I have strong reactions. So strong in fact that occasionally it feels like I will light myself on fire, claw my own eyes out, and throw them at the nearest person if I don’t get some of my thoughts out of my brain. In lieu of self-immolation or bodily massacre, I often write my reactions down, occasionally sharing them on social media. I thought it would be a clever idea to round up these reactions from the last year and share them here in chronological order. I will be actively updating this post as it is only September, and that leaves plenty of time for me to do some reactionary writing, especially with the election in November. Uh-oh.
The date and context of the reaction are in bold italics so that should give you some clue as to where one thought ends and the next begins. Though, if this post is supposed to be anything like life, maybe all of these scary and intense thoughts should just blend together into one giant, confusing, and ultimately meaningless hurricane and decimate our existence, damning our poor souls for all of eternity…
2016 has been a year. Oh boy, has it ever been a year.
Reactions to 2016
1/11/16: Making a Murderer: I’ve been sporadically watching “Making a Murderer” and have a few thoughts:
Though this is a horrifically disturbing account of a justice system in need of serious reforms and accountability safeguards, and that is an important conversation that has to be brought to light and discussed, I can’t help but feel a little disgusted by the reaction I’ve seen to the documentary.
The type of conversation I see about this series–which centers around a VERY white group of people–and the practical consensus that’s been reached about how badly conspiratorial and just plain evil the justice system/law enforcement acted in the Avery case gives me pause…
How come I’m not seeing long police-apologist posts about the actions taken in this case, defending their ineptitude? I’ve come to expect it. Why would we publicize a petition to the White House to free this man–which was a ludicrous idea to begin with, but that’s an entirely different story–are we that comfortable with his innocence?
He openly admitted to dousing a cat in gasoline and throwing it into a fire, he wrote notes to his children saying he was going to kill their mother when he got out of jail because of how she was treating him, and there’s more too!
Why do we seem so torn up with the way this Avery shmuck was treated, but people still support and defend the police and courts in cases like Tamir Rice and Eric Garner? Both cases where there is video evidence of an actual murder taking place with innocent, non-violent people falling victim to police brutality; innocent people who happen to be black. Hmmm…
Is it that there has to be bureaucracy involved for people to take this type of corruption seriously? Do we need to have white DAs and white film-makers and low-IQed white small town residents narrate the tragedy for us to make it real, or to make it okay to admit that sometimes not only is the system fucking up, but it’s ACTIVELY trying to get you?
It frustrates me to see the way that we bias our realities in order to avoid uncomfortable truths and clearly it has frustrated me to the point where I can no longer just sit back and enjoy my murder-porn (as South Park so aptly called it).
But, oh well I guess, who knows, maybe in ten years if I constructed a documentary about mass race-targeting by statewide and federal law enforcement and stretched it out over an unnecessarily slowly paced ten episodes, people would feel a little more comfortable calling things like the Rice and Garner cases exactly what they were.
It’s just so damn confounding sometimes.
1/26/16: Doomsday clock: Given the media’s attention to certain–specifically more modern–doomsday scenarios like biological warfare, natural disaster, economic collapse, and “terrorist” takeover, I sometimes find myself ignoring the fact that there are weapons on this planet capable of utterly devastating the infrastructure and population of our world’s largest cities, as well as radioactively poisoning the gene pools of anyone unlucky enough to be exposed to their fallout.
In my mind, nuclear weapons are paranoid and destructive monuments to humanity’s unbridled will-to-fear. I hate the idea and use of them and I am completely disgusted by their continued use by world political leaders as leverage in some violent–and soon to be irradiated–chess match.
Every year the Doomsday clock announcement acts as a reminder to me of humanity’s most base tendencies: our want to destroy, mutilate, and pillage, all at the expense of our species’ lives and planet. It seems no highly politicized nuclear deal, nor our ‘great’ county’s ‘sustained efforts’ to curb nuclear proliferation can save us now as we remain but three minutes away from our symbolic judgement day.
3/8/16: Capitalism: Terribly upset to find out that there is an ATM in Antarctica. Our species has managed to infect even the most unlivable part of Earth with our most vicious and cruel disease.
*as an appropriate side-note, it only dispenses US currency.
6/12/16: The Massacre in Florida: It’s interesting to see people’s posts about the massacre in Florida. From the memes of empty support to people rallying against what politicians have or hadn’t said–ironically drawing more attention toward the people whom they are supposedly criticizing. It really has my gears turning.
I just can’t believe that a MASSIVE number of people were shot to death or seriously injured AGAIN in 2016. It reminds me what fantasy world I am either privileged or crazy enough to live in, where I’m allowed to see positivity and hope for change in humanity without too much fear of oppositional violence.
It’s so sad that this happened, I can’t stop thinking about it. But what I’m thinking about isn’t that this happened at a gay club, or that the shooter supposedly pled allegiance to a foreign Anti-American organization (two things of which the media keeps trying to remind me). I’m thinking about people using violence against other people because they don’t know how to express themselves otherwise.
Maybe I’m completely insane, but I actually believe that if people like this shooter were capable of expressing themselves in a non-violent way, they would. I think this is a truth for humanity and I have a strong feeling that the instant propagandizing of tragic situations works to prevent us from reminding ourselves of this thing that I perceive as a universal human truth.
A quick thought experiment:
What if this shooter was a full blooded “Blue Lives Matter” bumper sticker toting, all-out American, Trump-voting, patriot. What if he wasn’t a jihadist bigot, and instead he was positioning himself as the physical embodiment of everything he hates–that he’s sacrificing himself and the lives of a certain number of people just so that his beloved country can rally in support behind the tragedy, finally once-and-for-all putting a stop to these type of tragedies from ever happening again. Almost like he’s Ozymandias from Moore’s Watchmen, or that he’s pulling his own version of the Kennedy-rejected Operation Northwoods.
Let’s imagine this is true, and that the media catches wind of it and turns him into an All-American Hero–someone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the moral fiber of his country and its people.
My question is this: What would that change? Would that make him a hero? Would that toss him into the annals of history as a pillar of American strength and fortitude with Washington (an imperialist), Lincoln (a pretend progressive), and FDR (a borderline socialist warhawk)? Would the actions suddenly change from violent and tragic to heroic and brave just because the media understood the facts that way? Is it really all perception?
What do you think?
It doesn’t change anything, just like the specific facts of this tragedy don’t matter–just like they didn’t the last time, or the time before that, or the time before that, ad nauseum. I think these “facts” and “details” are the things we tell ourselves to try and feel okay when we’re confused or scared; when the relatively youthful age of our species is exposed and we’re reminded that there is an awful long way to go before fear can disappear and true progress–evolutionarily, socio-economically, culturally–can happen.
What I’m saying is that I feel like we’re searching for a larger or deeper or more specific answer when the facts are already clear, chilling out right in front of our noses. I always leave these situations feeling this way, that cosmically speaking we are bloated babies with God complexes, scared little monkeys running around terrified of our mortality and creating things behind which we can hide our inadequacies, fetishes, and neuroses.
I believe that violence is disgusting and sad, and whether it was a jihadist bigot killing a bunch of innocent people, or a national hero-in-his-mind, or any other possible combination of random bits of information, what we are told by the TELLERS does not matter as much as what we feel as HUMANS and I, right now, feel sick. I know I can’t flee or flag-burn and condemn the system or tote some Sanders-style “revolution,” but I can definitely say how I feel.
I think that what I’m trying to communicate is that if more of us felt comfortable expressing ourselves–and conversely if more of us helped other people feel comfortable when they express themselves–some hopeful metaphorical sun may peek out from behind the dark clouds that hang over us on days like today and help illuminate the possibility for a better tomorrow that it feels like we so actively avoid–or at least clue some more of us in on its existence.
7/7/16: Police murdering black men: White police murdering black men. A man was murdered in front of his wife and child last night because he reached for his ID and the cop got scared. Think about that.
Because I’m white, I have less to worry about when a cop pulls me over. That’s not privilege, it’s disgusting. Why so much violence? Why so much fear? Why so much denial? Do these police apologists want to live in a world where cops function as in-the-moment executioners? I know I don’t. I thought in America we were afforded the right to be run through the–admittedly corrupt–justice system before the decision was made at a federal level to murder us? Apparently not, especially so if you’re black.
“But Nick, what would you have done? Given the increased violence against police officers wouldn’t you be more than a little scared?”
No, because I’d never be a cop. I don’t feel anyone has the right to make a decision that ends someone’s life, especially myself. And is it so scandalous to expect that a law enforcement agency would be trained well enough so that they could control their fear and not unjustifiably murder someone? What a concept! Furthermore, what are they so afraid of? That he’s black? Finally, there is no increased violence against police officers, in fact the world has become less violent over the past 100 years.
How will gun lobbyists defend this one? “Guns don’t kill people–racist cops kill people.”
At this point it’s completely undeniable–well really, it’s been undeniable in America for about two centuries–that there is a rampant epidemic of racism in law enforcement that runs right alongside the longstanding American practice of unjustifiable and senseless violence. Why are we so afraid to admit this?
Violence begets more violence and distrust. If the goal really is to create a peaceful free society, something needs to be done now. But if the goal is to continue toward a violent and cold military-industrialized dystopia where policemen walking the beat are responsible for ending the lives of people that they deem to be criminals through no other indication but the color of their skin, well, we’re doing just fine.
7/22/16: Media’s coverage of violent events: This politico bullshit plaguing every one of my media outlets is starting to drive me up the wall. I just can’t help but feel that we focus on this crap to avoid talking about (what I feel) is the most obvious root and symptom of almost every one of our societal ills.
In 2013, roughly 842,000 deaths were attributed to self-harm (suicide), 405,000 to interpersonal violence, and 31,000 to collective violence (war) and legal intervention (cops killing people/death penalty). [sourced below]
I think it’s easy to be a violent psychopath. Almost any human at any time
Is capable of inflicting a shocking level of violence on any other human within a reasonable distance. Yet, it doesn’t happen constantly…why is that?
After all, humans are just fearful primates struggling to stay alive in a world they’ve created that’s too big and has become nearly incomprehensible with information and certainly unmanageable, right? And there’s so many of us who are just complete Trump-voting morons who suck up the TV politico nonsense as if it means a single damn thing in reality and jerk off to our right to own a weapon that allows us to mow down other humans as if they were dried up hayweed, right? And the ones of us who aren’t waxing nationalistic are just over-privileged bleeding heart liberals plagued by guilt and a complete inability to address–never mind solve–our own problems which rarely consist of more than trying to figure out whether to call a Lyft or an Uber in order to get to brunch. Right? Doesn’t that sound like reality? Isn’t that who you are and who I am? And aren’t those the designations we are continually coerced to ascribe to?
Maybe not. Maybe we’re just a young and scared species with brains too big for our own good who continue to create remarkable systems and inventions that righteously scare us right out of our piss-soaked pants. Maybe that’s why we look to religious zealots or bright orange reality TV stars or the wife of an oligarch or people with lots of make up, styled hair, and sharp looking glasses who talk like they actually gave a fuck in their classes during undergrad.
I feel completely ill about this, I feel so lost in details. If a man driving a large truck drives over 80 people who cares what fake pie-in-the-sky he prays to before doing so? It’s a human killing humans because he’s uncomfortable being a human. Just look at the information I cited. In 2013, more people died violently at their own hand than at the hand of someone else. Why is that? Maybe because they were scared and they hated them-self for it and they were afraid to talk to anyone else about it because that person may react negatively and berate them in order to distance themselves because they too are fearful of admitting their own self hatred which is rooted in the same notion, that existence may be completely empty and meaningless and that its awfully scary to consider that possibility. Hmm? How about that?
And what of interpersonal violence? Well, I’d be willing to bet my life that almost every act of human-on-human violence has at least some component of psychological projection that could have been better solved with a time-out in the big chair, a slap on the ass from their mommy, and a conversation with the object of their frustration that could go something like this;
A: “Hey, I’m sorry about that. I’m really confused and scared, and when I realize this, I act out like an animal being put in a cage.”
B: “That’s okay, I’m sorry too. Gee golly gosh, I guess it turns out you and I have something in common after all.”
So again, if life is meaningless and uncontrollable and our species is little more than animals motivated by reproduction and food, why aren’t we just tearing one another apart constantly? My guess is that we actually don’t want to hurt one another and what we really want is some form of companionship in our individual lonely journeys on this big scary planet. Is that really a radical idea? Does it really sound that unlikely?
Maybe I’m just the most cynical man on Earth but I just can’t buy that there’s a solution buried in the facade of the great orange asshole or Hillary the hawk or anyone else for that matter. Every post I see just makes me sadder because I realize that violence continues and will continue while we focus on rudimentary details that distract us from the real problem: we’re scared and don’t know what to do with ourselves.
I plead with anyone who’s persistent enough to stick with me on this rant to at least consider the fact that we are being played like pawns in a game between giant interest groups with lots of money who care for little more than profit. Please don’t let the political games or liberal buzzwords or republican bigotry or corporate benefits or what-the-fuck-ever fool you, none of these figureheads care a damn for us no matter what “side” they’re on, and the only thing we can do is try to build our own communities up to be the strongest versions of themselves through local commerce and staunch anti-violence (which does not mean having a police force that is allowed to commit violence at their whim without consequence).
It’s nearly two in the morning and I’m exhausted, exasperated, and embarrassed to be human so I post my unedited thoughts to a social platform where they can exist outside of myself and maybe generate some kind of discussion that will more likely than not just lead to an empty trading of words with other people who a soul-less algorithm–developed by a capitalistic billionaire and owned in part by corporate marketing interests–determines should view my thoughts.
7/25/16: Cambridge, MA: Cambridge might have the highest concentration of men that smoke cigarettes, have letter-carrier style bags, and wear their shirts tucked in.
8/15/16: The 2016 Election: I find it interesting the angles that the two major political parties take during election season. This cycle it seems the Dems are sticking to their stale “hope for the future” platform whereas the GOP has adopted the “holy shit, it’s the goddamn apocalypse, be terrified” stance. This leads me to think that maybe the parties aren’t speaking to the global worldview as much as they are referring to the status of their own organizations.
If we look at it this way, then the GOP isn’t crying about the world being doomed as much as they are experiencing the final gasps of their party’s life as the orange haired and bigoted megalomaniac squeezes the life out of them with his smaller-than-average hands.
Similarly, the democrats–led by an imperialist war hawk–are grasping at straws, forging some kind of shaky lean-to (built with empty promises of military withdrawal and more vigilant tax spending) to protect themselves from the truth that their party is doomed to the same fate if they don’t learn to adapt. In this sense, their declaration of “hope” is a cry-out for themselves. As in, “hey, let’s hope this horseshit doesn’t happen to us next cycle.”
I think this is a helpful perspective to try out. Just remember that every time you hear a right-winger shout, “Apocalypse!” that he is referring to the firey death of his own party. And every time you hear a left-winger shout, “Hope!” he is referring to a deep insecurity that his party will no longer be able to hide their sly bigotry and imperialistic tendencies behind structurally compromised walls of social justice and economic reform.
Maybe that’ll help you feel a little better? It did for me when I though of it today.
The sad reality is that no matter the outcome of the election, there is a large probability that an uncomfortable majority of us blue-collar more average than average Joe the Plumber types will blame the US political system for our problems and continue living our short–and ultimately meaningless–lives in a some nebulous spot occupying the space between neurotic paralyzing fear and purposeful mind-numbing (but arguably blissful) ignorance. I guess realistically, not all that much will change until the Earth gets so pissed off at our wastefulness that it decides to forcefully rid itself of its infestation of land-dwelling parasitic louses that vaguely resemble deformed primates. And then, who knows?
Have a positive day! 🎷🐬💥👽👌
8/24/16: Murder of a New Bedford Teen: Looks like at least 3 teens were involved in a stabbing that has ended with at least one of the kids dying from his wounds. How awful.
News like this sends me to a dark place with very little hope. This kid had barely lived. Who knows what type of opportunities he had or what type of support was available for him? How is it that he was able to make choices at such an early age that led to such dire consequences? And in the same community where I was raised?; Where a death by stabbing was a very distant, almost laughable, possibility? What was so different about his upbringing and mine? Evidently we lived in completely different worlds running parallel to one another, how awful and confusing. It makes me feel really sad to see young kids creating such a hopeless reality like this for themselves and falling victim to the disturbingly violent and bleak narratives that society has already constructed for them.
15 years old. That means that 5 years ago he was a 10 year old kid. Do you remember being 15? Man, I love New Bedford but this is a straight up unacceptable occurrence. I know I rail on about violence here on (empty echo chamber) social media sometimes, and I apologize to those of you who may misunderstand my pleas as self-righteousness but again I find myself compelled to bring it up.
How in our community can we eliminate violent behavior and replace it with open dialogue? Is it even possible to realign the values of a community when the surrounding world is so apparently hell-bent on destroying itself with capitalistic and authoritarian ideals? Is there an organization in New Bedford that works to promote peace and empowerment in the community directly (apart from any sly political or fiscally motivated programming)?
Man, this has me feeling like shit. Just so sad.
8/29/16: Starbucks: For me, Starbucks mostly functions as a public bathroom that happens to sell burnt coffee.
9/11/2016: 9/11: My generation grew up watching the footage of the towers collapsing and living with the global/social fallout. Being a skeptic, I don’t know what happened that day. Realistically it probably doesn’t matter. Every explanation that I can imagine or that I have heard leaves me with the same sick feeling about the human capacity for fear and violence. I just wish I didn’t annually see so much empty nationalism on this day. Almost anything is better; humor, thoughtful recollection, anything.
I think peace is possible, at least I hope it is. Today I worked a farmer’s market where I met a lot of nice people and sold them really beautiful fruit and veggies. Aside from the humidity and the glaring sun it was a great day. If only…
9/20/2016: September 20th, 2011: On September 20th in 2011, my car was in the shop. I was working in Fall River at the time and needed a ride home. My mother, having the day off, offered to give me a lift. She was spending the day with a friend of hers, helping them run some errands and take care of some personal stuff.
When my mother arrived to pick me up, I hopped in the driver’s seat, “Nick, I had a long day, would you mind driving?” and started down 195 to take us home. Just as we hit 140 south toward New Bedford she got a phone call.
“No, I’m not sure where she is. When I left she was about to lay down to take a nap.”
“Ok, sure. Keep me updated.”
It was a call from the son of her friend *****, the woman she had spent the day with. He had woken up from a nap 20 minutes earlier and couldn’t find his mother. Her car was in the driveway but she was nowhere to be seen. My mom supposed that she had run across the street to the store, or had maybe gone for a walk.
About ten minutes later her phone rang again, this time the voice on the other line was frantic, a near shout. I saw my mother’s facial expression change to horror and my blood ran cold.
“What’s going on, Ma?”
“Nick! Turn the car around, go to *****’s house now!”
*****’s son had found his mother hanging in the backyard. I illegally banged the car around exit 1 where 140 meets Route 6 and floored it to Kim’s house. My mother called 911 on the way and tried to get in touch with *****’s boyfriend.
We got there before anyone else, just in time to see *****’s body hanging and her son struggling to pull her body down from the tree. About 45 seconds after we arrived, her boyfriend screeched into the driveway, followed moments later by the police. She was dead.
The next few hours were a blur, EMTs arrived, some of her family showed up, more police came, statements were taken. Everyone was sad, or angry, or some combination of the two. My mother was inconsolable, her eyes distant and detached. Being the most personally removed from the situation, the police decided to use me to help corral the family–a decision I’m still not sure I entirely understand.
“Hey, keep an eye on her son for us, make sure he doesn’t go anywhere.”
“Could you ask her boyfriend to come speak with us?”
At some point, one of her family members found a suicide note and started to read it aloud from the porch for all to hear. It apologized to her boyfriend, told her children she loved them, and said something I’ll never forget, “this world is hell.”
I don’t really remember the rest of the day. At some point it started raining and I went home with my mother, unsuccessfully tried to console her, and eventually found myself in my bedroom holding my acoustic guitar. I was completely exhausted. I was confused. I was terribly sad.
Watching the rain drop down my window, I remembered something. I had a phone call to make. Earlier that day I had been texting with someone who I had a major crush on and was trying to set up a date. She didn’t live nearby so we had decided that I would give her a call when I had gotten home from work to catch up and make some plans. That was supposed to be around 6 o’clock and it was now at least 11:30. Shit, it was too late, I hadn’t texted her, and I was in no place to talk.
Instead of calling and trying to explain myself, I started noodling on my guitar. Minutes later some chords started unfolding, and then out of nowhere, words came.
A few weeks later I recorded an album with two of my friends and included this song. I still hadn’t called my crush nor had I texted her. Call it anxiety, call it nervousness, or call it selfishness, I’m still not sure which is the truth.
That evening the words just came to me. The first verse addresses me sitting in my room watching the rain fall, the second comments on my anxieties about missing a chance with a woman I liked, and the third and fourth are me feeling the pain of witnessing the suicide of a friend. The last section, a singular line, came up in studio.
We had finished tracking all of the vocals and instruments for the song and we felt like the last portion needed some kind of a vocal line. I decided to just hit record and wing it. What came to my mind instantly was an image of me, standing at a bar somewhere with the girl I was crushing on, telling her the story of finding *****’s body and how it made me feel. In that moment I felt complete doubt and shame with myself and thought, “Well, that’s one way to guarantee you sleep alone tonight.”
*****’s death haunts me. The image of pulling into her driveway and seeing her hanging is burned into my brain. That moment has shaped me and has been instrumental in how I understand my life, and how I shape my experience. I believe to be true her final comment that this world is hell. But, since her death I’ve found that I’d add a postscript; that this world can be heaven too, If we’d only allow it.