Tom Petty

So I’ve come to the conclusion, based on almost two weeks’ worth of introspection and careful consideration, and…I’ve decided that – during the course of my lifetime, anyway, that there have been three deaths within the realm of rock and roll that, within my world, could be considered seismic in nature.

Ronnie Van Zant, Jerry Garcia, and…Tom Petty.

Certainly, there have been deaths that affected me more deeply on an emotional level (Dan Fogelberg, T-Bone Wolk, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Gregg Allman, Michael Hedges), and there have been people who’ve passed that would be considered more influential (John Lennon, Bowie, George Harrison, Prince, Kurt Cobain), but – from the perspective offered from my own view of the world, these three mark significant, distinct turning points.

Ronnie Van Zant and the infamous Skynyrd Plane Crash happened when I was twelve years old and literally just discovering rock and roll from my perch in rural western Tennessee, and their importance within my peer group couldn’t possibly be overstated. Southern Rock was at its zenith at the time – I hadn’t been around for Duane and Berry…or Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison, even…and The Day The Music Died happened years before I was born – so the first death within this new world I was just discovering was the grim and grisly events of October 20th, 1977…now almost exactly forty years ago.

It was surreal for a 12 year old kid to hear music coming out of the radio played and sung by folks who’d shuffled off this mortal coil. I’d experienced Elvis’ passing, but – no disrespect – his music didn’t speak to me at all. Elvis’ music didn’t belong to me, it belonged to “old people”. I didn’t have the respect for history then that I have now, clearly. In retrospect, it’s odd to think that Elvis passed away barely more than 60 days before the Crash, but the two events affected me completely differently.

The Skynyrd Crash was a perpetual subject of discussion among all the kids I knew who were remotely into music…and even the ones who weren’t. And it’s interesting to realize now, all these years later, that my first memories of the music that I was discovering, the specific stuff that I related to was already inextricably married to tragedy. It’s a thread that’s run through almost everything that I’ve been musically attracted to ever since, somehow. If there’s a self-destructive tortured artist involved somewhere in the mix, I’m sold. Gram Parsons, Chris Bell, Ted Hawkins – I’m all in. But with Ronnie, his songs and voice were literally everywhere. And, as has been thoroughly chronicled in the time since in print and documentary alike (the BBC alone has done Song of the South and Sweet Home Alabama: The Southern Rock Saga to cover the subject), the Skynyrd Crash was the bellwether that foretold the end of the dominance of Southern Rock as a microcosm of rock and roll in general. Obviously, I had no way of knowing it at the time, but in retrospect, the turning of the tide is undeniable. The shift was bigger than just the music, through…times were changing all around us, and music was just a means by which to measure the direction. But by the time the wave had crested and broken on the shore, I had ventured well past the Point of No Return. I was coming home from school and plopping down behind the drums and playing until my mom told me that everyone else was going to bed and I had to cut it out. I was gone, and there was no coming back for me…and the footprint left on my impressionable palette by Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines and the lost Skynyrd brothers was permanent.

Time went by, my focus drifted from the drums to the desire to write songs…I saw Dan Fogelberg at the Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis in 1983 shortly before leaving my hometown to join the military, and – it wasn’t that I lost interest in playing drums as much as I felt like there was an entire world that had opened up to me, and I intended to learn to play guitar and learn to write songs. The future, as it’s said, was wide open.

Rock and Roll was my identity. In a lot of ways, it still is. I learned to play guitar. I became a pretty decent singer. I learned how to record myself. I made demos of my amateur songs and taught myself how to sing harmony by singing along to those homemade Portastudio recordings. Music was all I thought about. Sure, I had a job, I had shit that I had to take care of, bills to pay, groceries to buy – but any sense of purpose I had at all was related to my identity as a musician.

My first wife was a self-professed “deadhead” – and I’d heard the Grateful Dead in fits and starts prior to meeting her, but it was one of thousands of blips on a huge radar screen, and my attention was focused on what I thought were bigger, more important dots around the radius. But she hipped me to the fact that the Grateful Dead Experience wasn’t just about buying the records and listening to the music, it was much, much bigger than that – and that, in fact, “The Dead” didn’t really give a shit about making records. Making records was, to them, an afterthought…and their tours and live performances were not only their bread and butter, but the lifeblood to an entire counterculture that found its way into their orbit as the Sixties became the Seventies and the tectonic plates shifted beneath our collective feet.

Still, my path went in another direction and it didn’t really intersect – at the time – with what the Grateful Dead were about. It took some years of absorbing their music and a gradual understanding of their work ethic for it to sink in. To this day, I’m still more a fan of their songs than I am the extended, improvisational jams that were their trademark…I’ll listen to American Beauty and Workingmans’ Dead all day long before I’ll put on a tape of a show from 1971 with an extended “drums and space” segment. I’m a song guy. That’s just where my head’s at.

In August of 1995, I was playing a lunchtime show on an outdoor stage in Hershey, PA – and a buddy of mine tended bar during the day at a club in town that I played at on a regular basis, so I went over to pop in and visit before I turned around to head home. When I walked in, everybody in the room was morose and Brokedown Palace was playing on the jukebox. I sat down and ordered a Rolling Rock and opened a volley of small talk. “Yeah, kind of a bummer of a day,” he volunteered.

“Garcia died today.”

I sat there, silent, for a minute…he filled in the details, but I don’t know that I really heard him. I don’t think I stayed for more than another five or ten minutes before I got in the truck to drive home…I was as much stunned as I was saddened by his passing – it very much felt like the final nail in the coffin of an era that – without Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, couldn’t possibly forestall its demise any longer. Sure, the sixties, hippie culture – it had been over for fifteen years by then, but you could still go to a Dead show and forget, even for a few hours, about Ronald Reagan and the collective sellout of the Hippie Ideal. Jerry was a musical and visual representation of something that, I came to learn later, he quietly resented – he never set out to carry the burden of being the Shepherd of the Anti-Flock…and all he ever wanted to do, from the beginning, was to Play In The Band.
I’m not sure which demons eventually consumed him, but he was gone.

I drove home and grabbed a blank VHS tape and popped it into the VCR and spent the rest of the night watching and recording news reports of Jerry’s passing. I called off sick at work for the next two days…I was both saddened beyond belief and – honestly, very much surprised by how affected I was by his passing. For years afterward, I would mark the anniversary of his passing by watching that tape with a six pack of Rolling Rock.

I’ve come to learn a lot more about the clouds that surrounded the band in the final days, and I’ve also come to appreciate the improvisational nature of the band to an extent, as well – but I still feel a deep sadness that I didn’t appreciate Jerry and his contributions while he was here as much as I do now. And I’ve had opportunities to dip my toes into the DeadHead waters as a musician and a bystander to what still exists of Deadhead Nation, and I’ll be eternally grateful for his spirit for the rest of my days.

In the years since, there have been legions of talented musicians, writers, and “rock stars” who’ve left us…and again, this isn’t to catalog our fallen brethren by net worth or cultural relevance or any other means of measurement other than their significance as signposts in my life. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Time passed.

I matured as a musician, I wrote songs, I recorded my own songs, I played my own songs for other people, and…I eventually found a path I was comfortable travelling that was much more centered on being a sideman and contributing to other peoples’ visions than trying to force my own works on people. I put tens of thousands of miles behind me, played hundreds of hours’ worth of shows….changed a LOT of strings, played a lot of sessions, made a LOT of friends, had a lot of experiences I’ll never forget, and I’ll be thankful for the road I’ve taken until the day I draw my last breath.

It really has been a Wonderful Life.

So I suppose it’s fitting in a sense that, at this point in my life – as I’m reaching the twilight of my own musical career and looking down the road to a point that I can begin to identify as The End Of The Road that we would lose someone like Tom Petty.

Goddamnit.

For me, there was literally never a point in my musical life that Tom Petty wasn’t a part of.

My mother got me a clock radio for Christmas in 1977, and that bullshit little $15 radio became my tether to the world that existed outside my ridiculously limited view. The following summer, the movie FM came out, with Breakdown on the soundtrack and an actual appearance by the band in the movie, so – as far as I was concerned, they were part of the echelon. They weren’t one of those bands that I stumbled upon later that I got the privilege of going back and rediscovering their back catalog after they’d already done a handful of records….they were there from the outset, and they just NEVER. FUCKING. WENT. AWAY.

I need to admit a couple of things, though.

They were never my favorite band. I never put them at the top of my personal musical food chain, and – truth be told, there were periods of his career that I wasn’t particularly fond of.

But then again, I’d be willing to bet there are fans of Neil Young and Bob Dylan who would admit the same thing if they were willing to be completely honest.

I didn’t care much for the Jeff Lynne method of making records where it applied to Tom’s music…I had become too much of a fan of the records they made in a largely live setting, and the Jeff Lynne process just didn’t resonate with me. Obviously, I’m in the minority there, as they were some of his most successful recordings, but – as I’ve said multiple times, your mileage may vary.

For me, the Holy Trinity of Tom Petty albums are:

Damn the Torpedoes
Hard Promises
Long After Dark

As with Bob Seger, he had the good fortune of having a three album run that – for me – really perfectly represented his artistic identity. For Seger, it was Night Moves, Stranger in Town, and Against the Wind…for Petty (again, in my opinion), it was those three records.

I know Tom wasn’t fond of Long After Dark – I think it was made with waning interest from Jimmy Iovine, and there were a lot of distractions that didn’t fuel the creative process, but – man, it’s a fucking great record. The singles were phenomenal, and the album tracks that most folks aren’t familiar with could easily be cornerstone material for a lesser band – Deliver Me, I’m Finding Out, Straight Into Darkness…seriously, those songs are just plain unbelievable, and I wish the record had been successful enough that more people heard those songs.

As I fell deeper and deeper under the spell of the electric guitar, Mike Campbell became one of the faces on my personal Mount Olympus, and those records were textbooks.

And as I started to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, they were a huge dot on the map for me…and, thankfully, towards the end, they rediscovered the mojo (pardon the pun) that they seemed to have lost for a moment there, when they were making records instrument by instrument for those years between Long After Dark and Highway Companion.

Too often, when we’ve lost important, influential artists, we look at their work in a typical creative curve with low points at the front and back and an apex in the middle…but I feel like they were really doing some of their best work on Highway Companion and Mojo…and their live shows over the past decade have been Springsteenesque tours through not only their own discography, but through the history of rock and roll in general.

To me, that’s one of the biggest tragedies of Tom’s passing.

I feel as though we’ve lost a thread that connected us all to the very seeds of rock and roll. Tom still had the fire, right up until the very end. Tom came from The South, just as Ronnie Van Zant had – he had that particular soulfulness that seems to emanate from this particular plot of land down here in the Southeastern quadrant of the US…and he carried that spark with him, in varying degrees, right to the bitter fucking end. It’s to his credit that he went out with all his sensibilities intact. Maybe he couldn’t hit the high notes of Refugee or Here Comes My Girl anymore, but he still played like he fucking meant it, and he still brought it, ALL of it, every night, right up through the last show of their 40th Anniversary Tour at the Hollywood Bowl, just a week before he died.

Now, that tether that tied us to the genesis of rock and roll is gone.

And maybe to much of the world – the world that’s enamored with Real Housewives, Bullshit YouTube channels, and InstaCelebrities like Nicki Minaj and the like – maybe they won’t notice so much. They’ll hear some fuckskillet like Jason Aldean when he turns up on SNL and do one of Tom’s chestnuts and that’ll be the extent of what they know about any of this. They didn’t live through it, it didn’t comprise any of the rings inside the tree for them…they know his name, they know the video with the top hat or the video with Johnny Depp or the video with Kim Basinger and that’s about the extent of what they know or can relate to.

I find myself often thinking about Johnny Carson in the days since Tom died, and how he was just Always There. No matter what else might be going on in the world at large, you could turn on the TV after the evening news and Johnny and Ed would put a smile on your face. Likewise, where TP was concerned…it could be said that some albums were better than others, he had peaks and valleys…but you always knew that he had another great record in him. Or that if you went to a show, you were going to leave with a smile on your face and a memory that no one could take from you.

We’re riding out the waning moments of 2017, and there are quite a few folks still walking among us that, frankly, I’d have expected to have preceded Tom Petty. And there are still others who I can’t really allow myself to consider the thought of losing at the moment.

Springsteen. McCartney. Dylan. Any of the CSN principles. James Taylor.

And God help me when either Jackson or David Lindley passes. It ain’t gonna be fuckin’ pretty in my neighborhood, folks.

I remember an Idlewheel show from 2010 or so in New Jersey….we were sitting at dinner between soundcheck and showtime, and Craig said something about the notion that, at some point in the not too distant future, we were gonna hit a slick in the road and all our heroes and musical icons were gonna start dropping like flies. I still think about that conversation all the time…as if I’d know when we’d arrived at that point. But I think I’ve come to realize that it’s not an impending landslide, it’s a constant, undulating erosion of the landscape. And it’s getting harder and harder to maintain a foothold.

But I’ll try to remain grateful for the fact that I got to walk the earth before so much of the musical topsoil washed away.

Advertisements

it was never about the song.

I know you’re tired of reading and hearing about this shit. So am I.

But whatever you might think of Jerry Jones, the Dallas Cowboys, or the NFL – they taught us all something last night. Brought this whole thing into focus, if you will.

Less than 24 hours after stating in a nationally televised interview that he didn’t think it was appropriate to make such statements, Jerry Jones walked onto the field with his players and coaches to collectively take a knee…

…BEFORE the anthem played.

Then, after their gesture, they all stood for the National Anthem – to a chorus of boos from the spectators.

So in one fell swoop, America’s Team has proven once and for all that Conservative America’s Collective Butthurt over this issue really doesn’t have shit to do with respecting the flag or the Anthem at all.

If the solemn ritual of standing for the Anthem is so sacred, I’d think you’d be moved to stand there quiety and STFU during the process…and maybe, oh, I dunno…not boo the players? Show the reverence and respect that all your pseudo-patriotic posturing would demand at the very moment that you claim to demand it?

But no…go ahead and release your inner redneck and boo.

Because that’s where The Tell lies in the first place.

None of this is about the song, the flag, the troops, the game…none of that shit was ever the issue.

The issue is that you can’t stand any reminder that the America that you live in IN YOUR HEAD isn’t the America that’s real – or even available – to all its citizens.

You want to continue to let all those propaganda slogans play on a loop in your head and delude yourself with all that “we’re the greatest” bullshit while the fact remains that – as was so famously pointed out by Jeff Daniels’ Will McAvoy character in the now-viral clip from HBO’s “The Newsroom” – we lead the world in only two categories: The number of incarcerated citizens per capita and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 nations combines, 25 of which are allies.

The fact that black men are routinely shot dead by police with nearly zero repercussions doesn’t fit in with your fantasy of America, and you HATE being reminded of it, so you don’t want to hear about it on Game Day, you don’t want to hear the Hollywood Elite remind you of it at the Oscars, you don’t want to hear about it from artists and musicians…you want all the ugly shit to go away, unless it’s Ted Nugent inviting a sitting President to suck on his machine gun – that, of course, is just fine.

So man up. Admit, for once, that there’s no such thing as an acceptable means of protest for you, because you’re part of the problem and not the solution. Show the world an honest representation of who you are. Tell them honestly that you don’t really give a shit about the plight of victims of unprecedented police brutality.

Tell them that you think all those dirty Occupy hippies oughtta get a job because you don’t want to be reminded that you’re working for next to nothing while leeches like Steve Mnuchin are getting rich and then rubbing it in your face from the leather seat of a private, taxpayer funded jet.

Have the balls to say to man and God alike that – yeah, I eat Pringles on my sofa while the Anthem plays, but the last goddamn thing I want to be reminded of on Sundays is the fact that somewhere in America, probably not far from where my patriotic ass is planted, there’s a racially profiled traffic stop that’s about to end with shots being fired.

Because when you go Super Saiyan Snowflake Butthurt over this, you’re essentially saying exactly that, anyway.

the right kind of crazy

Earthquakes in Mexico.

Hurricanes that show up more often than my paycheck.

Cops in St. Louis behaving like fucking Nicaraguan rebels, mowing down people of color without any consequence and then having tear-gas parades to celebrate not guilty verdicts.

American Lawmakers that blatantly look you in the eye and tell you they’re gonna fuck you, because the Koch Organization is taking their allowance away if they don’t.

People overdosing on heroin in McDonald’s restrooms.

a POTUS incapable of basic conversational English.

Armies of zombified idiots on social media repeating talking points from their Sean Hannity flashcards that they bought on Breitbart without even knowing WTF they’re talking about half the time.

Getting Older.

Heroes Dying.

Lately, it’s getting harder and harder to get outta bed in the morning.

But – there are blessings to count…a late night phone call from my firstborn last night that lasted into the wee hours of the morning…watching my oldest son grow up to be a better man that I could have hoped to have been at his age…and an 8 year old that refuses to let me remain in a bad mood for very long.

I veer back and forth from one side of the highway to the other at a manic pace lately, where music is concerned – one day, I’m ready to take on half a dozen new projects and dig into everything with both hands, but more often than not of late it takes actual effort to even bother to pick up an instrument. I can’t lay that at the feet of any one thing, but it’s real, and it’s demanding, lately, that I make up my damned mind and either shit or get off the pot.

My Instagram feed is a pretty solid indicator, when I look back over posts and see eight or nine pics of Danny to every photo from a gig or a session or something else similarly musical…and the thing that probably frightens me about that is the fact that…it doesn’t really bother me that much. As recently as a few years ago, that would’ve kept me up nights. But nowadays, it seems like there’s a hell of a lot more dangerous shit to worry about than whether I have a gig or not.

One of the things Jayda and I discussed last night was creating a place away from the chaos and the madness where you can feel protected from the bullshit of the outside world…and I’m not sure I’ve ever allowed myself the benefit of something like that, because my ghosts follow me everywhere I go. She and I are a lot alike in that regard, but she’s got a better handle on it than I do, I think.

I have a lot of miles on my odometer. I’ve done some pretty cool shit in my life, and I’ve made some boneheaded mistakes, too. Some days, I’m pretty certain that I’ve been an asshole more often than not, and I’m pretty sure there are plenty of you who’d agree with me. A lot of you are folks that I’ve had the pleasure of riding the road with, of spending time with in person, of getting to know beyond seeing photos of your pets and your dinner on the screen of my computer…and my life is certainly the richer for it.

Y’all keep the odometer moving, and enjoy the miles as best as you can.

The world is a crazy fuckin’ place. Don’t hide from it. Go out and make it the RIGHT kind of crazy.

ANTIFA?

no, wait…

ANTIFA!   ANTIFA ANTIFA ANTIFA!!!

Is it more scary if I shout it over and over again? Try to make it sound intimidating?

In case you haven’t gotten the memo, ANTIFA is the new right-wing boogeyman…the new dog whistle that’s supposed to give them an easy label to slap on everyone who disagrees with them. It’s all over social media…I even had some nutjob try to tell me last night that Rachel Maddow was “Anti FA” (sic).

If you’re “of a certain age”, you’ve seen this movie before.

“ANTIFA” is the new “SOCIALIST”, which was the new “LIBERAL” – brought to you by that political genius Lee Atwater, who made Willie Horton famous almost thirty years ago.

The thing that ends up being lost on the folks for whom these false flag labels are such delicious fodder is that – well, yeah…the irony is almost comical.

“ANTIFA” is a chopped label for “Anti-Fascist”…I’ll leave it to you and Google to determine whether that’s a label someone should be ashamed of. As for me – I’m not gonna lose any sleep over being labelled “Antifa” by a social media troll.
Before that – remember how “Socialist” used to be the slur of choice? That one was especially delicious coming from folks who were on Medical Assistance, Food Stamps, Welfare or some other form of Government-provided aid…using the word “Socialist” as a term of derision for those with whom they had some form of political disagreement with, while benefitting from the very definition of the word.
And of course, there was “Liberal” – which came into fashion as a derogatory term for us softies on the left during the Bush-Dukakis race in 1988 and eventually subsided in the shadow of newer, less rationally explainable terms in its wake.

To wear the label of Liberalism as some form of shame was handed off to the media in the backfield at that point in time, and some of them are still running with that ball, all these years later. Somehow, a few suits in front of news cameras managed to spread the notion that “Liberals” were somehow inferior, and in the wake of the Reagan Fever that swept America in the eighties, a lot of basic notions were forgotten.

Somewhere along the way, folks managed to conflate “Liberal and Conservative” with “Democrat and Republican” – they forgot all about the tectonic shifts that took place during the Civil Rights era and Nixon’s subsequent Southern Strategy – and how Republicans inherited the Conservative mantle as the Dixiecrats of old died off or were replaced in Congress.

But “Liberal” and “Conservative”? Those have always been pretty accurate labels.

Now, I’m not ranting with the direct purpose of slandering Conservatives, because – where traditional Conservatism is concerned, anyway – on the surface, the two terms are nothing more than labels for differing political viewpoints. Blonde and Brunette. City Slicker and Country Boy. Punks and Mods. Jocks and Nerds. Liberals and Conservatives.

And it likely would’ve remained within that echelon until someone decided to try to weaponize the word “Liberal” and make it derogatory…and the world played along.

But, y’know – I’m sorry, but I ain’t playin’ that shit.

Call me a Liberal all day, every day. I’m happy to wear that label.

It’s tempting to rehash the laundry list of instances where Liberals fought for, bled for, and – in some cases, DIED for many of the things we take for granted nowadays…from voting and civil rights to the 40 hour work week. But if you care about that at all, you know that already – and if you don’t, you won’t care now, either.

So call me Liberal. Or “Socialist”. Or “Antifa” if you want.

Because all you’re doing is publicly telling the world that you’re declaring yourself to be on the wrong side of history.

Again.

cosmopolitan bias

I fully expect to wake up in the morning with 27 folks left on my friends list, but I’ve made peace with that.

And I’m warning you now…this might be hard to read, so you might wanna keep scrolling, because I’m done playin’.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve arrived at the point where I’m dead tired of humoring this “flyover state” inferiority complex that’s been endlessly peddled for as long as I can remember at this point.

I’m tired of being told that there’s this vast, slumbering mass of good-hearted, hard working Forgotten Americans out there who struggle beneath the weight of the Great Urban Boot upon their neck.

This is a demographic that perpetually beats the drum of rugged individualism, of lifting ones’ self up by the bootstraps, always bemoaning the “victim mentality” (in others, of course) and calling those they disdain “snowflakes”. And for years now, they’ve been a whiney mass of broken records, crying about the “elites”…the “hollywood liberals”…those of us who dared to leave the farm and move to the city are blashphemers, doomed to be the eternal prodigal Jesus-hatin’, commie pinko fags who hate America.

Well, I hate to be the one to tell you, Jethro…but You’ve Been Had.

You’ve been had, buddy. You’ve plugged into the Redneck Matrix Mainframe that’s been feeding you bullshit for half a century about how those folks in big cities are lazy, worthless lib’ruls who don’t know anything about hard work, who hate Jesus and Christmas and who want to hand the keys of this great nation over to the Brown Folks who all want to kill us.

You’re guilty of the same smug, arrogant condescension that you like to believe that you’re a victim of, all the while thinking that you know everything about what it’s like to exist in an urban environment because you happen to watch a shitload of Law and Order in reruns.

The real kicker…the REAL kicker…is that this narrative is being shoved up your ass by rich assholes like Stephen Miller, a soulless, dead-eyed Duke graduate from Santa Monica who worked his way from Michelle Bachmann to Jeff Sessions to CheetoJesus’ transition team, and has been taking a long, wet shit on the principles this country was founded on ever since.

But he’s just this month’s pinup photo on the Redneck Inferiority Complex Calendar.

He’s the latest star in a galaxy of hateful assholes who pour the lighter fluid of rhetoric onto the racist bonfire that’s burned at varying degrees of intensity for the entire arc of our existence as a nation.

So today, he has a sparring match with a reporter and tries to defend his bullshit talking points with a softball retort – Cosmopolitan Bias.

Cosmopolitan Bias.

Again, Jethro – he knows it’s bullshit. He’s a California native, a college graduate who went straight from school to politics on a wave of fear-based rhetoric. HE’S PLAYING YOU.

He’s saying what you want to hear from people in power, and he knows that you’ll ignore the messenger in favor of the message, just like you ignored the fact that you voted for a fucking BILLIONAIRE who’s never worked an actual day in his life because he fed you a bunch of hateful slogans custom designed to stir up the absolute worst of your nature.

And you fell for it, because – well, because you wanted to.

See, you wear this small town mythology like a badge. And that’s fine, to an extent. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with forging your identity on the spot where you were born, with being proud of where you’re from, who you are…but because you’ve been sucking at the teet of the Great Conservative Misinformation Empire, you’ve been conditioned to believe that there’s a “them” out there…just beyond the outskirts of the hometown you never left…a vague, ominous “them” who wants what you have. They want what you’ve worked for, and they’re coming for it, and they’re out to get you and they’ll take every cent they can from you so they can continue to live on welfare and smoke crack and Burn Down The Heartland.

So you go out and buy a shitload of guns and hunker down in the double-wide and wait for the Apocalypse.

What you’d know if you ever bothered to leave the farm is that Shit Ain’t That Way Out Here.

Yeah, life is hard where you are. I grew up in West Tennessee, picking cotton and throwing bales of hay that weighed more than i did onto the back of a fucking flatbed truck and not being able to shower afterward because the house I lived in didn’t have running water and scratching every inch of my body until I finally fell asleep at night.

I’ve lived that life. And I turned my back on it.

I got the fuck out, because I could. And it wasn’t as hard as you might want to believe.

It didn’t take ingenuity, or wealth, or some kind of secret plan…I joined the Navy and never went back. When I got out, I settled outside Philadelphia and was quite content to have escaped.

Maybe that’s not for you. And that’s fine. Maybe you’re perfectly happy where you are, and I’m not here to tell you what to do, where to live, or what’s best for you.

But don’t sit in judgement of those of us who chose to be elsewhere, to live elsewhere, to find a life that we considered a BETTER life because we chose not to settle for working at the convenience store when the shoe factory closed down.
We’re not forcing our choices on you, whether you choose to see it that way or not.

You think we don’t know you…and in many cases, you’re right.

But if you’re sitting on the sofa less than ten miles from where you graduated high school, cheering on some asshole on TV talking shit about “Cosmopolitan Bias”, then I can promise you…

…you don’t know us, either.

We live and work among people of numerous races, religions, and cultures because we can’t avoid or hide from them…and once they become part of our community, most of us learn that we have nothing to fear from them. Our mental image of what it means to be a Muslim isn’t a construct of the media, it’s borne of conversations and interactions with actual, real life, honest to God human beings that we deal with face to face.

There’s a reason that all those viral videos of some pissed-off woman screaming at a Somali in a Wal-Mart parking lot come from where they do, y’all.

No, we’re not perfect. We’ve got crooked cops shooting down black folks for the crime of being black in Chicago, Baltimore, Minneapolis, and of course…New York City. We’ve got drugs and violence, and living in some of these cities probably seems insane to an outside observer.

There’s a thread of courage and self-assurance that’s an absolute necessity to survive and flourish in an urban environment. It’s expensive, it’s often dangerous, and it’s often stressful as hell. It requires a degree of adaptability, of tolerance, of resourcefulness – and it’s not for everyone.

But we’re not your enemy, here.

And if you take a minute to take a good, hard look at the assholes selling you this “Cosmopolitan Bias” bullshit…this eternal “Hollywood Elite” crap that you gobble up because it somehow keeps you warm at night, you’d maybe see that.

But in the meantime, I’m done suffering your bullshit with a smile and trying to “understand” you. Because by engaging in this demonization crap, you’re absolutely no better than the people you think you have a problem with.

one of…THEM?

y’know, I’ve found it impossible to disconnect from politics. i’m sick of it, i’m tired of it infiltrating my every social media platform, i’m both saddened and infuriated by it…but I can’t look away from it.

but when all this bullshit is over and is firmly ensconced in our collective rearview mirrors, it’s still gonna permeate my everyday life, because I literally judge every individual I encounter with the Trump Yardstick – before I even allow myself to form an opinion about people, I silently ask myself: “are they one of THEM?”

I don’t trust people as easily. I’m not as forgiving. I’m much more prone to assign labels to people I don’t know well, and lump them in with “the idiots responsible for our standing in the world and how we treat people”. every cop that beats someone senseless or shoots someone sitting at the wheel of their car, every person deported for the crime of wanting to better their lot in life, every sick person who spends every night staring at the ceiling wondering if they’ll lose their insurance…I find myself blaming people who supported this Citrus Douche for their collective downfall.

this is a hard thing for me to admit to myself, much less to you folks.

This isn’t who I am.

I’m the guy who talks to strangers at the supermarket. i’m the guy who over-tips. i’m the guy who takes in strays. i’m the guy who has always tried to see the better angels of our nature in strangers,

and yet, I fear that the 63 million folks who thought a carnival barker with no political experience was the best choice to lead our nation on the world stage have robbed me of that part of my personality.

yeah, he was elected by a minority of the electorate. yeah, there were more people who didn’t vote than there were folks who did.

but I don’t think i’ll ever look at my fellow man in the same light as I did this time last year. I’ve become the shitty old man who assumes that everyone I meet is an asshole until they prove otherwise.

that will be the enduring legacy of the Trump Experiment for me, unless something miraculous happens.

I’m a pretty awful person.

seriously.  awful.

that’s important to establish, before you read any further. keep it in mind as you go.

and if you’re one of the couple dozen conservative friends I have left here on Facebook, you might wanna just go ahead and block me without reading any further.

ok – so now that we’ve established all that…

I’ve been walking around most of the day with a bundle of mixed feelings that could best be summed up as follows:

i’m disappointed in myself that I haven’t been able to summon more sympathy and concern for Steve Scalise than I’ve managed…but yet, i’m not terribly surprised at this, either.

I think this comes about as a result of multiple factors.

I’m not even gonna jump on the bandwagon that so many are weighing down as we speak, with regard to his A+ NRA rating, his legislative stance on voting to allow mentally ill people to buy guns, or the fact that he’d have likely been sitting on the hill listening to arguments regarding easing restrictions on silencers just hours after he was shot. That’s gotten enough ink already.

I’ve been ambivalent about guns all my life. I’ve never gotten the whole testosterone-boosting erection that a lot of guys get from firing weapons, but I’ve often said that I see guns the same way I see motorcycles – if you wanna have one, I don’t really give a shit, but I don’t want one, and your enthusiasm for them isn’t gonna rub off on me. it just ain’t. having said that, though, I ain’t ridin’ your motorcycle, and I’m not bringing my kids to your house if you have guns. that’s just where my head’s at. we can hang out at Chuck E. Cheese instead.

So his whole NRA rating, gun stance thing…yeah, it’s hard not to see through a “live by the sword” lens where that’s concerned, but that’s another show.

So that probably informs my general lack of concern for the Congressman, and I’m gonna own that. Like I said, I’m an awful person, and I warned ya. But that’s not what fueled this particular rant.

No – The thing that’s blowing my mind tonight is the orgy of demonization of “left wing rhetoric” that they’re rushing to attribute to what happened this morning.

I’m not gonna try to make a case denying that the shooter had liberal sympathies, as he actually stopped passengers in a car to verify that the people on the diamond were, in fact, republicans before opening fire. The facts speak for themselves as stated. He was one of us, politically speaking.

But when you drive down the field and kick a field goal with the clock running out to put three points on the board when you’re down by seventy points, generally speaking – nobody talks about your brilliant last-minute drive to make that kick.

But the folks on the right are losing their shit over that field goal – “the folks on the left have amped up their anti-trump rhetoric to the point of bloodshed!” “Kathy Griffin!” “SHAKESPEARE!!!”

It’s literally as if they were Amish until late last night and have no idea what’s been happening for the past twenty years.

Let’s revisit Dylann Roof’s left wing sympathies and his burning desire for racial harmony that spoke to him when he set out to murder black parishioners in Charleston.

Robert Dear was clearly sympathizing with women’s right to choose when he shot up a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado.

I’m sure Jared Lee Loughner was making a statement about income equality when he shot Gabrielle Giffords in Arizona…killing six, including a 9 year old girl.

Even the Fort Hood and Washington Navy Yard shootings were never attributed to a particular political leaning – and if that had even been a possibility, I’m sure it would’ve surfaced within the first 24 hours of the news cycle.

Statistics bear out the ugly fact that a clear majority of random shootings in America are perpetrated by angry, bittter, violent, disenfranchised white males…and the majority of them have had leanings that are anything BUT liberal.
There are concurrent threads that run through almost every mass shooting that’s taken place in America, and they’re various flavors of mental illness – but to stand on the sidelines and pretend that there’s some violent groundswell of bloodthirst on the political left after watching a certain candidate spend a year on the campaign trail leading chants of “lock her up” and telling supporters to kick the shit out of protesters embodies a brand of panache that I can’t even wrap my head around.

We live in a world where a hero of the extreme right will be paraded on national television ON FUCKING FATHERS’ DAY after furthering a conspiracy theory that Sandy Hook was a hoax…after getting White House press credentials for his batshit crazy staff of “reporters”. We walk every day through Bizarro America, where a carnival barker managed to convince 63 million people that he could turn back the clock to the Age of Eisenhower simply because he said he could.

We’ve collectively lost our shit. This is who we are now.

But to listen to the very folks who would otherwise be preaching that we shouldn’t politicize a tragedy talk shit about the “rhetoric on the left” blows my fucking mind.

You don’t get to complain about having your lunch money stolen on the last day of school when you’ve been beating up other kids and stealing their wallets all year long.

We see what you did, there. Nice try, but thanks for playing.

final note: i’m sure I’ll wake up in a few hours to a handful of comments calling me a “gun grabber”, spouting NRA slogans and various phrases from the Official Fox News Sean Hannity flashcards…to those of you who think this is an anti-gun screed, I’ll ask you to take a deep breath and re-read what I wrote. this isn’t anti-gun…it’s anti-hypocrisy. and if you take issue with me calling out the Right for being butt-hurt over the Resistance…there’s plenty of campaign footage on youTube to review. Check Yourself.

As for me, I’m gonna go to bed and try to summon some empathy. It’s not comin’ any easier these days.