Bullets & Lighters

I came home from my swim this morning and as I was walking by my front patio, I noticed that I’d left a lighter sitting on the table. It’s fairly common practice for me. Although I usually carry a Zippo in the coin pocket of my jeans, I usually work from home and sometimes I’m wearing house clothes when I go out for a smoke break. The lighter is a convenience for me.

I do live in a fairly safe neighborhood. There’s a gate around my apartment complex. But there are children and it’s summer. The children yell and scream and make noise but they’re out playing, just as I used to when I was younger. An exposed lighter, unprotected, visible, unattended, not locked up… it’s… a liability.

For decades in the US, people left firearms out around their homes. They also wore them on their hips and carried them in their vehicles (or on their horses, I guess). In parts of this state, people still do. The other day, I saw a guy at the gas station with a 1911 on his hip. It seems to me now that for a while it was a fashion statement as much as anything else. If you were a male of a certain age, you’d almost be expected to have a single six on your hip. If you were a female alone in your home, people might thing you odd for meeting a visitor without a rifle in hand.

We didn’t collect all sorts of skewed statistics on gun, “violence,” back then. I’m going to venture a guess that there wasn’t some enormous spat of mass shootings that broke out occasionally or a great deal of suicide-by-gun. More firearms, less shooting. It happened. It doesn’t seem to work that way anymore.

What changed? Society changed. The, “guns don’t kill people, people (or bullets) kill people,” argument may be cliche but it’s as true as ever. The firearm was there, just like my lighter is there. It’s an inanimate object. Design flaws aside — firearms were less reliable mechanically 200 years ago in general — a firearm doesn’t fire on its own. Properly kept, unloaded a lot of the time, and pointed in a safe direction, a rifle will never shoot a person accidentally. (I’ve heard arguments to the contrary but I’ve yet to see a single credible example of a case where a firearm accident wasn’t due to user error.) My lighter is much more likely to start a fire on its own.

But what changed? I suspect that someone may one day try to make a case that having my lighter sitting around where a neighborhood could pick it up and use it to start a fire, would be my fault. At least, I may be partially culpable. After all, said child’s mother knows that their child is a good kid and wouldn’t ever do something like that. It must be someone else’s fault. Similarly, when someone shoots someone else, it’s because there are too many firearms around. Or it’s because firearm manufacturers are irresponsible in selling their products. Or because people are allowed to have firearms. Anything but the fact that someone did something wrong, stupid, immoral, and illegal: they shot someone.

Texas recently signed a bill preventing preemption of local laws in the state from barring people from carrying edged tools, like knives and swords. I heard some discussion about how this violates public safety, that it makes our streets more dangerous. Nowhere in that discussion did the point come up that parents should teach their children that knives are tools that can be dangerous. Swords are… well… if you see an adult carrying a sword, you should probably take a moment to survey where you are and how you got there. A friend of mine was told this on her first driving lesson from her parents: there are tons of metal around you and you’re in control of it, so be careful. I was never taught that as a young driver and I learned it the hard way. I was, however, guided through lessons on sharp objects, hot things, using my words carefully, and other hazards.

There’s a bill in the legislature that specifies self defense as a legitimate use of firearms, with respect to the Second Amendment. I laud the effort; somewhere, society brainwashed itself into using, “sporting purposes,” as the sole criterion as to whether a firearm should be legal for ownership in the US. This is somewhat like legislating that lighters should be able to be used for lighting things on fire, like cigarettes. Guns were invented to shoot things, mostly living things like animals while hunting and people when necessary to defend oneself, such as during war or when cornered. By all rights, we should require legislation that specifies causing heart disease is a legitimate use of french fries. It’s almost the same thing.

 

To The US Media:

Please stop. Donald Trump is the president of these United States of America.

I understand that you didn’t elect him. I also understand that you don’t want him to be the President. This was very clear on election day. We elected him. You (collectively) do not get a vote. You tried to elect him but we saw through your plan. We did our thing anyway. I didn’t elect him. The people of these United States of America elected him. The election is over.

Please spare me the popular-vote argument, that’s not how we do things here. Both candidates knew the rules of the game. Both candidates played the game. One won, the other lost. Former Secretary (et. al.) Clinton was fairly gracious about losing. You are not acting as graciously as she has.

Perhaps Donald Trump is racist, or sexist, or many other things that you don’t like. Everyone is racist. Everyone is sexist. We’re all a little xenophobic. That’s part of the human condition. The last guy, President Obama, was racist and sexist. Each one of you is sexist and racist. I’m sexist and racist. You do not have the right to judge, regardless what higher power you do or don’t believe in.

We knew he was a rich guy before we elected him. Many of us have seen the hotels, casinos and skyscrapers with his name in big, lit letters at the top. A rich guy is going to bring his rich friends and family with him. We knew that too. We didn’t expect any different. Sorry you don’t like Rex Tillerson. He is the Secretary of State now. Part of why we elected Donald Trump to be the President is because we knew he would make rich guy decisions and hire other rich people to help make other decisions. You keep complaining about his decision-making ability. It makes you seem petty. Pettiness is unbecoming.

I don’t like all the things that President Trump has done since he was inaugurated. I’m sure he’ll do more things I don’t like. I didn’t like all the things that President Obama did while he was the President. I probably won’t like many of the things that the next President does. It may four years from now. It may be eight years from now. I’m not the President of these United States of America. I’m sure President Trump makes difficult decisions every day and he makes the ones that he thinks are correct. This is just like President Obama did and just like the next President will do. I’ve learned that if you constantly pick on someone, they will eventually ignore you. Sometimes they even take vengeance against you. I try to avoid those situations because it’s never fun to be the one under attack.

I admire the investigative skills of many journalists. They don’t lead to the same information that President Trump has. I’m sure he knows way more than you’re finding out. I’m sure President Obama knew more things about more things than you ever found out. The President of these United States of America always knows more than the rest of us. It’s why we call him the most powerful man — maybe woman, one day, and hopefully even soon — in the world. Your investigative skills don’t lead to information that’s as good as the President gets. It’s not a slight on you, the President has more resources at his disposal than you do.

We hired him to make the decisions he was going to make in the way he makes them. We didn’t hire him to make the decisions in the way that Hillary Clinton would have made them. We were given that choice. We hired the other one. While we’re on the subject, yes, we hired him. No, we don’t want to fire him. (Remember that you invented that show.) We reserve the right to change our mind later, maybe. We did with Bill Clinton. Maybe we will later with President Trump. I have no doubt that he’s well aware of this every day. He surely conducts his business with this knowledge. It’s not a threat. It’s just one of those things in life like death and taxes.

President Donald Trump has a Twitter account. He uses it in much the same way that we all — if we have Twitter accounts — use it. President Obama spent a lot of time on late-night TV shows. President Franklin Roosevelt made many radio addresses. If someone is smart enough to become the President of these United States of America, they’re smart enough to figure out which media channels to tap into. I would imagine that President Trump may be avoiding you because it’s clear that you don’t like him. Twitter isn’t moderated. On that note, I’ve read your tweets (and other social media posts) as well. You aren’t in the position to judge the quality of his tweets.

So Madonna doesn’t like President Trump. She probably hasn’t liked a single Republican or conservative President in her life. We hire to sing fairly often. She’s good at that. She’s not as good at politics, which is why we never hired her to be the President of these United States of America, or anything like that. Sometimes, we hire people like her to do politics, like Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Ronald Reagan. She is separated by distance from them. I’m not surprised that Chelsea Clinton doesn’t like President Trump either. She’s the daughter of the person who lost an election to Donald Trump and the only President who we chose to fire recently. I can’t imagine how someone in her position could like President Trump any more than Dan Quinn would like Bill Belichick or Tom Brady. We aren’t very impressed that you highlight the opinions of people like Madonna or Chelsea Clinton more than you highlight what the President of these United States of America has done. It makes it seem like you’re asleep at the wheel.

I used to read the news a lot. I grew up reading The New York Times. Back then, it contained, “all the news that’s fit to print.” Now it contains the news that fits the agenda of the names listed on the masthead. I used to read The Atlantic often too. Back then, it was unbiased and contained stories from many viewpoints. I used to love reading The Wall Street Journal. They refuse to let go of printing page after page of prices and volumes in a time when there’s much more up-to-date information available at the swipe of a fingertip. Everyone wants to charge me rising prices for content that rises to a lower standard. I used to pay for good writing. Now I just get Twitter for free. I’m not the only one who feels this way. There are many sayings about looking in the mirror before criticizing others. In the eyes of your readers, is your reporting of better quality and worth than those whom you criticize?

 

With respect and continuing admiration,

Stephan

 

Appearances Matter

The photo below is from a news article about the nice folks in North Dakota protesting the oil pipeline. It’s not my photo and this will stay here until someone from AP asks me to take it down.

This photo is copyrighted by Associated Press (Tom Stromme/Bismarck Tribune via AP)
This photo is copyrighted by Associated Press (Tom Stromme/Bismarck Tribune via AP)

In the attached article, it states that the protesters, “have created a self-sustaining community,” which I assume refers to the community pictured.

I don’t know much about this pipeline or the protest involving it. I’m distrustful of American media, they are strongly biased and blatantly spin things to match their agenda, so I don’t really believe most of what they’ve written about the pipeline. I also haven’t been to North Dakota so I don’t know what’s really going on there. I’m not going to take a side in the argument (either way) over whether or not there should be a pipeline. These are generally very complicated issues with lots of negotiation involved where we rarely hear the whole story from either side.

This protest looks fishy though. Once again, I assume the protest camp mentioned in the article is the same one they’re showing a picture of; if not, shame on them, that’s misrepresentation. I count several SUVs and pickup trucks. There’s even what looks like a Penske truck. Without doing a thorough analysis, there are clearly more large vehicles pictured than there are small vehicles.

Large vehicles use a lot of gas.

These people are protesting an oil pipeline.

Oil pipelines bring oil places so we can make gas.

The people protesting need a lot of gas.

It would seem to me that neither is the protest self-sustaining, nor does it make sense for them to protest an oil pipeline. In fact, I would bet that some of them have bought gas, fairly recently and likely quite a bit of it given their cars, in a place that would be served by the very pipeline they’re protesting. In my mind, this is akin to defending your right to protest against the First Amendment.

Once again, I’m not taking a side in the matter. I’m simply stating that appearances matter a whole lot and that it looks very bad for these people to be parking gas-guzzling vehicles at a protest site for an oil pipeline.

Apparently, it’s well within their rights to do what they’re doing, as long as they keep it non-violent. I’ve written them off though. In my mind, they’re hypocrites. Hypocrites don’t deserve a voice in a public forum. Through their actions, they’ve lost any moral imperative they may have had in this argument.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this.