Well, isn’t this a surprise. Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael are offering twin self-defense arguments. Sure, the circumstances of each killing are different. Rittenhouse had to travel for an hour or so to bring a firearm to a volatile situation on the off-chance that he might ‘need’ it, whereas McMichael only had to travel a few blocks to bring a firearm to a volatile situation on the off-chance that he might ‘need’ it. But each of these guys deliberately armed themselves then inserted themselves into a situation where they might ‘need’ to shoot somebody.
And hey bingo, Guess what? Turns out they both somehow (seriously, who could have guessed something like this might happen?) found themselves in situations where they believed they ‘needed’ to shoot somebody. What a coincidence.
I mean, all they did was 1) arm themselves with a deadly weapon 2) to protect property they 3) didn’t own and 4) which nobody asked them to protect against 5) an unarmed person who 6) may have been on or near that property. Then when they 7) confronted that unarmed person and, 8) brandished their deadly weapon, and that unarmed person 9) was uncomfortable having a deadly weapon brandished, and 10) decided to try to disarm them, they 11) were forced to shoot that unarmed person in order 12) not to become an unarmed person facing an armed person.
It’s logic! An armed person is a threat to an unarmed person, so it was clearly necessary for Rittenhouse and McMichael to shoot an unarmed person before they become armed. You know…in self defense. They’re both very sorry they had to kill unarmed people. They both cried about it. They’ve suffered so much.
What? You think none of this would have happened if both Kyle Rittenhouse and Travis McMichael had just stayed home and watched Lethal Weapon on television? But then who would have protected that property? What? You say none of the victims dead people were killed near the properties that were supposedly being protected? Doesn’t matter; the issue is self defense. Against unarmed people. Trying to take guns away from patriots selflessly willing to put themselves at risk to protect other people’s property.
The modern Republican Party (you know what? I need to stop calling them ‘the modern Republican Party’ because at this point they’re just the Republican Party; there’s no point in trying to distinguish the cowardly fuckwits who now inhabit this aggressively ignorant cultural collective from the Republican Party that used to have consistent conservative principles) has a problem with problems. In fact, they have several problems with problems.
They lack any meaningful understanding of actual socio-political problems, they have no interest in learning about them, no ability to address them in any practical way, and no real desire to resolve them. What they DO have is a clear understanding of the political optics of being seen as dealing with problems.
Republicans have an intuitive grasp of the narrative strength of heroic problem solving. It’s one of the classic story tropes. A monster exists. A hero leaves their community and goes out into a hostile world in search of the monster. They encounter difficulties and tests of courage along the way, and overcome them. They find the monster, struggle against it, nearly lose, then triumph over it. They return home again–maybe to applause, maybe just to live quietly among those they’ve made safe.
What Republicans do is turn that trope on its head. There is no monster, which means they’re not heroes, so they don’t leave the safety of their community or deal with a hostile world, and their privilege protects them from any difficulties or tests of courage they may encounter. But if they invent a monster, they can pretend to be heroes by claiming to risk themselves in a life-or-death struggle, allowing them to assert some sort of imaginary victory.
There is no monster of voter fraud. Yet Republicans claim they’re in danger and are courageously struggling overwhelming Socialist enemies to enact voting restrictions which will save…what? Elections? There is no monster of trans girl/women athletes dominating high school or college sports. Yet Republicans claim girls and young women are in danger and they are bravely enacting laws banning trans athletes from sports which will…what? Save high school track and field meets? There is no monster of critical race theory savaging the lives of students. Yet Republicans insist they’re valiantly standing up against…something…in order to rescue innocent young white students from learning that systemic racism exists, thereby saving them from…what? Caring?
Republicans present themselves as beamish boys wielding vorpal blades against burbling Jabberwoks in the tulgey wood. Hast thou slain the trans-racist-voter fraud? O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! Now to galumph back to Mar-a-Lago, chortling.
It’s all nonsense. Not silly nonsense, though. Dangerous nonsense. Because as a nation, we’re facing real fucking problems, with real fucking jaws that bite and claws that catch. Modern Republicans have gone through the Looking Glass. And there’s no sign that they’re ever coming back.
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
It’s a good question. It’s a question that will determine whether or not the US will have any hope of being a representative democracy.
Here is today’s lesson: if you elect stupid Christians, you get stupid Christianity.
Okay, let’s get this out of the way first. This is NOT an attack on Christianity or Christians or religion of any sort. It’s not an attack on Jesus or Jeebus. It’s an attack on stupidity. It’s an attack on insulting the intelligence of the American people. It’s an attack on religious gaslighting. It’s an attack on religious arrogance. But mostly stupidity.
I’m talking about Cindy Hyde-Smith, one of the US Senators (oh my fucking god she’s a Senator) from Mississippi. Yesterday, in an actual real Senate hearing on voter rights, she sorta kinda semi-quoted the Bible to defend legislation in Georgia–a state that is NOT Mississippi–that restricts early voting on Sundays. She held up a dollar bill and said (and I swear, I am NOT making this up) the following:
You know, this is our currency, this is a dollar bill. This says, ‘The United States of America, in God we trust.’ Etched in stone in the U.S. Senate chamber is ‘in God we trust.’ When you swore in all of these witnesses, the last thing you said to them in your instructions was ‘so help you God.’ In God’s word in Exodus 20:18, it says ‘remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.’
Okay, where to start? Let’s start with this: What the fuck? She’s not saying people shouldn’t be allowed to vote on Sundays because of US currency–which would be galactically stupid. Nope, she’s saying people shouldn’t be allowed to vote on Sundays because of her Christian religion–which is only massively stupid. Is she aware that not all voters are Christian? Maybe? Maybe not? Either way, this is stupid.
Next, let’s look at what Exodus 20:18 actually says, which is this:
And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off.
Thunderings, lightnings, noise. All of which is oddly appropriate. The thing is, Senator (I still can’t believe somebody this stupid is an actual Senator) Hyde-Smith made an simple, understandable mistake. She actually quoted Exodus 20:8, which does, in fact, say: Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Of course, she left a bit out. It goes on to say more than that. It also says this:
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates.
Any work. Thou shalt not do any work. Thou and everybody else. No work. No stores or shops open, no restaurants, no taverns, no Walmart, no spa or gym, no movie theaters, no Waffle House, nothing is open. Nobody doing chores. Nobody working the fields. Nobody tidying up at home, nobody doing laundry, nobody cooking or doing dishes. Six days shalt thou labor, and do ALL thy work, but on the seventh day you do fuck all. Just sit around praying and generally being holy.
Senator (it hurts me to call her that) Hyde-Smith may not be aware of this, but her own state of Mississippi is open for business on Sundays. It’s hard to justify forbidding people from voting on Sunday, but allowing them to buy mufflers and eat waffles and watch movies. There’s a flaw in that reasoning.
But also, there’s this: the book of Exodus, which is the second book of the Torah, was almost certainly written around the 5th century BCE. What does BCE stand for? That’s right. Before the Common Era. Before Jesus. The Sabbath mentioned in Exodus? The Sabbath Senator (Jesus suffering fuck, how can she be a Senator?) Hyde-Smith is referring to? That’s not the Christian Sabbath; it’s the Jewish Sabbath. We’re talking Friday evening to Saturday evening, not Sunday.
Finally, there’s this: Senator (really, how is that possible?) Hyde-Smith and her comrades in the GOP are blatantly gaslighting. They’re not interested in protecting the Sabbath. They’re only interested in protecting the GOP from people who want to vote. Mostly, that means they want to protect the GOP from Black people. And Democrats.
Instead of advocating popular policies that will make people want to vote for Republicans, they’ve chosen to find ways to discourage people from voting for Democrats. And what have the people done in response? Having seen the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off from the GOP. And told them to go fuck themselves. Amen.
— So, did you see Mitt Romney the other day. — No, thank Jayzus, what’d he do now? — Marched with Black Lives Matter. — C’mon. — No, he did. — Was he lost? — No, he was marching with BLM. — Mitt Romney? — Mitt fucking Romney. — Did he have, like, an armed guard? — Looked like it was just him. — Five bucks says he had one hand on his wallet. — No, he was… — And the other hand on some poor Black guy’s wallet. — …actually marching with Black Lives Matter. I’m not making this up. — Was he toting a sign that said ‘All lives matter’? — No, he…somebody asked him why he was marching and he said…and I’m really, truly not making this up, he said something about violence and brutality, and then he said it was “to make sure that people understand that Black lives matter.”
— Mitt Romney? — I know, right? — I mean, just a few months ago Pete Buttigieg was still saying ‘All lives matter’ and he’s a damned Democrat. — I don’t know how to explain it. He took a selfie of himself in the march. — Okay, that’s just…Mitt Romney took a selfie in a BLM march. I did NOT see that coming. — We live in curious times, my friend. — Did he say the death of George Floyd was ‘a tragic mistake’ or ‘an unfortunate event’? — He called it a murder. — Bullshit. — Straight up called it a murder. — Are you sure this was Mitt Romney? — I swear on my signed first edition of Neuromancer. — I don’t know quite what to make of this. — It sorta kinda gives me hope. I mean, there’s a — Stop it. Just stop. You’re not going to trick me into having hope. Fuck you. — But, what if… — I’m not listening I’m not listening Neenah neenah neenah just fucking stop. — Okay. — I’m not falling for it. — Okay. — I’m not. — … — God damn it.
Every time the United States is coping with widespread rioting sparked by racism and police violence during an economic crisis caused by the near-collapse of the national healthcare system overloaded by an inept and indifferent response to a global pandemic taking place a few months before the most critical presidential election in the history of this nation pitting an essentially decent, good-hearted but bumbling old white man against a malignant, mendacious, ignorant old white man, I am reminded of the words of the Poet Sam Cooke.
A change gonna come.
It has been a long time coming. I don’t know what the change will be, but it’s coming. There’s no guarantee the change will be a good one. But all the same, it’s coming. I’m scared to be very hopeful, I really am. I know the change — even if it’s a good one, even if it’s the change I want — won’t be nearly enough to make everything right. But it’s coming, and it’ll bring some clarity. In a few short months, things will start to get better. Or they’ll start to get much worse. But a change gonna come.
You can’t dodge it. You can’t stop it. You can work to make it the change you want, but it’s coming. You can organize, you can protest, you can sit at home and binge watch television, you can throw stones, you can vote, you can wear a mask, you can ignore science, you can pray to any entity you can believe in, you can burn the motherfucker down, you can donate money, you can buy a t-shirt with a slogan on it, you can bake bread, you can call names, you can close your eyes and hope it all goes away, but it won’t. You know it won’t. You know it won’t.
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.
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.
— Ordinary People: Just curious here, but how come y’all didn’t arrest those two guys who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery a couple of months ago?
— State of Georgia: Well, we were busy.
— Ordinary People: Busy?
— State of Georgia: You know…dealing with that Cabronivirus hoax thang.
— Ordinary People: Coronavirus?
— State of Georgia: That’s it.
— Ordinary People: But y’all re-opened Georgia for business on April 21st.
— State of Georgia: Don’t it make you proud to be an American? Freedom, baby.
— Ordinary People: So why haven’t those two guys who shot and killed Ahmaud Arbery been arrested and charged with murder?
— State of Georgia: We will, we will. You just hafta be patient. We gotta wait until a grand jury can be held to consider the evidence.
— Ordinary People: When will that happen?
— State of Georgia: Oh, probably by mid-June.
— Ordinary People: Why can’t we do that now?
— State of Georgia: Courts are closed. That Wooham Cabronivirus thing.
— Ordinary People: Are you fucking kidding me?
— State of Georgia: Nope.
— Ordinary People: You opened barbershops and nail salons.
— State of Georgia: Yes, we did. Free enterprise is what makes America great.
— Ordinary People: You opened gyms, for fuck’s sake.
— State of Georgia: Got to get our exercise. A fit nation is a free nation.
— Ordinary People: But you can’t open the courts?
— State of Georgia: Well, we got to be careful and be sensible about this.
— Ordinary People: Those two guys hunted Ahmaud Arbery.
— State of Georgia: Well, now, that hasn’t been proved.
— Ordinary People: They admitted it. They admitted they saw him running in their neighborhood on a Sunday afternoon, they admitted they thought…they thought…he looked like somebody seen on security camera footage committing a break-in in their neighborhood, so they grabbed their guns, hopped in their truck and went hunting for them.
— State of Georgia: All Americans got the right to protect their property.
Another unfortunate Cabronivirus death.
— Ordinary People: He was just running.
— State of Georgia: He grabbed for their gun.
— Ordinary People: Because they were pointing it at him.
— State of Georgia: He thought his life was in danger.
— Ordinary People: Exactly!
— State of Georgia: No, I mean the white guy.
— Ordinary People: The white guy with the gun thought his life was in danger by the black guy jogging?
— State of Georgia: The law says you got the right to protect yourself.
— Ordinary People: Didn’t Ahmaud Arbery have the right to protect himself?
— State of Georgia: That’s why we got to have us a grand jury. To figure out what happened.
— Ordinary People: We know what happened.
— State of Georgia: It’ll all come out in the testimony.
— Ordinary People: Ahmaud Arbery is too dead to testify.
— State of Georgia: And that’s unfortunate, but the law’s the law. We’ll get to that grand jury just as soon as we can.
— Ordinary People: It won’t help Ahmaud Arbery.
— State of Georgia: And that’s a shame, sure is. That Cabronivirus, it’s killed a lot of good Georgians.
— Ordinary People: Jesus suffering fuck.
— State of Georgia: We need to honor their sacrifice by letting decent folks get back to work at the chicken processing plants.
Hey, you guys! Remember when Comrade Trump got all cranky-pants over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem on account of they hated America and were black (not necessarily in that order)? And remember when the big hats of the NFL (hint: rich white guys) decided to make Trump uncranky by coming up with policy that said Dude, you can stand for the national anthem or you can park your ass inside the locker room, but we ain’t having you taking no knee in public like some communist or something? Remember that?
Well you can stop remembering it. On account of it doesn’t apply anymore. For the moment. The NFL Players Association responded to the NFL’s Park Your Ass rule by saying, “What? You got to be joking, right? I mean, c’mon, this is America.”
Then what happened is this: the Associated Press (aka Enemy of the People) got hold of the Miami Dolphins’ new code of player conduct. Which basically said, Dude, you violate the rule and take a knee during the anthem, then you don’t get to play for, like, four games. And the NFLPA said, “What? You got to be joking, right? Four games? I mean, c’mon, you don’t get sat down for four games if you beat up your girlfriend or get caught with drugs. Four games? Seriously?”
So the NFLPA filed a grievance, because c’mon, four games. And the NFL said, “Whoa, let’s not get hasty here. Baby, you know I really love you.” So now the NFL and the NFLPA are in Football Couples Therapy, trying to make things work and rekindle their old romance. They released a joint statement.
The NFL and NFLPA, through recent discussions, have been working on a resolution to the anthem issue. In order to allow this constructive dialogue to continue, we have come to a standstill agreement on the NFLPA’s grievance and on the NFL’s anthem policy. No new rules relating to the anthem will be issued or enforced for the next several weeks while these confidential discussions are ongoing.
See that ‘constructive dialogue’ bit? Totally right out of the couples therapy handbook. Pretty soon I expect a mediator will sit both the NFL and the NFLPA down and tell them, “Look, you can be right…or you can be in a relationship.”
The joint statement also included some bullshit about “reflect[ing] the great values of America” which I don’t quite understand. I mean, we’re talking about a group of genetic mutants who dress in high-tech protective gear in order to repeatedly bang into each other with enough force that almost half of the current players show some evidence of traumatic brain injuries and 96% of autopsied players (don’t panic — they wait until the players are actually certified dead before doing the autopsy) displayed chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure I want folks giving themselves brain damage for public entertainment to be one of the “great values of America.” But hey, the good news is that the people who pummel each other for our amusement may not be forced choose between engaging in a peaceful protest or parking their asses in a locker room. At least not for a while.
This may all change when Comrade Trump hears about it and it’s time to rile up the rubes before the mid-term elections.
ADDENDUM: Comrade Trump tweeted (of course) about this last night:
The NFL National Anthem Debate is alive and well again – can’t believe it! Isn’t it in contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart? The $40,000,000 Commissioner must now make a stand. First time kneeling, out for game. Second time kneeling, out for season/no pay!
Uh, no. It’s NOT in the contract that players must stand at attention, hand on heart. As far as that goes, no, it’s not a National Anthem debate. It’s a police misconduct debate that Comrade Trump hijacked for racist, political reasons. And I think the American people must now take a stand. First time complicity with Russia, lose the midterm elections. Second time complicity, out of office.