Category Archives: Do Something

Amazing Grace

At this time of year, most of us educators give up all hope on humanity. Between the students who are “just starting” the final projects they had six weeks to finish and the constant stream of “So, I was looking at my grade and…” pandering bullshit, it’s impossible to not want to just run away screaming.

That’s why the email I got yesterday was one of those little flecks of light in the darkest of rooms.

A fellow media adviser is in the shit at her institution. It has a lot to do with overreaching administration, bullying assholes and a general sense that the student publication should be 95 percent fluffy PR and 5 percent Sudoku. Instead, it’s a quality publication that asks questions about shady stuff and speaks truth to power.

Therefore, obviously, the problem is the adviser, who is now under fire.

The adviser’s daughter, Grace, is 10 years old. She overheard her parents talking about all this darkness and it really bothered her. She wants to be a journalist and what she heard “hurt her feelings because writers should always be able to write.”

At the age of 10, I also loved to write, but I had no idea what a journalist was. My writing was mostly confined to banging out short stories on my mom’s old manual typewriter that she’d set up for me in the dining room. The stories were my escape and my adventure and the thought that they might be taken away never occurred to me. I can’t imagine what was going through this kid’s head when she heard terms like “prior review” and “legal issues.”

Grace loves Star Wars and she loves journalism so she sat down at the computer and built a shirt to explain that journalism matters:

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Her goal was to sell 10 shirts with about $150 in profits going directly to the Student Press Law Center, which was working on her mom’s situation. When I found myself getting killed last year, it was Frank LoMonte and his SPLC crew who waved the biggest red flags and really helped bring some clarity to the situation. If nothing else, he did scare the shit out of the student government twerps who wondered why this “organization in Virginia,” as one of them called it, was suddenly setting up camp in their rectal tract.

I bought one and immediately pimped it out to at least a dozen other people. Apparently others did the same because by the time Grace got home from school, she had sold almost 90 shirts. Her mother had to write the thank you to our group because Grace was so overwhelmed, seeing how her little idea had resonated with so many other people.

For every bad story we get, and there are a lot of them out there thanks to our governmental mandate to fuck over anyone with a pulse who doesn’t have a 850 credit score and a Black Card, we get an occasional reminder of what is good out there.

I have friends on Facebook who are terrified by the Trumpcare bill and what it will mean for their kids who have pre-existing conditions, like diabetes, cancer and crohn’s disease. I have family members who are slowly giving way to the constant march of time. I have what I can only imagine will be the worst day of my year coming up in two hours.

A T-shirt won’t solve those problems.

However, just thinking about Grace makes me smile a little bit more and telling her story gives me hope.

Because maybe if we get enough kids like Grace and we show them that society can reward them for doing the right thing, maybe we will have fewer problems later and a brighter day in the future.

(Her link is open through the weekend. If you want a cool shirt to support a great kid, feel free to click here.)

Thanks, Y’all

I’d like to thank everyone who donated to VAYLA’s New Orleans East Tornado Relief fund. They’ve exceeded their original goal and have raised nearly $20K.

Here’s another chance to give:

What would a post like this be without some musical gratitude?

Stanton Moore is a New Orleans musician so I decided to let the exclamation point slide.

New Orleans East Tornado Relief

A record-setting tornado ripped through New Orleans East on February 7th. Mercifully, there were no fatalities, but there’s a lot of damage. Our readers have always been generous and I’m asking you to help again. It’s an excellent way to ward off the Trumper blues, after all.

A progressive New Orleans East based community group, VAYLA (Vietnamese-American Young Leaders Association) is raising money to help their neighbors in their time of need. I’m donating and I hope you will too. Thanks in advance.

Bannon’s B3 Brownshirts & The Chaos Principle

It’s official: Donald Trump had the worst first week of any President* in American history. It was so bad that I debated with a friend as to whether he was already the worst ever. I still think it’s too early to tell since Buchanan and W are responsible for wars and economic calamity. Trump hasn’t passed Andrew Johnson either BUT he’s building a strong case for worst ever and he’s only been at it for 10 days. I don’t think our cause benefits from hyperbole and overstatement. You can only fight lies with the truth and delusion with reality.

I admitted the other day to knowing very little about higher maths. I have, however, heard of the Chaos Principle:

Chaos is the science of surprises, of the nonlinear and the unpredictable. It teaches us to expect the unexpected. While most traditional science deals with supposedly predictable phenomena like gravity, electricity, or chemical reactions, Chaos Theory deals with nonlinear things that are effectively impossible to predict or control, like turbulence, weather, the stock market, our brain states, and so on.

It looks like Steve Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts are inspired by the Chaos Principle, at least by analogy. Team Trump is trying to inject so much chaos and confusion into our polity that repression will be required to maintain order. I seriously doubt if the Insult Comedian himself has such a plan: all he ever does is wing it without thought to the implications. Bannon, however, has emerged as first among equals in the West Wing. He’s capable of complex, devious, and downright evil thought. Bannon has Trump’s ear and the Dear Leader Wannabe seems to agree with the last person he spoke to.

In short, Bannon and his fellow white nationalists want to create the circumstances in which a right-wing revolution is possible. Those circumstances do not currently exist. Bitching about the government is as American as apple pie, it doesn’t amount to instant homegrown fascism. That is definitely a long-term threat but we have the mechanisms to stop it: people power and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers. Political courage on the part of elected officials seems to be in short supply but the longer this constitutional crisis lasts the bolder they will become. Talk of collaboration with the Trumpers has become much less common since they came to power.

The good news is that Team Trump’s Muslim ban was issued without co-ordination with the agencies obliged to enforce it and they didn’t even run it by their own lawyers. That makes it eminently susceptible to legal challenge. It was, apparently, pulled out of Rudy Noun Verb 9/11’s ass:

I’ll tell you the whole history of it. So when he first announced it he said, “Muslim ban.” He called me up and said, “Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.” I put a commission together with Judge Mukasey, with Congressman McCaul, Pete King, a whole group of other very expert lawyers on this. And what we did was we focused on, instead of religion, danger. The areas of the world that create danger for us. Which is a factual basis. Not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible, and that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there are substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.

That is, of course, nonsense. The order discriminates against people because of their religion, and all the lies in the world won’t change that. The fact that an exception was made for Christians from the affected countries is proof of discriminatory intent as is Giuliani’s need to brag about his role in the ban. He’s really turning into his master. Giuliani’s success in masterminding the Comey coup has gone to his head, and he was already a raging egomaniac. This is terrific evidence for the legal eagles to pounce on. Thanks, Rudy. I can imagine Justice Anthony Kennedy’s head spinning as I write this. I am as likely to vote Republican as he is to uphold this executive order if it reaches SCOTUS.

This policy is based on Islamophobic fantasies, not reality. That’s a recurring theme for Team Trump’s Bannon wing. In addition to the Chaos Principle, they believe in what one might call the Goebbels corollary: the bigger the lie, the more believable it is. This is propaganda, not spin. The MSM is finally showing signs of coming to grips with that. It’s a pity that they didn’t do so during the late campaign. The MSM and the “Clinton is just as bad as Trump” crowd bear a lot of responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in. I hope the Steiners and Busters enjoyed the events of this weekend. They have a share of the blame. I may “Nazi punch” the next purity troll who tells me their vote didn’t matter because they were in a red state or some other lame excuse. Every vote in every election matters.

The Trumpers have clearly overreached. The order placing Steve Bannon on the National Security Council is the best example I can think of. That body has been moribund for many years BUT excluding the Director of National Intelligence and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff sends a dangerous signal that Steve Bannon is running the show. It doesn’t get much worse than that but the order’s impact is symbolic for now. For now. That’s always the rub with this crowd.

One thing I’ve noticed about Bannon and his B3 Brownshirts is that they admire Soviet-style tactics. They’ve done some things that Stalin would have applauded such as placing what amounts to “political commissars” at cabinet departments and agencies. This sort of convergence of the far left and extreme right doesn’t surprise me at all.  This creeping Sovietism/Putinism is also reflected by their Holocaust remembrance day proclamation. It’s the first time an American administration has referred to the Holocaust without mentioning Jews. They’re pandering to the Holocaust denialists and minimizers. What’s next? An invitation for Davids Irving and Duke to visit the White House? Nothing would surprise me in the Chaos Principle era.

The one piece of advice I have for the nascent anti-Trump movement is to pace yourselves. The world is a complicated place and it cannot be changed in a day. This is going to be a long, hard slog and burn-out is a risk. Make sure to do whatever it is you do for fun It’s a lesson that New Orleanians learned during the post-Katrina/Federal Flood era. We were widely criticized for having Carnival in 2006. We knew better. It was necessary for our collective mental health. We continued rebuilding and pressuring the local, state, federal government for assistance but we took time out to enjoy life. It’s something that we can teach the rest of the country. There *is* a constitutional crisis now but stopping it won’t be helped by freaking out. Instead of freaking out: become better informed about American political history, and organize, organize, organize.

Vive les Maquis.

Okay, What’s Next?

In Chicago, here’s what we’re doing: 

“This is the moment to really be organized and really be loving, hold everyone in love and bring people in,” said Luna White of the Chicago-based Black Youth Project 100.

University of Chicago political scientist Cathy Cohen said the country could do well to employ Chicago’s brand of movement-based organizing.

The city has a history of rallying around marginalized groups through the time-honored tradition of community organizing. Some recent successes involving young activists include a reopened trauma center at the University of Chicago, city council’s approvals of reparations for police torture and new policies focused on police accountability.

“Chicago’s a very, very good example for waiting for the right moment and being very, very organized about what kind of actions we do and when we do them and why and with who,” said White, who moved from Los Angeles to Chicago because of the city’s strong community organizing.

I’m personally not going to wait for 2020 to get anything done politically. In 2018 our garbage governor in Illinois is going to be up for election and I’m gonna be knocking on doors for whoever or whatever gets the nomination to run against him. Because in addition to starving social services and demonizing teachers, he stayed away from Trump until it was convenient not to: 

“I talked with the president-elect last Friday afternoon. We talked abut working together. It was a good, good, positive conversation. I had never spoken with him before,” Rauner said. “Two of his most senior folks in his administration are good personal friends of mine, and allies of mine in politics, so we’re going to have a voice and good relations.”

I’m not overly fond of Republicans but I really hate cowards and bullies, and Rauner refused to say Trump’s name when it looked like Trump was going to be liability. You can’t pretend to be principled and then give it right up the minute it’s no longer good for you.

You? What are your planned actions?

A.

Album Cover Art Wednesday: Food Glorious Food

In addition to plugging our Food Pantry Fund, I wanted to lighten things up. What better way than presenting some foodcentric album covers? They’re largely from lesser known artists so if you want some spaghetti axe Axl or Slash.

Soup’s on.

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It’s time for the full-English Brahms Breakfast:

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Are you ready for a Manny Albam album?

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It’s time to move from the savory to the sweet: Sickeningly sweet.

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What dessert doesn’t taste better with Whipped Cream?

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For those of you who don’t believe that’s a real song, here it is:

Now that we’ve gorged ourselves on Dancing Little Tramps, it’s time to give back. Please consider donating to our Food Pantry Fund. It’s what Oliver Twist would want:

 

Ball Of Confusion

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If you’re like me, you haven’t slept much in the last week. Yesterday was Dr. A’s birthday and I slept until 10:17 to be exact. She didn’t mind. We wound up cocooning after a busy Saturday that included a kid’s birthday party that was full of bright-eyed chirren and groggy adults. We all neded more coffee but drank Mimosas instead to dull the pain. In the evening, we went to a fancy benefit cocktail party: It was free for us but a friend paid for a table. I wound up having a  surprisingly good time (the open bar helped) but still wondered who voted for Trump and who was a potential Maquisard. It was strictly don’t ask, don’t tell. So it goes.

Athenae mentioned leaving her Clinton sign out as the indication of a safe house. We’ve done likewise. Given the anti-Semitic tone of the Trump campaign, it’s akin to painting lamb’s blood on our doors like the captive Jews of Egypt did for the first Passover. We’ve already sat political shiva, why not extend the analogy to a political Passover? We’re in for a hellish period wherein we need to keep our friends close and our enemies closer.

I’m not concerned about retribution in my corner of Uptown New Orleans. Our 13th Ward precinct voted 204-22 for Clinton over Trump. I feel, however, like I did after the 1991 Gret Stet Goober primary: when David Duke shocked everyone by advancing in a field that included the incumbent Governor who finished third. I guess I should don  a safety pin. It’s another reason to keep the “echoes” or “Jewish cowbells” around my Twitter handle. I want my friends to know what am I and I refuse to be cowed by my enemies.

I tried ignoring the news over the weekend. It worked okay until Sunday when I saw that the anti-Semite and white nationalist, Stephen Bannon will be on the White House staff as a senior adviser to the incoming Insult Comedian. I’m not surprised: it was Bannon’s racist strategy that won the electoral college victory. I remain horrified that the 21st Century personification of Gore Vidal’s M3 (Miller-Mailer-Manson Man,)  B3 (Breitbart-Bannon-Bossie Man) will work in the West Wing. A quick reminder of what I mean by B3

I realize that Breitbart, Bannon, and Bossie are much less distinguished than Miller and Mailer as well as less notorious than Manson. It’s a sign of the degeneration of our culture that B3 is standing-in for M3 but what can you do? The depressing thing is that 45 years after Gore Vidal wrote that classic essay the same sexist attitudes remain widespread. They, are, however, on the wane, but just as Barack Obama’s election brought all the racists out from under the woodpile, the probable election of our first female President has all the misogynists shooting their vile mouths off. It’s the downside of progress.

I got the probable President thing wrong but she will win the popular vote and receive more votes than any white male ever. That’s small consolation for the specter of B3 in the White House but it’s consolation nonetheless.

The other alarming news from Sunday was possible Propaganda Minister Kellyanne Conway threatening retiring Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid with litigation. It’s a free country, Frau Conway; for now at least. I guess it’s time for our side to talk about First Amendment people as opposed to the Second Amendment people the Insult Comedian threatened to sic on his opponent. I, for one, plan to remind people of those threats, which remain unacceptable even as many appear ready to  don brownshirts and collaborate will the Trumpers.

The parade of deplorables is too long to recount in this post. I refuse to believe *any* of the reassuring comments the Insult Comedian made on 60 Minutes. Con men tell people what they want to hear. It’s how they work their marks. He lied his way through the entire campaign, why should it be any different now that he’s won the electoral college?

Perhaps the most alarming thing is Trump’s plan to live part-time at the White House. I realize it may not be tacky and gaudy enough for him, but it’s the seat of executive power. That means Mike Pence will be running the show. Repeat after me:

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Things are so bad that I prefer the Flim-Flam Man to the True Believer. Better a Mountebank than an Ideologue.

That brings me back to the post title. It’s taken from the classic song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Temptations. The title has been shortened over time from Ball Of Confusion (That’s What The World Is Today) but truer words were never spoken or sung. It was recorded in 1970 when Nixon was President but rings eerily true for 2016 and the incoming Insult Comedian who I’ve already called worse than Nixon.

I know what you’re thinking: we’re fucked. One way we can deal with the looming clusterfuck is by good-deed doing. That’s why you should consider donating to First Draft’s food pantry fund. Athenae has the details.

300 families helped: Food Pantry Fund

THANK YOU ALL! This is a message from the St. Hyacinth Pantry’s director to everyone who donated:

I want to thank you and all of your generous friends for their overwhelming support. With the money already raised, we can provide emergency food for over 300 families this month, which is especially important during this very busy holiday period, our busiest time of the year. Separately, if anyone is in the Milwaukee area, and would like to visit the Pantry to see our facility or see us in action, please feel free to contact me.

Respectfully submitted – Steve Pollock, Acting Director, St. Hyacinth’s Food Pantry

300 families. That’s something, guys. Great job.

Continue reading

Confessions Of A Keyboard Maquis

First Draft and the original Netroots blogosphere arose in opposition to George W. Bush and the Iraq War. I started blogging in opposition to how the Bush administration mishandled Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood. On every level imaginable, Trump is worse than W. So bad, in fact, that the former President refused to vote for him. When President Obama and many others said Trump was unfit to serve as President, it was not just campaign rhetoric. It was a blunt statement of fact.

In the wake of continuing reports of Russian meddling in the election, it’s time to stop mourning and get angry. What form that anger should take is the question on the table. It should and must be non-violent. Undisciplined demonstrators smashing shit is playing into the enemy’s hands. Yes, I did say enemy. I plan to give  a Trump presidency the same respect Republicans gave President Obama. None.

The Never Trump Republicans were fond of using French Resistance analogies. It’s beyond ironic that some of the same people who mocked the French as “surrender monkeys” and wanted to rename frites “freedom fries” are invoking the French resistance BUT it’s a useful analogy nonetheless. Frank Rich recently summarized the categories quite well:

Mike Murphy, the GOP strategist who ran a PAC for Jeb Bush’s ill-fated campaign, divided his fellow Republican elites into three categories: “Vichy Republicans,” who went along with Trump and the party base enamored of him; “Survival Republicans,” who tried to remain as neutral as Switzerland; and “Resistance Republicans,” who actively battled his nomination.

Obviously, none of  us wants to link arms with even the Resistance Republicans, many of whom will become collaborators, but the imagery is striking, especially on Veterans Day. That’s why I like the term Maquis. Trekkies may remember it from DS9 and Voyager but they took it from the French Resistance during World War II. The Maquis or Maquisards were small, scattered but still mighty rural guerilla bands. They were slightly more effective than the urban resistance because the Allies could air-drop supplies to them in the dead of night.

I am not advocating using Maquis tactics but adopting their attitude. Non-violent legal and political resistance are called for. Congressional Democrats need to be every bit as obstructionist as the GOP has been during the Obama administration. Remember: we controlled the Senate until the 2010 teabagger wave election and have more votes than the GOP did at that time. Their initial focus should be on salvaging the ACA and saving Medicare from the not-so tender mercies of the Survival Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan. He’s collaborating with Trump to further his extreme Randian agenda. Trump has no ideas and Ryan has many bad ones.

The electoral college victory of Trump-Pence has unleashed a tidal wave of hateful shit. We’ve all heard reports of both verbal and physical attacks on minorities. Children are terrified and crying at school. Ponder that for a second. School is supposed to be a safe haven for learning, not a place that’s as scary as the world outside. What kind of country are we? We need to decide.

I feel older than I am right now. My main form of resistance to Trumpism in all its ugly manifestations is to do what I do best, write. Hence the post title: Confessions of a Keyboard Maquis. I think people should think about what forms resistance to the incoming regime should take. The great Al Giordano has shared his thoughts with the world beyond his subscribers, of whom I am one, and I’ll give Al the last word:

Those of us who have lived in countries under authoritarian rule have spent recent months having our own conversation about what is happening in the USA. We do it in whispers because most of you will not believe us no matter how loudly we shout about what a Trump election would bring down the ‘pike. We shake our heads and feel a great wave of pity for most Americans who have no idea what tyranny really looks or feels like. Tyranny – contrary to popular myth – is asymmetric. It hits from all sides, crevices, nooks and crannies, from the dark places, the shadows. The figurehead’s power above merely provides it cover. It has the same paramilitary logic of what was endured in Latin America’s dirty wars and the dictatorships across the sea that gave rise to the Arab Spring. When Donald J. Trump praises strongmen leaders across the globe he is giving his “tell” of how he would govern – with a clenched fist.

Worse, the response from that part of America that defines itself as “the left” (I am speaking of the white and academic “left” since so few organized people of color are foolish enough to claim an already discredited mantle) is totally unequipped to address it yet they will attempt once again to place themselves at the vanguard of resistance without any lived experience leading an actual resistance, much less winning one. Senator Sanders’ “Our Revolution” PAC will seek to fundraise off every injustice as aggressively as it has over the Native American resistance to the pipeline in the Dakotas. The remnants of “Occupy” now under a thousand new names will call for demonstrations without guidelines, training or discipline and that in the name of “diversity of tactics” allow any asshole who wants to call himself “Black Bloc” to don ski masks and toss trash cans through store windows. President Trump is gonna love those demonstrations because it will allow him to sell all kinds of repression to his base. White men will vault to the front of these groups saying, “follow me!” Yet they have not a clue as to how a real movement is built or won. They feel entitled to it anyway. It will be more of the same attempts to re-center whiteness and maleness with the cheerleading of Jacobin magazine, some writers at The Nation, Democracy Now and Reddit dudebro forums.

The election of Trump will mark the exact moment of failure of manhood in America. The only possible new leadership will have to come from women, especially women of color, who already live in Trump’s America and have more experience navigating such a world, far more than we guys can learn in the short time we’ll have to build an authentic resistance. Mexican-American and Muslim-American women will be the first hit and instead of letting the dudebro aspirants set the tone it will be up to all of us to follow those women into battle instead.

The only authentic resistance to the policies of a Trump presidency will make nonviolence its watchword, and unapologetically so. To participate, you’re going to have to get training in nonviolent civil resistance. I’m not speaking of the “express trainings” by dudebro groups like “Democracy Spring” with fawning celebrity dilettantes like Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, but, rather, sessions that last a minimum of eight hours or, ideally, an entire weekend or more and are led and organized by women of experience at it and especially women of color.

I obviously have a problem with the whole last word concept. I hope you read Al’s entire piece and that it inspires you to organize and act in whatever way you see fit. I now think of it as the Manifesto of the American Maquis. First get mad, then get even.

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Finally, thanks to Doc for that fascinating post. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. Now where did I put my trench coat? And that’s the last, last, last word.

Fight Them Til We Can’t

I’m not sorry.

I’m sure there are a lot of people expecting me to be, because WHOO HOO WE WON YOU LOST BLAHHHH BREXIT POLLS SUCK IT LIBTARDS. I’m sure if I went looking on the Internet I could find people who think I should take down my Hillary sign and pretend I didn’t vote, didn’t fight, didn’t care.

I’m sure there are going to be plenty of stories about how arrogant angry liberals like me need to take a lesson from this and JUST ONE MORE TIME be nicer to the angry racists who hate us. I’m sure there are going to be lots and lots and lots of thinkpieces about how if I would just not be so … me, and mine would not be so mine, and we would all shut up about being ourselves and needing things like fundamental rights, and listen silently while we are insulted, then we would finally be gifted with what has never been freely bestowed in all of human history.

Guess what?

Fuck.

That.

I am not ashamed I voted against a man who thought you could electrocute gay people into being straight.

I am not ashamed I voted against a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, victimizing women, killing women.

I am not ashamed I voted against men who claimed science was a myth and abortion was a joke and war was a really fun video game.

I am not ashamed I voted against a man who wants to deport people I work with, people I know, people I love.

I am not ashamed I voted for a woman who has worked every single day of her entire life for other people, who has fought for what she believes in and raised a family and stood up through decades of abuse and bullshit because of it. I am not ashamed of the Clinton sign in my window.

I am not ashamed to have voted for and cared about and invested in a party, instead of buying into the easy, cynical assumption that everything is broken and I alone see through it. I am not ashamed to have stood up for the values of equality, social justice, shared work and shared sacrifice, leadership, education and generosity.

I’m not going to temper a goddamn thing. I’m not going to apologize for a goddamn thing. I’m not the one who yelled “lock her up” and “Trump that bitch” and “cunt” at a Secretary of State.

Me and mine, we’re not the ones who said, “Grab them by the pussy.”

We’re not the ones who said Mexican immigrants were “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

We’re not the ones who said we need “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

I don’t need to move closer to Trump voters and I don’t need to understand them more and I don’t need to smile at them while they leer at this country and I don’t need to apologize for the education I was PUSHED EVERY DAY BY REPUBLICAN VOTERS TO GET and I don’t need to be sorry for what I believe because what I believe hurts no one.

I’m not going to be nicer to xenophobes and homophobes. I’m not going to be nicer to racists and fascists and religious bigots. That’s a waste of time, for me and for them.

Who needs me now? Who needs us? I mean it. Let’s spend our time not searching our electoral souls and trying to be nicer to our asshole-Americans. Let’s spend our time doing what we can for the people who DIDN’T just vote for fear and loathing.

Let’s spend our time not on worrying about David Brooks’s mythical Target-shopping Crocs-wearing whoever-the-fucks who are scared of imaginary Muslims and completely harmless gay couples, but on the actual Muslims and very scared couples who are now at risk. Let’s write some thinkpieces about mobilizing those people to vote and also mobilizing them to, you know, be okay in the world. Let’s talk about immigration reform and help refugee families who are already here and let’s do stuff that matters for people who aren’t screaming the house down.

I don’t want to spend the next four years, as we spent 2004-yesterday figuring out how to be better so that Republicans will love us for not being horrible filthy whore Democrats. I won’t spend a stolen second more on anyone’s goddamn feelings. I’m not sorry and you can’t make me sorry. You also can’t make me stop.

This is a huge step back. I’m not denying that. But I’ve been saying it for 12 years now in the faces of wins and losses.

We get back up.

And we don’t back down.

Not. One. Inch.

A.

Sunday Final Fundraising Day

So, so close. We’re only $300 away from our goal right now! 

Do you want a paid van for the next debate and election night, that doesn’t smell like whatever the cats puked up when I took that hard left at Albuquerque? Do you want MOAR MOAR MOAR videos, pet pics, essays about bad cartoons and worse presidential candidates? Wanna carry us across the finish line and make sure you can stop seeing these posts?

Then CONTRIBUTE TODAY, and thank you! 

A.

Sunday Morning Video: The Temptations Live

Our annual fundraiser is heading into the homestretch. I don’t know about my colleagues but I still ain’t too proud to beg. Please donate to first Draft so we can keep on keeping on. For more details, read what Athenae has to say.

This week’s SMV begins with a Temptations set from 1983. The lineup features Dennis Edwards as the primary vocalist. He had some pretty snazzy dance moves as well.

The second clip is an excerpt from a show featuring former Temptations David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, and our old buddy Dennis Edwards. Dennis replaced Ruffin in the Temps and sang lead on some of their grittier numbers such as Ball of Confusion and Papa Was A Rolling Stone.

Finally, here are Kendricks and Ruffin at Live Aid with Hall & Oates:

I hope you’re tempted to donate now.

Fundraising Final Stretch

The First Draft fundraising link is staying up through Sunday because, well, we only do this once a year. We don’t need tens of thousands of dollars ever quarter like the Freepi, because we don’t have as much of our souls to try to get out of hock, but we do want to keep the experience ad-free and pay for a nice van for election night so people stop getting kicked out and left by the side of the road. And right now our total stands short of that, less than half the number of contributors we had last year.

I don’t love admitting that. It’s not about guilting you into giving. It’s about feeling guilty I haven’t given people enough reason to support us. I know back when we started there were like six political blogs and whatever the fuck Andrew Sullivan was doing, and probably by now we should have all gotten real jobs and moved on.

But. Whenever I think about shutting the site down at some point in the future, I think about the people who read us and have for years, and who come around for every van we have, for whom we do what we do. It’s not just about having a place for US to talk (though, holy hell, without it I’m pretty sure we would have all gone crazy this election), it’s about having this place, for us to talk with you. I read every single comment on everything that gets published, even if I don’t respond, and you make us better, smarter, more open and compassionate and aware, every single day.

If you care about that, if you value that, consider contributing. If you think someone else already has and your support isn’t necessary or won’t make a difference, trust me, it is and it will.

If you’ve already contributed, thank you! If not, here’s the link.

A.

35th and Shitbag

Milwaukee Bucks President Peter Feigin found himself in hot water this week for telling the truth at a Madison Rotary event about his team’s city as well as his experiences there. Somewhere between trying to jack up excitement for a team that went 33-49 last year and trying to explain how the state’s $250 million investment in an arena that looks like Elvis’ haircut, Feigin made a comment about race and the city:

“Very bluntly, Milwaukee is the most segregated, racist place I’ve ever experienced in my life. It just is a place that is antiquated. It is in desperate need of repair and has happened for a long, long time. One of our messages and one of our goals is to lead by example.”

The shit hit the fan so hard and so fast that Feigin had to walk his comments back in an interview with the Journal-Sentinel that same day.

“Milwaukee is a terrific community with wonderful people and I am proud to be a part of it,” Feigin said in a statement. “I was addressing a question about the social, economic and geographic divides that exist and how we can help address them. It wasn’t my intention to characterize the general community as overtly racist.”

Notice the “very bluntly” part came at a speech while the fine-tuned horseshit came in a statement? In other words, “I’m sorry I told the truth because I know I could get fired if the team isn’t drawing people and I made the mistake of being honest about my experiences here.” Also notice that Feigin is making a personal statement here: He says that it’s his experience that the city is segregated and that race is a big divider in the city. He wasn’t trying to use charts and diagrams to outline the math behind his experiences. He just noted how he felt about it. Y’know, kind of like how Newt Gingrich feels the country isn’t safer, even though crime is down? Or how some people just “feel” that Obama is a Kenyan Muslim infiltrator who will lead the next wave of a New World Order into Texas to take the guns away and pilfer the freedom of people in Amarillo? Yeah, just like that.

Except Feigin is actually more accurate in his perceptions than the Tin Foil Hat Militia down south.

I lived in and around Milwaukee during my formative years and have family dotted all throughout that area. I still visit on a monthly basis, if not more, and Feigin has a pretty good handle on what’s going on in that area.

Sherman Park.
Laylah Petersen.
Frank Jude.
Ernest Lacy.
The Dahmer situation.

These are just a few of touchstones for anyone who wants to look up and notice that, hey, we seem to be having a lot of problems when it comes to how the black folk and the white folk experience life, safety, justice and so forth in Cream City.

The comments after these articles are the exact kind you would expect to see here: the “presumably white” commenters are looking for “the smoking gun” of racism and the “presumably black” commenters are saying, “The whole fucking building is on fire and you’re asking us to point to the match that started it before we have a right to comment.” In both cases, people can see what they want: No, we don’t call the “bad part of town” something politically incorrect like “the ghetto” or “the inner city,” but that doesn’t absolve the city of sin. Not to generalize, but “The North Side” is just as clear of a code for Milwaukee whites as either of those things.

When I was younger, my friends and I would cruise around on Friday nights in our shitty cars. We knew that if you went toward Whitefish Bay (A.K.A. “White Folks Bay), we could gun our cars hard enough to set off the alarms on the street-parked BMWs and Lexuses. However, if we made a few wrong turns, the streets of brick homes suddenly became boarded up row house and corner markets with bars on their windows.

From Lincoln through Good Hope and from about 6th street up to about 68th, we knew we didn’t belong. It was the place one friend’s father told us that “Somebody oughtta build a fence around that area, throw in a shit ton of guns and let them go at it.” On the personal level, there were more than a few times we ended up in some place in that area to get gas and referred to it as being on the corner of “35th and Shitbag.” I’m not exactly proud of that, but I wasn’t alone in knowing where the lines were drawn in my hometown.

Telling people like Feigin to dial it back only continues to shove the issue under the table, only allowing it emerge when something becomes explosive. At that point, the “good white folk” can point to that flashpoint and either “tut tut” about it or stare on in amazement because “I had no idea things were so bad for those people.” Instead, let’s take that moment of blunt honestly and celebrate the fact that people who get here from elsewhere can see what we really are, even if we can’t. Then, let’s take advantage of this so that maybe we can have discussions on this when something can be done and not just after something was done.

How To Help South Louisiana

South Louisiana is having one of the worst floods in its history.  Our readers are well-known for opening their hearts and wallets to help people in need. Here are a few ways you can help the victims of the Gret Stet flood of 2016.

Second Harvest Food Bank.

United Way of Southeast Louisiana Flood Relief.

Finally, Denham Springs is one of the hardest hit communities. Here’s a link to a gofundme to support the Denham Springs Aminal Shelter.

Thanks in advance for helping. Our readers rock as well as rule.

No Lives Matter

I went to bed with a half-written post on the Philando Castile shooting, opting not to include the Alton Sterling shooting because Adrastos had already covered it. Within five minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I got update after update from various news sources that multiple police officers had been shot and killed in Dallas during a peaceful protest.

More died during the night. What’s worse, is more and more and more of us will die in the days to come as our country reaches a spasmic crescendo of anger, fear and violence.

We argue these days about who owns the “lives matter” movement. “Black Lives Matter” started after the George Zimmerman acquittal and became a rallying call and social media zeitgeist during 2014, as it seemed we couldn’t go more than a few days without a cop killing and unarmed black man.

Others co-opted the concept with “All Lives Matter,” trying to show equality but actually just perpetuating the tone-deafness that is majority privilege. Police picked it up as “Blue Lives Matter,” in the wake of several murders of police officers.

And on and on it went.

White Lives Matter. Gay Lives Matter. Pet Lives Matter.

Sadly, no. They don’t.

We are going through “lives” like a third-grader with a cold goes through Kleenex.

We don’t have enough time to fixate on one random shooting before another one occurs. Can anybody name the last black guy shot by a cop prior to Alton Sterling?

A few names stick out over time: Eric Gardner. Tamir Rice. Michael Brown.

Other than that it’s “Wait, why does that name sound familiar?”

How I know life has changed in this regard is because I still remember the name Ernest Lacy. When I was growing up in Milwaukee, his name was everywhere after police arrested him while on the lookout for a rape suspect. He died in a police van shortly after that.

Everyone who was in Milwaukee during that era knew that name. It was the symbol of racial inequality and police brutality. Year after year, his name came up, as protests took place and people filed lawsuits.

It’s been 35 years and I still know his name.

But the last black guy a cop killed before Sterling? Nope.

If “All Lives Mattered,” I’d be able to recall the name and age of every single kid killed in Newtown. I’d have a memory of each of their school pictures burned into my head forever.

When I was a night cops guy, I got sent out to cover a lot of death and mayhem.

Dead kids were always the worst. I still remember the name and age of every dead kid I covered. In some cases, I can see my article in the paper as it was laid out in the print edition.

I can recite them and recall them and when I do, I feel the same gut-wrenching feeling I felt all those years ago as a 22-year-old reporter.

I can’t remember the Newtown names. Or the Jonesboro names. Or even those at Northern Arizona, Northern Illinois or Virginia Tech.

The names I remember are those of the shooters. Maybe. About half the time.

Life is such a wonderfully abstract concept. It’s clinical and yet it’s metaphorical all at the same time. You can clinically live a long time and yet have “no life.” You can “live life to the fullest,” even if you die far too young. Life sits in front of “liberty” and “property” and “the pursuit of happiness” in some of our most basic and treasured documents, even though this recent spate of shootings tells us that those words aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

I hate thinking like this, as fatalism isn’t my bailiwick. I’d like to think that whenever I die, I will have mattered at some point to someone or something. I’d like to think that some people somewhere will hold a memory of me in a way that shows what I did had some value and that whatever ended my life, be it old age or something much more severe, will give rise to thoughts of who I was and what I did.

And yet, what I see every day just reinforces the idea that no lives truly matter, but to a few people who know those who are gone and a spate of people who see the loss as emblematic of a larger concern.

Do me and all the rest of us a favor.

Find a way to prove me wrong, each and every day.

Find a life that matters. Then two. Then three.

Maybe if we can interlink those circles of “important” lives, we can “Six Degrees of Separation” this chaos into a better version of all of us.

And maybe then life will matter.

It’s Only Poetry: #NoBillNoBreak, Gun Control, and What We’re About

The concern troll fu was STRONG with the Internet today, as Democrats led by certified badass and current sex symbol of the Athenae household Rep. John Lewis said oh, you don’t want to vote on gun control legislation? OKAY. Watch this.

Immediately other liberals and professional contrarians pointed out that the watchlist was garbage, itself a violation of all kinds of due process, and not something we should be in favor of making tougher.

The Democratic proposal has been catch-phrased and hashtagged as “no fly, no buy,” because it would prevent people who end up on government terrorism watchlists, including the “no fly list,” from purchasing firearms. This would do little to reduce gun violence, but it would add an additional layer of surveillance and government scrutiny to a particular class of people.

Which is true, and not the point at all. The watch list and the no-fly list are horrific GOP garbage.

The GOP won’t even vote in favor of its own garbage if that garbage is disapproved of by the NRA.

The GOP won’t even ALLOW a vote to expand their own bills if the NRA doesn’t want them to.

There is no principle they hold to that they will not abandon if the NRA asks them to.

There is nothing they won’t block if the NRA asks them to to.

They are run by the NRA, lock stock and about a thousand smoking goddamn barrels. And that is the point of forcing votes on legislation the GOP should be roundly in favor of. That is the point of sitting in.

It’s to say, what chance does actual gun control legislation have if we can’t even get this garbage through?

It’s to say, we are giving them everything they should want, and they are throwing it back in our faces for no real reason, so you tell us what else we’re supposed to do? You tell us how we’re supposed to work with people who won’t even work with us on stuff they used to work on!

For the past 8 years the GOP has lied and abused and obfuscated and postured. They shut down the government for the second time in history (the first time was their fault, too) out of spite at not being able to keep people uninsured. They are blocking a Supreme Court justice from having his nomination even considered.

For 8 years we’ve heard stories about how “Washington” or “Congress” is gridlocked, about how “politicians” don’t get anything done, how “both parties” are responsible for America “becoming polarized” and other nonsense that makes it sound like this is the weather and not the end result of electing Tea Party-sexual hairdos without two brain cells to rub together.

Tonight the story is that Democrats are demanding votes on gun control legislation, and are willing to put their bodies on the floor until those votes happen, and Republicans are blocking those votes and turning off the cameras and walking out of the chamber. That’s the story now.

America has been really hard to love, lately.

Between the ongoing violence in the city and the seemingly neverending stream of nonsense coming out of Donald Trump’s mouth, between the perpetual debate about how mean we should be to poor people and the fact that people genuinely think yelling on the internet is like having your head busted in at a protest, America has been a really prickly, unloveable place.

But tonight, hearing about the sit-in John Lewis and his fellow Dems were staging, people started gathering at the Capitol. People came and held signs and yelled that they were with those inside, that they were watching, that they cared.

Inside, on the floor of the People’s House, a bunch of men and women in suits sang We Shall Overcome.

A lot of people are calling this posturing. Calling it theater. But it’s not. It’s poetry. And there are worse things than poetry. People have sat on hard floors all night for worse things than poetry. People have died, for worse things than poetry. And nobody is poorer or dumber or hungrier because of poetry.

And if tonight  we are one iota less alone, in our fear and our anger, because of that poetry, then sing on.

A.

“Fuck You” Nation: Campus Edition

A number of months ago, I coined the term “Fuck You” Nation in dealing with the idea that we seem to have a constant sense that anyone who isn’t immediately for us in the way we want them to be should be told to fuck off.

Truth be told, I should have figured this term out decades ago, given the cultural climate of my alma mater.

The arrest of a 21-year-old UW-Madison student has sparked protests on campus, due in part to the circumstances of his arrest and the anti-racism message he was attempting to spread.

Denzel McDonald is accused of spray painting graffiti on 11 spots around campus over the past six months. McDonald is also accused of threatening to kill a bystander who tried to stop him.

The crucial issue at the center of the protests comes down to how McDonald was detained. He was taken from a class for questioning by the UW police department after the class had already started, although it is clear from the bodycam footage, as well as police statements, this wasn’t at the “Law and Order” level of chasing someone through a series of alleys. The police also noted they had tried to find the student in other ways for two weeks prior, but they did apologize for disrupting the class.

In response, a group of individuals has posted a list of demands that includes calls for a series of resignations of administrators and police as well as requiring that the charges against McDonald, both criminal and university, be dropped. The most wide-reaching demand is for “community control over UWPD.”

The demands followed a protest in which participants staged a walkout from class and then blocked traffic for several minutes.

Chancellor Rebecca Blank’s responses have been fairly metered, give that she has no actual say over the criminal charges, nor can she force the specific resignations while simultaneously turning the police department into a branch of the Mifflin Street Co-op.

If this kind of thing looks familiar, it should.

Not the black man versus the Blue Line, but the red-faced rage against… well… everything around the UW flagship campus.

Madison has served as the central junction point in our state for protests throughout the past half-century. From the anger regarding the Vietnam War to the outrage over Act 10, the student base plus the presence of the Capitol has led to large gatherings of individuals demanding social justice.

Conversely, Madison’s reputation as a meeting place for the permanently socially aggrieved, the “chip-on-my-shoulder” crowd and the self-important elites is also well deserved. The line, “Madison: Where two’s company and three’s a protest” is not an understatement, nor is it impolite to suggest that the constant rage-gasm that seems to be ready to erupt over every perceived slight has led to a marginalization of broader and more important issues.

In my time in Madison 20 years ago, I saw protests over the Cleveland Indians mascot, a misinterpreted cartoon in the student newspaper, grade interpretations, things sold in stores on State Street, the use of the wrong abbreviation during a speech about the LGBTQ community and more. Perhaps my favorite was a protest that had three students pouring Pepsi on the steps of Taco Bell in a “Free Burma” stand. Turns out, they were friends of a kid who needed to cover an event for a reporting class, so they went out there to help create an event for the kid.

And those are just the ones I could recall off the top of my head.

Protests do have value when they are guided toward a coherent goal and based in specific needs. For example, protests on the campus of the University of Missouri brought about resignations, but that situation held with it both a broader base of support as well as a campus not given to such actions. In addition, those who resigned were the sources of long-term concerns. The system president in general had shown himself to be particularly tone deaf in reacting to constant and persistent issues of racism.

A quick check of media coverage on Blank hasn’t revealed a similar sense regarding her handling of these kinds of issues. In addition, the protesters have yet to clearly explain HOW a Civil Rights violation occurred via the arrest. If it’s about freedom of speech, there are limits in terms of time, place and manner, one of which prohibits criminal acts such as vandalism. If it’s about the arrest in the classroom, the argument is somewhat strengthened, although no legal mind with whom I have spoken or who has been quoted in the media can outline exactly what the violation is. In addition, the university copped to this as being a misstep and has taken proper action to apologize and create better policies.

I agree with the narrative outlined by groups that have noted situations like the one involving Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Missouri are not about one cop and one victim, but rather a flashpoint for systemic racism and emblematic of a larger issue.

To that same extent, I am not speaking here about one arrest, one set of demands and one group of damned kids who need to get off of my lawn. The attitude, approach and lack of self-awareness expressed by the students who pasted their list of demands to the statue of Abe Lincoln on Bascom Hill is just a microcosm of the larger Madison experience for me.

For my money, Madison was the most oppressive place in which I have ever lived because people on both sides of the fence of every issue wait with hair-trigger anticipation for any potential slight. We never discussed anything when it came to the important issues. We either loudly voiced our stand, daring others to “express ignorance” or we sat quietly, hoping no one noticed we burned the roast. The minefield of rage was always full of tripwires and walking it guaranteed we would fail.

Even after I left, I got flashbacks to these tales of fury, being told by idiots, signifying nothing. I saw a microcosm of that when Melissa Click stepped into the national spotlight, and it’s one of the many reasons I never liked how her actions overshadowed the purposeful actions of a collective with a cause. I saw it again in this Yale student, who berated a faculty member whose wife had the poor sense to write something the student disliked about Halloween costumes.

If this protest is about racism for these students, it is about speech for me. The protesters want this to be about a broader discussion of the “anti-black movement” that is imbued in every fiber of the campus. I agree with the need for that discussion.

However, there also needs to be a broader discussion about the general protest-based dickbaggery that emerges far too often in Madison and that displays the grace of a feces fight in the monkey cages at Vilas Zoo.

Grow some thicker skin.

Listen instead of waiting to speak.

Assume that people who don’t understand you want to try and are willing to learn.

Give people who fuck up in word choice or approach a chance to make amends.

And move your idle speed back from “constant rage” to something a little less taxing.

Those things will create the kinds of change you seek.

 

 

 

Survival is beautiful

In my experience, the most difficult thing about surviving a trauma has been the dark, grim sense of how I felt I was supposed to react. When it comes to other successful endeavors in life, people are always looking for positive things they can tell you:

“Hey, congratulations on the big promotion!”

“Way to go! Your home run won the game!”

“Nice job on this paper! 100 percent! A+”

Positivity oozes out of everything we like to tell people for whom we are happy or grateful.

However, in surviving horrible colleagues, baseless inquisitions, heavy bouts of depression and other issues, I have never found people lauding my efforts as if they were joyous or beautiful experiences:

“Great job not punching out that asshole you work with!”

“Nice job of not getting fired after someone filed that grievance against you!”

“Hey! Way to go! You didn’t kill yourself!”

The saddest line I think I ever read in a book captured this perfectly. When the Minnesota Golden Gophers won their first NCAA hockey championship under Herb Brooks, an aide found his team celebrating like crazy in the locker room. A few dozen feet away, Brooks sat drained, silently resting in a hallway. John Powers noted the following about that moment:

“They had succeeded. He had avoided failure.”

I hate that my survival has often been seen as avoiding failure. For me, there is a sense of having been lessened permanently by the act and that survival means continuing as a damaged shell of my former self.

I hate that survival is seen as a dark happenstance that allowed a scarred and damaged person to luckily continue on a now-ruined path. Stories of survival should inspire greatness, not fear and shame. They should show the indelible nature of strength and the beauty of the indefatigable individuals who survived.

Enter “Art is Survival.”

I ran into this website recently after a few friends recommended it. The idea is that two brave storytellers were opening up their wounds to the public and inviting others to do the same in that scary, often rude and somewhat horrifying medium known as The Internet. People can tell their stories in whichever way they want: Text, audio, video and what-have-you, but the stories will be accompanied with inspired art.

The visual representations of survival will look to provide readers with a sense of beauty that can unlock the grace and value of survival. They will also serve as a reminder that survival is just the start of a truly incredible transformation of self. They provide a grace, a dignity and a beauty that is often lost when black text meets white screens. They also show how the horrifying act that forced survival may be ugly, but the survival itself is what matters now.

And it’s truly a beautiful thing.

One pill makes you larger…

Of all the things I’ve gone through this year, the one thing that always freaked me out most was medicine.

I went through a bilateral carpal tunnel surgery in October, leaving me with limited mobility and a great deal of pain. The surgeon prescribed me these pain pills that were enough to turn me into a drooling idiot. Regardless of how much pain I was in, I really tried my best to just gut it out and not take the pills.

“The doctor gave them to you for a reason,” my lovely wife would say in her best exasperated nurse voice. “Take the damned pills.”

I did when I felt I had no other choice, but for the most part, I tried like hell to avoid them.

Near Christmas, the overwhelming pressure of the life chaos I described in “Heroes Often Fail” was persisting to the point of physical and mental maladies. I waited as long as I could before I went to see the doc. She asked a bunch of questions about my mental state, pretty much coming to the conclusion I needed some level of sedation.

I protested vehemently. “I don’t want to be a zombie,” I pleaded.

She assured me that despite what I had heard about these kinds of pills, I’d be OK and I could take them whenever I felt I wanted them to smooth out the stress.

That was my problem. I was worried that I would want to and that I couldn’t stop.

Addiction is a fear of mine for reasons both simple and complex. When you grow up Catholic, the nuns basically train you that everything is a slippery slope that leads directly to hell.

That time you shook your dick twice after peeing? It’s leading to masturbation, illicit sex, prostitution, AIDS and death, in case you were wondering… That time you lied? It’s leading to you violating family trust, hocking the family silver and having to scar your fingerprints with battery acid before you go on the lam, just so’s you know…

The other reason was that addition runs in my family. My great uncle was a pharmacist, on a path to a great life, only to find out he liked prescribing himself stuff more than selling it to other people. He died basically broke and alone. My grandmother fought alcoholism her whole life, holding off the beast at the bridge for her final 25 years, even as she battled cancer to the end. Still, her life was rough until she finally became a friend of Bill W. Others in my family also have similar issues. It’s not an unreasonable thought that something might get a grip on me when I’m not paying attention.

And then there was Saturday…

I’m heading to the store to pick up a prescription for my mother-in-law when I get a text from a former student. The kid is going on 30 now and it’s been years since I had him in a classroom. He dropped out to run a bar, a nice joint I stop in at from time to time, only to leave him hints and tips that, hey, you can always come back and I’ll help you. He worked at the student paper when I was there as well, making him a great colleague as well as a nice kid.

He tells me he’s sorry he’s been out of touch and that he didn’t respond to some help I asked for and that he’s sorry if it’s shitty that he asks for a favor after that, but he’s going to ask anyway… See, his brother just died of a heroin overdose and this kid wants to know how to write an obituary for him because he doesn’t trust anyone else to do it and he is afraid he’s going to screw it up…

I felt like I got throat punched. All I could do was text back stuff like “Are you OK?” and “I’ll send you my notes when I get home.” My mind is reeling about how this guy is dealing with his sibling just dropping dead. The guy apparently was clean for three years, got mixed up in the wrong situation and took a hit.

He died. Game over. That fast.

What messed me up more was that this is the second one of my former students to lose a family member to heroin in the past year or so. A kid I absolutely adored from Mizzou had her brother die after battling the beast for a few years. It was another situation of something getting its hooks into a kid and never really letting go.

Grandma used to tell me that she never could look more than one day ahead when it came to addiction. It wasn’t something you ever “cured” or “reformed” yourself from, to use the parlance of a long-ago, ill-conceived term for addicts on the comeback. As a “make a list, cross shit off” kind of guy, that’s scary as hell. As a control freak, it’s paralyzing.

There is such a pull and tug between how we see medical issues and how we are supposedly supposed to see them. For the longest time, addiction and mental illness were viewed as simply being weak. The reason you couldn’t get off the bottle? You were a pussy who needed man up and dry out and learn how to hold your liquor. The reason you were depressed? You just needed to snap out of it and get your shit together. Look for the positives, man!

These answers are wrong and will always be wrong, as both are linked to actual scientific, chemical concerns. To help the illness, we need to use medicine.

However, it also seems like EVERYTHING has a pill for it. Watching the Super Bowl, we found out that there’s apparently a pill for people who can’t shit because they are on opioids and there’s also a pill for people who shit too much. Apparently, the market for people who can’t form proper turds is blossoming.

Low T, restless leg, toenail fungus, limp dicks, lack of female desire… You got something or don’t got something? We got a pill for that.

And that’s where they tell us that some of these addictions to shit like heroin start. Watch the Real Sports piece on heroin use among athletes and it all comes back to painkillers. It hurt, so we gave them a pill to fix it. Then, the pills didn’t work well enough or were too expensive or ran out so they needed something and then, bam, heroin.

And then they die and we wonder why.

The hard part here is trying to figure out where that normal resting pulse actually sits for me. Is it normal to be depressed? Sometimes, maybe, but if it gets too bad, and I’m creating a problem for other people and can’t snap out of it, shouldn’t I try to get that fixed? OK, so what happens when I can’t function without that pill? Or it stops working and I need more of it? How much is too much? How will I know? At least with booze, the vomiting for me is a pretty good red flag that shit went wrong. Same thing with pain. How much is acceptable and how much can I take of whatever it is until I’m actually doing more harm than good?

The state of Wisconsin started an anti-heroin campaign called “The Fly Effect” that talked about how you take the one shot and you’re pretty much screwed. (I’d link to the site, but for reasons past my understanding, it doesn’t exist anymore as it once did. Maybe another budget cut…) So, understanding that a) taking something might be a one-way ticket to addiction, b) things that doctors gave us we once thought were safe can lead you on the nature trail to hell and c) I generally have constant anxiety about losing everything, it’s a pretty bad idea for me to trust that a chemical can solve a problem for me without creating another problem.

How the hell do you deal with the anxiety you’re facing over your anti-anxiety medication?

Maybe there’s a pill for that. Hopefully, it’s non-habit-forming.