it would have been better in náhuatl

I had very good reasons for missing Comrade Trump’s 3rd of July speech at Mt. Rushmore. First, it was a Friday evening, and I needed to watch an episode of a 2018 British cop show that streams on Acorn. Second, it was Trump giving a speech — which meant it would either be an ad-libbed hateful rant full of free-floating racism or a dreary monotonous recitation of buzzwords interrupted too frequently with adverbs and adjectives. And third, I’d rather watch an episode of a two-year-old British cop show translated into classical Náhuatl than listen to Trump give a speech.

But I read it this morning. And let me just say this: Lawdy.

At least the aircraft weren’t Russian.

The speech reads like it was written by H.P. Lovecraft, if Lovecraft had a limited vocabulary and was writing for Twitter. It was awkward at best, full of woefully clumsy and ridiculous dark images of modern American. It was profoundly paranoid.

“Our children are taught in school to hate their own country. And to believe that the men and women who built it were not heroes, but they were villains. The radical view of American history is a web of lies. All perspective is removed. Every virtue is obscured. Every motive is twisted. Every fact is distorted and every flaw magnified until the history is purged.”

History, totally purged. You know, they warned us this would happen if we took pale Jeebus out of the schools and substituted many-tentacled Cthulhu.

The entire speech was deeply weird. Trump seemed to confuse the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. Or maybe he thought they were the same war, it’s hard to say. He apparently thinks protesters are trying to bring down statues of Revolutionary War figures who sang a song written a century or so after they died.

“In toppling the heroes of 1776, they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country and that we feel for each other. Their goal is not a better America. Their goal is to end America…. By tearing down Washington and Jefferson, these radicals would tear down the very heritage for which men gave their lives to win the Civil War. They would erase the memory that inspired those soldiers to go to their deaths, singing these words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic: ‘As he died to make men holy, let us die to make men free while God is marching on.'”

Trump ended the evening by telling us that “American freedom exists for American greatness” and that our legacy has something to do with champions and monuments. Then, of course, there were fireworks.

Very pleased with himself.

This entire event was perfectly in keeping with the Trump brand. It was a hateful, divisive, political speech full of lies. It was given in a location considered sacred by the native population (who objected to the event). It was given during the worst pandemic in a century (which was exacerbated by Trump’s failure to take it seriously), with no real attempt to reduce transmission of Covid-19 by using face masks, and no real chance of any social distancing (in part because the 7500 audience seats were zip-tied together to reduce the likelihood of them becoming obstacles in case an emergency escape was necessary during, say, a wildfire). And it concluded with a fireworks display (the first in more than a decade because a long term infestation of pine beetles has turned the local Ponderosa pine population into something resembling kindling) during a period of moderate drought.

The whole thing would be comical if it weren’t real.

killed by indifference

A lot has been written about the way George Floyd was killed. I think most of what I’ve read gets the story wrong. People have called it a deliberate murder. They’ve said it was a result of racial animus. They’ve described it as a hate crime.

I don’t think that’s entirely correct. I think it was something even worse. I think it was an act of casual indifference.

I don’t know what motivated Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck. How could I? But from watching the video, my sense is that Chauvin wasn’t angry. He wasn’t scared. He didn’t feel threatened. He wasn’t nervous or alarmed or even annoyed. Chauvin, to me, seemed unconcerned, not just about what was he was doing, but also to what was taking place around him. He seemed unmoved by it all.

That’s what I saw in the video. Chauvin just didn’t care. He was unmoved by Floyd’s pleas for help. He had no concern about Floyd’s well-being. Floyd simply didn’t matter; not as a suspect in a crime, not as a citizen of Minneapolis, not as a member of the public Chauvin was sworn to protect, not even as a fellow human being. Chauvin just didn’t care.

I’ve heard folks use the phrase ‘man’s inhumanity to man’ when talking about this killing. I’m not seeing that. I’m not convinced Chauvin saw Floyd as a fellow human being, as a person with the same thoughts and passions and feelings and dreams and concerns shared by every other human being.

Elie Wiesel, a Romanian Jew who survived the Nazi Holocaust — who survived being interned in the Máramarossziget ghetto, who survived both the Auschwitz concentration camp and the death camp at Buchenwald — had this to say:

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death.

Would Chauvin have done the same thing to a white person? I don’t know; maybe. Possibly. Probably, depending on the social status of the person. But it’s hard to imagine racism not playing a role in the killing. Certainly, racism was involved in the police response to the inevitable protest afterwards. We didn’t see any tear gas or rubber bullets used against any of the lockdown protesters, did we.

The face of indifference.

In the end, it comes down to callous disregard for George Floyd. Floyd just didn’t matter. His suffering didn’t matter. His pleas for help didn’t matter. His civil rights didn’t matter. His life didn’t matter. Nor do the lives of his family and friends and, in an ever expanding circle, the lives of people of color in Minneapolis, in Minnesota, in the United States.

It’s not just George Floyd who didn’t matter. Of the 100,000 American deaths from Covid-19 over the last four months, 56.5% have been non-white. Only 28% of the US population is non-white. This is no coincidence. Apply that same metric to incarceration, to wealth, to general health care, to arrest rates, to infant mortality, to employment, to just about any social criterion in the United States.

Indifference is the key to inhumanity. George Floyd was killed by indifference. He simply didn’t matter.

the bluto party

You know what? It’s time we (and by ‘we’ I mean ‘anybody who is paying attention to what’s happening right now in the United States’) stopped thinking of the Republican Party as a legitimate political party — because they’ve stopped acting like one. A political party is just a collection of people who share the same general ideology and hold the same general political positions in regard to governance. The operative term there is ‘governance’. Based on their behavior, Republicans no longer believe in governance; they only believe in ruling.

Seriously. The folks who represent Republicans now have abandoned the notion that every political party should be subject to the same rules and laws. Since Trump took office, Republicans have gutted congressional oversight, they’ve perverted the advice and consent process, they’ve twisted the concept of judicial review. Worst of all, they’ve changed the executive branch from being just one of three co-equal branches of government into…well, Bluto. What Bluto wants, Republicans deliver.

In fact, Republicans have become the Bluto Party.

Bluto, if you’re not familiar with him, was Popeye’s nemesis. A loudmouthed, blustering, bully who tries to get what he wants through brute force and/or trickery. In the Popeye cartoons Bluto takes on a variety of guises — sometimes he’s a fellow sailor, but he’s also shown up as an evil professor, a wicked hypnotist, a lecherous lifeguard, a devious sheik, a generic thug.

It’s the same with modern Republicans. They take on various guises, but they all behave like Bluto. You can put Bluto in a suit and a tie, but he’s still Bluto. You can put him in a drawing room or an orchestra pit, but he’s still Bluto. You can spray him with a gentleman’s cologne, he’s still Bluto. You can dress him in judicial robes, still Bluto. There is absolutely nothing you can do to unBluto him. He’s Bluto to the bone.

“You’d better lock up your doors today.
‘Cause Abu Hassan is on his way.
Go in hiding when I come riding
from me and my forty thieves.

Your wife and children, your money too,
I’ll steal them from you before I’m through.
I’m out gunning, so start in running
from me and my forty thieves.

My gang’s the roughest,
But I’m the toughest,
and that’s no lie.
You’ve got to hand it
to this bad bandit,
because I’m a terrible guy.

Comrade Trump, of course, is the bull goose Bluto. All lesser Blutos must bow to him. He’s released the inner Bluto in every Republican in government. For example, Bluto says it’s perfectly okay to ignore subpoena if it’s issued by congressional Democrats. Bluto argues (in front of Bluto-dominated courts) that a congressional subpoena MUST have a legislative purpose. But Bluto Republicans in congress have a long (long, long, long) history of issuing subpoenas for purely investigative purposes — even when those investigations have repeatedly turned up nothing.

I’m basically saying ALL Republicans in government now are Bluto. Republicans in Congress — Bluto. Republicans in the Justice Department — mad Bluto. Republicans who’ve been place in federal courts even when rated unqualified — totally Bluto. You may say that it’s not fair to paint all Republicans with the same brush, and I suppose you’d be right. But I’m of the opinion that if they’re benefiting from Bluto Republican behavior and not calling it out, then they’re Bluto too, and just as guilty as every other Bluto.

The only comfort to be found in this is that Bluto always gets his ass kicked in the end. I mean, it works that way in the cartoons. So I’m sending spinach to Joe Biden and every other Popeye motherfucker running a campaign against Bluto.

fifty ways

— I’m confused. I don’t understand. I just don’t get it.
— What’s the matter, pookie?
— I really really don’t understand why people are reacting to a pandemic this way.
— Oh. It’s because they’re assholes.
— They assert their right to protest a legal order from their governor, but they were outraged when a black football player took a knee to protest racial police brutality. Don’t they see how illogical that is?
— No, because they’re assholes.

These people are assholes.

— They insist they’re pro-life, that every potential life is sacred, but at the same time they say it’s permissible for some folks to die in order to strengthen the economy. Not just permissible, but necessary. I don’t understand that reasoning.
— It’s asshole reasoning. The reasoning of assholes.
— They argue that they have the absolute right over the integrity of their bodies, that if they don’t want to wear a mask, they shouldn’t have to. But they also want to deny women the right over the integrity of their bodies, saying they shouldn’t be allowed to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. I mean, they feel imposed upon if they have to wear a mask, but it’s not an imposition for a woman to carry an unwanted fetus for nine months? Explain that to me.
— The explanation is that they’re assholes.

A few more assholes.

— And armed protests? What’s with that? Not just protests against stay-at-home orders, but armed protests. Why do they need to bring guns?
— It’s because they’re assholes.
— They call themselves patriots, but they keep waving Confederate or Nazi flags. I mean, flags of peoples who fought against the United States. How is that patriotic?
— They’re assholes.
— They say President Obama was corrupt, even though nobody in his administration was ever charged with a crime. Eight years and constant ongoing Congressional investigations, not one person charged with a crime. But they insist Trump is the best president ever, despite the fact that at least seven members of his administration or transition team have pleaded guilty or been convicted of felonies. And who knows how many were fired or resigned in disgrace. How does that compute?
— Dude, they’re assholes. I don’t know what else to say.

Assholes with guns.

— They claim to respect law enforcement, but they also say the FBI tried to derail the Trump presidential campaign. They say they believe in the rule of law, but they don’t want the rule of law to apply to themselves. It doesn’t make any sense. I don’t get it.
— Yes, you do. They’re assholes.
— I just can’t wrap my head around all of this. It’s like…it’s like…I don’t even know.
— Sit back, pookie, and allow me to quote the poet Simon.

“The problem is all inside your head”, she said to me
“The answer is easy if you take it logically
I’d like to help you in your struggle to be free
There must be fifty ways to say they’re assholes.”

— So you’re saying…it’s because they’re assholes?
— Ah, day dawns in the rock garden.
— What?
— You have seen the light.

 

targeted murder hornets

Okay, so, I have a plan. It’s still in the very early stages of development, so maybe it’s not actually a ‘plan’. At least not in the sense of a thought-out arrangement or method for doing something. I can’t really say I’ve thought this out terribly well. In fact, it would be more accurate to call it a ‘plot’ rather than a plan, since it’s more of a sequence of intended events rather than an actual arrangeme…well, okay even ‘plot’ is probably inaccurate. Let’s call it a thought experiment. Or wishful thinking.

Okay, so I’ve been doing some wishful thinking about those tuna-brained plonkers parading outside the offices and homes of state government officials who have implemented stay-at-home orders in an effort to reduce the Covid-19 butcher’s bill. I should say that I support anybody’s right to protest. Anybody’s, even if I disagree with the protest, and even if I think the protest is stupid beyond belief.

Yeah, THIS is a guy I’d trust with a firearm. He looks nice.

But damn. Look I know I should feel compassion for folks who are so frightened or timid they feel they need to carry at least one firearm (and preferably more, plus some extra ammo and probably some sort of tactical knife) to go to the market or to exercise their civil liberties. It must be miserable to be that scared all the time. But the sad truth is I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be compassionate for people who have to carry a firearm everywhere they go in public in order to feel safe while insisting that others who are scared of a virus should just stay home.

Anyway, I have a plan some wishful thinking about these dolts. It involves murder hornets. Have you heard about the murder hornets? Vespa Mandarina, or something like that. Big fucking Asian wasps that have found their way to the US, probably from Wuhan China (I mean, why not?). Two inches long, with mandibles like scimitars and a stinger long enough to penetrate a bee-keeper’s suit. Also? They can sting you multiple times. Multiple. Flies at 20 miles per hour, so good luck outrunning one of those angry bastards. I mean, Usain Bolt, who is like the fastest man on the damned planet, was clocked at 28 mph, and that was only for a hundred meters. Of course, if he had a murder hornet behind him, he might do better. But the rest of us are fucked. I mean, just look at them.

Their sting has been described as like being impaled with red hot thumbtacks.

Here’s a thing about hornets (well, some hornets, not all of them, but maybe including murder hornets, I don’t know, but we’re still in the wishful thought experiment stage, so don’t discourage me): when angry or attacked, they release an alarm pheromone (your basic 2-methyl-3-butene-2-ol) that incites other nearby hornets to attack. This alarm pheromone is semi-key to my plan wishful thought experiment.

Okay, here it is: we (and by ‘we’ I mean somebody else other than me) capture and breed hundreds or thousands of murder hornets, genetically modifying the brutes so they’re attracted to the smell of Hoppe’s gun oil. How hard could that be?

Hey tunahead, say hello to my little friend.

Anyway, that’s the plan wishful thought experiment. Breed them, train them, turn them loose at these protests. Then stand back. The hornets are drawn to the firearms, the tunaheads panic and swat at them (or just panic and run, the plan work…dammit, the wishful thought experiment works either way), hilarity ensues.

There are still a few wrinkles to work out, I admit. I wonder if Kickstarter would accept something like this.

the lord knoweth them that are his

If you’re anything like me (and yeah, the odds are against it), when you hear people like Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne of the River Tampa Bay Church in Florida, you almost immediately think of Arnaud Amalric, the Abbot of Cîteaux.

Since you’re probably not like me, you’re probably thinking, “Greg, old sock, these names are completely unfamiliar to me. Who, pray tell, are these people?” First, stop calling me ‘old sock’. Second, they’re both what I like to call ‘providentialist fuckwits’. True, they’re separated by about 830 years, but they share some astonishingly stupid approaches to their religious practices.

Here’s Pastor Rodney just a few days ago:

“If you cannot be saved in church, you in serious trouble. I’ve got news for you, this church will never close. The only time the church is closed is when the Rapture is taking place. If you don’t believe God, and trust God, you will not make it in the days coming. God will protect our people. And if you die to be with Jesus, so what’s the problem?”

This is some seriously old school providentialism that…wait, some of you might be thinking, “Greg, old sock, what do you mean by ‘providentialism’?” Okay, we’ve already discussed the ‘old sock’ issue. Providentialism is the belief that all events on Earth, including the fates of individuals and/or nations, are determined by god, who will take care of the true believers, obv.

This is Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne, providentialist fuckwit.

Basically, in its purest and most idiotic form, it’s an abdication of personal responsibility. ‘If I get sick and die, that’s god’s will. If I expose a few dozen other people who get sick and die, that’s up to god. It’s not me but god, who is responsible for everything that happens. God will sort it out.’

And that brings me to Abbot Arnaud Amalic, who was a big hat in the Albigensian Crusade. In the summer of 1209, our boy Arnaud had led his crusader army to the town of Béziers, which was considered a stronghold of the Cathars. He…okay, okay, now you’re probably thinking, “Whoa, Greg old so…uh, what is this albiwhatsit crusade and who or what are Cathars?”

The guy on the left with the halo? That’s Abbot Arnaud Amalric, providentialist fuckwit. I’m not saying there’s a family resemblance to Pastor Rodney, but….

Yeah, good questions. Understand, this is a really quick and dirty explanation of a really complex and fascinating sociological thingy. With that warning in mind, Cathars were a religious sect, many of whom lived in the town of Albi, which is why they were called Albigensians. The Cathars were vegetarian Christians who believed in reincarnation, gender equality, and non-procreative sex (basically any form of sexual activity that wouldn’t lead to pregnancy — yeah, that’s right, any form). They also thought the pope was corrupt as fuck (SPOILER: despite taking the name Innocent III, he was really pretty corrupt). None of that was acceptable to the Church. The pope decided the Cathars were NOT Christians at all, and therefore they had to be converted. Or killed. Pick one.

Remember, from about 1099 to 1272, Christian Europe did a LOT of crusading. This involved traveling a couple of thousand miles to the Middle East in order to kill non-Christians and take their property. A crusade against non-Christians in the south of France was a LOT easier, a lot more time-effective, you didn’t have to deal with all that foreign food, and you still got to kill folks and take their stuff. That made this a very very popular crusade.

Right, back to our boy Arnaud Amalric. He took his crusader army from northern France into southern France, stopping at the town of Béziers. Another tangent: this wasn’t an army in the way we think of armies today. Crusader armies were largely led by knights (privileged guys who expected to get richer through plunder), but the bulk of the fighting was done by peasant foot soldiers (who expected to get some of the riches the knights missed) and mercenary bands (who expected to get paid by the Church and also get rich from plundering), as well as a contingent of religious pilgrims who just wanted the chance to kill non-Christians (and maybe pick up some extra coin while they were at it).

Christian v. Cathars (The guys doing all the stabbing? They’re the Christians.)

So Arnaud’s boys pull up to Béziers, which basically locked their doors (which they could do since the city was behind walls). Arnaud began to set up a siege. Some townsfolk decided to slide out of the city and whack a few mercenaries before the siege was firmly established. Big mistake. The mercenaries not only whacked the townsfolk, they were able to get in the gate. Where they started killing folks.

Siege warfare at that time was pretty routine. You pick away at the walls until you can send in some mercenaries and foot soldiers and peasants to get gloriously slaughtered while opening a gate or a big enough breach in the wall. Then the knights come flouncing in on their horses, allow the people of the town to get semi-slaughtered until the mercenaries reached the part of town where the richest folks lived. Then the knights would move in, stop the slaughter and the plundering, and take the best stuff. Like Jesus intended.

But in Béziers, the knights were still sitting in their tents drinking wine when the mercenaries broke into the city and started the slaughtering and plundering. Somebody found our boy Arnaud and said, “Dude, they’re killing everybody in town, Christians and Cathars alike, women and children, everybody, what do we do?” There’s some dispute whether the concern was about the slaughtering or about the fact that the peasants and mercenaries were getting all the best plunder. In any event, Arnaud is reported to have said this:

“Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”

This often gets translated as “Kill them all, let god sort them out.” A more accurate translation is, “Kill them. For the Lord knows those that are his own.” The more accurate translation is important, because it cites the Bible (Paul’s second epistle to Timothy) as the source for the killing.

“[T]he foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

In the end, Arnaud wrote to the pope to let him know they’d taken Béziers. He wrote, “Our men spared no one, irrespective of rank, sex or age, and put to the sword almost twenty thousand people. After this great slaughter the whole city was despoiled and burnt.” But hey, we all make mistakes, and surely god knew which of those twenty thousand were good Christians. So there’s that.

“The Lord knoweth them that are his.”

Basically Arnaud’s take on the situation was largely the same as Pastor Rodney’s. “If you die to be with Jesus, what’s the problem?” Of course, it sounds more sober and religious if you say it in Latin. Si morietur cum ad Jesum, quid est forsit?

The problem, of course, is there are folks who’d just as soon not die. They’d prefer to have a choice in the matter. They’d rather not be put to the sword or infected with a disease simply because some folks believe god will take care of everything in the end, and everybody will get what they deserve.

Let me be clear about this. I have no beef with religion as a social institution. A lot of folks find comfort and solace in their beliefs. Ain’t nothing wrong with that. But I do have a problem with the sort of religious stupidity that puts folks with a different belief system at risk because believers think in the end god will take care of his own team.

I think it’s perfectly reasonable to tell those providentialist fuckwits to go fuck themselves. That would probably sound better in Latin.

lockdown clowns

Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
You with your head up your ass,
Me gasping for air.
Where are the clowns?

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you agree?
People keep tearing around,
Pretending they’re free.
Where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns?

Don’t you love farce?
Trump’s fault, I fear.
You get to protest with guns.
While I disappear.
But where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here

Isn’t it rich?
Ain’t we been pwned?
You said America’s great.
But I died alone.
But where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns.
Vote better this year.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Apologies to Mr. Sondheim. Also? If you’re not familiar with Puddles Pity Party, this is a good introduction.

fuckwits on parade

You remember those folks who were too afraid to go to Target or Starbucks unless they were allowed to carry their semi-auto assault-style firearms? You know, the folks who believe freedom’s just another word for ‘I have both the right and the duty to carry an AR-15 into the local Dairy Queen even if (and maybe especially if) it scares liberal snowflakes because it’s just possible that some day somebody carrying another AR-15 into the local Dairy Queen might start shooting people and I want to be able to return fire and I will sure as hell shoot straight and kill the bad guys and not accidentally kill innocent people, then you’ll be glad I was armed because I’m doing this for you and America.’ Yeah, those folks. Now they’re standing up to the novel coronavirus.

Fuckwits with flags.

Conservatives in Michigan, manfully pissed off because ‘that woman in Michigan’ wants everybody to stay inside and be safe and healthy, organized a protest. ‘Operation Gridlock.’ They gathered their guns, their MAGA hats, their ‘Trump 2020’ signs, their Confederate battle flags, their Gadsen ‘Don’t Tread on Me’ flags, and they loaded up their pickups, and headed to Lansing to teach a lesson to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and show that pesky Chinese virus that real Americans aren’t afraid to gather in large groups and create patriotic vectors of viral transmission.

fuckwits in pickups with Confederate flags.

Michigan, right now, has more active Covid-19 cases than California. They’ve had a couple thousand confirmed Covid-19 deaths (and who knows how many unconfirmed deaths) — the third most deaths in this entire sad, gutted nation, behind New Jersey and New York. Gov. Whitmer ordered non-essential businesses to close and people to stay home and self-isolate in an attempt to mitigate the deaths. So of course these fuckwits decided to gather together, to chant ‘lock her up’ about the governor, to wave their flags and Trump signs, and block traffic in front of a hospital. Seriously, during a goddamn pandemic, these yahoos thought it was cute to block the emergency entrance to a hospital. Jesus suffering fuck.

Gov. Whitmer’s order for Michigan citizens to stay home, they said, was tyranny (SPOILER: if you can gather in public and accuse the government of tyranny without fear of arrest, it’s not tyranny). They repeated Ben Franklin’s claim that ‘security without liberty is called prison’ (SPOILER: if you can drive your pickup to Lansing, Michigan, you’re not in prison and you have liberty). They chanted “Lock her up!” and “Keep America Great!” (SPOILER: if your nation was warned a pandemic was coming and didn’t bother to prepare for it, your country isn’t all that great, and a populace that wants to lock up a governor for trying to mitigate that pandemic isn’t particularly great either).

Fuckwits with firearms.

I kinda sorta semi-support the right of these fuckwits to gather together. The First Amendment to the US Constitution guarantees ‘the right of the people peaceably to assemble’, after all. On the other hand, legal scholars agree that the State has the power and an obligation to regulate behavior when there’s a compelling interest vital to the protection of public health and safety. Like, say, a pandemic. There’s no pandemic exception to the First Amendment, but courts have ruled that states and localities have the right to limit the size of gatherings when it’s in the interest of public health and safety. Which is exactly what Gov. Whitmer did.

In the end, you can’t fully protect stupid people from being stupid and doing stupid things with other stupid people. Some of these fuckwits on parade will possibly/likely get infected with the Covid-19 virus. If that happens, they’ll possibly/likely pass that infection on to others — some of whom didn’t behave stupidly. This the way of the fuckwitted; their stupidity is splashed onto the innocent.

Conservatives are fond of quoting Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” The tree of stupidity, it seems, has to be refreshed on a regular basis with the blood of the innocent.