opinion

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

The Beautiful And The Ugly

On any given day, I’d like to say it’s easy to tell who the good and bad guys are. Creating a dividing line is a satisfying feeling, solidifying the creators’ preconceptions and ridding undue stress from wearied minds. Classification of all kinds calms people down, since nobody (NOBODY) enjoys the unclear and unknown. They may get curious–at the most, terror will set in and evolve into hysteria–but you see, so long as there are names for the beautiful and the ugly, there’ll be moderate peace. Whether it stands or falls is another situation entirely, and it is one unanswerable by that eons-long plight. News flash: it’s lasted eons for a reason, so it won’t absolve itself of conflict within the next forty-eight hours. That is, at best, wishful thinking, and at worst, an acknowledgement of something greater than ourselves: time’s withstanding grudge against human intervention.

Good and Evil. We love them. They taste so nice on our tongues, four sy-l-l-ables capturing the respective epitomes of their concepts; oh yes that is GOOD and those are undeniably EVIL just look at the symbols and words and intentions my my how outrageous! We might as well be loading people and objects into duct-tape labeled, grape juice stained Kindergarten cubbies without a single regard for examination. Words supplanted by bigger words supplanted by bigger words. Then we wonder–we wonder, ‘oh, gee, why are they overflowing? are-are, they are–they’re switching places! how dare they!’

Make larger cubbies, say the pinstriped suit-wearing dude lurking outside the window, who, as a matter of fact, has never entered the classroom.

Cubbies are ordered, sir, say some rag-tag maintenance group no one recognizes–and hell, folks, these guys don’t even recognize Mr. Pinstriped Suit, but that doesn’t stop others from carrying out orders.

Cubbies come in, glorious tidings and champagne bottles for the people old enough to drink. There’s new labels, too, because after several millennium, the letters somehow lost their shine. They gleam in sunlight and blanket themselves at night. Reading them accrues no worth anyhow.

Cubbies are in, sir, and it’s a recorder looping an affirmation. Somebody shoved a box of chocolates beneath it.

Mr. Pinstriped Suit is gone. Some blue birdies are eating spilt seed on the windowsill. They make an incredible noise.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

ID 21632081 © Brad Calkins | 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

Division, The Disease Afflicting America.

The Year TWO THOUSAND-And-EIGHTEEN, An Insight:

I believe there’s a disease in America, and I believe this country’s been sick with it for the last thirty or so years. It’s not a contagious disease, mind you, nor is it an acute type. This particular disease is chronic, and most importantly, it’s confined solely to America. We’ve  tried treating it with all sorts of fantastic medicines and social revitalizations; what we’re unfortunately not realizing, I believe, quickly enough is the ineffectiveness of these so-called “cures.”

I call it, Division, Latin Name: divisiona americo, and it’s a systemic ailment. It’s not confined to New Hampshire or Texas or Ohio or California or Wyoming or Rhode Island or Kentucky. It’s nation-wide, and let me tell you, when something this critical has such a  wide-reaching net, then it’s difficult to immediately diagnose its symptoms. Doctors (not necessarily all MD) have worked tirelessly over the many decades to isolate a possible weakness, some kink in its mechanistic armor. Division has no cure. Its symptoms are wildly inconsistent, and they pop up in the least expected occasions, EX: rallies, fairs, supermarkets, restaurants, the office building at which everyone seems reasonably peaceful and similar-minded. Division is hard to detect. It is both airborne and seaborne, and its greatest (and strongest) form of transportation, Socially Spread. No expected resolution is anywhere in sight, and millions and millions of American citizens are either contracting it, or they’re in slight fear of being affected by Division.

Division spread itself over America a number of years ago, and at this current moment, it’s at one of its highest peaks in over eleven years. Citizens who contract Division are defined by the following symptoms:

  • Unaccepting of other people’s opinions.
  • Agressive diatribes against one another.
  • Rhetoric, with the sole purpose of angering other citizens.
  • Over-exaggeration of extremely rare instances of the previous three symptoms.
  • Cruel, bully-like actions used to serve self-interests.
  • Violent outbursts, otherwise defined as Mass Shootings.

As you can see, there’s several symptoms of varying intensity. Citizens rarely experience all of them, only one or two–and it will be an extremely unfortunate day when all citizens experience all symptoms, which, by statistics and common sense, is 99% impossible. That doesn’t mean Division isn’t a relevant issue; in fact, it’s tearing America apart. If any other diseases wanted to afflict American citizens, there’d be no greater time than now, and it’d take a long time to find a cure to them.

Division by itself is quite harmless; in fact, it’s only as bad as it is because American citizens continue to spread it. Talk about not washing your hands, these people aren’t following all the regulatory Health Guidelines of resting up and finding ways to lessen the effects of their ailments. It won’t be long before WHO sets up a National Quarantine and declares Division an epidemic; they may be already working towards such actions as we speak.

To those in foreign countries around the world, Division may seem a trifle compared to your much more significant issues, but here, it’s a large problem, and no one is willing to step up and find ways to combat it. If no one does something about it, it may spread and grow, becoming more than America can handle. Then what? Then what?

As long as Division continues its harsh reign, many of its symptoms will ingratiate themselves further into places of American society, possibly the rest of the world–although, the latter is unlikely.  It’s no wonder, then, that millions of American citizens currently suffer from Division and its ravaging effects. People are content in their sickness; they see no problem in it–and therein, as Hamlet might say, lies the rub.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

Photo Credit: iStock.

 

 

 

Our Second Anniversary–A Few Words.

How is everyone tonight? Maybe you’re a bit average, and maybe you’re above average: excellent or enthusiastic or terrific, all those fancy words that lost their meaning the tenth time they were used.

I am doing well; in fact, this long hiatus has done me some good. I am nearly finished with the first draft of my third novel, Society, At Large, and I have got to tell you, it’s one hell of a book. I’m proud of it, as I hope many others will be after publication.

Sophomore year of college, too. Who’d have figured? Comes up so fast, life does, as I’m sure many of you know. Done many things. Met many people. Written many words. Thought about–I’ve thought about quite a bit, much of it good, some of it obsessive.

I’ve learned about the current politics of the U.S.A. Y’know, Donald Trump and Kim-Jong Un; my, that was one historical meeting, wasn’t it? Politics, to me, are so interesting because, with politics, there’s never a clear answer to anything. There’s dozens of factors to consider, people to talk to, and tasks to delegate before making a decision. I question why anyone in their right mind would want to involve themselves in that crazy world seemingly separate from our own.

I’ve noticed they appear everywhere, politics do, especially at college. You can be sitting in the lunchroom, chowing down on a pizza, and hear someone discoursing on the pros and cons of America’s economical situation. I dunno much about the economy, still learning about it; however, I have my friend Adam Smith to help me out. He has one book, but I’ve heard it’s a killer.

What’s my point here? Am I attempting to sketch out the previous events of my life in uncoordinated fashion? Am I reaching for some truth I can’t ever find in life, but which I hunt down so ruthlessly in words? Is EVERYTHING for the sake of, what, a few views and likes? Put it like that, and it makes it sound like a social scam, a ruse I’m putting up for no known reason. Deception is a word that comes to mind, but–

I don’t know.

I don’t know why I do this, why I continue to do it. Call it energy or life blood, either way, it’s not a matter easily settled in a couple short discussions. At the tip of my tongue every time, it feels like, escaping me, and I never find out the truth. It’s always gone before I reach it.

Thoughts of A Southpaw’s 2-Year Anniversary was at the beginning of this month. I missed it, but I’m making up for it now. This anniversary somehow means more to me than the first. I can’t imagine why it would, but as I said, the truth escapes me when I need it most.

This year was interesting. It was fun, and it was sad. It was exciting, and it was depressing. I discovered many things about myself I wouldn’t have, had I not taken a break. There’s so much I want to say and do, make some change in the world, and writing makes feel like I can accomplish all of that and more.

People can talk about empty promises and holding themselves accountable, and they can be absolutely bullshitting everyone. Only I know if I’m doing that, and I don’t think I am. Writing is my power, and I’m learning how to wield it as I grow older. Above all, I see writing as a tool that when used in capable hands, can make ripples in the waters of the world, be they of good or disastrous intent. It depends solely on the person holding the pen.

Perhaps the truth will always escape me. It’ll scurry away whenever I’m close to catching it, and despite my best attempts to stop, I’ll keep going. We all desire some truth, some ideal we hold ourselves to. Don’t be ashamed of it; rather, be proud of your drive and intellect, your spirit and action. Grab it by its collar and shout in its ear, “I’m coming for you!” Feel it shrivel at your will. Whatever power it holds over you is no greater than the power within yourself, that power you control, that you display.

It’s taken me some time to figure that out for myself, and I can only hope it doesn’t take as long for you.

Years will come, and they will go, but time will always remain within your power.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Photo Credit: Emily Lotka

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

 

 

Mountains

Sometimes I feel like I just want to go into the mountains, say “Fuck it,” and just stay there for the rest of my time. See it as some kinda therapeutic practice–some bullshit excuse for not wanting to deal with all the stress of everything; and man, I dunno, but college is a hard fucking thing.

It doesn’t get easier, that much I know is true. It’s not even fun half of the time. Is it supposed to be? Am I missing some great answer; this grand illusion is obscuring all that I can see?

What am I supposed to be, a nicely dressed, nicely combed college student who swears up and down all of that scholarly shit that’s not even truthful half of the time? What the hell’s with people nowadays, anyway? Half the time, they’re preaching stuff I doubt they even believe; the other half the time, they’re complaining about the truth of the matter, leaning in favor of the candy-coated, cherry-on-the-friggin’-top version.

Truth is, it ticks me off. Oh, yeah, you think I’m into that? Hell no.

I don’t wanna feel like I’m pretending anything, either. It’s like we gotta wear masks everywhere we go in this life, switch them out for different occasions; it’s a load of crap, man, I tell you.

Be who you’re gonna be. Yeah, Barbie sang a song about it, so maybe she’s got the right idea.

Be who you’re gonna be regardless of what people say, think, or do, ’cause the only person it matters to is you.

Sounds easy. It’s not. I’m sure most of you, if not all, know that, might even have trouble with it on a day-to-day basis.

Keep fighting the good fight, though. It’s the best you can do in this world, just keep your head up; but I know most of this will go over most of your heads, as we only listen to the advice that sounds good to us.

Right? Wrong? All of the above?

I dunno.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

From the Standpoint of A Teen…

What’s up, everybody?

I haven’t seen you guys the past few weeks, been hectic with college starting back again. I got papers and more papers. Not to mention, I’m also working on two of my novels, trying to salvage enough time to accomplish all of it.

I’ve been good, y’know, being eighteen, getting used to Life; although, I’ve been getting used to it since I came into this world. It’s not as if once you leave high school, you’re initiated into this Adults-Only Section–and no, I’m not talking about the place where they store the dirty movies.

That ticks me off. Not the dirty movies, just the adults who forget what it’s like to be young, to have a fresh view of the world. I’m talking about the adults who patronize those on the fringes of adulthood: this teeter totter that rocks perilously over either side of an angst-filled abyss.

We don’t have a friggin’ map. People don’t provide one for us, and most of the time, we have to cut our own path through the jungle. Machetes are not provided. Also, water evaporates fairly quickly.

Guess I let it get to me sometimes, which is not so bad as it is disheartening. I think it’d be better if we all shook hands and congratulated one another on our accomplishments–but the world can’t always be so black and white.

We have different perspectives for a reason, yeah? For one, we’d be super bored without them. Imagine having a conversation with someone about Lord of the Rings, and for some reason, the other guy is as big a fan as you are, which should be impossible, ’cause you’re number one, right?

That’s to say we’re all a number one in one area of our lives. Least, I like to think so. Maybe you’re number one at pool or darts; hell, give hockey a shot, and you might end up in the NHL.

Chances, man, take ’em, but don’t get me started on how many times I’ve missed out on publication opportunities because I’ve forgotten the deadline. Yeah, I’m working on that part, getting better, though; y’know, learning from failure.

I know for a fact that the majority of my followers are adults, so, if you’re reading this, lemme plead to you from the standpoint of a teen:

  • We’re not all lazy, and if we are…we’ll work on it, got eighty more years, anyhow.
  •  Getting a job is not as easy as it used to be, but we’ll bust our asses until we find one.
  • Lastly, do you remember when you were our age?

Yeah, yeah, I get it’s called a generation gap, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it; and besides, the best way to get past a gap is to build a bridge.

A metaphorical one, of course.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

 

Alex Schomberg

Does Genre Fiction Get A Bad Rap?

So, is it just me wondering this, or are there a bunch of you curious about the same thing?  Genre Fiction. This is Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Horror, you name it; it’s everything except Literature, and it doesn’t look like its reputation in the the writing community has become any less infamous.

I’m a writer and a reader. I love all books, be they The Silence of the Lambs or Tess of the Durbervilles. ‘Course, the quality wanes in some books, and in others, it surpasses my expectations, but, man, that goes for everything on the planet.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that Literature often criticizes Genre Fiction for not having enough beautiful, inspired prose, while Genre Fiction complains Literature can be boring as hell.

I can see both sides of the argument, and I understand them. They’re rational, for one, and, well, you’re not gonna go to Tarzan of the Apes looking for artful sentence structure, and Tom Wolfe’s writing is not so heart-pounding and adventurous, as it is introspective and inspiring.

The conflict; however, boggles me. Most genre fiction is influenced by classic literature.

We wouldn’t have I Am Legend without Dracula.

We wouldn’t have Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone without The Fellowship of the Ring.

We wouldn’t have Jaws without Moby Dick.

See, comparisons are scattered all over history, but most times, people forget to look.

It’s all art, right? At the end of the day, man, they’re just stories written for different purposes, drawing out different lives and scenarios, putting characters against unimaginable conflicts, hoping they’ll survive.

Books are great. Art is great. Literature and Genre Fiction are great.

Yes, they’re separate in structure and character and conflict and other writerly mumbo-jumbo, but they are connected through the art of writing; and since both are written–well, there’s one comparison.

Think daily,

A Southpaw

 

Photo Credit: Alex Schomberg