Friday night was a very, very typical pre-Halloween Friday night for me–after missing it last year, partly because I think it was in a different town, I made my triumphant return to The Rocky Horror Show live onstage, complete with bold makeup and bright-pink fishnet tights. I laughed, I shouted until I was horse, and I did the Time Warp. A good time was had by all.

On Saturday morning, probably around 11:15, I stopped for gas on my way to get my hair dyed and was scrolling through Twitter when the news broke–a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh. At the time, the death toll was four but they were pretty clear they know that number was gonna go up. When I was sitting in friend/stylist Emily’s chair an hour or so later, it was eight. When I was driving home an hour or so after that, it was 11, and almost all of my programmed radio stations had stopped playing music altogether and were instead playing news broadcasts and press conferences.

I only lived in Pittsburgh for six months, but I’ve spent my entire life hovering nearby. I grew up about an hour south, went to college at a University of Pittsburgh branch campus, and after those six months on Mt. Washington, I moved to another small city about an hour away. I’m far enough removed that I don’t feel like it was my community itself that was harmed, but I’m close enough that it hurts. I’ve teared up reading the news. I’ve seen my Facebook feed turn into nothing but an endless timeline of shock and grief and my notifications a string of people marking themselves as safe. Seeing the city in the national news is weird, and seeing it the national news for this reason is heartbreaking.

Part of me isn’t surprised–southwestern Pennsylvania isn’t known for its diversity and tolerance, particularly the area where I grew up, so much so that a coworker from that same area messaged me pointing out the last name of the shooter is common there and it wouldn’t be a surprise to learn if that’s where he was fro. But part of me is surprised because a violent, anti-Semitic Pittsburgh isn’t the Pittsburgh I’ve ever never known, and because of that, I knew that the city would really come together in the aftermath. The anecdotes are uplifting–people opening their homes to reporters covering the shooting, people cooking for the police, singing at vigils, huge turnouts at blood drives, massive amounts of money raised for the synagogue and victims, though admittedly not all from this area. As I write, the Pens are playing with patches on their uniforms that say “stronger than hate.” People are sharing slogans saying hate can’t bring down a city of steel and images that replace the gold diamond of the Steelers logo with a gold Star of David.

I love Pittsburgh. The only reason I don’t live in the city itself is mostly timing–when my housemates all decided to go our separate ways, I just couldn’t find an apartment in the city that I could afford at the time. But I spend a lot of time there. I go to concerts there (I’ll be there Thursday), I see shows, even go to the movies sometimes. It’s been a difficult few days for everyone, especially the victims and their families above all, and I hate that this happened and that there are people out there who support the shooter or support similar acts. This is a very sad, hateful chapter in our history not just as a city but as our country and I’m eager for it to be over, but I know it will end. It would be nice to say a lot of uplifting things about moving on and putting it behind us, but the unfortunate reality for those who were there is that this is something that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Still, I want to close with optimism.

So like I said, I love Pittsburgh. I look forward to more fun nights out with friends and family, and I know this does not and will not define the city.

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Well, it finally happened–after a few attempts, Terra is officially a licensed driver.

She took a break from trying for a little bit, worked on her anxiety some, and came back at it the weekend after my birthday. After getting stuck waiting in PennDOT because we missed her name being called due to being in the wrong place, she took it. I think I’ve said this before, but every time we’ve gone, I’ve felt what parents with teenagers must feel. I’m nervous for her.

Because she’s not a very expressive person, when she walked back in, I had no idea if she’d passed or not. It was only when I asked her how it went and she said she hit two kids that I knew she got it–she wouldn’t be making jokes otherwise.

And then we went to the mall so she could get herself some shirts celebrating the Pens’ second consecutive Stanley Cup win, and I bought a phone charger for my car because I’ve somehow lasted basically the last two years without ever getting one, and as I had plans for the evening, I really needed it.

Paul had gotten word Friday through a coworker that Bernie Sanders would be in Pittsburgh as part of a small series of appearances of the weekend speaking out against the Republican healthcare bill. Initially, I assumed it was a morning rally and we wouldn’t be able to make it, but instead, the evening timing worked about perfectly–I took a little longer with Terra than I expected, but Paul and I met at our usual South Hills T stop, took it downtown, and made the short walk from the station to the convention center and got in line. I used the same method I do for general-admission, standing-room-only concerts, which is to get there an hour before doors open. You almost always get a really great spot, and an hour to kill in line isn’t too bad, and neither is the hour-ish you kill inside waiting.

Of course, when we saw Bill Clinton in college, we got down there first thing in the morning, but you kind of have to when your cousins live a mile down the road and you can make a day of it.

We did end up with a pretty decent spot about three rows back, and it was a great event. Although Bernie was the focus, of course, they had six speakers before him, which seems like a lot but wasn’t considering most of them only spoke for a few minutes–and all of them gave great, memorable speeches about their personal stories of struggles with healthcare, why it’s important for that care to be affordable, and why the proposed legislation isn’t a viable solution. They were the kind of speeches that the opposition should hear, because even though they got a great response from a room full of people who shared their opinion, it’s crucial for people to understand what these people stand to lose if this passes.

Bernie was great, of course, with just the kind of demeanor I’d expect with a little bit of showmanship, repeating the sorts of lines he became known for when he was campaigning. But he was really cool to see, and even though a rally seems like a tiny, tiny thing to do when it comes to political involvement, I’m glad I went and I hope to be able to do more in the future. It’s just that less than two months before my wedding is not ideal.

We ate a late dinner in Washington at Primanti’s, then enjoyed the rest of our weekend.

I just so happened to accidentally take a day off the day after the election, forgetting about the election entirely. I’d arranged to switch a Saturday shift with a coworker to get the day off for Jacob and Katie’s wedding last month, leaving me with a six-day work week when it came time to cover her day. On top of that, I’ve been taking advantage of as much of the double-pay overtime they’ve been offering as I can, so without that day off, I would’ve gone into work something like 13 straight days without a full day off. The fact that it happened to be the day after the election worked out pretty great, too. It allowed me the full evening to go vote and watch the results.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I find the results disappointing, to say the very least, and I have a lot of thoughts on just how we came to this point and why. Frankly, I don’t really feel like rehashing them more than I already have elsewhere, but suffice it to say they’re not good. I think a lot of people let a lot of despicable behavior and statements slide. I think a lot of people chose to take Donald Trump at his word without doing any other independent research–and in 2016, when most of the people voting do have access to reputable information, ignorance is a choice.

Like a lot of other people who wanted a different outcome, I’m thinking a lot about where we go from here, particularly how I can use my time (and sometimes money) in a helpful, constructive way. Getting involved locally isn’t much of an option as I have too many things, like a wedding and freelance writing, that need my attention. I kind of hate the thought of social media and writing being the best I can do right now, but without letting other things slide or missing deadlines, that’s the best I can do right now. But I’m also looking at where I can donate money or even where I can spend it–one of my favorite quotes, paraphrased, is about how people essentially vote with their money for the kind of world they want to live in.

The conversation that seems to be dominating today, at least in my circles, is the rise of fake news sites. While I don’t think that’s the only thing that went wrong here and we should’ve been paying attention to this much, much sooner, I’m glad something is coming out of it. I’ve seen too many posts–from both sides–in the week since the election sharing news from less than reputable sources. I’ve even seen people defending the way they voted with misinformation, and that’s something sad and scary that should stop us all for a second. There are a few pages lurking around my Facebook feed I’ve been meaning to purge from it, and now is as good a time as any to actually do it. I recommend everyone else do the same. The best way to end this problem is to stop feeding into it and to fight back with reputable sources when we see it. Granted, you’ll always have people who ignore this and choose to believe whichever sources back up their opinions, but I’d rather challenge those when they happen than ignore the whole thing altogether.

It’s been difficult and scary sometimes watching how the new administration has been handling things. I have some very real, serious concerns about a Trump presidency, the same ones I’ve had since he announced his run in the very beginning, and I go back and forth depending on the day and the biggest news story of that day with whether this is going to be a disaster or whether we’ll be mostly okay–not great, but not terrible.

The concerns so many people in the country have right now are very real and should be listened to and taken seriously, but at the same time, even in the aftermath of the election, there was such a sudden burst of good news in the personal lives of enough people I know that the spiritual side of me couldn’t write it off as coincidence. The very next day, I chose my wedding dress and Terra’s brother and sister-in-law had their second child together, a boy they named after Terra and Dom’s father. A cousin announced an engagement, on top of the other three weddings, including my own, we’ll have in the next two years. Two totally unrelated couples who have been struggling to get pregnant both announced pregnancies on the same day. People started new jobs and new relationships, and all of this in the span of a week–most of it within a few days. This certainly isn’t to sugarcoat the state of things and suggest that everything is gonna be great just because my Facebook didn’t completely suck for a few days, and to do so would be totally unfair to the numerous groups who may face some serious challenges in a Trump presidency, and that’s understating it.

But it does have me feeling a little more optimistic.

I almost said I had a pretty tame Halloween, but I don’t know that a trip to see Stage Right’s “Rocky Horror Show” can ever be considered tame. I mean, tamer than, like, binge drinking at a party, sure, but you’re still in a theater dressed very questionably and encouraged to yell and throw things.

My outfit was cute, by the way, and minus some accessories, I could actually wear it out in normal life. That’s pretty rare.

The show was good fun, as always. I got a nap in earlier in the evening since we were going at midnight, then we ate a little at Eat ‘N’ Park, then we were off.

Being back in Greensburg made us miss it. Paul doesn’t want to look for a new job out there because he’s never spent more than a year at a job and he’d like to change that and living there now when he’s working in Washington wouldn’t be ideal–it would be an hour-long commute, although it would be really easy. That said, I’ve decided to include Greensburg in my ongoing job hunt. I think we’re both hoping we’ll end up back there one day.

The show was good fun, as usual, and seemed to be full of virgins, which almost made it more fun. Knowing the callbacks means you can use them, but it also means they’re not that funny anymore, most likely. So it was actually pretty great to hear a popular callback yelled followed by lots of genuine laughter from people who had obviously never heard it before. And, of course, the creativity of people in the new ones is always great, too. The theater company has one of their ensemble sit and yell things, I think in part to encourage people to yell and to get some new material out there, and it’s generally one of the best.

My one complaint is that the political jokes are getting a little…tired.

I can’t remember exactly when it started, but it was almost definitely when I was still in college. It started with the narrator coming out at the end dressed in some sort of drag, like he always does–this year, it was actually as Donald Trump in a tutu, which was actually pretty funny–and mooned the crowed, showing off an anti-Obama bumper sticker on his underwear, or maybe he’d just written “Obama sucks” across a pair of white boxers. As he began to incorporate an iPad from which he reads his lines, it turned into showing various anti-Obama slogans and memes during “There’s a Light (Over at the Frankenstein Place).” This year, that expanded to include not just Obama but Hillary Clinton, too, plus support for Donald Trump and a joke about Caitlyn Jenner, which I thought was not only tasteless but a little bizarre, given the nature of the musical. It’s pretty weird to hear people laughing at a photoshopped box of Froot Loops that depicts a transgender person while everyone’s sitting in corsets, fishnets, and underwear watching a show about sexual liberation with a transvestite main character. It doesn’t make sense to me to cheer raucously for Frank-N-Furter when he tosses aside his cape and reveals his own fishnets and corset and to do the same at the end, where everyone participates in a floor show and Frank’s creation Rocky and visitor Brad are donning them, too, but to laugh at an actual human’s gender identity.

After years of this–I don’t think it’s spanned the full course of Obama’s tenure, but it’s been at least half, probably more–it’s starting to feel less like a joke and more like the actor playing the narrator trying to push his own political agenda into a place where it not only doesn’t belong, but also doesn’t make sense. I’m not saying one has to be a liberal to enjoy “Rocky Horror.” My dad’s a hardcore conservative and loves it, as do some of my devout Catholic friends, but the messages run so contrary to the themes of the show.

I will admit that I did appreciate when the iPad flash “Kirk/Spock 2016,” and I still think it’s funny although admittedly almost outdated when Riff Raff says Frank-N-Furter isn’t married and probably never will be and people yell, “Fuckin’ Republicans.” And for some balance, one of the other callbacks was when Frank says he splitting a brain between two people, someone yelled, “Should’ve given some to Donald Trump.”

They’ve bene trying to do a theme the last few years, maybe to try to keep things interesting, and this year’s was “Star Wars”/”Star Trek,” which was super fun. It comes through mainly in the costumes–plus a few bars of cantina music–but it was fun. I was excited to see just what they’d do with it, and I wasn’t disappointed.

And of course I’ll be back next year.

Adventures in Internet Assholery

I guess it started late last week.

There’s an ultra conservative, popular Twitter account whose retweets make their way into my feed every so often thanks to a Donald Trump parody account I follow. I’ve replied a few times–she’s posted some pretty blatantly ignorant things about things like Black Lives Matter. Then she posted some things personally attacking Hillary Clinton, specifically making jokes about her having cankles and being bid on by a hog farmer in Iowa.

Now, these are the kinds of things I don’t think are appropriate when discussing politics, and one of the reasons I love Bernie Sanders so much is because of his refusal to attack his opponents like that, especially when we have people like Donald Trump finding ways to insult Rosie O’Donnell in political debates. These statements not only cross lines, but they contribute nothing. They say nothing about an issue, and I actually think they say more about the person saying them to begin with than they do the politician. Don’t get me wrong, I think we’re all guilty of it at some points, but there’s a difference between letting something slip and relentlessly attacking an individual. There’s also a difference between what one says in private conversation and what one says publicly on the internet, but that’s a separate issue. Sort of.

The point is, I said something about it–two replies to two tweets, one about the cankles and the other about the hog farmer. My first tweet said disagreement was fine but personal attacks like this are rude and disrespectful, and the second said the Tweeter was just being mean. Like I said last week or so in a somewhat related post, I’m a believer that it’s not right to sit silent while people are nasty on the internet.

This must’ve hit a nerve. A day or so later, I woke up to find that she had publicly replied to me.

I have mixed feelings on the art of the public reply. I’ve seen it used by celebrities against trolls, but there’s something about it that’s very, very deliberate, especially having been on the receiving end of it now. Sometimes, it’s appropriate, and it can be a good way to address something that’s worth letting your whole feed see. A good example of that was an actress that I follow was recently accused of slut-shaming for criticizing girls who think dressing provocatively is the only way to be sexy–and for the record, I agree with her statements and disagree that it was slut-shaming. But said actress defended herself by linking to tweets and replying to them publicly in her feed, which had the advantage of all her followers, including those making similar arguments, being able to see what she was saying as opposed to her saying the same thing to God knows how many people had similar opinions.

In my case, though, I felt like it was done solely as an attempt to shame me because there was no real need for it otherwise–plus it was done two or three times. It’s also worth noting that my previous tweets over the course of maybe a few weeks or days actually disagreeing on specific issues went ignored, so I find it interesting that the comments that got her attention and were deemed deserving of a public shaming were ones questioning her character.

Now, her replies themselves were interesting. Remember, this was only about personal attacks–I had not responded to something that, say, blamed Clinton for Benghazi. In fact, none of the tweets I responded to had anything to do with Benghazi or actual politics or policy, and although I admittedly didn’t follow her and only popped in when I saw retweets, I never once saw anything discussing the actual issue. Just personal attacks, mostly criticizing appearance. But guess what I got ripped for? Thinking a murder deserves respect and not caring about children. And I still don’t understand what that one was about.

The thing is I’m not even saying one has to have respect for Clinton, or even speak well of her in private. Or even publicly, necessarily–what I’m saying is that joking about a female politician having cankles and being bid on by a hog farmer isn’t okay. It’s unnecessarily mean, for one thing, and it contributes nothing at all. If someone really cares about an issue, that’s what they should be speaking about, not attacking someone, especially if you want to be listened to and taken seriously. Otherwise, you’re just intentionally perpetuating negativity for no other reason than to just do it.

The backlash I got from her followers was admittedly mild–of the thousands she has, I got maybe around 20 replies, and most weren’t personal attacks. In fact, it was more like if you cloned my dad and gave each clone a Twitter account. Sure, there was one guy who told me I could “go to prom” if I was “a good girl” and that I needed to grow up, which is funny considering the tweets I’d criticized weren’t the kinds of things mature adults should say. Most of it was just trashing Clinton, partly out of an assumption that I support her. One man called her my “precious Hillary,” plenty called her a liar, another said she needs to be in prison for murder. More than anything, though, it was packed with assumptions about what I believe and stand for. Being a Clinton supporter is a pretty obvious one, but it’s kind of amazing how many people think speaking out about rudeness means you don’t care about any other issues. Plenty of people suggested that I don’t care about the Americans killed in Benghazi. I do. But like I said, my tweets and the tweets they were replying to didn’t have a thing to do with Benghazi. Not a single mention of Benghazi was to be seen, in fact, until the attempt at publicly shaming me. One man even went so far as to ask me “why the selective outrage” over this and not the dead Americans.

I wasn’t outraged–that was an assumption, too. I’ll grant that being limited to 140 characters can make tone hard to convey, but two pretty calmly worded tweets are hardly outraged. In fact, I’d say the true outrage came from this woman and her followers.

I touched on this before when I talked about Cecil the lion, but it’s perhaps even more relevant now–me sending out two tweets out of the thousands on my account over the years can hardly be called “selective outrage.” Two tweets are not representative of everything else I’ve had to say, on Twitter and elsewhere. Me calling out someone’s rudeness does not mean that’s the only thing I care about, and the implied moral superiority coming from those who suggest otherwise is really frustrating. My attention was on that subject in that moment, and I said two things and didn’t think about it again until I woke up to 20+ notifications. This does not mean other things don’t matter to me, just like people talking about Cecil the lion doesn’t mean they don’t care about other issues, either.

When I told this guy I was gonna block him, he criticized me for being “unable to engage in discourse,” but that was kind of my point all along–this was not discourse. Attacking me and making assumptions about what I care about is not discourse. Attacking a politician’s appearance is not discourse. The closest thing I got to proper discourse was someone who sent me screenshot from an article about a book about Clinton, discussing the way she spoke to her staff. Now, if it’s true, it involved lots of yelling and swearing at them, which I’m not okay with. But the excerpt’s point was less “she’s rude to her staff” and more “sometimes she uses cuss words, therefore she is unfit to be President.” And that’s just a ridiculous thing to say. You mean to tell me every other candidate in both parties is a saint who’s never so much as uttered a “damn”? Hell, Bernie said it in the middle of a debate, and it got the biggest cheers of the night. Swear words have zero impact on one’s ability to lead. I’m more concerned about policies and respect for people.

I found two things upsetting about this whole mess. For the most part, I wasn’t really upset by anything said to me, with the exception of the assumptions. But I was bothered by the fact that so many of the tweets I was mentioned in got favorited and retweeted. Even though they weren’t that bad, it was really, really bizarre to see people actually enjoying seeing this play out.

This speaks to the second thing I found upsetting, which is the fact that these people all thought personal attacks are okay, that only one woman–and if I remember right, the only woman–saw the same problem I did. People not only seem to think nastiness is acceptable, but they’re willing to defend it and rationalize it. Well, to a point.

See, the thing is that people were quick to come at me but backed down when I defended myself. I didn’t respond to all of them, but of the ones I did, I believe only one kept going at me, and that was the guy who accused me of the “selective outrage.” Not a single other person had anything else to say to me. In fact, when I went back through to block people for my sanity, I found that one man in particular had already blocked me–and I hadn’t even replied to his comment. He actually blocked me either right before or right after he tweeted at me. How cowardly can you be?

This wasn’t the only internet nastiness I’ve dealt with over the last few days, but as this is long, I’m gonna cut it off. But I’ll say this–the matter of people backing down when you defend yourself was not unique to Twitter or this issue, nor was the idea of disrespect and personal attacks being both acceptable and justified. I noticed another trend, which is that most of the nastiness, though admittedly not all, comes from and is defended by men. Most of the people agreeing with me? Women. Huh.

On the next episode(s?) of “Adventures in Internet Assholery,” we delve into trigger warnings, Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costumes, and paid maternity leave/taxes.

On Conspiracy Theories and Politics and Relationships and Stuff

I love hearing a good conspiracy theory, but finding them entertaining and believing them are totally different. And I’m amazed by people who are highly educated believing them, especially when they’re coming from blogs with no other sources. Some dude who says he saw something doesn’t make it so.

If a college professor wouldn’t accept it as a source on a paper, you shouldn’t be believing it or repeating it.

I also have a major problem with the underlying theme of conspiracy theories–almost every single one implies that we’re all pawns, powerless to powers above us that control everything. I don’t believe that. In fact, I think it’s a cop-out that allows people who buy into them to promote their own paranoia and let things in the world run amuck without trying to fix them. If everything is corrupt, then why should we try, you know?

There was a whole discussion on this the other night thanks to Facebook, but it also led to another interesting, semi-political point.

I ended up chatting with Fr. Bob on the subject. We ended up on a slight digression regarding some of his dreams for the area. He’s very outspoken on what can and should be done to improve it, and he told me he’s working with some people to open a Headkeeper’s-like establishment, which I think is an excellent idea that would probably be pretty successful. I mentioned how Headkeeper’s is on my long list of places I want to take Paul, and Fr. Bob said he’d love to join us and we seem like a very opposite couple.

I feel like I’ve discussed this before, but a quick, half-assed search turned up nothing.

Outwardly, yes, we are total opposites. We kind of make fun of ourselves for it. He prefers to dress pretty plain, and I’m typing this wearing a black lace shirt under a bright red tank top with even more lace and some beading. I have epic, curly reddish-brown hair, and it’s drastically changed length and color multiple times since we started dating. I’m a liberal, he’s a conservative.

Except, well, it’s not that simple. For one thing, “liberal” and “conservative” give you vague ideas of the views but not the specifics. And Paul is not, nor has he ever been, as conservative as he’s claimed, which I’ve pointed out to him. He may be more religious than me and his personal desires and decisions may be pretty traditional, but he’s a little more live-and-let-live than his conservative family and friends. We’ll occasionally get into an intellectual debate, but he’s not exactly a fan of the Republican party right now. Granted, his mom blames that on me, which may explain why she hates my life.

Sorry, I have to interrupt myself to report that iTunes is on shuffle and just played Buddy Holly’s “You’re So Square (Baby, I Don’t Care)”. Perfect.

So anyway, Fr. Bob mentioned that his friend John talks like Paul is super conservative and I’m super liberal. Now, when John and Paul were better friends, this was true, so I’ll give him a pass there. But he’s only met me maybe three times tops, and we’ve never discussed politics. All he knows is what he sees on Facebook–and not for much longer because he’s getting purged, but we’ll get to that–and what other people tell him. And Facebook isn’t necessarily good for accurately explaining a person’s whole philosophy on life, and perhaps for similar reasons, people almost always get it wrong when they discuss my political beliefs behind my back.

On the most basic level, I believe people should be free to do whatever they want as long as no one else gets directly hurt–if someone else’s life decisions that don’t actually involve or impact you somehow upset you anyway, that’s your problem and doesn’t count.

My dad’s the one who gets it horribly wrong the most, but he does that with everything. He paints me as a bra-burning Communist who literally worships Obama. Brandon’s said I hate rich people. Paul’s mom just thinks I’m the hippie antichrist. And now John’s running around saying God knows what and using it as evidence that my boyfriend and I are just too different, which brings up another observation.

People who point out how different Paul and I are–or any other people, for that matter–seem to be using it as proof that we shouldn’t be together, don’t belong together, but this is also almost always coming from people who I’ve noticed firsthand have a really hard time interacting with people who aren’t very similar to themselves.

Paul almost dumped me about a year after we’d been dating in part because he was worried we’re too different, and I told him our differences would only be a problem if we made them problems. One of the reasons we work so well as a couple–and this applies to anyone with major differences–is we let each other just be. We don’t try to get each other to do drastically different things to please the other or fall more in line with the other’s personal taste, and we understand and accept each other for who we are. In the world of love and relationships, common ground isn’t the most important thing–it’s how you handle a lack of it, and people who can’t do that have a lot of growing to do as humans and really are denying themselves so much potential for experience and love.

Which is certainly at least a partial problem with John. I mentioned to Fr. Bob that John doesn’t know me, but I wish there was a way to nicely say, “Look, he’s kind of a shitty person.” See, John had a thing for Katie a few years back in high school, possibly even to this day given semi-recent events. He and Katie went to I think prom together, but John never asked her out or anything after that. But Paul’s brother Jacob did, and aside from a brief breakup one summer, they’ve been together ever since. They’re engaged. And apparently, John is so bothered by this–even though his loss is his fault–that he completely stopped speaking to Jacob in the years since and then in the past few months called Katie a cunt and Jacob a pussy right to Katie’s face, so now she’s not speaking to him, either. As the defense big brother, neither is Paul, but John’s been on shaky ground for awhile anyway due to being a hypocrite, racist, and belligerent drunk. I never had a problem with him personally, but I do have a hard time with someone who treats people like that, so he was on his way out of my life, too, especially now that he’s decided to offer up completely uninformed opinions of my political leanings and my relationship.

Great job, dude!

This Will Probably Mostly Be a Rehashing

Sometimes, when the world is really chaotic, sick, and sad, my mom says, “If I was your age with the way things are right now, I’d seriously consider not having kids.”

I’ve always understood her point, but as I get older and as things get even more chaotic, sick, and sad, I find myself weighing that as an option, more heavily with each scary, hateful act, each shooting. Right now, I don’t want to bring a child into the world where they’ll have to face such extreme acts of violence, perhaps be a victim of one, or even worse, perhaps be the perpetrator. Because no amount of good parent can fix a disturbed, evil individual.

At the core, evil is responsible for today’s school shooting. I understand evil as best as anyone can. It’s here, and it always will be. People will always hurt each other.

Evil may be the problem, but it doesn’t have to be an excuse. The shooter–and every other shooter we’ve seen–may be evil, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act.

Guns play a role–a huge one. One of my favorite Eddie Izzard quotes is “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people–but the gun helps.” A sweeping ban on guns isn’t the answer, and we may never have a good, appropriate, effective answer and certainly never will have one that pleases everyone, but something has to be done. People aren’t pushing for gun-control laws because they inherently dislike guns–they’re pushing for them because people keep getting killed and other people keep nearly ignoring it for the sake of a freedom. At this point, lives are more important than your right to own high-powered assault weapons.

The arguments are ridiculous. “Rape is illegal and people still get raped,” someone said on Twitter. But rape never killed 20-some kindergardeners within seconds, minutes at best. Others say had the teachers been armed, fewer people might’ve died. How is this a solution? How can we really look at a horrible mass murder and say that rather than try to prevent it with laws, regulation, education, and mental-health services we should instead arm teachers so they can shoot back if they have to? What’s next, arming the children?

We shouldn’t have to arm our teachers–or anyone–to prevent mass murder. We should actually prevent mass murder. 

After the Aurora shooting, I predicted that nothing would happen, nothing would change, and we’d see another mass shooting within six months. And here I sit, writing another post about gun control, and thinking once again that nothing will happen, nothing will change, and I’ll lay out all these points again. See you in six months.

Aurora

I don’t know what to say.

Like everyone else, I’m shocked, saddened, and keep thinking about how some gun control needs to happen in this country. But at the same time, as The Onion pointed out, as a country, we’re incredibly used to this kind of thing.

The first major example of gun violence I can remember is Columbine. I was in elementary school, which unfortunately means there was probably an incident prior to Columbine that I could remember if I thought long enough and hard enough (I do remember other things, like O.J. Simpson, the Oklahoma City bombing, and Jon Benet Ramsey, all of which happened when I was pretty young).

Other shootings stand out. I was on a school trip to Disney World when the Virginia Tech shooting happened. Then there are the numerous publicized school shootings. Pittsburgh had the shooting at L.A. Fitness a few years ago, and we had the Western Psych shooting earlier this year, just before the Pitt bomb threats.

I woke up at 5:30 this morning for work. I took a shower, came down to my room, and turned on music for my morning routine. I checked Facebook and Twitter. I saw that there had been a shooting. I know that, especially as an adult, I will have many more mornings like this. As an adult, I also think about these things more critically. Sure, Columbine left even elementary-school kids rattled, but now I actually think about what I would do it that situation. The fact that it could very well be me at any time or place, or it could be someone I love.

(Similarly, the days of the Pitt bomb threats had the whole house on edge, from worrying about our Pitt roommate to wondering if something big was going on and if one day I’d check Twitter from work to see a death count or if I’d have to leave the city for my safety in a hurry or if I’d come home–again–to my roommates scared around the dining room terrible, saying, “Make sure you lock the door” and discussing self-defense options. This all needs discussed at length because words cannot express my anger at those people.)

As The Onion points out, we all know how this will play out. I’ll even throw in bonuses, like jokes made in poor taste on Facebook and Twitter. People blaming music, TV, and violent video games. The predictability is almost as sad as the loss of life–it shows that we’re so accustomed to this as a country that we know who’s going to say what and when and what the reaction will be.

I do believe American media is too accepting of violence. You’re more likely to see explosions and shootings in TV and movies than you are sex because somehow, sex has been the act deemed immoral and dirty and shouldn’t be seen. Despite the fact that sex, even in religious groups, is hailed as a personal, beautiful, and often loving act, it’s violence that is acceptable. We’ve reached a point where people being graphically hurt or killed is preferable to making love–the act that destroys life is okay, and the act that creates it is not. This doesn’t make any sense.

Personally, I don’t mind seeing violence on TV and movies in terms of taste, unless it’s gratuitous (but then, I don’t gratuitous anything). But we do have a problem when we become too used to this, even in real life. That said, I don’t think we should be blaming our pop culture. We may be desensitized to things and some people may be quite impressionable, but at the end of the day, each individual is responsible for his or her own actions. No movie or show or book made anyone do anything. Someone made a decision to hurt someone else.

Something needs to be done. Guns need to be a little bit harder to buy. Sure, the Constitution guarantees our right to have them, but that doesn’t meaning getting them should be easy. I–and few others–are suggesting going around rounding up everyone’s guns and taking them, yet the second someone says, “Wait a minute, maybe we need to rethink this,” second-amendment activists panic, proclaiming their rights. The Founding Fathers may have given you the right to your guns, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t foresee the way some people would use them and I’m pretty sure the Founding Fathers wouldn’t sit in the midst of a tragedy saying, “Oh, well, we told them they could have them!”

Once again, a single person has killed many. How many times does this have to happen before even the most right-wing gun owners agree that something needs to be done? When you see a problem unfolding, you fix it, and this is certainly a problem.

This Modern World puts it all very well in a cartoon written after Gabrielle Giffords’ shooting that was reposted today due its relevance.

Birth Control and the Men Who Hate It Pt. 2

Obama wants to make birth control free. Party on, I say!

The Catholic church and conservative Republicans disagree.

Look, I get it. Birth control is bad because pregnancy should only be prevented via abstinence or natural planning methods. A baby should be God’s will. Because women on birth control are irresponsible hussies who just don’t want to keep their legs closed.

Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and the church has been known to exert control over its members since its creation. I get why they don’t want to comply with insurance having to provide birth control for free, but that doesn’t make it right.

Side note: If I worked for a Catholic organization and had to abide by all their crazy rules, I’d never make it. They’d have me out of there within hours. I’d probably accidentally call birth control “baby stoppers” in front of the Pope.

The women are going to use the pills whether the church likes it or not. Yeah, some women will be more inclined to if they can get them for free, but in the grand scheme of things, is that so bad?

This is also why my insurance company not covering my birth control doesn’t make sense to me. I have it easy compared to others–$35 for a pack of pills. I have a nice, sympathetic gynecologist who gave me three free sample packs when he asked if my insurance was covering it. Some women don’t have that. The insurance companies and religious institutions are faced with two options–be okay with contraception or deal with what happens with a pregnancy.

For insurance companies, this translates to money. You can either just let me have my $25 copay, fully cover the pills, or possibly pay for a whole damn baby. Prenatal care, delivery, and everything else, like having that kid on my insurance for 18+ years. Are you really sending the message that you’d rather pay for all of that than a little pack of pills? That’s not even logical, especially from a business perspective.

As for the church, I always liked my mom’s thinking–it’s a greater sin to bring a child into this world that you cannot provide for than it is to prevent a child from being conceived. Besides, if God really wants that baby there, he’ll put it there. Not to mention that an unplanned pregnancy brings up the biggest problem of all–abortion. So, as an institution, your options are be okay with a little pack of pills or potentially have abortions, abandoned children, unwanted children, and children that can’t be adequately be cared for. Would it be so bad to relent on the birth control issue? Does it really make a huge difference if I take a little pill once a day or monitor my temperature and mucus production?

Oh, wait. Not all women use birth control for pregnancy prevention. Hmm. You mean the religious groups are getting all worked up and ignoring numerous health benefits of birth control?

Being on birth control made my cramps and other related physical pains significantly decrease. By now, they’re almost gone. This has made me happier and more productive. Imagine if I had to call off work once a month due to feeling like my uterus was trying to beat me up.

I bleed astoundingly less, which means no iron deficiency.

And then there’s the fact that it can also prevent cancer and lots of other things I can’t remember without getting my handy massive page of information that comes with every pack.

So basically, all for the sake of hypothetical babies, the church is dicking women over. Again.