Another School Shooting, Another Tragedy

This morning I woke up and started catching up on a few TV shows I keep tabs on during the week. Around 9am, after going through a number of them, I put the TV on the local stations. Instead of seeing the usual chat-fests I saw local reporters a lot less chipper than they normally are on the coffee and go morning news. There had been a shooting at a local high school, Independence High School in Glendale, AZ. The story was a developing one, which meant every local station was trying to be the first with new nuggets of information but since it was an ongoing story new information in the chaotic situation was slow to come out. Most of the broadcast in those first few hours were of reporters standing around, relying either on bystanders to give them information from kids at the school, who were getting their information from social media, or speculating among themselves what little information they had fit into the larger picture.

I know the drive to want to be first with breaking news is a big motivator for news coverage. The big events, either positive or negative, are the things that can make or break a news organization. What is frustrating for me in watching breaking news events is there isn’t really a lot of newsworthy information that comes out during a fast moving story. Rumors spreads faster than facts in these situations and something that isn’t thought about much in the speed of getting information put out on the news is the newsroom and the officials dealing with an incident are so concerned with covering their bases that they can overlook or, if you want to be cynical about it, scrub information to fit an agenda.

OK, it can sound a bit conspiratorial to think the media might be scrubbing information on a news story. I’m not even suggesting there is a nefarious reason for doing this. The editing of some information, and I’ll use that term so it’s less conspiracy feeling, may be done for no other reason than to spare exposing moral and social issues the station or officials may think are too sensitive for the public to deal with in the rush of the story.

Of course, there is good reason to be cautious of what narrative that is brought out in an evolving story. Think of the incident in San Bernardino a few months ago, where a Muslim couple shot people at a company holiday party. The press, from the very beginning, and this is before anyone knew who the perpetrators were, tried to downplay the possibility this was a terrorist shooting. I remember the first information I heard about it speculated it was an office rage issue. I get why this might be a good way to go considering the national climate. If the press had speculated this was a terrorist act sponsored by a foreign group, people would have lost their minds. The French shooting was fresh on everyone’s minds and a step in the wrong direction could have pushed opportunistic people to manipulate the situation further into possible policies and actions that could have longstanding implications for the country. Yes, I’m talking to you Homeland Security and NSA.

Now, that is the extreme on one end. The issue I see in the case of this local shooting is what I would consider an opposite reaction. The complication in this case is the shooting involves children, teenagers to be more precise but children in the eyes of society. In the early stages of the news story, from when I saw it at 9am, there wasn’t much information given by reporters, saying it was a fluid story, but in retrospect, going over the information they were giving out and the means they had to go through to get that information, it was obvious they knew more than they were passing on to the public. The reason why I say this, and it’s something crazy to think about, is that the information from social media at the time, in hindsight, was more up to date than what reporters were giving to the public. Well before it was officially announced at the press conference around 10:30am, I saw social media feeds saying that two female students were dead on the campus and that one gun was found near them. Reporters hinted two people were shot but didn’t give the status of them. What was the big issue leading up to the official announcement by officials was reporters were talking to parents and friends, who were talking via smartphones to student who were in lockdown in the school and they were giving information, admittedly based on unverified information, that turned out to be spot on.

What was learned by the pieced together information reporters had from conversations with people who were in communication with students was the two female students were lovers, and it could have been a suicide pact or a lover’s quarrel, and the results were that this was a murder/suicide. Being that the incident happened, for all purposes, on Valentine’s Day, made some speculate, and this was information from students on smartphones, that the two girls were having problems with coming out to others (others meaning adults/parents) and in Romeo and Juliet fashion decided to be together in death.

Now, at 10 am this was pure speculation in the sense that officials and reporters didn’t go with this scenario. It was pretty evident by the way reporters and officials dealt with the information released, the speculation was probably true. Since then, and I started working on this article at 4:30pm, the reports I have seen from numerous news outlets have done their best to minimize the reasons for the shooting. This has only served to make the story very confusing with the information they have released. With all the hours passed, the story is two girls were found dead with a gun near them. There is no reason for the shooting.

What I have seen the local news do during this story is promote information that will make this story an ‘it can happen to anyone’ kind of story. Experts have been called upon in studios to talk about how parents should monitor their kids’ activity on social media, how they should look for warning signs in their kids for disturbing behavior and to see who their kids are friends with. Images I have seen, and from a media point of view I can see why the shots are golden, are of people wandering around with red, heart shaped balloons, clutching stuffed animals and carrying red roses. It’s the contrast of Valentine’s Day, a school where parents believe their kids should be safe, and the anguish of another shooting that can happen to your kid.

Alright, after all that I have written above, at 5:30pm, one of the stations confirmed what social media had speculated. The police confirmed there was a suicide note, it was a murder/suicide and the two girls were ‘close friends.’ OK, for me the last part of the statement was a dodge by the police, which is why I used the quote they used in the statement, but they confirmed the obvious; the girls were lovers.

The reason why I have been slightly angry with the coverage of this story is I see coverage in stories like this try to present something that is palatable to a wide audience rather than give information that can open the eyes to people of a broader factor. I understand these were two teenage girls in love, but if this were a heterosexual teenage couple the news would have called it that as soon as they had information on this. They wouldn’t have been ‘close friends.’ There was a teenage couple from Phoenix that went missing a week or two ago and they weren’t called ‘friends’ in the press. They were referred to as a romantic couple, boyfriend and girlfriend.

I’m really sorry that parents feel it’s necessary to block ‘children’ from things the parents feel unconformable about but treating what they are uncomfortable with as a stigma and something not to talk about is not getting the right information to the public and especially in ways of dealing with such tragedies. Maybe if the girls didn’t feel it was them against the world maybe they wouldn’t have felt the need to do the murder/suicide. If I were to speculate the worse, that this was a break up gone wrong, could it be possible that one girl felt the other was so unique because she was a woman who had the same feelings she had, that she could have been worried that there were no other girls like her in school so if she lost ‘the love of her live’ she would never find love again? Yes, that scenario is the basis of every break up, but if you are homosexual and your social circle has you pegged as odd and you find whom you think is the one person who gets you, if that person wants to move on what does that do to your self-worth?

See, we can say it gets better to people but it’s one thing to offer that advice to a 30-year-old, it’s quite another to expect a teenager, in the middle of ‘raging hormones,’ to understand that things are going to get better. If we as adults continue to shy away from being honest, open and accepting of all people, it will be harder to cope with such tragedies with the honestly needed.

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Finding The Glorious Odd on Camera

I woke up early this morning and was working on finishing up a tattoo photo shoot I did. I got inspired working on it and decided to go out and try to get inspired to do another photo series. With a lot of political talk about the economy and the plight of the average American (I happened to have the radio on a progressive station) I started thinking about the real people I saw everyday going to work. I get on public transportation about 6 am, sometimes a little earlier, so I can get to work. If I’m lucky, I arrive home by 7:30. I really wonder when politicians talk about understanding the American citizen and what the citizen wants to they really understand the struggles citizens go through.

CF20160204aNot to get racial, because it’s not about that, but when people talk about Oscar So White or when they talk about representation in comics and other media, I get a sense people focus on the incendiary issue of race and not the broader view that there is a huge part of America we don’t see, but in fact we do see every day, if we look for it. I saw ABC promote a new drama called The Family. It was a typical Ordinary People (look up the movie if you don’t know the name) looking family. That was followed by a promo of a comedy show about a family, which was a typical white family.

I haven’t seen either type of families on those two shows in my life, except on TV or in movies. I know a lot of mixed families, single parent families and same sex couples. They range from the very young and surviving to the hard working older people trying to make ends meet. They aren’t perfect and that’s what makes them unique.

I like looking at the natural beauty of things. Look, I don’t mind the glamour and glitz of things, especially when filming something, but I feel like I appreciate what I would jokingly call the gross beauty of life. It’s like the thing we try to teach our kids when we say they should see the beauty in all things. When I’m in my good mood looking around at people we would call homeless, or the mom stressed out with the kids, or the man hustling to make extra money to pay the bills, as unpleasant as it is to look at that, it is the life I and many other people live every day.

Those aren’t the people that will be seen in campaign ads. Those won’t be the people seenCF20160204b on TV. We’ll see them on crime blotters, we’ll see them in some Sarah McLaughlin-esque montage tugging at the heartstrings to raise money for an organization who might give pennies on the dollars raised for helping people. The regular folks we see every day that work at the Wal-Mart, who are sleeping on the bus from job to job, who you hear when you call customer service, those people are props for the media and politicians. We don’t think of the millions of people in those jobs nor of the struggles they face.

Those are images I want to capture on camera. I want to see the good, bad and ugly in regular people.

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The Press and the Iowa Myth

Something I always see as odd when it comes to the coverage of American politics. Every four years, a lot of attention is paid to a small group of people in the heart of fly-over country. Millions are spent in Iowa, courting people who are farmers, small city folks and the evangelicals. To win the state, so the reports go, you have to be a politician who practices ‘retail politics,’ meaning you have to press the flesh, kiss the babies and prove you are a ‘real American’ by going to state fairs and eating diet busting food and listening to country music. If you get through all that, instead of a one person/one vote election you have campaign for a caucus, which in its purest complicated form reminds me of someone using strict rules from AD&D 2nd edition, not the Player option edition and definitely not 3rd, 3.5 or 4th editions, at least on the Republican side. For the Democrats, they use the 3.5 version, with a mix of the 4th and a little of the 2nd player edition.

If you think that’s a crazy analogy, know that in one of the precincts, a tie was broken between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders with a coin toss. Might as well have rolled 20 sided dice.

I say all this because after all the months of campaigning, pressing the flesh, traveling the state, eating the calorie busting food, sitting in the pews of churches and trying to get airtime with the local and national press, the people of Iowa pick the candidates in the most archaic and somewhat confusing way and the press, knowing how messed up the Iowa process is, will come out and in bold headlines declare definitive winners and losers.

Being the political junkie I am, seeing the national headlines declaring Cruz the big winner, Trump a loser for second place and Rubio an up and comer with a third place finish is misleading to the public because of the relative unimportance of Iowa. It is the bold, absolute declaratives that bother me because there is underlying information that is underrepresented in the numbers from Iowa, if you want to look at the numbers.

Here is the news I would give to Cruz and Rubio; savor the victory and the good press while you can. If we are to believe the polls, Trump has a commanding lead in New Hampshire, and the negative press, no, let’s call it what it is, the gleeful press acting as if the second place finish for Trump in Iowa will be his downfall is wrong. If there is something the polls have taught us in this election season is the more negative the press goes after Trump, the stronger his support becomes. With all the mistakes Trump has made this election season, where he has said and done things that inn the elections of old would have killed a candidate, he has survived. His support nationally is huge (to quote him) and even the three way split between Cruz, Trump and Rubio in Iowa is a win for Trump in my opinion.

Here is the field as I see it at the moment; the press will spend the week building up the win for Cruz, the surprising third place for Rubio and, of course, the demise of Trump. Trump will do what he always does, throw his bluster into the mix, while Rubio and Cruz will try not to but will make their finish in Iowa seem like it is a mandate of the people. Before there can be a cool off phase, where people actually step back and take a look at the candidates in a rational way, New Hampshire comes up. If Trump wins big, and again, all indications seem to point to that direction, Trump will look like the comeback kid. The thing with New Hampshire is the election is what most what folks think about what an election should feel like. No coin toss, no all-night precinct fights. You go in and one person has one vote to decide the fate of a candidate.

Another important thing to remember about Iowa, not many candidates who win Iowa, especially on the Republican side, go on to become the party’s nominee in the past few election cycles. In 1980, George HW Bush won, beating the ultimate winner of the election Ronald Reagan. In 1988, as a sitting VP, Bush lost to Bob Dole and Pat Robertson but ultimately was nominated. George W Bush did win in 1992, but in 2008, John McCain, the ultimate nominee for the party, came in fourth behind Huckabee, Romney and Fred Thompson. 2012 was the craziest win because at first, Romney was declared the winner, and he would ultimately become the nominee of the party, but days later, after a recount, Rick Santorum was declared the winner, beating Romney by 34 votes.

Recent history shows Iowa isn’t the best barometer for predicting Republican nominees for President.

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My Small Observation on #OscarsSoWhite

I didn’t plan on it but I watched the announcement of the nominees for the Academy Awards this morning. After watching the announcements, I was going to write something about Star Wars and Mad Max, but the PC crowd showed up in the past few hours and I have to bring in some reality into the argument erupting on the web.

For as long as I can remember there have been complaints about minorities nominated for awards. This year is no different. At the end of the year people want to know what some black, Hispanic or Asian actor wasn’t nominated for a role while it seems like the field is dominated by white actors. Let me take a moment and dip into my comfortable territory. Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was the biggest movie of the year, has become the biggest money maker ever in North America and it working its way on being the biggest worldwide money maker of all time. In that film, if you break it down, there was one black actor, one Hispanic actor and one Asian actor of note in the film. Two of those actors were in lead roles. Other than a few minor characters, and I’m not mentioning actors in CGI or costume performances, you saw no other minorities in the film. A background character isn’t going to be nominated for an Academy Award. So in the movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which takes place in a galaxy far, far away, the possibility of having an actor of color, and I’m going to be clear here and state that means any non-white character, being in the position of possibly being nominated for an Academy Award is slim.

A movie that opened the same day as Star Wars: The Force Awakens was Sisters, starring Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. This was a modern film, set in modern times in America. Of the 15 cast members listed on a Google search, 5 were minorities and just like in the cast of Poe from The Force Awakens, it took a bit of research to seen one of the actors was of Hispanic descent, thus putting them in the minority category. It had to be noted, if Sisters somehow were to have been so good as to have the possibility of having an actor or a supporting actor become nominated for an Academy Award, there is a good chance the performance of many of the minorities wouldn’t be of Academy contention and wouldn’t get nominated. So even if there are 5 minorities in the list I saw, if it came down to realistically nominating someone for the possibility of being nominated for an award, it would be very unlikely any of the minorities listed would even be considered for nomination for a possible shot at being nominated.

Here’s the bigger issue I’m trying to make; if the actor isn’t in the role, how would they have the chance to do a performance that might turn heads and make an Academy buzz?

What people get very animated about is the after the fact events? If you aren’t cast in the part, you won’t make it on screen and if you aren’t on screen you won’t have a shot at the Academy Award. Now, multiply Sisters or Star Wars: The Force Awakens with the hundreds of films made each year. Only a few of them will be of a caliber that will make people take a second look and fewer of them will be considered Academy worthy. Just using the numbers, there are only so many slots for nomination and there are so many worthy films that will have at least one worthy performance for nomination.

Yes, the nominees for the Academy Awards are mostly white because the pool is mostly white. Unless a minority actor does an extraordinary job in the one role they have, it will be hard for any minority actor or screenwriter or production designer to get nominated just because of the sheer numbers of white persons in the field. That isn’t a racist statement, just stating the cold hard facts of the industry. While I can understand the passion some may feel about Will Smith or Idris Elba not getting a nomination, you could have an argument that many from the cast of Spotlight, a story about the Catholic Church sex abuse in Boston, could have been nominated for an award. Will Smith is one man, in one role, in one movie. Where are the other Academy worthy performances by other black actors? If they aren’t in parts, they can’t showcase their talents and they can’t be nominated.

Think of it this way, while Smith and Elba have been mentioned as snubs for nominations, as well as the cast of Straight Outta Compton by some, what minority female actress has been left off? What about screenwriter, costume designer or other technical field person? Can you think of one female actress in a role that might be Academy worthy that is a minority? What about a minority composed or screenwriter? That’s why I say people are arguing about nominations after the fact, when the choices have been long made as to who will write, star and create the film, when the preparation for that should be made earlier.

Look, just from a practical standpoint, if I make a SF film like Star Wars, I can cast whomever I want in the film. I’m working with a blank canvas and I can in mid writing change gender, location or any other issues with characters, timeline and location. Poe from The Force Awakens could have easily been Asian or black, Rey could have been transgendered. Here is the other things creative people have to think about; as much as people love The Force Awakens now, remember back to that first trailer, the ones people waited by their computers to pull up once it appeared on YouTube. What was the first image they saw? They saw Finn. Remember what the reaction was to seeing a black Stormtrooper for the first time? There was a good number of people in the public who were outraged. There were people who claimed, just by the trailer, that the new Star Wars movie would be anti-white. The scandal was so big it was talked about on social media for months. Remember, the argument was sparked by an image from a trailer for a movie no one would see for over six months from the trailer’s release, and all of the negative comments were based on the race of a fictitious Stormtrooper in a galaxy where a Wookie, sandpeople and a famous cantina bar seen were thought of as cool. Even in a galaxy far away, people put race into the picture.

Let’s take a look at a less successful film that came out last summer. The reboot of the Fantastic Four was a mess and there were so many things wrong with the movie you can’t lay blame on one thing. A big issue fans had with the movie was the decision of making Jonny Storm black. Like it or not, that decision and the defense of that decision by actor Michael B Jordan became a stain on the film. Because defense of the decision was so wrongheaded and because the film was a critical and financial failure, the fan reaction will prevent creative people in high profile movies of making bold choices in casting. I personally thought the casting of Jordan as Storm was wrong until I saw the film and saw what direction they were trying to go to. I will applaud them for taking the risk but I still hated the decision.

But I’m not an executive with the power to greenlight a project.

I get where people argue about how the Academy Awards nominations should be diverse, but if the roles and positions aren’t there for the artists to show their talent, you can’t blame the Academy. If minorities aren’t in roles, they can’t showcase their talents.

There is one other thing that has to be considered in the roles minorities get and that is history, and I mean real history. Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, so anything as far as casting is possible. If I’m filming The Danish Girl, I’m probably not going to cast a minority in the lead role. If I’m doing Spotlight, I can’t change the race or gender of the characters. Many films nominated for best picture and many actors nominated for best performance, are in films that take place in a particular place and time. Very few take place in current times so casting roles in front of the cameras has to be historically accurate. Like I said before, if I’m making a film about the Boston priest scandal, I can only do so much to change the facts and characters. I might be able to change a minor character into another race or gender, but you have to be careful on what threads you pull. If you try to be too PC in choices you could end up with another Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves on your hand, where you try to find an excuse to bring a minority into the cast yet don’t take into account the history of the times the film takes place and the repercussions of that.

The fault of the lack of minorities in Academy nominations isn’t something that can be blamed solely on the Academy. They can only nominate the best from the pool of movies made in the previous year. For every set of choices made for each category, there could be five or more that are just as deserving for nomination. It’s a hard pill to swallow but assuming racism or discrimination in the almost all white loom of the Academy Awards isn’t just something the Academy should shoulder. If roles aren’t being offered and opportunities give, then the Academy shouldn’t go to a quota system just to please outspoken critics.

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A Hollow Road

This morning I woke up to the news that my parents aren’t doing well. I mean, they say they are doing well but my mother slipped things into the message she sent me that I know reflects things aren’t going well. Saying my father is OK but casually mentioning he has been in the hospital for the past few days, like it is a routine thing, is troubling. Thing is he has been doing the hospital rotation for the past two years, where he is in for an overnight stay to a week.

My parents, being the religious people they are, look at this as ‘preparation for Glory.’

I had been trying to type the passage above for hours. I would write something, not like it and delete it, then start again. I thought the reason why it was hard to write down what happened this morning when I found the message might have to do with a fear of realizing they would die soon, or some primal fear of mortality. It wasn’t until now that I got a sense of what was bothering me. I’m in the break room at work, and there are all sorts of people milling about talking about work. I have the conservative clothes on, the comfortable business casual shoes and in a few minutes I will go back to listening to stores calling up in a panic because their ice machine has broken down, or their coffee machine is on the fritz. They will demand that these things are a high priority because they will ‘lose sales’ or some other corporate speak which is just an excuse to whine.

I’m sitting at a table with my computer decked out with its Babylon 5 logo it and no one has any idea what it means. I find myself stuck in one of the songs that my old math teacher in high school used to play. I’m stuck in a world where everything is the same. I’ve stuck in a world where I am a cog in a big conglomerate machine and I’m not too happy with it. I see my parents getting close to death, with is reminding me of my own death and I don’t see where I’ve lived up to my potential.

My lunch break is almost over and I will head back to my grey cubical and for another 4 hours I will field the same calls and will feel the hollow victory of surviving through over 100 phone calls. That’s what passes for an accomplishment right now.

I wrote everything above yesterday afternoon. It’s now Wednesday, a new day and the same feeling persists. I’m back in the break room and I’m watching fellow workers mildly complaining there are no cups for the coffee. I’ve gotten so bored and frankly annoyed with the same corporate talk in the break room I have slapped on the headphones to block it out.

So it’s now lunch time. Why the time jump? Because son after I wrote the above paragraph one of my coworkers left and said I could get extra hours if I wanted. So I started over an hour early and, to add to the fun stuff, someone called out for the evening so I decided to stay later. I’m doing close to a 12-hour day today. Why? For the extra money on the paycheck so credit card bills gained during my unemployment can be paid quicker.

That is the cycle I know I hate so much right now. I’m going to listen to almost 12 hours of whining stores today so I can make some extra money to pay bills. The extra money I make will not make a dent in the bills. If I’m lucky my next paycheck may have $100 more after putting over 12 hours of overtime on it.

I didn’t want this post to be a gripe fest but it has become one. Like I said at the beginning, I think the drama going on with my parents is making me start to look at what I’ve done and I wonder what is the point of it all. Existential thought is great for the academics but not for the everyday realities of economics.

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A Wandering Bit of Reflection

This might be my first 2 days off I’ve had in a month. Not that I’m complaining since I’ve gotten my new job …

Well, actually I am complaining since I got my new job! Let me try to explain. A few weeks ago I got to talk to my father, something I don’t get to do much. It’s not something that is done by choice; there is no anger, no estrangement issues. My father just believes in the role of the typical American black male of the 50’s and 60s, which means in a lot of respects keeping emotions down to a minimum.

OK, I can see I’m heading down a road I don’t want to tread down so back to the subject.

Lately, when either of my parents have given me advice, it has been pretty sound advice if you lived the perfect American life. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s the same kind of advice I got from the unemployment department when I went down for their ‘job assessment.’ As long as my life fit into an assumed box for someone my age, it could be argued their advice made perfect sense. For my situation, it made no sense. Sure, if I had a significant other living with me, if I had a car, if I was living way beyond my means with ‘frivolous things’ (and yes I can see where collecting comics could be frivolous but I’ll get to that) I can see where cutting and saving and doing a few other things could help in savings, but that all works if I was living the life I’m supposed to be living under American standards.

That isn’t me.

I’ve made cuts and sacrifices a decade earlier. I don’t have the significant other, in any way, shape or form, so I don’t have the possibility of getting adjustments in income or having someone work another job to supplement the income. There is no one to move in with to share the bills, no kids to use as dependents on tax forms and welfare documents. There is no car to sell because I have no car. Call it stubbornness on my part but I don’t feel like asking (or as I like to call it begging) for money from friends and family. Right now I’m hopefully working at getting through one potential financial burden and it pained me for asking a friend for help (thanks Linda) and I know I’m grateful for her help but equally feel guilty for approaching her about it.

As I told my parents a number of times this past year, I feel like I’m being punished for doing the right things for me and the life I want to live because I didn’t live the life, and I’m being really honest about this, they and society wants me to live.

Something that has caused tension with me and my family is their desire for me to be ‘normal.’ Take that definition any way your mind wants to wander. That’s the problem. When people think of normal, what does that mean? What does it mean if someone isn’t ‘normal?’ Is someone gay normal? Is someone, who at age 50+ collects comics and SF material abnormal? Is a black man who doesn’t talk sports and at my age doesn’t have a child abnormal? If someone prefers to dress in all black for convenience is that abnormal?

Now, I put the is someone gay normal reference at the beginning to be very specific. I guarantee by me putting that with the other descriptions I have in the paragraph might make some say I’m making an inference. They might say I’m making a declaration. They also could be making an assumption that is completely wrong. I like wearing all black. It isn’t rooted in some dealings with the mystic arts, because if that was the case I would sport gray temples or a bald head and have weird hand gestures while whispering incantations. I wear all black because when I watched the remake of The Fly in the 80s, when Jeff Goldblum’s character talked about wearing the same clothes so less time had to be put to fashion and more to thinking it made sense to me. Just to be clear, my wearing black in no way means, despite the fact I have a lot of AD&D books, that I’m in to the occult, unless being a Jedi is a part of the cult and that’s a whole different subject.

The thing is not being ‘normal’ isn’t a bad thing because when you think about it what is normal? A good friend’s kid is one of the coolest persons I have had the pleasure of meeting in a long time. I’m not too embarrassed to say if I had a kid I’d wish they would be like them. I know if I did have a kid like them my family members might not like them, just like my family members, and to be clear this is extended family members, don’t like me. We’re not ‘normal’ by their definition and truthfully I look at their lives and I say to myself if you are normal, then you can keep your normal.

The problem with the concept of societal normal, and as I like to keep saying I hit it all the time dealing with government agencies when I was unemployed, is that it works for a good number of people who have the same belief system, but those outside the box are in for a world of hurt and misunderstanding. I written about it before but when I was unemployed I was given so many suggestions that couldn’t work for me because the agencies simply didn’t listen or read the information I was telling them. If I don’t have a car I can’t sell it for extra money. Get a cheaper apartment? I live in a house where my mortgage payment is less that apartment cost. The second job, which is the one even my father used on me, would make sense if I found a job closer to my own home or if I had a car, because right now it takes me almost an hour and a half to travel to the job I have right now each way. I get up at 5am, when insomnia doesn’t have me up earlier, so I can get to work, sometimes picking up an extra hour or two in overtime, and I get home, if I’m lucky, by 7pm.

So far, this may have struck a few people as sounding like a whine fest. Oh, poor Reg. You know what, part of this is a poor Reg rant. Sometimes you have to feel sorry for yourself because people aren’t going to feel compassion for you. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for pity or a handout. That’s what gets into me talking about the whole concept of ‘normal.’ My parents’ generation is all about the quiet struggle. It’s all standing at the lunch counter in silent protest, about turning the other cheek in the face of racism. That silent struggle was important but a big reason why peaceful protests tend to win arguments is because the larger society is afraid of the alternative. Before Americans became afraid of the Muslims of the Middle East they were crapping their pants over the Black Muslims in America. Of course if the choice is between the turn the other cheek Martin Luther King or the slap you in the cheek Malcolm X, the greater society is going to embrace the passive Martin to the confrontational Malcolm.

Most of society thinks the only people that have struggles are the very poor. Look, I have probably hundreds of articles I have saved over the years from newspapers talking about the struggles of the middle class, and when I see those articles I don’t see middle class people with struggles. I see people who would face the same cookie cutter answers I got from unemployment counselors. The thing is, in their cases the answers would be correct, or if not correct would have to be seriously considered. There was an article about a recently divorced woman struggling to make ends meet on $2000 a month in Los Angeles. Yes, that is very little money to live in LA but she was living with her three working age kids. She lamented that her daughter had to get a used car instead of the one she wanted. Her son was in college and that was a strain on the family finances. Not once in the article, and I know it wasn’t the point, but no one asked why didn’t the three kids work? Even a better question for 2 of them was why were they still in the home using resources? They were over 18 so they could get a job.

Like I said I have lots of articles like that where on the one hand we’re supposed to feel sorry for the struggle and on the other hand you could see where cuts could get them ‘back on their feet.’ The other extreme are the very poor. This is the one politicians like to use when they talk about the ‘rough’ life they’ve had. Those stories are of the mother of three living in a hotel room on the outskirts of town who have to take a bus 4 hours a day each way to get to their Arby’s job in the morning, then to their part time McDonalds job in the afternoon for minimum wage. They have the stories of families living out of their cars and always they have the black and white photos of poor but proud Americans, looking off in the distance with the cigarette or beer in their hand.

See, society has two portraits of struggle in America. One is of the family that has achieved the American dream, has hit a snag in the road, but if they sacrifice and cut back a little, they can come out the struggle still with the American dream intact. The other is of the severely poor but noble American, who even in a life with no hope clings to the ideal of the American dream in a cigarette or booze. If they work hard at their low wage job and get assistance from charities (not the government if you’re a conservative) will scrap enough to get a double wide.

The America I see is of people just wanting to live their lives without any conflict. They will pay their fair share of the bills, will try to be honest citizens but most off all they want to be free of stress and harassment. What gets most people irritated are the little things we got hit with that send out finances into a tailspin. I wish I could go to the doctor do get my diabetes more manageable, but that costs hundreds if not thousands of dollars I don’t have, and like I’ve said I’ve cut a lot of things to the bone. Last year, when I still had my previous job, I was paying $200 a month for Affordable Care, which translated into me paying $40 for two checkup visits to a doctor that were supposed to be covered, then having a set of tests done that billed me $500. Unemployment claims they paid me too much money for the week I supposedly wasn’t eligible for because I left a job that would have broken me and they want $200 of money I don’t have.

What I see is an America where the cost of being ‘normal’ is being nickeled and dimed to financial and emotional struggle. When I lost my job I kept myself afloat with credit cards. Yes, a big mistake, a hole I had fallen into before but I had a belief that I could pay the credit cards back. In all honesty, I have kept up with payments because I haven’t had the car payments and expenses to eat up the money, but all the little extra things hitting me are making it hard to keep up. This week, I contemplated taking out one of the loans I heard about on the radio. I filled out the application on line and when it was completed I felt sick to my stomach. I felt like I was exchanging one debt for another. I thought about my father, who found himself about two decades ago mired in $100000 in debt because of bad business decisions. Call it my Luke Skywalker moment, and you can take it from the cockpit of the X-Wing going down the trench or from Return of the Jedi when he looks at his mechanical hand and his father’s cut off hand, I realized getting that loan would take me down a path I didn’t want to go and I had to trust my instincts and do what was right for me.

I’m not getting that loan because I don’t want to fall into the trap of chasing money to pay debts. I don’t want to be in debt to get out of debt but I’m getting tired of silently sacrificing and turning the other cheek and pretending to fit into the normal slot. I’m proudly not normal. I think for a time last year I was becoming dangerously close to becoming that guy that relives the glory of high school football stardom in a dark bar with other people with broken dreams. OK, maybe I remember feeling that way because on New Year’s Eve I was in a dark bar with people who talked about their busted dreams. All I got from that was a hangover and a cheap bar tab because someone paid for my beers, but I know I’m better than that. I have allowed myself since April of last year when I lost my job to be defined by losing the job. In that crazy bar night, I remembered that every time I have lost a job, save for two times, I’ve taken on the American psyche reaction to losing a job as being the defining worth of me. I like jobs because they pay my bills but other than the time I worked for the Evil One (where he screwed me out of a lot of money) and for SOE, the jobs haven’t defined me. I took losing the jobs hard because that was the reaction society wants us to feel when losing a job because the notion is a job defines our worth, in the bigger society.

So I have this break in the first time in a month or so where I can recharge a little bit. I hate that I think of this break as some precious jewel I have to hold onto for dear life, so I will do it for a little longer then I’m done with this round of insightful thinking. Never call anything negative thinking. All I’ve done is worked on some constructive analysis to help me make better decisions in the future.

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The End of the Year Finally

It’s been an interesting year for me. I’m not going to get into all of it because, to be blunt, this has been a crappy year. Sure, I survived things but I’m pretty banged up and scarred. The new year isn’t going to start out on a high note, but like the old saying goes, I have nowhere to go but up.

I’m glad a few days ago I decided to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens again at one of the IMAX theaters. I need to end this year on a high note and seeing Star Wars again on a big screen will help out. It’s 7am and the movie begins at 8:30am. I’m sitting outside of the theater, under a lamp post and clicking away on the big laptop. I’m feeling so much like an 80s cyberpunk right now. All I need are some jack implants and I’d be ready to hack the web.

I’m really not big n resolutions. Some years I have tried to write something profound about the new year, but that just isn’t me. The one thing I have learned about this year are my limitations. Not that the limitations are liabilities, but I’ve learned we have to understand we have limits and must figure out ways to not let those limits hinder us. In fact, knowing we have limitations and understanding them can make us even stronger. It’s like some crazy mind judo, where you use your weakness as strength.

I’ve realized this year, with all the setbacks, I have tried to conform to the system. In my new job, in some personal issue, with life in general I felt so beaten by things I allowed myself to conform. That isn’t me. Now, fighting against the system and The Man is a cool thing, a righteous battle to be sure, but to always fight and feel that you cannot win can become a draining force over time. With the job loss, the income loss and other instances, I slowly gave in. I was probably at the start of the holiday season, and by that I mean Thanksgiving, I was sitting at my desk at work, taking the phone calls I had, and I heard Once in A Lifetime by Talking Heads in my head. I almost wanted to scream, My God, what have I done.

The more I thought about where I was at this point in life the more depressed I got. However, just as what happened when I lost my job, after about a week of feeling sorry for myself I got bored and angry with feeling sorry for myself.

In a way, the whole Star Wars nostalgia kick got me thinking about how I was when I was younger and where I saw myself at this age. In a crazy way, me sitting in front of a movie theater, waiting to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens and typing on a laptop that I will upload to Chaotic Fringe is how I saw myself way back in the day. I’m not a conformist. I don’t fit into a simple category, no matter how many times society wants to shove me there. While I’ve been typing here I’ve seen lots of workers here walk by and wonder what I’m doing in the cold, typing on the laptop. At my new job, there have been times when I’ve been in the breakroom with my laptop and I get some looks. Yes, I’m a 50 plus year old guy on a laptop either working on some project or playing Everquest 2. That’s my thing.

It could be said I’m making too much about being different, because honestly I don’t feel different, not in the sense of being some outcast class or anything, but the thing my experience has been with a number of government agencies since April has shown me, if people can’t classify you, if they can’t put you in an appropriate slot, you are going to be forced to decide to define who you are by their standards.

My biggest pet peeve about this new love for Star Wars is so many of the people who claim to be fans aren’t. They are bandwagon fans, who believe because they have some new T-shirt with Darth Vader on it they are a big fan. My friends on Facebook, the ones I know in real life that I have known for decades, are fans and geeks. If the new movie was on par with The Phantom Menace, which for argument sake I would still defend with its flaws, they would still be Star Wars fans.

My point is, and yes I may have strayed off topic, is that most people work at conforming to something so they aren’t against the group as a whole. They want to belong to something so they compromise or allow themselves to become defined by the group rather than be themselves. I don’t have the wife, kids and the type of job my parents wanted me to have. I want to do film, be creative and I think I’m good at it. Have I made a living at that? No. Have I written something that has changed the course of history? No. I can say even when I feel down, even when I’ve had life smack me around a bit, and believe me this year I’ve had a good beat down, at the end of the day I can look at myself and say I’ve lived a life I’ve defined. I’m sorry I don’t have the stats that the unemployment office wants, or the old people at the bar wants. My life has been my own and it will continue to be that way.

On these year-end messages, I try not to sound like a preacher but I end up doing it. Look being yourself, not conforming to what society wants you to be, can be lonely. People will look at you as being crazy, they will dismiss what you have to say and they may even try to harm you. Fight to be true to who you are. At the end of the day you have to live with you. I know in my heart of hearts if I had been the person my parents wanted me to be, if I had been the person society wanted me to be, I would be hating life.

The best thing I learned this year, and this goes into the mental judo aspect, happened when I got a terrible job for a week in August. I took that job because of conformity. I hated being on unemployment so much and I felt so much like a loser in the face of my family and society I took a job that was wrong for me. For week I went through training and hated it. At the end of the week I called my mother and tried to convince myself through her that staying at the job until I got a new one was the right thing. In my heart I knew that was a bad decision but I didn’t want to disappoint my parents. My parents gave me good advice but they said one thing that made me angry about the good advice they gave me. They told me if all else failed, I could sell my home, the home I just got two years earlier, and I could live with them.

I had worked too hard, made too many sacrifices to end up selling my home and live with my parents. Yes, it was a remote possibility it could have happened, but I knew when I heard what should have been a supportive response from my parents was really a surrender move. I realized I would rather die on my feet, figuratively, than live on my knees. That Monday I told the job I hated I wouldn’t be working for them and luckily two weeks later I got a new job.

I’m not where I’d like to be but I’m living a life, no matter how much struggle I have, that I’m proud of, warts and all. So, my advice, for what it is worth, is to life this life to the fullest, be true to yourself and don’t let society, peer pressure, family or anything define you. Be your own person and you will feel comfortable in the decisions you make.

Now the theater is opening so it’s time for me to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the third time.

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Sandwich Economics

This morning I woke up very early. I had to get my Star Wars: The Force Awakens review written and posted plus get the last of the Chaotic Fringe musical podcast up before leaving the house and seeing The Force Awakens again. I had tickets for 9am so it was like getting to work, as far as being up and ready to get out the door. When I got to the theater I realized I was massively hungry. The only thing open was the place I had gone to yesterday, which was nice but a bit too rich in the pocketbook for me, and Subway.

Ever since the whole Jarod incident I had been avoiding Subway. I wouldn’t say I was doing an official boycott of Subway, but considering some of the information about the case against Jarod, and what Subway decided to ignore, I was making a conscious effort not to go to the chain unless absolutely necessary. Since a Subway sandwich isn’t a necessary food group, it has been easy to steer myself away from them.

Today was tough. I realized well after I left home that I didn’t eat last night so other than breakfast yesterday I’ve had nothing. I walked into Subway and there was a small line. I looked at the menu choices and while they were what I’d remembered (honestly, I haven’t been to a Subway in a year) the prices gave me sticker shock. After seeing foot long sandwiches going for $7.99, and a drink and a tax added would put the meal close to what I paid yesterday for a sit down meal at the Corner Bakery, In decided to keep up the moratorium and I walked out of Subway.

Now I’m sitting on a bench, waiting for the theater to open and I’m hungry.

I have been getting a rude awakening walking into fast food places the past few months. Either prices are much higher than I remember or the portions are smaller. Because of Star Wars I think my nostalgia meter has been very sensitive but I’m also in shock as to how much we accept the rise in prices for things a few years ago would have been a lot cheaper. I know economics and inflation plays a role in things, but still, I remember not too long ago when a breakfast at a semi fast food place would run under $5. Now that’s a cup of coffee at Starbucks. What happened to the $5 foot long, or the $1 Jumbo Jack? I think the Jumbo Jack is over $2.

Wages aren’t going up and for someone like me, who had to start a new job, I’m only lucky I’m making close to what I did at my last job because my last job was cheap and didn’t give me a raise. I’m barely making ends meet because I have cut my bills to poverty levels. Yes, I’m able to enjoy a couple of things like the collectables, but I don’t have a car and those expenses aren’t part of the mix and I was smart enough to get my house when the market was still relatively weak so my payments are less than what it would cost to rent.

I hear good news about the economy, how people are finding work. At the new job they just had a pep rally of sorts, talking about how the revenue and stock holder value has done up. I listened to people clapping at the news and all I was thinking was I’m going to be a temp worker there indefinitely because there doesn’t seem to be value in my department’s work. I’m supposed to be happy and thankful I have a job but as usual, I’m locked in a position where there is no way any work I do will cause upward advancement, and looking for something else has the possibility of starting me off at the bottom again, which at my age it’s getting harder to feel optimistic when for years I have been promised many things by many companies and they have all failed in their delivery.

I don’t feel the economics of the average American should be where they have to make a negotiation with themselves about what $10 meal to buy when you really have $5 to spare for something. What hit me even harder about the economics in America right now is that I know the price I paid for the ticket to The Force Awakens is less than those meals I mentioned as well as a small soda and popcorn in the theater. It seems I will be waiting for lunch or dinner before I have something. Thus is the American way.

 

 

 

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Comments about Misty Copeland Remind Me You Can Be Good – For a Black Person

I find comment sections so fascinating. I saw on television that Barbara Walters was doing her annual 10 Most Fascinating People Special on ABC. I wanted to see the list of the people appearing on the show because I figured with Star Wars: The Force Awakens opening up the next day of the airing and the push ABC has done on its shows to promote the movie (for those of you who don’t know ABC is owned by Disney, the same company that owns Lucasfilms and thus, Star Wars) I had the feeling someone from the cast, or maybe Lucas himself, since he just got a Kennedy Honor, would be featured. The list was the usual mix of hot stars of the moment, a comic or two and some folks from the arts and fashion world. There were three names left off, which is typical of ABCs promotion of the show in past years, just so there is some drama as to who might be on the list. So someone from Star Wars could be a surprise guest, but I won’t be seeing it because I’ll be at the movies watching The Force Awakens. <grin>

So as I’m scrolling through the comments, it was weird to see the responses of people. It wasn’t so much the list they were opposed to but it was the usual stuff I’ve come to expect from comment pages. People, who claimed to dislike Barbara Walters and the show, taking time to comment, with great detail, about how much they disliked the show, the format, the content and Barbara Walters. This exchange I saw about Misty Copeland was so fascinating to me:

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I’m not a fan of ballet but I know who Misty Copeland is. She has been interviewed numerous times in print and television. She has written a book. Even before she was the featured dancer, she had done and continues to do outreach programs to bring the arts such as ballet to students. I’ve heard of Copeland before she became THE Black dancer and now that she is the featured dancer. Like I said, I’m not a ballet fan and I certainly didn’t know her because of some Black connection.

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Do you know me?

My first thought about the comments was how can someone claim to be a fan of ballet and not know Copeland? I call myself a fan of Star Wars and I know who Ben Burtt, Carol Titelman, Steve Sansweet, Gary Kurtz and many others affiliated with Star Wars. Everyone and their mother (OK maybe not my parents) are going to know Darth Vader, Han Solo and Boba Fett. Misty Copeland was a major figure in the ballet world BEFORE she was tapped to become the featured dancer. To put it in a Star Wars comparison, even a passing Star Wars fan would know James Earl Jones is the voice of Darth Vader. That was Misty Copeland before. Ballet fans would know who she was because she was that famous in the ballet world. She wasn’t obscure, so while she wasn’t Darth Vader (maybe a bad analogy but you get the point) people in the ballet world knew of her work and accomplishments. When she became the featured dancer, that’s when people not associated with the world of ballet found out about her. Even my parents know of her.

To say that you are a fan of ballet and not know who she is, in my mind, really puts your fandom in doubt. Look, I’ll cut someone some slack if they don’t know who Gary Kurtz is (producing partner of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back) but if you come to me as a Star Wars fan and say you don’t know who Boba Fett is, well, I’m going to call foul on you because you ain’t a Star Wars fan. Not knowing who Copeland is makes me think ‘shorty’ isn’t a ballet fan.

Now, as for Helena, she’s frustrating to me because she represents a lot of the problems minorities face in this country. She claims to be a ballet fan, mentioned many accomplishments Misty Copeland had done throughout the years. She probably knows more about Copeland than I do, yet she feels she’s on the list because she’s Black. OK, I’ll make it clear that she says she’s on the list because she’s the first AA as a principle dancer for a major ballet company. Then, just to make sure her point is made, she says Copeland deserves to have recognition because of her talent and it’s too bad she got on the list because of her skin color. Then we have our ballet fan say they’ll have to look her up then says they are guessing she must be black. Now, in the original, Helena says she’s AA, and it’s odd that a person who skims an article and claims he never heard of Copeland assumes she’s Black.

She could have easily been Hispanic or the AA could be interpreted as Asian American. Since I’m not a fan of ballet I don’t know if there are any Asian American or Hispanics who are principles for a major company, so why does the assumption default to Black? Is it too far of a jump to assume that as talented as Misty Copeland is, she got where she is because she’s Black? Maybe there were people more talented than her but she was given a pass because she was Black and it would look good for the company’s reputation. Maybe getting named principle dancer was done not because of talent but because she was Black.

Those two people who posted may say she is talent, may admire her, or in the case of one of them, will admire her, but to assume she made it on the special because she was Black diminishes all the praise they heaped on her. She isn’t a talented ballet dancer; she is Black talented ballet dancer. See, if you take the sentence like that it seems like a complement, yet looking at their comments, that statement seems less of a complement and more of a put down. She’s talented, despite being Black. While that might seem extreme, that is something Copeland has felt like all of her life. She has said this in a number of interviews.

When I was going to college, people assumed I got in because of Affirmative Action. When I say people, I’m not talking just about random students. I had students and administrators say to my face if I was there because of a sports scholarship or if I was part of a quota. I had to prove many times that first year that I deserved to be at the school. I was a student that honestly ended up at UCLA because it was the school my parents could afford. I applied and was excepted by a number of schools, so my test scores and grades were on point, but because I was a Black kid and it was the early 80s the thought was I couldn’t get into UCLA because of merit was the thought of some people. The comments those people wrote about Copeland reminded me again that sometimes it doesn’t matter how much you accomplish, how much good you do, some people will never see past the skin.

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The Terror Next Door

I didn’t watch the President Sunday night from the Oval Office. I was at work and to be honest, if I wanted to watch it or hear about it I could have gone on numerous websites to get the information, or I could have watched the Monday morning news shows with analysis or I could have even gone to the radio to hear people, both pro and con, talk about the speech. I do know the President doesn’t want us to give into the fear of Islamophobia.

On Monday morning, I was in the breakroom at work and the TVs had CNN on and there was a news conference with what looked like the FBI talking about the threat of ISIS and how the shooters from San Bernardino were radicalized. On the front online page of the NY Times there are a number of stories talking about how ISIS is recruiting people from videos and online sites, making it harder to contain its message. There is an article on the front online page of the Washington Post wondering why the religious Muslim community isn’t condemning the many attacks that have happened around the globe.

While the President urges calm, from what I saw from the one headline, news sources continue to fuel the fear of Muslims.

When I got home Monday, I was greeted with image of Donald Trump. For hours I saw articles and television reports about the speech he made in the heart of the South, on a decommissioned aircraft carrier, on December 7, what is known as a day that will live in infamy, where he was met with cheers when he said we should keep Muslims out of the country. I saw interviews with some of the attendees at the event, when told of the proposal Donald Trump made before the event, who thought it was a good idea that Muslims should be banned from the country. Mind you, these people were told this before the rally began, before many of them probably knew what they were being told by news reporters was true.

Let me take a moment. Think of the widely used comedy routine from late night talk shows. They take the regular person on the street and asks them questions to show how silly and uninformed the public is. They will ask a person to name their Senator in Congress, or show a picture of the Vice President and are asked to name him. People laugh when the participant cannot answer the question. The people at the rally may or may not have had an idea of what Donald Trump put out in a press release a few hours before the event. Let’s assume for a moment they didn’t. Those folks, with serious faces, through it was OK, to ban people of a certain faith from entering the country. They felt that the language from Donald Trump wasn’t crazy, wasn’t something to be fearful about from a Presidential candidate, but was a welcome thing. There was one woman I saw interviewed who had some reservations about what she was told, but would still vote for Trump.

On the national news shows, while talking about Trump’s message and like I wrote about in an earlier article, they made it seem that this was way over the top for Trump, they spent twice as much time talking about the San Bernardino shooting and how the couple was radicalized by ISIS. They showed grainy images of the couple arriving in America. They cut those images in with footage of ISIS on tanks waving their black flag. Images were shown of the Paris attack. Experts came on talking about the terror of ISIS.

In all of this information I saw since the speech the President gave on Sunday, the little talk that was given to the speech has been overshadowed by the fear mongering by Trump. I didn’t try to look for the President’s speech or comments about it and very little filtered to me. Images of Trump and Islamophobia was constantly in front of me.

Robert Engle, a respected reporter for NBC, made a very correct observation on the Rachel Maddow show Monday night. When Trump makes those statements to cheering crowds, he isn’t just talking to his followers, he rhetoric isn’t confined to the shores of the United States. His image and words are seen and heard around the world. I think we forget how far reaching and influential we are in the United States. I’m not saying that as some America first crazy, but by being a world superpower, we can think of this country like Superman. There are many people that love and respect what this country is all about, but I would say an equal number of people are fearful of the power this country has. They don’t like the influence we have on the world stage. They don’t like the arrogance and frankly the ignorance some of us have. They are afraid of how actions in this country can influence their lives and they feel powerless to change that.

Trump made a sad and truthful statement a few days ago. He told reporters gathered around him that when bad things happened, his poll numbers go up. As of Monday morning, Trump was way ahead of the Republican field of candidates. He’s a little over 35% in the polls. I just saw on The Today Show that Trump is one of the 8 contenders for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. In a telling revelation, while Trump ranked second or third in the Today Show’s audience choice and based on Google searches, the five host on the Today Show thought Trump would be the Person of the Year.

CF20151208aThe influence of Trump on the election and on the world stage can’t be ignored and in my opinion it should be feared and here’s why. A few weeks ago, when Trump first made the statement that as President we might have to keep a close eye on Muslims, possibly by having some way to track or to mark those who are Muslims, some thought it resembled something from the 1920s or 30s. The thought of that was brushed aside as being too Art Bell / Alex Jones fringe level stuff. It can be easy for someone to say a few vague words and have it become misinterpreted. On Monday night, on that decommissioned aircraft carrier in the South, Trump made sure we understood he wasn’t joking, he didn’t misspeak. In his press release which he read to a cheering crowd, Trump said he was calling for “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” Further he said in the statement, which he read to the crowd, “Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.” Now, while the ban being proposed doesn’t apply to Muslims living in the US, as far as kicking them out of the country, think of this scenario.

If I were Muslim and this ban was in effect, if I stayed in Tijuana for the Comic-Con could I be banned from reentering the United States? The answer, clarified by Trump’s campaign, is yes. They were asked if an American Muslim was abroad and returned to the United States, would they be barred from entering the country. Again, they said yes, an American citizen would be barred from entering their home country because of their religion. Don’t worry, if the Trump idea sounds too crazy for you, Rand Paul, another Presidential hopeful and Senator from Kentucky, introduced legislation last month that would prevent refugees from getting tourist and immigration visa if they were from one of 30 countries with a significant jihadist movement. Many other Republican candidates and federal lawmakers have expressed agreement in coming up with a way to ban Muslims from coming here.

The press, which keeps scaring the public with images of jihadist, with fear-mongering stories about the secret radical that is lying in wait, tries to present Trump as the blustering infant terrible in the room, yet I bet while many may feel Trump’s proposal is outlandish, they are willing to accept proposals that are close to what Trump proposes. Hey, they may think that big border fence that Trump proposes may not happen, but they want a fence. Trump says he wants to throw out 10+ million Mexican and Latin American immigrants. That might be too outlandish but if we round them up and ship those back that commit crimes, even if its driving while brown, we’ll they were here illegally so they have no rights and do what you have to do.

That’s why the woman at the Trump rally that was interviewed who expressed some reservation about the extremes of the policy yet still supported Trump didn’t surprise me. Her attitude is the fear of many Americans. They think everyone dark and with an accent is a possible terrorist or are friends with a possible terrorist. They have been feared into believing an attack can happen anywhere, and we have been made to believe this by a press that is sharing information but is also sensationalizing events for ratings. Like Trump said, when tragedy strikes his numbers go up and when they go up more in the press want to get his face, or phone, on their shows for ratings.

When I watched the people interviewed before the Trump rally I was saddened and afraid. When I hear Donald Trump supporters say about Muslims they should “ship them all back” or say “don’t let any more in” with those Southern accents I can’t help but to go to that place I don’t want to go to. There have been Black Lives Matter protesters at a few of the Trump rallies. One man was roughed up by Trump supporters and later Trump thought the man might need a good shoving. A respected Hispanic reporter was roughed up by Trump security a few months ago. You have people so afraid of the ‘impending threat’ of terror they’re buying guns at a record pace. There is a significant number of Americans who are getting so saturated with notions of terrorist at every Mosque that they have a siege mentality. Just like the aftermath of 9/11, for the sake of ‘protecting America’ they are willing to destroy that which makes America great. They are willing to seal the borders, to profile affiliations and to kick out those they fear are in collaboration with the enemy because of religious or cultural similarities.

I really want to think Donald Trump is a bad dream. I want to see when Iowa and New Hampshire comes around that Trump isn’t the darling of the Republican party voters. The problem is his impact has already been felt and has changed the landscape. Despite what the elders in the Republican party may have hoped for, Trump’s shadow has contaminated their beloved party.

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