Another F***ing Massacre.

On Saturday night/early Sunday morning, June 12th, 2016 at the LGBT club Pulse in Orlando, Florida:

  • 49 people were shot dead, 50 including the shooter
  • 53 non-fatal injuries incurred
  • It was an apparent hate crime
  • The perpetrator, Omar Mateen, had been previously investigated for ties to ISIS
  • He was allowed to legally purchase firearms after the fact
  • He was also physically abusive toward his wife
  • A co-worker described him as “psychologically unhinged”, though he did past psychological tests
  • Previously scouted Walt Disney World as a target

If gun violence wasn’t a daily occurrence in my country, and my brother-in-law wasn’t so passionate about his rights as a gun owner and well-read when it comes to politics–far more so than me–I wouldn’t be so on the fence about gun rights. I would be stark raving mad and as irrational as everyone else. Don’t get me wrong. I am genuinely supportive of gun rights (and every other right granted us as citizens) in the US. However, there are moments when I hear the phrase “gun rights” after tragedies like this and I truly, honestly, just need to throw up my arms and scream:

jerry

Because for every argument in favor of guns, another person dies in this country due to gun violence. Anyone without a criminal record can walk into a store and legally purchase a gun and the associated ammo, provided he/she passes the background check, and walk out of the store. They could easily run across the street and shoot up a mall right then and there if they wanted, just like that. You would never see it coming. But all because they have no prior criminal record or were let go by the oh-so-responsible FBI (if you don’t believe me, look at the startling number of people with supposed terrorist ties that they vetted, who then went on to bomb cities), they are permitted, in this country, to purchase a gun and run off and start causing chaos like a real-life Grand Theft Auto scene.

I jest a bit here, but it could happen. People can get them all willy-nilly.

There are reasons this cannot be done in countries like Canada, or most other First World nations on the planet (others may issue guns or allow you to purchase them, but not keep the ammo on hand). They look at us like we’re insane, and perhaps rightfully so. Because most other First World nations are 1) far older than the US, and with a much longer history concerning firearms rights and usage, and 2) it has made them responsible about gun ownership enough to realize that how we do things in the US opens a huge can of worms. The stark difference was that all it took for them, by contrast, was one or two massacres. Boom, tighter gun laws, no question.

So what, exactly, is our problem in the US?

Now before anyone starts screaming about gun ownership being a right under the US Constitution, I wasn’t making light of this to be sarcastic. I’m just pointing out the facts. Literally ANYONE could, within the realm of probability, do something drastic or insane like that in the US. I could. You could. Your nextdoor neighbor could. Somebody’s nextdoor neighbor already has. Ask the Harris and Klebold family’s neighbors. It’s a fact. We just don’t know. And yet we trust each other with this responsibility after all these countless tragedies? We live in an era where few people even have the balls to let their kids out of their sight for one fleeting second to go play outside because we’re told that child predators are running rampant everywhere. But somehow, we feel safer as long as we’re “the good guys with guns”? We are incredibly mistrustful of each other. Incredibly so.

And guess what?

That’s the whole point.

Firearms and the massacres carried out with them are just one of many things in this country that have MADE us mistrustful of each other. And that lack of trust leads to more gun sales, because more people are paranoid. Hell, it drives the whole industry. We live in a culture of fear, and that fear is destroying us as a nation. An entire generation of people have been raised on television and look at the world, and all they see is horror, because the media perpetuates that mindset and hammers home the nail of fear. Fear has driven a lot of horrid actions taken by this country, usually for the worst. And in turn, we as individuals become more volatile.

But if we cannot trust our own neighbors and fellow citizens, what in the name of all that is good and holy makes us think that we can trust each other when at least one or all of us has a stockpile of deadly weapons on hand? Can you even trust yourself?

Think on this for a moment: There is literally NO federal law limiting how many firearms a person in America can own, and while some states require multiple sales in a short time span to be reported to law enforcement, law enforcement by extension is not required to investigate said purchases.

Why should we have the right to own as many firearms as we can amass with the fewest possible checks, and in the shortest time span? And when we have clearly demonstrated, as a society, that we do not respect guns in America, and the damage they are capable of doing?

Going back to trust, do you get what such a level of fear and anger does? It throws responsibility out the window. So you’ll buy weapons and fumble to use them. That goes doubly so in situations when you’re faced with a knee-jerk reaction. Parents have shot their own children dead because they thought they were intruders, or they happened to leave the safety off their gun while in the car. In addition to this, the average first-time gun owner in America is not required to undergo training courses on firearm basics such as proper storage or how to aim, much less how to fire the thing. Are these really people who should be able to purchase such a deadly device? Would you want them trying to diffuse an active shooter? They would be far more likely to shoot themselves, or another innocent bystander.

That’s why a lot of European countries require military duty for all male youth, by the way; so they can defend themselves and their country if needed, and know how to handle and respect firearms properly. And even then, they still cannot obtain such weapons as easily as we can in the US.

Now sure, some argue you could own a multitude of knives or swords. And yeah, maybe in barring guns, they too would cause a problem. But they certainly wouldn’t kill as many people per second, even if used by a trained assassin, because guns are easier death machines and cause more fatal injuries by far.

I get it that owning firearms is your Second Amendment right under the US Constitution. I really do. And I support your rights. But I also really have to question just what makes you so afraid that you feel the need to own such a deadly weapon for protection in the first place. Is it because anyone else could potentially be holding a gun, or something else? There is an old quote, often misattributed to Einstein, which I think applies in this case.

“Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” – Unknown

Many people have said this in recent days too, and I think it bears repeating as well. Violence in response to violence is not the answer. And yet this is the excuse people use when it comes to the vast majority of arguments in favor of guns as a means of protecting themselves and their families from harm. But that makes little sense when it applies to an active shooter situation, as most massacres are over within two minutes. Heck, even any sort of attack, it’s not supposed to be your first choice! All experts and law enforcement concur that your NUMBER ONE priority in that scenario is to RUN. NUMBER TWO is to hide. If those previous points fail, then you can whip out your gun and start doing your thing.

But to the end of protection, I must ask…what about the protection of other innocent civilians who are gunned down every day because of firearms in this country? How might they have prevented it? Whether by a planned massacre or a careless accident, it seems to me that all of those deaths have been in vain. And I’m not mincing words here. They have all died in vain. Every single one.

Because if they’d died for a reason, we would be doing something by now about the collective careless mindset of ignorance that we’ve all adopted regarding guns in this country. It is not a right that the vast majority of us respect, because it’s been proven that fear hinders rational thought, and thus I personally believe that an overwhelming number of people in this country have purchased and own guns for the wrong reasons. Whether or not it’s your RIGHT is not the main issue for me. I question your motives for doing so.

They might think otherwise. And you can tell me that’s just my opinion if you want, that’s fine. I know it is. But it doesn’t change the truth that we have a major problem with our attitude surrounding guns, and the ignorance has gone on well past the boiling point. Even more than that, it’s become the gun’s foremost selling point. Not hunting, but killing or injuring. Supposed “protection” from people who are crazier than you are.

You know what other bogus things we do for “protection”? The PATRIOT Act. Infant circumcision. Building up our arsenal of nukes whilst demanding that other countries dismantle theirs.

Of course my opinion doesn’t matter, because it’s still your right to purchase and own a gun. And to that end, I would pose one final question to responsible gun owners everywhere, since I’ve yet to hear any actual solutions from them with solid points…

What would YOU do to prevent any further massacres?

And please don’t back down. I genuinely want to know. Because all I ever hear from people arguing gun ownership in this country anymore is “there are no easy solutions” or “we don’t fully know what causes these things, there are a multitude of factors”.

Stop making excuses. Gee, I don’t know, why is it that every other First World nation has tighter gun laws than us? Why do they look at us and shake their heads whenever a new massacre happens? Gosh, I dunno, could it be because there IS a way to prevent this nonsense?

Because I argue that if you’re such a responsible gun owner, it is YOUR MORAL OBLIGATION to prevent such careless tragedies from happening, because the stance you choose to take on this issue does not only affect you, but countless other Americans. Find a way. Please. Before any more people die because you chose to stand idly by and do nothing. Saying “it’s complicated” is an unacceptable cop-out when countless lives are lost to gun violence, all because such weapons are so easy to obtain. After all, if this is truly about protection, how can you logically, or in good conscience, fight for your own rights whilst letting others die in vain?

I can hear dissenting voices now. “How dare you equate me with the perpetrator, I didn’t personally do this!”.

No, you didn’t. But maybe, just maybe, your attitude about guns speaks more about why there’s such a problem in this country regarding firearms.

After all, when a Constitutional right to own something becomes more important than a single human life that has been lost, and you begin to see all these deaths as a statistic instead of actual people whose lives were equally worth fighting for along with your own, maybe it’s time you put down the doomsday device for once and ask yourself why. 

 

Embracing Your Weirdness

So lately I’ve just been thinking how everyone, especially young people, are so petrified of what the world thinks of them nowadays. To that, I say this. With everyone placed on the same eternally spinning sphere surrounded by big burning glittery things in pitch black antigravity, several things are certain:

  1. We will all meet each other at one point or another
  2. We all think we’re weird, so you might as well embrace it. You never know who might like it. We’re all awkward, insecure, and feel inadequate. It’s why we do things, good or bad. Be secure in the knowledge that everyone else is just as insecure as you. And if they say they’re not, there’s a 90% chance they’re lying.
  3. Not many will understand you at first. But that’s okay. They’re just used to paying more attention to themselves and their own world. You’re always you, and nobody can take that away.
  4. Usually if you’re not in harmony with yourself, you can’t be in harmony with others. Start with the understanding of that you’re actually not all that special. Everyone, to a certain degree, is just like you. They breathe the same air, feel many of the same feelings, have good or bad days, just like you. Maybe they come from a different society which colors their interpretation of the world, but in general, most of us fear the same things and aspire to rise above those fears, express ourselves, and create positive change in the world.
  5. Given enough time, we all eventually break free of these false, imaginary walls we build both within ourselves and between each other, and embrace our insecurities and secrets for what they are. Because eventually, you get to a point where nothing shocks you anymore. And when you do, you will realize we’re all human, all equally capable of good or bad. It’s how you live in harmony with yourself and others that matters most. 

Basically, you shouldn’t care what anyone thinks of you. There’s no reason to, because we all worry about that. All that matters is that you’re good enough for you, and that you treat yourself and other people well.

It’s funny, really. You grow up and you’re amazed at the evolution of the human race, until you realize we’re all still children inside.

Everyone is just winging it. Most of us are terrified of screwing everything up and maintaining some imaginary wall where all anyone ever sees is the best of us. America suffers from this disease perhaps more than any other nation. But it’s important to be honest with each other and ourselves, because much of the society we’ve built doesn’t want us to. Various companies thrive on our insecurities and fears because nothing sells greater, they provide us products that help maintain this wall. But who cares? The wall is not you. There is no wall.

To quote a favorite movie of mine, “there is no spoon”.

So I encourage you all, young or old, to be shameless. Be weird. Question things. Be honest and real and genuine. Learn to know when you’re not being honest with yourself or others about who you are.

No other path will give you peace.

My First Vlog!

Hey guys! So recently, I discovered an insanely awesome and down-to-earth author named Jenna Moreci, and she is friggin’ amazing! She gives frank and very helpful advice to other writers, and she has become both my go-to resource for writing tips as well as one of my favorite YouTubers.

And because I was so inspired by her and what she does and how she’s marketed herself–resulting in great success and a following of diehard fans–I decided to start a vlog myself to talk about my writing and various other topics of interest related to it.

So without further adieu, I give you my first vlog =) I know it may not be the greatest and I have to get more comfortable in front of a camera and I need to clean my room, all that jazz. But I’m super pumped and excited for it. Check it out! I’ll be putting out new videos every Monday!

You Don’t Know What It’s Like

I try to see the 21st century as a formative one when it comes to society. We can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs, as the saying goes. Despite that, I’m disgusted by the amount of bullies that online anonymity frequently produces, the sheer ignorance and lack of understanding of some people, and the fact we’re still fighting century-old battles that should have been resolved by now. Racism, women’s rights, LGBT+ rights, constantly shaming each other because we’re not good enough or whatever.

You don’t truly know someone else’s struggle. You don’t know what demons some people fight every second of every day. And it’s far too easy to resign yourself to ignorance than to learn respect and tact. I write about this constantly in every story I pen, because it’s not something people want to understand. From the darkest and most evil to the saddest of the sad. People commit mass genocide, invade countries, fight long and brutal wars and torture the crap out of each other and themselves for many years.

All to avoid sitting down, listening, and talking. The one human phenomenon that continues to boggle my mind.

Why. Why. Why is it ever so IMPOSSIBLE to sit and talk and try understanding each other? A question for the ages. I know we’ve come a long way, and we’ve longer still to go.

I do have hope.

But I just wanted to illustrate how much this avoidance of natural communication wears on humanity.

The Hatred of Change, and Writer’s Frustration.

mandala2

It is no secret to those who know me that I abhor healthy routines. If there is any length of time during which I manage to drag my stubborn ass onto the path of eating healthy, sleeping normal hours, using the gym membership I waste $20 a month for, paying bills on time, and being a normal, sociable person who actually takes time for interaction outside of work, it is inevitable that I will screw it up somehow.

And I can feel myself slipping, every time. The nights get progressively longer, until eventually I’m going to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes I’ll get fed up and reprogram myself by staying up for 48 hours until I’m exhausted enough, but lately I find myself incredibly stubborn. I do this even though I know I feel at least 70% better about life on a regular schedule.

I make a lot of excuses for why I don’t go out anymore. “I have to write,” I’ll tell myself. Or “I have to finish working on this song”. And then months go by, and life passes by and very little of it really gets done.

All of that seems to be changing lately. Not the stubborn habits, but my work ethic. I now have two web serials going, Burntown which is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi teen drama amalgamation (that I haven’t worked on in over a year but just decided hey, let’s see if anyone likes this weird thing), and Adventures in Viktorium, a dystopian sci-fi series which is much better written and is more planned out.

Guess which one is now getting the most attention since I just dumped all these posts into it last night? Of course. Burntown.

But I am not particularly proud of Burntown. The writing isn’t the best. It’s horribly planned out and needs editing. It straddles a few lines, ranging from major teen drama and social issues to post-apocalyptic, and then later on I blast the characters off into deep space. Strangest story ever.

And yet somehow, Adventures in Viktorium, which I am currently writing in the arena of 4,000 words a day for, is getting no traction at all. I wanted feedback on it most of all.

That’s one of the most incredibly discouraging things for me as a writer and music producer. It has been for a long time. How can I be this creative and yet have no audience? All I want is feedback. I feel like a tree falling in a forest that makes a sound, but no one’s around to hear it, so it’s as if that sound does not exist–even though I know it does, because I made it.

Maybe it’s that I’m still waiting for that “magic hand”, so to speak to drag me out of obscurity–which is also why I haven’t looked for a better day job–but I am slowly getting better at tearing away from that mindset and working on my own luck. I’ve recently been talking to a successful author named Travis Simmons, and while he isn’t world famous by any means, he makes an actual living off his writing (or otherwise things involved with writing). That’s pretty what I want to do, and he’s given me a few pointers. I don’t need to be famous (nor would I want to), I just want to make a living doing what I love.

But I wonder why it even bothers me that I get no attention–I think it may stem from my childhood. My dad didn’t really spend a whole lot of time with me since he’s a pastor, and even now that I’m 29, we don’t have the closest relationship. It’s been hard all my life to find people willing to listen to me, because I was usually the one listening to everyone else and helping them with their issues, to the point I never helped myself.

And now somehow, I must break free of that mindset. I must make a change. I just wish I felt some sort of validation, or knew how to go about validating myself as a human. A rite of passage, as it were. It feels pathetic to want attention. But I don’t think the general wanting of anything is bad in itself. It’s good to want, and it’s okay. But I don’t think it’s okay to want out of lack for something, or to fill a void. You should want because it’s good, because it is already yours, because you already feel blessed. You should want for others, and want because of the experience of having.

Life is transient after all, and short. To quote one of my favorite bands Circa Survive, accomplishments are transient.

Maybe that’s what I have to get back to. The one thing I always used to hate about the Lehigh Valley where I now live is that everything in it seems transient; the people, the businesses, the friends, everyone just passes through. We’ve become somewhat of a tourist destination in recent years, and this is no more evident than in our interpersonal relationships.

Still, maybe it’s time I embraced the transience, the impermanence of everything. What would happen if I did that? I wonder…

Buddhist monks painstakingly create these beautiful, intricate sand mandalas, then toss them into the river when they finish. It serves as a reminder of the transience of life.

I’ve wanted to cultivate my spiritual self forever, but like everyone else in this media/internet-saturated world, I “haven’t had the time”.

What if I stopped focusing on the how? What if I stopped looking for validation? I love what I write. I do it because I like to think that through the sharing of myself, I can help others. I can give them an escape.And through it, I escape also, as I learn to love myself.

Fate will find me. We are all walking universes made up of the literal collective past of the cosmos. I do not hold a universe inside me just to collapse. But even if I do, I am reborn. We are all transient creatures, helping each other along through the motions. My words should be a narrative of that. They will find the people who need them most.

Yes. I think that will be my philosophy from now on. Don’t look for the readers, because then all you’re looking for is validation. Your words will find them. Keep pressing on.

Embrace the transience.

House of Rats – Part 1

“House of Rats, Part 1” from my web serial ‘Adventures in Viktorium’ is now available. The story has officially begun!!

Adventures in Viktorium

Maxwell Ferrier took a deep breath and steadied himself by the third floor window of the abandoned villa, taking care that his face was still covered. He abhorred sneaking out of the city. Not that he feared getting himself into trouble; as an elder of the Barreau Orphanage boys, he was no stranger to that. But forming a temporary alliance with the most feared gang west of Cavarice seemed to be the only way to get their hands on Dispatcher technology. Such devices could fetch thousands on the black market. Since the orphanage received little funding from the government to keep its doors open year-round anymore, it was a necessary evil.

Outside, the sun shone hot across the deserted golden wasteland. Harsh gusts of wind kicked up dust and debris now and again. The villa itself provided little shelter from the elements as most of the doors were ripped off…

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