Hot Air: Libraries, Workplaces & Guns

I’m posting this AM from the Indianapolis Public Library, actually the central branch on E. St. Clair St., just north of downtown Indy. Passing through downtown, I noticed scads of cop cars — Indy police, state police, and county sheriffs — blocking intersections with their lights flashing. I assume it’s because Vice President Mike Pence is back in town. Acc’d’g to scuttlebutt, his daughter’s getting hitched this weekend in Brown County State Park. The event is teeing a lot of locals off because they think the whole park’ll be closed to the public during the affair. People are saying, rightly, that he ought to throw his daughter’s wedding in some private venue as opposed to a beautiful state park on a glorious fall weekend. Of course, what’s the point of being Understudy to the Emperor if you can’t inconvenience whole swathes of the population?

[Update: The Herald Times reported moments ago that public access to Brown County State Park will not be affected by the wedding. Although if you own an airplane or a helicopter, you’ll be shooed out of the airspace above the park for security reasons.]

[BTW: Pence, who was a talk radio host before he was elected to the US House of Representatives in 2000, used to describe himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” Me, I’d prefer both Limbaugh and Pence to overdose on MiraLAX.]

Anyway, this library complex is awfully grand and stately. The 100-year-old neoclassical limestone original facility is attached to a taller steel and glass annex built in 2007. The new addition is one of those hyper-modern-appearing structures that probably looked 22nd Century-ish the first month it was built, all shiny and glittery and stainless steel-y, but now the exterior looks more sad and cheap. Think of that new car you bought ten or fifteen years ago, how hi-tech and Jetsons-esque it looked then, and compare it to how the old beater looks today. Same thing.

The annex, though, houses a bright and airy atrium that’s got to be a boon for librarians and patrons during the dark days of winter.

I chose to camp out in the Clemens Vonnegut Music Library, actually a long, narrow reading room that’s well-tended and spotless, and serves now to hold the IPL’s biography section. And — I’ll be damned — I’m alone in here! Cool by me but, really, sad. For pity’s sake, where are Indy’s readers?

[Another Update: By the time I was finished clacking out this post, a man joined me in this great room. He has sprawled out in one of the comfy chairs near the fireplace. He immediately commenced snoring, loudly. The room has a nice echo effect.]

Hood, She Says, Knows What’s Good

Give a listen to yesterday’s Big Talk with Brandon Hood, candidate for the US House of Representative from Indiana’s 9th District. His campaign manager, Helen Plageman, who was in the studio with us, blurted out what could turn out to be the snappiest slogan of the election at the end of our recording session.

Go here and here for links to the podcast.

It’s Not The Same

I can’t stop myself on this Harvey Weinstein thing. He’s actually a stand-in for every no good son of a bitch who pressures, coerces, or threatens women into having sex or makes empty promises for the same, all within the confines of the workplace.

The other day, I wrote I can’t say “Me Too,” as other males have done of late, because women own the sentiment and the buzz phrase.

Now, here’s another reason why it’s inappropriate for most men to use it. Sure, individual males might have been pressured into sex by ogreish bosses. It’s a shame and, I’m sure, a personal tragedy. But it’s different — way different — from what women experience every single, solitary day.

A male’s experience is an outlier, a one-off. Women quickly learn that sexual predators in the workplace — in all of life, for that matter — are pretty much around every corner.

Sam Zurcher’s Take On Guns

One of my favorite people in these parts is the intellectual farmer, Sam Zurcher. He’s busy these days tooling around his family’s spread, mowing or chopping or reaping or what in the hell ever farmers do with those big, lumbering tractors they have. Sam’s the kind of guy who listens to audio books while he’s in the cabin of his tractor. He prefers great classics or treatises on philosophy, stuff like that.
As such, he’s quite well spoken about a number of things, including guns. Now, I grew up and lived the first 50 years of my life in the big city so the only experience I have with guns are those times I’ve dived down on the floor upon hearing the crack-crack-crack of nearby gunfire in whatever tough neighborhood I happened to be living in at the time. Sam, though, has a different take on guns, considering he grew up east of nowhere.

He’s put a four-part series on guns up on social media this week. He has kindly agreed to allow The Pencil to run the articles, so let’s get right to today’s entry, Part I.

Guns in America, or the very beginning of the story of how I became unpopular, a social outcast, and, today, the political contrarian you all know and… not love — I won’t say you just put up with me; tolerate doesn’t sound right either. Let’s say you get some occasional humor from me. I honestly never know what people think of me. I can’t judge it. But this is the origin story of my bad social habits so you’ll understand a few things shortly.

When it comes to guns I grew up with everything. There’s no exaggeration or hubris there because I often wish I didn’t know all I know. Anyways, growing up in the small town everyone knew about it. Now it was mostly kids being kids and kids are terrible. Some kids are terrible into their 60’s. I wasn’t an innocent, I did plenty wrong, and certainly brought some of it upon myself. But any involvement or interest I had ever had with firearms led to a lot of unpleasant memories. In school I was called a fascist for it (Trump supporters ain’t got shit on me. Also Trump is a fascist). After Columbine (April 20, 1999 — a Tuesday. I don’t have to look it up) the verbal abuse got considerably worse. The accusations that I might commit such an action hurt. A lot. In a long competitive list of the worst things ever said to me, that one makes it to the top. It’s rivaled only by “you’re so ugly you’d have to rape someone to get laid.” So I came out of high school without the usual happy memories. If there were any, they’ve been pushed out by the verbal abuse (it was occasionally physical, rare, but it still happened). Nevertheless, there were no hangouts at others homes, no dances, no phone calls, and no first dates. Actually there were no first anythings. By the end, all friendly gestures or efforts to reach out to me I pushed away, because I can only assume there was an agenda or I was being set up for some joke at my expense. And I still run to that thought. But it’s still just high school, in a small town, you know the thing to do is dig in your heels, don’t change to be popular, it’ll be over soon. Now comes the next big punch to my face. And it came from the NRA.

In the summer of 1999, I went to the NRA’s weeklong summer high schoolers program in Washington, DC. No, I didn’t meet Charlton Heston. We did the monuments, went to Congress, and the NRA museum — pretty much the things you’d expect. On the first night, a few hours after getting off the plane, me and 39 other students were with the counselors in the big ballroom at the hotel. One of the counselors said something I found objectionable. I won’t repeat it here but it had to do with interracial dating. I didn’t say anything then & there (like I should have!) but later on with the other students, including my roommate, I said what I thought, and it was not complimentary, to said counselor. Word spread quickly and I was shunned for the rest of the week. Clearly I wasn’t getting the scholarship. Then I made myself even more unpopular after we met Oliver North (see video, below). These students were all just a moment away from bowing down to him, said what a hero he was, so forth. On the bus after I said I didn’t think North deserved such levels of adulation. Because the Constitution damn it! I was 17 and didn’t know much but I was sure he did wrong. I still think so. After the week was done, and my long lonely time at the farewell dinner I was required to speak at a couple of NRA events about my time there (apparently I was the first attendee from Indiana) and they footed the bill. So I did, and cleverly made comments about what a learning experience it was, not just about government but about myself. I’ve been in the political wilderness ever since.

Most everyone I ever met at any rifle match were good people. Today we disagree about politics. They know what I think of our fucking moron president. I get some amount of grief because I unapologetically voted for Hillary. I can tell you these people are not the crazy survivalists. They have some crazy ideas, and I argue, much as I do with people on the Left about vaccines, GMOs, and batshit conspiracy theories (actually liberals and conservatives have more insane conspiracy theories in common than I think either side realizes). Then I have to assure them liberals are not the evil bogey men they think, immigrants should be welcomed, Muslims aren’t the enemy, Obama wasn’t the worst president ever though there are things to criticize, and absolutely we should admit refugees. Then once they’re all mad at me I argue for marriage equality and to keep their religion out of our government. And women can get abortions. And yeah, free contraception for all! I have no problem paying more taxes for people who don’t want children to not have them. Among my liberal friends, where I mostly align, well, I never get out from under the gun issue either. It makes me immediately suspect. And when they say gun all gun owners are prone to violence and all that, well my mind runs back to the worst high school insults. Yet, I’ll criticize survivalists, the NRA, and, for the record, any asshole who says if he had been at Las Vegas with his gun he could have stopped it. That’s a disgusting thing to say.

So there you are: my credentials to talk about gun control and a taste of how much my own life has been twisted up with it. No one is going to make any argument, on either side, that I have not heard before. Though if you think you have one go for it. I always welcome arguments and opinions. If anyone has a question for me, about any of this, ask and I’ll answer. That includes my own personal connections to this issue. I know some people from my high school days will read this, and those of you who know me as the liberal climate change is real science is awesome literature guy who doesn’t shut up about the first amendment (a far superior amendment than the second) will be surprised by this little revelation from my biography. Alright: Let’s do the most divisive political issue in America.

Part II, Tomorrow

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