With Friends of Bill — My Latest for Splice Today

I went to AA back in October because an addiction specialist doctor, whom I’ll call Dr. James, told me to. Previously I vowed to avoid AA and only do SMART Recovery because 1) SMART Recovery is science-based and 2) there’s no need for a supernatural higher power in SMART. Back in September, however, I had another binge drinking relapse, and my therapist said Dr. James would help me get stronger. In some ways he has; he put me on some new meds that work a lot better than previous ones. However, Dr. James insists that the Twelve Step approach is the most effective way to maintain sobriety, even though I told him I was in SMART Recovery. Finally worn down, I starting attending the first daily AA group I could find that met at a reasonable time.

I got more out of being among fellow recovering alcoholics than from the steps. The first step itself is easy enough; no problem admitting that I can’t stop drinking once I start. From there, though, the Steps get dodgy: turn everything over to God, write down all your moral flaws, confess your sins, and ask God to make you a better person. As an ex-Christian, the Twelve Steps sounds like a watered-down Gospel of Jesus.

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The Red and the Black — My Latest for Splice Today

It was only a matter of time before cops would kill an unarmed black person here in Maryland’s Eastern Shore region. On September 15, 2018, a Greensboro, MD police officer killed 19-year-old Anton Black after chasing the young man for allegedly trying to abduct a 12-year-old boy (even though Black and the 12-year-old were related and there was no abduction attempt). The officer tazed Black, pinned him to the ground, and Black became unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at Easton Memorial Hospital moments later.

Since then, Black’s friends and family have demanded answers from the Greensboro Police Department. The Washington Post and Baltimore Sun have written about it. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan spoke last week to demand answers. A video of the incident between Black and the police officer was recently released, and Black’s family currently wants the Department of Justice to conduct a civil rights investigation.

Meanwhile it’s quiet on the Eastern Shore. The local newspaper has covered the story numerous times, but flip open to the editorial page and not a peep. No Eastern Shore citizens demanding answers, other than the Coalition for Justice for Anton Black. No editorials from the Star Democrat staff. Once again, Eastern Shore residents cover their eyes.

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Panic in Detroit — My Latest for Splice Today

Panic and healing dominated my time at the Creating Change conference in Detroit last week. The panic began before arriving in Detroit. Not only was it my first time flying, but thanks to an ice storm in Detroit the night before, my 9:50 a.m. flight was pushed back for four  hours. While waiting I listened to Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” on repeat hoping it would ease the anxiety. Instead, it made me feel like the “This is fine” dog.

It didn’t help that prior to my trip, INTO magazine shut down, my 12-year-old corgi mix was diagnosed with bone cancer, my friend Deborah from the Beyond the Trailer Park podcast died, and I was going through another existentialist crisis of trying to find my unique writing voice. The luggage wasn’t just in my suitcase.

The checked luggage and I made it safely to Detroit. No more panic, right? That’s what I thought before having a panic attack trying to find my Lyft driver. The details get fuzzy here. I remember running around outside the airport trying to find the driver, sweating, trying to breathe while hauling around heavy luggage, and screaming in a parking garage.

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Understanding the #CancelPinkWashing Controversy — My Latest For Splice Today

Maybe it’s just my anxiety, but I’m worried that I didn’t make myself clear with this one. I support #CancelPinkwashing and BDS. Maybe this excerpt will clear things up:

Despite what The New York Times’ Bari Weiss and Bret Stephens might write, saying that Palestine has a right to self-determination doesn’t mean Israel doesn’t have the same right. Being against both Israel’s political policies and Hamas is not a contradiction. Even the pro-Israel organization J Street is vocally against the West Bank Occupation, and calls on the US government to denounce the illegal settlements.

I do agree with Weiss and Stephens that some criticisms of Israel are full of anti-semitic dog whistles. For example, there was the 2017 Chicago Dyke March where a gay pride flag with a Star of David on it was considered explicitly anti-Palestinian. Then there’s the recently elected Ilhan Omar who once tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world,” which makes me think of the Happy Merchant figure plotting for world domination. Roger Waters of Pink Floyd once compared the actions of the Israeli government to those of Nazi Germany.

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Maybe Trump is Good for Something — My Latest for Splice Today

Don’t let the title fool you, friends. I have NOT taken the red pill, nor will I ever. Maybe this excerpt will clear things up:

This hypothetical situation reminds me of something I heard Slavoj Zizek once say about bosses. “If you have a boss who is up there,” he said, “the old fashioned boss shouting at you, exerting full brutal authority—in a way it’s much easier to rebel than to have a friendly boss who embraces you or [asks], ‘How was last night with your girlfriend,’ blah blah, all that buddy stuff.” In other words, friendly authority figures make one more accustomed to the status quo, therefore actual progress is nearly impossible. Perhaps Zizek is right. After all, liberals hardly said a word about Obama’s drone warfare. Why should they? At least Obama wasn’t a neoconservative like George W. Bush, who hoped blowing up the Middle East would trigger the Second Coming of Christ. Things were finally stable under Obama.

Maybe Trump’s good for something. The 2016 election inspired countless individuals on both the Left and the Right to stand up and say, “Oh hell no!” Trump inadvertently spearheaded the Women’s March movement which, despite currently being in limbo because of alleged anti-semitism, still made a positive impact on American politics. Trump’s blatant racism and xenophobia finally convinced people that America is not a post-racial society. Would any of this have happened if voters picked a friendly authoritarian in 2016?

Now that that’s out of the way, read the rest here.

Bring the Light — My Latest for Splice Today

When I came out to my mother as an atheist, her first response was, “Does this mean I can save money by not buying you Christmas presents?” She was being tongue-in-cheek, but there are those who honestly believe atheists have no business observing Christmas or any holiday in December. We’re used to hearing conservative Christians say Christmas belongs to them only, but surprisingly even some staunch atheists, like Tom Flynn of the Council for Secular Humanism, say Christmas is explicitly a religious holiday. I love the holidays because they remind us that while things look dark right now, a brighter future is ahead.

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I’m Not Ready to Reach Across the Aisle — My Latest for Splice Today

Former Twitter rivals Eve Peyser of Vice and center-right New York Times columnist Bari Weiss have officially ended their feud, and they recently wrote an op-ed to tell the story. The two writers met at a conference, Peyser asked Weiss if she wanted to hang out, and the two quickly bonded over the things they had in common. They report that they’re open to befriending people with different political views (with the exception of neo-Nazis, of course), and hope others can do the same to escape toxic social media culture.

I’m still hesitant about reaching across the aisle. I know I’m supposed to step out of my echo chamber of fellow SJWs and break bread with the classical liberal/center-right pundits of the Intellectual Dark Web in order to make American civil again, but all my past attempts have failed miserably.

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Humanists Face Off Against SCOTUS — My Latest for Splice Today

Earlier this month, the American Humanist Association (AHA) announced that the US Supreme Court will hear their case against the Peace Cross in Bladensburg, MD. The 40-foot tall cross is a World War I memorial that the AHA says is an explicitly Christian symbol on public ground, making it not only a church/state separation violation but also a slap in the face to non-Christians who served their country. The AHA’s legal counsel, led by senior counsel Monica Miller, first filed a complaint against the Peace Cross in 2014, and the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled the cross was unconstitutional. However, according to the AHA, a month later both the government and American Legion separately filed petitions to the SCOTUS to overrule the decision. Now the Supreme Court has to face a case that, as the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Andrew Seidel recently wrote, “could bring down the wall” separating church and state.

According to Seidel, there are only two possible reasons why the Supreme Court decided to take the case. The first is that conservative justices welcome such a controversial case because, he explains, SCOTUS’ “solid conservative majority is ready to begin checking items off the Federalist Society wish list.” The second is the conservative justices don’t think there’s anything wrong with a cross on government property and doesn’t think the cross is even a Christian symbol. “If this is true,” Seidel writes, “then those conservative justices essentially do not believe that the Constitution guarantees anything like the separation of state and church currently enjoyed by people in the United States. The justices will have bought into the Christian nationalist worldview that helped carry Donald Trump into office and will do untold damage to our republic and the principles for which it stands.”

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A Secular Bangladeshi Blogger Fights for His Life — My Latest for Splice Today

While the murder of Jamal Khashoggi brought more attention to Saudi Arabia, it’s not the only country where writers are in danger. Secular humanist bloggers in Bangladesh are often murdered by radical religious extremists simply for promoting secular humanist values online. One such blogger currently fighting for his life is Md. Sazzadul Hoque, a 21-year-old man who was forced to flee to India due to threats against his life. “I now fear for my life,” he recently told The Times of India. “I could also be killed in India by fundamentalists who support the goings on in Bangladesh… I have nowhere to go.”

Raised in a conservative Muslim household, Hoque began questioning his religious beliefs and started blogging about secular humanism in 2016. A year later on Facebook, he publicly announced his atheism, and while the post went viral, his account was suspended and sparked countless death threats. “People who were my best friends are my worst enemies now,” Hoque told the Times of India, “and would turn me over to the fundamentalists at any time.” He tried to seek shelter in Bangladesh, but to no avail. After getting kicked out of college, he fled to India with a tourist visa in May of 2017. As he recently told the Press Trust of India (PTI), “Even now, I keep receiving threats on Facebook, but the situation here is not as fearful as it is in my country.”

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Daydream Nation 30 Years Later — My Latest for Splice Today

I first listened to Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation twenty years ago when I was 15, and my first reaction was, “What the fuck is?” I knew that Sonic Youth was supposed to be these incredible alternative rock pioneers that toured with Nirvana shortly before Nevermind came out, and Kim Gordon had a brief cameo in an episode of The Simpsons, but didn’t know anything else about them.

The hip alternative DC radio station at the time, WHFS, wasn’t hip enough to play Sonic Youth, and Spotify didn’t exist, so I had to go to Sam Goody and buy Daydream Nation to see what the big deal was. I hated it. It was noisy, it was repetitive, and the lyrics didn’t make a bit of sense.

As time passed, the album grew on me. I now get why Daydream Nation—which is 30 years old today—matters so much. It’s a work of modern art that should featured at the Hirshorn Museum, and a bridge between the underground 1980s alternative music scene and the early—90s alternative rock explosion.

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