I Was Elliot Rodger

In light of recent events, I thought it might be a good idea to blog again, as you do. I’m not really interested in talking about the murderer, his unfortunate victims, what may or may not have prompted this, or the outcomes of it.

Instead, at the risk of hijacking the tragedy of others and using it for my own ends, I am going to talk about me. And also God.

You see, it wasn’t all that long ago that I was a great deal like Elliot Rodger, and many of the other men who have done similar things over the past few decades. Arrogantly yet full of self-pity, entitled to every good thing in the world, deprived of nothing save perhaps friends, and even then I only had my own bilious attitude to blame for it. I felt deeply wronged by everyone, and I could spend hours fantasizing about the elaborate revenge I would take on them all. Honestly, giving into rage and bitterness was easy. Anger feels good in a way, and it can also be addictive, and coupled with the idea that I was a tragic and innocent victim of everyone’s failure to recognize how great I was naturally led to the “empowering” idea of me being my own avenger, righting the wrongs made against me and being really awesome and terrifying in the process. Occasionally the wrath would give in to despair that I would never get the love and appreciation and acknowledgement I so desperately wanted, but even that was fueled by the same selfish delusion: I had been grievously wronged, and I would make everyone pay.

I was just an overly dependent teenager at the time, but who knows, by the time I got to 22 or 23 I could had enough self-centered fury to spend my dead-end job earnings on some weapons and really do some damage. Possibly my former high school, or a mall.

As you might have guessed, that never happened. As nice and clean and simple as it would be to be able to say that I simply grew up and found a more positive outlet, I can’t take credit for it. The credit goes to God. As unworthy and unlovable as I was, he accepted me, made me one of his very own children, and gave me a new life. Jesus freed me from the prison of hate I had locked myself into, and for the first time since maybe my childhood I could be me again, the me I was meant to be.

Which is not to say I’ve become some perfectly good and wholesome person. The bitterness is still there, in a way. Weakened, dying even, but still present. The prison walls are knocked down, but it’s easy enough to wander back in, to dwell on my self-inflicted pain and isolation. But I’m not locked in any longer, and I’m not defined by the four walls of hate. I may not have all the close friendships and affirmation I crave at times, but I’m learning how to have healthy relationships, to love others as God has loved me.

I’m not just a changed man, but a new one. Jesus did this for me, and he can do it for you as well, if you’ll let him. Hopefully you aren’t in the same condition I was, but even if you are, even if you are worse, it is not beyond God’s forgiveness and healing.

I was Elliot Rodger, but by the grace of God I am no longer.

Job Type Stuff

*This blog post is Rated R for language*

So as people who know me in real life all know, about two months ago my job underwent a dramatic shift. Instead of working normal person daylight hours as a secretary, I suddenly started working overnight hours as a shop clerk. Incidentally, this is exactly how I originally started when I was first hired by Amtrak back in February 2007. So not only a demotion in all but name, but a complete negation of anything that could be considered progress in this “career” of mine.

This has of course been cause for some frustration for me. I’ve attempted to soldier on, be grateful I have a job (after all, so many millions of Americans don’t apparently), try to see the positive sides (I get my own office), all the usual things you’re supposed to do when less than ideal situations come one’s way.

Naturally, a question I often get is “how are you adjusting to the new schedule?” And in the interest of polite conversation, I am forced to answer with things like “it’s not as bad as I thought it would be” or “yeah I got used to the new sleep schedule pretty easily”. Which is of course exactly what people want to hear. Yes, I’m sure they legitimately care (or at least most do), but it’s a lot easier for everyone if I am doing just fine and don’t have any real complaints.

What I can’t say, what I’m not allowed to say under any circumstances, is how I actually feel about it. There is simply no way I can tell someone that I fucking hate this job and everything about it, that it’s humiliating to have fallen right back to square one, and that I feel absolutely nothing but bitterness and rage about everything related to it. No, I have to be grateful, grit my teeth, and put a fucking smile on my face, and say “oh it’s not so bad. I’m a bit disappointed, yeah, but I’m sure there’s a silver lining to all of this.” I see no fucking silver lining and I’m pretty sure there isn’t one.

Fuck Amtrak. Just, fuck it. Six years I’ve worked here, and for what? Another round of sleepless day after sleepless day until I finally snap at the worst possible time in the worst possible way, probably on someone who doesn’t even deserve it. If I weren’t such a coward I would have quit already.

Well, this got me to update the blog. So I guess THAT’S a good thing. Whoopity-doo.

Storm’s Coming

An entry for Flash Fiction Friday

http://www.flashfictionfriday.com/2012/09/21/f3-cycle-97-crossroads/

“Storm’s coming,” Jebediah remarked, leaning on railing of the front porch.

“What makes you say that?” asked his elder brother Jonathan. He sat nearly motionless in his rocking chair, and if not for the response he just gave one could have thought him asleep.

Jebediah turned back at the older man incredulously. “You going blind now?”

Jonathan began rocking in his chair. “I see as well as I did yesterday.”

“Alright then, look at them clouds.”

“I see them.”

“Alright, now what do they look like?”

“Look rather large and gray to me.”

“Ya think they look like storm clouds, maybe?”

“I suppose they do, yes.”

“Then how,” Jebediah suddenly proclaimed, walking back to where his brother sat, “can you ask me ‘what makes you say that?’ when you got all that right there in front of your eyes that see as good as they did yesterday?”

Jonathan stopped rocking and scratched at his face for a moment. When it looked like his brother was starting to lose patience, he finally replied, “Suppose you were out working in the fields, like you usually are. I myself am nowhere you can see. Now where do you suppose I am?”

Jebediah quickly responded, “Probably out working somewhere else.”

“Alright then, that’s reasonable, because I usually am. Now say you didn’t see me all day long, even when you came in to eat, or to get some water, or to feed the animals. Then where do you suppose I am?”

“Probably doing something in town, then.”

“I’m not sleeping the day away in my room or nothing, right?”

“Well you ain’t sick, so why would you be. Since I was a little kid I never seen you rest more than one day a week.”

“Alright then. Now suppose at the end of the day, you see someone walking towards you. He’s got my hat on, and he’s carrying my gun. Who is it?”

This time Jebediah didn’t answer right away. “Is this some kind of trick question?”

“Just answer it. If you see a man at a distance with my hat and my gun, who are you going to think it is?”

“Well, I’m going to think it’s you, aren’t I?”

“That’s reasonable, yes, but suppose when the man gets closer, you see he doesn’t look like me at all. Now what?”

“Now I run to get my gun.”

“Why?”

“Because some stranger is coming after me with your gun!”

“But you thought it was me.”

“I did, but I was wrong.”

“Do you think, then, that’s just a bit presumptuous to just say there’s a storm coming, just because there’s some clouds that look like storm cloud?”

“Yeah, but, these clouds are a whole lot closer than the guy in your hat.”

“Maybe, but all too often people get tripped up because they think they see something coming when in fact it is something else entirely.” Jonathan stood up, arching his back and stretching his arms in front of him. “I mean, look at this field, for instance. In a few weeks it should be ready for harvest. Hell of a crop we’re expecting this year too,  enough to pay off the bank and then some. But it would be foolish of us to take it for granted. If I go out and buy a new tractor today on that assumption, what is going to happen if your “storm clouds” rip up half the field? What happens if parasites or rot sets in and eats it all up? Or what if it just ain’t as big as we thought it was? Well we’d be out of luck, stuck with a new tractor we can’t afford and with nothing leftover to pay the bank with. We could have made it thought this without too much trouble, but I had to up and buy a tractor, all because I was damn certain that everything would be just fine.”

“See Jeb, the simple fact of the matter is we never really know for sure what is going to happen until it does. We can guess and make plans and look at what’s happened before, and if we’re smart about it a lot of times we can get a pretty good idea of how things are going to turn out, but there are always the freak accidents, acts of God, whatever you want to call them, that come along and remind us just how much we don’t know about the future. And most of the time it ain’t a big deal. Like if Cousin Buford says he’s coming down for a visit and I think it’ll take him three days but it takes him four, that’s no big loss. I’ve no investment in his arrival, and it really don’t make a difference when he comes. He could come right now and it wouldn’t much matter. But once you stake your time, or your money, or your reputation, or, hell, your life on something, then you better make damn sure you know exactly what it is you are talking about. To look at Buford again, say he comes down to visit, and then later the Sheriff comes by and says he’s wanted for a murder, and then you go and say “oh my honor Buford would never do something like that” but then it turns out he did the deed, well then you look just as guilty as he does and they might just lock you up next to him. But even if they don’t, everyone will know what your honor is worth now.”

“Now I tell you these things because you’re a smart boy, but you don’t remember it very often. You got caught up in doing whatever it was you felt like doing, with whoever it was you wanted to be around, and either you thought it was all going to be just fine in the end, or you weren’t even thinking about how it would end up at all. Now I like you, I do, and I appreciate having you here with me, but don’t tell me that coming back here and working the family farm was what you were dreaming of. Or was it?”

Jebediah’s eyes turned downward as he replied, “I guess not.”

“Now there’s nothing wrong with working on a farm, else I wouldn’t be here, but there’s a difference between what’s good and what’s good for you. Now we didn’t always get along, you and I, but I’m still your brother and I paid enough attention to know that this isn’t the life you wanted. When you got big you left, and it wasn’t just because because Pa was an old cuss and Ma, God rest her soul, wasn’t around to keep things calm around here. You had bigger dreams than this place, and you were bold enough to go after then as soon as were able. The problem was, you didn’t think long enough about how to go about it the right way, and when everything fell apart in a way that you never guessed it would, you came back asking if you could stay here a while. That was two years ago. So here’s my question for you: how much longer are you going stay here letting life happen to you on accident?”

Jonathan let the question linger for a moment before sitting down again. Jebediah said nothing, and when it became clear to him that Jonathan was done speaking, he went back to his spot on the railing and stared back out at the clouds. Already he could see that they were starting to clear up, the afternoon Sun poking through as they faded. Eventually it would set, but not for several hours more.

“Sky looks like it’s clearing up,” Jebediah finally said.

“That it does, Jeb, that it does.”

Movie Review: The Campaign

So I’m not the biggest Will Ferrell fan in the world, though I have seen a bunch of Celebrity Jeopardy clips, Talladega Nights, and that one where he’s a character in a book, but I saw this one anyways because he’s pretty darn funny in what I have seen, and also I’ve been getting all the heck kinds of interested in political stuff as of late, so this seemed like as good a way as any to further immerse myself via satire.

Anywho, Ferrell plays an incumbent Democrat Congressmen who is your basic sound byte vomiting Washington DC type guy who apparently has a whole bunch of extra-marital affairs, while Zach Galifianakis (I had to Google this one, also props to him for not taking the easy way out and going with a simpler name) plays the Republican candidate who is being controlled by billionaires who want to build a Chinese sweat shop on US soil (to save money on shipping). What proceeds from this is a very funny, very inappropriate, and fortunately very poignant movie.

The Campaign is consistently funny throughout, from the opening until the last gag in the credits. Furthermore, almost every character is funny. The Campaign is utterly unapologetic about where it mines humor from, using anything from overwrought insults to a Chinese maid who fakes one of those southern black accents like from The Help or whatever (didn’t actually see that movie). Warning to new mothers, a baby gets punched in the face in this movie. This is also hilarious.

The Campaign is also exceedingly vulgar. Now, as I mentioned before I haven’t seen a whole lot of Will Ferrell movies, so maybe if I had I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised. I knew it was Rated R (but only because the girl at the ticket booth actually carded me, I mean come on now I haven’t shaved in a few days, they don’t even card me at most bars) but I guess it couldn’t have hurt to pay a little more attention to all the rating subtext. Wouldn’t have stopped me from seeing the movie, but I could have saved my eyes from that initial widening.

As for how far art imitates life in this instance, this may just be me being cynical, but I think it manages to hit closer to home than it necessarily had to. I think we would only be kidding ourselves if we think we don’t have elected officials whose only real agenda is staying in office, and we’d have to be downright ignorant to think that there isn’t a ridiculous amount of money being put towards manipulating both the elections and the people in government themselves. Unfortunately, most aren’t the sort of helpless buffoons who make their shortcomings so obvious that resigning is the only way to save face.

I hesitate to say I recommend this movie, because wow it is really vulgar, but ultimately it has a good message and it is funny, so yeah go ahead and see it I guess.

A reply to “Death penalty foes won’t take a stand in Colorado”

Anyone reading this blog already knows what happened in Aurora, CO, so I won’t bother reviewing it for you. Instead, we move forward to the new developments, the court transcripts, and my personal favorites, the opinion pieces.

At the risk of being insensitive to the very real tragedy of these events and the fact that they happened to real and actual people, I can’t help but read about them, and what people say about them, and then forming opinions on my own. It’s almost enjoyable, discourse and whatnot (not that I really do much in the way of back and forth discussion on most matters).

One such article, written by Jonah Goldberg, brings up a very interesting point, one I hadn’t actually thought about until reading it. For those who aren’t going to read it, I’ll do my best to summarize: anti death penalty advocates aren’t going to speak up about this case because it’s not one they think will go well for them. And I think he might be right.

Almost a year ago, Troy Davis was executed for murder. The days leading up to it were filled with all kinds of arguments against his execution, and its pretty clear the author is referencing this very event when he says: “Death penalty opponents are fairly mercenary about when to express their outrage. When questions of guilt can be muddied in the media; when the facts are old and hard to look up; when the witnesses are dead; when statistics can be deployed to buttress the charge of institutional racism: These are just a few of the times when opponents loudly insist the death penalty must go.”

Goldberg brings up another good point, without entirely meaning to: the primary argument against Davis’ execution was that he didn’t do it, or that there wasn’t sufficient evidence of his wrongdoing to warrant execution, or that he only received the death penalty because he was black man.

I’m no expert on the subject, but these sorts of arguments seem to be where most anti death penalty tend to go. Sometimes they bring up mental illness or unusual circumstances, but the usual case is “we can’t be so certain of it that it’s worth killing them”. Or racism. The arguments that it is always wrong in every circumstance never seems quite as loud or popular.

Well, guess I’ll go ahead and be unpopular (I’ve been through high school so I’m used to it) and say that I oppose the death penalty in every circumstance. Including this one. I’ve discussed my feelings about it before, and since then I have refined my thoughts.

I wasn’t always opposed to it. When I was younger it just made perfect sense to me; kill off the bad people and make the world a better place, or at least show the bad people that we aren’t going to put up with them. After becoming a Christian six years ago I still thought it was the right thing to do. God told Noah that if a person or animal takes a human life they are to be killed themselves, and this principle is reinforced with the covenant God makes with the Israelites.

Recently, however, I’ve been thinking more and more about what it means to follow Jesus, and what precisely we are called to do as his disciples. While Jesus did a lot of great things for people, the single most important act was sacrificing himself for us so that our sins can be forgiven, thus allowing us to dwell forever with God. Likewise, while Christians are called to do a number of things, including helping the poor and sick and each other and making full use of what God has given us, our single most important task is to seek out the lost and tell them the good news about Jesus. Everything else we do is inconsequential. I say that a man whose only worthwhile deed in life is leading one other person to Christ has led a more fulfilling life than a man who has done everything but share the gospel with another.

And here is a very simple fact: you can’t share the gospel to a dead man. You can’t reach out to the lost if they have already lost their heart beat. You can’t read John 3:16 to a man in a dark concrete box who is denied any contact with another human being for the rest of his life.

Furthermore, you’re going to have a very hard time inviting a man to church who, after making a couple of very big mistakes, has been locked up with hundreds of ill-tempered, aggressive, and violent men. Bad company corrupts good character, so how much more will bad company corrupt an already shaky character? Do you think our correctional facilities actually correct anyone?

Obviously we can’t just let violent and larcenous people roam free, but our current system of justice is based on retribution and shame, not reform. In a way, we don’t really want them to reform, we want to watch them squirm and suffer forever. In our misguided attempts at building heaven here on Earth, we have invariably created thousands of miniature hells.

I’m not a religious authority, but I firmly believe that no Christian should support any institution or behavior that makes it more difficult to share the gospel. That includes the death penalty, or locking up prisoners with no one but other prisoners for company. I do not think there should be any exceptions to this. Jesus died to save James Holmes just as surely as he died to save me or Billy Graham or Saul of Tarsus or Joseph Stalin or any arbitrary list of people you can think of.

Obviously this argument isn’t going to do much for anyone who isn’t a Christian, but maybe you will nevertheless agree that there is a better way to do things than the way we do them now.

I wish I knew how to quit you, soda

Wow, has it been four months? Yes, yes it has. It even feels like it’s been four months since my last blog update. I know exactly why I haven’t been updating as well. There is no part of this that is not a surprise to me. I was not “caught off guard”, and I haven’t been “extremely busy”. I’d apologize, but I’m not actually sorry, and not that many people read this thing anyways (most who do got dragged in from one of my movie reviews or unfunny rants about media stuff).

This is not a blog update about blog updating or the lack thereof, however. There is plenty of time for that. Today’s update is to put into words my constant struggle with wanting to consume copious amounts of carbonated sugary love.

Oh my GOD I love soda so much.  So very very much. It’s delicious and makes me feel better and I just want it pretty much all the time. And it’s everywhere and it’s so cheap.

But I have to give it up. The rush might be nice, but the net result is me being sluggish. It makes me feel bloated, and the visual evidence makes it very clear that it’s also making me actual fat. These are not things I want to have to deal with now that I’m re-entering the running world (let’s be honest I need all the help I can get in that department). This gut of mine is a soda gut, and I’m probably on the fast track to Type 2 Diabetes.

And let’s be perfectly clear: if my sugar habit gets to the point where my ability to process glucose is compromised, I will die very soon thereafter.

This is not the first time I’ve tried curbing this addiction. I’ve tried just drinking in moderation, but it is way too easy to justify more and more and more (especially with self-serving soda machines). I’ve given it up for Lent, but Lent doesn’t last forever (and the last time I gave it up I couldn’t even stick with it for the full 40 days). Cold turkey is really the only solution. It just so happens it is also the most painful one. Did I mention my fixation on the stuff earlier? Because DAMN I want some. Like literally right now I want to go downstairs and pay a full $1 for a can of Dr Pepper (that’s right, I am such a fan of the stuff that I know not to add a period after the Dr part).

I mean, I grew up on the stuff. Almost without exception, we drank root beer with pizza, I always got a Dr Pepper from the vending machine at the oyster farm, and back when Super Size was still a thing you could get at McDonald’s, guess what I always got when eating dinner with my cousins? I kind of miss that giant bucket of fries we used to get too.

One of my friends suggested seltzer water, maybe with some juice in it or something, but I don’t know. I’ve tried seltzer before, and it’s just a strange thing to drink soda without the sugar or flavor. I’m pretty sure I can actually taste the carbon dioxide, and it’s not pleasant.

So it’s just a weird and obnoxious thing I have to do now.  Or, rather, a wonderful thing I have to not do anymore. Just not drink soda anymore. I don’t know if I’ll stay strong, or if I’ll break down and drink some eventually. But, well, here it goes.

Please try not to drink any around me.

On the Merits (or lack thereof) of a Very Angry Face

Allow me to tell you a story, and let me note that it is a true one.

Today was not the greatest day in the world at work (and I say that not to mean that it was particularly awful, but to simply point out that I have had better ones), and I was eager as ever to get home. As I was walking down the little roadway path thing from the building I work in to the stairs that would take me out of the yard, I approached a man who was walking in the opposite direction, though on the same side of the road as I was (my right, his left). As you may know if you have read other entries on this blog, I have rather strong opinions on that, so to avoid him I moved further to the right, rather than going to my left to give him a wide berth. As we approached one another, it became clear that he had no real intention of moving to his right, so my options were a) move to my left b) move further to the right and thus step off the road way and into the rocks and gravel, or c) go straight ahead and brace for shoulder impact.

Being in no mood to swallow my pride or forfeit my rights to the road, I chose c, and shoulder impact we did. As we both continued on our way, he said some threatening and vulgar things, though I’m not entirely sure what, and I simply made a semi-loud “hmph” sound, though I doubt he actually heard it. And as I walked away, I was pleased with myself; envigorated even. I had stood my ground, and if the jerk wanted a fight I was willing to give him one. I have no idea who he was or whether he worked for Amtrak or one of the many contractor companies, but it didn’t really matter to me.

As I walked further away I dared to look back at him, now barely visible in the dim and and overcast, and I started to think about what had just happened, and the choices I made. And I started to think about the man’s face, so contorted with resentment and bitterness, the face of the kind of man looking for a reason to let out all his misplaced aggression on whoever dared to push his buttons.

It was the exact same face I had.

It came as a bit of a shock. Regardless of whatever “rules of the road” I insist on, I was not in any way more justified or in the right than he was. I had done nothing to avert our little collision, and though I didn’t say anything, I had just as much contempt for him as he had for me. And if either of us were just a little more angry, a little less patient, we could have had a fight right then and there. We could have been those guys who flip out and just attack a stranger for no damn reason.

What kind of person does that? An angry, selfish, uncaring person. The kind of person who makes angry faces, glaring and snarling at everyone he sees, daring them to get in his way. The kind of face I make all the time. But the truth is, as much as I sometimes relish the opportunity to just give up control, I really don’t want to be that person. Despite what all the movies and games tell guys my age, there is nothing glorious, honorable, or manly about being an angry thug who uses intimidation and force to get what he wants. But that’s exactly what I try to do when I scowl at the world (though I doubt it’s half as effective as I want it to be).

So as I walked down the stairs into the subway station, I tried something. I tried to intentionally make sure my face was doing anything but look angry. I stared wide eyed, as if surprised. I whistled and hummed a bit. I think I even sort of smiled here and there. I don’t know whether it was my face or my epiphany, but my sour mood was completely broken in moments, and for the rest of my way home, and even as I write this, I have felt better than I did all day.

So I can’t say for sure that happy or goofy faces have much in the way of merit, but I can say that there is no merit at all in an angry face.

Unless you’re trying to scare off a puma or something. Maybe then it’s okay.