The Superbus's Thoughtpad

Hundreds in Greenwich Mourn Their Murder Of Bart Palosz

Posted by Chris Bowen on September 4, 2013

Image courtesy of Greenwich Patch, via the Palosz family.

Image courtesy of Greenwich Patch, via the Palosz family.

“This is a eulogy, as so rather than making it a lecture on what and who failed Bart, it is most important at this time to celebrate Bart’s life, and to grieve over our tragic loss.”

The eulogy for Bart Palosz, who Greenwich High sophomore who committed suicide after the first day of school last week, was well written, emotional, and largely sidestepped the major issues that led to Mr. Palosz ending his life, after years of bullying, and indifference on the part of the Greenwich school system. Instead of naming and shaming names, it did what it was supposed to do: celebrate the life of someone who was, by all accounts, a brilliantly intelligent young man who didn’t fit in with the societal norms expected of a teenager. In short, they handled it with grace and dignity.

I don’t have nearly the same limits, and therefore, don’t require the same grace and dignity.

Let’s be blunt: the larger community of Greenwich killed Bart Palosz. They might not have pulled the trigger on the shotgun, but through equal parts bullying and depraved indifference, they might as well have. What’s striking about this young man is that he really was the better person in just about any case one could think of; he was outright told that he should fight back, but ultimately decided that it wouldn’t be “right”. He took his beliefs to the grave when it became too much to deal with.

The reason it became too much to deal with is because of the stupid, lazy and downright incompetent people that have been involved with the schooling of this poor kid since he started to receive abuse, not to mention the inhuman devils that literally beat him into submission. People were told throughout the years that the bullying was getting worse and worse, and administrators continued to put their heads in the sand. They had union meetings to attend, I guess. And really, Greenwich is rich; couldn’t they afford a shrink? We have almost 2,500 students to address! How could we notice the subtle and understated clues that he was giving?

Naturally, this kid should have just sucked it up. After all, everyone is bullied at some point in their lives, and we all turned out fine! That’s some of the sentiment I hear about the suicide of a kid. Local resident Tony Mammone, who is such a buffoon I’m not even going to play nice by just calling him a “local resident”, summed up this mindset in a Facebook thread:

Everyone faces some sort of bullying growing up. It is more widely publicized now. Quit coddling the youth today as it is making them a bunch of overly sensitive babies.

(…)

Idiot? Ok thanks. I did read the article. I was the fat kid growing up. I got teased for it and ‘bullied’ it’s part of growing up. If the kid shoots everyone in school, he a menace. If he kills himself, he’s bullied. Why not speak up, and ask for help.

Anyone saying this is thinking back to some idyllic time where people all mostly got along, and the worst anyone did was occasionally receive a swirly. I was bullied a lot as a kid, and in some cases, I got it *bad*. Some of it, I’ll never forget, and some of it, I’ll never forgive, even in my 30s, a time when I really should be over it. I was able to survive, and even thrive after the fact, but there were a few key differences:

1) Bart Palosz is a better person than I was. He wouldn’t strike people back. I, on the other hand, fought a lot. This frequently meant I had to fight four or five on one, granted, but a lot of bullying was able to be stopped simply because I got big enough and angry enough to do some damage. This is the easy answer for people my age or older, but guess what? It’s a bad answer! Violence is a bad thing! Do you know what fighting got me? More fights! More times being hurt! More times hurting other people! And no, it wasn’t limited to just people who tried to beat me up; I got very trigger-happy in my adolescence, and I’m not proud of that. Even today, my first instinct is to just punch someone who I think is a threat. I’m 33! This shit stays with you.

2) Today’s bullies are vicious. Read this post in the Daily News – of all places – where they described some of the things he went through. They bashed his head against a locker in the 8th grade, causing him to go to the ER. Someone smashed his phone in the middle of biology class. And this is just the stuff we’re hearing about in the papers! Of course the Greenwich school system is playing defense.

3) Today’s bullies don’t stop at school. When I was young, most of the time, stuff ended at school. If you lived in a rough area, sometimes it extended to that area, but you could avoid it just by going home for the most part. Today, that’s not possible for anyone who has a Facebook or Google+ account. Girls are particularly aware of this type of bullying; leave school, come home, and have people posting your half-naked picture online while filling your inbox with “whore”, “slut” or (for the boys) “fag”. Bullying is a 24/7 enterprise in 2013, and it’s getting worse.

I am aghast that no one looked at his Google+ page and decided not to get involved. I have personally gotten involved in the cases of three people who were going to kill themselves or at the very least were saying they were. I don’t mean just making a comment with ascii hearts or “~~hugz~~”, I mean calling the police. Each case involved deep information diving on my part, and calls to various police forces. Bart’s G+ profile outright says he lived in Greenwich; did no one take him seriously? Or did no one give a crap? I wish I saw this before the fact, put it that way. At the very least, it scares someone straight. At best? It could save a life. And blaming the parents in this particular case isn’t wise, either; I don’t expect Polish immigrants in their 40s or 50s, with a daughter going to college, to know their way around the internet.

So of course, the Greenwich community is positively mourning the loss of their young man. Reports came out that after Bart’s death, all of his old schools were overrun with crisis counselors to console anyone who needed it. How quaint. The people who either outright bullied Bart, or who stood by and watched it happen with at best cowardice and at worst a bemused and perverted enjoyment of the festivities. A show with lunch, how adorable. Where the fuck was Bart’s crisis team!? Where was his guidance counselor!? Where was anyone, who was in a position to stop the inhumane treatment he was receiving, day after day, year after year, throughout his entire schooling life, until he finally decided that death was a preferable solution to having to endure this torture for one more year, let alone three?

The saddest tragedy in all of this is that this will go away. The administrators in charge of Greenwich’s school system will be able to put out passive statements about doing everything they can to “look into” what happened, without actually doing anything. The people who covered up his being smashed into a locker and covering up the video footage won’t be charged with even a civil crime, much less a criminal one. The horrific human beings who slowly beat and abused him to death will not only never see the inside of a prison cell, but will not have any inconvenience, short of press attention for a few days, to their lives. If the people who did this are football players, they will never miss a game; after all, Greenwich might be good and the FCIAC is tough, you know?

It is my sincere hope against all hope that the people who are responsible for the murder – yes, murder – of Bart Palosz know what they did, and that the image of this tall, awkward but developing child haunts them every waking hour of their day. I hope they have the intellectual honesty to admit – if only to themselves – that they – students, administrators, teachers – are directly responsible for the death of this person, and that the combination of that realization and their natural cowardice causes them to experience a gradual mental breakdown, as the weight of their crimes works at their conscience like a pickaxe on a rock, breaking them down farther and farther until they become husks of their former selves. Then, and only then, can they understand what they did to this man. The Christians can save their adorable notions on forgiveness for Sunday mass. I want these people to suffer for the rest of their lives, and to die broken people.

Sadly, I might be asking too much. Empathy is a human emotion, after all. These people who systematically killed a child aren’t human.

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The Police State Came To Greenwich

Posted by Chris Bowen on August 29, 2013

metronorthPeople ask me why I have such a strong, visceral distrust – at best – for the police. “They’re there to help you!” “You should respect their sacrifice!” “They’re just doing their jobs!” I am told this by the people closest to me in life; the mother who was protected by the third shift police she served while waiting tables to raise me, the girlfriend who comes from a family of Irish cops, I catch flak for my stance often. “But Chris, not all cops are like that!”, I’m told. Well, I guess we’ll just put neon “bad cop” signs on the ones that aren’t.

Today showed a pretty good exhibit A on why I feel the way I do.

My daily routine includes getting on what is currently the 5:26 train from Westport, meeting up with my girlfriend on the train, dropping off in Bridgeport, and then getting on the Waterbury bound train for our destinations; her’s in Beacon Falls, mine in Derby. Today, that was shot to hell as we heard, as soon as my bus shuttle got to the train station, that the 5:26 train was delayed due to “police activity”. I later found out what it was: police searching for a bank robber. To be fair, locking down Metro North – especially with the report of an armed person potentially riding the train – was the right move. It was the way they did it that I find particularly galling:

“At one time, when the SWAT team arrived in full gear, they said, ‘Everyone get off your seat and on the ground and put your hands in the air,’” Paschos said.

(…)
“Something major going on at #Greenwich train station,” Jennifer Garcia, of Long Island City, posted. “Cops have guns drawn, searching every car on my train.”
In another tweet, Garcia said passengers were forced to keep their arms raised as police searched the cars.

Let’s review: a train full of people just trying to go home, who have no clue what’s going on, are told by armed thugs with huge guns and vicious dogs to stand up and keep their hands up, prone, until further notice.

If that doesn’t chill you to the bone, you are a special kind of coward, and deserve no security or liberty. There’s really no middle ground.

If you support having to keep completely prone and vulnerable, hands high, in full submission, assumed guilty until proven innocent, you stand for exactly the opposite of the freedom that this country was founded upon.

There’s this mindset – usually among caucasian, white collar civilians, I’ll note – that the police are infallible, and even if they make a mistake, they have to be trusted to protect you. Speaking out in opposition to this mindset brands one a troublemaker who deserves watching. This is a notion that has been systematically destroyed over the past 50 years. Police officers armed with very large guns and very bad attitudes – weather in homes, on the road, or on a train – have been treating the citizens they’re supposed to protect like an insurgent force that must be dispatched. It’s dissipated down to regular patrols, where three cops and a K9 seem to be necessary to do anything; that was the composition of the team that tied me up, before saying a single word, like a pork dumpling, with my wrists shackled to my ankles behind me, for the grievous offense of driving my car onto an unused football pitch at 1.5 MPH with the intention of using my headlights to look for a discus. This wasn’t in Bridgeport; this was in small-town Seymour, CT. I got off easy; the news is filled to the brim of people and pets who were shot and murdered by police forces – who would go on to do their utmost best to cover up their crimes – simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, moving in a subtle way that made a psychotic individual fire and forget. The most recent case is that of six cops using a taser to detain one (1) 18 year old skateboarder, and then high-fiving over his twitching body, one that would soon become a corpse. His offense? Graffiti.

These are the people who I am supposed to trust with my life? These are my “protectors”?

If one thinks that in this specific case, such an awful, fascist mindset is plausible, take yourself through the mindset of what it takes to actually acquiesce to such a degree. A SWAT team officer, a regular police patrolman, you, I, everyone, we all put our pants on the same way. Anyone not reading this from a penitentiary is a competent, fully-grown adult who is capable and expected to conduct ourselves in a way that takes care of ourselves and our own, as long as we don’t infringe upon the rights of others. In short, I am no less of a man than anyone who had those guns today. I am supposed to bear my proverbial belly just because another man says so? And to do it not only without complaint, but with a smile, safe in the knowledge that my goodness, my saviors are here to save the day? I am now officially viewed as so inferior that I am automatically a threat just by being somewhere? I am a law abiding citizen; why should I be treated like a criminal until some higher power determines that I am worthy of my inalienable rights?

My country has become an Orwellian parody.

Technically, I don’t even really have a right to complain. After all, even though I’m a large, athletic man who can do some damage in a fight, I’m still a young white man who rides in a predominately affluent area; Westport is basically Greenwich for old people. Imagine if I was black? Or hispanic? Or – God help me – of Middle Eastern origin!? It’s pretty obvious how I’d be treated.

However, a funny thing happened on the Waterbury train. My girlfriend and I sat across from a couple of middle-aged women in business attire – caucasian, because despite our “post-racial” society, this matters – were reading the story about the bank robbery, and paid particular mind to the part about everyone having their hands up waiting for their heroes to let them go home. To them, the mindset was appalling; one even noted that it would be frightening, and that they hadn’t really thought about it before.

Everyone’s a sheep until the manger’s on fire, I guess.

Ultimately, the only real cost to my day was that I got home later than I wanted to, too late to make it to play basketball. My girlfriend missed an appointment, but it’s one she’ll be able to make in two weeks with no damage. For us, who were stops ahead of Greenwich, this was nothing more than an inconvenience. However, we need a societal upheaval against the very notion that our police can detain and completely incapacitate hundreds of people to catch one guy who’s dressed like a rejected Bond villain and didn’t even fire a shot (by the way, this would be a good time to mention that they didn’t catch him. They failed in their goal. They used a nuke to kill a fly, and the fly lived). It’s dangerous to a free society to have this mindset, and in all honesty, modern police forces have not even come close to earning this level of trust. It is everyone’s duty to try to apprehend someone who can put the lives of others in danger, but it is an equal duty to fight back against the vice of the police state.

Posted in Local News, Local Politics, Personal | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

The Killing Road

Posted by Chris Bowen on August 20, 2013

lepricrossIn my time as a writer and as a journalist and blogger, I have taken a lot of pictures of events, people, and things. My job has largely been video games, not war photography. But I can never remember a time when I was in as much danger as when I got the shot to the left of this paragraph.

To get this shot, I had to walk along what we locally call Pink House Cove. It’s a brutal stretch of road; a 40MPH, blind curve with two way traffic. On one side of the road, you have a guard rail protecting the Housatonic River. On the other side, you have a small mountain that turns certain curves into guessing games because you can’t see what’s coming from the other end. Both sides feature virtually no shoulder, so there’s nowhere to go if something goes wrong. I walked along the inside curve of the mountain to get to this site to be able to get this picture, not being able to see where the cars were and – worse – them not being able to see me. I stayed to the inside as far as I could, but it never felt like enough; one person coming too fast, or over-correcting to the inside, could make me the middle of a crunchy sandwich. I’m a brave man who has survived a war, but I am not without feeling, and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t a touch afraid for my life as I walked about 1/8th of a mile to this spot.

Despite all that, I managed to get across the street and into a good enough position, on the other side of the guard rail, to get the shot.

Why would I risk my life like this, on a notorious road at sundown? Easy: the shot is the memorial cross for Marie Lepri, who died on June 7th, 2010, killed by someone driving this very curve too aggressively. And it’s my vain hope that my own little bit of risk helps drive enough attention to this road to make sure that Marie, and the other people who have died on this road over the years, didn’t die in vain. Read the rest of this entry »

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Breaking Down Bad: The Subtle Changes of the Ageing Athlete

Posted by Chris Bowen on August 14, 2013

I’ve been involved in competitive athletics for my entire life. Be it hockey, baseball, basketball, soccer, boxing or even rugby, I’ve been athletic in some way, shape or form. I even spent my senior year as a male cheerleader1. This has been routine for me; I’m far from being a fitness warrior, but despite my weight – a shade under 260 these days, and fluctuating between 225 and 235 before getting injured recently – I have the ability to move quickly, gain speed, and have the endurance to referee multiple hockey games at a high level, one after another. Basically, at 260, I look like I’m 220, move like I’m 210, and would not look out of place on a small college’s defensive line.

However, I fear that those days are coming to an end. Not necessarily because I’m heavy – though that certainly doesn’t help my case – but just because of the creeping presence of Father Time. In athletic terms, I’m getting old, and the adjustment to that new reality is gradual enough to the point where I am constantly surprised at how the things that came easy for me in the past are coming harder now.

Since I hit adulthood, I have known my body pretty well. Not just the “stats” – how much can I lift, how far and fast can I run, what are my times in skating drills – but how my body reacts to and recovers from a serious workout. It’s hard to quantify into words, but it’s a give and take; I know generally how my body’s going to react to so much stimuli, depending on how much I’d been giving it prior. The less I’ve done for, say, a week, the more I’m going to feel it the next day after I give it a good rutting.

The only problem with that is that as I hit my mid-30s, the old rules don’t work anymore. I first noticed changes last hockey season. My feet were heavier, even if my overall weight wasn’t. My speed was down. I wasn’t getting from point A to point B as quickly. Sure, I *felt* like I was, but I felt like I had to sprint more to get to point B than I had in the past. As for agility issues such as getting out of a tight spot, forget it; there was a delay between my brain telling my body to move and my body finally getting around to it; the best athletic parallel would be to a baseball player’s bat speed slowing down, forcing him to anticipate pitches more. Needless to say, I got caught on my front foot, so to speak, more often than I was comfortable with last year. It became especially notable on a basketball court, where holes that I was used to hitting were closing a lot faster than I was used to. Are kids – I mostly play with and against teenagers or college students – getting faster, or is it me? I’ve always been big, but last year was the first one where I noticed it.

Furthermore, recovery was a problem. After a long weekend of games, I would go home baked, and would be almost useless the next day as well. I’m used to being tired, but not drop-dead exhausted. My energy reserves weren’t what they were. The obvious answer to many people is simply to drop weight, but even that takes more work than it did even a few years ago. With almost no changes to my diet except dropping soda, I was able to drop 30 pounds years ago by simply adding some cardio to my workout. Now, I can do all the cardio I want, and I might drop 5 pounds in a month, tops. Serious changes will have to happen to my diet – my entire lifestyle – in order to facilitate what are ultimately diminishing results.

Then, I hurt my ankle. First, I sprained the right one; then, I did something to the left one while favouring the right. The resulting pain from both cost me a week’s worth of work and essentially a month off of most physical activity. Immediately, I gained almost 20 pounds, just to start. Then, the rehabilitation started, and it was brutal. I don’t stretch as well as I used to, for one, and when I started getting more into cardio-based workouts, I wasn’t getting stronger, as quickly, as before, and my ability to move, while easy to come back from before, was now seriously hampered.

If all of these symptoms hit me at once, I think I’d have an easier time adjusting, but this has come on gradually. I’ve always said in the past “I’m not as ______ as I used to be” – fast, strong, agile – but it isn’t until recently when I looked around and noticed that this was a trend and not a blip. Of course, it’s natural for this to happen; in some sports, I would be well washed up even as a professional by now. Tennis players are usually done or getting there by the time they hit 33 – Roger Federer, probably the greatest tennis player I’ve ever seen2, is on the downswing of his career at 32 – and most soccer players are winding down at this age as well. Football players that aren’t kickers or quarterbacks are almost surely finished at this age. Basketball players start to trend downward by the time they hit 30; at 33, they’re usually well into their downswing. None of this softens the blow, mind you; you never know Father Time is near you until he taps you on the shoulder and says hello.

If one could apply the five stages of grief to my realization of my athletic mortality, I would just be getting past depression and into acceptance. During the season, I denied that I was slowing down; I just need to sleep more, do this, eat that, etc. Then I got angry (“why am I having struggles keeping up!?”), and bargained my way around it (“maybe if I try this instead, or take that pill in the morning…”). The depression’s the worst; the fear that the peak of a very real, and very severe, part of life has passed and it’s all downhill from here. The fear that though we’re slowing down now, that’s going to continue, against everything we do to slow down that process, until we become too old to reasonably perform at whatever it is we’re doing. Imagine doing something for your entire life, and then losing that thing, years before you even hit what people would consider “old age”; that’s what we go through as we hit the latter half of our life, and the mere thought of it is daunting, let alone actually experiencing it.

In the meantime, all I can do is keep working. Keep trying to eat better. Keep trying to beat times from my younger days that will become farther and farther from my reach as if they were being washed out on low tide. As my body continues to show the effects of wear, tear and youthful mistakes, I’ll need to not only learn, but accept that the journey will have to become more of a joy than the destination ever was.

1 – Don’t laugh. I had more fun doing cheerleading than I’ve had in any other “real” sport.

2 – Sorry, Sampras.

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The Price Of Misguided Bravery

Posted by Chris Bowen on August 7, 2013

It’s amazing the things that will stem from a joke.

A friend from work linked me to a piece about former Patriots star Teddy Bruschi performing Rush hist. Bruschi – who I don’t care for since his whole post-career path has been to talk bad about other players on the radio – singing Rush hits is so screwed up that my next joke was as easy as it was kind of cruel: “CTE is a cruel mistress”1; a bit of a cruel joke considering the effects it has on people, but maybe a bit more authentic coming from someone who has suffered ten recorded – recorded concussions, and who knows how many more that weren’t documented. It was his next statement that got my attention: “Bruschi has a stroke, and played damn near the next day”.

For some reason, apropos of nothing we had been talking about, a light bulb went on in my head. It illuminated, like a neon Eat At Joe’s sign, something that I hadn’t said in the past, and will come across as hypocritical for those who know me best:

What a fucking idiot.

As noted above, this is a curious statement from me. I did not receive ten recorded concussions by accident. A lifetime of athletics and a few timely accidents while in the Navy were enough for me, and on a couple of occasions – particularly one incident in 2004 – I came away much worse for wear, suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome, a fate I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.

However, it’s not the concussions so much as it is the reaction to them. Each and every time I was able to, I either got up and finished what I was doing or attempted to. When I fell 30′ off an aircraft carrier onto a small boat so hard that I cracked a bulletproof windshield, I went on watch the very next morning. Every time except 2004 that I’ve received a concussion, I’ve finished the game, or slogged through it; the last one, I finished the tournament, the only exceptions being times when medical personnel have stepped in and intervened. Ultimately, I’ve always come back too quick, or never left a game or job when I should have, and this is notwithstanding other times I’ve had serious injuries, including a badly sprained ankles – plural – that had me trying to walk around work despite the fact that I literally could not walk. And I work a desk job.

Why would I go against my own body so many times? Blame machismo, or the fear of looking weak. That fear – of being fundamentally inferior to people around you who might or might not be tougher, and working through more, and destroying your usefulness as a human being by simply being more – has driven people to do desperate things for millennia. Ultimately, no one cares if you’re injured; dispose of the weak. All that matters is performance.

Any doubts as to this are quickly shuttered when hearing a fan talk about a famous athlete who’s injured. “What? I have to get up every morning and go to work, get that asshole on the field!” Oftentimes, being called soft is one of the worst insults you can give someone, weather in athletics or outside of it. So we do whatever we can to avoid that. Take Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins for example, who was almost legally dead by the time game 6 ended. For those who didn’t click through, he had, by the end of game 6, cracked ribs, a separated shoulder, and a PUNCTURED LUNG. He needed two nerve blocks to get through it… and yet, during the last shift of the season, the last minute and a half, the most important shift the Bruins have had in any of our lifetimes, he was trying to get the tying goal.

His opposite, also in Boston, is Red Sox pitcher Clay Buchholz. Buchholz has been injured a bit lately, and even Dr. James Andrews is suggesting that his issues aren’t 100% physical. Due to this, the pitcher with the sub-2.00 ERA is being subjected to calls that he needs to be weeded out by the local blowhards on the radio, blowhards who say he doesn’t “fight”.

When I was younger, I would have called Bergeron a hero and Buchholz a sissy. I’m not so sure anymore.

Buchholz is basically being slammed for not pitching through pain – with a quirky motion that requires every part of his body to be working in concert, mind you – in the months of July and August. He’s actually said it’s not “do or die”, so it’s not a big deal, which doesn’t fly in Boston. And yet, isn’t Boston the last place the late Junior Seau played? That same Junior Seau who was so jacked up by concussions throughout his career with the Chargers and Patriots that he shot himself in the heart to preserve his brain? Seau was tough. Seau showed “fight”. And Seau, like Dave Duerson, Bob Probert and Chris Benoit behind them, are all dead, early, as a result of that toughness.

Answer me this, Bruins fans: is that what you want for Patrice Bergeron? Do you care if his injuries that he plays through now – and he’s had a few concussions already – come back to him in his 50s?

I’m glad that there’s finally pushback against this Neanderthal’s mindset. Writing for Yahoo!, Nick Cotsonika asked if Bergeron went too far in playing, and if the Bruins went too far in letting him on the ice, a viewpoint that is starting to see traction. While the usual jock sniffers in the Boston media were praying to the Bergeron altar, I was too chastened by the damaging effects of the “warrior” mentality – an utterly laughable idea for anyone who isn’t actually in a war where lives are at stake – to really think of Bergeron and his caretakers as anything other than fools and buffoons.

Yet having said all of that, the conditioning is very hard to eliminate. When I think back at all the times I either did myself harm, or could have, by hanging in there, including the time I finished that tournament on a concussion, when I think of doing anything differently, I flinch. The mere notion of appearing weak is stomach-turning, and even with the pain I endured, and the pain I will endure later in life, I can’t imagine going back and pulling myself from that tournament, or not going back on watch after falling off of an aircraft carrier. Even now, with hindsight being 20/20, I still have enough courage to endure tremendous amounts of pain and potentially crippling injury, but not enough courage to endure the possibility of a couple of simpletons questioning some vague notion of manliness.

I already live with the consequences of so many concussions, and so many other injuries. My time as a hockey player ended at 24 with a blown out ligament in my ankle that I never got properly fixed. My head injuries are already taking a slight toll on my life in minor ways that I have a feeling are going to add up over the years. Ultimately, I’m just a lower-level college official, in no way a professional level athlete. These guys are, and though they gain adulation and worship by people paying good money to watch them, I think it’s time we start asking if the price is totally worth it.

I’d love to ask Junior Seau if it is, but…

1 – CTE is short for Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is basically a degenerative condition where the brain, after suffering repeat trauma, becomes more and more damaged, causing severe behavioural changes in people suffering from it. Picture a smokers’ lungs; that’s what CTE does to the human brain.

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Want To Respect Veterans? Don’t Patronize Us

Posted by Chris Bowen on July 23, 2013

On my last leave before separating from the Navy in 2003, I came home and, during that time, attended a playoff game for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. My mother, unknown to me, slipped a note to the PA announcer that it was my birthday, and that I was an active service member. Later in the game, as they do during every game, they announced the birthdays. Happy birthday to this kid and that girl and this old guy and at the very end “a special happy birthday to returning Navy Petty Officer Chris Bowen!” I got a standing ovation at a Sound Tigers game, which I could no longer ignore because the camera was on me. Players tapped their sticks on the ice. People who haven’t been in that position imagine it to be something that anyone could possibly want: validation that the long nights, the yelling, and the bullets are worth it.

Frankly, I found it mortifying at the time, and as I’ve gotten older, it’s become even more so. Not because I was suddenly being applauded by thousands of people, but because to me, the whole exercise of thanking veterans for our service has rung hollow. It rings hollow because the whole notion of “thanking” a veteran isn’t born out of sincerity. It’s born out of a carefully constructed ploy to get civilians behind any war that the government advocates. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jumbled Thoughts On Trayvon Martin’s Unfinished Legacy

Posted by Chris Bowen on July 20, 2013

The verdict came down late last Saturday night: George Zimmerman is not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin. In the sense of the law, it was the right decision. If I sound depressed in saying that, it’s because the whole case is depressing. It really doesn’t matter which side of the partisan divide you sit on, or what your opinion on Zimmerman or Martin are. If you’re sympathetic to Zimmerman, you see a kid that would be alive if he didn’t fight the guy and force him to stand his ground, and why was he dressed like “that”? If you’re sympathetic to Martin, you see a rejected mall cop who decided to chase down and attack a teenage boy largely because he “looked” like a thug – being black and hooded and all – and ended up shooting him when he started losing a fair fight.

I haven’t been following the case as voraciously as some, but I’m obviously more sympathetic to the unarmed teenager with the Skittles than I am to the idiot with delusions of grandeur. But it’s not depressing for any of those reasons. It’s depressing because a kid was needlessly gunned down, weather the defendant was pronounced innocent or not1. It’s depressing because of how people are reacting. It’s depressing because of how we expect certain others to react. And it’s depressing that all of the introspection – what little is going on – is going to get drowned out by the next big scandal, nothing will change, and by most accounts, Trayvon Martin will have died completely in vain.

The most depressing thing about this whole issue is that it made the participants largely irrelevant while shoving so many issues with America, and Americans, to the forefront, begging to be looked at, and yet no one seems to be looking at the real issues. Read the rest of this entry »

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USA Hockey’s Rule Changes, And The Competing Cultures Of Hockey

Posted by Chris Bowen on July 8, 2013

usahockeyIt’s rule change time at USA Hockey again, which is always a tumultuous time. USA Hockey has been very progressive organization when it comes to advancing the game for both the sake of skill and safety, and those efforts have met with predictable pushback from senior people. In a few instances, I’ve been part of the pushback. I wasn’t a fan of the Advanced Developmental Model1 (ADM) when it first started, figuring it would not help the kids enough to offset for the poor chances to develop younger officials, and would not teach proper positioning. I was mistaken in that; kids learned skills in ADM that they simply can’t learn full-ice, where all most kids seem to do is chase the puck, get rid of it as soon as possible if they get it2, and watch as one or two kids who are obviously better than everyone skate down and pot breakaway goals in the top-shelf of a net being tended by a goaltender who isn’t tall enough to reach that high. The alternative – having a way to teach children the skills of the game, keep them engaged – as noted in this must read piece, USA Hockey had been losing kids as they age – and get them ready for the higher levels at something beyond skating straight and playing dump-and-chase. They also got rid of body checking at the Pee-Wee (U12) level, figuring that children were getting hurt too easily at an underdeveloped age, and due to the fact that children hit pubescence at different times, some 80lb. kids were getting crunched by 140lbs. kids, and parents were pulling their kids. I still think this is a mistake; learning how to take a hit and keep your head up is an important part of the game, and instituting that into the game at bantams just means a slightly bigger kid is probably getting hit by a 170lb. kid moving even faster. However, I hope to be proven wrong about this once there’s enough data to go off of.

This year, USA Hockey decided to double down on past changes, and it’s going to cause a rough adjustment period for everyone involved at the intermediate stages of the game. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Conscience of a Liberaltarian

Posted by Chris Bowen on July 1, 2013

My political awakening – the merger of ideas, ideals and learned experiences that have morphed into my internal belief system – is notable in two aspects. The first is that I’ve managed to become at least semi-sophisticated when it comes to political issues despite possessing virtually no formal education of any note in that regard. While my state-run high school and locally run public schools could – and did – teach me math, English, science, and in the case of my high school, a vocational trade that I apply to my job every day, the system is fundamentally broken when it comes to teaching history and political theory. To put it bluntly, most of what I was taught is either whitewashed or outright wrong, as the majority of my 20s was spent learning that most of what I was taught about America’s selfless benevolence was wrong, usually with the same zeal that a child reacts to the news that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are fictitious. The second notable aspect is that it’s in no way complete. Unlike the college educated people that I tend to associate with, my formative adult years were spent in the military, where even someone as resistant to jingoism as I am can get caught up in the jet stream frequently. Therefore, everything I know, and everything I believe, is the product of self-teaching, asking the right questions to people I respect, being open-minded, and having the courage to admit that I’m occasionally wrong.

Like most young people from Connecticut, I started out as a solid Democrat. I adored Bill Clinton1, supported easier immigration, and supported a lot of social welfare programs. Miraculously, I managed to make it through my military career as a Democrat, despite being stationed in Norfolk and Portsmouth. However, I learned that I didn’t fit in well with Democrats; I supported the second amendment, didn’t think much of Affirmative Action, and thought it was wrong for a local zoning board to tell a private property owner how they were allowed to use their legally owned space. However, joining the Republican Party was unthinkable, so after looking at their list of ideals, I decided to formally become a member of the Libertarian Party. This was kind of like going from missionary sex to ball gags and swings, but bear with me. The thought process was that I had some very libertarian views even as a Democrat, so why not join the party that saw things like I did? Unfortunately, the reality was more grim. The Libertarian Party, as I would painfully learn during the 2008 Presidential Election, is less about ideals than it is about a bunch of rich, white, C-list Republicans trying to find another way to remain relevant. I’ll go into more of what I learned while dealing with the Party later, but I became a man with strong political ideals, but without a political identity.

Ultimately, I was less comfortable with that than I should have been. Someone running for a local office once made the point that “indies get laughed out of the polls”, and while I think he’s a buffoon, he’s right. Nothing can marginalize even good political points more than simply not being a part of some hive mind or another, which became my fear. Thankfully, I was able to meet a good combination of people from across all political spectrums, who seemed to be in the same boat. From the dedicated Democrats, to the dedicated liberals, the libertarians, a couple of conservatives I haven’t wanted to strangle yet, and one or two odd ducks with similar views to mine, we all debated our points, disagreed, and then did something that seems impossible at times in today’s charged atmosphere: we would shake hands and move on. It’s hard to find a group like this, but I’ve succeeded, and it’s helped mold a lot of what I think, either solidifying existing beliefs or making me take an alternative tack or – unthinkably, to some – causing me to change my position.

It was Jeremy Kolassa who coined the phrase that I have since come to use to describe me: Liberaltarian. Read the rest of this entry »

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Thoughts On My Home’s Unspeakable Tragedy

Posted by Chris Bowen on December 14, 2012

I hope someone can forgive me if I don’t have an immediately available, soundbyteable take on gun control – or even mental health treatment – for the greater discussion. Frankly, such conversation can wait, and should; I refuse to politicize 26 dead people, especially when they’re a half hour from my house.

Right now, all I can do is reflect what’s happened to my community. Really reflect. Not just sit around and go “oh, this is sad” and go to a candlelight vigil or something. I need to try to understand the horror of hearing about a shooting at my child’s school, my little girl or boy – I don’t have a child, so I’ll have to substitute my niece, or my youngest brother in high school – attending that school, rushing to the school, only to have someone tell me that my child died at school. I need to try to imagine the knee-buckling pain of that moment, all of the feelings of rage, hopelessness and despair, the kind of pain that has separated good marriages. Imagining the planning of the funeral. Burying my child days before Christmas, and having to return their opened presents. “Didn’t like the gifts?” “Don’t know, he’s dead now”. Having that constant presence in my life, that I made, gone, taken by a stupid teenager with a “social disorder”. Watching the days count by, the years, and mentally picturing the highlights of what would be my child’s life pass by. Graduating various levels of school, playing baseball, learning to drive, first girl/boyfriend… imagining those things, but remembering that they’ll never happen. And through all that, having to tolerate mouth-breathers and gobshites politicize the tragedy – my child’s death - to either make a political point, make some money on some talking head show, or a combination of the two. To remember that to these people, my child’s death is a convenient excuse to make a point.

Then, and only then, will I feel I’ve achieved the level of understanding that is necessary to be able to confidently say what we need to do about this epidemic of mass shootings in our country. Until then, I’m just another asshole with a wounded heart, a shattered sense of security, and a worthless opinion that benefits no one.

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