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The Future Is Bright
And hot, and really crowded, too, thanks to us and our technology. But climate change doesn’t have to be a bummer, even if we do have to give up some of the things we love:

Like meat. Animals are just too inefficient as food sources, requiring way too much water and space per ounce of nourishment provided. Plus all that fat is bad for us, and cow farts contribute mightily to global warming.

No more war, either. It’s always been painfully obvious that, if we really want to save humanity, we should probably stop blowing each other up. Now it’s become a necessity; even if the bombs don’t get us, the massive release of greenhouse gases would eventually finish us off.

No more privacy, of course, but you already know that; I can tell by the look on your face.

All of this is inconvenient, but look at the unexpected benefits. Earth, it appears, will be inhabited by healthy, peaceful vegetarians who have to be open and honest with each other.

And they’ll need to be. All six billion of them will be living together in Antarctica.
Hate
I did a Deep Cover cartoon a couple of weeks ago (7/19/12) that dealt with hate. It’s a topic that has interested me for a long time, both others’ and my own. Later, I saw comments on the web suggesting that I had “played the race card” by bringing up race as a possible reason for the crazed antipathy some people have toward Barack Obama.

My point, however, was not that racism was the reason for peoples’ hatred. I was simply saying that it’s the one motivation they will rarely cop to. They’ll admit to believing he’s the antichrist, or an alien, or a commie, or any other of the nutcase theories about him, but never to flat-out racial bigotry. I don’t think racism is necessarily at the bottom of their hatred, though it might be. The reason people hate Obama is because they like hating him. They get off on it. The rationale behind the hatred is irrelevant.

As an emotion, hatred provides a pretty attractive up side. It unplugs the rational mind and all the pesky nuances rationality can introduce into your thinking. Giving in to hatred, in other words, simplifies things. All considerations become binary: bad, not bad. Any logic, no matter how false or simple-minded, will do fine.

Hatred brings its own special rush, as well. The feelings of righteousness, of empowerment, ferocity, and clarity of purpose are all part of the hate high. For those reasons, hate can be positively addictive.

Unfortunately, there is a downside to this addiction; it is deadly poisonous. Ask the members of the Sikh temple or the workers in the federal building in Oklahoma City. The killers in those situations were poisoned by their addiction, and so were the innocent people they killed.

I confess that I still hate George W. Bush. I’m not proud of that, though in my defense I consider it a completely rational hatred (if there is such a thing). He did, after all, start a foolish war that killed a million civilians. If there were ever a good reason to hate, that would be it. But what’s the point? He’s out of power, and I’m not getting the hate high anymore. All it does now is make me feel lousy.

More enlightened people than me might suggest love as the antidote to all this hate, and they might be right. That approach sounds so rational and sane, but I can’t get there with W; not yet, anyway. So I try not to think about him, because to do otherwise would only poison my state of mind. I guess that’s my solution to the hate epidemic, whether it’s racial or not: admit you’re an addict, and resolve to avoid the drug. Then hunker down and wait for sanity to return.
Naming Rights III
The Large Hadron Collider seems to have found something very important. The Higgs boson, or “God particle,” does indeed exist, just as Peter Higgs predicted back in 1964. The particle literally allows the universe to exist by “conferring” mass on other particles.

Please, no snoring in class. The quantum physics portion of this piece will end soon, I promise you. Just let me say that the Higgs boson isn’t really a God particle any more than it’s an atheist particle. Its discovery merely verifies that the potential for somethingness is inherent in all nothingness — and sets the stage for spontaneous creation of universes from an absolute void.

Any better? Okay, forget it. It’s a Very Important Particle is all I’m saying. So important that it needs a name worthy of its standing as the facilitator of Big Bangs.

Why not “Higgs boson,” as it is currently called? I know it’s common for discoverers of things to have the thing discovered named after them. Common, perhaps, but distasteful.

Permit me, if you will, a small digression here into my naming philosophy. Above all, names of things should convey something fundamental or meaningful about the thing itself. What does some one’s big, fat ego have to do with that? I can see naming a person after a thing (Pigmeat Markham and Twiggy come to mind), but not the other way around.

Now, I have nothing against Dr. Higgs. By all accounts he is a modest, personable, and very bright fellow. His personal identity, however, has nothing to do with the identity of this particle. The same goes for Dr. Satyendra Nath Bose, after whom the original boson was named. Nice guy and smart as a whip, but to name anything after a human being shows a lack of respect for the physical universe and a yawning void where humility should be.

In my naming universe there would be no Pike’s Peak, no Lake Champlain, no Strait of Juan de Fuca, no Magellanic Cloud. Europeans, and particularly the English, seem oddly fond of this lazy, misguided naming practice. Their maps of the world are filled with natural wonders that have been permanently diminished in this way. We should not be parties to this sad injustice.

My exception to this naming rule concerns things that have been created by the namer. Bring on your Hondas, then, and your Schwinns, and Eiffel Towers, and your Big Mac. Those naming rights are all theirs.

All right, then ... back to our task of naming the God particle. And no, I won’t even consider “the God particle,” even though it does attempt to transmit the essence of the thing. Too long and too flip.

I did consider “vip” (for Very Important Particle), but it’s just not definitive enough. Furthermore, vip might cause some confusion with the cartoonist Virgil Partch, who signed his work as “Vip.” I’ll admit that might not be a problem for most people.

For a time, the word “creon” was at the top of my list. It’s short, unique, and it fits the standard format used for naming other particles. Ultimately, though, I had to reject it. This particle does not really create anything. It simply permits the universe to be by conferring mass in differentiable amounts.

Then it hit me. Permitting the universe to be? That particle can only have one name: the “beon.”

That’s it, then. I invite you to use beon the next time the subject of quantum physics comes up. And really, there’s no need to mention my name (even though I did create it).
Guns
I’m not going to tell you that guns should be outlawed. It will never happen anyway, not in this country. They have been and will be a part of all our lives.

My father owned two guns, both .38s. One, which he had bought from a co-worker, had the regulation long barrel, and the other was a snub-nosed Smith & Wesson “Chief’s Special.” He kept them in the top, right-hand drawer of his dresser, right next to his keys, his wallet, and his badge.

As a cop, he was required to own a gun. The rest of us don’t have to, but under the Second Amendment to the Constitution, we do have the right to “keep and bear arms.” This right was further clarified by the Supreme Court in 2010 in District of Columbia v. Heller, a decision in which the Court shot down the proposition that such a right had to be connected to the owner’s service in a militia. They did so even though militias are specifically mentioned in the single declarative sentence that comprises the amendment. I think that was a bad decision made by one of the most conservative Courts in American history. That said, we can’t ignore the fact that guns are right there in the founding document.

Even if you like Heller, it’s obvious that the framers, given their reference to militias, were probably thinking about keeping guns in citizens’ hands so that they might rise up against another tyrant, some future version of George III. I can imagine that tyrant being a military junta, or a cabal of corporate interests, or simply a duly elected government gone bad. Taken that way, the Second Amendment isn’t so stupid after all.

Still, it’s a can of worms. Once you specifically allow guns as a last line of defense against tyranny, the door is open for them to become much more than that in our culture. Back in the day, the guns were mostly flintlocks. You’d take a shot, then spend a minute reloading before shooting again. Today, a simple handgun is not so different from a bomb. Pull the trigger on a Glock and hold it down, and you can fire 33 rounds in a second or two. Dozens of people could die, virtually in an instant.

The can of worms has been opened, and the worms have evolved into something truly frightening. A congressman recently said that a 100-round ammunition clip is constitutionally protected. I wonder where he would draw the line? Are bazookas okay? Battleships? Tactical nukes?

Maybe the problem isn’t so much the guns as our attitude toward them. My father would occasionally take us to the firing range. The Patrol required that he practice with his weapon once a month, and he saw this as an opportunity to familiarize my brother and me with the basics of firearms. He taught us to be careful with them and offered some tips on proper shooting technique.

I don’t recall that there was much emotional content in any of these lessons. There was no pride, no bravado, no anger, no humor. We tried to hit the target, and I suppose we got some satisfaction in hitting the areas of the dark human silhouette that were marked with a 9, the highest score. I can’t say that my brother and I got very competitive about it, though, or that Dad ever expressed any particular satisfaction about his own scores. It was an interesting experience, but the setting was all very matter-of-fact and serious.

Perhaps that’s why I feel a little embarrassed for people who are full, all-the-lights-on gun enthusiasts. I’m a little taken aback by so much reverence and devotion for an instrument of death. No matter; I’ll grant that it is a perfectly legitimate hobby, like stamp collecting, though the Benjamin Franklin Z Grill will never blow away a family of four.

If reverence and devotion were the only feelings people had toward guns, however, there wouldn’t be a problem. It is when we find a place next to guns for pride, or bravado, or self-righteousness, or revenge, or wanton viciousness that I worry.

We have a problem. The cacophony of dark emotions reflected back at us by our media and culture tells us something troubling and dangerous about ourselves. In the midst of that din, weapons proliferate and become more deadly. And yet, given the honored place of guns in our law and history, we will not banish them. What chance do good people have in such a world?

My only thought is that for all of us, the imperative remains what it has always been: try to exercise some self-control, especially around the kids, and hang on tight to your humanity. It’s our last line of defense against the darkness.

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No "new normal" for me, this shit ain't normal.
~ MS, Truckee