Your dystopian nightmare has arrived, much as you feared it would.
Looking at the imagery of the shooting by an apparent radicalized right-wing terrorist at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas, it’s difficult not to stop and recoil at the picture of two glass doors and a third revolving door in between them shot in; a cop on the left peering inside, gun drawn, while a female cop on the left, using the concrete of the building as cover, aims her gun down the street and a third policeman looks to be heading inside.
It’s a scene straight out of any number of scenes you’ve seen in bloody action movies, where the bad guy thinks he’s the hero. The only thing missing is Bob “Snake” Plissken or Neil McCauley’s crew in body armor.
The thing is, it’s all too real, even though I know it’s gotten increasingly difficult to tell the difference since a certain raccoon-eyed, apricot-coiffed huckster and zealot descended a golden escalator almost four years ago today and eventually ascended to the presidency with a little help from his friends. Or comrades.
The shooter in this latest installment of American Carnage—whose name I won’t help spread—was white, 22 years old, wearing a mask and combat gear (of the kind I saw go on for miles at the arms bazaar known at the NRA’s convention in 2015) and fired an assault rifle at a federal building that houses federal courts, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas, and U.S. Marshals. With a dollop of common sense and a peek at his social media, I could take a pretty good guess at what motivated this murder-bent madman.
But I don’t have to, because, per usual with those who act out what Donald Trump, some prominent Republican members of Congress, Fox News hosts, and right-wing talk radio-goons encourage every single day with their virulent lies, eliminationist rhetoric, and crackpot conspiracies, he left a rather ample trail of digital breadcrumbs.
A personal Facebook page is filled with a “collection of ammunition and swords” and a claim he was about to “defend the modern Republic.” Additionally, per NBC News, he published “vague warnings of an upcoming attack, conspiracy theories about the U.S. government, memes from far-right internet subcultures like 4chan, and misogynist memes.” And how could any page like this be complete without a swastika, and posts about secret pedophile rings and CIA experiments?
We’ve reached this dystopia, of course, by choosing our own adventure. On the one hand, we had the experiences of Canada, Spain, Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, Denmark, Israel, South Korea, Switzerland, every other advanced democracy, every credible researcher, and people possessing three-digit IQs not bought off like Mitch McConnell killing sanctions for Russian oligarchs willing to mine in Kentucky.
On the other, failed “hot mom” wannabe actress Dana Loesch, who craves fame like most humans would water in a desert, and a completely discredited fraud of a researcher, John Lott, who sometimes goes by what I can only guess is his porn name, Mary Rosh. And what to say about the organization they represent, the NRA, where a guy who committed constitutional crimes to sell arms to Irani mullahs so he could use the proceeds to arm right-wing Central American hit squads killing any nuns and children who got in their way was apparently the most aboveboard guy among the suits?
Yes, the NRA, which worked with an indicted Russian spy to allegedly funnel millions in dirty money to the Trump campaign, handles its finances like it owns the Taj Mahal (nearly $11 million in debt and counting!), is now under investigation for violating its tax-free status in New York, has double deals that themselves seem to be double dealing, and features a who’s who of racists, domestic terrorist-enablers, statutory rapists, and other lovelies on its board.
I know, tough sledding figuring out who to trust on how to best regulate guns. Do we pass real, meaningful, regulation of a legal-yet-dangerous product as the first group would argue, and like with every example in our history from alcohol to tobacco to driving and meatpacking, see deaths and injuries plummet with science-based, smart policy? Or take the word of the second group of grifters and cutthroats in it for the cruelty and the cash?
Sadly, you know the answer here. We went with Door No. 2, as the Republican Party’s used every anti-democratic measure in its arsenal, some baked into our system, others made up on the fly, to stymie legislation the overwhelming number of Americans want because it would clearly make us safer. Those Americans include a large majority of Republicans, by the way.
A study I recently conducted with my new political intelligence and strategy firm, GSB, found that over 88 percent of Americans supported universal background checks, including 83 percent of Republicans, 88 percent of rural dwellers, 89 percent of suburbanites, and 84 percent of men. This should be a no-brainer, but GOP electeds answer to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh these days, not their voters.
Hence, our dystopian present.
If you want to know just how ridiculous this has all become, this shooting took place around the corner from where five Dallas police officers were gunned down in a 2016 ambush. But that wasn’t enough for the Fox News interns known as the Republican Congressional Caucus do a damn thing.
For the shock-jocks on air who blather on about “freedom” and the “Constitution,” there is apparently a breezy ability to forget how the First Amendment rights to assemble peaceably and speak freely are lost when you’re staring down the barrel of an AR-15 purchased by an angry red hat at a private sale, sans background check.
In this era of endless Hollywood sequels and reboots, we’re watching the same inevitable and pointless horror play out again and again while headed toward what may become the most divisive election in the past 160 years, if Trump’s history, mouth, and thumbs are any guide. His kind of talk, amplified by Fox and all its smaller-but-just-as-ruthless friends, plus a lot of powerful guns in private hands with little to no regulation, is a recipe for tragedy that should worry us all.
If you don’t believe me, take another look at the Earle Cabell Federal Building in Dallas.