Buy the book many are saying "I had to put it down immediately."
The next five people who subscribe for a year at full price I'll send an autographed copy. Let me know if you like the sound of that. It's my birthday tomorrow by the way! What a nice gift that would be. For me. To have to go to the Post Office.
Today is the first installment of our new advice column written by Max Collins aka The Eve 6 Guy. The next one will be for paid subscribers only so be sure to subscribe if you enjoy it.
Then after that a few more responses to the latest Hell World about how people behave and feel differently now that we live in a world of constant shootings.
First some thoughts from me on the news from New York City yesterday.
I kept being told he threw his jacket. Jordan Neely was agitated on the subway and he threw his jacket. I don't know what that means. I understand the action being described mind you and I understand why they would immediately start printing something like that in the newspapers because I guess in theory it suggests action of some kind that begged for a response. Not the one it got perhaps but still.
He threw his jacket on the floor they said. Kept saying. I don't know what that means. Try throwing your jacket right now. What have you done? Nothing. You couldn't hurt a person by throwing a jacket. You couldn't even hurt a small animal. In fact throwing your jacket on top of it is what you might do to specifically not hurt a small animal that has gotten into your house. So you could carry it gently back outside.
By now you've seen the disgusting New York Post story and the passive New York Times tweet in which Neely's killer was provided the exonerative tense cover usually reserved for police when they kill. (Reportedly the killer was a marine so basically the same thing as a cop).
Media doesn't just apply the exonerative to cops of course. It also shows up in bicyclist vs driver stories and in the common use of "homeowner" as an honorific in a crime story and most especially in any "normal citizen" vs homeless person story which is what this was. Not just one specific group of normal citizens vs one specific homeless person but all of them vs all of them.
And the killer was allowed to walk free. And we don't yet even know his name.
We've been talking a lot in here lately about what I consider to be two of the most pressing issues of this dark and darkening period: hair trigger violence among Americans and the constant drumbeat of propaganda against the homeless and here we are today at the perfect intersection of the two. A fucking nation of vigilantes with a media and politicians and the cruelest social media agitators constantly telling us that the worst off among us are both violent zombies and subhuman vermin.
And it's a Thursday in May and Jordan Neely is dead. Do you feel any safer?
Yes it can be uncomfortable to encounter an unhoused person in distress. That is because it is an up close and personal look at How It Actually Is. A peek under the hood of this country. The churning gears and foul combustion. It's no wonder then that so many of us want them simply disappeared. These humans – and they are humans in case you need reminding – aren't a threat so much as they are an indictment.
Look at what we allow.
It's the hideous beating of the tell-tale heart.
Much like with the existence of any billionaire the inverse is that so many systemic mechanism that should be in operation had to have failed for any individual unhoused person to exist in the first place. It’s shameful to see and it’s no wonder we all feel uneasy about it.
It's not so much seeing how the sausage is made it's seeing the sausage.
This point below is something that seems obvious but isn't something that I have seen mentioned often enough as an analogy to how we treat the homeless.
It applies to modern police and correctional officers as well. Look at this pers... worm living in the wormhole. Gathering its own filth. Doing it specifically to offend my personal senses.
Will no one at long last remove this insect from my sight?
Keep this thread in mind too when they try to tell you how downright dangerous Neely was. How deserving of his death he was.
Take a quick inventory of your life. I hope like mine it's currently a comfortable and safe one. But be honest with yourself. Do you feel closer to the chasm of poverty – perhaps a devastating medical bill or an eviction or a ruinous encounter with the police or a worsening struggle with addiction – or closer to the attainment of wealth and power? Which part of the see-saw are you actually sitting on?
As I mentioned the other day Max Collins has been writing a great advice column this past year for Input and then Buzzfeed News both of which then went out of business shortly after he started. Time to tempt fate. Unlike those two outlets I haven't had a heart in a blender graphic made yet. If that's something you might want to do for a few bucks let me know. In lieu of that here's this cursed meeting of the minds that happened to take place one year ago today. On a day... much like this.
Send in your questions to email@example.com if you have them.
I don't know how to stop being so angry
I originally sent this to your Buzzfeed column's email on 4/19, AKA the day before Buzzfeed News and your column shut down, because I apparently have impeccable timing. Let's hope there's not a repeat performance!
When Covid hit my area in March 2020, I took it seriously. I masked (still do in most public places!), social-distanced, hand washed obsessively, took Covid tests before visiting friends and family in my bubble, pushed back against my then-employers' unreasonable attempts to get us back into the office when it was still unsafe, etc. When the vaccine came, I literally cried tears of joy, and was in line to get it as soon as I became eligible. I got my two doses in April 2021; got my booster in October 2021.
When they first announced the second booster, I was not yet eligible (maybe – guidance around eligibility for the second booster was murky at best), and they had also announced that they were developing the bivalent shot, scheduled to be available in fall of 2022. I figured, no biggie, I'd wait and get my second booster when the bivalent shot became available.
About a month before the bivalent booster became available, the 'rona finally got me. I was still taking precautions, but went to a friend's house where I was assured everyone was tested and negative, and someone wasn't. I was only "mildly" sick, which is to say, my oxygen level never dipped, but my ass got kicked by this thing. I was bedridden for three days, and managed to take the whole ten days to quarantine despite the CDC bafflingly reducing it to five because my new employer wanted me healthy more than they wanted me at work.
But getting Covid was only the start for me. I am now a Covid long-hauler, and have been diagnosed with a Covid-caused medical condition that I will have for the rest of my life.
And I'm really, really pissed off.
I'm also one of the lucky ones! My condition is manageable with lifestyle changes and daily medication. There are a lot of folks dealing with much worse. But even knowing that, I am so freaking angry at everyone who didn't take this seriously, from Covif-denying asshat family members to random asshats on the street refusing to wear masks to the asshats in power who had the ability to do something about this and just… didn't. I am furious that we as a country decided that corporate bottom lines were more important than literal millions of lives. I am apoplectic that so many people are so freaking selfish as to not get vaccinated, so lacking in empathy as to not take basic precautions, and so self-absorbed that they jumped back into their regular lives as if we didn't all just live through a massive collective trauma.
And I don't know how to stop being so angry. Objectively I know that my anger changes nothing. And there's not even a good outlet for my anger – I'm extremely politically active, but no amount of calling my congressperson is going to change my diagnosis, or bring back the lives that were lost. Because at the end of the day, this isn't really a policy issue, it's a culture of self-centeredness that just can't find it in itself to care that this has happened, and is happening still!
So I guess what I'm looking for is advice on how to Not Be Like This. How to not carry this anger inside of me because I know the only person it's going to hurt in the long run is myself. How to forgive an entire society that let this carry on unchecked for the sake of sheer individual convenience. How to make my peace with what happened to me while still existing in a world where it's happening to other people, too. (For the record, I have a therapist, but we're currently working on other, more pressing issues as I can no longer take my prescribed anti-anxiety medication because it interacts with the medication I now have to take to keep myself alive.)
And I guess I'm also looking for a little bit of validation, that I'm maybe not the only one carrying this anger inside of me, because sometimes it really doesn't seem like anyone else even cares anymore and that's only making me angrier!
Here's to ditching the logical,
This long Covid shit is so scary man. Sometimes I think I have it. People probably tell you that all the time, that they think they have it, and that’s probably annoying because maybe they do, maybe they don’t. But you do know you have it.
Recently I've been tired all the time but I think it’s probably just the depression.
Have I made you feel any better yet?
This isn’t so much an advice column as it is a “you tell me your shit and I’ll tell you mine and maybe through identifying with one another we’ll feel a little less alone” column with a little practical advice smuggled in here and there where I can muster it. The latter usually being stuff I’ve gleaned from friends, therapy, and twelve-step over the years.
I have been pretty depressed lately. Aside from the “stuff going on in the world” I've just been feeling rudderless and disillusioned. Acutely aware of my shortcomings to the exclusion of any evidence to the contrary. The voice in my head that lists all the ways in which I'm fundamentally deficient has been loud. The ambassador to shame I call it. The ATS is always poised and dispassionate. The consummate, dutiful messenger. And the message is “you’re a piece of shit.”
I really started feeling old this year. I’m 44. It doesn’t sound that old I guess but I’ve started to feel old. Not physically so much as spiritually. I’ve been listening to records I loved when I was younger, and still love, but the diversion feels a little dangerous. Like the forest of nostalgia is beckoning me to enter it and die. Nostalgia might be poison, but so are most things that make you feel good, and it goes down like peach Snapple.
Normally when I indulge this kind of thinking I temper it with an admission that I realize I am a lucky person with much to be grateful for, and I guess I’m kind of doing that now, but it feels like an unnecessary apology, so fuck that. I’m not going to feel guilty for feeling depressed. I’m as entitled to feel like shit as anyone okay?
I’ve been to meetings and therapists, I’ve read the books, I have the tools. I know what to do to find a foothold in the morass, but sometimes I just wanna let myself have the experience of being low.
Oh shit that Cracker song’s stuck in my head now. Sweet, lethal nostalgia.
I’m assuming that you, though, being a sensible person, would like some advice on how to extricate yourself from the muck, so let me see if I can get my ass in gear here and offer you something useful. What you’re asking for is help negotiating your resentment. Your righteous anger. And your anger is righteous because you’re right. People failed you. Society failed you. Politicians failed you. Your neighbors failed you. You have this thing now and you might have it for a long time and you didn’t deserve to get it and if things had been done differently you probably wouldn’t have it. That sucks. The potency of your anger comes from its reasonableness. Your anger is appropriate. It’s justified.
That said, let me try and make a distinction here. Yes, anger can be good. It can be useful. It can inspire positive action. It can also slowly kill you.
The anger you feel toward institutions, government, corporations, and people in positions of power is good. It’s productive. It’s part of a collective anger that needs to burgeon and grow if we’re ever going to see real change in this country. Keep that anger. It’s the anger you feel toward Joe Schmoe who maybe knew he had Covid, or maybe he didn’t, but either way he sauntered into the party without a mask on that it might be helpful for you to mitigate. The systems and individuals distinction.
I’m going to give you a prescription that’s worked for me for lessening unproductive and self consuming surplus anger and you’re probably going to hate it.
Unfortunately the most effective way I’ve found to do this is by choosing to look at the people who have pissed you off with a gentler perspective. Not for their sake but for your own.
That last part is crucial. You’re offering them grace for you, not them. The means by which you access this grace can even be made up. Manufactured. When grace is the project even a made up story usually has at least one foot in a greater truth.
For instance, what if Joe Schmoe who is dismissive of Covid is attempting to mask his own fear? (Maybe mask isn’t the best word here given the circumstances but you know what I mean.) Maybe he’s more fearful in general than people who take Covid seriously. Similar to the way gun-obsessed people shit themselves with terror and pull out a 9 mm when a kid rings their doorbell. I think the unwillingness of some to take Covid seriously comes from an oppressive, unconscious fear that if they allowed themselves to truly realize its magnitude and severity it would break them. It’s a defense mechanism.
Fear is an emotion that inspires pity. I know what it feels like to be scared. I’m scared of lots of stuff. If I reduce a person’s shitty behavior to this root cause it allows empathy to move in. It’s much harder for resentment to live in this environment.
Now if you aren’t already bristling with antagonism against me you’re about to be. Try this: Pray for them. Say a prayer for wellness and peace for these pricks. It doesn’t matter if you believe in god or not. That has no effect one way or the other on a prayer delivered for the sender. I think this is a C.S. Lewis concept if I’m not mistaken, but the idea is that a “prayer for the sender” doesn’t need to be answered as such. It’s sort of answered in the (at first barely perceptible but upon repetition sometimes profound) psychic shift you experience from sending it if that makes sense.
Give it a shot. You don’t need to mean it. You don’t need pure intentions. The result follows the action, not the other way around. Aside from this I'd just encourage you to take care of yourself in all the ways that you can. Lean on friends. Don’t be scared to ask for help. During a time when a lot of us feel an overall lack of purpose pretty acutely it feels good to be able to do things to help our friends. Service isn’t a burden, it’s a gift. Similarly, reach out and offer an ear to people you know who might be going through their own shit. Just by reading your letter, considering your problem, and attempting to forge a response, you made me feel a little better. I got a temporary respite from myself and for that I’m grateful.
In the last issue a bunch of people wrote in to tell me how they've changed in the era of mass shootings every other day. A lot more came in since then. Here are a few.
Guns and Covid are why I got out of teaching, and it was the same feeling really, of realizing that help was never coming, and I was going to be yelled at for asking. After Sandy Hook I kind of knew what was up, that guns had won the gun control debate, but Covid really helped hammer home how I was expected to risk death with a smile on my face to raise other people's kids for less money than they made. Like in a society where you are told you're worth what you earn, and I don't earn much, and I don't even get to be safe? Man fuck this.
From time to time, in crowded places, I think about it. And, yeah, after the Eagles of Death Metal shooting in Paris, I was more vigilant about checking the exits. It is sort of a constant low-level static thrum in my consciousness...
My wife and I have kids 10, 7, and 3, all in public school. My wife has volunteered for Everytown/Mom's Demand Action for almost 8 years. Say what you will about Bloomberg – and you should, he sucks! – but Mom's is largely run by women aged 25 - 75 that just want their kids and grandkids not to get shot up at school, and not to have guns everywhere all the time so suicide fears aren't constantly a concern.
This is to say, our kids have been well-attuned to the ramifications of guns in this country by virtue of their mom's volunteering, and also by being in public school where active shooter drills are more normal than fire drills at this point. My wife has taken the two older kids to Advocacy Days. Everytown/Mom's is highly active with these. It's good for the kids to see that people care about this issue. See how people cheer representatives that do legit work on this issue. See how the fakers and conservatives have protests at and around their offices. And to see how any person can be involved like this and make a difference, even when it feels very very very small.
All that is good. Like any anxiety it is a benefit to face it head on instead of pretending it doesn't exist. But it doesn't take away the moments where the kids are still kids, and in spite of how normalized this crap is in America, it still hits that *it shouldn't have to be this way.*
Our 7 year old came up in tears last night, well after normal bedtime. Because he couldn't fall asleep without the thought of guns taking over his brain. Astonishingly, this is the first time something like this has happened with him. The fact that it hadn't happened sooner and with regularity for years felt like a retrospective blessing we hadn't recognized.
In the grand scheme of the problem of guns in America, this story is mundane… I guess I am compelled to share it because the real story is that if one had the patience and stomach for it, they could gather largely the same story from thousands of families. Like, it is just wild to think how even when we vote the so-called right way on this issue, even when we step above and beyond our votes and we volunteer, it doesn't change the broad strokes of the reality of guns here. It makes a difference – the mom's that do this work quite literally made all the difference in multiple states that have passed some good legislation. But I guess that's what is so hard about it. There are still multiples of extant guns per person, elementary schools are still irrevocably structured around the expectation they will suffer from gun violence, and American capitalism is still a sure bet to drive the immiseration and depression of millions, where all those guns floating around become their most dangerous in the form of potential suicides.
I don't know what I'm really getting at. I suppose it’s that misery loves company. At least we know we aren't alone in seeing the obvious problem and recognizing the obvious solutions.
My wife and I have curbed our attendance at events with large crowds. We are down to the events where one of our children is graduating, or recitals, that sort of thing. Concerts only if they are outdoors, not that makes anyone safer, but we love live music too much to give it up entirely. We have children in school and we both live with the fear that the next shooting will be here. Our kids have all taken part in shooter drills. What a country.
Someone mentioned Killeen. I lived on Fort Hood and was a few weeks into attending Killeen High School when that Luby's massacre happened. People used to call things like that massacres. Now they're just shootings. Maybe a massacre is a rare thing that shocks the conscience and the word doesn't really fit anymore since we're on the bulk plan these days.
For many years I worked as a freelance writer covering poker tournaments. The big one is every summer in Vegas, the World Series of Poker. It’s tens of thousands of people from around the world descending on a single enormous convention room in the desert to play cards for a month and a half.
This was many, many years before that fucking prick at Mandalay Bay, probably 2008 or so, and I remember getting caught in the middle of the crowds in one of the hallways one day early in the Series and thinking to myself how easy it would be for some massive loser to walk through the completely unguarded side or rear entrances to the convention buildings and take out their anger on everyone else.
Only a year or two before that I had been at a casino in Mississippi and just after the tournament ended for the night a guy who'd dropped something like $30k on the casino floor plowed a car he'd taken from the parking lot through the front entrance of the casino. Kind of like the guy at Luby's did only without the guns now that I think about it. So the idea wasn't just something my fear-brain came up with on its own.
After that I always took the back access halls, no matter where I was going, if it was a period where there was going to be a crush of people. I guess if anything I might have been one of the first people a shooter would come across, but I definitely wouldn't be crushed in a stampede of people who even under normal circumstances are looking for opportunities to take all your money from you.
For what it’s worth I never felt like this working in the Bahamas or Macau or Europe… Only in America.