Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Hunting the Unicorn -- to Extinction

You ever see the movie Bedazzled?

The remake, not the original.

Elizabeth Hurley as The Devil.

Brendan Fraser as the hapless Elliot, who trades his soul for seven wishes – all of which keep going horribly wrong?

Elliot wishes to be rich and powerful and ends up a Colombian drug lord whose wife hates him and who is killed by his own men.

He then wishes to be famous and admired, and the Devil makes him into a seven foot tall world famous pro basketball player … and endows him with a “teenie weenie winkie.”

Determined to get it right, Elliot thinks carefully indeed when asking for his next wish…

Elliot: I wanna be smart. No, no, I wanna be really smart. And, uh, I wanna be able to talk good … well. What’s the word?

The Devil: Articulate?

Elliot: Articulate! Yeah, I wanna be articulate. And I want to be witty. Sophisticated. Charming. I want to know everything about everything. I want to be popular. Good looking. No, no make that great looking. And I want Allison to fall absolutely head over heels in love with me.

The Devil: Anything else?

Elliot: Like … what?

The Devil: Like winkie wise?

Elliot: Oh. Right. Um. Yeah. Well, um. I wanna be, uh, (grins shyly) I wanna be big. Nah uh, ah, not like practical joke big. But, you know, (pantomimes fist pumping like a piston) big. That clear?

The Devil: Crystal. You just say, “I wish,” and I’ll fill in the rest.

Elliot: Okay. I wish that I was witty and fu…

The Devil: Blah blah blah blah, you got it, Smarty Pants!

And Elliot gets everything he asked for. He’s intelligent, handsome, well spoken, admired, sophisticated and charming. He knows everything about everything. He’s the most popular man in every room. And he’s big, not practical joke big, but, you know, big. He’s a writer and he’s so good that his books win the Pulitzer before they are even published.

And the woman he wants falls instantly and madly in love with him.

Exactly as he asked.

Except, well,  like they say, the devil is in the details.

I said a thing.

It was a bad thing.

I did. I said a bad thing.

A terrible, no good, very bad thing.


I said, “show up and vote.”

Show up and vote, and you can win. Yep. That’s what I said.

I know, terrible, right? How could I? Show up, vote. What was I thinking?

In my defense, that’s how it’s supposed to work. The whole concept of America is based on that idea. Show up and vote. Throw the bastards out. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people. But you’re not supposed to say it out loud. I guess it makes the people who didn’t show up feel uncomfortable or something. Whatever. It was a throwaway comment. Nothing particularly deep. Bumper sticker pithiness. Show up and vote. It’s not the first time I’ve said this. As I reminded Twitter, I said it before, in 2008, in 2010, in 2012, in 2014, in 2016…

I’ve said it, well, a lot.

Some folks, as noted above, were less than thrilled to be reminded.

This was several days ago, last week, before the state primaries and special elections. I was talking about the various candidates in various elections and naturally some defeatist started in with a litany of liberal woe. And I said, stop it. Just, stop it with that. Stop. I don’t want to hear about why you can’t vote. I’m telling you, again, show up and vote. Show the fuck up and vote and you can win. Look at Alabama, I said. Look at Western Pennsylvania. Look at what’s happening in Arizona. It doesn’t get any more rigged against liberals than there.

Of course, the game is rigged.

Of course, the other side cheats.

Of course, they’re doing everything they can to keep you from the polls.

Of course, they are. Of course. But if your vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be working so damned hard to keep you from exercising it. Get your ass to the polls, no matter what. Every time.

If you can win in Alabama, you can win anywhere.

If you goddamned liberals would just stop finding reasons to lose and show up and …



Oh. Right. Riiiight.

You’re already mad. I’m not even through the intro and you’re shouting at your screen. Gerrymandering! Rigged elections! Voter suppression! I live in a red state, my vote doesn’t count! And my particular favorite: Not all liberals, Asshole!

And you’re reaching for your keyboards.

I know. I know, I do. I hear you. Hey, I showed up at my polling station the last time, here the ultra conservative religious land of Florida’s District #1 and it was a huge Southern Baptist Church with Trump signs out front and poll workers wearing Trump shirts inside. I get it, man. Believe me, I do.

Hold that thought. Wait a second. I haven’t even gotten to really offensive part yet.

Look here, you tell me you show up.

But you don’t.

You don’t.

You show up for the presidential elections, once every four years.

But you don’t show up in the middle when it actually counts.

See, you, you liberals, you’ll stand in the freezing rain for a month to save the snowy spotted owl’s habitat, you’ll chain yourself to an oil tanker to protest drilling in the Arctic, you’ll occupy Wall Street. But you don’t show up when it actually counts.

Not enough of you anyway.

Folks, it’s idiotic to only show up for the one election where your vote – the popular vote – doesn’t actually do anything.

If you stand in the rain for a month because you care about something, but you don’t show up when your vote actually matters, to elect people who actually care about the same things you do, then you might as well just stay home and keep dry. Because if you don’t do the grunt work of democracy, if you don’t do your duty as a citizen of the republic, then all the marching and singing and protesting in the world isn’t going to do a goddamned thing.

It’s worse than useless to show up for the presidential election, but not the elections where your vote actually matters, i.e. local, state, and the mid-terms.

You have to show for every election. Every. Single. One. From school board to president. Every single time.

And don’t tell me that you do.

Because you don’t.

Liberals turned out in huge cheering masses in 2008.

Sure they did. And they elected Barack Obama. Hot damn. They were finally – finally – going to get everything they ever wanted. They were going to be smart and articulate, right? Witty. Sophisticated. Charming. They were going know everything about everything. They were going to be popular. Good looking. No, no make that great looking. Everybody was going to fall absolutely head over heels in love with them.

And they were going to be big

They were finally going to get that unicorn they’d been dreaming about all those years.

Except, well, see, the devil is in the details and unicorns are notoriously fickle creatures.


The unicorn slipped out of their grasp, as unicorns tend to do.

So in 2010, disappointed, they didn’t show up.

And they lost the House.

Liberals wanted a unicorn from Obama and they didn’t get it and they were all disappointed and depressed. Let down. Uninspired. So they didn’t show up. And the House went not just to Republicans, but to the Tea Party. Right wing fanatics. Conservative extremists. Fringe conspiracy nuts, racists, nationalists, jingoists, who hated government so intensely that they were determined to destroy it at all costs. Now, this wasn’t a surprise. The Tea Party didn’t exactly try to hide who and what they were. They were proud of it. They painted it on their misspelled signs in letters four feet high. They marched on Washington waving their guns and their bibles and told everybody who would listen what they were going to do once they got into power. It wasn’t a secret.

But it wasn’t enough to get liberals to show up either.

That’s what you told me back then.

It’s not enough to vote against something – no matter how terrible, that’s what you said. Fuck you, Jim, don’t try to scare us into voting. We want our unicorn. We deserve it, yes, we do. We’ve been marching and protesting for decades, now is our time. We want it and we’re not going to compromise. Liberals don’t just fall in line, Jim, you fascist. That’s what you told me. Liberals are smart, we think for ourselves, we want to be inspired.  There has to be more than just voting against the bad guys, more than just the lesser of evils. No, liberals have to vote for something,

That’s what you said.

And so, the House fell to the Tea Party, but at least you had your unicorn dreams to keep you warm at night.

Liberals showed up for the Presidential election in 2012 though.

Of course they did. Turns out the Tea Party was pretty damned shitty indeed. And so, it seems liberals could indeed vote against something if they had to. They turned out. Two years too late, and by then Obama was well and truly hobbled. But liberals were still hoping for a unicorn, somehow, someway. Magic, I guess. So they showed up and they voted, and reelected Obama in a landslide.

But, without the House, there was no damned way they were going to get their wishes.

Naturally they blamed Obama for not magically giving them everything they wanted anyway and so in 2014 they once again didn’t show up and so they lost the Senate.

And this time it wasn’t just the Tea Party. By not showing up, liberals handed congress over to the likes of Mitch McConnell – the very epitome, the foul distilled bitter essence, of every single thing they supposedly despise. They elected and reelected Obama, hoping for a unicorn, and then cut his legs off and tied his arms behind his back and hung Mitch McConnell around his neck.

Meanwhile, local and state elections were going to conservatives.


Because they show up.

They show up, every election from dog catcher to school board to President. They show up. Your angry racist white uncle, the one who believes everything Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh tell him. The Tea Party. The religious nuts. The NRA. They show up. Every. Single. Time. See, you think about it once every four years. But those people? Your angry uncle, the religious nuts, the gun fanatics, the ones who are convinced the gays and the Muslims and the godless filthy liberals are stealing their country out from beneath them? Well, they think about it every day.

And they rage about it every day.

And they’re furious, every day.

And so they show up, every time.

Don’t take my word for it, go look for yourself. Volunteer to work the election. Tell me who shows up. Not just once, but every time.


What’s that? Not all liberals?

No kidding. Of course it’s not all liberals. Of course it’s not you, you personally. Of course you show up, every time. Sure. Not all liberals.

But a lot of them.

Tell me something: local elections, code enforcement officer, county clerk, selectman, elder, town counsel, mayor, school board. The judges on your state ballot, what do you know about them? Wait, are there judges on your state ballot? Are state judges selected the same way across all states? Do you know? Guess what? They’re not. The methodology for selecting judges varies widely between states, partisan elections, nonpartisan elections, legislative elections, gubernatorial appointments, and/or assisted appointments. Quick, which method does your state use? Do you elect your judges or does your state government appoint them? Picture your ballot, are there judges on it? Is the candidate judge’s political affiliation listed or not? What do you know about those potential judges? How can you find out? What do those judges judge? Family court? Traffic court? Property court? Criminal court? Are they city or municipal courts? County courts? Circuit courts? Regional courts?

Name a judge on the bench of your local circuit court. No? Okay, how about just the Chief Judge for your district?

Do you think it matters? Judges are impartial, right? Non-partisan.

Aren’t they?

Let me tell you a story: I know somebody, a woman, who spent years in an abusive marriage. The abuse wasn’t physical and I’ll spare you the ugly details, but it was pretty typical for the Deep South, far too common here in the Florida Panhandle. She met him when she was very young, high school. He was older, already had a kid from a previous relationship. She dropped out of school to marry him. They had three more kids. She grew up – and that was the problem. She stopped being the submissive, na├»ve kid he’d married. She got tired of being treated like property. She tried, but he wouldn’t change. It’s the culture here. He was a Good Ol’ Boy, a redneck. No education himself. Limited opportunities. Proudly poor and Southern. She tried, she really did. But it got worse instead of better. So, she left him. She walked out, filed for divorce. A few months later, she met somebody else, a military guy. Smart. Educated. With employers lining up to hire him after he retired from the service. He treated her decent. They got married and moved away when a defense contractor offered him a good job out of state. They bought a nice house, a new car, and for the first time in her life she was living like other people do. Medical. Dental. Decent clothes. Decent neighborhood. A little money in her pocket. Somebody who cared about her and treated her like an equal instead of property. But, there were those kids. The youngest was ten, and living with his dad back in Florida, who’d let things go after she left him. The house was a dump, dirty and falling apart. Seems he was having trouble finding another woman to wait on him hand and foot – he’d even gone looking for an Asian mail-order bride, on the theory that they weren’t like those, as he said, American bitches. So she came back to Florida and took him to court for custody of her son. She was confident, going into that court last week. She knew that she could give her son a good life, opportunities, education, medical, dental, a way out of poverty. But, and here’s the point of the story, the judge was a Southern Conservative, an Evangelical Christian. The judge literally screamed, red faced, at this woman, told her in front of her children and in front of the court that she was a terrible mother for getting divorced, for getting remarried, for trying to make a better life for herself. The judge called her selfish for moving out of state with her new husband. Selfish, that’s what she was called for not wanting to be property. The judge destroyed her, right there in the courtroom in front of her own children, while her ex looked on grinning. And then, the judge gave full custody to the father.

Why? Because good Christians – at least the judge’s version – don’t divorce their husbands and move away. No matter what.

And this isn’t unique in that court room.

The judge has a long, long record of punishing petitioners for not living up to certain religious and political beliefs common to this area.

Now, what do you know about your judges?

When you go to the ballot box and you vote, what do you know about those judges?

All of these people, from local selectman to your local school board to your state district circuit court, all have impact on your life, both directly and indirectly. That’s where it starts. These are the foundation stones of government in America. These people go on to state level. They become your state representatives, your state senators, they are appointed to the federal court system, they become your governor.

They directly shape how America is governed at the level that most directly affects you.

Then, they go on to Washington.

And they don’t get there by themselves.

Almost without fail, they are helped along – if not chosen directly – by your state’s various political parties.

Tell me, who appoints your state’s electors to the Electoral College? You know, the apparatus that actually selects the President?

You show up every four years to the one election – the one election – where your vote doesn’t actually decide things, but you don’t show up for the myriad elections where it does. You’re worried about the cupola, while the foundation rots.

And don’t tell me that you do. Show up. Because the local governments, the state governments, the judges, the US House, the Senate, are all in the hands of … conservatives. The majority of those seats anyway.

Quod erat Demonstrandum.

It's not enough to show up every four years.

You have to show up every time.

You have to show up for the midterms.

You have to show up for the state elections.

You have to show up for your local elections.

You have to get informed and you have to show up every single time.

You know what happened?

Do you know what happened when I said, “Show up and vote?” Do you?


80,000 liberals fell to fighting in my social media timeline. Screeching like baboons and throwing shit at each other.


What were they fighting over?

Well, they fought about the way I said things


They fought about political parties.


They fought about the limited choices.


They fought depression.


They fought about disillusionment.


They fought about generalizations.


They fought over ridiculous analogies.


They fought over conspiracy theories.


They fought over purity.



They fought over Republicans.


They were pretty sure that I must be targeting them personally, so they fought over that.


They fought over the Electoral College.


But mostly they fought over Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.

And fought.

And fought.

And fought.

The various conservatives chiming with what I’m sure they considered wit were drowned out by the fighting liberals.

It went on in earnest for three days, buoyed up by swarming bots and prodded by foreign trolls, and it’s continued fitfully ever since. If you want to see for yourself, take a look at my Twitter timeline starting around May 21th.

Two days into the battle, I said this:


And that’s when things really went to hell.

Show up and vote.

I might have said it more than once.

I didn’t mention Hillary. I didn’t mention Bernie. I said, show up and vote in 2018, in 2020. Show up and vote and you can win.

And got tens of thousands of responses, many telling me why liberals can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t, show up and vote.

But this one, right here, this is the evergreen comment. This is the one that jumps out.


Saying, “show up and vote” is shaming.

You’re ashamed of being told to show up and vote.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to have to vote.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote if the candidate isn’t perfect.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote because somebody told you to. 

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because everybody else is voting.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote against something, you want to vote for it. 

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because bad shit will happen to us all if you don’t.

You want to vote, but you don’t want to vote just because it’s your boring old duty as a citizen of the Republic.

None of those reasons are good enough to make you show up. No. It’s not enough that if you don’t show up, you get Trump, McConnell, Ryan, and Neil Gorsuch – and they then proceed to burn down every single thing you ever cared about. No, to vote, to show up, you need a magnificently-maned, golden-horned, rampant, virile snowy white stallion bearing wonderful gifts and wild music, blood quickening inspiration and powerful magics. You need to be inspired. You need to hear angels.

You need a unicorn.

So I asked.

Who is that? What would it take for you to show up? Who is that candidate?


Articulate. Witty. Charming. Know everything about everything. Popular. Great looking. You want to fall in love with him or her. Right?

He (or she) has to be big.

Not practical joke big. But, you know, big.

















It goes on for a long, long time.

Far, far longer than I have room to post here.

If you’ve got a Twitter account, you can read all the responses here.

Thousands of responses. Many people just said, well, you know, so long as the candidate has a pulse and isn’t Trump, they’ll show up. But many people said, no, no, I want, well, I want articulate. And witty! And he, or she, has to be charming. They have to know everything about everything. Popular. Great looking. Big. It’s not enough for me to just show up. I’ve got to be inspired. I’ve got to fall in love.

A unicorn.

Folks, no candidate, no one, can be all of that. It’s just not possible.

Unicorns don’t exist and they never have.

No candidate is going to be everything you want.

The Constitution never promised you perfect choices.

And wishes always go wrong, which is why wishes are a lousy way to run a country. So are revolutions.

The Republic doesn’t run on moonbeams and magic. It can’t be all things to all people all of the time. The work of maintaining the republic is tedious and boring, if you’re doing it right. Duty very often isn’t glamourous or popular or even particularly inspiring, but that is what holds civilization together. Sometimes, most times, it’s just about showing up and doing what has to be done to hold back the fall of night and for no other reason than because the alternative is disaster and ruin. It’s your duty as a citizen to keep the nuts from working loose and the walls from falling down. You don’t get a medal for that and nobody is going to sing songs about you, but it’s your job nonetheless.

Duty, very often, isn’t even particularly moral. Mostly it’s about doing the greatest good for the greatest number of people, most of the time.

You tell me there’s no difference between one side and the other, that it’s only a choice between the lesser of evils.

But I’m here to tell you that there is an enormous difference between those who want power only to benefit themselves and those who seek power for the betterment of us all.

There’s an enormous difference between those who labor in the trenches, working every day to make the world a better place, little by little, inch by inch, and those who want to jump ahead via magic.

There’s a huge difference between doing your duty and self gratification. 

The people on top right now, the ones in charge, they have no interest in duty – to the Republic or to you.

They want all of the benefits of civilization and none of the responsibility.

They want what Elliot wanted in that story up above, the one about accepting gifts from the Devil. They want fame and glory and wealth, and they want a nation where those things are possible only for them. They’ve made the same horrible selfish mistake Elliot did when he asked the Devil to bend the object of his desire to his will, to turn her into a meat puppet for his own gratification, instead of working to become the kind of person she might love and respect of her own volition. They see government as nothing more than a way to line their own pockets and so they’ve made a deal with the devil because they want what Elliot wanted. They want the reward without having to do any of the work. And in the end, that always goes bad. Every single time.

In the movie, Elliot comes to realize that wishing will never, ever make him happy. 

Wishing will never make him smart and handsome, witty and charming, popular, rich, or even, you know, big. In the end, he had to do the work, he had to show up, be aware, think about others, make sacrifices and compromises and little by little become the person others could admire and respect.

There are no unicorns.

There never have been.

There are no shortcuts. If you want a better nation, you have to be better citizens.

You have to do the work.

You have to show up and do your duty. 

You have to do your duty, even if the candidate isn’t perfect.

You have to do your duty, even if you hate it, even if you don’t want to.

You have to do your duty, because bad shit will happen to us all if you don’t.

You have to do your duty, even if the odds are stacked against you and the other guy doesn’t play fair.

You have to do your duty as a citizen of the Republic because you are a citizen of the Republic.

You don’t have to like it. You don’t need to be inspired. You don’t need a unicorn.

It doesn’t have to be easy. It’s your job.

Get informed.

Get motivated.

Get after it. Do your duty to the republic. Show up. And you can win.

And when you win, well, then – then – you can fix things. Then, you can have your unicorn.

But you have to win first.

Elliot: I don't get it, though. Why are you, you know ... being nice?

The Devil: Look, Elliot, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. The whole good-and-evil thing? You know, Him and me? It really comes down to you. You don't have to look very hard for heaven or hell. They're right here on Earth. You make the choice, and I guess you just made it.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Bang Bang Crazy, Part 14: The Cowardice of Responsibility

Ninety-nine percent of all failures come from people who have a habit of making excuses…
-- George Washington Carver

It began, as it often does these days, as a series of tweets.

Another school shooting.

Another all too familiar day in America.

Another mad scramble by gun fanatics to dismiss the tools of mass murder, to deflect and deny, to make excuses for why nothing can be done. To avoid responsibility.

One of these excuses in particular caught my eye.


So, I ....


What's that?

Shooter? School shooting?

Oh, right. Riiiiight. Sorry. You’re right. You’re right. I got ahead of myself. The school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. That’s the one. Given there was more than one school shooting yesterday, or attempted school shooting, and given the increasing frequency of these events, I should have been more specific…

You again, what now?

The snark?

Yes, you may expect that to continue throughout the article.

Good? OK, then let’s continue.

Starbuck is a modestly well known writer, producer, and director who has done some interesting work – and lot of less than interesting work. His tweets often slide by in my social media feeds without leaving much of a ripple, but his comments yesterday caught my attention.

The shooter did not legally possess the guns he used or the pipe bombs he had so what makes anyone think that any law would’ve stopped him from this evil act? Obviously he was not concerned with following the law. He’s a determined killer willing to use any means to do so. The real questions we need to be asking are: • How can we better identify, report and act before evil people commit these mass shootings? • Can we make teaching empathy and kindness a part of nationwide curriculum? • How can we safeguard the entry and interior of schools?

I think the questions Starbuck asks are valid: How can we better identify, report and act before evil people commit these mass shootings? Can we make teaching empathy and kindness a part of nationwide curriculum? How can we safeguard the entry and interior of schools? Sure. Those are reasonable questions, worthy of further exploration on the national stage. Absolutely.

But I don’t think they’re the “real questions we need to be asking.”

No, it’s the first part, that bit about laws.

Laws don’t stop crime.

No shit, right?

This comes up every time. Laws don’t stop crime. No law we can pass will totally eliminate gun violence. So, we shouldn’t talk about more laws, or new laws, or even fixing the existing laws. Criminals don’t obey the law, see? So laws only “punish” law abiding citizens.

You don’t see this … reasoning, I guess I have to call it, in any other area. You don’t see conservatives saying, hey, illegal immigrants, they don’t follow the law! So we shouldn’t even talk about more immigration laws!

You don’t see conservatives saying, hey, you know who doesn’t obey the law? Women. Yeah. Women. So there’s no point in passing any more abortion laws…

No, it’s only guns where this “laws don’t work” argument comes up routinely.

And so I wrote a long response, which on Twitter became a fifteen part thread of related thoughts chained together.


And that became a longer and more detailed Facebook post (if you’ve already read it, feel free to skip over the comments in blue):

Laws don't stop crime.

The killer is in custody.

If there weren't any laws against shooting people, we couldn't prosecute him. We'd have to let him go.

Laws don't stop crime and never have.

We have laws regarding murder, theft, rape, fraud, etc.

And yet, we still have murder, theft, rape, fraud, etc.

We pass new laws to address evolving problems, such as electronic crimes. Or things some folks wish were crimes, like abortion.

But, laws don't stop crime.

Laws don't stop crime. It would be nice if they did, but that's not the law's function.

Laws give society legal recourse when its members engage in anti-social actions. If you didn't have law against murder, you couldn't do anything (legally) about it when murders happen.

The shooter did not legally possess the guns he used. This is true. But that doesn't mean laws don't work.

The question is: How did the shooter get those guns?

Somebody has to be legally responsible for those weapons. So how did the shooter get them?

If the shooter got his weapons from his father as rumored, then the father should be legally responsible for failure to properly secure the guns. But that only works if there are enforceable laws in place regarding storage and access in the home.

If that law doesn't exist, then it should.

Such a law would not prevent any responsible citizen from owning a gun. It doesn't infringe on 2nd Amendment rights. It simply requires that the gun owner be held legally responsible for his or her guns. If Adam Lanza's mother had properly secured her weapons, she'd be alive today, along with the children murdered at Sandy Hook. Adam Lanza was mentally ill. He could not be legally responsible. She knew that. Her own irresponsibility cost 28 people their lives.

Laws don't prevent crime, not all of it anyway.

But they can reduce crime by modifying society's behavior over the long term. See Drunk Driving laws. Obviously, those laws don't stop drunk driving, but they did drastically reduce it by changing irresponsible behavior.

Now, Making driving while intoxicated illegal does not keep anyone from drinking if they want to. But we prosecute irresponsible intoxication. We hold those who enable it responsible, even bartenders and liquor store owners. Those we catch violating the law go to jail.

And we are draconian about enforcing these laws. We had to be. We have campaigns about how draconian we are. We put up signs along the highways and we have cops go to schools and lecture kids about it. And as a result people have become significantly more responsible about their behavior when they otherwise wouldn't be.

If gun laws addressed specific irresponsibility, such as failure to secure your weapons, and we held those responsible to the same degree as drinking, and we promoted gun responsibility the same way we do responsible drinking, then you'd see a marked reduction in cases like this one. We know this works, because it works in every other area that it’s been tried in.

Where'd the shooter get his guns? Excellent question.

The answer isn't: Laws don't work.

The answer is a law that specifically addresses the problem identified by the question and holds those responsible to strict and mandatory account. Every time.

If we started holding guns owners responsible for their guns to a degree no more stringent than gun manufacturer guidelines and the NRA's own rules for safe gun handling, then you'd see gun owners start properly securing their guns. As they should.

I'm NOT talking about taking your guns away.

I'm a gun owner too. I'm sitting right now within three feet of two gun safes. MY weapons are secure when not on my person. Period. No exceptions. Ever. They are my guns. I am responsible. No one else. Because I was trained that way.

Laws don't stop crime.

But then neither do guns.

Laws don't stop crime and never have.

But the right laws make crime far less likely by modifying irresponsible behavior and by giving society legal recourse to hold its members accountable for their actions.

We'll prosecute the shooter, sure enough.

But we must also prosecute those who enabled him.

Now, nothing I’ve said above is a new thought. I’ve written about this ridiculous “laws don’t stop crime” argument here before, in this very series. You can find the links at the bottom of this article.

But, you know, my comments really weren’t even about the law.

They were about responsibility.

That’s what laws are ultimately about: Responsibility.

Responsibility, by definition, requires accountability. If you’re not ever held accountable,  well, then you’re not really responsible, are you? I mean, if there is no mechanism holding you accountable, then what’s the price for irresponsibility? Nothing. You screwed up, people died, oops. Shrug and move on, right?

Responsibility is about accountability.

We used to teach that to Navy leaders when I was in uniform. Authority. Responsibility. Accountability. When that ideal declined, so did Navy leadership.

You can’t have responsibility without accountability, to yourself, to authority (whatever that may be), to society (however you define it). That’s what law is.

But … well, it’s funny, isn’t it? Whenever you mention accountability, the gun fetishists – the very people who angrily rush to assure you just how responsible they are – begin screaming that you’re trying to take their guns away.

And why is that?

Why is it that they always, every time, equate “responsibility” to “confiscation?”

Why is it that whenever you talk about personal accountability, they always – every time – attempt to deflect that responsibility onto somebody else?

Case in point:


This guy was more coherent than most – which is why I chose him to use an example.

And he managed to get most of the predictable talking points arguing against responsibility all in one place.

So, let's walk it through, shall we? Point by point.

My response to your most recent post since I am unable to respond on the actual post itself for some reason.

My Facebook page is fairly popular, as such things go. Roughly 150,000 people read what I post there every day. Often it’s a much larger audience, depending on how widely my posts are shared – and that’s what social media and in particular platforms like Facebook are for. Because of the size of that audience, and because of the things I write about, and because of the nature of the average social media user, I limit commenting to “friends” (as defined by Facebook). That’s about 5000 vetted people, give or take, on my personal page. This way, I don’t have to daily deal with the trolls, lunatics, moochers, shit-stirrers, and the various other unsavory and non-housebroken denizens who inhabit the bowels of social media. Why just 5000? Because that’s the limit set by Facebook. If I was allowed more friends, I’d allow more commenters. (Note: I also run a closed Facebook Group called “Stonekettle Station,” where most of my material is reposted and far more people (a bit over 30,000 right now) can join in the conversation). I mention all of this here as a convenience to myself, since I get literally dozens of questions about this every single day.

So, so this guy, let’s call him “Tony,” couldn’t respond directly to my post on Facebook because we are not Facebook friends (and given the rest of Tony’s missive, we are unlikely ever to be such). Thus, he emailed it to me via Facebook’s messenger system.

Good so far?


I assume he cut and pasted this from elsewhere, given that he switched to the third person on the second line.

"I agree with some of the things he says."

Well, that's good. That’s good.

Their are also some flaws in some of the points he's trying to make [Sic]

Oh boy. I can't "weight" to "here" about my flaws (You may, if you like, picture me pouring myself a fresh one at this point).

If someone takes my car without permission and runs someone over with it, am I liable? The same answer applies to if someone took one of my guns without permission to murder someone else.


Yes. You can be held liable depending on circumstance.

Tony might want to check the laws of his state.

You see, in many states failure to properly secure your vehicle does make you liable under the law – not to mention, being grounds for claim denial by your insurance company.

For example: In nearly every state it is illegal to leave a running car unattended, even on private property, even if the the door is locked, and in some states even if you use a remote starting system with anti-theft lockout capability.

If you leave your car unsecured, with the keys in the ignition, you can be held liable for its theft and subsequent use in a crime.

Likewise, if you loan your vehicle to somebody unauthorized to operate it, or who is impaired, or who is not covered under your insurance, then you are liable for whatever happens with that vehicle. You are most certainly liable if your kids take your car and kill somebody because you left the keys where they could get them. You’re responsible for both the kids and the car.

However, if you take reasonable steps to secure your vehicle and to keep it out of the hands of unauthorized users, then the law generally does not hold you accountable if someone steals your car.

This is no different whatsoever from what I suggested.

Hell, I didn't even suggest a particular method of securing your weapons, though I personally prefer a purpose-manufactured gun safe. No, I left it up to you to decide the best method for your own situation, just as the law does with cars (i.e. the law does not require you to have a secure locking garage, or a fenced driveway, or a car alarm, or even a working lock on your car. You decide).

The person liable is the person that took the item without permission and harmed someone else with it.

I agree.

I think we all agree.

Who suggested otherwise?

Go back up there and read what I wrote. Look at the penultimate line. Did I in any way whatsoever suggest that the murderer was not liable? Did I? If you're not capable of that basic level of reading comprehension, then you're (or in Tony’s case, "your") not cognitively advanced enough to be in this conversation in the first goddamned place. So either step up or stop wasting my time.

I mean, more than one person can be held liable in a crime, you all know this, right? You must know this.

Look here, if I'm too intoxicated to drive, if I am obviously too intoxicated to drive, then obviously I’m liable if I drive. But, if the bartender continues to serve me alcohol knowing there's a reasonable chance I'm going to go out and get in a car, well, then the law also holds that bartender liable. Likewise, if the bartender doesn't check my ID and make reasonably sure I'm old enough to drink in her establishment then the law again holds not only me liable, and the bartender liable, but also the business itself.

Goddamn, man, how do you not know this?

"Everyone has moments where they are irresponsible or could have been more responsible."

Always, it comes to this argument.

Always, every time. They always arrive here: you just can’t expect someone to be responsible all of the time.

And yet, that’s exactly what we do expect, from the guy driving your kid’s school bus, from surgeons, from airline pilots, from the military, from the courts, from our leaders, from the guy who operates the Staten Island Ferry and the cook who’s supposed to wash his goddamned hands after taking a shit. We not only expect these people to be responsible every single time, we demand it under penalty of law. Every single time. Because failure of responsibility for even a second can have serious consequences. And you’re going to try and tell me that guns should be regarded as any less of a responsibility?


Everybody has moments where they are irresponsible, Tony says. Yes, and if you have a moment of irresponsibility that results in the death of another, we call that manslaughter. And it's illegal. And you're held accountable. And you go to jail. I mean, are you seriously suggesting to me that a parent who "has a moment of irresponsibility" and leaves their baby in a locked, sealed car on a hot day resulting in that child's death should be dismissed with a shrug and an "oh well, she didn't mean to kill the kid. Shit happens! People can’t be responsible all of the time." Hell, we'd hold that person responsible for their criminal irresponsibility if they left a fucking dog in the car.

And here you are trying to tell me that guns should be held to some lesser standard of responsibility?

Come on.

Why is it that supposed "responsible" gun owners always – always, every goddamned time – argue so strenuously and so ridiculously against actual responsibility?


We’ll come back to that. Stick around.

Look here: you can't have responsibility without accountability.

You can't have responsibility without accountability.

If you're responsible, then you're accountable. It’s as simple as that.

And isn't that, accountability, the entire premise of your religion? Sure. Right? You've got free will, but if you don't follow your god's law, you go to your final judgement and get held accountable, so you'd better be good for goodness sake? Right?

No? No, I suppose not.

Be that as it may, don't try to tell me that you're a responsible gun owner if you're unwilling to be held accountable for that ownership, because you're just full of shit and you don't even understand what the words mean.

By this logic he is suggesting that we create criminals out of anyone who unintentionally or even involuntary created an opportunity for someone else who wants to do harm to exploit.

I don't even have to look at Tony’s Facebook timeline to know he wants opioid manufacturers and doctors to be held, at least in part, liable for the current drug epidemic. If it’s drugs, well, we want those who make and sell the drugs held to account, don’t we? We go after the drug makers and the drug dealers, right along with the drug users, don’t we? We’re even going after the doctors.

But guns?

Hell, the only other institution in America equally free of responsibility is the banking industry. But, I digress.

Intention has nothing to do with it – or at least it's not the primary issue.

We're talking about responsibility, not intention.

If I leave my car running in the driveway, I likely didn't intend for it to be stolen. But I'm liable just the same.

If I leave my baby locked in the car on a hot summer day while I run into the store, I likely didn't intend for the kid to cook to death. But I'm criminally liable just the same.

Now to extend the analogy to something closer to Tony’s criticism: If I'm a surgeon and I don't follow procedure, I don't wash my hands correctly or sterilize my tools or I leave a sponge inside you, and you die, you can damned well bet I'll be held accountable.

And the Chief Surgeon will be held accountable.

And the hospital will be held accountable.

And the company who owns the hospital will be held accountable.

I’m responsible. But so are they.

My intentions be damned, it’s not about intention, it’s about responsibility. Irresponsibility – negligence – has consequences in nearly every field of endeavor. From bartender to car owner to airline pilot to doctor to lawyer to accountant to parent. Why should gun ownership be any different?

In short, you're simply making another argument to punish people that had nothing to do with crime committed by the actual person who committed the crime.


If you failed to secure your gun and that gun is taken by somebody unauthorized to have it and they then use it to commit a crime, you most certainly "had something to do with it." Your irresponsibility is a big part of the problem and, again, why is it that those who claim most strenuously that they are responsible gun owners always – always, every time – work so hard to avoid taking any actual responsibility?

If you have a swimming pool, you are required to have a fence around it. Tony is arguing that he can't even accept that pitiful amount of responsibility for his gun.

Let me make a counter suggestion. Instead of punishing people who did not make the conscious decision to murder someone. How about we increase the severity of the punishment to those who actually commit the crime?

Again, this bullshit. This idea that we don't actually punish people who commit crimes.

But the real money-shot is that part about "conscious decision."

We're talking about guns. Guns. Machines designed to kill people. Machines specifically designed to kill people. YOU SHOULD GODDAMNED WELL BE CONSCIOUS OF THAT ALL THE TIME, EVERY MINUTE, AND TAKE THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSIBILITY. If you're not conscious of that responsibility, every second, then you are not responsible enough to own or operate a fucking gun.

AR-15s have been for sale in the US for almost 60 years yet they've only been the weapon of choice in Mass Shootings for a little over a decade.

I never, not one time, mentioned "AR-15s" or any other specific weapon.

The subject is not the type of weapon. The subject is responsibility.

Stop trying to deflect and start taking responsibility.

Guess what else is pretty new? The leniency we show those who are incarcerated, including those who are imprisoned for harming, raping and/or killing others. If you kill someone maliciously, you die. Or at least never see freedom or be treated as a person again. You should suffer. Is it hard to believe the motivation to kill will decline substantially once people know if they are caught, they will no pain and suffering beyond what anyone can imagine?

Oh for fuck’s sake.

This is the end result of 30 years of mindless conservative talk-radio. Of angry pundits screaming conspiracy theories from TV sets. This is the mindset of an America run by religious fanatics, right here.

Torture. Dungeons. The Pit of Despair.

They must be made to suffer, you see. That’s right out of the Bible.

If I had to guess, I’d say Tony has never been to nations where they do exactly this. Iraq. Pakistan. Afghanistan. Mexico. Turkey. Venezuela. Russia. Thailand. Kenya. You go to prison there, believe me, you suffer. I once had to get an American serviceman out of prison in one of those countries. You really don’t want to know, but I’ll say this: Tony gets his wish because it was certainly beyond anything I could imagine.

You really want to turn America into that?


But, those countries where prisoners are executed or made to suffer "beyond what anyone can imagine?" Do you actually believe crime is somehow less there as a result? Really?

Because it’s not. It’s worse.

But you want to do that here? 

No? Why not?

Because we're supposed to be better than that, you idiot. 

Because those guns you love so much are supposed to defend the Constitution, which prohibits precisely the kind of cruel and unusual punishment you're suggesting. I mean you must see the irony, right?

I mean, right?


No, I suppose not. No, of course you don’t. Of course you don’t.

That would require a degree of self-awareness I doubt Tony and those like him are capable of.

Why have leniency on those actually committing the crime...


What leniency?

Not one surviving mass shooter in American history has been granted anything resembling leniency.

The closest you could come to making such a case is Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, who were among the youngest people to be formally charged with murder in the US. They were 13 and 11, respectively, in 1998, when they opened fire on a playground at Westside Middle School. They murdered four children and a teacher, and wounded ten more. They are the only surviving mass shooters currently not in prison. And they were only released (at age 21), because Arkansas law required such. Their case actually changed that requirement in Arkansas.

Every other surviving American mass shooter is in prison. Every one.

James Holmes was sentenced to twelve consecutive life sentences PLUS an additional 3318 years in prison. Hardly what you'd call leniency.

George Banks is on Death Row in Pennsylvania. No leniency for him.

Nidal Malik Hasan is on Death Row in a US military prison and I guaran-goddamn-tee you the Army will grant him no leniency whatsoever.

Howard Barton Unruh, the nation's first mass shooter, died in prison at age 88.

Dylann Roof was sentenced to death on federal hate crimes, and to life in prison for nine counts of murder. He's currently serving nine consecutive life sentences.

Do I need to go on here? Or can you do the rest for yourself?

This nonsense that we somehow grant mass murderers "leniency" is pure kark, the kind of unsubstantiated bullshit created whole cloth by likes of Rush Limbaugh and conservative politicians and hysterical fools such as Tony.

... but in return be willing to punish those who had nothing to do with it?

And so we come down to it.

I told you up above, we come back to it.

And here we are.

…punish those who had nothing to do with it.

That’s is your real fear, isn't it?

This right here.

Because you know you yourself aren't responsible, don't you, Tony? Yes you do. You spent a thousand words making excuses, telling me how you won’t, can’t, accept responsibility or be held accountable. And so, this is what you really fear, isn’t it? What you're really afraid of is that you will one day be held to account for your own cavalier attitude and your own lack of responsibility.

You can’t empathize with the victims of violence, instead you identify with those who are responsible for it and that’s goddamned telling. Yes, it is.

But this isn't about the killers at all, is it?

It's not even about guns.

No. It's about you.

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.
-- Bob Dylan

Addendum 1:  Every time I write one of these, I hope it's the last. But it never is, there's always another massacre. Always.
The Seven Stages of Gun Violence

The Bang Bang Crazy Series:
Part 1, What we need, see, are more guns, big fucking guns
Part 2, Gun violence isn't the exception in America, it's who we are
Part 3, Sandy Hook, the NRA, and a gun in every school
Part 4, More dead kids and why we have laws
Part 5, Gun control and a polite society
Part 6, The Christopher Donner rampage, they needed killin'
Part 7, Still more dead kids and let's print our own guns!
Part 8, Let's try blaming the victim, shall we?
Part 9, Armed soldiers on post, sure, nothing to go wrong there.
Part 10, Big Damned Heroes!
Part 11, Two in the Bush
Part 12, Excuses, Excuses
Part 13, Stand and Teach

What do we do about it? How do we change our culture of gun violence? Bang Bang Sanity

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