Why the Columbine and Las Vegas Massacres?

After the 1999 school massacre in Columbine, Colorado – an exurbia community – by two disaffected teenage boys (who also killed themselves), I came to the conclusion that the killers’ “motive” was not at all a purposeful urge, goal, revenge or obsession, but instead a complete self-abandonment into nihilism – a giving up – and the horrible eruption of that destructive nihilism was a symptom of those boys’ lack of culture – an abysmal lack of culture. I see the same about Stephen Paddock, the shooter in Las Vegas; his fury to kill emerged out of a profound lack of culture.

It seems to me that these rapid-fire suicide-killers had been born into and raised (probably somewhat thoughtlessly) in a cultural void. Their world was a generic beyond-suburbia commuter outpost of sprawl, malls, video games and Internet pablum and porn, instead of real books of literature, real art instead of plastic flamingo-level decorations, and real music instead of throwaway canned between-commercials pop. They had never absorbed real culture, which is the emotional and intellectual glue that binds an individual to the wider human communities both in the present and through the long arc of time.

Those boys (young and old) had lives of material ease, but they had absolutely no spirit because the nurturing and feeding of the spirit – the essential purpose of culture – was absent from their lives. I believe the spiritual-cultural hollowness of their cores was a reflection of the spiritual-cultural desert that was their environment.

By their late teens the two Columbine killers had had enough of it, and could see nothing in their possible 60 to 70 years of future living except more of the same. That “more of the same” is the listless life Stephen Paddock lived until he too had had enough, at age 64. As they looked into their futures the Columbine teens could have thought that maybe they could become insurance agents or realtors, or some other “normal” occupation that would see them harnessed to the spinning wheels of pointless money-making. And they would have their free time to be just as hollow as their comfort-providing work would be: more video games or video poker?, hanging out at the same beer joints with the same kind of empty-headed crowd?, watching another game on TV?, getting married and keeping up the same kind of families they had grown up in?

What would be the point? It was like looking down an arrow-straight empty four-lane freeway across a dry-lake salt-flat that stretched out to their 80th year and led to nothing but a dead end. Why spend the better part of a century bored, waiting to get to nowhere after having spent the whole trip doing nothing because nobody cared anyway, and end up just as useless as they were now, then die unnoticed and thereafter remain forgotten? Why not cut out all the slow stuff, the boring, tiresome waiting and pointless work, and just get one incredible orgasmically exciting machine-gun humping high, and then check out in a blink before the let-down set in?

I think it is the deep, personal absorption of and sensitivity to culture, and even tradition, that fills a psyche with the substance needed for living life joyfully; and the substance which occupies what would otherwise be a spiritual-cultural void that can only produce interminable lassitude or explosions of destructive nihilism erupting out of deeply submerged despair.

I think the appreciative absorption of culture, along with the received gifts of affectionate nurturing, kind friendship and confident love, are the necessary courses in a complete education of the human heart. I see major tragedies like the Columbine and Las Vegas massacres, as well as so many little-noticed murders of the same sort, to be the result of our society’s many failures at providing all our people with that necessary education of the heart.

I was prompted to write these comments after reading the following article, pointed out to me by Anthony Tarrant.

I went to School with the Vegas Shooter
Greg Palast
13 October 2017

See Anthony’s comments at his blog page:

Why Stephen Paddock Snapped In Vegas
15 October 2017


The photo above is of John F. Kennedy’s grave as it appeared in April 1964. My photos of this grave are the only ones I have with any relation to guns and gun violence.


A Day with Ella – #822


A Day with Ella – #822

It was a perfect day.
It started with mother waking us both far too early,
and on such a damp chilly morning,
a holiday for us, mother rushed off to work.
As always,
you had to have your way,
so we were in the park while the ducks were still sleeping,
one leg up and bills tucked in back under a wing,
the pond glassy still,
white tufts of down spread over its waxy surface.
The swings were coated in dew
and I used all but one of my pocketed paper napkins
to wipe one dry for you,
and after a minute you were all done.
Swinging through the quiet chill of heavy morning air,
just you and I alone in the entire park –
besides the sleeping ducks –
is not much fun as it was on Saturday,
a balmy sunny day with children laughing and playing everywhere.
You reached for a high bar to swing out on
but the dew-coated metal slipped right through your hand
and you landed on your back in wet sand –
shocked, hurt, angry.
I had to hold you in my arm,
brushing off the sand
as your cry filled the empty quiet over the pond.
I held you that way a long time,
through the park, around the town,
and later back at home.
We spent the whole day together,
never more than an arm’s length apart.
We washed a little,
sampled the aromas of all the herbs and spices –
some things must spill, it’s not important –
and we made a tent,
a big one with three chairs and a quilt,
then we went inside and turned on our flashlights.
It was very funny being in that tent,
quiet too, you hardly heard the rain pattering on the roof.
In the end, you fell asleep on my chest,
while I slumped on the couch,
listening to Mozart piano music
and motets by Thomas Tallis.
As Spem in alium floated into the corners of the room
and your warm heaviness sank into my heart,
misty rain filled the forest on our mountain
and I began to reclaim some of the oceans of sleep that I’ve lost
these last two or so years.
I know it was a perfect day.

21 January 2002


Waking The Dead, Redeeming The Living


Waking The Dead, Redeeming The Living

“They make a wasteland, and call it peace.”
— Cornelius Tacitus

“Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice will not
sleep forever.”
— Thomas Jefferson

Noam Chomsky,
Christopher Hitchens,
Robert Bly,
Thich Nhat Hanh.

From the exact to the sublime,
the timely to the timeless,
the perceptive to the transcendent,
my mind begins to awaken to the magnitude of the crime,
my mind begins to open to my complicity in the evil —

The Black Wall in Washington
is not a monument to dead soldiers,
it is a continuous dirge to a nation’s lost honor,
an innocence lost over and over again,
a loss of soul.
Nothing can ever be right until we expiate that crime,
a crime that continues
by the willful ignorance, the convenient unknowing
of we who enjoy the bounty of this American life.

Oh, dear God, don’t call us to accounts for a thousand years!
for it would take at least that long — even if we tried —
to compensate for the enormity we have created;
and yet,
how sad to think our gods could be so cold,
our universe could be so empty and soulless,
that retribution for such evil could not possibly arrive —
even tomorrow.
What other comfort can the peasantry of the world have
as they shiver under the lengthening shadow
of our remorseless empire?

Monsoon-soaked ground bubbles up mines like a deranged apocalypse —
playthings for children —
and rivulets of poison trickle out of air-dropped wastelands
to seep into the veins of a new generation
and wither its fruit in the womb;
and here, in Jefferson’s land of the “ignorant and free,
in a state of civilization” that “never was and never will be,”
reflection on a withering career bubbles up memories,
fresh, gnawing, immune to time’s erosion,
buoyant against convenient forgetting,
stinging in their rebuke against my compliance to the course of evil.
Yes, even us little nobodies are faced with moral challenges,
inconveniently, unfairly, when we are young, when we are fragile.
We survive, we connive, we comply,
we feed our children and make our way,
but dare not hold out a cupped hand of water
to Jesus on his way to Golgotha.
My God, think what it would do to your career —
our future.
So we let others stretch out their hands
and we survive, quietly, into this future —
are we proud of it?
what great truth and what measure of courage
do you pass onto your children setting off on their own?
“Do you remember the Vietnam War, dad?”

We tell our children nothing about this,
we lie, we deny,
we glorify garbage myths for commercial exploitation,
we honor our greatest living war criminals
with prizes, bank presidencies, book contracts, speaking fees,
and we honor our greatest dead war criminals
by naming airports for them, by entombing them in televised temples.

Yes, I remember the Vietnam War.
I was not brave,
I did not challenge evil,
I looked out for myself,
and I am here.
All I can offer you is the truth,
and hope in that to find some redemption for my moral weakness,
and some grace in awakening you to greater good,
to deeper meaning,
to honest judgment that unfolds in your actions.

I want to cleanse my children’s country,
I want to cleanse my soul — in this world;
let the trials begin.

25 June 2001


An Expired Doctorate


An Expired Doctorate

Riding down the hillside along this lovely tree-lined street,
early evening liquid sun
oozing through the dancing cracks in the mosaic vista of the distant bay,
a luminous weave darting through a trembling fabric of leafy green
masking the immense face of the ripened sky behind its rippling veil,
and filling sight,
as susurrus of rushing air fill sound,
and reflections of lost promise fill mind.

How marvelous to be alive, to be aware, to feel the light,
to ride my breath through this eternal now.
How fortunate to have such balm to soothe the sting of failure.
Not a major failure to be sure,
only that of work and ego to achieve any useful end or recognition,
to see the raw promise of youthful ambition,
distilled by fine education to a potent extract,
now become a weak vinegar – sour and watered –
and a passionate vocation reduced to hireling occupation,
the reductionism of mind to mere calculator.

So I find myself
engrossed in the minutiae of a superfluous part
in an unnecessary weapon
within the excessive arsenal
of an insensate empire.
While I speak this poem – or you read it –
about fifty children in our world
will die from easily preventable disease,
and one hundred women will die or suffer disability
in pregnancy or childbirth
for lack of simple remedies and care.
To overcome such tragedy only requires
one quarter of the military costs of the third world,
or ten percent that of the United States.

so few less bullets, so much more life.
I look into my little daughter’s eyes
and think of those mothers and those fathers suffering such loss.
I look into my little daughter’s joyful dancing eyes
and draw purpose in each day of pointless employment,
as a trivial cog in the sprawling machinery of blind empire,
a Cyclops gone mad with lack of vision,
ravening the world with unquenching power.

I work among a swarm of aphid zombies,
each focused on his own proboscis
oblivious by intent, trained through rigorous education,
to even the agony of one beside being chewed alive
in mandibles of political expediency
by preying mantises invoking greater imperial glories,
the whole an infestation withering the vine of life.
I marvel at such voluntary unanimity in the degradation of human soul,
at such profound denaturing of awareness,
at such complete filtration of compassion from human hearts –
are they even still human?
Can it be true that so many accede to such enslavement?,
emptying themselves of their spiritual birthright
solely to tremble in fear as hollow vessels of mindless desiring
for things metered out by owners of a vampire economy?
Those quick of mind, well educated, articulate,
mouth such perfidy and platitudes to curry favor, to move up-class –
parasites in a parasite empire –
with no moral anchor
to drag along the course of their ambition.
How well did Yeats write:
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.”

Could I somehow liberate myself
to do some greater good – however minor –
yet still support my family?
How many others feel like me?,
engaged in our pangs of conscience
being rich enough to support such luxury,
and too weak to live on principle alone.
How much simpler the logic of life without such impediment,
yet what an opulence of poverty.

One in ten, surely not that many,
one bullet out of ten,
one French fry out of ten in a soldier’s mess,
one warplane out of ten,
one general out of ten.
Surely we would never notice,
surely we could train that marvelous capacity for unseeing
to shield consciousness from any perception
of such a trifling reduction of opulence.
Yet, wouldn’t even these willfully unseeing
feel the smile of grace for a transformed world
from the face of every child?

To open your mind and heart to this world is to go insane –
certainly if alone –
to survive one needs refuge in community.
Like a Christian in the Roman legions nineteen centuries ago,
I, too, will rejoice with the fall of empire.
How can I not pray for revolution,
even knowing how fearful a thing that can be?
My demeanor is resigned, my soul is in rebellion.

3 May 2001


Paradise Rejected


Paradise Rejected.

History, if it continues to exist beyond the mid 21st century, will record the society of the United States of America as the most idiotic that ever existed on the face of the Earth. Having achieved the pinnacle of wealth, physical power, knowledge and technological advancement of any society during the entire course of humanity’s existence, it nevertheless managed to miserably and abysmally fail to use its unparalleled capabilities to ensure lives of physical, economic and medical security for all its people, as well as liberation for them from unnecessary work – and most work today is unnecessary.

Also, the society of the United States of America has failed miserably and abysmally to use its unparalleled capabilities to effectively and unselfishly assist the other 95% of humanity to eliminate poverty, eradicate curable diseases, dampen conflicts and quell wars, and in partnership with that “rest of humanity” to expeditiously raise the standard of living of the least advantaged and most vulnerable of this world’s people.

The incredible stupidity of myopic ultra-capitalist greed, and the obdurate stupidity of the ultra-egotistical, navel-gazing, bigoted, racist, willfully ignorant self-absorption of too many (I think most) of the American people will ultimately spell out the epitaph of what we now call the American Civilization.

It is true that much of humanity outside the United States of America shares these failings, but all of their societies, even in combination, lack the magnitude of capabilities that the United States possesses, and which could be put to authentically good uses.

If archeologists from alien worlds or future Earthly life-forms ever decipher the history of the United States and of humanity from their dead remains, they will no doubt conclude that the extinction of the United States was inevitable and well-deserved on the basis of its behavior. Those archeologists might also conclude the same about humanity as a whole if it had escaped destruction as a result of the American collapse, and yet had not overcome the same failings that doomed American Civilization.

What is most infuriating about all this is that such a sad degeneration and painful extinction need not happen at all. It is entirely in our power right now to think right and act right to literally make an Earthly Paradise of both the United States of America, and even the World.

What I have learned about people is that there is always an infinite reservoir of excuses for insuring inaction, and for continuing with conditions of abject stupidity and unconscionable cruelty.

My Biggest Mistake.

My biggest mistake is to place what turn out to be too high and unrealistic expectations on other people, and then being disappointed when they fail to meet them.

When I try to compensate for this error by assuming the worst about people I don’t know, and interacting as little as possible with others, I am accused of being negative, unsociable, grouchy, and unfair. If I respond to this criticism by being more positive, sociable, not grouchy, and fair, then I find that I fall back into my original and most frustrating error. In an effort to avoid this nauseating oscillation, I try to dampen my enthusiasm (which kills the spirit) and moderate my disgust (which insults intelligence), by being reserved – not extroverted – and saying as little as possible to others, especially when it comes to being truthful about them and their preoccupations.

People believe what they want to believe, and it is nothing but trouble to contradict them. Almost always it is an illusion to think you can help others by contradicting what you know are their mistaken ideas. What is frustrating about keeping your unwanted counsel is watching the everything all around you needlessly degenerate.

Even knowing that you yourself have your own preferred illusions, it remains disheartening to feel you are living as the sole sane individual in an insane asylum – The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari – or the sole hairless speaking ape on the Planet of the Apes.

As I sit here, looking out onto a beautiful scene of glorious early fall sunshine illuminating crystal clear air, and the radiant greenery of forested hillsides, with Stellar Jays squawking as they scavenge for Hummingbird eggs, remnants of fresh cat kills, and other morsels of protein; and of the many Hummingbirds clicking and twittering around my head as they drill through the air and swoop in to lap up the sugar water I put into feeders for them, I think of how slowly the elegant and amoral natural world and its animal life-forms evolves, and of how far these animals are from developing a civilization. And yet, compared to us humans, these animals are incapable of degenerating as precipitously as we have so abundantly shown we are prepared to do.

Bleed Patriotically For America’s Gun Masturbation.

The NRA is lobbying Congress for a state funeral for Stephen Paddock (look him up if you don’t know) as a patriotic ritual of celebrating the 2nd Amendment, which is the Holy Sacrament of the United States of America.

Gun Clutchers are obsessive-compulsive sociopaths whose sacred right to kill must be protected by whatever degree of human and animal sacrifice is required. It is the patriotic duty of all Americans (humans and animals) to accept being personally sacrificed (or have their children and family members sacrificed) to uphold the sacrament of the 2nd Amendment. Don’t cry, instead bleed patriotically for the freedom of American gun masturbation.


The Family Wheel


The Family Wheel

The family is like a wheel: the mother is the hub, the center around which the family revolves, and she is the anchor point for each member, who are the spokes.

Any spoke on its own is like a stick in the road, unable to move and at the whim of whoever passes by to either be picked up and carried along, or kicked aside into the ditch with other discards, or simply ignored to be trampled and to weather, weaken and splinter, eventually being scattered by the wind to disappear unnoticed.

The mother hub is the center into which each spoke is anchored by mother love, giving the entire wheel its strength by opposing and complimenting each others direction of force. And so the wheel can turn and the family progress spoke-by-spoke.

The movement of such a wheel will be bumpy, and its integrity lost if any one spoke fails when the entire weight of the family rests upon it. Preventing this is what the father does. He is the rim of the wheel, absorbing the bumps in the road and dissipating the shocks of the journey into a gentler pressure transferred uniformly around the entire wheel, to smooth the travel and preserve the integrity of the wheel.

Of course, a family is an organism, a living wheel, not an inert assembly like the wheel of an oxcart. So, in time the child spokes will mature and need to go out into the world to become the hubs or rims of their own families. Also, the aged spokes of the family wheel will come to the ends of their lives, fade away, and only remain anchored to their descendant hubs and rims as memories. Eventually the family wheel will be spoke-less, with the father rim freely orbiting the mother hub – revolving in her own thoughts – as the boundary between the external world and the inner space of family memory.

It may even be that a spoke-less family wheel floats apart, as the old mother hub and father rim each drift away into their own personal oblivions. Another wheel of life, its journey ended but its legacy continuing as a new generation of family wheels. Organisms of temporary existence carrying forward and then passing on the weight of the enduring urge for life.


The Tragedy of Puerto Rico

The Tragedy of Puerto Rico
30 September 2017

The tragedy of Puerto Rico is that it assumed – incorrectly – that it would be protected and prosperous as an American colony because America is so rich and powerful, and that from there it could eventually become the 51st American state, thus gaining voting representation in the American Congress, which determines how the benefits of American wealth and power are distributed.

What Puerto Rico failed to realize is that both individuals and nations that are rich and powerful did not become that way by being generous and inclusive.

Puerto Rico assumed there were only three modes of existence it might experience:

(1) a protected, prosperous, US state (like Florida)

(protected by US military power, prosperous by being a domestic participant in the US economy, and having a state’s voice in the crafting of national policy and legislation affecting it);

(2) a protected, prosperous, US colony

(a protected and prosperous captive of the United States, being reliant on American benevolence but without any political power to shape the nature and magnitude of that benevolence);

(3) an unprotected, poor, independent nation (like Cuba).

Option 1, statehood, is blocked by the apartheid mentality of the white supremacy anti-Latino bigotry that is the primal glue bonding the majoritarian clan controlling the American republic. The Republicans are not likely to vote for the addition, from a new state of Puerto Rico, of five more Democrats in the House and two in the Senate.

Option 2, a colony, is the status quo for Puerto Rico because that status most suits the colonizer.

Option 3, independence, entails the hazards of self-protection against all threats, whether natural, military or economic.

In this view, US statehood is a distant hope and perhaps only an illusion; but being a US colony is preferable to independence because a US colony is assumed to have much greater security and comfort than a likely poor, independent Caribbean island nation, like Cuba, Jamaica or Haiti.

However, as a result of the bankruptcy of the colonial government of Puerto Rico ($73B in May 2017), and its massive devastation from Hurricane Maria (in September 2017), both of which the Trump Administration has shown a singular hostility and indifference to help with, Puerto Rico has awakened to its actual mode of existence: an unprotected, poor and destroyed colony; essentially a disinherited dependent, a captive castoff.

If Puerto Rico were an independent nation instead of a colony, even with its current dual crisis of bankruptcy and hurricane devastation, it would have the freedom to direct its own efforts for humanitarian, physical and economic recovery, and of seeking international help, which efforts are now restricted by US law (e.g., Jones Act) and control-oriented obstructionism by the Trump Administration.

From the perspective of Puerto Rico’s present situation, being another Cuba can no longer be seen as a worse fate.

The current tragedy of Puerto Rico is accelerating (as transport becomes more available) the already high rate of emigration from the island and its failed economy, to the US mainland (a net emigration of 64,000 in 2014, 84,000 left and 20,000 returned, for a population loss on the island of 1.8%).

Perhaps the current tragedy of Puerto Rico will reinvigorate the independence movement among the island residents who do not wish to use their American citizenship as a free pass for escaping. If so, they would join the ferment for gaining control over their national fate, shared today by Catalonia, Kurdistan, and Palestine.


The Tragedy of Puerto Rico
1 October 2017