On Baltimore…

I’m an idiot for posting this. My only request is, if you read this Baltimore opinion, you take the time to read it straight through and process some of the twists and turns. I hope you find it constructive rather than destructive.

You will find that this opinion on the matter addresses and validates points on both “sides.” I phrase it in this manner because it appears, as it so often does with social and political issues, that people are trying to group themselves on one side or another, doing their best to solely support their viewpoint while discrediting or ignoring opposing points. This opinion touches upon rights and wrongs within both of these worldviews, and combines aspects to form my thoughts.

Here we go…

It is entirely possible to condemn the violence and looting happening in Baltimore while acknowledging the legitimate reason that it is occurring. Let me first start by expressing my view on the rioting: violence never has been, and is currently not the solution. Everyone who is causing such destruction should be condemned and held responsible for their actions. What some of these people are choosing to do is despicable and contrary to the principles one of greatest civil rights activists in the history of the world, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. laid forth.

However,

We must question why this violence is occurring. Anyone who thinks this is solely because of one murder is shortsighted and is missing the point. Freddie Gray was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Could so many people be inspired to violence, to chaos because of one single act? What is happening in Baltimore is a result of the frustration that comes from systematic alienation and discrimination. These people grow up in neighborhoods that are viewed as separate and lesser by society. They are not given the same educational or career opportunities. Their culture, pattern of speech, and values are looked at as lesser. Many of these people have lived through countless acts of prejudice and discrimination, large and small. Many cannot conceptualize just how dehumanizing and infuriating it must be to receive looks or hear comments on almost a daily basis. I have heard and seen so many awful things….and that’s just what I have witnessed. I cannot imagine how often some people have to deal with rude looks, comments, and assumptions, all of which that tell them they are “different.” They are put in a box and judged because of their looks. They are grouped in with the negative stereotypes the media portrays. How does that make them feel about society, about the ruling structure? Do they feel they have a voice? That they are represented? That who they actually are is cared about? That they are cared about when their schools receive no funding, when their infrastructure is crumbling?

You take people who have that lived experience in a nation with a rich history of racial violence and discrimination and one thousand percent get why they are out there rioting. They are sick of people like them being targeted by police because of how they look. They are sick of excessive force more often happening to the African American population (which, statistics say is true). They are sick of being treated as second class citizens, as less than people, and as being disposable. This is occurring because these people are fed up over years of systemic oppression and they don’t know what to do. They are mad as hell and they don’t want to take it anymore.

Now…

Because I think I understand why this is happening does not mean I condone it. Some of the people out there may be the troublemakers and vandals, just looking to take advantage of the chaos, but I suspect even most of the criminal actions are rooted in a sense of anger at the powers that be, a sense of alienation and hopelessness. We are different, we are treated as less, and we’re sick of it. We don’t know what to do besides release our anger.

This is a symptom of a broken system, of a nation that has to look in the mirror and see we still have so much progress to make. Their still isn’t equality in this nation. There still is institutional racism. We have made progress, but that doesn’t mean the work is done. There is still a long ways to go to equality in this nation. But here’s the kicker folks…

Black lives matter. Blue lives matter. The media is the devil in this situation. The media portrays the only cops who use excessive force and cause deaths and rarely the vast majority who protect and serve and promote harmony. The media portrays the rioters, looters, and criminals, instead of the black community members protesting peacefully and working to clean up the city in the wake of all of this havoc.

And do you know what this does?

It continues this fucking vicious cycle that our nation is stuck in. Because people who support the system as it is and the police see images of rioting blacks destroying their town, see images of senseless violence, and use this to affirm their preconceptions. Other people see images of police officers killing black citizens and use this to affirm their preconceptions about cops and white society.

The media portrays the extremes for ratings. There is no moral obligation. Two fighting sides and two opposing viewpoints draw ratings. Shock value brings viewership.

And this is fucked up. You know why? Because we’re people. We’re Americans. So many of those cops and so many of those protesters are people with families that just want to make a living and be happy. So many of them aren’t racist and don’t hate each other, but the media focuses on those who do, and the rest of us, who aren’t involved in the situation (and may not be involved in many situations involving race) come up with armchair quarterback opinions and misconceptions based upon these portrayals, as if we can understand the plight and viewpoint of another population raised in an entirely different socioeconomic situation…

It’s insane.

MLK set an example of how to bridge racial relations, of how to lay the groundwork for cooperation and equality through dedicated protest but nonviolence. We need more leaders like him, in both the black and white communities in our nation. Leaders who are willing to reach out and understand other viewpoints and lived experiences. Leaders who are willing to rally people of similar life experiences to help foster understanding, cooperation, and joint growth. Because what’s happening in Baltimore is a travesty. The actions of the rioters are not only unacceptable and horrid, but they only further the divide and make the cause of equality more difficult to obtain. People who are unable to see or understand the plight of the African American in this nation will see these images and they will affirm their prejudiced viewpoints. I’ve already read and heard horribly racist, dehumanizing comments using the footage as “evidence.” What’s sickening about that is how it reveals the level of racism that still exists (even among whites who are not actively attempting to oppress African Americans, but still hold preconceptions) but it also shows how so much of what we think about people is based upon a skewed view of such a small segment of the population. Those rioters, those ones causing that damage, they are a product of a troubled environment rooted in a flawed system. They are not right in what they do but we must understand they don’t represent all African Americans.

So my point, put simply, is this: I do not condone the rioting occurring in Baltimore, but recognize that it’s existence indicates the failure of our social political system to ensure inclusion, opportunity, and equality for all. Violence is not the answer, and those people causing that property damage are only making this entire situation worse. They must be stopped. However, we cannot let the portrayals of these people by the media divide us further as people. Do not let images of rioters confirm racism. Do not let images of rioters undermine the real struggle faced by African Americans today. Support and love black lives and blue lives, because there are countless African Americans and police officers who enrich our great nation and make it a better place to live daily.

We are all people, but we’ve all lived in very different situations. We all have lived through different struggles and developed our own unique lenses. Take a moment to try to understand how society looks to someone raised in a different area with drastically different experiences. I’m not asking you to agree with the actions or even the opinions of these others, but I’m asking you to try to understand why these beliefs and actions occur. Once you’ve taken time to do this, don’t list reasons why people who disagree with you are wrong, instead ask yourself this:

What can I, and society do as a whole, to fix this? How do we better America? Because everything is is self serving argumentative bullshit aimed at validating one’s self and viewpoint. So many of us would rather be “right” and have the other side be “wrong” than make any tangible progress towards peace, civility, dignity, and a just society. So before you go spewing hate rhetoric towards either side or viewpoint, ask yourself if you truly have a conception of how other people are thinking, why they are acting as they are, and if you’re at all apart of the solution, or just one of the many talking heads spitting out opinions that continue to keep us divided and far away from the potential this great nation has.

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On Baltimore…

Normal?

“Normal?” Laura asks, not averting her eyes from the road. “And just what is normal? Is normal the type of life where you’re constantly insecure of your body? Of who you are in a relationship with? Of how your house looks in comparison to the neighbor’s? Of what kind of job you have or what type of car you drive? Of what other people think of your children? Are these normal concerns? Because to me these sound like neurotic concerns, obsessive fixations on the most insignificant of details, the most desperate attempts to be validated by the outside world. Normal sounds like every fucked up person agreeing on what it’s okay to be fucked up about rather than striving for a little change. That’s it, you know what normal is? The enemy of progress, the bane of innovation, the cancer to the human spirit. You show me normal you show me mediocrity, you show me genius and you show me someone who dared to defy the standard. Normal is the blanket we think has been keeping us safe, but that’s actually been smothering us all while.”

Normal?

A “Romantic” Excerpt

Here’s an excerpt from my work in progress, Terminal, about a nurse’s aide who takes control of his own life by murdering patients. I’ll be sure to update you on the state of Murderers Anonymous (being shopped by my agent) as info comes in! Pardon the rough state of the writing, it’s still in it’s early drafts, but I like the feel to this scene:

“Sartre said the fear we get when we look over a ledge or stand atop something tall is not the fear of falling,” Laura says, “But the fear that we’re going to jump.”

We’re standing on the stone railing of the bridge, looking down into the dark scar of a river below. The water shimmers only slightly, casting the occasional faint twinkle through the abyss below.

“The fear that we won’t be able to stop it?” I ask. My body rocks back and forth.

Laura nods. “The fear that our anguish will take over and we’ll do what we secretly want to.”

The Delaware River lurks below. We’d driven nearly a half hour to get to this remote bridge on a state route in the middle of nowhere. It crossed the river, linking New York and Pennsylvania, but with no nearby towns or buildings, there wasn’t a car or person in sight. It was just us and the night.

And the drop.

I estimate it’s about eighty feet.

“What are we doing here?” I ask as if I don’t already know.

Laura smiles. “We’re jumping, silly.”

Falling into a body of water from a height of 150 feet has an approximately a 98% mortality rate. While falling from lesser heights increases the chances of survival, there are still a multitude of variables to consider when evaluating whether or not a fall will be deadly. Angle of entry to the water, possible loss of consciousness, swimming ability, and the body’s penchant to go into a state of shock are among the factors that can contribute to death. If one hits the water at a poor angle for example (see: belly flop) the high rate of speed the body is traveling (see: high way speed limits) will result in the an incredible amount of force taken by the body as it hits the water (see: concrete wall), resulting in broken limbs, ruptured organs, or a loss of consciousness, all hindering the ability to swim and thus resulting in death.

And this is all considering the water is deep enough to accommodate you; you might just splash right through it to the rocky bottom, breaking yourself into pieces (see: splat).

“This is a unique first date,” I muse. A cold draft of wind ruffles my hair, and I consider the temperature factor as well. It’s about fifty-five degrees out, with the water possibly near freezing. There was a chance that could get us as well (see: hypothermia).

Laura turns to me, her eyes showing the same fleeting twinkle as the dark water below. “Isn’t it just? This is what life is about.”

“Do tell,” I say.

Laura takes a deep breath before telling me that the only thing that gives life value is death.

“Without death, nothing is sacred. Nothing in life has value because we’ll never lose it. There’s no clock, no pressing reason to have moments or experiences. No reason to make memories with loved ones. Life breeds complacency.”

She goes on to tell me about how infinite life would be a curse, not life at all.

“If we have enough time to do everything, we’ll never do anything,” she says. “There’s no impetus, nor is there a sense of wonder. You live long enough you see everything.”

She goes on to explain how death is a blessing, the state of non-being that shows us how fortunate we are to have, that encourages us to appreciate and grow while we can.

“Deadlines are the bastion of human progress. They are what drives the engine of humanity. And every death we experience is a lesson,” she stresses. “We learn lessons from people’s lives and apply them to our own. Without a beginning and end there are no lessons, no reasons, no true joy, no true accomplishments. Death is what makes life beautiful; it’s what makes life worth living.”

“It’s the shared experience that makes us one with all of humanity,” I say.

She smiles. “Yes. Death allows us to be defined and known. It allows us to live individual lives. This is why I do this.”

“You try to kill yourself?”

Laura shakes her head. She explains she does this every few months as a reminder she is alive. She finds a bridge overlooking a body of water, stands over it, and jumps. She seeks out heights that are not likely to kill her and water with depths that will accomplish the same.

“But there are no guarantees,” she stresses. “It has to have a chance of killing you or it isn’t authentic.”

“What does it do for you?”

She smiles, but for the first time it seems truly authentic. “When you’re falling you have the time to appreciate what you have, even if it isn’t much at all. When you’re facing death, when your body’s instincts think it’s coming, you realize the wonders and joys you’ve had in life. As you’re falling time slows down, your entire life plays before your eyes, and you have a moment of reflection, of appreciation. You get to experience yourself.”

“To put yourself into perspective,” I say.

She nods. “You let go of that sense of control all of us so desperately fight for and let the laws of gravity dictate your actions. It’s liberation. You feel so small but so wonderful, and suddenly, that life you lived, it all seems okay.”

I stare down. “It’s one of those things I won’t get until I try it, isn’t it?”

Laura nods. She reaches over and takes my hand. I squeeze it, and feel warm inside.

“Have you almost died before?” I ask.

She nods. “The best part is scrambling out of the water, trying to keep your wits about you.”

“I might die,” I say.

She nods. “That’s what makes you feel alive. Are you scared?”

“Contemplative, maybe, scared, no,” I respond. In an odd way, the glowing moon combined with the gentle sloshing of the river below and the song of crickets, made the scene romantic. It was the type of date that could figuratively (and literally) take my breath away.

“If you’re living life afraid, you’re not living life at all,” Laura says as she moves her foot forward and takes the plunge.

Hands still locked together, she takes me with her.

A “Romantic” Excerpt

On Extreme Writing

I write the types of novels that make people cringe. They are the types of novels that smack you in the face to wake you up or get a point across. There’s graphic violence, sex, and detailed description of perversion. I write the type of stuff that couldn’t make it into the movies. Sometimes that makes it difficult presenting my work to others. I’m a pretty positive, happy go lucky guy in my every day life, yet my novels are dark, saturated with what some believe is filth. I’ve had people wonder how a guy like me could even write that stuff.

Well, here’s how…

I believe that the best stories make us uncomfortable in some way (this doesn’t have to be grossing out or shock value) and that these stories show us aspects to society or reality we haven’t previously considered. The best stories live on in our minds and hearts and we grow along with the characters. We use the content to develop our own life lessons that will stick with us. Now, stories can do this in many different ways. The reason I have extreme events and characters in my stories is not for its own sake…it’s to convey points. It’s to wake people up to how others see the world and do. To what behaviors and perspectives really exist in our society. To what goes on around you every day without your knowledge. You might not like it, it might make you uncomfortable…

But you’ll learn something.

I find that this form is also good for satire. When you shock people with your characters and actions, they pay attention. They can more easily see the critiques on social contrivance or other’s behaviors. The protagonist with a warped viewpoint can challenge the reader and get across valuable messages.

So when I write a character who has lived through violent sexual abuse, and I describe aspects of it, I don’t do that for it’s own sake. When I write a scene with a grisly murder and provide details, it is not because I love gore. It is to open eyes, to catch attention, and make you think about some of the larger messages.

My mother read Murderers Anonymous (my novel currently on submission to the Big 5 publishers) which is filled with sex, violence, and foul language (I believe there’s 185 occurrences of the word fuck in some form, of course I hit control F to find out). I warned her about the content, I hoped she wouldn’t think her son was a perverted maniac. She told me, “I’ve been around the block. I’ve read and seen things.” Still, I was wary. How could a mother read a book her son wrote containing multiple graphic, detailed sex scenes?

She loved the book, and she loved the devices I used to get my point across. She saw the artistic value in them and didn’t think I was a weirdo. Maybe my worries were unfounded, but sometimes I still have people a little weirded out when I describe to them the type of books I write. But you know…

When most of them give the books a shot, they love them.

Keep reading, keep writing

On Extreme Writing

Relationships

“A friend called me crying one day because her boyfriend had left her for another woman. I couldn’t understand why she was devastated. “You want to be with a guy who loves you as much as you love him, right? Someone who would never do this to you, correct? And this guy obviously doesn’t fit those criteria, so why are you sad?”

It was clear, right there, and then, that my view on emotions is very different from other people’s. I view emotions as the potholes on an otherwise smooth path towards euphoria while my friends celebrate (yet complain about) the ups and downs of their emotional roller coasters. I’m not a mean, cold-hearted or unsympathetic individual; I simply trace the origin of the pain we feel and, if it’s self-inflicted – which it almost always is – I say, “If it hurts when you pinch yourself, stop pinching yourself!” – Timber Hawkeye

Relationships

Murderers Anonymous Chapter 1

Hello! This is the first chapter of my novel, Murderers Anonymous, which was picked up by my agent Adrienne Rosado of Nancy Yost Literary in November. It’s currently on submission to editors at imprints of the Big 5 Publishing houses. I hope you enjoy the sample!

1

You don’t want to read about me.

Seriously, I’m not worth your time.

You’re still reading? Are you one of those types who has to leave a handprint on the wall because you don’t trust the wet paint sign? Or is it just a rebellious streak? Have you been diagnosed with oppositional defiant disorder?

Approximately 26% of Americans over the age of eighteen suffer from at least one diagnosable cognitive disorder. Spend some time researching your personality quirks on the internet and you’ll come up with a myriad of disastrous issues. Are you obsessive compulsive? Bulimic? Maybe you have ADHD? Social anxiety issues? Ergophobia? List some things about yourself – don’t worry you won’t be alone! We can give you a nice little label, some pills, and most importantly an excuse for all of your shortcomings.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not discounting disorders entirely. We are all legitimately fucked up. Maybe I’m just saying the titles, categories, and treatments are misnomers. Maybe I’m saying narrowing the scope of what’s wrong down to one “condition” only serves to give us the illusion of control.

Or maybe I’m not.

Are you seriously still reading?

I knew a guy once; let’s call him Billy, who went off to Iraq fresh out of high school. Billy was pretty fucked up before he went to Iraq, a borderline alcoholic with penchant for fighting anyone who looked at him the wrong way. Billy had issues, but these combined with his miserably low high school GPA made him a perfect candidate to become one of Uncle Sam’s boys.

Three weeks into deployment an RPG struck Billy’s Humvee. He probably would have become meat pudding if it hadn’t been for his best friend in the unit, a poor son of a bitch named Joe Murphy, who happened to be standing between Billy and the Humvee when the grenade struck.

“So she lifts up the burka and she’s packing a dong!” Kind of sad, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you wish your last words were more flattering, and not the punch line to a joke about a goat-herder’s unfortunate run in with a transsexual Sunni?

I don’t know; who am I to judge?

What was left of Joe coated Billy. I’m talking searing hot flesh melting into his skin, gore forcing its way into his mouth, and eviscerated organs clinging to his body like parts of some grotesque ensemble.

I remember the party his family threw for him when he returned. I attended not because I was particularly fond of Billy; I just wanted to feel a sense of belonging. You know, the type of feeling that you get when tell someone you donated to charity, or ran a 5k to support cancer research.

You just do it so everyone thinks you’re a good person.

Everyone includes you.

Halfway through the evening, someone popped a balloon and Billy shit himself, put his hands over his ears, screamed at the top of his lungs, and ran until he tripped and fell face first into his welcome back cake, destroying it as he fell to the floor, face coated in vanilla frosting and pants soaked through with feces.

Approximately 7.7 million Americans over the age of eighteen suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, typically resulting from an injury or severe psychological shock. Symptoms include loss of sleep, constant vivid recall of the traumatic experience, inappropriate emotional outbursts, psychological regression, and a dulled response to the outside world.

The last I heard, Billy was addicted to pain killers, had a constant twitch, was unemployed and blowing dudes for pills in an alley in Tacoma, Washington. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.

Does it matter? He’s fucked up, you’re fucked up, I’m fucked up.

And you’re still reading.

I knew a kid once, an imaginative, bright little boy who had the misfortune of being born into a low income family. Maybe his creativity came from his mother, a failed artist turned pot dealer who was more concerned with completing high school level pieces of art than she ever was with taking care of a son. Or maybe it was from his father, who so inventively named the belt he beat his son with “Mr. Slack” for reasons unknown.

“You’ve been a bad, bad boy!” Mr. Slack would say in a voice eerily similar to that of Mickey Mouse. “Mr. Slack is comin’ for ya!”

But honestly, the boy probably got his creative and unique perspective from watching his parents fuck. His first memories of this were from when he was four or five, but he thought that the experiences went further back than that. His parents had the odd habit of stripping down and boning right in front of him, literally dropping whatever they were doing to go at it.

“Oh let him watch! He’ll learn early!” his obese father cackled as he thrust his stubby cock into the eagerly awaiting mouth of his wife. The boy was startled by how his mother stared directly into his eyes the entire time, as if she was taunting him.

Or enticing him.

Maybe his parents caused his social anxiety and sexual dysfunction issues, but these were exacerbated by wasting four years of his life dating a stuck-up, cold-blooded cunt who left him during his most trying time.

I fucking hate you, Kelly.

I love you, Kelly.

You don’t want to read about that boy. It will only make you a worse person. The baggage he’s carrying, well it’s just too much. Why don’t you go buy one of those commercial novels? You know, one of those feel good stories with the predictable arc where, despite the central conflict and the tension that arises with the love interest, the main character learns a valuable lesson, all misunderstandings are cleared up, the conflict is resolved, and everyone lives happily ever after.

This is your final warning.

No?

Maybe you’re just as fucked up as I am.

Murderers Anonymous Chapter 1