The Beardly Writer

Some write from the heart. I write from the beard.

Month: December, 2014

Resisting Arrest

handcuffs

I wasn’t planning on writing this. I had another post all written and schedule to go up today. I don’t even know if writing this is a good idea, or necessary. But it’s in my head and like a demon it needs exorcised. So bring in an old priest and a young priest and probably more than a smidgen of holy water and let’s get this over with. “The power of Christ compels you! The power of Christ compels you!

This world has problems. Ain’t no one gonna argue that.

America has problems. And as “awesome” as Fox News believes America to be, even they wouldn’t argue that stuff’s not broken.

Nothing I write today or ever will fix all or any of America’s problems. “I’m not Jesus Christ. I’ve come to accept that now.”

But I have two cents in my pocket and as a consumer I feel the need to spend them on something.

I read a great post by Mike Rowe written in response to a question he received on Facebook about the recent protests concerning the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. You can read his entire response here but in short he said that he is in favor of both “peaceful protests” and “rooting out bad cops” but that he believes resisting arrest is stupid.

I have a lot of respect for Mike Rowe. It grew out of my early fears that he was an android back when he was instructing me how to use my PrimeStar Satellite TV remote control. Those impossibly blue eyes. The name, Mike Row, too similar to “micro” to be a coincidence. Then he switched to hosting Dirty Jobs and while he may still be a mechanized man, I realized he’s not hell-bent on destroying all humans. I respected his response. It was fair and well thought-out. Except for the part about resisting arrest being a stupid thing.

In general, yes. Resisting arrest is not a wise decision. But let’s remember that not all decisions have the privilege of being made after a good night’s sleep. Being arrested, I imagine, can be a highly emotional experience. A lot of things run through your mind, not least of which might be all the cases of police brutality the media loves to show us. We are told the police are here to protect us and 90% of the time, or higher, that’s probably true. But there are always going to be bad apples that spoil the whole barrel. If you’ve done something to warrant arrest, chances are you’re not in the best frame of mind or emotion. Why should the police expect you to cooperate with your incarceration? What do the police do to calm the situation down prior to slapping on the cuffs? Very little from the looks of things. If the media portrayal of police is accurate, they all respond with fear and aggression which doesn’t take a scientist to realize escalates an already heightened situation. And in many communities where citizens have learned through experience and stereotypes to fear the police, how can we expect them to act any differently than they do?

My personal reaction to Fight or Flight stimulus is fight. When it all hits the fan, I fight back. It’s not a conscious decision. It’s not a logical, strategic approach to the situation. You come at me, I’m going to come back at you. It’s not trying to be a tough guy. It’s not like I’m trying to prove anything. It’s a physiological response. I can’t curb it. If I suddenly found myself staring down the barrel of a gun while cops are trying to restrain me, my natural reaction is to resist. I’m claustrophobic. For me, it’s less about tight spaces and more about freedom to move my limbs. If I can’t move my arms, I start to panic. If my hands were cuffed behind my back, I’m not responsible for what I say or do. And I don’t see the cops, as they are portrayed in the media and candid cell phone video, doing anything to address this reality. The reality that what they do, and more importantly how they do it, creates and reinforces the negative stereotype of the police force. Force being the key word. They are not a Police Service. They are not a Police Nicety. They are a Police Force. Too often it is the exact wrong kind of person, the person attracted to violence and authority, who enrolls in the police force. Again, I realize that many if not most cops are decent, well-meaning individuals and I thank them for their daily serving and protecting. I understand they risk their lives on a near daily basis and that can’t be an easy thing. But what we in the masses see is our police fighting violence with violence. Or worse, shooting first. That’s not risking your life. That’s cowardice. Risking your life would be to assess the situation to see what kind of action is warranted. Shooting first and waiting for a grand jury to find you innocent of any wrongdoing is the coward’s approach. Of course cops should be concerned for their own safety. But the job they are paid to do is to put our safety first. The job is to serve and protect the public, not serve and protect themselves. When I see a YouTube video of a cop breaking a girl’s car window after she refused to roll it “all the way” down simply because he was more concerned for his safety than hers, it makes me proper angry. Yeah, maybe she should have cooperated. Maybe that guy shouldn’t be a cop.

The police want people to view them in a better light so people will stop resisting arrest. But it’s every citizen’s right to resist unlawful arrest. Unfortunately, what constitutes an “unlawful arrest” isn’t determined until after the fact, and by then you’ve probably already been tasered, beaten, or shot. As long as the police respond to violence with violence, as long as they act preemptively with violence in order to protect themselves instead of their citizenry, this situation is only going to get worse. They created the negative stereotype they insist isn’t true. But you know what? Despite all this, I want to like cops. If a cop pulls up behind me at a drive –thru, I buy his or her meal. The few times I’ve been pulled over it’s been a relatively painless experience because I treat them respect and speak politely. I’ve never been profiled or abused by cops. I can’t speak to that experience. The few cops I’ve known, including my father, were good people. I want to give cops the benefit of the doubt. I want to, but I don’t know how safe that is. The bureaucracy that continues to put angry and abusive individuals into police uniforms and then defend their obviously hate-motivated crimes gives all cops a bad name. And for those cops who are good but say nothing, they’re complicit.

I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a solution. I wish we could all just “be excellent to each other.” But the temptations of power and authority prove too much for some people. And the feeling of entitlement too strong for others. It’s a broken system in a broken world. I don’t know if there is an answer. Maybe it’s already happening. All these cell phone videos of police abuse. The more evidence we gather the more imperative it will be for the police to make a change. They can’t operate in the dark any longer. All things will be revealed. Change can’t come soon enough.

Just ask the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown.

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Make the Best of Your Holiday

white_christmas_card

Merry Christmas.

Or if you’re in the UK, Happy Christmas.

Or, if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays.

Don’t waste it. Don’t spoil it.

Don’t take advantage or for granted.

Cherish the good. Forget the bad.

Keep it simple.

Mind your manners. Say please and thank you.

Share.

Remember those who’ve gone. Call those who couldn’t make it.

Give grandma an extra hug.

Laugh.

Forgive.

Play.

Open & Honest Dialogue

Open_True

I want this. I want it badly. And it makes me sad that it will never happen. Not about race. Not about religion. Not about sexual orientation, abortion, politics, terrorism, capital punishment, or any other controversial or even quasi-controversial topic. It will never happen. And that’s terrible.

It won’t happen because people. We are our own worst enemy. We are walking, skipping, jumping, swimming, jazzerblading, and in all other ways contradictions.  Our strengths are our weaknesses. What makes us stronger does in fact kill us. The passion that moves people to take to the streets in protest is the same passion that deafens their ears to the opposition. We shout our opinions from our soapboxes and keyboard mountaintops because it’s our constitutional right to free speech but no one has the time or patience to shut up and listen for a minute. We are all too eager to be offended.

I have an opinion on offense (it’s my ‘Murican right). I’m not alone in this opinion, either. At least one other guy I know agrees with me. So, you know. I’m not a lone nut or anything. Ready? Here it is.

Offense is a choice.

You can’t choose to offend someone. But you can choose to be offended.

I made the choice several years ago to not be offended. You can’t offend me. You can say whatever you want. Make fun of my religion, my politics, my beard. Be as vile and repulsive as you want. I’m not offended. If I allow anything you do or say to offend me, that means you have power over me. I don’t give you the right to offend me. If I take offense, I’m choosing to put more value in what you say or do than I put into myself. I know who I am. I know my faults, my strengths. You can’t offend me because your opinion doesn’t influence what I know to be true. That isn’t to say I’m not open to learning or to adjusting what I know. In fact, offense prevents education. Offense immediately builds a wall around the offendee, preventing any further constructive exchange. That’s why we’ll never see true open and honest dialogue.

How would the world be different if we were less interested in making sure people heard our opinions than in hearing others? What if representatives from two opposing sides of a controversy could sit in a room and discuss what’s on their hearts and minds without fear of offending each other?

What if Police Officers sat down with the Black community in Ferguson and neither side had to worry about offending the other? I am in no way saying that what happened in their town, and across the country, isn’t a terrible tragedy. But for healing and progress to begin, strong people who choose to not be offended are needed. Open and honest dialogue is impossible without them.

What if pastors sat down with LGBT community members and both discussed their fears, worries, experiences, hopes, values, prayers, and dreams without fear of condemnation or offense? How many burned bridges could be rebuilt? How many wounds healed?

What if mothers against abortion could sit down with mothers who felt they had no option but abortion, and share their their hearts without fear of backlash or judgment?

I’m not saying this is a magical salve that will heal the world overnight. I’m saying that brave people need to stand up and boldly choose to not be offended. It’s a simple, one-time choice. Know who you are. Be secure in who you are. And let no man have sway over you. Choose to ignore offense and keep the walls of ignorance and separation from growing. Not just because I want open and honest dialogue. I do. But the world needs it.

The world needs it. But do I think it likely? Will I see this in my lifetime? I wish I were an optimist because I really want to say yes. But no, I don’t think so. I love being proven wrong, though.

Please, brave people, prove me wrong.

Music Corner: Father John Misty – Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)

Where Do Babies Come From?

Let’s face it. Not all babies are cute. Your baby is cute because you are genetically designed to think it’s cute so you’re more likely to protect it when the dingo comes for it. Maybe your baby is cute. Probably it is. But not all of them are. No one will tell you your baby isn’t cute, or that it’s mildly creepy looking, or that it somehow found an ugly stick in your womb and beat itself silly with it. They won’t say that to your face, or to anyone’s face. Most people aren’t that rude or insensitive. Or honest. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t advise you point out every ugly baby you see at the mall’s play pit. And not just because you’d be outnumbered by a gang of angry mothers although that’s a scary enough scenario. Social niceties, for the most part, help us get along and be productive as a society. And I’m all for getting along. But not all babies are cute. Even if we don’t admit it openly, we should admit it to ourselves.

For the record, concerning the title, no, I’m not asking. I figured that one out a long time ago. I was too young when my sister mentioned, in passing, just how penguins mate. I said something to the effect of, “That’s gross,” to which my sister responded, “How do you think people do it, idiot?” She probably didn’t say the idiot part, but it was implied. I simply shut my mouth and walked away, stunned. All in all, though, probably better than learning about it on the playground at school like most kids. Whatever. The point is, I know where babies come from. If you know me at all or are familiar with how I write, you’ll know I’m slowly working my way towards a metaphor. A weak, ill-constructed metaphor in all likelihood because perfection is boring.

I don’t have babies. Or baby. But I know what they are. I’ve held them. Smelled them. Fed them. Changed them. Put up with them. Avoided them. Run away from them. Been bitten by them. And I’m good. I’m all set. Other people’s kids are enough. I love my sister’s kids. I’m sure I’ll love my brother’s kid when I meet it. But whatever genetic impulse that convinces people to raise children, yeah, I don’t have that. The impulse to make children, sure. But any responsibility past that seems exhausting. Why anyone chooses it is beyond me.

The closest I want to get to having a baby is writing a script. No, they aren’t really that close. That’s kind of the point. But there are slight and occasional similarities, enough that I know I don’t want there to be any additional.

Babies keep you up at night. So does writing. When I think I’ve done enough writing for the day I close the laptop, maybe try and watch some TV then go to bed. Just as I’m about to fall asleep, the script starts crying out to me. “Hey! Hey you! Dummy who thought being a writer was a good idea! What if in the second half of Act II Johnny Protagonist steals a harrier jet? It worked for True Lies!”

“No, it really didn’t. And shut up, I’m trying to sleep. We’ve got work in the morning.”

“But fighter jets are so coooooooooollll!! We get to blow stuff up!”

“It’s a Romantic Comedy. Stuff’s not supposed to blow up.”

“That’s why no one buys your scripts. You should write me like a Michael Bay script. Michael Bay is the best.”

*Click-click*

“Say that again and I swear I will shoot my laptop and kill you in the process.”

“…Michael Bay wouldn’t hesitate to-”

*BAM*

And that’s why I buy cheap laptops.

Babies need to be raised. So do scripts. It all starts with an idea. Maybe you’re in bed, the mood is right, and wham-bam thank you ma’am you’ve got a great idea. Then a few days or weeks later, you realize you are responsible for this idea. It’s yours. You gave it life. It’s your job to raise it, develop it, turn it into a contributing member of society. You want this idea to be successful so it can support you in your old age. So you treat it like a Faberge egg. Gentle, careful, with all the love of a little girl tending to an injured baby bird she found in the back yard. Then one day you’re holding it up above your head with pride because it’s working, it’s growing, and then it throws up in your mouth. You realize it’s a long road ahead. Yeah, sometimes it takes eighteen years. And sometimes, like a child, after eighteen years of sweat and blood and sacrifice, it still turns out to be a disappointment.

Scripts need attention. They require discipline. When you’re not with them, you’re thinking about them. They make you happy, cry, and tear your hair out in great clumps. If someone tries to steal your script you protect it with your life. When it’s young and bright and new and someone tries to tell you it’s ugly you ignore them because they’re obviously blind. A script is a part of me, born with my DNA. And that’s near enough to progeny for me. Because unlike a child, I can sell a script when I’m done with it.

 

An Almost End of a New Beginning

In August of this year I picked up and moved to Virginia Beach to go to film school. I’m pursuing my MFA in Screenwriting. Since then, I’ve left this blog untouched. Not a week went by that I didn’t think about it, think about writing something to post here. I’m still conflicted about personal update blogs. Seems too narcissistic, for me anyway. But with only one week left of my first semester back in school, I wanted to write something if for no other reason than to shout to the blogosphere that I’m still here, still writing, still beardly.

My natural inclination is to believe I can do it all on my own. I’m a lone wolf who can take care of himself. I can best get what I want by myself. I’ve learned time and again, that isn’t true. I believed I was learning just as much about writing on my own as I could have in school. I was wrong. There is only so much you can learn from books. Often, it takes pressure, deadlines, consequences, and people building into you. It has made me a better writer. My time on my own wasn’t wasted, though. It was a foundation for what I’m learning now, a springboard off of which I’ve launched into the best writing I’ve ever done. I’m preparing to enter a script into a contest soon, details to come.

What I’m trying to say is that yes, writers often lead a solitary life. Hours alone in an office or coffee shop, toiling away at creating worlds out of 26 little symbols in the desperate hope that someone, somewhere will bring those worlds to life with their imagination. But it can’t always be like that. Writer’s need others. I know this now. I’m strengthened by relationships. My writing grows stronger because of them, not in spite of them. I never thought I’d enjoy a writing partner or working in a writer’s room. Now I love the idea and look forward to writing in groups.

Be open to change. Then when it comes, write about it.