You A F—ing Lie

Some folks just can’t leave well enough alone or let comatose dogs stay comatose. Some folks must work really hard to remain so willfully ignorant. They must go out of their way to miss all the points in such a painfully obstinate manner. Worst of all, some folks must believe the lies so deeply that they’re just begging to be told point blank:

Zoe Saldana, you a f—ing lie.

If there ever were a case of completely, utterly, totally missing all the points, Zoe is the case. If someone Googles “missing the point” it should just take them straight to Zoe’s IMDB page.

Her word craft in Allure was such a display of masterfully, intentionally performed deflection that there’s almost nothing anyone can say to get through to her. Almost.

The way to (hopefully) get through to her is by not sitting idly by and letting her deflection slide. The way to (hopefully) get through to her is to call her out on her convoluted bullshit.

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“There’s no one way to be black,” she says quietly and slowly, clearly choosing her words carefully. “I’m black the way I know how to be. You have no idea who I am. I am black. I’m raising black men. Don’t you ever think you can look at me and address me with such disdain.”

Correct. There is no one way to be Black. It’s unfortunate that so many people attacked Zoe’s Blackness; however, there were just as many people pointing out that this isn’t about Zoe’s Blackness, it’s about Nina Simone’s Blackness. It’s always been about Nina’s Blackness. This is about Nina Simone.

Nina was unrelenting in her Blackness at a time when it was dangerous to be so. She was so radically Black that it was detrimental to her career and her marriage. Nina was MISSISSIPPI GODDAM Black; TO BE YOUNG, GIFTED, AND BLACK Black; STRANGE FRUIT Black; FOUR WOMEN Black.

Nina wasn’t just Black though. Even in her own words she reveals a reality where she was a certain type of Black. A Blacker shade of Black:

“I’m the kind of colored girl who looks like everything white people despise or have been taught to despise.”

So while Zoe is Black in the way she knows how to be, Nina was Black in the only way she was allowed to be. Trust Nina’s own testimony: It wasn’t a fun way. It wasn’t a kind way. It wasn’t an easy way.

It’s Nina’s Blackness that matters. Because this is about NINA SIMONE.

Nina’s Blackness matters. It mattered to her because it mattered to the world that oppressed her. It directly and adversely affected her life. She wrote about it; she spoke about it; she sang about it.

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Nina’s skin matters. Her hair matters. Her nose matters.

By not acknowledging Nina’s Blackness, everyone involved in Cynthia Mort’s film — not the vocal critics of the film — are the ones that tried to make this about Zoe’s Blackness. They tried to do so through every single choice they made that led to Zoe being cast to play Nina. Their ineptitude and insensitivity tried to make this about Zoe’s Blackness and then they deflected and blamed their faults on the critics.

Of course Zoe is free to define her own Blackness however she sees fit. She’s not free to make Nina’s Blackness about her, thereby marginalizing and minimizing Nina in the same way Nina was marginalized and minimized her entire life. And perhaps because — as she herself has stated in the past — Zoe chooses to be colorblind and to run away from discussions of race and ethnicity, Zoe is unable to distinguish the difference between some people claiming that she’s not “Black enough” from others of us that are saying: NINA’S BLACKNESS MATTERS.

There is such a world of difference between those two perspectives that it might make one wonder why someone incapable of differentiating the two would be involved in making a Nina Simone biopic.

Make it a mantra if you must: NINA’S BLACKNESS MATTERS.

So, yes, Zoe — there’s more than one way to be black; however that illuminates the fact that every day some little girls with no control over their Blackness are taught that there are ugly ways to be Black; that there are less desirable ways to be Black; that there are less valuable ways to be Black; and that they are that kind of Black girl: the Nina kind of black girl.

If someone isn’t already woke to this then it’s a damn shame; if someone isn’t already woke to this and they’re involved in a movie about Nina Simone, it’s an injustice.

(And, for the record it’s worth pointing out that Zoe is ready, willing, and able to champion for Asian visibility:

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…but in a world plagued by colorism she’s unwilling to actively champion for women that look like Nina Simone. Now if that ain’t some shit…)

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“I never saw her as unattractive. Nina looks like half my family!” she says. “But if you think the [prosthetic] nose I wore was unattractive, then maybe you need to ask yourself, What do you consider beautiful? Do you consider a thinner nose beautiful, so the wider you get, the more insulted you become?”

Oh Sweet Mahatma Gandhi. I mean. Come on. You can’t really… Her thought train can’t really be traveling so ass backwards. Can it?

There’s two points here and they poignantly intersect.

If half of Zoe’s family looks like Nina, then how in the world could the fact be lost on Zoe that thanks to colorism (from which Zoe herself benefits) half of her own family couldn’t get cast to star in their own biopic – or in Nina’s.

Zoe, colorism exists. You know that, right? Of course you know that. It’s alive and well. There’s a hierarchy at play and the lighter your skin/more European your features, the closer to the top you live, while the darker your skin/more African your features, the closer to the bottom you live. Colorism exists. Today. Right now.

Although Zoe points out that half of her family looks like Nina, her actions show a willingness to neglect the fact that half of her family is subjected to the same reality of colorism as was Nina. The same reality of colorism reinforced by the film in which she chose to star.

That’s what makes the next part even more painful.

Zoe, the prosthetic nose you wore was unattractive but not because wide noses are unattractive. The prosthetic nose you wore was unattractive simply for the fact that Nina’s Blackness meant so little to everyone involved in the film that a prosthetic nose was even fucking necessary.

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Nina was beautiful. She had beautiful skin. She had beautiful features. I’m sure people on that half of Zoe’s family are just as beautiful.

However, because of colorism, they aren’t taught they are as beautiful as Zoe. They aren’t shown examples of how they are as beautiful as Zoe. They aren’t told they are as beautiful as Zoe. They aren’t treated as if though they are as beautiful as Zoe. Colorism exists.

Wide noses aren’t ugly. The fact that a wide nose (and dark skin) shuts women out from equal opportunities is what’s ugly. The fact that in Hollywood roles are already being cast based on skin color is what’s ugly.

What’s ugliest is the fact that colorism in Hollywood meant Nina Simone’s Blackness got trivialized to the point where Nina’s graceful, natural beauty got mutated in this film — into some unnatural, hideous creature from the blackface lagoon.

You not only participated in that, Zoe — you were the literal face of it.

We’re just supposed to accept it? We’re not supposed to connect the dots? We’re supposed to pretend like colorism doesn’t exist; that Zoe didn’t get the role in part because her features make her more bankable; and that darkening Zoe up and plastering a wide nose on her doesn’t make a total mockery of Nina’s Blackness?

Wide noses aren’t unattractive. What’s unattractive is defiling the legacy of Nina Simone and then lashing out at people that have the audacity to call you on your privilege and hypocrisy.

Nina’s Blackness matters. So does the Blackness of that half of Zoe’s family. Nina’s skin and features are beautiful. So are the skin and features of that half of Zoe’s family.

“Nina” the movie is yet another sick embodiment of the dismissive attitude that their Blackness doesn’t matter and that their skin and features are unattractive. Considering what she stood for, the irony that the movie is supposed to about NINA fucking SIMONE is the sickest part of all.

(Oh and before folks start in on “crabs in a barrel,” “pitting Black people against each other” – that argument requires that we all blatantly ignore a present reality of colorism — that we pretend it doesn’t exist; that we accept the status quo; that we all go on our merry way and pretend like opportunities aren’t already being dished out on a skin-by-skin basis. Ignoring it doesn’t make it magically non-existent.

Colorism exists. Pretending like it doesn’t means affirming its very purpose: ensuring light skin is worth more than dark skin.)

“The script probably would still be lying around, going from office to office, agency to agency, and nobody would have done it. Female stories aren’t relevant enough, especially a black female story,” she says. “I made a choice. Do I continue passing on the script and hope that the ‘right’ black person will do it, or do I say, ‘You know what? Whatever consequences this may bring about, my casting is nothing in comparison to the fact that this story must be told.'”

Nobody should have done it. That story didn’t need to be told and never should have been told. That story was uninspired fiction.

That script should have ended up in the trash. It was so ill-conceived, amateur, misguided, and devoid of any passion that it’s astonishing Zoe felt it was worth fighting for.

Did she actually read it or did someone do an interpretive dance of the script for her while Zoe fiddled around on the internet and Googled “who was Nina Simone?”

Because THAT is the story Zoe felt had to be told so badly? THAT is the story that Zoe couldn’t just let go to die wherever terrible screenplays go to die? THAT is the story that Zoe felt encapsulated the spirit and legacy of Nina Simone?

THAT is how little she thinks of Nina Simone???

That’s a wee bit problematic.

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“The fact that we’re talking about her, that Nina Simone is trending? We fucking won,” Saldana continues. “For so many years, nobody knew who the fuck she was. She is essential to our American history. As a woman first, and only then as everything else.”

Woman, you a lie. You’re reaching for that mental silver lining so hard that your brain bout to bleed out your ears.

In some misguided, abstract “all attention is good attention” way, maybe y’all get an award for attendance, but that’s a very unlikely maybe and besides the award would be a torn-in-half gold star sticker and the sticky side would be covered in lint. So, no…you didn’t win shit.

The truth is that you and Cynthia Mort and everyone else connected to that piece of crap film have attempted to do more harm to Nina’s legacy than if she had simply been unknown.

But, Nina wasn’t unknown. I’ve been involved with Nina’s legacy in some way for nearly fifteen years and this is what I learned (and what makes me suspect Zoe and company didn’t know enough about Nina prior to this film):

Nina is everywhere. Holy shit she’s literally everywhere.

Once you’re aware of Nina, you start seeing her everywhere. She’s mentioned here, she’s an influence there, she’s sampled over here, she’s referenced over there. You start seeing her in places you’ve been a hundred times but somehow she remained hidden. Then you begin to comprehend the huge movement of people that are not only aware of Nina but are passionate about her receiving ample recognition.

The issue has never really been about not enough people knowing of Nina, it’s always been about connecting all the disparate parts of Nina’s legacy to form a representative, cohesive narrative – so that people not only know of Nina, but also they know who Nina was, what Nina stood for, what impassioned her, and what messages she was desperate to deliver to her people.

The issue is not about people knowing of Nina, it’s about people having access to Nina. Legitimate Nina. Authentic Nina. Real Nina.

In terms of that effort, the film in which Zoe chose to take part threatened (and tried) to do more damage to Nina’s legacy than anything I’ve witnessed since two decades ago — when I accepted Nina as my High Priestess and Savior.

Zoe, you are a fucking lie. You didn’t win shit. We are undoing the damage you have done. We are working overtime to get the narrative out there for those people who had never heard of Nina or that didn’t yet know who Nina really was: a beautiful, strong, proud, genius Black “reincarnation of an Egyptian Queen” (as Nina often reminded us).

The film in which you participated is not #1 in a series of films. First of all, that film doesn’t fucking count. Second, no more films need to be made. Between “Nina Simone: La légende” (by Frank Lords, 1992), “Nina: An Historical Perspective” (by Peter Rodis, 1970), “The Amazing Nina Simone” (by Jeff Lieberman, 2015), and the final capstone to Nina’s legacy: “What Happened, Nina Simone?” (by Liz Garbus, 2015), Nina’s story has been told.

You attached yourself and your name to something that requires this much vigilant criticism — because the second we shut up about it is the second that we risk your film’s colorism, ugliness, and lies becoming an unsuspecting and uninformed viewer’s truth about Nina Simone.

You didn’t get Nina Simone trending. You got your own ignorance, arrogance, and obliviousness trending.

Yay for #TeamZoe, I guess.

I Don’t Care Where Men In Dresses Pee (as long as they wear sensible shoes so they can help us hunt down and kill all the child molesters)

How did you learn about sex? This is how I learned about sex:

When I was around seven or eight years old my mother asked her ex-husband to teach me about the birds and bees. Unbeknownst to her at the time, that man had been sexually abusing my older sister Amy for years, starting well before he and my mother separated. (Just for the record and just in case Google is paying attention, the man’s name is Michael William Lundy.)

To teach me about sex, this poor excuse for a man used himself and my sister as real life anatomy dolls. He forced me to touch her; he forced me to touch him; he forced her to touch me; he forced her to touch him; he forced me to watch him touch her. I’m not sure what all transpired because after a certain point my mind stopped functioning. I believe that point was when the sick motherless piece of shit forced me to smell and taste my sister’s vagina. I think at that point my mind shattered into a million pieces and I floated away.

There’s an old, semi-autobiographical book titled “When Rabbit Howls” about a woman that suffered unimaginable abuse as a little girl and subsequently developed a dissociative disorder (back then referred to as “multiple personalities”). I only read the book once and it was a very long time ago, but I remember one part where the author describes the moment her mind shattered into the pieces that became those disparate personalities. “Rabbit” was one of those personalities and all Rabbit did was howl. Rabbit howled from the all pain.

I didn’t develop a similar dissociative disorder (I dissociated in my own special ways), but the author’s recollection of her own shattering resonated with me, and it still does. My mind broke into pieces that then turned on themselves and shattered each other into smaller and smaller pieces. I can still feel the breaking, like how someone who lost a limb can still sense a ghost of that limb extending beyond where that particular appendage now ends. The shattering was a reverse fractal of sorts that continued until I was so broken that it no longer mattered how broken I had become. After all, what’s the endgame of breaking if not to become shattered into a dust that can no longer be touched or hurt?

Almost more damaging than the abuse was that my young mind didn’t understand it was abuse. How could I understand? As far as I knew, that’s how little boys learned about sex. For all I knew, that’s what dads were supposed to do with their sons and what brothers were supposed to do with their sisters. I was so young that our abuser didn’t even have to order me not to tell anyone what happened; he didn’t even have to frighten me with threats of what would happen if I did tell anyone. He simply went on as if everything were normal, knowing full well that because I lacked the ability to process what he put us through–let alone articulate it–I would follow suit and also go on as if everything were normal.

When the abuse of my sister was finally divulged to my mother and the authorities, I still didn’t speak up about what had happened. Instead, I tortured myself for not knowing that what had happened was abuse. At some point my young brain decided that since I hadn’t recognized it was abuse, there must have been something wrong with me. I must have been like him. I must have been sick. Sick and evil.

Nobody knew for many years, and when people (like my mother) did finally find out, I was so much older that it didn’t really affect me as much — so it wasn’t some huge announcement or revelation. It was more like, “Oh yeah, and this happened,” not unlike how I would reminisce about the drug-fueled adventures of my youth. My mom’s reaction (understandably so due to my nonchalance about it at that point) was, “Wow. Well, I never knew.”

I didn’t give it much thought.

Then, later in college, I had one of those epiphany moments as a professor explained how child victims of abuse often either 1) assume adults magically “know” what’s happened to them or 2) don’t understand why adults don’t just magically “know.” The child often explains their reasoning as: “But I was so sad all the time. How could they not see that I was so sad?” Children operate with magical thinking. Literally. So, if they look “sad” enough (or act out enough), then mom will simply intuit the truth of what’s really going on and mom will kiss it and make it better. Because that’s what moms do.

In my gut I knew that’s what I had done for years: assumed people magically knew or thought they should magically know. I was so sad. I was so fucking sad all the time.

But, fucking hell, I should have never been put in that position in the first place. A child does not have the capacity or ability to process or articulate those kinds of thoughts or feelings. Their brains do not function in that way, just like how teenage brains simply cannot comprehend complex concepts — like how insignificant their current lives will seem in retrospect as they become older, no matter how significant things may seem now.

I suffered in self-imposed silence and inadvertently used LSD and MDMA to reprogram my brain so that I could think and feel again. Yes, I believe certain drugs aren’t inherently destructive and that they can be productive if used correctly and in moderation. I believe the same thing about other conventionally derided things like pornography, partying, and piety.

I also think that while some people have intensely innate and predisposed sexual predilections, others can have theirs shaped by trauma or environment, while still others may experience their sexual tastes fluidly evolve throughout their lifetime. My sexuality was shaped by my experiences as a child. How could it not be? It’s a reality to which I’ve spent my entire life adapting. Conversely, I find absolutely nothing wrong with people that can’t adapt and whom feel compelled to “fix” or “heal” their sexuality. More power to them. What I have a problem with is people having that particular mindset then turning around and insisting others do the same thing. Look, just because something was wrong for you doesn’t mean something is wrong for everyone else, just like drugs may be wrong for one person but right for another. Not everyone becomes an addict.

Arguments about whether or not people are “born gay” or not are ludicrous for several reasons. For one, the argument creates a framework wherein absolute heterosexuality is the default and desired sexuality, while every other sexual permutation is so deviant that it must be examined, categorized, and explained. Why don’t we have whole fields of study dedicated to figuring out what makes people an absolute heterosexual?

Such a line of thinking also presumes that anything but absolute heterosexuality is so undesirable as to make it unworthy of choosing. Why would homosexuality (or any form of non-heterosexuality) be unworthy of choosing? Anyone that has concerned themselves with the origins of any permutation of human sexuality other than absolute heterosexuality has already decided that every permutation of human sexuality other than absolute heterosexuality is wrong. Since they’ve already decided that anything other than absolute heterosexuality is wrong, why in the world would the origins of other permutations of human sexuality even matter to them? Hint: the origins don’t matter to them as a means to justify or validate non-heterosexuality; the origins matter to them as a means to determine a method of eradicating non-heterosexuality.

Does anyone really think that homophobes actually care if people are born gay or if they choose to be gay? Does anyone really think that a solution to that debate either way would magically cause homophobes to suddenly reverse into thinking that there’s nothing wrong with being gay? Hint: No.

Only to someone whose mind is already made up about human sexuality do the so-called origins of various sexualities matter.

Homophobes don’t merely disagree with non-heterosexuality, they disagree with transsexuality (or any sex/gender nonconformists). They think men should behave one way and women should behave another way. They take the biological differences between the sexes and extrapolate those physical differences into arbitrary social roles, norms, and rules. It’s binary thinking: one or the other. Man or woman; male or female; masculine or feminine; blue or pink; hard or soft.

But, did they ever…ever…stop to think that it’s possible their own rigid insistence on these arbitrary roles actually encourages transsexualism, transgenderism, or gender nonconformity? Did they ever stop to think that maybe their unrealistic definitions of manhood/womanhood, masculinity/femininity, male/female impose unnatural boundaries on the human psyche and that those boundaries are what can compel some people to feel like they are somehow the “wrong” sex or gender? Did they ever stop to think that maybe if as a society we were more permissive and realistic about sex, sexuality, and gender, then perhaps more people could feel comfortable in their own bodies and at home in their own skin?

Note: This is not to say that I think people aren’t born transsexual or transgender. This is to say that — just like it’s possible that some people have intensely innate and predisposed sexual predilections while others have theirs shaped and still others fluidly evolve — the same could be true for sex/gender. The point is that the same people that hate (or merely dismiss) anything and everything trans* are the very same people that (however unintentionally) might actually compel trans* identification via their binary sexual framework and power dynamics.

If your worldview is that men should only look/behave/feel one way and women should only look/behave/feel another way, what exactly do you expect to happen to the enormous subset of the population that doesn’t happen to neatly fit into those rigid roles? Why is it incumbent upon them to change who they are in order to fit your reality but not incumbent upon you to change your worldview so that people are simply allowed to be who they are?

I started this diatribe with recollections of my childhood sexual abuse because the man that abused me and my sister encapsulates precisely what is wrong with the thinking of people that are homophobic, transphobic, and everything in-between. To them, anyone non-heterosexual and non-gender-binary-conformist are the monsters. To them, non-heterosexuals and non-gender-binaries are the sinful freaks that need fixing, healing, or plain praying for.

But, the man that sexually abused me and my sister was an outwardly regular ol’ everyday, mustache and gold-rimmed glasses wearing, masculine, heterosexual, conformist male. He was a Dennis Hastert, a Jared Fogle, a Josh Duggar, a Jerry Sandusky. Just like them, he effortlessly camouflaged himself with social assumptions of what a monster looks like and doesn’t look like. Just as all sexual predators do, he operated under the guise of normalcy because normalcy begets a benefit of doubt.

Straight male? Family man? A man’s man?

Straight woman? Mother? A lady through and through?

Perfect. Here, have all the unfettered access you want to any children you want whenever you want however you want.

And also if you were a little bad it’s okay you’ve done soooo much good, except for that bad stuff.

Gay? Lesbian? Trans*?

OMGGGGGG STAY AWAY FROM DA CHILRENZ OMG PERVERT YOU SO SICK.

AND ALSO YOU’RE DEFINITELY GOING TO HELL FOREVER, GO DIRECTLY TO HELL AND DON’T PASS GO.

We’ve got folks boycottin’ and up in arms about “Eddie Izzard and His Legion of Men in Dresses” supposedly using every single ladies’ room in the world to rape everyone’s wife or touch everyone’s daughter, but the same people willfully turn a blind eye to the actual threats: the drinking buddy, the coach, the priest, the man’s man — all because we’re more concerned with some idea that men should act one way and women should act another.

We turn a blind eye to real predators because supposedly as long as a man acts like a “man,” there’s no need to worry. As long as a woman acts like a “woman,” there’s no need to worry. And then, even more sickening, when predators like Dennis Hastert, Josh Duggar, Jerry Sandusky, and their ilk are exposed, people crawl out of the woodwork to defend them, to plead for clemency, to cry rivers over the ruining of the poor predator’s life.

Because, these particular predators must be the exception and not the rule. These predators aren’t the real monsters, they are merely the ones of us that have strayed from the path. They are the ones that have made mistakes. See, the real monsters are those men that don’t act like men and those women that don’t act like women.

Jesus Horatio Christ, hardened criminals in prison demonstrate more anger and hatred for child molesters than does the general public. Da fuq?

My abuser hid in plain sight because people are too busy being obsessed with what it means for future generations if Will Smith’s son wears dresses and if Ellen marries another woman. You know what matters for future generations? If we keep full on status quo sending monsters the message that as long as they act and dress a certain way — and don’t draw too much attention to themselves — then they can rape children with impunity for like a decade or two before anyone gets around to catching them.

Apparently it’s too simple yet radical to suggest that the human race worry less about who wears what, who identifies as this or that, or which adults have consensual naked playdates with other adults of the opposite or same sex.

Fine. Instead, how about we KILL ALL THE FUCKING CHILD MOLESTERS AND RAPISTS? Fucking kill them all. On sight. In public. Hell, do that shit in arenas. Two child molesters fight to the death type shit and then afterwards we go ahead and kill the surviving one too because YOU ALL DESERVE TO DIE.

I’m pro-equality in every single way. I don’t care who or what you are. Black, Asian, white, Middle Eastern, Native American, or Rachel Dolezal? Straight, bisexual, gay, asexual, or maybe you can only get it up for dolls made out of pantyhose and magazine clippings? Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, or that one guy who got stuck between two rocks and had to drink his own pee and cut off his own leg or something so he must’ve prayed to someone a few times? I don’t care what you are, what you believe, who you sleep with, what bathroom you use. No matter who you are, if you molest children or rape folks you deserve to fucking die and I don’t even believe in the death penalty but fuck it I’m willing to look the other way because just die already just die.

I propose that we can solve all the world’s problems if we stop fighting about everything else for a minute and just focus on exposing and killing all the child molesters.

Fuck it, bring all the guns you want. I don’t give a shit.

Just wear sensible shoes.

The Unfriendables

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I know, I know—we all live in the “Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That!” era. I know.

Ain’t nobody got time for someone who’s full of bigotry, hate, and misdirected (in our opinion) rage. Ain’t nobody going to blame you for kicking that kind of negativity to the curb. Ain’t nobody going to say you have to keep enemies (and/or frenemies) around to consume your life or that you must continue to give them access to yourself.

You get to decide for yourself who is unfriendable.

It’s easy to dismiss an act of unfriending because it’s cool to minimize the significance of social networking. We don’t want social networking to mean as much as it does. On the surface it’s superficial; it’s impersonal; it’s too often a façade. On top of all that, it binds the most intimate aspect of human nature—our relationships—to technology in a way that instinctually seems unnatural. We can feel it in our gut. Social networking is a bunch of technobullshit.

Except it’s not. I mean, don’t get me wrong. It is, but it’s also not.

See, that’s one thing about being a mature adult: the ability to simultaneously hold conflicting, contradicting truths in our mind. Being a mature adult means possessing the ability to perceive on multiple levels from differing perspectives using divergent approaches. Being a mature adult means understanding that shit ain’t just complicated, shit is complicated and multifaceted.

For instance, take this common platitude: “There are no absolutes.”

Right on! Hell yeah! Totally correct! There are so many instances in which there simply are no absolutes. Righteous!

Except, merely uttering the concept that there are no absolutes creates an absolute wherein there are no absolutes.

Same goes for relativity. If everything is relative then relativity isn’t relative, so not everything is relative because relativity isn’t relative.

Whoa, paradoxical man.

I mean, I’m not suggesting this is some mind-blowingly profound phenomenon. Anyone who went to college or sat around smoking a bunch of weed or eating too much acid can just as easily come to these realizations. What I am suggesting is that this phenomenon is applicable to every single aspect of human life, especially the most intimate aspect—our relationships.

So, while social networking is a bunch of technobullshit, it’s also not. While unfriending can be rather harmless and meaningless, that’s not always the case. There are some intentions and implications to consider.

We can—but shouldn’t—insulate ourselves from differing ideologies. It stagnates us and it’s unhealthy. It’s also unproductive. If our goal is to educate each other, lead one another, grow together, then isolating from folks who have differing ideologies is hypocritical at best.

We can—and should—differentiate between instances where were are removing someone toxic from our life (online or offline) from instances when someone is being annoying, abrasive, confrontational, provocative, trolling, or simply rubbing us the wrong way.

I have a family member who uses unfriending as a petty, passive-aggressive indicator that they are displeased with someone. I mean, come on. Really?

I have friends who state a certain position and then goad people into unfriending them if they believe differently.

Recently I have friends who go on unfriending rampages because things are currently so heated that it’s bringing out the worst in many of us, laying bare our core differences, and magnifying those differences in atypical extremes.

We’re all guilty of unfriendings. I unfriended someone because they were an NRA nut. Not because they were stridently or unrepentantly pro-gun but because they simply wouldn’t shut up about it. Like at all. Ever. Guns, guns, guns. Oh and hey did I mention guns? (Guns anyone?) By the way, guns.

(I on the other hand do not bring up Nina Simone too often nor does it ever get annoying. That’s different. That’s because I’m me and I’m damn wonderful.)

Believe it or not, I even have friends who hold pretty racist views. I don’t think they are evil, despicable human beings, but I do believe their views belie a racist viewpoint of which they are often unaware. Still, despite how passionate I am about issues involving race and equality, it does no good to simply excise them from my life, as if they are meaningless or hold no value at all as a human being.

Don’t get me wrong, if they were spewing racial epithets nonstop, that would be another thing. Not only must we differentiate the hateful lost causes from those who are somewhat well meaning, but we must also take the time to do so. Because, despite how badly we want it to be true, social networking isn’t entirely a bunch of technobullshit.

When I think back to the most intense, dynamic interactions I’ve had via social networking, they weren’t with likeminded individuals. Engaging with differing world views not only causes us to rethink ourselves and evolve, it also forces us to articulate. The more we articulate, the better we get at it.

Don’t you wanna speak real good and stuff? Don’t you?

Take pause before you unfriend. Ask yourself why you’re doing it. Think about the purpose and the outcome. Ask yourself if you’d get up from a table and leave mid-conversation, without saying another word or ever acknowledging that person’s existence again.

If they are a person you actually know in the flesh, ask yourself if they are worthy of continuing to leave and breathe amongst the rest of us superior beings of goodness and light. If they are, ask yourself if—as a human being you know and cared about at some point in time—they will ever again be deserving of your time and energy. If not, by all means, unfriend their ass.

If, by chance, there could be something of value within them despite your differences, ask yourself if there’s any possibility you might be being a petty, intolerant, vindictive little fuck. If that’s the case then perhaps you need a little refresher on your “being a decent human being” skills. I mean, we all get to that point sometimes, and maybe right now it’s your turn.

You do get to decide for yourself who is unfriendable.
Just try not to be too flippant with that shit.
Think before you unfriend.

If This Were Your Revolution

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Much of the language criticizing the tide of revolution in Ferguson indicates a curious misunderstanding of revolt, if not a double standard applied to its participants.

Revolution isn’t convenient or clean. There are no revolution business hours. Revolution isn’t akin to a parade, meant to follow a specific path and schedule. There are no revolution zones.

That’s kind of the whole point of revolution.

Revolution is limitless and boundless. Revolution stays disruptive and destructive. Revolution means fighting and persisting.

Those in disagreement with the revolt in Ferguson can and should still ask themselves this question: What if this were your revolution?

If this were your revolution, would you abide by curfew?
If this were your revolution, would you break no laws?
If this were your revolution, would you refrain from disturbing the peace?

(“Peace,” mind you, that is your society’s default state of being — a state of being that actively oppresses you and led to your need for revolution.)

If you genuinely believed your rights had been historically, systematically denied or violated, would you play nicely?

If you honestly perceived an historic disenfranchisement that showed no signs of improvement, would you continue with the status quo and merely hope for change?

If you witnessed citizens being denigrated, exploited, and slaughtered with no recourse, would you sit by and do nothing?

If you lived within a society where citizens were denied equal justice by those who created the laws, those who enforced the laws, and those who judged lawbreakers, would you be so inclined to invest faith in that same system?

How would your revolution look?

Suspend your disagreement with the protestors and revolters in Ferguson long enough to ask yourself: How is civil unrest is supposed to unfold? How are the oppressed meant to unshackle themselves? How is revolution destined to happen?

It’s one thing to disagree with the reasons for the current civil unrest in Ferguson. It’s another thing entirely to demand revolution operate within established civil boundaries when those boundaries necessitated revolution.

Hopefully, when your revolution comes, your fellow citizens won’t demand you stop fighting for your rights after midnight. Hopefully, when your revolution comes, your fellow citizens won’t insist you hold the noise at a reasonable level so your neighbors aren’t disturbed. Hopefully, when your revolution comes, your fellow citizens won’t expect you to keep your revolution to yourself so that they don’t have to see it, hear it, think about it, or be changed by it.

Hopefully, when your revolution comes, your fellow citizens won’t abandoned you and their own values simply because they aren’t affected by the same injustices as you.

Hopefully, when your revolution comes, your fellow citizens will acknowledge that it is a revolution

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Nina Simone – Revolution

The Land Where Racism Doesn’t Exist So Black People Need To Stop Being Such Victims

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There are rumors of some mystical realm out there where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. (Apparently, in this realm there is also a war on religion but Christians aren’t being victims by constantly crying about it.) I keep hearing about this strange, foreign, magical realm, but I’ve never been able to find it. Seriously, they must have that shit more locked down than Narnia.

I cannot find the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. I have genuinely, honestly tried. My mind has done more somersaults than it was worth just trying to find a grain of sand from this new wonderful world. I guess I need a map, unless I can GPS it. Can I GPS it?

Nothing I’m going to say here is radical, new, and hasn’t already been said better. I’ll probably end up offending some—and by some I mean the ones I don’t mean to offend, not the ones I absolutely mean to offend. Some of the hypotheticals I’m going to present may end up sounding racist. Alas, they are only hypotheticals, and they are my heartfelt attempts to find the mysterious land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims.

As many of you know, I’m the content manager for the estate of Nina Simone. Working for the memory and legacy of Nina Simone is one of the most—if not the most—gratifying jobs I’ve had. It’s something I could do all day every day and it never feels like work.

Part of that job includes occasionally posting via social networking. Seeing as how it’s the legacy of Nina Simone we’re talking about here, it should come as no surprise that many of the posts deal with issues of race. The “it should come as no surprise” bit is important here because for some people it is surprising and upsetting.

There are people who believe pointing out instances of racism or even discussing issues involving race somehow perpetuates racism. Some of these people apparently follow the Nina Simone social networking accounts. I say apparently because they make sure to comment on how race shouldn’t matter, how we shouldn’t be talking about race and/or differentiating between the different races, and how focusing on race instigates more racism.

I’m not joking.
I’m not joking about the fact that they say these things or that they are following the NINA SIMONE social networking accounts. I know, I know…I must be joking. No one who has even cursory knowledge about Nina Simone—about what Nina Simone stood for, about what Nina Simone sang about—would ever say such things. Sadly, I’m really not joking. I promise.

It’s worth pointing out that these are mostly well-intentioned folks. They are optimistic and so badly want the world to be colorblind that they believe pretending race doesn’t exist is the only way to achieve total equality. We cannot fault them for wanting to achieve equality. They are good people. Misguided and misinformed, but good and decent.

There is this other faction of society though that believes similar things, but they are not well-intentioned and they really don’t give a goddam about equality.

According to them, racism doesn’t exist so black people should stop being such victims. If black people would simply stop being such victims, work hard, be accountable, act responsibly, and behave — poof — equality. It’s not the system that’s broken or needs to change, it’s black people. If they stop acting so….so black….problem solved.

That is the land I cannot find.

There are some reasons I can’t find it. I will go through those reasons and then maybe someone who resides in that place can correct me and put me on the right path to find the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people should stop being such victims.

You know, slavery really wasn’t that long ago. I know, I know…the damn “S” word. I’m probably going to lose the attention of 90% of the residents of this mysterious land by uttering the “S” word, but gimme a chance here.

Slavery really wasn’t that long ago. Now, I know you’re going to say that there have been other cultures with slavery, that blacks in Africa sold other blacks into slavery, that slavery is now illegal so it’s over and done with, that you didn’t own slaves so shut up. I certainly can’t argue with any of those points; however, none of those points negate the experience of slavery in the United States and how it affected our culture, infected our justice system, shaped our political environment, and skewed our economic reality.

So, I repeat—in the grand scheme of things, slavery really wasn’t that long ago. When slavery was abolished, it wasn’t as if all the slaves were suddenly equal, either. No, that took even more years. And years, and years, and years.

When black people were made equal (or at least as equal as they were allowed to be), it’s not as if they were given a level playing field. It’s not as if they were provided a running start. It’s not as if there were any sense of fairness or justice.

Things simply went like this:

1) We can own you. We can literally own you. You are property. We can own you, beat you, work you to death, rape you, kill you with impunity, do pretty much whatever the hell we want to you. You are barely human to us, and that’s putting it nicely. In fact, no, you’re not human to us.

2) Ok, ok, we can’t own you anymore. The rest of that shit still stands though, so don’t get too comfortable. Not human.

3) Fine. We will treat you a little better. But, you can’t vote or any crap like that. In fact, you can’t sit by us, drink from the same fountain as us, marry any of us. Y’all just stay over there. Y’all just stay in your place. Back of the bus. Not human.

3.5) Oh, you can fight in our wars and get killed for your country, though. You’re welcome.

4) Jeez wow ok, if you’re going to be all needy and whiny, then you can vote and stuff. Kind of human…we guess.

5) Ok, you’re free now. Everything is totally equal. I mean, most of us still pretty much hate you and will treat you like crap. You’re on your own and there’s no help for you, but you are now equal and you can’t complain about anything. If you complain about anything, then you are the problem. It’s not us. We made you equal. What more do you want? Human. Happy now?

If I’m incorrect in that timeline, please let me know. I’m willing to make edits.

Sooooooo…yes, a certain amount of equality was achieved. You all are absolutely right about that! I’m not so sure how “equal” it is to be relegated into abject poverty, treated as subhuman, and literally have every single social system work to your disadvantage, but technically you all are correct: EQUALITY!

I know, though: life isn’t fair for anyone. There’s lots of poor white folk. Everyone’s gotta work their way up. Now that black people were equal, all they ever needed to do was work for whatever they wanted. That’s what makes America so grand!

This must be where I make my first serious wrong turn in finding the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. Maybe one of y’all can redirect me. My thinking must be all messed up.

Because the direction I take it is that the entire system wasn’t set up against white people from the very beginning. We weren’t owned as property and then made “kind of” free and then allowed to be “pretty much” equal. We didn’t have to go through all of that. We just came here, decided we owned “here,” and started living here.

Also, it’s not as if all those mistaken white folks who hated blacks, owned blacks, considered blacks as less than human (or at least less than whites) instantly stopped feeling and behaving that way after slavery was ended and equal rights were granted. Nothing changed overnight. Not attitudes, not treatment, not social systems. The only thing that changed were laws. Hell, the laws that were changed weren’t consistently enforced afterwards.

That’s the neighborhood I’m in now. I only get more lost from here.

Some of you are going to start yapping about how black people are violent, they are lazy, they are fatherless, they are criminals. I don’t know where all those points come from during a conversation about how blacks are obviously treated unjustly…but ok.

I’ll try to meet you where you’re at and then I’ll try to show you what direction I go with all of this. Because again, the direction I go with it really keeps me from being able to find the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims.

Let’s say—hypothetically—black people are all those things: violent, lazy, fatherless, criminals. Let’s say for the sake of argument (and it’s not my argument) that they are all those things. Let’s also pretend like no other race has any of those qualities; somehow those characteristics are magically linked to levels of melanin.

Hmmm. Ok.

So we force people into abject poverty and second-class citizenship.
We pretty much keep on hating them solely because they are black.
They aren’t given equal access to things like proper education, good healthcare, comparable financial opportunities, or proportional government representation.
We put them in a no-win situation and then use the sickeningly few that do happen to beat the odds as proof that there is nothing holding any of them back.
Then, to top it all, our justice system essentially makes being black itself a crime.

That is the state of “freedom” and “equality.”
So let’s say—hypothetically—all the things you think about black people are true. Well…what the fuck else would you expect?

We’re not going to give you equal access to education, we’re not going to provide you equal access to healthcare, we’re not going to allow you equal access to financial opportunities, we’re not going to open access to government representation, and we’re not going to allow you equal access to justice — but y’all need to keep yourselves in check and behave yourselves. Work hard. Act right. Find joy.

(Oh, by the way, if you DON’T keep yourselves in check and behave yourselves, we’re going to go ahead and blame it on the fact that you’re black in the first place. It’s just must be something about y’all or your culture. Something inherent. All that damn melanin.)

I mean, the road to the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims is so twisted and winding and backwards and rocky that I don’t understand how any of y’all made it there. Did you fucking fly there? Is there some secret rocket ship that blasted y’all there? Seriously, how did you get there?

Because where I live, we don’t build a country on the backs of an entire population, then set them “free” (kind of) and make them “equal” (but not really) only to turn around about five minutes later and ask them why they haven’t caught up with the rest of us yet. We don’t blame everything that’s wrong with society on them, as if they had the power to make things go so horribly wrong. That’s the land where I live: a land of logic, compassion, and empathy.

Ahhhhh but that’s still not enough though, is it? Because not only must they act right and work hard, but also they must trust and obey.

Well ain’t that some shit?

If we treat an entire population like they are second-class, why would we ever expect them to trust any of us? (Or pretty much demand that they do.)

Especially the ones of us with guns and a badge who have historically abused them and killed them with impunity—just like the good ol’ days.

Why would we ever expect them to trust and obey? How realistic is that?

I need a spaceship, don’t I?
Really, you can tell me.
Don’t keep it secret.

There’s one more dead end I keep finding myself at, and it’s a doozy.

In your land, what is the difference between “racism” and legitimate racism? How can we tell? When is someone playing the “race card” and when is someone justified in pointing out that hmmmmmm maybe unfortunately there was a racial element to the situation?

In your land, when is someone a “victim” and a legitimate victim? I mean, if none of the treatment I listed above qualified as subjugating someone into victimhood against their will, what exactly does qualify as being a victim?

Because, in your land, it sounds like no matter what, nothing is racist and no matter what, no one is a victim.

I mean, I suppose that’s why you call it the land where racism doesn’t exist so black people need to stop being such victims. And I imagine you believe I live in the land where everything is racist and all black people are victims.

I don’t really live in that land though.
I live in the land where slavery wasn’t that fucking long ago, some shit is definitely racist, and there’s not a goddam thing wrong with being a victim if you’ve been victimized.

I guess you can’t find my land, either.
That’s fine.
Maybe I don’t want your ass here then.

WWWPD? (What Would White People Do?)

(photo by Sid Hastings)
(photo by Sid Hastings)

It’s disorienting (but not unwelcome) to see tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people hashtagging Ferguson. It’s disorienting because I was raised in St. Louis; as a teen I worked at Zisser Tire and Auto, one of the first establishments looted; I was in the St. Louis City Public School system; as a social worker, I worked throughout St. Louis in neighborhoods just like Ferguson. St. Louis always has been and will always be home to me, no matter how far away I move or how long I stay away.

The activism is disorienting because St. Louisians are fully aware of the state of race relations in our area. It’s nothing new to any of us. What is transpiring is of no surprise to most residents. The current situation is an extreme manifestation of daily St. Louis life.

I’ve lived other places in the US, even on opposite ends—from the District of Columbia to Florida to Washington. Anyone who has lived in St. Louis and relocated to another area will more often than not attest to the same thing: race relations in St. Louis are distinct in their acrimony. Distinct is an understatement.

In many neighborhoods, segregation and racial tension in St. Louis is palpable. While it is understandable for many to argue that this is the case across the board, again I have to argue that St. Louisians understand the degree to which this is doubly, triply, quadruply true in St. Louis. Race relations in St. Louis are perpetually bursting at the seams in volatility. While we may have become desensitized to it, we can’t deny it.

It is no accident or coincidence that Ferguson, Missouri is the epicenter of the most racially-charged civil unrest our country has witnessed in over a decade—or longer. It is not random or unexpected. It is not mysterious or unpredictable.

However, based on the media coverage the situation is receiving (a.k.a. not receiving), one would be surprised it is even taking place. Not only would one be surprised it is taking place, but also one would be shocked by the proportion of civil unrest that has been occurring for days.

(photo by Koda Cohen - @kodacohen)
(photo by Koda Cohen – @kodacohen)

One of the obvious reasons mainstream media is failing to cover the level of civil unrest currently taking place in Ferguson is because of the population in question. Let’s ignore the impetus for the unrest for a moment and ask ourselves a simple question: If this level of civil unrest were occurring in a neighborhood with a different population, would the media be ignoring it or accept being blocked from reporting on it?

For St. Louisians, let’s be more specific in this rhetorical: If this level of civil unrest were occurring in Chesterfield, would the reaction of the media (local and national) be the same?

Seriously. For the sake of argument alone, set aside the reasons for what is happening for a moment and honestly ask yourself if the world would be practically ignoring our city. If there were protests, riots, tear gassing, SWAT activity, Constitutional violations, and attempts at media blackout in Chesterfield, Missouri,what would white people do?

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Would white people be going on with our lives as if nothing were happening? Would we be taking to social media to discuss the nuances of fault and blame? Would we be sitting on our asses expecting the citizens to behave rather than demanding the government serve and protect its citizens? You know…the citizens they are silencing,threatening, insulting, firing rubber and wooden bullets at. The citizens to which they are denying the media access.

If Ferguson, Missouri were Chesterfield, Missouri, would any of what is happening be acceptable, let alone be happening?

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Now let’s not set aside the reasons for what is happening and continue to ask ourselves the same type of questions, because the impetus and everything that followed it are not unrelated.

What is transpiring in Ferguson, Missouri wouldn’t happen in Chesterfield, Missouri because a police officer wouldn’t gun down an unarmed teen in the middle of the street in Chesterfield. The police (and the government in general) treat the citizens of Ferguson differently than the citizens of Chesterfield. The proof of this isn’t only in the shooting of Mike Brown but in how the situation is being handled and how the media is covering (a.k.a. not covering) the situation.

While it is easy (and sadly common) for us to blame the citizens of Ferguson for the current state of affairs, that is inaccurate and unjust. Ferguson didn’t happen in a vacuum. Ferguson isn’t some anomaly that needs to be solved really quick so life can return to normal and we can forget all about it. Ferguson is not a mere inconvenience.

What would white people do if being white were synonymous with being criminal? What would white people do if an unarmed teen were gunned down in the middle of the street and then his body left there for hours? What would white people do if this kind of treatment by the police were not simply commonplace but expected? What would white people do if other citizens of different races and economic classes reacted by saying white people should simply behave themselves, stop acting so “white”, and trust that not only will the truth about the shooting come out but that police officers should be given the benefit of the doubt? You know, the same police officers that have a track record of mistreating the population of Ferguson based upon race.

There is a reason why civil unrest is being squashed in Ferguson in the wholly unreported manner in which it is being squashed. It is the same reason that police in Ferguson (and similar communities) treat its citizens in the manner in which they do in the first place. It is the same reason why the media are neglecting to appropriately and responsibly cover the situation.

There is a reason for all of it: nobody has to treat the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri the same way they have to treat the citizens of Chesterfield, Missouri. That fact is indisputable. If the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri were treated the same way as the citizens of Chesterfield, Missouri, none of this would have likely happened in the first place. If it had still happened and if it led to the level of civil unrest occurring at this very moment in Ferguson, it would be actively reported on CNN, FOXNews, MSNBC, The Discovery Channel, HGTV, probably even some home shopping networks.

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What would white people do?

We wouldn’t allow it to happen and we sure as hell wouldn’t allow people to blame it all on us.

Tell me then, why are we allowing it to happen in Ferguson and why are we acting as if though the people of Ferguson are to blame?

It couldn’t possibly be because they are predominantly black, could it?

Nahhhhhh…that can’t possibly be it. It’s definitely not about race at ALL.

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To follow the events unfolding in Ferguson, I recommend this feed: http://www.reddit.com/live/tdrph3y49ftn/

For a different perspective than most on rioting/looting and a call to end “riot shaming,” you might want to check out this article: http://www.maskmagazine.com/the-substance-issue/struggle/step-back-with-the-riot-shaming

 

Unpacking My Suicidal Ideation

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When I worked in suicide intervention more than one person asked me how in the world we talked people out of committing suicide.

We didn’t talk anyone out of committing suicide. That wasn’t our job. Our job was to keep people engaged and talking long enough to get them help; to get another person on-scene and in the room with them; to get someone physically with them who could ensure their safety and monitor their wellbeing.

There’s no such thing as talking people out of killing themselves.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion and I know there are folks out there who are pretty harsh when it comes to suicide. Many think it’s cowardly, selfish, misguided, wrong, a sign of failure, and/or a sin. No one is going to argue anyone out of those opinions. I imagine it’s a gut reaction borne of innate self-preservation.

I would be lying if I said I don’t understand suicide on a deeply personal level and not only because I worked with the mentally ill population for over a decade. I understand it because I don’t remember a time after the age of twelve when I haven’t had suicidal thoughts — from intense to fleeting. In my experience, being suicidal is a lot like addiction: while one might overcome their addiction and stop using, they will always be an addict. Similarly, while one might overcome suicidal ideation and stop wanting to die, they will always have a suicidal predisposition.

There are myriad reasons for every act people commit, including suicide. It’s pointless to talk as if we can ever know for certain why a person took their own life. The decision is as complex and particular as we are all individual.

I can say this from personal experience: sometimes we get exhausted. 

For many of us, life is a constant mental and emotional struggle. (Maybe it’s a constant mental and emotional struggle for us all.) Life is a fight that has us battling daily. For some of us, the fight takes its toll. We get exhausted. We get tired. We don’t have any fight left in us. We no longer feel the fight is worth fighting.

This isn’t to say suicide is acceptable, normal, or right. It’s to say suicide is understandable, human, and personal. There may be nothing more personal than suicide.

Stigma has us all clamoring to paint suicide with the convenient “mental illness” brush. The depression brush. Sadly, it’s not that simple. Some take their own life because they are in unbearable pain from a terminal disease. Some take their own life because they can’t face consequences. Some take their own life because they can’t cope. Some take their own life because they want control.

The mental illness brush—the depression brush—isn’t always applicable. Convenient maybe but not always applicable. That brush also ignores one glaring reality: there are people who commit suicide because their mental health is improving or because they have become sober. Increased stability can lead to increased insight which can lead to increased self-criticism. Sobriety can alleviate self-medication which can unbury overwhelming symptoms.

If the suicide of Robin Williams shows us anything it’s that even someone who seemingly has it all can suffer and suffer immensely. The human condition is inescapable. Wealth, fame, and high regard don’t shield anyone from being human. No one is immune, not even the man that provides the most laughs.

There are some things we can all do about suicide. 

We can hope that in a moment of suicidal ideation someone will reach out; however, many do not. I rarely (if ever) ask for help for any reason. I would be one of those individuals who did not reach out. It’s not my personality or nature. I would probably leave a note, but I would not reach out.

We can be understanding and exude empathy rather than judgment. We can refuse to stigmatize suicide. We can acknowledge it as an unfortunate reality made possible by the human condition. We can admit our own struggles and not hide behind pride, secrecy, or self-imposed shame.

We can learn about suicide. We can educate ourselves about the indicators and how to intervene. We can be willing to ask people—bluntly—if they are having thoughts about suicide. We can offer support, help, and a human connection, since those at greatest risk are those who will not seek out others.

We can remember how even someone that has achieved sobriety or greater mental/emotional stability can be at risk and remain mindful of that fact. Unobtrusive and supportive, but mindful.

There are also some things we can all do if someone does commit suicide. 

We can respect their freedom to have done so. We can grieve, we can be regretful, we can be mad as all hell. But, we can also recognize that—just like us—they are human. They deserve dignity and respect. They weren’t a problem in need of solving or an issue in need of fixing.

We can realize we couldn’t have saved them or talked them out of taking their own life. We can refrain from blaming ourselves or feeling guilty. We can accept their personal choice, even if we don’t like it, agree with it, or understand it.

We can be unashamed for them. We can talk about it. We don’t have to hide it or shroud it in secrecy.

We can remember them. We can love them. We can cry. We can laugh. We can go on living.

We can pray that one day—hopefully far in the future—the world will miss us as much as we miss them now.

Like Robin Williams, we can be human.