Our Silent Majority Power

Photo by Igal Ness on Unsplash

We are in a worldwide struggle to break the death grip of a fearful, ignorant people led by status-quo politicians who are themselves beholden to short-sighted, quarterly earnings business.

You and I can make a real difference even from the privacy of our homes, without being publicly confrontational.

Simply donate to a just cause.

Even if it’s just a dollar a month, it affects the balance of power.

Worried about being swamped by email from ActBlue or whatever? Unsubscribe when those emails arrive, or better yet set a Gmail filter to trash them. (Even better yet, don’t let your minor discomfort outweigh the day-to-day suffering of others.)

I live on modest means. (The plight of aging game designers is no secret.) Thankfully, my bucket-list DriveThruRPG titles help fund my giving to Feeding America and the Bail Project.

Yes, I’m being pushy in this post. Nothing changes without being pushed. So please find a charity that speaks to you, skip McDonalds or Starbucks just once a month, and donate that cash. Challenge family and friends to do the same.

We don’t have to stand out front. We can make a difference by helping lift from behind.

It also lifts your spirits.

Physician, Heal Thyself

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Lately, in an ongoing struggle with myself concerning stubborn bigotry and ignorance, and how best you and I can confront and change it, my training as a medic and practical nurse has come to mind.

Palliative care versus treatment. Triage versus whack-a-mole.

We all know how contentious debate on social media is. How quickly disagreement can turn to personal insult. How easy it is, consequently, to walk away. But we all know in our hearts that nothing ever changes if ignored.

It occurred to me late last week that online debate is palliative treatment versus healing the diseases. God knows I’m as guilty as anyone, maybe more so than most. When it comes to bullies, I’m kneejerk pugnacious. And these issues have victims. Bigotry still has to be called out, even shamed.

But actual healing requires treatment of the core problem, and triage means treating the most crucial first: I’m the core problem; I’m the most crucially diseased. Chances are so are you.

You and I are ignorant. We want to fix things, but we don’t know how, because we don’t really understand them.

That’s treatable, but steel yourself, because it’s painful. Especially for white people, especially for white males. (But it should go without saying that our pain of seeing ourselves for what we are is nothing compared to the plight of 2.3 million Americans behind bars, for example.)

If you care, don’t waste time arguing with people whose opinions are the symptoms. Call out bigotry. But treat yourself. Start by watching 17th, a documentary Netflx has made free on YouTube. Then read So You Want to Talk About Race. (Almost certainly available from your library.) From there, you can pursue your own treatment, and maybe we can help heal this world.

P.S. Hey, gamers! Roll a d20 versus world population. On a 1, you’re American! Then roll a d20 versus world prison population. On a 1-5, you’re also American. :-/

You can’t make new old friends

I’m sitting here tonight, sick to my stomach with fear and anger, hoping against hope that my oldest friend, one of my two best friends, a man I’ve known since high school, doesn’t have COVID. That his wife doesn’t have COVID. That if they do, they survive.

They’ve taken every possible precaution, for themselves and their community. But not everyone you meet does. And the careless don’t care. That’s what careless means.

I live in the American “Heartland,” among “good old boys” who “would give you the shirt off his back.” But they won’t mask. So much for the term “heartland.” So much for a claim to generosity.

As a writer and a public figure, I labor over every social media post I make. Is the wording clear, is it strong, is it free from excess emotion, have I given it every chance to be effective? I’ve labored over this one just as much. So it’s from heart and head alike. Here’s the message.

I shouldn’t have to live in fear just because the “heartland” scoffs at science. That your scoffing is ignorance is self-evident in the science grades you scored in school.

I shouldn’t have to live in anger just because anti-maskers have a chip on their shoulders about officials “telling them what to do.” Grow up.

Over the past year, I’ve been reasoning with the liberal community that tolerance cannot be unending. That some lines have to be drawn. That ignorance should be shamed. Shame is the only thing with any chance of changing stubbornness.

Tonight, in this post, I’m intentionally facing down that ignorance with a shame backed by fury. The type of cold, reasoned fury that comes from the heart but is measured by the mind.

Let me be clear. This post isn’t about anti-vaxxing conspiracy. Though anti-vaxxing is foolishness, it isn’t the intentional, careless selfishness of anti-maskers.

Anti-masking is unforgivable. It hurts you not at all to wear a goddam mask. It doesn’t tread on your freedoms. But in your heart, you already know that. You just don’t have the backbone to face it. You have neither the love nor courage to do what’s right.

I’ve gone back and forth with myself whether to include this paragraph right here, because as a public statement, it weakens my case, letting some dismiss this post as overly emotional. So I’ve deleted “Fuck you” a couple of times. But how else am I to express the sick frustration of worry about my oldest friend?

Deep breath. Calm.

If you don’t mask, your ignorant selfishness is on public display. Your “personal freedom” is a lie, because you cluster with others of your kind, repeating whatever they say like a tribe of magpies, lacking the personal courage to stand out from that crowd.

Stop being a coward. Facing me isn’t bravery with the mob at your back. You want to show your courage and freedom? Take a stand against them.

I am. 

“Oh, Very Young . . . “

What are your favorite 10 songs from the year you turned 16? Let me know in the comments. It’s re-e-e-aly hard to decide, right?

Me? The year was 1974. In order by Billboard ranking, if you put a gun to my head, I guess I’d choose:

    • 5 “Dancing Machine” The Jackson 5
    • 13 “Midnight at the Oasis” Maria Muldaur
    • 22 “Band on the Run” Paul McCartney and Wings
    • 24 “Time in a Bottle” Jim Croce
    • 44 “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” Brownsville Station
    • 51 “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number” Steely Dan
    • 63 “Takin’ Care of Business” Bachman-Turner Overdrive
    • 64 “Radar Love” Golden Earring
    • 70 “Oh Very Young” Cat Stevens
    • 72 “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Elton John
    • 79 “Tubular Bells” Mike Oldfield

Next question: What was the single most important thing to happen to you at age 19?

Me, easy. I met Jennifer. We’re still together 47 years later. [There’s no emoji good enough for that.]

True story: In 2010, at age 16, a boy named Kalief Browder was arrested and charged with stealing a backpack. His family was unable to raise the $3,000 bail, so he was sent to Rikers Island. On principle, he refused to plead guilty, so he was held for 3 years, awaiting trial, before the charges were dismissed. Released at 19 years old, he returned home and committed suicide.

That’s a summation. The details are messier, his earlier probation on the one hand, the hell of that jail experience on the other. But the central story remains: At 16 he was arrested for something he didn’t do, he refused to plead guilty, he spent the next 3 teenage years jailed on Rikers Island, he was released at 19 for lack of evidence, and he went home and killed himself. He was Black.

Man, I got a lot of joy out of struggling to narrow that list of songs from age 16. Thinking about my high school years. Remembering how I followed Jenny around the restaurant where she was waiting tables the night we met.