Searching For The Silence

The voices from the masses are driving me insane
Makes my head spin all around like a deadly hurricane
Vitriolic decibels assault my tender ears
The torrent of emotions nearly bringing me to tears
It’s gettin’ to the point where it’s hard to even care
No matter where I go the nightmare’s always there

From the left and the right, there’s all this foolish noise
Oblivious to the decent people it destroys
Everyone is angry, and no one really dares
To think about another, ‘cuz no one really cares
We shout over each other like we’re engaged in a war
But everyone forgets that no one’s keeping score

Anxiety compounds, got me feeling paralyzed
The anger and the hate leave me somewhat traumatized
All I want right now is for all of this to change
But a lack of sound might leave me feeling kinda strange
Longing for some quiet with which to fill my days
Searching for the silence like I’m lost inside a maze




Change My Mind

The rise of social media has had a detrimental effect on humanity – even more of an adverse effect than humanity itself has had. Anyone anywhere can post anything for the entire world to read. Could be real. Could be fake. Could be an opinion. Could be hate. It doesn’t matter. Social media sites rarely filter these streams of consciousness from misinformed, self-important people who share their sometimes ignorant opinions on, well, anything.

One thing I’ve been seeing more and more is someone posting an opinion and then ending their opinion piece with the simple sentence, “Change my mind.”

So this random guy posts a random opinion on Reddit about how he thinks the Iron Man suits looked less realistic the older the MCU has gotten. Great. He has an opinion. He has shared it. It’s not inflammatory. Then he ends his little post with “Change my mind.”

Maybe it’s my lack of sleep. Maybe I’m just having a bad day. Maybe I’ve just finally had enough. All I know is those three words irritated the hell out of me this morning.

What is the end goal here? Are you looking for an argument? Is this some weird flex in which you are trying to assert your mental prowess? Is your opinion right and anyone with a different opinion wrong? My dude, I don’t care that you have an opinion, so I definitely don’t care enough to try to change it.

Social media is a great place for sharing ideas, civil debate, and hilarious memes – when actually used for that purpose. What annoys the piss out of me is when comment threads devolve into flame wars. At that point, civil discourse disappears and the keyboard warriors come out and begin insulting each other’s mothers – just like Al Gore intended when he created the internet. Like watching two people without arms trying to slap each other, it accomplishes nothing and just isn’t entertaining.

Yes, I realize the tone of this post is ironic given its content, but I’m slightly annoyed. Let’s all stop being idiotic and asking for arguments over pointless shit, shall we? Have an opinion you’d like to share? Great! Do it without inviting more negativity into the world wide wastebin. There’s enough vitriol in the world, I don’t think we need to go looking for more.

American Pride

pride – the state or feeling of being proud

proud – feeling pleasure or satisfaction over something regarded as highly honorable or creditable to oneself (often followed by of, an infinitive, or a clause)

dictionary.com

Pride is a feeling I’ve often not understood. To me, having pride in something means you’ve contributed to its current state. For instance, I’m proud of my children. I’m proud of who they’ve become and who they’ve become is a reflection of the work I’ve put into raising them.

When I was in high school (way, way, waaaaay back in the day), we often had school pride days or school pride rallies. Even at that young age, I was confused by these events. Why should I have pride in a school when all I’ve done is attend it? I had no effect whatsoever on anything (good or bad) that happened at that school. The only reason I went to that school was that my home was located in that district. I didn’t choose that school. Why should I have felt pride in that school?

As I grew older I found others’ feelings of pride even more absurd. People were proud of “their” teams. Or the company they worked for. Or the country they live in.

And I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free…

Lee Greenwood

American pride has always puzzled me. For multiple reasons. First and foremost is that most of us did not choose to live in this nation. We were simply born here. I feel neither pride nor an obligation to slap an American flag on anything I own just because, by pure happenstance, I was born in this nation.

The majority of us have not contributed to the current state this country is in. Elected and appointed officials shape our policies and write our laws. We the people do not. Our elected officials have always dictated our actions. Elected officials decide when we go to war. When to topple foreign governments. When to bring “freedom” to a “marginalized” populace. Despite that many Americans still mount flags on their homes or vehicles as if they have done something worthy of feeling American pride.

Putting aside the fact that most Americans have had no hand in the way this country treats its own citizens or its global neighbors, exactly what has our country done for which we should feel pride? This nation sits on a foundation of atrocities. We stole the very land of this nation from the people who inhabited it. This nation’s infrastructure was built by enslaved people. Women were not allowed to vote until 1920. Black people weren’t granted the right to vote until after the Civil War, but suppression measures were put in place to prevent them from voting that weren’t repealed until 1964. Native Americans couldn’t vote until 1924. We fought a civil war because half of the nation believed it was their right to own other human beings, and to this day people still fly that odious flag.

Furthermore, the capitalist nature of this country has made life challenging for its less affluent citizens, requiring the formation of labor unions just to get basic things like a living wage and safe work environments. Corporations still have more influence than citizens in this country because they can just make “donations” to a politician to sway their votes.

I could go on and on about this nation’s shortcomings, but I don’t have all day. Just a casual perusal of the news, however, is enough to question the sanity of anyone flying an American flag proudly these days. Women’s reproductive rights are under attack. Citizens are gunning each other down in our city streets. Children are endangering themselves just going to school. Black people are being mass murdered by white supremacists who feel like they need to protect the white race. From what, I don’t know.

Meanwhile, one political party has adopted a mentally challenged narcissist as its de facto leader and has spent the last two years trying to subvert our democracy. Or rather, what’s left of our democracy. That party’s followers are so indoctrinated they dismiss any evidence to the contrary as doctored. They still show up to these rallies and cheer him on as if he’s some kind of god.

Sad, but true.

Today is the 4th of July. Our Independence Day. The day we told England to fuck all the way off. The day we declared all men were created equal (although the fine print excluding pretty much everyone but white men has yet to be discovered by historians). The day we claimed life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the right of every American citizen (ya know, as long as they’re white). The day we claimed it is the duty of the people to throw off a despotic government (unless that government is led by an old tyrant with strange, orange-tinted skin, who grabs women by the pussy and America by the flag without consent).

Had this nation actually followed the ideals of its founders I think I could probably understand someone who flies an American flag proudly. Instead, I immediately question the intelligence of someone who blindly supports this nation. Or worse, sees this nation for what it is and supports it anyhow.

An Abortion of Rights

I’ve been trying to put this off until I could calm down and maybe get my thoughts together, but every time I start thinking about it I begin to fume.

The news leaked some time ago, but was made official on Friday: the Supreme Court has reversed its ruling on Roe vs Wade, and abortion is now no longer protected by the Constitution.

While this decision doesn’t explicitly ban the practice, many states have “trigger” laws, meaning that abortion would immediately be illegal in that state if RvW was overturned. Some of those states have exceptions for incest, rape, or danger to the mother. Some of them don’t, which is horrifying.

What this all means for our country is anyone’s guess, at this point. My opinions on abortion are complex, but ultimately I think this is a massive mistake.

I remember opting to write an editorial on abortion in 7th grade and concluding that abortion should be illegal except in cases of incest or rape. I can only assume at that point in my life I was unaware that other legitimate cases could be made for abortion, such as birth defects or the potential for a pregnancy to end a mother’s life. What can I say? I was 12 and extremely naive about such things.

As a father, I’ve heard the beating hearts of my children from within the womb. Having heard these budding lives it’s unfathomable for me to imagine even the slightest consideration of terminating a pregnancy. Not every pregnancy is wanted, however. Nor is every pregnancy intentional.

You can take all the precautions in the world, but sometimes nature just…happens. In those cases, is it really fair to expect a woman to endure a 9-month pregnancy? To endure morning sickness? To suffer through labor? To miss weeks’ worth of work they may not be able to afford? To incur crushing medical debt? All for a child she doesn’t want? Shouldn’t she be able to choose not to go through that?

What if a pregnancy puts the mother’s life in danger? What if a fetus has a physical defect or genetic disease? Shouldn’t the option of terminating the pregnancy be an option in those cases? It sounds horrible, but in some cases, life with certain diseases or deformities isn’t worth living.

Let’s say you’re of the opinion that the woman made her bed and now has to sleep in it. Perhaps you believe she needs to see the pregnancy through and have the child because “life is precious”. What kind of life is that for the child? What trauma awaits an unwanted kid? What if the parents can’t afford food or rent? What if the parents are too young to care for a child? Or too old? Or handicapped? Or addicts? Or criminals? Is that a precious life? Or is that another life that will end up in an already overtaxed foster system?

“Too bad,” you might say if you’re pro-life, “Put the child up for adoption.” Sure, kids who are adopted don’t have any problems. Plus, adoption is a lengthy process not a lot of people will want to go through. Or can even afford. In my home state, the licensing requirements can take anywhere from six to twelve months. And the legal fees can add up to thousands of dollars.

What about children who are already born and need help? Who will care for them? There are an estimated 440,000 kids in the foster system whose mothers already gave birth and had them taken away. Why would we, as a society, want to add to that number? Why would we want to lessen the odds of adoption for a child who has already been a victim of neglect or abuse?

Pro-life folks will paint those who support abortion as Satanists or murderers, but the reality is no one wants to have an abortion – it’s just the best choice sometimes. Kind of like when those same “pro-life” folks laud the death penalty for murderers. The logic may seem cold and practical, but there are already 12 million kids going hungry in this nation. It makes absolutely zero sense to toss gasoline on that already raging inferno by forcing the completion of unwanted pregnancies.

Criminalizing abortion will force women to look elsewhere for an abortion, and that can be lethal. In certain states, women who need an abortion to save themselves from an unsafe pregnancy will die because the procedure that will save their lives is illegal. Worse, some women whose pregnancies fail naturally will be investigated and/or tried for murder, and that is fucking insane.

The reality is we just took a giant step back in the US. Not only will this reversal lead to more suffering for women and children alike, but it may also serve as a gateway to other rights being taken away. Justice Clarence Thomas (the personification of moral integrity) has suggested that the precedent used to reverse RvW could also be used to reverse other protected rights, such as interracial marriage, gay marriage, and even contraceptives. Apparently, Mr. Thomas would like to hop into a Delorean, fire up his flux capacitor, and zoom back to 1955.

Conservatives confound me. They are always crying about their religious rights being infringed upon when something doesn’t go their way but will not hesitate to turn their own beliefs into laws that violate the secular rights of others. If you think abortion is wrong, then don’t get one. But don’t go swinging your religious moral compass around and expect everyone to fall in line. Remember that book you guys thump everyone with? You know, the Bible? It says God will judge us, not you. This country was founded on religious freedom and separation of church and state. Your religious views have no place in our laws, so leave it be and let God sort it all out.

If you want to be pro-life, great! Start with people who already have lives. Shelter the homeless. Feed the hungry. Assist the poor. Support gun and police reform. Donate to heart disease and cancer research charities. Normalize good mental health. Those are all things you can do to support lives that already exist. Banning abortion is pointless, counterproductive, and removes one of the most basic of freedoms from women: choice.

What is normal?

Normality is subjective. Almost everybody considers the things they like and do to be normal. And anyone who likes or does something else is different. It’s a rare human who acknowledges they just don’t fit in with the rest of society and that the things they’re into are just, ya know, weird.

Most of us tolerate these differences with grace and understanding. Others of us, not so much. I know that not every person is the same, so the term normal really shouldn’t apply to anyone. After all, you’re unique. Just like everyone else.

Normal, to me, means routine. When I wake up in the morning I take my Synthroid because some crazed doctor with a modified scalpel stole my thyroid a few years ago. Then I take a walk along the Ohio River to get my exercise in for the day since I spend my work day with my ass parked in a chair. It’s a comfortable chair, for sure, but it’s not helping me burn any calories.

The view from the River Walk.

Once I’m back at the house I grab a steaming hot cup of Columbian elixir and sip contently while I peruse the interwebs to catch up on my daily dose of negative news, attention whores on social media, and memes.

Normal, to me, also means blaring my music and singing along while driving – or wherever it is that I’m blasting out my tunes. It means an occasional blog post. It means putting my children before all else. It means gulping pharmaceutical cocktails before bed every night. It means having difficulty deciding whether I want to play a video game or read a book in my limited free time. It means making extremely inappropriate jokes in the group chat with my coworkers. It means looking in the mirror every morning, realizing that I need to shave, and then deciding I’m too tired to do so. That’s why I have a beard now. Well, kinda…

These things that are part of my normal everyday existence are probably not normal to anyone else, but I couldn’t imagine things any other way The normalcy. That sense of familiarity. It’s good to know that while some things change, some things stay the same. Normal, if you will.

Audience Participation Time!

What does normal mean to you, friends?  Is normal a good or bad thing?

No Prophecy

Photo by RODNAE Productions on Pexels.com

There is no prophecy
No meant-to-be
There is only
Empty destiny

You’ll find on your own
Fate is unshown
Do not bemoan
Your path is unknown

The future is pliable
A fact undeniable
Only you are liable
For moments transpirable

The power you possess
Can author success
Let no one suppress
Or curb your greatness

6 Feet

Six feet from the bottle
Can’t take it any longer
Caught in a riptide
Thirst growing stronger
Take another shot
Drinking full throttle
Now I’m as empty
As this bottle

Six feet from the edge
Perched atop this bridge
I take one last glimpse
At a world so savage
I flounder to my feet
Earth spinning in my eyes
I count to three
And plunge to my demise

Six feet from the bottom
Sinking like an anchor
Darkness settles in
Succumbed to rancor
With the end in mind
I take a huge breath
Water floods my lungs
I have nothing left

Six feet ‘neath the surface
I’m laying in a casket
Tears rain down ‘pon me
Flowers fill baskets
My pain is a memory
My demons banished
This world’s better off
Now that I’ve vanished

Note: This is in no way a reflection of my current mental state. That being said, however, I have been in a place where I understand what it feels like to be overwhelmed and feel trapped by life.

If you are feeling suicidal, please call 1-800-273-8255. Or if you don’t feel like talking, the suicide prevention hotline has a chat here. Additionally, more resources can be found on AFSP’s website. It may seem unbelievable, but there are people who care and want to help.

God Fearing

I was raised to believe God is a kind, loving, and compassionate being. Every Sunday my parents dragged me to church (literally – I did not want to go) where I had to listen to a monotone recitation of how powerful, forgiving, and full of love both God and Jesus are. Think Ben Stein in ridiculous robes.

According to the church (at least, the church I grew up in), we are all born sinners. Before any of us escape our mother’s womb, we are already sinners. We’ve yet to make a conscious decision. We’ve yet to take a breath. We’ve yet to behold the splendor of this world. Yet, somehow, we are already sinners. But God will forgive us if we ask. If we repent and ask for forgiveness we will still be accepted into Heaven when God calls us home.

Doesn’t that sound great? How generous God must be to forgive and welcome us into His kingdom despite somehow being a sinner before we were born. What a great guy. The very idea makes me feel all warm and tingly all over. Or perhaps that’s just a side-effect of all the coffee I just shotgunned. It feels good, either way.

Countless Christians refer to themselves as God-fearing, which is a term that has always struck me as odd. Why would anyone need to fear God? I have no reason to fear the God I learned of as a child. He loves us. He forgives us. He provides for us. What’s there to be afraid of other than being sent to Hell when you die? What else would God do that any sane person wouldn’t want? If you ask for forgiveness that won’t happen, though, so no biggie, right?

When I look out into the world I don’t see the God I was raised to believe in. His alleged kindness, love, and compassion are nowhere to be found when I examine the human condition. If I brave reading the news (which is a rare occurrence these days because my mental health simply can’t withstand the onslaught of negativity), finding news about forgiveness, love, and happiness are few and far between. I have to specifically search for “feel good” stories. Headlines are generally riddled with news of murder, rape, war, and hate. Is that why some folks are God-fearing? Is God not the generous being I’ve been led to believe? I mean, if God is all-powerful, benevolent, and controls everything why isn’t this world a reflection of his positive image?

For me, I don’t fear God. I find it hard to believe in Him at all. Frankly, there are so many gods and so many religions who is to say which one is the right one, if any of them? I’m not saying there’s no God. I’m not saying there is a God. I’m simply saying I don’t know. I’ll just keep living my life, being the best human I know how to be. I’ll be kind to strangers. I’ll help those I can. I’ll give if I can. I’ll personify (to the best of my ability) the ideal of God without religious hypocrisy.

Slipping

Don’t tell me I can love myself, I can’t love myself
Man you’ll never know
Can’t tell you why I always cry, eyes are never dry
Tears they always flow
I can’t do anything
Hanging on by a string

Don’t tell me I can trust myself, I can’t trust myself
I get nothing right
Can’t tell you why it’s dark inside, blackness on my mind
Like eternal night
I’ve reached the end of my rope
Can’t grasp a bit of hope

Maybe I’m slipping, maybe I’ll fall
Maybe I’ve already lost it all
Maybe I’m blind, goodness unseen
You don’t know what I mean
Baby I’m slipping, baby I’m lost
Baby I rue every line I’ve crossed
Somewhere ‘tween self pity and my grief
I’m slipping underneath

I Tried to Ignore It

I really did. I thought to myself, “Self, I’m not gonna say anything about it. There’s no sense wading into political waters because you’ll just drown in them.”

But I can’t ignore it. Everyone is talking about it. It was all over the news today. And yesterday. And the day before. All over my Facebook feed. It’s everywhere I fucking look. I can’t escape it. It’s like trying to run away from the sun.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners,  when somebody disrespects our flag,” Trump said, “to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’ ”

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Unfortunately, many people agree with him. They are going to quit watching the NFL if players don’t stop protesting, apparently. They are going to boycott the games. The NFL will no longer get their money.

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It’s funny. A majority of right-leaning folks refer to “social justice warriors” (which is one of the dumbest terms I’ve ever heard) as snowflakes, which infers that they overreact to every little thing and are insanely sensitive. Yet here are these same people threatening to boycott the NFL and rallying around their huge tangerine leader as he calls for NFL owners to fire players who kneel during the National Anthem.

That’s right, our president is advocating private citizens to fire other private citizens for exercising their freedom of speech.

Of course, it’s an NFL owner’s prerogative to do so, if they so choose. After all, freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequence. Still, it is a highly unprofessional act from someone occupying the most prestigious office in the world. But that’s how it goes with Trump. He’s all class.

For the last year this debate has raged on. Colin Kaepernick was caught sitting during the National Anthem and people went beserk. He’s disrespecting the military! He’s not oppressed! Keep politics out of football! He’s disrespecting the soldiers who died protecting the flag!

Kaepernick then started kneeling as a concession. He respected that people in the military have a high regard for the flag and anthem, but he still didn’t feel okay with honoring the symbol for a nation whose claim of “liberty and justice for all” rang hollow. He wasn’t going to stand for an anthem that didn’t ring true for all Americans. Several players joined him. Several more have carried on this season. And people are still losing their shit.

And I don’t get it.

He’s disrespecting the military!

No, he’s not. He and the other players are protesting social injustice and police brutality.

I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder. – Colin Kaepernick

That is why he was protesting. That is why other players continue to protest.

He’s not oppressed!

He never claimed to be.

“This stand wasn’t for me. This is because I’m seeing things happen to people that don’t have a voice, people that don’t have a platform to talk and have their voices heard, and effect change. So I’m in the position where I can do that and I’m going to do that for people that can’t.” – Colin Kaepernick

See?

Keep politics out of football!

He never meant to bring them into football. He was just sitting on the bench during the anthem when a picture of him sitting went out on Twitter. Twitter then blew it up. And the media ran wild with it.

Keep in mind, though, that NFL players are American citizens, too. They have political beliefs. They have causes about which they care. They have the same rights as you and I. These players are protesting for the cause of equality, and I just can’t understand how anyone can have a problem with that. After all, don’t all of us “hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal?”

He’s disrespecting the soldiers who died protecting the flag!

This is the one that gets me. The American flag belongs to our entire nation. It represents every citizen. It represents the rights and freedoms we’re all (allegedly) supposed to enjoy. It does not strictly belong to the military. It does not strictly belong to the police. It doesn’t strictly belong to anyone who serves this nation in any capacity, but rather all citizens of this nation.

It belongs to every homeless person wasting away on our streets.

It belongs to every rape victim whose attacker was never brought to justice because he was a celebrity.

It belongs to the slaves who built the foundation of this country.

It belongs to every person (black, white, or otherwise) unjustly killed by a cop who was then acquitted of murder charges or, even worse, never even charged.

It belongs to every woman told to get back in the kitchen.

It belongs to every veteran who can’t get the health care he or she needs from the VA after they’ve served.

It belongs to every victim of child abuse.

It belongs to every college graduate suffocating under a blanket of student loans they’ll be paying off the rest of their lives.

It belongs to every victim of domestic abuse.

It belongs to every recipient of a racial slur.

It belongs to the Native Americans butchered by our military so we could take their land.

It belongs to legal citizens born in another country who are told to “go fix your own country.”

It belongs to every homosexual bullied right into suicide.

It belongs to every baby born with a drug addiction.

It also belongs to the privileged who’ve never endured any sort of hardship because of their gender, race, or sexual orientation.

It belongs to us all.

I completely respect the sacrifices of every person who has served this country whether it be in the military, police force, Coast Guard, or fireman. It takes a lot of guts and dedication to put their lives on the line to protect the lives and rights of us all, and they should be commended for that and their efforts celebrated. Having said that, however, the American flag isn’t their sole property. It belongs to every…American…citizen.

One of the rights so many of our soldiers fought to protect, or died protecting, is the right to protest. Or peacefully assemble. Anyone who claims to respect the military in any fashion should understand that and respect those exercising that right. Protesting injustice is not disrespectful. It’s American. Our nation was born out of protest. That tea didn’t dump itself into the Boston Harbor…

So let’s get a little perspective here, shall we? In the grand scheme of things who are the handful of players who kneel during the anthem hurting? Why all the outrage? Are you upset to see the unity from a minority? Is it the fear of white domination being threatened? And where, exactly, was all this outrage a month ago when we saw actual Nazis marching the streets of Charleston? I mean, a lot of people criticized president Trump for not condemning them, but why weren’t the American people condemning them? I mean, we had Nazis in our country, on national television, a month ago and there wasn’t even a quarter of the outrage about that as there has been for some folks who play a game for a living protesting during the National Anthem. What the fuck?

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Dear white people, as one of you I’m asking you to shut the fuck up and listen to what people of other races have to say. It’s not all about you. Just because you don’t see something happening doesn’t actually mean it’s not happening. If a black man tells you he’s being discriminated against, odds are he probably is. When a cop uses excessive force to kill a citizen we should all be concerned whether that citizen is black, white, or other. That is not a police officer’s job. And I hear you when you say that a police officer has a right to defend himself if he’s being attacked, but in these high-profile, media-crazed situations that’s rarely been the case. Police officers are trained, or should be, to subdue people without shooting them. Pulling out a gun is the very last thing an officer should resort to, but it seems like one of the first things many of them do.

Let’s change the tone of the conversation around these protests from “quit doing that” to “how can we make this better?”. Minorities are trying to tell us there’s a problem and we’re not listening. Not only are we not listening, we’re bitching about their concerns. Imagine for a second that someone mistreated you and you confronted them about it. Imagine when you did so that person shrugged and said, “Not my problem. I don’t wanna hear about it.” Boy, that would suck, wouldn’t it? That’s what we’re doing, collectively. So let’s, as they say in kindergarten, put on our listening ears. Less talking, more listening. Through listening we can reach understanding. Through understanding we can resolve differences. When differences are resolved we can live in harmony. And things just sound much better when they’re in harmony.