El Gringoqueño

All a man needs out of life is a place to sit ‘n’ spit in the fire.

Category: Politics (page 1 of 3)

Atlas Is a Myth

This is a scene from the book Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I have taken the liberty of inserting myself into it in order to argue with Francisco d’Anconia’s stupidity. I’m not sure yet if he’s meant to be an ironic character or what, but whatever. In the scene I am taller, more eloquent, and better looking than in real life. Hah! James Taggart is the brother of the main female protagonist Dagny Taggart, and a jealous moron. Not only does he seem to be stupid, but tries to sabotage his sister at every turn. He’s also a strawman for what Ayn Rand seems to think is the best of the socialist idealist. Francisco d’Anconia is an from an Argentinian mining family and former lover of Dagny. In this scene he has returned from a disastrous mining venture in Mexico where the entirety of his and the Taggart’s operations have been seized by the state. We currently find James and Francisco mingling at a party thrown by the wife of another industrialist.

James Taggart had approached the group and was waiting to be noticed.

“Hello, Francisco.”

“Good evening, James.”

“What a wonderful coincidence, seeing you here! I’ve been very anxious to speak to you.”

“That’s new. You haven’t always been.”

“Now you’re joking, just like in the old days.” Taggart was moving slowly, as if casually, away from the group, hoping to draw Francisco after him. “You know that there’s not a person in this room who wouldn’t love to talk to you.”

“Really? I’d be inclined to suspect the opposite.” Francisco had followed obediently, but stopped within hearing distance of the others.

“I have tried in every possible way to get in touch with you,” said Taggart, “but . . . but circumstances didn’t permit me to succeed.”

“Are you trying to hide from me the fact that I refused to see you?”

“Well . . . that is … I mean, why did you refuse?”

“I couldn’t imagine what you wanted to speak to me about.”

“The San Sebastián Mines, of course!” Taggart’s voice rose a little.

“Why, what about them?”

One of the group edged closer to James and Francisco, drawn by Taggart’s rising agitation. He was tall and heavy and barrel chested. In contrast to the angular high cheekbones of the lot of them, his face was smooth, rounded, and punctuated by an ample chin. He looked more at home bailing hay than holding a drink.

“Pardon me,” he smiled reaching his hand out. “I couldn’t help but overhear this talk of the mines. Do go on, and pay no attention to me. Pretend I am but a fly on the wall. We can all hear you anyway, but I’d prefer to just be up front about it.”

James shot him a sideways glance and reluctantly returned the handshake. Francisco straightened up to match the height of the interloper, and greeted him. “Pleased to meet your acquaintance. Didn’t catch you name.”

“Oh, my name is unimportant. Fly on the wall an’ all that. I must hear about these mines.”

Taggart turned himself to Francisco giving the interloper his back the best he could. “But . . . Now, look, Francisco, this is serious. It’s a disaster, an unprecedented disaster—and nobody can make any sense out of it. I don’t know what to think. I don’t understand it at all. I have a right to know.”

“A right? Aren’t you being old-fashioned, James? But what is it you want to know?”

“Well, first of all, that nationalization—what are you going to do about it?”

“Nothing.”

“Nothing?!”

The interloper smiled and sipped his drink, his eyes twinkling.

“But surely you don’t want me to do anything about it. My mines and your railroad were seized by the will of the people. You wouldn’t want me to oppose the will of the people, would you?”

“Francisco, this is not a laughing matter!”

“I never thought it was.”

“I’m entitled to an explanation! You owe your stockholders an account of the whole disgraceful affair! Why did you pick a worthless mine? Why did you waste all those millions? What sort of rotten swindle was it?”

Francisco stood looking at him in polite astonishment. “Why, James,” he said, “I thought you would approve of it.”

“Approve?!”

The interloper spat his drink, unable to contain his laughter. “Sorry about that,” he said wiping liquid from his lips. “I didn’t get any on you, Mr. Taggart, did I?”

“No.”

“Sorry, I know I said I was going to be a fly on the wall, but I really must know, Francisco. Who would approve of a worthless mine? Comeon, my man, you mustn’t play so, toying with James like that. He’s asked a valid question, and he deserves an earnest response.”

Francisco smirked. So it was to be two on one, eh? He was the great Francisco d‘Anconia. This should get good.

“I thought you would consider the San Sebastián Mines as the practical realization of an ideal of the highest moral order. Remembering that you and I have disagreed so often in the past, I thought you would be gratified to see me acting in accordance with your principles.”

“What are you talking about?”

Francisco shook his head regretfully. “I don’t know why you should call my behavior rotten. I thought you would recognize it as an honest effort to practice what the whole world is preaching. Doesn’t everyone believe that it is evil to be selfish? I was totally selfless in regard to the San Sebastian project. Isn’t it evil to pursue a personal interest? I had no personal interest in it whatever. Isn’t it evil to work for profit? I did not work for profit—I took a loss. Doesn’t everyone agree that the purpose and justification of an industrial enterprise are not production, but the livelihood of its employees? The San Sebastián Mines were the most eminently successful venture in industrial history: they produced no copper, but they provided a livelihood for thousands of men who could not have achieved, in a lifetime, the equivalent of what they got for one day’s work, which they could not do.

Isn’t it generally agreed that an owner is a parasite and an exploiter, that it is the employees who do all the work and make the product possible? I did not exploit anyone. I did not burden the San Sebastián Mines with my useless presence; I left them in the hands of the men who count. I did not pass judgment on the value of that property. I turned it over to a mining specialist. He was not a very good specialist, but he needed the job very badly. Isn’t it generally conceded that when you hire a man for a job, it is his need that counts, not his ability? Doesn’t everyone believe that in order to get the goods, all you have to do is need them? I have carried out every moral precept of our age. I expected gratitude and a citation of honor. I do not understand why I am being damned.”

The interloper’s belly laugh filled the room. So loud, it was, that all turned to him. “Oh, I’m so sorry,” he said wiping a tear from his eye, “I sometimes forget myself. Francisco, you can’t possibly believe all that vomit that just came out of your mouth? Tell me, man, is your hyperbole meant to be ironic? If it is, bravo for painting the most deliciously ridiculous portrait of a Socialist that I have ever seen. If not, then -” and he chuckled loudly, “then may God have mercy on your soul.”

Francisco, turned toward the man, nudging Taggart from orbit. “Pray tell, sir, what do you mean? I was being honest. Sincere.”

“Oh. Well then. Then you have taken careful pains to depict your adversary’s argument in the worst possible light, haven’t you, Señor d‘Anconia? Perhaps Taggart is a charity case to your wit. I mean, we all know it’s his sister that’s the smart one in the family, but you can’t possibly ascribe to him and his ilk such a dreadfully idiotic and logically fallacious position. No offense, Mr. Taggart,” he said touching his shoulder.

If James Taggart had any inclination that the stranger would have been a sympathetic associate in the face of Francisco, that pretense had been destroyed.

In the silence of those who had listened, the sole comment was the shrill, sudden giggle of Betty Pope: she had understood nothing, but she saw the look of helpless fury on James Taggart’s face.

People were looking at Taggart, expecting an answer. They were indifferent to the issue, they were merely amused by the spectacle of someone’s embarrassment. Taggart achieved a patronizing smile and walked away.

“Hah!” bellowed the stranger. “I’ll give you your answer, Francisco. It’s down to you. And it is down to me. Let me first help you understand why your mines failed, my man. They failed because you didn’t give a lick of care to them or the workers, for the geological survey, for the operations, and for the investment. How could you even make such a statement as to having given to them all livelihoods? You and I both know that is ridiculous. It’s the kind of point that a college freshman makes after his first semester of microeconomics. Take for example the case of a state-mandated minimum wage – “

“Yes, let’s.” said Francisco.

“Yes, minimum wage. So one would say in a free society that labor should seek its own value and that business should be free to pay for it what the market will bear. In our society we have established a minimum that one should be able to accept and what one should be able to pay. The buffoon, the ignorant, the ill-educated might ask, where does it all end? If such and such quantity is good, why not make the minimum a thousand dollars an hour or a million? Where will it end? You would say that it would end with the rumination of society, where everybody is converted into a moocher or a looter. You have educated us, Señor d‘Anconia, and thank you for it. Thank you for revealing our silly suppositions and saving us from ourselves.

“Let me give you a better scenario. Let me give some respect to the argument and introduce a key concept that seems to have gone missing in the mix.”

“And what would that be?”

“Sustainability, my friend. Sustainability. Your little educative adventure in San Sebastián was an exercise in useless motion, lots of sound and fury but signifying nothing. Keep the same altruism. Keep the same tenants of providing good jobs. Keep the same principles of happy well paid workers, but put a dash of sustainability into the batter. You’ve got to find some copper, don’t you? Without producing anything in the mine, you may as well have put your money in a pile and lit it on fire. You benefited no one, save  your immense ego.

“You cannot simply take the idea that an individual should be free to do exactly what he wants in the way he wants to do it and extend it to all things in all ways. If a drink of water is good for you, an ocean dumped upon your head must be better. Moderation, my man, moderation. You can’t simply take a little of something and double it, thinking that it will be all the better. Is the needle moving too far into government control? Perhaps. But that’s a discussion that good people can have. If government meddles too much perhaps it distorts markets, creating unintended outcomes. If the government meddles too little, the greedy will exploit – well everything and they too distorting the market. You know this is true, because history has shown it, or was the French Revolution a response to nothing? Were the kings and royals the only true makers? They had palaces and riches while the third estate had their famine and filth. Did they deserve it? Is the vast majority of humanity simply defective in some way, Señor d‘Anconia? Do they deserve the lot they were born into?

“Let me ask you a question. How much of what you have did you start with? You might have doubled it, because you’re a hard worker, impassioned, smart, driven – but there’s this trouble of being born on third base and believing you’ve hit a triple. You grew up with the best schools, global travel, opportunities for leisure, learning, all of it with the safety net of your family’s fortune and reputation.

“Are not those who toil in your mines and ventures worthy of human dignity, to not simply be some sort of social experiment for you to toy with? Should they have had the schools that you had? Should they have had the same opportunities that you’ve had? Are you inherently superior? Do you cry for their children whom you have crushed with your useless operation?

“Did you deserve those things you were born into, Francisco? Even if you were to tear it all asunder, as you seem to be doing, I am convinced that you could rebuild even from zero, because no one can take away your inheritance of self – your mind as it was expanded, nurtured, tested, and filled.” The stranger paused. Francisco had gone quiet, chewing his lip and looking restless.

“I have taken too much of your time, I’m afraid. Don’t worry, Francisco, I’ll leave you with one final thought. If you had been born to nothing, having only inherited the poverty of your father, and your father’s father, do you think you would be where you are today? You may be, but would it be likely? Today, with your immense wealth you would attempt to throw off the shackles of oppression by the looters and the moochers, but is not poverty itself the greatest ball and chain?” The stranger took a breath, downed his drink and placed the empty glass upon a passing tray. “Be better, Francisco. You must be better. I am reminded of an African proverb – if you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to go far, go with others. Do you want to go far, Francisco?”

His Domain is Chaos

I am terribly sorry that these entries continue to highlight our dear leader, President Trump. Uggh, even just typing those words gives me shudders. But whatever. It is what it is. I’m still trying to process how it came to be, how this bombastic spaz wormed his way into the White House. How did he pull the wool over so many eyes? How come so many didn’t see him for what he was?

And then it hit me. I think his domain is chaos. He thrives in chaos, where his certainty is an asset. Push and bully and throw down and insult and nickname and pick at insecurities and non-sequitur and lies and half truths and loudness and brashness. Rinse, lather, and repeat.

Trump’s skill seems to derive directly from his creation of chaos.

When I was a young engineer, I worked in construction management in Boston and California. In both places it was both super white and super racist, filled with big trash talking egos that seemed to not have the good of the project in their hearts. It was all about ego and what you could pull over on the other guy. Look for loop holes in the contract, lay blame for missed deadlines and failures at the feet of others, be aggressive, grandstand, bully, don’t back down. So many meetings ended in boisterous yelling matches, with the side wink in the car on the way back to the office. It was all an act and sickening in so many ways. I was an earnest engineer trying to follow the letter of the law, but I learned quickly that the letter was just the starting point. This is how we do things, Jimbo.

It makes sense to me that Trump’s biggest gun on his deck is his teams of lawyers. When what is written is only your starting point, your legal team is there to mash it up, twist it to your favor. Clinton’s famously small potatoes, “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is” seems laughably innocent at this point.

If Anne Frank believes at the end of the day, that most people are good, I am going to conclude that this is the default position for most people, that is, most people know most people are good, and they comport themselves in good faith, expecting the same from others.

When your super power is a lack of empathy and the ability to thrive in chaos, you know that most people will not call your bluff. Most people try to placate. Most people look at themselves and ask, “what did I do wrong?” And when confronted with a great angry beast, they try to pacify, acquiesce, and calm it. It knocks them off their game, and it is there that Trump seizes the upper hand.

It all boils down to the old adage, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

More Unsolicited Advice for our Dear Leader

Yes, of course border crossings should be controlled and documented. I don’t think anyone is really saying that borders should just be open. I know the radical right likes to paint the left as “for open borders,” but that’s not really the case, and you know it.

What do you do when a mass of people arrive at the border and may perhaps just overrun agents tasked with processing and documenting their entries? What happens when people won’t respect the queue? It can happen, I know, but what do you do? Do you use force? I’d say that if you use force, you’ve already lost.

For starters, you begin by setting the conditions for orderly behavior. You see, once a crisis has arrived at your doorstep, if you have not established a plan, you’re going to fail. By whipping up the rhetoric, dehumanizing, demonizing, and terrorizing these migrants for weeks preceding their arrival, you’ve established the conditions conducive to chaos and fear.

What did you expect to happen?

I fully admit, perhaps this tough and horrifying scene, tear gas, desperate people trying to breach walls, etc, may have played directly into the strategy of our dear leader to further his aims with his base. Again, I know I am probably naive.

What should have been done, though? What would you do if you knew this large group of people was coming en masse, and you probably didn’t have the facilities to process them in a timely or orderly manner? Here is my three step plan:

First, you need to work with the Mexican government to coordinate healthcare, food, and housing for them on the Mexican side while they await processing. Receive them with compassion. Treat them as humanely as possible. These are human beings. I know it’s easy to forget, so I’m reminding you, dear leader.

Second, the US needed to have put out the word, through NGOs in contact with the migrants that their asylum petitions WILL be processed. Tamp down the rhetoric. Calm their fears. When they get to the border, they will be accommodated in their immediate needs (it would certainly be a LOT cheaper than deploying troops to the border, d’uh).

Third, augment capacity to process them fairly on the US side of the border. It’d still be cheaper than troops. Just make sure you ramp up the numbers of bureaucrats, judges, and lawyers taking petitions. Expedite the process. Keep it fair. If the Trump administration’s inclination is to deny deny deny, so be it. But keep it fair. Do not separate parents from children. Do not unnecessarily inflict cruelty upon them. If you’re going to deny their application, have a sound and fair reason for doing so.

So you admit a few asylum seekers, and leave the bulk on the Mexican side of the border. Now what?

The next step would be to provide assistance to the Mexican government for temporary placement. I’m not saying that you have to do it all, but work with the Mexican government to resolve the matter of these people without homes. Jobs programs? Education? Healthcare? Good neighbors care about what happens to each other. Good neighbors have productive dialog. If you really do not want Mexicans or other Latin American folks coming to the US, work harder to foment stable conditions in their home countries instead of CIA backed right wing coups.

You Have the House, Now What Do You Do?

My advice – pursue the business of the people of the United States and don’t waste your time parrying and counter punching with Trump. You do you.

Set an agenda and pursue it. If it doesn’t pass the Senate or if it does, isn’t signed by the President, don’t sweat it. Remember Newt’s “Contract with America?” Maybe you should propose something similar.

Whatever the case, just keep on. Be faithful, steady, consistent. You’ll win nothing, no dignity, no respect, no results, none by simply investigating and blocking anything Trump wants to do. And worse, you’ll lose legitimacy by simply being obstructionist. Nobody likes that.

Got it?

Are these really the only Democrats that Republicans care about?

I am starting to notice a pattern. Are Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Nancy Pelosi, Elizabeth Warren, Maxine Waters, and Kamala Harris, really the only Democrats Republicans care about – or, is the right just afraid of women who speak up?

There are men on the left as well, no?

I just wanna say

Although I agree ideologically with people that are upset at officials within the Trump administration, if you are berating someone while they are having a meal or kicking them out of your restaurant, you are a crackpot.

Okay, I Get it. Small Government is Best. The Constitution Never Made Provisions for Social Welfare…

…but can we stop fetishizing the “founding fathers?” Please?

I do get “it,” though. The nearly religious beliefs of the right are that the founding fathers were enlightened individuals endowed with some sort of special insight into what it takes to govern. They had the prescience to foresee all the basic needs of humanity going forwards hundreds of years. They were brilliant and made the US Constitution so specific and at the same time so general as to make it universally applicable. Bravo. Clap clap. Here’s a gem from the Declaration of Independence:

All men are created equal.

All men?

Well not African men, or African women or children for that matter.

What about white women?

Are they men?

No.

Then not them.

You see how this is starting to sound like the Monty Python Cheese shoppe skit, right?

These are the same guys who didn’t see the acute moral problem of slavery? Oh, but it was the times, you say. Times were different. Sensibilities were different. They did the best with what they had. I could agree with you, yes. But then you want to eat all that delicious slave cake too when you ascribe to them some sort of mystical transcendental infallibility. They knew exactly what our modern diverse society needed but had no clue about their own time? Remember, for as long as there has been slavery there have been abolitionists. Don’t give me that, “they didn’t know better” crock. Lots of people knew it was wrong. How come our super smart humanist Enlightenment thinker guys didn’t get that “little” detail right too?

Bah! Stop fetishizing the past, the Constitution, and the founding fathers. I do not want to be shackled by them (for many it would be literal) to a history replete with genocide, injustice, inequality, slavery, no collective bargaining, where half the population had no vote, where the monied and the landed had all the power, where the rich made laws that benefited them and exploited the masses. Wait! Hold up, I’m starting to think this sounds vaguely like the present. Maybe the founding fathers had it right all along, and this outcome is exactly what they intended.

My prediction. The Republican tax cut bill will increase inequality in the U.S. The rich will get richer. The poor will find their ranks swelling. Maybe if we wish hard enough we can go back to the way things were in 1788 and make America great again.

Denormalization

I’ve been ruminating on this public catfight between the left and right for quite some time, trying to wrap my head around the subject, the debate, and the issues. Is it really a debate of equal sides of the same coin? Am I deluded? Are they deluded? Is there a way to peer through the veil and find something resembling an absolute truth of the matter? Who is right? Are both right, but different?

Some have said, that the difference is one of evidence vs emotion. That is, the “right” thing is what you feel in your gut. You don’t really know “why” in the sense of logic, but you say, “of course” we shouldn’t just let people immigrate to our country, and of course, tax cuts fuel the economy, and of course, the poor should just work harder if they want to get ahead. It’s their values that are to blame for their poverty.

Are there studies pro or con that elucidate these concepts? Ayn Rand doesn’t count as an authoritative source, by the way.

On the left, perhaps you might have the same effect working against you. One might think that their assumptions are just as emotional and just as possibly spurious as the ones on the right. Is the left’s “evidence” just as biased as the right’s?

I worry about this. Could I be confirming my own biases by consuming news, opinion, and research that just reinforces a particular left-leaning worldview?

I think it boils down to one’s normalized experiences and a lack of opportunity to break from them. You can make your own opportunities, but I think we need to be better as a society to promote a difference of perspective.

When a person is normalized to a particular upbringing and experience, it causes them to view the world and to perceive what is normal based on those patterns. If you are a white person, living in middle class suburb in the upper Midwest, with white middle class neighbors, then what is “normal” for you is what you experience every day. The police are friendly and helpful. The schools are fine and dandy. You pay your taxes and the potholes get fixed in a timely manner. Sure, there are challenges, like Tammy the gossip at work, or the fact that you’ve got too many bills to pay and not enough to pay them with. You wish you had more, but the new car will have to wait until you get get the much needed repairs to your vinyl siding. Your worries for your children in high school consist of keeping them on the straight and narrow. Don’t get pregnant, and don’t impregnate anyone, you exhort. Don’t be having sex, and you monitor them and make sure that you’re aware. Sure, they could get into trouble, but you’re present and try to do your best. Some of the kids are drinking and smoking marijuana. Say no, kids. Then they study, take their SATs and get into a decent college you can afford (albeit with some financial aid).

Whew, we did it. We worked hard, put food on the table, raised smart kids that are now studying and doing what they are supposed to be doing. We deserve these successes because we earned them.

You suddenly hear about Black Lives Matter. What are these people complaining about? They’re just rabble-rousers. They’re ingrates, uppity. Don’t they know that they need to have good values and make better choices in order to achieve what they want? They just want to take from what little you think you have. Let them earn and merit the same things you have. Nobody gave you anything. And you believe that the so-called reality that these people espouse just isn’t true, because it conflicts with your own truths.

In Puerto Rico, we say, “El ladrón juzga por su propia condición.” The criminal judges by his own condition, that is, if you lie, you expect that everybody lies. If you steal you comport yourself as if everyone steals. The flip side of this is that if you are a generally good, honest, hard-working person, you expect that everyone else is like this as well. Police mistreatment of the poor just doesn’t jibe with your experiences. You’ve always seen them as friendly, conscious, devoted public servants. I mean they came to your neighborhood watch meeting and were always so helpful whenever you called them. You don’t see yourself as privileged or particularly special. You have always treated others with courtesy and deference, and you received it in kind, thinking that you merited it because of your behavior. Based on your normalized experiences you just can’t conceive that others are not treated the same way.

There must be something wrong with them.

I get that. I get how good, God-fearing, white Americans who are not particularly wealthy can come to the conclusion that the world is just, and that fair treatment begets fair treatment, and that those who fail generation after generation must be doing something wrong. It can’t be the system, because it’s the same system in which you’ve succeeded.

I can only come to the conclusion that it is through one’s own cultural normalization that these myths of fairness continue to perpetuate, that the false ideas of bootstrapping, of just say no, of family values, of poverty, that the world is fair, and that racism and xenophobia are dead continue to exist just inside the purview of a normalized and mostly white experience.

What can we do? Well, for one thing, I think that there should be a return to the professed Christian mandate to seek justice. Don’t make them come to you. Go to them. Find them. Listen to them. Believe them. Challenge your own normalization through a process of cultural and historical indoctrination. Accept the possibility that your assumptions about society and the “proper” way to do things may be wrong. They don’t have to be wrong, but allow for the possibility that they may be.

In short, don’t say, “I know.” Say, “I want to find out.”

Weapons Don’t Belong Everywhere

Before I go off on my rant, I just want to say, I do like firearms, but I don’t own any, because I don’t want the responsibility in my home with 4 children. That’s a personal choice, though.

I have had the privilege of firing quite a few different things in my time in the military and throughout my life.

Despite what the NRA says, there is a legitimate debate on where you draw the line of what you can own, what you can do with it, and who can own it. I don’t think we as a society want homicidal maniacs getting their hands on rocket propelled grenades, do we?

A registry and background check isn’t an unreasonable manner to facilitate our 2nd amendment rights. As a society, we should have procedures and laws, not anarchy, a wild west where the solution to every violent act with a gun is more guns. The first few words of the amendment are, “A well regulated Militia…” Some would argue that personal arsenals were never intended.

And don’t give me shit about the fact that “assault rifle” as a class doesn’t exist. Bullshit. A semi-automatic rifle packed with NATO 5.56 mm rounds and a muzzle velocity of around 3000ft/s is a helluva thing. It’s only purpose is to kill people. That’s why NATO uses these instruments in war. For assaulting the enemy. Sheesh. That the public calls them “assault rifles” is immaterial. You can accurately put a ton of rounds downrange at high velocity and they will kill every damn thing in the way. There is NO, absolutely no legitimate use for these types of military grade hardware in civilian life.

Oh, but it doesn’t do fully automatic, you’ll say. Well, I’m not so sure that’s a positive feature. I never put my M16 on full auto. That’s the way you miss your target and waste your ammo. You can empty a 30 round magazine before your first bullet hits the ground. I’d wager that if the Orlando shooter had modified his Sig Sauer to fire on full automatic, he probably wouldn’t have killed nearly as many people. He’d have emptied his magazine, missed most of his targets, and then been jumped by bystanders while he tried to reload.

Oh, but they’re fun to shoot! I agree, but the downside of mass murder is too much for me. I would very easily give up the right to own any high rate of fire assault style weapon it it meant no more deranged people could kill tons of people on a whim.

Open carry anywhere and everywhere?

If you’ve been on a military firing range, it’s a tense place. Safety is taken very seriously, I’ve sweated blood, I’m sure. You have to be aware to point your weapon down range at all times, make sure you clear the chamber, eject the magazine, put it on safety, exit and enter the firing line in an orderly fashion, all the while being aware that your weapon is to be considered loaded and ready to fire at all times and being aware of those around you. If you’re a good and conscientious person, then you’re going to be on guard during that time. For me, at least, it was stressful. One mistake and people die.

Do I really want some idiot eating next to me in a Longhorn steakhouse with his sidearm or assault rifle? I came to a restaurant, not a firing range.

Firearms are rightfully scary, and I don’t want to be scared 24/7. Everything in its place, if you ask me. Firearms don’t belong everywhere at all times.

Oh, but the only solution to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Now let’s also deal with the pathetically unlikely white knight scenario that the NRA likes to promote. Let’s say you’re in a loud night club and someone fires a shot. Do you honestly expect me to believe MORE GUNS in this scenario will fix the situation? Hmm, let’s see, multiple armed un-uniformed members of the general public all shooting at an assailant, but more likely each other.

The Aurora shooter was in a dark movie theater. How in the hell are you going to identify and neutralize the threat without yourself being a target? The “he shot first” defense isn’t going to work when all other gun wielding members of the public see are your muzzle flashes in the darkness.

How stupid is the NRA, Republican politicians?

I have never been in combat, but most anyone who has been in the military goes through infantry training which involves maneuvering and firing (blanks, pyrotechnics etc.). It is confusing as hell. It’s hard to tell where shots are coming from, especially with explosions around. You’re trying to listen to your squad leader, maneuver, and engage your objective. It’s stupid hard, and more often then not, when the opposition forces are revealed, they weren’t where you thought they were, and they weren’t doing what you thought they were.

When engaged in these sorts of exercises, you’re primed. You know what you have to do. You’re in battle mode. You’re not in a shopping mall trying to find clothes for your 4 year old. You honestly expect to be ready for a gun fight 24/7, identify the assailant and neutralize them before going back to the jean rack?

I. Do. Not. Want. To. Live. In. That. World.

And what do you do with law enforcement arrives? Who’s the bad guy shooter? At least the police wear uniforms so we know they’re the good guys (and sometimes even they shoot each other). Forget the fact that at Pulse in Orlando, the news initially reported multiple shooters. It turned out to be false, but do you honestly expect all gun owners in a crowded loud night club to have some super secret and accurate radar, or like in video games a little tag that floats above your head identifying friend or foe. Bah! It’s stupid. There is virtually no scenario where having a gun to defend yourself makes you or the general public safer. Mostly you’re going to get shot by the assailant or some other armed bystander who mistakes you for the bad guy. This is why we have police, people.

No, the way to make us safer as a society is to make sure that nobody can own a mass death device.

The US Constitution is Complete but not Done.

Oh blessed unerring document, we must protect its sacred words – or at least that’s what many on the right in the US would have us believe.  The US Constitution (including the Bill of Rights), was a complete, although unfinished, document and one upon which we are still working.  It is not the unerring words of our “founding fathers,” white men who did not implicitly protect, free speech, freedom of religion, physical freedom for people, free press, right to assemble, or the ability to seek redress from the government for grievances .

WTF, I hear you saying.  Go ahead and read it, as it was written, its original text. I’ll wait.

Here’s the first amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It didn’t say the states couldn’t.  And they did.  States had state religions, banned literature, restrictions on press etc, all the way until the 20th century.

At that time, the federal government did not explicitly prohibit these things, nor protect them as inalienable rights.  It simply said, Congress shall make no law restricting or establishing. I know you’re scratching your head.  You thought the Constitution was sacred, handed down by a Christian God.  Obama wants to destroy it.  He is a tyrant.  He wants to take away our guns.

Want to know who else was a tyrant?

Abraham Lincoln.  He was a tyrant because he wanted to expand the federal definition of freedom to the states.

Want to know something else?  Activist judges were the ones to encroach the constitutional protections to the states. Yes, activists judges (as the right likes to call them) gave you your freedom of speech and press.

When did this happen?

1925.  Did you get that?  It wasn’t until nineteen twenty-five that case law recognized that the Bill of Rights applied not just to the federal government, but to the states.  And it wasn’t even really over at the point.  It’s still being fought about.

So, let’s remember that the Constitution is not sacred in its original form.  It was a complete document, but we’ve been fleshing it out, still working on it, tweaking it to make it better lo these 230+ years.   It also goes hand in hand with just as many years of judicial precedent.

Intentions of our “founding fathers?”  Their intentions were noble, I imagine, but short-sighted.  They left out women, black people, none-land holding whites, did not protect freedom of speech, assembly, press, religion, did not prohibit involuntary servitude, and a whole host of things.

Once we see the document as above reproach we cease to grow as a nation as a people.

Our story as a nation and our document are not yet finished and they will continue to be written and perfected.  They are not perfect, just as we are not perfect.

We/it are works in progress.

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