Thursday, July 4, 2013

Summer Fun And A New Book






4th of July seems like the perfect time to makes this announcement about my writing.  My next book, "Cowards and Thieves" will be released this October and there will be a lot of fun promotion stuff going on all summer . Look for YouTube videos and a few other surprises  along the way. Thanks to everyone for supporting me this far, I know you're gong to love this one. It's the funniest, hardest, honest and most brutal book yet. Happy Independence day!

In the meantime, check out unlikelystories.org and https://www.facebook.com/pages/Willis-Gordon/201422536537218 for updates and new work.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Boxing



Boxing. A man’s sport. Blood is spilled, punches are traded, and the winner is carried into the sunset on the shoulders of his supporters while the loser is forced to slink off into the corner of failure, obscurity, and shame. You play baseball, you play basketball, you play football and soccer. You don’t play boxing. Ask anyone in any gym around the world. This is not a game.

There is something raw and emotional about boxing that we as Americans are slowly falling out of touch with. It’s primordial, almost embryonic. It takes the two most basic fears a man has and forces him to resist them while putting himself squarely in the Lion’s Den. Getting hurt (i.e getting punched in the face by a full grown man) and Hurting someone. That cosmic fear that starts in your chest and spreads to the pit of your stomach when you’ve gone a step too far, when you see someone is really hurt. Your throat dries up and your heart begins to race, your mind speeding across every possible outcome, every possible consequence. Men have fought in that ring for years, for many different reasons, but one thing is universal. Fists don’t discriminate. Men have been crippled for life, terribly scarred, brain damaged, and even killed.

We live in a world now where we are overprotected. We spend most of our lives coddled behind a screen. Whether it’s a television, a laptop, an iPod, or a cell phone. We’re free to shit-talk and firebomb online with the protection of anonymity. No serious threat of a schoolyard fight. No mid-afternoon meeting at the rock piles to duke it out. This bullying phenomenon that everyone is talking about; how many of these kids took a good punch on the nose? It was Facebook, text messages, online nonsense, verbal abuse. The fear of physical confrontation is quickly leaving us as a society.

Perhaps that’s it. The fact that we have no fear, or rather no reason to fear physical threats. It seems juvenile, it seems brutish, but this is our most basic nature. Stand and Fight or Run and Hide? Will you have the courage? Strength, bravery, grace, skill, it’s all there in this beautiful mix of physicality and psychology.

From its inception all the way to its growth in America, boxing has been a way for underprivileged men to prove themselves. The poor, the uneducated, the ethnically, racially and religiously persecuted. During the 19th and early 20th century in America it was the Jews, the Irishmen and the Italians fighting to make a name for themselves, make a living for their families. Fighting was an avenue that anyone could succeed at no matter the color of your skin, or what god you worshipped. The Heavyweight champion was loved and revered, respected and feared.  During the 30s and 40s Joe Louis broke the color barrier, by becoming one of the most celebrated champions the world ever knew. Some called him an Uncle Tom, but most were just happy to see a Black face in the newspapers for something positive.

Jack Johnson was another story, a glorious heavyweight with one of the most devastating right hands in history. Pound for Pound one of the greatest fighters of his day, Johnson was larger than life. Already a demoralizingly large man, his exploits outside the ring made him seem even bigger. The booze, the cigars, the women, the cars, the fancy clothes, the outright defiance of authority. He was this wild mix of Babe Ruth, Gorgeous George and Howard Hughes in the body of an enormous Black Man. God Bless him for it.

It seems as though this blossoming century has no room for these heroes. Men who were larger than life, who prove themselves with their fists in contests of endurance, strength, intelligence, and sheer will. We look up to studio-engineered rappers and reality TV stars.  Actors who drink vitamin water instead of martinis. Perhaps this newer, gentler world doesn’t need a heavyweight champion. Perhaps too many hours of Halo and Modern Warfare have detached us from physical contact. We are a generation of virtual snipers. A whole era of sweaty upper lips and pale skin. Even though our country is entrenched in two serious wars, and seems to be dipping its fingers into plenty of other international conflicts, we live in what is arguably the most passive time in human history.

Why then, does the success of Mixed Martial Arts continue to flourish as boxing plummets like Icarus from the skies of favor? I have a theory. For all its close contact and brutality, MMA has much less personal resonance than boxing. It’s so far removed from people’s everyday lives that it becomes fantasy, mere entertainment by men with a higher skill set than most. Learning Brazilian Jujitsu, studying the discipline of Krav Maga, or mastering techniques from the Greco-Roman style of wrestling are things that most men will never do. There was a time however, where most men, at some point in their lives would get into a fistfight.

That time seems to be behind us. Face to face conflicts are slowly but surely vanishing; less and less young people growing up having to physically defend themselves. Now they are presented a fantasy element of “what if’s”. They have their whole lives to dream up some complex, emotional, reasonable plotline in which they are forced to act, and they have suddenly become masters of every self-defense discipline known to man. These people must live vicariously through MMA fighters on television or action heroes in movies that give more to explosions and fight scenes than plot development.

Boxing was always more relatable. Two men of humble backgrounds step into the ring, carrying on their shoulders years of oppression and damnation. Dead ends, poor decisions, and needs that can’t be met anywhere else. These men possess a certain skill set. They are forced to face their most primal fears and step face to face with each other, each man’s future on the line. A battle of not only fists, but of wits was going to occur. Whatever man held the endurance would win. Not just the physical endurance, it is not just a matter of keeping breath in your lungs, but psychological, spiritual endurance. Can your mind take 15 (now 12) rounds of high stress activity? The punches, the trash talk, the crowd, the creeping sensation of muscle failure. Minutes turn into miles as the gloves get heavier, vision starts to blur, and air gets thinner and less accessible. Who will be left standing? Who will fold under the pressure? Who’s body will fail them first?

It wouldn’t be a shock to find out that most of the people reading this have never been in a fight. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Perhaps not. It would be naïve to say that the disappearance of physical confrontation means the disappearance of aggression and violence. Taking a look at our modern society and how violence is still prevalent will quickly confirm this notion. People who have been picked on or bullied now resort to school shooting sprees or the gruesome murder/suicide of their tormentors instead of a face to face, non-lethal physical confrontation. It is something that has been brewing since the invention of the bow and arrow, and came to an unsettling peak during the Battle of Coral Sea in World War Two. For the first time in history, neither Navy saw their enemy through the course of the battle.

If the dwindling presence of physical contact has no effect on the fact that we are a violent species, then why not embrace our nature and get into the clinch? Fighting, specifically boxing places you face to face with your own humanity and occasionally, your own mortality. The look on another man’s face when you land a fierce body blow. The sound of air escaping your lungs as the same is done to you.  You can see and feel the damage, and it is visceral. It is present. There is no denying it. Being a firsthand witness to these things will make a man appreciate the physical sacrifice that goes into a fight. The damage that goes hand in hand with violent outbursts.  It will remove flippancy from most men’s thoughts on combat and violence altogether. There is a heavy price to pay, and if you have seen it firsthand, you will be more reluctant to pay it.

People have been talking about a disconnect in social interaction for years now. Ever since the rise of the internet, cell phones and video games, people have said we don’t interact like we used to. To an extent, this is true. But a good, solid punch is just as important as a loving touch, or intimate conversation. That is another form of intimacy. It’s an important experience for a man to have. It tells you who you really are. Not who you project yourself to be. Our generation has the unique ability to lie about every detail of our lives and get away with it for the most part. Who really knows us? Most of us only exist to our friends through a screen, so there’s no way to call their bluff. A tough, graceful fistfight will keep you from believing your own bullshit; it’ll keep others from believing it too. Limitations are realized, new strengths are discovered, and weaknesses are exposed and can now be worked on. The only downside is a few moments of pain. Though now it seems that we are so terrified of even mild discomfort that we can’t even fathom volunteering ourselves for pain.

This is why the Boxer is no longer the American Hero. We are a generation free from physical pain. It’s all in our heads. We are overprotected, overexposed, over-analytical and overmedicated. We’re overweight, overstressed, overtired, and overwhelmed. Our neurosis is eating us alive. Being quirky and “uncool” and different is valued over being tough or loyal or courageous. Where does that leave the guys making a living overcoming man’s deepest fears with his fists?

That is not to say that the sport has done no wrong. Boxing has failed us just as much as we have failed boxing. We have no great champions anymore. No longer are there knock-down, drag-out wars in the ring like in the days of old. Very few are willing to sacrifice their bodies not only for the good of the sport, but for the entertainment of the masses. It’s about money, it’s about fame, it’s about getting away clean. That didn’t always happen in the glory days.

Tyson was the last great giant. He was also the first Champion who was instantly recognizable, yet impossibly unfamiliar. No one related to Mike Tyson on a personal level like previous champions. Marciano, Louis, Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Holmes, Spinks, Norton, and later Douglas.  He was viewed as a wild beast. A cartoon. A walking knockout machine. That was the beginning of the end for Boxing. Tyson’s early dominance was good for ratings, and great for Don King, but ultimately it created a viewership that started to destroy the sport. Now instead of a heated battle between two near equals, all we look for is the knockout highlights.

There are some great fighters left, but no great champions, no great wars. The Klitschko brothers as heavyweights, Roy Jones Jr, Oscar Dela Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Ricky Hatton, Floyd Mayweather, and Sugar Shane Mosley have all kept it alive, but it’s getting softer every day. More corrupt every day. A lack of great heavyweights, too many belts, not enough big fights, so many elements contribute to the decay of the sport.

The Pacquiao/Bradley fight is a perfect example of the sports dying credibility. In one of the most repulsive, stomach turning, staggeringly flabbergasting calls in modern boxing history, 2 of 3 judges went for Bradley over Pacquiao in a split decision. The fight was clearly Pacquiao’s from the beginning, 11-1… 10-2 at the absolute worst. No one watching in the arena that night, and very few watching at home believed Bradley had even come close.  Somehow, the incompetent judges went for Timothy Bradley in a 115-113 decision.  It seems even the judges are losing touch with the sport. There was over two decades of experience at the table that night, but somehow two of them just didn’t know how to score a boxing match. It is truly a science both beautiful and complex, and one that should be taken more seriously by the people directly involved.

At the end of the day however, Boxing is falling out of favor with America because we as a country no longer hit each other; and we ought to. We live in a world where anyplace without a cell phone signal is a torture chamber and the slightest extra effort is expected to be met with thunderous applause.  Over the last few decades, with every passing year we’ve gotten just a little bit softer, just a little bit weaker, just a little bit further removed from the realities of life.  As times get tougher in this country we lean harder and harder on escapism, some relief from the weary road we travel, some sort of break from the troubling monotony of everyday living. I suggest that instead of retreating from the world as we know it, we should embrace the physical, turn pain into strength, suffering into toughness. Keep our hands up and our chins tucked.  We as a generation, we as a country, could use a good punch in the face. It sure as Hell wouldn’t hurt us to learn to throw a few, either.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fire On The Mountain: Chris Dorner, the Media, and the LAPD

February 17, 2013

As protestors gather outside Police Headquarters in Los Angeles, much of the country remains divided on Chris Dorner after his killing spree ending in a burst of bullets, blood, and flame. Some call him a patriot and a hero, others call him a psychotic cop killer, but neither side is telling the full story…

Speaking on the climate of hate in America in 1963, Malcolm X said that "chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad” in reference to the Kennedy assassination.  The same phrase can be applied 50 years later in California. 1,400 miles from Dallas where a man the media is calling a “Homicidal Maniac” took his calculated, brutal revenge on the Los Angeles Police Department.  Chris Dorner, a former LAPD officer himself was the target of one of the most high profile manhunts in recent American history.

So far the story has been reported as this; Chris Dorner was fired from the LAPD in 2008 for reasons that are at best, unclear. Brief mentions of his complaints are made, but not addressed in detail and are quickly forgotten.  The major news networks have presented only a few of the facts to paint the following picture. Dorner was a troublemaker with a victim complex, and after being fired from the Department, stayed dormant and inactive while his rage boiled and festered until he finally “snapped” five years later. Even more embarrassing inquiries were being made on the day of his death as to whether or not a bad relationship could have led to his spree.  

The police and the media seemed to ignore the motive clearly stated in his manifesto, and it became evident over time which newscasters had read the piece in its entirety, and those who simply skimmed over the first few paragraphs. The amount of information on Dorner that is available with just the slightest investigative effort is staggering to say the least. That is why I found it puzzling when on February 7th, the Riverside Police Department held a press conference where they expressed concern and gave advice as to the safety of children and uninvolved civilians. He was officially a fugitive on February 6th, however Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence were shot and killed February 3rd. Super Bowl Sunday. His manifesto was posted on his Facebook page on January 31st and went public by February 4th at 9:14 AM.

The fact that Dorner’s manifesto had been available for 72 hours at the time of that press conference raised the question in my mind: Did these officers even read it? He clearly stated his was going to bring “unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform.” and would kill any officer trying to arrest him. This wasn’t a mindless rampage designed to panic the public and kill as many people as possible. This was cold-blooded revenge. A plan years in the making. Many of the facts the press got wrong initially were easily correctable. Initial reports claim he was fired in 2008, but his actual termination date was January 2nd 2009. In later days the phrase “maniac” was attached to him, but the manhunt itself attacked more civilians than Dorner. He was taking the fight to the cops, and the media, along with the LAPD didn’t like it at all.

It should be expected that when one becomes a vigilante and takes up the mantle of murderer, that one’s points become muddled and unclear by the emotions the act stirs up in the collective conscious of the public. Some would argue that any criticisms he had of the LAPD, no matter how legitimate, became invalidated the moment he picked up a gun. Call me insensitive, but no matter what a person does or how twisted they become, facts don’t change. They are a constant. If he had legitimate complaints and saw signs of wrongdoing and corruption inside the LAPD, those things don’t change just because he became a murdering avenger. Given the history of the Department, the Ramparts scandal and the many stories that broke as recently as 2012 highlighting police corruption, I was inclined to believe that something deeper lie just beneath the surface.

The biggest story taken out of Dorner’s manifesto was an incident involving Officer Teresa Evans (who is now a Sergeant) and a suspect named Christopher Gettler (now a diagnosed schizophrenic with dementia to boot). While Gettler was cuffed and lying on the ground, Evans allegedly kicked him twice in the face as Dorner looked on. It took Dorner two weeks to report the issue, and only did so after Evans gave him a poor review on a performance evaluation. Evans vehemently denied the allegations, and witnesses could not be brought to admit that Evans had kicked the subdued Gettler. Gettler himself had returned home that day with bruising beneath his left eye where Dorner claimed he had been kicked. Gettler’s father Richard confirmed the markings, but said that he did not report the injury because it was relatively minor and his son could not properly explain why he had been assaulted. He went on to say that his son’s mental illness would not make him a good witness. 
Right or wrong, Dorner had crossed the Blue Line and he would pay for it with his career. Captain Randal Quan was tasked to represent Dorner in the hearing and the three man board ruled unanimously against Dorner. This lead to his ultimate termination. 

The incident no one seems to bring up however is one that Dorner describes in his manifesto about two white officers casually throwing around the word “Nigger” while in the same vehicle as him. According to his statement, he let it go the first time, giving the officer the benefit of the doubt. Distance, ambient noise and other conversations made it unclear what had been said. Then he heard it again, this time clear as day. After verbal sparring the officer said it again, and another joined in. Saying they would say nigger “Whenever I want”. At this point Dorner climbed over the seats and throttled the first officer, telling him not to use the word again. When Dorner filed his complaint, only one other officer in the van would tell the story as it happened and the others merely claimed they had seen and heard nothing. The two officers were given 22 day paid suspensions and are on the force to this day. Dorner also claimed there were recruits and officers alike singing Nazi songs to individuals who are also still on the force. Not only does he make allegations, he names names.

The troubling part is that all of his stories that can be officially tracked with complaints and paperwork check out. With a few phone calls and a bit of digging his other allegations can be corroborated, albeit without hard evidence. Many media outlets make it seem as though Dorner dropped off the face of the earth after his firing. In all actuality there were appeals made to his case as recent as October 2011, according to the documents I was able to obtain. At this point a split has to be made, a difference recognized. After hearing all of the facts, one must make the effort to differentiate Understandable with Justifiable.

Chris Dorner had a very black and white sense of justice. Warped to some, but I noticed a naïveté in his writing that is surely a reflection of his character. As an ensign he found and returned nearly $8,000 in cash and checks to a church in Oklahoma and made the local newspaper. He was a volunteer multiple times.  With the Reserves, the Riverine Group, and the LAPD.  As a reservist, he didn’t have to do Boots on Ground time in Iraq, but he did it anyway. That was just who he was. As a young Black man growing up in California he had a myriad of reasons to stay as far away from the LAPD as humanly possible, but he joined up anyway. Chris Dorner believed in the system. He wanted to help people and be a part of something bigger than himself. He had such a stark and childlike view of right and wrong, of justice and injustice, that seeing corruption, crooked cops, racism, misandry and misogyny within the department was a shock from which he never truly recovered. Feeling as though he had been a victim of that system as well didn’t help. He was forced out because he broke an unwritten rule; he had crossed the Blue Line.  Cops look out for other cops, they don’t rat on each other whether they’re right or wrong.

After being fired, Dorner had lost his livelihood, his reputation, his social standing, and his friends. He felt trapped and desperate, infuriated by the injustice he felt.  “I’ve lost a relationship with my mother and sister because of the LAPD” he said.  “I’ve lost a relationship with close friends because of the LAPD”. He took it personally, he took it to heart. His sense of justice would not let these deeds go unpunished. He had tried filing the paperwork. It didn’t work. So while I cannot condone the murder of police and their families, I can certainly understand his course of action.

This was a man with nothing left to lose. A man who believed that by taking the burden upon himself to wage war on the Los Angeles Police Department, he could not only clear his name but expose the corruption that grows daily in the Department. The trouble with this logic however, is that vigilantes are just men, and men can be vilified, men can be killed. An idea, however, a movement…That has everlasting life. Black Activist Fred Hampton (who was assassinated by Chicago police) used to say “You can kill the revolutionary, but you can never kill the revolution.” And he was absolutely right. It takes organization, numbers, and time to effect change; a one man army can never convince people. He can be smeared, imprisoned, or murdered, and then in time he’ll fade away with that particular news cycle.  With million dollar bounties, government authorized drones, and officers willing to shoot at civilians that look nothing like the suspect, how does one even hope to compete?

The fact remains that the police mangled this case, from the double wallet controversy to the million dollar bounty to the request for social media blackout during the final stand and the torching of the cabin. Every step of the manhunt has been dogged by rookie mistakes, factual errors and blatant lies. There is still corruption in the LAPD, Dorner wasn’t making that up. So after years of treating people badly and protecting crooked cops and being home to many rapists, murderers and racists in uniform, this entire course events seems to simply be the LAPD’s chickens coming home to roost. Neither party involved is innocent; both of them have blood on their hands. In the weeks and months to come, more information will come to light, but it will not gain much media attention. As far as they’re concerned, the bad guy is dead and the good guys won. To simplify it down to that level is to stoop to Dorner’s understanding of right and wrong. The Good Guys wear the White hat, and the Bad Guys wear the Black hat. It’s not that easy. Neither the police, nor Christopher Dorner can be called “good guys” in the situation, but neither one can be completely painted as a villain either.  This is one of the murkiest and ambiguous cases in recent history, and to try and judge it from a moral standpoint would be totally in vain.



The biggest lesson in this case at the end of the day, however, is that you can never completely trust the mainstream media to tell you the truth. Too many of us are dependent on them for the facts. With a little bit of investigative work, reading, and critical thinking, most all of the details become clear. Until we can hold them accountable for the information they put out, we are completely and totally on our own.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

An Open Response To A Heckler

What better way to start the new year than with good old fashioned hate-mail?


"I'm not really sure where to begin. Should I point out your numerous syntactical errors? Highlight your misuse of words? Expose your underlying structural issues? This, along with everything you write, is an abysmal excuse for prose, let alone coherent argumentation.

I suppose what bothers me most (other than your utter inability to construct well written paragraphs) is this holier-than-thou attitude espoused throughout the piece. Willis Gordon, blowhard extraordinaire, is the savior of the masses! Only he can shed light upon what is worth striving for; only he possesses a vision of what values society should adopt and maintain.

Try going to school and learning how to write - perhaps then we might be able to stomach your drivel."


I love a good heckler. It’s really a reflection of your audience and the enemies that you’re making.  This particular one is troublesome to me because they were seemingly too scared or careless to identify themselves. I’m inclined to believe that whether male or female, this particular Philistine was not in possession of testicles, or at least the testicular fortitude needed to overcome their own cowardice and identify themselves. So we’re either dealing with an angry woman, or an even angrier eunuch or castrato.

It starts off promising enough. They would like to give me an education on structure, syntax, and vocabulary (which is always welcome) but then appear to wander off into personal attacks. I found myself thinking, “This poor bastard has the attention span of a meth addled squirrel in a room full of strobe lights! Stick to your script!”  Sadly we would have no such luck.

 Their choice of words implies that they wanted me to take them seriously as a steward of the written word and my intellectual superior, but then they get to the heart of the issue. They just don’t like me. Well this is disappointing. What an awful thing to be. Disappointing. What started out promising has turned into bland and run-of-the-mill mudslinging event, and it’s not even GOOD mudslinging! This is a lukewarm heckle if I’ve ever seen one. They spell everything right, their grammar is fine, it’s adequately paced, but it’s empty. Void of any real substance. This person isn’t even good at being BAD! I enjoy the shitty hecklers! All those spelling errors and misguided rage made me feel like a kid again.

It is a poor and destitute soul that values schooling over education.  A costly mistake made by those brainwashed by a failing school system and spoon-fed empty ideas by drowning leadership. No one with half a (useful) brain in their head thinks that I fell out of the sky onto a typewriter and somehow got two books and a column out of it. There has been the education of life and independent study, something that this person as a living embodiment of the Bell Curve knows nothing about. 

“Blowhard Extraordinaire” is the best line in the whole bit and it isn’t even accurate. What a sad state of affairs when this is the stature of heckles I get. Some awful little rodent hiding out behind a computer screen, wallowing in the filth of mediocrity and banality, desperately clawing for a little bit of attention because they’ve never been good at anything. Not even being bad.

Bad is at least memorable. A bad meal, or a bad drink, or bad sex can turn into a funny story later. Being painfully average or lukewarm...That’s the worst. It’s forgettable, it’s tasteless, and it’s bland. There’s no flair to it, no style. Nothing to separate you from the rest of the nobodies. 

So you wanted a little attention, I’ve given it to you. Broke you off a little something to treasure for the rest of your awful and lackluster life. Maybe this will inspire you to do more with yourself than vegetate in front of a monitor and type up vapid and uninteresting heckles. The worst thing you can be in this life is boring, and you are the dull and inadequate example.

Cheers,

Willis

Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Last Temptation



"Good Christians, like slaves and soldiers, ask no questions."
— Jerry Falwell

Sunday December 23rd, the Sunday before Christmas 2012. I had been dragged to a church service here in Canton, Ohio. I was reluctant to go because of my strained relationship with the Church over the last few years, but relented before becoming blatantly insulting to my family. What I witnessed there that day was the final offense to put me over the edge.  I have seen many things in my few years, death and destruction, recreational arson, drug use and abuse, sex of every shade, unspeakable love and unbearable cruelty. I’ve seen generosity and change, selfishness and stagnation, and 6 foot transvestites sucking down mojitos in seedy downtown bars. None of these things fundamentally changed me the way this did. None of it struck such a deep and immediate chord.

Devotion had started and the choir was roaring over the steady and boisterous rhythms of the band; Gospel music at its finest.  The congregation was being whipped into a frenzy as usual and there were people weeping openly in the pews, and grown men kneeling and slobbering before the altar. Two women on my right suddenly became overcome with emotion and as one was throwing her hands to the heavens I noticed the second was doing a sort of crazed, spastic version of the Running Man. Within seconds they had taken off, jogging lightly around the church, making laps around the outside of the pews. Knees trembled, women wailed, and children covered their ears. All the while the band played on.

My cousin(who was also attending against his will) looked at me with a mixed look of shock and terror, expecting the Blues Brothers to appear back-flipping down the center aisle at any moment. I gave a half smile and shrugged. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before.  Behind us a woman let out a jarring, lung rattling, ear piercing shriek that lasted to the end of her breath. After a pause, she unleashed another. This went on for about 30 seconds. I could tell my father was annoyed, but his patience held like a rock. I’m continually astonished by him.

The fatal blow came during the sermon. The morbidly obese pastor clutching the pulpit and sweating profusely as he bellowed out into the crowd. We were instructed not to receive the “Word” with our minds, but rather our spirits. That alone gave me pause, but again…was nothing new. He spoke of Christmas and the gift of God, and the gift of Christ and the gift of life. He spoke of God’s omnipotence and how he is always watching, right in the same place. Easy to find. Then he got into the old and famous secularist’s question. “Where was god when___?”

“Where was God during the Tsunami? Where was God during the shooting in Connecticut?” He asked in character, pausing for effect and scanning the room for a reaction. “He was right there in the same place! But I’ll tell you this, he is there helping every one of those people left behind. They will come closer to him because of this.” He went on to talk of using tragedy as a means for conversion and how the family members should now come to Jesus in the wake of their loved one’s murder(that He allowed to happen).

Rage, Hatred, and Gravely Unspeakable Violence boiled and hissed inside me unlike anything I’d felt in years. My whole face burned with the heat of anger.  Hairs on the back of my neck rose like a beast preparing for attack. My brows furrowed, and I contemplated standing but knew I would never be able to walk out. I began frantically negotiating with myself, straining to stay seated.

If you get up now there is no walking out. If you stand up, you are going to walk right down that center aisle and knock this fat bastard right on his ass. Is that what you want? You want to be the guy who broke the pastor’s nose and throttled him half to death in the pulpit the Sunday before Christmas? That’s your big news story? THINK goddamnit! Use your mind. Write about it.”

My fists remained clenched and my brow remained furrowed, but I stayed seated. That moment has not left me since it happened I’ve been replaying it in my mind over and over. How can a grown man stand before a crowd of people and say that their god allowed for the wanton murder of women and children in order to bully their family members into converting?

Then I realized these people around me believed it too. He was amongst like-minded people. Their great Celestial Dictator had sat idly by while innocents, men, and women were gunned down like dogs in broad daylight, and why? So that His ambassadors on earth could bash their families and friends over the head with their shattered and bloodied memory. I don’t see a way that any reasonable person can sit by and allow for this sort of nonsensical bullshit to pass without issue. When you are a leader, you have a responsibility to people. A responsibility to refrain from the kind of sick drivel that poisons the mind and perverts the character, that stunts intellectual growth and promotes callousness and absolute disregard for human life.

When you have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines and never having a life in your hands, and never having to feel the responsibility for the end of a human life, it becomes easier to become cavalier about life. You can disregard the most precious thing we have for some silly dogmatic principal. That doesn’t mean you should. Trivializing the deaths of innocent people is one thing, but twisting the murder of children to fit your doctrine is something more despicable altogether.  Perhaps because I’ve lived a life engulfed in destruction and hounded by death I have a higher respect for human life than the average person. I don’t know. However, I hold strong to the fact that Life is the most precious thing we have, and Death is the most serious thing we come across as living beings. Life and Death are the bottom line, the end all, be all. To simply brush off the death of so many, the violent death of so many sickens me to the point of rage.

I expect this from the Westboro Baptist Church. I expect this from the extremists like Pat Robertson, and those following in the footsteps of Falwell and Graham. This however was right in my hometown, right where I grew up. On my doorstep. My mother attends that church every week. I was unprepared for that type of madness to meet me at home. That much is my fault, since I did not prepare myself to receive that sort of philosophical assault. The worst part of it is that I couldn’t get a concession out of her that what he had said was out of line. I had lost her on that front. The desire to obey always overcomes the desire to question or challenge in the Church. Here I was staring it in the face.

In the end the only people we can truly control is ourselves, and because of this we can’t lose sleep when people don’t see eye to eye with us. Information, facts, and truth are the best weapons you can wield in the battle against ignorance, and we have to arm ourselves and bolster our resolve if we ever hope to destroy the Bastions of Ignorance that have a death-grip on our society and on our collective minds. The fight continues, but there are too many of us passively sitting on the sidelines. We say it doesn’t affect us, that it’s not our problem and that it doesn’t matter in the end, but it does. The fight of our generation is to make sure that knowledge is distributed to our fellow man, because knowledge in the hands of the people is how this world gets better, and it starts with us.