Social Madness

Over the past few weeks it has become apparent that something has to change. It is getting increasingly hard to focus on things, to find joy in the moments. I’m pulled in different ways by different things. It’s time for a break. So I am; effective immediately I am off social media. A digital vacation, if you will.

I love Instagram, but the algorithm drives me crazy!

I enjoy Twitter, but my feed is a mess.

I hate Facebook and haven’t used it in months.

I don’t understand Snapchat and it’s just an excuse to say I have it.

There are a few other sites and apps I use, all boil down to the same thing; it’s not important.

I get news from multiple sources. I listen to music and podcasts. I have friends that message me and call me. Social media isn’t making me happy. In fact, it’s doing the opposite. So, I’m taking a break.

I have a book I am still writing. I have a family I want to see and spend time with. I have books to read and albums to discover. I’m a busy guy.

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Not this time

It has been nineteen years since Columbine.

I was fifteen, and a freshman in High School.  If I had lived in Littleton, Colorado, I would have been a student there.

I wasn’t.  I lived in a small town in Central California, far removed from the terror of that April day.

And yet…from that day forward, it touched my life.  I wrote an essay about Columbine as an example of my writing for an Honor’s English exam.  The locks on our doors were changed to require a teacher’s key to enter.  We began having lockdown drills.

I was fifteen years old, and being asked to imagine a life and death situation.

Last week, for the eighteenth time this year, we asked other students to make that decision.  Eighteen school shootings in forty-five days.  One every two and a half days.

It’s helpful to start saying it out loud.

Seventeen died.  It’s helpful to say that too.  Some were coaches.  Some were members of the ROTC.  Some were just students. All had lives and pasts and present, but they don’t have futures anymore.

We can argue that it was a mentally disturbed individual that took that from them, but we took mental healthcare away.  So that arguement is over.

We can claim that is was a failure of the school, they should have had an armed guard, but they did.  He is dead too.

We can offer up our thoughts and prayers.  But those didn’t help twenty years ago, and they sure as hell won’t help now.

It was a gun that stole those lives, as much as it was a sad and demented individual.  We as a society gave him access to those weapons, as much as we gave them to the Columbine Shooters, or Aurora, or Newtown.  We said we would rather have guns than living kids.  We said the Second Amendment is more important than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We said that.

But we don’t anymore.

My generation should have stood up after Columbine.  We should have stood tall and said fix this.  Make us less afraid.  Make this world better.  But we didn’t.  We stood by and let them blame video games and movies and television and music.  We let them blame lazy parenting and schools and anyone else that was clumsy enough, or stupid enough, to stand in the way.  But never the guns.

We let our rights be taken after 9/11, because we were afraid.  We put up with fourteen years of War in the Middle East, because we weren’t the ones in charge.  We have wailed and knashed our teeth as we have been blamed and victimized and taken advantage of with student debt and lowered wages and rising inequality.

But not this generation.  This generation has said enough.  They have stood tall and said, “No more.”  No more guns.  No more hate.  No more inequality.  It stops now.  And we will stand with them.  Not because we have to.  Not even because we want to.  But because we should have been here the entire time.  Because we wanted to be here, but didn’t know how.

Because this generation…They will change the world.  And we will stand with them.

Goodnight.  And good luck.

Repeal and Go Fuck Yourself…

Tomorrow, July 25, 2017, the United States Senate is set to vote on the repeal of the Afordable Care Act, or, as it was called by most, Obamacare.

Obamacare was a sweeping change of the American healthcare system in 2010, such as it was.  Well, less a system really then, more a pile of shit made over to look like lipstick on a fairly average pig.  But none of that matters anymore.

I was not the biggest fan of Obamacare.  I still am not.  I didn’t care much for how it was passed; I didn’t care much for the “read it after we pass it” attitude, or then Speaker Pelosi’s behavior about passing it.  I didn’t care for what seemed like half-assedness and shortcuts that were taken in the bill.  But, then came this abomination.

We shouted that there wasn’t enough time, but then again, the ACA was debated over for two years.  We cried that there wasn’t enough hearings, but then again, the ACA had more than twenty-five hearings in the Senate alone.  We bemoaned the lack of transparency in the process, but again, there were two debates broadcast live to the people of the nation in primetime.  He muttered that it was bipartisan, and yet Republicans helped draft, not only the bill, but the ideas behind it.  We wailed and gnashed our teeth, and yet…here we are now.

So, you ask, yes!  What about now?  What do we get instead?  Well, we got twelve old white guys, in a room, deciding what our health care should look like.  A fifth of the American economy. We wailed and gnashed our teeth about Obamacare, yes.  And yet…now?  Zero debate, zero hearings, zero transparency, zero input.  We don’t get to know what they’re voting on tomorrow, purely because it doesn’t exist yet.  Oh, don’t worry, they say, about reading it before we vote, it’s just, we haven’t written it.

Are you fucking kidding me?  We didn’t wait eight years for this.  We didn’t wait eight years for, “We don’t have a single idea in our bald little heads.”  We didn’t listen to your bullshit, Leader McConnell, for eight years to be treated like this.  We expect better of the so-called “adults” in the room.  No, do better.  A bill with a 13% approval rating; that has united the insurance companies, the AARP, the AMA, and countless healthcare professionals against it; that is a tax cut for millionaires, masquerading as a healthcare bill; this is not the best you can do.  Do better, or do no harm, as the Hippocratic Oath says.

I have pre-existing conditions.  I’ve spoken of them openly here and elsewhere.  My wife has pre-existing conditions.  She’d like to open her own business, but good luck with that if anything flares up again.  My son has pre-existing conditions, my parents, my in-laws.  You’ve messed with my family Mr. Speaker, Mr. Leader, and Mr. President.  We are coming for you, for your agenda, for your jobs, for your donors.  We are going to sink you under so many letters, so many copies of hospital bills, so many pictures of those we have lost.  We are going to sink you with stories and anger.  You think your base was pissed with Obamacare?  You just wait.  The real Silent Majority is coming for you.

Lack of Progress

It’s December y’all.  Which means The Great Dumpster Fire that is 2016 is almost over, and in that we can find some solace.  Although, for everyone hoping 2017 is the bright light at the end of the tunnel, it seems much more likely that it’s just the headlight of the oncoming train.

The last few months have been fairly light on content on my blog; I could complain about an increase in my workload, or other projects.  About the merry-go-round of illness that my little family has been on, or about moving and interviews and all the other parts of life that make it conveinent to not work.

And while those are all reasons that I haven’t been posting, they aren’t the reason.  I haven’t posted because I haven’t felt able to.  The time just doesn’t seem right for the normal fictional drivel that I post.  And the articles that I want to write, just end up bumming me out to an unhealthy degree.

My general malaise isn’t because of Trump and his (so far) clown car of choices for cabinet positions.  It isn’t Brexit and the gaining of power for UKIP in the United Kingdom, or the general rise of far-right parties in Europe.  In fact, it isn’t because of politics at all.

Or rather, it isn’t because of Politics, with a capital P.  It is because of society in general, and American society in particular.  It’s the rise of Fake News, and memes.  It’s the lack of civil discourse and debate.  The demise of critical thinking and objective reasoning.  The rise of “belief” over “fact”.

There is no ability to have a discussion about the problems in this country and in this world.  We can’t talk about guns, we can’t talk about climate change, we can’t talk about regulations for companies or the environment or income inequality.  We can’t talk about racism or sexism or ageism or idiocracy.  One side is absolutely right, and the other absolutely wrong.  Both sides are to blame for this; the left clings to its ideals just as much as the right.  Their religion of righteousness forces them to hold hardline positions of opposition, and any sense of compromise is a sign of weakness.  But bipartisanship has not always been a dirty word.

The solutions to these problems are not easy or quick.  We need to find ways of working together.  We need to find ways of having civil discourse at a local level.  We need to encourage our elected officials, on both sides and at all levels, to be civil in their remarks and in their deeds.  We need to use critical and objective reasoning in our lives to seperate fact from fiction.  But most of all, we need to stop and think.  We need to not react.  We need to reason and discuss.

But really, we just need 2017 to be better.  Because I don’t think any of us can take another year like this one.

Be safe my friends, and Happy New Year.

Christmas Is Here Again

I love this time of year. I have so many wonderful memories of Christmas-time with family. Of carols and movies and decorations.

Normally today I would repost my Wednesday entry, but on this day, I wanted to say something different. I wanted to say thank you. I wanted to say that you are all wonderful and beautiful and broken. I wanted to say, to those of you hiding from family, you are not alone.

Mostly, I wanted to tell you that I hope your holiday is full of peace and happiness. No matter the holiday or occasion, this time of year is the perfect time to take a few moments to remember our fellow man. To show some kindness to those that are locked on this rock with us.

This year, which has been so full of divisive rhetoric, it is important to set aside our disagreements and anger, to remember that there is more that unites us than not. We should all take a moment to be thankful for what we have, and to recognize what we can do to help those that have less this season.

So, to those that celebrate, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Life Day (for those Star Wars fans) or anything else you choose to celebrate.

Until next time, stay safe friends.

Who are we?

I’m so sick of politics I could vomit.

Actually, that’s not true.  I’m so sick of us.  Of the American people.  Of Republicans and Democrats and 24-hour news networks.

I’m sick of a culture that forgot the lessons of Kindergarten.  That forgot common human decency.  Of a culture that cares more about what the Kardashians are doing than about what is happening to our fellows half a world away, let alone in our own neighborhoods.

I’m sick of people who will get into bed with racists and bigots because of a tax plan.  I’m sick of people claiming the moral imperative, and then supporting misogyny and hatred.  I’m sick of people shouting for tolerance and understanding, and then attacking the ideas of thoughts of others.

I’m sick of all of us.

When asked, a recent poll found that 56% of people believe their children will be worse off.  I’m one of them.  Republicans in this country read that poll and claim it’s a repudiation of Obama’s Presidency.  Democrats read it and spend the rest of the day arguing about how to fix it.  All of them act like the French politician that saw the people running, and said, “I must find out where they are going so I may lead them.”  They have the numbers, but they don’t understand.

I do belive our children will be worse off.

I belive that humankind is causing climate change.  I believe this because I have read the studies and looked at the math.  Because 99.9% of all climate scientists have told me so.  Because volcanoes produce somewhere between 65 million and 300 million tonnes/year of CO2, while humans produce 29 billion tonnes/year; we, as a species, produce massive amounts of green house gasses.  If a doctor tells me that I’ve got to change the way I eat or I will die, I believe them.

I believe that people should be treated fairly, no matter the color of their skin or their beliefs or whom they choose to love.  I believe that the Founding Fathers didn’t want religion within miles of their government.  I believe that the economy is stacked against most of us, and that the top 1% hold more wealth than the bottom 90%.  I believe these things because I read studies and abstracts and lectures.  Because I was taught critical thinking skills and am able to use my God-given faculties to find answers to questions.  I question.  I seek answers.

This election has been said to be about so many things.  A rejection of political correctness.  A rejection of the bicoastal elites.  A rejection of the norm.  Of “draining the swamp,” and finding a new way.  But, to me, it is a rejection of something else; a rejection of thought and civility.  A rejection of fact and embrace of fiction.  A focus on the felicitous and salacious.

And before you begin to think that I’m just angry that my candidate lost, my candidate lost in the Primaries; the Democrats nominated the worst candidate they could find.  I’m not angry that a Republican won; I think there are some great thinkers in the Republican Party, and I look forward to years of healthy debate with conservatives in the future.  I am angry though; because the American people have been had.  The liberals gave up the fight, and the conservatives jumped in bed with ugly people.  So, we’ll repeal the social safety net.  We’ll walk back our commitments to international climate change agreements, and find new ways to get involved in wars we have no business being in as a show of American “might.”

Yes, I do believe our children will be worse off.  But because we didn’t go far enough in the last eight years.  Because we elected a reality television star as our President and hailed it as a victory for a cause he doesn’t believe in.  Because we can’t talk about the ugly things it exposed in our culture without it devolving into an ugly conversation itself.

I do have hope though.  I hope that it will inspire new generations of liberals and conservatives alike to start the conversation over.  That is will inspire people to pay attention and get involved in the process of our government.  That it will inspire all of us to reconsider the role we play in our society.

And yes, to Mr. Trump and his administration, we will remember every word you have said.  We will remember the times you should have spoken and remained silent.  We will remember every forgotten tweet and campaign promise.  All of us, conservative and liberal alike.  And those of us that disagree with you, we will fight back.  For as Winston Churchill once stated, “we shall defend our land, whatever the cost may be,…and we shall never surrender.”

Because we believe our country, and our world, are worth fighting for.

Goodnight my friends, and good luck.

The Next Four Years

Plenty has been written about the election, and plenty is still left to write.  Both sides have their post-election breakdowns to do, cable news will spend countless hours on every detail of success or failure, and the rest of us will watch as time continues to moves on.  But before we do, perhaps we would benefit from a little soul-searching; to look at our country and decide how we wish to move forward, no matter which side of the aisle you land on.  It has only been a few days since the election, and I am just starting to make sense of everything that has happened.  It played itself out over almost two years, and will not be parsed in a single day.  It was filled with fire and brimstone, vitriol and anger.  The primaries were rough for both sides, and the general election was somehow even worse.  But, that part is over now.

Just over 59 million people cast a vote for Donald Trump.  Most of those were from people that are angry at the system, weary of eight years of a Democrat in the White House and ready for a change.  Others liked the message and toughness that he draped himself in.  For still others, it was the Supreme Court or Free Trade or guns or countless other policies.  But for some, it was a different message.  A message of hate, and of fear.  If you watched his rallies you saw America’s dirty secret; the racism roiling just under the surface, yells of, “sieg heil.”  Blacks, Jews, Muslims, and others being called terrible things.  Donald Trump gave this deplorable faction a platform and a leader to rally around.  No matter how intentional or not, it was on his part, the country has been shaken by it.  The alt-right and their ilk have taken his election to mean that the change people are ready for, is their kind of change.  Even in my sleepy little corner of Central California, rocks and shouts of “President Trump,” were hurled at a friend because he is hispanic, a day following the election.

His message speaks to millions of people.  The people who voted for him because of the economy, or change, or toughness, those people I can understand.  Those that voted for him because of a deep-seated hatred for a group and culture that they don’t know or even seek to understand; those that voted for him because they believe that America was great when it was full of hatred; these are voters I do not understand.

Donald J. Trump is our President.  His name will be written on that wall with all the others.  He must represent everyone, not just those who earned his vote.  And thus, he must understand what it is like to live as Americans.  If you don’t like the job he is doing, write him, email him, call the White House.  Call your Senators, your Congressperson.  Call your State and Local representatives.  Don’t yell, don’t curse, don’t threaten.  Talk.  Explain.  If you are angry, not just about the election, but about the system or the direction of the country, get involved.  Work to change it.  We have a system of government that is of the people, by the people, for the people, but it only works if people are involved.  If you are scared, not just about the election, but about the future or intolerance, get involved.  In a democracy, all citizens voices get to be heard.  If you find yourself angry or hating another person, seek to understand, talk to them, find ways to listen to them, and most of all strive for compassion.

The United States of America did something truly amazing this week; we made our voices heard.  We were able to do that which so many in this world never get the chance to do.  As, over the next few months, power shifts from one group to another, peacefully and without bloodshed, that is just another small miracle in our already miraculous country.

America is already great.  We are not perfect; we fail, we start over, we endure.  We push the boundaries of what is possible, we push ourselves and our world.  We believe that freedom is always a generation from extinction, that it must be fought for and protected.  We believe that, while we can’t help everyone, everyone can help someone.  But most of all, as our 40th President, Ronald Reagan, said, “If we love our country, we should also love our countrymen.”

Until next time, stay safe, stay sane…and God Bless America.

 

Lincoln

I recently visited Washington D.C. for the first time.  It is incredible, with history everywhere you look.  I viewed the Founding Documents; the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, and the Constitution.  I saw the Capital, the White House, Union Station, and the magnificence of the Washington Monument.

None of that compared to the Lincoln Memorial.  It sits high upon a hill, a giant edifice.  As you approach, you remember the moments in our nation’s history that have taken place on these steps: Dr. Martin Luther King and the March on Washington, Nixon talking to protestors, speeches, and movies.

The monument was built in such a way as to encourage the visitor to first walk up the almost 100 steps, to recognize that the path is not easy, to keep looking upwards towards the President.  Once you reach the top, and enter the memorial, a quiet reverence surrounds you.  You pass through a double row of columns and are finally able to gaze upon Lincoln.  To think about the Man and what he means to the country.  Then, you are meant to visit the side chambers, where his most famous speeches hang: the Gettysburg Address to the left, and his Second Inaugural on the right.  The visitor is meant to be able to touch the untouchable here.  To feel the presense of Lincoln, and to commune with him.  As you turn to leave, the Mall spreads before you.  The President’s stare focused on the Capital Dome miles away.

Fellow-Countrymen: At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

President Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address
March 4, 1865

In the weeks since my visit, I think often of the Memorial and how it felt to be there. I think of what it represents. I think of what Lincoln meant to the Republic. I think of where we have come in the scant 150 years since Lincoln. I read the Second Inaugural and think of where we are as a nation. In some moments I am proud, and in others dumb-struck. I am reminded of words of other Presidents; Reagan, “…ours is not a perfect nation. But even with our troubles, we remain the beacon of hope for oppressed peoples everywhere. Never give up the fight…”; Theodore Roosevelt, “We must dare to be great…;” and Bill Clinton, “There is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed by what is right in America.” All of these statements speak to a hope in our nation, that ours is a fight worth fighting. That we strive to be more than we are.

Please read Lincoln’s speech, and reflect upon the Nation you want. And, perhaps, remember one other quote from ‘Honest Abe’, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Fear & Loathing in Brussels

It has happened again; four months after the attacks in Paris, three years after Boston, 11 years after London, almost 15 after New York, in a peaceful little country called Brussels, the hateful face of humanity has peered back at us.  We have been attacked in the peaceful moments of our day: going to work, coming home, sight-seeing, eating.

Terrorism.  The purpose is to instill an extreme fear into our lives.  To push people to the breaking point, to change how they live their lives.  To be fearful.  Like the bully waiting for us on our way home when we were 12, they want to push us, to watch us cower.  To have power over us.  And we have let them.

We have traded our freedoms for security theater.  We have given away privacy to accomplish nothing.  We have given in to fear and hate.

And we are wrong.  Just plain wrong.

Throughout history there have been those who have tried to stand higher than others.  Those that have said, “My religion is better than yours,” My country is better than yours,” “My race is better than yours,” “My gender is better than yours.”  They were wrong too.

Throughout history there have been those that have banned books, denied science, undermined education.  Dictators and despots will always go after the learned and educated; ideas and critical thinking are the best weapon against evil.

We are all one humanity.  We are all stuck on this rock together.  Shouldn’t we try to make the best of it?  There is too much art yet to make.  Too much music.  Too many stories yet to tell.  Too many places yet to travel to.

If the goal of terrorism is to change how we live our lives, it isn’t going to work on me.  I will not be afraid to travel to New York again.  To travel to Paris or Brussels or London or a World Cup match.  I will not be made to fear because of someone’s political belief.  I refuse to live my life cowering to other people’s fear and hate.  I refuse to hate.

Who is with me?

Is 2016 over yet?

Did you know that 2016 is being forecast to be the longest year in recent history?  Scientists are now speculating that 2016 will last up to three years in length due to formerly unsuspecting forces such as vitriol, bloviating, and even some wailing and gnashing of teeth.

It’s an election year here in the United States.  More than that, it is a Presidential election year.  After a fairly contentious 8-year run, a new Chief Executive will gain the privilege to call 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue both home and work.  The contest started early with Senator Ted Cruz of Texas declaring his intention to run in March of 2015.  And it only got stranger from there.

We are now a little more than 7 months away from casting our votes in November, and the way forward is no more clear now than it was last March.  This post was not written to make that any more clear.  It certainly was not written to support one candidate over another.  It was written purely because I am tired.

I was given some advice recently to write for myself, to not be afraid to offend.  So, as I approach the one-year anniversary of this blog, I found myself wondering what to write now.  I have started political entries before, and they usually find themselves in the trash, if not relegated to drafts hell.  I don’t like to offend.  I don’t enjoy disagreements.  The simple fact is though, that I’m tired.

I’m tired of not saying anything.  Of endless memes (and not very good ones at that) on Facebook.  I’m tired of people looking down at others, simply because they believe there is a different way.  I’m tired of both sides of the arguments.  Get your shit together America.

Every two years, we get to have a revolution.  Sometimes it is in your favor, sometimes it’s not.  But we get to have one.  Our country has one of the lowest voter turnouts in the world.  Why?  Our country has huge problems, problems that revolve around the health of our kids and our adults and our elderly.  Our country has issues around privacy.  Around guns.  Art.  Education.  Equality.  These are important topics, and we should talk about them.  We should be voting on them.

I believe that America can solve these problems.  That we are smart enough.  That we can aim for the stars, and still be wrong.  That we can work hard, and help others, and be better than we are right now.  I believe we can be worse, too.  I believe in our abilities, and in our spirit, and in our dreams.

I might be naive about how the world works.  I might be a dreamer, and I am undoubtedly foolish.  But that doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

2016 is going to be a long year.  But I’m happy about that.