Monthly Archives: November 2011

Emma Sullivan & Dr. Krawitz vs. Gov. Brownback and American Lunatics

I’m not sure what’s going on in Kansas. Whatever it is, it means something, and we should listen to it. It says something about the state of America nowadays. It reaches beyond the state lines. It highlights the problems in Washington, D.C. It says something about our cultural identity. It says something about the psychology of the masses. In short, it says something about who we are.

If you follow my Twitter account, or are one of the hundreds of people who read my last blog post about Emma Sullivan, then you know the story of the Kansas teenager who posted something on her Twitter account about the governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, and his staff’s subsequent overreaction to Miss Sullivan’s tweet. What I posted was simply the e-mail I sent to her principal, plainly explaining my argument as to why she didn’t deserve to be disciplined at the behest of the governor. I also urged my readers to stand up for Miss Sullivan. I still believe that the governor and his staff were using Principal Krawitz as a way to bully a high school senior. I believe my letter clearly stated this. I’ve been keeping an eye on Twitter today, thinking that the storm Governor Brownback has started would be dying down, the day after governor Brownback and the Shawnee Mission East School district apologized to Miss Sullivan and said no further action would be taken. But this isn’t the case. In fact, the storm has not only strengthened, it’s changed direction. This Kansas high school, I believe, has become a microcosm of life in America right now.

First, let me address Principal Karl Krawitz. I know absolutely nothing about the man other than what the (credible) news reports stated, that he was contacted by governor Brownback’s staff about Emma Sullivan’s tweet. He then called her to the office to scold her and demand an apology. If you followed the #heblowsalot hashtag on Twitter over the weekend, then you saw that a lot of people in this country disagreed with this course of action that Dr. Krawitz took. And this is fine. People can disagree. Oh, there were jokes about the governor being a crybaby and so forth, and this is still okay; it’s simply people using humor to express their anger at an unfair situation. Some Twitter users, including myself, called the school to voice their support for Emma Sullivan’s rights and to ask that she not be required to write the apology to governor Brownback. The school’s phone number and e-mail address were passed around, too. And this is STILL okay. We’re still in sane and rational territory. Voicing one’s opinion about outrageous behavior is a fundamental American way of doing things. But from what I can tell, we’ve left that territory far behind and ventured into the land known as WTF World.

Over the course of the past weekend, most of what people posted on Twitter dealt with Emma Sullivan’s right to free speech and Bownback’s overreaction. These are all appropriate courses of dialogue. But apparently, Dr. Krawitz has been receiving death threats. His home phone line was cut and he needs police protection. The news media hasn’t reported any of this, but his students are posting this information.

I need to unequivocally state that, at no time, did Dr. Krawitz deserve any sort of violent action towards him. That pretty much goes without saying, and I’m sure Emma Sullivan would agree. Up until today, it was my assumption that Dr. Krawitz was a participant in a civil and rational debate about the situation he was caught up in. I’m not sure when these people jumped the tracks of the Sane & Calm Express, but they did, and what began as a constructive dialogue has quickly turned into a whacko-infested circus. Pretty much the way Congress in D.C. conducts itself these days. Some people expressed their opinion in an intelligent, respectful way. But once you threaten, you pretty much ruin your credibility and tarnish the side you (claim to) support. How, I ask, does going bat-shit crazy and cutting someone’s phone line help Emma Sullivan? Where did everyone’s perspective go? Do we seriously need to medicate our population more? I am resigned to think so.

There’s a rumor on Twitter as I write this that Dr. Krawitz is considering resigning as principal, and judging by the tweets from his student body, there’s some substance to the rumor. They use the hash tag #teamkrawitz and are posting about a support rally after school.

They’re also using this hashtag to go after Emma Sullivan.

The tweets don’t mention governor Brownback. They say nothing about Dr. Krawitz performing his duties at the whim of the governor’s office, which I think was the at the heart of the whole affair. What Team Krawitz is doing is assaulting Emma Sullivan’s character, calling for her expulsion from Shawnee Mission East, and saying that Krawitz is greater than Emma. Two points of interest:

1. Using the name of the man whose character and job you’re defending to say that a 18 year old girl should be kicked out of school, directing profane comments at her, and to basically be stupid smears the character of the man you purport to defend. You’re pretending to be supportive while you’re really acting like idiots.

2. Team Krawitz, by attacking Emma Sullivan this way, is conducting itself in EXACTLY the same manner as governor Brownback and his staff, which is how this whole thing started. They’re pushing around a young woman who doesn’t deserve to be. They’re bullies, just like the governor’s staff.

What’s happening at this small high school in Kansas, America’s “heartland”, has a cultural pathology to it. Perspective has been thrown out of the window. A bunch of people got worked up, threw intelligent discourse under the bus, and started acting like idiots. Call it “American Social Media Schizophrenia”. I’m not saying that people in Kansas are idiots. I’m asking where the rational thinking of the people who are attacking Dr. Krawitz and Emma Sullivan went. Politico.com has just posted a story about the reactions of Emma Sullivan’s peers at the school, and it’s sad. This was supposed to be about right vs. wrong, a powerful man bullying a teenager, and the duty a principal has towards his students. It’s exploded into personal attacks. People are saying that Emma Sullivan started this. I’m arguing that she didn’t. Thousands of people post things on Twitter every minute that don’t get picked up on. The focus is now on attacking her, when it should be solely on the actions of the governor and his staff, now that Dr. Krawitz has stated that there won’t be any discipline imposed upon Emma.

The students behind the personal attacks and cyber-bullying of Emma Sullivan are conducting themselves in precisely the same manner that governor Brownback’s staff did. Want to call this a recruitment exercise for potential positions on the governor’s staff? That’s what this has turned in to, with the exception of a portion of America who used their freedom of expression to make death threats against Dr. Krawitz. Where’s the governor’s office now? Shouldn’t he or his staff be calling for calm? They started this whole mess, and now it’s blowing up uncontrollably. And they’re in Topeka, probably relishing in the backlash against Emma Sullivan and her supporters.

America…we lose our perspective all too often, and too quickly. Outrage to explosive anger in 2.3 seconds. And in this case, the victim is still an 18 year old girl and now, the principal who apologized. We’re reacting instead of thinking. We see other people on the Internet who are upset and we add our voice to the roar, instead of inserting our opinion and views. We basically scream because other people are screaming. Like monkeys in a monkey house.

If you’re angry, do something constructive with it. Build an argument and express it. Calling someone an “attention whore” marks you as a tacky moron with limited intellectual resources. Making death threats exposes you as a seriously disturbed individual. And there are people, politicians, news commentators, and governors who should take this advice.

So, it’s time to calm down. Dr. Krawitz shouldn’t lose his job. The members of Team Krawitz should quit proving why those people who are taking Emma’s side are right in defending her. We need to ask ourselves why we’re so ready and willing to act like raving lunatics at the drop of a hat and start remembering that you don’t need to act like a governor’s employee to make an impact. Emma Sullivan and Dr. Krawitz deserve better. It’s up to us to give it to them.

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Emma Sullivan Shouldn’t Be A Victim

If you haven’t heard about this, before you read on, you should read this link
http://bit.ly/uzUBE9 . This is about a young girl in Kansas who did…nothing. She posted something on Twitter. Seriously, that’s all she did.

Now, some of you might be thinking, “Well, this really isn’t a big deal. Why all the fuss?”. Ok, fine. Go back to Monday Night Football or whatever reality show you’ve got going. Or Farmville, if that’s your thing. But you’re missing something. This story is about someone abusing their position of power, and what really bothers me is that the target is an 18-year old girl.

People all too often in our society turn a blind eye to something that’s wrong. I’m sure many of us have been in situations where we were the underdog and no one stood up for us. I have a hard time with letting someone get away with pushing others around. We all have a voice.

I sent the following e-mail to the high school principal in the above “linked” article, as well as the editorial page of the Kansas City Star, the Kansas State Legislature, the Kansas Senate president, and the Kansas Senate Minority Leader. Here are their e-mail addresses, in case anyone would like to add their voice:

Principal Krawitz: eakrawit@smsd.org
Kansas State Legislature: LegServ@las.ks.gov
Kansas Senate President, Steve Morris: Steve.Morris@senate.ks.gov
Kansas Senate Minority Leader, Anthony Hensley: Anthony.Hensley@senate.ks.gov

There is a right and a wrong here. If you agree, retweet the link to this blog on your Twitter. Share it on your Facebook page. E-mail it to a friend. Ever wish someone would have spoken up for you? Here’s your chance to speak up for someone else.

E-mail sent as follows:

Mr. Krawitz,

I am writing to you because of a news report I recently read concerning what one of your students posted on her Twitter account. I am unsure as to whether or not you are the administrator responsible for demanding that this high school student write a letter of apology to the governor or not; your assistant principals were mentioned on your school’s website and the article did not mention the administrator responsible. If, in fact, you are not the administrator who spoke to Miss Sullivan, please forward this e-mail to the appropriate individual.

I understand that Miss Sullivan posted an unflattering message on Twitter concerning the governor of Kansas. But it should be understood that this is her right to do so. She did not post this message on your school’s website. It therefore should be none of your administration’s concern. I have posted many messages about Governor Rick Perry of Texas on Twitter, and have even criticized his debate performance on my blog. Not once have I been called to my employer’s office to have an apology demanded of me.

As a proud veteran of the United States Army, I can say that my voluntary service means something to me because of the ideals our country stands for, i.e. The 1st Amendment. Miss Sullivan was merely expressing her opinion about an elected official. And while we can’t expect the sensitive staff of a state’s governor to understand the rights that their employer has been elected to uphold, I would think that an administrator responsible for educating teenagers in America would not only understand this right of expression, but defend it. Does it matter how it was phrased? I’m not sure as to how familiar you are with Twitter, but I imagine some of your students are saying worse things on Twitter, during their classes, than Miss Sullivan said about the governor. It goes without saying that your administration at Shawnee Mission East doesn’t monitor the Twitter accounts of your student body. Why then, I ask, does Miss Sullivan deserve to be called into your office for this on-line posting? The answer is obvious: because it angered (the staff of) a powerful man. There is simply no other way of looking at the situation.

I’m writing this to you because I’m concerned. What does it mean when an elected official (or the staff representing him) can contact a school, or school district officials, to enact any sort of punishment for an opinion held by a student at that school? Many people in the media are considering this story a humorous commentary on the sensitivity of the governor of Kansas. I, on the other hand, see a grown man who should know better acting like a bully. Your school’s website has a link on it for anti-bullying references. What message does it send the student body to have an anti-bullying program in place and yet the administration can, in effect, “push around” an eighteen year old student at the whim of an older, powerful man?

I can’t say that I’m surprised by Gov. Brownback’s reaction. What completely confuses me is that a school administrator, responsible for educating young people, and, to a degree, with protecting them, can so willingly be enticed to use their position to influence the actions of a student. Miss Sullivan does not owe the governor an apology. This matter should not even have been considered by your office to be an incident worthy of discussing with Miss Sullivan, simply because an elected official should not be able to influence the actions of a school administrator regarding the free expression of a student. A principal’s first responsibility should be to the well-being of his or her students, and in this case, a gross offense was committed.

I ask that you reconsider asking Miss Sullivan to write this apology. There is a right and a wrong in this matter, and anyone that reflects on this can see that Gov. Brownback is doing nothing more than going after a person that can’t fight back. This is bullying, this is an issue of freedom of speech, and more importantly, it is a matter of a professional in the educational field doing the right thing. I ask, sir, that you reconsider your position on this matter and let the matter of the apology go unenforced. To do otherwise is to allow Gov. Brownback to win against a young member of the school you are responsible for. It is to send a message that you can’t express an opinion on your social media account. It says that anyone in a position of power can dominate and bully those who can’t fight back. None of the aforementioned falls on the side of “right”.

Please consider what I’ve had to say, and I thank you for your time.

Sincerely,
Brent Bednorz
Baltimore, MD

“Stupid” Is Not Rated PG-13

So. Let’s talk about being stupid.

We all finish our days with having had to deal with at least one complete moron. This isn’t exactly news- or blog-worthy, but what no one seems to focus on is what this says about the status of our culture, or even our biological status as a species. I would think that you’d run in to at least five morons to any one person with a mediocrum of common senseon any given day. Even genuises do stupid things. I know a man who could do differential equations in his head, but couldn’t remember where he left his lunch. We have to deal with the complete morons on a daily basis, but the one factor that seems to be overlooked lately is now we have this thing called the Internet, and now we get to do this amazing thing where we carry it around in our pockets or purses. What the Internet does is give us access to people’s stupidity. It is replete with websites dedicated to showcasing just how stupid and completely dumb people can be. I’m sure we all feel better after watching the video of the kid who thought it would be a good idea to take his skateboard down the side of a parking garage or the beauty contestant who said, ” Fuck.”. And of course, there’s watching Rick Perry debate.

The crap on the Internetz is supposed to be funny. Most of what I run into, on the other hand, isn’t. It borders on depressing. People tend to think I’m mean or a jerk for laughing about the asinine idiocy I run into constantly, but really, what other choice do I have? Seriously, if I didn’t laugh about it, it would become this soul-numbing thing that would infect my state of existence. Let me give you an example before you wander off to the pictures of people who shop at Wal-Mart:

I’m standing in Foot Locker one day. Because sometimes I just hang out in Foot Locker. Anyway, a lady walks in, marches up to the employee, and demands to know, “What sizes of shoes do you have?”

Um.

I’m pretty certain this lady just didn’t arrive on this planet. She, along with the rest of us, is the product of thousands of years of biological evolution. You know, the same process that got us to stop eating certain mushrooms in the forest and to quit trying to pet rattlesnakes. Not only that, she’s living in a world so technologically advanced that we can take things out of one person and install them in other people. And we FLY! We goddamn leave the ground and SOAR AMONG THE CLOUDS! We have GPS technology on our phones so we don’t have to stand in front of Burger King and ask a complete stranger, “How do you get to Burger King?”. And we have this tech because we put a bunch of satellites in orbit around the Earth like some kind of badass planetary Christmas tree. Lady, you belong to the species that figured all of this stuff out! So why are you asking questions that the village idiot wouldn’t? THERE ARE NO VILLAGES ANYMORE!

Next example: Starbucks has so thoroughly and completely fucked with us as a culture. How? By being at least slightly original in their marketing because they call their sizes tall, grande, and venti. Here’s a simple chart in case anyone’s having or has had trouble with this concept:

Tall = small
Grande = medium
Venti = large

(whoops, forgot)

Short = so damn small so what’s the point
Trenta = so damn huge you’re gonna piss yourself five minutes after you drink it

Is this in any way difficult to comprehend?

But we’re just gonna deal with the first three. How many of us have been standing in Starbucks and heard a customer having difficulty with this concept? Their apology usually goes something like, “I don’t understand your sizes.”. PEOPLE, THE MENU ISN’T WRITTEN IN ANCIENT SUMERIAN! I’m sorry, but this should be the “Gimmie” question on an exam. I’m pretty sure, rather than debate, question, and expose your stupidity, if you said, “a medium coffee” to the server, they’d get it. But no, the customer has to stand there and bitch that Starbucks just HAS to make everything complicated. Lady, read the stupid tax code. Starbucks isn’t making anything confusing. And why do people think there’s a skim (low-fat) version of soy milk? PEOPLE, IT’S NOT REALLY MILK! GAAAAAAAHHHHH!!!! I swear, people must think there’s a special farm out there populated with soy cows.

And despite us having all of this GPS technology, people still have no idea where they are or where they’re going. They can’t even figure out where the bathroom is in the building they’ve entered. Apparently it never occurs to them to wander around and look. Or smell. Sometimes that works. But they always know where they want to go; they just can’t figure out how to get there. I just don’t understand this. I can get on Google maps and look at the royal palace of the king of Thailand. AND I’M NOT GOING THERE! WHAT EXACTLY IS THE PROBLEM?

Sigh.

Would you like to know WHY there are certain safety recommendations on products you buy? Like on the side of a hair dryer, it says, “Do not use in the shower.”. Um, yeah, you’ll get electrocuted. But who thinks they’ll be able to dry their hair while there’s water falling on it from above? The reason why we have those warnings is because somebody did it. Some stupid human being did it and now the lawyers have to tell us not to do something stupid with it. That’s what all the warning on paper coffee cups are. The ones that say, “THIS BEVERAGE IS EXTREMELY HOT” really mean “Don’t be a fucking moron and dump this in your crotch.”. Containers of Play-Doh say “Not for human consumption.”. WHO THE FUCK IS EATING PLAY-DOH???? Trust me, someone opened a can of Play-Doh, saw that gummy, clay texture, smelled that rank pungent sharpness, and went all Cookie Monster NOMS on it. Then the Play-Doh lawyers went, “Holy shit! Call the printing department!”

Do you see why I have to laugh at stupid people?

I have seen people unable to figure out how a revolving door works. I have seen people completely mystified by a pay-parking machine. People can’t figure out voting ballots. People don’t understand how parking lots work. There are people who think, “That cop won’t tase me.”. People that spend two thousand dollars on a computer but don’t know what a browser icon is. People who think they can pay with foreign currency in an American business. People are still sticking knives into toasters. People that don’t understand what a crosswalk is for. People who can’t figure out which way to swipe their credit cards. I stood outside one winter, after a huge snow storm. The sidewalks were completely iced over. Across the street and up the block, a woman in a electric wheelchair was coming my way. Sideways. You see, she’d powered out onto the frozen concrete, hit the ice, and her wheelchair turned on the slick ice. At the top of a hill. So there she goes, still upright and headed downhill, with a look of complete surprise on her face as she slides over the ice.

My problem isn’t that I expect some higher demonstration of intelligence from people. I run into these people, have my indignation and laughs, but I walk away wondering how they’re able to function in their lives. How did they manage to find a job? How do they manage not to burn their apartments down? I’m not trying to be glib here; I think it’s a valid question. If the royal king of Thailand was in your bathtub, you’d probably be a little curious as to how exactly he wound up there. And these people vote. They reproduce. They share the highways with us. It causes me a little concern. These are the people you get on airplanes with. They’re making your food at Applebees. Some of them might be teaching your children. They make up the species that YOU belong to. And are we seeing any improvements? I seriously don’t think we are. People are simply not getting basic concepts. The other day, I stood and watched two college students trying to figure out a lunch menu. They were Americans. The menu was written in plain English. And they were having the hardest time understanding how much everything cost and what exactly the specials were. I stopped because it was obvious from first glance how simple the menu was. I had to watch simply because of how mind-numbingly stupid the whole situation was, so I wanted to see how long it took the two girls to resolve it. Fifteen minutes later, they gave up and went to Subway.

Every single day, I see examples of this. People blame Republicans or Democrats for the state of our country. Others say it’s because we’re not religious enough or we have too much religion. People blame the Chinese for taking our jobs. We’re not moral enough. We pay too many taxes. There’s a ton of complaining out there about how our country is getting along, but no one’s talking about all of the stupidity out there. Are you really going to stand there and tell me that Obama is really the reason why our country’s so messed up when we have people that don’t understand the ordering process at a deli when there are SIGNS TELLING THEM WHERE TO ORDER AND WHERE TO PICK THEIR ORDER UP? Yes, there are people who went to kindergarten, grew up, and don’t understand the concept of a line. I don’t think Obama is the problem.

The problem is, when you (nicely) try to point this out, you’re accused of being some kind of elitist asshole that thinks he’s smarter than everyone else. Well, if being an elitist asshole who thinks he’s smarter than everyone else means I tied my shoes this morning without getting my head stuck in the washing machine, if it means I can order a drink at Starbucks without turning the experience into some kind of half-assed school board meeting, if it means I drank my coffee instead of washing my pants with it….then yes. I see your point. Now try to see mine instead of being too afraid to admit that you did something stupid. And please, for the love of God, try to understand what the sizes at Starbucks are before I have a seizure and start foaming at the mouth.

Review of Geographical Assertions Along Racial Lines or: Honkey Goes to the Ghetto

People tell me I live in the ghetto. I wouldn’t know. I’m white. So are the people that tell me I live in the ghetto. They’re all white and they live in the suburbs. I know what they went to college for; none of them have degrees in ghetto identification. I joke around about going down to the ghetto after I’m done working, but lately, there’s been a change in my perception about this. But first we need to figure out what we’re dealing with, and like any good Wittgenstein-ian, we need to establish a definition. So here goes the white guy trying to define “ghetto”.

The most common idea people get when one says “ghetto” is a run-down area where poor black people live. I’m not even sure why we need this term; “barrio” just means Mexican neighborhood and doesn’t have that low-income feel. We call any area that Asians live Chinatown, and the ones I know back home work their butts off and make a lot of money. I don’t think we call Jewish areas anything. Except maybe Israel. Anyway, the only other term I can think of that denotes an area where low-come people of the same race live would be…trailer park. Trailer parks are full of trailer trash, which is just another way of saying white trash. It’s sort of funny, when you think about it. The two mutually exclusive terms used to define both race and economic status pertain to blacks and whites. No one else. And the ghetto is basically the same thing as a trailer park. You just change the color of the people and look out!

Why exactly is this?

And think about this: picture a white person in the ghetto. You’re probably picturing him or her running like hell. Now picture a black man in a trailer park. He’s probably…okay with walking around on his way through, and why wouldn’t he be? In fact, I can’t really imagine anywhere where a black person wouldn’t be just fine walking through. Except maybe Israel. Or Colin Powell’s house.

What I’ve discovered lately is way more interesting than just racial terminology along geographical borders. I don’t technically live in the ghetto. This is more like the inner city. Now, interesting to note, this is where the white readers throw up their hands and say, “SAME THING!”. No, it’s not, and here’s why: I work in the suburbs, and I’ve seen a lot more street crimes up there then down where I live. You wanna talk about drug use? WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU THINK THOSE RICH KIDS IN TIMONIUM ARE DOING? And just because your doctor gave you a prescription for it doesn’t make it better or on a higher moral ground than heroin. An addict is an addict. I don’t care if she’s hiding in some alley off of Harford road or wearing her fur coat as she wanders the Towson mall. And technically, you’re worse off, safety wise, if you go over to West Baltimore, and I’m nowhere near there. The only person I know that’s gotten mugged lives in the suburbs. And he got mugged by white guys. Yeah, I’m not walking past mansions or fabulous lawns down here, and I’ve seen my share of passed-out people that fell out of their wheelchairs (which is a common occurrence in trailer parks, believe you me), but there’s a stretch of Harford Road that runs for a few miles north of my neighborhood that they never filmed episodes of “The Wire” on. Probably because it’s run down like hell. And really, the only reason I’d call this “inner-city” is because THAT’S WHERE IT IS. It’s like, the center of Baltimore. Which just so happens to have more black people than whites. There’s Asians, Hindus, and Hispanics down here. And of course, everyone’s favorite blogging cracker, who is starting to really enjoy the area down here.

About two months ago, I realized I hated going to the suburbs. Being at my job was fine, to a degree, but other than that, I regarded it with the same disdain and dread I usually reserve for country music. See, walking around down here, I get stared at and judged. And I know why: I’m white. Can’t really change that. And I even understand it a little bit. I don’t pretend to understand the black experience or what it’s like to be judged based on the color of your skin, but if I’m being stared at because I’m white, well, white people have done a lot of shitty things to people who looked differently throughout history. I get that. I’m not down there being racist or judging people; I’m just walking over to Starbucks. I don’t really feel that the people who are staring at me down here hate me, either. It’s more like they’re just aware that I’m walking by and they’re….just watching. And they’re forming opinions about me based on the color of my skin. And I kind of…don’t care.

But get up to the suburbs and see if you get judged. You will, and it won’t matter if you’re black or white. Those rich assholes are going to judge you, because that’s what a huge bank account gets you the privilege of doing. And I’m sort of an expert when it comes to being looked down on because you don’t drive the flashy car or have the three-story house. It’s called growing up in Panhandle, TX.
Now, I’m not moaning or complaining about my hometown. In fact, it did a very good job of preparing me to deal with shallow, materialistic people. That’s not to say that I never knew kind-hearted, generous people back home, because I’ve got a ton of stories about them. But it was a microcosom, and anytime you compress a whole bunch of honkies together in that small of a space, you get a pretty broad selection that highlights the way white people are. And even though I’m dealing with investment bankers, lawyers, accountants, and doctors now, they act a lot like the people who had money back in my hometown. If you’re not part of their country club, then you’re basically trash scum that had the misfortune to get in their way. You’re obviously so stupid that their lives are made so much more worse by having to deal with you. They judge your clothes, your job, everything. And they certainly have the time to do it; they pay someone else to count their money and run their finances.

I don’t get that down here in my neighborhood. Besides, I tend to get kicked out of country clubs.

Plus, in the “ghetto”, there aren’t any drunk frat boys running around, getting in your face. There aren’t any cheerleaders talking about the smartphones Daddy bought them. The guy in the Jaguar isn’t tearing around the parking lot like Mel Gibson on the Feast of St. Stephen. And wouldn’t you know it, I hear more rap music up in the suburbs then down here in the city. And it’s always being blared out of some white person’s car. The point being: people up in the suburbs are showing off, acting all cocky because they’ve got money. People in the ghetto act cocky because you’d better have an attitude. Someone will kick your ass if you don’t.

Now, the threat of violence is going to make some of you squirm, but bear with me on this. Sure, no one goes looking for a fight. But there’s a bit more to be learned from being arrogant and strutting around because you have to, rather than because Mommy and Daddy got you in to a nice college. And here’s the reason: ever since I moved down here, I learned that you better get your attitude on, ’cause if you don’t, someone is gonna beat your ass and run off with your shoes. Now remember, getting the shit kicked out of you is not exclusive to the ghetto or the inner-city or wherever the hell Brent lives. It happens in the suburbs. Now, I will admit, I did have a close call just over two weeks ago, but the reason I DIDN’T get mugged was because of the aforementioned reason, i.e., had the attitude going. Meaning, “BULLSHIT YOU’RE JUMPING ME.”. So basically, I’m walking around on my way to yoga or Starbucks with a “don’t fuck with me” attitude. I look people in the eye and I’m not scooting through the hood like a frat boy outside the sorority house. And this attitude translates well into pretty much every facet of our lives, because there are ALWAYS going to be people out there looking to take advantage of you. Especially if you’re kind and open-hearted. Ever sacrificed a lot for someone, only to have it thrown back in your face? I’d almost rather deal with thugs jumping me, because using your fists is quicker than dealing with some of the other ways we get screwed over. Here’s another truism: white people will sic their lawyers on you. Give me a tussle on a street corner in Baltimore any day.

Maybe I’m saying that it’s refreshing to know where exactly I stand with the people in my neighborhood. Maybe it’s a racial thing; I don’t really care. It shouldn’t be a racial thing up in the suburbs, ’cause it’s more white, but those people are being difficult and trying to wreck your day. But I’ve been screwed over more in my life by white people. Especially ones with any money. I’ve always found that the more real, well-defined people who know HOW to deal with life, and also how to enjoy it, are the ones without any money. The suburbs strike me as fake, like some sort of dream land conjured up by city councils and real estate bastards, so I don’t mind being down here. It’s like being grounded in some sort of reality that makes going up to the ‘burbs difficult. I see through the bullshit, and I’ve never been one for putting up with fake, posturing bullshit.

So, I don’t really know if I live in the ghetto or not. I know there’s not a whole lot of crackers down here messing with me, and that’s a relief. I’ve met some really decent and real people down here, and I enjoy their company. None of them are driving a Mercedes around, though, and I never see them at Starbucks. But they’ve got a perspective on life that I understand. So I’m not going to call this the ghetto. I’m going to call it the place where I live, and as long as I’m here, I won’t have to deal with the rich boys in their sixty dollar jeans, the airheads who got in to a prep school, or the foul women who are just mad that their husbands won’t give them more money. I can think of worse places to live. Like trailer parks. There’s no country music down here in the hood, where we be keepin’ it real, fo’rizzle. You dig?

In Between

You came to hear a story but I don’t have one.

The art is never the thing you see. Cameras focus on the in-between. Stay there.

You can’t remember the words to the song that explained everything for you. Get by with radio friendly Valium. Sonic dopamine. Wait for the sunset when the light goes and facts are easier to ignore. Dusk is nature’s in-between. That quiet shade of color fills the sky and you find it more plausible, this fairy tale you’ve constructed out of broken dreams and tainted expectations. Reach for an ideal you don’t understand. Fashion, gossip, cruelty, and safety make for great camouflage. Blame the drugs. Blame everyone else so that you’ll all sound the same and use the same words.

Don’t take risks because then you might have to answer your own questions. You don’t want to finish your sentence. Don’t leave the quotidian of the suburb to find yourself because you’ll find something you don’t like and you won’t know how to change it. Don’t express. Stay below. Stand together with complete strangers who alienate you by their presence. Lost in the crowd. Strip mall identity. Suburbs lie in-between the wilderness and the jungle we call the city. Stay here where life becomes manageable. Manage the predictable. Flip through the channels because outside is too chaotic, because life is out there and no one told you how to explicate it. Diagram the day and see the straight line you’re left with.

Non-sequitur.

There are times when you almost let yourself doubt but you back away. Someone showed you truth but it was somewhere in the in-between. Black and white is too familiar. Gray is something unexpected. Regret is something forgotten when the radio plays. You don’t need truth. You didn’t need a voice because you had nothing to say. You’re okay with letting the ghosts haunt you because they’re frightened by the sound of the TV. Manage the past so that the future can be overlooked. Everything you wanted to say is right there in the in-between of the audible and the unspoken, but no one can say it for you. Have an excuse from your daily calendar of Life for Monday’s mantra. Somewhere in between your soul and your brain is your heart. But you don’t know if being alive requires that you know that heart. Distract.

I can’t tell his story anymore. It made everything possible but it never translates.

In between the real reasons. In between the hope and reality. In between the notes of the song. Between the subject and the artist. The brush and the canvas. Between the eyes and the expression. Between sunset and sunrise.

Stay away from the edge because you can live without knowing that you could survive the jump.

You don’t need a voice. You don’t need to know who you are because no one asked until it was too late. You don’t have to see the signs because there won’t be a test. Possibilities lie in the purview of the in-between. That’s not on the schedule. Relax. Take the money. Real is overrated. We’re experts at pretending we can do this. Settle. Don’t reach. No one can ask you to. The serotonin will come. Infinite jests of all of your hopes. Madame Psychosis is difficult, to say the least, to determine thematic coherence from. Don’t ask if you’re okay because the answer isn’t something that will elevate your status. In-crowd. Exit doors. Up and down. Never in-between.

Live with your ghosts and never name them. Find a show like the one you just watched. Like the Facebook page. Exist where everyone can see you outside of the in-between. Say that it’s art and move to the next exhibit. Let nothing touch you. Listen to your brain, talk about your soul, and put your heart in storage. Refocus. Blur. Zoom in. Put the playlist on shuffle. There is no requirement for authenticity so we can move on. Stay where we know the coordinates. No fear. We’re too busy for fear. Keep the quiet away so you don’t hear your voice. Wither, but call it living. Call it what you will. Right, all that you know, what you’re supposed to do, your hands are tied. All out in the open, obvious, black and white, anticipated, googled, familiar.

And out of the in-between.