I haven't written in a couple of weeks. Mainly because my thoughts have been a giant jumble over current events, but also because I have foolishly spent the last two days arguing with gun nuts on Facebook. IKNOWSHUTUP! I'm not even taking my own advice at this point. I'm just sitting on my laptop for 16 hours a day, obsessing about the state of the world, the state of my country, and trying to get strangers to change their views on guns---all fruitless endeavors, to be sure.
Y'all, shit, I don't even know what to say anymore. The world is a shitastic place, and there's nothing any of us can do to change that. One of the best things I've read in the ceaseless coverage in the wake of Colorado Springs and San Bernardino is this. The author basically has come to the conclusion I have, which is that you have zero control over the chaos of the modern world. You're not gonna end racism, or invent a machine that suddenly removes all the pollution from the air in Beijing, or find the magic bullet (as it were) for gun control in US, or shut down ISIS in the Middle East, or get the human dumpster fires that are the members of our Congress to work to affect positive change for America, now are you? No, probably not.
So, in lieu of that, why not do shit that makes YOU feel better on a personal level? These are the things that you CAN control. If you're feeling anxious and out of control, lying in bed and trying to figure out how to shut down the KKK or worrying about those garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean that are the size of the state of Texas is probably not going to make you feel hella chipper.
So the author of that article, "Fifteen Things for When the World is Shitty and Terrifying," lists out the things you can do in and around your community that will make you feel better on a personal level. She's got some good things on her list, like taking one old coat and going and giving it to a place that will give it to someone in need, buying a $10 pack of socks and several boxes of feminine products from Amazon and having them shipped directly to the homeless shelter in your community. (Things like toiletries, especially tampons and pads, and underwear and socks are among the most under-donated but most-needed items in shelters.)
Some shit like, go and sit in a park and watch children playing, makes my skin crawl. Since I mostly think of children as crotchfruit, and since they don't really encourage adults who are alone to linger around playgrounds and stare at children these days, I think I'll give that one a miss. But her overarching point is brilliant---no, you can't save the world, but you can do a few small things---daily even---that will make a difference in the people's lives directly around you. You're not going to convince George Zimmerman not to be a racist and a misogynist. You're not going to say or do something that makes that festering cesspool of a person, Donald Trump, realize that he's spreading hate and fear and change his actions and words. So why not do something on a personal level that makes the world a better place.
It's so very easy, and you won't believe how good it makes you feel. There are people who argue that there's no such thing as being truly altruistic because at some point, you get joy and pleasure out of the results of your altruistic act; therefore, it's not fully altruisitic because you, too, are getting something from it, and it can be argued that that's the real reason you did it. To that I say: Who gives a fuck? If the end result is that a few battered women get tampons for a couple of months or that a homeless guy gets some new socks AND I feel a little better about spreading good in the process as well? I'm okay with that.
Here are a few things I've done recently that took little effort but made the people around me feel better. I enumerate these things not to say LOOK AT ME, I'M A TOTAL BADASS, but rather to illustrate just how small your actions can be.
- We donated three boxes of books and a huge bag of clothes to a homeless shelter.
- I gave a homeless guy my Peet's coffee card that had like $20 left on it.
- I'm baking cookies for a friend of mine who is having surgery.
- I've run a couple of friends to doctors' appointments and served as their moral support when they got difficult news.
- I wanted to make a big fancy dinner for my wife and me, and we were going to have more than enough food, so we extended a last-minute invitation to our friends who just had to put their dog down.
- I finished an art project for our bar's wall. My wife had been irritated with me that I hadn't started, so finishing it was something I knew would make her feel good.
- I made a pledge to donate money to the Coalition Against Gun Violence as soon as I am able and started a hashtag #DollarsAgainstGunsPledge for it to encourage others to donate to organizations that combat the NRA and the gun lobby's influence over our elected figures.
See? None of that shit took a lot of my time or energy, but I end up feeling like I'm doing my part to make this a cooperative and joyful world. At a time like this---when we're heading into an election year and both political figures and the media are whipped into high gear to make sure we're all full of fear and loathing---it's more important than ever to act in a way that proves all these fucktards wrong, to prove that we don't need to be consumed by Fear and Hatred of the Other because the majority of us are good people.
I'll end this entry with a story: every morning I go to the same coffeeshop and get my morning coffee. Then I go outside, around the corner, to these two benches, and I have my morning cigarette with my coffee. On Saturday, an old, black, homeless man sat on the bench next to me and asked me for a light. We sat there together, smoking our cigarettes, drinking our coffee, and making small talk about the weather. After he finished his smoke, he got up slowly and hoisted two huge garbage bags full of empty aluminum cans over his shoulder, and nodded toward my left hand. He said "Someone sho' is lucky." I looked at him quizzically. He continued "I was saying some person sho' is lucky to be married to you and to get to wake up to your beautiful smile every day." I blushed and said thank you.
As he walked off, he turned to me and said "Notice how I said 'person?' You gotta be careful these days. You can't make assumptions. You'll leave someone out." And I smiled even bigger when I realized what he was talking about. In my hoodie, short hair, and baseball cap, he'd pegged me as a dyke and had chosen his words accordingly.
And I thought, as I watched him limp away, if a straight male who is over 60 and who likely didn't have access to a variety of educational opportunities when he was younger due to the color of his skin and his age can recognize the need for everyone to feel included, then why can't the so-called "smart" and politically powerful people realize that? People have been bitching about how we've become a world overtaken by political correctness, but what I'm tired of is the people who are bitching about it. What harm does it cause to recognize that the white, straight, middle-class worldview and the life experiences that come with that status don't apply to everyone, and that by your words and actions, you can acknowledge that and not make them feel uncomfortable? "Political correctness" now has some sort of dirty connotation, but all it is is not making people who aren't like you not feel like shit. It's as simple as that.
My homeless buddy who lives on the street---who many would turn away from due to his smell and his appearance---was civilized enough to recognize this. Shouldn't we all?
Yup, it's just that easy.