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Monday, October 9, 2017

Whitewash


This post first appeared on Columbus Day, 2014. // Jim



Here's what I don't get: Pluto.

More specifically, I don't get the argument over what to call it.

I’ve seen people nearly come to blows over Pluto.

And I just don’t get it.

Planet, minor planet, Kuiper Belt object, whatever.

I mean, if you're not an astronomer – that is: a vitamin D deficient long-hair who spends all night staring at a computer monitor filled with mathematical gibberish instead of watching Bang Bang Theory like normal people – why do you care?

No, really, why do you care?

Go outside, look up. Where’s Pluto?

Where?

You have no goddamned idea, do you?

It’s not something you need to deal with on a daily basis. Hell, it's not even in the bible, is it?

And let’s be honest, shall we? The closest most Americans get to astronomy is watching Dancing With The Stars and giggling over the pronunciation of Uranus.

So, I’ll ask again: why does anybody care what the hell science calls the damned rock?

Hell, Clyde Tombaugh could have just made the whole thing up...


What?


Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. American astronomer. The guy who “discovered” Pluto back in 1930. You know, Clyde Tombaugh. I mean, you're all over the whole Pluto thing, right? Probably have Clyde's swimsuit poster on your bedroom wall. Oh, sure, Clyde. Clyde Tombaugh. Big fan. Saw the movie with Brad Pitt as Tomblargh, that’s the one with the sparkly vampire zombie Nazis, right?

Right.

Tombaugh could have made it up. Sure he could have.  And how would you know? Pluto, it’s just a spot on a photographic plate. I mean, who verified this? Other astronomers? Oh, and we believe them, do we? We won't take science's word for for evolution, climate change, Bigfoot, oh hell no – but Pluto? Science, totally real, Dude, totally.

A couple years back the little world, which Americans can’t see and never think about, was demoted from planet to not-planet.

And we lost our shit over it.

What? They demoted Pluto? Oh, now it’s on!

It’s a wonder astronomers weren’t dragged from the universities and burned alive.

Politicians and pundits weighed in with ponderous gravity. Congress milled about in various orbits of outrage and actually considered a bill mandating the little frozen ice ball be declared a Full Planet in law if not in fact.

Ironic, isn’t it? That we can’t agree people are equal, but, man, we’re all about civil rights for planets.

I mean, think about it, what if Pluto turns out to be black? Or gay? Would you still want it to marry your sister? I mean, come on, folks, think it through, it’s not rocket science … ur, okay, maybe it is, but I think I’ve made my point here.

The web was aflame with pitched battles. People were all, "Oh I've always been a huge Pluto fan! Favorite planet ever, man, love how they named it after the Disney character, yo!"

And it's still going on.

Somebody asked me about it just the other day: say, Jim, where do you come down on this whole Pluto demotion issue? I sure hope you're not one of them "minor world" guys.

Hey now, I replied, some of my best friends are dwarf planets…

Here in the nation of the perpetually outraged and offended, Pluto’s status is just another thing to be outraged and offended about. What? What's that? They've demoted Pluto? Why those dirty SONS OF BITCHES! In my day we had nine planets! Nine! But now? Everything is going to shit. This is probably Obama’s fault. That guy. You know. 

As if we're all somehow diminished as human beings, as Americans, if Pluto isn't a planet.

Eight? Eight planets? Just eight planets? But, but, but, what if other solar systems have MORE THAN US? WHAT THEN? WE CAN'T HAVE LESS PLANETS THAN ALPHA CENTAURI FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, WE'LL BE THE LAUGHING STOCK OF THE UNIVERSE! ALIENS WILL THINK WE’VE GOT LITTLE DICKS! WE'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING!

Honestly, what's next? We gonna put some big chrome stacks on Jupiter and hang a giant pair of Truck Nutz on Neptune?


You’re wondering where I’m going with this, aren’t you?


Columbus Day.

That’s where I’m going. Columbus Day.

Pluto. Columbus Day. How could you not see that coming?

Honestly, it’s like you people don’t know me at all.

Today is Columbus Day in America.

It’s a bullshit minor holiday that’s mostly just an excuse for federal employees to get a paid day off.

Because, you know, that’s what we need, another reason for Congress to take a long weekend. Not like there’s a big backlog of legislation or anything, right?

I mean, what exactly are the ancient traditions associated with this holiday?

Look, I’m not unpatriotic, I know my American history, sure, I know the part about going to Wal-Mart for “Columbus Day Blow Out Deals.” I’m not a total Philistine. But I’m a little hazy on the religious aspects. Do we gather together at Grandma’s house, she’ll make her famous deep fried ham stuffed with firecrackers and syphilis, the kids will carve a Plymouth Rock from gingerbread while Uncle Phil gets plastered and manages to light his balls on fire again from shooting bottle-rockets out of his ass in the backyard, we’ll watch the big Macy’s Columbus Day parade in new york where men dressed as Conquistadors wade ashore from floats that look like Spanish galleons in search of gold and slaves under the baleful copper gaze of Lady Liberty, then we’ll all meet down at the church for the traditional Columbus Day Prayer Of Peace and Togetherness? Are there little construction paper war bonnets? Fireworks? Do we get to nail somebody to a cross? Is there a gift exchange? Tell me there’s at least going to be a giant male rabbit who shits foil covered chocolate eggs. Something.

But, of course, there’s none of that.

So far as I can tell, the primary Columbus Day tradition involves shouting variations of the phrase:  “Oh what the fuck? Why is the post office closed?

Folks, Columbus Day is the Pluto of American holidays.

Most Americans have no idea where this stupid “holiday” came from and most of the time they couldn’t care less.  Columbus, he’s the guy who discovered America, right? He was like the first American … or was that George Jefferson? I forget, anyway, off to Wal-Mart, gotta make a beer run before Dancin’ Wit Da Starz comes on.

I mean, come on.

Columbus day? Really?

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
A compass also helped him know
How to find the way to go.
Ninety sailors were on board;
Some men worked while others snored.
Then the workers went to sleep;
And others watched the ocean deep.
Day after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
"Indians!  Indians!"  Columbus cried;
His heart was filled with joyful pride.
But "India" the land was not;
It was the Bahamas, and it was hot.
The Arakawa natives were very nice;
They gave the sailors food and spice.
Columbus sailed on to find some gold
To bring back home, as he'd been told.
He made the trip again and again,
Trading gold to bring to Spain.
The first American?  No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.

Except it turns out almost all of that is, literally, whitewashed bullshit.

Columbus was an asshole, even his friends thought so – what few friends he had.  He routinely screwed his own crew out of money that he’d promised them and gloated about it, rubbing their faces in it. When his men threatened to mutiny (which happened repeatedly because Columbus was a shitty leader), he handed out pre-pubescent native girls as compensation, after enslaving their parents. He justified genocide by reasoning that so long as he didn’t let anybody convert the natives, he wasn’t killing Christians so God had to be good with it.  They used to say you could navigate between Europe and the New World without a compass, all you had to do was follow the trail of dead Indians floating behind Columbus’ ships.  He ruled Hispaniola as a brutal tyrant, see, Columbus wasn’t exactly keen on democracy and liberty – though he was a big fan of gold. 

Christopher Columbus didn’t discover the United States.

In fact, Columbus never set foot on any part of what is now the United States. Never. He wasn’t even close to the first European to reach the shores of the New World. And he certainly wasn’t an American, he was an Italian sailing under a Spanish flag.

Columbus never set foot on what is nowadays American soil.  Never. He made his voyages nearly 300 years before the United States even existed.

Most Americans couldn’t tell you much of anything about Christopher Columbus beyond the silly fairytale of that child’s nursery rhyme  – let alone anything about the actual man who called himself Cristóbal Colón.

What? What’s that you say? Oh, c’mon now, Jim? What are you, some kind of America hater? Why Christopher Columbus was a genuine American hero. You’re just repeating liberal lies. Besides, who really knows what happened back then?

Yeah, except for the part where Columbus himself documented his atrocities in his own logs and diaries in full detail – and it’s not me who whitewashed history.

In fact, Columbus Day as a federal holiday is a relatively recent invention created whole cloth by people who are largely ignorant of and tone-deaf to actual American history.

But just like Pluto, bring up demoting Columbus’ place in the Pantheon of American Fairytales and watch the spittle start to fly – as if we, as Americans, will somehow be diminished if we don’t have a largely ignored holiday named after a genocidal tyrant who died two and half centuries before our country was even founded.

And you want to know what the really funny part is?

Do you?

Because I’ll tell you.  See, the people most adamant about the sanctity of Columbus Day? Yeah, those Americans? They’re the very same people, the very same people almost name for name, who want English declared the official language of the United States and who demand that the southern border be secured with a wall a hundred feet high specifically to keep out Christopher Columbus’ Spanish speaking descendants.

Now, how’s that for irony?

Listen, you know what will happen to America if Pluto is allowed to remain a minor planet?

Nothing.

Likewise, you know what will happen to our nation if we dump Columbus Day?

Nothing.

Listen to me, you want a day off in October?

Then how about a holiday that includes us all?

How about a day that celebrates our great accomplishments as a nation? How about history and events we don’t have to whitewash? 

How about a holiday where we Americans celebrate our great accomplishments, our moments of exploration and discovery?

We can talk about the first peoples to arrive here chasing wooly mammoths 25,000 years ago. We can celebrate the native cultures that once dominated this continent – the ones we name our rivers and states and sports teams after. We can talk about the Viking longships that explored our shores long before Columbus – and hell, we can even talk about The Great Navigator himself, if we want. Then let us celebrate and remember those moments in time where we Americans, all of us, came together in wonder and awe. Let us remember our voyages of discovery and exploration and hope. From the Nome Serum Run to the California Gold Rush, from Kitty Hawk to the footprints in Mare Tranquilities, Columbia and Challenger and Apollo One, to Voyager and Curiosity and beyond.

We’ll open the museums and the history books and teach our children what it is to be an American - and maybe one day we will again became a nation and a people who look outward instead of staring into our own festering bellybuttons.

Let’s call it Clyde Tombaugh Day.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Seven Stages of Gun Violence


Forward:

I stopped updating this for every mass shooting.

Because I was updating it every other day.

So now I update it only when the mass killing breaks some kind of record or is otherwise notable. Last time that happened was June 14, 2017. We didn’t even make 6 months.

Congratulations on the slaughter, America. Heck of a job.

It’s now been two three four five 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 ninety one hundred and fifty two hundred thousand Americans have died from gun violence, three seven ten twenty fifty times more than died on September 11th, 2001, more than twenty times all the military personnel killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, twice the number of 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.

A lot of people told me I was wrong, some in less than flattering terms. Some threatened to beat me bloody or kill me to make their point.

Those people are not only fools, they are damned 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, another for October 1, 2015, another for June 14, 2017, 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; the high frontier belongs to Russia and China. We lack the will to save our children from rising seas and a warming earth. We spend literally trillions on aircraft carriers and invisible fighter jets and our nuclear arsenal, but we somehow can’t spare a dime to ensure every American has access to healthcare, or  food, or clean water, or a warm place to sleep. But goddamn, man, we’ve got the world beat in bloody murder.

Bang bang bang. This – this right here – is the future the NRA wanted.



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.  June 12, 2016, a 29-year-old security guard killed forty-nine people and wounded fifty-eight others at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and then died in a gunfight with police who had to use explosives and a military-grade armored assault carrier to bring him down.

Last time I updated this was four months ago, 14 June, 2017, when four people including House Majority Whip, Steve Scalise, were shot during baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.  A ten minute gun battle followed the initial shooting – in the middle of the nation’s capital – until eventually the gunman was himself shot by police. He died.

I said then, “Who knows? Maybe now they’ll finally do something about gun violence in America.” Now that another member of congress had been shot. A conservative gun advocate this time instead of a liberal. Maybe.

I also noted, “But I wouldn’t count on it.”

And, of course, congress did nothing.

Scalise returned to Capitol Hill and went right back to taking money from the gun lobby.

And now? Today? Here we are, America. Here we are yet again. Bang, Bang, Bang.

Another massacre. Fifty-nine dead. Five hundred and twenty-seven wounded or injured.

Six hundred people.

Six hundred people.

ONE man did that.

ONE man. With a personal arsenal and unlimited access to guns.


And that, my friends, is exactly the power the gun nuts in this country want every man to have.


This slaughter is exactly the future the National Rifle Association and their pet politicians wanted.

This is the power the NRA wants in the hands of every American – as they define American anyway.

What?

What’s that?

Oh no. No. Fuck you. Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare try to tell me different. This is the future the NRA wants. Right here. This is the future these sons of bitches want. This is exactly – exactly – the power they want every American to have. The power to murder six hundred people in seconds. And don’t you dare try to tell me otherwise.

This the future the NRA wanted.

And they got it.

This slaughter belongs to the NRA and the gun lobbyists and the gun manufacturers.

The blood of every victim is on Congress’s hands.

And so here we are again. Friends, bereft families grieving with 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 and Tom Selleck.

Another flurry of empty prayers and sound-bites from our bought and paid for legislature and a Twitter storm from the White House.

Another day of “expert” opinions from the media and Facebook, from people who have no training and no experience and who have never been shot at.

And another day when gun and ammo manufacturer stocks surged up as Americans ran down to the gun store to load up.

This is the point where I used to type bloody horror.  And it is, a bloody horror, but it’s just another bloody horror.  Business as usual.  Sandy Hook. Aurora. Pulse. Shrug. So? Fifty-nine dead, nearly six hundred wounded. So? What? That’s the price freedom.

That’s the price of freedom.

Isn’t it?

Well, isn’t it?

I mean, why else would we put up with this?

Bloody slaughter, it’s certainly no longer a surprise – and hasn’t been for a very long time.

Gun violence? Mass slaughter? That’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? Five hundred? A thousand? How many? Who knows? 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 suicidal drifter, and terrorist 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 four times a month now.

What’s that, you say? Oh yes, another grinning nut with a personal arsenal shot up a concert? 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 shootings are still, mostly, news. I have no idea how much longer this will be so, Americans don’t have much of an attention span unless you up the wow factor. Some guy went bonkers and killed a bunch of people? Yawn, I’ve seen worse. What’s the body count this time? Fifty? And he got nearly 600? That’s some good shooting, man. I’ll tune for that! But, maybe next time we could get the guy to wear a Bruce Willis costume while shooting a chain-gun from the back of a crashing stealth fighter in the middle of Times Square? Because that would so cool.

What?

Oh. I see.

Fifty-nine dead. Nearly six hundred wounded. By one man. Sure, I’m the one being ridiculous. Right.

Anyway, 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 neighborhood, 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 talk about false flag operations and possible links to ISIS and whether or not a white man can be a terrorist, all the while 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 of Why He Did It.

The Big Giant Orange Leader will tweet, blaming North Korea and Fake News and somehow, some way, it’ll be Hillary Clinton’s fault. Or maybe Bill’s.

Politicians will each rail loudly against those who would politicize this terrible event – while they themselves politicize the event and blame whoever happens to be convenient.

And already social media is a surging froth of foreign trolls and bot swarms, shaping public opinion, urging on more violence and division, aided and abetted by Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg's utter indifference to anything but profit and their companies’ continuing inability to do anything whatsoever to protect their own users.

By the time the sad truth comes out, if it ever does, whatever it is, nobody will even remember Las Vegas. We’ll be a dozen, two dozen, mass shootings on by then and the only thing Americans will remember about this guy is that he is yet another sterling example of whatever political point they’re trying to make at that particular moment.

For us, the shooter isn’t a real person.

He’s a chimera, an empty shell we can fill with whatever substance best suits our worldview.

We don’t really care why he did it and knowing won’t keep the next massacre from happening.


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 – other than easy access to guns – 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 – other than easy access to guns, that is.

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, every media outlet will explain in concerned tones. 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.

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 healthcare.

Which, of course, will almost immediately turn into a shitfit between political ideologies.

Which means that nothing whatsoever will be done.

Which means that I’ll be forced to update this essay again, and again, and again, and the even more simple truth of the matter is that a society doesn’t allow this sort of thing to go on and on unless it is, at least to some degree, insane.

But you see, the thing is that these shootings all have nothing in common.

Nothing in common, except for one thing.

One thing.

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

Guns.



Stage Four, Blame:

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

We are quite literally insane.

We won’t face reality.

We won’t face the single common denominator.

Instead…

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 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 victims (with the exception of certain predictable talk radio pundits who’ll insinuate that the wounded 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.

Guns.

Guns. Guns. 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 are 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, the NRA will quietly make the rounds on Capitol Hill, handing out checks, and Congress, ever eager to promote the idea that they care, will yet again stage a mock vote to defund healthcare in America or announce a bill that gives billionaires another tax break 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.




Afterword:

Ok, snark off.  Let me be serious.

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’ve had decades of professional training. I am a professionally trained firearms instructor with decades of experience. And I spent most of my adult life in war zones around the world.

I know something about guns and violence.

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 (and now people on both sides will write to argue why they’re right and the other side is wrong, predictably).

People called me a cynic.

They said I was wrong.

But it’s been more than two five 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 four or five mass murders a month now.

We’ve actually had a president shot. We’ve had two members of congress shot.

And nothing, not one goddamned thing, has changed.

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


 


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 Meijer 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 graduated from nearly 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, even though I don’t live there anymore, 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.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Ship of Fools

Only a fool tests the depth of the water with both feet
-- African proverb


Trump was going to defeat ISIS in the first 30 days.

He was going to “win” in Afghanistan – after all, he knew more than the generals who had studied war for their entire lives and who had been fighting in Afghanistan for more than a decade. He knew more than the State Department. He knew more than the history professors. He scoffed at the experts, the “elites,” because he knew more than they did. Remember?

He was going to "repeal and replace" Obamacare "on Day One." That’s what he promised. It seemed impossible, such a promise, but it would be easy, he said. He had a great plan. Great, Folks, you’ll see.

He was going to build a wall and make Mexico pay for it. When critics questioned how that would work, how he could possibly make good on such a preposterous promise, they were shouted down.  And the press was vilified and penned into corrals far from the stage.

He was going to throw out all the illegal immigrants.

He was going to make a deal with North Korea and Iran and China and Russia and the world.

He was going to … do something. Yes, something. Something something gazpacho and make America great again.

The ignorant mouth breathers who make up his base ate it up, even though he was always short on details and long on rhetoric.

They actually believed him.

They actually believed Donald Trump – Donald Trump of all people – could somehow bring them some vague undefined victory in the Middle East. That he would somehow secure 10,000 miles of porous American borders and make a profit doing it. That he would give them great high-paying jobs complete with healthcare that didn’t require any effort or education or initiative on their part whatsoever while at the same time sticking it to everybody they considered lazy and unworthy and unfit to be an American. And somehow – somehow – he would cut taxes and reduce the size of government while at the very same time increasing spending by untold billions on some mightily “restored” military and he was going to eliminate the national debt through some magical new trade deal that he would personally work out with the rest of the world.

And he was going to power the whole damned thing with clean coal.

And they actually believed him.

They did.

But then these are the same drooling cross-eyed dipshits who think a billionaire New York real-estate developer who builds tacky casinos and swanky country clubs staffed by foreign workers, a Reality TV host whose shows are an hour-long fuck-fest of tits and ass and self-serving backstabbing narcissism portrayed by the personification of some backwoods West Virginia county fair demolition derby cheered on by drunken rednecks in cow shit spackled overalls, married to a string of vapid trophy wives, buoyed up incestuous nepotism, and surrounded by a scurrying host of toadies, sycophants, ass kissers, discredited fringe political hacks, cashiered generals, Wall Street crooks, war profiteers and foreign interests, a guy who has never shown the least charity or nobility or degree of compassion, a guy who daily craps in a golden toilet, yeah, that guy, is actually going to look out for their interests from his penthouse windows.

These are people who steadfastly refuse to face reality in any fashion while the seas rise and America falls.

These are people who think there are easy, cheap, simple sound-bite answers to the problems of civilization.

These are people who believe that you can end terrorism by bombing nations into rubble -- because for them, every problem can be solved with a punch in the face or a bullet in the guts.

These are people who think poverty, racism, and inequity can be solved by smugly telling poor people, "get a job, loser!"

These are people who actually think human migration can by stopped by a wall despite thousand of years of history that repeatedly and definitively proves exactly the opposite.

image

This morning, even the most stalwart Trump supporters are howling in outraged betrayal.

Reality is setting in, both for Trump and for them.

The Great Wall they were promised is just a renovation of what they already had, and they’re going to pay for it, not Mexico. Because building an actual giant wall across 2000 miles of Mexican border is not only impractical, it’s fiscally impossible – and it won’t work anyway.

Trump is now making noises that he’s maybe open to fixing Obamacare, single-payer in the form of Medicare for All is suddenly making progress in Congress, and the diehard Trump supporters are disappointed to the edge of tears.

Trump’s big MOAB of a plan to crush ISIS is a dud, and his plan for Afghanistan is, well, more of the same.

And now?

This morning he’s actually praising the Dreamers and saying he doesn’t want them kicked out of the country.

Former Trump supporters like Anne Coulter…

image

… are now shitting their collective colons inside out in white hot fury.

image

A year ago, those like Coulter thought Trump was “the only one making sense.”

Except he wasn’t.

He wasn’t making sense.

He never made sense.

At all.  Ever.

He never answered a single question. He never gave any details. There was never any plan of any substance whatsoever.

It was all just bombast and bluster, vague hand waving and impossible promises and I’d like to say than any fool could have seen it coming but that’s obviously not true. More than Sixty millions fools just like Anne Coulter couldn’t seem to see it. 

image

The simple truth of the matter is that there are no simple solutions.

image

There are no simple solutions and there never have been.


If you believed Trump’s promises, well, you’re a goddamned fool and you have nobody to blame but yourself.


You can't end terrorism.

Not in thirty days. Not in thirty years. Not ever.

War, conflict, terrorism, you can't end war and killing and destruction by more war, more conflict, more terror.

Wars to end all wars don’t. And never have.

You can't drop civilization on people from the belly of a B-52.

What’s that?

World War II?

We ended World War II by bombing the Nazis and the Japs out of existence?

Did we?

Did we really?

Or did the killing actually end when those nations were rebuilt over decades into new, peaceful, productive civilizations? When the things that precipitated that war, food, resources, rights, industrialization, inequality, trade, economy, were addressed and at least to some degree fixed.

I spent my entire adult life bent to the business of war. I’m a professional at it. So don’t roll your eyes and call me some silly liberal peacenik with flowers in my hair. I know all about war and I’m not at all a fool. I’m not saying that the war isn’t sometimes necessary, or that we don’t need rough men ready to do violence in the night on our behalf.

But war is a failure of civilization.

Afghanistan has been bombed to rubble over and over, but there still isn’t any peace there.

Africa has been bombed and blown up and raped and mauled and mangled and shot and pillaged and there still isn’t peace there.

No matter how many bombs, no matter how much death, no matter how many die, the war, conflict, terrorism does not end.

It does not end until there is something better.

It’s not the bombs that end the war and terrorism, it’s civilization.

You can't magically give everybody healthcare. You can't magically feed everybody. You can't magically end poverty, homelessness, racism, hate, disenfranchisement by waving your hand.

You can't do it by telling people to get jobs.

You can't do it by telling people to pull themselves up if there’s nowhere for them to pull themselves up to.

You can't do it by giving people things.

But you also can’t do it by not giving them things.

You can't end illegal immigration by arresting people.

You can't end illegal immigration by deporting people.

You can't end illegal immigration by imprisoning people.

You can't end illegal immigration by building a fucking wall, no matter how long or how high.


You cannot – can not – make America great by engaging in the things terrible countries do.


There are no simple answers.

Civilization is complicated.

Our civilization is the most complex in all of history.

All of these things, war, peace, terrorism, safety, poverty, economic opportunity, law and order, chaos, immigration, jobs, stability, all of these things are facets of the same complex, ever-changing, fluidly dynamic structure – that is: civilization.

There are no simple answers.

There are no permanent answers.

Moreover, there is no single right answer.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Not on the left. Not on the right. It’s more complicated than that. It will always be more complicated than that.

Every single day, you have to push back against the fall of night.

If you really want to end war and terrorism, then you have to work to reduce the fundamental problems that lead to destruction.

People resort to terrorism – and to illegal immigration for that matter – because they don't have anything better.

People turn to crime, to drugs, booze, cults, to myriad destructive actions including violence and terrorism, and to politicians who promise easy solutions and simple fixes, because they're looking for something better. But you don't end war and conflict, terrorism, illegal immigration, crime, chaos, by building walls and blowing up the world.

And you sure as hell don’t end it by pulling the ladder up after yourselves.

“Fuck you, I got mine” is a lousy ideology to build civilization on. 

The rest of the world sees America, the ideal of America, and they want that. That’s why they come here – legally or not.

A moral people would strive to bring the rest of the world up to our level, to ensure all people everywhere have what we have, not slam the door in their faces.

Hunger, poverty, lack of healthcare, lack of opportunity, disenfranchisement, bigotry, inequality, homelessness, hate, fear, uncertainty, all of these things are what lead to war, to conflict, to crime, to illegal immigration, to division, and ultimately to the collapse of civilization.

The only way to ensure a stable and reasonably secure future for you and your descendants, is by building a better world for everybody.

You reduce the likelihood of civilization’s collapse by working to reduce inequality and disenfranchisement, by working to see that everybody has the things they need to live decent lives – for themselves and for their children. Food. Shelter. Healthcare. Jobs. Stability. Order. Education. And so on.

It's ongoing, forever.

There are no simple answers.

There are no easy solutions.

If someone tells you there are, simple answers, that it's easy, that they can fix it all in a few days, well, then they're either a con artist or a damned fool. Maybe both.

Now, to some extent, America can abide foolish leaders – our founders expected such an eventuality and they planned for it.

They built in safeties.

You.

You are that safety.

America can abide a foolish leader, for a while anyway, but it cannot long survive as a nation of fools.

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

For starters, that means being smart enough to know when you’re being conned.

And then to face the world as it exists, not as you want it to be.

There are two fools in this world. One is the millionaire who thinks that by hoarding money he can somehow accumulate real power, and the other is the penniless reformer who thinks that if only he can take the money from one class and give it to another, all the world's ills will be cured.
-- Henry Ford

Friday, September 1, 2017

Perspective


I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.
-- Ronald Reagan, President of the United States, First Inaugural Address, 1981


Are we doomed?

Are we doomed as a country?

Are we doomed as a people, we Americans?

It’s happened elsewhere. Societies too big to manage, nations fractured by conflict and politics and chaos, civil society torn apart by madness and religion, diversity become irreconcilable differences and populations grown more dissimilar than they are alike, national bankruptcy, unquenchable rage, anger, distrust, malfeasance, until it all just … falls apart.

History is littered with the yellowed bones of failed nation states and dead empires.

History is chock-a-block with countries that put a gun to their own head and pulled the trigger.

Is that us?

Is it?

Since November, and particularly since Charlottesville, I've gotten thousands of messages asking the same question: Are we doomed?

Is America done for?

Are we next?

If my email is any indicator, many Americans seem to think so.

A lot of people outside of America believe it.

It certainly seems as if we’re on the cusp and it could go either way.


But then, isn’t that how it always is?


America, we’re always on the brink.

Balanced on one foot, arms wind-milling, teetering over chaos with alligators snapping below. 

We’ve been through this before.

And it’s been far worse.

We …

What?

What’s that?

Oh, you want to know when it’s been worse than it is right now?

When I said that a few days back, it’s been worse, on Facebook, a number of readers called me on it.

When was it worse?

When? Well, I suppose that depends on your point of view.

Better, worse, it’s about perspective. For example: I regularly speak to people of a generation who think the 1950s were just about as damned near perfect as it’s possible for a nation to get.

And they were, perfect.

So long as you were a member of the newly minted, post-war middle class with a well-paying job in one of America’s new industries, and if you weren’t too particular about civil rights or a woman’s place in society or drafted to fight in Korea or suspected of being a godless commie or one of them believers in evolution, well, yeah, things were pretty good. But for people not in that demographic, if, say, you were a black man in The South of that time, well, maybe things weren’t so great, especially when the KKK was putting a noose around your neck. For a lot of older Americans, nothing will ever be as good as the 1950s. But maybe, for some Americans, maybe that time was worse than now.

Maybe that decade was much worse.

It depends on your perspective often enough.

As a nation, as a fractious people, we've been through worse and survived.

Hell, the ink was barely dry on the Constitution when George Washington himself had to send in federal forces to put down armed rebellion. A few years after that, our former masters in London invaded the United States and burned the White House to the ground. The Civil War didn’t just break out suddenly one day without warning, you know. There were decades of tension and acrimony between two utterly incompatible ideologies. If you think Congress is broken now you should study what it was like in the years leading up to that war. And there were decades of tension and acrimony after the Civil War as well. Jim Crow. Separate but not so equal. Lynching. The Ku Klux Klan.

Then there was the Great Depression and then World War II. The Bomb. The Red Scare.

I mentioned those people who grew up in the 50s and how much certain of them idolize that time. Me? I grew up in the 1960s and 70s, the streets were full of riot, drugs, crime, chaos. War in Vietnam and at home. Civil Rights. Woman’s Rights. Equal Rights. George Wallace. Martin Luther King. Malcom X. Bobby Kennedy. Charlie Manson. Love Canal. Segregation. Bussing. The Man. The Establishment. Tune in, turn on, drop acid.  Some days it seemed the whole goddamned world was on fire. Everything just kept getting shittier and shittier. Every day it was some goddamned thing.

Then came the Energy Crisis and the Great Malaise and one recession after another and … well, here we are.

And to me? From my perspective? Things don’t seem nearly as bad now as they could be. Because I’ve seen it worse – or at least it seems that way to me.

History is often damned painful to live through.

And it can always – always – get worse.

Advancement is never without cost, without pain and rage and blood.

But we've been through worse and rebounded better than before. Stronger. Smarter. More compassionate. More equal. Closer to the ideal of a better nation. What came out of the war and riot and chaos of my youth was a better society, a better nation, better for a lot of people in a lot of ways.

But again, “better” is often a matter of perspective.

And it’s always easier to go backwards instead of forward.

It is far easier to destroy than it is to build, to create, to innovate, to dream.

Depression is always easier than optimism. I can think of a hundred ways life is worse now than in my youth. I have to work to think of ways that it is better. But it is better, I believe that.

How and when, if, we emerge from this dark time depends on a lot of things and there are no guarantees.

However, I would point out that while it's easy to focus on the hate and rage and ugliness that fills our feeds every single day of late, what you might be missing is the overwhelming push-back from common Americans.

It’s easy to focus on the terrible, harder to see the good.

But…

But, armed Nazis, Klansmen, Confederates – all the worst, most horrible ideologies humankind has ever come up with, combined together – marched on Charlottesville to defend a monument to racism and sedition. And hundreds of thousands of Americans showed up to tear it down. Pushed the haters back. Faced the Nazis down. The Klan, the Nazis, the Confederates, they came with guns and clubs and they killed one of us. And still they were routed, sent fleeing like the cowards they are. Sent fleeing in defeat, same as they always have been.

Right now they are being found and arrested and they will be held up for the world to see what they are.

Right now, cities across the nation are tearing down these monuments, removing them from town squares and public campuses and banishing them to museums or battlefields or dusty storehouses where they belong.

Forty white supremacists showed up in Boston for a rally. Forty thousand Americans showed up to shout them down.

In San Francisco, the haters were sent packing before they even got started.

That wasn't the government in Boston, in San Francisco, in Charlottesville, that was Americans who did that. That was common Americans, black and white, gay and straight, right and left, who stood up, filled the streets, and pushed back the haters who would burn down civilization.

It’s easy to fall into depression.

And as anyone who suffers from depression can tell you, it’s damned hard – damned hard – to claw your way out.

History is often painful to live through.

As it is right now.

It pains me to say this (you have no idea how much), but the Bern-It-All-Down crowd might very well get their wish.

Perhaps, once again, it has finally become so bad that those of reason and good will on both sides might at last find common ground and get off their asses and do something to make things better.

It has become so bad, as it always does, that those who love America more than they love their ideology and own selfish interests might once again come together to face down a common enemy and stand together against the fall of night.

Civilization advances in fits and starts. Three steps forward, two to the side, two back, and forward again.

History doesn’t flow smoothly forward, it lurches like a drunkard.

History is very often painful to live through.

And this, this right here, is what I warned you about last year. This is what a lot of us warned America about.

If you can't bring yourself to vote because you demand a purity of your principles, because the deck is stacked against you, because the system is corrupt, because the choices are distasteful, because you’re not given the perfect candidate, well, what you get is ... this.

Chaos. Riot. War. Ruin. Rage. Disaster. Two steps sideways and four back.

History doesn’t care about the gains you’ve made. The tide will erase your sandcastle as if it never was and wipe the beach clean to start over.

Unless you take action to protect it.

Unless you care enough, unless you’re pragmatic enough, to do something about it.

Hashtagging your social media posts with #resistance isn't organization. It isn't a plan. It isn't a movement. It's not advancing civilization. Just as slapping a $2 made-in-China magnet on the back of your giant gas-guzzling SUV isn’t actually supporting your troops or doing anything to prevent war in oil rich Middle Eastern countries.

The selfish, self-aggrandizing, self-involved, morally bankrupt conspiracy theory that passes for much of American ideology nowadays should be easy to rally against.

This lunatic in the White House, the barking ninnies who make up congress, the toothless ignorant Nazis, the impotent illiterate beer-bellied Klan, the endlessly defeated inbred Confederates, these people, well, we outnumber them a thousand to one. Ten thousand to one.

They should be easy to beat.

But they never are.

They never are.

Victory is never easy and never permanent.

And it’s three drunken steps forward, two to the side, two back. One painful staggering step at a time. And so, here we are. Life, civilization, adulthood is often a choice between less-than-perfect options. Sometimes you have to choose the best option, even if it's not what you want, even if it's not perfect. Because that's just how life is.

That's how adults have to face the world.

History is very often nothing more than choices between less than perfect options because the universe just doesn’t give a good goddamn what you want.

The streets are today full of liberals and progressives and rational conservatives. But it's going to take more than pink pussy hats and shouting down Nazis on our streets. It’s going to take more than pulling down statues. Those are great starts and well, well worth doing. But Americans of good conscience must get organized. Must rally. Must stand together. Must stop the endless pedantry. Must find common ground.

And more than anything, we must get over this childish demand for perfect leaders and grow the hell up.

Creationists don't build starships.

And modern conservativism has been eaten alive by the Creationists.

But guess what? Liberals don't build starships either.

No, instead they spend all their time and effort arguing about the advisability of sending humans to other worlds when we haven't even fixed (insert endless list of causes) and they never actually get around to building the damned ship.

You know who builds starships? People who believe, that’s who. Those who believe in the future, those who work every damned day to advance civilization, those who stand steadfast against the fall of night. Once upon a time, those people were Americans.

And they can be again.

If we are to build that better future, if we are to claim the stars for our own, instead of falling back into the dustbin of history next to Rome and the Soviet Union, well, then we’re going to have to get organized and do something.

We have to do more than just protest.

We have to do more than pedantically complain and correct each other and engage in endlessly recursive social justice oneupmanship.

We have to organize.

We have to build a coherent vision, one that appeals to all Americans, not just left or right.

Folks, if you can't get it together, if you can’t dream big enough, to beat the sorry shitshow in office right now, well, you'd best just give up. Just give up. Knuckle under. Stand on the side of the street and raise your arm to the fucking Nazis.

It's damned depressing.

It can be damned depressing.

It’s easy to believe we are doomed.

It is. You'd like to think we've advanced beyond this. But civilization is never a steady progression. It's always two steps forward and three back and two sideways and one ahead and stagger to the left and to the right and do it again.

The fight to advance is never over.

The struggle to move civilization forward is never over. Never. That is our biggest failing. Far too often those of conscience achieve some victory, civil rights, economic reform, democracy, social safety systems, something, and then they think it's fixed. They’ve won. So they fire up a fatty and declare victory and go back to watching the game.

But it never ends.

It. NEVER. Ends.

I hear progressives say all of the time, I'm tired of having to keep fighting this battle. We fought this battle for (insert whatever cause is important to you here, civil rights, abortion, gay marriage), we won, now we gotta do it all over again and I’m tired, man, I’m tired.

Well, shit, folks, I'm tired of fighting gravity, but there really isn't an alternative if you want to stay upright.

Are we doomed?

Are we doomed as a country?

Are we doomed as a people, we Americans?

I don’t think so.

Down there in Texas, it’s pretty damned bad right now. But – but – Americans of good conscience, Americans of will, Americans who believe in each other and in a better nation and a better future, have all come together to save each other. Americans have rallied from across the nation to Texas and no one gives a damn who’s left or right, who’s gay or straight, who’s black or white. What matters is each other. What matters is civilization. What matters is pushing back the tide.

That’s America, right there.

That’s why I believe we can change our fate, save our country, build a better future. Because of those Americans.

We’ve been here before. It’s been worse before. And even if we stand together now and once again push back the fall of night, bad news, folks, we’re gonna be right back here again at some date in the future. But we don’t have to join Rome or the Soviet Union, we can push back, we’ve done it before. We can save this nation if we want to. We can emerge from this dark time better, wiser, stronger. We can make this world a better place for all. We can. We will. But sooner or later, we – or our children – will be right back here again.

Because that’s how history works.

And it’s painful.

And it’s hard.

And it’s perilous and uncertain and it just never ends.

It’s about perspective.

It’s about how you face it: on your feet or on your knees.

But if you want a better nation, well, Citizen, you have to keep fighting.

And it's really that simple.

So let's get to it.





Note: A  short version of this essay was originally posted to my Facebook page. // Jim

Saturday, August 19, 2017

No Man’s Land



Remember when hating fascism didn’t make you a liberal? WTF? Over.
-- Shannyn Moore, Alaskan journalist, writer.


Slavery.

Horrible, right?

I mean, right?

Sure, of course. Of course.

Slavery. We can say that’s bad without having to caveat it.

Slavery. You remember how that works, don’t you? Sure you do. Back in the heyday of American slavery, you go to an African nation, grab any random black person, and you’re like, hey, you belong to me now. You’re mine. You’re worth a lot of money. You’re a resource here for the taking, like gold or oil or lumber or land. You’re not people, you’re property. My property. You have no rights, no say in your own life, your own body, your own children.  In fact, your children are mine too, to beat, to rape, to work to death. You’re farm equipment. You’re livestock, no more, no less. Get in the boat. Pick the cotton all the live long day.

That’s some shady shit, right there.

Slavery, that’s evil. Horrible. Immoral. Wrong.

Agreed? I mean, we are all agreed on this, aren’t we?

I honestly thought that would be the one thing we Americans could all agree on.

Black, white, yellow, red, gay, straight, left, right, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Christian, Muslim, Jew, atheist, Biggie, Tupac, whatever we identify as, I thought that would be the one thing we Americans could agree on without caveat.

Slavery sucks.

Slavery is bad.

Slavery is an evil blot on American history.

Slavery will always be our eternal shame as a nation. We can surely all agree on that, can’t we? 

Nobody needs to defend slavery. I mean, we can as a nation acknowledge slavery existed. We can freely (heh) acknowledge slavery is part of our history as a nation. We can acknowledge that it was the economic foundation of part of our country. We can acknowledge that many of our institutions, the very symbols of what we nowadays regard as freedom, were built by people who were property.

It’s a hundred years behind us now, slavery. None of us now were slavers. None of us now alive were slaves. But we can remember. We can say the words without flinching, can’t we? We can acknowledge that terrible history without the need to defend any of it. We can honor the victims of it and denounce the institution and learn from our terrible, complicated heritage. All of it. And we can acknowledge that while slavery might have helped build this nation, slavery as an institution uprooted hundreds of thousands of innocent people, destroyed their lives and families, erased their histories, and the effects of that terrible diaspora are still being felt today.

Certainly we can admit that. Without caveat.

That’s what I thought.

Foolishly, as it turns out.

I said this online after Michelle Obama talked about slavery’s role in building the White House.

I said, hey, at least we can all condemn slavery without caveat. Right? I mean, slavery, right?

That’s when the slavery apologists showed up.

Hold on, they said. Black people started it. Oh yes. Africans had slaves. It’s true! Black people invented slavery, Bro! It’s in the bible! And American slaves, well, see, at least they were enslaved by, like, Christian white people and so our slaves got to learn about Jesus! That’s good, isn’t it? And they didn’t have, like, technology back then so people had to do the work. Somebody had to pick the cotton, right? Without human power, why, America wouldn’t even exist. It’s not racism, man, somebody had to do the work and those people were, you know, convenient. What about that? Plus, slaves were really, like, valuable. White people loved their slaves. Because, they, like, cost a lot. So, you know, white people took care of them, slaves got free food and free clothes and nice little free slave houses to live in and free healthcare, and…


…and I sat there, watching these comments come in with my mouth hanging open.


Yes. I know.

I know. I knew this was out there. I did. But still.

If you’re a person of color, you’re laughing at me right now, aren’t you? I’m a straight white male and that gives me the privilege of being just that goddamned naïve. I know. You’re shaking your head and laughing at me. And I deserve it. 

I know. I do.

Because I really was naïve enough to think this was something we could all agree on. I’ve been doing this for a long time. I get thousands of messages per week. A significant percentage of those are from haters and bigots and conspiracy nuts and the proudly ignorant. I mean, I’m a cynical son of a bitch and I expect the worst from people pretty much all of the time. I’m not stupid. I expected a few of these comments.

But this was hundreds.

White conservatives, of course, most of them. With a few supposed white liberals tossed in for leavening. And it wasn’t just me, those comments were everywhere on social media, under articles in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Slavery apologia is a reflex with these people. 

Slavery was bad, but

But.

But, if this guy, me, this liberal, this progressive, this guy I don’t like, if that guy – let alone Michelle Obama for crying out loud – says slavery was bad, well, I have to reflexively counter. I have to caveat it. Have to. No matter how staggeringly stupid the argument is, I have to use it, have to counter, have to defend the horrible evil institution of slavery, have to justify it in some way, have to rationalize it, have to make it sound … less bad, less evil, somehow.

Now, before we go any further, let me make something clear: No, I don’t think all conservatives are slavery apologists.

No, I don’t think all white Americans are slavery apologists.

But a hell of a lot of them are.

Out of reflex.

Out of political reflex. If the other side is against it, they have to be for it – one way or the other, no matter how noxious, no matter how torturous the logic, no matter how ridiculous.

Slavery is one thing all decent Americans, left or right, republican or democrat, black or white, should be able to agree on without caveat, without a “but” in the middle of the sentence.

Slavery is bad. Period. No buts.

No buts.


But – but – of course that’s not the case.


This morning I listened to a caller on C-Span’s Washington Journal:

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He says he’s going to join in the so-called “Free Speech” rally in Boston today.

He’s going to march with avowed white supremacists, with Nazis.

Not because he is a Nazi, he says, but because he’s a Trump supporter.

He going to join white supremacists “as someone – they’re going to paint us as racists anyway, so there’s nothing that we can say to placate the other side, so, keep going. There’s no other option.”

There’s no other option than to stand with Nazis?

Seriously?

This guy, he would rather stand with Nazis – goddamned Nazis – than his fellow Americans.

He looked out there, he saw the sides, and he chose … white supremacists.

He would rather stand with Nazis, with the Klan, with Confederates, than join his fellow Americans, black, white, left, right, conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat, his fellow Americans standing against fascism. 

No other option. Keep going. Join the Nazis.


Well, I say to you there is another option. Stand with us. Join us. Be an American.


As my fellow Alaskan, writer and journalist Shannyn Moore, said, “Remember when hating fascism didn’t make you a liberal?”

When did standing against fascism, against hate, against racism, against Nazis – Nazis – become a liberal thing?

When did defending sedition, treason, fascism, hate, violence, murder, genocide, intolerance, racism, slavery, and Nazis become a conservative thing?

I mean, you would think we could all agree on this – even if it is the only thing we can agree on.

You would think that we, we Americans, we could all agree that standing against fascism, against white supremacists, against the Klan, against Nazis for fucks's sake, wouldn't be a left, right, liberal, conservative, republican, democrat thing.

This is an American thing.

This should be the one thing we all agree on.

This should be the one thing our leaders, no matter their party or ideology, should agree on.

This is the one thing we all must agree on. Without caveat. Without qualification.

If you must qualify your denouncement of fascism, of Nazis, of the Klan, of the Confederacy, of slavery, of evil, with a “but” in the middle of your sentence, you’re the problem.


Standing against Nazis without caveat, without qualification, without equivocation should be an American thing.


Look left.

Look right.

Who are you standing with?

Nazis? The Klan? Confederates? Slavery apologists?

That flag waving over you head? Is it Old Glory? Or the swastika and the Stars & Bars?

In this fight, there is no neutral ground.

In this fight, silence is agreement.

In this fight, if you stand with Confederates, then you’re a traitor. You’re the enemy of America.

If you stand with the Klan, you’re a bigot, a racist, a hater, a villain.

If you stand with fascists, you’re a goddamned fascist.

If you stand with Nazis, then you’re a fucking Nazi.

And it’s really just as simple as that.

You’re not a machine. You’re not an animal. You’re a human being and you don’t have to be a slave to reflex. If you can’t reject this evil without caveat, without a kneejerk “but” in the middle of your response, without attempting to justify evil out of political reflex, then you have lost your mind. You’re the problem. You’re what gives evil a leg up.

Look left.

Look right.

Who are you standing with? Nazis? Or Americans?

If you don’t stand up, if you don’t take a side, if you turn away now, then you are complicit.

If you don’t choose, you’ve chosen evil.

If you can’t forcefully denounce evil without caveat, without condition, without a “but,” then you’ve chosen evil.

This isn’t about the left. This isn’t about right. This isn’t about Republican or Democrat. This isn’t about liberal or conservative.

This is about the world we leave to our children.

This is about the United States of America.

This is about our place in history.

This is about evil and what you intend to do about it.

Pick a side.

Take a stand.

Turn out in the streets. Raise your voice. Fight if you have to. This is the critical moment. This is the critical moment and history will remember what you do next.

And what you do defines all of us as a people, as a nation, as Americans.

There is no gray area here. Either you stand with the Nazis, or you stand with us.

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

Without caveat.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Latter Days of a Better Nation, Part V

"She had read several nice little histories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked "poison", it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later."
-- Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, Lewis Carrol, 1865

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We’re down the rabbit hole now, aren’t we?

Or perhaps, on second thought, it’s the sequel that is a more apt analogy here.

Through the looking glass into the bizarre incomprehensible cryptic world of the Jabberwock.

 

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Yes, that’s it, the strange back-to-front Looking-Glass Land, a place inhabited by dangerous creatures, where nonsense is spoken as if it was rational conversation and few things make any sense.  Yes, that’s the place where a public fight between a Reality TV star president and a couple of Reality TV journalists belongs. 

We didn’t know.

Oh, woe! Woe! We didn’t know. That guy in the White House, why, he’s not the same guy we knew two years ago.

We didn’t know it would turn out like this!

We didn’t know he’d turn on us when we helped him get elected!

We thought it would be ok! We thought he would straighten out and start acting like a decent human being once he got elected! We didn’t know!

I mean, how could we have known, right? It’s not like anybody warned us. It’s not like there were any alarm bells. It’s not like there was a history of horrible shitty behavior…


Right.


Look here: These people, these Republicans, these Trump apologists, they’re like battered spouses in denial.

All the warning signs were there, the sexist behavior, the tempter tantrums, the bruises and the black eyes, but they thought, you know, once we’re married he’ll come around, he’ll be okay, he’ll stop acting like this.

But Donald Trump is the very same guy today that he was yesterday, that he was two years ago, that he was a decade ago.

Donald Trump is the same horrible person he’s been his entire life.

He’s an obnoxious, ignorant, abusive blowhard enabled by wealth and privilege and if you think for one minute the power of the presidency is going to do anything but exacerbate that, then you are a goddamned fool.

Or a Republican.

But I repeat myself.

Any rational person with an ounce of sense could have seen this coming. And did. Hell, I wrote about it here. I wrote hundreds of thousands of words of warning. And, of course, I wasn’t the only one. Tens of thousands of analysts, writers, politicians, and world leaders warned America. Don’t marry this goddamned guy. Don’t do it.

And yet, here we are, six months later and Republicans like Scarborough are all black-eyed and regretfully sobbing, we didn’t know!

We didn’t know!

Someday, this story, the one where Americans elected Donald J. Trump to the Presidency despite myriad and obvious warning signs, will join Frankenstein and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as a classic cautionary tale.  Parents will use it to frighten their children into behaving and teachers will use it to show the folly of willful ignorance and whatever passes for Hollywood in that distant future will play this idiotic social media fight between a sitting president and a couple of pretend journalists for laughs in an otherwise dreary and depressing tale.

If it was just some spat between TV personalities, it would be bad enough, but it’s not.

If it was just a one time thing, a momentary lapse, it would be bad enough. But it’s not.

It’s not.

It’s every damned day. Every. Day.

Worse, it’s the entire Republican Party in denial.

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I hope these tweets cease and we can focus on moving our country forward and what the fuck, Senator?

Sullivan’s ineffectual response is typical of the entire GOP. Sullivan’s belief in magic unicorns is one of the primary reasons his home state of Alaska is in financial collapse and utter disarray. These sons of bitches just can’t seem to face reality.

We didn’t know.

We hoped he would act more presidential.

I mean, we knew Trump was an ignorant self-aggrandizing jackass with no experience in government at all, right. We knew that. We knew he was a liar, a misogynist, a con artist, an abuser, and a bully. We knew he was prone to uncontrolled rage and that there was no filter between his ego and his thumbs. We knew that. We knew all of that. Of course we did. Sure. That part was obvious. But see, we hoped – we hoped – Trump would somehow just magically become a dignified adult, suddenly imbued with reason and self-control and filled with knowledge and wisdom of how to actually run a government.

That is what they told us. That is literally what they told us. He’s just doing this to get elected. Once he’s president, you’ll see. He’ll straighten out, he’ll become…

…a unicorn.

Now, admittedly, we’re not really sure how any of that would happen, but we hoped it would.

We hoped it would.

Magical thinking.

And the worst part? The goddamned worst part is that Republicans just like Dan Sullivan are still in denial. Because after six goddamned months of this insanity, he still thinks, hopes, Trump will become the unicorn. Sure. It could happen, sure it could. Yeah! It’ll be ok. You’ll see. He’s just under a lot of stress. It’s all fine. This is fine. It’s fine. I deserved it.

Dan Sullivan. This guy was a Marine, and a damned good one. He is not in any way stupid. He’s a staunch party line conservative and his political views are not mine, but he’s not a lunatic. And yet there he is, engaged in magical thinking. Hoping for unicorns. That’s what Alaskan Senator Dan Sullivan has. Hope. That’s all he has. He’s a United States Senator, a Marine, and the worst condemnation he can muster is, gee, fellers, I hope we can all get past this and be friends.

It’s the Republican version of hiding his bruises under makeup and rationalizing away the abuse by telling himself that he deserved it.

What kind of candy-ass Marine acts like this?

What kind of Marine would follow a leader like Trump into battle? What kind of Marine, what kind of Marine, would send other Marines into battle under a leader like Trump?  What the hell? Did he take off his balls with his goddamned uniform?

They’re all like this.

All of them.

John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Joni Ernst, Tom Cotton, Jeff Sessions, Mitch McConnell, Jim Inhofe, Don Young, Darrell Issa, Duncan Hunter, Peter King, congress is chock-a-block with Republican veterans who damned well ought to know better. Who ought have the guts to put aside their partisan bullshit and side with their Democrat counterparts against this lunatic for the sake of the nation.

But just like Dan Sullivan, they keep enabling this abuse. Looking for unicorns.


On the other side of the spectrum, there’s the Left.


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Al Gore, I didn’t know.

I thought he’d be OK. 

See, what you have to understand here is, well, unicorns!

Just ignore him, they tell me.

That’s advice I get from the Left every day via Twitter and Facebook and my social media feeds. Jeebers, Jim, why do you keep talking about Trump? Whenever I write about one of Trump’s bizarre statements, that’s what the Left tells me, just ignore him. Don’t quote him, don’t write about him, don’t give him any attention because that’s what he wants. Just ignore him.

Just ignore him.

Just ignore the most powerful man in the world.

Just ignore the guy sitting on a nuclear arsenal large enough to kill every living thing on the planet and render the earth uninhabitable forever.

Just ignore the guy at the head of the largest, most powerful coalition of economic, political, and military power in not only the world, but in the entire history of the human race.

Just ignore the guy who controls nearly all aspects of the world that I’ll be leaving to my son and his new wife. My grandkids. The future. Sure, let’s just ignore that guy.

Trump has direct influence over all aspects of our society, economic, social, education, military, infrastructure, law and order, technology, the environment, labor, business, commerce, poverty, healthcare, growth, war, trade, our basic rights and freedoms, and you want me to just ignore him? 

Just … ignore him?

Because, what? Maybe he’ll go away? Maybe he’ll, I dunno, go away to wherever unicorns go.

The absolutely worst, most useless, advice I ever got as a kid was being told to just ignore the bullies. Ignore them, right? Because that’s what they want, attention. And if you ignore them, they’ll just go away. Puff. Magic.

You know what? That’s wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. No bully has ever just gone away because their victims ignore them.

When the abuser has all the power, you can’t ignore them – especially when they’re smashing your face in.

Ignoring fascism is how you get more fascism.

Ignoring hate is how you get more hate.

Ignoring abuse is how you get abused.

It is time to stop this magical thinking on both sides of the political divide and face reality.

Trump isn’t going to get better.

Trump isn’t going to go away.

Trump isn’t going to just one day wake up and decide to act like a president.

He’s not suddenly going to start acting like a rational adult.

He’s not going to be magically imbued with 70 years of education and knowledge and experience in how to run government.

Your indifferent god isn’t going to reach down and fill Trump’s fluffy head with wisdom and compassion and selflessness.  This isn’t a made for TV movie, Trump isn’t going to have some life-changing moment and realize what an ass he’s been and then devote the rest of his life to making the world a better place. That’s not going to happen.

There are no such things as unicorns.


Trump builds casinos, not nations.


Rational people learn from their mistakes.

Mistakes, no matter how terrible, don’t have to define us so long as we don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over.

The problem is that we, as a nation, keep making the same mistakes over and over.

As the so-called Sage of Baltimore, American satirist and pundit Henry Louis Mencken, once said, “democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.”

America tends to get the government it deserves, and this time we are indeed getting it good and hard.

But what a lot of people are missing is this: Trump is a symptom, not the disease.


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Trump is the manifestation of all the worst aspects of modern America writ large, loud, florid, and proudly ignorant. A mindset that is shamelessly hypocritical, self-important and self-involved, wrapped in a flag waving a cross and obsessed with money at the expense of everything else, downing handfuls of Viagra not because we need it but rather for instant self gratification without effort, and a sneering dismissal of any debate that can’t be compressed into a Tweet as “Too Long; Didn’t Read.”

I’m not the first to note that Trump is what stupid people think a smart person sounds like and it doesn’t take much digging around on social media to find those who despite all evidence to the contrary still dogmatically believe in they’re going to get a unicorn – including members of Congress like Dan Sullivan.

Somewhere in the last half a century, we Americans traded Apollo moon ships for the Creation Museum and the ugly truth of the matter is that Donald Trump is a reflection of who we’ve become as a nation.

Trump is the utterly predictable result of decades of an increasingly dumber and dumber electorate. A deliberately dumber electorate, Idiocracy in action, a society that dismisses intelligence and education and experience as “elitism” while howling in drunken mirth at Honey Boo Boo and lighting their farts on fire.

Creationists don’t build starships.


They don’t build much of anything else, either.


Trump isn’t playing 4D chess.

He doesn’t have a plan.

There is no unicorn.

This was evident right from the very beginning.

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Or at least it should have been, to anybody who wasn’t a complete idiot.

There has never been any depth to anything Trump has ever said. Not once. His responses to every question – every single question – are nothing but rambling non sequiturs. Trump is not capable of critical thought at any level.  He has neither the education or experience to be president. He lacks the ability to focus for any length of time; he has the attention span of a cocker spaniel and his mind is as jumbled and chaotic as some clanging banging madcap Saturday morning cartoon.

His supporters point to his supposed wealth as evidence of leadership, of vision, of intellect. And that’s nonsense. Trump is, at best, a mediocre businessman. He was born rich and given breaks most people don’t get, those things provide a safety net for mistakes and failures that ruin others less advantaged. Those things gave Trump the ability to take risks others can’t. It wasn’t his smarts or his supposed deal making or some magical unicorn dust, it was privilege. He didn’t create his empire from nothing, he built it on a foundation of wealth and advantage and other people’s money.

Trump’s privilege and wealth are luck of birth, not evidence of superiority.

Trump’s mythical ability to make a deal is exactly that, a myth. Bullshit. Smoke and mirrors. Something he uses to con the rubes. Trump can’t make a deal unless he has everything stacked in his favor and he calls all the shots and nobody else gets to say anything. And while that nonsense might work for you when you’re building a casino in Jersey (or not), it sure as shit doesn’t work out in the real world between nations and any fool could have told you that. And did. Repeatedly.

Bluster and bombast and billions are no substitute for intellect, education, experience, quiet courage, and steady confidence under fire.

Trump skitters from one thing to another like a ADHD squirrel on amphetamines. This week he fired yet another Communications Director, last week it was the horrors of Obamacare and an amateurish attempt to shame China into doing his bidding via Twitter, the day before he was banning transgender people from the military. He can’t stay on topic, not even for a 15 minute speech in front of a bunch of Boy Scouts. And this is indicative of a much, much deeper problem.

Trump has no vision.

Trump has no strategic vision.

His administration has no vision.

His party has no coherent vision.

Trump is what stupid people think a smart guy sounds like.

But these people, this administration, they have no idea what they want to do, let alone what they are doing from one minute to the next. That’s why they can never explain anything, because they don’t really know.

Take the Affordable Healthcare Act, Obamacare. Trump goes on and on and on about Obamacare. Republicans go on and on about Obamacare. It’s terrible. It’s failing. Their plan is great.

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Except they never tell you why.

They never give you any of the details.

In the last month, no Republican including Trump, has given you any insight whatsoever as to the details of their supposed plan. Trump can’t, because he’s completely non-conversant with it. He honestly has no idea. He literally can no more describe in even the simplest of terms the Republican plan for healthcare than he can diagram the basic steam-loop of USS Gerald R. Ford’s nuclear reactor.

Trump has never, ever, described in even the most basic of outlines what “Make America Great Again” means.

Because he doesn’t know.

It’s just words. Just vague promises. Hand waving. A way to sell hats. Some nebulous idea that sounds vaguely good. Trump lives in the moment. His attention is whatever happens to be scrolling past on the Fox News Red Alert ticker at that particular point in time.  The Trump Administration’s strategic vision is the political equivalent of the soundbites and howling lunacy and clanging-banging cartoon logic streaming past in my Twitter feed.

It’s not just that that he doesn’t know enough about his own agenda to describe it in even vague terms, it’s that he’s not even interested in trying. He contradicts himself over and over because he doesn’t remember what he said from one minute to the next. Trump repeatedly shows that he has no concept of how government works, let alone how it might manage the incomprehensively vast, hideously complex, intertwined, interdependent, chaotically evolving systems of military, procurement, investment, economic, industrial, commercial, social, environmental, security, emergency, educational, agricultural, energy, health, legal, crime, law, legislative, research, planning, essential services, international relations, and historical areas of concern for 320,000,000 people in a dynamic ever changing relationship to the rest of the world.

And he’s surrounded himself with fops and toadies and opportunists who have even less vision than he does.

Worse, he’s cheered by drooling idiots who aren’t even smart enough to realize Trump has never explained anything in depth ever, because they have no critical-thinking skills either.  They cheer when Trump pushes their button, just like Pavlov’s dog.

And this is a reflection of the Republican Party itself.

It’s no wonder they hate government, because they have completely forgotten government’s purpose.

Because they have no vision.

Because they live in the moment with no regard to the future. And this is reflected in every single aspect of their political outlook, from education to the environment to healthcare to their horrible apocalyptic religion that says when they’ve used up the earth, their savior will return to spirit them all away leaving the rest of us behind to suffer in torment in the hell they created for all eternity. And they’re fine with that

They’re fine with that.

Think about that mentality.

Think about a belief system that says, “Hey, so long as I’m saved, to hell with everybody else” and you’ll understand their viewpoint on, oh, say healthcare. They don’t care about the future. They don’t care about pollution or climate change or healthcare because in their minds they’re saved and the rest of us are damned to some Bronze Age hell anyway. That is literally their belief system, they’re saved, they get to go to some magical paradise and frolic with the unicorns while the rest of us burn forever in torment. And they’re fine with that. In fact, they think it’s just great.

Now, people who believe that, who believe in that idea, who embrace that religion, well, they sure as hell don’t care if you can’t afford healthcare.

What’s healthcare against an eternity of torture in their god’s dungeon?

Trump is the perfectly predictable end result of this mindset. I’m rich, fuck you.

And Mike Pence is its poster child.

But these are symptoms, not the disease

Now, while it’s true that left untreated, symptoms can kill you just as dead as the actual infection, you have to treat the underlying cause if you ever expect to get any better.

Trump is the result of a nation, of a democracy, where only about 60% of the eligible electorate shows up to vote – in a good year.

Trump is the result of a population that not only tolerates a congress that daily treats them as the enemy, but utterly refuses to hold that congress to account at the ballot box.

Trump is the result of a democracy that daily prides itself on how their ancestors declared independence from a foreign king while at the same time mindlessly reelecting, gerrymandering, or otherwise gaming the system to such a degree that their government might as well be made up of inbred weak-chinned hereditary aristocracy.

Trump is the result of voters who can’t be troubled to learn a goddamned thing about their country, their history, their neighbors, or their world beyond what will fit in a Tweet. Trump is the Too Long: Didn’t Read president.

Trump is the result of a nation that glories in ignorance, manipulated by conspiracy theory and a primal fear of the dark, that embraces monkey violence and cowers from the unknown future with bluster and bared teeth and a gun clenched in one fist, instead of looking forward with quiet courage, head up, feet wide, braced and ready with curiosity and confident they are prepared to handle anything that might come along.

Trump is the result of a nation that traded the moon for the Creation Museum.

Trump is the result of a nation that has lost its vision and has nothing left but howling rage.


But it doesn’t have to be this way.


Countries that arrive here, where we are now, tend to end badly.

They tend to fall into totalitarianism, into war, into chaos and fragmentation. 

Don’t take my word for it. Refer to history. When a society embraces rage instead of reason and prepares for apocalypse instead of actively working to build a better future for all, it tends to fall apart into howling collapse in fairly short order.

Creationists don’t build starships.

They don’t build much of anything else worthwhile either and it’s time to stop chasing after unicorns.

I’m not just talking about Trump. As noted, Trump is the symptom, not the disease. It doesn’t matter if you’re a liberal or a conservative. It doesn’t matter if you’re a member of one party or the other. What matters is holding civilization together against the fall of night. What matters is building a better future for all of us, for our descendants, for the world.

What matters is being a citizen of the United States first.

You, you Americans, you don’t get to say, “We didn’t know.”

Don’t let that nonsense go past unchallenged. Don’t fall for it. Don’t enable it. Don’t let Americans get away with that excuse. Don’t let your government get away with that excuse, your Senators, your Representatives, your governors, your political party.

We didn’t know. Bullshit. Yes, you did. You knew. We all knew.

But some of you didn’t care, you were too busy lighting your farts on fire and pretending it would all be okay. It’s not. And it hasn’t been okay for a long time.

We didn’t know, that’s just a way to avoid taking responsibility. They knew. Yes, they did. We all knew. But these sons of bitches, they ignored it. They made excuses for it. They chased after unicorns and they’re still doing it.

Don’t let them.

Don’t do it yourself.

Left, right, we’re all going to go down together unless we turn things around.

If you didn’t know, if you really didn’t know, if you couldn’t see it, if you made excuses and you told yourself it would be okay even though you very well knew it wouldn’t, then you are too goddamned stupid, ignorant, and careless to be a citizen of this country.

It’s your duty as an American, as a citizen, as a voter, as a human being, to know.

You don’t get to make excuses. You don’t get to blame anybody, not the media or political parties or the rich or some horrible god or the fucking Russians or even Trump himself.

It’s on you.

You’re the citizen.

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

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.
-- Winston Churchill (possibly apocryphal)



The Latter Days of a better Nation, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV