American Dystopia


You tell us to work hard to get nice things; we work hard and barely make ends meet.

We try to go back to school to learn a new trade but you’ve taken away our tuition deductions and grants so we’re forced to take out loans that we’ll never be able to pay back.

You take away our healthcare, so a simple sinus infection puts us thousands of dollars in debt.

We can’t pay the debt, so we’re referred to collections and our credit is ruined.

Our bad credit forces us to pay higher rates on simple car payments—cars that we need to get to our low-paying jobs, reducing our disposable income.

Our limited income makes it impossible to save money to buy a house so we have to rent in perpetuity.

Our bad credit forces us to live in less desirable apartment complexes and pay higher deposits, often far removed from where the jobs are so we commute hours each day, costing us gas money and vehicle maintenance money that we don’t have.

The neighborhoods we live in have nothing but fast food establishments and liquor stores—establishments that prey upon people like us because they know that we can only afford cheap food and quick highs.

This causes us to have health problems that we cannot remedy by basic doctor visits because you’ve already taken away our healthcare.

Us and our neighbors barely make ends meet, are unhealthy and are tired of seeing our kids suffer so we do what desperate human beings have historically done: we improvise.

You decide that our improvising is illegal so you send police into our neighborhoods to seize every opportunity to incarcerate us.

We’re barely making ends meet, are unhealthy and tired of seeing ourselves and our kids suffering, beaten, murdered and enslaved by your police so we do what desperate human beings have historically done: we fight back.

You call us thugs and animals and savages and tell us that we’re less than human.

We grow desperate, feeling like there is nowhere to turn.

You tell us to turn to God.

We turn to God and all we hear from the pulpits is how we must support our oppressors.

We say “fuck you” and leave your churches.

You tell us that not going to church will send us to hell.

We become psychologically damaged and resort even further to drugs and alcohol and many of us contemplate suicide.

You tell us that those who commit suicide go straight to hell.

So correct me if I’m wrong: you’re telling us that we were put on this earth to serve YOU, to cater to YOUR needs, to be perpetually indebted to YOUR corporations, to be YOUR slaves, to make YOUR lives and YOUR children’s lives easier, to follow YOUR rules, to obey YOUR laws, to worship the way YOU tell us to and that if we decide not to, our only options are prison or hell?


On Charlatans and Tax Cuts



I feel no obligation to uphold any traditional rules of structure or order when it comes to writing this short piece. I won’t be wasting my time citing the plethora of sources that would back up my charges in this piece; if you want sources, you can look them up. I have no desire to do the legwork for you anymore. For example, I don’t need to reference the fact that a jackass who currently occupies the White House thinks it is perfectly acceptable to “grab them by the pussy;” links are easily accessible all over the internet; if you can’t find them, or you refuse to, that’s your problem. So I will jump right in with both literary guns blazing.

The fact that you call yourself a Christian does not make it so. Something, whether a person or a thing, is what it is, regardless of what it calls itself; regardless of what someone else calls it. The truth of what something is at its core is inherent, even if it spends its entire earthly existence thinking of itself or being referred to by others as something else.

If you support Donald J. Trump, you are not a Christian. Sure, you might call yourself one; you might think you’re one; you might even go through all the motions and pretend to act like one; but you’re not a Christian. Unless, of course, the real Jesus Christ was someone wholly unlike the Jesus Christ the world has known for 2,000 years; I suppose anything is possible.

If you support the tax “cuts” that the GOP twits in the Senate passed last night at an ungodly hour, you are not a Christian. Again, I don’t need to start rattling off links to prove that millions of students will see their taxes increased due to the loss of deductions as a result of this tax bill. I don’t need to cite the fact that the middle class will see their taxes increased due to the loss of SALT deductions (look it up). I don’t need to cite the fact that people who make $25,000-$35,000 per year will see upwards of a 25% tax increase. I don’t need to cite the fact that graduate students will now see their fellowship money taxed, causing many potential PhD candidates to drop out due to their inability to pay for their education. But education is “overrated” anyway, right? These are facts; easily Googled, and backed up by the data presented by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Your support of these politicians means you support this tax bill and that means you support the results of the implementation of this bill; you might not see it that way, but tough shit; you’re guilty by association…and you’re not a Christian.

It’s okay to admit that you’re not something you’ve long believed you were. I once believed I was a Republican. I registered as a Republican, occasionally voted as a Republican and referred to myself as a Republican. Eventually, wisdom kicked me square in the face and showed me the truth; just like I’m doing for you. Stop calling yourself a Christian when you’re not one. It makes you look like an idiot and it gives a bad name to people who actually have compassion, empathy, humility and a soul; you know, like Jesus Christ.

Feed the Good Wolf

Is it ever acceptable to make a conscious choice to fully disengage from the madness of the political realm? That’s a rather bold question coming from someone who is as opinionated as I am. But I’m beginning to notice a somewhat disconcerting trend in the clients I interact with on a daily basis. Working in a mental health clinic has its inherent challenges. Many clients are already feeling the complications of chemical imbalances and stress factors, both internal and external; it is elementary to see how these existing conditions are exacerbated by the constant bombardment of media via portable electronic devices and TV news. Social media only serves to further augment the sense of siege that many of my clients feel that they are under; many cannot differentiate between legitimate news and the ever-increasing flood of “fake news.” I don’t think I need to elaborate on the difficulties faced by individuals with mental health problems in terms of processing information that they’ve heard or read; fear mongering and overt negativity can push unstable people over the proverbial edge.

But the manifestations of media overload aren’t just impacting people with diagnosed mental illness. We can see the evidence of this at family gatherings and social events with friends–some clinicians might have us believe that everyone suffers from some sort of mental imbalance and while I can certainly bring myself to appreciate their perspective, I am not convinced that this is universally true. Essentially I’m referring to otherwise fully functioning individuals who, as a result of a number of factors including the 24/7 news cycle, attachment to social media and political polarization which is leading people to shelter themselves from individuals with differing opinions by associating only with people who fit their own political mold, are becoming mentally and emotionally frazzled and even unhinged. I can recall numerous gatherings in my younger years where politics would be the debate topic du jour, but they never resulted in outright screaming and vitriolic ad hominem attacks; recently, however, the viciousness has become far more commonplace and this is simply not healthy for any parties involved.

It is this behavior that is prompting me to wonder if it might not be best for some of us to take some time off from the game of politics. I realize that in doing so, especially given the current global political climate, one risks enabling the potential forces of authoritarian populism to spread unchecked. Could we perhaps remain in tune with the “top stories” for the sake of keeping an eye on things while maintaining a certain distance? I suppose this is possible, though I am suspicious. I don’t know if there is a middle ground to be found. My primary concern is far more micro in scope; I’m worried about individual people and their mental wellness. Of course rampant fascism would not bring any greater semblance of mental stability to the nation and world as a whole, but I often wonder if some–not all, mind you–of the political boogeymen that we encounter on our social media feeds are contrived for the sake of stoking fear and instilling uneasiness in us; what is it that we are fundamentally lacking as a species that lends itself to our collective trepidation?

I’m not one to preach; those who know me personally know that I am a practicing Catholic. I will be the first to acknowledge that I am a terrible Catholic. I need my Church more than it needs me. I find a sense of peace in my faith and I understand why many people who are opposed to the notion of religious belief feel the way they do; some would accuse me of attempting to artificially manufacture a sense of purpose and security in a world that is chaotic and violent. I stand accused and guilty of their charges, in that I do find purpose and security in my faith; as to whether or not it is manufactured, we will simply have to agree to disagree. I’m the last person who is going to try to convert anyone, as I have always seen my faith as something that should be personal in words while being visible in actions–I don’t mean outward expressions of wearing my faith on my sleeves, so to speak or making the sign of the cross after scoring a goal in pickup hockey; I mean kindness, empathy and a sincere attempt at trying to see the goodness in all people as they are, not as I would will them to be. I am not trying to say that the decline of religiosity is the hole that we are trying to fill as individuals and as a society; but I do believe something is missing from our psyches and our souls that might otherwise provide a sense of clarity and/or groundedness. It doesn’t have to be God as I would think of God or even a sense of mysticism but perhaps something as simple as wonder would be sufficient, as I feel that we have collectively lost that sense of wonder. We have become so literal and material as a society that we are starting to become too fragile, too sensitive and generally morose and stoic. What happened to our joy, our benevolence, our desire to see our neighbors succeed alongside us?

Considering how health conscious–relatively speaking–we have become as a society, why is it that we seem to neglect our mental health? The electronic leashes that we have all willingly embraced, despite all of their potentially negative side effects, are still essentially tools. Just like a table saw, they have the ability to make our lives easier in many ways, provided that we use them properly. But I’m beginning to think that they are serving a detrimental purpose by keeping us plugged in to an ever more deleterious and malignant stream of bad vibrations, which, at their root, feed upon those of us who are reaching out for something, good or bad, that could consume us. Feed the good wolf, my friends; tis’ far more preferable.

Sometimes, IT IS All in Your Head


It is neither revolutionary nor unique for me to state that our world would be a much more enjoyable place to live in if people would simply alter their perceptions of and approaches to the little things. It seems as if complaining and venting have become so commonplace that many people have begun to believe that the complaining and the venting are the solutions to their alleged problems. I say alleged because the pendulum seems to have swung from the repression of the 1950’s to a modern day where self-victimization has become trendy. Talk therapy is all well and good and as someone who works in the mental health field, I am a believer in science and medicine, but I’m beginning to think that far too many people have bought into a delusion that someone will fix their maladies for them. Without getting too political, I think we’ve taken our belief in the “social safety net” too far; it takes a village is a cute concept and there are elements of validity to it, but we have completely lost sight of the fact that ultimately, it takes the individual; more specifically, it takes a person’s willpower to lift themselves out of whatever it is that is irking them, followed by a conscious and determined mental effort to change how they view the world. In other words, stand up, walk out the door, find something fun to do and stop whining!

“This is all I’ve ever known” and “that’s how I’ve always done things” are little more than excuses for laziness or license to whine about how life has somehow dealt you a bad hand. Freedom is not something granted to you; it is a choice. You can choose to be enslaved to x, y or z, or you can choose to be free. I am not a proponent of tough love, but I also have a deep disdain for enabling attention seekers or pity cases; there are people in this world with very serious problems; it makes it very difficult for those of us who work in mental health to assist those people when other people milk the system—so to speak—as a means of compensating for their own unwillingness to help themselves find enjoyment in life. There is so much in this world to take pleasure in; so much in this world to explore in order to find contentment and connection with the divine. To waste life by intentionally turning a blind eye to all that is good in order to focus solely on why “life sucks” is the apex of immoral behavior. It is choosing to be a source of darkness, rather than a source of light.

I will admit, at times I have been guilty of all of the things I’m writing against; in other words, I’m writing from experience. Nothing good comes from overt negativity and aside from the pain and aggravation that such behavior brings to those around you, the person who suffers most from it is you. I find myself constantly exposed to individuals who relish in the opportunity to belittle and gossip about others. They scoff at how other people spend their time and seem to take a warped sense of pleasure in ridiculing people who genuinely enjoy their lives. This is clearly a sign of disguised envy but it invariably comes across in the form of, so and so or such and such couple are weird. Besides the obvious meddling and busy-bodying, this is perhaps the worst kind of projection; it speaks of the individual hating their life so much that they would sooner bring happy people down into their misery than take the necessary steps to improve their own lives.

This isn’t so much a full length blog post as it is a plea for people to get off their asses and find something in this world that makes them happy—something that does not come at the expense or toils of someone else.

Perspective, Restons Ouverts



I often do wonder what the world looks like from your shoes; I might be introverted but I could never be accused of lacking empathy. I possess a fairly keen awareness of the fact that the world does not revolve around me and although I do not claim to understand why other people behave in ways that are foreign to me, I’m not going to wax superior to them for the fact that I think and act differently than they do. The one caveat is people who deliberately go out of their way to inflict harm upon others, whether directly or vicariously through legislation; in those cases, I won’t say that I’m superior to them, only that I find them to be bereft of any discernible sense of moral goodness.

Nevertheless, I do consider that in some ways the world would appear significantly different when viewed from the vantage point of another person’s perspective. That said, there are obvious things that I can only logically conclude that we would agree upon. The window with the chipped white frame to my left would not cease to be a window with a chipped white frame to my left; it would remain a window and it would remain chipped and white and to my left. We can all agree upon this. The passing cars would still be passing cars; the parking enforcement officer would still be out there creating financial headaches for patrons of the local brewpub who, through forgetfulness or inebriation, have lost track of time. The solitary Narnian lamppost with a hanging bouquet of pinkish flowers would still be there, the saltwater inlet beyond it would still be salty and flowing and the sky would still be an almost too perfect shade of blue. Taking into consideration the possibilities of eye-conditions such as colorblindness or outright blindness, as well as arbitrary differences in educational backgrounds and upbringings—for instance, a person who has neither read nor seen The Chronicles of Narnia would not describe the lamppost as Narnian because they would not have the formative literary foundation to do so—in nearly any other person’s shoes, what exists before my eyes from this perspective would look exactly as it does to me at this very moment. A thing is either the thing that it is, or it isn’t; and if you say that it isn’t, you take ownership of the burden of proving your case. Being obtuse is not an intellectual right. If you want to make a public case that a cat is not a cat, but rather a dog, you’re now responsible for supporting your case; if you choose not to, you have ipso fact stripped yourself of intellectual relevance; in essence, you’re a kook.

Why do we have such a difficult time looking at something as it plainly is and en masse, agreeing upon what we are seeing? It might be amusing to joke about “alternative facts” but the fact that anyone would sincerely allow themselves to give credence to such an inane notion is intrinsically lacking in humour;  contrarily, it is a bit unnerving. I am disturbed by how far down the slippery slope of doublespeak we have descended.  We cannot simply dismiss this behaviour as the mere rantings of a mad president and his legions of mindless supporters because we see very similar manifestations of it in our daily lives; corporate advertising techniques aimed at duping consumers into believing they need things that they don’t legitimately need and, in many cases, cannot afford; doctors prescribing medication combinations that are known to have adverse effects on patients simply for the sake of pacification, rather than healing or curing; perpetuation of myths and outright lies by authoritarian, political-minded religious leaders who pimp themselves to the highest bidders because they  couldn’t care less about saving souls, but are in the religion game solely to bring themselves power, money and attention.

I am not so much of an anarchist that I believe that we should be completely lawless; such thinking is irresponsible and dangerous. But the implementations of rules which exist solely for the purpose of fortifying the imposition of social conformity are, by their very nature, a form of institutional slavery. Restrictions on allowing people to look, dress and act as they wish are a form of exercising control over other human beings. This very concept is not only immoral, it ought to be illegal. The fact that, after millions of years of evolution, human beings still cannot get past essentially superficial facades is unfathomable. If Albert Einstein had looked like Marilyn Manson, would his style of dress and appearance have negated or diminished his genius? The world likely wouldn’t have known his genius because he would never have been granted the opportunity to exercise that genius; he’d have been turned away because of the shallow biases of some narrow-minded dimwit with a title and an inflated ego. Tattoo policies, piercing policies, restrictions on hair color and length, dress codes, even forms of remote censorship and the corresponding implementation of punitive measures such as policing peoples’ social media sites and lifestyle choices for the sake of terminating them from employment or academic standing. Can I place myself in the shoes of a business owner who imposes these restrictions on his or her employees? Yes, insofar as I can physically see the person with tattoos and piercings and tri-colored hair in the same way that the business owner can physically see that person. But our perception likely ends there; they see a person who might “frighten” potential customers who are as narrow-minded as themselves, thereby diminishing profits—aka their true god, whereas I see a person who is expressive, comfortable in their own skin and might be open-minded and free-thinking enough to offer new perspectives and opinions for the benefit of the business as a whole.

Judgment is not and should be a dirty word; pre-judgment, that is, prejudice is something entirely different. If I meet the person with ink and facial hardware and that person is a complete buffoon, I can now judge that person as being unworthy of filling whatever role I as an employer might need filled, in the same way that I could judge a person who was conservatively dressed to the nines, clean-shaven with close-cropped hair combed neatly who might prove to be incompetent in an interview. But from my own unique vantage point, a guy in a suit is just a guy in a suit until I’ve had a chance to speak with that person for the sake of getting to know who they are and what they have to offer; similarly, a girl with a punk rock motif is just a girl with a punk rock motif until I get to know the unique person that she is.

The window with the chipped white frame to my left is what it is; regardless of who is sitting here in this grey chair with four plastic legs. The chair could be replaced with a black leather chair on wheels or a metal folding chair, but the window as it exists at this moment is just a window with a white chipped frame; no more, no less. It is entirely within the realm of possibility, however, that if one was to dig deeper, they might find that the chipped paint was a sign of internal rot or termites or the use of poor materials. They might also find that it has been there for 200 years, still going strong and the chipped paint is just a sign of its longevity and resilience; is this not precisely the point I’m trying to convey?

An Honest Witness Tells the Truth…



For as long as I can remember, I’ve been the type of person who speaks and writes in an unusually direct manner. That is not to say that I am callous. I don’t go out of my way to try to offend or hurt people, but I have always sought to be a transparent person. Those who know me know exactly where I stand, for better or for worse. This approach to communication can be jarring for most people, given that our society has long promoted the nonsensical virtues of politeness and facades for the sake of positive appearances. I don’t buy into that line of thinking. I prefer to speak my mind openly and before I’m accused of spouting off a la our orange-faced Fraud-in-Chief, please know that my opinions are always supported with an abundance of evidence and data. I will not speak about or write about any topic unless I’ve conducted extensive research on it.

While I certainly believe in nuance and diplomacy, I also have very little—if any—tolerance for opinions that are inherently bigoted, vile or cold-hearted. On those opinions, I am very quick to pounce and I do so with literary guns blazing. I’ve been asked by friends and family members if I’m afraid or concerned that my public opinions regarding public officials might get me into trouble. First off, I know which lines I can cross and which ones I cannot. Furthermore, my response has always been consistent: what’s the worst thing that could happen to any of us; we die? I have absolutely no fear of death. I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, c’mon Joe, you can’t possibly mean that. Let me reiterate, I have absolutely no fear of death. There are only two possibilities when the last breath escapes my lungs: something happens or nothing happens. Either way, I’ll either know that I’m moving on to something else–which my faith inspires me to believe–or I won’t know anything because there will cease to be an “I.” So while I remain in this current state of being, I am not going to live every moment obsessing over merely surviving for the sake of survival. I’m not going to live in fear of kooks, terrorists, government henchmen, cops or any other kind of boogeymen. I have but one life to live on this earth—unless the Buddhists are right–and it is in this life that I will speak the mind I currently have.

My commitment to being honest and transparent in my opinions also applies to reporting what I hear and observe in my inner circles. As a side note, understand that I would never intentionally betray anyone’s confidence, provided that the individual in question is speaking to me in a setting and with words and sentiments that are conducive toward confidentiality. In other words, if you are kind and benevolent, our conversations will never be made public. I also would never speak to anyone about anything that my wife and I discuss privately and that is absolute. Beyond my wife, I am only willing to maintain confidentiality if what is being discussed is not offensive, ignorant or hateful. Once you’ve crossed any of those lines, it doesn’t matter to me who you are, I will likely out you. Family, friend or otherwise, if you think it is funny to crack jokes or express political opinions about “niggers,” “kikes,” “towelheads” or “fags,” (or any other various epithets) I’m no longer beholden to any kind of confidentiality and you are now fair game for my writing pleasure. I might or might not conceal your identity, depending upon how generous I’m feeling. Then again, I might refer to you openly as my uncle, cousin, sibling and even use your name. Why? Because I can and legally, there is nothing you can do to stop me. As for any ethical betrayals, well, fuck you; don’t be such a fucking bigot and you won’t have to find yourself in that position.

There are consequences for actions. We learn that from a young age. I have never done physical harm to anyone, nor have I intentionally sought to harm anyone with my words. However on many occasions I have used people’s words against them and in those scenarios, I have no remorse because the harm committed is self-inflicted; I’m merely reporting back to the individual–and to others–what they said. If the truth hurts, they might want to consider changing their opinions—or at very least be mindful of who is present when they express those opinions.


Family Isn’t Really Everything

I have never been one to shy away from addressing controversial topics. I’ve probably made more enemies than friends in my life and I have become something of an expert on the art of burning bridges. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a sadist or a narcissist; it’s just that when I learned in elementary parochial school that lying is a sin, I took that to heart, perhaps to a degree that most people are not comfortable with. I’d rather be honest and hurt someone’s feelings than fraudulently lead them to believe something that isn’t true. With that being said, I’d like to comment for a few moments on the topic of family; more specifically, I’d like to make it clear that in my 36 years of living and observing, I have come to a rather indisputable conclusion that the phrase “family is everything” is a complete fallacy, bordering on the idolatrous.

I love my family; most of them. Well, that’s not quite true. I love some of them and I tolerate most of them. Even that isn’t quite true. I love enough of them to count on one hand and I endure the presence of the rest of them during obligatory get-togethers. I have long said that I wouldn’t associate with most people in my family if they weren’t related to me. I don’t think I’m saying anything that most people wouldn’t agree with privately—and those of you who are feigning outrage by that statement are completely full of shit. You know damn well that if you thought of ten people in your family and imagined that you weren’t related to them, you would never intentionally associate with at least seven of those ten people. It isn’t that we need to hate or despise these people; it’s just that they are perhaps so fundamentally different from us that we would never have reason to converse with them outside of obligatory settings.

I’m a native New Yorker; like most people who grew up in New York City, I’m a private person. I wear sunglasses in public, day or night, and I almost always have earbuds in when I’m confined to public spaces such as airplanes, trains or ferries. I’m not a small-talker. I rarely strike up conversation with strangers. I just don’t have that much to say. Aside from deep philosophical conversation, what is there to say that hasn’t already been said a thousand times over? I apply this same approach to family members. The concept of gathering a whole slew of people who are arbitrarily related by blood into a finite space for the sake of celebrating an arbitrary occasion (annual holiday, birthday, Hallmark events i.e. weddings, funerals) and engaging in the exact same conversations/reminiscences of old times that have taken place countless times prior is bordering on the definition of insanity, and in my opinion, borders on the definition of hell. It serves no cosmic purpose, it doesn’t even serve an immediate gratifying purpose; it is simply rote, tired and futile. It requires exhausting effort, fake smiles and for those of us who have the cerebral capacity to think and ponder concepts beyond feces jokes and football scores, the act of bringing one’s conversational capabilities down to the level of primates. So why do we do it?

As a spiritual person, I think part of it is due to a superficial attempt by non-spiritual people to fill a void. This void could never be filled by the aforementioned incessant drivel and contrarily, it is frequently worsened by the fact that the conversation almost always leads to conflict via political debate—often with people who are too misinformed to know what they are talking about, but insist that they are right because their favorite Fox News pundit told them what they should say. I am a Christian in that I subscribe to the Christian creed, but I am an existentialist at heart and as such, I tend to see the absolute absurdity of nearly everything. It isn’t a conscious effort; it is simply the result of keen, innate and constant observation. Some might call me an elitist, even a snob for writing these things and I have reached a point in my life where I’m at peace with being called such things because to some degree, I acknowledge that I am those things. Hey, at least I’m honest.

When I see sappy plaques or hear someone say “family is everything,” my immediate thought is “how sad.” From the viewpoint of an existentialist, I suppose family being “everything” for someone would give that person a far more optimistic view of the world than I might have, in that they have something immediate and tangible to give them the sense that their world is complete, while I see the meaninglessness and nothingness of everything around me. But when you really observe the practice of “family” by those individuals, the reality is not so convincing. Conflict, addiction, excessive materialism, rivalries, resentment, hatred of jobs; all of these things are abundant, negating the “everythingness” that family allegedly brings these people. Essentially, they hate their lives but they put on a good face about it. Score them a moral victory for faking it? Not a chance. It is a grand attempt at denying reality, and not even a good one. We, as a society, have erected a system around us that is so fundamentally fucked up and that has been in place for so long that we haven’t a clue how to undo it, so we instead pretend to embrace our self-made prisons. It is a societally-collective version of Stockholm Syndrome.

I will acknowledge that I have been the recipient of assistance from many-a-family member over the years, including some of the individuals I referred to as being merely tolerated by yours truly. I am thankful for their benevolence and I would–and have–returned the favor on occasion. I’m not declaring war on them; I’m simply stating the fact that I can appreciate the actions of a person, as well as their sanctity in the eyes of God, without feeling a need to associate with them. I have no conclusion for this little memorandum because, as I said, I’m a consistent existentialist. We’re all already ashes and dust; we just refuse to acknowledge it. Alas, I’ll end on a positive note in that the Christian in me also acknowledges that despite the utter lack of meaning in all of the nonsense that we consume ourselves with in this world, our souls transcend all of it because our Creator willed it to be so.