Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Decider

So, it's Tim Kaine.

You know, that's a fascinating choice.

Hillary Clinton announced today that her running mate will be Virginia senator Tim Kaine.

That is a fantastic choice.

More, it’s a testament to her character and it says a great deal about how Hillary Clinton not only sees the world, but Americans in general.

In particular the choice of Tim Kaine tells you what Hillary Clinton thinks of her supporters.


And it’s a hell of a compliment.


You see, Donald Trump picked Mike Pence specifically because Pence appeals viscerally to the worst elements of the Republican base.

It’s obvious.

There's nothing even vaguely complicated or nuanced about Mike Pence at all.

There's no risk whatsoever for Trump in Pence.

Pence was the safe choice.

Pence is anti-everything. He's Anti-immigrant (including birthright citizenship), Anti-Federal Reserve (and all the Glenn Beck conspiracy nuts cheered), Anti-tax (he's a flat-tax guy and the conservative libertarians just wet themselves in glee), Anti-Education, Anti-EPA and a climate change denier, Anti-renewable energy (fossil fuels all the way and drill baby drill), Anti-Iran Deal, Anti-healthcare, Anti-abortion, Anti-stem cell research, Anti-evolution, Anti-Science, Anti-sex education, Anti-LGBT.

About the only thing Mike Pence is for is God, Guns, and War and not necessarily in that order.

Mike Pence wasn't a complicated decision, there’s nothing subtle or nuanced about his selection. Which figures, given that Trump is about as subtle and nuanced as a drunk at a frat party dancing on the table with a bra on his head.

Mike Pence is the clanking mechanical heart of the Party of No.

Trump picked Pence specifically because when he looks out at the chanting crowd Trump sees a simple, uncomplicated black and white world, us and them.

There are Stormtrumpers and there are enemies and there ain’t nothing else.

He picked Pence specifically because he doesn't think very much of his supporters' ability to grasp complex issues.

They're the howling mob, they’re the people who think Celebrity Apprentice is highbrow entertainment. Trump knows it’s not. He knows what kind of people watch his TV shows and visit his casinos and golf clubs. Those people are cash cows, marks, not his friends.

Trump’s base understands one thing: no. No. No. No. No immigrants. No abortion. No evolution. No big government. No Taxes. No deals with Iran or Russia. No liberals. No compromise.

They understand single syllable words, wall, war, gun, God and not necessarily in that order.

And Mike Pence is that guy.

Donald Trump picked Mike Pence specifically because he is that guy.

He is that guy. No. No. And no.

He's a more dignified (if that word has any meaning here) and well spoken version of Sarah Palin and he was picked for the same reason, because he appeals viscerally and emotionally to the very worst and most extreme elements of the Republican Party.

Trump isn't stupid, he just plays stupid on TV because that's the demographic he's aiming for. That’s who he thinks his supporters are.

And Tim Kaine?

Kaine is the anti-Pence.

Tim Kaine is why you should vote for Hillary Clinton – even if you hate her. Even if you hate everything about her.

You see, the Presidency is about choice.

The Office of the President, more than anything else, is about decisions.


George W. Bush was right, he was The Decider.


He just made shitty decisions.

The President is the decider.

And choice of running mate is a potential president’s very first major decision.

Who a candidate chooses tells you a lot of what you need to know right up front.

Trump’s selection of Mike Pence shows you exactly how his future decisions will go. They’ll be simple. Us and them. Black and white. You’re either with us or you’re against us. And made specifically because they appeal to the people keeping President Trump in power and for no other reason. There’s nothing else behind his decision. Nothing. He’s a guy who rose to fame on popularity and he doesn’t have any other move. None.

Now, take a minute and extrapolate…

…to the Supreme Court

…to foreign relations

…to the economy

…to healthcare, education, religion

…to war and peace.


You are unlikely in the extreme to see the reasoned and careful decisions of the last eight years under a Trump Administration.


Which brings us to Tim Kaine.

Unlike Pence, Tim Kaine is many shades of grey.

His choice as running mate shows careful, in-depth, strategic analysis on Clinton's part.

The kind of careful, deliberate, in-depth, strategic analysis you want from a president.

Kaine is a democratic Senator from Virginia. A state of military bases and conservative ideals. Think about that, think about what it takes to get elected as a democrat in Virginia. Kaine has a reputation as a decent forthright honest upstanding guy, bi-partisan, willing to work with conservatives and liberals with equal enthusiasm – those traits make Kaine well liked by his colleagues in the Senate, on both sides of the aisle.

And that is a damned rare thing nowadays.

Imagine a Senate, a Congress made up of guys like Kaine. Imagine how different our world would be today. How much better.

Strategically, Kaine is from Virginia. If Clinton wins the White House, Virginia’s democratic governor will appoint Kaine’s replacement in the Senate. If Clinton had chosen Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, their replacements would have been Republicans – in a Senate with a Republican majority. Did you think about that? It’s not enough to win the White House, not if you really want to do all those things Bernie talked about. You have to win back Congress too and starting out another point down isn’t the smartest way to go about that.

Clinton and her team are playing the long game, making strategic decisions that will win the war, not just the current dust up. She could have picked Warren or Sherrod or even Bernie Sanders. But she didn’t. Leadership isn’t about giving people what they want, it’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Tim Kaine is the right thing. For all the right reasons.

This morning I’m seeing Bernie supporters saying things like, “Guess Hillary doesn’t want our votes after all, screw her.”

I’m seeing progressives saying the same thing. They’re telling me, hey, look at this, see? Tim Kaine is pro-bank deregulation and supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership and, holy shit, he’s a Catholic and therefore he’s obviously anti-abortion!

And I can see their point of view. I can.

But Tim Kaine is not Mike Pence.

And you have to look beyond the surface.

Kaine has spent his entire professional and political life fighting for civil rights.

In a lot of ways he’s done the things Bernie Sanders has only talked about.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not bashing Sanders. I’m not. I’m asking you to look a little deeper, hell, a lot deeper.

What I’m saying is if you actually look at Kaine in depth, as Clinton obviously did, you’ll see that she is very much listening. Perhaps that’s why Bernie Sanders himself endorsed her.

Maybe, if you look at Tim Kaine, you’ll see Bernie didn’t sell you out after all. Maybe, just maybe, you were right about him all along.

Look here, as a lawyer, Kaine spent two decades representing poor people who had been discriminated against in housing and employment based on race and disability. He won landmark cases and changed the law regarding fair housing, employment, and representation for minorities – and a lot of that was pro bono.

That’s the kind of thing Sanders talks about regularly, isn’t it? Kaine didn’t just talk about it, he did it.

He changed the world for the better.

He made the world a better place for a hell of a lot of people. Down in the trenches and the tenements where it counts.

Kaine took that experience and taught others. Literally. He taught legal ethics at the University of Richmond School of Law for six years. He was a founding member of the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness. Again, these are very things Bernie talks about. Kaine is out there doing them.

As Mayor of Richmond Kaine was the first white man in that position in more than ten years, chosen by the majority black city council in no small part for his record fighting for equality and civil rights. Because Kaine didn’t just talk about civil rights and equality and race, he leads on all fronts by example – as Bernie does. Kaine turned Richmond around, he renovated schools in poor neighborhoods and built new ones, he gave tax breaks to projects that directly benefited the city and opposed tax increases that didn’t, he brought back business and jobs, and his policies reduced gun crimes by more than 55%. Under Kaine, Richmond went from poverty and crime to being named one of the 10 Best Cities in America to do Business by Forbes – and the key to all of that was Kaine’s commitment to and leadership on racial reconciliation.

Tell me, is that not something Bernie Sanders would enthusiastically support?

You know what the biggest controversy of Kaine’s tenure as Mayor of Richmond was?

He spent $6,000 in public funds on buses to send citizens to the Million Mom March against Gun Violence in Washington D.C.

When pro-gun elements funded by the National Rifle Association tried to make something of it, Kaine raised money privately and paid the city back with interest for use of the buses and took the wind right out of the NRA’s sails. That’s right, Kaine himself paid to send citizens concerned about gun violence to Washington so their voices would be heard. Sounds like something Bernie would do, doesn’t it? And for all the right reasons.

As governor of Virginia, one of the largest and oldest tobacco producing states, Kaine banned smoking in public venues – Making Virginia the first Southern state to do so.

Now you think about that.

This guy faced down the NRA and the Tobacco Lobby on their own home turf and won.

Kaine isn’t a guy who does a thing because it’s popular, he does it because it’s the right thing to do.  Who’s that remind you of?

And then Kaine went to the Senate.

And one of his very first acts on Capitol Hill was to deliver a speech on the Senate floor in support of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" immigration bill. Kaine gave the speech entirely in Spanish. The first time in the history of the United States that a speech was given by a Senator on the Floor in any language other than English. 

As a senator Kaine has spoken out strongly against Citizen’s United. He supports strong regulation of the financial industry and he supports Dodd-Frank – while at the same time acknowledging banking industry concerns and suggesting that a vibrant economy requires balance. He’s a vocal supporter of immigration and has been one of President Obama’s biggest supporters in this area.

And then there’s abortion:

"I have a traditional Catholic personal position, but I am very strongly supportive that women should make these decisions and government shouldn't intrude. I'm a strong supporter of Roe v. Wade and women being able to make these decisions. In government, we have enough things to worry about. We don't need to make people's reproductive decisions for them."

Here’s a man who, for religious reasons, cannot himself support abortion, but who believes – and openly says so – that his beliefs should not be forced upon others. This is a man who believes in actual liberty, the actual right to choose, and actual freedom of religion.

This is an example for every American to aspire to.

On nearly every topic near and dear to liberal and progressive hearts, and many moderate conservative ones as well, Tim Kaine sets the example. Gay rights, war, the economy, the environment, energy, climate, education, civil rights, gun violence and gun rights, crime, taxes, this guy leads the way in every case.

Yes, Kaine has expressed pro-business and pro-trade ideas. Business and trade are part of America and as an American you should want both to be strong and vibrant. But if you look at Kaine’s statements in detail you’ll see that the difference between Kaine’s pro-business stance and that of Trump/Pence is that he doesn’t believe business should come at the expense of people and his record in every detail proves that all the way back to Richmond. Liberals, Progressives, Conservatives, and Libertarians can all find something to agree on in there.

Hell, if Tim Kaine was running for President instead of Clinton or Trump, I’d vote for him.


Kaine is the anti-Pence.


Tim Kaine is a brilliant choice by Hillary Clinton.

Tim Kaine shows you that she is listening to your concerns.

She is listening to Bernie supporters and taking them seriously, but she’s also the kind of leader who is going to make the right choice for the right reasons and not because it panders to popularity. And that matters.

She’s also listening to conservatives who hate and despise Trump and Pence and she’s going to have to win over those people not only to win the White House but because it’s the only way to move the country forward again.

And she’s listening to herself. To reason. To strategy. To long term goals. To doing what’s right instead of what’s popular.

Trump listens only to the cheers of the mob.


The Supreme Court.  

Foreign relations.  

The economy, healthcare, education, religion, civil rights, war and peace, the role of government, the role of religion, race, gender, identity, climate, science, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Those are the things in play here.

With the Supreme Court alone, the next president will decide the nature of America for decades to come.

With Kaine, Clinton has shown you what kind of Decider she’ll be.

With Pence, Trump has shown you the very same thing.

The choices – and the consequences – could not be more clear.

It is now time for you to decide for yourself what kind of Decider you are.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Latter Days Of A Better Nation, Part III


You know, it's one thing watching the great Bill Paxton in the movie Aliens.

Paxton as Pvt Hudson, face all screwed up in fear and horror, spittle flying from his mouth:

“That's it, man. Game over, man. Game over! What the fuck are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do?

That’s acting.

That’s entertainment.

That’s why Paxton is a star. That’s why people remember his every performance.

But it's another thing entirely when it's your political philosophy.

“Presidential elections are won by a few million votes. If Hillary wins, we’re going to be overwhelmed with refugees, with immigrants. That’s it. It’s lights out America.”

It's lights out America.


That was Ann Coulter this morning. Once again predicting the fall of America and the End of the World.

With these people it's always lights out, America.



Everything is a worst case scenario. Fear. Terror. Panic. Fire and flood, invasion, war, plague and famine, chaos in the life support system. And if that's not enough, their mean spoiled little shithead of a God is always about to send in a hurricane or an earthquake or a flood or a Wall Street crash because he's pissed off and throwing a tantrum about some goddamned thing. Ebola. Iran. Vladimir Putin. Gay marriage. Transgenders in the bathrooms. The shambling 50-years-dead ghost of Saul Alinsky. United Nations troops marching on Texas. Black people in the streets. Islam in the schools. They're coming for our daughters, they're coming for our healthcare, they're coming for our Jesus, Oh My GOD they're coming for our guns! They hate us for our freedom, they hate us for our exceptionalism, they hate us because they anus.

It's always some goddamned thing with these people.

They crow about how great America is – this mythological magical exceptional America where everybody is either a straight white protestant who lives in a little house with a white picket fence and a giant H-1 Hummer SUV out front and farms the land from horseback with an American Flag and a Bible in one hand and an AR-15 Super Jesus Peacemaker in the other while the woman folk pop out little white Christian babies like Pez dispensers and God showers down Viagra from the sky in a rain of freedom and liberty Hallelujah and Amen or they're the fucking help and they know their place.

These people, they harp endlessly about the greatness of this nation, how their God has chosen us – us – over all others, our military might, our fabled Constitution ... while at the same time crying endlessly like Chicken Little about how it's all so fragile that if you don't do exactly as they say, why, it'll all come tumbling down. Lights out, America. GAME OVER, MAN, GAME OVER!


This is a symptom of a people who have no challenges. No goals. Other than keeping what they have.


This is a symptom of a people who live inside a castle surrounded by a moat and barbed wire, terrified every single day that the peasants are going to rise up out of the mud and the shit and their slavery and show up waving torches and pitchforks and demand the good life too.

This is a symptom of a diseased greedy religion, a religion of selfishness and intolerance, one where salvation is the promise of eternal happiness and smug satisfaction for you and yours while every single other person who has ever lived or will live burns forever in endless torment.

This is a symptom of a political process that intends to make a nation of immigrants "Great Again" by banning immigrants and building walls to keep refugees fleeing war and horror and starvation and small mean gods from getting in.

This is a symptom of a people who don't want to make the world a better place for everybody. And in point of fact, their satisfaction is utterly dependent on everybody else being worse off. They have to have the biggest house, the biggest gaudiest church, the biggest truck, the biggest flag, the biggest army, the mightiest ships, the most food, the best medicine, the most TV channels, the biggest gun. They see freedom, liberty, justice, as zero sums and if others get more then they are diminished. Lesser. Ashamed. Just like their religion, heaven isn't heaven if everybody gets to go. America is only great if everybody else isn't. America is the shining city on the hill, the one with the moat and the wall, and everybody else lives in the mud below.

They get to live in the Plantation house and everybody else gets to pick the cotton all the live long day.

This is a symptom of a bankrupt intolerant exclusionary morality.

This is the end result of a political ideology that values mammon over people just exactly as their own prophet warned them of.

This is a political party who has now spent four days spewing hate and fear and pissing its collective pants in terror, LIGHTS OUT, AMERICA! LIGHTS OUT! wallowing in small fears like a child crying in the dark.

This is a political party who has now spent four days telling each other who is NOT an American, who doesn't belong, but has not once – not one single time in four days – actually offered a single solution to any of the problems we face as a people.


I passed a sign yesterday. In front of a small rural Southern Baptist Church. The sign said, “Only prayer can save America now.”


Only prayer can save America now.

This sums up modern conservativism in six simple words.

Here’s a small church in the middle of nowhere, safe, protected, unburned, free to worship as they please, free to yell at the rest of us without consequence, protected by law in fact and in practice … and yet they feel persecuted. Under assault. Endangered. Doomed. The end is nigh and it’s game over, lights out, America. Oh woe, woe! Save us, Jesus!

And they feel that way solely because they have to live in a world with other people.

They feel like that because they are afraid every single goddamned day of their lives.

This horrible religion didn’t create that fear, their fear created it.

I have watched the messages that appear on that sign for years, decades now.

There’s never, not one time, been a message of peace or hope or tolerance or optimism.

It’s always about impending doom, any minute now.

And if America doesn’t end, they’ll take credit for it – even though they’ve done exactly nothing but shit their pants and hate their neighbors. They’ll give credit to their God instead of the people out there right now laboring every single day to hold civilization together. They’ll pat themselves on their own backs in smug righteousness. Wew, dodged another one. Good job, Everybody, but it’s not over because now God’s mad about this other thing over here. And there’s the ebola. And the gays. And the immigrants. And…

… and it just never ends with these people.

Just another group of angry bitter selfish assholes peering fearfully at the sky.


That’s what we’ve become, a nation of angry bitter selfish people. Pessimists. Staring out from the walls, worried somebody is going to come take it all away.

As I’ve said to you before, pessimists don’t build starships. Pessimists don’t build the future. People like Ann Coulter never inspired anybody to anything but fear and hate and pessimism.

Fear, hate, intolerance, guns and pessimism, those things don’t make nations great. Those things don’t make for a great people or even a good person.

Hope, tolerance, inclusion, inspiration, initiative, shared purpose, spirit, justice, liberty, optimism, those are the traits of a truly great nation, a great people, a great religion.

If you want a better nation, a better future, then you have to be better citizens.

And it starts by rejecting this philosophy of doom and selfishness.

You can choose, you know.

In the end, Hudson faced his fear, found his courage, and stood steadfast in the face of horror and gave his life so that others might live.

You can choose to be that Hudson.

But better yet, you can choose to be Ellen Ripley, who said memorably:

“Get away from her, you bitch!”


Previous editions in this series can be found here:
The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part I
The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part II

Monday, July 18, 2016

Donation Drive

Help Jim relocate from Alaska to Florida and win fabulous prizes!

Posting here has been a bit sporadic, because as I prepare to pick and move just about as far across the continent as it’s physically possible to go I find that I don’t have much time to write long essays.

For those that aren’t aware, I’m in the process of selling my house here in the Alaskan Matsu and in about 10 days the movers will arrive to pack up our stuff – including my workshop – into trucks for shipment to our house in Florida. My wife and I will bid a teary farewell to our son, who will remain here in Alaska where he has his own life now, and we will head down the Alaska-Canadian Highway south. Why are we moving to the Florida Panhandle, land of heat, humidity, and rednecks? Well, that’s a personal matter, but the short answer is we need to be closer to family and after long consideration, we’ve decided this is the best course of action. I can write and do artwork anywhere. And like I said, we own a house there and some property. Our son is now an adult. It’s time.

We expect to arrive and be settled and back in business mid-July. During the intervening period, posting here is likely to be catch as catch can, though I will likely post short updates, observations, and descriptions of our adventures to Facebook and Twitter as we journey 5000 miles across the continent with our cats. I have no idea what route we’ll take. We tend to ass backward into the unknown, life is more interesting that way – at the moment all I am certain of is that this trip will likely be a source of much material for future essays and social media posts.

I have now successfully reached Florida. Regular writing and new posts to Stonekettle Station will resume shortly – just as soon as my office furniture arrives and the local cable company can get broadband installed (at the moment, my “office” is a folding camp chair, a laptop, and tethered Bluetooth connection through my phone). Hopefully that will be this week. Then I can get back to work.

As previously noted, unless you’re Wil Wheaton, making a living from social media is an adventure and based on my evolving business model, every once in a while I need to ask for money.  

I don’t like this.

I don’t like asking for money.

Ideally, I write something and if you like it enough, you’ll kick in.  And thankfully, you do so often enough that I can mostly survive doing this. I’ll never get rich, but it beats writing advertising jingles or flipping burgers or getting shot at.

That said, I don’t like asking for money, it makes me very uncomfortable. So the last time I did this I found a way to assuage my conscience.

Any reader who donates any amount during the period of June 1st to July 30th will be put in the running to win one of my high-end handmade art pieces worth several hundred dollars. That means if you’ve already donated to Stonekettle Station this month, you’re already entered to win.

You may enter more than once. Each donation will be counted as a unique entry.

Winners will be selected August 1st, 2016 by Shopkat.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions.

Note: Those of you who already donate via an automatic monthly payment, you’ll be entered automatically in the drawing. 

Thank you all for your continued support. See you all in Florida!


Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog, i.e. you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity.

Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my artwork, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly give them away to supporters, just as I gave away my custom pens to my fellow writers.

I’m simply using this month’s subscriptions as the pool to select from since I have no other way to determine who readers are. 

You are not paying for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content of this blog and my associated social media feeds.  And I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays, Facebook posts, and Tweets.

Note: My store on Etsy is closed until 1 August, 2016.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The Return of Tail Gunner Joe

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
-- Edmund Burke


Tell me, who decides?

Who decides what this nation will become?

Who decides what legacy we will leave our children?

Who decides how America will be remembered by history?

Who decides if we will be nation of tolerance and freedom, an example to the world, a shining city upon the hill…

… or whether we will be a nation of barbed wire and secret police?

Who decides that?

“We originally created the House Un-American Activities Committee to go after Nazis. We passed several laws in 1938 and 1939 to go after Nazis and we made it illegal to help the Nazis. We're going to presently have to go take the similar steps here."

We are going to have to take similar steps.

Similar steps as the House Un-American Activities Committee.

That was former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, who yesterday on Fox and Friends suggested without any trace of self-consciousness or shame, that the US resurrect one of the most vile and Un-American periods of its history.

Gingrich, commonly referred as the smartest guy in the Republican party, suggested in all candor on national television reestablishment of the House Un-American Activities Committee.

The House Un-American Activities Committee.

This is what it's come down to. The House Un-American Activities Committee.

The presumptive Republican nominee for President of the United States of America has made walls, barbed wire, guns, secret police, mass surveillance, mass deportation of undesirables based on religion, all, planks in his platform.

And he is cheered.

He is cheered.

He is cheered by the masses. And embraced, however fearfully, however reluctantly, by the cowed Republican establishment.

And now?

Now we are actually talking about these things as a nation as if this fascist Nazism isn't an ideology our grandparents gave their lives to wipe from the face of the earth.

And now?

Now one of those being considered for Trump's running mate is openly suggesting America go full on Tail Gunner Joe.

It was bad enough, McCarthyism, in the 1950's. Imagine it today. Go on, imagine a congressional "Un-American ‘Activities’ Committee" helmed by the likes of Trey Gowdy and armed with the tools of modern surveillance, unfettered by the FISA court, enabled by the Patriot Act, and  backed up with the vast invisible bottomless power of the National Security Agency.

Gingrich would make Hitler's Gestapo and Stalin's Cheka look like rank amateurs.


What's it going to take here? Actual goosesteps and the sound of fucking tanks in the streets?


Who decides?

Who decides what's Un-American? Donald Trump? Newt Gingrich? The howling Brownshirts who make up Trump rallies? Congress? Congress can't even agree on what to order for lunch, half of them believe the Earth is 6000 years old and their God gallivanted around the Sea of Galilee on a velociraptor handing out Glocks to the faithful. For fuck's sake, we're going to let these certifiable lunatics decide who is and who isn't an American?

Who decides?

Tell me, why is it that a religion which preaches intolerance every single day in the name of their deity, whose adherents embrace violent nationalism and daily wave their guns and clamor for the elimination of those not like them, who daily declares their intention to burn down the elected government of the United States and replace it with a religious theocracy more to their liking, why is that religion American simply because it's Christian?


What's that?

Oh no. No. No. No. Don't you dare try to tell me that's not what a significant percentage of homegrown religious extremists are saying. That's exactly what they are saying. Every. Single. Day. All you have to do is look at their Facebook pages and their websites. All you have to do listen to the various militias. All you have to do is tune into Franklin Graham or Bryan Fischer, or drop by a Trump rally. Hell, a bunch of Mormon fanatics just took up arms against the rest of us in the name of their God while Christian extremists cheered them on and rallied to their defense -- or have you forgotten Malheur already? And as long as we’re on the subject, look up Nevada State Assemblywomen Michele Fiore.

Who decides?

Who decides what is and is not American? The fucking Bundys?


This guy, this asshole who murdered 49 people in Orlando? That guy? That guy was as American as it comes.

Oh yes he was.

He was born right here in America. He’s more a natural born American than Ted Cruz or John McCain.

He raged against gay people just exactly the same as every pinched faced conservative Christian preacher currently spewing hate and intolerance from his pulpit. No different than Pat Robertson or John Hagee. No different from the politicians currently rushing bathroom bills through the various state legislatures. No different than Kim Davis, conservative hero. There is no difference in rhetoric or the target of their hate whatsoever.

He loved guns. He saw guns as power, power over others, power to impose his will so that he didn't have to suffer those he despised. So he didn't have to compromise. Guns, for him, were freedom, liberty, and a final solution to his hatred. How is this different from those who took over Malheur? Who threaten daily to march on Washington with their guns in the name of their god? Because he pulled the trigger? Because he was actually willing to shoot down his fellow Americans? Look at any Christian militia Facebook page and tell me how they are any different. Go on, I'll wait.

You going to tell me this guy wasn’t an American?

Who decides? Who?

I am once again watching Fox News national security experts blame political correctness for the carnage. Over on Twitter disgraced spook John Schindler is beating the same drum. Schindler wasn't much of a spook, but like those of his ilk he's damned good at telling the brass what they want to hear – and today he's busy telling conservatives it was "political correctness" in the same tone and phrasing guys like him told Donald Rumsfeld about those weapons of mass destruction which were surely waiting for us in Iraq.

Political Correctness, that's why the FBI didn't do anything about the Orlando Shooter.

Political correctness is why we tolerate Muslim extremism in our own midst.

Sure. Why not? I'm hip.

When will we set aside this political correctness and call out religious extremism residing among us be it Islamic or Christian or Mormon or the National Rifle Association?


Who decides?

Who decides what is American and what is Un-American?


I'll tell you who decides: You.

You decide.

Each and every one of you. You Americans.

If you don't speak up, you decided.

If you turn a blind eye to hate and intolerance in your religion without public and vocal challenge, you decided.

If you allow attacks on your neighbors verbal or physical, you decided.

If you allow the politicians and the preachers to decide who can and cannot use the bathroom, who can get married, you decided.

If you allow 33,000 Americans to die every year from gun violence without protest, you've decided.

If you don't vote, for whatever reason, you've decided.

Who decides?

Who decides what this nation will become? Who decides what legacy we will leave our children? Who decides how America will be remembered by history? Who decides if we will be nation of tolerance and freedom, an example to the world, a shining beacon on the hill, or whether we will be a nation of barbed wire and secret police?

Who decides?

If you don't, then small fearful men like Newt Gingrich will.


If you want a better nation, then you must decide to be better citizens.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Seven Stages of Gun Violence



It’s been two three four years since I first wrote this on the day after a madman stepped into a darkened movie theater in Aurora, Colorado and started killing people.  Since then more than ten twenty sixty thousand Americans have died from gun violence, three seven twenty times more than died on September 11th, 2001, more than all the military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than all the Americans killed in Vietnam. There have been so many mass shootings between the day I wrote this and now that I’ve lost track, one killing blurs into another and the bloody rampages seem to be our new national pastime.

I got a lot of email regarding this post over the years.

And a lot of people told me I was wrong, those people are fools.

I’ve updated the text and updated it and updated it again and again and again and have now updated it yet
again and moved the essay forward in the Stonekettle Station timeline. 

I left the original comments intact, but because those comments primarily address the Aurora Massacre (e.g. the original impetus for this essay) I’ve added a demarking comment dated April 3, 2014, for the first update and another for June 19, 2015, another for July 24, 2015, and now, today.  New comments will appear after that. The line of demarcation should be obvious

Anyway, before we get started, I just wanted to say: Way to go America. We can’t build spaceships any more, or ensure every American has access to healthcare and food and clean water and a warm place to sleep, but we’ve got the world beat in bloody murder.

Bang Bang Bang, fuck yeah, America!



It is easier for a crazy person to get an automatic weapon than healthcare in America.
                                            - Shannyn Moore, Moore Up North



So, America, déjà Vu.

Here we are yet again.

Another mass killing.

Another hellish scene of smoke and blood and murder.

Another day of death and pain, panic and terror.

Here’s a few highlights, America. Think of it as our country’s Greatest Hits. No no, don’t look away. Don’t roll your eyes. This is who you are, this right here, man up and face it: September 1999, Fort Worth, Texas, a gunman killed six people during a prayer service, then he committed suicide. October 2002, it was the Washington DC Sniper, ten dead. August 2003, Chicago, a gunman locked six of his former coworkers in a conference room and shot them dead, then he killed himself.  November 2004, Birchwood, Wisconsin, a hunter got into an argument with a group of sportsmen over a trespassing issue, the hunter ended the argument by killing six and wounding two. March 2005, Brookfield, Wisconsin, a man walked into a church and shot seven people dead, praise the Lord. October 2006, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, a disgruntled truck driver shot five Amish schoolgirls to death and wounded six others before taking his own life. April 2007, Virginia Tech, an angry former student set a record with the deadliest mass shooting in the US in recent years, he killed thirty-two people and wounded fifteen others. Go Team. August 2007, Delaware State University, three students were shot and killed execution style by a 28-year-old and two 15-year-old boys. A fourth student was shot and stabbed. And a month later, September 2007, on the same campus, a student shot and wounded two other students in a dining hall. December 2007, Omaha, Nebraska, a 20-year-old man killed nine people and wounded five others in a shopping mall.  A few days later,  on Christmas Eve, a woman and her boyfriend gunned down six members of her family in their house in Carnation, Washington. February 2008, Chicago, a gunman tied up and shot six women at a clothing store, five of them died. The gunman was never caught. February 2008, DeKalb, Illinois, a man opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University. He killed five students and wounded sixteen others. July 2008, Phoenix, Arizona, a former student shot three people in a computer lab at South Mountain Community College.  September 2008, Alger, Washington, a mentally ill man who was released from jail one month earlier shot eight people, six died. October 2008, University of Central Arkansas, gunmen shooting from a car in front of a student dormitory killed two students and wounded a third.  December 2008, Covina, California, a man dressed up like Santa Claus killed nine people at a family Christmas party, then he set the house on fire and shot himself. March 2009, Alabama, a 28-year-old drove through several towns randomly shooting people, he managed to kill ten. March 2009, North Carolina, a heavily-armed gunman stormed into a nursing home and killed eight elderly residents and wounded two more before police killed him. The object of his murderous rage, his estranged wife, was a nurse at the facility –  she escaped unharmed by hiding in the locked Alzheimer ward.  March 2009, Santa Clara, California, six people were shot dead in an apartment building. April 2009, Virginia, an 18-year-old former student followed a pizza deliveryman into his old dormitory, and shot the deliveryman, a dorm monitor, and then himself at Hampton University. April 2009, Binghamton, New York, a man shot thirteen people to death in a bloody rampage at the town civic center. July 2009, Houston, Texas, six people were shot in a drive-by shooting at a community rally on the campus of Texas Southern University. November 2009, Fort Hood, Texas, a U.S. army major opened  fire on his fellows in the middle of a crowded soldier processing center filled with troops preparing for deployment, he killed thirteen and wounded forty-two. February 2010, Alabama, a disgruntled professor opened fire during a staff meeting of the Biological Sciences Department faculty. She killed three and wounded three more. January 2011, Tucson, Arizona, a gunman opened fire at a public gathering outside a grocery store, he killed six people including a nine-year-old girl and wounded twelve more including Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot in the head.  July 2012, Aurora, Colorado, a masked gunman storms into a packed movie theater and starts shooting, he killed twelve and wounded fifty-eight more. August 2012, Oak Creek, Wisconsin again,  a gunman kills six people at Sikh temple before being shot dead by police. September 2012, Minneapolis, a gunman kills six including himself and wounds five more inside a small sign company. December 2012, Newtown, Connecticut,  a 20-year old gunman with mental problems killed his mother and then shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School and started killing people. He killed twenty small children and six adults and then shot himself.  February 2013, a former Navy officer and Los Angeles policeman declared war on the LAPD, over a period of nine days he killed four people including three police officers and wounded three more before eventually committing suicide by cop.  March 2013, Herkimer, upstate New York, a 64-year old man lit his apartment on fire, then coolly walked into a local barber shop and started shooting. He killed two and wounded two more. Then he drove to another business and killed two more.  He killed a police dog and was subsequently gunned down by the canine’s human partners. June 2013, Santa Monica, California, a 23-year old man went on a killing spree that left six people dead and four wounded and ended when he was shot dead by police inside the Santa Monica College Library.  July 2013, Hialeah, Florida, a man living with his mother lit their apartment on fire and then went on a rampage throughout the living complex, he killed seven before police returned the favor.  Twelve more dead at the Washington Navy Yard.  Another murdered standing watching on a pier in Norfolk. Four more dead, including the shooter, again on Fort Hood, Texas. Charleston, South Carolina, a racist sat quietly for an hour among the congregation of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, then without warning he  murdered nine people during prayer service and wounded a tenth – he was hoping to start a race war. Chattanooga, a self-declared Jihadist suffering from depression and drug use, mad at the US government, shot up a military recruiting center in a strip mall then drove to a local Navy operations support center and launched another attack, he killed four Marines and a Sailor and then died in a gunfight with law enforcement. Lafayette, Louisiana, a drifter with a gun fired thirteen rounds into a crowded movie theater. He killed two people, wounded nine, and then turned the gun on himself when police closed in.  Last time I updated this, it was a college campus in Oregon.

And now?

This morning it’s fifty dead. Fifty. Fifty. Fifty dead, killed by a single shooter armed with a military grade assault rifle…


What’s that?

Oh, you want to argue about the term “assault weapon” do you? Don’t you NRA assholes ever get tired of being so reflexively predictable? Look here, fifty dead, killed by a single gunman in a few minutes, that isn’t the kind of weapon used for “hunting” or “home defense” – unless you live in Somalia. That’s an assault weapon. I spent my entire life in the military under arms,  I know a goddamned assault weapon when I see one. So you NRA assholes sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. This is on you, you terrorist enabling sons of bitches, this is all on you.

Here we are, America. Here we are yet again. Bang, Bang, Bang.


Another massacre.

This one the worst since 911. That’s right, that’s how we measure it, compared to 911.

Friends, bereft families grieving with loss and concern, a nation left shaken with shock and outrage, left wondering why? How?

Another murderous lunatic with a gun in his hand and a score to settle.

Another excuse from the National Rifle Association. Another denial. Another bribe to their pets in Congress. Another unhinged rant from terrorist-enabling lunatics like Ted Nugent and Wayne Lapierre.

Another flurry of empty prayers and sound-bites from our legislature. Maybe if we renamed the place from Pulse to “The Benghazi Club” we could get Congress to at least form a committee and hold a couple of hearings.

This is the point where I used to type Another bloody horror.  But it’s not, is it? It’s a bloody slaughter, sure, but like soldiers on a battlefield, we’ve become numb to the horror. It’s a bloody slaughter, but it’s just another bloody slaughter.  It is no longer a surprise – and hasn’t been for a very long time.

Gun violence, mass slaughter, it’s just who we are.


This, this right here, this is the country we live in.


Bang, bang, bang. Welcome to America.

How many mass shootings since I first wrote this? A dozen? Two dozen? A hundred? How many? You’ve lost track haven’t you? Me too.

This slaughter, it’s the set up for a truly American joke, isn’t it? So, a racist, a terrorist, and a suicidal drifter walk into a public place and start murdering people, what do they all have in common?

The fabled gun battles of the American Old West have nothing on the modern slaughter. Gun fuelled mass murder isn’t the exception any longer, it’s as common and as American as, well, apple pie and happens on average about once twice three times a month now.

What’s that, you say? Oh yes, another grinning nut with a stupid haircut and a personal arsenal killed some people? Tsk tsk terrible isn’t it? Did they catch him this time, did he kill himself, or did the police shoot him down like the dog he was? People say he was a nice guy, quiet, kept to himself, kind of odd but, man, didn’t see this coming, no Sir.  Here’s a picture of him smiling like a crazy guy, look at those eyes, they’re crazy eyes, anybody could tell he was going to snap. He probably tortured small animals and has his grandmother’s head in the freezer. It’s the parents’ fault you know, for not raising him right.  It’s the atheists’ fault for taking Jesus out of the schools. It’s the doctors, why don’t they get crazy people off the street? It’s the goddamned police, they’re never around when you need them. It’s the government. He’s probably a veteran, you know, those guys are all on the edge.  Guns don’t kill people, you know, no Sir, they don’t. In fact a good guy with a gun is the only … Oops, gotta go, Duck Dynasty is on.

And now? Well, now we Americans will go through the same old oh so utterly predictable dance: 


Stage One, Confusion:

Mass killings are still news. I have no idea how much longer this will be so, Americans quickly grow bored with sequels. Unless the next act of mass murder is done by a guy in a Bruce Willis costume shooting a chain-gun from the back of a crashing stealth fighter in the middle of Times Square, I suspect that eventually we’ll just stop watching. 

Some guy went bonkers and killed a bunch of people? Yawn, I’ve seen worse. What’s the body count this time? Fifty? Worst since 911? Well, okay, I’ll tune in for that. Fifty.

So, for now, mass murder is still a news show money maker.

Problem is, there’s just not enough actual information about the event to fill up the airwaves.

Nobody really knows anything. 

But Americans aren’t interested in facts and they’re for damned sure not interested in waiting.

Americans want their news the same way they want their food, they don’t care if it’s good for them or not so long as it’s quick and it comes in SuperSize.  

So, over the next few days, until America loses interest, the news outlets will each issue at least three versions of the story, all different, all mutually contradictory. Accuracy doesn’t matter, being first is what matters. Blame, that’s what matters, we need to assign blame to somebody, Muslims, liberals, gays, commies, survivalists, the mentally ill, somebody is at fault and the sooner we assign the blame the sooner we can get back to our freedom and liberty and civilization. 

And besides, it’s not like those first false reports and poor reporting will be wasted, the conspiracy nuts will print those out and tape them up on their bulletin boards right next to pictures of that grassy knoll and WTC #7. False Flag! False Flag! They’ll shout gleefully and manufacture their own false information fresh from their fevered imaginations and within days the airwaves and the internet will be filled with their wild speculation.

You’ll get interviews with at least four witnesses who didn’t actually see anything, including at least one middle-aged hypochondriac who wasn’t actually there on the day of the massacre but once, way back when, happened to be in the same building, and so had to be hospitalized because she was so traumatized by the close call.

You’ll get interviews with at last three professional victims who weren’t there but were near similar events and whose stories are now somehow relevant.

You’ll get earnest opinions from two experts in fields completely unrelated to anything that actually transpired, and CNN will interview at least one former non-combatant Air Force Major who was stationed in Nevada during the Iraq invasion and now teaches law at a small Women’s college on the East Coast.

Eventually, each news outlet will trot out their one remaining gray haired genuine distinguished Newsman, and in dour solemn tones he’ll ponderously opine on the miserable state of journalism in this modern age – then he’ll condemn all the other stations for getting it wrong.


Stage Two, Speculation:

Since there isn’t any real information and by the time there actually is America will have completely lost interest, the important thing is to fill up the media channels with something.

The talking heads and paid conspiracy mongers will wax fat and feculent, they’ll condemn the president and talk about false flag operations, hiding their sly grins behind their plastic outrage while the money rolls in.

News anchors, talk shows, bloggers, pundits, and the endless ill-informed mouth-breathing Yahoo commenter will each and all put forward their opinion:

- The shooter is a liberal. It’s all part of a plot by the America-hating tree-hugging, New World Order to make peaceful, patriotic gun owners look bad, then the government will send Interpol in their sissy blue UN uniforms to take away our guns. Oh noes! To the bunkers!

- The shooter is a Muslim. Of course he is. You just can’t trust those people. They hate America. He probably thinks he’ll get forty virgins in Paradise for every American he killed. We should kill all the Muslims.

- The shooter is a member of the NRA. He’s a gun nut. Those guys are all crazy with their gun shows and gun magazines and gun clubs and guns. We should outlaw the NRA.

- The shooter is a member of the Tea Party. The shooter is a member of the Occupy Movement. Sure. They hate everybody and they can’t wait to start killing us all and tearing down America.

- The shooter was just fed up. He was an Illegal alien. He was a member of Al Qaida. He was a Jew. He was abused as a child, born again, gay.

By the time the sad truth comes out, if it ever does, that he was just another hater eaten up with rage, listening to the voices only he could hear, nobody will care. The only thing Americans will remember is that he is yet another sterling example of whatever political point they’re trying to make at that particular moment.


Stage Three, Comparison:

The conservative channels will start running footage of Columbine, Fort Hood, and Waco. The liberal channels will start running footage of the Giffords shooting and Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook.  None of those incidents really has much to do with the current horror, but they are images of bodies and blood and bullets and that’s what counts when you’re explaining how this event is what happens when the End Times are nigh or civilization is on the brink of collapse.

It’s important to associate this mass murder with other horrible events in order to shape public perception in the proper manner regardless of the fact that there is little connection or comparison to be had.

All channels will talk about drugs and depression. There’s no indication as yet that the shooter was taking drugs, or was depressed, but then again there isn’t any indication that he wasn’t either.

And, of course, there’s the PTSD and, you know, we should expect more of this kind of thing as veterans start to come unscrewed. Especially if they were bullied as children. Or abused. Or into comic books, or video games, or porn. And, well, even if the guy had nothing to do with the military, it’s important to stress that returning veterans are murderously unstable and something should be done.

The simple truth of the matter is that you don’t walk into a crowd and start shooting people unless you’re, at least to some degree, insane.

But that’s just not enough for us, is it?

They can’t just be nuts, or rather they can be, nuts, but it has to mean something. Somehow. Even though the shooter might be completely insane, America will still demand a sane, rational, understandable reason for their behavior.

Which naturally will lead to endless arguments regarding the sorry state of mental health in this country.

Which, of course, will almost immediately devolve into a debate on Obamacare.

The thing is, all of these shootings, including the latest horror, have nothing in common.

Nothing in common, except for one thing.

They all have one thing and only one thing only in common.


The shooters may all be crazy in some fashion or another, but the real insanity here is our continued inability to face reality.



Stage Four, Blame:

Let’s blame Hollywood. Violent movies and violent video games and rock and roll music. That’s what it is.

Let’s blame the families. It’s bad parenting, this guy’s folks should have their asses kicked for raising a psychopath.  But since we can’t do that, we'll punish the shooter’s family by having every single news agency in the world camp out on his mother’s front porch, and we’ll ask her important questions such as “what are you feeling right now?”

Let’s blame the Liberals with their liberalism, their political correctness, their communist Nazism, their coddling of criminals, their gun control and the gay agenda.

Let’s blame the Conservatives with their conservatism, their guns and their bibles and their callous disregard of the human condition. It’s their fault, of course it is.

Let’s blame it on the Me Generation, these selfish little bastards, always with their hands out, me me me. It’s social media, it’s Twitter and Facebook and those self centered bloggers looking for attention.

Let’s blame the Muslims and the godless goat humping atheists and Fast & Furious and bad teachers and Benghazi and Obama and the secret manipulations of the Illuminati.

The politicians and their supporters will all, each and every one, gleefully make hay. Oh they’ll all, each and every one, wax poetic over the dead (with the exception of certain predictable talk radio pundits who’ll insinuate that the dead had it coming for being unprepared and unarmed and ungodly), and they’ll even wipe away sorrowful bitter tears and pause for a moment in patriotic remembrance with their hands over their flinty black hearts with the flags waving and crackling in the cold breeze at just the right camera angle, and they’ll condemn the other guy for politicizing the tragedy, and then they will make just as much political hay out of this as they can because somebody is damned well to blame for this mess.  And it sure isn’t going to be them, no sir, it’s the other guy and his un-American agenda, vote for me!

Somebody is responsible.

The thing is, all of these shootings, including the latest horror, have nothing in common.

Nothing in common, except for one thing.

They all have one thing and only one thing only in common.


Guns. Guns are the common denominator here. In every case, it’s guns.

You can’t have a mass shooting without guns.

It’s just that goddamned simple.

But we won’t face it.

We won’t do anything about it.

We’ll blame everything but the one single common denominator.

We just  keep on keeping on, expecting something different – and that right there is the very definition of insanity.

As a nation, we have gone insane.



Stage Five, Bang Bang Crazy:

And so, once again, inevitably, we circle around the wheel to the perennial American argument: 

Guns don’t kill people, crazy people with guns kill people who don’t have guns.

Therefore, we should ban all guns! No, wait, if we ban all guns then only people with guns will have guns so they’ll kill the people who don’t have the guns and then there will only be people with guns left and then they’ll kill each other because if you ban guns only people with guns will be criminals and when the government comes to get our guns only the criminals will be free because liberty equals guns! Also what about bears? OK, then we should give everybody guns! But if everybody has guns then even criminals will have guns and brown people and yellow people and illegal people and crazy people who don’t love Jesus will have guns and they will break into our houses to steal our guns and rape our women and eat our babies and take our liberty so then police and the military will need bigger guns to keep us safe from those people but then we’ll need even bigger guns because otherwise we won’t be safe from the cops who will use their guns to take our freedom! OK, well then how about a reasonable common sense compromise? We all agree that as Americans it’s our basic right to keep and own firearms. But also, some people really, really shouldn’t be allowed to own even a Nerf slingshot, let alone a machine that can punch a couple hundred fist sized holes in a room full of people in under a minute. How about we maybe talk about some kind of reasonable way to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, terrorists, and crazy people? What! Communist! Nazi! How dare you? Second Amendment! Second Amendment! Every red-blooded true blue American has the God given right to own a fully automatic meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high capacity killing machine if they want to, the Founding Fathers said so! USA! USA! Dead kids? Mass murder? Blood in the streets? That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeedom! Besides if there had only been one, just one, god fearing patriot with his own concealed meat-grinding bone-shattering blood-spattering high-capacity peacemaker there at that massacre, why he’d have stood up in his genuine American made American Flag Shirt of Patriotic American By God Freedom and fired up his laser-sight and he would have put that animal down right goshdarned there! Remember, when seconds count the police are only minutes away and idiotic empty NRA platitudes have saved more lives than Charlton Heston did in all those bible movies. Booyah, Baby, give me a Glock Nine and an extended mag any day. Also, we need more Jesus. ‘Round and round in one long run-on paragraph of fury and hysteria and flag waving spittle flecked madness. America, Fuck ya!


Stage Six, Acceptance:

By the time it’s determined that the shooter’s bloody motivation was just plain incomprehensible to sane reasonable people, most Americans will have long since changed the channel and forgotten about it, lost in the bloody mayhem of the next gun fueled mass murder.

Meanwhile Congress, ever eager to do something, will yet again stage a mock vote to defund healthcare in America because they are completely unable to do anything that actually matters other than squabble amongst themselves like spoiled petulant children.

Nothing will be done about the real problem because nothing can be done.

That’s the price you pay for freeeeeeeeeeedom: murderous lunatics with guns.


Besides, it probably won’t happen again.

Stage Seven: Déjà Vu:

See Step One.




Nothing, and I mean nothing not even religion or abortion, generates the hate mail that any article on guns does.

As I’ve said here many, many, many times, and will obviously have to say many, many, many more times: I’ve spent my entire life around weapons, all kinds of weapons – some of which you can’t even imagine.

I know something about guns.

I’ll tell you something: the ignorant, illiterate, and cognitively challenged NRA nuts who troll this site every time I post something about guns are the very last people I would allow on my range or allow to handle weapons anywhere near me or mine. If you’re taking orders from Ted Nugent and Tom Selleck you are fucking insane. These people are every bit as insane as the murderous lunatics described in the text above who thought that guns were a solution for their own personal inadequacies.

These people have taken the Second Amendment and perverted it all out of recognition.

However, for the record, the post above does not, repeat does not, advocate for or against any additional laws, regulations, bans, or any other form of gun control.

What I actually said was that all the arguments were oh so tediously predictable. 

What I said was the usual folks would call for gun control.

What I said was then in response the usual folks would scream about Nazis and fascism and explain why nothing ever can work and how dead kids are just the price you pay for freedom.

What I said was that nothing, absolutely nothing, will change. The slaughter will continue. The argument will continue. And nothing will change because we will not let it change, we would rather die than allow a reasoned conversation to take place, let alone any action of any kind.

What I said was that we can’t even have the conversation.

And that is exactly what is happening, because that’s what always happens. Every. Single. Time.

Both sides are perfectly convinced that they are right. That’s it and that’s all. Period. No compromise. No no no. End of discussion and fuck you, Liberals. No, fuck you, Conservatives. 

You cannot reason with unreasonable people and the people on both sides of this ongoing monkey shitfest are profoundly unreasonable people.

People called me a cynic.

They said I was wrong.

But it’s been more than two three years since I wrote the original version of this essay. How many mass murders have happened in that time? How many Americans have died in front of a gun muzzle? Hell, we’re up to three mass murders a month now.

And nothing, not one goddamned thing, has changed.

I think I’m entitled to say: I told you sons of bitches so.

// Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station


Addendum 1:  Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush
What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

Addendum 2: As noted elsewhere, I’ve  been around guns my entire life. My dad taught me to shoot when I was a kid – in fact the very first gun I ever fired was my dad’s prized black powder .75 caliber smooth bore Civil War trench piece when I was about four years old. I still own my very first gun, bought from Meyer’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.

A note about commenting:

Comments on this post are now in excess of 200.  When that happens you have to scroll to the bottom of the comment queue and hit “load more.” You may have to do this several times to see all the comments including the nested ones. This is a function of the Blogger platform, I have no control over it. // Jim Wright/Stonekettle Station.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Memorial Day 2016

I’m a few days early this year, but I’m in the midst of moving cross country and have to write when I can. Portions of this text first appeared here on Stonekettle Station beginning on Memorial Day, 2011. Each year I update the text as my thoughts on the subject evolve. The wars change. The years pass. But the message remains the same.   //  Jim


The sky is the color of gunmetal.

Outside my window the mountains bulk like a fleet of ghostly warships on the horizon.

The world is silent here in the Matsu. The air is dead still. No dog gives warning. No planes buzz overhead. There are no glad cries of neighbor children. Even the whine of the mosquitos is missing this morning. It is cool and gray and silent as only Alaska can be, the kind damp dullness you feel in your bones – or I do anyway, the ache of more than two decades of service.

I’ll miss it.

I’ll be leaving Alaska soon, moving south to the Gulf Coast of Florida, the land of endless sunshine and unrelenting heat, alligators and rednecks and noise. I’ll miss the cool silent grayness of these Alaskan mornings. It often suits my mood, this grayness, the aching bones. Contemplation and memories, gray is a good canvas to paint on.

Somehow, today of all days, cool and gray seems fitting.

This is the day we Americans are supposed to pause for a moment and remember those many who have fallen in the service of our country. 

You see, Memorial Day isn’t about honoring veterans, not the living ones anyway.

Memorial day is supposed to be about the dead.

This is the day some dutiful Americans visit the graveyards and the military cemeteries to place flowers and flags and to remember husbands and brothers and wives and mothers and sisters and sons and daughters who wore the uniform and came when called and gave the last full measure. My own father lies out there, under the cool white marble of a military cemetery, and today I dearly wish I could stop by for a visit – but it’s half a world away, too far, and my visit will have to wait another month for my drive south to Florida. It pains me that I cannot be there today, but Dad would understand.

Today is a day when we will lay the wreaths and sound the lonely trumpet and shed a tear and a salute for those comrades long gone.

Today is about the cool gray ghosts who still wander the countless battlefields of America, from Lexington to Antietam, from the Ardennes to the Chosin Reservoir, to Tet, to Basra, to Kamdesh, and all the terrible battles yet to come.

And come they will. For that is our nature.

Once this day was called Decoration Day in honor of those who died during the American Civil War.

Later the holiday became a day of remembrance for those killed in all conflicts.

Today, Memorial Day supposedly marks the passing of those  who died in uniform, both in peace and in war.

Today is supposed to be about those who gave their lives for freedom and liberty, for justice and right, for the ideal of a more perfect union.


But in reality, it’s not the soldiers we remember. It’s the endless war.


It’s been more than a decade now since those terrible days in September of 2001.

Sixteen years of war and death and sacrifice. 

For our children, this most recent generation, the ones just now reaching the age of reason and awareness, they have never known an America not at war. 

They have never lived in a nation at peace.


Think on that. No, that’s not a rhetorical statement. Think on that. Think on how this conflict has shaped them, this generation, how it defines their worldview during the most formative years of their lives and how this world will shape the one they create a decade from now for their own children.

For them, this new generation, war has become so commonplace, so ubiquitous, that it’s simply business as usual.

For them, war simply is.

For them, war is just another aspect of American life, like plumbing and electricity and the flow of money, invisible and all around. The dead come home from conflict invisibly, hidden, silently, returned to their grieving families in quiet ceremonies away from the public eye, unlamented and unnoticed by a nation grown jaded and bored with slaughter. They don’t see the dead, not until days like this one, when the bodies are safely hidden away under slabs of white marble and fields of green manicured grass and words of patriotism and valor.

For them, this generation, war is normal.

And those of us born in the 1960’s? Well we certainly can’t tell them that this is wrong.

We certainly cannot tell this generation war is not the normal state, that normality is peace without conflict. 

See, because we grew up in a nation at war too.  By the time I was sixteen, America had been fighting in Southeast Asia for my entire life.  The media was daily filled with images of blood and death, body counts, mangled and maimed soldiers, of burning helicopters and a terrifyingly incomprehensible enemy.  We were told we would go next, that we had to, or the enemy would come here, to America, and slaughter us all.

Back home? Well, back home, the streets were filled with violence and unrest and it seemed that America was about to tear itself to pieces in a clash of violently opposed ideologies – because no matter how much the enemy might despise us, we hated ourselves, our neighbors, our fellow Americans, even more.  And how did that shape our worldview, the world we have given to our own children?

For us, war is the normal state of affairs too.

And our parents?

They remember a brief period of idyllic America, the perfect peaceful 1950’s, sock hops and ducktails and white picket fences, providing you lived on the right side of the tracks – while Korea raged unseen and ignored in the background and at home they waited for the bombs to fall and saw commies hiding in every shadow.

Their parents had World War Two, and before that … well, the list goes back a long, long way and perhaps war is a normal state of affairs for us Americans after all.

There are a lot of dead to remember on this Memorial Day.


And so it goes, this endless cycle.


Today there are those who instead of picnicking  with their familiars, instead of working in their yards or enjoying the day, will be patrolling the dark and dangerous corners of this world.  They’re out there, right now, walking the bitter broken mountains of central Asia. They’re out there right now standing the long watch on and below and above the seas. They’re out there in the fetid festering jungles of South America, in the dry dusty deserts of Africa, in the blistering heat of the Middle East, in lands so remote you’ve never even heard of them – and wouldn’t believe the descriptions of such places if you did.  They are out there right now, as far away as a cold airless orbit high above the Earth and as close as local bases in their own states and the armories of their own home towns.  

Some of these men and women will not live out today.

Some will most certainly come home to Dover Air Force Base in a cold steel box beneath the draped colors of the Stars and Stripes, their war over, their dreams ash, soon to be just another restless ghost in America’s legion of the dead.

Today, there are those who wear the uniform, but can no longer serve – their duty stations are the crowded and forgotten wards of military hospitals around the world. They won’t be working in the yard or grilling out today either. Some will spend the day with family, even if they are unaware of it. 

Soon too their last battle will be over.

Today there are those who no longer serve, no longer wear the uniform, but they still fight. They fight the nightmares of Vietnam and Beirut and Mosul and Firebase Alpha and a thousand other battlefields you’ve never heard of.   They are the walking dead, killed in action only they no longer have the wit to know it and so they haunt the streets of America, the forgotten unseen discarded cold gray ghosts of war and conflict, poisoned by nightmares, by pills and alcohol and poverty, slowly fading away.

And today, of course, there are those who no longer fight, no longer struggle, no longer remember.  They lay entombed in the soil of foreign nations, at Normandy, at Tunis, at the Ardennes, at Brookwood and Cambridge, at Flanders and Lorraine, at Manila, Mexico City, in the Netherlands, the Somme, and many other places whose names most Americans no longer remember or never knew. One hundred and twenty four thousand, nine hundred and nine American servicemen lay interred forever in twenty-four cemeteries on foreign shores and there they will stay, never to return to America.  They were the lucky ones, if you can call it luck, found and honored and laid to rest by their fellows.  Others, well, their bones are myriad and they litter the sea floor beneath all the oceans of the world or are lost in the jungles and deserts on all the world’s continents, their resting places unknown and unremembered. 

Today, here, within the boundaries of the United States, there are one hundred and forty-six national military cemeteries, and more than a million Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and Guardsmen lie beneath the cold white granite, my own father among their brave company. 

Their battles are long, long over, even if the war still rages on.

They, all of them, came when called, some of their own free will and some not, and did their duty and no one, no one, can ask any more of them.

For them, for all of them, for those who have fallen or will fall in this lousy war, and for all those who have fallen in all the conflicts we’ve fought lo these many years, for those who will fall tomorrow, today raise a glass and give a nod towards the flag.

Remember them.

Remember those cool gray ghosts.

If only for a moment.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Two Wolves

I was invited to speak before a meeting of the MatSu Democrats at their monthly Egan Dinner in Palmer, Alaska. This is an approximate transcript of my comments.


…your Earth was crumbling all around you. You've got simultaneous epidemics of obesity and starvation! Explain that one! Bees and butterflies start to disappear, the glaciers melt, algae blooms. All around you the coal mine canaries are dropping dead and you. Won't. Take. The. Hint!

In every moment there exists the possibility of a better future, but you people won't believe it. And because you won't believe it you won't do what is necessary to make it a reality. So, you dwell on this terrible future. You resign yourselves to it for one reason, because that future does not ask anything of you today.
      - Governor Nix, Tomorrowland, Walt Disney Pictures, 2015

One of my  favorite movies last year was Disney’s Tomorrowland.

This is exactly the kind of movie I enjoy. I’ve watched it a dozen times. I love it. I love everything about it.

It’s on old fashioned Disney film, the kind I grew up with, the kind old Walt himself would have dearly loved.

On the surface, Tomorrowland seems to be a lighthearted romp across time and space where the bad guys aren’t really all that evil and the good guys are quirky smart kids who manage to save the day with equal parts pluck, ingenuity, and courage. Also there are robots. The brilliant young stars, Britt Robertson, Raffey Cassidy, Pierce Gagnon, and Thomas Robinson, easily hold their own on screen against larger than life veterans George Clooney and Hugh Laurie – and that’s an impressive feat indeed.  

But, underneath?

Underneath Tomorrowland is a pointed examination of an America that that has become jaded and tired and bitter and lost the ability to dream of a better future.

Ultimately, Tomorrowland is about love and hope and above all, optimism.


Yeah, right.

Old fashioned Disney optimism in an age of dystopian teen flicks and bleak dark movies of war and conflict? That was the movie’s one unforgivable sin. They should have stuck with pirates. Everybody loves pirates.

Naturally the critics hated Tomorrowland.

Strip Tomorrowland down to its essentials, and you get an ending out of "I'd like to teach the world to sing" and a moral which boils down to: Just be positive, OK? So OK. I'm positive Tomorrowland was a disappointment.
- Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger 1.5 Stars out of 4

Predictably it bombed in theaters.

Yes, the two bad guys of the movie were bitter, angry white men. The rest of the film was mostly women and a wide range of races. The entire final montage, where they seemed to be collecting people to rescue the world of the future included no white males (I believe). In a painful exercise of political correctness they had Asian artists and African tribesman who were going to save the future.
- Comment Forum, Internet Movie Database

But the most telling comments were ones like this.

The annoying “smart” girl at the beginning of the movie says she's an optimist and it just went down hill [sic] from there. It's nothing but another liberal propaganda movie about saving the planet.

The word “propaganda” appears often in internet comments describing Tomorrowland, followed a close second by “liberal.”


When was it, exactly, that optimism became a bad thing?


When did belief in a better future and the willingness to do the things necessary to make that future a reality become something Americans sneer at and dismiss as propaganda?

When was it that optimism became a liberal ideal?

We used to believe in optimism, we Americans, most of us anyway.

America was literally founded on the idea of a better future. It’s right there in the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America, “…in order to form a more perfect union… ” and if that’s not optimism, I don’t know what is.

You don’t fight for freedom from tyranny if you’re not an optimist.

You don’t tell the nation that the only thing to fear is fear itself if you’re not an optimist, if you don’t believe in a better future.

You don’t take to the streets demanding freedom, the right to vote, civil rights, or to rail against the war (whichever war), or to rally America to battle (whichever battle), unless you optimistically believe you can change the world for the better.

For most of our history, optimism wasn’t some silly liberal idea, it was an American idea.

Sure it was.

The movie Tomorrowland begins with young Frank Walker (Thomas Robinson) at the 1964 World's Fair and this is no coincidence.

The 1964 World World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, was the very epitome of optimism. It’s where Disney’s Tomorrowland was born. Fifty-eight nations came together in Queens to build 650 acres of technology and innovation under the Unisphere.  Fifty-one million people from all over the world came to see the future as envisioned by General Electric, Ford, General Motors, Chrysler, IBM, Bell Telephone, US Steel, Pepsi Cola, Dupont, RCA, Westinghouse, and Walt Disney. The motto of the fair was “Peace through understanding” – less than two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis nearly ended civilization.

That’s optimism indeed.

The Unisphere still stands in Flushing Meadows to this very day, a testament to innovation and technology, to a time when human beings of courage and vision came together to build a better future. Three years before the fair opened the first American flew in space, five years after the fair closed, men walked on the moon.

That fair was famous. It's still famous as a moment in history when we truly believed.

And that wasn’t the first time. 

Thirty years earlier, on the eve of world war, forty-four million people from all over the world gathered in Flushing Meadows for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. The theme of that fair was “Dawn of a New Day” and the world of tomorrow:

The eyes of the Fair are on the future — not in the sense of peering toward the unknown nor attempting to foretell the events of tomorrow and the shape of things to come, but in the sense of presenting a new and clearer view of today in preparation for tomorrow; a view of the forces and ideas that prevail as well as the machines.

To its visitors the Fair will say: "Here are the materials, ideas, and forces at work in our world. These are the tools with which the World of Tomorrow must be made. They are all interesting and much effort has been expended to lay them before you in an interesting way. Familiarity with today is the best preparation for the future.

Beginning in 1851 in France and continuing into the late 1970s, the world’s fairs were about optimism.  The theme was always about innovation and vision. About building a better future. About the world of tomorrow.

But then, somewhere in the 1980's, in the post-Vietnam malaise, at the height of the Cold War when superpowers rattled their sabers and the world could end at any moment in nuclear fire – and nearly did more than once – optimism fell out of fashion. Somehow the world of tomorrow became a liberal hippy ideal to be sneered at and dismissed as naïve and old fashioned and unsuited to a bitter and jaded America.

And the world fairs became Expositions of nation branding instead of celebrations of a brighter future. And now? Nobody remembers them at all.

That's a reflection of our world, an America where over the last three decades we've become a nation of bitter pessimists and a people who embrace the terrible future. Who resign themselves to that future, the one of disaster and ruin, because it’s easy. We hope for it. We pray for it. We stock our basement arsenals and dream of a day when we’ll get to live on cold canned hash and use those weapons on our neighbors.

That's the entire message of people like Donald Trump. It is. "Make America Great again" only resonates with people who believe the future is a terrible place and that everything is going straight to hell. It’s a message that only appeals to those who sneered in contempt at “Hope and Change.”

That’s the pessimistic message of America’s largest religion, Ted Cruz’s God. The End Times, Armageddon, fire and brimstone. Salvation by force, under threat of eternal damnation. Everything ends the same way in this religion: Gay people get married? Their god will destroy us all. Trans people can use a bathroom? Death from the sky! Women control their own bodies? Damnation from upon high! Peace treaty with Iran? End of freedom! And so on and on and on. That’s the punchline to every joke with these people, death and ruin and God’s wrath.

Somehow, that bitter defeatist frightened message has become the entire Republican platform. Woe. Doom. Misery. War. Pessimism. You better watch out or God will kill us all!

Everything is a worst case scenario with these people.

From Ebola to the End Times, it’s an endless litany detailing a terrible future. They dwell on it. And they resign themselves to it for one reason, because it’s easy, because that terrible future doesn’t ask anything of them today.

When is the last time you heard one of these people speak of Tomorrowland? That bright shining optimistic future, that better world, the one we ourselves can create now if we only had the will and determination?

It's not just limited to conservatives.

Somehow, over the last few decades, we’ve allowed the pessimists to define the narrative.

Take this last Thursday’s Democratic debate. What stood out? What was the takeaway?

Minimum wage.

That's about the only thing I remember from the Democratic debate. Minimum wage.

Clinton and Sanders arguing over making the Minimum Wage into a Living Wage. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. And everything.

Bear with me for a minute.

Opponents of raising the minimum wage, Wall Street, conservative business owners, Republican politicians, say that minimum wage was never intended to be a living wage (it actually was, but there are damned few places in America you could live on it, even if you worked 60 hours a week). Rather, they say, it was intended for entry-level jobs, burger-flippers and toilet scrubbers and convenience store cashiers. The idea of the so-called American dream is you start out at the bottom, changing the sheets in one of Trump's hotels say, and work your way up until one day you own the casino and can hire a bunch of maids of your own.

This is the very cornerstone of American capitalism.

This is the green beating heart of trickle-down economics. 

In fact, for conservatives it doesn’t go far enough. A number of prominent conservatives have advocated elimination of the minimum wage altogether. The logic being if business can pay employees less they'll hire more employees, Reaganomics in action, and a low wage will incentivize those dull proletarians at the bottom of the heap to better themselves, to move up to better paying jobs, ones that do pay a living wage, instead of being content at the bottom of the ladder. Those that don't? Well, that’s their problem, they had their opportunity same as everybody else.

Except over the last years all those good jobs what pay an actual living wage?

Yeah, the same sons of bitches who floated this Dickensian Utopia have been sending all of those jobs to Mexico and India and China and Bangladesh where they can get away with paying actual slave wages.

Then they moved their Headquarters to the Caribbean so they could avoid paying taxes on the resulting profits.

And so, here we are, arguing over the minimum wage, because those are the only jobs left.

That’s what Clinton and Sanders should have been talking about on that stage. The deliberate and systematic and ongoing loss of opportunity, the fact that we’ve actually accepted that as not only the status quo but the future, so much so that we’re reduced to quibbling over a miserable $3 at the bottom end of the scale.

Yes, I know this is a large part of the substance of Sanders’ campaign. But I’m not talking about his campaign, I’m talking about the national narrative as reflected in the substance and format of our political debates on both sides of the aisle.

We’ve settled.

We’ve resigned ourselves to a future of minimum wage, to a dull gray proletariat ruled over by fabulously wealthy oligarchs.

You see it all around you.

You live in a nation that incentivizes business and industry to pay slave wages overseas instead of building Tomorrowland right here.

You live in a nation where we’d rather put our kids into charter schools instead of fixing public education for all.

You live in a nation where we’d rather pay farmers not to grow food instead of feeding the hungry or employing people and paying them enough to feed themselves.

You live in a nation where a significant fraction of people would rather buy guns and build bunkers and pray for the end of the world instead of building a better future right now where those things are unnecessary.


Because that terrible future doesn’t ask one damned thing of us today.

In every moment there exists the possibility of a better future, but you have to believe in it.  You have to believe in Tomorrowland. You have to believe optimism is an American trait.

And then you have to do the things necessary to make that better future a reality.

They’re out there, you know. The dreamers. The optimists. The ones  working every single day to literally build Tomorrowland. 

Last week something amazing happened: a robot spaceship successfully landed on a robot ship at sea.

An incredible technological feat – but for many it was just a stunt, they have no idea of the larger picture. Because they don’t believe.

You see, Elon Musk, the man behind SpaceX and that landing, he wants to go to Mars.

And not just go to Mars, he wants to build Tomorrowland there.

And if SpaceX can land a rocket on a barge in the middle of the ocean, they can land a ship anywhere. Including Mars. What Musk has here is the basis of a transportation system that can fly men and machines anywhere on the globe in a matter of minutes – any globe, especially one like Mars with a surface gravity one third that of earth. What Musk has is the first step in a system that can loft the parts needed to build the ships that will go to another world and land human beings and cargo there safely. More, Musk’s Tesla company is building high performance cars that can go hundreds of miles on a charge. And that same battery system can be rapidly recharged from a variety of sources. More, that same battery can be installed in a Tesla Power Wall and used to power a house, or stacked in series to run much bigger installations. And then there’s SolarCity, Elon Musk’s pioneering company dedicated to sustainable solar power systems – like the kind you’d need on Mars to charge those Tesla power packs, which in turn can be used to distill rocket fuel from native Martian resources to power those rockets. The rest is just details.

What Musk has is literally the basis of Tomorrowland, a new human civilization on another world.

Elon Musk is one man.

One man of vision and daring and courage and optimism for a better future. A single man who gathered around him those of similar vision and determination, SpaceX, Tesla, SolarCity, and they are literally building that better future right now.

That’s what that rocket landing last week meant. Tomorrowland.

Imagine a nation of such people.

Imagine a nation of optimists.

Imagine a nation of people who believe in that better future instead of the terrible one.

Imagine a nation of people who are willing to make that future a reality.

There was a time when Americans believed in Tomorrowland. Some of us still do. And it is our duty as citizens to be optimists. To do the things necessary to make that future a reality.

Pessimists don't build starships.

If you want a better nation, be better citizens.


A young Cherokee boy came to his grandfather, angry at a friend who had done him an injustice, and asked for advice. 

"Let me tell you a story,” offered the grandfather. “I too, at times, have felt a great hate for those that have taken so much, with no sorrow for what they do. But hate wears you down, and does not hurt your enemy. It is like taking poison and wishing your enemy would die. I have struggled with these feelings many times. It is as if there are two wolves inside me. One is good and does no harm. He lives in harmony with all around him, and does not take offense when no offense was intended. He will only fight when it is right to do so, and in the right way.  But the other wolf, ah! He is full of anger! The littlest thing will set him into a fit of temper. He fights everyone, all the time, for no reason. He cannot think because his anger and hate are so great. It is helpless anger, for his anger will change nothing. Sometimes, it is hard to live with these two wolves inside me, for both of them try to dominate my spirit."

The boy asked, "Which one wins, Grandfather?"

"The one I feed."
   - The Wolves Within, often attributed to oral history of the Cherokee people
      (edit: the origin of the story is vague, it may or may not be native American)