A Casual Relationship with Death

_Because I could not stop for Death – He kindly stopped for me – The Carriage held but just Ourselves – And Immortality._If you look at modern meme culture (which I do because it’s a nice ephemeral distraction from our current hellscape) there’s a lot of talk about death. Responses like “At least we all die.” and easily and casually referencing death as a way to handle any inconvenience or slight no matter how small. “I guess I’ll just die.” has been a rather convenient form of shorthand for a while now referencing how difficult and herculean some tasks in life can be and it’s even one that me (someone who works in the death care industry) use when talking about how hard it is to set appointments or even stay on the line while I wait to refill a prescription.

But I wonder why we have such a casual relationship with the concept of mortality despite death denial never being stronger with all the detoxes and fad diets.

It’s easy to chalk this up to the hyperbolic nature of language now. Death is the ultimate end: it doesn’t get more hyperbolic than saying that going to Trader Joe’s will literally kill you.

I think it goes a little deeper than that. I think it has to do with our current epidemic of anxiety and nihilism in the face of our current climate.

Let’s step back in time: it’s just after World War II in Paris. A city that is still in places rebuilding and is full of wine, absinthe, smoke, bread and ennui. The new wave of existentialists had taken root in Paris and with minds like Sartre and Camus looking at the works of Kierkegaard and Freud. Both come to similar but somewhat differing views on death and meaning. Sartre was more hopeful, a little like Kierkegaard while Camus was incredibly nihilistic about the whole thing like a strange fusion of Freud and Nietzsche. But both saw death as a drive we moved towards and dealt with. Existentialism is being very aware of mortality to a nearly terminal (pun intended)  way. Death hangs round like a passive ghost here to remind you that meaning is useless and we all perish: it’s simply a matter of time.

There’s a line in an early episode of Lore where the brilliant host Aaron Mahnke discusses the Afterglow Vista (which is an amazing episode and one of my favorites) and one of the features of this strange mausoleum are pillars: most of the pillars are finished except for one and the construction note on that is “because Death never lets you finish your work.”.

Existentialism was a direct response to how hollow Romanticism seemed and the Romantic notion of how glorious death and the afterlife must be seemed to only accelerate the death drive. Romanticism fits in with a great deal of the Victorian era and that’s where we really start to get a romanticization (lower case for a reason) with death and memento mori and modern funeral culture. So while the Romantics saw death as a friend who hangs around waiting patiently for you to be finished with your meat prison, Existentialists saw death as a forever looming ghost that you had to fight off daily because existence is painful, useless and never-ending until it, well, ends.

And while we are technically in a Postmodern age (a word I hate), I don’t think that Existential relationship with using dark humor to cope with our current existence. The internet (which seems to be mostly people who have some form of anxiety [because that’s very human and fine]) has perpetuated that feeling. Dark humor, memes and more is how we deal with all that is going on and woah, boy, it’s a lot going on. And it is in dark humor that we return to our relationship with death. Death is a lot to deal with, mortality is not something that’s fun or exciting to meditate on: trust me, I am surrounded by death daily for work and it doesn’t get easier.

I’m proudly mostly Death Positive and one of the main tenets of The Order of the Good Death is confronting mortality but facing it: often, daily. And no member of The Order will ever tell you that such a thing is easy. I joke about it to make me aware and maybe, just maybe to take a small shot at something we are all hurtling towards.

That is one of my favorite things about the French Existentialists, using humor to defuse our fear. Camus was huge on using humor and wit to demystify and remove the wonder from the world and in facing and coping with the absurd, even large things seem less large. It reminds me one of two of my favorite pieces of humor ever: The Galaxy Song and Always Look on the Bright Side both from two old Monty Python movies. Both songs take a firm look at how silly and stupid life is and can be and encourages you to overcome that feeling with a laugh.

There is a lot to be overwhelmed with in our current world. Climate change is nearly paralyzing, world governments are a hot hot mess, the economy is bad and apparently everyone in Hollywood is a garbage human. All of it seems hopeless and futile and the sweet sweet embrace of the quiet, stillness of an eternal dirt sleep seem almost like a comfort.

And our media seems to enforce this narrative. With the influx of genocidal themes and generalized themes around death and dying as aspects of movie plot lines, it’s easy to see a much more casual if not entirely fictive relationship with The End. Comic books and video games make death seem like an inconvenient bump in the road and lord knows that anime has a bad reputation with character deaths meaning next to nothing. One of the biggest things I’ll always say about the earlier runs of comic books is that most of the time, death mattered. When House of M happened, those characters stayed dead. When Crisis on Infinite Earths happened, those deaths mattered and when The Great Blue Boy Scout stopped flying around Metropolis, he stayed gone for a while. Each one had weight and meaning until it just didn’t.

Music seemed to take the opposite direction with pop songs encouraging almost destructive levels of Carpe Diem via excessive drinking, partying, sleeping with strangers, driving fast cars and generally not giving a hoot and a half. Drake said “YOLO” Ke$ha says act like we’re going to “Die Young” and Avicii encouraged all of us to create more of “the nights that never die”. Death stops the party but if you get there faster, you might as well have gotten there faster but doing a kegger in a parking lot after seeing your favorite band one more time.

This isn’t to belittle the actual suicide crisis in the U.S. and around the world. There is a huge different in joking about death casually than those who actively do not see light at the end of the tunnel. And that’s always a tricky line that I am not professionally equipped to answer for you. To each person, a joke or a cry for help are likely very different lines and cues and I am not the one to say there’s a one-size-fits-all answer to it.

For those of us who are anxious, depressive, melancholic, malcontent, filled with ennui and malaise; joking about the end makes it easier to face the end and with our current state of inflammatory language, using The Grim Reaper as a stand-in for a myriad of other issues that oppress, confine and exhaust was a logical step in the right direction.

It’s a road we all reach someday: might as well have a good time while on it.

 

The Ethics of Being Sponsored

The networks have to answer to their sponsors. That's the difficult thing you learn. Jean Smart.pngLast time we talked about Patreon, patronage and how and when an artist owes something to those who keep their lights on. Today we’re going to talk about sponsorships, trust and forced positivity but with the ethical dubiousness of money behind it.

This actually started innocently enough. I was watching a GameTheorists video on Valerian and the City of One Thousand Planets. As a hipster sci-fi person, I was excited to talk about Valerian considering that I’m probably 1 of 5 Americans that read the comic and knew that it basically inspired all of modern sci-fi. Everyone has borrowed from it, Star WarsStar Trek, basically everyone owes their sci-fi start to Valerian. And when I started the video, I was happy to see MatPat bring up all those points and comment on them. And then he mentioned he was sponsored by the movie Valerian. My heart sank. Suddenly, all the ethos of what he was saying was colored with the evil tint of greed. Even in his most recent video that was blatantly sponsored by Disney, it still felt hollow because the premise and title were interesting. Now to know that he’s only doing it because he got paid somehow left me feeling betrayed and crestfallen.

And MatPat isn’t the only Youtuber I’ve noticed that will “critique” or “comment” on a film only after being paid to do so. Andre “The Black Nerd” has more than once reviewed movies and done special promotions with several companies and even theaters that often seem to make all the movies he sees a little less bad. And while I have no issues with CinemaSins being sponsored by BlueApron and NatureBox (because those sponsorships are usually unintrusive to the content) and I quietly tolerate Lindsay Ellis flaunting her Patreon (her being sponsored is also often not intrusive to her content). But where I take issue is when being paid for something makes you think something is better than what it is and all under the guise of more valid criticism.

But it’s also important to comment on the type of “critic”, critic or Youtuber. It’s usually the non-instrusive ones that get the more lucrative deals. MatPat’s pretty unoffensive to most and he’s easy to work with and has a wide audience. He’s kind, sort of funny and he’s positive. He isn’t a CinemaSins or Nostalgia Critic who made their mark by being cynical, curt and vulgar (I don’t say any of these things negatively, I love these channels.).

In my first forced positivity post, I mentioned The Talking Dead, a show hosted by Chris Hardwick about the very popular TV show and sometimes maligned comic book The Walking Dead. The talk show after the show is paid for by AMC (the people behind the zombie TV show) and because of that, almost every episode has to say how great The Walking Dead is.  When I lamented this fact, Carlos rather bluntly said: “Well, yeah. Can’t talk bad about a show that pays you to put on a show.” And really, that was an understood for me. I understood the why but that didn’t mean I had to be happy about it.

And it frustrates me even more when I have to watch a personality I love change and adapt to being more “user-friendly”. Chris Hardwick, if you can hear me, come back to us. You have sold your soul for money. You too, Kevin Smith. We need you. We need voices of dissonance in our community once more.

Being paid to say nice things isn’t new. I work in advertising. I create paid sponsor content. I live in a world where you have to casually segway a brand sponsorship into an informative video or write an article that’s really meant to sell you something. I learned and perfected how to craft a message, find an image and hone down an audience. I know that being paid to say nice things is not a new and marvel concept. But in traditional advertising, a spade is a spade. An ad’s an ad. It’s clear when something is sponsored. But when marketing is insidious (and even I as a marketer am not fond/proud of) are when ads hide. We’ve all seen a tutorial that’s at the end tacked on that it was paid for by Samsung.  And the idea of a paid sponsorship that’s a hidden one or content that’s really an ad has been a struggle for social media platforms and users. And if the FDA and FCC lawsuits have been any indicator: the idea of being #sponsored on social media is a slippery slope.

It started with the whole influx of “influencer” marketing. “Celebrities” would gush about a product of God knows what-origin and then their legions of followers would then also support the product of God knows what-origin. What isn’t shown or talked about is how much the makers of the product pay to have this glowing endorsement or why it does such great things for a celebrity’s whose only job is to be beautiful and thin and stand there under ring lights that make everyone look better.  And when a normal consumer wishes to complain, sue or even try to dismiss some of the claims of how charcoal water can cure cancer or something, the company simply says “The celebrity was not paid to say those things and you didn’t have to buy our product.” despite how often it’s shown in Instagram feeds and Twitter timelines. The celebrity doesn’t take any responsibility for any damage done by the product they were so proudly sharing. Remember, they won’t paid to do this. They just received 5 cases of kale cleanse. That isn’t payment, right?

And it’s funny that all of this is happening now. I’m from an era where shoehorned in sponsorships paid the bills and I think it’s that cynicism and skepticism that so fundamentally turns me off on paid sponsored content. We are surrounded by ads and I say that as a person who makes those ads possible. So it’s seductive to see something that looks like think piece, feels like a social commentary but then is later revealed to be something sponsored by a TV show or soda company and why that’s so insidious and horrifying. What is news anymore? What is an ad anymore? Is it all just an ad?

I’m with a majority of watchers and users of things: transparent advertising makes me very happy. When an ad’s an ad, that’s fine. And now with the rise of #ad and #sponsored, things are getting a little more transparent and it’s easier to see the man behind the wizard. And while I understand not wanting to piss in your own stew pot, criticism and loving antagonism made fandoms, communities and the world. The positivity for hire is exhausting and its at times seedy nature makes it even more tiresome and dishonest. Let’s be honest about when an ad’s an ad. Let’s call a spade a spade. And let’s keep criticism free of the shackles of currency.

 

 

A Fan Need Not Always Be Positive

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. Norman Vincent Peale.png

We’ve talked about fandoms, criticism, cynicism and hype so today let’s wrap up the discussion with a little chat about forced positivity, totem culture and why criticism again does not negate enjoyment.

In all honesty, I thought I was finished with this topic. I got my feelings out of my system. I was done talking about how delicate modern fandom is. Oh, I was wrong. I was so so wrong. It started with a friendly little talk about Harry Potter. I was talking about the popular magical franchise with my coworkers. We’re all sorted into different houses. We have different opinions of the movies versus the books. And then I mentioned that I felt the series was still a bit tired. I brought up points that it despite what the novels do well still continue to perpetuate biblical-esque oversimplifications of good and evil. I said that it continues to shun a diverse cast to focus more on the homogenous main cast. I said that while I loved the movies and read most of the books that it still was like so many other young adults novels, slinging a storied narrative with unilaterally good and unilaterally evil characters except for Snape but we don’t talk about Snape. And after listing the valid complaints that I had, my coworker went on to say rather simply:

Well, I still like it. It sounds like you’re a hater.

Dear reader, how I clutched my pearls.

Me? A hater?

Now, I’ve always prided myself on being the type of fan that never hates something senselessly. I always give something at least 3 episodes (if it’s a tv show or anime), the first 3 chapters (in the case of manga and comic books or novels) and at least the first 30 minutes or so of a movie. I always give something a chance. I research voice actors, writers, directors, intention and all. If I’m going to comment on anything: positive or negative, I try my best to speak to the topic with some ethos.

A hater to me has always been someone who needlessly is critical to the point of being obtuse. And since I pride myself on being an informed fan hurt my ego to the core. And it brought up a more important question. Even though I said I liked this series, can I apparently have no negative opinions on it? When did liking a thing mean that is has to be perfect in every way?

In the last post I mentioned more than once that the shows I care about the most I am the most critical of. I can see the cracks in Fullmetal Alchemist even though that anime got me through one of the most difficult times in my life. I can admit that Axis Powers:Hetalia is a silly totem anime to had but it kept me and my friends close during a time when we were all so far away. I can admit that. But Harry Potter is one especially that seems almost too big to discuss. So many people have had their lives changed by a story about wizards, magic and a world that provided a home away from home for so many. Even in my darkest of hours, Hogwarts was a place that I could escape to when my own home was just as bad as the Dursleys. But just because I enjoy something, doesn’t mean that I can’t see its flaws. Unfortunately, this totem culture with Harry Potter and other media artifacts are frustrating. I love deep conversations and you can’t have a conversation when someone cannot or will not see their beloved body of work complexly. But because so many escaped with Harry Potter, coped with Harry Potter, made friends, families and memories with Harry Potter but that does not mean that it’s perfect: even if it was immensely important to you personally.

Now, here’s where I put some of my own personal flaws on the board. I admit that just because I find totem culture exhausting, that does not give me the right to be disrespectful and I’m willing to admit that if there’s a series I don’t like (looking at you, Yuri on Ice and Attack on Titan) that my opinions can be harsh, unyielding and overbearing. So, call a spade a spade, if I’m mean, I’m mean. However, if I have valid criticisms and present them well, it’s just as rude to be dismissive just because a piece of media means a lot to you.

Speaking of valid criticism, let’s talk about forced positivity. I’ve talked a few times about Internet critics and the juggernauts of fan culture and their either hyperbolic hatred of all things (Looking at you, CinemaSins and Nostalgia Chick) or their emphatic love of all things (Looking at you, Kevin Smith and Chris Hardwick). I take particular umbrage with Chris Hardwick. I’ve been a fan of his since he was the only true nerd on G4 and his particular brand of nerd comedy and at the time obscure references to Neon Genesis Evangelion and Doctor Who were welcomed to a nerd like me who ended up making similar references only to find them falling flat upon my usual familial audience. And then he became popular. Suddenly Nerdist wasn’t just a blog or a screenname: it was a brand. And now as he partners with The Walking Dead and other big studio productions, Chris Hardwick suddenly could not comment on anything negative about the shows he mentioned or reviewed for fear of alienating fans and advertisers. And while sure, plenty of things are better than ever before when it comes to movies, comics, books and games but certainly something can be not as good. Certainly, some of these properties have flaws. Nope, not if you watch The Talking Dead, a show Hardwick hosts with help from AMC. So of course, each episode of The Walking Dead is a monolithic wonder. Each one perfect, special and magical. Even the episode where it’s literally just an hour of walking in the woods. Or even a more recent movie like Suicide Squad. Anyone who loves comics, movies or comic book movies can admit that at best this movie had flaws and at worst was an acid-spitting neon death trap but if you hear from Kevin Smith (the unappointed patron saint of nerd culture) it was a damn masterpiece. I’d like to know which movie he saw. The film I saw was far from a masterpiece. I think the idea of forced positivity is actually quite interesting and many Youtubers have discussed it as well as more than one very well-written article on the subject. There is a feeling that you must if you are online, be positive. And for many of us that struggle with mental illness, faking happiness or joy for a property or product just doesn’t help. If you show me an anime while I’m not in a great head space, it’s unfair then to say that it’s my fault for just not enjoying it or not enjoying it to your level.

But I have some ideas of where totem culture and being too defensive came from. Fan culture has a history of being far from kind. While the outside world was mean to nerds, geeks and fans for years, we also became quite mean to each other. The early years of fan culture created strong ships and massive canons to guard those ships. I have lost plenty of ships, destroyed headcanons and even changed my opinions on shows by weathering the storm of early fan culture. But not every fan took that struggle as a positive. Some took those constant fan battles and bullying and it has made them defensive and afraid of criticism. I’ve heard this time and time again:

Don’t attack my ship.

It’s an admittance of weakness. It’s saying that you don’t want to engage in war. It’s saying you much rather sail the seas of fan culture without incident. You take down your canons, your masts and sail on.

But what so many of those who say “don’t attack my ship” miss out on is the ability to harden your fleet. Sure, sometimes a ship get destroyed. Canons are wrecked. Dreams are dashed upon the cold hard rocks of fandoms, true canon and battles over OTPs. I lost so many ships, Internet and forum battles and came out of that a hardened, knowledge and worldly fan. I resisted the urge to simply revel in echo chambers and I have surrounded myself with people that not only most of the time disagree with me but people who I actually share little in common with.

From that proving ground, I was able to discuss what I like effectively, criticize without cruelty and discuss without hurting others. And while I can respect that some saw a battleground of lost fan ships and decided it was best not to participate in the war, I encourage every fan to at least try and have a discussion about a series or property they like a lot. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been effectively fruitless. I can’t always get someone to see my side and I can’t always get someone to change my mind. That however doesn’t mean I wasn’t thankful for the conversation.

Stay kind, fandom. Stay open. Have conversations. Embrace other opinions. And most importantly, have fun.

Cynic, Critic, Fan

-I much prefer the sharpest criticism of a single intelligent man to the thoughtless approval of the masses.- Johannes Kepler.png

I have been called “critical” more than once and that statement always strikes me as a bit strange. Criticism to me has never been a negative thing on its own. Everything has its problems, even great things are imperfect and yet issues do not always negate enjoyment. There are plenty of movies that I admit are terrible but I like a lot. But as someone who writes, reads and enjoys many things; I am very aware of issues like cliches, plot holes and I’m remarkably sensitive to poor representation, historical anachronisms and inaccuracies.

I’m very much from the camp of “nothing is original”. I’m not easily swayed by claims of “this series was the first to do”-isms. Everything has a root in something, almost everything is a rip off of something and there’s a beautiful fine line between homage and plagiarism.

Let’s take a property I like a lot as an example. Axis Powers: Hetalia is a series I like quite a bit about personified anthropomorphic countries and all of their adventures and misadventures through history and major social movements. Hetalia is not the first series a humanize and personify nations. Scandinavia and the World came way before Hetalia and even before the two of them was Afghanistan (a delightfully dark little web comic about the titular character and her friends in the Middle East). But Hetalia did something that the others didn’t, it gave the characters/countries more personality and greater quirks. France wasn’t just France, he’s Francis Bonnefoy. He’s a Cancer and he has a weird talking bird named Pierre. Prussia isn’t just Prussia, his name is Gilbert and he has a brother, Ludwig: who is Germany, and also has a weird talking bird named Gilbird (I wish I was kidding). So I can’t say Hetalia was the most original of ideas but it took the concept and suspended my disbelief far enough to give it credit for being a newer take on an old idea.

Besides, most movies are based on the same like 5 Shakespeare plays. And being someone who reads and writes a lot, I am now a pretty tough sell. I’ve wondered many times if I should take a break from from reading and writing so that I can just “enjoy” some things. But it’s difficult to enjoy a series when cliches fly around and everyone still thinks the series is the most original, splendid and glorious.

In the last post, we talked about discourse and I love that about my friends and fellow fans. We have several amazing conversations about varying theories, headcanons and facts. We also have radically different opinions at times over things and our criticisms and critiques of different properties help us have rich and insightful conversations about, well everything. Friends and I have discussed socioeconomic conditions in The Great Gatsby, light and dark imagery in Naruto and plenty of talks about comic book movies (so many comic book movies). But these conversations do more than just show what we liked and didn’t like about a series, it shows our level of passion for the work. The more heavily criticized a property, the more beloved.

One of the first instances of this probably came from my issues with movies like The Dark Knight and X-Men: First Class. I was violently against these movies and their flagrant disregard of canon and my open criticism of the movies was because I was passionate about Batman and X-Men. If you ever hear or see me get up in arms about something, it’s because I care.

At the same time, being able to cite a criticism doesn’t mean that I don’t like something. As mentioned with Hetalia, the series has plenty of problems but that doesn’t stop me from having fun with it. C’mon, guys. I’m a comic book fan. I have to deal with a lot of unnecessary things and cliches.

Here’s a good place to talk about the difference between criticism, trolling and nit-picking. Channels like CinemaSins have made an entire market essentially destroying films. Their motto of “no movie is without sin” takes the idea of criticism to a new level. Often times, their comments are made without any consideration to the canon of the series or to the storylines themselves and by merely pointing out that the mirror isn’t tilted just so in a scene does not improve the work or the movie, it just ruins the shot for everyone and makes me very very angry when I can’t enjoy movies because now all I see are their tiny flaws. Criticism should be made with valid information and with love. Using words as a weapon has never gotten anyone very far and I wish people wouldn’t do that.Criticism is meant to be constructive, not destructive and if it ever is, it’s no longer criticism: it’s bullying.

But back to unilateral support. I never did understand this (here’s a helpful video to explain why to the critical mind, unanimity sounds a little fishy). Even in the most critically-acclaimed of series, there has to be someone who disagrees and I would certainly hope that anyone who disagrees even with overwhelming support would be accepted and welcomed with open arms. Disagreeing with a popular opinion, a villain does not make. Unilateral support is actually something I noticed more in my stint marathoning reality TV shows. Many of the subplots of the shows involved a person making an unpopular choice and saying that anyone that opposed them wasn’t a friend. I bring this up because this seems to be a problem with more than just comics: discourse and criticism seems to be something all around that has been a prickly topic as criticism has become nothing more than a reason to reinforce echo chambers and drown out any dissenters.

If you aren’t with me, you’re my enemy

I’m always a little suspicious of fandoms where everyone agrees. Just in one fandom, everyone should have different opinions, even if everyone likes it. Everyone should view things differently. Everyone should have their own ideas. I suppose I blame the echo chambers I mentioned last post. But why did we get to a place of criticism being a personal attack? Well, think about fandoms. We built these communities. We found friends. We all like this one precious thing and any outside voice that corrupts it, makes it less good, hurts us personally. Go back to my earlier statement: I was critical of these movies because I loved these properties. Because I was passionate, because I cared, because I liked them I didn’t enjoy seeing them treated in such a way. And experiences with people who take criticism lightly and use their words to just destroy instead of correct has left fans especially weary of negative comments. For so long, being a nerd has not been a positive attribute and when we found the internet, we found acceptance: an acceptance that so many longed for.

But that isn’t the root of fandom; echo chambers have never been the root of what we love. Fandoms start with conversations, with loving arguments, with differences in opinion. It starts with changing IM profiles to your Lantern Corps color and to talking at odd hours about who plays the better Batman. Fandoms start with discussing subtitles or dubbing. Talking voice actors. Trying to figure out what was censorship and what was just poor translation. Our community was founded by dissenters, unpopular opinions and obscure knowledge. Our community is made strong by comments, discussion and diversity. Never forget that.

That was a lot, huh?

With all of this being said, I’d like to wrap things up with this. Nothing escapes criticism. Criticism does not negate passion and finding concerns and voicing them does not make you literally the worst person in the world. Be kind to each other and other’s opinions.

A Million is a Statistic

“I don’t want to sound Pollyannaish, but I hope that out of a tragedy like this something good will come. I hope we understand we’re one family.” Madeleine Albright

The world currently is a place wrought with tragedy and undeniable acts of terrorism both domestic and international, human brutality and immense sadness. I’m not here to discuss any of these in great detail; it makes me very sad to do so.  I am here to discuss something very unique about a world filled with so much senseless tragedy: how I react to it.

I was born in 1990 so local and national tragedies are not unfamiliar topics for me. 9/11, Colombine, The Oklahoma City bombing. But those times were different: I remember in those instances distinctly feeling hopeful. In those times of tragedy, communities banded together. We supported and loved each other. We knew in our mutual love and support we could guard ourselves from such terrible actions. As communities, friends and families we rallied together, loved and supported each other we inspired such greatness and poetry that would stand to testify to our resolve to not be broken down by these at the time isolated actions of misguided and often times truly evil renegades.

I am older now and the list of national tragedies I’ve seen has only grown with my age. The Aurora Theater Shooting, the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Sandy Hook shooting. But these had started to take on a new view in our nation’s collective consciousness: a very concerned apathy. We simply had not progressed as other developed nations had. We still faced national tragedies to such a degree that it was rare enough to lament but common enough to let slide past our normal daily new feeds. We didn’t pause for as long as we did just a few years ago.

It was another school shooting.

Think of the power of that statement. Another. There has been more than one? There has been so many that this one incident of immense tragedy and reckless violence that it is considered to be in league with other instances of mutually destructive evil?Yet we as friends, family and countrymen still came together. We sang songs, wore ribbons, used hashtags. All of those were a balm on the pulsing open wound of our nation’s bruised ego.

And all the while my continued battered optimism as I watched my country struggle through another national tragedy (another incredibly powerful and loaded statement). But in that tragedy I was inspired by the words of my President and other community leaders. My friends reminded me that we overcame such things before and we will again.

Certainly, it will be okay.

A new wave of national and international tragedies though have me thinking and what has come to be the most interesting and sad part of it is how I’ve been responding to such evil. I’m utterly gobsmacked. I am lost for words. I revert back to childish whining and tears because I can no longer bear the realities of these horrific acts. I am a writer, I am seldom at a loss for words. The recent tragedies of the day have left me speechless. Once words return I try and combat my profound sadness with the same cynical humor I have perfected as a shield in years of hardship. As these horrors continue to amass and abound I hope I can once more be eloquent and inspiring in my terror. The tired apathy my President displays when talking about the great failing that is gun violence in our nation is heartbreaking but it’s the same tired apathy we all share in such matters. We’re becoming numb to it. What we will tell our kids about the 2000s? 2010 and onwards? I don’t know if I could promise future generations the optimism our Boomer parents feigned for us. And who knows? Maybe we will come together. We will do so and be stronger. To be numb, you must first feel pain and in that feeling is the recognition that something has to give.