Posts Tagged ‘politics and leadership’

I’m taking a break from setting up Video Rage (more on that in a later post) to talk about a serious subject that needs to be talked about before serious damage is done to my state and to the transgender community here.

If you’ve been paying attention to developments in LGBT rights here in America, you’re probably aware that North Carolina has a transgender bathroom law that effectively bars transgender people from using the bathroom aligning with their gender identity, forcing them to instead use the bathroom corresponding to their biological sex. Mississippi has a much broader anti-LGBT law that includes this provision, and Kansas is considering a law that would force school districts to pay twenty-five hundred dollars to any kid who finds a transgender kid in their bathroom (how the schools are supposed to pay for that, I’m not sure. Kansas is flat broke).

Now Ohio’s got a bathroom bill. Or it will. A representative named John Becker from Clermont County is planning on introducing a bill that would “protect” families from “predators” who take advantage of businesses’ LGBT-friendly policies that allow customers to use the bathrooms corresponding to their gender identities. Becker says that the bill will have an exemption from LGBT individuals, which would make it different from the law in North Carolina. But with a bill like this, can you really just say there’ll be an exemption and expect people not to get worried?

And we should be worried about this bill, no matter what promises of exemptions or assurances that the transgender community isn’t the problem here. You know how I know this? Because people who would harass or harm men, women and children already exist! Not just in bathrooms, but in schools, homes, places of worship, government buildings, private businesses, public parks, and more than I can list in a single blog post! And you know what else? They don’t need to pretend to be transgender to do the attacking! They’ll just do it! I’m surprised we’re not getting more laws and outrage over that?

In fact, where is that anger? Where is that outrage, those proposed laws? Why aren’t we more upset about the rape that occurs everyday whether there’s a non-discrimination ordinance or not? Ke$ha was assaulted by her producer but is still stuck in a contract with a guy, even after several legal battles with him. A former Speaker of the House raped young boys in the shower (without putting on a dress, I might add), but nobody seems to care that he was only convicted for another crime. A well-known media critic has been constantly harassed online by people threatening to rape and kill her, but where’s the rush of politicians and clergy to pass laws to protect her? I find it very odd that the outrage only comes when there’s transgender people involved. Like allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms of their choice, rather than forcing them to use one aligning to their biological sex and possibly face physical assault, is somehow a recipe for increased assaults.

We should not be punishing the trans community for an imaginary fear!

Which it isn’t. Look at the research. A non-discrimination ordinance doesn’t increase sexual assaults. There are no recorded cases of NDOs leading to an assault in a bathroom. This is fact. This is just trying to punish transgender individuals. Sure, perhaps some of it is actual fear of sexual assault, but if this was the real focus, then we’d be seeing bills that more heavily punished sex offenders or took steps to do away with rape culture and the systemic causes of it. We’d be seeing all this outrage 24/7, no matter who is perpetrating the raping.

But these aren’t the only reasons this bill shouldn’t be passed. Oh, all that I’ve talked about are definitely the most important reasons, but they’re not the only reasons. No, there are other reasons, and these are the reasons that politicians who aren’t that sympathetic to the transgender community. The reason that they should get these folks against this bill is that if it passed, all of Ohio would be punished. Not just the transgender community in Ohio. All of Ohio.

Since North Carolina and Mississippi passed their bills, they’ve received such a backlash. Celebrities have canceled concerts or filming movies in those states due to these laws. Large companies like Paypal or the NBA have said they won’t do or expand business in North Carolina or Mississippi if these laws stay on the books. Entire towns and states have even passed resolutions not to have business with these states unless absolutely essential (my own Columbus passed such a resolution for North Carolina).

What would happen if that happened in Ohio? I don’t think we’d lose our swing state status come November (especially with the GOP convention in Cleveland in July), but we’d lose a whole lot in the process! Nationwide has its headquarters here in Columbus, and a lot of other major businesses have important branches in our metropolitan areas. We have several sports teams throughout the state at the college and professional levels. And prior to contrary belief, we get a lot of musical stars in Ohio during their tours. If this bill gets passed, those businesses may want to halt expanding in the state or relocate elsewhere, hurting our economy. Sports teams and celebrities may not want to play in our state, to the detriment of people who just want to see their favorite celebrities do their thing.* Entire states will say, “Sorry Ohio, we don’t agree with your human rights laws. Unless it’s absolutely essential, we’re discontinuing our business with the Buckeye State.”

This bill won’t deter sexual predators. It’ll just hurt Ohio, hurt its citizens, no matter if they’re trans or cisgender. So even if you don’t care for or dislike the the LGBT community, you should be worried for that very reason.

Now the good news is that there’s at least one petition out right now against this bill. At the time I’m posting, it’s got 7,022 signatures out of 7,500, and depending on how many people sign, it may go for even more signatures. This is great, and I hope more people, including you, my dear Followers of Fear, sign this petition. However, it’s not enough. It’s far from enough.

Not now. Not ever.

In order to stop this bill from becoming law and damaging Ohio, we need to make our voices heard. Writing blog posts, or writing or calling or tweeting Ohio representatives and Governor John Kasich, telling them that this bill is just plain wrong and that Ohioans will not stand for it. We have to make sure that when Representative Becker comes to the Legislature in Columbus, which happens to be one of the LGBT capitals of the Midwest,** that this bill is dead on arrival, and that no one is going to support such a hateful bill.

So do what I’m doing now. Make your voices heard, and don’t let anyone shut you up. Encourage others to speak their minds. Start petitions, talk to your elected officials. Make sure they know how the public feels about Becker’s bill. Because we can’t afford a bill like this, and we can’t afford hate in the Buckeye State. Not under any circumstances.

*We have a heavy metal festival in Columbus every year called Rock on the Range, that attracts bands and fans from all over the world. Imagine how bad next year’s festival will be if this bill is passed! Believe it or not, we heavy metal fans can be pretty liberal, and so can our bands.

**No seriously, Columbus is an LGBT power center! Our Gay Pride Parade and Festival attracts thousands of people every year. Not to mention that the rest of the year, we have a vibrant LGBT community active in our city. And a couple of really fun gay bars, more than a few within walking distance of each other. Believe me, I know.

Earlier today, Brussels was hit by a wave of terrorist attacks. An airport and a metro station were hit by explosions that killed thirty and injured one-hundred and thirty more. ISIS has claimed responsibility, making this the second attack in Europe the group has perpetrated in the past year. And once again, we are reeling from the horrors caused by these monsters, and coming together to stand firm against them.

In these troubled times, it is good that we come together. ISIS and those who think like them hope that there actions will cow the Western world, fill us with fear and make our governments and our societies collapse. Instead, the Western world comes together in support of our fallen and wounded, vowing to stand against and increase our efforts to destroy vicious cancers like these terrorist groups.

However, at times like these it is tempting, even in our solidarity against terrorism, to give into fear and turn on those whom we should stand with because of a misplaced association. Already in the wake of Brussels, increased calls to monitor Muslims have been sounded from all sectors, including from presidential candidates here in the United States. On social media, the hashtag #StopIslam has been trending, associating Islam with terrorism. And although this hashtag has been condemned by both social media companies and users, the outcry has seemingly only grown the trend. Once again, it seems a lot of people feel that Islam and Muslims are to blame for what happened in Brussels today.

I have met and made friends with plenty of Muslims in my time. I’ve studied the religion, out of curiosity and for my own education. And as many of you know, my first novel featured very prominently a main character who is Muslim. And I’ve maintained for years that the people who commit these horrible acts of barbarism, no matter what they may believe or claim, are not Muslims. Or if they are, they are very poor examples of Muslims, like Westboro Baptist is a poor example of a Christian church, or the man who murdered Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is a poor example of a Jew.

And yet it saddens me that so many people disagree, and that the world is slowly beginning to look like the fictional landscape of my novel Reborn City.

In these times, it is important to not turn on each other and look for scapegoats. The only people to blame are the actual members of ISIS, the terrorists who set off the explosions and the people who funded them and helped to coordinate their attacks. Not the people who worship in peace, who go to work every day and bring home money for their families and want only to live a good life, and condemn every act of terrorism that is done by these monsters. We must remember this as we move in the coming months to prevent further attacks and to beat back this menace. Only together can we truly stand together in solidarity and win this war.

So in the future to come, let us not give into fear or hate. Let us not blame people who have never done an aggressive act in their lives or just want to live in peace and harmony with their neighbors. Let us not listen to those in power who make it seem acceptable or even smart to give into this hate and fear. Instead, let us come together. because only together are we strong enough. Let us embrace love, unity and kindness, and say to those who dislike our way of life, “You shall not tear us down! We are working together, we are embracing our neighbors, and because of that you shall not win!”

Because only together, only through love and through reaching out and not giving into fear can we beat back this evil and make tomorrow safer. If we give into our fears, we’ll only divide, and victimize, and maybe feed the phenomena we are trying so hard to destroy.

And that cannot happen. We cannot let it happen.

So let us come together. Let us stand together. And let us come out of this so much stronger than we did coming in.

Around this time of year, it’s customary for many bloggers to do a post reflecting on the last year and their hopes for the coming year. I decided to wait a few days to do mine because I posted a lot of stuff during the first couple of days of the New Year, and I didn’t want you guys to get sick of me (especially since a lot of what I posted was advertisement). And I won’t be doing the sort of post with the odd comparisons to famous venues and the listing stats, because I dislike doing those sorts of posts. Instead, I think I’ll just do what writers and bloggers do best, and write.

So, how was 2015? Well, I was surprised by how many people found 2015 to be a really bad year for them. So many people on Facebook and in daily conversation went so far to call 2015 “shitty”. Even my sister, who accomplished so much this past year, including getting her driver’s license and car and becoming a certified professional baker (so proud of her on that). This is especially odd when you think about how these people don’t live in war zones or aren’t homeless or anything, but then again we can’t always be expected to compare ourselves to those who have it worse, can we?

Personally, I feel that 2015 was a bit of a roller coaster with all sorts of ups and downs. I had a pretty mellow final semester with only three classes and a thesis to do, but at the same time I had a job search that sometimes felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. During graduation and the two-three weeks surrounding it, I felt like the prom queen, with all the attention on me, showering praise and good wishes. Not too long afterward I got to go see some of my favorite metal bands in concert, and got the chance to intern in Germany. Of course, the trip to Germany got delayed, and one set of tickets I couldn’t fully refund, so that was money wasted.

Life’s a rollercoaster, is it not?

When I finally did get to Germany, it was a great experience. I learned a lot working with the US Army, explored as much of Germany as I could in the four months I was there, and made some memories and friendships that I hope will stay with me for a long time. On the other hand, I could get very tired, and if things didn’t go as planned, that stressed me out. I didn’t get to stay, and even when you’re making a good living and have a place to stay on base, which is much cheaper than getting your own apartment, living abroad is expensive. I came back to the States with about the same amount of money in my bank account as when I left.

And finally, when I got back home, I found a lot a lot of people wanting to know how I did in Germany and what it was like. I also got a lot of support as I started up the job search again, and I finished editing one novel and made significant progress on another. And I even got a narrator for that audio book for Reborn City I’ve been trying to get off the ground! On the other hand…still jobless for the moment, and until I have some income, I can’t get an editor to look at Video Rage for one final touch-up before publication.

All in all, I felt this year reflected life in general. There are things that don’t always go your way and you could live without, but there are plenty of good things to even it out, and in the end you wouldn’t give up the experiences you’ve had for the world. That’s certainly been my experience. While I would’ve loved to not have those delays with Germany and still have some more money in my bank account, and I had hoped to be employed by this point, I am very happy that I’ve had the experiences and learned the lessons that I did this year.

As for this coming year…well, I have my hopes. I want to get a job, obviously, and without getting into specifics, I’ve had some luck with that, thanks in part to the help I’ve gotten from numerous sources. I want to publish at least one book this year, though I’m aiming for two, plus some short stories here and there. And I would definitely like to move out into my own place (preferably a one-bedroom apartment that allows pets, like cute little kitty cats).

Oh, and I would definitely like to finish editing a few more stories, make some more progress on my new collection of short stories Teenage Wasteland, and get that audio book of Reborn City released.

Will any of this happen? I can’t say, because the future is not certain. However, a lot of stuff is very likely, including the stuff listed above. And I’m hoping that along with those, a lot of other stuff happens this year. While I had a pretty good 2015, I know that on a global scale things were, to say the least, messed up. Gun violence, terrorism, refugees not given the treatment they deserve, continued abuse of the environment. There was plenty of good–gay marriage is now legal all throughout the nation, thank God–but I feel we need to see a lot more of that sort of good to outweigh the bad. Already I’ve seen what I feel is good action from the President, but it’s going to take a lot more than that before I’m satisfied.

Cheers to a fresh start.

Well, I’ve rambled on enough for one evening. I’ll finish off with a reminder that all of my books are on sale through January 14th from Amazon, Createspace, and Smashwords, and that I hope we all accomplish the goals we set ourselves this year. And I guess that includes new year’s resolutions, though I know those rarely last long. Oh well, good luck with those too I guess.

Happy 2016, my Followers of Fear!

I’ve been meaning to write this post all week, but for a number of reasons–including my desire to wait and see how this played out–I’m only just getting around to it. But now that I am, let me start by saying this is a most unusual blog post, even for me. It has only a little to do with anything writing or horror-related, which usually means this would be a political post or about my life in general, but politics is only incidental to this story, and it doesn’t really feel like something affecting my life. It’s just amusing, like watching a cat chase a laser dot around the living room without realizing it’ll never catch that dot.

Okay, back to the beginning. If you’re at all familiar with contemporary American politics, you’ll know that we’re less than a year away from the Presidential election, and already election season is in full-swing. I’ve come out as a Hillary Clinton supporter already, and I follow her on Facebook. On one of her most recent status updates, I left a comment and that was the start of the craziness.

Now I know some people have some really intense opinions on the former Secretary of State. I get that, but I’m going to ask that you hold off on your opinions until this post is finished. Anyway, this was on Tuesday, in the wake of the Paris attacks, and already people in power were talking about limiting refugees based on religion or entirely. Secretary Clinton posted this on Facebook in response:

We’ve seen a lot of hateful rhetoric from the GOP. But the idea that we’d turn away refugees because of religion is a new low. -H

Well, that resonated with me. I’m a supporter of the refugees, and I don’t like the idea of turning them away. So here’s what I wrote as a comment:

America was built by religious refugees, as the GOP loves to point out. Turning away refugees becauseon their religion is hypocritical and goes against what America is supposed to be about.

This was one of the earliest comments on that particular post, which might explain what happened next.

Who knew supporting one candidate could lead to so much craziness?

Within half an hour, that post had over 300 likes and a growing number of comments. Some of them were supportive or in agreement. Others were…angry. Disagreeable. A few were throwing insults at my face. Others were attacking other people. Pretty quickly it degenerated into a debate between various commenters over this or that fact.

Did I say debate? I meant a mess of cobras fighting each other for superiority because they don’t like one another or their political beliefs. I’m pretty sure blood was spilled several times in the course of three or four days.

I won’t quote directly what people said, because some of what was said was just really awful and I like to keep this blog a mostly positive place despite this being the blog of a horror novelist. I will say that a few people called me names, said I knew nothing about the law or what America was about. One guy actually tried to direct message me to tell me I didn’t know anything and call me a dumbass. Thankfully, Facebook allows you to decline messages from people you don’t know, so I deleted that conversation quick as a rabbit.

My favorite insult hurled at me was some guy who had a similar name to a famous American writer’s real name told me I should go and study history. Joke’s on that guy, because one of my majors in college was History!

About an hour into this madness, I decided to comment back, the only comment I left in this crazy den of verbal Hunger Games contestants:

So I posted this comment about an hour ago. It’s got 550+ likes, 50+ comments, and a few people getting angry with one another over differences of opinion. And I’m just sitting here wondering, “Why can’t my sci-fi novel get this sort of attention? Islamaphobia and dealing with it is one of its major themes!”

If I see an opportunity to plug my books, I will. What do you want from me? It’s a hard world for indie authors, and we gotta do what we gotta do to make it in this hard, terrible world. And anyway, I was wondering why Reborn City didn’t get that much attention, especially considering the themes it explores.

In any case, this plug didn’t do me any good. That comment only got three likes, and only one person actually replied to it. They told me it must be because, like me and my original comment, my novel must be stupid because I don’t know anything.

That’s probably the only comment that actually hurt me. I put a lot of work into what I write, to make sure they leave impressions on people. Calling them stupid? I take offense at that.

At least nobody used that comment to seek me out and leave me false reviews just to hurt me. That would’ve been really dickish.

So at final tally, we’ve got 1,383 likes, 243 comments, and a whole rather nasty list of web vitriol. The activity was strong through Tuesday and Wednesday, but dropped off on Thursday, which thankfully I’m glad for. It was just nuts.

And how do I feel about being attacked? Well, I think knowing this was only temporary made it easier for me to just detach from it and not let it get to me. In fact, I felt a little bit good that I managed to stay out of the fire that I somehow managed to cause. I kind of felt like an evil villain with a set of human dominoes, just watching things play out and waiting to see what remains. Yeah, that’s callous, but it’s not as bad as what some of the people were saying in that comment thread. It was enough to make sailors blush.

Still, it was pretty amazing that I could get so many people riled up just with one comment. People really are sensitive when it comes to politics, and that sensitivity can get amplified through the anonymity of the Internet. The worst were the Donald Trump supporters (and they made themselves obvious, believe me). Those guys were the craziest of all

Oh, and people who want to comment some nastiness on this post, be careful. The more you comment, the more my profile is raised. That is all.

pray for paris

This past weekend in Paris, a city I’ve visited and which I’ve often thought about returning to, was attacked by terrorists affiliated with ISIS. They attacked six different locations throughout the City of Light, including a concert hall, the Stade de France, and two restaurants. At last count, nearly a hundred and thirty people are dead, including seven of the terrorists, and over three-hundred and fifty wounded. The terror threat is apparently still high, and the search for the remaining perpetrators are still ongoing.

And in the midst of the death and horrors, people have come together from around the world for Paris. Through the power of globalization and connection, human beings have shouted out, in tweets and status updates, in blog posts and videos, through television broadcasts and press conferences, through offers of help and condemnations of the terrorists, to stand by France as she works to bring the rest of the terrorists to justice, to take on the sickness that is ISIS, and to heal her wounds after such a horrific series of events.

Still, there’s a dark underbelly to this show of solidarity. My mother and I were discussing this underbelly in the car after dinner last night. Barely two days after the attacks, some people have been condemning Muslims and the refugees from Syria and other parts of the Middle East for the attack (despite the fact that most of the terrorists appear to be European and only one is confirmed to be from Syria). People of all sorts, from members of France’s far-right political party the National Front, including its leader Marine La Pen and US representatives, to bloggers and common people from all over the world. In the need to blame someone for this attack, some are turning to two very large, and lately very popular, scapegoats: those who follow the teachings of Muhammad, and those who left their homes with very little, if anything, just to escape violence and fear.

RC cover

My mom then turned to me and said, “Kind of reminds me of Reborn City. There are people who see a woman with a hijab and feel afraid. Zahara gave that up and even dyed her hair blond to avoid that fear.” That surprised me, but then I realized she had a point. In a small way, the world is beginning to resemble the world of Reborn City.

If you’re not familiar with RC, Islamaphobia is a big theme in the novel. The war on terror devolved into a huge, worldwide conflict, so that by the time of the story most of the world is suspicious of Muslims. Zahara Bakur and her family take measures so that they will be at the very least tolerated by a population that is suspicious of them. Still, it doesn’t always work, and there is still a lot of discrimination in that world that goes unchecked.

While the real world is not at the level that the world of RC is, there are places that have made it difficult to be a Muslim. Angola and Tajikistan actively shut down mosques all the time, and certain European countries have banned burqas and hijabs. France’s Interior Minister has discussed the possibility of shutting down mosques perceived to be preaching dangerous interpretations of Islam. Here in the States,  Donald Trump has said that if elected President he may pursue that course of action.

And because many of the Syrian refugees are Muslim and one of the terrorists was from Syria, some are reacting against refugees. Poland has already said they will not be accepting new refugees, and several US states are now refusing to take in any. Some in the US now wish to screen refugees based on a religious test.

The refugees are not the people we should be lashing out against.

You can’t judge an entire group based on the actions of a few. I don’t judge all Christians based on the actions of Westboro Baptist Church, nor do I judge all football players because a few have been charged and sometimes convicted for violent crimes. But so many people insist on judging Muslims and the Syrian refugees that way. And based on my own experience with Muslims, that isn’t right. That’s nonsensical.

Zahara’s experiences in the book reflect that. Early on she becomes aware that people don’t like her because she’s a Muslim, that they’re afraid of her for things that occurred in her parents’ and grandparents’ generations. She takes steps to be accepted by society by changing her appearance and taking part in “normal” interests and hobbies, but no matter what she tires, people see her as different. They see her as dangerous without even getting to know her. And it’s how people see her that spurs Zahara throughout RC (and its sequel, Video Rage, and probably the final book too) to show people that she is not what people think of her. To show them that she can be kind, and brave. And even good.

In the wake of Paris, we all want to fight back against the evil that caused the attacks. But the evil isn’t the refugees, nor is it Islam and its adherents. No, the evil is ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram and the other terrorist organizations, wearing Islam like a Halloween costume, scary but not the real thing. The real Muslims are standing up to these fakers, standing in solidarity with Paris and showing their disdain towards these inhuman monsters hijacking a respected religion. The last thing we want to do is turn our backs on them, punish them for being who they are.

Instead, we should be thanking them for being allies we can count on for support in hard times, like Zahara is for her friends in the Hydras. Because after all, if we show them the love they deserve, they may return the favor and, like Zahara does, surprise us in all the best ways.

Well, latest estimates suggest that I’ll be getting Wi-Fi at my apartment back up tomorrow or Thursday, which caused me to turn into an angry gorilla and go on a rampage in downtown Wiesbaden last night (please send all complaints and bills to Donald Trump’s Campaign Headquarters). So I’m writing this on a Word document so that I can copy and paste it onto a blog post during my lunch break, when I’m allowed on blogging websites. At the moment, it’s the best I can do.

Now what did I come here to write about? Oh yes, the wonderful news for all you fans of Reborn City. Last night I completed the second draft of Video Rage, RC’s sequel, thanks to a lack of Wi-Fi and plenty of time on my hands yesterday evening (remind me to write about the benefits and problems of not having Wi-Fi after I get it back). For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the RC series, Reborn City is about street gangs in a dystopian future, told mostly from the point-of-view of Zahara Bakur, a Muslim teenager who is forced to join one of the gangs when her parents are murdered. It’s probably my most popular work, and I hope people enjoy VR as much as they liked RC.

All told, VR is a bit shorter than RC (but then again, RC had several chapters devoted to flashbacks, so that might explain a few things). The second draft is about 297 pages (8.5” x 11”, double spaced, twelve-point Times New Roman), two pages shorter than the first draft, and 82,441 words (about fifteen-hundred shorter than the first draft). I think this might be shorter than the first Harry Potter book, but I wouldn’t vouch for it. I can say for sure though that it reads better than the first draft, and that it sets up for the third and final book very well.

Now what’ll happen now that the second draft is finished? Well, I have a friend who is looking at the manuscript (he looked at RC prior to its publication) and once I get some feedback from him, I’ll do some more editing. After that, depending on how I feel, I could do a fourth draft, or I could get ready for some publication (I can hear most of my family, especially my sister, already shouting that it should go straight to publication). We’ll see what happens.

In the meantime, there’s a short story I have to rewrite, another one I want to write a first draft of, and maybe I’ll do a third short story because I am finally getting good at writing these things. After that, I have to rewrite my thriller Laura Horn, and after that I have to do a third draft of Rose, and I’m also planning a trip to Munich for either this or next weekend, and also…you know, I think it’s safe just to say I’m going to be very busy on a bunch of other projects but as committed as ever to writing and publishing quality stories while at the same time exploring as much of Germany as possible while I’m here (speaking of which, if you have any suggestions for places to visit in Munich, particularly scenic or historic locations, please let me know).

All for now. I’ve still got a long and busy day ahead of me, so I’m going to get right on it. I’ll write again when I have the chance. Let’s hope the Wi-Fi returns at home sooner than later, right?

Bis spatter, mein Anhanger der Angst! (Translation: See you later, my Followers of Fear!)

I’ve been without Wi-Fi these past couple of days at home, so I’ve been only able to get online at work and at a cafe not too far from my apartment. If that wasn’t the case, I would’ve written about this soon after these latest cases happened. But I’m making up for it now, and I’m doing it with the same sense of bereavement that I would if I were writing this as soon as it happened.

First South Carolina. Then the attacks in Tennessee. A few days later, we’ve got shootings at a movie theater in Louisiana, three years after the shootings in Aurora, and one in Los Angeles on Ventura Boulevard. That’s four major shootings in two months. And once again, it seems unlikely that anything’s really going to get done about it. America isn’t suffering from a gun epidemic. It’s suffering from a chronic condition, and maybe only half the country is willing to admit that this condition needs to be treated (I think we can call that a political schizophrenia of sorts).

Despite what some have said, this condition needs to be treated. And the treatment is not more guns. According to the latest research, self-defensive gun use occurs very rarely, and that when it does it does very little to actually stop injuries or property loss. So there goes that whole “good guy with a gun” belief. Besides, if you were going to treat AIDS, you wouldn’t give more people the virus, would you? So why give more people guns if guns are the problems?

Now I know what the Second Amendment says: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” And since the people in favor of the Second Amendment say we need to follow what the Constitution says, guns should be available…in case the government needs to form a militia in order to protect itself. But there should be more restrictions as to who gets guns, and what sort of guns. Why have an automatic rifle in your home? You’re not going to go hunting with it, and if you ever have the need to use it in your home, you’re likely going to end up making your living room look like it’s been visited by the Terminator or John McClain. What sort of use is there for that sort of weapon outside of a battlefield, then?

When it comes down to it, America’s chronic condition needs to be treated. The loopholes that allow gun sales to go through without sufficient background checks need to be closed, and the system errors that allowed Dylan Roof and the man from the Louisiana shooting need to be fixed as well. Background checks should be expanded and made tghter, and what sort of guns are available to the public should be restricted (like I said, what use is there for military weaponry i a private home? Might as well keep a rocket launcher around), and there should be fewer people allowed to carry firearms on them in public unless they have a legitimate reason for having them (stalker or important public figure who is likely to be targeted? Sure. Generalized anxiety of being attacked? There’s medication for that). And of course there needs to be more resources for the mentally ill, a lot of these attacks are carried out by people with mental illnesses. But of course perfectly sane people can carry out acts of extreme violence as well.

And that’s enough to worry me.

Say what you will, but after so many acts of violence involving guns, what’s happening isn’t a few rogue individuals with problems or just random accidents. These aren’t hurricanes or earthquakes. What we’re dealing with here is a long-term illness, and it needs to be treated. Research has to be done, effective treatments have to be developed. Otherwise this will keep happening, and more people will be lost and nothing will be done until none of us are left.

And I may just be shouting on the Internet, that happens a lot. But to stand by and not say something when evil is occurring in my nation allows evil to proliferate. So I’m shouting for treatment, and i’m hoping something actually gets done before another attack occurs.

Because no one should have to lose someone to something that is completely preventable. And that includes a chronic condition like gun violence.

Today, the Supreme Court declared gay marriage bans unconstitutional in a 5-4 decision, making the United States of America the 25th nation or territory to legalize same-sex marriage.The atmosphere has been jubilant all over the country. Today I was running errands downtown and I saw people getting married in a lovely plaza next to a fountain, couples coming together to be wed in holy matrimony. It was all sponsored by one of the pro-gay rights groups, with pastors and cakes and photographers all on stand by. It was so beautiful.

And why shouldn’t it be? Today, like suffragettes at the beginning of the 20th century and like African-Americans in the 1960s, LGBT community and their allies have reached an important and historic milestone, one that affirms all LGBT individuals who’ve ever felt less than good enough or unwanted from the country or society or from the world that we are human, that we are worthy of being full individuals under the law. This is a great moment for all LGBT Americans.

Of course, this is nowhere near the final victory, just as the Nineteenth Amendment wasn’t the final victory in the cause for women’s rights, nor were the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 the final victories for African Americans. We as a nation still have a long way to go as a country before we can say there is any final victory. There is much that still needs to be done. In the short term, we have to ensure that those who are free to marry now can marry. Some state legislatures will try to make it difficult by including religious exemptions for clerks, or putting the whole business of marriage solely in the hands of clergy, or even saying the state can resist laws or rulings from the federal government that the state finds immoral or against the state’s best interest, whatever that means. The LGBT community and their allies will have to make sure that these sort of extreme measures don’t come to pass, and if they do, that they’re fought with the ferocity of tigers.

Celebrations over the Supreme Court decision today. Oh, what a wonderful day it is.

As for the long term, we need to create and foster a more inclusive atmosphere and culture nationwide. In many states it is still legal to fire someone if they are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. In some places being LGBT or perceived as such can lead to harassment, assault, stalking, discrimination, persecution, and even death. Teens in junior high and high schools all over the nation are bullied every day for the way they were born or suffer in silence, afraid that if they allow themselves to be who they are, they will they will suffer more. Some lose everyone they love when they come out. Others will be forced to go to camps or some other form of “therapy” to make them “normal”.

This has to stop. As a nation that calls itself a land of opportunity and prosperity, we need to make it so that LGBT individuals within our borders can live in happiness and safety, to feel comfortable in their own skins and to go down the street without fear of being targeted for how they were born. That is what, in the long term, the LGBT community will pursue in this nation.

For now though, it is Friday. It is the weekend. And it’s still June, the month considered lucky for weddings (though in Ohio it’s also famous for rain and humidity). This weekend there will be celebrations of love, joy, matrimony. Couples will be legally wed in the eyes of the law, families will be brought together in happiness and health. Let us celebrate and love.

On Monday, as we usually do, we will get to work. But we will go to work with renewed purpose.

For what i would like to say to the naysayers and haters on this historic day, see my new post at From The Voice Of Common Sense.

Hello Followers of Fear. I’ve got a big announcement to make. I’ve started a new blog: From The Voice of Common Sense. This is something I’ve been considering for a while, but recent events have led me to have no choice but to publish it.

Let me explain how this came to be: for a while now, I’ve been posting on Facebook several posts where I pretend to be The Voice of Common Sense, a character whose name is pretty self-explanatory. In these posts, I write letters to peoples or groups who have said or done something extremely stupid and ridicule al a Jon Stewart how stupid they are. It’s gotten a lot of love from my Facebook friends and for a while I’ve considered making it an actual blog.

Recent events this week, including the recent shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, have convinced me that I need to create this blog, to possibly reach a wider audience and maybe make a difference in this crazy world. I’m hoping that, beyond me getting a chance to vent, what I write helps people make some sense of the world or see the error of their ways. I know it’s not likely to do the latter, but I can hope, can’t I?

In any case, I would be very grateful if you would check out this new blog. Most of my political ramblings will be moving to this blog, and I’ll be trying to be funnier than usual there as well. Like I said, I’m hoping to grow an audience and maybe make a difference.

Well, that’s all for now. I’m signing off for the night. You have a good evening, my Followers of Fear. And if you decide to check out the new blog, I thank you and I appreciate the support. It means a lot to me.

Yesterday, arguments on four consolidated cases relating to same-sex marriage began in the Supreme Court. The cases mostly have to do with the legality and constitutionality of same-sex bans in certain states, and if states have to recognize same-sex marriages from out of state, that sort of thing. According to the New York Times article I just read, things went about as expected: the justices were divided along the traditional party lines, though Justice Kennedy seemed to show some sympathy towards the couples opposing the ban. Not a bad start, in my opinion. And considering how the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 and the recent tide of marriage victories in states across the country, LGBT advocates have good reason to be hopeful.

If you’ve been with me for a while, you already know that I am openly bisexual (if you’re new here and this is your first time hearing this, surprise!). I also have friends and family who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender, as well as many different straight people. I’ve written an article about how the Bible could actually allow homosexuality rather than demonize it and I wrote a follow up article to that defending my beliefs. And from my perspective on this, these cases are about more than just marriage, though that’s a big part of it. It’s about making people feel equal to everyone else. It’s about acknowledging that LGBT are people, and deserve to be treated as people.

I first started realizing my sexual orientation during the fall semester of 2013, though I’d had inklings of it over the years. You know what the first emotion I felt was upon realizing I was bisexual? Fear. Because even though I knew so many LGBT people, that they and many others are accepted by the general populace, that the country is moving towards being more accepting and that by the time I had kids LGBT people will be fully-accepted members of society.

I was afraid. Because in many places, including places where the LGBT community is strong and loved, there are people who are scared to come out, that there are places where being out or suspected of being LGBT can get you ostracized or even killed, that there are plenty of people who hate me and the LGBT community because of our very existence, maybe even kill us in some cases.

And that scared me. Nobody wants to be hated, to be cursed to death for our existence, We all want to be accepted. But I had to accept myself and eventually I did. And then I came out, and I was loved and supported. But what about other people, those who can’t come out or be themselves because they’re afraid of how the people in their lives will treat them? Where they’re considered less than human, monsters masquerading and mistreating the human body? Why should they be unable to accept who they are?

Now I know that granting a marriage license won’t solve homophobia in America or worldwide overnight. But it’s a good start. Marriage is something that every kid knows about before they grasp the concept of death or where babies come from. It’s one of those things that’s made to be something magical, powerful, a bond that is not easily questioned or taken for granted without consequences. Imagine the good that can do if we as a nation extend that to everyone no matter their genetic predisposition (yes, it’s genetic, they’re finding more and more evidence of that every damn day, and no amount of praying is going to change that, just as no amount of praying is going to turn me into Vin Diesel) towards whom they’re attracted.

And extending marriage to same-sex couples isn’t going to cheapen marriage, or negatively impact heterosexual marriage, or hurt kids. All the research that says it will has been proven false or doesn’t actually exist. Clergy aren’t going to be forced to perform marriages they don’t believe in, because there is always going to be a clergyperson who does want to perform such a ceremony or there’s a courthouse where the marriage can be performed. And traditional marriage won’t be thrown out the window, because traditional marriage isn’t really a thing to begin with. Marriages used to be business deals between the heads of two households, with the creation of a new family as part of the deal. It was only during the late 17th and early 18th centuries that daughters had any say in their spouses, and only much later on that love became a major consideration in marriage arrangements. So marriage as we know it might only be 100 years old or so.

And believe it or not, there have been partnerships in this country between people of the same sex that were considered like marriage or as marriage. Several Native American tribes allowed for same-sex marriages (people attracted that way were considered special in the tribe) and after America was established there were same-sex marriages by their neighbors, including James Buchanan. Yeah, one of our Presidents. Prior to his time in the White House, Buchanan had a ten year partnership with a man named William Rufus King (later Vice President to Franklin Pierce) and in later years wrote to a member of the Roosevelt family about wooing several gentlemen without much success.

With all this, I think it’s important that the Supreme Court make a decision that reflects what I know is true: that just because someone is born a certain way doesn’t mean they are wrong or evil or they need to be changed. They just need to be given the same protections and opportunities as everyone else. In other words, they need to be treated like everyone else. And making that the law of the land with one of the most beautiful bonds one can create between two people is a good way to begin with that.

Thank you for reading.