It’s a Conspiracy!

I been seeing some disturbing things lately under the general heading of conspiracy theories. So, I thought looking at classics might provide me some insight.

JFK – The assassination of President John F Kennedy was planned by the CIA and carried out by a large group of assets. Lee Harvey Oswald was set up to be the fall-guy, then murdered by a Mafia/CIA hitman before he could talk.

UFOs – The existence of UFOs has been known to government agencies for decades but the information has been hidden from the public for fear of widespread panic. Remnants of aliens and their craft are hidden in Area 51, in the desert southwest.

Paul is dead – Paul McCartney of The Beatles died in 1966 and the death was covered up by record companies to avoid a huge crash in sales. Faux Pauls were hired to carry on the charade. The Beatles themselves put coded messages into their records about Paul’s death, so fans would know the truth.

Apollo 11 – The 1969 moon landing was faked in a Los Angeles television studio.

Chemtrails – Chemical and/or biological agents are, without general public knowledge, being spread across the country by high-flying planes to achieve various evil purposes, such as weather modification, psychological manipulation, or population control.

Vaccines – Vaccines are not beneficial, or even benign. They are purposefully spreading disease and/or chronic illness. For example, vaccines were used by the CIA in sub-Saharan Africa to spread AIDS, and are spreading conditions, like autism, in the US.

New World Order and the Illuminati – A secret globalist power elite is conspiring to (or already does) rule the entire world through an authoritarian world government. The United Nations and European Union were harbingers of this secret movement and the process continues through groups such as The World Economic Forum (Davos), the annual Bilderburg meeting, the Bohemian Club, the Trilateral Commission and others.

Mass shootings – The mass shooting events seen in world media are fakes. Actors are hired to portray victims and their families.

9/11 – The terrorist attack on New York’s World Trade Center was actually conducted by either the US government or Israeli intelligence agencies, in order to create a case for increasing US military and financial support for Israel and increased US militarism in the Middle East.

Global warming/climate change – Climate change events, such as floods and hurricanes are reported inaccurately to either cover for super-normal inflation of energy prices, or to facilitate fundraising for anti-oil scientists and organizations.

Besides the fact that they’re all complete nonsense, what do these conspiracy theories have in common?

First, there are other, more fact-based, simpler and, frankly, better explanations available. There have, in fact, been a great many mass shootings in America, most recently, for example, in El Paso, Gilroy and Dayton. And there have been real victims. Because I work in an urban medical and trauma center, I have seen victims of gun violence and their families firsthand. No crisis actors.

Second, they suppose a world in which chaos is brought to order and the unexplained is explained. But this world does not exist in reality. The evidence of global warming/climate change is plain to see and obvious to markets. There is neither a cover-up, nor the artificial manipulation of prices. There’s no need. Energy prices and the ample profits earned by energy multi-national corporations are the result of very complex market forces, most notably consumer demand, not a backroom cabal of “globalists.”

Third, paying better attention to actual world events can help illuminate underlying forces a lot better than ginned up secret conspiracies only the smart or initiated know. Is there an actual global power elite? Sure as hell, there is. Are they hiding in back rooms or forested compounds? Nope. They’re right out in the open and they have and exercise political and economic power because they have money. You probably even know their names. No mystery in that to solve.

Now, let’s think about other, more contemporary conspiracy theories: Gun control, the deep state/QAnon, and elite pedophile rings.

Guns – Private citizens owning guns is part of America’s deep mythos, not so much its actual history. Some conspiracy theorists think of measures to regulate guns, even quite minor ones, as part of a larger hidden effort to completely disarm civilians in preparation for the world government (or federal government, for the smaller-scale thinkers among conspiracy theorists) takeover of the country and its citizens. Legislative efforts such as universal background checks, assault weapons bans and the regulation of ammunition are met as if they were the next coming of the Cossacks.

Here’s what is true and apparent: The US has many many problems with guns not shared by other developed countries. We openly demonstrate ourselves to be an immature and bloodthirsty people. For one thing, we use guns too often to kill each other, or ourselves. Almost ubiquitous access to guns (In some American cities and towns, you need only go to the local hardware or big-box store.) has made them the go-to tool for getting even and settling scores. I’ve written several pieces about them here, here, here and elsewhere. Historian Garry Wills wrote about guns as the American Moloch here.

Having a firearm in your home makes it very much more likely you’ll kill yourself – either by accident or purposefully – or your kids than that you’ll use it to protect yourself or your family from an intruder, much less government agents. Gun control measures are, in my opinion, reasonable solutions to the unsustainable levels of violence we create and experience in this country, not a path to world government hegemony.

Deep State/QAnon – QAnon is a unique animal. It details an alleged secret plot by the “Deep State” against Donald Trump and his supporters. Evidence cited by QAnon and its legions of “in-the-know” supporters include the tragicomic Pizzagate, a tale of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and a senior Democratic political advisor either running or facilitating a child sex-trafficking ring in the non-existent basement of a DC-area pizza parlor.

Is there a “Deep State?” There may be but there needn’t be. There are, in fact, plenty of people trying to undermine Donald Trump and they have very rational reasons for doing so, hardly any of them oblique or hidden. Trump has amply and publicly proven himself virtually illiterate, an oaf, a racist, a bigot, personally and politically corrupt, ignorant of the workings of his own government, uninformed about the basics of world affairs or even the real lives of his own countrymen, blissfully unaware of his actual job responsibilities, and using his position to enrich himself and his clearly ungifted children. I wrote about him presciently here.

Elite Pedophiles – And, finally, some thought about conspiracy theories supposing the existence of elite rings of pedophiles and their enablers.

American children are kidnapped, trafficked and used for the sexual gratification of sick or evil adults. Are they flown to private islands on private jets for those horrible purposes by global business and political elites? Possibly. But it is much more likely they’ll be abused and exploited by people they know best and trust the most: most likely of all, their own family members, or their teachers, coaches, or parish priests. For every Jeffrey Epstein, there are literally thousands of people who present greater and more proximate threats to children, much closer to home.

Almost every real story of the abuse of children involves numerous bystanders and enablers, many of whom know the child or children involved. And whether because of denial, discomfort, or fear, these individuals do not intervene. Our real history is full of examples. I wrote about this topic here. Why aren’t our biggest and baddest conspiracy theorists taking the big and bold action they call for so loudly in their own cities, much less their own churches, schools and homes?

And if we’re really interested in addressing the wholesale (and wholly preventable) abuse of children within our borders, let’s deal with the fact that 16 million US children are malnourished and 2.5 million are homeless.

And finally, let’s remember the cruel and vile treatment our own government is regularly dishing out to children on our border with Mexico – ripping them away from their parents, caging them, giving them insufficient healthcare, food and water, and physically and emotionally torturing them.

Here’s some tough-to-swallow truth: JFK was killed by Oswald. Vaccines save lives. Guns kill. 

Throughout our history, I believe people have created and believed conspiracy theories, even in light of clear evidence to the contrary, for obvious reasons: reality is too bitter, active engagement is too difficult, looking in the mirror just too harsh.

Yes, Again

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People have told me I’ve said enough about guns and the pain they cause in our country, that I have made my point and I should move on to more pleasant and useful matters. The truth is, I have written about gun violence so many times over the last several years because it’s an issue I feel passionately about, it is one that has touched me personally, and one that continues to touch me professionally. You can read some of my prior pieces here, here, here,  here and here. 

Turns out, there is no ‘enough’ with guns. There is no measured rationality. It is an emotional thing for Americans. Here, the gun is more than a gun. It is more even than a phallic symbol, as Dr. Freud might have observed. The gun is our nationally-worshiped idol, as historian Garry Wills suggested here.

The adolescent revolutionary wet-dream fantasies of the  ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ crowd, the Oath Keepers, white supremacist militias and other wannabe Rambos keep feeding our national obsession and growing our civilian national arsenal.

Responding last week to increasingly urgent calls for the meaningful reform of gun regulation by the healthcare community, itself in response to yet another mass shooting, the National Rifle Association (NRA), just the latest in a long line of organizations which make their livelihoods from the misery of others, a diabolically effective lobbying organization for arms manufacturers, told emergency and trauma doctors: “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” [emphasis added]

“Do you have any idea how many bullets I pull out of corpses weekly? This isn’t just my lane. It’s my f— highway.”
– Dr. Judy Melinek, San Francisco forensic pathologist

Doctors, many of whom have very deep experience with the business end of the whole gun-worship thing, were having none of it. Thousands took to social media (with the hashtag #ThisIsMyLane) to post their experiences and photos of their masks, gowns, shoes and floors, blood-splashed from victims of gun violence.

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Here’s what I’ve personally seen in the past year:

  • The victims of mass shootings at a UPS delivery facility, YouTube headquarters, a high school and a local barber shop;
  • Countless shooting victims of lower-profile incidents;
  • Their blood, everywhere;
  • Their frightened, angry and grieving families;
  • Our doctors telling brand new widows that our staff did all we could but that their spouses died anyway;
  • Those widows, along with their children and extended family members screaming with anguish;
  • Our nurses desperately looking to colleagues for emotional support after too many hours of too much death;
  • A 13 year-old kid, who was sitting next to his dad when he was shot, shaking with fear and anxiety, refusing to leave his dad’s side even when he needed to go into the CT scanner;
  • A high school student sitting by himself in our emergency department, having just heard that his classmate and friend had been shot dead, saying over and over through sobs, “What am I going to tell my sister? What am I going to tell my sister?”
  • Our social workers trying to help families, insane with grief, through the first hours after a loved one has died.

And as we Americans purchase ever more guns, call for ever more people to be armed, supposedly for self-protection, arrange ever more gun-friendly playdates with neighboring militias, as mercenary spokespeople like Ann Coulter and Dana Loesch continue to purposefully inflame their audiences, the bloodthirsty maw that is this country looks for its next victims.

Stop writing about guns? Fat chance.

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A Reasonable Thought

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Imagine this:

You wake up on a typical Hump Day morning. Get yourself into a quick shower, grab a cup of coffee, maybe some toast. Put on your uniform. Say “See ya,” or something similar to your spouse and kids. You drive into work.

It isn’t a dream job but there is some measure of security and it comes with benefits. And you try to make it decent every day by being friendly with your customers, especially the ones you see most weekdays. There are some nice people on your route and you’ve gotten to know a few really well over the years.

Makes the day go by to share a few words with them as you make your deliveries.

When you get in on this Wednesday, there’s a meeting before you start out. You grab another cup of coffee from the break room. Should have stopped at Peet’s or Starbucks because break room coffee is crap but it would have made you late.

Shoot the breeze with a few co-corkers before the meeting starts. Jim went to the extra-innings Giants game last night and looks a little tired. Manuel’s daughter is having her quinceañera over the weekend. 

That’s a pretty typical start-of-shift scene at a lot of workplaces, right?

Now imagine:

One of your co-workers stands up in that completely routine meeting, pulls a gun out of his coat and starts shooting the people around you, dead.

That very thing happened here last week, at the local UPS facility, just a few short blocks away. And, as typically happens in the wake of incidents of mass violence in San Francisco, the gruesome results were visited upon our hospital.

I stood in a makeshift conference room as an emergency room doctor told the wife of one victim that her husband, who’d a few hours earlier left his home for what they both thought would be just another routine day at work delivering packages, had died.

Those who know me at all know my feelings about gun control. After this latest incident in too  a long string of them I am even more firmly dedicated to my beliefs; as a public safety necessity, we should regulate the civilian ownership of firearms at least as actively as we regulate the operation of motor vehicles.

Just imagine yourself going to work on a Wednesday and never coming home.

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Oh, Canada

The Glacier at Lake Louise
The Glacier at Lake Louise

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to revisit the beautiful Canadian Rockies. They were just as I remember them from a visit I took about 25 years ago, with my then-fiancee. (Good story for another time, she and I are now spouses.)

The scenery was, of course, breathtaking. One morning, we rose at 5:00 and boarded canoes to witness the sun rising on the glacier at Lake Louise. It was magical, a spiritual moment of the type you (or, rather, I) can only find in nature.

The Banff National Park has many such places and moments in store for visitors, of whom there are many, from many different lands. Considering the number of visitors we saw, the openness and cleanliness of the park is nothing short of a miracle. Or it would be back home in the United States. In Canada, people take community responsibility seriously. There is scarcely any litter to speak of. People pick it up.  There is little, if any, graffiti on public structures. Canadians who live within the borders of the park take just pride in their place and the condition in which visitors find it.

Can you, my fellow Americans, even imagine?

Of course, this civic pride isn’t just in the national parks. Canadian cities are bright and open, clean and vibrant. There is a public spirit I don’t often find at home.

And there’s more. Canadians are polite and helpful. They act like grownups. They wait in line and take their turns. They ask if they can help. They don’t run red lights and wait for pedestrians. They build community centers and athletic facilities. Canada offers a public health system that guarantees healthcare for all, just by virtue of being there. And, then, there’s the issue of guns.

At dinner one night, our waitperson asked where we were from. When I said San Francisco, he said, “You must feel naked without your gun, eh?” When I asked him what he meant (Because, God knows, I don’t often pack heat.), he said that he assumed all Americans carry guns around. I tried to correct the impression but I suspect he’d seen too much TV and was having none of it.

Imagine living in a clean, polite, safe country like that.

There is much, I believe, about Canada to admire. And every single time I’ve visited, I’m reminded of that.

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