neanderthal believes that).

What’s worse is it doesn’t seem to have a single country that it’s happening in. Online people from all over the world meet up and mix opinions with one another. These people share these thoughts and they’re coming from all corners of the globe.

I hope something gives soon. I hope there’s something to kind of turn the tide. It seems like I keep seeing something and thinking this will be the thing, but the even passes and the masses don’t bat an eye. I hope the pattern breaks.

Affleck’s Defense of Islam

1412470439154_wps_20_Ben_Affleck_vs_Bill_MaherThis has been blowing up the internet for the last few days and while I didn’t want to make my whole post today about it, because I felt that everything that’s been said already is all that can be said, I do want to point out that to anyone with ears who is willing to control their emotions it’s obvious Ben Affleck wasn’t fucking listening.

It’s also obvious that Bill Maher’s reputation isn’t that well known. The guy bashes religion week after week. He talks about Catholics and other Christians all of the time and to some extent he talks about the Jews. My issue with this is that when he does that no one ever gets up in arms. No one comes to complain or makes a big stink online about him bashing these other religions, but when he calls Islam out everyone loses their minds.

giphy

And it proves Maher’s point entirely. White, liberal America doesn’t want to talk about the problems in Islam. Even though there are valid complaints about all religions you can bring up and there are radical forms of most of the large religions, the one most exempt from criticism with them is the oddly always Islam.

Someone will probably call me a racist the same way they tried to call Maher racist, but despite my dislike of Maher I have to respect him because he’s one of the most no-bullshit commentators out there for politics, issues of race and religion.

People have to learn to give and take criticism about things like this. That’s why it’s scary that people in the United States want a theocracy. That number was widely reported when it came out and really it kind of makes me think less of my own country. I mean, sure that’s not a majority, thirty four percent, but we should be past wanting that sort of thing because it doesn’t work.  Then you hear about the sixty-four percent of people in Pakistan and Egypt that support death as a punishment for leaving Islam and you wonder how anyone can defend something like that.

We have to stop worrying about the things that went on in the past between the West and the Near and Middle East. It seems that people are perfectly alright with bitching about the Catholic Church during the Crusades, but they shy away from this number—which is really a Crusade era type of thought.

I don’t always like Maher, but I feel the need to stand up with him because he seems to speak to what’s really going on more often than not, even if it’s in a blunt sometimes rude way. And with people unable to wake up and see what’s happening around them most of the time we need that.

Ghost by John Ringo Review Part One

239420Imagine that you lay yourself cold and naked on a metallic table. Next to this table is a smaller table with cup upon it filled with thin, fragile glass tubes and you voluntarily take one of those tubes and shove (see: not gentle) it up the hole in your penis (imagine that if you don’t have a penis for the sake of this because I’m almost thirty and I’m still not exactly sure where women pee from). Then you hit that tube with a hammer (and you penis with it) and you’re forced to piss that glass back out.

Rinse, wash, repeat for several hours.

Does that sound bad? Because that is how my experience listening to the audio book for the first of the Paladin of Shadows books, Ghost, has felt thus far.

And if that was too graphic, don’t read this book because it gets way worse for seemingly no reason other than to shock you and make you feel that these characters are evil.

I started reading it because the people over the podcast Read It and Weep were talking about it and I thought it would be sort of an endurance test. Now I’ve learned there are things far worse than Fifty Shades of Grey or the most abhorrent furry pandering fan fiction. I would read all of those things five times over to not have to hear it casually mentioned that some college girt had her nipples burned off with a blow torch before she was flayed or to not have to hear a strange, racist retelling of history where blacks didn’t have writing until they were enslaved by whites and Mexicans always drive vans.

The strange thing is that the author used to be somewhat reputable. He writes Republican space fantasy where capitalism saves the solar system and there’s some flashes of badly written sex scattered between the political grandstanding. But this book broke all the rules of writing at large and then just took a shit on so much else. We get characters being described while looking at their reflection. Women being noted as having nice hooters (in third person narrative), there’s multiple rape scenes that seem to serve as nonsensical torture porn of liberal women getting their “just deserts”. Oh, and at one point two characters just start to sing March of Cambreadth.

Oddly enough all of this has about a four star rating on any site that I can find. The characters seem to serve as either political representations of one thing or another. The main character’s only redeeming quality is his ability to kill scores of terrorists. And the book tries to sneak in a “see Bush was right about the weapons of mass destruction plot line”.

I can’t finish this whole thing, I’m quite sure I’ll rip my nuts off first. But I am determined for some reason to finish the first part of the book, it’s divided into thirds. I’ll write on it as I go through.

The plot thus far seems to be that Assad and a thinly veiled representation of bin Laden team up to bring college aged women from the US to Syria to be raped on live webcast to teach Americans a lesson. The women are always referred to as whores. The main character is a retired SEAL team member who is attending college and likes to stalk women that he dreams about raping. While stalking one girl she’s abducted by a van (that must be Mexicans because only they drive vans) and he follows the van to find out about the terrorist plot. He follows them to an airport and hops on a plane that’s bound for Syria as a stowaway to save the rest of the girls and kill bin Laden.

Never mind that an unauthorized jet full of people on the no fly list would have never taken off from an airport without catching an ass full of sidewinder missiles, the whole thing feels like it’s too crazy to be as popular as it is, but it’s totally well received by a group of people. It’s part of that Ayn Rand style fiction where you teach by writing about how your theories play themselves out.

Except that you write them in a totally biased way where the odds are stacked in your favor. Every capitalist, inventive type is the bastion of good and the rest of the world crumbles because they are tired of holding it up. In the case of Ghost the hero is a white middle aged man who loves Fox News (he’ll only call them to get the story because they’ll tell the truth) and a racist who uses words like raghead all the time and makes a point to talk about how the movie Roots was bullshit and then precedes to blame the Arabs solely for the slave trade as if no one else was there to benefit from it. He makes a point to say things like women want to fuck heroes and even goes on to demand a blow job from the first girl he saves (she tells him that she will blow him the next time she runs into him no matter where she spots him). And a character that refers to almost every woman in the book as a liberal bitch and makes a comment about how they’re going to turn these nearly raped girls into Republicans yet (because they’ve seen the horrors of Muslims).

The writing is made for a specific type of person to confirm what they already believe and what’s probably saddest is that I don’t see enough reviews pointing this out and condemning it. Even in the bad reviews.

This is running long, but there will be more to say once I finish this first third, I’m sure that this shit just gets worse.