Traditionally Non-Traditional

Tradition, in and of itself should never be a sound reason for engaging in, nor abstaining from any particular activity or idea. Like holidays, people are too readily ramped up to celebrate. There is nothing to celebrate; ever.

I take that back, if you get married, by all means celebrate. You or your family member has a healthy, wanted baby–celebrate. If you land your dream job, celebrate. If you’re a black male in America and you made it past 25, celebrate. My thing is, you don’t really have a right to be upset if no one is interested in celebrating those things with you.

I have never been very excited about holidays. Any holidays. Not really birthdays either– hell I’ve forgotten my own a few times, so when I became an adult I didn’t really see much purpose in taking any of them seriously. Let alone the ones that are celebrations of plunder and genocide, see: Chris Columbus. What I’m still more than a tad furious about is the pressure to partake in everything all the time–because tradition. Sometimes, this pressure comes from people I barely even know. Strangers will ask, “what are you doing for Christmas?” And I’ll say.. I don’t know, whatever I would be doing on other days except also dealing with the fact that many businesses will be closed in order to inconvenience me. I used to lie. Same way I used to lie or just omit stories about my upbringing because I didn’t feel like seeing the judgey ass look on some pretentious dickhead’s face who is now furious that we ain’t got no similar interests, as if we just got married and he was learning that I’d lied to him throughout our two-year engagement. It’s the same look I receive from some bro every time I tell them I don’t watch sports. They become furious. But have I ever spat in someone’s face for not having read S.P. Somtow’s Vampire Junction? Nope. Normally I don’t even ask. You know why? Because I don’t assume that every person on the planet is obligated to like everything that I like. On the rare occasions where similar interests occur, friendships may blossom. Maybe the similarities come with mutual sexual attraction, a little chemistry. That could turn into a relationship, but probably not.

People often say: “But what about tradition?” And I’ll say, “who’s tradition?” Or “fuck tradition.” Depending on how quickly I need to end the conversation. Sometimes I’ll say that some cultures believe in genitally mutilating little girls (people always furious or uncomfortable at this), doing the Harlem Shake and fainting in church, killing endangered animals for no reason, raping children, or spraying niggers with water hoses and unleashing dogs on them. If you live in America, that last one should sound pretty familiar to you, but if it isn’t, you should put away those fucking Christmas decorations  and do something more useful with your time. Start by reading Between The World and Me, and if it makes you uncomfortable, I encourage you to share your barely subtle, codified racist indignation about it to blow off steam. I would love to hear it. But what does this have to do with traditions? And celebrating because tradition? Everything.

I have always been far removed from any idea of tradition. Non-traditional family, non-traditional student, blah blah. But what is tradition? And who gets to choose what tradition is? Well, as I’ve mentioned, some of us see tradition as fire hoses, German Shepherds, housing discrimination, ghettoes, crack cocaine, all manner of socioeconomic policy designed to wage war against all things non affluent white and male, cold water in the winter, ramen noodles for dinner, cockroaches, constant fear and being born with expectations so low as to be unaware of the possibility of happiness. So basically, fuck tradition.

It’s painfully obvious what the other side views as tradition, and its contribution to the former. It’s what Donald Trump supporters think when he says “make America great again.” Great for who? In what time period was this country greater for anyone with enough melanin to withstand modest sunlight? Or anyone who was non-heterosexual or has a vagina? Certainly tradition in this case means subjugation of the lesser gender and races. It means being permitted to rape your wife with impunity and drink from separate water fountains. And if just for a second you think that you support the Trump, or even most Republican rhetoric (quite a few people at my job) but are not some sort of –ist, then what is it that you really care about? What is, in your mind more important than having a level playing field for all humans? Then I would also ask, what is it that will be so great again? And at what cost? By now you should have already considered that the return of the free labor (slavery) and the unequal access which made this “greatness” possible to begin with is not everyone’s happy place. Of course this kind of nonsense is not so cleverly hidden underneath things like “two parent households,” “sanctity of x,” and my personal favorite, religion.

Anyways, I just can’t fathom why tradition should ever be a factor in deciding what one should do with themselves. Tradition, to me is linked primarily to ideas and beliefs that view everything about me and the people I care about as scum. It has contributed, and still does contribute to the global plunder of bodies, land and resources. To blindly follow tradition is to court ambiguous ideas that only exist to service those who came before you, regardless of whether their livelihood rested on a completely different set of circumstances.

Another personal favorite tradition of mine: sex=bad. This is primarily viewed as a problem for women as they are expected to maintain some ridiculous standard of “purity.” Although what that really means depends on who you ask and when. The result is: completely skewed views on sexuality, most women not having orgasms well into adulthood, horny, desperate men who want to have sex with said women–but also want to call them whores for having sex with them? Slut shaming, bad sex because people are ashamed to practice, sexual suppression in adults who later fondle children—sometimes their younger siblings, lacking sex education—more unwanted pregnancy (more abortions) and more disease, a few more pages of issues and most importantly no one is gaining anything. Nothing. No one. No one can, or at least they aren’t supposed to properly, openly, happily enjoy sex with another consenting adult. Because tradition.

Thing is, tradition has such a strong hold. To disagree with any tradition is a sign of disrespect or immaturity, which should be scary to more people than I’ve noticed. In tradition’s stranglehold I still see people not able to make their rent because they had to get Christmas gifts. People who lose a job they love because they had to spend Thanksgiving with their family, but it was their holiday to work. People who desire things so bad but will never have them because some person endlessly distant from their world decided it was rude–for fabricated, usually maleficent reasons. Then I see myself: non-religious, non-traditional, but buying Christmas presents for the kids because honestly, I know it’s a simpler way to keep the peace.

Suicide Prevention

I never knew suicide prevention could be such a joke until I joined the Army. The troops are treated to the finest of death-by-PowerPoint presentations on suicide annually, bi-annually, whenever someone kills themselves, or whenever the sign-in roster is lost or incomplete. The Green Weenie must always cover its ass. The slides seem to be passed down from generation to generation, none of whom have figured out that red type looks like shit on a black background. Anyway, the presenter of said PowerPoint usually discovers their role minutes before the presentation. This reading is done by a young black NCO in the medical section. He tries to read us all of the slides on suicide myths and truths (the truths are in red: invisible), about how 80% of suicides have an accompanying note and plenty of other accompanying statistics.

Look for warning signs in your soldiers. If someone who is always happy isn’t talking at all, ask them about it. Be wary if someone voices intent to rid themselves of all their belongings. All basic human shit that many non-sociopaths have likely considered.

Also, if you want to kill yourself talk to somebody—so that you can begin the descent to your career’s end through a few hundred flaming hoops. Gotta get rid of you before you follow through with it right? Lower those statistics.

That last part wasn’t in the slide, just useful information. Hard to come by that kind of stuff from authority.

The PowerPoint ends with at least half of the soldiers still awake. And then it happens. A classic old Army white guy takes the floor and silences the room. He flails his arms as part of his prophetic sermon and is three times louder than the official presentation we just received.

“Look,” he says “all this shit you’re worried about now in your twenties or whatever won’t be anything but a speed bump when you get to be old like me.”

Preach.

“The stuff you think is important now, you won’t even remember,” he continues.

I start to wonder if he’s ever considered suicide, but then feel dumb because it’s obvious that he hasn’t. Neither I, nor my friend Kline sitting next to me are impressed with homeboy’s lily white, all things centered on himself opinion on what everyone’s life is and will be like once they become him. Should we aspire to become him, and naturally we all can, if we work hard enough. As a matter of fact, we must. To have that level of confidence and knowing should be reserved for supreme beings; enlightened ones.

He went on casually berating the crowd for a few minutes, providing me with a few light chuckles. It reminded me of how I talk to my children when they get sad because there aren’t any more bananas, or the oatmeal is taking too long to cool down. Will they opt for suicide the next time I refuse to give them candy before dinner? They were pretty quiet last weekend. I just have so much to think about now…