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The Void

I’ve been writing more consistently lately, so I thought I’d share a little bit. I wrote this back in March.

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Have you ever been in a room so dark that it almost see me illuminated? Like you opened a new sensory perception by being somewhere so devoid of light? Little sparks glimmering just off-center of your line of perceived sight; ears perked, as if SONAR has just been made available to you.

“Hello?” you whisper internally.

Or was that out loud?

The thing about the perfect dark is that it is almost always accompanied by complete silence.

Except for that faint ringing.

You hear it now, don’t you?

“Hello?” you call again. But to whom? Is anyone even here? You thought there was. At least, there was when you…

Wasn’t there?

The remnants of memories are all that are left. Fading gently into blackness. But no effort is made to shed any light. Except for a few words here and there. But … were they words, or just thoughts? Lingering, internalized.

“If someone is there, can you just say something? Anything, seriously. Maybe just a sound.”

Nothing. Just that damned ringing. Will it ever stop?

You never really get used to the dark. You just try to make it work for you in some way.

Maybe this is just what it’s supposed to be like from now on. Maybe the darkness is the new normal. It has been a long time. Weeks. Months? Time doesn’t exist in nothingness.

Not much of anything exists. A little imagination, perhaps. (And this godforsaken ringing.) But imagination adheres to one rule: Whatever I dream up, it’ll only be in relation to this darkness, cool?

Maybe this is hell.

Maybe you’ve been swallowed by an enormous beast. And you’re simply awaiting digestion.

Maybe. Probably not. But maybe.

“Hello?” Not knowing what to expect in return, you call out again. Who do you hope answers? What do you want them to say? Why?

At this point …. anything.

bzzt bzzt 

Ah.

Finally.

Something.

A like.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Alright

I’m sick.

I’ve felt physically ill since last night when reports started pouring in of active shooters in Dallas.

Even as I type this, my stomach is in knots. I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m grieved.

I…don’t know what to do. Or say. Or write.

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This isn’t the way it should be.

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Regardless of my feelings, and whether or not I should have to defend my position, I will say again so there is no confusion:

I do not hate police officers. I appreciate the work that they do. I understand the difficulty of the job. I am aware that not all police officers are bad guys. I’m thankful for the good guys in blue. I acknowledge your hard work, the risk you take day in and day out.

What I do hate is injustice. I hate how quick death is dealt to people of color in this country. I hate that we live in a country so wrought in historical racism, and that it continues to show it’s ugly face every day. I hate that my black friends, neighbors and acquaintances – and even strangers – live in constant fear of “when, not if” as it pertains to being a victim of racism. I hate that those in power – police, politicians, wealthy – are not held to the same standard as civilians. I hate the poverty and classism in this country. I hate violence. I hate how accessible deadly weapons are in this country. I hate the senseless loss of life.

I hate injustice.

And I hate feeling like this.

But here’s the thing….feeling like I do is inconsequential in relation to the real life fear of my black brothers and sisters. I don’t live in constant fear for my life. I don’t fear for my children’s lives the same way Samaria Rice did.

I’m a lower- to middle-class white male. I live under the national poverty line for a man with a family of five.

And I live a privileged life.

I’ve not been handed anything necessarily. I’ve had tough times. But I am privileged.

How?

When I see blue lights in my rear view mirror, the extent of my fear is “I hope I don’t get a ticket.” When I walk in a store, I don’t feel extra watched or have security guards follow me around. When I have applied for jobs and employers see “Justin Rich,” I never felt like I was going to be disregarded because my name sounded “too urban.”

And it is out of my privilege that I speak.

What happened in Dallas on Thursday night was a tragedy. The victims – police and civilian alike – deserved better. But to be clear: This was not an action born of the Black Lives Matter movement. And to say otherwise is irresponsible and unfair.

It is, however, different to say that the actions of several police officers across the country are the result of the American Justice System being inherently racist. We know this because of 400 plus years of American history – from slavery to Jim Crow to the Civil Rights movement to the disproportionate number of Black Americans who experience excessive force. The facts are undeniable.

Meanwhile, in the two plus years since its inception, the Black Lives Matter movement has not been party to any single instance of violent behavior. Show me someone who claims to be part of the movement while committing heinous acts of violence, and I’ll show you a statement from the movement disavowing those actions. Black Lives Matter is peaceful movement. Thursday’s shooter – the one who was questioned by police – was angered by Black Lives Matter, as well as the actions of the police.

We live in a divisive society – one that believes if you’re for something, you must be opposed to its counterpart. But the opponents have been blurred.

I believe in the Black Lives Matter movement. I believe in equity. I believe police officers need better training to deescalate situations. I believe in obvious cases of brutality, police officers need to be held accountable for their actions. I believe that when there are records of real racism – text messages expressing a desire to lynch black folks, for example – police officers should be held accountable. I believe there is inherent racism in our justice system. And that is why I believe our justice system needs an overhaul. I also believe the media is complicit in the divisiveness, and they should be held accountable for reporting inaccurate information or misconstruing facts for clicks and ratings (i.e. showing Alton Sterling’s mugshot and Brock Turner’s class photo).

I am anti-police brutality, but that does not mean I am anti-police. There is a difference.

I am pro-Black Lives Matter, but that does not mean I am anti-White Lives or Anti-Blue Lives. There is a difference.

As a white male, I do not want to step on or in front of the oppressed, the victims.

On the same hand, as a white male, I’m redoubling my efforts in confronting racism, systematic oppression and inequity. I will continue to demand change with and for my brothers and sisters. I’m not afraid to speak up and speak out. Because I won’t face the same threats. Because I’m a white male.

But I’m learning to stay in my lane. I know I need to give voice to my brothers and sisters, and not take their place. It’s a tough position to be in – relatively speaking – because sometimes, white people need to hear it from other white people.

The Civil Rights movement isn’t over. It’s just different faces. We are in a moment of time and history. We will look back on this time, and it is up to us how we look at it. We can help facilitate change, and make a better America for everyone. We can disavow racism, stereotypes, and fear.

And we can love.

We can make America great. Full Stop.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2016 in Life, Social Justice

 

Hello Alone

It’s been a weird few months.

“How are ya?”

I’ve stopped lying to the people who are only trying to be congenial. Sometimes I respond with a soft “…I’m…alright.” Sometimes I ignore the question altogether, and throw it in reverse with the always popular “How are you?”

I don’t want to lie. And if we’re being honest, you – being  relative stranger – don’t really care how I’m doing, do you? I don’t ask that to be rude. I really don’t. But I’m a realist who often dips a toe – or leg – into pessimism. You’re asking because we are trained to ask how someone is – regardless of relational status or whether you even care or not. You likely don’t want to hear how I really am. And I really don’t have time – or energy – to tell you how I really am. Fact is, since you asked:

I’m not ok.

I’ve struggled putting these feelings into words. I don’t really know how to explain it. Anytime I’ve tried, it’s come down to one simple, albeit convoluted, statement:

It feels like my brain is on fire.

But that statement isn’t even entirely right. It’s not hot. There’s no burning.

But there’s plenty of smoke. And where there’s smoke…


I started going to therapy about 5 weeks ago.

For the last 5 or 6 years, I’ve known that its been necessary, I’ve just never had the means until this year. Thanks, Obama. I’ve heard stories of how people had breakthroughs in therapy, reaching a contentment within themselves, facing issues, dealing with struggles, and that’s been something for which I’ve been longing: some kind of breakthrough, contentment. Peace.

And for some reason, I thought after 5 weeks, I’d feel better. Call it a result of not knowing what to expect yet having unattainable expectations or living in a culture that needs instant gratificationbut I’ve actually felt worse after each weekly session. I even said as much in my last session this week. It’s likely because everything I’ve been feeling – this last year especially – became more real as I say it out loud to another human. Which is…strange, because those things have always been there: the struggles I face, the issues I have, the problems I’ve had to deal with. But talking about them has caused me to feel their impact greater. And as difficult the last year has been for me, these last 5 weeks have been excruciating.

I have no official diagnosis from my therapist. And I’m not one for self-diagnosis. But just based on what I’ve read and heard from others, it’s likely that I’m dealing with depression. And that’s always been a word that I’ve struggled to understand.

For much of my life, I’ve heard ‘depression’ used as a synonym for sadness, being in a bad mood or just general unhappiness because of a singular result. He’s depressed because he didn’t make the baseball team. But as I’ve gained a better understanding of mental health, I know depression is an entirely different animal. I don’t have answers. I don’t know how to fix it. Right now, I’m just trying to live with it and, ultimately, through it.

I read Kristen Bell’s open letter about her own struggle with depression today, and it hit me where I am. HARD.

“For me, depression is not sadness,” she wrote. “It’s not having a bad day and needing a hug. It gave me a complete and utter sense of isolation and loneliness. Its debilitation was all-consuming, and it shut down my mental circuit board. I felt worthless, like I had nothing to offer, like I was a failure.”

Hello, my name is Justin. I hope you have enjoyed reading my biography.

In 54 words, someone I’ve never met perfectly summed up my entire life right now. The isolation. The loneliness. The feeling of failure – as a man, a husband, a father, a designer. That’s me right now. I can’t shake those feelings. They’re just there.

And it’s paralyzing.

I don’t know the root cause of what I’m going through right now. I know that the events of the last year have had a major part in at least magnifying underlying issues: finding out my mother-in-law had acute leukemia, deciding to move cross-country (again) and leaving a city we utterly loved, my father having a stroke a week before our move, transitioning into a new job, raising three boys, getting a puppy (because we didn’t have enough stress), my mother-in-law fighting valiantly until she could fight no more, and making the difficult decision to give up our puppy.

To say the last 13 months has been a whirlwind would get you the side-est of side eye. It has been insane. I’m working on breathing techniques, relaxing my muscles, trying to ease tension. It works. Sometimes. Not often.

It has always been my nature to fight when faced with the threat of attack – real or perceived. I like to stand up for myself. But lately? Lately I’ve been in full-on flight mode. I retreat, distance myself emotionally. I become quiet. Reserved. And anyone who knew me growing up or knows me now knows how crazy that sounds. Whether at work, or at home, or in public, during one of my … ‘episodes’… I am presently invisible. I shut down. And those ‘episodes’ (I honestly don’t have a better word for it) can last a couple of hours or a couple of days. It affects my work, the way I parent, how I am as a husband.

And it sucks.

I don’t feel good about where I am. If I could wish it all away I would. But it’s something I’m living with right now. It’s hard. It’s not fun at all. But it is what it is. There are days when I want to throw my hands up, run away from everything.

But here I am.

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2016 in Life

 

All These Words

Each new election cycle brings the same arguments every two years (or four, as is the case for Presidential elections). In the digital age, however, it seems as though people have forgotten – or foregone, as the case may be – how to be civil and discuss issues, and instead spout talking points from the loudest megaphone they can get their hands on. I’m not excusing myself. I have a finger pointed directly at myself.

But more and more I’ve noticed something very…unsettling. But first, a little backstory…

I was a registered Republican. I was a Fox News watcher. I listened to Sean Hannity on my way home from work everyday. I had a particular set of beliefs, and nothing could sway me. The operative word there is ‘was’. Something within me shifted about 6 years ago. A trip to Haiti, a move across the country and several other factors contributed to an eye-opening shift in my belief system. I – for the most part – abandoned the Republican party. I began looking for answers to questions in other avenues I had turned a blind eye to in the past. I found it hard to support a political party that seemed more interested in building big business and lining their own pockets with money from lobbyists rather than helping citizens who, like me, are working poor and considered to be ‘lesser than’ citizens. This isn’t an indictment on the Republican party alone. Our entire political system is corrupt and needs to be overhauled completely.

I became more liberal. Shocking, right? I’m a Christian, grew up in a conservative home, went to a conservative church. And people have unfriended me on Facebook because I’ve changed. To be fair, I’ve unfriended people, too. Because I’ve changed. I still believe in the Creator. I still follow the teachings of Jesus – as best I can through all the stumbling around I do in this messed up world. I do that all the while leaning more ‘left’ than I used to. Its a tough pill for some to swallow. I’m an embarrassment to some, I’m sure. But it doesn’t change what I believe.

I’ve noticed that more and more people wouldn’t mind the United States becoming a Theocracy, based on Judeo-Christian principles. And not just minding it, but almost demanding it. So I posed a very challenging question to myself earlier today, and I am still searching for an answer. I’ll likely never find the ‘right’ answer. That, or I already know the answer and it is to difficult to acknowledge that it is the truth.

What would happen is the United States did turn into a Theocracy?

Here’s the thing: I’m tired of political candidates using Scripture – out of context – to give a segment (albeit large segment) of the population something they want to hear, a little buzz in their ear to warm the cockles of their heart and make it seem like “this guy, he’s just like one of us.” Talking points, buzzwords and out-of-context Scripture is not enough for me anymore. Alas, I’m not the majority. But just for a second, let’s pretend that one of these candidates who can quote a passage from TWO Corinthians turned this country into a Theocracy upon their election into office. And yes, I know it can’t happen. But just for the sake of argument, let’s venture into this rabbit hole.

If we became a nation led by theocratic rule, under the banner of Christianity, what happens? Mainly, what happens to the platform of the hardliners and far-right Evangelicals of the Republican Party? Would most of the Evangelical Right still be opposed to social programs like medicare and food stamps? In the last 6 months, I have heard people I know personally say some truly terrible things about Welfare recipients, including but not limited to comparing them to dogs who can’t feed themselves because they get used to receiving government assistance. That is, getting fat sitting under the table begging for scraps instead going out and hunting for food on their own accord. Honestly, as someone who receives certain benefits, it felt like a personal attack and sent me into a tailspin that I don’t know I’ve completely recovered from.

But I ask these questions because they trouble me deeply. I don’t take Christianity lightly. I’m a terrible Christian, admittedly. I don’t do as much as I could. And I have my fair share of shortcomings. But I believe in a Redeemer and a Savior. And I have a hard time believing that He would be an American Republican. Not this version of American Republican, anyway. And that’s not to say he’d be a Democrat, either.

It was Jesus who instructed his followers to take care of the sick, poor, orphaned and widowed. But there is a large intersection of people diametrically opposed to social programs specifically designed for people in those categories who also claim to follow Jesus’ teachings under the guise of “it is not the government’s job to take care of the sick, the poor, the orphaned and widowed. Its the job of the church.”

But here’s the problem:

The church as a whole can’t (or won’t, as the case may be [ahem…$65mil private jets]) do enough for a population of hurting, needy, desperate people. Do people like me want to receive government benefits just to be able to afford to go to the doctor? While I can only speak for myself, I would venture a guess of no, many people would rather make a decent wage, and still be able to get their prescription or not have to file bankruptcy in the event of emergency surgery. I don’t trust the American Church very much right now. Granted, the church I attend just gave away $800,000 to its congregation this past Christmas to in turn give away – a reverse offering, if you will. But that’s only 1 example I have at my disposal. There’s not been enough evidence to prove that the American Church can take all the responsibility it claims in discussions of politics and the necessity of social programs. If the church wants to bear that mantle, then it should mount up, stop worrying about all the ‘heathens’ who may ask for a prayer or two while flying coach on a commercial airline, and put your literal money where your mouth is.

We’d be no better off under a Christian Theocracy than we are today. And I’d bet that we’d actually be worse. Suffice it to say trying to legislate morality would be a nightmare. This country wasn’t founded as a Theocracy.

Nor should it become one.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

This is Why We Can’t Have Nuclear Power – A Godzilla Review

 

Godzilla

Godzilla

Nuclear energy has always been an intimidating proposition in the US. Though there are 100 commercial reactors in the US, the threat of meltdown and the danger they could potentially inflict keeps the national production of nuclear energy at less than 20% of the total energy (stats as of 2011). Three Mile Island’s 1979 meltdown – and those of two reactors in Japan in 2011 and 2012 – are still in the forefront of American’s minds, and will likely be the reason nuclear programs won’t be a leading form of energy production for a long time, possibly forever.

For better or worse, this weekend’s release of Godzilla will certainly not help ease the fears. Don’t worry. No spoilers are present in this review.

Godzilla was everything you could ever hope for in a prototypical monster movie: Giant monsters, people running for their lives, and gratuitous destruction. One thing this movie had that others didn’t, however, was genuine, believable acting performances.

Read more here at the Grumpyhawk Collective. (Big thanks to Grumpyhawk and Benjamin for a forum.)

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2014 in Movies

 

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I Kissed Facebook Goodbye

I Kissed Facebook GoodbyeI’m done. Finished. I’ve had it up to here.

That’s right, I’m disconnecting from Facebook. And I’m not doing so willy-nilly, just on a whim, or because of any one particular reason. This is something I’ve been mulling over for weeks and weeks. The reasons are many. Individually, it’s no big deal. But collectively, I am the camel’s back. I have buckled under the weight.

And I’m well aware that many of you won’t care one way or the other. So you’re leaving Facebook. OK. So what? You felt it necessary to blog about it? Hey everybody, come check out this guy’s self-importance! I get it. It seems silly on the surface why I’d make this kind of announcement to the seven people that read my stuff with any regularity. And I know my Facebook friends likely won’t give a second thought to my leaving, well, because, ultimately, who am I? Other than some guy they met one time, or used to go to high school with, or found through a friend of a friend, I’m a nobody.

I’m deleting my Facebook account because I don’t want it anymore plain and simple. I’m tired of the drama – the posts about everything from politics to religion to which way is best to raise your child to…you name it. Sure I could go through and unfriend each person who I have deemed unfollowable, or unworthy of the space on my timeline, but Sweet Brown had it right.

And don’t get me started on the privacy concerns that have been discussed ad naseum over the last couple of years.

From where I sit on my high horse, Facebook has become an extension of Pinterest where you can post your favorite recipes. It’s become a platform for political posturing – only problem is you preach to the proverbial choir with every word or picture that you post. And God forbid if you disagree with someone, prepare to throw virtual fisticuffs. Or better yet – “UNFRIEND!” Ah, the ultimate slap in the face: vocal unfriending. And not to sound any more arrogant than I already do, but Facebook doesn’t offer me anything substantial. Sure, I can check up on a guy I went to high school with and see he’s doing well, has a couple kids and all that good stuff. You mean that same guy that I haven’t had a conversation with in 12 years? The guy I feel like I’m stalking every time he pops up on my newsfeed?

Facebook supposedly has made the world smaller by making it easy to connect with seemingly anyone. But in reality, Facebook has made the world larger. It’s replaced relationship with connection. I see you on my newsfeed, and I like a photo, I assume that I’ve done my due diligence in keeping our relationship healthy. And that’s borderline sleazy. I’m guilty of it, and I don’t feel good about it.

My leaving Facebook will hurt some, I know. Grandparents won’t see as many pictures, or know what their grandkids are doing every single second of every single day, but sometimes you have to take the good with the bad, I guess. There are far better forms of media and other such outlets that will allow for keeping in contact, and you know, have actual conversations. A phone, for instance. Skype, even. Remember way back when in the early 1990s when 95% of America didn’t know anything about this “Internet” thing, and we actually had to pick up a telephone to converse with another human being? Crazytown, banana-pants, right?

All in all, I’m really broadcasting my leaving Facebook as fair warning for anyone who might legitimately care. So, with that said, as of March 29, in the year of our Lord 2014, I’m leaving the reservation.

It was a good run, Facebook.

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You can follow me on any number of other platforms, for what it’s worth, including @c_justinrich on the tweets, and on my brand-spanking-new Tumblr page (which needs A LOT of work).

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2014 in Life

 

A Heroine Worth Looking Up To (A “Divergent” Review)

Image

Disclaimer: This review will be based solely on viewing the movie. Nothing pertaining to the book series will be used as a method of grading. I have not read a single page of the series of books, thus I have no idea what was replaced, excluded, altered, or otherwise different from the novels. Book purists – please just calm down.


Dystopian, post-apocalyptical stories are all the rage right now. The Hunger Games, The Walking Dead, and now Divergent have graced the small and silver screens, creating an unbecoming escape from reality for readers, moviegoers and television viewers alike. And the popularity is ever-increasing. Millions of viewers tune in each week to follow the walker-infested paths of a band of misfit Georgians. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the story of a dystopian futurescape pitting children against one another in fights to the death to understand and appreciate the history of this anti-society.

This weekend, Divergent joined the fray on the worldwide level. Divergent has been compared to The Hunger Games and Twilight: young adult fiction turned screenplay. But if we’re being honest, that’s where the comparisons stop. Well, should stop, anyways.

The adaptation of Veronica Roth’s best-selling novel by the same name is set in a post-war Chicago, though a time frame isn’t explicitly given – much like Spike Jonze’s her. War – presumably nuclear – has ravaged America, and most likely the rest of the world. Chicago, though, it looks like a shell of its former self, is still a functional society, operating within a system of occupational factions. Dividing a community of people based on aptitude and skill-set has created a seemingly perfect society. The story revolves around a girl, Beatrice “Tris” Prior, who, at 16, has come of age to take the test to determine whether she is better suited for a role of selflessness, bravery, intelligence, provision or truth, though ultimately she (as does everyone) gets to choose the faction that she will be a part of for the rest of her life….

Continue reading the review at Grumpyhawk Collective here.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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