Friday, September 5, 2014

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 10

An armed society is a polite society. Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.
- Robert Heinlein, Beyond This Horizon

An armed society is a polite society.

That’s what somebody said to me today.

I said, ah, so you’re a Heinlein fan then?

The reply was a blank stare.  Heinlein, never heard of him. NRA?

Uh, no, not exactly. But he’s the guy who said it, that bit about an armed society, the idea you’re quoting out of context. And really, listen, I hate to be a wet blanket, and I’m as big of Heinlein fan as anybody, but I’m going to have to call Shenanigans on that one right up front.

An  armed society is a polite society.

Uh, no. No, it’s not. Not outside of science fiction anyway.

You see, when Robert Anson Heinlein wrote that line, “an armed society is a polite society,” it was in the context of a fictional story. That’s what he did, you know, he wrote science fiction. You could say that in certain circles, he’s somewhat known for it.  He created a “politely” armed society for his 1948 novel, Beyond This Horizon (first printed 1942 as a two part serial in the pulp magazine Astounding Science Fiction).

And in Heinlein’s case, “polite” is subject to broad interpretation.

Horizon describes what’s nowadays typically referred to as a “post-scarcity” utopia.  All the problems plaguing mankind have been beaten, hunger, poverty, disease, conflict, old age, and even death from natural causes in large part, are all relics of the past.  Genetic modification of human beings is the norm (in fact, “natural” or unmodified human beings are so rare, they are a endangered and protected species).  Most humans in this society are what we’d call “supermen,”  they’re physically perfect and mentally gifted. Nobody wants for anything and nobody has to work – or do anything they don’t want to.

Naturally, the world is packed end to end with the resulting mass of bored humanity.

Which means that people have plenty of opportunity to bump into each other, physically and mentally, and be insulted or offended. 

So they all go armed.

Nearly everybody in Beyond This Horizon carries a personal sidearm. Those that don’t are pariahs and have to wear special identifiers. And they get the opportunity to use those weapons on a regular basis because dueling is the primary method used to resolve interpersonal conflict.

Which is where the quote comes in. See, if you don’t want to duel to the death with an immortal superman, then you’d best be damned careful not to give offense in any way. You’d better be unfailingly polite.

An armed society as a polite society works for Beyond This Horizon, and it works because Heinlein wrote it that way.

It was simply a device to hang a story on and nothing more.

Which is probably why we shouldn't base our society on pull quotes from science fiction - no matter whether the writer be a master storyteller like Robert Heinlein or a deluded hack like L. Ron Hubbard – or Ayn Rand for that matter.

Heinlein, whatever his failings, wasn't any drooling ammosexual. He had strong opinions about society and he was certainly not shy about stating them, both in his fiction and in his life. But he also believed, very strongly, in personal responsibility and individual accountability - something the gun nuts never seem to mention when cherry picking his work. He's been dead now for 20 years and it's too late to ask, and as I said the definition of “polite” in the context of the story is somewhat subjective, but given his background and beliefs I seriously doubt that Robert Heinlein expected Americans to go around so terrified by the likely armed response of irrational people that they just hide in their houses and keep their mouth shut or be willing to risk death daily in the grocery store or on the way to pick up their kids from school. 

But, you know, even if he did, if even that’s exactly what he actually thought, so what? He was a writer, not some infallible omniscient deity.

The quote isn’t profound, it’s just a line in a science fiction story.

I might enjoy Star Wars, but I don’t think America has to live by the Jedi Code.

But then again, maybe Heinlein had a point. Maybe if everybody is armed and willing to kill each other over any minor altercation, if every American is so angry and so utterly terrified for their lives every minute of every day that they must respond to any confrontation no matter how small with deadly force in fear for their lives, well, yeah, maybe we will get a more polite society.  What’s left of it after the carnage. After we've gunned down all the people who frighten us, all those people with different skin colors, and those with sexual orientations that make us uncomfortable, and those with funny accents and alien customs, and the punks who wear strange clothes and go around sporting tattoos and piercings, and especially those people who worship the wrong gods or none at all, and … parents on the way to pick up their kids from school. Sure, once we get rid of those people, thin out the herd, what's left will be a whole lot more polite – courteously shouting "please" and "thank you" from their bunkers, no doubt.


Wait, what was that last one?


Shoot people on the way to pick up their kids?

Well, yes, that’s exactly correct.  That’s what happened in Michigan this week.

Tuesday, 69 year old Martin Zale was driving like a horse’s ass through a residential neighborhood, speeding and driving aggressively (No, that’s not my opinion, there were witnesses – including Zale’s wife). He crossed paths with 43 year old Derek Fleming, who along with his wife, was on the way to pick their two young children from school. Zale nearly collided with Fleming, tailgated him, and then cut him off despite the fact that Fleming had politely moved into the right lane in order to let Zale pass.  After cutting Fleming off, Zale slammed on his brakes forcing Fleming to slam on his so as to avoid a collision. At the next intersection, Fleming got out of his SUV and approached Zale’s truck.

There were witnesses and they are all agreed, Fleming was not armed and did not threaten Zale in any way, he simply asked, “What’s your problem?”

Zale rolled down his window, pulled out a concealed pistol, and without a word shot Fleming in the face, killing him.

And that, right there is the “polite society” these gun nuts would have us live in.

They want the right to act like assholes, to say or do any goddamned obnoxious thing they like, force a confrontation and then when questioned about it claim that they felt “threatened” in order to stand their ground.

That’s it. That’s the society these people think they want to live in. Dodge City. Tombstone. Beyond This Horizon. Duels and pistols at dawn. Blood in the street.



Don’t. Just don’t.

Don’t get all narrow eyed and start making that patting gesture and telling me that I’m wrong.

Don’t tell me I’m making a mountain out of a molehill.

Don’t try to tell me that it’s just one isolated incident, just one crazy gun-toting asshole with a chip on his shoulder and grudge to settle.


After all the blood and all the bullets and all the insanity this suicidal gun crazy culture has inflicted on America, just don’t.

Instead, how about we review what a shitting sitting member of the National Rifle Association said this week:

“Those who carry guns had better gun & ammo up no matter where you go, carrying at least 10 spare mags or 10 spare speedloaders because the allahpukes are confident they will once again methodically slaughter walking cowering whining cryin helpless sitting ducks capable of zero resistance. To gullible naive embarrassing ill prepared targets, there is still time to firepower up ASAP.  Head for cover but retain an attentiveness in order to identify the evildoers and dbl tap center mass, then two to the head. Then take cover and prepare your next evasive escape, taking dwn known jihadists to the best of your ability, Aim small miss small center mass & headshots.”

Of course that was Ted Nugent yesterday on Facebook.

Well, of course it was. Who else would it be?

And of course Nugent is a murderous madman – just another drooling ammosexual with an arsenal. Not to mention a guy who shit his pants at the very thought of having to face down armed enemies for real.

Ted Nugent is an active and outspoken member of the NRA Board of Directors. When he speaks, he’s speaking for them, for every single member past and present of the National Rifle Association and their apologists, for the gun culture of America – and don’t tell me that he’s not, not until the NRA publically ousts him and unambiguously and in no uncertain terms condemns his murderous paranoid bugfuckery.  Not until his shows are cancelled, not until he’s ruined financially, not until he’s held to account for his bullshit, not until he’s arrested for making terroristic threats.

Listen to me, if one Muslim extremist is the face of all of Islam, then Ted Nugent is the face of the NRA. Quod erat demonstrandum. Period and you can’t have it both ways.

“This is going to be the real deal & absolutely survivable against these 4th world allahpuke zombies. STAND! Go heavy, Only assholes are outgunned, Dont be outgunned or out ammo’d. Goodluck. Be safe, Shoot straight & OFTEN, Godspeed, killemall.”

Nugent was talking about his belief that Muslims, or “allahpukes” as he calls them, will attack America on the anniversary of 9-11, and that Americans, real Americans, will have to fight for their very lives in the streets of their hometowns. But his mindset, the paranoid armed insanity that is this exact mindset, the idea that the whole world is out to get you, that you have a god-given lawful right to act like a selfish obnoxious asshole all of the time and if questioned about it in any way whatsoever then deadly force is somehow the right and proper response, that mindset is exactly what led to the cold-blooded murder of Derek Fleming.

Tell me, what else are we to make of “…walking cowering whining cryin [sic] helpless sitting ducks capable of zero resistance. To gullible naive embarrassing ill prepared targets…” Is that what Derek Fleming was? A sitting duck? A gullible na├»ve embarrassing ill prepared target? No really, you tell me, what distinguishes the murderous rhetoric of Ted Nugent or the murderous terrorism of Martin Zale from any Jihadist? Zale gunned down an American in the middle of a residential neighborhood. He killed a father who committed no crime who made no threat, who was on his way to pick up his kids. Zale slaughtered a husband in cold blood while his wife watched.

Now, you tell me, what distinguishes Martin Zale from the men who cut off James Foley’s head?

That’s not defense of country.

That’s not self defense.

That’s not freedom.

That’s not liberty.

That’s not justice.

That’s not what the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution means.

That’s insanity.

People like Martin Zale, people like Ted Nugent, should not, under any circumstance, be allowed to own or operate a gun. Hell, Zale at least shouldn’t even have a driver’s license.

Police took Zale into custody after the shooting. It took two days, but today he was formally charged with one count of open murder, two counts of felony firearms, and the discharge of a weapon from a vehicle.

And then this happened:

“I fully support the right of individuals to keep and possess firearms, but it’s when they misuse those weapons that it becomes a problem.”

That was Livingston County Prosecutor, William Vailiencourt, the guy who charged Zale with open murder.

I fully support the right of individuals to keep and possess firearms.

That’s great, Bill, it really is. But you know it’s a damned sad day when a public official feels he has to preface a press conference about an aggravated murder with that caveat. 

Big fan of the Second Amendment here. Love those guns, fellas, love ‘em. America, fuckin’ A baby. Fuckin’ A. Buuuuut if people “misuse” firearms, well, boy, yeah, okay, that’s gonna be a bit of a problem right there. You bet. We’ll have to do something about that. 

It’s not a “problem,” Mr. Prosecutor, it’s stone cold murder.

It’s a sad day when Americans are so goddamned bang bang crazy that you have to make sure, absolutely sure, that you’re not perceived as maligning the sacred holiness of the Second Amendment in any way no matter how slight when talking about cold blooded murder.

But he had to say it, didn’t he? Vailiencourt had to caveat his words, he had to make sure Americans understood he supports unlimited gun rights. Had to. Or else he’d lose his NRA endorsement and that would be the end of his political career.

And there it is, right there.

That’s the fear which reveals Heinlein’s comment for what it is: science fiction.

Beyond This Horizon is a darned entertaining story, but it’s not a blueprint for civilization.

The simple truth of the matter is that in reality an armed society isn’t a polite society. Not even close. It never has been. And, short of Heinlein’s fictional utopia it never will be. This is provable and repeatable as many times as you care to run the experiment. The results are always the same. An armed society simply swaps one form of tyranny for another.

As much as I enjoy reading Robert Heinlein’s work, as much as I respect him as a Navy shipmate and as a writer and as a teller of tales and as a human being, outside of fiction his observation is pure bullshit.

An armed society is not a polite society.

It’s not even a civil one.

It’s a society that lives in abject fear

Every single day.

No statement should be believed because it is made by an authority.
Robert Anson Heinlein


Footnote 1:

Attention gun nuts: Save it. Really, just save it for somebody who hasn’t heard it all before.

Save my time and yours – but mostly mine.

Commenting on Stonekettle Station is moderated. By me. Stonekettle Station is not a democracy, it’s my private property. You want to call me names, threaten me, question my patriotism, you go right ahead and do that, that’s your right.  But you’re not going to do it here.  You want to comment? You want to make your feelings known to the readers here? Then you will goddamned well be respectful, courteous, and well spoken. You will use proper grammar and punctuation. Above all, you will be polite. Period. This is non-negotiable – and you shouldn’t have a problem with that, given that I’m armed.

Oh, yes, that’s correct. I’m armed. Guess you didn’t see that coming, did you? Maybe, just maybe, you’d best rethink threatening me. Your call, I’m good either way. Click on the link to Part 1 below, read the footnote there if you read nothing else, get your mom to help you with the big words if necessary.  It’s very likely that I know more about guns, their operation, their care and feeding, and their use in violent confrontation, and the Second Amendment, than you do.  I was trained by professionals and likely I own more guns than you do.

So do us both a favor and save your threats and accusations and other drooling NRA bullshit for the guy who shit his pants in public rather than serve his country. You shouldn’t have to look very far to find a guy like that, you can smell the rank stink of his fearful cowardice from a mile away.


Footnote 2:

Every time I write another addition to this series, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always another murder. Always another angry lunatic with a hard-on and a gun and score to settle. Always. It never ends. Welcome to America.

Here’s the rest of it:

 The Seven Stages of Gun Violence
And 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 means using two hands
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage or they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and now we can print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post and nothing to go wrong there. Nothing at all.


  1. quick note, on your Nugent section, you wrote "as his calls them" and I know you mean "as he"...

    other than that, great and righteous post as always, sir.

    1. As long as we're proofreading, two other minor items:
      In the paragraph describing Nugent's "philosophy": "you have have a god-given lawful right".
      In the paragraph describing the plot of Beyond the Horizon, "mental gifted".
      should probably be "mentally gifted".

      And yes, what Joshua said, redoubled. Great and righteous post indeed.

    2. Got it. Thanks for the assist. // Jim

    3. Ah, the typo-locator thread, right up front. :) Just one that I saw, Jim, and it's minor; in the paragraph following the 2nd Nugent quote: "...act like a selfish obnoxious asshole all of *THE* time and if..."

      As always, a sharp and thoughtful and insightful analysis... on a subject that I fervently wish you didn't have to keep addressing.

  2. Jim--before I ask this, I'm with you 100% on this, but I have one question. How would you react if the US instituted gun laws like the UK's? (I know, it's a fairy tale, but work with me here)

  3. Not science fiction, fantasy.


    Thank you for continuing to write these.

    My impression of Heinlein is of a man whose virtues were much different from those his political fans find most attractive. He did have the weapons obsession, and believed many other strange and sad things. And yet…

  4. Bravo, once again....but I'm sorry that you even need to be writing these entries. In a just, fair, and rational society, this stuff would not need to be discussed. But we don't live in such a society, and thus the need for your words...

  5. As a Conservative Republican all I can say is Thank you Jim for so eloquently speaking the truth. The Gun Cultists represent nothing more than another form of terrorism. They parade their delusional psychosis around and attempt to enforce it at gunpoint.
    Turd Nugent, their Messiah, is a cowardly pedophile. How appropriate!
    Thank you again sir!

  6. Spoken like a true CWO. I respect that, sir. From a retired CPO.

  7. I attempted to find my way back to the comments I was reading before I posted my first. Normally blessed with a good sense of direction, next visit I shall bring candle, string, map,compass, a GPS, my nephew to read aforementioned GPS, and rations for a week. I'm kidding, of course Jim; but where are they?

  8. I think that you made a point also when you said that Heinlein believed in personal responsibility. I think, that if the man were alive today, he'd be HORRIFIED over the lack of personal responsibility in the gun nut subculture, cult or whatever you want to call it. And he'd wind up a few stories that reflected that horror. Maybe I'm an optimist but I do think that's how he'd react. There were quite a few things that he said that out of context of his fiction just hit the ground as massive fails in "real life"....the key phrase is out of context. And it galls me that idiots are quoting him, without ever having read the man.

  9. "And of course Nugent is a murderous madman – just another drooling ammosexual with an arsenal." Dang, another classic line. I'm gonna borrow that term "ammosexual" someday.

    1. Guns don't kill people, gundamentalists kill people. With guns.


    2. 2 quick points; the term ammosexual is the work of Bill Maher (at least he is the first person I ever heard use the term.
      The film "Memorial Day" the lead character asks the question of what separates man from other animals; "man is the only animal that can kill at a distance." So true


  10. When Frank Herbert wrote "Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration", he wasn't thinking about the obliteration of an entire society, but it seems to me that's what's happening in contemporary America. Gun nuttery is just one reflection of it. Fear of change, fear of economic insecurity, fear of the other -- the corrosive effects of fear degrade so many spheres of life.

    1. First off, Herbert is one of my favorite authors and I LOVE the fear litany...

      as to the fear... that sword cuts both ways... We, as a species, fear what we do not understand. Another blogger that I read (sorry Jim, I'm an internet blog whore) wrote a few articles about guns filled with statements like "I don't understand why you need an AR-15." "I don't understand why you feel the need to wear a sidearm." "I don't understand why you need that many rounds in a magazine." My response to all of that is, if you don't understand it, then why do you feel that you are qualified to make decisions about it? This question can be applied across the board. (not just guns) Generally, what I see is, two sides screaming bloody murder (sometimes literally) because they both feel like their opinion is the correct one... welcome to a stalemate on that... no one is going to budge.. we're WELL past the time of rational conversation and compromise We've let ourselves become so polarized that any topic we touch on brings about angry, sometimes violent, screaming matches and very little, if any, change...

      Don't get me wrong, I'm no NRA gun nut. (although I still remember the NRA offering some of the best firearms training in the world a while back) but I do have some very strong opinions about my ability to own and operate the firearms I choose to purchase and put holes in paper with.

    2. Look up "illusion of control," if you don't already know the term. Control of a powerful tool tempts one to believe one is more in control than one in fact is (Heinlein also wrote about this, in Tunnel in the Sky), and "responsible firearms owners" are responsible for many deaths. Despite all training, there are still routine lethal accidents with firearms. Which occurs with any powerful technology--I've just been reading the National Electric Code, so I am much reminded of that. But firearms are more dangerous than most electrical technology because firearms are designed to be dangerous and because weapons-makers oppose even rudimentary safety precautions in firearms designs.

      "If you don't understand it, then why do you feel that you are qualified to make decisions about it?"

      We do understand we are endangered. The common claims of widespread effective personal firearms defense have been debunked. The widespread easy access to firearms in the USA enormously increases the lethality of violent crime, as well as creating risks of accident and abuse.

      From my viewpoint, there is another threat that widespread, easily-available firearms create—that of organized action on the part of well-armed paramilitaries. We are getting a taste of that on our southern border, and it is horrifying. For a generation, at least, until we defuse the climate of fear, we have to be careful of armed uprisings, not against an oppressive government, but against us and our fellow citizens, or against innocent refugees.

    3. You are endangered simply by waking up in the morning. Stepping off the curb to cross the street provides you a greater risk of being hit by a vehicle than by being shot by a gunman. It is a sad thing to live your life in fear.

    4. Implying that people who disagree with you are cowardly fools is insulting.  Would you say it to the Amy Fleming? Say it to her face?

      A common cause of death among vets is suicide, and firearms suicides are usually successful. The people most likely to be injured by a firearm are members of the household of the owner.

      My stepdaughter recently broke up with a man who goes armed at all times. The man, a war-traumatized veteran, has a habit of drinking too much and acting crazy when he does.

      My fears are very personal. My fears are also validated by sociological data.

      And you tell me I have nothing to fear!

      BTW, Derek Fleming's name is spelled with one "m."

    5. The majority of initial media reports spelled the victim's last name as "Flemming," so that's the spelling I used. I note that as of this morning, the spelling as been largely corrected in previous articles to the more traditional spelling. I've updated the essay to that spelling.

    6. Having been one trigger pull away from being a statistic back in high school...I understand quite well the ease of suicide when using a firearm... I'm not sure I understand your point. Guns are used in suicides, so therefore all guns are bad? If someone TRULY wishes to end their life, they will do it. We lost one of the greatest comedic geniuses of the century to a belt. A modern day Pagliacci.

      It's been broken recorded constantly on the interwebz about getting real psychiatric help to veterans. No one really seems to actually want to do something about that. This man you speak of should be reported to the local authorities... If you've ever read the questions asked on CCW's and LTCH's (the name varies by state) The applicant is asked about any past mental health issues. By your description, he lied on the application, or his status changed since he received his permit/license... Either way, he would no longer fall under the "proper person" title anymore, provided the information you provided here is accurate.

      and finally, I don't believe the person you were responding to was insulting anyone. I think they were simply saying that there are far worse things in the world to be worrying about than whether or not you're going to be gunned down by someone carrying a firearm.

    7. Just an observation regarding "I don't understand why you need a personal arsenal" type statements: In the conventions of polite conversation, that opener doesn't generally translate to "I am confused by your worldview." It translates to "Your argument appears to be self-indulgent, logically inconsistent, and/or just plain squirrelly, but perhaps I'm missing something. Would you like to take this opportunity to either clarify or present a more cogent case?"

      It's not mystification. It's manners.

    8. As to, "If someone TRULY wishes to end their life, they will do it."

      But most people who attempt suicide don't. Few of the ones who survive the attempt make a second attempt. Of the people who attempt suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate bridge and survive, every single one of them recalls regretting the jump the moment after they made it.

      Someone who attempts suicide with a firearm is likely to succeed. So if we make firearms harder to get, fewer suicide attempts will succeed. Easy availability of firearms does not increase civilian violence, as far can be told, but it does increase the lethality of that violence.

      The evidence for these things is strong, and they are not complicated. But most of us don't hear about them because great efforts have been made to make that they are not heard, and not believed when they are heard.

  11. Guns were outlawed in towns and cities from Montana to Texas in the late 1880's. There were good and obvious reasons for this, mainly because of stupidity on the part of the "cowhands" that insisted on carrying firearms. Sensible people understand, but I'm afraid that there are far too many of the fools today who want to be bullies.

    Who was it, "Bat" Masterson, Wyatt Earp or another local sheriff who made the drovers drop their gunbelts in his office when they came into town? I couldn't find a particular lawman who stood out in history, but I certainly laud their efforts.

    1. IIRC, Wyatt Earp at Tombstone. Which is what led to the whole OK Corral thing as some people insisted on keeping their guns.

    2. Both Masterson and Earp enforced strict "no guns north of Front Street" laws in Dodge City (I've just moved here and have been immersing myself in the history). For all of the hoop-de-doo about these two men here in town, and how they cleaned up the "wickedest city in the west", this tidbit is (not so strangely) left out of the story in mot of the public glorification of them. There's a brief mention of it in the daily shootout on Front Street reenactment, but that's about it.


  12. Agree totally...been a gun owner since 1962, and still am one.....used to belong to the NRA until they went bugfuck nuts....I was brought up to respect weapons, and to use them safely, and the NRA had many superb educational tools to help with that.

    Now however they are simply the marketing and lobbying arm of the weapons industry. Selling fear and racism, hate and insane conspiracy theories to wannabe warriors who for the most part never put on the uniform of the country they so proudly profess to love.

    The thought that a piece of human garbage like Nugent, an admitted coward, a pedophile drug user, a hate filled bigot, representing gun owners in America, is chilling to me. He literally shit his pants at the draft board to evade serving his country when it was at war. Think about that........think about him calling any body a coward, and he is on the board of directors of the NRA.

    We are killing Americans at the rate of 10,000 per year, year in and year out, and the one thing all of these deaths have in common is, the guns that are used to kill them...So don't tell me that guns don't kill. As the man says guns may not kill, but people don't kill very often without a gun of some kind.

    I certainly don't profess to have all of the answers, I am not willing to give up my right to have a gun for self protection, or sport, or target shooting. I do not see, however, how background checks on all sales, registering firearms, requiring safety classes, licensing, insurance etc. is in any way an infringement of that right.

    After all, no one is talking very much about that somewhat forgotten part of the 2nd Amendment.....the part about a well regulated militia.

    Anyway, thank you for this opportunity to vent a little about a subject that is extremely frustrating to me...I very much appreciate having your thoughts to ruminate over and look forward to each new essay with anticipation...Rick Morton

    1. The first use of "well-regulated militia" I am aware of—in Fletcher (1698)—described a universal draft. If one reads back into US history, one finds that the militia obligation was much resented. I look forward to the radical right's support of the original intent of the Second Amendment.


  13. One more thing I'll note: The most famous use of this phrase was in the novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. Which was about, err, a prison. A prison populated with violent heavily-armed dissidents who threw big rocks at the Earth and killed lots and lots of people. The narrator ("Mannie") is unreliable but read the book, dammit. It's there.

    Is that really the model people want to emulate? A society of violent heavily-armed criminals?

    Anybody who draws any conclusions about how to organize a society from Robert Heinlein is an idiot. Heinlein regularly threw shit out there just to see if it'd stick, and was just as ready to walk it back if it turned out people took it too seriously -- sort of like how he took his society from "Beyond This Horizon" and walked it back in "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress", now that I think about it. He was an ornery contrarian who delighted in creating controversy, whether it was polygamy or a polite society of murderers or a female secret agent whose response to rape was to lean back and enjoy it or whatever, in full knowledge that controversy sells books and only an idiot would take anything written by a science fiction writer seriously. Unfortunately, this society seems to be breeding bigger and bigger idiots...

    1. The most famous use of this phrase was in the novel The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

      "An armed society is a polite society"? Nope. "TANSTAAFL" is the Famous Heinlein Quote in TMIAHM. Might be others, but TANSTAAFL is the biggie. "AASIAPS" doesn't appear in the book.

      Don't believe I've see the Heinlein-as-literary-weathervane theory before. Does that come from vol II of the bio? Haven't managed to score a copy yet.

    2. The Heinlein-as-weathervane/provocateur theory has been around for a long time. It's a favorite defense by people unwilling to admit that Heinlein was simply wrong.

    3. Oh, Heinlein was certainly wrong. But he also wasn't fully serious about any of it to begin with. He always stated that he wrote for Joe's beer money. He never intended to be a Serious Philosopher and likely would have broken down in a belly laugh over anybody taking his words as Serious Gospel. To quote Heinlein: "Writing is the best way I know of to have fun and make a living without actually stealing." He had fun putting together these weird societies. Whether they were actually workable or not, he likely would have shrugged and said "Who knows? I'm here to entertain you, not be your prophet." His description of his ideal reader was "anybody who has 95 cents in their pocket and wants to buy my books" (this being back when books were 95 cents of course!). He enjoyed doing what he did, but he didn't pretend to be more than he was.

      A final Heinlein quote: "To grow old involves a process, if you're not going to let your mind go into deep freeze, of unlearning things you used to believe."

      Enough said.

    4. Unfortunately, what RAH spent his declining years unlearning (or "learning better", as his hagiographer put it in the title of vol II of the bio) was that he was a Liberal, Socialist, Upton Sinclair EPIC Democrat with an Individualist streak. The streak took over, and his Leftism went into the dustbin. Swept there, in part, by his 3rd wife, who spent 40 years serving as damn near every sympathetic female character in his books.
      But to suggest he had nothing to say in his stories, is not to have read any of them. His juveniles (re-readable to this day) are all about self-responsibility and duty, among other things, albeit larded with a more jingoistic rightwing propaganda as he aged, and the world and his 3rd wife had their way with him. He wrote those books specifically to talk to--OK, "at"--the youth of America. And he was so good at it that he broke SF out of the pulps and into the glossies, and was one of the first SF writer to make real money at it, if not *the* first.
      And the very first thing he wrote, in 1938/39--and the last to be published--was a pot of message with no story to it, For Us The Living (taken from the Gettysburg Address not Ayn Rand). I bought it, of course, and...it was horrid. All philosophy, no fiction. And no takers. Tell ya what, though, he learned fast. Scary fast. While FUTL was in the process of being serially rejected, in April '39 he wrote Lifeline, sold it to John Campbell, received a check for the astounding (pun intended) sum of $70--"Why didn't anyone tell me about this racket?!", and there was no tuning back. But it wasn't all cynical crass commercialism. Frankly, I think that was camouflage. He didn't want people thinking of him as an artist, but he was. Long before he typed a word, he had been a photographer and a sculptor, doing nudes, among other things. He spent 6 weeks in Greenwich Village in 1930, living in a studio, studying gunnery targeting computers (?!) during the daytime, sculpting and enjoying the Village scene at night. There was a lot more to RAH than he ever wanted anyone to know.

    5. The Heinlein-as-weathervane/provocateur theory has been around for a long time. It's a favorite defense by people unwilling to admit that Heinlein was simply wrong.

      Wrong about what? Stated flatfooted like that, it sounds like you mean "everything". Anyway, it doesn't sound like much of a defense, but more of an accusation. "_____ just throws out dumb ideas in his books, and if people laugh, he changes direction, and throws out something else". I'll grant you he liked to fuck with people--and not just in his writing--but the only public reaction that would have changed his mind about what to write would have been rejection, and he would have just closed up shop. That never happened, and as they say, "living well is the best revenge". His work sold, won awards, and sells well to this day. Some assholes still like to pretend otherwise, and say things like 'being compared to Heinlein is a kiss of death'. Here's A famous Science Fiction Writer on that shit: "If being compared to Heinlein is such a liability, then why am I selling so many goddamn books?" That was '07, true, but I'd bet money that crap hasn't stopped and/or will start up again one fine day, and RAH's been gone for quite a while now, in any case, so what measure of relevance do you have left *besides* sales?
      Whatever, that he was wrong about some things is a no-brainer. That he was right sometimes is also. Whether he was more right than wrong I won't even bother with. I'll let people like Alexei Panshin, who love to disassemble stories to see what makes the author tick handle that. Me, I just read the stuff...

  14. Another old favorite - "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" should be changed to: Guns don't kill people, they just make the people that carry them feel bolder and more free to behave in a reckless and confrontational manner".

    Carrying a gun gives you the nerve to take a stand and confront evil in your midst - like those punks playing loud music in the convenience store parking lot or that suspicious stranger walking in your neighborhood or those kids skateboarding where they don't belong. The three examples I just listed happened recently here in Florida and resulted in the death of an unarmed person. All three shooters said they "felt threatened" after they initiated a confrontation with a stranger. Just a little food for thought.


  15. Every time I read an installment of Bang Bang Crazy, I keep hoping that there won't be a sequel. I keep hoping that the current number of entries is enough, but this blight upon our society - that enough of us are so terrified that they feel the need to be ready and able to shoot someone dead at a moment's notice - continues to make them necessary.

    The NRA may have once served the public good, but it has since become a porn studio for gun fetishists (and I used to wonder why people sometimes gave their guns female names like "Vera" or "Miss Kitty"). I don't know if it can be saved, or even if it should be saved.

  16. I was wrong. And, I have you, Jim, and your other commenters to thank. I almost always agree with your posts but I have, on many occasions, spouted "an armed society, etc.". Never read Heinlein, I'm an avid reader but cannot, for some unknown reason, read or enjoy fiction.

    Nevertheless, I'm very liberal politically yet support the right to own guns. Until this evening, I also supported "right to carry". I'm coming to see the lack of wisdom of "right to carry". I live in a state (South Jersey) with very strict gun laws and the chances of being shot by a random lunatic are as remote here as a honest politician.

    Perhaps, the solution is to permit gun ownership (only after proper training) but limit it to possession on one's own property (for self-defense ONLY), handguns or semi-auto long guns, a 10-round magazine limit (if you can't hit your target by then, you shouldn't OWN a gun) and NOTHING else.

    I dunno. But you made me think.


  17. Jim, thank you once again for being the in your face voice of reason in this debate. It's clear you have your facts straight, are able to organise your thoughts in a coherent manner, and are very passionate about this topic. To that end, it was clear there were some typos (which some earlier posters pointed out) but I think that's just passion showing through. It didn't change the validity of the argument at all. I truly appreciate people out there with your credibility (responsible gun ownership, military service, etc) speaking out about this issue. Thank you.

  18. .

    Your essay - a beginning, a middle, and an end; wow. Your expressions on the subject -
    well written; thoughtful and nuanced. Your writing skills are enjoyable.

    Thank you.

    I'd like to be able to make a bon mot to wrap-up my comment, but can't. The thought of the killing of an unarmed person is too serious to be making humor. The public discourse arena has a level of coarseness that may be profitable for some, but the public must still remain civil when addressing the issues and the people involved.

    Ema Nymton

  19. Brilliant essay Mr. Wright. Frightening you had to write yet another sequel.

  20. I opened this expecting it to be about a 9 year old with an uzi...

    I live in the UK and like the fact that guns are banned for the majority of people after Hungerford. At the time I thought it was a knee-jerk reaction and OTT, but now 25 years on, I can see that in a civilised society we don't need to be armed, if a burglar breaks in the worst they are likely to have is a knife, so my granddads WWII bayonet will be a shock to them!
    I grew up owning air-rifles and using shotguns on friends farms, and belonged to the ATC, where we had the opportunity to use rifles etc on a range, I still occasionally go paint-balling and clay-pigeon shooting so I understand the appeal of guns.

    One advantage in the UK is that we have a strongly regulated police force, which makes it difficult for individual officers to abuse their powers, and although there are armed response officers, tazers are more likely to be deployed. This means there isn't the same "Us and Them" attitude.

    Your nation appears to be becoming more polarised over all sorts of issues, which is a little scary for the rest of the world.

    best wishes another phil

  21. A little more about Heinlein-- by the time he wrote _The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress_, he may have believed that an armed society is a polite society, but if you look at the details in _Beyond This Horizon_, that armed society is a bullying society.

    And it's not people in general who go armed, it's men. (Thanks for the gender neutral language, but in this case, it doesn't apply.) Men who don't have anything useful to do. Men doing research on Pluto don't go armed.

    Part of Felix and Phyllis getting together is him forcibly taking her gun away-- to put it mildly, Felix has no respect for consent.

  22. Great piece as usual Jim. A small nit to be picked in the paragraph starting "Nugent was talking about his beliefs.." there are two haves in the fourth line.

  23. After all Jim, isn't it really the same old salesmanship canard. You have to create a sense of need to move your product. It is after all about selling more guns and more ammunition! By selling full auto weapons you also can sell more ammo. The NRA is merely a front for firearms manufacturers.

  24. Until someone is brave enough to call out the NRA for what it is; the marketing association for weapons manufacturers who have successfully shed any legal or moral responsibility for the products they sell, this problem is not going to go away.

    1. People have been saying that since before Newtown. The NRA markets the need to have guns.

  25. If you need to have a drink in order to deal with others, you have a problem and you need to get some help.

    If you need to take some illicit substance in order to function in your day, you have a problem and you need to get some help.

    If you have to carry a firearm in broad daylight on a public street in order to feel safe, you have a problem, and you really need to get some help.

    Gun control view from one Australian. He uses some rude words, so consider yourself warned about them.


    1. Well there went a good few hours, and I blame you Mr. Starsmith. This Jeffries guy reminds me a little of Carlin.

      He made some very nice points with that bit.

    2. This was a great bit. Thanks for the share! --TJ in LA

  26. And if I remember correctly, not only was the society in Beyond this Horizon 'armed', but it was only the men who wore the weapons - women sat back and were 'protected'. Didn't the male protagonist have a real problem with the female lead, a woman who insisted on being allowed the 'equality' of carrying a gun herself? *chuckles*

  27. I thought Heinlein's most famous quote was "Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own." But not in this context, of course.

    1. Heinlein has a lot of "most famous quotes". Probably as many as he has fans. For me, it's "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch"

    2. the 'Love' quote has always resonated with me....still lookin' for the one who feels the same way, mutually...


  28. "ammosexual", I haven't heard that term before and I like it. Very appropriate use for those obsessed with the 2nd Amendment.

  29. Not only is the NRA the marketing arm of the weapons manufacturers, it actively prevents any research on the effects of gun violence and gun ownership. The CDC and the NIH are not allowed *by law* to research or investigate the effects of guns as a public health issue. States have passed laws preventing pediatricians from asking if unsecured guns are in the house where children can get to them.

  30. Up to Part 10, are we?


    Of course, I would pay money to watch heads explode as they read deeper into Heinlein and try to use him as a blueprint for society... (evil-grin)

    Spot on, as usual, Jim.

    Dr. Phil

  31. Those who insist on pointing out errors in these COMMENTARIES, should take note of the fact that essays and commentaries are not subject to the same literary rules. These would be word smiths should relax just as those fearful gun owners.

    1. It's okay, Ken.

      Readers are encouraged to point out typos and grammatical errors. I will gratefully make the appropriate corrections. And I appreciate the assistance in making the essay better.

    2. Footnote #1 "You will use proper grammar and punctuation." Rules is rules, Ken. : )

      Another great article, Mr. W. It's too bad we've gotten to part 10. I hope there are no more parts, but I won't hold my breath.


  32. Thank you, Mr. Wright. Linked/shared through my FB page.

  33. Heinlein's quote isn't ENTIRELY false, from a sociological point of view, sort of. Depending how you define things. Depending what you mean by "armed", and VERY much depending on what you mean by "polite".

    "Violent societies tend to develop ornate and elaborate social protocols in order to attempt to slightly mitigate the explosive destructiveness of the results."

    That kind of means "An armed society is a polite society", doesn't it?

  34. Well said as always. A people who lives in fear of everything and everyone, have no right to call themselves "exceptional" or to lead anyone, anywhere - except, perhaps to a psychiatrist. Firearms are no substitute for brains, for courage, or for being right.

    1. Also well said. If it's OK, I'd like to use your last sentence, with proper credit, elsewhere. Unfortunately, no place commercial.

  35. I have, from time to time, asked Second Amendment absolutists whether they would support any legal limit to the lethality of weapons which an individual citizen can own. Do they think it would be OK to buy surface to air missiles, for example? Grenade launchers? Armor-piercing incendiary ammunition? Oddly, I never get a reply.

    1. James Anderson MerrittSeptember 6, 2014 at 3:30 PM

      I think you don't get replies because your question is well-known as a tool used to shut down discussion and marginalize the other. Only the inexperienced take the bait. In honest discussons, even "absolutists" will distinguish between "arms" and (heavy) "ordnance," although suitcase nukes blur the line. The 2nd Amendment was intended to protect the right to keep and bear the most technologically sophisticated (military grade!) personal weapony known at the time, as well as lesser weaponry, just as the 1st protects the right to publish using the most technologically sophisticated means of the day (as well as lesser means).

    2. I've had quite serious replies of the right to own nova bombs.

      But since the practice of the early republic was to have serious weaponry stored in state-owned arsenals (which is why Shays' Rebellion failed; the militia got to the arsenal first) the point of intent is less clear than you make out.

    3. James Anderson Merritt - Where, in the text of the 2nd amendment do you find the words "personal weaponry"? The amendment is notoriously lax in it's wording, referring only to the right to bear "arms" - not small arms, big f-ing arms, grenades, flame throwers, shoulder-mounted missiles, cannons, bombs or whatever. It just says "arms" - which would go a long way toward explaining why Chuck Lavazzi "never gets a reply" from the gun nuts. Like the rest of us, they know deep down there are weapons that the general public just should not be able to get their hands on - but admitting that would involve them "giving an inch" and, lordy, that just ain't gonna happen.


    4. We already know what happens when you give "ordinary citizens" (or at least, not clearly recognizable military guys) Surface to Air Missiles: Civilian airliners will get downed.

  36. Ian - But WHY would we WANT to develop those rituals? Until the last 10 years, we didn't have nor want them and they are antithetical to free speech and to democracy. Which is why we don't have them. Democracies - real ones - aren't particularly polite and the rough and tumble of free speech can be emotionally charged but definitely not polite. This madness needs to end. NOW.

  37. Well said/written.

    I avoid commenting on the issue anymore, I'm going to be mean (and very lazy) though and link your articles if I'm ever tempted to comment on the subject in the future.

    No need for me to plagiarize you. :)

  38. Absolutely spot on Jim.

    Issue #2, completely separate from what you wrote so eloquently: what fool gets out of his vehicle when confronted by someone demonstrating text book road rage? I ask this not because he is in any way responsible for his own shooting. Nope, that is on the asshole who shot him. I hope he gets the opportunity to be a guest of the Michigan penal system for a long time. I think the experience might his basic misunderstanding of the Second Amendment right by guaranteeing that he will lose it forever.

    My comment is pointed toward a common responsibility of all of us as citizens to let our law enforcement and justice system work, or not work, as it is. The deceased and his wife had been threatened with bodily injury, arguably assaulted, by a nut job in a truck. His duty is to keep himself and his wife safe. Call the police if he wants. He may and should defend himself if the situation escalates before help arrives. Getting out of your vehicle to confront someone who has assaulted you is aggressive behavior, foolhardy in these times, and a far cry from ensuring his family's safety. I may be wrong but I think this is a common sense approach while his actions are those of a child wanting to that he too has a big dick. In my mind this disaster wrapped the needle on the absurd meter around the "Fucking Insane" peg.

  39. I know you can't control it, but the irony of a "Support the 2nd amendment" petition appearing at the bottom of this essay is kind of a kick in the gut. -TJ in LA

  40. James Anderson MerrittSeptember 6, 2014 at 2:45 PM

    And here I thought RAH's most famous "quote" was TANSTAAFL, which has been invariably correct in my experience. You raise many thought-provoking points in this interesting and well-written essay. Thanks for posting it!

  41. You're right. It's a sad commentary on how screwed up people are that you keep having to repeatedly point out how screwed up they and the NRA are, and they never get the sense of your words. I'm beginning to think that anyone who is so into guns that they insist they should have a whole arsenal should be automatically flagged for a psychiatric examination because there is something seriously wrong with them.
    And I hadn't heard about that murderous episode of road rage. How saw for that man and his family.
    M from MD

  42. Well said, Jim. Making some notes for the next person who quotes Heinlein that way.

  43. I more enjoyed Heinlein's concept citizenship and electoral participation as expressed in "Starship Troopers." To wit: all citizens have their freedoms and rights except for the franchise. Only those that served honorably in the forces were allowed to vote.
    We could probably benefit more from a like concept than one based on violence.
    Perhaps Universal Voluntary Public Service should be made a requirement for the ability to cast a ballot.

    1. I see an 'Animal Farm' kind of problem with honorable universal service of some type for the franchise, along the lines of 'Some pigs are more equal than others'....would a combat vet consider him/herself *better* than a person who went to TeachForAmerica, or suchlike?

    2. I can sort of see your point, but I'm still in favor of a sort of universal service...but id doesn't have to be in the military. Something along the idea of a Peace Corps, or some other community service would fit the bill. I think all young adults could benefit from a couple of years of giving back to their society. It could also help the individual further decide what they'd like to do with the rest of their lives.

    3. But the Starship Troopers model *IS* based on violence. What do you think armed service is for?
      And please note the backstory of Starship Troopers (exposited by one of Rico's professors): American veterans, fresh from losing a world war, returned home, overthrew the government, and installed their own, run by them and no one else. They initiated the "service" requirement to protect their newfound power from outsiders and political opponents; in later generations, it became a means of ensuring that political power would reside only in those who already supported the regime enough to sign their lives away to it. Rico's military education amply demonstrates that the military is principally concerned with fully indoctrinating its soldiers into reliable supporters of the status quo, and it works, as evidenced by his own disdain for civilians. All the moral justifications given in-story are just propaganda.

    4. What some of you seem to be overlooking is that in Starship Troopers, the franchise could be gained by *any* sufficiently long (and arduous) term of public service. Rico didn't *want* to be a ground-pounder, he wanted to go into R&D. He didn't have the aptitude for it, so the recruiter shifted him to his...third choice (infantry), if I remember correctly. And he only put infantry on his list to fill it out to three.

  44. Heh, they always seem to forget the 'well-regulated' part of the 2nd amendment.. and that even a person who favours regulation might own one.


  45. I've read several pieces by people who look back on the old NRA -- the education and sensible use NRA -- with nostalgia. Given how many express that sort of sentiment, I wonder whether there's an alternative organization, one that could act as a counterbalance to the NRA, for sensible gun owners who are tired of the maniacs. If not, perhaps we should create one. Reboot the NRA under a different name.

    The gun manufacturers add a huge amount of clout to the NRA, but I'm also wondering whether any of them are willing to buck the trend and take a stand against gun abuse and irresponsible ownership, emphasizing training and safety measures. I think the climate is such that they would gain a lot of support among old-school gun owners, even if they were lambasted by the vocal minority of the NRA and its ammosexuals. And it would give a huge boost to an alternative group.

    I'd join such an organization, and I'm sure I'm not alone.

    1. Google "Smith and Wesson Boycott" for the answer to your "wondering whether...." inquiry. S&W still exists but under new management, as they say. The NRA and their minions put them out of business for cooperation with government attempts of gun safety.

    2. i've begun to suspect that that blithe organization existed for only a short time, if at all.

      In the early '50s (or maybe late '40s) Jack Webb's radio series DRAGNET ran its first Christmas story - and a grim one it was, with a tale of a missing 9-year-old kid, with the .22 rifle in the closet wrapped up for his Christmas joy gone missing as well.

      50+ years on, you can predict the outcome probably more accurately than the radio audience did: the kid found the gun, ripped open the package, went off with a buddy to play with it...and was accidentally shot dead by his 9-year-old friend.

      But it wasn't as commonplace then, and we still had perhaps the capacity to be shocked by such a thing. And Joe Friday's married-with-kids partner is left shaking his head, after dealing with the grief of two families: "What's it all prove, Joe?"

      "Nothin'. Or maybe one thing: you don't give a 9-year-old a gun for Christmas."

      Webb, his network, the ad agency that handled his sponsor, and the Los Angeles Chief of Police all had complaint letters from the NRA within a day or two of air. (Webb's response - to which the other parties deferred - told the NRA to go pound sand, and the problem of kids and guns was going to appear again, up to 6 episodes in the upcoming season. Whether that actually happened is questionable - but DRAGNET's Christmas episode for years was the one with the .22 rifle. By the time it hit the TV version, the NRA simply asked for a print for use as training material.)

      My father, who grew up in a huntin'/shootin'/fishin' family, taught me how to shoot and how to do so safely and ethically - and he's joined and resigned from the NRA twice. (He joined in the '50s - about in the "apparently reasonable" period I just described - and dumped them by the early '70s due to their return to irrationality. He rejoined somewhere in the '90s at the peak of his Rush Limbaugh fandom, and has again dumped them - because as conservative as Dad is (I don't think he's voted for a Democrat since JFK), he's a good and usually sensible man.)

  46. In the fall of 2012, after the Kansas City Chief's Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend, then himself, Bob Costas spent a part of a halftime of a nationally broadcasted NFL game reading a column by Jason Whitlock about the incident and the gun culture. At no point did Costas or Whitlock say anything about changing any laws, but judging by the reaction of some people, you'd think Costas sacrificed a baby on the air or burned the flag or something like that. I guess guns have kind of become a sacred cow, but why?

  47. If "an armed society is a polite society," and the semiliterate baloney put out by talentless Ted is true, how is it that the FIRST sign of civilization in the Old West was adoption of an ordinance banning the carrying of guns within the town limits, and the hiring of a town marshal empowered to blow the head off any moron stupid enough to contest the ordinance?

    1. The Old West law would also hang you for stealing horses or cattle. Point being the old west is probably not the best example of establishing law and order.

  48. This was a righteous post. So well stated. I've long since grown tired of the near worship of the 2nd Amendment by many Americans and their refusal to see how significant the gun violence in this country is.

  49. Regarding the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution, and given that the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st - wouldn't it be possible to repeal it (the 2nd) by, say, the 28th, or the 30th, for that matter ?

    What so *sacred* about it ?

    1. I'm pretty sure there's something in the Constitution that makes the first 10 amendments (the Bill of Rights) permanent and repeal-proof. In any case, attempting to repeal the 2nd amendment would be political (and, considering the makeup of the political opposition, most likely actual) suicide for whoever proposed it. Just look how hard it's been to legalize marijuana, and multiply that by about 10,000, and add hundreds of death threats, actual assassination attempts, threats and attempts at armed revolt, etc. It'll never happen.

    2. Certainly Constitutionally it could. I just can't imagine it ever happening. Just listen to all the coming to get our guns rhetoric, even when no one is coming to get our guns. Imagine the uproar over an amendment!

  50. Haven't read the book, but I assume in Horizons' utopia, property crime doesn't exist allegedly because scarcity doesn't exist, and "punk" and "thug" have been solved as well. Yeah, that's fiction.

    Interesting that this murder occurred not far from Detroit where gun ownership and self-defense killings have skyrocketed because residents can no longer rely on the dwindling police force that is afraid to respond to many parts of the city. What would Detroit look like if residents and business owners weren't armed and criminals could act with total impunity?

    The vast majority of gun owners have a weapon for self defense or hunting. 2nd amendment advocates are about 2%. Overgrown children wanting to play Wyatt Earp or Rambo exist in small, but vocal, numbers.

    Granted, the murder of this father is a despicable act, but that doesn't mean we should expose hundreds of thousands of Detroiters to a lawless dystopia.

  51. Thank you for your writing Jim. My husband, a Viet Nam Veteran and I look forward to your emails.

    I recently had a confrontation with a nut down here in Texas. I was on my way to take my grand daughter home while in heavy traffic. A fire truck was coming down the road blowing the horn and lights. Everyone in line started to move to the right to let the fire truck by, but the man behind me decided I was getting in his way of roaring down the shoulder and started blowing his horn at me and flipping me off. He was screaming so loud I could hear him in my truck. I was going to get out of the truck to ask him why he was screaming at me when everyone was moving over to allow the fire truck to pass, when I noticed him putting a can up to his mouth. Pretty sure it was a beer. I decided it was best not to get out of my truck. He kept on with the screaming and flipping me off even after the fire truck went by. I can only assume he simply thought he was special and everyone should have gotten out of his way.

    This is the problem with our society today. Everyone thinks they are more important than anyone else, and god help you if you get in their way or piss them off. I thought too, what if the guy has a gun, and decides I'm putting him in fear for his life? Life down here in Texas has become a living hell with the gun nuts openly carrying their guns everywhere they go.

    I had to remove my Wendy Davis bumper sticker because a huge man approached me in a grocery store parking lot, telling me I was a Liberal, Commie, cunt, and needed to move out of Texas if I was voting Democratic.

    I don't know what to make of all this hate in our Country, but I do know it is getting worse and will probably lead to a lot more innocent people being killed because some jerk with a gun thinks that using a gun before reason is the way to go.

    At any rate Jim, thank you for your writing. You put words to paper better than I ever could.

  52. I hadn't even heard about the Zale story until reading this blog. Wow. How cold-blooded to shoot someone over a traffic incident. I was raised in Canada and just do not understand the love affair that Americans have with guns. Sorry, it's just something I'll never get.

    1. I am a born American and grew up on US Army posts and I don't understand the love affair with guns and the second amendment. The country has gone insane and I wish I could leave it.

  53. Solidarity with all the folks wondering how you were going to work TANSTAAFL into a post. Now off to link once again on FB with only the folks who already know willing to read -- and learn.


    1. TAANSTAFFL couldn't mean "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" since it's just way too out of context in a discussion of gun rights.

  54. I know only what I read here about the facts of this killing, but I'm going out on a very short limb to speculate that if: (a) this happened in Florida, (b) Zale was white, (c) and Fleming was a person of color, Zale would claom he was in fear for his life and invoke "stand your ground" and be exonorated.

    Bang Bang Crazy is an understatement.

    An Armed Society is Nukking Futs!

  55. Zale will no doubt try some version of the Stand Your Ground defense, wherever he is tried. Being an ammosexual gundamentalist, he would have assumed Flemming was too, so in his mind he either had to put a bullet in the man's face or take one in his own. I mean the guy got out of his car, your honor, just because I was driving like a dick, so- what else could be his purpose except to cap me? How did I know he just wanted to call me a Dick to my face and go back to his car? Who does that? So I did what anyone like me is kneejercked up to do: I fired first. Not my fault the man was an idiot, not carrying, just wanted to "talk". How could I be held responsible for aberrant behavior such as that?

  56. The statement by the county prosecuter is certainly appaling, but it is not surprising when you realize that this was spoken in Livingston County, Michigan, the place where I grew up. When I was young, Livingston County was known for two things, the highest incidence of birth defects in the country, and for being the home of the Grand Dragon of the Michigan Ku Klux Klan.

    I delivered newspapers. The place I picked them up was the back room of a barber shop where all the reading material KKK propoganda. The one time there was a peace march for the Vietnam War, Klan members and their sympathisers boarded themselves up in the shop with their guns, awaiting the inevitble attack of those God-hating commies.

    This was the place the people of the White Flight in Detroit moved to. The (White) Chief of the Detroit Fire Department bought my Grandfather’s house and commuted 60 miles each way. When I was young, there were 3 black families in the whole county. The only change today is that they have all moved out.

    The sad thing is that the hate and the fear is so prevalent that it is simply accepted as part of the background of life. I grew up, raised by a pair of decent, not-racist, parents, and still unconciously assimilated the views of these people. It wasn’t until I got in the Navy and got exposed to other viewpoints and other views, that I realized what a nasty bigot I was and tried to change.

    So, yeah, Prosecutor Vailiencourt was talking to his people in their own language about a little moral lapse of one of their own. I wish he wasn’t so readily understood elsewhere.

    -Paul Cooper, former QM3 (SS)

  57. "Every time I write another addition to this series, I hope it's the last. But it never is,"

    Unfortunately it never will be.

  58. I'm not a gun nut, but do believe in the US Constitution. Hopefully, this man will lose his freedom soon. Just wondering if you knew if there was any fund set up to help pay for expenses of Mr. Flemming's family.


  59. There is a great deal of insanity in this country now. Then again there is still some sanity left. Thank you Jim.

  60. I read this site and thank you for it. It provides sanity to those of us outside the US who often try to understand the US and the comments that come from some of your fellow citizens. This provides level headed opinion and thought, Thanks.
    Best regards

  61. Great, as usual. Thank you, Jim.

  62. Great job as usual. Eloquent and hard hitting. Ted's hemorrhoids will be stinging tommorow!!! Thank you who speak for us: the not-so-crazy people in this wonderful country. We do have a gun problem and you stick your neck out ad nauseum to point it out. You are a true American hero, sir.

  63. It's hard to take your writing seriously. You take every opportunity to sling pathetic insults and derogatory names to people whom don't share your opinions. While this may be a work of opinion and as such your you are within your writes to do so, you'll hardly convince anyone to change their minds by insulting them.

    1. Anonymous,

      I'm curious, did you also write to Ted Nugent and chastise him for his use of insults and derogatory names? Did you write to Mr. Zale about his rudeness - or do you consider shooting a guy in the face civilized behavior?

      Explain to me why I should be polite, why I should show you gun-fucking idiots even the slightest degree of respect. You certainly have no respect for me, or for anybody else with more than half a brain.

      Let me be blunt, and don't worry, I'll use small words so you can understand what I'm saying: I tried being polite to you drooling jackasses. I tried reason. I tried logic. I tried talking to you like adults. But nothing works, you're a bunch of insane illiterate morons with little dicks and even smaller brains. The only thing you understand is violence and insults. You're terrified of the world and everything in it and frankly I'm tired of smelling the piss dripping down your leg all of the time.

      Here's the bottom line: I have no intention of changing your mind because you have no mind to change. I don't give a fuck about whether or not I'm offending you. You may safely assume that any insult you read here is deliberate and intended for you personally, feel free to be offended. Now, fuck right off back to whatever bunker you crawled out of.

      That polite enough for you?

    2. "OMG, how rude!." (Followed by classic cyberVictorian swoon.)

    3. And this: Heinlein was apparently a Navy Pistol Ribbon holder and a competition/match shot (presumably with the M1911A and subsequent.)

      Having read GRUMBLES FROM THE GRAVE, he owned exactly one firearm as a civilian: a Remington .220 "Fireball" single-shot hunting pistol. (For those fond of irony, Harlan Ellison used to have the same make/model.) And Heinlein used it once as recorded, to get rid of a vicious feral cat that was making life hell for his own moggies. Nowhere else. (From the same source, he took the occasional hunting trip with friends and colleagues - but kept camp, and didn't hunt himself.)

    4. But Jim, you may have been within your "writes" to say what you wanted, but you were obviously ignoring his "writes" not to be insulted. /snark/

      Nalu Girl

  64. I was and will donate! Sprung the door on my new/used pick-up that I have had for little more than 2 weeks,working with my big truck next to it, put some paperwork and shit in the pick-up left the door open and went to move the work truck and caught the door...great! Sat there for a bit wanting to cry and came home and listened to sad Tool songs and after a bit of funny words from my wife..yes they were funny,and yes I am lucky! I put on some Pantera, took a shower and could have donated by this time! My typing skills are not so good. Great post man, my son is now Army Sgt, 1st. Class at 26 yrs. old, now living in Maryland working at NSA in Wash. very proud of him! We had our fits a while back but now he loves his Dad as he always did. We fished alot back when he/me were young, I do miss that!

  65. Ted Nugent is a two-bit nobody who barely had a career 40 years ago. No one gave a rat’s dick about him for decades until he found he could make money spouting nonsense to low-IQ bigots. A known draft-dodger and suspected pedophile he can’t even string words into a complete sentence, instead ranting in bumper-sticker slogans, movie quotes (“Aim small, miss small” is from The Patriot), and NRA fear mongering.

    He and the NRA are an embarrassment to thinking, educated gun owners. They are why I ended my NRA membership years ago (right when Wayne La Pierre warned that the UN was going to use July 4th as a date to forcibly confiscate all guns). Idiots, all of them.

    Now, when people ask if I own guns I have to explain that no, I’m not a nut like Ted Nugent, Open Carry Texas, or any number of the paranoid, delusional freaks afraid of their own shadows. Nothing but tough talking pussies.

    I must say that I am continually amazed at how gullible and easily led are those on the extreme right. Ted Nugent is living proof that no matter how despicable someone is, all they have to do is say the right things and wave the proper icons and the idiots will flock to them.

    Chris in South Jersey

  66. (Internet ate my comment)

    I think Heinlein was modeling his story after a period of Japanese history. The Emperor had managed to stop the nobles from feuding with each other, resulting in peace. The warrior (Samurais) were thus not needed to fight wars.

    So they became police, judge and executioners-at large. Japan was a "polite" society, if by polite you mean "living in fear that a samurai having a bad day would decapitate you for a minor offense."

  67. One of the curious facts about The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the narrator's ahistorical insistence that the law of supply and demand had wiped out rape in the Moon prison community, because with females in short supply, the population banded together to punish male-on-female rape and sexual assault. To which one can only say, that early Australia would be the counterargument.

    1. Oddly enough, Australia was a major inspiration for that novel (and a pretty obvious one.)

  68. Thanks, Jim, for your candor, wisdom, humor, and devastatingly excellent use of language.

    For BadTux upthread (my browser is misbehaving and not letting me reply to your post on Moon is a Harsh Mistress): I pulled my copy off the shelf and found the following on p. 17, wonder if it's the bit that reminded you of "An armed society is a polite society."

    "I wondered about his life expectancy. Tourists often remark on how polite everybody is in Luna--with unstated comment that ex-prison shouldn't be so civilized. Having been Earthside and seen what _they_ put up with, I know what they mean. But useless to tell them we are what we are because bad actors don't live long--in Luna."

  69. Solid writing as usual, Jim. However, in this case, I don't agree that the line, “an armed society is a polite society” is "simply a device to hang a story on and nothing more."

    I've always read that line, especially in the context of the story, to be commentary on how foolish the idea of ordinary citizens carrying guns everywhere was.

    They had everything they could have hoped for, yet within this supposed utopia, human life holds little value when someone has been offended, no matter how slight the offense.

    Very similar to Martin Zale taking Derek Fleming's life over a traffic altercation.

  70. I think it is really beyond shitty that people would threaten Jim and Stonekettle Station. A true coward has to use threats and intimidation--an American faces principle. Jim is an American. Hats off to the Bull--may your life be long and happy.

  71. As always, you have a way with words and making the complex simple. Bravo, Jim.

  72. if you don't mind, as usual, i agree with you totally. two songs come to mind. one called "glorified g" and the second, "mind your manners." the first has a story behind it, why he wrote it. the other, well, the video explains it. maybe no one will like them. but these popped into mind after reading your post.

  73. http://youtu.be/H-UhfVDAEf0

  74. if you don't like PJ, then maybe an old country dude. telling a story about gun control in general, then his song... http://youtu.be/je8xzQd6YEo

  75. recent news: disturbing. with a petition. https://www.change.org/p/ohio-attorney-general-mike-dewine-open-a-federal-investigation-into-the-fatal-police-shooting-of-john-crawford-iii-release-video-of-shooting?utm_source=action_alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=136795&alert_id=DnSRhqQHWp_DYpPMX%2FeXtQ88i875uaxP%2FmWCCdFolmjEfaMwzjRegY%3D

  76. To take the point further, that quote from Beyond This Horizon is even more off the mark in context, because in the novel that oh-so-polite armed society resulted in a violent rebellion by a group that Heinlein was at pains to identify as losers.

  77. You know, I never ever see the nutjobs use this particular Heinlein quote:

    “I know how good a gun feels. It makes you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, three meters tall and covered with hair. You’re ready for anything and kind of hoping you’ll find it. Which is exactly what is dangerous about it – because you aren’t anything of the sort. You are a feeble, hairless embryo, remarkably easy to kill."

    That quote just doesn't get much play, does it?

    1. Tunnel in the Sky one of his last 'juveniles' IIRC. And the protagonist went armed with only 2 knives, and because he was hyperviligent he managed to survive.The person with "big" gun didn't last 1 hour. Someone took advantage of the open nature of the test and committed murder.


  78. If I may ask a question...Is the world less sane than in RAHs day? I have seen nothing but downhill since the reign of King Ronald Reagan.{Served in the Navy during his administration} Thanks for listening.

  79. Nice piece. I know it's tough to speak truth about guns because the haters come out and they're as civil with words as they'd like to be all the time with their damn guns.

  80. In light of the recent incident at the food plant near Oklahoma City where Alton Nolen went on a rampage after being fired and beheaded one woman and critically injured a second woman before being shot by an armed employee of the plant, I can only imagine how Ted Nugent probably shat himself in pure ecstatic glee that his "prophecy" at least partially came true. Especially when it was revealed that Nolen had ties with the Islamic religion. This whole incident is a windfall for NRA extremists who think that everyone should be armed to the teeth. I smell the makings of Part 11 of this series.

  81. Gina, it is a modified and corrupted version o' the 2nd Amendment that the Reich Wing demanded and got from the likes of Scalia. I'm an old Sailor, my Dad was Army and he took me to places like Buffalo Rock Illinois {Before it blew itself off the map.} to ensure I know about, understand and can in an emergency handle automatic weapons. I learned to fire {Among others } an Uzi. a Thompson, a BAR, and a .50 pedestal mounted machine gun.
    NONE of which I've ever had a desire to fire again.
    I don't understand the psyche of ammosexuals; but I do know we better take our Constitution back.

  82. "There were witnesses and they are all agreed, Fleming was not armed ..."
    And this is the problem with your anecdote. It does not describe an "armed society." It describes a society in which only a (mostly hot-headed) minority carries firearms and the majority do not. Had Flemming been armed the story might have ended differently.

  83. Heinlein's world view reads as if he stayed a 12-year-old Boy Scout his whole life. I grew up and left his books behind.


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