Walpurgisnacht, Beltane, May Day, Mayday

[To listen to an audio reading of this article, follow the link here.]

 

“I die happy on the gallows, so confident am I that the hundreds and thousands to whom I have spoken will remember my words. When you shall have hanged us, then they will do the bomb throwing! In this hope do I say to you, I despise you, I despise your order, your laws, your force propped authority. Hang me for it.”

-Louis Lingg, following sentencing for his part in the Haymarket Affair

If there was a man who knew how to charm a room, it was Louis Lingg. He had a handsome face and a commanding air. Even though he was only twenty-three, even though his English was broken and marked by a heavy German accent, there was something in his eyes, described as a “fine blue” that earned him not just the admiration of his fellow German-born carpenters in Chicago (who elected him as a delegate to the Central Labor Union) but of union organizers across the city.

Perhaps his charisma came from his passion. His father had fallen through an icy river when Louis was only 13, nearly drowning. Adding insult to injury was the man’s employer, who fired him when his health failed to improve fast enough, particularly since it was that same employer who forced Lingg the elder out onto the aforementioned ice to begin with.

Imagine being thirteen again, if you can. Imagine coming home to find out your father almost drowned, and that the man responsible for it fired him. Imagine watching your father grow destitute, and that man growing fat and happy, accumulating more and more wealth from other, similarly downtrodden men. Would your blood thicken, quicken into gunpowder in your veins? Would you find yourself with a vested interest in bringing down those who rule over the working classes, making money on the backs of those they plunge into destitution—and even death?

And if the people who you fell in with, those calling for revolution, were moving too slowly for you—what would you do to make them pick up the pace?

Continue reading Walpurgisnacht, Beltane, May Day, Mayday

You Don’t Have “A Gypsy Soul,” You’re Just a Racist: An Etymological History of the Word “Gypsy”

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Introduction

To an average person, the etymology of the word gypsy seems pretty straightforward when you look at its origins. The Oxford English Dictionary notes that the initial form of the word used in its earliest attestations is gipcyan, which stems from a colloquial aphesis of the word Egyptian, referring to a person from the country of Egypt. Over time, the initial vowel fell into disuse, and thus the word gipcyan was formed. From there, the change to the word gypsy (or gipsy, the spelling is rather interchangeable) was formed possibly due to the introduction of the –y suffix into English by the absorption of French vocabulary. In short, the formation of the word gypsy is relatively clear-cut.

Or, it would be, if gypsies actually came from Egypt. Which, they didn’t. So, it’s not.

As you’ll soon come to find, absolutely nothing about this word is particularly simple.

Continue reading You Don’t Have “A Gypsy Soul,” You’re Just a Racist: An Etymological History of the Word “Gypsy”

The Significance of a Smile

[This speech was originally written and presented for a Planned Parenthood sponsored “Consent Culture” rally at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne.]

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The first thing that was taken from me was my smile.

When I was a child, my life consisted of a rinse-and-repeat cycle of bullies. I would go to school and be terrorized because I felt too much, I laughed too loud, I gave too many hugs and second chances. I believed too hard in the lie about sticks and stones and breaking bones. But the truth was that, under the weight of the names I was called, my skeleton was bending and snapping. A little known fact about human anatomy is that, pound for pound, our bones will hold more pressure than steel. But, the spoken word carries more of a burden than the best of us can bear.

In the early 2000s, when I was in elementary school, child psychologists and social workers had only just begun to scratch the surface on the condition of childhood depression. Suffice to say, in many rural elementary schools like the ones dotted across Northeastern Indiana, teachers and administrators were ill-equipped to deal with students like myself. I was bullied so frequently in my formative years that I have had recurring, suicidal thoughts since the age of eight. But in the years that have followed, with the passage of time that has closed those wounds, I can tell you that I barely remember my childhood tormentors. I blocked many of those memories out.

But, one memory that I do have, that I can close my eyes and relive to this day, is not of the children that intimidated me or of the names I was christened. Rather, I recall the inaction of those who were supposed to protect me, and, most importantly, how even at that age, I was already being stripped of my own agency…

Continue reading The Significance of a Smile

Life Coaches and the White Women Who Pay Them

[Originally posted at Gods & Radicals]

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“Who the fuck even listens to these people?”

Day after day, watching this mountain of war crimes climb in front of me, what was once an incredulous question posed with a half-laugh and an eye roll has now turned into a seething catch phrase. I had hoped this bubble would burst. I had hoped this was a simple flash in the pan that would meet its end in a spectacularly quiet fashion, but oh no, this conflict of attrition continues to wage on. I would say that I fear myself succumbing to exhaustion, but in reality, that would be too swift a social media death, too kind for my liking. Instead, I endure, and in doing so I watch this enemy grow stronger, gaining power in the form of keystrokes and page views:

Life Coaches.

But no, not just any life coaches, kids. They are the Spiritual White Woman. They believe in Law of Attraction. They can help you do that same, provided you pay them enough. But let me break down this beast for you so you know what you’re looking at: I’m talking about bleach blonde white women, all of whom craft their social media battlements with eerily similar headshots of themselves in business casual suit jackets as their waving flags. Their banner men hoist their colors in the form of quickly edited stock photos of sunsets and misty forests with inspirational quotes slapped in the foreground. (And if they’re misattributed, who cares? After 500 shares, the truth of anything is relative.)

It isn’t hard to find them, as they want to be found, they build their fortresses with open gates, all the more eager to shepherd in their waiting flocks to become their armies. Their swords are honed from the contracts of their upcoming book deals, their shields are the hundreds of women in their Facebook groups who are glad to serve, much like worker bees for a queen. They are even willing to do the heavy lifting.

They are third wave feminists who sit at the top of the social hierarchy, they’ll hawk “intersectional” feminism like carnival barkers while simultaneously using the emotional labor of women of color to build their foundations even higher. They will do anything in order to make hand over fist in profits for themselves, building their clientele through thinly veiled lies and crafted deceptions. They care only for feminist thought so long as it means they don’t exclude anybody that might be willing to hand them money, which means their morals are circumspect at best. They preach love and tolerance while quietly accepting and preening TERFs, and nursing the emotionally stunted women who can’t seem to handle the mere notion of “white guilt” being something that applies to them.

Now, there’s a part of me that watches this miasma of bullshit with a skeptical laugh and a hearty sip of cider, and there’s another part of me, a part that grows larger every day, that simply squints, hard, at this cycle of battling across social media that I’ve become privy to, all while the same question twists, reforms, and burns in my mouth:

“Who the fuck even pays these people?”

But, the truth is, I know exactly the sort of people that would…

[Read more on Gods & Radicals…]

“Planchette”

This is a short story I wrote for a creative writing course in the spring of 2017; despite my endeavors as a gonzo journalist, I’m primarily a fiction writer. While most of my content here will be essays and creative nonfiction, there will be rare glimpses of fictional forays as well. Enjoy.

-Bon

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“This is dumb.”

Three girls at a slumber party sit around a desk lamp on the floor, which shines on a plastic board. The other two girls are asleep, it is just passing that hour in the night where it’s too late to still be awake and too early to be getting up. The house breathes around them, groans from the storm pelting at the windows outside. Summer rains on the shore of the lake are always thicker than they seem, especially when the fog kicks up outside.

“You’re dumb.”

The three have them have names, just like every other band of three girls in the world that do the same thing at slumber parties in the dark of the night. Their names are unimportant, they are only words, and actions will always speak louder. So we will call them by their actions, not the consonants and syllables that tumble off their tongues to form meaningless disturbances to the void. You are not one of them. You do not need to be attached to them so easily.

The first is Nervous; she spindles her long dirty blonde hair around her knobby fingertips because she is superstitious and afraid. She is the one who has not said a single word since the narrative ambiguously began (If it has begun at all yet, because, has it really?) and has her eyes transfixed at the plastic board on the floor in the hopes that her gaze may set it alight. Freckles dance on her face in the dim light. She wanted to be asleep hours ago.

Skeptical is the one who scoffs, is the one who calls everything dumb. She is a stick of dynamite lit from both ends and everybody knows it, she is the oldest but she never leads. She always hangs back because she wants to make people think she doesn’t care. But she does care, oh, she does. She always does, and in this case, she thinks this is dumb because she doesn’t believe in ghosts, but she wants to, in her soul.

The plastic board on the floor is an Ouija board, and if you haven’t figured that out yet, you haven’t been to very many middle school slumber parties. Or you don’t watch a lot of television.

Then there’s Authority. You know her, if you close your eyes and think back to when you were a child, you will see her in your mind’s eye. She is the girl with the upturned nose that always tells everyone what to do, the girl that is always right and always is the best at everything, from gym to history to spelling to socializing. When she grows up, she will probably go to college on a scholarship, get a job in business, have two kids and an affair, and go to the nail stylist every other week.

Continue reading “Planchette”