By Any Name

Two books of religious teachings, the Quran and the Bible.

A young man walks into a restaurant full of families enjoying their meals. Little kids run around the servers who try and balance the pizzas, beers and milk filled cups with straws poking out of protective lids.

The young man, in righteous wrongness, pulls out an automatic weapon to free child sex slaves that he knows are hidden in the basement of this otherwise idyllic scene.

The staff and patrons escaped to nearby bookstores and coffee shops. The police arrived and the young man, self-radicalized by conspiring theories on the internet, surrendered with his hands over his head. Thankfully nobody was hurt. I guess nobody was hurt.

This in a very tony area of Washington, D.C.

He later said that maybe he made a mistake.

After recently having internet service installed at his house, he was “really able to look into it.” He said that substantial evidence from a combination of sources had left him with the “impression something nefarious was happening.” He said one article on the subject led to another and then another.- NYTimes

He was under the belief that this wild and unsubstantiated about Hillary Clinton being involved in child sex trafficking was true. And that he should do something about it.

Another time, another young man entered a church. He executed nine people who welcomed him into their prayer circle. He killed them because they were African American and he wanted to start a race war.

Roof wrote he was radicalized via the Internet following the Trayvon Martin case. Roof wrote he researched “black on white violence,” which took him to the website of South Carolina-based hate group the Council of Conservative Citizens (formerly the White Citizens’ Council). – The Daily Beast

You tell me he acted alone. Or that he was radicalized by social media and people spewing hate over the internet. Like other young terrorists.

[R]esearchers identified 16 key “mindsets” of members of terrorist groups….Among those mindsets: A belief that the world is a disaster, that peaceful change is not possible, that self-sacrifice is honorable, that noble ends justify immoral means, and that it is possible to create a utopia. – NPR

Terrorists believe they are making the world a better place.

It seems like there is a cohort of generally young terrorists that spans religious and political spectrums. They speak similar languages of antipathy and want to take actions to fix the world. They pick up and hone their ideology from online sources with improbable and flat out incorrect sets of “facts.” They study techniques that they find on like-minded websites to learn how to accomplish their attacks.

It’s critical to understand the actual problem we are trying to solve. Otherwise we risk solving the wrong ones. Are we running down a rabbit hole by focusing on specific ideologies? If we look at the characteristics of home-grown terrorists should we be looking for disaffectation? Youth? Fear? Bloated sense of honor? Is there a trigger that incites action? Are there interventions that could stop attacks? Is a focus on specific and deeply held moral or ethical beliefs helpful? Harmful? A distraction? Are there specific sets of ideologies that are more fertile ground for terror activities?

People who commit heinous acts of terror may read different holy books or have different motivations, but their wrongness is the same. Let’s work on the right problem.

A Tale of Two Cities

Paint swatches. Gray, black, extra white.

WHAT THE &$*!?

That’s all I could come up with as I facepalmed in utter disbelief. Although my disbelief was quickly booted aside by a recognition that this would, of course, happen.

Let me let the New York Times tell you. I will interrupt them occassionally with my analysis or maybe, more accurately, my rant.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Armed antigovernment protesters led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy, charged in the takeover of a federally owned Oregon wildlife sanctuary in January, were acquitted Thursday of federal conspiracy and weapons charges.

[Armed antigovernment protesters!!??] What the hell kind of euphemistic bullshit is that? How about thugs with automatic weapons who charged into federal buildings and threatened law enforcement? Or maybe you can’t be a thug if you’re white and wrap yourself in a Christian flag?

And then, [acquitted??!!?] << This. I can’t even.

The surprise verdict in Federal District Court was a blow to the government, which had argued that the group used force and threats of violence to occupy the reserve, impeding the federal workers there. But the jury appeared swayed by the occupiers’ contention that they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat.

Wait. [they were protesting government overreach and posed no threat?!!??] Everybody saw a dozen or so armed cowboys forcefully occupying a federal wildlife refuge, blocking access of federal employees who were unable to do their work onsite. There were 30 guns seized after the standoff. An FBI agent testified that 16,636 live rounds and nearly 1,700 spent casings were found. The terrorists set up a defensive perimeter. They forcefully occupied the area for five weeks. The insurgents destroyed federal property, including archaeological artifacts. By the way, the staff felt threatened, and indeed the people in the county did, too.

In a sign of the high tensions throughout the trial, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer, Marcus R. Mumford, was restrained by four United States Marshals in courtroom tussle after the verdict on Thursday. He was enraged that the Bundys were not being immediately released.

Oh and then their friggin lawyer starts throwing punches in the courtroom? Yeah, like that would go over well in a Baltimore City court. Well, if he did that in Bal’more he’d be shot dead. Maybe not. He’s white.

All of them got off. Even the guy who acted as his own lawyer.

Meanwhile, almost 1,300 miles due east a different verdict is being played out. I can’t give you a link to the NYTimes, though, because they are not covering this other story. So let’s try the BBC. You know, the news source from across the pond.

Riot police have begun removing protesters from private land in the path of the Dakota Access pipeline…Dozens of officers in riot gear, some armed, moved in on Thursday assisted by trucks and military Humvees.

So police are taking down teepees that were erected just yesterday. They are rolling up in tanks, suited in full riot gear. They are shooting “bean bag” shotgun rounds “designed to incapacitate people without causing death or permanent injury” and using pepper spray against overwhelmingly peaceful protesters.

There were reports of rock throwing. After the police moved in, there was a report of gunfire and a woman was arrested. In addition, over 100 people have been arrested. This type of protest–you know the one that disrupts the oil or natural gas industries–must not be allowed to continue. And we can hurt these types of protesters.

To be clear, the protests are being led by Native Americans trying to protect their sacred lands. You know after the Trail of Tears and whatnot.

It’s the best of times for white terrorist ranchers who use violence and a warped interpretation of the constitution to justify stealing from the government to line their own pockets. And, as it has been historically, it’s the worst of times for people of color.


Sizing Up

Castle gate and wall. Imposing, no?

When I was a wee Doc we lived in The Old House. The house wasn’t especially old, but we called it The Old House to differentiate it from The New House. We moved to the new house just before My Older Sibling started kindergarten.

The New House was fully and completely new. It stood on what had been a part of a good-sized dairy farm that was subdivided into new blocks of varying sizes with twisty roads, half circles and a few cul-de-sacs. There were two very tall and very impressive trees. They were like Ents. The rest of the greenery was new sod and very young, very slow growing trees. When I left for college they barely provided shade.

The Old House, on the other hand, was surrounded by big old trees in the front and in the back. Indeed, the entire street was protected by limbs stretching and trying to touch their brethren across the street. Dappled gold and bursts of saffron would sneak through the small breaks in the big green canopy like specks of amber in hazel eyes. Closing my own, I can still see it, and feel it.

There were two very frightening things on the street with The Old House. First, the bees.

We were terrified of the bees. Someone told us that if they saw you move, they’d come after you and sting you. They were huge bees, the size of golf balls. No. Tennis balls. They would buzz back and forth among the flowers of the old lady down the street. We called her grandma. Her flowers were lovely, except for the bees that hung in front of the flowers. They looked like they were on wires that someone would occasionally move–either a small jerky up and down motion or a smoother left to right. We would spy them and very carefully, silently and slowly, holding our breaths, walk past grandma’s house.

Aa soon as we passed her property line we’d explode like a pinball out of the chute to our friend’s porch to play. I remember a bunch of cement steps to her porch. It was dark and cool, likely from one of those ancient elms. I don’t remember what we played, though. I think we launched ourselves off the steps.

The other terror was another neighbor’s dog. It would bark in a vicious manner. It was very loud. It’d throw itself against the fence to try and break through while full of snarl and howl to intimidate us as we walked by. And that monstrous dog was on the other side of the street. He really didn’t have to go to all that trouble. We weren’t allowed to cross the street.

One day I was walking back home by myself and the dog was banging against the fence. I was spying for bees and looking back over my shoulder across the street to see him break through. There was no worry and creeping past the bees. I took off as fast as I could to my house. The dog was gaining on me as I ran up the driveway through our open gate. I used all my strength to push the chain link gate closed, and it latched just as Cujo bashed into it. I lay on the ground for a second, catching my breath and watching the insane tirade of the evil dog. Worried he’d force himself through my barrier, I ran around the side of the house to the door and pushed my way to safety.

I was four when we moved. I don’t remember going back to The Old House for a long time.

The next time I saw the house, I was with my Dad. He was visiting our old neighbor, who was his best friend. It was maybe ten years later. I walked up our old driveway to the astonishing fence that saved me from that demon dog. Really, the fence wasn’t as astonishing as I was astonished. The gate that I remember breathlessly dragging to save myself from that ferocious canine wasn’t much more than two-feet tall. It would barely keep out a Jack Russell Terrier. So the dog that was chasing me was not a mastiff. Makes sense. Everything was bigger when I was smaller. I had a good chuckle.

I remembered this fence today. It came to me as I was thinking about fear. What are we afraid of? Do we let the objects of our fears grow huge before us? Or do we take a closer look and see them for what they are? Do we keep the images we had when we were most afraid, or do we gain perspective over time? Can we apply new knowledge to dissect and examine our experience and use that understanding to grow? Or do we stay stuck in that moment of terror, never to lift our heads again?

Eff Your Guns (where Eff is the f-word)

We can do BETTER [sign, I almost typed "sigh"]

I can’t do this. I was writing a post about people leaving, but I just couldn’t.

I couldn’t write another sentence about missing someone who is physically away, because it is selfish since he’s still alive.

I couldn’t think about the loss in my heart as my child grows up, because he has the chance to continue his journey.

Others have none of that. Parents will not see their children again. Friends will not see their friends again. Brothers and sisters will not see their sibs again. In Orlando. In San Bernardino. In Sandy Hook. In Aurora. In too many places.

My feelings of loss are still real, and I’ll finish that post another day–maybe even tomorrow, but today I am stuck on one thing.

I don’t care about your fucking guns. I DON’T CARE ABOUT YOUR FUCKING GUNS.

I am not safer because you have guns. My children are not safer because you have guns. Nobody that I love is safer because you have guns. My neighborhood is not safer because you have guns. And my city, which is the capital of our country, is obviously not safer for your gun fetish.

I’m at a breaking point.

I’m broken.

I don’t personally give a rat’s ass about guns. But I respect my friends, colleagues, some cool hunters and whoever get a kick out of guns. I give such little rat’s ass that I don’t care that people have them for their reasons. Like they hunt. Or collect. Or are sportsman. Or whatevs.

But today, I have to tell you, with all due respect, fuck your guns. Really. I’ve had it.


Let me say it again.


Really. Don’t tell me how powerful they make us. Because there is no data that convinces me–and I really really loves me some data. Because those constitutional arguments as validated by a Supreme Court intellectual black hole make absolutely no sense vis-à-vis any discussion of any other bill o’ rights issues. And I gotta say, I really really really loves me some U S of A constitutions. Like sickly in love.

Until we can include guns, and any rational role they have in a modern society, in our discussion of solutions to issues of religious extremism, homophobia, hate and intolerance that are expressed in mass murder, I am totally through. There is not a single silver bullet–pardon the gun reference–to stop terrorism and hate crimes. If we don’t put everything on the table, we just keep talking in circles. Like we have. Dizzy. And 50 more dead.

I am very sorry, Loyal Reader, to rant in an incoherent fashion. But this was all I could write today.

And I am sorry. So, so, sorry.  Yes. I am sorry.

Except for saying, fuck your guns. They are not more important than people.