There is nothing more dangerous than an American with an ax to grind.

I grew up in a lower middle-class neighborhood where people mostly never moved.  We referred to houses on our street by the last name of the people who lived there, the Smith House, the Norris house, the Graham house. It was the only house I ever had a as a kid. We got along with most everyone, but we had a long-standing feud with our immediate neighbors. I have no idea why, but it lasted as long as I can remember and only ended with the death of my Father in the late 1990’s. That family came to my Father’s wake which I saw as totally weird because he was a local politician and they were the first people to put up my Dads opponent’s campaign sign in their yard. They also ensured that they had “no trespassing” signs posted facing our yard and frequently called the police on my older brother for the many, many antics and pranks that he would pull in the neighborhood. He once started a rumor in the neighborhood that the neighbor’s pregnant daughter had become pregnant by their dog. My Catholic parents were particularly displeased with that one, but I was young enough to believe it possible. I remember when the boy was born being very disappointed that he did not have the face of their schnauzer.

Most people I know have crazy neighbor stories of people who don’t maintain their lawn, steal newspapers or who park improperly (too close to the driveway, in front of someone else’s house, too close to the car in front of them, too far from the car in front of them, just an amazing smorgasbord of wrong ways to park) . People get territorial at work, too.  It’s never failed to amuse me how generally reasonable people just become undone over infractions like moving one’s s desk trashcan or not getting a fax off of the machine or accidentally printing to the wrong printer (my work vice—can’t we name these computers something recognizable?!).  Usually neighbor to neighbor, cubicle to cubicle, we work it out in the uncomfortable way people always deal with intrapersonal unpleasantness, through unreasonable amounts of complaining to others and lots of planned ignoring. That’s just the risk we take when we decide to live and work anywhere and at least ½ of the reason I chose to live in a house on a corner.

The general rule here in America is simple, pay your taxes and mow your lawn and people with generally leave you alone. Mess up either of these two rules and all bets are off, you are officially a Bad American. Naturally there are no less than 7,423 things other than lawn care and taxes that can get you in trouble but the court of Public Opinion, which we all know is the highest Court in the land, will have wildly varying opinions on what to think of you. My sincere advice even as a 2nd class rabble-rouser is to deal with your shit as low key as possible.  You are always one cable news story away from being a horrific, evil monster should you piss off any faction of America.

 Cable news is truly the depths of misery. It’s the perpetual water cooler talk about “that bitch Rhonda who always drinks the last cup of coffee without making more! What kind of Mother did she have? She’s depending on all of US who actually THINK of other people. God, she’s the WORST!”

Sure it’s trifling but that’s what we love, the Keith Olbermann’s worst person in the world , the bad people. A 24-hour broad-brush cycle of gut-wrenching material designed to keep you on the edge just enough to sit through 4 minutes of drug commercials.  We want to root for someone as if the news cycle is a perpetual NFL game, lots of litigation and violence. Justifying our hatred is as American as hot dogs. If you think that you are way to reasonable and informed to be swayed by hype or just too damn woke to be Dunning-Krugered by a few episodes of Frontline, watch a few episodes of Waco on Netflix (originally on the Paramount Network) and ask yourself if you remember the news story anything like the miniseries.

I was well into my 20’s when Waco really happened. Here’s my memory: A weird sex cult led by a guy in a mullet annoyed the ATF enough that they finally just killed them. That’s the whole story.

It’s not like people weren’t upset by Waco, but it just seemed to me that the people who were upset about Waco were…well…a little nutty.  Now all these years later my feelings have changed a bit.

There is a lot to unpack with Waco from how the AFT and the FBI didn’t communicate, how the David Koresh came to even take over the Branch Davidians (just read the “Rise of David Koresh” section) and just how fucking talented are those Culkin brothers?! Seriously.  There’s a lot of material in here for a few more limited series.

At the end of the Netflix (originally on the Paramount Network) series it seems like the blame falls on the FBI for using incendiary tear gas which is something that they had done time and time again with the same result. In the moment it made me mad then I thought about it…we always do the same stupid shit over and over and over. When I was a psychology student, I took a class called Judgment and Decision Making which I (stupidly) thought would be an easy class. Turned out it was about ½ math and the rest was math hidden to look like case studies. I sat through the first few weeks thinking “Doesn’t this professor know that we only major in psych because we hate math?” and the second half thinking “I’m never going to Las Vegas again!” it was that bad.

Our world is too advanced for our brains, when you start from that point, you can only go up. We are limited by our schema, the things that get us through the day, and do a pretty good job of helping us cope with things daily. But relying on our schemas is no way to go through life. Fat, drunk and stupid is probably better. We are all limited by our experiences, our exposure to information and the willingness to believe that we need to occasionally change.

The scene that really sums up the whole experience of Waco is when FBI Agent Decker is attempting to get Rachel Koresh out of the compound. He gave the orders to fire in the tear gas and then desperately tries to save Rachel and can’t. To me that shows how people do things in groups that they don’t do in person. Or that people will do things in tanks (flying an American flag for some odd reason) that they don’t face to face. Everyday I see people (well at least I used to see people before COVID) in their military uniforms fighting drone wars and it blows my mind. Our wars are fought in cubicles behind computer screens and then they pick up milk on the way home. It’s weird.

I still think David Koresh is creepy. He was a sexual predator with an ego problem. But I’m angry and sad about the way he, and his followers died. He should have been on trial, that was my preferred ending to WACO. As flawed and slow as our justice system is, it’s better than burning alive.

People are pretty pissed off these days. Pissed at the Government for not doing enough, pissed that they are doing too much.  People are helpless to a virus that just wants to live and grown. Somedays I root for the virus more than the humans. We can’t put this virus on trial, we can’t lock her up, or build a wall or wear gloves and masks for the rest of out lives either. I remember when the War on Terror started and someone said to me “may as well have a war on blue”. We had a war anyway, we’re still having it almost 20 years later.

Americans are our own worst enemy, regardless of what these nauseating COVID inspired commercials tell you. The people who are really angry about wearing masks are flying huge American flags on their pick up trucks just like those tanks in Waco. Why are they doing that? Do they think we are questing their heritage? Are they worried that they won’t find their truck in a parking lot? There was no chapter in my Judgement and Decision Making class about the big truck flag people. Or maybe, one again, I just wasn’t paying attention in class.

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