Unnecessary Need

I resent the need for community
the suffocation that settles over the soul
after prolonged periods of being utterly alone

I'm not presumptuous enough to suppose
that other people could ever value me
I wouldn't ask for what I don't deserve

The human condition is being put in the position
to require some amount of social support that
I am unwillingly compelled to pursue

I won't pray for things I haven't earned, that I am unfit for
all I ask is to be spared the pain of possessing
a basic need that always aches, but cannot be fulfilled

Please let the empty spaces satiate
fill me up with the silence beneath everything
make this loneliness enough for me
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Dahmer – A Vegan’s Perspective

I’m only a few episodes in so far, but the new Jeffrey Dahmer series on Netflix is definitely worth watching. What has drawn my attention is somewhat different than what a lot of other people I’ve spoken with about the series have noticed. This discrepancy in perspective is all the more fascinating to me because of the way I am able to see how this part of the story was intended to be interpreted versus how I interpret it.

More specifically, what I am referring to is the focus on the killer’s upbringing and early childhood/adolescent experiences. There are scenes that come off to me as if the director thought it would be clever foreshadowing. In a dark way, I almost find this funny because it is so obvious to me. Ominous moments in the series depict a young Jeff Dahmer fishing with his dad, practicing taxidermy, dissecting the infamous fetal pig in biology class. It’s as if the people that produced this show want this to be insightful. As if the viewers will watch and think to themselves, “Ah, one day he’ll be doing this to HUMANS!” and shudder.

For me, this is laughable because harming and/or killing animals is a known warning sign for future serial killers. Is it really a mystery to people why that might be? Is the majority of the population truly so far removed from the grotesque brutality of animal abuse in the forms of hunting, fishing, taxidermy, experimentation, dissection, etc. that they can’t see the similarity?

It’s interesting for me to see these two things side by side in the series, knowing that for some reason there is a distinction being made. One is wrong, horrific, criminal while the other is harmless, wholesome, and a hobby. What is the difference? Both acts involve suffering, robbing another conscious being of their life and bodily autonomy, and the cold, calculating mutilation of corpses. Even Jeffrey’s cannibalism to me is no different than what most human beings participate in multiple times a day. Does the simple substitution of one species for another really change everything so completely? It doesn’t change a thing in my eyes.

I think Jeffrey Dahmer’s story is an excellent example of why we should not be teaching children or anyone for that matter that it is okay to kill animals, regardless of the reason. I really don’t think it’s that wild to imagine him making the jump from these behaviors to what he later did to his human victims. I’ve made the same connection, albeit with the reverse conclusion. He was taught it’s okay to kill animals, so he decided it was okay to kill humans. I was taught it’s not okay to kill humans, and made the connection it’s not okay to kill animals either. Killing is killing. Suffering is suffering. Violence is violence. It’s only arrogance, ego, indoctrination, and delusion that creates an arbitrary separation between the perpetration of these heinous, immoral acts against other animals versus our own species.

After ten years of living this truth, that human beings are no better than any other type of animal, I truly have a hard time fathoming how this is not obvious to everyone else. Perhaps the strangest thing is, I used to think like they do. I always loved animals, while simultaneously justifying confining, killing, and eating them. I was somehow able to hold these completely contradictory ideas in my mind without the slightest difficulty. Now I can’t make it make sense. I wish I knew how the insanity and hypocrisy of it all finally struck me. I wish I could help others to understand.

At the very least, I wish other people could understand that in the same way they are disgusted, horrified, and enraged by what Jeffrey Dahmer and other killers do, I am disgusted, horrified, and enraged by what is done to farmed animals. The only difference is that I have to share a table with five Jeffrey Dahmers at dinnertime and smile and not upset and offend them with my “radical” views. I have to shop at a grocery store stocked with what the rest of the world would equate to human body parts. I have to bite my tongue every day and be polite and “tolerant” in the face of institutionalized, industrialized, mass murder.

I just wish, if only for a moment, people could comprehend how unbearable that is. How I have to perpetually shield my mind from the horror of the truth, and how guilty and weak I feel for doing so, because it feels like I am condoning this behavior, disregarding the innocent victims, and allowing it to go on right in front of me. Just put yourself in my shoes for a moment, even if you think it’s a ridiculous comparison. It’s how I and other vegans truly feel. But what can I do? What would you do? At least Jeffrey Dahmer tried to make sure his 15 victims didn’t suffer. I can’t say the same for the billions of animals.

The Beauty of Broken Things

The sweet sadness of loss
and long, lonely nights
I once viewed as damage
chips and cracks to cry over
evidence of unworthiness
that everyone would see

I've learned to understand
that old wounds are what
weaved me into who I am
a wonderful landscape with
deep valleys of despair that
can be filled up with healing water

These dark caverns of past pain
create breathtaking contrast
and allow me to ascend higher
and appreciate the peaceful peaks
speckling my span of time here
with all consuming beauty

I am so grateful for all the tears
and the twinges of discomfort
that form tight tethers to my past
even my small sufferings have been
dear friends and teachers to me
I've learned how to love my broken pieces

Opting Out

Why should I have to opt out of violence?
brutality and bloodshed shouldn't be
weaved into the very structures of society
I hate proclaiming "I'm vegan"
like it's something special and exotic
othering myself in the eyes of those around me

Why am I the odd man out for not killing animals?
it feels like I'm living life upside down
having to justify myself to those with
viscera and flesh stuck between their teeth
receiving weird looks for eating a plum
rather than slitting the throat of another being

Why is it my responsibility to explain choosing peace?
compassion and kindness were supposed to be the default
but in reality they are so far from the norm that
I am a sensation, a social pariah for caring for others
for simply trying to exist without victimizing those
not even worthy enough to be considered victims

Why is it my job to not ruffle any feathers?
years spent learning how to make myself small enough
not to offend the inhumane actions of the masses
choking off my own inner sense of justice and morality
just to share a meal with those I love
as they grin between bites of slaughtered babies
and mock me for not partaking in the carnage

Why am I the one left to make sense of this madness?
the surreal sensation of a sinking stone inside my stomach
as I snuff out the ever swelling righteous rage before it spills
out of my tight lips and separates me from all the "normal" people
that I desperately want to share my life with despite
their conditioned participation in egregious daily cruelty

Why is it weird and sentimental for me to cry
when the realities of this world come crashing down on me?
when I can't help but remember the shuddering suffering
of billions and billions of precious innocent beings
being exploited and mercilessly tortured and confined
on behalf of my own friends and family

Why do I have to opt out of violence?
why am I part of a pathetically small minority
of people who live by the values we all pretend to have
I'll never understand why it's even up for debate
whether we should subjugate and slaughter
or take the life of another for a fucking flavor
Omnivorous Irony – Protect the Innocent original 2020

The Density of Suffering

There is this weight
that presses me down
into the thick clay earth
the undercurrent of awareness
of all the souls left unseen
the immensity of the masses
subjected to bone shaking suffering
the surreal recognition of
the world somehow still turning
despite the violence that lurks
just below the surface
the colossal cruelty of humankind
how can a system so monstrous
continue to exist without consequence
how could justice ever hope
to tip the scales back from
what we've collectively done
what we continue to do
the inexplicable gravity of grief
overlooked and unacknowledged
left alone with this deep knowing
an anchor of unbearable anguish
I am helpless to lift from those I love
the gut wrenching screams of billions
kept hidden behind closed doors
cannot distill the poison these sins
spill into every particle of air
apparently no peace can prevail
until we all choke
Be Their Voice – Protect the Innocent Original, 2021

40,000

There is a man in Italy
with a body made black
by tiny tattooed x's
a permanent reminder
of the burden he shares
the shameful knowledge
of a horrific truth
hidden in plain sight
the blood staining
the hands of humanity
is impossible to measure
6 million bodies burned
in German gas chambers
shaken to our very core
by the unimaginable cruelty
every two and a half hours
that same death toll is met again
with silence and disinterest
the clinking of silverware on ceramic
those 40,000 tiny x's
represent a body count
the sentient lives lost each second
to humanity's greedy palate
to grotesque notions of tradition
the earth groans under the weight
of our atrocities as they continue
unimpeded, growing every day
40,000 slaughtered every second
40,000 tiny markings of ink crowding one body
a silent protest, a sadly inadequate attempt
to atone for the immense pressure of suffering
that is impossible to conceive
that chokes the lungs of the world
with the thick, black smoke of karma
with the unreal irony of
the word "humane"
do not dare ask God for mercy
we don't know the meaning

Terminal

I've always been afraid
of final suffering and mortality
I used to wonder how I would handle
a death sentence from a doctor
life laid out on a definitive timeline
no where left to hide

I never expected that sentence
to come from scientists instead
given the heavy knowledge of
our impending expiration date
I never thought dying alone
would feel like a blessing

It's better than awaiting
the end of everything at once
among crowds of people
with their eyes covered
"I told you so" won't feel
very satisfying

I've been reading books
for the terminally ill
in an attempt to learn
how to cope with
utter annihilation
on my own

But none of them touch
the terror of the truth I harbor
none of them tell you how to
prepare for an apocalypse
or to get your loved ones
to take you seriously

Fear follows me closely
as I float through these shapes and forms
I find no comfort in the idea of life eternal
or peace in the notion of not existing
both options terrify me equally
at least there's a dark humor in that

But more than anything I fear the reality
that my final days, months, even years
will be shrouded in unfathomable suffering
I fear the rising terror and despair
stealing the color from my family's faces
but I guess I've always been afraid

https://www.salon.com/2017/04/30/its-the-end-of-the-world-and-we-know-it-scientists-in-many-disciplines-see-apocalypse-soon/

A Life’s Work

A grateful heart
grows in size
as it gathers in
all the goodness
that surrounds

A cynical heart
licks its wounds
as it shrivels 
and becomes saturated
with complaints

Perspective is all
that separates the two
both can be formed or found
in any circumstance
or station of life

Let us not be fooled
by the feeling
of not enough
lest it linger on despite
all we continue to acquire

The mind may hold habits
that are hard to break
of looking for lack
feeling justified when
it always finds what it seeks

Creating illusions
of darkness and depravation
despair solidified through
misunderstanding and fear
disguised as certainty

Failing to see the joyous truth
that the mind's fruitful efforts
merely prove it's own power
to shape our reality
through sheer focus

Nothing has been lost
it's not too late
to turn the tides in our favor
and refocus our gaze
toward the sun

The source of light
that has formed
the shadows
we fixate on
yet fail to see fully

Finding balance
so we may behold
the beauty of duality
becoming like water to withstand
the push and pull of reality

The deep hollows made by hardship
leave more space for love to fill
our laughter resonates deeper
through the caverns carved by sorrow
may we cultivate a container that can hold it all

Should We Tell the Children

Our planet is dying
we can't save it now
we won't even try 
it's too late

we're running out of water
we've poisoned the soil and air
the oceans are nearly empty
all for the sake of industry

panicked, worried words stick in my throat
as a child I love enters the room
my voice falls to a whisper when she's near
I can't bear to let her hear

how can I tell her
that her future is short
that the ones who were supposed to protect her
have failed, are afraid too

I want to spare her the pain
of knowing these dark truths
a difficult decision between preserving her innocence
and her right to have all the information

surely she can see our knit brows and our tears
she can hear our hushed conversations
the pity and sorrow in our eyes when we look at her
she can undoubtedly feel the energy of our dis-ease

it seems cruel to be honest
when there is nothing we can do now
still I remember how cheated I've felt
how unprepared for reality adults left me

One day soon the decision will be made for me
when that day comes I hope she knows
we just wanted to give her as much happiness,
as many days free from suffering as possible

Capitalism

Capitalism slinks through filthy city streets
with bloodied paws and heaving breath
snarling at the huddled masses
it had once offered hope

There are plenty of those
who still believe the lie
we were all promised
of possibility and upward mobility
productivity and endless progress

Hungry eyes follow trim and tailored suits
down the avenue of ivory towers 
chapped lips mouth the words
"if only I was good enough"
from sallow faces with sunken cheeks

The flurry of chaos
a flock of flapping pigeons
fighting over forgotten french fries
idolizing the eagles
they were told they might someday be

The sickening inward momentum
spurred onward by imagined sins
stealing the joy out of simple pleasures
productivity and profit
replaced purpose long ago

Corruption and greed infiltrate everything
every soul a commodity to be exploited and consumed
egregious inequality passed off as objective justice
sour, scornful faces point fingers
at the people who are suffering

It's your fault if you fail
the mantra of Manhattan
sowing self hatred within misfortune
the cruel optimism of the elite
blame handed out as bread

Don't fall for the fiction
that this system is fair
the land of the free is stained
with red blood, green bills,
and the rusty metallic taste of coins