The Most Dangerous Voter is the One-Issue Voter

I don’t think I’m writing this for anybody but me today. I’m not promoting this entry and if you don’t like what I say, feel free to unfollow. I’m not expecting to change anybody’s mind, but I’m having the same kind of PTSD around this presidential election that I had last year when my local elections were happening. I don’t know if it’s because I was a city councilor in my town at one point, or because I covered so many elections as a journalist, or because all of that happened when I was deep into my addictions.

As I’ve stated here before, I voted for Donald Trump in 2016. It wasn’t based on any single issue, but I liked how, early in the campaign, he was thinking of running as an independent. He was a lifelong Democrat to that point and while you didn’t have to look very far to see a massive ego, show me a politician who doesn’t have a narcissistic side. When you think about it, deciding to run for office breaks down to one of two thoughts, “I want power and attention” or “I’ll save the day!” It’s probably a little of both in most cases.

I assumed that Trump would govern from the middle, something that I knew Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to do. I also believed that there were some fundamental problems with how our political world had evolved and putting Clinton in office wasn’t going to fix anything. I was also disgusted at how the Democratic Party rigged the 2016 convention against Sanders supporters. Ultimately, nominating her was just a dumb move. Voters rejected her in 2008 in the primaries. It was less that she was the best candidate in 2016, and more it was just her turn, kind of like when Bob Dole or Al Gore ran in the past.

I believe I’ve mentioned that I’m 3-3 in voting in presidential elections between Democrats and Republicans. It’s funny, because when I mention that around my friends who are diehard in either direction, they see me as some kind of traitor to the cause. The reality is, diehard Democrats and Republicans do very little to decide the direction of the country. It’s people like me, who are truly independent, that actually decide things. There have honestly been times that I haven’t decided on a candidate until 24-48 hours before an election (usually at a local or state level) and if I don’t know anything about the candidates, I won’t vote. I believe you can do more damage with ignorance than with simply sitting on the sidelines. Having a (D) or an (R) next to your name on a ballot does nothing for me.

If you’re a straight, white, middle-class or upper-class man, as I am, it makes a certain amount of sense to vote Republican. If you’re married to one of these guys, it makes sense as well. This country, after the land was procured from the Natives, was founded by Christian white men and the thread of the last 244 years among Republicans is about sticking to roughly the same set of values they brought from Europe.

I don’t understand why most women, anybody who is poor, or any minority, would vote Republican. I suppose if you wrap yourself in Jesus and the flag, or if your parents voted a certain way, you’re going to get others to follow, but it’s always shocked me how in poorer, non-white areas like the South, far more people haven’t voted Democrat. That’s not a value judgment…it just seems contradictory.

There are things I’ve historically admired about both parties and that’s another thing that gets me in trouble with friends. It seems like if you’re one of the diehards, everything about the other side is bad. The reality is, I wish these two groups recognized how much they have in common. Our government works when people compromise and compromise only begins when people first recognize their similarities. Government is also a machine wherein nobody gets everything they want, but in today’s divided world, everybody seems to have an all-or-nothing attitude.

I’ve always admired the compassion of the Democratic Party. I’ve admired their commitment to education and diplomacy. Their environmental stances seem the smartest and safest, refusing to trade the Earth’s tomorrow to make a buck today. Their positions on equality and human rights also seem like obvious choices to me. It’s also the party that sides with science more often than not.

I’ve admired the consistency of the Republican Party. I agree that government is much too large and wasteful. I don’t know how you couldn’t think that. I also think that they support individuality and autonomous decision-making from the level of the individual more than Democrats and that’s very important to me. Freedom is at the core of their belief system and it is the single most important concept this country was founded on.

While I am hardly a saint – more like a former professional sinner – up until the last few years, I really admired how Republicans had the undeniable moral high ground over Democrats. I may not have always agreed on their interpretation of right and wrong, but these were clear lines, usually rooted in the Ten Commandments. It was consistent. You could count on it.

I’ll overlook the fact Trump was married and divorced multiple times, but let’s be honest, that would have been a talking point against any Democrat by Republicans. And then Trump made the comment about grabbing women’s pussies and everything went out the window for me. After election, we learned that he paid off multiple porn stars he had affairs with. He’s had his own people attacked on American soil so he could pose with a Bible outside of a church he’s only been in one time. Since then, we’ve learned how little respect he actually has for veterans and just how much he’s lied about the COVID virus. His choices have meant death to Americans. These are not traits that would be forgiven by the Republican Party of the past… of Ronald Reagan or Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party.

I don’t understand being a one-issue voter. Frankly, I think you’re a myopic idiot if you’re a one-issue voter. But they exist and it usually comes down to abortion.

I do not have a strong position on abortion. I think there is a difference between two cells dividing into four and then into eight and a viable, sustainable life. But then again, I see a difference between tossing a trash bag full of kittens into the river and spraying bug killer all over a wasp nest. There are contradictions in my view of abortion, as there are with many topics. I think we all have contradictions. The more hardcore you are leaning Democrat or Republican, the less you’re willing to see those contradictions. Just turn on cable news at night and you’ll see what I mean. The “mainstream media” is slanted both ways because as a business model, bashing on the other side brings in the dollars, introspection doesn’t. Fox News can’t claim to not be mainstream – yet get the highest ratings. You can’t have it both ways.

I read a blog last night from a person who I have followed for several years and who I respect quite a bit. When I was done, my respect level dropped immensely and I’m still trying to decide if I want to continue to follow them.

It started as a comparison between speeches given by two holy people. Of course, this blogger sided with the one of the religion they believe, going as far to criticize the clothing choice of the other religious person. There were political inferences because of the venues of these speeches and once again, this blogger sided with the religious person who was representing their political party. I thought it really just came off as a passive aggressive testimonial for Trump and was kind of scuzzy in the disrespect shown to the holy person this blogger didn’t agree with.

This blogger segued into a speech about abortion and how they are a one-issue voter. While they ironically mentioned other issues, they made it clear they will only support the anti-abortion candidate.

What does it mean to be a one-issue voter? It means that you don’t care enough children are still being kept in small cages at the border. It means that you don’t care enough environmental regulations have been pummeled in the last six months, making the world a more dangerous place. It means you don’t care enough about the veterans who protect our freedom, nor respect their legacy. It means you don’t care enough about explaining to your daughter why it’s not OK the president is into grabbing women’s private parts. It means you don’t care enough that now hundreds of respected Republicans are screaming warnings about our President. It means you don’t care enough about the character of our leaders beyond their abortion opinion. It means you don’t care enough about why we are losing the battle to COVID. It means you don’t care enough what countries like Russia, China and North Korea are doing under our noses. It means you don’t care enough that our education system is crumbling, not improving. It means that you don’t care enough about unsafe bridges and roads. It means you don’t care enough about the pathetic funding of drug and mental health programs and research. And it means you don’t care enough about the history of what has happened to people of color, nor what is happening now.

Being a one-issue voter doesn’t mean you don’t care about all of those things…it means you don’t care enough. It’s not just sad, but it’s dangerous for the rest of us who look across the spectrum at many issues, understanding the balance that is needed to run the free world. I don’t think being anti-abortion gives a politician a free pass on all of their other decisions, but a one-issue voter who has chosen abortion does.

I’m not going to argue for or against abortion, that’s not my point here. I respect whatever opinion you have or don’t have. I don’t however, respect when you take one topic and make it the only thing you base your decision on who should run the country.

I think that’s negligent. Voting for a horrible human being who is only pretending to be pro-life (look up Trump’s record prior to morphing into a Republican) is 100% negligent. Of course Jesus was anti-abortion, but I have a feeling even he would be voting for Biden in this next election. He wouldn’t let someone with the morals of Trump get a pass. One-issue voters shouldn’t either.  

Pornography Addiction may no longer be limited to the consumers in a world of OnlyFans

If you’re under 33 years old – or a regular reader of this website – you’re well aware of OnlyFans and the tentacle-like reach it has with the young adults of the English-speaking world. If you’re over 33 years old, and don’t read this website, odds are you’ve still never heard of the site. I don’t think in all of my time paying attention to social Internet trends I’ve ever seen such a black-and-white cut-off point, including early Facebook and Snapchat. There are no shades of gray when it comes to people knowing or not knowing about OnlyFans.

In a nutshell, OnlyFans is a bulletin-board style website where a user subscribes to a content creator’s page, usually between $5 and $30 per month. Once accessed, the page features photos and videos posted by the creator. The vast, vast, vast majority of these subscriber pages belong to young women making pornography in the comfort of their own home. They can make their content as tame or racy as they want. Creators also have the option to charge additional for “exclusive” photos or videos, and to charge for exchanging messages with users. While the corporate company obviously pushes the platform as a great place for indie musicians, artists and other people who have content to sell the world, it is currently synonymous in young adult culture with pornography.

My latest book (now available on Kindle) was a look at how the first few months of the COVID-19 virus radically changed the landscape of online pornography and how it was going to be the roughest challenge to pornography addiction stats that we’ve faced. I spoke with addicts who faltered in quarantine, those who were doing well, people who were veteran and rookie cam room models on well-established websites and several therapists and professionals. There was one chapter about OnlyFans, but I read it now and am embarrassed. I have learned so much in the four months since I wrote the book as that website has continued to explode. You should still buy the book anyway.

In the book, I focused on the millions of people who were flocking to the site to suddenly see the girl or guy next door get naked online. I knew there would be a bump in consumers, and with the stay-at-home mandate of the quarantine, there would be more people experimenting with making pornography. I had no idea, and would never have guessed, just how big it was going to get.

I think the grim reality of the explosion of the site is far more prominently displayed in the numbers of producers flocking to try the make-it-yourself porn industry. A couple of different sources, mostly notably The Sun newspaper in Britain (August 2020) have quoted 50 million users (up from 8 million in July 2019) it’s the statistics involving new pornography creators that are truly shocking.

In July 2019, OnlyFans CEO Tim Stokely was quoted giving that 8 million statistic. At the time he also shared there were 70,000 content creators. A couple of months earlier, in April 2019, he said that there were roughly 3,000 creators joining the site weekly. If you extrapolate that to when I’m writing this in last few days of August 2020, it means that according to his 2019 statistics, there should have been 174,000 creators by the end of that year. In 2020, up to this point, there should have been another 104,000.

By Stokely’s projections, there should currently be 288,000 content creators on OnlyFans. The Sun reported on August 20 that there were 660,000 creators worldwide (100k being British) and on August 26, Yahoo Money said there are 700,000 content creators. The numbers have been increasing at between double and triple the rates the CEO predicted…and you know he’s always going to present a rosy outlook.

I think The Sun and Yahoo Money statistics may even be under-reported. In April 2020, Stokely told Buzzfeed News that the site had 7,000 to 8,000 new creators every day (double their WEEKLY onboarding just 13 months earlier). That’s 49,000 to 56,000 people – almost exclusively woman in the 18-to-25 age group who have never made porn before – flocking to OnlyFans weekly. Can you imagine going from 3,000 to 50,000 weekly sign-ups in just 13 months?

In early May 2020, it was reported the total creator number was at 450,000. If 50,000 are joining every week on average, and the 450K number was thrown out 17 weeks before I write this, it is more than likely there have been 750,000 to 850,000 NEW content creators who have joined and we are sitting at a number of total content creators at somewhere between 1.2 and 1.3 million. Even if things have slowed down since that May 2020 quote, it’s hard to believe there are under a million total content creators.

Ask somebody in their early 20s if they know about OnlyFans. They’ll laugh and probably admit they know about it. Ask if they know anybody creating content. If they say no, they’re probably hiding somebody’s secret, or they don’t know the secrets of at least one friend. I asked my 21-year-old daughter who has some of the nicest, normal friends I’ve met (although there are probably some on the fringes she hasn’t introduced) and she said she knows three girls creating content, ranging from mostly bikini photos to hardcore pornography. All of them made over $2,000 in their first month, one made over $3,000 her first weekend.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created a new genre of pornography – “Hey, I Know that Person! Pornography” is now a real thing. I had a guy living across the hall from me at one of my attempts at college who got very excited when a former high school friend of his was featured in one of Playboy’s college girls editions back in 1996. He was disappointed when the photo was of her in a small bikini playing frisbee with a couple of friends. This guy would have patiently waited for OnlyFans for 25 years.

So who cares? Technically, in April 2019 there was one model for every 21 users on OnlyFans. Today, there is only 1 for every 50 users. Couldn’t an argument be made that demand is not keeping up with supply? From a strict economics point-of-view, perhaps, but from a public health standpoint, I think we’re looking at a new can of worms.

We can conservatively estimate that 10 million of OnlyFans’ 50 million users have some kind of issue, if not full-blown addiction with pornography. The skewing of younger users makes me feel very confident at putting a 20% figure on this assumption based on the data about addiction rates that have been out there for years. This many addicts is a scary, scary thought. The fact that probably 95% of them never had any warnings about developing a porn addiction before it happened is downright tragic. I feel their pain and it’s a big reason that I’m out there writing books, doing podcasts and spreading the word as much as I can. But this is not about them.

There are a lot of reasons people have been giving for decades about why others shouldn’t watch pornography and while they are almost always extremely valid, I’ve yet to see one that truly works. The reality is, the consumers of pornography don’t care if the performers are using drugs to get through a scene. They don’t care if the performers are being trafficked. They don’t care about statistics regarding feminism and objectification. Porn consumption figures would have dropped over the years if these were effective arguments. The figures have gone the other way. Addicted consumption or recreational, we’re looking at more porn than ever.

These arguments are also going to receive bigger blows to their impact because of the people who are joining OnlyFans. I have no idea how many people work in what’s remaining of the real California porn industry, but I know it’s been dropping mightily over the years. If I were to guess, there’s probably a couple thousand “professional” pornographers left who are the ones stacking the shelves with DVDs at the adult bookstore. They are an endangered species is our online DIY porn world of 2020.

The stereotype of the drug-addict, dead-behind-the-eyes kind of woman with daddy issues who becomes a professional porn star is quickly being replaced by the waitress, bartender or administrative assistant who is making porn as a side hustle. We’re now in the world of the gig economy and many people have 3-4 part-time/independent contractor jobs. It gets more difficult to lament the poor women who are basically forced into porn when you’ve got thousands willingly joining the ranks who are well-adjusted normal people from middle and upper class families every day.

Aside from the pandemic, how did this happen? From talking to a few people who have OnlyFans pages to better understand, I’ve come to a simple conclusion. The under 30 group, the ones that grew up with the Internet and a level of pornography access unimagined by previous generations simply don’t have the stigma attached to nudity and/or pornography of those who didn’t come of age online.

When I was in high school, there was no sexting. We didn’t have cell phones so nude pictures weren’t circulating. We didn’t have Instagram so you didn’t know what every girl or guy looked like in their skimpy beachwear. I graduated in 1994, not 1974. I’m only 44 years old now. The evolution of pornography access and attitudes has been at warp speed.

And now, I’m hearing all of the typical “What happens when those pictures resurface?” rhetoric directed at the content creators, but I wonder if that’s going to actually matter in 20 or 30 years. If hundreds of thousands of young adults joining the ranks of the make-it-at-home porn world becomes the norm, will it even be a taboo thing that somebody can find a picture of you without clothes out there in 2040?

No, I’m not worried about the photos resurfacing. I’m worried about what we don’t know, and my biggest question of the last few months is – if pornography consumption can become an addiction, could pornography creation? Is there going to be a segment of today’s 25-year-old OnlyFans creators who are still making the stuff at 45, or 55, because they can’t stop? When somebody is told they are beautiful and are given money, it’s just a business transaction for many creators – for others, it’s affirmation. Some of the cam girls I talked to in writing my last book talked about how great the money is, but how they feel like better people now because of the ego boost it has given them. How is that not just a shot of dopamine? I’m guessing the thinking goes something like: I want to be called beautiful. The people who call be beautiful have seen all of my content. I must make more, so I do. They call me beautiful and give me $10 each. Dopamine hit.

I always say that we have been mostly reactive to pornography addiction in the interviews I give and we need to be proactive. We now have 20-25 years of data of what Internet pornography consumption can do to a population and we’re just scratching the surface of learning the fallout. We have no data on pornography creation. It’s only really a few months old as a mainstream phenomenon.

And what about those who do stop? Could they develop PTSD, disassociation, depression or other mental health issues years or decades after they’re no longer making porn? Will we have a significant percentage of future generations walking around with regret and shame for what they did? Could this be a cause of future trauma? It seems likely…but we just don’t know.

I miss interacting with real people at libraries, schools or other places that I’ve given presentations about pornography addiction, but I’m seriously wondering if I now have to start throwing the idea out there that pornography addiction could potentially extend to the creators. I offer no judgment, shame or any negative feelings to anybody who consumes or produces pornography, but have we just simply discovered the other side to the porn addiction consumer coin?

20 Years Later, My Question is Answered

In February 2000, I left the world of daily newspaper after about six years, recognizing that the most I could ever hope for where I had been working was to be a staff writer. I began there the summer before my senior year of high school, but despite the fact I could go drinking with management, I knew they were never going to see me as anything other than a teenage kid who was a decent writer and had a good work ethic.

I found a job less than a mile from where I lived in downtown Portland, Maine, for a trade publication company that had just spun its feature-heavy magazine into a monthly newspaper to cover the hard news of the burgeoning tech sector in Northern New England. I got to cover the end of the dot-com boom and its bust. Looking back, people were throwing around terms like “angel investors,” “The New Economy” and “comprehensive high-tech solutions” without knowing what they were really talking about or how things would turn out. Many of those people were ahead of their time, but that was exactly their fatal flaw: they were too far ahead of the curve. I don’t think until 10 years later, when everybody was getting comfortable with social media, could most of those ideas worked. The theory of “If you build it, they will come” was flawed. People had no idea what they were supposed to arrive at, so they didn’t come. John Q. Public needed to get comfortable with the Internet and find a daily use for it before he could buy into more complex concepts, like streaming video. There were plenty of companies that should have been Netflix years before Netflix…they just weren’t at the right place at the right time.

Anyway, enough of a history lesson. I got the job as staff writer for their newspaper, which was essentially a four-person operation on the content creation side of things. There was the editor, John; a freelance writer who did a ton of work I never met, Patty; and a designer who worked for the owner’s marketing company business, Steve. When it became clear Steve had no idea what he was doing when it came to newspaper design, which was one of my skills, I was promoted to Assistant Editor, or Associate Editor, or something like that. Titles have never meant too much to me.

Essentially, it was just John and I in close quarters, tucked into one section of this very hip looking building the owner had that must have been worth millions. He was a lawyer, but also made a killing in real estate, has owned some restaurants, a marketing/PR firm, the publishing company and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out 100 other things. He pretty much left us alone as long as the sales guys turned a profit selling ads. Nobody bothered us and we were both good workers who knew what had to be done and to get it done, in a high-quality fashion, on deadline. We also knew how to work the angles with super-long lunches, covering for each other taking paid days off and understanding when happy hour was needed. That job really became a lifestyle and John was one of my closest friends for about five years.

He moved on from the company when the tech bust was so bad that it was impossible to keep the publication afloat. I had moved on to become editor of two of their other publications. Less than a year after he left, I moved out of Portland, got married and was starting a family. We drifted apart and probably exchanged emails four or five times in the last 15 years. I intentionally avoided him, like so many people, when I was publicly outed as a pornography addict and went into hiding for a long time.

I actually wrote about reconnect with John for the first time about seven months ago HERE. For some reason I called him Joe, but if you want deeper background, it’s there for you.

We got together for the first time since restaurants reopened this past weekend. I told him about my new book and he told me about trying to re-establish himself as a freelance writer. One of the things he reminded me of was a conversation that we had 20 years earlier that he said he’d had with a handful of people since where I asked aloud what the Internet was going to do to the next generation when it came to their standards of acceptable, normal sexuality. Keep in mind, in 2000, high speed Internet wasn’t everywhere yet, and if you needed to use the Internet, you went to an Internet cafe. It wasn’t like everywhere had wifi, because nobody had wifi yet.

Still, as somebody who was making the transition from more traditional mediums of pornography like magazines and videos to the computer, I recognized that this new ease of access for pornography was unlike anything I’d ever had growing up. You know how your grandfather walked to school uphill both ways in three feet of snow? Well I literally would ride my bike in the middle of a snowstorm as a 14-year-old to the video store that would rent porn to me. Would having had the kind of access to porn kids now have made me less of an addict, more, or the same? I’ll never be able to know that answer with 100% certainty, but based on the myriad of statistics, the question I posed to John 20 years ago has been answered: When you provided complete ease of access to something that society largely considers taboo, two things happen:

  1. More people than ever will access pornography with many developing problems in numbers that didn’t happen before that ease-of-access was available and,
  2. While it still will maintain a certain air of a taboo, attitudes toward pornography are far more liberal and far less stigmatizing than before.

I’ve talked a lot of about #1 on here and in my books, but I just scratched the surface of #2 and I think it’s a worthwhile topic to discuss. When societal norms change, for right or wrong, it’s really hard to go back. Just ask anybody who is a conservative and prefers “the good old days.” The reality of the world is, progress always wins the war, even when it may lose a battle now and then. But progress is not a objective concept and one person’s positive progress is another’s negative.

I feel like I explain OnlyFans to anybody I talk to about pornography who is over the age of 30, and there is no need to tell anybody about it who is under 30…they all know. Youth culture is always ahead of the rest of us, and now that’s true for pornography.

After this long discussion with John, I came home to find my 21-year-old daughter was spending the night because of electricity issues at her boyfriend’s house. We have a pretty wide open relationship and so I asked her how much she knew about OnlyFans. She laughed, like I’d just landed here in my time machine.

She has three friends, two of whom I remember from her high school days, now in the make-amateur-porn-in-your-spare-time-for-money game. Thankfully, my run-in with the law has made her (a very pretty young woman) adverse to trying anything like that — see, good things can come out of bad situations.

However, I like to think of myself as on top of things and she explained it more in-depth to me than I’ve ever been able to learn through any Internet research before, and this is just based on talking to a few of her friends, including those who dabbled and decided it wasn’t for them. But of those friends doing well, they’re making anywhere from $750 to $3,500 per month, depending on how much work they want to put into it.

She said one girl is very classy and shows next to nothing you wouldn’t see on the beach (she’s the one making good money) and the girl who does the dirtiest stuff makes the least. The psychology behind all of that is fascinating, but for a different time.

With the discussion John and I had, I mentioned how I had heard through my kids about a couple different “scandals” at their high school over the last six or seven years of guys and girls trading nude pictures of each other and then those pictures falling into the wrong hands…and then falling into everybody’s hands.

We talked about when he was in high school in the late 80s, or I was in high school in the mid-90s, simply having a picture of one of the pretty girls in a bikini would have been a big deal, but now, because of Instagram, every damn girl and guy in class can be seen half naked (or more) by the waves or poolside. It’s almost like there is something wrong with you if your body isn’t on display in the least amount of clothes allowed in public — and this is before you get the ones who may take it even a step further with some of their bedroom mirror selfies.

Now, it’s more of a rarity if you don’t know what a handful of people in your high school class look like because of leaked photos…but it’s also not all that shocking anymore.

No, a picture of a high school girl in a bikini is not porn. Technically, neither is a photo a boyfriend took of his genitals meant only for his girlfriend’s eyes that ends up in front of plenty of other eyes. But I also don’t know where the lines of pornography begin and end anymore, especially with the younger culture. They grew up on the Internet. They’ve seen graphic things that would have shocked me as a porn addict when I was 16, that are now just funny or weird.

We’re never going back to those days before the Internet was the center of most young people’s lives. I have my answer from 20 years ago. Now, what happens in the next 20 years, when these people start to have kids, as taboos continually fade…but as education about pornography addition starts to become slightly more mainstream?

I guess John and I will have to have lunch in 2040, and at that point. I’ll let you know.

My Conclusion: It’s more important to me to be anti-racist than an educator about pornography addiction

Please note, I know this is twice as long as my normal blog entry, but I think it’s more than twice as important. I hope you’ll take the time to read it. I’m sure there are mistakes. I’d rather post it now and edit it better later.

About two weeks back, I wrote in this space about the issues I was having justifying trying to live a life that is anti-racist, not just against racism, and balancing that with spreading information about pornography addiction. I worried one would not always be copacetic with the other. You can read that blog HERE if you didn’t get a chance. It was something I have still been wrestling with and until I had my memory jogged very recently, it wasn’t clear what I should do. It is now.

In late 2008, I began the process of building the first issue of the magazine where I would serve as editor and publisher. Those first few months, it was really just me, the director of sales who was one of my brother’s best friends and the designer who also worked at the weekly newspaper where I was editor and publisher.

The first issue was to come out in April 2009, which gave us about six months to get things ready. I got a newspaper writer to contribute a major story and hired two freelancers to write some smaller pieces while I took the main story and the feature Q&A. I wanted to make sure they were high quality because if we swung and missed, there might not be a second issue, especially if we weren’t able to convince the community’s businesses that advertising with us was a good investment.

Thankfully, my fears disappeared quickly. We sold $9,990 worth of ads in the first issue, $14,000 in the second, $18,500 in the third and from that point forward, we were never under $20K, often reaching or surpassing $30K. The magazine was a success up until those last few months five years later when my addictions got the best of me and I lost the great people who were there in the beginning.

I don’t tell a lot of stories from that era of my life. I know the time and devotion I put into that magazine came at a hefty price to my relationships with family and friends (I’ve not spoken to that director sales once since he left in mid-2013) and my own physical and mental health. My pornography addiction and alcoholism reached critical levels at this point in my life. Despite having some crazy adventures and times that were genuinely fun, my overall feeling of that time is not positive. While it happened though, at least for the first four years, it was a great time.

There was only one thing that happened again and again that really bothered me and I didn’t handle myself the way I should have.

A Cultural Shift

About 15 years before the magazine began, there was a tremendous influx of Somali immigrants into the area I live. This happened in many other cities and towns across America as hundreds of thousands of people fled a genocide happening in Somalia. The first 10 years here were rocky as the Somali community leaned on social services more than the two cities that make up the region I live expected. You can’t have 10,000 people flood an area of 70,000 people with more than half needing social services immediately and not have a big effect on the bottom line.

We actually made national news when one of the mayors sent a letter to the elders of the Somalian community asking them to not invite family and friends who were settling into other parts of America, or those who were back home in Somalia to join them here. I knew this guy and while I can’t say if he was actually racist or not, I know the letter was intended to show a picture that our property tax rates were rising too high because of the need to support this community. He just did a very poor job explaining this position and unfortunately, many of the proud racists held up this letter as an example of “these people” needing to get out of our community. They knew nothing about the Somalis or their culture, but that didn’t stop them from spreading rumors like the government was giving them free cars or that they lived in apartments with goats. The racists of the community simply did not like the fact that our super homogenous demographics now had a large minority who were not born here and that they took up residence and opened up shops in the downtown area. This was the hustle and bustle and heart of the region in the 1920s through the mid-70s. Despite the fact the downtown was abandoned for 25 years, these old-timers remembered when it was hopping and somehow saw the Somalis as desecrating their history by setting up their lives there. I think it also stung that instead of becoming 100% Americanized their first weekend here, most of the immigrants held onto their traditions. And of course, the sudden opening of a mosque didn’t help calm things for those Christians in the area who were religiously intolerant of others.

Over the next 15 years, things settled down. Many of the older white people, and older Somalis, died off, so tolerance and customs grew slightly closer. While there was a lot of issues integrating Somali children into our school system early on – chief among them that there were many in their teens who had never been to a real school, nor spoke English – by the time the magazine started, there were now teenagers of Somali descent who were born here and spoke better English than a lot of the white people.

After renting a small space in an office building, when the magazine really took off in our second year, we relocated our office to a recently renovated storefront in the home of what had been dubbed “Little Somalia” in the downtown. It was only two blocks of Somali stores and restaurants with a few non-Somali establishments like ours mixed in, but if you said “Little Somalia” people knew what part you were talking about. We recognized that we were going to be a minority in the neighborhood, but we also thought that it sent a message that many needed to get.

I went on the major sales calls with our sales director. When the second biggest hospital in Maine or the largest real estate company within 50 miles were dropping $20,000 in advertising with my company for the year, I found it was always good to make an appearance and personally thank them.

Meeting our Racist Customers

As success came, and our staff grew, we made every effort to reflect our entire community and that included our Somali community. We would profile their restaurants, other businesses they owned and noteworthy member of their community – because they were noteworthy members of our entire community. We believed that they only way to push the cities forward was to do so with a sense of inclusion. Every member of our community should be represented.

Once in a while I would service an account for a smaller company. When things really got rolling and we became a bit of a well-oiled machine, I spent as much time with sales as I did with content.

I don’t remember when it exactly happened, but probably 10-12 issues into the magazine, we ran a cover story about the traditions of the Somali community to help continue to bridge the culture gap. The front cover photo was a beautiful Somali woman wearing the traditional Somali garb including headscarf. Not all Somali women were continuing with that tradition, but it was one of those things we explained in the article, nonetheless.

Over the next several months, as I was out doing sales, I heard from many of the smaller business owners how we shouldn’t have put her on the cover. I heard that we shouldn’t write about their restaurants because “those of us who are really from here don’t eat at those places” and that we didn’t talk about all the crime “those people” brought to the area (despite the fact statistics couldn’t bear out that belief.)

I heard from our sales manager and my assistant editor that they had been met with similar responses. I felt bad that despite the Somali community making up around 15% of our population, we covered them with far less than 15% of our stories. That said, Somali-owned businesses made up less than 3% of our advertising base and less than 2% of our subscriber base. Sure, they were part of our community, but they were not helping our business stay afloat. The sad reality was, many of our advertisers and readers who were keeping us afloat were racist.

We talked about this as a staff a few times, with everybody disgusted this kind of racism was still in our community. Ultimately, I think it was decided that while we would never agree with someone who slandered Somali people, we would never lecture them on what we knew to be the truth if they spoke incorrect facts, nor would we engage in a philosophical discussion of why they were welcomed and why racism was wrong.

Maybe we didn’t come to a group decision on this. Maybe it was just me. I don’t really remember 10 or 11 years later. I was afraid to alienate anybody who was sending money in our direction because while we did OK, we were never rolling in it, and I wasn’t great at managing our expenses.

Taking the position we did nagged at me for a while, but it wasn’t until my recent pledge to myself to not only be against racism, but to be anti-racist that this memory came flooding back. Back then, I rationalized that not being racist was enough. I didn’t want to hurt our bottom line, so as long as we were not part of the problem, it was OK if we weren’t part of the solution in face-to-face exchanges. I rationalized as long as the Somali community got some coverage, we were probably helping, right? Right? Maybe?

The reality was, we weren’t part of the solution, so we were part of the problem. Just like it is now, the racism we were met with should not have been tolerated. The Somali community didn’t have advocates, didn’t have any local government representation, nor any real influence in the larger community. They were not going to have the opportunity to confront these racist situations that we were faced with because they’d never have a one-on-one conversation with these people. And what did we do? We dropped the ball. I dropped the ball.

Time to Change

No more dropping the ball. That’s done. I’m a better person now. I’m a healthy person now and I want this world to be left in better condition, with better people than when I got here.

Pornography addiction education and awareness is hugely important in my life. It feels like my calling and I am all-in on trying to teach everybody about it and help those who suffer with it, and their loved ones who suffer in different ways alongside them. I would never turn my back on anybody who needed my help.

That said, if somebody I was helping asked me something offensive like, “You don’t help those (N-words) with this, do you?” or some other racial slur, I would tell this person forcefully that they were never to say that kind of thing in front of me, that having that kind of attitude was racist and wrong, and that they were ignorant. Hearing it a second time, they’d be gone.

It would be the same if that person started to tell me that systematic racism doesn’t exist within police forces and the court system, even if it’s unintentional. I’m not looking to pillory a boogeyman, I’m looking to educate. We have enough statistics – ironically provided by police departments and the courts – to prove institutional racism. Is it intentional? I would like to think in most cases not, but it is still there and it needs to be addressed. I’m not looking for the cop or the judge to blame, I’m looking for how we fix this.

But, if that person I’m helping continued to tell me that it didn’t exist and they weren’t willing to listen to reason and facts, preferring to fall back on their ignorance and hate, I’d be done with them. They clearly have a bigger problem than pornography addiction.

Early today, a discussion between myself and a longtime follower was escalating on the comments of their page. I believe they can’t recognize their racism and largely look to the conservative talking heads for their speaking points. I asked for clarification on some of the things they said, and asked for documentation and statistics to back up their position, but I doubt much is going to be coming at me. They are wrong.

This isn’t an issue of appreciating someone else’s religion or even political views. Racism is not a political view, it’s just wrong. If 85% of black people say something is racist, you don’t get to tell them that they’re wrong and you’re right. You’re wrong!

I didn’t block this person, and while I doubt they’re going to respond with anything to defend their position aside from more of what Tucker Carlson said last night, if one more word racist word is spoken, I’ll retort and then be done with it and block them.

Ironically, as I was editing this, the person wrote back. Do you think they provided a single statistic? Nope. They’d talked to minorities in their life, so they knew the real score. I made the smart move and responded with a sentence or two that simply said they had no statistics and much of what they said could be interpreted as racist and I hope they one day would understand why. I’m not writing paragraph after paragraph to this person any longer.

I’m anti-racist, but it doesn’t mean I’m going to beat my head against a wall trying to explain to someone why they have a broken brain and dark heart. I’m going to explain it to them a few times and then I’m moving on. I will not continue to engage with ignorant fools. It’s what I need to do for my mental health.

A Paragraph With More Profanity Than You’ve Seen From Me

If you feel like I’m describing you as one of the racists, I guess I’d request you move along, out of my life. If you can logically defend your racism with statistics and back up your facts, I’m all ears, but if this is because your daddy didn’t like the black neighbor, you’re a fucking moron and I just don’t have room for fucking morons in my life. I’m going to stand up to them two or three times, but then be done with it. If you’re one of these fucking morons, save me the time and unfollow me now. If you have racist views and want to have a logical conversation, I’m your man. If you’re not racist, then start speaking up because not being racist isn’t enough anymore. It’s time that we are anti-racist and we call these fucking morons out.

I’m Finally Proud to be from Maine

I’m rarely proud to be from Maine. I see it more as something that just happened. On my mother’s side, her relatives arrived from Canada three generations ago to work in textile mills and shoe shops. On my father’s side, I think it was either four or five generations, mostly from Ireland, who first arrived in Boston, then came up to Maine looking for a better life. I could have just as easily been born in Massachusetts or New York had those families made slightly different decisions, or I could have been born anywhere in the world if my parents didn’t feel the need to stay so close to family.

I left briefly several times, living in Boston, Providence RI and Tokyo for several months each when I was much younger, but I always ended up back here. Part of me always felt disappointed in myself about my retreats, but through recovery and lots of therapy, I learned that I needed the security blanket that being near my parents always provided. In many ways, I still do.

One of my biggest complaints, whether I was 22 in the late 1990s or 44 today, is that lack of choices that comes with living here. Yes, if you’re an outdoorsman, it sounds like there are a myriad of opportunities to scratch that itch, but I’m not an outdoorsman, and it seems to me that there is outdoors in every state. Maine has more trees per acre than any other state. Big deal. Outside of the cocoon of downtown Portland, Maine doesn’t have an endless supply of interesting, independent businesses. It doesn’t have a bevy of dining choices or cultural opportunities. Even many of the biggest chain stores don’t come here and quite often, those that do don’t survive. I was waiting for 20 years for a Krispy Kreme to come here, and when two were opened in Maine in 2018, they survived about 9 months. Despite far superior donuts, you don’t go against the morning coffee monolith of Dunkin’ Donuts.

That coffee example is another thing I’ve not liked about being here – people are labeled as fiercely independent, but seem to mostly think with one mind. You get your coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts, you hate the New York Yankees and despite the hype, you rarely eat lobster. I used a photo of a lighthouse to lead this article because that seems to be the stereotype so many have of us. I’ve never been in a lighthouse, nobody lives in a lighthouse anymore and I can tell you the names of exactly two. Mainers mostly don’t care about lighthouses, yet if Google the word “Maine” it’s almost the only thing that comes up in the images category. There are pockets of true independent thinking here and there, and the sameness can change depending on what part of the state you’re in (keep in mind that by square miles, Maine is as large as the rest of New England combined.)

I am very proud however, in how most of our elected officials, businesses and residents took the Coronavirus seriously from March 11, the first time Donald Trump admitted it was a problem in the evening address on television. My son was only in school two more days, and all of the non-essential businesses were closed within the week. My wife, who ironically works in health care, was furloughed a week after that. Patients just weren’t seeing their doctors if it wasn’t an emergency.

Mask orders came immediately, we were social distancing very conservatively before it became in vogue and people took the orders to stay at home and stay away from family and friends seriously. We also urged out-of-staters to stay away and put a 14-day quarantine in place for those from away.

Most of the northeast, whether hit hard like New York or Boston, or hit mildly like we were in Maine or Vermont, took serious precautions. Yes, it pissed off some people and business owners, but those in power held firm. Never did it seem like a political statement. Even when Donald Trump started shifting and making this a conservative vs. liberal issue did most people in the northeast make it about that. Sure, there was our cranky former governor trying to score political points demanding our governor do this or that, but I think he just saw his opportunity to make a few headlines. He shut up when it was clear no more than a couple hundred people were going to support him.

I remember watching the cable news channels as how to handle the virus was becoming political, and that’s when I really stopped following closely. I have never been able to understand how people can so quickly detach from common sense in the name of supporting their own little political tribe. I think they look to these tribes to be convinced what they should think and don’t apply common sense. If they did, many of these state leaders, like the governors of Florida, California and Texas would not have rushed to reopen. They would have listened to their health experts who warned the peak hadn’t happened there yet. But, they wanted to show how business-friendly they were and that they knew what was best for their residents.

I’m not going to start railing against Donald Trump. If your common sense doesn’t tell you that he has mishandled this crisis and misinformed the citizens and world of what is happening, you’re coming from a different place of logic than me, so I probably can’t convince you otherwise.

Here are a handful of maps that put together that tell the real story of what is happening:

So what do we learn from this map? It shows only the positive progress that is being made in the fight against COVID-19. Any state that is not light blue is doing better than it was either one or two weeks ago, and in most cases, both. Beyond just the northeast, you’ll see that northern mid-western states which had a vocal minority demanding the states be reopened — but officials who refused — are doing the best. Also, while the majority of the states doing better are blue states and led by Democratic governors, this is not the case across the board, underscoring this is not a conservative or liberal problem and it isn’t about a conservative or liberal solution. It’s a virus. It doesn’t care who you vote for.

This is where the “Too many tests equal too many positive cases” of many virus deniers falls apart. Obviously, you’re going to get more cases in more populated states. You’re obviously also going to get more positive cases if you test more people. That’s simple math. However, you can make things equal by working on percentages. If only 100 tests are given and 5 are positive, it’s a 5% infection rate. If 1,000 tests are given and 50 are positive, it is still only a 5% infection rate. Once again, in this map, you’ll see that the infection rates are higher in the south and west — the states that reopened without any plan, in defiance of public health experts.

Here’s another one that shows where the cases are increasing without regard to total population. It only takes someone with vision who is five years old to recognize that purple and hot pink are bad, and off-white and light pink are good. This is about as solid a map to teach the Mason-Dixon line as anything I’ve seen.

Yeah, I’m usually not proud to be from Maine, but when I look at these maps, it’s nice to know that our leaders have exercised common sense in handling the virus. They put public health ahead of small business profits. They put public health in front of the renegades who didn’t like masks. They put public health in front of all else and like the governors and other public health officials of states around us, the results are hard to argue with.

Maine just opened dine-in service at restaurants and it’s still very strict. There are still lines outside of certain stores and while mask restrictions have eased, many stores demand you have them, and many residents have them anyway. Gyms, nail salons, tattoo studios and several other “high risk” businesses still won’t be open for a little bit… and while I’m itching to get my yearly tattoo, I can wait for the greater good.

If you’re in one of these hot zones, I don’t know if your leaders are going to see the light and start relying on serious data instead of their political supporters to make common sense decisions. You may just have to self-quarantine and take care of yourself, exposing yourself to people who have no common sense as little as possible.

I’ve seen a lot of people who had that “the virus isn’t going to get us” mentality, for whatever naive reason they had, later go on TV and lament how stupid they were, or how they lost a loved one because of not taking the virus seriously. Over 120,000 in the US have died of this. Compared to the entire population, yes, it’s a small number, but if one of those people was a beloved friend or family member, the only number that matters is theirs and it doesn’t matter who they voted for in the last election.

Finally, I’d urge you not to get distracted. While cases of COVID-19 are higher than they’ve ever been, conservative cable news stations are dedicating far more time to Southern statues being torn down. This isn’t happening nearly as much as they’d have you believe and not a single statue has caused hundreds of deaths daily. Do not be distracted by cable news stations trying to play on your emotions. The riots and looting are long over, even if they show old videotape. COVID-19 is a serious health risk. Do not be distracted.

Please, my friends in the states where things are the worst, take this very seriously and take care of yourselves.