It all comes out in the squash

Pour one out for the homies, I bid farewell to a treasured friend and associate today.

Let’s jump back 4.5 months. October. I was stalking the floors at work looking for food. It happens, people leave free food in the kitchens. I’m never not a scab, so I roamed in search of whatever detritus people decided wasn’t good enough for them. It would most certainly be good enough for a trashbag like me. I didn’t find food, but I did find somebody to love.

A pumpkin sat atop the white Corian countertop on the 5th floor. I took it back to my desk, gave it facial features, a hat, and a name: Pumplestiltskin. Big dewey anime style eyes, a knobbly thumb of a nose, a big ol’ beard. Pumplestiltskin. It had no gender, since I’m pretty sure pumpkins don’t, but it had a combination of pluck, chutzpah and moxie. It also had my heart. Pumplestiltskin sat next to me in the best of times and blurst of times. It never said anything, but its unwavering support spoke volumes. Every day I came into the office, no matter what mood I was in, Pumplestiltskin’s cheerful visage warmed my soul.

I was constantly astounded by its love of life, which it clung to with utter tenacity. No matter how many times I googled “lifespan of a pumpkin”, Pumplestiltskin did not change. With regularity I’d check in on how it was doing. I’d give it a gentle squeeze to check its firmness. I’d sniff in case there was a rank odour. Nothing. I’d pick up Pumplestiltskin and give it a slight shake, in case the innards had turned to liquid. Nope. As firm as the day I’d found it.

It was bizarre, and I knew there was something special about this anthropomorphised pumpkin. Like one of those 80s films where a neglignet father gets killed in a car accident and comes back to inhabit an inanimate object, to be the caring parent he never was while still living. Maybe I’d given Pumplestiltskin a magic hat and pulled a deceased soul from the nether realm. Stranger things have happened. I resolved not to look a gift squash in the mouth, and enjoy the time I had in Pumplestiltskin’s presence. Sure, I may have been terribly depressed through most of Pumplestiltskin’s life, but that’s hardly the fault of whatever unearthly inhabitant resided in Pumplestiltskin’s strangely firm frame, right? I mostly assumed it was crammed with spiders, waiting to hatch.

Then this morning, during a routine check up, I saw a black mark. Small and puckered, a soft patch where a butthole would’ve been if pumpkins had a digestive tract. I looked across its skin, only to notice clusters of rot. Time waits for no man, nor pumpkin. Valar morghulis. I said my goodbyes, and imagined a montage of imagined futures, never to occur. The two of us eating ice creams on a hot summer day. Riding the Toronto Island ferry together. Freewheeling on a bicycle I have yet to purchase. All in greyscale, naturally.  All these moments lost in time, like tears in rain.

R.I.P. Buddy. You’re 5000 candles in the wind.

Hate is waste in any form

We’ve lost sight of our humanity.

I don’t know what words I have right now that make sense, but I do have a lot of feelings. First here are some facts:

  • At least 49 people were killed in Christchurch earlier today.
  • They were Muslims attending ritual prayer. People of all ages and genders. Children too.
  • 49 people are dead.
  • This was a planned, coordinated, terrorist attack.
  • 49 people were slaughtered.
  • One of the central terrorists was galvanised by far-right rhetoric that’s been stewing for years. Internet literate, he was a denizen of 8chan and the like. He released a manifesto littered with memes and references, in-jokes for the ‘chan crowd. He announced his intentions in advance and posted the information on 8chan’s “pol” board.
  • 49 people routinely living their lives no longer have them.
  • This white supremacist live streamed his attack on Facebook for the world to see.
  • 49 individuals no longer exist, after white supremacists marched into two mosques and murdered them while they prayed.

Those are facts.

There are a ton of feelings going around the internet right now. Outrage, disbelief, sorrow and pain. Why does this keep happening? Why here? This is not who we are. I’m not sure what to make of it all. I know that this is the largest terrorist act committed in New Zealand history since the Aramoana massacre of 1990 took 14 lives. New Zealand is not a country known for radicalism, hatred or faith based violence. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. Like any colony, there have always been undercurrents of ethnocentrism and race based hatred. Racism is alive and well by any name, whether or not it’s getting airtime. Of course we’re shocked at the gravity of this situation, at the meaningless loss of life, the violence and suffering. The sad, sad truth is that this has always been there, bubbling under the surface.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because we’ve all been complicit in letting hate live. I’ve heard the words “bloody Maoris” uttered without irony. I’ve seen conservative pundits like Duncan Garner espouse notions that non-white ethnicities are getting free rides, taking advantage of the system. I’ve seen commenters on local news sites bemoaning “diversity hires”, promoting a meritocracy without an understanding of how systemic racism undermines true equal opportunity. Unchecked privilege running rampant. I’m by no means saying any of these people wished anything like today’s tragedy to come into being. I am saying that we have no right to wash our hands clean of the consequences, when we’ve allowed racist sentiment to go unchallenged.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because of money and power. Because we know that there’s a link between publicising white supremacist terrorists, giving them airtime, and encouraging copycats. Yet we still show their photos, print their names in block letters, publish their manifestos. We give them the attention they so crave, and other would-be terrorists see them. It emboldens them to know that if they acted in kind, they’d become a martyr for scores of others like them. Yet the media still gives in depth information on who exactly it was that perpetrated these terrible tragedies. Because it drives clicks, and more engagement means higher advertising dollars. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook still allow the relentless hateful rhetoric of the alt right to be broadcast unimpeded. Make no mistake. Anti-Islamic sentiment is hate speech, just as Anti-Semitic, Anti-Black, Anti-LGBTQ+++ and any other speech that denigrates people because of their ethnicity, religion, gender or sexuality is. But all of this speech, furthered by demagogues such as Alex Jones, Jordan Peterson and Donald Trump, is hate speech that emboldens hateful people to reaffirm their beliefs. YouTube, Twitter and Facebook allow this speech, because they know it’s immensely popular and it makes them a lot of money. Sure, they’ll develop algorithms that seek out and delete comments about white men, but comments by white men are all open season.

We’ve lost sight of our humanity because this hateful rhetoric is being used by politicians to appeal to their constituency. Sure, party leaders like Doug Ford and Andrew Scheer won’t directly spread this hateful rhetoric by name, but they’re all too happy to consort with the far right in an effort to garner their votes. Conservative leaders will not openly condemn the actions of Neo Nazis, because they know that these Nazis are part of their voter base. Yet they’ll share the stage with hatemongers like Faith Goldy and refuse to denounce them as the extremists they are. It’s clearly more important to get into a position of power whereby you can manipulate laws to serve your business interests, than to oppose hatred and spread acceptance.

The truth is that today’s terrorism will be widely condemned back home in New Zealand. Most New Zealanders are not racist Islamophobes. Our country is one of immigrants, whether it was the Maori migration from Polynesia, British colonial settlement, Chinese immigrants ushered in to clean the last remnants of the gold rush, that random Frenchman who arrived and proclaimed himself king, or any number of people just seeking a better life for themselves and their families. We’re a wonderful ethnic melting pot, and our strength as a nation is only emboldened by encouraging newcomers to share with us their culture. We’re a country that is overwhelmingly filled with loving, caring people. We’re also part of the global community that the internet has created, and this means we have to be vigilant in condemning hatred in all its forms, no matter where it is.

We lost 49 of our own today, and that’s fucking devastating.

Sometimes in Bingo it’s not 2B

Hi there, or maybe “high there”? I dunno. I’m on a plane, I was trying something. Back off, let me have my process, punk.

I’m en route (getting French already) to Montreal, the city of bread. Friends and I are having a post New Years NYE weekend away. Some of our good pals moved there at the end of 2018 and suggested we all make our way there for an extra soiree. I’m going to devour impressive quantities of baking, beer and coffee. One of our friends is a cocktail expert and she’s got some fancy plans on the go. It’s gonna be a fantastic time with some of my favourite people. It seems like a great antidote to the past few days.

Birthdays fuck me up. They never used to, but the older I’ve gotten the worse they’ve been. It’s not that I have any real aversion to aging, I don’t. Aside from my body steadily decaying, I’ve generally ripened with age. It’s more that each year it gives me pause to reflect on what I’ve done since the last annual vantage point. The longer I’ve lived, the further apart real accomplishments have been. 2018 was thoroughly not great for me. Way back in my 2018 birthday, I was all kinds of depressed. I was fighting my body, trying keto and hating it. I got into all kinds of mental tussles with myself over food, consumption, body issues and all that fun stuff. Even moreso, I felt stuck in my job. I’d been doing the same thing for the past three years. I felt uninspired, unchallenged and unmotivated. Life had plateaued at a peak that was far lower than my minimum level of happiness. I don’t say it lightly or with a lack of gravity when I mention that my prevailing thought was “if I’m still here in a year’s time, I’m going to want to die.” Turns out that a year later, I’m still in the same place. I’ve been putting a lot of effort into trying to gain momentum and it’s basically all been channelled into treading water. I’m tired and it’s gotten to the point where I’d mostly rather sink.

So I spent the majority of yesterday wanting to die. I don’t mean some melodramatic “oh woe is me, I just feel sad” I mean very real, dispassionate “I want to be dead. I want to no longer exist. I’m wasting my life doing nothing with real meaning. I’m not creating anything of value, I’m not finding any larger purpose or passion. I’ve wasted the past few years getting nowhere, and that’s not likely to change any time soon.” Everything I experienced just reiterated these ideas. I knew that even if I pulled myself out of it, I’d end up right back there again. That I was just going to keep up this cycle of being so thoroughly miserable I wanted to just not “be” instead. That yeah, I do make other people happy, but if I’m not making myself happy, what’s the point? I’m not living for others and I don’t owe them anything, let alone continuing to exist. So I stewed in that all day, at the job I hate, doing extra work so others wouldn’t have to cover for me while I was on holiday. Then I went home, got stoned, my mood shifted, I played Magic and had some great farewell sex. This morning I feel far fewer of those feelings that were so pervasive yesterday.

Two things are not gonna happen here. Firstly, I’m not going to kill myself. I’m too lazy and smart to do something that stupid. If I basically never do anal beause I’m too lazy to thoroughly douche, I’m not gonna put the effort into figuring out a way to kill myself that minimises pain, is quick and efficient, and creates the least amount of mess for anyone to clean up after. My standards are way too high to settle for something half-arsed and low concept. It’s just not gonna happen. Even in my darkest passages, I know that if I keep going, things will eventually level out. Secondly, I’m not gonna turn this into some kind of “it’s always darkest before the dawn” bullshit. Realistically, things are probably gonna continue to be low key shit for a while. Given my current track record, likely years. This isn’t the only time I’m going to sincerely wish for death. It’s also far from the only time I’ve done so in my life. Whether I like it or not, I’m gonna be around for a while. At times that’ll be excellent, and at other times breathing will feel like a real chore. Perhaps I’ll be able to distract myself enough that I’ll forget about it, then I’ll circle back and get dumped right back into these feelings. That’s life for me, and that’s okay. Pretending there’s no problem is a lot worse than recognising and accepting it. It’s part of me, and if I’m to truly love myself, I think I need to offer compassion to my darker sides too. I think there’s maturity in that.

See y’all tomorrow, and the next day, and so on. Even when I don’t want to, I’ll still be here.

Let’s hope it all comes out in the wash

If you wanted to know how my day’s going, I pointed to a dishwasher with an “out of order” sign and said “working hard, or hardly working?”

I expect that was as clear as it needed to be.

Felt a little raw today, so of course I watched my go-to short film that reduces me to a pile of emotional rubble. It just felt apt, y’know? It’s a wonderful, self-contained short story that epitomises show don’t tell. Gorgeous music, sans dialogue, preciously fragile animation and a slow beating open heart. No matter how many times I watch it, I still choke up. The pacing is phenomenal, a slow build that adds layer after layer. The best part is how it gives you as much as it needs to in order to hint at depths beneath the surface. It’s bittersweet, cute and heartbreaking simultaneously. So, perfect Tuesday fare, I guess?

Speaking of stuff that was good for the heart, I’m glad I went out to the open mic after all. It wasn’t precisely an open mic, but it was a terrific showcase of the kind of creativity inherent to Toronto’s alt comedy scene. The general notion was that of a late night talk show, but completely improvised. As it was a benefit (ish) show, performers and viewers alike were encouraged to bring a can or two to donate. The hosts had a couch and invited people to take part. People could write anonymous “monologue” jokes for one of the hosts to blind read (which resulted in maybe eight “Baby It’s Cold Outside” jokes. “Have you heard about this” certainly loses its lustre after the fourth “Baby It’s Cold Outside” joke in a row). This in itself was a riot. People had all of five minutes to write their jokes before the show started. Most of them were pretty terrible, and the host had a great time ripping on the underdeveloped punchlines, but it was all in good sport. Nobody was taking anything too seriously, and the douchebaggery was altogether limited.

The performance slots they offered were divided into two options. You could either do a stand up set for three minutes, or sit on the couch and riff with the hosts for five. Most people opted for the increased time, which led to a series of wonderfully phoned in “interviews”. A bunch of people had pre-written bits they tried to weave in, but primarily people were wanking around, so to speak. Someone bought his phone onstage and watched the first three or so minutes of Inglorious Basterds with the hosts. Another guest tried to teach one of the hosts how to have “attitude”, mostly trying to goad him into saying “bitch” sassily, to the host’s constant protestations. The majority of the couch segments were straight up dumb and half-arsed, which honestly fit the show to a tee. I got entirely taken by a prank phone call bit in which the comic “called 911” and said there was a fire at the venue, then hung up. He had an actor friend at the back of the bar pretending to be the respondant and, honestly, I was totally suckered. It was a pretty mean-hearted joke, but goddamn if it wasn’t provocative.

You know what? I did fine. With three minutes, I didn’t do all the jokes I’d prepped, but I felt good about it. No jokes fell flat, every one of them got a response and the audience was warm. The vibe was friendly all over, and while I was pretty nervous, I was chuffed to be able to stand up without bombing. I’d spent the day stressing out. I’d spent the previous night lying awake with my eyes closed, trapped in circuitious thoughts. I was a total wreck, but performing felt like a release. I can’t say that I’m gonna dive in head first, heart full of fire, but I’m gonna get up again, sooner rather than later this time.

It’d be downright selfish to waste my best material on kitchen appliances, after all.

In other words, a coping mech and isms

Hi. Hello. How’re you doing? Me? Not well. Thanks for asking.

It’s gonna be one of those. “Those”, y’know? Hours, days, weeks, months kind of deal. I’m in a place and I don’t know where that is, but it’s not a bundle of joy, bunch of fun or barrel of monkeys. I’m in one of my ebbs, while I wait for the tide to bring me back to shore.

That’s all very cryptic, so let’s put it in plain terms. I’m depressed. It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I’m in a rut where I’m having trouble with many, many things. It’s not a singular aspect of my life that’s shaky, it’s a culmination of factors, a couple of which I’ve probably never considered. It’s tangible things like being unfulfilled at work, unsure of the future, worried whether I’ll get there and what shape I’ll be in if I do. It’s also less tangible stuff like feeling rudderless and disappointed, hurt and without motivation. A general ennui that fluctuates between absent and all-consuming.

I think there’s a general public perception that depression means an inability to get out of bed in the morning. To not know how to do dishes or brush your teeth. That’s not how depression presents for me. I have no issue completing tasks. I’m not worried that I won’t be able to get out of bed or I’ll be AWOL for work without explanation. I’m not worried about failing to eat, or dishes piling up. I can be depressed and functional. I might just not be there all the time.

Depression, as I experience it, means having trouble being present. It’s a fundamental disconnect between action and true understanding. I space out for periods and lose purpose. I can see the logic of what I’m doing, but there’s no link between the act itself and my desires or objectives. I stop living because I want to and instead live out of obligation. I go to work because logically I know that I need money to stay alive, to keep a roof over my head and food in my stomach, but not because I can understand why I would want any of those things. I can do my job in a technical sense, but not because of any investment in the outcome. People need the work done, it’s my job to do it, so I’ll make it happen. I eat because logically I know that without food, my body would die. I know that there are times at which I’d regret that, so I eat out of obligation to my future self. I’ll still go to the gym, because I’m aware that it’s best for my physical and mental health to keep that up. I’m aware that depression isn’t all consuming either at the time of depression, or in other periods of my life to follow. It makes sense to continue with upkeep, so I don’t stop. I know that I need to do these things to sustain myself, I just don’t care that I am.

When depression strikes me, the hardest thing to deal with is time. Time keeps happening. There are so many hours every day to fill and they’re just gonna keep existing. I’ll keep performing the same activities whether depressed or not, but I don’t connect to them as I otherwise would. I’ll listen to comedy and realise that things are objectively funny or entertaining, but I won’t laugh. I’ll read articles, but feel emotionally unaffected. I’ll constantly refresh my Facebook wall and see my friends’ posts, but be unable to overcome this chasm of disconnect. I won’t be doing things because I want to, I’ll do them because if I don’t, time will continue to tick away and it’ll take even longer to do so.

The short way of saying any of the above is that I go on auto pilot. I’ll keep living, but I’m not there. I feel numb, like I’m unmoored from my body. Like I’m piloting a big machine that exists independently of myself. I lose all sense of purpose. It’s not that I want to die, but I don’t want to be alive either. I think, therefore I am, with no idea why.

The thing I want to drive home is that it’s not an absolute. I’ll come back for minutes, hours, days, or weeks. All different increments at times beyond my control. Maybe I’ll hear something that brings me back for a time. Or I’ll exercise and physically feel in my body. Or I’ll hear a song and cry for some inexplicable reason. Or I’ll write, read what I’ve written and find resonance. Then I won’t. There’s no pattern.

So this may be one of those, or it won’t be. I’ve got no way of telling depth or length from this vantage point. I’ll keep checking in every day. I’ve booked in my introductory session with a new OHIP supplied therapist, so hopefully that gives some traction. Things will blow over. Then they’ll be back. And that’s okay. I’ll still be here.

I might just not be here.

Oh fuck. This is a Drake song, isn’t it?

I’m Upset.

I got another job rejection. I know it’s not personal, but I’m taking it personally. I know it’s not about me, but it feels like it’s about me, y’know? It feels like if it wasn’t me, I wouldn’t have this problem. I don’t think logic has any place in where I am right now. Logic would say that 200+ people apply for every position I apply for and only one person can be the right person. Logic would say that disappointment is inevitable for n-1 people where n=the number of people who applied. Logic would say this this is another singular disappointment in a series of singular disappointments. It doesn’t feel like a singular disappointment. It feels like a cumulative pile of failure in which I haven’t been the right person for anyone. That every time I’m not enough. Not experienced enough or talented enough or smart enough or capable enough. It feels like I’m coming up on several years of feeling at the very least low key bone deep miserable at all times and just kind of holding it together. This time feels different.

Logic has told me time and time again not to get attached, but I do. When I get an interview and the interview feels warm and responsive I get attached. I start thinking about what it could be like to meet new people in an all new department/workplace. To grow my skills and gain satisfaction in having done something well. To see progress and development in my own aptitude and confidence. To show myself that I am capable and bring value to the world with my output. When inevitably this doesn’t happen, I once again doubt all of the above. Logic tells me that I have value all of my own and I do bring something to the world in how I connect to others. It’s been a while since any of this felt logical.

I’m not logical right now. I’m Upset. “Capital U” Upset. I feel like I’m at a point of nothing. I’m 31 and I’m drifting, with no idea of what the future holds and zero assurance it’ll hold anything. I feel like any skills I had were honed almost ten years ago and my relevance has just been fading year by year. I know a fucking job doesn’t mean anything but it means something to me. I know the way I pay my rent doesn’t define me but I want it to, at least a little. Emotional as I am I know that even a dream job is still a job that sucks like any other job. I’m not asking for a dream job. If there’s anything the past ten years have taught me it’s to dream smaller. I’m just asking to do work that I can feel proud of, that makes people feel happy or understood in some way. That makes me feel like I’ve given something of myself. To feel like I’m connecting at least a little with others. I’ve long since known that money isn’t a motivator for me, but meaning is and I’m running on empty. I don’t know what I’m doing or why. I don’t know why I’m still trying. I’m scared that soon enough I’ll just stop caring and I don’t know what happens then.

Oh, I’ve had affirmations. That it’ll be my time next time. That something is right around the corner. That this wasn’t to be, but not to worry because something will come. That I am experienced enough and talented enough and smart enough and capable enough. Affirmations are great and all, but they don’t mean a thing unless I believe them and I don’t know that I do anymore.

I don’t know what the point of this is beyond venting, but I’m venting. Things feel pretty shit right now. They have for a while, but just that little bit more at the moment. I *know* that other people are struggling with worse problems, but I also know that doesn’t invalidate any of mine. I *know* that on a long enough timeline this won’t matter, but feeling shitty and worthless for years on end seems like a timeline that’s been long enough already. I’m so tired. I’m so tired of getting my hopes up and getting let down. I’m so tired of getting another deftly worded email that essentially tells me to go fuck myself. I’m so tired of putting energy out and feeling like I’m wasting my life. I’m so tired of swallowing my own disappointment day by day. I’m so tired of people telling me that things will just work out and both of smiling like either of us actually believe it.

I just kinda want to stop existing for a while.

And I know this too will fade. That everyone else feels this way a lot of the time. That we all feel shitty and worthless and like we’re not enough. That we feel like we’re just beating our heads against something, tasting our own blood and shrugging. That treading water is technically surviving, but it’s not a life. That there’s a piece missing that’ll make everything click, but its absense feels like a hole within ourselves. I know we all feel like this, but I’d kind of like to just not for once.

So for today, at least, I’m Upset.

At this point, this project has basically become a second Facebook

Look, this is probably cheating, but I wrote this piece yesterday. I spent a really long time on putting together a rebuttal for a Facebook debate (it reads more like an essay) and I think I’m okay with posting it as my “today” piece. It centred around a Facebook friend’s “unpopular opinion” that being offended is a choice we make. That we should “grow stronger than any of your traumas and history and simply rise above it. Work towards better things.” That free speech should be fine up to the point where it causes violence. That hate speech, while disgusting and awful, should not be governed by hatecrime legislation. That people have the right to say whatever they want and face the consequences. I want to emphasise that I don’t think he’s a bad person in any way. I do, however, vehemently disagree with his opinion in this instance. I feel like I care strongly enough about it, that I want to have it publicly posted in this space. Here’s my response:

Cool.

You’re right that I disagree with your unpopular opinion. The reason why I don’t think dealing with hate speech is as “simple” as choosing not to be offended, or growing stronger than your traumas and history, is because not everyone is you.

You’re a physically able, tall, straight white male. You’re very capable of taking care of yourself. People of course are able to threaten you, but it’s much less likely than it would be for some others. Threats of a sexually aggressive nature are unlikely to be as impactful to you as they may be to a physically smaller person who presents with varying gender or sexual orientation. People of course are still able to physically attack you, but it’s less likely that people would engage in violence against you for fear of reprisal.

Of course you have been threatened in your life. I’d argue that very, very few people have gone through their life without physical, verbal or emotional abuse. You also say that you’re a bouncer, which is a position that comes bundled with the potential of abuse. You enter into that situation knowing that it’s an outcome. There’s a level of consent there that says, while you don’t necessarily welcome it, you understand that it comes with the territory. You make that choice when you take on the job. What about people who don’t consent to facing abuse?

What about outside of your job. How often would you face bouts of abuse in any form? I’d wager that the frequency or incidence at which you face this abuse is exponentially lower than it would be for some others. How are you to gauge how hurtful and oppressive hate speech feels when you most likely very rarely face it? What about sexual threats? I’ve had numerous femme/NB friends tell me about the constant barrage of unwanted sexual attention. Sometimes it’s loud and frightening. There’s often a disparity in physical dominance. My girlfriend told me she got hit on four times the other day and it made her feel uncomfortable and unsafe. She said that wasn’t even a high number. What if that was happening to you every day, multiple times a day? What if sometimes the manner of the other person was so threatening that you were afraid for your life?

What if you were of some minority in a workplace where hate speech was allowed? What if the use of it by even one co-worker on the regular made you feel frustrated or hurt? What if it was multiple co-workers? What if your boss spoke to you like a lesser life form because of your cultural background? What if you felt threatened by this behaviour and felt unsafe in the workplace? What if people with higher status than you felt that it was okay to try and make you miserable on the regular? Sure, you could brush it off, swallow the pain and just go on with your life. It’s just work, right? What if it followed you home? What if you were being belittled in the supermarket or other social spaces? What if people decided they didn’t want you around and felt comfortable expressing that? What if there were just some bars and restaurants where you knew you’d be regularly harassed? Or parts of town? Would that be something you could “simply rise above”?

Look, I’m gonna pull the Jew card, not because I especially want to invoke Godwin’s Law, but because it’s relevant to my day to day and I think it might be a decent way of highlighting how it’s not as simple as being bigger than words. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a physically able, straight white male too. Still, when someone uses the word Kike, it makes me feel fucking terrible inside and out. It reminds me that there are a lot of people out there who think that I don’t deserve to live. That word reminds me that for a lot of people, my personhood, achievements, personality, deeds, friendships and romantic connections are less important than the fact that I’m of Jewish dissent and as such, would be better off dead. This transcends people not liking me, this is ‘you should be culled’ territory. These sentiments exist out there and I know it, but I’m not always reminded of them. Which is a good thing, because despite being a physically able straight white male, I know that if these sentiments were given enough support, I would be given cause for concern.

I rise above a lot of it. Whether it’s jokey comments reinforcing stereotypes or my culture thrown out as a casual disparaging epithet that remind me that for some people, a religion that I don’t even follow is a large component of how they view me. That for others, noticing that aspect of me is enough to want me to be killed. I’m not an incredibly sensitive person, (despite how it might sound from the fact that I’ve been pointedly debating for hours) I’m really not. For the most part I live my life without major issues or cause to feel threatened. I have a pretty positive outlook a lot of the time. I try to be a friendly person and kind to strangers. I truly believe that people are more often ignorant than malicious and as such, I try to assume the best of most people/outcomes.

Still, it’s very hard to hear some of the recent alt-right sentiment and not feel at least a sliver of doubt that, if given more weight or the wrong people running with the sentiment, the floor could cave out and society could turn on me. That the words could become more than just words and people could act on them. That it could reach the tipping point where more of society decides that violence against me is okay than those who oppose this idea. That the overwhelming sentiment is that I’m a lesser life form and I don’t have the right to personhood. That it’s like killing an animal or something. That I don’t deserve the same rights as others.

It’s very rare for me to feel this way, because it’s not often reinforced. People are discouraged against this kind of hate speech, so the rhetoric stays bubbling under the surface. How often do I feel this? Not often. Most days and months go by without the thoughts even entering into my head. In fact, they come up so infrequently that for the most part I can ignore them and brush them off. It’s because hate speech is discouraged that it’s 99.999% easier to choose not to be offended, as you say.

I have a ton of resilience. If I faced hate speech day by day, I don’t think it would be as easy to be as resilient. I think that if people openly used racist words against me day in and day out, that my resilience would crack and it would be harder and harder to not be offended. I would be reminded a lot more often that a lot of people would be quite okay with me taking a gas shower. That my family, too, should all be dead.

But because hate speech is widely condemned, I don’t have to deal with all of that.

I honestly don’t think that most people out there are antisemitic. I do think that hate speech has a habit of multiplying negative sentiment. I think that people who have no horse in this race could be swayed to follow the hateful rhetoric. I think that a lot of people with these extreme feelings would feel strongly enough about it that they would try to amplify hate speech into hate sentiment, that things that were just words would become more than just words. I feel like the absence of hatecrime legislature would not lead to situations in which it would be as easy to rise above and not be offended.

I can envision these scenarios being played out over a myriad of cultural/sexual/gender identities that don’t affect me, but I sure as hell don’t want others to have to face a higher likelihood of dealing with this kind of thing. That sounds like a lower quality of life for all of us.