*Happy independence day! In this vlog I suggest that grappling with being an American starts with grappling with notions of capitalism which led us where we are today as well as contemplating what kind of capitalism moving forward would be of the ethical sort. Or can there be no ethical form of capitalism? *
*Why does America mean to me what it means to me?
*Ideology & nationhood/countryhood?
*Is America in theory cosmopolitan as opposed to nationalistic/ethnocentric like certain Russian, Israeli, Palestinian tendencies?
*Thinking about America I think requires thinking about capitalism– I think it’s the most inherent part of being an American
-different TYPES of capitalism?
-slavery & genocide in the name of American Capitalism
-what does it mean to claim your own land? Who gets to claim land & why?
*Foundation of America versus other countries: example, UK, Candada….
*Is the theft of Native American land a manifestation of actual capitalist ideology or is it just in the name of capitalism?
*There is no appropriate contemplation about being an American without grappling with atrocities perpetrated against the Native Americans
*I think capitalism as such is fair but I wonder if I am at all influenced by confirmation bias
*Capitalism is like democracy- both imperfect but the best options
*Some freedom & opportunity versus none versus ways to maximize
*Relationship between private property, creativity, self, privacy, individuality, soul, freedom
*I’m more than an American, I’m a human!
***PLEASE LIKE, COMMENT & SHARE 🙂
* *Living in South Beach I conceptualized my sense of self as that of a “starving artist” but to understand how I reached that point requires understanding how I developed a sense of self as an artist, from my admiration for John Travolta and The Bee Gees to my fascination with Charles Bukowski & Allen Ginsberg*
*Early morning gaffes
*Move to South Beach was especially unique…it was an act of pure rebellion…something I was “not supposed to do”; my act of rejecting academia
*The people who inspired me philosophically during my pre-philosophy phase
*The importance of understanding the artistic side of myself as I came to conceptualize myself as “starving artist”
*Around 1996: Discovering acting & John Travolta/Grease/Saturday Night Fever
-Travolta seemed to have charisma, coolness, the characters he played seemed to “get the girls”… made me want to become a “movie star”: my first major “dream” in life which I fantasized about all day, every day, while at school
(do young people still say “whatevs?”)
*Sometime between 1997-1999: Discovering The Bee Gees–> deeply romantic, benevolent song lyrics which I studied and which got me into writing song lyrics
*Around 2002: J.D. Salinger (he seemed real & unpretentious) & Alanis Morrissette whose songs didn’t rhyme which inspired me to think “outside the box”
*& then on prom night I discovered Charles Bukowski: he seemed so free, open, easy to understand, reflective, real (& I wanted to be like him)
*& then there was Allen Ginsberg: the 1st poet I read who was an atheist like me, and who moved me (inadvertently) towards irrationalism, “trippy” stuff, “madness” as a sort of philosophical principle
*I thought Ginsberg, Kerouac, & the Beats were the geniuses of their time….Kerouac’s On the Road made me want to drop out of college and hitch hike America
*Places can be like music, the way make one feel
*Some memories hurt to recall but still must be recalled anyway
*Nightmares of ex-girlfriend’s mother’s hatred for me
*Life & what we take from it as life continues…as we try to make ourselves better… & the memories that bask in us…
*Working at the liquor store I’d hear the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons, which haunted me with bad memories of South Beach
*I started a lot of fights….how do I tell you about it without violating her privacy or mine? I was addicted to attention and compliments, I didn’t think I could help my negativity (and I didn’t try)so I was self negligent and maybe masochistic?
*I wanted my ex-gf to rebel against her parents the way I rebelled against mine….I hated almost anytime her parents/family was around and caused a bit of a scene once at how her parents could afford to eat at a nice restaurant
*That our relationship was going to end seemed hauntingly inevitable to me
*”Over My Head” by The Fray : another song that reminds me of South Beach and how I felt when I lived there
*I was closed to virtually all constructive criticism/useful suggestions people offered me
*I lacked the maturity to realize I should not have been in a romantic relationship at that time
*I thought myself a starving artist and wanted to be like Rimbaud & Baudelaire…two very depressing, pessimistic poets
“I managed to make every trace of human hope vanish from my mind…bad luck was my God”
-Arthur Rimbaud; “A Season in Hell”
*Some of the philosophical questions related to choosing where to live (proximity to those we love, aesthetics, spiritual refreshment, et cetera…)
*This move to Basking Ridge feels like a chance for a “clean slate…” ; a bombardment of newness (new town, new roads, new condo, new desk, new neighbors, new geography, new economy, new internet provider, et cetera…)
*A gaffe….contradicting myself about why three moves to FL in a row amounted in disaster for me…
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
*Montaigne’s sexism & cynicism…
*Another reason why I love Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground
*My love for romantic love goes back to when I was about three and a half years old…by about 10/11 years old I grew obsessed with Grease and West Side Story— both of which impacted how I idealized “romantic love,” “love at first sight,” wanted to fall in love on the beach, processed contradictory examples of theoretical romantic love (how to explain my seemingly apolitical, otherwise Democrat by default father and my former, very Republican stepmother!?!)
*My superficial, mystical, irrational notion of romantic love
*Prior to the girlfriend I had at Florida Gulf Coast University/South Beach I never really had a “serious” relationship
*I didn’t tend to appreciate girls for who they were, mostly just how they made me -FEEL-… even the first girl I ever spent almost all my time with (though we did manage to connect in certain respects…example: both artistic…)
***!!!!****!!!! Anxiety. Depression. Self loathing. This is an exceptionally dark period in my life and one which is upsetting to talk to you about, though it is important to talk about it nonetheless. Untreated mental illness and irrational metaphysical views are awful things to go through and can lead to behaviors which are destructive both to relationships and to one’s self. I know this, because during the months I lived in South Beach, thinking I was living my dream as some starving artist, what I was really doing was destroying my life and hurting others. If someone you know is suffering from a feeling that life is all bleakness, I hope you will care to brighten up their day some how, if you can, or try to challenge their assumptions somehow. ****!!!!****!!!!
*The horribleness of my time spent in South Beach must be understood in the context of my nihilism which must be understood in the context of certain psychological challenges and prior philosophical assumptions
*My nihilism: aimlessness and purposelessness (I wonder, is this a cause for suicide for some?)
*Suggested supplementary literature: Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Notes From Underground.
*This was a uniquely complex time in my life mentally which I believe all starts with the intensity of anxiety I felt & which had been exasperated by a year of smoking a lot of pot
*Where did my anxiety come from? I hypothesize that it’s chemical– too little serotonin, since increasing it via Effexor has made my life significantly better: more calmness & self-esteem
*As a kid I was convinced that virtually everyone hated me; it was like a fundamental philosophical assumption which caused me to fear most people and experience further social anxiety
*Depression runs in my family. My grandmother (on my father’s side) for example, received multiple shock therapy treatments and was hospitalized for her depression.
*My esophoria (eye condition) also induces panic attacks, vertigo, sweating, shaking, etc, and I believe may explain why I couldn’t/didn’t color in the lines when I was in pre-school, as well as why I walked awkwardly, struggled with depth perception, posture, and consequentially viewed myself as incompetent.
*School in general made me anxious due to my view of myself as incompetent which led to more anxiety and depression as well. The twin psychological struggles became fundamental philosophical principles for me and smoking marijuana made it worse.
*Panic attacks– by the time I was living in South Beach– were interfering with the romantic relationship I was in. Though I had previously been prescribed Zoloft I felt too afraid of taking it and thus lingered on, untreated.
*One major symptom of the depression I experienced was a lot of sobbing.
*My fear that I would die young like Rimbaud or Jim Morrison also worsened my anxiety, depression, sense of doom and gloom.
*On the other hand (and maybe ironic, some of you might think?) my atheism, which was my ultimate gateway into poetry and philosophy, gave me relief from anxiety and depression. IT have me a sense of intellectualism and self esteem, but because I viewed most of society as brainwashed by Christianity I disliked and distrusted most people, and fancied myself uniquely free-thinking.
*On top of all of this, I had no real education in ethics (by that I mean I never learned about ethics as an official, academic, philosophical subject with a wide variety of essays about it) and so one of the only things I managed to value was my own notion of romantic love and that certain couples are just “meant to be” even if they lack chemistry and don’t get along.
*2 nights of political debates: very intellectually stimulating & culturally special (brings us all together)
*Most important election since 1960? Of the 21st century? For more on the nature of these revolutionary times, check out my essay about it. I think Andrew Yang seems to get it, though he did not get fair coverage from MSNBC at the debate. The Hill says he only got 2 minutes and 50 seconds of speaking time compared to former VP Joe Biden’s 12 minutes and 53 seconds. Did MSNBC not learn from the mistakes of 2016 and how unfair VT Senator Bernie Sanders was treated?
*These debates have led me to further develop and hone my political thinking and so I have a few new political thoughts:
-why should 1 person get better healthcare/insurance than someone else? If private is ultimately better than maybe nobody should get it as that would technically be unfair, would it not?
Humans are more important than moneyAndrew Yang
-I am not convinced we should just outright abolish private health insurance here and now but we must work towards equal quality for all– “universal” in some sense, which Gillibrand & Buttigieg appear to understand but Biden did not.
2 UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME
-I’ve been contemplating this for months thanks to the persistence of my friend Montaniz Stills and determined that so long as SOME people get government subsidies in one form or another (Green energy, Lockheed Martin, big Pharma, small business loans, National Endowment for the Arts, et cetera…) it would only be fair if everyone got a little money…if the government invested in PEOPLE which would be a real UNIVERSAL approach to combating poverty, as opposed to a “special interest pandering” only approach.
-That said…I don’t know why it must be $1,000 specifically but just a little bit of money can bring a person a long way…I know from personal experience
3 CONCERNS ABOUT PANDERING
-This leads to certain oppressed minorities being overlooked. Example: Native Americans. This is why I beef with the ageist pandering of CA Rep. Eric Swalwell who kept saying “Pass the torch” to younger people. This disturbed me and was disrespectful.
I think Rep. Swalwell is the worst of the candidates running for president among the Democrats.
-to be fair to him though, I respect how ambitious and successful he is for a young man his age, and, in fact, I was ageist against Pete Buttigieg for seeming too young/inexperienced, which Sen. Bernie Sanders helped me realize.
*Another candidate who concerned me was former VP Joe Biden. I am sorry for previously questioning whether or not he may be senile though. But it does seem as though he has failed learn from the 2016 elections. It seems he is still very attached to Obamacare as opposed to universal healthcare. Also he was very defensive about criticisms for his mistaken vote on the war in Iraq, then praising how the Obama administration ultimately withdrew from Iraq, despite the fact that this led to a huge mess in which ISIS took over. He seems not to have learned from this and wants to repeat this mistake in Afghanistan.
*Biden was also very defensive towards Sen. Harris’ criticisms of his past record on integration of school districts.
*AGAIN, REGARDING MSNBC’S UNFAIR TREATMENT OF YANG:
-His idea on universal income really is worth more discussion. What could be more lucrative than really investing in people? Imagine also investing in people who were taught how to be a good consumer and how to think philosophically starting in middle school! Even some Libertarians support a Universal basic income. )
-So check out yang2020.com
*I was especially impressed by NY Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. I think she really understands the key ethical issue we are dealing with: the problem is GREED, NOT CAPITALISM, which VT Sen. Bernie Sanders does not quite seem to understand.
*Gillibrand is my favorite candidate for president thus far. I like that she wants publicly funded elections (she brought up how this would empower teenage protesters against the NRA…and why was Biden kissing up to the NRA by the way?), less private prisons, and called for competition in healthcare insurance industry between private & public.
*Pete Buttigieg also impressed me, which surprised me considering my ageist bias. He was, like Gillibrand, right on about private-public competition in healthcare, called out hypocrisy within many of the Religious Right, and realizes it’s important to ensure that people who did not go to college still live well. He also made a valuable point about investing in rural America.
*As for Sen. Bernie Sanders: I think he could win because he is right on about the need for revolutionary thinking, has a charismatic approach to rhetoric, though he doesn’t explain himself so well sometimes and also sometimes fails to answer questions he is asked. Is he even a real socialist?
*A brief digression: It’s so wonderful to be clean shaven– the symbolism of it!– reminds me of when I first started shaving after a seven year phase of always growing a beard
*New subject: the first 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary Debate– the first group, from the perspective of the informed voter
*My political activism/commentary/analysis mission statement:
My goal as a political activist is to discuss matters pertaining to informed voting, keeping elected and appointed officials accountable, and visualizing a logical and fact based policy agenda that promotes and advances justice for all.
*My broader political perspective/philosophy: the ethics of compassion & the political philosophy of social democracy; (in the two videos below, should you seek more context & details regarding the I evolution of my political philosophy, it is explained there)
*CANDIDATES WHO CONCERNED ME
-Washington Governor Jay Inslee:
he wants to do away with the filibuster which I think is dangerous as it stifles debate and lowers the Democrats to Senator Mitch McConnell’s & the GOP’s level of abusing power to constrain the minority party
-Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard:
she seemed robotic to me most of the time/ to lack passion. She started an argument with Ohio Representative Tim Ryan over Afghanistan policy, pushing for extremely swift withdrawal– does she not see the disaster of withdrawing from Iraq as ISIS took over?!?
(btw, ever get paranoid that you got one of your facts wrong?)….
…despite his federal executive branch experience as HUD Secretary he seemed excessively cantankerous (though I do appreciate his passion for “Section 1325″(( see Slate’s explanation for more on this))– he also seemed to pander to LGBTQ & LatinX as opposed to appreciating plights of ALL minorities, like the disturbingly underrepresented Native Americans , Muslims & Arabs, Jews, Blacks, Senior citizens, Asian Americans, et cetera… [sorry if I forgot a group I should have mentioned…please leave a comment!]
-NYC Mayor Bill di Blasio: though I liked his policy assertiveness, his proposal to tax the richest 1 percent up to 70 percent seems to me an excessive and rather irrational, overly emotional and un-thought out scapegoating of the rich, and unethical
(I say this as someone who’s had money and had none)
I had money, and I had none
I had money, and I had noneJim Morrison; The Changeling
…I don’t think we should ever tax someone most of or even half of their income…so maybe not more than 44%
*THE CANDIDATES WHO MOST IMPRESSED ME
*MASS Senator Elizabeth Warren (She did seem, unfortunately, and unfairly so, though to no fault of her own, to receive the most questions/attention and I don’t like how the media treated her like the favorite…even if she is and should be…)– I do think she is a genius communicator
“By the time I graduated from high school, my family didn’t have the money for a college application, much less a chance for me to go to college. But I got my chance. It was a $50-a-semester commuter college. That was a little slice of government that created some opportunity for a girl. And it opened my life.Elizabeth Warren; June 26th 2019 Democratic Primary debate
[!!!!…that said, do note the observation made by the Washington Post about the dishonesty of her story:
Warren actually went to a private college, George Washington University, on a debate scholarship. She attended GW, which cost much more than $50 a semester and is definitely not a commuter college, until her high school sweetheart proposed to her. She accepted, got married, dropped out of GW and followed him to Houston, where he worked for IBM. That was when she enrolled in her $50-a-semester commuter college, the University of Houston.Henry Olsen; Washington Post
-MINN Senator Amy Klobuchar:
She came across to me as calm, poised & rational. For example, consider her emphasis on establishing a public option for healthcare as opposed to rushing into complete abolition of private healthcare. Another example is her view on the border as she expressed the importance of both being humane in our treatment of those who cross our borders but also being mindful of security and the fact that we should defend ourselves against & prosecute violent criminals & sex traffickers.
-Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan:
(btw, shout out to philosopher & writer Matthew Snope for bringing Ryan to my attention)
-Rep. Ryan is my top choice for VP thus far . He is extremely passionate (perhaps a touch angry though?) and rich in policy proposals which are mindful of cultural complexities. For example, he wants more emotional support for our youth in schools, and he is inclusive/universal as opposed to pandering to one group or another. Finally, he’s right on and realistic about Afghanistan in contrast to Rep. Gabbard who I believe started an irrational argument with him on the topic.
*The two candidates I was unsure of are former TX Rep. Beto O’Rourke and my own NJ Senator Cory Booker. I thought O’Rourke was right on about a public option as opposed to abolishing private insurance from the getco, but I also thought he was a bit of a grand-stander for speaking in Spanish first thing, and pandering. Also, he didn’t always answer the questions he was asked. Neither did Senator Booker. Booker seemed, at times, overly emotional to me, but I do like his position on guns, that they should be treated like cars, and require similar licensing protocols.
*Longest I’ve gone without shaving in a long time—> reminds me of bad times: my “fuck the system” phase, when I thought I was remaking my default sense of self which I hated inside & out
*The iconography/symbolism of artists & their ethos that propelled me into that “fuck the system” mentality
*The struggle to manage time when juggling a move some place & unexpected challenges that arise such as power outage or smoke alarms going off, et cetera…
*I believe everybody should have a dignified home of their own
*The first place I lived in South Beach was a hostel, roughly a block away from the beach, but I was too nihilistic to appreciate it
*A girl from Brazil compares me to Nietzsche
*Some of my worst memories though for a time there was no place I preferred to be
*My first autumn since preschool not in school/college
*Here I am in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, vlogging from my very own official PUBLIC COMMENT VLOGGING STUDIO (A spacious walk-in closet; 🙂 )
*The symbolism of moving and of certain key life experiences
*The symbolism/meaning/significance of our move to Basking Ridge: an attempt at an objective reflection of the personal meaning– as opposed to subjective (i.e., only feelings based))
*Conscious contemplation of the notion of a move from one place to another– it’s personal meaning—how does this change us?—- self expressiom & desire fulfillment @ exceptionally high intensity (a lot of mental stimulation thus higher intensity of introspection)
*Being aware of the experience of moving itself (I mean, if I were writing a novel about it how would I narrate it?)
*Flood of memories of when Ashley & I moved to Oceanside, California– the first move I had ever made with a woman– (this move to Basking Ridge is our first move as a married couple…exceptionally romantic but during drive I felt regret about my poor character during our move and time in Oceanside—- I’m determined to be a gentleman this time around!
*Our first time owning residential property!
*My astronomical gratitude to live in Basking Ridge with my wife!
2 days until we move to Basking Ridge, NJ– almost all I can think about. This move is a striking contrast to my move to Fort Myers/Estero, FL back in 2005, which led to deepened mental illness, obsession with marijuana, dropping out of college and a kind of psychological downfall.
*It’s seizing my consciousness: only 2 days until we move to Basking Ridge, NJ!
*What does it mean to think about living somewhere?
*Personal/inner revolution…major changes– like the world of Heraclitus
*The dark, revolutionary period when I moved to Fort Myers/Estero, FL in contrast to our upcoming move
*I did not really think through my move to Fort Myers/Estero, FL
*I was, in general, an oblivious person
*paranoia, panic attacks, and other consequences of my marijuana obsession
*morality & time
*convinced I suffered from severe intellectual disability
*unable to even enjoy a romantic relationship, convinced of the worst in everyone, including myself and believing Fort Myers was cursed by evil spirits
*My fantasy vision of myself as a rich & famous Ex-pat poet living in Europe only to end up a nihilist in South Beach
*My troubled epistemology
*Questions I should have asked myself & tried to answer
[Note: I began this essay in the autumn of 2017 initially intending it to be a poem. It has been revised numerous times to reach its current form]
Music plays on my Apple laptop…the back reads: “Designed by Apple in California Assembled in China.”
According to the “executive summary” for the China Labor Watch Website “workers making the iPhone” are exploited, paid just $1.85 per hour.
(Compare to my $11; compare to $7.25, America’s minimum wage).
The Guardian reports that the Foxcon Longhua factory in China, which manufactures iPhones, has body catching nets to curtail its suicide epidemic.
Should I trash what the workers produced in protest, and boycott?
I sigh…the music plays on…a man and woman sing: “I-I-I-O-I-I-I-O-I-O-AH- I-O-I-O-O-AYYYY! AYYYY! YEAHHH!…”
According to a Business Wire article published June 23, 1999, it was a husband and wife singing “a vocal chant” called “Jubilant Drinking Song,” recorded in the late 1970s and incorporated without their knowledge in this international top ten hit– the 1993 song “Return to Innocence,” by a music group that calls itself “Enigma.”
This resulted in a lawsuit and then eventually a settlement.
The music continues…I think of wind…wind…blowing through American beachgrass…
…the sound of ocean waves crashing while I’m walking on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, gazing at the snow falling from a dark gray, nighttime sky.
I show the winter wind my toughness as it persists, whipping my exposed skin.
The music inspires, and facilitates contemplation and day dreams…
Walking helps me meditate. My thoughts: streaming, roaming, like wind, or birds flying. No obligations… except to walk, and meditate. The sky, a sheet of blank white paper. I wish it would snow. Yes, let winter arrive early! Make it colder. Cold air, so blunt, stimulating, ordering me to feel its intensity, like masterpiece art work or extra dry gin, and refreshing, like pure cranberry juice (without any added sugar) from the refrigerator, or like waking up late after a much needed, long night of sleep, and exciting too, like the first French kiss in series, igniting my nerves. At least the air this afternoon chills enough to repel the gnats, and mosquitoes. Autumn’s rustic bouquets blooming…I wish I could walk through its maze all day. The air’s force, when it gusts, feels like God’s blessing, an extract of pure benevolence, a grandparent’s kiss.
[Note: the writing of this essay began back in the fall of 2017, intended originally as a “poem” and was completed within a year’s time and now ultimately takes the form of a short essay)
Fear of dying in my sleep…of dying in poverty, no career I climbed up to reflect on… just a plethora of aspirations and thoughts racing like a flock of thousands of birds headed south…while America’s democracy and rule of law corrode…gin and prayers fail to relax me…
But I am like my grandmother.
She used to listen to talk radio late at night as she fell asleep, sometimes not until three a.m.…
I watch the news on my laptop…
…five splits in the screen so we can see the face of each expert on the news panel… strikes my eyes like the rays of a plasma ball, the dendrites of a neuron under a microscope, octopus arms, jellyfish tentacles inside an aquarium…
President Trump called NFL players “sons of bitches” for kneeling during the singing of the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality.
Nuclear North Korea threatens the inevitability of violence…
Even on Friday, at 11:30 p.m. when one could be doing anything… many, like MSNBC’s Brian Williams analyze our Earth’s environment and community- its well-being or lack thereof.
Caretakers indeed abound: bureaucrats, military, police, fire fighters, hospital workers, and nocturnal intellectuals, with integrity.
It helps me sleep…
The developing complexity of my psychology, my determinism, my nihilism, and my marijuana obsession, as I transfer from Kean University to Florida Gulf Coast University (From Elizabeth/Union, NJ to Fort Myers/Estero, FL) between 2004-2006
*My desire to drop out of college and emulate Jack Kerouac, hitchhiking America
*Moving to Fort Myers/Estero, FL to attend Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) felt like a miracle, an artist’s “dream come true.”
*The irony of feeling “liberated”– falling into the depths of determinism & nihilism
*WHY was I really even attending college? I didn’t know…I was just waiting for riches and fame because I was convinced that was simply my fate. Bob Dylan put it so well when he sang:
SOONER OR LATER ONE OF US MUST KNOW
THAT YOU JUST DID WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO DOBob Dylan; Sooner or Later
*Trying marijuana for the first time and falling in love with it
*The place you live and the philosophical ideas you develop when you live there and come to thereby associate with your time spent living there
*My addiction/obsession with marijuana
-I believed I “needed” marijuana to be a “good” poet or become “one with the universe”
*second time I tried marijuana I suffered extreme paranoia and panic attacks, yet I kept smoking it…
From my childhood obsession with the Caribbean Sea while living in Robbinsville, NJ to my frustration with urban Kean University in Union/Elizabeth NJ in 2004-2005.
*The role of memoir/autobiography/personal essay/introspection in philosophical contemplation
*Falling in love with the Caribbean Sea & “the beach” in general
-a love poem I wrote about the beach when I was 18 y/o back in 2004
**ah the naivete of youth!**
*18 y/o @ Kean University, not standing up for my love of the beach
-loved the people but too urban for me (Union/Elizabeth, NJ)
*I’m very sensitive to geography/ picky in my taste
*Kean University: disgusting dorms/ felt like a prison cell in contrast to Florida Gulf Coast University dorms in new, beautiful apartment with my own room
*Ignoring my dream & happiness: that had to change
[Note: this essay was written during a very psychologically complex time in my life. First of all, this was happening around the time my grandfather passed away. Secondly, in the midst of my final semester of undergraduate studies I was in a state of profound confusion concerning what my next step in life ought to be. Though it seemed clear I ought to do all I could to break into the opinion-writing scene within the journalism world there were two very particular things troubling me: A) I honestly didn’t know initially what to make of the Kavanaugh hearings, especially after we learned that he had been accused by multiple women– and without evidence– of sexual misconduct. No matter how much I read on the subject I didn’t want to end up saying something or thinking something biased or blatantly demonstrating how little I know about legal nuances. In a word, I felt unqualified to “think” about what was happening; B) I felt confused about the aesthetic questions behind how one ought to write a political commentary. Moreover, I felt two competing impulses: one was to be completely detached from this rather fascinating but unpleasant period of U.S. history and the other was to in fact record my thoughts on what it was like to “experience” the occurrence of such a dramatic span of political events transpire. Spiritually and philosophically I thought, as someone who loves to write, it seemed there might be a kind of ethical obligation to document how this historical crisis within the Senate and Supreme Court permeated my mind, not as a mere political analyst or commentator, but as a human living in the country where this was happening.
This complex reaction led me to wonder if I should perhaps experiment with approaching the current political events from more of a “poetic” perspective, or “artistic” or “humanistic” or “personal” perspective– though I was not sure exactly what that should ultimately mean.
As a result, this essay was initially conceptualized as a “poem,” and one composed in a very complex intellectual-psychological-aesthetic frame of mind.]
Warriors will keep alive in the blood”
The fight for justice…hands stretching, muscles tearing, reaching for the sky- daunting, tempting to surrender, and submit, assuming futility, but people walked on the moon, made a vaccine for malaria, polio, and other diseases.
I contemplate my White Privilege, resenting every remnant of it, and scowl at America’s White Supremacist bigot bullies…oppressing…Native Americans, African Americans, Arabs, Jews, Women, the non-heterosexual, the poor, the vulnerable, the non-Christian, non-Caucasian and it disturbs me, makes me drink my whiskey with a little extra intensity…
I fear that nothing, not a single atrocity, would have moved Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s supporters in the Senate to oppose his confirmation (not that we know whether he was guilty or innocent… “the allegations fail to meet the more likely than not standard,” Senator Sue Collins said in her speech, explaining her vote to confirm him…but the way Christine Blasey Ford’s accusations were “investigated” in a rush- “More than 40 people with potential information into the sexual misconduct allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh have not been contacted by the FBI, according to multiple sources that include friends of both the nominee and his accusers,” NBC News reported…and what about Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick who also made accusations of sexual misconduct…ignored by the Republicans in Senate, the F.B.I., President Trump ((outright misogynistic deference to Kavanaugh, it seems to me))– a “sham” as many Democrats in the Senate called it!)
Even months later, Trump says he knows acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker, then says he doesn’t know him, adding to the reeking junkyards, and mountain chains of venom filled sewage lies, poisoning our politics, government, law enforcement, rhetoric, relationships, and the Republicans– not a…flinch…
A NIGHTMARE AND AN OUTRAGE!
But hope…hope…hope…look at things like New England, where the snow seems to grace with its elegance as it falls- the homicide rates there, among the lowest in the nation…look at the gentlemen like former F.B.I. Director James Comey, and the ladies like newly elected Congress woman of Kansas, Sharice Davids…
More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.
More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.
More Americans voted for Clinton than Trump.
Jewel and Israel were on their third date, driving from East Windsor to Ocean Grove in Israel’s new, red 2015 Volkswagen GTI. He lamented letting go of his dark green 1997 Saturn S Series SW 2. What an irrational attachment to that vehicle he had—even to the name, “Saturn”; like the Mercury cars, it made him think of outer space and this felt more exciting than the names of most other cars. How strange, Israel thought, that both Saturn and Mercury ended up defunct within years of each other. The Saturn was his first car and he didn’t want to get rid of it—he liked holding on to relics: a couple of nine year old t-shirts, his VCR for example, a record player his grandparents had given him, their old plasma ball, their copy of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment… but alas, that damn Saturn, it cost him, on average, a thousand dollars plus, a year—sometimes as much as three thousand dollars a year– in repairs. A year earlier he had to replace the catalytic converter, the oil pump, and needed air conditioning repairs. In search of a reliable but cheap automobile he scoured consumer reviews online and stumbled upon a February 2015 US News and World Report article on the Volkswagen GTI which claimed the vehicle was the “best sports car” for the money in 2015. A year earlier the GTI had been ranked by the US News and World Report as the best “upscale small car” for the money. Perhaps not the most “attention grabbing” but the bright red color was. He actually would have preferred a sky blue car, but he didn’t have so many options, and anyway, he liked how red pierced with ambition and passion in his mind so Israel, ultimately, was pleased.
The drive—straight down New Jersey Route 33– took about 45 minutes. Route 33—at least the eastern portion of it– was one of the few nearby highways Israel enjoyed. He liked passing through communities like Manalapan and Howell which leaned more rural—more open fields to gaze at from the corners of his eyes (because he prided himself on focusing on the road)—in contrast to suburban East Windsor—where he lived all his life (Jewel lived there now too); the open space always relaxed him; for him, it symbolized the free and undeveloped, uncharted terrain of consciousness, ripe for discovery and cultivation of new thoughts. Israel told this to Jewel as they were driving, and she told him she also found a deep, personal connection to certain aspects of the environment. Then she brought up her love for mountains and her desire to live in a community where views of them were ubiquitous.
“I fell in love with them back in 2008,” Jewel said. “It was my senior year at William Paterson University. I thought Clinton and Obama running against each other that summer in the primary, and then Obama winning general election was just so amazing.”
“Yeah, it was. I remember that night too,” Israel said.
“Yeah! So…it literally gave me this, like, natural ‘high,’ and…with the university happening to be on mountains, this theme of…you know… of interconnected elevation… and… that was the night…” she paused, and Israel, who had been falling in love with her, was falling deeper now, and feeling even a touch turned on (and a touch guilty about it) by her passion, the volume of her voice increasing, her hands moving to accentuate her words and expressiveness…“that I decided I was going to be a history professor, and that I could get a spiritual high out of history…these events of such significance! And so the image of mountains are kind of like a memento of that, like a reminder of my purpose. Does that make sense?”
[Note: This is a one of a short series of essays which had originally been conceptualized as a “poem” at a time when I lacked a firm notion of what it was I really believed a “poem” to be. This piece is also interesting because I spent years not only writing it but furthermore I had spent a number of years wanting, in general, to write something about President Obama as such, or as a topic, as opposed to something very policy specific, which had been excruciatingly challenging for me. No doubt, if I compare exactly my approach to writing about a topic now to what my approach was when this essay was completed, in December of 2018, it would be somewhat different however not so much in sentiment or substance.]
January, 2016: I see President Barack Obama crying.
Small splotches of white salt under his dark brown, snowy night eye seem dabbed on there by a paint brush; of course, it’s just the light reflecting off his evaporating tears.
The photo was taken by Jim Watson for AFP/Getty Images when President Obama was giving a speech on gun control.
November, 2008: I was 22. It was my second time voting for president.
I voted for Barack Obama.
Just the past month my father had died because his colon exploded.
After he died, I thought I lived in some other universe.
The yellow, red, orange, and brown leaves falling from tree branches seemed to be all that could comfort me, reminding me of my father’s book of Van Gogh paintings that I inherited.
On occasion, when those trees shook, and threw their leaves in the air, especially when it rained, I thought maybe my father’s… ghost… was trying to tell me something.
November, 2012: In my naiveté, I betray my fellow Americans, voting against Obama and for Romney– my… Republican phase… failing to notice things like, say, the nature of my own poverty, and the poverty that surrounded me and my coworkers in the retail industry.
I failed to realize the exploitation.
I was a college dropout then, holding false assumptions.
Example: if people fail to “think and grow rich,” blame their skepticism, not their exploiters.
Less government, more optimism.
Mix errors like that with tornadoes of panic attacks… (extremely low… serotonin level…a doctor and I later hypothesized) almost deafening, blinding, throwing me all over the place, meddling with my thought process…
I returned to college, combating my anxiety with knowledge, learning to think and analyze more critically…as I reflected on President Obama over the years, I came to miss him.
[Note: This piece was originally written in the summer of 2017 as a poem. Over the past few years it has been revised and re-conceptualized to its current form as a very a sort of personal micro-essay on romantic love]
Things we do not desire, which I do not prefer to list, do exist in this universe but not in here, where our hands are touching like water touches the surface of the Earth as we float a little, on a black, leather couch and watch a fictional cop and a criminal shooting bullets at each other, on the television screen, or is it congress versus President Trump’s corrupt conspirators, or jeez, is it a shielded window through which we see countless episodes of good versus evil- life’s most basic theme? Now my wife’s hand slips away, innocently, like a leaf on a branch would shift in the wind, so she could grab her glass of water from the small table in front of the couch. A little while later we turn towards each other and lean in for a long kiss. After that we both smile- our lips spreading like a sunrise, bit by bit, pushing out night’s darkness, diplomatically exiling it, and we continue watching the TV.
[Brief note: This brief essay, which was completed around December of 2018, and is a reflection of thoughts and feelings I was having around the time of the 2018 midterm elections, is mildly experimental in nature, and is perhaps somewhat “lyrical” as it is part of a series originally intended to be categorized as a so called “prose poem.”
Since that time however, my views on aesthetics have evolved significantly. The exact definition of a “prose poem” will make for an interesting essay in the future but at this point in time I can tell you that at the time in my life when I was writing a number of so called “prose poems” I was in fact writing short, highly compressed, highly personal essays. That is to say, I was writing straight forward, matter of fact thoughts on particular subjects of interest. Now in a frame of mind where I believe this piece is properly categorized and understood with respect to its intentions I am happy to share it with you here for your contemplations]
Now everything’s a little upside down, as a matter of fact the wheels have stopped
What’s good is bad, what’s bad is good
-Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind”
“‘Can one be well while suffering morally? Can one be calm in times like these if one has any feeling?’”
–Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
This election feels like a spaceship heading for a black hole.
Please don’t explode…please don’t explode…please don’t explode, and shatter like the German democracy did in 1933…
Last Sunday night at 9 p.m.– the Sunday before the election–instead of “Headliners,” which is usually on at that time on MSNBC, there was special coverage discussing the “big day”– the anticipation, a spectacle like fireworks on New Years’ Eve… or Christmas trees decorated with bright red, green, orange, pink, and blue lights, and a diversity of ornaments…like steaming, spicy mulled wine still in the pot.
Just two weeks ago, pipe bombs were mailed to prominent liberals, and what the Washington Post called “the deadliest [attack] on Jews in U.S. history,” took place at Tree of Life Synagogue.
Voter suppression…reported in Texas, North Dakota and Georgia… targeting… Native Americans and African Americans…in particular.
America these days is like a toilet, filled with excrement, and vomit, that just won’t flush.
I say this categorically, and in pain.
I apologize with fervor, writing such nauseating words, but…at least the Democrats won the House of Representatives.
Though I strain, I do see the light of one, glittering star dancing on the horizon.
(Brief note: this short essay was originally completed on November 4th, 2018. I initially wrote this with the interest of making it part of what I referred to at the time as a “essayistic poem.” Although I have since abandoned that particular project and the accompanying view of aesthetics I possessed at the time of undertaking that project I maintain, after over half a year of hindsight, that the thoughts in this essay in themselves are a sufficient introduction to my thinking on the question of whether or not a God might exist and thus, this blog being devoted to my “Public Comment” on my views of things, it seems reasonable to include this here)
There is no empirical evidence to suggest a God exists yet even if the universe arbitrarily happens to be,and even despite atrocities [things I hate to acknowledge like disease, genocide, tsunamis, accidents…] there is beauty-the beauty of stars sparkling, mystifying, burning, illuminating; there is the beauty of the wind, whether it is tossing autumn leaves or brushing palm tree fronds, or making contact with water, ground or the skin of a living, conscious human, or a French kiss [mmm, just the thought of one!]-or fantasy!-all only a sliver, only a microscopic speck of the beauty that we indulge in with such pleasure.
Virtually each of us, if we try can find some beautiful things that bless us. From the atheistic perspective: how serendipitous! And that is all. From a less presumptuous perspective such blessings do provide grounds at least for suspicion -and thus for hope that some creative “entity” one might call “God” is a genius artist with profound bravura composinga masterpiece universe.
There is so much to it! Think, just think about the diversity: humans that evolve from the discovery of fire to the inventions of the internet and space stations, ah, and strawberries, planets, colors (so many colors), oil, mountains, lightning, gemstones, jellyfish, cats, dogs, horses, snakes, milk, wood, sand, ocean waves, atoms, genes, silk, Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln, Helen Keller, Meryl Streep, my wife Ashley O’Connor, my mother Amy Hanselmann, my stepfather John Hanselmann, music, wine, Effexor, coffee, blizzards, motion picture, the New York Times and the Washington Post, Proust, Walt Whitman, Montaigne, gravity, ink, blood, consciousness, language, memory, mineral water, birds flying (flying!) hot springs, seahorses, broccoli, brussel sprouts, pizza, moons, temperature, states of matter, sexual and asexual reproduction, sky, seemingly infinite particulars that just so happen to be and with such nuanced particulars within the particulars-all the cells in a human and their nuclei and mitochondria, the layers of the Earth, its biomes, the gasses of Jupiter and Saturn, every planet’s orbit around the sun, the position of every star, et cetera…
If there is that much fascinating complexity, and variety, in this universe then why mightn’t there be such a thing as a God? Some creative thing that possess something like a mind that imagines, reasons, produces, just by its glorious, unfathomable nature.
Oh yes, do I ever suspect there may indeed be a God, and do I ever hope, now on the cliff before I dive into the good kind of crying…
-Why I’m so thrilled my wife & I are moving from East Windsor, NJ to Basking Ridge, NJ
*What’s worth our time– a quote from Charles Sanders Peirce on “economy of research”
*A personal and autobiographical approach to philosophy/ philosophical aspects of our life stories
*Growing up in white, rural Robbinsville, NJ, in the 1990’s
*My father’s house in rural Cream Ridge, NJ– 2 acres of land!
*My earliest 2 memories are of the beach
*Why I dislike East Windsor
**In the video I mistook my estimation of precisely how white Robbinsville was. I do not recall more than one African American in my class until I was 4th grade when I met someone of Egyptian background and someone mulatto. When I was in 6th grade I recall meeting two people of Indian backgrounds in my class. The bottom line is that Robbinsville was exceptionally white.
More on identifying a “target audience” and the development of this vlog.
*Annoyed by postmodernism, nihilism, sophistry?
*Want more “real” talk?
*Building on Montaigne’s personal approach to philosophy
*No elitism or populism here!
*The evolution & development of the Public Comment Vlog
Improving my vlog’s marketability, content strategy and sense of “target audience.”