November 1, 2020
A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen
I am informed my daily average screen time — the time my computer is linked with the Internet — is four hours, twenty-six minutes.
I close the box.
I scan a comment posted on Facebook by a progressive “friend” who lives in Denver.
My “friend” is alarmed, again. This is the fourth time she’s been alarmed this week. She claims she sleeps no more than an hour a night, agitated and anxious, fearful but enraged.
She is deeply concerned, as she has been for some time now, about gun ownership in America. In Denver. In her neighborhood.
To summarize her point of view: the gun problem is out of control, there are far more guns out there than there are people. Legislative and law enforcement action must be taken to ban guns, she writes, to halt the sale of firearms and their easy entry into a society damaged daily by their use. Guns must be collected, by whatever means possible, she claims, including the official discharge of firearms when necessary, unless the intended target is a woman, trans, or a person of color.
The threat must be eliminated. People must be convinced, by one means or another, to lay down their arms, to turn their swords into plowshares, and give peace a chance. Her hair is dyed four different colors and she has a peace sign tattooed on her shoulder, right above the tattoo of a unicorn leaping over an LGBT rainbow.
Her post elicits quite a few responses from people of like mind, since progressives tend to swarm to the same hive. One or two commentators toss in demands to defund the police, since the cops regularly shoot innocent victims for no reason. They assure one another that they and their friends can better police their immediate neighborhoods, using reason and compassion as their only weapons.
I reflect on a time, long ago, when I worked in a Denver gang intervention project. I conjure an image of piles of shredded clothing in the middle of the street, of progressive grease stains on the pavement.
Some respondents believe the peaceful process begins with banning the sale, and eventually the ownership, of military-style, powerful automatic weapons. Others respond with calls for a fevered assault on the ownership and possession of all firearms — not just by felons and those deemed psychotic and a danger to themselves and others, but by everyone and anyone. Even Uncle Steve, who hunts deer every fall. Rifles for hunting? No way! The killing of helpless animals in the name of “sport” must cease at the same time the slaughter of innocent humans is ended. There can be no peace until guns are gone. No one needs a gun!
Well … I do.
I am regarded as an unnerving liberal by my many conservative pals, although the term “liberal” has become their safe word, and not one of them can tell me what it means. Perhaps they’re right and I’m a unhinged liberal, but I am a liberal who needs a gun. Perhaps more than one.
These are times that call for it.
Whenever I hear the demand to ban the possession of firearms by responsible adult citizens, I am reminded of Clive James’ essay “Conrad’s Greatest Victory,” one of the selections in his collection “Latest Readings.”
James writes: “Conrad knew that unarmed good will is useless against armed malice. It was to be a lesson that the coming century would teach over and over, and so into the present century: peace is not a principle, it is only a desirable state of affairs, and can’t be obtained without a capacity for violence at least equal to the violence of the threat.”
You can read this as a statement about nations and conflict on a grand scale or, like me, you can read it in terms of the home town, the neighborhood, with my eye on the Fox News and QAnon-addled conspiracy theorist holed up just down the road. The crank has four junked ATVs in his front yard and has painted “Don’t Tread ON ME!!!” in red on the front of his garage. His attempt to render the image of a coiled rattler fails miserably.
He’s clear proof that the threat these days to the “desirable state of affairs” comes not, as the QAnon cranks believe, from insidious cabals and the agents of a malevolent government, but from one’s neighbors. Look around. Even if you live in the allegedly safe confines of a gated community, there’s got to be one or two maniacs dwelling nearby. You never know when enforcement of the gated community’s ban on leaf blowers will push one of these goofballs off kilter, with a massacre the result.
The QAnon and constitution waving cranks who join self-appointed (read “not well regulated”) militias are a far greater threat than any fictional pedophile cabal. Meth-addled tweakers promise more harm than do agents of a Deep State. Thieves in search of small appliances and credit cards? You bet. If you’re a woman, keep your eye peeled for Proud Boys — they’re seething, seeking revenge because women reject them and deny them free access to desirable body parts. These chaps refuse to abandon archaic sexual fantasies; they’re also in a lather because women and people of a different hue than theirs take jobs meant for upright, marginally educated white men with long beards. A corrupt and weak culture has denied the boys mastery over their perceived sexual and racial inferiors, and they are about to blow.
I need guns.
I have a friend, Billy, who knows guns. He’s a retired Navy Seal and as part of his current job he tests cutting edge, big cal auto weapons on ranges in the desert in Arizona, when he’s not busy learning to fly helicopters. He periodically sends videos of these big cal beauties in action, shredding full size-sedans and abandoned delivery vans. One of these slug belching beasts, mounted near my front door, could be used to eradicate any vehicle-born miscreants who speed into the cul de sac with mayhem on their agenda. Unfortunately, these machines are for military use only and not available to members of the general public (read, me). There are no new-fangled .50 cal Gatling guns sold at Wal Mart, though I have little doubt the Waltons would do so given a loophole in the law. My dream firearms are impossible to obtain.
So, I’m checking out some of the better handguns — those with the stopping power needed to quickly arrest the momentum of members of Honduran gangs or stimulant-dazzled right-wing churls bent on creating havoc at Karl’s homestead.
I’ll call my friend Donnie. He was the police chief here in Siberia With a View before he retired. Donnie’s the mayor now, but there is no salary, so he approaches the task casually and has plenty of time to spare. He teaches firearms classes to pull in some extra cash, and he knows his pistolas.
Since Donnie is one the conservative friends who puts me in the pantheon with Lenin and Che Guevara, he’ll no doubt be taken aback when I relate my need for a top-shelf handgun and my willingness to spray hot lead in defense of my domain, but I will tell him: “Unarmed good will is useless against armed malice.”
He’ll understand that.
Once I’m fully equipped and trained, I’ll be on the lookout for thugs and crazies pitched into a fever by outrageous covenants and restrictions in the subdivision, or by the fact Democrats continue to exist. I’ll watch for any Facebook post that informs “progressive friends” that yet another person of good will has been shot as they sang “Give Peace a Chance” to AR-15 toting members of an unregulated militia. I’ll keep an eye out for camo-clad thugs approaching my home from the nearby woods.
Also, I need to purchase a gun safe to prevent Kathy from shooting me when she finds out I’ve bought a gun.
November 3, 2020
A notification appears in a small box at the upper right corner of my computer screen
I am informed my daily average screen time — the time my computer is linked with the Internet — is five hours, twenty-one minutes.
I close the box.
The presidential race, 2020.
I’m driving on a highway. Traffic is bumper to bumper, moving at 2 mph. I roll slowly past a horrible vehicle crash. The Nissan has not fared well in a head-on meeting with a Kenworth. The sedan is on fire. There is a leg sticking out the shattered front windshield. There is a shoe on the foot at the end of the leg. The sole of the shoe has melted.
I don’t want to look.
I can’t help but look.
The election. Today’s the day.
Throughout the pre-election process, it’s been a too-familiar scene: people are steamin’ — ultra libs, ultra fascists, all of them in an uproar. Bodies are scattered in the median. The sedan is in flames. Check out that leg, and the sole on that shoe.
Mainline media outlets crank up the heat, the Internet cauldron fills with hot waste; the vile brew boils over, rushes out like a tsunami. Empty headed politicians who long ago lost their moral compasses, flap their gums and turn in circles.
Here in Siberia With a View, ill-clad louts drive battered pickups around town, huge flags mounted on makeshift staffs fixed in the truck beds, the flags displaying a presidential candidate’s name (any guesses?), and the local militia dinks oil their ARs, ready to protect the local barbecue joint/big game abattoir from the ravaging hippie commies who are reportedly boarding buses in Seattle in order to make the thousand-mile-plus trip here with the express purpose of destroying all that is decent and good about our rural way of life in this small part of southwest Colorado.
The presidential race? What of it?
I am asked to vote today for one grandpa or the other grandpa.
One grandpa comes downstairs for holiday meals, tell lies, brags about a work life that grows more successful with each visit but, upon examination, seems a ruin. He ridicules any idea not his own, disparages anyone with an economic status or skin color darker than his own. When the family holds a card game after dinner, he cheats. He believes if he repeats an outright lie enough times, a lot of people will believe it, and he’s right. Half the kids in the family take his side in any argument, and he argues about anything. They expect he will give them candy. The candy never arrives. The other half of the kids hate this grandpa and think they’re smarter than everyone else in the room. They sulk and use the frown and poop emojis online.
The other grandpa, the one who will move into the guest room upstairs if the grandpa-in-place is ordered out, can’t remember the rules of the card game, can’t tell a club from a heart, and wanders off mid-game to look for his dog, Skipper, who died fifty years ago.
The vote is being tallied.
The sitting VP watches the proceedings on TV, kicks back in his Barcalounger, and nervously sips warm milk.
This devout drip calls his wife “Mommy.” He tells Mommy everything is going to be OK, because Jesus is on his side. Things have to be good, after all it’s the lord, isn’t it? It’s looking grim if one believes the early returns, but divine intervention will surely remedy the situation. Won’t it?
He escorts Mommy to the bedroom, tucks her in on her twin bed, gives her a dry smooch on her forehead. He makes sure his lips are dry every time he delivers a kiss. Moisture, the hint of tongue, is terrifying, productive of evil thoughts, a prelude to unspeakable acts.
Mommy picks up her copy of Joel Osteen’s “Wake Up to Hope,” and underlines select passages before gulping down a load of melatonin and going nite-nite.
The veep tells Mommy he’s going downstairs to check the locks and security cameras, and make sure the leaf blower is safely secured in the garage. He scurries to the “den” where he cranks on the Net, clicks his way to PornHub, and watches a crack whore give a remarkably endowed black guy a blowjob.
He watches it again. And again.
The video over, the veep shuts off the computer, slaps at his swollen undercarriage, puts on his PJs, brushes his teeth, trims his nose hairs, and retreats to the now dark bedroom where he kneels at the side of his twin bed and silently begs forgiveness for his transgressions, ending with a prayer for an election victory and another term as a second lieutenant in service to an immoral commander. He repeats his mantra: “It’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t matter that he banged porn stars and let Russian girls pee on him. It doesn’t matter that nearly everything that comes out of his mouth is a lie. He opposes abortion. Or, at least he says he does. We must protect the unborn children. Once they break to daylight, it’s up to them. Amen.”
On the other side of the city, Grandpa 2’s running mate kicks off her running shoes, knocks back a couple ounces of Jack, takes her time getting ready for bed, then turns in and sleeps well, knowing she can kick anybody’s ass any fucking time she wants. And, she has a great recipe for biryani to boot.
On Fox News, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson claim they have proof the election is rigged, even though the final results are not in. They demand that martial law be imposed, voting machines be seized, and the election voided, with a rerun scheduled for a winter weekday in 2026 following a successful Republican move to redistrict all 50 states. They also urge that not every non-felon adult American should have the right to vote next time around. Hannity demands that a poll tax be reimposed in states once part of the Confederacy, and Carlson adds that a quiz devised by profs at Liberty University be administered nationwide to potential voters, with a passing grade of 80 percent required for registration for the 2026 election. Sample questions: “Who was Lawrence Welk’s violinist?” and “What are the lyrics to “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt?”
I mix and sip a triple-strength vodka tonic, down two 420 Cherrybomb edibles, and plop myself down on the overstuffed leather chair in the living room.
I look out the front windows and notice that a house across the road and down the hill a bit is being consumed by flames.
I hear sirens.
I don’t want to look.
But, I can’t help myself.