Self-Made Mythology

My dad is, in many ways, an archetypal self-made man: a Siciliano kid from an immigrant family in an ethnic ghetto, he became one of the youngest Commanding Officers in the US Navy, commanded two ships, then worked Stateside with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did diplomatic work with NATO, helped overhaul the Pentagon’s computer system (and by extension Dad helped create the internet), then retired with honors to form a computer company, retired from THAT to form his own tax business, and somehow managed in the process to be a competent carpenter, an excellent people-person, and a modestly successful man financially. He schooled the Bronx from his accent and personality (in what would these days be called “passing” and “code-switching”), and still combines a formidable intellect with people skills, mathematical aptitude, and an intense work-ethic.

My father is awesome, I love him deeply, and I have all the respect in the world for him.

Dad, Me Carol

My father Philip Brucato sr, me, and my stepmother Carol Brucato.

That said, he did these things at a time of great opportunity – when the US Military was still the force that won WWII, not the one that lost Vietnam. By his own admission, he learned to game the system in order to get whatever money he needed for a given military project because – for that military – there was always money to be found. Dad had the right set of skills and virtues at the right time and in the right place. As I’ve pointed out to him, a poor kid going into the Navy now does not have the income or opportunity that Dad had back in the early 1960s. That time has passed, and many of its opportunities have passed away with it.

Also, if Dad’s skin had been a shade darker, and his ethnicity harder (if not impossible) to groom out, he would not have had those opportunities even then, no matter how hard he worked. As his contemporary General Colin Powell knows all too well, the highest military officer in the land becomes “just another n—-r” when that uniform comes off.

As I’ve often said, my father and mother raised me and my sister to know that bigotry in all forms is morally wrong, intellectually stunted, and socially counterproductive. Being the children and grandchildren of immigrants, they both remain conscious of the realities of American prejudice (if not always of American privilege), and they passed that awareness on to me (if not always successfully to my sister).

Many people never get that awareness, though, either from their parents or from their circumstances, especially not if the people in question are raised amidst the mythologies of White America. And so, the myth of the self-made man (or, less-often, woman) remains strong and seductive even when evidence reveals otherwise.

Now, America can still be a “land of opportunity” for lucky , hard-working people with the right virtues and circumstances in the right places and at the right time.

But as the attached article (long but worth reading) attests, the story is always a lot larger and more complex than the mythology would have us believe, and the vast majority of Americans – no matter how hard they work or how willing they are to “do whatever it takes to get ahead” – will never achieve even modest financial and/ or professional success.

Especially not when that mythology is used to destroy the same opportunities that allowed “self-made” people of previous generations to do the things they did.

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A Different Solution to an Enduring Problem

In 1992, while the nation’s cities were burning in the wake of the Rodney King verdict, I was living in Richmond, VA. At that time, we had one of the highest crime rates in the nation – even hit the #1 spot, per capita, for homicides one year. Richmond was a key spot along the Route 1 corridor for transporting guns and drugs from Miami to Washington DC, Baltimore and New York City, and the racial tensions were so profound that a “novelty” bumper sticker from a lower-class white neighborhood read, “Oregon Hill: That Better be a Tan.” Despite being majority-Black, with a Black governor and a Black police chief, state capitol Richmond was still the revered “Capital of the Confederacy,” home of thousands of Civil War cosplayers and so many monuments to Confederate luminaries that a primary artery in my then-home district is named Monument Avenue.

Things in Richmond could have gone VERY poorly that day.


LA, 1992

And so, the police chief, the city council and the mayor arranged for open city hall discussions all over the city. Anyone could come, and speak, and listen, and witness for three or five minutes. I went that night, and totally lost my shit about cops and racism and whatever else came boiling out of my Dead Kennedys-worshipping punk rock mouth for several minutes, then went back into the crowd to listen to others speak their piece. I met my friend Terry Thompson that night, and we stayed in touch for years afterward, until I got sucked under by White Wolf’s implacable timetable and Terry got driven out of his neighborhood for being Gay While Black.

Lots of people unloaded. Folks of all races and genders did everything from scream incoherently to speak with history-worthy eloquence.

Y’know what didn’t happen?


Richmond didn’t burn.

A powderkeg that had every reason to go off that week never did.

Lots of shit has changed since then. There were riots this past weekend in Richmond, and given the volatile combination of internet fragmentation, media-induced hyperfactionalism, net-connected extremist groups, and a certain proud white nationalist in the White House, it might be naive to think that what worked so well in 1992 could possibly succeed today.

But why aren’t more city leaders at least fucking TRYING anymore?

Lots of misery and rage and devastation could have been prevented this weekend if, instead of staging Standing Rock cosplays, the various city councils, mayors and police departments had held open-house meetings. Yes, this would have been complicated by COVID, but that happened anyway. Whatever might have occurred had the Thin Blue Line not decided to close ranks around the murderers of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, we’re now going to face a pandemic eruption the likes of which this nation has not seen in at least a century.

(By the way, police chiefs and officers everywhere – fucking thanks a lot for that.)

COVID or no COVID, a solution like that employed in Richmond that weekend in 1992 would have been a massive improvement over when went down instead.

Doing a brief web search this morning, I found plenty of articles and photos from the 1992 riots. I didn’t find anything about the potential urban nuke of Richmond, VA, that week, though, because as far as I am aware nothing fucking happened. The authorities acted wisely and decisively, and while that didn’t stem the city’s many other ills that year, it prevented them from being even worse than they could have been.

The current system does not work.

We need better answers and responses and behaviors if our nation is to do anything but go down in the books in whatever passes for our future as one of the bloodiest imperial collapses in human history.

It’s not impossible.

I know, because I was there at a time when such solutions worked.

Protest Riot

Minneapolis, 2020

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Our Spartacus Moment

Hollywood loves its “I am Spartacus” moments – those moments where good, decent people stand up or walk away, refusing to allow the bad guys to continue with their evil plans.


But although we do have a few of those people – AOC, Greta Thunberg, Bernie Sanders and the Parkland Kids being perhaps the most obvious examples – depressing numbers of people are either standing paralyzed with fear, fighting amongst ourselves over trivial bullshit, gleefully joining the bad guys, or – worst of all – being “good Germans” and just doing their jobs without protest or refusal so that the bad guys can implement their agendas.

As I’ve said many times lately, on this wall and elsewhere, Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell and Rupert Murdoch and Vladmir Putin (and, for that matter, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi) have only the power We The People give them. Aside from perhaps Putin – who’s got a long history of getting his hands dirty and killing people personally – those “powerful” people need other people to enforce that power.

If the Secret Service decided, “Y’know what? Fuck this shit,” then Donald Trump would be alone.

If “good cops” would stop protecting bastards in blue, the bad cops would wind up in the same slammers and graves that other criminals do.

If every invisible staffer in Fox News refused to work, Tucker Carson and Laura Ingram would be ranting alone in empty studios.

The people who are turning our world to shit need other people to help them do it.

And for me, the most depressing and infuriating element of this absurd era is that so many people are willing, able, and even eager to help them do it.

If you love those Spartacus moments on the screen, then become that person in real life.

Speak out.
Say NO.

Such people rule the world only because we let them.

So stop letting them destroy it.

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KISS and Fuck Up

“I would,” said President The Donald in response to a question about his administration’s catastrophic response to the COVI-19 pandemic, “rate it a ten. I think we have done a great job.”

Facts disagree… but then, facts have little place in this administration, much less in the mind of the TV con man who leads it.

Trump’s continued absurdities remind me of a moment in the book KISS: Behind the Mask. Most of the book involves interviews with the four original members of KISS, plus various producers, other members, etc. The last portion of the book includes an often brutal overview of the band’s albums, conducted by the original members of KISS themselves. Interviewed separately, each member appraises and rates the records that made them famous… and often infamous as well.

The moment often regarded as the original band’s breaking point involves the four KISS solo records. Stylistically diverse and – in three out of four cases – wildly overproduced and self-indulgent, three out of four these records represented a fragmenting band drunk out of its mind on fame and money.

The exception is Ace Frehley’s solo album, a revelation to all four members of just what the drugged-out “Space Ace” was capable of doing when he quit fucking around and wasn’t being held back by the other three guys.


The nadir of the experiment was Peter Criss’s solo record, a commercial and artistic bomb loathed by fans, critics, and three out of four of the band’s members.

Which is the part that reminds me of Trump.

All four KISS members agree that Frehley’s album was the standout – a solid effort that (again, in three out of four cases) outranked the other three by a significant margin.

When asked about their own solo albums, three out of four members gave merciless appraisals of their efforts. Even Frehley was modest in his opinion of his record.

Peter Criss was that exception.


When asked how many stars they would give Criss’s record, the other three gave it between three (Peter’s friend Ace) and negative (Paul Stanley) stars.

Peter Criss rated his own record as five stars – better even than Frehley’s far more successful effort.

And that reminds me of Trump.

No matter how terrible the effort, no matter how reviled it might be, no matter how much commercial wreckage is involved, Donald Trump and Peter Criss consider themselves perfect. The problems are always someone else’s fault. The cost is someone else’s problem. THEY were perfect – it’s the world that’s flawed.

KISS: Behind the Mask makes many things clear, but the most glaring takeaway is that Peter Criss is a narcissistic egomaniac with zero self-reflection and a vastly inflated sense of his own accomplishments. Criss reveals, throughout his statements in that book, why he was repeatedly fired from the band.

I hope we finally get to fire The Donald once and for all very, very soon. Because no matter how catastrophic the results, he is NEVER going to see his own efforts as anything less than perfection.

Trumped by Washington

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Ticking Away the Luxury of Time

I have complicated feelings about this situation [1]. On one hand, I recognize that armed violence is exactly what this situation has been engineered to provoke, and that van Spronsen’s attack will be used to justify further crackdowns and escalations of force on the part of ICE and other “law-enforcement” agencies.
On the other hand, I cannot disagree with a word he wrote. [2]

Unlike the right-wing “patriots” who have turned our nation into Mass Shooter Central this past decade-and-then-some, Will van Spronsen did not unload bombs and bullets at innocent crowds. He staged a militarized attack against a militarized target that has violated national and international laws as well as the rules of decency and the social contract. He has done what our police should be doing, and the fact that cops and this administration continue to protect and justify these outrages is a greater crime than anything van Spronsen committed there.
Within the last decade, we have heard a great deal about Amendment 2. For better and worse, whatever one might think of his activities and motivations, Will van Spronsen did what Amendment 2 advocates claim that Amendment exists to do.
The ICE camps and raids are clear and present dangers to the rules of law and civil society. Like slavery, they represent a gross ethnic crime perpetrated by a hypocritical, tyrannical and oppressive establishment that profits from racial strife.
We have now had our John-Brown-at-Harper’s-Ferry moment. And in my case, it’s in my own back yard.
Speaking as someone with a history of violence that I have worked very hard to move beyond, I understand and deeply fear the realities of violence. Shooting someone in a game or film is easy; murdering a fellow human being – or simply striking one with an intent to harm that person – is an act that carries profound and perhaps literally grave consequences that no one can predict once the violence has begun.
I fear that an acceleration of violence will destroy everything worth preserving, not only in the United States but quite possibly on a global scale. Once combat begins, its repercussions swell beyond anyone’s control, and the end results – no matter how just the cause might seem – might end very, VERY badly for everyone concerned. [3]
I fear even more that we are being left with no better choice.
This is Zero Hour for our society. The current situation cannot continue as things are. Either by politics or violence, it must change, or else it will BE changed by forces beyond our control.
I keep hoping for, and working toward, a political resolution to this horrorshow.
If for no reason other than because every day I have to wrestle with the urge to do what Will van Spronsen did.
I cannot applaud him, but neither can I honestly condemn him.
Tick-tick, people.
We do not have the luxury of time.
Tick Tick Bomb

1. 13.07.19: Early this morning around 4am our friend and comrade Will Van Spronsen was shot and killed by the Tacoma police. All we know about what lead up to this comes from the cops, who are notoriously corrupt and unreliable sources for such a narrative. The story that we do have is that Will attempted to set fire to several vehicles, outbuildings and a propane tank outside the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma which houses hundreds of immigrants awaiting hearings or deportations. He successfully set one vehicle on fire and then exchanged gunfire with Tacoma police officers who fatally shot him. He was pronounced dead on the scene. We find his actions inspiring. The vehicles outside the detention facility are used to forcibly remove people from their homes and deport them, often to situations where they will face severe danger or death. Those vehicles being destroyed is only a start of what is needed. We wish the fires Will set had freed all the inmates and razed the entire Northwest Detention Center to the ground. And we miss our friend and wish from the bottom of our hearts that his action had not ended in his death.

2.there’s wrong and there’s right.
it’s time to take action against the forces of evil.

evil says one life is worth less than another.
evil says the flow of commerce is our purpose here.
evil says concentration camps for folks deemed lesser are necessary.
the handmaid of evil says the concentration camps should be more humane.
beware the centrist.

i have a father’s broken heart
i have a broken down body
and i have an unshakeable abhorrence of injustice
that is what brings me here.
this is my clear opportunity to try to make a difference, i’d be an ingrate to be waiting for a more obvious invitation.

i follow three teachers:
don pritts, my spiritual guide, “love without action is just a word.”
john brown, my moral guide, “what is needed is action!”
emma goldman, my political guide, “if i can’t dance, i don’t want to be in your revolution”

i’m a head in the clouds dreamer, i believe in love and redemption.
i believe we’re going to win.
i’m joyfully revolutionary. (we all should have been reading emma goldman in school instead of the jingo drivel we were fed. but i digress.) (we should all be looking at the photos of the YPJ heroes should we falter and think our dreams are impossible, but i double digress. fight me.)

in these days of fascist hooligans preying on vulnerable people on our streets, in the name of the state or supported and defended by the state,

in these days of highly profitable detention/ concentration camps and a battle over the semantics,

in these days of hopelessness, empty pursuit and endless yearning,

we are living in visible fascism ascendant. (i say visible, because those paying attention watched it survive and thrive under the protection of the state for decades. (see howard zinn, “a people’s history of the united states.”) now it unabashedly follows its agenda with open and full cooperation from the government. from governments around the world.

fascism serves the needs of the state serves the needs of business and at your expense. who benefits? jeff bezos, warren buffett, elon musk, tim cook, bill gates, betsy de vos, george soros, donald trump, and need i go on? let me say it again: rich guys, (who think you’re not really all that good.) really dig government, (every government everywhere, including “communist” governments.) because they make the rules that make rich guys richer.
don’t overthink it.

(are you patriots in the back paying attention?)

i’m a man who loves you all and this spinning ball so much that i’m going to fulfill my childhood promise to myself to be noble.

here it is, in these corporate for profit concentration camps.
here it is, in brown and non conforming folks afraid to show their faces for fear of the police/ migra/ proud boys/ beckies…
here it is, a planet almost used up by the market’s greed.

i’m a black and white thinker.
detention camps are an abomination.
i’m not standing by.
i really shouldn’t have to say any more than this.

i set aside my broken heart and i heal the only way i know how- by being useful.
i efficiently compartmentalize my pain…
and i joyfully go about this work.
(to those burdened with the wreckage from my actions, i hope that you will make the best use of that burden.)

to my comrades:

i regret that i will miss the rest of the revolution.
thank you for the honor of having been in your midst.

giving me space to be useful, to feel that i was fulfilling my ideals, has been the spiritual pinnacle of my life.

doing what i can to help defend my precious and wondrous people is an experience too rich to describe.

my trans comrades have transformed me, solidifying my conviction that we will be guided to a dreamed of future by those most marginalized among us today. i have dreamed it so clearly that i have no regret for not seeing how it turns out. thank you for bringing me so far along.

i am antifa, i stand with comrades around the world who act from the love of life in every permutation. comrades who understand that freedom means real freedom for all and a life worth living.

keep the faith!
all power to the people!
bella ciao

audio manifesto:

don’t let your silly government agencies waste money “investigating” this one. i was radicalized in civics class at 13 when we were taught about the electoral college. it was at that point that i decided that the status quo might be a house of cards. further reading confirmed in the positive. i highly recommend reading!
i am not affiliated with any organization, i have disafilliated from any organization who disagree with my choice of tactics.
the semi automatic weapon i used was a cheap, home built unregistered “ghost” ar15, it had six magazines. i strongly encourage comrades and incoming comrades to arm themselves. we are now responsible for defending people from the predatory state: ignore the law in arming yourself if you have the luxury, i did.

3. Imagine the following words: President Ted Nugent.

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Upon That Bridge

Witnessed while taking Sandi in to work this morning: In the distance, we watched a cop flash his car lights lights and pull up beside a guy who was walking along the sidewalk part of a bridge.

As our car approached that bridge, the cop talked at the young man (who had his hands up), then turned off his lights and left.

After the cop car passed us, we passed the young man on the bridge: A young Black guy whose expression revealed the combination of resignation, humiliation, and suppressed rage I’m sure he felt.

Imagine how you’d feel in his place.
Living While Black

I have some idea of that feeling. Many years ago, I was stopped by a cop who kept saying I “fit the description” of someone who’d done some ambiguous but undefined crime. I was a barefooted longhair with ripped-up jeans, so I guess that was enough. If my then-roommate Brian Campbell had not walked up right then, I’m not sure how far things might have digressed. Twenty-seven years later, that memory still feels raw.

Imagine that sort of thing being your daily reality. At any time, in any place, you might suddenly “fit the description” for someone who has the legal power to stop you, hassle you, arrest you and perhaps even kill you with few repercussions if any at all.

Sandi and I could read that reality on that young man’s face as we passed.

Nothing about this kid said “trouble” except the color of his skin.

But that’s Living While Black in America.

Or living Indigenous. Latino. Obviously Muslim or Sikh. Maybe even living Asian if you run across some cop who’s seen Platoon or Rambo one too many times.

Imagine how that feels.

Every. Fucking. Day.


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My Heart-Scare Yesterday

For those who have not seen or heard about this yet, Sandi took me to the doctor yesterday to confirm that I apparently do not have heart disease. For a variety of reasons, I’d developed a number of symptoms that resembled congestive heart failure (CGF) and for another variety of reasons, I didn’t do anything about that until those symptoms became severe enough that a nurse ordered me to go to the hospital immediately.


Here’s a brief-ish overview:

Yesterday, I was commanded to go to the hospital by our insurance providers’ nurse-on-call after I’d described a worsening combination of chest-pains, weight gain, growing fatigue, and swelling of the extremities. Sandi came home from work and drove me to the clinic, where I got some tests and was diagnosed with costochondritis, not – thankfully – CHF

That scare came from the culmination of several years’ worth of physical and emotional injuries, my reaction to them, and the long-term results of both.

The full story involves:

* Two knee-injuries (the latter of which caused me to gain about 20 pounds and wrecked my posture, threw off my biomechanics, and ended most of the activities that kept me in shape until then);

* A long-term dental infection (which inflicted lasting physical and emotional damage on me until I finally treated it early this year);

* Arthritis and scoliosis in my lower back (exacerbated, if not caused, by the knee injuries);

* Years of-ass-in-chair work on my various projects;

* And the depression I fell under as a result of various personal, political and professional upheavals throughout the last few years.

All those factors exacerbated one another, resulting in chronic chest-pain that had recently become an everyday affair.

Costochondritis shares many symptoms of congestive heart failure, so I became quietly obsessed with the idea that I had it. Due to financial concerns, pressing deadlines, and stupid-ass guy stuff, I kept those concerns to myself until yesterday.

Heart disease runs in my family, and both Raven Bond and Stewart Wieck died of cardiac conditions in 2017. Raven, in particular, was worried that I had congestive heart failure, and often urged me to get tested for it. I got those tests shortly before he died, and although I received a clean bill of health (much to Raven’s relief), those tests were almost two years ago now. After Raven’s death, I began to wonder if the tests had been accurate, or if perhaps I had neglected my health so badly that I had acquired the condition since those tests occurred.

After Stewart, Raven and Coyote died, I went on a binge of grief-eating. That binge added 15 pounds or so, and pretty much anchored my ass to my computer chair for over a year… which, in turn, made my feet swell up like goddamned balloons (which, also in turn, made walking painful for me), and sapped whatever energy I had left.

Insert vicious cycle here.

Lately, the discomfort in my chest had become severe enough to wake me up at night. Although I didn’t think of it as “pain,” exactly, and it lacked the classic symptoms of a heart attack, the idea of heart disease kinda dug its way into my mind and set up shop. Given my depression in the wake of Trump’s presidency and Stewart’s, Raven’s, Coyote’s and Ember’s deaths, that idea had become almost appealing to me… which, of course, just made everything worse.

To top it off, I have (as some folks have probably noticed) an obsession with America’s grotesque health-“care” system and the absurd amounts of money it costs to diagnose and treat even minor illnesses. I have gone without health coverage for so long (and spent so much money on routine medical treatment even with coverage) that the idea of seeing a doctor at all is enough to induce quiet panic and drop me further into depression. Because our insurance covers so few therapists (and pays so little to the ones it DOES cover), the idea of going to therapy for that depression – and the associated costs of doing so – just makes the panic and depression worse. So, I have not done that.

(Yes, the national situation is absolutely fucking cruel, and lots of folks have seen me rant about this intolerable mess before.)

The other day, I made an unintentional “joke” about having a heart attack, and Sandi snapped, “NO.” The combination of the slip on my part and the vehemence on hers made me realize just how much of a dumbass I was being by keeping my fears, potential heart disease, and passively suicidal ideations to myself.

As I told Sandi yesterday on the way to the hospital, the absolutely worst thing I can imagine is losing her; thus, I was being a selfish idiot to risk making Sandi lose me.

Yesterday, I resolved to call our new insurance provider if I still had those chest pains in the morning. I did, so I did. After running through the symptoms, the nurse and I agreed that while a heart attack was unlikely, congestive heart failure was a distinct possibility. I texted Sandi, she came home, and we went to the emergency appointment the nurse had set up for me on the phone.

Y’all know the rest.

Going forward, I’m taking anti-inflammatories short-term so I can resume physical activities. I’m getting the fuck over myself, finally getting a damn therapist, and spending less time at my desk and more time getting back in shape, repairing the damage I’ve done to my body and my psychological state.

Because of an argument on my Facebook wall the other day, and an especially cruel comment made by a now-ex-friend, I want to make something very clear: This resolution to lose weight is not about fat-shaming; this is about treating injuries to my body and emotions that have had me in such pain that I’ve been quietly welcoming the idea of death from heart disease. Anyone else who feels moved to refer to my grief and its effects as “a poor-me story” can defriend themselves right fucking now, and then check themselves to see why they think such remarks would be remotely okay to make or excuse.

The continued rage and hurt I feel about that remark ironically contributed to the intensification of the chest-pains that drove me to seek help yesterday. That said, I anyone who feels they have a right to make such comments in the future can save themselves the trouble and just GTFO now. I want nothing to do with someone who hand-waves that sort of shit.

Although I have a pretty open and honest persona, I do not trust people easily or well. Until late 2017, my most intimate circle of trust was four people; since 2018, it’s been two, and I have done everything I can – even shutting them out of stuff I really should have told them about – to keep from (in my perceptions) “burdening” them with it. As I realized yesterday, partly through some of the things I admitted to Sandi, and partly through the physical results of those things on me, I had been locking a lot of stuff down and away that I really should be been dealing with in a healthier manner than I have.

Yesterday was a wake-up call for me, and I’m glad all it cost us was a few hundred bucks and a resolution to fix things I have let slide for too long.

THANK YOU, EVERYONE, for your support, friendship and encouragement. I appreciate it a lot, and I’m really glad it didn’t take problems more severe than these to get me to realize how much damage I’d been doing to myself.

Gonna get back to work now.

If and when you find yourself doing to yourself what I realized I was doing to myself, DON’T. Knock that shit off and seek help. I am fortunate this situation didn’t cost Sandi and me more than it has.

Cheers, y’all, and take care of yourselves.

*hugs to all*


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Abuse: Knowing the Game…

Regarding Z. Shitbird:

That’s the only consideration I’m going to afford this attention-seeking toilet bowl. Seeing how hungry he is to be considered relevant, I figure that anything more than this brief mention would be giving him what he so desperately craves.

Instead, I’m going to talk about abuse.

For years, I was involved with someone who on several occasions hit me hard enough to leave bruises… even did so in front of our friends. Although I complained about it at the time, I didn’t leave; after all, I was a dude, and she was smaller than I was, and she told me it was my fault and I believed her, and… hey, love means never having to say you’re sorry, right? So, I sucked it up, and manned up, and dealt with it for years until I finally reached my breaking point and we finally split and I realized down the road how it felt to be in a relationship that DIDN’T involve getting hit and screamed at and accused of doing things I didn’t do.

At which point, I got really fucking pissed that I had endured it for as long as I had.

And yet, many years later, that anger did not keep me from remaining involved with a partner who raped me – an event I rewrote in my head for years afterward as “miscommunication” until a similar thing happened to a female friend of mine who affirmed that, yes, I had been raped as well.

Or from being gaslit in another relationship to the point where I nearly got into a bar brawl over that person I was dating, spent more money on her than I could afford, and bought her booze she’d been court-ordered not to drink because she’d tried to knife her sister while drunk.

Or from being so wound up in someone else’s script that it took the combined efforts of my two closest friends, both of my partners, a call from my abuser’s primary partner, several friends from Greece, a psychotic break on the part of my abuser, AND a collection of assembled emails and messages which revealed how my abuser was playing us all against one another – It took all of that before I finally came to my senses and stepped back from a decision that would have changed my life for the worse. And that’s ME – a fairly astute, relationship-seasoned person who’s not exactly known for being credulous or for taking things at face value.

Abuse leaves wheel-ruts in your soul – ruts that make it easier to fall back into those old patterns without realizing how you got there.

That’s what abuse can do to you. Can do to ANYONE. It can get you to doubt the evidence of your own senses and experience, excuse the inexcusable, and even turn on your own friends (much less on total strangers) if and when they contradict the vision of reality your abuser has made for you.

Abuse in a relationship seldom looks like bruises and broken bones… and when it gets to that extreme, it’s only because the level of abuse has escalated to the point where you blame yourself for what’s been done to you. At that threshold, while everybody else is either demanding “What the fuck is WRONG with you?” or – more often – simply stepping away and pretending they don’t see what’s going on (“It’s a private matter and I shouldn’t get involved”), the abuse and abuser have literally deranged your reality. The evidence no longer counts. The effects are all your fault. The lies you tell yourself are the lies you’ve been told to believe. And because abusers often hold so much of their own pain, and have their own horror stories to tell, and know so well how to win people’s sympathy for the undeniable injustices they have suffered (if only in their own minds), you don’t see it until finally you cannot unsee it.

Many abused people never reach that final point at all. They careen – as I used to – from crisis to crisis, from abuser to abuser, because the combination of self-doubt, mind-game tactics, and romantic fetishization about how “crazy is hawt” and “love means never having to say you’re sorry” all become literally intoxicating. The rush of chemistry that accompanies perceptual whiplash dazzles us. We crave it. We idealize it. We tell ourselves, “love hurts,” and we make excuses for our abusers because we would rather be mad poets than injured victims.

Abuse is exciting, especially when we get to share it.

Quite often, people who are abused don’t recognize that situation until it reaches critical mass, the abuser dumps them, or some other situation intervenes to end the cycle. It can take months, sometimes years or decades, before the haze clears and that survivor is able to say, “HOLY FUCK – WHY DID I PUT UP WITH THAT SHIT?

For many abused people, that haze never clears. They’ll say things like, “Well, a good beating never hurt ME,” or or “But (s)he’s a good person when you get to know them,” or “I had it coming,” or “A few good whippin’s sure taught ME how to mind my manners,” or whatever other excuse sounds reasonable to them. We feel proud of what we have endured, because taking pride in what we’ve survived feels better than admitting we should never have been in that situation to begin with.

Abusers excel at controlling narratives. They call the shots. They command. Some use pity-pleas (“Look how much I’ve suffered”), while others play the strongman regardless of their gender. Especially if those people have inborn or cultivated self-obsession or a clinical lack of empathy, abusive people can seem charismatic. Likeable. Someone worth defending even when that defense costs you everything you’ve got.

Quite a few of them excel, too, at finding enemies to blame – targets to harass with you so you can feel like a predator instead of their prey. I fell in with some kids like that in my early teens, and I feel ashamed by things I did back then so my buddies would think I was cool.

Knowing the game, as I’ve discovered from my own abuse, does not make you immune to it.

And so, when I see someone like Z. Shitbird, I see a person so desperate for attention that he will cultivate a rebel image that allows him to surround himself with apologists and sycophants and lovers and employers who he can then abuse for his own gratification. Many of them won’t recognize his manipulations until long afterward, if they ever recognize those abuses at all.

I see a Trump of the RPG world who’s so good at playing the outsider card that he convinces folks to take him at his word no matter how often that word changes or how little he expresses while unloading it.

I see a bully playing victim in order to victimize others… including those victims who feel stronger when they bully other people.

I see a fraud who controls the narrative in order to remain the center of it.

I see an attention-hungry abusive fake wearing someone else’s image without having actually done the work of earning such distinction.

I see the shadow of my own abusers, getting off on the abuse he perpetrates because ABUSE IS ALL HE UNDERSTANDS… and I see the people he’s abused abusing one another, and spreading that abuse further than one person should ever be allowed to operate.

Thus, I have no interest in discussing Z. Shitbird further.

Because attention is what he wants, and abuse is the only thing he’s got to offer.

People believe him because no one wants to believe we’ve been blind enough to miss what’s so fucking obvious.

So instead, let’s talk about abuse.

How it works, how it affects us, and how we can move beyond the ways it turns our reality to shit.

Abusers do not deserve the power we invest in them.

And we all deserve better than abuse.

Abuse Healing






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Do It, Billy Joe

In which Your ‘Umble Satyrblade has had his fill of Trump-humping racist dolts.

Upon seeing a post about Trump’s insistence that his faithful will begin civil war if and when he’s finally impeached, some name-withheld-fuckstick with his own right-wing radio show posted the following response:

>America would be all out war! Me and millions of us would personally kill every idiot liberal alive. If You against making your country great your a terrorist


Some folks tried to reason with him. I… didn’t:

nazi trumpers
Y’know what, Billy Joe RebelYell? DO IT.

Go ahead. Make some bombs. Blow up a few kids. Kick off that race war y’all have been masturbating yourselves sick over since President Scary Colored Dude dared to offend your delicate sensibilities by being Black In Office, and rack up a few kills.

See that blood on the ground. Smell the intestines and spilled shit. Orgasm yourself into orbit to the screams of people who have not lost the humanity you’re so proud to give away when the bodies on the ground are just “idiot liberals,” scary dark-skinned folks, or both.

Fucking do it.

Maybe then, the cops supported by all of our tax dollars – yes, even the taxes paid by liberals, queers, and other people you’d love to see purged from “your” country – will stop taking selfies with Nazi ratfucks like you.

Maybe then, people will finally stop making excuses for you and your kind.

Maybe then, when you expose yourself for the American Taliban you are, when you step up to your bent idea of patriotic manhood and leave actual bodies on the ground – actual children, actual parents, actual neighbors and living people and fellow-citizen human beings instead of the zombie-survival-game cutouts you and your fellow jerkoffs like to pretend we are – folks will finally stop acting like you have anything worth listening to, or defending, or considering “a legitimate political difference.”

Maybe if and when you and your fellow Russian dupes finally start pulling a few triggers and aping your idol Tim McVeigh, America will finally wake the fuck up and see you for what you truly are:

Not modern-day Minutemen, but terroristic ratfucks who think you have the right of life and death over your fellow human beings Becuz YeeHaw Jesus ‘Murrikh.

I’m so fucking sick and tired of seeing people like you afforded a platform to speak, commenting on social-media threads, hosting radio shows and publishing books like your ignorant hateful ravings are worthy of anything other than a quick trip to prison, a mental ward, or both.

I’m so fed up with having to witness you perverted fucksticks fantasize in public about mowing people down like digital sacrifices to your own shriveled, pathetic, willfully ignorant sad lack of manhood. And far beyond fed up with watching politicians and pundits play redneck blackface in order to score your votes, your money, and your loyalty.

You want a war? Go ahead, dude – raise your bugle and your gun and start one.

Show us all what you and your kind really are, the threat you are to everyone around you, and the diseased reality behind your fantasies of greatness.

Then maybe we can finally get rid of you for good.

PS: Wanna be great? Learn to fucking spell.

nazi gif-downsized_large

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“You Fit the Description”

“You fit the description.”

You Fit the Description

The description of a people taken from their homes and families and lives and worked to death for other men’s profits.

The description of a people denied legal human rights even after the chains had been removed.

The description of a president lots of white folks still cannot bear to have had representing “their” country.

The description of a people imprisoned far more than any other sort of American citizen.

The description of a people who come out of the womb preemptively declared Guilty Until Proven Innocent – And Probably Guilty Even Then.

The description of a group of citizens who die under police gunfire no matter who they were, where they were, or what they might or might not have been doing.

“You fit the description.”

All too often, an epitaph for men who had done absolutely nothing wrong but who spent their entire lives Guilty As Charged in the eyes of America.


Here’s the initial post my essay refers to, written by Professor Steve Locke, pictured above:

“This is what I wore to work today.

On my way to get a burrito before work, I was detained by the police.

I noticed the police car in the public lot behind Centre Street. As I was walking away from my car, the cruiser followed me. I walked down Centre Street and was about to cross over to the burrito place and the officer got out of the car.

“Hey my man,” he said.

He unsnapped the holster of his gun.

I took my hands out of my pockets.

“Yes?” I said.

“Where you coming from?”


Where’s home?”


How’d you get here?”

“I drove.”

He was next to me now. Two other police cars pulled up. I was standing in from of the bank across the street from the burrito place. I was going to get lunch before I taught my 1:30 class. There were cops all around me.

I said nothing. I looked at the officer who addressed me. He was white, stocky, bearded.

“You weren’t over there, were you?” He pointed down Centre Street toward Hyde Square.

“No. I came from Dedham.”

“What’s your address?”

I told him.

“We had someone matching your description just try to break into a woman’s house.”

A second police officer stood next to me; white, tall, bearded. Two police cruisers passed and would continue to circle the block for the 35 minutes I was standing across the street from the burrito place.

“You fit the description,” the officer said. “Black male, knit hat, puffy coat. Do you have identification.”

“It’s in my wallet. May I reach into my pocket and get my wallet?”


I handed him my license. I told him it did not have my current address. He walked over to a police car. The other cop, taller, wearing sunglasses, told me that I fit the description of someone who broke into a woman’s house. Right down to the knit cap.

Barbara Sullivan made a knit cap for me. She knitted it in pinks and browns and blues and oranges and lime green. No one has a hat like this. It doesn’t fit any description that anyone would have. I looked at the second cop. I clasped my hands in front of me to stop them from shaking.

“For the record,” I said to the second cop, “I’m not a criminal. I’m a college professor.” I was wearing my faculty ID around my neck, clearly visible with my photo.

“You fit the description so we just have to check it out.” The first cop returned and handed me my license.

“We have the victim and we need her to take a look at you to see if you are the person.”

It was at this moment that I knew that I was probably going to die. I am not being dramatic when I say this. I was not going to get into a police car. I was not going to present myself to some victim. I was not going let someone tell the cops that I was not guilty when I already told them that I had nothing to do with any robbery. I was not going to let them take me anywhere because if they did, the chance I was going to be accused of something I did not do rose exponentially. I knew this in my heart. I was not going anywhere with these cops and I was not going to let some white woman decide whether or not I was a criminal, especially after I told them that I was not a criminal. This meant that I was going to resist arrest. This meant that I was not going to let the police put their hands on me.

If you are wondering why people don’t go with the police, I hope this explains it for you.

Something weird happens when you are on the street being detained by the police. People look at you like you are a criminal. The police are detaining you so clearly you must have done something, otherwise they wouldn’t have you. No one made eye contact with me. I was hoping that someone I knew would walk down the street or come out of one of the shops or get off the 39 bus or come out of JP Licks and say to these cops, “That’s Steve Locke. What the F*CK are you detaining him for?”

The cops decided that they would bring the victim to come view me on the street. The asked me to wait. I said nothing. I stood still.

“Thanks for cooperating,” the second cop said. “This is probably nothing, but it’s our job and you do fit the description. 5′ 11″, black male. One-hundred-and-sixty pounds, but you’re a little more than that. Knit hat.”

A little more than 160. Thanks for that, I thought.

An older white woman walked behind me and up to the second cop. She turned and looked at me and then back at him. “You guys sure are busy today.”

I noticed a black woman further down the block. She was small and concerned. She was watching what was going on. I focused on her red coat. I slowed my breathing. I looked at her from time to time.

I thought: Don’t leave, sister. Please don’t leave.

The first cop said, “Where do you teach?”

“Massachusetts College of Art and Design.” I tugged at the lanyard that had my ID.

“How long you been teaching there?”

“Thirteen years.”

We stood in silence for about 10 more minutes.

An unmarked police car pulled up. The first cop went over to talk to the driver. The driver kept looking at me as the cop spoke to him. I looked directly at the driver. He got out of the car.

“I’m Detective Cardoza. I appreciate your cooperation.”

I said nothing.

“I’m sure these officers told you what is going on?”

“They did.”

“Where are you coming from?”

“From my home in Dedham.”

“How did you get here?”

“I drove.”

“Where is your car?”

“It’s in the lot behind Bukhara.” I pointed up Centre Street.

“Okay,” the detective said. “We’re going to let you go. Do you have a car key you can show me?”

“Yes,” I said. “I’m going to reach into my pocket and pull out my car key.”


I showed him the key to my car.

The cops thanked me for my cooperation. I nodded and turned to go.

“Sorry for screwing up your lunch break,” the second cop said.

I walked back toward my car, away from the burrito place. I saw the woman in red.

“Thank you,” I said to her. “Thank you for staying.”

“Are you ok?” She said. Her small beautiful face was lined with concern.

“Not really. I’m really shook up. And I have to get to work.”

“I knew something was wrong. I was watching the whole thing. The way they are treating us now, you have to watch them. ”

“I’m so grateful you were there. I kept thinking to myself, ‘Don’t leave, sister.’ May I give you a hug?”

“Yes,” she said. She held me as I shook. “Are you sure you are ok?”

“No I’m not. I’m going to have a good cry in my car. I have to go teach.”

“You’re at MassArt. My friend is at MassArt.”

“What’s your name?” She told me. I realized we were Facebook friends. I told her this.

“I’ll check in with you on Facebook,” she said.

I put my head down and walked to my car.

My colleague was in our shared office and she was able to calm me down. I had about 45 minutes until my class began and I had to teach. I forgot the lesson I had planned. I forget the schedule. I couldn’t think about how to do my job. I thought about the fact my word counted for nothing, they didn’t believe that I wasn’t a criminal. They had to find out. My word was not enough for them. My ID was not enough for them. My handmade one-of-a-kind knit hat was an object of suspicion. My Ralph Lauren quilted blazer was only a “puffy coat.” That white woman could just walk up to a cop and talk about me like I was an object for regard. I wanted to go back and spit in their faces. The cops were probably deeply satisfied with how they handled the interaction, how they didn’t escalate the situation, how they were respectful and polite.

I imagined sitting in the back of a police car while a white woman decides if I am a criminal or not. If I looked guilty being detained by the cops imagine how vile I become sitting in a cruiser? I knew I could not let that happen to me. I knew if that were to happen, I would be dead.

Nothing I am, nothing I do, nothing I have means anything because I fit the description.

I had to confess to my students that I was a bit out of it today and I asked them to bear with me. I had to teach.

After class I was supposed to go to the openings for First Friday. I went home.”


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