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Category: Politics

The Party's Over
I’m concerned about the Tea Partiers. Yes, in the way you’re thinking, but also in a broader sense. I’m worried about what will happen to these poor wretches after the current ugliness blows over.

Someday soon, they will be thrown overboard by the GOP establishment in a desperate effort to save that party’s foundering ship. Ironically, those same Republican leaders had welcomed them on board for that very purpose in 2008, but now the newcomers have proved to be more trouble than they are worth. Once ejected, these demented creatures will be left to sink or swim on their own, and their prospects for political survival are not bright. They will sink to the bottom like stones.

Even so, they will still be with us…a full quarter of the population, completely at the mercy of their emotions, especially fear. Fear of change, fear of the unknown, fear of the Other. Are they not clinically insane? And they could rise again, summoned by the next demagogue to come along. That’s why I’m concerned. These people are our fellow citizens, but as we’ve just witnessed, they are dangerous and unpredictable. Like an unexploded bomb. Shouldn’t we do something to, uh, help them? If only to protect ourselves? Even if they are sick puppies, aren’t you supposed to take care of sick puppies?

Maybe Obamacare will help.
Fair Is Fair
Life is unfair. The universe owes us nothing — no particular outcome and no explanation for what it does. That’s just how the universe rolls, and sometimes we end up as road kill.

If the universe has no duty to us, then, should we expect any better from ourselves? I’m going to say yes, and I’ll tell you why: because humans, unlike the universe, have expectations. We do care; that’s why we have governments. Let me suggest, in fact, that the highest aspiration of government should be to make life fair for all of its citizens. It’s not about love, or religion, or a brilliant idea, but rather about simple fairness. The closer our institutions come to giving it to us, the better off we will all be.

It’s an impossible task, of course. We are only human; the all-powerful universe can be unfair if it pleases. But that doesn’t mean we have to be.
Thinking with Your Gun
It may be that the law has no remedy for the injustice done by George Zimmerman. Technically, he may not be guilty of murder or manslaughter or even negligent homicide. He may have a right as a private citizen, under the law, to stalk a teenager late at night while carrying a loaded firearm. Perhaps there is no way to punish a man for shadowing a boy he thinks is suspicious, even though the teenager had a perfect right and reason to be where he was.

And if Trayvon Martin, spooked by this close pursuit, turned to protect himself, well, it is then George’s right to stand his ground and fire his weapon. That is, after all, how the state law reads.

Perhaps the U.S. Attorney, seeing the injustice done in the criminal courts of Florida, will decide to charge that Trayvon Martin’s civil rights were violated or perhaps that he was the victim of a hate crime. The Martin family may file suit against Zimmerman for their son’s wrongful death. It’s quite possible, however, that none of these efforts will result in justice being done.

There is clearly a racial component to this story, but let’s set that aside for now and view this incident simply as an interaction between two citizens, one carrying a gun and one not. Each was doing what he was lawfully entitled to do. One was going about his business, and the other was making that business his own. Something made George decide to force the issue and play out a script he had written in his head about Trayvon. What’s more, he was prepared to back up his fantasy with a deadly weapon.

I can’t imagine Zimmerman being so brazen as to openly follow someone at night if he weren’t armed. To do so would be to subject himself to the obvious danger that his quarry might turn and confront his stalker. It was the gun that made this foolish idea become reasonable. After all, if things get dicey, you can always shoot your quarry dead.

It is obvious that Trayvon Martin would not have died if there had been no gun. In fact, he wouldn’t have been followed in the first place. It was the gun that emboldened Zimmerman to follow the boy. It was the gun that gave him the will to act on his misguided suspicions. It was the gun that fulfilled its own prophecy and discharged a bullet into Trayvon’s beating heart.

Stupidity is one of the constants of human existence. We are all stupid. Carrying a gun, since it clothes us in feelings of invincibility, magnifies our stupidity. In this case, we see that sometimes the gun can even move to fill the void between our ears and start doing our thinking for us.

Don’t believe the gun advocates. Guns do kill people. The stupid humans are only there to pull the trigger. If it’s justice we’re looking for at the end of this story, then we should move now to keep these weapons out of the hands of stupid people. And that means all of us, citizen.
Which Is It?
My local paper printed two letters recently on the topic of Edward Snowden. He’s the contractor who blew the whistle on phone snooping by our National Security Agency. The headline for one letter read “Snowden a Traitor”; for the other, “Snowden a Patriot.” Both seem to have been written by liberals, and both were filled with righteous outrage.

Lefties aren’t the only ones divided by this story. On the right, the neocons are crying treason while the libertarians huff about Big Brother. Perhaps the divide isn’t so much political as it is internal. None of us is used to thinking about these issues in quite this way. The right to privacy and the need for security aren’t usually pitted against each other. In fact, they could be viewed as two aspects of the simple human longing to be left alone.

Now, however, they are in conflict. Terrorism isn’t just crime, it’s super crime — crime rising almost to the level of war in its indiscriminate destructiveness. How far are we from the suitcase-sized nuclear bomb? Not far, by some reckonings, and when the Nuclear Age meets the Information Age in that context, security and privacy may be torn apart for good. If one of those bombs goes off, where will the libertarians and defenders of privacy stand then? If the perpetrators are homegrown militiamen like Timothy McVeigh, how will the authoritarian right respond? And what will the anti-terrorists of the left say when the right to privacy finally evaporates completely?

Technology is pushing us toward decisions we are not prepared to make. The capacity to destroy is growing at a frightening rate, our freedom and individuality are shrinking with each new digital breakthrough, and we are left to sort through the consequences using outdated standards of right and wrong. There is nothing in our history or experience that can keep pace with our own ever-expanding inventiveness. How are we expected to make such choices?

I don’t know if Edward Snowden is a traitor or a patriot. I saw a Rob Rogers cartoon last week that called him a “traitriot.” Snowden made his stand, and then he ran away and hid. He was clearly not prepared to make his decision, but he felt he had to make it anyway. Given the direction in which technology is leading us, we may all become traitriots soon.
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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee