A Poem of My Life

Do you think about your childhood? Do you remember it fondly? Or was it painful and hurtful?

I suspect that most of us would say both. Each childhood is different, each person has a different life.

This is a poem about my life. I hope it means something to you.

 

The Boy

 

I took a walk today where a boy once walked,

in a dream, in a memory, a lifetime ago.

I stepped where he stepped and stood where he stood,

I stared across fields of his long-vanished youth.

And I reached out to touch him…

But then he was gone.

 

He looked somewhat like me,

Brown hair, blue eyes,

But the brown hair was all brown,

Did not yet have gray,

And those blue eyes –

So blue!

So much brighter than mine.

They had not yet seen cruelty

From lover,

From brother.

They had not yet seen someone

For the very last time.

 

His face, it was smooth.

It was bursting with life.

It didn’t yet sag and it carried no pain,

It was not yet a roadmap of worries and woes.

It was young, oh, so young, so impossibly so.

 

I noticed him smiling, though no one was near,

Well, no one but me, but I don’t count, I fear.

He smiled as he built a dam in the creek

That ran behind his house, his trailer with wheels,

With cement blocks under to hold it all up.

He smiled because he was happy,

He was free,

And had no idea the bullies were coming.

Had no idea that his classmates could be

like werewolves, like monsters, like Jekyll and Hyde,

To turn on him suddenly, hateful and cruel.

And drive him to madness, and drive him to tears,

And drive him to beg his mom, “Please, let me stay!

Don’t make me go off to school today!

They’ll hit me, they’ll hurt me, and I don’t know why!”

The car would echo with his cry,

But she would send him off to die, a little, every day.

 

I noticed his shoulders, so small and so fine,

And perfectly built for climbing a tree.

They did not yet bear the weight of a life

They hadn’t yet shouldered the yolk of a job,

And bills, and ills,

And deaths. Or worse,

Of children who slay you,

One day at a time

In discrete little pieces, all numbered and tagged.

And filed alphabetically in small Zip-Lock bags.

 

That boy didn’t know of storms that were coming,

but who ever does? Who am I to complain

That he wasn’t yet ready

To suffer, to suffer,

To suffer and cry and little by little to die,

to die.

And yet live, to live and love.

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The ‘Good ‘Ol Boys’ of Gaming

4042346573_45b74490d6_oWhen I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s, I was told directly we’d have flying cars and pick-your-features babies by “the distant future of 2000”. What I wasn’t told directly, but what was strongly implied, was that we would not have racism and sexism. Now, I’ve been trying to live for years with my non-flying car, and my children were not programmed into the computer and picked up at the BabyStore. Funny thing: I can live with both of those.

What I cannot live with is racism and sexism, and yet here it is. I was rudely reminded of that today when I heard that Anita Sarkeesian, who is an advocate for a healthier representation of women in the video game industry, withdrew from a live speaking engagement because gamers threatened to murder her and commit a school massacre!

I’m sorry for putting that in bold and italics, but I am horrified today to say I am, and always have been, a gamer. I feel like that is an embarrassing title, one that I should neglect to mention in polite society because it’s become odious. And I thought we gamers had gotten past all that when we learned what showers and toothbrushes were.

Apparently not.

In an article published on the New York Times website, the details were laid out. You can read it here.

It’s now become apparent that, in spite of a generally egalitarian approach to the world held personally by many gamer-guys, there is a small but vocal – and apparently violent – male segment of the gaming community that thinks women ‘gittin all uppity’ and ‘actin’ like they’s got raits’ exists.

I don’t even know how to process this, because I am disgusted.

People, if you are a gamer and you feel this way, get therapy! If you know someone who is a gamer, especially a young man, please talk with them. The very industry you love needs females to join the ranks: Gaming isn’t a Gentleman’s Club. Women have every right to expect an industry that portrays them respectfully. After all, who really thinks that this is OK?avengers pose

And if you do, you really need to examine your priorities, because you’re a Good ‘Ol Boy in the very worst possible sense.

Rant Ends!

McWhat?!

So this thing just happened. People I know from a church I used to attend held a fundraiser to fight childhood cancer. The corporation that was hosting them is known for philanthropic giving in regards to children’s health, so yay them. Also,sock it this corporation was matching the money these people were raising dollar for dollar. Also, yay. These are all good things, and I want to make sure I am clear on this. Money raised to fight cancer = good! Here’s the problem, in three easy steps.

1) The company is McDonalds, which serves some of the least healthy food-like products on the planet and is a corporate behemoth that does everything possible to increase its profits, no matter the cost to the world or its customers. This information is out there on the internet if anyone cares to look (or ask me and I’ll provide links), but my family won’t go to McDonalds unless we have no other choice. My opposition to this company is so strong that, if I’ve been in a McDonalds 10 times in the last 25 years, I’d be shocked.

2) I made a poorly-worded comment about this on Facebook:  “I don’t want to offend anyone, but trying to stop cancer at a McDonalds is pretty much like trying to prevent hearing loss at a Megadeath concert. McDonalds serves food that *causes* cancer!”

3) People equated my less-than glowing review of the situation as my personal attack on their efforts to fight childhood cancer, resulting in name-calling, derogatory comments on my intelligence and intentions, and even the dreaded “un-friending” of me by a long-time friend on Facebook.

I have since posted a public apology, but in the eyes of those people, I have now been demonized. I carry a taint that can never be erased. I have ceased to be an *us* and become a *them*. I am outsider. I am unclean.

people-arguing-alberto-ruggieriIn America today, discussion and discourse are for all intents and purposes dead. Not one of the people on that Facebook post asked me to clarify my comment, or gave me a chance to discuss what I meant in detail. None of them actually wanted a discussion, I suspect, because that involves possibly being challenged on a belief they hold dear. I don’t really want to put words in anyone’s mouth, but since they aren’t talking to me, my brain struggles to fill in the blanks.

I am so terrified that our country has resorted to the social equivalent of slaughtering each other in the streets. Yes, my comment was ill-conceived and badly worded. Yes, I should have done something different that what I did. Yes, I am very sorry. But people say stupid stuff all the time. If I had to stop associating with people just because they did something that offends me, I’d live in a shack in the woods and never talk to anyone. This is serious, people! We are feeding on ourselves, socially, in some twisted version of Facebook Piranha. Worse yet, we are failing to have the sort of deep conversations that challenge our beliefs and sharpen our minds. You want to know why we are falling behind academically in the world? You want to know why children from dozens of countries outperform us on a wide range of academic tasks? It’s because we don’t think, we react.

When faced with a challenging situation, most Americans don’t try to understand what’s happening. Instead, they have an emotional reaction and respond based on that emotion. You do it. I do it. We all do it, with few exceptions. Here are some increasingly absurd examples of this type of thinking. If  someone cuts you off in traffic, they must be an idiot instead of a worried parent trying to get home to their child. If someone says something that offends you on Facebook, they must be an ass or an attention-seeker instead of someone scared for the damage being done to himself and others. If someone holds different political views than you, they must be uninformed or, worse yet, stupid instead of someone who has weighed the evidence and made a careful decision. If a leader makes a mistake, they must be totally incompetent, and should be fired.

hope-2-570x379_5b2a74a98dc194118606e13bfb555bea30e30e32Look, people are complex. People do things for many reasons. People are, honestly, very much like you. But they aren’t identical to you, and it’s well worth your time to seek the middle-ground. We can’t keep judging each other this way. To do so will lead to madness, or to a circle of friends that only agrees with what you already believe to be true. The Founding Fathers of the United States would be horrified (though not, I suspect, surprised) to see the way we treat other Americans in 2014. They bent over backwards to reach compromises that have made us the most powerful nation in the world. Just imagine what would have happened if those great men had refused to seek compromise, and had instead resorted to calling each other names. Where would we be now?

So I challenge you, dear reader, just as I challenge myself: Do something every day that  involves compromise, or involves getting to know another person’s views better. It’s the American thing to do, it’s the Christian thing to do, and it’s the right thing to do.