Monday, May 30, 2016

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Memorial Day is hard for me.  I am always assaulted with conflicting emotions when it comes to Memorial Day.  I am alway unsure of what the "right" way to "celebrate" this day is.  I am not sure what is proper.  Do I remain somber, and aloof?  Do I join in on the "festivities" and traditional BBQs?  Do I commiserate the losses, men I knew like SFC Doster, and PFCs Craig and Harrelson?  What about PFC Max L. Bailey who is still missing somewhere on the east side of Chosin (Changjin) Reservoir in North Korea?  I don't know how I'm supposed to feel.  I want nothing more than clarity here because I need some.

Memorial Day has become festive almost.  People gathering and grilling and generally celebrating the end of the school year and the beginning of summer.  There are parades and obligatory flag waving along with token gestures acknowledging the sacrifices of the Soldiers, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Airmen, and Marines of the United States.  From Lexington green to Helmand Province Americans have fought everywhere and paid a high price for the freedoms we enjoy, what's more, we unlike almost any other country in the world will fight for the freedoms of other nations.  We haven't always done it perfectly but Americans seem ready willing and able to fight when freedom is on the line.

Perhaps the festive air is a good thing.  America's ideals were not meant for doom and gloom.  The horror of constant Chinese attacks over 4 days in -30 degree weather are not something it is a good thing to dwell on, yet I can appreciate some of the terror my great uncle Max felt before he died.  I don't want people to dwell on the gruesome injuries I saw Craig suffer, or worry about the dreams of Harrelson maybe burning to death in a humvee.  Maybe it is better that people know in some vague intellectual sense that these sacrifices are happening so that they really appreciate those burgers/steaks.

But for me, it is different.  I remember well the sheer terror of "putting my shit on" and climbing into the death trap humvees.  Driving on roads that could hide bombs of incredible and pants shitting size in piles of trash that are literally everywhere.  I can close my eyes and feel the heat as 2-2 burned, rounds cooking off mere meters away.  I can still feel that eternal moment after the AT-4 blew when I wasn't sure if I was still there or not.    Reading of SFC Doster's widow's struggles after his death, and the sheer heartbreak she continues to feel at his loss, a heartbreak I understand all too well, how can I feel any sense of festivity?

What really bothers me is that there are times I don't want to remember.  I want to forget it all and go back to a time when I didn't carry this burden.  Am I dishonoring these men and women by that thought?  Do I owe it to them to carry this weight?  Am I, by virtue of being a witness, bound by honor, and duty to carry the memory of them like an invisible rucksack weighing me down?  Is it wrong to want to be free, and to feel the same sense of ease that so many other Americans feel on Memorial Day?

I don't have answers.  I know it's wrong of me to try to explain to civilians that Memorial Day is not for me.  I know it's wrong to shame well-meaning civilians (including my mom) thanking Veterans today.  I don't want to tell people about Craig and the sorrow I feel that he only saw his daughter once before he died.  I don't want to explain the life Harrelson seemed to have laid out before him.  My own life is such a mess I don't feel I've done these men justice.

Memorial day is hard.  I am not sure how I should feel.  Because I am so conflicted I often avoid festivities.  I am not sure what the right thing to do here is.  I hope one day I'll have answers.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Dyslexia

I came across this website which supposedly shows you what it's like to read with dyslexia.  I'll give you a moment to try to read that.  Did you go?  Were you able to read what was said?  The funny thing is that's almost exactly what happens to me, except to a much lesser degree.

Often time when I'm looking at words I'll see the absolute wrong things written.  Sometimes it'll be something so obviously wrong that I have to reread the words.  Once at work, I thought that there was a very obvious sexual phrase in a credit card brochure.  That there's no way the brochure would suggest customers ingest penises, I had to reread the sentence only to realize it was an extremely innocuous sentence.

For my entire life, I've been having to deal with dyslexia.  It's not reading backward, it's more like having everything jumbled up into a confused mishmash, but thankfully it's not so extreme as it used to be.  More than once in my life, I've read books or articles and come away confused.  Landmark school did a lot to teach me coping methods, and you have no idea how much it relieved me to actually know what it was that was causing me to have so much trouble in school.

Worse, trying to read aloud is nearly impossible.  Reading, then speaking, even my own work, seems to be just too much.  There are constant starts and stops and I back up because I read a word wrong.  It's beyond frustrating and makes me feel stupid.  The imagery I am trying to convey with my words sounds dull and the stumbling of my words, to my ears at least, completely destroys whatever good I accomplish with my writing.

My whole life people have remarked on my intelligence.  I tend to downplay it.  Perhaps it is because of the speaking.  Perhaps it is because I tend to have so much trouble translating the knowledge I have at hand to actual practical effect.  I can not tell you what specifically makes me feel like I am a bumbling idiot.  Whatever it is, it's plagued me almost my whole life.

Learning disabilities can drive you mad.  You see your friends doing things that you struggle with.  The thing is I've come to learn that when one thing is taken from you, you're often given something in return.  Often there are connections I can make, and my memory for the things people say is truly remarkable.  I'm often able to understand difficult concepts, even if I am not able to relate the same concepts to others.  Dyslexia isn't all bad.  True it can frustrate the hell out of me at times, but I know no other way of thinking, and I have to think I'm this way for a reason.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Mourning A Relationship

After Becky broke off the engagement, someone told me that I need time to mourn the loss.  At the time that comment seemed odd to me.  She's not dead.  Her life will go on, only without me.  I went back to my grief and depression.  It is only now that I really think about it that that friend was right.  Mourning the loss of a relationship really is like mourning a death of a loved one, but if anything in some ways its worse.  

I miss the way she used to smile at me.  Often times my goofy nature would make her laugh, and she would give me a smile that showed she genuinely took joy in my presence.  Once, sadly two weeks before it ended, she and I were absolutely punch drink with exhaustion, and the two of us sat there giggling then uproariously laughing at something.  Her parents, brother, and sister all looked at us like we were crazy.  That just made us laugh harder. 

I miss the way she gave me hope for the future.  She could be blunt, and direct, sometimes brutally so, but when we talked about the future the worst of my past just disappeared.  I miss the dreams we'd share.  The plans we'd make.  The sense we can do anything if we're together.

I miss taking care of her.  When she got migraines, or was horribly ill, I miss sitting by her bedside, getting her meds, water, ice packs.  I truly miss the ability to make her misery just a little bit better.  If she was unstable on her feet, I'd support her.  If she was puking I would sit by, and hold out a glass of water so she could wash the taste out of her mouth.  I miss the weak but grateful look she'd give me.  I genuinely miss worrying about her health, and trying to track all her various medications.    

I miss the way she knew me.  I there were so many things I confided in her that I haven't told anyone else.  Many more things I didn't have to tell her.  She had instinctual knowledge.  She had just as many sleepless nights as I did.  I wonder now, if I'll ever trust a woman enough to tell her some of those darker things, and if such a woman might be rare, rarer still is the woman that's been where I've been, and seen what I've seen.  

I miss the quiet moments.  This stolen moments when we could just be together.  Her presence was a balm on even the worst anxieties.  In calm moments I felt such peace as I have not felt in well. . . most of my life.  We didn't have to talk about anything.  Sometimes just sitting in silence holding hands was all we needed.  

Far more than that, for me, I have a really overactive imagination.  I could live in the worlds I imagine.  Often times I've gotten lost for hours and days even exploring worlds that don't exist.  Even with more terrestrial matters, I can imagine possibilities, and see them almost as clearly as if they were happening, or recent memories.  

For a very long time, I willfully prevented myself from delving in such thoughts.  But with Becky I began to dream those dreams.  I could see the moment I proposed to her.  True in reality it didn't remotely match reality, the fact that I saw it in my head at all. . . that let me know this was it for me.  I saw myself lifting her veil at our wedding.  I could see the tears of joy she almost but not quite held back.  I could see her after our first child was born.  The exhaustion clear on her face along with a look of sheer joy and wonder at the small life she held in her arms.  I saw a curly haired precocious child that was an absolute terror, running around full of laughter.

I saw so much more.  A whole life.  When she said "the way things are I can't marry you." it was like watching all those visions be painfully ripped away and watch them circle past an event horizon into a singularity.  I don't doubt the pain of her death would have been in that moment just as bad.  But unlike a death this pain lingered.  

While my psyche fractured and I tried to find refuge in my rationality, one question kept screaming its way through my head. . . why?  Why?  WHY?  What had I done wrong?  Was there hope?  Is there anything I can do?  Can't we find a way to fix things?  What if. . . ?  What if. . .  ?  Finally a piteous plea.  Please.  

Each time I tried to talk to her I felt the love she'd once had for me die a little more.  Finally. . . we might as well have been strangers.  I asked her what we were after she said she couldn't marry me, she said "very good friends."  I wish we were.  If you didn't check my Facebook timeline you'd never have known we were oh so close to marriage.  

I will probably never know why.  I suspect if I was given a rationally satisfying answer it would hurt my emotional side horribly.  If I were given an emotionally satisfying answer it would offend my rational side.  Despite the fact that even now there's a part of me that would do anything she would say if it meant we might be together again, I suspect there's another part of me that would never be able to trust her again.  I'd always be on the lookout for the next flashpoint that would end things. 

I've never told any woman I've dated, but the litmus test for me as to whether I would wish to marry a woman came from the nightmare that was the WTB.  I saw relationships and marriages end because of the wounds of war.  I also saw just how battered a human body can get.  I would ask myself, "If I ended up back there, and was really hurt, would she stay?"  I don't think I could go through that kind of hell alone again.  With Becky right up until the moment she broke things off, The answer was an unqualified yes.  I think the fact that I thought the answer was one thing when it was really another adds another level of hurt.  It also makes me terrified to realize even if I think the answer is yes, I might get paralyzed in a car crash tomorrow and whatever woman I might try to be with might not wait for me to wake up before hitting the road.    

I have come away from this knowing I'll never meet another woman like Becky.  I'm not sure I want to.  As amazing, and wonderful and beautiful as she was, I don't ever want to fall so deeply in love again.  I'll mourn the death of the love we had, and in time, I'll hope she finds the right man for her and has the life she hoped for.  I fear that she'll get in her own way, and I tend to think very few men will be so persistent as to ever break through that high wall she erects around herself.  Whatever the case for myself the path ahead looks a little darker.  The desire to drive toward a goal is a little dimmer.  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Ribbit (Happy Leap Day)

Today is Leap Day.  February 29th.  Sure it's an oddity, and a lot of people don't "celebrate" it, but I like having fun with Leap Day.  I hopping around and shouting at people "happy leap day!" and encouraging them to act like frogs?

Why do I do this?  no reason.  It's fun to watch people's reactions.

Leap Day came about because orbital mechanics are odd.  The Earth rotates at one speed, and revolves around the sun at a different rate.  This means that it comes out to roughly 265.25 days.  Actually believe it or not it's not even that much.  Every hundred years there'll be 30 days in February.  Every 500 years or so there'll actually be 31.

Too bad I'll never see that.  I don't think that the Julian calendar since it got fully firmed up has seen a February 31st.  Its a bit of a shame.  I wonder if future people will celebrate the 30th of February. . .

anyway... Ribbit.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

When a .357 Magnum looks too good, its time to get help.

One thing which I don't like to talk about is my own frailties.  I can admit my fears, with great difficulty, to those I'm close to.  The problem is, that I have a hard time letting people in.  The specter of disappointment, and betrayals has made it so its difficult to trust anyone.  My most recent debacle with my ex fiancé is an example.  There are many painful episodes in my past that I hadn't told her about (the WTB for example).

I trusted her more than anyone else I think in my entire life.  When things came crashing down, with little warning, and unclear reasoning all of that trust that I had allowed, the vulnerability, that became something of an open wound.

To say I was broken when I arrived home is an understatement.  I barely had the energy to get out of bed for days at a time.  I don't like that.  I don't like to admit when I'm hurt, let alone to admit I'm hurt just that badly.  If I could have willed my heart to just stop, I would have.  It seems strange but that level of complete abject depression may have actually saved my life.

About a day and a half after returning I found my dad's .357 magnum.  I actually pulled it out, and made sure it was functional.  At that moment a stray thought entered my head "if I had bullets right now."  That thought alone scared me.  The loss of my relationship was so painful, so hard to bare that I was willing to eat a lead sandwich rather than face the rest of my life without her.

Add to that there's the added stress of the issues of being home again.  There are many issues left unresolved.  The mold and mildew alone have caused me enough issues, but taking apart my dad's living area, I was able to get a palpable sense of just how far he'd sunk into the alcohol.  The brilliant man I knew growing up, who always seemed to have the answer died a truly broken man.  Perhaps thats one childhood illusion I wished to hold onto just a little bit longer, or perhaps I didn't want to ask myself if perhaps I could have done something.

I found myself angry at him, angry at my ex, and angry at the world.  I was angry at my dad for giving up.  I was angry at my ex for dumping me like a bad habit.  I was angry at the world because I could not figure out what I had done to deserve the treatment I had.  I would vacillate wildly between irrational anger and soul crushing sadness.  That gun would alternate between a way out and an object worthy of no more note than a rock or a branch.  I had actually taken to sleeping with it near my bed.

I realized then that I really needed help.  I reached out to the VFW post here, and through them I learned about about the connected warriors program.  Its a free yoga program for Veterans, which helped a lot with coping and stress.  It also helped with the horrible back pain that's been plaguing me since my return.  I also reached out to the VA.  Sadly their psychological department is full up here, so getting to a shrink will be a stretch.

Here's the thing, I haven't told anyone really just how close I came.  Perhaps two weeks after I started the Connected Warriors program I got a job.  That helped a lot. I've joined a gym, and I've reached out to friends.  Sometimes just to commiserate, sometimes for advise sometimes just because I needed to talk to someone.  My friends, both former combat veterans and just people that happened to be in my orbit helped a lot.

The hardest part for me in this process has been to admit that I needed help.  Its not just admitting that to myself, its admitting it to the people that can offer to help me.  The very people that can, and have helped me have to know just how bad it has gotten.  Is it because of the war?  Because of my Ex?  Doesn't really matter why things have gotten this bad.  The reality is I had to get help.  I've started getting it.

Its scary in a way.  I look how far I've come.  I thought that I was almost to a place where I could be as close to normal as imaginable.  Perhaps the one good thing that my ex sending me packing has done is to show me the error of that illusion.  I may never be normal again.  I'm ok with that.  I'll figure this out somehow.  I'll be ok.

Eventually.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Trigger Warning [I don't care about your 'triggers']

Before I went to war, if anyone had talked of "trigger warnings" I'd have laughed myself silly.  The idea that people who have not truly lived could be "triggered" into a state of hysteria or catatonia of fear fills me now with chagrin.  What could you possibly be "triggered" by if you've never truly experienced something traumatic.  

I have.  There were things that happened to me that were so traumatic I still, almost a decade later, have not gotten over it.  I felt fear such as I can not describe.  It made me sick in my stomach, and made it difficult to function.  I felt shame for my failures.  People died and I couldn't do a damn thing about it.  

It wasn't until late 2007, that I realize how deeply I was effected.  There is a song that played in a favored bar, a song played at a buddy's service in Iraq, and I was right back on that terrible day that he died.  The smell of the burning HMMMWV was in my nose, the crackling of rounds cooking off, the fear that I'd lose more of "my guys" and that terrible moment that I realized that for a half hour my friend had been put so completely out of my mind that he didn't even exist.  

That song, sadly popular, would actually trigger episodes.  At first I would be right back there in Iraq.  I avoided this song like it was the plague.  Unfortunately, it's a rather popular song and I can't really avoid it.  Eventually, the flashbacks became bouts of intense emotions.  Eventually it just became unpleasant.  I can accept the trauma that happened, and I can accept that my reaction to the song is irrational.  

I can not make the world accommodate me.  I can't force my work or radio stations not to play this song, and really why should I?  It's a good song.  If other people enjoy it who am I to bust in and interrupt them for enjoying themselves?  I'm not the dick punching buzz kill that seems to be on college campuses these days.   

Because I couldn't avoid this song I had to find a way to climate to it.  I chose to face this song, at one point I would have it in a 20 song playlist on shuffle, and while I'd do house work, it would randomly play.  At first it was rough.  Then it was less so, before "mildly unpleasant" is how I'd describe the experience.  

Triggers are real.  For people who've experienced real trauma there will be events, smells, sounds, or even completely non explainable triggers that will force them to relive the event(s).  For the most part though when people talk like this:



it's a load of bullshit.  They're not triggered.  They're feeling upset.  There's a massive difference between upset, and reliving the most terrible experience in your life.  Many who do have anxiety disorders or PTSD may not actually know their triggers thereby making "trigger warnings" completely useless, and worse, insulting.  You think we're these fragile balls of glass that will break at the slightest push?  Grow up.  

Here's what I want you to do, take your trigger warnings and shove em.  I want to be warned that something might be upsetting.  Let me live my life.  I don't want other's free inquiry to be stifled because bad things happened to me.  If anything I want people to have to be forced into self examination.  That's the only way we grow as human beings.  So please, enough with the bull shit coddling. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Big Honking Man-Killer vs. the Itty Bitty Rapid Fire

Here's a trick question for you, which would you rather be hit by: An M-1(the rifle used in WWII, not the tank), or an M-16.  Chances are, if you know nothing about rifles you'd have chosen the M-1, and you'd be incredibly sorry for it.  Why?  We've certainly seen the effectiveness of the M-16, in both war and peace.  It certainly looks scarier.  The M-1 looks at best like a hunting rifle in comparison, and really how dangerous could that be compared to an "assault" riffle?

First you need to know a few things about the M-1 Garrand.  One of the most interesting features (for the purpose of the gun debate) is it is one of the only rifles that actually uses clips.  There are no mechanical parts to the mechanism that holds the rounds you put into the rifle, whereas the updated version, the M-14 does actually use a magazine.  The clip for a standard M-1, is only 8 rounds, whereas the M-16 is usually 20-30 rounds.  The weight, 11 pounds vs 7 pounds (less if it's a carbine), would make you think the M-1 was more cumbersome.  The fact that the M-1 was made before nifty things like laser pointers and forward vertical grips might lend one to think that the older "antiquated" rifle is less accurate, and thus not a "better" rifle.  On all counts such assumptions would leave you  dead (excuse the pun) wrong.

First let's look at the rounds.  The M-1 uses the .308 or the .30-06.  Both rounds are pretty large, and have significant muzzle velocity, and mass.  Compared to the 5.56x45mm NATO standard round (.223) that the M-16 uses they are a little bit slower, but they also pack more of a punch.  The sheer physics of the rounds would leave you to wish to be nowhere near the business end of the .308, but its what the rounds are actually designed to do where the real damage is.

You see the NATO standard round that we all know and love today was designed at a time we were really concerned with the horrors of war.  The round was designed so that it would pierce light armor, but it was also designed with wounding, not killing a person in mind.  To that end the rounds are small enough that the actual damage they cause is minimal (compared to the rounds previously used), and it was designed to keep on going after it had exited the body (think of it like the scene in Indiana Jones where he shoots three guys lined up behind each other).  If you shoot someone with 5.56mm it'll enter and exit leaving behind small holes and not very large entrance/exit wounds. 

The .308 by comparison is designed to stop inside a target, imparting as much energy as possible on the target.  Most .308 rounds will actually mushroom, and deform.  This has the effect of making the exit wounds significantly larger than the 5.56mm.  As an added bonus the cavitation, that is the force of the wake of the round moving through its medium, is much stronger in the .308.  The end result is that you can accomplish with one .308 round that it would take several 5.56mm rounds to accomplish.

Unfortunately in the gun debate, one side is basing most of their understanding of guns on bad hollywood movies, or worse talking points they don't even understand.  If I were to give you the option to be shot by a bullet about the size of the tines on your fork, or a round the size of your pinky, which do you think you'd want to experience.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

*sigh*

I really haven't had the heart to write for a long while.  There's been a number of reasons for that.  One is that I had been spending most of my time (at the time) looking for jobs.  The desperate search for work really puts a strain on you and doesn't leave you feeling motivated to write about. . . well anything.  And then there was the whole living situation.  Again, admitting you were living in your fiancé's parent's basement is not something any adult male really wants to admit to.

Now. . . I have to admit that it's over.  Whatever future I had hoped for, whatever plans I'd had, half formed or otherwise are gone.  My fiancé told me in a very mater of fact way that the way things were she couldn't marry me.  The worst part for me is that it seemed from my end to be very suddenly.  Just a week previous we'd had a long talk and we were (I thought) somewhat hopeful about the future.  I was working a temporary job true, but there were more offers on the way and I was going to get my EMT license. . . hopefully that would lead to Paramedic or something along those lines.

I thought things were getting better.  From her end she thought things were getting worse.  The perception of me taking advantage was one that I'd started to try to counter act, but she didn't want to be playing nurse maid to me reminding me of things, essentially being my mother.  I suppose I can see what she meant.  I've been on my own for most of my adult life and have had few mentors, and even fewer people to point out my habits that need to change.

I would have tried to keep going, tried a councilor, really anything to keep the relationship going.  If I had known that it was close to the end, well, if wishes were fishes we'd all be fat.  I could extol all the virtues of our relationship, and all the reasons I had, and still have, to want to keep it going.  What would the point be?

The thing that took me by surprise was just how strongly this all hit me.  Within a few days I had panic attacks.  I couldn't stay still.  I began to cry at random times.  By cry, I mean completely break down into a blubbering mess.  The only thing that would keep me from being a complete wreck was walking all over Otsego county, and working out almost to a dangerous degree.  It did not endear me to her family.  I think her mother most of all had begun to despise me though she'd never admit it.

It all came to a head, I finished what I needed to finish and her father put me up in a motel near the Detroit airport for two days before I flew home.  Now I'm back at my old home.  Now I have to find a reason to keep going on.  I have to find a reason to keep pushing.

For so long I sucked it up and drove on.  This latest blow, was just a blow too many.   I'm not sure how I'll continue towards any semblance of a goal when the only reason I had to strive for that goal is gone.  I love her.  I doubt that matters.  She's made it clear she's moved on.  I really wish I knew what about me is so unloveable.




Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Doxing

As a followup to my previous post about #GamerGate, I really feel the need to talk about Doxing.  For those not aware, Doxing is the practice of finding a person's personal information and blasting it on message boards.  Pure and simple this is not ok.  I don't care what justification you feel you have, there is absolutely no good that can come of this.

I've seen people justify it by saying that they were guilty of hate speech.  One gentleman said "don't even give me that First Amendment nonsense.  You have every right to say it, and I have every right to find your address and put it out there!"  What's scary is he said it to a fairly large audience that cheered him as he said that.  No!  That's an invasion of privacy.  That's absolutely wrong.

Let us say that an individual is opposed to transgenderism, and says he believes our current method of treatment is feeding the delusion.  Its understandable that maybe there might be some hard feelings there.  It's also understandable that people's reaction to a transgender saying "do you want to go home in an ambulance" might be a bit passionate.  Ok but that might be the end of it.

But then some random guy has the audacity to say that people calling said transgender "classy" don't understand the meaning of the word.  That same transgender releases the information for said random critic on twitter [note: I have a link for the tweets in question but as it shows this man's address I won't post that on an open forum].  It went from light scorn to nuclear option in .02 seconds.

Now let's depart from reality for a second and acknowledge that there are some crazy people out there.  Let's also acknowledge that whenever theres an issue that strains passions, it'll illicit strong reactions.  Maybe the light scorn that the critic had gets blown way out of proportion (like it already has), and someone whose emotions are high decides to act on those high emotions.  We've seen examples of assault, that people think is completely justified because it was "provoked."  We've seen people who thought assassination was perfectly justified (see Lincoln).  How hard is it to imagine someone taking a random tweet WAY out of context and acting on it?

In recent years there's been protests at houses of people of prominence.  Privacy rights seem to have gone right out the window.  I don't know if it began with the NSA, or what, but suddenly people think that this form of harassment is perfectly justified.  That anyone who disagrees with the politically "correct" position must be punished.  When did we in the West begin to think this was ok?  You fear harassment so you'll preempt the harassment by harassing someone?  Why?

Take it from someone whose lived in situations of 0 privacy, privacy is one of those freedoms they don't talk about until it's taken away.  Life can go from hunky dory to insufferable hell in the blink of an eye all because you lose privacy.  There is absolutely NO justification for doxing.  While I'm generally against saying there should be laws about somethings I find doxing so insidious that in this case I'll make an exception.  If its not already, Doxing should absolutely be against the law.  

Monday, July 20, 2015

Thoughts on #GamerGate

I've played games ever since I got an NES and Super Mario/Duck Hunt for christmas as a child.  I've played games for years without ever thinking it was an identity or lifestyle.  Guess I would be called a "gamer" but I'm not as hard core as some folks, and I've always stayed out of the politics of the gaming industry.  I don't really play indie games mostly because I don't have the time in my life to be trying out new games all the time.  I typically find one game I like, immerse myself into it, then move onto another game (with occasional wistful trips back to old favorites).  I like FPS, RTS, and RPGs typically.

So with all that said, I'm passionate about getting good games.  That's why when I heard about #GamerGate, I dived into it with gusto.  I'm both sorry and glad I did.  I'll explain my mixed feelings later, let's start with one simple question; What is #GamerGate aside from a widely used hashtag?  Well it's certainly a scandal (worthy of the "gate" title).  It started with a manifesto of sorts, from a jilted lover.  The manifesto wasn't kind either.  His ex lover was a game developer that had cheated on him with a game journalist to get a good review for her game.

Almost immediately, the responses decided people strongly into two camps in the gaming community.  I'm really not going to get into the back and forth, because it would require you figuring out who is who and even attempting to explain all the back and forth would take hours.  What I found most interesting about the entire debate around #GamerGate, is that the two sides seem to be saying something completely different.  The Pro side is demanding ethics reform in games journalism.  The Anti side is accusing the Pro side of being incredibly sexist and harassing women (in development and gaming).

The disconnect between the two messages is absolutely jarring.  It'd be like talking about China and one person discussing the pollution while the other side discusses the structure of the government.  The back and forth has pretty quickly turned into internet shouting matches.  There were also some incredibly loathsome individuals that emerged.

Perhaps the most ironic part of the whole affair is the Anti side which often complains of harassment, is extremely guilty of the very same.  People have been forced from the internet, and very real world consequences have befallen them.  I've become familiar with terms like SWATing, Doxing, and hell dumping, and it has turned my stomach.  I know death threats aren't typically acted on, but when someone calls your home phone and threatens your children by name over a post you thought was relatively anonymous you can see how far this thing has gone.

I'm not going to get involved in the whole damn thing, other than to say I've come to tacitly support the Pro side.  The more I learn about the Anti side of #GamerGate the less I want to do with them.  Whatever point they might've had has been lost in the morass of various message boards, and it's devolved int accusation and counter accusation.  The Pro side is still pretty consistent with the message that Games Journalism needs to have ethical standards.  Maybe the catalyst wasn't the best in the world, but why would anyone be against ethics reforms in any form of journalism?

There's a lot of money to be made in games.  Its an incredibly lucrative industry.  Some sources suggest the Gaming industry as a whole may make more money in a year than the porn industry.  There's crazy amount of graft that could exist.  The big developing houses could stand to lose huge investments, and indie developers stand to gain unbelievably large amount of money if they land a big hit.  The idea that journalists can be bought with favors, gifts, or sex should stop everyone in their tracks.  What if this were political journalism, or sports?  Would there really be a controversy?  Probably not to the extent that #GamerGate has seen.

I'll finally sum up why I was glad, and sad to delve into the whole controversy.  I was glad for the reason that I was completely unaware of all this going on.  I had my eyes opened to larger issues inside the games industry.  Maybe I may not just look through GameStop in the future, I may look for other places and sources for good games.  I'm sad because I got to see a side of the internet that really there are no words for.  People wishing a person suffering through chemo would have that cancer advance faster.  Organized harassment, calling a SWAT team on someone you disagree with (having police break down your door is in the very least a traumatizing event, at worst it could lead to deaths), releasing personal information and harassing employers and supporters.  Diving into even the surface details of #GamerGate has left me very wary.  I got to see the darker side of the internet, and I'm sorry to report that some of the denizens can be truly twisted.

But as I said, I've come to #GamerGate late in the game.  Whatever it was when it started it isn't that now.  Is it over?  that remains to be seen.  There's no real leader to either side.  There are figureheads that people gravitate towards, but in general this could go on as long as people want.  There have been effects in the mainstream and in the games journalism so it appears that at least on some level the Pro side won, but the Anti side is still going strong too, so where it ends is anyone's guess.  I think I'll just go back to playing Dragon Age.