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?

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Just Gonna Leave This Right Here…

About five years ago when Baby C was just a few months old he was chillin’ in his walker one night while I sat at the computer doing…something I don’t even remember. Probably answering blog comments or something. It’s not important. What is important is Baby C. And he was in his walker.

C navigated from the kitchen, where I was sitting, to the living room, and then to the steps. Now, had he not been in his walker this would have alarmed me because he was only a few months old and you just don’t give an infant access to the staircase without supervision. Everyone knows that’s just ludicrous. However, he was in his walker so I didn’t sweat it. Kids that can’t even walk, and can barely stand for that matter, can’t get out of their walkers, amiright?

Since I was absolutely positive he was absolutely safe absolutely, I turned my attention back to that thing I was doing that I can’t remember. Then, a few short seconds later, I heard THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP THUMP CRASH, then the sound of my sweet Baby C wailing the most horrific scream I’d ever heard escape his precious, miniature lungs.

I bolted from the table and raced to find C lying on top of his overturned walker at the base of the staircase. Somehow C had gotten out of his walker, climbed up some stairs, and then fell all the way back down.

Instinct took over. I quickly inspected the entirety of his itty-bitty body. I checked for broken bones, lacerations, swelling, etc. The worst thing I found on him was a red spot on the back of his head where he must have smacked it against something on his way down.

Once I was positive he had no serious injuries, I clutched him tightly to my chest and began to weep. I had done this. I had failed him. I had underestimated him and he had gotten hurt as a result. I was stricken with guilt.

In the end there were no visible marks to prove what had happened. No lasting consequences. The red spot faded after just a few minutes time. Inside, though, my heart was skinned and scabbed over. It felt like it had been chained to the back of a 4×4 and driven down a gravel road. It took me some time to get over an, in the end, extremely minor incident. Though it was a minor incident, it could have been much worse. The possibilities of what could have happened to him while tumbling down those stairs are endless, but by the grace of whatever deity you believe in the only permanent scar from that incident rests on the edge of my guilty heart.


I’ve yet to meet a parent who doesn’t have a similar story. Not a one of us doesn’t have a story where our child(ren) got hurt because we weren’t as vigilant as parents as we should have been, yet the mother whose child sneaked through (not climbed over) a poorly constructed fence into a gorilla exhibit the other day is being raked over the internet’s virtual coals. I’ve read some vicious shit on Facebook today condemning that mother. She was negligent. She needs to be charged. Blah blah blah, yadda yadda yadda. Rage.

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Puhlease. Calm the fuck down, internet. You’re giving yourself an ulcer.

Witnesses have said that the child made a dash for the fence before anyone could even react. That child was through a gap in the fence before anyone could catch up. Now, could the mother have done more to prevent this? Sure. She could have had the child strapped into a stroller or something. Does this mean she’s a horrible mother for not having her child strapped to a prison on wheels? Absolutely not.

Though I am prone to crises of confidence in my parenting ability, overall I think I’m a pretty damned good father. I’m, of course, far from perfect. I have my flaws, but my kids have, thus far, turned out pretty fantastic. Should my abilities as a father be judged based solely on that one incident? No, that would be stupid. Yes, I had a lapse in judgment, but that one lapse doesn’t define me as a father or negate all the good I’ve done for my children.

Likewise, this woman’s ability to care for her son shouldn’t be determined by this one incident. The only thing 99.9% of us know about this woman is that her 4-year-old got into a gorilla exhibit at the Cincinnati Zoo. That’s it. That is no basis for judging this woman as a mother (not that any of us has a right to judge her anyhow). Yes, her child got away from her. Yes, she could have done more to prevent it. No, she’s not a deadbeat or negligent mother. So let’s just pretend that this woman feels about the size of an ant inside, and is drowning in a growing pool of her own shame, because she probably is. I know I would be. Let’s also pretend that all the blowhards online calling for her to be arrested are making her feel even more guilt-ridden and ashamed, because they probably are.

How about instead of rage, compassion? Despite popular opinion, kicking someone while they’re down isn’t the most opportune time to do so. Frankly, we shouldn’t be kicking anyone at all.


While we’re on the subject of this horrible incident, let’s discuss a couple of other things…

That fence? It needs to be reconstructed. As an attraction mainly for kids, any zoo should be as safe as it possibly can be. A four-year-old should not be able to slip through a gap in the fence.


The day after the gorilla was put down there were protesters at the zoo. Animal rights activists were protesting the killing of the gorilla. While I understand their frustration, the fact remains that doing so likely saved that boy’s life. If those people would settle down and listen to the professionals (you know, the people who know the most about gorillas) then they might understand why the decision was made. For what it’s worth, I agree with the professionals. Not just because they’re experts, but because their logic actually, you know, makes sense. It’s tragic that it ended this way, but the right decision was made.


In the end, there is failure and blame littered all the way around this entire tragedy. How about, instead of tying anyone involved to a virtual stake and igniting them, we show a little sympathy for a mother who just lived through what was likely the most harrowing moments of her life? How about we take a moment to appreciate that the four-year-old was relatively unharmed during this ordeal? How about we realize that the zoo didn’t want to kill that gorilla, but instead did the unthinkable because it was the only sure way to save that child’s life? You know, show a little compassion for some folks who, despite having made the right decision, still live with the guilt of having made it. And then following through with it.

Put down your stones, internet. You need not cast them today.

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Someone vastly wiser than I (which is a VERY large crowd) once said: The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Or something along those lines. I don’t feel like Googling the exact quote right now because lazy. Based on that definition of insanity, I must be bat-shit crazy. (Don’t worry, I’m medicated.)

I do it every time. I don’t know why I do it. When I begin to do it I know I’m making a mistake, but I can’t stop myself. It’s like walking into a haunted house. You know it’s going to scare the shit out of you, but you go in there anyhow. I always think (or hope) it won’t be as bad as I’m afraid it will be, but I always end up wrong. Each time the bubble that is my faith in humanity deflates just a little.

When it’s over I’m left devastated and befuddled. Why? Why did I do it? Why did I do something I know would dishearten me so? Why did I knowingly walk into a trap I couldn’t spring? Why did I waterboard myself?

Why, oh why, did I read the fucking comments?

In theory, comment sections are for friendly discourse. We’ve read an article (congratulations!) and now we have a chance to share our thoughts with the author. We can explain why we agree or disagree with an opinion. We can share a similar experience. We can congratulate them on writing such a meaningful/hilarious/thought-provoking piece. We can read the comments of others who have shared a point of view or experience of their own. Meaningful conversation and thought-provoking dialogue sounds great, right?

If only that were the case.

Comment sections are like a landfill of human thoughts. They stink, they’re loaded with useless or broken shit, and they’re a place no decent person would ever be caught hanging out. (Just in case you’re wondering, I liken reading the comments not to being in the landfill, but merely driving by it and being disappointed that it still stinks.)

Comment sections are literally nothing but the worst in humanity. Whenever I scroll through the comments (Why do I do it? Why?) of a news article I’ve just read I see nothing but hatred. I see racism. I see sexism. I see xenophobia. I see homophobia. I see name-calling. I see threats. I see a fierce intolerance for any differing point of view. I see anonymous assholes being assholes simply because they’re anonymous and there are zero consequences for it. I see horrid statements not a one of those people would actually say to the face of another human being. Except maybe if they were on Springer…

I’m at a complete loss when I attempt to comprehend this phenomenon. I can’t fathom why people resort to name-calling, anger, threats, and/or other unpleasant mental diarrhea. When I read an article about racial issues I can count on finding racist comments (and confederate flag avatars) down below. When I read an article about gender equality I could confidently bet an entire paycheck that I’d find a comment made by a man either dismissing the plight of women or, even worse, telling a woman to get back into the kitchen and/or perform fellatio (not so eloquently worded, though) on him. I’m not even going to get into some of the comments I read in response to the HB2 bill in North Carolina, but suffice to say, there are some real degenerates out there and they have internet access.

I just don’t understand how people can be so hateful. More than that, though, I can’t comprehend why so MANY people are hateful. Why are these people so angry? What exactly are they afraid of? Why do they feel it’s okay to be so disrespectful to another human being? What is so wrong with acceptance and tolerance? Why do we dismiss the plights of others simply because it’s not happening to us? What happened to empathy? Understanding? Loving thy neighbor?

Comment sections are what feed my misanthropy. Comments show me that despite all the progress we’ve made towards building an equalitarian society, there people racing to tear it all down. Comments make me ashamed to be human. Comments most assuredly make me ashamed to be a white male. Comments are like the slime from Ghostbusters 2, a cesspool of hatred and bigotry.

I told you not to read the comments, Ray! Now we’re covered in fucking hate-slime like we’re in some perverse Nickelodeon game show!

I’ve often disagreed with people who claim alcohol makes people behave a certain way. I’ve always been of a mind that alcohol simply removes inhibitions and reveals your true self for all present to see. In a similar respect, anonymous internet comments allow people to be who they truly are. It allows them to do so with the benefit of a mask. It is what is behind all these masks that sickens me, makes me crawl further up into the shell in which I hide, and not want to interact with another human being for the rest of my days.

Way, way back in the day, Rodney King, a victim of police brutality caught on tape, asked, “Can’t we all just get along?” Somehow that turned into a national punchline. What’s so funny about it, though? Why wouldn’t we all want to get along? If we could live without conflict wouldn’t we choose to do so? Wouldn’t we like to be friendly with everybody? Wouldn’t we, if we’re being honest with ourselves, all like to get along?

I know I would.

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I Didn’t Want To Talk About This

I didn’t want to talk about this, but as you are all undoubtedly aware, another major terrorist attack rocked the world this Friday past. At last count I saw about 130 dead. Multiple people wounded. ISIS, last I saw, had claimed responsibility. To be honest, other than headlines I haven’t paid much attention to the story. My heart can only be broken so many times before it will lack the ability to properly heal. I can’t handle the perpetual onslaught of horrible news any longer.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but in the aftermath of this heinous attack I have seen opinions of every sort on the matter ranging from sad to anger to outright xenophobic. I have seen people offer prayers for those lost and affected by the attacks. I have seen sympathy. Mostly what I have seen has been hatred. Hatred for Muslims. Hatred for Islam. Gross generalizations about any person of Arabic decent being a terrorist, despite the fact that the race suffering the most from ISIS and its ilk are, yup, Muslims.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but when I was 12 years old I befriended a Muslim boy, and we were inseparable for the two years I lived down the road from him. I became close with his family, too, and they treated me as one of their own. I spent many nights in their home. They welcomed me with open arms. My friend’s father owned two restaurants in Jerusalem. He had two older sisters who behaved like typical teenage girls.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but my friend was not a terrorist. I know, I was shocked, too. He took karate, loved to play basketball (even though he sucked at it), and thought he looked like Vanilla Ice (he didn’t). We kicked the soccer ball around in his back yard. We played Super Mario Bros. 3 in his bedroom. We watched movies in the basement. We talked about girls. We talked about music. We talked about our families. Never once was the word infidel uttered. Never once did he or his family question my Catholic upbringing. They openly answered any questions I had regarding their faith. I believe them to be typical of most Muslims.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but I’ve seen many folks clamoring for this country to close up it’s borders. This great nation, founded on immigration – this great nation, whose diversity is its strength – this great nation, the land of opportunity – this great nation…should shut everybody out? Do we (the conservative collective (of which I am not a part) who want to barricade our borders) truly believe that if we halt all immigration that terrorist won’t find their way in? Isn’t this the same logic you guys use as a standard retort to anyone who suggests a gun ban?

I didn’t want to talk about this, but I’ve seen many people using this tragedy as a platform to defend gun rights. I’ve seen a blabbering dolt with a horrible toupee claim that if Paris wasn’t a gun-free zone this would never have happened. I’ve seen internet memes claiming the same. I’ve been disgusted by folks using the deaths of 130 innocent people to advance their own agenda. More guns. More bullets. More, more, more.

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I didn’t want to talk about this, but I seen roughly half of our nation’s governors refuse to accept any Syrian refugees. Many of them are writing the White House to demand the federal government reject every single soul fleeing their war-torn country. They are, understandably, afraid, which is the very goal of terrorism. Reports have emerged that one of the terrorists in the Paris attack had gained access to the country by claiming to be a Syrian refugee. Therefore they view every Syrian refugee as a potential terrorist. You know what we’re doing by refusing refugees? Making ISIS stronger. If we alienate every Muslim because he/she might be a potential terrorist, the terrorists win. When ISIS recruits these refugees because, hey, they have nowhere else to go, the terrorists win.

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I didn’t want to talk about this, but if you want to protect American citizens, perhaps you should start looking within our borders rather than without. A very real threat to American lives is already inside our nation, and it isn’t any Muslim. It isn’t any Islamic terrorist. It isn’t even, as the “Astray Toupee” would have you believe, the Mexicans. It’s us. It’s American citizens. It’s American citizens with guns. It’s American citizens who can obtain guns with little to no problem. It’s the lack of gun control. It’s the loose regulation of gun sales. We are our own worst enemy.

I didn’t want to talk about this, but there’s nothing wrong with changing my Facebook profile picture to one with the flag of France overlay. Contrarily, there’s nothing wrong with not changing your profile to the French flag. People like me changed our pictures to let the people of France know they are in our thoughts. It doesn’t mean that we are only grieving for the lost French lives and none other. It doesn’t mean we are not aware of countless other atrocities (such as Beirut or Kenya) happening on a daily basis. It just means we’re acknowledging this one; mainly because it’s the only option Facebook gave us. No matter which side of this fence you’re on, calm the fuck down. We all deal with these things in our own way. And that’s okay.

I didn’t want to talk about this either, but if your holidays are ruined because your holiday coffee cup is plain red you seriously need to reevaluate your priorities and your beliefs. Seriously, it’s a fucking cup. A cup you’ll throw in the garbage when you’ve consumed every last drop of that Arabian goodness.

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I didn’t want to talk about any of these things, but I can’t escape them. The headlines are assaulting me like a summer storm. Everyone is whipping their “righteous” opinions around and I’m over here wishing for an umbrella to shield me from the downpour of bullshit that has been raining on the internet lately.

So…there, I’ve responded to it all.

I feel better.

I’m going to go get a Pumpkin Spiced Latte in a satanic cup from Starbucks now.

My Children Trump You

On a cold, dreary December morning in 1999, my life was drastically and irrevocably changed. I was blessed with not one, but two children within a span of 60 seconds. It wasn’t just the sleepless nights, nasty diapers, and mountain of new responsibilities that turned my life upside-down, though. My heart changed. It was restructured. Everything that mattered to me before took an immediate back seat to the two bologna loafs wrapped burrito-style in bleach-white hospital blankets.

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My marriage, as every marriage does, had more than it’s share of challenges. One of those challenges, unfortunately, was the fact that I had children from a previous marriage.

When we first began dating, my wife and I simply did not see each other during my allotted time with the twins. That was a rule from which I simply would not deviate. I did not want them to know that I was dating someone. I did not want them to know that I had moved on from their mother. I did not wish to dash their wounds with salt. I did not want to introduce them to some woman I was still getting to know. I did not want to bring a woman into our lives whose time might be short-lived.

After about five months I felt reasonably sure I had a long-term relationship on my hands, so decided I wanted to introduce my future wife to my past, present, and future children. But first I had a discussion with them. I asked them how they’d feel if I loved a woman besides their mother. Their first response, naturally, was they wanted me to love their mother and to come back home. That was most definitely not going to happen, and I told them so. I then asked again if it was okay for me to love another woman. They thought about it, then decided unanimously that it was. Then they immediately demanded to meet her. My sweet, seven-year-old boys always could make me laugh.

My wife and I had many disagreements over the years about my children. My staunch refusal to attend any sort of social activity on nights that my boys were with me were often moments of frustration to her. I am truly sorry for that, but when I have only 50/50 custody of my children I’m not going to find a babysitter for them just to go out with friends. Especially when I’d rather spend that time with my boys. My wife would also become upset over the fact that she had no say-so in their upbringing. She felt that since she was helping to raise them that she should get to share in that responsibility. Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. I appreciate, truly appreciate, everything my wife did for my children, but ultimately they are not her children. They have a mother, whether I like her or not, and it is up to their mother and I to make decisions regarding their upbringing. That’s just one of many pitfalls being a step-parent can bring. I was a step-parent for nine years, and I know it’s not easy, but that’s how it goes.


I recently read an article about modern American parenting and its profound affect on American divorce rates. In this article the author suggests that it’s okay to love your spouse more than your children. (The author encourages it, even.) That it’s okay if you’re children don’t always come first. That putting your children above all others, including your spouse, is detrimental to your relationships and, yes, your marriages.

Sometime between when we were children and when we had children of our own, parenthood became a religion in America. As with many religions, complete unthinking devotion is required from its practitioners. Nothing in life is allowed to be more important than our children, and we must never speak a disloyal word about our relationships with our offspring. Children always come first. We accept this premise so reflexively today that we forget that it was not always so.

Obviously I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you with utmost certainty why I feel the way I do about my children, and why they come before any one.

The answer, quite simply, is divorce.

When my parents got divorced I feel like my brothers and I kind of got lost in a cataclysmic emotional supernova. Having been divorced I know how emotionally devastating it can be. The problem, for me, came when my parents began to move on from each other. When they began dating their respective significant others I felt left behind. Neglected. Devalued. Of course both parents had the right to move on. They both had the right to be happy. But as a teenage boy who saw his time with his parents dwindle, and whose opinion was dismissed the moment it was voiced, my heart was bruised.

That feeling has been nestled in a forgotten chamber of my heart since I was 14 years old. So, yes, when I was going to bring a woman into my children’s lives who wasn’t their mother, I asked for their permission. It didn’t matter that they were 7, I wanted them to be okay with it.

Every decision I’ve made since becoming a father has had, at its core, the well-being of my children in mind. I consulted them before marrying my second wife. I consulted them before dating her again after we got divorced. I consulted them before I leased my new car because it would tighten our monthly budget. I may not always make the best, or even a good, decisions, but when I do anything I have fully considered how it will affect them before I act and, most of the time, consider their input beforehand.


So, yes, my children and what I deem best for them comes first. It isn’t some misguided devotion to a phantom “parental religion” or because of some bizarre expectations of society, as the author of the referenced piece above suggests, but because I don’t ever want my children to experience the feeling of knowing that someone else is more important to their father than they are, because it’s entirely impossible. No one means more to me than my children. No one. The love I have for my children is as indestructible as Superman, sans his weakness to Kryptonite. My children mean more to me than any other thing or being on this planet. When my children were born they literally shoved almost everything in my heart out so they could have it all to themselves. (#OccupyDadsHeart) Loving my children more than anyone or anything wasn’t a conscious decision I made. It just happened.


Perhaps the author is correct about one thing. Perhaps putting my children first was detrimental to my marriage. You know what, though? I don’t even give a fuck. I’d rather lose my marriage than make my children feel neglected. If your children feel neglected or unimportant, you’ve lost them.

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If/when I decide to bring a new woman into my life it will not be before I’ve had a discussion with all three of my children. You might think it’s idiotic that my children have a say-so in who I do or don’t see. I disagree. My decision to bring a woman into my life will affect them as much as it affects me. If I bring a woman into my life I’m bringing a woman into their lives, and if I do so without even discussing it with them I have devalued their opinions without even hearing them. And that is unacceptable to me.

Frankly, I think all parents should put their children first. To me, that’s part of what being a parent is. When you bring another human being into this world you have a responsibility to care for, love, and mold that human being into a functioning member of society and I just don’t believe you can properly accomplish that if you’re not putting their needs first. And just to be clear, putting your children first doesn’t mean always giving them their way. It doesn’t mean pampering them. It means ensuring what you do has their best interests at heart. It means ensuring they know how much you love them. That they are valued. That what they say matters. It means they know that you’re there for them no matter what challenges they face.

At least, that’s what it means to me.

The hat I wear as a father is more important to me than any other hat I wear. It’s the hat I wear most often and most proudly. I’ve been married to two different women who were both affronted upon learning that my love for my children mattered more to me than my love for them, and I’ve never understood that indignity. I assumed every parent felt the same way. I guess I was wrong.