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Showing content with the highest reputation on 02/08/2019 in all areas

  1. 1 point
    Written in response to "You Should Be Here" by Cole Swindell, a song submission by MSA. Southern Spirit Rich took a sip from his glass before returning it back to rest on the bar counter. The whiskey burned, but he still mulled it over in his mouth for several seconds before swallowing, enjoying the flavors, relishing the sting on his tongue. It was busy tonight, various patrons bustling around behind him, keeping Jerry more than occupied behind the bar. Every now and then Jerry would silently refill the glass in front of Rich, and shoo off the occasional newcomer who tried to take the seat next to Rich. It was a ritual. It was his ritual. Jerry never questioned that, and it was why Rich kept coming back. "I saw Eveline today." Rich said, under his breath. "She came into the shop, needed her tires changed. You should have seen her. Hair like the grain fields, flowing and golden." He smiled, chuckled lowly and took another sip of whiskey. "Maybe one day I'll tell her. You always wanted me to." "Hey, is this spot taken?" Some punk from the city, a college-age buffoon dressed in gaudy colors with a chain that said 'I'm poor but I want to look like I'm not.' Jerry glared, he left. Nobody questioned Jerry. He was bigger than his own bouncers and knew how to intimidate, but the truth was he was just a big teddy bear. It was something Rich had found out on his first visit to Southern Spirit, and it was the reason why he kept coming back. Every Friday after work, Rich would walk a few blocks from the auto shop and sit down at the same spot. Jerry eventually knew to keep the seats open for him. Rich thought it was because he got blackout drunk one time and had spilled his guts to Jerry, but he couldn't quite remember. Remembering hurt, anyways. Another sip. It had been years now, and Rich had seen all kinds of things in the bar. Birthdays, holidays, celebrations of all kinds. Every now and then, there was someone else at the other end of the bar he saw a little bit of himself in, and he always asked Jerry to pour them an extra of whatever they were having, and put it on his tab without telling them who. David would have liked that. It always made Rich smile a bit seeing the person perk up a bit when Jerry told them the drink was 'on the house.' Liquor was something integral to their small town. No matter who you were, a farmer, a cook, a janitor, the mayor...you were equal in the Southern Spirit. It was something Rich appreciated about it. People could share stories over a beer just as easily as they could comfort each other. Some fancy writer might call it something like a 'social lubricant,' and they wouldn't really be wrong, but Rich liked to think of it more like a 'social glue.' And Jerry was always the professional, always ready to pour the perfect drink or lend a sympathetic ear. The man could have been a counselor in another life, but here they were out in the country. This is the life they knew, and this is how it was. That's all there really was to it, it simply didn't need anything more. Rich looked up, catching Jerry refilling his cup and adding a few ice cubes to the mix to ensure it was still good and cold. Rich smiled, grabbing the glass and touching it with a soft clink to the one sitting at the spot next to him, and took another sip. Six years. It was six years today. Nobody knew, nobody cared to know. When you're gone, the world erases your name. You are carried on in the memories of those who knew you, and if you're lucky enough you might get your name written in some kind of history book, but even those warp and fade over time. David was no different. David was more than a brother to Rich, he was his best friend. They did everything together, from helping out on the farm until their parents passed to becoming mechanics and even pining after the same girls. It was like Bo and Luke from The Dukes of Hazzard, absolutely inseparable. But then one day, Rich found out his brother had been diagnosed with cancer. Rich took a sip. He didn't want to remember. The long months of painfully waiting, watching the agony on David's face before he passed. The funeral was beautiful, what funeral wasn't? It was all a farce, gussied up and made beautiful to make people feel better about themselves. Evelyn had been there, too. She was with Ted at the time, but that didn't last long. The first time she walked into town with a black eye Ted had practically been lynched. If he still was around, he hadn't shown his face in a long time. A few months later, Rich finally was able to bring himself to go through David's things. He'd kept a journal Rich never knew about before, and he wrote on just about everything. A lot of it had to do with Rich, but there were remarks in there about Evelyn and even Theresa, a waitress at Pop's Burger Shack. "I'm sorry, is this seat taken?" The soft voice was one Rich knew well, and it snapped him out of his reverie. Evelyn stood there next to him completely innocent of what her question meant. The only reason she asked to begin with was because the rest of the bar was already full. Jerry stood nearby, tensely waiting on some visual clue from Rich on how to proceed. After a long moment, he pulled out the bar stool. "No. You're more than welcome." For a moment, the silence was deafening to Rich. But then, as he thought of David, he gained the strength to speak, grabbing the second glass that had occupied the spot. "You don't happen to like whiskey, do you?" "You know it's funny you ask, I actually do." For the rest of the night, Rich simply let the social glue do its work.
  2. 1 point
    To Whom It May Concern: As I translate thought to word and word to paper, my hands slightly tremble. I am terrified. I am not afraid of what I need to say, I am afraid of how it will be received. I am afraid of how other narratives will eventually obscure this one, either through volume or simply by subtle changes over time. But these things must be said, and I will forge on. To be silent is to contribute to the slow cancer encroaching upon us, a quiet acceptance of that comfortable death that comes only from giving up. I cannot be silent any longer; knowing what I now know I realize that I must face my fears and the uncomfortable truths that lie in front of me, as to go back is not an option and to stay put only sinks me deeper in the quicksand with the rest of us. Growth is not comfortable. Change is not comfortable. But they are necessary to foster progress, not the kind of the co-opted definition some would have you believe and label themselves as, but real, true progress. A famous man once had a dream. We all know who he is. We were taught that dream came to fruition. That was a lie. We were taught that he was a man of upstanding principle, that he wished for peace and calm discussion more than he would for breaking the law. That was a lie. We were taught he was a binary opposite of a similar man who taught similar things but spoke in a slightly different way. He was of a different religion. A foreign religion. He doesn't have a holiday, but we all know who that man is as well. That he represented evil in a sense to oppose the first man's good like two sides of a coin was a lie. These men taught almost the exact same things, and yet they were divided and conquered, their narratives silenced, all from a simple re-framing of the story. All from edits to history books. All from the lie that the dream had come true. It is this fate that I fear for my own story, silenced by the very slow moving but very much alive forces that are still silencing these men today. I was told recently that I'm a narcissist. This is true. I can't really help it, I tend to see and relate things from my perspective. It is as natural to me as a fish swimming in water. As such, I will attempt to relate myself as much as I can. I am, however, not vain, I am perfectly capable of seeing myself for who I am and criticizing myself when necessary. This isn't comfortable for me, as some of these things shouldn't be comfortable for you. Many of you are probably wondering what I might be talking about by now, especially about the two men. We will get to that later. But right now realize that this criticism, which you will surely feel, is the point. That criticism in and of itself is not a bad thing, a synonym for negative insults and degradation, conversely it is merely a contrasting perspective that allows us to better see ourselves. It's like a mirror that tells truths instead of simply being another pair of rose-colored glasses. Discomfort, too, is also the point, because if you are comfortable then there is no motive to change, to drive forward and improve. And if any of you think that you can't improve or otherwise are perfect, please let the rest of us know. We're dying to see what it looks like. For a long time, I was blind. This is not to say I could not physically see, I mean this in a metaphorical sense, in that there were perspectives and worldviews I was naive to. There is still much I am ignorant of. I write this not as a master, but as a novice, opening his eyes for the first time. And for the love of god, I do not consider myself 'woke', rather I despise the arrogance of the term. We are all still learning, even the most accomplished masters. The more you know, the more you understand and realize how little you actually know. For me, this catalyzing event occurred in the field of rhetoric. Don't worry, I'm not going to get too deep into technical terms. I am still a novice, and I do not wish to speak to those who already know what I write here. In rhetoric, which basically refers to how language is constructed and used, there is the idea that different narratives, different stories exist not only for each person, but each perspective and object they encounter and event they experience. Individually and collectively, there are an infinite amount of these perspectives. But there is also the concept of using language as a weapon. To persuade and manipulate others, deceiving them into believing or doing something they might not otherwise do. This involves supplanting one narrative for another, altering how they see things until it aligns with these manipulative goals. I will not lie, this is similar to what I am doing here, but I hope that in being open and honest about it I can garner the trust that I am not attempting to deceive. These narratives, these lies have been told to our children, our children's children, and so forth, until they become gospel truth. One man was good. The other bad. Lies. Lies told so often and so softly that they whisper in our ear whenever we are confronted with an alternative point of view. We are creatures of habit, we do not want to leave the comfort we have built around us. We do not want to consider that truths we hold dear might indeed be falsehoods. We are generally unwilling to test our beliefs and go out on a limb away from the safety of the herd even when doing so could easily reveal greater truth. This is known as moderacy. If you are ever uncomfortable when faced with political rhetoric, that is your inner moderate talking. Don't listen to them. They are softly killing you and laughing while they do so. Let me be perfectly clear as well: moderacy in the sense I mean it does not refer to having a middle of the road opinion, seeing both merits and downsides and thinking a more complex but accurate solution lies at the middle of a binary debate, but rather choosing ignorance because the issue of the day is too hard to comprehend, that it is easier to spout the lines the media has trained you to repeat rather than taking a step back and attempting to put effort into analyzing the truths of the situation for yourself. Moderacy is saying it's not yet time for certain social discussions to be had, yet not ever giving a clear timeline of when that discussion should occur. It favors an unjust peace free of tension over a just peace achieved through the smelting fires of social turmoil. I was a moderate. In many ways, I still am. I hear something and my emotions knee jerk towards those tendencies, shying away from discomfort. I am lucky. All my life I could do that, ignore injustice simply because it didn't apply to me. A friend once told me a joke: "What weighs more, a pound of feathers or a pound of steel?" I answered they both weigh the same. "False," he stated, "the pound of feathers weighs more, because you have to carry with you what you did to all those birds." But what if I could take those feathers anyways, and conveniently ignore what someone else did to all those birds? The concept is the same. Today I am not a moderate. I do not consider myself an extremist, like the two men I do not favor violence. I feel that sometimes pushing that discomfort is necessary to force the hand of change. As distasteful as it is, it's merely a bitter pill that must be swallowed to get to our social cake. Today I will learn to use my language as a weapon, not to harm others but to guard myself and those I care about from the vocal barbs others would hurt us with. And I do care for my enemy. I have hope that hatred can be defused. It is defused when we learn to speak each others' language, when we can relate and open discussions on why we feel the way we do, and we gain mutual understanding of how our perspectives and personal stories are shaped and maintained. This is not easy. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X knew this better than anyone. But if we succumb to hatred and stop reaching across the aisle no matter how many times our hands are burned, then we will have accepted the same death moderacy affords, but on a much faster scale. I implore you. Seek knowledge. Seek understanding of those you dislike. Seek to see through the eyes of someone vastly different than you. Yes, it's terrifying. But once your eyes start to open, it is that much harder for the hate and lies to stop you.
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