If Only We Really Gave A Damn About Gun Violence in America

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I spent nearly ten years reading studies, articles, and books while talking to people I agree with, people I disagree with, and people who are just a lot smarter than I am about guns, gun control, and gun violence. I would stop short of calling myself an expert, but I know a thing or two about a thing or two when it comes to guns in America. In the last year or two I’ve cut down on my research because I arrived at certain conclusions that made any further research on my part largely irrelevant.

  1. Most of America agrees that universal background checks and required training on the use and safe storage of any gun that is purchased is common sense gun control. People are less in agreement when it comes to requiring registration and liability insurance but most people like that too.
  2. That said, it’s worth noting that while most of America agrees, also most of America doesn’t care too much about it. We don’t see protesters supporting gun control doing marches, confronting prominent politicians, or doing much of anything really beyond online petitions and lip service towards the concept of gun control.
  3. What we in America have decided collectively is that we’re probably not going to get shot and 30,000 abstract dead Americans every year is a fine price to pay for easy access to guns. We don’t even pay attention to the 80,000 wounded every year from gunfire.
  4. There is a small but vocal population of gun owners who are nearly sexually aroused by the idea of the government coming for their guns or some home intruder breaking into their house despite the odds of such things happening being astronomically low. These are people who will shoot their fellow Americans regardless of what uniform they are wearing before they will relinquish their guns.
  5. Given points 2, 3, and 4, I have nearly zero expectation of any meaningful national gun control laws in the United States.

Now you may want to argue any of these points, and you may go right ahead and do so, but as I said, I did not arrive at these conclusions in any uninformed way. I recognize that America, like the Aztecs is a society in which human sacrifice is part of the culture. We just do it with guns rather than rolling people off of pyramids. And like the Aztec human sacrifices, it is not a practical thing, but a religious thing. Talk to any avid gun enthusiast and you’ll see they have every bit the zeal of the most passionate evangelist. As an atheist, I am well aware that when it comes to religion, no amount of common sense, statistics, studies, or facts will sway a believer from their belief.

Most of us are not gun owners. Most of us do not fetishize guns. Most of us do not hold the beliefs of a religious zealot. But, despite these gun fetishists following a belief system that kills ten times the amount of people who died on 9/11 every year, we do not treat these people the same as we might a member of a ISIS or a Nazi. I don’t see that changing any time soon either. Instead, we are tolerant or indifferent to their deadly religion.

When it comes to guns, people often look to politics, but really modern politics about gun control is all about getting out of the way of the gun lobby. The NRA is a domestic terrorist organization that works as the propaganda arm of gun manufacturers under the guise of representing American gun owners. They spend millions on members of both parties to make sure none of them do anything to mess up the sales of guns and ammunition to any American who might want them. I remain convinced that if enough people cared, protested, made calls, and voted out anyone who takes a dime from the gun lobby we might get somewhere on gun control, but I also remain equally convinced that won’t happen because most people, including you and me, simply do not truly give a shit. Not really.

– Jack Cameron

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The Republican Death Machine: Republicans Are Killing Women

womanIf you are a woman you are more likely to vote Democrat. If you are an unmarried woman you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If you are a minority, you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If you are a first generation immigrant you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If your gender is non-binary or your sexual orientation is not heterosexual you are far more likely to vote Democrat. If you are an atheist you are more likely to vote Democrat. If you make less than $15,000 a year you are far more likely to vote Democrat.

There is something else all of these groups have in common: Republicans have endorsed or enacted legislation to aid directly and indirectly in killing every group of people I have mentioned so far. I know that is a significant claim. Over the course of a series of articles on this site, it is one I intend to prove with facts and sources. It is something I will repeat. Republican policies are murdering the people most likely to disagree with them.

It is no secret that women are not fully human in the eyes of the Republican Party. We dance around this because it is too repugnant to say on a regular basis, but it is the truth. Next year’s ‘Equal Pay Day’ is April 10, 2018. That day is selected because in order for the average American woman to make as much as the average American man did in 2017, she would have to work until April 10, 2018. This is the 21st Century and whenever the subject of equal pay for men and women comes up, Republicans argue against paying women the same as men for the same amount of work. This alone shows that they see women as fundamentally less than human.

Of course Republican hatred of women goes far deeper than simply not paying them the same amount. In 2013 when the Violence Against Women Act was up for renewal 160 Republicans voted against it. This is the typical Republican strategy. They are too cowardly to openly commit murder. Instead they just help those who do in any way they can.

Republicans are famous for being in favor of allowing Americans to own guns regardless of their background. They have fought to keep domestic violence perpetrators armed. They have fought to keep the mentally ill armed. They have fought to make college campuses armed. They even suggest women purchase guns themselves which may seem to be a form of protection but research shows otherwise. Dr. Deborah Azrael, the associate director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center and a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health said, “What we know is that if a woman is going to be killed by a firearm, she’s most likely to be killed by a current or former intimate partner. What we know is where there are more guns, more women die. That’s just incontrovertibly true.”

Relying on murderous former lovers is not enough for the Republican death machine. This is where the Republican war on Planned Parenthood comes in. The current President of the United States said on the campaign trail last year, “The problem that I have with Planned Parenthood is the abortion situation. It is like an abortion factory, frankly, and you can’t have it. And you just shouldn’t be funding it. That should not be funded by the government, and I feel strongly about that.”

Of course this is untrue on many levels, but it is the standard lie that Republicans tell. It is a well-known fact that abortions account for less than 3% of what Planned Parenthood does and that federal dollars have never been spent on abortions at Planned Parenthood. But, given this is the case, why would Republicans be so adamant about defunding Planned Parenthood? The answer is simple. In addition to keeping women poorer by paying them less, keeping violent attackers of women armed, and limiting a woman’s access to abortion, Republicans want to limit a woman’s access to healthcare in general.

Study after study has shown that the thing that lowers the abortion rate more than anything else is contraception and accurate, non-religious, non-judgmental sexual education. These are two areas that Planned Parenthood excels at. But this is not all that Planned Parenthood does. Every year Planned Parenthood conducts over 600,000 cancer screenings. Approximately 70,000 of those turn out to be women with pre-cancerous lesions or early-stage breast or cervical cancer. Early detection of cancer is one of the primary indicators of whether or not you will survive having cancer. Or put another way, cutting Planned Parenthood funding puts 70,000 women in danger of discovering they have cancer too late to do anything but die.

It is clear to anyone paying attention that Planned Parenthood does a lot more than birth control and abortion services, but it is also worth talking about these services. As I have mentioned before, safe and legal abortion was not the beginning of abortion. It was the beginning of women not dying on a regular basis from botched abortions. There is plenty of evidence to show what happens when abortions are performed by unqualified people. It is also worth noting that having the ability and the knowledge to control one’s reproductive life gives women a better chance to control their destinies. If that is taken away, women become less likely to move out of poverty. They become less healthy. They end up needing to rely on others for support and childcare. Ideally, what a Republican politician hopes is that these underpaid, under supported women forced to have children they do not want will end up thinking they need a man. Because the only thing worse than a woman in the eyes of a Republican is a woman not married to a man.

Marriage is important in the eyes of Republicans if for no other reason than the fact that unmarried women vote overwhelmingly for Democrats. This is a direct threat to the Republicans. Women are not fully human in their eyes and like any other living thing, they see the need to subjugate and control them. It was within my own lifetime that we got rid of laws allowing men to rape their wives. Republicans continue to fight for the right to rape women as long as you are married to them. In Ohio last February Republicans fought against closing a loophole that allowed forms of marital rape. In Iowa this year an anti-abortion bill was proposed that would allow the parents of an unmarried woman to decide whether or not she has a child regardless of her age. Their efforts to control women know no bounds.

The Republican message to women is incredibly clear: If you are a woman, expect to be paid less, expect to be in danger from men, expect to be told what to do, expect a lack of birth control options, expect a lack of healthcare, expect cancer to go undetected, expect to be raped, and if you get pregnant, expect no choice in whether or not you have that child. Expect that Republicans will do everything possible to control you and kill you because not only do you vote Democrat, but you had the audacity to be female in man’s world.

– Jack Cameron

Other sources for this article:
https://www.debt.org/faqs/americans-in-debt/economic-demographics-democrats/

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-conservatives-are-terrified-of-single-women-20160328

A Typical Situation

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You’re an 18-35 year old male. Your job is physical in nature. Maybe you work construction. You’ve got a wife. Kids. You work hard. You make okay money but the bills aren’t getting any cheaper and the wife and kids sometimes seem to spend it faster than you can make it.
The combination of trying to be a good Dad, trying to be a good husband, and trying to make ends meet is daunting in the best of circumstances. It only makes sense that you might have a drink or two at the end of your day. Maybe you smoke cigarettes or pot. Maybe on the weekend you try some harder drugs.
You tell yourself you deserve it. You tell yourself it’s just how you cope with day to day life. One day things do not go your way. Your boss is being an asshole. Some coworker fails to do his job which messes up your job. You go to the bar and have a few after work. You get home. Your wife is mad that you got drunk. She’s mad at the money you’re spending which reminds you how much money she’s spending. The argument gets loud. Maybe you hit her. Maybe you don’t. Either way, some neighbors call the police. In the state of Washington police responding to a domestic dispute arrest whoever they determine to be the aggressor. More often than not, it will be the male. So the next thing you know you’ve been arrested. The charge is Assault 4 Domestic Violence. If you managed to break anything in your house you’ll probably be charged with Malicious Mischief. Your bail is $1,000 no bond. That means you’ve got to come up with $1,000 cash to get out. You don’t have $1,000 laying around and neither do your friends. One day a prosecutor shows up to your cell and tells you that you can leave jail and not only will you be free, but the prosecutor says he won’t even seek any more jail time. All you have to do is plead guilty.
So you plead guilty. You figure that will be the end of it. You’ll get out. The prosecutor gets another conviction. Everyone’s happy. But then they tell you you’ll have to go for a Domestic Violence Evaluation. You don’t think much of it because it’s gotta be better than jail. You get out of jail. You might find that while you were in jail you discover that there is now a no contact order that does not allow you any contact with your wife. You literally can’t go home. You also can’t talk to, call, email, or text your wife. You can’t tell someone to tell her something. Any of that would be considering a violation of the no contact order which would result in more charges, possibly more jail time, and worst of all, it will establish a pattern which increases the chances of significant penalties for your actions. If you’re unlucky and sent a bunch of texts to her, an overzealous prosecutor may make each text a separate charge. If you want any of your stuff from the house, you’re going to have to have the police there with you.
With luck, maybe your wife wants to have the no contact order lowered or removed. If not, then you need to find a place of your own and that’s not going to be easy because when a prospective landlord does a background check on you they’re going to see an assault charge and probably have no idea that it might have simply been a loud argument. There’s also the part where if you spent any length of time in jail before getting out, you may or may not have a job to come back to making it even more difficult.
You get yourself squared away. Maybe your friend has a spare bedroom. Maybe your wife wants the No Contact Order lifted but it can’t happen until you get that Domestic Violence Evaluation.
So you go to the evaluation. You learn it’s not free and that you have to pay out of pocket for just about everything that happens at this agency. A counselor asks you what happened. You tell your story. You try to remain calm. You try to explain how everything you did was entirely reasonable given the circumstances. You tell the counselor how you are not a violent person. When you hear that the counselor is going to talk to your wife (who the counselor calls ‘the victim’), you aren’t sure what she might say and so you mention that she likes to make stuff up.
You find out that when this is done, you will at the very least end up with an 8-hour anger management class or at the very most a full year of attending domestic violence group therapy. There will be random drug tests. Each of these things is going to cost between $30-$60 depending on where you’re going and how much money you make.
You also find out that while you are in the program you are to remain alcohol and drug free. You learn that any random drug test that comes back positive will mean three additional months of the program. You learn that failure to show up to the required classes can result in unfavorable reports going to the court which may or may not result in you going back to jail. You may also learn that successful completion of the course is required before any lifting of the No Contact Order can be implemented no matter what you or your wife want.
If you are incredibly unlucky and have managed to lose your home and your job during the course of this, you may find yourself in the unfortunate position of needing to come up with money for your weekly classes simply to avoid going back to jail all while trying to find housing and a job with a background check that says you assault people.
I have been working for an agency that treats domestic violence perpetrators for eight months. I’m an anger management counselor. If you lack a pattern of criminal activity, did not have charges that were all that serious, or did something that was reasonable but illegal, you may find yourself in a class like I run. The scenario I described above is the most common sort of client I encounter. The details change, but the overall story often remains much the same. Knowing that I do my best to treat my clients with a level or respect and care that most of this system lacks. I do not do this because the clients deserve it. I do it because no one learns much from someone who does not respect them and I would like to help. But I also cannot pretend the system is not broken.
I tell clients that I got into this field to help people and that I will do the absolute best I can to help them get through this uncomfortable and sometimes outright horrifying stage of their life. I also tell them that if I fail to help I will at the very least make this portion of the process as painless as possible because treatment and training should never be punishment. My job is not to punish. It’s to help.
I can see how what I have written may be considered taking the attacker’s side. It’s not. I am showing the attacker’s perspective. Domestic violence is a serious, dangerous, and all too often life-endangering occurrence. Reporting domestic violence can literally be the difference between life and death. It is for this reason that I feel so strongly that we need to provide ongoing support and help for domestic violence victims and perpetrators. I feel we can do much better than what we do now. Hopefully I can be a small part of making those necessary changes.
– Jack Cameron

Kickstart Your Kickstarter

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A few years ago a friend of mine invited me out to lunch to talk about a Kickstarter campaign he wanted to do. I did some research and gave him my thoughts on crowd funding in general and what I felt would make a compelling and successful Kickstarter campaign. He succeeded in raising over $100,000. Since then I have consulted on dozens of projects. These consultations have been everything from a quick once-over to fully controlling the entire campaign. In every case, the campaigns I worked on succeeded.

Initially this seemed like a promising thing. If my advice was helping these people succeed in making thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of dollars, maybe I could make a few bucks of my own consulting on Kickstarter campaigns. Unfortunately, the one problem with this is that most individuals who are launching Kickstarter campaigns do not have money to spare for a ‘Kickstarter Consultant’. Often when talking to potential clients they would be incredibly generous and passionate about the project and my working on it until I mentioned wanting to be paid for my work.

This led me to create Kickstart Your Kickstarter which is now available through Amazon.com. This simple e-book is much of my Kickstarter expertise distilled down into an easy e-book with just the necessary information one might want if they were going to start a Kickstarter campaign. And because I know that Kickstarter creators rarely have money, I’m selling this short little e-book for 99 cents.

I will not get rich selling this book, but you may very well get rich after reading it.

– Jack Cameron

Black Man. White Cop. You Know The Rest.

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Back in high school I wrote this thing about racism. It was a bit of a disaster. Since then, as a white heterosexual male, I have decided to specifically NOT write about racism if at all possible because the last time I did, things went badly. But I kind of feel the need to break that rule.

His name was Alton Sterling. And if I tell you he was a black man who encountered a police officer you already know the rest of the story. You know the story because it’s the story of Dontre Hamilton. It’s the story of Eric Garner. It’s the story of John Crawford III. It’s the story of Michael Brown Jr. It’s the story of Ezell Ford. It’s the story of Tanisha Anderson. It’s the story of Akai Gurley. It’s the story of Tamir Rice. It’s the story of Rumain Brisbon. It’s the story of Jerame Reid. It’s the story of Tony Robinson. It’s the story of Phillip White. It’s the story of Freddie Gray. It’s the story of Sandra Bland. It’s the story of being black and unlucky in America.

We hear these stories of police shooting black men and women almost as often as we hear about white men committing mass shootings. And each time much like mass shootings we are outraged and paralyzed. Our outrage is understandable. How can these terrible atrocities happen in broad daylight on the streets of the greatest country in the world? Our being paralyzed takes a bit more explaining.

Part of it is the uncomfortable truth that racism is alive and well in America. We did not kill it with Civil Rights. We did not kill it by electing Obama. And if we did not kill it, then we have to admit it’s still out there. We have to admit that some of our friends, neighbors, relatives, and maybe even ourselves are racist or have racist tendencies. And that is really hard to do. It’s so hard to do that it would be much easier to simply deny it and pretend that racism is over. But it’s not. And what are we to do with that?

Another easy option is to simply vilify the police. This is unfair. The vast majority of police officers will go their entire career never firing a shot at anyone. And not every police officer is racist. But the terrible actions of a few make the police an easy target for blame. If we can blame it all on the police then maybe, we do not have to confront any racism closer to home. But this does not work because police officers come from the community. Despite their militarized appearance, these men and women are members of your community whether they act like it or not. They did not arrive at the police academy with no racist thoughts in their heads and suddenly become racist. They were racist before they were cops and the modern police environment nurtures that racism.

There are good reasons for this. Even a fully trained and ethical police officer will still sometimes have to physically put handcuffs on another human being and then put that human being in a cage. For most people, this requires a bit of a disconnect. I have gone on ride alongs with police officers and watched it happen. I have seen the moment when the person a cop is talking to stops being a person to him and starts being a thing. A good cop will tell you that you have the right to remain silent. What they are actually saying is, “Nothing you say will help you because you are no longer a person to me.” Unfortunately this depersonalization does not just make it easy to put someone in a cage. It also makes it easy to put them in a grave.

We’re paralyzed because even if we confront these truths we still don’t know what to do about them. I know that I have biases. I am aware of them and I do my best to combat them, but it is not always easy or obvious. And even being successful does not change what’s happening in this country.

I have given this a lot of thought. These are my suggestions based on what I know. I am interested in what you think of these suggestions. I am interested in other suggestions. I am interested in finding things we can actively do to stop this.

Keep Racists Afraid

One of the worst things about Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is that racists think he has legitimized racism. When the Republican Presidential Nominee is saying things like “Look at my African American.” and calling Mexicans rapists bigots everywhere think that maybe it is okay to spout racist crap publicly. It is not. Fellow white people, any time we hear some blowhard saying racist crap whether it’s a stranger or your best friend, you need to call them on that shit. If we are going to ask our police departments to stop their systemic racism, we need to do the same.

Lethal Force

America has a love affair with guns. As a result we lose 30,000 men, women, and children every year due to gun violence. That’s ten 9/11s every year. Of those 30,000 about 1,000 are police involved killings. It is important to note that not all of these killings were unjustified, unwarranted, or unnecessary. It is equally important to note that far too many of them involved white cops shooting unarmed black people. In a time when we have Tasers, beanbag rounds, and verified de-escalation techniques using lethal force should be the cop equivalent of the nuclear option. It should never be used unless it’s the only thing you can use.

Federal Prosecutor

One of the biggest problems with police involved shootings is that the prosecutor who brings charges against the police is usually the same prosecutor who spends every other day of his life working closely with that same police department. Imagine this. You are a local prosecutor investigating a police involved shooting. If you charge the cop with murder, right or wrong, you are going to upset the rest of the police force which is going to make your job on every other case very difficult. Such a prosecutor is not likely to get endorsed by the police union during the next election. There is a clear conflict of interest in these situations. The way around this is to make every single police involved shooting a federal case with federal investigators and a federal prosecutor. Until this step is taken, I do not expect we will ever see a significant number of these cases actually get any justice.

Community Policing

One of the worst things to happen to modern police forces in this country was the use of surplus military hardware on the streets of America. Giving military weapons and vehicles to a systemically racist police department that already dehumanizes much of the population of a city is a recipe for slaughter. And that is exactly what we have seen again and again. If you give men weapons of war, they’re more likely to fight one. It should be noted that the blame cannot be placed on the police department or the military alone. The blame also falls on city councils and voters who do not approve adequate funding for police departments almost giving them no choice but to accept military handouts because they’re better than nothing.

This is not how the police force always worked. There was a time when a uniformed police officer walked a beat. The police officer knew everyone on that beat and more importantly everyone knew the cop. If a cop had a problem on his beat more often than not he knew the perpetrator. It’s more difficult to use lethal force on someone when you know them. It’s also harder to vilify a police officer when they’re someone you actually know and who has demonstrated that they are simply there to keep the peace. This is what was known as community policing. It’s something that is lacking in most police departments. If you wonder if your neighborhood has community policing ask yourself if you know the cop that patrols your area.

Raise Non-Racists

One of the things you can do is raise your children to be tolerant. Raise them to celebrate diversity rather than be afraid of it. Tell them that we are strong because of our differences and that no human being is superior to another and all life is equally precious. Show them movies with leads who aren’t white. Have them read Between The World and Me when they’re a teenager. Do not tolerate hate speak from children. If we can all commit to this, we can ensure that in the future bigots are the only minority who are afraid.

These are the ideas I have. I do not know what else to do. While I was writing this a 32-year-old man named Philando Castile was shot and killed by police officers who pulled him over for a busted tail light in Minneapolis.

I am not okay with this being normal in the United States of America. I do not have all the answers. But I think it starts with talking. It starts by speaking up. It starts by giving a damn and saying, “Black Lives Matter.”

– Jack Cameron

I Want No Part of Your Bloody Revolution

In 1991 I was a right leaning teenager who did not want to go to war. I was pro-death penalty. I was anti-abortion. I was anti-gay. I was also anti-getting-shot-at-on-the-other-side-of-the-planet. Eventually I met up with some acquaintances that wanted to firebomb the local Army Recruiting station after hours. They called me up to see if I was interested. I turned them down because it seemed like a stupid thing to do and it would not solve anything.

Despite my conservative leanings, I ended up looking more and more at the whole political structure. I started reading Noam Chomsky. I went up to Seattle and watched the documentary Manufacturing Consent based on Chomsky’s book of the same name. And then I had this epiphany: The Republicans were corrupt. So were the Democrats. The whole damn system was corrupt and had been for decades if not longer. We needed a new American Revolution.

1992 was an election year and I would not be able to vote because I would not be 18 until a month after the election. This did not lower my interest in the election. I was angry at George Bush for getting us into a half-assed war. To my mind at the time we should have done nothing or gone right into Baghdad and declared Iraq the 51st State. This kicking them out of Kuwait but keeping Saddam in power and not really stopping them from doing the exact same thing again bugged me. Besides. George Bush Sr. used to run the CIA and was involved in everything from Iran Contra to the plot to sell crack in inner city neighborhoods to help fund more wars in Central America. He was a walking talking piece of the big machine.

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I still have my copy of Bill Clinton’s interview in Rolling Stone from 1992.

When Bill Clinton became the Democratic frontrunner, I had a subscription to Rolling Stone. They did an interview with him involving all of their top writers including Hunter S. Thompson. Each of the writers did an article about the interview. Each of them mentioned how Bill Clinton said he wanted more cops on the street while looking at Hunter. I liked Bill Clinton’s optimism. I liked that he was not an old man. I liked a lot of what he said. But he was a Democrat. That meant he was part of the corrupt machine.

 

And then there was Ross Perot. Perot wasn’t a Democrat or a Republican. He was a short firecracker of a man. A businessman from Texas who was somehow a billionaire. He was using his own money and insisted he could get America running the way he got his businesses running. He wasn’t afraid to say things that were not politically correct. He seemed pragmatic. I liked him. I bought his little book and read it. All I remember from that book is that he said that as a kid he wanted a job where he didn’t have to work outside. He was not part of the machine as far as I could tell. The establishment did not like him and I liked that. But he was a billionaire from Texas and probably not the guy who was going to help the common man. Still, there was something to be said for voting for a guy who was not a Democrat or a Republican because fuck the two party system, man.

I went to see Bill Clinton speak in Seattle during the election. It was an outdoor venue near the waterfront. They played David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ just before he took the stage. Regardless of your opinion of Bill Clinton and his politics, it is impossible to deny his ability to work a crowd. By the end of his speech I was all about this guy. When Ross Perot did a campaign stop, I saw him too and felt disappointed. That guy just didn’t have Bill’s charisma and seemed a bit unsure of himself. I didn’t quite believe Perot actually believed the things he said. I wanted so much to like Perot but I just couldn’t. I liked Bill Clinton, but he was part of the system and the system was totally screwed up and corrupt and needed to be destroyed.

As I said, I was not able to vote in 1992. So I did not have to make a decision. I watched all the debates. I watched Ross Perot quit, then come back, then quit again and completely implode. I watched Bill Clinton win and I thought about how it felt like a turning point for America. There was optimism in the air even though I was pretty sure it was bullshit. I mean I did not expect Bill Clinton was going to do a damn thing about the atrocities in East Timor for example. He probably didn’t even know where East Timor was.

Time passed. I learned more. I watched as Republicans started attacking Bill Clinton for fooling around as if he was the first President to ever do such a thing and saw their hypocrisy for what it was. Sure, the Democrats were part of the system, but at least they did not resort to this sort of character assassination. By this time I had changed my views on gay rights and abortion. I still thought the death penalty was necessary for some people and that everyone had a right to have a gun. But I really could not get past this ‘holier-than-thou’ crap pedaled by Congressional Republicans.

I started thinking about the system. The big corrupt machine. The eradication of the Middle Class. The completely hypocritical and useless drug war. The ‘tough on crime’ bills that ruined lives and did nothing to lower the crime rate and everything to increase the prison population. College was becoming so expensive that your parents had to make six figures or you needed a scholarship or a loan you would be paying back forever. The rich getting richer and richer while the poor weren’t just getting poorer. They were dying. Welfare recipients were cut to five years of service. After five years, you were on your own and could die for all they cared. The safety net for human beings was being erased.

I looked at all of it that I was aware of and came to a fairly disheartening conclusion: I cannot stop it without a lot of people helping me kill a lot of people. You aren’t going to convince the head of Walmart to stop keeping so much money. Talk to any seriously rich person and they will tell you how they are terrified of losing their money. It does not matter how much they have. I could see no way to create the revolution that I felt needed to happen without a lot of blood. And there was no way that blood would be one-sided. There were people who were alive right now who might have otherwise lived okay or even good lives who were going to die in such a revolution. And that’s when I made a personal decision.

I would not fight for the revolution. I understood those who wanted it. I wanted it. But if you seriously fuck with the system, the system will fuck you back. Every time. History is littered with examples. Look at Henry Wallace. Look at JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  Look at George McGovern. Look at Edward Snowden. The revolution is tough. It will destroy your life. It will kill you. And each of those people had more money and more power than I will ever have. I am a bug to be squashed compared to those men.

I like Bernie Sanders. I agree with almost everything he says. I donated to his campaign. I have a bumper sticker with his name on it on my car and it’s been there for months. He is right that we need to get money out of politics. He is right that we need a political revolution away from never ending war and towards actual progress for the people of this country. He is most definitely a guy who does what he feels is right regardless of consequences and I respect that. If I were the young man I was in 1992 I have no doubt that right now I would be telling you how Bernie Sanders is our only hope for a sane outcome in this election and that a vote for Trump or Hillary is just more of the status quo in varying degrees. I would be shouting it to anyone who would listen and commenting on any Facebook thread of a friend silly enough to disagree with me because the big corrupt machine needs to be brought down and sure, we can all agree that Trump is terrible, but Hillary Clinton isn’t going to destroy the machine any more than her husband did. I would have ‘B-E-R-N-I-E’ on my forehead in permanent marker.

I am not the young man was in 1992. A few weeks ago I looked at the electoral count and realized that Bernie Sanders simply did not have the votes he needed to become the nominee. In every state he lost someone complained about it being rigged or about some sort of corruption or cheating. Maybe some of it was true. Maybe not. It did not matter. Not really. I was around in 2000 when I watched George W. Bush actually steal an election. This was how American politics worked. It’s like bedtime when you’re a kid. You might not like it or agree with it, but it is what it is and sure, you can change things but that’s not going to actually matter until next time anyway. They are not going to retroactively give it to Bernie.

And so I put my support behind Hillary Clinton. This move upset quite a few of my friends. They did not understand it. They thought I was compromising my values. Their mistake was thinking that just because we endorsed the same candidate we had the same values. That simply wasn’t true. My values are fairly simple. I want to be able to live my life with as few uncomfortable moments as possible while helping as many and hurting as few people as I can. I do not have any interest in being a soldier and I never have.

Hillary Clinton will likely lead us in what will basically be a more conservative version of Obama’s administration. The drone strikes will continue. Guantanamo will not close. And the use of force will always be on the table. But we will get a modest minimum wage increase, continued healthcare, continued gay rights, equal pay for women, and some actual infrastructure funding that is sorely needed. None of those good things will happen under Trump. Trump will not work with the Democratic Congress on anything he doesn’t care about. I drink Coke, but if you’re all out of Coke, I’ll take Pepsi because Diet Coke is terrible. I’m not going to burn the store down because there is no Coke.

Yes, the big machine is still out there making the trade of human lives for profits. In many ways it is stronger than ever. And for that very reason I do not have a lot of interest in directly fighting it. Back in 1992 you had to firebomb a recruiting station to get arrested. These days if you go to the wrong website, you can be put on a list, you can be detained indefinitely without ever being charged with a crime. Anwar al-Awlaki was an American citizen who spoke out against America, who advocated violence towards American people, who conversed with terrorists, but he never actually killed anyone. He mostly talked and wrote. That did not stop the Obama administration from killing him. It did not stop them from killing his 16-year-old son two weeks later despite his son being suspected of nothing at all. He too was an American citizen. Neither of them had a trial. We live in a very dangerous world where money is the only goal or God and suspicion is all that is needed to have you incarcerated indefinitely or killed. If you want a revolution, fine. But changing things takes time. If you want a revolution right now then it’s going to be bloody and people you care about are going to die for it. And I want no part of it because there is absolutely nothing pointing to that revolution being successful and even if it were, what guarantees are there that it would be any better?

I realize that you could read all of this and simply determine that I am a coward too afraid to stand up for what I believe in. I doubt anyone who really knows me would agree. But to make it clear, yes, I am aware that the entire political structure is corrupt and in desperate need of change. Yes, I am aware that Hillary Clinton does not have a spotless record and does not share every opinion I have. Yes, I am aware that for most of us our wages have gone nowhere, our job prospects are minimal, and in just about any way you look at it our lives could be better than they are. I am also aware that none of this will be resolved before November. You can go on and on about ‘What if this..’ and ‘What if that..’ and tell me all about how Bernie is the only real choice and how anyone who is voting for Hillary must be asleep and not awake like you. Go ahead. But Jill Stein and the Libertarian guy’s name that I can’t even remember aren’t popular enough to win and Bernie is not going to win anything if he isn’t the Democratic nominee. In November your choices are a former First Lady of Arkansas, former First Lady of the United States, Former US Senator, Former Secretary of State and current Democratic Presumptive Presidential Nominee who happens to have a former President of the United States as an advisor and spouse OR you can choose a person who publicly said women need to be treated ‘like shit’, a person who has said he is willing to nuke Eastern Europe, a man who encourages his audience to beat protesters, a man who calls Mexicans rapists, a man who makes fun of people with disabilities, a man who raped his first wife and said it was okay because spousal rape was legal at that time, a man who suggests we should keep lists or have people wear something to signify what religion they are, a man who failed to make money while owning a casino, and a man who repeatedly talks about wanting to sleep with his own daughter.

I know for some of you nothing I say will make Hillary Clinton someone you can vote for. That’s fine. If you want to vote for Trump. That’s fine too. If you want to vote for a third party candidate or write in Bernie Sanders or Minnie Mouse, you can do that too. We at the very least like to pretend it’s a Democracy and no one should take away your right to cast your vote however you want even if that means not voting at all. You have that freedom. As do we all. It your choice.

However, you do not have the freedom of absolution from the consequences of that choice. You do not get to say, “It’s Hillary’s fault I didn’t vote for her because she didn’t court my vote enough.” No. You did not vote for her because you did not want to. People fought and died to make sure you have the right to vote. The least you can do is own that responsibility.

It is easy to get discouraged. It is easy to feel like maybe the world needs a horror like Trump to wake up. Such feelings are understandable but ignore the human cost. It ignores the people who will suffer and die under Trump. Right now bullies are hassling kids and using Trump slogans to do it. If he were President it would be even worse.

I understand that to some Hillary is the enemy and always will be. But you have to choose your battles. You want to fight with all your might to get Bernie in? Go right ahead, but that’s a battle you will not win. I personally think it would be better to vote for the person most likely to work with Bernie when he goes back to the Senate and that is not Donald Trump. It’s Hillary Clinton who voted the same as Bernie 93% of the time.

But damn, isn’t that kind of bleak for a leftist revolutionary? We can’t get the progressive in office so we have to go for the establishment candidate who is just going to give us more of the same of what we have had the last eight years? We can’t take down the machine because it will destroy us? We have to live actually live with this? Yeah, it can be depressing and disheartening if you look at things in a certain way. But I don’t.

Instead I look at this simple truth: There is more good than bad. Don’t believe me? Let me leave you with this story.

I have a good friend named Kristopher Brannon. We went to high school together. He was the one driving the car that took me up to see Bill Clinton back in 1992. For the last ten years he has been tirelessly advocating for the return of the NBA Super Sonics to Seattle as the human mascot, Sonics Guy. He has been to thousands of sporting events, parades, grand openings, festivals, and council meetings. His work is so prolific and inspiring that a documentary was made about him called Superfan. It premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival three weeks ago. After spending the weekend in Seattle for the premiere, Kris came back to his home in Tacoma to find it ransacked. His collection of Sonics jerseys and memorabilia were stolen. So was his late father’s ring. It was devastating. You want to talk about discouragement? Imagine spending a decade making thousands of appearances, collecting hundreds of unique and rare items, and then it’s all gone.

And then something happened. A friend of his started a crowdfunding campaign. She set the goal at a modest $1,000. It would not replace what was lost but it could help get him back on his feet. The $1,000 goal was met in hours. In two weeks that the campaign has been up, over $7,000 has been raised by over 200 people. (You can still donate to his campaign by clicking here.) There’s a benefit concert happening later this month. Kris had his possessions stolen by one person. He was helped by hundreds of people. Yes, the machine is out there and fighting it is near impossible. But there is good right here right now. This will be true regardless of who gets elected in November. It’s important to remember the basic goodness of humanity.

I’m not writing this to convince anyone of anything. I just had some stuff I needed to get out. If it resonates with you, great. If it doesn’t, oh well.

– Jack Cameron

Bernie über alles

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It is no secret that I am a Democrat. I am fairly vocal about it on my Facebook page, on this site, and elsewhere. In 2008 and 2012 I donated to Obama’s campaign. In 2016 I have donated to the Bernie Sanders campaign. I have a Bernie bumper sticker on the back window of my car. If you ask me who I want to be the next President of the United States out of the current people running, I will tell you Bernie Sanders. And yet that is not enough.

Unlike many of my fellow Bernie Sanders supporters, I believe that Hillary Clinton is an incredibly accomplished woman with the best resume a Presidential candidate has had in my lifetime. I also believe that if Bernie fails to get the nomination, Hillary Clinton is a fine second choice who I will be happy to endorse, support, and help elect. This, for many, is falling short of being a True Bernie Supporter.

To add insult to injury I also feel that what the Republicans want more than anything since they failed to find a viable candidate is for Democrats to rip each other apart and so I refuse to bash Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton. I do not see any reason that I should do what the GOP wants me to do unless they pay me. It would seem many Bernie supporters I personally know would prefer to work for them for free.

In the last two days I have been personally approached online and off by multiple friends of mine who are Bernie supporters. Each of them has tried to convince me that Hillary is a terrible Presidential candidate and seem genuinely upset when I refuse to agree with them. Keep in mind these are personal friends who know that I am already a Bernie Sanders supporter. Given the chance to vote for Bernie in the election I will and they know that. And yet, that is somehow not enough.

When I tell people that I feel Hillary is a near equal candidate to Bernie, far too many Bernie supporters get angry. It’s important to note that I said ‘near equal’ not ‘the same’. Bernie and Hillary while both being Democrats are very different. Hillary is a terrible substitute for Bernie. However she is a fine candidate in her own right. I could explain why, but I do not feel the need to. Plenty of others have done a far better job of that than I can.

My point in writing this is to point out that if you treat your allies (who are already voting for your candidate) like the enemy, you are failing at supporting your candidate. In November I will be voting for Bernie Sanders or I will be voting for Hillary Clinton. And I am fine with either choice regardless of how many people might want me not to be.

– Jack Cameron

UPDATE: I was reminded that there is a contingent of Bernie fanatics who believe that Bernie should run as an independent if he fails to get the nomination. This of course is the only hope for the Republican Party to get the White House in November. Splitting the Democratic vote will only help someone like Trump get in the White House. It will not result in a Sanders Presidency. When I point this out these people typically say that Trump as President will just make ‘the revolution come sooner’. These are living, breathing, and allegedly thinking Americans who genuinely want a violent revolution of the United States with apparently no regard for the loss of life that may result. The breadth of the short sighted stupidity on display in this scenario is amazing.

Luckily, Bernie Sanders himself is far smarter than many of his followers no matter how fanatical they may be. He’s said so himself that he’s not running as an independent.

When It Comes To Abortion, There Should Be No Controversy

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The last abortion clinic in Mississippi

 

Abortion is an issue that polarizes people. Anti-abortionists do their very best to restrict a woman’s access to legal and safe abortions all over the country. In Mississippi there is only one place in the state you can safely and legally have an abortion. The state has almost three million people. It also rates second in the nation in teen pregnancy.

Those who advocate for a woman’s right to choose will often argue that since it is the woman’s body and life that is most closely impacted by being pregnant, she should have the choice of what to do about it like any other health issue.

The problem is that those against abortion see the unborn fetus as a living being and think of abortion as murder and there is no argument to be made that will convince most of them that the fetus does not deserve every bit of protection we would give any other human life. This argument has been used again and again both in legislative buildings and in the defense of killing doctors who perform abortions. Given that this fundamental difference is so significant, I will not be arguing for or against it. What I am going to do instead is make an argument about abortion that I believe can be adopted by those who feel abortion is a woman’s right and those who feel it is no different than murder.

I know this sounds like a tall order, but I’m a liberal Democrat and my Dad is a Born-Again Christian who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and when I explained this to him, he and I agreed. I am genuinely hoping I am able to sway some more people with this because as I see it, there should be nothing controversial about abortion whatsoever.

Before 1973, abortion was not legal in much of the United States. This does not mean that abortions did not occur in the United States. They did. They occurred in unsterile environments with unqualified people who often left the pregnant woman permanently injured or dead. They occurred with women trying home remedies that often left them sick or dead. The only time they occurred with any semblance of safety for the pregnant woman was when the wealthy would hire a doctor to perform them. We know these things happened. We have hundreds of women and relatives of women who have bravely told these stories.

We also know the lengths that some pregnant women will go to in order to have abortions because there are states where anti-abortion laws are so strict that women have had to go to great lengths to get an abortion, including driving out of state, trying one of those home remedies, or getting butchered by an unscrupulous doctor. This is not something that only happened in the past. It happens today.

It is curious to me that the same conservatives who tell me that gun control will not work because criminals don’t follow laws are under the impression that laws restricting abortion will stop abortions. There’s a certain cognitive dissonance there. But if we know laws will not stop or lower abortions, maybe it is time to look at what we know works.

For starters we need to look at the cause of every single abortion ever performed: pregnancy. If we can limit the amount of pregnancies, we limit the amount of people who might want an abortion.

A popular idea among conservatives is to just tell anyone who does not want a baby to not have sex. This is a roundabout way of imposing antiquated religious beliefs on poor people. Sex is not simply for baby creation and it is not something you should only do if you have enough money. Sex between consensual partners is a human right. More to the point, we know that telling people to abstain simply does not work.

If we look at states where abstinence-only sexual education is mandated we find that there is a significant increase in teen pregnancy and STDs. This is because getting teenagers to avoid something by telling them not to do it, is like putting a steak in front of a dog and telling him not to eat it. It doesn’t work. It does not take an expert to understand why those with little cash and lots of hormones might engage in sex. It also does not take an expert to understand why a young woman who becomes pregnant who is poor might choose to have an abortion.

I would love to point to a state where there is solid nonjudgmental, non-religious sexual education, but there really isn’t one. So instead let’s take a look at Sweden where sexual education has been mandatory since 1956. Sweden’s pregnancy rate per 1,000 people is less than a third of ours.

It is clear to anyone paying attention that giving children accurate sexual education helps lower the pregnancy rate and as mentioned earlier, less pregnancies means less abortions.

Even when people are properly informed and educated about sex, they may still engage in unsafe sexual activity, especially if it is difficult to get birth control. This is why we do not just need good sexual education. We need access to free and low cost birth control. Studies have shown that when women have access to free birth control unwanted pregnancies go down. These two things lower the pregnancy rate dramatically and when there are less unwanted pregnancies, there are less abortions.

Now, let’s review:

  • Abortions happen whether or not they are legal.
  • Illegal abortions often put the life of the pregnant woman in danger.
  • Nonreligious, non-judgmental sexual education and access to free and low-cost birth control lowers the abortion rate more than anything else.

Given these facts the only logical thing to do is provide good sexual education, free birth control, and offer safe, legal abortion services for those women who choose to have abortions.

Any other alternative either increases the abortion rate or puts the pregnant woman’s life in danger. In either case, you can’t call yourself ‘pro-life’ while putting a woman’s life in danger or deliberately blocking something you know will lower the abortion rate.

Nothing I have said here is opinion. Each of the things said here can be verified. I’ve included links and there is more information out there if you are so inclined to find it. I welcome discussion, but if you are going to say that anything in this article is not true, please cite your sources.

Ultimately, those in favor of cutting funding to Planned Parenthood or creating new laws that restrict a woman’s right to choose are at best misguided and at worst simply anti-woman. Hopefully this article helps make sense of an emotional issue.

– Jack Cameron

Other Sources:
http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/publications-a-z/597-abstinence-only-until-marriage-programs-ineffective-unethical-and-poor-public-health

My Very First Published Story

It was 1984. I was in third grade. We were given an assignment to write and illustrate a story. Each story would be published as a little book. There would be exactly one copy of each book. Those books would reside in the school library.

I wrote a story called, “The Genie”. It was the first time I’d ever written a story. My teacher looked at it and said, “This is good. You should write more.” I thought she was saying it wasn’t long enough. I offered to make it longer. She said, “No, no. You should write more often.”

“Is it extra credit?” I asked.
“No. That’s not what I mean. You’re a good writer. You should write stories for fun outside of school.”

This was the first time I’d ever even considered such a thing. It was that teacher who made me pursue writing. And it The Genie was the story that started it off.

On the last day of my sixth grade class at my elementary school, I went to the school library and stole my book. I’ve had it ever since.

And now, after spending an evening scanning the pages, for the first time in thirty years, you can read my very first story that I wrote when I was nine years old. Since then my writing has gotten better. My artistic skills have not.

Jack Cameron

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Going Viral

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Exactly one week ago I read an article on the News Tribune website. The article said the following:

A possible suicide attempt at the South 48th bridge over Interstate 5 snarled traffic in both directions Friday afternoon.

The individual jumped or fell from the overpass, and was taken to a local hospital, Tacoma police spokeswoman Loretta Cool said.

The individual’s condition was unknown.

Police were investigating the incident, Cool said.

After some digging I found the identity of the person who jumped and a link to a public shaming video. You can read all about this over at my other site TacomaStories.com. Or you can read about it at Daily Kos or the New York Daily News. In the seven days since I posted the article, my post has been viewed over 250,000 times. (To put that in perspective a busy day on TacomaStories.com previously was 500 people in a day.) Dozens of other news sites have quoted from it. There are over 300 comments before I chose to shut the comments section down. For a while it was trending on Facebook. In short, my post about a young girl killing herself has gone viral.

This has been a fairly educational experience for me. After the first day, I was contacted by three television reporters and one newspaper reporter. They all asked me for information I’d dug up on my own that they just as easily could have dug up. One of them asked me for the victim’s family’s home address, a piece of information I don’t have and wouldn’t share with anyone if I did. All of them asked for a copy of the public shaming video I’d mentioned, but by that time the link I had to it had been taken down. I asked around and eventually found someone who posted it on youtube.

The thing that immediately happens when your post goes viral is that you lose all control of anything except the post itself. I chose not to share the public shaming video on my page. I chose not to include the name of the victim or the names of her family members. I didn’t mention the school she attended. I didn’t mention who originally posted the video online (because I didn’t and still don’t know that). Other websites had no such decorum or respect. In some cases the articles mentioned rumors as facts. In the Jezebel article they incorrectly mention my name as ‘John Cameron’ and say I said things in my original article that I never said.

The Daily Kos article unfortunately cites the Jezebel article. (To its credit, the Jezebel article does link back to my TacomaStories.com article.)  The New York Daily News doesn’t cite any other online source at all.

All this attention has resulted in more than a few emails. Some of them are angry and/or threatening. Most of them are thanking me for talking about the issue. I’ve received some emails from the family of the victim. They asked me to shut down the comments section and I agreed. There were also emails from counselors and people who’ve lost someone to suicide and started or joined anti-suicide foundations. I’ve talked to dozens of people I wouldn’t have even known about otherwise.

I’ve also done quite a bit of research on the topics of suicide and public shaming since I posted the article. I’ve learned a lot. And while there’s a part of me that is impressed with all the attention and the conversations about how public shaming is abuse, I would rather it not all have to center around the death of a 13-year-old-girl and the unimaginable pain and hardship her death has caused her friends and family.

I run a website that talks about crime and death among other things so I suppose it’s inevitable that if something went viral, it would involve someone’s death. I have very mixed feelings about that.

Some people have asked me if I’ve received any job offers after all of this attention. I haven’t. And while I wouldn’t mind a new writing gig, I think my feelings on such a thing would be more mixed than ever.

– Jack Cameron