Maybe Next Year

Last Wednesday’s IWSG post got me to thinking.  Which, I suppose, is what those topics are intended to do…

I wrote in that post about 2017 in a pretty general way. Looking back, of course, tends to do that: other than the truly exceptional — good or bad — things tend to blur together.  As the distance from them grows, the individual points lose their granularity and blend into a broader picture.

And, yeah, I’m using Pointillist painting for that analogy…because who doesn’t like a cool painting?

Anyway, the thinking…

We tend to forget the details, tend to forget the honesty and the emotion — the raw urgency — when we look back.  We tend to remember the past, and to come across when we write about it, very differently than we lived it at the time. Sometimes that distance is good, but often it is bad…occasionally very bad.

When I reread my IWSG post, I found a hint of phlegmatic acceptance that is most decidedly NOT who I am.  I wanted to drill a bit into that, wanted to make a point that I did not in that post: life is a fight, and you better damned well fight to win.

Three of the worst words in my little corner of the universe: maybe next year.

Maybe next year will be better.

Maybe next year I’ll get it together.

Maybe next year the words will come easier.

Maybe next year…

Not to sound like a heartless asshole, but maybe next year you, or I, will be dead.

I lost one sister when she was far too young…I’m worried about losing another…I lost one of my best friends when I was seventeen…I’ve lost too many more in the years since…

It’s a trite and overused old thought that I have to add (overused precisely because it’s true): you are not promised tomorrow.

Now, I’m gonna leave aside the more irresponsible parts of my life in this post: shit like the (arguably) crazy hiking I do, or the (arguably) reckless personal risks I am willing to take.

Nope, I want to focus on who I am, not on what I do.

And, as I’ve said before, who I am is a writer.

Yes, the money sucks for a freelancer.  Yes, the money sucks even worse for a writer new to the fiction industry.  Yes, there is far more frustration and challenge than celebration sometimes…err, often times.

“Go back to marketing and sales.  Be responsible.  Maybe next year you’ll be in a better place.”

“Maybe next year the money will be better.”

“Maybe next year you’ll have more time.”

I hear this from others — from friends and family — fairly often.  I hear this from the little demon on my shoulder all the time.  Hell, I hear this from myself.

Maybe next year…

No.

The words are who I am.  If I give in, if I say “Maybe next year I can be who I really am…” all I’m doing is surrendering.  All I’m doing is denying who I am by pretending to be who others want me to be.

Remember what I said above: life is a fight, and you have to fight to win.  At least I do.

I might very well die tomorrow…or next week…or next summer…or in thirty years.  But, no matter what, I refuse to have my last thought be that stupidest of regrets: if only I had one more year

No.

I’d much rather die reaching for a pen.  I’d much rather have my last thought be one of hope: shit, this would make a great scene…

Maybe next year isn’t an option. It isn’t encouragement, isn’t acceptance. It isn’t even regret.  No, maybe next year is a curse and a trap.

For me, at least, there is no alternative — I have to live, and write, like this is it…like there is no next year.

What is your next year?  What are you putting off?

What value, what meaning, are you deferring because, well, maybe next year...?

Off-Topic Ramblings … Way, Way, Waaaay Off-Topic

I’ve spent some time thinking about whether or not I wanted to throw myself into one particular briar patch, but in the end that long bit of thinking that did convince me.  The briar patch in question?  The “Masterpiece Cake Shop” case before the Supreme Court.

This post is, by the way, going to be a long one…and far drier, not to mention less snarky, than I usually shoot for.

Now, first off, a few pieces of backstory and exposition:

A) I live in Colorado, and have for fifteen years.  This case received a great deal of local coverage here, so it is not something new to me.  Hell, there are details and specifics to it that seldom, if ever, get mentioned by the national media.   Most of that coverage, in fact, is pretty damned shallow and simplistic…not to mention designed to reinforce whatever preconceived conclusions a particular reporter/outfit is carrying into the fray.

B) I’m a straight, white guy, with all of the life experience that entails.  It also means I don’t really have a personal dog in the fight…just a socio-cultural one.

C) I am also, as I’ve mentioned before, pretty damned libertarian.  Now, part of that is my own Golden Rule of “leave me alone and I’ll leave you alone”, but another part is a belief — within limits — in the philosophy of “that government is best which governs least”.

I am not, but the way, going to list here the specifics here of the case itself.  Anyone interested already knows, and anyone not interested has probably stopped reading by now…

No, what I want to get to is my take on the whole thing…and that take is: it’s complicated.

Really, the whole thing is fucking complicated…far more so than the “easy answers” on both sides like to pretend.  There is right and wrong aplenty in this case, and in the situation that gave rise to it. And the outcomes?  Yeah, that gets even more complicated…and even more “right and wrong”.

My thinking on this whole thing has also evolved over time. Several years ago, when it first arose as a simple story in the Denver Post, I was one of those “easy answer” folks.  I thought I knew the whole story, so I made my “decision” and ignored everything else about the issue.

But the case got bigger, and I learned more facts.

And I thought more.

You know what?  That changed things for me…and changed my opinion.

This case really is bigger than a simple dispute between a baker and his (potential) customers.  There is more than enough legitimate fear — and threat — on both sides to warrant a case before the Supreme Court.

By the way, it is NOT a case about the legality of the baker’s refusal: his actions were in clear violation of state law.  What it IS a case about is whether or not that particular law is constitutional.

In one sense, it is also a case about compelled speech: the plaintiffs argue that the baker has a legal duty to fulfill their order, regardless of his personal beliefs and convictions.  The defense, on the other hand, contends that such compulsion uses the power of the State to force a man to violate his conscience, and his deeply held beliefs.

From that particular (limited) perspective, it is pretty easy to pick a winner…and this is where my initial opinion on the whole thing started years ago.

But it ain’t that easy.

When I write freelance, I get to pick and choose my clients as well as the work I create.  I don’t write for Penthouse Forum, nor for the Aryan Nation, nor the Socialist Worker…not, in fact, for anything or anyone that I find repugnant and antithetical to my own beliefs and views.*

*So says the guy whose current protagonist is an alcoholic thief…and whose other main character is a teen-aged, gay prostitute.  I think we can safely say that puritanical morality ain’t exactly my thing…

What about my photography? Should I have to accept a client that wants me to shoot porn?  Or BDSM?  Or cats?  Shouldn’t someone else, I’ve asked myself, have the same freedom as I do?  Especially another artist?

Again, that was where my thinking started…and where my opinion stood for a long time.

But it still ain’t that easy.

First of all, I don’t have a store.  I don’t operate any form of public, physical location where I am open and available for folks to simply walk in and hire me. Not even a link on the web.  I initiate any and all work I perform, either by working purely on spec, or by prior personal agreement with a client to whom I have been referred (or has been referred to me).

Having a store changes things.  It’s called “public accommodation”, and it does in fact come with obligations and requirements.  One of those is that you have to accept your customers as they are…you cannot pick and choose based on who you want them to be.

Let me use a case from a few years ago to illustrate: a group of friends went out drinking, then stopped at a liquor store so they could continue the party at home.  No problem, so far — they were all of legal age, and were well within their rights.  The cab driver they hailed, however, did not approve of alcohol.  More than that, he was devout in his religion and was opposed to alcohol in all forms.  He refused to allow the group into the cab that he owned…and was fined heavily by the regulatory agency because of the incident.

Was he within his rights to refuse service? Again, the customers broke no law…they were simply “immoral” according to the driver’s beliefs.

Although he did appeal, there was no outcry, and certainly no Supreme Court case…

The two cases are not so far apart. There are differences, yes: the driver was neither “speaking”, nor artistically creating…but he was offering a service to the public.  In the case of the cake maker, he also was offering a service to the public: his talents as a baker and designer.

Could he — can he — selectively withhold his publicly available services simply because he finds a potential client to be immoral?  Not illegal, mind you, just immoral according to his religion.

If he can withhold his services, why could not the cab driver?  Does it change things if you learn the cabbie was a devout Muslim, rather than a fundamentalist Christian (as was the baker)?  Can one’s beliefs and views on morality be held more, or less, acceptable simply because of the religion one chooses to follow?

Again, remember the concept of “public accommodation”: when you offer your services openly to the public, you do surrender some freedom.  But does that apply to your freedom of conscience?  What if matters of conscience differ, as they often do? Whose is of more value?

Is your right to avoid alcohol more important than my right to stumble drunkenly into your cab?

Is one man’s right to reject homosexuality more important than another man’s right (in this case, a couple’s right) to avail himself of a public service?

The simple fact of the matter is, as I’ve said before, your morality is none of my business…and mine is none of yours.  When the question is one simply of morality, you have no right to decide for someone else.  In our private lives that is easy an thing to decide: I can’t tell you to go get drunk, and you can’t tell me to stop with the one-night stands.  Live and let live.

Even in business, that “easiness” can apply: if you are a private entity who offers services solely on a private basis — a consultant, say, or a writer — you can pick and choose your clients and partners based on whatever criteria floats your boat.  Even on the basis of morality…or beer preference…or hair style…

But…but…BUT….

But, if you choose to publicly offer your skills and services as a business, it is no longer a question of private, personal choice.  Yes, that means you do surrender some of your freedom.  You made the choice to do so when you decided to open a public business — that partial-surrender of freedom came in exchange for the privilege of operating an open, established business.

That does not mean you surrender your private, personal freedom of conscience.  That personal freedom is pretty damned simple: if you don’t approve of homosexuals, don’t befriend or become one.  If you don’t approve of alcohol, don’t drink or allow others to drink in your home. If you don’t like (evil, evil) cats, don’t get one.  You can, quite simply, be just as committed and devout in your personal life as you ever were.

But your private morality has no place in your public business.  You cannot pick and choose your public clients based on private beliefs and morality.

And now even I can come up with all the questions and unintended consequences and what about-isms…

But what about a graphic artist asked to make a flyer for a neo-nazi rally?

But what about a liberal architect asked to design the Trump Presidential Library?

But what about a conservative sculptor asked to make a bust of Hillary Clinton?

But what about…

Like I said, it’s complicated.

I’m really really glad I’m not a Supreme Court justice.

Dammit, Jim, I’m A Writer, Not A Thinker!

When did we forget how to think?

No, seriously — I just read a story about Google. The CEO was lamenting the fact that it was very, very difficult (read: impossible) to “teach” an algorithm to recognize “fake news” when both sides vehemently believed what they were saying.

No shit.

That’s what human brains are for, goddammit!

Why on Earth would you ever expect — why on Earth would you ever want — a computer program to determine “truth” for you?! That is utterly and completely asinine.

One of the hallmarks of being ostensibly intelligent, self-aware beings (besides opposable thumbs, and shit like the Kardashians) is the ability to…you know…judge for yourself.

That ability, that judgment, is both privilege and burden…which is as it should be. Anyone who expects someone else to lay it all out for them, to tell them what and who to believe, deserves the empty shell that their life has become.

Now, look: I know I’m an old, cranky bastard — shit, the fact that I actually remember the Ewok Christmas special is enough to tell you that! — but I simply can’t be alone in this. Do people no longer learn to assimilate information, weigh the evidence, and make their own judgment? C’mon, it ain’t that hard, folks!

The real problem, unfortunately, seems to be the same for people as it is for Google: when people disagree, it is hard to decide. Unfortunately, far too often “we” (as a people, not us in specific) tend to shortcut the judgment-thing and just go with what our “team” says.

“A conservative Republican/liberal Democrat said it, so it must be true.”

And of course, the converse: “those (other) evil bastards believe it, so it must be a nefarious plot…”

It goes back to something I harped on over the summer (while avoiding most of this crap by living in the wilderness): we, as a country and a society, are so polarized, so split and torn-apart, that we can’t agree even on a common set of facts. Black and white no longer have the same meanings to people on different “teams”, and 1+1 only equals 2 when it benefits one side over the other.

*sigh*

This is, by the way, how societies die: not in great, thunderous wars but in the pathetic whimpers of blind, narcissistic parochialism.

Those voices howling alone in the wilderness? Those voices trying to stand against the tide and scream “No More”?

Yeah, those are the voices of those trying to hold it all together. The voices of common sense and the good of all above the good of self.

The voices of those losing the fight.

Now a philosopher, or a profound thinker, would have a list of prescriptions and advice to try and address this problem. Me? I just want to slap the shit out of most of these folks.

“Wake up!” I want to scream. “Wake up and use your fucking brain!”

Hrm, didn’t seem to work…

Back to the wilderness, and to my solitary howling, I guess.

If You Love Me, Don’t Let Go

 

Yes, the title of this post is a line from a song…because, well, of course it is.  The song in question is “Unsteady” by X Ambassadors. Below is a post that has been sitting in my Drafts for…well, for a long time. Talking about this stuff ain’t easy. Not for me, and not for anyone.  But, sometimes you just have to…and in honor of Thanksgiving and the coming family-oriented holidays, it is time again…

There’s really nowhere else to start: I suffer from depression.  I’ve mentioned that before, but if there is any disease that gets pushed aside and forgotten, it is depression.  It especially is pushed aside and forgotten by family and friends.

“What’s wrong with you today?”

“What mood are you in today?”

“Why can’t you just fix yourself?”

For those who’ve never felt the stifling, suffocating, paralyzingly grip of depression…thoughts like that do nothing but make it worse.  A lot worse.  That feeling of being alone?  Of having nowhere to go, and no one to turn to?

Yeah, “checking on my mood” ain’t helping.

Why am I writing about this? I hear you ask.  Why, more importantly, am I writing about this again?

Because it needs to be talked about.

I’ve fought this demon since I was teenager.  I’ve fought this demon in the only way I’ve ever really had: alone.  I’ve lost more battles than I’ve won…but I’m still alive, and a number of my friends are not, so I guess the war itself is going okay…

“C’mon…just change yourself.”

“Turn to Christ” or “think happy thoughts” or “look on the bright side”…

It doesn’t work that way.

The reason I am writing this post is because…well…hearing other folks talk about their own struggles helped.  It helped tell me that I wasn’t alone {and remember the central theme to Wrath & Tears: alone is worse}.  It helped to tell me that, as broken as I am, there are others out there just as broken.

It told me, in the end, that I wasn’t a freak who had to suffer in silent solitude.

How can I not try to pass along that support?  How can I not, to throw out an over-used and tired phrase, pay it forward?

Carrie Fisher became very open about her battles.  Ashley Judd has become equally so.  Even so huge a figure as Winston Churchill had his struggles with depression.  NFLer Joel Klatt…NHLer Marek Svatos…actor Owen Wilson…Heath Ledger…Buzz Aldrin…Art Buchwald…Terry Bradshaw…Johnny Carson…Ray Charles…Dwayne Johnson…it ain’t a short list, folks, and these are just a semi-randomly selected handful.

I’m not alone, and that helps.  That is important to know…and it does help.

How can I not share my own experience in the face of that?  How can I not try to help — to support, and hopefully to save — just one fucking person, if that is all I can reach?

As many things as have gone right in my life, this is a demon that still hovers over my shoulder. He always has, and he always will.  Even as things got better in my life, he never left.  When things were bad, he was there…but when things were good, he was equally there.

Honestly, even today his voice still has power…and I still pay attention.

Depression, for those of you who just don’t know or understand, is very very real. Even those you think should never suffer problems of any sort — those with money and loved ones and lives to be envied — can suffer from depression. Trust me on this one: I’ve lost friends who had every single fucking thing in the universe to live for.

Hell…I have everything to live for, and still I hear that little voice: why bother? Who the fuck are you? Nothing will ever get better…

Believe me, I hear that voice. Far, far too often.

There ain’t much to hold on to in the universe for people like us…but what there is, is important.

And what folks like us have to hold to is simple: people.

Look, we know we’re annoying…we know we’re hard to deal with…but, holy shit, we have, in general, pushed away almost everything and everyone we know, and we need something. Trust me on this — it is far, far too easy to lose yourself in the isolating currents of your own thoughts and emotions. It is far too easy to drown.

When I’m at my worst, when I’m a drowning man at sea, I’ll clutch at anything. Unfortunately, far too often, that something is exactly the wrong thing. Whether it’s booze, or drugs, or isolation, or despondency…they all seek to fill the space that only friends and loved ones can truly fill.

Just one friend — just one loved one — can make all the difference.  Does make all the difference.

To those who fight similar demons, I’ll say this: I have my own tiny little list of those who have helped save me — some figuratively, but some very, very literally — and you need to find a way to create your own little list.  One name…one name, one person, is all it takes.  That being said, there also are ways to work yourself out: after so many years, I have learned to write my way out…or to hike my way out…or, in a very few instances, to love my way out.  So, please: find…something.  Some meaning, some tool.

And always remember the first rule: alone is worse.

To those who can’t even begin to conceive of the numbing pain, nor the suffocating isolation: I know we can be annoying, and challenging, and hard to understand…but we need you. Trust me on this one: we’ll push you away, we’ll isolate ourselves and say we don’t care, say that we don’t need anyone…and we’ll be lying.

We need some form of stability — some semblance of life — to hold to, or that little demon in the back of our minds will win…

…and when that bastard wins, you end up with a rope around your neck and a bottle in your hand.

Trust me on this one, I know.

Further reading here and here.

You Morality Is None Of My Business…

…and mine is none of yours.

Look, to reword and rework a tired, old phrase: morality begins at home. Morals and belief systems, as well as the personal behaviors to which they lead, are…well…personal. They are — and should be! — the intimate, immediate decisions only of the individual involved.

No one else need have input. Hell, no one else should have input. My morality — or the occasional lack thereof — is none of your business, thank you very much.

And that “no one else” goes double — goes ten freaking times — for the government! It is no business of the government’s what, or who, I do. Or how…or why…etc… Fill in your own damned blanks on that one.

Okay, let me back away from the confrontational and shoot for the rational…

I am a pretty moral guy. Yes, I drink too much. Yes, I cuss too much. Yes, I’m a cynical asshole. But…I don’t do drugs (anymore), I don’t steal, I don’t lie (much…and no, those pants DON’T make your butt look big!), nor do I rape, pillage or otherwise live a pirate’s life.

My stories aside, I’m actually pretty fucking normal.*

*My definition of “normal” may differ pretty significantly from yours, but…no harm, no foul.

But I live that “normal” life from choice, not because someone told me to. Hell, just about every time someone TOLD me to do something, I did pretty much the exact opposite. I’m not, it should be said, a terribly good follower.

I choose to be good, to be — in most senses of the word — moral. I make a choice to which I am neither commanded nor compelled. I CHOOSE TO.

And that makes a difference.

Every time a government — any government, take your pick from history — has tried to legislate morality, it has failed spectacularly. And it always will fail because normal, everyday people know and understand just what the limits should be, and those limits do not include telling us what we should and should not do.

Now, what got me to thinking about this?

Yep, you guessed it: more Roy Fucking Moore (again).

Beyond his need to grope teen-age girls, that asshole — judge or not — threw aside any semblance of legality and liberty with his statement that homosexuality should be illegal. He went so far as to imply that gays and lesbians should, beyond just jail, potentially face the death penalty.

What are we, Saudi Arabia?

Look, I’m a straight white guy: I have nothing to fear from people like Moore. But, many, many friends (and relatives) DO have things to fear from people that want to deny them their rights and their liberties. Hell, people that want to deny them their lives.

From a religious point-of-view I get it, I really do. Religious folks, especially Evangelicals, have very real problems and reservations in this area.* Fine, no problem. Your beliefs, like my morals, are your business. BUT, when you decide to start inflicting those beliefs on other people, THEN we have a problem…a very real, and very serious, problem.

*I understand these — I don’t agree with them in even the smallest way, but I do understand.

Then again, those folks seem to have all kinds of problems that they want to “help” with, things like: drinking, dancing, listening to music, watching movies/TV, science, history, education, the list goes on and on.

Honestly, I am NOT attacking these folks. I have far too many friends and family members to whom the label “Evangelical” applies to condemn them, just like I have far too many LGBT friends and relatives to condemn THEM. All I ask is that both sides let the other live in peace.

That, in the end, is the bottom line of my libertarianism: you leave me alone, and I’ll leave you alone. Call it the Revised Golden Rule for the Truly Cynical.

Now, that does cut both ways: when the LGBT folks attack those Christians who do not toe the line, it can be just as bad as what the Evangelicals want to do to them. Neve forget that tolerance is NOT the same thing as approval, and it never should be.

To put another spin on it: I’m a slut. I’ll sleep with any girl that will give me the time of day. My relationships have all ended as major disasters anyway, so why bother with the whole “get to know you” thing? Now, I don’t ask anyone to approve of my lifestyle — hell, I’m not sure I approve of it! — but I damn well do expect you to tolerate it.

See the difference?

Evangelicals: you don’t have to approve of anyone else’s lifestyle, of the “sinners”, but you damn well DO have to tolerate other individuals’ right to live the way they choose.

“Sinners”: YOU don’t have to approve of the Evangelicals, but you DO damn well have to respect TREIR right to live and believe what and how they choose.

It’s called Freedom of Conscience, folks…and it means a great deal.

Folks who have been reading this blog for a while know I have a real problem with how regular folks lack voices and input into society today. To be blunt, about the only control we do have is in our own lives, and how we choose to live is far too important to let someone else — anyone else — dictate and control.  That applies to other individuals just as much as to governments.

Focus on your own choices, and your own life, and let everyone else live theirs.* That is the foundation of a free and just society.

*And, no, I am not an absolutist in any sense of the word — there IS right and wrong in the world. Rape, violence, and the corruption of power (power of all stripes) ARE immoral and wrong from ANY perspective.

Random, Pointless Post O’ The Month…

**Warning**Warning**Danger, Will Robinson!**Random Post Incoming!**Danger**Danger**

Speaking of Alec Guinness moments…

My God, what have I done?

I killed off my Amazon Prime subscription…the Prime subscription I’ve had since the damned program began.

Keep in mind, I’m “that guy” who spends more on books than most people do on rent. Who spends far too much, I should clarify.

Between the “free” express shipping and the streaming service, how could I not use my Prime to fullest advantage?!

Because it…well…it actually kinda sucks.IMG_0951

Do I really need to get my copy of A Great and Terrible King in two days?

Do I really need to binge watch old 80’s game shows?

Because those two things are about all Prime actually has. Ugh…a hundred bucks a year for shipping I don’t need, and shows I don’t watch?

It ain’t the useless insanity that my cable bills used to be, but it’s pretty damned close.

Especially when I can nerd-out on anime with CrunchyRoll and binge watch actual good shows with NetFlix and iTunes…

*sigh*

What has my life come to when this is the major event of my week?

When the hell did I start weighing the pluses and minuses like an…err…adult?

When the hell did I turn into my parents?!

I gave up adulthood when I gave up “business casual” attire and life as a sales & marketing weasel…

Look, I’ve got no kids — no dependents of any kind — and a complete inability to make any romantic relationship work*. Hell, I don’t even have a freakin’ goldfish, let alone any ties that, well, bind. In no sense can I be considered “grown up” or responsible. Quite the opposite, in fact…and I don’t give a damn what the grey hair is supposed to mean.

*I might be the only guy in the universe for whom the phrase “It’s not you, it’s me” is 100% true. If all my relationships fail, and I’m the one common element in all of them, well…even I can do that math.

But still adult behavior sneaks in…

I’m so disappointed in myself.

I have a choice, right now: go do something responsible and intelligent, or go to the brewery…

Hammerschlagen, anyone?

IMG_0952

Bonus Post: Character Matters

I’ll probably regret this, but…

…but I’m not very good at keeping my mouth shut, even when I should. Given the timing and nature of this post — and the topic which spurred me to write it — I have decided not to put it in the queue for Monday morning.  Nope, if I’m gonna tackle something timely, I might as well be…timely.

Keep in mind, this is a writing blog, not one focused on politics or religion or culture. Okay, well, that’s not exactly true: this is a writing blog, and writing is very much about those things.

Okay, so where am I going with such a roundabout start?

Roy Moore.

Roy Fucking Moore.

A few days ago the man was nothing more than a repugnant candidate for a short-term stint as junior senator from a state I have no intention of ever again visiting (once was enough). Honestly, I could never understand folks’ passion or support for the guy, but the whole thing was worth nothing more than a shrug.

Things changed.

Ladies and gentlemen, I shouldn’t have to say it…but apparently I do: CHARACTER MATTERS!

Support for the guy, and his regressive & repressive views, was at least semi-understandable a few days ago. But now? How could you? No, really: how the fuck could you?!

And not just support, but actively promote. Not just support, but bastardize your own faith to defend.

Even though I have said I try to keep my personal politics behind the curtain, I am pretty open about being a libertarian. It is a bit more than that, however: I am a recovering conservative.

Lest my Republican family and friends think I am just going off the political deep-end, let me point to a few folks who are still firmly in the conservative Republican camp…

The conservative, political view from Jonah Goldberg:

I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve written about the unfolding corruption of conservatism these last few years, but the events of the last 24 hours have shocked me about how deep the rot goes. Forget the people who refuse to even give the heavily sourced and corroborated Washington Post account a fair reading on the tired and predictable pretense that inconvenient facts are simply proof of the conspiracy against them. What galls and astounds me are the supposedly conservative public figures arguing that even if it’s true that Moore molested a 14-year-old girl, it doesn’t matter because, well, because the Bible said it was okay or Democrats are eeeeevil or it was a long time ago. At least Roy Moore admits that the allegation is serious and has denied it.

Bless my heart, I assumed that people who are so much more sanctimonious and preachy than I am would be able to draw a line at plying 14-year-old girls with booze and molesting them, particularly when the guy they’re defending won’t even defend the behavior himself. You’d think this would be the Colonel Nicholson moment where, like Alec Guinness in Bridge on the River Kwai, they would mutter to themselves, “My God, what have I done?” and collapse to the ground.

Now, my formal, personal faith may have lapsed, but I am still a…well, I suppose you would have to call me a deist. Somewhere deep down I am still a believer, in spite of the hypocrisy of hate and intolerance that drove me from the church. With that in mind, let me give a view from that corner of the ring, as well.

The evangelical, religious view from David French:

Consider the challenge here: A king is told to shun a military alliance with a pagan power and to face death and destruction alone, trusting solely in God’s deliverance. I never forgot the lesson. I remembered the admonitions of Sunday-school teachers, my Bible professors at college, and my pastors: Christians, never forget, our ultimate hope is in the Lord. Be wary of an alliance with evil, even when the need seems overwhelming.

Obviously, these fools didn’t understand the importance of electing a junior senator from Alabama to fill out a partial term of office. Sure, Hezekiah faced the Assyrians, but by golly we face Doug Jones. We’ve got no choice but to ally with a dangerous, unfit man — a man who proclaims Christianity while systematically violating the law, seeks to deny the most basic civil rights to his fellow citizens, and now faces heavily sourced and corroborated claims of past sexual misconduct with minors.

I keep hearing these words from Evangelicals: We’ve got no choice. The Democrats are after our liberties. They’re seeking to destroy our way of life. Some even go so far as to say that even if the allegations against Moore are true, they’ll still hold their nose and put him in office to keep Jones from serving three years in the Senate.

I’m sorry Evangelicals, but your lack of faith is far more dangerous to the Church than any senator, any president, or any justice of the Supreme Court. Do you really have so little trust in God that you believe it’s justifiable — no, necessary — to ally with, defend, and even embrace corrupt men if it you think it will save the Church?

I’m beginning to realize that countless older Christians misled their kids and grandkids. They said that moral character matters in politicians. They said they were building a movement based around ideas and principles, not power and party. They said those things right up until the moment when holding firm to their convictions risked handing Hillary Clinton the presidency, and at that point the dam broke. Now, they’re willing to sell out for a lousy Alabama Senate seat.

The bottom line? Through word and deed they chose to trust bad men and not a holy God. Some apply double standards, granting the benefit of the doubt to ideological allies even as they condemn their opponents. Others distort biblical stories to rationalize their alliances. It was bad enough to see Donald Trump compared to King David. Now we have to endure an Alabama official’s comparison of Roy Moore to Joseph.

Who represents us, who we vote for, matters. It matters a great deal.

I don’t care how committed a Republican you are, there is simply no defensible way to put party over person and still maintain your integrity. If you are willing to support and vote for Roy Moore because you believe in him — in the entirety of him, mind you! — then that is your choice. It’s not one I can agree with, but I do understand.

On the other hand, if you are willing to sacrifice honor and morals to vote for the “lesser of two evils” simply because he is on your “team”, then you are a very, very big part of the problem.

If Politics Were A Video Game, I’d Rage-Quite Right About Now…

Nothing is more unreliable than the populace, nothing more obscure than human intentions, nothing more deceptive than the whole electoral system.

–Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

It’s Election Day. Again.

Yay.

I guess it’s rather surprising in someone who loves the cut & thrust of politics in history, but I just can’t stand the idiocy of the modern US system at this point.

Both the Rs and Ds scream at each other, painting the other as the harbinger of death and destruction, and insisting that they and they alone are able to keep the world safe for puppies and babies.

Bullshit.

Both are part of the problem. Both exist only to promote and benefit the entrenched special interests and political/social elites who are their donors, and who drive their respective agendas. And both, in all candor, push the same, carbon-copy shit they have been pushing for decades. And, yes, I use the phrase “same shit” very, very intentionally: both (supposedly antithetical) parties/factions represent exactly the same uselessness. Boil away the fluff and tissue-paper decorations, and you are left simply with two ostensibly separate groups pushing the same agenda to benefit the same people.

Bah, a pox on both their houses! And by pox, I mean the nastiest, most incurable strain of syphilis the universe can dream up.

Einstein very famously said the definition of insanity was doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. Well, welcome to United States politics, Al. Not a single idea comes out of any of these idiots that is in any way original or useful.

Nope, it’s all the same tried-and-true prescriptions that helped fuck everything up in the first place.

–No, Rs, I don’t want a goddamned thing to do with your sanctimonious pseudo-morality and regressive socio-cultural indignation.

–No, Ds, I don’t want a goddamned thing to do with your social engineering, or your dangerously naive views on economics and security.

–No, “establishment”, I don’t want a goddamned thing to do with your politics or your myopic, fratricidal squabbles.

No, just…no.

What I want is someone — ANYONE — who gives more of a shit about the good of the country, and of the people who by any definition ARE the country, than the petty maneuvering for advantage of their own “team”.

What I want is someone who gives a damn about regular folks: about those of us who would rather remove our own organs with dull spoons than go to a political cocktail-party/fundraiser…about those of us who have more on our minds than worrying about scoring points against “the other guy”…about those of us who can only lose in a rigged game played by folks with whom we have nothing in common…

Yes, I do realize I’m ranting; sorry about that.  Although, personally, I’d actually rather call it “venting”…that just sounds better. Kinda like saying your house is “alternatively heated” rather than “on fire”.

The simple fact of the matter is that I’ve had enough. Enough of the petty bullshit that makes up politics at every level, enough of the prioritizing of “red team” or “blue team” over real people, enough of arguments that are literally so old and repetitive that no one actually pays attention to the merits anymore.

I’ve been asked why I write such dark material…

Well, the answer to that is fairly complicated, both on personal and intellectual grounds — and may see some attention in future posts — but one little clue can come from simply watching/reading the news for a half-hour.

*sigh*

Nothing I write could be darker or more depressing — nor better illustrate the inane futility of it all — than that.

Doin’ The Things You Hate

You know what’s the hardest thing about life as a reformed sales & marketing monkey? You can never get completely away from that particular swamp. It is, in fact, a lot like prison: once you’re in, the odds say you’re gonna return from time to time…

That being said, if I’m gonna get sucked back into that part of life on even the most temporary and limited of ways, at least I can do it for something I like and believe in.

So, I just spent the day driving around the mountains where I live delivering information and samples to various, err, local establishments. Okay, there’s just no mincing words: I was out pushing beer into bars…beers from “my” brewery.

If I’m gonna live in a rural area, dammit, at least I can make sure the bars and restaurants near me carry the good stuff! Plus, my “samples case” doesn’t suck: several cases of beer to share with the managers…err, to educate the managers. Yeah, that’s it: education. It ain’t drinkin’, no sir.

Hey, I could be sellin’ shower curtain rings, instead!

Now, one of the hard things for me is that I don’t WANT to be involved in sales and marketing. I left that shit behind for a reason. I certainly didn’t want, when I began writing seriously, to have to think about how to market and sell my work…

…but that is exactly what you have to do nowadays (not to mention, what you are expected to do).

Strangely enough, I can kinda see the reasons why: who is gonna be better or more effective at communicating a story than the writer? But then again, just exactly how many of us are not strange, socially-awkward nerds who would rather live inside our own heads than get anywhere near the real world?

Never mind — don’t answer that.

People tell me again and again that I should have a Facebook page…I should live on Twitter…I should be pimping myself on Goodreads…even LinkedIn, for the love of God.

No. Just…no.

This blog, to be blunt, is the closest I come to social media.

No, really: this is hard enough. If folks expect me to put more of myself out there? Yeah, things ain’t gonna go well…for anyone. I want to write, not troll for re-tweets. I have family and friends who pretty much live on the various outlets (and who laugh at me as a neo-Luddite railing against reality) and I did once have a, err, professional role using social media…but, crap, I ran away to the mountains and trees to get away from that shit!

Then, reality returns…

I love to write…but, holy shit, is it nice to actually, you know, make a few bucks every once in a while.

Writer-pimp-life, here I come!

 

I See Your Pokémon, And Raise You A D&D Character

Okay, dammit…I give in.

After running off on an uncontrolled Tolkien-tangent last Friday, I decided that I’ve talked about my epic nerdism often enough, maybe it’s time to illustrate.

So, well, a nerd-list. My nerd-list, anyway – a few of the things that I usually keep behind closed doors (no, not those things, dammit!):

What am I reading right now? An Echo of Things to Come – Book 2 of the Licanius trilogy by James Islington. A new fantasy writer out there, I’m impressed by his first effort. Plus, he describes Feist and Jordan as his inspirations…all he has to do is add Zelazny and Eddings and he spans the treasured fantasy reading of my own formative years.

Bonus reading: From The Dreadnought to Scapa Flow by Arthur Marder. Volume III, if you’re wondering. Remember: I did warn you that I was a naval history addict.

Not so bad, so far…but we’re just starting down the dark path…

Manga: yes, I read manga. No, I’m not an otaku…I think. Anyway, I’m currently reading No.6 by Hinoki Kino (an adaption of the Japanese “light novel” series of the same name by Atsuko Asano). I love the themes, and the tone…and, yes, Shion and Rat have had their influence on dockside. As a note, my Japanese has degraded enough that I have to read manga in English nowadays (I still watch anime in Japanese, however).

Speaking of which…anime: I just finished watching Noragami (waiting to read the manga, though, until I finish No.6). I’m currently trying to decide whether I want to start the huge Fullmetal Alchemist saga, or go into D.Gray Man first. Decisions, decisions…

Video games: *sigh* oh, dear…video games. Nowhere does my nerdism have more power than in games. I love games…of all stripes. My first love are RPGs, but strategy and simulations have a place in my heart, too. Currently, I’m splitting my time between Dragons’ Dogma: Dark Arisen and the remastered version of one of my favorite series, ever: Kingdom Hearts. Oh, my, do I love me some Kingdom Hearts. No, really – I love that series, but even I could never really understand the damned convoluted (insane?) storyline until I finally read all of the manga.

Nope, not a nerd at all.

And, oh yeah, my mega-bonus-nerdism of the day: the D&D character I was playing up in Yellowstone. A high-elf bard. A drunken high-elf bard. A drunken high-elf bard who hit on everything (and anything) that moved. The only magic item he had that mattered was a special cup that instantly sobered him up so he could just start drinking again…

Another (related) bonus: The Adventure Zone. You absolutely cannot go wrong with a podcast involving three adult brothers playing D&D with their father! It is one of the most hilarious things I’ve ever listened to. Do yourself a favor, and go check it out on iTunes (or whatever podcast app/source you happen to use)…no, really, go check it out.

Alright, so there really is a point to this post: being a nerd is okay. I spent the better part of my life trying to hide the kind of stuff that I loved, and that was a serious mistake*. If they’re nerds, let your kids – and your friends – be who they are. Let ’em revel in it…they’ll be happier, in the end, and so will you.

*You know what finally broke me out of the shadows? Playing an MMORPG with a small group of current and former NHL players. Hockey is (err, sadly, WAS) my life, and the funny incongruity behind going all uber-nerd with a group of world-class athletes cracked me up…and set my inner nerd free.