'Twas the day after post-election announcement 2019 and I was reflecting on just a smattering of moments that have taken place over the past four years. I couldn't help but feel like Casper in the final scene of Kids (1995), when he woke up the morning after a 24-hour blitzkrieg of big city teen atrocities with the foggy summation, "Jesus Christ… what happened?"
The year of 2020 was indeed an exhausting rollercoaster ride, so I feel it necessary to advise you that the following words recount a couple instances where I feel humanity bottomed out hard amid all the ugly twists and turns. These are my opinions, of course, you may not agree with them, and that's totally fine, but that's also why I'm giving you this moment to opt out and click elsewhere. Additionally, there will be none of the usual "shits and giggles" to be read going forward, which is odd for me, too, I know, because I much prefer to approach these online dumps with a light and satirical air, not taking anything too seriously in the word- and comma-laden process, but the events below are the epitome of sobering and humorless.
Needless to say, I was not a fan of Trump (nor "am" for that matter, I'm just happy to now be able to bury that contemptible shitheel's tenure in the past tense), but if there was one insightful takeaway to be had from his torrid reign of bullshit, it was to confirm that I'm not dead inside. Well, dead may be too harsh of a term… perhaps numb would be more fitting. I've witnessed a fair amount of fucked up shit  in the wayward course of my life and often wondered if the assorted sordid experiences had left me flawed and incapable of emotion. Thankfully that's not the callous case, because my autonomic nervous system triggered involuntary "globus sensations" on two distinct instances within the last "Presidential" term .
The first occurred while seated in a movie theater watching BlacKkKlansman (2018)—more specifically the post-film scroll of footage from the "Night of the Tiki Torches" and "Unite the Right" rallies in Charlottesville, VA, circa 2017. Sure, I'd originally seen the photos and clips on my phone when they popped up in the early days of "doomscrolling" Twitter, but the sheer intensity of seeing all those hateful faces and the malicious vehicular attack by James Alex Fields, Jr. on the big screen… well, it was nothing short of overwhelming as the sudden lump in my throat could attest. This wasn't just a one-time occurrence either. I watched the film a second time with my son and experienced the exact same physical response to seeing America do a ghastly fucking time warp back to 1865.
The second instance swelled up while watching the last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of George Floyd's life, as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin snuffed out his existence for the whole world to witness. A long, long Big Brother time ago, I'd subjected myself to a gruesome marathon of the Faces of Death series on VHS, and by the end of the gore-a-go-go I was completely unfazed by what should for all intents and purposes be traumatic imagery no matter how "mediocre" the caught-on-tape death may be. But seeing the utterly calm and cold demeanor in which Chauvin extinguished a man's life while his partner, Tou Thao, stood by and kept bystanders at bay as everyone pleaded for them to stop… that was legitimately horrifying to behold.
No less troubling, of course, was the consequential divide in America that ripped wide asunder as everyone planted a flag on which side they stood, a startling number of whom chose to fly the Confederate colors of yore instead of the one meant to represent and unite us all. Mind you, I've never been one to espouse a blind patriotic pride in our country—quite the contrary, in fact—but I don't think I ever allowed myself to believe such an extreme level of prejudice was not only still alive but apparently thriving across our purple mountain majesties, amber waves of grain, and fruited plains… and all it really took was the ignorant buffoonery of one man to embolden their masses.
For the better part of 26 years I'd lived in and around the melting pot of Los Angeles—including the year of 1992 when I first moved to the city and all civil hell broke loose following the acquittal of the four LAPD officers involved in the beating of Rodney King—but a few years ago I decided to move out of the dead heart of Hollywood and relocate to a small mountain town. I'd just finally had my fill of city life and the daily toll of anxieties exacted upon the psyche. This did, however, physically distance me to the point where I felt all but impotent when the USA finally boiled over on the cusp of June 2020, because I, too, felt the uncontrollable urge to be in the streets protesting the racial injustice. Geographical circumstances dictated otherwise, but I still wanted to raise my small voice of dissent in the only way I've ever really known: on the drawing table.
Despite having completed the graphic within a week of George Floyd's incendiary death on May 25, I knew and accepted the risk of trying to go into any kind of timely production what with the new COVID world disorder. So while this is indeed very late in coming—and actually much later than I'd ever anticipated—the sad fact remains the same as similar incidents continue to play out across the nation. That said, fuck racism and any Blue Meanies that can't let this shit go once and for all. Should anyone wish to pipe up with exclamations of "Virtue signaling!" or "Keep politics out of skateboarding!" or "Cash grab!"—because those are exactly the kind of comments I noted when Toy Machine released a "Black Lives Matter" graphic—I only have this to say: Go fuck yourself. I know, that's not very peace, love, and understanding of me, but if you can't see the basic human rights forest for the political trees then there's the door and you're more than welcome to exit our gift shop. It's that simple. There's a million-billion other skateboard companies to go get your kicks on. Lastly, rest assured that any cash we do grab, aka 100-percent of the profits from this board, will be donated in whole to blackartistfund.org.
Silly as it may sound, I'd like to credit Thrasher for framing "white privilege" in a way that finally made sense to me. I mean, I may be stupid, but I'm dumb, too, and up until their Instagram post on May 31 I thought white privilege meant something altogether different. What exactly, I'm not sure, I just naively thought it didn't apply to me—but it does and it took a skateboard magazine of all things to open my eyes.
See, I grew up in a time and conventional small town place when skateboarding was shat upon by all aspects of society. The mere act of riding a board instantly ostracized me from practically all of my peers in school, but I reveled in the fact that I'd made a conscious decision to thumb my nose at popular mainstream mechanics and all those trapped within its routine social constructs, because, you know, it was the punk thing to do. Throw in the rebellious act of running from police and security guards on the regular and it made for quite the quintessential '80s skate experience.
In some mis-romanticized way I actually got off on the idea of being hated—or at least I thought I did until getting physically blindsided one night by a corn-fed individual who'd charged up out of nowhere screaming, "I hate skater faggots!" and checked me flat onto my ass in a Hardee's parking lot. I hated my hometown like never before that night, cursing the community of small, closed minds, but the really fucked up thing is that all I had to do was walk out of the house without my skateboard and I was suddenly just like everyone else in our white-washed Midwestern town. No one would hassle me, no one would look twice at me, no one would think anything different about me at all… and I can acknowledge now how that was and continues to be a privilege afforded to me simply by the color of my skin.
The Beatles said it best in 1967: All you need is love. It may sound trite, but the world's only going to get more and more complicated to live in from here on out, so the very least we can do is to come together as humans to try and make the best of this thing called life. —Sean Cliver
1. Granted, most all of this alleged "fucked up shit" falls into the category of "absurdly ridiculous," or at least that's what I tell myself viewed through a questionably skewed lens of humor.
2. I chose not to include the passing of my dog Meko in 2019, because my empathy for animals has never been in question.