Where do you start on a day like this? We’ll debate on what to call events in Las Vegas. I’ve settled on calling it an act of domestic terrorism but the media is still working out the language. The left will use it to scream for “gun control” legislation and in fundraising ads for the next six months. The right will use it as evidence that the average citizen needs to be increasingly armed against an increasingly dangerous world and in fundraising activities for the next six months. That’s the simple politics of the thing. As much as everyone will say they don’t want to make a terrorist event like this an issue of politics, it’s what it will ultimately boil down to even as the Las Vegas Police and FBI continue to collect evidence at the scene.
The issues surrounding firearms and public safety are so charged and entrenched that we seem to be incapable of having even a conversation about them. Both sides live in dread that giving so much of an inch will cost them mightily during the next election. It’s one of those issues that’s so fraught that objectivity simply doesn’t exist – and that’s why I haven’t spent much time considering either side today.
What I have been considering is the other issue that we so rarely talk about it – that is, what’s going on in the head of someone who decides one day to drive to Las Vegas, rent a hotel room, and build a sniper nest? I’ve spent a lifetime around firearms, using them for both food and recreation and learning how to apply them in self defense. The idea of using one to lay siege to a public event simply would never occur to me. I don’t think it would occur to all but the smallest percentage of people. I find myself now particularly focused on those people – and what switch flips in their head that drives them to become the very worst of us.
1. Lawn boats. Every morning I drive past three houses that are literally falling down around their occupants. At least I assume they’re occupied because I occasionally see people coming and going. At each of these three houses there are boats on trailers, boats on blocks, and boats shoved back into the bushes. These are obviously not new boats, but I’d estimate conservatively that each one of these homes has at least $100,000 in boats sitting around it. Now that pesky logical part of my brain is just dying to know the thought process for someone who would let their home fall to pieces hanging on to a personal fleet larger than some third world dictators. While I’d never tell anyone how to spend their money, it seems to me that at some point selling off a boat or two and patching the hole in your roof with something other than a tarp would be a good idea. But what the hell do I know about anything?
2. Help desks. Why do we call them that? It’s certainly not a case of a name that follows a function. Given the sad state of customer service in general I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’m probably just a fool for expecting things to work the way they’re supposed to – or maybe I’m even more the fool for expecting anything at all. But in all seriousness, if the standard is going to be a help desk that is essentially unwilling or unable to provide any help why not just throw them over the side. If the official policy of the organization is to cripple individual computers to the point where the user can’t make even basic fixes to settings it strikes me that the help desk should be able to fix the occasional problem that crops up instead of an 800-number designed to give the illusion that something, someday might happen.
3. Foreign flagged “protestors”. When you show up at a political rally waving a foreign flag and then violently attack people who peaceably attended that rally, you are not a protestor. You’re a criminal whose opinion is unworthy of further consideration. In fact once you’ve decided that marching under the flag of a foreign county and dispensing violence in the street sounds like a good idea, the only two things I can consider you are either a) a domestic terrorist or b) an agent of foreign power intent on disrupting the lawful electoral process. In either case, you have proven yourself unworthy of any consideration beyond how to disperse and apprehend you and your fellow travelers.
It took about 36 hours before Facebook posts started trickling onto my feed implying that anyone who mentioned the attacks in Paris without talking about attacks that also took place in Lebanon, Nigeria and Baghdad, earthquakes in Japan, and all other manner of very bad things that happen every day around the world was a hate-spewing bigot.
The fact is, bad things happen all over the world every day. What makes Paris different, to me, is personal and simple. I’ve walked the streets of Paris. I’ve drank coffee in her cafes and rested my head in her hotels. I stood at the base of the Arc de Triomphe imagining the 24-wide mass of the US 28th Infinity rounding the monument and parading down the Champs Élysées when the city was liberated from German occupiers. I’ve stood on the observation deck of the Eiffel Tower and marveled like millions of other tourists at a city that was already a millennia old when our own country was founded.
In the French people America found its first ally in our struggle for independence from the British crown and one of our harshest critics during the Cold War and years that followed. Here, now, in the 21st century, France and America are once again marching towards the sound of the guns and a foe who has stated loudly and often the intention to kill as many of our people as possible and drag the whole world back to the 7th century.
It’s different because on September 11th, 2001 the French people stood with America on what was the most shocking and appalling day in living memory for most of us. It’s different because in this new war the great democracies of the Western world must stand together or risk facing a new dark age sweeping across the globe like a plague.
You can choose to believe I think it’s different just because I share the same pale skin tone with many in France, but I know better.
1. Greece. What’s the problem? You ginned up a mountain of bills and now suddenly don’t want to pay because it’s too hard. It’s unfair. The big countries are picking on you. God it sounds so familiar – like exactly what happened when so many people in this country found themselves in homes they couldn’t afford “through no fault of their own.” Except see, there is fault. There is definite fault when you spend other people’s money without any reasonably expectation of ever being able to pay it back. Putting your financial house in order is painful. It sucks. All the free stuff people thought they were entitled too is suddenly not free – or not there because you can’t afford it. And the only way the economy keeps on working is if people who loan money can expect to get that money back. It’s a loan, not a gift after all. I feel ever more strongly that the US is headed in a similar direction to our Greek friends. $18 Trillion in loans aren’t going to pay back themselves – and they’re certainly not going to get paid while we continue to add more debt to the pile. If Greece’s gnashing of teeth is any indicator of the howl that will go up when the US realizes we can’t afford to be all things to all people, we’re in for one hell of a rough ride.
2. Negotiating with terrorists. According to the US government it’s now OK for our fellow citizens to negotiate with terrorists. While I won’t pretend to imagine the nightmare that is having a family member or loved one in the hands of ISIS, I can tell you that I wouldn’t want my family to be responsible for providing aid and comfort to the enemy in the form of a substantial cash donation on my behalf. What I would like, on the other hand, is for the armored fist of the most powerful nation in the world to come crashing through the terrorist’s front door in an effort to a)rescue me and b) eradicate the terrorists who believe kidnapping an American citizen will end well for them. If Option A and Option B are mutually exclusive, please feel free to exercise Option B with as much lethality as necessary to get the job done. And then drop a few more 1000-pound bombs just to stir up the dust and make the rubble bounce a bit for good measure.
3. The joys of home ownership. Don’t get me wrong, I love the house. It crossed off just about every feature I had on my list. Having been in it now for three months, though, some of its warts are showing… and by warts I’m referring to the perpetually moist basement / piss poor foundation grading and drainage / sieve-like window well combination that I’ve been fighting since spring time turned into Maryland’s version monsoon season. Between the landscape contractors looking at fixes to my own modest efforts at improving the around-the-house drainage situation trying to get a grip on the underside of this not so old house has become something of a second job. Now I know it’s mostly just a function of sealing up the window well, correcting the drainage, and adding on a secondary source of electricity to keep the pumps chugging along… but just now, with another couple of days of rain in the forecast, my patience – something never know to be in vast supply – is wearing even more thin than usual.
1. Boxes. I’ve moved five times in the last 15 years and I always, always grossly underestimate the number of boxes it’s going to take to get the job done. Sure, the planned upcoming move clocks in at just three miles on the nose, but that doesn’t mean I want to spend three weeks shuffling crap back and forth 20 boxes at a time. This is the operative definition of wanting to work out a one-and-done situation. I’d settle for two or three, but the heavy lifting is going to get done in one shot. In the meantime I guess I’ll have to live with the every growing mountain of cardboard that’s slowly taking root in each room.
2. ISIS. I think I’ve made it clear that I harbor no love for ISIS and those who adhere to it. I guess you can chalk the fact that they’re currently busy grinding historic artifacts that have survived thousands of years into powder because they’re “heretical” and go against the teachings of Islam as just another reason. Since these artifacts were created a few thousand years before anyone bothered to come up with the tenets of the Islamic faith, I guess they’d pretty much have to be. If setting people on fire and cutting off heads wasn’t enough of an indicator that we’re dealing with savages, the fact that they want to ignore every part of the vast sweep of human history that doesn’t agree with their crackpot view of the world is a pretty good sign that they shouldn’t be allowed to exist in the modern world.
3. Legalization. If the people of the District of Columbia want to legalize, regulate, and tax, marijuana I say God bless. Yes, I know, it’s a federal district granted limited home rule by the Congress, but just for the sake of argument I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the US Congress has more important things to do than legislate whether John Q. Pothead is entitled to smoke up. As long as we’re a nation that likes its cigarettes, beer, whisky, and prescription meds (and we’re ok making enormous amounts of money taxing those things), I’m not buying the argument that mary jane is a gateway to anything more dangerous than a late night snack.
At some point the civilized world is going to have to wake up. They’re going to have to wake up and face the fact that the only way we win the Global War on Terror is to kill the terrorists. Hunt them down and kill them where they live, where they run, and where they hide. It’s not the job of days or weeks. It’s not the job of years. It’s a job that will only be completed out over decades and generations.
I have no quarrel with people of faith, but I have every quarrel with a small group who douse their hostages in gasoline and then set them alight. I have every quarrel with a group who believe beheading aid workers will put them in good stead with their version of an Almighty. I have every quarrel with those who publish videos of those acts online as a valedictory. I have every quarrel with those who think now is a time for talking, or appeasement, or retreat in the face of these barbaric attacks.
I’m finished with compromise. I’m finished with pretending that this lot is just another irritant in a world full of troubles. Wrestling these into submission is the war that will define the 21st century. It’s time anyone with even the barest shred of humanity stop pretending we can continue to allow these blood-soaked savages to coexist in our world.
1. Negotiating with terrorists. I want to go on the record right now, while I’m thinking clearly and not under physical or emotional stress. Let the record show that if I ever find myself being held hostage by a bunch of terrorist thugs, I don’t want my country or my family negotiating for my release. I don’t want them to pay anyone off and I don’t want to be part of any kind of halfassed prisoner exchange. I don’t want anyone to give the lowlife cave dwellers the satisfaction of a “victory” on my account. With that said, however, what I would like is as many truly badass operators as possible to come get me out. If rescue is impossible, feel free to carpet bomb the entire town, city, or province. If I’m just going to end up dead anyway, lets make it count for something.
2. Lunch. I like lunch. I like lunch to happen some time approximating the midpoint between my arrival and departure times on weekdays. What I don’t like, however, is being over scheduled to the point where lunch doesn’t have a chance to happen until 90 minutes before the end of the day. Sure, I’m damned well sure still going to get my 30 minutes, but it would be nice if lunch and dinner were separated by a little more than the drive home.
3. Vaccinations. I’m the last person on earth who wants Uncle getting in our collective businesses, but can’t we all at least get behind the idea measles is bad. It’s a disease we all but eradicated in this country a generation ago but because a loud and obnoxious subset of people have decided that science is a bunch of elitist bunk, its making a comeback. Good job, guys. Your ignorant asshattery is going cause illnesses and deaths that are nearly 100% preventable. For your next act maybe you could help us bring back smallpox, polio, or the plague. I understand those were a laugh a minute back in the olden days. Let’s just go ahead and forget the upward surge of medical science over the last century and go back to the days of living in fear of every sneeze and infection.