The Refugee Question

Listen, and I promise to make this quick. I do not intend to exaggerate the arguments I disagree with or cast aspersions upon those who make them. I simply wish to understand what, exactly, our intentions are in keeping Syrian refugees off American shores.

Safety, some say. We are concerned about ISIS infiltrating Syrian numbers to perform attacks upon American soil. Fair enough. But exactly how far are we willing to travel on this road? Are we simply going to stop at Syrian refugees? If we are as concerned and distrusting of the Muslim world as all that, hadn’t we better reopen Manzanar for new occupants?

I’m not trying to be snarky or offensive or dramatic. I’m genuinely asking whether we are prepared as a nation to round up our Muslim friends and neighbors on suspicion that any of one of them could have been or may someday become radicalized? Are we going to do what we did during World War II again? What we did to Japanese immigrants? Exactly how far are we willing to go in the name of public safety? Exactly what measures are we keeping on the table?

These questions must be pondered by every American, whether public official or ordinary citizen, as nothing less than the character of our country is at stake here.

Should we ID and track all Muslims in America, whether they be here on visas, work permits? As legal residents, aliens, or naturalized citizens? What about natural-born citizens?

Are third or fourth  generation Muslim Americans to be trusted? How long does a new neighbor have to live on our block before we accept them as our neighbor? 

What about non-Muslims who befriend Muslims or convert to Islam? Must we track them as well? Should Muslim citizens face restrictions until loyalty is proven?

I am not trying to make a straw man argument or reductio ad absurdum, although I may do so unintentionally. These are not measures I am pulling from thin air. These are the types of measures used by past governments worldwide which trust neither the citizen nor the foreigner. These are the sorts of measures being suggested by at least one prominent political candidate. Who else is contemplating these measures? Why? Do we agree? Why or why not?

Where are we going, as a nation, as a people? Who are we becoming?

These are not hypothetical or rhetorical questions. These are not mere exercises in rhetoric or debate, confined to the ivory towers of academia. Nor are these mere lightning rods for controversy, fodder for our daily spats on social media. Fuel for awkward family get-togethers and after dinner drinks with friends. These are not topics to respond to in the heat of the moment, when our blood is boiling, only to be forgotten the moment another celebrity shows his/her abs.

How we answer these questions over the next few weeks will determine the shape of our nation for the foreseeable future.

God willing, we will choose our next action wisely.

Please, America. Take your time on this one.




Don’t play with electronics. Don’t carry bags of Skittles. Childhood is illegal.

Help me understand things, folks. One kid named Taylor makes a nuclear reactor. Nobody panics. Another kid named Ahmed makes a clock, and his teacher thinks it looks enough like a bomb to inform the administrators who inform the police.

Now we have folks saying the clock is a fraud. That the second kid didn’t invent anything, that he fooled us or something.

Wha? Huh? How is…that’s…guys, that is SO FAR from the point, we’ve almost hit the curve of spacetime and are beginning our journey back to relevancy.

Seriously, though. I look at this, and yes, I see racism. But I also see a culture of paranoia where kids being kids is now a criminal offense.

DISCLAIMER: As usual, I don’t agree with every action taken, word spoken, or thought thunk by any of the folks I link to on this site. No one is so intellectually lazy to agree with anyone completely on everything.


Sex is Confusing


“This, milord, is my family’s axe. We have owned it for almost nine hundred years, see. Of course, sometimes it needed a new blade. And sometimes it has required a new handle, new designs on the metalwork, a little refreshing of the ornamentation . . . but is this not the nine hundred-year-old axe of my family? And because it has changed gently over time, it is still a pretty good axe, y’know. Pretty good.”
― Terry Pratchett, The Fifth Elephant

Imagine you take the brain of an adult male human and put it in the body of an adult male bear. Imagine then that the human brain becomes beholden to all the appetites and habits of a bear. Has it now become a bear brain? What happened to the human brain? Where does humanness lie?

In our culture today, many folks are proposing that sex, itself, may be nothing more than a social construct, along with gender. That maleness and femaleness are or should be as interchangeable as skin color or hair color. What separates men from women? Not just sociologically or psychologically, I mean biologically. What if you could transfer all the sex organs from a man into a woman? What if you could perform a complete, perfect sexual reassignment surgery? A full male to female transformation. Working ovaries, fertility, hormones, the works. Would the man then be a woman?

Yes, today, another white Anglo Christian cis-male is going to blather on about LGBT issues. Sorry. But before closing your tab in disgust, please bear in mind that I am not raising these questions to be rude or insensitive. If my questions or comments seem gross and offensive, think of them only as the questions or comments of a child, of one who genuinely does not understand.

I’m a practicing Catholic white cis-male, born and raised in the southeastern United States into a middle class suburban family. Perhaps it is a product of my socioeconomic location between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st, but I’ve always felt men and women to be somewhat different. At least at a physical level. As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned about all the ways people can be born inter-sexed or without determinate sexual organs, how folks can be assigned a sex at birth, a biological construct suddenly made sociological and political, to boot.

Yet, I can imagine a future, not more than 10 or 20 years from today, when biological sex is as nonsensical a notion as biological race. Imagine waking up and picking what race, sex, gender, or, heck, height you’re going to be. Science fiction, sure. But sexual-reassignment surgery is already a thing, and switching your skin color is easier than you’d think for folks of Mediterranean descent, such as myself. (I totally had a citation for this, but I can’t remember the name of the TV special. Sorry.)

Anyway, let’s put aside all my pseudo-intellectual prattle and cut to the heart of the matter. What makes a white Anglo Christian cis-male want to write about trans issues?

Well, much like other men my age, I am prone to worrying about the wrong things. Never mind the fact that we — for I am guilty as any of my brothers — are more concerned with being criticized by others than examining our own consciences, many men my age do not like to be called sexist or racist or homophobic. Today, I’m adding transphobic to that list.

Does it make someone transphobic to not want to date or marry a transgendered person? I think it does. I think it might have to. If you don’t want to date or marry someone of a different race or religion, sight unseen, we might call that bigoted. But maybe not. Maybe I’m wrong. Personally, I’d have no problem dating a woman of a different race or religion (if one would have me). But if I dated a woman and learned she’d been born male? I don’t think I could handle that. What about someone intersex? I don’t know. I just don’t know. I don’t know that I’ve ever met one. And if I can feel attracted to someone who had been born male but is now in the body matching her soul or however I ought to phrase that, am I still straight? Is sex purely physical or psychological? Is sex as much an illusion as gender and race have been proven to be?

Now let’s flip it. What if I met a man who’d been born a woman but was attracted to men? Would dating someone like this make me gay? Why? Isn’t “birth-sex is official sex” what my Church teaches? Is this other person gay? Straight? Little bit o’ both? This brings me to the quote at the top of the page. If all it takes for someone born female to be accepted as a man is a boat-load of money and some top-notch surgeons, where do we draw the line between male and female? When does the old axe become the new axe?

As you can tell, I have dozens and dozens of questions. Many of them undoubtedly stupid. But hey, I’ve talked at you enough for one day. What do you think? I’m hoping some of my LGBTQ brothers and sisters will help me on my journey to enlightenment.

Forgive me for not citing sources today. I have read some articles on transgender issues during my graduate school experience, but my knowledge on this topic is severely limited. Still, my compassion is extended to all. If you have questions about LGBTQ issues, if you have  no place to go, and if you live in Georgia, consider visiting youthpride.org. The folks there actually read and keep up with the literature I’ve barely scratched the surface of. I accept the Roman Catholic Church’s teachings on LGBTQ issues, but I recognize the severity of suicide, poverty, and homelessness rates within the LGBTQ community. You do what you need to do to live your life. Ignore me. I’m kind of an idiot.


Day in the Life: Doctor’s Office

730am: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

8am: Doctor’s Office opens.

805am: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

815am: First patient arrives, waits in car.

830am: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

845am: Doctor’s Office employees wake up.

855am: Second patient sits in traffic for an hour and a half, lives two miles from Doctor’s Office.

9am: Third patient, after leaving the house at 7 to get there as early as possible, stops at Starbucks for a Double Cafe Latte Frappuccino Grande Tall Blonde.

915am: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

930am: Doctor’s Office employees think about going to work.

945am: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

955am: Twenty more patients arrive, use complicated algebra to park twenty cars among seventeen available parking spaces.

10am: Admins arrive at doctor’s office, give all patients thirty-seven forms to fill out, suppress laughter.

1015am: Admin answers phone, puts patient on hold, laughs with coworkers.

1020am: Nurses call second patient to see the doctor first because reasons.

1030am: Doctor arrives through secret back entrance, hopped up on Mountain Dew and Ring-Dings.

1045am: Charlie from IT smashes the servers with a hammer.

1055am: Third patient fills out seven more forms, heads to basement for MRI scan.

1100am: Doctor’s Office employees break for lunch.

1115am: First patient getting a little antsy after waiting 3 hours for someone to weigh him, take his blood pressure, and make the never-before-heard suggestion that he should eat more vegetables and go for a walk once in a while.

1130am: Second patient has already seen the nurse, still waiting on doctor — on anyone, really — to ask her again what her birth date is, what medications she’s on, and what the purpose of her visit is. It’s the only way she can feel anything anymore.

12pm: Third patient lying uncomfortably in MRI machine.

2pm: Second patient finishes reading all three issues of People and Time Magazine available, wonders what Milosevic’s trial will mean for the Balkans in the long run.

315pm: First patient, not having eaten since 7 that morning, wonders if Domino’s delivers to this location.

4pm: Doctor’s Office employees now back from lunch.

415pm: Second patient finally sees doctor.

416pm: Second patient goes home, feeling fulfilled.

430pm: First patient whereabouts unknown.

445pm: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

5pm: Doctor’s Office now closed.

515pm: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

530pm: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

545pm: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

6pm: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

630pm: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.

715pm: Third patient wakes up in MRI machine.

730pm: Phone rings at Doctor’s Office.



So. By now, you’ve heard about the death of Kalief Browder, the young man who was jailed for 3 years — 2 in solitary confinement — without the benefit of a trial, in flagrant disregard for his constitutional rights (freakin’ PICK one). We’ve also heard about the pool party where police officers were called due to allegations of fights breaking out and…let’s say overreacted. We’ve also heard about the church shooting in Charleston, an act which seems almost certainly racially-motivated. I say “almost” because the only proof we have that the shooter wanted to start a civil war is the word of the investigators in the case, and after this past year, I hope you’ll excuse me for not taking investigators at their word.

Here’s where I’d ordinarily make a joke. Some kind of Wonka meme like “Oh, you watch a lot of Fox and Friends? Tell me again how we’re in a post-racial society.” But no. Not this time. This is too much. I’ve got nothing for you guys. No funny comic strips. No pictures of Robocop on a unicorn.

I just don’t know what to say. What can anyone say in the face of such evil?

Where do we go now?



I made a thing a couple months ago. Doesn’t have that many views. Figured I’d post it here.

I really like it.

Anyway, sorry I’ve been delinquent in my postings here. New Bubblegum-Man starts later this month, so keep your eyes open for that. I’m in my last semester of grad school, so I should be back to regular updates by the fall. The book is nearing completion, and, as usual, many of the things I said previously about it are now void. More details to come once I’ve got it together.


We’re Back!

Hello and welcome to the new Optimist’s Umbrella, the official blog of comic book writer and fantasy novelist William Brust. Some of you may remember the old Optimist’s Umbrella. I decided to go back to the old name. No regrets.

My writing has previously appeared in Atom Jack Magazine (now defunct), Asinine Poetry, and Lorelei Signal.

You can check out what I’m doing on Twitter @theconq19 and @10000ce.

This blog will be updating weekly, barring any unforeseen responsibilities, awkward dates, or gremlin attacks.