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Rules of Engagement

Posted in Political Commentary, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 01/30/2017 by Angel D. Vargas

-Friday, January 27th, 2017

“President” Donald Trump signs an executive order re: immigration at 4:42 pm Eastern Standard time. This order “indefinitely barrs” Syrian immigrants from entering our borders. The order also suspends all refugee admission for 120 days, and blocks citizens from seven Majority Muslim countries from entering the US for approximately three months.

The order takes effect. Almost immediately, chaos ensues. At airports around the country, hundreds are detained and questioned. Thousands more are left wondering about friends and family, stranded or turned away before they could reunite with loved ones who were simply traveling abroad. Across the world, millions are outraged.

I am outraged. Aside from the Anti-Muslim bigotry inherent in such a ridiculous order, there is more to be concerned about here. This is in direct violation of the US Constitution’s first amendment. For those who’ve forgotten it, here it is in bold print.

Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Federal judge Anne M. Donnelly, who used to serve in New York as a Manhattan Supreme Court Judge, challenges Trump’s executive order, granting a temporary stay for refugees and others. In her words “irreparable harm” would be caused by sending the travelers home.

Irreparable harm. Those are tough words. But we are living in tough times. As such, I’ve had to look at those two words and wonder if Judge Donnelly’s countermand was too late not to have caused irreparable harm to the way American citizens must now view their own country. Trust issues, anyone?

If I want proof about how bad things have gotten within Trump’s first ten days in public office, I only need to remember how recent conversations with friends, coworkers, and strangers have gone. Walking down the streets of Harlem these days, it seems that the tension is thick enough to cut with a chainsaw. People don’t look me in the eye here, which isn’t surprising given that it’s New York City, but many of the ones who do look wary or fearful. Many more appear angry.

Words are also a problem. Now it seems, everyone must be careful what they say. The media is being slowly silenced by a man so hell-bent in preserving his fragile little ego, that nothing bad can be said about him without consequence. Kellyannne Conway promises that journalists who say anything pejorative regarding Trump “will be fired.” Trump continues to malign CNN and other networks that express concern over his heavy handedness or his apparent inability to comprehend the consequences of his own actions.

And now, it seems, citizens don’t know how to talk to one another. I know I’m having trouble. I square my shoulders now when I engage in political discussions at work, for there is a good chance that emotions will erupt like Mount Etna. My home life has been invaded by tense discussions regarding Trump’s latest gaff or executive order. My personal life has ceased to be about the pursuit of happiness. Once again, I am pressed into making the choice between taking in the news of the day, or ignoring it for the sake of my sanity.

As a Hispanic American, I know it won’t be long before I am asked to produce “proof of citizenship.” I won’t deny the temptation to smash the face of the person who will inevitably do so, but there is no doubt that person will be an officer of the law. My father was one of those. I will never besmirch the honor of his service. Yet despite my father’s exemplary career, he has already come under scrutiny for being “the other” since Trump’s election. Now, it seems, the closet bigot is free to come out and play among us all, like a demonic bully child on a playground primed to be “great again” as it gets whitewashed with hatred and ignorance.

I cannot allow that.

But there is something else I cannot permit. I will not permit the others who oppose Trump to judge me for the confidence (or lack thereof) with which I pursue resistance. I’m still unsure what form this sort of resistance is supposed to take in the face of such tyranny. I say tyranny because I am sure that this is the monster with which we are faced. An emboldened idiot has taken office, blindly signing away the liberty and happiness of American citizens and immigrants, appointing self-serving bigots with seemingly corrupt agendas to surround him and shower him with inane praise. “Good job, Putin Puppet. Now, let’s release the hounds on these peasants.”

But what will happen when Trump goes so far that there is no turning back? Has he already gone that far? It’s not even been two weeks, and I am already terrified at the prospect of what’s to come. Will there be a KKK rally here in my home city? How many more hate crimes will be committed around the world that mimic senseless Mosque attack in Quebec?

When will I have to consider obtaining a conceal and carry permit?

That’s right. I’m considering it. Some of you same idiots that fight tooth and nail to defend the second amendment while threatening to shoot yourself some beaners are forgetting one simple truth. Not all liberals and Trump opponents are pacifists.

Think on that.

I’m not into marching or rallies. I never was. But mark my words. The true patriots of America have often been the dissenters. Without dissent, people will not have reason to rethink their potential ignorance of gravely important matters.

I wonder if those who voted for Trump are starting to understand how bad this might get. When will they scream to the stars in penance for what they’ve done? I’d invite these fools to wait for the inevitable “I told you so,”but that would be my own hypocrisy shining through. I am deeply sorrowful for the sharp decline of our Nation’s values. International friends and acquaintances are asking me “what happened?” to my own country. I can’t even give an honest answer. The truth is more horrible than any horror fiction I can concoct. Yet I know I mustn’t give into the sorrow. And neither must anyone else. The moment we the people give up our desire to do the right thing, I’ll know to look for the mushroom cloud on the horizon..

Frankentrump..

Posted in Drum Roll, Please...., The Flow and Rhythm of Life with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 01/19/2017 by Angel D. Vargas

So. What happens tomorrow?

Whether or not you can accept that the Forty Fifth President of the United States is none other than Donald Trump, truth is, he’s set to be inaugurated tomorrow in what is sure to be both a momentous and contentious event in U.S. History.

If you’re having a hard time with this fact, that’s okay. I’m having a miserable time grappling with it myself. I fought with myself and my poor memory for years old passwords just to regain access to a blog I’ve not written in for more than a year in order to express that.

Than again, maybe that’s not good enough for some people. I’ve heard it all before. “If you really believed, you’d be out there in Washington for the Million Women’s march,” or I’ve heard “well then, you should have put your vote toward Bernie like all the other cool kids.” The best one I’ve heard yet is “man, our votes never counted anyway, fuck all this happy horse shit. Life goes on, bruh. Life goes on.”

Yes, life goes on, and so often, the best lies we’re told are rooted deeply in the truth. All of the things I mentioned hearing from people in the last paragraph are lies. But they are pretty good lies when you think about it. The power of hindsight lets us all suddenly don our wizard’s hats and wax like Albus fucking Dumbledore about our country’s future. But the reality of it all is that every last one of us is scared of losing something deeply important to us in the coming four years. LGBT rights, women’s reproductive rights, access to healthcare, racial equality, and so many other things seem to be up for grabs in this brave new world of uncertainty.

I once heard some advice from a respected writing mentor, and it’s something that I still keep in mind even when I’m blogging. “Your writing works best when you write what you know.” When I heard that bit of wisdom, I didn’t like it, especially as I was struggling to become a legitimate fiction writer. I still read and write fiction, but nobody can relate to a good piece of writing, fiction or otherwise, if they can’t find something that reminds them of their own lives and experiences. At least, that’s how I’ve experienced success in my own writing.

Funny thing about me is that I only know what I see, hear, and feel.

On January nineteenth, 2017, the night before Donald Trump’s inauguration, here is what I have come to know.

People are angry.

I know that because I can feel the tension in the air when I walk past the Apollo Theater in Harlem to get to work in the morning. I hear it in the words of the young black man who accuses me of not shaking his hand because someone who looks like me would “never shake the hand of a black man in a million fucking years.” I see it in the looks of disgust on other people’s faces when I go outside with my girlfriend dressed to kill, and people give us accusing glares. I know what they’re thinking because they’ve shouted it in my face, or whispered it in not too quiet voices to their friends. “He voted for Trump because he’s white.” or “Look at the handsome white man who don’t give a fuck about the black man.”

Would you prefer it I went out and protested? Can I stand next to a crowd of black people and proclaim that “black lives matter?” Because I know they do. I’ve always believed that, even if you can’t see that unless I pull out a knife like a “typical Puerto Rican,” or curse you out in the Spanish you didn’t think I could rattle off with such a Caribbean flair. Only an idiot would judge a book by its cover, but I beg your pardon if I want to dress a certain way, or walk down the street with my head held high because I finally like who the hell I am. Do you know what a struggle it has been for me to even get to that point in my life? Oh yeah, I forgot. You really don’t want to know that, do you?

You’d rather be right than be happy.

But let me share what else I’ve discovered in my own quest for the truth. I’ve been to at least one community meeting that begged the question of “what next?” I’ve signed numerous petitions, written letters to government officials, and plotted out what to do if I witness sexual or racial intimidation or violence on the street. But none of these things are going to change the fact that the Donald is taking office tomorrow. I made my voice heard in my own way. I have two weapons available to me in this fight now. My fists and my words. I can be lethal with both. Unfortunately, it may come to the point in this country where I can be arrested for using either one.

That sound okay to you? It doesn’t sound okay to me.

Here’s something else that doesn’t sound okay to me. Nuclear war.

You can pound the streets demanding rights for every American, legal or not, and none of that will matter when you see a mushroom cloud in the distance, and you begin to feel the heat as a great wall of super radiated air rushes toward you and you begin to shit your pants.

Are we okay with that? Has anyone else been thinking about this, dreaming about it and waking up in a cold sweat? Well I have. So don’t come to me with your judgmental bullshit because of the way I look or dress. I don’t give a damn about Donald Trump, but now I’m forced to hope that he changes his tune rather quickly when it comes to foreign policy because I don’t want to have a nuclear bacon sandwich for breakfast.

And before you ask, I loathe the idea of protesting. I’ve hated it since college, and I went to a liberal arts college quite known for protests. But that’s just not me. I don’t want to pound the pavement and shout until my voice is hoarse. I don’t want to get arrested either. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that my father is a retired law enforcement officer and I already know too much about that side of things.

And who am I kidding? I may not be a pacifist, but I’m fucking scared. I’ve heard enough rumors and seen enough evidence of the tension building in my own city that I can believe that things are about to go from bad to worse. The return of the subtle racist is already underway. I’m not about to ask my gay friends to get back in the closet to protect themselves, and you’re never going to get me to believe that the Donald “didn’t mean that shit” he said about Hispanics coming to this country and bringing their problems, or “not being the best their countries had to offer.” I bet that racist douchenozzle wouldn’t even know I was Hispanic until he read my name on a resume somewhere, or mistook me for a member of the press.

But there’s so much more to this man’s presence that affects me on an everyday level that I can’t even escape when I go home after work. Every night, my girlfriend and I end up talking about what might happen when Trump takes office. And every single time we speak of him, it’s in these harsh and bitter tones, like we created a doomed experiment in a science lab and set him loose upon the world like a fucking Frankenstein. Too bad we all know that Frankenstein hates fire.

Donald Trump can’t even handle a twitter account. How strong could he really be?

That’s just what I know. If I wanted to write another book, I could start writing about the shit I don’t know. But I’m already writing a book of fiction that I’m pretending has nothing to do with what I truly know. Look for it one day. You’ll know it when you read it, I think. And even if you don’t, I hope you like it.

Young Frankenstein – Puttin’ on the Ritz

 

 

Warrior of the Word.

Posted in The Flow and Rhythm of Life, The Writing Process (How do I Come up These Beats?) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 04/03/2013 by Angel D. Vargas

Sometimes a warrior just has to come home, throw their weapons in a corner, sink their tired, broken bodies into a chair and cry their eyes out.

 

Countless soldiers throughout history have probably done this. I know what we all see in the news when war heroes come home to their families. These survivors hug their spouses who’ve lived without their touch for years. They hug their children though they’ve missed precious milestones. Many people have moved on in their absence. Most have gone through their own trials and traumas. Still, everyone big and small feels that their story is the important one.

 

That’s just the human condition.

 

I’m guilty of this too. The good thing is I’m not alone. I’m about to tell you a story.

 

I’ve become a warrior of the word.

 

I know what you’re thinking. I sound like one of those nut jobs who quote the Bible and hurl Molotov cocktails into abortion clinics. If you’ve read some of my writing, you might think I’ve snapped and begun channeling one of my favorite characters.

 

“Pleasure to meet you. My name is Ezekiel.”

 

But that’s not the truth either. The reality may be just as difficult to fathom.

 

I moved back to New York two years ago. I had little money, a soaring credit card debt, and the wisp of a hope that I might get a job through a relative.

 

Time has a way of revealing one’s destiny. While I was putting interview clothes I couldn’t afford on a credit card, I was searching. I was waiting. I was hoping that I hadn’t wasted my time coming back home. I didn’t want a repeat of the six months I’d spent in Illinois trying to figure life out. That stretch of time saw me spinning my  wheels and not knowing how to make ends meet. Opportunities were few and far between. Though my best friend from college reached out to me and tried to help me out, I just wasn’t prepared for life in a Midwestern suburb. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. I failed.

 

Mental note. Don’t ever live in a suburb without a car or a license.

 

I came back home hoping that I wouldn’t go insane. I was a thirty something and living in a tiny apartment with my parents and my grown autistic brother.

 

If you’re doing a double take after that last statement, don’t worry. You won’t be the only one.

 

But times are tough for “thirty -somethings” these days. I’ve heard it all before. People in my generation with college degrees can’t even get into entry level retail work. I won’t even get into that hot mess. People have tough choices to make even though some of us just paid off twenty five thousand dollars in student loans. Sure, one could go back to school if one could somehow pay for it. Being out of college for more than a decade might mean your college credits mean nothing for all those associate’s programs.

 

There’s just one other hitch. Assuming that there are affordable school programs to attend, it pays to know which jobs aren’t being whittled down to nothing in this economy.

 

I was applying for a job in Portland, Oregon to work at a Sears as a clerk.  I applied online, landed the interview, and was asked to come in during a Thursday afternoon. The human resources recruiter seemed nice enough, but very sad and distracted throughout the conversation. After telling me that the original position was being whittled down from twenty hours a week to twelve due to “a major oversight,” he older woman turned to me and laid in on the line.

 

“There are thirty, forty, even fifty year old people applying for entry level clerk positions with this company. We’ve got people with Masters Degrees and PHD’s who need this work, and we can’t do much for them. Let’s face it. The economy is in the crapper.”

 

After 14 months in the city, I was able to land a part time job as a book seller at a local Barnes and Noble. Since then, I’ve not been able to attain anything else.

 

I think it might be safe to say that for some, the economy STILL looks like something a toilet bowl cleaner ought to erase.

 

Life is funny. Promises are broken, constant effort feels more like the definition of insanity, and broke people start to quote musicians and philosophers as though looking for a reason. Life can feel like a cruel joke. Of late, it leaves me feeling a bit like those broken warriors.

 

Is there a reason to it all? Is life what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans?

 

I’m still struggling with that question.

 

On one hand, I would officially call myself an underemployed janitor for the local Barnes and Noble. I just happen to know a thing or two about a book.

 

Perhaps that’s because I’m writing them.

 

Writing has been an anchor for me since I reclaimed it more than a year ago. I might never be a real estate tycoon or win the lottery, but writing is something that I will be able to do no matter what my financial or family status. I won’t put the computer down unless it breaks. Even if that happens, I used to use a little something called a pen, and I used to put that object to another handy object called “paper.”

 

The things one learns in school really can make a difference.

 

Nobody talks to me for more than a few minutes without realizing I’ve got more sarcasm in my pinky then most have in their entire bodies. But I shudder to think what my life would be like today if I hadn’t started to write. I’m not always going to write short stories or books. I can’t imagine I will always show my words to people. But I’ve made a few good friends along the way. People have read my words. More will read them one day, and I may even be able to make a decent living because of it.

 

Life seems to be split down the middle of chaos. On the one hand, I don’t make enough money at my current job to scratch my testicles. But on the flip side, I write because I have the time and the imagination to come up with the stuff. Real life might not be glamorous, but it offers me a chance to experience love, hate, anger, euphoria, and all the other emotions that I can pour with such realism into each and every one of my made up characters.

 

Fate doesn’t normally interest me. I like to think that I am always in control of my own life. These last few years have been like a huge dose of humble pie. I’m not powerless, but curious things do happen when I allow myself to engage in what matters to me. In the last year, people have come to me that I did not expect. People have read my words, and some have been able to relate. A special someone has danced their way into my life.

 

Philosophical discussions of fate either annoy or terrify people like me. Maybe that’s why fate sneaks up on so many of us. It probably happens despite everything I believe, and all I can do is the best that I can until God or the universe reveals my purpose.

 

Until that happens, I’ll write, I’ll love, and I ride on the roller coaster that is my life. I can’t be the fatalist, but I can sure as hell strap in. Let other people deal when someone releases the fucking Kraken. I’ll write a book about it when it’s over.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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