In the Dark, Fingers Crossed

My basement, leather chair, November 6, 2018.  7:51pm.

I know nothing.  I will not (and have not) turned on the news or looked at the Internet, or looked at my phone for the last few hours.  I don’t want to know anything before I write this.

Not sure how this will come out, but it might not be pretty.  When Donald Trump won the election 2 years ago, I’m not sure how many times I wrote about politics in my blog, but it certainly wasn’t the predominant theme.  For God’s sake, the first entry I wrote was about the video game Dragon’s Lair. I mostly liked writing about silly things that crossed through my brain. But in the last 2 years, I certainly have had millions of silly thoughts, but any significant effort that went into writing felt like it should be focused on what’s been going on in this country.

So, when I say “it might not be pretty,” I mean that I’ve had a lot of stuff bottled up over the last several months and I feel like tonight is the time to get it out.  And unlike most blog writing sessions, I don’t want to over-edit myself. I just want to let things come out. I don’t have any illusions that this is going to convince anyone from ‘the other side’ but I guess you never know, and as in most cases of this blog, the real intent is just to get some things off my chest.

I can’t believe the places this president and this country has gone in the last two years.  I mean… I don’t even really know where to begin. It feels like a list would distill things down too much, but I’ve had issue after issue stacking up in my head for the past 2 years, just bubbling beneath the surface.  I am sick about where we are as a nation and sick about the fact that more people don’t seem to mind.

Let’s start there.  I am comforted by the fact that even in an election (2016) where Hillary inspired low enthusiasm from me, and apparently an A-bomb of apathy for millions of others: 4 million or so MORE people voted for her.  I’m not contesting that Trump won the election, I’m just saying that I can at least cling to some solace that, of votes cast, MOST people didn’t want this dickhead.

The night he won, I remember writing something about my disappointment on Facebook, but that I accepted him as our president and would give him a chance.  I believe I used the words “my president” or “our president.”

I’m not sure how long afterwards, but I quickly backed away from that statement.

This guy has brought up revulsion, shock, disgust, disbelief and so much anger in me.  And even though I know this is a common thing for folks on my side, I still have to say it: I can’t believe that I haven’t heard about more Republicans turning their back on him.  Either politicians or citizens.

I know several people that voted for Mr. Trump.  Some I consider good friends. But it has gotten harder and harder in the face of his barely-veiled racism (I mean, really: is it veiled?) to consider these people close to my heart.  I find it impossible to believe that women, in particular, support this excuse for a man.

The most recent and prevalent thing in my mind is the way he mocked Christine Blasey Ford at a rally in Mississippi.  I don’t know whether Dr. Ford was attacked by Brett Kavanaugh, but she almost certainly was sexually assaulted and she certainly went through a traumatic experience to talk about it in front of millions, and Donald Trump begins tearing her down to rile up his goon squad of supporters, who laughed and clapped.

What.  The. Fuck.  Is wrong with these people?  A serial adulterer who has been caught on tape saying he GRABS WOMEN BY THE PUSSY and he’s got a Greek Chorus of Assholes who will hoot and holler when he makes fun of someone who was nearly raped?

Full stop.  Necessary admission.  I voted for Bill Clinton twice and have come to realize that he is just as much a creep as anybody in the #metoo parade.  However, Clinton being a creep doesn’t somehow negate Trump. They’re both creeps. And philanderers. And predators. They both disgust me.  But. The list of transgressions is far from over for Trump.

  • Can’t convincingly condemn Nazis.

  • Casually condones violence against journalists and protesters.

  • Hasn’t done shit to fix healthcare, even though his party ran both houses of Congress.

  • Has paid off at least two people over sexual affairs and it’s taken as business as usual.  “That’s just how politicians are!” Oh, by the way: 3rd marriage. Still sticking his dick in porn stars and playmates, even with his wife hanging around and a 12 year old son. Evangelicals love him.

  • Repeatedly denies credible claims and evidence from our own intelligence agencies about Russian tampering in the election.

  • Still hasn’t released his tax returns.

  • Fucks the environment on the daily.  Why is environmentalism still a political issue?  If my Uncle Frank, one of the reddest people I know, admits that global warming is a thing, we should be done.  The planet is warming. Storms are getting more and more destructive. Trump couldn’t care less.

  • See also: Puerto Rico.

  • Loves Putin, Kim Jong-un, and Duterte.  You know-- the good guys!

  • Has not once in two years said something that caused me to think that he has any reasonable grasp of policy.  Domestic, foreign, political. You name it. Does anyone really think Trump could explain how tariffs really work?  Or our strategy in Afghanistan? Does Donald Trump read anything? Is his reading level higher than the crawl at the bottom of Fox and Friends?

I’m running out of steam.  I told you it might not be pretty.  But shit: our country is not pretty right now.   This is by far the weirdest and most fucked up time I have lived through.  I hope it stays that way for the remainder of my life. I just read a piece about the upcoming 100 year anniversary of the armistice of World War I.  100 years ago. Not really that long when you think about it. And think of all the upheaval and wars that have occurred just then.

I have come to realize that just because I was born into a time of relative calm and stability in this country doesn’t mean it will necessarily stay like that.  Things fall apart. Revolutions happen. Nations clash-- internally and externally.

I’m still in the dark about the election tonight.  I haven’t peeked. I feel like this entry could go on and on about the roller coaster I’ve been on over the last two years.  All the emotions. The anger. I guess on a night like tonight, I’m never gonna tie it up neatly.

But I will say this: I want more love and unity and understanding.  I really do. I send my hopes into the night that we can get there. I want to think America is better than this.  America is better than Donald Trump. That’s my American Dream. That’s my patriotism. I want there to be enough left in this country to fight for and believe in.  Please, please, please. I hope I am not let down.

2 YEARS IN

The upside of hangovers-- especially the brutal ones-- is they usually make great stories.  The overindulgence of the night before, the antics, the misadventures, and then, inevitably, the crushing punishment.  It’s like a comedy action movie tinged with schadenfreude.

Who doesn’t love a great hangover yarn?  I could fill a few notebooks with my own: spread over almost 3 decades.  But today I will tell you another tale: the one about the man who no longer gets hangovers.

That man is me-- and today, I’ve been sober for 2 years.  And it feels fucking awesome.

I flirted with giving up alcohol for a long time; even went on a hiatus for over a year once.  I’m an ON/OFF kind of guy.  With my less favorable tendencies, I don’t do well in a gray area.  When I was drinking, I occasionally punctuated normal consumption with a good ol’ binge.  Old school party-hardy.  Weeks would go by with a beer, bourbon or martini here and there and them BLAMO… I’d drop the hammer and get wasted.

Usually these events were set-up by not having any responsibilities the next day.  I was out of town, or the kids were taken care of, or I was with old buddies reliving glory days.  And even though these benders always came with a price, I rationalized it by saying: well, I don’t do it all the time.  Or: what’s the big deal, everyone ties one on now and then?

The problem for me was, as terrible as the hangover would be after “one of those nights,” I was also starting to feel not so good after just one or two drinks.  And this wasn’t limited to the next day, it was something I’d start feeling within an hour or so after my last drink.  If I had a beer with dinner at 7, by 8:30 or so I was feeling kind of cranky and headachy.  The only way to contend with this short term effect was to (can you guess?) keep drinking.

I’ve chronicled my ups and downs with drinking in my blog before (go back and revisit my high and lowlights!), but what I wanted to write about today was this:

It would be difficult to overstate how positive not drinking has been for me.  It’s kind of hard not to be evangelical about it because it’s that good.  I wake up most days and feel great.  I don’t feel ashamed or guilty about the time I waste feeling crappy.  I feel motivated to make my dreams come true.  I feel healthier.  I’m a better dad.  I’m a better husband.  And I feel overall like I’m living at a higher level.

Let me stop here before this starts sounding like a Tony Robbins seminar.  My life is not perfect. I have foibles.  I have shitty days.  And I do not think that what works for me will necessarily work for everyone.  And while I’m at it, I should also say I’m not anti-booze.  While you’re having an old fashioned and I’m having a club soda, I’m not judging.  Of all people, I could never deny that getting drunk is fun or that alcohol tastes pretty damn good.  I’d just had enough of the other side of the coin.  Which was definitely not fun.

Too often, alcoholism is viewed as a YES or NO equation.  It’s a spectrum.  I wasn’t sneaking vodka in the middle of the day or polishing off 9 beers every night.  I don’t know if it’s even relevant to me to decide if I’m an alcoholic.  I had a problem.  Drinking was the problem.  And when I stopped drinking, a lot of other problems began to work themselves out.  Now, 2 years later, I can’t ever see myself going back.

I say all of this because maybe it will resonate with someone.  Maybe you’re that someone.  One of the greatest honors of my life was a friend telling me that he decided to quit drinking because of a letter I wrote him about my journey.  That floored me.  So this blog is an open invitation.  I don’t have all the answers, but if you ever want to talk about it, let me know.  I’d be happy to share more of my story.  And maybe later, we’ll swap some hangover tales.

HOW TO MAKE IT STOP

When will it end?

What’s it going to take for radical change?

Where is the line that marks the end of this country’s romance with guns?

This feeling of numbness is becoming sick and familiar.  I don’t know what to do with it.  I feel like I’m swimming in an ocean of PTSD.  It’s bad enough that our country is mired in a nuclear staring contest between nutjobs… we also endure the weekly splatter across our news and social media feeds.  SHOOTING.  CHILDREN.  GUNMAN.  KILLING SPREE.  I just can’t fucking take it anymore.

I called the republican senator from my state.  I had to.  I had to tell him that when these shootings happen, the lack of substantive response feels like THEY.  DON’T.  CARE.  They don’t seem to fucking care.  There’s no debate.  No “good time” for debate.  Ideas any of us might have get swept away in the enormity of it all.  The impossibility.  

Take away the guns?  Ban assault weapons?  More restrictions?  

Never happen.  The NRA will never let that happen.

It’s this monolithic gray slab of NEVER.  NO.  CAN’T.  WON’T.

GUNS WILL ALWAYS BE EVERYWHERE.  THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO.

THESE KILLINGS WILL KEEP HAPPENING.  THOUGHTS AND PRAYERS AND GO BACK TO YOUR LIFE.

Sorry.  Can’t do it.  I can’t.  I won’t.  This issue needs to be revolutionized.  There needs to be revolt.  But it’s more than a fight.  More than “our side” beating “their side.”  There needs to be coming together.  Common purpose.  It’s an easy goal:

WE NEED TO STOP MASS SHOOTINGS.

Can we agree on that?  Can we say that’s a reasonable bull’s eye?

I know what cable news and talk radio and the talking heads will say.  On both sides.  All the positions are already staked out.  The discussion is over before it begins because everyone knows the points and counterpoints.

We need to turn that shit off and start over.  If we can’t come together as Americans with a goal of stopping mass shootings, we’re lost.

I made a list.  It’s a brainstorm.  In a brainstorm, you don’t stop yourself to second guess or get caught up in details.  You just write it down.  You spitball.  Free flowing thought.

Here’s where we can start.  In this exercise, there is no “CAN’T.”  There is no “NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.”  These are ideas.  Having no plan is not a plan.

These are my suggestions.  What’s your suggestion?  Call Congress.  Talk to your neighbors.  Talk to your conservative cousin or your liberal mother in law.  Let’s start a conversation.  Let’s start a revolution.  If we don’t do it, who will?  If it can’t start now, when will it?

Here’s my brainstorm:

Triple the cost of bullets.

If you’ve been convicted of a felony, you may no longer possess a gun.

If you’ve had a restraining order against you, you may no longer possess a gun.

If you have have spent more than 24 hours in a psychiatric facility, you may no longer possess a gun.

If you are on a federal terror watch list, you may no longer possess a gun.

If the police respond to a call for a domestic violence incident at your house, all occupants are placed on a 6 month list to prevent gun purchases.

Your gun is your responsibility.  If your gun is used to commit a crime by another person, you are liable in civil court for damages.

All guns must be registered into a federal database.  For the first year, to mitigate cost, registration will be $10.  

If you sell a gun and do not register the gun and/or the sale, you face a fine of $100,000.

If a gun sold has not been properly registered and is used in a crime, the seller/dealer can be sued in civil court and will be fined $100,000.

Ban assault weapons, automatic/high capacity magazines, bump stocks, armor piercing bullets and silencers.

If you own one of these, there will be a buy back period.  If you do not turn them in, and you are caught in possession, you will be fined or go to jail.

In any gun sale, in any venue, there shall be a one week period between the purchase and subsequent possession of the gun in order for all checks to be completed.

Private sales or gun show sales are subject to same stringent procedures as over the counter sales.

The 2nd amendment is fundamentally altered to reflect the nation’s current reality with guns.

Any business selling guns must pay a large annual dealer fee to support buy-back programs and gun registration costs.

There you go.  My suggestions.  They’re ideas.  Thought starters.  I know they’re extreme and far fetched in many cases.  So is a gunman killing and injuring over 400 people out of a hotel window.

Revolutions have to start somewhere.

What’s your suggestion?