THIS BULLSHIT

Okay. Look. I wasn’t expecting that much. I knew it was small  — five feet in diameter. I knew it was trendy, and therefore I didn’t expect much.

BUT THIS IS SOME BULLSHIT.

My burrito blanket arrived today.

That’s the first thing, actually. Because I ordered it from California Burrito Blanket six freaking weeks ago, on April 12.

2019-05-28 16.42.23

$29.95 felt steep. But my wife, Toni, lives for burritos. She survived college by making her own burritos. She taught me how to make burritos, and we eat them once a week at least. She also loves blankets, and being wrapped up and cozy.

And for the last month or so of her time as a teacher, which just ended last week, I had been giving her little presents. Nothing serious, just little prizes every morning when I woke her up, because she hates getting up and she hated going to work, and having me give her a little toy or a stuffed  animal or something made it a little easier. Mostly it was things I bought at Wal-Mart or Target or some such — Walgreens’ post-Easter sale was a gold mine. So I wanted one thing that would be a big final prize, to give her on her last day. And that’s when this thing went viral, and then showed up in my feed on Facebook. So I clicked on the link, and I bought it.

Here’s what I ordered:

Can you see there where it says “100% microfiber?” Right: I figured it was one of those sort of velour lap blankets you can buy anywhere. It looked fun. I thought Toni would love it.

It arrived today. (A full week after I meant to give it to her —  but that wasn’t the problem.) Here’s what was in the mail.

 

Huh, I thought. Kinda — thin. Not very big across, either; about the size of a DVD case. Very light. So I opened it up, and there, encased in more plastic, was my wife’s final Thank You For Teaching gift.

20190528_143602

The picture doesn’t do it justice, for two reasons: one, it does not look like a tortilla, it looks like a bloody sheet that was laid on top of a murder victim, or maybe a close-up of melanoma: it’s vaguely beige, and the “scorch marks” are far more red than brown. Here’s my attempt to show it as a shroud, with myself as murder victim — and also, this is why you cannot take pictures on the floor when you have dogs. (Also note I had to take the above picture while my wife held Roxie back, because she wanted to stand right in the middle of it and wag her tail. Adorable. And I’m trying to be mad here.)

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Also, I think this one captures the other problems with this “blanket:” one, you see that sheen? That’s because it isn’t microfiber, it’s freaking polyester; and IT’S ONE-SIDED!

Here’s the reverse:

20190528_143652

 

And two, the biggest problem of all: THIS THING IS THINNER THAN A GODDAMN KLEENEX!

Here’s me holding it. YOU CAN READ MY UCSC T-SHIRT THROUGH THE GODDAMN BLANKET!

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IT’S LIKE FUCKING PLASTIC WRAP!! See that dark mark over “slug?” That’s one of the bloodstains — I mean scorch marks.

What’s that, you say? That’s just the white side, which is clearly not meant to be on top? Surely it isn’t transparent from the burrito side? AU CONTRAIRE, MOTHERFUCKER:

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I’ve seen emergency camping blankets, those things that are essentially tinfoil, that are more comfortable than this plastic rag.

This is no blanket. It’s not even a burrito: it’s a stained tablecloth. Here, look:

 

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It even makes Roxie sad. See her sad face?

 

So, ladies and gentlemen, please: DO NOT PURCHASE THE BURRITO BLANKET. Especially not from California Burrito Blanket. My assumption is that when it went viral, as there was probably no way to copyright a blanket that looks like a tortilla, a thousand other companies jumped on board, including the company I bought it from, and they produced the cheapest pieces of shit I’ve ever seen. And of course, Facebook was more than happy to push their shit on my timeline. I have no doubt that there are far higher quality blankets out there, but obviously there is no way to tell in advance which one you are mail ordering. At some point these things will be in actual stores, and you can pick it up and feel the quality yourself before you buy it. Like I should have done.

Fucking internet.

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This Morning

This morning I’m thinking about crime and punishment. Sin and redemption, maybe.

Our school got vandalized this past weekend. The new mural, which my wife’s art students have been working on for months, was severely damaged: they spraypainted racist and sexist words, large phalluses, and extremely stupid pro-drug comments all over it. We don’t know who did it, but whoever it was clearly targeted the mural specifically, as nothing else was damaged (A couple of small tags in the parking lot are the only other marks left behind).

I have no idea why someone would do that. You’re pissed off? Sure, that’s fine; do something about it, confront people, post on the internet that you’re mad, write a letter, hell, stand outside with a sign and say “YOU SUCK!” There are a thousand ways to express your anger, most of them very satisfying. What the hell do you get from something like this? Is it funny to be cruel to innocent people? My presumption is that the anger of those who did it was directed either at the school or at humanity and the world in general; so why go after the artwork being created by people you don’t hate? And if you do hate them, why go after that?

If we do catch who did it — and it was reported to the police as a hate crime, as indeed it was — then their punishment probably won’t be enough, because it probably won’t fix the problem: someone who thinks this is the way to go about expressing your anger is only going to continue targeting the wrong victims in the wrong ways. I don’t know how you fix that.

I know how you fix the mural, though. I know because the students and staff at the school did that yesterday, as soon as the vandalism was discovered. The people who had been leading the mural project were seniors, so they weren’t at the school as they graduated this weekend; two of them did come by, intending to work on the mural, which was unfinished; when they saw what had been done to it, it crushed them. It was the rest of the school, out of affection for those young artists — and for my wife, who was helping out with the mural mainly in an advisory role, though she did also put several difficult hours of work into it — who took it upon themselves to try to clean off the spraypaint, and then to re-paint the original design so as to cover up what could not be removed.

It’s not fixed. It’s not finished; there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. The alumni who were leading it are not sure yet if they want to try to finish the piece, because clearly, it is vulnerable and it is a target, and there’s very little stopping the vandals from coming back and doing it all again. If our artists decided to take the risk, and put whatever spirit they have left into finishing this mural, only to have it defaced a second time? It would be devastating.

That would be a hate crime. That would be vandalism, in the sense of meaningless destruction. And there wouldn’t be enough punishment for people who would do that.

This is NSFW. And Trump is a POS.

So I wrote a blog, 2000 words, about how I’m unhappy with the way things are going because some things are going well, and I don’t want Trump to get credit for that because he isn’t the reason things are going well, but if we give him credit, we may end up with more people like him doing the things he’s done, because they’ll point at Trump as a success story. And I do think that’s a problem.

But you know what? That’s not what I want to say right now. That’s not the blog I want to post.

What I want to say right now is

Fuck Trump.

 

Fuck him all the way out the door and down the steps, fuck him rolling down the street and around the corner, fuck him all the way to the sewage treatment plant: then fuck Trump into the collection tanks, and fuck him step by step through the process, with the rest of the chunky liquified shit until he has been treated, emulsified, centrifuged, disinfected, milled, filtered, diluted, and sprayed onto his own fucking golf course to make the greens grow. And then let a blind man tee off over and over until he has turned the entire green, watered with Liquid Trump, into broken divots. Then mulch those, feed them to free-range farm pigs, let them turn the grass into chunky liquid pig-shit: and then run him through the process all over again. Keep doing that until there aren’t any more Trump golf courses. If at any point we feel there isn’t enough Trump-taint in the gray water, then throw in his fucking kids. (The grown ones; I got no problem with Barron. Or Tiffany.)

I’ve tried so hard. I’ve realized in the past couple of years that my loyalty to liberal, progressive politics, and especially to the Democratic Party, has been unthinking and in some cases counter to my actual desires and values. Not a lot; I still agree with most liberal progressive ideas. But I think political correctness is a blight on the language and the culture; and honestly, while I love animals, passing laws and regulations to limit human progress or achievement in order to save a rare form of tadpole that lives in one stream in Wyoming is stupid – the world will not be a lesser place if the Greater Wyoming red-speckled spiral-tailed hovering-footed tadpole goes extinct. Mainly, though, there’s one thing – and only one thing – that Trump was right about: Washington is a swamp. Both parties are corrupt, incompetent, filled with narcissistic sociopaths who serve themselves and their cronies and not the American people. I’m not too far away from saying that all of our government should go into the sewage with the President.

I am still trying to decide where I should land politically. I want to remain an idealist, which would throw me all the way to the left; but I also want to be practical and realistic, and that pushes me towards the center. Choosing either one seems like a betrayal of the other: and that’s a result of our political morass, as well, that there are purity tests, that people on the same side turn on each other in a heartbeat if they can find a tender place to sink their claws. We saw it with Sanders supporters versus the DNC and the Clinton campaign, and we’ve seen it for years with the Tea Party and how it has destroyed what used to be the Republican party, resulting in – President Shit-spray. Part of me wants everyone to agree, so we can all move in one direction; but I realize – and this is my big epiphany of the last couple of years of learning how to think more about my politics – that when everyone agrees, it doesn’t lead to good results. We get the best ideas, the best policies, the best country out of a constant and honest debate. The worst thing that our two political parties have done is surrender that ideal in favor of winning. That’s why we have legal partisan gerrymandering, inculcated for decades by both sides; that’s why we haven’t gotten rid of Citizens United, or passed campaign finance reform or term limits or strict controls on lobbyists and corporate influence of politicians. They all stopped trying to do a good job, and focused on just keeping the job. I know that’s always been a factor, but it seems to have become the only factor. One of my biggest surprises of the last two years of the Feces Administration was the sudden onrush of respect for Jeff freaking Flake, a cardboard cutout of a Republican who nonetheless resigned rather than suck up to Trump. (I suspect that he is going to continue on in politics, using his resignation from the Senate as a stepping stone for his next ambition; but he hasn’t done so yet, so as of now, I still respect the man for his decision. Integrity over politics. When was the last time that happened?)

So how do I reconcile that? Practically speaking, the way forward is with a party; because I am not a piece of shit, that means I have to support the Democratic party.

I’m sorry for those that offends. I have actually gained quite a lot of respect for the GOP and the conservative ideals they have historically espoused; the attraction of the moderate political position for me is it allows for that honest debate I mentioned which leads to the best possible outcome, that pull between two poles, both with merit, but both improved by being pulled towards the other – liberal ideas are better with a strong inner structure of conservative reality, and conservative ideas are better with a leavening of liberal idealism. The Republican party has served that role, and for a long time, and in a lot of ways, it has done so honorably, and therefore made our country better. But right now, and for the immediately foreseeable future, the Republican party is the party of Trump. Which means it’s the party of shit. You can’t hold up a 300-pound piece of shit and not get your hands dirty, you just can’t. And I don’t even care if he’s having a positive effect, if the economy grows and North Korea disarms and all that jazz: shit makes flowers grow, which is lovely: but it’s still shit. The best thing I can say about the current state of the union is that I hope it makes the land fertile again. Actually, the metaphor might hold true, because confronting the truth of Trump has made us all look much more closely at our political situation, and it is possible that we will get some genuinely good results after this shit-storm has passed. But now is not the future, and now, Trump is shit, and that means the Republicans are shit, because they back Trump. Period.

Where was I? Oh, right. So, if I want to get results, I have to support Democrats. I mean, sure, I could try to become an anarchist, or a pure Socialist, or something along those lines; there’s an attraction in that, in the purity of the ideas. But in reality, there’s no chance of changing the political situation in any way without one of the two major parties. Ignoring reality means people get hurt. I don’t want to hurt people: it’s kind of my main thing. (Note: I recognize the seeming irony of my rant about grinding our President into gray water while saying I don’t want people to get hurt, but you see, shit isn’t people. I don’t mind if shit gets hurt. [Second note: I’m kidding. I don’t want any harm to come to Mr. Trump. I want him out of office and living in the disgrace that he deserves. I’d like him to live like that for a long, long time.]) I want practical solutions to our immediate problems, all of them chosen and thought out with a positive ideal in constant sight; for that, I need to be involved in actual practical politics with real people in this country. A perfect example of this is Bernie Sanders: who was a Socialist, and then an Independent (Which he only got away with because he represented Vermont, even though he’s from New York), and then ran for the Democratic party nomination for President. That’s an idealist working with practical reality, and that’s why he would have had my vote if I could have voted for him. Another perfect example of someone who creates practical solutions while keeping an ideal firmly in mind is Elizabeth Warren, who I would vote for over any other potential candidate in 2020 with the possible exception of Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. On the other hand, the Democratic party is also the party of Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, and they, from what I have seen, either  stick to the ideals, but give very little in the way of practical solutions – this is how Schumer has handled Trump, and it’s honorable, but it’s not slowing down the spray of shit – or else they surrender the ideals for the sake of practicality, as happened with the ACA when they removed the public option, which was the whole freaking point of the thing, the loss of which has made it useless, and, eventually, a political liability.

Sorry if that got muddy: it’s hard to stay clear when talking about politics. My point is that the idealism is necessary: purely practical compromise ends up losing its way and accomplishing nothing of lasting value; at the same time, practicality is necessary, because pure idealism doesn’t accomplish anything in the first place. Everyone already has their own ideals, and they’re mostly not mine. It’s too hard to get everyone to agree with the same ideals – impossible, in truth, unless you go full Big Brother and set up the Thought Police. This is what upsets me about the struggles within the Democratic/progressive wing, that we are all fighting each other over our ideas, refusing to accept or support people who don’t have all – and I mean ALL – of the right ideas. The fact that the big criticism of Bernie Sanders during the primary campaign was that he didn’t have a lot of support from minorities shows two things: the important one is that the Democratic party has given up its ideals, which means it has ceased to do good work for minorities in this country, which has left them smothered under the shit this country has piled atop them for centuries (Though fortunately, they seem to have found their own power and are clawing their own way out of the shit of history) and therefore Sanders could not simply pull in minority support by virtue of running as a Democrat; the entirely unimportant one is that Bernie Sanders is a white guy from a white state, and therefore has not had a lot of connection with, or influence on, the situation facing minority Americans. And if that made anyone refuse to vote for Sanders, then it helped give rise to the Shitpile-in-Chief; and that is a travesty. (I’m not saying that Democratic infighting led to Trump’s election, just that any vote that was lost because of the infighting is a specific, individual travesty. People that don’t support the Democrats at all, who are Greens or Libertarians or Socialists and so voted according to their conscience, that isn’t a travesty. But it may not have been practical.) A travesty that happened because people hung too much on the power of their ideals, and ignored practicality; ideally, a President should have a strong connection with all of their constituents; practically speaking, Bernie Sanders was the best candidate in 2016.

So here I am. I can support my ideals, and allow the shit to continue polluting this wonderful country; or I can support a party that keeps electing poor leaders: and I do think, in retrospect, that Clinton would have been one of those bad leaders. She’s not a piece of shit, and so would have been a VAST improvement; but I think she has very little personal connection to the ideals of progressivism. She’s too practical to be really great. I still wish she had won. Man, wouldn’t it be nice if all we were dealing with was a president who wasn’t progressive enough?

But all right, here we are with the shit. And no matter who you are or what your ideals, accept this as gospel truth: Trump is shit. The way he attacks everyone he disagrees with, the way he lies about everything, the way every single issue becomes a reflection only and always of him personally – the man is a piece of shit vaguely in the shape of a human. The most recent outrage is the separation of families at the border – intentional and callous and unforgivably cruel, and we all know it – and his attempt to defend it by holding an Exploit-a-thon, where he paraded out the family members of people murdered by immigrants, like that changes the statistics (which clearly show that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes despite some terrible exceptions), like that has anything to do with the family separation policy, like that’s anything other than cheap, heartless sensationalism intended to stir up racist fears in Middle America.

He signed the pictures. Did you see that? He signed the blown-up photos of the goddamn murder victims. Look.

And look, another Trump signature.

Clear as day: Trump's signature.

[Source]

Think what your brain has to be like to let you make that conscious decision to do that. Repeatedly, because he seems to have signed all of them, and at no point did he think, “Jesus, what am I doing? Who the fuck would want my autograph on the picture of their dead loved one? Is this really a memento they want? Will they want to remember this hoopla at all?” No, I’ll tell you what he thought: he thought, “These people want to use their grief to win political points, just like I do; I should thank them for letting me use them. Then they can frame this picture and tell their friends how they volunteered to become ghouls for the sake of bolstering up a racist piece of shit.”

So that’s where we are, and the cold, hard truth is this: it isn’t over. Trump is still President. And he’s just going to get worse. And I think the Republicans are going to keep supporting him, because too many of the heartless conservative bastards in charge, the ones who have no connection to the ideals they claim to serve but think only of practicality – the counterparts to Pelosi and Schumer and Clinton and Reid, namely McConnell and Ryan and Lindsey Graham, and Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, and the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson and the rest of them – are willing to use Trump as their dancing monkey to distract us all while they pull the country all the way over to their side, strap us all to their pole, and whip us with a leather crop made from the tanned hide of Ayn Rand. (That is to say: break the federal government, give all of the money to the rich and let the poor die – unless they’re in the military. No, wait; they still die, then.) And the closer we get to that pole, to that extreme end of the spectrum where there is nothing but a red so deep it looks black, the faster Trump will have to dance and the louder he’ll have to scream and the more shit he’ll have to fling to draw our attention away from the straps being tied around us and the crack of the Rand-whip. I think that his final act will be a terribly protracted fight over his impeachment, which will probably finish breaking the political system – it will be a miracle, by the way, if the last pieces of the filibuster rule make it through this administration; and it is truly worth noting that the first attacks on the filibuster rule came from the Democrats – and which may end in Trump’s removal from office, but will also end with the final slate of conservative goals being checked off, one by one.

Not only do I want to get rid of the piece of shit, but I also want to stop the heartless money-zombies from fucking everything up that Trump doesn’t shit on. And therefore, I will be supporting the Democratic party, and voting for Democratic candidates, even if they choose the wrong ones. I hope they choose the right ones – but whoever they are, they won’t be pieces of shit, and therefore they get my vote.

Join me in voting against shit this November, and in every election until the final collapse of Trump.

And then after we finally manage that, we’ll have a lot of work to do. And a lot of thinking, as well. We have work to do now, but it doesn’t take any thought. Shit is bad. Let’s flush it away, and wash our hands.

Please.

Children in Cages

People arrested for allegedly trying to enter the US illegally wait in cages inside a warehouse in McAllen, Texas. Picture: AP

People arrested for allegedly trying to enter the US illegally wait in cages inside a warehouse in McAllen, Texas. Picture: AP

 

CUSTOMS AND BORDER PATROL VIA REUTERS

 

Did you know we’re keeping children in cages?

 

I actually wrote a different blog yesterday, about how I fear that Trump’s success – or at least the positive things that are happening around him, even if they’re not because of him, like the unemployment rate going down – will encourage a cultural shift towards bullying. But I can’t post that one until I write and post this. Because this is the first thing that needs to be discussed. In fact, we should start every conversation with this until the answer can genuinely be, “No, we’re not; they stopped that.” Walk into Starbucks, and the barrista should say, “Hi, there are children in cages, but can I take your order?” And you should say, “Unnecessary family separation as a deterrent policy is a crime against humanity, and I’ll have a latte.”

So. Because of the attack on the media from Trump and the right (And because the corporate media has been sliding down into the muck for a generation at least), let’s establish facts.

First fact: when you type “children” into the Google search box, the first option is “Children in cages.” This is America. Childish Gambino released that video a month early.

Second fact: is this actually happening? Yes.

Federal officials said Tuesday that since May, they have separated 2,342 children from their families, rendering them unaccompanied minors in the government’s care.

(Source)

 

Third fact: are these children being kept in cages? Here’s a good explanation of the semantic argument.  If I may, the answer is: Yes. They are detention facilities, they do provide for the basic needs of the children, with the exception of the most obvious one: their parents aren’t there. But the essential point is: the children are held in enclosures made of chain-link fencing on concrete floors, and they are not allowed out of those enclosures. They are not able to see or communicate with their parents unless they can wend their way through an enormous bureaucracy.

Fourth fact: The children separated from their parents include infants and toddlers. Being kept in “Tender age shelters.”

 

 

Fifth fact: this is not, despite the administration’s stance, required by law, nor is it the fault of the Democrats. Unless we stop believing in free will. The administration has claimed – I heard White House spokesman Hogan Gidley reference all three of these elements during an interview with NPR – that the separation of families and the detention of children is the result of three things: the Flores Agreement from 1997, the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008, and the 2016 decision by the 9th Circuit Court which included accompanied minors in the previous laws regarding unaccompanied minors.

Here’s a good article from PolitiFact about this argument

If I may quote Inigo Montoya: “Lemme ‘splain. No, is too much: lemme sum up.”

The Flores Settlement agreement (Which settled a class-action lawsuit actually going back to the Reagan Administration) says that aliens in the custody of INS (now ICE) who are unaccompanied minors must be held in the “least restrictive setting” possible. Specifically, it says,

“The INS shall place each detained minor in the least restrictive setting appropriate to the minor’s age and special needs, provided that such setting is consistent with its interests to ensure the minor’s timely appearance before the INS and the immigration courts and to protect the minor’s well-being and that of others.”

Source

This means, to the Trump administration, that children can’t be jailed, and if their parents have to be, then the children must be separated from the jailed parents. I’ve seen various sources say that the settlement requires unaccompanied minors be released within 20 days, but I can’t find that passage in the agreement. If you’d like to try, look here.

The 2008 law applies because it says:

Except in the case of exceptional circumstances, any department or agency of the Federal Government that has an unaccompanied alien child in custody shall transfer the custody of such child to the Secretary of Health and Human Services not later than 72 hours after determining that such child is an unaccompanied alien child.

Source

This means that, once the children are separated from their parents (and therefore, according to the Trump administration, they are unaccompanied minors), they cannot be held by either INS, if the parents are being held pending an immigration hearing, nor by the U.S. Marshals, who hold the parents if they are being accused of a federal crime – which, under this administration, they are; that’s the “Zero Tolerance” policy that Jeff Sessions announced in April. Sessions’s memo to the state attorneys general is here,  and the law that he cites, the law against unlawful entry, is here.

Please note that the maximum penalty for a first offense is six months in jail, which makes this crime a misdemeanor. Most adult immigrants, once they reach a hearing, are released with time served.

Finally, the 2016 decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals broadened the Flores Settlement to include accompanied minors, meaning that they, too, had to be held in the least restrictive setting available, and, as with the 1997 settlement, the government had to prioritize release of children in custody to family members over any other solution; the decision says that this was also the case with minors detained with their parents, though it does also make clear that this does not require the government to release the parents in order to provide a custodial parent for the children. It does require, as the Flores Settlement did, that parents be released with their children if they are not a legal or flight risk. 

Text of the Decision

 

So what does all this mean? It means that the Trump administration is arguing that they must uphold the law, and they must do something drastic to reduce the crisis of immigration across the southern U.S. border. They claim that those who cross the border have committed a crime, and therefore they must be prosecuted. If those people brought their minor children with them in the commission of this crime, those children have to be separated from their parents as they cannot be held in a prison with their parents, but must be remanded to the custody of Health and Human Services, as per the Flores Settlement, the 2016 decision by the 9th Circuit, and the 2008 Wilberforce Reauthorization Act. HHS then places those kids into tents and warehouses, wherever they have facilities that meet the standard of the Flores Settlement (Which says that they have to have the basic needs, and also opportunities for exercise, entertainment, education, and contact with their parents. Well.). This, they say, is all required by law, and at various times, various members of the administration from President Trump on down have all claimed that this is the fault of the Democrats: first they claimed that Democrats passed the laws (They didn’t), then they claimed that this has been going on since either the Obama administration or the Clinton administration (Neither is true; both administrations detained unaccompanied minors in similar settings, but neither intentionally separated accompanied minors from their parents and then treated them as unaccompanied minors. Generally they released families. It should also be noted that there were not nearly as many families trying to immigrate with their minor children in the past. Source), and then they claimed that the Democrats could end this any time by passing legislation to change the laws or the policies – their preference, apparently, is for the alteration of the Flores Settlement, so that they can detain children, accompanied and unaccompanied, for as long as necessary. This is also untrue in that the Republicans control all branches of government; it is true that they need Democrat votes to pass a law through the Senate, but the first obstruction to any legislation is and has been the President, who just will not say what he is willing to support; the two bills currently being debated in the House, one more conservative without a path to citizenship for the DACA recipients, one more moderate (but still Republican/conservative) with a path to citizenship (along with limiting legal immigration and funding the Trump border wall) have BOTH got his support, whatever the hell that means.

But please, in this era of lies and exaggeration and political spin, let’s just get down to brass tacks. This policy of family separation is. Fucking. WRONG. It is vile and appalling and inhumane and cruel and everything that this country is not supposed to be. Regardless of whether the parents of those children have committed crimes (and in the case of asylum seekers, some of whom have also reportedly been separated from their children because the asylum seekers stay in the custody of ICE while awaiting their hearings and the children have to be remanded to HHS according to Wilberforce, literally no crime has been committed, as seeking asylum is legal.), the children have not, and the children have rights. They have the right to be with their parents, and they have the right to not be jailed. That doesn’t imply that you put them into chainlink-partition-spaces in tents in Texas; it implies that you find a way to ensure that the parents can be released from custody without violating the laws you are trying to enforce.

Now let’s talk about that. Because there really is an obvious solution here, even though it is one that Trump finds untenable because it makes his base froth at the mouth: he calls it “Catch and Release.” This is the policy that previous administrations have used with most families (Not, as Obama’s Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said, in cases where there might be some doubt as to the child’s familial relationship to the adult; thereby rebutting current DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen’s argument that children must be separated in all cases because the families have no documentary evidence of familial relationship and therefore ICE has to assume the adults are human traffickers) and with many other immigrants seeking asylum or going through legal processes. You set up a court date, and then you release the people on their own recognizance, with the understanding that they will show up for their court date.

Here’s the thing. This is how our system works. Our Constitution requires the provision of bail that is not excessive, and that everyone receive a fair and speedy trial, and that anyone accused of any crime is innocent until proven guilty. Unlawful entry is a misdemeanor. The maximum fine is $250. Reasonable bail for that crime would be, what, maybe $100? Public intoxication, also a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of 6 months (Varies by state – I’m using Indiana because it came up first on Google) and a fine of a whopping $1000, has a bail around $200-$500, according to the Bail Bonds Network. So I would think that bail for the parents should be something that most of them should have access to, especially if they have friends or family in the U.S. Once bail has been granted, then the question is whether or not the accused will show up for court; President Trump, of course, argues that they won’t, that the illegal immigrants are intending exactly this: showing up with their kids so that if they get caught, they will be released and then they will vanish into the Heart of Darkness inside the U.S. and never be seen again until they get arrested for rape or murder.

But here’s the thing. Immigrants show up. They don’t miss their court dates.

Moreover, studies show that asylum seekers—like many of the thousands of Central American families fleeing violence and arriving to the U.S.—are likely to appear for proceedings, because they have such a strong incentive to avoid returning to persecution. Indeed, as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) researchers found in 2013, asylum seekers have a natural “inclination towards law-abidingness,” and view making a refugee claim as “a manifestation of faith in legal process.” U.S. research bears this out. A Vera Institute study, from 1997 to 2000, of asylum seekers in expedited removal proceedings found to have credible fear, found that 93 percent with intensive supervision complied with all court proceedings; 84 percent complied with minimal supervision; and 78 percent complied even if simply released without supervision. These compliance rates were so high that Vera concluded that “[a]sylum seekers do not need to be detained to appear…. They also do not seem to need intensive supervision.”

Source

And if that rate doesn’t appeal, there are certainly ways to improve it. Immigrants with legal representation, for instance, attend hearings at an even higher rate. Solutions like allowing immigrants to check in via phone call or smartphone location apps create higher response rates. Even ankle bracelets (like the two that Paul Manafort has to wear ) would allow a tough-on-crime sort of stance, while allowing families to stay together, and reducing the burden on government resources to house all of these people.

In other words: there are alternatives. Even if you accept the claim that the administration is enforcing immigration law, it has to be pointed out that there are also 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the U.S., who are not currently being rounded up, separated from their children, and housed in federal lockup. So apparently the Trump administration is actually choosing and prioritizing which laws it enforces to what extent. Which is, indeed, the whole goddamn point of an executive branch. And this executive is choosing to prosecute people accused of first time illegal entry – a misdemeanor with a lesser penalty than some states impose for jaywalking – and therefore choosing, as a matter of intentional, proactive, object-oriented policy, to separate families and put children in cages. This is our government, and our country. It is us, unless we do something about it.

It is fucking wrong. It has to stop. It has to be the first thing we say, and the first thing we act on, in our current opposition to the abuses of our government. And I don’t care if you are a progressive liberal or a libertarian anarchist: this is what you should be talking about. This is what you should be fighting. Call your representative, call the White House, write letters, march, protest, donate, do anything and everything you can. Fight this. Fight it now.

We are keeping children in cages.

Not Another War

You know what? I just don’t want a war.

It saddens me – no; it horrifies me that my students who are 14 and 15 and 16 years old have never lived in a United States that wasn’t at war. It’s a good swath of my adult life that this country has been at war; but almost all the years before that – I was born right around the end of the Vietnam War – I have known a country that has been relatively peaceful. We had the Cold War throughout my youth, of course – the Russians were the bad guys in pretty much every movie I saw until I was in college – and we sent troops to Panama and Grenada, Africa and Serbia; and there have been troops stationed all around the globe throughout my life; but we hadn’t invaded a country and torn down its government until I was a teacher. Until after 9/11.

I remember it well. One of my strongest memories is of hearing that we had invaded Iraq, two years later, on a pretense that I didn’t begin to understand, let alone believe; when we did, I remember writing angrily in my journal that I was afraid we would colonize the country, that Bush the Younger had brought us back because Bush the Elder hadn’t finished the job, and now we would never leave. I was almost right: we left, eventually, but because we did so, now we will never do that again. Because as soon as we left Iraq, ISIS rose, and became the new villain in every movie from now until – well, probably forever.

That’s why I don’t want a war. Because mark my words: any country we invade, from now until the end of this country’s reign as the world’s most violent nation, will become a permanent victim of this nation’s military colonialism. Because we need to “stay until the job is done.” Because we need to “ensure stability.” Because we need to “prevent the rise of terrorism.” You know: all the reasons why we still have troops in Afghanistan after seventeen goddamn years of occupation. Because something has to justify the continued expenditure of trillions of dollars to feed the military-industrial complex.

The same reason why the military wants to keep our forces in Syria. To ensure stability in the areas not controlled by Bashar al-Assad. To prevent the resurgence of ISIS.

And may I just say: god damn that group for giving our military the only justification it will ever need, forever. But I also have to say that I understand their motives. After all, we are invaders. We are colonizers. We attack governments that are not our enemies, under the thinnest of pretexts, devastating every inch of infrastructure in the country, and then we occupy and act exactly like the tyrants we are supposedly removing from power: we paint the nation black with corruption and graft, we put our cronies into positions of power regardless of their suitability for the role, we act with complete impunity while arresting hundreds if not thousands of “insurgents” and “terrorists,” many of whom are surely innocent, and plenty of whom are thrown into dark holes from which they never escape, where they are brutalized and often tortured. You know where ISIS started, right? Right: in American-run prisons.

Some country did that to my homeland, I’d fucking be a terrorist, too. Well: I wouldn’t. I’m a pacifist. But I’d probably get arrested by the CIA for the things I’d write, and the things I’d teach my students. I might even end up in Guantanamo Bay.

They’re still there, you know. 45 prisoners, some of them detained since 2002. Sixteen years in prison thousands of miles from home, many if not all of them victims of torture; none of them given due process according to our own nation’s laws, let alone the laws of their various home countries. Because we call them terrorists, and prisoners of war. A war older than my students.

I do not want another war.

It’s hard for me to say that, because the two impending wars (assuming John Bolton and Mike Pompeo don’t get their way and lead us into a war in Iran), in Syria and North Korea, would both, in some ways, be “good” wars. Both those regimes are guilty of unspeakable crimes. The North Korean dictatorship has killed millions of people, mostly through starvation, over the last seven decades; 500,000 Syrians have been killed and 100,000 more are missing under the Syrian regime and the civil war that has ravaged the country since 2011, when a dozen young men were arrested, imprisoned, tortured, and executed for painting anti-government graffiti on a wall in Damascus. Syria especially frightens me, because the steps leading to the current atrocities have all been ones that I could see our government taking in this country: it began with people talking about overthrowing the government, which led to arrests; the arrests led to protests, which led to a police and military crackdown; and then the revolution started. After that, the arrests turned to a machine: tens of thousands were detained, imprisoned in terrible conditions, beaten regularly, hung from manacles, starved and mistreated, and then executed. I have trouble thinking that American soldiers would emulate Nazis, with cattle cars and death camps and gas chambers and ovens; but I can certainly see them beating people, holding them without trial, even executing them; all of those things have happened in CIA and military prisons over the last seventeen years of this current war. Could they happen in this country, to our people, if those people were deemed enemies of the state?

I’d say yes.

That scares the hell out of me. Particularly when I listen to stories about Bashar al-Assad responding to accusations of war crimes with, essentially, “Fake news!” When he dons a suit and carries his briefcase to work the day after the U.S. targets his chemical weapons facilities, because bluster and bluff are how he has managed to hold onto power – along with his backing from Russia.

It just keeps getting scarier, doesn’t it? You know Assad’s been reelected twice? Sure. He wins around 98% of the vote, every time. Biggest electoral victory in history. And the biggest crowds at his inauguration. Huge crowds. Beautiful inauguration. The best. Believe me.

I don’t want us to go to war in Syria because if we do, we’ll never leave. We’ll keep troops there forever, the same way we’re keeping them in Afghanistan, because we somehow think that our troops are maintaining stability: even though, as a foreign invasive force, I have no doubt we are creating the same instability, the same violent resentment of our presence, that we have to stay in the country in order to suppress. See how perfect that is? As long as our troops stay there, there will always be a need for our troops to stay; and as long as our troops stay there, there will always be attacks that stoke up the dogs of war back home, so they keep supporting those troops, supporting those troops. Look at how the Republican party, the party of fiscal responsibility and small government, was happy to sign away the biggest budget and one of the biggest deficits in history, a budget which expands government in every possible way – because that same budget increased military spending. That’s it, that’s all they got: more money for the military. And did you listen to them talk about it? “We have to make sure we handle our readiness issues,” I kept hearing. Because apparently the largest and best-equipped army in the world is not quite ready enough to do violence, should they be called upon to do so. We have to be ready just in case. To protect our freedom.

I don’t want to go to war in Syria because doing so will cause some further instability somewhere else in the region: the Syrian civil war was at least partly caused by the rise of ISIS, which wanted to conquer Syria for its caliphate; and ISIS was partly created by our invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, which broke al Qaeda and then created a power vacuum to give the remnants of al Qaeda room to grow into ISIS. Of course, al Qaeda was partly created by our support of the Mujaheddin in Afghanistan, because they resisted the Russian invasion; and also by our support of Iraq in the 80’s because Iraq opposed Iran – which was our enemy because the Ayatollah Khomeini blamed us for installing the Shah, after we overthrew the Iranian government in the 50’s. Because that government opposed our support for Israel. It never stops: it’s an unbroken chain of broken countries, broken governments, broken people turned into refugees, and then into terrorists and extremists, by us and our allies, simply because we won’t. Fucking. Leave.

I don’t want a war in Syria because if we are in another ground war when 2020 rolls around, then President Trump will get reelected just like Bush did in 2004, because Trump’s not any less popular than Bush was in 2004 (And I heard today that Joe Biden is thinking of running for the Democratic nomination, and all I could think of was John Kerry in 2004, and Al Gore in 2000, and to a lesser extent Hillary Clinton in 2016: because when we run these same kinds of Democrats, we get – Bush and Trump. And even if he won, well, Biden certainly supports the military, doesn’t he? Sure.), and because Trump will pull the same bullshit that Bush did: you can’t change commanders in the middle of a fight, and those Democrats don’t support our troops and aren’t willing to bankrupt the entire nation in order to ensure our troops are entirely, eternally, apocalyptically ready for any battle at any time in any place, including every battle at once. Just in case North Korea gets uppity while we’re suppressing Syria and Iran. Even though clearly the Democrats are just fine with bankrupting the nation in order to feed money to the military-industrial complex, because they signed that budget, too.

I can’t stand it any more. My former idealism, believing in the essential goodness of the government, especially the American government, is gone now, shattered by the eagerness with which all of our elected officials beat the war drums and spend, spend, spend, to send Americans into danger and to kill thousands upon thousands of innocent civilians in other nations, in drone strikes, in air strikes, in strikes designed to degrade the enemies’ capability to cause damage. My love for my country is gone, because what kind of country is this to love? The only nation to use nuclear weapons – also on a civilian populace. The only nation to prefer carpet bombing to putting “boots on the ground,” because we’d rather cause collateral damage (read: dead innocents) than put our precious soldiers at risk. Don’t get me wrong, our soldiers are precious – but so are the innocent people we bomb. So are the soldiers we kill, even if they aren’t innocent; they aren’t our enemies. When was the last time we fought a nation that was actually, actively, the enemy of this country? 1945, wasn’t it? Al Qaeda was an enemy and a threat, and I suppose ISIS is, as well; but the nations where they live are not. Nor was Vietnam. Nor was Korea. And look how well those worked out. And while we’re talking about Southeast Asia and incessant airstrikes: you realize our years of carpet bombing Cambodia in the 1970’s helped give rise to the Khmer Rouge? Killed 1.5 millions Cambodians, that group did.

That’s my nation. It has always been my nation, because right now I live in a city that used to be a thriving metropolis for the indigenous people of the Southwest, the Hopi and the Navajo and the Pueblo peoples. We killed them, too. And then used their desperate attempts to resist our invasion and slaughter of innocents to justify increasing the size and aggression of our military, so that we could keep our people safe while our people were stealing the lives and the land of other people.

And then people say that the military protects our freedom. Holy crap. Tell me: what threat to our freedom existed in Afghanistan in 2001? Sure, there was an existential threat to some number of our people, no doubt; but we have lost more soldiers in the war than people who died on 9/11. Afghanistan has lost – well, everything, really. And maybe that’s al Qaeda’s fault. But we were the ones who invaded. In order to protect our freedom. It amazes me that people can even say that with a straight face. I suppose now our freedom is somewhere in Aleppo, and sometime (before the election in 2020), we’ll have to put boots on the ground in order to protect it. We really should stop letting that freedom roam around like that. Especially in the Middle East.

I don’t want a war in Syria even though Bashar al-Assad is guilty of war crimes, even though he has used chemical weapons – because I can’t for the life of me understand why the chemicals sarin and chlorine are absolutely forbidden, but when the chemicals are gunpowder and lead, and TNT or phosphorus or napalm or any of the thousand other incendiaries and explosives that burn down entire nations, are no problem whatsoever. Assad has killed thousands with chemicals, and hundreds of thousands with guns and bombs and starvation; and we attack him for using the chemical weapons? It makes no sense. But even though his atrocities demand justice, I do not want a war. Because there is no possibility, none at all, that a war can create justice. It has never happened and will never happen. The “best” war I know of, World War II, which stopped the Nazi death machine, still did not create justice, because there can be no justice for 6 million victims of the Holocaust, and because the war against the Nazis gave them the cover to hide their actions for years, and because we were the ones who firebombed Dresden and used atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and because our alliance with Stalin allowed him to retain power and kill 10 million of his own people, which also helped give rise to Mao and the Cultural Revolution that killed millions more. That’s not justice. That’s not a better outcome. I can’t say we shouldn’t have fought the war, because I can’t say anything other than the Nazis had to be stopped: but I can’t say that and not also say that the genocides in Rwanda and Darfur, and Cambodia, and North Korea, and China, should not also have been stopped. We didn’t fight those wars. So have we really saved people with our wars?

I don’t think we can. I don’t think that anything good can come of war. I think that we don’t really grasp the quintessential truth of the phrase “War is hell.” Especially not because we never think what that makes us, every time – every time – we start a war. We make hell. Every time.

And we call ourselves saviors. But we’re not: we’re the devils.

I don’t want another war. Not ever again. Not for any reason. Not even a good one.

This Is Why I Hate Google

Because it is impossible to find things on the internet without Google, since there is just so much crap on the internet. But Google, as brilliant as it is, is still staggeringly stupid.

I wanted a picture in my last book review post  of a man with a thin face, black hair, heavy eyebrows, and who was unshaven. I did a Google image search of those words. And out of all of the pictures I saw, I could not find one that suited what I wanted it for. That’s the description of Guy Montag, the main character in Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451. Montag is a fireman, not a male model, so all of these guys were out:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshavenRelated imageRelated imageRelated imageRelated imageRelated image

 

Montag is miserable in the book: trapped in an empty sham of a marriage, surrounded by violence and suffering, living in a dystopia. So no smiley guys.

 

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Nope.

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Not you, either. (Though I love that this comes from an article titled “5 tips for growing a great f-ing beard” )

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

No. You look too much like my brother.

 

Montag is not a bro, so DEFINITELY NOT THESE GUYS:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

And I guess I didn’t have Safe Search on, because I also got this shot:

(It is from Buzzfeed, not porn, so I assume he’s not doing what I think he’s doing. Still.

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

I don’t — I can’t — let’s just move on.

 

 

Montag also doesn’t have a full beard, so not this:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

And not this:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Dude, you don’t even have dark hair. What the hell are you doing to me, Google?

And not this:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

And REALLY not this:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

 

 

 

And then, of course, there were several I could not use because they were too recognizable. This isn’t Guy Montag:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Nor is this:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Or this:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

And not this guy:

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Here’s another one Google offered me. Remember, I searched for “man thin face black hair unshaven.”

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Sure, yeah. I’ll use Miley Cyrus. Great idea.

 

 

And then, of course, there’s the WTF file. Google should have a checkbox: WTF, No WTF. These are all WTF.

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Good lord, no.

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

OH COME ON, NOW.

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

HOW DOES THAT EVEN MATCH ANY OF MY SEARCH TERMS?!?!?!

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

That’s a statue.

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

That’s a cartoon.

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

THAT’S A DOG. (Though he is cute.)

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

THAT’S — wait, is that Alex Trebek?

 

 

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

That’s Saddam Hussein.

 

 

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

We don’t talk about what that is.

 

 

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

THAT’S GODDAMN SELMA FROM THE GODDAMN SIMPSONS.

 

 

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Now you’re just fucking with me, aren’t you, Google?

 

 

Image result for man thin face black hair heavy eyebrows unshaven

Oh, I give up.

What It Means to Be a Writer

Scrolling through my Twitter feed when I found a link to this piece.

I walk by accident into one of London’s über-bookstores to be taken over by a very familiar type of sadness—as a child I used to feel this way when thinking about the cosmos and my own insignificant place in it. This is London’s biggest bookshop: 6.5 km of shelves, the website proudly tells us, as if this particular length and not another were a reason to rejoice. Book after book after book thrown into this worded jungle—a hoard that could be a waking counterpart to a Borgesian wet dream. Fiction books and books on writing fiction. Photography and art books and books on photography and art. And so on: most forms of expression and myriad words of meta-dialogue, some of them even justified or at least nicely edited and with colourful covers. Nothing escapes this total library: no corner of the universe or the mind is left unaccounted for. It is a hideous totality for it is an ordered totality, filtered through the minds of who knows how many marketing specialists; it is effective as a selling platform but it is a desert of anonymity for the diminished names on the shelves. Were I ever to be asked for a writing tip, something born out of this experience would be my choice: walk into any gigantic bookshop and think whether you can face being one more name lost in this desert of words. If that ideal situation proves too much to bear do something else with your time (it is of course highly likely that if you go around asking for writing tips you will never make it on print).

Okay, first of all, that parenthetical comment at the end gets you a punch in your snooty little snoot with a fist labeled Fuck You. I presume you mean that true poetry, great writing, emerges from the soul as a fait accompli, like Athena cracking her way out of Zeus’s head fully-grown; if a would-be writer is too naive to recognize this immortal truth, and to think that one could simply ASK for a way to be a better writer, then that person is doomed to less than mediocrity. Or else it is the bourgeois feeling of the “writing tips,” the oversimplified, sanitized, pre-packaged saccharine packets that show up in ten-item numbered lists on the various clickbait websites advertised on Facebook. I am more understanding of contempt for those, as I am contemptuous of people who make a living on the internet by telling people how to make a living on the internet – by running a website telling people how to make a living on the internet, which is done (Spoiler alert!) by getting people who want to make a living on the internet to buy your secret to making a living on the internet; and the people who do this always seem to call themselves “writers.” But my contempt is for the people at the top of the pyramid: not for the people down on the ground, choking on dust and sand, dreaming of a way to climb. Those people who want writing tips because they want to be better writers deserve respect for their courage in trying to find a way to get what they want; and their desire to improve, whether or not they know a good path to improvement, is admirable and not at all an indication of their potential as writers. Fuck you in the snoot, sir.

Now let’s talk about the central issue here. You’ve got two problems with this bookstore and the despair it engenders in you. One is that your words will never be truly unique, because somebody out there will say pretty much the same thing you say – or in Borges’s universe that you reference later, with his infinite Library of Babel that holds all combinations of letters and thus every possible book, one of the other volumes on the shelves will say exactly what you say. And maybe Borges was right and it does repeat in a chaotic pattern for eternity, if such a thing can be said to exist. Right? All the kilometers of fiction books, the books about art and photography and writing; all been done before, nothing is new, nothing is original. Somebody get me a cigarette and a bottle of cheap red wine, and build a Parisian basement cafe around me for a tomb.

The second problem is that you will never be the one person whose words everyone reads, everyone knows, everyone talks about; because there will always be so many others putting words on the page, that it is impossible that your words would be the ones that capture every reader at once. Particularly not if you want to capture every non-reader as well. This problem seems to be the larger one, as you speak more of being lost in the noise than you do about repeating what has already been said.

The futility of writing is something I face up to every time I set pen on paper or hand to keyboard. Why am I doing this? My compulsion to write does not occlude the uselessness of filling pages with words. I know that what I do is pointless, one more message in a bottle in a moment when everyone else around me is also casting messages adrift.

This is a poor proof. Your message in a bottle being surrounded by other messages in a bottle does not make your message pointless. Not even in the metaphor: so long as one person finds your message and reads it, and – I suppose – comes to rescue you from your desert island of despair (Perhaps your bottle message is something entirely different, something like “If you let your eyes go unfocused, a Moen kitchen faucet starts to look like a snobbish sheep with a very long snout. But it’s hard to recapture the magic once your eyes go back to normal and the sheep turns back into a faucet, so don’t waste it.” In that case, you won’t be rescued, but somebody may spend a lot of time squinting at their kitchen sink because of you, which is pretty funny, really. I’d call that success.), then your bottle was a success. You won. You did what you set out to do. You made your point. Wherefore, then, does it become pointless? Is the idea that the thousand bottles around your bottle make it less likely that your bottle will be read? This is not true for the same reason your enormous bookstore should not lead to despair. Ready for the reason? Here it is.

There is more than one person reading. (Shocking, I know. Hold onto your snoot, Buttercup.)

Let’s start with the metaphor. There are a thousand bottles with messages in them, bobbing in the water by the seashore. If there was only one person walking by, and for some reason that person had sworn a sacred vow to read only one bottled message, then your chances of being read are a thousand to one. Agreed, and that would suck. But in the – ahem – “real world” of this fantasy, that one guy wouldn’t stop at one bottle: he’d keep opening bottles. Because if he was doing it out of curiosity, out of a need to see what was written on those messages; or if he was looking for the perfect message, the one that would speak directly to his soul, then reading one message would never be enough. He’d read another, and another, and another. He’d probably try to read them all. I would. Wouldn’t you? If you saw a thousand bottles bobbing in the water with message inside them?

And if it was more than one guy on the shoreline? If it was actually a crowded beach, with tourists, and beachcombers, and dogwalkers, and a tai chi group, and a bunch of hungover teenagers wrapped in sandy blankets and the stench of wet cigarette butts? The bottles would catch all of their interests. They would all want to open their own bottle, be the first to read a message. Then they would share the messages they found with each other. They’d be diving into the water, throwing bottles back onto the shore, shouting and laughing and waving their messages over their heads. The more bottles there were in the water, the bigger the spectacle would be, and the more those people would be drawn to where the bottles were. They might even come back the next day to look for more bottles.

Are you following me, sir? Those bookstores with the kilometers of shelves? They are not only filled with books, they are filled with people. People who read books. And those people never stop at just one book. I know: I used to frequent a very similar establishment, Powell’s City of Books in Portland, Oregon. Five floors of twelve-foot-high bookshelves, covering an entire city block. I never expect to see so many books on display in a single place in my life again. I could spend the rest of my life reading (Ah, bliss!) and not finish a single floor’s worth of books. I went there every month for the ten years I lived in Oregon, to buy books, and you know what? That place was always packed with people. With readers. Never mind the kilometers worth of shelves: how many kilometers of people do you think go through those stores on any given day? 3,000 people, on the average. [source] Average front-to-back measurement of a person is approximately ten inches; I’m an American and we’re thicc, so let’s bump that up to a round foot. (Screw the metric system, though I’ll convert for your convenience, sir.) 3,000 feet of human every day, which is very nearly one kilometer of human flesh – around 915 meters, to be precise. And that’s not even lying down head-to-foot. That means that in a week, if the London store has a similar number of visitors, the people looking at those books outdistance the books they are looking at. And I can tell you that the turnover rate for the people looking is far higher than the turnover for the books on the shelves.

There are an enormous number of books in the world, and it grows every day. It is impossible for one person to read them all, and realistically impossible that one of them will be read by all people.

But that doesn’t mean that my book won’t be read. It doesn’t mean that your words will never be seen.

I think about selling my books, which I have not yet succeeded in doing. But let’s imagine that I do so: imagine if my sales, by every measure of the publishing industry, are absymal. Let’s pretend that I only sell one thousand copies of my novel about a time-traveling Irish pirate. So lame, right? I am – what was your phrase? – “lost in this desert of words.”

A thousand people bought my book. Presumably that means a thousand people read it. (Some surely would cast it aside in disgust or disappointment, sure, but I think some of them would like it enough to share with someone else, or else resell it. Let’s just imagine that one sale equals one reading.) Think about that. I have never been in a room with a thousand people who all know me: not in the way that a reader knows at least an aspect of a writer. I have spoken to thousands of people in my life, but I doubt that a full one thousand of them cared about what I had to say: cared enough to sit down, in a quiet room, and spend hours just listening to my words, thinking about my thoughts. Hearing me. If I could sell just one thousand copies of my book, then I could achieve that. So what if at that same time a million people were listening to Stephen King, and ten million were listening to Kim Kardashian? So what if the world is larger than I can speak to at once? So what if all I can have is one small corner –with one thousand people listening to me?

Isn’t that enough?

Think about it in terms of time. I don’t know how many hours it takes me to write a book, but the pirate book was finished in about a year, so let’s use that. It’s a pretty fast read, I think; someone could finish it in maybe ten hours of reading at a leisurely pace, maybe even less. If a thousand people spend ten hours reading my book, then the year of my life spent writing it (And of course the vast majority of that year was spent sleeping, working, eating, singing in the shower, watching TV, playing The Sims, et cetera) has turned into ten thousand hours of other people’s lives spent – on me. There are 8,760 hours in a year (And 525,600 minutes), so even if I had spent every single one of them working on my book, that time spent is balanced by time spent reading my book if only a thousand people were to read it. More than balanced.

So the question is, what more could you possibly want?

If the only thing that would make writing worthwhile, that would give this endeavor a point, is if every single person on Earth read your work, and only your work, then I agree that writing would be pointless. But I can’t fathom a writer, a real writer, being that childish, that selfish, to think that the world must revolve around your work and your work alone. I mean, the only cultural phenomenon with that impact is Wyld Stallyns. Granted, you’re not them, and neither am I. And that stings a bit, I’ll bet. Yeah, it does me too.

I’ll comfort myself just thinking about how easy it would be to get a thousand people in the world to read a decent book. Shit, if all I want is readers, I could offer it for free and get that many readers without even trying. You wrote this obnoxious angsty piece of snobbery, and I read it, and then spent – mmm – more than an hour responding to it. See? The time you spent on this crud then earned for you this time spent out of my life. Time I could have been reading, ya selfish bastard.

And honestly, I think this is enough time spent on you. I am sorry that your life is so empty and meaningless, and sorry that I threw a couple of hours of my life into your black hole of an ego. Do us both a favor: gain some perspective, will you? Thanks.

(I have to say: the rest of the piece has some valid points about marketing on social media, and about the democratization and banalisation [His word] of writing that has occurred through the internet. There is some good thought here. If there hadn’t been, I wouldn’t have read all the way to the end, and then taken the time to write a response. I don’t disagree with everything he says. Just the central premise. I dream of having a thousand readers, and I am absolutely sure that, even in a world inundated with voluminous writers of every imaginable quality and a limited number of readers with a limited number of books they will read, still: I will hit that mark. And it will be worth it.

(Thank you for inspiring me to write this, sir. Now pull up your fucking pants.)