A Year Later: Different Room, Same Story

If you think you know what set this off, you’re probably right.

There are rooms I don’t go into.

People live in rooms.  Sometimes they step from one to another to go see other parts of the world, but they’ll always be back to their own rooms, the four walls that hide most of them from most of everything else.  We wander around the world with these rooms.  Sometimes the walls are permeable, and we bump into each other and for a while, we’re in the same room.  Or we bump into each other and fall into the wrong room for a bit.  We might back out and go home.  We might stay.  For a while, it might even be okay that we stay.  The owner of the room might want that. They might not. Sometimes, the people can say, “Hey, get out of my room,” and that’s enough.  Sometimes they can’t, maybe because they’d stepped out of the room for a moment and now they have dozens of unexpected guests.  Or maybe a guest won’t take the hint and go.  Or won’t leave even when asked.

Sometimes, you see somebody in their room, trying to ask all the overstaying guests to go, and you step in to help.  Sometimes, you’re overwhelmed, too, so you try to combine efforts.  Sometimes you get an entire complex of rooms belonging to people held up past their bedtime.  They’re cranky and tired and would really like to be polite, generous hosts, but that’s just past their capacity anymore because they’re already past their limits.  You’re still only asking for five minutes, but it’s not about just you anymore.  Five minutes and five minutes and five minutes.  Lost sleep and stressed patience and your five minutes now carries the weight of hours upon hours of imposition.  They get cranky.  They throw you out.  They ask you not to come back.

Even though it was just five minutes.

Sometimes you look at the tired, cranky people, and you decide to help.  Maybe you’re one of them, but have enough energy to chip in anyway.  Maybe you just feel bad for them.  So you take it on.  You join the fight.  They whine, and complain, backbite and get distracted by little side issues or things that don’t help or don’t really matter, but you let it go.  You’re in their rooms, you’re there to help, they need your help, and, ultimately, this helps you, too.  You have a later bedtime, but it’s not like you never have inconsiderate house guests from time to time.  Your room is nice.  It’s bound to happen.  Helping them, really, it helps you, too.

Except, it doesn’t work.  You work hard, you do everything right.  You work harder than some of the people in the rooms, you take on the nastier jobs, and you let them slide because hey, they’re tired, you aren’t.  Not yet.

You lose.

You lose because the people you were trying to help didn’t do what they should have in order to win.  You lose because they were so busy whining and complaining that they didn’t really ever get into the fight.  You lose because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how much five minutes after five minutes adds up, it’s Just Five Minutes.  You lose because you weren’t ever going to win.

Now you’re tired.  And you’re cranky.  And you’re surrounded by tired, cranky people who still can’t get the house guests to leave, and aren’t really even trying anymore.  They’re just talking about how much they’d like them to.  Repeating slogans from the fight.

You pass old graffiti that says, “Support early bedtime,” and where it used to make you smile and feel like you had support, like you were getting somewhere, now you just want to tear it apart and set it on fire.  What the hell were they doing, wasting time on graffiti, when they could have been helping?  And why is some of it fresh, new, when it’s been a year since you lost?  Don’t they understand that now you’re worn out and tired and you’ve locked your room because you don’t want to deal with anybody and it’s their fault for needing help and failing to use it?

And why is it that, here we are, a year later, and there’s no retrospective, no analysis of what went wrong where and what’s going to be done about it.  No apologies.  No blame.  It’s like the fight didn’t happen, and the people still playing soldier are happy to move on to something else while everybody else just shrugs and says, “Oh well.  Let’s bitch about five minute some more.”  Or worse, they’re acting like the fight is still happening and blithely ignoring the part where THEY LOST.

Fuck your five minutes.  Fuck your righteous indignation and your platitudes about this and that.  Fuck your stupid early bed time and your utterly pathetic weakness about enforcing it.  You could have had it better and you dropped the ball so just shut the ever loving fuck up and get the hell out of my room.

There’s another fight brewing.  Different people.  Different rooms.  Same structure.  Same pattern.  Same options open to everybody.  Same potential for things to get better, for people to finally get some rest, for the well-intentioned guests to learn and the malicious ones to accept their exile.

There are rooms I don’t go into.

Right now, that’s all of them.

OMG, Never Let EVS Ford Random Lake Get your Contact Information

I’m car shopping.  It’s not fun, and I’m bitter about it, but my first couple trips to dealers were actually pretty nice.  The sales people were pretty good at their jobs and had me feeling better about the whole ordeal.  I enjoy working with sales people who are good at their jobs.  And I am, admittedly, very short on patience for sales people who aren’t.  I’m glad the first couple experiences were positive, because things started going downhill with the fourth dealer I visited.  And then they went completely off the rails.

After my first non-awesome experience, I found out Costco has an affiliate program.  Awesome!  I love Costco, largely because they’re so good at customer service.  So I sent out requests to all the types of dealers I still needed to visit.  This included Ford.  And, apparently, their nearest affiliated Ford dealership is EVS Ford Random Lake.  A nice guy named Jason called me.  He actually qualified me (asked me questions to figure out what I need) before pitching a car.  He asked me about my budget and time lines on the decision.  The part where he really impressed me was when he was mentioning a manufacturer’s rebate that expired at the end of the month, then specified that for them, the end of the month isn’t until June 3.  (There are schools of sales that say he should have sat on that and pulled it out as a hero card later.  They’re bad schools.)  I got off the phone pretty enthusiastic about trying out the car he suggested.  He sent along a follow up email with the information we’d talked about, which was awesome.  This was May 9, a week ago.

May 11 brings a phone call from Jason.  He never asked me how I wanted him to follow up.  This is a problem, because I didn’t want him to follow up.  And if he had asked I’d have told him that email is much, much preferable to phone.  I hadn’t gotten out of bed yet and only answered the phone in case it was a client or something else actually important.  It was just Jason, being insecure and clingy.  He wants me to know about another thing that might work for me.  “Email it to me.  Do not call me,” I say.  I feel a little bad for being short with him when I hang up.  I was short with him, and he didn’t know that calling me at 11am on a Saturday was nearly the most obnoxious thing he could have done until he did it.

Car dealerships are not open on Sundays in Wisconsin.  By law.  Sunday was blessedly quiet.

Monday brought an email.  Subject: Dealerships must be contacting you!  I quote it below.

Hello [redacted],

We spoke last week regarding an interest in a vehicle.  I’m not here to hound you as I could tell your demeanor changed drastically the second time I called.  Other dealerships must be filling your cell phone with messages and calls.

I appreciate your interest and I’m here as a tool for you to get what you want…A VEHICLE!  Let me know how to help so I can take the load off your shoulders.  That way you can focus on work and life while I get the necessary information to make the best informed decision for you.

Thank you for your time,

The bolding is mine, because it’s more or less the line that makes both this email and everything that follows utterly unhinged.  Yes, I was short with him, he can tell I’m getting fed up, so he deals with that by…contacting me again.  Some more.  Since my complete non-response to his email on Saturday was clearly a cry for more attention.  Or something.

But wait, it gets better.

I ignore Monday’s email.  I have an infinite capacity for ignoring email.  Since it didn’t have any information I wanted, it was probably in my inbox less than a minute total.  And Jason must have realized that, because he changed tactics.

My phone does it’s hiccough-beep thing while I’m using it for work on Tuesday.  When I finish with the call I check to see which notification got choked.  It’s a text message!

Still looking for a vehicle? Jason from EvS Ford…I know your busy plz keep me in the loop!

Because text is totally a communication medium you should employ without consent from the person you’re communicating with.  It’s not like those ever cost people money to receive or anything.  (I have a text package.  But I also never assume my clients do.  Because that’s how professionals behave)

If it hadn’t been Tuesday, I might have just continued to ignore him.  But Tuesdays are more or less the worst days ever, and this one was special.  Also, despite still being in bed at 11am on Saturday, I’m kinda fuzzy on when the last time I took a day off was.  In short, I had no patience left with which to swallow my wrath.  Jason got a not very polite email.

Dear Jason,

I have gotten both your emails, and now your text.  When I said I’d be making a decision at some point in the next month, it was because I was planning to spend most of the month doing my research and pondering the decision.  I am well and truly fed up with your aggressive follow up, which you know because you acknowledged noticing my “change in demeanor” in one of the emails.

If I want to talk to you, I will contact you.  Until then, leave me alone.  You’ve pretty well talked me out of doing business with you at this point just because I’m reluctant for you to see any kind of positive return on your sales style.


I also went ahead and filled out the survey Costco sent me about my experience with the program.  I only filled it out for this dealership since I’m not finished with the others yet, so don’t yet know everything I might want to say.  I am, at this point, very done with EVS Ford.  One of their questions is about whether I need somebody to contact me about my experience.  I say no because I know that this isn’t Costco’s fault and I’ll probably just cuss at whoever calls me.

I think I must have accidentally started dating Jason or something, though, because he was deep into bad boyfriend territory.  Somehow a curt email telling him, essentially, to fuck off and die, warrants the following response a few hours later.

Perfect [redacted]!

Since I was unaware of your timeframe that helps out a lot.  I appreciate the communication and that’s the reason for the 2 e-mails and text.  I will wait to hear from you and have a wonderful day!

Thank you for your time,

I’ve been told that sometimes I’m too subtle with my exposition in stories.  I have never been accused of being too subtle while irritated.  Well, not until this email.  This email is full of, “What?  I didn’t hear your frothy rage.  I am a clueless twit who will not be deterred!  Love me, please!!!”

At least that’s the end of it, right?  He’s going to wait to hear from me.  Who cares if he missed the point, I have achieved my goal.  Right?  Right???

Situations like these leave me wondering whether I have an optimist buried deep down under my cynical shell.  Those sorts of thoughts distress me.

I get a form-ish email from Costco.  They have their Member Advocate looking into the issue.  They take their member’s feedback seriously and will have a response for me within a few business days.  Here’s how I can contact them if I like, and I shouldn’t hesitate to.  Costco, I still love you because you know what? I lied when I said I didn’t want you to contact me about this.  I didn’t realize it, but this is exactly what I wanted you to do.  Good on you for seeing that.  Love and cuddles to Costco, I feel better about the whole situation.  Which I am shut of.  Because I’m living in delusional optimist land.

Wednesday.  Six days after first contact.  The only day of peace was the one LEGALLY MANDATED.  But I’ve been rude.  I’ve sicced Costco on them.  I’m leaving the house for evening showings and not a peep from EVS Ford.  Victory!

Guess what came in about the time I’m unlocking the first house?

Hello [redacted], My name is Curt Miller and I am the General sales manager at EVS Ford Random lake.I hope during your last contact with us you were able to get all the information you were looking for.Did you?

Is there anything I can help you with? Are there any questions I can answer?

I’d be happy to help. Just reply or call me at 920-994-4376.

Thanks for your time.

I didn’t actually check this until after my showings, which is good because that particular client hasn’t signed paperwork committing to me yet and dissolving into a spewing pile of frothy, cussing wrath might have sent them running.  Justifiably.  My clients expect a particular brand of crazy from me, and that’s not it.

My response:

There is one question you can answer for me: Since stating explicitly the last time I communicated with EVS Ford Random Lake that I wanted to be left alone and this is the second contact from you since then, what exactly do I need to do to get you to stop checking in with me?  In six days I’ve had two phone calls, five emails and a text message.  At no point past the initial phone call did I invite further contact.

But just in case I was somehow unclear in my prior communication, allow me to paste it below.  This time I’ve bolded bits that were really important.  If I buried the important part in too many words, I apologize and hope I have now clearly communicated my displeasure.

I bolded the “well and truly fed up” clause and the “leave me alone.”

I suspect a reasonable, patient person would wait to see what happens from here before letting loose on a public blog.  But you know what? Fuck that.  And Fuck EVS Ford.  This is absurd, and I don’t really care how apologetic, penitent, whatever they wind up being.  This has been absurd and the entire world should be warned: Do not let these people get your contact information.  Do not talk to them.  Don’t make eye contact or sudden movements near them.


A Public Response to a Private OKC Message

Because, seriously, let this be a lesson to the world in need of such lessons.  The game we’re discussing is Agricola, which is all about how much it sucks to be a farmer, and how much sheer fiddliness people will put up with for a game with really good mechanics.  It’s up there with Age of Steam as one of my favorites.

Hahaha. I think its a pretty complex game, and definitely a gamers game.
So since its usually guys that are into it, i love when girls play!

I hope that doesn’t sound sexist. I”m bacically trying to say I like you simply based on that you play, and you beat up on your knuckle head friends =P

Allow me to catalog the levels of fail contained in this message.

1) There’s a completely unwarranted implication caused by the juxtaposition of the first two sentences.  Yes, Agricola is complex.  Yes, it s a game for people who like games, not one for people who want something to do while they’re hanging out.  No, that does not mean that it’s usually guys who are into it.

Dear clueless dude: If girls aren’t playing Agricola with you, there’s something you should know: It’s not because girls aren’t into Agricola.  It’s because they aren’t into you.  Possibly because you’re a skeevy bastard, but you may conceal that better in person than you do when trawling for women on the internet.

Dear dudes who might have said this but haven’t yet: No, really.  I know more girls fond of Agricola than guys.  Not by much.  But Agricola, in fact, happens to be the game that balanced my coterie of board gaming companions.  As in, when tallying the people I could call upon for board gaming used to have a male:female ratio of about 3:2.  Then I stumbled across a bunch of girls who really like Agricola.  The ratio is now balanced.  You want to talk to me about the gender break down on Twilight Imperium? Maybe you have some grounds there.  Agricola?  You’re doing it wrong.

2) Let me get hung up on the last clause of your second sentence.  “i love when girls play!”

Oh honey, that’s just precious.  How much more patronizing can you possible get in a message meant to solicit in-person interaction from me?  I’m just so tickled that you’re progressive enough to get giddy about girls having an interest in your manly pursuits.  Please, oh please, pat me on the head for overcoming the limitations of my sex to measure up to your standards!

Gag me with a fucking spoon.  Dipshit.

3) First sentence, second paragraph.  When the voice in the back of your head tells you to say that, what you ought to understand it to mean is, “I just said something sexist.”  You should then take the opportunity provided by the fact that this is not an instantaneous form of communication to revise what you just wrote.

4) The last sentence is actually the one that sent me over the edge, due in large parts to personal quirks that leave me harshly judging people who like me too soon and for the wrong reasons.  But, come on now, “knuckle head friends” ?  Have we been transported into some magical land where you pick up girls by addressing them the language sitcoms would have us believe would be used by their fathers?  Because if so, allow me to share this reaction: Ewwwww.

You do not like me based off a profile, single photo, and one eighty-word message.  You like the idea of me.  You are interested in me.  But you do not like me.  And, let’s be honest now, you’re not likely to wind up liking me.

No Seriously, TANSTAAFL

I’ve made it as a food blogger.  I know this, because though I’ve never tried to make it as a food blogger, I have now gotten my first overture from an internet start-up to be one of their founding content providers, in exchange for the exposure I’ll have when they make it big and take off.  They found me because they were looking for food bloggers.  Cool.  Except, not really.

Here’s the thing.  I don’t work for free.  I’m one of the most grasping, crass, mercenary people you are going to meet.  I do a great do of work for “no pay,” but absolutely none for free.  This blog?  Keeps me from driving my roommates batty, feeds my exhibitionist impulses, and is the crux of the platform that is the Anaea Lay publicity machine.  (It’s a very small machine.  And not very ambitious)  I know exactly (sorta) how big my blog audience, but in the depths of my wrinkled psychology I feel like putting things here is the same as personally telling everybody in the whole world, which makes it a lot easier for me to shut-up about thing X which I have blogged.  This is good, since otherwise I repeat myself way too much.

The Strange Horizons podcast?  Many of the same reasons as the blog, plus exposure to a bigger audience about which I care, and, most importantly, there’s now a Strange Horizons fiction podcast.  This is a thing I very much want to exist.  How much do I want it?  I price my time for hourly work at $120, and I spend anywhere from 2-7 hours a week on the podcast.  You do the math.

Seriously.  I price my time for hourly work at $120.  Why?  Because if I go back to the horrible consulting jobs I never ever want to do again, that’s what I make.  If I’m going to make less doing whatever it is I’m doing, there had damn well better be benefits that make up the difference.

Real Estate?  I do not make $120/hr doing real estate.  I do have a hell of a lot of fun.  I would not do it for free (and I am not a cheap Realtor), but as long as I enjoy it as much as I do now, I will do it for bleeding ever.

Writing?  This is a little complicated since I’m going to write whether or not I publish.  But do note, when I publish, it’s never for less than $.05/word, which is the industry concept of professional rates.  If I send something to a semi-pro that doesn’t pay that much, the thing I send is short.  Or a reprint.

Between all of this, my social life, my penchant for playing with my cat and reading books and consuming other media, etc. etc., my schedule is very full.  Not unbearably full, because I’m getting aggressive about avoiding that, but as full as I’m comfortable with.  Anybody proposing a new project to me had better have a really good case for why it’s worth throwing my delicate balance out of whack.  Really good.  I recently got invited to do a small bit of a project by the people who wound up doing it several months after I started to, then had to let drop because I was indulging in my penchant for defiantly sleeping on marble floors.  I really wanted to do that project.  I would have done it all myself, for no pay, if circumstances hadn’t readjusted my priorities.  Getting a stab at it was awesome!

I turned them down.  I angsted a bit, but I turned them down.

I’ve turned down friends on their start-ups several times at this point, too.  And in their cases, they were offering “hopefully money someday,” plus helping my friend achieve their goals.

“Exposure” is marketing talk for, “and after you believe that, there’s this bridge in Brooklyn I’ve got for sale.”  I can get exposure by running naked through the streets.  If I want a lot of exposure, all I have to do is pick big-ish author or editor X and say something calculated-ly horrible about them.  Exposure is easy.  Exposure is not valuable.  Connections are.

No, stranger I’ve never met or heard of, I do not want to provide all the content you need for your start-up to succeed.  I don’t even want to provide a fraction of it.  If you’d like to republish things I’m already doing, we can talk rates.  Otherwise?  See the headline.

Step up or Shut up

As of today, I’ve heard this line just one too many times.

Yes, if you see a thing you don’t like, it is a good thing to step up and try to change it.  Fixing an organization or group by joining the people in charge of it is dandy and direct.  People who do nothing but sit in a corner and complain are obnoxious twits.  These are all true things.

“Step up or shut up” is still crap.  I’m a constituent of at least five different political categories, four professional organizations, and three volunteer groups.  I’m also opinionated, contrary, and vocal.  I literally cannot “Step up” for everything I think could be improved or which needs to be changed in all of these things.  There are not enough hours in the week, and I say this as somebody who is intimately familiar with exactly how many working hours I have in a week.  In fact, at this point, it would be flatly irresponsible for me to do anymore stepping up because while I can manage the workload I have right now, I’m running at exactly my capacity, and if anything takes an uptick or goes wrong I am very, very screwed.

I’m a constituent of x, y, and z things because it’s not possible for everybody to take personal charge of everything that has an effect on their lives.  This is why we create bodies with representation instead of making everything happen directly.  And when I say, “Hey, this thing is a problem,” or “Wouldn’t it be better if we did things this way,” the correct response from my representatives is not, “Fix it yourself.”

My flawless brilliance notwithstanding, I don’t expect the world to jump and give me what I want every time I speak up.  I might not have all the facts.  My concerns, even if valid, may not be a reasonable priority.  What I want might be diametrically opposed to the interests of my fellow constituents.  That’s okay.  In those cases, the responsibility of my representatives is to educate me about what I’m missing or why I can’t have what I want.  Or they can explore the issue and find out if I really am the only one, or just the first one to speak up.  Or they can accept that I’m always right and do as I say.  These are all acceptable things.

But you know what?  If I had the time to step up and fix things myself, I’d bloody well be doing it already.  I’m not exactly shy about volunteering for things.  Taking charge of a thing isn’t the only way to try fixing it, and the people who insist that only the people who do this have opinions that matter aren’t just jerks, they’re bad leaders, and they’re wrong.

It’s my duty as a constituent to understand how the structure above me in whatever thing I’m a constituent of works.  It’s my duty as a constituent to interact productively with that structure.  It’s my duty as a constituent to recognize that I’m one constituent among many and nobody has infinite time and a resources.  But it is not my duty to be content or upgrade myself from constituent to representative.

My question to the next representative who says otherwise is this: What the hell do you think your job is?

Women in Combat and the Glass Floor

So, this cool thing happened last week.  Allowing women into combat and requiring them to register for the draft have been on my list of things that have to happen before we can say society actually treats men and women equally though, admittedly, not particularly high on my list.  But in listening to the coverage of this over the last week, I’m going to have to admit that I’ve been wrong to brush this off as a low priority item, because it’s clear that the current status of women in the military very elegantly illustrates what I consider to be the biggest problem for female empowerment: the glass floor.

Most people are going to be familiar with the concept of the glass ceiling, the idea that in our current society women or minorities or other marginalized groups can only rise so far before they hit invisible barriers that stop them from going any further.  There’s nothing explicitly stopping them from moving on, no official policy or blatant discrimination, it’s just that he’s more devoted to the job than she is because we notice the time she took off for her kids more than his, or the clients will be more comfortable with somebody they feel like they have something in common with, and you don’t have the right look.  It’s the insidious residue left behind when you’ve solved the big problem of getting everybody to agree that X thing is a problem, but the implications of that haven’t finished trickling through and working their way out.  And sometimes you’ll have people don’t really agree about X thing being problem adding to it, subtly reinforcing the road blocks and barriers.  It’s not something you can easily legislate against, or file a law suit over, or even make people see if they haven’t bumped into it.

The glass floor is the same thing, except in the other direction.  If (for women) the glass ceiling is built out of unexamined assumptions that women aren’t as smart, dedicated, focused, aggressive/ruthless, and innovative as men, the glass floor is built out of the idea that they’re less violent, aggressive, undisciplined, dangerous, threatening, prone to crime, etc. etc.  That women are more likely to behave, be compliant, be virtuous, follow the rules, and so on.  It’s the idea that women are the victims, but not the criminals.  We don’t rob houses, murder strangers, or rape our boyfriends.  And tied up in that perception is an element of assumption that we don’t do it because we can’t, we don’t have the power to do it.

To which my response is: Snrk.  Was I really the only person whose immediate reaction when she heard about viagra was, “Yes! Now women can spike men’s drinks at parties for rapey times!”  If so, that disturbs me, because really, that should have been everybody‘s first thought.  I’m dead serious about that.  We’re not at true gender equality until boys get warned about watching their drinks at parties because predatory women might take advantage of them just as often as girls get warned of the reverse.

I’m used to, when making arguments about the glass floor, having people say, “But shouldn’t we bring men above the glass floor, rather than dragging women below it?”  I will concede that in an ideal world, yes, the things below the glass floor would be out of reach for everybody, rather than available to everybody.  But I’m a practical, cynical creature.  I’m more interested in gender equality than I am in an ideal world free of the icky things women allegedly don’t do, and I’m quite content to ignore the potential ideal world in favor of the achievable goal.

Which is why I was wrong to more or less ignore the women in combat and related draft issue.  The reason women in the military want access to combat positions is because therein lies the path to promotion (glass ceiling) and the reason they haven’t had access to them is because women are allegedly too weak or nice to handle them or because dead female soldiers are somehow worse than dead male ones (glass floor).  The last week has been full of stories of women who are dying, getting wounded, getting captured in combat anyway, they’re falling right through that glass floor, but they aren’t getting the credit for it.  I’ve never served in the military so don’t know whether or not there’s an important but fine distinction getting ignored when telling these stories, but I don’t care.  The point is that right there, in the military, is a perfect, concrete example of the relationship between the glass structures, the way not getting credit for doing the bad things feeds into not getting credit for being able to do the good things.

I should have thought of that before now.  I should have cared more about the problems for equality at large presented by the military structures – especially given the historical relationship between the military and other social changes.  Shame on me, I know better.  I’m not aware of having brushed the issue off in front of a woman who is serving or has served, but I almost certainly have.  So.  Dear people to whom I was an ass: My bad.  I hope you said nasty things about me later and it made you feel better.

On Guns and the Control Thereof

I am, at this point, completely out of patience for everybody talking about guns, gun control, mass shootings, and everything tying those things together.    You’re all being shallow, vapid, and dumb, so stop it.  Or at least stop self-righteously prancing all over the internet with it where I can see you.

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.

That’s some pretty clear wording that, read on it its own, makes it pretty clear that any sort of gun control at all is a constitutional violation.  That is, in fact, what those words in that order mean.  It’s not craziness to read these words and walk away with that interpretation, it’s literacy.

The problem comes, as with so many things when talking legal matters, with the context.  The second amendment is my second favorite amendment.  Let’s take a look at my absolute favorite.

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.


Are we living in a world that follows this as it is literally written?  We are NOT.  Everything from prohibitions against yelling fire in a movie theater to the IRS treating churches as anything different from small businesses or corporations is, in fact, a direct violation of the literal wording.

In other words, the argument is subtle and complicated.  If you think you’ve skewered the people who disagree with you in 140 characters, what you’ve actually communicated is that you think you’re witty and aren’t actually listening to anybody else.  Which is sorta okay, I guess, because they aren’t listening to you, or even really talking to you.  But as somebody who’s chronically pissed off at everybody for being narrow-minded ideologues who are more interested in marking their moral high ground than actually having conversations about problems and issues, I find this extremely frustrating.

Here are the things I think everybody (more or less) agrees on.

1) It’s bad when people go places and start shooting strangers.

2) Gun crimes require the presence of, at a minimum, a gun and a person.

3) An absolute ban of all gun ownership for civilians does not fly without amending the Constitution.

4) The current situation needs to be fiddled with.

Are we all with me so far?  I think this is a fair summary of the common ground.  Feel free to tell me if I’ve made an incorrect assumption or missed an important element.

Now, here are my thoughts on the issue.  I invite you to disagree, tell me I’m wrong, or make counter points.  But if I’ve already seen what you have to say on Twitter a billion times, I reserve the right to yawn at you.

First off, I’m really not afraid of getting shot by a random gunman.  The odds of this happening, even in the wake of all the recent incidents, are still so very low that I’m much likelier to get myself killed with my propensity for doing 90 in a 55mph zone.  (Want to hear my rant about American speed limits?  No, no you don’t)  When I hear about a mass shooting on the news, my response is not to suddenly feel less safe in public, but to steel myself for everybody getting boringly foamy.  I’m told this makes me insensitive.  Fine.  It also makes me rational.  When we’re talking about fiddling with the social contract, I think rational is much more important than sensitive.

That said, I’m rather bothered by people not me, or personally known to me, owning guns.  I’ve met people.  On the whole they’re stupid, prone to panic, and have lousy aim.  This is true for everybody ranging from cops and soldiers to the neighbors across the street who have a weird tendency to climb onto their icy roof with a shovel.  I don’t know the actual stats, but viscerally, I’m much more worried about getting shot by a cop than I am by a random stranger.

Castle doctrine style legislation, where I don’t have to justify why the person who broke into my house is dead, strikes me as perfectly fine.  It doesn’t say I have to shoot people who break into my house, it just says that if I panic and do something extreme in a stressful situation that I didn’t ask for, there’s a limitation on the legal consequences.  My problem with these laws is that they almost always say, “Unless the person you dropped was a cop.”  Between the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, the cops are entirely too entitled to come barging into my house without clearly identifying themselves, and if it’s not my fault for panicking when a burglar, who probably just wants my stuff, breaks in, then panic when people who want to drag me off to jail and prosecute me seems all the more warranted.  At the very least, there should be a “was the police entry lawful, necessary, and appropriate,” question involved.  But then again, I also thing if I resist an arrest that gets thrown out, I should be rewarded, not punished. (This latter stance has problematic potential consequences.)

I don’t think we should have a standing military.  In fact, I think the wording of the second amendment makes it pretty clear we weren’t meant to.  And we didn’t for a very long time.  We also had a really good track record of winning wars we got involved in, despite not having a standing military before the war started.  We’ve gotten less good at winning things since that changed.  This is a shallow rendering of the history, but it’s one I think is worth ruminating on.

On the other hand, I think we ought to beef up the National Guard in a huge way.  Having an organization whose mission is to defend the homeland and its citizens against disasters of the man made and natural varieties strikes me as a brilliant idea.  I’d even get behind a societal expectation that most people will spend a year or two signed up for it, especially if it cuts down on the “You have to go to college to get any kind of worthwhile job, whether or not college actually helps you for it,” we have going on currently.  Also, anybody who deploys the National Guard for a war not occurring on American soil should be prosecuted for treason.

We need to dispense with our cultural conditioning toward victimhood post-haste.  There’s hasn’t been a successful plane jacking or terrorist plot involving planes since 911, not because of the TSA, and not just because the people who’ve tried have almost universally been morons, but because civilians were paying attention and thwarted the plot.  (Granted, there have been plots foiled before they got to the airport or on the plane.  Credit to those who’ve earned it.  The TSA, not among them)  The days of passively accepting a plane jacking so we can all make it out alive are over.  This strikes me as a very good thing.  This is the idea behind Stand Your Ground style legislation.  I like the idea.  I find most of the actual implementation of it to be unsubtle and problematically buggy.  Possibly terminally so.  I am very interesting in finding a workable version of it, though, because the fact is that whole swaths of American society can’t trust the cops to protect them.  These are not the swaths often cited as loudly petitioning for this sort of legislation, but that has no bearing on the actual merit of the arguments.

The one point I’m not really willing to be flexible on is this: If a government entity is allowed to own a certain weapon for potential use on civilians, then civilians should be allowed to own that weapon as well.  I’ll entertain arguments for more or less powerful weapons.  But if the government is giving them to people for domestic use, then they will be available on the black market.  Any system that creates or enables a black market availability of things that then cannot be acquired legally is, as far as I’m concerned, fatally flawed.  You want to give the police rocket launchers?  Sure.  But I want to be able to get one too.  You want to cut the police off at hand guns?  I’m not going to squawk about doing the same to me.

And those are pretty much my parameters for what I’m going to consider an acceptable shift in the status quo.  You’ll note, that means I’ll accept shifts both toward more control, and less of it, but with other effects taken into account.  If you’re arguing for a society where everybody is armed, I’m expecting you to also argue for dismantling the TSA and rolling back most of the police empowerment the War on Drugs has sparked.  If we’re self-policing, then let’s self police.  If we’re trusting the government to do our policing, let’s make sure the government can be trusted.

Either way, could we stop sound-biting each other to death?