Doubling Down and Drowning

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In the wake of yesterday’s turkey shoot in San Bernardino, which eclipsed last week’s Planned Parenthood shootings, does anyone even remember the community college in Roseburg Oregon? It was exactly two months ago. My friends on the left rage that meaningful gun control must happen. My friends on the right demand that an armed citizenry would diminish bodycounts. From my perspective they’re both wrong.
The raw facts on sheer numbers of weapons in the U.S. dictate that it is no more possible to limit guns in America than it would be to follow through on Trump’s half baked idea to round up and deport 11 million illegal aliens. They’re here, they’re queer, get used to it.

The concept of a good gun owner taking out a bad gun owner is why nearly all of us have a pistol in our castle to protect our family. The right likes to trot out an occasional incident where that actually worked out for the home owner but they’re quaint when put head to head against the huge numbers of accidents, suicides and domestic violence killings they’re actually used for. The strategy of conceal carry is already an unmitigated disaster in every poor gang turf in America. Sadly our movies and television reinforce the fantasy that we’re all potential antihero bad asses, exacting righteous one to one head shots against hapless, aimless storm troopers. Newsflash Mister Eastwood: It’s. A. MOVIE!!! (Or tv show or video game). We’re fed that imagery a dozen times a day. Never the reality of being so coursed with fear and adrenaline that you lose coordination, can’t hit the side of a barn and probably run out of bullets in your panicked first five seconds. Stop it.

From where I sit the enemy is fear.

As a citizenry we’ve always had guns. That’s a constant. The real variable is hope and the lack of it. Always a constant in poor areas where killing is a regularity and doesn’t make the news is a perfect microcosm of what “normal, white America” is sliding towards and we’re freaking the fuck out in the worst possible ways.

I grew up with a small dog named Burgie. She was an unusually well tempered Dachshund. She got along with everyone, four legs or two. She even showered our Culligan man with kisses every month. As she got old and couldn’t walk well, went deaf and her vision was clouded by cataracts she became increasingly snappy. Everything started scaring and threatening her. She didn’t feel safe and felt helpless to cope with her circumstances.

My childhood pet is a perfect corollary for America. The middle-class is being choked out into a paycheck to paycheck existence. Far from the idealistic dreams of Babyboomer bra burners choosing to have careers outside the confines of “Domestic Engineer”, no one has a choice anymore. The traditional fabric of a stable family and neighborhood is all but gone. Everyone is from somewhere else and no one has time to get to know their neighbors. My last decade of employment was with a company who stubbornly held onto the classic 40 hour workweek, health benefits and retirement fund blueprint. We were small so it was easy to watch in real time how, through privatization, increased shareholder over worker focus, pressure to jettison classic employment packages for temp, contract or part time workers not qualifying for benefits increased anxiety. Job security was replaced by “be grateful you even have a job”. I watch it play out louder and tighter, at every level. Thank goodness the media is here to point at our neighbors as being the culprits and cause of our personal collapses. Out of neurotic frustration and pent up impotent rage we’re all too happy to buy in and lash out. At the exactly wrong thing.
My friend Kevin posted a comment last night suggesting 2 Chronicles 7:14 as our hope. I’ll spare you the peek at google.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

As an atheist it would be super dooper easy peazy lemon squeazy to roll my eyes and dismiss any verbiage from my favorite fiction fantasy book. But Kevin is a christian and that passage provides direction, focus and comfort for him. My decidedly irreligious eyes read this as hope. Inner reflection. Reinforced by better action. Toward myself, you, and my neighbors. What influences you in a positive way? When was the last time you fed your heart by reading, practicing, and expanding your better self? What do you do to be a part of any sense of community? How do you help yourself by helping others? These aren’t fluffy, esoteric questions. They’re the only things that keep the claustrophobic terrors of day to day life from killing hope.
Another law, another gun, another person or people to blame won’t make me feel safe. Only hope. And hope comes directly from what I think, say and do every day. Fear or Love – which am I worshipping right now, this very second? Because that thought, idea or action is the life I’m choosing moving forward.

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Baguettes, Not Bombs

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What we’re experiencing politically in America with the popularity of candidates like Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left is a response to disenfranchisement. Whether you’re a liberal or conservative you know that your government isn’t on your side or any side but that of corporate power. You’re being drawn to purist forms of your ideological beliefs that would feel unnecessary and rather fringe in times when things are good for you. You feel strongly about your personal disconnection from any ability to make your life better and it inspires you to rally, vote, make speeches against your foes on social media and post increasingly harsher sentiments regarding them in the form of snappy memes. No matter the side you’re on you have a sentiment of “Taking Our Country Back!!!”
Corporations have owned America lock, stock and barrel for decades. Lulling us to indifference because commercial consumerism dangled carrots and fed our fears in measured doses to keep us distracted and entertained as long as we were getting our fair share (and kept an eye on the Joneses to make sure we kept up or that they didn’t steal ours). That formula has finally stretched so thin as to be transparently disingenuous. And we’re pretty pissed.
Now picture that same co-option without the carrots. Picture Canada accessing our resources and installing presidents that were favorable to their policies and whims. Picture decades of increasing poverty contrasted by extreme wealth for small swaths of pampered Mormons who shared religious or cultural ties with that installed government. Imagine massive corruption favoring that sect, suppression of dissent and your relatives disappearing to Mormon political prisons. Think of Canada invading us with near impunity when their preferred balance of power and resources slips.
Guess what happens. Hopelessness breeds extremism borne of desperation.
Islam was once an evolved way of thought – that never left the seventh century. The extreme interpretations of the Koran fueling the madness in the middle east are a reaction to a 100 years of British, Russian and American intervention and manipulation, keeping minority populations in those regions in ruthless power over the rest of their neighbors. People like to point out that these tribal feuds have been going on for centuries but that only absolves ourselves of our complicity in the giant mess.
I read an article sometime just after the Charlie Hedbo attack that pointed out that the reason why we see relatively little actual terrorism in America by Muslims is because our policies help immigrants to incorporate themselves into America. To have a stake in the American Dream. France’s policy has been to do precisely the opposite. The French are very nationalistic toward immigrants and Muslims especially are pressed into ghettos. Breeding grounds for desperately repulsive purist ideology. France is a petri dish with all the components that made the Paris attacks possible.
When people hate you it is human instinct to immediately justify why your foes are full of shit. To deny-deny-counteraccuse. It is almost considered weak to look in the mirror, to own our part in a thing. Yet that introspection is the very thing – and the only thing that will bring us all back from the brink. We can’t bomb and invade our way out of it. That would be the “throw flour on a kitchen fire” strategy followed by surprise when it makes the fire exponentially bigger.
Baby boomers never fail to get mad at me when I point to their all consuming, self absorbed locust id being the greatest factor in the decline of America. And Americans get mad at me when I point out that we are the Baby boomers of the planet.
Al Queda and ISIS are reactions. Doubling down on the reasons they grew in the first place is madness. Religious extremism is madness. Mindless, lazy consumption without consequence or conscience is madness.
We need to grow the fuck up and look in the mirror before we make our next move. But we won’t do that. We’ll just turn up the volume on Nationalist rhetoric and be indignantly surprised at the results because thinking is weak.

The Blissfully Belled Cat

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Horrifying story at the poker table last night: “I went into the insurance office to pay my bill yesterday. They don’t accept cash. They said it was for their employee’s safety. Really? Because who robs a Geiko storefront. I held up a twenty and pointed out that it announced that it was ‘legal tender for all debts, public and private’. Blank stare. Sir, we can’t accept cash.”

A little about me; I was that guy that specifically paid cash for everything for years. If I couldn’t afford it, I didn’t need it. I threw my drivers license into the microwave straight away once they started with that magnetic strip nonsense because, fuck you – work for it. I had several routes I drove home and used them randomly. You either understand the logic in that or this whole paragraph flew right past you. I *just* started surrendering to the idea that I needed to pay attention to this credit score bullshit because I’ll need it if I want to execute my master plan of a northwest 4D compound/retirement community. I know, I know. It’s grandiose. But it’s what’s in my head. My point is that I’ve spent much of my younger life taking pains to not be easily, conveniently tracked. I’m just an old peckerwood like that.
The horror of “not accepting cash as a matter of policy” struck me with the same gut punch as the first time a movie theater dared to show me a fucking Coke ad before the trailers. I knew it was the beginning of the end of TV-free theaters. They were being gentle with the first thrust into my movie going ass before it was going to be an expected part of our date.
I feel the same way about cashless society. Except this is much, much worse. This is the final, convenience providing removal of any illusion of privacy I’ve been coddling over the last few years. Without the ability to pay cash as I move about my life, that microchip my crazy Obama Death Camp friends are always railing about is utterly unnecessary.
I’ve often semi-joked that Facebook was Big Brother with an emoji smile, encouraging all of us to gleefully vomit out our whereabouts and personal information for “likes” without a second thought. Metaphorically, the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing us He wasn’t there. My debit/credit card is simply the next inevitable, easy to use step in my cheerfully surrendered freedoms.
It’s August! The 2016 Tinfoil Hats should be in the showroom any day now!

The Whitewash of Blackface

269614_2125700498792_1134296117_2405887_3679363_n I have a style of posting on Facebook that encourages audience participation. I throw something out there, often it’s inflammatory. But posed in a way that makes people think. Above all else I want people to think, whether they agree with me or not. I want them to be awake to where they stand on a thing. To own what they believe, not merely recite it like pulling a string in their back. I encourage discourse and opposing views. My only rule is you can’t attack anyone else’s beliefs. You can’t bully. Yesterday after reading the teaser for an article someone posted which had three photos of President Obama, Eric Holder and Al Sharpton with the word THUGS in the title. Behold, my topic for the morning: You *do* realize that when you use the word “thug” we all know you actually mean “nigger”, right? The discussion that followed was interesting and at one point it was suggested that by posing this rhetorical question I was exasperating the racial divide in this country. Now I’ve been chewing on just that idea for the last month. And this is what fell out. I’m not furthering any divide. That divide is plainly there. I’m just calling out the fart in church. The etymology of the word “thug” is of little relevance to the discussion. Very pertinent is it’s popular usage. I’m reading things encouraging conciliation in the wake of the cops getting shot over the weekend. I say the opposite needs to happen. Not an out and out race war but for the topic to not be hastily stitched closed by people saying all the right things to smooth egos, hurt feelings, and retain status quo. We NEED to talk this out. We need to be made to see our willful blindness that keeps things comfortable for us and not for everyone else. (see: U.S. population NOT white, straight, male) The isms in our country are institutional, pervasive and part of every bit of it’s fabric so much so that it is stunningly easy to be blind to it, akin to a fish being asked to describe water. There is much talk about women, brown people and all the other crybabies of society sucking America dry one welfare check, crack pipe and illegitimate rape at a time. That they need to get over it, get a job, stop with the victim mentality. Every meaningful social statistic says that societal opportunity is stacked against them, from birth forward. Blacks, asians, women, hispanics are rarely shown in any media as anything but stereotypes. Caricatures. If they’re strong, capable, smart, well they die to save our white hero (who avenges their death). Or the white savior makes a stand to save them. Educational resources are funneled away from poor neighborhoods. Police arrest nonwhites at 4 times the rate of whites even though drug usage rates are equal. No one except double digit I.Q.ed neanderthals actually say “nigger” anymore, they say “thug” and everyone in the club knows which side of the fence they’re on. All levels of any meaningful career is still firmly a good ol boys club. Even Silicon Valley only has maybe a 25% female employment rate. It’s bullshit. The protesting going on didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s been brewing for a long time. Most of it isn’t being done by people breaking windows and setting fires. Hell, protesters outed a cop in Oakland undercover as a protester breaking windows – instigating chaos. When confronted he drew on them. It’s insidious. And the media is all too happy to produce the narrative. One crackpot shoots two cops sitting in their car and it wipes away decades of police abuse. I don’t accept the “a few bad apples” argument regarding rogue cops the very same way I don’t accept the “not all men” tactic. It conveniently hands the worst characters over as appeasement to keep everything the same. it looks absolutely nothing in the eye. And that desperately needs to happen. I am not a race traitor, a gender traitor or a closet homo. Those aren’t filters I see through usually and whether you think I am speaks a great deal about you, not me.  What I am is awake. And being so makes me sick. The consciousnesses that need to be raised are *ours*, not the people we keep held down by the fiscal, social throat, insisting that if only they had more character they’d be just like us. Everything about our society is rigged to favor me. Ann Richards, governor of Texas once said of George Bush, “Poor George, born on third base and thinks he hit a home run.” That’s you and I. Maybe you’re relatively poor and you aren’t feeling that statement at all. But the word “relative” is significant. You probably work your ass off just to get by. The people I’ve listed at the outset of my post – they work just as hard, for less, with even less hope of leaving their station in life. The consciousness that needs to get raised is mine. Ours. Step out of your comfort zone. Pay attention to how you get access, privilege, a basic assumption of benevolence simply by nature of your gender, race or orientation. It’s easy to do. Think of the superlatives you use reflexively to describe a black person, even complimentarily, that you find unnecessary to use to describe someone from your tribe. Try it with a woman. A gay person. Those words are unconscious prejudice. And deeds follow words. America is at a turning point. “All lives matter” is a worthless rebuttal to “black lives matter” because we already know white lives matter. Acknowledging that black lives matter brings them into the equation. It has to happen first before “all lives matter” is a truth and not literally a whitewash. I don’t lose a damn thing by offering women, blacks, asians, hispanics, and gays the same humanity, dignity, opportunity, access and rights that I receive simply by virtue of half my bloodline (I don’t have the energy to get into what’s been done to the Native American part of me). We all gain by bringing as many great minds to the table as possible because America isn’t doing well. We need one another.

Choking the Shit Out of Jell-O

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So we’re at war again. And we get to use our new F fighter! Which, with this plan appears to be leading us to level 264 of Middle East Whack-a-Mole. Newsflash – there is no final level.
The more daunting question is how do we combat an idea? We’re facing a mostly backwards religious culture twisted into its angriest form by soldiers pissed off over 100+ years of colonialism, ‘nation building’, pillaging of resources, and being completely fucked over by the CIA and MI6 most every time they backed whatever play we needed that year.
Short of accessing a dirty bomb or nuke the best they’ll ever do to our homeland is incite small scale chaos and get in our heads. And if they ever did use a nuke on US soil you can guarantee that the offending region would be a glass plate.
So how do we deflate the idea? By coming up with one without a hammer and lip service at some point.
In geopolitical terms we’ve been a very abusive husband to a slightly slow wife and now we’re indignant that she’s become a crazybitch. Some day we’re going to have to own up and do something different. I just can’t see it happening until our own national psyche grows the fuck up.

Purchasing Pain of Future Pasts

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9/11 is maddening to me. Like every single one of you reading this I remember precisely where I was. What I was doing. The feeling of surreality that the world was somehow ending. The silence overhead for the ensuing week. Grief, rage, patriotism. I also remember going to my local 711 and warning Said to keep his head down because people were going to be thinking and doing some stupid shit soon. Said had as much to do with 19 shitheads from Saudi Arabia flying planes into buildings as you and I did. That is to say, nothing.
I remember tailgating at a Raider game when word got out that we were bombing terrorist camps in Afghanistan. The feeling of release and vengeance coursed through me and I felt good about it. Really good. Then the media machine geared up for what was obvious to everyone as an oncoming invasion of Iraq and I wasn’t buying the hype. Not because I’m cleverer than you or because I hate America but because I sat in my break room at work one day and read, tucked back in page A13 of the SJ Merc, about how the cylinders the Whitehouse was claiming had tactical warheads easily launched from mobile command centers were in fact not the right size, nor shape to function as such. A point never addressed by the media, military or President. And so I worried.
That was 10 years ago. We’ve been at war ever since, playing whack-a-mole all over the middle east. It will never end. It polarizes us like little else. I watch my countrymen pass or fail social litmus tests; are you for the war or not? Are you a real American or not? Do you support the troops or not?
I’ve flown a flag in front of my house since 9/11. (Need to get a new one) I make a point of clearing up when people approach me to thank me for my service with earnest pride and heart ache in their eyes while pointedly not looking at my fake leg that I’m just an old diabetic, not a vet but please don’t stop thanking them. I have many friends who ran off to serve. I have several friends who lost people in the Towers that day. I have friends who were firefighters and cops. I love my country and am proud to be an American. I support the troops and hate the VA and the congress that refused to fund their needs after returning home with traumatic brain injuries, depression, PTSD. I wonder aloud – all the time – why we put them in harm’s way in the first place. I wonder why we, as a nation, abjectly refuse to look at why those planes killed 3000 souls that day and subsequently 1400 first responders in the following years. It was not the world’s worst sucker punch. We need to understand *why* that happened to move forward. It’s not weakness nor cowardice nor unpatriotic to look within. It’s being a grown up. I don’t think we’re there yet – by a stretch.
I love America.
And I hate nationalism.