A Perfect Sadness

And everywhere is war.

Month: December, 2013

The Generation That Cried Racist

Cameras are racist.  It’s a passive, ingrained, latent racism, but racism all the same.  I’ll bet you didn’t know that.  Well, it’s true.  Cameras are designed, after all, to make white folks look good.  Cameras are optimized that way, you see, as a default setting.  So cameras clearly contribute to the institution of racism that is quietly tearing our nation asunder.

And maybe we could do something about it if only more folks would make signs and scream.  Then we could look forward to a world where cameras work perfectly every time for both light and dark skin tones.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  If all of us laypeople explain the dangers of institutionalized racism, well, chances are good that someone smart will come along and build the perfect camera.  The perfect affordable camera, that is.

Have you ever asked someone where they were from?  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t realize you were being racist.  Yep.  You were.  It’s what we professional activists like to call a microaggression.  It’s more of that institutional racism you need to learn up on.  Microaggressions are real, they’re dangerous, and they’re sucking the very soul out of our nation.  You’re personally responsible for thousands of them, and worse, you don’t even know it.

How do you think it makes someone feel when you ask them where they’re from?  You’re probably thinking, “Uhm.  They usually just say something like back east.”  

Well, it’s clear to me that you don’t get it.  The target of your question is catching feelings over it, whether you understand why or not.  Some of your targets, that is.  Maybe like one out of a hundred, but look, numbers aren’t important.  What’s important is that someone somewhere might possibly feel like you think they’re different and read a lot of unintended subtext into your question.  And that’s bad, isn’t it?  Let’s just be aware and try not to hurt anyone’s feelings, hmm?

Things in this country will get better, but it won’t be until we cater to everyone, not just you.  You and your white privilege, I tell you, it infuriates me.  I hope you can manage to walk away from reading this with some idea of how much you suck. 

Understand this: people of color are profiled in this country in a way you’ll never understand.  They get followed in stores.  They get stared at, even gawked at.  People of color sometimes get pulled over when all they’re doing is driving down the road.  Think of that the next time you’re out.  I’ll bet dollars to pesos you’ve never been followed or stared at or pulled over.

Please folks, work with me.  This may be the only time in history when we get a chance to do this.  It’s important that we get this message out there, if only for the kids.

It’s vital that we teach the white kid to live in a perpetual and constant state of guilt for something he or she had no control over.  And it’s equally important that we teach the black kid to blame someone else for whatever troubles might come along.  Clearly, there’s no chance of upward mobility in this country, so don’t give me a lot of guff about teaching kids to take control of their own destiny. 

A couple of you are probably thinking that all of this sounds pretty divisive.  To you, I say, move along racist.  I’ll have none of your concern trolling here.

To the rest of you, I say, if you want to be a part of spreading this message–and I suspect that you’re guilty enough that you do–please send me whatever money you can.  One dollar, five dollars, two thousand dollars.  It doesn’t matter.  It all helps, and together we can change the world.

Progress.

Another Year Older

I’ve been invited to another state this year for New Year’s Eve.  Some of my friends will be renting out a bar–to keep the festivities private–and staying in a hotel afterward.  It sounds like it’s going to be an incredibly good time, and I get the feeling folks are going to be telling stories about it for a good long while.

But I won’t be going.  Instead, I’ll be home, bringing the new year in with my daughter.  We won’t be drinking or screaming or dancing, and I won’t be feeling young or on fire with the world at my fingertips.  No, none of that.  We’ll just be coloring, baking, and maybe watching some tv.

There was a time when I would have been bothered by all that missing out.  But not anymore.  Somewhere along the way, “Dad” is who I became, and surprisingly, at least to me, I’m okay with that.

Latter-day Saints

Lately, I’ve found myself attracted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Why?  I don’t know.  I suppose I can point to members of the Mormon religion who impress me, folks who seem to have good heads on their shoulders and solid foundations under their feet.  Or perhaps it’s this restless, empty feeling I have inside.  Some folks would surely call it a God-sized hole in my heart.

Truth is, I don’t know much about the Mormon religion.  Not really.  I’ve read a bit here and there, and, like a lot of folks, I’ve seen the South Park episode that mocked it.  I suppose I laughed, like a lot of folks, and then moved on with my life.

Religion has always been hard for me.  Mostly always, that is.  There was, in my childhood, one brief moment of stillness I can point to.  I was twelve years old and convinced the world was about to end.  Maybe I saw the news reporting some prediction or maybe my brother had told me earlier that day to frighten me.  I don’t recall, but I do know I was worried and unprepared and alone.  My family had gone out, leaving me by myself in the house.  I covered up on the couch and tried not to cry as I thought.  I prayed, inspired by fear, and kept praying in my own obsessive way.  I remember being worried that I’d never see my family again, and I remember the exact moment when that worry went away.  Maybe the praying worked, or maybe I just exhausted myself, but it’s probably, no definitely, the only time in my life I’ve ever felt . . . what?  Happy?  Peaceful?  Content.  In that moment, it would have been okay to die.

That night the world didn’t end.  I woke up the next morning feeling silly, and soon I was back to being myself.

Anyway, as an adult, it’s always been hard for me to believe.  Logically, I can accept the possibility of a greater intelligence in the universe, a higher power, if you will.  But how can I reconcile myself with the idea that any one religion has its finger on the pulse of that big potential unknowable?

I want to believe; I want to believe so much.  In some ways, maybe I need to believe, because otherwise I’m stuck with these nihilistic thoughts, this sense that nothing matters and that all of life is a joke.  A part of me usually manages to convince myself that sixty, seventy, eighty or so years of life is noble enough.  And, well, that thought definitely keeps me alive, but I don’t know that it keeps me fulfilled.

I don’t know.  As time passes, I’ll probably look more into what it means to be a Mormon.  I’m guessing joining a church requires a calling.  I’m afraid what I’m feeling might be just a confusion.

An Excerpt

Such a strange and twisted morality prevailed.

Realize that I ate better locked in a cell than I ever did fending for myself. The good man, Constable Reeves, brought me three platters a day. The meals were warm and balanced with generous portions of seasoned fish and mashed potatoes.

My cell was large and rather nice. Inside, I enjoyed a comfortable bed with a heavy blanket and two pillows stuffed full of brown feathers. The flagstone floor was covered in warm furs. There was a solid writing desk and a chair so cleverly designed that it leaned back. I reclined in it as Constable Reeves stood outside the cold iron bars of my prison.

“Master Kymric,” he said after a hesitant pause. His voice was strained and broken. He knew enough to fear me, but I took no pleasure in that.

His hands shook when I stared. I tried not to stare but, as they say in Kal Leoni, habits define us better than goals. Staring brought his body and his being into focus; he wore stinky old leathers, his hair was thin, and most of his nose had been butchered off years ago. What remained was an ugly mass of scars with a single gaping hole through which he breathed and dripped snot.

“Master Kymric,” he continued. “The Baron sent word. You’re to be given more parchment and ink.” He held up two bundles of parchment. On top he had placed three small jars made of clay, no doubt containers of black ink.

I frowned. “I already have parchment.” I wet my pen and scratched down words. “And ink.”

“Not enough,” Reeves said. “Not to the purpose the Baron is setting you.” He leaned forward, eyes bright and hopeful. “Master Kymric, you are to be given a defense.”

I almost laughed except it turned into more of a sour sigh. “What defense do you give a man guilty beyond doubt and dispute?”

“Nothing is beyond dispute. These are civilized lands after all. The magistrates said that all folks deserve a vigorous defense. A vigorous defense, sir. It’s right here. In the letter they scripted to you.”

“Empty words and wasted time,” I said. “Hang the guilty man now, I say. I’m unfit for civilization.”

Constable Reeves kicked the cell door. A loud clang echoed down the stone hallway. His face reddened. “Master Kymric, please. Won’t you at least consider reading what they have to say?” The poor man was pleading with me.

I stood and took the items through the bars. Constable Reeves reeked of dried sweat and grime. His face was close to mine as he spoke. Rotten teeth hid somewhere in that mouth–I could smell it.

“Your orders are written out for you by the scribes,” he said. “Do as they tell you. I swear to you, Master Kymric, the half-saints are looking for any excuse to bury you. And those of us who might be sympathetic, too. Trust the Baron; he can be your friend. This is real. I don’t think even your power is enough to change what is real.”

There were two bundles of flattened parchment, about fifty sheets per set. The Baron’s letter was there also, a decree sent directly to me from the gathering at the House of Honesty.

“Thank you, Reeves.” I sighed and sat in my clever chair. “I will consider this matter. You have my word,” I said, dismissing him.

Carefully, I laid the bundle down on my desk and nestled the little clay jars into the corner of one of the top drawers. I leaned back to read what my betters had to say.

Let it be known that the High Court–under the power of the twelve Kings of Fairbreeze–have hereby gathered on this third day of spring in the fourth year of the second decade to reckon with the alleged crimes of one Master Kymric, a man who hails from Boiling Springs and has personally sworn fealty to this stable, civilized, and prosperous Kingdom.

Let it further be known that this court has heard initial testimony from Master Zane, newly appointed Royal Magician of Fairbreeze, in regards to the safety of allowing Master Kymric into the House of Honesty to speak in his own defense. It is, after due consideration, the wise decision of this High Court that Master Kymric will not be allowed within this chamber. Simply put, the danger is too great.

Let it be known, however, that the laws of Fairbreeze are clear. All folks are entitled to a vigorous defense. So it is that Master Kymric will be compelled to offer his personal defense via messages with this High Court. It is our decree that good ink and usable scrolls will be provided to such noble ends.

“You’re right,” I whispered to where Reeves had stood. My voice was strained and broken. “Even my power cannot change what is real.”

I straightened out a new sheet of parchment. It was woven well. No cracks ran across the surface. I began to write. The ink was as solid a black as the color of my heart.

Soon it would stain my hands like the blood of my victims.

Greetings.

Know that I offer no defense. I have crossed the moral line. My punishment cannot be severe enough. Herein, instead, is my confession.

May these words hasten your decision. I once swore to honor your rulings, and I do so again. I will not contest the judgment you must inevitably reach.

Know that it is obsession that has led me here. Perhaps all of my failures have begun with obsession. Let us go back to when I was but a lowly trader cataloguing sales and purchases.

This was well after I had failed as a priest. But only just after I had failed as a husband.

It was, in fact, during the time that I was failing as a merchant.

But only shortly before I discovered magic and changed the world forever.

What am I trying to say?

In short, this is a cautionary tale….

A Tweet Heard Round The World

By now, I’m sure we all know the tweet heard round the world:

At 10:19 a.m. ET on Friday, Justine Sacco , a PR director at InterActiveCorp (IAC), posted this tweet shortly before an 11-hour flight from London to Cape Town, South Africa.

Why would she say this?  What went through this hardcore liberal’s mind as she was typing?

The comment was so absurd, wasn’t it?  Who really believes something this ridiculous?  Let’s face it, even the most knuckle-dragging person in the world isn’t deluded enough to think that white folks are immune to AIDS.  It’s the type of comment folks don’t really make.  But it is the type of comment folks get accused of making.

And that’s what I think happened here.  I think Sacco made a backfired attempt to highlight white privilege by mocking her imaginary opposition.  There she is, in her mind, shadow boxing her favorite strawman, typing, and likely mouthing the words in her best bumpkin voice.  Never did it occur to her that she could fall prey to the machine she serviced.

I believe the left ate one of their own this time, and I’m not terribly surprised.  It’s the way the beast works, all pumped up on self-righteous emotion and blurry-eyed, no doubt, from the constant state of outrage and headdesking.

I’ve heard it said that the internet is like the Old West, a pioneer land, and I agree, it is.  Complete with mob justice.

 

Guest Blogger: Revenger

Hey folks.  Today I’m lucky to have a guest blogger.  His name is Revenger, and while I don’t agree with everything he says, I can’t help but admire his passion.

 

Me Revenger.  Revenger mad.  Revenger no like gender-normative privilege.  Revenger crush gender-normative privilege.  Grrr!

You no male.  You cismale.  You not normal.  Revenger break gender-normative privilege.  You watch.

Revenger dress boy in dress.  Now boy right.  Revenger no play gender-normative game.  World no make Revenger happy.  Revenger mad.  Revenger stomp.  Revenger still stomp.

Revenger say you no talk.  Revenger say you listen.  Revenger teach.  World no good.  Revenger destroy.  You bad.  Revenger good.  You ugly.  Revenger pretty. 

Revenger make you think good.  Or smash.

Because Ninja

A buddy of mine lives in Los Angeles where he writes screenplays for a living.  I was g-chatting with him recently, and he mentioned that we should work together on an animated series idea to pitch.

Absolutely, I thought.  This sounds like exactly the kind of thing I’m into.  So I committed myself to coming up with the best idea possible, and I focused every ounce of brainpower I had at my command.  I thought in a dark room, and I thought in a bright room.  I thought at the kitchen table, and I thought in the shower.  I thought as I walked, as I drove, and during the course of my pondering, it hit me.  The perfect idea.

It’s really just a series of scenes.  Imagine if you will:

An empty bench in the park.  A bird flies by, perching for a moment on the bench.  It’s a quiet, breezy day.  Then someone walks by, casually, enjoying a stroll through the park.  Suddenly the person’s neck slits open and blood gushes everywhere.  The person falls, thrashing about.  But we never see who the killer is.

Because Ninja.

I mean, imagine the possibilities.  They’re endless.  An escalator, some folks are going up, some are coming down.  All of a sudden, both sides start falling and screaming as blood erupts upward and falls back like rain.  And still, we never see the killer.  Because Ninja.

Anyway, I sent the idea to my buddy, and he hasn’t responded yet, but I’m not sweating it.  Clearly, this idea is money in the bank.

Beth Bernobich

She’s a writer, published by Tor, and she seemed nice enough.  I came across her on a writing site and was mostly impressed with the way she made an effort to give back to the community.  It was normal to find her critiquing stories by newer writers, and I applaud that kind of involvement.  So I followed her for a while on social media.  I took note of her tweets, and I read her occasional facebook post.

But most of what she had to say outside of the writing arena didn’t capture my attention.  Have you ever met a negative person?  Do you know the type?  The complainer.  The person who seems to have a migraine every day of the week and is hell-bent intent on letting you know.  She used her skill at writing to explain every throb and pain in her life, and she wallowed, and she mewled about all the people who ever let her down.  Well, it’s really not fair to say all the people who let her down.  It was all the men who let her down.

Over time, my opinion of her matured.  Originally, I looked up to her, thinking well of her.  Then I frowned as I found her mostly annoying.  And now, well, it finally occurs to me that I’m so sad for her.  My opinion may only be worth as much as the next fellow’s garbage, but I’m convinced she doesn’t actually hate men.  I don’t think she trusts men.  She fears them, and inside, I’m guessing she’s small, vulnerable, and uncertain.  Like a lot of us, really.

And that makes me sad.  Sad, because this kind of feeling doesn’t come from nowhere.  Life can be terrible sometimes, and sometimes having the fortitude to weather it means we have to leave a jagged piece of our esteem behind.

Anyway, what’s the point of this blog post?  Recently, I disagreed with Beth on the subject of white privilege.  She directed a tweet at me…

@JohnathanKnight If you really care about women and minorities, stop wailing about “points of view”. Listen and learn. @jimchines

…but I didn’t respond.  So, in a small way, this is my response, inelegant as it may be.

Notice the way I’m directed to learn.  Is this a back and forth conversation or a lecture?  There’s something disturbing about fanatics, about folks so convinced they’re right that they refuse to challenge their thoughts.  Consider this for a moment: how easy is it to listen yourself when you’re so anxious to teach and lecture?

In an equal world, I figure folks are capable of both listening and disagreeing.  Believe it or not, I’ve listened.  I’ve considered, and I’ve heard.

And I disagree.

Authors Behaving Badly

If you’re an author, don’t respond to reviews, especially bad ones.  That’s the rule.  Nothing good can come from it.  Reviews are for the reader, not the author.  This is the rule, it is known, and anyone who disregards it is generally given a ton of crap by the online community.

Unless, that is, you’re Rachel Swirsky.  Which is to say, unless you’re in good standing on the left side of the political fence, where the laws of physics apparently make ample room for double-standards.

APEX Magazine #55 recently published a story by Rachel Swirsky titled “All That Fairy Tale Crap”.  In my opinion, it was a heavy-handed political article masquerading as fiction.  I didn’t like the story because I didn’t feel like it was a story.

Anyway, it got a pretty bad review from Dave Truesdale.  Unsurprisingly, the left collective swarmed to attack the review.  Rachel Swirsky–arguably drunk on groupthink power–joined them via her twitter account.  Here are a few of her tweets:

“Anyone who compares me to Sandra McDonald has done me a great favor.”

“Also, I am not my narrators, for the record. And finally , to those disturbed by swearing, I say: fuck shit motherfucker & have a nice day!”

“Wait, what? He thinks Sandra McDonald pines for sex negative feminism? This dude is both hilarious and seriously bad at reading.”

“Man, what a loser.”

“And last one, I also note with deep amusement that both sex positive and negative feminism alarm him. Its okay, dude, you won’t get cooties.”

“tangent. Truesdale. Worth reading if you find pathetic flailing amusing.”

“yes, but this ones really funny.”

“‘Joanna Russ wrote insightfully on political fiction, therefore my inability to read is justified!'”

“breast bobbing…. Is that a really weird version of bobbing for apples?”

“It’s funny, I always thought the Cinderella myth was more of a girl thing. I never understood men were this attached to fairy tales.”

“But then, not really, because women are also chastised for being “spoiled princesses”?

“Which really gives you such a great idea of how they have sex.

“Well, you see, caterpillars are symbols of … er… cooties, and black holes are symbols of… er… also cooties?”

When this was brought up on AbsoluteWrite (a great writing site), the left was quick to defend Swirsky.  These are the same folks who are typically ravenous and anxious to tear someone down.  But this time, when confronted with one of their own acting poorly, they jumped to excuses and made every effort to minimize her wrongdoing.  Why is this?  I find this lack of consistency appalling, and I often wonder if folks know just how incredibly hypocritical they’re being.

 

What Did I Do Wrong?

So it’s Christmas today and the strangest thing just happened to me.

My whole family is over, which is awesome, and I made a lot of hot chocolate.  Then I put on a pair of onesie PJ’s, went downstairs, and started talking about healthcare.  It went over like a turd in the punchbowl.  I can’t figure out what I did wrong.