There is no turning back from these atrocities. There is no “I was just joking” minimizing.

This is the pivot point. We either reclaim our humanity or we continue down hell’s path.

I spoke to a woman who was nonchalant. She said, I’m legal. I stared at her. She was engulfed in “I got mine.”

I shopped today, minding my place. White supremacy. It hangs on me like a spiderweb.

I don’t know how to shed it. But I can do something. I can be one among many.

I can be non-centered. This isn’t my world. I just live in it. I can speak out as a human.

I make it an awareness and a yoke.

It is. It is a sunset in the finite understanding of tarot card readers and icy cold beers drawn from a

tap.

What is inside curls like smoke to the air.

It bends in the darkness that has settled over this big, brawling country.

My tiny flame, other tiny flames will form the fateful lightning of a terrible, swift sword. And truth will march on…

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I sling words with feeling without skimming on the surface like a cockroach across a puddle.

I get drunk and cry with my pen instead of writing about my tears.  Anyone can do that.

I drag myself through a slimy alley of darkness and live to keep it a secret.

I don’t have time to spout pretty words and platitudes and cocktail party phrases.

My life, my existence is this: every word counts.

Every stinking drop of sweat on this table is a poem. Every lamentation for lost vices pushes a limit. Every painful sunrise is a testament to being laid bare every night.

Every click of the compressor motor on the refrigerator counts down to the end, closer than the beginning, and I am alive to feel every second of it, taste every bitter dreg of it, lose myself in all the places where I don’t matter.

I lost a day somewhere in the ether where beer, getting old, and christian holidays mix together in a stew of oh, I don’t know, maybe a lot of bullshit?

I was thinking today about how I want to be liked by strangers. Not loved, not desired. Liked.  As if my wellbeing depends on what some random piece of shit says to me. I feel guilty when slights occur, as if I have some kind of power over someone else to feel a certain way.  I thought about this when a friend of mine got dragged very harshly by some people and I wanted to defend her, but short of saying that they were scum sucking sociopaths, I was stumped.  Years ago, someone browbeat me in an online conversation that I was blindsided by and had no answer for, so I shut down. What I really wanted to do was go after the person with both fists and as many insults as I could hurl, but I didn’t.

It came to me that I was raised to be nice. Be nice. Be nice, put others first. Be nice, your wants don’t matter.  Be nice, don’t hurt others’ feelings. Be nice, excuse others’ behavior.

Be nice.

Be nice.

I turned into a doormat.  I turned into a pile of mush. I was weak-willed because of the constant admonition to be nice.  I sincerely regret that I took that to heart.  It caused me no end of trouble my whole life.  I became someone I am not. Be nice.

Be nice.

I admired in a limited way, people who spoke for themselves, ever mindful when they would fall off the “nice” track.  They were then bad, and therefore unworthy of my time or attention.

I see all this with a keen hindsight and no small amount of anger, but-no, I’m done being nice.  I’m done excusing my shitty upbringing. I’m done dealing with other people’s arrogance because for sure, I’m not storing jewels for my crown in heaven.  There is no passing grade.  This is it.

This thing called life is it.

“It’s not looking too good to be me today, and tomorrow doesn’t look any better.”

Day one: wrangling this damned depression. It’s not going away.  I cannot wish it away from me any more than I can wish to sprout wings.  The idea is good, the desire is there, but the laws of reality are as immutable as gravity. So. I have taken my fish oil, krill oil, vitamins, and drunk some wonderful green tea left over from yesterday. In the past, I took pharmaceuticals and I found the side effects to be more debilitating than effective.

Next: coming to grips with the fact that I no longer have a part-time job. This is a funny one–not ha ha funny, but strange funny.  I was getting bored with it anyway, and it was taking up more time than I wanted to give to it, so I was relieved when I received word that my services were no longer needed.  My time was at last my own again.  I ordered new art supplies, cleared off my work table, and set about doing what I really want to do. Well, that table stands in judgement as we speak, waiting for me to do something. Anything.

So, there’s a big ball of unrelieved anxiety that shouldn’t even exist. And it’s about money and self-worth.

All my life, I equated my job with my worth. I’ve had wonderful, unsuitable jobs that paid well. I’ve had crappy jobs that I kept because that’s what you do. Along the way, my body has broken down, my mind has shut itself off from the hell I was in, and here we are.

I’ve set goals for this month. They are modest and attainable. One goal is to write every day, even if it’s just an exercise for a half hour or so. I will post on here every day. My next goal is to work on my art pieces every day.  I have enough of them in various stages of completion that I could always have something on the table. My art website is next. Even if I just look at it every day, I will have it in my mind.

This is my job and I am going to treat it as such, instead of an interesting hobby. This is what I love. I’m not a writer or an artist for mercenary reasons.

That voice says, Hey, why waste time doing something that may not bring you money?

Holy crap.  That’s it.  That’s the whole reason I’ve turned away from regular writing, regular craft work. It’s not considered “worthy” without money. I wonder where I got that notion? I wonder why I’ve held on to it for so long? That thought has to go.  It has to disappear.

 

The general public is stupid. Crazy stupid. “Were you raised by goats??” stupid.

Not just “Dang, I locked my keys in the car” stupid. Not just “Crap, I put the case of beer on top of the eggs” stupid.

I mean “Let me put a starving wolverine down my pants just to watch it run up and down my leg” stupid.

Professional grade, “Let’s bypass all those pesky safety regs so the machine runs all the time until someone loses a finger, oops!” stupid.

Weaponized, “I know texting and driving is illegal and dangerous, but Imma take a bunch of downers and text for fifteen miles until I kill an entire family” stupid.

Dear reader, who among us hasn’t accidentally microwaved an egg until we realized too late that it’s not a good idea? Indeed, who among us hasn’t forgotten that jalapenos will bite mucus membranes hours after being handled?  Lastly, how many of us are completely wed to ideas that no longer serve a valid purpose or even make sense anymore?

All of us, at one time or another, have done, said, believed and supported stupid things, stupid ideas, stupid people.  Schadenfreude would not exist if no one had a frame of reference for it.  “What goes around, comes around” would not resonate had it never happened to me or to you.

So, stupidity is universal.  Just as there are degrees of intelligence, there are degrees of stupid, and I like to think there is a bell curve wherein fully fifty percent of us fall in the middle of the spectrum, on the side of car key locking, but not far enough to the right for steering a four thousand pound rolling missile with a bare foot while shooting bottle rockets out the window because it will generate tons of views on Facebook live.

Funny thing, those of us who detest those people who are more stupid, we also tend to mistrust those people who are much less stupid.  Really smart people are nerds, of course, unless they are dead, disabled, or so enlightened that they don’t give a damn about what anyone else thinks anymore. At that point, they are put on a pedestal and essentially trotted out for photo ops.

So, right now, we have really stupid people in government, but not so stupid they can’t con a significant portion of the public.  Start locally, and work your way up from there.  I’ll wait.

Let’s just take an example that presented itself a couple of days ago from Fort Worth, Texas.  I won’t go into the particulars of why the cop got fired, but suffice to say, his actions were egregious.  Not so much criminally egregious, because nobody was killed, but stupid enough for the department to say, “So long, hoss. You’re out.”

Now, what caught my ear from all this wasn’t his actions, but the Union rep coming on TV and saying that the firing would cause all cops to rethink their actions and take into consideration the consequences of their behavior.  Please note, he was not endorsing the firing by any means:  he was saying in essence that holding cops accountable for their behavior would have a chilling effect on law enforcement.

Um, duh. Now, a significant portion of the public agreed with him that holding cops accountable for their stupid actions would be a very bad thing.  After all, if someone obeys the law, they won’t have to worry about it, right?

Let’s just take a peek at events of the past few years to realize this really isn’t a wholly true statement.  Let’s dig into the histories of all involved and try to figure out why things went down the way they did.

No?  You mean, I’m not allowed to look at Officer Cop’s bullying behavior of the past, but I need to look at dead suspect’s weed smoking past?  Why not?  And so it goes.  Knowledge can be used two ways, no?

Truth and facts are not mutually exclusive, as it were.  You can have facts without truth, and you can have truth without facts.  Myths and archetypes are two examples of truth without facts.  In the example of the fired cop, looking at the facts and ignoring the truth is not likely to assuage anyone’s outrage on either side of the issue.

The roots of weaponized stupid are long and deep.  It’s gonna take more than a hoe and fire to keep it beat back to a manageable level.  Education, specifically teaching self-discipline, will help.  Reinforcing consequences will help.  If we live long enough, most of us understand that certain behaviors are not worth the consequences.  Live and learn.

Likewise, if children don’t ever face consequences for behavior, they will continue to engage in behaviors that hurt or even kill others. Wisdom isn’t a gift bestowed on the lucky, believe it or not.   Wisdom is like grits; whether you like them or not, you never forget them.  Never. You can eat them. Or not.  You might complain, but if your belly is empty, those grits will satisfy and warm you.

And now, I present to you, our government.  Our wonderful, “We elected these numbnuts” government.  I’m going to tell you a secret, so lean in and listen closely to this fact, scattered, smothered and covered in truth.

Our elected officials, the ones we trust to keep the train on the track, the ones who promise the moon and stars to get elected, the ones who swear they fight for all of us?

They know the general public is stupid.  They are smart enough to know that white noise from back home is just that–white noise.  They know that all they have to do is keep the money coming in, the contacts refreshed in their phones, and photo ops with the yahoos-er, constituents and they are set for life.  Set. For. Life.

See, they don’t really give a damn about their brethren’s behavior. It’s all white noise.  No matter which side of the aisle they reside on, they don’t really care, as long as the yahoos-er, constituents are at home, outraged and donating their pittances in the forlorn hope that their voices will be heard.

The Roy Moore fiasco? Believe me when I tell you that nobody in Washington gave a rat’s ass whether or not he was elected. The GOP didn’t care whether he won or lost: their stupid rubes would support Atilla the Hun if he had an (R) behind his name.  The Dems didn’t care except that a dem win would appease their base and give them a shred of hope for at long last, decency. And in doing so, keep their coffers full.

They. Don’t. Care.

Are the Republicans concerned they will lose in mid-terms?

Nope.  Why not?

Surely they want to stay in Washington.  Well, sure they do, but they don’t have to be elected to be powerful. Rich. Set for life.

How many members of Congress come back home to the suburbs and cut their own grass?  How many retired Senators kick back on a fishing boat at a little cottage on the lake? How many just chill out and live on a tight budget like the rest of us?  I’m going to take a wild guess and say, none.

You see, they all survived the white noise and rampant stupidity long enough to get theirs in the form of lobbying jobs, chairmanships, guest professorships, and other positions that they feel they really deserve for gutting it through all the rubber chicken dinners, interminable town halls, backroom deals with this racist oilman, and that billionaire industrialist.

They are professionals at reading us, the stupid.  They are so good at running the con on us that most of us don’t even know our pockets are being picked by pros. Believe me when I say there’s not a member of Congress wringing his or her hands over the plight of their poorest and most vulnerable yahoos-er, constituents.  They may SAY they are, but nope.

So, here we are.  Fighting among ourselves, lurching from one outrage to another, wringing our hands and writing letters, calling our MoCs, all because of one nebulous thing: our belief that good will win out.

Sadly, good cannot win until stupidity is marginalized and real consequences are paid, and not just by the innocent.  Good cannot win until we understand on a visceral level that we give away our power to people we wouldn’t hire to rake leaves, much less make life-altering laws. Good cannot win until we set aside our feelings about what we don’t like and start pulling together for the common good.

In the next installment, I will tackle this contagious sense of entitlement that seems to be pervasive in society.

 

 

He kept his eyes averted and fidgeted when he talked but something I said touched something in him because he came alive with words that tumbled out in a halting, insistent rush to tell me a story he had held on to like a talisman for more than thirty years.

“I used to be the head technician for when the cable company first got big in _____

and I, uh, made good money in those days”

Here he paused and looked away, his sad old eyes seeing far beyond our sight. I waited for him to get to whatever point he was trying to make and he apologized for not being able to talk so good, because of botched anesthesia, and another story he needed to tell after this one.

“So I was going home one morning and I was in the right turn lane and this cement truck, this truck turned left and he took the corner too fast and he turned over and all I saw was green, because that was the color of the truck, and he stopped about three feet from a gas pump and all the cement came out and it stopped about an inch in front of my truck, and all I saw was green.”

He stopped and looked away from his feet directly into my eyes. His voice shifted in tone, gained strength.

“So I jumped out and ran around the cement truck and the driver climbed out and stood on top of his truck yelling and beating his chest, ‘Yeah! That was awesome'”

“There was a grandmother, a baby, and uh, the mother underneath that cement truck and you couldn’t even see the car.”

He never looked away from me and I felt the hurt and the guilt hitting me in waves. He had to tell this story, job be damned, stuttering be damned.

He climbed under the truck and a cop pulled him out as he tried to get to the people underneath.

“The cop, he yelled at me and said nobody was underneath that truck but I pointed to the headlight that popped out on the ground and the taillight that was laying there. And the cop said it was done and over with, and they put a big tarp over that cement truck all day.”

“That boy, that 19 year old boy, got eleven years in prison for uh, manslaughter, and I testified and everything.”

His sad old face looked broken, fault lines of grief opening up from hairline to jaw. I said nothing at all, just stayed with him in that place. He refocused on me and touched me on my shoulder. I suppose he was making sure I was real and wouldn’t disappear after the telling.

“I used to skydive, scuba dive, you know, uh, climbed Yellowstone eleven times, and, uh, . . .” He looked outside and squinted, relocating himself again. I felt his confusion. I felt his despair at no longer being the vibrant young man he remembered. And I didn’t move. Not a muscle.

Don’t mind me–it’s just another day to avoid

reflection, to engage in deflection

not answer the phone or check the mail, because

it’s just another day of the same questions over and over

from the same faceless drone in an office

200 miles away, getting cocky with impatience

It’s not my fault you don’t know how to frame a question so that

it can be answered correctly

But I swallow all those elegant curses that would pour

so eloquently from my lips in order to

maybe, just maybe

get that pittance you withhold with apparent glee

I hang up and feel the flush start on my neck and my arms

get prickly from repressed rage

Is it too early to start drinking??  Is it too much to ask

that you just stop with the “i” dotting and the “t” crossing

for the tenth fucking time?