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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.

The Curious Case of Prostitution in Grand Theft Auto

28 Feb

I was interested in playing Grand Theft Auto: Vice City because I’d heard so much about it. Phrases like “sandbox-style” and “the first truly open world” were bandied about by bloggers and reviewers, and I wanted to see what the hubbub was about. My girlfriend and I crossed the lobby of our building to visit our neighbors, friends with the correct hardware and newly-purchased software, for the express purpose of seeing and playing Vice City. That was my purpose, at least. I’m sure my girlfriend wanted to see the female counterpart of our neighborly hosts, to talk perfume and tampons and whatever else ladies converse about.
I was duly impressed by the video game. It was actually the second of the Grand Theft Auto series to feature point-of-view game play, but this was the first to make it look believable. It looked like Miami, sounded like the 1980s and felt like you were in Goodfellas. Game developers Rockstar Studios presented this slick, engaging world whose playability could be measured in tens of hours. Even my girlfriend was impressed, until she saw something in the game that horrified her: my neighbor showed us how you could actually have implied sex with a prostitute for money, then kill her immediately afterward to reclaim your payment. That was it for my girlfriend, she had seen enough. She insisted the game be turned off and we departed shortly after so she could go home and simmer.

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Over the years since, I’ve seen this specific aspect–that one can employ and murder hookers in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise–come up again and again. Very recently, I saw it referenced on a repeat episode of The Big Bang Theory. It’s obviously a sticking point with many people, something fundamentally revolting that supersedes the more average revulsion reserved for prostitution or murder alone. It is true, you can hump and then slay prostitutes in the Grand Theft Auto series. You can also kill business people, students, and scores upon scores of police officers, FBI agents, and the military. The carnage eventually becomes so absurd that it would be a feat to avoid killing prostitutes, peppered as they are between explosions and streams of automatic weapon fire. In fact, you don’t actually recoup your losses by killing prostitutes after services–a point I laughingly tried to impress upon my girlfriend in the Vice City days: when you kill hookers, they cough up a randomized amount of money like any violently deceased citizen, so that you might actually earn less than you tendered all told. Of course, this point of video game coding was lost on her.

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There’s very little in the Grand Theft Auto series that isn’t calculated to offend your sensibilities. You can gun down an old woman pleading for mercy. You can lay waste to throngs. Still, there’s something about killing a hooker you’ve just poked that rankles more than blowing a police helicopter out of the sky with a guided rocket launcher. I think there’s an element of misogyny implied in the act that heightens indignation. This collection of colored and textured polygons meant to resemble a prostitute is just trying to ply her virtual trade. She’s got enough pain in her life, theoretically, without having to be murdered by a video game sprite. Hookers are fairly marginalized in mainstream society, that’s why many serial killers test their skills on a half a dozen of them before moving on to blond women and closeted homosexuals. And a 128-bit murder is still murder, I suppose.

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But isn’t it fantasy, a “thought crime” at best? If someone thinks about having sex with hookers and then offing them, but never actually does it, has a crime really been committed? This is sort of topical now, as the “Cannibal Cop” court case begins in New York. The case involves, in short, a NYPD officer chatting online with like-minded deviants about wanting to capture and cook women. There are transcripts of him discussing how to prepare his wife, how to bind and properly subdue her, as well as boasting by another party about the women he’s eaten. But no ropes, no chloroform was found. The officer talks about a house upstate with an oven suitable for cooking people, but no such place seems to exist. So it seems like this officer was talking a lot of shit, but the nature of his shit-talking is, itself, a crime. Using this logic, anyone who has written or produced a horror film is subject for arraignment.

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Similar questions are raised in the haunting HBO documentary Capturing the Friedmans. If we can be arrested for the things about which we’ve fantasized, then I’m set for death row. And I won’t be lonely, because I know that many of my male peers have considered scenarios so offensive that they’ve disgusted themselves. Perhaps it’s women, to an extent, that do not consider these dark fantasy scenarios, and it’s too bad really because you could be imagining breaking my balls for some video game infraction instead of MAKING MY ACTUAL LIFE A GODDAMNED LIVING HELL FOR THE LAST HOWEVER MANY YEARS FOR FUCK’S SAKE! I need to blow off some steam now. Time to kill a virtual hooker.

These Are the Crazies in Your Neighborhood

17 Dec

Back in my old neighborhood, there was a guy who lived in a private junkyard right next to an industrial launderer a few blocks from my house. He put together a makeshift shelter out of the body of an old Volkswagen Beetle and some dirty blue tarps. No one would have known he was there except that he had to make regular forays into the non-junkyard world to buy himself forty ounce bottles of Budweiser beer. Pass by the junkyard around ten o’clock in the morning, you’d hear the clanging of shifted metal as this guy hauled himself out of a scrap heap to panhandle. Pass by again around three in the afternoon, you might catch him shuffling back home through a hole in the fence, hauling a grocery bag laden with brown bottles of beer. I considered him a whacked-out wino, part of the natural scenery. He was only one of maybe two dozen drunken adults wandering thoroughfares from Main Street to Utopia Parkway in Flushing, Queens. You’d see them with their Army-issued field jackets and free t-shirts from various cigarette promotions, begging for change and openly drinking right next to the very bodegas that sold the brew.


And it wasn’t just my neighborhood, but every neighborhood I visited growing up. Times Square was littered with as many as a hundred stumbling, disheveled people, often sleeping openly right on the sidewalks. Friends’ suburban neighborhoods in Long Island each had their special crazies, often lurking around the local strip mall or panhandling at highway exit ramps. I called them bums, I called them drunks. I called them winos and homeless people and crazies. I paid them no more mind than a lamp post or a mailbox, these people were everywhere and I took it for granted that this is what society looks like. Where did they come from? How did they end up living in a small junkyard in Flushing? These were the kinds of questions I never asked. They may as well have been birthed right there in the gutter, weaned on cheap beer and raised by greasy rats.


Things are no better today. The homeless Vietnam Vets of my era have largely died off, to be replaced by homeless veterans from more recent conflicts. You’ve got junkies and schizos and people having loud conversations with antagonists visible only to them. There’s a guy who sits outside of my office and beats a stick against the bottom of a soup pot for hours at a time. You get used to them, let loose a little change here and there, but for the most part you blow by these people, since to stop and help everyone in need seems an insurmountable task. You might feel sympathetic, you might feel annoyed, but one thing people rarely think is that these people might be dangerous. What danger could a malnourished looney pose to a well-fed guy that’s got all his marbles? So we allow ourselves to become complacent.


Part of this complacency is borne, I think, of despair. What should we do for the mentally infirm? What can we do? We can lock them up and pump them full of Thorazine until their medical insurance runs out, then they’re back out in the wild. There are no miracle cures, no way to reason with someone who is perpetually hallucinating. We can intervene on our obsessive friends and family, we can commit our suicidal children, but there’s not a lot of help forthcoming for the strange dude lurking on the street. It’s assumed that there’s some dreary procedure in place to handle these outlying integers of society, but the fact is that there’s nothing satisfactory. Prisons end up picking up as much mental health slack as they can, and then only after someone has been convicted of a crime. Very often, that’s too late.


We live in a time that we can mitigate our anxieties with medication and indulge our narcissism in a therapist’s office. Many of us seem to accept the fact that modern life will drive you at least a little crazy. But why does this have to be the norm? Isn’t a society that drives you insane a failed society? And what about those without health insurance, do we accept them as regrettable casualties in the war to figure out what the hell we want to do with ourselves? Sadly, I have no answers, only more and more questions. Because the truth of the matter is that we’ve always had crazy people, and we’ve never known quite what to do with them. Maybe we should privatize mental health hospitals, make a business out of incarcerating the insane. But then I’d worry that I might ultimately be given a rubber room right next to yours.

This is My Gun

29 Nov

Gun. It’s kind of a weird word, isn’t it? Gun. When you say it over and over, it starts to sound funny. It doesn’t seem like a word that would describe an efficient killing machine, it sounds more like the viscous by-product of rendering fat or the froth from using paint stripper or something. We shouldn’t call them “guns,” we should call them “bullet propulsion machines.” Maybe then folks will think they’re too complicated for the average person to comprehend, sort of like how the economy functions. What causes inflation? Fuck if I know. Leave that to the eggheads in Washington, I’ll be polishing my gun.

I don’t actually own a gun, have never thought about owning one. I’ve shot a few guns in controlled environments, it’s reasonably thrilling. I guess the pleasure is in having the power to instantly eradicate something from far away. One thing I’ve frequently done in the past is to defend America’s Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights–the Right to Bear Arms. I’ve done this vehemently, almost instinctively, gotten into protracted arguments on the internet and in person over the issue. I think I see myself as a Northeastern liberal who breaks all the rules by advocating for social services AND the right to own firearms. “I don’t own a gun…[pause for effect]…but I SUPPORT THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS!!!” Dun dun dunn! Overseas peaceniks are mortified into stunned silence, several redneck stereotypes swoon and reconsider their preconceived notions of lily-livered yankees. That’s right, I went there. Didn’t think a guy with glasses could be moderate on the topic of gun control, did you? I upset a status quo that exists solely in my mind and nowhere else.


You really have to think about the Second Amendment and what it implies. We can guess why it was instated: the Americans had just successfully completed a bloody war with the aid of guns and figured they’d do the handy devices a solid. “Thanks, guns, for helping us defeat the British. Tell you what: we’ll mention you favorably in a document. Sound good?” As part of a letter which would be sent to the King of England, the Second Amendment makes sense. It essentially suggests that Americans are strapped, so the British had better think twice before sailing their pasty butts across the Atlantic. Which, incidentally, didn’t work since we fought them again during the War of 1812. But the point is that the Second Amendment was meant to appear menacing, whether or not it was actually effective. One might say that this scrappy, upstart country had an axe to grind.


But what the Second Amendment implies is way scarier than what it attempts. If it is our right to bear arms, that suggests that there’s a reason to bear arms–that the only thing that can really protect us from attack is a bullet. And if you’ve got a gun to protect yourself, I’ve got to get one, or I’m just a target. Let me tell you, that’s a really scary and paranoid way to live. It sort of colors one’s perception of everything, as an “us vs. them” scenario, where you are either a gun-wielding, valorous defender of your family and property, or so much chattel to be forced around by a uniformed gestapo, under the thumb of a stockpiled junta. It sort of brainwashes us, gives us an implicit understanding that it’s all fun and games until the guns pop out, then it’s you or me. This country was founded with guns, won with guns, its very nature and topography formed by guns. All the fancy talking in the world can’t defend itself against a forty-five caliber bullet.


It’s worth mentioning, though, that if the only guns available were .38 Specials and Winchester Rifles, we wouldn’t be having such gun control discussions. The main problem isn’t that some kid found his dad’s Derringer and fired off a few wayward bullets. The issue is that people are picking up military grade automatic weapons and blowing away crowds. Many gun collectors don’t have a bunch of old Colts under a glass case, but racks and racks of automatic and semi-automatic rifles, with night vision sniper scopes and extended magazines so they can pump more hollow-tip bullets into someone’s face. This shit is really scary. If you’re an enthusiast with a handful of shotguns and rifles for hunting and skeet shooting, I suppose that’s one thing. But if you’ve got a collection so large that you need to dedicate a “gun room,” then you don’t live in a house. What you live in is an armory.


It’s amazing how we are affected by our contextual environments. I’ve sort of lived my whole life just accepting the Second Amendment as uniquely good and fair and worth preserving, without even considering that what I was promoting was conversely related to my personality. I am scared shitless of guns, whether I’m sitting near a cop’s holstered Glock 9mm on the subway, or watching some military guy march around Penn Station with his index finger extended along the trigger guard of an automatic rifle–even while holding a twenty-gauge shotgun myself, firing at rolling and launching clays with some good friends, I can’t get the fact that this is a device for instantaneous killing out of my head. If I had time-traveling super powers, I’d make sure that guns never existed. But since guns don’t kill people, people kill people, perhaps I’d have an easier time making sure that homo sapiens never evolved in the first place.

The Forgotten Assassinations

13 Apr

For those of us Americans that did not pay close attention in junior high school Social Studies class–me, for example–many of our nineteenth-century presidents kind of run together in a pudgy, high-collared blur. We all know Abraham Lincoln, we know about Andrew Jackson and Ulysses S. Grant and anyone else featured on our money, but the remaining guys are often considered as an aristocratic whole, a bunch of faceless members from the Monopoly man’s extended family. You don’t often hear people praising Franklin Pierce, or Rutherford Hayes, or even Andrew Johnson–vice president to Abe Lincoln, for crying out loud. But no grade school student ever has to make a construction paper report about him. What could they say? “Andrew Johnson was the sucker tasked with filling a vacancy left by the revered and beloved Abraham Lincoln, and did a piss-poor job of it.” I’d give the kid an A.

So it is with James A. Garfield, our twentieth president, and William McKinley, our twenty-fifth president, about whom I once knew exactly this:

James A. Garfield was a bearded president who was shot by some schizophrenic guy and died in office.

William McKinley was assassinated by an anarchist, leaving Vice President Teddy Roosevelt in charge.


For some reason, I was glad to leave it at that. There exist, and I have read, dozens of books about the presidencies and assassinations of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy. These two and their fatal termini have been analyzed and dissected by scholars and armchair historians, archivists and conspiracy theorists from all over the world. And yet, the lives and deaths of James Garfield and William McKinley seem to be regarded as minor events in America’s history. After reading a couple of books about these guys, I have to wonder why. What strikes me is not how unique or different they were, but how eerily similar their presidential terms and circumstances seemed next to the more popular presidents who met violent ends while in office.


In Garfield’s case, perhaps it isn’t because he met his end at a handgun’s report, but because he died on a sweat- and pus-soaked mattress, months after being shot. Technically speaking, it was not the bullet fired from madman Charles Guiteau’s gun that killed him, but sepsis. Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President by Candice Millard does a fantastic job dovetailing the lives of Guiteau, Garfield, his attending surgeon Dr. Willard Bliss and even inventor Alexander Graham Bell into an enjoyable narrative set against one of my favorite periods: America after the Civil War. Echoing the assassination of JFK, Charles Guiteau was a lone gunman, also off his rocker in having the erroneous, unfounded belief that he was a political insider owed something from Garfield. He plugged the president in the middle of the day in plain sight at a train station, but that would be a pleasant beginning compared to the rest Garfield’s ordeal. His convalescence dragged on for months as doctor after doctor stuck their grubby fingers in his bullet wound, at a time when washing your hands seemed a spurious luxury though everything was covered in a fine layer of horse manure. I couldn’t help but draw a parallel between Garfield’s literally being prodded with the metaphorical prodding of Lincoln and JFK, albeit postmortem. Garfield, like JFK and Lincoln, was also a reformer, his intention was to reform the Republican party from patronage to a system based on merit. Seems like a small cause in today’s times, but remember that he was challenging the status quo during Reconstruction against rival U.S. Grant, hero of the Civil War (except to the South.)


The President and the Assassin: McKinley, Terror, and Empire at the Dawn of the American Century by Scott Miller is a very different book than Destiny of the Republic, yet many of the same uncanny similarities between Lincoln, Garfield, and Kennedy persist. McKinley was president at a time of robber barons and magnates, of Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, when the disparity between the wealthy and the working poor was tremendously palpable. Men, women and children worked ten hour days, six days a week, under stifling, dangerous conditions for twenty-five cents every pay day. Meanwhile, McKinley’s policies favored unrestricted trade and further boons for business owners. Enter Leon Czogolz, another lonely man, entranced by a budding anarchist movement heralded largely by Emma Goldman. After hearing one of her stirring lectures, Czogolz determines to make a spectacle by killing McKinley, though his connection to anarchism and, indeed, the working class is tenuous at best. Unlike Garfield, McKinley expires within ten days of being shot. The President and the Assassin is an engaging book, but it provides a bit too much detail about McKinley’s rise to power for those who actually only wanted to read about the president and his assassin. Additionally, it jumps backwards and forwards in time which can be a little confusing. It’s all important stuff, however, to describe the conditions that eventually allowed Czogolz to get within range of McKinley and shoot him.


We see the same occurrences, again and again: a lone gunman of dubious sanity shoots a president calling for political and social reform. This leaves a vacuum that is filled to moderate capability by the vice president, sometimes bettering the legacy of his predecessor. If anything, the four presidential assassinations–two remembered, two forgotten–teach us that we should pick our presidential candidates based not only on their integrity, but on the integrity of their potential posthumous successors. No one likes to think about it, but the availability and easy use of guns can change our political fortunes overnight. Imagine if George H.W. Bush had been assassinated in office and Dan Quayle became president! Only a few synaptic misfires and a functioning trigger finger separated that thought from reality.

Dear Mr. President: Leave Me the Hell Alone

10 Feb

It’s amazing to think that not but two-hundred years ago, many Americans didn’t know what their president looked like. Most likely they never got to hear him speak, would never see him in action campaigning for their votes or delivering addresses. Those living in or near the largest urban centers might have had access to a tabloid newspaper, wherein they could see a line drawing of the president. A few thousand lucky people nationwide might see the presidential hopeful’s East Coast campaign speeches and ceremonies. The vast majority of American citizens would never see the man’s actual face, never witness his mannerisms or gauge his idiosyncrasies. It seems strange to us, in this day and age, when a person is elected to office based mainly around how he presents himself, and not his ideas, to the public. It’s especially strange in 2012, when I, personally, receive upwards of five fucking e-mails a day from President Barack Obama and members of his family or the people he works with.


I’ve heard of needy, but this is ridiculous. President Obama is worse than some jilted girlfriends I’ve known. And it’s not just structured e-mails outlining his strategies and plans, but quick messages just to let me know that he’s thinking of me. “I’m about to stand before Congress and act like they’re not a bunch of fuckwits while asking them to pass some legislation without tacking a bunch of anti-abortion bullshit to it, and I’d like to thank you for your continuing support.” I know you’ve probably got some pre-podium jitters, Obama, but give me a break. There’s nothing more pathetic than someone constantly seeking your approval and praise. How about this, Barack: go get ’em, champ! I believe in you. It gets increasingly difficult to believe in you when you’re constantly looking for me to pat you on the back every time you sign your name. How would you like it if I messaged the Oval Office every time I turned down a slice of cake or some fattening food? Which never actually happens, but hypothetically. Just sayin’.


And it’s not just the president, but his wife Michelle, his vice president Joe Biden, and the fucking Vice President’s wife Jill. Who’s next, the Obama family dog? Plus there are the endless e-mails from Obama’s campaign staff and cabinet that reiterate the same shit Obama writes about in the first place. That’s how you know they’re sending these behind his back, probably because they don’t want Barack to think that their faith in him is assailable. “Hey, this is Jim Messina, one of Obama’s political staffers. I’d just like to say that I think you’re great for supporting the old bean. Don’t tell him I wrote you, okay? He’d be so pissed off if he knew.” Meanwhile I’ve got half a dozen e-mails from Obama in my e-mail in-box that are the conversational equivalent of “whatcha thinkin’?” I’ll tell you what, if you want to know if I like Obama or “like” like Obama, then why don’t you pass me a note in study hall and see if I’ll go to the homecoming dance with him? Because if you keep sending me more e-mails than amazon.com, I’m definitely not going to like Obama “in that way.”


I think the final straw came a few months ago when there was some kind of contest where the prize was dinner with the president and his wife. It all started innocuously as a couple of e-mails detailing the requisites for this contest, but then the missives became more and more desperate. E-mails from Michelle Obama asking me what I planned on wearing to the dinner and what kinds of questions I had to ask her husband. E-mails from Barack thanking me for my interest and telling me how much he looked forward to dinner with me and a guest of my choosing. Buddy, I didn’t even respond to your fucking invite in the first place. Take a hint for crying out loud. Harassing me about what I’m going to wear and whether I’m allergic to shellfish isn’t going to make me want to come to dinner. I’ll tell you what, Mr. President: let’s limit the e-mails to twice a year, once on Christmas and once on my birthday. We can catch up, trade stories, shoot the shit, and part as friends. Because at the rate you’re going now, I think I might have to get a restraining order against you and your White House staff.

Could It Be…Satan?!

14 Nov

My brother was a big fan of Dungeons & Dragons, but I never got into the stuff. Truthfully, I was a few years too young for it even in 1985, when the craze for role-playing games was dying out. The whole thing seemed too complicated to me, a lot of charts and weird-looking dice, and I was never into the fantasy genre. Still, you couldn’t get away from Dungeons & Dragons and a few other similar games in the early 80s. Their popularity seemed to grow alongside the mounting hysteria surrounding these games’ connection to teenage depression and the occult. My brother often quoted a most likely false tale about a kid who was so obsessed with Dungeons & Dragons that when his character died while playing the game, the guy went home and committed suicide. My brother would grin with glee while telling this story, proud to be dabbling in something so dangerous and wicked.


I wasn’t raised a Christian, so I wasn’t told that God is an all-seeing, all-knowing vain asshole who requires my persistent patronage and adoration. But I did know that Satan was a force of evil, I was made aware of this by news reports of satanic ritual abuse and talk shows about satanic cults and pamphlets and magazine articles and movies all telling me that Satan was looking to steal my soul. Strangely, it never occurred to me that Satan was in an eternal struggle with God, I thought it was us versus Satan; either we let the devil make us bad people, or we decide to be good. The punishment for siding with Satan would be eternal damnation and torture, but the reward for being good would simply be death. Mind you, this is something I determined when I was nine years old. I can only imagine what kinds of berserk shit I’d have been thinking had I been raised a Catholic like my friends and specifically told what tortures lie in store for me should I ponder upon a bosom.


The fear generated by the belief in a worldwide Satanic conspiracy during that time was unbelievable. Satan was everywhere: in our music, in our television shows, in our board games. He preyed mainly on standoffish adolescents and cooing infants, though he wasn’t above the occasional demonic possession of a retiree. Stories about massive cult blood orgies and ritual sacrifice of kidnapped children began popping up, each instance awakening the repressed memories of former members or victims of these cults, their flashbacks recorded while under deep hypnosis on a therapist’s couch. These satanic organizations comprised a highly organized network of devoutly evil people who had infiltrated every town, every suburb, every neighborhood. The most insidious thing about it was that anyone could be a secret satanist: your teacher, the bus driver, even members of your very own church could be paying lip service to God while shitting on a crucifix in their spare time. The main concern were those targeted by the prince of darkness: children. And so a lot of corny shit was justified to insulate the average child from inducement into evil by way of Black Sabbath records and fantasy board games.


No one considers themselves a bad person. We always do what we think is right, which pretty much justifies any act. The guy killing prostitutes at the suggestion of the voices in his head is only doing what he thinks is right. It’s a lot more palatable to believe that the fucked up stuff we do to one another is beyond our control, all manipulated by hoary forces and complex machinations that work incessantly to foster your poor choices. Demon bullies, essentially, or comic book super villains that are committed to evil for evil’s sake. Growing up, my Christian pals told me that God had given all of us free will, which boiled down to the freedom to choose between believing in Christ the messiah or eternal hell fires. This struck me as odd since it implies that our natural state is to be bad, that we have to work to get into God’s graces or we can relax and act naturally for a free trip to Hades. I figured that after all this time, that many billions of souls condemned to hell had to have figured out a loophole. I mean if there’s anything the human race excels at, it’s justifying and even reveling in its own laziness.


The notion that evil forces are invested in making our comings and going as nefarious as possible is a scary one, but far scarier is the reality that there are no evil forces, that we hurt our loved ones and fall short of our potential because we are selfish, and small-minded, and hopelessly locked within our own skin. There is most likely no final reward, no waiting punishment, no foundation to the ideas of karma or cosmic balance or divine retribution. We’re a component of a universal design so complex so as to render us practically irrelevant, and whatever little squabbles we have with each other, no matter if we kiss or kill each other, our most important function is to exchange carbon dioxide for oxygen. Our lives are not significant enough to warrant speculation by demons and devils. Our best hope is that, along the way, we’ll get to roll the twenty-sided die a few times and end up with an extra bit of treasure or a Cloak of Wisdom or something.

I’d Just Like to Buy a Bottle of Asprin Without the Child Safety Cap

10 Oct

I don’t normally use this blog as a place to discuss politics, for two reasons: one, politics are boring. I mean, have you ever watched C-Span? It’s worse than waiting on line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. If I wanted to watch long-winded, poorly-attended lectures, I’d enroll in Virginia Tech. The other reason I don’t normally discuss politics is that I haven’t read a newspaper or watched the news since 1986, when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. If you’re going to bum me out with depressing stories, journalistic media, then I’m simply not going to lend my support. So there. Maybe you can cheer things up like Awake! and I’ll read your fish wrap again.

But this time, there’s an issue that I think is so important that it needs writing about. It concerns the President of the United States, Barack Obama, whose approval rating has slipped many digits over the last year. I know it may come as a shock to some people, but I can understand why. People are sick of Obama’s agenda, they don’t want to support his kowtowing to special interest groups anymore. And I’m right in line with them, in fact I didn’t support Obama from day one. But it didn’t have to do with his politics, or his rhetoric, or even his public speaking ability. No, I discounted Obama as a reliable, justified person who would serve my interests almost immediately upon seeing him. It wasn’t because of what he said or did, but because of who he is.

Obama is one of them.

One of those people with families.


Now I was raised to live and let live, let bygones be bygones, and always turn the other cheek. I certainly don’t hold it against someone simply because they have a family. Sure, I might not want them to eat at the same restaurant as me, I might not appreciate them moving next door, but it is anyone’s right to have a family, and if you decide to do so then that’s your business. The problem comes when you see someone with a family in a position of power, like Mr. Barack Obama. Then I have to wonder: will he legislate on what he thinks is best for America, or for his family? If it came down to saving the country’s economy or seeing his daughter’s ballet recital, would he choose the former despite the fact that his kid would probably tell him “I hate you and I wish you were dead” if he missed her performance? The issue here is that I don’t know. I’d like to think he’d do the right thing and serve the greater good, but I don’t know. Stronger men than he have caved at the tears of a cute little girl.


I know what you’re saying. “Don’t judge Obama! It’s not his fault that he’s got a family!” That’s baloney. Having a family is a choice, not a genetic predisposition. No one forces you to birth and raise a child, that’s your decision. “But Reggie,” you say, “we’re inclined to propagate our species through reproduction!” Nonsense. How crowded do things have to get before you decide that adding another snot rocket to the mix wouldn’t be a good idea? Or did you think your genes were special and needed to be passed on to future generations? All you’re doing is clogging our future space colonies and Soylent Green farms. Keep it in your pants, ladies and gentlemen. You, too can prevent premature human extinction.


I know Barack Obama isn’t the first person with a family to hold the office of President, but it seems like today every bit of legislation has to take into account American families and ensuring that our children receive no Bad News or have any Bad Experiences. And I, for one, am sick of it. There are eighty-six million unmarried people in America, and I have to assume that the majority of those over the age of twenty do not have children. So where is our fair shake? I’d like to see laws that allow curse words on network television, I’d like to see a tax break given to single people since we don’t give a flying fuck about your stupid child’s education. You know what was the most important piece of education I ever received? Finding a moldy copy of Screw magazine in the gutter when I was ten years old. That smutty rag taught me more about life and the human condition than the years I spent deriding Peace Corps volunteers. So don’t tell me I contribute nothing to society. At the very least, I’ll never spit up on you or disturb your movie-going experiences.

Confessions of a Teenage Idiot: The Blog that Links to Another Blog

19 Sep

Many apologies to my multitude for the recent lack of updates, rest assured that our technicians are aware of the issue and are working to remedy it as you read this. In the meantime, point your thingamabobs over to syffal.com and read my guest blog, Confessions of a Teenage Idiot, wherein I detail how fucking cool I was before I had fully developed secondary sex characteristics. While you’re there, poke around the website a bit and see if you can’t make it ooze pus.

Best,
Reggie

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