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Monday, January 23, 2017

Are You Coming To The Tree?

2016 was a crushing disappointment as calendar years go. We've lost luminaries and visionaries who showed us things about themselves that gave us courage and hope or at the least, a poetically accurate picture of our own humanity. The losses of David Bowie, Prince, Lou Reed, Muhammad Ali, Merle Haggard, Phife Dawg, and the Field Commander Cohen and others have rocked many of us. These have left us wondering who we can now look to for the kind of beautiful courage and honesty they inspired through the example they provided. At the same time, we've seen horrors rising, as if all of the long dead nightmares we have believed could no longer reach us became not the walking dead, but ghostly dead without corporeal form we could wrestle and properly defeat. No matter how apparent that they stood in front of us, reaching out to grab them was as effective as grabbing a fistful of water.

These apparitions, like a thing out of fiction, described as only being seen out of the corner of the eye, moving slightly through the shadows, have been there haunting us the whole time. We've felt them, caught the occasional glimpse. Also like the spirits of our horror stories, they've been emboldened by our desperate attempts to convince ourselves they don't exist. Now they come howling out of our closet, from under our beds, having fed on our fears for decades. Instead of being full and satiated as one would expect after that decades long feast, like the ghostly nightmare things they are, the more they've been fed the hungrier they've become. Damned to an eternal hunger beyond understanding, the need to create further terror to feed on until our destruction reached its apex.

Some of these ghouls were born in real places, out of real things. Economic deprivation. Hopelessness. Communities devastated. The loss of health or any way to address illness or the ravages of age or the interconnected effects of their fellow ghouls. Greed, corruption, and exploitation have been waiting as their own demonic soldiers, the fantasy terrors they've created to hide themselves behind like racism, sexism, classicism, homophobia and their various demonic brethren bore enough fear, ignorance and indifference for their full restoration to be complete, and all along we've ignored them because we have had to. The burden of attending to anything like what we believed, understood and wanted a life to be was often almost impossible in itself. Battling these ghouls and demons has seemed too much, and we have little understanding of how to do so should we even want to. When we couldn't find the motivational or aspiration to fight them, they have continued the long, slow, wrenching process of possessing us.

The whispers have been there. Like the apparitions we catch glimpses of, we shoo them away with admonishes that they aren't real. We hear them all the time. Eventually, we hear them often and long enough that we can no longer distinguish these filthy, manipulating intruders from ourselves. They creep deeper and deeper, intertwining themselves with us, squeezing us for all of the fear and uncertainty they can. Eventually, they feel as much a part of us as any real part of ourselves ever has.

After they'd fed for decades, draining us of our ability or energy to muster enough resistance, reaching a fever pitch in their gorging, an avatar called and out they came.

We're searching for blame. Some certainly deserve it more than others, but in all reality, the list of those to blame is long and so many of them are already dead, becoming ghouls to haunt our history themselves. That list reaches all the way back to 1776, and further should you not take nationality as a beginning. It began with The Constitution and The Bill of Rights. As noble an attempt as it was to rid themselves of their own apparitions, they helped to enshrine the ones we face today. We often look on our history as a success in progress, but there is another perspective. The Civil War had to be fought, the 13th Amendment had to passed, and a century later, the Voting Rights Act had to be passed. Suffrage had to be won. These are bittersweet successes in progress that should never have had to exist. It's often argued that we can't judge our past history based on current understanding. We can and we should, because it is our current understanding that helps us not to repeat the past, and part of the reason these ghouls have been able to survive has been that we have too deeply venerated our heritage, without significant enough perspective given to the lessons we have learned. Discrimination and racism, against people of color, Native Americans, women, the poor and the LGBT community have been with us since the inception of this nation.

Through this combination of rose colored lenses through which we look into history and the inability to squarely face the reality of discrimination as an inextricable part of that history, mass incarceration, police brutality, homelessness, the lack of adequate and affordable health care, an ever more corrupt political system, The War on Drugs, The War on Terror, Mcarthyism, Japanese internment camps, slavery and so on have allowed us to continually create today, history we can not be fully and unequivocally proud of tomorrow. They have reached all the way through to modern times where variations on these same ideas lead from slavery to segregation and northern ghettos to modern voter suppression and the Southern Strategy that laid the foundation to secure Donald Trump the nomination of the Republican Party, and then the Presidency itself.

It's easy to say, "That's just politics." It's harder to admit that this so called "real politik" is anything but practical minded, as it is often sold. It's myopic, dead of mind in it's lack of imagination, dead of  heart in its lack of compassion for our fellow Americans, and we're now realizing it's consequences are harrowing and without discrimination.

Another, ancillary part of the laying that foundation came in 2008, with The Great Recession. Aside from the loss of prosperity, dignity and security for billions world wide, there was the obvious, blatant and now well documented corruption that never found accountability. The depth of this corruption has been exposed. The fact that we don't have a single system for justice, punishment and the reconciliation that should have resulted at least in prosecutions, resulted instead in taxpayer funded bonuses, taxpayer funded corporate acquisitions, and going from Too Big To Fail, to Even Too Biggerer To Fail. Where the Kaleif Browders of the world can spend three years imprisoned, two years of which were in solitary confinement, before seeing the charges for stealing a backpack dropped because he was very clearly not the perpetrator of this threat to the very fabric of civil society, being part of the international banking cartel means you can crash the world economy, cost millions of people their homes, livelihood and savings, walk away with a bonus for your efforts and employed by an institution in control of a larger portion of the economy than they were before.

The Democratic Party saw fit to attempt to exploit the very real outrage caused by systematic fraud and exploitation. The often healthy and useful seeds of distrust of government, that have existed within the American character since 1776, took long drinks of that exploitation as if it were life giving water. It wasn't life giving water though, it was a tainted source of further illness. Ghouls creating feed for other ghouls.

They so deeply, incorrigibly ignored the warnings they'd been handed in the decade prior, that the only explanation is willful ignorance born out of arrogance. The majority of the country wants to see these vampiric apparitions expelled and exorcised. They've grown tired of being the bearers of the burden of this sickness. They demanded a symbol of nearly all the things people have been railing against be their nominee. Their seats of power were so comfortable, things couldn't possibly be that bad.

All of the distrust, the tribalism, economic deprivation, lack of accountability, the hopelessness, the fears, the racism, sexism, homophobia and classicism have been there, bubbling up, fed on the greed and corruption we've all let run rampant as it exploits us all, and when the avatar for these horrific possessions, Donald Trump, called them to come out, they did.

It's not exactly a silver lining but that does leave us all with an opportunity. Those that have been fortunate enough to find actual opportunities, and not just experience privilege (although opportunity is more likely with privilege), know that the only way to take advantage of a genuine opportunity is through hard, long, exhausting work and ingenuity.

All of those horrific, ghoulish apparitions are out in the open now. They can be and have been named. We can see them for what they are. We must always, at every turn be ready to search ourselves for the vestiges of the possession of us they have had individually, and be willing to listen to those who attempt to tell us that those vestiges are coloring our actions or words. Being able to identify them in the open makes it easier to identify them in ourselves where we are willing. We should be willing, if not for ourselves than for our fellow citizens.

The other opportunity we have is to begin to respond to them all with a resoundingly unified, "You are not welcome." Where these things have become systematic, we can use every tool at our disposal and create more tools to rend them from those systems or to destroy those systems in favor of creating others. We have the opportunity to show where racism, sexism, homophobia and the like further allow the economic deprivation and the exploitation of the people who harbor them. "These people, these politicians have been lying to all of us, for all of our lives. The lies they are telling you are about other people so that you will support the kinds of policies that in turn exploit you. You know they've been lying to all of us, for as long as any of us can remember, about everything they've told us they would be able to solve. Why do you think they wouldn't lie to you about these people so that you would give them power? Why do you think they're not lying now?" For those who refuse to let go of these horrific apparitions, we must tell them are not welcome. It must be clear that if they are unwilling to stand down from their desire and plan to harm our brothers and sisters, they will be utterly left out. We must defend each other from this illness, at all costs.

Racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia must receive no quarter. We have failed our fellow human beings who have been harmed by our allowance of them for so long. We can not expect to make any kind of actual progress that will not be attacked at every turn until we understand that this is non-negotiable. We will spend another half century defending any progress we make, as we have seen with The Voting Rights Act only recently, we may lose that progress as well. Within a week of the election, this is what was brought to our collective doorstep. Before just the month of November was finished, the number of reported incidents of hate had reached 900.

What is the prescription to solve these problems? How, after 240 years can we even hope to change any of this? 

The approach and perspective are simple. These are not "problems." This is a single problem. Anyone who is a person of color, LGBT, poor, working class or otherwise deemed inferior is denied the fullness of their humanity, citizenship and opportunity. A faceless, nameless bureaucracy recognizes nothing but what we lack in our attempts to secure justice, equality, opportunity and prosperity for ourselves. Employing a strategy that uses legislation, rhetoric and media to suggest we are all against the rest of us separately has left the impression that we are fighting different battles. This is in no way true. The details of discrimination are different, most definitely, but discrimination based on skin color, sexual orientation, gender identification, class or most any thing else is rooted very specifically in denying someone the fullness of their humanity. They are not enough to deserve consideration equal to that of our most privileged citizens. All discrimination is related because of this. When one of us can be denied our humanity, it is only a matter of time before any of us can be denied our humanity, and this is exactly why we have to stand together. There is a line of reasoning that suggests all discrimination is at it's base, ableism, as for one reason or another any population discriminated against is said to be lacking in some ability, general characteristics or senses our most privileged citizens posses. They are essentially broken, and therefore, not fully human and deserving of the total treatment befitting someone who deserves their full human dignity.

Standing together now, in this place at this time is going to mean we are going to have to listen to what it is we have to lose. In order to understand how people who live across town or "the other side of the tracks" are threatened by the rise of this horror, we're going to have to be able to hear what it is they have to lose and what is on the line for them. We're only going to make ourselves, our strategy and our resolve stronger by having a better understanding of what everyone in our community has on the line. 

What most won't realize is that The Left, as a whole just demonstrated an amazing amount of power. In two days, different factions took to the streets to send a very similar message. "We are not going to be cowed and we are watching." It was done in two waves, on on January 20, and then again on January 21. On January 20, the Black Bloc rolled into DC in an attempt to disrupt the inauguration to any degree possible. One heroic soul even managed to punch notorious silver spoon Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, and let's face it, there might not be anything more truly American than punching a Nazi. On January 21, the Woman's March on Washington and it's many, many sister marches proceeded. Over the course of the two days, close to four million people took to the street to demonstrate that they would not be cowed and are ready to act if these thuggish ghouls now in power continue to call out and draw power from these dangerous apparitions that threaten us. 

These two days, whether or not we have recognized it yet, present us with an opportunity to strengthen and bolster our resistance in a way we have not seen in decades. Those two days and two waves of this very similar message, serve as an excellent example of what can possibly come to be under a unified Left. 

What may be the hardest part of all of this is that what for generations have been the "establishment Left" and the "radical Left" are going to have to realize they need each other. The radical Left needs the ability to reach the mainstream, which the establishment has. The establishment Left needs the radicals to be able to give them a direction, a message people will respond to, the fire that they're going to need to achieve it, and something they hopefully will not need, actual strategy and practice in resisting a fascist government with the most expansive and invasive surveillance apparatus in human history. Historically, the establishment Left has represented the carrot, and the radical Left has represented the stick. If the stick and the carrot actually begin to develop strategy together, we can get a whole lot more done than we have separately. Racism is the issue where the example is most straightforward and simple. Substitute any issue, and basically all of the following remains true.

The establishments incrementalism and the malaise it has allowed has now been proven disastrously insufficient. Authors and journalists who are minorities have been quick to point out that the racism and bigotry that has helped install an actual real life autocrat in the most powerful elected office in the world, is not in any way new. What many of them aren't taking into account is that the norms of that establishment may have tolerated a system of that privileged white supremacy, but in a whole lot of this country, until 11/9, the norms of that same establishment kept individual white supremacists from acting on their ideation. The white moderate has been the most surprised by the results of the election, as a result. Part of that surprise, and part of the reason that result came to be is that the simple and easy path of incrementalism has allowed the establishment Left to lean back where issues of racism and bigotry have been concerned. No one has been more willing to bring out the quote that "The moral arc of the universe is long and it bends toward justice." It is a function of the reality of privilege and white supremacy, where the radical Left has at least continued to attempt to stay absolutely vigilant. This isn't to say that issues of systematic racism are not still a part of the radical community, but their fire to find it and eliminate it within their ranks should be the example, not the exception. The establishment needs the fire of RIGHT NOW, and right now, it needs it DESPERATELY. If the worst predictions do come to pass, they are also going to need the people who have that fire and the ability to help protect you. If the establishment, in a comfortable malaise, underestimates that possibility as badly as it did the possibility of Trumps election, it's going to be very, very ugly for everyone. The radicals are way more well prepared for those worst possible outcomes than the establishment is, by exponents in the thousands. The establishment left has no serious ability to conceive of operational or digital security in the world we currently live in. Though that may sound alarmist, let's all think back to 18 months ago, when absolutely no one, including the establishment Left could conceive of the possibility of Donald Trump winning a general election. Do not be so arrogant as to think the small orange man with the giant ego and his cadre of rabid ghouls wouldn't use the power of the state in a way that would surprise everyone as much as a man who bragged about grabbing women by the pussy winning the presidency. None of us is allowed to be taken by surprise now. We have to consider that the worst possible outcome may actually come to pass, and set ourselves to preparation. The establishment Left is unprepared for that possibility to a degree that would be comical if the outcomes weren't so dire.

Radicals need the access to the mainstream the establishment has. Radicals have a more complex and nuanced understanding of the reality of racism and white supremacy, because by nature, the fire they bring to the table creates a higher powered conversational microscope. While the establishment has been gliding along on the intoxicating convenience of "political practicality," platitudes and incrementalism, radicals have been putting boots on the ground in cities across the country to attempt to address the problems that mindset has conveniently ignored. They are rightfully angry. Radicals need to take into consideration that their goals don't happen tomorrow, even if they were to somehow have the chance to seize all the levers of power. Self governance, community care and genuinely effective community involvement that takes the whole community into mind, even the basic skills of deescalation are all things that need to be taught to an entire nation of over 300 million in order to achieve those goals. The mass of the American populace is in absolutely no way prepared for that, white or otherwise. The combination of network and media assets the establishment has are absolutely key to starting to change that, and starting to change the way people are educated about all of the issues we care about. That is a long, hard process, probably multi-generational but it would be sped up exponentially with access to that network and those assets. Tear down the system now, without having educated people as to what the alternative is, and it's not going to be the kind of anarchy and leaderless society so many of you have dreamed of, it's going to be the kind of anarchy that comes from the popular definition. Chaos where the ruthless and psychotic rule by the gun and the subjugation is absolute and total. The foundation isn't there to build that world you see possible, yet. Access to what the establishment has will help lay that foundation, more effectively and more quickly.

What collaboration offers beyond access to the strengths that both ends of the spectrum offer is strategy. There has been no successful social movement in this country that did not benefit from having a range of actors, from the radical to the moderate. It gives the opportunity for the carrot and stick variety of strategy. When the carrot and the stick are connected through a central strategy, more can be achieved. The powerful will turn to deal with the moderate in every case. If the moderate is collaborating with the radical on matters of strategy, the moderate can both ask for and win more from the power structure. Martin Luther King was made stronger by rioting in American cities, and by the emergence of Black Nationalism. In contrast, a man who had been labeled a radical, a Communist, considered a genuine threat to national security became the moderate with whom the powerful were forced to negotiate or take their cues from. Without the emergence of these other, more radical elements, whites in the North and in the West and Mid-West would have been able to continue to turn a blind eye to Southern Segregationists beating and murdering civil rights activists and black citizens.

That collaboration can begin with some basic understanding in place, and it starts with understanding that we all have something to lose, but we may have different things to lose. Get out in your community in places you wouldn't have otherwise gone, especially if you're white. If there's an organization willing to help out, start trying to get people from as many different parts of the community to show up to events where talking about this is the central idea. Try to get as diverse a group as possible. If you have Trumpkins show up and try to disrupt, show them the door. If that means finding people willing to provide security, do it.

We can spend the next ten years screaming at each other online about how to create a resistance and keep watching the establishment Left and radical Left attempt to incinerate each other with sarcasm and self righteousness or we can get people together, put them in front of each other, and let them actually see and hear what it is people in their own towns and cities have to lose. Want an inter-sectional resistance, that's how we're going to get there. More screeds and think pieces aren't going to do it if the thousands already written haven't already. Get people together, specifically because they are worried and afraid about these hateful apparitions taking control of the United States government, and let them talk about what it is that they are afraid they are going to lose. Center them in community and commonality. Get them talking.

This is something both establishment Left and radical Left can cooperate on. The establishment Left can reach a wider audience faster than the radicals can. The radicals are most likely going to have training in facilitation and be able to make sure that if the crowd is majority white, it doesn't just become a session for white people to air there grievances, but a genuine chance for every part of the community to speak to the rest of the community.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What We've Forgotten...

I was up out of bed, cutting paddocks and trimming along fences earlier than was usual even for farm work. I was supposed to go see a concert in DC with the girl I was dating at the time, so the usual work had to be completed early enough to get into DC, have some food and be able to actually enjoy the evening together.

The work was finished, and with enough time to spare, I brewed another pot of coffee and sat down in the living room. My parents, whom I'd left New York to help on their horse farm, liked to have the Today Show on in the mornings. I was just happy to be able to sit for a little while, enjoy a cup of coffee, relax and look forward to the evening ahead. The Today Show wouldn't normally be my choice, but I wasn't about to start complaining.

I can't remember what came before, but I do very clearly remember the moment Katie Couric said the broadcast was going to New York where a plane had hit one of the Twin Towers. For a few minutes, conjecture flew openly and quickly. The second tower was then hit by a plane as well. It became clear to all of us that the first plane was no accident. Everyone knows how the rest went.

The refrain quickly became "Never Forget."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

At All Costs

As of 6 pm last night, the flags at the Virginia War Memorial were at half mast.

It's fitting. Whether or not we want to actually admit it, we're at war, and certainly have been for a decade or better. It's not a war that was declared, so nailing down exactly when it began isn't simple, and at this point, it doesn't even really matter when it began.

The flags at the War Memorial weren't set to half mast in a demonstration of that recognition though, they were at half mast because two mad men killed 14 people and injured more than 12 others at a Health Department meeting in San Bernadino California. The other piece I've been working on in the last few days, about Robert Lewis Dear and the attack he perpetrated on a Planned Parenthood in Colorado isn't even finished yet. There isn't yet enough definitive information about Dear or why he decided to commit such a horrible act for me to feel comfortable publishing anything. I have gut feelings, reactions to it, but a gut feeling isn't enough to contribute anything useful to an already loud, crowded and angry conversation. It doesn't serve me or anyone else to throw gasoline on the fire that consumed Dear, and then the people he killed. That piece will have to wait until there's more information available. Should my gut feelings be true and new information supports it, I'll include that, finish the piece and then publish it. Not before.

Early reports of the attack in San Bernadino were that there were three men in tactical gear, masks, rifles and possibly explosive devices. A good number of those reports suggested they were three white men. As of 6 am this morning, police have killed two suspects, 28 year old Syed Farook and 27 year old Tashfeen Malik. Tashfeen Malik was Syed's wife. A third suspect was arrested as he ran from the scene, but may not have been involved. It struck me yesterday, as I was reading those reports, that three men in tactical gear, equipped with masks would be hard to identify as white, black, brown or otherwise. If they were green, that would probably have been odd enough to be able to say pretty definitively, but in a moment of panic in the midst of an emergency where your own life and the lives of people around you are in danger, any of us could get a detail like that wrong. Skin tones tend to fall on a much wider spectrum than would be that easily identifiable. There's a whole swath in the middle that really aren't white, black or brown, though the people who happen to have them, may identify culturally with what we associated those skin colors to be. Often, it's not skin color that tells us whether a person is white, black or otherwise, but the cultural keys we see in their clothing, facial features, eye color and so on. It's more complicated than just the tone of someone's skin. Under a full compliment of tactical gear, witnesses couldn't even recognize one of the shooters as female, much less what skin color they were.

The idea that there were three white men shooting up a clinic for the mentally disabled took hold quickly though, and the meme's, tweets and Facebook posts about white terrorists started flying. It shouldn't be disregarded that the majority of mass shootings, which for some odd reason the media and politicians have a hard time calling acts of terrorism, have been committed by white men, but it does no one any good to attribute that fact to a case where it's not actually the truth. At this point, we also have no idea what Syed Farook or Tashfeen Malik looked like either. Maybe they were white. We don't really know at this point. There will certainly be speculation since their names suggest what Americans understand to be Middle Eastern. It's being reported though, that Farook was an American citizen.

We do know that Syed was an employee of the Health Department that was using one of the halls in the Inland Regional Center for their holiday party. He'd apparently left the party in a fit of anger earlier. That fact alone suggests this wasn't an act committed by members of some kind of right wing paramilitary militia group, as so many assumed yesterday. Given the reports of three white men being the perpetrators, it's not a far jump as assumptions are concerned, but the reports were apparently wrong (two people, one a woman), and therefore the assumptions are probably wrong as well. It might seem shocking, but just because the shooters happen to have Middle Eastern names doesn't mean they can't also be members of the kind of fringe group people were suggesting. It could also be possible that they were members of such a group, and yesterdays shooting had nothing at all to do with that group. It could be something else altogether. It may just be a disgruntled employee and his wife taking revenge on their employers and fellow employees for some kind of wrong, whether real or perceived. In the realm of possibilities, there are a whole lot of them, and the range of their probability is pretty wide. We don't know yet what this was really "about," if an act of violence like this can actually be about anything rational at all.

There weren't even identities on suspects yet before the conspiracy theories started flying though. Alex Jones, the internet's Numero Uno Nutjob, decided by virtue of the fact that there was a mass shooting being reported that it was all fake, as he's said of a number of mass shootings in the past. It wasn't even clear yet whether the actual shooting had stopped, and he'd already discovered the real reason behind it. There's also another theory flying around that it was either staged or was the plan of some shadowy organization by virtue of the fact that the San Bernadino SWAT team was apparently in the midst of training when the first reports came in, some of those theories are saying the SWAT team was specifically in the midst of an "active shooter drill." It's not like we have enough mass shootings these days that SWAT teams might regularly train for them or anything, so it would have to be a conspiracy of some kind. It's not like they've become incredibly busy in the last 30 years, so planning an elaborate conspiracy seems reasonable, doesn't it? Of course, liberals and sheeple are too brainwashed to understand though and they're destroying the country.

The gun control faction took to social media to immediately begin decrying that people's "thoughts and prayers" were useless. Considering that the measures they've been fighting for the last twenty some odd years have yet to come to pass, the hours during an unfolding situation no one really had much of a grasp on seem like the perfect time to get something real done, and shaming people for expressing some combination of horror and sympathy is always a great way to engender people's support. It's certainly true that "thoughts and prayers" are generally useless when it comes to actually trying to get something done, but comedians aren't the only ones who can be guilty of "too soon." Everyone who doesn't fully agree with their agenda doesn't care about innocent lives in their humble estimation though, so it's excusable.

The countdown to the anti-Muslim rhetoric should already have begun, given that the names of the perpetrators are Syed and Tashfeen. Give it enough time for the Photoshop experts to get to work, and that'll be swinging all over social media too.

There is more about yesterday's events in San Bernadino that we don't know than we do know at this point.  It's fair to say though, looking at our reaction to it, that we don't actually care about what we know and what we don't. We care about what we want to be true more than we care about what is true or even about each other. Like banning Syrian refugees over the attacks in Paris, when there isn't a single shred of evidence to suggest any Syrian refugees were involved, jumping to conclusions as a situation unfolds, jumping to conspiracy theories to simply explain a complicated world, disparaging people's sympathies within minutes or hours of a tragic and brutal attack, and the inevitable racism and xenophobia that are all but guaranteed at this point serve the same purpose. All of those things serve to keep us convinced that we're right, and that the enemy we perceive is always the culprit. The saddest part of all of it is that more often than not, the enemy we perceive is the neighbor and member of our community. When we're looking for the cause for violence, this might not be a bad place to start. When we want to be right, be vindicated and righteous at all costs, we have to be sure we understand what that cost is. Would it be so shocking that violence like this is the cost of the war we're participating in against each other?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What We Do To Ourselves

Many Americans who were alive and old enough to remember it, define 9/11 as the most significant historical and cultural event of their lifetime. The sudden, tragic death of more than 3,000 people, the fact that it was unfolding live on television, the sheer scope of the destruction, and the toppling of a symbol of the countries wealth, the resulting economic power and sheer ambition shook them to their inner most core. It was a tragedy on a scale we had never really had to deal with before. The age of innocence ended. We were forced to deal with realities we hadn't been able to fully contemplate. There's no doubt we were left changed, culturally and politically, as a result of 9/11.

The thing about 9/11 was that as much as we may have contributed to the environment that created the people who did it, we didn't do it to ourselves. As Americans who benefit from the kind militaristic colonialism and resource poaching our government and military perpetrate, we do have some degree of responsibility for contributing to creating that environment. As true as that is, it does not excuse the horror those 19 people perpetrated on a few million people who were just doing their best to live their lives in the best way they understood and hadn't had a direct involvement in the grievances 9/11 was meant to highlight and address. I've heard the argument made that because we, as a people benefit from and do not stop our government and military from their perpetration of horror on other countries, we are all just as culpable. I don't really believe that. I believe that the people of Afghanistan were as terrorized by the groups responsible for the attack on 9/11 as we were, and I believe that our government, our military and the kinds of businesses that profit off of war and death have been exploiting us for a very long time. The argument that 9/11 was the result of rational self interest does not take into account that it's the same basic philosophy of those who have so long beat the drum for war, and it is only rational in the most short term, for exactly the reason people make the argument that those of us who just happened to be born in the United States and framed by it's culture are responsible for 9/11. It only leads to more of the same. We use our military and our economic power as a stick to keep other countries in line, despite their independence from us, and that violence begets retaliation, which begets the tightening of our fist, which begets more retaliation. Given the history of the United States involvement in the Middle East, the kind of anger and hatred that creates the people who perpetrated the attack on 9/11 was inevitable, it's written all over human history. As much as it is the failure of the United States that we continue that kind of militarized colonialism and colonialist economics, it is also the failure of the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIL, Boko Haram and their various peers to understand that this repetition of history can never lead to the world they believe they are trying to and want to create. It is that environment, created by military and economic decisions, that creates the atmosphere where 19 men may be convinced to take the lives of millions of people. The hatred and anger it displays is stoked, tended and fed by those who choose to manipulate the people within their sphere of influence, as is true of culture and politics in the United States. Though there is a degree of responsibility the American people share for the political choices we make, the things we allow in our name and the benefits we receive from those things, 9/11 was not solely our doing.

It's those facts, that the sole responsibility did rest on us as a society, government and culture, that make Hurricane Katrina a more significant historical and cultural event. We may not have been responsible for the hurricane itself, but we are responsible for everything leading up to it and everything that has followed. The Army Corps of engineers failed to build the levee's to the necessary specifications, Congress repeatedly refused to devote funding to maintaining the levee system properly, the state government of Louisiana and the city government of New Orleans failed to have proper evacuation plans in place, and as a government and culture we've refused to take climate change and the warnings of intensified storms seriously.

Those are the strictly bureaucratic failures, before the storm even landed on shore. They don't even begin to touch on the degree to which we have been content to live in a society where systematic inequality insures the cycle of poverty that helped to trap residents in the city, the racism that helps insure the black population continues to make up an inordinate percentage of the poor or that the bureaucratic failures that began long before the storm landed faced little to no real criticism.

It became clear within the first days of the disaster that if you lived in a city that was a , you can not expect the government, society or culture you live in to have met the responsibilities necessary to prevent your city from becoming a wasteland or to be able to provide aid if it did. Then, there was the militarized assault on the people who were attempting to survive. Homeland Security wasted no time employing military contractors for "security purposes," but couldn't figure out how to get water and food in to help prevent the necessity of "security personnel." This wasn't just the result of negligence, it was the result of the cultural and political attitude of aggression that has existed toward the poor and people of color for centuries. It was, in so many ways, the logical result of the things we refused to face, in the decades before the Katrina hit land and after.

The narrative surrounding Hurricane Katrina has been that a poorly prepared city was devastated by a natural disaster, the poor were without the ability to take refuge and government ineptitude compounded the whole thing. Like the most pernicious varieties of feeble minded explanations that are easy to swallow and make for easy to write rush headlines and sound bites, there are kernels of truth to that explanation. Prior to Katrina, 70,000 of New Orleans residents lived below the poverty line. Child poverty in Louisiana was only surpassed by Mississippi. It was a humanitarian crisis before Katrina. Before Katrina, the majority of the city's population was black, and the same is true of it's population living below the poverty line. Ignoring systematic inequality has a cost in human lives everyday, but it usually lives outside of our headlines and away from the eyes and perspectives of the centers of political, economic and cultural power. For all of the back slapping and congratulations being given to the "New" New Orleans after Katrina, in spite of the lessons that could have been learned as a result, much hasn't changed. Let's be very, very clear here. Thousands dead, bodies floating in the streets, and murder have not been enough to drive us a nation or the people who have now taken power in New Orleans to decide the cost of systematic inequality is not too high. This should make all of us question just where we fall in the order of importance. It's easy to understand the feeling that "this is what happens to them" as a defense mechanism, but the more sensible reaction is actually, "when do I become the them?" Where does the line between who matters and who doesn't actually sit? What does it take to move that line, in either direction? These are things we should be asking ourselves these questions.

The example provided by New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina has gone unheeded. Systematic inequality is still ignored. We're still moving more slowly than we can afford to address climate change, which assures the peak effects will be worse when they arrive. We're still ignoring or under funding infrastructure.

We're going to do this to ourselves again, because the cost of doing something else is too inconvenient and requires answering too many hard questions like adults who want to leave their children and grandchildren a better world. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Rape Kit Testing Backlog: A Glowing Neon Sign of Rape Cultures Existence.

Any confusion about the term, "rape culture," can be cleared up with this very simple example. Kelvin Stokes walked the streets for 15 years while the rape kit containing the evidence that proved he is a rapist sat on a shelf. It says something about the way we think of rape as a crime that it's becoming commonplace to hear about two to three year back logs to test a rape kit. 13 years should be an unthinkable length of time to assess evidence in a case of rape, but apparently, it isn't. Considering the degree of investigation that goes into a person's entire life when they make an accusation of rape, scrutiny that becomes part of the public record, it would seem sensible that a rape kit could be tested in no less than 30 days as a strictly legal matter.

In New York, where a previous backlog of 16,000 kits existed, clearing that backlog and testing all of them, resulted in 2,000 DNA matches in the FBI's CODIS system. This touches on the other reason  (as if giving rape victims justice in a timely manner isn't quite a good enough reason) the back log of rape kits is a threat to public health. How many serial rapists could be caught and prosecuted as a result of testing all of these kits? A report released by Human Rights Watch in March of 2009 contained this example:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Of That Which We Don't Speak...

I've never been someone who readily identifies with or lovingly accepts expectations of my behavior or identity. I've spent the entirety of my life operating under the assumption that in trying to be a decent human being, and doing the best I can at it, that's going to cover all of my most important bases. My definition of what that means has changed, and some maturity helped give me some immunity to the kinds of insecurities that are the greatest obstacles on that road, but that journey really doesn't end until I end. Most of the socially expected and/or accepted ideas about this aren't necessarily completely meaningless to me, but at least in my life as an actual adult, they tend to fall so far down the ladder of importance as to basically not matter. It's been a good long time since I've fallen quite far enough in a sense of who I am that I had to use those creaky, dangerously weak rungs on the ladder of my priorities. 

One of the things I've always thought was good about feminism has been that in destabilizing the feminine roles, it automatically destabilizes the masculine roles since they're more or less dependent on each other to give them some kind of meaning. If there are no roles, then neither exists, essentially. I don't think that's going to happen quite yet (though I think that's as good a solution to gender bias of any kind as there is), but it does seem to be that, for many reasons, it's time to start having some conversation about what defines masculine or masculinity in a 21st century world. Feminists of every stripe have been having this conversation about the feminine and femininity for a few decades already. The conversation about the masculine has been happening to some degree, but nowhere near the necessary scale for it to have anything resembling a profound effect.
In many ways, having one conversation without the other is counterproductive. If one is redefined, both need to be redefined. That doesn't and can't happen in a vaccum. Even if it does, that's not the most beneficial way to make progress. That vacuum is the reason that "Mens Rights" advocates exist. Without a positive, relatively open discussion being had, and without intelligent, interested and genuine voices, it leaves the space open to be occupied by people of questionable logic and motives.

Being a male feminist or a male who supports feminism isn't enough anymore. There has to be a positive and productive conversation about a new definition for the masculine and new ideas about masculinity. Otherwise, all the good will and support on earth aren't going to make a difference as far as progress being made in creating a world where the most dangerous thing to women isn't men. As men, people who identify as male or however it is you want to put it, we have to begin having this conversation with each other and amongst ourselves and looking at what it is we're passing on to the generations we're raising and that they'll raise. 

Boys and men are in a kind of crisis right now. The younger the demographic, and less white the demographic, the more we're falling behind in just about every financial and social indicating category. We're graduating high school and college at lower and lower rates. We're not living significantly longer, even as medical a science progresses. We're more likely to suffer emotional and psychological difficulties. Left without any answers, the likes of Mens Rights activists blame a false preference toward women/girls. This seems too simple an answer, because the ways that women are still behind men wouldn't still be our reality either. They wouldn't be paid 30% less, they'd be paid 30% more. And still, in the 21st century, the thing most likely to cause injury or death to a woman on this planet is men. If for absolutely no other reason, it's important that feminism exists and has a strong voice. If you disregard many other good reasons for its existence, this is still a more than sensible, reasonable, rationally self interested reason for women to speak and fight about issues related specifically to gender.

The argument that hasn't been made (at least among what we can for now call "traditionalists")  is that men/boys are falling into many of these positions not because of women or feminism, but because of men. While there is no actual realistic basis for an argument that men are in this situation because of women, because as men, we're not presenting them with an alternative, it's understandable that young men and boys may be feeling they're under a constant criticism or a constant vigilance about what they can't do or say, who they can or can't be. As the sayings go, feelings aren't facts, but perception dictates reality. Whether or not, as a man, you may like it, equality has made serious strides that are not going to be turned back without an upheaval of your entire life. Turning back the clock isn't an option, so it's time to start dealing with the reality we live in on a daily basis and creating the kind of masculine identity that can be a positive, participatory ideal. Those who are at the forefront of attempting to turn back the clock are going to be crushed by the weight of time marching forward without them. We're going to look at most of them in much the same way we've just looked at the late Fred Phelps, a sickening, disturbing, pathetically twisted failure. There is so very little that really needed to be said about his death because of just how spectacularly he failed and that within his own lifetime, the cause to which he dedicated himself was legally and socially destroyed. This isn't to say homophobia does not still exist and that there aren't still areas of the country where it has the levers of power within its grasp, but it is to say, there is no one, not a single objective mind that can look at the state of anti-gay movements and mentalities and think they have any real future. Time is going to so significantly wipe them away within a generation, that they're ability to wield power will become essentially extinct.

This leaves us both, men and women, in a precarious position. We're stumbling forward in attempts to either realign or completely do away with gender roles and at least as men, we have only a few alternatives to look toward in order to have some kind of guiding principles toward creating a sense of masculinity and manhood that is both more in line with the reality of contemporary society, but that also gives us some room to grow into a society that's more equitable. Gender equality has come a very long way from where it was even 100 years ago. That still doesn't change the sad truth that the most dangerous thing in the world to women is men. We're still the likeliest cause of injury and death a woman faces in her life. That should give us pause as we consider who it is we want to be, where it is we see ourselves going and what the answers to those same questions are on a larger basis for the whole society.

This, to me, is what something akin to an actual "Men's Rights" movement would look like. It would essentially be creating place in social structure where men can create their own identities, free from the traditionalists who seem to be unable to admit that the reality is still that men are the most dangerous thing women face on the planet and that a good deal of that reality is supported by the traditional gender roles they often support, even if it's a de facto support that's more the result of trying to "take feminism down a peg," without the actual motive of supporting those roles.

It also means we don't have to let our identities be shaped by the most strident and least humane voices in the least equitable corners of the feminist movement. The reality being that there are entities within the feminist movement whose motives are as specious as many of those in the Men's Rights movement. Every grouping of human beings is going to have them. That's not an attack on feminism in any way, as much as it is a recognition that there are always going to be some people within their ranks that any group should probably just ignore. Those men who feel threatened and accused by feminism as a whole are being asked to cross a great distance within their own perspectives to meet on ground that creates equality, feminism and feminists can cross some ground and accept the reality that not everyone who claims to be a feminist has the forward momentum of equality in mind. Some of them, just need to have a paycheck continuing to come in and like the most vocal aspects of the men's rights movement have realized that the more sensational and strident the attack, the more attention they're going to garner. Attention for radical, progressive (and not necessarily Progressive in the sense of today's current political speak, where it's a euphemism for traditional American liberalism), and forward thinking ideas ans perspectives is almost always a good thing. Sometimes though, those ideas can be held up to shield much more selfish ends that end up being detrimental to forward progression.

To put it extremely plainly, as free thinking, autonomous beings, we shouldn't let the crazy people take over the entire conversation about gender, no matter where they may fall on the spectrum of philosophy or beliefs. It's important to listen to the most radical ideas because they can be coming from a previously unconsidered, but ultimately useful, helpful perspectives, but it also doesn't mean letting the mantle of "radical" become a means to an end in itself. The worst result of this ends up being that the public discussion about gender ends up becoming an argument of extremes because everyone is looking for the opponents most extreme behavior or speech and holding that up as the example of the entirety of the opposition. This is all very straight forward in the world of public discussion and politics, every single area of our society that involves either of those is shot through with it. Personally, I don't want men's rights activists defining what my accepted role in society should be, but I don't really want Jezebel definining it either. There are galaxies of ground between those two, and that's something we should be exploring in order to help understand the realities of masculinity in the 21st century. At least amongst ourselves, we can start having a conversation about what those realities are and what new kinds of expectations we have of each other and ourselves in light of those facts.

There are a thousand questions to ask surrounding just the basic idea of what a new masculinity looks like. One of them is certainly, "Should we even bother with a concept for masculinity?" It's a perfectly sensible and reasonable question to which many people will probably respond, "No." The only response I can have to that sentiment is that humanity isn't anywhere near ready to actually embrace an erasure of gender roles altogehter. The path there, if that is the best end result to hope for, is incredibly long from where we're standing. Not to say it isn't a worthy goal, but it's the Jules Verne syndrome. It's thinking about space travel before we've mastered air travel with any real efficiency or capability for mass transit. We might be able to fly in one's and two's, so far as dumping gender roles is concerned, but we're not at the point of being able to handle mass transit. It's going to take an evolution of thought and attitudes that starts with figuring out how to move the ideas of the masculine and feminine in a more forward thinking direction. Beginning with trying to understand that direction has to happen before it can begin to be popularized and communicated to the sections of society that aren't interested in participating in the conversation yet. They may become interested, but it is good to recognize the reality that it's not the kind of conversation that's going to suddenly become a subject people discuss around the proverbial water cooler.

There are a few topics that are directly related to the traditional concepts of masculinity that can't be overlooked if there is going to be a revision or reevaluation of what masculinity as a whole can or does mean in the contemporary context. Exploring those in more detail is something I plan on attempting to do in the future, but they're also concepts that should be considered as part of a discussion. I'm obviously not someone with the training or the education to be best suited to unpacking and analyzing them in the most useful way, but I can participate from my own limited perspective.

Essentially, this is an invitation. Calling people out just doesn't actually change minds or attitudes anymore (if it ever did). The endless chatter and the endless number of topics people can choose to call others out on has created what's essentially an ecosystem over run with white noise. We can all go back to our respective corners and feel good about our self righteous moral superiority, but that really changes nothing and is little better than preaching to already loyal converts. An invitation and "calling in" as I recently saw it described, is something altogether different. There is a necessary reason and place for "calling people out." There is also a necessary reason and place for "calling people in." The difference being, in the most rudimentary sense, an attitude that says, "this is important, come sit down and talk about this with us," versus "you've done something wrong and you have to listen to what we say it is." One has an undertone of imposing discipline or punishment on the offender, the other has an undertone of exercising discipline within or on ones self.

The problem with all of this being that in the most real sense, I'm essentially no one, so my invitation isn't worth much of anything. On the other hand, that might just be a good thing. Maybe this invitation to join this discussion is really about anyone who might be interested in the conversation, whether or not they know me or think I could have anything worth hearing, asking others to join the conversation, and just getting it to begin in a larger way.

I'm going to continue trying to explore this idea, as time allows. I'll be posting here about more specific topics related to this discussion as I'm able to consider, write and edit them. If you're interested, contact me through this blog or any of the social media I've got listed under "Links You Should Click" in the sidebar. I'm only one person, with one perspective, and a limited one at that, so having some other people with some ideas about what masculinity is or can be as we move into the 21st century would be useful and helpful in being able to have an actual discussion, which is what it seems we all need.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Bad Faith, In Every Form

One question keeps cropping up in the back of my mind lately when it comes to issues of civics and politics: Why, exactly, am I supposed to trust you?

That might seem kind of harsh, and maybe it is. At the same time, the last few years have presented me with little reason to think otherwise when it comes to these topics.

I spent a few years working in a place where people felt perfectly at home spewing the most vile homophobia, racism and sexism a person can possibly express. On top of that, I knew that in order to be able to keep my job, I had to refuse to point out either just how vile it was or even in the more basic personal way, that it made me deeply uncomfortable.

I've also had some rather choice sentiments directed at me personally in the last few years, in connection with matters of politics and civics. I've been called a racist because I didn't support Barack Obama in his bid for reelection and actively questioned exactly why it was a good idea to continue to support any candidate whose foreign policy and violations of basic human rights were similar to his. I was also pretty often called an Obama-bot, libtard, faggot, grifter, leach and various other names because I wasn't particularly interested in Mitt Romneys promises to turn American policy a quarter of a degree past where it's been these last four years. Because let's honestly face it, the total difference in actual policy and enforcement by Democrats and Republicans over the past twenty years hasn't even been a matter of degrees, it's been a matter of percentages of a degree, when the entire landscape is considered. Sure, they're rhetorically at odds, but when it comes down to actual policy and implementation, not so much.

There is of course, the old standby, that I hate freedom. I'm not exactly sure how that squares with my continued expression of distaste for and genuine alarm at the rate with which the government and various other entities with the ability to control different levers of power have eroded civil standards of privacy, speech, gathering and otherwise. Questions and skepticism are apparently antithetical to freedom these days. I didn't get the memo on that one. It's practically a joke at this point.

I've also been called an Islamophobe because I had the gall to suggest that if you consider the results of their collective efforts, Hamas might just not have the best interests of the Palestinian people in mind. I've also been called antisemitic, for suggesting that the Israeli government, as it is an industrialized democracy, might be subject to the same failures as the American political system, and that again, there may just be factions involved in the decision making process that don't have the best interest of the Israeli or Palestinian people in mind. If you'll notice, that particular sentiment or statement does not involve blaming Jews as an ethnic or religious community for anything. It's basically suggesting that Muslims, Jews, and every other possible group of human beings are subject to the same failures when it comes to the wielding of power. Given that, I'm not very willing to take the word of Hamas, the Israeli government or their various surrogates at their word. Call me cynical, but I don't just buy it when people in positions of power promise to be protecting people over whom they exert power and influence. I know, this is a crazy notion, but what can I say?

I've also seen the rights of people I know and care about roundly ignored or outright abused, as the majority of the nation sat on their fatted asses, commenting from the sidelines. Whether it was Occupiers in various parts of the country being beaten and pepper sprayed for expressing their First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of assembly or in Wisconsin these last few weeks when police have pepper sprayed and harassed people because they didn't appreciate their state legislature passing midnight legislation that hadn't been given a fair hearing by the people of the state, or women's health advocates getting arrested because among them were people who happened to both live in an anarchist commune and legally own firearms, which they weren't carrying (it's worth noting that it's not against the law to carry a concealed weapon or to open carry a weapon on Virginia Capital grounds. People literally do both, every day the legislature is in session). Let's also not forget the number of arrests at various protests of the Keystone pipeline, including those outside The White House.

This year I've also watched the overwhelming majority of Americans go all glaze eyed over the protestations many of the rest of us put up over the NDAA. Then came the decision by a federal judge that the provision in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012 that allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens is against The Constitution, after both Democrats and Republicans wholly agreed it was both necessary, and in no way an interference with said Constitutional rights. That provision now being useless, the new National Defense Authorization Act for 2013 reconstitutes the same principle, under different language. Again, interest in this is low at best, and non-existent in the larger context.

Most recently, gun control advocates have joined anti-abortion advocates in accusing me of being in favor of child murder. Interestingly, neither of them seem to be quite so bothered when the political party of their favor chooses to blow children into small pieces from an unmanned drone. This may be more evidence of my cynicism, but I'm somehow unable to take their adamant cries for child protection quite so seriously in that context. I could just be crazy, but to think that there's some degree of partisanship driving the calls for gun control and the abolition of abortion doesn't seem beyond the realm of reality. This isn't to say that there isn't some degree of genuine belief in what they're advocating, but honestly, especially considering that some of the people who've accused me of being indifferent to the death of children have had significant enough time and dealings with me to know exactly how wrong that accusation is. I don't put a specific premium on categories of human life, which is really the main difference. A collection of cells isn't a human being as far as I'm concerned, and a Pakistani child's life is worth no more and no less than an American child's life. Let's be clear here, the drone program that's been killing children since it's inception has a two percent target kill ratio, meaning that of the people it kills, only two percent of them are the actual targets. And somehow I'm the one who is indifferent to murder. As far as I'm concerned, killing should be completely restricted to incidents where a person believes their life is in danger. That's pretty much it. It's also worth pointing out that all of this concern for the welfare of children should, logically, have lead to an effort to ban or heavily regulate the Catholic Church, considering that it engaged in a cover up of the magnitude that it did. Those kids are going to have to live with their wounds, which for some of them is going to mean many years of a kind of pain that might be a fate almost as cruel as death.

I'm not a political operative. I've never joined up with either party. I've never worked for a campaign for a candidate from either party. There was a period of time in my life (let's call it The Bush Years) when I definitely identified more with the Democratic Party, but at this point, I'm still asking many of the same questions and attempting to address the same issues now that their guy is in power, and for that I've been called a racist, an idealist and out of touch with reality. Again, it's interesting that they weren't calling each other those things when they were asking these very same questions of G.W. Bush. Republicans, it seems, have suddenly found their "principles" when it comes to many of these same questions. That is, of course, after eight years of defending the actions of the Bush administration that made the asking of those questions necessary and to which they responded by calling the persons asking those questions "unpatriotic."

I'm not a television personality. There is no monetary or career gain in expressing my opinions and feelings. In fact, probably in more cases than not, expressing my opinions and ideas would detract from the jobs I'd be allowed to have. I can basically guarantee at this point that I'd never qualify for a federal security clearance. I can also basically guarantee that if I were to attempt to get a job for a company that did significant contracting work for either of the major political parties, it wouldn't be happening. There's way too many publicly available blog posts of my criticisms of both political parties and the federal government. The fact that I seemed to have been instilled with the idea that power must always be questioned and held accountable has cost me more than it has won me monetarily. I can sleep at night though.

What does all of this have to do with my initial question? What does any of this have to do with asking why I should trust you?

You hate each other. At the end of the day, that's all there is now. You hate each other.

I'm not talking about hating the party leaders of the party you're in opposition to or their various public surrogates either. You hate each other. I'm talking about your neighbors and members of your community, people whom you may have far more in common with than the political partisans you've chosen to hitch your wagons to. The disdain with which you address each other and with which you talk amongst yourselves about the others is breath taking.

 I certainly know the majority of you don't spend much or any time at all actually listening to each other. You don't listen to me, and I'm not even one of them. For the majority, you stop listening the minute you realize I'm not one of you. Many of you badger, belittle and bully anyone who isn't one of you. Consider for a second what it says about you that because someone disagreed with you, you'd say they are either in favor of or indifferent to the murder of children. Think for a second about that...

Now think about how little you've fought to keep alive children in Yemen, Pakistan and the many other countries in which our drones are operating by bringing attention to these deaths...

Consider that.

How would you feel if I said you were indifferent to the murder of children or even in favor of it?

Considering how little most of you have attempted to influence the parties you identify with on that front, I'd probably be a bit more right than you are about that one. I've been writing and posting  about the U.S. drone program and it's casualties on different social media sites now for a few years

The thing is, no matter how much I might impugn the dogged loyalty many people show to their parties, I'd never go so far as to say that you're in favor of or indifferent to murder. It's certainly not beyond me to attempt to provoke a reaction that I'd hope might lead to a discussion of priorities, but even for me, who can be pretty provocative, that's a bridge too far.

There's a lot of talk out there that amounts to blaming the media for violence in the world. Movies, music, television, news, they're all really easy targets. Now though, with the advent and primacy of the internet, you still have yet to realize that you are the media. How does all of this blind hate fall into the larger picture of this very violent world we live in? For Americans, just exactly what part are you now playing in that? You've placed your faith in institutions that have taught you to hate your neighbors and the other members of your community who will share your fate whether or not you agree with it, and that fate, so long as you do so, will not be decided by you and those who surround you.

You don't have to take complete responsibility, this is definitely true, but at the end of the day, yours is a voice in a chorus. What song is that chorus singing and do you want to continue to participate? For all of the talk about the random acts of violence that we keep seeing, very few of you seem to be putting together that you're basically all participating in creating and propagating an environment that insists that there is either victory or defeat, and to the victor goes the ability to gloat, disenfranchise and ridicule the defeated. Add to that the fact that Americans basically spend the entirety of their lives competing for everything, and you've got the kind of pressure cooker environment that is likely to create the release of that pressure in the form of violence. Sure, the guns are the tool of choice at that point, but shouldn't there be a substantive conversation about that environment?

When I talk about my views on gun control, many people are shocked, given what they understand my other political views to be. These views aren't guided by the NRA. I hate the NRA, they're purveyors of lies and misinformation and they are so deeply intertwined with the Republican Party that it's impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins. It's worth mentioning that in spite of being quite vocal about this, I've also recently been accused of being brain washed by the NRA.

I don't live in fear of criminals coming to my home. My belongings aren't worth killing over. I have no grand ideas that I would somehow be able to fight off the police if they came to cart me away on what I felt to be unjust grounds. The state is always capable of more violence than an individual. What I fear is that your hate is creating something you are not fully capable of controlling and not fully willing to recognize or understand. That's what I fear most.

Let's a take a page from history, shall we...

Lynchings were never legal in the strict sense. However, it wasn't at all unusual for members of law enforcement to take part in them. The dominant culture at the time, was able to enforce it's dominance through lynchings, intimidation, rape, arson and the fear resulting from all of those things. It's not even that everyone in all of the areas that lynchings took place believed in them or that there weren't people who thought they were barbaric, unjust and horrible. But it was a very, very, very long time before there were enough people willing to stand up and force enough attention onto this practice that it ended.

It wasn't even that long ago that people who were gay or transgendered were given not altogether different treatment, the response to which was also not altogether different. 
All of that, was the result of hate. It was a hate not completely dissimilar from what we're seeing now pass for political dialog. I have absolutely no quarrel with a pointed discussion and hard nosed disagreement, but we've gone far, far, far beyond that now.

Given this history, and that it's played out very much the same way, the world over, since human beings started keeping written history, including the very recent history during which the overwhelming majority of Americans have been willing to watch the rights of their fellow citizens violated and abused on the basis of the dominant culture enforcing it's power and dominance, I don't trust that most of you would do much of anything when all this hate you've created finally begins to spin out of control. For those of you who live in an area where yours is the dominant political culture, should these people you hate suddenly be the targets of some campaign of intimidation, harassment, and even violence, I don't honestly trust that you'd be willing to attempt to rectify that. In fact, I'm quite certain that if it required you put your economic, physical or social well being on the line, you'd do nothing. There would of course be a perfectly good justification to go along with that nothing, but in the end, that's exactly what it would be, nothing.

Also, given my predilection for asking questions many of you find uncomfortable and that have warranted extremely hateful responses, and that I do sometimes give in to the instinct for provocation, I don't completely trust that should this hate that you've all now decided to fully participate in spin out of control, I couldn't possibly end up on the losing end. I'd be more than willing to bet that the overwhelming majority of people would be easily frightened into watching someone like me carted off to a deserted area and dispatched.

What I fear is that you've put your desire to win, the desire for victory over the perceived other ahead of all considerations of faith in just about anything. I've seen good people, people I know to be otherwise caring and compassionate human beings reduced to spitting, biting, scratching bullies over their particular choice of affiliation. When something can reduce an otherwise good human being to that, it's something that should be distrusted and should be feared. For decades, stories about PCP doing essentially the same thing have driven far more strident reactions. Personally, I don't really care whether an individual is high on PCP or self righteousness of political affiliation, when their moral and communal compass is that badly set astray, it makes me deeply uneasy and deeply uncomfortable.

I have a basic distrust of centralized power that leads to a skepticism that results in questions. I have finally identified the source of that distrust, now, because of all of this. The source of that distrust is this hate that so many of you so freely spew at your neighbors, your community members and even sometimes, your family. The faith you place in it over rides the basic, practical reality that you have to live with and among these people, much more often than you have to live with and among those who are at the helm of that centralized power. The Democratic or Republican party leaders aren't ever going to be living next door to you. They're not going to be working next to you. They won't be grocery shopping next to you. In many cases, especially for those in RVA, I might. For the rest of you, someone very much like me might. Think of that the next time you attempt to rationalize away your behavior due to political realities. Your neighbors are much more a reality than the majority of your politics, whether or not they share your politics. I fear what most of you would be capable of doing or ignoring in order to protect the institutions you place trust in.

The only faith any of you really have is in your hate. Until your forced to by calamity and disaster, you have absolutely no faith in each other, and yet you never stop to realize that so many of those calamities and disasters could be prevented or at least heavily blunted by having some faith in each other before hand. For all the faith so many people out there claim to have, it seems to be about as useless as tits on a bull.

None of this really shows any kind of letting up either. It would be good for many of you to think about what it would mean should this current set of actions and attitudes be followed to their furthest logical conclusion.

So, when you ask why I'd rather take the chance of seeing the kind of random violence we saw on Friday continue, I have to answer that it's because I can't trust you. I can't trust you to understand what your hate is doing to our society, and what it's going to do to our society, because you won't even consider it. It's always their fault. Why don't I trust my neighbors? Because they're already infected with the same hatred you are, probably by the same sources. I certainly don't trust that the people who have been shaping the politics and messaging you've been following to keep all this hate under control forever. I'm not sure I even trust them to keep it under control when letting it loose might profit them. That's why I'd rather take the chance of seeing more random violence like that which took place on Friday occur than see some kind of grand inacting of gun laws. I'd rather be able to defend myself and my neighbors when the rest of you lunatics finally get to lynching and killing each other. It's really only a matter of time and circumstance.