Continuing right on, for a change, we shall now examine the town of Brunswick, Maine. Unless you’ve lived from the area or visit Maine regularly, you may well have never heard of it. It’s a small town, twenty thousand, no bigger than my hometown of Beloeil back in Canada. Such a small town, in fact, that Matt, when I was making my travel plans, that I might not find much of interest in Brunswick.
He was, to put it lightly, way off the mark.
GASP! I have returned, and with the next part of my long-delayed Boston saga.
Last I posted, over a year ago, I had reached the far end of the Freedom Trail and climbed to the top of the Bunker Hill monument. (As an aside, I expect at least another four entries to cover the whole rest of the journey – at least two for the three days spent in Brunswick, and another two for the return trip).
EDIT: Obviously, this was written – and posted, just narrowly – before today’s news from Boston reached me. My thoughts go to anyone affected by the events.
(I realize I should go back and complete the Boston saga. I will, eventually)
Among my many hobbies, I’m one of the top staff member of a major online fansite (“major” as in one of the most popular video gaming fansites in the world per Alexa rankings, imperfect as they are). Like the vast majority of fansites, it has its own forums, and, like the vast majority of forums, that forum allows for discussion of off-topic subjects, such as social and political issues, including, of course, gay rights and gay discrimination.
In the past, like most fan sites in the world, we used to treat discussion of homosexuality as a political debate. We allowed conservatives and liberals to state their views on the matter, so long as they did so without personal attacks. We felt that this was fair; that both side got to argue their view, and give their reasonings.
It wasn’t fair, and it wasn’t right.
At the end of the day, homosexuality is people. It’s what they are (or an inalienable part of it). Homosexuality, to teenagers and young adults, means beginning to realize you’re “different”, with all that it entails. Homosexuality, to them, far too often means living afraid of anyone else finding out who they are; afraid that if anyone find out, they will get shunned, mocked, beaten. In some cases, afraid for their lives even. Homosexuality is about fearing you will lose your family, or have already lost it, over finding out who you are. Homosexuality often mean not daring to go to school anymore, because of how you will betreated there. Too often, it means suicide.
Homosexuality, on fansites, means coming online to enjoy your favorite entertainment, only find that even here, on a website dedicated to the shows they watch, the games they play, they can’t escape the hatred, the mockery, and, especially the condemntation. That even here they can’t escape being told they don’t deserve equal rights. That even here, the word that define them is used as an insult, to the point that many fansites actually censor the term: that “gay” come out as “***”.
Is it politics to say that those fans deserve to enjoy the site as much as any other fan? Is it politics to say that people won’t enjoy the site as much if a fundamental part of who they are get called immoral or a disease? No. There’s nothing political about either of these. It’s simple empathy, and common sense.
But what about going out of your way, on a fansite, to hound teenagers who are struggling with who they are to tell them they are going to hell; that they shouldn’t be able to marry; that they suffer from a disease? That’s not about being who you are, it’s not about trying to live your life – it’s about trying to tell others who they have a right to be, and how they should live their lives. That is politics. Letting it happen is politics.
At the end of the day, choosing between these two sides isn’t playing politics. Obama will win, or Romney will win. Harper will get another majority, or he won’t. Gay marriage will be legalized, or it won’t. There’s precious little we, as a fansite, could do to influence these issues, so no point in us taking a side one way or another.
What we can do, is put a little bit more good in their world. Not much. Maybe, perhaps probably, not enough.
But still more than there was yesterday. That alone is worth it.
(This is largely an edited version of the editorial I wrote to explain the change on the fansite in question. I felt like it deserved reposting)
My last entry left thing on the morning of september 29, on arrival in Boston. As a general observation, Boston is both somewhere I had never seen before, and somewhere that, as far as cities go, has always been fairly high up on my to-visit list (well ahead, for example, of New York). I remember, as a thirteen years old when my family went to Cape Cod, asking my parents to stop by Boston quite a few times, but that never happened.
The result of which being that my visit to Boston, though short, was packed, and that I don’t know if I can fit it all in one entry (also, unlike my visit to New Haven two years ago, I wasn’t limping on a still-sprained ankle the whole visit).
Anyway. A cloudy day in Boston…
As noted, I have more travel stories (with photos, although this first part will be light on photos, for reasons implicit in the title).
As with Fayeteville back in 2008, the reason for the journey was a friend’s wedding, on the coast of Maine. Not a friend I had never met before (he came up to Montreal to visit me in early 2011, with his fiancée), but a long-time online friend all the same, Matt. (one of many Matts around me these days). Plane (price) and train (doesn’t go there) were not options, so it was time to try yet another way of long-distance travel, the bus.
Since the only bus from Boston to Brunswick run in the evening, and since on the whole I prefer leaving at eight PM than leaving at four AM, I decided to spend a day in Boston along the way. (on the return trip, I spent only a few short hours, because I thought a daytime journey through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont would be good thinking. Which I was right about.
For obvious reasons, the first several hours of the trip are going to be light on pictures. Aside from the stopover at White River Junction, and a few pictures taken in the gray, rainy light of dawn, I just couldn’t take much. On the flip side, I could probably fill several entries with Boston alone, and the return journey (in broad daylight from Maine til the valley of the Winooski (see : half a dozen other entries)) also has a great deal going for it.
So after a hiatus of a year (and what a year it has been), I’ve decided to start blogging again. Because I realized I needed somewhere to put the tale of my latest journey (Boston and Maine in late september/early october), to talk about writing, and generally to share my thoughts on a variety of topics.
First observation: a year ago, as of my last blog posted here, I was a visitor in Ottawa. I loved the place, but it was a detached, visitor sort of love. That’s no longer true. My life’s here now, something that becomes more obvious each time I go back to my parents’ in Beloeil for a visit. This is where my friends are, where my home is (I’m now renting an apartment with two friends instead of renting a room in a stranger’s house), where my haunts are. While life still has a way to go with me before I can settle down, I’d strongly consider remaining here for good if I can find a job.
Second observation: I’m good at Law. Without going into details, as of the last two sets of grades I got in (the two terms of my first year), I’m every inch as good a student as my sister ever was. Given how much of an inferiority complex I used to have toward my sister results-wise, that’s huge for me.
Third observation: I can write.I mean, I’ve won NaNoWriMo a few times before, true, but hitting 50 000 words within the first week, finishing the novel before the end of the second, and despite the insane speed ending up with (of all my NaNo works to date) the one I’m most comfortable sharing with others (though it still needs work)…that’s a new one.
Fourth observation: I lost track of letting go of frustrations (that is, forgiving and putting them behind rather than letting them pile up until they come off as snide bitching) a few times in the last several years, mostly involving American politics. It cost me my dearest friend (although said friend added me back on Google+ several months after the incident, so go figure. I am mildly perplexed). It’s something I should be good at (God knows I wouldn’t have gotten through high school without being good at it), and I need to remember to do it.
Fifth observation: there was, about last month, a huge outcry about bullying in Quebec following a suicide. Lots of people came out with videos and what not denouncing bullying, and many of them stating they had themselves been bullying victims. A lot of (other) people, including some quite close to me, dismissed many of those videos as stars trying to get some sympathy capital by joining the “cause”, and people who really had no clue what bullying is. I was a bullying victim (big time – not in a “jocks picking on nerd” sense, in a “the guy the nerds thought was godawful) and frankly, I don’t give a damn why they are doing it. They could be taking up the cause for money for all I care. So long as they speak about it. It’s too easy a topic to forget about.
(Fifth and a half observation. I went to my high school reunion, as discussed in a post way down the archive.At times during the evening there was virtually a line-up to apologize to me, including both bullies themselves and the people who stood aside and did nothing)
Sixth observation: a lot of teens and young adults of Quebec reacted to the above suicide by hounding the bullies on facebook and bullying them in turn.
As I phrased it on facebook then: An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and it won’t be long before all that’s left is assholes.
Nobody, ever, deserves bullied.
Last, and not least observation: my soon to be eight months old niece is awesome .
And here I am, taking positions on American politics that don’t REALLY concern me again.
A lot of people have been blaming “the political climate” for the tragedy down in Arizona, making it clear that by political climate they mean “Sarah and pal using gun imagery in their politics”. A lot of other people have been denouncing that, pointing out that there is no evidence Lougher, the shooter, was in any way influenced by Palin. (Correctly, one might add).
But Palin & Pals’ use of violent imagery to illustrate their positions isn’t “the political climate” – it’s (rather) use of a long-standing imagery. Sarah may be the first politician to use rifle scopes in her imagery, but she’s hardly the first to use THAT image to mean “this is our target”, without any implication (and any understanding by anyone) that they meant “Shoot at ‘em!”. Granted, not all of Sarah’s friends have this defense (Angle’s “Repeal via second ammendment” moment is…kinda hard to interpret any other way), but still.
The political climate was illustrated to me, I think, about two years ago in a lengthy and at times a little bitter debate between one of my closest friends and I, concerning Obama’s inauguration, and the participation of a baptist pastor known for his support of anti-gay positions, whose name escape me right now. My friend argued that, due to his opposition to gay marriage et al, the said pastor – and all who thought like him – should be rejected, ignored. That because their opinion differed from his, they were not worthy of consideration from Obama. Coming hot on the heels of years of the Bush administration (and we all remember how terms like “Unamerican” were abused in those eight years), it struck me as wrong-headed: just because you disagree with someone’s opinion on one point, doesn’t mean you should reject them on everything.
There is such a thing as “Agreeing to disagree”, and it doesn’t prevent people from working together.
Except, it seems, in America, where people who disagree with you on politics aren’t simply people who disagree with you, but enemies. Traitors. To be rejected, to be shoved aside, to be ignored (and, if possible, mocked at, or gloated at, or otherwise reminded of how badly they’re losing – “Never have so many been so wrong about everything” being a Cheney that’s still stuck in my throat several years down). In other words, to be treated as less because of their opinions.
This is what I’d call the political climate in America. Not the more out there imagery, but this trend, pervasive to the point where many, even people on both side of the spectrum who are in no way likely to call for violence, and whom I would describe as very intelligent, consider it the normal course of things.
And, unlike Palin’s gun imagery, which remain just that (imagery), and unlikely in and of itself to have much political impact, this mentality strikes me as a breeding ground for “lone nuts” (Lone being an exceedingly relative term in the internet age). The jump from “She put gunsight on a map targeting this congresswoman, I must shoot her!” require a pretty unbalanced mind (they do exist, but it’s likely something else would have triggered them – maybe Jodie Foster, and if we start removing everything from public consciousness that may trigger a lone nut…well, okay, we’d have to wipe out humanity to do that).
The jump from “These people are the enemy, whose opinion should not be considered” to “These people are the enemy, who should be shoved aside”, to “These people are the enemy, whose influence should be removed” to “Remove your enemies” to killing people…how easy a jump is that? It’s a tragically natural progression (regression, perhaps) of thoughts, where each step naturally follow from the last. It’s happened before, countless times. It will happen again, so long as humanity remain human.
Not everyone will do it, of course. “Killing is wrong” is also deeply ingrained in a lot of us, so even if the above steps feel natural, most people will stop short of the precipice even if they otherwise subscribe to the general philosophy. Nor will every killing be blamable on the political climate and the hate & loathe rhetoric both sides have been gleefully engaging in. It is, in fact, quite possible that this tragedy belong in the later group, and would have happened even in the most quiet of climates.
But what I am saying is…the rhetoric both sides have engaged in is the sort that should make a good breeding ground for lone nuts. Lone nuts who, thanks to the magic of the internet, will only be “lone” in a relative sort of way (although that may not always be a bad thing – see last point – it will be the moment a lone nut gets encouraged into acting by other lone nuts online, but plot out their move on their own). Lone nuts who, thanks to the magic of modern armament, will have the power to do single-handedly a great deal of damage. And lone nuts who, thanks to generally acting alone, and often being very dead-set on accomplishing their goals, will be exceedingly difficult to stop.