Tuesday, July 30, 2013

(Less) Crazy

A girl stopped me on my way to work to ask if I had a few dollars (for once, I'd have given her money, and for once, I didn't actually have any on me). She then proceeded to follow me and talk to me.

I guess what really struck me about this one particular transient, of all the mentally ill individuals I come across on a daily basis, was how "together" she was, and how "normal" she seemed. I knew something may have been wrong when I saw her running over the bridge in flip-flops, stopping occasionally. Running. Walking. Stopping. Running. Repeat.

The running wasn't so crazy when it dawned on me that she was chasing pieces of her collection. The bridge is very windy, and if you're collecting paper with no proper storage receptacle, it's bound to the mercy of the breeze. The running was quite crazy, however, when she admitted (with no prompting on my part) that she collected garbage. She said it with a smile.

I said, "surely there's a reason."

"Yeah, there's a reason."

"And what reason is that?"

She was stumped.

It's hard not to jump to the part of the story where she handed me a Bible, which was one of several tattered books she kept in one arm (with all other forms of trash in the opposite arm). She claimed she was going to a devotional on the lawn of the Presbyterian church.

"Are you a Christian, have you read the Bible?" she asked.

"I'm not a Christian, but I've read the Bible, and the Koran, and even the Book of Mormon, which I happen to have right here in my backpack." 

I then went into "out-crazy" mode, which is a tool in the arsenal of the rational and sane (but just barely) in dealing with crazy people. You simply "out-crazy" them and they almost always leave you alone. I told her the story about how I obtained my copy of the Book of Mormon, about how I had a roommate who couldn't say no, and how they were in my house for three hours. I told her this story with zest and refined energy, because it's also a stand-up bit that I've included in my routine.

She didn't flinch. She handled it like a normal person. God damn it.

After following me into the store, looking around, leaving, coming back, leaving, popping her head in one more time, and leaving for the last time, my coworker noted that she "seemed harmless."

He also commented that he's always surprised whenever young and attractive homeless girls aren't being exploited into sexual slavery. I haven't ruled out the possibility that she's probably already experienced some degree of this, or will be exploited at some point in the future.

I may or may not see this person again, but she will always follow me around in some form or another. We give to charity and we think we're solving a problem. Whatever we give to our homeless, whether it's a cheap meal or the cheap promise of a fair and just afterlife, we're only treating the symptoms. This young woman is both a symptom and a symbol for how very little we, as the public, care about mental health.

But I can't keep talking about the mental health of others without looking a little more closely at my own. This post was originally going to be about how much I think Rick Scott deserves to be assassinated. With that in mind, does anyone know of a good therapist in North Florida?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Black and White Skittles: Taste the Status Quo Rainbow

I'm going to be using a very general "you" pronoun because it does seem to apply to so many people.  I understand that not everyone who disagrees with me will feel exactly the same, but I believe it is part of the larger overall problem that you'd even think that would be among the best reasons to discount what I'm about to tell you.

Write me off as a nobody. I'm just some bitter, opinionated, over-privileged faux activist who uses his detachment to mask his crippling anxieties regarding his worthlessness. It won't be anything I haven't already said about myself, and it won't be anything you haven't already projected onto multitudinous others who've tried to tell you "Hey, wait..."

I wanted to not write about Trayvon because I really wanted to be cool. But then I realized a bunch of you had already beaten me to it. I've heard it said and seen it written, over and over again, how unimportant this whole Trayvon thing is, how blown out of proportion it is, and how we should just let it go. People kill people all the time in our country, so why are we letting our media blow up one case, dividing us all in the process?

I'm willing to ignore the tacit suggestion that we're better off just not caring about acts of violence, but I have to point out the hypocrisy of even commenting at all if that's what you're going to say. If this whole Trayvon thing is just something cooked up by the monolithic evil media, you are only perpetuating the very process which you are bemoaning. But, oh no, it's everyone else who is distracted. YOU are special. YOU can see beyond the petty controversies. You have a strong sense of conviction to your ideals, which are not at all affected by the rest of the sheeple, right?

If you get the sense that I might be mocking you, then keep patting yourself on the back. You're doing great. Hang in there. I know this will be a long one.

You have insisted, with great bitterness and maybe something even resembling passion, that you don't care, you're better off for it, and I shouldn't care either. But you change your tune at the drop of a hood when it suits your convenience. You are so very loud about your apathy that you will not entertain for a second the possibility that something might be wrong.

"Move on," you chide. To what, exactly?

Are we to move on to complete and utter desensitization to our citizens killing each other? Yes, the thought of people being angry enough to riot is very scary.

It's also hysterical. How dare the media cause people to become so impassioned that there might be a riot. Riots are rare and frightening. Shooting deaths? Who cares about shooting deaths? THERE ARE RIOTERS OUT THERE, MAN! THEY'LL GET YOU!

Sorry, I should have been more specific. I meant race riots. BECAUSE YOU KNOW HOW FUCKING VIOLENT THOSE NIGGERS GET WHEN THEY'RE ANGRY, RIGHT? 

That last sentence of all-capped rage is obviously a caricature. I feel the need to explain this to you, because I think you are shallow and obtuse. I know that you think that you're not racist, because you don't hate black people. The mere indirect suggestion that you might be racist must be so hurtful and traumatic. I really feel for you, fellow middle-class white man.

You very well know the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. When it is suggested to you that racism may be more complicated than sheer and unadulterated hatred, you seem to get very confused and want to claim silly things about how the word no longer has any meaning and how people use it as an empty pejorative. Your refusal to acknowledge the subtleties of racism does not mean it does not exist, it does mean that you are complicit.

Even if you're not overtly racist, it's more convenient to pretend that racism does not exist. The fact that you're not even willing to entertain the notion is cowardly. You have nothing but excuses. Even if this case is not an example of a white life being privileged over that of a black life, you are still the victim of a consumer culture that insists everything must be as simple and palatable as possible. Comfort is king.

But it IS an example of a white life being privileged over a black life. "Oh, but Zimmerman is Puerto Rican." Yeah, you say that as if race is about something more than skin color, which is exactly what a a racist might think. It's funny how you're only willing to entertain details when they are trivial and you can hide behind them.

"Oh, but, that's the law." Yeah, and that's the problem. You may have been caught up in the media circus that was the trial itself, but you're using that drama as an excuse to ignore a greater systemic and cultural problem.

It's not a big deal if you are not an emotional wreck over the death of Trayvon Martin. But if you don't care at all, or found yourself taking the side of the man who killed him, you value comfort, convenience, and order (no matter how unfair it is to everyone who isn't you) over the well-being of your fellow humans. Racist or not, it is repugnant, but it is very marketable.

The media IS dividing us. It pits lazy cowards with power against everyone else. The dumber, lazier, and more cowardly you are, the easier you are to market to. If they have to sell you the idea that they're causing the division elsewhere, and that it's people like me who are the problem for pointing that out, they will happily feed you the fear, hate, and apathy that have kept you coming back for more.But I'm not blaming the media so much as I'm blaming the people who bought tickets to the circus and then left early, bitching about how "it was just a circus."

"Move on." Fuck off.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Last Thirty Minutes

I'm going to tell you about three things that just happened. They "just" happened, as in they occurred within the last half hour.

First, I bought a cheesecake from a recovering drug addict. He represents such and such a charity ("Hogar" something or other), and once a month these men and women descend upon our hallways awkwardly selling cheesecakes to raise funds for their recovery center. I bought one, ate the entire thing, just wrapped up a text message regarding how awful an idea that was (to eat the entire thing) and another cheesecake appeared before me on the display shelf.

So, either a miracle occurred, or my stuttering salesman managed to sneak into the store, stood NEXT to me, and slipped me another cheesecake gratis, on the recovery house. I neither saw nor heard him.

*insert Arrested Development reference*

Before I could even piece of pie together what had just fucking happened, I was summoned to our other shop.

I saw a midget sitting in a public ashtray.

I say "public ashtray" so as to distinguish between the type of ashtray you might find on a coffee table, and one which a human being (at least a midget) could conceivably sit inside of. The imagery was whimsical nonetheless.

Last, and probably least, I saw a t-shirt with an American flag on it that said "Proud." This struck me as redundant. No one waves a flag out of shame. Maybe you wave a white flag out of shame, or you experience some degree of humility while doing so. But no one is shoving a national flag in my face because they've realized, to however marginal a degree, how inconsequential their own existence might be. It's ridiculous. We get it. FLAGGY MCFLAGGLETON.