Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Why we cannot respect our elders...

This smug asshole is the embodiment of willful and
hateful ignorance hiding as "folksiness"

Seriously, fuck this guy.

Respect your elders. It's one of the most sacred and shared traditions across the world. It's mandated by most rules of etiquette, it seems to be a foundation of a civilized society as it encourages us to be receptive to the lifetimes of collective knowledge our forerunners held...

But this generation of elders makes it damned hard to hold them in any kind of esteem. The smug turd pictured above is Don Martin, who has recently had some Facebook/Meme fame from some ignorant commentary he wrote to a local paper who had the bad judgement to print it. You may have already seen this is you have friends/family who follow Facebook Groups like "White History Month" or People Who Believe What Fox News Says" or "Hives of Scum and Villiany". The piece goes as follows:

...Heavy Sigh

There are two points I want to address here:
#1) This man just told a story about how he left a loaded gun accessible to minors and anyone else.
This is a horrible thing to make light of, letting kids have unsupervised access to weapons with no training or preparation is a terrible thing to do. Hundreds of kids die needlessly in our country each year, because worthless fucks won't secure their damned weapons. I know this is just some bullshit fantasy story by an crusty old fuck, but it is still a pretty horrible thing to gloss over.

#2) This man is arguing against NOBODY.
I've been a fairly liberal fellow for a long damned time, and that means I've come across my fair share of individuals who advocate stronger and smarter gun control laws. I have spoken to hundreds of gun policy advocates in my political life and - during those several decades - I have met precisely ZERO people who have professed a belief that guns, absent a human operator, kill people.

Well, maybe this one exception

This man is having an argument against imaginary opponents who are stating something they have only said in his imagination, and is smugly proud of himself for winning that fight. It would be as if someone bragged to you about winning a fierce physical battle against a severely disabled man who they bested in a dream they had once. Whether talking about gun policy, social programs, military interventions, crime prevention, or tax laws... there are individuals who strongly argue against positions they pretend their imaginary opponents had, and then they congratulate themselves for winning.

It looks like this.
(Note: Clint Eastwood may have been having some fun
at the Republicans expense by doing this bit.)

Now, let me give you some background on my position. I've lived for years in Rural Missouri and have been shooting in some fashion since grade school. I have a silly and unjustifiable number of guns and may very well buy some more. I was taught to fire a pistol by a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces in Europe Pistol Team who also happened to be an Infantry Sergeant AND my father. I carried a weapon for a while as a body guard, as a contractor in Iraq, AND as a soldier in the United States Army for two tours of duty. I've qualified from "passed" to "expert" on a variety of weapons and even coached others on ranges for certain weapons. I am by no means an expert, but I am not unfamiliar with weaponry nor its purpose....

...That being said, firearms are tools designed to kill things from a distance. Some of these weapons are designed to kill animals (We call this hunting), and some of these weapons are designed to kill human beings. There is much variety based on what you wish to kill, from how far away, how many targets you may have, what weight you are willing to carry, and many other concerns. There exist shooting sports not focused around killing - but traditionally those events (such as skeet shooting) existed to prepare hunters for the hunting season or soldiers for war - only recently have those taken on a life of their own competitively.

Ancillary purposes exist for firearms, but those are derived from their primary purpose. For instance you can deter attacks with firearms, because of the firearm's understood lethality. Firearms are not a tool that fails when it's use leads to injury and death, rather, that is their purpose. This is no great secret, in fact, many of us were trained on understanding the lethality of firearms and - therefore - the respect and care we should utilize regarding handling and accounting for these tools. Don Martin was in the Marines - unless military training was different back in his day than in more recent times - he should be fully aware that his rifle wasn't issued to him to be a cane or tentpole, but rather an instrument of directed violence.

Baby boomers, despite their outward appearance, were not BORN old and withered

I was curious about Don Martin after reading the letter, but with a name and the small town he is from a man is easy to find. Like most people who write letters to the local paper in 2014, Don has a blog (or several). You can read them here. His writings indicate he seems a nice enough and respectable fellow in his personal life. Father, husband, solid career, veteran... he has made some good choices and seems curious enough to still be in classes well into his retirement years. The man seems to have a happy life he has worked hard for and - in that - I wish him happiness.

But there is also a side of him engaged in public commentary, and it shows he has been afflicted by the same mental disease that has claimed so many of our elders. He has a chronic case of smug conservatism. He has his links to people calling state budget officials "Socialist" for the mildest of policy changes. He links to deceptive drivel like The Drudge Report. He has the standard anti-Union, anti-Teacher, anti-State smears blaming budget shortfalls on (supposedly) highly compensated teachers, police, corrections officers, and so on. There is a reasonably good chance that his friends and associated get a deluge of forwards about the need to cut food stamps, working people's pensions, education, environmental protection, and so on. There is a decent chance he promotes a conspiratorial and paranoid notion of government that prevents reasonable discussions. Somehow he has fallen into the abyss of conservative swill that has nearly halted our ability to respect an entire class of our elders.

Go ahead and hit "share". It probably checks out.

I want to have a healthy respect for the wisdom of the generation that came before me. I really do. But you lose some of that each time you hear one of them who can't explain aggregate demand tell you how to improve the economy, or hear one who can't explain the difference between the "debt" and the "deficit" tell you how to balance the budget, or listen to one who has never set one foot in the Middle East tell us how to "straighten things out" over there. The "Greatest Generation", the one who has personal memories of FDR and Eisenhower, of a nation that fully committed to difficult choices, of sacrifices abroad AND at home for the cause of Liberty... they are dying off. Our current group of elders have lived much of their lives on the successes their parent's generation fought for. Social Security and Medicare... these are programs from the New Deal era. Working, mostly Union men and women had to go to the streets to fight for the worker protections that existed when this generation entered the workplace. It is easy to praise the virtues of unregulated capitalism when the hard work of your predecessors protects you from its worst predations.

David Mitchell is a great comedian, and often great comedy comes from a great insight into human conundrums. One of these is that it is hard for him to respect the latest generation to turn elderly. I am sharing that below.

I like the summation of comparing the Greatest Generation to the next couple as such "They didn't beat Hitler... ... They presided over our long slide into mediocrity"

That kind of summarizes how generations following "The Greatest Generation" have held up. The fact that we collectively call their parents "The Greatest Generation" without their protest is a sign they don't plan of having a similar legacy. For a couple of centuries the United States expanded, or was at least open to admitting the willing as members states. The last state admitted to the Union was Hawaii in 1959. It isn't like we don't have options (D.C., Puerto Rico, The Virgin Islands) The vast majority of Americans alive today have never seen the flag have a different number of stars in their lifetime. The last Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1992, after being submitted in 1789. The "Living Document" has not changed since I have been a legal voter. Our largest corporation (Wal Mart) grows its fortune not by developing some innovative new product or service, but by keeping wages for most of its workers at or below the poverty line.

I recently wrote on how we are sold bullshit by way of social media, but I don't think that people who promote bullshit realize the respect they lose when they take their place on the bullshit pipeline. This goes double for the times when they "argue with the empty chair" which is as bad as the bullshitting. Any discussion of how we can keep the violent or mentally ill from getting extremely lethal firearms? That degenerates into "Guns don't kill people" childish nonsense. Any discussion of a collection of pressing issues becomes the same. On issues where there is a clear generational divide (Allowing gays to openly serve in the military, allowing the decriminalization of Marijuana in some states) it looks like the apocalyptic fantasies our elders had were exactly that, fantasies.

There is a lesson here I hope my generation takes in. Bullshit kills respectability. Smugness kills respectability. Technology allows an accountability for one's words more than ever before. It also enables Mark Twain's "A lie can travel around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes"(*) more than ever before. A deluge of "noise", of distraction and deception bombards us as never before. Taking the time to cut through it and promote only what is true is a more stand out respectable trait than ever. We live in a world that is, and will, face a gauntlet of challenges to us - both public and private - that take everything we can to meet. We DO NOT have time to argue with chairs or Straw Men. Those before us have wasted enough time with nonsense, it's going to be up to us to restore that path to greater and better things.

I leave you with this, from the comic geniuses at SMBC Theater:

*-Mark Twain, Selected Writings of an American Skeptic

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