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Got Dibs
“Got dibs,” according to paleolinguists, were likely the first words ever uttered by a human being. Other animals would no doubt have made the same claim, but they don’t know how to talk, so tough titty.

Since that first declaration of rights, the practice of dibbing has had a rich history. In fact, the notion of having dibs (as theorized by paleo real estate agents) is at the very foundation of our modern concept of ownership. If you own real property in the United States, for instance, your deed rests on the original dibbing done by the minions of various kings. Native Americans, sadly, considered land to be undibbable, so all they got was a worthless section of Oklahoma (at least until White Man changed his mind and shouted “Got dibs!”).

In Europe, ownership rests on dibbing done eons ago. Unlike the royal dibbing done in North America, which rested on the direct endorsements from God that all kings enjoy, those ancient dibs depended mostly on the size of the dibber’s club and his willingness to use it. Not to put too fine of a point on it, then, all ownership is based on extortion and murder.

Dibbing has continued unabated into modern times. When The White Man took back Oklahoma, he parceled it out by way of the Great Land Rush of 1893 — one of the wildest and woolliest episodes of dibbing ever witnessed. The Rush even came with a nice legal rationale, although it was clearly just another example of whiteman giving.

A whole bunch of nations called dibs on Antarctica, and that was kind of entertaining for a while, because getting dibs is not quite as acceptable now as it used to be. Eventually, everybody made nice and signed a treaty. Which is great, but we’ll see what happens when oil is discovered at the South Pole.

Dibbing went extraterrestrial when we planted no less than six American flags, complete with spring-loaded stiffeners, on the lunar surface. No one said anything at the time about the Moon belonging to us, but nobody denied it, either. We can be sure, in any case, that we have not seen the last of lunar dibbing. The Russians are still grumpy over losing the race to the Moon, and they’ll be back to try again someday.

Speaking of humiliation-based land grabs, old Vladimir Putin has been doing some serious dibbing himself recently. His argument seems to be that there is a great yearning in the Ukraine to rejoin Russia — especially among the goons he sent there. Consequently, he’s got dibs.

And so it goes. Dibbing is a fundamental part of human nature. Whether we’re grabbing a Third World country, kidnapping a candidate for slavery, or snatching the last piece of pizza, the gimme instinct is strong in us. If we want it, we take it, and if you don’t like it, do you know what this here big club says? Tough titty.
Isle Be Damned
Of all the standard cartoon clichés, the guy marooned on a desert island might be the most common. The island is always impossibly small and sports a single palm, usually with coconuts. The guy (for some reason, it’s always a man) is otherwise alone in the picture, surrounded on all sides by a boundless sea.

Other elements can be freely added. Sea creatures, especially sharks, are a common prop. Any item from a universe of flotsam may wash up, ships may pass by, bottles come and go. It is even possible that another human might be included, perhaps on a nearby island. I would put such cartoons in a separate category, however. In its purest form, the man marooned is a trope for existential isolation filled with dread and devoid of meaning. Hence, the jokes.

Most of those jokes come at the expense of the strandee, making fun of his solitary and probably lethal circumstances. Even while he is being cruelly mocked, though, the poor schnook always manages to keep hope alive. Someday, he thinks, one of those ships will stop to rescue him. He’ll get a response to his message-in-a-bottle. Or something will wash up on his shore to make his life better or even to deliver him to safety.

His hope is eternal. But why is it that cartoonists never make fun of him for even daring to hope? His predicament is futile, after all. Those three coconuts are his only source of food and water. The sun beats down relentlessly, at least until a storm comes along and swamps his little sandbar, sending him to the bottom. He will surely perish alone on his forsaken island, and to have hope for any other outcome is clearly demented. So why not pile on him for that? His frustration is fair game for humor, as are his fears, his pain, his dreams, and his loneliness. Why should his misguided optimism be any different?

Is it possible that hope is a humor taboo, something that shouldn’t be joked about? It’s a good question, and I congratulate myself for asking it. On the only occasions I can remember someone laughing at hope, the laugher was either a monstrous super-villain or a right-wing radio talk show host. I don’t count these examples as actual humor, but rather sadism accompanied by maniacal barking. There is a difference.

So why does hope get off so easily? Of the seven heavenly virtues, it takes the least comedic guff. Chastity gets horselaughed all the time these days. Patience, charity, and kindness are at least the objects of mild joshing. Humility and temperance are so rare that they get no attention of any kind, and diligence was dropped as a virtue years ago because it’s no longer cool.

I’m not complaining, mind you. I am a big believer in hope, but I also think that nothing in this world should get a free pass from comedy.

So let me try this: Two men in a rowboat have beached on the island. One of the men, holding a bottle in one hand and looking intently at a note in the other, says “Yes, I’m sure this is the right place.” The other man looks in puzzlement at the island, seeing only the palm tree…and a single tombstone. Cue the laugh track.
Fair is Fair
I may never get over the creepiness of my own government spying on me. Especially since the creepiness has been hot-dipped in a pool of outrage because I am actually paying for this betrayal.

Please don’t worry, the NSA says. We don’t track the content of calls, emails, tweets, postings, and other exercises of the freedom of speech. We’re not after you; we’re after the people who are after you. You know, the terrorists.

Okay, I get that. That’s what government is for, after all — to protect us from people who never learned how to be nice. I also get that, in an increasingly complicated world, solutions to our problems might need to be complicated, too. And that might mean that I need to trade off my right to privacy for safety’s sake. I’m even fine with that — as long as it’s a fair bargain.

Here’s what bothers me: not that my right to privacy went poof in the name of security, but that I’m not getting as much in return for it as I should. We’re all going to die someday, whether in bed or on board an exploding 747, and when we do, we’re done. But that disturbing photo of me — the one with the tarantula and the feather boa — could live forever on the internet if some nosey parker gets hold of it. If it weren’t for the NSA, that wouldn’t have been possible. So, in return for my lost privacy, I think I’m entitled to a little more…

For starters, I want the people behind those “Cardholder Services” robocalls hunted down and robocalled with a rototiller. The NSA can do that, can’t they?

Also, what ever happened Laneal McRory, my would-be, mostly-imaginary quasi-girlfriend from the seventh grade? I just want to know, that’s all.

My neighbor recently put up this new, strange-looking antenna. Is he part of the monstrous cabal that’s trying to control my thought waves with sonar? It would be a tremendous relief to know…one way or the other.

If it’s possible, I’d like the Swiss bank account numbers of the Wall Street rat-bastards who ripped off the country for billions back in 2008. No reason, just curious.

And while we’re at it, could I have the home phone of that s.o.b. who cut me off yesterday? I have some robocallers I’d like him to meet.

That should do it for now, I guess, although I’ll probably think of a few other things later. Come to think of it, I’d like the deal to include an option for me to ask for more private information about other people any time I want. The only new right that might make up for the loss of my right to privacy might be the right to know anything I want about anybody else forever and ever.

Fair is fair, after all, and the same goes for unfair.
A tree fell on my house once. It was a hundred-foot-tall Douglas fir. We were very lucky; no one was hurt, and the house survived. I am now wary of Douglas firs. They are a dangerous plant. But I do not hate them.

Nor do I hold a grudge against poison oak. That plant has been a lifelong source of misery for me, but I know it’s not seeking me out and doing it on purpose. Berry bushes have left thousands of tiny, painful stickers in my hands over the years, but I don’t take it personally. Right now, I’m sniffling and sneezing with all the pollen in the air, but I know the plants that produced that pollen are not out to get me. I would not (even if I could) decree that any of these plants be banished from the face of the earth forever.

Mosquitoes are another matter. Them, I hate. On some level, they know I’m a fellow creature, yet they go ahead and suck the juice out of me anyway. My juice! If the opportunity ever arose to dictate a species extinction, I just might pull the trigger on the mosquito. Same with gophers. Those bastards steal my food and destroy my garden even though they know it enrages me. The thought of a world without them makes me smile.

Yes, yes… I know. Each of these animals is part of the vast, intricate balance of nature that sustains all life, blah, blah, blah. You suggest that if I tried to play Jenga with the delicate stack of species and extract just one offending animal, the whole pile might come tumbling down, me included. To which a part of me wants to respond, “Yeah? Bring it on.”

But I would stop short of total annihilation, I think. What if, in lashing out, I caused some plant species to go extinct? That would be wrong. The plant kingdom is the nice kingdom, and it should not suffer for the misdeeds of a few sociopathic animals.

You see? I may be genocidal, but at least I’m not mean.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon