Hourglass

I hate politics. Always have.

I’m opinionated to the gills, but there are some things I don’t discuss because I find the discussion fruitless. Not that a subject is only worth visiting if something will come of it. It’s just that I don’t bother with topics I find dull unless it’s going to affect some kind of change I deem significant or of personal value.

Politics never fall under that umbrella.

A lot is happening in the world. A lot is happening in my country. And it seems I’m expected to say something about it. I could argue that I said all I needed to say with my vote, though I suppose that’s too abstract.

I’m sure it can appear out of character that I haven’t gone into great detail about Trump being our president – especially in the wake of the travel ban. Truth is, I had nothing to say. For all the judgments I make, there are infinitely more I don’t. Some things, I let speak for themselves.

It’s like watching a friend who doesn’t know the first thing about skateboarding climb onto a high ramp with a steep angle, insisting that they’re going to skate down in a fiery blaze, launch themselves majestically from the ramp with the wind at their back, flip the board, and land safely on an overturned trash can twenty feet away.

It’s an accident waiting to happen.
So was the election.

The difference is that in the case of an election, we’re given the appearance of power over the outcome. We’re given the chance, by vote, to express not only our values, but our concerns in a way that supposedly has a tangible effect on the governance of our nation.

But I’ve always understood that you aren’t voting for an outcome. You’re voting for potential. People stand before you and tout what they’ll do, but what they say has no bearing on what’s actually going to happen and the choices they’re actually going to make.

So it’s a gamble. When we vote, we’re essentially placing a bet that the person we want to see in office will get there and do great things or, at the very least, be better for us than the alternatives. Hope is what we vote for. Nothing more.

On July 19th, 2016, I tweeted the following:

Why cringe at this election? Our culture is getting exactly what it’s allowed. Folks are just mad our general foolishness made it upstairs.

To be shocked by the fact that Trump was running for president, and gaining support in spite of the opinions he voiced or the way he conducted himself, was to be shocked that America is America. The election, for me, was a reflection of ourselves and our shortcomings.

Nothing shocks me about what our society has become or what it’s arguably always been in one form or another. Every country has its flaws and historical baggage. We’re no better or worse than anyone except in our potential to be better than we are.

We have so much knowledge. We’re privileged and prosper in ways that are out of reach for much of the globe. We have the benefit of worldly exposure and unmatched diversity, and the lessons that our freedoms teach us, as much by being given as by being taken away.

As a nation, we can and should know better – whatever better there is to know – yet we fail each other and ourselves again and again.

We divide ourselves over things that amount to dust in the vastness of the universe and the shortness of our lives in spite of that division yielding nothing productive or good. We’re weak when we need to be strong, giving in to prejudice, giving in to ego, giving in to stupor, hatred or spite.

We’re petty because we can be and we’re entertained by drama. We instigate shit out of boredom and are distasteful out of trendy habit.

We chase everything harder than we chase bettering ourselves on the inside – including looking better on the outside – because being a better person requires too much effort and doesn’t sow enough external rewards.

We talk about how shameful it is that XYZ is still a problem in [current year] without taking it to heart that our progressive ideas were hashed and rehashed by brilliant, divergent minds throughout history.

We ignore the fact that people were saying this shouldn’t be a problem today when “today” was a thousand years ago, and we’ve still yet to achieve peace.

I don’t care to attribute it to some divine plan. I’d rather say it’s for the simplest of reasons: Some people are just too shitty for peace to prevail.

There will always be a percentage of the population that’s happiest when others are miserable, there will always be those who put their wants above other people’s needs, and there will always be those who prefer the suffering of others over what they perceive to be the compromising of themselves or their values. It’s human nature.

(It just comes more naturally to some than others.)

The best we can ask for is that the good ones outnumber the shitty ones from time to time – and many Americans were devastated when Trump won because it felt like undeniable proof that the good ones are in the minority.

I don’t believe that.

In spite of being painfully aware of our shortfalls and guessing that Trump was going to win because of them, I still believe most Americans would let go of the crap that drives us apart if it meant a better life for themselves and their loved ones.

Things just haven’t gotten bad enough for them to concede. People are still comfortable enough to be dicks about race, religion, and the like. We’re lucky that way. And the rest don’t know how to make things better, so they’re grasping at straws.

Back to the accident waiting to happen, I said nothing because I considered the outcome inevitable. Whether I said my piece or not, people were going to vote for Trump – lots of them – and nothing I had to say about it would have been any different from the things already being said.

In short, I was over it before it started, but people still wanted to hear my thoughts, so I figured I’d give them now for the new year and be done with it…

A lot of Trump supporters felt that the people vilifying him were just melodramatic liberals too blinded by some politically correct agenda to recognize him as the most rational choice. And a lot of anti-Trumps felt his supporters were a bunch of dumb backwater bigots who praised his unethical ideology.

I didn’t fall on either side of that fence and it goes back to what I said about elections being a gamble. There’s no sure thing. No candidate is guaranteed to be a good president or bad.

And as much as people think that being well-versed in the positions put forth by each candidate makes them more suitable to vote than someone who knows very little about their stance or the acts they’ve committed in the past, an educated guess is still a guess.

So I could muddy the water with a bunch of political mumbo jumbo, but none of that is necessary or even relevant. When asked to place my faith in one person or another, I’m always going to bet on the one who puts humanity first – or, in this case, not pick the one who unapologetically sets it aside.

Regardless of their position on things like healthcare, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, business, and foreign policy, the president is going to be put in situations every day where difficult choices have to be made, and I care about how they’ll make them.

Even if I disagree with their decisions, I want to know that the human part of that equation wasn’t taken lightly or steeped in a fundamentally negative bias.

Someone of the character to care about human beings as a single unit will take that perspective into consideration with each choice and conflict they face. That’s far more important to me than trying to weigh promises candidates aren’t even obligated to keep.

Once we the people were on the table and the question of how laws and efforts would affect us required its due, I felt that Trump would lead with a self-serving prejudice and frame his decisions within the confines of that prejudice, creating a very narrow path for this country to walk. I felt he would lack the care and finesse of a thoughtful leader in favor of being impetuous.

Moreover, I felt he would act in accordance with the worst parts of his nature – the parts that many Americans shared quietly, yet emboldened in him – though without the characteristics of leadership required to temper it.

Long story short, I didn’t trust Trump as a person, so I damn sure didn’t vote for him as a president.

It’s that simple.

I know many boiled the election down to voting for an asshole who was at least honest about it versus voting for a liar, but I’m of the mindset that all leaders lie, whether to protect the people or themselves. So I can vote for a liar if need be because I suffer no delusion that an honest person has ever taken office or left it.

But I can’t vote for someone I want to slap every time he opens his mouth on principle because he acts against the good of the people in favor of the good of himself and his class.

At any rate, the fact remains that some people did vote for Trump, and I don’t hate them for it. Yes, some of them are dicks and used Trump’s campaign as a platform for their ignorance, but I think most of them were regular people who felt they were voting for change.

Just like those who voted for Obama.

I don’t care what anyone says. People didn’t vote for Obama because he was (half) black. Not directly. They voted for him because he was something other than what they had, and in that, they saw the potential for things to be different.

Change is a powerful temptress – one that many Americans felt compelled to court. Unfortunately, I think the change Trump supporters were hoping for may come at a price they hadn’t considered. Everything happening now is merely a glimpse at the fox they put in the hen house. There will be more.

But maybe that’s exactly what we needed. Seeing so many of his supporters recant, this may be their wake-up call, just as Trump’s win was a wake-up call for the naive who thought it could never have happened.

Maybe as things decline further and Trump voters become increasingly disillusioned, their regret for having played a part in putting him in office will prompt them to revisit their priorities.

Maybe they’ll reexamine themselves to figure out why on Earth they thought voting for someone generally presumed to be a greedy, racist, sexist, homophobic narcissist who cares only about the rich and powerful would make our country better.

And maybe their desire to make up for the vote they cast will encourage them to come together with fellow Americans in a way they haven’t before, working harder to undo what was done as a nation. To that end, looking back, on November 9th, I tweeted this:

Don’t let the outcome of this election be your defining moment. Accomplish as human beings what we may have failed to accomplish as voters.

And that’s where my opinion rests.

Trump may be our president, but he doesn’t have to be our voice. We still choose who we want to be as individuals and that’s what shapes who we are as a country. We can show each other and the world the America that we want to live in and be known for by pushing for something greater than numbers on a page.

Not to sound like the oracle on the hill, but be wary of things to come, because this climate has the potential to tear us apart from the inside out. This is how empires fall. Don’t sit back and watch it happen. Be better people. You, me, everyone.

Be better.
Not eventually.
Now.

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Fire & Ice

I realized today that I’ve never come across a “would you rather” I couldn’t answer. Either I’m very sure of myself or I’m so confident in not needing to be sure that I’m sure of whatever I choose. I think it’s the latter, but I’ll reflect on that alone while I tell you a boring story…

I was at the grocery getting food from the buffet and I mentioned to my friend that I’d rather be hot than cold any day of the week. Some guy, also getting food, turned to me and said, “It’s actually better to be cold. Think about it. When you’re hot, there’s only so much you can take off.”

A few things…

One, who are you?

Two, it was interesting that he immediately jumped to removing your clothes when there are plenty of ways to deal with heat, like turning on the air conditioner or using a fan. Having a cool drink, a cold shower, or a dip in the lake near the abandoned quarry where locals hear tell of strange noises coming from the stones.

Don’t get me wrong. We all wear less when it’s hot, and shedding is the only form of relief that doesn’t require additional resources, so I think he was right to go there first. His tone just made it sound like he walks down the street all whoooooa, it’s really hot! Better start stripping! But darn, my options are limited. That’s the trouble with heat, ya’ know! There’s only so much you can take off!

My thing about being cold – besides the fact that it’s fucking terrible – is that it takes much longer to get warm than it does to cool down. I haven’t stacked that statement up against fact in a scientific capacity, though. Only anecdotal, since it’s been my personal experience that it’s true and it’s what I’ve observed in others.

When I’m burning up and I step in front of an air conditioner or stick my head in a freezer, that sensation of being too hot goes away the second that wintry gust hits my skin and all the telltale signs of having been too hot – like sweating – immediately subside.

On the other hand, when I’m freezing and I step in front of a heater or fire, I feel its warmth, but it takes a while for me to stop shivering and chattering. And if any part of me has already succumbed to frostbite, the heat would do fuck all for it anyway. It could even make it worse.

Then there’s my opinion that a young, healthy person like myself is far likelier to die from hypothermia than heatstroke given the average temperatures I’d encounter in my environment and the fact that getting to help when you’re a fucking popsicle seems like it’d be more difficult than if your brains are on the verge of being scrambled.

I guess what I’m saying is that while neither extreme is desirable, generally speaking, being hot is awesome and anyone who’d rather be cold just because they can’t get any more naked than naked should eat their food and shut up.

Hand Job

I was on my way to the grocery this evening and as is my usual behavior when venturing out into the world, I took everything in. Beside me, a bulbous man guarded a fleet of misplaced carriages. Across the street, a 20-something waited for the bus, glued to his tech from finger to ear. And ahead was a couple sauntering towards me with groceries, their free hands joined together in holy matrimony.

I noted the swing of their arms. Most of the momentum was created by the woman, who was deeply engaged in whatever the hell she was talking about. The man stared straight ahead in silence with the kind of no-shit-giving expression I imagine a lot of men have several days before murdering their wives.

As they made their way past me, I had a thought:
Am I a hand-holder? Do I do that?

It wasn’t a literal question. Of course I’ve held hands – but am I someone who needs that? Do I attribute anything so significant to the act that if someone didn’t hold my hand, I’d be hurt? Does it make me feel closer to them or does it merely advertise our closeness to others?

I kept coming back to that question in between questions of equal importance – like do I want meatballs and does mac and cheese go with meatballs – and I’m not sure, but I do know I’m a toucher. When it comes to the person I’m dating, I’m like David in Prometheus. I’m touching shit all over the place.

And it isn’t the clingy kind of touching where you can’t be away from your lover for five minutes because you’re emotionally dependent upon their proximity. It’s the lustful kind where you adore them so much that you want to hump their face 24/7 and can’t, so you find other, more socially acceptable ways to make contact with them – like pinching their cheeks.

So I have countless memories of walking closely enough to press my arm against my other half or of me sitting beside them, stroking their chest. And I’ve definitely touched their hand. Rested mine against it. Clasped our fingers together. But I can’t recall ever reaching for someone’s hand to hold it.

I’m not saying it’s awkward or bad. I just wouldn’t initiate it. Not for a walk down the street. Jumping off a cliff into the river below? That may net your hand a grab. Exploring a rundown house that’s said to be haunted in the middle of nowhere? That won’t net you anything because you’d be doing that shit by yourself.

I ain’t lookin’ to get murderated!

So I guess I answered my own question. Am I a hand-holder? Nah. But I’m a wuvably huggable bear, and that’s what counts! That and meatballs, which, as it turns out, go very well with mac and cheese.

I don’t like compliments with strings attached. People who say something nice expecting anything more than a thank you in return. I have a friend who always compliments my looks. Not bragging. I’m happily average. But he does it constantly and the way he does it feels like a cue – like we’re actors on stage and he’s repeating his line, waiting for me to continue the scene because it’s my turn to speak.

Only I do speak.

I say thank you and it’s not enough.
Clearly, it’s not enough.

Because he keeps going and going. An Energizer Bunny of the mouth. Blah blah blah, cutie. You look good in that top, sexy. I know what he wants. He wants flirtation. He wants reciprocation. He wants me – but in the wise old words of En Vogue, he’s neva gonna get it.

Fan

I’ve always hated being a fan. Being called a fan. Calling myself a fan. I’ve always despised what that means, because what does it mean?

It’s easy enough to say that it’s a good thing to embrace being a fan of something or someone, because it opens you up to sharing in those interests with a community of like-minded people. Only they’re not like-minded. That’s the problem.

The assumption that people who like what you like are like you is wrong, but you get lumped in with them anyway, don’t you? Your individuality is absorbed by the essence of that group and what others make of it – how others perceive it. The world binds you to their thoughts and behaviors as if you’re a hive mind, not a like mind, and I hate that.

I value my uniqueness.

In a world full of people who’d rather be anyone but themselves, I cherish all the little bits and pieces that make me who I am – a person no person can ever be except me. And I cringe at anything that reduces my complex simplicity and simple complexities down to what music I like or which actors I follow.

I reject that box. Fuck that box.

So I don’t like being labeled a fan and have never been able to identify myself to others as a fan without recoiling, because it doesn’t feel right. Something is left behind. I can say I love that thing and I can talk about how much I love that thing, but I cannot say that I’m a fan.

Semantics, right?

But for a writer, semantics aren’t petty. That word means something, and I don’t like what it means. That’s just the way I am. And I don’t seek to change it nor do I have to defend it, but I do need to understand it. It’s important to know your own “why”.

So why does it bother me?

I was thinking about this one day when I was reading the comments on a YouTube video, which is rare (see; total eclipse). There was some kerfuffle in the comments that ended in one user saying to another that this particular YouTuber (Markiplier) said he’d never date a fan.

It brought me back to the question of what being a fan means, not only to the fans themselves, but to others – including the people they’re a fan of.

Social and romantic rules always rear their heads once people gain a bit of prominence on my side of the entertainment pond as well. Some actors say they’ll never date a fan. Some say they’ll never date a fellow actor. Some say they’ll never date another celebrity.

And they aren’t typically expected to qualify that preference. We just accept that they deem something about entering into a relationship with a person who falls under that umbrella to be problematic or less than ideal.

We can guess at the many reasons why a celebrity wouldn’t want to date someone in the same profession or with the same level of fame, but for now, let’s focus on fans, because that’s at the core of this post.

What does someone really mean when they say they’d never date a fan? If you took it at face value, it’d be the equivalent of saying I’d never date someone who likes me, and that obviously makes no sense. So there has to be more to it than that. There has to be something more to how this person defines a fan – what it means.

Nuance.

Moreover, it probably isn’t good if it’s enough to spur a blanket preference not to date one, and that blanket is at the root of what bugs me.

It isn’t the thought of losing myself to a numberless mass, becoming another face in a crowd so dense, you can scarcely make it out. And it isn’t the thought of who I am being summed up by what others seem to be by virtue of one shared interest.

It’s the thought of who I am being reduced to a negative. Worse, because of something I happen to love that there’s nothing wrong with loving. It’s the feeling that because I’m a fan of this thing, a wall is placed around me and assumptions are used to pin me down.

Looking back, I realize that what I thought was the case isn’t true. I don’t hate being called a fan. I hate being treated like one. And I can call myself a fan just fine if I don’t feel like it limits me or says something about me that isn’t me.

I guess what I hate most is the irony – how some things are only out of reach because you reached for them. Sometimes, it’s like you’re punished for liking the things that want you to like them, and the more you do, the more separation it creates.

Strange, isn’t it?

But what do I know. I’m just a fan of rambling.