What with the shit-show we’ve got going on right now as a nation — concentration camps on the border, a wag-the-dog escalation to a war of choice with Iran, a serious bump in hate crimes and people identifying as Nazis and white supremacists, a climate crisis that will destroy life as we know it starting to kick in for real, a nationwide election coming up that will undoubtedly be fucked with by hostile foreign actors while the beneficiaries insist nothing’s wrong, and a legislature unable, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, to do anything but confirm hardcore conservative federal judges to lifetime sinecures, just to skim the surface — it’s easy to understand the widespread longing to go back to the way things were under the Obama Administration. To get things back to normal so we can all go back to living our lives without having to worry that the demented narcissist with the nuclear football will bring about Armageddon in a fit of pique or even just to avoid jail time.
I get it. I really do. I also would like not to live my life in a fog of existential dread, in which every action is pointless because, Rapture or not, the end is probably nigh for the American experiment and possibly human civilization and what can possibly matter anymore?
But even were it possible to return to whatever passed for normal before — and it isn’t — such a return is not even desirable, both on its own merits and especially in light of the challenges we face as Americans and human beings who live on the rapidly-warming, ecologically-imbalanced, and soon-to-be-downwardly-spiraling Earth.
I’d like to suggest that if the color of your skin and the doings of people who lived in the same countries as your ancestors constitutes your greatest source of pride and self-worth, then maybe you should consider doing something worthwhile and constructive enough with your life that you can cultivate that pride and self-worth there. I think you’ll find that it’ll make you much healthier and happier, and no one has to die because you can’t think of a good reason to like yourself.
What do you even say when you see something like this in a kindergarten classroom? I mean, really, what do you say? Given its placement, the way we read left to right, the Lockdown Song is apparently even more important than learning the alphabet.
How has it come to this?
How have we reached the point where school shootings are such a part of the fabric of our national life that someone decided it was better to start preparing children for the worst than to try and preserve their innocence awhile longer, and provide an environment where what’s best in them might flower and grow?
These questions are rhetorical, obviously. We all know how. A powerful manufacturing lobby made a Faustian bargain with a political party (and possibly, even probably, Russian oligarchs) to sell as much of their product as possible, consequences be damned. For them, from their position and perspective, it’s actually a virtuous circle. Scientific studies have shown that fear makes people more conservative, makes them buy more guns. Once the market reaches a certain saturation (like, idk, one gun per person in the freest, most prosperous nation in modern history), the feedback loop reinforces itself. There are too many guns, and it’s too easy to get them, to make it harder for upright, responsible citizens (or, really, anyone) to buy guns to defend themselves from all the other people with guns. Never mind how your chances of dying from gun violence vastly increase when you purchase a gun.
But that’s just science talking. And science, despite its dedication to reflecting and clarifying actuality, can’t hold a candle to narrative when it comes to getting people to do (or not do) stuff.
But back to the virtuous circle, which is not really virtuous unless it’s in your interest to make people frightened so you can sell them guns and get them to vote for conservative politicians whose policies are generally terrifically unpopular. I mean, does anyone who isn’t rich really think the rich need more money while the rest of us scrabble and scrape? Does anyone really want to live in a world two steps removed from a battle royale where it’s all against all and fuck everybody who ain’t me and mine? Some people might, but fuck them.
So, the circle. How does it work?
Well, what you need is to cultivate an atmosphere of threat, fear, and scarcity. Which isn’t hard, because people are wired to respond to threats. It’s how we survived, evolutionarily, and though we’ve created a situation in which most of our instincts aren’t really optimal, evolution takes a while to catch up. Anyhow, I don’t think it’s a big stretch to say that when things get scary, or scarce, people’s circle of concern tends to tighten up. They start looking out for them and theirs. They also look for targets, because fear and scarcity take their toll on a person. And because fear produces anger and anxiety — which, let’s be honest, don’t exactly lead to clear thinking — it’s easy to divert that fear and anger away from their actual sources, so the underlying causes and problems never get addressed.
Which brings us back to the Lockdown Song. I mean, just think how many guns a whole generation suffering from a lifetime of fear will buy. Long term, school shootings are going to be great for business.
You know what? I don’t give a single solitary fuck how smart or sensitive or deep or broken or sad Mark fucking Conditt was. I mean, I would have, because I’m an empathetic sort of person, right up until he decided to MURDER RANDOM PEOPLE WITH BOMBS. Far as I’m concerned, that makes him a TERRORIST and a PREMEDITATED MURDERER. And not only that, he was a fucking COWARD, too. He was a coward when he made his bombs. He was a coward when he mailed them. And he was a coward right up to the very end, when he decided to become a SUICIDE BOMBER rather than face the consequences of his actions.
Why’d he do it? I don’t know. Maybe cuz he’s just another over-entitled mediocre white boy whose brilliance and inherent awesomeness the world failed to recognize and reward. Maybe cuz he was homeschooled and so he didn’t know how to make friends. Maybe cuz he was raised conservative, which for all its many merits too often comes down to an ideology based on an all against all mentality and violence in the face of fear. Maybe he was just a fucking asshole.
What I do know is that half the fucking country is bending over backwards to find reasons to forgive this poor kid/fucking asshole for murdering people because he’s white, cisgendered, and male. And you know what, I’d almost applaud that if we did it for literally ANY OTHER KIND OF PERSON. But we don’t, do we? We don’t show that kind of compassion for people with darker skin, or different faith traditions, or vaginas, or who feel like they were born in the wrong body and want to make changes so the flesh they wear matches their self-conception. Mexicans are rapists. Muslims are terrorists. Women are hysterical and shrill. Trans people are abominations in the sight of the Lord who made them that way.
So spare me the crocodile tears for poor, misunderstood Mark Conditt, who decided the right way to deal with his issues was to murder people better than he was with bombs, and who took the easy way out when the bill for his actions came due.
Or, you know what? I take it back. I will join you in sympathizing with this lost soul. We can, together, explore the culture and history that might have led him to make the terrible choices he made, to snuff out the promise of his own life and the lives of his victims. We can, together, mourn for him and for them. All I ask in return is you join me in offering the same compassion, the same grace, the same sympathy and understanding to everyone else in the world who is not young, white, cisgendered, and male.
So a bunch of domestic terrorists have seized a wildlife refuge in rural Oregon. They say they’re peaceful but armed (and willing to kill and die), have provisions enough to last a couple of years, and they’ve invited like-minded “patriots” from across the country to join them. They are, by any sane definition, engaged in sedition, and attempting to undermine the political and philosophical underpinnings that make the United States of America possible.
So what do we as a political commonwealth do about that?
It’s very tempting, even from where I sit, to say “Well, if a fight’s what they want, we should give them one. They got away with it last time, and now they’re doing it again. If we don’t slap them down now, they’ll just keep doing it.” After all, the notion that a company-sized force of irregulars could hold their own against a determined assault by the Oregon National Guard or pretty much any branch of the US military is laughable on its face. And while I’m sure the soi-disant patriots involved genuinely believe in their hearts that their long guns and the Second Amendment guarantee their liberty, it’s actually the social compact and the tenets of our political commonwealth that do that, as they would no doubt discover to their brief but lifelong chagrin should it come to any sort of violent confrontation.
The problem is that that’s what their leaders probably want. They want to be martyrs, like the Branch Davidians before them, the spark that will ignite the revolution of long oppressed yet heavily armed Christian White Men who’re frightened to death of long-term demographic trends that will undermine their assumed and inherited hegemony of the US of A. Should the National Guard or the BATFE or any federal agency whatsoever engage, they’ll win the battle decisively and quickly, and start a war that’ll last lifetimes.
That’s why the Bundy brothers’ father Cliven got away with it last time. And thank whatever divinity you pray to we have a President whose prudence outweighs his pride for that.
No, it’s not really an option to storm the gates, satisfying though it would be in the short run, and easily as it might be accomplished. In that sense, they’re like Daesh: fighting them on their own terms only strengthens them.
So what’s to be done?
My answer is there in the title of this post. Let them have their occupied visitors’ center. Let anyone who wants to come join them in their white Libertarian Patriot Paradise do so. Let them prove the workability of their social model and survive as they can off the land. Let 100+ men share a single bathroom (ok, two, since I’m guessing they aren’t going to need to set one aside for ladies), and eat canned beans everyday for a year or two. Let them show us how the land can sustain them, all by itself, without a social compact or government to allocate its fruits.
Just don’t let any of them back out. Not until they’ve learned their lesson, and voluntarily surrender.
I’m betting that it won’t take more than a couple of months before a stint in federal prison starts to look right appealing in comparison.