(Note: I had this in the hopper last week, but out of respect for the Katrina posts, I decided to sit it out. This was what I had, with a recent rewrite of the back end. — Doc)
As I drove through the Fox Valley last night, I passed a local car dealership with three giant U.S. flags that flew at half-staff. Truth be told, I can’t remember the last time they were at their full height, due to the wide array of mass shootings and homicides we have experienced lately as a country.
I moved past the dealership, onto the freeway’s on ramp when some guy in a fast red car flew up behind me and practically attached himself to my bumper. As soon as ramp emptied onto the freeway, he cut past me and sped off, glaring at me through his passenger window.
The expression on his face said one thing.
If there’s one thing that synthesizes our culture of guns, our fixation with Donald Trump and our general attitude toward intellectual achievement, it’s this Joe-Pesci-like attitude that continues to grow like a destructive weed.
The shooting of two journalists on live television cut to my very core this week. These people could have been my students (and, in fact, I do know a few of their former instructors) who were doing a lite-brite story when chaos claimed their lives. Some local reporters asked, “What could have been done to prevent this?” as stations across the country considered banning live shots and sending security with their journalists.
The NRA’s answer is: Fix the mental health system. The guy was nuts.
Almost everyone else’s answer is: It’s the guns. Do more to crack down on weapons.
Truth be told, the answers are the same:
If you take a single gun away from a single person, you have violated MY right to own and bear arms, which is carved in stone and written in blood in the Bill of Rights. If you criminalize guns, only criminals will have guns. You think you can do that to all of us patriotic Americans? Fuck you.
If you think that the Founding Fathers thought equipping the mentally unstable (read: most of you gun nuts) with as many automatic weapons as possible to help you blow your load every day, you’ve got to be as nuts as we say you are. Your right to buy guns, own guns, pet guns, love guns and shoot guns needs to weigh against my right to not be afraid that every asshole out there will shoot me for not noticing the light just turned green. You think your rights are more important than mine? Fuck you.
And this is where Donald Trump comes in.
He’s not really anti-women, anti-immigration, anti-Korea, anti-China or whatever else he seems to be about.
He’s actually pro-“Fuck You.” And he’s giving a voice and a face to that “Fuck You” movement.
His “Go back to Univision” line to Jorge Ramos was a thinly veiled version of “Go back to where you came from, you illegal immigrant fuck.”
His “blood coming out of wherever” line about Megyn Kelly is bro-code for “What a cunt. She must be on the rag.”
His “He’s not a hero… I like people who didn’t get captured” line about John McCain is the epitome of the current American ethos: You think you’re special? You think you’re better than me?
Too many of us no longer appreciate the differences and the skills that other people can bring to the table. Whenever someone can do something we can’t, it gets belittled, discarded and treated as less than.
Teaching? Anyone can teach. Just put them in front of a room.
Photography? I got an iPhone. I’m just as good as that Ansel Adams prick.
Writing? I bang out a hundred texts a day, bitch.
It’s that old song of “Anything you can do I can do better.” If I can’t, it doesn’t matter and you’re probably a fag…
This pathological desire to demonstrate power and dominion over everyone else in every important way leads us back to the WDBJ shooting.
By all accounts, Vester Lee Flanagan II (also known as Bryce Williams) was an angry and disturbed man. His 23-page manifesto referenced terrorism, racism and betrayal. He tweeted about perceived slights at his former station (WDBJ) and referenced his previous problems with coworkers at his previous stops.
According to articles published in the wake of his rampage, he sued for racial discrimination, accused coworkers of placing a watermelon within his sight line and fought relentlessly with colleagues who he felt were beneath him. He was aggrieved and arrogant all at the same time as his life continued to spiral out of control.
In some ways, he reminded me of Oscar Isaac’s character in “Show Me a Hero.” The HBO miniseries showcased Isaac as Nick Wasicsko, a 1980s-1990s politician in Yonkers during a period of racial upheaval. Wasicsko found himself on the city council as a protracted legal battle over low-income housing raged. He became mayor on the promise he would appeal the court’s decision to place this housing in the white part of town, only to find he had no legal ground to stand on. After he lost his mayoral post, he made a series of odd decisions in his flailing attempts to stay in city politics. During each of these attempts, he would range from all-mighty to wounded puppy, as each move betrayed more people and undercut his overall purpose of being.
After his last attempt to stay in office, a failed attempt to “primary” one of his best friends out of her job, he was paranoid and rage-filled during an investigation into a misappropriation of funds by one of his former underlings. He so hated the people he thought were intent on his ruination, he angrily confronted several of them at City Hall. He then went to the grave of his father where he killed himself.
The parallels run equal throughout in my mind, although only in that simple character arc fashion. However, the thing that stuck out in my mind was that Wasicsko’s despondence led him to a quiet end while Flanagan’s led to a furious public outburst.
I remember seeing all those old movies about suicidal characters and people who felt they had fallen too far or lost too much or were hurt too badly to recover. The common statement used to be, “They’ll be sorry when I’m gone.” It was as if the suicide itself was both a release for the person and a bit of justice against those who remained. However, it now seems as though the potential reflective punishment isn’t enough. A blaze of glory, with a destructive-filled wake must happen.
You think you’re getting away with this? You think I’m going to quietly leave this Earth? You think people are going to let me trickle away, another unknown story?
Taking away the guns would make it harder for these explosions to occur.
Less sensational coverage of every whack job who decides to shoot up a church, race bait or run for president would tamp down their enthusiasm for the “Dig Me” show.
More cops, stricter laws, more public awareness …
None of that will ever matter, however, if we can’t get past this sense of angry self-determination that places each of us at the center of the universe and demands others get pushed down harder and farther. We have to stop thinking that not only should “I” succeed but also I must make “you” fail in the process. This zero-sum game of socialized punishment will only seek to further our spiraling decline as a people.
We can’t continue to be a Fuck You Nation and live to tell about it.