Friday links! A powerful misanthropy edition

"The Misanthrope" by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568

“The Misanthrope” by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1568

A powerful misanthropy came over me last week, and I wanted to do justice. It came over me in the street. I was walking up Higgins Avenue toward the Pie Hole, where I might nervously eat pizza before the comedy show. A drunk man leaned in the doorway of an empty storefront. I passed him at the same time a woman in business casual negotiated the space between us.

“Hey,” he said to her, “can I ask you a question?”

“Nope,” she said and kept walking.

“Well I already did, so ha ha, bitch!” he shouted after her.

I turned and told him not to fuck with women on the street. I did so loudly, in the voice I use to command strange dogs. I walked toward him in a game fashion. As soon as he started to speak, I repeated myself.

“Don’t fuck with women on the street,” I said. We were close now. He stepped back and said all right, all right. I turned and walked away, feeling tall and jumpy.

“Jesus,” he said, “call the cops or something.”

I turned and walked back to him, swiftly. He put his palms up and shrank into the doorway.

“Don’t hit me,” he said.

Reader, I realized what a heel I am. I had been feeling pretty good to that point, expressing my values through bystander intervention and all. I had never thought to hit him. I only thought, I realized, to correct him publicly, before my god and that woman. I wanted to be good: the kind of good that bosses up on a drunk. Today is Friday, and it’s a fine line between bullying and justice done. Won’t you stand athwart it with me?

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Trump suggests people shoot his opponent or vote against her—hard to tell

GOP 2016 Debate

Yesterday, after telling a crowd of his supporters in Wilmington, North Carolina that Hillary Clinton wanted to “abolish” the Second Amendment, Donald Trump warned that gun owners would face disaster if she won the presidency and got to appoint justices to the Supreme Court. Then he seemed to allude to the possibility of assassinating her. Here’s video:

If you can’t watch it because your work doesn’t allow videos that threaten candidates for president or the Secret Service is monitoring you or something, Trump said, “If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.”

That’s by no means an explicit call for violence against his opponent. It does, however, allude to something “Second Amendment people” can do after the general election, when democratic avenues to prevent President Hillary Clinton from appointing judges have failed. These “Second Amendment people” are presumably gun owners, but that, too, is ambiguous. Maybe these unspecified people could do some unspecified thing to prevent a duly elected president from appointing judges to the Supreme Court—Trump doesn’t know. He’s just running for president, saying these things.

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Meanwhile, in Clown Town

Jerry Falwell, Jr. and the top frown in downtown Clown Town [left]

Jerry Falwell, Jr. and the main frown in downtown Clown Town [left]

Donald Trump may be grabbing up all the headlines and shoving them into his mouth with his fat toddler’s fist, but one great leader does not a fascist movement make. You need armed thugs. What’s more, those armed thugs must be absolutely convinced they’re doing it for god and country. Otherwise their wives get after them. It was in that spirit Jerry Falwell, Jr., merit-based president of Liberty University, told his convocation of Christian college students to apply for concealed weapons permits:

“I’ve always thought that if more good people had concealed-carry permits, then we could end those Muslims before they walked in.”

Props to Ben al-Fowlkes for the link. Junior Falwell subsequently explained that by “those Muslims” he meant terrorists, and I guess that’s better than the preacher president of America’s largest online university instructing students to shoot Muslims just walking around. Still, I don’t feel like we’re in quite the same register as the Sermon On the Mount.

You know who loves it, though? Fox News radio host and probable automaton Todd Starnes. He stands with Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell, Jr. on guns; the “why” in the headline is a typo. Kombat! Kids! See if you can detect the professional writer trick Starnes uses in this sentence:

President Falwell is facing criticism from Democrats and jihadist sympathizers after he urged students at the nation’s largest Christian university to carry concealed weapons on campus to counter any possible armed attack from jihadists.

Yup—those are the two kinds of people who are criticizing him. You’d have to be a jihadist or at least a Democrat to find something unsavory about a Christian telling people to get guns so they can “end” Muslims. Fact: nowhere in the Bible does it say you can’t kill people. Starnes considers the very idea absurd:

Get a load of the crackpot theory offered up by one left-wing newspaper:

“Some theologians believe that Jesus would call on Christians to put down their weapons in the face of violence.”

I only wish the Washington Post had named the lunatic theologians who believe that Christians should gladly offer themselves to the Islamic radicals as sacrificial lambs.

Lunatic theologians probably cite Matthew 5:39-40: “But I say unto you that ye resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” But you’d have to be shit-bathing crazy to think that means you can’t shoot a guy who breaks into your house. Look for Todd Starnes humping a rifle across Syria this time next year.

Friday links! Foreseeable alternatives edition

Gottfried Leibniz and his wig

Gottfried Leibniz and his wig

Gottfried Leibniz famously theorized that we are living in the best of all possible worlds—a striking assessment from a man in a wig who lived in a world where someone else invented calculus. But Leibniz never said the world was perfect. He only said there was no better alternative. In this he joins a tradition of resignation that runs from Epictetus through Nietzsche, who wrote that it was foolish to say this world was good or bad when no other one exists. Today is Friday; thank God if you want, but I have a feeling he was going to do it anyway. Won’t you ponder the alternatives with me?

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Friday links! Love it or shoot somebody edition


Let us take a moment to note that the guns are real in the photograph above, but the guitars are not. Somewhere there is a continuum of fantasies that runs from Rock Band controllers to the Bushmaster AR-15 with extended clip. I call that continuum America, and the good news is that you are in it. The bad news is that 350 million other people are in it, too, and their fantasy nation is slightly different from yours. Today is Friday, and America is the dream we dream together. Won’t you wake in a cold sweat with me?

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