Given the choice between modernity and barbarism

She was my world he said

“Antonio Basco had been sleeping on the pavement next to his wife's new cross for nearly a week,” this story from Buzzfeed says and he didn’t know what else to do he told them because he had slept next to his wife Margie Reckard every night for twenty two years and now she’s gone since she was shot to death at the Walmart in El Paso and that’s about it for today I want to say that’s the entire newsletter what else is there to say about anything.

“She was my world,” he said.

There is a happy ending of sorts I guess although I don’t know if we can call it that. It’s like one of those feel-good stories the TV news loves when the community rallies together to raise money so a Girl Scout with cancer doesn’t have to sell cookies to pay for her treatment anymore. The type of thing they have to show us from time to time to trick us into thinking the world is kind so we don’t lose our minds or revolt. It’s like when doctors have to cut your scalp open to alleviate pressure on your brain when you’ve been in a terrible accident except the terrible accident is called America and capitalism.

You may have seen Basco’s story about how he was worried no one would come to his wife’s funeral since they didn’t have much family in the area so he invited whoever wanted to come and then hundreds of people did.

“Basco walked into the La Paz Faith Memorial and Spiritual Center to a storm of applause and a procession of people wanting to hug him,” CNN reported. “The building was at capacity with 400 mourners. Outside, another 700 waited in nearly 100-degree heat to pay respects, according to funeral organizers.”

People came from around the country and people sent flowers from all over the world and people donated money to help fix up his car and things like that and you want to think that would ameliorate the pain somewhat and I’m hoping it did for him but you know that no one could do what he really wants which is to have his wife not be sacrificed in one of our regularly scheduled freedom renewal rituals.

I guess they’re considering an assault weapons ban in Florida which is surprising to me and they had a hearing on it recently with state economists and a lobbyist from the NRA named Marion Hammer was there and she said such a ban would force the 150 gun manufacturers in the state to flee. I didn’t even know there were 150 different gun manufacturing companies all combined never mind just in Florida but I guess that math makes sense.

The amendment would ban the future sales of assault rifles the Tampa Bay Times reported and make people who own them currently either give them up or register them.

“If I were the owner of one of these firearm manufacturing companies, I wouldn’t wait to see what voters do,” she said. “If this were allowed to go on the ballot, I’d say, ‘I’m outta here,’” she said and something else she said was this:

“How do you tell a 10-year-old little girl who got a Ruger 10/22 with a pink stock for her birthday that her rifle is an assault weapon and she has to turn it over to government or be arrested for felony possession?”

I don’t know maybe read her the story about Antonio Basco?

Did you see Midsommar god it was so weird and unnerving and bleak and good and one of the themes is how alien the group’s customs seem to the outsiders who visit them like the death rituals they willingly give themselves over to to please the gods or nature or whatever and we the viewers and the American characters all go that is so fucking strange that they do that to themselves why do they do that. In the movie it’s because they have faith in their connection to nature but we don’t have a connection to nature here in America we have a connection to something called freedom which also cannot exist without the spilling of blood.

This disgusting place was a mistake.

I just saw another strange and wonderful film called Under the Skin and it has haunted me for days. One of the striking things about it is how it stylizes the violent predation and that choice is so much more affecting than showing the actual gore would be.

That’s the opposite of what we do when there are shootings here we just don’t show the gore at all. Easier not think it’s real that way.

This big new package from the New York Times Magazine is a series of essays looking back at how this country’s creation wasn’t just aided by the institution of chattel slavery it is in fact the entirety of our origin story.

“American slavery began 400 years ago this month. This is referred to as the country’s original sin, but it is more than that: It is the country’s true origin,” it reads.

This piece by Nikole Hannah-Jones should be required reading.

Conveniently left out of our founding mythology is the fact that one of the primary reasons the colonists decided to declare their independence from Britain was because they wanted to protect the institution of slavery. By 1776, Britain had grown deeply conflicted over its role in the barbaric institution that had reshaped the Western Hemisphere. In London, there were growing calls to abolish the slave trade. This would have upended the economy of the colonies, in both the North and the South. The wealth and prominence that allowed Jefferson, at just 33, and the other founding fathers to believe they could successfully break off from one of the mightiest empires in the world came from the dizzying profits generated by chattel slavery. In other words, we may never have revolted against Britain if the founders had not understood that slavery empowered them to do so; nor if they had not believed that independence was required in order to ensure that slavery would continue. It is not incidental that 10 of this nation’s first 12 presidents were enslavers, and some might argue that this nation was founded not as a democracy but as a slavocracy.

It’s a great essay but one thing that stuck out to me was this sentence: “forced labor camps which we like to call plantations.”

Did you see this going around the other day? It was a bad review left by a woman who had visited McLeod Plantation in Charleston who was apparently looking for something else than the truth.

Here’s another bad review from a different forced labor camp.

And here’s another essay from the NYTM’s series on slavery about how it not only made America the economic powerhouse it remains today but also established the very intricate system of capitalism that each of us labors under right now even if we don’t know it!!

Here’s one part worth remembering:

Slavery was undeniably a font of phenomenal wealth. By the eve of the Civil War, the Mississippi Valley was home to more millionaires per capita than anywhere else in the United States. Cotton grown and picked by enslaved workers was the nation’s most valuable export. The combined value of enslaved people exceeded that of all the railroads and factories in the nation. New Orleans boasted a denser concentration of banking capital than New York City. What made the cotton economy boom in the United States, and not in all the other far-flung parts of the world with climates and soil suitable to the crop, was our nation’s unflinching willingness to use violence on nonwhite people and to exert its will on seemingly endless supplies of land and labor. Given the choice between modernity and barbarism, prosperity and poverty, lawfulness and cruelty, democracy and totalitarianism, America chose all of the above.

Having a hard time making the type of transition I usually do in here from the horrific to the mundane. Probably won’t be many jokes in this one if I’m being honest except for this tweet I am probably overly pleased with myself about that I wrote last night while sitting at the shitty neighborhood pub:

Do you ever have that whiplash where you’re looking at the unending missives from the village of the diarrhea people on Twitter or reading stories in the news like some of those ones above or maybe even reading this newsletter and then you put your phone down and walk outside and someone holds the door for you or smiles cordially and you’re like what the fuck is this guy’s deal and then you realize they’re probably just being baseline decent and then it takes your brain a second or two of lag to catch up to remember that you’re inclined to be pleasant too and not always coiled like a rattlesnake?

Michelle told me the other day she was hiking in Big Sur on a hill or a mountain or whatever and she and our niece were startled by a rattlesnake that appeared out of nowhere on the path and they got so scared they almost sprinted off the edge of the cliff. They Facetimed me later to explain it and I didn’t like hearing that one bit. Stop going near cliffs!!! I said. I feel like avoiding cliffs is something that is fairly easy and reasonable for a person to do. Accidents can happen anywhere but you can take certain precautions in your life like not going near cliffs where snakes might be but you can’t really avoid going places where people with guns might be because that is everywhere.

She got back early this morning on the flight from California so she’s sleeping right now late into the morning and I have gone in to check that she’s still there sleeping a couple times because I don’t know what I would do if she wasn’t some day. Probably start spending a lot more time near cliffs I would guess.

Speaking of cliffs I asked my publisher what the back cover of the book was going to look like the other day. I was curious because there’s this description on the website for the book where the blurb they came up with says something like “When Luke O’Neil isn’t angry, he’s asleep” and I said I was hoping they don’t put that on the back of the book and that it has always sort of bothered me because it’s not true I’m also very angry when I’m asleep.

There it is. Who gives a fuck.

He also asked me to read it over one last time for any changes and I said I’m not reading it again lol I’ve read it so many times and every other time I do I change what I think about it sometimes I think it fucking sucks and will end up being a huge waste of everyone’s time and sometimes I think eh I dunno maybe it’s pretty good but that is also how I think about every single other thing in the world and also life in general so maybe I’m not a reliable witness.

Speaking of reliable witnesses I just read a story from the Oregonian about how police in Portland were looking for a suspect in a series of bank robberies and they did the thing where they show witnesses an array of photos and for one of the men who they suspected did the robberies they altered his photo which sounds bad enough on its own until you see how extensive the alteration was.  Check out this fucking shit:

None of the bank tellers who some man robbed whoever he was reported him as having tattoos all over his face which seems to me the sort of detail you would remember when looking at a person’s face while they are robbing you.

Some of the bank tellers went on to pick out the man in question Tyrone Lamont Allen as the robber.

From the story:

The practice came under fire this week in a federal courtroom in Portland as Allen’s attorney argued that the manipulation allowed police to “rig the outcome” of the photo lineup.

The standard law enforcement tool is under ongoing scrutiny. This example floored Jules Epstein, a law professor at Temple University and leading national authority on eyewitness testimony.

In his 40 years as a lawyer and law professor, Epstein said he’s never heard of something so blatantly suggestive.

“It’s unbelievable to me that police would ignore the fact that no teller has described a person with glaring tattoos and make this man into a possible suspect by covering them up,” he said. “They’re increasing the risk of mistaken identity.’’

Mistaken eyewitness identifications remain a consistent thorn in the criminal justice system’s side. They have contributed to about 71% of the more than 360 wrongful convictions in the United States overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence, according to the Innocence Project.

The Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Maloney said what the police did here was all cool and good and actually the cops intended it to help the man in question.

“The whole idea was to make Mr. Allen blend in – so his photo wouldn’t stand out,’’ he said. “These procedures were prudent. They were appropriate.’’

Maloney said the altering of Allen’s photo was done to “look like the disguises that were on the robber,’’ who wore a baseball-style hat and glasses, with no tattoos visible.

Here’s what security footage of the man in question actually looked like.

Sometimes think maybe the police and prosectors aren’t reliable I don’t know man how about you?

I wrote in this paid-only Hell World piece the other day about how some nazis had shared my address on a site that they use to coordinate Swatting attacks on journalists and celebrities they don’t like people who are too rude to guns like me I guess and I mentioned I called the local police and how that made me feel conflicted and such. If you missed it went in part like this:

I called the local police and said hey just as a sort of courtesy if you ever get a call that there’s a shooting at my address could you call me first because it’s very likely not me and that felt real weird to have to say it felt like I was putting myself on their radar as some sort of troublemaker and on top of that I felt sort of ashamed for a minute like here I am this guy who criticizes the police all the time and as the common critique from the right goes I was still nonetheless calling them for help when I needed it but then I realized I wasn’t calling them to come and save me I was asking them politely to please hesitate for a minute or two before coming to kill me.

And then after I wrote that I actually went down to the police station because I didn’t think the guy on the phone had taken me very seriously so I went in and talked to the police guy they had there and the police station was so oddly empty and serene and quiet it was more like a library than a police station. The cop was polite and heard me out and said he’d let everyone know and I was real nervous like they were going to somehow make me into the bad guy or like look me up and see all the shit I talk about cops and decide I deserved whatever I have coming and I imagine a good percentage of them probably do think that. I had a shameful thought that maybe I should take it easy on talking about how much systematic police violence there is in this shitty country and maybe I should take it easy on talking about our orgy of gun violence and after a little while I thought nah I’m not going to do that. Not that I am under the impression anything I say or do or write has any sort material effect on anything it just wouldn’t feel right.

Then I went and got a haircut because there was a barber nearby and I got myself into one of those situations where you start out having a simple conversation in Spanish thinking it will be over quickly but it kept going on and on and halfway through it’s like you’re out on a tightrope and you realize you’ve gotten yourself in way over your head and there’s nothing you can do but go full steam ahead saying what is probably the stupidest sounding shit imaginable until it’s all over.

Here’s something I wrote in the Guardian the other day which seems apropos. Watch the video if you haven’t.

Three years to the day since he first began his protest against racist police violence, Colin Kaepernick has posted a stirring and emotional video to remind us that the fight is far from over.
The former NFL quarterback, who many believe has been ostracized by the league since he first began sitting then kneeling during the national anthem before games, posted the video to Twitter on Wednesday.

In the video, which features graphic footage of a number of high-profile police killings, Kaepernick asks: “How can you stand for the national anthem of a nation that preaches and propagates freedom and justice for all, that is so unjust to many of the people living in it?”

Also appearing in the video are family members of people who have been killed by police, including Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile.

“Basically, he took a knee for all these families that are out here today for freedom,” says Felicia Thomas, mother of Nicholas Thomas, who was killed by police in 2015.

“It is our love for 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was gunned down by the police in less than two seconds, that will not allow us to bury our anger,” Kaepernick says. “It is our love for Philando Castile, who was executed in front of his partner and his daughter that keeps us fighting back. It is our love for Stephon Clark, who was lynched in his grandmother’s backyard, that will not allow us to stop until we liberate out people.”

As he speaks, footage of their killings plays out, interspersed with chants from crowds. “No justice, no peace!” they shout. “Power to the people!”

A nice young man named Phil Haggerty died this week. He played in a band called Somos who were just great and it is a tragedy that he died so young but also a not uncommon one around here and around everywhere of late it seems.

The band whose third album Prison On A Hill was set to come out pretty soon on Tiny Engines decided to release it early so that the proceeds could go to raising funds for his funeral and while they have raised enough for that already any further sales will go to the Heather Heyer Foundation. You can buy the album and donate here if you like.

I met Phil a couple of times over the years including in 2014 when I profiled them for the Boston Globe just as their debut was coming out and I could tell they were going to be the real thing. Since then I’ve seen he and bandmate Michael Fiorentino at some protests around Boston as both were involved in leftist causes.

Earlier this year Phil popped up on the local news for tearing down a bunch of racist signs that had been posted in East Boston where he lived.

The band’s new album is great and you should go listen to it but this song from their first album is still my favorite.

Here’s the pice from the Globe I wrote about them in 2014. Ok that’s all for today bye bye.

As emo revives, Somos revamps

Thursday of last week was one of those ideal nights for local music, where two shows were going on simultaneously at the neighboring Middle East and T.T. the Bear’s in Central Square, enabling a fan to bounce back and forth between the venues like flipping channels on the radio.

While the Rock ’n’ Roll Rumble lineup at the latter was carrying out its weeks-long pursuit of crowning this year’s best local band, at the sold-out Middle East Upstairs, two young bands were making a convincing grab for the unofficial title. Worcester’s the Hotelier, whose “Home, Like Noplace Is There” has garnered raves from around the country (including recently in this space), were the big draw, with the crowd singing along to every word of their raw, tuneful punk. But headliners (and Tiny Engines labelmates) Somos, which was celebrating the release of its “Temple of Plenty,” were making a convincing case for themselves as this year’s most likely to succeed.

Songs like “Familiar Thing” and “Domestic,” with their noodly guitar lines, brightly strummed chords, call and response vocals, halftime breakdowns, and strident pop-punk choruses were precisely crafted and viscerally delivered.

Sitting in the band van outside on Brookline Avenue after the show, vocalist and bass player Michael Fiorentino was enthusiastic. “We’re used to playing to like 15 people,” he said. “This is the biggest show we’ve played where people knew the songs.” For the band, who were in the middle of a 30-day tour, that’s going to become an increasingly frequent reaction.

A few days later, guitarist Phil Haggerty, calling from the road on the way to Cleveland, was still excited about the response the band has been getting. “One thing we weren’t prepared for was kids knowing the lyrics and singing along in random towns like Orlando,” he said. “It’s still really small, but being our first lengthy tour, we were prepared for the worst.” The group’s record came out while they were on the road, he said. “We didn’t know it had got out there at all.”

The band, whose members range in age from 22 to 24, met at the Pioneer Valley Performing Arts in South Hadley, and solidified as a band about a year and a half ago after bonding over music.

Fiorentino cites a common history among his bandmates in hard-core, but also includes more recent bands like Modern Life Is War and classics like the Clash as inspriations. “I love all the cliche songwriters,” he went on. “Bob Dylan . . . I always try to strive for storytelling lyrics.”

This attention to lyrical specificity is just part of what’s made the band, like the Hotelier, stand out from a glut of so-called emo-revival acts that have sprouted up in the last couple of years. While Somos’s sound fits broadly into that mold — with echoes of influential acts such as American Football, the Promise Ring, and Boston’s own Piebald and Transit — there’s little of the genre’s woebegone romanticism on “Temple of Plenty.” “I don’t really write — but not like it’s a principle — breakup or love songs. There are none on this album,” Fiorentino said. “I just don’t think I can do that well. I’m interested in political issues, the inequality of the 99 percent versus the 1 percent, issues of oppression. When I try to write lyrics, maybe those themes come out? But less in a didactic, sloganeering way, and more through storytelling.”

“I think we were just lucky with the timing,” Haggerty explained of their being lumped into the emo resurgence. “Right around the time we started the band that all happened. We’re not haters of the emo revival, it means there are a lot more kids coming to shows. But I think we’re more of a crossover band, I don’t think we’re a typical emo band. We take pride in having a pop punk-emo-indie crossover. I like the idea of moving forward and creating something new. I like to think that’s where we’re at.”

That’s what their first single, “Dead Wrong,” is about, Fiorentino said. “How do you navigate being in a genre of music where people say it’s a ’90s thing? We wanted to move away from that nostalgia in our sound and lyrics. How do you move forward but also recognize you’re broadly involved in something being termed a revival?”