Given the choice between modernity and barbarism

She was my world he said

“Antonio Basco had been sleeping on the pavement next to his wife's new cross for nearly a week,” this story from Buzzfeed says and he didn’t know what else to do he told them because he had slept next to his wife Margie Reckard every night for twenty two years and now she’s gone since she was shot to death at the Walmart in El Paso and that’s about it for today I want to say that’s the entire newsletter what else is there to say about anything.

“She was my world,” he said.

There is a happy ending of sorts I guess although I don’t know if we can call it that. It’s like one of those feel-good stories the TV news loves when the community rallies together to raise money so a Girl Scout with cancer doesn’t have to sell cookies to pay for her treatment anymore. The type of thing they have to show us from time to time to trick us into thinking the world is kind so we don’t lose our minds or revolt. It’s like when doctors have to cut your scalp open to alleviate pressure on your brain when you’ve been in a terrible accident except the terrible accident is called America and capitalism.

You may have seen Basco’s story about how he was worried no one would come to his wife’s funeral since they didn’t have much family in the area so he invited whoever wanted to come and then hundreds of people did.

“Basco walked into the La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Center to a storm of applause and a procession of people wanting to hug him,” CNN reported. “The building was at capacity with 400 mourners. Outside, another 700 waited in nearly 100-degree heat to pay respects, according to funeral organizers.”

People came from around the country and people sent flowers from all over the world and people donated money to help fix up his car and things like that and you want to think that would ameliorate the pain somewhat and I’m hoping it did for him but you know that no one could do what he really wants which is to have his wife not be sacrificed in one of our regularly scheduled freedom renewal rituals.

I guess they’re considering an assault weapons ban in Florida which is surprising to me and they had a hearing on it recently with state economists and a lobbyist from the NRA named Marion Hammer was there and she said such a ban would force the 150 gun manufacturers in the state to flee. I didn’t even know there were 150 different gun manufacturing companies all combined never mind just in Florida but I guess that math makes sense.

The amendment would ban the future sales of assault rifles the Tampa Bay Times reported and make people who own them currently either give them up or register them.

“If I were the owner of one of these firearm manufacturing companies, I wouldn’t wait to see what voters do,” she said. “If this were allowed to go on the ballot, I’d say, ‘I’m outta here,’” she said and something else she said was this:

“How do you tell a 10-year-old little girl who got a Ruger 10/22 with a pink stock for her birthday that her rifle is an assault weapon and she has to turn it over to government or be arrested for felony possession?”

I don’t know maybe read her the story about Antonio Basco?

Did you see Midsommar god it was so weird and unnerving and bleak and good and one of the themes is how alien the group’s customs seem to the outsiders who visit them like the death rituals they willingly give themselves over to to please the gods or nature or whatever and we the viewers and the American characters all go that is so fucking strange that they do that to themselves why do they do that. In the movie it’s because they have faith in their connection to nature but we don’t have a connection to nature here in America we have a connection to something called freedom which also cannot exist without the spilling of blood.

This disgusting place was a mistake.

I just saw another strange and wonderful film called Under the Skin and it has haunted me for days. One of the striking things about it is how it stylizes the violent predation and that choice is so much more affecting than showing the actual gore would be.

That’s the opposite of what we do when there are shootings here we just don’t show the gore at all. Easier not think it’s real that way.

This big new package from the New York Times Magazine is a series of essays looking back at how this country’s creation wasn’t just aided by the institution of chattel slavery it is in fact the entirety of our origin story.

“American slavery began 400 years ago this month. This is referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s true origin,” it reads.

This piece by Nikole Hannah-Jones should be required reading.

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade. This would have upended the economy of the colonies, in both the North and the South. The wealth and prominence that allowed Jefferson, at just 33, and the other founding fathers to believe they could successfully break off from one of the mightiest empires in the world came from the dizzying profits generated by chattel slavery. In other words, we may never have revolted against Britain if the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. It is not incidental that 10 of this nation’s first 12 presidents were enslavers, and some might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy.

It’s a great essay but one thing that stuck out to me was this sentence: “forced labor camps which we like to call plantations.”

Did you see this going around the other day? It was a bad review left by a woman who had visited McLeod Plantation in Charleston who was apparently looking for something else than the truth.

Here’s another bad review from a different forced labor camp.

And here’s another essay from the NYTM’s series on slavery about how it not only made America the economic powerhouse it remains today but also established the very intricate system of capitalism that each of us labors under right now even if we don’t know it!!

Here’s one part worth remembering:

Slavery was undeniably a font of phenomenal wealth. By the eve of the Civil War, the Mississippi Valley was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the United States. Cotton grown and picked by enslaved workers was the nation’s most valuable export. The combined value of enslaved people exceeded that of all the railroads and factories in the nation. New Orleans boasted a denser concentration of banking capital than New York City. What made the cotton economy boom in the United States, and not in all the other far-flung parts of the world with climates and soil suitable to the crop, was our nation’s unflinching willingness to use violence on nonwhite people and to exert its will on seemingly endless supplies of land and labor. Given the choice between modernity and barbarism, prosperity and poverty, lawfulness and cruelty, democracy and totalitarianism, America chose all of the above.

Having a hard time making the type of transition I usually do in here from the horrific to the mundane. Probably won’t be many jokes in this one if I’m being honest except for this tweet I am probably overly pleased with myself about that I wrote last night while sitting at the shitty neighborhood pub:

Do you ever have that whiplash where you’re looking at the unending missives from the village of the diarrhea people on Twitter or reading stories in the news like some of those ones above or maybe even reading this newsletter and then you put your phone down and walk outside and someone holds the door for you or smiles cordially and you’re like what the fuck is this guy’s deal and then you realize they’re probably just being baseline decent and then it takes your brain a second or two of lag to catch up to remember that you’re inclined to be pleasant too and not always coiled like a rattlesnake?

Michelle told me the other day she was hiking in Big Sur on a hill or a mountain or whatever and she and our niece were startled by a rattlesnake that appeared out of nowhere on the path and they got so scared they almost sprinted off the edge of the cliff. They Facetimed me later to explain it and I didn’t like hearing that one bit. Stop going near cliffs!!! I said. I feel like avoiding cliffs is something that is fairly easy and reasonable for a person to do. Accidents can happen anywhere but you can take certain precautions in your life like not going near cliffs where snakes might be but you can’t really avoid going places where people with guns might be because that is everywhere.

She got back early this morning on the flight from California so she’s sleeping right now late into the morning and I have gone in to check that she’s still there sleeping a couple times because I don’t know what I would do if she wasn’t some day. Probably start spending a lot more time near cliffs I would guess.

Speaking of cliffs I asked my publisher what the back cover of the book was going to look like the other day. I was curious because there’s this description on the website for the book where the blurb they came up with says something like “When Luke O’Neil isn’t angry, he’s asleep” and I said I was hoping they don’t put that on the back of the book and that it has always sort of bothered me because it’s not true I’m also very angry when I’m asleep.

There it is. Who gives a fuck.

He also asked me to read it over one last time for any changes and I said I’m not reading it again lol I’ve read it so many times and every other time I do I change what I think about it sometimes I think it fucking sucks and will end up being a huge waste of everyone’s time and sometimes I think eh I dunno maybe it’s pretty good but that is also how I think about every single other thing in the world and also life in general so maybe I’m not a reliable witness.

Speaking of reliable witnesses I just read a story from the Oregonian about how police in Portland were looking for a suspect in a series of bank robberies and they did the thing where they show witnesses an array of photos and for one of the men who they suspected did the robberies they altered his photo which sounds bad enough on its own until you see how extensive the alteration was. Check out this fucking shit:

None of the bank tellers who some man robbed whoever he was reported him as having tattoos all over his face which seems to me the sort of detail you would remember when looking at a person’s face while they are robbing you.

Some of the bank tellers went on to pick out the man in question Tyrone Lamont Allen as the robber.

From the story:

The practice came under fire this week in a federal courtroom in Portland as Allen’s attorney argued that the manipulation allowed police to “rig the outcome” of the photo lineup.

The standard law enforcement tool is under ongoing scrutiny. This example floored Jules Epstein, a law professor at Temple University and leading national authority on eyewitness testimony.

In his 40 years as a lawyer and law professor, Epstein said he’s never heard of something so blatantly suggestive.

“It’s unbelievable to me that police would ignore the fact that no teller has described a person with glaring tattoos and make this man into a possible suspect by covering them up,” he said. “They’re increasing the risk of mistaken identity.’’

Mistaken eyewitness identifications remain a consistent thorn in the criminal justice system’s side. They have contributed to about 71% of the more than 360 wrongful convictions in the United States overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney said what the police did here was all cool and good and actually the cops intended it to help the man in question.

“The whole idea was to make Mr. Allen blend in – so his photo wouldn’t stand out,’’ he said. “These procedures were prudent. They were appropriate.’’

Maloney said the altering of Allen’s photo was done to “look like the disguises that were on the robber,’’ who wore a baseball-style hat and glasses, with no tattoos visible.

Here’s what security footage of the man in question actually looked like.

Sometimes think maybe the police and prosectors aren’t reliable I don’t know man how about you?

I wrote in this paid-only Hell World piece the other day about how some nazis had shared my address on a site that they use to coordinate Swatting attacks on journalists and celebrities they don’t like people who are too rude to guns like me I guess and I mentioned I called the local police and how that made me feel conflicted and such. If you missed it went in part like this:

I called the local police and said hey just as a sort of courtesy if you ever get a call that there’s a shooting at my address could you call me first because it’s very likely not me and that felt real weird to have to say it felt like I was putting myself on their radar as some sort of troublemaker and on top of that I felt sort of ashamed for a minute like here I am this guy who criticizes the police all the time and as the common critique from the right goes I was still nonetheless calling them for help when I needed it but then I realized I wasn’t calling them to come and save me I was asking them politely to please hesitate for a minute or two before coming to kill me.

And then after I wrote that I actually went down to the police station because I didn’t think the guy on the phone had taken me very seriously so I went in and talked to the police guy they had there and the police station was so oddly empty and serene and quiet it was more like a library than a police station. The cop was polite and heard me out and said he’d let everyone know and I was real nervous like they were going to somehow make me into the bad guy or like look me up and see all the shit I talk about cops and decide I deserved whatever I have coming and I imagine a good percentage of them probably do think that. I had a shameful thought that maybe I should take it easy on talking about how much systematic police violence there is in this shitty country and maybe I should take it easy on talking about our orgy of gun violence and after a little while I thought nah I’m not going to do that. Not that I am under the impression anything I say or do or write has any sort material effect on anything it just wouldn’t feel right.

Then I went and got a haircut because there was a barber nearby and I got myself into one of those situations where you start out having a simple conversation in Spanish thinking it will be over quickly but it kept going on and on and halfway through it’s like you’re out on a tightrope and you realize you’ve gotten yourself in way over your head and there’s nothing you can do but go full steam ahead saying what is probably the stupidest sounding shit imaginable until it’s all over.

Here’s something I wrote in the Guardian the other day which seems apropos. Watch the video if you haven’t.

Three years to the day since he first began his protest against racist police violence, Colin Kaepernick has posted a stirring and emotional video to remind us that the fight is far from over.

The former NFL quarterback, who many believe has been ostracized by the league since he first began sitting then kneeling during the national anthem before games, posted the video to Twitter on Wednesday.

In the video, which features graphic footage of a number of high-profile police killings, Kaepernick asks: “How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates freedom and justice for all, that is so unjust to many of the people living in it?”

Also appearing in the video are family members of people who have been killed by police, including Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

“Basically, he took a knee for all these families that are out here today for freedom,” says Felicia Thomas, mother of Nicholas Thomas, who was killed by police in 2015.

“It is our love for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was gunned down by the police in less than two seconds, that will not allow us to bury our anger,” Kaepernick says. “It is our love for Philando Castile, who was executed in front of his partner and his daughter that keeps us fighting back. It is our love for Stephon Clark, who was lynched in his grandmother’s backyard, that will not allow us to stop until we liberate out people.”

As he speaks, footage of their killings plays out, interspersed with chants from crowds. “No justice, no peace!” they shout. “Power to the people!”

A nice young man named Phil Haggerty died this week. He played in a band called Somos who were just great and it is a tragedy that he died so young but also a not uncommon one around here and around everywhere of late it seems.

The band whose third album Prison On A Hill was set to come out pretty soon on Tiny Engines decided to release it early so that the proceeds could go to raising funds for his funeral and while they have raised enough for that already any further sales will go to the Heather Heyer Foundation. You can buy the album and donate here if you like.

I met Phil a couple of times over the years including in 2014 when I profiled them for the Boston Globe just as their debut was coming out and I could tell they were going to be the real thing. Since then I’ve seen he and bandmate Michael Fiorentino at some protests around Boston as both were involved in leftist causes.

Earlier this year Phil popped up on the local news for tearing down a bunch of racist signs that had been posted in East Boston where he lived.

The band’s new album is great and you should go listen to it but this song from their first album is still my favorite.

Here’s the pice from the Globe I wrote about them in 2014. Ok that’s all for today bye bye.

As emo revives, Somos revamps

Thursday of last week was one of those ideal nights for local music, where two shows were going on simultaneously at the neighboring Middle East and T.T. the Bear’s in Central Square, enabling a fan to bounce back and forth between the venues like flipping channels on the radio.

While the Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble lineup at the latter was carrying out its weeks-long pursuit of crowning this year’s best local band, at the sold-out Middle East Upstairs, two young bands were making a convincing grab for the unofficial title. Worcester’s the Hotelier, whose “Home, Like Noplace Is There” has garnered raves from around the country (including recently in this space), were the big draw, with the crowd singing along to every word of their raw, tuneful punk. But headliners (and Tiny Engines labelmates) Somos, which was celebrating the release of its “Temple of Plenty,” were making a convincing case for themselves as this year’s most likely to succeed.

Songs like “Familiar Thing” and “Domestic,” with their noodly guitar lines, brightly strummed chords, call and response vocals, halftime breakdowns, and strident pop-punk choruses were precisely crafted and viscerally delivered.

Sitting in the band van outside on Brookline Avenue after the show, vocalist and bass player Michael Fiorentino was enthusiastic. “We’re used to playing to like 15 people,” he said. “This is the biggest show we’ve played where people knew the songs.” For the band, who were in the middle of a 30-day tour, that’s going to become an increasingly frequent reaction.

A few days later, guitarist Phil Haggerty, calling from the road on the way to Cleveland, was still excited about the response the band has been getting. “One thing we weren’t prepared for was kids knowing the lyrics and singing along in random towns like Orlando,” he said. “It’s still really small, but being our first lengthy tour, we were prepared for the worst.” The group’s record came out while they were on the road, he said. “We didn’t know it had got out there at all.”

The band, whose members range in age from 22 to 24, met at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts in South Hadley, and solidified as a band about a year and a half ago after bonding over music.

Fiorentino cites a common history among his bandmates in hard-core, but also includes more recent bands like Modern Life Is War and classics like the Clash as inspriations. “I love all the cliche songwriters,” he went on. “Bob Dylan . . . I always try to strive for storytelling lyrics.”

This attention to lyrical specificity is just part of what’s made the band, like the Hotelier, stand out from a glut of so-called emo-revival acts that have sprouted up in the last couple of years. While Somos’s sound fits broadly into that mold — with echoes of influential acts such as American Football, the Promise Ring, and Boston’s own Piebald and Transit — there’s little of the genre’s woebegone romanticism on “Temple of Plenty.” “I don’t really write — but not like it’s a principle — breakup or love songs. There are none on this album,” Fiorentino said. “I just don’t think I can do that well. I’m interested in political issues, the inequality of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, issues of oppression. When I try to write lyrics, maybe those themes come out? But less in a didactic, sloganeering way, and more through storytelling.”

“I think we were just lucky with the timing,” Haggerty explained of their being lumped into the emo resurgence. “Right around the time we started the band that all happened. We’re not haters of the emo revival, it means there are a lot more kids coming to shows. But I think we’re more of a crossover band, I don’t think we’re a typical emo band. We take pride in having a pop punk-emo-indie crossover. I like the idea of moving forward and creating something new. I like to think that’s where we’re at.”

That’s what their first single, “Dead Wrong,” is about, Fiorentino said. “How do you navigate being in a genre of music where people say it’s a ’90s thing? We wanted to move away from that nostalgia in our sound and lyrics. How do you move forward but also recognize you’re broadly involved in something being termed a revival?”

I'm begging you do not help me

I'll come back from the dead and fight them

Hello this is a chapter from the Hell World book which you can pre-order here although if we’re being honest just between us I’d rather you subscribe to the newsletter since it works out better for ol’ Luke on the backend.

Ok here we go here look at this fucking shit:

A while back I talked to a bunch of people about how they actively try to avoid getting in an ambulance when they’re hurt and even seriously hurt because they just can’t afford it. It went a little something like this ah one ah two ah three…

I guess they thought I was going to kill myself. I was sitting in my doctor’s office complaining about abdominal pain and the conversation drifted to how I’d been feeling emotionally. Did you ever have thoughts about suicide the doctor asked.
Who doesn’t am I right haha I said. The doctor said she’d be right back and it dawned on me a second later what was about to happen. Ah. Shit.

The next thing I knew an ambulance and the police were there. Very good response time you have to respect that. But come on man I said. There was no way I was getting in that ambulance. I really cannot afford it. And besides if I was genuinely suicidal would I really be worried about paying a bill?

Later on after the dust had settled and I spent a little while sitting in the hospital convincing a series of very concerned doctors that I was only ambiently suicidal and not actually going to do it or am I haha I got away with the perfect crime and you’ll never catch me now I asked a bunch of people about some of the crazy things they do to avoid taking an ambulance because they’re worried they won’t be able to afford it.

I heard stories about people who had their credit permanently destroyed after a handful of ambulance rides being transferred between hospitals not fully aware of what was happening and not really in a position to object. People spoke of walking to the hospital and almost passing out along the way with severe burns or lacerations. More than a few told me about having to get into arguments with the EMTs telling them in no uncertain terms that no, they did not have to go with them. Others weren’t so adamant and regretted taking the ride when police or emergency personnel were more insistent.

“I wouldn’t take an ambulance now unless it was life-threatening,” Mike Taggart told me. A couple of years ago he was walking through a mall in Cambridge, Massachusetts when suddenly his head started ringing. Someone had thrown something off the balcony above and hit him in the head which promptly started bleeding via it being a head which is usually softer than a thrown thing.

“Someone called 911, and when they came, they were like, ‘You need to go to the hospital, and we have an ambulance,’” he said. “In my ignorance, I was like, ‘Ok.’”

The hospital they took him to was less than a mile away but when the bill showed up it was almost $2,000. “I wasn’t thinking straight at the time,” he said which checks out on account of the having his dome knocked in. “I had insurance, but the deductible was huge.”

“I always joke to my friends that if they find me dying, and they call me an ambulance, I’ll come back from the dead to fight them because it’s so expensive,” Adam Lundgren told me. “But that joke comes from a real place of fear of being stuck with a bill I can’t pay.”

He’d heard enough horror stories from friends about the costs of an ambulance over the years that when he fell down some stairs and broke his arm he said screw it and drove himself to the hospital in pain. “I’d absolutely do it again, too,” he said. “It sucks, but I feel like it’s necessary.”

One friend of mine who actually works in a hospital on the administrative side had a sudden stomach flu and asked for an ambulance. It arrived and took him a few doors down to the emergency room and it only cost $1,000. Another who is a nurse was billed $3,300 for a few miles ride and paid $1,000 out of pocket.

“I drove myself to the emergency room hemorrhaging from a surgical complication because I knew the ambulance ride wasn’t covered by my insurance,” said a third.

“Last year I was unconsciously put into one so I never paid the bill. The way I see it, I was kidnapped,” said a fourth.

Nick Johnson was on the train in Boston when it got into a crash six years ago. He hit his head on the ground and the first responders instructed him to go to the hospital so he did along with five other people.

“Five months later, I got a $900 bill that my insurance wouldn’t cover and that decimated my savings,” he said. “This for an accident that happened on public transportation and an ambulance that was shared with others.”

Uber share for ambulance something to look into maybe?

“I’ve maintained a healthy fear of ambulances ever since. I had a really bad illness last year that caused me to be briefly hospitalized. My folks told me to call 911, but scared of the cost, I walked the five to ten minutes to the hospital.”

Jon Payne blacked out after over-exerting himself at the gym a couple of years ago. An employee found him sprawled flat on his back in the bathroom. “He gave me a bottle of water and told me an ambulance was on the way. I immediately thought about the cost,” he said. He has insurance, but it’s subject to a high deductible.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, no, fuck that. I’m fine.’ I got my bearings back a few minutes later, and I left right at the same moment the ambulance was pulling up and the guys were getting the stretcher out. I walked right past them like a slick bank robber.”

Imagine that? Slinking away from the people sent to help you.

Paul Adler developed epilepsy at age twenty-six. His first seizure a few years back happened while he was at work in New York and his boss called an ambulance while he was out of it. Jesus Christ Paul has died since I wrote this originally he was a good kid and he went too soon fuck. The bill for the ride was around $1,200. Thankfully he had insurance at the time but since then when he hasn’t or has taken on new jobs and been in between insurance he makes a point to ask his co-workers not to call him an ambulance in the event something happens.

“I’ve requested that they wait until I regain consciousness and cognizance so I could get myself to a hospital in an Uber or taxi instead of shelling out another $1,200 for a ride,” he told me.

Please, everyone, I’m begging you, do not help me.

It reminds me of the shitty old Reagan joke about the scariest words you can ever hear except in this case it’s “We’re the government, and we’re here to save your life.”

One complicating factor here is that the people who come to help you aren’t always the government. In every city and state throughout the country you’ll find a wide variety of services from taxpayer-funded fire departments with EMS personnel to hospital-based services to private companies to a combination of all three and more. When it comes time to pay the bill as in all of the confounding complicated corners of our byzantine health-care system the buck often gets passed around. Knowing that some high-end insurance companies will pay the full rate while others will not or that the people being helped might not be able to afford any of it many emergency responders will charge as much as possible hoping the ones who pay full freight subsidize the rest of us.

Our municipalities know all of this too. Getting people to take fewer ambulances is something that cities around the country like Washington D.C. have been attempting to facilitate. In others like Phoenix medical taxi vouchers are offered as a means to dissuade people who might otherwise have to rely on ambulances for non-emergency medical transportation. The reasons why are pretty obvious: it frees up limited resources for more serious emergencies and it’s an acknowledgement that people are increasingly unable to pay for ambulance bills that can range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to multiple thousands of dollars.

Much of the cost has to do with the fact that ambulance companies and insurers often can’t agree on what a fair price should be and therefore ambulance companies may not contract with insurance companies so they can charge more as out-of-network providers. Complicating things further is that the mercurial nature of this billing can open the door for fraud and abuse. In 2017 Medstar Ambulance, Inc. in Massachusetts was ordered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to pay $12.7 million in fines for inflating Medicare claims for ambulance transports.

The federal government obviously has a lot more resources to invest into making sure they’re not being erroneously billed unlike most of us who would rather pretend medical bills don’t exist until the last minute just like we do with our medical problems. Most of us don’t have the wherewithal to protect ourselves after the fact which is why the difficult choice has to be made on the fly. But perhaps that’s an idea I just stumbled on here. What if we provided the government with sufficient funds through a series of fees spread around to everyone that are then collected and distributed to administer necessary services for its citizens as needed?

In the U.K. emergency services and almost all other health-care concerns are provided free at the point-of-service. It’s not a perfect system as it can lead to abuse but it’s far better than the nightmare life-or-death game show we have here. Truly the American spirit of self-reliance at work: pull yourself up by the gurney straps.

In the meantime as ever in our hopelessly broken system of health care that may be our best hope when it comes to emergencies. Look out for yourself because no one else is going to. Even the people there to save the day. They don’t give a fuck about you.

I have seen all the things that are done under the sun

all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind

If you missed this Hell World the other day you should read it as I’m reliably informed it was “one of the good ones.”

Please give me some money!

There’s a wall in my parents’ house that is covered in photos of dead people. Some of the photos are big and some are really small and they’re all mounted in ornate looking frames although I imagine they are actually pretty cheap yard sale shit like wood painted gold. My grandmother whose name I definitely know used to love to go to yard sales and she would bring me along sometimes and I’d dig through the weird people’s sad shit and get depressed about it. How much for this once cherished reminder of your brief stay on earth people would ask and the seller would think about it for a second and say I can do that for one single quarter and the other person would go like hmm I don’t know how about a nickel?

The photos are arranged like a creepy shrine it looks kind of like some shit you would find in the drawing room of an insane magician’s haunted mansion and you’d be like did that one’s eyes just move what the fuck meanwhile the magician is sneaking up behind you and he thinks he’s invisible.

I wrote about the wall another time in this piece about what we do with the digital artifacts of our dead loved ones and if you never read that one you should it’s pretty good! I’ve been thinking about it all weekend because I read something that fucked me up and made me try as hard as I can to remember the names of the people in the photos most of whom are my great-grandparents. I can’t really do it and it’s stressing me out.

To be sure I know the names of a lot of my great-grandparents because once a year usually at Christmas I’ll ask my parents to tell me who the people in the photos are again and explain what they know about them and I’ll think about them for a while like ah the rich tapestry of our shared ancestry is a marvel indeed and then I’ll leave and almost instantly the information will leak out of my porous sieve-like brain and then be gone until the next time when I have to ask all over again. The guy from Memento except it’s not my own life I forget every day it’s the lives of the people who came before me.

There are lots of things like that right where you know them but you don’t know them like someone could ask you what the capitol of Uruguay is and you’d go shit shit hold on then they’d say Montevideo and you’d go I knew that. And you did know it you just couldn’t access it.

One of my great-grandparents is named… Nora I want to say. Nora O’Neil? Or is Nora the one on my mother’s side? Lillian?

I asked people on Twitter how many of their great-grandparents they could name and the results aren’t exactly soothing.

In that passage up above from the book The Happiness Myth which I haven’t read and don’t know anything about the author writes “Koheleth was right. We are not going to be remembered.”

Koheleth is one of the names for “the teacher” in the book of Ecclesiastes. Some people think it’s supposed to be King Solomon and other people don’t think it is and who is to say certainly not me I don’t know anything and even if I did I wouldn’t remember it. The Bible was basically a Google doc where everyone had editing permission turned on.

In any case he is described as a king and the son of David and it’s essentially some heavy existential shit that can be summarized thusly:

It’s also written in a surprisingly ironic tone which is weird to think about that they had irony 2,500 years ago but then again the general point of the whole thing is that nothing about human life ever changes and it’s all one long slide toward oblivion and that there is nothing new under the sun so I guess it’s not weird that this fella would be any different than you and I now that I think about it.

That phrase nothing new under the sun is one of many things from the book that have lingered in our collective consciousness by the way. It’s also where the whole “for everything there is a season and a time for very purpose under heaven” bit came from that you hear people read at funerals sometimes or in that one famous song.

Everything we do is meaningless and life is nothing but striving after wind the guy writes. Better to have never been born he writes. At least I think that’s what he meant. Just between you and me it honestly feels sort of weird to be sitting here reading passages from the Bible on a Sunday morning like some kind of fucking pervert.

Here look at some of it:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” 

What do people gain from all their labors at which they toil under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises. The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course. All streams flow into the sea, yet the sea is never full. To the place the streams come from, there they return again. All things are wearisome, more than one can say. The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing. 

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. 

Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. 

No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.

I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem.  I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind!  I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 

What is crooked cannot be straightened; what is lacking cannot be counted. 

I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 

Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind. 

For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.

Then it says some other shit like this and I think I’m pulling from different translations of it for some of these quotes here but that seems thematically appropriate because who fucking cares?

I saw that wisdom is better than folly, just as light is better than darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in the darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both. Then I thought in my heart, "The fate of the fool will overtake me also. What then do I gain by being wise?" I said in my heart, "This too is meaningless." For the wise man, like the fool, will not be long remembered; in days to come both will be forgotten. Like the fool, the wise man too must die!

For what profit comes to mortals from all the toil and anxiety of heart with which they toil under the sun? Every day sorrow and grief are their occupation; even at night their hearts are not at rest. This also is vanity.

And some shit like this:

For that which befalls the sons of men befalls beasts; even one thing befalls them: as the one dies, so dies the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man has no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

And like this:

Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed-- and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors-- and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun.

And this:

A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded. Though it never saw the sun or knew anything, it has more rest than does that man.

Fuck.

In any case he’s basically saying this which is my philosophy for everything now:

It all sounds really bleak and nihilistic I guess but then at the end there’s a conclusion tacked on which is basically and that’s why you gotta love God and follow his rules! and I am no Bible scholar but I think maybe someone else added that part in at the end like in post-production like when a really dark movie doesn’t test well with audiences and the execs are like ah let’s make this a little more appealing to consumers.

This is unrelated but it’s not but right after I saw that tweet from earlier up above about how no one is going to remember their great-grandmothers I saw someone else posting passages from a book called Capital: The Eruption of Delhi about the explosion in growth in the Indian city which looks pretty great and this part struck me:

“Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever,” the teacher in Ecclesiastes wrote.

Sri Lanka is not India obviously but it’s very close so here’s a transition where I talk about going to a barbecue at my old college friend’s house yesterday. His extended family are lovely kind people and I’ve been seeing them every couple of years or so for about twenty years and in all that time they’ve always treat me like a sort of mix between a respectable newsman and a tattooed circus freak agent of chaos which is a pretty honest reading of me in retrospect. My friend’s father seems to find my working in the media interesting and we were talking about it yesterday he knew about my whole thing with the Boston Globe and I told him about some of things I’d been writing in fancy newspapers and magazines in recent years and that I have a book coming out in the way you do when you want parents to be proud of you even if they aren’t your own parents and then he says to me he goes do you ever think you’ll get a job? And I was like ah pretty sure it’s probably too late for that and then my buddy cooked this lamb and I ate it with mint sauce.

“So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad,” Ecclesiastes reads. “Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”

Singapore is not Sri Lanka of course although it is an island just off of a much bigger country which has served for all manner of tensions and headaches over the years but I just read this fascinating piece about how dissent is treated there which I had not really spent much time thinking about and it turns out it’s just like many other ostensibly democratic but repressive countries have always been. Weird how that works. There are only so many ways to fuck up a country. Nothing new under the sun.

Read this part:

Taking every criticism as an affront, and insisting that everything is already awesome, inevitably protects those in power, since a defense of the status quo is also a defense of the system over which they preside. This toxic patriotism allows authoritarian politicians to conflate their own party, even their own personalities, with the idea of the nation, making criticism of their rule seem like a direct attack on the nation itself. Dissent is no longer treated as part of a healthy culture of debate, but as evidence of treason and treachery. In this climate, only acquiescence and applause can be tolerated. Public discourse suffers, but no authoritarian who ever rose to power ever really cared about discourse—only domination.

Shortly after he was elected I wrote this piece about how easily Trump had already managed to hijack the country and indeed many of our own brains into his way of thinking and how he had effectively driven us all insane in the very specific way he is also insane. This part came to mind reading that passage above:

Political scientists have been busy looking for historical and contemporary analogues for Trump’s ascendancy, and parsing whether or not a more applicable model might be of totalitarian or authoritarian rulers. At the moment, there’s a little to pick from both. On the one hand, the authoritarian tends to use power for his own personal enrichment, and rule through a mixture of fear and appeals toward fealty. But thematically speaking, the totalitarian works through the annihilation of the individual ego into the overarching teleological concept of the ruler. Salvation not only comes through the formidable power of the head of state, but also requires that each citizen is absorbed into that framework. This is a line of reasoning that comes regularly from Trump’s supporters, surrogates, and regular voters alike. We’ll all fall in line. To be against Trump is to be unpatriotic. The mere act of dissent is akin to treason. To being outcast from membership in the very United States.

There is a quote I read recently that I think encapsulates the worldview of Trump and conservatives in general perfectly and it goes like this:

“There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.”

As an example think about how the Trump administration is waging war on “law breaking” undocumented people while at the same time doing absolutely jack shit to the powerful and rich who employ them. The piece of shit who runs the poultry plant in Mississippi where the raid was carried out last week is a “law breaker” too but he is one of the members of society whom the law protects but does not bind so he gets away with it and the rest of the poor can just go and fuck themselves.

Here is another perfectly illustrated example of this type of thinking:

The quote which I think is one of the most astute pieces of political thinking I have read in a long time comes from a random message board discussion and was written as best as I can tell by a contemporary composer named Frank Wilhoit who confusingly has the same name as a political scientist but that guy died years before the comment so it’s probably not him unless it is which would be really impressive!

Here is the whole comment the quote is taken from:

There is no such thing as liberalism — or progressivism, etc.

There is only conservatism. No other political philosophy actually exists; by the political analogue of Gresham’s Law, conservatism has driven every other idea out of circulation.

There might be, and should be, anti-conservatism; but it does not yet exist. What would it be? In order to answer that question, it is necessary and sufficient to characterize conservatism. Fortunately, this can be done very concisely.

Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit:

There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time.

For millenia, conservatism had no name, because no other model of polity had ever been proposed. “The king can do no wrong.” In practice, this immunity was always extended to the king’s friends, however fungible a group they might have been. Today, we still have the king’s friends even where there is no king (dictator, etc.). Another way to look at this is that the king is a faction, rather than an individual.

As the core proposition of conservatism is indefensible if stated baldly, it has always been surrounded by an elaborate backwash of pseudophilosophy, amounting over time to millions of pages. All such is axiomatically dishonest and undeserving of serious scrutiny. Today, the accelerating de-education of humanity has reached a point where the market for pseudophilosophy is vanishing; it is, as The Kids Say These Days, tl;dr . All that is left is the core proposition itself — backed up, no longer by misdirection and sophistry, but by violence.

So this tells us what anti-conservatism must be: the proposition that the law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone, and cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.

Then the appearance arises that the task is to map “liberalism”, or “progressivism”, or “socialism”, or whateverthefuckkindofstupidnoise-ism, onto the core proposition of anti-conservatism.

No, it a’n’t. The task is to throw all those things on the exact same burn pile as the collected works of all the apologists for conservatism, and start fresh. The core proposition of anti-conservatism requires no supplementation and no exegesis. It is as sufficient as it is necessary. What you see is what you get:

The law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone; and it cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone.

I wonder what the fuck type of politics our great-grandparents had probably not great!

My mother finally called me back just now and told me their names which were things like Maude Mulqueen and James Madden and Friedrich Backstrom and Lillian Glenn and Nora Driscoll and Patrick McCarthy. She didn’t know my biological father’s grandparents’ names maybe Charles and Margaret she said.

She only knew one of her own great-grandparents’ names offhand which was Amanda Glenn on account of she named my sister after her which is one of the only guaranteed ways of carrying on someone’s memory.

She also told me she recently found a toy wooden truck that someone had apparently given to me when I was a child and on the bottom of it it read To Luke from Dick Callahan, Round Pond, Maine and she said she realized she had no idea who Dick Callahan was anymore and what was even sadder than that was she said she had no one left who she could call to even ask about him they were all dead now too.

What’s worse than that is I don’t even remember what toy truck she’s talking about. I don’t remember ever even having a wooden toy truck never mind who the hell Dick Callahan was.

Thank you for the truck though Mr. Callahan. I don’t know if you’re alive or dead but that was a nice gesture on your behalf and someday I’ll be dead too and we can float around in the nothingness together.

All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

Yes, I said, but always as a tree way up ahead

in the distance where it doesn't matter

My book Welcome to Hell World Dispatches from the American Dystopia is available for pre-order now for a nice discount. Otherwise if you are enjoying Hell World please consider becoming a paid subscriber to help support my work and get access to every post.

A thirty nine year old man ambushed a thirteen year old boy from behind at a rodeo in Montana and slammed him head-first into the ground fracturing his skull and witnesses said that he said the boy had his hat on which was disrespectful to the national anthem so he had every right to do that to the boy and his defense attorney said “His commander in chief is telling people that if they kneel, they should be fired, or if they burn a flag, they should be punished” so who is to say what is right.

A sixteen year old girl in Ohio was sentenced to three years in prison for the death of her boyfriend not because she had killed him the police were the ones who did that but because they say she had helped him set up a robbery in which he allegedly pulled a gun on undercover police who then shot him to death and it was therefore all her fault if you really think about it and did you know that’s not even that uncommon a thing to happen under “felony murder” rules which forty states have around the country?

Police in Texas have released bodycam footage of an officer who was responding to a distress call and found a woman laying on the grass who was unresponsive so he called out to her are you ok and her dog started to jog toward him so he pulled out his police gun as one does and shot the dog and also shot the woman he was supposed to be there to help and on the video you can hear her scream out ah what the fuck because she’s just been shot out of nowhere and as she’s laying there dying the cop says m’am get a hold of your dog.

I just saw a tweet from a magazine called Billionaire Magazine which is apparently a magazine for billionaires and they post a lot of inspirational quotes for billionaires and aspiring billionaires and the one they used this time with a picture of a fancy helicopter which I guess we are supposed to be coveting is from Maya Angelou and it goes like this “You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I'll rise!” Just like a fancy helicopter.

I saw another tweet this time with a quote from Toni Morrison who is no longer trapped down here with us and it said “If you can only be tall because somebody is on their knees, then you have a serious problem. And my feeling is white people have a very, very serious problem, and they should start thinking about what they can do about it” and then five seconds after I read that I saw a picture of two police officers on horseback in Texas leading a black man through the streets tied to a rope and what they had arrested him for was trespassing due to apparently he was loitering around a building that has offices for the investment firm Merrill Lynch.

The other day I talked to author Pat Blanchfield on here about gun violence and how any effort coming from the government to curtail such violence is most likely going to lead to a doubling down of guns more guns everywhere throwing gun after gun until the guns are stacked so high you could you could do a Scrooge McDusk dive into them like a pool of guns and sure enough that is exactly what is happening as people on the right are calling for more more more like Sean Hannity whose voice lives in the president’s brain who said we need to have retired police and military stationed on every floor of every school and mall in America.

Another thing we talked about was how any effort to address mass shootings through a War on Terror framework was inevitably going to lead to an increased focus on the left.

“The whole point of talking about ANTIFA as a terrorist organization is to be able to get away with criminalizing white leftists,” Blanchfield said. “To make thinkable the use of technologies and systems of oppressions that are regularly employed for Muslims and black people, to leverage those same resources against white folks, or dissenting liberals,” he said and perhaps unsurprisingly instead of merely disavowing white supremacy which is so very easy to do the president immediately came out and said he is “concerned about the rise of any group of hate,” he said. “I don’t like it,” he said. “Whether it’s white supremacy, whether it’s any other kind of supremacy. Whether it’s antifa. Whether it’s any group of hate. I am very concerned about it and I’ll do something about it.”

Any other kind of supremacy.

A State Department official was revealed to be a member of a white nationalist group in D.C. and he regularly posted and talked about white supremacy and said things like whites “need a country of our own with nukes, and we will retake this thing lickety split…That’s all that we need. We need a country founded for white people with a nuclear deterrent. And you watch how the world trembles.”

I went to New York on Monday to meet the people who run this newsletter company and I had a few hours to kill and it occurred to me that I don’t know what else to do in New York City besides drink so I tweeted that because I don’t know what else to do besides tweet and a lot of people replied with suggestions of other things I could do like go to museums and shit like that but it wasn’t helpful since I didn’t say I actually wanted to do anything else.

I guess I don’t really know what to do anywhere besides drink. The morning I left for New York I went to the hand surgeon because I’ve had this feeling in my right hand for a year now like all of the bones inside are too large and they want to explode out of the skin and all the doctors I saw for it waiting months or weeks at a time in between visits couldn’t figure out what it was so they sent me to do physical therapy for my neck for three months so I went and did that doing small slow and simple movements that were designed to fix a body part that probably wasn’t even involved in the pain but in medicine much like government sometimes throwing resources at anything even if it isn’t the actual root of the problem allows the people in charge to create the illusion that they are making progress and on top of things.

After they make you do physical therapy for a particular body part and it doesn’t work all the different types of specialized doctors will say ah fuck I dunno man and they send you to the Pain Doctors which I’ve mentioned on here a few times for other sundry ailments. The feeling I’ve had lately makes me want to crack my knuckles all the time to relieve the pressure but it doesn’t help it just buys me like two seconds of relief and then it resets and what I think I really want to do sometimes is smash all of the bones in my hand into shards like I would take my right hand in my left hand and snap it just so. It would be like one side of me is a powerful ogre and the other side is a pest I caught stealing my horde of gold or whatever and then everything inside would break apart and I bet that would hurt really bad but at least it would be a different type of pain than this one.

David Berman was a poet which sounds weird to say because we don’t really have poets anymore. He died yesterday and I’ll write more about that later on down below but one line of his that came to mind immediately was from a poem from his book Actual Air that went like this:

I would have read that book around 2000 or 2001 or so when I was just coming out of college which is the most devastating time you can read a devastating collection of poems. It’s like how they say drugs and alcohol are particularly bad for teens’ brains because they aren’t fully developed yet and it works sometimes like that with poetry too. Poetry just like drugs and alcohol is a delivery system for both despair and exultation and if you’re too young you don’t know what to do with either of those things.

That poem just now reminded me of this bit I wrote in one of the chapters from the Hell World book I’ve plugged a lot on here sorry but it went something like this:

Everything we do today comes at the expense of the future. That can be little things like how last night I basically ate an entire loaf of bread. You know the kind that sticks out of your shopping bag and you go like haha look at me I’m a French guy over here ayy forgetaboutit. Or it can be taking pleasure or comfort in all the things you know you shouldn’t do but nonetheless feel good right now in this moment and tomorrow is not your problem. Someone else is going to have to deal with it and even if that person is actually you it’s still you tomorrow and you don’t know that guy so let him figure it out.

Not that it has anything to do with the perfect economy of Berman’s language mind you but the sentiment behind it like.

I guess tomorrow isn’t David’s problem anymore and that is devastating to everyone who loved his work but I am personally glad I still have tomorrow to worry about today and I hope you are too because you never know it could actually end up being good?

When I was in New York drinking the president went to El Paso and to Dayton to visit the communities that had just been devastated by gun violence and at the hospital in Dayton they didn’t allow the White House pool to go in with him because they said it was supposed to be about the victims but don’t worry because when he was there they got lots and lots of pictures. “The President was treated like a Rock Star inside the hospital, which was all caught on video.” his social media guy tweeted. “They all loved seeing their great President!” he wrote.

I guess maybe they didn’t want the press to see him filming the campaign commercial built off the gun violence which he posted yesterday. It shows him grimacing and grabbing ass with a bunch of doctors and nurses and over it all they put a stirring orchestral track that makes it seem like a particularly sad and cheap trailer for an Avengers movie about a superhero who’s only power is fucking up.

Recovering from a bullet wound in the hospital is terrifying enough but imagine if Trump showed up to say Terrific! as he shook hands with ambulance drivers and posed for photos with the sheriff and nurses who weren’t sure if they were allowed to say no or not and you were laying there thinking about how lucky you were to be alive.

I was reminded of this account from one of the victims of the Parkland shooting who described a call she got from Trump like this:

Samantha Fuentes, who was shot in both legs and was left with a piece of shrapnel lodged behind her eye, told the Times that she did not feel reassured during her phone call with the president. When he called her hospital room, she said, “He said he heard that I was a big fan of his, and then he said, ‘I’m a big fan of yours too.’”

Fuentes said in an interview, “I’m pretty sure he made that up. Talking to the president, I’ve never been so unimpressed by a person in my life. He didn’t make me feel better in the slightest.” She also said he referred to the gunman, who killed 17 people at a high school, as a “sick puppy” and said, “‘oh boy, oh boy, oh boy,’ like, seven times.”

Susan Bro the mother of Heather Heyer the young woman who was assassinated by a white supremacist in Charlottesville in what year was that last year or the year before I can’t even remember anymore was on CNN when I got home yesterday and the host Brooke Baldwin asked her some shit about guns and what not but I particularly cherished this little bit at the end as it was wrapping in which she asks Bro to encapsulate her feelings for her dead daughter but essentially says hurry the fuck up doing it we’ve got get to a commercial for fibromyalgia medicine.

Fibromyalgia I guess is a thing that affects how your brain processes pain signals and I wonder sometimes if I have that but I only wonder that because they have so many commercials about it on TV.

In Boston the police are cleaning up the streets and we know that because the name of the operation they’re undertaking is called Project Clean Sweep and what they are sweeping up in this case are people living on the streets and addicts and of course the local TV news are reporting the cop propaganda straight off the tap because local TV news think they are a branch of the police.

There are two types of people who go into journalism and law enforcement the type that want to help people and the type that want to hurt people and a lot of the time the former eventually devolve into the latter because it’s easier to go with the flow.

One thing the cops did in Boston in order to make us safer was to confiscate the wheelchairs of vulnerable people living on the street and destroy them in a trash compactor.

“We spent a significant amount of time with someone who lost his wheelchair. He is not able to be mobile without it, and not having a home, nowhere to sit, nowhere to go, and was having pain. He couldn’t really balance or walk,” Cassie Hurd a Boston homeless advocate told Boston Magazine. “He had left his wheelchair for a minute and his partner tried everything to keep the wheelchair. She pleaded with police and was sobbing and crying. They took it and threw it in the back of the truck and it was devastating to watch. There was nothing anyone could do to prevent them from throwing it out.”

The police are being particularly hard-assed about this particular area in Boston which the city’s vulnerable population does in fact frequent because an off duty police officer was “assaulted” there this month or at least that’s what they say happened I saw the video and it looked like he got out of his car and started a fight and then got what he was looking for but who am I to dispute what the police say happened I’m just a reporter.

People are starting to get really mad at the media for being unable or unwilling to just fucking describe the world as it is like this whole thing where the New York Times looked at what the president said after the two shootings and decided to go with the headline Trump Urges Unity Vs. Racism which is a lie as he did no such thing. After everyone got mad they then changed it to Assailing Hate But Not Guns which doesn’t even mean anything it means less than nothing.

I just saw a tweet where the person was like “Why do journalists write like they are fumbling around with bags over their heads?” and that is such a perfectly evocative description of the type of clumsy grasping journalistic objectivity we see every day. Every prevaricating prestige journalist is a guy trying to stuff his carry-on into the overhead compartment and the thing won’t fucking fit but he keeps pushing and pushing.

Yesterday while the president was visiting the scene of a terror campaign carried out by a white supremacist on behalf of the president and his followers ICE arrested almost seven hundred people in Mississippi at the poultry plants where they worked and it’s weird because the thing you always hear about immigrants is how they’re coming here to steal our benefit money and live the good life while the rest of us pay our taxes like chumps but you have to imagine working at a poultry plant in Mississippi is not exactly easy going shit. You would think those shifts take a toll.

It was the first day of school in the state so a lot of children there came home from school to find their parents gone.

Last year workers for Koch Foods (no relation to the other rich pricks) won a class action suit against the company. From the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:

Koch Foods, one of the largest poultry suppliers in the world, will pay $3,750,000 and furnish other relief to settle a class employment discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC charged the company with sexual harassment, national origin and race discrimination as well as retaliation against a class of Hispanic workers at Koch's Morton, Miss., chicken processing plant.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Koch subjected individual plaintiff/intervenors and classes of Hispanic employees and female employees to a hostile work environment and disparate treatment based on their race/national origin (Hispanic), sex (female), and further retaliated against those who engaged in protected activity.1 EEOC alleges that supervisors touched and/or made sexually suggestive comments to female Hispanic employees, hit Hispanic employees and charged many of them money for normal everyday work activities. Further, a class of Hispanic employees was subject to retaliation in the form of discharge and other adverse actions after complaining.

Did Koch call ICE to let them know about all the undocumented women they had working for them as retaliation for being too uppity and not wanting to get groped and discriminated against? Hard to say but I think we can both agree it’s not that hard to say when it comes down to it.

Another guy ICE destroyed was a forty one year old man named Jimmy Aldaoud who they snatched and exiled to Iraq. He was an Iraqi national but he was actually born in Greece and came to the U.S. as a young child but for some reason probably for the fuck of it they sent him back to a country he’d never lived in with a language he did not speak and where he could not get the medication he needed to live so he died. Edward Bajoka an immigration attorney who knew Aldaoud’s family posted this on Facebook:

Jimmy was found dead today in Iraq. The likely cause of death was not being able to get his insulin. He is a diabetic. He was forcefully deported to Iraq a couple of months ago. He was born in Greece and had never been to Iraq. He knew no one there. He did not speak Arabic. He was a member of the Chaldean minority group. He was a paranoid schizophrenic. His mental health was the primary reason for his legal issues that led to his deportation.

I want you to look at this comic strip that was drawn by David Berman as this fella says back in 1994 because it goes quite a way toward explaining what all of the people memorializing him as we speak are trying to get at the way he could encapsulate so much in a seemingly tossed off and humorous couplet that somehow encompassed the entire world.

I’m not sure what stuck out for you but that bit about how at the end of the world “the terminally ill perk up” is an ocean man it’s an entire novel in a stick figure throwaway gag. The world was already ending for them but now it’s ending for everyone and in that they’ve been made just like the rest of us. It might seem sinister in a way but it’s not it’s a sort of comfort in knowing that you don’t have to die alone anymore you get to die with everyone else at the same time. It’s finding out you belong again. You weren’t singled out to suffer.

A lot of people I know are saying a lot of sad and true things about Berman’s passing. One time I wrote in here that “when you hear about someone who struggles with depression and addiction and talks about it openly it’s surprising when they die young but not that surprising” and I guess that is true in this case also but it’s not a relief of any kind it doesn’t make it any better when the thing that seems very possible to happen happens especially when the person seems to be “doing better” which is what we say about people even though we have no idea how they are doing and we will never have any idea how anyone else is ever doing. People don’t have to tell you how they are actually doing no matter how many times you ask them they can just say whatever they want.

Here are some things people I know have been saying about Berman though which should be a good introduction if you aren’t familiar with his writing or music and will also all seem true to you if you are familiar.

“As a lyricist David Berman was simply unparalleled,” someone said. “He gave you everything. Wisdom, humor, sadness, anger, silliness, tenderness, mystery. He captured the human experience in ways most of us can't comprehend. Every single line was a treasure. He was a true inspiration.”

“I think what is so special about david berman is that he sings about sadness and pain that is specific to him but feels universal to all americans,” another said.

“‘If no one's fond of fucking me, maybe no one's fucking fond of me’ is such a perfect, devastating line” another said.

“david berman was my friend, heart-mate—the person who most revealed to me that a person is a world,” another said. “i was with him on sunday; he promised we'd be together friday. he cared very much that you all cared for him. i recommend his books + albums. i am grateful that they sound like him.”

“David Berman was so unafraid of publicly wrestling with his own sadness, and so unafraid of being honest about what it is to sometimes lose that wrestling match,” another said. “There are so many ways to feel small while tumbling through the world. Berman made a few seem comforting.”

Here’s a song I quite like.

I wish they didn't set mirrors behind the bar
cause I can't stand to look at my face
when I don't know where you are
Then the feeling fades away
but you sort of wish it would of stayed
inside... the golden days of missing you

What if life is just some hard equation
on a chalkboard in a science class for ghosts
You can live again
but you'll have to die twice in the end
in the end/ we'll meet again

I think shit like that a lot too. One time on here I wrote some shit like this:

I was thinking this morning when I woke up way too early from too vivid dreams that when someone dies which is to say when they begin their journey back to ash that we typically can still look at them for a while. Their body is still there and after some hard work by a mortician remember that show Six Feet Under that was really good wasn’t it you can see them and remember them how they were. Maybe they have their favorite dress on or a necklace they loved maybe it was one you gave them many years ago. But they can’t speak and they can’t smile anymore and so the process has begun of stripping away the parts of them that made the person real to you and isn’t that also what happens when someone who is still alive is removed from your life. You can remember how they looked but after a while you start to forget what their laugh sounded like or what it looked like when they walked across a room and so piece by piece it’s stripped from you and then someday it’s all gone and it’s dirt now.

We think there’s another part that’s coming later still though don’t we. We don’t believe it but we think it. Maybe it’s heaven or just later on down the road years from now and we get to pet the crocodiles together.

So the hand surgeon gets out the steroids he’s going to inject into my hand and wrist and he says heh heh that’s weird your tattoos here are pointing directly to the two spots you have the most pain and I said heh heh yeah I guess it’s like x marks the spot on a treasure map but for pain it’s like maybe I knew at some point earlier in my life I would want to be able to find these spots again and he shoots the shit in there and I breathe in deep because for some reason breathing real purposefully makes things hurt less as they’re happening and I leave and the hand is fine for a while but then it erupts later on into the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life at least not including what happens in my brain sometimes. They say this is normal and expected to last for a couple days but I sort of feel like I broke my entire wrist somehow and that thing I was saying earlier about a new type of pain being a relief from the one you were feeling before is a lie because this is much worse. Also it’s almost impossible to wipe my ass now since I’ve been having to do it with my left hand so I worry the state of my asshole vis a vis cleanliness might not be at its zenith at this particular moment in my life.

You can miss the old pain is what I’m saying.

I tried to call the surgeon to see if this was a normal reaction and ask what the fuck and the people who answer the doctor’s phone said he’s got a really busy day tomorrow but we’ll see what we can do about getting him to talk to you about your pain and I think you probably know what they did which was nothing.

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