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Saturday, April 16, 2016

Two Wolves

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


 

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

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


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

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

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

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

But, underneath?

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

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

Optimism.

Yeah, right.

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

Naturally the critics hated Tomorrowland.

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

Predictably it bombed in theaters.

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

But the most telling comments were ones like this.

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

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

 

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

 

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

When was it that optimism became a liberal ideal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sure it was.

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

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

That’s optimism indeed.

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

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

And that wasn’t the first time. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything is a worst case scenario with these people.

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

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

It's not just limited to conservatives.

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

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

Minimum wage.

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

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

Bear with me for a minute.

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

This is the very cornerstone of American capitalism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We’ve settled.

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

You see it all around you.

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

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

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

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elon Musk is one man.

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

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

Imagine a nation of such people.

Imagine a nation of optimists.

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

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

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

Pessimists don't build starships.

If you want a better nation, be better citizens.

 

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 12 - God, Guns, and Suicide Machines

 

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That’s how it began.

My Twitter timeline was suddenly one day last week filled with the anguished wailing of tortured Christians.

Persecution! Persecution! They cried. Our sincerely held religious beliefs are being daily thrown to the lions because people we don’t like are allowed the same rights as us! Woe! Woe! Why if gay people are allowed to buy cakes, if trans people are allowed to use the bathroom, if women are allowed control of their own sexy bits, why, why it’s just like being nailed to a cross and poked with pointy sticks! Persecution! Persecution!

Hmmm, said I to myself. What’s this deviltry in my timeline?

Now, yes, I know I bring this stuff on myself. I know it. You don’t have to tell me.

But, dammit, that’s what Twitter is for, poking at the internet with a pointy stick.

And so I did.

Dear, Christians. Poke. Poke.

And it took only moments for the internet to come howling back in all its crusading spittle-flecked glory.

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Said no heads laying [sic] on the ground after being severed ever.

I … right.

Awkward grammar aside, is this really a thing American Christians are worried about? Beheading? I mean, beheading?

As a Christian in America you’re a hell of a lot more likely to be eaten by lions than to be murdered for your faith.

No, really.

In the last 15 years there have been two Americans killed by lions in the United States, one in California and one in New Mexico. That’s two more than the number of Christians who were beheaded for believing in Jesus.

I mean, if you’re going to be afraid of something, as a Christian in America statistically you’re twice as likely to be killed by a mountain lion while jogging than beheaded by an angry Muslim with a sword.

God, Guns, and Constitution, Dana’s profile declares.

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God, Guns, and Constitution. Pro-life. Anti-big Government. God First!

When asked to provide examples of severed Christian heads here in America, she was able to produce only one example: Alton Alexander Nolen, a recent convert to Islam who murdered Collen Hufford by cutting off her head. Hufford was a former coworker of Nolen’s at an Oklahoma food processing plant. Hufford and others had filed a human resources complaint against Nolen for racism. Nolen was fired. The case is still ongoing and the exact reasons for Nolen’s murderous actions are not yet fully known – if they ever will be. What is known, however, is that Nolen specifically targeted Hufford because he blamed her for his termination, her (supposed) Christianity does not appear to have anything to do with it.

Hufford’s murder, horrific, violent, bloody and brutal though it may be, is hardly proof of Christian persecution in America.

In point of fact, one hell of a lot more Christians are murdered by Christians in America than by anybody else – including mountain lions.

God, Guns, and Constitution?

I couldn’t resist. Poke. Poke, poke.

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I’ve done this before. I’ve been doing it for a long time. I knew what was coming.

I noted the time and waited.

And in less than a minute, Mike arrived:

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Nothing if not predictable, aren’t they?

He didn’t look to see who I was responding to or what the context might be.

He didn’t bother to look into my background. He couldn’t possibly have had time.

It’s a reflex with people like Mike. God? Guns? Constitution? Hallelujah!  He searches social media for those keywords. By Jiminy! There’s something wrong on the internet! Let me just butt right in here and straighten you out! He doesn’t need context, he’s got the fire of righteous on his side. He’s that guy.

Plus, he’s got a cool American flag on his profile page and he hates social justice, so you know he’s a patriot.

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On average, 33,000 Americas die every year in gun-related violence.

God, Guns, and Constitution. My point being that somehow in Dana’s mind one case of workplace violence that didn’t actually target the victim for her religion somehow equals mass persecution of Christians in America, but tens of thousands of gun deaths every year somehow equals … hi ho liberty, I guess.

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Funny how that’s always the first response from gun nuts, isn’t it?

Funny how they always dismiss 20,000 dead Americans. Suicide? Fuck it!

As if 13,000 dead Americans were somehow okay.  30,000, yeah that  would be bad, sure, but it’s really just 13,000, man, so no problem!

As if 20,000 dead Americans don’t matter. One abortion is too much, but 20,000 suicides? Whatever. Sanctity of life only applies to a liberal woman’s belly, folks, nothing to see here, move along, move along.

Again, I couldn’t resist. Poke. Poke.

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I’d have a hell of a lot more respect for these NRA droolers if they’d at least be honest with themselves, let alone with the rest of us.

But they never are.

They never are.

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Let’s go back and review my comments to this point. Let’s reread what I’ve said here and on social media and in talks before groups of people. I’ve written half a million words or more on guns over the ten years, many of them are in the essay linked to at the bottom of this piece. Let’s see. Hmmm, let’s see, fuck law abiding people, fuck law abiding people who want to protect themselves, doh de doh, let’s see, gotta be here somewhere…

Well that’s funny, I don’t seem to have said that. Anywhere. Ever.

I’ve never even implied it. Not in this conversation, not in any conversation. And if I had, well, that would be damned odd, wouldn’t it? Given that I’m a gun owner myself. Given that I keep a weapon handy for personal defense of me and mine – mostly because I’m prone to getting death threats from gun nuts and militia types and religious fanatics and other assorted conservatives. Also, it’s Alaska, I’ve never seen a lion but there are bears…

I digress.

I wasn’t deflecting, it’s Twitter, I was being a smartass and I’m honestly not sure how he got to “Fuck law abiding people who to protect themselves” from anything I said, but given the context and my experience I strongly suspect he was simply driving around the internet looking for a target to pin his preconceived notions on.

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I guess it depends on how you define “violence” but hey, whatever. I’m easy. Looks like we’ve reached a mutual understanding, thanks for coming by.

You think he’d let it go? Move on without another comment?

Heh heh, you’re so adorable.

 

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You know, I once saw a man beat the hell out of a woman. She was running in full panic, screaming in terror, shouting for help. He chased her out of a building into the street right in front of me. He ignored the rest of us and kept yelling for the woman to stop. She didn’t, she kept running. He caught up to her in the middle of the street, right in the middle of traffic, he tackled her, knocked her violently to the ground and started beating her with his hands right there on the pavement.

I cheered him on. Yes I did. She had it coming.

Terrible right?

A man savagely beating a woman in the street.

I’m a horrible person for letting it happen. Am I not?

Except for the … context.

You see, I left out one thing.

She was on fire.

She’d somehow (cooking I later learned) caught her clothing on fire. She panicked and ran from the building engulfed in flames. Her neighbor heard her screams and chased her down and beat the flames out with his bare hands and saved her life.

Context.

“I don’t care if I’m wrong. Doesn’t change my agenda […] one bit.”

Ironic.

Hilariously ironic, given he started out by completely ignoring the larger context that my comment was made in and moreover really has no idea of what my “agenda” actually is.  I also really enjoy the part where a guy who hides behind a fake identity is planning on lecturing me about “intellectual honesty,” I think that’s a nice touch.

Now, given experience, I’d expect Mike’s next move would be to support his argument with a logical fallacy, say an ad hominem attack.

Let’s see, poke, poke. 

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Mental illness.

Right on cue.

These gun nuts, they’re as predictable as the clock in the National Rifle Association’s lobby. 

Guns don’t kill people, mental illness does. 20,000 gun related suicides per year don’t count. It’s got nothing to do with guns. It’s mental illness. That’s it and that’s all.

Now, I’ll be honest, up to this point I was just stringing him along, shining him on a bit to see if maybe I could get a funny Facebook post out of it. Why? Because it amuses me. Because they make it so goddamned easy. These people are so deadly serious in their fanaticism. So tediously predictable. They’re exactly like religious fanatics, in fact many of them are. God, Guns, and Constitution, right?

Perhaps it’s childish to mock them, to provoke these people to impotent rage.

But see, every once in a while, it’s educational.

 

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Mental illness.

Mental illness, the go-to dismissal of the NRA gun-fetishists.

 

Mental illness, when it comes to gun violence those two words are a Mobius Loop, a tautology which folds back upon itself in a logical fallacy of finger pointing and inaction.

 

Observe:

Mike blames mental illness for 20,000 gun-related suicides each year.

So I put it to him: Would you agree to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people? Would you agree to increased funding for mental health?

Mike replies that he’d agree to both, provisionally. But, he only wants guns taken away from those who’ve openly declared their intention to harm themselves or murder others. Okay. Sane responsible non-suicidal non-homicidal people can have guns,  people who intend to harm themselves or others can’t.

Sounds good, right? Reasonable.

Except … how do you know?

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President Obama has suggested 23 executive actions relating to gun violence, I examined them in detail in Bang Bang Crazy, Part 5.  Not one of those actions, not one, has anything whatsoever to do with “pre-crime.”  As to the TSA nonsense, conservative gun nuts are perfectly fine with that list so long as it keeps Muslims off airplanes – in fact, it was their idea, signed into law under George W. Bush and when liberals protested the lack of Constitutional protections they were shouted down as unpatriotic and un-American. I know, I was one of those people and I still have the hatemail and death threats from conservatives to prove it. That’s one of the reasons I carry a gun. 

I digress. Again.

We’re talking about guns and mental health, not terrorists.

Mike first says he agrees people who have expressed a desire to harm themselves and others shouldn’t be allowed to have guns.

I asked him how law enforcement and gun sellers would know that?

He says “voluntary evaluation.”

I … wait, what? Voluntary evaluation?

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Ah, that’s more like it. Mike doesn’t really mean voluntary evaluation. He doesn’t think you should have to prove your fitness to own a gun before you purchase a gun. 

Or does he? image

I’m starting to doubt he’s actually thought any of this through.

Somehow, he says vaguely, if a person has maybe gotten or is currently getting help for mental illness, see, those people, if they’ve maybe said something about harming themselves or others to their mental healthcare provider, then we could maybe take away their guns or prevent them from buying one. 

At least I think that’s what he said.

So, how would that work? How does law enforcement know? How does the gun seller know? Who provides the information? What format is it in? How is it validated? Where is it stored? Who can access it? How often is it updated?

Details, man, let’s hear the details!

 

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The health professional contacts police.

How’s that work?

Hi, I’m Intern Larry down here at the local Mental Mart, we got this guy, Robert Jones, Crazy Bobby we call him, and he’s nuts, man, he’s got the voices in his brainium like bad, Dude. I can’t give you the details because medical laws see, but he’s probably gonna kill some people, like three or four, maybe twenty, I guess, not really sure, mental health isn’t an exact science. So anyway if that guy comes in to buy a gun, yeah, don’t let him have one. You’ll be sure to let everybody know, right? Like in other states too? Okay. Well, thanks!

Again, I’m a little vague on the details here.

Let’s back up to that part about responsibility.

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To summarize so far: Guns don’t kill people. Mentally ill people kill people. 20,000 of them kill themselves with guns every year. We should keep those people from getting guns. Using a voluntary screening system based on the forthrightness of homicidal/suicidal mentally ill people. With the responsibility ultimately resting in the hands of doctors, not gun makers, not gun sellers, and not gun owners.

It’s not just me, you people see it too, right? Right?

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Does this guy seem a little … paranoid to you?

No one, not President Obama, not Congress, not any prominent liberal, certainly not me, has suggested forced mental evaluations via government doctors to own a firearm. For one thing, it would be utterly impossible to get any such thing passed into law and I’m not prone to pissing into the wind. 

And yet, that’s what Mr. Fake Last Name is afraid of.  The Boogeyman. Forced mental evaluations secretly rigged by “The Government” (Insert Doctor Evil quoty fingers here) to take away guns.

On my list of shit to worry about that’s right after Mountain Lions. You bet.

I begin to see why he’s afraid of mental health evaluations for gun ownership.

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I’ll be honest, I read that last bit while picturing Mike as Rocket Raccoon from Guardians of the Galaxy, “We didn’t have time to work out the minutiae of the plan!”

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What he’s proposing, a federal database of mentally ill people who can’t own guns, would require management, contracts, operations, oversight, regulation, training, access, and funding, which can’t be done without federal legislation – i.e. a new gun law.

So, it sounds to me like we’ve got a NRA gun nut who’s good with a new federal gun law.

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Or maybe not.image

Like I said, he obviously didn’t think it through. What? A new law, but but but….

We were talking about religious extremism and supposed Christian persecution in America. Mike arrives in a blaze of red, white, and blue glory to tell me how 20,000 Americans dead by their own hand aren’t really gun violence. He’s mad that I’ve implied he’s dismissing those 20,000 dead as unimportant, he calls me a douche and suggests the problem can be addressed with a federal database maintained by doctors and populated by mentally ill people who’ve voluntarily told their doctors they intend to buy a gun and kill people and who’ve then voluntarily given gun-sellers access to that information, because something something haven’t figured out the minutiae of the plan.  He waves his hands over the “logistics” of such a system. The fact that the utter ineffective ridiculousness of his idea is blatantly obvious to even  the most rudimentary of intelligence is of no consequence. No, it’s the idea of a new law that frightens him.

And so, nothing.  He’s  spent an hour of his life and he’s got nothing.

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We’re right back to where we started.

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Exactly as I predicted three years ago.

 

It’s always the same circle-jerk with these gun nuts, always.

Every single incidence of gun violence, 33,000 or 13,000 per year, no matter how you count it, all of these events have one thing in common.

Guns.

And yet, guys like Mike will blame mental illness, or video games, or society, or gay people, or big government, or a lack of Jesus, or drugs, or illegal immigrants, anything but guns. And then they aren’t willing to do anything about any of those things either – because they’re afraid somebody will take away their guns.

Now, you’d think he’d be done at this point. A reasonable person would be.

But these are not reasonable people. He can’t walk away. He can’t admit his argument is nothing but fairy dust and moonbeams, a vague bit of poorly thought out bullshit even he won’t support – and it was his own idea.

True to the NRA, he has to stand and fight, he has to keep throwing out that hail of bullets hoping maybe one of them will find a target.

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I’ve lost track of the logical fallacies at this point. What number are we on?

Once again, he’s arguing a point nobody made. I’m sure this passes for a clever argument down at the monthly NRA Bang Bang Banquet, but ban driving? Nobody suggested we ban driving. Just like nobody in this conversation actually suggested we ban guns – unless you count the voices in Mike’s pointy head.

30,000 people die on America’s roads every year – about the same number who die from gun violence – and we work damned hard to reduce that statistic. We make people get licenses. We make them get training. We make them get insurance. We make the cars safer. We make the roads safer. We improve the technology constantly. We require safety systems. We research the causes of motor vehicle deaths. We impose draconian penalties on those who kill people with cars. We pass new laws and regulations all of the time and nobody screams about Nazis and government overreach.

So, I’ll ask  again, are you sure you want to use that as your example? Because I’m totally cool with it.

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Guess not.

So, he won’t support his own database law idea. His driving example blew up in his face. What’s next? What logical fallacy haven’t we tried yet? Move the goalposts! Dump it on me, sure.

Fine. Let’s do that.

I’ll be honest. So long as people like Mike refuse to budge on new legislation, so long as the gun-lobby buys off congress and stymies a national dialog at every turn, then yes, 30,000 dead Americans – including 20,000 dead by their own hands – is the price we will continue to pay for this gun nut lunacy.

Unlike the NRA, unlike gun-fetishists, unlike Mike, I’m at least honest enough with myself to face it.

So what am I saying? Fuck 20,000 dead Americans a year? Am I really writing off all those suicides? Please. You people know me better than that. Of course not. And I’ve written tens of thousands of words about it.  See the article linked to at the bottom of this piece.

Suicide is a red herring with these people. It’s nothing more than a way to cut overall gun deaths by two-thirds. It’s an NRA tactic designed to invalidate the single most compelling argument for action on gun violence: 30,000 Americans killed by guns in America every goddamned year.

And so long as the gun-fanatics control the conversation, control congress, nothing will be done because nothing can be done.

Cynical?

Four years ago, a mentally disturbed man enabled by the NRA and his gun-nut mother walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School and murdered 20 children. Nothing happened. Nothing. We did nothing. The NRA, the gun nuts, their paid lackeys in congress, told us those 20 murdered children, well, that’s just the price of freedom.

Now, you tell me what cynical is. Go ahead.

And it’s only gotten worse since.

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Deflecting? Hmmm.

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Good thing he wasn’t asking for respect.

Because I really don’t have a lot of respect for this guy’s disingenuous bullshit.

His very first comment dismisses two-thirds of gun violence victims as “suicides.”

He cries foul when I point that out, he claims I’m putting words in his mouth. But in the end, his concern for his unrestricted right to own a firearm outweighs any actual concern for his fellow man. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

And that, that right there, is the whole goddamned problem. 

That’s the NRA in a nutshell. 

That’s America.

THAT’S THE  ENTIRE POINT OF THIS ESSAY, RIGHT THERE. 

That’s why I put you through this, Tweet by tedious Tweet, so you could see it in the NRA’s own words.

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And that was the end of it. At least for me. I’m sure he continued to seethe in impotent rage long after I blocked him from my timeline. But I could see no further point in the conversation. Logical fallacies. Ad hominem attacks. Disingenuous double talk. Poorly thought out ideas. And at every turn, he attempts to put responsibility for gun violence on everybody but actual gun owners.

This guy is the very epitome of the American gun-fetishist.

These people, they’re not defending my rights.

These people, they’ve made gun ownership into a bizarre sexual fantasy of grade school machismo.

These people, they think in sound bites and non sequiturs and logical fallacies like a hamster frantically going ‘round and ‘round on a wheel.

These people, they’ve perverted the Second Amendment into religious zealotry of God, Guns, and murder/suicide and they’re not amassing arsenals to defend America, but rather to shoot down their neighbors who they believe aren’t American enough and to burn down their own country in an insurrection of paranoia and fear and manufactured fever dreams. 

In the end, Mike Fake Last Name is right: mental illness is the problem. 

And it’s long past time we stopped letting raging nuts like him run the asylum.

 


Addendum 1:  Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre, also another nut with a gun. 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’s Thrifty Acres in Jenison, Michigan, for me by my dad when I was fourteen years old – a lever action Winchester 30-30. I got my first deer with that gun.  I grew up shooting, at home, in the Boy Scouts, hunting, target shooting, plinking, with friends and with family.  Thirty years ago I joined the military and spent my entire life there. I know more than a little about guns. I’m a graduate of the Smith & Wesson Rangemaster Academy, the nation’s premier firearms instructor school. I’m a certified armorer and gunsmith. I’ve attended pretty much every boarding officer and gun school the military has. I hold both the Expert Pistol and Expert Rifle Medals. I’ve taught small arms and combat arms to both military and civilians for nearly thirty years now. I’ve fired damned near everything the US military owns, from the old .38 revolver to a US Navy Aegis Guided Missile Cruiser’s 5” main battery – and everything in between. I can still field strip a Colt .45 M-1911 pistol and put it back together in under a minute, blindfolded – I happen to own several of them, along with numerous other semi-auto pistols and a number of revolvers. I used to shoot professionally and in competition. I helped to design, test, field, and fire in combat US Military weapons systems. I’ve spent my entire life in places where gun usage is extremely, extremely, common. I have a Concealed Carry Permit. I’m an Alaskan and I typically carry a gun in the wilds of Alaska on a regular basis. I am neither pro-gun nor anti-gun, a gun is a tool, nothing more. If you feel that I’m ignorant of guns, or that I’m anti-gun, or unAmerican, well, you’re welcome to speak your piece – just so long as you can live with what comes after.