Can I Trust You?

If you wanted to hear about something fairly inane, simple, innocent, you’re at the wrong blog. Many bloggers keep things light on purpose. They don’t want to burden their readers. I am not one of them. My goal is to share some of my pain in the hopes that others won’t suffer like I have, or at least won’t feel alone. I want to wrestle with deep, complex, painful issues, and I want to do this because that has been the bulk of my life. Today I would like to tell you about the deepest pain I endure. Today, I want to tell you a bit about my bullying story. I’m not looking for sympathy, so please trust me when I say I am going somewhere with this. Please, sit with me a moment and listen.

This was me

This was me

In some very important ways, my story is a very normal American story. In other ways, it’s a tragedy. What I want you to understand about me right now is this: I am a survivor of long-term, systematic, intense bullying, and it’s still happening to me. Right now. As you read this. I am a victim, and part of me always will be. What happened to me in my youth will never fully go away. Those wounds will not ever heal. Mike and Eric and Perry and so many others in high school harmed me truly, badly and deeply. The pastor and his wife at my church harmed me in different, but equally terrible ways. So did several blood members of my family. Some of these people didn’t realize what they were doing. Some of them were very, very aware of what they were doing. All of them left me emotionally damaged, socially crippled, spiritually scared, and as I sit here writing this, I feel the pain.

In fact, it is this pain, this damage, that has prevented me from realizing my purpose here on earth. I am a writer, but I have told myself for more than 25 years of my life that I could never do it. In fact, the damage is so complete that I didn’t even realize until I was in my late 30’s just how complete. I didn’t have a little voice in my head talking me out of writing, or telling myself that I would fail, so why try. No, the self-confidence issues were, and in some ways still are, so bad that I never even considered writing. It just never even occurred to me that the thing I love most – even more than music and singing – and the thing I was constantly doing in my quiet moments (mentally), was what I was born to do.

A new life, a new spiritual awakening, and a new person who loved me for me alone, these things have given me enough perspective that I now see the damage. I now see early-childhood-bullyinghow it effects me mentally, emotionally, and even physically. I see now that the crazy ideas and thoughts scratched on bits of paper are all stories that I should have been writing all my life. I’ve statistically lost about half of my productive working years, but embraced the remaining ones. I’ve finally woken up from the nightmare that was my life post-bullying. I am finally writing, and writing for real. One novel done, a second started, dozens I could work on next, and a bunch of short stories.

But as much as I write, I can’t make a living at it unless people actually want to give me money for my writing, and so I’ve been learning as much as I can about how this can happen. In this process, I stumbled upon a TED talk with Amanda Palmer. If you don’t know who that is, you should look her up. She did an amazing talk which you can see on YouTube [HERE] on the way she has been able to give her music away for free, trusting those who love her music to support her. It’s an old model, she explains, and is the way musicians and other creative people have lived for about as long as they’ve been around. Only in the 20th century did that model change. And that’s where I’m going.

My being bullied destroyed my trust in others. In some ways I’ve always been very optimistic, but when it comes to trusting others to “catch” me – to support me when I can’t support myself – well, that needs some work. Amanda Palmer talks about what it takes to trust your own personal “crowd” with things like a place to sleep and compensation for creativity. It’s not all about money – in fact it often isn’t. It’s about trusting that the greater world has room – and an interest – to support people in non-traditional ways. The model you were raised with is “Get a job, do the job, get paid, repeat”. Amanda’s model is this “Create something (do the job), trust you’ll get paid by those who care about your work”. That’s it. It’s very simple, but almost impossible for many to understand, and it’s hand-in-hand for me with my desire to trust in God. In both cases, that little part of my brain, the one that still hurts so much, tries to talk me out of it.

Healing-How-Does-It-HappenIt’s difficult to trust like that, especially for someone who was bullied so harshly for so long.

I am trying to trust my “crowd”. You, reading this, you are my crowd. I am trusting you for any of three things, and I am on my knees begging you, yes you, to help me out.

  1. I am trusting that you will read what I write as frequently as you can and will, and forward what I write to others.
  2. I am trusting that you will point new people you meet in my direction if they might like what I do, or might be curious about what I do.
  3. I am trusting you to give me honest feedback about what I do. If something is badly written, I need to know that. If something is well written, I need to know that, too. If something is very relevant to you, or has some serious impact, please tell me.

Can you please help me with this? It’s not much, I promise, but I am asking for your help. Amanda Palmer points out that it’s very hard to ask for help like this, and I assure you it is. But I have a chance to tell some important stories – trust me, my head’s full of them, all screaming to get out on paper – and to bring some joy and happiness into the lives of others. Others will enjoy my stories, but I need you, my friends, to help spread what I do. I am asking you.

And I am trusting.

trust

Giving Thanks

My latest article on The Good Men Project was just published today. Please read it here. When you’ve read it, please “like” it and share it with others. I’d also love to get your thoughts, so please comment!

This is what I am thankful for today. After more than a year working on my writing, I am finally starting to reach a wider audience. All I want to do as a writer is to reach others, share thoughts with them, and learn all I can. This world amazes me, and I’m curious what will come next. Aren’t you?

Thank you for taking a few steps on this journey with me.

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Good Men Project

I’d like to invite you to read my first published article on The Good Men Project. It’s about having purpose as a man in this modern world of ours.
Please take a moment to read it, and comment. Then please “like” the article, and share it with others! It would mean a great deal to me and my family if you did, and would help in my quest to become a published author.
I am filled with stories I want to share with the world. This is an important step on that road to Respectable Author-hood.
Cheers!
Technospiritualist

People Are People

usatodayWhen a major media outlet like USA Today Tweets something that is racially blind and offensive, and they don’t even realize it, I shudder.

In a wonderful piece on how “The Best Man Holiday” isn’t a “black” movie, my fellow blogger Olivia A Cole dissects how we are still living in a “default-white” society: Everything is either “White” or it’s “Non-White”. There is no crossover, no middle ground. This, my friends, is a The-Best-Man-Holidayproblem, but most people are too busy or uninterested to see it as an issue worth addressing.

But this issue affects us in so many ways, many that you don’t even notice.

On our planet, the average person is not white. Now I understand that in America, the majority population is still white, and that’s just the way it is. But why, when almost one in five Americans identifies as African-American and a similar number identify as Hispanic, are about 90% of the models we see on advertisements white? Why is a movie with an all black cast called a “black movie” but a movie with an all white cast isn’t called a “white movie”, but just a movie? These are troubling issues to consider.

Texas, the Lone Star State, likes to portray itself as the stronghold of the traditional white American culture. They don’t deny there are people of non-white origins in their state, but simply don’t put much emphasis on them. Rather, they talk about “American values” and “Traditional Texas_20LogoAmerican culture”. Nothing against the citizens of Texas, but some of your politicians aren’t living in the same demographic world as the rest of us. They are denying the future.

Fun fact: According to a Saber Research Institutes study of Texas demographic trends, people of Hispanic descent will be the majority population group in Texas by 2020 (That’s just over six years from the writing of this blog), and by 2040 Hispanics will be more than 50% of the Texan population.

So things are changing, and they will only change more as the future becomes the present. Why, then, do we keep clinging to the “default white” cultural norm? I’m afraid I’m not qualified to say why, but it’s a fact. Whites seem afraid to acknowledge they are becoming less and less relevant as time marches forward, and this denial dilutes some of the amazing cultural diversity we have here in America. It makes me sad.

It also scares me, because the novel I am currently shopping around has a unique racial makeup. Only one of the major characters is white, and he’s a villain. All the other major characters – all of them – are people of color. I didn’t choose for them to be that way, they just are. And so I am shopping around a novel that might be totally unpalatable to the “default white” culture I live in. How will editors react to a book that, if made into a movie, could never star Brad Pitt or Leonardo DiCaprio, or Bradley Cooper? In fact, of the 10 most popular actors in 2013, only one – Will Smith – isn’t white. Oh, and to keep the discrimination going, each of them is male. Not a single female on the list. Grrrr.

So what hope do I have, to sell a novel that flies in the face of the current cultural trends? Do I really think anyone will want to read about people of color as they struggle through my story?

In a word, yes. I believe – no matter what our culture keeps trying to tell me – that people are people, and the fact that you have more pigment in diversity-2your skin than I do, that you grew up speaking a different language, or eating a different food, doesn’t matter. At the end of the day I am confident that people will be able to see themselves in any character so long as they are well written.

No, I won’t be bringing everyone along with me. There will always be those who are offended by any daring choice an artist makes. That’s the nature of the world. But I am confident that enough of you will see my characters as people, not black people or asian people, or even religious people or female people. Just people, nothing more and nothing less. And I am proud of that faith in my fellow-man to be better than he was yesterday. Not everyone will be, not today, but sooner or later race will cease to be the issue it is today.

Someday, we will all be just people.

Bang, Bang

reading-shootingTwo men died in my city of Reading, PA on Monday, November 4th. They were shot to death by a citizen after they robbed a convenience store. To quote a local gun merchant, “He who lives by the sword shall perish by it,” a paraphrasing of Matthew 26:52 from the Bible.

I’ve been thinking about this tragic incident often in the past two days, and to my mind it is a perfect summary of the gun control debate that has raged in America for decades.

There are those here in the US who think anybody should be able to buy a gun with little restriction, arguing that by owning guns, one is safer.

The flip-side of the debate runs that if guns were heavily restricted, there would be fewer of them, and thus fewer deaths.

There is data to support both sides of the debate to some extent, and it’s very difficult to know which side has any advantage in the court of public opinion. The Gun Rights people, however, certainly have some political clout. They have the 2nd amendment of the US constitution to lean on for starters. They also have 230+ years of history and precedent to back them up. And they have the NRA, the National Rifle Association, which is one of the most politically robust lobby groups in this country.

The Gun Control groups, however, have some strength of their own, with growing demographic and study data showing that an increase in guns (legal or otherwise) in an area increases the amount of gun-related deaths. This is especially true in homes, with many studies showing more gun deaths of children in homes with guns.

And that brings me back to the two men who lay dead on the sidewalk on Monday.

Those who support Gun Rights will argue this is a perfect example of why gun ownership makes our streets safer. The man who killed the robbers – andgun-control there is no question they were criminals since several witnesses can verify they had just held up the store – was a concerned citizen and a friend of the store owner. He had approached the store, witnessed the robbery, and waited until the robbers exited the building. Indications are he challenged the two young men, who then drew guns on him. He, a licensed gun owner with a permit to carry a firearm, then pulled his own weapon and shot both men dead. The Berks County District Attorney, John Adams, has affirmed that he will not press charges against the shooter since he acted within the law. This, the gun lobby will argue, is exactly their point in preventing heavy restrictions on gun ownership, and it is a very strong argument.

gun death statsThe inverse argument by supporters of Gun Control would run something like this: Three guns were involved and two men killed. How many men would have been killed if there were zero guns at the scene? It is unknown at this time whether the guns the robbers pulled were legally owned or not, but all bets are that they were unregistered or otherwise illegal. If gun sales were strictly controlled, there would be fewer guns available for criminals to use, so logically less gun violence and less need for citizens to walk around armed. This also is a strong argument. Both sides have valid points.

So where does that leave us? Two men are dead, and that can’t be changed. They were both young, 18 and 24 respectively, and who knows what they might have accomplished in the years to come. But even their family members have admitted they were headed down a dark path. They were moving the direction of so many other young men trapped in decaying urban environments. Perhaps they were dealing or using drugs. Perhaps they just wanted fast cash. It may never be known, and it’s not truly important right now. They are both dead.

There is little doubt that other young men who might be considering robbing a store here in Reading will think twice about it, at least for a little while. If I were a local shopkeeper, I would breathe easy for a few weeks.

But the bottom line is this: Nothing will change because of this violent exchange. The underlying conditions that cause so many of our young people to resort to crime aren’t going away anytime soon. There is no political will to fix our broken system, and we are awash in guns, both legal and illegal. Unless we reduce the number of guns on the street and/or reduce the conditions that drive crime, this situation will stay the same and more young men will die.kids-and-guns-80793284813_xlarge

When will America choose to put her house in order, however that may look? How many of our young people need to die before we will act as a country unified and fix our problems? How long before we shout with one voice, “Enough!”

Do They Love Their Children?

I-love-the-80-s-bright-colors-17704101-333-328I am a child of the late 70’s and 80’s. I remember Madonna’s Like A Virgin when it was a brand new song. I remember Ronald Reagan’s first inauguration. I saw Star Wars in the theatre in 1977. Gasoline was less than $1 per gallon, and big hair was in. So was feathered hair. Eww. Bright colors, plastic bangles, Van Halen. Yeah, we had it all going on!800px-Coldwar

I also remember the Cold War.

If you have grown up since 1991, then you really don’t understand what it was like to believe any second could be your last. As a boy I was obsessed with this. I had trouble sleeping at night, and when I did, I had terrible nightmares of nuclear war and radiation poisoning and flash burns. I’ve never been a visual artist, but I drew several pictures dealing with nuclear war. I talked about it constantly for a couple of years. I wrote really bad poetry.

In November 1983, a film was shown on TV called The Day After. It was so disturbing to me that, as my21_d_15000_0_TheDayAfter family sat transfixed by it, I had to leave the room. I went to my bedroom and pretended to read, but I didn’t even sleep that night. It was a Sunday night just before Thanksgiving, and I was tormented by the images of that movie, and the fear of nuclear war in general, for months after. Even now, having gone back to refresh my memory of that movie, I can feel anxiety, with my back and neck tensing up. I remember so much fear, and there was nothing I or any of us could do about it.

I got over it eventually, but it was a strange time. Everything in the 1980’s was flashy and bright. The future was so bright, in fact, that apparently we all had to wear shades. But that was just the surface, and under it all, we were afraid.

The musician Sting wrote a song about this pervasive fear that colored all our lives. Russians talked about how we stingstood on the edge of a knife, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.. You can find the full lyrics here, but the song ends with the slightly hopeful lyric “We share the same biology/Regardless of ideology/What might save us, me, and you/Is if the Russians love their children too” and it seems he was right. The Cold War ended, and the chances of nuclear Armageddon have fallen to the point that it’s not even really talked about today. Because the Russians did love their children, we’re all here today.

But there’s a group out there that threatens us all, and their narrow extremist view of the world leads them to destroy anything which doesn’t fit, meaning almost everything. If they were the ones in charge of the former U.S.S.R.’s nuclear arsenal, they would already have launched every last missile. If they were the ones in charge of Syria’s chemical stockpiles, they would already have used them extensively. If they had any weapons greater than roadside bombs and Kalashnikovs, they would have used them already.

And in point of fact, they did. Once upon a time, people from this intolerant extremist group seized control of four passenger aircraft in flight over the eastern U.S. and killed thousands of people. 9/11 was proof that so-called ‘Islamic’ extremists – and I9 11 use the quotes there because they are to Islam what Jim Jones was to Christianity – were willing to do anything and kill anyone if they thought it furthered their goals.

This mindset is, to many in the west or really any peaceful nation, incomprehensible. It simply makes no sense to most people that you would kill women and children in order to get a special place in heaven by dying as a martyr. But that’s really the point. Most nations value their children. They see children as the future. They see children as a sign of hope. They see children as beautiful and innocent and full of life.

‘Islamic’ terrorists don’t share this view. To them, and I’m fairly confident in this point, little boys are nothing but future martyrs, and little girls are machines that will make food and little baby boys to ht_malala_book_cover_kb_131003_16x9_992become more future martyrs. That’s it. They are not intrinsically valued. They have no worth except what they can do in the future, and that is either kill those unbelievers who don’t share their viewpoint or support those who kill those unbelievers. If you don’t believe me, read up on Malala Yousafzai‘s story.

In short, the terrorists do not love their children. And if your enemy doesn’t value life, then how do you ever convince him to stop taking it away from others?

I’m not wise enough to know the answers. I’m lucky enough to know some of the questions, but that’s it.

And I’m lucky enough to love my children.