I’m listening to the news today. Today is the first day I’ve awoken clear-headed in a week or more. I’ve binge-watched Star Trek on Netflix for the last two days, I’ve been feeling so poorly, and before that I was just going through podcast archives because I didn’t want to listen to the news. I’ve been avoiding the news since the El Paso shootings. I’ve been avoiding the news because I don’t want to hear about thoughts and prayers and I don’t want to hear arguments about what kinds of solutions that we could enact that would fix the plague of mass shootings in the US today. I don’t need to hear what we need to do, I know what needs to be done. I wrote about it two years ago. We won’t do it, and prayers don’t help, so why pay attention?
…and we don’t even notice all the mass killings that occur in this country anyway, because there are so many of them. Everyone is crying and moaning about El Paso and Dayton, but the death toll in Chicago over that same weekend was higher than both those incidents. Almost no one outside of Chicago noticed.
Today I wake up and I feel well enough to risk listening to the news. So I queue up the NPR news feed and throw in ABC (CBS?) and then I go on to the Texas Standard. That’s when I get derailed from my news consumption. They’re still talking about El Paso on the Texas Standard. Well, El Paso is in Texas, I should have expected that. Governor Abbott has held a nearly unprecedented impromptu news conference. Great. He doesn’t think he needs to call a special session of the legislature to deal with the issue of mass killings right here in Texas.
Seriously? The guy who thought we needed a special session over which bathroom you use doesn’t think we need a special session over gun regulations and mass shootings? The governor who is afraid of homosexuals and transsexuals doesn’t think that being shot while in Walmart shopping for schools supplies is a problem that we need the legislature to address? I mean, I guess he gets an attaboy for finally admitting that his president is a racist… No, wait. He said the shooter was a racist, not the president that the shooter quoted was a racist. Nevermind. No attaboy for Greg Abbott. I thought he might actually get one thing right while he was governor, but I guess not.
None of this tirade would have made the blog if I hadn’t been pinged by Steve Kubby during my cardiologist mandated sweat marathon, something I’ve neglected for several days because vertigo makes exercise into an invitation to take a trip to the emergency room for a cause other than a heart attack. Falling off the treadmill can be about as traumatic as a heart attack, in the scheme of things.
The phone pings while I’m on the treadmill, and because I know I’ve turned off push notifications except for the apps that the family uses, I figure it’s someone I know needing something. So I (carefully) check the phone and notice it’s a messenger notification from Steve Kubby. Steve Kubby? Now, that’s weird. Steve Kubby blocked me on Facebook seven years ago. What the hell does he have to say to me today?
Who is Steve Kubby? Well, back at the dawn of the internet age, back in the bad old days of the full force insane war on drugs, Steve Kubby was a cancer patient that was jailed for possessing Marijuana. He was jailed for using a known appetite enhancer and pain suppressor to treat the side effects of his cancer treatment. I wrote about him way back then. I friended him on Facebook when I joined Facebook, as I did a lot of my libertarian friends of the time.
But time passed, and libertarians got even less connected to reality than they were before they could tailor their newsfeeds to only tell them things they agreed with, and the rest of the world got progressively weirder and less connected right along with them. I found I had less and less in common with libertarians as I became disabled and had to rely on the stingily released government services that I had faithfully paid for through all of my adult life. Became less connected as I relied on services that my libertarian friends and conservative family members condemned me for relying on (decrease the surplus population!) in the first place, just another bullet point in a long list of things that I no longer had in common with these people.
Then the world changed in some pretty shocking ways. Every bit as shocking as 9-11 was in its time, from my perspective. The terrorist attacks on our country were things that libertarians had seen coming. The US was breeding terrorists with every foreign intervention. This belief was part of the libertarian ideology, a piece of it that just happened to be true. What wasn’t on the horizon, wasn’t even in the calculations, was armed uprisings targeting our own people. The Sandy Hook massacre opened my eyes to the dangers of the killing machines in our midst, and the other horrible mass shooting events that seemed to occur far more frequently than they ever had before. Seven years ago, when Sandy Hook happened, we could go a couple of weeks before another shocking incident occurred. Over the first August weekend of this year we had two on the same day, and those were just the ones the media were willing to talk about. Incessantly talk about.
One wonders that, if the images of those dead children and their teachers had been plastered all over the internet, would that have altered the trajectory of armaphiles in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting? Would they have been less inclined to pretend that the attack was a false flag operation? If the pictures of the aftermath of mass killings were things that you could find easily, would these people who are sexually aroused by holding a killing machine have decided not to take the course they took? Would their masculinity shrivel? We’ll never know now.
We’ll never know because that wasn’t what happened. With Alex Jones, the pied piper of conspiracy fantasies leading the way, the armaphiles subscribed in droves to the truly insane idea that anyone would pretend to kill or actually kill hundreds and thousands of people just to have a pretense of making them give up their fetish paraphernalia. This image is just one of dozens I’ve seen over the years asking the question “Why do they care now? It’s because they want our guns!” In the midst of the Sandy Hook denialism, denialism that has only recently been stymied by successful litigation, I got caught up in a few different conversations about firearms and the purpose of having them. Conspiracy Cults; Getting What’s Coming to Them? was one of them. ZAP Doesn’t Include Firearms and Killer Pets was another. Both of those occurred after the date stamp on the messenger message that Steve Kubby was replying to, so maybe not. The only thing that corresponds to that period in time was the image (above) of the pyre that the Branch Davidians made of their compound in Waco, and contrasting that tragedy with the slaughter at an elementary school.
As I said in the message Mr. Kubby responded to today, responded to seven years after he blocked me and I subsequently wrote it,
Good. Less crap on my daily feed. As if truthers will ever have as much credibility as the just as clueless JFK conspiracy theorists. As if libertarianism hasn’t already seen it’s zenith in political relevancy (it has, by the way) and is determined to find the bottom of the political barrel as quickly as possible.
…to be unfriended by someone who goes to Nazi imagery at word go when it comes to discussions of weapons in the US. I think that’s a compliment. Stick to subjects like drug legalization, Mr. Kubby. It’s something you can at least speak knowledgeably about. That’s why I friended you, not your crazy ideas about other subjects, that much is certain. You were asking for support back then. No good deed ever goes unpunished, indeed.Facebook Messenger message, 12/24/12, 1:24 AM
Today he responds with the infamous, inscrutable Facebook thumbs up. I have no idea what that means, especially seven years later. He’s changed his mind? He agrees with me? He’s flipping me off? (what the hand sign means in several countries) He agrees that we both have better things to do? In looking through the blog trying to figure out if I’ve written about this before, in the intervening seven years, I realize I’ve never touched on the story of the Branch Davidians and their immolation in the presence of federal officers intent on arresting David Koresh in Waco, Texas. Well, that was a good bit more than seven years ago. That predates the time when I started writing the blog, even.
If I tried telling that story it would take us way back. Back to the days when Al Gore was inventing the internet. Back to the days when Bill Clinton was the president, a conservative Democrat that couldn’t convince the Republicans of his time that he really was their buddy and they should work with him. He even passed the proverbial law and order legislation in his attempts to meet them halfway. Legislation that has helped lead to the highest levels of criminal incarceration in human history. All to no avail. Conservatives and Republicans still hate him to this day, even though he is demonstrably one of them. But I digress.
It would also take us all back to the days before science became political. Al Gore didn’t only invent the internet back in the 1990’s. According to conservatives he also invented global warming. I remember those days clearly. The outrage over the immolation of children shown to us on our TV sets was fresh. The fear of government overreach so graphically on display in those images. Bill Clinton’s assault weapons ban that had every conservative convinced he was coming after their guns. The merest suggestion by scientists and science communicators that we might have to stop burning gasoline while sitting in line at a drive through window to get hamburgers. Every. Single. Day. The unfathomable belief that carbon dioxide could kill us. The belief that the ancient ice that covered the poles of our planet might melt and that the seas might rise. It all sounded… Apocalyptic.
Telling that story would take us back to the days when I believed a lot of that kind of conservative bullshit. Bullshit that was spread by word of mouth because there was no internet, no access to facts and research without hours, days and months of sweating through volumes of information in a library. It would take us back to the days when I first heard the ideas that would lead a shooter to travel ten hours across Texas in order to “shoot Mexicans” in El Paso.
Back then, these weren’t the kinds of things that believers talked openly about, except among friends that agreed with them. You certainly didn’t allow yourself to be caught subscribing to them after killing more than a dozen people. Killing more than a dozen people and not even being embarrassed about the bullshit that lead you to do it.
The truncated Branch Davidian narrative was just one of the stops along the route for these deadly ideals. Sovereign ideals. The route from white supremacist, christianist writings back in the seventies to Ruby Ridge and then on to the Waco siege. From there they traveled onward to the Murrah building in OKC and onward still to the Bundy ranch and the Malheur standoff fiasco that should have been put down and it’s perpetrators prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Tax cheats and fraudsters have roamed free spreading their ideas far and wide for decades now, their wrong-headed beliefs largely unchecked and most likely uncorrectable aside from warning the uninitiated away from subscribing to them.
The concept of a sovereign citizen originated in 1971 in the Posse Comitatus movement as a teaching of Christian Identity minister William P. Gale. The concept has influenced the tax protester movement, the Christian Patriot movement, and the redemption movement—the last of which claims that the U.S. government uses its citizens as collateral against foreign debt.
Gale identified the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution as the act that converted sovereign citizens into federal citizens by their agreement to a contract to accept benefits from the federal government. Other commentators have identified other acts, including the Uniform Commercial Code, the Emergency Banking Act, the Zone Improvement Plan, and the alleged suppression of the Titles of Nobility Amendment.Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
For my part, I could never track down the facts behind what sovereign citizens believe, even though I spent several years off and on dedicated to the idea that there had to be some basis for the beliefs that my friends of the time clearly subscribed to. I wrote one article for the blog on the subject back in 2014 titled Ideally There Would Be No Idealists; the Sovereign Version a sort of tongue-in-cheek salute to my disillusionment with idealists in general and the whole notion of sovereignty in particular. As I said there,
The idea that anyone can be sovereign or should expect to be considered sovereign is laughable; this is entirely aside from having the ultimate authority on what you personally will do or not do, whether you will continue to exist or not. Sovereign is a completely different approach to the subject of authority.
Whether or not anyone other than a king can rightfully claim sovereignty as the term is defined is beside the point. The fact remains that all of these events, knowingly or not, were in some part inspired by the sovereign citizens movement and their ideas. They were inspired by these ideas because those ideas flow freely in the counterculture that is represented in the simple phrase bucking the system. That’s where you go when working within existing political structures represents surrender on your part. The counterculture. Being part of the counterculture, a scofflaw, puts you on the fringe, and the fringe is were ideas like those represented by the sovereign citizen movement reside.
…and those ideas have been widely adopted by disparate peoples, many of whom would be appalled to discover the white supremacist roots of the ideas behind sovereignty. There is no doubt that Gale and the group he was part of were white supremacists. These are established facts. What is in question is whether any of the hundreds if not thousands of flavors of the sovereign citizens movement still promote the white supremacist heart of the ideals, or if they simply subscribe to the popular notion that other people’s rules don’t apply to them.
Cliven Bundy is a racist. That much is certain. His sons and their co-conspirators subscribed to the sovereign citizens ideals, they voiced concepts related to them more times than I care to count. It is entirely possible that David Koresh had no idea where his beliefs came from. None of the things that I’ve heard about the man suggest that he was capable of introspection, of questioning his own motivations to do this or that thing. So he may never have questioned why the rules of others should not apply to him; he may simply have accepted the arguments presented to him by the manipulators and con artists that seem to run rife out on the fringe of political belief. When you are profiting from the sale of weapons at gun shows while at the same time selling off the assets of your religious sect to support your and their lifestyles, all the while having sex with all of the women housed on the sect’s property, you tend to not study your relationship to the truth too carefully.
However, the government didn’t kill those children in Waco, as tempting as it is to believe the imagery of that day as I remember it, as conservatives and sovereigns remember it. The followers of Koresh being caught up in a suicidal belief system predicated on the looming end of the world lead more to their demise than any action that the US government did undertake, or even could have undertaken, in the best of circumstances,
The tactical arm of federal law enforcement may conventionally think of the other side as a band of criminals or as a military force or, generically, as the aggressor. But the Branch Davidians were an unconventional group in an exalted, disturbed, and desperate state of mind. They were devoted to David Koresh as the Lamb of God. They were willing to die defending themselves in an apocalyptic ending and, in the alternative, to kill themselves and their children. However, these were neither psychiatrically depressed, suicidal people nor cold-blooded killers. They were ready to risk death as a test of their faith. The psychology of such behavior—together with its religious significance for the Branch Davidians—was mistakenly evaluated, if not simply ignored, by those responsible for the FBI strategy of “tightening the noose”. The overwhelming show of force was not working in the way the tacticians supposed. It did not provoke the Branch Davidians to surrender, but it may have provoked David Koresh to order the mass-suicide.Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The ultimate cause of the demise of the Branch Davidians in Waco was not a problem of gun control, the point of drawing a parallel between Sandy Hook and Waco. Most of the Branch Davidians died from causes related to the burning of CS gas, namely cyanide poisoning. The ATF did overstep their authority in this instance, they should have listened to the local police enforcement and allowed them to arrest Koresh the next time he came into town. But the federal government’s missteps did not directly cause these peoples deaths. Their being part of a death cult caused their deaths. If you are hoping and praying for armageddon, you too are part of a death cult.
If anything, the gun show loophole that sovereigns and scofflaws rely on to get their weaponry lead directly to the massacre. It was the purchases of weapons for resale at gun shows that put the FBI on Koresh’s trail in the first place. Had there been proper regulations for weapons of mass destruction like semi-automatic weapons are, there would have been no lucrative arms business for David Koresh to engage in, and he would never have gotten on the FBI’s radar in the first place. At least, not until the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints showed up on government radar, and even then it would have been to quietly arrest the leaders and then liberate the people held in ignorance of their own rights.
The two events, the Sandy Hook massacre and the Waco siege, are not related. They are apples and oranges except for one tangential fact. The US as a whole has adopted a siege mentality in the years following Waco. Like the Branch Davidians did right before their self immolation, we see enemies all around us and we know the doom of our way of life is on the horizon. We are all caught up in a death cult. All of us, and most of us are in denial about this fact.
What cult, you ask? The cult of economic growth.
As I sit here finishing this article, the Amazonian rain forests are on fire. They were purposefully set on fire by people who hope to profit from farming and mining on that land. One of the last reserves of rare flora and fauna, as well as one of the largest carbon sinks in the world, is being destroyed in the name of profit. But it isn’t just the Amazon that’s on fire. The tundra in Canada, Russia and Alaska, tundra across the entire arctic circle, is melting and in places it too is on fire. We’ve had glaciers that have gone extinct in our lifetimes. Glaciers that supplied drinking water to thousands that essentially don’t exist anymore. The mythical Northwest Passage that explorers searched for in vain is no longer a myth. There is ship traffic now passing Canadian coastline that was covered in permafrost even during our lifetimes. The planet is warming and the evidence is all around us. The evidence is all around us, and still we make the problem worse.
We are poisoning the biosphere that keeps us all alive and pretending that the impending doom of our civilization is not something to worry about. Sea levels are rising, coastal cities are flooding in ways that we’ve never experienced before. All of this was predicted by the models that climate scientists have constructed, but conservatives and evangelicals refuse to believe. What they instead say is “god will provide” never understanding that what he will provide is death, just as he provided death to the Branch Davidians. He provided the death, the release from their burdens, that they prayed for. That is what omnipotence means. If it happens, he does it.
As nature itself turns against us, we live more in terror of being caught up in the next mass killing than we worry about the impending end of our civilization. The terror? That is by design. It is not the design of the government that wants your guns, but by the design of the white nationalist, sovereign, christianist, terrorists in our midst. The people who run the NRA. Young earthers. Evangelicals. The people who back Donald Trump, the Orange Hate-Monkey, his precious #MAGA, the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans. All of them. They want their armageddon. They want to meet Jesus, and they want to do it while they still have truck-nuts on their diesel SUV’s and an AR-15 in each hand. They want this disaster to continue to unfold exactly as it has been spelled out. They’d rather be dead than be wrong about everything.
Death is coming for them. Death is coming for all of us even if we do change our ways. But if we change our ways our children might have a world to live in rather than to have to die with us. If we embrace renewable energy like any sane person should, we can get over this looming catastrophe and possibly avert the apocalypse.
This has to be stopped. Their campaign of terror has to end, and we the people, the citizenry of the United States have to stop it. We are the only ones who can. If they require us to disarm them in order to get started on the real work at hand, reversing climate change, removing ourselves from the death cult of unquestionable economic growth, then that is what we will have to do. I would prefer that they could be made to see reason, but I am increasingly pessimistic that they will admit to their error before most of the currently living are already dead, and we cannot afford to wait that long.
We cared about the dead children in Waco, but we were powerless to stop them from being killed. We cared about the dead children in Sandy Hook, and we were stopped from preventing the next hundred, the next thousand mass shootings from occurring by people too stupid to know they were part of a death cult. We care about the dying biosphere all around us, and we are similarly being thwarted by these same stupid people who want desperately for their god to prove them right.
Those people? They are insane. I don’t know how else to describe it. It is insane to kill yourself when there is no need. When no sacrifice is needed. When suffering amounts to having to walk rather than drive. Cook rather than eat out. Not have the firepower on hand to take down an army single handed, just because you want to have it. They are insane, and we should not be listening to them when it comes to determining our, and our children’s, future.
Featured image Rollingstone: Flashback – Waco Cult Showdown Ends in Disaster. I found the original conversation with Steve Kubby that occured on my Facebook wall since I wrote this article. This is a completely different story than that was, so I will just link that story in this editor’s note. A mental note to myself, if to no one else, that I found the other half of this conversation. Whew. That’s a load off my mind.