Talking Myself Off a Ledge About Humanity

Warning: The following post contains absolutely zero facts. It is pure conjecture. Take it with many grains of salt. 

My smart, thoughtful, social worker wife tells me it’s confirmation bias. She tells me that people are overlooking the plainly stated and burying themselves in the nuggets of information that confirm their perspectives. More importantly, she informs me that it’s so very human.

But yet…

I can’t help but watch that video, the latest in a daily stream of videos and bizarre Twitter rants, and think about all of the people in my life who support this man, who consider him some sort of Mensa-level genius playing some master game against The Illuminati.

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I Wrote a Letter to Senator Patrick Leahy

BatmanDeathofInnocentsInstead of finishing the story I wanted to complete and ship off this week, I spent the last two hours writing a letter to Senator Patrick Leahy about Batman and gun violence. If you’re wondering why I chose this senator and why, on earth, did I bring Batman into this, I highly recommend you read about Batman: Death of Innocents, which was used to help pass a ban on the export of anti-personnel mines in 1992.

Without further delay, here’s the letter.

Dear Senator Patrick Leahy,

I am not a resident of Vermont, but I have come to learn of your achievements and incredible service to civil liberties and humanitarian causes through a mutual friend we have in common. I won’t lie. This mutual friend is fictional and has pointy ears.  

For a few months now, I have wanted to thank you for the beautiful foreword you wrote at the beginning of Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman. It was absolutely inspiring and touching, and I must admit that it brought a tear to my eye. To see how the power of a childhood hero has helped guide someone into doing good works for the benefit of all is very personal to me, as I too feel the call to help manifest this altruism in the world. 

One particular issue you touched upon in your foreword, however, was your involvement with Batman: Death of Innocents. It was a wonderful method of bridging the gap between the ideals we dream about in comics and affecting real-world change. Having this special issue placed on every senator’s desk ahead of a vote on your ban on the export of anti-personnel landmines was an amazing tactic, and I am thankful that you were able to create policy using one of our most iconic heroes. 

There is a request I would like to ask of you, one that once again asks you to don your own cape and cowl to bring about real-world change. 

I was in middle school when the Columbine shooting happened. At the time, this tragedy seemed like a horrific freak occurrence that we, as a nation, would stamp out and prevent from ever happening again. Much to our misfortune, this ultimately didn’t come to pass, and mass shootings have become increasingly commonplace in recent years. It breaks my heart to say that I know people personally who have been permanently affected by these tragedies. 

Whenever legislation gets introduced to help curb the rising tide of these mortifying episodes of gun violence, these bills get squashed, shut down, and locked away. Our collective trauma, as a nation, grows as more mass shootings take place, and we are left weeping for the ones we lost, week-to-week, day-to-day. 

Senator Leahy, I consider myself an optimist on any normal day, but these are not normal days. I must confess that my optimism wanes each time a bill gets reintroduced, and I feel that there are insurmountable forces at work that prevent hardworking senators, like yourself, from getting the work done that needs to get done. 

As a lifelong Batman fan, you know as well as I do that the Caped Crusader’s war on crime hits closest to home when it comes to gun violence. We all know the stories of how gun violence took his family away, and we have seen panel after panel of Batman disassembling and destroying these weapons of destruction. His war on gun violence means removing weapons of war from the streets at all costs. 

With Batman’s war intersecting with our own war against gun violence, is there a way we can bring one of our most celebrated national heroes to the forefront of this debate? With your connections and past work with the creative people at DC Comics, can we somehow use Batman as a figurehead for championing the battle against gun violence? 

I ask you as an admirer, as a fellow lifelong comic fan, and as a concerned and mortified citizen, how can we manifest the ideals we dream about in comic books page into real-world policy changes?

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.

Scott Waldyn


P.S. In your foreword to Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman, you wrote, “Children may not always listen to other grown-ups, but they will always listen to Batman.”

There are many members of Congress who often relate President Trump’s comments and Twitter outbursts to that of a child’s. Of all the reasons to summon The Dark Knight into this debate, perhaps this is the most important.

The Parasite Lurking Under the Skin


Facebook hasn’t been fun for me for about a year or more now. Though I try to bring some humor and carry a smile to my interactions with wonderful groups of friends, writers, and family members, what I see gets to me. The anger. The hatred. The rage. It’s all consuming, and I can feel it writhing around inside of me, worming its way through my organs like some sort of parasite battling for control of who I am.

I feel the urge to lash out, to get physical, to beat down these people posting the poorly written or heavily editorialized articles that are making me angry.

But I know this is wrong. My heart tells me that these people aren’t my enemies. They’re friends. Family. Brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, and so on. And if I give in, I’m allowing myself to contract the same parasite that’s enslaving them, the same techno-terror that has them spewing bile on social media.

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On Politics


Some thoughts on the impending 2016 election that I originally posted on someone else’s comment thread. Take them as you will, as this will likely be one of the few times I’ll open up about the subject.

Every four (hell, even two) years the world is always at stake, and if you vote outside of either of the two parties, you’ll have friends on either side telling you that the “blood of the election” is on your hands, even though you decided to vote for someone who wasn’t into drone-bombing foreign nations or stripping away more civil liberties. It never fails.

And they’ll badger you. They’ll berate you. They’ll call you names. The only solace you’ll have is that you decided, for maybe only once in your life, to make a conscious decision not based on fear of “the other guy,” not based on the twisted, mind-numbing game of back-and-forth oozing from partisan television stations on an hourly basis. Perhaps only for a minute, you did something out of inspiration, love and empowerment, and it felt amazing to make a choice positively, instead of negatively.

In the coming months, do what makes you feel human.

Poor Jud Is Dead


When the throes of campaign season are upon us, I’m often reminded of a musical I tend to strongly dislike. It’s called Oklahoma!, and it’s about the struggle over the source of two men’s affections, Laurey Williams. It’s considered a classic, written by the famous musical dynamic duo of Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein II, and I dislike it because I can’t stand the protagonist, Curley McLain. He’s the all-American meathead asshole. He’s boisterous, self-aggrandizing, outspoken and selfish, evident by a scene where he tries to remove his competition for Laurey by trying to convince the other party (Jud Fry) to hang himself.

But everybody loves Curly. Every person in town (except Jud) sings Curly’s praises, and yet, as an audience, we don’t see Curly do much beyond puffing his own chest. Jud, on the other hand, is cast as the roadblock to everything Curly wants and the main antagonist. Jud’s crime? He’s a loner weirdo who lives on the outskirts, and nobody likes him. This breeds obsession in Jud to protect what’s his, and it drives him to act erratically and ultimately violently when the woman of his dreams switches sides and joins team McLain.

Oklahoma! is a simple story we’ve seen played out over and over again. The “good guy” overcomes the “bad guy” and saves the girl. Everybody in town cheers, not really bothered that it took someone’s death to resolve the plot. And since it’s a musical, people break into well-choreographed bouts of plot-driven dancing.

Ok1When I first saw Oklahoma!, I didn’t necessarily like what I watched, but there was something about it that embedded it deep within my brain. It was the Jud character. In the production I saw, Jud was a tall, tubby oaf. He looked like a walking egg, and he dressed in what appeared to be burlap sacks. These were our cues to join the townspeople in hating him, and these were the reasons we had to suspend our judgment when Curly took the coward’s road in trying to convince Jud to hang himself, thereby securing an indirect route to freeing up Laurey as a partner at the local dance.  It was a heavy-handed tactic for such a petty end result, but Jud was the burlap sack-wearing oaf, so…

Nobody thought Curly bad or wrong or evil for his promotion of suicide. None of townsfolk rethought their support for everyone’s favorite cowboy. It was a strange experience for me, and sitting in the audience, I couldn’t help but balk at some of my fellow attendees who were cheering for Curly. And near the end, when Jud turns violent, the exultations of joy emitting from my fellow attendees reached a crescendo.

“See?!” they cried. “Jud IS the bad guy!”

Though strange as this experience was for me, it’s not entirely out of the ordinary. In fact, it’s a very human thing to do and is something we do all of the time.

Think about it. More often than not, we create our own enemies. When we consolidate into exclusionary groups, when we chastise people for differing politic opinions or lifestyles or interests, we’re pushing Juds to the far reaches of society. We’re fueling the fire, piecing together ticking time-bombs who will own venture deeper and deeper into that black abyss we claim to stand firmly against.

I see it often around election season on Facebook. I see it in the comment sections of topical news stories. I see it in public when people are waiting in line to see a movie. People gang up on each other, some choosing to even to go so far as to publicly shame the person they were having a heated argument with. Though we might feel “right” because our values are reinforced by our friends, family or that one article that agrees with us, doing these things aren’t exactly helping us. Even if we’re reacting to a fight we didn’t start.

At the end of the day, these battles are dividing us. They’re pitting us against ourselves, pocketing us into exclusionary groups that can be easily marketed to. Who wins when the town has been gerrymandered into cliques too busy with ousting one another over bullshit Facebook trends? Unscrupulous, silver-tongued opportunists with something to sell. Self-indulgent Curlys not beholden to any one group or way of life.

If someone in town brought a bottle of whiskey to Jud’s shack with the offer of simply hanging out, Oklahoma! might not have ended the way it did. The musical certainly didn’t need to end violently. It was only a date to a dance, after all.

As a species, I often feel that we’re getting better at being human, that we’re evolving. I’m an optimist like that, and I hope that one day I’ll see an adaptation of Oklahoma! that doesn’t end with one person trying to knife the other, that the townspeople learn their lesson and discover a way to break bread with that loner weirdo on the outskirts of town.

I won’t hold my breath for Curly realizing he’s an asshole, though.  I won’t hold my breath for finally liking Oklahoma!, either.