Friday, October 02, 2015

Down with the Sickness

How many times can you hear it? It goes on all day long. Everyone knows everything, and no one's ever wrong  -- until later.... -- Rush, Show Don't Tell

Another week, another mass shooting. Let the rush to assumptions begin:  he was a jihadist hunting Christians; no, he was a radicalized atheist hunting Christians; no, he was a gun nut and Irish Republican Army(!) sympathizer who was -- wait for it -- hunting Christians.

The real story is not how, in a nation of 320 million people with even more guns, and fairly liberal gun laws compared with most of the rest of the world, some of those folks turn out to be psychopaths, armed and dangerous. Those are, unfortunately, the odds we're playing here. The real story is how quickly so many people from every point across the political spectrum were able to fit the actions of some random, deranged asshole into their political template.

I don't know what the deal with this idiot was, and neither do you. It's barely been 36 hours; the feebs are still sifting through his search history, trying vainly to limn clues and piece some sort of narrative to make sense of the senseless, to describe why crazy people do crazy things, when sufficiently motivated and locked and loaded.

Everyone has a proposal, the experts have the cure, they've all got the solution, but no one's really sure. -- random bit of doggerel

Last night, hours after the Umpqua shooting, there was a tragic single-car crash locally (in Chico). A young woman was thrown from the back seat of the vehicle as it rolled into a tree median and died from her injuries. The front-seat passenger was also grievously injured, but will probably survive. As such things tend to transpire, the driver -- who was of course intoxicated -- walked away without a scratch.

Without linking to the local news article describing this awful scenario, let me just point out that one of the commenters seriously proposed that all vehicles be fitted with a breathalyzer device, like what judges assign people convicted of driving under the influence. This, not to put to fine a point on it, is bullshit. It is possible to say that, while still lamenting the untimely, unnecessary loss of someone who had their whole life ahead of them.

I had several friends in high school who died in drunk-driving wrecks, sometimes driving, sometimes riding. One in particular stands out -- the crash occurred literally around the corner from the house where my then-garage band was jamming. It was raining heavily, and after hearing the noise, we tramped through the downpour a few hundred yards to where a car lay overturned head-first into a power pole.

The driver, someone I had known literally since first grade, was wandering into the wide, busy rural road. He stopped as we approached, and started yelling that "Rick" was still in the car. I moved around to the passenger side, and all I could see was the ceiling of the car with trails of blood here and there. I couldn't see far enough into the car to see Rick, and we suddenly heard sirens approaching. It was cold and raining like a bastard, and instead of trying to be a hero, I decided to let the professionals do their thing. They pulled up less than thirty seconds later.

As it turned out, "Rick" had been dropped off before the crash, and it was actually "Kevin" stuck in the car. Kevin died on the helicopter flight to the hospital. Kevin was a good kid, and a popular kid, and his funeral was one of those things that kill you a little bit even when you're too young to know better. It's something that will stick with me literally until I die, even if I live another hundred years.

So drunk driving is something I take very seriously, and yet, as mentioned above, I think it is fucking ludicrous to treat every driver of every car as a potential criminal. I am tired of every basic function in day-to-day life being treated as something to be commodified, commanded, compelled by the will and force of the State. Maybe I don't want to fit a fucking breathalyzer on my hooptie because someone died tragically. Maybe I still have that right. Maybe not. It's difficult to tell sometimes.

So it is with guns, more so if anything. Every time one of these tragic yet tragically routine events occur in this great big messy country of ours, the usual cats' choir sings out that Something Must Be Done. Okay, what? Keep guns out of the hands of crazy people? Sure, that sounds great. Let's start there.

But too often it turns into some "conversation" about how we have to "defuse" our "gun culture" by presumably finding a way to lower the overall number of people who own them -- which includes infringing on the rights of the majority of owners who use them responsibly. The idea that hundreds of millions of people should be punished for the despicable behavior of a few dozen is reprehensible. And yet that notion, impossible as it would be to implement in the first place, seems to gather currency with each ugly event.

It seems what's left of my human side is slowly changing in me -- Disturbed

It's right and understandable to ask aloud, to cry from the rooftops, if something is wrong with this nation, if we are sick. Of course we're sick. Hell, we may very well be on our deathbed, as it were. Now, your teabagger uncle that emails you all those groovy Obammy-wearing-a-loincloth-and-bone-through-his-nose jpgs, he'll also forward you some TownHall nincompoopery Christplaining the whole problem as we don't have ourselves enough Jebus in our lives. If we had (Christian) prayer back in schools, mandatory and duly enforced, and the Ten Commandments posted on fifty-foot monuments at every intersection and public edifice, why we'd be as right as rain again. America would be fuckin' Mayberry, doncha know.

But the sickness runs much deeper than all that. This nation is afflicted with a peculiar illness that makes it see its feckless robber barons and treacherous merchant princes as savior and job creators, even though most of the jobs they create are in Mexico, China, or India. The rich are doing better by the day, inversely proportional not only to the poor, but to everyone else. The owners of the country sincerely believe that this is a healthy prognosis, that everything will trickle down and infuse the body with the precious fluids it needs.

That has not been the case for thirty years or so now -- the patient is rotting away, but with a surprisingly robust fingertip on the left pinky. Whether that is cause for hope or alarm depends on one's perspective, but what makes it strange is how the few on that fingertip have managed to persuade so many throughout the rest of the body to vote against themselves, to trade off against their futures and their kids' futures.

The nation is not sick because gays are getting married or Planned Parenthood still has its doors open. It's sick because the people who run it don't give a shit about it anymore, and they've managed to bamboozle too many people into shooting themselves in the dick. It's sick because the working class has watched both parties send their jobs overseas, with varying levels of enthusiasm, and had that replaced by "family values" nonsense. It's seriously ill because whatever we had as a culture has since devolved into a mashup of reality teevee crap and cheap, mindless symbolism. It's because they refuse to repudiate and let go of the most despicable parts of this nation's history; instead they cling bitterly to it like the very last straw. It's because people have not only lost all hope, but have embraced the logic of hopelessness.

It makes sense in a perverse way that the most popular political figure of the moment is a real-life Scrooge McDuck, a reality-teevee blowhard billionaire who has been completely upfront about how he would completely monkey-fuck this country, and only gets more popular with every nonsensical thing that scrambles out of his asshole-shaped mouth.

People can and should be angry, and want something to be done. They are angry with the performance of their elected officials, and they should be. But who put them there? Who keeps falling for the nonsense and bullshit, who keeps braying from their virtual Facebook rooftops about how god-blessed The Greatest Nation Evar is, and how everything was better when we said the Pledge in school and watched the Dukes of Hazzard? Worse yet, who keeps making that pitiful effort the sum total of their political awareness and activism? They can't be bothered to vote, and when they can, they end up voting for whoever pushed their idiot hot buttons.

This too is an entirely expected by-product of people who have conditioned themselves with a steady diet of brain-addling reality teevee nonsense. They have no empathy, they have no core convictions beyond filling their bellies. They don't know the difference between beliefs and facts, between baseless assertions and empirically verifiable data. They react before they think, are conditioned to do so well before any (much less all) of the facts are in.

No comments: