violence police brutality

When Violence Hits You in the Face

Some of you may know that last December I fell victim to violence one evening I got punched in the face. On an otherwise normal rainy Monday night, I walked from my office towards the train station, a total distance of roughly 2 blocks. This evening I had items to drop in the mailbox which required me to cross to the side of the street opposite my train entrance. I stopped just before the corner as the light changed, and rearranged the letters to avoid getting them wet. I felt a hand reach under my knee-length coat and give my ass a little brush.

Two names flashed in my head: Tara, Baylie—two close girlfriends who live in the city whom if they ran onto me on the street might greet in such a way. I looked up, already almost smiling, looking around to see a familiar face. In the span of just seconds, confusion turned excitement turned confusion turned to fear. I locked eyes with a scruffy-looking man standing a few yards behind me, staring. I charged and started swinging my umbrella, hitting him several times in the head. I stepped back and watched him approach me and bring his fist to my face.

For whatever reason, the blow to my face was some kind of moment of clarity that also meant nothing. In the way I imagine life flashes before your eyes when you’re dying, the world slowed down for me in the brief moment that a stranger’s knuckles pressed to my cheekbone. I had told a friend earlier that day I was so bored, caught in a rut, and dying for excitement in my life. As I got punched in the face, my first thought was, “Finally.”

In the moments that followed, I looked around, panicked, confused, and ultimately waiting for someone to tell me what to do. Bystanders saw what happened—it was Midtown Manhattan at rush hour. It was almost too crowded for him to have been able to bring his arm back to hit me. People rushed around me and some watched, and I looked at some in the face and no one said anything. That I could hear—truth be told, I had headphones in for this entire ordeal and thus did not hear much besides Fall Out Boy while this thing unfolded. But no one came to my side, stopped to ask if I was okay, tried to stop the guy who did it. I continued southbound, he turned east. I dropped my letters in the mailbox then went to a coffee shop to wipe up the blood and get some ice on my nose. The barista was unbothered.

I went home, called my mom, and began to process this event. Everyone asked the same question: did you call the police?

For several reasons, calling the police barely even occurred to me as I stood in the rain with a bloody nose. It was rush hour. I was scared and wanted to leave the situation. No one stuck around to play witness. The perpetrator was long gone and would be further long gone by the time the cops came because again—rush hour in Midtown. And I just could not imagine standing there in the pouring rain or sitting in Taco Bell with a bloody nose waiting to tell the cops some guy they would never find just hit me because I hit him because I THINK he touched my ass.

But after further deliberation and as the attack settled into my bones, I started to think about justice. This man committed a violent attack on me. I acknowledge that that sounds really blown out of proportion, but at the heart of the event, that’s what it was. I knew that by definition this was a sexual assault, though I recognize and thank God it was “not that bad” on the scale of sexual assaults. The punch itself hurt more, and still, was not that bad—no broken bones. But still, yes, I recognize this was a random act of violence. But I also recognize that I responded with violence, and to this day I hate that about myself and about that night. At the moment it felt like the right thing to do like I had to defend myself. But the reality is, I still don’t know for sure I got the right guy, and it didn’t make anything better. I didn’t feel better about the assault. My nose didn’t hurt any less. The cops didn’t pull DNA from my umbrella. I responded to senseless violence with senseless violence.

So I just gave it away, but I did end up going to cops after a few days of deliberation. And as soon as the words left my mouth in the police station I started to regret it. For starters, I knew I did not want to send this person to prison. Even if I thought they would catch him, which I knew they wouldn’t, I could not morally send a person to prison as a response to that crime. Yes, something bad happened to me. That person did something bad to me. But I know that sending him through our so-called criminal “justice” system would likely make him worse off than he already was.

The one reason I felt compelled to report was of course to keep other people safe. If he was going around doing this to other women, yes of course I would be full of regret and wish he was put away somewhere. But the reality is, it’s not my job to punish that man for his sins. And I am smart enough to know horrible things happen in prisons, and horrible things happen to people in prisons and after they leave. I could not wish any of those things on a person that committed such a relatively small offense against me.

Further, the experience of reporting to the NYPD was laughable. For starters, I think they do only care about what happened to you if they pull up to the scene and decide for themselves. As soon as the words “a few nights ago” left my mouth the first and only question was “Why are you telling us now?” And it wasn’t just me. As I sat in the precinct waiting for officers to get their paperwork together to transport me to another station, a man came in to report his phone was stolen an hour ago. “Why are you telling us now? Why didn’t you call an hour ago?”

People are not exactly trained in emergencies. Or rather, we are trained in real emergencies—we know what to do if our building catches on fire or if someone starts bleeding from their eyeballs. But in these ambiguous emergencies—especially in a city like New York—there are not a lot of day-to-day incidents I would really call an emergency. So no, we don’t automatically think “call the cops” even those of us with the privilege to grow up without fearing police. Sometimes it’s just a matter of “Am I in danger enough to need to call someone?” And the answer is no. As for me, why did I wait days? Well, I had to have a moral dilemma about it, and those things take time. And frankly, I didn’t know any less information on Thursday than I did on Tuesday so again, it didn’t really matter to me.

Back to the precinct, after I told two officers what happened and their eyes widened realizing I was, in fact, a “Special Victim,” I sat in the lobby for two hours awaiting police transport to SVU. It’s not actually called SVU in real life, but it is a team of detectives who investigate these vicious felonies. And their office is way downtown, and no, I was not allowed to escort myself there.

At one point when one officer didn’t know why I was sitting there, they announced across the entire precinct that I was a “special victim” and my stomach wretched at the thought of a woman surviving a rape or worse sexual crime sitting here having cops shout about it to anyone in earshot. Sensitivity does not exist here.

When I finally got taken downtown, learning on the way just how poorly these people in uniforms know how to even navigate this city they’re supposed to protect, my meeting went quickly. A detective took my statement, and introduced me to a virtual lineup.

When the attack happened, I saw the man’s face for probably 5 seconds in total, and each second his fist blocked my line of vision more and more. Needless to say, I didn’t get a great look at him. Another reason I didn’t call the cops when it happened: he was Black. Not only could I not identify him, I was not about to tell the cops to add another “unidentified Black male” to their hit list. Yes his Blackness and my inability to identify him much further from memory were facts, but I’m not stupid. I know how cops abuse those two facts and ruin lives.

The detective pushed me hard to remember any identifying factors even down to the color of his hat. I did my best. He plugged all the things into their database and presented me with a stack of matching profiles. He emphasized that the perpetrator very well might not be pictured, and that this was more for me to find similar features or the off chance that he was in the stack. The features I recalled were generic: Black, average height, average build, a little gaunt, grayish stubble. I think he was wearing a beanie. I clicked through dozens of mugshots of middle-aged Black men. None made my nose quiver so I assume his picture was not in the stack. Still the detectives did surprise me with their efforts, and they called me back a few days later to meet with a sketch artist.

The sketch artist was by far my favorite cop, if I had to name one. But in his office, again I was presented with a stack of pictures. This time it was just their collection of mugshots—Polaroids from what looked like the last several decades. The point was for me to find features that looked similar to my perp’s so I could show the sketch artists and he could come up with a composite sketch. All the detectives acknowledged the slim chances we would ever find this guy, but they certainly make it look like you are the guest star in this week’s Law & Order, and they will, in fact, find this guy. I know this is probably not everyone’s experience. And I’m not saying that to say it was a positive experience for me. I’m saying the whole time I was shocked that they did put in this much effort, and also I wish they didn’t.

I’ve never been called back to the police station to identify the guy, so I’m sure they didn’t find him, and again, I’m okay with that. What would it solve? I’ve thought about what I would want to happen—I do believe in justice and that this person committed an injustice against me. But what punishment would be appropriate? This is clearly a person that needs some kind of reforming. Judging by his appearance, I did assume he was struggling with homelessness—why? Is there mental illness at play? Has he himself been the victim of abuse? A victim of violence? He didn’t attack me in order to hurt my career, he didn’t take my money, he didn’t even intend to really physically hurt me in the first place, I don’t think. But something happened in his life or in his mind to make him think it was ok or he was entitled to touch me, and sending him to prison was not going to change that.

All of this to say, I hate violence. I hate to see it, and can personally attest that despite what it looks like in comedies, getting punched in the face is really not fun. But this interpersonal violence is really just a symptom of the systems of violence producing more and more violent actors. The cycle has to stop somewhere, and it stops with a victor. By that I mean, the night of my incident, I stopped the cycle of violence. He started by touching me, I continued by hitting him, and then stopped it by walking away after his final punch. He was the victor that night. But I restarted it when I went to the police. Because the police is an institution that by definition perpetuates the cycle of violence—both interpersonally in the single acts of police brutality we’ve all seen too many times, and systemically through their contribution to the prison industrial complex. By introducing the police into my relationship with this perpetrator, I guaranteed that the cycle of violence would continue should they ever identify him. Yes, I am hoping and confident they won’t.

Why do I support rioting? Because the powers that be have proven time and time again they will not stop the cycles of violence they perpetuate. If there are so many good cops, why haven’t they stepped up to stop the cycles of violence they witness in their communities? If it’s only a few bad apples, why do we keep finding them? Black people have been the victim of so many systemic cycles of violence for far too long. There are two options: we roll over and continue to be the victim or we fight back and try to stop the cycle of violence. Right now, that might mean doing a little violence—if you can even call it that. Burning a building, robbing a store is simply not the same as shooting a person—even if the bullets are rubber. Stealing from companies that routinely rob people of labor, wages, and ideas is simply not the same as macing and beating people.

To people who only support the police use of force for people committing crimes, I beg—what does that solve? Sure, a person blinded by pepper spray might have trouble getting away with a free pair of sneakers, but who benefits from that? The sneaker makers? Then why do they have insurance? And how much of the profit from that pair of sneakers is going to the person who stitched on the logo? It just never fails to amaze me how “good” cops are at stopping crime when it’s theft or vandalism or loitering, but never when it’s mass murders or sexual assaults. “Well Kamaron, how can they stop a crime they can’t predict?”

Exactly. Crime is predictable. We have the data, we have the research. We know what lowers crime rates and what raises crime rates. The police and the powers of white supremacy are ignoring it because it weakens their power over Black people and people of color. Call me a radical, call me paranoid, but this is the fact. Communities where people are engaged and supported see far less crime—and it’s not because some police force came in and rounded up all the criminals. It’s because some teachers, some mentors, some leaders got together and said okay these people are struggling how do we help them before they find poor coping mechanisms such as…violence?

Enough.

When This is All Over I’ll Be Angry Then

A couple of weeks ago (lol) I started to wonder when our “quarantine” behavior just becomes our normal behavior. From the moment Americans started social distancing and staying at home, the major messages I started to see from the Positive Vibes Only™ section of the internet included: “Be kind to yourself. Don’t beat yourself up over missed workouts or extra snacks. This is a pandemic you’re trying to survive—forget all the nonsense of looking Instagram-perfect.” All great messages.

But at the same time, we’re in the middle of a global crisis, one that will only end if people do what they’re supposed to do. So when people aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, it’s difficult not to judge them, at least for me. Still, it’s a pandemic—most of us did not know what it was like to live with any kind of restrictions like the ones with which we’ve been living. How could I expect an entire population to just change their lives in a snap? Well, I did it, so…

I’m trying not to be angry now, in the name of survival. Spending most of your time between four walls with no one but your reflection shockingly does not leave a lot of space for bad energy. But it does give me plenty of time to see and think about everything happening all around me.

As with my other posts addressing this crisis, I have to acknowledge my privilege. I have the privilege of having a job, a home, and food to eat. My job was largely unaffected by the crisis, and the crisis, in fact, has been somewhat good for our business. Therefore, while I have been uncomfortable, upset, and annoyed with the whole pandemic, I have always acknowledged the privileges I have had throughout. In the grand scheme of things, COVID-19 has been a minor inconvenience to me.

That being said, for those of us not financially or physically affected by the pandemic, we are allowed to gripe. It’s hard. It’s new and different and scary, frankly, because we acknowledge that today we have the privilege of health as well. But that could change with the next trip to the grocery store. For me it did change with an afternoon run that broke my ankle and took the privilege of total ability out of my reach for the time being. It’s fine. I’m fine. This is fine.

We can gripe, but for the love of God can we calm down? I’m saying “we” to be nice when I really am pointing a finger at some of the behavior I have seen during these uncertain times.

Thankfully, I do not know anyone personally who has been protesting in the streets for businesses to reopen. But I sure do know some people who have been really loud about what I—as a fellow privileged person—would consider minor inconveniences. I know folks who complain about having to stay inside, yet they are also outside and at places or visiting friends or having driveway parties or what have you.

People I know have lost a little business, and that sucks I won’t take away from that. But some of those same people also still have a business and know they will have a business when this is over.

You know I love to think about history and imagine what it would be like to have lived through some of the crazy eras of time. Sometimes I struggle to think about being a person in history who would have had to do something. Like if I were an 18-year-old boy during the Vietnam War—would I have tried to dodge the draft? Would I have known the war was an imperialistic disaster? It’s likely I would have had to act.

This blip in history is not even really asking most of us to act, yet here some of you are acting out like you want to be the next Donkey of the Year. I can’t believe if we make it to 2080 I’ll be telling my grandkids about how I survived because I decided I could do my nails at home.

“Were you brave grandma?”
“Well kids, it was hard. But by the grace of God, we had Instacart.”

Seriously. It’s been said that this disease has been “The Great Equalizer” and then that was quickly rebuked by the fact that we told everyone to “go home” when hundreds of thousands of people don’t have such a thing. Not only has this exposed the wealthy for their gross gluttony, it has also exposed the way they cannot handle minor inconveniences.

Controversial philosopher Kylie Jenner once theorized that 2016 was the year of “realizing things.” As it turns out we have not stopped realizing things since 2016. Things have happened that have appeared unfamiliar, but more or less nothing new has occurred. They have felt new because they have happened with new lenses available that have exposed sometimes hidden meanings.

What I’m saying is wealth inequality is nothing new. But when you have millions of people unsure about how they’re going to pay rent, while you have other people complaining about the cell reception at their beach house, it’s very easy to realize that wealth inequality exists. Racism is nothing new, but when a novel virus starts infecting Black and brown communities at disproportionately higher rates, it becomes pretty easy to realize that racism exists.

Likewise—selfish, greedy, unsympathetic, and ignorant people have always existed. But when scientists beg them to stay home for a few weeks for their own benefit and the benefit of others, I quickly realized how many of those people I know.

It is true that our governments have failed us. It is also true that a lot of the people griping about the restrictions put those governments in place.

When I started writing this George Floyd was still alive. Black Americans and some others were still mourning Breonna Taylor or raging over Chris Cooper while thanking God he’s still alive. Yet when the videos of Floyd’s horrific murder began flooding my timelines, it occurred to me that people all around me were realizing that we aren’t kidding when we say they are killing us in the broad daylight.

I’ve found in recent years I’ve become much more sensitive to graphic violence. I recognize this as a positive thing because it reminds me that I am still soft and human despite years of desensitizing. But at the same time I’ve become more sensitive than I ever was before social media. Scary movies though unrealistic have become more difficult to watch—though I also acknowledge scary movies have gotten a lot darker thematically. I digress.

Seeing George Floyd’s murder on video, and seeing the still image of the cop’s knee into his neck made my skin boil. But further, seeing the outpouring of people I know clicking retweet or like or share so so fast on these images. Did you even process it? Something has happened that is good—at least in my circles, fewer people are denying the truth of such a video or the relevance of such an image. But something horrible has also happened that has made a lot of those people very comfortable to continue dispersing those images carelessly.

Further, it occurred to me that suddenly a lot of people recognize racism when they see a white man kill a Black man on video. However, those same people could not recognize it weeks ago when they learned COVID-19 has infected Black people at a higher rate than white men. Racism wasn’t a problem if it meant we could “return to normal” and go back to not tipping enough at restaurants that employ so many Black and brown folks.

I’ve written incessantly about the Civil War and how bloody it was and how such mass mourning reshaped America. Across four years of fighting, over 600,000 people died in the Civil War. In just around 4 months, over 100,000 Americans have perished from this disease. But if we don’t mourn them, nothing will change.

all that money

What are you going to do with all that money?

There’s been a lot of chatter about billionaires lately. Which itself is very funny to me because when I was a kid I couldn’t conceptualize what a billion dollars even is, and if I thought someone had that much money his face was on a Monopoly box. Now they’re this sketchy group of nerds that half the country is trying to take down a notch while the other half tears their clothes and gnashes their teeth at the thought. I’m not going to get too political here, but I have one question—what are you going to do with all that money?

It’s the question they ask lottery winners or Jeopardy champions on TV, and if you’re like me you probably have an idea of how you’d answer. That’s because if I were to be presented with a large sum of money, currently I would be saying “Well X amount will be going to my student loan servicers. Y amount will be going to my good friends at the credit card company, and with the $20 I have left I’ll probably get dinner.” That’s where I’m at, and that’s where millions of Americans are at.

But that’s just for a dollar amount that I can clearly allocate. $50,000 would be a life-changing amount of money to me today, but I can deduct line items from it and in a couple of days have completely depleted it. A billion dollars? I can imagine where I would get started, but after a week of house shopping and vacation planning I’d kind of be like okay now what? So when I see people like Bezos and Gates and all the others in the billionaires club with tens of billions of dollars to their name, I get itchy.

The point of money is to spend it, right? Because we designed our global society on this transfer of paper money for goods and services vital to life itself. Everything beyond what you need to survive is excess. And a little excess isn’t necessarily a bad thing. A lot of excess would not be that bad of a thing in my opinion, except when there are people who have nothing. It’s because of the state of wealth inequality and the sheer amount of poverty in the world that I really am wondering okay what are you going to do with all the money?

Bill Gates said in an interview last week, 

“Maybe I’m just too biased to think that if you create a company that’s super valuable, that at least some part of that you should be able to have — a little bit for consumption, and the balance to do philanthropic things.”

I think that’s one of the major points of contention over billionaires—people think “Bill Gates changed all of our lives with Microsoft, so he deserves all that money.” To that I say sure, credit where credit is due—but at what point is historical recognition, the eternal gratitude of humanity, and the sheer power of knowing you’re one of the brains behind modern technology not enough to compensate for your work? At a certain point the money that people like Gates accumulate becomes more than they could even spend on their own interests so why do they want to keep so much of it? They don’t carry their money around like a trophy. They’re not putting their literal cash on display for all to see. What is it for?

Money is not impressive. What do you get for being the richest person in the world? A pat on the back. Your name at the top of a list on a website or in a book? You will still be subject to the human condition. You can afford to have a better life than most people, and to these ultra-rich, I say go for it. You may have earned that at least! But the thing is—after you do all that, you still have so much left over.

I can understand one of these people saying “Well I don’t trust the government to appropriately use my billions,” as a reason to not want the tax. Because it’s a fact that governments can be corrupt and misuse tax dollars. But I also haven’t heard any of these guys offer up a better suggestion. Sure, Bill Gates does a lot of philanthropy. He even started a major initiative to encourage more wealthy folks to do the same, but it’s not enough. If you can change the world once with a computer, I don’t see why you can’t do it again with your money. 

There was this little period one time when I was a teenager where in the course of maybe two weeks my mom gave me $20 on two separate occasions, and both times I lost it. While I’ve rarely been in the position to be able to just “throw away” $20, much less $40, but losing this money was not detrimental. And to ration with my misfortune (or irresponsibility) I just reason that someone who needed it will find it. I was blessed to have the $20 in the first place, now hopefully someone will find it and maybe that will allow them to eat for the first time in a day. When you have enough for yourself, why can’t you take the gamble to see what someone else can do with your excess? Spread the wealth.

What to 2018 is the Fourth of July?

Like baseball and American pie, there’s nothing more American than loving America. You don’t even need a reason at this point, just subscribe to the Trump Doctrine™, “We’re America, bitch.” Okay, you don’t have to go that far. But This July, like every July, we’ll set aside our differences for a day to watch fireworks and eat hotdogs and settle in to worship our lord and savior, George Washington.

But in 1852, Frederick Douglass challenged this holiday in delivering what would become one of his most notable speeches, What to a Slave is the Fourth of July? In this oration, Douglass outlines the whole—at that point brief—history of the United States and applauds the courage and fortitude of the founding fathers. But in doing so he calls out the hypocrisy of this foundation that promoted ideas of freedom and independence while upholding the institution of slavery. He proclaimed,  “Fellow citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are today, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them.”

Nearly two centuries later, I’m thinking the same thing. We have come a long way from the slave trade days, but we continue to live in a country that prides itself in moral superiority and unfettered Freedom without a whole lot of supporting evidence. We have Freedom*

*Unless you’re black and run into the wrong cop, or a child migrating illegally, or a refugee seeking asylum or a woman looking for a job with fair wages and protection from harassment, or trans and trying to use whatever bathroom you want, or a kid trying to go to school without being gunned down, or, or…

So I beg the question—what to 2018 is the Fourth of July?

It’s okay to be proud of where you’re from—America or anywhere. But it’s also okay to be critical of where you’re from at the same time. It seems as though somewhere between Douglass’ oratory and now we lost that multitasking ability. Now when someone critiques America it has to fall on one side—liberal or conservative—and it often ends with the critic being called anti-American. Lest we forget that the Fourth of July celebrates a time when a bunch of guys got together and decided to critique their government (with guns!).

Liberals critique the government all the time—now and when they had the White House. Sure if we could quantify the critiques it would likely be more now, but I digress.

When liberals critique things like gun laws, police brutality, hate crimes, they get called any number of the classic slurs—snowflakes, libtards, PC police, sons of bitches, etc.

Often we’ve seen liberals get called socialist, communists, and other labels that insinuate that they are un-American because of their politics and their critiques of the government. Those persecuting liberals—or anyone who opposes the government for that matter—forget so quickly that this nation was founded on protest. We had no right to declare independence (we had no right to even live on this land, but that’s another essay). The colonists frankly got very lucky that they won the war because as we know, they all would have been hanged or exiled had they failed.

When individuals do something like kneel for the national anthem or plan a die-in at a grocery store, regardless of their true intention, none of these people have said it’s because they’re against America. Because that’s crazy. If anyone was so against America that they’d put their careers on the line, I’m fairly certain they would leave. Maybe that’s extreme, but have you ever had a disagreement with someone above you? Did it mean that you hated that person? Most of the time, no.

This goes both ways. Conservatives have an idea of what their America is to look like. Some of them think they’re on track to make this America “great” “again.” Their America is similar to the America of American Dream fame—a place where anyone can make it with the right amount of pluck and determination.

To conservatives who celebrate America every day, but especially on July 4, I ask what are you celebrating? There is a long list of incredible Americans who do globally inspiring things. And there is a long history of America doing great things and being a great nation. But it’s not all good, and it’s not a bad thing to acknowledge that.

If your favorite football team doesn’t win the Superbowl every year, do you still cheer for them? Of course. But you as a fan and supporter of that team might want to question why the team isn’t winning the Superbowl every year. Maybe the coach doesn’t know enough about football. Or maybe the players need to work better together as a team. Regardless, you shouldn’t keep cheering them on and pretend that winning the Superbowl every year isn’t the goal. If that’s not the goal, why are they playing?

To that point, I compare the idea that America is an exceptional nation and a leader in the world. We were founded on this principle that we will be a city upon a hill with all the eyes of the people upon us. There are a number of issues with that ideology, but for the sake of example, we’ll say this is the goal of the United States—to be the best and serve as an example for the rest of the world to follow. The fact is, the US is not winning the Superbowl right now, so what are we doing here?

If you are proud to be an American, you better be ready to back that up. Are you proud of the way we are ripping apart immigrant families? Are you proud of the way we lead the world in gun-related deaths per year by an exponential margin? Are you proud of ignorance? Are you proud of intolerance?

I’m not encouraging the other extreme, though. Walking around in shame for our nation is not exactly productive either. Like most things, American pride is best served in moderation. That doesn’t mean it should only be reserved for holidays, but I mean there’s a lot more to be proud of when you’re critical of yourself and your government. We have to be able to admit when we’re wrong, and we must be able to offer an explanation when we still think we’re right.

Freedom is the perfect example of this. We have a lot of freedoms to celebrate, I will never deny that. On the global scale, there continue to be too many nations where the freedoms we take for granted are not guaranteed. But that doesn’t make us perfect. It’s a privilege we should recognize especially when critiquing our government, but it doesn’t justify other oppressions. Just because Jim Crow ended doesn’t mean black Americans are in the clear, as we all should know by now. Just because we’re supposed to have Freedom of Speech doesn’t mean we should stand by while individuals use that to promote bigotry and hate. And just because we are a capital ‘F’ Free country does not mean we should be complacent in the crimes being committed by our government.

The 2012 opening of my favorite show, The Newsroom rings true to this day. Jeff Daniels delivers an eviscerating commentary on why America is not the greatest country in the world, and he doesn’t do it by calling for ‘civility’ or attacking either political party. He calls on us to wake up and go back to our roots of being brave, informed, and vigilant. I negate the argument that there is a period of time in the past that we need to aspire to emulate, but there are aspects of past periods we should look to. There are aspects of this country that do make it great. But we cannot and should not keep pretending that this nation is or ever was perfect. The goal is a ‘more perfect union.’ We have to try harder.

Eminem Takeover: Festival Season Has Never Looked So Shady

Music festival season is nearly upon us, and I like many other fans have been following lineup announcements like opening gifts on Christmas morning. But this year, Santa, or in this case the producers of festivals, seemed to all have the same idea: Marshall Mathers.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Eminem as much as the next guy. His bars occupy a lot of space on my workout and motivation playlists. I have appreciated every “return” Eminem has made to the charts, and welcomed his growth as an artist, despite being fonder of the original Slim Shady. But when it came to the announcements of these music festival lineups—Coachella, Governors Ball, Firefly, Bonnaroo, Boston Calling—seeing Eminem’s name appear in the largest letters on all the posters frankly bored me. Now certainly, I was not planning on attending all of these music festivals, if I could even afford to, but seeing the repetitive headliner bewildered me.

If I were to compile a list of the greatest artists of my generation, Eminem would likely be on there. But if I were to only pick one artist to play at every music festival, it wouldn’t be him. I don’t know that I could do that if given the chance, especially not if I was to be attending all of these festivals. Eminem’s latest album, Revival, debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, but only spent a week there. The album dropped in December of 2017, which likely contributed to its absence on notable year-end “Best Albums” lists, but I, for one, am still not seeing the merit of giving Slim headline spots at 5 major music festivals across the nation. Are the festival powers that be shoving Eminem down our throats? It kind of feels like it. Every year there is some overlap and in some years, an act has been the headliner at two festivals or so. But as far as I can tell, nothing like this has happened since Outkast reunited in 2014 and headlined Coachella, Governors Ball, and Firefly.

I asked my friend why she thought this happened with Eminem. She offered, “Because of what he did at the BET Awards.” Ahhhh. My friend was referencing the now notorious moment from October’s BET Hip Hop Awards when Eminem freestyled a roast of Donald Trump. It was a viral moment that coming from anyone else may have incited a tweetstorm from the President. But it didn’t. Eminem did something spectacular and unlike a lot of white artists by telling his fans outright, “If you’re for Trump, you can be against me.” The president did not respond. There are a number of speculations on why, but I think we all know the real reason—Eminem is a white man. That’s really all there is to it.

So while I think Eminem’s move was commendable, it still leaves me wondering if this is what earned him a spot headlining all these festivals. Does Coachella pick its artists based on activism? It’s unlikely. And if that is the case, if these festivals decided on Eminem because they think it’s a slap in the face of the presidency, I would advise them to think again. Yes, Eminem has picked his side and does not align himself with Trump, but if organizations are also trying to align themselves with the Trump resistance, it seems there are better options. Artists of color, artists who have been anti-bigotry since before the 2016 election, women, LGBT artists, Muslim artists, artists from “shithole countries,” the list of those better suited to stick it to the man is endless, and I appreciate the effort, but Eminem is not at the top of my list.

There are a number of different criteria for festivals to pick their artists, but the choice to have Eminem at all these venues baffles me. I’m underwhelmed musically and politically. If music festivals were really trying to take a stand, Slim Shady should probably sit down.

Women, America, and Selective Revolution

As a student passionate about American history, I read about all of the movements that have pushed this country to become better and better. I keep running into this issue, though, of the reaction to the American Revolution vs. nearly all movements that followed. I continue to be amazed by the amount of stubbornness in this nation. Why was the War for Independence the only revolution that was okay?

Simple— we got lucky.

We all know the story. The colonists, fed up with British taxes and ready to be a sovereign nation, overthrew their government and won the war to earn that right. Of course, it was not that simple, and the men that started the movement knew by doing so, they were accepting a noose if they were to fail. But they didn’t. Lucky for us, they were successful and thus we spell color without the u.

But the nation as we know her today was not born in 1776. In fact, she wasn’t really close to how we know her for another ten years. Yet, I am afraid the way the new Americans treated rebellions after their own was a red herring for the next two and half centuries.

First of all, the way Colonists treated their rebellion was not exactly justifiable in my book. While I am thankful for their efforts because of the outcome, I’m not sure it needs to be glorified the way it is. They quite literally held guns to the heads of men who did not want to participate in their acts of treason. They exiled them out of a country that was not yet theirs. No one pretends like this was a peaceful protest, but we forget when celebrating our Independence that it started as a protest.

Fast forward a century, and we are in the midst of the Civil War. Of course, I am thankful that the rebels this time were not successful, however, I have to question the legitimacy of Lincoln’s actions and the war that ensued. Weren’t the Confederates just replicating the Colonists? If they wanted to be on their own (granted, for horrific reasons), who was to say that they couldn’t? I suppose this is why war breaks out instead of peace talks, but it is so interesting to me that in a nation that celebrates the rebellion that founded it, why did we suppress any rebellion that followed?

The people in power get to decide if rebellions will work and when. Every movement that changed legislature or systems of government had to be accepted by whoever was in power. The first Women’s Movement did not turn into a war, but it changed some of the systems that oppressed women. The Civil Rights movement was closer to a war in the streets, but still did not go nuclear, and changed some of the systems that oppressed black citizens. The Women’s March was in no way a war, and hopefully will not turn into one, but the people in power have to make a change, but I am afraid they are too stubborn.

I’ve been processing the Women’s March for the last 24 hours and trying to make sense of everything that is happening in this country. I could not march because of travel, but I felt so empowered to see so many people standing together for equality above all else. Yet as soon as I go online, all I see is unrest. Not that I expected the march to defeat sexism and save the country, but I wish the opposition would see the issue here.

In general, the opposing side of events like the Women’s March are from people who continue to pledge their allegiance and patriotism to this nation. I do not understand how they see a difference between the women marching and the Boston Tea Party. In my history class, we talked about how the taxes on the colonists that allegedly pushed them to revolt were on objectively not that extraordinary. The thing we ignore, though, is that a colony of people felt oppressed. Were they themselves guilty of oppressing much larger numbers of people? Yes, of course, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole. Regardless, the colonists felt oppressed and they decided to do something about it.

We, the women and men who march, feel oppressed. We are not whining, we are not throwing a hissy fit. We feel oppressed, and we want to do something about it. You who oppress us do not get to decide whether or not we feel oppressed. That’s not how feelings work. Also, it’s not just a “feeling,” it’s a system. If the opposition had facts or evidence to support the idea that we are not oppressed, perhaps we would not be marching. The British could have pretended that the colonists had nothing to feel oppressed about, but they knew they were wrong so they fought back. Our oppressors know they are wrong, which is why they are fighting back with nonsensical tweets and “alternative facts” or whatever other circus acts they put out.

Maybe this won’t turn into a revolution, but I hope it does. It’s not about being conservative or liberal or green. It’s about being a human and acknowledging that we are all humans. And though the signers themselves did not believe it, this nation was allegedly founded on the idea that we are all created equal. The colonists felt unequal, and the British felt attacked, but they did not stop fighting.

Neither will we.

Boxes

It’s been a while since I’ve written on here, so I want to welcome readers old and new to the new home of Perfectly Offensive at kamaronmcnair.com.

As we have entered this new year, there has been so much going on in the world in politics, entertainment, news, etc. And of course, as with anything, there has come an outpouring of opinions all over the spectrum on things from celebrity deaths to the importance of football. I’m not trying to really share a political agenda in this post, but I want to warn of the danger of boxes.

I started thinking about boxes earlier today when I was thinking about being a millennial. Above all else, I think we can label this current era as the era of finger-pointing, because regardless of the issue, it seems most opinions are mainly looking for someone or some group to blame. If it’s a race issue black folks are pointing fingers at a system and white folks are pointing fingers at Chicago or something. If it’s a politics issue the left is pointing fingers at the right and vice-versa. If it’s an entertainment issue, apparently we’re all pointing our fingers at Meryl Streep and saying she’s right or wrong. I’m in my box blaming you, and you’re in your box blaming me, and nobody is winning.

I just saw an article on Facebook, the only legitimate news source (sarcasm heavily intended), about Mark Wahlberg condemning celebrities for getting involved in politics, and saying they should just stick to entertaining. This infuriated me, not because of my own political views, but because he is telling his peers to remain silent in issues that may or may not really affect them. He is saying, “You chose to be an actor, so you shouldn’t share your opinion.” He wants entertainers to remain in their box and stop trying to influence us laypeople in our less glamorous boxes.

Why is that a problem for me? It’s reductive. It’s dehumanizing. It’s frankly stupid. To think that a person who is successful in the arts should not share his or her opinion with perhaps the intention of influencing a broad audience is crazy to me. You could make the argument that we should go back to a time when no one talked about politics except maybe with their closest friends, but even that is to pretend that capital P “Politics” exist in a box that doesn’t affect our everyday lives. Why do we discuss politics in casual conversation? Because politics are a part of everything we do. Are we in a war? Will it be difficult to get a job when I graduate? Where can I get an affordable cancer screening? These are all questions that are ultimately determined by the political agenda of whoever is in charge. Why should anyone be pressured to remain silent on these issues?

If I’m not being clear, let’s think about boxes differently. Let’s think about bubbles. People older than me who may or may not have more experience than me love to remind me that when I’m at school or in my home or wherever I am, apparently, that I am in a bubble. That whatever I think is the normal human experience is not true because it is existing in a sphere unaffected by the “real world.” Sometimes they are correct. I know when I am at school I am surrounded by like-minded people and we’re all aged 18-22 and etc. etc., and that is a bubble. Duh. I am fully aware that when I walk out of my school I am no longer enclosed in that community of people who are similar to me. That is why I do not pass judgment on “real world” things based on the reaction of my bubble or myself. I know there are other bubbles out there who are affected differently and we all have to live together somehow as we all live in the bubble that is planet earth.

The point is, no person is just one thing. We can’t reduce person or people in a certain profession as just one thing or put them into just one box unaffected by the outside world. Creating these boxes ignores the fact that we all interact with each other on many different planes and living is a completely interdimensional experience.

Noise

I have this weird form of claustrophobia where it only affects my well being in super specific conditions. The fear that makes my heart race and breath irregular appears whenever either the use of my feet or my ears is compromised. The feet is just one of those comfort things I think is somewhat normal. I can’t sleep with my feet under the covers or in socks, and footie pajamas give me angina. I just like to know when the boogeyman reaches out from under the bed I’ll be able to kick back and maybe poke his eyes out with my toes.

The hearing issue is different, though. It is affected in even more specific situations, but also in the metaphoric sense. For example, I can be driving by myself and blasting music with no problem. But if I’m in a car with other people and music is blasting and someone tries to have a conversation, it feels like the walls are closing in. Or if I’m in a group and we’re trying to decide something and everyone is shouting ideas in a competition to see who can be the loudest, a part of my soul starts screaming. I just have this real sense of panic whenever there’s too much noise I can’t control.

I bet you thought this was going to be a political rant. Surprise, it’s not, and you’re welcome. I know we’re all tired of hearing about it. I am going to speak to that, though. I am excruciatingly tired of it. All I wanted was for the election to be over so we could carry on our everyday lives, but something unprecedented has happened, and everything has changed and no one really knows where to go. Or so it feels. It feels this way, at least to me, because there’s so much noise. It’s not even two-sided anymore. Everyone wants everyone to do something differently and we’re all just screaming at each other trying to be the loudest. We can’t even claim we’re the most correct because who knows what correct even looks like. I just want it all to be quiet again.

And even that, I’m told is wrong. I know it’s wrong in the sense that we should not continue to be complacent with the systematic issues like racism and sexism, but I can’t help but wish we could be complacent because at least it was the devil we knew. It’s funny because we know that with Hillary the world was not going to get better overnight. It may not have even improved much in four years. We know under Obama things got better but surely a black president did not do much for racism, and a woman president would likely do the same amount to fix sexism. But at least we knew they were trying. Trump isn’t even officially president yet and it seems someone picked up America and started shaking it like a snow globe. I want the snow to settle so we can see what’s going to happen. I know he’s the bad guy. I loathe that man, but it’s so loud in this country right now that I don’t even know what’s going to happen.