I’m not the kind of person to obsessively keep up with politics. Most of the time, all this talk about debt and job creation just frustrates me because it amounts to nothing. We’re spinning our wheels when it comes to money, both as a nation and as a world.

But this isn’t a post about money. This is a post about people. As much as I think “hard” politics are quickly approaching a futile state, I am just as invested in “soft” politics. By that, I mean issues like gender equality and gay rights–issues that deal with changing people rather changing policy. And sure, ultimately everything comes down to changing laws. But the people who resist must first be inspired to change them, and that’s what I believe in. I have to believe that people can be changed, otherwise how can we ever hope to progress?

I read an article today that reported about Lady Gaga’s email response to a fan. In this video, she pledged to work to make bullying a hate crime. It’s the response to this video that I find interesting. Unsurprisingly, the video has proved to be divisive. People think Lady Gaga is a good role model. People think Lady Gaga is a bad role model. People think she’s inspiring. People think she’s deluded. People think that criminalizing bullying would absolutely help the situation. People that criminalizing bullying is absolutely the worst idea ever and will only make it worse.

I credit Lady Gaga with her clear effort to help. I applaud her motives, because they are obviously sincere. I wish we had more celebrities backing such personal causes. It’s great when musicians and actors team up to defeat cancer or world hunger, but it means a lot more when they tackle things that absolutely every person in this world will experience. I wish absolutely every person in the world would help, too.

But it makes me sad that even those who are vehemently against bullying can’t come to a consensus on what to do about it. Do I think that bullying could be classified as a hate crime? No, I don’t, and I don’t think it should, either. Hate crimes are crimes that are motivated by biases against a certain group. How would you begin to group something that is so individual? Is it a hate crime if someone is made fun of for his or her weight or hair color? If you go down that road, how do you distinguish hate crimes from harsh words?

That brings up another thorn in the issue. A lot of bullying is verbal. Can you police what people say? It would be difficult to create a law that successfully negotiated the difference between free speech and volatile language. It would be all too easy to condemn a law like that as unconstitutional, and it might even be right to say that.

The other major problem in this idea is the perpetrators. When we talk about bullies, we’re talking about kids. (We call adult bullies criminals). Obviously, you can’t throw a ten-year-old bully into jail. A lot of the time, kids are bullies because someone taught them to be. Kids are malleable creatures, and unfortunately that works both ways–we either impress upon them the importance of treating everyone fairly, or we teach them how to get ahead by tearing other people down. They’ll absorb both sides just as quickly.

And so the obvious solution would be to get at them early, drill acceptance and equality into their minds from a very young age. It’s what we’re doing–schools have anti-bullying initiatives and programs; there are outreach centers that seek to educate and reform kids and teenagers. It’s not like we’re doing nothing right now.

But we’re not doing enough. We’ve been resting for so long on this idea that all bullies are victims themselves, and I’m sure a lot of them are. But it gives them an excuse not to stop, an excuse to forget everything they’ve been “taught.” If a reformed bully slips back into his malicious role, he can say “Sorry, I picked on Mark’s weight because I still don’t think I’m buff enough to please my dad. It’s not Mark I’m really mad at; it’s me.” And maybe it’s true. But teachers and parents and mediators are so quick to accept it even if it’s not. When the only path to recovery is a quick apology, it becomes easier to beat the system. We want to believe the best in people, and we want to be right about how we fix things. When we accept a bully’s apology and don’t think to question its sincerity, we think we’re doing both. And all too often, the situation only spirals out of control from there.

It’s a tricky issue, criminalizing bullying, because we can’t really impose consequences on the bullies themselves, at least not in a legal sense. We can try to pass legislation that requires schools to have some concrete punishments for those kids who bully–we can’t make sure that all of them are enforced. But something needs to be done, in this world where kids are killing themselves because someone simply suggested that they’re gay; in this world where kids are killing themselves because someone pretended to be a friend online, only to mount a malicious attack a few weeks later; in this world where kids suffer from eating disorders because their friends and parents and peers tell them they’re not skinny enough. Bullying has escalated past the point of simply talking through the problem.

If we want to make bullying a crime, punish the parents and teachers who make and let it happen. Can you imagine the impact if someone was fined every time they saw an act of bullying and did nothing? If every time it could be proved, an adult had to pay even $200 for not stepping in? Or if the parents of kids proven to be bullies had to literally pay for each one of their child’s transgressions? The hallways of high schools alone would cause parents to go broke. It seems like a silly idea and on the face of it, it may be. I’m not saying that making bullying a crime would immediately eliminate it from society. Of course it wouldn’t. But there need to be some hard and fast punishments not only for those who bully but for those who allow it to happen, something that inconveniences the perpetrators enough that they realize it is everyone’s right to be respected. Without concrete repercussions, we make it easier for bullies to ignore the attempts at rehabilitation.

Every time we try to talk to them, we give them the opportunity not to listen.

I apologize; it’s been far too long since my last post. Here’s why: I got a job.

It’s not a terribly stressful job–it’s only part-time and it’s pretty easy. I pack and unpack boxes of books; I yuk it up with some stellar coworkers; I get Starbucks half off. Actually, it’s really fun. And I’ve still got plenty of free time after work and on the weekends to write, which was a big attraction for applying in the first place.

Or at least that’s what I thought I’d be doing in my free time. You see, it turns out that working with boxes is kind of physically tiring, and while my brain-parts want to go home and write a few thousand words, my arm-parts and leg-parts and feet-parts and eye-parts say, “Dude, that couch looks awesome right now.” And so instead, I go home, plop on the sofa, and watch a couple episodes of Angel until it’s time for bed. And soon enough it’s Wednesday and I tell myself that I’ll devote a lot of time on the weekend to writing because I should. But Saturday rolls around and there’s a Law and Order: SVU marathon on USA, or a Hoarders marathon on A&E, or a nap marathon in my bed (seriously, those things will just suck you in). And as much as I miss writing, I hate that I have to make time for it. I miss the days when my writing time was already planned out, when I would sit down, open my notebook, and write stories nonstop for 50 minutes. That is what you’re supposed to do in your college classes, right?

Somebody made a comment on a story I wrote once that as an adult, it’s very hard to accurately grasp the voice of a child. Here’s a little secret I’m going to share with you: for writers–real, good writers–it isn’t difficult to do. It isn’t difficult to do because we are children. Writers don’t grow up. We may have jobs, and pay bills and taxes, get married and have kids–but we never grow up. I think the one thing that separates a child from an adult (besides an ability to control one’s bladder, and even that is questionable sometimes), is the ability to imagine. It’s not that adults don’t imagine or dream; of course they do.

But they don’t dream like children. Adults quantify dreams in tangible rewards, in measurable things like jobs. Adults look at a house and say, “That would be my dream house if it had a bigger yard.” Children look at a house and dream that it can talk. Children look at a house and dream that there is an intricate maze of tunnels underneath made expressly so they can get to their best friend’s house in the dead of night, and the entrance is always in their bedroom.

Writers are merely people telling child-size dreams with adult-size words.

And that’s why it’s weird to be one, because I have to impose my adult life onto my child dreams; because I have to treat writing like another task, another “thing to do” if I actually want it to get done. I have to be the parent in summer, screaming for my child to come back in the house, when all I really want to be is the child, outside with a jar, blissfully unaware of anything but the magic of fireflies.

I was thinking a lot today. For most of the day, I thought about laundry.The benefits of Oxi-Clean, whether or not a full cap of detergent is really necessary–real brain-straining stuff like that. (At lunch, I spilled some stew on my shirt and I thought about the Tide stick that was currently not in my house). It was almost like being in a quantum physics class I was thinking so hard.

And then the riots in London got worse and Twitter got serious, and I started thinking about people. I started thinking about the future of people, and what it meant for the world when a response–in part–to poor policing turned into violence and newly-pilfered iPods for opportunistic teenagers. The stock market in the US suffered a devastating drop, diving to the worst day since the 2008 financial crisis; its ripples ambled all over the world and plummeted stock markets in Asia. I thought, once again, about how connected we are, how much we rely on each other. If the people we rely on turn justified frustration into unnecessary and exploitative looting, how can we possibly expect things to change? Serious issues lose their meaning when you stop treating them seriously.

I thought about my generation, how it seems to grow continually more self-serving and self-contained. So many of my peers behave as if they live in a bubble, like their actions have absolutely no consequences. Well, they’ve got that half right. The whole world is a bubble and, as happens with every other bubble, when you expose one side of it to dryness, the whole thing pops.

I could go back to thinking about laundry, but the detergent makes suds sometimes and so I can’t ever escape the bubble. All I can do is try to live in it and make sure it doesn’t ever feel like evaporating.

I’ve been out of school for two months and nine days and I’m not yet done learning.

When we shove kids into the education system, we teach them that learning is not fun. From the minute they enter kindergarten, their lives become a series of tasks. They must master the skill of playing nicely with others, simple addition, how to read. We take their childhood and chunk it into manageable things; we start them on the process of becoming tiny adults. Playtime is restricted to the activities their parents pick out for them. As we grow older, it’s easy to live vicariously through our kids and give them opportunities we might not have had–if Mr. Swanson always wanted to play baseball but never had the chance, he signs Jimmy up for a youth league. But maybe Jimmy, as he stands in center field in the sun, waiting for a ball that will never come because six-year-olds don’t have the greatest follow-through, maybe he wants to sit inside with a 64-pack of crayons and color away until he needs to sharpen them all (because the built-in sharpener is just the coolest thing). And so what should be Jimmy’s fun becomes Mr. Swanson’s fun, and Jimmy can’t even enjoy himself at school because there, too, are more adults telling him things he must do.

What children must do is learn about bees and how cool it is that they basically barf nectar and ingest it again a few times before it becomes honey. Instead, they learn that bees are made of a head, thorax, and abdomen, and that twitchy little nose thing is named something they can’t even pronounce. What children must do is learn is that when they put their thumbs over the end of a garden hose and spray into the sun, they can create a rainbow of sparkling water. Instead, they learn that a cheap garden hose has a diameter of half an inch and can deliver nine gallons of water per minute. Kids sacrifice the magical world of learning to practicality and the vague concept of the future.

I loved school a lot as a kid. I had fun with the numbers and the words, the worksheets and essays. But I didn’t always like the lessons or the order. When I grew out of long division and into geometry, it immediately became a chore to work a problem. I wasn’t happy when I found the answer; I was relieved that I could ditch my textbook and go blob in front of the television. And over the years learning became something I had to do, not something I got to do. Unless you can find the right school and people that run it, it’s all too easy to get the fun sucked out of learning. Learning is wasted on children because we make them do it.

And it’s terrible, because what they don’t tell you when you’re a kid is that as an adult, learning can suck a lot of the time. For the most part, you’re out of concrete things to learn. Instead, you learn responsibility when you max out your credit cards. You learn friendship when you don’t have it anymore. You learn mortality when your parents die.

We give kids a mixed message–enjoy your childhood but always remember that it has an expiration date. You should play and laugh as much as you want, but please do it on my schedule; I have “Silly String Fight” penciled in for 1:30. College is a brief reprieve, in a sense: unlike any other time in their lives, we give the students an opportunity to learn whatever the hell they want. In one of my English classes, my professor asked us to give a thoughtful presentation on one of the Irish novels we’d read that semester. I looked into the struggle of Orla, the main character in Dancers Dancing by Eilis Ni Dhuibhne, and her quest to grow up normally in the war-torn Ireland of the 1970s. I wrote a song to the tune of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid and performed it with my acoustic guitar. For twenty minutes, I made learning fun for my audience.

In the wake of the tragedies in Norway, I have learned a lot. I have learned that just when I think the world can’t get any more messed up, there is a religious fundamentalist with a gun and a warped view of right and wrong to blow that theory to pieces 92 times. I have learned that the world is a much more connected place than we teach our children. Right now, people are mourning the death of Amy Winehouse, who died at the age of 27 after a long battle with drugs. While her death is tragic, it saddens me to see it get more attention than the slaughter at the Norwegian youth camp. Teens across the world identify with her because they listened to her music and feel connected to her. They weep for her because she was “someone” and the kids in Norway were nameless faces. But the victims of the shooting are not just “someone.” They are everyone. Today, I have learned the power of people and how easily it is slighted and forgotten for the person.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll go out in the sun and learn about garden hoses and water, and there will be 92 rainbows glistening back at me.

You get some interesting results when you do a quick search of the word “bastard.”

On Google, you get everything from heavy metal to Bastard Nation: The Adoptee Rights Organization (which is okay; I browsed their website and learned some things today).

On Wikipedia, there are articles about fonts, films, and a timeline of the children of dirty mistresses throughout history.

What I mean to say is that the word bastard, like so many other words in the English language, can be a lot of things, which makes it the perfect name for this blog. This blog is a lot of things. Right now, it’s fairly boring–no one really enjoys the ice-breaker stage of anything. Tomorrow, it might be funny or moving or totally offensive (what? Bastards are crude. I have to maintain some kind of reputation). I might talk about television or movies, music or books, politics, some crazy idea I get for the next great invention. Which: Cars that run off of human hair. Think about it.

What is really at the heart of the word bastard is a lack of identity. What can you call yourself when your parentage is suspect? Who are you when the who that made you is regularly questioned? There are a multitude of websites for every interest possible: sports websites, book websites, websites for people who like to crochet on Tuesdays while they watch Maury.

Bastards aren’t really anything, so they can be anything they want.

Welcome to the anything else, you rotten bastards.