My Goodbye Post to Facebook

I’m reading a lot to try and figure out why the world is the way it is. I can’t say it makes me feel much better, but it does help—if you can’t fix what’s wrong, at least being able to name it allows you to stay sane. The last book I finished was The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby, about why irrational thinking and anti-intellectualism have shaped the U.S. so strongly in the past few decades. She says this, which I think summarizes the most important issue we’re facing now:

As the astronomer Carl Sagan notes, real science differs from pseudoscience in that the former “thrives on errors, cutting them away one by one,” while the latter involves theories “often framed precisely so that they are invulnerable to any experiment that offers a prospect of disproof, so even in principle they cannot be invalidated.” Then, when real scientists refuse to accept a pseudoscientific premise, “conspiracies to suppress it are deduced.”

It almost sounds like a non sequitur, but I think science—more particularly, scientific thinking—is the only thing that can save us now. Because if we can’t even agree on what reality is, there is no hope for anything. I will never be able to understand how people can use their resources to hurt others, whether intentionally or through willful self-delusion. But they do it, and if we allow even the concept of reality to be up for debate, we just pave the way for them. We can’t stop people from being terrible. But we can refuse to help them do it.

Most of us don’t have much power beyond our own lives, but the power we do have depends on our ability to think, question our beliefs, understand evidence, and discuss things with a shared vocabulary that is based on acknowledgement of the actual world around us. We have made a lot of progress as a species, even if half of us are doing everything they can to undo it. I think objectively there must be hope, even if I genuinely cannot find it most of the time. We can become better. It won’t fix the thousands of years of damage we’ve already done, the unnecessary suffering and cruelty and oppression that have ruined the lives of most of the people who’ve ever lived. Becoming better won’t fix any of that—but we can stop adding to it. Right now, I think that’s the best we can do.

The conservative viewpoint is that of an abuser. 

People who oppose government regulation know that without it, the powerful will abuse everyone they can. It’s not that they’re naive about people’s cruelty; it’s that they’re also the kind of people who will abuse anyone they can, and they think that’s how the world should be. We’ve allowed abusers to co-opt the concept of freedom, to make it mean their freedom to abuse us. They talk about freedom from government regulation because they are the thing we need government regulation to protect us from.

How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live

The world is such an upsetting place.

I’ve been reading a book about the billionaires who control American politics, and I just read about the case in 1996 when a Koch Industries pipeline exploded and burned two teenagers to death. I was thinking about the parents, and the unbelievable amount that was awarded to them$296 million, almost three times the $100 million the family had sued for—and I thought about what I would do if I were in their place.

They hadn’t done it for the money, of course; the Koch assholes had offered them money to settle, as Koch always does, because it was cheaper to just pay off lawsuits than it was to follow the environmental regulations they flat-out ignored. But the family wasn’t in it for the money—they were in it because it is wrong for a company to blow up teenagers, and the company had known what it was doing and just didn’t fucking care how it would hurt others, and the family wanted the company to be punished for murdering their daughter. That’s how I would feel, too. And because $296 million is such a mind-blowingly absurd amount of money, I couldn’t resist thinking about what I would do with it.

Because the thing is, I can’t imagine what you would even do with more than one million. If I had that amount of money, I would give $295 million to the best charities I could think of, and keep one for myself. And that would be more than I’d ever need.

With $50,000 I would pay off the rest of my student loan debt, the albatross around my neck that has completely ruined my 20s and kept my husband and me trapped and barely surviving for the ten years since we got married ($50,000 is what’s left after ten years of paying it down).

With $20,000 I would buy a car for myself, probably a Camry.

With $30,000 I would buy Mike the huge-ass truck he dreams about, even though a little part of me would die every time he drove it.

With $400,000 I would buy a house somewhere on the west coast.

With $30,000 I would finish my fucking bachelor’s degree and get my Masters in Library Science.

I would give $100,000 to his and my familyabout $10,000 each.

I would put $100,000 into a travel fund, so that I never again have to worry that I won’t be able to afford seeing any of the world besides the middle United States.

I would put $200,000 into a savings account, and the last $80,000 would just be for spendingbuying new wardrobes that actually fit us, getting new laptops that actually work, furnishing the house with bath mats and a bed frame and all the things we haven’t been able to afford in our one-bedroom apartment.

And that would be it.

I would finally have my degree, so I’d be able to get a job with health insurance and a livable wage.

We would have two cars, so Mike would be free to get a job wherever he can find one instead of having to stay with one he hates that lets him drive a work truck.

We would own a house, so we wouldn’t have to spend a third of our income renting a tiny box to live in.

And we would have health insurance, so I could finally see a neurologist about my headaches, and we could both get the therapy and probable medication that will make our lives more than just bearable.

What else could a person possibly need? What could you do with any more than that?

And yet: We live in a world where people have not just one million, not just two or three, but thousands of millions of dollars. And they are never satisfied, and they think it is their right to have so much, though there are countless others on the planet who don’t have enough to survive.

And because they have so much, they can pay to have governments skew the laws in their favor, as though they didn’t have enough of an advantage already. Because they have so much, they can afford propagandathey can spend decades and millions of dollars indoctrinating everyone’s libertarian uncles, teaching them that as white men such wealth is their birthright, too, that it is virtuous to protect it; and that if they have not yet personally received their birthright it’s only because of the evil liberal government that literally steals money from the pockets of wholesome, honest, hard-working, freedom-defending, totally self-made billionaires to let the lazy, entitled poor people spend their food stamps on iPhones and manicures.

Of course, these billionaires could buy thousands of iPhones and manicures with just the taxes they don’t pay. But that is not the point. The pointthe only one that matters in the United Statesis that it is immoral to stand in the way of a person making money (especially if that person is already rich). This is literally something they believe.

The more I see, the more I hate this fucking country. I probably hate most of the world, really, and just haven’t had the chance to develop it, not having lived there. But the worst part is that I actually love it so much, and that’s why I hate it (the world, not the U.S.—that I really do hate). It seems so clear to me, so incredibly simple, how everything should be. Do what makes you happy; don’t hurt anyone else on purpose; do what you can to fix it if you hurt someone accidentally. Don’t let anyone else decide things for you; most of all, keep your own damn mouth shut and don’t try to decide things for others. Know that you are neither any more nor any less important than anyone else. Care.

Why is that so hard?

Dangerous Weapons

Did you know that the state of Texas has absolutely no laws restricting the open carry of a shotgun or rifle? There are laws for handguns, which is to say, it’s legal if you have a permit, and unless you make explicitly threatening remarks or unholster it—placing your hand on the weapon in its holster is not considered threatening. (I guess Texas lawmakers haven’t seen as many movies as I have.)

I work for a smallish city government in North Texas, and we received an email today with a reminder about the policies for weapons on city property. Here’s my favorite part: items categorized as “dangerous weapons” are not allowed at all, including stun guns and knives with a blade longer than 5.5 inches. So. Rifles and shotguns, fine. Handguns, fine as long as you have a permit. But if the blade on your knife is too long, that’s when the state of Texas considers you dangerous.

Nope. Gun culture in the U.S. isn’t fucked up at all.