Archive for May, 2015

beast  While this meme works when referring to tough-talking suburban soccer moms and any other pussy-ass nerd trying to front, a new meme is needed regarding the word “thug.”

This meme should read:

Everyone wants to call themselves a thug,

Everyone wants to do what thugs do,

But nobody wants to deal with the consequences of being a thug.

So why all this about thugs? Because many in the black community – as well as the white, liberal progressives whose ideologies feed their hate – are screaming from the rooftops about the media’s use of the term “thug.” In their words, “thug” is the new “n-word,” making referring to someone as a “thug” a racist statement born of systemic white supremacy.

Truth be told, these social justice warrior types are right… but not in the way that they think they are.

“Thug” is the “new n-word” because, just like its predecessor, it’s a term that’s fine for use within a specific racial/social/economic group, but is equally forbidden for use by those outside said groups. In plain English, this means that it’s fine for thugs to call themselves and those within their social circle “thugs.” But if the word is used by a “non-thug” to describe a “thug” and/or his/her actions, it becomes a highly-politicized matter subject to a variety of ideology steeped in the alleged systematic racism that allegedly exists in power/non-power relationships, etc.

So to you non-thugs reading this, use this term at your own risk! The folks on Fox News are safe hiding in their TV station, but you lack such protections on the street or in the bar, etc. Therefore, if you use the word to describe someone or their actions, don’t be surprised if the suspected thug(s) does some thuggish shit to you, then label you a racist who refuses to own up to your own inherent racism and privilege.

And speaking of consequences, I’d like to get back to that portion of my fictional meme idea. Whether it’s prison or the cemetery – or simply being labelled a “thug” – there are repercussions to certain types of behavior that go against what’s generally expected in an orderly society. Sadly, this reality is rarely taken into consideration by would-be thugs until long after they’ve committed themselves to their act(s) of thuggery. By then, it’s too late; thus, I have a feeling this term is going to be around for a while.

So, with all that said, who’s up for creating the meme?

*As a quick side note, the dictionary definition of “thug” is “a violent person, especially a criminal.” The word has Indian origins, and was used to refer to members of a religious organization of robbers and assassins who waylaid and strangled their victims, usually travelers, in a ritually-prescribed manner. (Apologies to anyone of Indian descent who might follow the goddess Kali, but that is some straight up thug shit!)

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Chad  The wisdom of Internet memes, this time from the only-God-can-judge-me crowd.

Before I get started dismantling the faux wisdom of this meme, let me make a couple things perfectly clear. 1.) I am covered in tattoos. I have two half-sleeves, both chest panels and a backpiece covered in a variety of designs. 2.) I am not a Christian. Instead, I’m an Odinist, which means I honor Odin and the rest of the old, Northern European gods, such as Thor, Tyr, Freya, etc. With that out of the way, let me tell you why I think this meme is bullshit, for the most part.

I will acknowledge that there’s a kernel of truth to this meme. Yes, not everyone who has tattoos is a vicious killer or conniving criminal. And yes, all of know at least one person who piously attends church every Sunday yet somehow seems to miss the better message of what being a Christian/Jew/Muslim should be all about, and that’s love, acceptance, forgiveness of self and others, etc. That said, this amount of truth to the meme is an acorn compared to the towering oak tree of bullshit that it implies.

Now let’s look at the bad, of which there is a lot. Those who would share this meme are doing so in search of validation. Chances are, they’re tattooed and likely don’t go to church – which neither of things are bad – and they’re struggling with feelings of low self worth. (Hint: we all do this to varying degrees.) Thus, sharing this meme is their way of saying, “Despite my flaws, I’m a good person. Right?” And each like and/or comment from their like-minded tattooed friends acts as another brick added to the poster’s “self-esteem wall.”

Another problem with this meme: it’s thinly-disguised tribalism. What I mean by this is it basically draws a line in the sand between one “tribe” – tattooed people – and another “tribe” – non-tattooed people who attend church. This creates an us-against-them scenario where people are reduced to mere stereotype of what each “side” represents to the other. This robs people of their humanity, which is known as “othering,” as in people become reduced to something other than human. Example: Someone looking at a group of tattooed people and saying, “Look at those freaks over there! They’re not like us at all. They’re evil!”

Thing is, it works just as well in reverse: “Look at those lying sons of bitches with their hands together, pretending that they’re praying. Half of them will go home and beat their wives!” (Sound familiar?)

The bad news is that it’s hard to escape the “tribal mindset,” as it’s been ingrained in us since the dawn of our species. By trusting in and taking care of only our own “tribe,” our primitive ancestors ensured their survival. This same biological memory doesn’t serve us so well today, where our culture has moved from tribal to one of a diverse global village. Now, whenever we separate humanity into “tribes” that are diametrically opposed to each other, we create conflict where there needn’t be any. This can lead to atrocious acts committed upon members of the other “tribe” in the name of survival of one’s own. Example: How many Jews were killed by the Nazi regime because they believed Jews to be evil and a threat to Germany’s prosperity?

One more thing about the tribal mindset: seeing the world as us-against-them blinds our eyes to the wide range of diversity of thought that in which humankind actually presents itself. Example: how many tattooed people go to church? Likely more than you think, and they’re not all bad (or good) people. On the opposite end of the spectrum, it should not be ignored that many murderers, rapists and other criminals have tattoos, and  there are many people doing good things – ministry, healing, charity work, etc. – in the name of their chosen faiths.

Wow! I’ll bet you didn’t think a meme that says so little actually says so much!

ugly1 Dear two people from my past,

All you have is hate… pure, unadulterated hate. You have distilled it into its crystalline essence then weaponized it against the masses. It’s your gift to the world, and you mass produce your hatred, implanting it into each new hateful offspring that shoots forth from your fetid loins. It is their birthmark as much as their birthright.

I now realize why you brought me into your lives. You craved a monster – needed it, even – and so where there wasn’t one, you created that which you desired. Because a slavering and hook-clawed beast roaming the perimeter is the one thing that keeps you from looking into the mirror and seeing the real monster, that one that resides there inside the silvery glass, staring back at you with hate-filled eyes that look like your own.

And so, like like the mad scientist locked away inside his lab, you used my flesh, my soul, to create me the image of the monstrosity you so desperately needed. And just like your hatred, this beast was your masterpiece. It was something so horrible, so monstrous, so vile, that whatever semblance of humanity it once had was long ago destroyed in your zeal to create it.

With me so conveniently fashioned in the image of your grotesque, you wove your tales of my horror in taverns. The simple-minded villagers, needing something to fear, someone to hate, swallowed your words like so many tankards of ale. And like the ale, your words wove their spell, twisting their minds until they took up their pitchforks and torches, shouting, “Kill the beast!”

You sit back laughing in your near-salacious glee, but do not rejoice too soon. There’s a monster on the loose, and it wants to return home. Soon, this creature will be at your doorstep and it will have grown too powerful to be stopped by your shield of hate and self-righteousness. This beast longs to rend you limb from bloody limb as you scream in pain at the injustice of it all.

But do not expect pity from a monster. Vicious creatures are incapable of such emotions. After all, I am as you’ve made me.

*Featured artwork by Steven Michael Pace of Flint, Michigan.

ISJW  This meme is exactly what’s wrong with Internet social justice warriors and their mentality. Right here, in black and white, they state that if you don’t think exactly the way that they do, then you are part of a “problem. My response: the only “problem” I’m part of is the one they’re creating in their head and projecting onto the world.

Rant over.

3Johns  At first, I didn’t want to write my father’s obituary. While I know he loved me and I loved him, our relationship was about as far from a “Brady Bunch” kind of vibe as you can get. Anyone who regularly reads this blog has likely picked up on that already. In the end, I’m glad that my mother insisted that I be the one to write my father’s obituary because it inadvertently allowed me to give my father the one thing I could never give him as a child: the validation he so desperately sought. Without realizing that it would, this simple act of capturing the essence of his life has afforded me a sense of closure that will surely help sustain me through the viewing and visitation this weekend. So, without any further ado, here is what I wrote in honor of my father:

The recent passing of John Ribner leaves his family grieving their tremendous loss, and the community bidding farewell to a loyal friend, supporter and mentor.

John Richard Ribner, age 76, died Monday, May 4, 2015, at his residence. Left to cherish his memory are his wife, Dolly; son: J.P. and wife Rosemary; four grandchildren: Jorie Jukes, Jacob Esmay, Draco Esmay and Johnny Ribner; and three siblings: Theresa Ribner, Annabelle Ribner and Michael Ribner. John was preceded in death by his parents John and Mary (Gasca) Ribner, sisters Mary (Ribner) Kocaj, Margaret (Ribner) Hallead and Veronica Ribner.

John was born September 20, 1938, in New York City. As a young man growing up in the Yorkville section of Manhatten, he nurtured his love for sports, primarily stickball and baseball. His love for the game of basketball – a defining characteristic of his life – was inspired by watching Bob Cousy play for the Boston Celtics. This seminal moment inspired young John to tell his father that he wanted to play basketball, to which the senior Ribner replied, “If you’re going to do it, then be the best you can be.” John easily lived up to his father’s words.

From the courts in Harlem to Carl Shurz Park and beyond, the Big Apple served as the crucible where John forged his phenomenal skills. After playing for St. Anne’s Academy in New York City, he took his game to North Branch High School in North Branch Michigan, where he continued to set records during his awe-inspiring performances on the court. These skills earned him an athletic scholarship to Central Michigan University, where he continued his dedication to the game as one of CMU’s most-celebrated players.

While at college, John fell in love with an aspiring young teacher from Flint, Michigan named Dolly E. Mears. Shortly after graduating, the two married on August 6, 1966 at All Saints Catholic Church in Flint. They accepted teaching positions in the burgeoning Flint Community Schools system, where John taught at Fairview Elemenatry School, Holmes Junior High School, Whittier Junior High School and the Kennedy Center. An English teacher who was a voracious reader himself, he introduced many students to the joys of classic literature, inspiring many to become lovers of the written word, themselves.

During his noted career, John was awarded “Educator of the Year” by the Flint Board of Education in 1992, and was named “Educator of the Year” in 1993 by the Sales and Marketing Executives of Flint. He also was honored by Flint Youth Project’s 15th Annual Roast and Toast on September 23, 2009. His accomplishments were read to the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Dale Kildee. While these awards were prestigious, they pale in comparison to his greatest accomplishment as a teacher: the number of lives he touched, and the legacy of inspiration he’s left behind with the many students who’ve remained near and dear to his heart.

While John’s competitive basketball-playing days ceased after college, he nurtured a love for the sport in others. The court in his driveway on Jennings Road was the premiere destination for many young men who came as much to absorb his knowledge and experience as they did to shoot a game. In this capacity John truly shined, as the advice and help he offered transcended the game to offer some much-needed life advice to many. Needless to say, he’s remembered fondly by everyone who’s ever taken a shot on the old “titanium ten-footer.”

No recollection of John’s life would be complete without mention of his community service. He was a passionate believer in the concept of paying a “civic rent,” which he defined as giving back to the community. From raising an enormous amount of money for Baby Tabitha (a severly ill child in Pittsburgh) to providing Thanksgiving turkeys to hundreds of needy familes, John always led by example. In his latter years, he remained involved in the Westwood Heights school district, both as a board of education member and a comunity advocate.

John Ribner was truly an amazing person, and no amount of words can capture all the good he’s done or the number of people he inspired. What is undeniable is that his unique personality and infectious optimism always made an indelible impression upon everyone he met. This was evidenced by the outpouring of thoughts, rememberences and prayers his wife, sons and siblings have received within the days following his passing. The family wishes to extend their gratitude for everyone’s support during this most difficult time.

John’s family will be present to receive friends on Friday, May 8, 2015, from 3pm to 8 pm at Swartz Funeral Home in Flint. The funeral service will take place at 11am, Saturday, May 9, 2015, at St. John Vianney Catholic Church in Flint. Friends may share a memory with the family at the funeral home or online at http://www.swartzfuneralhomeinc.com.

dys  Forgive and forget…

You need to let it go…

Put your pride aside…

Be the better/bigger person…

You’re better than that…

Don’t let it bother you…

All this advice is a big, steaming crock of shit!

For those just tuning in, I’ve chosen to go no contact with a specific family member. This means no talking, visiting, phone calls, text messages, nothing. When some people hear this, they jump straight from their soapbox onto their high horse and proceed to lecture me about how I need to “be the better person” and let this family member back into my life because, well… it’s just something I have to do.

The people that give me this advice either don’t know shit about dysfunctional families, or they don’t give a shit about my emotional well being. Either way, I don’t have time for their namby-pamby bullshit.

Newsflash for the armchair relationship counselors: I come from a dysfunctional family… highly fucking dysfunctional, in my opinion. And like all dysfunctional families, I’ve been cast in a certain role, one that I cannot get out of no matter how hard I try. In my family, I’m the “scapegoat” or “rebel,” the one who was blamed for most of my family’s problems, even though it was rarely, if ever, my fault.

By contrast, the family member I’m at odds with also has a role, and that’s the Mastermind. True to the role, this person is an opportunist who manipulates other family members to get what he wants by appealing to their vanities and insecurities. Unlike the way I was treated, this person was always appeased by other family members, and still is to this day.

Here’s what happens when the Mastermind picks a fight with the Scapegoat: the Mastermind very quietly yet quite viciously insults the Scapegoat. In his anger, the Scapegoat lashes back in equally insulting tone and terms. The Mastermind then makes the round with other family members, telling them only what the Scapegoat says, and cleverly omitting the fact what he, the Mastermind, did to start the fight.

The result is equally predictable: the family kicks into high gear, rallying ’round the “wounded” Mastermind. They all curse, shout, and damn the Scapegoat for doing what he’s “always done,” which is “not being a good family member.” The Scapegoat tries to plead his case, but it fall upon deaf ears because, well… he’s the Scapegoat, so he always lies, cheats, steals, and hurts people.

The aftermath: on the advice of his therapist and everything he’s read about narcissism and dysfunction, the Scapegoat goes no contact with the Mastermind. The family’s reaction is much the same as those of the meddlesome, half-ass relationship counselors watching from the sidelines: forgive and forget, be the bigger person, blah blah blah blah fucking blah.

(Did you catch that, genius? My decision to go no contact has nothing to do with something that happened way back when; it’s based in the fact that the dysfunctional family element that blames, shames, and alienates me will. never. change. Got it?)

So back to the present: when you give me your bullshit advice, you’re sending the lamb right back to the slaughter. You’re telling me to quietly and dutifully allow myself to be insulted, ridiculed, and criticized over and over and over again by a family member who has no consequences for his behavior. My family isn’t going to stop him, and neither will you… You’re too busy telling me to “be the better person.”

Since you like advice so much, let me share some with you: keep your bullshit morality to yourself, because it adds nothing to my long-term happiness.

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.