Remember who the REAL enemy is

Yesterday in my beloved home state of North Carolina our Governor, Roy Cooper, signed a compromise bill into law that would remove the discriminatory law, HB2, off the books.  In exchange, the Republican super majorities in the State House and Senate added provisions prohibiting local non-discrimination ordnances until December 1, 2020.  While Governor Cooper wanted a “clean” repeal without any strings attached, he had to deal with the reality of the current political landscape and take what small step he could get.

Unfortunately, many of my friends and allies on the left have considered this move a betrayal and have gone as far as calling for the ouster of any Democrat who voted for the compromise.  I’d like to speak to my friends directly (If you have little children, now is the time to cover their ears).  Are you out of your fucking mind?  Do you have no concept of reality?  Let me break this down for you because your arguments are so irrational and absent from reality you are starting to sound like Republicans.

1)  Have you looked at the makeup of the NC State House and Senate. Republicans hold SUPER majorities in both houses.  Combined with the most gerrymandered districts in the nation the General Assembly is essentially a cesspool of bigoted conservative idealism.  Don’t forget, this is essentially the same body that passed HB2 in the first place.  Our new governor was able to broker a deal that removed this law from the same right-wing super majority who enacted the law.  Let that sink in for a second.

2)  “…but Governor Cooper said he’d sign a clean repeal.” You are correct…and he would have and still will IF HE COULD GET A CLEAN REPEAL.  Do not forget, he’s dealing with kamikaze politicians who legislate from their ignorant and bigoted ideologies, not from any sense of fact based reality.  The Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly are not going to change; they are the last vestiges of a backward mindset that those of us from this millennium are trying to rid from our state.  The only way to change the General Assembly is to remove them from office.  Think about it this way, the governor who signed HB2 into law lost the last election, but the majority of the legislature who enacted the law got reelected.  Why is this?  Simple, the Governor’s race is a statewide contest not hindered by gerrymandered districts while the General Assembly is an absolute product of gerrymandering.

3)  Thank you for your energy and passion. We must absolutely do everything we can to enact legislation at the STATE level that protects EVERYONE.  Equality for all is the only moral path forward.  However, to accomplish this, we must do what is almost impossible, defeat Republicans in heavily gerrymandered districts.  This task is daunting, but it is the only one based in reality.  Why in the world would you think that removing elected Democrats from office would help in the fight for equality.  Are you delusional?  Do you truly think that MORE Republicans in office and adding back a Republican governor is going to improve LGBTQ rights?  That’s exactly what will happen if you try to primary Democrats with unelectable, ideological pure candidates who can’t win a general election.  Just stop that nonsense right now!  Grow up, wake up, and realize that our energy should be focused on defeating Republicans!  It will be hard enough as it is with the way the districts are laid out, we don’t need irrational thought to take over and inflict more pain on our state.  DO NOT let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Repeat that to yourself, then repeat it again and share it with your misguided friends who have taken a break from reality.

4)  Governing is hard and imperfect. Justice is rarely a fast process.  Both take large amounts of effort, and yes at times, a pragmatic approach.  However, pragmatism is not an evil word, it’s a useful tool in a democratic republic.  Although it sometimes seems we are coming closer and closer to a totalitarian fascist state with our reality television president, we must keep fighting for our democracy.  That fight, that effort, that sacrifice, must be channeled constructively; we must fight SMART!  Let your idealism drive your passion, but do not let it blind you to reality.  There is a reason that the arc of the moral universe is LONG…it’s hard work and requires an enormous amount of effort.  I’m asking you to stop your bullshit arguments and help us bend the arc more swiftly.  Stop fighting against progress because you didn’t get 100%, all the time, every time.  Governor Cooper clearly stated this compromise was “a step” in the right direction, he didn’t proclaim that our work was done.

Most importantly, Remember Who the Real Enemy Is!  The real enemies are the morally bankrupt Republicans in the General Assembly.  Ignorance and bigotry peddled by the Republican Party, at both a national and local level, are our opponents.  Don’t be distracted by the shiny objects Republicans throw our way that try to divide us and slow down progress.  Fight smart, fight hard, and whatever you do, stop any asinine feeling of political cannibalism that is creeping inside.  Save your vengeance for those who peddle bigoted ideas and deserve your wrath at the ballot box.

Neil Hilborn’s “OCD”

I recently came across the poet and author Neil Hilborn.  In particular, I watched a YouTube video of him performing his poem titled “OCD”.  As of this writing the video has gone viral and accumulated over 12 million views.  I can’t recall how I stumbled upon the video, but as someone who lives with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) the title caught my eye.  Since watching the video I’ve shared it across social media and encouraged people to take a few minutes and watch the performance; listen to the poem.  It’s powerful and hauntingly familiar.  I wanted to cheer and cringe at the same time while he told his story.  It’s hard to describe OCD to those who aren’t inflicted with the disorder or have not experienced its wrath firsthand from a friend or family member.  OCD creates an emotional certainty for what is known to be completely illogical.  That’s tough to get across to someone who has never seen it up close.  I recently wrote a small piece for this blog titled “The Checker” where I tried to describe my primary affliction: checking.  However, what makes Mr. Hilborn’s poem/performance so remarkable is that it provides a familiarity, a clarity of the disorder, that makes it consumable for the masses.  I have embedded the video at the end of this post.  I hope you enjoy it.  You can also find a collection of Mr. Hilborn’s poems, including “OCD”, in his book titled Our Numbered Days.

Rest in peace, my dear Nana

Yesterday, we said our final goodbyes to my grandmother.  She passed away early Thursday morning, just after midnight.  These last two days, with her visitation on Saturday and her funeral Sunday, have been very difficult.  As can be imagined, it is still difficult as I write this today.  It’s hard to fathom that my “Nana” is gone.  She endured so much in her lifetime, from cancer and declining health to the unimaginable loss that no parent should ever experience, the loss of a child.  However, through these struggles she continued to push ahead and lived for almost 88 years on this earth.

She grew up in the poor, rural South of the Great Depression.  Always frugal, never wasteful, her early years shaped how she would view the world for the rest of her life.  She had a deep, strong faith that powered her barely five-foot-tall frame.  What Nana may have lacked in stature she more than made up for with spunk, conviction, and an undeniable perseverance to keep moving forward, “taking one day at a time” as she would always say.

When I was an infant, Nana quit her job to take care of me in the day while my mom went back to work.  She helped raise me and mold me.  She taught me to respect my mother and would not be afraid to discipline her young grandson when he didn’t listen.  In other words, she helped me grow up.  When the difficult, but necessary, decision was made to move away, my Nana ensured she stayed in my life, to help guide me from afar.  Even when she instructed behaviors in me that she herself could not fulfil, she tried to steer me into becoming a man she could be proud of.  Of this task, I hope I succeeded.

My Nana was not perfect.  Like all of us, she possessed that uniquely human element of fallibility.  She did things she would later regret, hold grudges for far too long, and say things she shouldn’t have.  However, I didn’t love my Nana because she was perfect, I loved my Nana because she loved me, who was imperfect.  I cared deeply for her despite her faults because she cared deeply for me despite mine.  In the end, my love for my Nana wasn’t about perfection or purity, it was about a grandmother, who loved her grandson with all her heart.  A grandmother who would do anything she could to ensure her grandson felt loved and protected.  Of this task, I say confidently, Nana succeeded beautifully.

fullsizeoutput_15f5

Darius, Adele, and a plug for Mr. Rucker’s voice

This week Darius Rucker posted a video to his Facebook feed of his duet with Adele to commemorate her big night at the Grammys.  The song they performed together was a cover of “Need You Now” from the country group Lady Antebellum.  I wanted to share the video because, while I enjoyed the original song, it highlights just how talented Darius and Adele truly are. Their voices are so amazing and, in my opinion, are two of the best vocalists in music we’ve ever had.  Here’s the video:

I also wanted to put another plug in for Darius.  Not that I think any less of Adele, she is literally the greatest pure singer alive today, but I don’t feel Darius ever fully gets the credit he deserves for his vocal chops.  His voice is so unique and soulful that pretty much anything he sings will sound good…and if it happens to be a decent song, WOW!

As many of you know, Darius made it big as the lead singer for Hootie & The Blowfish.  Their first album, especially their first song “Hold My Hand“, was all over the radio.  In fact I believe that radio is ultimately what killed Hootie; they were played SO MUCH that it became impossible to get away from their music.  It led to a bit of a backlash.  Even I, a big Hootie fan, had to leave my cassette tape (yes, this makes me sound old) out of the car because there wasn’t a need for it…they’d be on three radio stations at a time.  However much they were played, the fact of how good they were – and more specifically how good Darius Rucker’s voice was – seemed to get lost as the 90s progressed.  It also didn’t help that their second album was really bad; poor songs, rushed work, just not good.  Their later albums were better, but by this point everyone had moved on.

Darius put out a solo album in 2002 titled “Back To Then” which is my favorite of all of his solo albums.  I loved it because it was an R&B album that was right in his wheelhouse.  One of the songs, “This Is My World“, was featured in the movie Shallow Hal starring Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow.  Unfortunately, the masses didn’t agree with me on this one.  I’m not sure if they were still in Hootie withdrawal or what, but it never got the airplay it deserved and has now become a footnote in his career – stamped between Hootie and his resurgence as a solo country artist.  In fact, my wife and I saw him in concert a couple years ago and he played his new country songs and old Hootie songs, but nothing off of this album.  Here is “This Is My World”, my favorite track off of his R&B album:

Now, Darius is a successful country singer.  He’s had several solid albums and, while I’m not a huge fan of much of today’s Country Music, Darius stands out because of that amazing, unique, and soulful voice.  Personally, I feel he is limited in the country genre because of the inherent cookie-cutter nature of the genre’s songs.  I’ve always said, if you got a good voice and don’t want to worry about writing your own music or lyrics, you’ll have a place in Nashville.  Apologies to die-hard country fans, but you can’t deny that the genre isn’t necessarily known for its cutting edge music originality…it’s known for its amazing voices/singers.  Don’t get me wrong, I like true country music, mostly older stuff…I’m just not a fan of the bro-country brand that monopolizes most of country radio today.  Which…ta da…brings me back to my point of Darius – his voice is so good, you can overlook the insane simplicity to many of his country songs.  So go on, treat yourself to some Darius today…and of course Adele as well…always Adele.

Signed, Mark Majors, self-proclaimed, music snob! 🙂

Sitting, in total darkness

Have you ever sat alone, in total darkness?  I mean true darkness, the complete absence of light.  I’m not speaking metaphorically here; I mean physical darkness.  Not the type where you are in bed with an alarm clock’s glare, a street lamp peaking through your window, or a small light on the ceiling from your fire detector.  I’m talking about a place where you don’t see anything.  A place where it doesn’t matter if your eyes are open or closed, you see the same thing…nothing.

I’ve tried this exercise a few times.  Some on purpose, some by accident.  While it is a relatively simple experience, it can be very humbling.  Think about it for a second, how often does this ever happen.  In today’s modern society, I doubt it happens to anyone with any regularity.  There is almost always an electronic device of some type nearby producing the faintest of light.  We also can’t discount that giant star at the center of our solar system, streaming light at us directly or using its nightly accomplice, the moon.  In fact, it’s such an abnormal place, you are consciously aware that something is different.  There is an instinct to look around and find the light, even a pull to navigate towards a glow.

When I sit alone in the dark, my thoughts rush forward and I loose track of time.  Being alone with your thoughts, without the distraction of light, can be therapeutic.  It can also feel a bit scary and discombobulating.  There is a confusion that unknowingly creeps in and a feeling of disconnect.  I am once again placed in a position of experiencing vastness through absence.  Understanding how small I am while realizing how much I am part of something infinitely larger than myself.

There is value by being alone, in darkness.  Even if that value is the understanding that you dislike the darkness and want to be in the light.  It is ok to experience the absence of something so that you gain a better understanding of your disdain for the absence.  There is also the opportunity to enjoy being disconnected and unencumbered by the light that surrounds us.  Whatever your experience may be when you encounter total darkness, I hope that it provides a moment of clarity.  A moment to experience likes and dislikes, thoughts and fears.  A moment where you realize this has nothing to do with sight and everything to do with your internal self.

A paradox of depressing proportions

I wasn’t sure how to start this update.  I’ve been wanting to write a post for the last week or so.  This blog, whether posting in text or in viog format, has been a therapeutic tool for me and an outlet to let others know how I’m doing.  I wish I had a better outcome to report, but my depression and anxiety levels have only increased since my last update.  A sense of helplessness has taken up residence again.  I’m finding it harder and harder to see what “normal” or “better” even looks like anymore.  They seem like such foreign concepts.  I feel like I’m just going through the motions and those motions are minimal at that.  I miss the sense of optimism.  What little bit that used to be there seems to be drained dry.  The snowball that is depression grows at such a sneakily fast pace.

Over the last 15 months I’ve been to four different facilities, looking for answers, comfort, and a path forward.  I look at that stat and it only makes me more depressed.  What does it take, why have they failed?  Why have I failed?  Intellectually I know it’s not that simple—recovery is not a zero sum game.  Of course, the rational mind isn’t driving this car, it’s been relegated to the trunk.  Depression is evil that way.  Letting your rational mind come along for the ride so that it can see the irrationality taking control.  Making it watch as my depression and anxiety rise for no apparent reason.  Depression is the bully that rubs your nose in it.  Saying, “See, you know the world is out there, but I’ve buried you so far under this stack of fear, sadness, and hopelessness you’ll never get to it.”

I guess it’s a good thing that I can see what it’s doing to me.  I can see that it’s irrational.  However, it’s also completely demoralizing to know that I can acknowledge this parasite and not have a clue how to destroy it.  It’s said that ignorance is bliss, and while that may be true for Trump voters, for those of us living in the real world it’s dangerous.  If I couldn’t tell the difference between the rational and irrational I may be at peace with one extreme or the other, but it wouldn’t be living.  Not in any true sense of the word.  So, I keep moving on.  I keep riding in the trunk, knowing I don’t have to be there, but having no idea how to get out and take control of the wheel. A paradox of depressing proportions.

Mark’s Journey – 2016 Year End Update

As the year draws to a close I created a quick vlog entry to talk about how things are going. It’s been a tough year, but I’m looking forward to the new year and I’m trying to reflect on some of the positive outcomes that took place in 2016.

I hope you all have a happy and wonderful new year!