The Arc of 2016: Fight Smart and Do Less, Better

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I knew Donald Trump was going to win.

At least, a part of me knew it. A part I didn’t want to hear. I suspect there are more than a few of us out there, who knew and yet couldn’t — desperately didn’t want to — believe it.

There’s a friend of mine, out there right now, who might still have a voicemail from me, that I left a few days before the election. I remember knowing what was going to happen, even then, as I clung to the belief that it couldn’t possibly happen, and did my part to avoid the result.

But it did happen. It has happened, hasn’t it — despite any recurring, sudden seizures of bewilderment. (Today, I heard someone say the word “trumpet”, and winced.)

We all know this, by now, that Donald Trump will soon be our President.

Some of us have even begun to accept the fact, as reality, if not on any further basis of principle (more on this later). Others haven’t yet accepted it, may not ever. And I suppose that is their right.

For myself, I was quick to accept the results of the election. They make, in retrospect, a perverse “sense”, at least to anyone who has been paying attention to the mood of the country and the world for the past decade.

This is not to suggest either that I am happy with what has happened (I’m not, if that hasn’t already been made clear) or that I am currently without hope for the future.

But it is a complicated, difficult time for sourcing out hope.

I can remember the day I left that voicemail more vividly now, as well as the scattering of others, occurring more recently, wherein I was similarly seized by anxiety, anger and sadness — when confronted with that sense of knowing what was about to happen, what has happened.

I can remember them more vividly because now I’m looking at those moments for what they were, as opposed to fighting against the knowledge that this is reality, as were the factors which led to (and now sustain) this unfortunate reality (for now).

Most of all, I remember the inner conflict. The sense of sinking dread.

This can be avoided. This can’t be avoided.

I refused to believe it. Still, sometimes, I can’t believe it. Perhaps that’s my sin, shared with countless others on both sides of the political spectrum. Certainly it is the sin of our media, which did not see this coming and, in fact, most likely contributed to this mess in a major way, by validating the theatrics of a bully via their mere “serious” attention.

Make no mistake, a time of reckoning has arrived in America.

People are going to suffer. The arguing will continue. The fear will continue.

Justice, fairness, equality — all supposed bedrocks of our democracy — will continue to absorb blow after blow. And we very well may wonder, soon, finally, if any of these crucial aspects of this contemporary brand of civilization can survive.

But they will survive, ultimately. We will.

I believe that. I can see and feel this belief clearly. The shock of Donald Trump’s Presidency has, at the very least, thrown our failings as a country into sharp relief against the task of safely securing a future — for all our citizens — about which can (eventually) be proud.

My acceptance does not make the pain or the sadness at our plight any lighter to carry, but it does imbue the carrying with a much-needed charge of hope.

So, what does this all have to do with my annual recap, as an artist, as I deliver it here once again? (That is, incidentally, nominally, the reason for this post.)

 

This site, the central hub for my work as an artist and activist, is now four years old.

When I started it, I was still struggling with anger, resentment and fury — against the injustices of the day. I was ready to talk about the issues, but not yet strong enough to truly engage them — or myself.

The year after that saw progress. I re-discovered a consistent creative voice, and I got to work. Along the way, I found myself heartened by the number and quality of like-minded people also working to make this country a better, more accepting, more equitable place.

Then, last year, I found peace. I began to feel capable of showing patience, of practicing faith. I’m still working on this, every day.

And, now, here is a great test. And a pressing question — how to conduct myself as an artist and a citizen during the presidency of Donald Trump?

It is a question, and a crucial one, whether its reality shocks me or not.

I have been turning this question over, regularly — but in a non-obsessive way — in the many days since I shared my initial thoughts on this deeply disappointing turn of history.

As I mentioned in that post, unfortunately, this sort of reaction comes more easily to me by nature of my demographic reality.

As a straight white male, the likeliest form of suffering in store for me has to do with my economic class — the same one I am in now, that I was born into over thirty years ago — even if I am sure to suffer by proxy as I watch friends and loved ones shake with anger and fear, and legitimately suffer, over the next four years.

And yet it is in this fact, in my similarity to Trump, that I find a point of access for the decision and announcement I am about to deliver.

 

The reason I knew this was going to happen is because it was inevitable.

I don’t mean that in a fatalistic way. I’m not being cynical or conveniently revisionist. This was inevitable because of how straight white people like me are handling the type and rate of change currently sweeping through the world — in a word, poorly.

But that is not to say that this is entirely their fault.

If there’s any justice left in the world, Donald Trump will in later years prove to be nothing more (or less) than the last gasp of a fading American power structure owned and engineered disproportionately by straight white males.

He is the face of our enemy, of our collective oppressor, not due explicitly to his whiteness or his straightness of even his maleness, but, rather, based on how he conducts and employs the power and privilege that come part and parcel with these things.

Once a bit of a misogynist, a bit of a racist and a homophobe, but always a skeptic of bureaucratic power — I now state plainly that I pride my contemporary self on being the polar opposite of someone like Donald Trump, despite our shared demographics of gender, race and sexuality.

Personally, at the very least, no matter what I do from here, I can move forward knowing that I struggled through change, learned and trusted in the goodness of people who looked and acted differently than me, and acted out of decency and courage rather than fear and hate.

It is no secret to regular readers, to anyone who saw The Videoblogs, or listeners to the podcast, that I have now absorbed goals of fairness, representation, and economic equality into my mission as an artist and a human being. However, I believe this all bears repeating for one very important reason.

 

While Donald Trump has provided a face to our enemy, he alone is not our enemy.

It is what he represents, and how he came to power, that we must understand and combat.

Politically, the answers might seem clear. And, in fact, they are.

Truth itself is under attack. It has been for a long time. I think the main reason I knew this was going to happen (despite my disbelief) is that I had already been fighting against men like Donald Trump for most of my life. Many of us have been.

Except, oftentimes through no fault of our own, we’ve been distracted from this truth, and this fight. By the machinations of the powerful, we have been bent, manipulated, and pushed away from Truth.

Our lives are not our own, in many respects. We are controlled by a power elite that, despite certain vestiges or illusions of democracy, care very little about the average American.

These people mostly only discriminate in regards to race and creed, insofar as it benefits them financially and politically to do so. They have very little actual faith in anything, apart from money and power, which are themselves faithless things.

These sad, desperate people know all this, and it destroys them inside — but they know no other way to behave, in the face of their own fears. And so they continue to hold fast to that fear, thereby, by virtue of the reality of our contemporary crony-capitalist economics, squeezing us.

And while they squeeze us and misdirect us and distract us, even to the point of their own continued and dangerous disillusionment, we turn against and fight one another, despite the overwhelming commonality of our fears and concerns as citizens. In this way, democracy (rule by the people) remains perpetually arrested, and plutocracy (rule by a wealthy elite) continues to maintain its grip on the throats of the everyday citizen.

Donald Trump may be the face of our enemy, but we must be very careful in the next several years of civil combat not to focus the majority our energy squarely on him and his administration. True deliverance from this plight requires us to go deeper, and fight longer.

This is what I have come to understand in these past few weeks.

My own distractedness, my own fear and faithlessness, have been my failure. I don’t say this to diminish the gains I and we have made over the last several years. I only mean to point out that there’s much work left to be done.

 

Trump is the symptom, not the disease.

The disease is the faithlessness, the dejection, the weariness, of contemporary America — and much of the world. We (the people) are angry, we are depressed, we find ourselves fundamentally exhausted and estranged from true hope. We have been beaten down and driven insane by the elite, confused and harried by the speed of innovation, and neither the tyranny of the elite, nor the advance of machine-dependency into our lives — show any signs of letting up.

There is no other way to explain how someone like Donald Trump can win office by claiming to represent the will of the people, while lying through his teeth about his intention to fight against the very elite that he wholly (and vulgarly) represents.

All that our cowardly, selfish, greedy President-elect intends to do for the next four years is consolidate money and power among his elite.  That much was clear all along, and has been proven by his cabinet appointments. When he’s done he’ll abandon the destruction and foot us with the bill and — barring a miracle — carry on with his greed and destruction until the moment of his lonely death.

To be clear — to repeat — in actual reality, there is no one less-representative of the average American than Donald Trump.

That millions of people either do not understand this, or refuse to believe it, that our political and economic system all but excludes the possibility of an actual champion of the people successfully reaching office (or at least one empowered by a consensus of reasonable political allies on all sides of the political spectrum) — this is the sickness from which we desperately need to recover.

 

For this reason, for myself, I find that this year has brought with it a lesson in focus.

I cannot afford, or tolerate, anything less than fully-committed, principled conduct and expression from myself. I need to fight smart and I need to move quickly. The only way to do this effectively is to put out work of real depth, that is of a larger scope, and work smartly and strategically to get the work out to as many people as possible.

To be clearer, I intend, beginning in 2017, to do less — better.

This site will remain online indefinitely. But this is likely the last blog post for a while, although I might chime in on occasion and will continue to run my email list. Beginning next month, Coffee with Creatives is going on hiatus, indefinitely. My presence here will be sporadic, as compared to previous years.

I have big things to do, in regards to the main areas of battle central to this essay. I intend to go at these things, full tilt. I’m ready to — truly, passionatelly — fight.

Are you? Because we’ll need you.

 


profpic_squareMy name is Michael. I am a Writer and Filmmaker 
of hopeful stories for complex people. My first film, The Videoblogs, about mental health in the age of tech, is available on iTunes. I’m currently working on my next film and also a novel. Once per month or so, I send a special note to those on my email list. They get exclusive and advanced (sometimes free) access to my work. You can join this special group here. Thanks for reading.

 

Happy Holidays, Have Some Dread

Happy Holidays, Dearest Readers!

Thanks for sticking with me for another year. I’ll write up a recap of the past twelves months, and/or a “Kicking Off 2015” post soon, but for now…

…please note that the Kindle version of A Night Alone in My Dread is now free until Monday, 12/29.

You too can get a hold on some DREAD.
You too can get a hold of some DREAD.

If you don’t own a Kindle but still want a free copy, let me know and I’ll send you a PDF or a paperback (only ten available). I’ll need your address if you want a paperback so send me a message through this site.

My best to you and yours, lords and ladies.

“Now With Twice The Dread!”

Just an update that my novelette, A Night Alone in My Dread, is now available in paperback.

A freelance videographer spends a lonely evening obsessing over his past after a visit from the NYPD reveals his involvement in a shocking and tragic crime.

The Cover to My BookIt’s also available on Kindle. And I have reduced the price. 

If you prefer an electronic version at the electronic price point, but don’t have a Kindle, tweet me. We’ll work it out via PayPal.

PAPERBACK
5.55

KINDLE
2.99

All proceeds from sales will go directly towards my next film project.

PROS FOR PAPERBACK VERSION

  • That new book scent. You know you like it. Remember when books made scents?
  • Tactile feelings of dread (it oozes).
  • A higher percentage of your purchase goes to me (actually, the next film)

PROS FOR KINDLE VERSION

  • YOU CAN HAVE IT RIGHT NOW!!!
  • Electronic remove from tactile dread (no ooze).
  • Easier to hide dreadful purchase decision from friends.

If you purchase and read the book, please review it on Amazon.com.

Reviews help bolster sales. Of course, be honest. In case it helps get you started, a good review will quickly summarize Likes/Dislikes, and maybe points out What’s Unique about the product being reviewed.

Writing a review should only take 5 mins, but it will help me enormously :-)

Review the book on Amazon 

Still need convincing? Man, you are a tough cookie. The first chapter is available here.

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The Cover to My Book

Fiction: A Night Alone In My Dread

So, I wrote a novelette.

I didn’t know what a novelette was, either, until I did some research trying to figure out how to describe a piece that was too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel, or even a novella.

Book CoverMaybe it’s a novella. I don’t know. The point is that I’m very happy with the end product — regardless of length — and that I’d love for you to check it out:

A Night Alone In My Dread
Available on Kindle

A freelance videographer spends a lonely evening obsessing over his past after a visit from the NYPD reveals his involvement in a shocking and tragic crime.

The cost is $5  $3.95, $2.99 and for now the book is only available on Kindle or in paperback ($5.55). All proceeds will go directly towards burrito bowls.

If you want to read it but don’t have a Kindle, tweet me or email me. We’ll work it out quickly via PayPal, and then I’ll send you a PDF. Or paperback.

Want a sample before you decide? Here’s the first chapter.

ONE

Even if I unequivocally did not want the worst to be true, the worst still occurred to me at the earliest possible moment.

I took a break from my work and when I sat back down on my couch I had a voicemail from a detective with the NYPD. He didn’t say why he was calling, just that it was urgent and to call back immediately.

I called back immediately. It was his cell number. It sounded like the detective was in a car.

He thanked me for calling him back so quickly and asked if I was home. I said that I was. He took my address and said he and his partner were nearby and could they stop in to ask me some questions. I took the closest thing to a breath that I could find and asked if my wife was okay. The second between the question and his answer exploded with images of violence and death.

The detective apologized for not mentioning sooner that no one in my family was hurt or in trouble. I wasn’t in trouble either. He didn’t seem very genuine about the apology. He said he and his partner would explain the situation in more detail when they arrived and then he hung up.

I didn’t move for a few minutes. I stared sightlessly at my laptop. It stared dumbly back, ready and blue and unaware of how suddenly unimportant it had become.

I closed the laptop. The work would have to wait, now. It wasn’t even real work, anyway. A client that needed handholding – actually, a client who needed help holding the hand of her wealthy and influential, aging and out of touch boss.

They were making videography out to be quantum physics. Again. I had explained it before – in more elegant terms. We plan your content beforehand. Plan as much as possible. On the day, I throw up a few lights and set up the camera and the mics. Together we caress and cajole the “talent”, repeatedly, until you have everything you need or the best you are going to get. Then I cut it up into something prettier than you expected and we all rejoice, you because of the quality you couldn’t see on set and me because of your impending check. And yet I had to explain it again, apparently. Again and again, every time, for every repeat project for this same repeat client who paid me too much for me to be able to tell them to go screw.

The weightiness that had befallen me, before I knew that Alex was safe, began to dissipate. My mind, which had come to a full stop (along with my blood) during that fateful second, jolted back into its “normal” state of persistent questioning. I realized, then, that the detective had said that my family was okay. As far as he was concerned, this probably only meant Alex. But what of my friends?

I felt renewed nervousness. It seemed as if somebody I knew was in trouble. Or had done something. If this were true, I had no idea who it might be. At the same time, having wrestled privately with more personal demons than anyone (with the exception of Alex) ever would have guessed – I felt it could be almost anyone.

Alex. I was glad to be mostly rid of the violent, sped-up slideshow of horrors that had flashed in front of my eyes before the detective realized his mistake. I say “mostly rid of” because, still, they lingered there, a layered flickering collage of impossibly specific retinal ghosts that scrolled behind my eyelids. Alex bleeding. Alex chased. Alex scared. Alex dead.

She was okay. She was okay.

I wished I could touch her with my hands. I picked up my phone and sent Alex a text that told her I loved her.

I put the phone down and realized, faintly in the sort of way that would require refreshing at a more conducive time, that I had more work to do in terms of wrestling with those demons. It was perhaps normal to become immediately worried upon the receipt of an urgent voicemail from the police. But I didn’t think it was as common to also default immediately to the level of anxiety and dread that I had just defaulted to, before I had any information about what the call was about.

Despite years spent on self-improvement, despite the now-prevalent existence of light in my life since I met Alex, my impulse in a time of potential distress had been to imagine the worst, to summon the darkest possibilities to match the situation, and find sick refuge in them as a means of relighting and continuously burning a moment of primal fear.

I wondered: Why? Why still? Why still did I seek out confirmations of a worldview built of violence and death?

And then the questions began to multiply and cascade. Sitting there, alone in my apartment waiting for the police, I wondered what horror had transpired. I wondered if my impulse towards fear was possibly appropriate. What if the detective was lying? Was I in trouble? Or danger? Did I need to protect myself? Had I done anything? Who had done what, that now brought the police to my door?

Soon they arrived and then I had an answer. An acquaintance from college, and a “fan” of what little work I had put out into the world so far in my career, had attacked his family with a knife, wounding his younger brother and killing his father.

Like where things are headed so far? Read the rest here.

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