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?

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.

The Dark

In the last three or four years there have been a swarm of social justice movements in the center stage: #blacklivesmatter and #notallwomen have become something of big things in the world of journalism and news and there doesn’t seem to be much sign of it slowing down or an end to the harassment and issues that these things stem from.

One of the most interesting parts of all of this has been the response of law enforcement when it comes to dealing with threats. One need to just look online to discover countless people talking about how they don’t feel safe in the social circles and spaces that they used to occupy. They don’t trust those on the street that they walk past. Back in October actress Felicia Day spoke out about how she didn’t feel comfortable approaching and bonding with other nerds and in the same day she had her personal information spread all over the internet. Brianna Wu talks about how she’s kept files on all of the harassment that she’s face only to have it pretty much ignored by police.

With all of this going on, and with the way things have been recently in general, couldn’t we at least agree that when it comes to death threats and rape threats and just threats to certain people in general we need to step up and do something.

When a group in Texas took it upon themselves to hold their own Draw Mohammad Day complete with a gallery-style art show a man with a gun took it upon himself to try and silence them. Luckily, he was stopped before he could do too much damage, but the shocking thing is that the people out there having discussion about this and women like Wu and Day seem to be singing the same tune.

What did you expect when you opened yourself up like that?

What do you think people are going to do when you’re backing them into a corner?

What do you think people are going to do when you’re attacking something they love, their way of life?

Take it as seriously as you want, but nerdom isn’t something I would call a way of life. And religion is a choice, it’s a choice that some people make to stay with, myself included. But it’s not something that we should force on others—this isn’t the Middle Ages—we’re not going door to door asking people to find God at the tip of sword.

And there are police and prosecutors and authorities for a reason.

We decided to step out of the darkness and put our adult pants on as a society. We stopped trying to force others to do our bidding and stopped trying to use the force of the majority to make the minority lie down to our will just because we don’t like what they like.

Or at least we’ve said that we have. Truth is we haven’t grown a lot in the past fifty years. Some of the problems that Martin Luther King marched for in the sixties are still plaguing blacks and other races today and while Susan B. Anthony might be talked about as a pioneering figure in the women’s suffrage movement there are women out there still facing some of the same prejudices she did in the late eighteen hundreds.

Human civil rights can’t be left up to a vote and they can’t be negotiable. People deserve to be treated like people and to have choices of their own so long as those choices don’t hurt others. That’s not something that our Founding Fathers would recognize, but we need to stop looking at the deeds and quotes of men who lived long before we grew up as a society.

We need to treat justice like it’s blind and treat criminals, whether they be threatening someone we agree with or don’t the same—like criminals. A slow progression isn’t enough anymore, we need to leap forward and leave those who want to stay in the dark behind.

Social Conditioning

A co-worker said something along the lines of “It’s a shame when I can’t say hi to a girl without them going on the defensive.”

iStock_000005012679XSmallI had told a story about the reason why I don’t take people’s numbers off Facebook without permission. Maybe some of them put it there as a friendly gesture and for you to just take it. But I had a bad experience where a girl cursed me out for doing just that after I had known her for years and after she had said she was giving me her number and that she forgot.

Our way of dealing with social situations is shaped by the interactions we’ve had in the past. It’s kind of funny that this post became more meaningful because of an interaction I had after I had written half of it.

So, I’ve tinkered with this and changed what I was saying now because I’m kind of stunned by how different people can view themselves and how they can view others. Not going to say any names or even give the situation context, despite the fact that they’ll never read this. I feel like there’s a certain level of caution that it’s best to err on the side of when dealing with others for the first time. Trust has to be earned and friendships built and sometimes tested. And relationships aren’t usually going to work if they go from zero to sixty right off the bat.

There are of course instances where people get lucky and make life long friends based on something simple and silly. Or where couples meet in the most dubious of circumstances and stay married for sixty years. But it’s not the norm.

All I’m trying to say is we need to find a happy medium for how we let the lessons we learn affect us.

Internet Nostalgia

Has the wide spread of social media made us less social? It used to be that on the internet you could go into chat rooms and strike up a conversation with random people or join a forum and there would be thousands of other members posting nearly daily. These things are still somewhat possible, but it seems that since everyone you know has an email and Facebook account that people are less likely to seek out those that they don’t know and try to converse with them.

This just came to me the other day, but even with the advent of things like Twitter actual chat-like conversation with more than one person becomes difficult or even sluggish, it’s almost a regression from the chat rooms of old; the IRCs, MSN and Yahoo chats—most of which have died off.

Microsoft has traded the functionality, fun and customizable sleek look of their Windows Live Messenger client for the dismal look of Skype. Many of the features that we have enjoyed in Live Messenger and MSN Messenger before that are gone and replaced with a uniform look, un-customizable emoticons and fonts and more video chat features that not many people seem to use if there’s no need.

Surely these things died out because of a lack of use, Yahoo chat rooms a few years back seemed to be exclusively populated by ad bots. People used to go on them or AOL hoping to make connections (sometimes love connections), but there’s no need. Anyone you’ve ever known is probably on Facebook and people would rather try and reconnect with old friends than make new ones.

For a time even Facebook was a good way to meet new people, but this changed around the time they opened it to high school students and the public at large. There were no longer those random “let’s meet for coffee” messages because the site was much bigger than you campus and we weren’t always just connected through friends.

Now there are some things out there that pride themselves on meeting random people like Chat Roulette, but usually no permanent connections come from it. I have friends I’ve known over a decade that I’ve never met in person, people who live across the country or world who have actually shaped the things I’ve done and the choices I’ve made. One of the biggest was probably Juliet Singleton and her influence on my decision to write.

There used to be such an adventurous way about the internet, which is odd consider that in the late 90s people still seemed to consider the chat room surfer to be someone to be socially ostracized. Back then you didn’t have to have a perfect connection with someone to be friends, a lot of the time you learned that even without surface level things in common there’s still something there. And those kind of friends really make for the best discussion.

I doubt that the internet will ever swing back that way and I’m sure I’ll always miss it.

Hacked

Since I have decided to use a Hacker character and some hacking elements in the story, I have bee doing research on hacking and different aspects of the culture. The results have been really interesting. If you thought that the hacker was a social pariah with no people skills who sat locked in a basement on a strange looking computer, you’re going to be surprised if you dig just a little into the life of very real and famous hackers.

I would suggest watching some of the videos on you tube from Def Con, like What Happens When You Steal a Hacker’s Computer.

The character that turns out to be the Hacker is actually from the Keep Austin Weird Safe e-book.