Somewhere in America, a young man sits at the breakfast table, eating his cereal.  He’s getting ready to go.  His backpack and coat are in the chair next to him.

His parents are nervous and excited for him.  He’s told them that he’s going to the city for a job interview.

Before he leaves, he gives his sister a hug.  She tells him to be careful.  The big city is not a safe place.  He gets into his truck and takes off.

He sits in horrible traffic for hours.  Slowly, he crawls his way downtown.  He looks out his window at the dirty streets and the crowds.

He finally finds a parking spot, and then he walks, in the noise and the shadow of the towering skyscrapers.  He hates it here, but he’s willing to do this.  He’s here to save his country.

For a while, he hangs out in front of a store window, staring at a display of the latest phones.  Across the street, a slim figure strides down the sidewalk.  It’s easy to recognize her.  She’s a female journalist, and he has read online that she walks to work every day.  He agrees with his President–she’s one of the enemies of the people.

Pulling out his gun, taking the shot–it all happens in a flash, and she crumples to the ground.

The next bullet is for him.  He doesn’t mind dying.  He has fulfilled his mission, done what he believes his role models and leaders wanted him to do.

Maybe–he thinks in his last moments–maybe, thanks to his sacrifice, America will continue to be free.

 

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I turn my laptop on in the morning already knowing that the battle continued raging even while I was asleep.  Indeed, shots were fired in the middle of the night.

“You have to ask yourself, are you here for the revolution?  Are you a revolutionary or what?”

I’m definitely a “what.”  And the correct category is…?

“Are you a patriot?  Are you fighting for liberty?  We are continuing our fight against the useless bureaucrats in D.C.”

“How can any liberal support Hillary?”

“How can any conservative support Kasich?”

“Bernie will smash the banks…”

“Trump will keep those illegals out…”

Remember when the Internet used to be all about posting pictures of babies, lunches and kittens?  Believe it or not, I really miss that time.

“You people are privileged and don’t know what it’s like to struggle…”

Hey, everyone!  Here’s a video of Chirpy!

“You people have never had a real job or paid taxes–you don’t what it’s like out there in the adult world…”

“Old and square…”

“Young and dumb…”

Chirpy is a parakeet.  He likes to play the synth…

“Racist…”

“Politically correct sheeple…”

“Fascist…”

“Communist…”

Watch him play the Game of Thrones theme!

“You Nazis should get sent to camps…”

He even whistles along!

“You SJWs should get shot into a ditch…”

And isn’t it hilarious how the cat is watching him from below?

Right?

Guys?

“Let’s burn everything down!”

“Let’s burn everything down!”

It’s not too late.  We don’t have to burn everything down.

 

Yeah, it’s only Facebook, or “Loserbook” as some here may call it. But “Loserbook,” like everything else, reflects trends in the larger society it’s a part of.

One of the most irritating–and effective–ways of going after people on Facebook is to report their content for being inappropriate. Pictures of breastfeeding mothers have been removed because of the dangerous boobie visuals involved. Likewise, photos of topless couples embracing, etc etc. Facebook is great at protecting us from random nipple sightings.

If you’ve been anywhere near social media lately, then you’ve likely come across the picture of hunter Rebecca Francis stretched out next to the dead body of the unfortunate giraffe which crossed her path while she was on safari. The pic stirred up controversy, as Rebecca is smiling happily next to her kill. This caused some Facebook users to question whether or not it would be possible to report sites devoted to posting pictures of hunted animals for inappropriate content. I can see their point, especially since the links to the sites would sometimes pop up as ads in the middle of the newsfeed. If you’re not expecting to see a bloodied animal corpse wrapped around a grinning hunter’s shoulders, it may be a bit disturbing.

But it so happens the hunters in the pictures were fully clothed, so Facebook’s response to the complaints was all too predictable. The users who reported the sites received a stock reply–Facebook had reviewed the content of the pages for graphic violence, but found none of the posts violated its terms of use.

Naturally, Facebook has the right to make its own decisions about what it does or does not consider to be inappropriate. But an issue which has always puzzled me resurfaces here. In America, nudity is unacceptable, but violence–whether administered to human or animal–is perfectly fine.

Where does this come from? Is it that this culture is so in love with the Old Testament, in which a vengeful God has no problem wiping out entire cities, but has huge issues with human sexuality? Is it a consequence of our mixed Puritan/cowboy heritage?

Whatever the case, just remember that if you finally get to take that dream trip to Greenland to club little baby seals to death, and you want to post your vacation pics, for the love of all that is holy, WEAR A BRA.

Some immigrants are luckier than others. We were embraced by complete strangers when we came to the States. “Welcome to America!” “God bless you!”

Then there is the Iraqi man in Texas who went outside to look at his first snowfall and was shot dead in front of his home. His welcome wagon was, shall we say, a little less festive.

What makes one person a target and not another? Was it simply that the color of his skin was darker than ours? Or were we lucky to be dealing with people slightly less crazy than the ones in Texas?

When we lived in Idaho, our neighbors pointed their many guns at everything else that moved–the squirrels, the birds–but not at us, at least as far as I can remember. Not that there was any love lost between us. They didn’t like us because we had an accent and spoke to each other in our native language. Actually, they were drug dealers, so they were paranoid and didn’t like anybody very much.

I was told when I came to America that I should fear the big cities with their muggings, but the scariest time I’ve experienced here has been the five years we spent in Boise. Still, we didn’t get shot. Since America is portrayed around the world as the country where people get shot, this was a big deal for us.

I guess this rambling post is to reflect on the randomness of fate. What decides which human beings live and die? Whether or not you look like the type of person who gets killed. And if you do, whether or not you are doing something “suspicious”. Whether or not you live somewhere where weapons get waved around in public, or a more civilized area like the one I currently inhabit, where the residents keep their weapons hidden in their homes. Whether or not the nutjob down the street finally reaches his tipping point. So many things can go wrong.

Some of us just happen to be lucky.

The radio is already playing Christmas carols, and Ferguson is still smoldering. And the head shaking about what happened in Ferguson is continuing. It’s sad to watch businesses that have been part of a neighborhood for years be destroyed. And I won’t lie–I’ve become an old, comfortable suburbanite, so the thought of civil unrest of any kind mainly makes me nervous. Yet even inside my middle-class bubble of safety, a question lingers…

If the protests had been completely peaceful, would anyone have cared? If not a single fire had been set, would anyone have noticed?

The news media pretty much gives us the answer. The peaceful protesters in Ferguson–and there was a large group of them–were mostly ignored by the cameras. The rioters and looters got all the attention. And the TV channels were waiting with their tongues out, panting for something “bad” to happen. That’s why it’s so galling now to see the CNN experts taking on a “tsk tsk tsk” finger wagging role. This is exactly what they wanted! Peaceful protest doesn’t make for very entertaining television.

We did have some protesters here in town who got media coverage, but only because they blocked the roads, resulting in furious rush hour drivers. And what if they had stayed out of the traffic? We have the answer to that question too. The night of the grand jury announcement itself, a group of activists gathered in front of the Justice Center downtown, chanting and singing songs. The local news anchor gave them about ten seconds of his attention before moving on to Timmy the tap dancing cat or whatever other human interest story he had lined up.

We like to tout the philosophy of non-violence, the example of leaders like Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr–who’s being quoted a lot these days–but how much respect do those who follow the non-violent way actually get? And does peaceful protest even work? I’ve been involved in a couple protest marches myself (I think you’re required to do that before you can get official Portland resident status). I was at one of the Bring Back Our Girls rallies, and couldn’t help thinking that being there was, more than anything, about making ourselves feel better. If the Boko Haram kidnappers could have seen us reading our poems about justice and sending our positive vibes out into the universe, they probably would have laughed their asses off. And, judging from at least one Youtube video, they did.

And this plays out on an even grander global scale. Vladimir Putin has been spending his free time making threatening military gestures. President Obama tried–at least at first–to establish a foreign policy of diplomacy and negotiation rather than war. Obama was dismissed as weak, whereas Putin was praised for being a super macho male, and the conservatives of the world are all but doodling little hearts on the snapshots of his bare-chested horse rides.

So is peace the way of the losers? This is an appropriate issue for me to ponder, especially as I get closer to celebrating the symbolic birth of my symbolic spiritual teacher, who preached about turning the other cheek and then got killed off by the powers that be. As a child of hippies, I would like to continue to believe in non-violence. But it’s very obvious to me which path the world I live in values more.

Ironically, right after I posted my gun conspiracy blog, we had our very own local school shooting here in the Portland metro area.  A high school freshman who was armed to the teeth entered Reynolds High School in Troutdale, OR, killed a fellow student and wounded a teacher and then, once he realized police were entering the school, shot himself.

What scared me just as much as the event itself was my reaction to it.  I held my breath in horror as I listened to the breaking news coming in on my radio at work.  But then, as I learned the extent of the shooting, I breathed a sigh of relief.  “Oh good.  Only two people dead.”  I caught my own reaction and was horrified all over again.  This is how used I’ve become to a world of spectacular acts of violence.  I expect to hear of 20, 30 dead–otherwise it’s not as big of a deal.  These are two individuals gone, one because of a random attack, the other seemingly because of mental illness.  Their families are grieving, the teenage boys won’t get a future, but hey, this was only a “small” shooting.

I can’t say that I really have good answers to any of the questions here.  Guns are a part of the problem, but only one part.  Clearly something inside of the kids leads them to feel that taking multiple lives is an acceptable response to the situation they’re in.  Something is broken there, but I don’t know how it can be fixed.  But regardless of what we think the solution is, the one thing I do know is that we cannot allow ourselves to get used to these shootings.  We can’t let them become a normal part of our daily life–although perhaps we already have.

Oh, the bizarre logic.  Republicans in Maryland talking about how something just has to be done about video games:

“These video games are out of control.  They are way too violent,”  Parrott said.

But they are against any gun regulation in the state.  Right, because it was the video game packaging that was used to kill in the Newtown massacre.  

Republicans are adding to their weird list of deadly objects every day.  Cars are just as deadly as guns!  Pencils!  Spoons!  After all, stabbing 20 people to death with a spork is so much easier than shooting them.  But move right along, everybody–no gun problem to see here.

I’m assuming guys like Parrott would like to propose warnings or restrictions for video games.  I don’t like violent video games either–but if we’re going to say they contributed to the problem and something needs to be done about them, what about the actual weapons used in the shootings?  A cartoon portrayal of violence is more dangerous than the real-life tool used to do violence?  Conservatives like to poke fun at liberals for not being logical, but this makes no sense to me.