Sep 05 2017

Fire Walk With Me

Published by under Twin Peaks

“I’ve told my tale all the away to the end, and am satisfied. It was (I set my watch and warrant on it) the kind only a good God would save for last, full of monsters and marvels and voyaging here and there. I can stop now, put my pen down and rest my weary hand (although perhaps not forever; the hand that tells the tales has a mind of its own, and a way of growing restless). I can close my eyes to Mid-Word and all that lies beyond Mid-World. Yet some of you who have provided the ears without which no tale can survive a single day are likely not so willing. You are the grim, goal-oriented ones who will not believe that the joy is in the journey rather than the destination no matter how many times it has been proven to you. You are the unfortunate ones who still get lovemaking all confused with the paltry squirt that comes to end lovemaking (the orgasm is, after all, God’s way of telling we’ve finished, at least for the time being, and should go to sleep). You are the cruel ones who deny the Grey Havens, where tired characters go to rest. You say you want to know how it all comes out. You say you want to follow Roland into the Tower; you say that is what you paid your money for, the show you came to see.

“I hope most of you know better. Want better. I hope you came to hear the tale, and not just munch your way through the pages to the ending. For an ending, you only have to turn to the last page and see what is there writ upon. But endings are heartless. An ending is a closed door no man (or Manni) can open. I’ve written many, but most only for the same reason that I pull on my pants in the morning before leaving the bedroom – because it is the custom of the country.

“And so, my dear Constant Reader, I tell you this. You can stop here. You can let your last memory be of seeing Eddie, Susannah, and Jake in Central Park, together again for the first time, listening to the children’s choir sing ‘What Child Is This.’ You can be content in the knowledge that sooner or later Oy (probably a canine version with a long neck, odd gold-ringed eyes, and a bark that sometimes sounds eerily like speech) will also enter the picture. That’s a pretty picture, isn’t it? I think so. And pretty close to happily ever after, too. Close enough for government work, as Eddie would say.

“Should you go on, you will surely be disappointed, perhaps even heartbroken. I have one key left on my belt, but all it opens is that final door…

What’s behind it won’t improve your love-life, grow hair on your bald spot, or add five years to your natural span (not even five minutes). There is no such thing as a happy ending. I never met a single one to equal ‘Once upon a time.’

“Endings are heartless.

“Ending is just another word for goodbye.”

-Stephen King, THE DARK TOWER, Book VII.

Just so you know, I’m going to spoil the fuck out of a lot of things here.

My odyssey with Twin Peaks began at the beginning.

I’d been a fan of David Lynch since I saw The Elephant Man. I’d liked his adaptation of Dune, even though it is not without problems. Visually, it has a lot to offer, and I still think it helps to have read the books. Blue Velvet, however, was my first introduction to the horror that he could bring to the surface. And, of course, there was Eraserhead (which I love very dearly).

Hearing that David Lynch was going to be making a foray into television scared me. “This could either be great, or it could suck.”

Thankfully, it was great. Insert all of the clichés here: “It changed everything! It wasn’t like anything else on TV!” etc. etc. All of the statements we’ve heard over the last quarter century in regards to how much of a game changer it was are true.

(and, I expect, we’ll be saying it for the next quarter century, as well).

Re-watching the original series and the film Fire Walk With Me with my wife (even as we’d already begun The Return), I was amazed at how well the show stood the tests of time (some of Donna Hayward’s fashion choices notwithstanding). I was also amazed at how dark the show was, and how none of the brutality surrounding the deaths of Laura Palmer or Maddie Ferguson, and the near death of Ronette Pulaski had lost its forcefulness.

But the thing that always stuck with me was the end of the series.

How had Dale Cooper failed?  How did this happen:

Deputy Hawk described the Black Lodge as follows:

if you confront the Black Lodge with imperfect courage, it will utterly annihilate your soul.

And this is how we wound up with a BOB-infested Doppelgänger Cooper.

At 2:28, Cooper’s courage falters.

He tries to recover it, but he never really does. His downfall is inevitable.

Dale Cooper failed. Remember this.  I’ll get back to it. It’s not a value judgment – I love Cooper as much as anyone – but if we look at it realistically, Cooper’s courage was imperfect. The Lodge and its inhabitants (real or imagined) got under his skin.

At one point in the original show, we were told “I’ll see you again in 25 years.” After the show was cancelled, some of us jokingly hoped that we might return, but I don’t know that I, at least, actually expected it.

And here, slightly more than 25 years later, we find ourselves again.

Not to be “hipper than thou” about this, but I believe one has to be at least a Gen X’er (or older) to fully appreciate what it means to return to this show after a quarter century. Some critics have remarked that our memories of the show are an almost warm nostalgia, framed in our heads at VHS resolution, soft around the edges. Fans seem to divide among those who want cherry pie and coffee, and those who want to understand the workings of the Black Lodge (honestly, one of the most unique cosmologies since Lovecraft, in my opinion).

We grew up with Laura Palmer, James Hurley, Bobby Briggs, Mike Nelson, Audrey Horne, Donna Hayward, Maddie Ferguson, and Shelley Johnson. Big Ed Hurley and Nadine, Dr. Jacoby, Major and Betty Briggs, Leland and Sarah Palmer, Norma Jennings, Harry Truman, Andy, Lucy, Hawk, Margaret Lanterman, Ben and Jerry Horne, Pete and Catherine Martell were our parents, our neighbors, our aunts and uncles. If some of these characters were a little outlandish at times, it made them that much more realistic. If the situations weren’t like anything we’d ever been in, they were that much more realistic because they were contextualized by realistic situations (murder, incest, skipping school, high school drama), realistic people, realistic reactions (grief over Laura’s death). The town and its inhabitants became family. 

You can’t go home again.

Or, as Dale Cooper said, “things may be a little different.”

And they are. Dropping in on the town of Twin Peaks 25 years later, we see much that is the same, and much that has changed. Uncle Ed still pines after Aunt Norma. Bobby’s gone and become a police officer! Who would have thought? Shelley’s still at the diner. James has come back to town and settled into a steady job. Life moves on, with or without us.

We’ve all gotten older. We all have more “life” under our belts. We have more mileage. We’re not the same people we were when we left Twin Peaks 25 years ago. To expect everyone there to be the same person is foolish.

Remember this. Because it’s going to be important in a bit.

The Return started off with Dale and the Giant sitting [somewhere], and Dale being given some advice.

“Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”

After Cooper finally wakes up and returns to Twin Peaks, and we all get the ending we wanted (now might be a good time to re-read the Stephen King quote I posted at the top of this), Cooper fails again.


It’s not enough for him to come back to this reality. He needs to right a wrong. And the subtle trick that Lynch and Frost pull on us is that we think we want him to right this wrong. We want him to fix things. It’s DALE COOPER! The savior. Dale, unfortunately, is flawed like the rest of us – continuously trying to atone for a sin that cannot be undone (the death of Caroline).

But not everything and everyone needs saving, I’d posit.

With the assistance of The Artist Formerly Known as Philip Jeffries, Cooper goes back in time to save Laura Palmer.

In episode 8, we witness the birth of BOB, and the subsequent creation of Laura Palmer. We assume that she is sent to Earth to counteract the malevolence that is BOB.

If she was there to counteract BOB, I think we’d all agree that she did a pretty poor job of it. Again – not a value judgment – just an observation.

But what if we’re mistaken? Or, what if she was more successful than we’d thought?

BOB inhabited her father, who repeatedly raped and ultimately murdered her. I think one could make a strong case for the Palmer house to be one of the “soft” spots in the world – and, honestly, who knows what’s going on with Sarah?

So, Laura didn’t do such a great job of counteracting or combatting BOB. She died.

Only logical to want to bring her back, and “set things right,” isn’t it?


And this is where Cooper fails a second time.

We think we want Laura back. Cooper thinks it’s the right thing to do.

But we don’t, and it isn’t.

Laura was supposed to die.  Her role in this wasn’t co combat or counteract BOB.

She was bait.  She was the bait that would lure BOB into a series of actions that would eventually end up with him being taken down by Freddie (not Dale – Dale, much to his chagrin, is not the hero either).

Cooper intervenes after Laura leaves James on the motorcycle. Laura (presumably) never makes it to the cabin with Jacques and Leo and Ronette. Laura is presumably never murdered.

Laura is never murdered. No crime to solve. Life goes on in Twin Peaks. Cooper never goes there. “Things may be a little different.”

Laura is never granted the release of deathHer role as “bait” is taken away from her, and that is far worse.

By not dying that night (as horrible as that death was), Laura would continue to be raped by BOB, used by Jacques and Leo, and the rest of the town, and God knows what else.

Laura was the sacrificial lamb. And the good that came from her death (the eventual unmasking and punishment of Leland, Ed and Norma getting together, Dale and Annie, the saving of the Pine Weasel) was undone. History was erased. The town, the people, our memories were all irrevocably altered (one wonders if things like the weird crowd-shift in the diner was part of the temporal re-adjustment rippling backwards (forwards? sideways?) from Dale’s intervention.

This is almost a reverse of the movie Donnie Darko, where Donnie realizes he is the sacrificial lamb and commits to the role (even though the good that came from him temporarily dodging the role – Patrick Swayze’s character being convicted of child pornography) is later “erased.”

What happens next is admittedly murky.

Dale and Diane go 430 miles and “cross over” [somewhere]. Diane leaves Dale (“Richard and Linda”), and Dale finds Carrie Page who may or may not be Laura Palmer.

Dale (again, certain that he is doing the right thing) brings Carrie to Twin Peaks, to the Palmer home.

Except it’s now inhabited by the Tremonds. Who bought it from the Chalfonts.

We might hear Sarah’s voice inside the house and Carrie begins to scream in the way that only Sheryl Lee can pull off.

Dale realizes something is very very wrong.

“Remember 430. Richard and Linda. Two birds with one stone.”

This wasn’t advice. This was a warning. A warning as to what would happen if he did it.

And Dale failed the test.


He told the Giant/Fireman that he understood, but he didn’t. He couldn’t.

The tragedy of Dale Cooper isn’t just the hubris or the certainty (“I am the FBI!”) that he is the ultimate force for good (he didn’t even vanquish BOB, really). One would think that Dale would have learned something in 25 years.

Except he couldn’t. 25 years life experience on Earth is considerably different than 25 years in limbo. He’s older, but not wiser. Not at all.

Cooper fell prey to what Charles Tart calls the “Obvious Truth Fallacy” (see here)

“In many [Altered States of Consciousness], one’s experience is that one is obviously and lucidly experiencing truth directly, without question. An immediate result of this may be an extinction of the desire for further questioning. Further, this experience of obvious truth, while not necessarily preventing the individual investigator from further examination of his data, may not arouse his desire for consensual validation.”

And this too is tragic. Cooper was robbed of essential life experience, and again thought he could take charge in  the agendas of the various entities (this is different from, say, Andy -or even Freddie- who met the Fireman, and had no illusions about how to comprehend Him) and bend them to his will/desire to “set things right.”

To be fair, perhaps we should blame the Giant/Fireman for not being clear. Perhaps we should consider whether Philip Jeffries has gone native, and was messing with him.

I think, however, this ascribes motivations that are inappropriately human to the various entities of the Lodge(s) and [Elswhere].

The workings and inhabitants of this (these?) realm(s?) have been brilliantly portrayed as so alien and other, that I honestly don’t believe they can be measured in human terms. They simply are, much in the same way that Lovecraft’s Old Ones are. They have their own incomprehensible agendas that may or may not occasionally intersect with the concerns of humanity.

There are two potential explanations for the ending that I would like to focus on.

One is that Cooper is now trapped cycling through endless alternate realities, trying to right a wrong that didn’t need righting, and creating more wrongs in the process. If you’ve ever seen the Simpsons Tree House of Horror episode where Homer travels back in time and accidentally kills something, setting off a chain reaction that he keeps trying to fix, you get the idea.  That would be hell indeed.

Another option is one that my wife brought to my attention, which is that at mile 430, Dale and Diane “crossed over” into a dream (“Who is the dreamer who dreams the dream?”) that Laura (presumably one who had been saved by Dale that night) was having. Carrie is Laura’s dream self. Of course Laura knows all about Tremonds and Chalfonts from her Meals on Wheels tour of duty. Sarah’s voice, calling for Laura to wake up causes Carrie (the dream self) to panic and scream, because she knows deep down that she’s not supposed to be there. She’s not supposed to wake up that morning, because she’s supposed to be dead.

Cooper’s question – “what year is this?” is irrelevant.

Things are way more than “a little different.”

Is this Cooper’s purgatory? The world’s?  Or is that just trying to pin human motivations on Lodge denizens again?

On a meta-level, is it commentary on the entertainment industry’s constant cycle of revivals and reboots?

Did we really want a Twin Peaks revival, or did we just think we did? (Okay, honestly, I did, and I’m more than happy with how it all turned out)

We didn’t get our resolutions. We know that Ed and Norma had a happy ending (at least potentially until Dale mucked things up again). We briefly “got the gang back together.” We even got the Dale Cooper we thought we wanted back, and got to meet Diane (finally!), and have Albert and Gordon again.

But like life, it’s messy, and incomplete (what’s going on with Audrey?!)

I don’t know where the story can go from here. My own guess is that, like Billy Pilgrim, Cooper will become “unstuck” in time, flitting in and out of universes and timelines like Philip Jeffries (or Garland Briggs), and not talking about Judy, until his soul takes up permanent residence in the Lodge, evolving into some other form like Jeffries, and the arm.

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

I suspect that when we see him again, he won’t be him.

And the world is a darker place.

And very, yrev different.

Dale and Diane move in with Mrs. Chalfont, and live happily ever after (just kidding)

Further Thought: Is it the future or is it the past?

The opening scene to The Return also fits perfectly at the end of the series.

The Fireman’s words are no longer advice, or even a warning. They become admonishment.

The sound is “in our house now.”

This is the same sound we heard when Laura disappeared in the woods after following Dale away from her impending demise. The ramifications of Dale’s actions have now reached into the [Elsewhere].

Dale acknowledges that he understands (does he? finally?), and is sent “far away.”

Through the darkness, of future past…

And Another Thing:

I say that Cooper failed, originally, by showing imperfect courage. Perhaps this is harsh. Perhaps the forces aligned with the Fireman (I hate to assign values such as “good” and “evil” to these entities, because I think they operate in a manner that is less simply defined) were playing a long con. Laura was bait. Cooper was a better containment vessel for BOB than Leland was, and needed to be used to hold him until Freddie could come into existence.  Not quite the hero’s journey we’ve come to expect, and suggests that the Entities from Elsewhere are playing a far bigger chess game than even Windom Earle could comprehend, which is why he was removed from the board too. Earle’s flaw was also hubris.

We are all just collateral.

We may, in life, be lucky to catch a glimpse of the Game, but we will never be one of the players.

The rules are beyond mere human comprehension and value.

One response so far

Mar 02 2017

Who Punches the Nazis?

Published by under "Activism"

(some of this is cannibalized from other posts, in case parts of it sound familiar)

In 1951, Leo Strauss coined the term “Reductio ad Hitlerum” to describe a logical fallacy, a type of ad hominem attack used to paint the target with guilt by association. “Hitler did something similar, therefore what you are proposing or doing is undesirable.”

In 1990, attorney and author Mike Godwin created “Godwin’s Law,” originally referring to Usenet discussion threads where the longer the conversation, the increased inevitability of a comparison involving Hitler.

“I wanted folks who glibly compared someone else to Hitler or to Nazis to think a bit harder about the Holocaust.”

American society is in trouble. It would seem that we have become the twin states of Besźel and Ul Qoma, that China Mieville wrote about in The City and the City.  Some would say there are two Americas falling roughly along political lines – The Left and The Right. I used to consider myself a Leftist. I still believe in a lot of Leftist ideals – equal opportunity for all, non-discrimination, justice, and helping others in need.  But somewhere along the say, the Left lost the plot. The Left became enamored of identity politics. If I may indulge, for a moment, in something that might appear to be that which I am about to argue that needs reigning in (Reductio ad Hitlerum), please consider for a moment the following two quotes:

“There is no legitimate universal science, only local ethno-sciences which have been oppressed or colonized.”


“Science is a social phenomenon, and like every other social phenomenon is limited by the benefit or injury it confers on the community…The simple question that precedes every scientific activity is: who is it who wants to know something, who is it who wants to find how he stands in the world around him? It follows necessarily that there can only be the science of a particular type of humanity and of a particular age.”

The first is by Ashis Nandy, described in Wikipedia as “an Indian political psychologist, social theorist and critic [who] has provided theoretical critiques of European colonialism, development, modernity, secularism, Hindutva, science, technology, nuclearism, cosmopolitanism, and utopia.”

The second, of course, is Hitler.

I am not for a moment trying to suggest that Nandy is a Nazi, or the next incarnation of Hitler. I’m barely familiar with his works and don’t feel qualified to comment on them. What concerns me is the use and normalization of identity politics. I am also not trying to make the case that “Hitler did it, therefore it’s bad.” What I am trying to say is that based on history and the last time identity took the lead in how we judge people, it didn’t end so well.

We have fetishized victimhood. Thanks to Intersectionality Theory, we now have a whole host of ways that we can be simultaneously victimized. The greater the victimhood, the greater the nobility and praise heaped upon the “victim.”  We are now in a race to the bottom. Everybody wants nobility and praise.  Are we really that surprised when people who aren’t traditionally thought of as victims want a piece of the action? Are we really surprised that people use terms like “white genocide” or claim they’re being persecuted because they refused to sell a cake to a gay couple? Once the door is open, anyone can walk through it.

To quote Dr. Candida Moss,

“…identifying oneself as a persecuted minority necessarily identifies others as persecutors. It turns disagreement into a struggle for survival with an innocent ‘us’ pitted against a hateful ‘them.’ This polarizing view of the world not only makes it impossible to have meaningful dialogue and collaboration, but it can also be used to legitimize violence against others in the name of ‘self-defense.’ Perhaps the worst effect of this misuse is that it harms those who truly are persecuted: Sadly, people of many religious traditions continue to be persecuted around the world, and yet their voices are drowned out by our own. In my opinion, we need to reserve the language of persecution for the situations of violence that truly warrant them.”

And the last part of this is crucial – “we need to reserve the language of persecution for the situations of violence that truly warrant them.” I do not deny that there are victims of any number of horrible things happening in the world. I urge compassion and assistance wherever and whenever possible.  But that is not what I am writing about.  Those things should be givens, and I should not even have to clarify my position on them.

Lately, we have seen just how easily it can be “used to legitimize violence against others in the name of ‘self-defense.’”

Take, for instance, the recent events in Berkeley, California. I lived in Berkeley for 7 years. I’m familiar with the town, and the general political climate there. The town citizens recently prevented military recruiters from opening offices down town. While on the surface, this may seem like a “win” for “peace” (or whatever it is the general Berkeley populace believes in these days), in reality it came down to two things:

  1. It deprived people of an opportunity to learn ways in which they could serve their country (if they so choose), or get out of a bad situation (south Berkeley borders with Oakland, and is not the greatest of neighborhoods – I used to live there, I know). The military is a way for people to get out. I won’t place a value on whether or not it’s a good way, but it’s a way. Which brings me to point #2.
  2. The Berkeley mob denied the agency of other people to make up their own minds about whether or not to join the military. They knew better, and fuck anyone who might want to think differently or might even think that thinking differently might even be an option.

One day, in 2007, I was walking through campus and was waylaid by an eager young activist, inviting me to attend their (anti)Waterboarding Demonstration (“we’re going to waterboard someone!”). I chose not to attend, not because I think waterboarding is awesome, but quite the contrary. I also informed him that I didn’t think their demonstration had merit:

  1. If you merely “simulate” water-boarding, then everyone knows it’s fake, and doesn’t really prove your point. All the parties involved will be accused of faking it and we all know that the volunteer “victim” is in no real danger (or, maybe even “acting”). After all, this is merely a simulation, and how much stock can we put in that, in terms of comparing it to the real thing?
  2. On the other hand, if you go for it, and do it for real, then you’re essentially torturing someone, and becoming what you’re trying to put a stop to. It’s like performing vivisections to prevent vivisection or fucking for chastity.

In any event, back to the riots surrounding the scheduled talk by Milo Yiannopoulos. I have no stake in Milo. I don’t care about Milo, any more than I care about any other human being, other than I think he has some issues stemming from being sexually abused a young boy, and I genuinely hope he gets help for them. Did Milo say or do anything that warranted the riots in Berkeley, and the destruction of property by cowardly Black Bloc thugs?  Some would say it was a form of self-defense – “They’ve been doing it to us for so long, it’s time we took them down!”

How, exactly, did the end results in Berkeley benefit anyone?

A Starbucks was destroyed.  Potential jokes about the proliferation of Starbucks aside, this was a company that days prior had pledged to employ a considerable number of refugees, and already employs a considerable number of veterans, and also offers rather generous educational benefits to its employees.  They’re not exactly Hitler-level evil, here. But, just as the town ousted military recruiters, people had to make damn sure that Milo would be no-platformed, because they knew better, and had to make sure someone might not get the ‘wrong’ ideaWe can’t let other people think for themselves, because they might not think what they’re ‘supposed’ to think. The ultimate irony is that this is from a campus that was vital to the free speech movement in the 1960s. Mario Savio died for their sins.

Let’s run through another example.

“Donald Trump keeps a book of Hitler’s speeches next to his bed.”

So what?

I have a copy of Mein Kampf that, coincidentally, resides next to my bed.  Do I keep it there because it has a special place in my heart? Do I keep it there because I like to read passages for inspiration each morning? Do I keep it there to read to my wife each night? Are the pages stuck together with my bodily fluids? No to all of these.  I own a copy of Mein Kampf (and Imperium by Francis Parker Yockey, and The Turner Diaries, and any number of books by Julius Evola, plus a few by Savitri Devi and Miguel Serrano), because I find them to be interesting and engaging reading.  Robert Anton Wilson once suggested to me “read books you disagree with – otherwise you’re not exercising your mind.” Am I ready to start goose-stepping and implementing final solutions?  No.  Not interested.  I do know, however, that in having conversations with people who are interested in goose-stepping and implementing final solutions, I will be better equipped, since I will have actually read things that they probably have, and we will have a common vocabulary and knowledge base from which to talk. Why are they next to my bed?  Because that’s the bookshelf I had room on.

Why does Donald Trump have a copy of Hitler’s Speeches next to his bed?

I don’t know and I don’t care.

He’s certainly not learning many lessons from them. He’s not even remotely the speaker that Hitler was.

But more importantly, let’s look at the real issue here. It isn’t about Donald Trump’s library and where he keeps it, people are more concerned about the contents of the library. This is about innuendo.  This is about “taint” and “guilt by association.”

(and for the love of God, don’t assume I’m a Trump supporter, either. I did what I was told, and voted for who everyone said I was “supposed” to vote for, and look where that got us).

Trump has a book of Hitler’s speeches. Therefore, Trump must like Hitler. Therefore, Trump isHitler. And the fact that he keeps Hitler’s speeches next to his bed means he wants to feel intimate with them.  Because why else would anyone want to own a copy of Hitler’s speeches, let alone keep them by his bed?

Trump has Hitler therefore Trump likes Hitler therefore Trump is Hitler.

What you own, and where you put it are now more important than who you are and why you own something.

But, it’s Hitler!

So what?


Let’s look at another favorite punching bag – Howard Philips Lovecraft.

Every few months, like clockwork, somebody decides to start the “Lovecraft was a racist!” argument.

He was.

So what?

But if you point out that “so were a lot of people back then,” it really doesn’t matter, because it was Lovecraft, and people like Lovecraft’s writing, and OMG how could they, because he was a racist.  THE HORROR AT RED HOOK! THE SHADOW OVER INNSMOUTH is a metaphor for HPL’s racist view of miscegenation! He wrote a poem called ON THE CREATION OF NIGGERS! (sorry, I despise the phrase “The N-Word” – it grants too much power to the word it’s referring to).

This is what’s known as a shit test. It is designed to provoke, and it is also designed to prevent any “correct” answers, because to defend Lovecraft makes you an equally reprehensible person. You should be ashamed for liking such things, because these are “enlightened” times!

As the cycle plays out into another round of scorched-earth politicking, Lovecraft’s defenders are branded racists and “out of touch with the times.”  Others contort themselves all sorts of ways to attempt to weasel out of this guilt-by-association.  The anti-HPL crowd then becomes satisfied in their moral superiority. Everybody is left feeling miserable, goes back to their respective corners and licks their wounds, until the next round. And there’s always a next round. One round was so successful that it even had an award bearing his likeness removed from circulation. To be fair, I thought the statue was kind of ugly, but I do think the award was more than appropriate given his literary influence.  I half-jokingly suggested an award that looks like Sax Rohmer (author of the Fu Manchu novels, which were far more overtly racist than anything HPL wrote, and vastly entertaining reads), but nobody ever wants to talk about Sax, baby.

Guilt by association. The Taint.  We can’t have this award, because someone, somewhere, might think we are promoting HPL’s opinions on race. We don’t want to be Nazis, do we? More importantly, we don’t want someone to think we’re Nazis.  For the record, I never thought you were Nazis.  But I do think you are cowards.

One more example, and then I’ll get to my point, I promise.

In September of 2013, I attended a show by Death In June. Death In June is one of the founding bands of a genre known as “Neo-folk”, which along with genres like Martial Industrial, has a particularly colorful reputation. I’m not going to waste your time summarizing the controversies, as Google will do that for you.

Douglas Pearce (the sole continuous member) has been accused of being a racist, a Nazi, a fascist, and worse. The fact that he is openly gay, has collaborated with a number of Jewish musicians, and has played sold out shows in Israel is beside the point. I have listened to his music for years. I consider myself on the left end of the political spectrum.  I’ve read any number of interviews and clarifications that Pearce has made about his views. I have a graduate degree in philosophy. I have participated in a number of civil rights demonstrations across the country. I can safely say that I find nothing fascist or hateful about him or his music. This is my conclusion. I stand by it.

Others only look at surface images of the band, and project their worst fears onto it. Those are their conclusions.  I have listened to their arguments, and read their cases. I remain unconvinced.

The show I attended was protested by a group identifying themselves as anti-fascists. They have a right to do this.  I respect this right.

Rather than engaging us in dialogue, however, they became violent – openly harassing (an ethnically diverse!) group of people waiting politely in line for the show.  There were fists involved. They tried to storm the venue. It was their assumption that we were all waiting to attend the next Nuremberg rally, and that we were Nazis who needed to be stopped.

The anti-fascists wound up physically harming a number of minority members of the audience.  Additionally, they had vandalized the club where DIJ played the night before, and succeeded in threatening another venue to the point of cancelling a sold out show (which has since been relocated).

In 1920s-1930s Germany, the Nazi Party deployed a group known as the Sturmabteilung, or “brown shirts” to disrupt, threaten, intimidate, and physically harm political opponents.  How, qualitatively, were the actions of the anti-fascists different from the tactics of the Sturmabteilung? Tactics aside, how is it anti-fascist to declare yourselves the gatekeepers of what people can, cannot, should, and should not listen to?

In their quest for a villain, they became the villains. Rather than seeking common ground (of which, I suspect, there may have actually been much between them and the audience), they demonized us.

Finally, they denied our humanity in an even more fundamentally important way –they denied us the choice, the chance to make up our own minds about what we were seeing and hearing. They failed to recognize our own abilities – our own rights – to recognize good and evil.

It was easier to just “punch a Nazi,” because that’s what we “obviously” were. Because only Nazis like Death In June. Only racists like Lovecraft. Only Nazis keep Hitler’s books by their beds. Only Nazis want to hear Milo Yiannopoulos. No decent person would be interested in any of these things.  These things taint you, and by associating with them you are guiltyguiltyguilty of perpetuating crimes against humanity. You deserve to be punched. Or worse.

Or something.

The other day, The Southern Poverty Law Center declared Soleilmoon Records a “Hate Group,” because they sold music and accessories for Death In June and Boyd Rice.  Boyd is another controversial figure, whom I would describe as a cultural prankster and social Darwinist. Others like to think of him as slightly considerably more than that. In my readings of and listening to Boyd Rice, my conclusion is that, like Milo, he likes to push buttons. Call him names, and he will only up the ante by being a more grotesque parody of that which you fear. He does not suffer fools gladly. I don’t know Boyd personally, but I once met someone who’d gone bowling with him.  All of this aside, a record label and store has been listed as a “Hate Group” by the SPLC.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has a rich and admirable history of fighting for justice. Because of this, being placed on their list carries a certain amount of weight and gravitas.

Quite simply, in this instance, I believe they have lost the plot. A small business owner’s livelihood and personal reputation have now been soiled because of what he chose to sell.

I can already hear the rebuttals: “Lie with dogs, and you’ll get fleas” or “he deserved it, because he should have known better” or “live by the sword, die by the sword” – whatever.

Amazon currently sells copies of Mein Kampf.  Yet they are not on any “Hate Group” lists.

Amazon currently sells copies of Messages to the World by Osama bin Laden. Yet they are not on any “Hate Group” lists.

Amazon currently sells books of far more questionable content than the lyrics of Death In June or Boyd Rice, yet they are not on any “Hate Group” lists.

In fact, Amazon currently sells music and accessories by Death In June and Boyd Rice.

Using current “Punch a Nazi” logic, Germans fled to South America after WWII.  The Amazon is in South America. Therefore, Amazon is a secret Nazi front organization.

Yet Amazon is not on any “Hate Group” lists.

So, I’m left wondering WTF?! In this instance. Why Soleilmoon?  Why not Amazon? Why only Soleilmoon, and no other retailers or distributors?

I don’t have an answer to this.

As best I can tell, the decision to include Soleilmoon on the list was completely arbitrary.

All of this brings us to the ultimate question, “Who Makes the Nazis?” (with apologies to The Fall, and no apologies to a certain website that goes by that name).

Am I a Nazi because I own Mein Kampf, and keep it by my bed?  Do the other books I own add fuel to that fire?

Or do I have legitimate reasons for owning them?

I posed this question to someone the other day, and I was told that she would know Nazis “by the way they dressed.”

Am I a Nazi for owning 5 Death In June shirts, and wearing them occasionally?

Are we now to the point of suggesting that based on the way someone dresses, they were “asking for it?”

I asked this question, and was reassured that because she “knew” me, she “knew” I wasn’t a Nazi.  What if she didn’t know me? How well do we know people? Like clockwork, when someone turns out to be a serial killer or have 15 hostages in their basement, there’s the inevitable surprised neighbor declaring “he was a nice, quiet guy. He never bothered anybody.”

So, if “appearances” are wonky in the hunt for crypto-fascists (and I’m talking about people who aren’t walking around wearing “RaHoWa” t-shirts, or white sheets, or SS uniforms and such), can we safely assume that we can judge someone a Nazi by what they say?

This is where I’m probably going to get even less popular.

I’m going to say “not all of the time.”

But, what about “Hate Speech?”

What about it?  In fact, what is it?

Seems like it’s pretty cut and dry.  Except it isn’t.  Sheldon Nahmod explains it thusly:

“..the First Amendment creates a marketplace of ideas in which everyone can participate. Everyone can try to sell his or her ideas to the marketplace and the buyers in the marketplace eventually decide which ideas have value and which do not, which ideas are truthful and which are not. We are all sellers and buyers in this marketplace.

“What is the government’s role in this marketplace of ideas? Basically, the government must stay neutral; it must keep its hands off of the marketplace. The Enlightenment assumption—the assumption of the Framers of the Constitution—that underlies the marketplace of ideas is that people are ultimately rational, they may be persuaded by reason, even though emotions and passions play a major rule in political decision-making.

“What kinds of ideas are out there in the marketplace of ideas? Political ideas, artistic ideas, scientific ideas, social ideas of all kinds, whether smart, crazy, far-out, brilliant, dangerous.

“However, despite what I’ve just said, there are some communications that are not allowed in the marketplace of ideas. Obscene speech, for one, carefully defined by the Supreme Court, is excluded from the marketplace of ideas. Another kind of communication, child pornography, is also not allowed because its production involves child abuse. The reasons for these exceptions include history and the belief that these kinds of communications have little or no redeeming social value.

“So now you’re thinking the following: if there are some exceptions under the First Amendment and its marketplace of ideas, why not also include hate speech as an exception? After all, hate speech surely has little or no redeeming social value. It insults, it demeans, it traumatizes, it silences and there is a consensus in American society that it is valueless at best and dangerous at worst. Why should government not be allowed to prohibit it?

“The Supreme Court’s answer to this particular question is that even hate speech contains political ideas, however horrible these ideas may be. When you regulate such speech, you are also regulating ideas. Think of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and forbidden words. The Supreme Court has also made clear that just because speech offends people, this is never a justification under the First Amendment for punishing it. Furthermore, we are justifiably suspicious of government when it attempts to regulate speech and ideas. After all, government may have its own political agenda in regulating hate speech—which groups would be protected against hate speech and which not?

“Finally, and perhaps most important, think about how the marketplace of ideas functions: even if hateful ideas are communicated, the theory (hope?) is that counter-speech will emerge to rebut it and to fight it. In other words, more speech rather than less is the remedy.”

Apologies for the lengthy quote, but I think it is all essential to understanding reality vs. what-we-want-reality-to-be (and remember, in this instance, reality protects your speech as well!)

There is no “hate speech” exception to the First Amendment.

One exception is what is called “fighting words”, personal insults against a specific person that could likely lead to an immediate fight. But this isn’t limited to racial or religious insults, and it doesn’t cover every racially or religiously offensive statement, and, the Supreme Court backs this up (see R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul (1992), for example).

Threats against someone based on racial or religious criteria can fall under criminal threats, “[b]ut this isn’t because it’s ‘hate speech’; it’s because it’s illegal to make true threats and incite imminent crimes against anyone and for any reason, for instance because they are police officers or capitalists or just someone who is sleeping with the speaker’s ex-girlfriend (see here, for more).

So, if someone has made calls for the extermination of a group of people (sounds admittedly Nazi-ish), is it okay to punch a Nazi?

Again, I would say “no.” There is a vast difference between Richard Spencer saying vile and reprehensible things like “Does human civilization actually need the Black race?” “Is Black genocide right?” and, if it is, “What would be the best and easiest way to dispose of them?” and saying “Hey [*insert derogatory term of your choice here*], I’m going to kill you” to an individual person.  Spencer’s quotes are certainly Nazi-like, and I’m not suggesting they aren’t. What I am saying is that they are technically protected by the First Amendment, much as are the sentiments of these people (whom I find equally reprehensible and vile):







Is it okay to punch them?

Or would that be bad, because they’re on “our” side?

But it’s okay when we do it. Gott mit uns. Four legs good, two legs better. Besides, as someone who identifies as the hated target all of these things, I’m probably just tone-policing and need to check my privilege.

What about “No-Platforming,” as in the case of Milo Yiannopoulos, or other “controversial” speakers?

One thing I am uncomfortable with, especially in the age of the Internet and social media is mob justice. Especially when someone has committed no crime other than being an asshole and spouting off vile things. If you open the door for punching someone because of their political beliefs (which again, are allowed to be expressed, no matter how horrible you think they are), does that make it okay for someone to punch you for your beliefs?  Are you comfortable with being punched? Because I guarantee you someone, somewhere disagrees with you.  Hell, I expect most of you probably disagree with me.  Maybe I’m naïve to think we’re all civilized adults and can actually debate things rather than just resort to fisticuffs.

One person, who surprisingly “gets it,” is a man of Jewish descent whose family fled the (actual) Nazis during WWII, re-locating first to England, and then eventually the United States. I had the good fortune to meet this man once, Jerry Springer. Jerry told me that the reason he lets the white supremacists and the Nazis on to his show, time after time, even though he, personally, would be among those rounded up by them if they ever realistically came to power, is that he believes in letting them speak for themselves. He believes in the old adage of giving someone enough rope to hang themselves. He would rather people see them for the idiots they are, and hear their idiocy in their own words and make up their own minds, than try to bury something simply because it is unpleasant (or vile, or reprehensible). Burying that which you do not like only adds an air of verboten and mystique. A healthy percentage of people (myself, included) don’t like to be told they can’t see or read things.  They begin to wonder why not.  They seek it out, and want to know what all the hub-bub is about.  To call it the “Streisand Effect” is putting it mildly.

Deciding what others can and cannot see, hear, or be otherwise exposed to is no less fascist than the fascism it purports to be against.

In this day and age, however, nobody has time for this. Nobody has time for nuance or discussion or debate.

I think these days we seem to be running into a convergence of conveniences.

  1. It is convenient to categorize thoughts, feelings, beliefs into two categories: “correct” and “incorrect”
  2. This enables us to instantly decide that anything, or anyone, that does not fall into one of our two convenient categories, must therefore belong to the other
  3. It is more convenient to hold people forever accountable for their brief forays into “incorrect” than it is to acknowledge that they are human, may have different beliefs from you, may grow, may change their minds, and may renounce their former beliefs.  Thus it is easier, to forever hold someone accountable for his brief participation in ultra-right wing political groups and therefore believe he is secretly leading an entire musical genre in promoting crypto-fascism (sometimes so crypto as to be unidentifiable even with a microscope), than it is to acknowledge his own repeated mea culpas. It is more convenient to simply label him and anyone ever seen in the same room with him as fascists. That way, you don’t have to worry about any of them, learn anything about any of them, or worry about tainting your precious little mind with the “dangerous” ideas that you read somewhere they are promoting. Effort is hard.
  4. It is convenient to just have all of the answers handed to you. When reality doesn’t fit your worldview, obviously reality is wrong. The rest of us just need to “do the research!” and we’ll be instantly enlightened as well.

I think some of this is pure laziness.  I used to think a good chunk of it (at least in the States) was the fault of the educational system. Kids are no longer being taught how to think, but rather provided with lists of things to memorize for The Test. This is true, but I see far too many adults who should know better, engaging in this sort of behavior as well.

For the record, there’s a third category: “Problematic,” which is usually reserved for people who you want to like, but simply can’t, because they’re in the “Incorrect” box.  “Problematic” puts the categorizer in a bind, because on a level they acknowledge human complexity.  But, since everything has to be a zero-sum game, “Correct”/”Incorrect”, most people prefer to err on the side of caution, and go with “Incorrect”, lest they be tarnished by association, and also labelled “Incorrect.”  This transferring them to the “Incorrect” category is usually accomplished by conforming to group consensus, or administering any number of Kafkatraps to justify and rationalize this categorization.  Better to be safe than sorry.  Punch first, and (maybe) ask questions later. Or not.

If those on the side of righteousness in these matters, who insist on punching Nazis (real or imaginary) wherever they may be found, or compiling “lists” (are you now, or have you ever been a collaborator?), seem to enjoy playing the “hero” and imagining that this is Weimar Germany, and bask in the knowledge of “Gott mit uns” then I can only refer them to Jung’s concept of “The Shadow” and the need to own your own. I would also remind them of the saying “what goes around comes around.”  You may feel the superiority now, but if it’s good enough for you to do it, it’s good enough for others to do it to you.

And they will.

Russell Berman, in his preface to Ernst Jünger’s book On Pain (2008, Telos Press), suggests that:

Although conventional political thinking still tries to police a neat separation between left and right, we should not be afraid to explore the gray zone in between without leaping prematurely or unnecessarily to an unwarranted assertion of identity (p. viii).

Early on in this ridiculously long essay, I suggested that we are becoming two Americas.  This is not entirely true.  There is a third America, and we live in that gray zone that Berman describes. Frankly, a lot of us are getting sick of the shit being perpetrated by both sides, Left and Right. While my sympathies may be more left-leaning, I do not condone a lot of the behavior being done to accomplish these goals.  The ends do not justify the means.  Read your history.  The Reign of TerrorThe Cultural RevolutionStruggle SessionsWitch HuntsMcCarthyismSatanic PanicLynching.

Nobody thinks they’re the bad guy.

As Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic-strip POGO wrote in 1953…

“Traces of nobility, gentleness and courage persist in all people, do what we will to stamp out the trend. So, too, do those characteristics which are ugly…There is no need to sally forth, for it remains true that those things which make us human are, curiously enough, always close at hand. Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blasts on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us.”

William S. Burroughs, famously divided people into two categories:

“The two basic types of people in the world. The Shits are self-righteous hypocrites that only look out for themselves and desperately crave power, status, praise, and the right to pass judgment on everything they disapprove of. 

“Johnsons are decent people that generally mind their own business but are always ready to offer help to anyone who needs it without judgment or reservation.”

I’m not saying there aren’t Nazis in the world. I’m not saying there aren’t ideals worth fighting for.

All I’m suggesting is that people stop being Shits. “Nazi” is too easily used these days. Innocent people will be hurt in the rush for vigilante feel-good “justice.”

And unless we reign in this primal urge, irreparable harm will be done to people who don’t deserve it.  And it will only be a matter of time before it happens to you; either in retaliation, or because you made it “okay” to physically harm someone over a political disagreement – someone more than likely disagrees with you, too.

Step off the ride.

Then, perhaps, we can all move forward and fight real evil – together.

One response so far

Sep 04 2015

I See Dead People

Over the past day or two, I’ve had the (mis)fortune of having Aylan Kurdi’s photo assault my senses without warning in my Facebook feed.  I suspect this photo will go down in history alongside that of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and countless other photos documenting the extremely tragic consequences of being caught in the crossfire of war and unnecessary violence.

I also had the (mis)fortune (several days ago) of seeing Alison Parker and Adam Ward gunned down by Bryce Williams/Vester Flanagan, both from Ward’s perspective, and Flanagan’s perspective.

And, then, of course, there are people shooting up churches, movie theaters, schools, etc.

And, as usual, there is outrage.  There is anger. There is righteous indignation.

After that, there is outrage that there isn’t enough outrage.  There is anger that there isn’t enough anger. There is righteous indignation that there isn’t enough righteous indignation.

As usual.

Then there is the inevitable “While you were distracted by this Thing, This Other Thing was happening!” type hectoring, about how we’re all “sheeple” and puppets of the media/government/etc. and we should be ashamed, but oh wait, here’s the Next Thing to be outraged, angered and indignant about.

As usual.

There are also occasional forays into “You’re outraged for the wrong reasons and I’m outraged at you!”

(to note: Kim Davis denying marriage licenses in Kentucky for “religious” reasons, but pointing out her hypocrisy based on multiple divorces and children born out of wedlock, is now being called “slut shaming” and nobody’s allowed to point out the very obvious fact that she looks kinda like Annie Wilkes in Misery).

"Dirty Birdies! No Cockadoodie Marriage License for YOU!"

“Dirty Birdies! No Cockadoodie Marriage License for YOU!”

Aren’t we all pissed off about someone shooting a lion, too?  Or are we done with that now?


Let’s talk about dead people.

While not directed at me in particular (thankfully, or I would be forced to cut a bitch), it seems that I’m now seeing the outrage-that-there-isn’t-enough-outrage phase of the reactions to the photo of Aylan Kurdi’s body on the beach. People are getting cranky that others aren’t publicly displaying their outrage in sufficient quantities.

So, let me offer my reasons for NOT going on about this particular tragedy in great length on social media (and by “great length” I mean “at all”).  Because, you know, my silence on the subject obviously means I’m either apathetic or a monster of some sort.

  1. Aylan Kurdi is the same age as my son.
  2. Aylan Kurdi’s position on the beach is in many ways similar to a position in which my son likes to sleep.
  3. My son was born prematurely, 6 weeks after we found out about him even existing.
  4. My wife and my son almost died a few days before he was born.
  5. My wife’s blood pressure reached Scanners – type levels, that everyone we’ve told the numbers to, is in awe that she didn’t stroke out.
  6. As a result, my son was born via emergency C-Section, after an entire night of all of us staying awake, trying to keep my wife and son alive.
  7. My son was not breathing when he was taken out. They had to intubate him immediately.
  8. My wife almost died again in the recovery room, and had to be taken to the ICU.
  9. My son then spent the next 11 weeks in the NICU.  During this time:
    • He developed Necrotizing Enterocolitis.
    • One of the other infants in the NICU died from this.
    • My son was also diagnosed with Tracheomalacia.
    • My son had frequent Apnea Bradycardia episodes.
    • Because of these things, he coded a number of times, including once while sleeping on me, and once while feeding from his mother.
    • My infant son had more wires and tubes sticking out of him than the humans in The Matrix.
    • My wife (bless her) spent every single day, all day, in the NICU with our son.
    • I could only spend the weekends, due to being 120 miles south  and starting a new job. This tore me apart inside, and still does.
  10. As if all this wasn’t enough, the time you spend in the NICU is not private.  You’re surrounded by other premature infants with their own host of medical issues, their parents, their doctors, and the assorted alarms going off around you. Constantly.
  11. We all survived this (yay!), but then shortly after we got home, the three of us got the flu, and this happened:
    • My 3 month son coughed up some phlegm and aspirated on it.
    • I picked him up, and he was cold, and his body had as much rigidity as a dead salmon you’d pick up at the fish market.
    • We called 911, and during the longest 10 minutes of my life, I was able to half-resucitate him, and keep him alive long enough for the paramedics to show up.
    • I got to ride in an ambulance with my 3 month old son fighting for his life in the back for the second longest 10 minutes of my life.
    • We spent all night at the local hospital that told us they didn’t want him there because they weren’t comfortable with the idea.
    • Our ER nurse kept disappearing, and I had to keep my son breathing for hours, by manually stimulating him.
    • When they finally moved him to a different room in the ER, he started to code again. This brought about a flood of doctors attempting to perform CPR, injecting him with Ketamine (for reasons I still don’t understand), and unsuccessfully trying to intubate him for far longer than necessary.
    • All of this while waiting for us to get transferred back to the NICU where we’d started (120 miles north). And then finding out that the helicopter had to turn back because of bad weather.
    • I then got to ride in an ambulance for 120 miles in back, with my son, stabilized, but in a metal canister, and beyond my ability to touch.  All I could do was watch him through a small window.
    • Then 10 more days of the NICU.

So, then.  We all survived, because, you know, #WhitePrivilege or something. And this now brings us to Aylan Kurdi, washed up on the beach.

If you re-read #3-11 above, I think -I hope- you would understand that I have PTSD from all of this.  Now, if you tie that back to #1 and #2, above, you’ll understand why I don’t have a whole lot to say about Aylan Kurdi.  But in case you don’t, let me elaborate:

It isn’t that I don’t feel Abdullah Kurdi’s loss.  The problem is, I do.  Seeing Aylan. Seeing Aylan on the beach.  Seeing how big (little) he is, and the position he’s in, brings #3-11 screaming back to me.  In my mind, in my body, in my veins.  I want to throw up. I want to scream.  Abullah has said “I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.”

And the problem is, I get that.  I know that.  I know because I came close to that too many times.

So, why am I not joining in the outrage on social media?

Because, ultimately, it doesn’t do anything.

It doesn’t save lives. It doesn’t change the world (unless you count some of the lynch mobs launched from Twitter), and, frankly, to me, it often straddles the line into masturbatory exercises about tragedy porn.

“But it raises awareness!”

Great! I’m aware!

Now what?  Do we all pat ourselves on the back for being “aware” now?  I’m aware. You’re aware. Now we don’t have to do anything else.  We’re aware.  All we need to do now is make sure everyone else is aware, too.  And if they’re not contributing to the Chorus of Being Aware (via “liking and sharing”) then THEY ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

I am aware that a disproportionate number of African-Americans are killed and/or imprisoned by the police.  I’m aware of this. For the record, I think this sucks.

I am aware that some white kid shot up an African-American church.  I’m aware of this. For the record, I think this sucks.

I am aware that the frankly ludicrous solution to this was for everyone to run around demanding Confederate flags be taken down, because this would instantly solve racism, or something.  More likely, it’s just going to piss people off.  Also, I find the logic of “you lost the war, why are you flying it?!” to be a dangerous road to take.  I look forward to the eradication of the Palestinan flag by the Left based on the same grounds. Yeah, I didn’t think so (and, for the record, I fully support Palestinan statehood).

I am aware that #BlackLivesMatter.  I believe they do.

I am also aware that #AllLivesMatter.  I also believe they do.  That includes your life. My life. My wife’s life. My son’s life. Aylan Kurdi’s life. The lives of those killed in the Charleston church shooting. The people killed by Anders Breivik. Everyone’s life.  Yet this is frowned upon as being somehow “racist.” (Personally, I think that by believing that #AllLivesMatter, it means I’ve got your back, regardless, and you don’t have to worry about whether I think you’re in the cool kids club or not.  But that’s me, and I refuse to be an “ally”.)

Alison Parker and Adam Ward were shot in cold blood by someone who took the time to post the fucking video online. That someone, Vester Flanagan, was a gay black man.


The cold harsh reality of life is that it is complex (beautifully, painfully complex), and cannot be summed up in simple categorizations based on hashtags, or whatever groups one identifies with. To simply categorize anyone is to dehumanize them.

And that’s not something I’m okay with.

I am aware that H.P. Lovecraft was a racist.  For the record, I simply don’t give a shit.

Personally, I don’t think “awareness” is enough when it comes to problems such as these. Awareness is a cop-out. Go fucking do something, if you’re up in arms about an issue, or, alternatively, recognize the limitations of what you can do. I can be upset about Aylan Kurdi (and I am).  I can be upset about all of these issues.  But what I can’t do, realistically speaking, is anything to directly help the refugee situation, the victims of the latest shooting, or the outrage du jour.  While posting about these things on social media might make some people feel better (by bringing “awareness”) to me, it’s (too often) an empty gesture.


If you want to find a helpful organization to give to, then please do. I respect that.

If I had money to spare, I’d probably do the same.

Life doesn’t check your hashtags to make sure you’re one of the Good Guys (please forgive my use of cis-gendered heteronormative binary privileged nomenclature here).

And while I concede and agree that we all deal with shit differently, I am also a firm believer in Chapter 6 of the Gospel of Matthew when it comes to these things:

Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them (verse 1)

When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others (verse 2)

When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others (verse 5)

When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting (verse 16).

So don’t assume my “silence” on an issue is apathy (even though it’s entirely possible it may sometimes be). For me, Facebook is not “life.”  I owe you no explanations or reasons for my perceived silence on any issue. You don’t know what’s going on in my head, or my heart, or even my life.

Though now, close to 2,000 words later, you have a glimpse.



One response so far

Apr 28 2015

Simple “Solutions” to Complicated Problems

Published by under "Activism"

I’m going to start right off and tell you that I fucking hate the Mondawmin Mall.

In 1991, I worked down the road from Mondawmin. I was an assistant manager for the largest music retailer in the country (at the time).  At least 100 times a day, I was told that whatever we had was cheaper at Mondawmin.  If we didn’t have it, Mondawmin did.

“You got Mint Condition?  You got Nu-Nu? No?!”

“I’m going down MonDAWmin!”

(pronounced just like the sign says)


Mondawmin was apparently the paradise where everything and anything resided, and could be had for far less than us clueless white folk up the street were charging – IF we were even hip enough to what “the kids today” were listening to.

When your company is based out of Minnesota, it takes a long time to figure out that not everybody is going to be into Garth Brooks.

The store I was in was at a mall that was making a transition in clientele – like the Chris Rock joke: “Every town has two malls.  The mall the white people go to, and the mall the white people used to go to.”

There was a lot of racial tension in the mall.


Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass what color your skin is. I’m more interested in whether or not you’re an asshole.

We dealt with a lot of assholes.

When the Rodney King verdict went down, a number of assholes decided it would be a good idea to stir shit up at the mall where I was working. A number of assholes decided it would be a good  idea to get in my face about it.

Because, apparently, I was telecommuting in to the jury or something.

Or, maybe, it was because “something” about me reminded them of the cops who had beaten King.

I also found out that night that some of my co-workers were assholes. Even though we’d worked together for months, and had gotten to be good friends (or so I’d thought), apparently none of that mattered.

Me?  I was just there, trying to do my job.  I was 21 years old, and not making shit for pay. Eventually you run a cost/benefit analysis on interactions with the public. If I ask you if you need help finding something, are you going to jump my shit because you assume I’m profiling you as a shoplifter?  Or if I leave you alone, will you jump my shit because I’m “obviously” snubbing you because of your skin color.

Oh, and by the way, me calling security on your ass has nothing to do with your skin color.  It has to do with the fact that you have 30 CDs stuffed down your pants.

I digress.

My point is, speaking from experience, I can say that the area of Baltimore where all of this shit started has been smoldering for years. If not decades.

The unnecessary death of yet another black man at the hands of yet another police force was just the spark that pushed things over the edge.

For the record, I think this shit (where “this shit” = “the unnecessary death of yet another black man at the hands of yet another police force”) needs to stop.

It is here that I would like to introduce a concept put forth by Robert Anton Wilson, in his book Quantum Psychology:


“Sombunall” can be defined as “Some, but not all.”

Sombunall cops are assholes.

Sombunall Muslims are assholes.

Sombunall Christians are assholes.

Sombunall Hasidic Jews are assholes.

I’ve even met a Sikh asshole.  For the record.

Sombunall white people are assholes. I’ll let you decide if I am.

I honestly don’t care what you think of me, and I’m pretty comfortable with who I am these days.

Sombunall black people in my store after the Rodney King verdict were assholes.

Sombunall black people in my store after the Rodney King verdict were not assholes.

Probably just about everybody (I’m guessing) who was out in Baltimore last night were pretty upset over Freddie Gray’s death (as am I).

Sombunall of those people used this as an excuse to be assholes.

Sombunall white people (who may or may not be cops) use this as an excuse to be assholes.

This then creates an asshole vortex, which gathers in intensity and and overwhelms people’s thinking by obliterating the “sombun” part, and making them start believing that ALL X ARE Y.

Interestingly, though, I’m finding the comments I see from people I know on both sides of the political spectrum are rather telling.

On the Right, we have pretty much what you would expect (Sombunall people on the right – I’m only referring to a portion of the people I know on this end of the spectrum) – “All Black people = bad / All White people and cops = good”

On the Left, though, in Sombunall instances, it’s getting a little more twisted.

In one instance, there was a fellow taking considerable glee in the destruction, making sure to chastise anyone who was aghast at the violence as “not having learned the lessons of history.”

What those lessons were, he never said.

This strikes me as disingenuous, in that there appears to be an underlying tone of desperation to his glee; a need, a desire, to be recognized as being a GOOD GUY. If he’s just a little more zealous about the riots than the average rioter, then he’s proven he can be part of the club.  I would suggest that this is based out of fear – fear that “they” will come for him, too, and judge him not on his merit (or asshole quotient), but on something arbitrary, like, say, the color of his skin.

So, in a way, he is now assuming that Sombunall black people are going to assume that Sombunall white people are bad, and he has to prove his street cred in order to survive the upcoming race war. If he keeps declaring he is an ALLY loud enough, maybe “they” will listen, and bless him, and he will be “safe”.

As long as people do his bidding and behave in a manner of which he approves, and recognize him as being one of them (gooble gobble), then all is well in the world, because, boy, does he ever feel the righteousness of their anger.

Or something.

A second response I have seen from the Left, is that white supremacists had somehow provoked the riots.

Maybe.  I wasn’t there. I don’t know.

But to assume that Sombunall of the rioters would have been perfectly peaceful if only it hadn’t been for those pesky white supremacists, is to also devalue the humanity of the rioters. “Those” people are perfectly peaceful and docile creatures unless victimized by the the inherently evil white man.

Here we again, have someone wearing a Good Guy Badge, and proudly flying their Ally Flag (for the same reasons as above), but at the same time denying the humanity of both black people and white people. How?

By suggesting that it is impossible for black people to be assholes, and for suggesting that white people are inherently assholes (except when they’re enlightened enough to put on Good Guy Badges and shout their Ally status from the rooftops – behaviors which seem asshole-ish to me), you deny people the ability to think for themselves, and to engage in the very nuanced behavior that makes each of us human, even if it means behaving like an asshole.

THAT, in my opinion, just perpetuates the Asshole Vortex further.

People are (understandably) upset over the continued escalating death rate of black men at the hands of various police departments.

I, personally, do not agree with rioting, looting, burning shit down, or any of the other violence that has been happening of late in response.

But I understand where it’s coming from.  I understand the despair.  And this time, I know the neighborhood where it’s going down.

I also do not agree with the behaviors of Sombunall police officers who feel the need to go around killing unarmed black men.

The Asshole Vortex will continue until we can find a way to look each other in the eye and find some common ground.

I am becoming increasingly of the opinion that the word Sombunall needs to be put into circulation sooner, rather than later.

This is getting old.

All of it.

Oh, and for the record, I actually went to Mondawmin Mall once, to see if they really did have “everything.”

They didn’t have shit.

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Aug 06 2014

life…and death.

Published by under Death

You really should go read this, too.

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Aug 05 2014

cri de coeur

Published by under between

You really should go read this.

It articulates a lot of what is between the lines I speak and write.

Everyone I Know is Brokenhearted.

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