two stupid things & a smart thing

Sweet Jeebus of Cold Brew, people, I declare. There are two (2) stupid things — no, not just stupid things, but things possessing a quality of stupid that’s actually sufficient to lower room temperature — Bernie supporters keep saying. They are as follows:

  • Stupid Thing One: it ain’t over.
  • Stupid Thing Two: Senator Elizabeth Warren is a traitor.

First, it’s over. Hillary won, Bernie lost, and as painful as it may be to accept, it’s the reality. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s technically not over until the convention officially nominates Hillary — but unless a fucking meteor plummets out of the sky and vaporizes her, she’s the nominee. And that business about ‘but wait, they’re still counting ballots in California’ is moot (moot — adj. A discussion of a hypothetical case as a form of academic exercise). It’s time to call in the dogs and piss on the fire. The hunt’s over.

Second, here’s what some Bernie supporters have been saying about Elizabeth Warren on her Facebook page. She’s “a traitor for supporting Hildamort.” A “sellout for endorsing Shrillary.” A “trained monkey” and a “prostitute for Killary” as well as “a disgusting person” who is supporting “an inauthentic millionaire war criminal.” She’s “a scumbag” who “betrayed Bernie” and “stabbed him in the back.” She’s “a modern day Judas” and “a snake” who’s undergone “some MK Ultra treatment” that turned her into a “puppet for Hellary.”

Elizabeth Warren

Okay, I like that MK Ultra bit. Nice touch. But seriously, what the hell happened to you people? Elizabeth Warren is a treasure. She’s the best thing that’s happened to the Democratic party in recent memory. The difference between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders is…well, I’ll come back to that in a bit.

This ridiculous Warren-bashing is the sort of frenzied, agitated bullshit that caused me to stop supporting Bernie’s campaign. Note that I didn’t say I’d stopped supporting Bernie — just his campaign, which turned paranoid and irrationally outraged toward the end (yes, I said end, on account of his presidential campaign is over). I still prefer most of Bernie’s political positions to Hillary’s, but the scent of burning martyr offends me.

Does that mean I think Bernie should fold his tent and go home? Hell no. I don’t think he needs to concede, though it’s clear he’s been beaten. I have absolutely no problem with him continuing to make speeches and hold rallies and press home his policy points. I do wish he’d stop grousing about how some of his policies aren’t in the Democratic party platform — not because they’re bad policies, but because it’s one of the realities of losing. The winner’s positions carry more weight. I’m okay with Bernie continuing to make a fuss, but I wish he’d stop acting like he’s the only person who really gives a rat’s ass about working people.

Does it hurt the Democrat party for Bernie to continue making a fuss? Yeah, maybe, a wee bit. But why should that matter to him? That difference between Bernie and Elizabeth Warren I mentioned earlier? This is where it comes into play. She became a Democrat in the mid-1990s because she believed the Democratic party more closely aligned with her political beliefs. Bernie, on the other hand, became a Democrat about nine months ago. Not because he believed in the Democratic party, but in order to run for president. He’s a Democrat of convenience. He simply used the mechanisms of party affiliation to promote and support his candidacy.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Sanders delivers an address to Liberty University students in Lynchburg

That’s NOT a slur on Bernie. He’s smart enough to know that if he’d run as a third-party candidate, hardly anybody would have paid any attention to him. Running as a Democrat gave him access to a massive fund of voter data, guaranteed him a spot on the debate stage, granted him credibility on a level he’d never have attained running as a socialist. He’d have been stupid NOT to take advantage of that, and Bernie Sanders is anything but stupid.

So if his reluctance to acknowledge defeat and his unwillingness to endorse Hillary hurts the Democratic party, he’s okay with that. He hasn’t any real loyalty to the party — which, of course, means the party doesn’t have any real loyalty to him.

Bernie has lost the Democratic nomination — but he may be setting the first stones of a foundation for a viable third-party. IF his followers participate in this and future elections. IF they get involved and run for local, county, and state offices. IF they don’t pout and whine and decide they’re too pure to participate in the grunt and squeeze of actual politics.

Now that would be a smart thing.



michael herr — there it is

Michael Herr died a couple of days ago. There’s a pretty good chance you won’t be familiar with the name, but if you’ve ever seen a movie about the war in Vietnam — hell, if you’ve even heard there was a war in Vietnam — then Michael Herr has shaped your understanding of the world.

He was a correspondent for Esquire magazine who covered Vietnam from 1967 to 1969. Well, covered isn’t the right term. He didn’t report the news from the war; he reported the experience of Vietnam — and in 1977 he turned all those experiences into an astonishing book called Dispatches. It’s not a history of the war; it’s not a morality tale, it’s not one of those ‘war is hell’ stories; it’s a semi-hallucinatory account of what one war was like for one correspondent. Herr sort of dolphined through Vietnam — sometimes dancing lightly across the surface, and sometimes diving so deep that light barely penetrates.

Going out at night the medics gave you pills, Dexedrine breath like dead snakes kept too long in a jar.

That’s the first line of the first chapter of Dispatches. The entire book is filled with lines like that — lines so beautiful you read them two or three times, lines so full of dread and horror you wish you hadn’t read them at all because you know they’ll stick like cockleburs in your brain — and if you’ve already got a head half-packed with memories you wish you didn’t have, you don’t really need any more. And yet you’re grateful for the beauty and horror of those lines because they ring true, all the way down to the bone.

Herr wrote the voice-over narration for Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, and helped write the screenplay for Full Metal Jacket, the film by Stanley Kubrick. But nothing compares to Dispatches. Michael Herr was one of the writers who revealed to me the actual power of good writing. Dispatches had a profound effect on my life — on how I saw the world, on how I related to my family, even on how I’ve done the various jobs I’ve had.

Vietnam is what we had instead of happy childhoods.

I never served in Vietnam. I did my four years in military harness toward the end of the war, and I did every fucking thing I could do to keep my ass in the States. Both of my older brothers went through Vietnam, though. Marines, both of them. One completed a full thirteen month tour and came back physically whole, but emotionally fucked up. The other brother was only there for about five months, then spent about twice that long in the Great Lakes Naval Hospital getting rehab for the leg he nearly lost. He was in Recon; his team was essentially inserted into an ambush; they were hit even before they could set up a perimeter. Now he has a chunk of steel instead of a thigh bone, receives a disability check every month from Uncle Sugar, and the State of Iowa gives him a license plate that gives him a preferred parking space.

Herr wrote a great deal about the Marines. He spent a lot of time with them. Marines re-taking the city of Hue, Marines under siege in Khe Sanh. If those names aren’t familiar to you, and there’s probably no reason they should be, just imagine the worst combat scenes you’ve seen in movies, then add some 60s rock. Reading about Marines in Dispatches helped me understand my brothers; it helped me love them.

Herr also wrote about LURPs — the guys who did the Army’s long-range recon patrols. That was helpful because I eventually ended up working with a former-4th Division LURP. We were both private investigators specializing in criminal defense work, and sometimes that meant going to scary places and asking nosy questions of scary people. This guy was a little crazy and a little scary himself, so he fit right in. We worked as a team — he’d be armed; I wouldn’t (I didn’t like carrying a firearm — not because I object to them, but because I felt a gun would make me over-confident and less situationally aware; being frightened kept me alert).

Being a LURP had taught him two things in detail. First, how to keep watch. When we’d go someplace dangerous, he’d sidle off quietly to one side and just keep watch while I’d approach the subject and do the talking. He’d take up a position, silent and relaxed and vigilant, and he’d sort of blend into the woodwork. It also taught him about violence — to avoid it when possible, and to commit to it when it was necessary. Overwhelming, sudden, sharp violence.

Knowing he was there never stopped me from being scared, but there was tremendous comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone. I learned to trust him totally. Trust is a word folks toss around a tad too freely, I think. When I say I trusted this guy, what I mean was I was confident that if things went Oh Shit, he’d step up. No hesitation. He might not be able to save me from getting hurt, but I knew he wouldn’t leave me — and that means a lot.

I don’t think we’d have become friends if Dispatches hadn’t allowed me to peek into the experiences guys like him had gone through. In fact, I’m not sure we were really friends at all; we had very little in common. Just that bond of trust. I think it meant a lot to him that I trusted him so much.

I guess Dispatches served me as a sort of guidebook, offering insights into people I loved and relied on. The book is almost 40 years old, and it still helps me keep the horizon line fairly straight. When I have my own terrifying PTSD moments and nightmares, it actually helps to know mine are a mild version — that I’ve had pretty good luck to limit my own personal horror show to the occasional moment of panic and sweaty, gasping nightmare.

Hell, it even helps me just to remember this brief passage from Dispatches. Herr wrote about the practice of saying “good luck” to somebody:

…and though I meant it every time I said it, it was meaningless. It was like telling someone going out in a storm not to get any on him, it was the same as saying “Gee, I hope you don’t get killed or wounded or see anything that drives you insane.”

Obviously I haven’t been killed. The only physical wound I’ve received came from a rather aggressive Rottweiler. And I’ve only seen things that wake me at night, occasionally leaving me too afraid to go back to sleep. That’s unpleasant, but it truly counts as good luck, and because of Dispatches I’m able to be thankful for it.

Michael Herr

Michael Herr

I wanted to include a photo of Michael Herr from his Vietnam days — but I couldn’t find any that are worth a damn. He describes one, though:

Dana [Stone] used to do a far-out thing, he’d take pictures of us under fire and give them to us as presents. there’s one of me on the ramp of a Chinook at Cam Lo, only the blur of my right foot to show that I’m not totally paralyzed, twenty-seven pushing fifty, reaching back for my helmet and the delusion of cover. Behind me inside the chopper there’s a door gunner in a huge dark helmet, a corpse is laid out on the seat, and in front of me there’s a black Marine, leaning in and staring with raw raving fear toward the incoming rounds, all four of us caught there together while Dana crouched down behind the camera, laughing. “You fuck,” I said to him when he gave me the print, and he said, “I thought you ought to know what you look like.”

That’s the photograph I wanted to show. Not this trench-coated guy in a suit and tie. It’s not that the Michael Herr on the ramp of that Chinook is the real Michael Herr, but it’s the Michael Herr who exists in my imagination.

jacking the rainbow

You guys! Have you been wondering just what Barack Obama and the homosexualists that control the executive branch of our federal government have been doing lately to piss off Jeebus? No? Me neither!

But guess what, you guys. Pastor Scott (of the sad but desperately wanting to be famous Scott Lively Ministries) has been paying close attention to what Barack Obama and the homosexualists that control the executive branch of our federal government have been up to. And guess what again. Pastor Scott says Barack O and the H that control the EB of our FG have been totally using the Orlando massacre to escalate their push to install the LGBT agenda globally! Globally, you guys!


Okay, okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking What the hell is a homosexualist? Right? Me too! And guess what. It’s a practitioner or supporter of the distinctive and formal set of ideas, principles or beliefs of homosexualism. You guys, I didn’t even know gay folks HAD a distinctive and formal set of ideas, principles or beliefs. I thought gay folks were just people. But I guess they do have a distinctive and formal set of ideas, principles or beliefs on account of would Pastor Scott just make shit up? Would he, you guys?

So now you’re wondering HOW are Barack Obama and the homosexualists that control the executive branch of our federal government escalating their push to install the LGBT agenda globally, right? Me too!

It’s the flag, you guys. You know, that rainbow flag? Pastor Scott says gay folks have totally jacked the rainbow.

[W]hen it comes to LGBT arrogance, nothing tops the spiritual crime of blaspheming God by hijacking His rainbow.

Hijacking god’s rainbow, you guys! It turns out — and okay, maybe you guys didn’t know this — it turns out god totally owns rainbows. Pastor Scott says rainbows are “intimately associated with the divine presence and authority” of god on account of the what god did after he destroyed the entire world and just about everything in it (except for Noah and his fam, and most of the animals) by soaking it repeatedly.

Noah and the First BBQ

Noah and the First BBQ

But then after the Flood Noah took some of the animals he’d saved and he killed them and burned them in order to…no, seriously, I’m not making this up. Noah burnt some animals and then god said “Dude, sorry about killing everybody and making you do this whole ark business. I won’t do that again, honest. Look, here’s a rainbow. Oh, and by the way, you can eat meat now. You know, if you want. Okay? Are we cool? We’re cool, right?”

And Noah builded an altar unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

See? Like that. It’s not entirely clear to me why god tossed in that eating meat business, but he did. Apparently folks were vegetarians before the Flood. Noah basically invented the barbecue. Oh, and getting drunk…that was Noah too. Getting drunk, getting naked, and getting embarrassed by the whole thing. Noah was a bro.

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard:

And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.

And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

And Shem and Japheth took a garment, and laid it upon both their shoulders, and went backward, and covered the nakedness of their father; and their faces were backward, and they saw not their father’s nakedness.

I mean, sure, I get it. Nobody wants to even imagine their parent naked, let along drunk and naked in a tent. And yay for Shem and Japeth for tossing a blanket over the old guy. But backing into the tent so you don’t have to see his wizened unit? I don’t know…seems like over-compensation to me.

But back to the rainbow business. Since god owns rainbows and since Jeebus was the firstborn male child of god, he is/was heir to…well, I guess to everything? Maybe? I don’t know, I’m not an estate lawyer. But it seems pretty well established to Pastor Scott that Jeebus has property rights over the reflection, refraction and dispersion of light through airborne water droplets. So rainbows totally belong to Jeebus. Got it?

Okay, so B Obama and the homosexualists that C the EB of our FG are installing the gay agenda globally by letting (or forcing? it’s not clear, is it) several U.S. embassies around the globe (see, this is what makes it global, you guys, the earth is round) to fly the rainbow flag above the embassy during Pride month. And that has Pastor Scott and a whole lot of conservative Christians are so mad they could spit.

It is the responsibility of Christians (and Torah-believing Jews) everywhere to speak out against this defilement of God’s rainbow, and to demand that the LGBT movement cease and desist cloaking itself in His flag.

They’re flag-cloaking, you guys! The gays done jacked the flag and are cloaking with it. Like those Star Wars Trek guys. Not the Klingons, but the other ones. The ones that look like Vulcans with hemorrhoids. Romanians? That doesn’t sound right. But you guys, there is definitely cloaking taking place. Globally. And it’s Obama’s fault.

And he's doing this globally.

And he’s doing this globally.

And Pastor Scott wants that to cease and desist. Not just cease, you guys, and not just desist. Cease AND desist. If you send him money, Pastor Scott will probably help Jeebus find a good tort lawyer and sue the pants off the gays. So to speak.

why hillary?

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had several emails, conversations, texts, and Facebook messages from friends and acquaintances, many of whom are die-hard Bernie Sanders supporters. Some made broad categorical statements like “I will never ever under any conceivable circumstance vote for Hillary Clinton.” More of them asked a valid question: Is there any positive reason to vote for Clinton other than (a) she’s a woman or (b) to stop Trump?

The question interests me more than the statements, though they’re both pretty revealing. The statement No Hillary No Way Not Ever can be interpreted as either childish pouting or deeply ideological commitment, and in either of those cases there’s no point in trying to discuss that position. If they’re not going to vote for Clinton, they’re not going to vote for Clinton and my opinion won’t make any difference.

But the question — well, here’s one example:

So – Greg. I was a Bernie fan from the beginning and am still more than a bit puzzled and irritated by the collapse in California. Nevertheless it seems Hills is on her way to launch velocity and I’m trying to figure out whether to work for that event or not. I’m having a hell of a time getting beyond the gender politics that seems to be the keynote of her campaign so far to something that she is offering for which it is worth working. Beyond protecting ObamaCare, what is she advocating for or putting forth that is a clear centerpiece program? While I’m a fan of Obama and he did amazing things with cleaning up the Bush legacy, it’s not clear to me how much more you can campaign on sweeping up after The Shrub, I’m a bit puzzled and while I’ll vote for her anyway, I’d rather not have to feel like I’m just choosing between and L’idiot and a one issue candidate. Your thoughts?

My first thoughts are pretty simplistic. In regard to voting simply to stop Trump, I’d just point out that the lesser of two evils IS the lesser of two evils. I mean, that’s pretty apparent, isn’t it. It’s like being asked “Would you rather have one nail pounded through your foot or two nails pounded through your foot?” Obviously, you’re rather avoid the entire nail-foot situation — but if you had to choose, it’s hard to imagine anybody saying “What difference does it make?” So yeah, if your only reason for voting for Clinton is to stop Trump, I’m okay with that.

As to voting for Clinton because she’s a woman, I’m okay with that too — though I think it loses its significance pretty quickly. I mean, Barack Obama is the first black President of the United States, and while that’s cool and historic, after a while you just think of him as President Obama (unless you’re a racist, of course). When Clinton gets elected (and she will) it’ll be cool and historic that she’ll be the first woman POTUS, but after a while she’ll just be President Clinton (unless you’re a sexist, of course). It’s a very big deal in terms of history, but it’s a lesser deal in terms of governance.

hillary-clinton whats that face

So, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with voting for Clinton solely to stop Trump or just because she’s a woman. But beyond that I think there ARE valid, positive political reasons to vote for her.

For example, she’s spoken out against the Citizens United SCOTUS decision which took a badly fucked up political algebra and fucked it up even more by adding still more money into the equation. She’s also spoken out against the Shelby County v. Holder decision which basically invented the ‘personal’ 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms. She’s spoken up in support of protecting Roe v. Wade, which has been clipped and pared down to nubbins over the last couple of decades. As president Clinton will have the opportunity to nominate judges who agree with her on those issues for the Supreme Court. That’s a damned good reason to vote for her.

Clinton is in favor of increasing the minimum wage. Not as much as Bernie, sadly, but any increase is better than no increase. She wants to protect civil liberties for LGBT folks; and while her support hasn’t been as consistent over time as Bernie’s, she’s done more than Bernie has in terms of creating actual supportive LGBT policies — including pressing for LGBT protections internationally when she was Secretary of State.

She’s in favor of expanding and strengthening Obamacare. Bernie’s plan was, I think, theoretically better, but again this is an issue of taking what’s good and improving it. It’s not a radical step forward, but it’s still a step forward.

That’s the thing about Hillary Clinton: she’s an incrementalist. She’s not a revolutionary, and even though this country could use a wee revolution, it’s not going to happen now. When she’s elected Hillary Clinton will make some things incrementally better. She may, it’s true, make some things worse — but they’ll be incrementally worse. Overall, I feel confident the better things will outweigh the worse things.

Hillary Clinton wasn’t my first choice, but she’s my final choice. I’ll support her. I’ll give her a bit of my hard-earned. I’ll vote for her in November and be glad about it. I suspect she’ll be a president in the Obama mold, which overall is pretty damned good. In any event, she’s immeasurably better than the alternative.

It occurs to me that I said almost the exact same thing some fourteen months ago.


This is why it’s so hard for me to get things done.

I took a short walk this morning. I try to take a walk every day, even if it’s just a short stroll to the local Stop & Rob for a cookie. Round trip, a walk to the S&R is about 1.75 miles. If I’m not interrupted, it takes me maybe forty minutes to get there, buy my cookie, return home, and re-park my ass in front of the computer.

But I’m always interrupted. Always. Almost. This morning I walked by an old couple (I call them old but they’re probably not all that much older than I am, really) sitting in lawn chairs inside their garage. “Hot,” the old guy called out. And he was right, it was already closing in on 90F. Anyway I stopped and chatted with them for a bit. He was a retired something-or-other in some insurance-related business; she never said what she did. We chatted about the weather for a bit. They seemed nice, and they clearly liked each other, and that was that. On I went.

After I’d gone thirty yards or so I thought “I should have taken their photograph.” Opportunity lost, right there.

At the S&R I bought a frosted sugar cookie, put it in a bag to tote home, and headed out. I was only a few steps out the door when this guy says “Excuse me,” so of course I stopped. He wanted to know how to get to Oskaloosa — which, believe it or not, is an actual name of an actual town. I knew the name of the town, but didn’t have a clue where it was. But I had my phone, so it only took a moment to call up a map and get directions.

He wondered why his phone wouldn’t do that. He had a Samsung something or other with Google Maps, so I had him tap on the little microphone skeuomorph (which is a real word, though WordPress doesn’t seem to think so) and say “Give me directions to Oskaloosa.” And hey, his phone gave him directions, and he was happy.

He thanked me, said he thought he detected a little Dixie in my voice, and I told him I’d spent a chunk of my life in the Deep South. He said he was from Baton Rouge, and was in Iowa working on constructing a pipeline (one whose construction I opposed, but he didn’t need to know that). We chatted a bit more, then he asked if I’d ever had any gratons.

If you’ve never spent much time in Cajun country, you may not know that gratons are what other Southern folk call ‘cracklings’, and if you’ve never spent much time in the American South you may not know what ‘cracklings’ are. As far as that goes, you may not want to know what ‘cracklings’ are. But I’m gonna tell you: they’re fried chunks of pig skin and fat. Here, look:


Now, I don’t eat much meat anymore. And I realize that even dedicated carnivores are likely to turn their faces away from gratons. But I grew up eating stuff like this. He asked if I’d ever had any, and I said yes, and he opened up his car door and pulled out a container about the size of a coffee can full of spicy home-made gratons. Not those commercial pork rinds you might see in truck stops, but the real thing. I took one, popped it in my mouth, and it was hot. Even though my head said I should be disgusted, my mouth was telling me I was home. It’s hard to escape your culture.

It must have shown on my face, on account of he laughed and said “Here, have some more.” So I held out the bag I had my cookie in, and he dumped in a bunch of gratons. We shook hands and that was that. On I went. After I’d gone thirty yards or so I thought “I should have taken his photograph.” Another opportunity lost, right there.

I managed to get home without further incident. Less than two miles, 75 minutes, two conversations with strangers, and a bag of spicy gratons (which reminds me — Public Service Announcement: Cajun spices do NOT improve a frosted sugar cookie). Just another morning.

And this is why it’s so hard for me to get things done.

totally fucking worthless

I’m hoping at some point today I’ll get angry. Anger might be nice. Right now all I can muster up is a sort of deep, abiding melancholy.

Today there’ll be the standard offering of thoughts and prayers for the victims and their families, which are totally fucking worthless. As usual, there’ll be a pointless search for ‘answers’ — why and how ‘something like this’ can happen here. But whatever answers there are to be found will be totally fucking worthless, because we won’t actually do anything. There’ll be the predictable calls for effective gun legislation, which will be totally fucking worthless — and of course gun sales in Florida will skyrocket for a week or so, also totally fucking worthless.

There’ll be tearful memorial services, and people will leave flowers and notes and teddy bears outside the nightclub, and some newspaper or magazine will print photographs of all twenty twenty-nine fifty (the butcher’s bill keeps changing) of the fatally wounded victims. And it’ll all be totally fucking worthless, because we’ve done all that before and we all know that we’ll be doing it again.

Waiting for the dead and wounded.

Waiting for the dead and wounded.

For the next few days we’ll be reading the tweets sent by folks in the nightclub, we’ll be seeing chaotic smartphone videos and facebook posts. We’ll be hearing accounts from those who escaped, and the memories of family and friends of the dead (“He was a good boy, never bothered anybody, always willing to help, loved animals”), and we’ll tell ourselves what a tragic event this was and lamenting how many young, innocent lives were cut short. But all that will be totally fucking worthless because absolutely nothing will change. Not one goddamn thing.

I’m back. I had to step away for a while. Because you know what else is totally fucking worthless? Another blog post on another mass shooting.

I’d probably have just deleted all this and got on with my day had I not had a short chat with a friend. Here’s the reason it was a short chat — he said “Bernie would have found a way to get gun control passed if the election hadn’t been stolen from him.” And that anger I’d been searching for, it started to perk up. I held it in, though, and said if the Democrats can re-take Congress, maybe Hillary can get something passed. Which is when he said something like “I’ll never vote for Hillary, I’m done voting for the lesser of two evils, I’ll vote for the Green Party, I don’t care if Trump wins.”

Here’s yet another thing that’s totally fucking worthless: that guy’s opinion. But it helped me find that anger.

If there any chance at all — even a remote chance — of passing even the weakest and most tepid gun safety legislation, Democrats need to keep the White House and win both houses of Congress. Trump sure as hell isn’t going to do anything about guns.

Don’t tell me you want to stop mass shootings but aren’t willing to vote for Clinton because your candidate lost the primary. I don’t care if you think Clinton and Donald Trump are both the spawn of Satan — only one spawn of Satan has professed any interest in passing some responsible gun laws. I don’t care if the Green Party candidate has a plan to seize and melt every goddamn gun in the US and turn them all into orthodontic braces for poor kids — the Green Party isn’t going to win; they can only suck votes away from Clinton. I don’t care if the notion of voting for Clinton actually makes you physically ill — vomit, then vote Democratic and start pushing for gun safety legislation.

You don’t have to like Clinton. You don’t even have to trust her. All you have to do is ask yourself which of the two candidates — which of the two major political parties — is most likely to press for reasonable gun safety laws. And if you loathe Hillary Clinton more than you loathe mass shootings, then as far as I’m concerned you’re also totally fucking worthless.


acts of belligerency and the way the world is today

When you think of Ringgold, Georgia (and I know you do), you probably only think of it as the county seat of Catoosa County. Some of you may think of Samuel Ringgold, the hero of the Battle of Palo Alto. I mean, the town is named for him, after all. But mostly likely when you think of Ringgold, you think of the Great Locomotive Chase of 1862.

Oh, c’mon. You know — that daring American Civil War raid? The one in which Union scout James J. Andrews hijacked a locomotive known as The General at Big Shanty, GA and led Confederate troops on a chase? Well, you probably remember the Buster Keaton movie based on the event. That’s right, that Great Locomotive Chase of 1862. Anyway, the chase ended in Ringgold, when The General ran out of fuel and stopped. It’s pretty easy to catch a train that’s stopped. Anyway, the train stopped, Andrews tried to escape, was captured, charged with “acts of unlawful belligerency” and eventually hanged.

Acts of belligerency, lawful or otherwise, remain an important part of Ringgold culture. Every month the American Wrestling Federation stages an event there. Last Saturday night featured an epic match between Paul ‘Nature Boy’ Lee and ‘Iron’ Mann.

Paul 'Nature Boy' Lee at the office.

Paul ‘Nature Boy’ Lee at the office.

During the match Nature Boy executed a classic Greek wrestling maneuver, which involved trapping his opponent in the ring’s ropes, then striking him repeatedly with a chair. Patricia Anne Crowe, a passionate aficionado of AWF matches, was distressed at witnessing the seemingly inevitable defeat of Iron Mann. It seems Iron Mann is ‘good’ whereas Nature Boy, despite his tranquil nom du stade, is ‘bad’. Ms. Crowe could not restrain herself. She spoke out in Iron Mann’s defense. When her logic did not dissuade Nature Boy from his blatant misuse of a chair, she went to Iron Mann’s aid.

She produced a knife and attempted to cut through the ropes in the forlorn hope of freeing Iron Mann, thereby allowing him to defend himself. Brave Ms. Crowe.

The situation was tense, to be sure. It might have been defused, though had Nature Boy not suggested that Ms. Crowe return to her seat and “sit her toothless self back down.” It was a rash remark that Nature Boy would soon regret. As Nature Boy himself put it:

“I had him tied up and was beating on him, and this lady jumps up with a knife, cuts him loose, and then pulled a loaded gun on me.”

It was a Romantic gesture, really — a swashbuckling exploit worthy of Errol Flynn. Or maybe Orlando Bloom (in the pirate movies, not Orlando Bloom in Main Street, a film which was appalling on several levels and had no swashbuckling at all). The courageous Ms. Crowe risked her own life in a desperate effort to save Iron Mann, as well as in defense of her honor.

“He was talking mean to me, and I got mad. I guess I just let my temper get the best of me and I pulled my pistol on him”

That ‘toothless’ remark, it must be admitted, was rather ungentlemanly. But Ms. Crowe demonstrated great restraint. She didn’t actually fire the .38 caliber pistol. That probably accounts for why she was only charged with aggravated assault and reckless conduct. She was released Monday on US$4000 bail.

It’s unclear whether or not Ms. Crowe’s pistol was returned to her.

Ms. Patricia Anne Crowe, 59, amateur swashbuckler.

Ms. Patricia Anne Crowe, 59, amateur swashbuckler.

AWF promotion officials have stated they intend to install metal detectors before any future events in Ringgold.

“The way the world is today, things happen at movie theatres and malls….you have to take extreme measures to protect fans.”

Yes. The way the world is today. It’s actually getting to the point where it’s difficult to trust American Wrestling Federation fans to be responsible gun owners.

fuck you sexual harasser

I can remember being in high school, riding around in a car with my buddies, passing a couple of girls on the street, and the guys leaning out the windows, laughing and shouting. I don’t recall what they shouted. Probably something like “Hey baby, looking good.” I remember thinking it was a stupid thing to do — not because I thought it was harassing or threatening, but simply because it didn’t seem to me like an effective way to pick up girls.

I never gave much thought to cat-calling as a young man. It was just something some guys did. I did four years in the military and heard male troops catcall women, and didn’t think much about it. I did four years in college and heard undergrads catcall women, and didn’t think much about it. Then I became a counselor in the psychiatric/security unit of a prison for women. The inmates taught me a LOT about what life was like for women — or at least what life was like for women who ended up in prison. Every few weeks I’d be assigned weekend duty. That sometimes included taking low-risk inmates on local excursions — a movie, maybe. Maybe a trip to a nearby park. Maybe a visit to a local diner so they could get to eat something other than prison food. It wasn’t unusual for me to drive a prison van with six to eight women convicts into town, herd them into the local theater, buy them all popcorn, and watch a movie with them.

And it wasn’t unusual for local young men, seeing us all walk down the street, to shout out the windows of their pickups at the women. When that happened, I noticed a lot of the women would tense up. And I paid attention, though not entirely for the right reasons. I paid attention in part because I’d been trained to notice body language. But I was also very aware that when any group of inmates start to tense up, you’d best pay attention.

A big chunk of my job was to try to understand and help these women, so on various occasions I’d talk to some of them about their reaction to the cat-calling. I remember one of them saying something like “When I hear that, I get ready to run. They gonna have to catch me, if they want to rape me.” That’s when I first started to get it. I still tended to put that anxiety down to druggie paranoia and living in bad neighborhoods — but I got the first real inkling of what it was like for those women to move through the world.

Years later I was living with a woman — a feminist criminologist. She opened my eyes in a lot of ways. One of the many things I learned was that an intellectual understanding of feminism doesn’t give you any meaningful insight into how women have to live. There was a night when she asked me to go with her to fetch something from a local market. I was busy doing something and didn’t really want to interrupt it. I figured she just wanted me along for company. But she explained there wasn’t any safe place for her to park at the market — which made no sense to me, since there was plenty of parking spaces nearby. What she meant, though, was 1) a lot of navy men often went to that market for beer and 2) there wasn’t a street light she could park beneath. She needed to park under a street light, she said, to be sure nobody was hiding in or near the car.

And I began to understand a bit more. I could run to the market to buy a clove of garlic without a second thought. For her, a run to the market required strategies to stay safe. And it wasn’t just a run to the market at night — it was going to the gym in the morning, it was getting off work in the evening, it was going to the mall, it was taking the dog for a walk. Taking the damned dog for a damned walk, and just by doing that she knew there was a decent chance she’d get harassed. Just walking down a street with a dog.

To me, this was a revelation. To her, it was so glaringly obvious that it hardly needed to be mentioned. And this was a woman who taught feminist thinking.

And you know what? I still don’t get it. Not really. I mean, I get it when I think about it. But as a guy, I rarely have to think about it. Which is why I’m both ashamed and grateful when a woman reminds me. And that’s what happened this morning. A friend of mine, Lori Andrews, posted this on Facebook:

I just got cat called with “mommy”. Of course I was far enough away that I couldn’t identify which construction worker did it. But here is what I wanted to say to him.

I have hated you my entire life. You drove beside me when I was a child and terrified me. You followed me and tried to touch me when I was a young woman. You have yelled at me from cars, broken my reverie in quiet walks, assaulted me verbally on my bike. You still talk about me and call out to me just out of view but always in earshot. Always when just I alone can hear it and no passers by are aware. Every day of my life I have endured your endless taunts and frightening threats. I’m 48 years old.

Fuck you sexual harasser. Fuck you.

It’s difficult for me to imagine the ridiculous lengths women have to go through every day just to avoid being harassed or harmed. Most of my life I’ve been in careers that required me to try to understand what life is like for other people. I like to think I’m pretty good at it. But every time I come across an experience like Lori’s, I’m reminded that I still don’t really get it. Despite having the lesson repeated to me countless times by so many women, it still doesn’t entirely register in my brain that women deal with this shit every day.

Here’s proof of that: earlier today I mentioned to a woman friend that I was thinking about writing a blog post about cat-calling because another friend had posted about an incident on Facebook. I said something like “More women should talk about this crap, so men will be reminded of just how hateful and pernicious it is.” My friend said “Why should it be a woman’s responsibility to remind men not to be assholes?”

There’s no good way for me to end this post. There’s nothing I can say that won’t come across as self-serving, or patronizing, or stupid in some way. But this has been on my mind all morning and it’s important that this stuff gets discussed.

I want to thank Lori for allowing me to quote her Facebook post and use her name. And I want to thank all the women who responded to her Facebook post, and as long as I’m at it, I should thank all the women who’ve been patient with me over the years. It’s not your responsibility to remind men not to be assholes — but thank you for doing it anyway.