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Friday, November 13, 2020

Siesta


One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.
George Orwell, 1984


I once lived in the South of Spain.

In the province of Andalucia, in a small sun drenched town on the Atlantic Bay of Cádiz near the Port of Santa María. 

You might recognize those names. Christopher Columbus outfitted his first expedition on the Rio Tinto, which empties into the bay (whether or not the expedition's flagship was named for the port and/or municipality there is subject to much conjecture). Some of the few surviving ships of the first Spanish Armada returned to the bay after their disastrous defeat in the English Channel and later the British invaded Cádiz to prevent a second Armada, sacking the city and leaving it in flames. 

The area is steeped in the history and culture of many nations, of Kings and Queens and castles and wars long gone, and nowadays it is wonderful idyllic tourist destination of sparkling beaches and great food and friendly people. 

I lived there in the 1980s, not all that long after the end of Francoist regime. 

Francisco Franco. 

He was once the nation's youngest general, a monarchist, brash, popular, he commanded Spain's forces in colonial Africa at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War and then through a complicated series of events and a lot of dead people, ended up Generalissimo and Spain's head of state in 1936. 

They called him el Caudillo, which means something like "warlord" or "strongman" or mostly just dictator. 

And he was certainly that. 

With Franco came the "Limpieza Social," the cleansing of society, the purge of liberals and Spanish Republicans. No one is really sure how many died in those early years of the regime. Franco repressed all opposition, making Spain a one party nation, and sent tens of thousand of his political opponents to concentration camps. Forced labor and mass executions killed maybe 200,000 Spaniards. Murders, rapes, and beatings by the military and police under Franco were common. And worse, much, much worse. 

In Spanish history, this time was known as "the White Terror." 

But, then there was the other side of it. 

Franco kept Spain "neutral" during WWII. More or less. 

Franco was sympathetic to Hitler and Mussolini, who had supported him during the Spanish Civil War. He famously met with Hitler in France to negotiate Spain's incorporation into the Axis powers. But Franco demanded too much from Germany and the deal never went through. So Spain mostly sat out the war, though gold and supplies flowed into occupied France via the infamous Canfranc international railway station in the Aragón Valley and the occasional trainload of Jews flowed out -- followed in the final days of the war by fleeing Nazis themselves. But most of Spain was glad to avoid the conflict. 

After the defeat of Germany and Italy and the coming of the Cold War, Franco presided over what would become known as the "Spanish Miracle," a period of rapid economic and social growth. Franco mellowed a bit, allowing for some limited political opposition and increasing ties to the West, particularly the United States. 

It was a time of peace, prosperity, and especially law and order. 

And that's important, because we're going to come back to that. Peace. Prosperity. Law and order. 

In his later years Franco struggled with Parkinson's disease and eventually began divesting himself of the day-to-day management of the nation -- though he remained in power until his death in 1975. 

By the time I got there the Monarchy had been restored under King Juan Carlos and Spain had become a benign democracy governed by a parliamentary system. 

Nowadays, Spain, like any other nation has its problems. The economy ebbs and flows, there are ethnic minorities who sometimes resort to terrorism in a bid for autonomy, there is crime, all the usual things. 

And that's the thing, right there. 

Those usual things didn't exist under Franco. Or not nearly as much. 

When I lived there, I would daily meet people who missed el Caudillo.

It wasn't so much the brutal dictatorship they missed. 

But rather it was the peace, the prosperity, and especially the order Franco imposed on the nation with an iron fist.

Let me give you an example: 

One day, I was robbed by gypsies.

Down in the harbor. Fortunately for me, they weren't interested in the expensive camera equipment I was carrying, just the American dollars in my wallet. Heroin, one of them explained, threatening me with a broken grappling hook taken from a fishing boat. They needed money for drugs. I got roughed up, lost $50, and walked away mostly intact. 

I reported the assault to the Spanish police, they shrugged. Gypsies, not much anyone can do about that

I reported the robbery to the American military police on the local base, they took down the information and shrugged. Gypsies. Stay out of the harbor, man. 

I told my landlord about it. She spat on the floor. Gypsies. During Franco's time, she explained, they would have been shot on sight by La Guardia Nacional. Nobody was ever robbed by gypsies under Franco, the streets were safe. 

You can go to Spain today and still find those who miss Francisco Franco. 

Not as much as when I lived there, but some. The older generation. The conservatives. 

The streets were safe. 

Peace. 

Prosperity. 

Law and Order. 

That's what they miss.

They weren't the ones disappeared into the camps. They weren't the ones shot down in the street. They were the ones who built businesses and lives and homes under Franco's Spanish Miracle. And they were decent people, they were. Kind, friendly, hard working. But, they missed the dictator. 

The longer Franco was dead, the more nostalgic they were for that time. 

No one was robbed by gypsies under Franco. 

The streets were safe.


That's how it's going to be for us. 


Oh, Trump isn't any el Caudillo. 

Franco really was a tough guy, Trump is a sack of soggy tissue paper who just pretends to be. 

Still, even though Trump didn't -- as yet -- herd his political enemies into concentration camps, 230,000 Americans are dead by his hand anyway. More will certainly die before he leaves office. And maybe Franco was a piker in comparison. 

And now that Trump's days are numbered, now that a benign government waits to take over in his stead, it's important to remember that there will be those who miss him. 

Peace, they'll say. Trump got us out of Iraq and Afghanistan. He kept us out of Syria. 

Prosperity, they'll point out. Trump was good for the stock market, for bankers, for Wall Street, for rich people. And what's good for the wealthy is good for us. 

Law and Order, they'll tell us, nostalgically. Trump kept the streets safe. 

None of this is true, of course, just as it never really was in Spain. But that's how they'll remember it. With fondness. 

Because it wasn't them

Because it wasn't their lives. It wasn't their rights. It wasn't their fathers who died in some foreign land at the orders of an incompetent. It wasn't their children shot down in the streets for the crime of being Black in America. It wasn't their mother who died alone, afraid, in a hospital on a respirator. It wasn't their liberty, their justice, their freedom, that was in peril. 

No, they got a tax break. They turned a profit. They got rich. They got license to exploit America's resources without regard to the future or any responsibility for the consequences. 

And it's more than that, more than just greed and selfishness, it's that Trump told them they were great. 

Trump made it okay to be a racist, a bigot, a sexist. Trump made it so they didn't have to hide who they really are, down there underneath the thin veneer of civilization. Trump let them wave the Nazi flag and said they were good people. The Klan, the Confederates, the Proud Boys, the Incels, and the raggedy-ass militia just spoiling for a limpieza social of their own, Trump was their Jesus -- a white Republican Jesus, who didn't tell them to be better, but instead gave them permission to be who they already were. 

They're gonna miss Trump.

They don't want him to go. 

They don't want to have to go back to pretending to be civilized. 

Most of all they don't want to admit what Trump actually is. 

I mean, they know, but they're terrified of it being out in the open. Of what comes next. Of having to admit they followed a guy who is a monster. 

Trump thought, like any dictator, that he was going to stay in office for life. He joked about it, a third term, maybe a fourth, a dynasty. 

But it wasn't really a joke. He believed it.

He mocked those who lost political elections as "losers" and failures and sissy boys. 

And now, because of that, he can't face his own defeat. 

His supporters -- those wannabe stormtroopers, those revolutionaries -- they can't face his defeat. 

He's shamed, literally ashamed by his defeat. He can't face it. Can't face the public. Can't face his supporters. Can't face himself. 

Because he just can't imagine himself losing. 

And yet he has. 

Every day his defeat grows greater. He's losing one ballot count after another and he'll lose the recounts too. 

Every day he loses another lawsuit, another attempt to win the election by fiat. He'll lose them all, every one of them. 

Every day he loses those he trusted the most. He's lost Fox News, he'll lose the rest of them too. 

And he's ashamed. Mortified. He just can't admit it. He'll never admit it. He'll find some way to claim victory, even as Joe Biden swears the Oath of Office and settles into the White House. 

And so, like a spoiled child, he rages. He's holed up, furiously tweeting, red faced in shame. Grasping at anything, Hannity, Dobbs, OAN, anything and anyone who'll tell him he's not a loser. 

That's Trump, that's who he's always been, a manufactured narrative and a fragile ego inflated by the adulation of others. Even if he's got to buy that attention. 

He says he won't go, but he will. 

He will. 

There might might be violence, but in the end he's going to go. 

Trump is no Franco. And America isn't 1930s Spain. 

In the end, after the counts and recounts, after the lawsuits have been thrown out, after the tantrums and the tweets and the threats to run again in 2024, in the end he'll fold. In the end, Trump will stumble down the steps of the White House for the last time and a helicopter will carry him away into oblivion. 

Because Trump isn't any revolutionary.

He's just a sad broken old man who never grew up.


If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier. As long as I'm the dictator. Hehehe.
George W. Bush





Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Decisions


On Undecided Voters: To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. "Can I interest you in the chicken?" she asks. "Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it?" 

To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.
David Sedaris, American humorist 


It's Election Day in America.

The choices have never been more stark.

Rarely, in the history of this nation have the choices been more polar opposites, more obvious.

So, if you're still undecided this morning...

...maybe democracy isn't for you

...seriously, maybe you're just too damn stupid for democracy

...maybe you should be living in a monarchy where government is made up of a hereditary chinless hemophiliac aristocracy and you don't actually have to do anything other than just follow orders like a good little peasant

...or one of those "Democratic Republic of" totalitarian states where you get to vote for whoever the government tells you to vote for and everybody else gets taken out back and shot

...yeah, maybe totalitarianism is more your speed

...maybe you're just a fascist. 

Maybe. 

Because if you're still undecided at this point, you're basically those Germans who pretended they weren't actual Nazis while the ash from the crematoriums fell around them like snow.


The truth of the matter is that you've decided. 


You've decided. 

See, if you're still undecided at this point you've decided on fascism.

If you're still undecided at this point, you've decided that no matter how it shakes out, you'll be okay.

You've decided that you don't give a shit about anybody but yourself. And you? Well, you'll be fine. You're white. You're male. You're straight. You're Christian. You're rich -- or rich enough. You're privileged in some way, in enough ways, that you'll be fine. You're okay. You'll be dead before the bill comes due. It's not you they're coming for. You can afford to be undecided. You can stay home. You can throw your vote away.

You've decided that only profit matters. 

You've decided it's okay for you to pay for the wealthy, and they they shouldn't have to pay their fair share. 

You've decided freedom, liberty, justice, those things are only for those who can afford it.

You've decided you don't give a damn about the poor, the hungry, the sick, the homeless, the disfranchised.  You've decided that those people have it coming. 

You've decided you don't care if American citizens get shot down in the street by militarized police. 

You've decided that you're okay with racism. 

You've decided that seeing the Nazi flag and that of the Confederacy in the streets of America, the very symbols of hate, genocide, and slavery, is something you're comfortable with. 

You've decided that a president who daily lies to your face and calls it patriotism is something you want. 

You've decided you prefer conspiracy theory and hysteria to unpleasant truth and science and reason. 

You've decided that you just don't give a goddamn about the future, about the world you're leaving for your children and mine. If the seas rise and the forests burn and the crops die, you're okay with that. After all, you won't be around to see it and you've decided your profit and your comfort and your politics today are more important to you than a decent future for someone else. 

You've decided that 220,000 dead Americans don't matter. They were just losers anyway. 

You've decided that owning the libs, pissing people off, malice for the sake of malice, is who you are. 

That's you. 

That's who you are. 

You've decided that you want to live in a nation surrounded by walls and barbed wire and machine guns. You've decided that you want to live in a prison of your own making, rather than do one goddamned thing to make the world a better place. 

If you're undecided at this point, you've decided. 

You're just ashamed of your decision and don't have the guts to admit it.

You're not a patriot. 

You're not an idealist. 

You're not standing on principle, because you really don't have any. 

No. You're an arsonist. 

But, see, people die in a fire, and you, you dirty rotten lazy selfish son of bitch, you just want to watch them burn. 

Arson isn't principle, it's terrorism.

And if even if you yourself didn't light the match, if you stand by, undecided, and watch others start the fire, well, you're still a terrorist. 


That's who you've decided to be.


But you can change that. 

You can.

If you truly want a better nation, then you need to be a better citizen. 

Now -- right now -- is that moment. 

You can't blame anyone else. No one but yourself. You have to make your own choices and live every agonizing day with the consequences of those choices.
Max Brooks, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Oblivion

 

"To add value to others, one must first value others."
--John Maxwell


What can we do to improve morale? 

That was the question a senior officer once asked me.  

What can we do? 

To improve morale. 

He really should have known better than to ask someone like me

But they never do. 

I was assigned to a ship homeported out of a major naval station. It doesn't really matter which one, they're all pretty much the same.

This was a year or so into the war. Which one? Doesn't really matter, they're all pretty much the same. As such, it was still popular for elected officials to be seen making the rounds, shaking hands, talking to the troops. Oorah! And so on and so forth. 

The usual patriotic bullshit for the voters back in the flyover states. 

Some Senator or Secretary or some such animal (they're all pretty much the same) had rolled through base a few weeks before and made the mistake of asking how things were going.

Enlisted Sailors and Marines aren't exactly shy and they generally know an opportunity when they see one.

So they told him. 

They told him exactly how things were going a year into an ill-conceived war started on a lie. 

Oh boy, did they tell him. 

He was shocked. But, then they always are. They're always surprised when the guys they send to catch the bullets aren't all that enthusiastic about the project. That's always a surprise, given how popular war always is back in Washington and all. But, if you don't want to know, you shouldn't have asked. Should have just got your wartime reelection picture with the troops and headed back to the cornfields of Iowa or wherever it is these assholes come from. 

But, no, you had to ask. 

Disillusioned, the Senator met with the base Commanding Officer and told him there was a morale problem.

Now, I'm sure the CO demonstrated suitable surprise. What? No way! Why, I'll have to look into that, Senator! We'll certainly get to the bottom of it and have these troops singing God Bless America in no time! Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

Right.

Problem is, Senators tend to have staff, and staff tends to follow up on things like military morale issues because pretending to give a shit is a really easy way to get some votes from military parents in Corn Country. 

So, the Captain had to look like he was actually doing something. 

And thus, a few weeks later a bunch of officers who had far, far better things to do (like, you know prepare our respective units for another wartime deployment), ended up in the base auditorium for Commanding Officers Call. 

What can we do to improve morale?

Stop wasting my time with these idiotic Commanding Officer's Calls, for starters. 

But, naturally you can't say that out loud.

So I did what I usually did in such situations: Sat up straight and fired up my official government issue Palm Pilot (this was before smartphones) and proceeded to see how many rounds of Solitaire I could beat before the senior officers solved the morale problem and we could get back to the business of war. 

And then, they made a mistake. 

They asked me. 

Some smarmy looking ring knocker scanning the audience spotted me seemingly not paying attention and thought he'd score some points with the Captain. Chief Warrant Officer! Do you have any suggestions? 

Me?

Do I have any suggestions? 

Now, if you don't understand the difference between regular Navy officers and Chief Warrant Officers, well, the easiest way to explain it is that when they say "an Officer and a Gentleman" they're talking about the first kind. 

No one -- no one -- would confuse a Chief Warrant Officer with a gentleman. Even in bad light. 

Warrant Officers are former enlisted Chief Petty Officers, as a group they have a reputation for being supremely competent under any circumstance and supremely unpleasant in all of them. 

We're the people you call when it's all gone to hell and a gentleman would have to get his hands dirty. 

Sure, I have some suggestions, I answered. First of all, in 20 years of service, I have never once heard a enlisted Sailor or Marine or Soldier or Airman say they were getting out because they didn't get enough money for college -- or whatever idiotic suggestion it was just floated by the Lieutenant over there.

Troops always say the same thing: I'm getting out because I'm sick and tired of all the bullshit

Bullshit? But what do you mean, bullshit? 

Well, said I, lemme give you an example. 

These people, they swore to give their lives for this country. And they will. They'll deploy for a year into the warzone, over and over, leaving their families behind, risking their lives every damned day in a war that nobody even knows what the fuck we're fighting for. 

They'll do that without complaint (mostly). 

But then they come home. 

They come back here, to this base. 

And you know what? 

They have to sit for two hours every single morning, in a line of cars outside the main gate, waiting to get on base. They have give up an hour of precious sleep, because there are only two gates open. And only two lanes per gate. There are a dozen other gates that could be used, but they're not open. Then when they get on base, they have to spend 30 minutes trying to find a parking spot. Why? Because everything on this base is more important than they are. Everything

See, I counted. 

That's right, I drove around the base and I counted the number of parking spots down by the waterfront that are taken up with ... potted plants. 

Yes, you heard me correctly. Potted plants. 

Big stone containers with palm trees or flowers. Base beautification. The result of a visit by some other Senator or some such do-gooder. 

A hundred parking spots, taken up by plants.

Plants are more important than the men and woman who crew the ships. Plants get better parking. 

Another couple of dozen parking spots are taken up by dumpsters. That's right, trash dumpsters. 

Dumpsters are more important than Sailors.

Another hundred, or more, spots are reserved for contractors. 

Contractors are more important than Sailors. 

There are entire parking lots reserved for equipment. Can't park there, because tanks and APCs and trucks are more important than Marines. 

You know where enlisted people park? A mile away, on the other side of the fucking highway, and then they have to hike all the way across the base to get to their ships. 

Every day. 

They lose two hours of sleep, of time with their families, just to get on base and find a goddamn parking spot. 

So, said the Captain, puzzled, it's the parking? 

No, it's not goddamned parking. You wanted an example, I gave you one. It's not just the parking, it's everything

Everything else is more important than the men and women who are willing to give up their own lives for this country. And everything on this base, every minute of every day, demonstrates that. 

You might not see it, but they sure as shit do. 

When they say they're tired of all the bullshit, that's the kind of bullshit they're talking about. 

Fix that

And it's an easy fix. It won't cost you a penny. All you have to do, is show people some respect. That's it. Get rid of the goddamn planters. Make the goddamn contractors park on the other side of the highway, they can afford to run a shuttle bus. Or walk, God knows they're getting paid enough. Park the goddamn equipment over there too. When you're ready to load it on the ships, you can drive it over.

Show these people that they matter more than plants, more than contractors, more than dumpsters, more than tanks. That's just one example, there are hundreds more and you'll have no problem finding ways to show your people you care about them if you go looking for the opportunity. 

It's not about parking, it's about people.

You know what the Captain said? 

Do you? I'll bet the veterans can guess. 

He said, "I don't understand. I don't have any trouble getting on base."

I don't have any trouble getting on base. 

I thought he was joking. 

I really did. 

But he wasn't. He wasn't capable of understanding. He heard "parking" and that's as far as his brain would go. He could not, or would not, see the bigger picture. See the people

I couldn't believe he could be that dense or that privileged. 

But he was. 

I don't have any trouble getting on base, he said. I don't have any trouble finding a parking spot. 

No shit? 

You don't have any trouble? 

See, there was a special gate just for senior officers. A special lane, just for them. And a reserved parking spot right in front of their office. This guy showed up every morning, drove past 20,000 enlisted Sailors and Marines in line to get on base, and was waved through the gate without slowing down. 

He didn't have any trouble and he couldn't see what the problem was. 

Note: Not all commanding officers are this dense. Maybe not even a majority. This guy was a special case. 

He waved his hand for me to sit down and they moved on to somebody else. I went back to Solitaire. There wasn't much point in paying any further attention. Eventually they decided the morale problem was solved because Sailors and Marines always bitch and so there really wasn't any problem after all.  

And then we all got back to work, with two hours stolen out of a day that already didn't have enough time in it.  

And they probably bought some more potted plants too. 


I think about that moment every once in a while. Often lately. 


Ask any senior military leader what their most valuable asset is and they'll say people

It's the people. That's what's important. 

Maybe they even think they really mean it. Some of them anyway. 

But it's not. 

It's not.

Everything is more important than people. The mission. The equipment. The money. The war. The potted plants. The contractors. The dumpsters. The Senators. That's what matters. 

You can always get more people -- until you can't.

The Command is a reflection of the Commander.

As is the morale of the troops.


Out here in the civilian world, it's the president's job to care about the people. 


It's his job to agonize over the lives lost. 

The president isn't a military general for a damned good reason. 

He's a civilian, because it's his job to actually put people first. 

It's one thing when when it's low morale on a military base because the CO is a self-centered tool. 

It's another thing entirely when it's the guy in charge of the country. 

Trump ignored the pandemic, back when we might have stopped it. 

He called it a hoax, the flu, a plot by his political enemies to make him look bad. 

Everything else was more important than people. Everything. The stock market, profit, business, the job numbers, his popularity, his reelection. Golf. And probably potted plants too, for all I know. 

The Senators asking questions? The Congress People demanding a plan? Trump saw that as an irritation. Just people in way of the mission -- which in Trump's case is profit

He repeatedly ignored the advice of experts, deferring again and again to the toadies and sycophants and those who told him what he wanted to hear. He listened to the advice of fringe conspiracy theorists over that of the nation's best scientists. He's still doing it. 

He attacked and mocked the experts, the warnings, the simple basic proven actions we all could have taken to make things better if only we had a real leader who actually cared about people

And he refused, utterly refused, to see what was happening right in front of his face.

Because everything -- everything -- is more important to Donald Trump than people.  

And then he got it. 

No. Heh heh. Not a clue. He didn't get a clue. 

The plague. He got that. 

He got it because his own shitty irresponsible behavior made it inevitable that he would. 

He not only got it because his own behavior put him at risk, he quite literally infected dozens of others. Hundreds. Maybe thousands, if you include his rallies and meetings where he repeatedly encouraged the very behavior that led directly to his own infection. 

The numbers are climbing again. The infection rates are going up. 220,000 dead now and more deaths coming. 

The nation and its attitude towards this disease is a reflection of its leaders. Of Trump. 

As is its disorganized, ineffective, fatal response. 

Because underneath it all, Trump just can't see it. Won't see it. Isn't capable of seeing it.

When Trump got it, he was attended by a personal doctor at taxpayer expense. Literally Trump is that doctor's only patient. 

He was flown in a taxpayer funded government helicopter to the best hospital in the country. A government hospital, staffed by government doctors and government scientists and government nurses and government technicians and government staff. Something Trump says is bad, it's socialism if you get it. But, for him, well, it's his right because he deserves it. 

He was installed in a private luxury suite reserved just for him at taxpayer expense and a team of 20 doctors was assigned to his case. That was their only job. Trump was their only patient. Their entire attention was on him. He was given the very best care possible and treated with advanced experimental medications that cost more than a million dollars per dose and are not available to anyone else. Just him. And we paid for it all. 

Not a single penny of Trump's treatment came from his own pocket.

Just like income taxes: You do all the paying, he gets all the reward. 

And then, instead of listening to the experts, he went for a joyride solely in order to stroke his own ego. Putting a dozen more people at risk for no reason whatsoever. People, who if infected by Trump, would not have gotten the same care he got -- indeed Trump and Republicans tell you that you don't deserve the same treatment because it'll cut into profits. 

After which, Trump flew back to the White House while still infectious and went right back to acting like an irresponsible jackass, literally ripping off his mask on the White House steps. 

And now, here he is. 

It's not so bad, he says. 

The flu is worse. This pandemic is a plot to make me look bad. I don't understand what you're talking about. I don't understand why people are worried. Look at me, I beat it all by myself. Heck, everybody should get it. Herd immunity!

He is utterly oblivious. 

He's that captain, driving past 20,000 Sailors trying to get on base and he sees nothing, never looks up, the guards wave him through without stopping and he rolls into his reserved parking spot precisely on time and he just can't understand why anyone else has a problem. 

And now what is he talking about? Profit. The stock market. Reelection. Blaming others. Attacking his political opponents for his own failures. Everything is more important to Donald Trump than people who might be infected because of his failed leadership. 

Everything is more important than the actual citizens who he swore to protect. 


Of course, the analogy isn't a perfect one.


Military Officers are often single minded for a reason. 

They have to put the mission before the people. 

That's what being an officer is

In the end, that's the job. As an officer, one day you might have to order your people to give up their lives. You might have to order them forward into fire, knowing they likely won't survive. Even on a good day, you have to order tired people to give more than they want -- or they thought they could.

You can't do that, if people really come first. 

For us, it's duty. Duty comes first. Responsibility comes first. War comes first. Because that's the job. It won't win you any points with the voters back in Iowa, probably why General and Admiral aren't elected positions, but that's the job. And sometimes when you go from doing that to commanding a base back home, you forget to switch gears -- or you can't. And then, sometimes even when you can put people first, you don't. You put the potted plants first, or the contractors, or the dumpsters, or the equipment. 

And that's a failing on your part. 

But the fallout of that failing is limited by design. 

And there are very real consequences for officers who can't balance the requirements of duty against the needs of their people. 

Just as there should be limits on presidential power and consequences for failure. 

Should be. 

That's what our founders intended, that there should be immediate and dire consequences for any president, any elected leader, who fails to put people first. 

As Trump has repeatedly failed to do. 

That is the entire point of the Constitution. 

The Constitution doesn't protect profit, or business, or the stockholder, or even government. It was designed to put the citizen first. People first. We require our elected leaders -- and our military -- to swear allegiance to the Constitution for that very reason. 

When profit and power mean more than people, when political ideology comes first before loyalty to the nation or even to the idea of civilization itself, there can be no liberty, no justice, no freedom.

In the civilian world, people must come first and there must be immediate and dire consequences for those leaders who disregard their duty to the people. 

Or what then is the point of civilization?

If you want a better nation, be a better citizen. 

"You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand." 
--Woodrow Wilson

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Put Away Childish Things

 

“I am sure you have come across older people who behave like children. They want everything, whine for attention, bitch about the smallest things and argue about virtually everything. They stopped growing up at some point but continued growing older.”
― Saidi Mdala, Know What Matters


The day began in the usual fashion:


I'm not entirely sure what this was in response to -- if indeed it was a response to something I actually said and just not some spontaneously generated Budweiser fueled 2AM outrage at something he thinks I might believe.

Let's take each point in order:

"Hey coward, you're also a self righteous prick."

Also?

I mean, you start out with a conjunction? A connector to another thought? Also what? Why do I feel like he's been in this conversation longer than I have?

Maybe he forget an introductory paragraph? Also.

Grade school English aside, he might be right.

I might be a coward. I have a bunch of medals here from my military service that say otherwise, but I admit anything is certainly possible.

I've been called worse.

By better people.

That said, I comfort myself with the fact that coward though I might be, I at least don't send anonymous hate mail to random strangers on the internet.

I actually own what I say. I put my name on it, in front of half a million people every day.

I don't know if that's courage or not, but I can tell you that it very often makes me wish I was back in Iraq. As dangerous as that job was, it was often a great deal less shitty, insane, and soul draining than dealing with my own countrymen on the internet every day.

As to being self righteous prick, I admit that is likewise a possibility.

Others have made similar observations. Perhaps I should endeavor to be more humble, friendly, and less self-confident like my modest critic?

No?

No, I suppose not. And frankly, I'm not sure my readers would respond well to a suddenly unassuming and self-effacing Jim Wright.

Self-righteous prick suits me.

"You're happy to bully people who will be screwed under. Biden administration into voting for your own interests. [sic]"

Ah, now we're getting somewhere.

Again, he might be right.

Yes, he just might be.

You see, my interests are liberty, justice, and equality for all.

I want a poor black woman to have the same exact rights, respect, and opportunity as a rich white man.

I want the hungry to have enough to eat.

I want the sick and infirm to have medical care. I want the hale and healthy to have it too.

I want the homeless to have shelter and comfort.

I want the wealthy to pay their fair share.

I want the working stiff to have a living wage, good benefits, a safe and modern workplace, an expectation of a decent and timely retirement, and a say in how things are done.

I want every student to have a comprehensive quality education in a safe and violence-free environment and the realistic chance at higher education without a lifetime of crushing debt.

I want corporations to share equally in the risks they force onto the public, and I want the public to share in the vast profits businesses reap from the exploitation of public assets, land, and resources.

I want a nation that holds the peacemaker in higher regard than the warrior and employs the reasoned skills of the diplomat before the violent physicality of the soldier.

I want a society that tears down statues of generals and raises up instead monuments to the teacher, the artist, the engineer, the healer, the bridge builder, the homemaker, the mechanic, and the garbage man -- those everyday invisible unknown heroes who keep the wheels of civilization turning.

And most of all -- most of all -- I want a government that is accountable to its citizens and I want rational citizens educated, willing, and determined to hold that government to account every single day without regard to political party or ideology.

What I really want is a better nation, a better world, dedicated to a better future for all and not just a privileged few.

THOSE are my interests.

So, yes indeed, if you stand against those interests, if you're one of those selfish sons of bitches who get "screwed" under a new administration that seeks to make those interests a reality? Why, yes, then I'll gleefully mock your impotent fury every single day without pause.

I will.

Just as I mock the failure of Confederates, the Klan, Nazis, racists, bigots, sexists, and florid toothless little haters just like my critic.

"Nothing worse than a piece of shit who believes his own interests make him righteous enough to justify his bullying."

Heh heh.

Though I have no proof -- because as previously noted, he left off the introductory paragraph that would have explained the impetus of his complaint -- I strongly suspect this is in response to something I said the day before. To wit:

(A commenter complained that I wasn't showing the proper respect to recently deceased Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and that I shouldn't make her death into a political statement because that makes those liberals and progressives who didn't vote, or who threw their votes away, feel guilty)

I respected Justice Ginsburg just fine.

It's people like you, you miserable son of bitch, that I have no respect for. People like you who put the burden of your duty on an 87-year-old cancer patient so that you could have the luxury of throwing your vote away, of not showing up, of using your precious franchise for some idiotic protest, instead of doing your goddamned duty like a citizen. You screwed us all. You fucked over the most vulnerable members of our society solely so that you, you smug asshole, could pretend you have principles. You fucked not only us, but generations.
Now? Now you can own it. This is on you and nobody else. You don't deserve the Republic.
So, don't you dare come at me, you fucking ghoul, and demand respect. Because I'm fresh out.
Harsh?

Perhaps. But these are harsh times we live in. Sugar-coating it and coddling those who steadfastly refuse to do their civic duty doesn't seem to be working.

And to be honest? These people piss me off. Here we are on the very brink of fascism if not already over the edge, on the very verge of losing everything these perverse sons of bitches claim they care about, and they still won't accept responsibility for their own actions.

So, yeah, I'm a little harsh.

If you see my comment as bullying, well, that's just too goddamn bad.

No one is making you read my comments or hang around my social media feeds. I don't seek you out. You came to me, to boast about how you refuse to do your civic duty. So, if you don't like what I have to say or how I go about saying it, shove off. If you don't, that's on you. I'm not going to pull my punches for a bunch of shitty self-involved little snots who can't be bothered to show up.

OR for a bunch of wannabe fascists.

Because frankly, at this point, there's not a lot of daylight between the two.

If you think that's bullying, well, then you should perhaps have a talk with your president -- and he is your president and make no mistake, but we'll come back to that. Your president who daily uses the most powerful platform in the world to bully his political enemies, the weak and helpless, the crippled, the hungry, the tired, the homeless, and the soldier alike, all of those people you claim that you care about -- just not enough to actually show up and pull the handle for better leaders. And then he goes golfing.

Perhaps you should look to those of your persuasion who march on the capitol with their guns and their bibles and threaten to visit violent murder upon their neighbors.

Perhaps you should see to those who would kneel on a black man's throat while those like you righteously cheer on that oppression in the name of "law and order."

And while you're at it, have a talk with your miserable small capricious god about how his shitty followers, people like you, think they have the right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with her own body, who think they have the right tell others who they can love, who they can marry, and what they can do in the privacy of their own homes. So long as we're accusing others of being self-righteous and all, I mean.

And perhaps instead of sending hate mail and threats to others on the internet, perhaps you should spend a few minutes looking into the mirror and ask yourself who the real bully is.


What's that?


You're a not a Trump supporter?

Huh.

Oh, I see, you're a Democratic Socialist, are you? With your little rose and your framed picture of a sparkling unicorn. Yes, I see.

And you stayed home, right?

A lot of your fellows, they went to the polls and they voted for a candidate they didn't particularly like. But not you. You stayed home. You threw your vote away.

You know what?

Those who stood silent while the Nazis herded Jews into the gas chambers may not have been card-carrying fascists themselves, but they might just as well have been.

And that's you.

You refused to make the adult choice, and so it was made for you, by those you claim to despise the most.

You're not a hero.

You're not righteous.

You're just another complicit stooge.
"People like you, wretched, entitled, boomer filth, is the reason 50% of the country didn't vote in 2016 and will sit out 2020."
And now we're down to it, aren't we?

The bitter crux of the matter, yes.

Somebody was mean to you on the internet and so you stayed home and pouted with your little bottom lip stuck out. The Nazis are marching in the streets of your nation, and there's you, sitting on the bed, arms crossed, holding your breath until you turn red.

Your candidate wasn't the nominee.

You didn't get what you want.

So you stayed home in petulant fury.

Boy, you sure showed us.

But here's the curious thing about your rage: According to you, I'm a horrible, self-righteous cowardly prick, right? "Wretched entitled Boomer filth," that's what you think of me, those are your words.

And yet -- and yet -- that's who you expect to do your job.

That's what you're saying here, isn't it?

Cowardly wretched entitled Boomer filth that I am, and yet I showed up.

I show up every time.

Where the fuck were you?

You don't show up.

By your own account: YOU. DON'T. SHOW. UP.

And you wonder why the world never goes in the direction you want?

Those like you don't show up, because those like you never do.

It's got nothing to do with the candidates.

It's got nothing to do with the choices.

It's got nothing to do with the system.

And it's for goddamn sure got nothing to do with me.


You don't show up because that's just who you are.


And this bluster and outrage? It's just an excuse.

Because that's all you've got, excuses. That's what defines you. Excuses. Not showing up. You can write hate mail, you can rage on the internet all goddamn day, but you just can't find the time to go vote. Instead, you expect somebody else to fix the world.

Somebody like me. A person you despise.

Why?

Because you're a child, that's why.

You're a child.

You want to talk about entitled? You expect everybody else to do the grunt work of democracy for you -- like your mom picking up your dirty laundry scattered all over your room and washing it for you and putting it away in the drawer all neatly folded and smelling of fabric softener.

You throw a tantrum when the world gives you choices you don't like, when you have to work for what you want instead of having it handed to you.

So you sit home and pout and blame everybody else.

Hell, you can't even be bothered to do the bare minimum as a citizen. Instead you dress yourself up in some imaginary "Resistance" like a kid playing at Star Wars and pretend you're actually doing something by sending hate mail to random strangers on the internet.

Because you're a fucking child.

You're an immature little turd whose life will never amount to a goddamned thing, nothing but daydreams and outrage and endless excuses. Your mom will be picking up after you your whole damn life. Your entire worldview is that of a child. Your politics are those of a spoiled little brat. You call me a coward, but you expect an 87-year-old woman with metastatic terminal cancer to do the heavy lifting for you and you can't even put forth the bare minimum effort of showing up to vote -- and then you announce that dereliction of duty as if it's some sort of accomplishment.

You seem to think nonperformance is a statement.

And it is.

But your petulant impotence is very likely not the message you think it is or much of a reflection on the generation you claim to speak for.

You, you fucking child, you're why the world is what it is.

Yes, others and other generations fell down on the job too. But that doesn't excuse you, because you could look to their pitiful examples see the cost of your cowardice. You saw that and still you elected this cretin, and it hardly matters if it was with right wing MAGA hat wearing malice aforethought or out of some pot smoke scented far-Left indolent spite.

You want a better world, but you won't do even the minimum work necessary to make it so.

You claim to care about others, but you'll sacrifice the most vulnerable if you don't get what you want. Burn it all down, you shout. You're not a patriot, you're just another goddamned arsonist. You blame others, play the victim, and watch from the bed while your mom picks up your dirty clothes.

And because of that, that's all you'll ever be: a victim of your own failure and selfishness.

Your threat to stay home isn't much of an ultimatum. Go on, stay home. Leave the world to those you despise. That'll show us.

We'll be out there, holding back the fall of night, without you. Same as we always do.


“With President Trump, however, the masculine archetype seems to have regressed. Trump is less the strict father than the petulant child: a boyish figure who rejects advice, shirks discipline and refuses to be beholden to behavioral norms. He is rarely even seen as the patriarch of his own family; as Melania Trump said after he was caught boasting about assaults on tape, “Sometimes I say I have two boys at home.” ― Amanda Hess

 

“Trump taught us how easily seemingly serious people can become profoundly idiotic. He turned career politicians into circus freaks.” ― Thor Benson

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Going Offline for a Bit

You might have noticed that I haven't written much in the way of long form around here lately. 

No, I haven't given up writing.

No, I haven't abandoned the blog.

No, I haven't moved to a remote island without internet and gone back to nature -- though that is still a distinct possibility. 

The truth is: I've been having health problems and that has affected my ability to write longer pieces. Or complete the novels. Or write creative short stories. Or do much of anything but shout on social media at the latest idiocy by our government.

Pain will do that do you. 

It taken the doctors a while to figure it out. I've been scanned, X-rayed, probed, and had my blood tested in a dozen way. 

Yesterday I finally got a definitive diagnosis. 

The good news that it's fixable.

The bad news is that it's something that needs to be done right away, or it won't be fixable. 

So, in a few days I'm going in for surgery. Should be fairly quick. Recovery should be relatively short, a day or two, and I'll be out of the hospital and back to work. Hopefully back to writing long form here in addition to my usual copious social media output. 

That said, on the same day I'm scheduled for surgery, there are two hurricanes hitting the Gulf Coast because, of course, there are. 

One of those hurricanes is aimed more or less directly at us here in the Florida Panhandle. 

I need to secure the house and property, prep the generators, lay in supplies, etc, so my family is safe -- including members that can't evacuate -- while I'm in the hospital.

All of this is the long way around of saying: I'm going offline for a week starting today. Prepare yourselves accordingly. I may check in periodically on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, let you know how things are going, but don't count on that. If surgery is delayed due to the weather, then I might be offline for a bit longer. I'll let you know. 


In the meantime: 

As previously noted, every once in a while I have to ask for money.

I don’t have to do it very often these days. But, this has been an expensive year and I’ve got bills to pay and people to take care of.

Having given up military consulting work and having shut down my woodworking business and art studio (hopefully temporarily) when I left Alaska, I subsist for the moment primarily on income derived from my social media sites and this blog – including the various merchandise I sell under my brand.

A few years back, I wouldn’t have believed this possible.

A few years back it wouldn’t have been possible.

But despite the sneering complaints of certain vocal critics, it is possible for a writer to make a reasonably decent living this way.

Yes, writer.

It used to be “writer” was defined as somebody who assembled words and ideas into books, short stories, articles, and perhaps screenplays, fact or fiction, and submitted those efforts via various means to editors at publishing houses or various presses or various media outlets, and then lived on cheese sandwiches hoping a check of some modest amount would come back. Traditionally the profession of “writer” meant you repeated this cycle without healthcare or adequate hygiene or presentable clothes until you died, or gave it up for a real job.

That model, that definition of writer, still very much exists.

And a lot of writers make varying degrees of living from it.

If you’re a Stephen King or a John Scalzi, you might make millions and live in a golden mansion high on a landscaped hill in the middle of a private island waited on hand and foot by an army of nubile olive-pitters (this is totally true and I heard it directly from one of George R.R. Martin’s gardener). But more likely you’re a stringer for the local paper, and you might make enough to buy a cheese sandwich or two providing you’re not particular about the definition of “cheese” or those weird green spots on the bread.

Various degrees of success exist between those poles.

Me? I wanted to be a writer since I was kid. It’s a sickness, writing. A weird mental disorder that makes you sit in front of a keyboard for hours, daydreaming and playing with ideas and wondering why anybody would read the blather on the screen. But my grandmother gave me a Hardy Boys book (#8; The Mystery of Cabin Island) for Christmas one year when I was about 8 or 9. I’d been an indifferent reader up to that point, but that book captivated me and my lifelong obsession with words began right there. Somewhere shortly thereafter, in a staggering moment of epiphany, I realized there were actually people out there who got paid to sit in front of a keyboard and daydream and those people didn’t have to put on pants every day. Hell they might not even own actual pants – unless you consider pajamas legitimate work apparel.

I knew then that’s what I wanted to do.

I’d always intended to go the traditional route, cheese sandwiches and all.

I’d never intended to write about politics. But evidence would suggest that’s where my talent lies – if you’re charitable and agree that it is indeed an actual talent and not just something you could train a chimpanzee to do (they taught ‘em to fly spaceships, so I imagine political pundit wouldn’t be that difficult).

But by the time I was free to write what I wanted (upon my retirement from the military) and I started writing in earnest with the idea that someday somebody would give me actual money for it, the world had changed. How we connect to it had changed and continues to evolve at a rapid pace and a new type of “writer” became possible – well maybe not new new, but perhaps a more modern version of the political broadsides and pamphlets penned by the likes of Thomas Paine.

It’s amazing to me how fast this has gone.

Ten years ago, hell five years ago, I would never have guessed that Facebook would become my primary platform for day to day short form.  Facebook is a horrible platform for the kinds of things I write. It’s a bastard cross between a blog and public forum and doesn’t do either very well. It’s subject to arbitrary and random censorship. There’s no protection for intellectual property at all. It lacks the most basic of editing tools and formatting functions, its search capability is ridiculous and all but useless. Facebook’s interface, timeline management, and display are one of the single most infuriatingly horrible experiences in an age of limitless customization – limitless to everybody but Facebook users that is. It’s impossible to get any kind of help from the operators and it’s subject to every kind of cyber-abuse from bullying to trolling to sexual assault.

And Twitter, where I spend many hours every day, is – if anything – worse.

If Facebook is a dysfunctional community, then Twitter is Monkey Island in that community’s horrible zoo, a screeching riot of flying shit and bared fangs. Twitter is a chemical plant for distilling out the absolute worst elements of human existence, like some sort of highway where every driver is armed and in the throes of howling road rage and they don’t care if they die if they can take everybody else with them.

And yet – and yet – these platforms do one thing very, very well.

They do the one thing that traditional publishing venues cannot do.

Facebook and Twitter (and Instagram and Snapchat and CoSo and so on) connect writers to people in an organic, viral, geometrically expanding manner that is completely impossible anywhere else.

Now, interacting with readers on a real time basis for hours upon hours every single goddamned day isn’t for every writer. It takes a certain degree of masochism to do it, see my previous comments about road rage and flying monkey shit.

In point of fact, a lot of writers become writers because they are anti-social bastards who enjoy living on moldy fake-cheese sandwiches and sitting around all day in dirty pajamas and who tend to break out in a cold sweat when they actually have to put on pants and go outside where all the other people are.

So real time interaction with their audience isn’t something they consider a feature.

And that’s okay. “Writer” is a loose enough definition that it accommodates the gregarious right alongside the hermit.

But, if you write well, if you write the things people are interested in, and if you’re willing to interact with your audience directly and in real time, then social media makes it possible for your work to spread far beyond the size of audiences normally available to traditional writers. For example: A few years ago, when I started doing this full time, Stonekettle Station averaged maybe 20,000 visitors per month – and that was after 8 years of writing every single day.  Maybe 3,000 people followed me on Facebook, maybe another 1000 or so on Twitter, and like one weird guy on Instagram.

Five years later, with some considerable effort, my daily Facebook audience is coming up on 200,000 subscribers, 170,000 on Twitter, and a single long form essay on Stonekettle Station can exceed 200,000 unique pageviews in a few hours.

That’s not connectivity traditional publishing, even things like newspaper columnist, can do.

Social media, for all its ills, has created new opportunity, an alternative to traditional writing models. Not a replacement, a supplement.

And that’s where I ended up.

I admit that in my case there is some degree of luck. I happened to be in the right place just as opportunity opened with the right experience and skillset and enough free time to take advantage of it.  It suits me. It’s not easy. Really it’s not. It sometimes (often) takes 14 to 18 hour days, research, writing, swearing at the screen, it can be incredibly frustrating at times for reasons you never imagine or anticipate. It requires constant attention, a constant presence, and everything becomes grist for the mill, making much of your life public – something that is often less than thrilling to your spouse.

It’s work.

And it is … writing.

I’ve had a number of critics sneer at me, you’re not a real writer! Well, okay. Fair enough. I’m not particularly put out by that and I’m willing to go with whatever description you want to call it.  Sincerely.

But what do you call it?

I sometimes crank out a quarter million words in a month for a dedicated audience larger than that of many highly successful novelists. Hell, news sites steal my work on nearly a daily basis, and publish my stuff as their own for profit – that’s got to mean something, right? Now, I’m willing to accept any label you want to slap on that, but before you do, I’d like to suggest you try it. Start a blog, social media sites, assemble words every day, build an audience without gimmicks or tricks solely on the basis of what you write, and then tell me what you call that effort.

As a cautionary note: no matter what you call yourself, no matter how much adoring admiration you manage to inspire in your audience, no matter how many people send you fan mail and messages of respect, no matter how successful you eventually manage to be and how full of yourself you become as a result, your family and friends still think you’re a putz and remind you of it as often as possible.  Ideally this keeps you grounded and from turning into a complete ass. Ideally.

And every day, every single day, no matter how well you’ve done, everyday, you’re sure that’ll be the day it all falls apart and you’ll have to go get a real job again.

I’ve been invited to a number of writer’s conventions to talk about this with other writers – or those who want to become writers under this new paradigm. That’s something I’m happy to do. I’ve been pretty lucky and I’m glad to pay that forward. The world is a big place, there’s plenty of room for many, many more writers – or whatever you call ‘em – in this new arena. More on that as plans firm up.

But, here’s the downside – or at least the part I like least.

Every once in a while I need to ask for money.

I don’t like this. I really don’t like this. I don’t like asking for money.

I’m getting more used it, especially since it doesn’t seem to bother readers at all – well except for that one guy who shows up periodically to call me names and generally make an ass of himself. But ideally, I write something and if you like it enough, you’ll kick in.  And thankfully, you do so often enough that I can mostly survive on that part. Mostly, but not quite.

So when I began this I found a way to assuage my conscience.

Any subscriber who donates any amount via the donation button or as a Patreon during the next 30 days, August 22, 2020 to September, 22, 2020, will be put in the running for a giveaway. Every few days over the next month, I’ll give away loot. I’ve got at least a hundred of my handmade ink pens, engraved with Stonekettle Station. I’ve signed copies of books that my work appears in. I’ve got signed copies of my photography – and given that I generally don’t sign those prints, these will be unique. And randomly, I’ll give away a couple of Stonekettle Station T-shirts (If you win one of those, I’ll have it made to your requirements, size, color, sex, etc).

Winners will be announced every few days until I run out things to give away.

To donate, click on the “Donation” button on the upper right side of this screen and follow the directions or click on the Patreon link for additional options.



Edit: Readers viewing Stonekettle Station on mobile devices sometimes can’t see the side-bar. As such, I’m attempting to embed the donate function code here in the text.







My Patreon is here



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

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

I’ve discovered that winners sometimes, often it seems, do not want their names made public. I’d like to tell readers who got the various art pieces, but if you want your name kept private I will certainly do so. One time when I did this, the first person I selected to receive a prize refused because they lived on a boat and had no room for addition items. The alternate also refused for personal reasons and requested that the artwork go instead to a charity for auction to raise money for a cause important to them. They wanted it kept anonymous. So, that I did. I will honor any reasonable request when it comes to such things.

Legal Disclaimer: To be clear, this is not a lottery or a raffle.  Donations are voluntary subscription fees specifically in support of this blog and the associated social media feeds and conducted in accordance with state and federal requirements.

That is:  you’re paying for content not a chance to win something.

I am not claiming any tax-exempt status or charity. Donations are considered business income and I pay all applicable state and federal taxes on that income and I have the records to prove it.

The items I give away are my artwork, created and paid for by me.  As such I chose to randomly give them away to supporters, just as I gave away my custom made pens to my fellow writers.  The giveaway list is generated from voluntary subscriptions, since I have no other way to determine who readers are.  You are not donating for a chance to win a prize, you’re paying for the content of this blog and my associated social media feeds and I’m using this opportunity to give something back other than just my usual blog essays, Facebook posts, and Tweets.

As always, thank you for your support // Jim





Thursday, June 11, 2020

Down With Slogans!



Make America Great Again! 
-- Donald Trump, 2016 campaign slogan and policy statement

I said a thing. 
It didn't go well. 
Or, on second thought, maybe it did. Days later, I'm still not sure one way or the other. 
It began, as it usually does these days, on Twitter:


Hang on. 

Just wait. Don't start screaming yet. 

If you let me explain, I'll probably give you even more reason to be mad and outraged. Won't that be nice? 

So, anyway, that's what I said. 
We don't want to defund the police.
We want to fund police training, de-escalation, community outreach, oversight, and especially police ACCOUNTABILITY.
What we want is to defund police brutality, abuse, racism, escalation, and militarization.
Fund protect and serve EVERYONE.

Outrageous, right? 

In my defense, Twitter is a lousy platform for political commentary. Tweets are limited to just under 300 characters, which doesn't allow for much in the way of detail or nuance. And sure, you can thread tweets, i.e. link them together into a longer message -- and I do that, a lot, and am in fact somewhat notorious for it -- but the truth of the matter is that not very many people read beyond the first tweet in the thread anyway.

And frankly, I thought this mostly a throwaway comment. 

I posted that at 8:35AM on a Monday morning. First tweet of the week, while I had my first cup of coffee and settled in to get a feel for what was happening in an America on fire, burning from both ends and right down the middle. 

But this was a Monday morning after two weeks of protests following the murder of yet another black man at the hands of police. 

This was Monday after a weekend of the president throwing gasoline on the fire from the safety of his bunker, under a fortress, behind a wall, surrounded by a brand new fence, guarded by an army. 

This was the day after police across the nation declared war on American citizens, a weekend of dogs, escalation, gas, tanks, and bullets -- some rubber, some not -- and yet more murders, more racism, more abuse by those who should be protecting Americans instead of killing them. 

I want to say this Monday was unusual, but, you know, it's starting to feel like it's not. 

Maybe that's where I went wrong -- if indeed I did. 

Rage has become the norm of American existence and this just seemed like more of the same.

Because it is


And that's the problem. 


See, on that Monday, my various social media timelines were full, tens of thousands deep, with people shouting "Defund the Police!"

Defund The Police?

That's the message we've settled on, I guess. The shouted slogan, the unifying narrative that has emerged in the wake of the protests, the riots, the rhetoric, the war on American citizens waged by those sworn to protect and serve and openly led and encouraged by those supposedly elected to support and defend the Constitution for all. 

Defund the police!

There were thousands of requests, demands, entreaties, for me to use my platform to push that message: Defund the Police! Come on, Jim! Join us! Use your voice to get others to join us! Defund the police! 

Sure, but ... defund the police? 

Defund?

What does that mean? 

The day before I saw a handful of people shouting this. Now? Monday morning it was thousands. Tens of thousands. 

So, anyway, I...

What? 

What's that? 

Oh. I see. 

You're mad. It was way before Monday morning, you say. You've been shouting it for years. Well, you know, maybe it was being shouted long before Monday. But maybe we don't all have the same view, the same input, the same shared experience -- and we're going to come back to that. So, for me, it was Monday when I really noticed the slogan "Defund the Police," when I realized it had become some sort of national movement, when people began demanding that I join up. 

You? Your mileage may vary. 

As I way saying: You want me to join you? You want me to push the message? 

I might, but I'm going to need more than a slogan.

Defund the police? 

What does that mean? Get rid of the police? Abolish the police? Or just ... don't pay the police anymore? What are we talking about here? 

I looked at what my readers were saying, over half a cup of cooling coffee at 7AM. 

I looked at the thousands of comments and messages, and I  listened to what people were shouting in the street, and it seemed to me they were saying they didn't really want to get rid of the police. 

Instead, again it seemed to me, they wanted to reduce the things which lead to institutional bias (such as, you know, racism, for example), abuse of power (like kneeling on a man's throat until he dies, for example), unnecessary use and/or escalation of force (like tear gas and rubber bullets used on peaceful protesters outside the White House), militarization, lack of accountability, etc. 

That sounds good. 

I can certainly support that, and in fact, I have been shouting that very message myself for more than a decade right here. 

And, again it seemed to me, they wanted to reward, fund, and/or increase the things which lead to better policing. Such as: community outreach to help cops and citizens see each other as people and not enemies, i.e. make policing local, community based and less like an invading army; programs which move some of the burden for non-policing matters (such as mental health intervention) away from law enforcement; increased oversight of police departments by community, state, and federal entities; significantly increased accountability of police officers and departments, training (which can be everything from de-escalation to civil rights to sexual harassment), etc.

That also sounds good to me. At least as a starting point. 

Again, since it seems I might need to repeat myself on this, I've been preaching exactly that message for more than a decade now, right here on this blog, and on my various social media feeds -- and I haven't been exactly shy about it recently either. 

I think "defund" might not be the best choice of words here, but you go to into revolution with the slogans you have and so I boiled what I was seeing down into a single summary small enough to fit into a tweet. 

Monday morning and a throwaway tweet of agreement and, even now, this doesn't seem like a controversial statement to me. 


But it only seems that way.


As it turns out, that's not what everybody meant. 

See, some people really did mean "abolish" the police. 

A lot of people, as it turns out. 










 


















There are thousands more. 

Three days later, it's still going on. 

You can take a look at my Twitter feed if you don't want to take my word for it. And tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of similar comments on Twitter outside of my feed, and on Facebook, TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, etc. 

Fuck you, defund the police. 

Fuck you, abolish the police. 

Fuck you, eliminate the police. 

Fuck you, defund means defund. 

Well, okay. Fuck me. Whatever. Not exactly the first time Lefty social media has told me to go fuck myself. I try not to take it personally. But about the hundredth "fuck you" from people who I'm supposed to be sharing a side with, well, like the man said, it kinda feels personal. 

Maybe I had it wrong.