Archive for August, 2012

observation

Posted in Uncategorized on August 23, 2012 by darryl zero

if i’m going to dwell in that non-world of numbness between moments of ecstatic release and stretches of endless despair, at least i will do so at the expense of my own happiness, rather than drag down an undeserving partner.

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8:14 (76)

Posted in eight fourteen with tags on August 14, 2012 by darryl zero

This is the third time I’ve started this post, and I still don’t really know what to say.

By the time most of you will read this, 03:15 Central Standard Time will have passed, making me officially thirty-two years old. I don’t really know what else to say about it, really, other than I’m now two years into “the life beyond”—that is, I had absolutely no concept of life past this age when I was a child.

I want to say—I wish I could say I’m really at the point at which there is anything substantial separating the man I am from the child I once was. I really want there to be something, but now, celebrating in the only way I know how to celebrate anything in life (alone and engaged in the act of creation such as I’m capable of engaging in it), I realize I’m not. I’m still a boy in so many ways, and in that way I’ve succeeded at the one thing I swore to myself before anything else, before the non-pork-eating or non-drinking or non-drugs using ways: that I would fucking always be as I was when life was cool, when nothing mattered and all I needed to do was simply know and want to know more.

My birthday always used to signal the end of the summer, one last reminder that the time out of school would soon come to an end. I wasn’t especially keen on school for the briefest of times; by the time I was old enough to understand what school really meant (high-speed internet, a respite from the functionless nothingness of enduring life with my father in the house), though, the beginning of school became something else. By the time I hit college, my birthday was a downright blessing, not in the usual “holy gods I get shit” type way, but in the knowledge that soon, the girls would be back on campus, and I’d get to go to classes soon, and I could run to the station and bury myself in the world that made sense to me.

I suppose I never really found a replacement for that world—and, even then, that world in itself was a replacement for the world I grew up in, the world that doesn’t exist anywhere anymore except in my memories, whose landmarks and testaments have been completely removed from existence.

I wonder if this will be my year. I wonder if this is my time. And, yet, I realize that time is not mine, that if I want anything out of life, the time has fast come for me to take it.

bang bang

Posted in Uncategorized on August 9, 2012 by darryl zero

I originally started this piece after the Aurora, Colorado shooting, but decided it wasn’t as important to write about at length, given all of the other, more substantial debate taking place in various forums. After Sunday in Oak Creek, however, in anticipation of the escalation of debate on the subject, I have to weigh in.  This is just conjecture, and not meant to be a catch-all of all my feelings on the subject.  This is just me thinking.  I can offer more specifics if you’d like.

In early 1998, I was finishing up an uncomfortable senior year of high school in Ankeny, Iowa. Like most kids my age, I was picked on and made fun of; unlike most kids my age, I was a Black kid who didn’t play basketball and was more a fan of obscure records and comic books than I was of the more popular Black pop culture icons of the day, constantly surrounded by rich white into whose groups I could never fit in even if I’d wanted to. Like most high schoolers, I saw my daily routine as a Sisyphean undertaking, enduring the constant judgment that may or may not have been going on, envisioning the social caste system as an institution of unfailing corruption that needed to be torn down. To say I hated the majority of my classmates was a bit of an overstatement, but it wasn’t far from the truth.

I wrote a lot back then (not unlike I do now); one such piece I wrote was a slightly-fictionalized short story about the small group of friends I did have. Like most of my writing, the story served as a not-unsubstantial piece of catharsis; in one scene, an obvious fantasy sequence, my friend Lyle (name changed) and I sauntered into school, clad in black trench coats, armed to the teeth, and killed everything that moved before we blew up the entire building.

About a year later, Lyle and I were off at college, having realized very quickly that life goes on after high school and that internalizing the wrath we’d felt toward the people we hated in high school was the first step toward doing other, more interesting things in the ENORMOUS world outside of our suburban life. And Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold decided to actually do what I’d only written about.

I remember being unnerved and infuriated. Like Harris and Klebold, Lyle and I were relative outsiders; we had friends, sure, but were different enough from the norm that the general attitude among the Ankeny zeitgeist was that we were weird. Like Harris and Klebold, we listened to aggressive, subversive music that people thought was offensive and evil; like Harris and Klebold, we liked to dress in black. Like Harris and Klebold, we wished ill on the people that made fun of us. Unlike those two, though, Lyle and I had been disciplined as children to realize that there was more to life than our agendas or our needs. This initial understanding—that the world didn’t revolve around us—enabled us to realize that there was more to life than high school, that life got better, and that being picked on, infuriating as it may have been, was hardly something to drive us to kill—at least, in real life. That one of the most tragic mass shootings in American history was caused by two kids our age was as nonsensical as it was offensive—in essence, Klebold and Harris became exactly what they undoubtedly thought they were destroying: petty, stupid, oppressive assholes.

In 2002, I watched Michael Moore’s Bowling For Columbine and, while I loved it, it did stick a few things in my craw that it took years to dislodge, the most lasting of which being the overwhelming layperson reaction to the film. The film does a great job of examining the American people’s general desensitization to violence and the over-emphasis on guns and gun violence; that said, consensus opinion of most of the people I knew that watched the film gravitated toward how guns were somehow the source of the problems the film displays and describes. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I let it go largely because, during the Bush Administration, there were many other problems to focus on, especially when it decided to invade Iraq again. As the world basically went to shit (or, at least, the good graces and good standing of this country did), I wouldn’t go so far as to say the last thing on my mind was domestic gun violence—but, to be honest, I think pretty much all of us had more pressing things on which to focus.

When the Obama Administration showed up, however, the gun debate popped up again, albeit in the weirdest way imaginable, when a certain subgroup of crazy white people started insisting that Obama was going to take away their guns. I tried as hard as humanly possible not to look at them for the idiots they were and bit my tongue if for no other reason than it’s hard enough to deal with and engage white privilege when the people oblivious to said privilege aren’t tacitly admitting to being heavily armed. And then the Gaby Giffords incident happened and blew the lid off the can of worms, taking part of the can and a few of the worms with it. What hurt me most is seeing people who fall within a political sphere embracing logic and reason somehow speaking out in absolutes in the weirdest of ways. It only got worse when the Aurora incident happened—reached a flashpoint, really—to the point at which people look at Jared Loughner and James Holmes (and, if they really cared enough, Wade Michael Page) as proof that the U.S. needs stricter gun control laws, lest we continue to be perceived by the rest of the world as “barbaric.”

While it would be stupid to say that gun control isn’t an important issue and that unfettered access to weapons of all kinds isn’t the wisest way to build a safe, healthy society, I do find it interesting that, at least informally, the same kind of people calling for a crackdown on guns and gun ownership are often the same kind of people who emphatically support, say, the legalization of certain drugs. As is normally the case with well-intentioned (usually white) liberalism, the arguments post-Aurora have basically made it so that anyone who dares insinuate that guns aren’t the problem essentially has their Liberal card taken away for being an evil, baby-killing gun-lover.

And it’s fucking irritating, frankly, because, when I look at Loughner, Holmes, Page, Klebold, Harris, Muhammad, Malvo, and the like, I see a completely different problem than simple gun ownership. I look at people like that and I see McVeigh, or Salameh, Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, John King, or any one of hundreds of people that have killed others without firing a single shot from a firearm. There’s one trait consistent with each of the dozen-plus men I named—and, strangely, it’s the one trait people seem to forget: that, at one point in time, each of those men decided that the health, safety, happiness, well-being, and life of other people wasn’t as important as their desire to do what they pleased. I think it’s interesting that, just as when the Columbine shootings went down, people immediately gravitated toward the music, movies, and video games the shooters allegedly consumed; while thankfully the hubbub over what made Seung-Hui Cho go on a rampage at Virginia Tech’s campus was brief and inconclusive, that it took a while to come to what was, of course, a logical conclusion is an unfortunate sign.

I keep going back to the point Chris Rock made on Columbine. Everyone remembers the “bullet control” bit (which is actually a good point), but I went to “whatever happened to ‘crazy’?”:

Because, really, you can say the exact same thing about Page, or Major Nidal Hassan, or Holmes or Klebold or any of those guys: either they were crazy from the jump and their brains wasn’t working when they went off, or something in their programming—namely, the something that says “hm, instead of actually bringing guns to school and shooting people, maybe I’ll play this violent video game or lift weights or watch A Clockwork Orange or hit a punching bag or ride a bicycle or read a book or play Magic: The Gathering or do absolutely anything that does not fucking involve killing people” never got uploaded into their operating system–either because of their parents not teaching it to them or by people explicitly condemning adults from teaching kids that a little bit of order is actually pretty good, and that actions have consequences.  (And no, I don’t think the tragedies of Aurora, or Oak Creek, or Virginia Tech, Columbine could have been prevented by something as simple as spanking–it’s not the spanking I emphasize so much as discipline and just establishing simple fucking respect for authority and consequence.)

Which, of course, gets to the burden of my speech. In an ideal scenario (as ideal as a scenario like this can get, anyway), “crazy” is the answer; “dude can’t handle reality, dude loses his shit, uses a tool to kill a bunch of people.” Crazy is an isolated incident—the exception to the way things are. The problem, of course, is that things like this are happening more and more often, even inspiring potential copycats in the blink of an eye, proving the problem isn’t guns, and never has been.

What anti-gun folk fail to acknowledge is that a gun is a tool. A potentially deadly tool with a very specific purpose, yes, but a tool nonetheless. Without a mind and body to work it, a gun is just a piece of metal and plastic and , until weapons start thinking for themselves, a gun is no more or less deadly than any other machine in the wrong hands. You know, like a truck or van filled with explosives, or an airplane at the right velocity, or a car driven by someone that doesn’t have the ability to maintain control over it—and, while you may argue that cars, trucks, and planes aren’t specifically designed to injure people, I would counter that only a fool would look at an object filled with flammable liquids capable of moving at high speeds as anything other than a potential hazard. I don’t mention this because I think automobiles or planes should be banned, or even internal combustion engines: mention this to call attention to the real problem.

The cold, hard fact of the matter is that brutality, cruelty, lack-of-empathy, sadism, and fear of the Other existed long before assault rifles were available to the public. Americans, especially so-called Liberals, don’t want to hear that, though, because they don’t want to be reminded of how recently scenes like this actually happened–

a more civilized time

–and how a widely-held idea can be so much more deadly than a gun.

Just a thought.