Doubling Down and Drowning

clint with tulips final

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.

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.