Act Now! You May Already Be a Bigot!

11 Oct

An unexpected side-effect of having written this blog for several years was an increased and amended understanding of myself. I suppose I might have guessed it could happen, most people pour themselves into their diaries and ruminate on their victimization at the business end of a Cold, Cruel World, eventually coming to the conclusion that things are fucked up because the Earth doesn’t actually revolve around ourselves. I began this blog with that sort of mindset, having recently been dumped and full of anger at anything and everything. I was looking to pick a fight, and many of my earliest posts reflect that combative mindset. I settled down over time, critiquing television and comic books and whatever struck my fancy. And, over time, some long-held opinions I had started to change–moreso, I started challenging my reactive beliefs. I did so here, and later here, and even had an epiphany about Capitalism that I didn’t bother to write about. I am glad that I can still learn, and grow, even at this mid-life stage. And one lasting change over myself is that I continually challenge my reactive responses.

For instance, there are a few posts challenging feminism on this blog that I’m not too proud of. You can look at one here. Most of them evince my frustration at being lumped in with psychotic wife-beaters and maniacs whenever a man impugns a woman, and the internet invective turns towards the male gender as a whole. I bristled at that because I am not a crazy idiot; the future is unknowable, but I am reasonably sure that I will never beat, or rape, or murder a woman. Ever. So to point at Chester the Subway Molester and decry maledom seemed unfair to me, an Enlightened Man. I’m not that guy. I’m a nice dude. I only glance at women’s cleavage, I don’t stare.

And that’s when it occurred to me: I might not be a murderer of women, but it doesn’t mean I’m not unconsciously an abuser of women.

And it’s not just about women, either. Folks from other countries, of other skin tones, even dopey people struggling at the ATM while a line of grumbling people grows behind them. If you were to ask me directly, I would say that I believe in equality and justice for all. But if you could peer into my reactive mind, and see what goes through it when three Latin folks are coming my way on the street, then you would find fear, hate, guilt, and frustration at grappling with all of these feelings. The instinctive response, when someone suggests that white men are a problem, is to say, “Hey, I’m a white man, and I’m not a problem!” And that, my friends and enemies, is the problem. That is Privilege.

This blog hasn’t been updated in a couple of years, and is infrequently read, but if any fellow white dudes are out there reading this, then let me ask this of you, in whitespeak: listen and read, instead of yelling and posting. Yes, even if you don’t like the tone of the person talking. Even if you think a blanket opinion about your race and gender is unfair, take the time to be silent and actually take in what you’re being exposed to. Because you’re right, blanket opinions about other people are unfair. And that’s exactly the kind of reactive state that we should all hope to quell.

Okay, It’s a Mental Health Issue

13 Jun

Another day, another mass shooting in the United States of America. That thing to which we promised never to be inured has become just another routine horror show filtering down through our social media feeds. You could construct a flowchart: There is a shooting. Is the shooter still alive? Y/N if Y, is he a Muslim? If N, what was his last post on Snapchat? The President makes a speech, the usual sympathizers and internet trolls crawl out of the woodwork to be counted, and ultimately the internet becomes a verbal war zone between those who think guns are the problem, and those who think mental health is the problem. And despite having written about being afraid of guns a long time ago, I agree that mental health is the real problem. I mean, anyone who would take a weapon and shoot a bunch of people, either as an ideological statement or for killing’s sheer glee, is by definition crazy. It’s a crazy act. If you commit mass murder, you are crazy. It doesn’t matter how sane you seemed before mowing down a bunch of innocent, unsuspecting people, once you do that you prove yourself bonkers and therefore missed somehow by our country’s mental health system.

Which, incidentally, does not exist. The only Federal medicine that exists is MediCare, and it is tough to get covered for psychiatric care. But let’s say we’re going to finally do something about this problem, we’re going to seriously decrease the frequency of mass shootings in America and tackle this mental health thing once and for all. We’ll apply a significant portion of the Federal budget to this–say a trillion dollars, still a fraction of what we spent on defense in the last four years. Okay, so how do we start? Well, we’re only interested in people’s mental health where it concerns them buying automatic weapons, so any gun retailer, at shop or show, that sells automatic weapons will have a licensed psychiatrist act as consultant to this process. Each applicant for an automatic weapon will have a thorough examination by the doctor, who will then give their professional opinion on the mental state of this individual. Can we agree that a questionnaire won’t work? We’re taking this problem seriously now. So if you get a clean bill of brain health from the head shrinker, well you can just have as many guns and rocket launchers as you want. It’s what our forefathers intended! But what if the staff psychiatrist encounters someone that’s psychotic, who presents a clear danger to society? Well, he’ll be limited to one gun–just kidding, no guns for him. But we can’t actually turn him out onto the street, can we? Don’t we assume some responsibility here?

See, the problem with frequent gun violence being a mental health issue is that we don’t really have an answer to our mental health problem in this country, either. There’s no magic pill, no secret trick that can make a dangerously insane person sane. We can wait until they commit a violent crime, then they go to prison where they’ll sometimes get the help they need. But then they get released from prison, and there is no follow-up, and the cycle repeats itself. There are drugs that can help those with violent and anti-social behaviors–often by numbing the patient’s emotions totally–but these medicines are expensive and need to be taken regularly and forever. You know how sometimes you forget to take your Claritin, and your eyes run and you sneeze a lot more whether you are having an allergic reaction or not? Well, if you miss your risperidone for a few days, that’s when you snap out and start shooting.

Determining that the problem with gun violence in this country is a mental health issue is a false equivalency, because we can actively tackle the availability of guns, but we cannot adequately handle the problem with mental health. I will even concede the likelihood that most owners of assault weapons are conscientious, safe gun enthusiasts who take all the necessary precautions and would never dream of opening fire on an undefended person or people. But the problem is that it only takes one automatic weapon to kill fifty, and that’s why, a society who decides what is best for it based on what is right instead of what we want, assault weapons should be banned outright.

I would like to point out that at no time did I suggest limiting access to handguns or rifles, or to remove any existing owned guns from any household or owner. Just the assault weapons (and higher) going forward. Let’s slow this deluge of mass murders to a gentle trickle, okay?

9 Secrets Only Happy People Know (And They Ain’t Tellin’!)

18 Sep

You see predatory lists like this on Facebook all the time. “21 Pictures So Creepy You’ll Barf” and “You Won’t Believe What This Dad Beat His Child With at Disneyland!” and “15 Sexually-Harassing Text Messages So Obnoxious You’ll Fart a Hole Clean Through Your Underwear.” George Takei seems to have made a career re-posting these clickbait lists that exist primarily to install spyware on your computer. Most ludicrous are the ones that clearly have no factual basis behind them: “18 Secrets to Being An Awesome Parent” and one of them is “Encourage your child.” I decided to do my own take on one of these banal lists in hopes of encouraging your actual happiness, and not to make you feel shittier because projecting self-satisfaction is yet another thing at which you fail abysmally. So here are nine things that happy people know and employ in order to maintain their status as a happy person:

9. They Delude Themselves Into Believing Fate Exists

“Everything happens for a reason,” stated some dumbass who is coping with the death of their newborn child due to hospital negligence. And that person believes that because they are a self-important idiot. No ethereal agency or half-baked belief in cosmic justice is employed when things happen to you; things happen to you because time and space exist. In a cosmic sense, your fatal cancer is just as big an occurrence as a cow pooping, but if you want to appear happy and full of yourself, then you should believe that there is actually some causation between your existence and random, uncontrollable events. This is the way schizophrenics think, and they seem to be a jolly bunch!

8. They Outwardly Embrace Change Even If It Is Inducing a Panic Attack

One way to appear happy is to never be caught complaining, and the easiest way to do that is to appear as if you accept change even if it is making you insane inside. While people are bemoaning the weather, or some horrible news item, the happy person will just shrug and say something meaningless like, “When God closes a door, He opens a window!” Which is total bullshit, by the way, God is technically the arbiter of galactic equality so if He decides all the windows and doors should be shut, they will be shut. Or he might close a door on Earth but open a window on Planet XB-331 where the windows are more like intelligent sphincters that react to certain stimuli. The trick used here by happy people is the same one used by teenagers to seem cool and disaffected. Just brush off whatever comes and announce your unfounded belief that it is all part of a grand design of which they are a vital component!

7. They Pretend Not to Need Validation

You might hear someone refer to themselves as a “free spirit,” and, as those of us who are tethered to this dimension know, self-reflective announcements like this are almost always lies. It’s important to appear as if you don’t need anyone’s collusion or approval even if it is the very thing you crave most, and one of the shortest routes to get there is to be outwardly cavalier about criticism. “I march to the beat of my own drummer,” says the dilettante, and pretends not to notice the awe they have inspired in the plebes around them. This is an especially useful trait if you like to consider yourself an artist without actually practicing or producing any art.

6. They Act Supportive of Others’ Accomplishments While Silently Dying Inside

Not much will get you as many accolades as supporting and promoting other people in your field, because it makes you seem uncompetitive and therefore non-threatening in general. Secretly, you can wish death upon the author who got published before you, or the colleague who is newer to the job but got promoted ahead of you, but in public it should be all smiles and handshakes. What a great person you are, because you are so self-satisfied that you don’t need recognition or money, and you seem to be ridiculously buoyed by the accomplishments of others! This is also a good tactic because it will take some suspicion off of you when that accomplished person dies in a suspicious fire.

5. They Say That They Only Live In the Now

This must be pronounced at least once a day to someone within earshot: “I don’t worry about yesterday or tomorrow,” or “I live in the present, not the past.” Of course unless you have severe damage to the memory center in your brain, you likely torture yourself with the stupid things you’ve said and done years prior. That’s what we call human nature. This idea that we should willfully not regret anything is like pretending not to know English when bill collectors call. Again, it’s how you appear to others that matters here, not how you actually feel, so make sure a few people know that you are a right here, right now kind of person every single day, and they probably won’t detect your many crushing life regrets.

4. They Don’t Act Like a Victim While Explaining How They’ve Been Victimized

If you catch yourself complaining about a situation, you must be sure to pepper that discussion with a lot of dismissive phrases like “whatever, though,” and “but really, I’ve got no one to blame but myself!” People will consider you very independent and resilient even if you are seething with revenge fantasies against every person you believe to have slighted you. Your parents are probably the most to blame for your current misery, so be sure to talk a lot of shit about them while rolling your eyes and muttering, “Parents, right?” If the person you’re talking to starts looking horrified, you’ve probably gone too far and should interject, “But parents are parents. I still love them to death.” This phrase will work well because then you can imagine their deaths which will put a noticeable spring in your step.

3. They Are Very Body-Positive Even if They Are Moments Away from Adrenal Failure

If you’re fat, make sure you exclaim how you will not be fat-shamed and how much you love yourself even though you often eat an entire gallon of ice cream while crying. If you’re skinny, then just act really smug about it even if the lack of nutrients in your blood stream makes you feel like you’re on a robust LSD trip every day. The gym rats and people that revolve their lives around having a certain body type often have the worst body dysmorphia, so they are often the most vociferous about their look while be condemnatory of others. If you are not one of these people, you can put one on the fast track to suicide by commenting, “You look great! You really have lost/gained a lot of weight,” and then walk away. They will hang on that idle phrase for the next ten years.

2. They Feign Having Faith In a Higher Power

This one seems tough, but it actually very easy. You don’t need to subscribe to any of the available Gods and Goddesses that are regularly worshiped around the world, you can just claim to believe in a nameless “higher power” or just say you are very “spiritual.” It’s all meaningless, no matter how you slice it, but people are always amazed by what appears to be blind and unflagging faith. Many of these people project their own blind faith to others but will still be mesmerized by yours. Another good trick is to say you believe in the God of a specific religion, but then strip away every aspect of that religion so it appears you are actually communing with this all-knowing ghost. “I don’t think God is really against gambling, despite the evidence presented in this book containing the things God said.” It’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole by disassembling the puzzle and turning it into a birdhouse.

1. They Smile All the Fucking Time

You have to have a placid, natural smile on your face at all times that you can be seen by others. This is a lot more difficult to achieve than one might think, because most forced smiles look like pained grimaces. Try to think of things that genuinely do make you smile, like the anguished, tortured screams of people you hate or naked people as your preference dictates. I like to think about how many people I see walking around each day are actually pedophiles or drug addicts. Sometimes, it’s even people in power who are judging the morality of other people’s actions–now that’s just funny enough to make me laugh out loud in the street! Your smile will both warm and annoy the people that see it, so be sure to wear one proudly every day!

Your Rights as a Homophobe

29 Jun

In case you missed it, the United States Supreme Court handed down a landmark ruling last Friday guaranteeing same-sex marriages rights in accord with existing married couples. This led to big celebratory displays, rainbow flag waving and the changing of Facebook profile pics, and probably a lot of hot gay sex. But not everyone is on board with this legislation that will have no effect on anyone straight, and the much-maligned group of Professed Homophobes really feels like they’re getting the short end of the stick here. So I talked to a fancy, high-priced lawyer that lives in my head and asked: what rights do the homophobes have, in regards to marriage equality? The answers may shock you. If you’re an idiot.

Do I, a homophobe, have to like gay marriage?

They tried to sneak a mandatory appreciation for homosexuality in the dense legal wording of the Supreme Court’s statement, but you’ll be glad to know that the ever-vigilant Justice Scalia struck that down. The Constitution protects your right not to like same-sex marriage. Indeed, you don’t even have to like marriage at all! That hetero couple you think isn’t right for each other but went and got married anyway? You are legally allowed to think they make a crappy couple. No court in the land can stop you from thinking whatever you like about marriage or marriages, provided you do not impede the rights of those married or seeking to be married.

My church says homosexuality is wrong, but my boss at the Licensing Bureau says I have to issue marriage licenses for gay couples. What are my rights?

It is completely within your right to quit your job, or to quit your church, whichever you find easiest. You may also keep your job while silently disagreeing with the Supreme Court’s ruling, provided it doesn’t hinder your job. To wit: you must still issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples seeking to get married. The nature of the job is to issue licenses, not to act as a moral compass for engaged couples, or to let the world know you are giving a license begrudgingly. Can someone who doesn’t like fish withhold fishing licenses from eligible persons? Is a software license declared null and void if the applicant is ugly? No, these are bureaucratic dealings that have nothing to do with personal politics or opinions. Luckily, your place in the afterlife is not based on the federal and state forms that you processed, so you won’t lose any points with Saint Artemis or whoever is in charge at the Pearly Gates.

I’ve been married to my hetero partner for twenty-some odd years. How does this Supreme Court ruling affect my marriage?

It’s easy to feel like your marriage is less “cool” or unique now that people of the same sex can marry each other, but there’s no need to feel left out or like your union has been assailed. Justice Thomas was very careful to ensure that this legislation would not affect any existing marriages, nor would it change the rights granted to married couples going forward. In fact, the rights extended to same-sex married couples are identical to the rights already granted married couples around the country! It is not mandatory to marry someone of the same sex. You don’t have to get remarried in order to enjoy the privileges now afforded to same-sex couplings. Indeed, you have all of those rights already! So take a deep breath, relax and return to the same terse, strained relationship you already enjoy with your significant other. It’s your Constitutional right!

The Mind’s Eye

19 Jun

I once lived in an apartment ringed by a moat of shit.

It wasn’t a selling feature of the apartment, indeed when I and my two roommates signed the lease the area around the apartment was bone dry. It was a garden apartment at the basement level of a building that had lots of problems: scalding hot shower water, days on end with no heat, an unending cockroach infestation. I’d already established a regular and fairly antagonistic relationship with my building’s manager due to these continued issues, and when I came home from work to find a steamy, brackish lake spewing from a crack in the walk in front of my door, I was pissed. Funny thing is, I didn’t realize it was sewage at first. For some reason, I decided it was runoff from the laundromat across the street which was a ludicrous thing to believe. I stormed into the house and began commiserating with my roommate: “I can’t believe all of that water out there!” I yelled, “It’s always something with this apartment!”

“Yeah,” replied my roommate, “and now it’s a river of shit.” I looked at him blankly. “That’s not sewer water,” I informed him, “it’s from the laundromat across the street. I think.” Now it was his turn to be confused.

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“No, it’s shit. You don’t see the toilet paper in there?” I frowned and went back to the front door to examine the new body of water more closely. And then, I saw them: turds, bobbing around in this effluvia in which I could now clearly see wads of toilet paper. And worse, I began to smell it. Mere seconds ago, I detected no fecal odor but now it was undeniable. My apartment wasn’t surrounded by the murky but otherwise soapy water of a laundromat, but a disgusting, viscous moat of shit.

Once seen, of course, it could not be unseen. There’s more to the story, but what was so interesting to me that I was initially so sure that this wasn’t sewer water billowing in front of my house. I would have sworn to it. In fact, I spontaneously concocted a stupid story about the waste from a laundromat across the street–because, you know, coin-operated laundromats normally have dedicated sewage lines that run for blocks, for some reason–instead of facing the hard fact that I had poops at my doorstep. It’s incredible how your brain can trick you into seeing the things you want to see, instead of seeing things how they are.

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We saw this yesterday, when nine people were gunned down at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The murdered, like the vast majority of this church with historic ties to abolitionism, were black, the shooter was white. Right away, a survivor of this ordeal, left alive by the shooter Dylann Roof to tell the tale, explained that Dylann expressed hatred towards black people, who “rape our women, and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.” Before he was apprehended, a picture of the shooter surfaced of him wearing a jacket adorned with flags from Apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia, which was Zimbabwe when it was a white-controlled territory. And lest you think I am up for a challenge to determine the origin of various flags throughout history, I am not. These flags were identified for me by several folks on social media who are much more knowledgeable than I.

And still, many newscasters, politicans and citizens were quick to quell any talk of racism. “This person is clearly mentally ill,” said many, implying that this made the killings apolitical. “An attack on religion,” claimed FOX News, who can no longer be faulted for lying under the “fool me twice, shame on me” rule. Few on my media feeds seemed to suggest that when a white person goes into a black church and kills only black people that the attack could be racially motivated. And that’s because they don’t want to see it, because we’d rather believe that this massacre, that cops shooting unarmed black teenagers on a bi-weekly basis, that the attempts to restrict voter rights along lines that would mainly disenfranchise black people are isolated incidents by crazies and malcontents, folks who are an exception to the rule. But the fact is that for American history, racism is the rule. Post Civil War Reconstruction began a hundred and fifty years ago and Civil Rights marches began fifty-five years ago, and we’ve still got so many black Americans laboring under a system of institutional racism that keeps white neighborhoods white, keeps menial jobs black, and maintains a general status quo that essentially allows police to shoot black people in the back and get away with it.

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The reason that white America doesn’t want to assume racism as a motivation is that it forces us to look inward, at our own motivations. How we have benefited, willfully or not, from the system that has been in place in some form or another for four-hundred years. It’s a difficult pill to swallow, especially since owning up to the fact doesn’t absolve your guilt. At some point, however, we have to take notice of our own hypocrisy and see things for what they are. You thought you were surrounded by the protective aura of being an enlightened free-thinker, someone who espouses equality and freedom but actually can’t see the forest for the trees. But it turns out that your protection was a moat of shit.

Larry “Bud” Melman, We Hardly Knew Ye

20 May

As you may be aware, the very last episode of Late Night With David Letterman will air tonight. It will be supplanted in September with a new late-night talk show starring Stephen Colbert, which will presumably be titled Late Night With Stephen Colbert. Call it a hunch. I wasn’t going to write about David Letterman’s retirement because, frankly, I haven’t watched a full episode of Late Night in about twenty years. I’ve seen interviews and pertinent clips on YouTube and the like, but I haven’t deigned to stay up late enough to sit through the entire thing. I used to, however; as a young kid watching Late Night With David Letterman was a nightly summer ritual shared by my brother and me–mind you, this is when Letterman came on after The Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, so we were watching Dave during the 12:30-1:30 AM block.

I suppose I was around nine or ten when my official bedtime was lifted during the summer. I don’t remember there ever being a formal declaration, and indeed there may not have been. I had a television of my own in my bedroom, and there simply came a time that I ventured past the 11 PM nightly airing of The Honeymooners and Johnny Carson’s monologue to find out what lay beyond. For a while, my brother and I shared the one television, a chunky, white behemoth that was stolen from a hotel at some point and so got AM/FM radio along with VHF and UHF television. We would while away the evenings watching sitcoms and the occasional edited-for-TV movie, but by 11 PM we’d settled into a rhythm that would culminate with Late Night With David Letterman. And let me tell you, we fucking loved that show.

Those who never saw the show in its NBC days probably don’t know how really wild and revolutionary it was. There was a camera attached to a truss above the set that would careen about wildly and threaten to brain a member of the studio audience. There was a guy named Larry “Bud” Melman who was much-beloved by the audience but always seemed like he didn’t want to be there. Dave would have inventors, people doing Stupid Human Tricks (an offshoot of his more popular Stupid Pet Tricks), and other assorted weirdos and crackpots. Late Night With David Letterman was like a low-budget public access cable show, except that Steve Martin would show up from time to time. It was in stark contrast to Johnny Carson’s more staid, formulaic fare.

My memories of watching David Letterman are inextricable from memories of my brother, who would normally watch while stretched out on the linoleum floor of my bedroom while I watched lying in my bed. Throughout the night, I would test him on the time, which he almost always guessed down to the exact minute, a feat that amazed me as a kid (though I now suspect that my brother simply knew when commercial breaks happened relative to the half hour.) We’d both get really excited when Chris Elliot was on the program doing something weird and gross. Late Night With David Letterman in those days shaped and appealed to our senses of humor, and I doubt these episodes have aged well. We saw Crispin Glover almost kick Letterman’s teeth in, we saw Drew Barrymore bare her tits to him, we saw Harvey Pekar booted off the show, never to return–something that resonated with the two of us, since my father was a regular reader of Pekar’s American Splendor. And in the flickering light of late-night television, my brother and I bonded. We had few opportunities to do so back then and even fewer as we grew older and further apart. So to David Letterman, I tip my hat and thank you for thirty-three years of humorous service that helped shape the lives of two stupid kids from Queens.

I Don’t Know Why You Say Ello, I Say Goodbye

30 Sep

There’s a hip, new social networking site sweeping the internets’ social media outlets right now called Ello. You can take a look over here, though you won’t be able to see much. As Facebook and Google Plus began, Ello is currently invite-only. Presumably, the doors will be thrown open eventually and the place will be deluged with people who yearn for the days of geocities website design and who need an outlet for their ideas. Because, you know, there aren’t enough fucking internet opportunities for that already.

Ello’s big hook is that you won’t have your feed clogged with advertisements. But what they don’t promise is that your feed won’t be clogged with pithy life-affirming quotes, desperate pleas to prove your friendship, numerous listed things of no relevance or importance, and fake news stories treated as truth. The lack of advertising sets Ello apart from Twitter and Facebook, but it’s no different in this respect to Instagram, Tumblr, Google Plus, and dozens of other social networking sites known only to those sixteen years of age or younger. The point being: we are not suffering for a lack of places where we can impart our interesting thoughts without having products hawked in the sidebar. We are suffering for a lack of interesting things to post, period.

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Here’s some food for thought: if you use Facebook and other social media sites, but don’t like the format, or the advertising, or the people that also post there, or anything besides your ability to burp up random complaints and musings to uninterested parties, then perhaps what you really don’t like are social media sites. The internet was not a device conceived so you could stalk your fifth-grade crush or so you can spout your uninformed opinions into the ether. You don’t “need” social media in order to use the internet effectively. So if Twitter and Co. is pissing you off, then maybe instead of building a better mousetrap you could divest yourself from these sites completely. Go ahead, give it a shot. Because these sites are only as good as the people that use them, and every person, to a one, sucks.

Be sure to follow Reggie on Twitter at @reggiereggie and on Facebook at! Irony!

Our Mothers, Our Whores

29 Sep

I was born a male. I have lived my entire life as a male, and barring something unexpected I expect to die a male. It is not a source of pride, really, but an incontrovertible and undeniable aspect of who I am. I am a male, my astrological sign is Leo, I wear a size 11-1/2 shoe. These are simply facts about who I am.

I considered myself an “Enlightened Man” long before I’d even hit puberty. Owing largely to a strong maternal figure and a liberal upbringing, along with generally being more bookish than rowdy, I had a cadre of platonic girl friends at an early age (which, incidentally, endeared me in no way to the boys at school.) I was raised to respect women, to assume their intellect as I would assume any man’s. And for a long time, I thought I did this–even admitting an opposite sort of prejudice where I expect more from women than men, because I think women are generally smarter and better at constructing logical arguments. And so I went in my smug little way, happily traipsing along, silently denouncing the cat-calls of blue-collar workers and frowning disapprovingly at my friends’ misogynistic comments. Whatever vitriol being heaped upon men by feminists certainly did not apply to me, because I was an Enlightened Man.

Recently it began to dawn on me that I may have been, to borrow a French phrase, full of shit. There has been lots of warranted feminist outrage on the internet lately, from GamerGate to the wrongful termination of Jennifer Williams, to the #YesAllWomen twitter campaign, it seems like women are using the digital platform to take a stand for themselves. My gut reaction was to largely ignore these controversies because I didn’t think I should get involved. Surely I’ve never denigrated a woman or made her feel uncomfortable. I’m one of the “good guys,” the fellows that compliment ladies on their clothing and ask women for relationship advice and only look at their boobs for a few seconds rather than entire minutes. I believed I was supporting the fight for feminism by not diluting it with my testosterone. And then I decided to go against common sense and check the comments section.

I was absolutely stunned by the aggressive, angry responses I saw to these current events. Venomous, hateful threats of violence and rape. Denouncing what women wrote as divisive libel, women being called stupid and fake and sluts. Claims that women should take their grievances to lawyers or the police–I suppose to the Men Are Being Mean To Me Department, headed by Sergeant Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head–instead of bringing these discrepancies to light. It made me ashamed to have been born a male, and that’s when it dawned on me that perhaps I have been an unwitting misogynist all my life.

I have never physically hurt or threatened a woman, I don’t think I’ve even yelled at women. But I’ve definitely dismissed women for being “hysterical” or “crazy” when they complained about inequities. I’ve certainly leered at women inappropriately–and thought I was somehow better because I did it quicker than some other men. I’ve told women I like their blouse or hairstyle, never thinking that maybe women in specific and people in general don’t feel like striking up casual conversations based around the fact that you’ve been scoping them out. At a young age, I was taught that if you like a girl, go ask her out; the worst she could do is say, “no.” I wasn’t taught to respect others’ privacy and not to open a relationship by asking someone to entreat partnership with a stranger. The discrepancies between my thought and deed piled up. I considered myself a swell guy for considering most men idiots while regarding most women as geniuses. It didn’t occur to me that I was actually giving guys a pass while rigorously subjecting women to my expectations.

As it turns out, I am a male, and I feel all of the entitlement that men feel towards women–that they should be grateful for my existence, that they should be buoyed by my attention, that somehow I was doing them a favor with my condescension. I even considered my non-involvement in Feminism as some kind of benevolent acquiescence to women. “You go girls!” I thought in self-satisfaction, “Tell those nasty men off!” Never thinking that I might be one of these “nasty men,” or even that my non-involvement was more evidence that I marginalized women and their silly feelings. It’s both a comforting and terrifying thing to learn that I can have profound realizations about myself this late in life. It’s nice to know I can still learn and grow, but about what else am I kidding myself?

I find I am the subject of a lifetime of conditioning, despite my Ms. Magazine mom, and that my lifetime is but a sliver of societal conditioning stretching back to the dawn of humanity. We all come to accept some things as simply true: sex sells. Women work hard to look pretty and should be regarded for it. If a woman wears certain clothing, she wants you to gawk. These aren’t concepts I arrived to through careful consideration but by observing the world around me and being trained by the same concepts that train everyone else. We are all in this together, men and women, all of us educated from womb to tomb that boys like farts and girls like flowers, and never the twain shall meet. And, if you don’t get my point by now, that’s absolute bullshit.

How will I proceed? Well, for one thing, I’m going to cut the crap. I can silently appreciate a blouse and roundly chastise my friends for misogynistic comments. I can attempt to regard women on their merits and not based on some condescending notion about their superiority. The problem isn’t that women aren’t running the world, it’s that women by and large aren’t running shit. That even well-respected women in positions of power can be called “emotional” for speaking their minds. And I might have counted myself among those who waved off women’s problems as “Woman Problems.” The one thing I know for sure is that women aren’t going to become equal by screaming into a vacuum that no man can hear. It will be up to us, menfolk of the world, to change our perception of women and how we treat them if we’re going to see true gender equality. If you believe in fairness and respecting others as you would want to be respected, then I don’t see how you could do any less. And if you don’t believe in fairness and think women should be seen and not heard, then go fuck yourself and throw yourself into the mouth of the nearest live volcano.

Here’s the Solitary Reason Marijuana Should Be Legalized

21 Aug

There’s been a lot in the news recently about decriminalizing the marijuana pots in the United States. The two sides of this issue seem particularly polarized: on one side, you’ve got folks clamoring that patients should have access to medical marijuana; that hemp (the boring form of marijuana) could be used to make paper and cloth while reducing our reliance on petroleum; that marijuana arrests are clogging our privately-owned prison system and forcing higher Federal subsidies to these institutions; that pot gets you high, which is a pretty nice feeling. And on the other side of the issue you’ve got people that hate fun. I mean, really, barring the conspiratorial forces that benefit financially from marijuana’s prohibition, I can’t understand why non-smokers should care. You might look down on someone that uses reefer, you might think potheads are kind of lame, but is that any reason to rail against this recreational activity? Dispense with television and smart phones if you’re so worried about citizens being vapid and unambitious, these contribute far more to people’s lameness than any gravity bong. Because the fact of the matter is that the utter nonsense my generation was force-fed under Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” programs turned out to be complete bullshit. Weed is not a gateway drug, potheads do not make effective criminals, and the worst thing to come from common marijuana use is painfully shitty music.

Medicinal reasons and the ability to purchase cheap Corona baja sweatshirts are swell reasons to legalize weed, though they don’t necessarily resonate with all people. To my mind, there is one reason that marijuana should be legalized that is shocking and compelling and should affect everyone. As detailed in the book El Narco: Inside Mexico’s Criminal Insurgency by Ioan Grillo, Mexico is currently in the grip of about three dangerous Mexican drug cartels, staffed with ex-military officers trained to combat Leftist rebels in Mexico and Central America, and the stuff they do is pretty fucked up. Really fucked up, actually. Like “beheading every male member in a town and leaving their heads in the center square as an example” fucked up. Like “kidnapping children and murdering bound people in the street with gunshots to the head” fucked up. Like “bloody public gun fights that result in a dozen or more casualties” fucked up. And the main thing that started these cartels up was shipping marijuana to America. I can’t help but smirk at the disconnect between your balding high school guidance counselor taking a bong rip while the weed he smoked left several orphans in our neighbors to the South.

And the thing that causes all of this death and bloodshed, which keeps a country in terror and causes immigrants to stream across our borders, is the U.S. policy against marijuana. We’ve helped the situation along for decades, actually, stretching back to when the U.S. military contracted with Mexico to supply opium for our war-wounded during World War II. And those ex-military drug lords that fought against the Sandinistas and Communist insurgents were actually trained by the CIA. Oh, and we gave them their guns and vehicles, too, including a substantial air force via a particularly botched-up deal with the DEA. Are you getting it now? The situation in Mexico is our fault. We caused it, and we perpetuate it by allowing these scumbags to stay in business because we don’t see fit to sell and tax weed our damn selves. This trumps every other reason, I believe, for legalizing marijuana. There will be other benefits, there will be many problems, but most of all we won’t be killing a nation and its culture because of some mixed-up policies that are at least partially-founded on misrepresentations and lies. Yes, legalizing pot in the U.S. will present new troubles, and it certainly won’t do anything to reduce America’s obesity epidemic, but at least we can say that we’re not blithely contributing to some of the most sickening atrocities in the world happening just adjacent to our own country. That shit really harshes my buzz.

Thank You, Crazy Idiot, for Dismantling the Patriarchy

27 May

A horrible thing happened last weekend: a kid named Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in California and killed six people, wounded several others. It was another in a growing list of homegrown atrocities being committed at an increasing rate here in America. It’s gotten so common, there’s a list of questions that instantly generate once we hear about another mass slaying: Was it at a school? Were there guns involved? Were the guns obtained legally? Each one of these tragedies forces us to look at ourselves and our neighbors differently, mixing suspicion and empathy in unequal amounts to arrive at the unsatisfying conclusion that we, as a society, have our priorities out of whack. Rodger’s rampage had another wrinkle, though. It was preceded by a creepy video manifesto.

We perceive this awful, misogynistic video as unusual because it is reasonably coherent. We don’t expect our spree killers and maniacs to be so well-spoken, looking so normal. One result of this video, as well as the release of other vitriolic, hateful stuff Rodger produced, is a nationwide discussion about how women are still regarded as little more than fuck objects by our patriarchal society. And it’s been a good discussion. It led to a twitter hashtag, #yesallwomen, where women (mainly) detailed the inequities and harassment they encounter every single day. It’s caused a lot of women to speak up about otherwise routine stuff they deal with on the street, with their families and at their careers that many of us men might take for granted. It’s exposed a pervasive belief that women somehow owe men sexual satisfaction, that by not reciprocating on advances they are being prudes, or bitches, or doing something incorrectly. If the result of Rodger’s assault is that the male-dominated infrastructure weakens and crumbles, if it effects a real change in gender inequities, then perhaps we can extract some good from this terrible event. There’s one aspect of the whole thing that doesn’t sit right with me, however: it’s another case of a severely disturbed man being held as evidence of a misogynistic society.

Please don’t get me wrong. We do live in a misogynistic society. There are severe improprieties and injustices perpetrated against women in the United States that need to be addressed. But it doesn’t seem fair that the staged ramblings of a severely disturbed individual should be used to evince this fact. Yes, the way Rodgers talks in his video is in line with the way many men think–many men believe they are entitled to female attention, for sure. But many men aren’t going to commit revenge murders over it. Indeed, most men might harbor lots of misogynistic thoughts while interacting with women in a pleasant and professional way. But we don’t persecute people for thoughts, we persecute them for their actions, and the actions of Rodgers, and his justification for them, do not mirror mine in any way. I am very willing to be schooled by women in the ways I might have been less than egalitarian in my dealings. I want women to speak up, I want to know about the invisible oppressions I and my fellow males perpetrate without realizing it. But I will be damned if I’m going to let myself be lumped in with some cruel asshole who’s romanticized his first-world struggle.

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I suppose the discussion is what’s important, less so the impetus. Like I’ve said, if every guy reading the #yesallwomen feed takes it upon himself to correct his behaviors, and admonish the improper behaviors of those around him, then it’s all been for good cause. It’s a sad truth that only the most outrageous, horrifying incidents galvanize people to speak up–be it about gun control, how we care for the mentally ill, misogyny, or whatever else is sticking in our craw. I merely wish it didn’t take a hyperbolic example of a young man’s anger to get people to discuss gender politics. Because I am a man, and I have certainly behaved less-than-great to many women in my life, both knowingly and unknowingly. I deserve to be called out on these instances, I want to be instructed in the passive misogyny I carry from the earliest days of being taught. But damn it, I won’t be compared to Elliot Rodger. That guy is fucking nuts.

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