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Why can’t we fix broken things? I’d propose it’s because the very act of repair has been sabotaged
Note: this essay was originally published on Revue on June 20, 2022.
Hey, it’s been a while. I took six weeks off. Maybe you noticed. Maybe you didn’t. Maybe bananas.
Hope you all had a good spring either way. You all look great!
Me? I caught Covid. It was pretty mild but it still messed me up pretty well from a “being able to go for a daily run” standpoint. I think I’m back to normal now, for which I’m hugely thankful. It gave me a chance to reflect on how really awesome it is that our government and media appear to have decided that the answer to Covid is for everyone to just get Covid, because, well, look, while we’d all like to not get a potentially debilitating or fatal disease every year or so, the alternative would be to change things structurally, and if structural change led to a better world, then people might start expecting structural change, and then you’re getting into real money: costs that might have to be paid by the people who have all the money and resources, which would be bad because—oops hey look at the time, I’ll get back to you on that.
I pretty much finished my manuscript, which is a series of connected essays. I’m into touchups now. It’s about a lot of things I’ve written about here in the newsletter, and a lot of the writing I did here made its way into the book, and so if you like this newsletter keep your eye out for it. It’s about the questions how did we get here? and where do we go from here? and it’s about the things I’ve learned from the perspective of me, which is to say a fool from whose eyes the wool has finally begun to slip.
Also my two eldest kids graduated from high school and chose their colleges. That was pretty awesome, and they’re amazing people with genuinely astonishing talents, and I’m filled with excitement and hope and pride at everything they are and everything they’re capable of, and everything they can do in the future, if we can all agree that a future is something that would be good to have, which alarmingly appears to be an open question, given that some people think having a future would be bad for the economy next quarter and therefore unrealistic to pursue, and other people think that a future isn’t worth having if for example trans people and Muslims also get to have a future, and those all appear to be the people in charge of deciding these things.
Oh and a guy went into a Buffalo supermarket and murdered Black people, because he believed that Jews are trying to replace white people with other colors, and that to him clearly meant that Black people specifically needed to be murdered, because by now we should know that all these bigotries are fed by the same hateful stream. He left a manifesto, as these types of murderers tend to do, and the manifesto was basically the white supremacist myth known as “replacement,” or “white genocide,” which fringe Nazi and other far-right groups have propounded for decades and decades, and which now is propounded by mainstream Republicans who hold or seek elected positions, and by mainstream right wing media figures on mainstream far-right propaganda channels, and now about 70% of all Republican voters believe it’s true, I’m told. So it’s a really successful time for people like Tucker Carlson, who clearly want to see Nazi lies going mainstream. Republicans are also targeting trans people, and gay people, and all types of queer people, or even people who simply don’t present their gender in clear enough ways to satisfy their own personal comfort levels, and more and more of them are saying that they’d like to see such people die, or at least disappear. Anyway, the Buffalo shooter was a lone wolf, I’m told, and the gun he used to massacre people in the race war he was told he was in has nothing to do with the massacre, even though it was designed to massacre people, and any suggestion to the contrary is politicizing a tragedy, which is very disrespectful to the grieving family, and that is a line that should never be crossed by decent people, insist all the people who are making sure that there will inevitably be more and more grieving families in the future.
Let’s see, what else happened during my spring break?
Oh right! The week following the racist massacre in Buffalo a disturbed kid went and shot up a school in Texas, and the police—who stood around and did nothing but prevent anybody from going in to stop it while the gunman murdered 19 kids and 2 adults, and lied about the reasons for their inaction, and then lied about the lies, and then repeated that cycle until we’re about 200 shocking lies deep now—would very much like you to not notice that they’re sucking up 40% of their community’s entire operating budget in order to fund their military gear and overtime pay and whatever else, but would also very much like you to know that they are pretty sure they themselves did not shoot any of the kids, and even though they are now on lie number approximately 201, and have announced that they are no longer cooperating with the investigation into the crime that happened in their own jurisdiction, and are suing to prevent the release of any of their body cam footage, you can be assured on that point. Politicians made sure to thank law enforcement for their response as a priority second only to offering thoughts and prayers, almost as if the belief in an appropriate law enforcement response was as much an article of faith for them as are the thoughts and prayers, and the belief that guns have nothing to do with gun violence.
So now dozens of very nice people are dead now, because there are disturbed people out there who believe that they are the ones in charge of who lives and who dies, and some of them are even shooters. These nice people are dead in Buffalo because a disturbed person decided that—since he agreed with people like Tucker Carlson and Senator Ron Johnson about the Nazi replacement myth—Black people need to die, and he even livestreamed his murders, for the approval (one presumes) of the online communities with whom he engaged. In Texas a bunch of little kids are dead—actually exploded into undistinguishable pieces, if we want to be real about it—because another disturbed person decided a bunch of little kids needed to die, and both of them were easily able to create the massacres that they wanted to bring about. The tools were available. They were available on credit.
Why were people who wanted to enact a massacre able to make massacres happen so easily?
There’s a long answer. Since this is a new series, I guess you’re reading the long answer.
The short answer:
It happened because it is very easy to get massacre weapons; certainly easier than it is to buy or rent a house, or get affordable medical care. And it’s easy to buy massacre weapons because Republicans refuse to make it difficult to buy massacre weapons, and in fact insist on making it easier and easier, and even brag about doing so, and pose with their children in Christmas cards brandishing them like some weird bunker-based cult. They do this because they believe that individuals should have the right to use massacre weapons at their discretion—since no matter how many individuals use massacre weapons to murder people, they never stop defending guns and people’s right to have them without any restriction. And they seem to believe this mostly because they are paid to believe this by a powerful lobby that makes more and more money the more massacres happen, and also because the people they represent believe that they have the right to kill at their own discretion, and greatly resent anyone who questions their potential judgment to make decisions as regards who lives and who dies, or to own weapons designed to murder people as quickly as possible, and to own as many as they want. They’ll tell you so: they might need to kill somebody someday, or maybe a bunch of somebodies, and if they aren’t able to do that, that to them is the worst form of tyranny imaginable.
The shorter answer:
It was easy for massacres to occur because we are a society optimized for massacre, and we know we’re a society optimized for massacre because disturbed people who want to personally decide who lives and who dies are getting their way, and the rest of us, who do not want a society optimized for massacre, are not.
The shortest answer:
We have massacres because the people who get to decide such things would rather have a world with massacres than one without.
Also, Democratic leadership appears to have decided that the answer to these killings, which were not in any way prevented by police in our overpoliced country, is to give the police more money. And they appear to have decided that the solution to systemic police brutality is to give the police more money. I’m waiting to hear they’ve decided that the answer to the baby formula shortage (I forgot to mention: there is a baby formula shortage) is to give police more money—because if there’s one group that needs more funding, oh yeah baby, it is the police, who take so much, and give back so little, and who have convinced themselves they have such dangerous jobs they must spend every single moment of it making sure that they are safe even if it means that everyone else is not. They have such an important but dangerous job (unless you look at the actual statistics, in which case you’ll see that, no) that they have been assured by our Supreme Court they cannot face any accountability from anybody for anything they do, if they establish that they were frightened when they did it, and the legalese for this is “qualified immunity,” a term that boils down to, “if a cop wants immunity, they qualify.” And last week the Supreme Court even ruled that if you’re a border agent within 100 miles of a border, you’re not accountable even to the Constitution for any reason, and you don’t even have to say you were scared—you’re just a lawless enforcer of whatever the fuck you want to say the law is.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, we also learned through a leak that Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned, which will result in the systemic loss of bodily autonomy for all women and all people who can give birth, and—even though doing so is hugely unpopular—the extremist justices on the Supreme Court intend to do it anyway, on behalf of far-right authoritarians who have announced their intention to come after birth control, and gay marriage, and interracial marriage, and seem intent on unraveling the entire 20th century and more. We are apparently unable to stop them, mostly because the people who we want to stop won’t give us permission to stop them.
Also there have been televised hearings into the seditious coup attempt on January 6th last year, which makes it pretty clear that the Republican Party attempted to violently overthrow the U.S. government, and very nearly succeeded, and are trying again, and most of them are still in positions of power and public trust, so we probably only have a matter of months to preserve our democracy, which we apparently are going to have a hard time doing, because we don’t have the permission of people who tried to overthrow democracy to stop them from trying again, and, as the New York Times decided to highlight for some weird reason, prosecuting Trump would be difficult, so … well, they leave the implication unstated.
Also we are told by most of our climate experts that we have only a few years to prevent complete societal collapse from climate catastrophe, and yet we don’t seem to be able to try to prevent it, because we can’t seem to secure the permission of people who appear to actually want societal collapse—actual apocalyptic collapse, I mean. Some of these folks seem to think they would be absolutely great at being a heavily armed local warlord—and who knows, maybe they would, though I don’t feel that means they’re owed the opportunity. Others seem to truly and sincerely believe that the apocalyptic suffering and death of almost everyone on the planet is the moment that the prince of peace will arrive and whisk them away for being the special chosen elect beloved of God, and they will get to enter an eternal gated community paradise while everybody else faces horrendous torture for ever and ever, and they really sincerely believe that everybody else deserves this eternity of torture. As you might expect, apocalypse is for these people something to hasten, not to prevent, and they and their perspective are far better represented in the halls of power than you or me.
And all that was just part of what happened in the last 6 weeks.
It really could have been any random 6 weeks from the last many years.
None of this is popular, yet all of it seems inevitable.
Most people want solutions, yet solutions never materialize, even though we know what the solutions are. Even the hope of solutions seems distant.
The root problem appears to be that we can’t get the people who want problems to give us permission to fix the problems, and we can’t get the people who claim to want to fix the problems to stop asking those people for permission.
And there are other things, too, but they all seem to boil down to this issue: We can’t fix what’s broken, because the people who want things broken appear to be in charge of deciding whether or not broken things get fixed.
These all seem like serious problems.
It seems like we might want to fix serious problems, and yet we don’t fix them. In fact we seem to do anything and everything but fix them.
So they start to seem like ways in which society is failing.
They almost seem like society is being made to fail.
Which I don’t actually think we want, mostly.
Do you want society to fail? I don’t. Society is where I live. It’s where I keep my hopes and dreams for my kids.
There are people who want societal collapse (and I’ve already mentioned the two most popular flavors of that particular global sociopathy) but I don’t think most do. Some people claim to want that, but at the risk of putting words into other people’s mouths, I think what they mostly usually mean is that they want unjust and oppressive systems to fail, so that society can thrive.
And so I can’t help but wonder why society should keep failing, when so few of us actually want it to.
If we want to see broken things fixed, why can’t we fix what is broken?
And why do the people who want things broken want them broken?
My answer is this: there is a process by which things get fixed, and we are witnessing sabotage of that process by white supremacists, and accommodation of that process by white supremacy.
Last year I wrote about one example of sabotage by white supremacy: a moment in our history where public swimming pools were cemented up when the option was to racially integrate them.
And then I talked about how the supremacy wasn’t the racism, but the accommodation of the racism.
I’d like to expand now.
So I want to talk about the blameless society and the guilty society.
I want to talk about the process whereby things get fixed, and how those steps get sabotaged, and how the sabotage gets accommodated.
But look: I’ve already have torn off several thousand words just establishing a few facts on the ground from the last month and a half, so let this serve as an introduction.
See you soon.
A.R. Moxon is the author of the novel The Revisionaries, available in most of the usual places and some of the unusual places, and co-writer of Sugar Maple, a musical fiction podcast from Osiris Media. He can’t stand it, he knows you planned it.