Gun-Toting Patriots

I was raised in Wyoming. It is the quintessential “square state” — a big patch of beautiful nothing in the middle of nowhere, populated by 300,000 people, and wind.

Wyoming is also a gun-totin’ Red State. My father was a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and made the kids in the neighborhood some of the best wooden guns I’ve ever seen. Our neighbor across the street was a serious gun collector. A lot of people hunted game in the fall — typically deer and antelope — and the ranchers all had predator issues for which a gun was simply a convenient and appropriate farm implement.

As a young man, I believed — as my Wyoming upbringing taught me — that the point of the Second Amendment to the Constitution was to allow The People to defend themselves against their own government, should it turn to tyranny, and found that my callow political sympathies lay with neither the Republicans nor the Democrats, but with the Libertarians.

Then I grew up.

I really can’t put it any more delicately. This view of the Second Amendment is juvenile at best. For anyone who wants to disagree, I have just three questions.

Envision a situation — any situation you like — where you believe in your heart that The Time Has Come. The Government has turned to tyranny, and it is the hour for all good men and true to kick off their man-slippers, step out of their man-caves, and start kicking some ass. It’s time to do your duty, and Defend America. Lock and load.

First question: Do you know who your CO is? That’s Commanding Officer, just to be clear.

Don’t tell me who it is, since if you’re going up against a national government gone sour, I’d certainly hope your CO’s identity is need-to-know. The question is, do you know your CO? If not, do you at least have a reliable means of knowing when you’ve been called to leave your home and family, and report for duty and (probably) death in the glorious cause of Freedom?

I’m guessing you don’t belong to any chain of command whatsoever. You’re a private citizen with privately-owned lethal weapons. No one gets to tell you what to do. That’s what freedom is all about.

That means you are, at best, no different from an armed vigilante in a city-wide riot. You are surrounded by other armed and dangerous hotheads freshly arisen from their man-caves, and also by lots and lots of unarmed fellow citizens — you call them “sheeple” — who are most certainly not going to man up and grab a gun. In fact, they’ll take pictures of you on their iPhones and rat you out to the authorities.

Your revolution is over before it even starts.

So let’s assume you are in the small minority of armed citizens who are also part of a volunteer militia with a clear chain of command and a sworn oath of duty.

Second question: Who is backing your revolution?

It takes an 18-wheeler full of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) to keep a fighting force of 1000 well-fed for ten days. You need a constant resupply of ammunition just for training: if every patriot gets to practice with one shot per day, it’s 1000 rounds of ammunition a day. What about clothing: shoes, coats, hats, gloves? Body armor, helmets, shovels, and mess kits? Kitchen equipment? Vehicles? Spare tires? Gasoline?

What about shelter? Where will you winter? Where will you hide 1000 men, and is your secret base proof against infrared satellite imaging, drones, air strikes, and old-fashioned betrayal? Or are you going to embed yourself in a civilian population, and implicitly use them as hostages?

Do you have smart, seasoned tacticians in your organization? Do you have strategic planners? Do you have a path to winning this war you’re about to start your militia of 1000 men, good and true, pitted against the sworn and ready Armed Forces of the (now-tyrannical) United States Government?

I know you are all enamored of the American Revolution and how it turned out, but I hope you understand that without financial support from France, and without an entire ocean between Britain and the colonies, the American Revolution would have been nothing more than a short-lived riot, swiftly put-down and its leaders hanged. It very nearly ended at Valley Forge. It might well have failed had not King George been afflicted with the madness of porphyry during the critical phases of that war.

It was a near thing.

In the modern world, you are aware, are you not, that every single “patriotic resistance” (or “radicalized terrorist group”), from ISIL to the FARC to the Shrouded Whatever, is — as it must be — supported by a solvent government that wants to see a rival government fall? So which hostile foreign government is going to supply, support, and guide your militia? Will you be working for the Russians, or the Chinese, or for someone else?

I’m going to guess that it never occurred to you to think about any of this, and I’m going to further guess that your CO, and his CO (if he has one) has not thought about it, either.

Your revolution will end when your forces are pinned down by the FBI and the National Guard, besieged, and start to get hungry.

So let’s take this to the final step. Let’s assume that somehow, after weeding out all the sheeple and the snowflakes and the Democrats and the Godless Liberals and the women and the children and the cripples and all the rest of the worthless dross that never has and never will stand up and fight for freedom — that somehow, there are still enough of you, good men and true, under some kind of brilliant strategic command, with support commitments from at least one major government hostile to the tyranny in Washington, DC, to actually make war on the United States Government. That there are enough of you to potentially defeat the sworn and duty-bound soldiers and high command who remain loyal to the US Armed Forces, and force the corrupt US government to its knees.

Third question: How do you really expect this to play out?

I hope you understand that you are starting a war against an established government that is, however corrupt you believe it to be, still the lawful government of the nation.

I hope you understand that you will be immediately branded as foreign-led terrorists on US soil, vilified by the US media, shunned by a terrified US public, infiltrated by spies and traitors to your cause, and will be engaged in not only a military struggle, but a propaganda struggle to capture the hearts and minds of this nation of television-drugged sheeple.

I hope you understand that you will no longer be a member of a militia. This is war. You will be a soldier in a full-scale army. They will feed you. They will clothe you. They will train and arm you. They will give you orders, and hang you if you disobey (not shoot you — they’ll want to conserve ammunition). They will do all the thinking for you.

As for your privately-owned weapons: if this insurgent army has any interest in them at all, it will be to confiscate and distribute them to their sharpshooters and special operatives. You’ll get standard issue.

No one can say who would eventually “win” such a civil war, but one thing is guaranteed: we will all lose our freedom.

Here’s the bottom line.

No government cares about your guns. Your guns are not a threat to the government. Your guns have never been a threat to the government. Your guns will never be a threat to the government.

On the other hand, if your guns make you a sufficient annoyance, they will put out an arrest warrant, hunt you down, starve you out, and — if necessary — fire bomb you out of existence. You will be a terrorist shot while trying to escape.

And if it’s really a tyranny you are up against — a real, honest-to-God tyranny — they’ll take out the entire area around you, without hesitation or qualm, even in the middle of a heavily populated city. You think your assault rifle is going to stop a stinger missile?

Your privately owned guns are a hobby. Your band-of-patriots doing calisthenics in the woods is a hobby.

Private gun ownership does not “protect the liberty of America.” It never has, and it never will. This is one of the most ridiculous Libertarian myths to have come out of people who’ve lived too long with the maddening moan of Wyoming wind in their ears.

So what is the Second Amendment all about? Glad you asked.

Turns out — and I didn’t know this until a couple of years ago — it was a negotiating point that the Southern states demanded in return for their ratification of the Constitution. The “militias” they refer to so mysteriously in the amendment weren’t mysterious at all in 1778: they existed, and were a matter of common knowledge in both the North and the South.

The militias were informally known as “slave patrols.” These were armed citizen militias in the southern states with mandatory service requirements for every able-bodied white man — with explicit exemptions for various occupations, like ministers and politicians. Their purpose was also a matter of common knowledge: it was to control the negro slave population, through oppression and fear.

The new Constitution explicitly established a continental army, and the Southern states feared that this national army would supersede the authority of their slave patrols, and that the Northern states would use this authority to gradually absorb and phase out the slave patrols. The Northern representatives argued that this was nonsense (they were most likely lying). The Southern representatives held fast: they believed (almost certainly correctly) that they would lose control of their slaves without the militias, and without slaves — if they were forced to pay their laborers a living wage — they believed the Southern economy would collapse.

The Second Amendment is about preserving slavery, and the slave-economy of the Old South.

If you want to take issue with this “theory” of the Second Amendment, then I’ll ask you a final question. We know the writers of the Constitution were worried about the unwashed masses, the people the Romans and later historians referred to as “the mob.” They were worried enough that, although they gave citizens a House of Representatives and a vote, they initially restricted the definition of “citizen” to landowners. They also established a separate Senate composed of members who were originally appointed to their office by the State governments. They further protected their fledgling government from the mob by establishing the Electoral College, to filter the popular vote once more.

Given all that, do you really think they were interested in giving the mob a way to blow away the government they had tried so hard to create? By simply pulling a trigger?

That makes as much sense as hair on a cue ball.

Now, I don’t begrudge anyone for not knowing the two-century-old politics behind the Second Amendment; it certainly isn’t taught in school.

But if you’ve been thinking your gun ownership has ever had anything to do with protecting the US against tyranny under our own government, let me make it clear: you are thinking like a child.

Like those Bundy boys, who took over a government bird sanctuary in Oregon, got on the government-created, government-protected Internet to beg for food, took for granted that it would be delivered promptly to their door by the government-run Postal Service, and expected any outcome but public humiliation and a prison term.

I, for one, am sick of hearing this gunslinger fantasy from grown men. Newsflash: you are neither Shane, nor Batman.

Grow up.

Jesus Saves

Here is the current state of our public dialogue.

“Jesus Saves,” as we all know.

So an American entrepreneur opens the Jesus™ Savings and Loan, Inc. Their motto: “Jesus Saves, and so can YOU!”

The business is a huge success, particularly among the ultra-religious Christians.

The first CEO is well-aware of the irony of it all, and doesn’t care, he’s getting rich. He thinks he’s brilliant.

The second CEO is aware of the irony, but isn’t interested, as he has a serious business to run. He thinks he’s responsible.

The third CEO is not aware of the irony: he is of the generation whose parents banked with Jesus™ S&L, and he believes in his heart that he is doing the Lord’s work by charging interest on loans, and foreclosing on “deadbeats” who missed a house payment. Hard work, but it’s his cross to bear. He thinks he is righteous.

After all, Jesus saves. Right? Which means Jesus clearly understands the power of compounding interest, and doesn’t have a problem with accumulating wealth.

Someone comes along, now, and says, “The love of money is the root of all evil.”

The CEO of Jesus™ Savings and Loan responds, “Atheist! Blasphemer! Anti-christ!”

This is the state of our current public dialogue.

Something Right

2017-06-27 16.30.17The heat peaked at 94º earlier this afternoon. It now drops, slightly, though the air continues to hold a comforting warmth as the sun streaks at a steep angle through the tall pines. The park is filling rapidly with people. We find an empty place in a small triangle of shade that has just grown into existence, and we set down our folding chairs and open our new baby-blue picnic blanket. I rummage in one of the grocery bags for my wineglass and spike, a cookout gadget I’d never seen before moving to California. A splash of Ava Grace, a red blend from Livermore that I’m fond of these days, and I’m ready to settle in for the evening.

I reach out to touch Marta’s hand. “Happy anniversary, beautiful!” She smiles back at me.

Twelve years ago today, we celebrated our love and our good fortune in having found each other in a world of seven billion people, up in the Colorado mountains where we had met the year before. It wasn’t a wedding — I was still allergic to the institution. But we wanted a celebration, so we’d decided to hold the reception without the wedding, a two-day affair with overnight camping and an unconscionable surplus of food, surrounded by family and friends. We had a very short, eclectic Pagan circle to celebrate the wind and the wildflowers, and later participated in our first Druidic rite when three of our guests asked if we minded; they invited Marta and me to join in as the Green Man and Queen of Summer — a few days late for Solstice, but I’ve always felt the light turn in Colorado about a week after Solstice, anyway. Samantha, Marta’s friend, had paved the path to our tent with rose petals and lined it with rosemary.

Kat and Izzy, our neighbors, arrive before long, trailing three young men who have been interning at the Sustainable Living Center in Hopland, working with Izzy. Two twenty-somethings, and the “old man” who might have been all of twenty-eight. Kat pulls out a St. Michelle Riesling and passes it one way, while I pass Grace in the other.

Royal Jelly Jive fires up. They bill themselves as “soulful gypsy blues,” and — as usual — they excel, as does the sound system and the mixing engineer. We give and receive introductions all around, and laugh and talk easily as the music plays. A bag of chips is set out, then a second. Marta leaves to order an arepa, and brings me back an enormous slice of pizza. The wine bottles make another circuit.

2017-06-25 19.51.17 HDRI watch the people around us. A family has spread out on a blanket ten feet away. There are two little ones delighting themselves hiding under a different blanket and chasing each other. A girl of perhaps twelve tries valiantly to do a handstand; she’s clearly grown out her legs in the last year, and she hasn’t yet found her new point of balance. I think of the year that my voice changed, and I smile. Two old friends just beyond the family notice each other; they exclaim and hug. I fall into a brief conversation with the older man beside me; he’s a “newcomer” to town, as of some twenty years ago. A young man strides across the park, an immortal godling, head held high, muscular arms swinging freely from broad shoulders, his bare back a riot of artwork. A slender young woman minces in the other direction, carefully, carrying a plate of food — her Carmen Sandiego scarlet dress is beautiful, and the broad-brimmed hat is a matching shade that glows in the now-shallow golden sunlight. A handful of people have iPhones in hand, but they seem to have actual business on them: perhaps coordinating with latecomers. They text, and then they put the phone away and either listen to the music, or talk with their friends, or — like me — watch the people.

2017-06-25 19.50.26 HDRThe light is magical. We are now in the shadow of the mountains to the West, a gentle, warm twilight, but the sun still limns the limbs of the pines. Cameras capture colors and shapes, but they cannot seem to catch the trick of light that makes the trees glow as if with their own inner light.

I can just see the dance area in front of the stage. It is packed with people of all ages, teenagers and septuagenarians, couples and singles, parents and children. A policeman strolls by, alone. He wears a uniform; he does not wear tactical armor. He is smiling. There are only a few black people in the crowd, but many Hispanic, Oriental, and Native American folk. There are a lot of tattoos.

I discover that Kat, like me, has a near-perfect memory for movie dialogue, and we begin to have a conversation using fragments from “guess that movie.” Izzy and Marta roll their eyes and ignore us. Marta falls into conversation with a woman she just met, a former Silicon Valley executive who threw it all away to move here. The bottle passes again.

At some point, I lean over to Izzy, and with a broad gesture at our surroundings, I say, “This. This. There is so much in the world that is so totally fucked up. But this — this is something right.”

We stay until the band stops playing and the crowd begins to disperse. Marta drives us home.

A Day in the Life

Dawn

I’m still in bed, awakened by the dogs moving about in the other room. It’s quiet this morning: I hear the sound of only one car in ten minutes. It’s been chilly at night, so the windows are closed; otherwise, I’d probably hear birdsong, though not much — with the windows closed, I can hear only the most penetrating of birdcalls.

Hardly anyone is awake: the bakers at the bakery up the street, of course, and a few restaurant and coffee shop owners and employees getting ready for the breakfast crowd; the night shift at the police station and the hospital, wrapping up a long night; a few insomniacs and early-risers taking quiet walks.

I slip back into REM sleep, where I have a strange and vivid dream of a different life, a gloriously self-sufficient life where I am no longer burdened by taxes or government interference with my essential freedoms…

I’ve been up for half an hour, milking my cow. Selling fresh milk is one of my most consistent sources of trade income, since I’ve the only cow in the area, owing to the good fortune of the grazing on this piece of land, and a running stream. She’s getting old, and I worry about her production. I give her a sad look, with a hint of calculation in it. I can see steak in the next year or two, but I’m not sure I’ll make enough off the meat to afford a new calf, much less a new cow. Not sure what I’ll do at that point.

My hands are nice and warm, the early morning ache from the cold worked out. My heavy quilted jacket is warm, but my feet are still cold; I’d traded for a poor batch of wood a year back, and the night fire had once again gone out early and left me shivering. I’d had words with Jim, the woodsman, for selling me crap wood, but he’d just shrugged. He knew he was the only game in town. He didn’t overcharge, at least not too much, but his prices were high. There’d been another young fellow a couple of years back who had tried to compete with Jim, but he’d up and vanished after a year. Some said Jim had cut his throat and burned the body. Could be — Jim was a mean son of a bitch — but with nary a trace of evidence, there wasn’t much to be done about it, and no one was going to pay for an investigation. I’m sure as Hell too old to be taking down trees: it’s trade with Jim, or do without.

I hear a shriek in the woods, and experience a brief moment of grim satisfaction. A new group of squatters moved into the area a week ago, and they haven’t yet learned that my fences mean business. I keep on milking as the screams grow hoarse and then subside to a bubbling howl. My son issues a soft birdcall as he slips through the trees around the perimeter, to let me know where he is, just in case I decide to explore. Wouldn’t want to shoot him by accident. No point to my going out there yet, though — I’m not going to waste shot on the poor bastard, he’ll die quick enough. My son will raise the alarm if there are more coming.

I sigh, thinking about the work involved in digging another grave, but it was that, or let the body rot in the open, and that would attract scavengers. It’s putting wear on the shovel, too, and new steel will cost me dearly. But I’m too damn old to work with a wooden shovel in this soil. Wish the squatters would just read the signs I post, or at least have the sense to pay attention to the scalps I’ve mounted on poles. Of course, who’d pay to teach any of them to read? This squatter was probably hungry enough to try to eat the scalps — I should check on those later today, too.

6:00 am

I wake a second time. The dogs are restless, and my wife has just fed them, so they’re yipping to go out and play. I throw back the covers, and put my bare feet on a cool hardwood floor.

The dream is still with me, and I think about the temperature in the house — not a usual early-morning thought. I can still feel the dawn chill of the dream and the warm udders against my palms. I hear the hum of the forced-air furnace as it kicks on, fed by natural gas and electricity from a public utility with government-regulated prices, quality-of-service, and safety practices.

I remember the gas leak up the street last spring, when the neighbors had gone digging with a backhoe to plant a new tree, and hadn’t bothered to call the utility company first for a free service visit to mark the underground gas line. We lost our gas in the neighborhood for two days while the crews repaired it, and I heard the neighbors got hit with a huge bill, which their insurance paid. Everyone complained that insurance costs were going to go up, but they didn’t.

I think about Jim, selling shoddy fuel for high prices, and how his only competitor just vanished one night, in a world where no one is interested in paying for justice.

Brrr. I shake off the dream and become preoccupied with my daily morning routine.

After breakfast, I pour milk into my coffee, and with the sight of pouring milk, the dream returns unbidden…

I dig with a steady rhythm, and when I tire, my son relieves me. He digs longer and faster than I do. I don’t want to sit too long, though, lest I stiffen up. The soil isn’t too hard, and we don’t hit any big rocks; we’re deep enough in less than an hour. We drag the two bodies to the grave and roll them in. The man had been caught by the trap. The woman had put a sharp stick through her own neck and died with her arms around the man. It was probably just the two of them. She lands on her back, and her eyes pop open — they seem to stare at me, though I know she’s dead and isn’t staring at anything in this world. She and the man are both emaciated scarecrows, doubtless starving for weeks. I cover her with dirt quickly, and then sit and let my son work. I tell myself it’s age.

Dammit, why should I care? If they starve, it’s their own damn fault. It’s not like they can’t work just as hard as the rest of us. These squatters are like all those people on welfare back when I was a kid, when we had the big nanny state fed by taxes taken at the point of a gun, no freedoms, a world full of welfare bums living off the hard work of other people, no respect for private property, no self-respect. Parasites.

I think again of the other woodsman. What was his name? I don’t remember. I wonder if Jim really did kill him. Maybe Jim just drove him away. Maybe took his axe, and broke his arm, and frightened him off. Couldn’t very well work as a woodsman with a broken arm and no axe. Takes a month to starve, longer than that for a bone to knit. Assuming it knits straight, which there’s no guarantee if you can’t pay a bonesetter. I try to remember if the man we’re burying maybe had a bad leg, or a bad arm. I didn’t notice. Doesn’t matter. Squatters are squatters.

“You’re falling behind, Old Man,” my son says. He’s grinning, but there’s a sadness in his eyes, and a hint of calculation that I don’t like the look of. I suppress a grunt as I rise to take my shift with the shovel. I sat too long, and my back hurts.

8:00 am

Seated at my desk, I reply to e-mails from work. I sit in an ergonomically-designed chair that allows me to put in a solid eight hours without back or leg pain, at a desk designed to minimize wrist strain. The company I work for paid for both of them, which was less expensive than dealing with an OSHA grievance filed against them with the government. Without the threat of OSHA, there probably wouldn’t be any profit in making such chairs and desks, since they are too expensive for most people to buy on their own.

The VPN secure network software I use was developed by a private company, using algorithms developed by researchers at a public university. The Internet I use for high-speed data transfer is an outgrowth of the fiber-optic backbone laid in at government expense back in the late 1990’s. Performance is good, and relatively cheap. The government prevents the service providers from tiering their prices, the so-called “net neutrality” issue that keeps floating in Congress: providers can’t force their customers to bid against each other for better bandwidth, which removes incentives for scalpers and speculators to move in.

I finish reading all my new e-mails, and sit back for a moment before digging into the project I’m working on. I sip my second cup of coffee, close my eyes to savor the taste, and the dream intrudes again…

I’m late to market, and have to set up on the periphery instead of my usual spot. My customers give me a hard time about my “new location,” and I grunt and say, “Had to bury some bodies.” They laugh. They don’t ask questions. There’s some hard bargaining this morning, but I hold firm on prices, and sell out quickly. It’s a good take. The baker is preparing a cake for a wedding, and buys a whole pint with the cream. That leaves me short for the other customers, and they get into a bidding war over what’s left.

There’s a brief scuffle down by the baker’s table. Some drifter is accused of passing counterfeit coins. They’ve already got the rope around his neck when one of the other vendors looks at the fake coin and declares it to be Canadian quarter, rare these days, worth more than twice an old US quarter. The baker is embarrassed enough to throw in an extra bread roll for free. The drifter’s face is pale, but he gathers up his order and the extra roll with shaking hands and leaves quickly. We won’t see him again. Good riddance.

I buy a loaf of bread, and some eggs. No meat: I’m saving my money to try to buy a lamb at the big market in the Fall. I’ll be able to spin wool, then, and maybe get a second lamb and start breeding them. That might provide enough extra income to buy a new cow.

When I get back to my property, I walk the perimeter and check the traps. All of the scalps are still there. I always salt them before I put them up. Not even birds are stupid enough to peck at them. Only starving humans would try. Those two squatters didn’t get close enough to try. My son has reset the traps. All good.

10:00 am

I dial into the team meeting. Six of us in the group, a fairly large development team, but it’s a complicated project. The remote conference software is not too flaky this morning; developed by a pure for-profit company, one of many competing products in the marketplace, the software is constantly being revised, patched, and its user-interface redesigned. We rarely have a month go by without some major glitch. It’s the cheapest and most widely-used software out there. I swear, most of their money must go into marketing.

We all touch base, then two of us stay on for a half-hour longer working out some of the design issues on a virtual whiteboard. There’s an integrated whiteboard in the commercial conference software, but it freezes all the time. We instead use an old piece of code originally developed at a public university, which then moved to the public domain and is now maintained with community support. It does the job, and it’s fast and stable.

The two of us are about three thousand miles apart — she’s just returned from lunch. She says she’ll write up the notes, and we end the call and I wait for them. She’s always quick — it won’t be more than fifteen minutes, and there’s no point in doing anything more until we have a common document. I take a bathroom break, and then come back and open my windows to enjoy the warming breeze. I close my eyes…

I’m splitting some extra wood for the fire tonight — damn that fucker Jim, anyway — when the gate bell clatters. I pick up my shotgun and walk around front, to find the postman, of all people. He’s a rare sight, these days. I remember daily mail as a kid. These days, with no taxes and no government to collect them, there’s precious little in the way of official mail. I can read, but most people can’t, and don’t miss it, so there isn’t much call for mail at all. Postman used to come around once a month, to the middle of town, and a couple of the old-timers and I would make a little trade by reading the mail aloud to the illiterate recipients, then writing down their replies for return post. There hasn’t been much of that kind of work in the last few years. 

Postman has never shown up at my gate. No one pays for that kind of service. Yet here he is.

He isn’t in a talkative mood, just sees me coming and drops a big, fat envelope on the ground and takes off. I imagine he’s pissed to have to come out here, though it’s only about a mile from town — even paid for, it’s extra time added to his day, which I’m sure is as full as anyone else’s. Whoever sent it must have paid pretty well.

I pick up the envelope. It’s heavy, cream-colored paper, elegant stuff I haven’t seen the like of in … well, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anything like this. The address is mine, my name and everything, and the writing is like artwork. I stare at it without opening it. Then I go in the house, the house I built with my own hands, and put it on the desk I built with my own hands. It’ll keep. I’ve got real work to do.

12:00 pm

I look up from my work and stretch. It’s already noon, time to take a break for lunch. My wife is meeting with one of her friends, and the dogs are done napping and want to have some fun. I rummage through the refrigerator, and find some left-over caprese salad from dinner last night, all local produce, including the balsamic vinegar. I dice leftover grilled chicken and mix it with mayonnaise, chopped kalamata olives, and a dash of seasoned salt, served on a bed of fresh lettuce. I have just water to drink — I’m trying to watch sugar and starch intake, since I’ve got high blood sugar. It’s just tap water, from another regulated public utility. The State is pretty fierce about enforcing water quality here — none of that nonsense like up in Flint, Michigan.

I take my lunch to the back yard, and sit at the patio table and watch the dogs frolic. Two ravens tick-tock at each other up in the branches of the trees. The heat is rising, and I feel a little sleepy…

My son and I eat our day-meal: fresh bread from this morning, with our own butter, a berry jam from last Fall’s canning, roast garden potatoes from last night, fresh garden greens, and the milk I reserved from this morning, cooled in the stream. We’ll have the eggs tonight, after I start the night-fire. We talk about what to do with our neighbor upstream, Raymond.

The stream smells of pigshit, again. He’s got pigs, and while the bacon is welcome in the Fall, he can’t seem to keep the styes from leaching into the stream, which flows through his land. We’ve had some friendly conversations, but they’ve soured and matters are coming to a head. No one further downstream cares: water flows into a small fen just beyond us, then over a spillway into a fast, shallow run over gravel with lots of sun, and folks past that are happy with their water. The matter’s between Raymond and me.

Once Raymond figured out that it was just the two of us, he stopped even pretending to care. Said he wasn’t about to spend time, effort, or money looking out for my interests, and I had no call to be infringing on his freedoms. I agree with that, in principle, but the stream past my place stinks, and I worry my cow will get sick. Raymond shrugs: says he’s lactose-intolerant, meaning he can’t drink milk anyway, so he doesn’t give a damn about my cow or the milk. The bastard says his water’s fine, and has the cheek to offer to pasture my cow for me, for a fee.

My son and I try to find a point of leverage against Raymond, but we come up empty. I wonder if we need to build a gravel bed upstream, though I don’t know if that will be enough without a fen.

2:00 pm

My computer bleeps at me, and my doctor’s appointment pops up on the screen. I pull on shoes, and drive to her clinic, about a mile away. There’s no traffic to speak of; it takes five minutes. Normally, I’d walk the mile, but I’ve got some work I’d like to finish today.

The doctor and I discuss my last tests, and the high blood sugar seems to be under control. She wants a follow-up in six months. It’s an easy visit — a lot easier than the one fifteen years ago, when they told me I had cancer.

Treatment has come a long way since I was a kid. Back then, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. Since then, basic research done in public universities had found new ways to treat different cancers, including some uncommon forms that gave them hints for handling some of the more common ones. Spreading the costs through insurance, combined with various direct and indirect government subsidies, had created a mass market for cancer treatments, which would otherwise have been restricted to the very wealthy. That, in turn, provided a profit motive for pharmaceutical companies to mass-produce some of the drugs, as well as support the education and training of a whole cadre of experienced surgeons and oncologists to serve that market. My treatment had been almost routine.

That whole turn of thought makes me change my mind about going back to work. When I get home, I walk to the nearby public park, where I sit and watch squirrels for a bit…

It’s just a finger cut, but it’s deep — I can see bone — and it was one of those stupid things. I know how to hold a knife to carve wood. Hell, I taught my son how to carve wood. Then I go and break my own rules, and slice my finger open.

Blood poisoning is an ugly thing. I’ve no choice — I need to make the walk back to town, and get the healer to clean, and stitch, and sell me some Pharma. I hope not Big Pharma. I don’t know if I’ve got enough saved to pay for that. Maybe a poultice will be good enough.

Looks like the lamb will have to wait another year.

4:00 pm

I receive a surprise call from the VP of Engineering. It’s six o’clock in his time-zone. He’s worried about the delivery of parts for the new hardware, and wants to discuss how that’s going to affect my part of the project. We talk for nearly an hour. I tell him about the new design we’d knocked out this morning, and he’s enthusiastic. We both hang up feeling good about the project.

It’s quitting time when we finish talking, and I retire to the back yard with a glass of wine. My wife joins me, and we enjoy the lazy afternoon heat together. She tells me about her day, and I smile, and tell her a little about mine. I don’t mention the strange dream, but then we fall into companionable silence…

I scream and weep as the healer cleans the cut. The stitching isn’t as bad as the cleaning, but then the pain settles into a throbbing rhythm that swells and peaks and dies away, only to swell again. She offers some pain-killing tea, but I decline — I’ve already spent enough. The poultice helps with the pain. As I’d feared, I can’t afford the Big Pharma. She sells me her best poultice, and gives me a price break, because she’s one of my milk customers: uses it to make one of her Pharmas, so it contributes to her own income. At least I’ll still be able to afford the lamb in the Fall. If I live.

The healer is my age. She helped deliver my son, and helped my wife recover from the hard birth. That set me back nearly all of my savings, and when my wife caught pneumonia a year later, I couldn’t afford the Pharma, so she died. I dug her a special grave, apart from the squatters. Damn lucky I was already in the milk business, and that my son wasn’t lactose intolerant, or I’d have lost him, too.

I walk out into the main street through the town, and decide to Hell with everything, I’m going to buy myself a shot of something strong. I don’t indulge often — my father turned to the bottle when I was young, a good man broken by changed circumstances, and I’ve seen plenty of fine men ruined by the stuff. But I need something to lift my spirits, or at least mute the pain a little. Healer’s tea would likely have been more effective, but also more expensive. I’ve spent enough today.

There’s something outlandish outside the bar. It’s a vehicle, like nothing I’ve seen. Shiny metal, gloss-painted silver. Tinted one-way glass windows. Sleek, like a fish or a bird, but powerful-looking. A man in a red jacket and white gloves steps out, walks around the vehicle and opens a door on the other side. A short man in a white suit steps out, looks around, sniffs the air. As he turns toward me, I see his face. It’s a mess.

There’s no other way to describe it. It looks like someone has gone at it with a chisel, leaving deep, purple gouges. His nose is the wrong color, as if it isn’t real flesh, and his lower lip droops and hangs open on the left. He carries a delicate handkerchief in his left hand, and dabs at the lip, reflexively, I imagine to keep from drooling.

I make a guess at cancer. They had better surgeons when I was young. When they dismantled the welfare state, the whole medical system broke down. No one could afford it. Well, the rich could afford it. They could afford anything. But they weren’t about to throw money away on the poor, and there weren’t enough of the rich getting sick to keep the medical schools open for training specialists. Besides, there were no students: there was no future in doctoring the old way. You might have one paying customer in a lifetime, and if you did, you were set for life. Most likely, however, you’d starve waiting for that one customer. A kind of patronage system came into use for a while, where the rich would fund their own private, exclusive hospitals, but the hospitals were almost always empty of patients and the doctors took to gambling and drinking to pass the time. Then, when a real case finally came in — like this poor bastard — they simply didn’t have the skills.

A crowd gathers.

“Begging the pardon of all you excellent people,” the man in the white suit says in a high voice like that of a pre-pubescent boy, all his labial consonants mangled by that dead lip. “Could you direct me to the property of the man who owns the cow?”

I step forward. “That would be me.”

“Ah,” he said. “I assume you received my letter.”

I scowl. “Haven’t read it yet.”

He blinks and pats his drooping lip in silence.

“Well,” he says at last. “I wish to purchase your land.”

“It isn’t for sale.”

The right side of his face smiles. I’m learning to ignore the left side. His smile looks condescending to me.

“Everything is for sale, my good man. Just name your price.”

“It isn’t for sale at any price.”

“Hey, mister, what the Hell happened to your face?” That’s the baker, who is an impulsive ass. The man in the suit turns to look at the baker. He says something in a soft voice to his driver, or servant, or whatever the Hell he is, and the servant replies inaudibly.

“Ah,” says the man with the ruined face, and there’s a hard glitter in his eye. “You are the baker. Your livelihood is selling bread to this community, is it not?”

“Aye,” says the baker. He stands a little straighter, and his chest puffs. He’s proud of his independence, his freedom, just like all the rest of us. He’s his own man, and he’s got a right to be proud.

“Take a note,” the man in the white suit says to his servant in a loud voice that carries, still staring at the baker. “I’d like to open a bakery in this village. A proper bakery. Spare no expense. I want greater variety. Higher quality. Lower prices. Much lower prices. Say, half what this fellow charges.”

The baker’s face is red, and his fists clench. “That’ll put me out of business!”

“Indeed,” says the man in the white suit. He turns back to me, dismissing the baker.

“You can’t do that!” the baker wails. “You can’t do that!”

“Take another note,” the suited man says in the same carrying voice, without looking at the baker. “Hire some men to travel with this baker fellow, to make sure he stays completely safe wherever he goes. Have them report regularly, and any place this fellow settles, open a new bakery. Same goods, same prices as here. For as long as he lives.”

The baker collapses to the ground, eyes wide, his jaw slack. The crowd moves away from him, slightly, as if he might be contagious.

The man in the suit speaks to me. “I understand that your livelihood is selling milk to this community, is it not?”

I stare at his misshapen face for a long moment, and a knot of fear rises in my stomach like nothing I have ever felt. I think as quickly as I have ever thought. I lower my eyes to the ground.

“It was,” I say, carefully. “What is your offer for my land … sir?” That last word comes hard. Damn hard.

“Name your price,” says the man in the white suit. His voice is cheery.

6:00

Dinner is pork loin on the grill, asparagus, and new butter-gold potatoes. We eat outside, and then come in as the evening cools and the mosquitoes come out. I wash up the dishes — there aren’t many — while my wife reads the local paper.

There’s an art walk tonight, and we walk to the downtown area. Sidewalks are a little uneven in spots, but the way is well-lighted, courtesy of city government. We have our own “squatters,” more than a few, but they generally have places to stay, and ways to eat. They don’t worry about lethal traps that landowners have set.

All the artists are local, and some of them are very good. We meet neighbors, old friends, familiar acquaintances. It occurs to me that I’m not plotting against any of them for running pig feces into my water; if they were, I’d complain to the cops, and the cops would make them stop, because that sort of thing isn’t allowed.

On the walk home, under a beautiful moon, I’m quiet and reflective…

I’m shit-faced drunk. I pull out the heavy, soft paper and stare at it again. My signature at the bottom, and the illegible scrawl of the man in the white suit. I’d never even learned his name — the letterhead is that of a law firm, representing a corporation named in the document as the new owner of my land.

At the top is a number. The price I’d asked. Enough for me and my son to coast through life like rich men. The man in the suit hadn’t even haggled. He’d just said, “Done.” Next thing I knew, I had two copies of the letter he’d sent by post in front of me, and a pen in my hand. I signed both copies, he signed both copies, then he handed me one, took the other and got back in his vehicle. The window had rolled down.

“I’d like you out by the end of the week,” he said, pleasantly.

After that, I headed straight to the bar.

What will I tell my son? That I’d just scored the biggest deal of my life? Or that I’d just sold both of us into slavery?

What can I do with this much money? How will I even collect it? There’s a bank named on the paper, located in a city. That city is a resort favored by the rich. It’s a month’s journey by foot; we’ll be drifters, until we run out of money. If we survive the trip, the contract will be my passport, if I’m not robbed en route, and if I get a chance to show it.

If they let me into the bank, then what? If I take out the whole amount, where will I put it? How do I keep it safe? If I keep it in the bank, I will be chained to the bank, living among people who can throw away this kind of money without haggling. That is my new career, and my son’s: making daily trips to the well of the rich man’s bank to draw up a bucket of money, to spend on a poor man’s vision of Heaven in a rich man’s city.

Or I could just burn this damn thing, and forget the money. But then what? I have no land, no house, no hand-made desk, no aging milk cow. I have nothing but this fucking piece of paper.

Is my life any less ruined than the baker’s?

The worst of it is that I had no choice. I’ve prided myself on being my own man, beholden to none, pulling my own weight in the world, dignified and free.

I gave up my land and my livelihood without a fight, without a struggle, without even a bleat of protest. I lowered my eyes and called him “sir” as he robbed me of everything.

The man with the ruined face had not even threatened me. He had been nothing but pleasant. He had destroyed the baker with a handful of words, words that should have been purest philanthropy — a new bakery for the town with better goods at half the price, and then a kind offer of protection for the man he’d just robbed of his livelihood and driven out on the road to become an unwilling evangelist for that benediction. Wherever the baker goes, people will thank him for the blessing he brings with him — while he slowly starves to death. I have no doubt that if the baker figures out a way to exploit the situation, the ruined man will turn it back on him. I have never seen such vicious, cold-blooded cruelty.

Two emaciated faces appear uninvited in my mind’s eye. Faces buried at the bottom of a fresh-dug grave. One had died in agony, by my design, and I’d felt only satisfaction. The other had taken her own life in despair, and I’d felt only disgust.

No, dammit, that was different. They were trespassers, for God’s sake! Squatters. No respect for private prop….

No respect….

I curse aloud and tell the bartender to pour me another. I see myself in the mirror behind the bar, and for a moment, just a moment, I see a reflection of my father.

8:00 pm

I sit and try to read, but I can’t follow the plot, and my legs are restless. My wife watches me for a while, then asks what is wrong. I put down the book, and slowly try to convey the dream that has been haunting me all day.

“That’s a horrible dream!” she says, when I’m done. “What a nightmarish world!”

“I know,” I reply. “We all take so much of our civilization for granted. Streetlights. Electrical power grids. Potable water. A right to live unmolested, enforced by law, paid for by taxes. Courts to sort out who cheated whom in business. Sharing of costs for accidents and disasters. A basic, publicly-funded, free-to-all education in how to read and write. To give all that up for a … a ‘free market’ where even basic justice has a price tag on it…. My God.”

She shakes her head, and tells me she’s going to bed. She usually retires earlier than I do. She kisses me, and I hold her tight.

I give up on the book, and sit down at my computer to write out this dream.

I leave the bar, the last of the cash I’d brought to town spent on whiskey. I run into my son who is coming in the doorway. He stares at me with worry that slowly turns to disgust as he sees the state I’m in. He tells me he’d finished his chores and came to town because I hadn’t come home. The healer was already in bed, and he’d been asking everywhere about me. Says there was some nonsense story about a silver carriage and a man in a white suit, but someone finally mentioned they’d seen me go into the bar.

He wants to know what the Hell?

My son doesn’t cuss like I do. That he would use such language says a lot about his state of mind. I tell him I just want to go home, it’s been a pisser of a day.

Halfway home, I weave to the side of the road and puke my guts out. A long walk on a belly full of whiskey is not a good recipe for digestion. I feel better after that.

I still don’t know what to tell my son. I have to tell him. That we’re rich. And that we’re totally fucked. Tomorrow.

I’ll tell him tomorrow.

Reframing

I saw a Facebook bumper-sticker today, with the following quote, allegedly from Dr. Thomas Sowell, a Libertarian economist. (They like to call themselves “Austrian School economists.”)

Since this is an era when many people are concerned about ‘fairness’ and ‘social justice,’ what is your ‘fair share’ of what someone else has worked for?

This is one of those carefully framed rhetorical questions that admits to only one answer. In thinking about it, I decided to ask a different question:

What part of what I work for actually belongs to me?

The answer I come up with is, “Damned little.”

I don’t raise my own food, for my own consumption. I don’t shear my own sheep, to spin my own thread, to weave my own clothing. I don’t dig my own outhouses, set my own bones, or write my own books to read.

The work I do is of no direct benefit to me at all. I write software that I can’t even use.

I work exclusively for the benefit of other people, who offer me a “market value” in return for my work.

Of course, this “market value” is less than the actual value of my work, because my work must result in profits which accrue to the ownership class — my pay comes out of the “operating expenses” left over after profits are taken out. Economists always turn this around: they say profit is what is left over after operating expenses have been met, but that isn’t true. Businesses that don’t show acceptable profit are shut down; businesses that achieve profits by underpaying their employees are considered wise. Profits come first.

This is how the ownership class becomes and remains wealthy. This is why they start businesses and offer jobs. If my work doesn’t result in more value than what I am paid, then I get fired, or the division is shut down, or the company fails. I work on what the owners direct me to work on, under conditions they dictate, and their direction is for their profit, not mine. It isn’t “my” work at all. It is “their” work; I am simply doing it for them.

I work first and primarily to support the wealth of the Owners.

But even what I eventually receive as my “market value” — my income — is not what I’m working for.

I contribute a large chunk of that income back as taxes, to pay for all the infrastructure of civilization that allows me to have a “market value” for what I do. Indeed, much of the work that most of us do is in direct or indirect support of the trappings of civilization. The number of people in this country who live entirely “off-grid,” who need none of the trappings of civilization, is tiny: and if they don’t own the land they live on, they are considered vagrants and squatters with no right to be there — they are tolerated precisely to the extent that they remain invisible.

What is my alternative? Try to find an empty place, go off-grid, and hope no one ever sees me? End taxation, and with it, civilization? I think not.

I work to support civilization.

Most of my remaining income has gone to raising kids in a family: food, shelter, clothing, education. Now that my children are grown, support goes to my grandchildren.

What is my alternative? To let my children starve? I think not.

I work to support my children and grandchildren.

My father had a pension — Social Security, part of that civilization I support with taxes — else I’d have needed to support him in his old age. And he lived a very long time, longer than most parents. My wife’s father lived in a country with no national pension for old people, so we had to support him in his old age. And he lived a very long time, longer than most parents.

What is my alternative? Throw parents and grandparents out on the street to beg for crusts until they starve? Pray they die young, before they become too old to pay their own way? Shoot them? I think not.

I work to support the needs of my parents and grandparents through their old age.

We live in communities. I support law enforcement, and hospitals, and community colleges, and festivals, and dances, and symphony orchestras, and artists. I support trash pickup, and sewage treatment, and stoplights, and paved city streets.

What is the alternative? To live in the decaying squalor of a failing community? I think not.

I work to support a living community.

I hedge against the ups and downs of life: we call it “insurance.” There’s auto insurance, and homeowners’ insurance, and renter’s insurance, and unemployment insurance, and health insurance, and life insurance. If I’m extraordinarily lucky, I will never have a car accident, never have my property stolen or destroyed, never get laid off, never get sick, and live long enough to see all my obligations fulfilled. If I’m that lucky, then every dime I spend on insurance pays, not for me or my needs, but for the needs of others less fortunate. That’s how insurance works.

What is the alternative? To try to save up enough money myself to cover any possible hardship, and if it isn’t enough, to go bankrupt or die? I think not.

I work to support the needs of total strangers facing misfortune, expecting that if I face misfortune, strangers will support my needs.

None of these things that I work for are about me at all, and they certainly don’t belong to me — not civilization, not children, not parents, not community, not communal disaster relief funds.

They are not mine. What I work for is not mine.

I’m perfectly fine with this — working my entire life away for things that I never get to call “mine.” Most people are. We have just been distracted and deceived into answering the wrong, cleverly-worded question.

What angers me is not that people take “my stuff” away from me — they don’t — but rather the stamp of private ownership and profit laid on things that cannot, and should not, be owned. Which happen to be the very things I work for.

Skimming from the community disaster relief fund is as immoral as it gets, and there is no worse modern example than health insurance in the United States. Illness and medical disaster can strike anyone, and by definition, illness takes the ill out of the productive workforce — meaning they can no longer effectively pay their own way. This is why we share the cost of medical care, through a hedge fund, a disaster relief fund, an insurance pool, or whatever else you want to call it. Private insurance is owned — that’s the meaning of “private.” And the owners skim profits from the fund. This is simply theft from those struck by disaster, no different from finding someone struck by a car and going through his pockets for loose cash.

Skimming from pensions for the old is no different. The attempts to “privatize” Social Security are really just an attempt to allow the care of the old to be owned, and to allow the owners to skim from their care. It is theft from the old.

Putting oil pipelines through watersheds, poisoning entire cities with industrial waste, and in general destroying living communities for the purpose of private profit, is also deeply immoral. It is theft, but on a much larger scale, and occasionally strays across the line into mass-murder.

Threatening the viability of the very world our children and grandchildren will inherit is perhaps the deepest immorality of all. This goes far beyond theft — it is ecocide, the mass-murder of the future.

Threatening civilization is perhaps the least of my concerns, mostly because of my historical awareness that civilizations grow old and die, just like people. I do not know if Western Civilization has reached its senescence: many have said it has, for centuries now, and perhaps it is true. If not — if ownership and profit and theft is the only thing that threatens a great civilization in its prime — I don’t even know if there is a word for the crime. Perhaps kleptocracy. Perhaps a form of genocide.

Mr. Sowell’s understanding of what we work for, and what we expect in return, appears to be very shallow.

 

Trump’s Nuclear Option

Some years ago, I was at the annual Dragonfest gathering, hanging with witches and druids and pagans of eclectic persuasions, and chanced to hear a fellow — a regular there I recognized, but whose name I did not know — carrying on a long, instructive monologue on fairies, specifically how to catch them.

He was saying that the way you catch a fairy is to drill a hole through a rock, then hang it up by a thread where it can sway in the breeze. Fairies are attracted to holes drilled in rocks. They want to see what’s on the other side of the hole, and they will stick their head through to look. But the other thing about fairies is that they can’t back up. So if they can get their head into the hole, but can’t fit their wings, they’ll just stay there, stuck. Then all you have to do is go out, collect all the stones you have hanging in your yard, and you’ve caught yourself a mess of fairies.

This fellow was perspiring heavily as he spoke. At 8000 feet elevation, it can get blisteringly hot on a sunny day. But it was late afternoon, when even a blistering day is mellowing into merely warm, headed toward downright chilly by sunset. It occurred to me he might be tripping on magic mushrooms, which could possibly have contributed to his earnestness, as well as much of his narrative.

The odd thing about entheogens — mind-expanding compounds like psilocybin — is that they often unlock uncanny insights into the hidden workings of things. You just have to understand how to think metaphorically.

Because, of course, fairies don’t really exist. It’s ridiculous to think there’s a class of beings, anywhere, who would thoughtlessly dive headfirst into a hole in a rock, and upon learning that there’s no way through, would nevertheless refuse to back up, or back out, or back down, instead just pressing ahead into a stone noose until they either strangle themselves, or get snatched up and mounted on someone’s wall as a trophy. Ridiculous.

Except that I know far too many people who are exactly like that. They stick their head in a no-win situation, and when they realize there’s no way forward, they “double down,” which, as far as I can tell, means that they shove their head even deeper. I know far too many people who have wedged themselves into no-win situations so deeply that even their feet are no longer visible. That’s a metaphor, of course.

I keep reading about one fellow, in particular, who lives in a big white house in Washington, D.C., at least on weekdays. He calls himself a “puncher.” Meaning, I gather, that he doesn’t just stick his head in the hole, he rams his head into it as hard as he can, and when it doesn’t get him through, he rams it again even harder. He calls it decisive masculinity.

Methinks somewhere along the line, he got manliness and fairies mixed up.

This afternoon I read about the nerve gas attack in Syria, and this fellow’s manly response of lobbing fifty or sixty missiles at an airport in Syria.

I was also reading about the previous resident of that big white house after an almost identical nerve gas attack in Syria, and he spent quite a bit of time planning to stick his head in the hole, angling to get backing from England and the US Congress to hit ALL the airports — all the important ones, anyway — and completely knock out the nerve gasser’s air force, hopefully toppling his regime. England didn’t like the look of the hole, and said No, thank you. Congress had its collective head stuck in the Hole of No, and so immediately doubled down on No. So this previous fellow did the unthinkable — he actually backed out of the hole, to the catcalls of all the fairies who weren’t at the moment engaged into trying to shove their heads through a rock.

That’s a whole bunch of metaphors.

As far as I’ve heard, the current “puncher” doesn’t have a plan at all. It was just: nerve gas, punch. A manly reflex. Oooh. Ahhh. There was no attempt to take out the nerve gasser’s entire air force. From what I read, it’s not clear the airport had any strategic importance at all, but then, maybe that just got left out of the news. I’m sure this was a very important airport, the most important of all the important airports. Even so, the outcome is going to be about like hunting bear with a dessert-fork: if you’re really, really lucky, the bear will die laughing. Yes, that’s another metaphor.

But the real issue is, now that the current fairy-fellow’s head is stuck in this particular rock, he can’t back down. Manly fairies don’t do that, and he’s not just any manly fairy, he’s a “puncher.” He’s the most bigly “puncher.” He will escalate.

And escalate.

And escalate.

As a fairy, he has no other choice. He can’t back up. So unless he is gathered up and mounted on a wall somewhere, he will eventually double-down to the nuclear option.

And let me be perfectly clear. That is not a metaphor.

Pale White Men

Here’s a recent quote from Steve King, the sitting Republican Senator from Iowa:

I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people [other than white males] that you are talking about. Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?

I have just two words to say to Mr. King: Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy Lamarr was a Hollywood starlet through the 1940’s and 1950’s. She also happened to be an inventor who worked out (and patented) a method of frequency-hopping intended to be used by the military to avoid frequency-jamming of radio-controlled torpedoes during WWII, and which is a core component to modern WiFi and Bluetooth interfaces.

Did Lamarr contribute to civilization? Do Hollywood sex-kittens contribute to civilization? Do women contribute to civilization?

No. They don’t. Not nearly as much as they could, or should.

The implication — the innuendo — that King lays down is that these others are incapable of contributing to civilization. The reality is that they are prevented from contributing to civilization, and when they fight through the hurdles and contribute anyway, their contribution is plagiarized, minimized, or covered up entirely. History is written in such a way as to make their contribution completely invisible. As though it never happened.

Our nation is much poorer because of this.

So yes, Mr. King, if you search through a biased history of a nation founded on sexism and racism, you will find damn little evidence that anyone other than white men ever contributed anything to civilization.

Mr. King, there may come a day when white men like yourself — ignorant, arrogant, sanctimonious, hypocritical white men like yourself — will be painted out of history in the same way you have painted out women, and darker-skinned people. Because I am also a white male, that brush will paint over me, as well. We will become the Fomorians, the Pharisees, the ghost-people of myth: a symbol of evil, and decay. People will ask, “When did a white man ever do anything good?” and they will shake their heads and pity us. They will hold up their own biased histories, in which no white male ever did anything but rape, pillage, cannibalize, and betray. And if any white men are left in that world, they will be wretched creatures barred from any opportunity that might allow them to contribute anything of value to civilization.

Or perhaps… perhaps it will play out differently. Perhaps the women, and the darker-skinned, will not be so arrogant, hypocritical, and thin-skinned. Perhaps they will find a way to make a place for white males, in a way that white males could never make for them.

Maybe the women and the colored peoples are better than white men.

You are certainly not setting a very high bar for them to surpass.