Picking the Bones Clean

When it comes to cities like Flint the phrase ‘ruin porn’ gets tossed around, the notion that people take delight in the ruination of people in cities. While I do think that there are people, a lot of people – too many people – that take pleasure in seeing some peole and places fail, I think that by dubbing anything as such ‘porn’ is honestly about as bad as the act of disdain. It changes the topic and discussion and charges a word with more power than the tragedy of the situation has itself.
Ah, but that’s our way, isn’t it?
To come up with a cute phrase or catch word that makes us feel good to say as we point at other people and tell them they are the ones creating the scene.
‘It’s because of people like YOU that ruin porn stories like Flint are so misunderstood!’
Or…
‘There’s just so much ruin porn out there not dealing with the issues at hand.’
It’s as if we feel WE can use a slur as an example and not get any of that cultural blood on our hands.
Such is the case with Flint, a city that was pushed into the hole it was in and then the people in charge of its care dug that hole deep, deeper, and deepest and here we sit. Then you have the culture vultures that circle low enough to point and to stare and to make notes as if we are strange insects to be studied and not people. Not families. Not students. Not children. We have become a headline, a punchline, and a warning.
Don’t let this happen to you, friend, don’t let it happen.
For us though, it’s already happened
It’s already here.

With the water crisis we have seen the best and wort in the nation.
It says a lot that strangers helped this city more than the state of Michigan and its leadership.
It says a lot when celebrities would slink into town, do good deeds, and leave as quietly as reasonable – their focus on awareness and aid – when the governor and past leadership would hold press conferences any time they farted in reference to the city.

And here is where the road forks a little.
The fiction and the reality.

The fiction shows Flint as a city of ingrates, hands out and cashing welfare checks as we churn out criminal children and wait for the government to fix our problems. This is a hackneyed parody of reality that the worst sort of people have convinced themselves exists. It paints Flint residents as useless, shiftless professional victims that want the world to hand them things because they are inherently lazy.
It’s a portrait painted with racism and ignorance and aimed at small sections of the city that the people who feel this way have never been to.

The reality is a city of people who lost their major industry where skilled people whose families had uprooted and come here from across the nation to start lives and suddenly they were abandoned. The story goes on from there but you have to understand that fact before you move on, that people took their family trees and re-planted them here and one day most of those people lost their jobs and their futures and the futures of their families were changed. Forever. Now, again, this isn’t about being a victim but that is a crack in the foundation of people’s lives that needs to be understood. It sowed a seed of distrust that has been growing here for decades until the water crisis hit and that seed bloomed and flourished.
After being lied to, after being mislead, and after many had their own health and the health of their children put into jeopardy they are asked to trust the machinery that betrayed them once to trust that this time the water is fine. The water is good.
All is well.

And people who don’t live here cavalierly pretend that THEY would trust the government and the State and they would shut up and use their water and just move on. That isn’t the reality though. Not the reality of people who love themselves and their families. The fact is that after what happened here you have to take a moment to say – do I trust it? Do I trust them?

And now the safety net is gone.
I remember as the water crisis spread like a disease through the city and how the nation started to step up and donated money and water to help the city. Sure, there were a lot of get rich quick schemes put out there, and people with more blame than care, but in the end it proved that people cared. As time wore on new tragedies sprung up and the nation’s attention turned away but not fully. Not fully. Because it is hard to turn away from a car wreck, and what happened here was there. Lawsuits. Allegations. Lies. Criminal proceedings.
And now, now the net is gone.
The water is gone.
The State has closed its wallet, the government has turned its attention to other things, and the people of Flint must ask themselves – now what?

Common sense tells you that somewhere along the way a plan should have been put together. What Next.
What do we do next?
But there was no plan.
There was trying to roller skate on ice.
There was making it up as you go along.
There was this.
This mess.

While many of us can afford to purchase water, or can get filtered pitchers, or can get filters for our faucets you have to ask yourself – why?
Why am I paying for water that I cannot trust to drink or cook with or, for some, bathe in?
Why?
And the answer is because.
That is all.
Because.

Last week they announced that the sites where water was available would be closing soon. The next day they annnounced they would be closed for good after that day.
Poof.
Gone.
They had said before that a day would come when this would pass but suddenly…it was here with no warning. No preparation.
And like we are seeing with the national government’s indifference to social and national issues regarding the people private citizens and organizations are stepping up to fill in the gaps.
And that is awful.
While there needs to be more grass roots support in the country. – people helping people – there also has to be accountability. There has to be a plan. There has to be a point where our government owns its mistakes and works to fix them, not just do the bare minimum and sneak away in the night.
Because these are people’s lives.
These are the lives of children.
Children who are already showing the effects of the lead they were poisoned with.
I will never say that this was done with purpose and intent but there has to be a point where people take the reigns and say ENOUGH, let’s fix this, fix it right, and let’s remake this city.

There is hope here.
There are fires lit to guide the way forward.
There is investment.
There are programs for the youth.
But the shadow of this water crisis will last for decades, and like a stain, it continues to spread forward in history.
There are those that will look to Flint to pick off the last of the meat that remains. To sell their book deals, and television shows, and movies, and to build careers on the people here, but with them there are people fighting for the city. Fighting for the people.
In the end we’re alone.
People are curious, and they will slow down as they go by, to look and see what is happening, but they don’t live here.
We do.
And we’ll have to find the way forward for ourselves.
But at least in that…we know we’re folllowing someone we can trust.
Ourselves.

…c…

Battery

Every once in a while you run into the end of your path and your left facing impassable brambles. It happens to everyone ad you have two choices, go back and find another path, or forge ahead, pulling at the brambles and making your own bloody path. Either path can be the right path, in fact, that is the real heck of it – there may be fewer ‘wrong’ paths than there are ‘right’ ones. It’s just a matter of which path you choose to follow.

The journey is rough, and long, and there will be times when you lose every last bit of strength to push forward. The brambles close in, the darkness starts to suffocate you, and the light that you use to guide your way forward dims until it is almost extinguished.

You will fight but the harder you fight the dimmer your light will get because that light depends on you and when you are out of juice, it is out of juice and you give up.

You give up dreams, hopes, passions, and even loves.

You give up on yourself.

Once you do that, the path engulfs you and you’re just sleepwalking through the rest of your life, letting life push you this way and that along the path of least resistance, and you can find happiness there, sure, but you also find that the engine driving you has died and that instead you are on a conveyor, pulled along until your eventual end.

A passenger in your own life.

When you feel yourself running down you have to stop, to pause, and let that light dim and let yourself slow down so you can hear your own heart.

We forget that our only guide along this path is our heart and if we stop being able to hear it then we won’t get anywhere. We’ll just be wandering, following our own echoes.

We have to take time to breathe and think about where we are and what we are going towards and then we can plot our course.

Sometimes it is forward.

Sometimes back.

Sometimes you make your own path.

You never know.

The journey is full of all of those things and more.

The only way forward, truly forward though is if we slow down to make sure you are taking care of yourself and your dream.

In the end, despite the support of friends, lovers, or family, you are truly all you have in the end.

It’s your journey and your path and if you won’t take care of yourself and your vision then no one else will.

That’s just how it is.

There is a path forward.

There is always a path forward.

It may not be the one we like, or the one that seems best, but if we take the time to slow down and listen to our hearts, to ourselves, take time to recharge, then in the end we’ll still be moving forward, and that is the only way we can get to where we need to end up.

Forward.

…c…

(hey, do me a favor and go buy a one of my books!)

 

 

Reach

The saying goes that you should never let your reach get beyond your grasp. The idea is that you will risk too much for a gain that may be achieved with patience and a time. And this is a fair thing to say and, in its way, very wise.

While not every endeavor is as dangerous as parkour or rock climbing, the notion that you must make a ‘leap of faith’ to achieve something you love while risking everything you have is a very present one. I have seen the stories of people that quit their ‘day job’ in order to pursue something they love. We look at them with a mix of respect and shock. How dare they? How could they?

Why won’t I?

Simply put, because it often doesn’t work. You reach too far and your grasp loosens and you fall. Not necessarily to your doom but enough to put you back so that you must take time now to move back to where you were.

No one likes to fall. To fail. But it is often through failure that we learn what it takes to succeed.

There is a balance, delicate as a spiderweb but just as strong, and that balance is how you find your way forward.

You must trust yourself enough to do the work to know that if you fall you will be not perish, but you must also trust yourself enough to know that if you are reaching for it then it’s something worth falling for if that happens.

Walk down the street or get on a social network and you’ll find thousands of people who will tell you how not to do things. How to fail. How to lose. How to wait. They will tell you that they know best. The thing is though that they don’t know. They don’t know you, your true heart, your true passion, and they don’t know what you are willing to do or willing to risk. The wise person never risks so much that they will lose everything on a lark but they also won’t let their dream stagnate and die if there was true hope and life in it.

People will tell you all day how not to do things.

Show them how TO do things.

Make your path.

Step by clumsy step.

Be the inspiration for yourself and others.

Fall and get the heck back up and learn how not to fall next time.

Sure, everything has been done, but not by you.

You have YOUR eye, YOUR vision, YOUR voice, and YOUR skills.

You don’t have to do things how everyone else did them. Know what you want, what you’re willing to do to get it, and risk something a little, and see what happens. Slow is safe, yes, but once in a while you have to take what you’ve learned and push yourself a little further than you are comfortable and trust that if you should fall, you’ll get right back up and figure out a way to succeed next time.

And success…that’s up to you. You make that decision, that call.

You’re the one that gets to say what is and isn’t success. No one else.

We have become a nation of people looking everywhere but within.

Look within.

Find your passion.

Invest in it.

Nurture it.

Reach for it.

And if it takes you falling a hundred times to fall into success, then my friend, bruised though you may be, you still made it.

And that’s what matters.

…c…

Room For One More

In Hell, there is always room for one more.
Always.
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.
Very primal.

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 worse.
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.
AWAKEN!
It doesn’t work that way.
At all.
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.
No.
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.
WE matter.
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.
Vice Verse.
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.
Never.
Because Hell wants everyone.
Makes you wonder why we don’t want our Heaven, or our earth to be the same way.

…c…

Comeback

The world loves a comeback, isn’t that what they say?

Well, they say it, but it doesn’t always make it so.

Right?

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?

Continue reading “Comeback”

Burning It Down

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.

Sometimes.

Continue reading “Burning It Down”

Thankful

As the year winds down we’ll start to see the social network posts about being thankful, and being blessed, and how we’re all one and everything is swell. For a short time we’re willing to overlook the madness of the world and pretend we can see above it all.

Good.

We shouldn’t have to fake it, ever, and I don’t want to say that this is faking it. That seeing the silver lining is faking that ‘things are A-OK’. No. I see this as a willingness to see beyond the pain, the despair, and the confusion of the times. If we lose the ability to see beyond the darkness then we’re doomed, aren’t we?

Sure, we can grind our teeth and stamp our feet at people’s platitudes but the fact is that we all do the best we can and if it takes the holidays to see the good in the world then well, it’s a start.

And I’ll take it.

For me, I look to this time of year as a time to stand back and look at what went down over the past few months and to be thankful for the good, and sometimes even the bad, because there are lessons in both.

2017 was, as every year is, trying.

But then too it was rewarding.

Watching your family age and decline is hard. Harder than you imagine when you are younger, but to have them at all is a blessing.

Losing friends never gets easier. Losing them as friends alone is hard but at least you know they are in the world, laughing and loving still. Losing them to death though isn’t something you ever quite get over. Their absence is a shadow over you that never leaves.

But over the course of the year some of us got to help out three friends in need and showed them some love and helped raise some money for them.

The convention group did another year of shows, culminating in a film festival. This marked our sixth year of operation. Six years that almost never were. Among the great decisions I have ever made was the one where I decided to stick with doing the con and to see what happened.

What happened was pretty amazing and still is.

I released another kid’s book, with the help of an artist friend.

I did some conventions and had a revelation at one that maybe I need to stop doing them. As much as I love them my head isn’t in it and I need to really figure out how I can most effectively promote and sell my books.

I finished my movie. That, that’s a heck of a thing.

I am still not sure how I feel about the finished product but I wrote it, I shot it, I directed it, I edited it, and I helped score it.

I love the film I am just not sure how well it works.

I wrote three songs.

I mean, they aren’t good songs, but they’re fun. They are ridiculous. I kinda love them.

I can’t get anyone to do anything with them so I figure I’ll have to sing them acappella and record it and see if I can figure out music.

Should be interesting.

I laughed a lot. I spent time with friends and loved ones. I got to know our dog better.

I lived as well as I allowed myself to.

I didn’t do as much as I wanted but I did a lot more than I imagined.

It’s been a year.

I am lucky to have had it, all of it.

I hope that you find the moments in your life that you can celebrate. The moments you can mourn.

Take a moment to celebrate yourself because in the end this is your journey and your story and without you then there is no story at all.

Thanks for being there.

…c…