Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 26

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

I heard a woman talking on the NC State University radio about wanting to go vegan and straight edge because choosing to reject what the world tells you to put into your body is the purest form of rebellion. I see her point. However, something about that notion – the rejection of the world – makes me sad. It means the world is worth rejecting.

I watched the Google press conference on their new games streaming service, Stadia. They talked about architecture and data centers and how you’ll eliminate the need for any kind of hardware requirements on the user. Music’s streaming, movies are streaming, why not games? It sounds like a democracy, like it’s giving everyone the opportunity to do something only a very few could do before. But the hands holding that democracy are the most bloated, ubiquitous tech and data giant in the world.

Ever been to Rome? Did you see the colloseum? How about any other handful of ancient monuments? Well, most of those were built by Emperors. In the ancient world, a surefire way to hold your power as a tyrant was to build lavish public works. Everyone’s happy and equal. Unless you disagreed with your lord, then you lose your head. But I can’t stress enough that it was the TYRANTS – not the Roman Republic or Athenian Democracy – that placed protections on the livelihood of the lowest common denominator.

That’s the rub, eh? We all want to have our cakes and eat ’em. Forks at the ready. We want to be free to rule ourselves, but when we vote together, it’s so easy for the majority to manipulate things into existence like ‘segregation’ or ‘apartheid.’ We want the security from injustice, but when we place our hopes in the righteous fist of absolute power, it’s so easy for that fist to crush the people at the margins who just won’t play ball.

What’s right? What’s wrong? It’s not so simple.

I don’t think I’ll ever become a vegan. Long gone are my high school days of being straight-edge. And I’ll probably buy into Stadia if it’s a cheap, easy solution. At the same time, I know I’ve got a golden lap, a wine-drunk fountain, the fortune of American dollars and white skin. I can participate in the oligarchy or autocracy in equal easy measure. For me – and people like me – there’s never been a difficult choice. That’s the real injustice.

Novel Count: 30,740

Currently Reading: The Sense of an Ending, Julian Barnes

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The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.

Plato, The Republic


Coffee Log, Year 2, Day 21

Hi.

Coffee: Maxwell House Drip, Office Coffee

Chloe Cooper Jones wrote an article for The Verge chronicling the post-fame life of Ramsey Orta. Ramsey Orta was briefly famous in 2014, though not for the type of things most people get famous over. He was the man who filmed a cop choking Eric Garner to death in New York City.

I don’t want to spend too much time summarizing Jones’s article – mostly because she tells Orta’s story better than I can – but to give a quick run-down, Orta was trailed by cops, harassed, and eventually arrested on maybe-propped-up-but-definitely-exagerrated gun charges after coming forward with the film. He’s still in prison. He’s got anxiety. He’s got a checkered past – he once held a knife to a kid’s throat in junior high – and he admits it. At prison, they tried feeding him rat poison. He didn’t eat it. Now they destroy any food his family sends him so that he has to eat what they serve.

Here’s what I want to talk about: democracy. On paper, we live in a country that is by and for the people. We have a right to vote, a right to elect. We can choose whether or not to exercise that right, but regardless of our choice, we are all beholden to the (popular) outcome. Of course, nothing’s perfect, and some peoples’ voices don’t sound quite as loud as others – there’s whole textbooks full of laws to ensure we have uneven representation. But still, a vote’s a vote, and your vote does have power. This is what we, as a country, have voted for: feeding a man rat poison for trying to save his friend.

There was some commotion across the street from the bank today. Someone reported gunshots, someone else said there was an accident. On the way to lunch, I saw three cop cars and one ambulance by a bus stop. The cops were talking to a black man. Another black man was watching some distance away. I tried to get a good read on the situation – no guns were out, no one was dead or dying. I decided not to stop. When I passed back the same way after lunch, the cops were still out there with the black man. He was wearing red. He had a baseball cap.

I didn’t do anything. My thought was – this seems safe; no-one’s on the ground; everything’s fine. And maybe it was. Or, maybe they’ll arrest him for whatever reason – good or bad – and cart him off to a cell where they stomp on his ramen and put rat pellets in his meatloaf. Who knows?

The point is, I’m responsible. Good or bad, freedom or tyranny, you and I are responsible. Every man or woman that’s beaten, abused, or murdered by government action is blood on your hands. In very limited cases, that blood might be justified. But look in the eyes of Ramsey Orta and tell me – are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure?

Novel Count: 30,740

Currently Reading: Killing Commendatore, Haruki Murakami; FINISHED! 

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Paranoia and fear form their own prison, one Orta is likely to live in for the rest of his life.
Do you wish you could go back and do it differently? Not take the video?
I’d waited a year, known him a year, before I asked this question. He looks away from me and lowers his head.
Finally he says, “What does it matter?”

Chloe Cooper Jones, Fearing for His Life, published March 13th 2019 on The Verge


Coffee Log, Day 200

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s; Don’t know how much you miss something until it’s gone. I spent forty-five minutes this morning unboxing, washing, and testing the new coffee pot. It’s nothing fancy, but it makes a good cup.

A girl and her father went around the apartments sticking voter registration forms in everyone’s doors. When they got to mine, the girl looked in my window and our eyes locked. She’s thirteen, fourteen, pigtails only a kid could pull off. She had a blue dress. I was so surprised to see her I didn’t have time to smile so maybe that’s why she hid. It was comedy: I see her drop down below the windowsill; she’s walking like a prowling lion; two feet, four feet, ten – she’s at the door; I’m glancing over, trying not to spook her; she slips the registration form and runs away giggling.

When she was gone, I got wondering: was that an innocent fear – the kind that makes kids creep behind their parents’ legs in the super-stores – or was it something born of 2018, the kind of neighborhood fear that puts horns on pedestrians and ghosts in every window? I don’t know. It was pretty funny, pretty sad. I wanted to tell her ‘Good job.’ Hell of an American way to grow up, getting out the vote.

I’m already registered, was already planning to vote this November. Now I’m geared up again: let’s make a world where our kids feel safe and comfortable.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

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“Elections belong to the people. It’s their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters.” – Abraham Lincoln

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Coffee Log, Day 195

Hi.

Coffee: Sumatra Medium-Dark Roast, Trader Joe’s

My bank branch flies it’s flag at half-mast for John McCain. I remember my Grandmother voting McCain in the primary against Bush. The man had a long American history. He stood for some things I disagree with, some that I do agree with. In ten years, what will we remember him for?

One of the vipers of democratic progress is the gradual dismemberment of heroes. No-one is perfect. Everyone keeps skeletons packed in closets. With more information and a greater appetite for justice, we begin – rightfully – pulling those skeletons out. This leads to underrepresented voices being heard. Dig enough, though, and who’s left to look up to?

A friend said “McCain doesn’t deserve the praise.” He’s right, of course. It’s important to know John the man as much as John the hero, just as it’s important to know our founding fathers were wicked men holding other men in bondage. But strip all the heroes to their wet, naked sin and what do we have left to look up to?

That’s an open question. I don’t have an answer.

Currently Reading: Autumn, Ali Smith

Support Relief for Family Suffering at the BorderRAICES DONATION CAMPAIGN

“Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself, to a cause, to your principles, to the people on whom you rely and who rely on you” – John McCain

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