Tuesday, July 10, 2012

I was going to post something about an event that happened this weekend that was far and away the most heinous display of religious intolerance and outright bigotry that I have ever experienced. I have decided that there is more back story that needs to be told in order for anyone to fully appreciate that and so I will today be delivering that.

Losing my faith happened long before I associated myself with the term "Atheist". Faith being the belief in something without evidence. I can best describe my fall from grace with one very poignant example.

I was seventeen years old and had the world at my fingertips. My father was an estimator with a respected construction firm based out of Portland, Oregon. Money never seemed to be an issue after he separated from my stepmother and began to raise me and my little brother who was 6 years my junior. Every day was exactly the same. Bus stop, smoke weed, school, lunch/smoke weed, school, home/smoke weed, you can see a pattern developing.

I was an irresponsible self entitled asshole and I loved every minute of it. My girlfriends all being sexual conquest born from my own insecurities. My friends being people that I associated with for social status or for personal gain. I was about as fake as you could expect a seventeen year old narcissist to be. Add to that the fact that I was a pathological liar and you have yourself a great deal of self loathing and many different lives lead by the same person, depending on who I was trying to impress. 

All of that came to an abrupt halt the evening my brother came crashing through the front door telling me that I needed to come down the street because there was something wrong with Dad. The lights of the ambulance and the firetruck were spinning silently along with my drug addled mind. I walked through the door of the neighbors house down the street to find paramedics performing what might as well have been last rites on my father. Small machines and stretcher, calm questions from people who have seen just about everything wrong with the human body. With one hand grasping his chest he reached out to me and my brother and strained out his last words. "I love you."

He was in a coma. I had never seen anyone in a coma before. The mixture of Oxycontin overdose and vodka had caused him to lose oxygen to the brain, turning my constant and my role model into an object. I held his clammy hand and watched as they shaved off his mustache so that they could better insert the breathing apparatus that would be keeping him alive. I had never seen him without a mustache before. Little did I know he wore the mustache to cover the fact that he was born with a cleft palette. 

There was nothing I could do. The feeling of being completely powerless was overwhelming. 

I was taken home after my stepmother showed up to the hospital. I hated that woman would not keep company with her under any circumstances. Looking back now I should have mended that fence and stayed with him but I was selfish and wanted nothing to do with her. 

Once I got home I was shell shocked. I went to my bed and got down on my knees and did the only thing that I could think of. I prayed. I prayed harder and more specifically than I ever had before in my entire life. I begged god to exchange me and my father places so that my brother would not have to grow up without a father. I begged until I didn't have any tears left to offer him.

I woke up the next morning to find relatives that I had only heard stories about milling around my house. I was struck with the idea that people only matter to some people when they are facing the end. Even when those people are your brothers and sisters.
I spent more time at the hospital with my fathers body. Talking to it. Watching for any sign of life. By this time the doctors had come up with a percentage chance of his recovery. They told me that there was a less than 5% chance he would ever be able to breath again on his own and even less of a chance of him ever opening his eyes. 

I couldn't help but wonder why they called me in with a few other doctors and a grief counselor for a discussion. This was to be an "End of Life" discussion.
They explained to me that due to the laws of the state and because my parents had been legally separated for so long, that I would be the person who would have to make the decision on whether or not to keep him on life support.

I was not their when they removed his feeding tube.
I was not their when his heart stopped beating.
I was not their when they pronounced him dead.

Part of me was destroyed when I made the decision to end my fathers life. I was tabula rasa. Whatever had made me, me, was gone. With my fathers death I had died as well, leaving only a husk of the person I had once been.

Me and god had a serious problem from then on, even if I wouldn't acknowledge it until much later. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Talk Radio and New Media, a Terrible Necessary Journey.

I was nineteen. I didn't know what I needed, only that I was tired of moving furniture for next to minimum wage. Forty hours every week bringing other people things that I could only afford if I went into debt to obtain them. 
I came to the conclusion that I wanted to be a have and stop being a have not. Simple right? I did some thinking and looking around newspapers and job postings online and found that there was a mass hiring going on in the city about 40 miles west of me for a large computer corporation call center. 

I put together my meager résumé and applied. Not surprisingly I was called in for an interview. I say not surprisingly only because they were hiring anyone with a pulse, one hand, and the ability to read at a third grade level.
And so it came to be that I was employed by this major corporation. My family was so happy and proud. I was happy because they were paying twice what I was making without having to explain to people that the mammoth sectional/sofa/recliner they purchased just wouldn't fit through any of the entrances to their palace if hell froze. 

It might be relevant to mention at this point that I was a poor student in school. Not due to lack of intelligence but due mostly to emotional baggage from my fathers recent passing and the culture shock of moving from a major metropolitan area to a tiny agriculture based city off of I-84 in southern Idaho. 

The shift I was assigned was five a.m. to four p.m. This meant wake up at four to dress and drive the forty minutes to work. I still smoked cigarettes at the time so that was more incentive to leave and arrive early. Thirty seconds late logging into my phone   
and I may as well have been on Mars for half of the day as far as HR was concerned. Punctuality, customer service, and ass-kissing was the name of that game. 

It was the drive there and back where the story really begins though. After three months I had exhausted my CD collection and FM radio on that stretch of highway was the same 90's music that I grown sick of in the 90's. Doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo doo etc.

One fateful day I was screwing around with the radio and stumbled upon an angry sounding man on an AM station. I had never really considered politics seriously before. That was for old people and 
I was still an immortal teenager. 
This angry sounding but sometimes funny personality coming from my cars speakers was something of an enigma to me. He was talking about current events in a manner that was somehow appealing. He was talking and I was listening.

The more he talked the less I had to think about subjects he animatedly spoke of. Half preacher, half teacher, all entertainer. It didn't take long before I started seeing everything in a different light. The homeless people with signs that I had previously empathized with turned into caricatures of a society that punished the rich and gave too much to the poor. "Get a job asshole, don't expect me to give you my hard earned money for nothing!" ran through my head as I would pass them by.

But that was just the beginning.

Soon I started to engage myself in, what I considered, informed political debate with my peers. The would say this, and I would say socialist. They would say that, and I would say free market economics. They would say abortion and I would immediately become hostile, frothing at the mouth and borderline psychotic. THEM CHILDRENS HAS A RIGHT TO LIFE YOU COMMUNIST DEATH WORSHIPPER!

(As if I had a dog in that fight...)

I began to alienate my friends that disagreed with me. I can still hear myself echo sentiments that had been told to me by the big voice coming from my car's speakers. I had a really wonderful female friend that I was secretly in love with. When i found out that she was voting democrat in the next presidential election I said some of the meanest things to her. I can still feel her disappointment coming from the other end of the phone. 

I didn't care. I was right and she was left and wrong damn it. I couldn't stand for a tolerant relationship with someone who disagreed with me. That was for tree hugging hippy socialists who drank lattés and killed babies. No sir. I was a proud, god fearing, christian conservative with all the facts and just the wrong attitude to back them up.

Fast forward four years.

I now worked for the I.T. department of a school district making a decent salary. I was married then and had a three year old daughter and a barbecue in the backyard. 
The man was still talking and I still listened but there was something wrong. Something just didn't jive. 

Sitting at a desk for a large portion of my job afforded me the opportunity to cruise YouTube and other sites at my leisure. 
As I sat one day a video came along into my feed after watching something else and being bored out of my mind I clicked it. There yet again was another angry man shouting at anyone that would hear him but this time he was angry about all the things that I held true and dear. First I was amused. Then I was confused. Then I was totally lost.

When the truth hits you it hits you hard "bro". 

I turned it all off. It was too much. I didn't know what to believe anymore. I had built an identity based on values that were now coming into question even from myself. I had to think. It went something like this.

Myself: Do you believe in god?
ME: Well sure.
Myself: Why?
ME: Because...

We have just lost cabin pressure. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012
I look back now at the ugliness that I was and I am ashamed. I was so easily controlled by an entertainer. I sat in the big circus tent and watched the lions and tigers and trapeze acts for so long that I believed they were all real. 
It took quite some time and a fair amount of "soul searching" but I am now taking steps in My direction. 
This is my apology to humanity for being a tool and a cog in the machine. For being a slave to the masters who profit from the exploitation of other peoples. For believing the lie. For actively being a racist douche bag on multiple occasions. Most of all for being less that human.