“Do every stupid thing that makes you feel alive.
Do every stupid thing to try to drive the dark away.”
Today marks five years since someone I know, someone I met and talked to and was friendly with and partied with and connected with, was shot and killed in his own home, murdered over a meaningless, drunken argument. The best friend I’ve ever had and probably will ever have was in that apartment that day, a dozen feet away from where this man was shot and killed. For a long time afterward, she couldn’t handle the sound of fireworks. They reminded her too much of gunshots. Last summer, we watched fireworks rain down over the people of Frankfort, KY on the Fourth of July as we stood together, holding each other in the cold, silhouetted against a night sky exploding for our enjoyment. It is perhaps my favorite memory, the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Today marks 505 days since the last time I ever saw her, the best friend I’ve ever had, the person who made me the happiest. My birthday is in two days, and Thanksgiving is the day after that. I’ll spend them both cold, frightened, and alone. As the song says, everything sucks today.
I’ve been thinking a lot, recently, about how much everything sucks. As my country elected a dangerous, hateful, unqualified, conniving, KKK-endorsed, Neo-Nazi-endorsed sexual predator to our highest position of power. As the police of my country continue to gun down people of color at will and fire tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons at peaceful protesters in freezing weather. As atrocities continue to become daily occurrences in Kabul and Aleppo. As my friends in England, France, Korea, Canada, and here in the good ol’ Land of the Free, fear for their livelihoods, much less their lives. As all this unending horror begins to seep into my bones and settle in for the long haul, I think about how we manage to get through all this, how we manage to stay sane as we feebly try to fix the problems we’ve made, as we struggle with the ceaseless pain of our own personal demons.
In high school, I had a friend whose grandmother was from England. Born in 1937 to a working-class family in North London, she lived there during World War II, and I’m sure I don’t have to describe to you what that was like. In the early 60’s, she moved to my hometown in central Indiana, where she lived her life, raised a daughter who in turn raised my friend, and remains here today. Despite the fact that I haven’t talked to her grandson in years, she and I remain in touch. We watch football together sometimes. She was raised deep in Arsenal country and I’ve taken up the Spurs banner, but we’ve made it work, somehow. When I was in college, we wrote letters back and forth. I mow her lawn on occasion, or help her in the small garden she cultivates. I call her Nana, and she is my friend. I last saw her a few months ago, when we were voting in the primaries. She invited me over for tea and cookies, and we talked about what was going on in our country, the one I was born in, the one she chose to call home. I asked how her family managed to make it through the war, what they could have possibly done to prevent from collapsing in on themselves as it all went to hell. I was looking for my own solutions. She didn’t really have an answer for me, or one I found satisfying anyway. She told me that they just kept on going, kept living their lives the best they could, kept working hard and kept doing what’s right.
As I ponder on Nana’s words today, I’m also reminded of the article our own Izzac released this week. In it, he describes his battle with mental illness and how professional wrestling has helped him through it in some small way. It’s a very sweet article, a heartfelt acknowledgement of the community and the form of entertainment that has meant so much to him, that saved his life. I’ve written once or twice before about how wrestling can be therapeutic, how these carny performers pretending to hurt each other can create something greater, something truer, something that can heal. As the world falls apart, as it all seems more and more pointless in the end, as everything sucks and gets worse by the day, I’m reminded of Izzac’s story, of Nana’s advice, of the things I’ve said myself about wrestling.
Like any art form, wrestling has the ability to make political statements, to spread messages, and while wrestling has shied away from this power for the most part (mostly, I think, due to most wrestlers and promoters either being 1. hella dumb, or 2. uninterested in making such pointed statements), that ability is there all the same. More so than that, though, wrestling can be an escape for people. In the midst of destruction and despair around them, among the chaos of this planet we’re doing our best to destroy, people are able to slip into the world of wrestling and forget about things for a while. In a sense, it’s a coping mechanism, a means for people to get by. For a few hours a week, people are able to find justice in a world devoid of it, able to cheer for heroes who usually win in the end, able to make sense of that which is senseless. For a few hours, everything is okay. For a few hours, everything doesn’t suck.
Now, of course I’m not advocating for people to simply disappear into wrestling as an endless escape from the world. I understand that desire, and I feel its tantalizing pull myself. It’s sooooooooo easy to just let the world ruin itself as you dive into every episode of WCW Thunder. But nothing gets fixed that way. Nothing is ever going to get better for you, or for anyone, with that kind of avoidance. We must confront the rising tide of white nationalism, of Neo-Nazism, of violent fundamental religious extremism. We must ensure that the people of Flint and the people of Standing Rock are able to receive the clean water that is their right. We must reverse the effects of decades of political and cultural strife between the regions of our nation. We must combat the passive adoption of neoliberalism, or what my friend Tom Holzerman calls “toothless liberalism”. We must right a million, billion wrongs in this country and in this world before we can consider our work done.
But sometimes, after a long day of doing what you can, you need a break. This machine may kill fascists, but it doesn’t run 24/7. Humans simply aren’t made that way. So, as much as I encourage (or demand) that you rise up with your fellow man to fight for (y)our mutual welfare, I ask you to consider that we are all feeble, fragile beings, and to understand that pushing yourself to the point of exhaustion may benefit no one in the end. When everything sucks and you feel like you can’t deal with it all, remember that you don’t have to, not always, not constantly. When you can, take a second to decompress, for your own sake. If you’re reading this, you’re probably a wrestling fan, and you’re probably aware of the remedial nature of pro wrestling. In between the protests and petitions, in between the bad anniversaries and bad memories, be sure to queue up some Eddie Guerrero, some Akira Hokuto, some Fred Yehi, some Midnight Express, some Yuki Ishikawa, some Jurn Simmons, some of whatever makes you happy, whatever gets you through the day, whatever gives you what you need in life.
This match here is probably what I’d call my favorite match ever. Put a gun to my head and that’s what I’d say. It’s a match that makes me happy, that energizes me, that gets me through days like this where everything sucks. It’s a match where one man has the deck stacked against him on every level and he triumphs simply through sheer force of will (and maybe with the help of a steel chair or two). I really love it. Maybe you’d like it too. If you do, or if you want to tell me about some other match or wrestler or promotion you love, drop me a line. I’d love to hear about it, after we do what we can today to make everything suck a little less.