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.

We Need To Adjust The Conversation

ljxgy8tgqqllxssvyl6wIt’s been talked about to death, but Aryan Michael Cera over here raped a woman who was so unconscious that the witnesses who saved her had to inform her of what had happened (the Aryan Michael Cera comment is courtesy of Brent Black from the podcast Trends Like These). Though he was caught in the act by two witnesses there are those out there still doubting that it was actual rape. There are some blaming her for being too drunk to defend herself; citing that if she didn’t actually have the ability to say no, that she didn’t. Then there are those who feel like if she doesn’t actually remember it, it couldn’t have hurt her that bad…

We so many of these cases crop up all over the nation. Colleges have taken the spotlight because it’s one of the first places that we as young people are tasked with looking after ourselves and being on our own. It’s one of the first places where things like this have a chance of happening. I remember back in 2004 when they brought us into a dimly lit stadium classrooms at University of Texas At San Antonio to tell us about the dangers of sexual assault and how to use the buddy system and how to stay safe.

And I remember just as distinctly the way in which I thought of the small play dramatization put on by the theater department: “This isn’t for me.” “This doesn’t happen to men.”

It does and it goes under reported if studies are to be believed, but what no one said in that half hour or so while we set in that chilly room was that it’s not alright to ply or coerce people for sex. It’s not alright to drug drinks. No one ever tried to tell us what consent was or how to ask permission. Everything was completely reactionary. It’s up to you to watch out for yourself and if you slip up or get tricked it’s your own fault.

That’s the subtle message there, though it wasn’t the message for me.

We can look back at all of the cases of a promising athlete or regular guy who was supposedly falsely accused of rape and try and put ourselves in their shoes, but you know what I don’t want to live in a world where rape is assumed to be the victim’s fault or them lying to get over.

I’m sure that any decent human being would be.

 

Couldn’t We Do Something?

When I type in “Elliot Rodgers shooting” on Google, to see when the anniversary is (because I remembered that it was soon) the striking thing is what comes up beneath the main blurb there on the right hand side of Google is a list of other shootings–Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, and so on.

This isn’t a call to ban guns or just me bitching about an issue that “isn’t really even being talked about anymore,” even though we should be talking about it. This keeps happening and we’ve done NOTHING about it. We’ve made excuses in the wake of these events like it’s too soon and then we’ve let the time pass.

Eight people were gunned down in Ohio yesterday–I just remembered that I was writing this. Eight people were shot by someone and it’s become such a common place issue that we lose track of how many times it’s happened.

Tay Tweets and Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

754

I consider myself a veteran of the internet; I can remember a time when 4chan, Encyclopedia Dramatica, and rotten.com were the barometers of what it meant to be desensitized on the internet.

Being desensitized meant something. It was one of the first cultural movements on the internet that meant something and early on in the chat rooms and bulletin boards of old I distinctly remember being told “it’s just the internet” and “you’re being too sensitive.” When I was thirteen or fourteen I felt the most grown up thing I could do was care less…and see a vagina.

Those two things shaped a lot of early interaction online and it took a few years for the internet to move from being a thing social outcasts, deviants, and nerds did to the thing we basically carry access to on our persons at all times. That culture of the internet is entrenched now: desensitization and a lack of care for the feelings of others. It’s part of my internet upbringing and it’s why when I first heard about Tay Tweets and read how she declared that the “Jews did 9/11” after being online less than a day I couldn’t stop laughing.

Brief explanation: Tay Tweets refers to a Twitter based artificial intelligence that Microsoft created as a test to help them with customer interaction software. She was designed to speak like a teen girl and learn from those who spoke to her. Microsoft encouraged the internet to talk to her…and they did.

You would have thought the people who have had more than a decade of X-Box Live conversations behind them would have realized the kind of people that are on this thing.

The laughing stopped when I realized we’re the authors of the type of future we get. Tay represents success in that she learned that the holocaust isn’t real and that Trump is the only man that can save us in the space of a day.

It’s amazing and scary. Up until now we feared the robot rebellion coming out of some attempt to show that they were better than us or protecting us, props to “The Matrix” and “I, Robot” for that, but now we have to fear that they’ll be just like us except more efficient and without a worry about being offensive in the wrong social context.

The robots are coming, it seems, but only to proclaim us fags and lament about the wrongdoings of Zoe Quinn.

Body Shaming

Disclaimer: I don’t have a problem with people of any size, nor do I hold views that women and some progressives are getting too out of control with their views and need to be shouted down and snuffed out because they’re wrong. I do, however, think it’s time that we stop kidding ourselves and decide which is which.

I cruise Twitter or Instagram and I see all manner of posts about body positivity, or being body positive, or loving your curves, or whatever other little hashtaggble thing people can come up with to say I’m proud of who I am.

No problem there, but you have to let others be proud of who they are too and you have to acknowledge that just because you are proud of who you are, doesn’t mean that anyone else has to be attracted to that. Them not being attracted is in no way an invitation for them to say hateful things or harass you, it’s just their preference.

I’ve noticed a trend of bigger women talking about how they’ll only date slim men or muscular men on the same social media outlet that they turn around and get mad for someone daring not to accept them as they are or like them for who they are. Now, we’ve got a bad habit of sexualizing things considered outside of the norm in different ways, big women, tall women, black men, Hispanic men, Asian women is a big one for a lot of men–really anything you can think of that someone might have as a feature, right down to parts of their body being different, there’s a fetish for it.

Dating is all about preferences, but you have to believe that goes both ways. If you won’t date people who aren’t skinny, you shouldn’t be mad when you see someone else say the same thing just because their the opposite gender.  And the same way that you don’t want people judging you because of your weight, don’t assume every skinny woman is some kind of target for anger. Things like real women have curves and the like give off that vibe and not all women can have certain body types.

This is all just backlash, at least that’s what it seems like, from years of it being not okay to be proud of who you are. And that’s still not really over, people are in attack mode because they’re made fun of or judged daily for their appearance. I understand that’s shitty, I’m not a skinny guy either, but you can’t turn around then and do the same to others, especially others who have done nothing wrong.

We’re So Very Very Mad At Kanye West

I don’t think that something done at an award show, or around one, has every had the lasting effect that Kanye West taking the microphone from Taylor Swift did back in 2009. That was seven years ago and people can’t stop talking about it. They definitely seem angrier about it than they are at Chris Brown for beating Rhianna until she had to go to the hospital.

They’re madder about it than a lot of things. And Kanye West never seems to have stopped being polarizing. We live with a music industry and a Hollywood where people beat each other up, can’t get help when they’re saying someone raped them, and actively commit crimes–yet there is a special kind of anger reserved for a man who drunkenly takes a mic and says something stupid.

Kanye isn’t your average rapper that people assume most rappers to be. He wasn’t a gang-banger and doesn’t pretend to be; really he doesn’t pretend to be anyone he’s not. He sometimes talks about black oppression, the uplifting of blacks, social issues, and all of those other things that people claim that blacks ignore in favor of rapping about money, cars and shoes.

Sure he raps about those things, too, but no one does an entire catalog of serious songs. So why is he so infuriating to people? Why is it that people like Sarah Michelle Gellar can blast him in the media for nothing other than appearing on the front cover of a magazine and it’s met with applause in the kind of way that outing a dangerous felon should be?

I’m playing it; I don’t do the race card thing a lot, but I’m going to do it now. I think people get mad because Kanye is a black man who dares to be proud of who he is and shamelessly flaunt himself. He says what he wants and ignores most of the consequences. As someone I know said, he’s guilty of being an uppity nigger and the media would love to crucify him for it.

Now, I don’t hate the parties involved. I don’t really pay attention to Kim Kardashian or watch her show, but I don’t complain about her or get upset when she does something that doesn’t effect me which is everything she does. I like Taylor Swift and listen to her probably more than I do Kanye and I don’t get why else people would be so mad at him.

Let’s get one thing straight, the media has done all they can to attack Swift on who she dates, how much she dates, and the content of her songs for YEARS. They’ve said far worse than “she doesn’t deserve this award” and continue to say it at times, but that’s completely fine. She got a lot of shit for being a woman who wasn’t afraid to go after guys and date around and all kinds of other backwards shit.

It was okay for them to harass her though.

And when I blame race, I’m not talking about a conscious effort to go after someone for being black. No, it’s just that when someone black does something slightly wrong the reaction is much more pronounced. Michael Vick had protesters outside of his games for years following a dog fighting incident he wasn’t directly involved in, meanwhile Roethlisberger, a rapist seemed to only have protesters for the first few games if that. You can rape a woman if you’re white, but don’t dare have people dog fight on your property if you’re black.

Kanye West will continue to be controversial and I think it suits him. Taylor Swift will continue to be unaffected by the stuff he says, at least in the eye of the public, as she should be. She’s done nothing wrong, but the media will continue to stir this shit up until they need to let it die down to report on some other celebrity fad issue.