A History of Violence

I watched a movie yesterday named “Boyhood”. I don’t know what post-traumatic stress disorder is like, I imagine what i felt is probably only 10% what PTSD must be like. Sometimes when you feel things too strongly, you feel even more isolated when you think “Well, i bet others have it much worse” because you don’t know how much worse it can be. When you’re hurting, you live in a black hole of pain and you can’t see past the event horizon.

Anyway – there was a scene in the movie, where the children were hiding from a drunk violent father. Wait, no, it started before then. There was a scene in the movie, where the mother was on the floor, it was unclear if she had been hit. I thought “Please, I don’t want the movie to go in that direction.” But it was going in that direction, in the same way as i could detect when a family fight was about to spark off. Then there was the scene with the children hiding in their bedroom, and i begun to cry. Afterwards, i was discussing the feeling, and it’s not like normal “oh, sad movie scene” tears, which are ultimately cathartic and just pass you by after the credits roll. My stomach hurt, i felt sick, i felt like i was having a panic attack, i almost had to leave the theatre. But i felt silly for feeling this way, so i stayed. But as soon as i left the theatre, it all came out. Even now, thinking about it, it comes back.

This morning i read about Ray Rice and his wife who he punched in the face, the past few weeks i’ve read about harassment online, women who are threatened out of their homes, i’ve watched a lot of rapes on Game of Thrones. A lot of stuff has been on my mind. But mostly, i’ve thought about how alone seeing violence makes me feel. People only seem to care about victims after there’s proof, a video, etc. No one believes a bruised face is proof, no one wants to see proof, and people who are hurt, they don’t want to share it often. Being a victim feels like a cage. Why don’t abused women leave? I don’t know, but when you don’t leave physically, some other part goes.

I often feel very broken inside. I thought i’d write a short history of violence, i think it might make me feel better to just see it out there.

- Age 3 or 4 . My father throws a vase across the room at my brother. It breaks in a million pieces. It was my stepmother’s mom’s vase. It was a gift. My father didn’t care. I was hiding under the bed. My brother cursed in school.

- Same age, maybe older. My mother (my stepmother, but i don’t refer to her as that) comes out of her bedroom with cigarette ashes all over her face. My father threw an ashtray in her face. Later on, i learn, my mother told my father she would leave him if he did that again.

- 6 years old? I see my mother (biological) at an mental asylum. There are shambling people on the grass. My mom is pretty calm. We play checkers. I feel disturbed by the environment, when i leave, she stays where she was sitting. Later on, me and my brother agree we probably shouldn’t have seen her like that. Later on still, my sister reveals to me how she was abused by the orderlies there. I feel angry, but she’s never told me about it. Many of her schitzophrenic delusions are of men coming after her. Its her reality.

- A family joke, but disturbing to others, my brother hits me in the eyeball with a toy crossbow gun. My father breaks the toy crossbow on my brother’s head.

- Younger than 10, i throw up on myself and my bed. I have to sleep on a bare mattress.

- Younger than 10, i didn’t eat my food. For some reason, i didn’t change fast enough before being hit, so i had to sleep naked. It was cold. My parents think i made that one up. I don’t think i did.

- As i get older, the violence goes away, but the intense fights don’t.

- Around 11, i’m still playing with stuffed animals and my sisters, and my sister’s dollhouse. My father begins asking at dinner if i’m a faggot. Whenever there were fights in my house, i’d protect my mom, he asks me why i protect her more than him? When he calls me a faggot, my sister defends me for an hour. “It doesn’t matter if he wants to play with stuffed animals, he’s 11″ I quietly did the dishes.

- I was in school fights every year of my life. I didn’t win really any. In 9th grade, i started a fight trying to be a bully, i got my teeth punched in. I decided to not get into fights after that. I still was a bully though, just with smaller kids.

- In college, i stay with my girlfriend in texas. When they fight, they speak in the same tone of voice and don’t insult each other. I felt so jealous.

- Towards the end of college, i discover my mother is addicted to drugs. I feel abandoned by her. For about a year or 2, we don’t really speak. She goes to rehab. When she returns, my parents get into a fight and my father hits her, the first time in years. My mom tries to stay with family, but no one wants her to stay with them. She ultimately stays a hotel for the night. She calls me, asking me for advice. I begin crying, i don’t know what to do, i don’t WANT to give advice to my mom. I want my mom to be my mother. I tell her i can’t be her therapist, i’m just her son. I hate drugs, i hate violence. My sisters want her to leave my father, my brothers kinda shrug at it.

- 23 years old, I go to a party at my upstairs neighbor. I wanted to have sex with one of them, didnt care which. I found them both to be attractive. When i arrive, i discover they invited many guys from around the block. They were all members of the Bloods gang. I felt awkward, i knew that a house full of young men (11-35 years old) with alcohol and 3 women was not a very safe environment. When one of the women left with a guy to have sex, me and the remaining person realize she hasn’t returned after we see the guy. I find her in the bathroom being sexually assaulted by multiple men. It was probably the scariest night of my life. It didn’t end for a few more hours.

I never have felt the same after that. I never felt right about everything i already had experienced. It kind of made everything i already didnt like in my life, feel darker. The next day, i called out of work. My boss didn’t understand why i was so upset. When i finally came into work, 2 days later, my boss’s sister, who was 64 years old, just held me for awhile and i cried and i cried. I always cry when i think about it. I hate that night. I tried to be friends with my neighbors after that, but i always felt like i was lying or faking or being phoney or just acting wrong.

- A year later, i began dating someone who was a victim of childhood abuse. Every time we had sex, that was a part of our lives. It broke us up.

- For years, since i have been sexually active, i’ve had trouble with sex. As i get closer to women, i become less able to perform, i think its cause i end up treating them more like moms than like girlfriends. While casual sex, one night stands, and fuck buddies have just become how i have relationships. When i have a girlfriend, i have to disclose to them eventually my years where i went to adult video stores, the STDs i’ve gotten, the serial cheating. Although i went to therapy for 4 years in order to get some control, i still have destructive behaviors that i have to always pay attention to.

- Currently, i’m 28. I am dating someone. Sex is mostly okay. But when i began crying next to her in the movie theatre, while watching Boyhood, i didn’t want her to see. Afterwards, she gave me her scarf to cry on, and i just felt she didnt understand. She made a few jokes, and i began laughing and feeling better. I thought “I don’t have to tell her all about it,”

I think its probably better that she doesn’t fully understand. I think its better that she just hands me her scarf to cry on.

Why We Won’t Win Against Trolls

I’ve been thinking about this lately, wondering what possible solutions can we find to finally eliminate trolling culture. It’s getting to the point where unless there’s a culture-wide shift and recognition that there’s a behavioral virus sweeping through our society, someone will likely be killed.

One of the most fascinating ideas i’ve found in science fiction, is the “Stand Alone Complex” of Ghost in the Shell. To sum it up, its the behaviors of random persons acting in seemingly coordinated ways towards some ends. No one actually is in charge or determining what these persons do, and they all believe they are acting individually. But i see it when multiple mass-murderers latch on to the image of Heath Ledger’s Joker, when anonymous wears V for Vendetta masks, when gamers harass, stalk and threaten individual women out of their home, for fear of their own lives. The internet is real, the consequences of these actions are real, and memes that replicate online also take root in our minds, altering our behavior. Why is this behavior becoming increasingly aggressive and polarized? Because right now exists a fully new environment, that organisms must adapt  to according to Darwinian natural selection.

Internet culture, especially in the darker and deeper corners of the internet, allows for a breeding pool to create new personalities that have not existed before, which in essence, outbreed calmer & saner minds. Ignoring trolls is not a solution, because for every person that ignores a troll, there are that many more people who decide to leave the conversation entirely. The troll remains, the tone of the entire community begins to change, and an entire ecosystem now has an invasive species that cant be eliminated until the vocal minority becomes the majority. For quite some time, it was physical distance and population size that kept these species from overrunning this digital planet. With the transformation of the internet from a niche interest to a fully global platform, we are finally reaching a tipping point.

What happens when a human being making videos online can no longer feel safe offline? What happens when all of us, have to worry about open-carry psychopaths converging in Chipotle? None of these things were possible or even imagined, 10 years ago? We are in a singularity, where human evolution changes so fast, no one can see what is coming next. 

Currently, there is no single practical solution to combating trolls. Deleting, muting, blocking can not stop the hordes of anonymous decency-eating zombies. In fact, the solutions we have now simply embolden trolls to find new ways to transgress social mores. When we ignore the trolls, we simply reinforce the artificial selection where a more shocking troll will make sure he can’t be ignored. When we block, we lead them to create ‘campaigns’. Like any invasive species, it is not the individual organism, but the health of the entire genome that matters. And this organism has one thing that the rest of us do not, and no one is speaking about: The constant protection of anonymity.

We need the elimination of an anonymous internet.

Being able to be identity-less not only creates a damaging psychology in the troll, but also a power that must be abused. The consequences of one’s actions become separate from the ‘real’ persona, and the desire to wreak more and more damage becomes addicting. That is why the number one attack of trolls online, is to reveal as much information of a person’s identity as possible. What used to be public knowledge, our names-numbers-addresses, found in the phonebook, has been transformed into a poison against us. While we flirt with privacy, letting our eyes get familiar with the darkness of anonymity, there are those, like the familiar Dark Knight Rises villain, who were born in darkness. 

Until we finally realize that the internet is a real place, a real environment, and we are the same persons online and offline, and consequences are no less severe because the actions occurred online, and that this isn’t a loss of privacy, but a necessary protection, the trolls will continue to outbreed us. There is no stopping a hydra, you must cauterize each wound after decapitation. Twitter, Facebook, all sites that allow commenting, need to be able to connect each online persona to a person, so that each person can be held responsible for their actions.

A few years ago, Google tried to do something like this, but it was a complete failure because it never considered that those who desire to remain anonymous are always hiding from something: They are either the threatened or the predators. Without considering this question, and forcing everyone to be in the bright lights it only benefited the predators. We need to eliminate anonymity, but it needs to be done in a careful, considered and just way. So we can truly protect our images from being shared on revenge-sex sites, so we can know where the predators are waiting or hiding, so our private conversations can be truly be private with all the legal protections, so we can hold ourselves and other responsible for all of our actions. I want consent for my whole life. From corporations, from governments, from individuals – we have a metastasizing tumor called the internet, made up of undeclared, undecided, unclear borders between oneself and others.

I want to be 100% me in all aspects of my life. I walk into a store, thats my face, thats my body, I can’t be harmed. If a cop walks into a store, thats their face and their body, they must be identified, they should not be allowed to harm me. If a troll goes online, they can be anyone, anytime, they dont have to be identified, they can harm me as long as they want, there are no consequences. 

End Anonymity.

YOU ARE JUST VISITING, I LIVE HERE

This is my response to that terrible Bleeding Cool article. Not gonna link it.

I’m mad about ‪#‎Ferguson‬, and i’m being asked what am i doing about it, and i’m just harshing on someone else’s fun, and criticizing some one trying to do something good. But what all Yale Stewart’s fans and himself are missing, is i’m not mad at some stupid fan art, i’m mad because this is how it always is.

Some shit happens, and to have some white guy decide to make a feel-good chibi image, for his own self promotion, and have all his fans pat themselves on the back for ‘caring’, is just a bunch of motherfuckers playing tourism in a racism theme park.

I don’t want your fucking chibi, i don’t want to be nice, i don’t want some cute Hal Jordan saying he supports Ferguson, and by extension, all victims of police brutality. I don’t want this to settle down and he goes on to the next tragedy, to “support”. Don’t hallmark card this shit.

Because long after this is done, long after no one remembers this pointless twitter scuffle, the opportunistic bleeding cool, the parasitic Rich Johnston, the tone-deaf Yale Stewart – I’ll still be loud, proud, brown and angry.

I’ll still remember my father being arrested when i was a kid, i’ll still know my father was a victim of a police state imprisoned without trial for 10 years in cuba, my mother was a victim of a predatory mental health system, i’ll still have it in my blood that all this shit that happens to poor people, mostly brown people.

And then you draw a cartoon that says you support me? Where were your cartoons last week? Where was your voice last month? Last year. Because i’ve been talking this shit for as long as anyone knows me, and i will keep talking about it. I don’t get to play tourist, i don’t get to play at self promo, for me, any time i talk about racism, i gotta worry that this is the time people get tired of seeing it.

Long after your visit, i’ll still be living in the America that you can’t even see.

This is why i hate what Yale Stewart did, don’t let any other story twist it.

From twitter, the conversation continues, since a lot of his fanboys are writing me there _

I will never hallmark card my existence. I will always be angry, & it might be irrational, it might be wrong, but thats what America made me

I don’t draw cute shit for how i feel about #ferguson because its disgusting, revolting, unbearable, and there’s nothing i can do to express

that long after the debate is over with the white person online, after i’m kicked out of bars, made a party weird, i go home and im still mad

Because nothing has changed, nothing changes, and you motherfuckers are telling me Yale Stewart, he’s the one making the change w/ Chibi JLA

I didn’t wake up on the wrong side of the bed, i woke up on the wrong side of the tracks. You can keep your hallmark cards and self promo.

But go ahead, let Yale Stewart tell you how he helped Ferguson. Congrats, I wish some of that money would’ve bailed me out of being poor.

rant done. Enjoy your Sunday, this won’t matter in a week. None of these tweets do.

Superheroes and Family

I’ve been trying to put my finger on why I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy so much. I don’t think it’s the best movie of all time, but that just makes me think of the limitations of best-of lists. I remember over the past week, having a discussion about the best wrestler of all time with my cowriter Erick Freitas & Jarrett Williams (creator of SuperPro KO), and we all had wildly different ideas of who the BEST was. Sometimes, you love something so much, you don’t need reasons. In fact, reasons never do the object of affection justice. Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a perfect film, but it’s an instant classic. And it does what every superhero movie has been struggling to do since the genre began roaring at full steam in the early 2000’s: Simply have a happy ending.

Despite the genre having to be by necessity, about heroism, i’d argue that every blockbuster superhero movie has been a movie about heroism in spite of itself. Spiderman should be about responsibility, but is overwhelmed by loss. X-men should be about Justice, but its really about survival. Avengers should be about teamwork, but settles for sacrifice. All these movies, that we want to enjoy like how we did on Saturday Mornings as kids, fails to truly satisfy. You want to be a kid again, you want future kids to be inspired, and you want it to stay with them as they grow into adults.

Guardians of the Galaxy takes a completely new approach. It abandons the Hero-At-All-Costs for the Rogue, and it finds happiness in the most universal superhero theme – family. Every Superhero story is about family, but somehow that simple concept has escaped modern Superhero movies. Batman loses his parents, but there’s barely any family relationships in the Nolanverse, this universe’s Batman retires in anonymity and leaves all family behind. In Man of Steel, Superman inexplicably allows his Father to die, and only a few scenes earlier is told by his father that letting people die, might be okay. Captain America – The Winter Soldier, is a beautiful tragedy of two brothers losing their bond. Regardless of the quality of the movies, we are unable to leave a superhero movie and believe “Things worked out for the best!” There are no cowboys riding off in the sunset, no knights being saved by the princess, no astronauts experiencing the wonders of our galaxy. But it is a disservice to the genre, to abandon optimism, because there’s only one reason a kid puts a towel on his back as a cape. They believe they can save the day, not that they’ll keep the worst from happening or stave off genocide for one more day. They believe they can fly.

That is what is so damn good about Guardians of the Galaxy, thats why you watch it and it feels familiar and new all at the same time. There’s a scene where Rocket Raccoon can’t take being called Vermin anymore. Being called “a pet”, “a rodent”, and it’s maybe the most convincing CGI emotion i’ve ever seen. “I didn’t ask to be torn apart and tortured and put back together again a million times!” he yells and almost cries, and you can see his frustration at even letting himself get this upset, and you feel it. You know you feel it, because its no secret that hundreds of us were the kid called vermin, or rodent, or so many different names. So many of us got beat up and shoved and got hurt. For some of us, the torture was worst than we can really ever express, but we can’t do anything about it, we just are how we are now. This past year, i remember feeling so constantly frustrated, revealing how constantly angry i am. There’s a lot of dialogue about depression, but i often feel pretty alone when it comes to anger. There’s a reason i read Superhero comics, because it is a power fantasy, but its not power to defeat others, its power to simply protect yourself. Rocket Raccoon’s protector is the infinitely patient, majestic and immensely powerful Groot. Groot doesn’t judge him, Groot only wants to help him. We all want a Groot in our lives. This is why his final words are so important.Each character in the Guardians of the Galaxy, is dealing with some aspect of dealing with family. Losing a mother, being abused by a Father, being betrayed by a Sister, not knowing where you stand in these relationships, and finding security in new relationships. Worst than just having a broken family, is feeling broken yourself, knowing that the mechanisms you’ve created to survive are not enough to make a life on. Each new person you meet, is another affirmation that you can’t be loved, that you can’t do relationships, and it just plain sucks. When Drax reveals that all his rage and anger are simply covering up his sadness, it quickly cuts through all the moments you laughed at him as he raged impotently. Guardians of the Galaxy simultaneously allows you to see their foibles, lets us laugh at them, and lets you forgive them for their faults.

(spoiler alert) The final scene of the movie, we are at a familiar trope. It is always darkest before dawn, and almost every action movie needs the moment where you must honestly believe that this might be it. If you’re an art house film, it’s usually where you end the film, roll the credits, and collect your laurel leaf crowns for Best Picture at Film Festival. But for the more sophisticated tastes of children, thats where you prove your mettle, and show the audience what type of movie you are making. Man of Steel, had no darkest before dawn moment, it simply never ever relented with depressive imagery. The Avengers has it right before the Hulk arrives, when those giant technowhales arrive. The most recent Spiderman puts Gwen on a string, and she falls and brings his world down (and your mood) with her. In GOTG, our band of adventurers and scallywags, sits together, as if on moist dirt after a long summer’s day and you find out your best friend is moving away. They all might die in a fiery crash, but Groot decides to make a shelter of himself, knowing he will die. He’s only said the words “I AM GROOT” in different tones throughout the film, but when he says “WE are GROOT,” he says everything this movie is.You are not just your pain, you aren’t alone. Even though you feel like no one understands you (I am Groot?), all you want from your family and your friends, is to feel like their love is your shelter, and your shelter is your love. We want to believe bullies will turn into friends, because we let them borrow our walkman. We believe that Drax is trying his best to say he’s your friend, but he’s better at just showing it punching someone for you.

A lot of people have compared this movie to Star Wars. It’s interesting, because if you think that Peter Quill is this generation’s Han Solo, it’s because he’s a softer interpretation. By now, the Han Solo anti-hero IS the Hero, so Peter Quill ends up being truly rebellious by being sweeter. He looks like the once chubby dude, the kid on the bleachers who just let you have his snickers bar for NO REASON, the kid that even the teachers laugh when he’s getting in trouble. In Star Wars, Han Solo shot first, but in Guardians of the Galaxy, he leaves a little troll figurine in your pocket and you smile, and think “Oh, Starlord.”I think it’s much closer in style and approach to the Princess Bride movie, but both Star Wars and Princess Bride are movies that remind you how much you actually like a happy ending. Heroes gotta go up against some big bads, and as you get older and older, you realize that the evil of a man in a weird suit isn’t much compared to the evils of shrapnel wounds inflicted on children, or ideological fear mongering, racism, sexism, all kinds of crap. But if you really want to fall in love with a superhero, you got to let them win. Eventually, after some struggle, there’s gotta be a clear and amazing victory. You gotta pick up the big bad, symbol of all evil, and solve the problem by throwing him into a hole. That’s what puts the super in superhero. Actual heroism is the sad kind that happens on 9/11. But when we want to believe in something bigger than just the grey and greyer world we have, we need the lush colors of costumes and lasers. We need the saturated color of fiction, so that our often grey world doesn’t descend into a black hole of depression. More importantly, when you’re a kid and your whole world IS your family, sometimes you need to believe you can fly, with your friends the Raccoon, the Tree, The Brute and the Ninja.

Best Friends Forever

Also, consider donating the price of a ticket to helping with Rocket Raccoon’s creator, Bill Manto’s healthcare costs. More info here: http://comicsbeat.com/on-bill-mantlo-rocket-raccoon-and-guardians-of-the-galaxy/ http://gregpak.com/love-rocket-raccoon-please-consider-donating-to-writer-bill-mantlos-ongoing-care/