Guns are but one means of committing mass murder. Twenty-five-year-old Alek Minassian proved that in Toronto in April 2018.
It is one thing to kill oneself. It is another thing to kill a single individual who has done one grievous harm. (And I do mean grievous harm here—like murdering a member of one’s family.)
It is yet another thing to go out by killing large numbers of random people.
The fact that this does occur with greater frequency in recent years tells us something about our society, and not simply about our guns. What we have in America—in the West—at present, is a moral and spiritual crisis.
This sort of thing used to happen once or twice in a generation. Now it happens almost every month. And guns have been around, and within easy reach, in America since the very beginning.
While gun control should be on the table, gun control alone is unlikely to fix what is wrong.
I had been only vaguely aware of Mr. Chizmar before this. I already knew that he cowrote at least one book with Stephen King. Also, his publishing company, Cemetery Dance, has published some of King’s work. (No small accomplishment, that.)
Chizmar has a lot to say about writing…and business. The interview is worth a listen, if either of these topics interests you.
The reference, of course, is to George W. Bush’s declaration of “mission accomplished” in the immediate aftermath of the US-led invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein had just been removed from power, and Dubya more or less declared that all was well.
As most readers will know, all was not well. The Islamist insurgency (and a brutal Sunni-Shia civil war) began shortly thereafter.
I would like to think that mainstream media journalists aren’t seriously yearning for a global pandemic that leaves millions (including many Americans) dead. But in those circles, hatred for President Trump has long since exceeded any normal standard of partisanship. So you never know.
Minnesota’s Representative Ilhan Omar is up for reelection this year. Later this spring she will also release a memoir, This is What America Looks Like: my Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman. Representative Omar’s book, per the Amazon description, will be “an intimate and rousing memoir by progressive trailblazer Ilhan Omar—the first African refugee, the first Somali-American, and one of the first Muslim women, elected to Congress.”
We wait with bated breath for the Congresswoman’s book. In the meantime, though, she—like her archnemesis Donald Trump—continues to be a prolific user of Twitter.
In one of her recent tweets, Representative Omar listed out the various labels by which she identifies herself:
Hijabi Muslim Black Foreign born Refugee Somali
You may have noticed that Ilhan Omar didn’t include “American” on the list. Plenty of other people noticed, including Dalia al-Aqidi, the Iraqi American woman who hopes to unseat Omar in November. Al Aqidi (who is also Muslim and a former refugee) responded with the simple statement, “I am an American.”
Ilhan Omar knew exactly what she was doing, and what the reaction would be. At the end of her list, she added another note about herself:
Easily triggering conservatives, Right wing bloggers, anti Muslim bigots, tinfoil conspiracy theorists, birthers, pay me a Banknote with dollar sign to bash Muslims fraudsters, pro-occupation groups and every single xenophobe since 2016.
Representative Omar’s bugbears are based on paranoid fantasies, more than actual people. (“Tinfoil conspiracy theorists” seems a little unspecific, at the very least.) We might encapsulate the above paragraph with the phrase, “everyone who disagrees with Ilhan Omar.”
So, I suppose the Congresswoman would toss me into one of those buckets, if I gave her the opportunity. I’m one of the millions of Americans whom she hopes to trigger.
I’m not sure that I was “triggered” by Ilhan Omar’s tweet. Ilhan Omar has been the source of so much flimflam since she took office in January 2019. The Congresswoman lost her ability to seriously ruffle me sometime during the summer of that same year. Nowadays, I greet the latest Ilhan Omar pronouncement with a weary sigh, perhaps an eye roll, and the thought, “there she goes again.”
But since the congresswoman has gotten my attention, well…okay, I’ll bite. I’ll pose the obvious question here: Is it too much to ask that an elected member of the US House of Representatives also identify as an American, along with all of those other things?
I’m not demanding, mind you, that Ilhan Omar wrap herself in the flag and sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” a cappella. But since she took the time to identify herself as “Somali”, “American” might have at least been number seven on the list….maybe??
I know what some of you are saying: “We always knew that you were a closet Somali-phobe! What do you have against decent Somali patriots?”
No, I’m not a Somali-phobe. There is nothing wrong with swearing allegiance to the nation of Somalia, either. Somalia needs more patriotic Somalis, you might even argue. But is the US House of Representatives really the most appropriate gig for a self-declared Somali patriot? They have elected offices in Somalia that such a person can run for, or so I hear.
But Islam is an issue here, too—at Ilhan Omar’s dogged insistence. Like every other aspect of her identity, Ilhan Omar wears her religion not as a set of spiritual beliefs, but as a chip upon her shoulder. She has always been quick to label everyone who disagrees with her an “anti-Muslim bigot.”
Suppose that an elected Roman Catholic congressman from Ohio were to publicly identify himself as a Catholic, a member of the Knights of Columbus, and a former altar boy, without also mentioning that he’s an American. Imagine the evangelical equivalent.
Now imagine that that same Christian congressman closed with a final paragraph that threw down the gauntlet to everyone who didn’t share his views. Would that draw some criticism from the secular left (especially those who forever fret about “the religious [Christian] right”)? Oh, you bet it would.
Two of Omar’s self-labels refer to Islam. Should “hijabi” (a woman who wears a hijab) be more central than “American” for a woman who writes laws for the rest of us? (Especially considering that she goes to the trouble of listing “Somali”.)
Let’s be clear about this. The implication here is not that Muslims can’t be loyal Americans, or that Muslim Americans shouldn’t serve in Congress. The implication is that Ilhan Omar embraces a worldview in which Islam (along with African ethnicity, being foreign born, and former refugee status) pits one in opposition to the United States and its interests.
This is the aspect of Ilhan Omar that drives so many people on the right around the bend, and—I suppose—endears her to the revolutionary left. It’s not that she’s Muslim or from Somalia. It’s that she wants to use those aspects of her identity as a cudgel.
Ilhan Omar wants you to know that she despises the United States, that she considers its customs, people, and traditions beneath her. She therefore sees her 2018 election to the US House of Representatives as a kind of foreign insurgency. She isn’t there to work with the majority of Americans. She’s there to work against them, to compel them to submit to a penance for every real or imagined crime or peccadillo that has ever been committed in the name of the United States. And if you dare object, you’re an “anti-Muslim bigot” or a “tinfoil conspiracy theorist”.
Whatever else she is, Ilhan Omar is no fool. She chooses her words with purpose. She might have said that she’s a proud American who also happens to be a Muslim. She might have expressed her gratitude as a refugee, toward the country that took her in, and gave her the opportunity to become a member of its government.
But she didn’t. Ilhan Omar’s stated mission is to “trigger” at least half of all Americans. That’s not me, or anyone else, putting words in her mouth. That’s what she says. Read her tweets. Her words are clear.
This tells us much about the congresswoman from Minnesota, and how she really feels about her adopted country.
There’s been a lot of justifiable alarm in Democratic circles about the rise of Bernie Sanders. Most Democrats favor a more robust economic and social role for government than does the average Republican. But few Democrats actually want to abolish our system of free enterprise, as Bernie Sanders would do, if he had his way.
Those of us who aren’t Democrats are concerned, too. Call me crazy, but I’m not looking forward to the chronic shortages and general economic collapse that the Bernie Sanders agenda would bring to America, if implemented in full.
If Bernie Sanders gets the Democratic nomination, Trump might blow his doors off. But then again, Trump might not. These are uncertain times we live in. Both the USA, and the world, are in a state of historic instability.
I’ve frequently complained in this space about the twenty-first century. Well, at least the twenty-first century hasn’t been boring. But instability often produces unexpected political outcomes. A Bernie Sanders presidency could be one such outcome.
It is therefore desirable for the Democrats to defeat Bernie Sanders before he ever makes it to the general election. This shouldn’t be too difficult. Bernie Sanders isn’t even a Democrat, properly speaking.
The problem is that there are currently eight Democrats running for the nomination—seven in addition to Sanders. These candidates all have their followings; but none of them has galvanized their supporters as Bernie Sanders has.
These sundry candidates are splitting the non-Bernie vote. Bernie doesn’t have to practice the old military strategy of “divide and conquer”, because the non-Bernie Democrats are already doing that for him.
At least three of those non-Bernie candidates are consistently polling below 10%, starting with Amy Klobuchar. Senator Klobuchar has often touted the “resiliency” of her campaign. But at a certain point, resiliency without results is indistinguishable from tilting at windmills.
Likewise, consider Tom Steyer and Tulsi Gabbard, both polling at single digits. Is there a single voter in America who honestly believes that either of these two is going to be the eventual Democratic nominee?
The Pete Buttigieg wave seems to have crested and fallen. Buttigieg currently polls at 10 percent. Most voters (including this non-Democrat), acknowledge that Pete Buttigieg has achieved a lot for a man who has yet to reach his fortieth birthday. But Pete’s résumé also tells another story: He is the unemployed ex-mayor of a small city in Indiana. That’s a little thin, as a qualification for the leader of the free world.
What about Elizabeth Warren? She’s currently polling at 13 percent. Neither a full-on socialist nor a staid moderate, Elizabeth Warren is likely to continue losing both the Democratic left and the Democratic center. She should bow out.
This all means that either Joe Biden or Mike Bloomberg will likely emerge as the Bernie Sanders alternative within the Democratic Party. In the last election cycle, Biden probably would have been the clear winner in that contest. But Biden’s performance on the campaign trail has been uneven since Iowa. He has at times seemed disoriented, and he’s often lost his temper with Democratic voters. If I were a Democrat, I’m not sure I would want him as my nominee.
In any case, though, the imperative for Democrats at present is to take back their party from the radical Sanders insurgency. Long-shot candidates like Amy Klobuchar can do their part in this effort—by dropping out of the race. Yesterday.
Kshama Sawant, and the rise of the revolutionary immigrant
I’ve met many first-generation immigrants who are among the most patriotic of Americans. There is something to the argument that Americanism and religious faith have one vital thing in common: there is no zealot like a true convert.
Two of my friends hail from the former South Vietnam. Both of them (barely old enough to remember Vietnam’s descent into communist tyranny) are staunch conservatives. I’m concerned about the avowed and open socialist designs of Bernie Sanders. My two Vietnamese friends both believed that Barack Obama was a communist. Even I won’t go quite that far.
On September 11, 2001, I was working in the corporate world. As chance would have it, my boss was a (non-practicing) Muslim from Sri Lanka. On September 12, 2001, he pulled our group into a meeting room and said, “I find what happened yesterday to be especially disturbing. Remember: You are Americans by birth. I am an American by choice.”
I still get a little chill when I remember those words, spoken on the day after the worst terrorist attack on American soil. And by an American raised in a majority Muslim community abroad, to boot.
These experiences (among others) have led me to believe that Americanism is not a product of blood or birth, but of philosophy and commitment. On the right at present, there is a conflict between the civic nationalists (mainstream conservatives) and ethnic nationalists (the so-called “alt right”). Put me firmly in the camp of the civic nationalists.
But then there’s Kshama Sawant.
Kshama Sawant was born in India and spent her formative years there. After getting a degree in computer science at the University of Mumbai, she moved to the United States.
Shortly after she arrived, Sawant decided that America was a corrupt land of economic inequality. She might have returned home; and no one could have faulted her for this.
To turn this around: I would like to visit India someday. From what I have heard, though, about the treatment of women (among other human rights abuses) in the world’s largest democracy, I don’t think that Indian citizenship would be for me.
But Sawant didn’t return home. Instead, she became a U.S. citizen, and embarked on a full-time mission of lecturing Americans about their faults. Sawant became active in Socialist Alternative, a hard-left Trotskyist group that openly seeks to replace free-market democracy with a neo-Marxist dictatorship.
Such views are very much in vogue in the leftwing enclave of Seattle. Sawant got involved in local politics there, and became a member of Seattle’s City Council, where she uses every pretext to denounce America’s free-market economic system.
And of course, Sawant has been drawn to Bernie Sanders.
Speaking at a Bernie Sanders rally on February 19, Seattle Councilwoman Kshama Sawant erupted, “We need a powerful socialist movement to end all capitalist oppression and exploitation!”
Kshama Sawant does not give speeches. She gives harangues. She rants. She screams. She gloats about her plans to overthrow the American system.
Now, what’s wrong with that? you might say.
On one level, nothing at all. No one is disputing Kshama Sawant’s right to speak her mind. Nevertheless, there is a mismatch between Sawant’s professed political beliefs and her observed behavior.
If America is so bad, why doesn’t she vote with her feet? No one, after all, forced her at gunpoint to come here. And while India might not be paradise on earth, it is a basically stable country. She could go back, if she chose to.
In recent years, we’ve see a gaggle of prominent first-generation immigrants who have deliberately come here, and yet spend most of their time publicly criticizing America.
These include not only Kshama Sawant, but Ilhan Omar, a first-generation Somali American who is presently a member of the US House of Representatives. According to Omar, America is not only economically unjust, it’s xenophobic and racist. And yet, the American system is sufficiently liberal to permit a first-generation American who doesn’t like America to take part in making laws for the rest of us.
Umair Haque, a British-Pakistani author, spends a lot of time in America. But he seems to spend most of his hours writing denunciations of the United States in online journals like Medium. Haque, who would presumably have knowledge of the United Kingdom and Pakistan, has remarkably little to say about the flaws in either of those countries. But he has lots of criticism for America.
There is, I repeat, nothing wrong with disliking America, its system, or its values.
I feel that way about plenty of places. From what I know of Islam, the Muslim world wouldn’t be the place for me to live. But I’m not about to move to Kuwait or Iran, and tell them that they should be more secular, or more Christian, or more Westernized.
Either the Iranians or the Kuwaitis would predictably ask me what the heck I was doing in their countries, if I so despised their way of life. And you know what? They’d have a valid point.
Let’s return to Kshama Sawant. Most Americans have no interest in overthrowing our current system with a Trotskyite/Marxist system of government. Bernie Sanders is the current frontrunner in the Democratic Party, but his watered-down, somewhat sanitized version of socialism has only captured a minority of Democratic voters. Most Americans want to keep our basic freedoms, including our economic freedoms.
Kshama Sawant, then, has chosen to play a villain’s role right out of central casting—or the most nativist, alt-right corners of the Internet. Sawant is a first-generation immigrant. She’s also an aspiring revolutionary, who hates America as it currently is.
Not every first-generation American has to be a flag-waving patriot like my friends from South Vietnam, or my former boss from Sri Lanka. Patriotism, moreover, can coexist with a sober recognition of America’s warts and imperfections.
But if your only objective as an immigrant is to overthrow the American system, then don’t complain when someone reminds you that the door through which you entered swings the other way, too.
It’s interesting that the media never sought to enshrine Buttigieg as a gay rights icon while he was a possible threat to center-left establishment favorites Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren. While he was a frontrunner, the media mostly focused on Buttigieg’s dearth of experience.
As for the 9 year-old who identifies as gay: I’m not completely dismissive of this, but I’m skeptical.
I remember the age of 9 as a distinctly pre-sexual age. When I was nine, I was into Star Wars, fishing with my grandfather, and playing backyard baseball with my friends.
It wasn’t until junior high—age 12 or 13—that testosterone flooded through my body, and with it, the rush of (heterosexual) desire.
The academic establishment is now eagerly encouraging children of all ages to question their sexuality, even their gender identity. I suppose it is no wonder that today we have 9-year-olds who identify as gay. In Sweden, they now have an epidemic of gender dysphoria among teenage girls.
Oh, what fruits the social engineers of the past 30 years have given us….
Sanders is claiming that he’ll only tax “billionaires”. But his proposed spending plans (per CNN) would total between $60 and $97 trillion. There is no way to do that without taxing all of us, a lot. That’s where the claim about 52% taxes on $29K incomes arises. (Bernie Sanders is running against Trump and moderate Democrats, but he’s also running against basic math.)
“Tax the rich” is the siren song of every leftwing demagogue, from Lenin to Huey Long to Hugo Chavez. But wherever such programs are implemented, they always end up taxing everyone a lot, all the way down the line.
But high taxes aren’t the worst of it. While socialist, command-and-control economic policies may or may not result in gulags, they always result in chronic shortages over time. This is because socialist policies eliminate the basic incentives of supply and demand. This is why the Soviet economy failed.
The best modern example of the Bernie Sanders agenda in action can be found in Venezuela. During the 1990s, Venezuela was one of the most prosperous nations in Latin America. Then Hugo Chavez came to power with many of the same policies now proposed by Sanders. Now the Venezuelans are burying starvation victims without coffins. The people of Venezuela are truly “feeling the Bern”.
What Sanders proposes simply doesn’t work in the real world, as has been proven again and again.
A charismatic, fanatical preacher; a snake-handling cult in Appalachia…and a romantic triangle that involves an unplanned pregnancy.
Them that Follow might have been a good movie. It was certainly well-acted. Olivia Colman, Walton Goggins (of Justified fame) and Australian actress Alice Englert certainly did their best to breathe life into a turkey of a script.
In the end, though, they couldn’t pull it off. The characters in Them that Follow consistently behaved in ways that few human beings actually would.
(Spoiler alert): Here’s an example: After one of the main characters is bitten by a rattlesnake, there is a kitchen-table amputation scene that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. (There are hospitals in West Virginia, too.)
The premise of the film seemed to be: People in Appalachian America are unremittingly ignorant, gullible, and prone to religious fanaticism.
I’ve spent a lot of time in Appalachia: in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee. This area of the country certainly has its problems. For at least a century now, Appalachia has suffered from a dearth of economic opportunities and depopulation. Ambitious young people tend to leave and haul stakes for the city—just like my grandfather left Adams County, Ohio for Cincinnati in 1939. The rural drug epidemic of recent years has only made things worse.
But the people of Appalachia, in my experience (and again, I do have actual experience in Appalachia), are not the irrational simpletons depicted in Them that Follow.
The biggest problem with Them that Follow, however, was that it was…boring. The plot meandered; and it was difficult to discern who you were supposed to root for, what was actually going on.
On the plus side, the film did consistently project a dark, bleak atmosphere, which seems to have been the whole point of the thing, anyway.
I would give this one 2.5 out of three stars. Not awful, but not very good, either.
The Russians are reportedly aiding the campaign of Bernie Sanders. US intelligence officials informed Sanders about the Russian meddling on his behalf about a month ago; but he did not disclose this until pressed by journalists in recent days.
“The Russians” have loomed overly large in our collective imagination in recent years. This began when elements on the American left concocted the narrative that Donald Trump was elected in 2016 because of Facebook and Russian bots. But now things are more complicated, as Russians on social media are helping Bernie, apparently.
Let’s keep this in perspective. Foreign agents have always attempted to interfere in US domestic politics. The Russians—formerly the Soviets—have frequently been a source of such meddling. The US, moreover, has long funded political groups in foreign countries, through means both covert and overt.
There is meddling—and then there’s meddling. If there is evidence that any foreign government/faction is directly manipulating vote counting, at any stage in our electoral process, then that would be an issue to be taken very seriously. This should also be reasonably easy to fix.
But to the best of my knowledge, that isn’t what this is about. This is about “bots” and anonymous trolls slithering around the great Internet garbage heap known as social media.
That is not something that will be easily controlled—especially on Twitter, where at least half of all users are anonymous/sock puppet accounts.
But I think we’re overestimating social media. Donald Trump didn’t get elected in 2016 because of Russians on Facebook. Donald Trump got elected because, either rightly or wrongly, his message resonated with large numbers of Americans.
Donald Trump’s election was a backlash against twenty-five years of globalization gone awry. Trump’s election was a backlash against thirty years of institutional political correctness. (I saw the beginnings of that trend, as a college student in the late 1980s.)
Likewise, it’s highly unlikely that Bernie is leading the Democratic pack at present because of Russian trolls on Twitter. It’s far more likely that Bernie Sanders is leading the Democratic pack because large numbers of Americans have been taken in by his message of free stuff.
Whether we’re on the right or the left, we want to blame outsiders for political outcomes that we don’t like. And “the Russians” have always been villains straight from central casting. But the real answers to our political woes might be more obvious, and they might lie closer to home.
From The Northerner, the student newspaper of NKU. (I attended NKU as an undergrad from 1986~7, then as a grad student from 2002~4, by the way.)
I have an opinion on this matter, of course. The best Cincinnati films to date are Traffic (2000), and Fresh Horses (1988).
Rain Man (1988), which tends to get the most attention, left me cold, even though I’ve liked most movies with Tom Cruise or Dustin Hoffman.
Traffic, though, is a multilayered, engrossing story about the narcotics underworld. I recently saw it for the second time, and it’s held up well over the past two decades.
Fresh Horses is a coming-of-age movie starring Molly Ringwald and Andrew McCarthy. This movie is a little dated, and a bit uneven in places; but it isn’t bad for 30-year-old teen movie from the late Reagan era.
Also, one scene in Fresh Horses features the University of Cincinnati lecture hall where I took organic chemistry in 1987, after I transferred to UC from NKU.
The United States Army Band, Pershing’s Own, recently performed and recorded their interpretation of the Rush song “Time Stand Still”.
This was the military band’s tribute to Neil Peart (1952~2020), who passed away earlier this year. (My essay on Neil Peart’s passing is here.)
“Time Stand Still” was released on the Hold Your Fire album in 1987. I remember it well. I was nineteen at the time; and I was just beginning to come to grips with the realization that life doesn’t go on forever, not for any of us. Cherish your experiences, cherish the people around you, while they’re here. Live in the present.
The Pershing’s Own interpretation of “Time Stand Still” is distinct from the song on the original Rush album. Again, it’s an interpretation, not a rote performance of the original.
I like both versions. Kudos to the US Army Band for honoring Neil Peart in this way.
The above interview is from the Phil Donahue Show in 1981. This was the early Reagan era, and also at the height of the Cold War. The election of a self-declared socialist as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont, was therefore newsworthy.
It doesn’t take much pressing on Donahue’s part to get Bernie to label himself a socialist, and, as a corollary, “not a capitalist”.
Bernie does relent a little at the end, when he admits that competition may have some merits at the local level. What he dislikes is “corporate capitalism”.
This statement reveals that Bernie Sanders doesn’t understand the first thing about a modern economy. Without “corporate capitalism” we don’t get iPhones, Toyotas, or toothpaste.
In the realm of pharmaceuticals, we don’t get anything but folk medicines.
We certainly don’t get an Internet.
What Bernie is describing is an idealized (and completely unrealistic) Rousseauian economy based on locally made crafts and agriculture. It’s a pretty picture, until you really think about what that would actually entail, when carried out on a national level. Bernie is basically describing a sustenance economy.
I just finished watching Wednesday night’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas. (I’m an early riser, so I recorded it.)
I have many impressions: Bernie didn’t disappoint, fulfilling his usual role of the crazy Marxist radical from 1968. Elizabeth Warren was annoying and two-faced. Michael Bloomberg, despite his significant baggage, was the only candidate who came across as both fully sane and moderately presidential.
And then there was Little Pete.
Thus far, I’ve had a mixed opinion of Pete Buttigieg. No, there is no scenario I can imagine in which I’d vote for him in the general election. But he did strike me, initially, as a cut above the others. And the guy is no idiot.
But in Wednesday night’s debate, we saw another, darker side of Pete Buttigieg. It was readily apparent that Buttigieg fixated on Amy Klobuchar from the beginning, constantly trying to fluster her and trip her up.
Yes, presidential politics is a combat sport. But Klobuchar is not one of the frontrunners. Rather, it looked like Buttigieg wanted to elevate himself by bullying the weakest candidate on the stage, which Klobuchar arguably is. (She loses her composure quite easily.)
In my opinion, Pete Buttigieg did himself no favors with this tactic. He came across as something of a snake.
My, my, this 2020 crop of Democratic hopefuls is a sad mess.
I’m going to come out and say that this is in poor taste. This isn’t the end of the world. It’s not even “an outrage”. But it is in poor taste.
A hologram of a long-dead historical figure—Abraham Lincoln or Alexander Hamilton—might be interesting. Whitney Houston, however, passed away less than a decade ago. She’s still very much within living memory.
And while yes, there is a case to be made that a celebrity belongs to the public domain, there is also something to be said for respecting the dead.
Just because technology can do something, doesn’t mean that it should.