The Selfishness of It All

I’m warning you in advance this is going to be another rambling post.

Yesterday I was looking at the pictures of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, and I made it a point to read every bio that was provided. I figured it was the least I could do, because I know we aren’t going to do a fucking thing as a country to honor their memory with any meaningful action on the gun front. I was just struck, with few exceptions, how young they all were:

Quinton Robbins was 20. When I was 20, I was living in Germany, serving in the Army, and just having the time of my life. Seeing new things, doing something important for the first time in my life, on my own, paying my own bills, and making friends that I still to this day keep in touch with pretty regularly.

Sonny Melton was 29. When I was 29 I was at the tail end of grad school, and I still went to a lot of concerts and went out all the time and was still pretty wild. That could have been me.

Rachael Parker was 33. When I was 33 I didn’t have my life in any sort of order, but I was finally making decent money and could afford to do things, and I had Tunch and lot of close friends.

And on and on and on. And now, they are just all gone. They are no more.

I know we have all sorts of differing opinions on the afterlife, but mine is pretty simple. When you’re dead you’re dead. That’s the ballgame, as they say. Roll the credits. It’s just over.

I know that’s really hard for people to comprehend, so that’s why I think we have so many myths made up to comfort people about the afterlife, because it’s really hard to contemplate not existing or the world continuing to exist without you- all of us are to some degree egocentric in that way. We’re the only thing that has been with us our entire lives- you always have to live with yourself, because you never go away until you go away.

And the euphemisms we employ to soothe us- passed away, moved on, is in a better place, the long sleep. I find it hard to put a finger on mortality, too. The best way I’ve come to imagine what the world would like be without me is to try to think back to my earliest memory as a child, and then to go farther into nothingness. Just a void- you can’t remember any more before that. Well, that’s what it will be like when we are gone, I think.

And when you are dead, that’s the end of experience. On the drive home today I picked up a small Coke slush and had a sip and just smiled because it was so good. I listened to Kendrick Lamar DAMN. for the fifth or sixth time, and this time, for the first time, I kind of got it (you have to listen to it in reverse order). His others all made “sense” musically the first listening, especially Good Kid, which is another one of those perfect albums. And it happened while I was cruising along on the highway, with my polarized sunglasses on so everything looked so precise because my eyes didn’t have to filter out the glare, the fall foliage was amazing, the sun was filtering through the thick rain clouds that are a consequence of Hurricane Nate, the windows were down and the pollen was low and I just had that rushing “Oh, I think I get it and appreciate it now” feeling and the hair on my arms stood up a little bit. Later on I was driving down the back roads, and the smell of leaves and manure and the sweet country air filled the car, and I saw a beautiful Holstein just sitting down by the fence, chomping away, twitching her tail and I pulled over and watcher her for a bit.

None of those fifty dead will ever get to experience anything like that ever again. Not the feel of clean sheets, the cold floor when you wake up, the burst of hot water in the shower, the minty taste of toothpaste on a new tooth brush, the aroma of the morning coffee, or the feel of your kid’s hands as you walk them to the school bus or kiss your lover again. They will never get any of that ever again. Those things are just gone for them.

And this is where some will inevitably say but their memories will linger on. No they won’t. More than likely, history will not remember them as people- they might be known for a while as victims, but who they are as people will die off in a couple generations, as their loved ones move on. There have been billions of people- history remembers very few. Maybe if they had lived full lives, one of them might have done something extraordinary in the historical sense, but I doubt it. And I’m not saying that to be an asshole- people do extraordinary little things every day, from things as simple as slamming on the brakes to not hit a squirrel or saying something kind to someone who is having a bad day. Time washes all the stuff but the greatest achievements away- the Grand Canyon wasn’t always so grand.

It’s a fragile and short and wonderful thing being alive, and your life is really, truly, the only thing you have in this world. And that’s what is so damned maddening about these shootings. All of those people had the only thing that mattered stolen from them, literally robbed at gunpoint, just so a few people retain their unfettered right to own a little hand-held killing machine that makes their dick hard or gives them a grin for ten seconds at a firing range.

It’s sick. It’s a sickness. Like I said earlier, you have to live with yourselves your whole life, and I just don’t know how these people who oppose all gun control do it. There is just something wrong with them. They are broken. And worse still are the politicians who oppose it for a few coins and some political power.

Some of them, I suspect, know it, which is why they rely on nonsense arguments like “more people are killed by cars” or all the other bullshit that gets churned up. They’ll tell you if we ban guns only criminals will have guns. OK. Then we lock them up until we get all the guns. We can change- there used to be a time when there weren’t seatbelts in cars. Or “We can’t confiscate all guns.” Sure we can. It will just take time.

But even assuming they are right, why the fuck does it hurt to try?

Again, it’s a sickness. And everyone who continues to fight for the right to unfettered access to guns is complicit. They didn’t pull the trigger, but they might as well have.

It’s just a level of selfishness that I will never ever ever understand.

193 replies
  1. 1
    Trentrunner says:

    When you kill a man, you take away everything he’s had and everything he’s gonna have.

  2. 2
    lamh36 says:

    Great post…you had me at Kendrick Lamar (even my niece Layla loves Kendrick…play Humble and Layla bounces her body and waves her hands!!).

    I’m not an atheist, but I have doubts of faith often. But true confessions time: I fear death more than anything…and it’s the idea of “nothingness” that you talked about that scares me the most. The idea of having thoughts and feelings one day ant then nothing…scares the shit out of me…it’s probably one of the many reasons why I have a hard time falling asleep easily.

    Fact, just reading this post…has me anxious thinking about it…..

    Still great post!

  3. 3
    Lit3Bolt says:

    It’s not selfishness, just callousness.

    The fact that we crack down harder on people for leaving their children in cars rather than leaving loaded weapons around them should tell you all about the moral gymnastics at play.

  4. 4
    Tilda Swintons Bald Cap says:

    Great post.

  5. 5
    Radiumgirl says:

    Your post put a lump in my throat. Especially this:

    None of those fifty dead will ever get to experience anything like that ever again. Not the feel of clean sheets, the cold floor when you wake up, the burst of hot water in the shower, the minty taste of toothpaste on a new tooth brush, the aroma of the morning coffee, or the feel of your kid’s hands as you walk them to the school bus or kiss your lover again. They will never get any of that ever again. Those things are just gone for them.

  6. 6
    The Dangerman says:

    Think of the costs associated with caring for the 500+ wounded (not to mention the fact that no hospital, and maybe no city outside of LA or NY, can really handle 500+ wounded at the same time). Something has to be done.

    Personally, I’d have every firearm registered; every damned one. And, if you register 50 high powered rifles, you get a knock on your door to make sure you are sane enough to handle them responsibly. You get a quicker knock on your door if you inquire about tracer rounds.

    I don’t think that violates the 2nd Amendment; you can have your guns, just register them. Just like your cars.

    I’d make the punishment for not registering fucking draconian. How about 10 years for every weapon not registered?

    Yeah, I know, it will never happen, but I don’t care if people have guns; I just want to find out who the hidden nut jobs are.

    ETA: Radical change in topics; I’m on road, presently Portland area, maybe Seattle area tomorrow. Was there a meet up scheduled there?

    ETA: Shoulda read down below. 15th. Maybe.

  7. 7
    proportionwheel says:

    John, that post is a truly powerful piece of writing. Thank you.

  8. 8
    Elizabelle says:

    Wonderful essay.

    You thought of the things the gun’s enablers don’t ever want us to connect.

    And it is a short life. One that none of us can ever get back. I hope a lot of people read and think on your essay, John.

  9. 9
    HinTN says:

    Preach it, Brother Cole. The non-monotheistic “faiths” address this better but you have hit the nub of it very well. We as sentient beings have a responsibility to our greater society than the ammosexuals or the truly materially corrupt want to consider. When we’re gone, we’re gone. Therefore, make it the best while we’re here. Seems simple to me. Not easy, though.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    proportionwheel says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Yes, register them. And also just like your car, require liability insurance. Let the actuaries evaluate risk and set rates. It would become immensely expensive to own an arsenal, but manageable for a hunting rifle, say. Handguns and assault weapons would be expensive to insure. Conservatives are so into market solutions; why not use this one! (rhetorical question)

  12. 12
    Another Scott says:

    @lamh36: Intellectually, I don’t fear death. There’s a meme among atheists – “Do you fear the time before you were born? If not, why fear the time after you’re dead?” Dunno if it helps… Of course, I’m trying to delay the end of the line, also too. :-)

    Indeed life is precious, but it’s good that it’s temporary, too. It makes it more precious and special.

    Hang in there.

    Great post, John. It would be great if private ownership of handguns and rifles were [against] the law, or if they had to be locked up at armories and gun ranges, but we’re not there yet. As in much of politics, incremental progress may be our best hope.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  13. 13
    Elizabelle says:

    @The Dangerman: I don’t think that random civilians should have such deadly weapons (assault weapon type, and stuff that can be easily modified) without a damn good reason. Which does not involve just wanting one and being able to pay for it.

    Time to get these arsenals out of private hands.

    And the NRA and its enablers did make it impossible to maintain a computer registry of individuals’ firearms purchases.

    Having one would have brought shooter/murderer Paddock and that crazy ass who shot up the Aurora Theatre to the authorities’ attention right promptly.

    All the dead gun victims had rights too. Their families still suffer. It’s not just the ammosexuals’ rights. They are a crazed minority.

  14. 14
    The Dangerman says:

    @proportionwheel:

    And also just like your car, require liability insurance.

    YES. Love it.

    Speaking of liability, if you are the Mandalay Bay and you comp a hotel room to a nut job, you’re on the hook for the potential damages.

  15. 15
    Tom Levenson says:

    Amazing stuff, John. Thanks

  16. 16

    A+ essay. This mirrors a lot of my thoughts as well.

    Regarding gun control, the 2nd Amendment specifies “a well-regulated militia”. Unfortunately the SC decided to disregard the entire first half of the amendment in Heller and it seems unlikely that’s going to be successfully overturned anytime soon. Between that and the gun lobby, I don’t know what the solution is. Part of the problem is that the gun nuts keep calling and writing Congress incessantly, to an extent that we haven’t been doing. I’m guilty of this myself – I don’t call or write nearly as often as I should. I’ve got shit to do most of the time, and I’m nervous on the phone at the best of times (now is not the best of times). The other problem, of course, is the legalised bribery, particularly post-Citizens United, that keeps so many Congresscritters in the pocket of the gun lobby.

    These are two of several reasons the theft of Garland’s Supreme Court seat infuriated me so thoroughly. Between that and the collusion with foreign powers to steal an election – at this point, I’m growing increasingly convinced that we’re looking at outright treason, and that the GOP is a cancer that needs to be completely purged from the nation. If it really extended that far, we can’t let any shell of it survive this time. The problem is I don’t know how you manage that in an ostensibly democratic society when so much of the population is completely OK with the treason. This kind of thing – alongside the knowledge that an awful lot of fellow citizens couldn’t care less whether I even live or die – is part of what keeps me awake at night.

  17. 17
    Caphilldcne says:

    I am on a DC public bus riding home and I am this close to weeping. In public. On a bus. I am making stupid goldfish gulps and pretending I have allergies to wipe my eyes. The truth is very hard.

  18. 18
    khead says:

    @Trentrunner:

    You’d be William Munny out of Missouri. Killer of women and children. Never really got that vibe from your previous posts.

    Also, this:

    require liability insurance. Let the actuaries evaluate risk and set rates. It would become immensely expensive to own an arsenal, but manageable for a hunting rifle, say. Handguns and assault weapons would be expensive to insure.

  19. 19
    Antonius says:

    Don’t control the guns. Control the ammunition. Bear all the unloaded arms you want.

  20. 20
    Roger Moore says:

    @The Dangerman:

    Personally, I’d have every firearm registered; every damned one.

    And stored safely. And reported promptly if it’s stolen. If your gun is stolen and used in a crime, you’re on the hook as an accessory unless you can show A) you made a serious effort to protect it from theft (e.g. in a good gun safe) and B) you reported the theft promptly. And no more fucking gun show loophole. All sales, trades, gifts, or transfers of ownership of any kind have to be made through a federally licensed dealer.

    ETA: And strict limits on any gun with a removable magazine. No reasonable hunting or self defense use requires more rounds than you can fit in a fixed magazine. The only use for removable ones is mass killing.

  21. 21
    gbear says:

    The people I want to punch are the parents who comfort themselves by saying that their child has gone to a better place after the child shoots themselves with a carelessly stored handgun. I also believe that when you die, you die, but I hope that those parents experience a final endless moment of hell just before they slip into nothingness.

  22. 22
    Baud says:

    Good writing, John. Hope it gets circulated.

  23. 23
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    Conservatives love to say the Constitution is not a suicide pact when they want to limit constitutional protections. Weirdly, the second amendment reallly is a suicide pact, a murder suicide pact.

  24. 24

    You’ve touched many lives for the better, John. You will be remembered. Thank you for writing this.

  25. 25
    Thor Heyerdahl says:

    Wonderful post John. It’s interesting to step into an old cemetery and see names that fade with the passage of time.

  26. 26
    Feebog says:

    Well said, John. You write so well, maybe you should start your own blog or something.

  27. 27
    rikyrah says:

    Good post, Cole. I hear you.

  28. 28
    Caphilldcne says:

    btw this reminds me of s beautiful piece of writing in some punk zine I used to read. A response to a kid who was considering suicide from one of the writers? I just remember the writer pointing out at various ages things they hadn’t done implying that he (I’m sure it was a he) had done it the next year. They were all pretty punk. One was at age 29(?) I hadn’t slept under a bridge in Poland. One of my life’s philosophies is “next year under bridge in Poland.”

  29. 29
    Mnemosyne says:

    Hmmm. One of the reasons people want to believe in the afterlife is to ensure their own continued existence, but I think you’re vastly underestimating how many people want to be able to see their loved ones again after their loved ones die. That’s why there’s a whole cottage industry of psychics who will tell you that all of your deceased loved ones are happy and at peace as long as you pay the psychic enough.

  30. 30
    Gvg says:

    Sort of off topic, I am starting to realize this may be a case where we never really understand what the killer’s problem was.
    Society and our gun worship contributed I am sure.
    Predict there will be endless stupid theories and books and tv shows. Years of them. National Inquirer and the type will make money off it. Hateful and useless.

  31. 31
    raven says:

    “The Lives of the Dead” by Tim O’Brien

    “But this too is true: stories can save us. I’m forty-three years old, and a writer now, and even still, right here, I keep dreaming Linda alive. And Ted Lavender, too, and Kiowa, and Curt Lemon, and a slim young man I killed, and an old man sprawled beside a pigpen, and several others whose bodies I once lifted and dumped into a truck. They’re all dead. But in a story, which is a kind of dreaming, the dead sometimes smile and sit up and return to the world.”

  32. 32
    mr_gravity says:

    It was almost a week later when one of the network news programs featured Keith Urban singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water” while the faces and names scrolled by that I realized that they were real people who had been robbed of life by a sick man with a gun. Real people young and full of life who would never see another sunset or hold their loved ones close….

    “When you’re weary…….”

  33. 33
    ALurkSupreme says:

    Damn, John. Well said.

  34. 34
    Caphilldcne says:

    Ok off bus. Walking down street and encountered my bestest gay doggie Shiloh who though ironically named for this task will lick the tears from my face. Also Nate has made it muggy so maybe I’m just sweating.

  35. 35
    JMG says:

    As always John, when you say you’re just rambling, you are at your most eloquent and righteous. Magnificently said.

  36. 36

    Amen. I still hope that someday we get this shit taken care of, but I don’t know if there’s really any way it’s going to happen.

  37. 37
    raven says:

    And then it becomes 1990. I’m forty-three years old, and a writer now, still dreaming Linda alive in exactly the same way. She’s not the embodied Linda; she’s mostly made up, with a new identity and a new name, like the man who never was. Her real name doesn’t matter. She was nine years old. I loved her and then she died. And yet right here, in the spell of memory and imagination, I can still see her as if through ice, as if I’m gazing into some other world, a place where there are no brain tumors and no funeral homes, where there are no bodies at all. I can see Kiowa, too, and Ted Lavender and Curt Lemon, and sometimes I can even see Timmy skating with Linda under the yellow floodlights. I’m young and happy. I’ll never die. I’m skimming across the surface of my own history, moving fast, riding the melt beneath the blades, doing loops and spins, and when I take a high leap into the dark and come down thirty years later, I realize it is as Tim trying to save Timmy’s life with a story.

  38. 38
    sharl says:

    What a beautiful and eloquent statement, JGC! It’s a shame you aren’t running CNN, which I was informed has been running hours upon hours of coverage about the shooter – his history, tactics, “success”, etc. – accompanied by the awful audio and video one has come to expect.

    At least some in big media get it, e.g., Scott Simon on NPR’s Weekend Edition: We Remember The Wrong Names After Tragedies. Who’s To Blame? Neither that written transcript nor the original audio segment packed the wallop your post here did, but it made the same point. Unfortunately so much of it is like CNN’s coverage, which provides inspiration to future mass shooters: “Media: the next potential mass shooter is watching the current media coverage intently. Right now. Your coverage is a factor in this crisis.”

  39. 39
    mike in dc says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (Formerly Mumphrey, et al.):
    Via incremental declines in the political power of the gun lobby, most likely. That will start with individual states passing more restrictive laws, and gradually spread to more “purple” states.

  40. 40
    ArchTeryx says:

    I and many far better than I said it this way: American society, as a whole, worships two gods and two gods only. Mammon and Moloch. The rest of it is just window dressing.

    Those that died in Las Vegas were human sacrifices. Sacrifices to Moloch. So were the children of Sandy Hook, and the victims of all the rest of the mass murders that have been perpetuated on us from then to now. And the High Priest of the Cult of Moloch is Wayne LaPierre. He is not the first, and he will not be the last.

    It’s a beautiful essay, the closest thing to an Atheist’s Creed than anything I’ve seen before – but it will never, ever convince folks like my mother, a dedicated Buddhist. I’ve had that argument many times with her and it’s just too frightening, too alien, an idea for her. That death is final and you only get one life. And the irony? If that sort of thing got widespread acceptance, we’d see far fewer wars, IMHO; if you only get one life, why throw it away for something that doesn’t affect you, for a few people you will never meet, against a people that never harmed you or yours? Maybe it’s naive of me to think so, but that’s what I think.

    In the meantime, I try to do what I can with what life I have, and try to leave a few happier people in this cruel world, so that when I go, I at least can go with a clear conscience.

  41. 41
    dww44 says:

    Thanks, Cole. Perhaps the “selfishness of it all” ought to become the new way to fight for gun control Paint the 2nd Amendment fetishers as selfish citizens who worship at the altar of guns above all else.

  42. 42
    dexwood says:

    As if I needed another reason to visit this place. Thanks, John.

  43. 43
    raven says:

    Some say once you’re gone you’re gone forever
    And some say you’re gonna come back
    Some say you rest in the arms of the Saviour
    If in sinful ways you lack
    Some say that they’re comin’ back in a garden
    Bunch of carrots and little sweet peas
    I think I’ll just let the mystery be

    Nobody knows shit.

  44. 44
    frosty says:

    Well said, John and everyone.

  45. 45
    Honus says:

    @The Dangerman: in a sane country, that would happen. And it would be effective and reasonable.

    To paraphrase the Bushies, the second amendment isn’t a suicide pact. Register your guns and show you are responsible enough to have them. The second amendment doesn’t say “every citizen shall have all the guns they want with no accountability” but that’s how republicans treat it.

  46. 46
    Roger Moore says:

    @Gvg:
    My prediction is that Vegas will wind up spawning even more conspiracy theories than Sandy Hook. Part of the reason people are so eager to investigate mass shooters’ backgrounds and motives is so they can other them. If they can prove somehow that the shooter was different and defective some way, it lets them believe they don’t have to worry about people like themselves doing the same. If that fails, if they somehow can’t find a way to other the killer, they will have to deflect their worries a different way, and conspiracy theories provide a convenient excuse.

  47. 47
    Mnemosyne says:

    @dww44:

    Sadly, we’re dealing with people who think that selfishness is an actual virtue, so that won’t help as much as you think. 😒

  48. 48
    HinTN says:

    @raven: Hell yes!!!

  49. 49
    Hoodie says:

    Nice piece. I guess the ultimate selfishness is the illusion of control, that your safety depends solely on your own actions and not the community that you’re a part of. A lot of people own guns for the same reason they will drive for 10 hours rather than taking a flight, even though the latter is far less dangerous and they can afford the fares. Similarly, under the vast majority of circumstances, it’s safer not to have a gun in your home than to have one and rely on the police and non-lethal security measures. The irony being that a lot of white gun owners can rely more on police and have the money to buy security.

    We have president who was voted into office because a bunch of morons (left and right) thought their uninformed judgement was better than the leadership of the parties. Similarly, we have millions of untrained morons who have no business owning a firearm, but think they’re Dirty Harry. Sure, a lot of that is failure of leadership – particularly in the media. However, a lot of it is failed followership.

  50. 50
    chris says:

    Well said, John.

  51. 51
    trollhattan says:

    Thanks John, well said and much needed.

    Fun fact: even before this year Nevada was one of several states where firearm deaths exceed traffic deaths. After last week they may well go to 2X. Guns compete with slavery as our nation’s greatest sin.

  52. 52
    JPL says:

    Preach it Cole.

  53. 53
    raven says:

    @mr_gravity: And the recent Vietnam sequence at the dedication of the Wall played Bridge.

  54. 54
    Honus says:

    @(((CassandraLeo))):
    “Unfortunately the SC decided to disregard the entire first half of the amendment in Heller”

    As well as the great originalist Nino Scalia inventing a constitutional right to armed self defense out of whole cloth. “Self defense” does not appear, explicitly or by reference, in the second amendment, or arguably, elsewhere in the constitution.

    Scalia was not only a prick, he was a poor jurist in his last decades.

  55. 55
    Lee says:

    I’ve posted this elsewhere and I’m surprised the number of people who are open to the idea.

    Because of the 2nd Amendment we can’t study gun violence, can’t modernize the BATF, can’t stop mentally incapable people from owning guns, can’t pass any sort of gun control that might begin to make is safer.

    It’s time to talk about repealing the 2nd Amendment.

  56. 56
    No One of Consequence says:

    No.

    Simply that.

    No.

    You can have as many guns as you like. They want to wrap themselves in the 2nd amendment, let them. Let’s all embrace it. Seriously.

    I am not a bed-wetting liberal, but I have been politically aware since Carter, and concerned since Reagan.

    Have your 2nd amendment, and have as many guns as you think you need.

    Only one small, ever so slight stipulation: Founding Father’s weapons technology limitations.

    Black powder, muzzle-loaded. We can even allow rifled barrels.

    No gun with a cartridge shall be allowed ownership by a civilian.

    Hunters – you still have a right to use a rifle to hunt, but now, there is a challenge involved. You got one shot. If you want two, you better have two rifles loaded, or your buddy along.

    Sportsmen – Sorry, but your fellow citizens have a right to exist without other people having a remote control for their fellow citizen’s lives. Period.

    On NOES! Only the criminals… blah blah blah bullshit. You are right, the criminals will have them, until they are stupid enough to use them. Then, we have draconian-as-all-hell laws against anyone committing a crime with a gun. Mandatory 20 or 30 years oughta do it.

    Only gonna be so many flameouts. The rest are as puzzy as we could assume, them needing their automagwangsubstitues to be big men. We will have a few nuts decide that they wanna try to set a new record, and some short term ruffles, but long term, we could see survival rates along the lines of Austrailia, post-Port Aurthur.

    I’m done considering anything else. Stand Your Ground laws and such crap, completely disregard the rights of the citizenry to not have any given space turn into a shooting gallery because someone feels threatened. Bullets don’t only hit the intended target. In fact, in stressful situations, it is the rare bullet that actually hits their target. Most of my fellow citizenry I would not trust with class C fireworks, let alone a rifled barrel semi-automatic weapon with ridiculous muzzle velocities.

    I wouldn’t trust myself with such things. And I’ve known me my whole life.

    This must end. Sadly, I don’t think we have the collective will. Calculating for population differences, roughly 3,200 people will need to be killed in a single event, with legally purchased and available weaponry, by a small group of non-swarthily-skinned Americans against their own. Roughly, someone will need to logchain the doors of the Mall of America shut, and methodically mow down everyone inside, all at once.

    That MIGHT do it.

    But I kinda doubt it.

    Is there anything in that there bill of rights says whats ‘sposed to happen when a statistically-significant number of the citizenry are demonstrably insane?

    Wouldn’t matter if Trump is president or not. I would want the same thing done regardless of whoever’s ass is warming the big seat at 1600 Pennsylvania.

    So disgusted by all this, and seriously questioning my fellow Americans. It’s like I don’t even know some of you anymore.

    – NOoC

  57. 57
    debbie says:

    Something endures. There’s something more than this. Too much has gone into what makes each living thing for it to just end.

  58. 58
    Brachiator says:

    Beautiful post, John

    I also recommend this clip of Neil Degrasse Tyson on the afterlife.

    https://youtu.be/Ndj5KjKyr3E

  59. 59
    Honus says:

    @(((CassandraLeo))): they actually talked about not confirming any of Hillary Clinton’s SCOTUS appointments, and in fact did deny even a hearing to a popular two term president’s choice. And then promptly changed senate rules to confirm an appointment by a popular vote loser whose election was clearly aided by a hostile foreign power. And the most vocally religious people continue to support this, in fact rejoice in it.

    Lucky for them there isn’t an afterlife.

  60. 60
    ArchTeryx says:

    @(((CassandraLeo))): What you think about is an ideal setup for purges, death squads, and civil war. “It can’t happen here” ain’t good enough. Things seem impossible, until they aren’t any more.

  61. 61
    Tom Hamill says:

    John, you’d probably like this (if you haven’t discovered it already). Emmylou, with a similar sentiment:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G3DEjpSekNY

  62. 62
    frosty says:

    Give a thought to the 489 injured, too. While they may see the sun rise and set and get on with life, it’s never going to be the same for many of them. I found out this weekend that the 27-year old daughter of one of my cousins was shot in the head in LV. She’s in the ICU in a coma, her right eye is gone, and she’s fighting for her life.

  63. 63
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    Well JEEZ, John.

    Tearing up … scratch that, sobbing.

  64. 64
    Smiling Mortician says:

    @Baud: Agree. I just did my part to get more people to read it.

  65. 65
    raven says:

    Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
    Everybody knows that the captain lied
    Everybody got this broken feeling
    Like their father or their dog just died
    Everybody talking to their pockets
    Everybody wants a box of chocolates
    And a long-stem rose
    Everybody knows

  66. 66
    Lahke says:

    There was an op-ed in the WaPo this weekend proposing that corporations and trade groups start boycotting states with lax gun laws, the way they did with Indiana after Pence signed the anti-LGBT legislation. I can totally get behind that– there are already a couple of conferences I’ve passed on because they were in Florida. Tomorrow I’ll let those organizations know why I’m not going: because I want to go somewhere where my safety is more important than the right off some ammosexual to shoot me.

  67. 67
    PhoenixRising says:

    @raven:

    Some say they’re goin’ to a place called Glory
    And I ain’t saying it ain’t a fact
    But I’ve heard that I’m on the road to purgatory
    And I don’t like the sound of that
    I believe in love and I live my life accordingly
    But I choose to let the mystery be

  68. 68
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @frosty:

    Heart.

  69. 69
    raven says:

    @PhoenixRising There it is. . .the theme song of Little Buddha!

  70. 70
    jacy says:

    I have no patience for these people anymore. I just don’t.

    One of the best episodes of television I ever saw — that stuck with me — was along the same lines as this. The episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer “The Body,” when Joyce dies. And Anya, who is not immortal, but is not human either says this. “I don’t understand how this all happens. How we go through this. I mean, I knew her, and then she’s- There’s just a body, and I don’t understand why she just can’t get back in it and not be dead anymore. It’s stupid. It’s mortal and stupid. And-and Xander’s crying and not talking, and-and I was having fruit punch, and I thought, well, Joyce will never have any more fruit punch ever, and she’ll never have eggs, or yawn or brush her hair, not ever, and no one will explain to me why.”

    One of the things I don’t like about religion is that it cheapens the life we have here. Instead of appreciating how fragile it is, how magical it is, people believe there must be something else. They do it to keep their pain and fear in abeyance. I understand it. But if more people could understand the finality of being GONE, maybe they would behave differently. I don’t know, but I like to think so.

  71. 71
    🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷 says:

    And this is where some will inevitably say but their memories will linger on. No they won’t. More than likely, history will not remember them as people- they might be known for a while as victims, but who they are as people will die off in a couple generations, as their loved ones move on. There have been billions of people- history remembers very few. Maybe if they had lived full lives, one of them might have done something extraordinary in the historical sense, but I doubt it. And I’m not saying that to be an asshole- people do extraordinary little things every day, from things as simply as slamming on the brakes to not hit a squirrel or saying something kind to someone who is having a bad day. Time washes all the stuff but the greatest achievements away- the Grand Canyon wasn’t always so grand.

    Yeah, and for awhile I was afraid of that: being forgotten. Even historical figures will eventually be lost to the sands of times. But I was listening to this fiction podcast, and the narrator mentioned something about the actions you take in your life affecting others in the far future. So immortality can be derived from that I suppose. I believe one shouldn’t worry about that and just live life while they can.

  72. 72
    PhoenixRising says:

    @raven: a friend, who has since ended her own life at 36, gave me that song the week my dad died.

    You would have liked him. Dropped out of MDiv in year 14 of Jesuit education, volunteered into the 82nd ABN, then taught philosophy to night school community college students. Lived well but not long. The reason I know the Buddhists are right and we go somewhere after this–the destination determined by what we do here–is that it is not possible that the man he was went nowhere.

    If he were around this week, it would have killed him. The arrogance of taking life with no skill, no training, no justification…and the callousness of a society and country that accept this as the price of doing business…more than I can rationalize.

  73. 73
    raven says:

    @Tom Hamill: That’s a Lucinda Williams song. Knopfler wrote If This os Goodbye and he and Emmylou kill it.

    If this is goodbye.
    Who knows how long we’ve got
    Or what were made out of
    Who knows if there’s a plan or not
    There is our love
    I know there is our love

  74. 74
    raven says:

    @PhoenixRising: Aw, I know I would have.

  75. 75
    jill tasker says:

    This atheist says, bless you, Cole. The simple truth of this moved me and will stay with me. Thank you.

  76. 76
    A Ghost to Most says:

    Why is it that most atheists don’t fear death,while people of faith often do?

    I don’t fear death; I fear not living the life I have.

  77. 77
    Big Picture Pathologist says:

    Stellar post, John.

  78. 78
    J.A.F. Rusty Shackleford says:

    Amen.

  79. 79
    rikyrah says:

    Kyle Griffin‏Verified account @kylegriffin1

    Mnuchin wants to repeal rules that require companies to disclose how much more executives make than employees.

  80. 80
    sharl says:

    @frosty: Give a thought to the 489 injured, too.

    I’ll second that, and my thoughts and best wishes go out to your kin in the ICU.

    One of the less notable mass shootings of the past few years was at a southwest Oregon community college in 2015 – Umpqua Community College, a few miles outside the city of Roseburg. But an account of a survivor’s life after that shooting – an exceedingly up-close and well written story, gripping and awful in its details – just tore me up something awful. I still think of Cheyeanne Fitzgerald sometimes – she must be 17 or 18 now – and hope that things are getting better for her. That goes for her mom as well, because of course there are people beyond the primary victims who are also damaged in so many ways by these senseless killings.

  81. 81
    PhoenixRising says:

    True.

    Maybe God let Jesus die
    Cause we wouldn’t get it otherwise
    In canyons and in purple skies
    That’s how we get to the big reprise
    Not like he is some guy
    Sitting up there thinking this is why
    But maybe everything lets everything die
    To make us all the more alive
    To love one another
    And be really present
    Maybe God lets me and you
    Moses and Muhammad too
    God let Jesus die again, and again

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVarK9po6j8

    I left monotheism but some of its practitioners have some interesting ideas.

  82. 82
    PhoenixRising says:

    @frosty:

    Give a thought to the 489 injured

    My first thought when I saw the details behind ‘pray for Las Vegas’, because I’m weird, was: What if the doctors and nurses and rehabilitation providers all pushed back? There are more PTs, OTs and SLPs in this country than NRA members, and they prefer teaching people to walk, talk and wipe who lost those capacities due to stroke rather than high velocity lead.

  83. 83
    Tom Hamill says:

    @raven: yep, Lucinda Williams originally, and I love her stuff too, but Emmylou’s got the right voice for this song.

  84. 84
    GregB says:

    It is the passion behind writing like that in your post that has kept me coming back to this corner of the web for so many years.
    All we have is this life, one day at a time.

  85. 85
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @PhoenixRising:

    a friend, who has since ended her own life at 36

    That is such pain.

  86. 86
    Lee says:

    @sharl:

    That was a great article.

    Thanks

  87. 87
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷:

    Even historical figures will eventually be lost to the sands of times.

    Ozymandias, q.v.

    But some few will resonate across the eras.

  88. 88
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Caphilldcne:

    I am also in public, doing much the same.

    Damned allergies.

  89. 89
    gammyjill says:

    Very well written, Cole. (Where’s the cat, by the way?)

    I thought that after Sandy Hook the pictures of the dead bodies should have been shown. Terrible, awful…but maybe, just maybe those images might have prompted people to the streets to protest the NRA and Congress’s inaction. Or, if you didn’t want to show small children shot in the faces, at least show the room after the bodies were removed. Something has to spur action. Maybe the truth is the way to do it.

  90. 90
    PhoenixRising says:

    @SiubhanDuinne: probably. I mean, it happened in the weeks while I was waiting to learn whether the treatment had cured my cancer, my child was losing a grandparent to cancer and my mom knew the biopsy was going to be positive but was waiting for the lab to call. So that was 6 years ago but…I think so? I’ve blocked out a lot.

  91. 91
    Viva BrisVegas says:

    If we are going all existential, I’ll throw in in my dime store philosophy.

    You aren’t going to know you are dead. So there is no point in imagining being dead.

    Everything dies. People, trees, mountains, universes. You aren’t being singled out.

    There is no objective meaning of life and there doesn’t need to be. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t look for one that’s true for you.

    Above all, be excellent to each other, because when you get to that last 30 seconds, you’ll want to go out with a smile.

  92. 92
    NorthLeft12 says:

    John, I am tending to agree with you about the afterlife and how all the religious based theories have been used as a con to get people to behave in certain ways….generally to be obedient, respectful to authority, and violent/angry against those “others”.
    I have also had it with those who just want to pray all of our problems away. I usually never say or write anything critical of those who believe in the power of prayer, but lately I have expressed my view that people who suggest prayer to resolve our problems are just too lazy, selfish, and/or apathetic to do something about them.
    There is something arrogant about expecting a supreme being(s) to be interested and get involved in fixing a problem that someone or some group of people could not be bothered to do something about themselves.

  93. 93
    marv says:

    damn, cole, nailed it

  94. 94
    raven says:

    don’t mean nuthin

  95. 95
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @NorthLeft12:

    I usually never say or write anything critical of those who believe in the power of prayer, but lately I have expressed my view that people who suggest prayer to resolve our problems are just too lazy, selfish, and/or apathetic to do something about them.

    I tend to think that people like MLK Jr. had a tendency to pray. They just didn’t rely on prayer alone.

  96. 96
    Rand Careaga says:

    Cole’s premise was advanced in this short story from three-quarters of a century ago, which his post recalled to memory.

  97. 97

    @Viva BrisVegas: I like Rick and Morty’s version.

    Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.

  98. 98
    raven says:

    3-2 at the half, jesus.

  99. 99
    ksmiami says:

    Thank you of this John. As a rejoinder, here is my limited estimate on the friggin costs of unfettered gun access…

    Property Damage – Hotel – $15,000
    Funerals for each victim – 59*6000 = 354,000
    Hospital costs for wounded (avg) 489*10,000 = 4,890,000
    First Responder costs for event = 150,000
    PTSD therapy and counseling for wounded, families & medical workers = 1,500,000
    travel for families of victims since 80% were from other areas = 30,000
    Loss of Productivity – killed – 59*289000 = 17,051,000 assuming average lifetime earnings of approximately 289,000
    Loss of Productivity – wounded – = 489*15000 = 7,335,000 (could be more if injuries lead to complete loss of potential
    TOTAL LOSSES for Vegas horror – low end $31,325,000.
    (Not to mention the enormous human tragedy)
    I’m not going to include the future costs of setting up events like this with the now needed added security measures etc. but to all those NRA gun nutters who keep saying freedom isn’t free – neither is your stupid p^&* extender.

    End this madness

  100. 100
    OldDave says:

    @raven: Live performance version of the song. Heartbreaking. Beautiful.

  101. 101
    hedgehog the occasional commenter says:

    Thank you, John.

  102. 102
    SFBayAreaGal says:

    @jacy: That was one of the best episodes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

  103. 103
    dww44 says:

    @raven: Love that Iris DeMint song. Indeed, ‘let the mystery be”.
    @jacy: Great comment. Lots to think about. Thanks.

  104. 104
    trollhattan says:

    @raven:
    Who’s Jesus playing?

  105. 105

    @🌎 🇺🇸 Goku (aka The Hope of the Universe) 🗳 🌷: sure, if you believe in “free will” and “time” 🙄

  106. 106
    zhena gogolia says:

    @proportionwheel:

    Best thing written about this subject ever.

  107. 107
    sharl says:

    @raven: Yeah, pretty much.

  108. 108

    @Omnes Omnibus: Same with Gandhi. He would have daily prayer meetings but did not rely only prayer to bring about change. Prayer in his case was more a form of meditation, bhakti yoga.
    I seem to remember several traditional hymns by saint poets ridiculing the notion of prayer without good actions and thoughts.
    Rough translation would be, God is not some fresh produce that you can buy by muttering his name.

  109. 109
    TheOtherHank says:

    <delurk>
    The day before the Las Vegas horror a woman who lives across the street from me was murdered by her estranged (I’m not sure of the right word) man with whom she was ending a relationship. Five shots, bullet holes in the outside of her house and then crime scene tape and slowness and her daughter screaming when she came home. And then this asshole in Las Vegas.

    I don’t have a point, but it’s all just too much.
    </delurk;>

  110. 110
    Barbara says:

    There are people who will never forget. They will try hard to make do with sweet memories but they will be a poor facsimile of the flesh and blood life that should have been. Nine years ago today a classmate of my daughter’s died, at the age of 16. His dad posts a remembrance on Facebook every year, and every year, if ever so briefly I think about where life would have taken him.

  111. 111
    Mnemosyne says:

    @A Ghost to Most:

    If I had to guess, it’s because many people of faith fear that they didn’t follow the right rules, or the right faith, and they’ll end up getting punished by their own capricious God.

    My paternal grandmother was a woman of enormous faith, a lifelong Catholic, and when the time came to have her pacemaker replaced, she refused, because she was content to live out whatever time was left to her without additional medical intervention. She was secure in her faith, so she didn’t fear death.

    As with so many other things, it’s the insecure people who ruin things for the rest of us.

  112. 112
    Davebo says:

    @Barbara: 16 is so sadly young. I can’t imagine.

    I used to post on the anniversary of my wife’s death but these days I just take the day to myself.

  113. 113

    @A Ghost to Most: most atheists I know fear death, same as anybody else. One of the reasons so many techies are into consciousness uploading.

  114. 114
    trollhattan says:

    @ksmiami:
    Asymmetrical warfare, just like every terrorist group draws it up.

    Sadly, just a handful of the injured can accumulate that total in medical and support costs over what’s left of their lives.

  115. 115
    Mnemosyne says:

    @SiubhanDuinne:

    And some will be forgotten in their time but rediscovered in ours, like the first woman Pharoah of ancient Egypt.

    Fame is a funny thing.

  116. 116
    mvr says:

    Wow. Really nice post.

  117. 117
    trollhattan says:

    Crap, ten dead and 1,500 homes lost in Napa and Sonoma county fires. Have family and friends living there, all okay so far as we can learn.

  118. 118

    @ArchTeryx: That’s part of what keeps me up at night. There’s no way to clean this mess up that doesn’t risk making things worse.

    The way I see it is that something like 30% of our country has been indoctrinated into what is, for lack of a better term, a cult. There have been pieces about how watching Fox News turned people’s elderly relatives into raving wingnuts, but simply removing it from the TV lineup turned them back into fairly normal people within a few months. But deprogramming tens of millions of people from a cult – how do you even do that, and especially without violating crucial democratic principles?

    But part of me responds to this and thinks we need to fight fire with fire. The Republican Party openly colluded with a hostile foreign power to steal an election. Simply letting bygones be bygones isn’t going to work this time; they will keep doing it if they get away with it. Obviously we need principles and safeguards to insure we don’t go into show trials and purges, but there’s a long distance between “these people colluded to steal an election, so they’ll be imprisoned if found guilty” and “every member of a political party goes to jail”.

    A major problem is that the rot goes much further than the president*. Pence is complicit. Ryan is complicit. McConnell is complicit. The Mercers are complicit. The Kochs are probably complicit. If Fox News wasn’t consciously complicit, they had no trouble being unwitting dupes. Same goes for Twitter and Facebook and maybe even Google. Most of the “mainstream” press were probably just useful idiots but I’m sure some of them were knowingly coordinating with the Russians as well.

    What this was – and this is the framing we need to use going forward – was an undemocratic coup. It’s an overthrow of democracy by a well-funded minority with assistance from a hostile foreign power. Throw the Electoral College to the side – even if we take on faith that the results were legit (which, given the horrific insecurity of electronic voting machines and the literal, not figurative, impossibility of auditing many of their results, isn’t a proposition that should be taken on faith), it’s now coming out how much communication went on between the president*’s campaign (Kushner in particular, it appears), the Mercers, Cambridge Analytica, and the Russians. We know the Russians targeted ads in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, and it’s obvious that they had assistance stateside – and it’s starting to come out how tangled up the president*’s inner circle is in all that assistance.

    So again, this was a treasonous coup with foreign assistance. A major part of a major political party is actively dedicated to subverting democracy, with support from its base. You don’t fix that with show trials, but you don’t fix that by simply going back to business as usual, either. The problem, and a major factor keeping me up at night, is that as far as I know, we’re in uncharted territory here. There are no historical precedents for this, and it’s not clear what an effective solution is that doesn’t end in a bloodbath.

  119. 119
    ksmiami says:

    @trollhattan: Send the bills to the goddamn NRA. Every. Single. One.

  120. 120
    Brachiator says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    ..most atheists I know fear death, same as anybody else.

    Yeah, makes sense, I suppose. But fear is understandable. But there is still no need for a belief in a fantasy deity who will sweep you up into heaven or drop you down into hell.

    One of the reasons so many techies are into consciousness uploading..

    Good point. I know a few techies who are absolutely certain that one day there will be mechanical immortality available to all.

  121. 121
    amygdala says:

    or the feel of your kid’s hands as you walk them to the school bus or kiss your lover again

    And that kid loses a parent and the lover his or her heart.

    You, sir are a good man. Thank you for this.

  122. 122
    Ruckus says:

    @gammyjill:
    We used to do that with car accidents. We did that in Vietnam, until the government figured out that a lot more people were turning against the war because of what they saw on their TV every night.
    I had a comment but my computer or firefox or cosmic bullshit hit and firefox locked up. Wouldn’t even let me copy the comment.
    So here it goes.
    John, a fine post and I agree, when we are done, we are over. We want to look for something more because this life is so fragile and short. My cousin only had 6 months. My mom 94 yrs. There’s no rhyme or reason, it is, then it isn’t. I’ve held a man in my arms as he died. Six people in the room, plus him of course and I was the only one that knew he was gone. Nothing left his body, he just stopped living. One second he was, the next he wasn’t. He wasn’t calm, he wasn’t in pain, he’d just ceased to exist as a living being. I’ve watched a man, a friend die in an accident, 25 feet away. One second he was, the next he wasn’t.
    Those who say we need to not worry about death are right, we need to worry about living. Thoughts and prayers are the thoughts of dying, not of living. Not of frosty’s cousin’s injured daughter. And that isn’t even what Jesus supposedly tried to teach people, to think of the living, to help each other live, not to worry about what you can’t change, and can’t imagine.

    My old comment was a lot different but that’s for another time and place.
    Except that helping the living part. I got in touch with my friend from Santa Rosa. She got out before dawn this morning and her house is in the middle of the second evacuation area. She may lose her house or it may already be gone, there is no way to know yet. Politically Lost, who also lives in Santa Rosa, I hope that he and family are OK.

  123. 123

    @trollhattan: We’re getting ashfall from the Anaheim fire here in Glendale, that’s over 35 miles from here.

  124. 124
    Brachiator says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    .And some will be forgotten in their time but rediscovered in ours, like the first woman Pharoah of ancient Egypt.

    Actually, she was the second historically confirmed woman pharoah.

    But point noted.

  125. 125

    @Brachiator: I mean, I’m certain (unless good evidence to the contrary comes up) that it’s physically possible. It’s “merely” very very difficult. A future where it exists and is ubiquitous is pretty dicey.

  126. 126
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Brachiator:

    But there is still no need for a belief in a fantasy deity who will sweep you up into heaven or drop you down into hell.

    I am not a believer (I am firmly agnostic). I do admit to some envy of the comfort and peace that my friends and family receive from their faith. I won’t denigrate their faith by calling it a fantasy. Maybe we are wrong.

  127. 127
    rikyrah says:

    Maddow heard from FEMA about that rural Puerto Rican town.

    FEMA said that it wasn’t their responsibility to deliver goods. That it was the Mayor ‘s responsibility.

    They are trying to kill these American citizens.

  128. 128
    Chris says:

    @Roger Moore:

    My prediction is that Vegas will wind up spawning even more conspiracy theories than Sandy Hook.

    If Wingnut Uncle’s Twitter feed is any indication, it already has. Loads and loads of crap about “what isn’t the mainstream media telling us?” with thinly veiled implications of some sort of Antifa/Muslim/wev connection that the powers-that-be aren’t telling us because Political Correctness and Liberal Bias.

  129. 129

    @Brachiator: Hinduism doesn’t have a conception of heaven or hell. The goal of enlightenment is to escape the endless cycle of birth and death. You keep being born again and again to learn the lessons you haven’t learned in your life/lives.

    ETA: Also too, Buddhism and Jainism.

  130. 130
    Chris says:

    @Lee:

    Oh, I’m there too. In an absolute sense and all things being equal I might prefer reasonable regulation and less unhinged interpretations of the Second Amendment. But our gun culture has become so fucking toxic in the last few decades that I’m really not interested in the half-measures anymore. Pull a Britain/Australia and just ban the fucking things, full stop (or, like tobacco, overregulate them to death).

  131. 131
    Ruckus says:

    @TheOtherHank:
    Two kids who I went to HS with came home one day to find mom and dad dead from a murder/suicide by gunfire. Mid 1960s. Don’t know what they did, we thought then that they moved in with grandparents. Life is short, sometimes it ends normally, old age. Sometimes it ends from disease, cancer, accidents, or murder. Life is fragile, no matter what you do, you can’t control it. You can end it on your own terms, but that doesn’t really solve anything or make it better. We have the means to make it less likely that you leave early and in many cases we’ve accomplished that, vaccines, medications, treatments, surgeries, preventive care, seatbelts, air bags, crumple zones, better tires/brakes. We need knock back that overwhelmingly big one left, guns.

  132. 132
    SatanicPanic says:

    This is why I come to this blog.

  133. 133
    Bill Matthews says:

    Thank you, John.

  134. 134
    Chris says:

    @(((CassandraLeo))):

    The GOP, like the slave power two hundred years ago, is reaching a point where it can’t be addressed except through undemocratic means. Unfortunately, the only way I can see it “working out” is the same way as last time – we win an election and they start a revolution. If we’re dumb enough to start a revolution, it won’t be a civil war – it’ll be a pogrom.

  135. 135
    Mike in NC says:

    Never forget that the NRA spent >$30M to put a pliable Fucking Moron in the Oval Office. The carnage has yet to begin. Those bump stocks have pretty much sold out across the country.

  136. 136
    Chris says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    I tend to think that people like MLK Jr. had a tendency to pray. They just didn’t rely on prayer alone.

    Ding ding.

    It’s a bastardization of the concept, as far as I’m concerned. I’m not terribly religious anymore, but prayer is supposed to provide guidance, inspiration, strength, etc, for the things you do in life. It’s not supposed to be a substitute for actual action. Which is all it is to the “thoughts and prayers” crowd.

  137. 137
    allancar says:

    @lamh36:

    I think of it differently. I used to fear death, now I fear far more than that dying without doing enough. It focuses one on life, not death, which is where we control what happens and where I think our focus should be.

  138. 138
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Chris: Thanks. And just a comment for people who get wrapped up in the faith vs. works stuff in the Protestant vs. Catholic thing. Both versions of Christianity mandate good works. Prots say that faith is enough for salvation. Good works to earn salvation is inward looking and selfish and, as a result, can never be enough. Good works are something a person who has faith does because it is right. Catholics see faith without works as nothing. Both have scriptural support. Both demand good works.

  139. 139
    tom says:

    Essays like this are what keep me coming back to Balloon Juice. Thanks, John.

  140. 140
    Davebo says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I try to boil it down to “Don’t be a prick”. How you accomplish that is up to you.

  141. 141
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Davebo: It is really good basic rule.

  142. 142
    satby says:

    @Baud: as with a lot of posts here, I shared it.

  143. 143
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Chris:

    just ban the fucking things, full stop

    Which, to be accurate, Australia does not. Firearms are regulated, but they are in no way prohibited. Handguns are close to prohibited, but there is little problem with long guns. Don’t forget that the vast majority of Australia, by territory, is rural/wild.

  144. 144
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @satby: You do realize that you have given wider audience to my comments, right? What were you thinking?

  145. 145
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Britain hasn’t banned either. I would be perfectly comfortable with having my guns subject to the rules of either country.

  146. 146
    Mike J says:

    @Davebo: Wheaton’s Law. Also several first century rabbis like Hillel and Joshua said similar things.

  147. 147
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mike J: That Jesus dude said similar things and so did Mr. Rogers.

    ETA: I think that, if you excise the weird, most religions say the same thing.

  148. 148
    Patricia Kayden says:

    @Smedley Darlington Prunebanks (Formerly Mumphrey, et al.): Only if Republicans are voted out of office and no longer control Congress.

  149. 149
    Mnemosyne says:

    Also, too, Propane Jane created this Storify last year before the election, but it’s sadly still completely relevant right now:

    Bigotry and Bullets: How White Male Privilege Is Literally Killing Us

    (“Storify” = she took her long series of tweets and links and put them into a single document when you can see them all together, in order, with the links.)

  150. 150
    Mike J says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: The Jesus dude was rabbi Joshua I refered to. Same name, different translation.

  151. 151
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mike J: Fair enough. My Aramaic isn’t that good.

  152. 152
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Ruckus:

    I’ve always found the Ancient Greek concept of the Moirai to be a pretty solid one. Atropos decides, and you don’t know what her decision was until you get to that last moment.

  153. 153
    Lyrebird says:

    @frosty:

    Saying a non-denominational prayer* for your cousin’s daughter.

    This kind:
    (thanks @Chris: )

    I’m not terribly religious anymore, but prayer is supposed to provide guidance, inspiration, strength, etc, for the things you do in life. It’s not supposed to be a substitute for actual action…

  154. 154
    Brachiator says:

    @Major Major Major Major:

    .. I mean, I’m certain (unless good evidence to the contrary comes up) that it’s physically possible. It’s “merely” very very difficult.

    Right now, we don’t really know what consciousness is, let alone whether it could be transferred to some nonbiological or pseudo-biological container, whether it could be maintained, etc. It’s like that recent, terrible Johnny Depp movie about artificial intelligence, but with much more uncertainty.

    One other thing I find odd about some of the techie proponents of this is that many of them seem not to care about the body, or about the desirability of some … vehicle which could feel sensation, pleasure, etc. It’s almost as though they would be happy to be neo Puritans, minds totally freed from the burden of the body.

    There are also people eager to augment the body with artificial parts. This I think may happen soon. I also think that just as some people become addicted to plastic surgery, some of these people will chase the latest upgrade or new interface, and will never stop having surgery or new implants.

  155. 155
    satby says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: yours deserve an audience too. This is a great post and discussion.

  156. 156
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Brachiator: Darth Vader was pretty cool and shit.

  157. 157
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @satby: You are being sincere. Eek!

  158. 158
    J R in WV says:

    Thank you John, for such a reasoned essay about terrible current events.

    And everyone else, commenting on your essay and terrible current events, thank you all.

  159. 159
    satby says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: yep. It’s a subject that calls for it.

  160. 160
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I’ll take your word for it, since I don’t know Britain’s law. But I’ve been to Australia and have friends there, some of whom hunt. They express no consternation about their gun laws.

  161. 161
    K-to-the-Jane says:

    @Another Scott: Hi Another Scott. Just want to tell you how much I enjoy and appreciate all of your comments on every topic. You always have something logical, on-point, focused, serious, and uplifting to add to the blogosphere. Keep it up.
    Oh, and, Cheers!

  162. 162
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @satby: Not everyone can approach these topics directly. People may need to approach them sideways. You cross-footed me.

  163. 163

    @Brachiator:

    Right now, we don’t really know what consciousness is, let alone whether it could be transferred to some nonbiological or pseudo-biological container, whether it could be maintained, etc. It’s like that recent, terrible Johnny Depp movie about artificial intelligence, but with much more uncertainty.

    It’s not a question of whether or not we know what it is right now, it’s a question of whether we think it’s a phenomenon that can be explained without the supernatural and whether we think reality is deterministic.

    I did say “physically possible” after all.

    ETA: @Brachiator:

    There are also people eager to augment the body with artificial parts. This I think may happen soon. I also think that just as some people become addicted to plastic surgery, some of these people will chase the latest upgrade or new interface, and will never stop having surgery or new implants.

    Already happening but still in early pre-alpha “only crazy fucks” release.

  164. 164
    GregB says:

    @K-to-the-Jane:

    Seconded.

  165. 165
    Brachiator says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    ..Darth Vader was pretty cool and shit.

    Yeah, but Darth was a mangled body encased in armor. I think he had head and torso in Return of the Jedi.

    I suppose he’s also held together in part by the Force. He ain’t just off the shelf nuts and bolts.

    ..

  166. 166
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Brachiator: Please be as technical as possible. It really does make the poor joke I was attempting so much better.

  167. 167
    Brachiator says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: I thought we were pretty much on the same page. After all, Vader is the Tin Man in Outer Space.

  168. 168
    Gretchen says:

    I heard the argument again today about the truck in Nice killing a bunch of people. Thing is, trucks are regulated. But the slightest whisper of any kind of regulation around guns is unpossible.
    I saw somebody point out that 7 people died from poisoned Tylenol in the 70’s and all pill bottles are hermetically sealed now. One guy got on a plane with a shoe bomb and millions of people have to take their shoes off for all eternity.

  169. 169
    Spinoza Is My Co-Pilot says:

    My perspective(s) exactly, John. On everything you wrote about here — the forever-oblivion of death, the ineffable preciousness of life, why we conjure (and have always conjured, since we first became “modern” humans, maybe even before that) the innumerable stories of all kinds that we do trying to deal with the ultimate and irreplaceable loss of, well, everything (even memory), and the horror and absurdity and intransigence of 2nd Amendment “fundamentalism” that has had a deathgrip on American politics for over a generation. All of it. As if you could read my thoughts and feelings, but express them far more eloquently than I could. Thank you.

  170. 170
    Ruckus says:

    @Brachiator:
    I’d bet you are talking about additional parts, not replacement parts, legs, arm, hands, pacemakers……
    Have an acquaintance who I’ve known for 35-40 yrs. He has a hook, right hand. Has since I’ve known him. Never asked how he came by it but I’ve watched him operate it and my guess is he’s had it a lot longer than I’ve known him. You get to see a large number of people at the VA who have aftermarket bits. They seem to be a lot more casual about it than those of us with OEM working parts.

  171. 171
    Brachiator says:

    @Gretchen:

    .I heard the argument again today about the truck in Nice killing a bunch of people.

    I don’t know. I think an angry crackpot would have a tough time getting a truck up to the 32 floor of a Vegas hotel.

    ..

  172. 172
    Gretchen says:

    Ana Marie Cox interviewed Rick Wilson, R-strategist. She tried to get him to at least consider the idea of waiting periods because it’s been shown to reduce gun suicides. He just dismissed the idea that this is true. If you can’t convince someone with facts, you’re lost.

  173. 173
    Beautifulplummage says:

    Thank you

  174. 174
    Spinoza Is My Co-Pilot says:

    @raven: Thanks for that link to the wonderful Tim O’Brien.

  175. 175
    Brachiator says:

    @Ruckus:

    ..I’d bet you are talking about additional parts, not replacement parts, legs, arm, hands, pacemakers……

    Yeah, I meant augmented parts or deliberately replacing an otherwise healthy limb with an artificial one just for pleasure.

    Even something like this recent story about a vending machine chip creeps me out ..

    The company manufactures self-service “micro markets” for office break rooms. It said in a press release that obtaining a chip is optional, but expects that about 50 employees will take part.

    Employees who have the rice-grain-sized RFID chip implanted between their thumb and forefinger can then use it “to make purchases in their break room micro market, open doors, login to computers, use the copy machine,” 32M said..

  176. 176
    Irony Abounds says:

    A woman here in Tucson who was a the concert was unharmed, but when she went back to work the following Wednesday CNN was playing on the lobby tv and she simply couldn’t handle it when they replayed the shooting video over and over. She had to go home. Many who were physically unharmed will face emotional problems for quite some time.

    As for the afterlife, or lack thereof, I actually find some comfort in believing there is nothing after death. First, if there is a God and a Heaven and Hell, I’m almost certainly destined for the later, but second, all problems go away after death as well. The thought of not having to wake up and read the words “President Donald Trump” actually has quite a bit of appeal.

  177. 177
    jame says:

    John, this is the best thing anyone’s written about the Las Vegas massacre.
    I also read the memorials, and for the same reason. Thank you for saying what I’ve been thinking.
    I also believe, not happily, that when we die, that’s it. I’ve been close to being dead, and that was the only thought running through my mind — “You mean that’s all I get?”

  178. 178
    Ruckus says:

    @Irony Abounds:
    That’s PTSD. You relive the event or events when you are triggered. Until you can break that chain, whatever your trigger is makes you relive the event, over and over. The trauma never really goes away for you. And getting shot at is a traumatic experience. If you get help they will find your trigger and it will lessen the trauma. We can get better, but living can have trauma, this was a bad one. People will suffer for a long time, even if they weren’t shot. Notice I didn’t say not wounded. Any one who was there was wounded. Some physically as well of course. Wounds can often heal, the brain has to be fixed, by the owner, with a lot of assistance.

  179. 179

    @Ruckus: I must put on my pedant’s hat and note that PTSD generally isn’t diagnosed as such until a month after the traumatic event. Until then, it’s known as acute stress reaction. (I know this mostly because I went through both after a car accident.)

    That said, this will almost certainly turn into PTSD for every last survivor of that concert. It’s not something you get over quickly, or, in many cases, ever. (It’s also why people dismissing trigger warnings pisses me the hell off: a flashback isn’t a minor inconvenience; it’s the brain more or less literally re-experiencing the source of trauma, which can undo years of progress. It’s comparable to having a computer unexpectedly rebooted and losing the last several months/years of work. By contrast, it’s a minor inconvenience at worst to note common triggers, and no one is asking to have works containing them censored; they’re simply asking to be made aware of them so they can choose whether to risk a flashback. I’ve only experienced one flashback, and I feel very fortunate not to have had more. I never want to go through another.)

    In short, apart from that small pedantic correction I agree with every word you wrote.

  180. 180
    Odie Hugh Manatee says:

    For a long time I have wondered how we, the people of this country, can enjoy our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” if another right that we have been granted can take those essential rights away from us..

    Great thoughts, John. You’re a good man, thank you for your words

  181. 181
    Ruckus says:

    @(((CassandraLeo))):
    Just because it isn’t diagnosed doesn’t mean it isn’t what we call PTSD. It’s not diagnosed because not everyone actually experiences it fully. One could say then that it’s not PTSD but I call that a difference without distinction. It’s after a traumatic event, you get triggered, you relive the experience. That you figure out the trigger yourself and stay away from that or someone works with you immediately after an event and finds that for you early can keep one from fully developing PTSD. Not everyone that goes through a traumatic experience will suffer PTSD. Different traumatic experiences will get differing reactions from different people, not everyone is the same. My point was that there are a lot more wounded people than the approx 500 number that is being bandied about.
    Sorry that you have PTSD, I hope that it subsides as time goes on and you learn to live with it as best as possible.

  182. 182
    Spinoza Is My Co-Pilot says:

    @debbie:

    Something endures. There’s something more than this. Too much has gone into what makes each living thing for it to just end.

    Ah, it would be pretty to think so, wouldn’t it? But I don’t, I see it just as Mr. Cole described. Raven’s right, of course: nobody knows shit. Still, we all believe whatever we believe about death (however strongly or tenuously) based on whatever reasons seem to make the most sense to each of us individually.

    We can’t actually be any other way, can we? And most of us (I’d venture a guess it’s probably all of us) change our outlook to some significant degree across the course of a lifetime.

    To me, the million-billion permutations on “when your dead, well — all evidence to the contrary — you’re not really dead” seem like wishful thinking (very understandable, but wishful nonetheless) and highly, highly unlikely. Maybe it’s just that I’m blind, or extremely limited in my experience (that last part is certainly true, as it is for everyone). I don’t know that when each living thing inevitably dies that it’s over, that’s the end, it’s gone forever. It just seems most likely. That’s all.

  183. 183
    SWMBO says:

    I believe there may be some afterlife. Some heaven or hell. That people like Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes and Hannity and Limbaugh and Coulter and the rest will all burn in hell. Probably not but I really like the idea.

    This also probably means I’m not a “good Christian “.

  184. 184

    Beautiful and moving, John.

  185. 185
    David Evans says:

    A truly great post. I also think that when you’re dead you’re dead, but I’m not happy about it. Philip Larkin in “Aubade” says it well. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48422/aubade-56d229a6e2f07

  186. 186

    @Ruckus: Well, my point isn’t that it’s not a disorder before the month has elapsed – it’s just that the DSM criteria apparently require a month to have elapsed since the traumatic event for a PTSD diagnosis. Apparently within the first forty-eight hours it’s considered an acute stress reaction and then it’s considered acute stress disorder until the one-month mark. I’m not entirely sure why they divide the diagnoses that way; the symptoms apparently change somewhat over time (acute stress reaction and disorder are apparently associated with dissociative symptoms that are less common with PTSD), so that may have something to do with it.

    Anyway, without a doubt, the survivors of the Vegas massacre to a one are dealing with acute stress disorder and it will almost certainly turn into PTSD for very nearly all of them. I’m not saying they don’t have a disorder; I’m just saying that they apparently can’t actually be considered to have PTSD until the one-month mark, because the one-month mark is part of the definition of the disorder.

    As far as my own issues with the disorder, I feel I’ve gotten off pretty lightly. I had one flashback about a month after the accident and I haven’t had another since. I struggled with school for a few months, but I ultimately got through those semesters without my grades suffering much, and my work performance was mostly unaffected.

  187. 187
    Keith G says:

    Good piece John. I am knocking on the door of my 60th birthday and and dealing with the effects of a fight against cancer and subsequent operations. With that on one’s plate, one tends to think about mortality.

    I agree with you in the area of memory. I don’t remember who my great-grandparents grandparents were. I’m not even sure I correctly remember the name of my grandparents parents. One or two of them.

    Even if we choose to go down the path of raising a family of blood relatives,there’s no guarantee that one hundred years after one’s death any of that family will spend more than a couple moments a year even contemplating who you were.

    This is all transient everything changes and moves on. Contemplating the nothingness can be a bit unsettling, but after having spent years as a hospice volunteer I also understand that there comes a point in most people’s lives where the balance moves to the acceptance of death as a release from some rather perilous struggles. But still it ain’t beanbag.

    As far as the gun debate goes, I’ve had my most success, what little bit of it there is, by arguing from the point of harm reduction. I refer to it as the public health paradigm.

    Focus on the results of gun violence and not the guns themselves. Talking terms of harm reduction. Public health specialist know they aren’t going to eliminate risky Behavior such as drug use or promiscuity. That would be a silly and wasteful endeavor. What they focus on is nibbling around the statistical edges reducing the harm done by such activities.

    To me, it’s like a Salesman getting a foot in the door. Removing arguments about guns from the conversation gets folks to focus on the devastation that is occurring. It doesn’t work for all, but once defenses are down it becomes an easier sell to brainstorm ideas two reduce the harm that we are now able to get some of these door knobs to acknowledge.

    It’s baby steps and I have found it useful for hurding a few folks away from heretofore rigid opinions.

  188. 188
    Aaron Baker says:

    Loved your post, John Cole. Like you, I’m a recovered conservative, and more than once I’ve found your slice-through-the-bullshit approach very helpful to me on my way back to basic decency.

  189. 189
    NorthLeft12 says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Yes, I understand and respect that, but the Doers/Prayers seem to be very much in the minority these days. I am guessing they always were.

  190. 190
    Trinity says:

    Thank you for this John.

  191. 191
    JimV says:

    Damn, that was good!

  192. 192
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

     

  193. 193
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

     

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