A Polite Conversation About Politics – Part 3


William R. Herr and I used to sit around the newspaper office at The Fourth Estate, the student paper for Harrisburg Area Community College and talk politics while waiting for stories to come in or after a long day of laying up column strips and half-tone photos (this was, after all, the 1990s back when “Adobe InDesign” was Aldus PageMaker 4.2).  This was around 1992 and the first Clinton was running for office.  Will, being a conservative thinking, often provided a much-needed counterpoint to our generally progressive staff.  This continues our discussions from Part One and Part Two and begins with his response to those parts…

I will, instead of parsing each line, respond to the general thoughts that jumped out at me. First, please list for me the terrorist acts which have specifically been committed in the name of Christ, or ascribed to him afterward by the responsible party. You brought it up.

Are you asking for an equivalency measurement?  Does there have to be a declaration?  If a military officers says something like “God willing, we will prevail!” does that count?  Does having a cross tattooed to a soldier’s arm count?  How about if a soldier just prays before he loads his weapon or before he shuts his eyes in the barracks?

Continue reading

A Polite Conversation About Politics (Pt 1)


PART ONE – Introduction and Gary Johnson and the Libertarians

[Over on the Book of Face, I engaged in a spirited…then awkward…and finally blisteringly hostile discussion of politics.  Specifically, the topic was how Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson could possibly win The White House in this election.  The conversation left a fucking crater.  It ended friendships and ruined a perfectly good night out with my wife.  In the course of that discussion, I compared the tactics of one of my posters negatively against my friend and fellow author William Herr.  Will, always ready to throw out a thousand insightful words about something to pass the time,  posted to his own account the following day. Here is my response.]

Continue reading

A Citadel Birthday Visit.

Meanwhile in the Citadel…
Me: Howard! Happy Birthday.
HPL: Thank you. What is that you’re holding? And why is it on fire?
Me: It’s a cupcake and that’s a candle. Jesus, you’ve been dead long time and you are still one of the most sheltered people I know. It’s chocolate.
HPL: I hate chocolate.
Zevon: That’s no surprise at all.
Me: Warren! I thought you were in heaven!
Zevon: Got bored. I needed to break something. Everybody smiles and is so fucking polite and well-dressed and condescending…it was like a constant A&R meeting. I left. Hi.
Me: Welcome back. Did you know it was Howard’s birthday?
Zevon: Yeah, because he’s been reading everything on Facebook about him for the last week telling us everybody thinks he’s a racist creep.
HPL: I am not a racist. I a student of the species and…
Me: Whoah. I’m just going to stop you right there.
HPL: Why?
Me: Because nothing that could follow will contradict anything bad said about you. BTW, where’s Edgar?
HPL: (low) On a date with Miss Dickinson.
Zevon: Your ex?
HPL: Yes, they are attending a poetry slam together somewhere in the more fashionable rings of Hell. They have new material, they said.
Me: How do you feel about that?
HPL: Mutual enablers, I say. They’ll spend eternity shooting each other up with drugs and scribbling insipid little sonnets about one another. They’ve already had Leonard Bruce and that other obnoxious Jew…
Me: HEY!
HPL: …that “Ginsberg” fellow…I am not a fan of Mr. Poe’s decidedly progressive friends and ideas. We are no longer chess mates, he and I.
Me: Who do you play with now?
HPL: Every so often this somber, sleepy-eyed minion of Dagon stops in for a drink and plays with me while nursing a drink. We don’t speak, but he grunts a lot, especially when I make a move he does not like. We’ve never finished a match before he finishes his drink, so I don’t know that’s really … a thing.
Me: I honestly expected this place to be a lot busier.
Zevon: Did you see the big, bright, purple nightclub on the hill?
Me: Yeah. Prince, right?
Zevon: And everybody else. Douglas is there now. He’s playing with Vanity, Bowie and Lemmie and Natalie Cole and… fuck, man…half the people who died so far this year. Otis, Glen, Ric, Kantner, Bain… You put that up in a marquee and that’s why Rickman and everyone else is sitting around listening to the All Night Angels Band play. George Martin is on the boards for it. Live Aid? Woodstock? We Are the Afterworld? What the fuck were they? This is like the fucking Musical Rapture, man.
Me: So who’s here to celebrate with Howard?
HPL: Well, there was this lovely fellow – a Ronnie Corbett – but turns out he thought he was at the writer’s club. Did you know we had a writer’s club?
Zevon: Dude, I’m not even a writer and I know there’s a Writer’s Club.
HPL: Must be an oversight.  Perhaps I will visit them and weigh in on whatever pedantic discussion they’re having.
Me:  Sure!  Get out.  Do things.
Zevon:  Yeah.  That’ll be great.  Meanwhile, I’m heading over the Purple Church, Jay. Want to join me?
Me:  Hey, why not.

The Heart Purple


The Purple Heart is awarded in the name of the President of the United States to any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who, while serving under competent authority in any capacity with one of the U.S. Armed Services after April 5, 1917, has been wounded or killed. Specific examples of services which warrant the Purple Heart include any action against an enemy of the United States; any action with an opposing armed force of a foreign country in which the Armed Forces of the United States are or have been engaged; while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party; as a result of an act of any such enemy of opposing armed forces; or as the result of an act of any hostile foreign force. After 28 March 1973, it may be awarded as a result of an international terrorist attack against the United States or a foreign nation friendly to the United States, recognized as such an attack by the Secretary of the Army, or jointly by the Secretaries of the separate armed services concerned if persons from more than one service are wounded in the attack. After 28 March 1973, it may be awarded as a result of military operations while serving outside the territory of the United States as part of a peacekeeping force. – Army Regulation 600–8–22. Army Publishing Directorate.

Shame on you, Donald Trump.

That might actually be helpful to you as you have no shame left, so let me rephrase this delicately.

Fuck you, Donald Trump.

I don’t care if you win in November or not because you have cemented your character for all time as an ignorant, screeching meat cartoon.  Your antics as a would-be Sid & Marty Krofft villain might have been amusing on Saturday mornings back in the bucolic 70s and 80s, but now you are after the role of Commander-in-Chief in a time of war and you’re acting like every cliched home video antagonist ever scripted.  You, sir, are straight out of a fucking Golan-Globus production.

You know something very nice just happened to me. A man came up to me and he handed me his purple heart. Now I said to him is that a real one or is that a copy. And he said that’s my real purple heart. I have such confidence in you and I said, man that’s like big stuff. I’ve always wanted to have a purple heart. This was much easier. – Scheiße Gesicht von Drumph, Il Douche of 2016.

Let’s first touch on the man who gifted you this prize.  Lieutenant Colonel Louis Edward Dorfman III,wounded in Iraq in 2007.  He should be thanked for his service, his sacrifice and respected.  Unlike you, Puffy McUpchuck, and me – Lt. Col. Dorfman earned something no one should ever “want” in life.  And, frankly, he has earned to right to do whatever he wants with the medal.  He could be buried with it, sell it for crystal meth, use it as a teaching tool for kids in school, return it in protest of an unjust war, or give it away to a wretched bag of failure and scrapple farts like you, Donald J. Trump.

In light of your recent Technicolor clusterfuck of bad choices, you failed to capitalize on a golden moment of redemption.  A sincere and presumably decent man came to you and offered up the symbol of his personal sacrifice for his country.  It is, as you say, “big stuff”. But instead of using the moment to show how much you love our armed forces, you decided to pin that medal right on the head of your massive ego-dick.

“I’ve always wanted to have a purple heart,” you said in a way that did not suggest you wanted it in place of a blackened one.

In that moment, you could have been that reality star we all  (well, okay, a lot of people) loved.  You could have taken the award up on stage and made the moment about Lt. Colonel Dorfman.  You could have owned the moment where the man offered you the award because he believed in you and turned it into a moment where you professed your belief, your support, your commitment, and your LOVE for all the troops.  You could have offered a condition that you were only borrowing it to remind you of your obligation to fix the outdated and overloaded VA system and to bring our troops home, close Gitmo, win “peace in our time” or some such shit and promise to return the medal to him personally when your work was done.

You could have made it a moment that showed people you had a soul.  Even if you had to fake like the extras you hired to attend your early rallies.

But, no.  You turned it into a moment with slightly more dignity than an impulse buy at a pawn shop.

“Oh, I’ve always wanted one of these!”

Look, bubbles.  I have had a lifelong fascination with badges.  Recently I was looking for old west badges, replicas of the ones worn by lawmen like Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp, Pinkerton Agents and Texas Rangers.  I never earned one of them and I’d never claim to.  Owning one didn’t make me a law enforcement officer any more than your face makes you a replica of the planet Mercury with a giant alien haystack on top of it.  But you seemed to equate this award with what you’ve been through on this campaign.

I look at these badges as reminders of what greater men and women earned and accomplished.  I am surrounded by books and images and sounds and symbols of greater men and women than I’ll EVER be.  That’s the lesson of when a good man comes to you with his heart.  In moments of doubt, you have more than just a 1990s TGI Friday’s around you to take your mind off the layoffs and losses you have to excuse to your investors.  That’s the point of having a crucifix on the wall for a Christian.  It isn’t – “ooh! I’ve always wanted one of these on my wall” – but a reminder of someone else’s sacrifice to keep you trying hard to be better than you were.  Had you made any gesture in that direction, said anything to indicate that this was something more than just a token to slip into your pocket, I think it would have been an astonishing moment for your campaign.

But, as everyone on the planet expected, you fucked that up.  Well done.

What put you over the top?  Was it the crying baby?  Tell the truth.  You were annoyed as fuck by that kid to the point you couldn’t even excrete from your mouth properly.  That baby fucked up your shit so bad that the look of your face is now in Kim Jong Un’s permanent spank bank as another sign of America’s weakness.  You had to humiliate a child’s mother because you couldn’t handle another loud, screeching titty leech vying for control of YOUR room.

Fuck you, Donald.  Clinton might be a criminal on the level of a decent Bond villain, but you’re just an incompetent henchman.  You’re the fucking un-named thug who got his neck slit or his dick punched because he didn’t bother to keep his eye on the task at hand.

And YOU want to be C-in-C.  My guess is that’s because you owe so many people in the private sector and public that the only way you won’t end up like Hoffa or John Bobbitt after 2016 is to find a way to hand out cabinet, ambassador, and Supreme Court seats to every sleazebag who ever cleared away the bureaucracy for your or got you out of a financial or legal mess.

You clearly don’t understand the job.  You seem to not WANT the job.  And I’ll lay my beer budget for a year that if you went on a game show with Jeff Foxworthy, a half dozen 10-11 year olds would stomp your ass at history and civics like some of your supporters would love to act at a #BLM rally.

But I digress because there is so much wrong with you that I risk going after the GOP machine that allowed you to exist in the first place.  By the way: FUCK YOU, GOP.  Once again, your pony in the race is lame and, this time, rabid as fuck.  Well done.

We are at war, puddin’head.  It’s been so long that few people remember a time when that wasn’t true.  Even the tender wounds of 9/11 seem inflicted so long ago.  But it is true.  Every day, our volunteer military goes to work against the people who want to do us harm.  And you’ve claimed to have military training on par with the men and women who actually serve. You’ve compared your history as a celebrity and a businessman to a tour of duty.

You’ve spent the last week establishing clearly and firmly that you have no fucking clue about the job you’re after. There is not one critic your ego can allow to go unpunished by your singular-syllable vocabulary and non-existent wit.

And then you said MY TOWN was a war zone.

A “war zone”?   Snitch, please.

There are many reasons President Obama looks 80 years old these days.  And the people he has to deal with on a daily basis present far greater a challenge than a crying baby and the grieving parents of a heroic soldier.  You’re not fooling anyone that you’ll do better than the so-called “Worst President in the History of Ever”.

Give the medal back.  You don’t deserve it any more than I do.  And you should know better than me.




Of Heroes and the Lateness of the Hour.

Something to keep in mind as you size up the third-party candidates.
Back in 1992, a weird, engaging firecracker of a man captured the hearts and minds of a lot of Americans who were sick to death of the two-party system. He had a lot of great ideas, some controversial ones, and some bad ones, too. Whatever magic this man had, it appealed to a significant number of Democrat and Republican voters. He appealed to many independent voters as well. For most of 1992 this man created a third-party alternative that got people excited. Even the media took his campaign seriously. At one point, in June of 1992 he was the actual front runner in the polls. He had more support as a third party presidential candidate than anyone since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.
Despite some setbacks and a bit of a meltdown toward the end, H Ross Perot managed to earn 19.7 million votes representing just shy of 19 percent of the popular vote. It was the largest third party grab since George Wallace in 1968.
He won several counties.
But no states.
No states meant no electoral votes.
Keep in mind that George Wallace won less than half the number of votes Perot earned in 1992. Wallace ran on a platform of racism and hate. It earned him five states (all southern, naturally) and 46 electoral votes out of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
Before that, the most impressive outing came from the Bull Moose Party.  88 Electoral votes and second in the year that Woodrow Wilson won in a landslide.  That candidate was bad-ass Teddy-fucking-Roosevelt.
After ten months of campaigning and $64 million dollars, H Ross Perot ended his 1992 campaign no closer to the White House than you or me. He was the last third party candidate to campaign on an equal playing field with the major parties. His 1996 campaign didn’t have the same shine.  He was damaged goods and little more than a footnote.
The next time a third party candidate had such a significant impact on a Presidential race was 2000. In Florida. And you know damn well how that turned out. The popular vote nationwide was clear. The electoral votes based on one state determined the fate of the world. After Ralph Nader’s never-had-a-chance campaign, we were left with a split vote and a Supreme Court decision.
It’s all about the electoral college, folks.
Now does this mean that a third party candidate victory is impossible? Well… No. You might actually be struck by a meteor on your way to the bathroom today, too. It is possible. Likely? I can’t think of a competent mathematician or student of probability who would tell you to bet your life on it. Or our country’s future.
In 1972, the Libertarian candidate for President received ONE electoral vote from Virginia. ONE. And it was from an faithless delegate in a state where the Libertarian wasn’t even on the ballot. Since then, the third party candidates for President earned, collectively, ZERO electoral votes.
Whose fault is that?  Well, yours of course. If you waited until this moment to suddenly decide to go to war against the establishment, you’ve already lost. You have 100 days to change the world. What the living fuck took you so long? If I were a Green or a Libertarian, that’s the first question I would have for you if you showed up to volunteer tomorrow.
We’ve all known with a growing certainty over the past several months that Donald Trump was going to be the GOP’s train wreck nominee. He was the most entertaining exhibit in a macabre sideshow of freaks. And while Bernie Sanders had a great ride, the corruption of the DNC made his downfall a simple matter of when they wanted to pull the rug out.
Ross Perot began his ’92 journey at the end of 1991, testing the waters and getting himself in front of cameras, crafting a message and a strategy to gain voter confidence. He announced when he found a foothold. And he fought a hard campaign.
But here we are. Just over 100 days until the election. Trump was a lock almost three months ago. Clinton was a high probability for a longer period. I haven’t heard a lot of love for “Plan B” candidates except from the faithful.  I mean, I’ve heard a lot of “I’ll jump to a third party” but that third party savior might as well have been an actual Bond villain for all we’ve heard about them.  Sure, I’ve read up on them but I haven’t read people speak with the same enthusiasm FOR them as I’ve heard AGAINST Trump or Clinton.
Don’t get me wrong. They will LOVE to have you and your money. They need it. In 2012, when Mitt Romney ran against the so called “worst President in the history of ever” Obama won by 122 electoral votes and over 5 million actual votes. Third parties? Libertarians had 1 percent of the popular vote. The Greens? Just over a third of one percent. That represents a huge jump for both parties from the 2008 election.  And still no electoral votes.
Elections aren’t won by being there to catch the disenfranchised voters. Elections are won by strong candidates with messages that resonate and capture the hearts of the people. Just voting isn’t going to do anything. If you really want someone else, you’re going to have to fight for them. You are going to have to spend the majority of your next 100 days getting out a message of hope and opportunity. You are going to need to start a movement that ignites the passion of Millennials and mainstream Red/Blue voters. You will have the responsibility of building – in under four months – the kind of campaign Bernie Sanders built over fifteen months.
I’m not saying it is impossible. I’m saying you can’t just dedicate your vote and expect change. You have to change the American political landscape. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do that. I’m saying that if you’re not prepared to go the distance, you’re just looking for a way to tell people that nothing is your fault because you voted for someone other than the eventual winner.
The liberal idealist in me wants you to go out and change the world.  GO.  Find that political Messiah.  Fix this bad situation.  That’s the voice that nearly died after the 2000 election when Bush 2.0 won.  Like the GOP, you, sweet voter, had four years to find and court a viable candidate.  Now here we are.  Vote your conscience.  But remember that just because you lodged a protest vote doesn’t absolve you of your role in the outcome of this very important crossroads in American history.


When you borrow something you love…


…you don’t actually own it.

I wanted to mention the new rules for fan productions issued by CBS/Paramount. In response to the Axanar lawsuit, the intellectual property owner of Star Trek issued some strict conditions and limits for unofficial productions. As a result, not only are video productions shutting down but also audio drama series that have been going along fine for many years and other fan-organized activities.

Some fans and critics claim this action has caused a chilling effect on fans who only want to share their love of Trek and the visual arts.  True, there is little harm in having groups get together to make a movie and play-act being in the universe you love so much.  It’s an act of sharing and dedication.  However, advancements in technology and communication have led to a sort-of arms race between progressively more advanced and professional companies who hide behind their “fan” designation to generate lots of money for products that are indistinguishable from an independent film but without paying for (or even asking for) the right to take someone else’s work and present it as their own.

That’s theft.  When a professional collects a fee or salary or benefits in some way from the use of someone else’s property without the owner’s permission it is theft. When an entity can raise over one million dollars on the promise that they will produce a film, that’s no longer a fan enterprise.  That’s a professional endeavor, one so far over the line of “acting out of love” that CBS and Paramount had to put a stop to it.

The need for specific restrictions is the result of a lack of respect for the IP owner’s rights. In order to protect itself against the Axanar defense that “no one owns” the Klingon language or other elements of the Star Trek mythos, CBS/Paramount had to make sure it claimed ownership and control. As a result of “fan” productions raising over a million dollars in one case and millions of dollars collectively, all IP holders have to take a closer look at what really constitutes a “fan” production and what is a professional effort posing as fandom. It also has to take a look at profitability. A production may not be selling DVDs, but if a director and writer are being paid and the producers are paying contractors, isn’t a profit being made off the use of someone else’s intellectual property? Would such a production have raised so much money if the concept was completely original?

For lack of respect by a few “fans” and not obtaining a written agreement with the IP holders before embarking on a million-dollar production, we are now going to have to adjust to this new legal reality.

There is nothing to stop filmmakers from raising money for original projects.  There is nothing to stop fans from making costumes and props for non-commercial purposes.  Fan fiction will be written.  Conventions will continue to feature cosplay.  But no one has a right to take that love and commercialize it.

When fans turn “fandom” into a professional enterprise with more money than a typical small business start-up, they put other fans at risk.  Do I blame CBS/Paramount for shutting down shows like Star Trek: Outpost?  No. I blame fans for demanding a right to be entertained for free and forcing the lawsuit that resulted in these new rules.  Now that Trek has rules, expect Disney to revisit their own policies for Lucasfilm, Marvel, and their own properties.  Expect companies to learn from this suit and establish equally restrictive rules that will make it harder for small troupes with no money for a legal defense to celebrate what they love.

Those of us who are in the business of creating new worlds and characters with stories that entertain deserve certain protections.  When you or I create a world, we retain the right to decide who gets to tell stories in them.  I produce shows carrying a Creative Commons license.  Episodes are free to download and distribute.  I don’t charge people to listen or watch.  A lot of hard work went into the show by a lot of people.  I cannot pay them what they are worth so I cannot accept payment for myself.

Therefore, I indicate that my Creative Commons license prohibits commercial distribution and derivative work.  You can listen all you want, but you are not permitted to make your own stories in my world without my permission and you cannot package my show for sale. That is theft.  I appreciate it if you love my work.  Some might even say that I’m such a small fish that I should be honored if someone decided to show love for me by doing their own HG World or Hidden Harbor.

No.  It might be petty theft, but it is still theft.

Other artists simply want attribution.  The music I use in HG World comes from multiple sources.  In part, we use Kevin MacLeod’s music and his only requirement is that I list him in the credits.  That is his right and choice.

A professional asks permission and offers full transparency to the IP holder.  Being unable to afford to license a property is not a shameful thing.  If the goal is to create a non-commercial piece of media, then there is no reason to NOT approach the owners with a proposal.  A production that is capable of entering into contracts with actors, designers, and craftspeople should have no trouble putting together a project plan that specifies how the intellectual property will be used and exhibited.  It should contain the budget, the script, the schedule, marketing plan, and any ulterior motives like a desire to raise money for charity.  The onus is on the professional to ask permission, not the IP holder to track down every fan production.

Yes, there’s a chance of a “NO” but — that’s their choice to make just as a director or producer has a right to decide how to make their own original film.

Why? Because you did not create the properties you’re using. You don’t own them. You’re just borrowing them. If the owner doesn’t want to share, make up something new.  And if you get halfway through and the owner wants it back, it is just professional (and common sense) to give it back.

“Gun Control: The Game Show!”


Here’s what I think we should do. Let’s produce a reality show that pits gun advocates against random shooters.

Hear me out on this.  It’s a game show.

Of course, this would be a controlled environment and the “ammo” would be either luminous paint balls or some kind of laser system that approximates the range and speed of the weapons involved. We’d cast extras from central casting to populate the combat area, put random armed contestants in the same area and then – at some random point in the span of 12-18 hours – let the secret shooter commence.

Maybe there’s one contestant, maybe two, maybe more!  Maybe just one shooter?  Maybe it’s a team?  Maybe a hit squad? Who knows?  Some of the armed “contestants” might actually be shooters. Some of the shaggy looking criminals might be law-abiding citizens who may or may not be armed. The shooter won’t know who’s armed. The contestants won’t know who the shooter might be. It will be a seething caldron of paranoia and vigilance. Everyone on set will know SOMETHING is going to happen at some point (which is more than anyone has in reality.)  That’s the beauty of this.  It finally puts the idea of “If only there were more guns…” to the test.

We could even recreate some of the biggest horror shows in American history to see how our armchair advocates actually would do in a combat situation. Let’s put a pistol-packin’ hero in an elementary school classroom. Let’s pack him into a nightclub with 300 people and pipe in 80 decibels of music and flashing lights. Let’s have the contestants walk a street grid at night looking for a gas station or a cell phone signal… the situation will be totally random.

Let the contestant pick his or her weapon. They have to be licensed to carry it and must conduct themselves according to the law (which will be explained up front as representative of a locality but with extra freedom that would allow the contestant to have a firearm where one is currently illegal.)  The contestant will have more freedom than the law will allow to defend people and take down the shooter(s).

The shooter’s goal is to do what shooters do. He’s a company player so he only gets “points” for each extra he hits. The computers will determine the nature of the injury.

The contestant will be free to conduct him or herself freely in the scene, talk to people, drink, dine, browse, rest, recreate…whatever. When the shooter arrives, we will see what happens.

Will the contestant be able to save the day? Will that good guy with a gun be able to handle the random situation and pull of a righteous kill? Well there be collateral damage? There’s the drama! There’s the conflict.

Survivors are incentivized with prize money. If you live, unscathed, you win prize money. If you are wounded, your additional screen time and dialogue earns you extra SAG wages (or whatever they pay reality players these days…is it cheese? Sex?) That will make for realistic panic.  Of course, they are also allowed to disarm or immobilize the shooter before the contestants can kill him.  If so, the contestant gets nothing but a chance to make a strongly worded blog post about it all.

The dead get nothing but a digital candle next to their names in the credits. That includes the contestants.

I think this is the perfect reality show for life during the Trump Administration. Thoughts?




Society Must Change? Okay. HOW?


Let’s look at an idea closely.

Guns are not evil.  Inanimate objects don’t DO things.  People do.

Yes.  Astronauts went to the moon but they couldn’t have if they didn’t use the right tools for the job.

We built and connected a nation with wagons on trails, trains on tracks, cars on highways, and planes in the sky.  Without these, we would remain in small villages isolated by great distances and natural boundaries.  Yet people go places.  Trains, Planes, and Automobiles do not direct themselves.

At some point far back in human history someone said, “I need to do something but it is beyond my physical power and ability.”

That person or group of people asked “How can we make this happen?”

We’ve been asking and answering this question since the first rudimentary tool.

“How do we get to the moon?”  “How do we cross the world faster than on our two feet?” “How do we build a stronger bridge?”  “How do we move this massive pile of earth?”  “How do we deliver this medicine, heal this injury, and fix this person while minimizing the risk of doing additional harm or inflicting unnecessary pain?”

And, of course, “How can we kill people faster and more effectively while minimizing the risk to the killer?”

Tools make things happen that otherwise couldn’t.

The Monster of Orlando Pulse was able to murder and harm and terrorize 350 people because he employed the “right” tool for the job.   One knife against 350 people?  Not so much.

The killer chose his tool, knowing there would be 350 people in a dark, crowded, disorienting space.  He knew it would be loud.  He knew people would be distracted and drunk, their guards lowered in a kind of sanctuary.  He also knew there would be armed police nearby and possibly a few patrons at the bar concealing handguns even though it is against the law.  He knew he only had a few seconds to cause a panic and accomplish his mission.

He didn’t choose a knife.

He didn’t choose a pistol.

He didn’t choose a hunting rifle.

He didn’t use a shot gun or any other firearm that would give his prey a “sporting” chance.

He chose a weapon designed for use by US Special Forces for use in combat operations to be accurate, reliable, quiet, compact, light, and efficient.  Its civilian version is limited in its rate of fire but still capable of emptying a 40-round magazine supersonic and subsonic 5.56mm rounds in eight seconds (or as fast as you can pull the trigger).

He chose the weapon off the rack because it was available, suited his needs, and fell into his price range.

This was an assault, not a hunt.

That’s why we need to have this discussion about who gets killing machines and who does not.

Stop frothing.  Banning all guns is impossible.  Even regulating won’t stop blood from being spilled.  But regulation over the sale of certain “sporting weapons” and harsher criminal penalties for people who act irresponsibly or commit violent crime with them, re-defining what it means to have a weapon of mass destruction versus one for home protection, hunting, or sport — these things MUST be discussed.

I realize that the monster could have dropped off a crock pot bomb or chained the doors and set the place ablaze.  Having a rifle made the job of murder easier and gave the monster the power he craved over his victims.  He got to choose who lived and died.  He got to take a life, one at a time, like thumbing tiny black ants on the kitchen counter.  Maybe someone with a gun could have stopped him after five victims, or ten, or twenty-five.  It’s a valid point to say someone with a gun might have been in a position to draw, line up a clean shot, and bring down the target.  The description of the scene after the first few shots makes me skeptical.  Someone with a chair and decent upper body strength could have brought the monster down just as easily.  Chairs were everywhere.  Heavy beer mugs, pool cues, pool balls, too…  But nothing happened.

So the monster fired a round like someone flipping through channels with a remote. 

I appreciate and agree with the notion that violence is rooted in the darker heart of humanity.  But mass killings, hate crimes, homicides, and armed criminal acts happen every day.  Changing society takes generations and a lot more dedication by more people than seems possible.  We cannot wait for people to have that Aquarian epiphany.  If it didn’t happen by now, it won’t in time to stop the next massacre.  Or the next ten.

So you cannot tell me “society needs to change” as though that’s a solution.  It’s not.  It’s an empty gift box with a pretty bow.  And it isn’t even an original idea.  Every time people die, someone says “Guns aren’t the problem, society is the problem.”  While that is partially true, it is as helpful as pointing out that if only a potato were processed right, it would be vodka.  Sure, it could be.  But it isn’t unless we’re all willing to create a plan and take steps toward that goal.

Meanwhile, these shootings continue.  Gun sales jump.  Nothing is done.  More kids get buried.

The tools will exist so long as we have a need or a desire for them.  In other words, so long as there is a desire to kill or the fear of being a victim, this personal arms race will continue.  This indisputable fact makes the idea of social change so much less likely.

Gun advocates claim that controlling access to firearms in order to limit gun violence is an impossible feat, yet somehow the act of solving our racial, social, gender, and economic biases and prejudices to end gun violence is not only possible, but the only path to solving this problem.

That’s a cop out.  It’s an abdication of ownership over the problem because it proposes that if everyone thought, believed, and acted one way the problem would be solved.  The solution, I hear, can be found in embracing Jesus.  If everyone owned a gun, then we could end gun violence with the constant threat of gun violence.  Maybe a libertarian level of freedom would make everyone equal and accountable.  Perhaps if we grew out our hair and lives in communes, we’d stop fighting and make some real music again.

There will always be crime, poverty, and outrage.  Diversity and change are the only ways a society grows and change is always met with ideological resistance.  When ideas fail, some resort to more physical means.

Gun advocates are right – the country needs to change.

Regulation advocates are right – we need to stop monsters from buying weapons, particularly ones designed specifically to kill a lot of people quick and easy.

I’ve how these discussions tend to get side-tracked when control-advocates misuse terms related to firearms.  Some people are particularly insistent about the definition of an “assault rifle” as it has a specific definition in the continuum of gun owners and manufacturers.  I agree, we should all have a common vocabulary when discussing the specifics of an issue.  But we also need to understand that every vocabulary has a vernacular usage and that the debate cannot be forfeit by one party choosing a more generally-used term, especially when it does little to break down understanding.

I won’t change my mind about the MCX used in Orlando if you tell me it isn’t an “assault weapon” because I’ve seen the weapon in use.  You can call it a “population control device” or a “penile surrogate” but the reality is that a shooter can use it to unload 100 rounds in three magazines within 40 seconds.  Shooters point with pride to the speed, accuracy, and ease with which the tool can be used to throw ammunition downrange.   It isn’t an “assault weapon” but it is a weapon used to carry out assaults.

So, I put this challenge to the “society must change” crowd.  If you can come up with a plan to change the hearts and minds of those who would use these weapons to kill your sons, your daughters, wives and husbands, your neighbors – DO SO.  Your nation needs you.  If you don’t feel the responsibility to make that change yourself or get involved, kindly admit that you have no clue how to fix this but you don’t want the solution to inconvenience your ability to buy kill toys.

We MUST have a serious debate about improving access to mental health care, removing the stigma of mental illness, and improving relations between all Americans.  We need to stop treating each other like mortal enemies and sinister conspirators who either want to take all the guns or hold the country hostage.  We have accept that some Americans want guns and others want to live in a world where we don’t need them to carry them in order to feel safe.    We must be honest with one another about the root cause of gun violence and ask why we support a world where we want so many of them and who is accountable when the bad guys get hold of illegal weapons.  It’s a big order.  None of us can just walk away and wish everyone else good luck in solving the problem.

Until society moves in the direction of treating gun violence the way it treats pedophiles and terrorists, the only way to even ATTEMPT to stop some of these murders is to make it harder for the monsters to find the right tool for the job.




Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,444 other followers