How Much Is Enough

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” — 2nd Amendment

How many people have to die. How many people have to be paralyzed. How many people have to suffer from post-traumatic stress until something is done.

Those are not phrased as questions intentionally. They are no longer questions. They are actionable statements which require solutions. Indeed many are available. However, people whose IQ is likely equivalent to my average golf score insist on making the same grasping-at-straws, dog-whistle arguments which prevent real conversations and progress from taking place.

To wit:

Laws Aren’t Going To Stop Shootings

Laws don’t stop speeding either, but we have laws against that, don’t we? The man who killed 27 people and wounded 20 more in Sutherland Springs was dishonorably discharged from the military, and had been convicted of domestic violence, in which he broke the skull of his infant stepson.

Let me say that again: he broke the skull of an infant. On purpose. Not to mention the numerous assaults on his wife and the abuse of his dog.

There is no justification for allowing a psychopath like that to own a gun. Under Texas law, those who commit domestic violence are not required to surrender their guns or ammo, and they’re allowed to purchase a gun once five years have passed. Call me crazy, but anyone who assaults their spouse should never, for the rest of their life, own, purchase, or hold a gun.

“But Brian,” you say, with a hint of pompousness, “criminals will always find a way to get guns.” Yes, guns are available on the black market, but we can make them more easily traceable. And, banning a gun makes them infinitely more expensive on the black market. I mention this because the Sutherland Springs shooter used an AR-15, which seems to be the weapon of choice for mass murderers. In Australia, the price of a semi-automatic handgun is north of $15,000. If you have that much money, odds are, you’re not going to need a gun or commit mass murder.

Good Guys With Guns Stop Bad Guys With Guns

Look, whatever wild west, gunslingin’, boot-strappin’, white-knightin’ hero fantasy you have in your head, won’t play out in real life. What if the shooter shoots you first? What if the shooter is way on the other side of the room, with about 100 innocent people between you? What if he’s got an automatic weapon and you have a .22 caliber pistol? You’re not James Bond, and this is not a movie.

Seriously, WHAT IF THE SHOOTER SHOOTS YOU FIRST? Just comes up from behind, and BAM, ends it, because you happened to be the one nearest the door. You’re no good to anyone then.

Also, in an active shooter situation, guess who the cops are going to be looking for? If your answer was, “someone with a gun,” congratulations, you’ve qualified for the fast money round! It’s absolutely ridiculous to think that the police aren’t going to be suspicious of you when you’re posing like you’re Mark freakin’ Harmon in NCIS.

Unless of course you’re white. Then you’ll probably be fine.

Gun Laws Don’t Help Chicago!

Yea, and you know why? Because the gun laws in places like Iowa and Indiana are worthless. That’s where anyone who wishes to commit a crime in Chicago with a gun goes to get their’s, because it’s so damn easy. Gun laws need to be uniform, simple, and enforceable by federal officers. If I had my way, 95% of the ATF’s job would be to focus on the F.

If your thought process upon reading that included any or all of the words, “liberal nanny state,” then you are part of the problem. Federal laws don’t make our government a baby sitter, they make things easier. Federal requirements for background checks, a national registry of serial numbers, and an explicit list of those not qualified to own firearms that are the same for all 50 states and our territories is the only way that a city like Chicago, whose segregated neighborhoods and gang activity are constantly used as scapegoats by racists who try to claim that gun laws don’t work, is going to get better.

We Need Better Mental Healthcare, Not Gun Control

This is the only semi-valid point I’ve heard. But you’ve gotta be willing to pay for it. So far, no Republican is willing. Their sham of a “replacement” for Obamacare will gut Medicaid, deny coverage for pre-existing conditions, and significantly drive up costs. Meanwhile, Trump proposed decreasing the budget for the National Institute of Health by $5.8 BILLION early in his presidency (thankfully, this did not come to fruition). Yea, way to focus on mental health guys.

Healthcare in general is a huge issue in this country, and honestly, the right of all people residing here, even those who are undocumented, to have access to quality, affordable healthcare, should be the 28th Amendment. Studies have shown that universal healthcare has a domino effect of decreasing drug use, decreasing crime, decreasing the number of abortions and STD diagnoses, decreasing bankruptcy declarations, and betters the chances of cancer being caught early, because no longer will someone wait until it’s too late to see a doctor due to lack of insurance coverage or cost.

It’s funny how the “mental health” thing is only said when it’s a white guy that commits the shooting, which brings me to my next one…

Don’t Politicize a Tragedy

I offer my rebuttal to this from the Cheeto in Chief himself:

You’re more than happy to politicize a tragedy when it fits your narrative that Muslims* are evil (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if you believe this, your bigoted ass doesn’t deserve to have a gun), but when it’s a white guy, you act all offended and shout, “Whoa, don’t politicize this, we don’t know everything!”

*The shooter in New York was actually from Uzbekistan, so no ban from Trump would’ve helped there, but I digress.

White murderers have always been categorized as “mentally unstable” or “lone wolf,” but when it’s someone with a darker skin tone, the word “terrorist” is always first out of people’s mouths. The shooting in New York was used as a springboard by the Immortan Don himself as an excuse to spin more lies about immigrants and refugees. This country has been blaming its problems on immigrants since the Irish and guess what, it hasn’t helped a damn thing.

The thing of it is, none of what I said – and plenty of the same points are being made by elected Democrats – is going to change anything. You know why? It’s because too many gun owners shape their beliefs on how they feel, rather than what’s factual. They feel safe when the President talks about banning Mexicans and Muslims, even though facts show that the odds of being a victim of a terrorist attack committed on U.S. soil by a refugee are roughly 3.1 BILLION to one. They feel safe when they have a gun, even though statistics show that owning a gun contributes absolutely nothing to your personal safety.

The gun violence problem in this country is staggering compared to other countries. America represents five percent of the world population yet owns 50 percent of the world’s guns. I, and so many other Americans, do not feel safe in a country where guns are so easily gotten by people who should never be able to get one.

Lay down your arms – literally and figuratively – gun owners, and just listen to what people are trying to say. If you’ve never been arrested for domestic violence, have no history of mental illness, and have never been convicted of a violent crime, then guess what, no one is coming to take your guns! However, so many things need to change for this country to be safer. Some ideas include:

  • Limits on amount of guns and ammo you are allowed to purchase or own at one time. No one needs to own a dozen guns with thousands of rounds of ammunition.
  • Increased background checks. You need to be willing to wait an extra week before being allowed to purchase your gun. It could save so many lives.
  • National registry, with a requirement by federal law that you register your gun within 24 hours of purchase. Make those stolen guns you’re so concerned about easier to track.
  • No college in America should allow guns on campus. This is idiotic, and will cause infinitely more problems than it “solves.”

These are just a few of the ideas that have been tossed around. If I had my way, automatic and semi-automatic guns would be banned for civilian purchase and ownership, gun shows would cease to exist, and you’d have to prove that you’re out of ammo you previously purchased before you can buy more. Those who dislike guns don’t dislike your Constitutional right to own one, but we need gun owners to be willing to put up with a little inconvenience to save lives.

Which is why we need you to stop. Just stop. Stop with this fantasy that more guns solve the problem of guns. It’s never been true and it never will be. Making guns harder to get will be much more beneficial than throwing an armed guard in every school, church and shopping mall in the country.

Be willing to listen. Be willing to compromise. Your talking points and your “thoughts and prayers” after every mass shooting hasn’t solved or changed a damn thing. You are not a well-regulated militia, and the government has not become a dictatorship (although Trump is trying his hardest to make it one. Which opens up another can of worms, because while 60% of the country thinks he’s a tyrannical sociopath, 30% of the country – and 90% of gun owners – think he’s awesome. So when could the country as a whole ever agree on when our government threatens our security and freedom?)

Care about another person’s life. Care about your own.

Be a patriot. Listen to ideas for gun control.

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Kneeling To Make a Stand

The worst and most constant violator of the Constitution this country has ever known.

The President called black NFL players who kneel, “sons of bitches,” while violent neo-Nazis in Charlotesville have, “some good people.” This, in a nutshell, is why I support Black Lives Matter. It’s also why I proudly support any and all professional players who took a knee this past weekend. I support them doing it as long as they feel it’s necessary.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, I’d like to acknowledge a simple truth: most will likely scoff at any point I can try to make to back up my support. I am a white guy who has never served in the military. I am not brave enough. So, I’d like to compile words expressed on social media from people much more qualified than me to speak on these matters.

First, from the players:

This Deadspin article rounds up views from many players, such as Michael Thomas, LeSean McCoy and Alex Smith. Click the link to watch all the videos; here are the most poignant observations, in my opinion.

Michael Thomas:

LeSean McCoy:

Finally, Alex Smith:

Eric Reid, the player who joined Colin Kaepernick in his protest, penned a lucid opinion column in the New York Times. Here’s a passage from it:

After hours of careful consideration, and even a visit from Nate Boyer, a retired Green Beret and former N.F.L. player, we came to the conclusion that we should kneel, rather than sit, the next day during the anthem as a peaceful protest. We chose to kneel because it’s a respectful gesture. I remember thinking our posture was like a flag flown at half-mast to mark a tragedy.

It baffles me that our protest is still being misconstrued as disrespectful to the country, flag and military personnel. We chose it because it’s exactly the opposite. It has always been my understanding that the brave men and women who fought and died for our country did so to ensure that we could live in a fair and free society, which includes the right to speak out in protest.

If you still think it’s about the anthem, I invite you to consider this:

The entire Dallas Cowboys staff – players, coaches, owner and all – knelt before the start of the national anthem, then stood as it started. And they still got booed. This comes as little surprise to me given that they were in the state from which Joe Arpaio hails, but I digress.

Even Alejandro Villanueva, the courageous lineman who served numerous tours of duty in the Middle East, clarified his standing alone for the anthem, saying the protests are, “…protected by our constitution and our country. It’s the freedom of speech.”

Mike Tomlin, head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers, was called a “no good nigger” by a Pennsylvania fire chief, thereby proving the point the kneeling players are trying to make.

Trevor Noah, who I know is neither a player nor a veteran but a political commentator, had the most honest summation of people’s disagreements with the protests. If you read no other word of this or watch no other video, I implore you to watch this one.

Veterans, and those currently serving, support the message of taking a knee in large number as well. Their viewpoints on the matter only solidify my support.

We’ll start with Brennan Gilmore, who posted a picture of his grandfather, a WWII veteran:

He was of course not the only veteran to voice his support, just the most visible in a barrage of social media posts this weekend. Here are a few:

Anthony’s Twitter account is still active.

There are literally thousands more. I have seen far more support from veterans than dissent, and that tells me that Kaepernick was on to something, perhaps moreso than he realized. It’s not going away after this weekend; in fact, it may just get bigger. Stevie Wonder, Eddie Vedder, and Bruce Maxwell, an MLB catcher who has the support of his veteran father, have also kneeled in solidarity against racism.

Taking a knee is not about the military, it is not about the flag. Anyone who says otherwise is ignoring what the players are saying and creating their own narrative. It is about police brutality. It is about unfair sentencing in crimes. It is about what the flag represents; or rather, what it should represent. It is supposed to represent “liberty and justice for all.” It’s that “for all” part that has failed throughout literally the entire history of the United States of America. The reason it’s so prevalent now is because our President is single-handedly regressing the progress this country has made by 100 years.

I know there are many veterans out there who find the protests disrespectful to the brave men and women who volunteer themselves to go into harms’ way. I’ve listened to their arguments, and I’ve tried my best to put myself in their shoes. I’ve tried to understand their feelings. I know why they’re so passionate about the subject; they have seen unspeakable atrocities during their time of service, in an unjustified war that has cost the lives of thousands of American men and women, as well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians. But there are things still happening in our country today that make these protests prudent and necessary.

A Muslim friend of mine’s mother was told to “go back to her country” recently. A Mexican friend of mine was called a “dirty beaner.” She has lived in San Diego her entire life and has never heard that insult until this year. Gay friends of mine have at one point or another been called every horrible name in the book. It’s worth repeating that black NFL players were referred to as “sons of bitches” by the President, just weeks after he said that neo-Nazis have “some good people.” There are countless similar examples. This. Is. New.

People need to acknowledge and appreciate that there are 26 other amendments besides the 2nd one; all of which, I would argue, hold far greater importance to our freedom. President Trump is a fascist, white supremacist, bigoted, impotent man-child who wants nothing except money and adulation. It’s upsetting how many people are willing to give him both every time he says something racist.

Kneeling during the anthem was never supposed to become a constitutional rights argument, but it has. President Trump has violated the First Amendment (and a host of other amendments) numerous times in the past couple of weeks. He demanded a company fire one of their employees for saying something he didn’t like. He demanded players be fired because he took their peaceful protest out of context.

People freak out sometimes when Trump is compared to Hitler, but I see no differences between the two. A paraphrased line from one of my favorite comedians: “Hitler didn’t come out of the gate killing six million Jews, he worked up to it!” It’s clear to me that Trump is working up to genocide. He has no grasp of reality, no sense of decency, and absolutely no fucking idea what he is doing.

I miss having a real president. I miss not waking up in fear of my and my friends’ lives. I miss the feeling of knowing that qualified and capable individuals are running the country. I hope to regain that feeling once again. Some day, but not today.

Black people have been told, “that’s not the right way to do things” for 70 years now. White people in large numbers disagreed with Rosa Parks. They disagreed with the March on Washington. They disagreed with Tommie Smith and John Carlos giving the Black Power salute during the anthem. Now, these events are portrayed in the history books as powerful stands against racism. Now, in 2017, these protests are just as necessary. Now, black people and other people of color are routine victims of police brutality, racial profiling, gerrymandering and an unjust court system.

That is why these players kneel. There is a systemic, obvious, downright intentional, racism in this country. People who yell, “if you don’t like America you can get out!” only prove this point. Why leave, when they can stay and try to make America better? If I were an athlete, I would kneel. If we can just acknowledge and admit that racism is far too prevalent in this country, and work to eradicate it, then and only then will the kneeling stop.

So if you want to not hear about who knelt during the anthem anymore, then open your ears and your heart, and just listen to what an entire race of human beings is trying to tell you.

America, as a country and as an ideal, remains a grand experiment that currently has far too much chlorine in its system. We must not allow a few in power to take that power away from the people.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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The Hypocrisy of Today

White Americans, what, nothin’ better to do?
Why don’t you kick yourself out?
You’re an immigrant too.
Jack White

Despair

I’ve never understood it. Two human beings function in essentially the same manner; we eat, we shower, we shit, we sometimes get irritated by traffic or wake groggy to an early morning alarm. We pay taxes (or at least we should), we sometimes get distracted at work, we worry about how much money we earn. And yet, one human being will spend every day with genuine contempt, sometimes even hatred, for the other human being purely because they are of a different race, religion, or country of origin.

It seems to me that going through daily life with such a dark cloud around your heart would be particularly burdensome. I would think that their shoulders would slouch under the sheer weight of it, but that is not what happens; these racists and bigots wear this hatred as a point of pride, and very little can knock them off their pedestal of mental gymnastics. That is what confuses me more than anything.

In an act that spits in the face of every World War Two veteran, hundreds of cowardly white supremacists* marched with torches and Nazi flags on University of Virginia’s campus. I would be willing to bet that more than a few of the participants had relatives who fought against Hitler and his genocidal rise to power.

*Can we stop calling them the “alt-right” now? That kind of name just legitimizes their sham of a movement.

It’s a travesty that so many people have been brainwashed to this degree. I see no difference between white supremacists and ISIS. None. The sheer definition of terrorism is using violence and fear to get what they want, and that is exactly what these pale impotents have been doing for a long time; Nazi’s and their sympathizers are the longest-tenured terrorist group in the world, and I wish even one-tenth of the attention that we pay to stopping ISIS was paid to stopping them.

Heather Hayer, a 32-year old resident of Charlottesville, was killed when a white supremacist terrorist intentionally drove his car into a crowd of anti-fascism protestors. Her death is a tragedy; it would not have happened if Hillary Clinton had been elected president.

All my life, I’ve believed in the power of words; I’ve believed they can change minds, fill hearts and educate. I’ve believed they can legislate, curate and create ideas that personify all of our instinctive resilience against evil, malfeasance and fear. The needs of many should always outweigh the wants of a few. In the past year, we have seen what happens when a country founded on racism elects a president who makes no qualms about his allegiance with the KKK.

“Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth… and I know that I might’ve been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”

Lou Gehrig died a few short months after giving this speech. When one steps back to consider the gravity and brevity of these words in the face of a terminal illness, one cannot help but be left in awe of Gehrig’s conviction that he’s done, and will continue to do, the best he can.

I don’t believe in words anymore, which is a strange thing to say considering that I am typing so many here. I hope to one day regain this belief, but if someone who brags about sexual assault can be elected to the highest office in the land, then I’m not so sure words mean anything anymore. Donald Trump is the greatest fraud perpetrated on the American voter. He had 60 million of them convinced he was Christian, despite the fact that he had cheated on each of his three wives.*

*My God, can you imagine what people would have been saying about Hillary or President Obama if THEY were the ones who had five children from three different spouses?

He had 60 million of them convinced that he was a man of the people, despite his obsession with gold, including those of the parachute variety.

He had 60 million of them convinced that he was trustworthy, despite his decades-long reputation as a con artist of the filthiest degree.

Not all Trump supporters are racist, but all racists are Trump supporters.

It’s going to take decades to truly understand how and why a country decided to regress its progress by 100 years, but I think it comes down to fraud and laziness. He was elected on a mountain of lies. There is nothing redeemable about him, or his entire family, save for Barron, for whom I feel terrible. I can’t imagine being ten years old and having to endure what his father is doing.

I’m honestly not sure how long America, as a country and as an ideal, can keep going like this. I sincerely hope that truth, kindness and understanding will triumph over the tyrannical whims of our current president.

Hope

This is Heather Heyer. Her final Facebook post read, “If you’re not outraged, then you’re not paying attention.”

It’s the kids. The kids understand that this hatred and bigotry gets us no where. I know this because the reactions to such racism have been wonderful. They donated to Planned Parenthood in Mike Pence’s name, they emasculate the white supremacy effort by turning them into a meme, they show up in much larger crowds to celebrate peace and love amongst everyone.

I see no greater evidence of this than at the San Diego Pride Festival. There are times when I just want to find someone who has bigoted thoughts or actions and tell them to just watch. At the end of the day I would ask them one question: did you see anyone who wasn’t happy? My hope would be that they would stop, and think to themselves: no, I didn’t see anyone who wasn’t smiling. No, I didn’t see anyone who was talking about “ending white privilege.” No, I didn’t see anyone who was angry. I have no doubt the same can be said for Pride festivals all over the world.

It’s the creativity with which this new generation combats hate that gives me hope. I can freely admit that I do not have that creativity. I have anger. When I see a Muslim house of worship was bombed, or a police officer acquitted of charges after killing an unarmed black kid, or the proposed banning of transgender military members (I say “proposed” because I am certain that President Trump doesn’t know that policy is not made through a tweet) I feel nothing but anger and contempt toward such cowardice and small mindedness.

But this new generation kills it with kindness, humor and love. I know they feel anger as well, but they express it in a much more positive and progressive manner. I have hope because one day, my generation will be old, and these kids will be running the show; that’s something which I truly believe we will see one day.

One day, I hope racism and bigotry will be a nonstarter; I hope that the majority will see why Black Lives Matter, why marriage equality is crucial, and why universal healthcare is the only way we as humans can collectively live healthier and safer lives. One day, I hope bigoted white men will just grow the fuck up and stop blaming immigrants and black people for their problems.

One day, I hope there is a statue of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville. I hope it serves as a representation of courage in the face of evil, and an inspiration to all of mankind that we should never stop trying to do better. Hate is easy; love takes work.

And we should never stop working.

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Do You Feel Safe Yet?

mr_donald_trump_new_hampshire_town_hall_on_august_19th_2015_at_pinkerton_academy_in_derry_nh_by_michael_vadon_07

I really don’t think there’s anyone left; Mexicans, Muslims, Jews, his staff, the media, other politicians; the man has made an enemy out of everyone he can. And I say good. Anyone who isn’t rich, white, heterosexual and/or a man can vote but allowing them other things like freedom of choice threatens our way of life. It’s frightening, though, how much resistance there has been to President Cheeto’s Trump’s executive orders and tweets, which clearly have the intention of keeping America safe.

The wall is supposed to keep out all those damn illegals. How dare the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country work hard, build our infrastructure, pay taxes and sacrifice their safety to be in a place that doesn’t want them and yet supposedly offers a dream. I know I don’t feel safe knowing my gardener is willing to do whatever it takes to live here and provide for his family back home.

However, it’s the ones who will do anything to get here that worry me the most. The travel ban was supposed to keep out those terrorists. And anyone who looks like them. If you believe that these refugees are just seeking refuge from the daily horror of walking into a store and potentially not coming out alive, I have some snake oil to sell you.

Speaking of bad salesmen, the media keeps reporting the truth, which coincidentally has always been Sun-Tan Tzu’s adversary, so they get the ax too. Well, just a few; the ones who write nice things get to stay. Honestly, how could anyone write bad things about him? It’s not like he ever questioned the birthplace and religion of a former President even though he has likely never voluntarily attended a Sunday service in his life if there weren’t cameras around.

All of these actions are supposed to keep us safe. Because please, for the love of God, won’t someone think of the children if we allow people to use the bathroom of the gender with which they identify? All those who are transgender are delinquent perverts after all. They should be tested for a mental illness; but it’s okay, even though Republicans think they’re mentally ill, they’d still be allowed to have a gun.

In fact, it’s clear that the only way to stop gun violence is by giving everyone guns. That’s Florida’s response to the shootings at Pulse in Orlando and the Ft. Lauderdale airport. I, for one, am all for it; everyone knows that a good guy can put all six bullets of a revolver right in the 10 range, but a bad guy who was able to get his hands on an AR-15 won’t hit the broad side of a barn. That’s just common sense. I see it in movies all the time.

Speaking of movies, they’ve become so tiresome. How dare these actors and actresses use the platform for which they’ve worked so hard to attain to push for some lame “agenda” like equal treatment or resisting bigotry? I’ll stay in reality thank you very much, because utopia is never going to happen; there are rules. They really don’t have a clue what they’re talking about anyway, so they should stay in their own lane.

Just like athletes should stick to sports. Can you believe Dexter Fowler saying it’s “unfortunate” that his wife’s sister can’t visit from Iran because of the travel ban? That’s plain un-American. If he doesn’t like it here, he should stay over there. I don’t want anything ruining my willful ignorance of another person’s feelings or my support of Busch Stadium hosting “Christian day.” I’m a claims adjuster and I’m allowed to tweet my political opinions to my 36 followers, but an athlete shouldn’t be allowed to express their concern about an issue of which they were asked a direct question.

We all know that Muslims are terrorists, and white guys with an affiliation to the KKK are just “lone wolves.” Sure, there’s been a few Tim McVeigh’s, Dylan Roof’s and Adam Purinton‘s over the years, but those have been so rare. I know the genuine and sincere “thoughts and prayers” of all politicians are with us in those trying times, because they tweet about it or release a statement. Never mind that they’ve introduced legislation to suppress black voters, deny the religious freedom of Muslims and force women to hold funerals for their fetuses in all circumstances; that guy who shot up the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs was a bad man, but he wasn’t a terrorist. He certainly didn’t commit that crime as a proponent of some archaic religious ideology.

I feel oppressed, because all of a sudden, it seems like there’s a War Against Christianity. Sure, there are close to 6 million Jewish people in this country, and Hanukkah may overlap with Christmas in most years, but that still doesn’t give them the right to force me to say, “happy holidays.” This country was founded on Christian principles, and by gum, it should stay that way. I’m allowed to wear jeans to church and eat whatever food I like, but the 0.9 percent of the U.S. population that is Muslim are taking over; Sharia Law is coming for us, and I can’t grow a beard.

For that matter, the hundreds of bomb threats faced by Jewish community centers and the desecration of dozens of Jewish cemeteries is totally, absolutely, in no way whatsoever the fault of the Trump administration. I mean, it’s not like the things he’s said over the past 18 months, and his election, have made incompetent, impotent, insecure white racist “Christians” feel like it’s okay to be racist again. Same thing with the rise in bullying and hate crimes. Definitely not the fault of our Orange Man in the High Chair.

If you were to ask any Republican what the best part of America is, they would probably say something about it being a land of opportunity; one that accepts differing ideas, opinions and people. Everyone is treated equally, and honestly, I see no irony in that thought. The overt racism, sexism and bigotry present in their rhetoric only applies to those damn illegals. Because they could absolutely tell two people – one an undocumented immigrant and the other a third generation American – apart just by looking at them. I don’t see any human rights, not to mention First Amendment rights, being violated at all.

Yes, I feel so safe right now. I’m so safe I feel like I’m being suffocated. Clearly the Immortan Don shares these feelings, which is why he’s cool with using the outdoor dining area at Mar-a-Lago as an open air situation room. He and his staff are discussing highly classified matters of national security in front of club members who don’t even have the clearance or wherewithal to view their internet history, but Hillary’s emails were definitely the real threat.

I don’t know why anyone would want to resist.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
–Martin Niemöller

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The Light Dims: Remembering Yordano Ventura

World Series - San Francisco Giants v Kansas City Royals - Game Two

It was easy to understand how fans of other teams found him, shall we say, egotistical. His fist pumps, his facial expressions, his arrogance even when he was getting beat; it all rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Perhaps there’s no greater evidence of this than the arguments he sparked with Mike Trout, Adam Eaton, Brett Lawrie, and that one time Manny Machado had to catch his breath while charging the mound after being drilled with one of his 100-mph heaters:

Here’s something you’ll notice, though: it’s arguable that, for every one of those confrontations, he was in the wrong. But every time, his teammates had his back.

Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in his native Dominican Republic late Saturday night. Early reports indicate there was no alcohol or drugs present at the scene, but that he may not have been wearing his seat belt when he lost control of his car on a treacherous road. I cried, as many thousands of people did, when I first heard the news. Another shining, albeit misunderstood, beacon of baseball has been taken from us far earlier than is fair.

It will be heartbreaking when Spring Training commences in three weeks; none of this feels real. Jose Fernandez still doesn’t feel real, and Yordano Ventura certainly doesn’t. Two of baseballs brightest comets have been just that; passing by but for a moment to illuminate the night sky. It’s too early for reconciliation, it doesn’t even feel right to mourn; right now, a celebration of the things we witnessed is the only thing that seems prudent.

The Man Who Threw Fire

I was there for his major league debut; just another fan of the Royals in 2013 who was desperate for some wins and a reason to be hopeful. Yordano Ventura was that reason. The swagger, the confidence, the fastball. My God, the fastball. You don’t expect something like that to come out of someone not even six feet tall and who weighs a buck eighty soaking wet. But the power of that pitch, if properly harnessed, may have been able to light all of Kauffman Stadium. He sailed through five innings before yielding a couple runs in the sixth. He didn’t get the win that night, but everyone who witnessed his brilliance was talking about it at the water coolers the next day.

I was there for Game 2 of the 2014 World Series, which got off to an inauspicious start when Gregor Blanco crushed a Ventura fastball for a quick 1-0 lead. He settled down though, allowing only one more run on 7 more hits in 5 1/3 innings. After Omar Infante’s earth-shattering home run, it was all the Royals would need. Any rookie would be proud to hang their hat on that kind of effort in their first World Series appearance, but Ace Ventura was not done.

The Royals had their backs against the wall in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series, and Yordano had a heavy heart; his friend Oscar Taveras was killed in a car accident two nights prior. He inscribed, “RIP OT” on his hat to honor him. Starting this type of game is a lot to ask of a 23-year old rookie, but Yordano, as only Yordano could, put the team on his back and carried them through a seven-inning, three-hit shutout performance. It was when the world was introduced to the spectacle of a pitcher of whom Kansas City was already well aware.

Destiny was always greatness for Yordano Ventura. Crash Davis told Nuke LaLoosh to be, “cocky and arrogant, even when you’re getting beat.” Yordano had that invincibility about him. It didn’t matter what the scoreboard said, he was going to stare you down and not back away. I mentioned earlier that his teammates had his back; well that’s because he had his teammate’s. Everyone in that clubhouse considered each other family, and fans didn’t need to see their interactions every day to understand this truth. The way they spoke of each other, the genuine brotherly affection they showed night in and night out is what made Kansas City embrace these band of brothers as their own.

Wonder and Imagine

That’s the worst part. Perhaps myth is more interesting than reality; speculation is a topic most enjoyed by everyone, particularly sports fans. But this isn’t Bo Jackson suffering a hip injury or Barry Sanders retiring early; this is a cruel, tragic, abrupt ending to a career that was just beginning to blossom. Ace was our Number One; he was going to be an All-Star, a Cy Young winner, hell, maybe an MVP. There were more playoff appearances, more World Series victories and more champagne to flow in his wonderful career.

To truly understand Yordano was to look beneath the surface. Vahe Gregorian’s superb “Becoming Yordano” piece is tough to read right now, but it provides a glimpse into how Ventura become the pitcher of illumination in the American League. He quit school when he was 14 to work and provide for his family. He was signed for $28,000 at just 16 years old. He would eventually recover from allowing a 3-run homer in the 2014 Wild Card game and establish himself on a national stage.

His right arm was a lightning bolt. The thunder of the ball popping in the catcher’s glove was just the aftermath of the hair-raising, goosebump-inducing, jaw-dropping power that emanated from within him. He may let up seven runs, he may throw a no-hitter, but when you came to watch him pitch, you knew that no matter the outcome he was going to be one thing: electric.

*Header image from Flickr user Douglas LeMoine

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The 10 Most Fantastically Evil Songs Ever Created

It’s tough to know what to do right now. So many examples exist of the type of incompetent, petulant and inexperienced presidency we’ll have under he who shall not be named. Those who rely on Planned Parenthood for health screenings are worried it will no longer be available. Those who rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to afford cancer treatments are worried they’ll have to choose between medication and food. Those who are LGBT and are married are worried they’ll no longer have the legal right to do so. It’s trying times for everyone.

But no matter how depressing, hopeless or insurmountable these troubles seem to be, we cannot give in. We must keep fighting for equality, we must resist bigotry and we must stand up for our fellow humans. No one should have to walk down the street or enter a bathroom in fear. Let your voices be heard. Join that protest, call that representative, speak out against hate. The battle is lost, but the war rages on. And we cannot be implicit to tyranny.

I wanted to distract you today. Because sometimes distracting yourself with something that makes you feel good is okay. Getting so angry you want to punch a bag for an hour is okay too. Reading everything you can on a topic is good, paying attention is good, caring about who wins the Super Bowl is good.

We are humans, we can do more than one thing and feel more than one way at a time. It’s how we know we still have a pulse. It’s cathartic, it’s motivating, it inspires sympathy. All of it is good.

Anyway, here’s another music countdown for Stephen Lachky to enjoy.

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Some songs are just so raunchy, so groovy, so deliciously evil that you can’t help but bang your head, purse your lips and feel like you want to run through a damn brick wall. These are not songs that are necessarily violent in nature; “evil” in this context means I stood back from the speakers, said to myself, “whoa, what is this?” and relished in the malevolent guitar licks or passionate lyrics.

This is not a “they’re so bad, they’re good” song list, and none of these are of the death metal variety. Many of these songs make the list in part because you don’t expect the artist to be so sinister in their songwriting or their musical composition. The type of songs I looked for here are tough to describe. So it’s best to just let the music sing for itself.

10. Paint It Black – The Rolling Stones

The use of the sitar during the instrumental portions of the song is absolutely the best thing about it. It’s what gives the melody that malevolent feel (along with Mick Jagger’s humming at the end). “Paint It Black” has been used in a few war movies – most notably the end credits of Full Metal Jacket, which had it’s own symbolic oxymoron when the actors march through Vietnam singing the Mickey Mouse Club theme song – and for good reason. The despair the lyrics describe contrast with the hypnotizing rhythm.

9. Politician – Cream

“Hey now baby, get into my big black car. I wanna just show ya, what my politics are.” I mean really, do I need to say more? That’s a lot of shadowy, creepy evil in one lyric. The riff is the perfect accompaniment.

8. April 29, 1992 – Sublime

I personally have never viewed this song as advocating violence; rather, it points out the hypocrisies which existed – and still exist today – when Rodney King was nearly beaten to death by four police officers, all of whom were acquitted. This sparked the Los Angeles riots, which claimed 55 lives and caused more than $1 billion in damage. It was a day when no one was in the right.

7. Bullet the Blue Sky – U2

It’s the bassline. Adam Clayton gives a thumping introduction to the Edge’s piercing guitar and Bono’s lyrics, which describe the cataclysmic violence of war and all the death it causes.

6. Achilles Last Stand – Led Zeppelin

John Bonham and Jimmy Page together are what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The explosion of sound runs for close to 10 minutes, enough to melt your face completely. I honestly have no idea what the song is about, but it sounds like they’re trying to escape something just as fast as those chasing them, which makes the drum breakdowns and Page’s guitar riff so exhausting.

5. Down Rodeo – Rage Against the Machine

Tom Morello, master of sinister guitar licks, pulls out all the stops here, as does lead singer Zach de la Rocha. The lyrics are rebellious (understatement of the year) and the guitar riff signals the doom sure to appear on the horizon should we fall back into the sins of our past.

4. Seeds – Bruce Springsteen

Nils Lofgren’s guitar serves as the perfect backdrop for the story of a man and his family struggling to escape poverty. “How many times can ya get up after you’ve been hit? Well I swear if I could spare the spit I’d lay one on your shiny clothes, and send you on your way back home.” I think there’s about 68 million people (at least) who feel this way about a certain someone.

3. Helter Skelter – The Beatles

As noted in my previous music post, this song was released before Charles Manson ran amok like Jake Torrance. Still, the intro guitar riff is merely foreshadowing the pure insanity that’s to follow for the next four minutes.

2. Halloween – Dave Matthews Band

The story is that Dave Matthews wrote this song about a woman who turned him down all four times he asked her to marry him. Love is but a cruel punch to the gut sometimes. Although that woman did inspire one of the most energetically angry songs I’ve ever heard. This song legit scared me the first time I heard it.

1. Welcome To the Machine – Pink Floyd

This is the Stranger Things of evil music. The Machine knows where you’ve been, it knows all your misgivings, and it can tell you what to dream. David Gilmour’s voice is positively haunting as the synthesizer plays lasers through you. My only wish is that the keyboard outro lasted longer.

Have any thoughts on this list? Let me know in the comments. A discussion of music is the perfect way to spend a day like today.

If I may be permitted one final word: thank you, President Obama. One day we’ll all realize that we took your grace, humility, integrity and devotion to the good of the people for granted.

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Guest Post: President Obama’s Farewell Address, and Hope the Best Is Yet To Come

800px-2011_state_of_the_union_obama

A good friend of mine will be attending President Barack Obama’s farewell address tonight in Chicago. She had a few thoughts about the finality of his presidency, surviving the next four years, and where we as a nation go from here. First, a word of advice from her:

“We all have a lot of work to do. In whatever way we help, there is something each of us can do to make a difference. We need to hold our officials accountable – now more than ever. Stay vigilant. Stay active. You don’t need a title to create change.”

Here are her thoughts in full, reprinted with her permission, and only minor formatting edits.

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Tonight Obama will deliver his farewell address. While I was so excited to have gotten a ticket, I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions since I picked it up on Saturday; well, since November 8th to be honest. Anticipating attending the speech made me pretty nostalgic.

I remember watching the ’04 DNC at home in Broken Arrow, OK as a young, ambitious, somewhat naive liberal in the reddest state in the country… not knowing how out of place I truly was. An up and coming young senator from Illinois took the stage and commanded a presence, even through the TV. While I listened to Obama speak that night, I sat up a little straighter, paid a little more attention and felt this rush of excitement well up inside me.

Reading the words of that speech now takes me right back to that moment but this time instead of the excited flutter, my throat tightens as I fight back tears. I never would have guessed how much that speech and that man would come to mean to me and this country. He spoke about hope and unity, he told us we could do better and while we’ve come a long way, there was a lot more work to do. I believed him. I had hope. So much in fact that I joined the almost nonexistent Young Democrats club at my high school, comprised of four students and our fateful pysch teacher. During one of our meetings some young volunteers came to talk to us about helping out with the Brad Carson for Senate campaign. Say no more; I’m there.

I drove almost an hour to downtown Tulsa after school for weeks to stuff envelopes, knock on doors and call voters. I was convinced Brad was the man for the job. He even stopped by the campaign headquarters one day to thank us personally. What a mensch. I knew he would win, I could feel it. Election night came and I sat on that same couch with hope in my heart and a big bowl of ice cream on my lap. The results started coming in. Brad was down, way down. Then he lost to Tom Coburn, who became one of the most conservative members in the Senate. I was devastated. Heartbroken. The hope that Obama inspired me to work towards slipped away.

My early intense love for politics simmered to a vague interest after that. I went to college, majored in pysch and went about my business. Then the ’08 election season started. There was a rather large pool of candidates and Hilary Clinton seemed to have a clear lead and major name recognition. But then that hopeful guy that sparked a love of politics in me and so many others a few years back started to gain.

I threw myself into his campaign. I felt that rush of excitement again. I was a part of not just a campaign, but a movement. I drove all over Kansas knocking on doors, getting chased by dogs, yelled at by retirees and the like.

I loved every minute of it. He was my guy, he was our guy. I worked at two of his rallies in Kansas and watched him wow the crowd with his youthful energy and bright ideas. After the 2nd rally, a group of us volunteers got a tip about which hotel he was staying at. We drove furiously in hopes of beating him there and lined up outside to welcome him.

He arrived, got out of the car and froze as that famous smile slowly appeared. He was genuinely shocked we had waited for so long just to see him. He walked up and down the line, shaking each of our hands, thanking us for our work and after a very long day gave us an impromptu pep talk. His hands were soft, his words were heartfelt and that hope felt so real. After that we all dug in to make sure he would be our next president.

In Kansas we do this wild thing during the primaries: we caucus. I was volunteering that night and my job was to count all our voters. No pressure…

Watching that evening unfold was one of the coolest experiences. It was literally democracy in action. People debated, tried to bribe others with homemade desserts, gave rallying speeches and tried their hardest to convince the undecideds to join them. After a few rounds and a very close count, Obama won our district’s primary and I got to deliver the results. I was overjoyed for our team and our candidate and confident he would go on to win the election. As they say – the rest is history.

I switched my major to PoliSci, worked as a community organizer in Chicago just like Obama and continued to watch his speeches just as I did on my couch back in Oklahoma with the same fluttering feeling.

I was in New York City on election night this past November, watching the results with friends, wearing our pantsuits with champagne at the ready. As the results came in, we switched from wine to vodka finally calling it a night around midnight. This haunting feeling came over me. I walked into the street in a daze, hopped in my Uber and back to my hotel where I switched back and forth from the results and my Twitter feed. During the wee hours of the night, they finally called it. I was stunned for a moment then burst into tears that turned into uncontrollable sobs as my mind spun out of control with disbelief, anger and fear. I stayed up until dawn watching the news trying to make sense of it all.

The next day New York was dark and gloomy. It felt like the city was in mourning. I fought back tears all day and my throat ached on the plane ride home as I tried to keep my composure. Everyone seemed quiet, looking down as if to apologize to one another and offer condolences. That hopeful feeling I held onto for so long, that Obama inspired within me and so many others, was nowhere to be found.

Last night as I scrolled through Facebook – avoiding the looming basket of laundry I needed to put away – I stumbled upon a post from R.T. Rybak, former Mayor of Minneapolis. He had just come back from the farewell party at the White House and recounted his feelings from that night and how they changed from hollowness to hopefulness after a conversation with Obama.

When asked what Obama would do after leaving the White House, he told R.T. about the work he will be doing with youth and families, on getting more people engaged in voting, on protecting liberties.

Then he said the words that meant the most to me: “The best is yet to come.”

After everything Obama’s been through, this country has been through and the world has been through, the man still has hope. Along with R.T., I needed to hear those words. Even if I can’t quite see Obama’s vision right now, I need to believe in those words and the ones I’m anxiously awaiting to hear tonight.

— by Ali Terkel

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