hate

I’ve resisted hate. At least I’ve tried to resist hate. I told myself that hate is a pointless, futile emotion, that it only gets in the way, that it warps the process of thought, that it clouds judgment and leads to bad decisions. I’ve told myself that hate harms the hater more than the hated.

I still think that’s true. But I don’t care anymore.

It was difficult at first, but I came to accept the fact that I hated Donald Trump. I don’t need to list all the reasons for hating him — you’re probably aware of them, they’ve been pretty clear for most of his life. But man I resisted admitting to myself that I hated him. Actually hated him. I still hate him, of course. Hate is fucking hard to turn off. But that doesn’t matter, because I have no desire to stop hating Trump.

One of the problems with hate is that once you get the hang of it, it’s easy. It gets harder to resist. Trump taught me to hate. Today I hate Republicans. Right now, as I sit here and type this, I hate Republicans. Not just the Republicans who’ve voted in ways I disagree with, not just Republicans who hold public office at any level, not just the Republican Party — right now, this moment, I hate every person who voted for any Republican in the last five years, Make it ten years. I don’t think this hate will be as persistent as my hatred for Trump; I suspect this generalized hatred will subside over time. But right now, at this particularly painful point in time, I hate them.

They’re all complicit, every Republican, every one of them. The epidemic of gun violence in the US, that’s on Republicans. The erosion of civil rights and liberties, that’s on Republicans. The rise in hate crime against Asians, Jews, Women, Black people, trans people, Muslims, gay folks — that’s on Republicans. The rise of asshole billionaires, that’s on Republicans. The health care desert that so many people live in, that’s on Republicans. The collapse of representative democracy, that’s on Republicans and I fucking hate them for it.

I’ve learned to hate. I’m ashamed of it, but there it is. I’ve become a hater. I hate that they’ve taught me to hate. I feel diminished by that hate; I feel tainted because of it. I hate, but I’m still resisting being hateful. It’s bad enough to hate, to act on that hate…at that point, you’re probably lost. I know it’s possible to come back from that, but it wouldn’t be easy.

Working to defeat Republicans, however, isn’t hateful. It’s just necessary. If your foot becomes infected and gangrene sets it, you don’t amputate your foot because you hate it. You do it because it’s necessary for survival. Republicans are political gangrene; they are necrotic tissue on the body of representative democracy.

That’s where I am now. Right now. Today. I hate Republicans. But that’s not the reason I want them removed from political power and authority; I want them removed because that’s the only way to salvage democracy in the United States.

so much depends

There’s a type of photograph that I generally think of as ‘red wheelbarrow’ images. You know, after the poem by William Carlos Williams. I’m talking about photographs in which the emotional appeal relies heavily on a color/object element. I saw one of those photos last week–a green hat hanging on a doorknob. The moment I saw the photo, I thought “So much depends upon a green hat….”

Coincidentally, over the last week or so, like a lot of people, I’ve become weirdly besotted with a text-to-image program called DALL-E 2. I don’t understand the tech or the coding behind it, but essentially it’s an artificial intelligence system that creates images and art from a description written in natural language. You type in a description, the system interprets it and creates a series of images based on that description.

There’s a waiting list to use DALL-E 2, I suppose because it produces high quality images which undoubtedly requires some serious computing power. But for those of us who are waiting, there’s a mini DALL-E that produces lower quality images. They’re still weird and wonderful and often satisfying.

So what did I do? I typed in a brief description of WCW’s poem. A red wheelbarrow glazed with rain beside white chickens. And DALL-E mini gave me this:

Red wheelbarrow glazed with rain beside white chickens

It’s weird and a wee bit distressing, but I was immediately delighted. Enchanted, even. And eventually besotted (oh fuck, now I have to do a quick etymological dip: besotted comes from the Old English term ‘sott‘ which meant ‘a fool, a stupid person’ and by the late 16th century sott lost a letter and became sot, and was used almost exclusively to describe a person stupefied by strong drink) with the idea.

My point, if you can call it that, is that I became figuratively intoxicated by the notion of mixing red wheelbarrows with random thoughts, straining it through the DALL-E mini artificial intelligence system, and seeing what happened. Some of the descriptions were fairly simple.

Red wheelbarrow by the harbor

It quickly became clear that DALL-E had a rather fluid and elastic understanding of the wheelbarrow concept, but I was okay with that. In fact, that pleased me considerably. It made the result a lot less predictable. It added an element of surprise to text descriptions that were otherwise fairly mundane. Such as:

A red wheelbarrow in a mangrove swamp

After these simple experiments, I decided to try something that wasn’t so simple, something that might test the system. And I have to say, DALL-E mini surprised me. It came through with something wonderfully weird and lovely.

A detective in a dark alley with a red wheelbarrow

It was obvious to me at this point, that the red wheelbarrow concept had the potential to become a project. Since I’d lost interest in the most recent Knuckles Dobrovic project (Japanese are bure bokeh images of Ireland), this seems like a worthy replacement. I’ve no idea how long I’ll do this. Maybe a month, maybe longer, maybe I’ll become disappointed with DALL-E mini and wait to try the big hat version.

Anyway, there it is, Knuckles is back, working the red wheelbarrow corner of the intertubes.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yeah, I forgot to include a link to the Knuckle Dobrovic Instagram account, so here it is.

in facebook jail

I’m in Facebook jail this morning. I sorta deserve it. Not for the reasons given by FB, but for another reason. I’m prevented from commenting or posting on FB for a few more hours today, and for the next 29 days my group posts will be moved lower in the Feed (whatever that is). Why? Because I apparently have “repeatedly violated our Community Standards” by advocating violence.

How did I do that? My first time was back in March, during a discussion about Wordle of all things. I don’t recall the exact context, but I made a comment that I’d have to put a dollar in the knife jar. Somebody asked what the ‘knife jar’ was, and I told them the concept was similar to a swearing jar — when somebody is trying to stop cursing, they put some money in a jar every time they say an obscenity. The knife jar is based on that idea, except it’s when I feel the urge to stab something. It was obviously a joke, and everybody understood that. Everybody except FB. I was restricted for ‘advocating violence.’

Yesterday, while commenting in real time on the January 6 hearing, I complained that both Greg Jacob (former vice-presidential counsel) and Judge Luttig were responding to questions in excruciating detail, often repeating things they’d said earlier in their testimony, even repeating things they’d said earlier in the same response. I was especially irked by the slow, deliberate, very judicial responses of Judge Luttig. I commented that what Lutting was saying was critically important, but he didn’t need to consider every word before he said it. I commented that Liz Cheney could “stop them from repeating the same things over and over and over” if she “choked them with her pearls.” Again, it was obviously a joke, but again I was restricted by FB for ‘advocating violence.’

Here’s the thing. I do deserve punishment. NOT for advocating violence, but for being a jerk about Judge Luttig’s way of speaking. I learned this morning that Lutting may have suffered a stroke recently, which could account at least partially for his slow, deliberative speech. I don’t know if that’s true, of course, but it really doesn’t matter. The judge was under no obligation to speak the way I wanted him to speak. I, on the other hand, had a positive obligation to be patient with his way of speaking. I wasn’t patient. I was annoyed by the constant repetition, but I was also annoyed at Lutting for making me be patient. I was…let’s face it, I was an asshole. Mocking somebody for their manner of speech is an asshole move.

So yeah, I deserve to be in FB jail. Not for advocating violence but for being an asshole. Judge Luttig deserved better from me.

good morning and welcome to the waffle house

I woke up around 0530 this morning. I don’t sleep as much as I used to, though I generally sleep better. I have fewer nightmares, which is good. Fewer and less intense. And I seem to be better at remembering good dreams. This morning I remember dreaming about ordering breakfast at a Waffle House.

I’m sitting here in the kitchen in the heart of the American Midwest, drinking my cold brew coffee, craving hash browns, covered and chunked. Unless you’ve spent some time in a Waffle House–which is to say, unless you’ve lived in the American South–that won’t mean much to you. It’s probably been twenty years since I’ve set foot in a Waffle House, but I know in my bones I can walk into any Waffle House in any town and ask for hash browns covered and chunked, and they’ll know exactly what I want. It’s not code, exactly; it’s culture. I could make my own hash browns, of course. I could add some diced up ham and cover it all with melted cheese. But it wouldn’t be the same.

It’s 44F this morning. Unreasonably and unseasonably chilly, so I’ve been forced to put on socks and sweat pants–which I sorta kinda resent (I mean, c’mon, we’re three weeks into May, for fuck’s sake) and sorta kinda enjoy (it’s not so much the warm feet, although I like that; it’s that brief delicious pleasure of sliding my feet into warm socks). It feels like a late October morning in the South. The cat clearly thinks the chilly weather is bullshit, so is seeking extra attention this morning. I’m okay with that. Cats are warm.

The cool weather and the Waffle House dream have me feeling particularly nostalgic and Southern today. I enjoy the quiet too much to put on music, but in my head I’ve been hearing Mahalia Jackson, Mattie Moss Clark, and Tennessee Ernie Ford singing gospel music. I’m not even remotely Christian, but that was the Sunday morning music I grew up with. Snatches of Just a Closer Walk with Thee will drift through my head for a while this morning. As the sun comes up and the coffee disappears and the cat retreats to some quiet spot where she can curl up and sleep undisturbed, that music will gradually fade away again.

There. I’ve rinsed out my coffee mug. I’ve done today’s Wordle. I’ve read all the news I want to read (it’s still to early to read the news and pay attention; I’ll come back to it later, when I’m more willing to deal with reality). The sun has come up enough that I can turn off the kitchen lights. I’d say it’s time to start getting on with the day, but that sounds like I have some sort of plan or agenda to be accomplished. I don’t. I’ll read a bit, maybe go for a bike ride, give some thought to what to prepare for supper, do a few household chores. Since I woke up early, at some point I may take a nap.

There’s a verse of the gospel song Just a Closer Walk with Thee that rarely gets included in the more popular covers. It goes:

Through this world of toil and snares,
If I falter, Lord, who cares?

I know the lyric is meant to suggest the Lord cares, but since I don’t believe in any lord, I like to interpret the lyric as more tolerant and forgiving. It’s not a license to fuck up, but it acknowledges the universality of fucking up. Everybody fucks up. And everybody is welcome at the Waffle House. Doesn’t matter what you’ve done, if you ask for your hash browns chunked and covered, that’s what you’ll get.

attrition

Every morning this week I’ve sat here at the keyboard and started to write a post about the situation in Ukraine. Every single morning I’ve put a couple hundred words in a row, and every morning I’ve deleted them all.

I mean, what is there to say? Well, obviously there’s a LOT to say–the military situation, the refugee situation, the NATO situation, the war crimes situation, and on and on and on. But the internet is awash in experts opining and analyzing all that. What is there for ME to say? Is there anything I can contribute that’s meaningful?

Not much. I can express opinions, but my opinions about Ukraine aren’t very much different from most folks. And as for those folks whose opinions support Russia and Putin–what is there to say to or about them? Not much, other than ‘Russian warship, go fuck yourself’.

The problem (for me) is that it’s hard to write about anything else at the moment. Everything else seems trivial. Art? Clarence Thomas in the hospital? Republican hypocrisy? Pickleball? The January 6th prosecutions? The arrival of Spring and getting back on the bike? Voter suppression? The latest research on crows? Today’s hearing on the nomination of Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court? There are lots of things that occupy my mind and my time besides Ukraine. It’s just that none of them seem as important. None of them ARE as important.

What makes this all the more awful is that the war in Ukraine has become something of a stalemate. It’s turning into a war of attrition–the ugliest, cruelest, and most brutal form of war. A war of attrition isn’t about territorial control; it’s about imposing as much suffering as possible in every way possible in order to force the enemy to give up. It’s about wearing away at the very foundations of a sustainable life–food and shelter. It’s about reducing towns and cities to uninhabitable rubble.

But here’s the truly awful thing: I suspect–I fear–the American public will begin to treat the war of attrition in the same way they’ve treated the global pandemic. They’ll get bored with it. It’ll be normalized, in the same way they’ve come to accept a thousand deaths a week from Covid as normal. In the same way they’ve come to accept extreme weather disasters as normal. Instead of being tortured from a death by a thousand cuts, those cuts will be seen as routine. (By the way, if you google ‘death by a thousand cuts’ most of the results will refer to a song by Taylor Swift rather than lingchi, the ancient Chinese method of torture and execution–how’s that for normalization?)

NOTHING ABOUT THE WAR IN UKRAINE IS NORMAL.

So, what are we to do? What am I to do? Carry on as usual with this blog? I guess the only answer is to try to find some sort of balance. Write about the stuff that interests me, even if some of that stuff is trivial. But also keep talking about the suffering of the people of Ukraine, and about the deliberate cruelty of Putin, and about the policies of nations that support–or fail to support–Ukraine.

That’s what I’ve decided to do. But it feels a little like attrition.

just to explain why i took a photo

Last week while out noodling around I came across a tank. When I say ‘tank’ I mean a decommissioned military tank. An M60 battle tank, to be exact. It’s fairly common when the military starts scrapping old tanks, they offer them to small towns to use as memorials, or to ‘decorate’ public parks or town squares or wherever the hell a small town would like to park one. The US military stopped deploying M60s in 1997.

But this isn’t about the tank, really. It’s about how I photographed it. Which was like this:

A friend asked me a couple of questions about the photo. First, what the hell is this a photograph of? Second, if it’s a photograph of a tank, why didn’t I include the whole tank? Those are valid questions. But they’re difficult to answer.

They’re difficult to answer for several reasons. The primary reason is that I’ve been shooting photos for so long that I rarely actually think about composition. I just kind of know what I want in the frame. Another reason it’s difficult to explain is because shooting a photo seems like it’s just a matter of releasing the shutter (or, with a cell phone, poking the whatsit that initiates the photo). But that moment is the result of a fairly complex process.

I wasn’t paying much attention to the process when I shot this, but I’ll try to recreate my thinking. Obviously, it began by getting out of the car to look at the tank because…well, there was a tank and I wanted to look at it. As I walked around it, I was attracted to that cascade of squarish shapes made by the building–so many different-sized squares of different textures. Then there was that white circle that sort of balanced the round rear tread wheel of the tank. And then there were those sweet vertical lines of the chimney and the light pole. And then I was drawn to that tiny splash of red, and that diagonal slant of the roof of the shed, and even the spade leaning against the light pole. All of those things appealed to me, both individually and as a collective.

I’d be lying if I said I noted all that stuff in that order, but when you’re lining up a shot it’s like your brain is ticking off boxes in a list. That works, that works, that doesn’t–so move a bit, that works. And then there’s some point when your synapses seem to agree that you’ve got all–or most–of the stuff you want in the frame, and you take the photo.

I’d probably have taken that photo even if the tank wasn’t there, because the light and the geometry appealed to me. But it was the tank that drew me to that spot and to me, that wee bit of tank is important to the composition. So, to me, it’s still a photo of the tank. The rest of the tank is implied.

Wait…I think I can explain this better. That same day, I took a photo of an old, rusted out Ford panel truck. Three photos, in fact, but only one photo mattered. Here’s the first photo.

There’s nothing wrong with this as a photo. Again, I composed it intuitively, without a lot of thought. It’s got good lines. The curve of that tree is nice; it sorta kinda follows the shape of the truck. There’s a decent balance to the composition. It’s a perfectly adequate photo, a decent documentation of an old, rusted out Ford panel truck. Nothing wrong with it, but not terribly interesting.

So I got closer. Changed the perspective.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with this photo. Again, the composition was casual but deliberate. However, you’ve probably seen ten thousand photos almost exactly like this. A rusty wreck of a vehicle–an artifact of an outdated civilization cast aside in a living environment that will continue to grow while the artifact slowly degrades into nothingness. The best thing about this photo is that it places the panel truck in a larger landscape, which emphasizes how out of place it is. But basically, there’s nothing new to see in this photo.

So I got closer and changed the perspective again.

This is the photo that mattered. I took a bit more care with the composition. I knew I wanted the rust, I knew I wanted the suggestion of a large landscape through the windows, and I knew I wanted the lines of the shattered window and those bubbles formed by the thin layer of ice.

The actual old, rusted out Ford panel truck wasn’t really important; it’s the idea of the old, rusted out Ford panel truck that mattered. It’s a photo of an abandoned vehicle in the same way the first photo is a photo of a tank. The old, rusted out Ford panel truck is implied; you only need to see enough of it to hint at its existence.

The photo of the tank and the final photo of the panel truck are both photos of things that don’t belong there. Was I actually thinking of that when I took those photos? Nope. But after you’ve shot enough photos, a sort of algorithm develops in your brain. It’s like you know at the cellular level that everything in the frame matters, so you become very deliberate about what you keep in and what you keep out.

What you choose to include and exclude is grounded on why you’re shooting the photo. And that’s the thing. You may not be consciously aware that you’re shooting a photo of things that don’t belong where they are, but there’s some chunk of your brain that’s is actively registering that fact. If the tank or the panel truck were what mattered, you’d just photograph the tank and the panel truck. But you keep looking and moving and shifting around until your brain is at least semi-satisfied. Then you take the photo.

Okay, I’ve made the mistake of re-reading this (which I generally try to avoid in these blog posts). It sounds to me like I’m talking bullshit here (which is why I generally avoid re-reading these blog posts). But I’m still convinced that this is how I shoot photos. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve approached something that I wanted to photograph–that I felt was very photographable–and then walked away without taking a single shot because I couldn’t get what I wanted in the frame. There was something in the frame I didn’t want, or something I wanted but couldn’t include. My mind knew it, even if I wasn’t immediately aware of it.

The photographer Marc Riboud once said, “I photograph the way a musician hums.” That makes sense to me. Musicians, even when they’re just idly humming, know without thinking which notes work and which notes don’t. The wrong note ruins the composition.

And there it is.

are bure bampot

Okay, Instagram. As some of you know, I have two IG accounts–one under my own name (or something like it) for the sort of snapshots everybody shoots and another under the pseudonym Knuckles Dobrovic for photo projects (I wrote about my introduction to the devil of IG here).

The first project was more an exercise than an actual photography project. It was basically my way of learning how to use Instagram. I put a thing on a patio table and photographed it. Almost every day for about a year, at different times, with different things, in all sorts of weather. It’s just as ridiculous as it sounds, but it was fun. That project (cleverly titled Things On A Table) started in 2013 and ended in the summer of 2014. At the end of that project, I wrote this:

I’ll probably come up with some other sort of project, simply because I’ve grown fond of the name Knuckles Dobrovic. I realize that’s a stupid reason. I don’t care. I’ve no objection to doing things for stupid reasons.

Portsoy

The Knuckles account sat idle for about four years. In January of 2018, I started a second project, which was more pretentious than my first, but equally ridiculous. During my daily walks, I’d stopped periodically and photograph something at my feet–some leaves, a crack in the sidewalk, a lost glove. I decided to layer two or three photos taken on the same day to create a single image. It was weird fun, and it made me happy. That project lasted for about ten months. Then I put Knuckles back on the shelf, where he sat for about four months.

The third project took root while I was playing the game Geoguessr, which involves Google Street View. The game basically drops the player somewhere in the GSV world and you’re supposed to figure out where you are–rural Finland, suburban Arizona, a forest in Brazil, a street in Thailand. I loved the randomness of it; I spent most of the game just wandering around and looking at stuff. So I decided to appropriate images from GSV, modify them a bit, and turn them into black-and-white images. Because it was an art project and art projects are famously pretentious, I decided to limit the project to 100 images–sort of an homage to Hiroshige’s ukiyo-e series, One Hundred Views of Edo (which is actually 119 paintings, but let’s not get fussy). It was the only Knuckles project I was sorry to end.

Maryport

The fourth project was sparked by the onset of the pandemic. The world seemed isolated and a tad disjointed, and I wanted to express that feeling of social dislocation. So I took some of my daily snapshots, diddled with the color a wee bit, digitally sliced it in thirds, then re-arranged the pieces. The result was a photo that didn’t quite make sense, so I called the project Slightly Dislocated. It was fun at first, because the process could be applied to almost any photo style–street photos, landscapes, still lifes, anything but portraiture. But after a few months, it felt forced. The project lacked energy and passion and I just stopped doing it. The last photo of this project was posted in March.

North Queensferry

Now I actively dislike the project. I’ve considered deleting it, but that seems somehow cowardly. If you make a mistake, you should just accept it and move on, not try to hide it. However, even though I haven’t posted anything to the Knuckles account in months, I continue to get notifications about it. It’s like a constant reminder of how much I dislike the last project. The only non-cowardly way to resolve that is to start a new project, one I’d actually enjoy, something to get rid of the bad taste left by the Dislocated project.

A few days ago, when it was cold and windy and my knees hurt, I sat at the computer sliding back and forth between social media, the Geoguessr game, and the work I was supposed to be doing. Three things happened. First, I read a comment about Daidō Moriyama in a forum devoted to Japanese photography. He’s basically the godfather of the are-bure-bokeh style of photography. Are-bure-bokeh roughly translates as “rough, coarse/crude, out of focus.” The style developed in post-war Japan, and it conveyed the way Japanese society was fragmented and alienated and shocked following two atomic explosions and a military occupation by a radically different culture. We’re talking about high contrast black-and-white photos, sometimes savagely abstract, sometimes ordinary but with a sort of leaden feel, sometimes almost frighteningly hallucinatory. It’s a style I’ve been drawn to, but I’ve never seriously attempted to recreate.

Dumbarton

The second thing–almost immediately after seeing the Moriyama comment, I came across a comment in another venue in which somebody was called “a total bampot.” That’s a Scots term, which means “an idiot, a foolish person, a nutcase.” For reasons I can’t begin to fathom, the phrase are-bure-bampot sprouted in my mind, and stuck there.

Flimby

The third thing–after doing a bit of work, I turned back to Geoguesser and found myself someplace on the coast of Scotland (it turned out to be Portsoy). And hey bingo, there was the burr of an idea for a project. An idiotic idea, but still. What if I applied the are-bure-bokeh approach to Google Street View images from Scotland? Are-bure-bampot.

It’s…well, it’s idiotic. A post-war style of Japanese photography applied to Google Street View images of Scotland? Madness. But it would allow me after a fashion to return to the project I’d enjoyed the most, and it would still fall well within what I consider the Knuckles Project Parameters. It would 1) be simple and grow out of something I’d do in an ordinary day, 2) include an element of randomness and serendipity, 3) maybe not be entirely original (how many project are?), but the result would still be uniquely mine, and 4) wouldn’t require any extraordinary effort.

Pitlochry

So what the hell, I tried it. I’ve only made a few images–and only posted three of them on the Knuckles IG account–but so far it amuses me. They’re clearly not in the classic Moriyama style, but I’m okay with that. I’ll keep at it for a while and see what happens. Are-bure-bampot. Rough, coarse/crude, idiotic. Yeah, that has a certain appeal.

#NotTakingaGun

I’ve got to run to the market later today. Maybe I’ll also make a lightning stop at a hardware store, I don’t know. But in any event, I won’t be taking a gun with me. Because there’s absolutely no need to.

Also, okay, I don’t own a gun. So realistically I couldn’t take a gun with me even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. I don’t own a gun for the same reason I’m not taking one to the market. I don’t need a gun. I have zero use for a gun.

I’ve no need for a gun, but I rather like them. They’re incredibly efficient tech, they make a loud noise (sometimes I enjoy making a loud noise), they can make a hole suddenly appear in a target a distance away (which is actually sort of cool), and if you fire them at night, you see flame come out (which is very cool). Guns can be fun to shoot. But I don’t have any need for one.

I’ve been in situations where I could justify owning and carrying a gun. I spent several years as a private investigator specializing in criminal defense work. Most folks think that if you’re working to defend an accused criminal, other criminals will like you. Not so. The thing is, defending an accused criminal often means finding and revealing other criminals who may be guilty of the crime. Or they might have information that could implicate them in some way. Information they DO NOT want you to have.

And let’s face it, nobody–not even an innocent person–wants a stranger asking them nosy, impertinent, personal questions. It tends to piss people off. And here’s another thing: criminals don’t keep normal business hours. Which means a lot of the time you end up asking criminals nosy, impertinent, personal questions at their home, or in a bar, or when they’re with friends (who are often criminals as well).

As a PI, I had a concealed carry permit. I considered carrying a gun several times. But I was always concerned that if I had a gun, I’d get too confident. I’d get cocky, take more chances, take more stupid chances–because I’d be carrying protection. I never carried a gun because I know how easy it is to make a really bad impulsive decision. On those occasions where I had to enter a situation where there was a realistic chance I’d get hurt, I took a partner. Reliable guy–he’d been a LRRP in Vietnam and a police detective. He’d be armed, he’d enter the bar before me and take up a position. I’d come in a bit later and do my thing. And if it all started to go sideways, I knew he’d step up. So I felt…not safe, certainly not safe enough to be cocky, but I felt the odds of getting seriously hurt were low enough to risk.

My point, such as it is, is this: I know what it’s like to be afraid that somebody might realistically decide to assault you. Or stab you. Or pull a gun and shoot you. Genuinely afraid. Not-sure-you-can-control-your-bladder afraid. And yet, despite being in those situations multiple times, I’ve never actually had to physically defend myself. Or have somebody else defend me.

So yeah, I can go buy groceries without carrying a gun. And so can you and everybody else.

Some folks will insist that the only way to preserve a legal right is to use it. There’s some truth in that. But the gun-toting folks who make that argument are almost always the same folks who are willing–even eager–to make it more difficult to exercise other legal rights. To vote, to get an abortion, to marry somebody you love, to peacefully protest.

There’s really only one reason to carry a gun: to shoot something or somebody. You don’t have to intend to shoot something or somebody, but carrying a gun indicates you’re prepared to do that. There’s only one genuine motivation for carrying a gun. Fear. You’re either afraid somebody or something may harm you, or you’re afraid somebody or something will harm somebody else.

People who are genuinely afraid to leave the house unless they’re strapped are exactly the sort of people who shouldn’t be armed. You can’t trust a scared person to make good decisions. Scared people are much more likely to make really bad decisions. But I suspect folks who are genuinely that frightened are a very small minority. I suspect the vast majority of people who insist on being armed when they leave home are either fantasists who like to imagine themselves as tough and heroic, or assholes who just want to intimidate other folks. Or they’re both–fantasists who are also assholes.

Regardless of their reason for wanting to carry a gun, the fact is they don’t need to. They’re far more likely to need to carry a flashlight, or an umbrella, or a breath mint, maybe a magnet. I mean, those things actually come in handy sometimes. A gun? Almost never.

I think I’m going to start announcing this on Twitter whenever I have an errand to run. “I’m going to the market for cheese. I’m #NotTakingAGun.” It’s silly, but that’s the point. Taking a gun to go buy cheese is silly.

EDITORIAL NOTE: Okay, I did it. Went shopping, made it home safely. Notified Twitter.