Friday, October 27, 2017

Serve and Protect

Nobody likes the police, in all honesty. If you could go an entire lifetime without ever encountering a police officer, life would be a grand affair. They have many functions surely, but in most cases seem to be perceived as else than an officer of the law. They are deemed pricks for merely enforcing an archaic byzantine judicial code. They are charged with extortion for merely upholding simple civil codes. They are the grim reaper's liaison to the survivors and at times the judge, jury, and executioner when they loose themselves from the restraints of common decency.

Do they have a PR firm?
Is there a more tone-deaf image to allow someone to take?
It's difficult to have an honest discourse in such a one-sided affair. People chant "fuck the police" and they are not wrong. Police are the obvious bludgeon of oppression, though (I hope, naively) most of them probably did not sign up for such a role. The police and their supporters shout back that their lives matter, which is nonsensical in such a "no shit" way, but in all technical sense is not a fallacy. It's a hilarious mob tactic to pretend that the ones with the power and the guns are the oppressed, a comical juxtaposition of the role organized crime held in society previously. Any citizen could tell you that police have become the enemy, but they are merely fighting the puppets and ignoring the puppetry.

What if we drop that pretense first? Let's even skip the bad egg theory and assume that the individual officers are not the problem. I have met several policemen who are seemingly decent people, so this might not be a false claim. Also, let's grant that some things happen because people are humans that make mistakes. (ex. That one time a cop got drunk and flipped his car killing his trained K-9 dog. Then, went to the pound replaced it with an untrained dog and tried to pass it off. Or that time cops pulled over young women and solicited them for sex in exchange for leniency on mere traffic crimes. Allegedly... Okay, maybe there are some bad eggs.)

So instead of blaming police, let's blame someone else: Americans. Each and every one of us for allowing this to go on too long. The American criminal code is complete garbage. Outside of the obvious inclination towards targeting the poor and minorities especially African Americans, does the system work for the people enforcing it? It works for judges, especially those without aspiration glad to live out their days putting away teenagers for running dime-bags. It works for prosecutors, who live off of these two-bit cases to keep stupid high conviction rates that get them re-elected; later, they can use stats to be a tough-on-crime gubernatorial candidate. It works for police towards the top, who get the kickbacks and political backwash to live a comfortable life as a "public servant". It works for the private jailers who profit while most on the streets will kill to never be part of that Sisyphean hell again.

It doesn't work for the police.

It doesn't work for the cop who walks up on a suspicious car and gets killed by a jumpy kid running a two-bit weed deal in the suburbs. It doesn't work for the cop with no back-up who fears for his life, so he inexcusably executes an innocent citizen. It doesn't work for the dozens of cops killed while issuing speeding tickets, because that's the only way your piss-ant municipality can afford a riot tank. It doesn't work for the man working overtime hours to put down a society that values him as sub-human. He's just a man following orders to shoot rubber bullets and tear gas at unarmed civilians. It especially does not work for the men and women who have to pray every day that their loved one comes home from their job.

There is a reason why the blue line is thin, and it has nothing to do with crime. It's because they system is set up to make this a police versus criminal battle. I'm not an expert on these matters, but honestly no one is. There is a noble ignorance in facing ones problems by completely rejecting them as fact, but at some point, law enforcement must face its demons. The obvious upside of this for law enforcement is their deficiencies are blatantly obvious to an unbiased observer. The downside is no one in law enforcement is an unbiased observer.

One has to start somewhere positive, so let's talk about what police are good at in this city. They are good at arbitrarily handing out traffic fines and then extorting the public to pay them. This gives money to city schools (not enough to make them good) and takes money from ne'er-do-wells (otherwise known as citizens). At best, it's a genius way to increase city revenue. At worst, it's government-sponsored extortion that encourages people to take their jobs and business elsewhere. My favorite example of government is sweet sweeper fines when you still fail to deploy the street sweepers regularly.

They are good at escorting dignitaries, funerals, and standing outside of baseball games to direct traffic and deter crime in an area with thousands of witnesses. They set up helpful DWI checkpoints at noon in heavily Hispanic areas, that they let me pass unabated while slightly intoxicated. Occasionally, they engage the neighborhoods, never failing to videotape that time they played basketball with children of another ethnicity. One time they insured my safety but questioning me on what I was doing in my own neighborhood, rightfully assuming that a white man north of Delmar was either dealing or at risk for his life. I calmly told the officer to search me after he confirmed my identity, and he calmly told me to fuck off.

While these are all me twisting positives into negatives, I don't think any of these officers were insincere in their service nor that any should be blamed for it. In fact, the majority of their days are spent in mundane situations that don't inspire the populace but are good in their own right. For example, good cops frequently returned my dog despite him being a notorious menace and repeat offender. More seriously, they are there to adjudicate domestic violence calls, which at best are uncomfortable to mediate and at worst violent. I salute any one of them trying to keep heroin and methamphetamine off our streets that doesn't choose to do so on racial lines. There are so many little things police do that are good, and it's shameful you don't hear that as often.

However, when backed into a corner, police can be monstrous. Our criminal code, and the police-criminal relationship it fosters, creates these problems. Systematic racism exacerbates them.  A gun is a deterrent. That is how the most staunch pro-gun lobbyists view guns. We need guns to protect ourselves and that is how they are to be used. Fear makes guns weapons; we are mortal flesh and blood, nothing more than a series of chemical responses. Fear makes an officer shoot a larger man.

Hate also makes guns weapons. Hate makes a police officer fire on a kid playing with a toy gun. Hate makes him refuse to do anything as that kid bleeds out on the pavement. Hate makes his actions dignified in the eyes of his peers. The culture of policing has too long fostered hate and too little fostered understanding. I've looked inside myself many times to see my demons and my hate. I can understand how hard it is to look at yourself and, in acknowledging your failure, have to relive all those moments you now know you were wrong. At some point, the entirety of law enforcement must come to this moment.

One would be wrong to assume that the fear is unjustified. However, police are hated, mistrusted, and and blatantly disregarded by the rest of populace. They are few, and have one of the least desirable jobs in our current state of affairs. In truth, all of those feelings on both sides are true. There is risk where there is no trust, and when the moment is split-second choice of life-and-death, they are at odds. The trust comes from us changing the manner in which we attack society's ills. For instance, why does the populace think that they should trust police when they can't keep heavily trafficked areas free of armed robbers? This isn't Nottingham. Why should we have 99% conviction rates on marijuana, a drug that were in not illegal would be responsible for zero deaths in the United States this year and we still can't treat women fairly when they come forward with sexual assault accusations? There has to be a point where police stop trying to make good conviction stats and start trying to lower bad crime stats.

Maybe trying a different approach would help. We've tried ridiculous shows of force, a modern take on Third Reich Gestapo tactics. If you want to show that they are your streets, make them better; don't chant like a sycophantic man-child. We have to at some point end the cycle of crime that ruins countless lives and makes an already tough job nigh impossible. There are already examples out there of efforts to both eliminate police brutality, jail overcrowding, racial profiling, and municipal extortion. It's not that simple, but let's acknowledge the problem first. We don't hate the idea of a protector, nor do we hate the idea of public service. There is a reason the police wear a shield instead of a battering ram, and it's about time we remembered their value and correct placement in society.

------------------------------------------------------

It's a complex topic, so here are some interesting articles on it.

Pew Research: Behind the Badge

This one is a long one, but it's well worth the perusal. Police answer questions based on their jobs, many specifically related to recent unrest related to shootings.

Awkwardly Named SLC Police Chief Teaches De-escalation Tactics

Without eliminating the option of deadly force, one can be trained to follow non-lethal procedure to detain unruly unarmed suspects. I'm familiar with this because I have been detained several times non-lethally while unruly.

10 shootings a day: Complex causes of Chicago's spiking violence

Chicago is an interesting case of the flaws in doing the right thing. One thing I've learned from living in the city is that structure in the criminal world changes dynamics. Structure lowers the cases of random crime, while in turn increasing the instance of premeditated crime. It's why I feel more likely to be a victim of violent crime in South City than North City St. Louis. Chicago took down it's largest gangs and was left with a bunch of street thugs with guns and no direction. It's results have been sadly predictable.

New Orleans' Great Bail Reform Experiment

Bail bondsmen are going to hate this as it seems to be working so far.

Should Prison Sentences Be Based On Crimes That Haven’t Been Committed Yet?

Precrime? Good one Pennsylvania K. Dick.


Portugal’s Example: What Happened After It Decriminalized All Drugs, From Weed to Heroin

All drugs are illegal still, but the auxiliary effects of eliminating user stigmatization through treatment are alarming. Specifically, the success in lower HIV transmission is impressive.

How Accusing A Powerful Man of Rape Drove A College Student To Suicide

The relationship between African Americans and police has been well documented. It is appalling, but also the tip of a much larger problem that systematic racism has created. The culture surrounding sexual assault allegations has much in common with this, which is why I allude to it occasionally in an opinion-piece focused primarily on race. The way power and victim-blaming take precedent to a woman's suffering is atrocious, and it never surprises me how little both sexes find this appalling.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

100 Percent

Every woman has been sexually harassed. Let's just stop and think about that. Every woman. Sure, some don't care or don't realize it, but let's not let that get in the way. Every one of them. One can feign surprise at this, as if they haven't lived in this world. Let's be facetious and say I'm a nice man. I'm sure I've sexually harassed someone at some point, whether that was my intent or not doesn't matter. The idea that this is widespread should be enough to change the environs in which we work, live, and enjoy ourselves. However, we don't live in a country of progression anymore; it's a country of regression.

If sexual harassment was the main problem, we'd know what to do. Sexual harassment is easy to cull. Fire people who do it at work with zero tolerance. If you see your mate bothering women in public, make him stop (if it requires a beating, so be it.) Yet that is only the base of the pyramid, it gets worse as you move up. How many of those women have been sexually assaulted? I'm guessing that your first guess at the percentage is low. Let's pretend again that I am a nice man. I went a significant part of my life not hugging people, because I thought that was a little too forward. I've been called out numerous times for being too respectful of a woman's body. This puts me somewhere towards the 99th percentile of men. Yet I can think of occasions where I regret the position I put a woman in. It wasn't rape by the definition of the law, nor assault, but it was undeniably manipulative and misguided in my opinion. That's what we're dealing with. The best of us are monsters still, just a little be more honest and regretful about it.

Sex is undeniably the greatest of human experiences. However, this is not about sex; it's about using sex as a means of control. There can be no greater crime than to twist something beautiful into a weapon (Of course, this is the most human of qualities; we have the ability to destroy beauty faster than we can create it). It also is more prevalent in a culture notoriously attached to the digital hookup, which breeds a dangerous misconception that everyone is looking for sex. We are, but the younger generation has no conception of the variances of desire. This is most summed up in the male perception of women dressing a certain way because they want sex. No, they want to look good and feel confident about that; get the fuck out of here.

Then, there are the nice guys. There is a feeling of hopelessness to this life, because honestly without taking risks and being forward, women could give two shits about you. So, nice guys compound the problem by blaming women for this. The "nice guys finish last" line of thought is a hilarious self-fulfilling prophecy that results in so much harm to women that the joke falls flat. I spent so many years in self-loathing because women constantly rejected me. I blamed women for this, but let's be honest, I wasn't worth the time. I wasn't attractive, had no future, and didn't really take care of myself and it was their fault. It's disgusting to even think of that worm of a man; nevertheless, we are still slithering to and fro in the muck pretending we are above this. Even in cases where women have made unwelcome advances towards me, I have never been the victim. So anytime I played the victim card, I was being at best melodramatic and at worst a fucking sociopath. Nice guys don't assault women, but they don't fight for them either. If we consider ourselves evolved creatures, that may be the larger crime.

The Harvey Weinstein "revelation" didn't change the game. We've known for a while what is happening and been either blind, silent or complicit in the rape culture.* For poor men, they are being lapped by women professionally and romantically. Women are grasping freedom in ways they never had the ability to, whereas the game never changed for men. Their physical dominance is the only tool which they almost universally have, and most of them haven't been educated enough to know not to use it such. Don't think for a moment that this excuses such behavior, but fear has always been the dominant human trait.

*I, personally, find this terminology flawed. It gives a nuanced problem an oversimplified catch-all term, which makes every poisonous interaction sound like a roofie in a frat house. If it were that simple, or if men were being raised to be rapists, that again would make the problem easier to pinpoint and attack.



The dominance of men in the workplace and society is waning as well, but men still remain largely in the positions of power in business. I've seen female subordinates be treated in wholly different manner than their male counterparts and it doesn't surprise me anymore The idea that men in power continue to use that as a means of sexual control is neither shocking nor recent. To men with any modicum of power, sex is just another perk of their station, another means of control. The idea that someone could strip men of this control burns in the mind of every horrible cunt that perpetrates this fallacy. It's why white men (and sadly many traditionally submissive wives) voted a rapist into the White House. It's why his successor (if we remove him from office) thinks that every woman is a temptation for sexual deviancy. It's the last grasping breath of that horrible chauvinist world that we were born into.

I thought about solutions the other day and I came up blank. I'm a respectful man; oftentimes to my detriment. My friends are not part of the problem, and anyone who knows me knows I'll fight anyone if I were to witness such behavior. There are no sons in my future nor do I feel the need to preach this lesson to my already well-raised nephews. So, I have no course of action in helping this problem other than sharing these words. There are several things we can do as society.

Policing:
How Accusing A Powerful Man of Rape Drove A College Student To Suicide

At some point, there has to be a shift in how we police sex crimes. We have to change the world to where the police aren't suspicious of every woman who brings forward a rape charge. To be fair, we probably have to retrain the entire country on how to police in general, because they are bad at pretty much everything except for parking enforcement. However, I get incredibly angry about women not being comfortable pressing charges because the police questioning and trial is essentially a trial about their promiscuity rather than the unwanted sexual attack. This is without even mentioning the amount of times I've been told of police using their position to sexually assault women, so perhaps we shouldn't expect such people to correct their habits.

So let's move into a self-policing policy.
First, ask. I know it's not sexy, just do it. (Note for idiots: ask the woman, not her friends, or family if you are super fucking weird)
Second, don't drink so much nor take home someone who has.
Third, hit the brakes. One night stands are garbage sex. Don't have garbage sex; have great sex.

Follow the Smoke:
If it's happened once, it's happened multiple times. One doesn't wake up one day and become an asshole. In my most egregious cases of indifference, I've notice the men who take advantage do it over and over again. If they are your friend, check that shit before it starts. If they are a casual acquaintance, be the bad guy. Do everything in your power to check him. If you have to take a punch, take the punch. If you have to drive an annoying drunk girl home, do it. Just be the man. If it's criminal behavior, be the man and turn that motherfucker in (hopefully not to police who don't give a shit).

Respect:
Woman are beautiful creatures. We are blessed to have them as mothers, daughters, and lovers. There is nothing wrong with admiring them for their physical beauty; I assume women want you to find them beautiful. That is the line in the sand, and after that thought, it is their consent to you crossing that line that matters. If you think anything you are going to do or say crosses a line, just don't. There is no reason for them ever to be uncomfortable in your encounters. To be fair, this applies to the ladies as well. Some guys don't want anything to do with you, leave them alone. (I've got a beer to drink and sports to watch.)

How hard is it to respect another person? If anything, honest dialogue goes a long ways. It's strange that people find things shocking because they've spent years pretending it doesn't happen. Maybe talking about it will help us to confront it, or more likely, we'll forget and repeat the cycle over and over. Liberals are constantly called out for raising a generation of victims (snowflakes is the most common insult). At some point, they'll see this is multiple generations of victims trying to make a world where their daughters don't have to be victims. If you can't give them that decency, of what use are you?

Friday, June 2, 2017

Master of Alone

Perhaps 25 year old me would find his likeness in Aziz Ansari's "Master of None". To some extent, I am still the romantic I was at that point, but I romanticize different things. Real things that I can see and touch, as opposed to feelings which are never properly conveyed. There is no longer an urge in me to continue a fruitless pursuit of beauty, at least as it pertains to the sexually implied prerogative of the human race. Instead, I let the winds of fate and chance take my sails, and spend the time wasted on trying so hard instead dancing with myself.

It's a strange freedom that I have learned, the end of the day when I get into bed alone. The irrelevance of time and space at that moment, and the selfish realization that the only burdens I carry are mine to bear. So much of romance is timed like a two step, repetitive and numbing. To be alone is to dance to your heart's content, until someone else of a like mind dances alongside. There is no compromising yourself to be with a lessening man or begging a woman just to be there with you. It is peak romantic nihilism, and it combined with the expression of your love in more platonic ways is fascinatingly intoxicating. It makes one wonder why we try so hard to please anyone, knowing that sex is a drug we crave more than happiness. Is is that we need each other to be whole, cannot face the crippling depression of loneliness, or perhaps lack a full understanding of love's capacities and uses?

The Missing Piece

We are all flawed. It's what I believe makes us beautiful. It's the fragile balance of our mortality juxtaposed with our insistence on conquering it. Or the persistent challenge to improve upon what is already a living breathing miracle of existence. Throughout time we strive to better ourselves in ways that do not make sense. This isn't a rant against work-outs and makeup, and our superficial being, but rather an indictment of the way we treat our minds and souls (if we want to get spiritual/ethereal about it). Why must we insist on a narrative where we are born broken or at least become broken? A romantic Voldemort with our horcrux living in another person.

It's not just the self-effacement, it's the implication of transferred power that makes such a belief dangerous. Suicides because one decides they cannot live without another's love are an extreme example. In other cases, a couple's insistence on spending time together at expense of their friends or their hobbies is emotionally damaging as well. At worst, instead of the person being what makes one whole, they try to change what makes you fundamentally you. There are few crimes worse than destroying a person's individuality, and I know, because I've been guilty of it many times. It's funny how the butterfly is much more beautiful before you catch it.

This does not preclude the idea of romance, partnership, or marriage, Just the conceptual idea that relationships should eliminate individual freedom. Sacrifice time, money, love to another if you wish, but never sacrifice who you are. Don't change yourself in fear of being alone, because darker and deeper depths lie at the end of compromising yourself.

Lonely

Being alone and lonely are not the same thing. A loner can fully embrace themselves for who they are. They are flawed, yes, but also incredibly strong and fearless. Desiring to be alone does not mean you lack empathy for others or the desire to be loved by others, it rather implies that you are for once happy with who you are in life. At this point, one does not need others to "complete" them. They are whole, and at the same time when entering a relationship, they have no need to leech off of another, or as I like to phrase it "dim their shine." So much of loneliness springs from the resentment that this parasitic behavior condones.

Loneliness is something else altogether. At one point, very unsure of myself, I cut myself off from humanity for a three month period. During this period, I literally forgot to use my voice; I didn't talk to people, laugh, or sing. One could argue this is textbook depression, but I wasn't depressed, I wanted to learn who I was. When I emerged, I was very much as I am today. I learned to work again, and learned how much physical labor eased my mind. I began to talk again, laugh again, and most importantly sing again.

Life without food, dance, music, and laughter is lonely. These things are all better company than any woman I've ever met, but occasionally, as with that occasion, the woman and such beauty may walk hand in hand.

There are sadder forms of loneliness as well. Waking up in a bed with a woman who doesn't love you is one I've felt many times. Realizing the people around you hold others in perpetual contempt gives me the same feeling. I've watched a man across a room grieve his spouse in a way that I can't even comprehend, listening to renditions of their favorite songs, One has no idea how few times I've never had the words, but there I just said my worst condolences and walked away.

I realize now that I never feel lonely when I'm alone. I can walk from place to place and nature embraces me in a way humanity never did. I sit in my car and every song on my phone connects me back to a person or place that I may miss in that moment.

Love

All this being said I still love and I've loved many wonderful people without regret. Perhaps. it's far worse for me, because I don't enter into such feelings blindly, and I don't feel the need to proclaim them to anyone. It's even worse, because as long as my brain draws power, such feelings do not cease. I love the first person I said the words to, and the last one. Their are nuances to each and I have been a monogamous man for my entire life, but polyamory is the constant state of my brain.

It's changed my mind on what I want from other people. My most positive relationships are non-sexual and I realize that more and more the chase for said relationships makes people incredibly miserable. Instead of being another peg in the rock wall they're climbing, I strive to be the harness protecting them from a fall. In many ways, being very confident in my own abilities and self-worth allows me to be the only person who doesn't need to lie to anyone, who can honestly assess life. In turn, the best people in my life ask me questions that female suitors don't ever think of. They ask me about my family, upbringing, and try to delve further into who I am, rather than ask me where I am headed. These are questions about who am I, rather than who could I be.

I can never express how lucky I was to have two incredible parents to raise me. Everything good or bad about me springs from them. My humor, my work ethic, my incredible patience which precedes my unreasonable temper, and their strange love which is relentless. I think that above all else they wish for all of their children to be happy, so my mother in between bouts with madness will often inquire into my status. She has often gotten lost and insisted I marry a bartender thus combining my Bacchian tendencies towards music and booze with my enduring love for the fairer sex. I have told her many times that I am self-destructive, but that sounds like a death wish. So I think the positive way to end this for them would be to explain that I am always happy. That doesn't mean I can't be sad or angry, or any multitude of emotions. However, I am happy with who I am, so throughout those emotions I remain inside an outrageously content man.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Two Hometowns

It's taken a bit of decompression, but I've finally come to terms with our failure this past November. I'm not important enough, nor foolish enough, to cast blame for the recklessness with which we launched ourselves into whatever this presidency claims to be. So instead, I'll get angry about something else, as any man with my ego, intellect, and complete disregard for everyone else would. In fact, I promise to pick out the most mundane story and pound it into the ground as I am wont to do.

Mostly, the conceptual idea of the out of touch elitist Democrat and the rural racist redneck Republican are falsehoods. Firstly, Democrats are just as racist and Republicans are just as out of touch. Secondly, it does no one service to just blindly label a group of people known for blindly labeling other groups of people. This is a paradox, and both sides get confused, quite possibly ending up as Bernie Bros or Breitbart sponsors. However, I personally am highly offended by the conceptual idea that because I voted for Hillary Clinton that I was out of touch with the minority of voters that elected that one guy President.

I think it's fair enough to explain my case.

I grew up in this town.

Carrollton, MO: Part of the Town SquareImage result for carrollton mo

I live in this one:
Image result for fountain park st louisMarket looted in Fountain Park

These are cherry picked images, but get the idea across best. I have cooled somewhat on my past beef with Carrollton, but in essence it is a peaceful town that might have seen it's heyday a century ago. I currently live in Fountain Park an area of North St. Louis that, at best, may be described as dilapidated and at worst, unlivable. To understand how I have come to my current beliefs, I feel we should go back and see where I come from and where I ended up.

Carrollton

I can't describe the joy this small town gives me. I've already expressed the anger, but let's focus on the positives and then try to understand why elite liberals don't get "flyover" country.

I would never dissuade someone from moving to Carrollton to start (or I suppose finish starting) a family. I can't imagine a childhood for myself outside the one where I walked home from kindergarten and wandered throughout town without fear. Even the tragedies in Carrollton seemed made up, every death was a Shakespearean play of emotions and for a town so keen on God, those times where God abandoned us were far more deeply felt.

He won big here, and you can assume that racism and bigotry were the case, but that actually implies reasoning into the decision. Towns like these vote Republican because their parents have been Republicans since Goldwater, and they learned at a young age to be Republicans. They respect their elders in a way that no others seem to do, which is both commendable and headstrong. It's also blindly reckless,

If you think small towns care about immigrants stealing their jobs, look at the many stories of small towns horrified when the nice family running their ethnic restaurants get run off  by ICE. If you think small towns have any reason to fear Muslims, look at the proximity of the closest mosque to my hometown. I'm not saying that this irrelevance helps anyone, but honestly, they have bigger problems.

In an increasingly service based economy, rural jobs aren't coming. Chasing the idea of small scale manufacturing in the face of increasing automation limits the possibilities that these towns can offer. Also, while the mileage has improved, the time constraints of commuting are still a factor (though a commute from Carrollton to Kansas City is probably shorter than a commute from St. Charles County to St. Louis at many times). The largest employer in town is the school district, and every year their representatives and senators vote to cut education funding. There is something ironic to that if one doesn't get sad first.

So you turn to the money industry in Carroll County: agriculture. This is where the Democratic party lost its way. Farmers hate government...and love government. Government keeps prices high and government regulates everything to some detriment and with lack of thought. I can get an abused animal from a megafarm but I can't acquire pig's blood from a reputable source. (If you eat blood sausage in the US, the blood was obtained illegally or from China. Eat the illegal one first.) Market control is a liberal economic concept, but they spend so much time attacking the wrong regulation that it's counterproductive.

So my people have a real concern, Do they vote for a candidate for the party they always have who may be mentally unbalanced or vote for perhaps the most conservative liberal status quo candidate, who has literally been the poster child for liberal arrogance for a couple of decades now. One can't blame them for picking that man.

Carrollton is timeless. It is a town I could go back to and feel warmth at any point, and occasionally sneak through unseen (getting harder with every day that I grow to resemble their high school teacher). It will endure on pure will, and the backs of the many wonderful people that inhabit it. It may get an interesting break with Amtrak considering a stop there (in a notorious flood plain?), but will continue to be a beautiful place, full of lovely people with a strange myopic viewpoint of the world. If I could raise a family there and live without the fear of poverty and irrelevance I would, but I fear it's too late for such trivial matters.

Saint Louis

Potential.

That's a word I hear spread about Saint Louis and occasionally myself. Saint Louis, like me, occasionally forgets to put in the work to maximize said potential. It's an interesting place to live, in that the day-to-day often involves surprises you never saw coming. The smallest kindest in a city may feel like a mirage compared to the small town life. The darkest thoughts are born in a cynicism that attaches to city life as a barnacle of distrust on our ship of dreams.

I think that may be the biggest difference for me, My hometown realizes where I'd be if I could settle myself and the city represents the chaotic dreams that I have. The sound of gunfire is somehow refreshing to me. The idea of my mortality is an impetus to study what it is to be me, or on a grander scale, to be human. I cannot ever settle myself without hoping for the same for my brothers, whether that be my literal family or the people that have crossed my path in this life. There is a beating heart on the far side of the heartbreak, and my goal is to find that.

Saint Louis is defined by changes. The easternmost western city sees the weather havoc of the plains. It sees the violence of Chicago, but not as random and fractured. It more than Kansas City and Chicago has been defined by the diaspora of it's white citizens (another topic to explore as it isn't always about racism, as least openly). Yet since the time I have been here, Saint Louis has grown culturally and financially. At some time, the people will return, probably not en force. There will never be enough to fill those old dead schools (somewhat due to family changes rather than adult populations), and they will never convince anyone to renege on white flight. Somehow, St. Louis is on a positive trajectory despite the insistence of local alderman and our newly elected mayor to install their own bullshit fiefdoms instead of actually working for city progress.

For this reason, it's a city where my block is safer due to drug trafficking than a block in a nice neighborhood where cars and people get robbed for shits and giggles. My neighborhood is named after a park people don't feel safe to hang out in with a long neglected weirdly-painted fountain that no longer works. The neighborhood I work in is indicative of the over gentrification of retail areas, but has the strange duality of flamboyance and sedation.

It a city of potential and a city of many unique people, always in contrast to the few who have plenty to lose if it does succeed. I could never remove myself despite this cancerous leadership, because I simply love what city living affords me. I love sports, music, art, food, and any culture. Finding that inorganically through the Internet would kill me. There is a different heartbeat, that while no more alive drives me further and further into the city's grasp.

Me

These are the places that define me. With a slight sojourn in Rolla, I have lived my entire life in Carrollton and the greater Saint Louis area. I know Missouri. I know both sides of the same coin. I've been poor in both places, and I understand the difference. I know that your thoughts differ when a black man uses EBT in Maplewood and when a white mother uses it in a small town Walmart. I would tell you a dime there is a quarter here, and you'd be lost. I'd tell you that payday loans, slum lords, pawn shops, illicit paydays, and illegal guns somehow don't flow into small towns like they do poor urban communities.

One could respond that rural communities don't allow such to happen and I'd agree. Despite the low level spite that exists among all neighbors, I'd argue that Carrollton protects its own well. The idea of community is stronger and their is some conceptual idea of the greater good. They don't often strike down renewal projects out of spite, and their renewal projects simply don't take the monumental efforts ours will. They also aren't constantly being handicapped by a Missouri government that has no conceptual idea on how cities work outside of I take my kids there to see baseball games. They pass legislation that protects farmers and livestock, all the while treating the urban poor as livestock as well. 

We could change our lot in life, but not as individuals. We could invest in education from the bottom up, and stop pretending a liberal arts degree is worthless. Education should only be worthless to the children who decide to waste it like me. Maybe again teach our children, not only to learn, but to dream again. We have to at some time give everyone the option to get out of either situation. To leave the comfort of the small town, and dive into a much larger world. To leave the grasp of the city, and experience that peace for a while. 

Mostly, we need to stop this poor-on-poor battle. These two places share many similarities. Houses and communities built by hand. People looking for work and trying to feed their families, underpaid and undervalued employees, and a strong devotion to Christ, for better or worse. Everyone runs away with the money and leaves the rest of us to fight over their scraps.

Then, you're only left with us, the product of both worlds, as the tiny bridge among us. Honestly, I don't think we have what it takes for something so momentous; nevertheless, one can always hope someone agrees with me and tries to join these hands which have been ruthlessly sundered times innumerable. At some point, we'll realize the true battlefield lies upwards instead of horizontally along income lines.




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Lineup

Suspect #1 is the perfect woman.
She's a manic pixie dream girl
Artistic, beautiful and kind
You're not her type

Suspect #2 is the perfect woman
She laughs at your jokes as garbage as they are
Meshes into your being
You're not her boyfriend

Suspect #3 is the perfect woman
The love of your life
You'll never find the words to describe this
You're not in her plans

Suspect #4 is the perfect woman
You've known this for far too long
Too comfortable to be intimate
You're not into it anymore

Suspect #5 is the perfect woman
She's the epitome of everything you never wanted
But she actually wants you
You don't understand this

Suspect #6 is the perfect woman
You haven't met yet
She's fiction
You can see her only in your mind

You're the worst witness.
Where should you begin?
They're all guilty.
Hard to pin a criminal with a stolen heart.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Quo Vadimus

And each time I fail, I get my people together, and I say, "Where are we going?" And it starts to get better.
It was an awful year in many regards, but let's take a deep breath before we all go off the deep end. This is not the end of the United States of America. It sure isn't the prettiest of chapters, but those who are honest may acknowledge that United States history is littered with missteps and charismatic idiots. All of those outrageous and impossible campaign promises are not going to be completed, as the Orange One has surrounded himself with insiders and lobbyists who will ensure that as long as the money flows upwards, the status quo should not change. It may seem like I'm not positing a bright side of this election, but rather just acknowledging that most cogs in the system will continue to turn properly.

Let's not mince words: we have failed. I'm from both sides of this election, so feel free to take from that what you will. There are people in this country who are legitimately hurting and disenfranchised. There are a whole lot more who feel like no one cares about their ideals and fears. They are both correct. Politicians do not care about anything, but getting elected and keeping all of that slush money flowing in and their party happy. The only breath of fresh air that the Orange One offered was that look of dejection on his face as he won. When you care more about a party, than you do the people who sheepishly vote for it, you do it a disservice. If there is anything that Americans expect from their politicians, it's disservice.

I prefer to insert the question "Why?" into my failures. Perhaps one voted to get manufacturing jobs back to their state, county, or city. Cruelly, one should note this is a pipe dream in a world of increasing automation and expanding service economy. Sure, globalization has not helped, but there are certain Americans who have profited on sending their jobs abroad and certainly the people who hold the concentrated wealth of the United States benefited as well. Some could blame Hillary Clinton for being a candidate with obvious governing weakness, but no alluring plan and plenty of questions. Certainly, she was no Bernie Sanders, but voter apathy does not equate full on voter madness. And there were those of you who didn't vote, there are no eloquent words to express your failure, so let's try this: get fucked.

The election mistakes the direction of the United States. The country is not headed in a more racist, homophobic, or sexist direction, though it may appear that way given the electoral choices made. While Republicans pretend that the country opposes universal healthcare, LGBTQ equality, and Roe v. Wade, the truth is that more are in favor of the first two than ever, and the country, for multitudes of reasons, has held steady on Roe v. Wade consistently since it's ruling. Despite demanding an unfeasible wall and mass deportations, the Orange One has walked backed on that issue; hopefully, because it is idiotic but more likely that it is not financially or economically possible. The damage that can be done will not be irreparable, because to go too far would be career suicide and none of these men care about the issues more than the pork.

To be honest, there is a deepening divide between the two Americas, urban and rural. As a product of both, I will elaborate further upon that in the coming days. However, that is a product of misunderstanding and stereotyping, not a wholesale difference in values. Sure, people of like minds tend to flock together creating pockets of differences, but everyone dreams of upward mobility, freedom, safety, and happiness. One day we'll agree on that fact, instead of spending so much time denigrating everyone's ability to articulate their values or their complete lack of values from the opposition's perspective. Urban voters are not immoral drug users mooching off of the government's teat. Rural voters are not all bible-toting bumpkins, more willing to shoot a minority than shake their hand. They're all people, they're all terrified, and therefore, they are all prone to making awful decisions.

The title of this post comes from the finale of the TV show "Sports Night". It's not the most apropos of Aaron Sorkin vehicles to mention, "The West Wing" being obvious and "The Newsroom" far more liberal and preachy. Sports Night was a show about failures, but also about people trying to carve out their place in an established system. They rarely succeeded but mostly kept persevering through their extreme devotion to each other and their fight. Sometimes simply, they asked the right question. I'm often admonished by those that I love, both lovers and friends, for telling them to calm down and to breathe. Nevertheless, it may be best to ask that of them once more. There's a good chance that deep breath will be necessary as we head underwater for the foreseeable future. When taking that breath, ask yourself, "Where are we going?" I know the answer will not be something you wish to hear, but it will tell you what we need to fight for.

I can tell you where we are headed. Not exactly a cataclysm, but a dire moment in time. I firmly believe that small government is a reasonable goal, but that the time for small efforts and smaller men has passed. It is time to fight on a local level for love, for women's health, for equality, for justice. It's time on a state level to fight for education and to stop passing laws that alienate people and prevent economic growth, especially in the Midwest which reeled enough that they may have inadvertently fucked an entire country. It's time for our country to end the war on drugs, or at least give it focus the heroin, prescription abuse, and amphetamines that are destroying the communities that voted these idiots in. It's time for us to push back at Russia and ISIS, but reel back our proxy controlling of the world's affairs.

Some have taken to calling it an insurgency, an awkward name to oppose a party of gun-toting xenophobes, but essentially that is what it is. The socialist Bernie Sanders supporters need to find someone young and vibrant, in fact find lots of young vibrant socialists. The liberals need to find new blood, and find the passion that everyone had for Obama and spread it to congressional elections. The Republicans need to find a plan, any kind of plan. The alt-right need to go away. Everyone needs to learn a bit about discourse, courtesy, and cooperation. The Orange One needs to shut his mouth and sit there for four years without blowing us up or undoing any good that his predecessors have achieved.

Maybe I should take a deep breath as well...

Friday, January 6, 2017

Get Yours

"I want to do what's best for humanity."
"I want to do what's best for the American people."
"I want to do what's best for Missouri."
"I want to do what's best for Saint Louis."
"I want to do what's best for my employees/coworkers."
"I want to do what's best for my family."

If you have ever heard these statements, or any variation of them uttered in public, you are being deceived.

"I want to get mine."

This is honesty. When a person says this in public, or any variation of this, they are telling you the honest truth.

The first group of statements are lauded upon and the last is most disagreeable. This is the price of being an honest person. What you say is blunt and sometimes hurtful, yet you are the biggest advocate for everyone else because you are the only one willing to speak bluntly. This is the politician's paradox.

The fluctuations in animosity of ordinary Americans towards politicians is puzzling, as there is a mechanism (albeit, a rigged and mostly irrelevant) to make changes in leadership whenever the electorate wishes. However. that animosity is usually reserved for primary season when ridiculous caricatures of this repressed animosity sometimes capture the imagination. The more puzzling aspect is the resignation of voters in the general elections who just go back to their hovels to support generic candidate A or B.

So what's does each one break down into:

Obviously, a politician making the first generalization about humanity is a candidate running for President. In this instance, humanity's benefit does not include global arms proliferation, bombing indiscriminately in conflict zones, global warming, global economic expansion, curing AIDS or in general giving any fucks about the African continent. Let's be honest as President of the United States, you'll hopefully fuck nothing up here and fuck shit up elsewhere. It's been a trend since Truman.

Maybe you just want to help the American people. This means you are insular and possibly xenophobic. This also probably means you are the President-elect. These are not things included in the phrase American People: women, blacks, Hispanics, Muslims, the entire LGBTQ community, Democrats, and hilariously, the poor white male that support and vote for you. You know what helps the American people most, your own personal gain and tax breaks to corporations and their CEOs.

Sure, you could say you want what's best for Missouri. If you are a Senator, that's not your fucking job. It says it right there on your fucking stationary. United States Senator or United States Representative. The party and State are abbreviations just to show people why you are such a douchebag. If you are Governor or the Missouri House or Senate, this is the correct position. However, you can't say you want to help Missouri if you rape your fellows, take bribes from loan sharks, or generally ignore the concerns of rural Missourians. Neither can you say that if you take money from big agriculture, hate groups, and work to oppress anyone that is different than you. Neither of you that is in the NRA's pocket will be able to help the young black men and police gunned down without reason while you shrug and say you want what's best for us.

Okay, it could be better on a local level. Let's hope that statement is uttered earnestly mayoral candidates and city leaders in industry. So which Saint Louis do you fight for? You probably fought for a $13 million boondoggle in the Loop. You may have put some roadblocks in north St. Louis, thus ending the area's drug problems and poverty immediately and also funneling everyone into your meat grinder that you call opportunity. Perhaps, you are running for mayor while running a corrupt government organization already or a corrupt alderman or alderwoman, which makes you supremely qualified to be mayor.

Now, let's scale the anger back a bit. The next two statements aren't lies. These are often said earnestly and offered freely with love and affection. The first is an impossible dream. Altruism in the face of economic destruction is plain idiocy. Sure, you could believe in these concepts but at the end of the day you are fighting for your success and to put food on your table for your family. That family which you are doing best for doesn't see you because you work too many long hours for not enough cash. They are the same family who doesn't feel safe, mostly because you vote constantly to loosen gun laws. They can't get the proper education they deserve because you know those same guys who keep the gays out of your bathrooms keep the money out of your schools. It's not the sentiment that is incorrect, but rather the means and the method.

Now, say this:
"I want to get mine."

Now, modify it a little.
"I want you to get yours, too."

Apply it to anything. Freedom, honesty, money, music, love, sex, drugs, alcohol, sports, God, Pizza. (especially pizza). Happiness, because there are too many motherfuckers in this world who don't want you to have or spread happiness. Change the world, by flipping the pyramid scheme, and empowering yourself and sharing that with those closest to you.

Then think about the things that it doesn't apply to. Killing, rape, bigotry, emotional cruelty, oppression. Those are all occasions where you got yours, but someone else is getting fucked over. It's not a deep thought to have, but it's a simple concept.

Cut out the bullshit and stop pretending that you are on everyone's side. Be on no one's side, be real and honest, and then start from there. Cut the bullshit, stop listening to it, stop repeating it, and stop living it. More often than not the truth shall set you free. Then you can say: I'm in a good place, how can I make everyone's else lives better.