Politics

Another One… and Another and Another and Another…

[Ed. note: I wrote this post a couple months ago following the last mass shooting that made national headlines, but I ultimately chickened out of publishing it, basically because I have friends who own guns and who have a very different perspective on them than I do, and I didn’t want to risk an argument with them. I still don’t want to argue with them, or with anybody else, for that matter. But today’s news of yet another incident, this time on a college campus in Oregon, has stirred up the same sickening mixture of anger, helplessness, and resignation all over again, so this time I am going to publish it. For all the good it will do. I don’t expect to change any minds or actually accomplish anything with my words. And I certainly don’t want to pick a fight! I just have to say something. Because it’s what I do.

One last thing: There’s cussing ahead. Beware if that bothers you.]

Admit it: You can’t even keep them straight anymore, can you? We were just talking about Charleston, weren’t we? Or was it Chattanooga? Oh yes, that’s right… today it’s Lafayette. A movie theater (What, again? We’ve already done that one!) in Lafeyette, Louisiana… three dead, including the shooter, and nine wounded. Not that the details matter much, in the broad sense of our discussion here; it’s the same old story we’ve heard before. It’s so familiar, in fact, that it’s what we old-timers would call a “broken record.”  (Ask your parents, kids.) And I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really sick of hearing this particular ditty.

I don’t have any idea why mass shootings seem to be happening so often these days, and I don’t have any practical idea how to stop them, not in light of (a) how many guns are already out there in America, and (b) how many Americans are flatly opposed to even considering doing anything about (a). But goddamn it, how many more times does this need to happen — how many more innocent people have to die in pools of their own blood for no crime other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time, just trying to live their lives — before we take a deep breath as a society and say, “Enough“? Before we seriously reconsider this self-destructive love affair with gun ownership and realize that the crazy-hot chick who’s been leading us around by the baby-maker is really just… kinda crazy? Honestly, I thought Sandy Hook would’ve been the breaking point, but if a bunch of little kids getting blown away isn’t sufficient to make people sit up and do something, I don’t know what the hell will be.

I feel queasy writing this and I haven’t even decided yet if I’ll actually post it, because I fear alienating my gun-owning friends who are likely to read it. But goddamn it, I’m through being sad about these events; now I’m angry that this keeps happening, and I’m furious that we, as a nation, won’t seriously talk about what to do about it… yes, I am talking about gun control and making a serious effort to reduce the number of guns on our streets and I’m maybe even talking about amending the Constitution, if that’s what it takes to change this insane mess we’re living with.

I simply cannot imagine that this is what the Founding Fathers had in mind… or that they’d have long tolerated it. So what’s wrong with us that we do put up with it?

Comments disabled on this one.

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Nailed It

I’ve never liked Donald Trump. From the moment this guy hit my radar back in the 1980s, I thought he was a loudmouthed jerk who single-handedly refuted the “greed is good” motto of the day. I hate his tacky gold-colored skyscrapers and his self-aggrandizing habit of putting his own name on everything he owns in fifty-foot-high letters. I hate his stupid television game show. And I hate his swaggering, mean-spirited, condescending dismissal-by-schoolyard-insult of anyone who isn’t either (a) Donald Trump, or (b) a butt-licking sycophant who sings the praises of Donald Trump. The fact that his presidential run is polling so well among a certain demographic is both mystifying to me and also, frankly, kind of terrifying.

Those poll numbers lend the following — supposedly an actual dictionary entry — something of sour-grapes flavor, but it’s too on-target not to pass along anyhow:

Actually, this seemed a lot funnier when I first spotted it over at Kevin Drum’s blog.

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This Will Be a Day Long Remembered

white-house-06-26-15

I’ve been trying to think all day of what I can say about this morning’s historic Supreme Court ruling that effectively legalizes same-sex marriage across the nation, and frankly… I’ve got nothing. At least nothing that others haven’t already said, and probably said better than I would anyhow.

I know there are many people who are unhappy about the verdict. Many people I consider friends are among them, and maybe a few of them actually made it past the photo at the top of the entry and are reading these words. To you, my religious conservative friends, all I can say is that I understand your bewilderment, your frustration, and your anger… and I’m sorry you’ve had such a shitty day. Sincerely, I am. I’ve been there too with issues I care deeply about that haven’t gone the way I hoped. But I know in my heart and in my mind that history will view this as a good decision, and a good day. A day that reaffirmed the first and most basic tenet behind the founding of this nation: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

What is more central to the pursuit of happiness than the freedom to marry the person with whom you want to build a life, and to have that union recognized by the same laws that validate and protect any other person’s union? That’s what this whole issue is and always has been about… not forcing churches to perform ceremonies they don’t approve of, but to ensure that everyone enjoys the same privileges and protections under the law, no matter whom they love.

People who say this country is going to hell in a hand-basket are wrong. This country just took a big step toward fulfilling the promise of what it’s supposed to be.

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Another Day, Another Massacre

During his six years in office, President Obama has been obliged to make 14 public statements following a mass shooting. Think about that for a moment. Sit back and let it really sink in:

Fourteen mass shootings in a six-year period.

Fourteen. In six years.

That’s damn near one every six months.

But here’s the really horrible thing about that statistic: They’re really not much of a surprise anymore, are they? Oh, we react as if they are. We all gasp and get on social media to express our horror, grief, disbelief, anger, and condolences. Editorials get written. An image of the shooter (preferably looking as deranged and/or hateful as possible) appears in so many places that it gets engraved into our collective memory under the catch-all rubric “Evil,” while the faces of the people whose lives he — it’s always a male, isn’t it? — extinguished go unrecognized. We shake our fists at the sky and shout that something needs to be done. But it never is, is it? Nothing ever changes. Nothing happens. In a few days, we’ll be once again collectively obsessing over the latest celebrity gossip, or the hot new blockbuster at the multiplex, or the latest tempest-in-a-teapot outrage, and the shooting will fade from our consciousness. And then the next one will come along, and we’ll go through the same pointless, Sisyphean cycle all over again.

The squicky, hard-to-admit truth is that mass shootings have been happening so regularly in recent years, we’ve actually gotten kind of used to them. Again, let that sink in. It happens so goddamned often that we’ve gotten used to them. The cycle of grief and horror and outrage following each one gets shorter and shorter, and the words spoken by our pundits and our president have less and less power, because they’ve said all the same things before. All too many times before.

You can hardly blame the president for sounding fed up during his remarks about last night’s killing of nine parishioners in a Charleston, SC, church. Having to make the same grim speech of condolence fourteen times ought to be enough to make anyone angry. The fact that this shooting has a personal dimension for him — that the dead were African-American like himself, that he personally knew the pastor who was killed, that the site of their murders was a historically significant black church that has been witness to violence before, and that the, ahem, alleged shooter was a young white racist — could only have added fuel to the fire. I came away with the distinct impression that the president was boiling this morning. But sometimes anger is a good thing, an empowering thing. Certainly it empowered President Obama to say something today that needs to be said, and has needed to be said for some time, and needs to be said over and over until it, too, starts to sink in:

At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. And it is in our power to do something about it. I say that recognizing the politics in this town foreclose a lot of those avenues right now. But it would be wrong for us not to acknowledge it. And at some point it’s going to be important for the American people to come to grips with it, and for us to be able to shift how we think about the issue of gun violence collectively.

Emphasis mine. Now, from my perspective, that observation about other countries is so self-evident that it’s impossible to imagine anyone disputing it. And yet… within seconds of the words leaving the president’s mouth, the comments started appearing on Facebook and Twitter and on the websites reporting on his statement. Comments from the usual trolls and haters, calling Obama naive, a fool, an idiot, and worse. And of course there were concerned citizens reminding us that he’s ignoring ISIS’ beheading of Christians! How can Obama say there’s no mass violence in other countries when Muslim terrorists walk the earth?!

I apologize to any conservative friends who may be reading this, but those responses are evasive bullshit. ISIS operates in unstable, war-torn parts of the Middle East, a region that’s hardly comparable to our society even when things aren’t going to hell over there. But in the industrialized Western countries that are similar to our own — the European nations, Australia, Canada, Japan (even though it’s not technically Western), the countries Obama was talking about — the level of violence we just suck up and live with would be unthinkable. Yes, acts of violence, even mass violence, do occur in those countries. But they happen far less often than in America. Far less often. And it’s about damn time we stopped denying it and started seriously thinking about why. I think the answer is pretty clear to anybody with any intellectual honesty. It’s because America is awash in guns, and we glorify gun violence in our national mythology and our popular entertainment. We are a gun-worshipping society that values individual action over the good of the community, and none of the other advanced Western nations are that way. QED.

Now, for the record, I am not particularly anti-gun. I don’t own one, and I can’t imagine any circumstance in which I ever will own one. I don’t view the world in such a way that owning one seems necessary. But I have friends who own them, and they’re decent, responsible human beings who I trust not to go out and shoot up a crowded public place. So while I don’t get the appeal myself, I also have no desire to see my friends’ hobby taken away from them. However, it makes no damn sense to me that we regulate automobiles and the privilege of operating them more heavily than we do firearms.

Not that it really matters what I think or understand. As President Obama himself acknowledged, there’s no political will to enact truly effective or meaningful gun control. The gun lobby won that battle of the culture war years ago, and anyway, there is also the practical matter of how many guns are actually floating around out there already. I don’t believe for a second there’s any realistic way of rounding them all up and doing away with them, the paranoid fantasies of the “cold, dead fingers” crowd notwithstanding. That’s one way in which America is truly exceptional.

No, it doesn’t matter what I think, or what the president thinks, or what anybody else thinks. Nothing is going to change. And in six months or a year, another man with a gun is going to murder another roomful of people, and we’re going to have this same damn discussion again. That thought — that certainty — fills me with disgust and rage and a crushing sense of futility.

At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.

God, I hope so…

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How Do You Feel?

I do a lot of fretting/grumbling/navel-gazing here — well, everywhere, really — about getting older, feeling older, fearing I’ve lost touch with popular culture, being past my prime… hey, you’ve read the posts. But something occurred to me this morning:

In recent years, I’ve lost a lot of the weight I unwisely stacked on in my thirties.

Thanks to my LASIK surgery two weeks ago, I have my original, un-bespectacled face back.

In the next few months, we’ll be seeing a new Mad Max film, a new Jurassic Park film, a new Terminator, another Mission: Impossible, and, lest we forget, a new Star Wars episode.

And of course next year’s presidential election will likely be between a Clinton and a Bush.

You see where I’m going with this?

It’s like I’m young again!

Either that, or suffering a massive case of deja vu.

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One More

Noah Millman of The American Conservative has a slightly different take from Jim Wright’s on the motivations behind the American torture program:

I believe that our reasons [for torturing detainees] were far less rational [than the reasons of the Nazi or Soviet regimes].

 

I’ve written before about the overwhelming fear that afflicted the country in the wake of 9-11, and how, perversely, exaggerating the severity of the threat from al Qaeda helped address that fear, because it made it acceptable to contemplate more extreme actions in response. If al Qaeda was really just a band of lunatics who got lucky, then 3,000 died because, well, because that’s the kind of thing that can happen. If al Qaeda was the leading edge of a worldwide Islamo-fascist movement with the real potential to destroy the West, then we would be justified in nuking Mecca in response. Next to that kind of response, torture seems moderate.

 

Willingness to torture became, first within elite government and opinion-making circles, then in the culture generally, and finally as a partisan GOP talking point, a litmus test of seriousness with respect to the fight against terrorism. That – proving one’s seriousness in the fight – was its primary purpose from the beginning, in my view. It was only secondarily about extracting intelligence. It certainly wasn’t about instilling fear or extracting false confessions – these would not have served American purposes. It was never about “them” at all. It was about us. It was our psychological security blanket, our best evidence that we were “all-in” in this war, the thing that proved to us that we were fierce enough to win.

 

In other words, being down with a little of the old ultra-violence was the same difference as the stupid shit teenage boys to convince each other — and themselves — that they’re real men. You know, a little grab-ass when you’re getting pumped up for the big game. Two for flinchin’. Holding your hand over a lighter to demonstrate how tough you are. To put it more crassly, measuring each other’s dicks.

Honestly, I wish this line of thought didn’t sound so plausible, because I think I prefer good old-fashioned bloodlust as an explanation than this… puerile macho bullshit. “Proving one’s seriousness.” God. That’s a really good reason for shredding the agreed-upon standards of civilization and honor.

Look, I know four blog posts in a row on the same thing is tiresome. And I know this isn’t a pleasant subject, especially for people who only come here to read about pop culture or a warm-and-fuzzy nostalgia piece, so I apologize for belaboring the point. But this issue is hugely important to me. And hugely traumatic. Because it cuts the heart out of my identity as an American. Despite having been told for years that I “hate America” because I dare to criticize its flaws, I’ve nevertheless clung to one central ideal: that America is basically a decent country, and Americans are basically decent people. That we are the good guys. Or at least we try to be. In spite of our tendency to meddle in the affairs of others, in spite of our regrettable history of genocide and slavery, the overall arc of our history, as I’ve always understood it, has been one of gradual progress toward justice, equality, and greater dignity — greater humanity — for everyone. It hasn’t been a smooth arc, to be sure. It’s stuttered at times, slowed to a crawl, sometimes even appeared to drift backwards. I know there have been abominable things in our past — blankets infested with smallpox and Jim Crow and the My Lai massacre — but I have always believed these were aberrations. That, at its core, in our institutions and our ideals, this country was good, and striving to be better. And that there are some things the good guys just do not do. Some lines that they simply do not cross.

So to learn that Americans did things to human beings in U.S. custody that the Gestapo would’ve been all too familiar with, things that we would completely lose our shit over if they were done to Americans… to learn that this activity was not perpetrated by some rogue agents but was part of a defined, sanctioned government program… to learn that fully a quarter of the people subjected to this treatment were innocent, and that some of them were in fact CIA assets… well, let’s just say it’s pretty disillusioning. Of all the bullshit things America has done since 9/11 in the name of “security,” this is the one that simply cannot be excused. Or forgiven.

I am sickened by what the CIA did in our name. I am depressed that there will likely be no consequences for those who planned, approved, and carried out this program of horror. But the thing that really has me reeling, that fills me with impotent anger and disgust and sorrow, is that a hell of a lot of my fellow Americans… are perfectly fine with it. They either don’t care what the CIA interrogators did or they outright approve of it. Judging from the comments I’ve been reading (I know, I know! Never read the comments!), a lot of my countrymen wish the program was still going on. These are dark times, they say… unsavory things have to be done to keep us safe, they say… you pussy bleeding-heart liberals have no idea what goes on in the real world, they say… those guys behead people, they say, so what’s wrong with giving them a little “discomfort?” (Um… because it’s wrong?) I just don’t understand this perspective. I just don’t. Once again, it’s like I’m wandering around Bizarro World, or the Mirror Universe, or wherever the hell I ended up when I passed through that wormhole. Because the America those people are so eager to defend by any means necessary certainly isn’t an America I recognize.

But enough. I’m not going to change anybody’s mind with my screeds, assuming anyone is even reading this. You either think the torture program was immoral or you don’t, and we all know nothing is going to come of the report anyhow. A week from now, there will be some other outrage eating up all the bandwidth, and none of the stony-faced men — and I use that word very lightly — who planned and carried out this barbarism are going to face any punishment for it. But America will never again have the moral high ground in our dealings with other nations. We have forfeited our claim to being any more civilized — or rather, any less barbaric — than any place else. And I for one will never stop mourning the loss of the America I thought I knew.

 

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Jim Wright on Torture

If you’re not reading Jim Wright’s Stonekettle Station blog, you ought to be. Jim is a retired naval officer who lives in Alaska and has an uncommonly clear-eyed perspective on a great many things… as well as a brutally frank way of expressing it. His essay on the torture report is typical of his writing, a very lengthy but insightful piece in which he pulls no punches and says things a lot of people don’t want to say. You should definitely read and consider the whole thing, but here are a couple of excerpts:

On our reasons for doing it:

Of course, we knew that our government tortured people. We knew that. That’s no secret. They told us. And we Americans? We let them do it and a lot of us cheered them on – certainly not all of us, maybe not even a majority, but enough.

And why not torture? No really, why the hell not?

 

After what our enemies did to us, after the crime they committed, after the carnage they wrought, were we not justified in any measure?

 

We wanted blood.

 

We wanted revenge and we had a right to that payback did we not?

 

 

More than anything, we wanted them to be afraid.

 

Just like they had made us afraid.

 

They aren’t human, these enemies. That’s what we tell ourselves, isn’t it? They’re not human, they’re not men. That’s how we justified it. They’re pigs. Dogs. Towel heads. Camel jockeys. Ragheads. Hajis. Sand niggers. Vermin. They are terrorists and nothing more. So what does it matter if we torture them?

 

They deserve no mercy.

 

They are entitled to no rights.

 

But even then – even then – we couldn’t quite bring ourselves to admit what we were doing, could we?  We couldn’t quite admit what we Americans allowed to be done in our names. So we called it “enhanced interrogation” and “coercive methods” and “rendition” instead of “torture.” And we said those words in the same fashion that we Americans used to say “separate but equal” to describe our apartheid.

And on whether the infamous “ticking bomb” scenario is any justification:

“What if the terrorists had your family? What if they had an atom bomb hidden in a city with your family strapped to it and you caught one of those bastards and there was only an hour left and there was no time to evacuate and millions were going die? Including your family! Huh? What about that? Are you saying you wouldn’t do whatever was necessary to get that information? I bet you would!”

 

You’re right, I would.

 

I, me personally? I would do whatever it took, including torture, if that was the only way to save the city, if that was the only way to save my family, if that was the only way to save you. As a military officer, yes, I would. Absolutely. I wouldn’t order my men to do it, I’d do it myself. I shove a hose up the bastard’s nose and turn on the water. I’d shoot out his knees. I’d cut off his balls. You bet. If that’s what it took. I’d do it without hesitation.

 

And I’d do it knowing I was breaking the law, and I would expect to be tried for the crime and sent to prison.

 

I would.

 

Because even if I saved the day, I’d be wrong.

 

Good intentions do not justify evil.

Read that again: “Good intentions do not justify evil.”

Finally, this:

Now certainly it may be extremely difficult to treat a terrorist who tried to destroy your nation and your loved ones humanely.

 

Certainly. No sane person disputes that. I’ve taken prisoners in defense of my country, trust me on this, it’s goddamned hard.

 

However that, that right there, is the very definition of moral courage.

 

You cannot lay claim to the moral high ground if you engage in the same brutality as your enemies.

If the United States of America insists on calling itself exceptional, then it must be the exception. 

(Emphasis is Wright’s, but I wholeheartedly agree.)

Believe it or not, he’s got much, much more to say on the subject, and it’s all worth your time. Go. Read it.

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It’s About Us

Here’s something I never thought I’d say: I agree with John McCain. Further evidence that I’ve somehow ended up in Bizarro World, I guess. Anyhow, here’s a particularly eloquent passage from Senator McCain’s statement on the torture report:

But in the end, torture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.

 

We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

 

Our enemies act without conscience. We must not.

Emphasis mine. The whole statement is worth reading — it’s not that long — but this is the important bit. And it’s essentially what I’ve been saying ever since the first nauseating photos from Abu Ghraib began circulating. It doesn’t matter if torture is effective, which seems to be the defense supporters of this loathsome program keep falling back to. And it doesn’t matter if the other side does barbaric things to its prisoners. We shouldn’t act like barbarians ourselves. Because Americans are supposed to be better than that.

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Friend of the Devil

I spent about an hour this afternoon following a Facebook discussion about the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s Study of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program (more concisely described as “the torture report”), which was finally released yesterday after years of delays and outright stonewalling by various political forces who didn’t want the facts coming to light. (Sadly, I have to include President Obama in that group; he’s been hugely disappointing to me on this matter.) To call the back-and-forth I witnessed “disheartening” would be an understatement.

I know, I know… you should never read the comments. One of the cardinal rules of the Internet, right up there with “don’t feed the trolls.” But in this case, I just couldn’t look away. At least, not at first. After a while, though, I finally had to. I was so repelled by some of what I was reading that I felt I had to literally, physically get away from my computer. My conservative friends often say things like “I just don’t recognize my country anymore.” Well, guys, you’re not the only ones who feel that way sometimes. Today, after an hour of reading opposing opinions on something that seems so self-evident in my mind, opinions ranging from baffling to infuriating to frightening to outright appalling, I felt like I’d fallen through a wormhole into some alternate universe where everything is exactly mirror-opposite to the way you expect it to be. I have rarely felt such a profound sense of alienation, or so bleak. There was an oily black cloud of despair welling up inside me. So I decided it was a good time to leave the office and go for my afternoon walk.

I didn’t have a destination or a route in mind — I never do, really — but today it seemed more appropriate than usual to just let my feet carry me where they would. I found myself drifting up into one of Salt Lake’s oldest residential neighborhoods, an area called the Avenues, away from the traffic and noise and bustle of South Temple Street. The air was unseasonably warm; if it wasn’t for the garland wound through porch railings and the oversized ornaments glittering in people’s trees, you might have thought it was the middle of October or even the first of April, rather than two weeks from Christmas. The sky was clear and cloudless, a bright indigo color that likewise seemed to belong to a different month than December. My iPod, as it so often does, seemed to sense my mood and started serving up a stream of music seemingly designed to counteract it: classic ’60s pop tunes, some Motown, the “John Dunbar Theme” from Dances with Wolves… and then came the Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”

I’ve never been a full-on Deadhead, but I do like a handful of their songs. They have an innocent quality — kind of an odd thing to say about a hippie jam band notorious for their drug usage, but hey, that’s what I hear in them — that brings back my college years for me. Not specific memories, really, but more just a phantom echo of who I was then, how I generally felt on any given day. I remember believing myself to be so cynical and angsty back then, but that was just a silly story I told myself for reasons I can no longer explain. The truth is, that was a time — the last time in my life — when I felt truly positive about the world and my place in it. I would’ve denied that if you’d said anything, of course, but it was true. I went through my days vibrating with a low-grade excitement that could have been optimism, a certainty that things would inevitably turn out all right. I imagine everybody probably feels that way at that time of their lives, right there on the threshold of adulthood.

So anyhow, there I was walking through the Avenues and jamming out with the old hippies, when I saw a girl jogging toward me. She was nineteen or 20, college age herself, long and willowy and wearing a red-and-black sweatshirt with a University of Utah logo splashed across the front. Her hair was blond and silky, tied back in a ponytail that swayed and bounced in time with her steps. It shone in the sun like something too pure to have come from this polluted world. She smiled as she passed me, and I smiled back.

But this story isn’t going to the place you probably think it is. Usually a smile from a pretty girl on a day like today rejuvenates my soul, and makes me feel young, if only for a fleeting moment. Today, though… today it had the opposite effect. I didn’t think “if I was 20 years younger and unattached…” and I wasn’t remotely tempted to leer or waggle my eyebrows.

Instead, I felt something to which I am entirely unaccustomed: I felt parental. I felt protective. I wanted to put my arms around this girl and keep her safe from all the things out there that would bruise her and muddy her and beat her down by the time she reaches my age. I wanted to shield her from all the fucked-up nastiness of this tired, filthy existence and find a way to let her remain as shiny as she is right now.

But that’s impossible, of course, even if I really was her father. And anyhow, I know that the thing I really want to find is some way to bring back my own shine…

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Tired

I feel like I ought to write something about what’s going on in Ferguson, and the general state of race relations six years into a presidency that was supposed to mark the beginning of “post-racial America,” but honestly… I can’t. I just fucking can’t.

Sorry about the language. I know it bothers some of my readers. But there’s no other way to express the weary depths of what I’m feeling right now. I am so thoroughly disheartened. And I’m also tired. Tired of the grinding wheels of conflict and argument and snark that keep the Internet chugging around in circles. Tired of endlessly yammering talking heads spreading fear and ginning up outrage on 24-hour “news” channels. Tired of half the country thinking the other half comes from Bizarro World, and the constant struggle-to-the-death clash of philosophies. Most of all, I’m tired of the utter intractability of this country’s biggest problems: racism and gun violence. It doesn’t seem to matter what we do or what our leaders say, or who’s actually on the side of justice in any given iteration of this story, we always end up back in the exact same nightmarish place, with a kid lying dead in the street, and cops dressed like Imperial stormtroopers lobbing tear-gas grenades at angry mobs, and buildings in flames.

So I hope you’ll forgive me for feeling like anything I might end up typing here is an utter waste of time and energy. I may as well stick to the innocuous, superficial pop-cultural nonsense. Either way, none of it will make a damn bit of difference. I won’t change anyone’s opinion about anything, or enlighten anyone to a new way of thinking, or even manage to clarify my own thinking. The best I can hope for is to provide my handful of readers with a momentary distraction and possibly a morsel of entertainment. I have no illusions about my words having any greater impact than that. And that’s the most disheartening thing of all… writing is my greatest talent, and it accomplishes nothing.

This just might be a fireplace-and-whisky sort of night.

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