On not being “political”

A quick recap: In the now-five weekends since school started, I have had two (2) weekends where students in my building lost younger siblings to gun violence– one who was playing with (or at least near someone who was playing with) a loaded weapon that went off, and another killed in a drive-by shooting at a birthday party. Last weekend, one of my former students apparently fired a shot or two at someone she had gotten into an altercation with at a bar, and then her gun went off while she was in the back seat of what was effectively their getaway car, going through the front passenger seat and killing her best friend, another former student.

Today’s horror involves a killing this afternoon at my local mall. I came across this Facebook post just now; one of those where you don’t know the person but someone you know interacted with them and so the post makes its way onto your feed. I would like you to direct your attention to the first two sentences, in particular:

Now, I don’t know this dude, which is why I didn’t respond to him on FB, and is why I’m cutting his name out here. He’s going through some shit I’ve never had to go through right now and I feel for him.

But God damn it, this impulse toward oh don’t make this political, when the problem is, oh, gun violence is completely the fuck out of control, is part of the god damned problem. This comes from the same impulse that occasionally leads to ignant shit like this:

And … nah.

You cannot “make” gun violence political. Gun violence is inherently fucking political. You cannot take politics out of gun violence. When we have a political party in this country that is literally encouraging its followers to stockpile as many guns as they can and the fucking person masquerading as our nation’s President is actively calling for gun violence in response to the results of our upcoming election, you can not take politics out of gun violence.

America has decided that it does not matter how many people die; their guns are more important than the lives of children, the lives of their friends, the lives of their families, whatever. That is a political decision. These folks literally don’t care who dies so long as they get to keep their toys and people with darker skin than them don’t. And the “be like Bob and Sally” bullshittery exists to obscure that, to hide the fact that for a whole god damn lot of people politics is literally a life and death matter and it is not only perfectly fucking okay but frankly the only sane decision to cut people out of their lives who have made the political decision that you are not human and your life does not matter. My white skin and manly cishet genitals are going to protect me from this to a certain extent but sooner or later these fuckers are going to get around to the atheists. This is not fucking theoretical to me. Not at all.

We are at the point where one of our two major political parties is actively courting fascists and white supremacists. Where actual fucking Nazis not only support the party holding the White House but hold positions of power within that party and are not actively shunned by those individuals who don’t yet identify specifically with them.

When you have one Nazi sitting at a table with eleven people who don’t mind that the Nazi is there, you don’t have one Nazi and eleven “adults” who don’t want to rock the boat. You’ve got twelve Nazis sitting at a table.

America is the world’s largest source of gun violence because America has made the political decision to be the world’s largest source of gun violence and Americans who disagree have not managed to summon the political will to stop them. If you are trying to skate around that to avoid fights and losing friends, you are part of the problem.

In which I have no patience for white nonsense

So it’s happened again, another unarmed young Black man who posed no threat whatsoever shot in the back multiple times by police officers. Amazingly, as of right now Jacob Blake is still alive, despite being shot seven times at point-blank range by someone who was attempting to murder him.

I just had a student lose a younger brother– a nine-year-old– to a gunshot. And neither of these things will ever stop, because America loves guns more than it loves children or Black people combined, and white people in this country will put up with absolutely anything so long as they can see people of color nearby who have it worse than they do.

I finished up with my classes today and decided to do something I don’t do very often, which is go take a swim in the pool by myself. Before I did, I spent a moment randomly scrolling through TikTok and found a video by a Black woman who was clearly reacting to Blake’s shooting. I duetted the video– which, for those of you who don’t do TikTok, is basically that app’s version of Twitter’s comment-RT, but did mine over a black background and just put “Nothing I need to add here; BLACK LIVES MATTER” in my side of the screen. I was basically just doing a signal boost.

(Which turned out utterly unnecessary, as the account I was duetting was MUCH bigger than mine, but whatever.)

Well an hour later I got out of the pool and discovered that my most famous TikTok video is now one that I don’t actually appear in. It’s gone very mildly viral (very mildly; I only have about 40 followers and don’t have much reach there) but for some reason it was getting a lot more commentary and Likes than usual, especially compared to the number of views.

And, man, y’all, there’s a whole lot of racists on TikTok. I am desperately tired of white people who somehow in August of 2020 still want to pretend that any of the following are true:

  • That “All Lives Matter.” No, they don’t, and this has been explained to you repeatedly, and I assume at this point anyone who says this is either a racist or too stupid to live.
  • That “Blue Lives Matter.” There is no such thing as Blue Lives, and you are a racist— and an asshole– if you try this one. Cops choose to be cops. This is not a thing.
  • Oh if you just follow instructions you’ll be fine. Not true, not at all. Especially when there’s five different cops all barking different sets of instructions at you. Also: Tamir Rice. Also: Philando Castile. Also: Charles Kinsey.
  • If they weren’t doing anything wrong, they’d have been fine. Also not true! See: Tamir Rice again. See: Breanna Taylor. See: Botham Jean. See: Atatiana Jefferson.

Cops kill Black people because cops in this country are racist and overfunded and overarmed and utterly fucking out of control. The police are a street gang with no accountability whatsoever. I also had to contend with this piece of risible horse shit today:

Oh, I absolutely do want to do these things, and frankly I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t. And I am far from the only fucking one. Shut the fuck up, Joy Behar, and take your idiot bullshit with you. I’m not in the mood.

At any rate, I’ve discovered that you can’t delete comments on TikTok once they’re made, but you can block commenters, and I’ve been making sure that no one gets a chance to be dumb twice. Because unless I actually do get paid to educate you, I don’t get paid to educate you, especially for something that by this point in this year of all times you should bloody fucking already know.

Enough of this bullshit. Be better, white people.

#REVIEW: The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment, by Thom Hartmann

Thom Hartmann’s The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment is the second of two books that I was sort of randomly offered ARCs of in the last couple of months. They asked me to have it read and the review ready today, and I’m happy to announce that unlike the last time I’m actually managing to successfully fulfill that request.

To put it mildly, the gun issue is one place where I am pretty consistently far to the left of anyone I ever talk to about it. I want guns banned, period. I want the Second Amendment repealed. When you hear “moderate, reasonable” gun control advocates say things like no one is coming for your guns to the gun nuts? That’s not true, because I’m totally coming for your guns. I’m sick to death of people thinking the Constitution enshrines a right to murder other people, guns don’t ever make anyone or anything safer, and there is no such thing as a “good guy with a gun.” There is only a dangerous idiot who hasn’t killed anyone or shot his own dick off yet.

So now that I’ve pissed everyone off, this is actually a pretty interesting little book. I used to listen to Hartmann’s radio show back when I was commuting to the South Side and back every day in Chicago, so I’m familiar with how he works– and the fact that he kept me listening to a liberal talk show when I have learned over the years that listening to talk radio from people who mostly agree with me is actually not something that will keep me awake during a drive is a good sign for him. Despite the pull quote on the cover, this is actually a history book and not a polemic about gun control, although it does have a few chapters at the end about what people call “sensible” gun control measures, like registering them similarly to the way we register cars, insisting that gun owners carry insurance, and regulating semiautomatic weapons the same way we regulate automatic weapons.

(Wanna fight about technicalities over what a “semiautomatic weapon” is? No problem; I’ll start pushing to ban anything that uses a controlled explosion to fire a projectile faster than a human being can throw it.)

At any rate, Hartmann traces America’s gun culture back to– surprise!– slavery and Native American displacement and genocide, and discusses the history of (and some interesting looks at early drafts of) the Second Amendment in particular, and probably spends 80% of the book’s text discussing why America is different about guns than damn near the entire rest of the world and how our history affects the gun fetishism that infects our culture today.

(Deletes a rant)

This is at all times a clear and readable book; if anything, my sole major criticism of it is that it could be a bit more in-depth. The book itself is less than 200 pages long and most of the chapters are less than five pages, and while there are several pages of endnotes at the end most of them are to websites, meaning that the index and the sources are mostly going to be useless a few years down the road. I went back and forth on whether this was a fair criticism; after all, it’s not like Hartmann wrote a short book accidentally, and the fact that there’s a companion volume of similar length coming in October called The Hidden History of the Supreme Court and the Betrayal of America indicates that he’s thinking of this as a series and not a one-off. There is certainly a place for cursory looks at American history, but given how … well, revisionist is the wrong word, but certainly nontraditional this look at history is, I wanted a bit more meat on the book’s bones than I got. For example, he devotes a single intriguing sentence to saying that Texas’ declaration of independence from Mexico was over Mexico outlawing slavery. That’s interesting! I want to know more about it, and I hadn’t heard that before! But it’s literally a single throwaway sentence.

(Note that I am far from an expert on Texan history.)

At any rate: The Hidden History of Guns and the Second Amendment is available now at all the places you might buy books. Those of you with an interest in modern politics and American history should check it out; anytime my only criticism of a book is I want more, that’s probably a sign of something that I can honestly recommend. Check it out.

Hope, perhaps

cx1nxzk0ikbzns79dnql.gifThe one problem I’ve encountered so far in setup for IndyPopCon, and it’s a minor one, is that the Special Vendor-Only Discount Rated Lot that I decided to put my car in (because cheap) is cheap because it’s literally two damn miles from the convention center, with an entire football stadium in between.  Luckily, there is a free shuttle.  Less luckily, the shuttle doesn’t appear to be super fast and has a driver who believes he can get anywhere in two minutes.  It won’t be a problem until it’s time to break the booth down on Sunday, when it will ensure that lots and lots of people get into the loading dock before I do and slow me way the hell down.

But my booth is awesome, both in location and the amount of space allotted, so I’ve got precious little to complain about right now.  We’ll see how the next few days go.

One thing, though, is worth passing on: as I was waiting for the shuttle, I was sitting with the lot attendant, an off-duty Chicago (!!!) police officer who was chatty enough to fill fifteen minutes of conversation mostly by himself.  He terrified me at one point by, out of nowhere, bringing up the Orlando massacre.  Despite my demeanor online, I very much dislike talking about politics in person, even with people I agree with, and when a cop starts a conversation about guns I am hardwired to begin immediately trying to find some way to flee as fast and as far as I can to avoid having the conversation.  I really don’t want to be confrontational with people, I promise, and I’m not always great at conversing with strangers anyway.  A fraught issue like guns?  Run.

BUT!  Amazingly, the guy– having a conversation basically with himself, because my role was mostly to listen and grunt approvingly from time to time– managed to begin by presenting himself as a staunch “2nd Amendment guy” and then immediately walked himself down a rabbit hole where by the end of his spiel he was admitting that most gun owners in America didn’t have any business owning their guns (“or at least as many guns as they have”) and that after Orlando he was starting to seriously think that confiscation might be the right thing to do.

cop said this.  A white cop.

How it didn’t happen after Sandy Hook, I don’t know.  A nation that changes nothing after children are gunned down in cold blood does not seem like a nation that suddenly sees the light after adults are killed, particularly adults in a gay bar.  But I feel like something is different this time.  Yes, anecdata, I know, but we may finally be getting closer to the beginning of a movement toward a sane gun policy in this country.

Maybe.

Ugh

As we were drifting off toward sleep last night, I remarked to my wife that it had been something very close to a perfect day.  We’d gotten a major project done in the house, had pizza for dinner (there are times when pizza is the best food; last night was one of them), gotten some landscaping done outside, had some cuddle time on the couch with the boy, and spent a pleasant half-hour or so sitting outside and enjoying a summer breeze in the shade on our back porch.

The moment lasted for, well, a moment, before I remembered that the day had started with her telling me not to look at the news until I was more awake, and that fifty people had been gunned down in Orlando, the second time in less than a week that the phrase “murdered in Orlando” had made national news.

This shit happens every week by now, right?  It’s like a ritual; I always hear about these things on Twitter first, and it’s always something slightly opaque, so there’s that few moments of oh I wonder where and how many this time before I find out.  It’s almost always a white guy doing the shooting.  Sometimes it’s not.

I’m at the point where I want the Second Amendment repealed.  Period.  It’s been made obsolete by technology in a way that no other part of the Bill of Rights has, and it needs to go.  But I really don’t want to write a gun post, and I’m even less interested in policing comments about a gun post.  But I do want to make one specific, and probably unnecessary, point about this specific atrocity.

Here’s Omar Mateen:

matreen-shooter-575x353.jpg

The majority of the pictures of him I’ve seen are selfies.  In a lot of ways this guy seems to have been as American as they come (he was born here, after all) and I suspect that the NYPD gear is going to end up being overlooked more than perhaps it should be.  Reports are contradictory on how much of a role Islam played in his life; his father claims religion had nothing to do with it, and his ex-wife, who had to be “rescued” from him by her family, also says that he wasn’t radicalized at all at the time of their divorce in 2011.  But that was five years ago; five years is a long time.

Donald Trump is yip-yapping about “radical Islamic terrorism,” and there’s more fooferall about whether Obama should have used that phrase, or whether Hillary did, and what it means that Hillary Said It but Obama Didn’t, and a whole bunch of nonsense.

I’d like to submit here that it doesn’t really matter all that goddamn much whether this dude was a radical Muslim or not, because the way things stand right now in the US there is no goddamn daylight at all between “radical Muslims” and conservative Christians on the issue of the gay community.(*)  When a leading Republican candidate for President is introduced to a cheering crowd by a pastor minutes after that same pastor calls for the execution of gay people, I don’t want to hear shit about Islamic terrorism.  Republican legislatures across the country have spent most of the last couple of months wetting their pants about whether trans people should be able to pee in public restrooms or not.  Out gay people are in danger in this country every time they leave their homes.  I don’t wanna hear shit about Islamic terrorism when we have an entire political party gleefully making the lives of gay people as miserable as they possibly can every chance they get right here in the United States.  It’s just not relevant.  I don’t care what this guy’s religion was.  He was a homophobe.  That’s the relevant variant of asshole we’re dealing with here, and it’s the only one that matters.

(Two side tangents: 1) I also don’t give a damn about his little 911 call before he drove off to kill people.  I can call 911 and proclaim myself a member of the Harlem Globetrotters right before I go shoot some folks; that doesn’t mean Big Easy and Flight Time are gonna know who the hell I am.  2) Yes, I know about this guy.  I’m not going to talk about him because the case appears to be getting murkier by the minute, and I’m already speculating enough right now.)

Actually, one more thing: it’s interesting to see signs of Mateen starting to get the “mentally ill” edit, which is normally reserved for white people and certainly not for Muslims.  Mental illness is a dodge of the real issue, as usual; a mentally ill and homophobic Omar Mateen who does not have access to a weapon that can shoot a hundred people in a matter of minutes is substantially less dangerous than a healthy and homophobic Mateen who does.

(*) There are so many acronyms.  I feel like “queer” is better as a single umbrella term but “queer” still feels like at least half a slur to me sometimes so I don’t like using it; I’m hoping we can agree that I’m trying to write in good faith here and leave it alone?  I really do hope that at one of the Gay Agenda meetings at some point they sit down and decide on one acronym.  I like QUILTBAG because it’s fun to say, but as a straight cis dude I don’t really get a vote.