July 15, 2016

Aftermath


About twenty-four hours ago I woke up planning to write a blog post about making curry. Cooking is a topic I haven't yet written about. I'm not a great cook, and I don't enjoy cooking as much as some people do, but over the course of my meandering life I have learned a few simple techniques for making do with whatever happens to be available. I made a pot of curry a few days ago using smoked sausage along with eggplant and potatoes my wife had grown. It wasn't fancy and wouldn't win any prizes at a county fair, but I'd taken some photos while I worked, discovered a few things about cooking eggplant together with potatoes, and I was using a new frying pan with a high-tech ceramic inner surface.

Then I made the mistake of turning on CNNj. I was hoping to learn who Donald Trump had chosen as his "running mate", the person who would become Vice President if the pair of them won the general election in November. Instead, I spent the day watching in horror as the death toll in the latest mass murder rose from "dozens" to "more than 50" to "at least 70". According to Fox News, the current number is 84. As horrifying as the unfolding story was, the low point of the day came when Hilary Clinton called into the CNN broadcast center in Atlanta for a live interview. After mouthing a few platitudes, she went on to blame the attack on French society's treatment of Muslims and to lambaste Donald Trump for saying he would declare war in response to a terror attack. Her advice was for more Americans to read ISIS propaganda and "learn what their true aims are."

So the woman who tells California audiences she wants to confiscate all the assault weapons in America only to turn around and tell an audience in Arkansas she'd never made such a claim, who handed President Putin a big red "reset" button then did absolutely nothing as his special forces invaded Ukraine in order to annex the Crimea, and who sent the Benghazi Consulate quick reaction force on vacation after MI-6 told her an attack was imminent, now wants me to read enemy propaganda to learn their heartfelt desire for a peaceful Islamic world?

When the attack in Nice took place the day before yesterday no one knew who drove the truck. By the time I went to bed last night the French police still had not confirmed identification of the driver's bullet-ridden corpse. All they had was an ID card that might or might not belong to the driver. The only thing anyone really knew was that for some reason a man around thirty years old had driven a five-ton cargo truck down a boulevard closed to traffic for the Bastille Day fireworks display, killing as many people as he could before dying in a shoot-out with police. The French government had declared it an "act of terror", but none of the known terror groups around the world had claimed responsibility. The modern world, and that includes me, always assumes that whenever a mass murder takes place one or more radical Islamic terrorists are behind it. Our fascination with terror has become so complete that when mass murder took place at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut it took almost a full day before the news media figured out what to call it.

At this point in time, almost everyone in North America or Europe knows the life stories of Adam Lanza, Omar Mateen, and Dylann Roof. Even over here in Japan, a surprising number of people on the street can identify these three by name and by photo. Someday there will be feature films about them just as there are still feature films being made about Jesse James and John Dillinger. Decades from now someone will stumble across this blog post and recognize all five of those names. They won't even need to run a search on some future version of Google.

There is something deeply flawed in human beings. We quickly forget the names of those who sacrifice themselves to protect us from harm. The heroes who kill mass murderers are quickly forgotten. We expect such men and women to spend the rest of their lives burdened with guilt because they took another human life in defense of the innocent; and then we immediately turn around to celebrate the spirit and narcissism of the villains! There are exceptions, of course. Almost everyone knows who Chris Kyle was, for example. But you know what really disturbs me? I have to take the time to link Chris Kyle's name to his biography because I am absolutely certain a decade from now no one will remember him. One of the most common questions people used to ask him in television interviews was, "How could you do it? How could you pull the trigger and kill someone from afar?"

This insanity quickly manifests in the aftermath of a mass murder. At first, news commentators react in horror at the awful numbers of the dead. For example, the blood-soaked floor of the Bataclan theater after terrorists slaughtered 89 people during a rock concert is still circulating through the internet. It pops up in my Facebook feed with alarming regularity. I even used it myself in an internet meme against gun control. Then, as the numbers climb and full scope of the horror is revealed, we are treated to days and weeks spent analyzing the mass murderer. For some reason we as a society feel compelled to find some way to comprehend how such monsters are created in the first place. But does anyone know the names of the police officers who took down the last Paris terrorist in the final shoot-out? Does anyone even remember where the final shoot-out took place? Why is that? What is it about human beings that causes us to remember every single villain and never the heroes who destroy them? Why do we celebrate the "freedom" of evil men to slaughter others without remorse and then load down our heroes with enormous burdens of guilt and despair? Why do we find it evil to kill evil men?

I'm tired of learning the life story of terrorists and mass murderers. I am appalled by the burden of guilt carried by soldiers who went to Iraq and Afghanistan to face down our nation's sworn enemies and destroy them without mercy. I no longer understand why killing someone dedicated to the slaughter of innocents is more destructive than the acts of the mass murderer. It sickens me to watch friends and relatives of mass murderers and terrorists trying to apologize for and explain away their actions. When a police officer kills a violent felon with a long record of criminal activity, we spend hours listening to the thug's parents explain how "he was a good boy, a fine student, and an athlete" while the police officer who killed the thug in order to save his own life and the lives of other innocents is forced out of his career and into obscurity. This makes no sense at all! Shouldn't we be celebrating the cop who eliminated the felon? Why interview the relatives and friends of the criminal and not the family of the hero? Why is the grief of a criminal's mother worthy of endless news coverage while the police officer who fired the fatal bullet is assumed to be a violent sadist?

Violent men and women have always been part of the human experience. Every single one of us carries the seed of violence. The only difference between the mass murderer and the hero who stops him is the hero has chosen to use that violence to protect others. It is time to stop expecting guilt from the hero in the aftermath of a mass murder. Killing a violent felon with a long criminal history needs to be celebrated, not condemned. Friends and relatives of a mass murderer are not responsible for the actions of the mass murderer. It is time to stop blaming them for the actions of a person they had the great misfortune to know personally. Every time we immortalize a mass murderer while vilifying a hero we encourage the next slaughter. Heroes need to stop feeling guilty for surviving and start celebrating their victories! We can minimize the frequency of mass murder, terrorism, and war, but we will never eliminate them. These horrors have been with us throughout the entire scope of human history. They are never going to vanish completely. The one thing we can change is how we behave in the aftermath.

Celebrating heroes does not perpetuate violence. Immortalizing the villains is what insures someone else will be inspired to mimic them.



July 13, 2016

The color delusion is leading America into another civil war


I signed this petition today: "Formally Recognize Black Lives Matter as a Terrorist Organization".
I took this extraordinary step because after everything that has happened
over the past seven days the color delusion is still growing in popularity and acceptance.

Every single day this past week there have been reports of police officers ambushed in the line of duty. As I wrote in my last post (Brian's Meandering Mind: The color delusion), this current trend began on July 5th when a man selling pirated CDs and DVDs was shot dead by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. On July 6th, in St. Paul, Minnesota, a concealed carry weapons permit holder was shot to death in his car in front of his fiance and her four year-old daughter. Black Lives Matter, the advocacy group that grew out of a Twitter hashtag, immediately flooded social media with a call for protest marches in every major American city. At a protest march in Dallas on July 7th, five police officers were killed and seven more were wounded by a man who felt both angered by the flood of news reports about young black men killed by cops and impatient with the efforts of Black Lives Matter. I don't know how many police have been killed in the days between Dallas and today (July 13, 2016), but it seems like every time I turn on CNNj there has been another ambush. Protest marches in Atlanta, St. Paul, and Washington D.C. have raised tensions even further by blocking highways, thus impeding the flow of trucks carrying food and consumer products into the city. If you are protesting oppressive police tactics why would you block a highway carrying food into your own neighborhood?

Violent criminals and law enforcement have fatal or near fatal run-ins almost every day somewhere in the world. Whether it is a terror bomb in front of a police checkpoint in Baghdad or an ambush by a machete-wielding career criminal on the streets of New York, every single day police, criminals, and innocent bystanders die in cities all around the world. As long as we have criminals, we will need law enforcement. As a result, the two will always find opportunities to have violent clashes that inflict casualties on both sides. I am honestly not the least bit worried about this. It is a perfectly normal state of affairs; bloody and rife with tragedy, but perfectly normal. No, what worries me is how widely accepted it has become to assume that white cops are patrolling American streets looking for black men to shoot down in cold blood at the first excuse. That delusion contains in it the seeds for a civil war pitting black street gangs backed by Mexican drug cartels against the law enforcement structure of the United States of America.

A few years ago, a young black man was killed while avoiding the rain by walking beneath the eaves of houses in a gated retirement community in Florida. Somehow he wound up in a fist fight with a member of the local Neighborhood Watch. The resident shot him during the scuffle, killing him. This resulted in huge international outrage. So much so, that I began to worry we were on the verge of a race war (Brian's Meandering Mind: The Coming Race War. The roots of this tension and discontent go back to the Civil Rights movement of the sixties (Brian's Meandering Mind: Even Worse than a Conspiracy). My father, for example, likes to tell the story of an Army friend of his.

My father has always enjoyed jazz and blues. When he was in the Army, he met a man who had grown up in the same city where he lived, but on the far side of town. This was San Jose, California. My father had moved there as a teenager, but this fellow had grown up there. In addition to coming from the same city, they both enjoyed jazz and blues and admired many of the same musicians. They were both on the US Army Pistol and Rifle team. Whenever they traveled to a new town they would go looking for jazz bars or blues joints. No one on the Pistol Team thought their friendship was unusual. Naturally my father's parents were glad to know he'd found a friend he could hang out while on the road. They were just two guys who came from the same city and both enjoyed the same music.

Then one day the Pistol and Rifle Team attended a match in Alabama. Suddenly, everywhere they went they had to use different restrooms and water fountains. The jazz clubs did not allow my father's friend to enter while the blues joints did not allow my father to enter, even though in both places black, white, and hispanic musicians performed together on stage. Alabama was the first time for either my father or his friend to encounter genuine racism.

Notice something. No one out in California cared that my father was white and his friend was black. They themselves certainly didn't care. The Army had both of them together competing in the same matches against different military units and even against military members from overseas. It only became a problem in Alabama.

After the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., race relations in the United States took a turn for the worse. Even though Jim Crow laws, school segregation, and other systemic problems existed in some parts of the nation, their acceptance was never universal and was never considered "normal" in most of the nation. Throughout the Midwest blacks and whites worked side by side in American factories, earned the same pay, took the same days off, and had the same benefits. Cattle ranches employed black and white cowboys side by side (despite Hollywood movies). Large-scale commercial farming was just getting off the ground when my father was in the Army, and even there, blacks, whites, and hispanics worked together in the fields and when maintaining or driving the equipment. In some cases they even owned large land parcels together. But after Dr. King's assassination, suddenly hatred and suspicion became a standard feature of politics and interpersonal relationships all across the United States.

Why did things become worse after the civil rights movement succeeded? Why did the hatred and prejudice of the south spread through the nation? I don't have a good explanation for this. The one fact I am absolutely certain of is that race relations in the United States of America are far worse now than they have ever been at any time in our history. Race relations are worse now than they were when Americans owned slaves! I don't understand how eliminating slavery, adding five Constitutional Amendments, and electing our first black president has landed us on the verge of a race war. I do not understand it at all. I can only report what I see with my eyes and what I've read of history.

Skin tone is a descriptor. It is no different than eye color or hair color. This is how I was raised. This is how my mind works and how I think. I cannot hate or fear someone just because of their skin tone, their religion, or their nationality. I simply do not have that capacity and I do not understand anyone who does. I am appalled when I listen to people positioning themselves as black activists preaching about how oppressed black people are in America. Then, when you look into that person's life, you see they have no friends outside a small circle of people who share almost everything in common, including the brands of their groceries! What right do these people have to tell me I hate black people? Why should I listen to them or offer them even the smallest shred of respect? Why do black people flock around them like sheep around a shepherd? Are there still people in black communities who want to be slaves and look up to these activists as saviors and providers? I don't know. It completely baffles me.

I was raised to treat everyone with equal respect and courtesy. Not to call them names, not to think of them as stupid when they disagree with me, and to judge them strictly on the basis of their behavior. So when black people assume white cops are hunting them for sport (Angela Rye, on CNN, in an interview with Don Lemon, July 9, 2016) and everyone gasps in horror, my first thought is, "Why is she lying?" After she repeats herself a couple of times it finally dawns on me that she not only believes what she says, she is neither pandering to black people nor propagandizing a political platform! At that point in time, the only conclusion I can reach is such a person must be completely delusional. If she repeats an absolute falsehood in complete acceptance of its reality, then I do not know what other conclusion can be reached. Delusional people are preaching a delusional belief that blacks in America are suffering under severe systemic oppression and must rise up violently to free themselves from their chains. This delusion has us on the brink of a race war that could potentially kill millions of people of every skin tone imaginable.

I don't know why 12.3% of our population commits 52.5% of our murders and represents 39.4% of our prison population. (Wikipedia: Race and Crime in the United States) Scholars, as always, have many different competing theories. The one thing I do know is that I personally don't have any problems associating with people who are honest, open-minded, and realistic, even when we disagree politically, even when we have different skin tones. But they do have to be realistic. We cannot have a simple conversation, let alone a political debate, if the person I am talking with cannot deal in real world facts.




July 09, 2016

The color delusion


Alton Sterling, a lifelong criminal and known gang member was killed by police when he reached for an illegal gun concealed in his right front pants pocket while they were trying to arrest him.

Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor and CCW licensee was killed by police during a traffic stop in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Brent Thompson, a Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) police officer was killed by a sniper while on duty at a protest march in Dallas dedicated to Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

I started Brian's Meandering Mind on June 4, 2003 (It Starts Like This, I Suppose). A few years before, blogs and personal websites had replaced Usenet as the primary modes for expression and interaction in cyberspace. Usenet was a tumultuous, vitriolic, and dangerous place for people with sensitive natures. I had to learn how to gave as good as I got, how to argue on the basis of facts and logic, and how to sling mud in more creative ways than I had ever imagined could exist. When websites, carefully moderated web forums, and YouTube became the places everyone went, I started spending my online time at a site devoted to creative writing. That site has long since changed names and ownership multiple times, so my experience then has no correlation with the social environment at that site now. I started this blog because the management of the site badly pissed me off with their overt intention to indoctrinate everyone who used their site into a particularly harmless style of writing suitable for children's books aimed at the 10-15 age group and nothing else. This resulted in several of my most powerful stories (at the time) being banned from public view. If you're curious, the polished versions of those stories are all now available worldwide on the Amazon Kindle in my collection, "The Yellow Hummingbird and Other Stories". Many people would disagree, but I happen to think this collection is perfectly suitable for anyone over the age of 13. I bring all of this up to emphasize that my entire life has been dedicated to one goal: shattering the delusions people cherish most.

Something in the United States went deadly wrong after Barack Obama won the 2008 Presidential election. I don't understand what happened, or why, but for some reason race relations over the past eight years have deteriorated to a point not seen since the weeks following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Why has the election of America's first black president resulted in the media firestorm surrounding crimes and shootings between white police officers and black citizens? I have no idea! And yet, the real problems plaguing American black communities (gang wars, single mothers, failing schools) have all been completely ignored? Even more so, for me personally, the one key point that I simply cannot wrap my head around, is why haven't successful black Americans gone into failing inner city communities to invest in schools, better quality housing, free clinics, soup kitchens, and all of the other very real solutions they could easily use their money to provide? Instead, they appear on CNN or MSNBC crying out for the federal government to "do something!" They make good money as commentators, column writers, media personalities, professional athletes, movie stars, movie directors, authors, bankers and traders, but they do not use their success to go back home and help others. Why not?

Two black men were shot by white police. By odd coincidence these shootings occurred only a few days after Hilary Clinton was absolved of wrongdoing in a criminal investigation into her use of a private mail server while she was Secretary of State. Just as outrage against this decision began to pour forth, two black men are shot by white police and it makes headline news on every major network. I try really hard not to buy into conspiracy theories revolving around the cozy relationship between the American media and the Democratic Party, but damn, when pieces fall into place this conveniently for the Democratic Party agenda I really have to wonder. There is no doubt in my mind that this is pure coincidence, but at the same time, I have to point out that Fourth of July 2016 was one of the bloodiest and most deadly Independence Day weekends in the history of the City of Chicago. Instead of reporting on the 66 shootings in Chicago, the media takes up two stories of black men killed by white cops. Stephen Carter, one of those highly paid commentators who refuses to invest in his hometown, published this opinion piece, "Don't Compare Police Shootings to Black on Black Crime".

Oh, no! Let's not ask why black men are slaughtering each other over drugs, prostitution, illegal guns, and illegal gambling. Nope, not important. Somehow the violence in black communities has nothing at all do with the black experience. No, despite the fact that more young black men are killed by other young black in a single weekend than are killed by white police over the course of an entire year, those deaths are not important. Instead, Angela Rye (another well-paid commentator who refuses to invest in her hometown) comes on CNN to rant against, "rogue white cops hunting young black males for sport", as a way of responding to the ambush of a dozen Dallas police officers by a black man who "wanted to kill white people, especially white officers".

Let's back up a minute and take another look at the two killings that supposedly set the Dallas shooter on his rampage. There are many everyday facts about police work that every single commentator and opinion writer, including those with police experience, has overlooked and I don't understand why. When police in Baton Rouge approached Alton Sterling, they already knew exactly who he was. They knew his name, they knew his criminal record, they knew he was in possession of an illegal firearm. They knew these things because of the 911 call that brought them to this location and because of the computer readout that would have poured into the monitor in their cruiser when they responded to the dispatcher. Nonetheless, their job is to approach him as if he is a complete stranger who has never committed a crime in his life. They asked him to stop selling CDs in front of the convenience store, he refused, so they attempted to arrest him and he resisted. There was scuffle in which he was thrown on top of a car, sliding off onto the pavement. They tried to get control of his arms so they could put handcuffs on him, and he reached toward his waist. At that point, they knew he had a gun but not where he was carrying it and they knew his hand was moving to his waist which is a common place to carry a gun, so they shot him and he died. Yes, it really is that simple. It has nothing to do with his skin color. It has everything to do with his criminal record and his possession of an illegal firearm. To pretend otherwise is simply delusional.

I have to be honest here. I don't care what color Alton Sterling is. I really don't. He was a career criminal with a long and violent record who resisted arrest. In my opinion, he got exactly what he deserved. I would say the exact same thing if he were my own brother, who also has a criminal record. If you have a record and you consider cops your enemy so you fight with cops and they shoot you, then you have received a just reward for your choices. I know many people will find this very offensive, including my own brother. I will not apologize for my opinion. If I ever get in a fight with police and they kill me, I will have brought it on myself. This is not "rogue white police officers hunting young black men for sport", nor is this "clearly an execution of a young black man by a cop playing judge, jury, and executioner." This is stupidity, suicidal stupidity, by Alton Sterling.

A police officer finds himself behind a car with a broken taillight. He can ignore it, or he can pull the car over and inform the driver. He decides to pull the car over. At that point, he notifies the dispatcher of his decision and runs the license plate on the computer in his patrol car. The very first thing the computer returns, at the very top of the description of the owner, is a notification like this one:

"NAME" is a CCW licensee and should be considered armed and dangerous, approach with caution.

It does not matter if the person has never committed a crime in their life. It does not matter that in order to receive a CCW they had to pass a background check while in order to purchase a firearm to carry they had to pass another background check. It does not matter how much or how little education the CCW licensee has, how gainfully employed they are, or even what color their skin happens to be. The simple fact that they have been granted a license to carry a concealed weapon results in their being listed as "armed and dangerous, approach with caution" in the police database for their state. It is true of me, it was true of Philando Castile. At this point, the cop who made the decision to pull this car over for a broken taillight will respond to that information in accordance with his own personality. While it is possible that being black made Philando appear more dangerous to the officer who pulled him over, I have yet to see any real evidence to suggest it. My assumption would be that the CCW notification alone was enough to set the officer into panic mode. Now he's scared half to death. The officer is wondering if he has signed his own death warrant over a broken taillight. Cold sweat breaks out down his back and across his forehead. His hands begin to shake and he finds it almost impossible to get out of his cruiser to approach the driver. There is nothing more frightening to many police officers than a civilian with a gun.

I don't know what happened between the time the officer left his cruiser and the time he killed Philando. Eventually, we will all know. At this point in time, the only thing we do know is what Philando's fiance broadcast to the entire world immediately after the officer stopped firing. We know her story, we know her video. She says Philando was reaching for his driver's license when the cop executed him for no reason. That is not a fact. That is her interpretation of the facts. This is no different than a few paragraphs above when I wrote, "If you have a record and you consider cops your enemy so you fight with cops and they shoot you, then you have received a just reward for your choices." My statement was mere opinion, her statements were mere opinions. To assume that just because she was right there when Philando died those words are a completely factual account while completely ignoring her bitterness, shock, disbelief, and other emotions at the time is to feed your own prejudices, regardless of what those prejudices are. Whether you decide on the basis of her deeply emotional outburst that the cop acted irresponsibly or in line with proper protocols is irrelevant, in both case you are simply stacking one interpretation on top of another. These are not facts. These are interpretations of the available facts.

I don't know if the police officer who shot Philando Castile has an inherent fear of black people. I have no idea. It is, of course, very possible. I do know that many police officers are irrationally afraid of armed civilians. I would find it far easier to believe that this officer's fear of armed civilians was far more important than Philando's skin tone. That does not make it a fact. My own interpretation of the incident is that the officer acted out of fear of an armed civilian, not fear of a young black with a gun. Philando's fiance's interpretation is the cop executed Philando because he was black and the officer was white. Neither of these interpretations are facts. She and I are both looking at the facts and imposing our own worldview onto those facts. We are both exercising a high degree of delusional thinking. The only difference between she and I is that I know my interpretation is not real. This does not make me better than her in any way, shape, or form. I am not superior to her because of my education, my overseas experience, my CCW training, or the color of my skin. We are equally delusional. Neither of our interpretations should be accepted as fact by anyone else.

I consider Philando's death a great, easily avoided tragedy. If the officer is eventually prosecuted and imprisoned for this shooting I will certainly support the court's decision. On the other hand, I do not consider Philando Castile's death to be related to Alton Sterling's death. The fact that both were young black males while the officers were both young white males is coincidental. Conflating these two deaths simply on the basis of skin color is completely delusional. The two men had nothing in common. One was a criminal and a thug, the other was an upright citizen with a bright future. Alton Sterling's death was inevitable. If he had not been killed by police this past weekend, he would have been killed by them at some point in the future. His life choices, both past and present, had set him on a course with only two possible outcomes: life in prison, death by cop. You can say I'm "blaming the victim" all you like, but this is my interpretation and I believe in it as strongly as you believe in your own.

I will wait with great impatience the outcome of the investigation into the death of Philando Castile. If criminal charges are not brought, I will be very disappointed. However, I cannot imagine any possible evidence coming to light that could convince me this was a case of a racist white cop executing an innocent black man. I regard that interpretation as highly delusional, so delusional it approaches pathological insanity. It seems very clear to me that this is yet one more case of a paranoid, poorly trained officer shooting down a CCW licensee simply because he overreacted to the licensee attempting to retrieve his driver's license. The lesson I take from this is that if I am ever pulled over for a traffic stop, the moment I have turned off my engine I will dig out my driver's license and vehicle registration, have them in my hands, and have my hands on the steering wheel long before the officer reaches my car window. Now it is always possible that one of these paranoid guys who hate civilian gun ownership will overreact and shoot me through the back window while I am fumbling around for my paperwork. This is the risk I take by having a CCW, keeping it current, and keeping a firearm on my body at all times. The fact that my skin is white is irrelevant. If the officer is paranoid enough to shoot a black CCW licensee then he is paranoid enough to shoot me and there is nothing I can do about it.

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July 10, 2016, 04:24 JST:

Well, damn. This is disappointing. After waiting three days to write it, my blog post was still 12 hours too early. It turns out I was completely wrong in my assessment of Philando Castile. According to the Ramsey County Sheriff, he did not have a CCW.

From what I do know of him, I strongly doubt he was involved in the armed robbery. To me, he does not look like the fellow in the video surveillance capture still. His beard, his cheeks are much different, although his jawline is similar.

Alpha Net: Traffic Stop Linked to Armed Robbery

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July 10, 2016, 07:56 JST

Took me awhile to dig it back up again, but I think this post from October 2015 is even more relevant today than it was on the day it was originally posted.

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July 10, 2016, 08:23 JST

More on Alton Sterling
Blue Lives Matter Blog: New Video Confirms Police Version of Alton Sterling Shooting
Allen West: Alton Sterling's Colorful Criminal Past

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July 11, 2016, 0:458 JST

The New York Post agrees with me. I don't know if I should be flattered or horrified.
New York Post: Black Lives Matter's numbers are bogus

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July 04, 2016

If I could change the past


If I could change the past, I wouldn't.

Oh, I would like to. There are an infinite number of points in my life, and in history, that I would love to go back and nudge a tiny bit in a more favorable direction. Everyone wants to kill Hitler, but Hitler is a direct product of the Habsburg Empire which arose out of the aftermath of the American Revolution when Prussian mercenaries returned to their native land with new ideas about how a society should be organized. Hitler, believe it or not, would never have risen to power if the American colonies had not rebelled against the British Empire. Even if someone succeeds in going back in time and killing Hitler, it won't make a difference. Another member of his inner circle will simply rise to take his place. Europe will still fall into war while six million Jews, Romani, and homosexuals will die in internment camps.

Killing Hitler would not change the flow of history because the flow of history very seldom rests on the behavior of a single individual. And yet, at the same time, the flow of history is wholly dependent on the choices made by every individual. This is the great dichotomy of human movement through time. One person can change the entire flow, but the flow itself is not dependent on any given person. Time travel paradoxes are nothing more than silly thought games because none of them can overcome the core paradox built right into the very fabric of history itself: human freedom of choice.

What I can do, what I have been trying to do since I was fourteen years old, and what I hope every person out there is trying to do, is influence how humanity moves into the future. If you are not focused on how your decisions and choices will impact the future of humanity, then quite frankly, you are a wasted life. Yes, that's harsh, but true. If your entire life revolves around your personal needs, wants, and desires, then your life will have no impact on the flow of humanity from this point forward. I know that's cruel, but life itself is cruel. Life is the product of unthinking forces repelling, attracting, converging, and consolidating until consciousness emerges. Life itself is defined both by what it carries forward and what it leaves behind. The direction of life, however, is wholly dependent on what it carries forward into the next moment, the next hour, the next eternity.

Your life can be important, but only if you choose to make it important. The only way you can make your life important is to keep your thoughts focused on the consequences of your choices and behaviors. The video above is intended to show the complete uselessness of "gun-free" zones. A gun-free zone neither deters nor slows someone intent on doing harm. The Aurora Century 16 Movie Theater, the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the San Bernardino Inland Regional Center, and the Pulse Nightclub have all four been gun-free zones for as long as they have existed. Each one also has the unfortunate distinction of recently being chosen by a mass murderer for one of the worst shootings in history. Clearly, a "gun-free" zone does absolutely nothing to prevent someone from bringing in a firearm and killing people. "Gun-free" zones are worthless, their creation is a worthless law, the time and money spent developing and implementing the law have all been wasted. Every life focused on thinking up the gun-free zone law, all the time they spent arguing for it, and all the money spent advertising its benefits, have all been wasted. It was a useless idea that has clearly been proven to have no impact whatsoever on reducing mass murder. If anything, it made the murderer's task easier, which implicates every single supporter of gun-free zones as accessories to mass murder.

Yes, I mean you. Whoever you are. If you believe a gun-free zone saves lives than you are an accessory to murder. Your responsibility for those deaths is far more direct and immediate than mine as a gun owner. So why is it the news media has managed to convince millions of people that I, as a gun owner, am somehow both complicit in and approving of mass murder? This makes no sense to me whatsoever. If I am an accessory to mass murder, than so is everyone who advocates for gun-free zones, background checks for private transactions, and other forms of gun control. All of those laws have done nothing but make it easier for criminals to ply their trade. As an example, consider public housing. Honest people in public housing projects all across the United States are prohibited from owning firearms and keeping them at home. As a result, every single public housing project in the United States is a hotbed of gang activity and a focal point for gun violence. The only people in American public housing who have guns are the criminals! Prohibiting honest people from owning guns has helped increase the scope of violence, the amount of murder, the number of rapes, and the volume of illegal drugs flowing through American public housing. Gun control laws clearly and obviously empower criminals by disarming honest citizens, so why do people keep advocating for them? Are all these people who want American gun owners to lose their freedom to own and train with firearms really on the side of the criminals, or are they just delusional?

I can't go back in time and prevent any of the mass murders that have occurred over the course of my lifetime. I can't go back and stop terrorists from using commercial airliners to destroy the World Trade Center. I can't go back and prevent the Pulse Nightclub from becoming just as famous for homegrown Islamic terror as it is for being a favorite hangout for Orlando's LGBT community. I cannot change the past. No one can.

Please stop thinking, "if only someone could go back in time and stop "so-and-so" from getting a gun in the first place!"

Such thinking is foolish and delusional. Instead, we need to focus on what will happen the next time someone tries to commit mass murder because the one thing that we do have the power to influence is the future.

Sooner or later, and probably sooner, someone is going to walk into a crowded building and try to shoot everyone in the place. It's going to happen over and over and over again. I'm sorry. That's reality. The next one will probably be somewhere in the United States, because we do have a disproportionate number of mass murderers for some reason, but it could just as easily be Sydney, Shanghai, Moscow, or Berlin. Mass murderers don't care about geography and they don't care about gun laws. They only care about body count.

No one could have prevented any of the mass murders of the past twenty years. Neither you nor I can prevent the next one. Instead, we need to be focused on what happens the next time a mass murderer pulls out a firearm and starts shooting. How can they be stopped before they empty their first magazine? The only way I know of to make that happen is for as many people in the crowd as possible to have their own firearms. True, this will dramatically increase the likelihood that someone will be shot accidentally. So which is worse, 49 helpless people shot down by a radical Islamic terrorist or two innocent people killed in the crossfire when half the crowd returns fire? I don't know about you, but I would greatly prefer two innocent deaths to fifty. Zero would be ideal, but realistically, it is virtually impossible to achieve.

Next time a mass shooting occurs don't ask, "Why couldn't this be stopped?"

Instead, the next time a mass shooting occurs the question you should ask is, "Why weren't the victims able to shoot back?"



July 03, 2016

Things that annoy me in the news


For most of my life I have been an avid follower of international news. CNN is available in hotels around the world, sometimes Fox News is also available. Al Jazeera has moments of raw propaganda set side by side with some of the best journalism in the world. BBC is another place I often land. When a broadcast is in English, Philippine or Chinese news channels can also be valuable sources of both local information and local perspectives on international news.

There is, however, one topic that always sets my teeth on edge and will cause me to not watch any news at all until the story vanishes from the headlines: gun control. Every time some idiot in America shoots half a dozen or more people in one place, the global news media goes completely insane. Fifty-eight people can die in a single political assassination in the Philippines and nobody bats an eye except the local newscaster, but when fifty nightclub patrons are gunned down in Orlando suddenly, "Americans and their sick fascination with guns" rolls off the teleprompter every six minutes at every international broadcast studio in the world.

Yes, in the United States our Constitution specifically preserves the right to keep and bear arms. And yes, tens of millions of Americans from all walks of life, and for a dizzying variety of reasons, own an unimaginable variety of firearms. The largest standing army in the entire world, ten times larger than its nearest competitor, rolls out every autumn to hunt deer, bear, wolves, sheep, and goats all across the American wilderness. There are more gun owners in Alaska than in all of Russia, and the Russians love their guns almost as much as the Americans.

If one were to believe everything reported in the international news media, then it would be easy to assume the United States of America is the most dangerous country in the world to live in. And, it is indeed true, that more people are murdered on the streets of Chicago every year than in the all the active war zones still scattered across Afghanistan. But if we remove only five cities from American crime statistics ( Detroit, Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Baltimore ) then suddenly America drops from very near the top of stack to very near the bottom. The major source of violence in those cities (and in every major American city) is the illegal drug trade. More people are killed in gang shootings in Chicago every weekend than die in random mass shootings like the one at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando over the course of an entire year.

For some reason no one in the international news media reports about the intimate link between American street crime and international drug trafficking. Fifty-four people are shot over a Labor Day Weekend in Chicago and no one outside the local Chicago news channel bothers to report it. Thirty-six people are shot at a Christmas Luncheon in San Bernardino and suddenly everyone in the international media is demanding the American government join the modern world by confiscating their citizen's firearms.

Something is happening in the international news media that cannot be explained away by simple racism or even by xenophobia. This is more than simple fear over private gun ownership. I am not certain what is driving this international love affair with American gun control advocates, but I do not trust it. The dichotomy between how daily murders are reported and the sensationalist reporting of a single mass shooting does ignite all sorts of conspiracy theories in my mind. It is hard to adequately explain this apparent paradox without resorting to theories of ancient noble families trying to take over the world but fearing the rebellious American gun owner stands between they and their dream of global domination. Very hard indeed.

I don't subscribe to such a conspiracy theory. I have no evidence to even suggest such a conspiracy. By the same token, I cannot help but wonder why five people shot down at a shopping mall in Baltimore are somehow not worth mentioning while a single thirteen year-old girl stabbed to death in her bed in Kiryat Arba, a tiny Israeli settlement no one outside Israel has ever heard of, is front page news on every news site, newspaper, and news channel in the world.

Every murder is a tragedy, but apparently some murders provide either a political or a marketing advantage to the people who own the world's news media. One of these days I would very much like to see an intrepid reporter uncover the corruption within their own organization and show how that corruption is linked to global news reportage.

I know it will never happen, but I can hope.