thoughts

Smells Like Citizen Spirit

It means: “true democracy, let’s vote ourselves.” That is, the graffiti. Interesting choice of words, at least I thought so. They stuck out to me, looked particularly brazen. I wonder who wrote it, some somebody willing to stand out in a public space and deface a wall with their latest brain-picking. Despite curiosity, you never figure out who the person is. You get close, and out of a dozen or so lookalikes, there’s bound to be a trackable progress going in enough circles to convince you you’re getting somewhere good.

As most of you have guessed, it’s French. The “L’s” give it away at a first glance, but that it’s so attention-grabbing and straightforward also points to a French origin. It embodies everything I admire in the French people: a stubborn determination to be heard while retaining their cultural elegance. Nobody fights like them, nobody, because nobody’s got near as fierce a spirit. Spirit flows through all of those words splashed across the wall, and it’s important to remember spirit doesn’t emerge of nothing.

A member of the Yellow Vests (gilet jaunes) Movement sprayed the graffiti. You may not have guessed this, but I imagine the majority of readers had a gut feeling. I’ve been meaning to cover these guys for a while, if only because few people are. Last November, they burst into international attention, and the gamut of media churned out story after story on their shocking antics. Public defacements and mass protesting defined them; of course, the coverage was accurate, in parts. I read most of those stories, understanding the plight of the French workers and wishing for their success. Not two or three months later, all American coverage stopped, leaving me to scramble after foreign outlets for any new updates. BBC had its bits and pieces, but the French outlets either neglected to report the events or showcased them through biased perspectives. Unfortunate, yes, but it was not an unexpected action; it happens everywhere, so we have to sometimes seek out objectivity ourselves.

The movement has lasted for over seven months, and it still appears to be going strong. I can’t speak as to the inner climate. I have no idea what the people are experiencing from day to day–and this is perhaps my most important point, I hope the best for all sides. Too often, we lose ourselves to the inevitable tug-of-war ever festering in these kinds of movements. We focus on the aspect of success so much that we forget our own limits in reaching it. It goes either way, the end, settling in comfortable victory or exhausted failure, with no room for a middle ground.

To me, the graffiti represents an attempted middle ground. People will argue and battle; they’ll break ideological codes to ensure they are on the prevailing side before the whole situation resolves itself in forced silence. Not everyone’ll spray out graffiti, but everyone’ll read the message.

One message means more than a million broken noses.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

ID 140302557 © Ymidio | Dreamstime.com

A Letter To Washington

On March 28th, 2019, Will Boswell, a sophomore at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, wrote a letter to the late American president, George Washington. His letter aimed to detail current changes in American society, as well as to compare these changes and their effects to Washington’s original vision for America. 

Dear President Washington, 

My name is Will Boswell, and I hope this letter reaches you well.

I’m an American citizen, and that should mean quite a lot to you. Let me add that it is 2019, and I am an American citizen. Despite previous attempts by the British to regain their colonies, we have prevailed, and oh, we’re friends with them now. We’re friends with most of the world, and as a matter of fact, we assist them with their many problems. Some have called us the ‘World Police,’ and the label’s not far off from the truth. That may surprise you, so I’ll throw in another surprise: the United States of America is a world ‘superpower,’ much like the British Empire.

You’re brimming with questions, I understand, but I think you should know I’m only nineteen. I know a bit about some things, but on others, I know too little. America isn’t as open to public knowledge as it used to be; we’ve become more secretive in our practices. In a way, it’s both necessary and frightening. What many see as governmental overreach is interpreted by others as necessary to preserving our liberties. Put simply, this is no small country, as you originally created it; in fact, as expressed before, it is a large superpower, this status coming with numerous foundational changes.

One of the largest changes, to you, may be that in 2008, we elected our first black president, Barack Obama, signaling an incredible alteration of the American perception toward minority citizens. Diversity has come a long way in our country—and what comes to mind are such watershed moments as the 1917 Women’s Suffrage Movement and the abolition of slavery in 1865. Our fourteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, abolished it by way of the Constitution, and this, among other reasons, caused his assassination. It was an unfortunate end to a true American patriot, a man I’m sure you would have greatly respected.

There’s too much to explain in so short a time, so I’ll get to my main points. Mr. President, America has changed. You can interpret that however you want to, and I hope you’ll understand my saying on some days that I feel as if no one listened to you. Due to your slave-holding past, many  American citizens elect to listen to neither you nor your compatriots. You are all a part of a racist past, and while I acknowledge it as wrong, I also believe it’s important to separate the different qualities of a person before judging them according to the values of the time. I mean no disrespect to you, sir, grateful for what you did for this country, but our country’s values, along with our perception of historical figures, have changed—and they have changed for the better.

Aside from this small unification, our country is more divided than ever before. Politics has grown even more distasteful, neither side particularly appealing to the American public. Domestic terrorists have brought the battlefield to our schools and churches, concerts and clubs, gunning down innocent civilians for reasons we can hardly comprehend. As I write this, another shooting has occurred in which four people have been shot, one of them dead, at a synagogue of all places. The American public itself fights over the pettiest issues and at times, it’s as though we can’t compromise on any one thing.

This must hurt you to hear these things, but as you well know, no nation is without its battles. Of these problems, some may become trivial in the future, and some may linger on, challenging new generations to rediscover the national principles forgotten by previous ones. I feel that’s the story of America: a nation where values are constantly taken up and put down, new ones intervening on behalf of the ever-insistent vox populi striving after the solutions and meanings that, though not always the best, are the right ones for the time. It is that America you fought for, and it is that America we will continue to fight for, so long as we have a reason to.

 The United States has come a long way in over two hundred years. I live in the twenty-first century, and I am a college student at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs. I’ve witnessed hundreds of changes in my short lifetime, looking to create a few myself, and more are taking place minute by minute. I am astounded at the amount of ways society shifts, and people surprise. 

With our Founding Fathers, a nation awoke, and without them, a nation perseveres. It is not for me to say where our focus will shift next, but I can hope it is in a good direction. We can survive anything that is thrown at us, rest assured of that.

May you rest in peace.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

ID 11695975 © Christian De Grandmaison | Dreamstime.com

An Antidote For Myopia

From time to time, I wonder why I see so many flags flying in the streets. Neighborhoods, institutions, shopping malls; all of them have at least one flag flapping on a pole–if it’s a location for social gatherings, it’ll have another one placed distinctly on a wall, or on another, smaller pole close to the ceiling. People notice them in that familiar manner so especial to drive-by landmarks and panhandlers, considering them for a moment before proceeding on with life. It’s no biggie. It’s a flag. It’s the flag hoisted above them so repeatedly it has little significance other than as “The Object Particular To This Here Pole.” There’s no blame to pass around for the dismissive attitude, as it’s the expected attitude. To think otherwise is to refuse observational surrender, not letting the flag be a symbol unique in its repeated mental onslaught: a national reminder.

Forgetfulness always arrives unwanted, the houseguest to which somebody neglects to not pass an invitation. We wander through life, dreading it and preparing ourselves for its eventual appearance on our doorstep. A slovenly figure, it plops on the porch, trench hat muddied and strode upon by the more abusive few; it has nothing to tell us, as it turns out, and apologizes for any undue intrusion into our “well-off” [spoken in a low murmur] lives. It leaves, and despite the sun’s summer preference, it gives way to hard rain, and forgetfulness raises the face we never see and lets [he lets it] the drops stream across whatever features dare settle into that mystery. Every time, it breaks us–the pain, that is, so sorrowful, and we feel ashamed for not offering a drink, a place to rest. The figure is familiar; we do know him, after all, but for one reason or another, we cannot remember his name.

We succumb to absent-mindedness. Despite our safeguards, we never expect the unexpected: a paradox in itself, as if we daily battle the inevitable. Wandering leads to intrigue and nostalgia, yet it also falls prey to soreness and fatigue. Exhaustion besets the best of us, and we sleep on our feet, still moving, still seeing. Objects are blurs, concepts even more abstract than before. At a time, we fought and found and lived; now all we do is flounder. We are for the world’s taking, its curiosities our binding chains.

We walk and walk and walk some more on roads tarred in tears. Our stride grows lanky, made up of the antique movements inner clockwork deems sufficient ’till breakage–and it emerges without a whistle, gears a-busting, spindles spun to sputters, the clock-face punched out of its trappings and clapping a cold floor. Destruction. Nothing else remains in our minds. Near dark, close to oblivion, yet from out of the spiritual withdrawal flutters a flag, colorful and grand. It beckons us, and we remember.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

R.I.P Freedom of Speech.

This is a sad story. It’s not sad in a bittersweet, melancholy sense; it’s a tragedy in the making, Shakespearean platitudes abound. We’ve not reached the ending, and I doubt we’re halfway through the plot. Here is the beginning of something gravely upsetting, the Death of Freedom of Speech.

This just in, optimists claim the world is perfect, and the rest of us skim over the headline and sip our coffee. Television’s a mockery of itself, the once bold horizon pressed flat against its blank, unchanging face. The teacher is no more than a microphone to amplify the safe stuff, the okay stuff, and all the students doze off to repetitive drones.

I don’t get out much, bit of a hermit. The world comes to me through media: vast blocs of interrelated events, actions, and contradictions. Sometimes I watch to know what’s going on, and sometimes I refuse to let myself be propagandized. It depends on my mood. CNN, CBS, FOX, ABC; I’ve seen the lot of them, surprised at how, in the scope of things, little a role they play in this tragedy. Media doesn’t create our darkest visions–it merely reinforces them. They encompass a large portion of the story, don’t get me wrong, but one right hasn’t the jurisdiction to restrict another. Both toe a line disintegrating before our eyes, and despite the media’s notoriety, there’s time for their story later.

Freedom of speech is defined as “the right to express any opinions without censorship or restraint.” Well, now, have we not a consistent, time-honored tradition of censoring the strange and unorthodox perspectives? A rhetorical question, hope you caught it. As for restraint, no examples should be necessary, but I’ll oblige: any opinion contrary to the widely held popular beliefs. These days, we call it, ‘the wrong side of history,’ or ‘hate speech,’ and I want to expand on the last term. Hate speech has come into the limelight recently, only because we feel we need to redefine it, and through redefinition reach restriction. Although it’s not as simple in practice, in theory, we take the phrase ‘hate speech,’ remove ‘hate,’ and examine it as such. It’s what rights guarantee. It’s what rights protect. It’s what rights allow.

If to speak freely is to speak without constraint, then regular discourse is in a state of perpetual imprisonment.

We claim to be for all rights, save when those rights infringe upon our strongly held beliefs. That conviction is both our greatest strength and weakness, as it builds our character, yet often builds it too high. Online, we view ourselves as Judge, Jury, and Executioner, engaging in Internet trials too aggressive to be practiced in actual society, too artificial to fit anything but the digital world.

We’re far from perfect people, and we desperately attempt to attain perfection through trial-and-error. Some things work out, and others have unfortunate outcomes. ‘It’s the way the world goes’, say the pessimists, but when the world goes one way, we should, by all means, go the other.

This is a sad story. This is a tragedy. This does not have to be the end.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

A Tale Without An Ending

It’s starting to look as though the 2019 Government Shutdown may become the longest in American history, two days away from surpassing the Clinton Administration’s 1995-96 Shutdown. This gives rise to two interpretive facts: one, the stakes on which it rests are monumental in our modern context, and two, this Shutdown may or may not be a satisfying conclusion to a conflict–and an overall story–so raucous on its onset.

Rewind to 2018, back to the beginning where the immigration issue, crisis, whatever you want to call it, hit the fan when multiple migrant caravans began making their way towards Mexico and the United States. Due to many factors, among them the Midterm Elections, it became a largely covered story spanning several weeks. These caravans dispersed, many participants, I believe, settling in Mexico, their government offering asylum, and others coming to the U.S-Mexico Border. Many entanglements occurred, a few of a violent nature the U.S media covered assiduously–and as soon as the Midterm Elections had ended, the caravan stories were dropped as fast as they’d appeared.

Large stakes, widely reported, yet something felt incomplete. In a story format, there’d been an abrupt beginning, a rousing middle, but it had no resolution. The conflict was apparently simple. An assemblage of migrants had left their countries in an attempt to gain access to better conditions in Mexico and the United States, and they’d not chosen to do so through legal ports of entry. It featured key players (main characters), and it threw in some moral questions for citizens to ponder as they went about their lives. A tale without an ending: no going full-circle, and hardly a cute “The End,” or “Fin.”

Things went relatively silent from thereon, and by things, I’m referring to the immigration news. Although, admittedly, the media never relinquished its hold over those stories and kept them undercover in case of future relevance. They released sizable chunks every other week, but as Kenny Rogers said, “you gotta know when to hold ’em.” The conflict died down, the story itself settling into an awkward lump on the floor of General American Reception, (G.A.R), the Twitter megaphone no longer a valid mouthpiece.

Onward to 2019, then, and we have in our grasps an almost tangible ending, at least we believe we do. If we’re following the classic style, every story needs an ending, but say we look through a journalist’s lenses and pick up their pen, then it’s a universal fact not all of those stories have endings. For that matter, those existing aren’t happy ones. Through a series of inevitable arguments and debates, a Lady Justice encounter transpires, and we’re tasked to ask ourselves whether it’s far more right or wrong to snatch at the fastest available ending and label it under increasingly complex synonyms for “happy” and “sad.”

We know how the Clinton Shutdown ended, but that doesn’t mean we know how the Trump Shutdown will end. A great quality of stories (traditional ones, that is) is their finite answers to proposed questions. Ambiguity has little place in the world of fables and fairytales, a sharp knock to reality. What’s not often so praised in those categories is the desire to explore, to innovate, look beyond the printed words; and I suppose what this whole situation comes down to is the question of whether we want to close this storybook once and for all, or leave one sentence unwritten and return to it when the inspiration again strikes us.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

Pynchon Photographed

Starting to read some Pynchon, that’s new. I’m attempting Gravity’s Rainbow, that notoriously complex Post-Modern tome. It’d be real cool to meet the guy–Thomas Pynchon, that is, though he’s the reclusive equivalent of two Salingers.

You ever seen his picture?

It’s strangely iconic, since, for one, not many authors’ photos are iconic; I am, of course, excluding Poe, Twain, Hemingway, and Faulkner from that category. Pynchon’s got a sallowly narrow face, and the photo gives it these rugged contortions (grains, black-and-white specks) that have no bearing on his sharp gaze, the kind looking across lands and oceans from an at-first-glance stagnant P.O.V.. The Academic in full, albeit noticeably coordinated, exposure. He’s the P.M God chugging along an intellectual legacy with as many bumps in its cruise control as there are abrupt dips giving rise to its lengthy leaps. A lapel’s barely visible in the frame, but it’s enough to solidify his title and open imaginative capabilities as to whether he’s rocking elbow patches or chalk dust. Harvard or Cambridge, those locales rumble through the mind and have no business there. Neither of them. More like Cornell U. Something about the picture’s content/context; it makes you want to jump to the uppermost ranking, top of the charts of those charts. Pynchon. Winner of the National Book Award. It should fit together, Ivy League and literary achievement. At least, those are the connotations I’m faced with, wonder about yours–and wouldn’t you know it, but connotations aren’t more than rigidly set opinions set forth by categorical majorities more or less agreeing on stereotypes.

I’m doing that. So are you. We’re both participating.

Should be a good book, Gravity’s Rainbow. I haven’t started, but it’s next on my list. I’ll get around to it, after I’m done examining his photo.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

An Attempt To Define Fall.

There’s something so strangely satisfying about Fall (or Autumn, if you’re a particularly fancy person). I can’t define it here; I don’t think anyone can really define it, too much of an immense task, in my opinion. The best I can do is throw a few sharp adjectives its way, hoping they stick–let’s see, uh: bittersweet, mildly fantastical, slightly spooky, cold, warm, loving, abrupt, careful, dangerous, joyful, magical. Ah, now we got something concrete, magical? Magic’s a complex concept, isn’t it? Well, sure, if you want to make it that way. For the sake of this post, K.I.S.S, or Keep It Simple, Sally. HA, and you thought I was gonna say stupid! Tricked you.

Fall is magical. How so? Gee, that’s a tough question, but only the hardest hitters…make the target? Yeah, smooth move, X-Lax, real intelligent, as if targets have anything to do with Fall. But maybe they do. I can’t say definitively that they don’t, so, as they say, the jury’s out on that one–and, y’know, I just talked to them, telling me they’re gonna be out for the next five hours, so, hey, that’s cool.

Now, I’m gonna stop pulling my swings (or is it throws?), and go all out. Fall is undefinable, BAM! whoah, how about that big dose of Truth, huh? but, and I want to preface this, if I may, with the concession that although Fall may be undefinable, it’s not entirely abstract. When I think of Fall, these thoughts proceed: carving Jack-O-Lanterns in the blistering cold, with a mug of Swiss Miss hot cocoa and stomping into carefully raked leaves, hearing them crinkle and crunch beneath my feet and pressing my gloves over my numbing cheeks to still the wind-inflicted pain within them and watching fog settle over an empty field, slithering around every grass stalk and tumbleweed in it and admiring a waxing, orange moon, a centerpiece in the sky’s constantly revised canvas and grasping handfuls of wrapped goodies out of plastic pumpkins and jittery animatronic hands and gathering around a food-laden table to just get a whiff of the pumpkin pie’s creamy filling, its flaky (and occasionally imitation-concrete) crust and being fulfilled and being pleased and feeling as if the weather can, like, channel your mood and sitting on a bench in some lonely place and watching leaves snap off tree branches and glide in a see-saw manner to the grass, crumpling.

It’s not perfect, Fall. It’s not even many people’s favorite season, but it’s Fall, guys, and how often do we get as much out of a season as we do this one?

Not often.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

IT’S TIME TO TAKE A STAND!

Just heard about the terrible Santa Fe school shooting that resulted in the loss of ten lives, ten, innocent lives. Shooter was a student there, 17 years old, a Football player–stuff like that’s rough to hear.

My brother’s going into high school; this next year he’s going to be a Freshman. Is this the kind of world he’s going to have to grow up in? Is there any way to prevent it, or at the least, drastically lessen the chances of more shootings occurring?

That’s two major school shootings, Parkland, now Santa Fe, within the span of three months. Those are the major ones, too; I haven’t mentioned the countless other shootings that haven’t made the news for one reason or another. That shouldn’t be an increasing statistic; in fact, it should be non-existent: NO MORE SCHOOL SHOOTINGS WHATSOEVER!

I’ll tell you this, too, I don’t believe guns are the answer. Anyone with the motive to harm another human being is going to do whatever they can to accomplish that. Take away guns, they’ll use something else–take away that thing, and they’ll find another and another and another.

It’s a matter of mental health. These kids and adults that shoot up these schools are either mentally disturbed or in poor social situations. Now, I’m not saying what they did wasn’t wrong, but we need to look at their root causes: what is driving them to kill?

Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris (Columbine): Bullied, Poor Family Relations, Mentally Unstable.

Nikolas Cruz (Parkland): Bullied, Poor Family Relations, Mentally Unstable.

There are clear similarities between all of these school shooters, and those are what we should be focusing on. Prevention and early detection are key in these situations: but little is being covered about them in the media.

So we need to take a stand and say something about the avenues we should take. There is no definite answer, no miracle solution, to anything; however, we can examine these possibilities and work towards creating a better future for America.

Human lives come above all else.

Stay strong, Santa Fe; measures will be taken.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

People Are Strange

I finished reading Catcher in the Rye, and I gotta say it’s an odd book, a quirky tale. Holden Caulfield is by no means your average teenager, but he is not an alien, either; so many people hate Holden, y’know, something I don’t understand.

The argument, I believe, is that the only people who can relate to him are mentally unstable. Okay, so Mark David Chapman reads it, then, what, people are blaming the book? Isn’t that a fallacy, or at the least, one of those conclusions people create that make no friggin’ sense?

I liked it. I really did. I liked that goddamn book.

See, look, now I’m speaking like Holden Caulfield: it’s a spiral, I tell you, and it keeps going downwards. Pretty soon, I’ll be wearing a deer hunter cap and chain smoking cigarettes.

People are strange, though, y’know. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from that book, it’s that people are strange. There’s no logic to it–you can try computing an equation all you want, and nothing’ll come of it but a tired mathematician. Call someone else for that, by the way, ’cause I suck at Math.

There’s strange people at work. at the store, at the intersection right before you turn onto your street. They’re everywhere, man; a bunch of weirdos doing their best to give off an aura of normalcy.

The other day, I saw one in Wal-Mart, word of honor! He had on this bulky cloak and a purple scarf; I also think he was wearing sunglasses…at night. Ah, of course, it didn’t register at first, but now I realize he was an avid Corey Hart fan. Nevermind, dude wasn’t strange, just misunderstood. Then again, I doubt 80’s rock was understood even when it was popular.

You can disagree with me if you want, and I’d like that, truly. You go ahead and think Sunglasses Man was strange, I’m not judging, only writing a blog post about the whole thing.

Yeah, he was strange, but not as strange as Holden. That’s where I think Catcher in the Rye is most effective–its depiction of the ultimate, angsty teen has yet to be rivaled. Could you argue James Dean got close in Rebel Without A Cause? Sure, but ask yourself: would there be a James Dean without a Holden Caulfield?

I dunno, haven’t studied enough of that stuff. Gimme an answer, and I’ll praise you.

Let’s think a moment now. We’ve established people are strange, but we don’t know which people. Is there a certain minority devoted to strange folk? is it why we have all these cults? or is it what we’re denying–we’re all strange in our own freaky way?

Gee, interesting concept, huh? It’s like none of us are the exact same, because that would be super boring.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Photo Cred: Wired Reader

Stranger In A Wasteland

Saw this couch in a field in Falcon. Someone’d left it there; it was all ratty, torn out from the inside. Foam crumbles surrounded it, and there were droppings beneath its springs.

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Strange, is all. You don’t typically see couches left in the middle of nowhere; I didn’t want to touch it, either, scared of what might be on the fabric. If anything, it was surreal–facing out to rolling hills, houses in the distance.

Then I came across this quilt–

IMG_0279

Beautiful quilt, yeah? Who chose to throw it out? Looked to be holding something, but I didn’t want to unwrap it; again, safety’s priority number one out there.

Stranded objects in a wasteland, each of them with their own mysteries, perhaps a story or two.

Think daily,

A Southpaw