There was another Super Ma’am freak-out this week, and this time from a black trans woman mocking a “no neck bitch” after she was called “sir” in a place of business. As many who follow me know, I spend a fair bit of my time attempting to refute the common anti-trans stereotypes that are so often thrown around, and it’s frustrating to see “my own people” willfully playing into those stereotypes instead of challenging them.
We do a great disservice to children by not teaching them the proper place of emotions, as they can be used for good or destruction. The power of raw emotion, and the critical importance of tempering them, is something that I discuss frequently, and will always discuss when the opportunity rises. An emotion can be either a fire that burns or a piece of steel to be forged. Isolating that emotion to a concrete building and letting it burn itself out is certainly a valid choice, but it isn’t my preferred one–instead, use the anvil of reason and the hammer of creativity to turn the lump of steel into a sword. Don’t let it be a fire that engulfs you; use it to create, like the song above, “Your Fall From Grace,” which I wrote while in the throes of anger–and it shows, being the most angry song I’ve ever composed.
But more to the point, we need to discuss perceptions, word choice, and human interactions, because the “Learn your pronouns!” stuff has to stop.
Anyone with even a passing interest in psychology or economics (the study of human action) will realize very quickly that words like “he” and “she” are selected by the user automatically, with little or no cognition put into them at the time of usage. From very, very early ages, we are taught when to use “he” and when to use “she,” just as we are taught when to say “please” and when to say “thank you.” No one has to put any thought into it to determine whether to say “please” or “thanks” when the occasion comes up; it happens automatically and without deliberate selection. When making a request, one says “please.” When receiving something, one says “thanks.”
The power of the human brain is that it’s capable of shifting much of our interactions into auto-pilot like this. We don’t have to think about whether to say “hello” or “goodbye” when we run into someone, which frees our brain to think about other things (while it also controls our breathing, movement, heartbeat, and other necessary functions). Just ponder for a moment how exhausting it would actually be, when faced with any person, to have to dedicate any amount of thought to whether you’re supposed to say “hello” or “goodbye.” This is a useful feature, and one would hope that everyone would be aware of it, but this doesn’t seem to be the case.
Whether to say “sir” or “ma’am,” or to refer to someone as “he” or “she” is similarly automatic. When we ask someone to call us a different pronoun, we are asking them to dedicate part of their conscious thought to casual conversation–we are asking them to do work. We are asking them to throw a wrench into an automatic process in the course of a conversation and to instead deliberately ponder whether to say “hello” or “goodbye.” This is not an easy task, even for the most “woke” person out there, and we should never be upset when someone slips back into auto-pilot in conversation. Neither should we be upset when someone does it intentionally, of course–at least, we shouldn’t simply allow that emotion to burn uncontrolled in the forest of our life.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it many more times: I get called “sir” every single night at work, most commonly over the phone. Sometimes, though, people do it in person. As accepting as my co-workers are, and as visible as they are putting aforementioned deliberate effort into calling me “she,” the truth is that if I got bent out of shape and went on a wild, emotional tirade every time this happened, I wouldn’t still have a job. No one wants to work with someone so unpredictable, unhinged, and uncontrolled, nevermind that it would also mean that I regularly lashed out, chastised, and drove away paying customers. I work as a female and live as a female, and my coworkers are among the most accepting people I’ve ever met (realistically, probably more accepting than I am), but a lot of this acceptance is due to the fact that I’m not an insufferable cunt.
That’s what this is really about, of course. While “he” and “she” are programmed into us at very early ages and are selected automatically and unconsciously, this doesn’t change the fact that the other person’s perceptions of me are what their brain uses to determine which to use. Rather than forcing that person to put in the work to consciously choose which pronoun to use, if I am the one who wants to change their speech, then the onus falls onto me to alter their perception of me. If their brain determines I am more masculine than feminine, they will say “he.” If their brain determines that I am more feminine than masculine, then they will say “she.” Why does this need to be pointed out to any adult?
I am not entitled to make them think about me a certain way, or to make them use certain words when referring to me. This is true in general, but it must be recognized in particular with those people who intentionally use the non-preferred pronoun.
An ordinary occurrence, to be honest. Also of note: there is no chance I’m going to be kicked from LRN.
But, as mentioned previously, why would I give “Pussy ass leftist” the power to make me upset? This would require that I care about his opinion, and I don’t have the energy to care about the opinions of random dipshits. Who does? There are a few people who could genuinely hurt me by intentionally misgendering me, and they’re the people least likely to do so. They may still slip occasionally, but if they can make the effort to call me “she,” then I think it’s only fair that I make the effort to adjust their perception of me, and to overlook any accidents. It’s generally called “being an adult.”
I firmly believe that the greatest threat facing western society today is that we have stopped teaching people how to temper their emotions, or the value of doing so. What else can I think when congressional officials talk of being “morally right, but factually incorrect?” What else can I think when a person sees a photograph of coal miners, acknowledges they are coal miners, and then writes a lengthy article about how upset they are about the “blackface,” despite acknowledging that it isn’t blackface? What else can I think when, following the election of Donald Trump in 2016 on largely jingoist slogans and emotional appeals, there was an onslaught of people recording videos of themselves crying and flipping out, and sharing them for all the world to see? This is the Era of Unbridled Emotion, and that’s dangerous, because emotion has not ever been a valid pathway to truth. Feeling something is true won’t make it true. Emotion doesn’t keep the jet in the sky, or the automobile moving.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” they say, and we similarly see this playing out in New York following its Minimum Wage increase, with restaurant owners forced to raise prices, and customers shocked at how much more expensive it has become to eat out. The result was both predicted and expected: fewer people eat out, so some of the wait staff is fired. After all, the Minimum Wage is a direct price floor on the cost of labor, and price floors always create surpluses; a surplus of labor is called “unemployment.” When you raise that price floor, you simply get… more unemployment. This is basic economics, but many adults today simply don’t want to hear it, and instead truly believe that their feelings on the matter, that “everyone deserves a ‘living wage,'” will somehow make all this work out.
An emotion is nothing more than an internal reaction to external stimuli. It is our own proclivity and inclination that determines our reaction to the external stimuli, and even if we can’t actually change how we feel, we can and absolutely should limit the scope of those feelings in our behavior and beliefs. It isn’t easy, but I don’t know why anyone thinks that it should be. It’s supposed to be more difficult to resist animalistic impulses and overcome them. But it isn’t just for “the good of society” that we need to relearn this art; it’s far more important than that, because…
Controlling one’s animalistic tendencies is what it means to be human.
So the lead singer of alternative rock band Linkin Park is in the news, because he killed himself by hanging. While I haven’t liked Linkin Park since their first album, and since I was in the 9th grade, a lot of people are coming forward to call Chester a coward for committing suicide, primarily because it means he left six children behind.
Regardless of whether you approve of his choice, it is stupid, and a horrific misrepresentation of the situation, to call someone a coward because they killed themselves.
Suffering is Relative
First, it must be pointed out that suffering is relative, and none of us has any insight into the inner turmoil within anyone else, and so none of us have the authority or information to accurately assess whether the person chose the “easy” route of suicide and was wrong to do so. We simply don’t know–because we can’t know–how a person feels, unless they tell us, and Chester did come pretty close to that, through his lyrics. These lyrics, incidentally, were those that angst-filled teens adored and identified with, because their own internal suffering was reflected back to them. But that isn’t really important.
Courage & Cowardice
I know many people who have “attempted” suicide. I’m among them, and the scars on my wrist bear it out. I was hospitalized in a behavioral ward several years ago because of it. Even after extensive research, I still didn’t cut deeply enough to hit the veins–no, seriously, the veins in your wrist are much deeper than you’re thinking–and I didn’t have any guns at the time. Today, I know a scary amount of information about suicide. Because of this, I’m well aware that the recent old Republican who “killed himself” with helium actually did commit suicide, and that there couldn’t possibly have been any foulplay. I know that, because I once owned a helium tank for exactly that purpose.
But I never did it.
Because, as a method of suicide, it’s almost instantaneous. There is no time for second thoughts. Once you exhale and lower that bag over your head, that’s it. You pass out, and about half an hour later, you die, unconscious. I’m simply not struggling with depression badly enough to pursue that en sincera. I don’t want to die.
With very few exceptions, that is the same thing that nearly everyone who “attempts suicide” decides. There’s a reason that successful suicide rates are low. It’s not an easy thing to do. Substantial biological programming and the desire to survive outweigh most forms of depression, and, even when the depression is heavier, the person must face head-on their fear of death.
Anyone who has ever sat there with the barrel of a gun in their mouth, the blade of a razor against their wrists, a noose around their neck, or any other such situation and who still lives faced their fear of death head-on.
And they buckled.
They can make all the excuses they want. They can say that they realized that they were loved. They can say that they realized their problems would pass. They can say any-damned-thing that they want. But I know it, and they know it: the reason they live is that they are cowards. They stood on the precipice of oblivion and feared to jump, and so they backed away from the cliff. Some of these people are now calling Chester a coward because he didn’t back down from the precipice of oblivion.
Are you kidding me?
An Animal’s Instincts of Self-Preservation
There is tremendous resistance to death. Anyone who has seen wild animals chew off their own limbs (or humans saw off their own limbs) to escape from deadly situations knows that there is a powerful Will to Live inside every organism. Humans and non-humans are capable of incredible things in the interest of self-preservation, something that modern “horror” movies love exploiting for shock value. Put two people in a room together and tell them that one of them must kill the other, and then the survivor will be free, and they will almost immediately attempt to kill each other (Fun note: this is what Nietzsche described as Middle Class Morality). Saw off their own leg? No problem, once they have pursued other options.
Here’s a cold, hard fact for you: almost everyone out there–at least 99.999% of people–would cry and beg profusely as someone else lowered a noose around their neck. They would do anything, say anything, and promise anything to be spared. Disgusting amounts of tears and snot would run down their faces as they panicked, prayed to every god they could think of, and begged everyone nearby to “Please, I’ll do anything…” These are the same people calling Chester a coward because he lowered the noose around his own neck.
It would be funny, if it wasn’t true that, evidently, that’s how they see it.
There is an enormous difference between “thinking very hard about suicide” and gathering the means to do it, and actually proceeding with it. Even if the attempt is a failure, there is such an enormous gap between “thinking about suicide” and “legitimately trying to kill oneself” that most people can’t even fathom the divide.
It’s the same divide that exists between people who imagine how brave they would be if they faced down a criminal with a gun, and the people who have been there, and who gladly handed over their wallets and were terrified. Fear, after all, is what keeps people alive. It’s what kept human beings out of the darkness where there were lions, wild dogs, and hippos. That same exact fear keeps people from putting the gun in their mouth and pulling the trigger. It’s easy to say “I could have. I would have. I just changed my mind.”
In fact, it reminds me of the Seinfeld episode where Kramer says he’s going to build “levels” in his apartment, and Jerry bets him that it will never happen. In the end, Kramer renegs on the bet, and says that Jerry didn’t win, because, “I could have done it. I just didn’t want to.” Jerry vainly attempts to remind him, “That’s the bet! The bet is that you wouldn’t do it.” Kramer again reiterates, “But I could have.” Frustrated, Jerry says, “The bet wasn’t that you couldn’t. The bet was that you wouldn’t,” but it’s to no avail.
This is what people are saying when they say that they could have committed suicide, and they would have–if they hadn’t considered the loved ones they were leaving behind. The loved ones that they remembered were the panicked product of innate biological tendencies within an animal to preserve itself because it was afraid. It doesn’t matter what their reason for changing their mind is–why were they considering such things in the first place? By that point, they are already second-guessing whether they want to commit suicide. What propelled that? What caused them to stop and think about anything instead of just taking the gun, putting it in their mouths, and pulling the trigger? Why weren’t they just thinking about that?
Because their brain was desperately afraid and trying to stop to them using the last tool it had at its disposal. Compelling one to stop and think about all the loved ones being left behind is how it does that.
Anyone who ever attempted suicide–or “thought about” attempting suicide–and who still lives is a coward. They stood on the edge of the precipice, and they backed down. They can offer up any excuse they want, but, at the end of the day, what stopped them was fear. There’s no other reason why they’d have stopped to consider loved ones in the first place. That’s the brain’s last defense mechanism against self-destruction.
Consider this: the person who is about to commit suicide and stops because they think of the pain and suffering it will bring the loved ones left behind are aware, at least in some ways, that the fact that they even care about the pain and suffering they’ll leave behind will vanish the moment they’re dead. Sure, “If I commit suicide, I’ll leave behind so much pain and suffering.” Yet, also sure, “But I’ll be dead, so… there won’t be even a single solitary second of my existence where I feel the pain of having left people behind by killing myself, because I’ll have killed myself.” They didn’t think about that, though. I’d bet that thought didn’t occur to the overwhelming majority of people who attempted/thought about suicide. And why not? Because their brain was looking for ways to talk them out of it, not looking for ways to talk them into it.
Thoughts & Control
We tend to think of “our thoughts” as something we control, and our brains as something that is fully at our mercy, and that’s simply not true. Sentience is a curious thing, but your brain absolutely does things to try to convince “you” of things. The human brain is countless parts communicating with one another, not some collective unit that the “I” controls. You’re breathing right now–you are not in control of that. Your heart is beating right now. You can no more make your heart stop beating than (and this is important) you can make yourself stop thinking. You don’t control your thoughts. A thought comes when it wants to, not when “you” want it to. When some part of your brain decides to generate it, that’s when the thought occurs. You can no more create that thought than you can stop it. It’s coming. The only choice you have is how “you” deal with that thought. Whatever you are thinking about when the clock strikes noon after reading this, you won’t have any power to prevent.
The “I” takes these thoughts coming in from various parts of the brain, and assembles them into some form it can process, and then makes a decision. Maybe the “I” can control the decision that it makes, and maybe it can’t, because the decision itself is merely a product of the information sent to it by thoughts that it cannot dictate–it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the “I” doesn’t control what thoughts come, or when those thoughts come. Even extensive training by Buddhist monks cannot allow one to indefinitely take control of what thoughts come, or when those thoughts come. However focused the Buddhist monk is, and however in control of their thoughts they are, the moment they have to get back to life, they surrender control back to other parts of their brain. What will they think about while they slice potatoes in the monastery? While they till the ground?
You can do it, too. Think about an elephant, and try to keep thinking about an elephant. How long does it take you to realize that you’re not longer thinking about an elephant? Your thoughts will stray–a conga line of random thoughts perhaps not even related, until finally you’re thinking about John McCain’s brain cancer and realize, after forty seconds, “Oh, shit, I was supposed to be thinking about an elephant!” and direct your thoughts back to a pachyderm. Try to keep that elephant in your mind all day, as you go about work, as you eat lunch. You can’t do it. No one can. It requires exhaustive energy and focus to control one’s thoughts, and it simply cannot be done for any substantial period of time. You may think about the elephant several times an hour throughout the day, but through those instances, you’ll think about colleagues, food, friends, family, driving, money, and countless other things that you can’t control.
Those thoughts of loved ones that the person contemplating suicide has… They can’t control those thoughts, either. The question we have to ask is why the brain generated those thoughts. Why did some part of one’s brain conjure up an image of a son or nephew, and say, “But look how sad he’ll be…” and create vivid imaginings of the future of that child, raised without his father or mother? We can find the answer easily, by asking “What did the conjuration of those thoughts achieve?”
Well, it achieved causing the “I” to back out of committing suicide.
Why would a part of the brain want that?
Because it’s afraid of losing existence.
Maybe you don’t approve of what Chester did. Maybe you think it’s screwed up he left his family behind, and maybe you just think that suicide is immoral (I’ll save that for another day). Maybe you’re more like me, and you don’t really care one way or another, but you’d like it if there wasn’t so much confusion and misunderstanding surrounding suicide. Making the statement, though, that Chester was “wrong” to make the choice that he did is saying “He valued release from his pain more highly than he valued the pain he was leaving with others. His values are wrong, and the pain he left others is much greater than whatever pain he felt.”
I hope we can all immediately see what an asinine statement that is.
We don’t know what pain he felt, or what his personal suffering entailed. We can never know what it was like to live within his head and to feel what he felt. We can never know how deeply in That Place he was. Neither can we know how his children and wife/ex-wife will feel about it. We can guess, and we’d be right to some degree when we’d guess “They’ll be really sad,” but we can’t quantify that. We can’t even quantify our own suffering. Ask any person how much hardship and suffering they face and I’d bet wholeheartedly that you’ll see a graph identical to what we’d expect based on the Dunning-Kruger Effect. Everyone will rate their personal suffering and past hardships at 7.5, or thereabouts. I’d love to see a scientific survey done on this. In fact, I’m going to do one.
But if we cannot properly assess the value of his suffering and how bad it was, or the suffering of his family and how bad it’s going to be, how can we justify making the arrogant claim that he was wrong to make the choice that he did?
One of the most interesting things that came about because of Porcfest 2017 is that I realized just how ignorant I am of “average” Muslim behavior. Given that I’m an atheist and have no more interest in Islam than I do Wicca or Zoroastrianism, I’m okay with that. I’m also an individualist, so I also make it a point to treat each person as an individual, not a homogenized blob because they happen to have this or that characteristic. I knew intellectually that all Muslims couldn’t fulfill “the stereotype,” but what stereotype is that? Certainly, there’s the “OMG TERRORIST” stereotype, but everyone except the most idiotic conservative knows that not all Muslims are terrorists. However, some idiotic conservatives do think that. I quote a local writer who recently gave me a copy of his book (yes, the book is trash) (and yes, the motherfucker signed it):
“There are no Peace-Loving Muslims, no Moderate Muslims, no Indifferent Muslims. No Radical Muslims. Just Muslims. A Muslim is a Muslim. Period.”
Yes, someone not only wrote that, but got it published in a book.
While most people wouldn’t go that far, it remains true that familiarity is the destroyer of stereotypes–which is the primary reason that I’m currently considering staying in Mississippi*. But before we get into that, let’s talk about paleo-libertarianism. The question of free markets and discrimination is one that a lot of people would like the answer to, because “let the free market deal with it” is not a satisfying answer when discussing people like me who could end up in situations where they can’t shop at critical stores because everyone in the area is transphobic/racist/homophobic/etc.
They have a point.
It doesn’t really make a difference that 50s era segregation was enforced by the state, because many of the business owners of that day would have carried on that policy regardless–and did so well into the 70s in some places. It’s a nice cop-out to be able to say, “There was nothing ‘free market’ about American segregation; it was legislated and enforced by the state, not the market.” Such a statement is true in a limited sense, but we can’t pretend like segregation and discrimination magically disappear if there’s a free market in place, because they don’t.
Last night I spent a while thinking about a friend of mine who immediately identified someone else as Jewish by their last name. Until this “someone else” told me so, I had no idea that he was Jewish, and even afterward it was worthy of nothing but a mental note. When I asked him how he identified the guy as Jewish, he said it was the last name, and that he knew most/all of common Jewish last names. Then I thought of the many borderline anti-semitic things this friend has said in the past. While he doesn’t deny the Holocaust happened, he does take a position closer to mine, that the truth is lost to history and that wartime propaganda twisted the story until it bears unknown resemblance to the truth. It also occurred to me that, if asked, I would insist to people that this friend isn’t racist. Finally, I wondered whether that was true. Perhaps my own whiteness keeps me from being able to see his racism.
However, I was also repeatedly interrupted during every conversation at Porcfest a few weeks ago, and, when I mentioned this to someone, I was told that “Women traditionally didn’t have a voice at the politics table,” and that was why I was being interrupted. However, this was demonstrably false. It would have been all too easy to play the victim card and cry about sexism (it would also have been nonsense, given my voice), but instead I observed, and what I saw was everyone interrupting everyone else all the time, without regard to age, gender, or race. Seeing sexism in the interruptions would have been confirmation bias; if I went into it expecting to find that, that’s what I would have found, even though the issue is something larger and much more serious.
In fact, the idea that it was sexist struck me as odd from the start. Although hormones have certainly begun to affect my face and body, my hair still isn’t that long, and from some angles I don’t look very feminine at all. On top of that, my voice is certainly on the deeper end–an issue I haven’t yet worked out. Even wearing a dress, some people instinctively called me “he,” something else that I didn’t and don’t get worked up about (although, as I said to someone Friday night, there will come a time when calling me “he” must be intentional, but that’s after more physiological changes and, ideally, vocal surgery), and people tuning into Call to Freedom would have no idea that the person they were listening to identified as a chick. The idea behind the “They’re sexist” argument is that they’re sexist instinctively and without their conscious awareness, but that falls apart when instinctively they consider me a dude.
All that said, the entire reason my rant at Porcfest was so successful is that I’m transgender. How much power would my rant have lost if that wasn’t the case? Many people told me afterward that I broke through their stereotype of transgender people. One of the judges even said that he’d pre-judged me, and was surprised to have that prejudice shattered. I’m no stranger to stereotypes, and they aren’t really a problem; the only problem is when we cling to them and refuse to allow individuals to break them.
I’ve experienced this more than simply at Porcfest. A friend of mine has a grandmother who strongly disliked transgender people, and this friend handled it by showing her grandmother my posts on Facebook from a year ago about just wanting to live in peace. Stereotypes are built of straw people, and they very rarely apply fully, and sometimes they don’t apply at all. The reason they persist is due more to unfamiliarity than anything else. They imagine in their heads some amalgam of all the terrible things they’ve heard about this or that group, and various factors lead them to believe that their imagined person is representative of everyone in that group. It’s just human nature, and it’s not something to condemn people over.
I wouldn’t be able to fully explain my Straw Muslim. The Straw Muslim wasn’t a terrorist, but they were extremely devout–uncomfortably devout. Your Straw Southern Baptist is pretty much what my Straw Muslim looks like, and I’d go even further and suggest that your Straw Muslim also looks a lot like mine. And while the faith of the people involved with Muslims 4 Liberty cannot be doubted, they don’t fit the stereotype at all. Prior to meeting and spending a week with Will Coley et al., I had no idea how pervasive that perception of Islam was, but why else would I have been surprised by the generosity they showed during Ramadan? I’ve been equally surprised by some of the Christians I’ve met within libertarian circles, such as Thomas Knapp, and I’ve been surrounded by Christians most of my life. Prior to meeting some of these people, I probably would have said there’s no such thing as a moderate Christian. In fact, I’m sure I’ve said that in the past. And there’s no doubt: people like Thomas Knapp are entirely the reason I’ve eliminated anti-Christian rhetoric from my repertoire.
However, even as vehemently anti-Christian as I used to be (and I’m still anti-fundamentalist), I was more than willing to allow people their right to free association, and have been arguing in favor of that for years. I look back on an article I published about a year ago and badly want to remove it, because it’s so close to being anti-Muslim in its tone. And that came from myself; it came from within. There was no talk of individualism in that article. It was a lot of bullshit about social customs, integration, and assimilation. I’m positively embarrassed that I wrote that spiel, although that sentiment was present before I met people of Muslims 4 Liberty and goes back at least 7 months, to the first time I re-read the article.
Under no circumstances have I or would I ever deny service to someone because of their characteristics, it must be stated unequivocally, but most people aren’t like that. The same people who condemn Trump for his ban of Muslims also praise Canada for refusing to allow entry to members of the Westboro Baptist Church; the Westboro Baptist Church, on the other hand, would adamantly refuse to allow me into their building, and people like Steven Anderson (not with the WBC, but every bit as hateful and vile) whine and bitch when companies don’t want to do business with them, even as they explicitly refuse to do business with others.
We saw the same thing when Obama became president, and everyone who wanted to see his birth certificate was dismissed as a racist. The reality for most people, however, was something different: through their entire lives, an old white man had been in charge. Suddenly, a black, relatively young man was in charge. They were uncomfortable and afraid, not hateful. And while it’s true that fear often motivates horrific behavior, it didn’t on this occasion, and manifested primarily in cries that Obama was a Muslim or wasn’t from Kenya. It was a knee-jerk reaction to an unfamiliar situation, and one by one these people adapted and realized their world wasn’t coming to an end. Anyone still going on about Obama being a Muslim or a Kenyan is probably just racist and attempting to mask their racism with those allegations, but the birther movement died out because people adjusted and moved on, leaving behind only the racists.
It’s ultimately a matter of cognitive dissonance.
When Bob is told his entire life by his fundamentalist church that gay people are evil abominations, he’s going to experience cognitive dissonance when his best friend of 17 years, Jim, confesses to Bob that he is gay. At this point, Bob is presented with several choices for resolving the dissonance:
My church is wrong. All gay people cannot be evil abominations, because Jim is gay and isn’t an evil abomination.
Jim is wrong and isn’t really gay. He isn’t an evil abomination, and my church is right; ergo, Jim isn’t really gay.
My church is right. All gay people are evil abominations. Therefore, Jim has managed to hide his evil from me for the last 17 years.
On rarer occasions, Bob might craft a special exemption for Jim. “Jim is different… He isn’t like all the other gay people.”
Which of these Bob lands on is ultimately going to come down to trust and relationship importance. If his friendship with Jim is more important to him, then he will decide on #1. If both are equally important to him, he will decide on #2. If his relationship with his church and his religious beliefs are more important, he will go with #3. We can immediately see, then, that Jim has his work cut out for him; there aren’t many things that will be more important to Bob than his religious beliefs, because religious beliefs are “core beliefs” that form the foundation of other beliefs. Asking Bob to accept that his church/religious beliefs are wrong is a much greater thing than simply accepting that Jim is wrong, because Bob’s entire worldview stems from his religious beliefs. If we pull the foundation out from under his worldview, the entire thing collapses.
“Muslim call to prayer while hula-hoppers [sic] groove nearby.”
That’s a pretty awesome event to be at, if you ask me. People hula-hooping, people stoned, people drunk, people tripping, people dancing, people praying… Everyone getting along, everyone celebrating, and no one hating anyone else over squabbling differences… That sounds to me like a fucking utopia, not something that should be mocked or looked upon with disdain. Indeed, that’s how our entire society should be. I fail to see how anyone has a problem with “Everyone is doing their own thing, and everyone is friendly with everyone else. If they can’t get along, then they just leave each other be.”
In fact, Porcfest is proof that you can put Muslims, Jews, atheists, Christians, transgender people, straight people, gay people, black people, white people, Asian people, and all other people with various characteristics into a society together and end up with something that is really awesome. Yet this douchenozzle from CNN said this with disdain and contempt, and people who replied to the tweet made even more contemptuous remarks: “They don’t pay you enough to attend that crap.”
There are only three ways that liberty can work: homogeneity, diversity, and individualism.
Homogeneity is obviously broken as an idea–it’s simply impossible. There will always be differences between people, and those differences will always be highlighted. Hitler wanted to basically produce an all-white society, and what happened? The differences among white people were immediately targeted as points of divide: those with blond hair and blue eyes were considered superior to someone who had brown hair and brown eyes. By definition, a society can never be truly homogeneous. Even if Hitler had succeeded in eliminating everyone but white people with blond hair and blue eyes, the divisiveness wouldn’t have ended; instead, it would have become “tall people are superior to short people” or something else. I’d venture the statement that the more homogeneous a society is, the more petty are its points of division.
Diversity is flawed for other reasons. A homogeneous society of 99% white people (in addition to still being divided, as the previous paragraph contends) discriminating against the 1% black population can’t be fixed by “the free market” alone. However, what if the society is 75% white and 25% black, and the white population is uniformly racist? With these numbers, it’s true that the black population could simply shop at black-owned stores and work for black-owned businesses, but at this point we aren’t dealing with one society; we’re talking about two societies that just happen to reside in geographic proximity. This is still true if we add in an 80% straight population that doesn’t want to associate with the 20% LGBT population; we aren’t “uniting” society. We’re segregating it into many different societies.
It’s similarly true that diversity fails to take hold in homogeneous societies because of social pressures and economic concerns that often conspire to make it impossible for a person to “come out.” This is a problem that never magically vanishes, and there will always be one group or another who cannot openly admit to being in that group because of the adversity they will face upon doing so. Suppose our society was 99% Christian and 1% atheist, but no atheists were even allowed to speak out without being put to death (as was the case until about 300 years ago). Atheists would not be able to band together to create their atheist stores because coming out as an atheist resulted in death. Diversity requires openness, but there will always be disenfranchised people who simply aren’t allowed to be open about who they are.
Instead we could take the approach of individualism, that a person’s characteristics shouldn’t matter, and that a person should be judged by their actions and behavior rather than being judged over what characteristics they happen to have. This is precisely how Jim breaks through Bob’s anti-gay bigotry. Instead of being lumped into that foreign group that has been painted as a bogeyman by Bob’s church, Jim has an in-road directly to Bob’s heart by being his friend–someone he personally knows. When Bob accepts that Jim isn’t an evil abomination, it is because he isn’t lumping his friend into that group and therefore isn’t applying that group’s alleged qualities to his friend.
Often, we aren’t aware of what stereotypes we harbor, and we’re capable of harboring them regardless of how individualist we are. The destroyer of those stereotypes is the individualism that allows us to have a relationship with someone regardless of their characteristics. Only then can we see how wrong we were.
* As stated elsewhere, the state arresting me and extorting me for nearly $2,500 six months ago ravaged my bank account and basically put me back at square one, albeit with $250~ or so. If I pursue this avenue, all funds contributed to that campaign will be returned, either directly or via matching donations to donors’ campaigns.
I changed the title of this post several times before landing on “Fuck LGBT Pride,” which I ultimately went with because of its shock value. The leading contender was, “Beyond the Celebration of Mediocrity.”
So if you haven’t read any of my Western Nihilism series, go ahead and click that tag on the right, and then return to this one, because it’s all connected. With that said…
Fuck LGBT Pride.
It is tremendously amusing that, at the same time LGBT people insist they are “born that way,” they’re also claiming the justification to take pride in it. To get a full understanding of the absurdity of this, imagine taking pride in being born white, being born blonde, or being born 5’11”. It’s asinine to be proud over something that one, by one’s own admission, has no control over.
Of course, I’m not convinced that anyone is born that way. There’s not a very good logical case to be made that homosexuality is hereditary, since a “gay gene” would be unable to reproduce and thus would have died out, but it’s not really worth getting into. I don’t dispute that no one has control over their sexuality, but whether it’s truly Nature, Nurture that happens unconsciously, or both, isn’t the clear-cut thing it’s often made out to be.
First, it has to be pointed out that being LGBT (or being an Ally) is hardly a controversial position. In fact, it’s pretty much mainstream. The whole fiasco reminds me of the countless YouTube personalities who suddenly found a keen interest in politics and hopped on the Sanders bandwagon thinking they were being edgy, when the reality is that modern liberalism is the new culture and the alt-right (despite its many flaws) is the new counter culture.
You’re not winning any Edgy Competitions by going on Twitter and saying you support lgbt equality. That’s a safe, comfortable position almost anywhere on the internet, and almost anywhere in the West.
So not only is it mainstream and safe, but it’s also a celebration of mediocrity. Taking pride in characteristics that are a fluke of birth is like a Participation Trophy for life. Pride isn’t something one can have simply by existing; pride is earned by doing. And the vast majority of people celebrating pride aren’t doing anything, because their efforts are undermined by the safety of the position.
There are obviously still places in the West where it’s inordinately difficult to exist as a transgender person. But as LGB? Not really. Even in the deep south, lesbians, gay people, and bisexual people aren’t really at much risk of being treated like shit. It does happen, but it’s far from common, and virtually non-existent outside of the Deep South like Alabama, Kentucky, and Mississippi.
People who truly face adversity deserve to stand up and take pride in overcoming those challenges, but don’t dare put your having to pee in a bottle because you couldn’t use the women’s restroom on the same tier as the trans men and women who are serving jail and prison sentences in their birth sex’s cell block. The only real issue before mainstream trans people is the bathroom thing, and it’s trivial to call it discrimination because you are a trans woman and had to use a men’s room. Be more passable. Put more effort into feminization.
Trans people have been using the restroom of their preference for decades without problem. Suddenly, it’s an issue, and trans people are being thrown under the bus by the LGB community over something that actually has fucking nothing to do with transgenderism. In reality, it has everything to do with homosexuality.
This is stated outright. It’s just that no one is willing to listen.
What worries conservatives is that men who are attracted to women could use the women’s restroom. They’re deathly afraid that a straight man would pretend to be transgender to gain access to the women’s restroom–they have openly stated this. They don’t want people who would be attracted to their wives and daughters being allowed into the secluded restroom with their wives and daughters. See? Their fear deals with heterosexual men and lesbians. It has nothing to do with transgender people.
It’s also more than a little chauvinistic. I can’t help but notice feminists also seem willing to let transgender people fight a battle that has nothing to do with them. No one seems worried that a F2M trans person could rape little boys in the men’s room. But instead of calling for an end to the white knighting, feminists are largely either quiet on the matter or entirely hostile to M2F trans people.
At any rate, the only issue the LGBT community at large seems worried about is where trans people will pee, as though it’s just the height of bigotry to use a specific restroom. Marriage equality has been achieved by fiat, and adoption agencies are being handled in a decently classical liberal way, where one state may not allow a gay couple to adopt, but a neighboring state will. Inconvenient, sure, but no one has the right to convenience.
Why even ask? That’s something I’m not understanding. I just went from Mississippi to New Hampshire, and stopped in every state but New Jersey and New York to use the restroom at least once. I never asked anyone what restroom I could use. I simply went in. What are they going to do, call the cops? With a response time of 34 minutes, my bladder will be empty and I’ll be on my way well before the Blue Mafia shows up.
If you give someone the opportunity to deny you, don’t be surprised if they deny you to avoid what would be, for them, added trouble. For example, if I enter a gas station and go straight to the women’s restroom, it is added trouble for them to stop me and tell me to use the men’s room. They risk causing a scene, ending up on Facebook and YouTube, being fired… It could get really ugly for them very quickly. Without exception, every single worker at every single gas station completely ignored me.
If I stop to ask them, however, I force the decision onto them, and they’re going to seek whatever appears to be the easiest, safest, and least controversial way out of the situation. They don’t want a fucking headache, man. At least if you decline to ask, you give them plausible deniability if some random bitch causes a fuss about it. Be considerate of the fact that they’re just trying to do their job and not end up on YouTube, and they’ll be considerate of the fact that you’re just trying to pee. I did this in Mississippi, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, so I’d hazard the guess that it would work anywhere. It doesn’t get more Bible Belty than Mississippi, except in some parts of Kentucky.
And, let’s be real, if you’re trans in those parts of Kentucky, you’ve got bigger concerns than where you’re going to pee.
We are animals, and we are constantly being trained and conditioned, almost always without our awareness of it. It’s no secret that billions of dollars each year are spent on researching human manipulation tactics, and it’s the height of naivety to think the state isn’t taking advantage of that information.
I don’t watch much television or listen to any radio, but as we drove back from New Hampshire yesterday, two radio commercials caught my attention. The first said something to the effect of, “It’s a beautiful day. We get that you feel guilty that she misses you. While you’re out playing golf, she’s at home… Blah, blah… Buy her jewelry.”
It was one of the most manipulative suggestions I’ve ever heard. Do golfers feel guilty for going out and playing golf? Not that I’ve ever heard. However, that idea now has been planted. Any golfer may, next time they’re out playing, inexplicably think of their wife at home, feel guilty, and buy her jewelry to appease it. The more frequently that suggestion is planted, the more powerful it becomes.
I’ve seen countless times exasperated parents buy candy or toys for their screaming and crying children, desperate to get the child to stop crying and making a scene. Rewards and punishments–these are the known trainers of behavior, with rewards modifying behavior much more than punishments. When the child is given a toy, their crying is being rewarded. They learn from the experience that crying and screaming gets them things.
Fast forward to 2017, a year when political protest has become synonymous with mass demonstrations of screaming and crying people with no plan and no stated goals. They do this because they’ve been rewarded for it in the past; to get them to stop crying, someone gave them what they wanted.
We saw it most clearly following the 2016 election, when “protests” filled the streets and the internet was flooded with videos and posts from people who were publicly doing nothing but crying about the results and demanding that their unhappiness be accommodated. Black Lives Matter has done the same for years–what, exactly, does BLM want? What, exactly, does the LGBT Community want?
We know what these groups feel. And, often, we know the long-term result they wish to see, however vaguely it’s stated. What remains unknown, though, is what steps they’d use to go from “here” to wherever they’d like to be. Feelings aren’t policy. “We demand that cops stop killing young black men” isn’t a policy. It’s a feeling, and a misguided one since cops are killing people indiscriminately. It’s all the stranger in places like Memphis, where the elected city leaders and police force are predominately black.
To my knowledge, the only thing actively being expressed as desired policy by LGBT people is that trans people should be able to use the restroom of their choice. Obviously, that isn’t really the case–it’s the restroom owner’s right to dictate the usage of their restroom. It’s the height of entitlement behavior to demand that someone give you more, effectively punishing them for their generosity in providing free restrooms to the public. It becomes a matter of psychological conditioning: because a mall owner chose to build and maintain (at their own expense–Americans recoil at the idea of paying to use a restroom) restrooms, they’re punished.
So, too, does the reward of positive feelings play a powerful role in the shaping of human behavior. Praise is extremely effective at training dogs. It’s no less effective at training humans. Glamour Magazine named the Stanford rape victim their Woman of the Year. For all intents and purposes, she was rewarded for being a victim (without discounting the rape or the subsequent trial).
Who’s a good human? You are! Yes, you are!
It should come as no surprise that, after a few decades of this, we have plenty of people willing to claim to be victims of crimes that never happened, up to and including filing fraudulent police reports. How could we expect any other result? People aren’t simply being rewarded for doing nothing but existing; we go even further and actively reward people for being victims. They get to be the center of attention, which feels good, and further reinforces in their minds that being a victim is how they feel good.
Participation trophies aren’t a good idea, because they reward people for simply showing up. The problem is exacerbated when the kid who hit 14 homeruns gets the same prize as the kid who sat in the grass and ate bugs. Obviously, there are further variables, because hitting a homerun garners instant cheers, but at the end of the season it will sting for the Homerun King to receive no acknowledgement for the additional effort they put in, especially if those 14 homeruns were the reason the team placed third.
LGBT Pride is the most grievous example of the participation trophy. Not only is there no parade for people who have worked hard to be successful, but such people are widely condemned and punished by society, their rewards written off as stolen and oppressive. We celebrate that some people are born being LGBT, while we condemn Donald and Baron Trump for being born rich.
It goes even deeper than that, of course. We don’t simply despise those who are born rich; we despise those who have earned their wealth. We hate the strong and adore the weak, and therefore we love the victim, who is, by definition, a weak person abused by a strong person. Then we reward the victim. It’s not enough that we give participation trophies. We go further and actively reward people for weakness.
I don’t know very much about Islam, but that’s okay, because I don’t claim to, and so I generally stay pretty quiet about Islam and what it teaches. I know enough about it to know that it’s very close in tone to the Old Testament of the Bible, and I know that, from the point of view of an atheist, it’s pretty much just a different flavor of Christianity. So I generally don’t have any conversations about sharia or what it is, because I don’t know (or particularly care) what it is, just as I don’t particularly care to know exactly what parameters food must meet in order to be considered kosher. All religious systems have codes, laws, and layers upon layers of teachings. It’s both ridiculous and unrealistic to expect someone who doesn’t believe in the religion to know every detail–or even many details–about the layered teachings. My knowledge of Christianity is a result of my upbringing in the south, and not out of any desire that I felt at any part of my life to explicitly find out what is in the Bible.
I want to quote the Bible for a moment, though, if you don’t mind; Mathew 5:38-40:
You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
Now let’s get to the point.
Recently, an anti-Muslim bigot was hospitalized, and libertarian vice presidential candidate and Muslim Will Coley started a campaign to raise funds for the guy, quoting various teachings of the Quran and actions of Mohammad to show that this sort of behavior (turning the other cheek) is perfectly in accord with Islam and should be encouraged. At first, this went exactly as one would like: people saw the wisdom in the teaching. After all, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar, or so goes the saying. It’s similar to things I’ve talked about before, regarding being transgender in the south–it was not whining and screaming about victimization and bigotry that caused my landlord to change his mind about evicting me; it was my willingness to shrug and acknowledge that he was perfectly within his rights to do so. There are a few other people I know of who hated transgender people and the very idea of transgenderism until they came face-to-face with me, a real person who is simply trying to exist in peace and is very much against the idea of forcing anyone to do or be anything.
Then came the SJWs. And, oh man, did they come.
Suddenly Will was their enemy, despite having the approval of many prominent Islamic figures, and the reason that Will was their enemy?
Because he’s white.
I’m not even kidding. That’s what it all boils down to. It’s often said explicitly.
You cannot defeat sexual orientationism with sexual orientationism.
This is the mistake the alt-right makes. They’ve attempted to meet the left’s increasing racism, sexism, and orientationism with racism, sexism, and orientationism. I’ve directed this message at leftists and rightists. I don’t care who is being the racist–it’s never going to end racism.
That’s where I went after three prominent alt-right youtubers: Atheism is Unstoppable, The Non-Believer, and Autopsy87.
Here’s where I went after the left doing the same thing:
Now, this post is more than just a way for me to collect together various applicable things I’ve made on the subject.
The bottom line is that Will held up a mirror for Christians and Muslims alike to look into, and very few of them could stomach what they saw reflected back. When faced with this situation, they had no recourse but to either self-reflect (something most people are simply unwilling to do, because so few people are willing to acknowledge their flaws and mistakes) or to attack the messenger. Enter the cries of racism and the strange remarks that Will has no business teaching anyone about Islamic teachings… because he’s white.
Martin Luther King, Jr., Jesus, and Mohammad would all be shaking their heads in sadness at what is going on, and I can only commend Will for staying on track. When I released my video about the Liberal Redneck, I faced similar criticism, though Will is obviously facing it on a larger scale (though, it’s worth mentioning, the scale of criticism that I faced for that absolutely dwarfed the attention that anything else I’ve created has received anyway), and I remember how difficult it was, when one comment after the next rolled in calling me an idiot, a traitor, a racist, a Biblethumper, and other similar things, to stay on point and not stoop to their level. In the end, I caved and pulled down the video. I really wish I hadn’t, but… c’est la vie.
I don’t think I’d cave today.
Maybe this is just meant to be a collection of other things I’ve said on the matter. Otherwise, I’d just be repeating myself. But it’s sad that podcasts that I released a year ago are equally applicable to things today because, if anything has changed at all, then it’s only been for the worse.
I recently wrote an article attacking the notion of LGBT Pride and Outright Libertarians. I’m going to repost it in the future, but not until the shit with Cantwell has died down. It’s rather similar to how I defended Gary Johnson with the “What is Aleppo?” thing. I’ll criticize someone “on my team” when no one else is, but if someone outside that team starts to criticize, I’ll have their back–assuming they’re right.
When they’re wrong, I’ll gladly tell them so. If they’re wrong and are rightly being attacked for being wrong, then I will at the very least hold off my attack until the attack from the outside is over (after all, you won’t find me defending Outright Libertarians from Cantwell and his people).
I find that I just can’t say much on this matter with Will. I’ve already said it all–and that, I think, is the sad thing, because I’m far from being the only person saying it. Jesus said it. Mohammad said it. Gandhi said it. MLK, Jr. said it. If people won’t listen to these esteemed leaders, why in the world would they listen to me or Will Coley? Christians, Muslims, Jews, and atheists alike have all had these wonderful ideas thrown at us from every corner for centuries and thousands of years. Yet we only pay them lipservice. Whether it’s Bill Hicks or Mohammad isn’t important.
Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.
Whether being four years old and watching one of my parents’ friends shoot up peanut butter on our couch and dying before my eyes; whether being effectively kidnapped at the age of eight by my meth-addicted mother and forced to endure a summer of being too poor to buy food, with our water turned off due to non-payment, and with mom being beaten mercilessly by a violent alcoholic; whether coming to terms with her disappearance like something out of a murder mystery show; or whether being transgender in the midst of all of this and trying desperately to come to terms with it while surrounded by a fundamentalist Christian family that forced me to not merely repress who I was but also to forget who I was, I have seen a great deal of tragedy.
It’s strangely easy to forget how devastating all of this must truly have been, even as I was the one who experienced it, because it’s easy to forget how it truly felt to lie awake, crying and listening to the sounds of shattering glass as my mother was thrown brutally through windows. It’s easy to forget how angry I have the right to be at my father and grandmother, for forcing me to oppress myself and attempting to turn me into something that I am not.
Today I am a transgender woman and resident of the state of Mississippi. This is as frustrating, difficult, and dangerous as one would expect, but I survive, and I roll with the punches. I have no choice, just as I had no choice those early mornings as I bore witness to horrific domestic violence.
So this is my story–a story of how low human depravity can sink, but also how the human spirit can stand resilient and refuse to surrender. However, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of people who endure such childhood trauma, and who are forced by religiously oppressive authorities to repress their own natures, are not so fortunate. Most of the former lose themselves in a sea of drugs that allow them to forget, while the latter often lose themselves to the blade of a razor. Yet I know, because I have lived it, that we can survive the struggles–and not merely survive, but become stronger through them.
Where to begin, in this sordid tale of devils and demons?
My family is exactly what one would expect of a north Mississippi lower middle class / upper lower class white Christian family; it was only a few years ago that I first heard the acronym WASP, but I have to admit: aside from its redundancy, there is no more apt description of my family. They are almost stereotypical in how typical they are of an ordinary white fundamentalist Christian family from the southern United States.
Everyone in Mississippi isn’t like that, however, which is a point I’ve tried to stress in the past: Mississippi does contain many people like myself. As a friend recently put it, “We grew up in an area that is run-down, poor, and stupid, over all, where most of the populace is indoctrinated by religious nonsense to the point where they can’t even recognize rational thought. We pushed through what it takes to fit in here, and we defined ourselves. That’s something to embrace and be proud of.”
My friends and I have reached the end of a long and grueling journey that was filled with adversity and people who would use any means at their disposal—terrorism, fear, violence, and coercion—to bend us to their wills, and we’ve looked back at the paths we traveled and rejoiced that we survived and stayed true to ourselves. Friends are priceless when one is transgender in a family full of fundamentalist Christians.
Both of my paternal grandparents would reject me entirely—they do not yet know, and they will be among the last to know, since I see them only a few times a year. “You don’t know how they’ll react,” I’ve had people tell me. “Give them a chance. Sometimes people surprise you.”
With all due respect, those allies and friends have no idea the type of people we’re really dealing with. My Mississippian friends know better, too; they know that there is no chance that my family will ever welcome me at Christmas dinner as a female. When my grandfather (who, for the record, is on his tenth or eleventh wife) learned that my sister was living with her boyfriend, he wrote her a lengthy letter, wherein he quoted Biblical passages and called her a whore. When my grandmother found girls’ clothes hidden between my mattresses, she wanted to send me to a foster home and asserted that she would not have that in her house. If they had thought I was gay, they would have sent me to one of those awful “pray the gay away” camps.
This isn’t to say that I’m perfect, and acknowledging my own faults and mistakes will be the most difficult part of writing this. I have made plenty of mistakes and stupid decisions that brought people around me severe difficulty and hardship, particularly regarding past relationships.
My memory is also not perfect, and I am likely to make mistakes, and, given that some of the information comes from extremely unreliable sources (like my father), some of that can’t really be helped. It doesn’t matter, though. The point of this is to show how awful parenting shaped me, and the countless lies that my dad told me are part of that. I strive for honesty, integrity, and sincerity in all things. Consider this my vow that everything within is, to the best of my knowledge, the unaltered truth, except that names have been changed.
I was born premature, thankfully, since the umbilical cord had wrapped around my throat and I was choking to death. This was surely a result of my mother’s cigarette smoking and eating painkillers while pregnant. My father insists that she didn’t do drugs while she carried us, but… Yeah, she did.
I certainly don’t remember my birth, but I do remember some things from shortly after my birth. Though my family says there is no way I could remember it, my introduction to the world came with overwhelming confusion: I was in some sort of cradle, and the back of my right hand hurt because a number of needles and tubes penetrated my flesh. The details are blurry and fuzzy, as one would expect from such early memories, but the needles burned and itched. They irritated me, and I wanted them out. I was afraid and confused, with no idea why these things penetrated my hand and no understanding of what was going on. I knew only that I was hurting and helpless to do anything about it.
Confusion—pure confusion. I didn’t even have a sense of self. I had no idea that I existed, that I was a baby in a hospital, and that I was a being. I could feel the needles in the back of my hand, and they hurt. The pain, however, was not unbearable, and wasn’t the main facet of that moment. It was confusion. I was not afraid—I didn’t have enough self-awareness for the confusion to make me scared. I simply knew nothing. I was a blank slate, onto which was being written reality in the ink of experience. I didn’t even know that I was a blank slate. I knew only that I hurt, and that I was confused. I was not in the arms of a loving mother whose warmth brought me comfort. I did not stare up and into the eyes of a nurse who was delighted to see a baby growing healthier by the hour. I was not being cooed by an older brother, or rocked in the cradle while a loving grandparent read a story. I was alone and hurting in a room bathed in fluorescent light.
That was my first experience with the world. That was how I was introduced to the universe—in the sterilizing, emotionless light of an empty hospital room, not the gentle and soothing light of a home. I heard the beeps and sounds of monitoring equipment, not the joyous laughter of a loving family. I lie alone in a hospital contraption with the shrill, uncomfortable hospital sheets, not wrapped in a blanket and the arms of a doting mother.
And the worst part—the indisputable worst part—is that I remember this.
The first few years of my life were probably normal, about what anyone would expect from a southern, lower middle class white family that subsisted more on the successes of previous generations than the merits of its own. There were some oddities, though, and signs even then of who I really was, but it was the mid-80s. It wouldn’t really be fair to blame my parents for not recognizing and embracing that I was transgender.
Of course, I was born male, “with a penis and everything.” But whenever all of my underwear was dirty, my mother would put me in my sister’s panties; it wasn’t a punishment, to clarify. Being the clever child that I was, I began hiding all of my underwear, just so that I could tell my mom that I didn’t have any, and so that I could wear panties instead. Somewhere around three years old, I took all of my underwear and threw them into the back of a closet that no one ever opened, and then I reported to my mother that, strangely, all of my underwear was suddenly gone.
So when I say that I’ve been transgender since birth, it’s as close to “since birth” as one can get. I couldn’t have been older than three years old at that point, because my sister hadn’t begun kindergarten herself. I knew then that I preferred women to men: I loved my mother and sister, and, even at that age, I had a deep appreciation for feminine beauty. I also thought that my Aunt Diane was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and my mother used to make fun of me for my enamorment with my aunt.
My experience with men at this point was limited to my father (who was fat and not overly pleasant to look at), my brother (who was thin, but who had nothing on my mother), my grandfather (who was also overweight, and a jerk), and my Uncle Danny (who has always been an asshole). Although it’s typical for young boys to love their mothers, I wanted to be just like mine, and I suspect that had a lot to do it with, but who can say? I was three when it began, and I simply wanted to be a girl.
I had a blanket (what most people would call a “blankie,” though I never called it that), and it was one of those cotton-threaded ones similar to fishnet. I refused to sleep without it and my pillow. The pillow actually wasn’t that important, but the pillowcase certainly was. I rubbed the pillowcase between my finger and thumbnail, sleeping on the central heating vents in the floor and driving my father crazy with all of it.
A Look at My Father
I would love to say that my father isn’t a bad man.
But he is.
That’s a difficult thing to say and accept, but I have to stress that it doesn’t really make me love him any less, and that the dominant emotion I have for my father is pity. Even so, I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made a few bad ones.
His own childhood was no walk in the park, damaged by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. Though not much of that has been shared with me, I can certainly relate to what he has said, and it’s clear the recollections are as painful to him as it is for me to recall the abuse my mother endured at the hands of alcoholics.
At some point, my grandparents divorced—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is easily worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her violent husband and blazed her own path in Mississippi, won the house in the divorce, and then worked at a college until she retired at the age of 67.
True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was even sent away by her mother to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their farm. Evidently, Aunt Edna didn’t like my grandmother one bit, and was very unkind to her. What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class? What quiet resolve allowed my grandmother to learn the necessary skills to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s?
These are questions to which I would love answers, but I’ll never have them, because they are not things that my grandmother is willing to discuss. Questions about her past are met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it.
On one particular drunken rampage, my father held a gun on my grandfather so that my grandmother could limp out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous that he was old enough to do something about it. When my mother suffered under Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade, and too young and weak to do anything to intervene.
For years, my father insisted that he was drafted to Vietnam, and he even talked about how he was called a murderer and spit upon when he returned. Eventually my sister and I realized that there’s no way this is true. Either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus wouldn’t have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. In this little alternate reality he had constructed, he had to be older than our mother was (which was blatantly false—she had always been recognized as the older one), his brother had to be lying about his own age, and almost everyone had to have falsified birth records.
He changed his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, through another offensive that we did, but I have been unable to find any military record for him. Whether he actually fought in Vietnam, he did mislead us into believing he’d fought in the Vietnam War, which is a lie of such magnitude and scope that one has to marvel at it.
He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by his behavior: heavy drug usage, constant lies, and steady manipulation. Although he is less religious than other family members are, his secularism is applied selectively, and he’s generally as fundamental as everyone else is. He continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican, despite that he’s effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from liberal policies.
I obviously don’t see eye-to-eye with him, but we do have some similar interests. It was he who introduced me to Fantasy literature and tabletop gaming, both of which almost immediately became passions for me. In turn, I exposed him to the tenth installment of a popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he certainly discovered more of its secrets than I ever would have.
There is some kinship between us, and I do love him, despite the numerous differences, and in spite of the fact that he has done me far more harm than good. More than anything, I pity him, because his childhood evidently destroyed him; he is one those who did not escape unscathed. He was swallowed by the mentality that the world owes him something, and oblivious to the reality that the world will never give it.
The rifts between us began because I was not the son that he wanted. He hated that I loved sleeping on the heating vents—I’ve always loved heat. I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. I had to sleep on one of the floor vents, and the heat had to be on. There in the floor, I had the pillow and pillowcase that I refused to sleep without, and the blanket that I required as I slept.
My father hated all of these things. We went to visit some relatives at one point, and I left my blanket and pillow at home. With no other way to shut me up, my parents took me to a store to get a new pillow, and there I went from one to the next, tearing open the plastic just slightly, and “testing” it until I found one that was satisfactory. When we got back to our trailer a few nights later, dad went outside and told me to bring my pillow.
As I stepped out into the night air, I saw him kneeling just outside the small stone circle beside our front steps. It had once been a flower garden—conceived during one of mom’s highs, when she was bolstered with energy from painkillers. The high wore off, but the flowers remained in that little circle of rocks—at least for a while. Then they died, shriveled, neglected, and forgotten.
Almost like a demon out of a child’s horror story, there was my dad, grinning devilishly and eagerly, urging me to throw my old pillow onto a mess of crumbled newspapers soaked in lighter fluid as he held his flaming lighter above it. “We need to burn it!” he said, but I refused. There was no need to burn it. They were already making me throw it away—they were already making me discard this pillow that I loved and had slept with every night for years. Was that not enough?
“We need to burn it!” he said again, as I ran inside and cried to mom that dad wanted to burn the pillow that I loved. It may seem strange that I had such attachment to a pillow, but I did, and both of my parents knew it. My father certainly knew very well that I loved that pillow.
That’s why he wanted to burn it. Because I loved it.
We didn’t burn random things, and I doubt that we ever burned anything there at all. He wasn’t content to force me to throw away this pillow, the symbol that I was an emotional person and not the crass son that he apparently wanted. The pillow had to be destroyed in flames because I loved it, and because “real men don’t love.” This silly, feminine weakness, this emotional attachment to an object—it had to be gotten rid of, and in the most dramatic way possible.
It was not the pillow that my dad wanted to burn.
It was my heart.
My mother intervened, though my father came inside and continued insisting that we needed to burn the pillow, because he was afraid that I would be able to talk my mother into letting me keep it. One has to wonder why it was an issue that I wanted to keep it. In the end, I placed it gingerly on top of the garbage can in the kitchen and told it goodbye. I hated to do so, and I cried, because it didn’t make sense to me.
It’s understandable that I developed such strong emotional ties to objects, as neither parent spent much time with me, and there was not much hugging in the family. Mom and dad were always high on one drug or another, lying on the couch and borderline comatose. I don’t know how Brandi handled it then, or what she did in order to get through the long and miserable days, but it was surely as awful for her as it was for me. Unlike our older brother, we didn’t have friends with whom we could go hang out. Or, at least, I didn’t. Brandi was friends with a girl who didn’t live too far from us, and I hope that my sister was happy then.
Aunt May and Kay-Kay
For a while, mom did work, as did my father. While Brandi and Eric were gone to school and my parents were at work, I was babysat by our great aunt who lived next door, a relatively kind woman who I remember as mostly humorless. My father fleeced her out of most of her money, just as he did to my great-grandmother, and just as he is currently doing to my grandmother. However, I was too young to comprehend that, and there isn’t much that I remember about Aunt May.
It was horrendously boring at Aunt May’s. There were few places worse for my pre-school self. I wasn’t allowed to take my Nintendo, which left me there alone with an eighty-year-old woman and very little to actually do, because there was no one to play with and nowhere to play at. Aunt May wasn’t unkind, but she was also not particularly joyful. I don’t blame her for that—she was a very old woman, and probably not happy to babysit a four-year-old.
I should have been outside having fun, rather than sitting in a living room with an eighty-year-old woman and playing with paper dolls that she cut out of a magazine. Of course, such things seem droll only from a modern perspective, but I was accustomed to video games and cartoons, the heightened entertainment possibilities of the late 1980s. In the 1880s, a child would have been thrilled to sit on a couch in an air-conditioned house and idle away the hours with paper dolls.
However, imagine the horrified response one would get if a modern child was asked to spend day after day in that environment, with only a very old woman as company. There would probably be allegations of child abuse, though I’m not making that claim. However, many modern parents would likely consider that to be, at the least, borderline child abuse. To me, it was simply boring, and the time passed so slowly that I probably lived more moments there at Aunt May’s house than all the moments I have lived since.
I don’t intend any of this to be disparaging to Aunt May. I have no doubt that she did the best she could, and significantly better than many people in her position would have. Still, I dreaded those days when both parents had to work, and it was routine for me to ask mom each afternoon, “Do you have to work tomorrow?”
Aunt May had a moustache, as well, but I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I was shown a picture of her that I learned she had a moustache. I was pre-kindergarten when I spent time with Aunt May, so the idea that a woman didn’t have facial hair wasn’t in my head yet, so it seemed perfectly normal to me. My father had a moustache and Aunt May had a moustache. Cars had tires, and houses had walls.
One horrible day, as Aunt May sat in her recliner, concealed from view of the kitchen as I sat on the couch near the front door, there was suddenly a crash in the kitchen. The backdoor entered into the kitchen, and I will never forget the fear that fell over this old woman’s face. Someone had broken in through the back door.
She and I hid in the living room, cowering in the corner behind her chair. I don’t believe she ever called the police (she didn’t have a phone), or did anything about it, but my memory of that ordeal is vague. I recall only the noise, the unmistakable terror in her eyes that I was able to recognize even at four years old, and the hiding.
Because she was very old, it simply wasn’t possible for Aunt May to always babysit me, and I had another sitter called Kay-Kay—a hefty, middle-aged woman who seemed to be doing pretty well in life. She had a house, at least, which I recognized to mean that she was okay—we lived in a trailer, and most of the people we knew lived in a trailer. Living in a house… That was a grand thing to me. I didn’t mind that we lived in a trailer, and I was much too young to know that being the child of two fast-food workers (even if they were supervisors) who raised Confederate flags, shot up heroin, and ate Xanax made me the definitive example of “trailer trash,” but I knew that it was a great thing to have a house.
Kay-Kay was an ordinary woman, and there was much going on beneath the surface that most people never saw. As I sat in one of her bedrooms, playing a video game, there was suddenly a banging on the door and people shouting, demanding to be allowed inside and promising that, if Kay-Kay refused, they would tear the house down.
Although I was shocked and scared at first, Kay-Kay put my fears to rest by handling it expertly. She answered in an almost aloof way, as though she had no concern about it. Even as they banged and screamed, I was unafraid, because Kay-Kay didn’t appear to take it seriously. After a minute or so, the banging stopped, and then the rhythmic pounding echoed through her home, coming from somewhere in the back.
“They’re going to tear the house down!” I shouted to Kay-Kay, scared once more. In my head, I had the image of two enormous, burly, and angry men outside with huge hammers, smashing away the bricks and crashing through the walls.
“Oh, no, they’re not, sweetie,” came Kay-Kay’s reply as she dropped to a knee and hugged me. “They’re just mad. They’ll get over it and leave in a few minutes.”
Sure enough, Kay-Kay was right: they did leave shortly thereafter. In actuality, they probably just had given up on the front door and gone to try the back door. Finding it locked, they banged and shouted some more, and then left. I never learned what it was about, and Kay-Kay asked me not to mention it to my parents, which made sense: that isn’t the sort of thing a mother wants happening at the selected babysitter’s home. I didn’t stay quiet, though, and that was the last time Kay-Kay ever babysat me. It was also the last time that I saw her.
The Rise of Tumult
There was a “friend of the family” called Doc, and I liked him a lot. Everyone liked Doc—he was a friendly, charismatic person. Being my parents’ friend, he was heavily on drugs, but Doc was also in a motorcycle gang, which created a problem, because shooting up was explicitly against the gang’s laws. Just to be clear here: this is the world I grew up in. This was normal to my three-year-old self. On any given day, I was likely to see one or both of my parents shoot up heroin with a buddy who was in a motorcycle gang, smoke a joint or two, and collapse onto the couch in a stupor and droning out “Yeah…” to no one.
I watched my mother, laid out on the loveseat, look to my father on the other side of the living room. She held up, toward my father, a syringe full of some red liquid, and then she asked in a seductive voice, “John, do you want some of this?” And as she spoke, she pressed in the syringe and sent a jet stream of this stuff—whatever it was—flying across the living room. They were both out of their minds, just high as hell.
Disheveled, frantic, panicked, and terrified, Doc stopped by our trailer and wanted to sell my father a half-pound of weed for fifty bucks. My father had twenty dollars he could pay. Knowing my father, it’s amazing that he had any money, but he did, and he explained to Doc what he had.
Doc in turn explained that he had to get out of town. “Had to,” he said, and my father understood what that meant. The gang somehow learned that Doc was shooting up, so Doc had to get out of town before they found him and forced him to run “The Gauntlet.” Because, apparently, that actually happens. My father bought the weed, and Doc fled, but it was to no avail, and he was later found dead.
We frequently drove north to visit my Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny (the man who would later go to prison for murder and, in all likelihood, killed my mother, though there is no body or evidence), as well as our cousins. One of these trips proved to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.
As Brandi and I rode with dad in his yellow truck, in a secluded area where the road was surrounded by steep ditches that spelled death for anyone who lost control and went over, a truck driver decided to pass us. The trucker blew his horn a few times, and then he went for it. As he passed, he veered to the right—or dad swerved to the left. The enormous side view mirror of the rig crashed through the window beside dad and sent a spray of glass shards through the cab of our truck. Luckily, neither my sister nor I sustained any injuries.
The fault was probably my father’s (driving under the influence of one drug or another), but the reason officially given was that the highway wasn’t wide enough to pass. This excuse came much later in the day, after the trip got significantly worse.
We passed through Memphis as we traveled, and came upon an intersection. Not paying attention, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but there was shaking and noise. We rear-ended another vehicle. It’s possible that my father didn’t stop quickly enough, and it’s possible that he pressed the gas too hard and too quickly after the light turned green. Regardless, we hit the vehicle hard and sent it careening into the intersection. Reportedly, it traveled fifty feet from the impact.
The woman driving that car died on the spot with a broken neck.
Someone obviously called the police, and they arrested my father. The police placed Brandi and me in the back of the police car with him, which made us feel as though we were also being arrested, and that is terrifying when you’re four or five years old and have no comprehension of what is going on. As though we were playing out a scene in a movie, the very same trucker who had hit us earlier happened upon the accident, and presumably told the police that dad was driving erratically. The next thing I knew, the trucker was banging on the glass beside me, shouting obscenities at us—not just at our dad, but honestly at the five-year-old children, too. I was terrified, confused, and frightened out of my mind, and it didn’t help that dad, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was frothing at the mouth, rocking the police car, and demanding to be let out so that he could fight the truck driver.
My sister and I were taken to the hospital, and police, doctors, and therapists repeatedly questioned us about the accidents. We were separated from our father, but also from each other, and that made the experience more traumatic than it had to be. We were finally told that we would be going into the care of Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny briefly, and they were the ones who picked us up from the hospital. My grandmother acquired a good lawyer for my father, and he was able to go to rehabilitation rather than prison, or something to that effect.
For a long time, my nerves were absolutely shot, and it was nearly impossible to get me into a vehicle, which is probably the normal response of a four year old child after being in two accidents in a single day, one of which resulted in a death, all because the parents didn’t mind driving after eating a bunch of pills. Naturally, their solution was to shove pills down my throat, giving me what they called “nerve pills” that were probably Xanax or Klonopin. This was the only way to get me into an automobile for several months after the accidents, because otherwise I would scream and throw fits. Eventually the anxiety faded, but knocking me out with drugs was the only way to get me into a car for a while.
Things returned to what we considered normal, though that isn’t to say that either of my parents stopped doing drugs. I doubt either parent was clean for any notable period, and they continued inviting friends over. These parties, while they were more or less tame and consisted of people drinking, doing drugs, and playing spades, would not constitute “normal” for most kids.
On one such occasion, one of the people with whom they were hanging out decided that it would be a brilliant idea to inject peanut butter. Presumably, he’d heard that “The high is incredible, man!” and wasn’t much interested in maybe asking a doctor before doing something so horrendously and creatively stupid. According to my father—who is a known pathological liar, it’s worth remembering—the man died on the spot, so they took him home and left him on his couch, dead. I have no memory of this, but it allegedly happened sometime around my fifth birthday.
I started kindergarten, and I loathed it. Up until that point, my life was fantastic. I could wake up whenever I wanted, spend the entire day watching cartoons and playing videogames, snacking whenever I desired, and just doing anything I pleased. Then suddenly I couldn’t do that any longer; I had to wake up at a specific time, go spend the entire day in a boring school, and then only had a few hours afterward to do the things that I enjoyed doing. As early as kindergarten, it struck me as absurd: if the point of life is to be happy, as everyone constantly insisted to me, then why did I have to go to school?
We were poor—dirt poor, as you might expect, given the heavy drug usage. Although both parents were managers at various fast food restaurants at times, my mother eventually quit working altogether and got onto disability for her migraines. It was with tremendous excitement that we were approved for food stamps, and we waited for weeks with palpable eagerness in the air, though I had no idea what it even meant. There are two times that I distinctly recall the entire family waiting anxiously for something to happen, and the anticipation was identical on both occasions; we waited for food stamps and we waited for our cable to be activated with the same sense of impending thrill, as did I, even though I had no understanding of what either meant.
Being approved for food stamps felt like having a birthday, and so did the cable company finally coming out, after weeks of waiting, to connect our cable television. While I understood that having cable meant that we would have Nickelodeon, there was no way that I understood the concept of food stamps, so my excitement was surely nothing more than a mirror of my parents’ own eager anticipations. It was just months after this that I began school, and that mom became convinced that dad was not really working, that he was only disappearing while he was supposed to be at work.
It was a school day when it happened, because we were supposed to be in class, but mom kept us at home. My much older brother, my slightly older sister, and I were told that we were leaving dad, and I’m sure I handled that as well as any six year old child would, which is to say with naked emotion untempered by the jaded self-control we are taught to exercise in later years. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was devastated nonetheless. First, the life I had come to know and love was wrecked by having to go to school, and then what little semblance of it remained was being irretrievably shattered by this upheaval. I spent the entire day in tears, as did my sister. Whatever was going on between our parents had nothing to do with us, and our lives were being cast into the hurricane because of it.
Too young to truly understand what was really going on, my primary concern was whether to leave my father “the good Nintendo” or the bad one. They both worked, but one of them was much more difficult to get working. Both my dad and I were big on video games, and so was my older brother, and even my mom and sister played occasionally. There were lots of family moments when we all took turns, and we even had a device that allowed four controllers to be used.
I agonized over that decision far more than a six year old should, and my mom didn’t give the situation nearly as much attention as it deserved. My entire world, prior to school, consisted almost entirely of playing video games. That I even debated which one to leave was a tremendous indicator of how much I loved my father, how much I didn’t want to leave, and, above all, how poorly equipped I was to cope with the chaos I suddenly was confronting. Mom was tearing our family apart, breaking it into two pieces, and she never sat down with my sister and me to explain what was happening, to assure us that we’d still see our dad, or to promise us that it would be okay. While to some extent that’s understandable, since she had to pack and load things up, the utter failure to remember that she was literally wrecking her youngest kids’ lives is very difficult to excuse.
To make matters worse, she was cowardly about it, too, because all of this happened while my father was at work. We lived in a trailer on my grandfather’s land, and it’s very likely that my grandfather was the one who alerted my father to the moving truck that was at his home. However, seeing as my grandfather later offered to shoot my mother for my dad, I doubt he would have showed the restraint simply to inform my dad of what was happening.
Regardless, dad pulled up while we were finishing and preparing to leave. The next little bit is a blur of anger, hostility, and shouting from which I am able to pull very few details. In a flash, dad went from anger to pleading, but mom refused to listen; her mind was made up, and she cranked the car, put it into gear, and hit the gas. Dad threw himself into the side of the car and then hit the ground, fell onto his back, and then lie there in the grass. My sister and I screamed and cried—our dad had just been run over!—and mom shouted at us to stop yelling. I gazed out of the back window at my father as we drove away, and there he was, lying unmoving in the grass, and all I could think was the horrible thought, “Dad is dead.”
There in the back of the car, crying quietly, having just watched my father die from being hit by a car, I sat at the age of six years old, being shouted at by my mom to shut up because I freaked out when I saw her kill my dad.
Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.
Anyone who has seen the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode called “The Drumhead” will probably have a pretty good idea of where I’m going with this. In the episode, a klingon happens to be a spy, and is caught–however, an accident that occurred at around the same time went unexplained, and, worried about saboteurs and collaborators, Starfleet began an investigation into the crew of the Enterprise.
What began as a seemingly justifiable investigation devolved almost immediately into a witch hunt, or, as Picard put it, a “Drumhead Trial”–a mock trial put on by a military tribunal where punishment was swift and decisive. It’s a well-known episode, and generally considered among that series best’s. It’s a pity that we learned nothing from its rather anvilicious lessons.
That doesn’t mean that, say, Michael Flynn, who just invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying on the Hill, doesn’t have problems related to past payments from the Russians.
Er… No, Howard Kurtz, that’s not right. The way this is phrased creates the default idea that Flynn has those problems, and that his invocation of the fifth is evidence of that–otherwise, why even link these two things?
In the episode I mentioned, a young man is revealed to have lied about his heritage, having claimed to be half-Vulcan when he was actually half-Romulan, and the Romulans were essentially Star Trek’s Russians. During his publicly open interrogation, with dozens and dozens of people watching eagerly, he was asked about his true lineage, and he invoked the fifth (or, actually, Starfleet’s version of the fifth).
Immediately, the whispering and gasps rang out. Rumor swirled, and he was instantly assumed to be guilty.
Kangaroo done hung the juror with the innocent.
We would all do well to watch this tense episode once more, but allowing it to hit closer to home. You’ll see in the inquisitor none other than Democratic leadership, relentlessly pursuing every possible lead in their quixotic quest to find a collaborator or saboteur. In those nightmarish circumstances, where even Picard is ultimately brought in for questioning, even pleading the fifth becomes evidence of a person’s guilt.
The moral of the story is that we’re never more than one accident away from a witch hunt. We saw it last year when the clown sightings began–fully hysterical reactions from people over clowns who had done nothing to anyone and may very well not have existed in the first place. It’s entirely possible that there was never even a single clown, much less several, but that didn’t stop panic and hysteria from sweeping the nation: schools were locked down, clown masks were pulled from store shelves, and police investigations were launched.
Of course, we can look to an actual witch hunt if we’d like to depress ourselves, since 40,000 people were killed in puritan America for being witches–and, the reasoned mind of today understands that none of them were witches. The accusation alone branded one guilty, and often the trials involved horrific things like “Drown her. If she’s innocent, God will save her.”
Eyeballs deep in muddy water, fucking hypocrite.
I’m honestly not scared of much. I’ve had someone put a gun in my face and tell me to drop to my knees and beg for my life, whereupon I defiantly replied, “You’re gonna have to kill me, because I’m not doing that.” I’ve been left beaten and bloody in at least three parking lots. I’ve had picking up hitch hikers backfire on me in spectacular ways. But none of that scares me.
Hysteria, however… Hysteria terrifies me.
How long did McCarthy and Hoover’s reigns of terror last? There has even been talk of recognition the House of Un-American Activities. My death–who cares? It would likely be painful, but after that, over, so it’s really not something to be scared of. However, a witch hunt can go so very far beyond that–into tortured confessions, corrupt interrogators, presumed guilt rather than presumed innocence…
We played with the fire after the Orlando Shooting, as well, when people asked how this person who had been investigated three times by the FBI had been able to acquire guns. It is simply assumed, in their worldview, that a person is guilty if the FBI investigates them. Never mind that this could easily be part of the anti-Muslim witch hunt. “He was investigated three times? Then he’s guilty. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire! Besides, look what he did!”
Yes, but the fact that “what he did” was something he “hadn’t yet done” at the time he was being investigated is of critical importance. You can’t apply current knowledge about him to decisions people made about him in the past. And we damn sure can’t assume people are guilty just because we have an out-of-control investigatory agency that is perfectly poised to begin and instigate witch hunts.
I don’t know or care whether Flynn did whatever it is that he’s being presumed guilty of doing, and I don’t care if Trump played a role in it. Even if they do manage to demonstrate guilt (as opposed to assuming it), they still have to demonstrate why the whole thing is of any consequence at all.
Now people are talking impeachment. There’s no doubt: impeachment was on people’s minds on Election Day, as soon as the results came in. If the idea of having a hardcore religious nutjob as President sounds appealing, then, by all means, proceed with impeachment. People seem to think that we can make a Democrat president if we impeach Trump, or that we can spark an emergency election. Neither of these things will or can happen.
Kangaroo be stoned, he’s guilty as the government.
If Trump is impeached and remove from office, then Mike Pence becomes President. And any impeachment proceeding would look far more like a Drumhead Trial than anything that resembles a fair court. And, really, I think such an act could very easily spark a civil war, given that Trump has been in office barely four months and hasn’t done anything out of line with what previous presidents did. Removing the president that people chose before that president has even had the chance, in his supporters’ eyes, to do what they wanted him to do… I hope Democrats are ready for the fallout from that, because it won’t be the sunshine and daisies they seem to expect.
We have a problem, though, and the problem is fear. We are terrifyingly prone to panic, and that should be what scares us, not whatever bogeyman we’re panicking about at the given moment. Panic and hysteria shredded much of the Bill of Rights already. What is next in our witch hunt?
Last week and this week, I was a guest on the Liberty Radio Network show “The Call to Freedom” hosted by former Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate Will Coley and Thom Gray, who doesn’t get an awesome title before his name but doesn’t need one, because that’s how awesome he is. Due to it not having a podcast form, I wasn’t aware the show existed (without a permanent form, it doesn’t get picked up at the RRND, which is where I learn about such things). While I tried to get a recording of last week’s, I got the time wrong and forgot about it, but did get this one.
It was a great show, and, personally, I think the aftershow was even better, primarily because I was looser and more relaxed. By that point, I was beginning to get comfortable and fall into a groove, so any future appearances (crossing my fingers) won’t have me quite so silent. If you’re interested in liberty, be sure to check out these links.
I did edit the Aftershow. For one, all of my input was lost due to how I recorded it. Because of this, I had to record today’s encore airing, and then re-record and re-impose what I’d said during the aftershow discussion back into the audio. I think I achieved about a 99% accuracy, though I knowingly added one remark (and made note that it was an added remark not said during the conversation). Much of the aftershow discussion, about the possibility of me attending Somalia Fest and PorcFest with Will Coley and his family, was personal in nature, and so I removed it. Additionally, there is some beeping, because a few things were said that wouldn’t have been said if it was on the air. In consideration of all involved, I’ve beeped out some names, and removed one brief section about someone.
I cannot say that I will record and upload every episode of “Call to Freedom,” but it is something that I would like to do, and I’m generally available on Sunday nights. I know that I’ll record and upload any future episodes that I’m in, but I think it would be a little narcissistic to do only episodes that have me as a guest (even though it is a bit of work to do all this–removing commercials, tweaking audio, normalizing, compressing, adjusting EQ bands…).
Sunday night I was invited again to be on “The Call to Freedom” hosted by Thom Grey and former libertarian Vice Presidential candidate (and possible future presidential candidate!) to discuss the neverending Libertarian Drama and the current status of the Libertarian Party, with two other guests: James Babbs and Larry Sharpe. It was a really good episode, though most of it was (frustratingly, honestly, as I had a lot I wanted to say, but I don’t get into shouting matches, and I try very hard not to interrupt people unless my point is very critical, like when I interrupted Jim at one point to say that if he wanted the LP to be a “safe place” for people to learn about libertarianism, than we can’t call people “murderers”), but it calmed down for about the last half hour and I got some words in.
Funnily, Thom messaged me through the episode and jokingly said something like, “When the cis men keep talking over the trans woman.” I lol’d, and I know he was joking, but my silence was 100% on me, and no one else. It’s true that Jim and Larry weren’t perhaps as considerate of the fact that they were co-guests were two other people, but my silence was totally on me for making the choice to sit out the shouting match, and for being extremely reluctant to interrupt anyone. I’m not knocking them–that’s often how these things go, and I don’t blame them for that. It’s just not how I prefer to do things. And it doesn’t seem to be how Will and Thom prefer to do things, either, as they were mostly silent through it all, too.
It made for a pretty good show, though.
It also brought a few things to my attention. First, I am extremely out of practice with having to think on my feet and formulate replies on the fly. Through the last two years, I’ve more or less avoided all “live” discussions of politics and religion (and, honestly, I just about don’t discuss religion at all any longer). When clients start talking about it, I simply listen, because they’re wrong on so many levels, and I know better than to try to point that out to them. When friends dive into it, I know I’m the only anarchist present, and trying to explain to someone why the entire tax system enslaves the American people is a bit too much for a light political discussion over a few glasses of wine when other people are interested in talking about a tax increase or decrease. Being an anarchist is like being the quantum mechanics physicist in the room full of people who are all discussing gravity, and each and every other person is wrong about something in spectacular ways. Does the physicist jump in to correct everyone? Almost certainly not. He instead quietly shakes his head and listens, lamenting all the way that they have failed themselves. Even with my family, I’m extremely unlikely to jump into a conversation, because trying to explain what libertarianism is and why I’m a libertarian is a fifteen minute ordeal, at best, and no one–absolutely no one–is going to sit and listen to you for 15 minutes. You might get thirty seconds before you’re interrupted, but even through those 30 seconds they won’t be listening–they’ll be thinking about what they’re going to say as soon as you finish talking.
During high school, I was an amazing debater. I don’t mean to brag, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone. I have a knack for analyzing things and picking them apart until nothing is left. I’d even call it my best skill. But once you start picking apart people’s assumptions, they always reply in a few predictable ways. They’ll either say that you’ve brought it to the level of reductio ad absurdum by asking them to demonstrate why it’s better that humans should survive instead of go extinct, when the reality is that it’s a completely fair question: there is much argument to be made that Earth and the universe would be much better off if humans suddenly ceased existing. Some other animal species would probably rise up at some point, and maybe they wouldn’t be as consumed by their egos as we are. Who knows? Regardless, it’s not an absurd question; it’s a totally fair question, and one that they can’t answer. That it’s better for humans to survive is an assumption, and the assumption is based on their value system, primarily the idea that “life is good.”
Anyway… So I’ve been very out-of-practice when it comes to arguing on my feet, though, luckily, stage fright has never been a problem for me. I intend to resolve this by going back to doing one “on-the-fly” response video on Youtube, where I record myself watching and replying to a video that I’m likely to disagree with. That’s essentially the same thing, and doing it allows me to go back to creating content, and has the added benefit of getting me back into practice, since it’s a skill like any other–use it or lose it. Anyway, so tonight’s podcast…
Last year, I wrote a book called Dancing in Hellfire. It is essentially my autobiography, except that I didn’t stop at simply relating events that had happened. Instead, I looked back on them and thought about what I learned from them, because the functional mind is always learning–any mind that refuses to learn is effectively dead. To be sure, I’ve had some really screwed up things happen in my past: both parents are/were drug addicts, my father killed a woman when I was 4, my mother was murdered when I was 12 (her body never found, so she’s still listed as a missing person), and other, generally awful things that you would rightly expect to happen in circumstances like that. Before we even factor in transgenderism, there is easily enough material to fill an 80,000 word autobiography (a bit on the heavy side for a memoir anyway), and I found myself chopping out entire recollections to make room for the transgender stuff.
Really, you’d think in today’s political environment that it would be an easy sell. That’s opportunistic of me, and I don’t deny that, but I also don’t see it as a problem. Identifying a niche in the market and targeting that niche isn’t a bad thing–in fact, it’s a smart thing to do. Only in the past six months, as my search for a literary agent has hit a dead end, has it dawned on me that I still made a mistake with the targeting. As I said, the book isn’t about “Oh, poor me, this happened and society didn’t do anything to prevent it!” Instead, it’s a book about “This happened, and this is what I learned from it.”
The critical difference is that the former marks me as a victim; the latter marks me as a beneficiary.
Without a doubt, I’d rather have my mother alive today, but there’s also no disputing that it has marked me in many ways that are very positive. Foremost among these is surely my awareness of justice as a function of forgiveness rather than vengeance. Those wounds are real, and they are painful–however, those very wounds have also made me ask the excruciating question, “How might I have closure on this?” The answer to that is not “…by seeing the murderer in prison!” The murderer has already been to prison for an unrelated murder, and it did nothing to make me feel any better. While it sucks beyond the capacity of weak words to convey how much it actually sucks to have my mother gone, absent without a trace, like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, I can detach myself from that enough to recognize that having a mind that is more focused on forgiveness than vengeance is a positive result.
It wouldn’t be worth asking whether I’d rather have my mother alive, and to still consider vengeance and justice to be the same thing, or if I’d prefer the current state of affairs. Just because these things happened in a way that are causal doesn’t mean they’re mutually exclusive. Maybe my mother could still be alive and something else could have happened to lead me to that realization. There’s no way to know, and so the hypothetical is useless–built, as it is, on the assumption that I can’t have both simply because I don’t have both.
I’ve neglected to talk about it publicly before now, but we do live in a society that glorifies victimization, and this is no more evident than in the bizarre way that Glamour magazine named the Stanford rape victim their Woman of the Year. This perplexes me in countless ways. I’m not demeaning her fight within the system to see Brock punished for what he did, but “having been raped” doesn’t strike me as a particularly good reason to be named “Woman of the Year” any more than being trans was reason to name Caitlyn Jenner woman of the year. Why don’t we celebrate accomplishments rather than victimization? It is an absolute slap in the face to the female biochemists who lead breakthrough research, the females at CERN, and the leading female experts in countless industries, to be passed up as Woman of the Year because someone was a victim of rape and the case was very public. Again, this isn’t to say that the rape should be ignored, but it certainly shouldn’t be celebrated.
Bad Stuff Happens
… all the time.
Earlier this month, I attempted to drive ~150 miles to see A Perfect Circle live, for probably the last live tour they’re going to do, and it was an ordeal just to get tickets, much less to find someone who would go. To give you an idea of how much this meant to me, a few weeks beforehand, in an article about scalpers, I wrote:
I bought tickets to the A Perfect Circle concert next month for well over what they cost initially, and the reason was precisely because my demand exceeds other people’s. I can’t even convey with words what A Perfect Circle’s music means to me. Being able to see them again–probably for the last tour they’re ever going to do, since no one expected this one and it’s been 14 years since their last one–is one of those experiences that literally makes life worth living (no exaggeration). Because of scalpers, I was able to acquire a ticket, and I would say it’s far more important that I was able to get a ticket than Random Joe who kinda likes their music and has nothing else to do that evening. The seats aren’t even that good, and I don’t even care. It’s A Perfect Circle. It means more to me than it will anyone else in that audience.
And you know what happened? Shortly after I got onto i240, headed for i40 and the long eastward trip to Nashville, I saw that my temperature gauge was way higher than it should have been–like “about to overheat” high. I whipped over and got off the interstate, stopping on Airways. Not being an idiot, I’d left with more than an hour to spare, in the event that something weird happened. However, it took my car nearly 45 minutes to cool off enough to hold water, and we discovered that the upper radiator hose had come completely off, which is the rarest and most unlikely thing that could possibly happen with a working clamp (not to mention, of course, that the months of driving before that had no issue, so it happened at the worst possible moment). In doing so, it had brushed against the alternator belt, and had been cut open, so even after it was cool enough to travel again, it had a steady leak that meant the hose had to be replaced. This meant we had to go to an Auto Zone, buy a replacement hose, put it on, and then refill the thing with water (if you’ve ever driven a Chrysler, you know this isn’t as straightforward as with most vehicles). When we were finally heading back toward the interstate, the GPS called out, “Estimated time of arrival is 9:23 pm…” which was two hours after the concert started. That’s right. We lost nearly three hours due to that overheating.
This actually took me completely down for about ten days, as some people may have noticed, because I didn’t post anything. I didn’t have the strength. I was depressed; it’s really hard to convey how much it hurt to miss the concert over something so extraordinarily unlikely that no one would have taken the bet that it was likely to happen. Yet life goes on, I recovered, and got back to it–though I was down longer than I would have anticipated. Because I’m moving to Vegas and the state of Mississippi said “lol, fuck you” earlier this year, setting me back on that plan far more than I’d have liked, I don’t make plans to go and do things very often–spare money is better put toward moving to Vegas than going to see a concert, but this was no ordinary band–this is the band that has influenced my music more than any other. I didn’t really learn anything from that experience, because there was nothing to really learn. It was a freak accident at the worst possible time, and I’d checked my car that very morning. It’s true that I didn’t inspect the hoses, but, c’mon, no one does. That’s absurd. One might as well pull out and check each and every fuse. While I did inspect everything (on a different vehicle) before driving to Vegas in 2015, that was 1800 miles, not 180 miles.
I tend to think that I’m so anti-authoritarian because of the horrifically bad parenting of my mother and father, a point that I call attention to in Dancing in Hellfire. Through most people’s childhoods, and well into their adolescences, they have this idea that their parents are indestructible and supreme. I remember well being in the third grade and having Danny, a friend of mine, stand beside me in line at the cafeteria and put his fist to one of the cinderblocks in the wall and ask, “Do you think your dad could punch through this? My dad could!” Even then, at nine years old, it struck me as ridiculous. No, his dad could not punch through the cinderblock, but I didn’t challenge the idea with him. It did not occur to me then how odd it was that he would have this unrealistic idea of his dad, but it happened again much later, in the seventh grade, when a kid described his dad’s hand as “alligator skin,” proud of his dad being a Working Class Hero, and remarked that a puppy could chew on his fingers for hours and never draw blood.
I didn’t have any of that. When I was six years old, the state showed up with its footsoldiers to kidnap my sister and me, and our mother was powerless to do anything about it. All she could do was cry. I learned that day that my mother–who I’d been with since I was born–was ultimately not the one responsible for me, and that these other people called “the police” had usurped her authority. A brutal lesson for a six year old to learn, but one that has served me well since. My dad wasn’t ultimately the one in charge of me–my mother had trumped him by taking me in the first place, so clearly he was ranked below her in the hierarchy. My mother was also not ultimately the one in charge of me, because her impudence in the face of the state and its footsoldiers left no room to believe that.
And what of my father? Well, you lose the image of your father as the Glorious Personification of Everything Great around the time you see him faceplant into the dirt at a baseball field after eating too many Xanax and drinking too many beers. And if that doesn’t do it, then watching those very same police officers arrest him after a vehicle wreck and place him, powerless, in their police car will shatter that image. There’s absolutely no doubt: some of my earliest and most jarring experiences involved the state exerting its authority. I have very little doubt that this is what left me inclined to view the state as what it is: the slavemaster.
Would I be an anarchist now, if none of this had happened? Another useless hypothetical.
Every experience is not just an opportunity to learn; it is also a choice. No matter what happens, we never lose the power to choose how we react. We are not* mindless machines who operate on extremely complex if-then programming that dictates our responses; we are not powerless. We are not at the mercy of our reactions; our reactions are at our mercy, and nothing changes this. Just because some people choose to let their responses unfold emotionally, with no tempering or self-control, doesn’t mean that they have no choice in the matter, and we shouldn’t allow them to so easily escape the fact that their reactions to things are their reactions. We are not wild beasts braying in the field. We are human beings, and it’s time we acted like it.
If someone says “Fuck you, you’re an idiot” to me, it’s true that I have very little control at this time over my initial emotional reaction of anger and desire to retaliate. Evidence suggests, however, that extensive meditation and self-reflection can, in fact, put us in control of even that lightning-fast emotional reaction. And that’s the key: “lightning-fast.” Emotions are instantaneous. That anger lasts only a flash of a second. If left to its own devices, it would immediately die out, but more often than not we embrace it and purposely keep it going, stoking the fires. Larry Sharpe Sunday night (and today at 2pm Central at www.lrn.fm) is a clear example. After saying that he’d accepted Arvin’s apology and forgiven him, and that they were “good,” the indignation and anger in Larry’s voice were still audible–he was clearly still clinging to those emotions. I actually initially attempted to call attention that, but couldn’t formulate my thoughts quickly enough in a way that weren’t antagonistic, so I instead let it go immediately. While saying that he had let the matter go, he kept bringing it up, even after we tried to move on to other matters, and his voice was absolutely dripping with emotion. Regardless of what he said, it is clear that Larry is keeping those emotions alive rather than releasing them.
Still, that I would immediately react with anger and a desire to retaliate is still on me. It’s still my emotional reaction, and my failure to control my emotions to that degree is my failure. It’s not this person’s fault. They didn’t “make” me angry. I made me angry. They were merely the catalyst–they merely presented me with the choice of how to react, and I chose to react in anger. However, I would typically choose within a second or two to let it go and to release the anger, rather than dwelling on it. Unlike Larry Sharpe, if I forgive what I perceive as a transgression, then I’m not going to bring it up again, because forgiving someone is an internal thing–it has nothing to do with the transgressor, which the Vegas Chick made me realize when I pondered whether she could do anything that would “cause” me to forgive her–the answer was that whether I forgave her had almost nothing to do with her. Demanding contrition or restitution isn’t forgiveness, even if that restitution comes in the form of a simple apology.
Through my own failure, I have no control over the initial emotional reaction. Through much work, I have largely (though certainly not perfectly) taken control of the following moments. My own failures lead me to make the wrong choice in the first place, by reacting with anger, but the choice that immediately follows is whether to release that anger or to embrace it. Both of these are choices.
There sometimes comes a time when the voices of internet activists are so loud that they begin to effect an actual change in the real world. There sometimes comes a time when enough people shouting, “We aren’t happy!” prompts other people to ask, “So what do you want us to do about it?”
It’s true that my activism takes place primarily on the Internet. There are a few reasons for this, but it’s mostly a matter of timing, and I’ve been working through the last six months to transition that activism into the real world. Even so, I don’t think that internet activism is automatically slacktivism, because I can point to at least five people whose ties to libertarian thought originated with my Facebook posts. Five, of course, is a drop in the bucket, but I would consider the time spent writing to be well used if I’d introduced even one person to libertarian philosophy.
Something I’ve written about before is continuing to happen, though, and Arvin Vohra gives is a clear case of it within the Libertarian Party. I’ve frequently said that Black Lives Matter enjoyed the national spotlight for nearly two years and yet didn’t accomplish a single thing except to make people aware that they weren’t happy. No policies were changed, and no police were found guilty. You’d be forgiven for thinking that we hadn’t just seen interstates throughout the nation shut down by protests. It’s a curious thing that protesters could command that level of attention and organization, yet accomplish absolutely nothing.
The activist has goals, and usually has at least some idea of how to get from where we are to that destination. The slacktivist has no goals, and instead has only emotions. “Everyone should be treated equally!” isn’t a goal, after all–it’s an emotional statement that could lead one to formulate a goal. “The military should be dismantled entirely” is a goal, albeit one that is hard to sell to the masses. It’s an actual action with an actual outcome, not a loose guide.
Considering Arvin Vohra, the emotional statement is “You shouldn’t say negative things about this group!” while a concrete action would be “Arvin should be removed from office!”
At a glance, I’d say that the difference between activism and slacktivism is that the slacktivist wants to tell other people what to do, while the activist wants to do things that have a desired outcome. The slacktivist proposes mandates of other people’s actions, knowing that they can’t be enforced, while the activist cares little about what other people are doing because the activist is working personally for the change they want to see. The slacktivist says, “You do this.” The activist says, “I’m going to do this.”
The goal of the slacktivist is nothing better than ensuring that everyone knows how unhappy they are; the activist doesn’t really have time to wax at length about their emotional reactions to various stimuli. In Buddhist terms, the slacktivist says, “I am suffering,” while the activist says, “There is suffering.”
Everyone has goals, though–even the slacktivist. However, the slacktivist just wants everyone to know that they aren’t happy. Slacktivism obviously isn’t limited to the internet, but the internet has made it much easier for Random Joe to spread his discontent, so it’s going to be more common on the Internet. How many pointless, ineffectual petitions are there on Change.Org? Tens of thousands? That’s slacktivism in a nutshell.
Why, there’s even a petition there to remove Arvin.
When the slacktivist sets out, their goal is to make sure other people know they are unhappy, and their method is to tell everyone that they aren’t happy. They want nothing beyond that, and if their voices become so loud that it seems they could actually achieve something beyond that, they’ll strangely back off. The child doesn’t want the parent to do anything except acknowledge that the child is throwing a tantrum.
It came as no surprise to me, to see a motion put forward to remove Arvin, and to immediately have the masses of people calling for his head to say, “Oh, hold on, let’s not be hasty here!” The same thing happened with Comey just a few weeks ago–mere months ago, liberals were calling for his head, but as soon as something real happened, they flipped entirely to the other side.
It reminds me of when I ran for class President my senior year, and proceeded to Ralph Nader the crap out of it. I didn’t want to win, and it’s a tremendously good thing that I didn’t. But, strangely, that didn’t stop me from running and campaigning. I didn’t win, but I split the white vote (in a school that had a very slight white majority, and it’s a matter of record that most people voted along racial lines–yes, even the black kids) enough that the black girl who had run and lost each year actually won the election. All that said, I didn’t want to win, and I didn’t even really want to spoil the vote. But that didn’t stop me. I guess I just wanted to see if I could. I don’t know. I was an idiot high schooler who dropped out a month later.
The platitudologists among us would probably say that the slacktivists truly want to accomplish things, but they are more paralyzed by a fear of success than anything else, and that could work as an explanation of this strange behavior, but I don’t think that “fear” is the right word. They’re not afraid of success; they’re just not aiming for the goal that most people assume, and that they even express to be their goal.
They say they want Arvin removed, and I know of many people who said that, right up until a motion was made. The removal of Arvin Vohra was not their goal; however, the threat of removing Arvin Vohra was among their methods for achieving their goal. They just wanted everyone to know they weren’t happy, to give them attention and acknowledge their discontent, and to at least pretend to give a shit what they feel. Toward that end, they did two things: they bitched, and they made what they thought were mostly empty threats. Like if I said I was going to nuke Washington D.C. (Hello, NSA/CIA!) if Trump didn’t step down, that would be an idle threat that no one would take seriously. But what if some rabble-rouser who shared my sentiments agreed and sent me a nuke?
Uh-oh. I’d suddenly be in a pretty awkward position (not to mention–in Gitmo) of having to find some kind of way to avoid admitting that I was totally full of shit. To that end, I’d backpedal from my previous hard-line stance, and would probably say, “You’ve gotta give Trump a chance to comply…”
Just like people backpedaled on Vohra and, now that they metaphorically have nukes, are suggesting that he must first be given a chance.
“Full of shit” indeed.
They didn’t want to remove Arvin. They just wanted to threaten to, as a way of forcing people to take their incessant whining seriously. Without that threat, they have nothing, and can easily be dismissed. “I’m not happy!” by itself is a lulz-worthy whine. “I’m not happy! Fix it or I’m gonna…” can be a potentially serious threat.
I say we should call them on their bluff, and call them on their bullshit.