Arms’ Length

Let’s not stop killing. Let’s just do it from a distance.

Sometimes I wonder about the first hominid who intentionally killed another hominid. (And I’d bet my life it was a man.) Was he horrified at what he had done? Or did he look at it the same way he looked at hunting animals for food?

Here’s where it gets weird for me. If he was horrified, shouldn’t the natural instinct have been to say, “Right. That was scary and gross. Let’s try not to do that ever again.”              

Instead (and I find this very telling), Man went in a completely different direction as a result of that horror. What they actually seem to have thought was, “Right. That was scary and gross. Let’s try to come up with some way that we can do that without having to actually watch the light go out of their eyes as we get spattered with gore.”

In other words, let’s not stop killing. Let’s just do it from a greater distance.

And then, as everyone jumped on that bandwagon, the main goal was to come up with weapons that had a longer range than the other guys’, so you could win. And on it went, throughout history, to the point where today some kid in a uniform in a trailer in Nevada can take out a caravan of Afghani women and children without even having to break a sweat. And the guilt factor from that remove must be akin to knocking out your best friend’s Pokemon. Yay us.

The first murder was probably done with a stone or a tree branch. You could feel the vibration of the impact go down your arm. You could smell the copper in their blood. That was still the case when we progressed to swords and axes and maces. Now you just look at a computer screen, and go, “Oops. Well, they looked like bad guys…”

Children today don’t have to worry about sticks and stones breaking their bones. They have to worry about some nutjob with an AK-47 semi-automatic that can fire 40 rounds per minute as far as 380 yards. They’re not taught how to play musical chairs anymore. They’re taught to duck and cover. And, for what it’s worth, anyone who thinks this is the cross we all should bear so that they can maintain their 2nd Amendment rights is f***ed up beyond recognition.

Think about this. A blowpipe had a range of 60 feet. An atlatl could throw a spear 60-300 feet, but its accuracy rapidly diminished. An English Longbow could send a heavy arrow 819 feet, and light arrow as far as 1077 feet. Interestingly enough, a Brown Bess Musket, such as those that would have been used in the Revolutionary War, had an effective firing range of 900 feet. So our founding fathers hadn’t progressed much beyond the longbow, and probably assumed our progress would continue to be that slow. Such was the world when the second amendment was written.

Now, a light machine gun can go 3000 feet. A heavy one can go twice as far, which means, if you’re keeping track, that at this point we could kill each other from more than a mile away. And if you get ahold of an anti-tank missile, your range is 12,303 feet. Whereas an MLRS rocket artillery system has a range of 137,280 feet. That means you can kill someone 26 miles away, sit down to Sunday dinner, and say grace without even having to allow yourself a hint of irony. Can I get an Amen?

And we Americans invented the predator drones, which you can fire via a satellite uplink from the other side of the world. These drones are longer than a 3 story building is tall, and they can cruise around up there, like sharks searching for wounded fish, for 24 hours or more. One could be flying over you this very minute, and you’d never know. Nothing scary or gross about that, right?

Make no mistake: Humans are the most terrifying animals of all.

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Darnella Frazier. Say Her Name, Too.

We need more people like her in this world.

If you’ve managed to get through that upsetting video of George Floyd’s 9 minute murder without shedding a few helpless tears, then you are devoid of human emotion. It was the most upsetting thing I have ever witnessed in my life, and I’m so very glad that Derek Chauvin has been convicted of his heinous act. May someone stand on his neck in prison.

Make no mistake, though. We have 17-year-old Darnella Frazier to thank for that conviction. If it weren’t for her video, Chauvin would have gotten off scot free. Certainly the original, laughable report that came out of the Minneapolis police department would have you believe that the incident was no big deal, other than the fact that Floyd died “afterward”. No mention was even made of Floyd’s neck or the crushing thereof.

What Ms. Frazier did took a lot of guts. Guts for miles. I’m sure she knew full well that the neighborhood cops would and will remember her face. She’s no doubt on several hate groups’ hit lists, too, which is a scary prospect. And yet she stood her ground and did what she could. And she later testified at the trial. That’s intimidating at the best of times, but even more so at that age, when it’s such a pivotal case.

I hope to god someone sees fit to pay for Darnella’s further education. We need strong young women with integrity in this world. She’s amazing. I won’t be surprised to hear that she has made other positive impacts on this society in the future. And that’s a good thing, because we definitely still have a long way to go.

Yes, say George Floyd’s name. We should never forget him and what happened to him. But I hope you’ll also say Darnella Frazier’s name. She should be remembered, too, for allowing us to bear witness and see the unvarnished truth. She is a hero. She is a role model for generations to come. We should all be grateful that there are people like her in this world.

Thanks, Darnella.

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Forever Changed by George Floyd

Everything is different, now.

I’m alone at work on my drawbridge. It’s 8:30 in the morning and the sky outside is so dark grey that it feels like the sun had gone down. Lightning and thunder crash all around me. The sideways rain disorients me. It’s as if gravity no longer exists.

I came to expect this kind of weather every day Florida, but I can count the number of times I’ve seen lightning in the Pacific Northwest on one hand, even though I’ve been here for nearly 6 years.

It feels like my nerves are on the surface of my skin. Even a slight breeze feels agitating. The atmosphere is highly charged. And this fucking pandemic doesn’t help. I’m so over it. I’m so done.

Masochist that I am, I decide to read the news. It seems like the whole world is on fire due to what happened to George Floyd. I already know it’s about police brutality and injustice, and I’ve been righteously indignant for days now. But for some reason I feel the need to actually see the video. I feel like I should bear witness.

Don’t watch it, unless you’re okay with being fundamentally changed. But watch it, because we all need to be fundamentally changed. Either way, it’s disturbing.

Floyd is lying on the ground with three cops on top of him. One has his knee on his neck. His full body weight is pressing down on him. Three on one, with a man who is already handcuffed, for a confrontation that was never violent in the first place. A fourth cop is standing over the action, protecting the other cops from the crowd.

The cop with his knee on Floyd’s neck is willfully choking him. He’s gasping for air. Calling for his mother. Begging them to stop. The crowd is telling them to stop. Saying this isn’t right. Saying blood is coming out of his nose. Saying there’s nothing in academy training that teaches you to do this… strangle someone on the street.

I watch for more than four minutes as he gasps for air. Four minutes is a long time. Stare at the clock for four minutes. Do it for George Floyd. You’ll see. Four minutes is the average length of a drawbridge opening.

This is very triggering for me. I used to live with someone who had to fight for every single breath he took. I know how terrifying it was for him. I know how helpless I felt. I feel helpless now.

The man is subdued, for God’s sake. Why won’t they stop? This isn’t necessary. There’s no need for this.

In my loved one’s case it was a health situation. There was nothing, really, for me to fight against. In Floyd’s case, if I had been on the scene, I’d want to wade in there and kick that cop in the head until he was dead. Anything, to let this guy breathe. Anything. Why isn’t the crowd doing that?

Because the “protecting” cop/thug has a gun and mace and a night stick, as do the other three. They are not listening to reason. They would not tolerate physical intervention.

Why won’t neck cop get up? Because the crowd is taunting him, calling him names? Is it a point of pride, not to listen to the crowd? Is he showing them who’s boss? Is this man’s life worth proving the point that you’re the alpha here? Why won’t he stop? My God! Stop! I hit the desk with my fist.

I’m crying as I watch. No, I wouldn’t kick the cop until he was dead. That’s not really in me, even at my most desperate. I would have been on my knees. Begging. Trying to appeal to their humanity.

But there is no humanity in them. You can tell. They’ve lost it. They are animals. They are in predator mode. They are very quiet. Very focused. They’ll have their kill. Because they can.

And just like that, about 4 minutes in, you see Floyd’s life leave his body. He’s clearly, obviously dead. The man is dead. I’ve never seen someone’s life disappear before, up close and personal. I’ve never seen that exact second. He goes from being a man to being dead, just like that. He’s gone.

My God, I have just witnessed a murder. I’ve never seen a murder before. And this defiant man gets paid to protect and serve us. He is a murderer in a uniform.

The murderer stays on Floyd’s neck for at least another three minutes. Why? To make sure he’s truly dead? To make sure he’s past the point of return?

I cry as the rain beats against my window. I watch as they pick George Floyd’s body up like a piece of meat, dump it on a gurney, and roll it away. Like he’s nothing. Like he never was anything.

It feels like everyone in a position of power is insane. And that’s terrifying. What do you do when you feel helpless to stop a power structure that’s gone mad?

I understand why the world is on fire right now. I get it. We are past the point of a plea for reason. The people in power have absolutely no desire to do the right thing. Peaceful protest doesn’t cut it. I don’t think burning and looting shops is the answer, either. Those business people didn’t do this to Floyd.

But we all prop up the system that allowed this to happen to Floyd, and that system has made it clear that it has no ears. It won’t listen. And fire, man… fire removes the old, twisted growth. Fire makes way for the new. Fire allows us to start over. But the best fire in this instance is metaphorical. Literal fire would muddy the message. No. we need the slow burn of peaceful yet demanding protests by reasonable people who are trying to make people in authority be reasonable as well. We need to turn up the heat and increase the pressure for justice to finally be born in this country.

Destruction and violence shouldn’t be necessary. I don’t condone it. But we do have to start over. We can’t continue to pay people who think that they’re then allowed free reign to stand on people’s necks. It’s not right. It never has been.

A sailboat requests an opening, and I come back to the here and now. Why would anyone be out in this weather? Why risk it?

As I’m about to raise the bridge, I hear a dog barking, frantically. I delay the opening and look for this dog. Probably longer than I should. Definitely longer than I normally would.

I don’t want to kill this dog. I’m desperate not to kill him. But I can’t find him anywhere, even though I hear him. That’s really strange. Why can’t I see him? I think I’m in shock.

Traffic is backing up. Finally, I’m forced to do the opening and hope for the best. My stomach is in knots. The sailboat floats casually though as if nothing is happening. That’s privilege for you.

I close the bridge. The lights turn green. All is go. I watch an unmasked jogger with a prancing, barking labradoodle puppy on a leash cross over. I’m feeling irritated.

And then, holy jumping Jesus, I’m encased in a ball of white light. I’m covered in gooseflesh. I step numbly back from the electric operating console. That lightning strike was so fast and so close that I didn’t even hear the thunder.

And now I’m watching the launch of the first crewed, private rocket as SpaceX delivers astronauts to the International Space Station. What a contrast. So much ingenuity in space, so little here on the ground.

Everything is different, now.

But I’m still breathing. George Floyd, a fellow human being, is not. May he rest in the kind of peace that none of us who are living in this hellish status quo should enjoy.

_______________________________________________

After an emotionally and exhausting day which included the writing of this post, I got in my car to commute home in a downpour. Less than hour later, that very interstate was shut down by rioters, and Seattle, too, began to burn.

Please know that I make a distinction between protesters and rioters. We had a peaceful and lawful protest in Seattle for four hours. Then all holy hell broke loose. People were hurt. businesses were destroyed. Just like the officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, people were doing criminal things, taking advantage of an already tragic situation, just because they could. This did not strengthen the message. It added to the thuggery. It demonstrated even more of what needs to change in this world.

Stay safe, everyone.

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Do the Right Thing, Costa Rica

The eyes of the world are watching you.

I’ve never been to Costa Rica. I hope to go there someday. In my mind, I’ve always thought of that country as a neutral, benevolent, safe place. Sort of a “foreign travel light” kind of location. A place to go if you want to experience a different climate and culture without really venturing too far out of your comfort zone.

But now I’m wondering if that image isn’t terribly skewed. Based on what I’m reading in a Reuters article entitled, “Indigenous leader killed in Costa Rica, second in a year”, there are tensions. There is violence. And there seems to be a great deal of injustice.

According to this brief article, Costa Rica passed a law back in 1977 that states that its 24 legally recognized indigenous groups are entitled to reclaim lands taken from their ancestors, but the law has never been implemented. This is an outrage. And now that the indigenous groups are fighting back, two men, so far, have been killed.

Just as the primary cause of divorce tends to be finances, the primary cause of regional discord tends to be land. And land, when all is said and done, boils down to finances. It’s how and where people live, how they eat, and how their families survive. It’s an emotionally charged situation.

But in this case, it seems pretty clear cut. Costa Rica passed this law. Costa Rica needs to enforce it. The land should be restored to its proper owners. And murder should be treated as murder. You have no right to kill someone just because you don’t like it when they’re demanding their rights.

Costa Rica, you can’t expect to see any of my tourism dollars until you do the right thing by these people. I’m sure I’m not alone in that sentiment. The eyes of your people, and the eyes of the world, are watching you.

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Violence Radius

A friend just sent me a link to an article about a man who had been stabbed to death in a park in Florida. I was horrified. For 27 years I owned a house not more than 50 yards from the scene of the crime. If I had still been living there, I could very well have been sitting on my front porch as the murder was taking place, and I’d have had an unobstructed view. That’s a little too close for comfort.

We live in a violent world. All violence is horrifying, but I think most of us have a filter these days. If we reacted in equal measure to all violent acts, we’d be unable to cope. Therefore, we tend to feel much more strongly about brutality when it’s more personal.

Location plays a big part in our filter. If it’s close to home, or to a place we used to frequent, that’s particularly sobering. It’s perfectly natural to think, “That could have been me.”

Familiarity is also a factor. If the victim was someone we know or love, or even feel like we know by dint of them being a public figure, then of course the situation will have extra shock value. There’s a reason why homeless people die every day and it never makes the papers. We don’t know them, so we don’t “have to” care.

And then there’s the relatability issue. We like our wars to be very far away, on foreign soil, where the people don’t look, talk, or act like us. It’s much easier to not have to think of it that way. On some level, it’s so different from our day to day lives that it can almost be considered science fiction. Terrorist attacks on our own soil, on the other hand, are enough to have us all gibbering over our morning coffee.

There really needs to be some sort of happy medium. It’s too much to take on board every violent act that we hear about. But on the other hand, it’s important to realize that every savage act is one savage act too many.

Still, the fact that I have spent countless hours on the park bench where that man bled out, and the very block where I once lived was blocked off by crime scene tape, has me rattled.

Willowbranch
The bench in question.

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The Kitty Genovese Effect

If you took a psychology class in high school or college, then the name Kitty Genovese probably rings a bell. She was the woman from Queens, New York, who, legend has it, was stabbed to death in 1964 in front of 38 witnesses, and not one of them did a thing. It’s a tragic story, and a shocking one, that lead many researchers to study the concept of diffusion of responsibility.

I had a really interesting conversation with a friend about this recently (waving at Caly). She mentioned that if you’re going to be attacked, it’s better to have it happen in front of one person, rather than a crowd, because an individual is more likely to do something. I think that’s sad, but true. The larger the crowd, the more likely you are to think someone else will take charge, and the less guilty you will feel when everyone else around you is being equally inactive.

But, I theorized, in this modern world, the more people you have around, the more likely it will be that someone will video the attack on their iPhone. Because nowadays that’s what one does, isn’t it? So, yes, you’ll still probably die a painful, bloody death, but at least there’s a chance that your killer will be caught “on tape”, so to speak. That’s progress of a sort, isn’t it? Kind of?

But, before writing this article, I went to that font of all human knowledge, Wikipedia, and read the article on Kitty Genovese, and it was quite fascinating. First of all, it’s not as if there were 38 people standing in a circle, watching the entire crime from start to finish while twiddling their thumbs. It turns out that the number of witnesses was inaccurately reported, and of those who saw something, they only saw a snippet of the interaction. Many thought it was just a lover’s quarrel. Most didn’t realize that a stabbing had taken place. Others, behind closed doors and several floors away, saw nothing and weren’t quite sure what they heard. It was 3 o’clock in the morning, after all. And Kitty was stabbed in the lungs early on in the attack, so it’s very likely that her “screams” weren’t very loud at all, unfortunately.

Also, at least two people called the police, and one woman rushed out and cradled Kitty in her arms as she lay dying, despite the fact that no one could be sure that the murderer had left the area. And then there’s the fact that it was 1964. More people would be apt to turn their backs on what they considered to be domestic abuse than would in modern times. In theory.

So maybe there’s hope for humanity after all.

Another interesting angle to this story that I don’t remember reading in my psychology textbooks is that the killer, Winston Moseley, was, indeed, captured, prosecuted and convicted. He was given the death penalty originally, but it was reduced to a life sentence eventually. And this was one really bad man. He actually went on a hunt that night to kill a woman, any woman, and Kitty just happened to be the first one who crossed his path.

Moseley also confessed to killing and raping two other women, committing an untold number of burglaries, and later he managed to escape custody. During that time he held 4 people hostage in two different houses, and raped one of them. He also participated in the famous Attica Prison Riot. Needless to say, this guy was a total nut job, and prison was where he needed to be. But I was pretty surprised to discover that he only died in prison just recently, on March 28, 2016, at the age of 81. He was unrepentant to his dying day.

I think the worst tragedy, here, is that Kitty Genovese was only given 28 years on this earth, and her horrible death is practically preserved in amber, inaccurately reported in textbooks all over the world. I’m sure she would have preferred to be remembered for other things, such as her reportedly sunny disposition.

If you ever find yourself visiting Lakeview Cemetery in New Canaan, Connecticut, please visit her grave and pay your respects.

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Silly Thoughts

Quite often I have too much time on my hands and my mind wanders. I never quite know where it will go. You might say I suffer from a preponderance of ponderings.

After a while I’ll wind up with so many unanswered questions rattling around in my brain that they cause me to lose sleep. What follows are three of my typical trains of thought that seem to have recently jumped the tracks.

  • Who was the first person who thought it would be a good idea to put a tiny little umbrella in a cocktail? Why? Did they want to keep the ice cubes cool? Why did they think this would be more attractive than, say, a flower? There must be companies out there that do nothing but make little tiny umbrellas all day. Do they have a special holiday for the inventor of this frivolity? Is his or her picture on their factory wall? How many acres of rain forest have been destroyed so we can have tiny little umbrellas?
  • On several occasions I’ve read mystery novels or seen movies in which the detectives notice that there’s a knife absent from the victim’s knife block, so surely that must be the missing murder weapon. If that’s the case, if a detective ever visits me, he’s going to think there’s been a massacre. My knife block has several empty slots, which I’ve filled with knives from other incomplete sets. Am I the only one who has a knife block deficit? What do other people do, throw out the whole set when one knife goes missing? Wouldn’t that provide the general populous with even more murder weapons?
  • The other day I was packing my suitcase and it occurred to me that suitcases must have originally been cases for suits. I can only think of one occasion in which I’ve packed a suit in a suitcase. I suppose people must still do so when they are going on business trips, but thank God the concept of formal wear in office environments seems to be slowly going the way of the dodo bird. As I stuff my sweat pants and jeans and t-shirts into my suitcase, I get a little thrill that I’m misusing this handy device, and I’m thanking my lucky stars that I don’t need hat boxes, and will never have to worry about gloves, high heels, panty hose, and corsets.

Now, get out of my head. It’s already crowded enough. Here. Have a cocktail.

[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]
[Image credit: myrtlebeachholidayinn.com]

Crime Reenactments

This is just me allowing my mind to ramble again, but how desperate would you have to be, as an actor, to sign on to one of those true crime shows and reenact some sick, twisted and heinous crime for everyone’s viewing pleasure? I mean, let’s face it, a lot of viewers aren’t that smart. Even though it should be quite obvious that you aren’t the actual criminal, picture this: A few days after the show airs, you’re in the convenience store down the street from where you live and the cashier looks at you and shouts, “You’re the guy who abducted that little girl! Somebody call 911!” And the next thing you know, you’re tackled face first into the potato chip display. I mean, honestly, is fame worth that much to you?

I also wonder about people who stand in criminal lineups. Do those guys get paid, or are they forced to do it? How terrifying would it be to risk being falsely accused of murder, for example? That to me is cruel and unusual punishment. Before you do something that crazy, you better make sure you have an air tight alibi and a snow white criminal record. What if someone says, “No, he’s not the guy who killed my wife, but he looks a lot like the guy who stole my car a few months ago.”

I don’t care how hungry you are or how much attention you crave, there are just some things in life that aren’t worth doing.

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[Image credit: abclocal.go.com]

Elephants Will Forget. Unfortunately.

If you haven’t seen the absolutely gorgeous short film “Last Days”, I strongly encourage you to take 3 minutes to do so. (I’m including it below, but if you are getting my blog via e-mail you can check it out at the Last Days of Ivory website.) It will open your eyes. It sure opened mine.

Here are some facts from the website:

·        An elephant is murdered every 15 minutes.

·        Over 30,000 elephants are killed by poaching every year.

·        Elephants in the wild could be extinct in 11 years.

·        African terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab, The Lord’s Resistance Army, Boko Haram and Janjaweed use the sale of illegal ivory to carry out attacks.

·        Trafficking in endangered species is the 4th largest illegal business in the world after drugs, weapons and humans.

Saying elephants never forget is a myth. They will forget, once they are wiped off the face of the earth. We need to put a stop to the poaching of elephants. Don’t buy ivory.

Killer Instinct

I have a confession to make. I’m a killer. And I don’t feel the least bit of shame. I’ll do it again, I guarantee you. If a cockroach or a brown recluse spider stupidly breeches my line of chemical defense and enters my house, there to potentially bite me and rot my flesh or ruin my food or spread disease, that sucker is going down.

Upon first sighting, my mind goes all primal. The only thought I have is, “Kill it, kill it, kill it!” I used to then scream for my boyfriend, but the last two I’ve had have been absolutely worthless in this bloodthirsty realm, so now I just try to get above my panic and then go into heartless hunter mode until the deed is done.

And woe be unto the flea who makes the mistake of trying to feed off one of my dogs. There’s nothing more satisfying than hearing a flea’s little body snap between my finger nails. Take that, you blood sucker!

I don’t get people like my boyfriend who find it morally wrong to kill cockroaches. I think nature trumps morality every single time. If you encountered a hungry mountain lion in the wild, do you think he’d feel the least bit guilty about feasting upon your entrails? Most assuredly not. And then the vultures would come and nibble on the less desirable bits, and the worms would devour what’s left.

Rats will even eat their own, leaving hantavirus in their wake, so I have no problem with deadly rat traps. I also don’t mind those who humanely trap and relocate higher mammals, even though many of them spread disease, too. This is partly because I know deep down that this territory I inhabit used to be theirs, and partly because I know if I were locked in mortal combat with a raccoon, I’d most likely lose.

I’m not all bad, though. I have been known to pull my car over on the side of the road to let a lizard hop off my windshield, and I’ve helped more than one turtle cross a highway. I’ll put out birdseed in the winter, and I get heartily annoyed with people who let their cats outside, thus depleting the songbird population. I also let ladybugs fly away home.

And I think people who abuse animals should be locked away forever, in conditions identical to the ones they imposed upon their innocent victims.

So where is the line that I draw? If you will intentionally kill me or make me sick, then you are fair game. I’ll kill you every day of the week and twice on Sunday. If, on the other hand, you are simply trying to live your furry or scaly or slithery little life, and we’ve crossed paths merely by chance, I’ll do my best to help you on your way.

So yes, I’ll kill, and feel no remorse. I think those who refuse to do so would be much better served feeling guilty about doing the things that animals do not do themselves, such as polluting or embezzling or pedophilia.

Perspective.

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