And so we come to the talking dog's (the reticent homo sapien behind the talkative canine) 55th birthday. Which means, for those who can't do arithmetic, that I was born during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Somehow, we survived that. I'd like to think that the republic (and its occupants) will survive the current crisis we are in.
While the republic continues its ongoing journey to hell in a hand-basket in front of us because one of our "major" parties is willing to be in league with the Devil (or at least a hostile foreign power) in order to hold power, even if it means, well, the republic going to hell in a hand-basket, your talking dog managed to eke out a finish in his 50th marathon (the goal of 50-states is stuck now at 21 states plus 2 Canadian provinces and D.C., but we're still working on it!) It was a lovely day, albeit still too hot, on the boardwalk at Rock Rock Rock Rockaway Beach (btw, please note the album title.).
And this alleged parody from The Onion's blog, purportedly by Paul Ryan, bizarrely makes a point I have been trying to make for a long time: the mass shootings are more closely related to political inattention to mental health issues than they are to poor gun control policy. Seriously: the United States has always had an insane number of (and reverence for) firearms-- probably more guns than people during the course of my own life anyway. What is different these days, uniquely so, is that now insanely powerful weapons that should never, EVER be in private hands are in the hands of people with mental health issues, in a society that can't be bothered to go through the irritating, time-consuming process of trying to sort them out when there is a far more profitable opportunity simply to prescribe extraordinarily powerful pharmaceuticals, which might or might not have some side effects (such as delusions, or suicidal or even homicidal ideations.)
Or as I like to put it, when you have a failing culture, a failing economy, a failing educational system, a failing foreign policy, the millions of miserably unhappy people that go along with all of that "winning," together with the most powerful (and mind altering) pharmaceuticals that have ever been created along with the ability to privately own arsenals of military grade weapons, what could possibly go wrong? I should throw in how unhealthy our people are, with such details as the United States having the world's highest obesity rate, for example. That's a feel-good thing all by itself (and immensely profitable for both Big Pharma and Agri-business.)
You see where this is going? The actual powerful are well aware that the rubes feel much more powerful if you throw them a few bones. One of those bones, of course, is historical racism, the brilliant and long-standing means by which the powerful have prevented (almost uniquely on Earth) the development of class consciousness here, because poor/working class White people have been conditioned to believe that their enemies are poor/working class people of color, and that their "friends" are their (invariably) White overlords of the upper classes. It's a hell of a trick, and you need look no further than the election of Donald Trump by white people (Ta-Nehisi Coates handles the subject brilliantly); people can delude themselves into thinking it had to do with economic insecurity of the White working class all they want, but it's the divide and conquer trick, stupid. (BTW, Bill Clinton, good one with Ricky Ray Rector; it's the economy stupid and America's first Black President MY ASS.)
Where was I? Oh yes. Bones thrown to the rubes to make them feel so powerful that they wouldn't even dareDREAM of taking on the actual powerful who are actually making their lives miserable. Yes. The other of those bones thrown to the rubes here in the USA (the only industrialized country and one of only two in the world that does not have any kind of mandatory paid leave for child-bearing, btw)... is ready access to guns. And I mean GUNS. Not just hand guns, but long guns, and military grade semi-automatic weaponry that can (and usually is) easily convertible to fully automatic. Man does we love our guns! And the worse the reports of mass shootings like the one in Vegas get, the more gun sales go up (talk about win-win!)
(Yes, I know Barack mentioned that the poor rubes in... was it rural Pennsylvania?... cling to their "guns and religion." Barack, man, their guns are their religion.) So, my point is, like racism, which is enshrined in the First Amendment (again, the United States, pretty uniquely, finds racist, hateful, even threatening speech in that regard to be constitutionally protected), the incidence of gun ownership, also pretty uniquely in the United States, is now constitutionally enshrined. Obviously, the Constitution could use some amending, but given where things presently stand, maybe we should just leave it alone for the time being, but my point is simply, more or important than the "legal" enshrining is the cultural enshrining of these things.
So again, what is "different"? Ah, that's where I was going, wasn't it? The question I should be asking is What makes these young Scotsmen so keen to kill themselves? what is it that makes so many Americans so unhappy that they turn to our healthcare system for relief, only to be prescribed bad-ass pharmaceuticals that might make them "feel better," but also might help make them obese, or even more unhappy, or even suicidal or homicidal? And the answer is shockingly simple. It's... wait for it... reality.
Most people don't do anything real anymore. And what's worse, the most exalted "value" we have (that would be "money") is itself a complete fiction, entirely absent in nature, and virtually unknown throughout human history until remarkably recently! These days, of course, the zombie apocalypse is now evident on virtually every street, as people mindlessly stare at their screens or shout into the void as they walk down the streets, utterly oblivious of their surroundings (often as they sometimes amble in front of moving vehicles, or perhaps the driver is ensconced talking, texting, or otherwise oblivious or where they actually are). And otherwise, you are likely to go to work and watch bouncing electronic impulses on a cathode ray tube (whether words or moving images), and then come home and do much the same. And then you realize that dicks like Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook owners have become some of the richest people in the world by providing nothing... not merely nothing "of value," but NOTHING. That's right: Gates and Jobs provided at least arguably superior operating systems to make computers run "better," if you accept the premise that they did. And Bezos is delivering more and more crap to you via UPS from Amazon (even as he decimates America's once-employed-a-lot-or-people brick and mortar retail apparatus). But Zuckerberg and people like that? NOTHING. AT. ALL.
Actually, much worse than nothing. What they gave us with their mediocre quality high school level computer programming was a means of intermediating relationships that used to be real. That's right: you used to send your friends birthday cards, or call them on the phone (or better yet, throw them parties and give them hugs.) Now, you "like" them, "friend" them, "follow" them, "poke" them... all with quotes around, because NONE OF IT IS FUCKING REAL.
But this is how people lead their lives now, whether with Facebook, or other anti-social "media." Throw in shockingly low workforce participation, and miserable, poorly paid, ever-more automated workplaces (if you're lucky enough to be working at all), the unbelievable number of single-person households, the insane isolation of suburbia (and for that matter, everywhere else), and you get... really unhappy people. In other countries, there are broad connections of family, or church, or community, or even "the people." Here, capitalism has been merrily breaking down all of those human connections for a really long time.
Which takes us to where we are now: really unconnected, confused, unhealthy, unhappy, financially vulnerable (less than half the country even has a few hundred dollars to their name for an emergency car repair, for example)... is it any wonder that, when you throw in the usual cultural tendency to quick, easy sounding answers, people will turn to badass drugs and, all too often, to badass weaponry?
Alrightie then. Your mission is to quite literally get real: do real things. Garden, exercise- outside, talk to people (face to face), hug your loved ones... the whole bit. And maybe the love we can start to generate will crowd out the existential emptiness that is slowly killing us, and all-too often, leading others to quickly kill us.