Justice and Recreation For All – The Black Lives Matter Marathon Disruption


Well…if I ever needed to create some social tension for blog material, I couldn’t have made anything better than this. I suppose this one could write itself.

To summarize an upcoming spike in the still smoldering tension surrounding the treatment of black citizens in the United States, the Black Lives Matter organization has publicly stated they will disrupt the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend. For those not in the running know, the Twin Cities Marathon is a high-profile event both locally and nationally, with a quality field of competitors and a course that attracts elites trying to qualify for the US Olympic Trials. This is, obviously, no small thing. Black Lives Matter is using the attention the marathon receives and the environment it creates to continue demanding a shift in the social order towards equal treatment of black citizens, which has brought continued criticism of their confrontational and disruptive tactics by authoritarians, some of the general public, and now some of the running community. In the following post, I hope to raise considerations that will better inform what may or may not come to be this weekend.


It is important to thoroughly consider the tactic of disruption that Black Lives Matter has stated they will use during the marathon, essentially blocking the path of runners somewhere along the course, maybe the finish line. BLM could very easily join the spectating crowd and hold signs that state their grievances and demands, but they aren’t, and we should really think about why.

Disruption as a matter of tactic is powerful, hence so much growing concern and anger on the internet and in the running community. Disruption steps out of the bounds of agreeable relationships between people and/or institutions and, in a way, creates adversaries, or at least draws a line and asks you to step on one side or the other. It is powerful in that it doesn’t remain confined to peaceful abstractions, “having one’s say”, or any other tame manner of expression, but demands action, demands a response, and upends expected social norms of behavior and privilege. So, instead of saying, “we will be heard” by holding signs to the audience along the marathon route, they have stated, “we will be heard” by putting ourselves in the way of the runners and not allowing them to continue the event.

But in the age of global social media, does BLM even need to engage in disruption to have their message heard? I mean, haven’t we been hearing about BLM and their demands since the recent waves of shootings of black individuals? Why would they feel compelled to spread this “message” further through outright disruption of a large social event and not a campaign of Facebook posts and articles? Admittedly, I’m playing devil’s advocate here because, obviously, there are very specific and blatant reasons why peaceably allowing business as usual to continue isn’t always the best approach to having one’s message heard or demands given. BLM has understood this from the beginning of their formation and acts outside this paradigm of lawful compliance for good reason, namely because as often as we hear that “black lives matter”, little is being done to actually make that a reality by authorities and authoritarians.

Yet, even considering the potential value of social disruption, “the message” in abstract form, as simply a statement within the confines of legality and free speech, is an important component to the disruption tactic. It is turning up the volume on the discussion about the treatment of black citizens in the US and pushing it to the forefront of the social conversation. Without even lifting a finger, BLM has already accomplished this with their threat to shutdown the marathon alone, forcing people like me to write blogs, share Facebook articles, and watch insecure white people lose their minds on message boards. Where I initially thought a pre-warning was a bit foolish (allowing the opposition to prepare and plan), maybe this was more calculated than it appears. Because here we are, again talking about black people being treated differently than white people, all because a marathon is about to take place. Now imagine the message that will be turned up and spread further should they pull off this disruption during the marathon. It will be louder, reach further and rise above the cacophony of social noise we have to navigate these days. The disruption will play the same role as every other spectacle that competes for our attention, more than requests for fair treatment, more than sign holding, and more than any business as usual approach to activism, even if only for the sake of being heard.

But really, this is more than just being heard. This is an upheaval of the social order, of the privileges and recreations of society. Disruption is a momentary stoppage of business as usual and BLM knows this. It is meant to bring a small degree of frustration and discomfort to those authorities, authoritarians and institutions that seem untouchable by their opposition. It is, in a small way, meant to bring frustration to those who don’t often feel frustration in their lives, who are accustomed to getting their way and having society function in the manner that assures their safety and enjoyment. Disruption is a way to share the experience of oppression, to not just say “this is injustice”, but to make one FEEL it. Through disruption, BLM is saying, “You don’t like it when you leave the house and things don’t go as planned? You don’t like it when your fun is ruined? You don’t like it when you can’t expect the social order to protect your interests?….Yeah, how does it feel?”

And let’s be real, the discomfort and frustration of those affected by this potential marathon disruption is NOTHING compared to the everyday fear and danger BLM is trying to convey to society at large, to ask for changes, to demand justice. This little potential disruption is surely not even comparable to the grievances BLM are stating and for which they demand a fundamental, societal change. I find it hard to sympathize with the marathon spectators who are already up in arms about this threat of potential shutdown.

This disruption, however, although it affects the participants and spectators of the event itself, goes beyond these demographics. This disruption is aimed at the general social order established by politicians, authoritarians and the authorities, and those individuals themselves. It is aimed at the various institutions and organizations that benefit from a social order that demands for a few to be on top, many must be on the bottom. Those many are often the black individuals for whom BLM is demanding justice. It’s important to recognize that marathons are big business, they are used as the face of a city, and they are enabled by many businesses and individuals who find benefit from an engaged, pacified public. They use these events, whether consciously or subconsciously, as gifts to the public, to request continuous permission (or distraction) to exist through participation. So disruption of an event that is sanctioned by the city, that paints a face of peace and order for the city, is more than just an act of isolated defiance. It is a lasting threat that business as usual, that the privileges these politicians and institutions enjoy through social cooperation, are in jeopardy. The fear that all recreational, profit-making, socially distracting events will be met with resistance creates strong incentive for change. It creates leverage for those demanding justice, if they are able to cause enough of a disruption by exerting organized, social power, to persuade authorities to their demands in exchange for something of a renewed social peace.

In short, disruption isn’t about ruining someone’s fun for childish motives. It’s a tactically powerful force that demands response and strikes fear in the hearts of the powerful if it establishes momentum and continues to grow.


When the Boston marathon bombing took place, the running community responded with all sorts of statements about the determination of runners and many other chest thumping sentiments. They took it personally, which I believe was a shallow consideration of the weight of the moment. In truth, the bombing had zero to do with runners and everything to do with symbolism and numbers. If it wasn’t an attack on the nationalism of a “patriot’s day” event, it was capitalizing on a social spectacle that was being watched by the entire country and parts of the world. The marathon is a potential target for social disruption for the same reason football games are a target, political rallies, parades, and any other event that draws thousands of people together. Marathons and large events are attractive to terrorists for the same reasons they are attractive to businesses – the far-reaching impact of the message or action. This is why BLM also acted to disrupt the opening game of the Minnesota Viknings football season (unsuccessfully, unfortunately). Mind you, I don’t at all mean to associate the BLM organization with terrorists (or marketing agencies for that matter), but to quell some of the personal offense runners have taken at this appropriately targeted threat.

With that said, it’s important to recognize that any recreational function of a society founded upon white privilege is going to be a function or product of white privilege…no matter who participates. If a fundamentalist christian church organizes, hosts and promotes a basketball game, and even if every player in the game is an explicit atheist, the event is still a product and enabler of the fundamentalist christian agenda. The events sanctioned by the institutions responsible for the social order, no matter how much pleasure they give us, do not escape this dynamic, the marathon being no exception. BLM has never stated they are seeking to disrupt the marathon because the organizers or participants are white supremacists, but they did acknowledge the previously stated dynamic saying, “Our job as an organization is to keep the pressure on. Our job is to let the community know that every day we are planning on dismantling white supremacy.” Although not explicitly detailed, this recognizes the marathon event, as all popular, authority-enabled events, as a part of the social order founded on and functioning through white supremacy.

BLM is seeking to disrupt the marathon because there are many eyes watching, because it is a product of a social order based on white privilege that ends in the casual and disproportionate killing of black citizens, and because it is a recreational privilege established by this system of white privilege that can be used as tactical leverage against itself.


Tactical and theoretical nuances aside, the idea that “black lives matter” is more important than a running event shouldn’t even be a discussion. Ultimately, what BLM is continuing to say, is that we as a society are more willing to invest ourselves in the meaningless recreations of spectator sports than we are the causes of justice and equality. I won’t go into the various aspects of human behavior that work to create this dynamic, but for those in the community that don’t have the privilege to ignore the inequality, they are more than right to attempt to put a stop to business as usual, even if that means cutting the marathon short a mile. In the bigger picture, black lives matter…competitive running doesn’t, and if you are unwilling to admit to that or carry it out to its logical conclusion, then as they say, you are DEFINITELY PART OF THE PROBLEM.

And to further reiterate a previous point made, if as a runner you feel inconvenienced, frustrated, dominated, and treated unfairly due to this potential disruption of your running event, then BLM has effectively made it’s point. Because what they are trying to do, in part, is convey what it is to be dominated, to not have the social order in your favor, to experience just the most tiny bit of what it’s like to NOT be privileged. Just be glad you can go for a run and not worry about being stopped and shot.


All this previous rambling is great and all…but…will BLM ACTUALLY be able to pull this off? Will they be able to organize enough people to swarm an area by evading the police and then hold their ground on the race course, while not allowing the runners to find another way through to the finish? As someone who has participated in stealthy, tactical protest maneuvers like this…it would be an incredible testament to the organizational effectiveness of BLM if they can do just that. To be honest, if I had to put a bet on this disruption taking place, I’d be against BLM…unfortunately. This is why.

They already made a public statement that this disruption was going to take place. Not only that, they even estimated WHERE it would take place along the course. Now, this could always be a bluff, in an attempt to throw off the authorities, but again, it would be incredible if they could swarm an area of the course without being noticed by the police first or corralled by the police before they made an attempt.

Then there are the runners. It doesn’t even matter at what point during the race they try to stop runners from getting to the finish, it’s going to take a considerable amount of demotivation to make that happen. The BLM organizers expressed their wishes that runners would stop and join their protest, with good intention, but that is NOT going to happen. As a radical anarchist who agrees with BLM and understands and supports their decision to disrupt all facets of the social order (even marathons), I’m also a runner who would NOT stop for the rally. Tactically helpful, hurtful or neutral, I’m admitting to that. There is not a doubt in my mind that if they gathered enough people to flood the course in a certain area, that runners would break through the spectators and simply run around them, even backtracking and going a block or two out of their way to do so. That’s simply the truth. I think back to the area marathon course that was inadvertently stopped by a train last year and the decision of runners to either jump through the cars or run through the woods to get around the other side of the engine in order to keep going. Although the concern was expressed that runners would physically confront the protesters, I think that’s highly unlikely and they would sooner be looking for a way around them, and unless BLM manages to get about 50,000 people to one area, the runners are going to find a way. End of story. Mind you, this doesn’t mean the disruption won’t have the desired effect BLM is seeking, but a completely stoppage of the marathon simply will not happen.


If BLM stated, “We’re going to disrupt the Super Bowl!”, even if I planned on going to a Super Bowl watching party, and even if they had the ability to do so, my response would be, “Hell yeah! I back this!”, primarily because I’m not emotionally tied to the outcome of the game and have no stake in seeing it to it’s conclusion (among many other motives). In effect, I have the PRIVILEGE of not giving a shit about the Super Bowl, so if anything happened to it, I wouldn’t care. I don’t have to care. I don’t need to care. Whatever happens to those that DO care doesn’t matter to me….see where I’m going with this?

But this isn’t the super bowl, this is a marathon. And even though I’m not running it, I know the work and investment and determination that each runner goes through in order to run the marathon, so I can’t help but feel connected to it and understand how the other runners might feel about this potential disruption. But with that said, so what? BLM is acting in a way that rightfully puts the privileged in a position they find themselves all the time, but with much more dire circumstances and outcomes. They are saying to the city and to the runners and to everyone connected with the marathon, “We have no stake in the marathon. We don’t care who wins. We don’t have to care. We don’t need to care. Whatever happens to those that do care doesn’t matter to me…oh wait, that sucks? Yeah…we know. How does it feel?” See, the BLM activists experience this all the time and no one cares, so they are putting it back in our face, and they should. And if runners are whining and crying about this, well these runners need to either get their priorities straight or expand their identities to not JUST be runners, but also activists. As it was so succinctly put recently, there are moments bigger than running. This is one of them. Our privilege to run, to experience organized social events, to walk in safety, to assume things will go our way, to know what each day will bring is predicated on a very tenuous social peace, one that is enabled by a system of white privilege and domination. We are only able to enjoy this moment as the functioning of this system is in our favor, but a stratified system never sustains itself.

Until we exist in a culture of relative equality, where a few no longer stand on the backs of the many, our privileges will always be in jeopardy and rightfully attacked. Runners – and anyone for that matter – that feel threatened by the disruptive actions of BLM or any oppressed peoples that push back against the social order need to get a healthy dose of perspective, step away from their privileges, and always act FOR relationships of equality, and AGAINST domination and authoritarianism…even if that means at the expense of recreational privileges.

So yeah, sorry if you miss out on a PR this weekend or fail to make the Trials or even finish the race, but there are moments and issues bigger than running, and the demands of BLM to expect equality and justice is one of them. Let’s do our part to help them get it, so we can ALL get back to an existence of recreation.

More Everything

The more I’ve learned about my own excessive tendencies, the more I’ve been able to see them in others. Specifically, I most often see them in the running community, because there is a certain draw to athletic pursuits which feeds off our need to test the waters, push boundaries, and hit walls. Couple this weird drive for progression with enough civilization induced free time to take things to the extreme, and you have a recipe for both unbelievable accomplishments as well as tremendous burn out, crashes, or general exhaustion.

I can’t speak to what separates the drives to excess in some with the more reserved approach in others, but I’m glad that separation exists to keep things in a relative state of balance. It would be an exciting moment if we were all extremists, but only a moment. Conversely, we’d live in something of a calm, peaceful world for quite some time (maybe) if we were all most reserved, but at what quality of life? The push and pull defines our relationships and general stability. It keeps us from the tipping point.

But on a personal level, where the extremist individual doesn’t have either an internal or external force of reservation, we often find ourselves constantly on the edge. Our running is always seeking a new horizon, a new accomplishment, a new boundary, which is noble in it’s pursuit, but dangerous in it’s execution. There is a very tenuous degree of reservation that must be placed upon the runner with extremist tendencies lest they run themselves into the ground, sometimes quite literally.

I’ve struggled with “injuries” (or issues as we call them) since the period after my first marathon and, where I could have paused for reflection on those warning signs, determining what they meant and what went wrong, my drive took over and compelled me to push through, seeking an answer in more mileage, more intensity, more speed. I simply didn’t want to stop. I had very specific competitive goals and I didn’t believe I could reach those goals without increasing everything. If a certain weekly mileage got me to a 2:25 marathon, then more weekly mileage would get me to a 2:19. If a certain degree of intensity got me to my PR, then the next degree of intensity would get me to another.

It should also be mentioned that none of this was a “chore” to me. The idea of “more and more” fed into my extremist drive, my specific personality type, my pursuit of a full, rewarding life. But that doesn’t mean my drive was going to overcome my physical body.

What I failed to consider in that naive period of early competitive running was just how close to the edge of my physical abilities I was running. Where I periodically fell off the cliff and became injured, I didn’t scale back and readjust, but kept running towards that edge hoping for a different outcome. As you can imagine, the process repeated itself.

In the midst of 90, 100, 110 mile weeks with multiple workouts of significant intensity I would hit incredible milestones, unforgettable breakthroughs, and moments where I would feel superhuman, invincible, on top of the world…only to be sidelined with an injury a day or two later. I never felt anything during the run, but almost without fail, I would feel something a couple days later, sending me plummeting off the top of the world. It was so incredibly aggravating, because it was hard to see it coming. I just knew I was pushing for certain progressions and when I’d hit them…I would also have inadvertently run off the edge.

It was only when I started to compare my personal training plans to the training plans of professional elites that I gained some perspective on how close to the edge I was running. When I looked at the backs of elites during my two marathons, sometimes watching those backs fall behind me as I passed them, it made sense that I would be training at their level too. Running 90, 100, 110 mile weeks consistently and consecutively was the norm, even if I wasn’t getting paid to run. Even if I wasn’t doing extra strength work. Even if I didn’t have the additional time in the day after my full-time job to get massages and rest. It didn’t matter, because my body was holding up and I was progressing…until I wasn’t.


And in that repetition was when I finally started to learn my lesson…sort of. It’s hard to see through the setbacks when your main focus is on a seemingly attainable competitive goal, whether that is the Olympic Trials Qualifier, some absurd distance, or any specific PR. You tend to just wait out the injury before getting back to the plan and towards your goal.

But we all have our limits, and after inadvertently finding mine again and again, then doing a considerable amount of reading on the latest sports science related to mileage and training, I’ve really started to learn my lesson. At this point, I’m firmly convinced that with the goals I have (had) for my running, I should be very wary of hitting / surpassing 80 – 90 miles a week. I don’t think it’s problematic to run those weekly totals, but to CONSECUTIVELY reach them with the addition of 2 – 3 speed workouts is going to nudge me off the cliff of my abilities and into an injury.

That, however, is what I’ve determined from myself, based on my previous efforts, and within my own genetic abilities. We all, of course, have our own limits we need to determine and hone within those parameters. Annoyingly, I’m excited with this conclusion, because I think it offers me a new set of parameters to run within, to really hone and see if I can take my running to a new level as this point in my life…but I have surgery coming up. I’m not writing to focus on this aspect of my life, but it is there and it’s frustrating because as compelled as I am to train within these parameters and really see what happens, I can’t. I’ve run out of time and will be running out of ability again.

With that said, surgery will pass and although I’ll be back to zero, I can start over and push towards these goals, experimenting with my abilities and use that information for others. As a running coach, I’m continuously researching training methods and making sure I’m enacting best practice with my runners while also pushing their limits..but not too far. Admittedly, one of my high-performing runners (going for a 2:30 marathon) tipped over the edge recently, but fortunately seems to have saved himself from a run stopping problem and will be ready to go at the start in a week and a half, but it was touchy there for a bit. I felt awful, as we were running on the edge of his abilities and although I thought we were in safe territory, we obviously were too close to the edge.

That’s the danger of our extremist running tendencies, always pushing against our non-visible boundaries until we’ve hit the physical ones. For those with more ingrained (or sensible) reservation, they make the most of their efforts, balancing the progressions in their bodies instead of pushing one or the other too far.

It’s odd to admit this to myself, and openly, that I went too far, but I hope it offers some perspective should it apply to others. It’s not to say there are hard and fast rules to our limits, obviously. Some have more inherent genetic strength, are able to execute the important ful-body maintenance details, restrain their progression on an extended timeline, etc., but that’s definitely not the majority of us.

Ultimately, I’ve come to understand the value of my limits, how to hone them in order to get back to my utmost abilities without injury, and rein in my extremist tendencies to a balanced state…I hope. I guess I’ll find out after surgery. I so appreciate the value of extremism, but that’s not to deny it’s dangers as well. Now I just look forward to the time when I can put that perspective into practice.

How Racist is a Vegan Anti-Racist? – A consideration of Black Lives Matter.

When the Black Lives Matter hashtag, campaign and movement entered the public consciousness, it was a powder keg of anger that threatened to be lit, or maybe it was the explosion itself, set loose by the seemingly daily incidents of police officers shooting and killing black citizens. The rage against the shootings was instantly expressed by many outside the areas where the killings took place and included individuals of all races and social standing, but as the days wore on, the killings tally increased, and the frustrations mounted, different voices and perspectives entered the discussion, effectively muddying the meanings of the simple message that “Black Lives Matter”. Some of these voices were oppositional and explicitly racist, while others tried to hide their defensive racism in a “let’s just get along expression”, while even more held good intentions and yet followed the same racist paradigm as the former groups. As a relatively quiet and passive supporter of the Black Lives Matter message, groups and campaign, I watched from afar, but when the vegan community stepped into the discussion, I felt it pertinent to speak up against their approach. The following points are meant to support BLM while critiquing and opening discussion with the vegan community to find ways to be true allies to the black community while not creating divisions between oppressions at the same time. As always, I welcome response and discussion to the points I present.


The Black Lives Matter movement did not begin as an isolated, single-issue campaign of abstract ideas, but came to be in a very specific context, contained by a series of actions and incidents that warranted response. BLM formed around the specific relationship between black individuals and the police who were killing those black individuals. As the discussion expanded, institutionalized racism and other racist influences entered the conversation, but the foundational reason any discussion took place was due to the very specific relationship between black citizens and the police. There is, of course, a long history of racism, police repression upon black communities, and institutionalized racism that encompassed these latest killings by police, but the BLM movement specifically was born from the modern context and most recent wave of killings. It is important to recognize these specific, confined parameters in this relationship, as it will expose the wrong-headedness of so many defensive reactions by others who want to believe themselves as anti-racist, or at least paint themselves to be.

It would be wrong to describe the anti-racist movement as mired in single-issue politics and not welcoming to struggles of other peoples, but there is a specific focus upon race with BLM due to it’s creation from this very specifically racist context of police killing black citizens. In these most recent killings the police did not target or kill homosexuals, white people, animals, etc. These were very specific moments involving police officers and black individuals, which has informed this very specific response by Black Lives Matter. That shouldn’t be ignored for good reason.

The very message “Black Lives Matter” is so simplistic to almost be insulting, but in that simplicity is also it’s power. Most justice oriented people recognize that black lives DO matter and many liberals WANT to believe that our society is arranged such that black lives matter, but to the black individuals (and others) who have rallied behind this movement, the reality is exactly the opposite. They are stating what is such an obvious sentiment, precisely because that is NOT the case, as evidenced by these recent killings coupled with economic disparity, skewed incarceration rates, a lack of employment opportunities, etc. It’s one thing to say, “of course black lives matter”, but it’s another to recognize that our societal institutions function in ways that express the opposite, ultimately creating the outcome where black lives are extinguished by the police without much hesitation.

When we admit that black lives don’t matter to our societal institutions (and to the explicit and inadvertent racists managing them), that BLM is a creation of the killings in this racist context, and that the solution is to bring light to the machinations of a racist society, we can then understand why any distraction or outright opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement is problematic at best and a continuation of the racist paradigm at worst.


It was only going to be a matter of time before the Black Lives Matter movement met not only resistance, but outright defiance. In a society that is still afraid to lose a sense of privilege by criticizing authority, namely the police – especially after the exaggerated post-9/11 hero worship bestowed upon them – there are bound to be those that run to the defense of the police and their actions, if not to explain them away, then to openly justify their killings. News stories are filled with so much hemming and hawing about what the dead black individual did to be killed by a cop, as we still retain the idea that cops are untouchable, not prone to racism or judgement, and must always be given the benefit of the doubt. It, therefore, didn’t surprise me one bit when the first response to Black Lives Matter was the creation of Police Lives Matter. Considering the type of individual that was often found expressing the Police Lives Matter sentiment (spoiler alert: Rich, Privileged, White), it was obvious this was an outright racist expression. It barely veiled the statement that no matter what happened during the shootings involving the police, the black life that was lost didn’t matter.

Even worse, the Police Lives Matter statement became an abstract social line that demanded citizens to cross. It left no room for debate and meant to imply, “You either stand behind the gun or in front of it.” Ultimately, you either back the racist institution or you back criminality, without using race to say the same. The sentiment could just have easily been, “You either stand with white protectors or you’re black.” Police Lives Matter TRIES to frame the conversation between protection and criminality, but the veil hiding the racism is extremely, insultingly thin. Fortunately, those that want to believe they are not racist or that the system is not informed by racist principles see through the veil and choose not to rally around that expression. In the end, the only people who support and express the Police Lives Matter statement are the most outwardly racist, unthinking, authority-groveling, and/or oppositional type of individual.

Where Police Lives Matter draws too distinct a line from Black Lives Matter, others found a way to walk somewhere between the two, protecting their comfortable, predominantly liberal spaces of privilege that allow them to make a statement against racism without finding themselves so directly in front of the gun. They do this by stating the toothless, apologetic, feel-good, “All Lives Matter”. To this relatively cowardly crowd, who could disagree? I mean, the idea of Black Lives Matter is to make a claim to value and justice for all lives, even black lives, so how could All Lives Matter be an offensive or racist statement? Isn’t that really what Black Lives Matter is saying anyways?

The glaring problem with this “let’s hold hands” approach is that “All Lives Matter” completely takes the teeth out of the statement that black lives, specifically, matter. It’s problematic in it’s wide reaching net of inclusion, because it is reaffirming what society has already told us, that some lives DO matter. The issue being raised by BLM is not that certain lives DO matter, it’s that certain lives in the eyes of dominant culture DON’T matter. That is the problem. That is why black lives are indiscriminately killed by police in a much greater disparity than white lives. It’s why black lives are jailed far more frequently and easily than white lives. And so on. All Lives Matter is a worthless statement, because beyond being a baseline, neutral sentiment, it’s, even worse, a support and defense of a system that claims some lives DON’T matter. It takes the focus away from the issue at hand – that black people are being killed – and makes the already established appeal to the public that black, white, poor, rich, politician, worker should be valued. The issue being addressed by BLM isn’t a matter of general perspective so much as it is a matter of societal machinations, institutionalized racism, and authoritarianism. Black Lives Matter addresses those issues through the reaction to police killing black people, while All Lives Matter does not. All Lives Matter says, you’ve got a problem BUT…, you’re being killed BUT…, you’re worthy of value BUT…, if only because it was stated as a REACTION to Black Lives Matter. All Lives Matter didn’t come as an expression in it’s own context, in it’s own right…it only came to the discussion because Black Lives Matter came first. It is reactionary.

And, let’s be real, it is a defensive, racist reactionary expression. As far as I can gather, the black community didn’t come to the discussion and alter their message to say, “You know, all lives matter, really, even the CEO’s, even the politicians passing racist agendas.” The only people I saw expressing All Lives Matter were white liberals, trying to push themselves off the racist burner that the black community had put them on. I watched so many white people try to avoid the difficult considerations of their actions, their roles in society, their reproductions of race based privilege by inadvertently saying “white people matter, too” through the liberal expression of All Lives Matter. They WANTED it not to be racist, but the very fact that people were willing to muddy the conversation by taking the focus OFF black people alone and divert it to ALL people made it inherently racist. The diversion of the discussion became less about race specifically, which was the origin of the movement, and more towards a general idea of peace and inclusion. By eliminating race from the conversation, it became racist. And isn’t that the root of the issue at hand, that race is dismissed, ignored, and outright silenced? Going from BLACK Lives Matter to ALL Lives Matter reproduces that very dismissal and silencing.

All Lives Matter forgets or ignores that the Black Lives Matter movement sprung from the killing of BLACK individuals, not white individuals, not even asian, middle-eastern, etc., individuals, but BLACK individuals. If the police were indiscriminately killing ALL citizens, then maybe the All Lives Matter sentiment might have more validity, but as it stands, that is simply not the case. Any diversion from focusing specifically on the black lives that are being killed is a racist perspective, no matter how cloaked in world peace, back-patting liberalism it may be. More subtle than explicit or even inadvertent racism is still racism.


At some point in this diluting, digression of Black Lives Matter into All Lives Matter, the vegan community stepped in. Interestingly, there is a distinct similarity between the expression that Black Lives Matter and the vegan assertion that All Lives Matter, (which differs from the intent of the original All Lives Matter “movement”) which is the vegan community’s way of saying ANIMAL Lives (also) Matter, because it addresses an institutional devaluing of specific lives. BLM asserts that society values and treats black lives less than it does other races, while the vegan community states the same towards animals. Society DOES value animals less than humans, in such a way that the machinations of doing so are similar to black lives. They are viewed as a means to an end. Their subjugation supports the functioning of the dominant culture. Their emotional and physical safety (as expressed by the ethical vegan community) is ignored and silenced. There ARE parallels between the two, but in no way does this justify the usage of the All Lives Matter meme, and continues the inadvertent racism of doing so.

The vegan community, I would argue, attempts to co-opt the secondary All Lives Matter meme to their own ends, more than they try to co-opt the primary Black Lives Matter sentiment and momentum. In this secondary (or tertiary) co-optation, I truly believe the vegan community is not doing so out of a defensiveness of their racial privilege – the vegan community being a primarily white, liberal culture – or in a defiant stance to Black Lives Matter, but to highlight the hypocrisy in drawing parameters on “ALL” lives. It could be argued they aren’t even considering the racial/racist dynamics that led to the All Lives Matter statement, but that doesn’t excuse the racism of their ignorance. To co-opt All Lives Matter towards ones own political ends, no matter how far removed from racist considerations, deliberately ignores the context in which it developed. No activist is so sheltered from the larger social context to not be able to explain the race origins of All Lives Matter. In this additional co-optation then, is an attempt at diluting and silencing the power Black Lives Matter originally held and still retains to this day, no matter how inadvertent. If it’s not outright dismissing the racial context of All Lives Matter, it’s irresponsibility ignoring it.

The vegan community’s irresponsible attempt to co-opt All Lives Matter towards it’s own ends essentially creates a game of political telephone where the message that “institutionalized racism is killing black people” turns into “I’m not racist and I care about all people” into “non-vegan liberals are hypocrites”. Just how far can single-issue groups take these messages away from the original point that cops should stop killing black people?


If we accept that the vegan community didn’t mean to co-opt the Black Lives Movement, but rather the liberal All Lives Movement, just how problematic does this become? Is it fair to call the vegan usage of the meme racist? I’ve made my case for doing so previously, but it’s worth reiterating. I still assert that the vegan All Lives Matter sentiment isn’t INTENTIONALLY racist, but it still reproduces the same racist machinations of dominant culture by ignoring and/or dismissing the pleas of the black community. Ultimately, one of the greatest problems with the Vegan All Lives Matter expression is that it isn’t ANTI-RACIST. Although it isn’t explicitly racist, it’s also not explicitly ANTI-racist, in effect, remaining neutral. And as has been stated by greater minds, “No one can remain neutral on a moving train.”

The vegan statement of All Lives Matter isn’t anti-racist, it’s anti-speciest. That is a huge problem in the separation from the original anti-racist sentiment of Black Lives Matter (even the liberal racism of All Lives Matter) because it speaks to the white privilege of the vegan community, that allows them to dismiss and ignore race issues for species issues. To completely ignore the race issue roots of BLM / ALM is to dismiss the importance of black voices and essentially state, “That’s nice, but I’m going to talk about animal issues because I’m not affected by cops killing black people.” The predominately white vegan community isn’t being killed by police, so they have the privilege and luxury to uncaringly use the BLM meme for their own ends. This is fundamentally not ok, and lends more to explicit racism and white privilege than a more forgivable, unintentional, inadvertent racism. To ignore the race issues of BLM / ALM is, at best, a very poor recognition of “intersectionality” and draws a distinct line between a predominately white vegan movement and a minimally white anti-racist movement, which does little good for either.


The proposed solutions for eliminating institutionalized racism are complex and difficult, however, the attempts to halt the extension of institutionalized racism and racist perspectives by the vegan community are probably a little more manageable.

First and foremost, we need to stop using #AllLivesMatter. We need to stop using any meme that alludes to the Black Lives Matter movement, specifically the All Lives Matter expression. The space created by Black Lives Matter centers upon the killing of black individuals by the police, the institutionalized racism that lends to this outcome, and related race issues. One of the best actions an ally can make with the anti-racist movement is to allow them that space for expression and not take away from it in any way. If you can, find ways to raise the volume of the critique posed by Black Lives Matter, but at the very least, don’t turn it down or grab the mic.

If you do want to draw a correlation between seemingly separated social issues, do so through your own creations and not on the backs of popular memes or established campaigns, or create connections to these similarities of oppression through the permission of its members, constructively, and not exploitively. Seek discussions with movements and individuals to find the ways you can make each other stronger, against a common enemy, not at the expense of each other.

Our ultimate goal as anti-oppression activists / anti-authoritarians is to recognize the machinations of oppression, call them out, and work at creating their alternatives for the future while dismantling them in the present, but at the same time act to support the moments of resistance to oppression that aren’t immediately in our means. Vegans should always seek commonality with other groups fighting personal oppressions and ensure they aren’t restricting their momentum. Anti-racists should, all the same, seek commonality with other struggles against oppression and avoid restricting forward progress. Whether we are discussing the role of the police, assessing our personal roles in continuing oppression, slowing down the capitalist economy, or finding ways to best place our collective leverage, all anti-oppression activists, no matter their personal issue, are facing a common enemy…and that enemy is not each other. We must always remember that as we push towards a more just existence and put a face to our enemy.

A Paused Life

There are 47 days until my third surgery.

I’ve counted them, but I’m not simply counting them down, not only because I’ve got a few things planned for this space of time, but also because I don’t care to dwell on the precarious void of an uncertain future that follows the surgery. I don’t want to consider the near horror of waking up in the ICU after days of unconsciousness, tubes running down my throat, preventing me from expressing the pain and fear I experience, and I don’t want to consider the period of inability and uncertainty that marks anything after October 27th. There is nothing after surgery, if only because nothing is guaranteed.

I don’t know how I’ll respond to the necessary, invasive procedure. I don’t know if my body will remember and recover or suffer trauma and shut down. I’ve also learned not to guess.

It’s an important part of the cancer experience that I wish the recently diagnosed were told right away, to never expect the plan to go as you’re told. I remember how the first surgery was supposed to be a pretty simple affair, where the cancer would be removed and I’d be on my way, only to wake up in a nightmare with a vague explanation of how things were much worse than imagined and soon I’d be on chemotherapy. When the chemotherapy schedule was marked out at 12 treatments, I still easily recall the absolute, total dejection I felt when at the eleventh treatment, it was explained that chemotherapy was just going to be my life into the future, a verbal punch to the stomach. Then in a more hopeful turn of events, the life of endless chemotherapy was suddenly halted with the scheduling of a second surgery to try and get the rest of my cancer out and then get on with my life. Yet, here I sit, 47 days out from the third surgery and feeling that increasing sense of pause, of abbreviated action, of being unable to place my efforts in the short term or the long.

And this is getting really old, because being in a place where you’re unable to act and unable to plan is essentially no place at all. It’s not a place where you can plan for long term stability and it’s not “living as if every day is your last.” It’s neither of those. It’s being on pause, ever shifting between conflicting desires to make the most of the moment, without sacrificing the stability of the future.

Throw the unavoidable burden of financial comfort into the mix and the frustration increases exponentially with each passing month.

For the past two years I felt somewhat invigorated by this challenge to make the most of my life through cancer, to do what is necessary to thrive despite the various challenges, physical and emotional, I might encounter. I adapted to not being able to run like I used to. I adapted to the physical degenerations of chemotherapy. I adapted to the financial stress of not being able to work full-time. I adapted to the emotional frustrations of my past life, now intensified through the immediacy of cancer. But living like this isn’t sustainable. The waxing and waning of frustrations and victories gets tiring and my overall level of emotional stability feels like it’s increasingly slipping towards the negative.

I just don’t want this. I want to be over it, past it, whatever. In the past I’ve stopped myself from imagining what it would be like to have a NEC (No Evidence of Cancer) diagnosis from my oncologist, because I was fully engaged in the moment, able to continue on with a, “Ok, what’s next” sort of approach, but recently I slipped and allowed myself the pleasure. I don’t know, maybe I was actually in a good, hopeful mood. Maybe I had too much coffee. Maybe it’s a subconscious telling of my increasing frustration, pushing these cathartic thoughts to the surface in order to bolster some of the general weakening. I don’t know where it came from, but that idea that imagining that I was past cancer felt good, so good, almost too good. I don’t want to continue dealing with the extended disappointment.

The odd thing is, it’s not even the cancer. The threat of dying or significant discomfort seems such a thing of the past. Despite any compromised ability I have right now, I’ve made peace with that. It’s the forced pause of my life that is really beginning to wear on me.

Because of the need to remain on seriously subsidized health care, I’m not able to work full time. I’m not even really able to work part-time. I manage to get by…barely. But I do, and I’m not saying this for a “poor baby” response, but to just address the reality of my frustration, because this is the increasingly frustrating dynamic to having a life on pause. I can’t work to the extent that I need to, because I need to remain on fully covered health care that will take care of my various cancer needs, namely the surgery that amounts to a quarter of a million dollars each procedure. That is simply crippling and there is no way around it.

But I WANT to work. I WANT to plan for my future. I WANT to be able to take care of my son again, to the extent that I did in the past, but what waits after surgery is a blank space of complete uncertainty. Recently, I’ve had people mention things that I’ll be doing after surgery or suggesting ways to move forward and I can’t help but internally think, “Well, thanks for the vote of confidence, but do you know what I experience.”? Of course, they don’t really.

I could paint a more positive, hopeful picture of what I’ll be doing after surgery, and whatever I might allow in my private moments, I don’t express outwardly for all the reasons stated above. I don’t want to be let down, but more so, the reality is that I just can’t predict what is to come, no matter how much I want to get back to my old life of predictable routine, of sustainable income, of the possibility of being closer to my son, of building on the life with Laura, of doing all those little things that people tend to take for granted or view with accumulated disdain and annoyance. I’m not saying my pre-cancer life was the greatest, or that I haven’t created new opportunities for my future with this forced downtime, but there are some basic comforts that you don’t appreciate until they are taken from you.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep struggling each month, to find ways to get by without jeopardizing the healthcare that allows for my treatments, but above all, to maintain a general sense of positivity when I find it hard to plan for both the present or the future. It’s weird, but the reality that cancer itself is the problem tends to be during those initial or final moments, when I’m increasingly coming to understand that the worst of it is the life you can’t find to live, because it’s been paused by the uncertainty of the future.

Direct Action Everywhere – A Critique


With the expansion of vegan awareness in dominant culture also comes an expansion of activism tactics and strategies in order to keep the various issues at the forefront of dialogue. Some of these tactics or strategies have been seemingly organically born with the expanded idea of what veganism is and the reasons for adopting it as part of one’s lifestyle. Where in the past, the ethical treatment of animals drove most campaigns and strategies, the new focus on health has brought other promotional strategies into the mix, namely documentaries, athleticism, and foodie consulting. Unfortunately, even with the expanded quiver of activist arrows, some tactics and strategies that seemed more necessary and unavoidable in the old world – where vegan was still pronounced Vaygun, and food options were as limited as the activist groups with which to become a member – have either seen a recent resurgence or come back entirely anew. The group / movement Direct Action Everywhere, to me, embodies this old world strategy and with an increasing presence and inclusion of more activists, I feel it’s pertinent to offer a critique of their tactics.

Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) uses somewhat sensational and confrontational tactics to promote animal rights. They do this, in part, by either entering consumer businesses (Whole Foods, Chipotle, etc.) or dominating public spaces (Farmer’s Markets, events, etc.) and loudly delivering monologues with the intention to inform the public of animal rights and, it seems, disrupt business. These demonstrations are filmed, often ending with the activists getting thrown out of the business they enter or heckled by the public, and then posted on social media to be shared by their members and sympathizers. Using social media to promote these demonstrations aside, this tactic of disruption and informing the public is nothing new, and it’s telling that it isn’t more widespread or has held much longevity since the time period when it was more prominent.


In their respective categories, disruption and information are powerful tactics and strategies for animal rights organizations, but it takes a certain measured, intentional intermingling of the two in order to maximize their effect, which I think is DxE’s greatest failing. DxE doesn’t seem to know what it’s trying to do with it’s demonstrations and ultimately fails in both regards.

The strategy of disrupting a business is about posing a continuous, profit damaging nuisance, in effect ruining “business as usual”. Disruption is about influencing a business to change it’s practices of using and/or harming animals by making their standard practices difficult to carry out and/or ruining their profit. The ways to disrupt a business directly are many, from true direct action such as property damage and concerted civil disobedience (halting consumer practices and tarnishing a reputation) to complicating a functional supply line such as the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign did. DxE does none of this. The demonstrations they carry out tend to be very short in duration, allow consumers to continue shopping, rarely end in arrest (which is probably for the better), do not alter supportive supply lines, have shown no effect on profits, and only cause temporary confusion and annoyance during the act. If a strategy of DxE is to disrupt business as usual, they need to seriously reassess how they intend to do so and measure the act, because for now their disruption (if that is a stated goal) is entirely ineffective.

The other foundation for a DxE demonstration is informative, but here they also tend to fail, not only in what they say, but to whom they say it. A DxE demonstration is marked by basic sign holding (“It’s not food. It’s violence.”) and at least one individual stepping forward to yell out a monologue that talks about the sentience of the animals their audiences tend to be eating or buying at the time. They conduct these yelling monologues in fast food restaurants such as Chipotle or grocery stores such as Whole Foods. The first obvious problem with these monologues is their dramatic nature, in that they are loudly proclaimed, indoors, while people are quietly going about their business or having discussions amongst each other. There is very little respect given during these speeches as the audience is interrupted, dominated in volume, and immediately put on the defensive. It is a jarring tactic that, although garners attention, does not garner RECEPTIVE attention. It is threatening, admonishing, and disrespectful to the public, if not in literal verbiage, then in delivery. To repeat a parental tale, It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it. DxE does not deliver their message in a way that does any favors for the animals.

For what it’s worth, as a committed vegan who shops in these grocery stores and eats at these restaurants, if I encountered a DxE demonstration, I’d probably be one of the first to help throw them out, in part because I would be offended at their social domination, but also because it would be an act of aiding the animals by keeping DxE activists from turning off the non-vegan public from being receptive to animal rights. I know I’m not the only one. It’s sad when one gets the same feeling from animal rights activists as they do from street corner preachers.

It would be one thing if a group of DxE members entered the boardroom of an animal abusing corporation and let loose, whether in an attempt to disrupt or admonish the employees, but instead they choose to carry out their tactics in the public realm, and in that they are completely missing the mark of their pleading and frustrated emotional expressions. If you’ve ever seen a DxE video, it is clear they are failing in delivering a message to the public about animal rights if judged only by the reactions of the public themselves. If they aren’t being heckled by the public, then they are yelled at, forced out, stared at with confusion or just ignored. Often, these negative responses are used to claim some manner of martyrdom via social media comments, serving to reinforce various degrees of self-righteous chest thumping for being on the correct side of morality, but do very little to actually persuade anyone not to eat or buy animals.

On the other hand, if the intent of DxE is to inform the business with whom they have a problem about animal rights, they again are making a tactical mistake. Nothing about their public monologues is persuasive or even verbally disruptive to the businesses. The language they use is moral, not financial, and morality doesn’t drive business practices.

Another hallmark of DxE’s verbal demonstrations is the sensational nature of their speeches, sometimes marked by crying and/or intense emotive experiences. I know I may be treading on thin ice here, but I distrust the integrity of these expressions. It’s not that I don’t believe the DxE activists are frustrated, saddened, or angry regarding the treatment of animals, but these specific expressions IN THE MOMENT come across as forced, disingenuous, opportunistic, and even fake. They don’t seem fake, because the individual has never felt them, but rather because the environmental circumstances don’t often foster these emotions. I can’t tell if crying or deep emotive expressions are meant to play on the sympathies of the audience or to proclaim a more egotistical commitment to the issue, but whatever the reason, it is hard to see these contextually unnatural expressions as either persuasive or genuine. I am of the category that believes respect for ones audience and the value of a perspective is given through facts and delivered with reservation and calm, not by offering emotional desperation and sensational pleas.

If the goal of a verbal demonstration is to persuade others to your viewpoint or give them lasting food for thought, a certain connection needs to be made with this audience of strangers. The playing field of this connection needs to take into account ones sense of space and protectiveness, which DxE often fails to do. While other organizations utilize neutral territory to offer information in a take it or leave it manner (or even offer incentive to take the information about animal rights), DxE enters the space of others to deliver their message. This is akin to the feeling you get when missionaries come knocking on the door of your house to spread their word. You did not ask them to your house nor did you purchase the house with the expectation that you would need to talk to them. The lines are a little more blurred in public spaces, of course, but there are concrete similarities. Imagine a priest giving the sermon at church when an individual stands up in the pew and tries to sell you membership to a fitness pyramid scheme by yelling over the priest. Would you be receptive to their offer, no matter how beneficial it may be to you? Imagine yourself, maybe with 20 other people, watching a band playing music in a public park, only to have an individual sit down, tell you how great this other band is, and turn on a radio so you can hear it. Would you be receptive to hearing this other band, or would you rather listen at another time, when you might be more receptive? I know, the examples are a little ridiculous, but so is sitting down to eat (yes, even eating animals that shouldn’t be eaten) with a friend and having someone stand up and yell over your conversation. These relatively public spaces, such as a restaurant, a grocery store, or a farmer’s market, come with certain expectations of behavior for yourself and others. Not to draw prudish lines on public “appropriateness”, but from a tactical standpoint, it’s not helpful to break through one’s sense of personal space and comfort, create an air of tension and defensiveness, and then tell them about how they should be living their lives.

If taking a position of informing the public about animal issues is the primary intent of DxE, there are practiced, tested, measured, and effective ways of doing so (which I will detail later). These ways entail meeting people on their terms or in relatively neutral space, without being domineering, without the need of spectacle, without forced emotive expressions, without sensationalism, and by creating a cooperative dialogue instead of a confrontational exchange or delivery. This manner of scolding and talking down to an audience we need on the side of the animals is more harmful than helpful. Effective communication for the animals is simply constructive dialogue 101.


It may seem nit-picky, but I find difficulty overlooking the very name “Direct Action Everywhere”, as it implies a form of activism that DxE doesn’t represent. My understanding of the parameters of “direct action” involve a break from symbolic gestures and engage businesses in a way that affect them directly and immediately. Direct action involves property destruction, removing animals from their cages, civil disobedience carried to its fullest extent, and a number of other actions removed from “raising awareness”, engaging in free speech, general forms of lawful protest, negotiations and similar low-risk tactics. Direct Action always implies a step up from traditional activism, a greater degree of engagement, and sometimes tactics carried out underground and anonymously. There are grey areas in these parameters and DxE can claim to be disrupting businesses, however temporarily, with some of their very short term occupations while they give speeches inside restaurants or perform die-in’s, but I fail to see how these tactics are turning up the heat or expanding on past usage of the same.

The crisis both animals and humans find themselves in at this point in history demands thoughtful consideration of strategy, continuous, persuasive pressure, and drawing more specific lines between what works and what doesn’t towards our objectives. As a movement, we’ve lost the privilege of offering activists every play in the book, and instead need to ensure we are going all in towards measured success. When we blur the lines of “direct action” we risk convincing activists they are having an assured effect upon business practices instead of offering them more concrete ways to bring about either small victories or total liberation. In critical, desperate circumstances, the pull to appease our conscience and act by the directive of emotion and not solution-based practices is understandable, but to draw activists towards the illusion of having a direct effect on the industries and corporations that exploit animals is irresponsible.

A theatrical die-in or emotive demonstration may feel direct, but as far as definitions and victories go, they remain in the category of mediated, symbolic, lawful protest and shouldn’t be used to convince activists they are making progress in the moment. I’m not stating a case for giving up on these strategies if they are what some activists feel is within their means and motives, but let’s call a spade a spade and not imagine we are directly affecting business as usual when we aren’t.


If there have been any tactics by DxE that make me realize the organizers are really not thinking things through, it’s the intentional use of animals during demonstrations to state their case. Recently, organizers have suggested activists bring their pets (primarily dogs) to public speeches that involve near yelling or the use of a bullhorn to deliver their monologues. These environments often involve public crowds and somewhat chaotic circumstances. The idea is that having pets at these speeches, that are meant to draw a connection between the emotional lives of animals and the emotional lives of factory farmed animals, will convince pet owners to extend compassion towards animals raised for food. The intention is understandable, but involving animals to this end has it’s problems.

Symbolically, there is something incredibly wrong with using animals for almost any objective, and I personally find discomfort creating relationships with non-human animals outside any reason other than protection, liberation, or contextual companionship. All acknowledgement that these animals are not behind harmed, the very idea that directly using animals towards a political objective speaks to exploitation and a reinforcement of the idea that animals can be used for our human-centric means without reservation.

The protest or demonstration is not an environment for non-human animals (it’s not even a place for some human animals), and I’m surprised these animal rights activists would feel comfortable bringing their pets into a context that involves populated spaced, loud noises, potentially confrontational circumstances, and situations that aren’t created for their emotional comfort. The message being delivered through the megaphone is one expression, but the sub context is that it’s ok to use animals for an objective outside their individuality and basic existence. The involvement of animals during demonstrations, to reinforce an easily understandable argument, is not the same as when sanctuaries allow visitors to engage with animals and reference them for talking points. Those environments are created as a physically and emotionally supportive situation for the animals, which is a far cry from bringing animals to a public space to be subjected to all the unknown variables and unique stressors that are part of a demonstration.

If bringing animals into a public space and using them to highlight a point isn’t enough, some DxE demonstrations have even involved putting animals in cages along with their human companions, to again, highlight this point that animals shouldn’t be put in cages. Establishing a relationship with a non-human animal involves some compromises for the safety and comfort of all, such as “crating” an animal at home when the owner is away, but to put an animal inside a cage (even ensuring their comfort by including a human companion with them), speaks to a usage towards human objectives and not animal safety. We don’t need to split hairs about the perceived comfort and discomfort of animals in these demonstrations, but to merely state that the plight of animals can be easily and concretely stated (as it has been for so long) without the involvement of animals. I don’t for a second believe we’ll move our societal values closer to animal liberation just because we started bringing animals to protests.

Ultimately, these individual uses of animals during demonstrations doesn’t matter so much as the idea that animals are not ours to use, as the phrase is often repeated. Even with the stated intent to remove animals from exploitation, essentially using them towards their own benefit, the act of bringing non-human animals to protests objectifies their individuality, continues the idea that human intention trumps animal welfare, and that there are blurred boundaries when it comes to where we include animals in our lives and where we leave them alone. If our intent is to allow animals to exist in their natural niche, without unnecessary human intervention, outside the confines of industrial civilization, then we should seek to do so at every opportunity without reservation. The consideration to use animals for any intent different than their basic safety and well-being should never be debated. The slope is already slippery enough. If we decide it’s permissible to use animals for demonstrations, then do we admit it’s ok to use their honey if we are “keeping them sustained”, do we admit it’s ok to hunt them to avoid unnecessary starvation, do we admit to so many other grey areas of animal interest? The easiest answer is to always leave the animals out of it, and demonstrations are a part of this answer.

“Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, objectify for political means, or abuse in any way.” If DxE wants to live their ideals and take a symbolic stand against objectification, they need to draw a firm line in tactics that remove animals from the equation and exhibit a genuine respect for the physical and emotional lives of non-human animals.


Rest assured, my intent isn’t to rip DxE apart and hope they disappear from the movement of animal liberation. I think there are too many people that point out the “flaws” with various organizations and approaches without recognizing that there might be some valuable or salvageable aspects to a perspective, and I tried to do the same with this critique. DxE has value in the movement and they have found ways to engage a number of activists, as evidenced by their demonstration numbers, and continue pushing the discussion of animal liberation among both it’s members and the wider public. My critique of DxE is actually driven by their popularity, because they are the ones making waves right now, and it’s not that I want them to stop the discussion, but rather would like to see a refinement of tactics that make them even more effective. My initial discomfort with DxE was watching them reuse and recreate tactics that were left behind from the old world of PETA strategies, which many animal liberation activists disrespect and watched do more harm than good. Animal liberation has made huge progression as a cultural force, establishing a social context that has called for new activism and new tactics, and it makes me cringe to see an organization with such influence keep animal liberation activism mired in the same stereotypes of yesteryear, unable to effectively build on past mistakes and new successes. DxE has, however, offered value to the discussion of animal liberation in both dominant culture and activist circles, and I want to acknowledge those accomplishments.

DxE has, more than anything else, kept the conversation alive. Where PETA has increasingly worn on the general public and become tired and predictable, DxE has tried to expand the conversation with controversial, progressive stances (focusing on “allied” businesses) and utilizes “honest” emotional expressions to convey the seriousness of animal liberation.


The plight of animals is so incredibly tragic that the most basic understanding of animals confined in industrial agriculture warrants an intense emotional reaction. To merely read a book, watch a video, or see a factory farm with your own eyes illicits a sadness and anger that is rarely paralleled, and it is the emotional depth of the experience that drives individuals towards animal liberation activism. One can not be faulted for using this emotional motivation to engage in activism, press for radical changes, and convey this emotional context to others. DxE uses this premise for their demonstrations, and as much as I hate to admit, at the expense of their objectives. It is one thing to witness animal exploitation and feel the weight of injustice in the moment, but it’s another to try and recreate that same emotional depth out of context. It, unfortunately, comes across disingenuous, disconnected, and dishonest. To cite a famous incident, the DxE activist that started in on a monologue about her “little girl”, yelling and crying (were they crocodile tears for the sake of persuasion?) in public, brought much understood derision and mockery of her display. As much as I understand her intent, I can’t help but shake my head with all the other naysayers saying, “Come on…really?”. These expressions of emotional depth paint the picture of animal liberation activists as fragile, disconnected, excessively bleeding heart crybabies who break at the mere sight of a McDonald’s advertisement. If one can’t keep themselves composed when entering a Chipotle, how do they ever leave the house and why should their perspectives be trusted among the normative and emotionally measured public?

And yet, these intense emotional experiences are what draw the activists in. I understand that DxE wants to use this intense emotional experience to their ends, to try and convey the same importance of the issue to the public, but it doesn’t work that way. I dare say current activists weren’t brought to the issue by the theatrical, forced emotional expressions, created completely out of context. I firmly believe DxE would connect with the general public by communicating to them in a different manner and a different context, which I’ll reference later. I do appreciate that DxE isn’t so cold, statistic and calculated with their strategy of “recruitment” or persuasion, but I think the way in which they do so could be revised towards authenticity and honesty. DxE needs to stop forcing emotional expressions and create the context for them to happen safely, individually, and genuinely.


If there is an undeniable value to DxE, it is their expanding of the exploitation conversation with back patting progressives. DxE campaigns broke from the norm by critiquing and confronting the “allied” businesses such as Whole Foods, Chipotle and similar companies that try to cater to vegans, foodies and other conscious consumers with statements of care and humanity towards animals. The idea that you can raise and kill animals in a way that is towards their benefit is a joke, and really just a marketing campaign, but most vegans, foodies and conscious consumers continued patronizing these types of businesses under the banner of veiled self-appeasement. DxE rightfully called out these businesses for their deceptive marketing and confronted them for trying to pull the (literal?) wool over consumers’ eyes, even at the risk of making many vegans and activists uncomfortable and coming to the defense of these institutions. As an anti-capitalist (and forcedly, reluctant consumer) I firmly stand with DxE for bringing attention to these supposedly friendly businesses and campaigns, if not because they call out the obviously exploitive marketing at the expense of animal lives, but because they indirectly expose the foundational, immoral profit motives of capitalist enterprise. If DxE actively incorporates an expansive anti-capitalist critique to their campaigns against Whole Foods and Chipotle, and not problematically asks these businesses to simply become vegan capitalists, then we’d REALLY be getting somewhere. For the time being, however, this asking of activists to be less friendly with businesses who pose as allies to our conscious consumerism is a step in the right direction towards both animal liberation and new progressions of critique.

For all the problems I have with DxE entering social space and disrupting the calm, they do engage with some businesses and campaigns by more traditional means and communicate with the public on more constructive terms. They should be applauded for this approach, even if the tactics aren’t groundbreaking, they are at least doing more good than harm in the long run, no matter how incrementally. The campaign against UC labs as one example, involved continuously exposing the horrific treatment of animals at UC labs and through vivisection in general. The actions were less about changing consumer habits (there are no consumers to speak of with this issue) and more about keeping the public eye and public critique on UC labs, so any media attention the demonstrations received would most likely be valuable. Sensationalism in this context seems appropriate (though my previous critique of bringing animals to the demonstration stands). Other tactics against Chipotle and similar businesses in the “It’s not food. It’s violence” campaign involved neutral space demonstrations that offered a presentation of the issue while allowing for constructive communication with the audience. Aside from berating consumers in the non-nuetral space within the businesses, having no discernible effect upon profit making through false civil disobedience, and the forced emotional expressions out of context, these demonstrations are important in connecting to sympathetic individuals, continuing the conversation about animal exploitation, and meeting an audience on their terms to engage in constructive communication about the issues.

When the issues around animal exploitation are so immediate, desperate, critical, and difficult, it feels precarious to critique organizations and movements that have rallied so many people to their campaigns, but for the same reasons, it’s also imperative that we take a deep, measured look at these campaigns and tactics to make sure they are maximizing the value they can have towards animal liberation. We shouldn’t unreservedly support specific strategies and organizations just because they have recruited a considerable number of activists to their campaigns, but rather make sure there aren’t other organizations or strategies or ways to best utilize these activists and all their good intentions. A million activists standing on the street corner “naked rather than wearing fur” or openly weeping during someones dinner or yelling over conversations at the farmers market could be better served flyering college campuses, educating the public about animal exploitation in so many other ways, hosting potlucks, filming factory farms, locking down in vivisection labs, conducting open liberations, conducting closed liberations, forming athletic teams centered on education, conducting fundraising campaigns for sanctuaries and animal experimentation alternatives, and so on. Numbers are only part of the equation. Effectiveness is the other component.


There is a misconception that calling for the elimination of an organization (which I’m not doing) means a lack of action, when in reality it means a void is created that can be filled by alternatives. The void is a place where the activists that were engaged with the previous organization can now work to serve another. The void is a place where the resources that were funneled can now be diverted to other more effective organizations and campaigns. If PETA were to collapse and disappear tomorrow, the activists, the employees, and the concerns for and exploitation of animals would still remain. The change would be up to the activists and other organizations to fill that void. Most likely, the smaller organizations fighting for dollars and volunteers, with potentially more effective campaigns, would grow in stature. Maybe animals would be better served by the 10 Billion Project or The Humane League or Compassion Over Killing existing at the size of PETA. Or maybe animal liberation would expand if we had smaller organizations, but more of them. That is a consideration for another time, however. Right now, our concern is maximum effectiveness with the organizations that currently exist. Although DxE has it’s values, I think they could better benefit animal liberation by dropping some approaches and focusing on others.

Civil Disobedience, with the numbers to back it up, has long stood as an effective form of persuasion regarding incremental changes in business practice by effecting the bottom line. DxE tends to give lip service to civil disobedience by interrupting business as usual when they enter restaurants and grocery stores during vocal demonstrations, but they fall short of effectiveness, when they leave without fanfare and allow business to continue on uninterrupted. It would take a concerted campaign of civil disobedience, of getting arrested, of locking down, of continuously halting the machinations of business in order to persuade business leaders to either make changes or incite others to action. Anything short of a full on civil disobedience campaign is just a minor annoyance and blip on the media screen. If DxE isn’t interested in civil disobedience, they would be better served by conducting their demonstrations in neutral public space, filming the proceedings as they do, and sharing them on social media as they utilized. I fail to see the value in adding a momentarily disruptive, confrontational, and potentially arrest worthy component to these tactics.

I’ve continuously reiterated the importance of constructive communication with a non-vegan audience and I feel this is one consideration DxE has not employed. Having your say and making a display of your emotions may be appeasing and self-satisfying, but that doesn’t mean you’ve done much to reach your intended audience. The way DxE communicates their message comes across more self-serving than intentional and, dare I say, compassionate. It doesn’t consider the desires and receptiveness of their audience, which should be the primary concern for education. Being heard doesn’t mean being received, or even being understood, but fortunately there are a number of other groups having great impact through their education strategies.

The 10 Billion Lives Tour is an organization that uses a “pay-per-view” strategy, offering $1 to the general public to watch a short video on animals used as food. The organization takes trucks to colleges, music festivals and street fairs to meet the public on their terms as an education strategy. They measure the number of viewers and their commitments to transitioning to a vegan diet, with great success. While watching the films, the emotional reactions by the viewers are the genuine responses DxE attempts to theatrically express during their demonstrations, but with a positive, lasting, constructive outcome. They manage to create this positive outcome by not mixing a contempt for business practice with the eating habits of it’s consumers and instead focusing only on educating the public about animal exploitation in food production. They educate the public not by delivering perspectives on them unavoidably, instigating defensiveness in the process, but by giving incentive for the viewer to come to them, willingly, on their terms. The viewer is then accepting permission to receive the information, by their own admission, and not because they had no other option. This allows also the viewer to process the information about animal treatment in their own way, not being told how they should feel, or how they should live their life. We could continue to break down the value of constructive communication in this way, but the point is clear, that if the intent with a demonstration or campaign is to educate the public about animal exploitation issues, then utilizing basic, easily understood forms of constructive communication is the best approach. Leave sensationalism, guilt, admonishment, disruptiveness, and annoyance to the priests and street preachers.

The Humane League (and many other organizations) also do a great job offering information to the public about animal exploitation through simple leafletting. No, it’s not glamorous or enticing to the media or martyr generating, but none of those dynamics should be desirable when it comes to animal rights activism. The primary concern should be getting information to the public so they can make informed, compassionate decisions about their food choices, and the millions of booklets The Humane League have distributed to college students has been doing just that. I can’t think of any animal activists I know that didn’t get introduced to the issues surrounding animal exploitation without various forms of literature and DxE could make great strides in their image and effectiveness by expanding an educational campaign by meeting them with compassion and respect instead of confrontation and frustration.


When I step back and take in the message DxE promotes, it’s hard to cut through all the sensationalism and media attention tactics to find the effectiveness in it all. Primarily, I get the sense they are social media savvy, populated with the types of activists influenced too much by their insecurities and emotional intensity than they are by calculated effectiveness, and maybe focused too much on proving their commitment to animal rights than being a true force of change. This is a judgement call, I will openly admit, but being “around the block”, so to speak, the patterns and expressions of DxE activists are nothing new and continue to follow a trajectory that categorizes vegans into unflattering stereotypes. This would all be forgivable if they were making great strides in normalizing animal liberation, having a measurable effect on business practices or offering a progressive perspective to move forwards through activism. Unfortunately, I don’t see it. What I often see are videos pasted all over Facebook of activists throwing themselves into confrontational situations then back patting themselves as martyrs amongst each other. I see annoying episodes of forced crying and inappropriately contextual emotional outcries. I see tactics once left behind from the days of PETA and repainted as important and effective.

Even more, I don’t see businesses closing or even not expanding. I don’t see exclamations of all the new people brought to veganism. I don’t see constructive media discussions or intelligent debate. I don’t see “intersectionality” (or whatever the cool kids call it now) or expanded social critique. If it is happening…I don’t see it.

If my opinion matters, what I would LIKE to see is DxE separate their campaign tactics instead of muddying the conflicting dynamics of education and confrontation. I would like to see them engage in truly disruptive (sustainable, long term, measurable) tactics that change business strategies or prove to be a massive nuisance to the normal operations of exploiting animals. I would like to see them institute their own public education campaigns, but in a way that is compassionate and respectful to their audience while carried out in relatively neutral space. I would like to see them abandon sensationalized, self-serving demonstrations that are more confrontational with the public audience and reserve confrontation for the businesses with no other incentive to change. I would like to see them expand their critique of exploitation to include economic systems and not remain so entrenched in a single issue approach.

With all the issues I have with DxE, I’m not calling for a dismantling of the organization so much as a reworking of tactics and strategies. They have considerable influence at this point and a number of activists in their fold, but I do believe they have a solid framework to maximize their effectiveness. I just think it’s going to take some honest, self-critique of their objectives and current trajectory towards those desires. As someone who unthinkingly engaged in activism, with great immaturity and embarrassment at times, I understand the mentality that compels individuals and organizations to JUST DO SOMETHING, but I think we have enough practice, success and failure to really refine our approaches for the animals.

I welcome equal critique and discussion about the points I raised.

Time Is Running

I’d be lying if I said I was over the incomplete run. I’m not and all I can do is let the frustration pass when I think of the missed opportunities, but unfortunately, as the frustration passes it seems to be on a circular path of some sort and comes back around soon enough. I’m on an emotional carousel that will only stop with the eventual forgetting of time or some manner of redemption through another accomplishment. It’s a precarious place to be as I simply can’t will my body to heal and yet my mind is already scheming how to move past this physically. I’m caught in daydreams of other “epic” ideas I never started in the past, but feel compelled to fulfill. The precariousness, of course, comes with running further on a damaged body, doing more damage, or failing to complete yet another personal challenge and remaining unfulfilled, building upon the past frustration.

There is, however, the benefit of relying on the accomplishment of the Family Reach fundraiser, for which I’m incredibly grateful, but on a personal level…it’s just not enough. I don’t mean that to sound insulting to the donations and generosity of everyone who contributed to the fundraiser, not at all, but my selfish needs to fulfill this run remain. It’s not even that I need to prove to myself that I can complete this run (for I may very well not have the ability in me), but instead, it’s that time is running out.

If I had another 3 to 4 months to recover and learn from all the should haves and what ifs of this incomplete ultra run, you can bet I’d make another go at it, smarter and stronger. I’m reminded by many that their first attempt at an ultra run was often a terrible disaster, but future attempts had more successful, more tempered outcomes, and as much as I learned about ultra training and running through this attempt, the ability to capitalize on those mistakes is restricted by my closing window of opportunity.

Surgery is no longer on the horizon. It’s knocking at the door.

Unfortunately, whatever happened to my legs / knees during the 105 miles over two days of running is lingering, and preventing me from alleviating this nagging drive to accomplish something for myself before I really, truly can’t. I think back to the 120 mile bike ride some friends and I took down to Bloomington after my first surgery, when stomach complications halted my ride on the way back and I had to be picked up and driven home. Then two days later, angry that I was stopped by something outside of my abilities, I went and completed the ride by myself. I think back, because I’ve already toyed with the idea of going back up to Lafayette and finishing that run, without fanfare, without fundraising, without advertising…just for myself.

But the damage has been done and I’m left riding my bike around the city, restarting my morning strength routine, and doing anything physical to keep the pressure cooker from blowing it’s lid while I wait for running to become a thing again. And I need it to come back before my next surgery, so I can do SOMETHING for myself, to take advantage of this opportunity before I admit myself to another attempt to get rid of this cancer once and for all.

I know, it sounds desperate, and it sounds obsessive, and although I can admit both of those are part of this struggle, I also accept these are necessary and can be channeled towards my personal success. Because time is running out and there is no way around that. And nothing is guaranteed. I don’t mean to imply that I harbor a fear of dying while in surgery, for I don’t, but that is a reality of any surgery as crazy as the one I’m about to undergo. More than that, however, is the blank space that stretches out past my surgery. I gave up expectations long ago. Nothing after surgery is guaranteed and although I can envision getting stronger and know I will make the attempt, I also have no idea what comes after, what my abilities will be, and when they will be.

I simply do not take my current physical abilities for granted, for I know they may not be there when I wake back up. If you think this sounds exaggerated or melodramatic, come visit me in the ICU.

And so I feel this drive, this urge, this compulsion to expend my body to it’s fullest extent, or to at least accomplish something that leaves me fulfilled and complete.

I know some feel that I reached that point with my ultra run when my body gave out, but I don’t see it that way. My capabilities to continue on were still there, I just restricted them through poor execution. I still believe, after understanding the should ofs and what ifs, that I could have run the first day differently and in a way that would not have been so damaging to my body, allowing me to continue on past the second and third day at least. My abilities to go further were not expended..they were restricted, and that’s why I’m left feeling unfulfilled. That is something I’ve had to continue explaining to people who I’ve seen since my run, that I didn’t hold myself back, that I didn’t back off because I feared damaging my body, but that I simply COULDN’T go any further. I couldn’t contract or extend my legs without a pain that literally stopped me from running. I wanted to go on and had all the capability in the rest of my body to keep going, but that one part around my knees made it impossible, and again, that’s what leaves me unfulfilled. Knowing if I could have worked my way around that or if I rest my way out of it, all the abilities to keep going are still within me…well, it’s all the should haves and what ifs that make endurance running such a frustrating experience.

I have exactly 8 weeks left. 8 weeks of a countdown, to scratch this itch, to prove the possibility, to live my life to it’s fullest physical extent. For the past year I have worked hard to build myself to this point, to make the most of this moment, and in that is a victory I can be proud of, but I still feel compelled to put all that work into practice, into a culmination of effort that I can think back to when I’m laying flat on my back, out of my mind on morphine and say, “Yeah, I made that happen. I made the most of it. I left nothing behind.”

My time is running out, but still, there IS time on the clock and should healing come soon, I just might be able to make the most of it. And even if I don’t, I got myself to this point within a year, and that accomplishment is not lost on me. The towel hasn’t been thrown in just yet…

My Dark Passenger

I’ve been binge watching Dexter…hence the theme here.

I’m continuously fascinated by Type A individuals, those compelled by seemingly insane goals, or simply drawn to extremes in all interests. I’m fascinated because I see myself in them and constantly seek to understand my motives, my own excesses. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that it’s not so much the specific interests that draw me to them, but rather the nature of my personality that seeks the extremes. This dynamic has offered me an endless string of exciting experiences, as I find myself engaging in things that most people ignore or shy away from. From a young age I was always drawn to the fringes of culture, discovering breakdancing as a 2nd grader, comfortably suburban white kid. From there I transitioned to metal music, falling asleep to Iron Maiden every night. Soon after I was listening to punk and hardcore on the college radio station while still in seventh grade, unaware of the style of music I was personally enjoying and which was thoroughly confusing my sisters and parents. Then I was skateboarding, growing my hair long, wearing the most odd combination of clothes, discovering bands that would soon break into the mainstream, and yet always seeking the next fringe culture, the next abnormality, the next unknown. Without making deliberate attempts, I seemed to always be on the outside looking in, or at the edge of the inside looking out. Admittedly, being in this unique position also had me at continuous odds with the world, defending my positions and sometimes even my physical self as the local rednecks took offense to my stylistic expressions (“get out of here you faggot”), but as I remained committed to my extreme interests I created a protective shell of ego and bulletproof worldview that deflected all the insecurities of those threatened by my break from the norm.

And as they say, “it gets better”, so when I grew further and further into adulthood, these experiences developed an untouchable confidence within me, to pursue the compulsions of my personality and experience a life outside traditional parameters.

Then somehow…this brought me to running. It’s a weird leap, I know, but when you come to understand your personality of extremes, it doesn’t so much matter what you do, you’ll find that you throw yourself into it and find it difficult to let go. For many others, the idea of running is an enjoyable act, but one they can entertain as the motivation comes, in smaller increments, without finding their lives consumed by the act. They can run 5 miles and call it a day. They can run a few times a week and be fulfilled. They can run simply for the fun of it and nothing else. They can stop running and think nothing of it.

I’m not that person.

I’m the person that started running, then started training, then within a month raced, won my age group, and from then on couldn’t stop. My extreme personality had found an outlet that fired all it’s cylinders, from the physical to the emotional to the psychological. To reiterate, it wasn’t so much the activity itself as it was the merging of running’s benefits with my personality type. They are, I have come to deeply understand, a dangerous combination.

In a way, that part of my personality that is ignited by running and it’s potential extremes is less a dangerous combination and maybe more a WHOLE NOTHER PERSON. At times it feels like I’m watching someone else, something else.

When I wake in the morning and know I have a run on my schedule (because when do I NOT have a run on my schedule?) the fatigue I sometimes feel makes me wonder how it will get done, how I’ll make it to the gym, how I’ll ever even start. I wonder who this person is that HAS to go to the gym to change, to start a strenuous workout, to finish completely exhausted. I wonder where they came from, how we met, and why we keep hanging out…except I know why they are. They are me, and I know I can’t get away from them.

They are my own dark passenger.

They are the part of me that compels me to wake before the sun does, to enter all manners of weather, and to run into various states of depletion and exhaustion. I would be lying to say I hate this person, of course, but sometimes I wish I could lose them from time to time. I know they aren’t always the healthiest expression of my being. And yet, I can’t. I can’t lose them. They are a passenger that is as much a part of me as something I wish I could turn down from time to time, when I know it’s best for me….but…I can’t.

In part, I can’t, because I don’t want to. Because I know this part of me drives me to amazing experiences, compels me to keep going when the difficulty of any objective persuades me to back off, and really adds immeasurable value to my life. On the other hand, I can’t, for reasons I can’t always articulate. Sometimes, the drive of my own motivation even eludes my own personal considerations. I try to understand why I feel so unfulfilled sometimes, while overall living such an incredibly full and rewarding life. I struggle to shake the drive to push to new and new extremes, like the high of a drug that suddenly never becomes enough, until it is, suddenly, too much.

For so many runners, this is our reality, and explains why endurance events are riddled with ex-drug users, who have channeled their obsessive personalities into a more sustainable, healthy alternative. The dark passenger within them, that drove them towards a precariously dangerous high, is now funneled towards a precariously, but admittedly less dangerous, new boundary.

And that boundary, that elusive, shifting, undefined boundary is a drug for a dark passenger. It is a high that never ends, if only because the promise of a finish line is only met with a following attempt to reach yet another. 5 miles becomes 10 becomes 20 becomes 100. 17:00 minutes becomes 16:00 becomes 15:00. One 50 miler becomes 2 becomes 3 becomes a trans-state run.

The dark passenger sits next to us as we finish our work for the day, fidgeting, poking us, whispering about our need to reach that next finish line, that next high. It shakes it’s head in frustration at every sedentary moment. It wakes up telling us to run NOW, IMMEDIATELY, BEFORE ANYTHING ELSE. Don’t eat breakfast. Don’t go to work. Don’t do anything but reach for that next high.

It is there with us, in every moment, until we feed it with an attempt at the extreme. With every training run, with every effort, it needs to be fulfilled, because it is ceaseless hunger, while our bodies are defined physical limitations. And that’s where the next problem begins, when the dark passenger whispers us past our safest levels of exertion, and we run ourselves right into injury.

The dark passenger speaks to us only of the promise of fulfillment, of reaching a new running goal, of a new PR, of a new distance run, of an epic experience, while ignoring the limitations of our physical selves. It is the overdose. But it would be one thing if our bodies simply broke and we were left to repair the damage until we could try again. It is something else entirely that when our bodies break, the dark passenger remains. And it remains unfulfilled.

Being injured is awful, but it’s not the injury so much as it is the waiting that really kills us. While the body works to repair itself, the dark passenger shames us, whispering about how weak we are getting, how strong everyone else is getting, how much we are missing out on, continuously scolding us for NOT DOING ANYTHING. And so we often find ourselves trying to quiet their admonishments, going for a run, testing the waters, and frequently doing further damage. Because they won’t SHUT UP.

This other part of us becomes less someone we admire and more of an annoying enemy, a bad influence…and yet, we so want their favor all the same. They are the other person that embodies our extreme personality, that brought us to new PR’s, new frontiers, new experiences. They created the life we continuously seek and try to expand. They are the peak we climb to reach, getting a better vantage point to find the next one even higher.

As much as they are a voice that drives us to dangerous extremes, they are the same voice that brings us to unparalleled accomplishments.

Somehow, we must come to terms with this dark passenger, using them to push us towards new heights of experience, yet resisting when we find ourselves looking over the edge, teetering towards a fall onto jagged rocks. Because should we lose our balance, crashing to the unforgiving ground, the dark passenger doesn’t break along with us. They stand above telling us to get back up and keep going, which does no good for anyone.

From the first understandings of my extreme personality and the interests and experiences it affords me, I’ve come to appreciate that part of my being. I’ve come to see it in others and understand and appreciate their dark passenger as well. At some point though, we must have the awareness and maturity to drive it more than it drives us. In doing so, maybe it can be less of a dark passenger and more a partner in crime.