typed on a phone while taking out the trash for his mother at his mother’s house

i would change nothing about you.

or our story.

i would not stand over leonardo’s shoulder and criticize his use of shadows.

i cannot fathom rewriting imperfect perfection.

i love you as water fills the space between grains of sand
seeds sown in a ripe field
the space of the wind washing through fall pines

you are between the stitchings of the fabric of me.

i love you,

joel

time to act like men, fellas

i’ve read too many pieces the last few days about ray rice and 9/11 that painted with broad brushes. pieces that used accusatory language making assumptions about me, the reader.

i was telling a friend that i think what happens with these posts is that authors get caught wanting to make a Big Point about a Big Idea that matters, but the authors’ arguments are lost in part when the reader has to filter out where he or she fits in the argument being presented.

‘we became callous’ is a line i read about 9/11.

i have no idea who ‘we’ is, but i’m a pretty nice guy.

‘we tortured people.’

promise, i didn’t.

‘you’re desensitized to domestic violence.’

dying to know how you know that about me.

* * *

as a writer, the most important thing i learned (have i said this before?) is not to make assumptions about my readers. so, i’m going to make a Big Statement in discussion of a Big Idea, and i’m going to make it about me. i will likely present a call to action, but i will be using ‘i feel/i think’ statements. i won’t be saying absolutes, i won’t be pointing (sadly short for my height) fingers at ‘you,’ i promise.

* * *

greg hardy is a star defensive player for the carolina panthers. according to yahoo sports, hardy ‘was declared guilty by a north carolina judge of assaulting his former girlfriend, Nicole Holder, in an incident that allegedly involved hair-pulling, slamming a toilet seat on her arm, and putting his hands around her neck. While he awaits the next step in his legal process, a jury trial, Hardy played in the team’s season-opening game last weekend, and is scheduled to play this sunday.’

disgusting.

but, the thing is, as the ray rice story did, it gets awesomer,

at a fancy dinner last night, the day the after the ray rice story re-broke, panthers owner (who gets tax breaks because the nfl is a non-profit, remember?) jerry richardson said the following:

i stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple. to those who would suggest that we’ve been too slow to act, i ask that you consider not to be too quick to judge. over the course of our 20 years, we have worked extremely hard to build an organization of integrity.

well, i guess ya gotta keep building, jerry.

quite ironically, he was given an award ‘against indifference,’ whatever the hell that means, the same night.

* * *

in this article by joseph person and jonathan jones in the charlotte observer, a statistic jumped out at me that forced me to make the decision to stop watching nfl games and hope to encourage others do the same.

(NFL Commissioner) Goodell, though, has a track record of leniency on domestic violence cases. Of the 47 incidents of NFL players arrested or charged for violent crimes toward women since he became commissioner in 2006, none resulted in a suspension of more than one game, according to the Houston Chronicle.

so, here’s what i think.

1) i think anyone who watches another nfl game, plays fantasy football, buys merchandise, is just as guilty at this point of promoting domestic violence as are the men striking women and the men in suits paying them without penalty for it.

look me in the eyes, i mean it.

2) i think goodell needs to resign or be fired.

3) i think people who rolled their eyes at janay palmer/rice and asked why she’s staying with ray rice after the story broke who also watch nfl games at this point are answering their own question.

the nfl’s success in the face of even the most disgusting, vile treatment of women, along with concussion lawsuits, PED scandals, etc,

that’s the answer.

if i turn on the panther’s game sunday, i’m telling greg hardy, i don’t care if you hit, assault, threaten, beat, or do anything else to your girlfriend.

and i’m not willing to say that, anymore.

that’s all,

joel

my reaction to reaction to perceived over-reaction

a thematic overtone i’ve noticed echoing through social media – and sometimes the media – in regards to ferguson, ray rice, isis, and whatever other stupid things people have decided to do in view of the public eye has been a paraphrased squint-and-head-tilt-inducing

‘why are you only mad about this story now?’

or

‘where was the outrage when _______?’

or

‘yeah, but people only care about this because _________ but if it were ________, then _________.’

(yes, yes, i’ll provide some actual examples instead of just making up quotes that fit my argument, don’t worry)

i mean, there were even tut-tutters about the als ice bucket challenge.

what?

* * *

1) i’ve reached my breaking point with these kind of comments. about anything.

a) who the hell are you to tell me or anyone else when i/we can feel a certain way about something?
b) these statements don’t encourage discourse or conversation. they play as calculated ‘i’m smarter than the room’ drive-by statements. i picture a smirk and crossed arms after the speaker has clicked ‘send.’

2) when am i allowed to be upset to the point of making my own statement? everyone, at some point, goes from not thinking a thing to thinking a thing. all of us, always.

all of us have points where things we think grow to a point of needing to be expressed.

i was not born a lover of fried okra. i thought i didn’t like it for a long time. i tried it, i tried it again, and whaddaya know.

i liked it.

nobody slapped the okra out of my hand and said ‘no, sir, you didn’t like it for the first 21 years of your life, so you’re out.’

we are built to make choices, choices personal and our own.

every decision starts somewhere. every conversation starts somewhere. yes, often conversations start too late. ‘hey, maybe we should start saving for college for our children’ or ‘maybe it’s time we discuss how often victim-blaming surfaces in regards to crimes of those in power (white cops/black men, men/women) against those perceived to have less power’ are still things we should talk about, even if it would have been a good idea to start talking about it sooner, ya know?

* * *

ok, so let’s do ray rice since he’s the topic of the day.

short version of the story – in february (february. it’s september), a video of ray rice dragging his unconscious fiancé, janay palmer, from a casino elevator surfaced. eventually, he was suspended two (2!!!!!) games by the nfl. he held a press conference over the summer – apparently sponsored by the baltimore ravens, as their logo is featured prominently as the backdrop – in which he and his fiancé apologized for what happened.

right, hold on, it gets awesomer,

the nfl gets roasted (as they should) for only suspending rice for two games and creates a brand new domestic violence policy. 6 games for first offense, career ban for the next.

today, new footage from inside the elevator was released by tmz. the footage is graphic and disgusting.

the thing is, what happened in the elevator is something ‘we’ already know – rice even admitted to punching his fiancé.

later today, the ravens void rice’s contract, beating the nfl to the punch of indefinitely suspending him, which happened shortly after. the league released a statement saying they had not seen the video. bonus – rice is not facing charges. he was allowed to enter a pre-trial program by this judge and prosecutor who have managed to find the time to prosecute a single mother of two.

(anyone notice, yet, a theme of man-good woman-whatever? i have. it’s kinda gross)

1) either the league saw the video and is lying about it (if so, goodell should lose his job), or

2) there is no excuse for them not to have seen it. first question i would ask the casino is ‘can we have the elevator security camera footage?’

really – tmz can get it but one of the most powerful organizations on american soil can’t? i don’t believe for a minute that the nfl suddenly creates a new domestic policy without seeing that video. something spurred them beyond what they already assumed they had under control.

rice wasn’t cut until this became too big a pr disaster – we knew he punched her, but seeing it changed the emotional reaction. it made people angrier, and i think that’s part of the ‘problem’ – rice should have been gone the moment the first video surfaced. it shouldn’t have been made ‘ok’ enough for consumers to accept, which is what i think the nfl was doing.

disgusting either way.

easiest way this goes down?

ray rice doesn’t slug his fiancé. ray rice has enough self control and respect for janay palmer to keep his hands to himself.

see how easy that is?

it’s not palmer’s fault, it’s not my fault for being pissed about it, it’s not the fault of folks on twitter or other social media being upset – it’s ray rice’s fault. the end. it’s the nfl’s fault for putting up with it and hoping to protect their brand.

could you imagine a father being ok with his daughter being knocked cold, dragged limp and cold, as long as it didn’t make him look too bad? as long as he gave the son-in-law-to-be a semi-stern talking to?

* * *

ok, so back to my point of what i see as thin ‘oh, now you care’ comments that drive me crazy.

who is you’?

what does this mean?

making assumptions of the audience burns me up. making assumptions about people’s decisions gets me just as hot.

it’s so easy to make these kinds of comments, feet up.

former duke blue devil with the restatement of ‘well, it’s kind of ray’s fault, but man that war machine tmz is out to ruin the man who knocked out his fiancé!’

here, we see local (to raleigh, nc) writer/radio personality lauren brownlow (who is hilarious and insightful as hell) mildly harassed on twitter by a follower upset she wasn’t covering another story (that broke a long time ago and has already been covered). 

just strange, the reactions elicited by reactions. 

* * * 

here’s what i think,

people care because national news is national news. 

i think people in ferguson were angrier because of police behavior after brown was shot. it became a national story because there were riots over potential civil rights issues. 

people were upset that the police released facts about brown that had nothing to do with the shooting itself. 

that conversation has morphed – as conversations are allowed to do – into what is and isn’t appropriate in regards to police force and holding police accountable to protecting and serving (for example, there is no database that documents how many people are shot and killed by police. i feel like that’s a thing worth talking about).

angela washeck wrote a fascinating piece that discusses how important conversations are(n’t) discussed in social media. the idea is titled the spiral of silence, and holds that ‘those who might have an opinion on an issue decide not to share with their close communities — such as family and friends — due to fear of taking the opposing view and being isolated, leading to a monopoly on public opinion.’

* * * 

consumers of ideas – who should be all of us, in a perfect world – should be allowed to have their own breaking point. to take a stand, even if it’s in concert with a loud national voice. so what that a conversation started now?

it started.

so what that most people hadn’t heard of als before the bucket challenge? so what that Facebook feeds were swallowed up with videos? so what? so what that there are other causes to donate towards, too? so what? 

i’ve seen fallout about the ‘ban bossy’ campaign, as if it’s a bad thing to want young girls not be labeled ‘bossy’ for showing assertiveness in the classroom.

it doesn’t matter if the word is or isn’t the issue – what matters is that there is an issue about the perception of girls being leaders in the classroom and there is an issue that, for some reason, people feel threatened enough about it to write responses pieces to the idea.

what are y’all scared of? 

i’ve seen people i (once) respect(ed) commenting on Facebook about the nude celebrity photos leaked from the cloud in which they blamed the victims for taking those photos in the first place. 

absurd. logic so faulty it wouldn’t make it out the driveway. i guess i shouldn’t own a tv if i don’t want to risk having it stolen?

* * * 

i need a stopping point and can’t believe y’all read this far.

people are hungry for justice. 

those hungrier are those in the shallow end of that pool.

those apathetic or distant are the ones (in my opinion, obviously not ‘fact’) perched on floats with mimosas in the deep end, having built or been raised in a universe in which justice errs on ‘their’ side. 

i have no idea when it became a problem to think women should be treated equally to men all the time, but it’s clearly still a revolutionary idea. white officers armed with military weaponry facing off with black citizens while giving no explanation to their decision making should be a problem. 

we should be allowed to be pissed off when we’re ready to be pissed off, i think, is basically what i’m saying. 

we have our reasons, we have our voices to share those reasons, we’re allowed to change our minds and speak our hearts.

i think it’s lazy to stay one step out of the circle and throw empty lobs of condescension.

there. i said it in a mildly wordy fashion, 

joel

More than Simply Shaking it Off – a post that isn’t mine (which is why there are capital letters in the title)

dearest blog followers,

in the spirit of breaking the fourth wall, i wanted to share a blog i recently discovered.

and by ‘recently discovered’ i mean ‘i saw one of my former students tweet a link to her new blog.’

as an english teacher, one of my biggest ‘things’ was the mantra that ‘your voice matters.’ that everyone has a story to tell that’s worth telling – the hardest part is convincing ourselves that what we have to say matters.

the blog is prose, the first topic taylor swift (ok, maybe half the reason i’m supporting this is because i like taylor, too, maybe), and it has a message that i think matters – a message that requires courage to put into print, much less from a junior in college.

what’s so fun about writing about the human heart is that the topic doesn’t matter; it’s the message behind it.

no spoilers, because i’m hoping you’ll click the link and follow her blog.

(lauren, i hope you update this thing every once in a while and keep making me look good by proxy.

. . . no pressure or anything)

link below:

More than Simply Shaking it Off.

ps: if any other former students have blogs or writing and y’alls are like ‘dude, gimme some free press’ i’ll be all like ‘sure, lemme see what ya got.’

man who once cared now questioning

man who once cared now questioning 

alright so here’s the thing, he said pacing the room and gesturing to the walls
i was starting to worry i’d lost myself, he said
that something inside me was broken and changed

he paused his pacing
took a sharp breath in
through his nostrils
his eyes blue and looking at the fridge

i wasn’t sure if i was incomplete, he began, nodding to himself
his eye contact with the fridge replaced by introspection
or if i was just becoming used to a new normalcy

and it can be scary, you see, he said
hands open and palms up, his eyes shifting
from one hand to the other
weight on the balls of his feet mirroring

it can be scary, he continued
unsure if i am cracked or simply different
so i’m really glad to know
it wasn’t me, it was baseball season.