I was going to write about Ferguson, MO this morning but to be honest I’m can’t be arsed to do so. Now it’s not even about the young man who got shot. It’s law enforcement against the Constitution. I usually could go and on about that topic but to be honest there’s a point at which things become saturated and trying to add more ire to the situation is just a waste of energy for me.
As this story progressed it’s become more apparent that the office in question might have been legally justified in using deadly force. For the record, even with the latest witness statements, I don’t think it was necessary but the situation has gone well beyond on that with law enforcement trying to control the narrative with what are blatant unconstitutional tactics. They have ceased wearing name tags and there is little to no accountability for them at this point. This could be the flash-point for something much bigger as the cops are attacking the press so the organization that usually backs up the cops is actually reporting on what’s happening without the usual pro-establishment narrative. This is the sort of thing that usually gets me going and it has. However the media saturation, the very thing that might make this lead to change, is the reason I am not adding much more than I’ve already said.
It’s not just political things or rights violations that can reach a saturation point. Take, for instance, religion; I have some friends who I have unfollowed on Facebook due their constant attacks on religion. These aren’t complaints about people pressuring them or anything, they are seemingly random attacks just for the sake of attacking religion. It does cut both ways. I’ve unfollowed people who claim to follow the same religion as me and spew hatred for anything remotely LBGT or Islamic and they do it constantly. Once it reaches a certain level of saturation or they folks involved aren’t willing to engage in reasonable discussion I simply hide their updates.
Now this is not to say I want to live in an echo chamber, nothing could be farther from the truth. It is reasonable discussion that changed my mind on a lot of the things I’ve mentioned since starting to write here again. It’s the folks who are so set in their ways that anything that challenges their worldview is met with with derision and mockery. Those people I can simply do without.
Somehow I think this ties in with the living to excess. I’ll go through cycles with some things and then stop doing them for a while. Video games are a good example of that. I’ll get involved in a MMORPG and read up on everything, learn my class really well, play to the level cap, and keep going. Until one day I just lose interest. I don’t mean I lose interest in that game, I mean I stop playing video games for a while. I find something else to fill my time.
The only thing that doesn’t really happen with is reading but it happens within reading. I’ll consume a huge amount of a single genre and then maybe not pick it back up for a year. I don’t ever really stop reading though. It’s an interesting data point and I think it ties in with the topic of this post and the previous one.
At some I think this particular issue ties in with my ADD, at least somehow. Although the things I’m talking about are not becoming bored with the topic or task at hand. I know it may sound like it but it’s really not. Saturation is the best word I can think of to describe it. I’m starting to get a little scattered on this issue so I think I’ll stop here. Writing has been helping me think through things and this is no exception. Although I did end up with more questions than answers this time.
Moderation is an area in which I do not excel. For instance I overexerted myself doing exercise and have spent the last week in a decent amount of pain. My friend Dermot said that sounds like something he would do: “If a little exercise is good then a lot is better”. I don’t think that’s the case for me. My mind doesn’t tend towards moderation in anything. I stress eat and I don’t mean a candy bar when I get stressed I mean five plates at the Chinese buffet. At the pub I can drink call whiskey (Read: Jameson) and run up a hundred dollar tab by myself. (No I don’t drive myself home from the pub). I have been thinking about this a lot today and I pretty much do everything to excess.
I don’t mean I just do bad things excessively either. For instance I read obsessively and if that was the only thing I did that was excessive then it wouldn’t be a problem but I think when taken with everything else it’s a symptom of a personality trait that I need to change. Of course I don’t want to stop reading or even read less but I do want to get a handle on my excesses. The problem is that I don’t know how to change this. I’ve always moderated myself by avoiding the situations in which I tend to overdo things. That’s not a long term solution but it’s the one I’ve used forever. The problem with that approach is that I do like to go to the pub and even if I got once a month, the money for a night out is in the budget, it’s still not healthy of good to drink hundred bucks worth of Jameson.
My birthday party is coming up next weekend and I am not sure how to change the dynamic of my excesses by then. My only thought is that I should set a limit before I go and try to stick to it. Although it might be the worst night ever to try that since people tend to buy you drinks on your birthday. I don’t know. I know I need to stop stress eating and I need to drink less during the rare occasion I go to the pub. I hate seeing a problem and no knowing how to solve it.
To be clear these excesses don’t affect me all that much. Since I don’t drive home from the pub and according to my last checkup my liver function is fine, the only thing affected is my wallet and I don’t go if I don’t have the money. I have managed to still lose weight even with the stress eating by managing my calories on the other days. Those are the two big ones. I am certain my friends could point out other excesses but I’ve probably already thought about them and just not listed them here. Sometimes I even think my obsessive self-evaluation is an excess. You see when you live life like I do, everything to excess, you end up not knowing what’s excess and what isn’t.
I don’t have the answers for the issues, hell I don’t even know where to start, but I know there are things I need to fix. And I guess knowing is half the battle…
So my last post was about political leanings and there’s a lot more to say on the issue but there have been a lot of personal changes as well that deserve chronicling. I’ll get back to the politics soon enough but for today you will just have to suffer through my boring personal life. Really there’s a lot of backstory here and I’m not sure the chronological order of it all since there are so many moving parts. I’ll start with the story that has had the most impact on me personally and what it’s led to in my life.
Late last year I called an old friend that I hadn’t spoken to in some time. It was obvious that something was wrong but he wouldn’t tell me. It took two more phone calls to get him to admit that he had fallen out of his chair and had been lying on the floor for hours. I grabbed another old friend and we went and helped him get up. It turns out that my friend had been diagnosed with cancer. I didn’t know because I hadn’t kept up with him as I should. The falling incident, as it turns out, was stroke related so he needed someone there.
Between two other friends and myself we began caring for him with Jason taking the brunt of the work and time. I gained a lot of respect for Jason as a person during Richard’s ordeal as he was there 5-7 days a week, 24 hours a day, taking care of Richard as he watched his best friend being eaten alive by cancer. David was there as often as he could be and I was there when I could as well. Honestly I was there quite a bit less than the others due to family and work obligations but I did what I could.
Richard had always wanted a family and never got one so what he wanted to talk about mine. I spent hours talking to him about my wife and kids, telling him stories about what the kids were up to. He hung on every word. He talked frequently about his childhood and not all of those memories were pleasant for him. He talked to each of us about different things that he needed to have out in the open over the course of those months. I guess when you know that you have an expiration date the people around you become your confessors. It was never easy being there and I can’t imagine how it was for Jason but we were all in it for the long haul.
That said I’d like to tell you how I met Richard. I was a punk kid and I mean that in every sense of the word. I was out for me and no-one else. I’d take whatever I could from whoever offered. I didn’t give a shit about anyone but me. I met him one night at the Rocky Horror Picture Show after I had, in my infinite seventeen year old wisdom, given my parents the finger and decided that couch surfing and MD 20/20 was the life for me. He took us to Denny’s after the show and I was planning to scam coffee off of someone. He asked what I wanted to eat and I told him I’d just have a coffee. He insisted on buying my dinner so I ordered the most expensive thing on the menu. He didn’t blink. This was the dynamic for a lot longer than it should be. Honestly I had him pegged as a sucker. (That’s hard to admit but it’s the truth.)
Over time, over the years I noticed I wasn’t the only one he treated like that. He had faith that each and every one of us could more than what we were and sometimes he was right. The things he taught me are a large part of the reason I am who I am today. You see he never gave up on anyone and I may have been the biggest scumbag of the bunch. Life happened and we grew apart. I got married and had kids, a busy life, or so I thought. It turns out I should have made an effort because I regret not being around for the ten years or so before we reconnected. I regret that a lot.
I got the time to tell him what he meant to me, how he had affected my life and that’s something a lot of people never get when a friend passes and for that I am grateful. He made all us make promises before he passed. Here’s what I posted on Facebook about the promise he made me make:
I was listening to a song this morning and an old friend was brought to mind and I realized that most of you might now know why I am so adamant about getting healthy. This friend was someone who meant a lot to me and I, thankfully, got the chance to tell him before he lost the battle with cancer. While I was helping care for him I learned that his biggest regret was never having a family. He always wanted to hear about Michelle and the kids, was forever sending treats home for them, and apparently showed the Christmas cards they made for him to everyone that came over. He made me promise to get my shit together so I would be able to see my kids grow up and be able to meet my grandkids. That’s a promise I intend to keep.
So aside from the myriad other reasons, like actually feeling better and enjoying life more, there’s an underlying promise I made to someone very dear to me that I don’t intend to break. I post about it here because I have some very supportive friends and it helps me keep a record on which I can look back and see my progress. So I won’t apologize if those statuses annoy some people and I won’t stop posting them. This is only one aspect of my life that was changed by being there with him in his final days. I may post about the others but I wanted to get this out there. I miss Richard a lot still and even typing this up brought me to tears. I took me way too long to realize how much he helped shape me over the years and too long to tell him. I’m just glad I got the chance.
So that’s my inspiration for getting in shape and for changing the way I am with people. I have been a hermit too much and I am trying to fix that. I am losing weight and trying to get out of the house more often and see the people that matter to me. I have been guilty of neglecting my friendships and then being sure that they are still there. But that’s not me any more. I may still be failing but I will get better. I will tell people how I feel about them, I will see them and put my arms around them. I am not the center of the universe and I have to make the effort to see the people that matter to me and I have to take the lead and tell them how I feel about them.
I am also trying to make sure I do more stuff with my children. I haven’t skipped over that, I saved it for last because it’s the most important thing. I am trying to have more of a work/life balance. I am on-call every three weeks, for one week, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do things. It takes a little more planning to make sure I’m not more than an hour away from somewhere with wireless but I can even do things those weeks. I don’t work so much or have so long a commute that I can’t do things in the evenings. I sometimes feel like what I bring home for work takes so long to shake off that it’s hard to make time for the family and I need to change that and spend more time, one on one with them.
Finding a balance in life is never easy and I’ve had the wrong balance in mine. I intend to change that.
I find as I constantly examine myself and my political beliefs that I can’t help but make changes. The death penalty is the position that I’ve been the most vocal about and as such the easiest to explain. I no longer support the death penalty’s use in the US justice system. The reason for this is simple: Our justice system should, first and foremost, protect the innocent. We have and will continue to execute innocent people. I am a Christian. Those three things matter in my decision to change my views on the government having the authority to kill its citizens. A Christian should not and I believe cannot support a system that kills a single innocent person. I don’t believe you can find justification for that in scripture no matter how hard you try and that should be enough in and of itself but it’s not the only reason. The death penalty is not a deterrent to crime. States that have taken it off the table and replaced it with life in prison without the possibility of parole have not seen an increase in crimes that were once eligible for said penalty. At the same time it doesn’t act as a deterrent it also costs the state more to eventually, after all appeals are exhausted, kill said convict. So from a fiscally conservative standpoint supporting it is irresponsible. With those things taken in to account the death penalty becomes vengeance and not justice and according to scripture that is something that Christians should not seek. We can imprison those convicted of capital crimes for life, without parole, and insure that the system is not seeking vengeance, that if evidence later exonerates them they can be released and reparations made and while doing those things spend less money. To be honest it sounds like a no-brainer to me.
Some of the other changes I have made are not explained so succinctly but exist nonetheless. My stance on immigration is one of them. We are a nation of immigrants and always will be but we set the bar impossibly high for immigration. As a Christian I am flabbergasted that the church isn’t crying out to have the children who are coming to America en masse taken in and cared for. I am pretty sure Christ’s words on the matter apply regardless of borders or skin color. We have a crisis on our Southern border right now that neither the church nor the government is handling correctly and it’s saddening. The immigration system in this country should be changed to a “shall issue” system. If and given immigrant is not veritably a criminal they should be granted temporary status. Once that happens they should be required to maintain a job for X number of years, serve in the military, or graduate college. Once they complete those terms then citizenship should be granted without question. A lot of conservatives feel that this would lead veritable piles of money being sent south to other countries, never to be seen again, but I don’t think that’s how things would shake out. You see people send money to their families, not their former government, and in a system like I’ve described the family would be here, by and large eliminating the need to send money to them. We would increase our workforce, decrease money being sent out of the country, and increase the number of consumers. I am not opposed to a citizenship test similar to the current test nor am I opposed to speaking basic English being part of the requirements for moving from temporary status to citizenship. There’s more to the issue and it’s not easily solved but the system we have isn’t working and change needs to happen. And one last point: Crossing the border is a civil offense. Civil offenses do not make one a criminal. If you have illegally obtained music, movies, or books then you have committed, from a legal perspective. a worse breach of civil law than anyone has crossing the border. So all of you “conservative” “criminals” that have pirated anything can now shut the fuck up with the “they are breaking the law and need to be prosecuted” mantra because you’re all fucking hypocrites.
I have moved away from staunch conservatism to a very libertarian view and as such my views on gay marriage have changed as well. I don’t think that the government, a secular entity, should have any say on who enters in to the marriage contract. In doing so I believe that the government has violated the religious freedom clause by denying those with non-Abrahamic beliefs to marry as they choose. Marriage should be completely removed from the purview of the government. If said government wants to give benefits to families based on anything then it should be a civil contract that any number of people, regardless of sex, can enter in to at their local magistrate’s office. That said I also believe that churches should not be forced to marry anyone who their religion says shouldn’t marry, after all this is about freedom of religion as far as I’m concerned. I may snicker at the Mormons sometimes but I firmly believe that if they wish to do so then they should be allowed plural marriages.
That’s three big issues on which I’ve changed my mind and on which I feel that I have defensible positions. They might make me sound like a flaming liberal to some but I’d dispute that vehemently. I won’t dispute that this morning as I feel I’ve said enough for this post. I will be posting more on the changes I’ve made to my political beliefs and to my life in the past little while in the coming days so stay tuned.
Robin Williams passed away yesterday and the cause of death is thought to be suicide. He, apparently, had struggled with this disease for some time. All over the web there has been an outpouring of grief, and rightfully so, as we have lost one of the funniest men alive. Unfortunately there has also been an amazing display of ignorance. Every quote you see at the top of this article was in one of my social media feeds either this morning or last night and every one of them pissed me off to no end. The stigma of mental illness in this country is sickening. This is what I posted on Facebook this morning:
I have seen a lot of comments about Robin Williams alleged suicide and how it was either selfish or weak. Having been there myself, and come out the other side, I can’t agree with losing respect for a person who lost their battle with mental illness. That attitude takes away from the seriousness of the struggle. Don’t get me wrong, it shows great strength to have battled it and defeated it but to say that it’s worthy of losing respect for someone is like saying that it’s worthy of losing respect for someone who lost their battle with cancer. Mental illness can be very serious, depression and bipolar disorder being some of the most dangerous types, and it’s possible that none of us who think we have been there had it as bad as he did. Couple that with alcoholism and you have a very dangerous cocktail. We don’t know what was going on inside his head and that’s a fact. You might say that you were there, that you made your attempt, and I don’t doubt you. I was there as well and made mine. How does a lack of success make any of us better than a man who did exactly what some of us have done, the only difference being success?
He leaves behind an impressive body of work and the world has less joy in that it did two days ago. The why doesn’t matter, if it had been cancer there wouldn’t be any posts like this at all. The fact is that mental illness has been treated poorly in this country and we don’t give it the gravity it deserves. His death is tragic and worthy of grief and his family deserves better than any of our arrogant musings on his weakness of mind or lack of stamina. It doesn’t matter if any of us have been there or not, in fact if we have, if we’ve held that blade to our wrist, put that gun in our mouth, tied that noose, or closed that garage door with the car running then we’re simply lucky that we didn’t succeed.
The fact is that people don’t get help because of the stigma attached to admitting that you struggle with a mental illness. You all know that I am brash, loud, foul mouthed, and even admit my past problems with illegal substances and to the casual observer it might seem like there’s nothing that would embarrass me. The truth is that what I posted on Facebook this morning was one of the hardest things I’ve posted. Admitting that you’ve struggled with depression, coming out as bipolar, or any other mental illness is still seen as weak, especially in this country. It’s fucking disgusting really.
With all the advances we’ve made in medicine throughout the years we still only have a very cursory knowledge of the brain. We now know that there are chemical imbalances that can cause clinical depression. We know that some drugs can help certain people but harm others. This is a frontier that we’ve really only begun to explore. And at the same time the public stigma attached to having a mental disorder is so strong that people fight these battles and never admit to anyone what’s going on in their heads. They don’t get help for fear of judgement and shame and sometimes due to this they see an easy way out, a way to end their pain, and they take their own life.
It’s not just those that don’t get help who take their own lives, sometimes even the best help money can buy the illness wins. It’s sad and wrong but those people who lose their battle with mental disease aren’t any less worthy of our empathy or our sympathy than those who won or those who are still struggling. This goes for all mental issues from Schizophrenia to ADHD. There is no shame in having the chemicals in your brain not function properly. The only shame should be on those who look down on people who struggle with these issues. Having suffered through some of this myself this is an issue that’s very easy for me to get riled up about and the ignorance flung about over the past few hours have me seeing red!