COMMENTARY

Rehab Stories: Knives Through Hearts

By: Aramie Louisville Vas

Art: Jessica Price Webb (after Edvard Munch)

Last month, I entered a rehab center. It was everything you’d’ve expected it to be. Wait: what did you expect?! My bad; they are all so different. Ok. Let me start at the beginning. In April I left my current relationship and went to live at my parents’. My heart broke every consecutive day after that. Broke this morning, in fact. Cried so hard I retched and shivered under cool, clean blankets. But I digress.

(Each musical quote you see down here by Louisville band called I Have A Knife – IHAK – is relevant, and from the latest album Criminals Into Kings. More on them later. If you’re reading this, you’ll like ‘em. Give ‘em a gander.)

In April, 2017, I was a MONUMENTAL idiot and went to go hang out with someone I thought I knew but didn’t, really. There were some important things happening over there that I was naively unaware of – I’m an artist, drawn to other talented artists. And with that comes a teensy bit of consequence. Lemme give it to you straight: I ended up with a DUI. My first. It was handcuffs, the police station, the whole deal. I was shaking in my little boots. And blew, what 3x the legal limit? Oh. My. God. ME?! Yeah. Me.

I ended up having to call my PARENTS to come get me – oh, yeah! at the age of 36! -, shivering on a cold, metal bench in some kind of private cell. All in all, the police were actually quite nice to me. I overheard the arresting cop saying “I don’t know who let her get behind the wheel of that car in this condition. But they are certainly no friend of hers. Because she seems like a really nice person.” And cop or no cop, I was touched by this. Then practiced a month or two of self-hatred, wondering how and why I could be so smart and yet so dumb to trust what was essentially a complete stranger/acquaintance of mutual friends with what was my Entire Life and the lives and feelings of those around me.

Then something else happened … I began to heal. Every time I began to fall and spin out, someone came to my aid. Just the way I’ve always come to everyone else’s aid and side, all my life. Every time I woke up with a nightmare, someone was on the other end of the phone or the even the godforsaken Facebook. And I began to cry from the overwhelming amounts of love, and not the pain. And I went to court, and faced the judge, surrounded by all manner of people. Shaking, once again, but holding it down like the little martial arts and weight lifter that I am. It was so goddamn scary.

“Shit got real. You sealed the deal.” – I Have A Knife

The police kept a constant discourse about how we’d be taken into custody for talking, phones going off, or food. And I’m looking over going (internally) “SHIT I’VE GOT SKITTLES in my bag. CUSTODY?!” Eep. No lawyer, nothing, no idea what to do. Then my father magically goes up to Assistant D.A. who turns around and turns out to be a dude I know from another walk of life. Without knowing who this man is, barreling up to him, he puts together everything in an instant and counsels us exactly what to do. I squeak out his name and immediately shut up, spending the next hour wondering if I should be horrified or grateful that this human has seen me in the courtroom. Wincing. It was wince-worthy. And humiliating. Do not do what I did, y’all. Stay the fuck home, okay? I am here to tell you. Here I am, thinking I’m about being goddamned handcuffed and shot, that’s the wildness of my imagination at THIS point.

“Homocide by cop/this shit has got to stop” – I Have A Knife

Anyway, the entire reason I was so raw in the courtroom was that I had JUST gotten out of rehab the day before. I put myself there, voluntarily. I knew there was an issue. I was in there for 6 long days and Jesus Christ: I LOVED it. Or, more accurately, I loved the people. I saw everything their mothers or fathers or guardians must see, and didn’t give two shits if they were there for heroin or pills or alcohol or suicide or complete, absolute, psychosis. I hopped in there wearing a shirt from a hard-hitting classic hardcore band called I Have A Knife, from my hometown of Louisville, KY. They’ve recently disbanded, but two albums are out and it’s fronted by Sean Garrison who was in a different band called Kinghorse back in the day. Kinghorse was produced by Glenn Danzig of all people, and I’d have to consider Sean part of the older brother crew I never had growing up. Always there for others, and there for me no matter how damn crazy I got. The IHAK shirt featured a rendering of Bobby Hill (as in King of the Hill) holding a bottle of something with XXX in one hand, and a bottle of Xanax in the other. Around his visage are the words “I Have A Knife/We’re here to party.” Almost immediately, my roommate Erin begged me to tell the story of what the shirt meant, then begged me to draw her a copy of it. It was adorable. I couldn’t curl up in bed on anxiety meds without her hopping around: “Didja draw it yet?” “Aw, girl. Not yet!” I eventually did though. She was cute as a damned button. She had been beaten by a steel pipe by her boyfriend. Black eye. Hurt shoulder. I shuddered through the entire description. Then we sat on the bed and cried together until dinner.

“No one is lazy/No one is trash/Just driven crazy/Stinging from the lash/A hellish childhood of endless shit/You couldn’t carry a single day of it/Oh, you must always stay on guaaaaard …” – I Have A Knife

When I got home from rehab, all I could do is gallop around the heavy bag at the gym, minding my form. Throwing goddamned heavy hooks, for a tiny person. Walking into the gym crying on lots more days than not. Going “Welp. Here it is.”

“And there you go/And here you are.” – I Have A Knife

And then there were the seemingly endless moments of not being able to STOP punching. Heavy bags. Walls. Door jambs. It was what it was … hurt fists, and all.

What does it take to live this life? Sheer guts and stamina? Mayhem? Chaos on top of fear with whipped cream, and a cherry on top? Singing your fucking heart out in too-hot shower with someone else on the phone, making you giggle like crazy over something ridiculous?

How about some sheer belligerence?:

“Evan, do you think you could slow down on this take?”
“Uhh … do you think you could go fuck yourself?”

There you have it, folks.

*I Have A Knife, in all its glorious crashiness;
Sean Garrison (Voices)
Gabrielle Kays (Bass)
Evan Wallace (Drums)
Greg Livingston (Guitars)
ihaveaknife.bandcamp.com

I Didn’t Recognize My Best Friend After the War

 

by: Isaac McShane

I saw a meme today that really tore me up. The message it sent was upsetting, along with the sad truth that our media is littered with such crap, but what upset me most was who posted it and how destitute he’s become. When you are friends with combat vets you learn to moderate your feed to reduce the propaganda and negative rhetoric without leaving your friends list in the single digits. It’s impossible to filter all of it and the news in social media is often heart breaking.

My childhood best friend is an Iraqi war veteran. He’s proud of having served his country, and should be, despite coming back a changed human and not for the better. During our adolescence we adventured back and forth across the country without a care in the world and got into plenty of trouble along the way. After he came back things went from bad to worse and we were regular weekend warriors at the county jail, mostly for petty crimes like bar fights or smoking a joint on the beach. We partied hard. I knew things wouldn’t get better unless I made serious life changes. By the time I left the salt life I didn’t have much to my name and moved far away to a place I had no contacts and started over from the beginning. It took me ten years to clean by name up and there’s nothing more liberating than earning your own freedom.

My old running buddy spent that decade developing a terrible drug problem, along with an accelerated case of pathological lying, kleptomania, unchecked aggression along with other developmental dispositions.  He had a kid, went back to prison, his dad died, then his wife ODed and died. It was almost as if he was attracted to burning bridges, a bi product of being institutionalized on both ends of the spectrum.   I love him, I love his family, but he’s volatile and that breaks my heart. In his world that is ok. He is calloused to breaking the hearts of those who love him.

As petty as it is, I will remain friends with him but again I have unfollowed him, in the social media sense as well as my interest . When I saw the post, my immediate reaction, like most of the time, is to bang out a witty or semi-profound explanation of why I so strongly disagree with the post. And like most of the time I chose against it. Such a rebuttal is feudal.  He’s full of hate, ignorance, accustomed to friction, close minded and stubborn as a mule. Of his kind there are many.

Maybe he’ll read this one day and understand it better than a “public confrontation”, but the purpose of this story is because I don’t think I can explain my position to him, I have to try to explain it to anyone who reads this.

From what I gather about the country’s current political opinions, I would guess that if two people read this, fifty percent of them would either misinterpret or resent my position.  Before I describe the meme I will disclose that the humanitarian in me wants to save every human life, but the predominant realist in me wants those who work hard to get what they earn before those who take handouts for granted.

The meme was a picture of a dirty, scared, blonde haired, blue eyed little girl. Need I say more? Yes, I need to say more. it read “Please share this if you think America’s own homeless children should be taken care of before foreign refugees”. That’s the meme. Before you draw your own conclusions, I’d like to say that I get the underlying message. Like dogs and cats, it’s inhumane to breed and deal (inbred) purebreds when there are so many rescue dogs and cats in our own neighbors who desperately need shelter. If you can’t help yourself you can’t help others. We don’t have our shit together and we have to take care of our kids, America’s future, before we can use those resources on anything external. I get that.

If I were to have banged out a hasty response upon my immediate reaction, it would have said something like this: If a foreign refugee has spent their entire life honestly working hard  to come to America to seek sanctuary from a volatile environment, they will be lucky to make it through the application process. If they are fortunate enough to navigate their way through the dense bureaucratic red tape beforetheir approval and make their way to America, following the refugee assimilation program for the next six to ten years to demonstrate their commitment to becoming a contributing member to our society, I think they are a greater asset and are therefore just as important as someone born into their citizenship and having been dealt a shitty hand of cards with parents dead and in prison.

I feel strongly about that because I’ve been in his shoes and I’ve learned to open myself to understand other people’s perspectives. I’ve been in the dark and I’ve seen the light. Additionally, I lost all my rights, spent years feeling inferior to my fellow citizens, worked hard for a long time to restore my rights. Many of us our fortunate to be born into such a great place; we are born into freedom. That is a foreign concept to most of the world. The only thing greater than freedom is the act of freeing, known as liberation.

The only thing I have left for him is tough love. I hope his daughter isn’t influenced by him. He will never see anything but red, white and blue soaked in blood. I wish I never saw that meme. I wish he never posted that meme. I wish he never went to war. I wish We never went to war. I wish we didn’t repeat so many mistakes from the time we colonized this county and conquered its previous inhabitants.  I wish we maintained the original values of strength in numbers, all are welcome. My family has been here for ten generations but we came here as Irish refugees.

Pirate Odyssey Fantastic

 

by: Sammi “Mayor Gonzo” Mays

The time is now. The epic begins on Nest Key, an uninhabited mangrove island off the Straits of Florida, where a fantastical band of renegades, who call themselves the Pirates of the Florida Keys, are in the throes of a party of mythical proportions.

Unlike other modern day pirates, this society of unabashed brigands don dazzling head dresses and snazzy grass skirts and flock by the hundreds to the exotic locale.  In a staggering spectacle of debauchery they consume mass quantities of Pirate’s Choice Rhum from its legendary bottomless bottle, and in a collective trance fueled by Gulf and West Indies music, they dance in a heated frenzy until exhausted.

Little do they realize that on this day, their gluttonous behavior would come back to bite them on the booty; for the Pirates of the Florida Keys are unaware of the far-fetched odyssey that awaits them.

The story you are about to read is one of fiction; any similarities to persons or places is purely coincidental.

It is the dog days of summer and in the heat of the day, the weather has taken an ominous turn. The groovy blue sky has suddenly disappeared behind a tremulous blanket of black. Two waterspouts duel for hydro as they make a run for the tiny atoll. The birds have all long since flown, and to save their vessels from grounding, so must the Pirates of the Florida Keys.

The Captain quickly delegates a cleanup crew to remove all evidence of their presence.  They must leave the island a bit better than they had found it, for it is an eons-old agreement between the Pirates of the Florida Keys and the Party Gods.

However, on this fateful day, in their haste, an empty bottle has been overlooked and it is this lone abandoned bottle that angers the Gods. Once looked upon with favor, and in a simple twist of fate, the Gods have become disenchanted with the Pirates of the Florida Keys, and before they are to be allowed back into the graces of the party deities, they would be ordered to make amends by running the dangerous gauntlet of the bars – all while on a noble quest to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary. The Pirates’ journey home would be a long treacherous one fraught with peril, uncertainties, and hangovers.

From the blackened sky, the seething squall drove the Pirates of the Florida Keys to seek shelter in the shallow bay behind the Caribbean Club. Pointing their bows into the stinging head wind, the flotilla anchored down and in a race against the encroaching storm — while dodging deadly coconut missiles — they make their way ashore.

Once inside the sweltering cavernous bar, flickering candlelight brought to focus a strange brew of badass bikers, beer-bellied boozers, busty babes, Bogart’s ghost and a sniveling midget from the third world Isle of No Where.

With their backs against the wall, and fortifying themselves with rhum, the Pirates of the Florida Keys had just settled in for the duration of the storm when an unexpected thunderclap lights up the night and commands their attention!

There, out of a scene from Frankenstein, framed in the doorway, stood a terrifying figure dripping wet and smelling of rotting vegetation at low tide. “It’s Aga-Ou!” the midget from No Where screamed. “The angry voodoo Spirit of the Sea!” Oh but it was far worse than Aga-Ou.  Straight from the insane asylum with a hideous Jagermeister grin plastered to its face, it was none other than the notorious bogyman Cujo!

He was armed with a roll of raffle tickets, selling chances to benefit his favorite charity, the Cujo Gone Wild Fund. It was a profound moment when the Pirates of the Florida Keys realized their trial at hand was to survive the dark stormy night and the con of Cujo.

One dollar a ticket, six tickets for five or an arm’s length for ten, with stealth precision Cujo worked the Carib like a carnie working a carnival thoroughfare. Oddly enough, not one single pirate questioned his validity or even asked what the raffle was for.  Was Cujo crazy or a genius? As pirates buy quickly and back away from Cujo, it seems his foul breathe and bad hygiene was merely a tactic to sell his bogus tickets. His purple Crown Royal drawstring pouch bulged with ill-gotten gains.

Eager to count his earnings Cujo slithered off to the head but the Pirates’ reprieve from his funkiness would be short lived. From the bowels of the darken bar came the sound of a commode flushing, then the whooshing, choking sound of a second flush – and with a prodigious pea green aura surrounding him, the bar held its breath as Cujo hastily exited the latrine, accompanied by a nuclear stench that could have backed a buzzard off a gut wagon.

Choosing the lesser of the two evils and figuring their chances of survival better out than in, the Pirates of the Florida Keys were flushed from the den of darkness into yet another tribulation.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the wind and the water had grown eerily calm. The squall moved out over the open Gulf and in its place rolled in a dangerous blinding fog. But there was something enticing about this mysterious haze. Curious of the riches that they had convinced themselves were on the other side; perhaps even enough to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary, with their ship bells ringing and their fog horns blasting,  boat-by-boat the fearless denizens of the sea disappeared into the murk.

It seemed days had passed that the armada wandered in complete oblivion until – what?! Neon lights and samba music guiding the Pirates of the Florida Keys in a conga line through the foggy quagmire?! No need to explain that of which cannot be explained. There are many strange and inexplicable occurrences in the Conch Republic like Yellow Book ad salesmen and foam parties.

When the great impossible foggy passage finally spit the sea dogs out the other side, the Pirates were soaked to the bone, befuddled, and out of control. Compasses and steering mechanisms failed to function. A mighty magnetic force with kinetic powers had hold of the fleet and was transporting the Pirates of the Florida Keys to a distant bar far, far away.

From overhead, an airship mesmerized the captive voyagers with billboards that flashed: Shipwreck’s Bar! Free Booze! Free Bait! Free Beer! Free Burgers! And Helium! It was Gomorra by the Sea alright and like any good pirate, the Pirates of the Florida Keys took full advantage of all its offerings.

Chug-a-lugging swill and dancing the cha cha while singing shanties with Donald Duck voices; the Pirates are completely oblivious to a gnarled low-down man huddled alone in a smoky dim-lit corner of the bar, fiddling with his pocket fisherman.

Just when it seemed the strange couldn’t get stranger, the Pirates were about to encounter the scummy, scheming, scandalous, cock-eyed serpent of the sea: Ol’ Captain One Eye –and he had been watching their every move!

To get a closer look at his prey, Ol’ One Eye reached back into the socket of his cocked eye and plucked it out! Holding the slimy yellowish orb between his stubby thumb and nubby fingers and, like a cobra ready to strike, he raised his hand and propped his elbow up on the bar and, resembling some spooky macabre periscope, turned the forearm ever so slowly, allowing the eerie eye to get a good look at each and every one of the Pirates Of the Florida Keys. He was not amused.

Disgusted and worked into a rage by their slaphappy camaraderie, the crusty red-faced rogue gulped his grog and let out a belch. Beer foam clung to his wiry handlebar mustache and a menacing curled lip appeared from under his ZZ Top-like beard as he slammed down a familiar Crown Royal coffer onto the bar, challenging the Pirates of the Florida Keys to a double or nothing drink off!

A rumble could be heard among the Pirates as they began to speculate on where the reprehensible Ol’ One Eye had gotten the booty. Somewhere along the way had bogyman Cujo fallen victim to one of the Ol’ Captain’s no prey, no pay schemes? No matter, their eyes grew wide for before them lay a small fortune, more than enough to save the Wild Bird Sanctuary and perhaps even earn their way back into the graces of the Gods of Frivolity.

Ol’ One Eyes’ karma was just about to catch up with him though for he had no idea that the Pirates of the Florida Keys were former members of the Conch Republic Olympic Drinking Team. Ok, so granted that was then. These days the Pirates just simply drank for the hell of it and to avoid hangovers.

With his secret hollow leg, Leroy the Pirate was designated as the team’s champion; and the rules were kept simple: remain seated, remove all prosthetics, and no hurling!

To signify the start of the match the house band belted out the tune: “One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer” and then slash-for-slash the opponents began trading shots.

The competition was fierce, and the momentum swung back and forth like a hypnotic game of double-jointed Chinese Ping Pong. No words were spoken between Leroy and Ol’ One Eye just a good old fashion stare down. They were psyched and all around a carnival atmosphere.

To break up some of the guzzling monotony, the Pirates of the Florida Keys gambled and placed wagers on whether or not bad-boy Pete Rose would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. They chowed down on funnel cakes and got henna tattooed while taking turns riding the pony and having their pictures taken.

The summer moon rose and fell for two nights and three days when, near dawn, an all too familiar stench of rotting vegetation at low tide rolled in over the spectacle.

“It’s Aga-Ou!” the midget from No Where screamed. “He’s back!”

Out to settle a score and to collect the soul of the loser was the voracious, vile and vicious Cujo – and still plastered to his face was that same hideous Jagermeister grin.

The surprise appearance by the devil himself startled Ol’ One Eye. “Drink up Captain!” Cujo vehemently spoke.  “I believe you have something that belongs to me.”

It was evident that the Ol’ Captain was having trouble keeping his only eye on Cujo and on the game at the same time. Eternity was at hand and it seemed that the Ol’ Scallywag was just a shot away from having made two really bad mistakes.

The barkeep poured the umpteenth round and with his perception already askew and nerves frazzled, he made the only real fatal mistake a one-eyed pirate could possibly make – he blinked! Now in this warped universe everyone knows that when a one-eyed pirate blinks, he’s blind – and so with a toss of his scurvy head he knocked back the shot, the barstool wobbled, and down went One Eye!

Realizing they had won the Pirates of the Florida Keys turned to high-five one another and raised a mug of Bomba’s mushroom tea in homage to the Party Gods; for good ole Leroy the Pirate had drunk the sick and twisted One Eye blind! Victory was theirs, as was the all-seeing eyeball, and a tumultuous buzz to boot!

When they turned back again Cujo and Ol’ One Eye were missing – and ever since that day legend has it that no matter where your travels may take you, if you keep your ear to the ground you can hear the grinding discord of Ol’ Captain One Eye laboring away at calling the same repetitive 69 numbers from Bingo Parlor Hell.

Making a hasty retreat the motley crew took to their vessels and as if by some strange magic, one-by-one the Pirates of the Florida Keys fell into a dream-like trance; where on the wings of cuckoos, boobies and loons they were safely transported back to their homeport.

Islanders and landlubbers and even tourist from near and far came to celebrate the Heroes triumphant return, and to bear witness to the passing of the Crown Royal Pouch. The Party Gods gazed down on the Captain and crew with favor and reallocated their blessings, for the Pirates of the Florida Keys had saved the Wild Bird Sanctuary from extinction!

Upon the Pirates’ arrival, standing at the top of the dock was Mayor Gonzo who had been ordained by the Gods to present a special proclamation. “Quiet everybody!” the midget from No Where screamed. “The Gonz is gonna speak!”

“As the Official Honorary Mayor of Key West and fabulous Florida Keys … for living by the ‘Party With A Purpose’ creed, and for just being good-hearted pirates … with so many islands and so many bridges and with so many weird wonderful people in these Keys, may this rubber chicken – the international symbol of mirth, and of the Office of Key West Honorary Mayor, be your Key to Key West and to all the fabulous Florida Keys – opening doors you never knew existed!

It is my order, and I do hereby declare, that from this day forward, and forever more, that ye shall be known as the Parrot Heads of the Florida Keys!”

Ides of Trump — Inteview with Ted Sullivan Hollywood Writer and Spokesman

 

by: Kidman J. Williams

The Ides of Trump movement — you may not have heard of it. The movement is a non-violent attempt to get the attention of a president who doesn’t seem to take what people want seriously, as if any politician does, but this time feels different to a lot of people.

The idea of this movement is to get millions of disgruntled Americans to send postcards to the White House to maybe grab the attention of this administration and do what is right for the people, not what is right for a few people’s own special interests.

I had found this movement on a Facebook posting by a chance search. Full disclosure, I got into a debate with the runner of the page. Couldn’t help myself. Then I reached out and they were gracious enough to give me this interview.

Ted Sullivan is a screen writer and producer in Hollywood. He has worked on numerous projects including Supergirl to Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

I had asked him if he would like to start this interview off by speaking about his work outside of the movement. He answered with a, “I’m not sure how it ties in to anything related to this political protest?”

It does.

There was a time when people listened to musicians, artists, writers and even actors. We trusted what they said. If we didn’t agree with them we at least respected them as citizens of this great nation. Don’t forget, California not only elected two different actors as governor, but one of them was elected President in the 80’s.

Kidman J. Williams:

 What is your title at Ides of Trump? Are you a founding member or a spokesman?

 

Hollywood script writer Ted Sullivan

Ted Sullivan of Ides of Trump:

We don’t really have titles or spokespeople. My friend Zack is the true father of the idea. I’m more like the crazy uncle who stumbles in with a lot of opinions. But we’ve both been trying to do this while juggling our professional lives and family. And we’ve been really lucky, too. A lot of great people have come helped us create a secure website, design logos and images. They’ve all donated their time because they were inspired by the idea amd felt they wanted to help get the word out. But it’s a total grassroots program. We don’t pay to promote it or anything. But within a week of launching, we’ve got tens of thousands of people on board. And we’re always trying to expand it. I hope it continues to grow.

 

 

How did the Ides of Trump movement get started? What was it that inspired you to get involved in such an out-of-the-box movement?

 

The Ides of Trump came from my friend Zack. He brought his little daughter to the Women’s March. It was obviously a great experience, but kinda stressful, too. It was really crowded, and I think he kind of wished there was a way for parents and young kids to participate without being in the middle of hundreds of thousands of people.

 

A few days later, I was up visiting him in Berkeley, along with some our other friends. This guy Sean and Brad. We were all expressing our excitement at being part of the different marches. Brad and his family went to Washington. Sean and Zack were in Northern California. I’d been down in LA, where it was just bananas. And we were all raving about the incredible protest signs we’d seen.

 

Zack said he wanted to mail them to White House and brought up the idea of turning the signs into post cards. That got us talking. We all started “yes-and”ing each other. At first we thought of Valentine’s Day. We thought it would be great to get people to send Trump Valentine Day cards. And I think is still a great idea for next year. But I was concerned we didn’t have enough time to get people up to speed or get the word out. We talked about Tax Day, but there was already a march scheduled for then. I then suggested the middle of March. The Ides of March. And then Zack and Sean said at the exact same time, “The Ides of Trump.” In a writer’s room, when something like that happens, you kinda know you got something worth exploring. So the idea stuck.

 

Zack ran with it the next day. He set up our online presence. Then he and I started passing copy back and forth to each other. He’s really good at that. Figuring out how to get people zeroed in on the idea. I got artist friends I know to help out with some images and then we started spreading it around.

 

I managed to call on some of my friends in entertainment. Actors and musicians. Writers. People who have access to a big audience. And some started to help us get the word out. But in general, it’s been a natural, self-propelling engine.

 

Some people have said we’re stupid, because Trump will just ignore them or throw the postcards away. No shit. It’s not like he’s going to keep them for his Presidential Library. But I do believe this can get under his skin. I do believe he will hate seeing thousands of postcards showing up every day with #TheIdesOfTrump written on them. Or addressed to “President Bannon.”

 

We totally get that this isn’t going to convert any Trump voters. Trump will do that himself when he doesn’t bring back the jobs he promised or when cuts their health care. And we sure as hell don’t think we’re going to change Trump’s mind. That’s impossible. What we are trying to do is keep up the pressure with an easily promotable event.

 

We’re trying to remind the press to stay focused. We’re trying to tell members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that we are watching their every move. And our outrage is not going away. We need to maintain our moral outrage. Because this fight isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. And we have to create markers along the road to run to. The Ides of Trump is in the middle of March. We got that covered. Other people can fill out some other dates in the calendar.

 

 

What kind of things do you expect to be said in these postcards? You want to send postcards out to the White House to have millions of peoples’ voices heard. And you keep addressing President Trump as the “President (for now).” What is the end goal of this movement?

 

Well, like I said before, we want people to turn their protest signs into postcards. And come up with new ones. Lord knows Trump and his team of clowns are providing material for new signs every day.

 

But one thing we’re very clear about NOT wanting to see on the postcards is anything violent. Or any calls for violence. Our referencing the Ides of March is about voicing dissent. We want to undermine Trump with humor, sarcasm and righteous indignation.

 

Look, Zack is a writer. I’m a writer. Our friend Sean is a writer. Brad is a songwriter. And we all passionately believe the pen is way mightier than the sword. Unless, of course, someone is jamming you in the chest with a sword. But we’re all anti-violent. Wow. I know. What a brave stance. But regardless, we won’t put up with that kind of bullshit on our site or feeds. Because we think it undermines the message.

 

One of our goals is to mess with Trump. To get under his incredibly thin skin. To keep the press focused on the real story. And, ideally, to get Congress to do their fucking job and investigate Trump. Look into his goddam finances.

 

And honestly, I’d love to drive that guy out of the White House. Just force him to quit. And I kind of believe that’s maybe possible. Trump’s a notorious quitter. He’s weak. The guy runs whenever things get tough. I can’t imagine he’s going to be able to handle the pressures of this job. So, we’d love to make his life so shitty and uncomfortable that he just gives up. Pipe dream? Maybe. But maybe not.

 

Because Trump is perhaps the only President we’ve ever had whose life was unquestionably better outside politics. Politicians usually need to stay elected to have all the good stuff they love. But Trump had it before he was President. He was famous. A celebrity. He could do whatever he wanted. He’s got a golden toilet, for Christ’s sake. He lives in a fucking golden tower. He used to be able to do whatever he wanted. It was fun.

 

Now people expect him to work. And harder than he’s ever worked before. That’s got to be miserable for him. I mean, just look at the pictures of the guy. He looks like someone broke his favorite toy. I mean, he’s had to take three goddamn vacations in his first goddamn month in office. That is not the sign of a man enjoying the gig. Or handling it well.

 

 

I’ve heard it from many Liberals that they want Trump impeached. If the people are wanting that, are they prepared for what Mike Pence will bring to the White House?

 

Well, I would hope it was more than liberals. I would hope it’s anyone who is concerned about democracy and the legitimacy of our President. I would hope it was Republicans who are increasingly concerned about his erratic behavior. His strange man crush for Putin. His insistence that leaks are more important than what the leaks revealed. His Muslim ban that he claimed wasn’t a Muslim ban except when he said it was a Muslim ban. Him siding with Russians and Wikileaks over U.S. intelligence. His odd reticence to even discuss or examine Russia’s interference in the election. His desire to push actual fake news while calling out real news. These are big, big issues. Troubling ones. And they’re not limited to “liberals.” And they’re certainly not “partisan.”

 

And, I totally agree that Pence is WAY worse. Trump is a clown. He’s mentally unstable and — well, let’s say “not intellectual.” He can’t even answer direct questions. It’s like he’s learned how to speak phonetically and doesn’t understand the meaning of any words other than “big,” “huge,” “loser” and “sad.” It’s astounding.

 

But Pence is totally way more dangerous, because he is not an idiot. He knows how to use politics. He knows how to game the system. He’s respected by his party and far more liked by the Republican power brokers.

 

But I also believe that if Trump is ousted, it will be messy and ugly and devastating to the Republican party. There would be a power grab unlike anything we’ve ever seen. There would be distrust and disillusionment within their own voters. It would be incredible. And Pence would be tainted. He’d either be the fool who was tricked by a lunatic or a willing participant in a crooked administration. Both outcomes are disastrous for the GOP and Pence personally.

But regardless — getting Trump out office doesn’t mean “the work is done.” I firmly believe we as a nation have been far too fat, lazy and happy. We’ve been focused on iPhones and reality shows and football games. And the whole time, behind the scenes, corruption on both sides has festered. So there’s a lot of work to do. But just because Pence is bad, we should keep Trump in power? I don’t understand that reasoning.

 

All the things that Liberals are scared of could come to fruition under a Pence presidency couldn’t it? I mean, do you really think Trump trying to get rid of the separation of Church and State was all his idea? I don’t.

 

Of COURSE I agree that the religious agenda is all Pence. Trump doesn’t give a shit about religion. Look at how he lives his life. He thinks he’s god. But Pence is actually a believer. He doesn’t wear his faith like a complimentary sports coat given to him by a steak house  to cover up his Anthrax tee-shirt. And that’s what freaks me out about him. I’m always way more scared of true believers than cheap opportunists.

And one of the biggest problems I have with mainstream politics is religion. There should be no religion in politics. I am happily and proudly Atheistic. I don’t get religion. I stopped believing when I was 11 years old. Because even as a child, it made no sense to me. I actually find comfort in not believing in a god. I find solace in knowing we’re on this rock hurtling through space for a handful of decades — if we’re lucky — and then we die. And we are reabsorbed into the universe. The science behind that is beautiful, elegant and logical.

If someone wants to believe in god, fine. I don’t care. I do care when they force their beliefs on me. And jam it into our political system. Which is why Pence totally scares me. He’s far more focused on rolling back civil rights, pushing a religious agenda and attacking women’s rights. But, like I said, I also believe the GOP would be stuck in a historic shit storm if Trump goes. And Pence’s political power would be in tatters. Tough to be an effective leader from that position. You ain’t exactly Emperor Palpatine. You’re more like Jar Jar Binks.

 

If Trump doesn’t get thrown out of office, what would be the most singular message that you would want to get out to President Trump?

 

I think Trump’s totally beyond learning. He’s not Kennedy coming into office, capable of evolving his point of view on civil rights. He’s a spoiled child in the bloated body of a geriatric man. Nothing we’re trying to do with this movement is geared toward “educating Trump.” That’d be a waste of time and energy.

 

I don’t know. Maybe the one message we’d hope to get across to him is “not on our watch.” I admit, I’d love for him to see how poorly he ultimately does at the job. I’d love for him to fail spectacularly. Because I hate bullies. I was bullied as a kid. Beat up a lot. Hell, I even had my ‘cello smashed to pieces like I was in some shitty 80s comedy. I got bullied so badly, my parents pulled me out of school and sent me to another one in a different town. It’s why I’ve hated bullies. And Trump’s the ultimate one.

 

What do you think when the internet trolls lash out against Hollywood actors/actresses and musicians for speaking their minds about politics?

 

I don’t think about them at all. Engaging a troll is like arguing with a drunk person. I mean, why should an actress or actor not speak their mind? Or have an opinion? And if these trolls are suggesting someone doesn’t have the right to express their own opinions, doesn’t that immediately invalidate their own? Why the hell should I listen to them? It’s literally one of the stupidest, most indefensible statements you can make.

 

And, do they say the same thing about a plumber who agrees with them? Do they tell a mechanic to shut up? What about a conservative movie star who shares their point of view? Do they tell them to keep quiet? I doubt it. But hypocrisy rarely silences stupidity.

 

I’m not saying that actors and writers aren’t capable of saying insanely, soul crushingly stupid things. I’ve seen it first hand. But I think people should be judged on the merits of their words, not what they do for a living. I’ve met really smart janitors and really stupid professors. But if someone is well informed and coherent, I wouldn’t care if they were a waitress or a Nobel laureate. I would just be impressed by their comments. And if you’re trying to silence someone just because they’re famous or because of their job, I think the real problem is you.

 

It just seems that at one time in our history (example: the 60’s, 70’s, and even the 80’s) people really looked at musicians especially for some kind of social/political guidence. What do you think changed?

 

What changed? Money. That’s not a big secret. It’s just obvious. It’s hard to be political when you have an album that costs $10 million. Or a movie that costs $150 million. The bigger expense, the smaller the risk you’re allowed to take. And the less chance an artist has to make a personal statement. Lawyers start coming in and telling you “you can’t say that. We’ll lose some of our audience. We need to maximize profits and demographics”

 

But I think some people are still out there being political. Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen, right? They’re always there. My in-laws are pretty conservative and they listen to a lot of country. Sure seems like some of those singers have a political point of view. May not be mine, but they’re out there doing it.

 

I also think, in general, we as a culture got distracted by the pretty, shiny thing. In the 70s, rock got bloated. Arena rock. Prog rock. The message got lost. By the time we reached Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian a generation later, who knows what pop culture was anymore. The message got even more muddled.  Tough to be sincere or political in that market. But I guess some people did. Public Enemy. Alicia Keys seems to have a point of view.

 

It’ll probably change. I think it already has. I mean, did you see Milck and the GW sirens on Samantha Bee? Holy shit, that was amazing. And that was borne directly out of resisting Trump. Hell, now that I think about it, Samantha Bee and FULL FRONTAL has been on fucking fire. She’s an incredible voice of dissent. That’s some of the best political comedy I’ve ever seen. John Oliver, too. So smart. Well researched. I think those two are providing incredible counter culture material. Even SNL, right? They’re doing some pretty funny stuff for the first time in like decades. Seth Meyers, too. So it’s out there.

 

I think we can all agree that President Trump himself is not a racist, maybe a misogynist and a bigot (just kidding — sort of). What do you think it is that attracts the Alt-Right and other racist groups to him or do you think it is just that those groups always vote Republican?

 

First off, I don’t think Republicans are automatically racist. I know a lot of people who aren’t. I mean, I guess you could argue we’re all racist on a deeper level. But individually, I have family members and friends who are both Republican and not racist.

 

I think what actually happened — and this is just an opinion — but Trump got a lot of first time voters. A lot of people who never got involved before. Who felt ostracized. Who were outside of the normal voting system and decided to throw their support behind someone who was bold enough to lie blatantly in a way most politicians don’t.

 

I think there are problems with both Democrats and Republicans. They all lie. They all exaggerate. They all make promises they don’t intend to keep. But Trump functioned on a different level. With a brashness and overtly racist text that made some people happy. They felt they were finally being listened to. Like this guy got it.

 

I think a lot of people over the past thirty years have been quietly stewing in the corner. They got told by elitist liberals “You can’t say that.” So they didn’t. They just thought it to themselves. Quietly. In their heads. And over time, they felt oppressed for their “beliefs.” We made them the victims. Because no one on the Left bothered to explain WHY it was wrong to say those things. And that’s a failure of the left. Our arrogance bred contempt.

 

And then finally Trump came alone and said “You’re right! And they’re wrong!” And Trump’s people capitalized on that. Not Trump. He’s far too dumb. But Bannon and his people? They knew how to light that kindling. And they knew they had a guy who was egotistical enough to get riled up by the cheers. Who was too stupid and too arrogant to care that what he was saying was vile and awful. They knew he’d just soak up the glory. Trump was their monkey who danced for the crowd. And the crowd loved it.

 

Some voters hated his racism and sexism and xenophobia, but they voted for him anyway. Mainly because of jobs, I think. But, I’m sorry, if you begrudgingly stand with a racist — even one who is just repeating racism from a script — you’re supporting racism. I told family members who tried to get me to vote for Trump “racism is a deal breaker. Sexism is a deal breaker.” Life is usually gray. But this is black and white.

 

Plus, he’s not bringing back any jobs! He lied. All of them are lying when they say factories are coming back. They’re lying when they say illegal immigrants stole their jobs. Factories went overseas. They’re gone. Robots are making our cars. Those jobs aren’t coming back. Trump’s people know that. McConnell knows that. Ryan knows that. But they all lied — openly and overly — just to win. And people were desperate and ignored enough to believe the lies. So, they ended up convincing themselves that a rich guy who was born rich and got richer taking advantage of people just like them was “their guy.”

 

It’s kind of incredible. But also understandable. Because as Bernie Sanders kept saying, we were ignoring a large sect of the public. A public we had systematically let down and made them feel bad about themselves. People don’t grow and change and evolve if they’re just put in a corner and yelled at and mocked. You need to reach out to them. Educate them. Help them grow. Evolve.

 

Instead, we treated them like latch key kids. We left them alone with Uncle Sean Hannity and Aunt Megyn Kelly. And we wonder why they grew up to have a racist view of the world? Come on! That’s on us. We own this problem. Which is why I think we need to help fix it.

 

Finally, in your eyes, is Trump really that dangerous to society or is President Trump just another version of the same politicians that we’ve always had in office?

 

I think I can sense what you’re getting at here. You’re trying to trick me into saying that one side is great and the other side is bad. And I don’t feel that way. I’ve already said that. Am I happy that Obama deported more people than any President in history? No. Was I happy about his reliance on drone strikes in the Middle East? Or his close ties to Wall Street? Of course not.

 

But if you’re trying to say that there is no difference between Trump and Obama, we’ll have to respectfully disagree. The Affordable Health Care Act may be imperfect, but it has helped millions of people and changed the face of the industry. It insured people who couldn’t get covered before. Including my nephew who has a heart disease. A child who couldn’t get covered now can. You can spin however you want, but that legislation helped a lot of people. And I think it’s why so many angry people are showing up to town hall meetings now.

 

Obama signed Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform, which again, is not perfect, but a step in the right direction. He changed the discussion toward Climate Change, which I believe is the single greatest threat the planet faces. He repealed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Ended Torture policies from the Bush administration. Established Net Neutrality, changed Federal Student Loan programs, refocused the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights divisions. These are all important things that impact low income citizens. Populations that are typically ignored or discarded or vilified. That’s an important difference from the current President, who panders exclusively to the rich and powerful.

 

The Democrats are not perfect in any way. But they at least don’t deny climate change. They spend some time talking about civil rights. Women’s rights. Look at Obama’s final speech. I thought it was pretty incredible. He challenged us all to think about race. He asked African-American voters to think about the angry white voters who put Trump in the office and empathize with their pain. He asked us to embrace reason and science. It was a beautiful, powerful and in my perspective, brave speech. Maybe one of the best of his life. And I think it’s far too simplistic to equate Trump with Obama.

 

And I think George W. Bush’s speech defending Muslim Americans and differentiating the Muslim religion from radical terrorism is another beautiful and enlightened position. And certainly one beyond the mental and moral abilities of the current President, who is a racist, hateful blowhard. So, yeah, I think Trump is worse. I think Pence is worse. I think we’re in a unique time in American history. And I think that’s why so many people are taking to the streets. And it sure as hell is why we started The Ides of Trump. And we hope a lot of people will join us on March 15th. We’ll be joining them over the next four years in this fight. It’s going to be a long one.

The Clown In Chief and the Juggalo Army March Washington DC

 

by: Brad OH

What is a Juggalo?

The question has been asked and answered in many ways. To music critics, Juggalos are the tasteless followers of the ‘World’s Most Hated Band’, the Insane Clown Posse (ICP). To ICP themselves, it has been asked and answered in the form of a song which provides a litany of silly explanations, but little in the way of deeper insight.

By Juggalos themselves, the most common answer is ‘Family’.

Finally, to the FBI, the rap fans who call themselves Juggalos are classified as gang members. This became the reality in 2011, when the FBI listed Juggalos as a hybrid gang alongside the likes of the Crips in their National Gang Threat Assessment.

It is for this reason—after a frustrating series of lawsuits—that the ICP are calling upon the Juggalos to stage an official march on Washington in hopes of finally having the Juggalos removed from the Gang list.

“We have tried to use the American judicial system to achieve justice and we failed. So on Saturday, September 16, 2017, we are taking our fight to the streets. Literally,” says the official page for the march.

And so, the current Clown-in-Chief will face one of the stranger events in an already whacky first year in office: an army of face-painted Juggalos taking over the Washington monument in defense of Civil Liberties.

Juggalos in Washington DC

As garish and unbelievable as this all sounds, there can be little question this march is being held for good reason. Since the 2011 classification, Juggalos around the country and beyond have been directly impacted by the label. Incidents including loss of child custody, denied entry into the army, and prolonged border delays (this writer himself being a victim), have been reported. In more extreme cases, Juggalo related tattoos have seen minor

infractions bumped up and booked as gang crimes on account of this dangerous ruling. Veteran Juggalo chronicler Nathan Rabin says, ‘This dubious designation is yet another instance of law enforcement singling out people at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder for surveillance and harassment while simultaneously ignoring or excusing the crimes of the wealthy.’

But where did this start, what is the FBI’s defence, and where does it all go from here?

Admittedly, there have been several cases of people who identify as Juggalos committing some pretty heinous acts. Further, U.S. Justice Department attorney Amy Powell has stated that ‘a new 2013 FBI report on emerging trends does not mention Juggalos, and that the 2011 report, while still online and not superseded by any other report, is dated. “It’s increasingly unlikely to be used by any state or local agency as a source for any particular action,” she said.’

Still, the idea of labelling large subsects of people as potentially dangerous in order to better identify the true dangers is an increasingly frequent and altogether disturbing trend—especially when it results in such direct impacts on innocents. We’ve seen it with the government’s attempts at preventing terrorist activities by blocking or deporting immigrants from select groups (or simply bombing them in advance), and we’ve seen it with the two-sided attacks on voters of all ilk during recent elections. It would seem, in fact, that this ‘enemy-minded’ thinking is fast becoming the go-to approach for a government which has continually failed to justify or show any positive merit from the ever-growing list of freedoms it derails. ACLU Attorney Saura Sahu has claimed that “the FBI document created interpretive rules for law enforcement agencies and branded Juggalo tattoos, symbols and merchandise as gang-related. “They’re supposed to have an

impact on state and local law enforcement and they do, and usually it’s a really good one. It’s just that this time, they went too far here…

“To call someone a gang member or gang-related is to call that person a criminal… These guys are standing up against what happened to them, but they are also standing up for millions of music fans,” Sahu concludes.

As it stands, Juggalos are still subject to potential detention, harassment, and disproportionate punishment for no reason beyond their musical predilections.

It is the shocking and rather unpredictable result then, that the idea of thousands of clowns marching on the highest office in the country is indeed no laughing matter; not for the government now pressed to justify such a ham-fisted attempt at law-enforcement, and not for the Juggalos desperate to clear their name.

So too should it be a more serious concern for the millions of others watching this unfold, resting on the fence about exactly what all of it means. Juggalos are—admittedly—an easy target, and Juggalo watching may soon become the extreme-sport version of people watching, but to sit idly by with no strong reaction as one’s own government brands a large subsection of people as criminals for their taste in music is pretty high up the list of things which could prove that in the end, you are the real clown. It is a direct affront against the notion of free-speech by a nation increasingly hell-bent on snuffing out that quintessential right.

The very fact that this march needs to happen at all naturally raises one rather disconcerting question: ‘if they get away with doing this to the Juggalos, who’s next?’

If the reader of this article can immediately think of a couple of other music fan bases or other social groups they might not mind seeing criminalized, it is not surprising. But to allow such a thing to actually happen is a precipitous slope grounded either in absolute ignorance, or real hatred.

“If you can go out and brand any musical fan base as a gang, it could have terrible effects,” says ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael Steinberg.

Of course, it’s not just any musical fan base being labelled here, and not just any band. It’s the Juggalos, and the Insane Clown Posse.

When Bruce Springsteen claimed to have killed 10 innocent people on his 1982 song ‘Nebraska’, there were few people clamouring for his immediate capture. That’s because by and large, people can understand some level of artistic licence. They can follow along with the idea that not everything an artist claims in character is necessarily the full truth.

When ICP claimed in their 2002 song ‘Gang Related’- “Do you rep the Hatchetman, you’re in a gang,” there was a good deal more difficulty sifting the fiction from the fact.

What is it that separates ICP from so many other artists? Part of it, no doubt, is their scary persona and the rather gloomy corner of pop-culture to which Juggalos have been relegated. Another factor, perhaps, is that ICP was—in its nascent form—a legitimate street gang.

Starting out as the ‘Inner City Posse’, ICP’s original members—along with several inner-city Detroit friends who saw no other future on their dilapidated streets—endeavoured to be a real street gang, who rapped and wrestled on the side.

This idea fell apart after many arrests and confrontations with rival gangs, and the remaining two focussed on their rap career, changing the ICP from the ‘Inner City Posse’ to the ‘Insane Clown Posse’ we know today. This transformation involved not only greasepaint and the establishment of an extensive background mythology, but also a significant transition from young gangbangers to successful marketers and businessmen.

It took only six years for the band to go from wannabe gangsters to platinum selling artists, and the label they established, Psychopathic Records, has served to employ countless other potential gangsters in the metro Detroit

area ever since. This is to say nothing of the countless Juggalos for whom their music has often been a source of comfort and inspiration.

So, while gang-banging certainly has it’s place in the history of ICP and the Juggalos, it can also be argued that ICP and Psychopathic Records as a whole have done significantly more to improve the lives of many Detroit residents than has the government—who largely sat on their hands as the city fell in upon itself as auto-plants and steel-mills disappeared overseas, and citizens were left to a near-hopeless stretch of poverty and unemployment.

Sadly but unsurprisingly, the US Government and the FBI do not see things this way.

And so here we are. On Saturday, September 16th, 2017, there will be a strange sight indeed at the Lincoln Memorial. At around 12:00pm—or significantly earlier, if I know Juggalos—painted faces will abound and the Faygo will fly (seriously—watch out for the flying Faygo). In addition to the march, there’s a free concert, and myriad other events. If my experience with Juggalos has taught me anything, it will be an exceedingly unusual scene for Washington regulars.

Rest assured, there will be loads of soda, grease paint, strange costumes, loud chants, and possibly a few impromptu backyard wrestling matches.

Violent J of Insane Clown Posse

So too will there be signing, laughter, familial love and general merriment. Juggalos—despite their reputation—are not so unlike the majority of people after all, save for their unself-conscious willingness to open themselves up, have fun, and be whatever they feel is most suited to them.

It’s not such a bad lesson for the rest of us…even if you prefer more ‘mainstream’ music and ‘designer sodas’.

The hope here, of course, is that this demonstration of unity will change the minds of the powers that be and elicit an official recognition that being a Juggalo does not qualify one as a gang-member, nor expose one to any of the legal penalties associated with it. With the current intellectual capacity of the

administration, this may be a high hope, but even if the Juggalos fail to sway the legal process directly, it can be hoped that a peaceful demonstration and rational explanation of this outrage may change the minds of casual observers, and even the more justice-minded members of the law-enforcement community. It is, after all, not laws which are the true arbiters of justice in a society, but rather attitudes, beliefs, and the deep-held commitments to respect and decency which each member of that society harbour.

So what is a Juggalo? Well, they’re a lot of things. If the Juggalos are boorish and silly, they are also compassionate and sincere. They are odd, unique, and quintessentially their own breed of person. And yet they’re people all the same, and equally deserving of respect, dignity, and personal autonomy as any other group. If this march is able to demonstrate that to the world at large, then it should be a good day on the carnival grounds after all.

So keep it real Juggalos, and much clown love!

The ‘Juggalo March’ on Washington takes place Sept. 16th, 2017. All details for the event can be found here.

Brad OH writes for www.BradOHInc.com, and has been Down with the Clown since 1999.