Social Media, Ambassadors, and Hero Shots

I came across an opinion piece in the Sweetwater Now, written by the owner of the Wyoming Fishing Company in southwest Wyoming. I’ve not read an opinion piece related to fly fishing so pointed in its criticism of a specific individual. And that’s what I think makes me uncomfortable.

The author’s comments begin with a pertinent observation about the abuse that results from some brands providing incentives to anglers for use of fishing photos. His concern is that this practice may push some anglers into doing whatever it takes to get a heroic shot – even if there is damage to the environment, such as spawning beds.

He comments that he has seen much of this over the 14 years he’s guided, and has, in apparent frustration now called out one abuser.

Citing the cover of the December 2017 issue of American Angler, he goes into specific detail about the incident that caused his reaction. He had very pointed things to say about the Colorado guide involved and his prominent display of brands in the shot, including a Hatch reel and a Thomas and Thomas fly rod. (The author does believe the brands were poorly represented, with which I agree).

The fault it seems to me lies with American Angler magazine that published a photo showing a brown trout with a tail that reflects recent spawning activity. They should have known better.

There is more background on the incident and the author provides additional photos where this same guide has apparently done the same in past years.

I don’t know the guide. So it’s difficult to assess whether this was an apparently repeated case of ignorance, poor judgment, or casual indifference. I think a guide’s job is to educate not only on casting or how to catch fish, but more importantly on the preservation and respect of the fisheries. One would hope he would have been better mentored, if only judged by his behavior in this incident.

I have no quarrel with the concerns the author has expressed. I agree that whether brand ambassadors or everyday fly fishers it can be too easy to make poor choices to get a heroic shot or video of a trophy fish; we should all be abiding by an ethos of take only memories – leave the fish in the water.

But I think the author would have been better served by contacting the brands involved and laying out the points he made in this editorial. Attacking an individual online means both the author and guide will be forever linked, and perhaps tarnished.

In the end, I guess I’m most concerned that this is just another example of the corruption commercial interests can have on everything – including fly fishing.

You can read the editorial here and form your own opinion.

Day Zero and Hook Choices

Hooks

Look at the two hooks above.

The top one is a TMC800s; the one below is a Daichi X452. They are both excellent size-six saltwater hooks. If it’s not clear from the photograph, the TMC is a thicker-wire hook than than the Daichi.

Now, which one should you use?

The answer may be dependent on which fish you are targeting.

In Puget Sound, we spend most of the year fishing for sea run cutthroat trout and resident Coho. In general, most of the fish are smaller than around 14 to 16 inches and do not need a large thick hook to land them – making the Daichi a better choice. Now, for migrating Coho I’d go with the thicker hook.

I had noticed that when I started using the Daichi hook, with its thinner wire and much sharper chemically-sharpened tip, that I was drawing less blood from the fish and the hook was easier to remove – releasing the fish quicker and with less damage; giving it a better chance it will be around for the next fly fisher.

And perhaps a choice of hooks reflects the choices to be made in the larger issues facing us today.

It’s become clear to me that it’s long past time to stop using the term “climate change”, which is a euphemism to avoid inflaming those clinging to dying industries or outdated political ideologies.

The correct term should be “climate crisis.”

The hurricanes, forest fires, and mudslides of last year, and this winter’s storms, have demonstrated that the sometime-in-the-future climate change is here now – constituting an existential crisis.

Elsewhere on the planet, the effects of this crisis are even more clear.

American television does a poor job reporting things happening elsewhere in the world,except for terrorism, wars, and royal weddings.

That’s not the case in other countries. The CBC had an excellent report a few nights ago on the drought in Africa that’s impacting the future of Cape Town – the second most populous city in South Africa.

The drought has reduced the water in the city’s reservoirs to the point that city leaders now speak of Day Zero – the day when the municipal water taps run dry. There will still be water from deep groundwater, requiring people to walk to the 200 distribution points, and there has been a rush to build desalination plants.

And there have been conservation efforts. Residents of Cape Town have been ordered to use no more than 13 gallons per day. That may sound like a lot of water, but in the US the average daily use per person is estimated at between 80 and 100 gallons. Think about how you would get by on 13 gallons of water.

The exact timing of Day Zero is a bit unclear; it was originally thought to be April of this year. Due to conservation and augmentation efforts it has now been pushed out to 2019. Read more here.

But until the drought ends the residents of Cape Town will be living this particular climate crisis.

As with Cape Town, people everywhere will face a Day Zero.

It might be the day when there is no more skiing due to snow levels rising above the tops of resorts.

It might be the day your favorite sports fishery is permanently closed.

It might be the day having an oceanfront house might not be possible no matter how much money you have.

It might be the day the electrical grid drops as severe storms destroy large segments of the transmission and distribution system.

It might be the day there are no ocean fish to be caught for consumption.

It might be the day there is no water to irrigate the lands used for grains and vegetables.

For any of these, and more, the problems may be unsolvable – and our future grim.

But we each have to do what we can. It is about the choices we make regarding our impact on the environment and in the places we live. And hopefully that may be enough to give us time to rethink and rework how we live on this planet.

It starts with conserving water – and using the lightest hook we can.

Reflections on a Ferry Ride

Fauntleroy Ferry

I drove to a fly shop in West Seattle to test a fly rod a few days ago – more on that in a future post.

After leaving the shop, I turned on the navigation system in my Outback to give me the route home – hopefully to avoid the traffic that builds up around Tacoma in the afternoon. It directed me towards a street I hadn’t expected and soon realized I was on the way to the Fauntleroy dock, where a ferry would take me to Southworth on the west side of the Sound.

I thought it would be a nice change of pace and make for a much shorter drive home once I got to Southworth.

Even better, the ferry was there getting ready to load when I arrived. Now I know, or at least believe, the navigation system could not have had the ferry schedule, but it sure felt like more than coincidence.

And what a day it was for a ferry ride.

The temperature was in the mid forties; much warmer than we had during the previous week. And the sun was out – no gray skies; no biting winds; and no rain or snow.

As the ferry pulled away I had time to sit and reflect.

I see the Sound nearly every day. Though we live a bit over two miles inland from any view of the water, I make it a point to get to where I can see Puget Sound any time I’m driving somewhere.

As the ferry pulled away from the dock, I was struck by the idea this was going to be a special trip.

The deep blue waters of the Sound complemented the azure sky that held white clouds to the east. And between them – the land. From the water everything looked forested. Beyond those trees were the houses, roads, people and all the other issues of modern life.

While Gig Harbor is comparatively an oasis from many big city problems, living here doesn’t allow one to escape all the problems of modern life.

Many of the roads are much busier than we moved here five years ago; rush hour backups are common; reports indicate property crime is increasing; and the homeless population seems to be increasing along the highway.

It seems as if every patch of trees is being removed to make way for new houses. The loss of a heron rookery downtown appears inevitable to make way for new luxury homes. And we have a family friend whose wife now appears to be in the final stages of her struggle with cancer.

As Jon Kabat-Zinn wrote, wherever you go – there you are.

So where was I?

I know that most problems go away on their own, or we learn to adapt to them. We all have suffered tragic losses – or will someday – from which we will never recover. And as I learned a bit over a year ago we are all mortal and death haunts each of us.

The ferry itself reminded me that its passage, while a small and temporary thing, does impact the waters and life beneath it. It is the same with each of us. Our actions while small and temporary do add up and impact the natural world we inhabit – the loss of a heron rookery; the decline in returning salmon; and the loss of Arctic sea ice, are all but examples.

I had a moment of awareness as I looked back toward the now distant ferry dock and the large house on Brace Point. At best, they were little more than tiny shapes – without form or definition. Out in the middle of the Sound, everything human-scale appears inconsequential and small.

And watching the brilliance of the light and the beauty of the Sound and distant land it seemed to me that this was about as good as it gets. I live in a place I love. I have people I love and who love me. I do my best to tread lightly on the Earth, sometimes with success; often not.

While not exactly a profound thought it was just a reminder of what I already knew from having left footprints on Earth for over six decades.

And maybe that was the lesson of the trip. Taking a few minutes whenever possible to appreciate whatever we have and wherever we live.

Remembering Vasili Arkhipov – One Person Can Save the World

We live in an age of cynicism and desperation, beset by crises that appear insurmountable. Whether it is political strife, economic upheaval, climate change or tensions with other nuclear-armed states, the problems appear to be so large that no single person can make a difference.

And yet, there are times when one person can change the entire course of human history.

Vasili Arkhipov was one such person. Born the child of peasants on January 30, 1926 near Moscow, his life was service to his country and ultimately the human race.

Arkhipov began serving in Russian submarines soon after World War II. Rising through the ranks he was executive officer of the Hotel-class K-19 in 1961 when it had a leak in its reactor core; the entire crew was irradiated and all members of the engineering crew died within a month of the accident. His bravery during the accident was recognized by his superiors. The 2002 film, K-19 Widowmaker, dramatizes the events of that accident.

A year later, he was commander of a flotilla of four Foxtrot-class submarines that deployed to Cuban waters before the start of what came to be known as the Cuban missile crisis. He was onboard the B-59, which was detected by US destroyers. Signaling depth charges were dropped to force the sub up to the surface.

The stress of the depth charges; the loss of the air conditioning system; the high levels of carbon dioxide due to being unable to surface; and having no communications from Moscow created what could only have described as hellish conditions. The captain of the sub wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo.

The decision to launch nuclear weapons required a vote of the sub’s captain, political officer, and Arkhipv due to his being on board as flotilla commander. The other two voted to launch – only Arkipov dissented.

By some accounts there was screaming as well as punches thrown. In the end, his arguments that the depth charges were missing them and less explosive than ones meant to sink them, combined with his reputation from the K-19, led to him convincing the captain not to launch. Then due to their batteries being nearly depleted, he convinced the captain to surface and then return to the Soviet Union.

One can only speculate, but it’s impossible to believe that once the first tactical nuke was launched escalation to general nuclear war could have been avoided – resulting in what we know now as nuclear winter with hundreds of millions dead and the destruction of all modern societies.

In his later life, he commanded submarines, rose to the rank of admiral, commanded the Kirov Naval Academy, and retired as a vice admiral in the 1980s.

Arkhipov died August 19, 1998 at the age of 72, the victim of kidney cancer that was caused by the accident of the K-19.

The shy, humble man embraced his humanity and saved the world that day by looking at the facts and not letting emotion carry away his judgement. That is a lesson that should be remembered by all those in positions of power.

Think about everything you have done and seen in your life. Then realize without Vasili Arkhipov you would have not lived the life you’ve had.

Etiquette and Fly Fishing Maniacs

Fly fishing. at least in the United States, has evolved in both perception and practice from many decades past when it was considered by most a small sport of rich elitist white males wearing tweed and fishing with custom bamboo fly rods and creels. While the reality was more complex, it was a time of limited numbers of fly fishers when class decorum as well as the norms of society produced an etiquette for stream-side behavior.

Now, the gear has gotten significantly better at lower costs – though many high-end graphite rods are approaching the costs of custom bamboo rods; fly fishers are now both men and women of all races and classes; and most storied fisheries can be crowded at many times of the year.

And unfortunately, behavior on streams has begun to reflect the coarseness of modern society.

Mike Lawson, founder of Henry’s Fork Anglers, recently posted an article on boorish behavior on the river – specifically the Henry’s Fork. Mike commented that last year was the first time he heard music blaring from drift boats as they floated past him when he was fishing. He posted a question on his Facebook page as to how people felt about it; the self-selected respondents were against it about five to one.

At the same time, some of the respondents said it wasn’t a big deal and he should just deal with it. Others agreed and also pointed out all the other bad behavior they witness on some streams: people leaving trash on the river; fly fishers stomping through when another fisher is stalking a trout; boats carelessly pushing through an area where others are wading.

Now I’ve not witnessed any bad behavior on the Henry’s Fork. I’ve gone there in autumn when the crowds have left and I have a favorite spot below the main area of the Ranch.

But I’ve seen where this can lead on a lake on the Olympic peninsula. I had friends whose family owned a waterfront cabin on Lake Sutherland. It was a beautiful location and at times of the year was quite peaceful where one could sit outside and listen to the birds.

But the summer was another story. Other homes surrounding the lake held people with personal water craft. During those summer days, the roar of the water craft started soon after sunrise – sometimes before, and lasted well into dark. They too were just enjoying their time on the water, at the expense of everyone else who might just wanted to have spent a quiet day outside reading a book. It got to the point that going there in the summer was something to be avoided.

Thoreau, in Walden, raised the essential issue: “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

Fly fishers in the main go to rivers, streams and coasts for much the same reason. Bringing in the coarseness and noise of the self-absorbed consumer culture – even by a minority – destroys that chance for finding the essential facts of life for everyone else.

You can read Mike’s post here.

Government Shutdown, And Other Empty Language

I’ve made reference to George Carlin in a number of my posts. I consider him to be one of the top two standup comedians of all time (the other is Richard Pryor). But more than a simply a comedian, George was a profound critic of American society, culture, and the economy. His take-down of contemporary economics and politics in “Why Education Sucks” is as insightful an analysis as I’ve heard.

Running through all his humor is a keen focus on how language is used and more commonly – misused. In particular, George had an aversion to the use of euphemisms to confuse and mislead. He makes frequent use of what “decent people” might call vulgarity. But as the nuns at his Catholic elementary school told his mother years later he was using vulgarity to make a point. Words themselves have no meaning – it’s all about context.

I was thinking about George – and wishing he was still with us – based on a couple of bits of recent news.

The first is the “government shutdown” – where Congress failed to vote to approve the budget, so apparently the Federal government shut down. After all, shutdown means a closure.

But was the Federal government shut down?

Congress is still in session, begging the question if they actually shut down who would be there to restart things? And to put a fine point on it – Congress is still paid during the “shutdown”. (They are required to be paid via Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution).

Many of the National Parks remain open – with no social media providing road information or friendly Rangers to help visitors. But what hurts most – the rest rooms are closed.

Social security checks still go out; even Congress isn’t stupid enough to piss off older people. The military is still out defending or expanding the empire. The TSA is still looking for 3.5 ounces or more of liquid in people’s carry-on baggage. And other government functions continue. All in all, about 60 percent of the Federal workforce continues working – even though they won’t be paid until the impasse is over.

If you think about it – the Federal government did not shut down. It stopped some functions of government and slowed down others. In the end everyone will get paid, even those who were furloughed.

But government shutdown sounds like scary shit. Slowdown more like a traffic problem. More empty language.

The other topic was based on a news story on CBS Sunday Morning concerning politically correct speech on college campuses. Apparently, you can’t sneeze wrong without someone taking offense. And speakers who promote non-politically acceptable viewpoints aren’t even allowed to speak – no matter how polite or thoughtful they might be.

Are the college kids that much different now? What happened to thinking more about sex, drugs, and rock and roll? Makes me wonder what world many of these kids think they’re heading into after their college career. More on that below.

In the news story I heard the politically correct term “people of color”. Apparently people of color is meant to signify those who are black or brown. I suspect “yellow people” aren’t included in the term.

People of color? Hmmm…is that another way of saying colored people? Colored people, when it was used in the past, was demeaning and used to refer to black Americans.

But isn’t everyone a colored person?

As George noted, white Americans are also people of color as their skin is typically pink, beige, or olive. And the yellow people certainly tend toward shades of olive. And people from India can be as dark as some black Americans – are they considered dark white Americans or people of color?

That black Americans suffer from a historic and seemingly intractable racism should be addressed. That brown Americans (primarily from points south of the southern border) are subject to changing and complex policies based on parochial concerns as well as cynical partisan politics is clear.

And by the way, the term is not undocumented worker – if you entered the country illegally you’re an illegal alien. It’s not a slur, it’s an accurate description.

I’ll also note as David Stockman did that not having a coherent immigration policy is idiotic. The increasing numbers of baby boomers drawing on Medicare and Social Security will require a large number of immigrants to pay taxes to sustain the social costs over the next 30 years. The domestic birth rate has not and will not keep up.

The problem it seems to me is one of boutique identity politics. It’s just another way for the owners to keep people trying to scratch each other’s eyes out rather than uniting to take down the people in charge.

That’s another whole discussion, but to get back to the college kids. Rather than worrying about safe spaces they should be raising hell about the predatory loans many of them have that will keep them indentured servants for many, many years of their working lives. Or maybe worry about having a career as a barista as their only option. I suppose either’s not as sexy – at least right now – as worrying about whatever it is they’re worried about.

Maybe I should have opened this post with a “trigger warming”. On the other hand, as George might have said – if you don’t like it, go to your safe space.

Sturm und Drang 2018

Is it any wonder nearly everyone is exhausted by the first year of the Trump presidency?

The ongoing tweets from the Orange Man combined with incoherent foreign and domestic policies; a Republican party that looks more all the time like a death cult with little agreement on anything; the echo chamber of the majority of mass media outlets breathlessly reporting every real or imagined transgression; and the Democrats cynically embracing it all as the path to victory in 2018 and 2020 – without offering anything of substance and certainly nothing that offends their rich donors.

I’ve avoided lowering myself into the swamp of the 2016 election and the first year of Trump. But the start of a new year seems like a good time to take stock.

I’ll say only about the 2016 election that it was a choice between a depraved corporatist and militarist, and a boorish infantile narcissist – and in either case the lesser of two evils was still demonstrably evil.

But it’s important to state Trump won the election fairly. It wasn’t the Russians, little green persons (to be politically correct) from Mars, or some astrological event. The 2016 election results were based on two factors. The first was a protest against the last forty years of bipartisan neoliberal policies that benefited the rich at the expense of the majority of our citizens.

The second was the Democrats ran an arrogant, inept and lazy candidate in Hillary Clinton who couldn’t get off her ass and get out to the Midwest in the last weeks of the campaign. And I don’t care she won more votes – we don’t elect Presidents on the popular vote.

The electoral college may be an anachronism but I wonder how an election on popular votes would go. I suspect less than ten states would determine the election. What that would mean for the citizens in all the other states should probably be discussed before jumping into a change.

I’m skeptical of the Russian hacking of the DNC servers.

First, if the NSA had evidence of a penetration over the internet they would have said so. Second if the FBI believed the Russians had done so they would have seized the servers. Does anyone really believe the FBI was stopped from an examination because the DNC wouldn’t let them? And finally, there was a group of former intelligence professionals who said a forensic examination showed the files were copied to a local disk – likely a thumb drive.

Once the hacking storyline faded earlier last year we moved into the collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Of course there’s Russian money floating around DC. There’s also a great deal of Saudi money and Israeli money floating around – and everyone in Washington knows about it. All of that money is intended to buy influence – none of which is intended to benefit the citizens of this country.

That members of the Trump family and others in his orbit went after it is without doubt. They have enough shaky finances to grab any infusion of cash. If there was opposition research, they were doing the same thing the Democrats were doing. In the end I think Mueller will get prosecutions based on money laundering and obstruction of justice rather than nefarious shenanigans related to the election.

I’m guessing this byzantine investigation is going to go on for the rest of 2018.

I’ve heard the empty-headed talking heads say how all the alleged (and that’s a word that responsible news organizations used in decades past when discussing yet unproven allegations) Russian interference imperiled our democracy.

Give me a break.

The United States has a long and dirty history of direct involvement in other countries governance. To name only a partial list: Iran, Guatemala, Vietnam, Chile, Afghanistan, Iraq, Russia, Ukraine, and Syria. I suppose democracy – and a faux one at that – is only important when being discussed here.

And in terms of what the Russians supposedly did in 2016?

Facebook ads? If that’s all it takes to throw an election – along with some emails that revealed the depths of corruption within the DNC and the Clinton campaign – it’s time to turn out the lights.

To all members of the pussy-hatted “resistance” who eagerly cheer the removal of Trump via either impeachment or the 25th amendment – be careful what you wish for. Waiting in the wings is Mike Pence, an avowed theocrat.

Maybe it would be better to try to get the Democrats focused on economic justice and clear out the neoliberals and finance whores; then win back both the House and Senate this year and find a good candidate for 2020.

For the most part, the impacts of a single term of Trump can be overcome.

Except for one thing – North Korea. I am not a Trump supporter and while I think his border wall idea is pure idiocy his childish actions related to North Korea are truly terrifying (in that, except for the tweets I doubt Pence, or Clinton, would be any different). Miscalculation or error could lead the world into a bloody war that could involve the use of nuclear weapons.

Even without a terrible war it’s clear that climatic change is happening now. Last year’s firestorms in British Columbia and hurricanes in Texas and Florida, and the recent winter storm along the east coast are all part of the “new normal” – as I’ve heard it called.

Climate change is, except for nuclear war, the only real existential threat to life on Earth. If massive changes aren’t made in the way we live, and it may already be too late, our children and grandchildren may curse us all.

So, Happy New Year – and here’s hoping a year from now we’ll have managed to make it through the year as a society and a species.

Memory and the Return of the Chum Salmon

Donkey Creek Chum Salmon

Distractions abound in contemporary society with the increasing depravity in most aspects of public life – think big time business, entertainment, politics, and sport.

And now that it’s December, the endless ads for luxury cars, snooping servants masquerading as home electronics, and Christmas music that has been playing in most malls and stores since August have driven out the joy of the season. Even Dickens’ Ghost of Christmas Present has said enough already.

In all of the above, there is no past or future – there is only the Now for only the Now has commercial or political utility. But even the cynical use of the Now as distraction can not, and must not, destroy memory: memory of cherished past; memory of history, and memory of one’s self.

And there is another type of memory. That is the memory of the natural world and its cycles that stretch back farther than human memory.

All it takes is looking outside.

Here in the Northwest, the annual salmon return is one such cycle. December brings its own gift with the return of the chum salmon (Oncorhynchus keta) to Donkey Creek.

The name of the creek has its origin in a lumber mill. After the nearby Austin mill was built in the early 1900s, a donkey engine transport system was used by loggers to move timber downstream to the mill. The building used for the engine was demolished in 2002 but logs from the building were salvaged and used in the siding of the restroom constructed in 2004.

Today, the park of the same name leads by a path to the Harbor History Museum. The path allows easy viewing of the creek. And it is in the creek in late November and December where there’s the best chance of seeing a returning chum salmon.

On their return and out of sight of the public, the fish are captured, bucks and hens are separated, and milk and eggs are extracted – the fish are dispatched with a quick bonk on the head. And then the life cycle of another generation of chum salmon begins.

Their life journey begins in the Donkey Creek Remote Site Incubator System (RSI). The RSI was installed by local fishermen in 1974 in cooperation with the State Department of Fish and Wildlife. The purpose was to restore the chum salmon run that had been severely depleted by road building and urbanization.

The RSI processes 1.3 million eggs every year — 1 million eggs are planted in Donkey Creek and about 300,000 are divided up between Meyers Creek and Purdy Creek.

The eggs and milk are mixed together in incubator buckets, with incubation lasting four months until about mid April. When they hatch they are called alevins. They spend six weeks maturing in the incubator buckets before losing their egg sacs. They then leave the barrels through a small pipe and go into a bigger pipe that runs in Donkey Creek. When they enter the creek they are called fry.

The fry slowly move into Gig Harbor and out into Puget Sound – finally reaching the open ocean in late summer. They move northward along the British Columbia coast until they reach their destination in the Gulf of Alaska, where they will remain for at least three years, with most returning in years four and five.

Their journey out and back means a journey of over 2000 miles plus the miles spent in the Gulf of Alaska. It is an incredible journey out of sight to us except at the very end when we can watch a salmon swim, with all its remaining strength, to reach its spawning ground for the singular purpose of creating the next generation. It is truly awe inspiring to watch.

Standing along Donkey Creek also provides an opportunity to see the cycles in our own lives – particularly when we understand that others stood where we are now.

The S’Homamish band of native Americans spent winters in a village known as Twalwelkax meaning “trout” at the mouth of Donkey Creek. The chum salmon migration was a source of food during the long cold winters. While they spent their winters along Donkey Creek, it’s probable the band migrated during the summer months to Vashon Island for there is archeological evidence of them there.

Little is known of the S’Homamish, except they were one of the bands that signed the Treaty of Medicine Creek in 1854, which exchanged 2.24 millions of land belonging to nine Indian tribes and bands to the United States for three reservations, cash payments, and recognition of fishing and hunting rights. By all accounts it was a swindle, just like all treaties signed with Native Americans.

The fishing rights were in dispute for over 120 years until the Boldt Decision of 1974, which reaffirmed the rights of Indian tribes and bands to act as co-managers of salmon and other fish as well as continue their harvesting according to the original treaties. By that time, the S’Homamish appear to have disappeared as a distinct band. Hopefully they joined another larger tribe and their descendants live to this day.

If they do, they preserve the memory of the life cycle of the chum salmon – as we should for it is a reminder of the great cycles of nature and our own place in it. I take comfort in that when the Now attempts to crush all memory.

Misplaced Outrage

I had been having an internal debate on my road trip as to whether I should write something on the protests of NFL players when the shooting occurred in Las Vegas. As it is, I think I want to now say something about both issues.

First on the protests. It probably needs to be said as a reminder that the purpose of the protests was to protest racism and police violence against young black men. There was, as a result of the superficial reporting that didn’t put the protests into context, the predictable howls of outrage that such protests “disrespect” the flag and the national anthem and all members of the military. I won’t even go into my feelings again about how ignorant the use of disrespect as a verb sounds to me.

The song and the piece of cloth are symbols of this country and all it should represent. But the claim that they represent freedom and the protests are not respectful of that freedom seems to me to confuse cause and effect.

The freedoms we have exist precisely due to protest.

First, what began as protests led to the revolution and ultimately to the US Constitution that formed the legal structure of the republic. The Bill of Rights (as a reminder, the first ten amendments of the Constitution) were adopted due to protests of the anti-Federalists. The increasing protests over many, many decades led to the right of women and minorities to vote – not to mention a Civil War that freed black Americans from legalized slavery. Other protests led to increased rights and protections for American workers. Still other protests led to the rights of the gay and lesbian communities.

Protest – even more than gun rights (see below) – are part of the fundamental genes of this country.

As should be clear, the freedom and willingness to protest is what enables progress. And if something is wrong, it is the highest form of patriotism to protest.

One final point on this issue. I think it’s important that whenever those in authority speak of patriotism and the need for people to show their gratitude for the freedoms we have, it’s wise to pay attention to what freedoms they’re actually trying to take away.

Now to where the real outrage should exist.

Another city, another mass murder. How can anyone be surprised? In spite of the well meaning but facile commentary on various television and radio shows – how could this have been unexpected?

Columbine. Fort Hood. Aurora. Sandy Hook. San Bernardino. Roseburg. Orlando. Las Vegas. And others I’ve forgotten.

Where’s the outrage that as a society we have become numb – except in the immediate aftermath of each shooting – to the ongoing slaughter?

Where’s the outrage that I heard some former police official speak of this as the new normal?

Each time the identity of the shooter or shooters become important so the news media can label the cause of the shooting as terrorism, mental illness or unexplained. But does it really matter to the victims, their family and friends?

Where’s the outrage at Congresses over the last two decades that can only offer “thoughts and prayers” and “moments of silence”?

Where’s the outrage that the Centers for Disease Control have been prohibited for the last 20 years from studying the relationship between guns and violence?

Where’s the outrage that many hide behind the Second Amendment, claiming it gives them the right to own high-caliber military-grade weapons? And I’m not specifically addressing the AR-15/M4 platform used in many of the mass shootings. I’m talking about owning Barrett sniper rifles that can kill at 1800 meters that are sold in some gun shops.

I’ve heard on radio and television many of the arguments for the intent of the Second Amendment. Many have been led to believe the founding fathers put that in the Constitution to ensure the overthrow of a government in case it began to oppress the people. One caller I heard on Sirius said it was put in to ensure that people would be able to fight back in the event of the rise of socialistic communist government.

Where’s the outrage that we have an educational system that doesn’t educate on the founding documents of this republic?

The truth is the Second Amendment was adopted at the insistence of the southern states to ensure they could form state militias to put down slave revolts. It said nothing about individual citizens owning Barrett sniper rifles.

The Second Amendment is an anachronism and should be repealed. But that will likely never happen. Even if it were it would change little.

Gun ownership is not dependent upon the Second Amendment. National, state, and local laws would allow individuals to own weapons for hunting, sport shooting or self defense as is true in a number of countries. And yes it would still allow some to use those weapons for homicide or suicide.

Confiscation is never going to happen no matter what the NRA and a hard-core minority say.

And I don’t think it’s desirable in any case. There are legitimate reasons and purposes for gun ownership. However, I remain unconvinced that civilians need anything more than shotguns, bolt or lever action rifles, and revolvers for the purposes of hunting, sport shooting, and self defense.

In the end, writing this is just a waste of time as nothing is going to happen except the next inevitable massacre.

From a long history of wars and military expeditions to sports violence to the never ending (and ever growing) war on terror, we have become a militarized society that celebrates violence. Popular entertainment promotes violence as solving every problem – whether in an hour on television or several hours in movies. The “warrior hero” is celebrated as the paragon of a society that sees itself as exceptional and indispensable.

And behind it all are the manufacturers of weapons and war; the manufacturers of propaganda labeled as entertainment; the philosophers and preachers of American exceptionalism; and their paid whores in Congress and national media. And they have chosen our god for us.

Thanatos – the Greek god of death – is our civic god. And that choice will lead to violent death for many, many more.

As I said in a previous post, I only hope no one I know is involved in a coming massacre. And I feel outraged saying that.

A River Runs Through It – 25 Years Later

Robert Redford Directing Bradd Pitt

It’s been 25 years since A River Runs Through It was released. Based on Norman Maclean’s novella of the same name, the movie resulted in, by many accounts, a major growth in Montana immigration and tourism as well as interest and participation in fly fishing. I think it’s safe to say without “the movie” (as it’s often called somewhat derisively), interest and efforts in protecting wild rivers; the quality of gear; and travel opportunities for fly fishing – none would not be what they are today.

And yet, as many of those involved in making the movie reflect (see here), the movie is less about fly fishing than the issues of family. It is a movie that brings tears every time I watch it as it touches on questions of how love is expressed and how we can or can’t communicate with those we love most.

I too an haunted by waters.