Let me start off with a disclaimer: I would never commit a violent act. My father is a victim of gun violence. I deplore gun violence. I deplore self-violence.
But here is yet another thing I deplore -- which does not fall in line to make a neat sensible little list of three: I also deplore censoring discussions of the dark side, thinking that somehow makes it go away.
To me, acknowledging and exploring the dark side is what keeps us from descending into the abyss.
In my experience, it is people I have known who presented an image of perfection and led a double life that will later completely lose it. I went to college with a man who is now in jail for a decade after he had such a psychotic break.
I have also always grown up with darkness. From my very earliest memory, people would look away from my father's face, because while we don't talk about impolite things -- it is so incredibly inconvenient to not be able to look away.
Acknowledgement of the darkness continued on into my professional life when I took a job at The New York Post in 2005. I heard the gallows joke more than once from workers assuring one another -- with pitch-black humor -- "Don't worry, you'll be safe." What were they talking about? The running joke was when the person came back to go on a shooting spree, the safety given was that you would be spared.
Sick, right? Well -- I tend to think humor and fantasy are safe areas to work the darkness out.
Would any of the people ever actually do something so heinous and unthinkable? I can say with 100 percent assurance no. For some folks -- myself included -- making dark jokes is a way to place the darkness into the light, destroying its power over us.
At The Post, it is a few different people I am thinking of who made the joke, and all were beyond mentally healthy, but dealt with the moral grossness of tabloid culture by tackling such taboo territory.
Could such an awful occurrence ever actually happen there? (I write this, I realize, as two unimaginably horrific mass shootings are dominating the news.) Well, sure, it could happen anywhere, tragically. I pray it never will, and with the level of security News Corp. has in place, it would shock me if it ever did. I think I still have the head of security's cell phone number in my iPhone. Holler, News. Corp head of security! Loved it when snipers were on the roof during Condi's visit. We waved from inside the newsroom.
Such an illusion of safety, I suppose, but a necessary one not to lose your mind.
Which brings me to: the video game that celebrates shooting sprees, Grand Theft Auto.
I actually had my first experience watching someone play GTA5 the other day at my apartment. He had come over to dogsit for a few hours, and he hooked up his PlayStation to my giant TV while I was gone.
When I returned, I found myself fascinated.
"Have you killed anyone?" I asked. "Yes, several," he said. "Did you enjoy it?" I asked. "Sure," he said sarcastically. "Why is it giving you tasks at the bottom, like how you're supposed to kidnap the guy?" I asked, now having a bit of fun with the 4-year-old tone of my questioning. "Because that makes it easier to follow the instructions," he said. "Could you teach me to play?" I asked. "Maybe," he said. "Are you the drug dealer or the murderer or the -- wait, who's that sociopath?" I asked. "I'm a lot of things," he said.
It was entertaining to watch him let off steam -- in seemingly the same way Kevin Spacey's character in "House of Cards" does with his shoot-em-up video games to unwind after a long day of hustling the entire Washington political structure. Mostly it was enjoyable to sit with my friend and laugh and say all the things that Polite Society does not allow us to do. "Why are you killing those guys?" I asked. "Because I can," he said. "I think I'm finally beginning to understand the appeal of GTA," I said.
I watched as my friend destroyed, destroyed, destroyed, taking no prisoners, making no apologies, going to the dark side of a shooting spree. And lately, with the bubbling-up rage I've felt inside me at a number of things, I can see why such a cathartic release could be fun.
My life mantra recently has been this:
Don't be reactive. Don't be reactive. Don't be reactive.
I can't be reactive. Why? Well, because I am a professional, right? Professional people can't go on Bill Hicks-style rants about the hypocrisy they see around them. They must suck things up.
I'm jealous sometimes of people who refuse to play by Polite Society's rules.
Sometimes I see the unhinged who flail and toss about in the working world, wondering why they are unhireable, failing to advance, perpetually stuck. Their cred and their personal ethics are too precious to ever be compromised by something as garish as having a steady source of income.
As an alternative, this person can always date someone corporate and tell her what a corporate whore she is while neatly spitshining their own untouched moral superiority.
Oh -- just me? OK, so I haven't had a relationship with a guy like that in a while, but I've definitely had one. There I was, gamely agreeing to attend the International Socialist Convention conferences, being "open" to the idea of swinging because monogamy was clearly a repressive institutionalized structure of the state, and accepting eagerly why whatever I had done that day to afford our health care or our rent money was a compromising of what true integrity meant. What's that? You'll be glad when the revolution occurs and certain people's throats will be slit? Ah yes. The language of romance.
Lately, I find myself near shaking with rage at an inability to Exacto-blade-like verbally slice a phony with the very reason he or she is a pathetic figure to me, even though I realize the limited small-world-view lens with which the person is operating prevents him or her from being even able to comprehend what I am saying.
Because an adult professional does not burn bridges.
Several things have set me off of late with people. The rage with which these things inspire is not only hypocritical on my part, but also irrational and unfounded. But at least I recognize that sexy little quandary.
My touchpoints for spiraling out into anger: Helplessness. Entitlement. Lies. Negativity -- wait, I suppose this means, I despise myself? Because this piece is definitely that. Concern trolling. Two-facedness. Lack of respect. Laziness. Preciousness. Hypocrisy. Bullying personalities. Sociopaths. Assumptions. Duplicity. Unreliability. Belittling. Drama for the sake of drama.
The funniest thing to me about all of these "greivances" is that I am so nothing. I realize that. I realize where I fall. I am so petty and small and meaningless in this world. I mean, can you imagine how President Obama must feel every damned day when he simply wants to coldcock Putin?
Where does that rage go? Bro can't even smoke.
That is always the hardest part with children, isn't it? Their eyes are so bright and happy and theoretical. Because they have not learned the triage of compromise that comes with adult life yet. "That sounds boring," they say about things that sound boring. "That person made me mad," they say about a person who makes them mad. They don't have to pretend yet. And in many cases, by the time that they are inculcated in the doctrine of How to Be an Adult, they aren't even questioning Why We Do and Why We Don't Do Certain Things.
"One says thank you, Tommy," a parent might say to a child who's been handed a piece of cake he specifically said he didn't want. Tommy just knows he didn't want it. So why does he have to play along? Why does he have to be fake? Why does he have to engage in the lie? But at a certain point, Tommy gives up and accepts that this is What We Do.
I've often said that one of the benefits of the somewhat bizarre childhood I've had is that I can smooth over practically any situation. And with each instance, where does that dread and anxiety and rage I'm subsuming go? Is it in my gut? My stomach? The cystic acne popping up on my jawline?
You can never be fully honest as a writer.
You can also never be fully honest as a working person in the adult world of jobs and human resources and polite society. I've written about it many times before. Showing that you know how to be fake and play along with all the rules of etiquette and propriety and CODE is practically the price of admission into the life of being a high-functioning person in the land of paychecks and taxes and cocktail parties. But if you're like me, you don't enjoy being fake. In fact, it chips away at your insides. And yet, it is a necessary life survival skill.
Overall, this is not a maudlin story. No, really, I swear. And that is because of one factor: Resilience.
As obnoxious as I am being in this incredibly twee victimized rant, one blessing I have in spades is the gift of resilience. I refuse to let the factors that enrage me win the day.
But my question for you, sincerely, is this. Where does the suppressed rage go? How do I extract it out of me? How do you extract it out of you?
Is a hooker-slaying, kidnapping-delegating, dog-fornicating video game the answer? What about Zumba? Commenting anonymously on the Internet maybe? I need something. I need a release. I'm sick of swallowing my rage.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.