There is something chilling in our national adoration of guns and gun culture. Something that goes beyond a simple appreciation of shooting, or a desire to honor and champion the Second Amendment and freedom in America. What was once something that people had, a gun for hunting, maybe a handgun for self defense or home defense, has turned into a sickness that has lead to proliferation and absurdity. The need to have not just hunting weapons, or something for home/self defense but to have many guns, even stretching towards those use primarily for war or crime, is a new thing. An American thing. It has become obsession and greed. If there is a mass shooting you will see gun enthusiasts run towards their outlets to load up on whatever weapon or shell is held responsible for the crime to make sure they can load up before the right to own those things is taken from them.
In Hell, there is always room for one more.
Hell will take everyone – come one and come all.
It is Heaven that is exclusive.
Heaven as gated community, choosing only the best.
Ah, but who are the best?
Good question, no?
That part is a sliding scale that pushes the boundaries out, and out, and out so that Heaven is full of ghettos where ‘those’ people are.
The people who don’t follow X.
Hell, in accepting everyone, is not paradise, but it is reflectve of reality.
It is us.
The good, bad, and ugly.
Heaven is an ideal that no one can live up to.
It is the stick with which we push people.
It is the threat to make people behave and the promised treat at the end of a well lived life.
The living well again decided by us.
And I say all of this not as a criticism of religion or faith but as a way to change focus to us.
All of us.
As the needle moves culturally, as we wake up to the needs, hopes, fears, desires, and the overall experience of one another the plates we set our societies on shift. They must shift. We must grow, or we stagnate and the culture will die.
This isn’t about liberalism versus conservatism, this is about preservation.
We have cheated the system for far too long.
We have ignored the needs of too many people and we are paying that bill.
A bill that has been slowly doled out and we are finally looking at the total cst.
Pragmatically it makes no sense.
We need he full machine working in order to reach our potential.
What humanity has chosen to do is the equivelent of ignoring the use of your left hand and right foot as you move forward in life.
I get it, as a race, humans are territorial and as categorize.
With me or against me.
Lke me or different than me.
As advanced as we are, at our core, we are very tribal.
The seismic shifts that hit the culture start slowly, build, and last for years. Things will change, sometimes as a result of the shifts and sometimes in response.
Two steps forward, three back.
With each shift though you get those that are creating the shift and those that ‘wake’, who are newly aware at what is happening and who become akin to anyone that has found ‘god’ – they want everyone to find this new truth and by gumbo, you will!
And then there are those that refuse change.
Sometimes because they don’t see a need for change.
Somtimes because they don’t want the change.
Sometimes just because they don’t want to be told what to believe.
We are in a culture that has become choked with the invasive species we call ‘trolls’, who are people who have their beliefs and what they follow but who want nothing more than to disrupt things. Some do this to further their agenda but many do it just to be agents of chaos. They don’t care which way the wind blows, they just want to light the fire that burns the brightest.
The problem with these trolls is that they incite, inspire, and drive those that may not be passionate about a social issue to take not just a side but a stance, planting their feet firmly nd refusing to move.
It isn’t that these people are, say, racist, but that they don’t want to be told what to do, believe, or champion.
They don’t want to feel that they are being marginalized in order to raise someone up to a level they should already be at.
They don’t want to lose their standing.
Ah, and there is the heart of it, the foundation upon which our gates and walls are built – fear.
We don’t want to lose what we have, and even if we want to see others find their own happiness we are not willing to risk our own for that to happen.
A problem there, a fallacy is that discomfort and loss are synomous.
That they are the same.
Change brings discomfort.
It has to.
But that does not mean that you will lose what you have, not fully.
The goal culturally, should be that we are all on as close to equally footing as possible, and until that happens some people will get the spotlight until that can happen. That doesn’t mean they are better or more deserving but that they never had the same opportunities as, say, me. I got lucky in who I was born to, where Iwas born, and to the lifestyle I was born into.
Not everyone gets that.
Some get better.
Some much, much worse.
This isn’t about what is ‘fair’, it is about what is right.
So we work to make sure that people feel as if their face, their voice, their PERSON matters as much as I do, you do, and as anyone else. This isn’t about taking away your history and heritage but reconizing that other heritages are just as important and celebrating them.
But it is hard to change.
You can’t just be told to ‘wake’ and you are woke.
It doesn’t work that way.
Change happens when you are open to it or are forced to do it and social change that is forced isn’t going to lead us forward – it will hold us back.
While we need to force some change, we have to, when it comes to the changing of a heart, that has to happen at street level.
That has to be earned.
And it won’t be easy.
You don’t come by distrust, unease, and hate easily. You make the choice to head down those paths and then you work to make sure that your belief rings true in everything you do.
If you shake our beliefs then you shake who we are and what drives us.
So in changing a heart you have to understand that the only way it will change is when they see you as not just a checked box but as a person who they connect with.
Which isn’t to say that we should give racists and Nazis a hug because they are just misunderstood.
It is to say that people can change, but it won’t happen behind a keyboard or sign.
It has to happen as we come to one another as people.
But man, those walls.
The walls we build between one another.
And the thing here, the awful thing, is that we help one another build these walls just as we build those ghettos in Heaven.
By pointing our fingers at one another and telling each other that we are monsters, racists, bigots, sexist, liberal, snowflake, and a dozen other things. We lead with an accusation before anything else.
With me or against me.
We rarely work to find the commonality.
And it is hard.
It is hard to find it when you start out with the worst of someone, or your perceived worst of them.
But the thing is this – we are all here right here, right now, and we all need this earth in order to survive. You can tell me about the afterlife all you want but if this life was so worthless to our deities then why would be here at all?
This place matters.
This life matters.
Take away the people who want to see the world burn – and they stand on both sides of the wall – and you just have people looking for answers and connections.
You have people who may have strong beliefs but who also have dreams and fears like you do.
You find hope.
Because so long as we can connect, there is hope.
Hope or something better.
Because most of us want to live.
And in order to live we need one another.
There is no choice.
Heaven and Hell, what we consistently miss, is that they are just different views on the same place.
One person’s Hell is another’s Heaven.
The moment we stop pushing people into the boxes we feel they belong and let them choose where they belong then the moment we can choose our own place arrives.
We hold ourselves back with our hate and eliminate half of the flavors and colors of the spectrum. We don’t have to understand why people make the choices they do but we have to accept them unless we want strangers telling us what choices WE need to make.
There will never not be room in Hell.
Because Hell wants everyone.
Makes you wonder why we don’t want our Heaven, or our earth to be the same way.
The world loves a comeback, isn’t that what they say?
Well, they say it, but it doesn’t always make it so.
We love to see someone rise, the notion of someone almost willing their way upward.
More than that though we love the fall.
We love to watch people fall back to earth after they rose, some sick sort of jealousy and envy twisting in us and making us take glee in someone’s destruction.
Ah, but the comeback, we do still love that, don’t we?
There are few things as satisfying as orchestrating a good takedown. I speak from experience. It isn’t pretty, it isn’t necessarily mature, but man alive does it feel good to take someone or something down that has done you wrong.
Even if the ‘you’ is bigger than just you alone but you are the one that is able to stand up and say ‘No’. There’s something profoundly righteous in that but righteous though it is it is also a hollow enterprise. You expend so much energy tearing someone down instead of building something that you don’t notice that you at the end you are among the ruins yourself.
But we need to destroy.
There is something about the ‘found’ sort of story that has always drawn me. It’s the reason I love campfire storytelling so much. The immediacy of finding someone in the middle of a horror they hadn’t seen coming is powerful and went done well can leave a chill that isn’t easily shaken. The ‘found’ story saw a resurgence with horror films, sure, but they have existed as sort of sub-genre for as long as people have told stories.
The ‘found’ aspect of the stories come from the notion that someone experienced this and passed it down but didn’t necessarily live to pass it themselves. These are cautionary tales of going to far, delving too deep, and asking too much.
Sure, there are stories told in the first person where the narrator lived to truly tell the tale but it’s in the horrific nature of discovering someone’s tale knowing or suspecting what they are about to discover about horror and its true face. There is a film that beautifully illustrates this called CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, which is considered by many to be one of the very first ‘found footage’ films ever released. It’s infamous for its gore and brutality but the crux of the story is about a group of Americans that go too far, too deep, and push too far and disappear, leaving behind the footage of what became of them. Push past the gore and atrocity and it’s a chilling film about the naivete of Americans stepping into the dark world of the unknown believing their candles can illuminate it.
The movie, as outrageous as it is, is haunting in how it plays out, the missing Americans being sought and their story playing out through footage they had filmed being found and revealed.
Now, the film is certainly not for everyone but it’s more the way the story plays out and what it says that I wanted to point out and not so much its infamous nature. It is the inevitability of what befalls the protagonists that becomes so haunting.
Of late I find myself drawn more and more to story podcasts, where someone is telling a story or reading a story and many of those are told in the ‘Creepypasta’ variety, which tend to be first person accounts of horror.
I love that.
I love that type of fiction.
Well, most of it.
There’s some really bad stuff out there but with that some great stuff also.
And the thing too is that, for someone like me, there’s a lot to learn from fiction that we don’t like or think works. It reminds us what not to do and can even jar side ideas as you are already in a state where you are thinking of stories.
Man though, there are some really bad ones.
What drives me batty are the ones that break the simple rules of found fiction.
Like…a person cannot relay a story to the reader/listener if they didn’t survive. They just…can’t.
And that bothers me that the writer/creator breaks that simple tenant.
Or there’s the suspension of disbelief and how far it is pushed.
In stories, all stories, we are asked to step outside of the real world and to believe in the tale we are being told. Even if it is a realistic fiction it is still fiction and thus requires our belief in the piece to work. If you push things too far past the point of believability then the reader/listener/watcher will just give up on the piece. Part of this is wrapped into the logic of it all also. Like, what would the average person reasonably do and how far would they reasonably go?
The further you push things the less likely people are to join you on your journey.
See, there’s an art to all of it, that’s what so many don’t get. It’s seen as sort of an easy/lazy formula that you can just plug things into but the fact is that there is a lot of subtlety to it. The art is in the details. The art is in leading you by the hand down the path with the person/people who are facing the darkness. If you don’t care about them, even if just to want them to have something awful potentially happen, then it’s a wasted effort.
The beauty of the ‘found’ story is that you can make it as simple or grand as you like and as long as you make the narrator interesting then you are willing to go into that darkness with them, curious to see what lies ahead.
There is something alluring about going hand in hand into the unknown. The magic of ‘found’ fiction of any kind is that we get to inch out on the ice further and further onto thin ice as it cracks beneath us. Done well, these stories leave you with a dread that doesn’t pass quickly after you have experienced it.
It is the What If nature of the ‘found’ fictions that give them the power because it is within those two words that horror lies, waiting for us.
Because ‘What If?’
In this modern world we love stories, as we always have, but we love stories now told in real time more than in retrospect. We aren’t as tied to the necessity of truth so much as the novelty of emotion. We want the passion but not the impact. We want the comfort of loud voices but not the awareness of soft speech. Such is the case of Flint and the recent movie Lifetime has made about it. The fact is that no matter how accurately they want to portray things, how sincere their efforts are, and how heartfelt their wishes for the city, my city, the fact is that the film was begun over a year ago and as up to date as their information may have been, this is a tale that even we who live here won’t fully know the impact of everything for years to come. As I write this we are on the verge of an attempt to recall our mayor. A mayor that was largely elected because she was a new face not connected with the water crisis and because she promised to get us clean water and to fight for us. I can say firsthand that this is some who has earned a recall but that gets into issues that are not the point of this blog. But it’s hard to tell a full story when you’re only in the middle of it. This water crisis maybe have us looking at our third new mayor in three years. That’s insane. The story of Flint, the whole story, is not something you can put into a two hour movie. It’s not something that can be taken in in one gulp. No, this is a story that will be told over days and months and years. This isn’t something that you can look at from the ground. I can appreciate the desire for immediacy but that view is myopic, but maybe that’s why it’s so desired.
Flint is a buzzword. A flag to follow. Even if people don’t fully understand the politics, the economics, the social impact, the political impact, or a dozen other things. You could write a graduate thesis on any one of these topics so it’s hard to imagine that anything smaller could really do justice to the story but these tales will pop up. They will be told. As I said before people will get famous because of this. People will get rich. And we here in Flint will hope that this at least keeps people thinking about us, and about the issue of water in this nation, but truly, these are not getting deeper than the skin and that’s just the way it is. Such is life
That’s the way of Hollywood.
That’s the way of our culture.
We want the flash and not the picture.
The story of Flint continues to unfold just as the stories of its people. These stories are getting out, bit by bit, but the odds of anyone seeing the full tapestry are long, but if some of those stories can get out, and if a few more people can see the faces behind the headlines and the people behind the horror then that’s something. That’s a start.
The Flint Water Crisis happened. It’s happening. All we can hope now is that this helps a future tragedy and lays a foundation that stops them from happening some day.