Speech, Action, and Inaction

What happened in Charlottesville this weekend was reprehensible and indefensible. It should be telling that a movement titled “Unite the Right” ended up only bringing together white supremacists of various creeds, including members of the alt-right (which, it should be pointed out, is a self-branded epithet chosen by members of the movement, unlike the imaginary “alt-left,” which is a derogatory title invented by alt-right enablers to refer to the general left-leaning population in order to dismiss and demonize the recent populations of progressive protesters by creating a false equivalency between them and the very real and hyper-regressive alt-right).

There were no “good people” (an intentional problematic phrase) involved in the Unite the Right rally, though Trump has fervently insinuated the contrary. Everyone who joined in that protest saw the confederate flags, the Nazi imagery, and other supremacist emblems and decided to march alongside those sigils of active hatred and violence. They heard the anti-semitic chants and racist rhetoric and decided to stand side by side those individuals. This is not to say that there were not those who–for reasons of misled nostalgia or some other naivety–did not show up hoping to protest in support of keeping a local landmark they grew up with (a landmark that certainly needs to be taken down, though that is another conversation entirely), but any of those decent-but-mistaken souls would have left upon seeing what the rally really was about. No “good person” stares into remnants of the reich and accepts such hatred as support for their own cause. If we are to argue for the presence of “good people” at that rally, it was the counter-protesters, who were brave enough to look the worst this nation has to offer in the face and speak and chant and shout on behalf of love and diversity, the true uniting forces of this nation.

But, beyond voicing my condemnation, what I really wish to speak to today is the freedom of speech issue that has been raised. Should these individuals be allowed to speak their poisonous opinions? The simple answer is, of course, yes. They have that right. That said, speech has too long been treated as an inconsequential happening–a hypothetical action that is harmless until it is manifested into deeds. But speech is a deed. Speech is action. And, like all actions, speech has consequence. And the speech presented by these hate groups–and they are hate groups, as defined by the SPLC and others–intend very specific consequences. It was present in their march on Charlottesville, and it has been present in their individual rhetoric historically. The alt-right is not the KKK are not skinheads are not neo-nazis, etc., etc., and it is important that their ideologies are not identical, but there is a lot they share in common, and each of their ideologies are predicated on the idea that some of us are inherently superior to others by birth, which is equally absurdist and dangerous, and their long-lived history’s of taking violent action against those who they believe to be inferior, actions that are promoted and celebrated by their ideologies, needs to be confronted. It needs to be confronted verbally and in peaceful protest by individuals and communities, and it needs to be confronted legally by local, state, and federal forces. Those radicalized Americans longing for a race war are not so different from the radicalized members of other nations that we see in groups like Daesh (ISIS) who long for a religious war. They are both responsible for wanton and reprehensible violence in this nation, and–if we look at the books objectively–we can see, in fact, that general white supremacy has caused this country greater loss and pain for a longer period of time than Middle Eastern terror cells have ever been able to loose upon us. And it needs to stop.

The solution, disappointing though it may be for many fired up progressives to hear, is not “punching Nazis.” And I hope we never again reach a point as a civilization where the average citizen must be called upon to actively enlist in actual war against an organized body of white supremacists who seek (inter)national dominance. But–again–speech is action, and just as hate groups with dangerous ideologies can rally like-minded regressives to do dark deeds, so too can those who stride for a more perfect unity and equality use their voice to rally those fighting to maintain and improve our diverse and democratic society, wherein all peoples ought to have equal stake and say, and encourage them to action.

We have, again, reached a boiling point as a nation, and–just like each boiling point before–it is a point of incredible potential. Whether it proves to have been potential for regression or progression is up to us. There is no room for silence. We cannot afford inaction.

Speak to your brother about his hateful views. Do so with love. Talk to your family. Your friends. Do not allow strangers to berate and insult others on account of their appearance, gender, sex, or beliefs. Post online and make your stances known. Condemn hate, celebrate love. Your voice will embolden others. Your silence will see their courage decay.

It’s a complex issue. There is no easy solution. But complexity is not impossibility. Complex does not mean “There’s nothing I can do.”

It’s something that haunts many of us and plagues us all, and the burden is on all of us, equally, to fight for what’s good and just.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse, and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.” -Desmond Tutu

Finally, a Ramble

Ah! Another Sunday! And, so, another recap of the week so far!

What’s that you say? I haven’t done any weekly recaps so far? Not a single act of reminiscence? Nary a reflection to be found?

Well, pah! Pah, I say!

No, not to you. To my sad self. Writer, I call myself, yet here I am failing to do the one thing that title lays claim to! I guess, while I’m being apologetic, there are a few matters of website content I ought to turn to.

First, you might have noticed that my serial story has been… ah… well, you might of noticed that it hasn’t been, would be a more accurate surmisery. And you’d be right! You’re always right, really, and it’s a bit show-offy. A bit of modesty wouldn’t kill you! But I digress. It turns out that substantial blocks of prose were a bit much to promise, as they don’t coincide well with a weekly schedule that consists primarily of grading, lesson-planning, teaching, reading, studying, and studenting. But, by posting the first few segments here, I made a promise that you’d receive a serialized story, so a serialized story you shall receive. Just… just be ready to receive it slowly… and… infrequently, is all I’m saying.

In the meantime, I’m thinking I’m going to rework my weekly schedule to include even more poetry–that is to say, a wider variety of poem types. Closed form poetry (a topic I might just write on at greater length in the future (such boredom looms for you, my readers!) is a great exercise for any poet, and I find that it helps me in particular by breaking me from language patterns and sonic tendencies I grow over-comfortable with in my open form verse. I’ve had a lot of fun with my haiku (for one, they’re much less time consuming, and for… for two (?), they’re relaxing, like breathing in cool air after being cooped up all day indoors), so I might introduce a few more shorter forms. Ballads are on the shortlist (if you missed my McDonald’s Ballad Stream, check it out) for similar reasons. Limericks too are a candidate. While I’d happily consider sonnets, those require a lot more time and mental fortitude, and mental fortitude tends to run dry pretty quickly after a full day. We’ll see what the future holds! If you have any forms you think you’d like to see me take a crack at, leave a comment and I’ll try my hand at it.

Beyond that, I’d like to do some more art, but I have to save up to make sure I have a WordPress site that allows for unlimited storage; otherwise, any regular art uploads will cease nearly as quickly as they’d begun.

If there’s anything else you’d like to see (or read (or hear (or eat))), let me know (although I won’t be able to actually cook you anything (but it might inspire me to cook something for myself (by which I mean buy it readymade somewhere)).

But I suppose this is ramble enough for one day. And I forgot to recap the week itself! Shame on me; shame!

My thanks to you few, you happy few, who have done me the honor of giving me a follow. I’ll endeavor to keep qualityish content coming your way.




Hey all, sorry for the days away. It’s been a crazy week, personally and politically, and I have another crazy week coming up (hopefully only personally and less politically). In the meantime though, here are some stickers I made to help spread visibility of resistance against the hate Trump and his administration has come to blatantly represent.

Copyright-wise, feel free to download these and consider them share and share alike. If you could attribute them to me when somebody asks, that’d be fantastic, and I’ll try to come up with some more in the future if you like them.

It seems a small thing, but it’s important to make your support of the downtrodden, disenfranchised, and discriminated against visible. We need to stand together and show that we’re here for everyone.

Let love and logic guide you, and remember:

The truth will out!




January 15th, 2017: An Art and A Ramble

farty party.jpg

And here it is at last, 2017.

In the future I’ll probably keep my art and rambles separate, but today–at least–I’ll let them lie side by side.

I drew this piece while listening to some music I wrote with two of my best friends back when we were still in high school. This year will mark ten years come and gone since our graduation and it’s a bit unreal.

While we didn’t write any song called Party Farty Holidays, perhaps we should’ve. We would have rocked it, dudes. Of that much I’m positive. I’m happy to have been able to see both of them before flapping my way back to the eastward cold. I’m still trying to figure out the ups, downs, lefts, and rights to how I want this website to operate, but seeing friends and family always gives me some grounding in all of my artistic and personal endeavors. It takes the theoretical framework of “Wouldn’t it be cool if” and presses it into the pleasant mold of “You should do that, dude!” With that in mind, I figure my weekly ramble will work in a journalistic mode… that way if I stumble upon anything particularly impactful during the week I can record it for my own posterity while still giving myself enough time to reflect on the thoughts before jotting them down. That way I can make it as resonant and as meaningful as possible for anybody kind enough to read my rambles (you! (thanks!)) rather than just maintaining a practice in egotism. What good is a self abstracted from society? Maybe really good! Maybe terrible! If only I’d thought about it in advance….

Anyhow, this website is a bit of an adventure for me, and I hope it helps keep me on track. Which track where, I’m not sure, but it’ll be nice to have a track for once. And I’d love for you to be my track team, so if you have anything you’d like me to talk about, let me know. I’m not an expert on much, but I’m a jack-of-some human being, and if I can human it up for your benefit… we’ll chalk that up as a win.

Thanks to the handful of people who’ve decided to follow my posts, I hope I give you all a reason to keep on reading, and thanks to all my friends for encouraging my art despite my perpetual distractibility and uncertainty.

We all grow old together, and that’s something. And if that growth ever feels frightening or inconsequential or unaccessible or pointless, I’ll be here trying to rock the kid in your soul back to the surface.

Love and peace from the west-fool east!




On Responsibility and Boundaries

I’m terrible with time management. Sometimes that lack makes me feel almost coquettish with my responsibilities, but I think (or at least like to think) it’s less a matter of me not being responsible and more because I haven’t discovered a unifying mode through which to confront the things for which I feel responsible.

My parents, I’m sorry to say, raised me decently enough, and because of that I feel a deep-rooted moral responsibility to address elements of injustice when I see it, and—thanks to my curiosity and inbred ability to stumble into places I would have never thought to go intentionally—I come across a lot of things that strike me as unjust.

But so many issues for which I feel responsible I also must acknowledge I am not wholly responsible for: California’s water shortage; racism, sexism, and Islamophobia in the United States; rampant hunger across the world and outbreaks of treatable diseases; the election of Donald Trump and the manifestation of the self-titled alt. right; over-population; the excess of animals in animal shelters; gentrification and displacement; the distortion of Christian morality through the GOP lens; consumerism; waste production; global warming; the meat industry.

I’ve found outlets that help me feel like I’m contributing to the resolution of some of these outstanding issues. I acknowledge that I can’t do it alone, so I try to find ways in which I might help stir a communal response. I look for opportunities for dialogue.

That’s why I write.

However, there are more people out there determined to use these issues to their advantage and people determined to keep themselves as far away from the problem as possible than there are people working to resolve the conundrums at hand, and while some people are able to draw the line and say, “I’m doing my part,” many others find themselves torn apart. There is a recognition of a problem, there is recognition that the problem must be dealt with, and the recognition that if fewer people involve themselves, then the people who have acknowledged the need for resolution will have more work to do.

Some of the issues seem more feasible, like the California water crisis. There are set boundaries. There are avenues for change and petition to ensure that the restrictions placed on citizens are likewise placed on the corporate powers that be who are actually responsible for the shortage. But how does one effectively combat sexism? How does one fight against the ill-effects of an unavoidable consumerism?

How does one individual, aware of the growing pile of issues that need to be confronted, learn to partition off their share of responsibility and find a mode of living that lets them tackle their share without a schizophrenic division of will and purpose?

I’m afraid this ramble is a truer ramble than what I normally aim for. It is meandering and pointless. It’s less of a sermon and more of a working-through.

The world is horrifying right now, and I feel the need to do something. I feel called to foster change. But when the whole world’s gone wrong, where do you start?

On Voting

One of the first pictures I posted to Instagram (the third, I think), back when I joined the Instaverse back 2012, was of me making a goofy face with an “I VOTED” sticker stuck to my chest. Today, four years later, hairier and beardlier, I did it again (although this time the sticker reads “I VOTED By Mail”).

I won’t say who I voted for… not because I’m afraid to, but because that’s not what this post is about… but I will say that voting was a very different experience this time around. For one thing—as mentioned above—I voted by mail. I can honestly say I much prefer voting in person, in line with others, waiting somewhat silently and nervously (or perhaps excitedly and eagerly, if you’re one of those extroverts I’ve heard so much about), getting my ballot from a volunteer, and walking up to a little flimsy booth to fill out the ballot before turning it in and getting my sticker.

There’s something almost religious about that approach. There is a ritual. There is community. It feels like an EVENT, once you’re there amongst other voters, more so than it does an INCONVENIENCE. It feels more like a COMMUNAL RIGHT than it does a SOCIETAL OBLIGATION (and in this, I wholeheartedly agree with Senator Sanders. It should be a holiday. Nobody should have to work; everyone should have the day free to vote if they so choose).

For a start, you see volunteers. You can’t help but recognize that there are still people—people like you and me—who care enough about their country to sacrifice time they could be using on themselves in order to do a service to something bigger than them. Sometimes you can guess at their party inclinations by the way they dress or speak, or if they’re someone you recognize from the community, but all in all—and I hope this is true mostly throughout the states—they respect the process and support you as a part of that process, regardless of your ideology. It’s easy to overlook the volunteers, but they are easily the most patriotic people I know. Some of them are vets, some are small business owners, some are parents or teachers, and some are anxious teenagers excited to do their part. But what they all recognize, at least unconsciously, is that this government is our government. It doesn’t belong to a political class. It doesn’t belong to the tangle of corporate limbs ever worming their way into particular pockets and general infrastructures. It belongs to us, and will continue to belong to us so long as we want it and own up to the responsibility that comes with keeping a government as a pet.

Yes, I’ll make that comparison. You have to feed it your voice, exercise it so it’s in fit shape to be your companion and protector, and when it gets sick—rather than shout at who you think is responsible or deciding that you’d rather replace it with another animal anyways—you must work to see it healthy, because it’s health is your responsibility.

There are a lot of people out there who think their vote doesn’t count, and in a sense it’s true. And that concept gains mass and validity with each new person who decides their vote is useless as well. Some people start with the argument that if you don’t vote, how can your vote count? And that’s a great starting point. But it goes a bit beyond that. If you don’t vote, the power you chose not to exercise doesn’t go away. It sits and waits, and there are people out there who are hungry for power. They can smell it from three-thousand miles away, and they will find it where you left it. And they will get inventive. And they will be self-serving. History has shown us this a thousand times over.

Our voices are important tools. We can use them to delineate boundaries. We can use them to erect structures. To power movements. And when we don’t speak for ourselves, others will speak for us. And—and this is the scary part—people will accept their voice as representative of yours, no matter how ridiculous or far away from your thoughts they are. If you haven’t spoken, who’s to know any better?

I always cared a lot about various things, but for a long time I didn’t consider myself political. The grand mechanism of American politics seemed so self-contained and set apart from the people, and how could I ever come to see myself as a part of that? That changed, of course, my third year as an undergrad, and I regret—in part—that it took me so long. I took a history course helmed by a professor who stood staunchly opposite me on one end of the political spectrum. He was loud (it was a lecture hall), he was passionate, and he made a very interesting point near the beginning of the semester (which I’ll badly summarize herein):

Government is an agreement that we should stop hurting each other and work together, because that makes life easier. Politics are how we constantly negotiate and renegotiate the terms of that agreement.

And then the part that really got me:

If you have opinions, you have politics. You are political. It doesn’t matter if they’re opinions on music, food, relationships, or law… those are your politics.

So, if you happen to see this and are still unsure whether or not you should get out an vote today, remember… if you care about things, you have a politics all your own, and this country is only functioning at its best when we’re functioning together, voicing ideas both parallel and contrary, showing corporate America and the so-called political class that we’re still invested in this project, in this relationship. We still love our country, we’re still willing to feed it and take it out on walks a few times a day and play catch with it, and—even though it’s sick—we’re willing to stay by its side and tend to it, to do whatever it takes, until it’s wagging its tail again.


On Ghosts (Halloween 2016)

This blog is shiny and new, and I’m already behind in my ramblings. Fortunately, my one day delay places this post on All Hallow’s Eve, that day whose night invites the veil between the living and the dead to lift and shimmer above a steady stream of spooks and sweets. So we’ll keep with the theme and ramble on ghosts, which we’ll keep incredibly subjective and ahistorical, so you have my apologies in advance.

Despite the increasingly secular nature of our world (to use two problematic terms right off the bat), ghosts refuse to fade. There’s something about them that’s at once dreadful and reassuring, something that’s simultaneously self and other. Ghosts provide an obvious memento mori that bring into focus that ever-looming threat of death, which makes most of us squirm and shiver, but ghosts also serve as a sort of theological echo—a promise of something more than becoming tree-food waiting for us after death.

And yet, that echo doesn’t cater to ideas of ultimate reward or punishment, heaven or hell, as it were, and in this respect it’s important to clarify that ghosts aren’t representations of the afterlife and of death so much as they are a hybridization of the two. In this, every effort the generic ghost makes to transmit the positive qualities of life onto death is met in equal measure with efforts in favor of the reverse.

The interplay of life and death within the ghost evokes the sense something overtly familiar, yet by all means the ghost—manifestly—is unlike anything we have or can encounter in this life. The familiarity ensues exactly because of that interplay of life and death, for we (as humans) enact that interplay in a less-poeticized manner. We live and we die, and as our understanding of organic life matures, death becomes less of an end-point to us than it is a part of life as a process (in that death is hardwired into us and develops within us regardless of how it ultimately is brought to fruition).

The ghost, then, moves beyond a hybridization borne of duality and into something that is not unlike the Christian concept of the Trinity. Death and life remain present, but a new figure is added to this makeshift godhead: the human individual. Death, life, and the individual present a consubstantiality; the three faces are conceptualized separately, as we are here enacting, but in facing the ghost—in imagining such a confrontation with the unapproachable—there arises a primal recognition that those three faces are identical, and in this the ghost establishes itself as an uncanny presence, something that is immediately familiar, and so comforting, but repulsive in that it is a lump-sum realization of human existence, which doesn’t trivialize life so much as it places it on a broader temporal scale, not unlike viewing pictures of the Earth, floating hopelessly in the dark depths of space, presented to scale alongside the sun. In this, our recognition of ourselves in the ghost figure diminishes our conception self, because an urgent desire to disentangle death from our self-conception is (so often) molded into casual societal discourse.

By evoking the ghost, we place ourselves in a sort of afterlife. That is to say, by existing alongside ghosts, not necessarily as real happenings but as lateral conceptual acknowledgements of the echoes left by the dead on all tiers of history (from personal historical spheres to societal historical spheres), we exist on a post-death plane of existence. Our afterlife is conceptual, and is therefore forever bound to the inescapably intrinsic nature of death-in-life.

When I was a kid, I used to believe there was a ghost that lived in the guest room next to the room my brother and I shared. While my parents entertained occasionally and threw parties now and then, we rarely had visitors that would stay the night, so the room was consistently vacant. My first impressions of this ghost came one night when—on my way back from the kitchen, heading down the hall to my room—I spotted a shadow that wasn’t mine. It darted from behind me, running along the wall, and passed me. I eventually made my way forward, and we’ll pretend I did so very bravely. I was worried that it had beat me to my destination and gotten my brother… or, worse, inhabited my bed… but as I neared my room, I realized the door to the guest room, which we typically kept closed, was wide open. The room was nigh impenetrable, dark as it was, and instantly my childheart knew that the shadow wasn’t racing me to my room, it was returning to its own abode. I told my brother, younger than I, and though I’m sure he first dismissed me as a crazy person, the mythos of the Shadowman began to grow in us and we gave the guest room a wide berth anytime after sunset.

Neither of us believed in ghosts. Not really. And I don’t think of us ever really believed in our Shadowman either. There were no such things as ghosts, after all. But every night, walking past that room, the fear was real, even if the Shadowman wasn’t, which means—I suppose—that a thing doesn’t necessarily have to exist to make its mark upon the world.

Anyhow, that’s about it for this ramble. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Halloween special, as there’s nothing more horrifying than a blatant misapplication of theory. OoOoOoOoOoH!