one of ours, two of theirs.

“I’m putting wings on pigs today.”

Ismaaiyl Brinsley followed that statement on his Instagram account with “this may be my final post.” Hours later, two police officers were shot in the head through the windshield of a parked NYPD vehicle, and Brinsley turned the gun on himself. That’s three more bodies in what has quietly become a scattershot, unorganized and uninformed violent anti-authority street revolution. The murders were allegedly meant to be a sort of revenge for the recent death of Eric Garner, a man who died as the result of what can really only be described as police negligence – he was left unconscious on the ground for several minutes without any attempts at resuscitation before medical help arrived. Eric Garner has often been lumped in with the cases of Michael Brown, Akai Gurley, John Crawford and Tamir Rice as indicative of a new wave of police brutality and racism; reactions have ranged from the silent t-shirt protests of notable athletes to public crowd-based demonstrations – and of course, the aforementioned senseless violence.

While it’s easy to lump these together as proof that white cops get a rise out of killing black men (and in the case of Rice, children), the sensationalist media and what are essentially hipster protesters seem to miss that the only thing that really ties these stories together is that they happened so close together in time. Michael Brown was shot while essentially attacking a police officer; he was already a robbery suspect and was blatantly refusing simple police orders to move out of the way of traffic. Meanwhile, Akai Gurley was simply walking up a dark flight of stairs when he was shot. Tamir Rice (although it was later found that the shooting officer had been deemed “emotionally unstable and unfit for duty” in a previous job) was strolling through a park with what appeared by any bystander to be a live weapon. Regardless of reason or fault, the death of another human being is a tragedy through and through; but to lump what are clearly isolated events into reason for violence or hatred towards police officers as a whole is nothing more than ignorance and buying into hype.

Brinsley walked the streets looking for the first white officers he could find (ironically, the men he killed – Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, are Asian and Hispanic, respectively), and he approached several people, told them to follow him on Instagram, and watch what he was about to do. These are the actions of an attention-starved maniac, driven by the bright lights of internet stardom and not some greater purpose. He is a murderer who will be treated by some as a martyr for equal rights.

Being an officer in the United States is an incredibly difficult job, and these are men and women to be respected, not treated like dirt and scum – after all, very few career choices garner such hate on a day-to-day basis. To say that every cop is good or bad, racist or fair, is a generalization that is far too easy to make. The fact that the outlined events above have happened are a reason to respect officers more, not less. How often are officers faced with the choice to use force and decline to? It’s news that they do use force because on a statistical basis given opportunities, it’s rare and tragic when they do.

In the case of Eric Garner, the footage is undeniably horrific. The officers here swarm a man who is upset but not threatening; a father, not a thug. He had minor criminal charges in his past, but nothing violent or generally disruptive – marijuana possession, driving with a suspended license, or in this case, selling untaxed cigarettes. The reaction was in the wrong, and may or may not have been urged on by present racism or prejudices – regardless, it is an isolated incident in a year full of isolated incidents blown to extreme proportion and opinion by social media and the ease of accessibility the internet provides. Garner, Brown, Rice, Gurley, Crawford, Liu, Ramos, and even Brinsley are all names that should be mourned – but will unfortunately be remembered as a rallying cry for what may be more senseless “retaliation” to come.

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of lies and prejudice.

A week ago, I was parked just outside of the Hard Rock Cafe in an alley downtown at about four in the morning; the traffic lights at major intersections blinked without regard, and only a few cars headed to or from the casino still littered the streets. Saturday night and the heart of Cleveland was, predictably, a ghost town. While waiting for the girlfriend and her friends to find their way to my car, a shoddy old Ford pulled up behind me. The gentlemen within were all African American, outfitted with bandannas, baggy t-shirts, and ragged throat beards. The four men looked at each other repeatedly, sometimes opening the door and then closing it, and I swear that they were making eye contact with me through my rear view mirror. I drove off and picked up the girls somewhere else.

I would love to tell you that I have a certain knowledge of gang rituals, that I was absolutely certain that my life was genuinely in danger due to symbols and gestures – but to be frank, I was terrified due to some deep rooted prejudice that quietly exists within us all. I was terrified of four black men because they were starkly different from me.

By now, the Donald Sterling comments have been publicized, noted, analyzed, and discussed a thousand times over. The legality of the recordings are, at this point, a non-factor: Sterling is destined to ride into his twilight years a public pariah known to have a mindset that well predates the civil rights movement and modern, logical thought. However, the reactions have been eye-opening. Most notably, outspoken Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban responded:

“I know I’m prejudiced, and I know I’m bigoted in a lot of different ways… If I see a black kid in a hoodie on my side of the street, I’ll move to the other side of the street. If I see a white guy with a shaved head and tattoos, I’ll move back to the other side of the street. None of us have pure thoughts, we all live in glass houses.”

Predictably, Mark Cuban has come under fire (obvious comparisons to Trevyon Martin’s hoodie abound). However, he stands by his remarks, and those among us who aren’t fooling ourselves should stand by him as well: it is not a perfect world, and as a creation of that world, we are not perfect beings. Not one of us.

In a way, the Donald Sterling discussion has allowed us an opportunity to take a greater look at race relations and how far we’ve truly come; as Cuban so adamantly put, we all have our prejudices. We aren’t born with them, but we are raised and fed them by whatever culture that surrounds us. It’s not something to be proud of or wear on your sleeve; it’s simply a mark of being undeniably human. Prejudice does not, however, equate to racism. Our thoughts are generally a swirling, uncontrollable storm, but they are a storm trapped safely within our minds, and it is up to us to control them. You’re not a bad person for assuming with no forethought that a black family has no money or consistent income; you are, however, a bad person for denying them service, housing, or equal treatment based solely on that assumption.

The world has certainly come a long way as far as acceptance and tolerance are concerned; it’s telling that Sterling’s comments are as outrageous as they are. It is, however, a long and arduous process, one that will certainly be set back time and time again. We already know that outward displays of prejudice are wrong, and now is the time to eliminate the thoughts that plague us altogether – and it may not happen this generation, or the next, or the one after that. Social evolution is an odd current, impacted by the uncontrollable variable that is the world around us. All we can do is better ourselves, and hope for the best.

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an (un)happy medium.

I once read that the definition of happiness and unhappiness is simply the positive and negative ledgers on the scale of normalcy; in other words, they are fleeting, often changing and molding emotions that really only exist because we tell them to. Are you “happy” because of that girl, or simply because she is a routine part of the norm at this point? By that same token, you’re only unhappy because that definition of normal in your life is no longer there, and you preach misery as a way to cope. In short, happiness and unhappiness are directly within our control, whether it’s a conscious decision or not.

That being said, a 2013 national poll came to the conclusion that 67%, or roughly two thirds of the country considers itself unhappy. The world’s historically most prosperous nation, a country that prides itself on freedom and an oft-sold “American Dream,” somehow manages to only keep a relative small sample of its population content. Now, given that happiness and unhappiness are essentially two sides to a half, where normal is the exact middle, how can it be that the scales tip so heavily towards despair?

We as a people seem to not acknowledge or create our own definition of “normal,” and instead buy into that oh-so-American glamour lifestyle. Each and every one of us believe a six figure salary is a pretty achievable objective; most of us honestly probably just believe we have it coming to us if we work hard enough and finish school. We’ve been taught that we “can do anything we put our minds to,” the American Dream; our blessing and our curse.

It’s not wrong to dream – every day, I think about where I could be, both in a realistic and grandiose fashion. I think about how a little bit of luck could change everything, and I’m sure we all do. Hitting the lottery, fluke landing a new work position, writing the next big novel, developing the next big game – we all have our pipe dreams. However, we need to back up and realize that pipe dreams are exactly what they are: distant possibilities, lovely but not likely. We need to stop sulking on what could have been and embrace the now with an eye towards future possibilities. You may have flunked the job interview, you may have lost that girl, but it’s foolish to dwell – without resorting to cliches, sometimes things just don’t work out.

To be blunt, most of us really need to examine where we’re at and understand that we are NOT as unhappy as we seem to claim, we just need to accept normal and make a change if we can’t. Chances are, the source of your sullen thoughts is certainly survivable and simply needs to be accepted as the new normal. Live where you are, not where you feel you deserve to be.

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holiday fear.

The holiday season has a tendency to make us evaluate where we are in life, where
we’re going, and where we want to be. Oftentimes, “family” has become a term
used to describe a group of people of varying age, style, and stature that we
see and instinctively insist on spending time with once or twice a year. The
typical American family in 2013 doesn’t maintain close ties with distant aunts,
cousins, and uncles, as well they really have no need to – all they do is share
our blood.

Nonetheless,we often find it is our duty to impress what are essentially strangers. While
we typically maintain close ties with our immediate family (the definition of
which obviously varies from household to household, but the idea remains the
same), this distant relative is just oh so eager to know where you’re at in
school, when you plan on graduating, your newest job, what trouble you’ve
gotten into that isn’t so bad after all – and once you’re done, they’re sure to
oblige your belated request for an update on their comings and goings. It’s a
droll time, for sure, but one that we will have every year until they’re gone,
and then we’ll replace them in the family pecking order.

All but the most jovial of us will agree that the holidays are an extremely stressful
time – money is tight, sure, but the every-day routine is simply halted by
unruly traffic, weather, and a genuine public attitude totally unlike the other
eleven months of the year. It causes short tempers, a harsh attitude, and unnecessary
friction with those we love. Old conflicts are renewed and new battles are
born. The problem is that we tend to take these people for granted – our family
is always there for us, and always will be. It leads to a certain juggling of
priorities – we are sure to call our drinking buddies with every success, but
turn to our family as soon as we hit a patch of bad fortune. We are inherently
more capable of showing weakness to our family because they’ve been there our
whole lives; they are an unchanging constant in what could otherwise be only referred
to as chaos, a flux of changing relationships and friendships – and just as we
are more capable of showing weakness, we are also more capable of being cruel.

We simply know that no matter what we do, or what we say, our family will be there.
Grudges and hateful words are meaningless in the grand scheme of things because,
after all, we’ll be back next year to share the turkey, ham and gravy. A
certain apathetic part of us doesn’t care about the damage done, because next
year, they’ll still be there. They’ll always welcome you with open arms, and
you’ll always welcome them. It’s a horrible mindset, a subconscious thought
pattern that somehow leads us to believe it’s okay to despise those that will
always love us, simply because there’s very little repercussions for doing so.

It’s unhealthy to dwell on what we don’t have. Life is limited; you could really
count how many times you’ll see these people again in tally marks on a post it
note. Every fight, every twisted conflict, every grudge held takes a chunk of
those tally marks away. Family isn’t perfect, nothing is; but it’s only
sensible to appreciate that unconditional love.

Happy holidays.

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vague and pointless (to a point).

Spurred on by that sensation in the gut, that persistent twist of the stomach muscles, real or imagined, that lead to an inevitable sense of sheer uncertainty. It is that feeling that courses through the body when the mind is aware that drastic change, for better or worse, is coming. It is that numbing anxiousness that took over every time I made a big sale, every time I lost a job, every time I cut ties with another person for good, every time I made a decision that led to either paramount success or a colossal blunder. Those butterflies, those sinister butterflies that take over for hours, days, weeks at a time.

The difference, however, is being virtually clueless as to why they’re there.

For the first time in my life, I can stand and proclaim with absolute certainty that I’m happy about the direction my life is taking; it’s not exactly the pipe dream that our young selves undoubtedly envision, but being financially stable and having a myriad of things to your name certainly seems like a much greater accomplishment once thrusted into the real world. In short, I’m proud of my life following a relatively successful generic path.
And yet, it seems like the subconscious disagrees. A quick rundown of the goings-on in my life reveal nothing seriously out of whack, and a sense of real stability. Degree? Check. House? Check. Car? Check. Friends? Check. Successful long-term relationship? Check and check. So what is it, exactly, wrong of the above?
Perhaps it is that stability that lends itself to dissatisfaction. We as human beings are capable of being the lowest of scum or achieving the highest grandeur; we as individuals can change the world in ways ranging from diabolical to saintly by simply applying ourselves. Is it possible that the psyche is simply frustrated at its own unapplied potential? That this anxiety is meant to spur on spontaneity? I guess if I were to take the heinously self-absorbed route, it’s possible that I’m simply frustrated that I haven’t achieved those far-off childhood dreams of easy success and quiet grandeur; that I am, in fact, a tragic figure, a victim of his own pride and laziness.
More realistically, this uncertainty is a sign that life has slowed down, and after working towards an end my entire life, having all that I really need at this point in time has led to a sudden lull; wake up, go to work, come home, relax with the girlfriend, pay the bills. It’s a life I’m really, truthfully not used to, and the part of me that’s used to precious few hours of free time is suddenly stunned and confused, as if I’m wasting time when I can be working towards a greater end.
Call it a crisis?
My apologies to the dozen or so of you that will read this and expect a conclusion, but this entry reads simply as a public soul searching; I can only imagine some of you can relate. I tell myself I’m happy, but it’s clear that change needs to be made. I’m not sure how, and to be frank it may never happen, but acknowledgment is the first step to reconciliation. Something needs to be built or something needs to be torn down…just give me time to figure out what, exactly, that something is or will be.

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redundant ramblings on racism.

The case of Travyon Martin and George Zimmerman has been possibly the hottest, most controversial topic of the year. Original reports revolved around helpless Travyon being gunned down for wearing a hoodie and offering skittles; the new story proclaims that Zimmerman was assaulted by a rogue thug and gunned the young man down in self-defense. As is the norm for these situations, reality likely lies somewhere inbetween two extremes. While the event in question is tragic no matter your stance, there is an undeniable truth: the response is sickening, and in some ways may even begin to set race relations down a pre-MLK path.

Generally, the public has taken two distinct views that spawned from a frenzy of ill-fated media extremism: the first, that Travyon Martin was an innocent bystander and the victim of a racist bigot who viewed young blacks in his neighborhood as a nuisance, and used any excuse necessary to shoot him; the other view is essentially that Zimmerman was assaulted, beaten, and only shot in self-defense, and is now the victim of a sort of reverse racism.

Something about the skin color of those involved ignites a certain furor in the general public. Social media exploded with renewed interest from the second Zimmerman was declared not guilty; everyone in the world seemed disgusted in one way or another. The case has been analyzed in every way imaginable; bullet trajectory, out of context statements, even Zimmerman’s own hispanic background has been used as a case for or against both sides.

Zimmerman was found beaten and was clearly on his back at some point during the altercation, shooting upwards at Travyon. According to reports and recorded conversations, he also followed Travyon against police orders and may have instigated the attack. Either way, the shot itself was fired in self-defense, and Florida law dictates that self-defense is legal. For better or for worse, the American judicial system has come to a verdict – Zimmerman was standing his ground in the face of an attack, instigated or otherwise. The man will live as a pariah and a controversial face for the rest of his life; his actions will catch up to him.

That being said, a number of people have used the incident as a method to announce their innermost racial tendencies under the guise of moral outrage. A resounding argument is that if races were reversed, the verdict may have been different; this is a racist statement through and through, an absolute admission of some degree of prejudice and distaste towards other human beings. At the same time, there is an outcry of what can really only be described as a sense of black power – a select few are trying to distance the race as a whole from the rest of society under the claim that they are being treated as inferior. In all reality, this is also a bigot idealogy – a sort of presumption that the world is out to get you.

I am not claiming that racism on a broad scale is dead – but it is thought to be a dying mindset, and perhaps the most discouraging result of the shooting of Travyon Martin is that it has brought legitimate racial divide to the forefront. There is no reason that blacks and whites should engage in race-related conflict in 2013; we need to stop using the tragic death of a young man as an excuse to profess our hatred of one another’s skin tone and heritage. What happened was a misunderstanding between an over-aggressive member of the neighborhood watch and a young man already ridden with disciplinary and legal issues. Race does not matter, and never should have been an issue in the first place.

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the last of us: mid-game review.

The word “zombie” derives from “zombi,” a West African term from the Vodou (voodoo) tribes that refers to a corpse reanimated by no will of its own, moving without a mind or purpose. In recent times, this definition has largely stayed the same; early references in Western culture include the 1929 novel Magic Island and 1932 film White Zombie. While these and other scattered references introduced the concept to audiences, it wasn’t until relatively recently that “zombies” became a cultural sensation: driven by the George Romero and company, zombies became, rather ironically, much more than mindless scare tactics and are now a subgenre in and of their own.

Zombies as a pop culture sensation have taken many turns throughout their rapid progression into the mainstream. Romero used them as a means of social commentary, most notably Dawn of the Dead‘s drones returning to a mall and wandering aimlessly; from there, the concept took off, and legions of enthusiastic young directors attempted to morph the ideas into their own until every other popcorn movie, dollar store paperback novel, and arcade shoot-em-up involved mowing down the undead. Reasons for their insurrection vary from medium to medium; sometimes, it’s simply magic, either undescribed or mentioned in passing as a “biological weapon gone wrong.” Most commonly, a new and previously unheard of disease spreads through mankind at a torrid pace and leaves the world in ruins, with our heroes among the few that survive. The narrative is essentially the same, with little room for variation in most cases.

Naughty Dog’s latest opus, The Last of Us, largely follows that certain deus ex machina – without giving anything away, the “zombies” this time are a result of a mind-consuming fungus, spread either through airborne spores or – surprise, surpise – a bite from an infected person. In Naughty Dog’s world, the infected go through different stages, starting at simple maddened humans before progressing to admittedly unsettling creatures known only as a “clickers-” the fungus has caused the victim’s face to erupt, eliminating a sense of sight and moving in a disturbed, twitching motion that follows sound rather than sight (a clever narrative putting an emphasis on sneaky gameplay). The goal, of course, is the same – they want to bite you, or eat you, or just beat you to a pulp because you exist. While they aren’t technically corpses brought to life, these creations fit the mold – they are humans without their humanity, replaced by horrifying primal instinct.

That being said, the zombies in this case serve as a mere background to the game’s brilliantly realized world. Civilization as we know it has crumbled, replaced by a sort of Wild West that just so happens to have a bunch of nasty things in it that you would really prefer to avoid. Enough survivors remain to have a genuine society, living off of “ration cards” and staying within the confines of the city, which is protected by a militaristic government. There’s even (what appears to be) a terrorist/resistance group arisen from the ashes of a devastated world known as the “fireflies.” The explanations are quick, simple, and believable – all you need to know is essentially laid out in the opening credits after the opening segment. (On a quick sidenote, the opening twenty minutes may be the most intense scene you’ll play this year.)

The Last of Us is being described by many pundits and gaming aficionados as definitive of art in the video game medium; and, for the first time, I can genuinely agree. While titles like Shadow of the Colossus and the Bioshock series had their moments, The Last of Us is an absolute experience in hopeless humanity. It is a post-apocalyptic vision on par with The Road, Children of Men, Riddley Walker and the like – with the kicker being it is interactive, a story the player is meant to live and become absorbed in on a whole different level. Your character can find items and use them just as in any other game; however, the very simplicity and basic nature of these items are harrowing. Scissors, tape, a brick and a ladder are everyday, common items that are absolutely crucial to survival. Decayed bodies and abandoned cars litter the roads and buildings, which themselves are forgotten and overgrown with vegetation. Most notable is that the game doesn’t even call special attention to exceptionally disturbing events or make a concerted effort to guide the player; there’s no big orange arrow at the top of the screen and it’s relatively easy to get disoriented. More than once, I’ve wandered into a house only to find a body hanging, rotted and long forgotten. Sometimes, there’s a note, sometimes there’s not. Either way, it’s just an accepted event, and you move on.

The game creates a real atmosphere of hopelessness and despair and yet gives the message that we must continue on regardless; while I’ve yet to finish the game (truth be told, I probably have a ways to go), at this point I often find myself more unnerved by other humans than the clickers and infected swarms. A dying world seems to bring out the worst in people, as gangs litter the inner cities and murder any bypasser – and yet, as protagonist Joel calmly states, “I’ve been on both sides.” The game truly captures why the zombie phenomenon has gripped us so, and does it in resplendent fashion; we as Americans feel a certain level of invincibility, and the idea of the zombie is that humanity’s massive scope becomes its undoing. Essentially, that we as a society can be toppled by ourselves – and it is a bleak prospect indeed. The zombie story has been recycled a thousand times – but by making it an interactive and incredibly engaging experience, Naughty Dog has not only created what might be one of the greatest games of all time, but a genuine piece of art.

Now, I’m gonna go finish it.

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the measure of evil.

There is an unappreciated blessing in the value of a normal life. The common American considers his day-to-day stresses and leisures and compares them to that sense of grandeur propagated by a society obsessed with the glamorous and exciting. We seem to have forgotten what is so precious about a stable, free lifestyle; what we call boring, some would call paradise. That is not even to say that just those suffering in other, poorer nations would be envious.

One could fairly assume that Amanda Berry, Gina Dejesus, and Michelle Knight would cherish a return to the doldrums.

It’s easy to blame the media for the frenzy surrounding the story: a girl missing for a decade is suddenly and dramatically found, with two other missing girls with her, in a house not far from where they dissapeared. It is a bizarre story and a horrible reminder that humanity does, at times, show a sadistic side. Details have yet to emerge, but the general consensus is that the three girls had been held in the house for the entirety of ten years or more, being the victim of kidnapping and probable rape by three brothers. Stories like this have happened before in America, and it is probable and disgusting to know that there are probably women out there currently tied in basements that may never be found.

The true tragedy is that Amanda and the others will never experience a normal life. Amanda never had the chance to finish high school, and her resume ends at Burger King. She had a child while being held captive who is now six years old – sadly, old enough to know where he came from. She will now be forced to reintegrate herself into a world that knows her as Amanda Berry, the poor child taken by evil in the prime of her life. Every job interview, every attempted relationship, every night out will now be handled with a certain, inevitable bias.

This is the truest measure of just how evil Ariel Castro and his brothers are. Not to compare or lessen another tragedy, but last month’s bombing was an act of violence by a few kids who wanted a moment in the spotlight – it was done and over with in a matter of seconds, and god knows if they felt remorse or regretted their actions. Meanwhile, Castro and his brothers took three girls against their will and essentially ruined their lives without a care; they robbed them of their youth and their chance at a peaceful existence for the sake of their own sick, sexual fantasies. I am never one to call for ill will to come to another human being, no matter how despicable; that being said, utter disregard for what precious little life we all get to enjoy demands a different treatment. Here’s to hoping Castro and his brothers are cast away for the rest of their lives.

While it is a virtual impossibility given the nature of publicity in America, it should be said that Amanda, Gina, and Michelle should be let be and allowed to tell their story and reintegrate on their own terms, whether under the public eye or otherwise. Allow them every bit of privacy that we all enjoy, by simply not bothering them. The rise of social media has allowed us a society to show what may or may not be genuine sincerity surrounding highly publicized events such as this or the aforementioned Boston bombings; that being said, let these girls be. After a decade of being forgotten, they deserve to bask in the attention and love of their families, not would-be sympathetic strangers.

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the sporting life.

This past Monday, a virtually unknown NBA player named Jason Collins sent shockwaves through the world of professional sports by simply announcing who he was. It might’ve been the most monumental news-that-really-shouldn’t-have-been in the history of the league.

Jason Collins, as a player, has been in the league for over a decade. He was drafted in the first round of the 2001 draft by the New Jersey Nets and was a part of two teams that made the NBA finals; that being said, he never truly lived up to his draft stock, having never averaged 7 points or rebounds for a season. His career has consisted of one-year contracts and being included as a “throw-in” to make salary considerations match in trades. He’s a backup center at best, good for little more than six fouls, a drawn charge or two, and taking up space in the paint. In his most recent stints with the Washington Wizards, he averaged .7 points, 1.3 rebounds, and hit 100% of his free throws – a phenomenal statistic….until you realize that he went to the charity stripe all of one time. Granted, he only played six games with the Wizards, but regardless.

Point being, Jason Collins is a pioneer for professional sports, but sort of a terrible athlete. The fact that his coming out party (no pun intended) is such a massive, sweeping story truly speaks to where we are as a nation, and how far we still have to go on the road to tolerance.

That’s not to discredit his accepting his role as the flagbearer; sports culture as a whole has an inherit homophobic persuasion. Basketball is seen by its participants and fanbases as a penultimate arena for modern-day gladiators to do battle; a competition between musclebound athletic demons that has no place for effeminate gestures. There is no love in war. Indeed, Jason Collins finally broke through after a dozen years in the league in hiding, which is much more of a statement than, say, a homosexual star in the NCAA tournament being drafted on pure talent. The latter is a form of publicized acceptance; the story of Jason Collins proves that it really shouldn’t matter.

The true impact of the Collins saga, however, will not be truly understood until the (likely) thousands of other athletes who feel they are forced to hide themselves can be comfortable in their own skin. I have a sinking feeling that a career backup center may not be the resounding, powerful voice necessary; Collins may be a story, but he isn’t rocking the sports world like an admission by a superstar of the game would. Collins is a courageous man, and I would like to believe that if he were to not land a contract this offseason, it would be based on the content of his lackadaise game rather than the buzz surrounding him. It would seem that the sporting world is fully accepting of his decision; Kobe Bryant, Tony Parker, and other giants of the game instantly praised Collins and cheered his decision. His twitter account gained over 30,000 new followers within hours after the announcement; he started the day with under 4,000. Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and entire franchises have shown their support.

However, there is a darker side, seldom reported: Chris Broussard of ESPN went on record claiming that Collins could not call himself a Christian and a homosexual. After LeRoy Butler of the Green Bay Packers tweeted his support, a Wisconsin church cancelled a planned speech by the football player. Collins has recently received death threats via twitter. A somewhat related story broke back in February when San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver openly stated that a gay man would not be welcome in the locker room.

The age of social media and open communication has doubtlessly made an enormous and unexpected impact on the advancement of human rights, and will continue to do so. Bill Clinton tweeted that he is “proud to call @Jason Collins a friend;” truly a touching sentiment by an enormously influential public figure, but it is still just words. Until we as a nation can begin to accept every individual for who they are, we have not progressed; homophobia is as ever-present as it was before the Collins story, and will continue to be. Congratulations to the man, and thank you for taking that first step towards a better America; sports is truly the last and greatest frontier in gay tolerance, and we can all hope that you have made a difference. But you need not be a flagbearer, you need only show the world that you are a much happier man without hiding yourself, and here’s to hoping that thousands will follow and learn to understand.

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only in america.

Only in America does the mass murder of twenty-six individuals, twenty of them being young children, bring a hailstorm of conspiracy theories and anti-government musings that sometimes roar louder than the national sense of grief and mourning. Only in America is this not only an acceptable attitude, but often a bonding belief.

Only in America does a random act of violence, in this case Monday’s bombing at the Boston marathon, immediately result in a plethora of memes and sarcastic comments ruminating on the gun-control debate – mostly revolving around that wisest of logical fallaces, the illegalization of bombs/weed/heroin/etc. certainly stops useage, just as the restrictions on carrying arms would stop shootings.

Only in America, does “not in my backyard” take precedence away from what should be national mourning over senseless tragedies.

The overarching theme of this newest breed of conspiracy theorists honestly believe that the Obama administration had staged the Sandy Hook shooting (or in some accounts, paid the shooter and shipped him to his own personal enclave), with the ultimate goal being a lockdown on gun rights and a step closer to utter control of the American population. Common sentiments among these devout morons is a firm belief that the Liberal agenda is hungry for utter disarmament (untrue), that Barack Obama is an evil man hellbent on the desolation of the American dream (with no real arguments to back this claim), and an unprecedented sense of patriotism (which often conflicts with their outrage at every government move or statement). The very nature of democracy fosters disagreement and debate and creates partisan splits; it comes with the territory, so to speak.

However, there are times when “freedom of speech” should truly bite its own tongue. No one is here to take your guns – shoot away, yeehaw. To honestly use tragedy and random violence to promote your own sense of gun love and so-called “American pride” when there are grieving and suffering families is utterly disgusting, and makes one question the real mindset of those who truly believe in a grand hoax. If Obama is inspiring the swarms of people to discredit the deaths of children and innocent bystanders, then yes, he truly is destroying America. I somehow don’t see that being his intent.

The United States was founded on a chief set of freedoms that were meant to be inalienable and could not be overruled by law; that being said, times change, and technology sometimes demands revision. America has, to date, essentially kept its gun laws intact, and as a result, the country has well above and beyond the highest rate of gun-related homicides in the world. New Orleans, if it were a country, would have the second-highest rate in the world by itself – behind, of course, the ol’ red and white and blue. Nations known for drug cartel and gang activity (Colombia, Mexico, Honduras, etc.) all have a significantly lower rate (per 100,000 population) than the United States.

Only in America is a hobby more important than peoples’ lives.

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