That was the note he left. A sticky note, actually. Pushed hard and pressed purposefully onto the upper-left corner of the corkboard in his home office, now spattered with brain matter and blood.
He woke that Tuesday, poured his coffee, sat on his back porch, and listened to mourning doves coo and the distant rumble of the early commute – trucks and cars, potholes and puddles. The wet hum and rattle of life.
He would miss his morning coffee, but not enough to stick around.
His kids were grown. As best he could, he’d advised them about life and how to get on in the world. So, in this regard, his “main” job was done.
He wasn’t all that unhappy or in any kind of pain, just immensely bored and intensely uninterested in the grind and pursuit, of what, he never entirely understood.
For the last several weeks, he found himself muttering, “What’s the point? Nothing changes. It’s all the same shit.”
What’s the point?
It’s all the same shit.
I suppose if one chews on those sentiments long enough, a sticky note on a corkboard and a gun in your mouth is where you end up.
He was missed dearly by his family, who stumbled numbly through life for the next two years.
For weeks after his demise, his faithful dog waited for him to come down the stairs and give a loving pat on the head. Whenever the house creaked, or the upstairs plumbing clanged, his dog would get up, walk to the stairs, and wait.
That was perhaps the saddest display of love and loyalty ever.
Many right-to-lifers believe life begins at conception and a zygote has the same inalienable rights as a fully developed human. And because a zygote is defenseless, right-to-lifers see themselves as self-appointed and divinely anointed protectors of the unborn.
It’s a crusade for these people.
With placards and posters splattered with images of aborted fetuses, they march at pro-life rallies, scream at, harass, and intimidate women at abortion clinics, and vote only for pro-life candidates (regardless of the candidate’s character or qualifications – see Donald J Trump).
On the other side of the issue, pro-choice advocates feel just as strongly about women’s autonomy over their bodies. Pro-choicers believe any decision around pregnancy is solely up to the woman – her body, her choice. They believe life begins outside the womb after the baby is born and that being forced to carry an unplanned pregnancy to term, based on someone else’s philosophical or religious views, is an unacceptable assault on autonomy and human dignity.
Pro-choicers march at rallies, support organizations that provide reproductive health services to women, and vote only for pro-choice candidates.
From a plumbing and religious perspective (male/atheist), I don’t feel emotionally invested enough to opine on either side of the issue.
But maybe a lower emotional investment makes me more objective?
Don’t mistake my decision to speak out as telling others what to do or what to believe – in the end, we make our own decisions. Well, hopefully we do.
As I said, I don’t believe in God or heaven or the notion of a soul – I see no evidence of any of these things. I believe we are born of biology, just like every other animal. I believe our lives are shaped primarily by what happens ( the good and the bad) after entering the world.
That said, none of us can deny the fact we all begin in the exact same manner, moving from a fertilized egg to embryo, from an embryo to fetus, and finally, from a fetus to a baby. Disrupting that process through abortion prevents a natural biological transformation. Without that disruption (and if all goes well), the end result is a baby – soul or no soul.
There can be many reasons why a woman decides to disrupt that biological process. And those reasons can run the gamut from the profoundly emotional to the detached and dismissive.
I imagine how a woman feels about her pregnancy depends on the circumstances surrounding it and that those circumstances can vary greatly. Maybe it’s a pregnancy from a casual and consensual fling, maybe it’s a meticulously planned pregnancy with a life partner, or maybe it’s a pregnancy resulting from violent rape. Each circumstance is going to evoke different emotions and thought patterns. In addition to the circumstances surrounding the pregnancy, the situation of the individual woman is also unique. Is she emotionally stable and physically healthy? Does she have a solid social and familial support system? Is she financially independent? Is she able to support another human being emotionally, physically, and financially?
Right-to-lifers say the circumstance of the pregnancy and the situation of the woman is not what matters most. When it comes to pregnancy, the focus is not on how or why the woman became pregnant or whether she can support a child. Instead, right-to-lifers put all their focus and support on the unborn child.
Regardless of how the seed was planted, in the eyes of a pro-lifer, the woman transforms from an autonomous human being to a vessel – as soon as fertilization occurs.
Imagine having no say. No voice. This is the most important and challenging thing for men to wrap their heads around.
Imagine being told by the state that regardless of the circumstance of your pregnancy or your physical, emotional, and financial status, you have no say in your pregnancy after reaching the six week marker.
After that six week marker, you will do what you’re told.
You will have that baby, whether you want to or not. Whether you can care for it or not.
Whether you were raped or whether you were little careless with your birth control.
it. Does. Not. Matter.
You have no say.
Imagine how that makes a person feel.
One group believes that from the moment of conception, the woman’s role is that of a vessel. The other believes all the goings-on in a woman’s body (including fertilizing that egg) is the woman’s business and nobody else’s.
Neither side will ever budge from their firmly held beliefs, and legislation sure as hell won’t change minds. All legislation does in the case of abortion is make access easier or more difficult. It never changes minds.
The legislation in TX clearly makes getting an abortion more difficult. But let’s be honest, a wealthy woman in TX who wants to terminate her pregnancy will not be deterred by legislation. As has always been, women with means will find a way. They’ll get on a plane to go “visit” their cousin. But, like so many other laws, the law in TX will have a far more significant impact on those without means.
Suggested guidelines, questions, and suggestions before weighing in on someone else’s decision to terminate their pregnancy:
How does someone else’s decision about their pregnancy affect you at all? It doesn’t.
If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.
Believe an aborted fetus has a soul? Great then, all the aborted are in heaven, basking in the glow of an all-loving God.
Believe all beings will be judged by God after they die? OK then, let God dispense judgment at that time.
That’s God’s job, not yours or mine.
And if we were serious about wanting to reduce the number of abortions in America, we’d be looking at national standard for sex education in public schools, with frank and honest discussions about sex, responsibility, and consequence.
Donald Trump saw masses of hateful and uneducated Americans as an untapped resource. He pandered to them from the very beginning of his campaign, all the way through his presidency. He adroitly tweaked their xenophobic fears and white nationalistic attitudes and transformed them into votes.
He effectively made them the foundation of today’s Republican party.
In the past, Republicans would have blanched at welcoming these types of people under their tent. But once invited, they’ve spread like invasive vegetation, choking out moderate republican and authentic conservative voices.
Today, a uniquely unqualified brood of jackals and jackasses like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, “Gym” Jordan, and Devin Nunes has turned the GOP from a party of ideas to a demeaning cult of personality, with zero ideas.
We see them scrambling to prevent the release of phone records that will likely show collaboration with the President in his attempt to subvert the 2020 Presidential election.
When Donald Trump became President, the old guard Republicans lost control of their party. The GOP is now controlled by a bunch of cousin Eddies’ (from Vacation), except this version of Eddy doesn’t have an ounce of decency or kindness. In fact, he’s more like an Eddy / Josef Goebbels hybrid, and he’s parked that God-awful RV smack dab in the middle of the Republican party.
Instead of taking out the trash, Donald Trump opened the front door and dragged the garbage into the GOP. And now, decent/moderate Republicans find themselves between a rock and a hard place, where If they turn their back on the Cousin Eddy Goebbels of the GOP, they’re likely going to be out of a job.
So, they sit and watch the transformative ruin of their party.
Democrats should work with Republicans to help them get back control of their party for the country’s good. They should reach out to moderates and cut some deals in exchange for expelling the growing number of Eddy Goebbels from the party – it might be the only way we save our country.
We have a free medicine at our disposal that limits the deadly effects of a virus for those who contract it while also reducing our ability to spread it.
We have mountains of data proving the medicine is safe and effective.
We also know how vaccinations work – that to protect the population at large, we need to meet a threshold of more than 80 percent.
In the past, we simply relied on people’s altruism to do the right thing.
In the past, we trusted that the scientific and medical community cared about the health and wellbeing of their fellow human beings.
In the past, when faced with a medical crisis like this pandemic, we rolled up our sleeves willingly – because we had a strong sense of community and cared about more than just ourselves or our “individual rights.”
I’m a bit tired of those who complain that any mandate infringes on their freedom. These people have politicized a public health emergency, which has made a bad situation worse.
The millions of people who ignore the global medical community (and most likely their own doctors) are primarily responsible for extending the pain, suffering, and economic uncertainty. And their decision is hindering our nation’s ability to get on the other side of the pandemic.
I don’t support forced vaccinations, but I’m okay with individual businesses requiring proof of vaccinations.
Businesses have a right to make decisions in the best interest of their customers and their employees. It’s akin to a business not allowing visitors to smoke in their place of business. They’re not telling people they can’t smoke at all. They’re simply saying that because the visitor’s decision to smoke poses a danger to others, they’re not going to allow it in their place of business.
Like smoking in public, the decision to not get vaccinated endangers others. And, unfortunately, it also increases the likelihood of new variants getting a foothold and spreading and prolonging the battle against the virus. In addition, as we’ve seen all over the country, the unvaccinated are putting undue stress on our healthcare system. Hospitals are running out of ICU beds because they are filled with unvaccinated COVID patients.
Proof of vaccination to enter crowded venues or stores or fly on an airline is not optimal. Still, when altruism doesn’t work, society must try to convince people to do the right thing.
In a society, we all sacrifice some individual freedoms for the greater good – if people decide they are not going to do that, they should bear some cost or suffer a consequence for their decision.
For as long we’ve existed, man’s kindness has been matched by his cruelty.
We’re a volatile and combustible mix of the easily misguided. Too often (under the influence of others), we drift towards our darker nature, nestle up to fear, hand reason over to blind faith, or swear a misguided allegiance to political tribes. In the past, this has led humankind down dark paths where we deny our fellow man freedom and dignity on a mass scale.
That’s been our history.
We’ve seen how the fluidly we move from our better selves to our darker nature and how easily influenced we are by the world around us. We’re not immune to the momentum of tumultuous events. And, because we’re more connected (technologically speaking) than ever before, we’re more susceptible to being collectively influenced, manipulated, and pushed towards our darker nature.
This is nothing new. We’ve teetered on the edge of darkness before. Manipulated by political and religious movements that feed on fear, hate, and irrationality. Unfortunately, I believe we’re teetering one of those precipices now, as world events push mankind towards our darker nature.
I still believe America can be a force for positive change. I’m not talking about nationalistic flag-waving “USA, USA, USA!!” patriotism, but rather all of us living by and promoting the ideals and ideas of Western Democracy.
To make mankind kind again, we must consciously engage in acts of kindness, resist being influenced by fear and fear mongers, put reason above religion, and ditch political tribalism for critical and idea-based thinking.
The uptick in political, social media posts about what’s going on in Afghanistan reveals just how shallow and vulnerable we’ve become. Sadly, the willingness to parlay human tragedy for political hay (I’ve done it myself) represents troubling fault lines for our country.
Joe Biden did not blow up Americans and Afghanis at the Airport in Kabul – religious extremists did. Instead of focusing on the enemies of reason and rationality, many Americans devolve into sectarianism, focusing their contempt on the American President.
I’m not suggesting Biden not be held accountable for missteps and intelligence failures that occur on his watch – he should be. But, instead, I’m suggesting that we remember Biden is not the enemy. Biden is not a religious extremist. He believes in American ideals. Our fight is not with him; it’s with ISIS, the Taliban, and any of the other man-made entities that are hellbent on pushing us to a darker existence.
I’m also suggesting that we differentiate malevolence from incompetence when critiquing our leaders. But, unfortunately, that requires nuanced and critical thinking – lost skills in America today.
Every President has moments of incompetence. Kennedy had his Bay of Pigs; Obama had his healthcare rollout. Bush fucked up majorly with his weapons of mass destruction debacle. Reagan screwed the pooch with Iran Contra, and Jimmy Carter botched a hostage rescue.
Humans are at the helm of intelligence. They push the pen and ink onto intelligence reports, and leaders act on the assessments. And sometimes, they make mistakes. And when this happens, citizens should speak up and demand accountability.
But Malevolence is a different kettle of fish.
Malevolence is knowing a pandemic is deadly but telling others just the opposite for personal political gain.
Malevolence is proposing our military shoot protesters in the legs or that leakers of information be executed.
Malevolence is spreading lies about election security and promoting insurrectionist movements against America.
Malevolence is courting and praising dictators for the control they have over their citizens.
Let’s not confuse Incompetence with Malevolence.
And malevolent leaders and wanna-be dictators thrive in periods of uncertainty. And sometimes, in a storm of uncertainty, citizens become blind to malevolent leaders.
To the people who blame Joe Biden solely for what’s happening in Afghanistan after America’s 20-year campaign there – your partisan underwear is showing.
What’s happening in Afghanistan today is not the fault of one person alone. But to understand that, you’d have to remove your partisan glasses and take a deeper look at the history of our involvement there. I know that takes a little time and effort. I know it’s easier to bash-post the President, especially if your objective is to knock him down a peg or two.
A government does not fall as quickly as it did in Afghanistan without severe foundational problems – and such problems did not occur overnight (or since Joe Biden became President).
Our military success in Afghanistan only masked the many issues that plagued an ineffectual and weak Afghan government and an Afghan military that lacked what the Taliban have in spades (a core of fighters willing to die for a cause).
That so many Americans are eager to use the human tragedy of what’s going on in Afghanistan to score political points reveals dangerous fault lines in our own society.
Flags and songs aren’t people. They don’t have feelings or emotions.
The American flag and the national anthem are not capable of “feeling” respect or disrespect, any more than a dishcloth or AC DC’s “Highway to Hell.”
So, when some Americans say in anger, “He disrespected the flag” or “She disrespected the anthem!” what they’re actually saying is, “They disrespected my feelings for the flag and my feelings for my country.” I don’t deny the authenticity of their anger or their right to express it.
What I do have a problem with is their presumption. The presumption that everyone’s feelings for America should be the same – or the same as theirs.
The American experience is not uniform (and never has been). For example, as a white American male, I haven’t felt the sting of systemic racism. But just because I haven’t felt it doesn’t mean it’s not there; it simply means I didn’t experience it personally. So systemic racism did not shape my American experience, the way it shaped George Floyd’s family or the experience of millions of other African Americans.
For me to understand something that I haven’t experienced, I need to listen and employ empathy. And if there’s one thing in short supply in America, it’s empathy.
Many Americans don’t want to hear about someone else’s experience, especially if it does not mirror their own. So, when they see an Olympic athlete protest, they immediately dismiss the protester as ungrateful, selfish, and un-American. They never pause to consider that individual’s experience – they don’t want to know why the person is protesting – they simply point a finger and condemn or compare the protesting athlete to one who did not protest.
But when Americans see an aggrieved citizen of a communist country stand up for their rights, we (almost uniformly) celebrate their protest as brave and heroic. Demonstrating that even though empathy is in short supply, there’s an abundance of hypocrisy in the USA.
America was not born perfect. In the past, women and blacks could not vote, gay people could not marry, and civil rights were a pipe dream. And so, Americans (including Olympic athletes) fought, protested, and marched against these injustices.
And even though we stand head-and-shoulders above most other countries when it comes to freedom and opportunity, we are not yet that “perfect union” – that’s always going to be a goal. It’s always going to be America’s journey. And along the road to that more perfect union, Americans (and American athletes) protest or march or fight to shed light on things like racism, sexism, and voter suppression.
That’s been our history, and it has served us well.
Vaccine hesitancy increases the likelihood of COVID virus mutations, which puts everyone (including the fully vaccinated) at risk.
By refusing the vaccine, Americans are ensuring this virus will remain with us for a long time. Unfortunately, this is our future.
I remember when America used to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of the scientific community and how we banded together when faced with a crisis.
Now, look at us.
All it takes is a gaggle of fully-vaccinated Fox News hosts and a handful of YouTube charlatans spewing lies and misinformation. As a result, millions of Americans disregard science and the advice of professionals with decades of experience studying infectious diseases.
What the fuck happened to America?
One thing that’s happened is we’ve politicized science. From climate to vaccines, we have well-organized entities who frame discussions about science through a political lens, and they do so purposefully. The goal is to get people to make decisions about science using emotion rather than data.
So, instead of talking about the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine, we have news organizations and YouTubers framing the discussion on vaccines around government overreach and individual freedoms – important subjects for sure, yet irrelevant to whether or not getting vaccinated gets us to the other side of the pandemic. And so, science gets kicked to the curb, and altruism and good citizenship get thrown out the window.
And this has been going on for so long, news organizations and YouTube hucksters and influencers have a built-in audience of anti-vaxxers and climate crisis deniers. Both are now cottage industries in America.
And if you think for one second that politicians and propagandist news organizations like FOX don’t understand this, you’re kidding yourself.
After five years of crap, I keep waiting for the tipping point.
I keep waiting for my Trump-supporting friends to say they’ve had enough. I want to believe in their humanity. I’d like to think that after listening to yesterday’s testimony from the officers who defended the capitol on January sixth, they’re saying to themselves:
“You know what? I’m a proud Republican and a conservative, but what Donald Trump and members of congress promoted in the lead-up to January sixth – and the lies they continue to spread today, are despicable. I can no longer support Trump or any other politician who continues to espouse those lies. I’m fucking done with Trump.”
That’s the humane response that people who care about this country hunger for. And we keep waiting for it. We long for the days to argue and differ on politics, not humanity, not democracy, not on basic human decency and integrity.
For more than 5 years, there’s been no normalcy around our politics, and that’s because America voted into office a sociopathic fascist with low-level intelligence. And even though he’s no longer President, Trump continues to control the Republican party.
For more than 5 years, more than half of the country sat bewildered at the number of people who went along with the Donald Trump shit-show, cheered him on, and sent him money. For most us, it was a deflating realization that America was not what it claimed to be.
We kept hoping that maybe this was just an example of people being caught up in their personal and familial political history “I grew up in a Republican family, I support conservative values, I’ve always voted red.” We kept waiting for Republicans to have an epiphany; we kept hoping for that “lightbulb moment” where Republicans would wake up and see that Trump was not a Republican or conservative; he was only interested in politics in so far as it benefitted him.
Yesterday’s testimony should have been that moment for my Trump-supporting friends. If after yesterday you still support the former President, then please, just fuck off.