No one ever said, “I really enjoy having the government telling me what to do, and I don’t think I should be free.”
Or, if they do, it’s such an extremely rare occurrence that it’s not really important to the discussion.
When people challenge the ideas of liberty and freedom, it’s never the speaker who has the problem; it’s never the speaker who can’t be trusted with liberty–it’s all those other people. It’s everyone else. I’ve talked with countless people who want freedom for themselves yet immediately recoil at the idea of freedom for others, handing out responses that range in ridiculous from “What about murderers?” to “What about those who would dump poo in your water?”
It’s telling that we’ve become so conquered by fear that we’d meet the idea of freedom with intransigence and build from the assumption that not only could someone dump poo in your water, but that it’s inevitable that someone will do so. The existence of murderers, rapists, and thieves is hardly a matter of concern to the libertarian or anarchist, because such people exist today, and all available evidence (as well as logic) suggests that the state and its laws do nothing to prevent such behavior, and instead simply exist as frameworks for punishing the behavior. Since the state has not managed to eliminate crime, it isn’t necessary for anarchists and libertarians to propose an alternate social structure that would eliminate crime before anyone can take it seriously.
It would be like if I proposed a new version of American football that has slightly different rules than the current set, and people rejected my idea on the grounds that I didn’t propose any way of preventing head injuries and brain damage caused by years of physical trauma. Even if my modified rules would reduce the number of fractures and other injuries, people would gleefully reject the proposed changes because, “What are you going to do about head injuries and brain damage?” in full disregard of the fact that their rules similarly fail to do anything to prevent head injuries and brain damage.
It’s simple mathematics to realize that something that affects two sides of an equation can be reduced. If we have an equation that reads “2x + 4y = 2x + 9,” we can immediately see that “2x” doesn’t factor into things at all–we are, instead, dealing with “4y = 9”. Crimes such as murder are never going to be eliminated from society, and we have a hundred thousand years of human history and societies that range from despotic tribes to fascist police states to serve as evidence, and not only have all of these societies failed to eliminate murder, but there is a noticeable correlation between the murder rate and the power of the state–the more powerful a state is, the higher its murder rate. It wasn’t a fluke that caused Hitler, Mao, Stalin, Lincoln, and Mussolini to murder millions of people; this is actually a feature of the state. It also remains true that no Charles Manson or Ted Bundy ever came close to approaching the murder rate of various states.
This is because society deals with murderers, rapists, and thieves before they can organize to the point that they can commit crimes against thousands and hundreds of thousands of people–unless those murderers, rapists, and thieves call themselves a government. Take, for example, the American Government, which murdered more than 1,000 Americans last year, as well as the year before (and are thus far on the path to surpassing last year’s record). Even the most barbaric and bloodthirsty mobster would look at those numbers and be impressed, because this works out to nearly three murders per day for the individual, if the person wanted to be more bloodthirsty than the government, and anyone who murdered three people each day would leave a trail of bodies and evidence that would take us directly to them for punishment. Without even including the 100,000 Iraqi civilians murdered by the American government since 2003, and the similar number of murdered civilians in Afghanistan, it’s readily apparent that if we want to reduce murder, there isn’t a better way of doing so than abolishing the government.
But these excuses for allowing the continued existence of the state persist.
The reality, however, is that the overwhelming majority of people aren’t murderers, rapists, and thieves. I cross paths with tens of thousands of people every single day, and none of them are murderers, rapists, and thieves. This notion that “It’s okay if I have freedom, but I can’t trust anyone else with it, because they might be a murderer!” is blatant fearmongering, and every bit as bad as suggesting that we should reject all refugees because one among two hundred thousand might be a terrorist, or that we should regulate immigration because one in millions may carry a deadly disease. In fact, the arguments are exactly the same:
“We need to have laws against open borders because some immigrants may be drug dealers, murderers, and rapists!”
“We need to have government, because some people may be drug dealers, murderers, and rapists!”
“We need to ban refugees from entering the country because some people out there are bad people and are terrorists!”
“We need to have government, because some people out there are bad people.”
It’s amazing how easily we recognize blatant fearmongering when we’re not the ones peddling it, and how blind we are to our fearmongering when we are.
Liberty is trust and faith in your fellow human beings, and an end to fearmongering. It’s time we stopped living in fear of everything and everyone.
Don’t get me wrong. I know the media doesn’t care about my trust. They’ve successfully polarized the nation into liberals and conservatives, and the result is that it doesn’t matter what a news outlet reports. Liberals will accuse conservative outlets of bias and untruthful reporting, and conservatives will accuse liberal outlets of bias and untruthful reporting. Each and every issue gets carved into two halves, and what the average American believes is far more dependent on their political views than anything that might resemble truth. Naturally, this leads to shocking amounts of hysteria and hypocrisy. One day, you have the left criticizing Wikileaks and leaks in general while the right praises them; the next, the right criticizes Wikileaks and leaks in general while the left praises them. One day, conservatives cheer for the committee investigating Hillary while liberals condemn it; the next, liberals cheer for the committee investigating Trump’s alleged Russian ties while conservatives condemn it.
While I do enjoy pointing out the glaring hypocrisy, I know that it does no good, because it requires self-awareness to identify one’s own hypocrisy, and if they had any self-awareness at all we wouldn’t be in this mess.
But we are in this mess, and the media has played the biggest role in making it this way.
I think it’s time for a public admission from liberal news elements like The Guardian, CNN, Huffington Post, and all the others that they knowingly terrorized the population to support their political agenda. Have we forgotten the post election headlines? The constant fear and doom mongering? The headlines telling us that we needed to be afraid, that Trump’s tweets made him the next Hitler. “The Republic repeals itself!” and articles from resident lunatic Jessica Valenti about how she’s going to tell her daughter that we elected a racist, misogynist bully. The non-stop spiel from people saying “I’m disabled–imagine what Trump is going to do to me!” The people stating publicly that it was just a matter of time before conversion centers were on every corner, and LGBTQ people were being rounded up and electrocuted?
This shit happened.
I mean, the stuff that those lunatics raved about most certainly did not happen. But the lunatics did scream about it. Bloody hell, you’d have thought that we just elected LITERALLY Hitler to the presidency from the news headlines making the rounds. “You’re not dead, and you’re not in hell. You’re awake. You’re alive. This is your life now,” stated Rachel Maddow, with all pretense of fairness long discarded. And hers is among the less egregious of the horrific things the media peddled about how we were all about to die. “How Donald Trump Will Wreck the World Economy” ran other headlines. It was disgusting.
And there has been no apology. No indication that they feel any remorse whatsoever for this blatant terrorism, this lying, this manipulation, and this deceit.
We’re not weeping in the streets while Trump and his rightwing death squads round up and kill all the LGBTQ people, while they put disabled people in the ovens and cook them alive, and while Muslims are sent to concentration camps. Nothing has changed. Your life is the same as it was a year ago; my life is the same as it was a year ago. Even Trump’s travel bans aren’t new; Obama did it several times. Nothing Trump has done is any different at all from anything Obama did or that Bush Jr. did. All in all, things are proceeding right along exactly as they have always been.
Just contrast it to the world we were warned about four months ago! Fuck, you’d come away from the headlines expecting the KKK Grand Dragon or whatever to be the next Supreme Court Justice. You’d think that slavery was about to return, that forced registration of LGBTQ people was just around the corner, and that we omg we’re all about to die. I heard from people who were literally cowering in their homes in fear.
And it was the media–it was 100% the media that created, stoked, exaggerated, and heightened that fear.
They terrorized huge chunks of the American population just months ago, and they did the same shit over Brexit. “The sky is going to fall!” they shouted. “The economy will collapse! Muslims will be rounded up and killed! Xenophobes will rule the nation! We’ll be sold into slavery! We’re all going to die!”
And, again, none of that fucking shit happened.
Here we are proceeding along normally, doing nothing about the months of terrorism that was just inflicted on us by institutions that are supposed to at least pretend to be unbiased and fair. No, man. Fuck that. Fuck this. We don’t have to put up with this shit. Hold these fuckers accountable for what they did. That’s not okay. That’s not acceptable. You can’t terrorize people into supporting your political agenda.
That’s not okay.
I don’t actually care whether the people who spread this terrorism actually believed the lunacy pouring out of their mouths. Maybe they did, and maybe they didn’t. Maybe they knew that there was no chance at all that LGBTQ people would be forced into conversion therapy centers. Maybe they knew that men weren’t going to be able to run through the streets grabbing random women by the pussy. Maybe they knew that disabled people weren’t going to be euthanized. Maybe they believed this insanity, and maybe they didn’t. It doesn’t matter.
Because it’s reckless, irresponsible, and downright dangerous. Anyone who has ever encountered any wild animal can tell you that the most dangerous animal is the one that has been backed into a corner. And that’s precisely what the media attempted to do: convince everyone that we had been backed into a corner and that death squads were on the way. Now that none of their psychotic prophecies have come to pass, and there is no indication that anything at all is going to change, it is well past time to hold them accountable for it, make them apologize, and make them rue the goddamned day they thought that they could get away with terrorizing us.
We don’t have to put up with this shit, and we shouldn’t put up with it.
Stand up and scream at them, “No! I am a human being, and you will not push me around!”
If you’re LGBTQ, I want you to take an hour or two to sit down and read this, consider it carefully, and then proceed. I want you to forget for a moment everything that you’ve been told by Democrats; I want you to come at this with a fresh perspective and an open mind, because I am watching–I am watching, my fellow LGBTQ people–as you are abused, used, and manipulated by the Democratic Party, and it breaks my heart. You are human beings, and you are not being treated as human beings. You are being treated as resources, as votes, and not much else. You, the proud LGBTQ community who stood and fought for your rights, found solace in a Democratic Party that offered you acceptance, only to pull a bait and switch; what they offered, it has turned out, was not acceptance but compliance.
We have much to thank the Democratic Party for. It was, after all, the Republicans who fought so hard against us, and the Democratic Party took us in at a time when we needed allies most. However, it has become painfully clear that they did not take us in out of any care or compassion for us; they took us in solely because they were building a political coalition to take on their chosen scapegoat, and so they needed us and our support. It was almost a quid pro quo–we used them and they used us–but it was never truly egalitarianism or equality that they sought.
Our goal is, and must be, to create a world where gender identity and sexual orientation do not matter. I believe that this is a goal we can all agree on, that we should move toward a world where transgender people are accepted as people, where homosexuals are accepted as people, where lesbians are accepted as people, and where, regardless of a person’s gender and sexual inclinations, they are accepted as people. The left has deceived us by pretending that they wanted this, too, but it has become clear that they didn’t.
The Democratic Party wants a world where sexual orientation matters, because if sexual orientation does not matter, then there is no longer an LGBTQ community that is part of their coalition. Egalitarianism would destroy the modern Democratic Party. It needs it to matter that a person is gay, that a person is black, that a person is Muslim, because it has built a coalition from these people. If suddenly these characteristics cease being places at which lines are drawn, then their coalition literally falls apart. They want you to be a pariah and, even if you’re not, they’re going to consistently tell you that you are.
I am a transgender polyamorous lesbian.
I’m as LGBTQ as a person can get. I fight my battles alone here in the state of Mississippi, though, generally with nothing but disdain heaped upon me by liberal elements within the LGBTQ community, because I do not toe the party line. Because I will not sign on with the Democratic Party, I am a pariah. I have been attacked by supposed allies of the LGBTQ community, all because I’m not a Democrat. I’m not exaggerating; it has happened repeatedly. Their alliance with LGBTQ people is not built upon their compassion and acceptance of LGBTQ people; it is built upon our willingness to ascribe to their ideology, and the moment we don’t do that, they turn against us with all the fury that they otherwise direct at straight white Christian men.
“Allies” they call themselves, and that’s true, but only in the sense of “political allies.” Their alliance with you is not derived from their desire for egalitarianism and equality, but their realization that you side with them politically, and the very moment you don’t do that, the kangaroo will turn and hang the jury with the innocent. This is all the evidence we need that they don’t care about us. They care about our votes. They care about our obedience to their political ideology.
Someone who truly cares about you won’t turn their back on you the very moment you step out of their political line.
Behold: the response of “Allies” when you aren’t a Democrat.
It’s a horrific group-based mob mentality. “If you’re not with us, then you’re against us.” It’s not “being LGBTQ” that they care about–clearly. Just look at those comments. How dare I disagree with a liberal! All because I dared speak up and speak my mind and not be a liberal, they turned on me viciously, highlighting in the process exactly how they view the world: Us and Them. Once I spoke out against a liberal, I was no longer LGBTQ–I was one of Them. I was an enemy. I, an LGBTQ person, was no longer LGBTQ to these Allies of the LGBTQ community.
Because I didn’t toe the party line.
It’s inescapably clear that their concern for you is not built on the fact that you’re LGBTQ, but on the fact that you’ll side with them politically. I think I’ve made this case clearly–we have only to read above and see exactly what happened.
Consider Milo at Breitbart, as well. He’s a Republican, and widely despised by these same “allies” of the LGBTQ community, all because he dares disagree politically. It’s right in our faces. “Toe the party line, go along with what we say, bow to us, and we’ll ‘accept’ you. Challenge us, show any dissent, and we’ll turn and hang you with them.”
In order to keep you siding with them politically, they will lie. Oh, good God, they will lie, manipulate, and fearmonger.
I am a strict advocate of non-violence, but I swear I would probably beat the hell out of Donovan Paisley for this. So he terrorized a “friend” of his by telling her that she would be captured and imprisoned, until she broke down and cried. He did this to force her to bow to his anti-Trump, Democratic hysteria. He doesn’t give a shit about her. How could he care about her? You don’t terrorize your friends. You can warn your friends, sure, but what he’s saying here isn’t a warning; it’s hysterical terrorism with absolutely no basis in reality.
Trump has said several times that he thinks transgender people should use whatever bathroom they want. The leader of the Republican Party is on record saying that he doesn’t really care about the transgender issue, that he doesn’t care what bathroom people use. I am no Trump supporter, but I do advocate truth, and the undeniable truth is that Trump is on record advocating transgender rights. Full stop: Trump is on record advocating transgender rights. He even said this during the Republican Primary, when he was in Full Conservative mode. This is a man who poses you no danger whatsoever.
Donald Trump is on record saying that he is fine with same sex marriage. These statements are not hard to find. Donald Trump has never said or suggested or implied anything that indicated he is ever going to do anything that would harm the LGBTQ community. In fact, Donald Trump has gone on record vowing to protect the LGBTQ community.
Compare these undeniable facts with the fearmongering that your “allies” are using on you.
Your “Allies” are telling you that you’ll be electrocuted and tortured in conversion therapy against your will. Your “allies” are telling you that you’ll be caught and sent to death camps. Your “allies” are telling you that you will be captured and imprisoned. Your allies are doing everything they can to terrorize you, when the facts–when the actual, verifiable facts–point in exactly the opposite direction: Donald Trump has long been an ally of the LGBTQ community. For fuck’s sake, Hillary Clinton opposed same sex marriage as recently as 2013, while Trump has been an actual ally since the 90s.
I don’t know how much plainer I can make it, fellow LGBTQ people. First, I’m generally not considered one of you at all, and why? Because I’m a libertarian, not a liberal. Simply for being a libertarian rather than a liberal, “Allies” of the LGBTQ community have turned and attacked me viciously–and not just me, but every outspoken LGBTQ person who dares to not be a Democrat. Your allies are doing everything they can to convince you to be afraid, to terrorize you into submission, to make you cower and weep in fear. It’s so pervasive that these same people consider me an enemy of the LGBTQ community! I am LGBTQ!
They don’t accept you because you’re LGBTQ. They accept you because you vote Democrat. And they will pull out every trick in the book from deceit to manipulation to terrorism to keep you voting Democrat. They don’t care about you. They care about forcing you to bow to their political ideology.
Trust Me. Please.
I can show you to a group of people who genuinely don’t care about your political ideology or your sexual orientation. I can show you to a group of people who care about you not because you vote for their political party, not because you’re gay, not because you’re a minority, but because you are an individual and a human being. I can show you to people who will respect you regardless of what you say, who will stand up for you and your rights regardless of where you fall on the political spectra, who will stand up for you and your rights regardless of the clothes you wear, how you do your hair, or what you do with your genitals.
No, they are not Republicans. I would not ever send you to Republicans. Conservatives have certainly gotten a lot better in recent decades, but abandoning one political party to sign up to another won’t help–you’ll just become a tool to be manipulated and used by them, as well.
But first you must divorce yourselves from the Democratic Party. They do not care about you, and they do not accept you. Their care and their acceptance of you depends wholly on your willingness to vote for their political ideology. And when they need to, they will throw you under the bus in a heartbeat to further their political ends.
It’s time to stand up. It’s time to end this abusive relationship.
I should point out that it’s entirely possible Donovan’s post was satire, in which case I’d owe him an apology–but not the Democrats. Because though his is the only one I saved, I’ve seen countless sincere ones exactly like this. Poe’s Law should never apply to something like this.
One of the most bizarre aspects of American liberalism is the alliance that exists between the LGBT community and Muslim communities, despite tremendous amounts of hostility that project from the Muslim community directly at LGBT people. This isn’t to say that Islam is the problem or that Muslims are the problem–we shouldn’t even be thinking in such limited terms–but one is a fool to reject the visible correlation between homophobia throughout the world and Islam, or between terrorism and Islam. Whether we want to admit it or not, these correlations exist, and they’re not going to change simply because we refuse to acknowledge them.
I realize that liberals have already called me “Islamophobic” and stopped reading, and may even have left a nasty comment about what a bigot I am. We have to let such people go. They are lost to us, and their minds are trapped in a duality from which they cannot escape. In the world, you must either love Islam or hate Islam, so there is no room for them to even understand someone who has no feelings toward Islam one way or another.
Earlier this year I watched in absolute dismay as a Muslim terrorist swore allegiance to a Muslim terrorist group while shouting the praises of his religion as he killed 49 people in a club in Orlando. It is what prompted me to do my first “on camera” video on Youtube, a personal plea to the LGBT community to stop denying the simple fact that Mateen’s act was an act of Islamic terrorism. Instead of accepting that it was both homophobia and terrorism, they denied that it could possibly have been terrorism, instead shifting the blame onto Christians of all people. I could not begin to guess how many “Christians are the ones who started homophobia!!!1!!11one!!” posts on Twitter and Facebook I saw.
That’s right. Following an attack where a Muslim terrorist shot and killed 49 people in an LGBT club, people were jumping up and down to blame Christians for it.
It was absolutely disgraceful, and my plea was simple: for the first time in my life, there was the opportunity for the gap between conservatives and LGBT people to be closed. “You may be gay, but you’re an American first, damnit!” conservatives and Christians were saying. “They didn’t attack you–they attacked Americans, and we’re going to stand together through this! It doesn’t matter that you’re LGBT, because you’re Americans first and foremost–you are one of us.”
And petulantly–yes, petulantly–the LGBT community shouted back, “No, it matters that we’re LGBT! You weren’t attacked! Americans weren’t attacked! We were attacked, not you! Because we’re LGBT, not because we’re Americans! So fuck you!”
And then… poof. The opportunity was gone. The greatest opportunity for reconciliation that I have ever seen, vanished in the blink of an eye as liberals and LGBT people bent over backwards to avoid saying what needed to be said:
Muslims have no love for LGBT people.
In fact, the numbers are rather clear that most Muslims support the idea of sharia law. This is less true of those that I’m going to call Westernized Muslims, and this is the heart of the matter and the thing that needs to be discussed openly and honestly. Most of the world’s Muslims support sharia law because most of the world’s Muslims don’t recognize the value of the separation of church and state. They aren’t Western.
They didn’t grow up in the west, where the separation of church and state is taken as a given. In their zeal to make excuses for the state of Islam throughout the world, liberals remind us that Christianity was once every bit as bad. Yes, once it was. This led to the foundation of the United States of America and the systemic peeling back of the church in European countries who, yes, learned from the American model.
We take the separation of church and state as a given and give no thought to it. In the Middle East, they take the marriage of church and state as a given and give no thought to it. There’s no separation of church and state in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, and the people of these countries reject the idea that there should be. To them, their religion is law and the law is their religion. Separation of church and state is more than just “the church can’t tell the government what laws to enact.” It is the foundational idea that the church and state are separate entities.
Yet there are countless Muslims who do value the separation of church and state. The people that I buy gas from several times a week undoubtedly recognize the value of this separation, and would never support bringing Sharia Law to the United States. Why would they? Our entire system is built from that separation, and reuniting the two disparate entities would harm their own interests by placing them in a country that was then on the path to becoming a Christian theocracy, even if the minority of Muslims did somehow miraculously manage to impose Sharia Law for a while.
This is the crux of the matter, the one great truth that liberals dare not speak or even admit to themselves: there is a world of difference between a Westernized Muslim and a Middle Eastern one. This isn’t universal by any means. Surely, there are Middle Eastern Muslims who value the separation of church and state, who campaign for women’s rights and LGBT rights. So, too, are there surely Westernized Muslims who do want Islamic law to become state law. We are adults, though, and we don’t have to operate on the extreme ends of the spectrum, where everything is Either/Or, and where false dichotomies rule the mind.
Still, though, there is a consequential difference between the Westernized Muslim and the Middle Eastern Muslim, and it is largely a difference we would expect to find: for the most part, these westernized Muslims have assimilated our values, and chief among those values is a love for the separation of church and state. The average American couldn’t tell you why they love this separation, but they’ll tell you if you ask that they do love it. Even when their religion is the one with the majority, they value the separation, and still can’t tell you why.
To what we’re calling the Middle Eastern Muslim, all of this is heresy and anti-Islam. Surely we can understand this? There are many Christians here in the south who think that the separation of church and state, as expressed through having administrator-led prayers in schools banned, represents a direct assault on their Christian values. While few actually campaign to put such prayers back in school, they do harbor resent and do come from a place that views it as anti-Christian.
One of the great No-No’s of the Muslim faith is homosexuality. This shouldn’t surprise us, because it’s one of the great No-No’s of the Christian faith, too. And it is here that another example of liberal hypocrisy is shown for the world to see:
Liberals cheer that Canada has refused to allow members of the Westboro Baptist Church into their country because, based on the numbers, they are more than likely to be homophobic. Yet liberals react with anger vitriol when Trump proposes refusing to allow Muslims into our country because, based on the numbers, they are more than likely to support Sharia Law. As I’ve said before, I will support Canada’s decision when they show me even one example of a member of the Westboro Baptist Church killing 49 LGBT people.
So they’re okay with rejecting Christians because of their faith.
But here we have a group of people who come from a region where they are extremely unlikely to value the separation of church and state, are extremely likely to support Sharia Law, and are extremely likely to hate LGBT people, and liberals are totally fine with it. It’s madness.
…and, apparently, Lebanon can be added to that list.
I’ll give you one guess what the majority religion is in every single one of these countries–even Nigeria, though Nigeria does have a higher Christian population and may be more even with the Muslim population these days.
But that’s a moot point, isn’t it?
The people in Nigeria will continue prescribing the death penalty for homosexuality even if the population is 99% Christian. They are, of course, still burning people for witchcraft in Nigeria, and that is almost certainly the fault of Christian missionaries. And this is precisely my point:
Islam isn’t the problem. It’s not Islamophobia that compels this.
The problem is that countries in the Middle East and some parts of Africa have allowed religion to run unbridled, and they never separated it from the state. This is most easily visible when we look at the percentage of Muslims throughout the world who support Sharia Law–religious law, as it were. Whatever we want to say about the matter, the truth is relatively simple:
The Middle East hasn’t gone through what the western world did. This isn’t to say we’re more evolved or more advanced; it’s simply a statement of fact. We went through a bunch of shit, our Crusades, our Inquisitions, our witch hunts, and we eventually put that shit aside (unless you’re a clown these days). We went through torture, murder, war, and widespread immorality before we separated church and state, and we’re still working on doing it.
Oh, we’re far from perfect. Our anti-sodomy laws, which were 100% based on religion, are only a decade out from being repealed by supreme courts. We still love the notion of using the state to force our morality onto other people. We simply don’t use religion as the basis for doing that any more, and we have put some restrictions on what morality we can force onto other people.
Still, these are just the reasons for the current state of affairs. The current state of affairs is that there is a bizarre marriage between Muslims and the LGBT community, and it’s a relationship that the LGBT community needs to end. Christians are far more likely to become your ally than Muslims are, and Christians even attempted to do exactly that after the shooting in Orlando. You rejected them and blamed them for something that a Muslim did.
Most of the world’s Christians reside in the west, too, and most people in the west don’t give a shit about your sexual orientation. So if we’re going to go on averages and likelihoods, then it’s indisputable that Christians should be the ones you’re allying with, not Muslims. When was the last time a Christian stoned someone to death for homosexuality? Oh, sure, it’s in the Bible.
I’ve talked about this before–the LGBT community doesn’t seem to have any appreciation for how incredibly far Christians have come. Their holy book explicitly tells them to kill us, to punish us, and to stone us to death. They’re not doing that. Even the most extreme ones aren’t doing that! They’re protesting funerals and weddings, and we can discuss whether they are right to do that–though they obviously have the right to, this doesn’t mean that it is the right thing to do. They’re not taking over the government and assigning the death penalty to anyone who is caught being gay! In fact, I doubt you’d find very many Christians who would support such a horrific idea.
It’s not Christians who I fear, as a transgender resident of Mississippi surrounded by fundamentalist southern baptists. Most of them will leave me the hell alone. It’s rednecks that I fear, most of whom do happen to be Christian. I fear them because I know how easy it is for people to get swept up into a frenzy that they don’t want to take part in–I’ve been watching people do it for years, against Christians, against Muslims, against clowns. And invariably they find that the ball is impossible to stop rolling once it has sufficient momentum. But that they’re Christians is largely coincidental.
Just as it’s largely coincidental that the Middle Eastern Muslims are Muslims.
One thing is certain, though. If you’re calling them your allies when 62% of their population would cheer and throw stones at you until you were murdered, then you are an absolute fool.
Evidently a few recent ex-Guantanamo prisoners have taken up arms and joined the battle, writes the Guardian, and it would seem inevitable that shouts of “We should never have released them in the first place!” will echo across the internet in coming days. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing the “libertarians for Trump” using it as an attack against Obama.
The truth, however, is murkier and not as simple.
To be sure, Obama should have kept his promise to shut down Gitmo, and it breaks my heart that there is not a word said about the illegal military prison in this election. Thankfully, President Obama ostensibly ended the unforgivable torture of prisoners (euphemisms like “detainee” allow us to obscure simple truths that shouldn’t be obscured), but that was only one demand we millennials had of Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack I’ll-bomb-ya, and we’re not entirely sure it’s been kept. Without the transparency we were also promised, we can only take the administration at its word, and the American government has never said a word that I’m willing to accept on faith.
Of course, shutting down this one unconstitutional military derailment of rights and liberty would have done nothing to solve the problem. The prisoners would simply have been moved to one of our Bastilles in Libya, Iraq, or Sudan. We’ve known for years that we have these moral outrages scattered across the globe; without a change of fundamental policy, closing one means nothing. It sets no one free, and it solves nothing. Worse, it serves to placate us, as the public example is stripped down, leaving us with only vague whispers of sister facilities that we can’t campaign for closing because we can’t prove they even exist.
I would be mad, too, if I had been imprisoned for several years, up to a decade, without a trial, without an attorney, and without justice. If I was tortured throughout those years by being forced to listen to pop music, deprived of sleep, and having feeding tubes shoved down my nose when I exercised the only method that I had of protesting, I would be angry, too. If I was forced to stand for 43 consecutive hours, waterboarded, drugged, and beaten, I would be a little pissed off, too.
So as Americans gear up to enjoy their typical circular reasoning that we have to bomb countries to make them into terrorists, then imprison them and torture them, but never release them because then they might become terrorists, I’d like to politely remind everyone to ask themselves:
Wouldn’t you be mad, too?
How many years of unjust imprisonment do you think it would take before you were ready to take up arms against the state that imprisoned you?
I certainly don’t advocate the initiation of violence, but you’d have to be certifiably insane to think that the U.S. weren’t the ones who initiated violence.
“How Dare You Try To Help Me?”
Students who borrowed money to go to ITT Tech are protesting and refusing to pay back the loans, saying that they now have useless credentials. It wasn’t terribly long ago that I talked with someone on Disqus about his student debt, how it wasn’t fair, and how he shouldn’t have to repay it. I pointed out to him that no one made him take out loans, and that college doesn’t have to be expensive. I incurred no debt from going to college, and neither did my aunt (the only other college graduate in the family), who has a master’s degree.
In the fifth grade, I was receiving stuff from Duke University. I stopped caring about school and stopped applying myself, but I could have applied myself. I just didn’t realize how important it was. Even being from a dirt poor family in Mississippi, I could have gone to Duke University on scholarships. I probably still could if I tried really, really hard, but it would be because I’m transgender rather than because of my merits.
I left college with zero debt. It’s not impossible to do. It’s not easy, but it’s certainly not impossible.
Someone once suggested that I go to ITT Tech. I do, after all, have a degree in the Management of Information Systems. That’s right up ITT Tech’s alley. But I didn’t. Instead I opted to attend a child school of the University of Mississippi, and then the University of Mississippi itself. Why? Why did I make that choice?
Because I trusted Ole Miss. There was no reason to trust ITT Tech.
I could very easily be one of the people faced with student loan payments with a degree from a school that is not useless. Jesus, hyperbole much? ITT didn’t lose its academic standing. It lost the ability to take students with the state paying the tab. Your degree is exactly as valuable as it was a year ago.
In Personal News
I interviewed Monday for a slot tech position at one of the nearby casinos. While I’ve not yet heard back, I’m confident in the interview and would say there’s a 70% chance I’ll get the job. That would be incredible. After six months I’d qualify for a transfer to another property, and could simply transfer to their property in Vegas. Additionally, the increased wage and regular hours would give me more than enough money to do it.
I was also contacted by an agent Saturday morning requesting the rest of Dancing in Hellfire, which is phenomenal news. First, this is the agent who I initially sent it to, and who I believed would want to take the manuscript. Two months passed, so I began to think I was wrong in that assessment, but she revealed that I was correct. There is still one hurdle left, since she has to read the rest of it, but I’m absolutely confident in that.
It appears that Dancing in Hellfire: The Life of a Transgender Woman From Mississippi will soon have an agent, and that will open a floodgate of possibilities, considering all the other manuscripts I have in waiting, if it sells well. Given the topic and the political climate, I firmly believe it will sell exceptionally well, and possibly New York Times Bestseller well. Hey, dream big, you know?
Having Dancing in Hellfire do well would change my life forever. A million copies would leave me free to be me without pressure for the rest of my life. I don’t know what the royalties would be, but Amazon offers 30%, which means that, using that as a baseline, 12,000 copies is all that I need to sell in order to get to Vegas. However, there’s also the selling fee and stuff I’ll get, but none of that is important.
The point is that the bar is low, and I have every reason to believe Dancing in Hellfire will raise way above that bar.
Thank you to everyone for your support, encouragement, advice, and criticism.
I did make the music video again–I’ve actually done several today, and I got one that was finally acceptable enough that I was willing to upload it. Then, as soon as I uploaded it and went to transcribe it for the lyrics, I deleted it. I’ve asked a friend to do something similar, but I simply can’t–my singing voice just sucks too bad. And I knew that when I uploaded the video, but I thought maybe it was alright. But no.
That’s frustrating, because I think something like that would be an effective way to get the word out.
Apparently, if I block someone for hate speech, it doesn’t delete their comments on my video. It just hides them from me. Well done, Youtube. That’s completely fucking broken. I only became aware of it because my first video about the GoFundMe campaign has like 15 comments. So I switched to a different profile, and there they were–the initial asshole’s comments, as well as someone who kindly took on the dipshit for me by pointing out that the rules of most places don’t really apply to Mississippi.
I’m really frustrated with my friends, but there’s no point in continuing to harp on that. But it’s really anger-inducing, because I can look over there, to the list of friends on the right and say:
I just sold you a $55 part for $15, taking a $40 loss to my company. I also gave you 45 minutes of labor and a $55 part for free, on top of the one I sold you.
I gave you a half-ounce of weed (years ago).
I borrowed a suboxone from my sister and gave it to you because you were withdrawing from heroin.
I gave you a ton of rides all over the place, and ecstasy (years ago, granted).
I’ve removed viruses for you and helped set up your controller for your PC.
I gave you money for you to start a company.
I shared your music for years, even though I don’t even like hip-hop.
You came in me.
I’ve been supporting your bid for state representative of Pennsylvania.
I share your podcast.
And yet none of them have liked, commented, or shared any of my statues. I posted this one early today, a warning to them all masked behind subtlety:
It’s certainly fair to say that I’m getting a bit snippy, but obviously it’s subtle enough that no one would feel like I’m taking shots at them. Unless they actually scrolled down my wall, in which case they’d see:
The answer to my question is “No.”
Here I am, literally doing everything I can to try to improve my life forever, to get out of this hellhole, and put all this bullshit behind me, and I’ve resorted to running ads on Facebook and Twitter because I’m more likely to get likes, comments, shares, and donations from random strangers on the Internet than I am people that I’ve known for two decades. There are a few reasons for this:
1 – They’re Broke
I don’t expect any of them to donate money to me. Most of them are at least as broke as I am, and some of them are doing even worse. A few of them aren’t doing very badly, and I certainly am surprised that one in particular has not donated a fucking thing, but I’m not going to begrudge anyone for not donating money to me. Even though they’re the people who know best that I’ve spent my entire life trying and overcoming obstacles. What sort of message does that send people on the Internet, if my friends and family are unwilling to even pitch in a dollar? If the people who know me best and who, allegedly, care the most about me aren’t willing to throw in at least a few bucks, what does that tell people on the Internet? That’s why it pisses me off so much.
None of these people even bought my story on Amazon, despite the fact that nearly every friend I’ve ever had has told me, “Let me know when you have something published! I’ll definitely buy it!” Then none of them did. Well, one friend did, and then promised to leave a review. He never did, because he never actually read it. I don’t know how to feel about that. Thanks, I guess, for paying that whopping 99 cents to buy my story. Would’ve been nice if you’d taken the time to read all eleven pages of it and leave the review that you promised to leave, but I guess one can’t have everything. Other friends frequently post shit about how important it is to help friends get started. Seriously.
2 – They’re Self-Absorbed
Yes, I had to call him on that, and there remain only two copies sold of my story. Out of all 7 billion people on the planet, two of them bought my story. Worse still, a few friends even have told me that they did purchase it. They assumed, presumably, that I had sold at least a few dozen copies, and that they could therefore hide in the numbers and say that they’d bought it when they didn’t. But only two people have bought it, and I can identify both of those people. But yes, I had to call this guy on his thing about how important it is to support local businesses and family and stuff, when he had never even shared any of the dozens of posts on my wall about my story. It’s ridiculous Feel Good bullshit. “I want to act like I believe this, but I don’t really want to do it. Help a friend? Fuck that.”
Take this, for example:
This was so horrific I had to call the guy on it. “Are you attempting to sell something that you’re otherwise going to burn?” I added the “lol” because he was a friend, and for no other reason. To my horror, his response was “Yes. It’s garbage to me, but if anyone wants it, they have to pay for it.”
He literally tried to sell his garbage to people.
Literally. He literally tried selling his garbage to people.
Then the very same friend will post this, making fun of other people doing exactly the same thing:
Like “Dude. You literally tried selling your garbage to people. Something that was of no use to you whatsoever and that you were going to destroy, you attempted to sell to someone. And if someone had come to you to get it, and asked for it for free, you would have said, ‘No.’ You might have gone down to $3 or something, but that doesn’t change the fact that you literally tried to sell your garbage to people–and you knew it, and you admitted it. You value things not by how much value they have to you, but buy whether or not other people want them.”
The ultimate irony is that, yes, the same friend posted both things. The same friend that literally and knowingly tried selling his garbage to people made fun of people in Buy, Sell, Trade groups who do the same thing. I’ve rarely seen such a lack of self-awareness.
He has picked up on my agitation, though, because earlier today he shared one of my posts about my GoFundMe campaign, and he did it in exactly the way that I said he would: without text, without saying anything. Just an empty click of the share button, a gesture, a token–an obligation. I don’t want my friends to feel obligated to share my stuff, and I don’t want them to feel obligated to help. I want friends who want to help, and mine simply don’t.
This person has been my friend for 15 years and has overcome a lot of bullshit, and now needs a little help to get out of Mississippi and go somewhere that she’ll be safe and secure.
I’ve known this person for 15 years, and if there’s anyone who has tried hard to move forward, it’s her. Now she needs a little help.
I want friends who act like fucking friends. Is that so much to ask?
I’ve always been there any time these people needed. With this particular friend, let me tell you a little story.
His wife had a skirt that she couldn’t wear because she’d bought a Youth 24 instead of some other 24, so the skirt was more like my size than hers. He asked if I wanted it. After looking it over, I told him that: While I did like the skirt, it was simply too short, and I wouldn’t be able to wear it in public. Therefore, I couldn’t purchase it. I have enough clothes that are too short/tight for me to wear anywhere but home, and I’m not going to pay to add to that. He told me to hang on to it anyway, because he had no use for it.
A few weeks later, I decided that I liked it after all, and he asked if I was going to pay for it.
Process that for a minute.
If I didn’t want the skirt, then I could have it for free. But if I did want the skirt, then I had to pay for it.
I don’t typically keep cash on me, and he dropped by my house like three times unexpectedly and out of the blue, asking for money for that goddamned skirt. It got to the point where I was considering just telling him to take the damned thing back, because it was horrifically offensive (Yes, offensive) that he had given me this skirt until I decided that I liked it, at which point he wanted $15 for it. Rather than telling me at any of these points that he stopped by unexpectedly and I had no cash on me, despite my telling him that he had to give me advance notice before he came by because I don’t keep cash, “You know what? Don’t worry about it. I told you to just keep it, so just keep it. I gave it to you as a gift because I had no need or use for it, so it wouldn’t be right for me to take your money for it now…” he just kept asking for money for it. I was in a video session with John McAfee the last time that he stopped by, and I was just so goddamned tired of dealing with it and happened to have cash on me that I put a $20 bill under my windshield wiper and ignored him the rest of the night. How dare he take that money?
Only when I was writing this post did I realize that he sold me his garbage.
I would unfriend all of these people right now if I knew how long it would take to garner the money I need to go to Vegas and escape this living nightmare, but it’s not like he’s a bad guy. He’s not. He’s just… very greedy when it comes to money, clearly–and I don’t like saying that about my friends, especially since there is the possibility that he might read this, but the dude sold me his garbage. I don’t know how else to characterize that. He’s a great guy in other respects. Hey, I’ve got lots of flaws, too. I’m extremely argumentative, and I’m sure that’s pissed my friends off on several occasions. I’m very thankful that they’ve dealt with that and generally just ignore it.
But one thing that I can’t simply forget is that I’ve always been willing to help my friends, and I don’t think I’ve ever refused to help a friend. When this same friend called me while I was at work, and his wife’s car was messed up in a nearby city with a dead battery, I was willing to contact someone I knew in the area and ask them to go jump off her battery. Because I’m willing to help friends. Maybe my mistake is expecting that people value me as much as I value them.
3 – Fear
Almost none of the selfies I post ever get Likes, and the few likes that I do get always come from female friends. None of my male friends will go anywhere near that Like button on one of my selfies, and we all know why. In the back of their mind, they don’t know what it will mean if they Like the picture. “Does that mean I think she is hot? Will everyone else think that I think she’s hot? Will she think that I think she’s hot? Does that just mean that I like the picture? What if I just like the picture because it’s a good pic, but everyone else thinks I liked it because I think she’s pretty in that picture? She’s got a penis, so I can’t think she’s pretty without being gay, and I’m not gay…”
Some of my pics are pretty damned good, if I do say so myself:
I gotta tell ya… I’d lick the hell out of that belly.
As I’ve said before, I’m not in the least attracted to guys, and I never have been. To be totally honest, I find the idea of two guys kissing to be repulsive, but it’s not because I think it’s wrong for two guys to kiss–it’s because I don’t think guys are attractive, so how could two guys making out be anything less than unattractive? I find the idea of kissing a guy to be gross. I like girls–it’s a major part of me being transgender, after all.
The point of all that is to say that the pic on the left is one of the few pics I’ve taken where I can honestly say that I’d totally make out with that person. And I’d really enjoy it. I happen to think I look pretty hot in that pic. Not incredible, gorgeous, or anything like that, but… fairly hot. And when I went outside to tan yesterday afternoon and removed my shorts, I realized… “Holy shit. I look like a bronze goddess.”
I’m not saying that I expect you or anyone else to agree with those statements; in fact, it’s irrelevant to me whether or not you do. I want to look at myself and think that I’m hot. It means absolutely nothing to me whether anyone else thinks I’m hot. Obviously, for the sake of having a relationship, it would be good for another girl to find me attractive, and I think I’ll be able to find such girls without much issue in Vegas, which I’m really looking forward to. I can’t wait to go out on the city, and be safe, hit some LGBT clubs, and meet some fellow lesbians.
For similar reasons they won’t like my pictures, my friends won’t share my statues about the GoFundMe campaign. Though they may not have a problem with transgender people, what about their family? How would this friend’s mom react if she found out that he was supporting a transgender friend? How would that friend’s church group react if they saw the post? How would that friend’s coworkers react? The answer to these questions, since we are talking about people in Mississippi, is “Badly, Badly, and Badly.”
“Oh, I didn’t know you were into that sort of thing!” would be the mildest of the messages such a friend would get from other friends and family–joking jabs meant half in jest and half in sincerity, to get the person to explain. For the most part, though, they’d get comments and messages saying things like “Instead of donating, we need to be praying for this poor soul, for the devil to release his hold on him.” For the most part, it would be largely ineffective for them to share my campaign.
But it wouldn’t be totally ineffective.
Most of my friends have other friends who live in Washington, Canada, New York, Florida, New Jersey, and other places where people are far more tolerant and open.
I need $3,865 more. If I could reach 3,865 and all of them give just $1, then I could forever be free of this nightmare, could move to an economically stable city, and live in peace and security. If I could just reach 1933 people, and all of them give just $2, then I could put the despair of Mississippi and the American south in the past and relocate to a city where I will not have to sleep with a loaded gun on my headboard out of fear for my life, where I can’t even go to the nearest LGBT bar because people are routinely attacked as they leave them–the news stories for which have been buried by the Orlando attack. When I first looked into going, however, that’s what caused me not to: the LGBT bars in Memphis are often in the news because patrons are attacked, beaten, and hospitalized after leaving the club.
But as I said: I shall endeavor on. And I will continue donating everything I can to the campaign in the hopes that it sends the right message to people, in the hopes that the word spreads, and in the hopes that people outside of Mississippi are as good, kind, and compassionate as I know them to be.
To me, friendship is reciprocity of care. I don’t think I’m yet jaded enough to say that people only have friends based on what those “friends” can do for them, but there’s certainly a case to be made for that. Even myself, I would argue–I have friends because I don’t like loneliness. But this cold statement hides the real emotions that underscore a friendship: the care and the concern. If these things are not reciprocated (which is clearly shown in a person’s actions), then there is hardly a friendship there. There is only a parasite and a host.
I do want to take a brief moment to say goodbye to Toni, who I actually just mentioned by name in a post. She died yesterday. She was found dead in her home, and the cause is probably an overdose, but that’s just conjecture on my part, based on what I know of her. She wasn’t murdered, at least. And while I’m not going to fall into the mindset of “She had such a bad life!” and “Heaven gained another angel!” the fact is that the last decade of her life was tragic.
Worse yet, I was a way out for her, and I wasn’t going to let her fall back onto that path. It was the reason that her family loved me to death. I owned my own company, had my own place, had fought my own battle with drugs and knew how vicious that could be, and kept my eyes on her. But it was for nothing. She slowly slipped back to it, and, to my knowledge, she never tried to climb back out again.
I want to expand on something I’ve mentioned several times, because a lot of people are still arguing that the solution to the problem, the problem that caused the shooting in Orlando, is more gun control. While I’m not going to say everything on that front is fine, I am going to say: that’s a red herring. It can never work.
The reality is that a law can do two things: it can punish a crime, and it can make it a little harder to do something. But if human history has taught us nothing, it should be that a law will NOT prevent anything. Just look at how easy it is to get marijuana in the United States. Marijuana is illegal. Yet people want to smoke it, and so they do. When abortions were illegal, we had back alley abortions. People wanted abortions, and so they got them. In the 1920s, we established Prohibition and outlawed alcohol, and it created two years of horrifically violent crime and people like Al Capone. We attempted to throw more cops, more laws, and more federal agents at the problem, but it was for nothing; we could not weed out all of the Al Capones. What did? Repealing Prohibition. As soon as we repealed Prohibition, people like Al Capone vanished, replaced with Anheiser-Busch and Budweiser.
Outlawing something that people want to do will not prevent them from doing it.
Okay, now take a deep breath.
Be calm, and say it with me.
There are some fucking psychopaths out there who want to kill people.
Okay, so let’s apply everything we know. Murder is already illegal, and the law certainly isn’t preventing murder. People are murdered every single day. Not all of those people are murdered with guns. In fact, a fair portion of those people are murdered with hammers, baseball bats, crowbars, knives–whatever the murderer can get their hands on. Whatever the murderer can get their hands on.
Making it harder for these people to acquire guns is not going to stop them. What do you imagine happening? Do you think Marteen would have sat there in his apartment, thinking, “I sure would love to wage Jihad against the infidels and kill a bunch of gay people, but damn! I just can’t find a gun!”
Of course not. Such an argument is silly.
Radical Muslims have been using homemade bombs for ages, and the availability of guns and ammunition did not really make things easier for Marteen. It meant only that he had to do a little less legwork, but there is no chance that the inability to get a gun was going to stop him. And trying to prevent him from getting a gun is another red herring–a lot of people seem to not understand how extremely long American borders are.
Gun control requires a fence on both borders, and it requires illegal immigration to be totally and completely nipped in the bud. The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants (Note: I think borders are ridiculous, and think anyone who wants to come to our country should be allowed to, no questions asked–if they can get here, then… then they can get here.) are great, ordinary people, but you’re a fool if you think that smugglers aren’t using those very same channels to sneak drugs and weapons into the country. They simply are. No, these are not the same people trying to find a job at the Home Depot, but they are using the same channels and coming from the same place, and you cannot stop one without stopping the other. If one is possible, then both are possible.
Nor do we even have the resources or manpower to station someone every 50 yards along both borders to make sure that no one is sneaking in guns–and they are sneaking in guns. You can buy unmodified AK-47s in the United States. You just have to know where to go. Gangs in Chicago know where to go. Don’t get into the habit of denying these realities; you will never fix the problem if you deny the facts. And I’m not making a judgment assessment of this. I’m simply pointing out that: it is the case. So even if we outlawed all guns and confiscated everyone’s guns, it really wouldn’t be that difficult for Marteen to get one.
And if he, for some reason, couldn’t get a gun, he would have simply built a bomb. It’s not really that hard to do. And by that point, he obviously didn’t care about whether or not he was caught, so all cards were on the table; he was going to do whatever he had to do, because he wanted to kill people. No law was going to stop him.
When he walked into that club and opened fire, that is the exact moment when push came to shove. There is not a law that could be written that would have protected the people in that club when Marteen walked in and opened fire. Even if security guards and armed police officers had been stationed in that club, they would have been Marteen’s first targets, and he had the element of surprise. Even armed police officers being present would not have stood a chance of stopping Marteen before he gunned them down.
Fuck this asshole.
Under the “best” of circumstances, this disarmed population of 300 people would then have immediately called the police. And, after a 7-10 minute delay, police would have arrived outside the building. Meanwhile, Marteen and his guns are inside the building, with 300 innocent people who are being killed and held hostage. At the very least, there would have been more delay as the police prepared and executed a plan to take out Marteen. And we’re looking at 14-20 minutes with this maniac and his gun having totally free reign over everyone in that club.
What would have stopped him? A law obviously wouldn’t have. None of the present laws stopped him, after all. They were probably no more than inconveniences to him, and it is irrelevant how tight the laws could have been–criminals have spent all of human history finding ways around laws. See Prohibition, marijuana, abortion, homosexuality. So what would have stopped him?
Well… what did stop him?
Hours later, and after fifty people were dead and fifty more injured, someone was finally able to put a bullet into this piece of shit. Is it not obvious? Is it not inescapably clear? What we needed, what would have stopped Marteen and saved a bunch of lives, was if even 10% of the people in that club had been carrying their own weapons and knew how to use them. Marteen would have come in and pulled his shit, and absolutely people would still have died. As we’ve agreed, it was impossible to prevent. All we can do is minimize the damage. And as soon as these 10% of people realized what would happen, one of them would have put Marteen down.
How many lives might have been saved?
I’m not blaming the people in that club for not having guns or for not knowing how to use them. I’m simply pointing out that, yes, the presence of guns and a group of people who knew how to use them would have put the bullet in Marteen hours before the police finally did. His little escapade of terror would have been over very quickly, and it’s extraordinarily probable that fewer people would have died.
The question isn’t “How can we stop this from happening?”
It’s “How can we stop it when it happens?”
Because trying to answer the first question… is impossible. It simply can’t be done. Even a totalitarian police state with absolute control over its citizens wouldn’t be able to accomplish it. Even the Orwellian nightmare of Big Brother in 1984 wasn’t able to stop random criminal acts like those perpetrated by Goldstein. Focusing on that question leaves us distracted and not answering the real question:
How could lives have been saved?
That is the question. How could lives have been saved?