When It Feels Like Hate

In the last four years, a question has been asked: how can people support the Republican Party and its’ elected leaders with its’ embrace of white supremacy, homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, hypocrisy, and corruption?

One answer to this question that has been said is this: people who support conservative Republican party ideology and its’ elected officials hate the same people they do. Many supporters say that’s not true, that they don’t hate anyone.

But to me, and a lot of other people, it sure feels like hate. And I will get personal here to explain where that thought came from.

All my life I’ve been bullied, ostracized, and alienated into a silent exile for many things, such as making mistakes even though I’m human and will do that. Or for doing things in a way that someone else doesn’t agree with even if it’s a way that’s not causing any harm to anyone. I’ve felt hated for thinking and feeling a certain way that someone doesn’t agree with even though my way of thinking and feeling is not causing harm to anyone. And yes, I’ve felt hated when I was accused of wanting to be seen as a martyr for caring for other people while trying to pursue my own life goals on limited time.

I’ve had plenty of people tell me they don’t hate me even as they heap bullying abuse on me. It feels like hate because being treated badly when you haven’t done something wrong hurts like fucking hell. For me, it built up a huge feeling inside of me that made me feel worthless as a person, that I was never going to be good enough for anyone, and that no one would ever truly care about me and let me all the way into their lives. Feeling like you’re hated simply for being the person you are is a soul-deep level of pain you will never completely get over.

And when you do find the courage to say you’re hurting, that what’s being said to you is hurting you… it becomes even more painful when your pain is thrown back in your face by your tormentors saying they didn’t mean to hurt you. It becomes more painful when they say you’re wrong in feeling the way you do, that their intention was not to hurt you but to help you in some way. It becomes even more painful when they deny what they said altogether, or that you didn’t hear it in the right way. We call this gaslighting now and yes, gaslighting feels like hate.

Another common response I hear when people are accused of being hateful is that they respond as strongly as they do because they feel something is going to be taken from them. They feel like if someone different than them gets something they wanted or felt was theirs to begin with, or that a person who is different will come after them, they react in a defensive way to a threat that isn’t real.

If you see someone looks different than you, practices a religion and culture that’s different from yours, loves differently than you do and wants to be treated with respect and dignity as a threat I will say this: that’s not true. Just because someone is different from you doesn’t mean they’re going to hurt you, or take something from you because you don’t always get what you want. And also, the world and every single person in it doesn’t owe you a damn thing just because you exist and you see yourself as special. In reality, this is an incredibly selfish reaction that comes from either total fucking stupidity or a feeling of total superiority.

When people feel like those in power hate them simply because of the way they look, the culture and religion they practice, the way they love, and when those in power are hell-bent and determined to take away rights from others simply because of their differences, when those in power are hell-bent and determined to put every single person in a place of their determination… that sure as hell feels like hatred to me. If you feel someone doesn’t have the right to live in freedom and peace, to make their own decisions and determine their own path in life simply because they’re different than you… that’s sure as hell feels like hatred to me.

And worst of all, when compassion and empathy for those who are suffering is met with bitterness and scorn, when compassion and empathy are seen as weakness… that sure as hell feels like hatred to me. When fear is used as a weapon to get people not to care about others, to feel that death and lifelong suffering is acceptable… maybe it’s not hatred though it sure as hell feels like it to me.

I feel the last four years in American life has brought scorn on those who suffer, and it’s brought to the surface a belief that suffering is justified. And yes, that feels like hatred to me. Because as someone who like millions of others has had their compassion and empathy scorned, who has been made to feel worthless simply for being who they are and have done nothing wrong, it feels like enduring hatred.

I hope I’m wrong here, that maybe a lot of people are just fucked-up and misguided and don’t really have it in them to hate. But no matter what happens, I will always choose love, compassion, and empathy.

Searching For Skippy

I am taking a detour away from my doom-and-gloom to talk about my search for Skippy. Skippy is what I have decided to name whatever I convert into a house-on-wheels.

I say ‘whatever I convert’ because my original plan of converting a Dodge Pro-Master van is proving to be more of a challenge, mainly the possibility of finding one in my price-range even on the used market. So I have broadened my horizons and am now beginning a search for alternatives, namely mini busses and small shuttle vans. Why? Well, I want something with windows (and if I have too many windows I can always board them up). Two, these things are coming up in auto auctions for prices I may have a shot at. Now of course finding one in decent shape that might not be out of state…, well this is what the internet is for.

A few years ago I came up with an idea that some people seemed to feel a need to caution me against- buying a used rv and living out of it. I was cautioned against this because of things like, how I would know how to fix stuff, empty water tanks, and other things. I said nothing at that time but now I will say this: I can ask, find someone to help me, or turn to the internet. Any of those options will not kill me nor bring about the end of the world.

I’m going to stop right and talk briefly about this naysaying that I don’t know what I’m doing and can’t figure things out or get help bullshit. For some reason that I will never figure out, nor do I want to, there are people in this world who think that I will fall apart if I am faced with something that breaks, goes wrong, or whatever. I don’t ever recall running away screaming from shit like this in my life. Yeah, I’ve gotten pissed off at shit breaking but so has everyone else. And yes, maybe I’ve, GASP, had to ask for help, or figure it out for myself.

So as I broaden my search for my future-baby Skippy, I am also beginning in earnest preparations for converting it. I have the interior layout in head and have had that for a long time. There are amazing things I’ve been finding online for this, like this really cool mini fridge I saw on Amazon a couple of days ago that was a nice compact design with a clever layout inside and also energy efficient. I also saw this shower and toilet combo that was fiberglass and easy to install. In addition, I’ve also begun to figure out storage options because space is at a premium in such a small house on wheels. Also, with a former school bus or shuttle bus I would have a lot of windows and I want a set of herbs at my kitchen area and maybe a small tomato plant.

I’ve learned a lot by reading not just about van life as it’s called, but especially a lot from the boondockers. Boondockers go off-road in their vans and some of the stuff they’ve come up with is fantastic. They recommend solar panels you pull out and deploy on the ground instead of bolting them to your van’s roof so you can catch the sun wherever you need to. I’ve even read about some of them carrying a collapsible rain barrel and having a portable water filtration system because water is always at a premium.

So I will begin to build a spreadsheet and fill it in with items and numbers. Yes, I know how to use Excel in that simple way. In addition, I’ll be visiting places like Lowe’s Home Improvement to look at certain materials to see which ones I want to work with and also Ikea because a lot of van life-people recommend their stuff because it’s lightweight and easy-to-assemble.

I know I’ll need help with stuff and I know I can find people and work out a deal with them, though my only non-negotiable point is that I am present when all the work is being done so I can see what is being done and how, and ask a hundred questions about what to do if something breaks or goes caca.

And one last thing, if I get a old mini school bus, I won’t paint it gray and call it the ‘Barn Burner’ because I wouldn’t want to be mistaken for a crazy storm chaser. (it was what the character Dusty, played by the late great Phillip Seymour Hoffman in the movie, ‘Twister’).

The Lack of Joy In Writing

Writing doesn’t bring me a lot of joy these days. There is no joy in me when I write about pain, suffering, and cruelty. I don’t get any joy from writing things that are painful and true.

So why do I write like this?

Because I have to is the first thought that comes to my mind. Because for me, not writing about what’s eating at me and occupying so much of my mental and emotional energy is like leaving an open wound to fester and grow infected. I used to try and bury stuff like this but I can’t do that anymore.

When I first started writing back in the era of MTV and leg-warmers, I did feel joy at putting words onto the page. I loved the feeling of those words pouring out of me, of being able to escape into my imaginary worlds. But as the MTV-and-leg-warmers era began to wane into Total Request Live and boy-bands, I wanted to do more with my writing. And that dear readers, is when writing started to get hard, and a lot of joy got lost that still hasn’t been found.

It was okay for me to piddle about writing fiction but wanting to write about political and social issues, or just any type of non-fiction writing… well I’d been told I couldn’t talk about politics and issues at all because I was an idiot, and that I was only good enough to write non-fiction that was sweet a bit clever. I have since come tor realize all this negative talk was total fucking bullshit. It was just people being loud-mouthed assholes because they knew what I wrote might be different from what they thought and felt and that was a bad thing.

I have never, ever wrote with the intent of using my writing as an axe to grind, win arguments, or prove a point. That’s never been my intent and it never will be. I write to express my thoughts and feelings, to share my observations of the world, and to tell stories both true and not-so-true (fiction). If anyone thinks otherwise, keep reading.

That loss of joy is not a bad thing. What I get in return is a feeling of accomplishment, of knowing I did the work myself and will continue to do so. Now I know with some people in this world who can’t see past the end of their own noses this is not a popular or acceptable feeling. To some people, this is a hard smack of selfishness and ego. It’s selfishness and ego if that’s the intent behind it, meaning writing is done just to deliberately inflict pain onto someone or the world in general. Hate speech and spin-bullshit-lying of right-wing disinformation campaigns is a shitty example of the ego and selfishness of its’ creators. But if that’s not your intent, and it’s sure as hell not my intent, then I reject that accusation of my writing as just an expression of selfish ego.

Did I know my writing life would come to this all those years ago? No. I knew it would be a lot of hard work to learn my craft as I’d been told from day one. What I didn’t know then, and what can only be learned with time and living, is how I could use writing to work through my own emotions, my own experiences, and yes, my pain. I’m not the first writer ever to use writing to sort out my own emotional and mental stuff. But I sure as hell won’t be the last.

This is why I don’t take it very well at all when someone says writing is easy, or worse, that’s it nothing but a public ego-stroke. If you think all these words came out perfectly as I typed them with no need for correction or revision, or that I didn’t think about them all… then you’re wrong because of what I’ve told you about the process here. To readers who make demands on writers to be a certain way or write in just a certain way… well I think Nora Roberts gave the best response to that: “Bite me.”

Now I’m sure someone might ask me, what gives me the right to make demands of my readers to examine their conscience, their thoughts and beliefs? No right, really. But I’m not asking anyone to conform to a certain way of thinking. I’m asking people to think of their own responses to my work as I have thought about mine and put them out there in my writing. It’s been demanded of me as a reader, and as a person and I have examined my conscience, and my thoughts and beliefs and come out a better person from what I’ve learned. I think the only real thing we can do is accept our differences without forcing someone to conform, or trying to diminish them as a person for being different to begin with.

Whenever someone decides to pursue something with all of their energy, whether it be writing, music, auto racing, or any activity really, they will be seen as different by some people. And sadly, some of those people will be complete and total fucking assholes. But as my later father was fond of saying, don’t the let the few assholes in this world ruin things for you. I’ve spent too much time and energy worrying about what some lame-brained ego-centric idiot might think instead of just doing something.

Not anymore.

The Time I Don’t Want to Go Back To

My late mother grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s (she was born in 1948). She grew up in a time that was already pretty damn conservative to begin with but it was even worse because she was raised with fucked-up Catholic conservativism. This was the overwhelming fear, shame, and guilt that was heaped on children and a brutal suppression of their own thoughts and feelings. Or as my mother said about her childhood: “God forbid you had an original thought in your head.”

And growing up female back then made that a million times worse. My mother was not a bra-burning, street-protesting feminist. She was just a woman that sat and took shit and did what she had to do to survive. She didn’t think she had it in her to speak out and not get buried for it. She didn’t think she had a right to pursue her own dreams that weren’t the silent-housewife-in-the-suburbs one that was shoved down her generation of women’s throats. She didn’t think she was smart, or pretty, or worthy of love and respect.

This is an era that I believe conservative people want to go back to more than anything. But why? Why live in such an era of brutal repression unless you’re so fucking repressed you can’t see past your puckered-up asshole?

It was an era when happiness of any kind was strictly mandated and any deviation outside of that was met with very harsh resistance. It was when women were raised to believe their only value was their ability to have children, but only within a heterosexual, non-interracial marriage. If a woman got pregnant outside of marriage, she was sent away and forced to give up her child.

Stories of women who had their children taken from them like that affected my mother deeply. I believe she knew young women that had happened to, had seen them return an empty, hollowed-out shell of loss and unspoken grief. It’s why I feel so strongly and so deeply when I read these stories now because it’s not just my empathy and compassion, but my mother’s that I carry inside of me, too.

My mother was raised to believe she was ugly, stupid, and worthless. She wasn’t any of those things at all. She rose above that and never, ever said anything like that to me. And I was also lucky to be there when she broke free of that for a while and began to really think for herself. After that, our conversations got deep, and more than a bit free-wheeling at times. Though that was preparation for the last seven years of her life when she needed to let her guard down with someone she could trust like me.

In the 1960’s when the birth-control pill became legal, only married women with their husband’s permission could get it. Eventually, that restriction was struck down and my unmarried mother got it to treat her god-awful acne and other hormonal issues until my grandmother found about it. After that, my mother told me she started planning on saving up her money (she had a full-time job) to get a room at the YWCA women’s residence so she could walk to work (her job was in downtown San Antonio). Now I’m sure some dip-wad here will say if she’d done that then I wouldn’t be here. That’s not the point and it never was. The point was what she always told me, that a woman should always be able to support herself.

Conservatives want women to be silent and live only within their narrowest, strictest confines. They want women to only think and feel in certain ways. They want what my mother suffered and endured in silence- to feel ugly, stupid, and unworthy if they don’t conform to their standards.

A generation of women rose up in the 60’s and 70’s and gave me the freedoms I have had in my lifetime. I will not allow their legacy to die. And I will not allow my mother’s sacrifices and suffering to be for nothing.

As the heroine of the novel ‘Jane Eyre’ said (a novel that was both a favorite of my mother and I): “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

This is why ladies, especially to those who identify as ‘conservative’ I say to you: it’s not about just the freedom to control your own body, your reproductive health, to make your own healthcare decisions. It’s about your freedom to decide how you want to live your life, your education, your professional goals, your creative goals. Your freedom of movement, of financial control, to vote. Most of all, it’s your freedom of thought and feeling, and not just thinking and feeling, but expressing it.

I will stand and fight against this forced return to a time no one should have to live in. I will do it not just for myself, but to honor my mother and her generation for breaking the chains first, and suffering in silence, too.

People Save Lives

Four years ago next month, after the Presidential Election of 2016 I asked myself a question:

How many people will have to die for this insanity to end?

Next week, we’ll find out. As of today, the number is 225,000 dead from covid-19.

But this cooled-rage and pain gave rise to a thought:

People save lives.

I say this because when I first moved out on my own in 2003, my father offered to buy me a gun and teach me how to use it. I turned him down because I told him I didn’t feel I had a need for it. There was another reason I couldn’t articulate at that time, and one I won’t share for a good long while yet. But even if you have a gun, if you pull the trigger and take a life even in defense of your own, you will have to live with it. You will have to live with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. There is no cure for this.

Nuclear weapons have not prevented World War III. That has prevented by cooler heads prevailing. By President Kennedy in 1962 not doing what General Curtis LeMay wanted him to do and bomb Cuba. And by Soviet Colonel Stanislav Petrov in 1983 when he refused to call the Kremlin because he knew the computers at his base were malfunctioning and the United States was not launching a nuclear strike.

Guns and bombs don’t rescue people from natural disasters. People do. Very brave and extraordinary people we call first responders.

Guns and bombs don’t save people in hospitals. Those are healthcare workers.

Guns and bombs don’t lift people out of poverty. People do by creating jobs and educating people to help them advance in society.

Guns and bombs don’t bring about changes in laws, or overturn them. People do that by running for elected office or arguing in courts.

Guns and bombs don’t bring peace. Why?

World War II didn’t end genocide on this planet, it didn’t end war, hatred, or mass death and destruction. In fact, the end of World War II created a whole new set of problems for the world: a nuclear arms race and a Cold War fought by proxy.

Guns and bombs didn’t put men on the moon. People did that.

Guns and bombs don’t cure diseases. People do that.

Guns and bombs don’t comfort the grieving. People do that.

This is what I believe with all my heart and soul. That people, individuals and groups save lives and change the world for the better. Not guns and bombs, or hatred and cruelty. Or selfishness and greed. Or fear.

This is not a weak philosophy. This is a strong philosophy because it is faith over doubt, faith over pain, faith over grief. It is grief into purpose, as Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden says so well.

I believe we have the power to save ourselves, and each other. We may not be able to save every life, but we can try.

This is the world I want more than anything.

And for me it starts by saying:

People Save Lives

Then and Now – Too Late Edition

If someone asked me what the difference was between now and back then (pre-2016), I would say one thing:

COVID-19

Or to get ugly and crude here: back then they would bring out the dead to vote. Now they bring out the dead to put them in refrigerated trucks until they can find a place to bury them.

I’m currently reading ‘Molly Ivins Can’t Say That, Can She?” It’s a collection of Molly’s writing over the years from the 1970’s to about 1990 (the book was originally published in 1991). In it she talks about the shenanigans of the Texas State Legislature in the 1970’s and 80’s (or as I would say, from the ‘you can’t make shit like this up’ files) to Regan and Bush, Senior.

I look back on all that shit, and at Bush, Jr and Iraq, Bill Clinton ending his administration as a total dick, and realize that by the time we got the right guy in the White House, Barack Obama, it was too late. It was too late because the shit we weren’t talking about back then near as much as we should have been, such as racism and white supremacists, disinformation campaigns, and the absolute bullshit of the ‘culture wars’, snow-balled into the shit-storm we have now that has led to the beginning of a real genocide.

The word ‘genocide’ was only used in the 80’s and 90’s and so on back then to describe horrors like the Holocaust or other mass murders like the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia or in Rwanda. It was never used in this country but that is what’s happening now. As of today, over two hundred and twenty-thousand people have died from covid-19 with that number projected to double between now and the end of the year unless mitigation efforts are stepped up. But just because we vote Trump and company out next week won’t bring those mitigation efforts won’t come online until after the first of the year at best. That lockdown we went through last Spring will have to be repeated again. Hopefully it’ll be run by people who know what the fuck they’re doing and are hell-bent and determined to save lives unlike the present administration.

Starting back in the 1980’s, a big issue was the economy with Regan hell-bent on ramming ‘trickle-down economics’ down America’s throat. But Bill Clinton did a version of that in the 90’s thinking dot-com speculation was a better take on that. And Bush, Jr and company decided to hell with that shit and just start a war to fill some bank accounts up and leave future generations paying the bills they ran out on. So by the time 2008 rolled around, it was too late. Conservatives can’t think their way out of a paper bag when it comes to economics and Liberals finally realize there is no compromise with people who think suffering is justified, especially for people who are poor, black, brown, or anything other than lily-white solid Republican voters.

In the 1980’s, white supremacists were just marching in the streets getting yelled at or out in the woods shooting at beer cans and jerking each other off. But after Waco, Ruby Ridge, and Oklahoma City, we saw they were serious about their fucking shit. But by the time the Clinton administration went down in a stained-blue dress, it was too late. Bush, Jr and company didn’t give a shit about that at all and these racist motherfuckers saw their opening. And worst of all, conservatives sold their souls to these motherfuckers all because of a simple re-branding campaign that gave us a new term ‘alt-right’ to use instead of ‘Evil Nazi’. These monsters are for real, and we need to put them back in their cells and lock the fucking door as tight as we can.

Most of all, we need to find ways to teach people how to think for themselves and see through loud-mouth bullshit. For example, this dumb-ass idea that someone is going to come along and take your job and house shit, especially if that someone is black or brown is a huge crock of shit. It’s a crock of shit because the bastard peddling that shit to you has only given you a crumb to chew on and sees you and everyone else as a rat to be fed crumbs. Greedy rich bastards who refuse to be responsible and not treat people like rats have done nothing to earn their wealth, or have it preserved. They took the jobs and the houses and have left the rest of us with nothing but crumbs to fight over. Tax the rich, clean out their off-shore bank accounts, and make greed a real sin again.

Now I’m sure some moron will ask if we could live in a world without a pandemic every five minutes, fighting over crumbs, and trying not to get exterminated in other ways. Let’s find out, shall we? I mean, we’ve tried this shit-show for so damn long and that hasn’t worked out too well as far as I’m concerned.

I don’t want to believe we’re on the ‘Eve of Destruction’ as the old song goes, but I have to ask: is this the last chance we get to pull it back from the brink? Only time will answer that question.

Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down

There’s talk now of how to maintain this momentum of record voter turnout and engagement in politics. And I have one answer to all those questions about maintaining momentum:

Don’t let the bastards get you down, or grind you down.

The bastards I’m talking about are the losers in this election, from the President and all his enablers in Congress, to all the corrupt people installed in every level of government, and all their supporters from conspiracy-theorists to white supremacists. These people will not go quietly into the night. They might lay low for a while to lick their wounds, but they’ll come back. Maybe loud, or maybe like a snake, or worst of all maybe in a show of kindness and reconciliation that means nothing.

People like this will try and come back with apologies, to say they’ve learned the error of their ways, to say they’re committed to doing better. But you won’t trust them and rightfully so. For as my mother was fond of saying, if they’ve done it once what makes you think they can’t do it again. Therefore I say this: don’t give them power they have proven unworthy of.

I know it’s hard to not want to fall back and just relax, or go to pieces. I’ve never seen either one of those things as an option. My retreat was a retreat into silence to try and keep people from hurting me and others. That retreat didn’t work as my silence didn’t keep me and others from harm. I won’t ever be able to keep myself and others from harm completely. But I know I can do everything I can to stop that harm from happening, and that I can stand up to it and fight it. And win.

I’ve broken my silence and no one has come after me. Some might say, yet.

There is nothing bad that can be said to me that I haven’t heard before. I’ve had people project their own shame and guilt onto me so they wouldn’t have to deal with it themselves. I’ve had people project their own wrongs onto me. I’ve had people do their dead-level best to gaslight me into silence, to make it seem like I’m the cause of my own problems. Most of all, I’ve been told and made to feel like my own thoughts and feelings didn’t matter and that no one wanted to hear them. And I survived all of it, like so many other people have.

To my fellow survivors I say this: embrace your strength, embrace your pain and suffering, and feel the pain and suffering in this world so much you want to alleviate it in any way you can. This is how we’ll maintain our momentum to make this world a better place and not give up what we’re fighting so hard for now.

If someone doesn’t want to hear what you have to say about your thoughts and feelings, move on. You’re not going to change someone if they don’t want to so if that’s the case, just walk away. You’ll always have your own mind and other ways to work through your thoughts and feelings.

Remember the old saying, ‘those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.’ Don’t forget the past and think that history just has to keep repeating itself because we’re a bunch of dumb-asses and shit-heads will always rise up. Yeah, we sometimes slip up and fuck up, and shit-heads rise up like the turds they are. But that doesn’t mean we have to have to stop moving forward with our lives, or let those shit-heads gain power ever again. Don’t give people power over you.

Remember the good in this world, too both present and past. Over time, good memories will come forward more than the bad ones. Cherish those good memories and see the bad ones like rain that comes and goes.

Tell the stories until you no longer can. Make sure the generations ahead of you know your stories. Tell them that once you’re gone the stories are theirs to tell. This is how humans truly remember their ancestors and their history, stories that are told for all time.

Don’t let the bastards get you down by not forgetting what they did, and always remembering what they’re capable of. Remember the past through stories told, and told again and again. Don’t give people over you.

You are so much stronger than you will ever know. Believe in yourself, especially when it seems like no one else in the world does.

An Election of Conscience and Humanity

At present, there are over five hundred children who can’t be located in order to be reunited with their families when they were taken from them at the US border under a 2017 policy from the Trump administration (story here) . The reason this story affects me so deeply is because of the following:

Separating children from families is the beginning of genocide.

The Nazi’s did it to begin the Holocaust. The Franco regime did it in Spain for decades as did the Pinochet regime in Chile, and both of those regimes also committed mass murder.

Separating children from their families is also what is referred to as ‘cultural genocide’. For almost a hundred years in the United States, thousands of Native American children were taken from their families and sent to boarding schools many miles away. At these schools, they were forbidden from speaking their native language, learning their native culture and history, and many of them were never reunited with their families. In Australia, thousands of children were taken from Aboriginal communities and were called ‘the Stolen Generations’. This also happened in Canada until the 1980’s. The governments of Australia and Canada have apologized for this. Our government hasn’t. (this is an overview here)

But this policy of separation at the border from 2017 to 2018 is a crime against humanity. I hope one day to see all the monsters who did this brought to justice.

And as for the claims that this was policy before the Trump administration, it wasn’t. Children were only separated if a custodial relationship could be not determined, or if they were deemed to be in danger. This is a fact-checked article explaining this in more detail going all the way back to the Clinton administration:

(link opens in separate tab)

Because of this, and many other crimes committed by the current administration, this election is the most important in American history. Hopefully it will be the last one of this magnitude.

To look back, this election is more important than the one in 1860 that would decide if and when a war happened and how it would be won. It is far more important than the election of 1932 determining the course of how America would be brought out of the Great Depression, and in 1940 to determine if and when America would enter World War II. It’s more important than 1960 when an election would determine how the Cold War would be fought, how we would get to the Moon, and begin the Civil Rights movement in earnest.

The Republican Party has aligned itself with white supremacists who initiated this policy of zero tolerance and mass family separations and deportations. It has aligned itself with organizations that incite and commit acts of violence in our cities and towns, and set fire to those cities. It has aligned itself with organizations hell-bent and determined to strip every right away from women to make their own healthcare choices, including abortion and birth control. It has aligned itself with organizations that would strip every right from LGBTQ Americans. It has aligned itself with corporate interests who have pushed through trillion-dollar tax cuts that benefit no one but those corporate interests. It has aligned itself with conspiracy theories that have led to the weakest response to a pandemic that has killed over two-hundred thousand people.

When I say this election is about conscience and humanity, I say it’s also about how we stop genocide from taking hold in this country more than it already has. I’m not talking just the COVID-19 deaths, but the deaths of people of color at the hands of police and hate groups. Of fear and lies being told as truth that are killing people in hospitals and making them die alone without loved ones by their side.

I’m not going to change anyone’s mind with my words and that’s not what my goal is here. My goal here is to make my statement to the world about my own thoughts and feelings on this election. And to ask other people to think about their thoughts and feelings and make their own decisions.

As of today, early voting records are being shattered across the country. It’s proof that people are realizing their vote wouldn’t mean so much if people weren’t trying so damn hard to take it away. I hate the fact that it’s so damn hard to vote and that people are having to sacrifice so much time and energy to do it. Someday we’ll tell the story of how millions rose up and voted with their conscience, voted with their humanity. We’ll teach future generations never to be silent, to never disengage themselves from their government, and to believe and work toward a better future.

I believe this story will have a happy ending though I know to get to that ending will be very hard. But with hope, faith, and conscience, we’ll begin to heal and live freely without fear.

Writing As a Form of Recovery

Twenty-five years ago, give or take, I read a book called ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. I loved it because it was all about embracing your creativity and putting your art in a place of importance in your life. But it was also about learning to recover from the pain of having your creativity suppressed by fear.

Twenty-five years later, give or take, I understand that fear very well now.

When I graduated high school I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. My grades sucked, I didn’t take the SAT or ACT tests, and since both my parents were working I probably wouldn’t have qualified for a lot of financial aid so I decided college wasn’t for me. What I wanted to do was focus on my writing, and my parents let me as long as I pulled me weight around the house-which I did.

When I was twenty, my father had his first heart attack followed by a series of injuries that forced him into early retirement. Then right after I turned twenty-one, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. At that time, unknown to anyone until now, I decided to put my own goals and dreams for my writing, and my own life on hold to help take care of my mother. I have no regrets over this decision and never will. But my parents didn’t let me give up on my writing.

More times than I can ever remember, after a long hard day of work, chores, and errands my mother and father would say to me, “We got this.” And they would tell me to go off and write, or read, or get something to eat. In addition to that, they paid my writing group dues for years along with conference and workshop fees. And multiple times my father actually drove me to my writers group meetings because he and my mother were adamant that I needed to get out of the house and do something for myself.

I knew there were people in my life who didn’t support my writing, or me having any kind of life of my own. It wasn’t out-and-out shit to my face for the most part. But when you’re as quiet as I am you see behind the masks people wear, and you hear it in people’s voices, and feel it in their subtle actions that make you feel like you’re doing something wrong even when you’re not. After my mother died, my father told me he and my mother caught a lot of flack for letting me live at home and pursue my writing such as it was back then.

I kept quiet when my mother was alive because I feared both her and my father would turn on me if I spoke out against that flack, and kick me out of the house and out of their lives forever. But after my father told me what he did and that he would always support me and my writing, I wish I had given the proverbial middle finger to all of that flack and rocked my life so much harder. Instead, I retreated and tried to keep to myself as much as I could. I felt like I was not worthy or able to have any kind of a life, and that if I pursued any kind of social life or writing career someone would have tried to destroy me for even thinking about it, much less pursuing it in some way.

This fear impacted me as hard as it did because it came to me at the most vulnerable time in my life all those years ago. When I was dealing with huge waves of emotions at the horror of watching my parents die slowly and painfully. It tore into me all the way to the depths of my soul, a huge bloody talon that has taken me years to remove but left behind a wound and pain that I will never forget.

It has taken me four years to put this wound into words, and deal with it through writing. And it’s harder than hell for me to write this because I can hear voices in my head telling me this is bullshit, and that I’m a complete idiot for saying anything like this, especially in a public way. But the most important thing I’ve learned over the last few years is this: I’m not a bad person. I’m just as fucked up as anyone else and I’ve made mistakes. The biggest mistake I’ve ever made was giving people power over me they never really had, or gave a shit enough about to follow through on.

What has brought my words into the light here now is this: it’s not about me, nor is it about the people who’ve hurt me in the past. It’s for others who have been through things like I have, felt emotions like I’ve had, and are still thinking that people have the power to hurt them. To them I say this: no one has the power to hurt you unless you give it to them. For me, writing and going public with this is taking power away from people that was never theirs to begin with.

I feel like I’m in a stage of recovery now because most of what I write isn’t being trashed as soon as I get it out of me. I still feel fear but I tell myself that fear is just an echo of the past. I tell myself my words will be met mostly with silence. I’m fine with silence because I have lived with it for so long. But I’ve broken it inside myself, and it’s not the shattering I thought it would be. It’s like the rising sun breaking over the horizon.

Don’t Fear Broken Glass

Back at the tag-end of May, I was driving in downtown San Antonio when there were counter-protests going on. I drove right by a group of armed white men being escorted down the damn sidewalk by police. Then I saw a phalanx of San Antonio Police officers in full riot gear.

I freaked out as I got my passengers then got the hell out of there.

That night, some windows were broken in downtown and again, I freaked out.

I had no need to do that. I had no need to feed the fear that broken glass creates because it’s not fear that breaks that glass, but misplaced anger and rage. And in the case of the broken glass in downtown San Antonio, most of the people doing it weren’t from here (see group of ‘armed white men’).

Broken glass can be swept up. Windows can be boarded up. Windows can be replaced. And most of all, truth can be had over fear.

So many people equate speaking out against injustice, hate, murder, and poverty as it leading to broken glass. It doesn’t. What leads to broken glass is peaceful protest being met with violence, and outside agitators as they’re called doing the damage.

People said this past summer the cities were burning, just like it was said they were in the 1960’s and 1970’s. They aren’t. Yes, cities are scarred, tired, and worn down. But that doesn’t mean they’re for the taking just because some motherfucker decides they want this city and this property for themselves and to hell with anyone who is already living there, and has been living there for decades.

In my three-and-a-half years as an Uber driver, I’ve been in every part of San Antonio. I have been in some of its’ wealthiest enclaves full of houses that are beautiful masterpieces of architectural design with lush green lawns and gardens that are massive explosions of color. And I’ve been in some of the poorest parts of the city, where the houses are old and not built for beauty, where there isn’t a lot green, or color. But those poor old houses have just as many stories as those mansions, and those stories are worth fighting for.

I’ve driven by old buildings that have been empty for years and yes, some of them have broken windows. But I don’t fear those broken windows. I see an old building with history, and with enough love and money that could be brought back to life.

Whenever I hear bullshit arguments against affordable housing in wealthier areas, whenever I hear the ‘not in my backyard’ shit, I just think one thing: you’ve never seen, nor heard the sound of breaking glass. And in all likelihood, you never will. I’ve only heard glass breaking when hail shattered the windows in my apartment a few years back and yes, it scared the shit out of me. The sound of breaking glass isn’t like the movies, nor does glass shatter like it does in the movies either (in real life, glass breaks into razor-sharp pieces both big and small that can cut you all to hell).

But when you see nothing but broken glass and not the truth behind it, and embrace the fear-mongering behind that, I think that makes you a part of the problem and not the solution. If you walk away from broken glass without fixing it, if you walk away from a tired, old place, you’re walking away from a problem that you and I need to start fixing once and for all.

What will fix broken glass?

Hope put into action by hard work to improve the lives of those in need. To not run from poverty and injustice but face those things head-on and work for solutions. To undo fear-mongering and gaslighting. To believe in kindness, compassion, and empathy for all people.

I tell myself not to fear the broken glass, but to learn the truth behind it. Then work my ass off to help repair it, and replace it with something better.

For I will say this here: if someone wants you to fear more than hope, ask yourself why.