Presently I have several dozen articles for my blog in various states of completion, some because I am still searching for the right photographs or illustrations, some because I simply have not yet summoned the energy or will power to complete them, and some still mere outlines. So I guess today I will simply wonder or complain about a number of issues and conditions that have bothered me lately.
First, I have to wonder about “damaged guardrail ahead”. I have encountered this warning sign occasionally on my travels on Interstate highways, most recently on several trips on I-40 between Holbrook, Arizona and Gallup, New Mexico. But exactly why is this sign there? If a damaged guardrail was protruding onto the roadway or even the shoulder I could understand and appreciate the warning. But since it’s simply a damaged guardrail, why would I need to be warned? If I lose control of my vehicle and am about to hit the guardrail, should I hope to hit an an undamaged section or the already damaged area? Or is the warning simply about the several orange barrels around the damaged area, which themselves extend neither onto the right of way nor the shoulder? Or am I supposed to glance quickly as I speed by, shake my head thoughtfully and murmur to myself, “Why yes, that guardrail is indeed damaged.” Why are not the striped orange barrels themselves a sufficient warning? Why the sign? Why go through the trouble of distracting motorists with this warning about nothing? Now if there was a repair crew present repairing the damaged rail and their equipment was blocking either the shoulder or right-of-way, I would be grateful for the warning. But there’s not so I simply do not comprehend the reason for this warning. A minor issue, yes, but you’d be surprised (or concerned for me) at how much I’ve wondered about it.
And I have another question – a simple one about the semantics employed by politicians and the media to describe the governments of certain countries. It’s quite interesting that we refer to our government as the “administration” or simply “government”, while we refer to those we don’t particularly like with the less savory and more pejorative term “regime”. Thus, while it’s the Trump “administration”, it’s the Assad “regime”. While it’s the Netanyahu “government” or “coalition” in Israel, it’s definitely the Putin “regime” in Russia and the Maduro “regime” in Venezuela. And it’s quite interesting to note that as Turkey’s president Recip Tayip Erdogan has moved rightward over the last several years, the term used to describe the deteriorating Turkish democracy has moved from the Turkish “government” or the Erdogan “presidency” to now the Erdogan “regime”. Perhaps, particularly in view of the disastrous performance of its chief executive, we need to employ this term to describe the present US government. Doesn’t “Trump regime” sound more accurate than “Trump administration”? Well, maybe not actually, since the term “regime” also connotes staying power and most Americans are thankful that this presidency will most likely end in 2020 if not sooner. In the meantime I guess we should be thankful that our friends in western Europe have governments and not regimes.
Also, I am bothered by some other semantic proclivities of our news media and politics. Why do we talk about nations whose policies and practices we dislike using terms like “behavior” or “punishment”? Oh yes, let’s level some economic sanctions on Venezuela….or Iran…..or Russia to “punish” them in order to change their “behavior”. Nations are not children. They generally do not respond to punishment or rewards like recalcitrant children are supposed to. Incidently it’s been shown that punishment and rewards are the least effective way to deal with misbehaving children and I would suggest that nations are much the same. It seems to me that they appreciate being addressed respectfully and deferentially and respond to being included in the international family of nations. How much of Russia’s “behavior” is provoked by its isolation caused by the seemingly endless expansion of NATO right up to its borders? How much of Iran’s “behavior” is defensive reaction to our eternal and fruitless meddling in the Middle East and our apparently limitless support of Israel. Let’s welcome all nations into the international community, listen to their point of view and see if their “behavior” improves.
Another thing that has disturbed me a great deal in recent years is the use of the term “suspect”. While there may be legal reasons (my lawyer son informs me that there in fact are) for the media to avoid words that ascribe guilt to obvious perpetrators of crimes before they are actually tried in court, I still find it somewhat ludicrous to call some guy who emerges from the death and carnage he has caused, bloody and still armed, a “suspect”. My God, he was observed shooting and killing people – here are the eyewitnesses, there it is on the video – yet we must dutifully refer to this nutcase as a “suspect”? Please.
And while that’s quite ridiculous, there’s another aspect to mass killings that I find difficult to deal with – and that is the use of the term “motive”. After such a dreadful incident, the cops turn themselves inside out to find a “motive”. Why for crying out loud must there always be a “motive” for a heinous crime? Maybe the shooter was simply crazy, insane, high on drugs, or didn’t have any idea of what he was doing. Yet we always seem to need a motive. Yes, again there may be a legal reason to ascertain a motive but if there is none discovered, so what? A terrible crime was committed and must be dealt with anyhow. And I fail to see how discovery of a “motive” would make anyone affected by the crime feel any different or any better about it.
One of the very latest such dreadful events, the killing of 12 people in a California country and western bar plus the suicide of the shooter, elicited the following police statement – “the gunman’s home and car were being processed for evidence …but it was too early to determine a motive for the shootings.” Right, and the nutcase who shot over 60 people in Las Vegas from his fortified hotel room stocked with an arsenal of guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition caused the authorities to shake their heads and stroke their chins trying to figure out his “motive”. Come on now – “motive”? What the hell do you need a motive for in acts like these? Maybe the perpetrators were just nuts, crazy, insane. Why all the worry and fretting about a motive? And what if all this concern and cogitation did in fact establish a motive? So what? Does knowledge of a motive make the deed any more or less acceptable or understandable to the bereaved or the news media or the legal authorities? Hey, forget the motive and focus instead on how these people managed to buy their guns and ammunition even though they were certifiably insane or emotionally unstable.
And there’s another thing that really bugs me about the news reports of some terrible deed committed by a jerk with a gun (wait – he’s just a “suspect”, right?), and that’s the use of the positively ubiquitous term cluttering such incidents – “investigating” or “investigation”. Yes, a cop shoots an unarmed black guy and it’s all caught on video from a security camera or the cop’s own body camera and the incident is being “investigated”. A Palestinian is shot in the back by an Israeli soldier and there’s the video that shows clearly what happened. Yet the incident is being “investigated” by the IDF. No apologies, no admissions, no confessions but merely an “investigation”. And we all know how biased these conveniently named “investigations” are. The term should define gathering, clarifying and exposing the facts, but almost always instead means delay, obfuscation and ultimately burying the issue or incident.
Also, every time there is a mass shooting you hear something like – “We’re investigating this event as an act of terrorism”. Why? Did the guy who committed the act, the “suspect”, have a Muslim name? Was he a Palestinian? Oh, he was just some dumbass white guy – well, no terrorism there. And what’s the difference between investigating such a crime as an “act of terrorism” or as just another in the never ending series of American mass shootings? You still need a “motive”, right? And the omnipresent goofball reporters from corporate media are right there with their stupid questions – “will you be investigating these killings as an act of terrorism?” “Was the ‘suspect’ a “terrorist”?
And related to this, I am also bugged by the occasional reference to a horrible murder or beating as “a possible hate crime”. Again, so what? Was the sadistic murder of nine black parishioners in an Atlanta church by racist white guy Dylan Roof terrorism or a hate crime? Who cares? Just get this disgusting bigoted killer into court and prison. Put him away, get him off the streets. Don’t worry about his “motive”. And again, ask yourselves how someone so dangerous obtained his guns. Same questions about the recent attack on actor Jussie Smollett. My God, I felt so edified to read that this act of violent virulent racism was being investigated as a “possible hate crime”. Give me a break, what does this profound revelation add to our discourse and discussion?
And a side note – honestly I think the police enjoy mass shootings – it’s such a great opportunity to get decked out in the assault gear – the body armor, the automatic rifles, the helmets, trotting out the armored cars, the armored troop transports, all the other crap that the military has given them and that Israel, our 51st state, has trained them to use.
And here’s another thing that drives me crazy. I don’t know how many times a day on the news that in response to yet another insult to humanity committed by our government (regime?) I hear the phrase, “This is not who we are…” I’m sorry, I beg to differ. It is happening here, we’re doing it, so consequently this is who we are. This phrase is worn out; it’s meaningless. Why do we continue to employ it? About torture – “this is not who we are…” Baloney – this is who we are. We were doing it, we rationalized it, justified it, we tortured people. Oh sure, we called it “enhanced interrogation”. It was torture, it is torture. And we did it and are probably still doing it. So this is who we are.
And our military killing innocent people – this is not who we are? Come on now, it happened during the Viet Nam war, it happened during the first and second Iraq wars, it happened in Afghanistan. And it’s happening right now as we spread our troops around the entire globe. So this is who we are.
And in our rash of mass shootings and dozens of incidents of the police killing unarmed black people, we hear the talking heads say that this is not who we are. But…this is who we are. We make the laws that allow crazy people to own guns; we arm the cops and train them to shoot first and ask questions later. This is who we are. We are the mass shooters and we are the policemen who shoot innocent people.
And this rogue, confused, random and evil presidency is who we are also. So, cable news pundits, don’t keep saying this is not who we are. We elected this monster. You gave him all the free time he wanted on your TV program, Joe and Mika, just like Fox News, so stop saying this is not who we are. We continue to enable this obscene presidency through publicizing Trump’s every taunt and tweet. Unfortunately this is who we are. We earned this presidency – we deserved it.
And we deal with a constant flood of Trump, Trump, Trump on cable news, to the detriment of so many other important US and international news and important issues. Why is no one talking about the $7200 per minute we are giving to rogue nation Israel over the next ten years? Why is no air time devoted to this nation’s constant flaunting of international law or its indiscriminate slaughter of unarmed Palestinian demonstrators near its border now numbering almost 300 dead and over 29,000 wounded? Why nothing about the Palestinian father of four murdered in his own village by Israeli settlers? And why is there so little concern with what should be the biggest story of the day, of the week, of the year – climate change? No, we just wait expectantly for Trump’s latest inane tweet, his latest schoolyard taunt, his latest paranoid comment about the “witch hunt” and blather on…and on….and on.
Oh, and I just about forgot. Another thing that really bothers me is the another common refrain among those that recite our corporate news for us is “This is an attack on our Democracy”. Oh come on now, our so-called “democracy” is gasping, wheezing, dying – it’s on life support. Oh sure, every two years we have an election and we smugly feel, well, we voted some people in and some people out – it feels a little like democracy. But think about it – all this electioneering and campaigning costs money – and who pays? – mostly wealthy donors and corporations. So who’s really calling the shots? Who’s really controlling our Congress? Isn’t government by a wealthy few called an oligarchy? The demise of our democracy is truly newsworthy yet no one on MSNBC, CNN or Fox one seems to be talking about it.
There now, I’ve finished. I don’t know what you think of this article or whether you agree or disagree with some of my complaints and issues. But for what’s it’s worth, I do feel much better, having written it. Now, for the rest of the articles I’m trying to complete – I need to get busy on them.