Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A thing that happened last month

On a weekday evening last month, I went to my neighborhood commercial art film theater (that, to be honest, mostly screens middlebrow visually bland horseshit about famous inspirational people, old folks getting their grooves back, old British folks getting their grooves back in India, feelgood neoliberal message movies for upper-class white people who are really pleased with themselves, movie-star Oscar-grubbing vanity projects, and a couple of genuinely good-to-great independent and foreign movies a month) to see a movie. My wife had a busy night, so I was flying solo and decided to get some candy at the concession stand, which we never, ever do. As I was waiting in the sort-of long line, I noticed a hubbub of some sort near the front with some very flustered-looking young employees exhibiting facial expressions I knew well from my own high school and college years in retail (the "can you believe I have to politely listen to this goddamn unreasonable human being to keep my job and can you believe how many fellow human beings are this goddamn unreasonable" look). The hubbub hadn't yet reached pandemonium status but was approaching a clamor. This is an unusual thing at a theater that mostly attracts rich old people wanting to see whatever chapter of exotic fucking marigold hotel we're at now or fellow thirty- and forty-somethings who like non-superhero movies. The guy at the concession counter was enraged, and his voice kept getting louder.
This theater chain has a policy that if you buy the enormous, expensive, enormous popcorn size and you manage to eat it in all its enormity, you can come back in the lobby for a free enormous refill during the screening. The angry man at the front was under the impression he could come back any time he wanted and get a free refill, including a quick drop-in after work without even purchasing a movie ticket, and his empty popcorn container had clearly seen many miles on this road we call life, considering it was dented in several places and covered in dirt. When he received the reasonable verdict that a refill was not going to happen on this particular date and time, Mr. Popcorn Tub 2015 went berserk. He told the awkward college-aged assistant manager that he was doing a terrible job, he berated every member of the staff in detail, he threatened to call 911 and the police department, he yelled a ton of stuff about "false and misleading advertising," and he closed with this beautiful sentence about enlisting the local TV news watchdogs in his crusade before angrily storming out: "I'm gonna call 7 On Your Side and put this place on blast!" ("Area Man and His Dirt-Covered Container Denied Free Refill in Obama's America, tonight at 10, right before 'The Big Bang Theory'")
The woman in line ahead of me turned to me and rolled her eyes. "Calm down, man," I said. "It's only popcorn." Then I thought about all the misery I've caused in my own life with my own quick, stupid temper. Then I bought some Twizzlers.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Everyone I grew up with is dead

I was very fond of my mom's brothers and their spouses and girlfriends and kids when I was growing up, and I used to have a lot of good childhood memories before social media ruined everything forever. There is a curious disconnect between their friendliness and warmth in person on the rare holidays when we're all in the same place, and the vitriolic, hate-filled spew they seem to spend every waking second of their free time vomiting forth on social media. Anyone who is slightly to the left of Ted Nugent is an idiot, a moron, a hater of freedom, a hater of the United States, weak, a sheep (they love calling people sheep even though they never post an original thought of their own, just memes and chain letters and propaganda videos), a loser, a coward, etc., etc., etc. They find transgender people hilarious. They make fun of Black Lives Matter. They back every police officer who shoots an unarmed black person or uses unnecessary force. They express anger and hostility toward the communities who stood up for themselves and protested this police brutality. (They loved Cliven Bundy, though.) They think everyone on food stamps is either lazy or a scam artist. They post the ugliest anti-Muslim propaganda and anti-Arab and anti-Middle East racist bullshit and think the entire Muslim religion is a terrorist call-to-arms. They thought the blowhard, pandering governors who said they weren't going to take in Syrian refugees (even though each one of these goons knows he has no authority to deny them) were great guys. They post memes with fabricated statistics, distortions, exaggerations, and lies, and when I was still dumb enough to respond with proof, they told me they didn't accept my sources because "all sources are biased." Shortly before I quit Facebook, they called my mother and I "fucking keyboard warriors" who should "move to Iraq if you love it so much" because my mother posted something on her own damn page about the overselling of ISIS by right wing media to stir up hatred, and I defended her when they all ganged up on her like the redneck creeps they unfortunately have become (always were?).
I quit Facebook, which helped considerably, but I still occasionally see their bullshit when I log on to my wife's account to see what she and our friends and my non-asshole relatives (mother, brother, sister) and the band I'm in are posting. It bums me out, man. It really, really bums me out. If they were just moderate conservatives who weren't doling out a near-constant stream of insults, misinformation, racism, and xenophobia, it wouldn't bother me. We don't have to agree. I have friends who are Republicans, libertarians, Communists, and anarchists, all schools of thought I could never subscribe to, but these people don't treat other people like garbage for having a different point of view.
To be fair, I hate liberal memes and preaching to the choir and liberal infighting about who cares more and how you're caring wrong and the way people are pounced on and destroyed for saying something ignorant or prejudiced in public or for not using the currently fashionable buzzword for a marginalized group. I hate all the white liberal self-congratulation and back-patting and bragging about enlightenment. I hate goddamn Facebook memes. I hated myself when I was on Facebook arguing with my relatives. I hate politics in general. Art and fun are my bags. But I hate the right wing social media shit-stirrer hate factory the most.
Whenever I think about the angry, hate-filled, macho, violent garbage my relatives perpetuate on social media, I get really down. Even if almost all of the shit they say about liberals and all the "information" they post is wildly inaccurate and a clear misrepresentation, I take it personally. It grinds me down to think they think so little of me. I hate how they've tarnished so many fond memories. I feel my own anger and hatred increasing in response to theirs, and I don't like that about myself. I don't know how people who had such a great, kind, open-minded mother and grandmother could spend so much time trying to make other people feel shitty. Why are a bunch of American white people with families and decent jobs and hobbies they love so bitter and hate-filled and angry and resentful and paranoid and suspicious of anyone who doesn't look, think, and act exactly like them? It seems to bother my brother and sister less than it bothers me, and I don't know how they so successfully let it go without dwelling on it. But I'm obsessed. Why are they doing this? Were they always like this? Would my grandparents and friends' grandparents act like this if social media had been a part of their daily routine? What happened to my relatives? What the hell happened to them? What happened to everybody?
Is anybody else dealing with this? How do you keep it from ruining your day? Do you just cut them loose from your life? Is Mark Zuckerberg one of history's greatest monsters, or did we do this to ourselves?
TGIF, motherfuckers.