When Can I See My Friends?

Grey’s Point R.V Park, Virginia

Entering the campground’s general store, I’m greeted with a socially-distanced line. We ask that you mask! a sign outside the store said, and yet none of the queued patrons paid it any mind.

Suddenly, a mom enters with her young son who she leads straight towards the ice cream, bypassing the line while breaking our six foot barrier. At least she’s wearing a mask, I thought, until I noticed that her son wasn’t.

Off the campground, not even the employees at the 7-11 were masked. My parents are having friends over, as are their friends. I see a few online carrying on as if a pandemic hasn’t killed 100,000 Americans.

My county has an F rating for social distancing.

I’m not going to live in fear, they say, as healthcare workers commit suicide.

Thankfully, Northam has now required masks to be worn in public.

– –

I haven’t been within a mile of my boyfriend in over two months. I had originally planned on seeing him soon after we went into Phase 1, but I decided against it. Legally, I’m allowed to, but the question has remained: should I?

The struggle is between epidemiologists, who aren’t economists, and economists, who aren’t epidemiologists. This leaves our elected officials to mediate between the two, interpreting both the cost to human life of life without quarantine, and the cost to the economy with quarantine.

On the national level, we have a president that has a history of not listening to experts at all, and instead politicizes basic public health procedures like the wearing of masks.

Yes, our original goal was to flatten the curve in Virginia, and largely we have accomplished that. However, if we don’t see a continual decline in daily cases (squashing the curve), and we relax our social distancing before we’re ready, we will see a resurgence of the virus and be right back where we started.

Virginia still has not met its testing benchmarks and does not have efficient contact tracing. Officials have said an app to assist in contact tracing should be available around mid-June.

– –

The main question now regarding reopening is whether or not we can afford to wait until we have robust contact tracing and testing to reopen the economy. I think we can.

To be blunt, if we were to remove all restrictions, an analysis from Northwestern reports that the loss of human life could cost the United States $8.5T, far outweighing the cost of current policies. Increasing welfare for the jobless fiscally makes more sense than forcing an end to lockdown.

Given that the economic argument for reopening America is flawed, it doesn’t surprise me that ‘Nearly Half Of The Twitter Accounts Discussing ‘Reopening America’ May Be Bots’ according to Carnegie Mellon.

– –

Where does that leave me? Well, I personally don’t feel comfortable expanding my quarantine bubble by one (my boyfriend) until we have robust contact tracing and or, crucially, we have clearly seen the impact of Phase 1.

I may consider distanced and masked meetups with a consistent set of two or three trusted friends in the near future, but only if the data appears cooperative.

The worst thing about a pandemic is that if you go out, you’re specifically risking the lives of the people closest to you (in addition to others).

It’s easy for me to think ‘oh, it won’t be my relatives to get sick, it will be someone else’s,’ but then I remind myself that someone else across the United States is thinking the same thing, ready to sacrifice my grandparent’s lives for a BBQ – a dilemma averted if we both stay home and respect each other’s humanity.

– –

How you interpret the data and make your social decisions, to an extent, is up to you as responsible decisions lie on a spectrum.

There are, however, wrong answers. Expanding your bubble by multiple people, or even just by one (hanging out not socially distanced) is the kind of behavior that, before robust contact tracing and testing, will send us back from Phase 1.

No, we don’t need to wait for a vaccine to see people again – but ideas like isolating all vulnerable people and returning to absolute normal right now also aren’t feasible.

Until we have a vaccine, there’s questions you need to ask yourself. Do I need to make this trip to the store, or can I do grocery pickup instead to reduce interaction? Even socially distanced and with masks, do I need to have five people with me, or am I happy with just two? When we get to the point of expanding bubbles (late June to July?), who is the safest person for me to include?

It’s these questions, and our answers to them, that decide whether or not we progress from Phase 1 into Phase 2, whether or not college students can go back in the fall, and if 120,000 people lose their lives instead of 400,000.

Vote Blue No Matter Who? Fuck You.

Look, I’m voting for Joe Biden in November, and I have a feeling that many other Sanders supporters are as well, but if Joe Biden loses in November it’s not the fault of those who didn’t vote for him.

It’s not the fault of sexual assault survivors who can’t stomach the idea of voting for someone who has been accused of sexual assault.

It’s not the fault of African-Americans who don’t trust a man that stood with segregationists in opposing ‘bussing,’ a primary tool for the integration of schools.

It’s not the fault of Latinos who believe they’ll find no respite with a President who not only was complicit in locking children in cages, but also lied about it.

It’s not the fault of LGBTQ+ folks who want nothing to do with a man who has repeatedly voted for policies that disenfranchised them.

And it’s certainly not the fault of any veterans or anyone from Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Somalia that is horrified by the tens of thousands of bombs dropped in these countries during his tenure or the over one hundred thousand civilian casualties from the Iraq War, which he also supported.

Now, look, I can already here the screams of Biden supporters: Okay, Biden isn’t perfect, but Trump is so much worse!

You’re missing the point.

It’s the lesser of two evils battle. Again. The same one from four years ago, except now the Democratic candidate might die in office. Do you see the problem? The pattern?

Those ‘rebelling’ against Vote Blue No Matter Who likely do.

This isn’t about Joe Biden, or Donald Trump, it’s about the ‘establishment‘ and their continued manipulation of the electoral process.

In 2016, there was a coordinated effort against the Bernie Sanders campaign from within the DNC that resulted in a decisive advantage for Hillary Clinton. That isn’t democratic. It’s corrupt.

In 2020, absent Superdelegates, the corporate media worked tirelessly to paint Bernie Sanders in a negative light, with a study showing MSNBC disproportionately mentioned Biden 3x as often as Bernie, with significantly higher positive coverage of Biden relative to Bernie as well.

The rejection of Joe Biden is about rejecting the idea that Democrats should vote for whoever MSNBC and CNN decide is the best candidate.

The rejection of Joe Biden is a rejection of horse-race journalism, wherein candidates with heavy name recognition receive free advertising from the earliest parts of the primary process as reporting is done before a single debate is even held, creating a snowball effect where lesser-known progressive candidates like Yang don’t stand a chance.

Without horse-race journalism, news dominated by biased pundits, and DNC influence, we might have a Democratic candidate that everyone could get behind. They might not be a progressive, but Sanders supporters could still enthusiastically support a moderate that doesn’t have a history of sexual assault.

The rejection of Joe Biden is a rejection of this influence. Some will argue that the long-game doesn’t matter, that it’s important we have a Democrat in office now no matter who they are, but those who reject that idea don’t do so easily. They know there’s people likely to be deported. They know Roe v. Wade is under attack. Many are rejecting this influence because they’re the exact kind of person impacted by these policies, not because politics is a fun game for them and they’re trying to be edgy.

They know that if Joe Biden wins, the establishment is going to do this again. They know that eight years from now, we’re going to have an establishment candidate with a blackface scandal lose to Donald Trump Jr, and they’re going to be right back where they started.

You can disagree with their strategy, but if you’re blaming them for Biden’s loss, you should ask yourself why, out of all the moderate candidates, are we stuck with him in the first place.

Grasping for Normalcy

I wake in my dorm, not to the sounds of bathroom doors crashing as per usual, but rather to the soft sounds of birds chirping. It’s a welcome change – but in this moment change does not feel like a friend.

A check of my phone reveals not one, not five, but eleven news notifications relating to the ‘novel Coronavirus’, which itself is apparently another novel I haven’t read.

In my suite’s bathroom my eyes met with a suite-mate’s father’s, eyes that in and with the brief encounter spoke of the abnormality of the situation. If either of us were to look out the window in that moment, 11am on a Saturday, there would be hardly a soul to return our gazes.

I have my first of many appointments today with hand sanitizer.

– –

I’m writing this piece from a new cafe in Charlottesville, Glaze, that specializes in donuts and burgers. I came here to write an essay about the portrayal of homosexual characters in two Arab novels, however four espresso shots did little to shock me into the focus I’m used to controlling.

A large part of me feels careless for daring to go out, but I came anyway. Ironically, I came for a change of pace – but a change of pace that this time I control. In that way it’s a protest, an act of defiance, a statement that my life is still guided by me.

But it isn’t.

– –

I’m a foreign affairs major. I’ve been following politics ever since I could understand what was being said on Fox News from the living-room T.V. Yet, like many others I have a deep sense of exhaustion akin to a runner who doesn’t want to run the next lap of the race – except I’m running knowing that my race never ends.

For a brief period, it seemed as though my voice was being heard. Sanders was the democratic frontrunner, and projected to win the plurality of delegates amid a moderate split in the race. With Biden’s moderate challengers now out of the race, the only normalcy I receive is an absence of the one change I actually desired – and the one change the country arguably needs now more than ever.

I just want to scream.

I’ve felt politically powerless before, but I could tell myself that if I hunker down, focus on my academics and on my languages, I can have a bigger impact on key issues that I care about in my future career. I’m fortunate in that many of those issues were distant from me. I care deeply about the immigration crisis, but I am not an immigrant nor do I live on the southern border.

Yet this pandemic is as close, impactful, and universal as an issue can get, making it all the more maddening that all I can do, the best thing that I can do, is once again hunker down.

– –

Amid disappointments from democratic candidates, voters, and the current administration, I have found hope in the UVA community. Many understand the gravity of the situation, and many have filled my heart with offerings to the community of places to stay, food, and, yes, toilet paper.

Never has it been more apparent in my life that my decisions matter, especially locally. Doing my part in helping to contain this virus means that less people around me will suffer and die. Even if I can’t personally stop the international spread of the virus, I can do my part to stop my friends and family from getting the virus.

When this piece is done, I hope to return to Grounds, practicing social distancing and, for once, feel like I’m having some kind of impact.

For all of those like me who feel like they haven’t been able to change things around you, this is your chance. Do your part in your community, encourage others to do the same, and we can do what the folks in D.C can’t.

– –

Among the stark change, I try to hone in on the continuities.

Walking through Brown’s tunnels still produces a desire to pull every fire alarm on sight.

Lo-fi hip hop still fills my room, mixing with the cold air of the night and the aroma of my candle to put me at ease.

My Spanish journal still welcomes my joys, pains, and grammatical errors.

And I still have friends by my side (read: at least six feet away per CDC guidelines) to get through it all.

So Very Thankful

MEMEMS

Thankful for moments like these, where everything just feels right. Writing with the company of warm apple cider as the sun sets.

– –

For a brief time during my junior year of high school, I kept a journal. I found that journal recently and decided to read each entry.

It’s sad, surreal, stressful.

April 25th, 2018

This quote, referring to the general state of ~things~, surprised me as it came just a day after one of my biggest successes in high school. I would chalk it up to being moody if similar sentiments weren’t scribbled day after day on those pages.

I felt unappreciated, like I didn’t belong, and like things weren’t really going my way despite trying my best.

I present that past reality in an attempt to juxtapose it with my new one, as it helps capture how I currently feel.

Thankful for friends like these, who have helped to turn my new house into a home. From watching Brokeback Mountain on a phone projector to stealing snacks from the First Year Formal, they’ve kept me feeling better than I’ve ever felt before.

– –

I think in the past, a lot of my unhappiness with various parts of my life have been due to inconsistencies between my expectations and reality. My academics aren’t perfect, but they’ve never really been perfect. Where I’m at now is a place where my expectations match up pretty well with my results.

Very thankful for the successes I’ve had in my classes so far, and for the mental fortitude to overcome the failures.

– –

College has kept me very busy. I thought I would have played so many more Counter Strike matches than I have so far (2, and I think I left halfway through both of them). As it turns out, there’s just so many things going on every day and it’s made me so happy.

So I think with that I want to address a previous post of mine that begged the question: how fast does college go by? And I want to bring us back to way further back in my childhood. In the second grade I remember reading a book that I think referenced Einstein’s theory of relativity and my takeaway being that things go by quicker when you’re having fun than when you’re not. I could’ve misremembered this entirely but this has stayed with me since.

Back home, things seemed to go fast in retrospect but it seemed to go fast because of the monotony; every day seemed to be similar to the day previous I couldn’t distinguish between them. Now, I’m having such a good time that it’s unbelievable how quickly I’ve completed roughly 10% of my college experience already.

Thankful for the constant company and events that I seem to both lose and find myself in.

So I’m happy here, thriving, and it’ll probably go by so much faster than I can even expect now, but if it’s for the reasons just explained, I’m okay with that, I just hope the rest of my life will too.

– –

I have struggled with defining myself as an introvert or an extrovert for years but I think I have a pretty clear picture sans a label. I am social as much as I can possibly be throughout the day, limited only by schedules, sleep, and homework, but I hate large groups without a buddy to whisper to. I crave the intimacy (and attention) that small groups provide.

College has been so great because I’ve been able to have those intimate moments all the time with many different people as I’ve found so many that seem to be similar.

Thankful for this boy, who at least for now, seems to enjoy my company enough to spend many hours being the buddy that stays by my side in the crowds and pretends to laugh at my jokes.

– –

In closing, I’m thankful for lots more (family, Pink Floyd, lobster ravioli, etc) but those are mostly continuities and this post can only be so long. I’m grateful to be in a better place now and continuously improving, especially when reminded of where I was less than two years ago.

Matthew shared a quote with me recently from one of his trips to Iceland that I loved so much I rushed to write it down, and I want to put it here because it encapsulates part of the reason why I wrote this post.

Give love now, because we don’t know how much longer we have to give it.

Some old man in a lighthouse in Iceland.

On Good Company

I’m writing now not in the booths in Clemons Library but instead in a hammock around which squirrels are busy burying their treasures for the winter. My body is somewhat chilled from the sudden 35 degree drop in temperature, but the aforementioned company makes leaving unfathomable.

– –

Surrounding a small T.V in an even smaller (!) dorm room, fifteen or so Wahoos of various years gave their opinions on the current political climate while the Democratic candidates espoused theirs.

Despite the crowded space and nearly inaudible voices emanating from the television, there was nothing that could pull me from the room in those moments. I felt so at home even though I had met some of those people for the first time. Joking with them was as easy as longtime friends, and I’m really quite thankful to have found myself in the community that I’m in now.

– –

It was the third week of Arabic, and we’d been taught the entire alphabet. That day in class we were going in a circle and reading words off of a paper.

Every time it got to me, I froze. I couldn’t read them. I hadn’t grasped the last half of the alphabet, and struggled to read the letters that I did know.

My personal worst nightmare went on for ten minutes as every time my professor came back to me, I had to stutter that I didn’t know and she would read it out for me, continuing onto the next person who would read it perfectly. I wanted nothing more than to disappear.

Everyone else gets it, why the fuck am I the one lagging behind?

– –

One evening I found myself accidentally at the beginning of a poetry open mic instead of the club meeting I was expecting (I had the wrong date). They had bagels, so I decided to stay.

The sheer talent and raw emotion showcased by those who shared was staggering. I had never met most of these people, yet there they were, bleeding their heart out to me through extended metaphors and holy shit I feel like I’m in the room imagery.

They were so supportive of each other, so positive, and I felt that I belonged despite having never been to a meeting before. Lost in poem after poem, drowning in other people’s experiences, I found myself once again not wanting to leave.

– –

Sitting in a 400 person lecture, I received my first college exam score. Below average for the class, and way below average for me. I sat there as the professor went over the questions that I had missed, each one drilling a thought further into my head: I’m below average here.

– –

I’ve found my identities and goals conflicting once again here at UVA. I’m expected (both by others and myself) to be a really smart and high performer academically, but my ultimate goal is happiness and not a high GPA.

What’s been hard is finding the balance between these two opposing goals. I’ve found myself relying more on (over)confidence than hours of studying, and more drawn to parties than the love that I have for learning.

Surrounded by so many genuinely wonderful people, I’ve become more social than ever before while also spiraling downwards in confidence after comparing myself to those people.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find the perfect balance, but I think I’m starting to. I’ve found that, for me, I don’t need a basement party every Friday night to be happy so I can at least spend some of it studying.

I’ve started performing better, so come Spring I think I should be at least average. I’m less scared now and more optimistic, because I’m confident now that I have the ability to bounce back from failure if I try my best.

– –

I said nothing of studying on Saturdays, so it’s time now for a movie with good company.

To All My Friends

It’s not that I’m nervous about what’s to come, or that I don’t know what I’m getting myself into, I do, it’s just that I also know exactly what I’m losing.

I’m really, really excited for college. Having visited Charlottesville many times already, I’ve already scoped out Corner Joe for my coffee and studying, sat in the booths in Clemons library where I’ll hopefully continue my writing, and eaten the fresh fruit at the dining halls that everyone seems to hate (an apple is an apple my dudes, try one).

But those are, for the most part, continuations. The old but better. That’s what I like, but what is also to come is complete change and discarding of the old, and I don’t really have a say in the matter. I don’t like that.

I’m in my room right now, but after August 24th my parents have condemned the area I’ve slept in since I was 4 to renovations. We will be replacing your furniture with grown up stuff, they said. Soon, much that was familiar will become unfamiliar.

And what of my friends? While I’m ecstatic to be joined by many of my friends this coming year at UVA, and have already forged many new friendships while becoming involved in the community, some of my closest friends won’t be joining me in Charlottesville. Looking back now I’ve just realized that I’ve given Ephraim the last ride we will share back to his house already without knowing it. Something has passed, has ended, and it stings.

While high school was by no means smooth sailing socially, I found great enjoyment in many of those study halls on the couch with my friends, and leaving when things finally feel steady seems so wrong.

There’s some characters that I fear I may never find again, and while I’ll be keeping in touch the best that I can, I know deep down that in the hustle and bustle of life those characters will grow distant. Hell, sometimes things got hard when they lived not even ten miles from me, so distances of 430 miles are incredibly daunting. Surely, some people are lifelong companions. But it’s not entirely up to me who those get to be, no matter how hard I try.

But I’ve come to accept that that’s okay. Someone wiser than me helped me see that in life some people are just there for that part of the ride. There will be new ones in the next part, and while they may not be the same, there’s some excitement in that.

Those important to me have impacted me more than they could ever know, and although I’m far from perfect, I’m still incredibly grateful for how much they’ve helped me grow as a person.

Those new to my life will hopefully help me grow in different ways that I didn’t know possible. I’m excited for that. But before that, there’s some people important to me that I want to say something to. Not goodbye, but thank you, because even if I won’t be seeing them every day I’ll be carrying a piece of them with me throughout my entire life.

Thank you Carl, for making me feel like I deserved to be in this world even when I thought I didn’t, and for always being the yang to my yin.

Thank you Drew, for pushing me to do better than I ever thought I could (this applies to so many things, it could be its own post).

Thank you Ronin, for making me appreciate what the human experience is all about, and for being a light during many dark moments.

Thank you Yousef, for inspiring me to do more.

Thank you Sophie, for helping me understand that sometimes great friends come out of unlikely places (in this case, the right side of the room).

Thank you Ephraim, for showing me absolutely what not to do in a pool.

If any of my past teachers stumble upon this, thank you all for working so hard (and dealing with me). A special thank you to the Letelliers for being excellent people on top of excellent educators.

Thank you to everyone else who have stuck by me along the way – even if you don’t have a place here please believe that you have a place in my heart (or by my side, if you’re going to UVA).

The first few weeks are not going to be easy, but it’s the next chapter of my life with new characters, and it’s time for that to be embraced.

Childhood Afternoons

Sitting alone in my room, I acted on a sudden urge to google How fast does college go by?

This was partially inspired by my disbelief at my completion of high school. Not that I thought I wasn’t capable of graduating or anything, I just can’t believe that it was over so quickly.

There were of course some points that it seemed to drag on. There were the nights spent punching my desk in frustration, still unable to graph piecewise functions despite the many crumpled pieces of paper that would mar my floor by the end of the night.

There were the days spent wondering if I was bipolar, with tears having stained my pillow the night before over a fucking inconsequential text message yet feeling ready to tackle the world the next morning.

Then there were the many, many moments where I’d stop and appreciate something small yet actually so large when you begin to muse. I’d be in the car driving to school and just think What the fuck? This thing MOVES itself. This two ton hunk of metal can take me ten miles away without breaking a sweat. That’s incredible. This is beautiful.

So there’s all these moments, the details, that make it seem like forever when I think about it. And yet I’m here. And yet it’s over. Freshman year feels so far away yet too close to have been a whole four years ago.

The google search yielded a quote that resonated:

I know that I’ll never have an afternoon as long as the ones in my childhood.

With the knowledge that every passing day feels shorter than the day prior, I began questioning what I should do with my most valuable resource.

One thing I immediately considered, of course, was productivity. Read more books, prepare for classes, get an internship.

But then also, I recalled the childhood afternoons. Afternoons of imagination and wonder. Although there wasn’t an ounce of productivity between my action figures and I, I was so content, so immersed.

Even if my afternoons seem to get shorter with each passing day, I hope to remember those afternoons with the same regard that I hold my childhood ones. I hope to get lost in the moment, which now means more about worldly exploration than action figures, but getting lost nonetheless.

What feels different about my childhood afternoons is that I was rarely waiting for the next big thing. There was no college looming around the corner, no essay deadlines or waiting for my friends to text me back. The only thing I waited for during those afternoons was dinner.

I don’t know if I’ll succeed, but I want to put full focus on remaining in the moment. Less waiting for the next landmark, more appreciation of what’s here.

Maybe then my four years at college will truly feel like four years lived instead of four years gone by.

Are We All Wrong?

I think most of us have been there. Look at this article that I found on Facebook, says your irate grandmother. The title? New Bill Would Require Officers to Call Supervisor Before Drawing Weapons.

That story, which was shared all across Facebook and the internet, alleged that democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris was sponsoring this legislation that she supposedly says will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and allow officers to check their privilege.

I hope it’s obvious to all of you by now that this story and the website it was originally posted on is wholly satirical. Why, then, are our parents and grandparents so much more likely to believe and share fake news online? Are they just stupid?

I don’t think so. I think the first thing to consider is the differences in media consumption between the generations as they grew up. Our grandparents were fed a diet of largely non-partisan television news anchors who sought to deliver the news in a way that appealed to everyone. After all, there were only five or so channels. They knew then that if they tuned in, they were largely being told credible information.

Let’s contrast that with Generation Z. Nicknamed the iGen for our affinity for smartphones, most of our first experiences with independent information collection (outside of school) were with smartphones or computers. Most of us then learned fairly quickly that the internet isn’t the most trustworthy place for information. Many were taught in schools directly how to find credible information and understood, at least on a surface level, that anyone with $10 can make a website.

Add to that the change in the traditional media landscape with vast increases in networks that all try to pander to different sides, and what results is an ingraining in each of us a distrust for many who try to feed us information. We’re (understandably) cynical.

Our grandparents developed a trust for reporters, as really all of those five stations they had access to were credible. The result is that our grandparents are more likely to believe that so long as a story is delivered in a manner that at least mimics journalism, it is credible.

So that’s it! Our generation is better!

Not quite. Generation Z faces a different problem. As I said before, many of us were taught in schools how to find information. We’re very good at finding the information that we want to find, and that’s exactly the problem.

Let’s say I’m a liberal in Gen Z and I think that Trump should be impeached. Many with this belief would google “Reasons why Trump should be impeached,” and often would be delivered exactly what they asked for. The information might even be credible, but of course they are only getting one side of the story.

We’re so good at finding exactly what we want, arming ourselves with facts that may all be true, while unknowingly ignoring things that we think might challenge our views. And when we go to debate other people, often their facts are true too, but we’re both missing sides of the story that we would have if not for our incredibly pointed search queries and carefully curated webpages.

The internet is a beautiful place, and you’re sure to find something that supports your views if you search well enough.

Slowly but surely Gen Z is becoming very similar to their grandparents in that their information diet is toxic and an echo chamber. For better or for worse, we’re the best at finding information and have more access to it than any generation before us. The question now is whether or not we choose to suffocate in our bubbles.

Cancel Culture and Cognitive Dissonance

I thought that my beliefs on ‘Cancel Culture’ were simple. If people do bad things, they shouldn’t reap the rewards of fame and certainly not the admiration and almost free license to do whatever they wish that often comes with public support, despite egregious faults.

As it turns out, I might not practice what I preach.

I couldn’t understand how people could support artists like Chris Brown, who infamously savagely beat Rihanna within an inch of her life. To me, that seemed unforgivable. It disgusted me to even think about listening to his music, the mere idea of giving him my .003 cents of streaming revenue seemed wrong.

Yet still there are people today that support him, despite continued evidence that he’s an objectively awful person.

Some say that you should separate someone from their music, that art doesn’t necessarily need to reflect its creator and vice versa, and maybe it was that I didn’t care for his music in the first place. I told myself I wouldn’t even try to give it a chance.

The problem came when one of my favorite artists came under fire. On Twitter. It wasn’t pretty.

A forty page Google document details the alleged sexual harassment committed by three of the band members, and soon after its release, the band dissolved.

I did believe at the time that the accusations were likely true, given that the band had disbanded, but I decided not to see what exactly they were accused of to protect the music and memories that were so special to me.

About a week ago I noticed that they had released a new album. Self titled, it was unexpected given their last and still most recent tweet made one year prior, “The Orwells have disbanded“.

This reignited the issue in my mind; should I support this band? I decided to finally visit the Google document and see for myself.

What I found shocked me, but not in the way that you might think. The document was disorganized. I could barely make sense of it because of how it was created, and I was disturbed at how such an informal thing could all but end a band’s career.

What bothers me most about this document is that nearly every testimony is anonymous. There has not been a single police report filed, picture evidence posted, or credible testimony recounted. Just a Google document comprised largely of reddit posts and tweets that describe some behavior that, yes, is troubling if true, but in all cases are seemingly unsubstantiated.

One of the most popular accusations is against frontman Mario Cuomo, who allegedly has sent nude pictures on multiple occasions to underage girls. While obviously disgusting if true, what bothers me is that there’s not a single picture that I can find online (I did the search for you, you’re welcome) of him nude. I can’t help but feel like if this happened as many times as alleged, or even at all, someone would have leaked those pictures or gone to the police, even anonymously as they have with this document.

Take the ProJared fiasco for example, accusations were made and those harassed published the photos online. In this situation, it’s easy for me to denounce and be disgusted with the creator. They should be ‘canceled’.

For The Orwells, it’s hard for me to ascertain exactly what they have and haven’t done, and how much I’m willing to let them get away with before losing my support. I don’t think I need them to be convicted in a court of law, but an anonymous Google document isn’t enough for me, either.

Them disbanding doesn’t serve as clear evidence anymore either, as that can likely be attributed to the band losing the support of their record label and one of their band members, them trying to figure out their legal options, and maybe them just deciding to give the internet what they wanted to end the situation.

If there was any hard evidence, a police report (like with Chris Brown), or maybe even a few non-anonymous testimonies from credible sources, I could feel confident in denouncing them as monsters and not just as punk rockers with bad attitudes and an affinity for destroying sets.

After this Google document, they lost almost everything. Their most recent album was released independently, without the support of their record label or even many of their old fans, and has grossed only a few thousand Spotify listens. This is in stark contrast with their next most recent album released in 2017, which itself garnered hundreds of thousands to millions of hits per song.

I don’t think The Orwells should have been ‘canceled’, not until the truth can be reliably ascertained. A Google document should not be able to end someone’s career, and I am scared for the precedent that is being set. I understand the immense difficulty in coming forward with such accusations, but I think there needs to be at least some level of accountability for what can obviously ruin someone’s life.

There will still always probably be an internal debate every time I listen to one of their albums, a twinge of guilt due to my belief that the accusations may be true, but for now I’ll continue listening to their music while keeping my eyes open for credible evidence.

Nonetheless, I find myself questioning whether or not I would allow the same level of scrutiny if this same situation was applied to, say, Paul Joseph Watson. Going forward, I will do my best to try to hold everyone to that same standard of evidence. All I ask of you readers is for when I run for the presidency in 2036, you hold me to a similar standard.

On Being a Sack

The first time that I remember feeling this way was in the second grade. Walking down the hallway in line formation, neither the caboose nor line leader, I was hit with a wave of questions from my inner self.

Who am I? What am I? What is this? I asked while staring down at my hands. I disassociated. I felt as if I was in someone else’s body, and yet it felt wrong to ask those questions.

I kept walking.

One summer a few years ago I found myself sitting outside, just existing by the lake. I stopped to take a deep breath and I appreciated the air. I looked around and I appreciated the birds, the trees, and the geese in the distance. I appreciated life, and it cost me nothing. But there it was again. Who am I? What am I? What is this?

This happened to me recently again. I was reading a book, one that made me feel on a level that I don’t reach often, and there was a certain kind of euphoria reached among the tears. I stared at my legs. Who am I? What am I? What is this?

I came to accept in that moment that I am a sack. I am a sack with chemicals. I am a sack with chemicals that sometimes make me happy, and I like being happy. That much I can accept.

I don’t know if I have another identity that I can realize, or if I’m destined to have a purpose in the grand scheme of events on Earth, but I do know one thing.

I am a sack.

Part of me struggles with the desire to define myself beyond that. Am I supposed to be Ethan McCue, student, aspiring activist, business professional? That answers the who and what am I questions, but it leaves one question unanswered.

What is this?

I don’t think that identity fits what I feel most of the time. It doesn’t answer this because it isn’t this. I am a sack because the pleasures are simple, not complicated. I realized when I was by the lake that I don’t need to be anything to the world to be happy.

I want my future to be guided by what the sack wants, not by that identity with aspirations.

So that settles it. I am a sack. Beyond that, I’m a sack that enjoys the chorus to Nightmare by Halsey, Ari in Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe, and the connection made with friends under the stars. And, at least for now, that’s all I want to be.