Today Google honors International Women’s Day with one of their doodles.
I am 100% in favor of honoring the women of the world. And, I have some thoughts. Consider these remarks by Morgan Freeman on the occasion of Black History Month:
MIKE WALLACE: Black History Month, you find … MORGAN FREEMAN: Ridiculous. WALLACE: Why? FREEMAN: You’re going to relegate my history to a month? WALLACE: Come on. FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me. WALLACE: I’m Jewish. FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month? WALLACE: There isn’t one. FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one? WALLACE: No, no. FREEMAN: I don’t either. I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history. WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until …? FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I’m saying?
2005 interview with Mike Wallace for television’s “60 Minutes” news magazine program
There has recently been an immensely favorable response to the Neflix series “The Handmaid’s Tale,” ¹ as well as rising awareness of the challenges still faced by women around the globe (astonishingly, in the 21st Century. Sadly, there are bastions of troglodicity (my own word) in my own country where people in power are bound and determined to keep women in a state of perpetual subjection and inferiority – notably the US Congress, SCOTUS, and legislatures in various “red” states around the nation, such as Texas, Alabama, Utah, and many others.
The Christian faith has a lot to do with it, especially religion of the evangelical sort:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Saviour.”
Ephesians 5: 22-23
“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness I permit no woman to teach or have authority over a man; rather, she is to remain silent.”
1 Timothy 2: 11-12
But even in non-Christian societies, the pervasive attitude that women are inferior beings has been present for millennia – the following passage from one of my favorite short stories, set in Brazil, lays it out pretty clearly.
Then [the tribal chief] went on to explain—it took all night—that the tictoc nut was not like other nuts. Everything, said the chief, everything could think a little. Even a leaf had sense enough to turn itself to the light. Even a rat. Even a woman. Sometimes, even a hard-shelled nut. Now when the world was made, the deuce of a long time ago, man having been created, there was a little intelligence left over for distribution. Woman got some. Rats got some. Leaves got some. Insects got some. In short, at last there was very little left. Then the tictoc bush spoke up and begged, “A little for us?”
“River of Riches” by Gerald Kersh, 1958
Fast forward to our day and age and country, and these attitudes have some direct consequences within individual families, and not just in the less-tangible global sense of economic and social inequality. In other countries it’s worse still; female children in Afghanistan and India, for example, are more likely to be abandoned, sex-selectively aborted or killed in instances of infanticide than are boys. Human trafficking, largely perpetrated upon women and female children, continues to be rampant. The evil is mind-clenching.
If we’re going to be fair about it, every other day should be International Women’s Day… plus February 29th when it rolls around because women slightly outnumber men on a global basis. But until the recognition which they deserve is granted them in the same sense that Morgan Freeman expressed, I give honor – every day – to all the women of the world², who not only bear and raise the next generation but who have made incalculable contributions to humanity since the dawn of time.
This little essay may do absolutely nothing to improve the situation, but I felt that for myself, it was important to mark the day with more than just a congratulatory message.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ If you liked the series, read the books by Margaret Atwood, including The Testaments. They add a lot of things you’ll never see in the series and leave you with some reasons for optimism instead of bleak hopelessness.
² Cis-, trans-, or otherwise, in case you were wondering.
This lovely video, intimately crafted, was a delightful and wistful view into a time so far removed from us that it’s difficult to even get one’s head around. More years in the future than there are atoms in the observable universe, 8 * 10¹²⁰ years according to this imagining… but still fascinating.
Most of it is pure speculation, but it’s speculation based on mathematics that have been developed at this point in time, and real observations of the universe and what happens inside places like the Large Hadron Collider and other particle-generating devices.
If you’re not sure, the joke here is that some fear the energies generated within the Large Hadron Collider will be great enough to rip a hole in the fabric of space time, or to create a local black hole that will consume the earth. But thus far, this has shown no signs of happening.
I’ve seen other such productions, equally thought-provoking, and all of them put me in mind of Isaac Asimov’s “The Last Question.” It’s a similar imagination, although somewhat simplified because the concept of black holes would only be posited two years after the story was written, of what happens when entropy reaches its ultimate terminal state, and there is no energy left anywhere in the universe at all. It revolves around humanity’s quest to stop the heat death of the universe, by asking ever-more powerful computers, “How can entropy be reversed?”
It’s a beautiful story, and I won’t spoil it, because it has an unexpected ending – one that always brings a few tears to my eyes – and it gives me hope for the continuation of life; I just love Asimov’s writings. I recall with fondness a dramatization of this story that I saw long ago at the Hansen Planetarium, when it was still at its original home in the renovated Salt Lake Public Library at 15 South State Street in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Fortunately or unfortunately, right now all we have to worry about is destroying our world by allowing climate change to proceed unchecked, and insane despots like Vladimir Putain knocking on the door of World War III with his rapacious attacks on innocent neighbors.¹ But from a scientific standpoint, it is captivating to imagine what will happen to our universe when all of these concerns have become moot.
Some time ago, a preview of this book appeared in various places around the internet; reddit, Twitter, and a few others. I encountered it, and knew at once that this is a book I would need to own and read. And I was right.
The excerpt reads as follows:
My husband plays the trumpet, which is a sort of loud pretzel originally invented to blow down the walls of fucking Jericho and, later, to let Civil War soldiers know it was time to kill each other in a river while you chilled eating pigeon in your officer’s tent twenty miles away, yet somehow, in modern times, it has become socially acceptable to toot the bad cone inside your house before 10:00 a.m. because “it’s your job” and your wife should “get up.” What a world! If one was feeling uncharitable, one might describe the trumpet as a machine where you put in compressed air and divorce comes out, but despite this—despite operating a piece of biblical demolition equipment inside the home every bright, cold morning of his wife’s one and only life—the trumpet is not the most annoying thing about my husband.
West, Lindy, The Witches Are Coming
Once I had read the book, I felt morally obligated to leave a review at Amazon, if for nothing else than to give this beautiful collection of essays a signal boost. This is a cross-post of that review, with a bit of amplification.
A witty, acerbic, and irreverent look at sexism in the 21st Century (and other critical issues that are crying out to be addressed).
Make no mistake, this book will resonate with women… but it’s a book for men. We as those who hold supreme privilege in our society by simple roll-of-the-dice virtue of having a Y chromosome cannot be allies in the fight for gender equality (indeed, for human equality) – we must be the frontline warriors.
We can no more expect women to overcome misogyny than we can expect people of color to overcome racism. The problem is not them; the problem is us. Until people like Donald J. Trump and those who think like him can be rendered irrelevant or educated (and doing either will be an Augean task, if even possible), writers and influencers like Ms. West can continue to publish and speak and agitate, but they must become the rear guard. It is up to men to take up the cause and win the war.
At the age of 70, I do not expect to see a bloodsoaked fatal flawless victory in my lifetime, but battles are being won.
The #MeToo movement and its consequences are just one example. But that’s still a sortie in the war, waged by the oppressed minority. Do you wonder why there are so many “strident” feminists out there?¹ It’s because their stridency is the moral equivalent of the Watts riots and so many subsequent outbreaks of violence by people of color who have been enslaved, oppressed, lynched, sidelined, and minimized for over 400 years. Read up on history and you’ll see that women have been waging a battle for equality for just as long, if not longer.
Men, buy this book and read it. Then think about it, and read it again. Despite its biting humor and delicious writing, it’s not a book to entertain or amuse. It should be a textbook for anyone who wants to understand why the problem of misogyny is so rampant, and what needs to be done moving forward.
I’ve written about racism before. For all the talk about Critcal Race Theory, (an academic theory that is not being taught in K-12 schools, no matter what Tucker Carlson may be telling you), white America needs to face the fact that racism is real, and rampant, and deeply ingrained in our society.
But in all honesty, there should be a Critical Gender Theory as well. Donald Trump and his “locker room talk,” Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and so many others bear not mute but loud and blatant testimony that for far too many men, women are still less-than: objects to be used, property to be managed. Ms. West’s book offers few real solutions to the issue. She’s loud and funny and sharp and biting, and shows in delicious prose where our society has gone wrong and how much there is to do, but in the end analysis it will be up to the faction in power (read: men) to make the difference.
Fixing Hollywood and the media would be a good place to start, but I honestly don’t hold out much hope for that in the short run. As long as there are dollars to be made by depicting women as pliant sex toys in drama and advertising, nothing short of the zombie apocalypse will get entertainment and advertising moguls to wise up.
In the meantime: Men, read this book. It’s not just the pathetic moanings of a whiny liberal feminist; it’s an unashamed accounting of what women in general have to face on a daily basis. If you, by the grace of God, get a sense that maybe you’re part of the problem even without wanting to be, this is a good place to start as I mentioned in my other post on racism:
It won’t be easy, but it has to be done.
(And if you care about the climate and the impending destruction of our global environment which we may not have any way to reverse, you should read this book as well.)
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ You might also be interested in watching Ms. West’s Shrill, a 2019 Emmy Award-nominated drama about a woman who seeks out ways to change her life without changing her body.
Stolen from the Facebook page of a friend; it was deleted by their “anti fake news” algorithm, it being unable to distinguish satire from real information. Saving it here for posterity.
Finally!! A user-friendly guide to the whole 5G-Covid 🦠 Deep State 🇷🇺 Wuhan Obama Paradigm! 🗺
If you are having trouble connecting the dots or understanding how mechanized murder hornet drones 🐝 will vaccinate 💉 world 🌎 populations and bring Bill Gate’s 5G empire 🤴🏻 to the forefront with new 2020 Comet Ping Pong Pizza 🍕 cryptocurrency 💰 funded by Soros and Branch Covidians 🚀 aligned with the 9-11 Illuminati elders, this handy composite guide can help.
Aluminum foil sold separately.
Protect your pets now before the cytoplasmic pipeline between Areas 51 and 57 is completed on July 3rd. 7G is already functional in Cuba 🇨🇺 and parts of Epcot. 🙀 Julian Assange knows this, and is helping Putin and Citizenfour procure 7 billion N-97 masks 😷 to initiate the first wave.
Disclaimer: this is pure parody, in case you need to be reminded.
First off, a disclaimer: I’m not a sociologist. I don’t claim to be well-versed in the psychology of racism, bigotry, or prejudice. These are my own thoughts, based on a lifetime of experience and observation from someone born into white privilege and adopted into a generally disparaged faith.
This is a long post. Sorry not sorry.
They taught us about slavery in elementary school. We learned about the ship that arrived in 1620 carrying “twenty and odd negroes.” We learned about how people were stacked in ships like sardines. We learned about the Civil War, and the Emancipation Proclamation. But we learned nothing about what it was like to be a slave, or the 400-year aftermath.¹
A white citizen in America today cannot really know what it’s like to be a slave, or to live as part of a still-oppressed, marginalized, and often brutalized population.² But I can read, and I can learn, and I can empathize. And over time, in the following works, I have gained a glimmer of understanding about what Africans and African-American peoples have had to deal with over the centuries, up to and including today. There are many, many other accounts out there, but these are the ones that have impacted me the most over the years.
If you have a microgram of compassion in your soul, these books cannot help but touch you, and help you to understand what is happening today in Minneapolis and elsewhere, and why.
Go Tell It On the Mountain by James Baldwin, Native Son, Black Boy, and 12 Million Black Voices by Richard Wright:
Baldwin and Wright had different ideas about the black experience and how to chronicle it. Both are seminal writers. Particularly Wright’s Black Boy left me absolutely gobsmacked at what growing up in the South was like for a young man who came to earth with a mind that questioned why life around him was the way it was, and could see the injustice, and express it profoundly and honestly.
A quarter of a century was to elapse between the time when I saw my father sitting with the strange woman and the time when I was to see him again, standing alone upon the red clay of a Mississippi plantation, a sharecropper, clad in ragged overalls, holding a muddy hoe in his gnarled, veined hands— a quarter of a century during which my mind and consciousness had become so greatly and violently altered that when I tried to talk to him I realized that, though ties of blood made us kin, though I could see a shadow of my face in his face, though there was an echo of my voice in his voice, we were forever strangers, speaking a different language, living on vastly distant planes of reality. That day a quarter of a century later when I visited him on the plantation— he was standing against the sky, smiling toothlessly, his hair whitened, his body bent, his eyes glazed with dim recollection, his fearsome aspect of twenty-five years ago gone forever from him— I was overwhelmed to realize that he could never understand me or the scalding experiences that had swept me beyond his life and into an area of living that he could never know. I stood before him, poised, my mind aching as it embraced the simple nakedness of his life, feeling how completely his soul was imprisoned by the slow flow of the seasons, by wind and rain and sun, how fastened were his memories to a crude and raw past, how chained were his actions and emotions to the direct, animalistic impulses of his withering body…
From the white landowners above him there had not been handed to him a chance to learn the meaning of loyalty, of sentiment, of tradition. Joy was as unknown to him as was despair. As a creature of the earth, he endured, hearty, whole, seemingly indestructible, with no regrets and no hope. He asked easy, drawling questions about me, his other son, his wife, and he laughed, amused, when I informed him of their destinies. I forgave him and pitied him as my eyes looked past him to the unpainted wooden shack. From far beyond the horizons that bound this bleak plantation there had come to me through my living the knowledge that my father was a black peasant who had gone to the city seeking life, but who had failed in the city; a black peasant whose life had been hopelessly snarled in the city, and who had at last fled the city— that same city which had lifted me in its burning arms and borne me toward alien and undreamed-of shores of knowing.
Wright, Richard, Black Boy, Cleveland, World Publishing Company, 1937
Black Like Me – John Howard Griffin
This work was a product of the 60s, but is important for a number of reasons. It’s often disparaged as a naïve social experiment that was doomed to failure precisely because the author was white, but I find it a work that brings me back again and again.
No, it makes no sense, but insofar as the Negro is concerned, nothing makes much sense. This was brought home to me in another realm many times when I sought jobs. The foreman of one plant in Mobile, a large brute, allowed me to tell him what I could do. Then he looked me in the face and spoke to me in these words: “No, you couldn’t get anything like that here.” His voice was not unkind. It was the dead voice one often hears. Determined to see if I could break in somehow, I said: “But if I could do you a better job, and you paid me less than a white man …” “I’ll tell you … we don’t want you people. Don’t you understand that?” “I know,” I said with real sadness. “You can’t blame a man for trying at least.” “No use trying down here,” he said. “We’re gradually getting you people weeded out from the better jobs at this plant. We’re taking it slow, but we’re doing it. Pretty soon we’ll have it so the only jobs you can get here are the ones no white man would have.” “How can we live?” I asked hopelessly, careful not to give the impression I was arguing. “That’s the whole point,” he said, looking me square in the eyes, but with some faint sympathy, as though he regretted the need to say what followed: “We’re going to do our damnedest to drive every one of you out of the state.”
Griffin, J.Hl, Black Like Me,, 1960
Griffin himself even said,
As I had suspected they would be, my discoveries were naïve ones, like those of a child.
The entire book has the overriding attitude of “You mean this really happens? This is what life is really like for black people in the South? Yes, the discoveries were simple, and everything was filtered through the mindset of a white man of privilege, but it’s still very much worth reading.
Death at an Early Age: The Destruction of the Hearts and Minds of Negro Children in the Boston Public Schools by Jonathan Kozol:
Above and beyond describing the hideous disparity that existed in the Boston public school system in the ’60s, it shone a light on the vicious racism that took root there. The persona of the “Art Teacher” is especially breathtaking in its ignorance and ingrained evil – she was a master at destroying the souls of children whom she clearly thought belonged to a sub-genre of humanity. Read it and weep.
“All white people, I think, are implicated in these things so long as we participate in America in a normal way and attempt to go on leading normal lives while any one race is being cheated and tormented. But I now believe that we will probably go on leading our normal lives, and will go on participating in our nation in a normal way, unless there comes a time where Negroes can compel us by methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure.”
Kozol, Jonathan, Death at an Early Age
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester:
While this book is aimed at youth readership, its collection of tales from people who actually lived through slavery cannot fail to move adults if they have a shred of humanity.
“One day while my mammy was washing her back my sister noticed ugly disfiguring scars on it. Inquiring about them, we found, much to our amazement, that they were Mammy’s relics of the now gone, if not forgotten, slave days. This was her first reference to her “misery days” that she had made in my presence. Of course we all thought she was telling us a big story and we made fun of her. With eyes flashing, she stopped bathing, dried her back and reached for the smelly ol’ black whip that hung behind the kitchen door. Bidding us to strip down to our waists, my little mammy with the boney bent-over back, struck each of us as hard as ever she could with that black-snake whip. Each stroke of the whip drew blood from our backs. “Now,” she said to us, “you have a taste of slavery days.”
Frank Cooper, Library of Congress
Don’t You Turn Back by Langston Hughes
As described by Nancy Snyder at Bookriot.com, “Langston Hughes was the chronicler of African American life in Harlem, New York City, from the 1920s through the 1960s. Hughes set out to portray the stories of African-American life that represented their actual culture—including the piercing heartbreak and the joy of everyday life in Harlem.” His poetry is beautiful, yearning, and haunting. It should be on the to-read list of anyone who is interested in the human condition.
Dream-singers, Story-tellers, Dancers, Loud laughers in the hands of Fate— My People. Dish-washers, Elevator-boys, Ladies’ maids, Crap-shooters, Cooks, Waiters, Jazzers, Nurses of babies, Loaders of ships, Porters, Hairdressers, Comedians in vaudeville And band-men in circuses— Dream-singers all, Story-tellers all. Dancers— God! What dancers! Singers— God! What singers! Singers and dancers, Dancers and laughers. Laughers? Yes, laughers….laughers…..laughers— Loud-mouthed laughers in the hands of Fate.
Hughes, Langston, Don’t You Turn Back
Be warned, these books are “products of their times,” and the language used in most of them would be highly offensive by today’s standards. But this is the way it was, and you can’t whitewash it or sanitize it.
We didn’t know nothing like young folks do now. We hardly knowed our names. We was cussed for so many bitches and sons of bitches and bloody bitches and blood of bitches. We never heard our names scarcely at all.
Sallie Crane, Library of Congress.
A recent post (June 2, 2020) on Facebook by Caroline Crockett Brock illustrates poignantly that these attitudes, these experiences are not a thing of the past. They are not just the stuff of history, of Emmett Till and Rodney King and George Floyd and so many nameless others. It relates the experiences of Ernest Skelton, the owner of Grand Strand Appliance Repair Services.
When Ernest, my appliance repairman, came to the front door, I welcomed him in.
As this was his second visit and we’d established a friendly rapport, I asked him how he was feeling in the current national climate.
Naturally, he assumed I was talking about the coronavirus, because what white person actually addresses racism head on, in person, in their own home?
When Ernest realized I wanted to know about his experience with racism, he began answering my questions.
What’s it like for you on a day-to-day basis as a black man? Do cops ever give you any trouble? The answers were illuminating.
Ernest, a middle-aged, friendly, successful business owner, gets pulled over in Myrtle Beach at least 6 times a year.
He doesn’t get pulled over for traffic violations, but on the suspicion of him being a suspect in one crime or another.
Mind you, he is in uniform, driving in a work van clearly marked with his business on the side. They ask him about the boxes in his car–parts and pieces of appliances.
They ask to see his invoices and ask him why there is money and checks in his invoice clipboard. They ask if he’s selling drugs.
These cops get angry if he asks for a badge number or pushes back in any way.
Every time he is the one who has to explain himself, although they have no real cause to question him.
Ernest used to help folks out after dark with emergencies. Not anymore.
He does not work past dinnertime, not because he doesn’t need the business, but because it isn’t safe for him to be out after dark.
He says “There’s nothing out there in the world for me past dark.”
Let me say that again. Ernest, a middle aged black man in uniform cannot work past dark in Myrtle Beach in 2020 because it’s not safe for him.
He did not say this with any kind of agenda. It was a quiet, matter of fact truth. A truth that needs to be heard.
Ernest has a bachelors in electronics and an associates in HVAC.
Ernest says most white people are a little scared of him, and he’s often put in a position where he has to prove himself, as though he’s not qualified to repair appliances.
After getting a job for 2 years at Sears appliance, Ernest started his own company, one he’s been running for several years.
He is the best repairman we’ve had, and has taught me about washer dryers and how to maintain them myself, even helping me with another washer/dryer set and a dishwasher without charging me.
I highly recommend his company, Grand Strand Appliance.
Ernest doesn’t have hope that racism will change, no matter who the president is.
His dad taught him “It’s a white man’s world”, and he’s done his best to live within it.
When I asked him what I could do, he said, “everyone needs to pray and realize we’re all just one country and one people”.
I am a 45 year old white woman living in the south. I can begin healing our country by talking frankly with African Americans in my world—by LISTENING to their lived experience and speaking up.
I can help by actively promoting black owned businesses. That’s what I can do today.
Let’s start by listening and lifting up. It’s that simple. #listenandlift
The Watts riots. The Rodney King riots. The George Floyd riots. These are “the methods of extraordinary pressure to interrupt our pleasure” that Jonathan Kozol mentioned. Taken by themselves, the destruction and looting are senseless and wrong. Taken in the context of 400 years of systemic oppression, they are entirely understandable. These things happen because the white establishment refuses to listen, to understand, and to act.
The BLM movement is being used by opponents of progress and maintainers of the status quo to show their ignorance. There is no implied “only” in front of “black lives matter.”
An exquisite example of this happened in 2016, when a supposed group of law students wrote a letter to Patricia Leary, a professor at Whittier Law School, taking her to task for wearing a BLM teeshirt “on a day in Criminal Procedure when we were explicitly discussing violence against the black community by police.” ³ Images of the letters and concomitant transcripts can be found at Imgur; the professor’s response to these entitled and presumptuous brats is a takedown worthy of 1998, when the Undertaker threw Mankind from the top of Hell in a Cell, and he plummeted 16 feet through an announcer’s table.⁴
Of course all lives matter. Despite the fact that there are pervasive problems of racism, discrimination, racial profiling, and unwarranted brutality among police departments today, blue lives matter too. But as mentioned before, BLM is not about “only” black lives. It’s a movement because black lives are the ones that have been being – and continue to be – devalued and oppressed and taken.
Two recent artistic representations of current events:
We are at a difficult and critical juncture of our nation’s history right now. Things could go a number of ways. It’s not inconceivable that given the attitudes of our current leadership, we could see a Tienanmen Square type of event in our country. Or much in the way of Occupy Wall Street, the BLM movement could peter out into irrelevance and we could see a return to the status quo. These are extremes. It is my hope that the momentum gained in recent times will continue, and that rational heads will prevail, because we owe it to our founders to preserve the republic that they gave us.
Edit: This belongs here.
The Old Wolf has spoken.
¹ Just in passing: Most of the kids in my class were white and Jewish. I was one of only three goyim. There were two black kids. Most of us have stayed in touch for 65 years. We never heard from the black kids again, even though we tried hard to find them for our 50th reunion.
Edit: recently found one – he was delighted to be contacted!
² Some white people in this country know what it’s like, even if for a brief time. I refer you to the depredations suffered by members of the newly-formed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as they were cursed, hunted, slaughtered, mobbed, abused, robbed, subject to a statewide legal extermination order, and driven west across the country from 1830 to 1847. It was a small taste of what slaves and their descendants have suffered for over 400 years. But the point is that unless you’ve experienced this kind of systemic hatred and persecution first hand, you can’t really understand what it’s like.
Edit: It occurred to me some time after writing this post that understanding persecution does not always automatically translate into compassion and sensitivity. The history of the Latter-day Saints with regard to people of color is unenviable.
³ Although the text has been widely shared with critical details redacted, Inside Higher Ed posted the relevant details to show that this was an actual event that really and truly happened.
⁴ With thanks to redditor u/shittymorph for the useful reference.
This was an odd one. It happened at a Naval Air Station, where people essentially carry weapons for a living. So that muddies the water a bit. And, it turns out that the perp was a Saudi national, and an aviation student to boot, which raises a *whole* lot of questions in my mind, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Before anything else, my heart is broken for those impacted; the victims, their families, and their loved ones. People die every day from all sorts of reasons – illness, unavoidable accidents, natural causes, even violence – but death by terrorism is especially hard on those left behind. And I make no apologies for calling it that. I am deeply sorry for your loss.
But now comes the summum bonum of this post: According to CBS News, ” The number of mass shootings across the U.S. thus far in 2019 has outpaced the number of days this year, according to a gun violence research group. Before this year has even ended, 2019 has already had more mass shootings than any year since the research group started keeping track.”
This doesn’t even take into account the little ones. Individual shootings by unbalanced or patently evil people. As of today, the total is 36,518. Now, in terms of national statistics, that’s only roughly 3/4 the number of deaths by suicide from any cause, according to the CDC, and almost the same number as automobile fatalities in 2018. So some might argue that in terms of overall numbers, it’s not a big deal.
But it is. It’s a big deal. It’s too many, and too horrible, and too traumatizing, and gun violence takes adults, and children, and breaks hearts and shatters families and reduces our safety (the NRA would argue the opposite) and the quality of our life.
So here’s the question, directed at those of my friends and associates who fall on the “cold, dead hands” side of the equation:
What are you going to do to stop this carnage. What are you doing right now to make sure that guns don’t get into the wrong hands, the hands of people who will use them to destroy the innocent?
I exhort you: don’t get me wrong. I support the 2nd Amendment as long as it remains part of the Constitution.
These are patches and such that I earned as a youth. I remain proud of them to this day. I learned gun safety and responsibility and enjoyed target shooting immensely. (Thanks, Hutch.) We own a 30-30. I’m not a “gun grabber,” as the NRA loves to pigeonhole people who advocate for gun control. But the situation today has far exceeded what I consider madness.
The courts have repeatedly ruled that you have the right to assemble an arsenal that would be the envy of a small nation. I think that if the Founders, in their wisdom, could see what that those 27 words had wrought in our day and age, they would weep in outrage and promptly need to go home and change their pants. But that’s my interpretation, and the wisdom of the 2nd is not what I’m discussing. It’s a fact, and we need to deal with things as they are.
I think our nation would be far safer if there were no guns in private hands, but if the right to bear arms is never going away, it needs to be tempered with a responsibility to bear arms safely, and I support treating guns in the same way we treat cars, none of which contravenes the wording of the 2nd Amendment:
Gun owners should be trained, licensed, and insured for each type of weapon owned.
All weapons should be annually registered, inspected, and taxed.
So what are your solutions? How will you preserve your rights and still stop the daily carnage? Change my mind.
¹ Note: I’m inviting comments for this post, despite the fact that it’s a divisive and often inflammatory issue. I have attempted to be as impartial and even-handed as possible in laying out my feelings. Comments that are ad-hominem attacks (i.e. “You gun-grabbing pussy!”) or not based on reason (“I disagree!”) will simply be deleted without ever being seen. I want to know how you would fix things, and preserving the status quo is not an option. So choose your words wisely.
Cross-posted from Livejournal and updated 11-8-2018
☞ The executive summary is, “Because it doesn’t go far enough.” ☜
A photo gallery at Time Magazine brought this issue to the front of my mind again, where it has been many times. Swirling around in the mass of insignificant facts and rabid squirrels that inhabit my brain are thoughts that keep coming back to me over and over again, many of which have to do with the overwhelming societal cost that we are paying for a failing war on drugs.
If recent statistics (CDC, 2009) are to be believed, 6.6% of people over 12 were using marijuana at least once a month – a total of 23.1 million people (minus the ones under 12). That’s us. We’re the ones who are funding the carnage in Mexico as drug cartels battle for turf and slaughter countless people in their quest for American drug dollars.
Prohibition is Ineffective
We saw how well Prohibition worked… all it did was put the country’s alcohol revenue into the hands of the criminal element. Whenever money is to be made, the bad guys will be there in force, because they don’t care how they get it.
“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.”Cato Institute Policy Analysis
The Social Costs are considerably less than those associated with tobacco and alcohol
The societal costs of alcohol are enormous, whereas the social impact of cannabis use is significantly less.
“In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.”(Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Canada)
I can’t recall the last time I heard of some high-flying husband beating his wife and children; it’s hard to be aggressive when you’re giggling. That’s said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but in all my life I have never encountered an angry pot user, whereas the number of bar fights that go on in cities and towns all around America, followed by nights in the slammer and subsequent taking out of infantile anger on innocent domestic partners and children is beyond anyone’s ability to count. The same holds true for violent crime, sexual assault and date rape.
Ask any emergency-room doc, nurse, or EMT: alcohol use contributes to reckless behavior and serious injuries, and it is highly associated with emergency room visits; such visits directly associated with cannabis would hardly make a blip on the radar.
Take the Money Away From the Criminal Element
Drug tunnels like these, as well as illegal farms in national forests and elsewhere, with all their associated risks to innocent citizenry, would become a thing of the past if cannabis were freely available, regulated and taxed in the same way tobacco is.
“The libertarian Cato Institute just issued a detailed statistical analysis on how ending prohibition – a favored term for supporters of pot reform – could help America’s budget woes. According to the much-discussed study, legalizing all illicit drugs would save the government $41.3 billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate some $46.7 billion in tax revenue; marijuana would account for $8.7 billion of the savings, and another $8.7 billion in taxes. Legalized marijuana would certainly help fatten state coffers in debt-crippled California, where pot is the biggest agricultural crop, with $14 billion a year in sales that never appear on tax returns.” (Newsweek, “The Conservative Case for Legalizing Pot”).
Further thoughts on the tax advantages appeared in the LA Times on 8/27/10.
Prosecution of recreational THC users and those who require it for valid medical reasons is wasting billions of tax dollars directly and indirectly, and taking valuable law enforcement hours away from issues that are significantly more important. Based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, legalization will have a negligible impact on usage which is already there, and will have societal benefits far greater than any potential increase in disadvantages.
I’m by no means for blanket legalization of all illicit drugs, but at this point marijuana appears to be a no-brainer in terms of cost-benefit analysis. The usage is already there. In a sense, not legalizing it is an immoral act, given how much blood and carnage is resulting from the activity of the Mexican cartels which we are directly funding.
If people could walk down to their local package store for some quality-controlled, legal cannabis, who in their right mind would risk buying it from illegal sources? The illegal marijuana market would simply dry up.
There will be those who question why I’m taking such a position, especially in light of my own religion’s stance on the use of things as mild as tea and coffee, let alone alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Make no mistake: I’m convinced that if people would give up the use of all harmful and/or addictive substances, the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our nation would rise dramatically, and countless billions of dollars would be saved. That said, I am simply looking at the numbers. Legalization would save lives, free up law-enforcement resources, and redirect funds from the criminal element to other critical social needs. I can’t look at it any other way.
Progress is being made. Canada has legalized marijuana, and just this week they experienced a severe legal problem: there isn’t enough of it.
In the United States, the non-medical use of cannabis is decriminalized in 13 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalized in another 10 states (plus the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands), as of November 2018. (Wikipedia)
It’s time to get cannabis out of the hands of criminals, and good people – who have committed an offense no worse than a three-martini lunch – out of prison.
Now, put away your pitchforks and torches and listen to this amazing video by Aya Korem (it’s in Hebrew with English subtitles, but you’ll have to read fast because she does the equality run in less than 12 parsecs¹:
I asked this question over on Facebook:
Answer me this: why should more than 50% of the earth’s population be given a single day of celebration? Just sayin’.
Listening to Ms. Korem, I was reminded of the following exchange Morgan Freeman had with Mike Wallace on 60 Minutes:
WALLACE: Black History Month, you find …
FREEMAN: You’re going to relegate my history to a month?
WALLACE: Come on.
FREEMAN: What do you do with yours? Which month is White History Month? Come on, tell me.
WALLACE: I’m Jewish.
FREEMAN: OK. Which month is Jewish History Month?
WALLACE: There isn’t one.
FREEMAN: Why not? Do you want one?
WALLACE: No, no.
FREEMAN: I don’t either. I don’t want a Black History Month. Black history is American history.
WALLACE: How are we going to get rid of racism until …?
FREEMAN: Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man. And I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man. I know you as Mike Wallace. You know me as Morgan Freeman. You’re not going to say, “I know this white guy named Mike Wallace.” Hear what I’m saying?
So yes, I get it. Happy International Women’s Day. It’s never inappropriate to celebrate the accomplishments of anyone. But in today’s world of #MeToo and #TimesUp, it seems jejune to celebrate half (more than half, statistically) of humanity by giving them a single day.
When we achieve the kind of gender equality that people of humanity strive for, the kind of equality that Morgan Freeman was alluding to, then we can truly celebrate.
¹ Any respectable Star Wars fan knows that a parsec is a measure of distance, not speed. It’s a joke.
On the Media is “WNYC’s weekly investigation into how the media shapes our world view. Veteran journalists Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield give you the tools to survive the media maelstrom.”
A recent segment intriguingly addresses the PEOTUS’ twitter-storm, and how the media should appropriately respond.
As we all know, Donald Trump’s tweets have become a potent force in our new era. On the one hand, a single tweet can cripple opponents, activate supporters, move markets, and subsume the news cycle. On the other, they’re a window into Trump’s wee-hours, unfiltered id. But when his tweets are full of half-truths, distortions, and often bold-faced lies, should journalists treat them as normal presidential utterances, or something else? Cognitive linguist George Lakoff believes that the press must understand how Trump uses language if we’re to responsibly report on his tweets, not just magnify their misinformation. He talks with Brooke about the categories he’s come up with for thinking about Trump tweets.
A summary of the categories:
Preemptive Re-framing – Trump’s tweet stated, “In addition to winning the Electoral College in a landslide, I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” This was rated “Pants on Fire” by Politifact, but it effectively re-frames the popular vote in the minds of those who see the tweet, thus distorting the facts in the public arena.
The Diversion Tweet – This kind of tweet is akin to the magician’s misdirectional “nothing up my sleeve.” While you’re busy looking at his or her sleeve to be sure, jiggery-pokery is happening elsewhere. A good example is focusing on Hamilton, as Trump did when he tweeted “The Theater must always be a safe and special place.The cast of Hamilton was very rude last night to a very good man, Mike Pence. Apologize!” In this way, people focus on Hamilton rather than the $25 million settlement in the case of fraud allegations against Trump University.
The Trial Balloon – Send up something and see how the public reacts, so you’ll know what to do in the future. When Trump tweeted, “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” he watched to see how the public responded to this idea; in this case there was a brief discussion about nuclear policy which quickly faded from the public consciousness.
Deflection – In which you attack the messenger. After being pointedly called out by Meryl Streep for mocking a disabled reporter, Trump attacked the messenger: “Meryl Streep, one of the most over-rated actresses in Hollywood, doesn’t know me but attacked last night at the Golden Globes. She is a Hillary flunky who lost big. For the 100th time, I never “mocked” a disabled reporter (would never do that) but simply showed him “groveling” when he totally changed a 16 year old story that he had written in order to make me look bad. Just more very dishonest media!” The video is out there; no matter how much he denies it, Trump’s actions can not be interpreted as anything other than cruel mockery of a man’s afflictions – but attacking Ms. Streep, one of the most accomplished and versatile actresses of this generation, deflect’s the public’s view from the issue at hand. This was also evident as Trump attacked Buzzfeed, CNN, and the BBC around reports on the supposed Russian dossier.
Lastly, Lakoff presents an example of a Trump tweet that uses all four strategies at once:
“Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to “leak” into the public. One last shot at me.Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
Pre-emptive framing: “This is fake news.”
Diversion – Getting the public to discuss whether or not this is fake news rather than addressing the issue itself.
Deflection – Attacking the messengers
Trial balloon – Will the intelligence agencies be stopped, and are they working like Nazi Germany?
And, of course, tucked away in the tweet is the invocation of a corollary to Godwin’s Law: In any online discussion, whoever first brings up a reference to Hitler has lost the argument, and the discussion is ended.
Lakoff’s suggestions for the press on how to handle the onslaught of 3 AM tweets, as well as the entire podcast (it’s only about 8 minutes long) are well worth the listen.
Updated 2/23/2018 after the Pennsylvania school shooting and the Las Vegas Massacre.
Edit Again, after the Uvalde massacre: Sensible and meaningful gun control is more critical now than ever before.
Note: This blog is not a place for debate. If you have a pressing need to prattle the NRA poison, do so on your own website, not here.
An image has resurfaced on Facebook lately highlighting a quote from former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger:
I did a litte digging just to make sure this wasn’t Snopes-worthy, and it turns out that this quote came from a PBS News Hour interview in 1991 and is correctly attributed to Chief Justice Burger.
With two school shootings in two weeks, (Oregon last week, and Arizona yesterday), it seems only right to be asking questions.
An article originally published in Parade magazine in 1990, asks some really good ones (excerpt below), and I submit it here for consideration. At the time of this update, you can still see the full article at Google Books (click the link for page 377):
The Constitution does not mention automobiles or motorboats, but the right to keep and own an automobile is beyond question; equally beyond question is the power of the state to regulate the purchase or the transfer of such a vehicle and the right to license the vehicle and the driver with reasonable standards. In some places, even a bicycle must be registered, as must some household dogs.
If we are to stop this mindless homicidal carnage, is it unreasonable:
to provide that, to acquire a firearm, an application be made reciting age, residence, employment and any prior criminal convictions?
to required that this application lie on the table for 10 days (absent a showing for urgent need) before the license would be issued?
that the transfer of a firearm be made essentially as with that of a motor vehicle? to have a “ballistic fingerprint” of the firearm made by the manufacturer and filed with the license record so
that, if a bullet is found in a victim’s body, law enforcement might be helped in finding the culprit?
These are the kind of questions the American people must answer if we are to preserve the “domestic tranquillity” promised in the Constitution.
What is clear is that in today’s society, the domestic tranquility is not being preserved, nor are the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. School shootings appear in the news regularly, but less-reported is the daily slaughter in our inner cities and elsewhere, for example the recent murders of a dog walker and a backpacker by three drifters in California. Articles like this surface, are news for a day, and are then forgotten, and nobody seems to care that gang-bangers are killing each other and innocent bystanders with reckless abandon. For the victims of such acts of violence, somehow those inalienable rights are failing to apply, and it must stop.
By Warren E. Burger, Chief Justice of the United States (1969-86) Parade Magazine, January 14, 1990, page 4
The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment can be summarized by two flags that I’ve seen flying in my own neighborhood:
both of which echo the “cold dead hands” sentiment originated by the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms and popularized by Charlton Heston.
One of my European colleagues asked, at a Facebook discussion of this issue,
You do realize that, seen from abroad, you all seem to have taken leave of your senses?
A libertarian friend of mine responded,
And from an American’s perspective, … you appear to be incredibly vulnerable.
These are the views from the polar opposites. We have to find a middle ground, and we have to stop the carnage. Not to do so is to sacrifice our humanity at the altar of death. With the words of Warren Burger ringing in my ears – and it’s to be remembered that he was a conservative justice, not a liberal one – the questions he asks appear both valid and sane.