Posts Tagged ‘History’

The Baltimore Riots are over. Freddie Gray is still dead, obviously. A half dozen officers have been charged in relation to the killing, but their subsequent convictions remain to be seen. The folks from Baltimore didn’t even give the justice system a chance to fail, like those in Ferguson did, they just assumed it was broken and started throwing rocks.

Hell, why not? After all, rock chucking and fire setting has been the traditional response of minority communities to an equally longstanding police tradition of targeting said communities with violence…and usually getting away with it. This tradition spans a half century at least. Not that cops weren’t killing poor black folk prior to the sixties, but it wasn’t really until the sixties that people began to respond by rioting and looting. Up until this time, somehow, being shot by the police wasn’t the black community’s biggest problem.

imageIn the 1960s, Americans did more rioting than any other decade, four to five times more in fact, than the thirties, when people were as broke and hungry and abused as ever. In 1964, a New York police lieutenant shot and killed a fifteen year old Harlem kid in front of his friends. A shit storm ensued, on the spot, and the rioting crowd swelled to more than 4000. For four days, angry citizens threw rocks, set fires, attacked the police station and, of course, looted stores…all to no avail. The police lieutenant remained in the clear. Irregardless, similar riots occurred that year in Pennsylvania, Chicago and New Jersey, initiating a 51 year old cultural trend which has yet to have any real impact on the problem, but has retained its position as the black community’s go-to response in such matters.

Not that someone, somewhere, consciously plans these actions as a response…like I said…it’s a cultural trend. Riots tend to happen in clusters, at least with regards to cause, and the clusters typically span across a few decades. In the first couple decades of the 1900s, the thing was for a big gang of whites to get together and murder blacks. Racial attacks, like those in Tulsa and Rosewood, left hundreds dead. The other thing was for primarily white union members to violently suppress others’ opportunities for the same contracts. After the 1927 Herrin massacre, when rioting strikers looted gun stores and shot down a bunch of black strike breakers in cold blood, the focus of labor riots shifted to workers rights for a decade or so. Racial riots shifted in nature as well, decreasing in levels of violence and intensity, and for the first time, minority groups became the willing participants of melees like the Zoot Suit Riots, instead of the victims they had been in the past. Things then quieted in the fifties…the calm before the storm.

The sixties were indeed a perfect storm, a convergence of unrest so varied that the parties involved fed off one another and mustered a collective momentum not seen since the American Revolution. “There was madness in every direction,” wrote Hunter Thompson, “you could strike sparks anywhere.” For some reason, in the 1960s, a lot of Americans decided that they deserved to be treated equally and they took it to the fucking streets. If the blacks were rioting about being victimized by white cops, why shouldn’t drag queens riot too? After all, by the sixties, a black guy at least had a perceived right to walk down a sidewalk without being arrested simply for being black.

imageNot so for drag queens. While homosexuality in general was frowned upon and in fact legally punishable, it was sometimes hard to prove. Crossdressing, on the other hand, was also illegal and very easy to prove. During a customary raid on a gay bar, “suspicious ladies” would be led into the restroom by a female officer who would check for penises. Offenders would then be arrested. I’m not kidding…that’s the power of the American tax dollar as hard at work as ever…Stop-and-Frisk meets TSA. So on one particularly balmy 1969 New York night, the patrons of a Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn, decided to fight back.

After refusing to consent to a penis search, several people were arrested. As they were being led to police cars, a crowd gathered outside. Witnesses reported an arrestee pleading for bystanders to intervene. And then, after suggesting that the cops be paid off on the spot, someone threw a penny. And then another. And another. And then a rock. And then it was on. A hailstorm of foreign objects rained down on the police officers, who were forced back inside the bar for their own safety…or driven into the bar like cattle…take your pick. Outside, a surge of entitled gay rage spread throughout the crowd. Participants have expressed a collective feeling of having had enough. Things had to change, and it all had to start somewhere.

I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if the mob had gotten to the officers cornered in the bar…your guess is as good as mine. Not that they didn’t try, mind you. Multiple accounts indicate one or more alleged drag queens ripping a parking meter out of the sidewalk and then using it, siege style, as a battering ram against the buildings entrance. Unsuccessful, they attempted another classic siege strategy, setting the building on fire. Remember, these weren’t Roman centurions. Or common street thugs. These were dudes in dresses with size twelve star-spangled pumps who’d probably never hurt anyone before in their entire lives.

And they beat the shit out of those cops. Another witness recollected a drag queen straddling a prone policeman, cowgirl style, while (s)he thrashed him mercilessly with with one of those big assed shoes. And it wasn’t just the cross dressers bashing white devil cops with their purses…though the imagery is almost too awesome not to dwell on…but the vast majority of New York’s gay community. Just as the police eventually managed to summon assistance, home phones all over Greenwich Village rung off the hook.

imageShit got wild. The city had to send in their tactical riot squad to extract the officers trapped inside the Stonewall. The gays rallied enough reinforcements to sustain a full length Broadway style kick line while still managing to overturn cars, light fires and chuck rocks. I have yet to figure out what could possibly be contained within a transvestite’s purse to make it heavy enough to smash a police cruiser’s windshield.

By sunup on Saturday, the violence had stopped and the crowds had dispersed. But it didn’t last. Saturday night’s rioting was described by some as being even more intense and violent than Friday’s, although accounts vary. Nighttime clashes with police continued through the middle of the next week, and then the fighting was over. The gays went back to their lives and the police went back to oppressing them. It wasn’t long before Inspector Seymore Pine was raiding gay bars again, despite the fact he’d barely escaped the Stonewall Inn alive.

But while laws hadn’t changed, attitudes had. The gay community found that in order to riot about their right to be gay, they had to come out of the closet into the light of police cruisers and paddy wagons set ablaze. I’m a clinical sociopath – I know what masks and closets feel like – and I also know how liberating it feels to let your nature shine in the bright light of a fire you intentionally set. It feels fucking good. And for the gays, it took, so as the fires went out and the day broke, they discovered the sun feels even better.

New York City saw it’s first gay publications and the community began to associate on another level, that of activism. The conflagrations, it seemed, hadn’t gone out entirely, but had activated secondary fires in the hearts and minds of the homosexual collective. By the next June, they organized a march in commemoration of the Stonewall Riots. News had spread, it seemed, as had the metaphorical flames, and marches were held in a number of U.S. cities. It’s 2015, and this month, they’ll be marching again. Betcha didn’t know that’s where Pride parades came from, did you?

The black community just had their latest parade as well. It was in Baltimore this time, but instead of commemorating the beginning of a rather successful movement, or even the previous riots in Baltimore, it was just the same old noise. From Harlem to Watts, L.A. In 1992, Ferguson, Baltimore…nothing changes but the names. The significance of the community’s rage against the institution, however justified, is ultimately lost in the lawlessness that inevitably takes control, so much so that when Bill O’Reilly pointed out how dem colored folk need to do some policing of themselves, he kind of had a point.

imageThe gays understood this. For them, Stonewall was nothing more than a rallying point, a catalyst that drew the community together and brought the issues out into the light. When the fires went out and the sun rose, they began to organize, and then to move forward. I dare say that the effectiveness of the gay rights movement has far surpassed that of the civil rights movement. A big part of this, I think, is a level of cohesiveness that the black community has never attained. Close they’ve come, but never enough so for a cigar.

I’ve always framed the civil rights movement through the Martin vs. Malcolm paradigm…that is…non-violent resistance vs. resistance by any means necessary. Both have their place, both are useful, even necessary…but they can’t work independently of one another. Non-violence means nothing if one has never experienced violence just as violence itself loses significance when there is no foreseeable hope of peace. Resistance is a school of thought unto itself and in order to be successful it must be inclusive of all approaches. The very notion of a Martin vs. Malcolm paradigm demonstrates an internal conflict which dooms the movement from its inception and therein lies the lack of cohesiveness.

Before Stonewall, the gay rights movement was, well, still in the closet. Associations like Mattachine and the Daughters of Bilitis were established in the fifties and advocated for the rights of gays, but encouraged members to assimilate into straight society. Their strategy was to gain ground by convincing the mass culture that they were no different. A Mattachine march on the White House went unnoticed, in fact, because it was just a dozen or so dudes in suits walking up and down the sidewalk. A couple of years after Stonewall, there were over a thousand, and everyone noticed them.

Frank Kameny, the MLK of the gay rights movement, was critical of the Stonewall riots, as well as the sudden outing and publicization afterward. He later regretted his initial opinion, however, when he realized that even with his twenty years of work, it wasn’t until after Stonewall that he was able to garner the necessary public support to be the first openly gay candidate on a Congressional ballot. Kameny and the old schoolers had indeed assimilated, but it was not within the culture which they had expected. It suddenly became apparent that they didn’t have nearly as much in common with mainstream white America as they did with a handful of rock chunking transvestites.

For the last century and a half, black people have faced the same dilemma, at least with regards to their identity and position within America’s social food chain. The Martins preach assimilation and love while the Malcolms demand resistance against oppression. Both sides pretend to want to understand one another and work together…but ultimately, the push and pull they exert prevents any sort of unified black identity from ever really emerging. And identity is what it’s really all about, in the end.

“Ya wanna know how we screwed up in the beginning,” asked hip hop activist KRS-ONE in his song Higher Level. “We accepted our oppressor’s religion.”

It’s an excellent point. Why in the world, I wonder, would a people with a history of being enslaved subscribe to the very religion used to morally justify the wrongs inflicted upon them? When an imprisoned Paul met a runaway slave names Onesimus, he instructed the man to return to his master. When he decided this didn’t make him a big enough asshole, he wrote his Letter to the Ephesians, wherein chapter 6 admonishes slaves to be obedient to their masters as to their Lord Jesus Christ. Really now, Paul, really now.

So for me, with an outsider’s perspective, it’s hard to take a guy like Martin Luther King seriously. It’s even harder to stomach Baltimore mega church pastor Jamal Bryant, who, throughout the Ferguson and Baltimore protests, urged the community to calm down, drop the stones, stop setting fires and looting items that corporate white insurance companies would ultimately be paying for…to settle down and be, well, good ol’ friendly American negroes.

How would Stonewall have turned out if that one drag queen suddenly dropped the parking meter and proclaimed: “Settle down boys and girls, and remember that these policemen have rights too…now get on home now…and let these nice boys go back to institutionally molesting our entire culture!”

See what I mean?

imageSo by the time the Baltimore riots were winding down, the black community was getting two barrels of advice to settle down and straighten up. Besides Bryant’s calls for nonviolent protest and peace, local gang leaders joined in as well, yep, the same guys who make the cops trigger happy and scared to begin with. The big question is, should the black community be listening to either party? Are religious leaders who propagate the same religion used to justify slavery thinking in terms of what is best for the people? Something tells me that Jamal Bryant, in his casual business attire, his downhome southern preacher affect and his 7500 strong flock of income producing sheep, has very little in common with those marginalized and murdered by the police culture. And as for the gang leaders, they are at least as bad, if not worse, than the nightstick toting police who beat their asses. Neither non-violent passive resistance, nor the white Jesus, nor black tar heroin will correct what is wrong.

But you can’t tell that shit to America, black or white. Americans are too busy singing praises of Baltimore’s own dragon lady and house nigga extraordinaire, Toya Graham. Graham claimed international fame after attacking her brick lobbing 16 year old son in front of news cameras. I’m sure you’ve seen it…it’s all over youtube. What really struck me was the public’s reaction, as well as that of local government, which was overwhelmingly positive. In any other context, a mother shown on live TV to be striking her teenaged son on or around his head while screaming profanity at him would be labeled a child abuser and likely prosecuted. It suddenly becomes acceptable however, and even praiseworthy in this situation. But the kid wasn’t looting or stealing or selling drugs or even back talking his mom…he was chunking rocks with his friends, all in support of one particular friend whom he claimed had been beaten by policemen.

imageOf course, Graham was praised by everyone from those old wrinkled bags on the View to Baltimore’s own police commissioner. “Good job Toya,” they all seem to say. “Way to use violence to instill the values of assimilation, submission and tolerance of abuse into the next generation.” Her pastor, none other than the aforementioned Jamal Bryant, also spoke warmly of her actions, as did the ghost of MLK.

The ghost of another “Milk,” on the other hand, probably sees it a little differently. Harvey Milk (first openly gay politician in office…and the first of such to be assassinated…and the second cause of the second series of flamboyantly gay riots) came out of the Stonewall era. He wasn’t militant or violent and he wasn’t nationalistically homosexual. What he was, was part of a very small demographic of American people who decided they weren’t going to fucking take it in the ass anymore, metaphorically speaking at least.

This demographic, though small, included a wide range of differences…from men who like men, to women who like women, to drag queens and whatever the hell you call women with mustaches and workboots, pretty much everything 1969 America regarded as sexually deviant, except perhaps the pedophiles and dudes who like to screw wet tree stumps. The diversity of the movement didn’t stop there either; differences based on race and ethnicity, socioeconomics, the same shit we all argue about-these differences were deemed secondary and sidelined in favor of the larger picture. And to show for it, they have a strong movement that has only gained in momentum. And they also have the Pride parades, their equivalent of the American Independence Day.

It’s hard to say if that is a reality the black community will ever be able to attain, but my magic eight ball says they won’t. The situation has been as it is for too long and the people involved, sadly, are trapped-unable to stop snapping at the bait. A free meal from a burning CVS is no different from the false hope offered by Jamal Bryant and his hoes and his precious white Jesus…one way tickets on a train with no real destination in sight, that is, save the mirage of equality and the fallacious notion that our country is built upon it.

And ain’t that just the awful, bloody truth of it all?

Dear God, I prayed, if you’ll keep me from getting my pants paddled off in the principals’s office, I’ll never, ever, ever choke my chicken again. If God had a nickel for every time a little boy struck up that deal, there’d no longer be any point in being God. Retirement would ensue and someone, anyone, any number of anyones could be paid to fill in. Cause that’s a lot of nickels. I’m just one guy with one chicken, after all, and I bet I’m worth at least a buck in that context…

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“Early masturbation prevention.”

Any thirteen year old boy recognizes the sacrifice that giving up moose milking amounts to and those bargains are never struck lightly. A kid promising an end to fireman time implies either some serious business with Santa or the prospect of a man sized dose of judiciously applied corporal punishment. It’s a hell of a thing to give up, and if you’re still keeping up your end of the deal seven out of ten little boys made in childhood, then my hat’s off to you and I submit you are the better man. While it’s easy to understand the value which both adults and children assess in such activities, it sure is funny how we seem to think Jesus and Santa Claus place a comparable value on our abstinence.

The idea, as silly as it may seem, is not based in the naive foolishness of childhood although it’s logic is indeed most foolishly childish in nature. This system of logic, somehow, managed to provide us with such cultural gems as circumcision, cold breakfast cereal and that little thing we refer to as the Jewish holocaust.

As long as the proverbial dolphins have been swimming and squalking, man has been doing his damnedest to flog them into oblivion. In ancient pagan societies, both man and god were frequently depicted with fistfuls of frankfurters and handfuls of hair pie. All this changed, however, when the Jewish rabbis started to get jiggy with their interpretations of the Tanakh.

Genesis 38 tells the story of Onan, son of Judah and brother of Er. When Er was killed before procreating an heir, tribal law dictated Onan must impregnate the widow Tamar. Onan, Er’s current heir, didn’t like the idea of competition for his brothers estate and saw his insemination of Tamar as little more than pissing in his own nest. So at the last minute, he yanked his rabbit out of the hair hat and “spilled his seed on the ground.” And God killed him for it.

Onan’s responsibility to Er’s widow is known as a leverite marriage and was common during the times when tribes did not marry outsiders and the gene pool was constrained. His neglect of this responsibility would have had greater implications for their community and was most certainly an outrageous act, hence God’s wrath against him. Somehow, someone along the line interpreted this paradigm as being inclusive of the leaving of cream cookies anywhere save the fertile cookie jar of one’s wife. My personal theory is that early Catholics recognized the potential for profit in their Pennies for Penance campaign and began taking confession from the St. Peter Beaters and the Rosary Rubbers, along with cash settlements.

It’d be interesting to know how much they’ve made through the centuries, but that’s just me and I’m a goon for figures and statistics.

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“Modern Masturbation Prevention”

Fast forwarding to Victorian England, things hadn’t changed much. Pickle tickling and nub rubbing were still considered mortal sins, but it certainly didn’t stop people. Laws emerged equating the act with sodomy, some as silly as those preventing women from the traditional method of horse riding. Ever wonder where the side saddle originated? Well now you know. When the Puritans first sought solace from societal evils like Christmas by coming to the New World, they brought this retarded-assed way of thinking with them. And smallpox. But that’s another story.

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“Ellen White, the face of sexual abstinence.”

America was indeed founded upon a tradition of preachers railing against slippery clown punching while people went right on ahead and did it anyway, albeit with a serious sense of post punch guilt. No American religious sect has been so influential in its history of pud pounder persecution as the Seventh Day Adventists. The Adventists, who derived a good bit of their dogma from the hallucinations of a woman named Ellen White espoused clean living free of meat, alcohol, caffeine and, of course, any sort of battling of the bald bishop.

At the time, however, most bishops weren’t really bald and no one knew what the hell a fireman was. Dudes were still sporting anteaters, except for the Jews, who’ve been mutilating their children’s dingalings for centuries. In America, it all sort of began with Ellen White and her husband. And John Kellogg. As in Corn Flakes.

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“Battle Creek Sanitarium, early 1900’s.”

In the late 1800’s, the Whites operated a convalescent home for Adventists in Battle Creek, Michigan. Over the years, they had cultivated a relationship with a young Kellogg and upon his graduation from medical school, invited him to supervise the revitalization of their ailing facility. Kellogg took the bull by the horns, renamed it the Battle Creek Sanitarium (coining the term sanitarium) and began to diversify its activities. Previously focusing on popular water cure therapy, Kellogg began to include all sorts of cutting edge alternative therapies and even invented a few of his own.

Considered a highly competent surgeon and an ardent anti masturbation advocate, Kellogg encouraged and helped largely to normalize the practice of circumcision, a procedure which he claimed was “almost always successful [as a preventative method] in small boys.” Circumcision obviously doesn’t prevent masturbation, but his motivation was corrective and he suggested its application as a punitive measure against older children and to be administered without anesthetic. While the cultural practice eventually found its way into hospitals and is now performed humanely, we still mutilate our children’s penises because some dumbass and his hallucinating benefactor said it was a good idea.

It’s barbaric, that’s what it is, and those people are assholes.

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“John Kellogg’s old stuffy ass in a scholar costume. His medical degree took two years.”

When John Kellogg wasn’t fighting the good fight against one-eyed wonder weasel wrangling by sewing foreskins closed and sprinkling carbolic acid on clitorises, he was devising new and ingenious ways to make people’s intake of bland, whole grain based diets simple and efficient. Simply put, he was trying to make a kibble for people to eat. Corn Flakes happened by accident, when some dough Kellogg and his brother made was erroneously allowed to mold. Lacking in funding, they rolled and processed the dough anyway and after toasting it, finally produced the desired result.

John Kellogg began shoveling it into his patients just as fast as he could bake it, the younger brother, Will, had different ideas. He formed the Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flakes Company, later changed to Kellogg’s, and began to mass market the product. He realized, intuitively, that the product tasted like the moldy corn dough that it was and therefore required a little more incentive to make it palatable to mainstream consumers. So in the same manner John Kellogg was selling it to his patients with a line of bullshit, Will included a booklet called Funny Jungleland Moving Pictures, which sounds suspiciously racist.image

It wouldn’t surprise me, given the older brother’s views on race and segregation. While Kellogg raised a considerable number of orphan children during his sexless marriage and a number of them happened to be black, his opinions on segregation and breeding between the races intensified as the 1900’s began.

Kellogg was a big proponent of the theories that clean living resulted in good health, both physical and mental, and that feeble mindedness and the like resulted from character flaws related to immoral practices like shucking your own corn. He started to rethink this as a result of experiences with his adopted son George. Even after stapling the boys foreskin closed with a bit of silver wire, the boy remained weird and sort of retarded. Eventually, it dawned on Kellogg that the boy’s having been found eating garbage next to his dead prostitute mother likely had some effect on his behavior.

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“This is a real thing. Run, quick, tell David Carradine before it’s too late!”

This revelation ultimately led to Kellogg’s establishment of the Race Betterment Foundation. Always one to push a bad idea to it’s fullest extent, Kellogg began to suggest, and in fact insist, that the white genetic code mustn’t be polluted by the likes of idiots, blacks and other such immigrants. He joined ideological forces with biologist Charles Davenport, another founder of the eugenics movement, and began to form the “scientific” framework of the movement itself. This ideology unfortunately mainstreamed into common practice and American society began to take upon itself the responsibility of deeming who was fit to reproduce and who wasn’t. Those deemed unfit were summarily sterilized, often without their consent.

Not one to be bested by the American competition, Adolph Hitler found that the eugenic principles fit nicely within his own ideas regarding ethnic purity and frequently praised the efforts of the westerners. American eugenicists accepted the pre-holocaust Nazi leader warmly and contributed significantly to the poorer nation’s research programs. Hitler, in the spirit of Dr. Kellogg, took an awful plan to the extreme.

While the sterilization of “useless eaters” prevented the perceived drain on resources for future generations, it did nothing for Germany’s current state of cash strapped-ness. In the years leading up to World War II, Hitler’s Nazis surreptitiously rounded up those they deemed unfit and began to quietly euthanize them. Feeble minded children were whisked away to “special schools” where they were never heard from again. Most of these children were strapped to beds and perished from starvation and exposure through windows opened to the harsh winter elements.

Before a Nazi ever touched a Jew, several hundred thousand people had been murdered, primarily the developmentally disabled, but also including homosexuals and members of ethnic gypsy minorities. In pre-war Germany, if you were eating and not paying taxes or breeding in an approved manner, you had to go. And eventually, the tax on being Jewish was raised to…everything. Make no mistake, the holocaust was about economics just as much as it was about racism.

By 1924, thirty American states had passed legislation rendering compulsory the spaying and neutering of those deemed feeble minded and unfit for genetic citizenship. Carrie Bell was the first to be singled out in ’24. She was regarded, essentially, as white trash with too damn many kids as it was, and ordered sterilized. Her 1927 appeal to the Supreme Court was a failure and a history of 60,000+ sterilizations began. The 1927 Buck vs. Bell decision has never been formally struck down, although as recently as last year, North Carolina was still paying out settlements to citizens sterilized without consent as late as the 1970’s.

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“The new Hallmark thank-you card for our parents.”

So in the present, while we’re no longer force neutering any of our citizens, mothers still make a culturally acceptable choice to sexually mutilate their sons based upon ideology perpetuated by a hallucinating religious zealot suffering from a traumatic brain injury and a “doctor” who taught supreme health was obtained through abstinence from turtle tugging, frequent enemas and a diet rich in heavily processed moldy corn.

In the long run, America and the rest of the world would likely have experienced a different track of history had they rejected the path Darwin’s ideas lead them down and settled for accepting his ideas on a more basic level. Whether man came from monkeys or not, lots of people would have been better off if they’d just appreciated the similarities between the species and followed the example of the pathologically bologna bopping Bonobo monkeys. At least they don’t butcher each other and if they do, they do it one handed.

Think I’m bullshitting you? Look it up.

And enjoy your fuckin’ Corn Flakes.

Before I was a veteran, I was a veteran.

During the 1980’s, a series of wars and skirmishes broke out across the Appalachian region of North Carolina. These engagements went largely ignored by the news and popular media, who instead chose to focus on the conflict between Afghanistan and the drunken cockfight formerly known as the Soviet Union.

imageBy December of 1979, the people of Afghanistan were openly revolting against a series of newly enacted socialist peasant raping reforms and the leaders appealed to their sugar daddies, the Soviets for military support. The Soviets responded by mobilizing airborne brigades and sprinkling Red Army paratroopers all over the Afghan countryside. On December 27th, Soviet troops reached Kabul and the special forces promptly paid a visit to the president bearing a message from the closest thing the communists had to Santa, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. It was a swift execution, Dirty South Style, on his knees with two in his head.

On the other side of the globe, an invasion of another sort was taking shape. In 1981, as the Soviet “intervention” was gaining serious momentum, a secret meeting was convened in New York. One of the men in attendance was Archie Goodwin, a well known author of, well, comics. Goodwin was charged with creating a public face for the impending invasion, as well as writing what amounted to a manifesto calling for the overthrow of the worlds governments and their subjugation to “Cobra, a ruthless, terrorist organization determined to rule the world.” image

The invasion, although eventually reaching an international scope, began in the United States heartland. The news of the impending attack was heard solely by America’s youth, who were suddenly faced with the reality of what it means to become a man in America. And they began to arm themselves. Hushed calls were made from design studios to corporate board rooms. Sweaty hands shook firmly before dialing China and lining up ordinance production.

Little boys in North Carolina, meanwhile, were making lists and submitting them to their Secretary of Armaments, Santa Clause. Beginning on Christmas of 1982, the young American patriots began to amass troops. The small, localized militias grew slowly, with neighborhood warlords graduating to generals as troop strength swelled.

The overall resulting military collaborative became the cultural phenomenon collectively referred to as “G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.” Hasbro, an American company with manufacturing facilities in China, began to extensively produce weaponry and the 3 3/4″ plastic men the young generals needed to combat the dreaded Cobra Commander and his shock troops.image Back in Afghanistan, the Soviet occupation wasn’t going so well. The Afghan Army was expected to do most of the front line fighting but apparently when it came to killing their own people in support of a doctrine that directly contradicted their belief structure, they turned out to be squeamish. Roughly half raised a black flag and joined the revolt. The rest, mostly, just hung around and talked shit, waiting for the next paycheck and often, doing more harm than good. More and more, the Soviets were finding it necessary to use their own troops in direct combat, something they’d hoped to avoid.

The mujahideen, Afghanistan’s rag tag conglomerate of a resistance, proved to be much more effective than Soviet command had predicted. Able to attack without warning and then disappear back into the populace, conventional military attacks against the mujahideen were obviously ineffective. This resulted in a tactical shift, and the Soviets began to view the Afghan countryside as what amounted to the mujahideen’s supply lines, resulting in the implementation of scorched earth strategies. As the civilian body count climbed, the Afghan clergy issued a decree, or fatwa, labeling the atheist-socialist controlled invasion as an attack on Islam as a whole and declared it the duty of all Muslims to join or at least contribute to the effort against the Russians.

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Soviet AK-47, preferred weapon of Clint Eastwood’s enemies and Cobra troopers

The mujahideen army grew exponentially, peaking out in excess of 200,000 fighters, many of whom were called Afghan Arabs, foreigners who had heard the cry for help and came to kick in. Such an influx of personnel required armament, much as the G.I. Joe armies back in North Carolina. The American adults, along with those of Saudi Arabia and a few others, began to funnel cash and weapons into the mujahideen using Pakistan as their primary conduit. For the first few years, Afghanistan’s foreign support network contracted with independent arms traffickers and provided the resistance exclusively with Eastern Bloc ordinance procured from China, Czechoslovakia and even the Soviets themselves.

The Pakistani government, heavily influenced by Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Islam, disbursed the armaments disproportionately, basing their issuance not only upon the prospective faction’s potential for sending Rooskies to be judged by Allah, but their level of commitment to hardline ultra conservative Islamic principles as well. Nothing about warfare, it seems, is ever fair and things were no different back in the mountains of North Carolina.

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G.I. Joe Headquarters

My sixth birthday signified my entrance into the global G.I. Joe battlefield. Since the war had begun, I’d engaged in daily after school battles in my friend Wyatt’s basement. Wyatt commanded the neighborhood’s only true G.I. Joe stronghold, the massive Headquarters play set he’d gotten for Christmas. Again and again, the open topped plastic fortress was bombarded by the likes of HISS tanks, Fang helicopters and the dreaded Hydrofoil. Each time, we were able to repel the attacks using the fort’s laser cannons, removable missiles and Wyatt’s brigade of tanks and trucks, all maintained in the service bay.

As often occurs in such guerrilla style commands, infighting broke out. Wyatt, while a highly capable leader on the basement battlefield, was a poor politician and proved ineffective at maintaining cohesiveness amongst the lieutenants who’d joined from around the neighborhood. We all began to personally arm ourselves and the intense battles pitting the G.I. Joe forces against those of Cobra became interspersed with sectarian cap gun violence in the back yard. The infighting nostalgically culminated in our first real casualty, when a kid named Heath stepped on an old land mine in the back woods, driving a three inch rusty nail through his foot. Although a resulting ceasefire refocused resources on the war against Cobra, the damage was effectively done. As the hype around G.I. Joe grew, our small coalition factionalized and in the fall of 1984, I began to stockpile ordinance of my own.

The Silver Mirage motorcycle was the first thing I acquired. It was awesome to behold, a magnificently flimsy, unsteerable thing of a sidecar equipped motorbike, broken in the package even. It was the first tool of war that was mine. I’d suddenly become my own boss and sweet Jesus it felt good. I wanted more. My small yet successful engagements with Cobra outposts such as the Bunker, as well a few against a new enemy known as the Transformers instilled within me a strong resolve as a military leader and tactician, thus I began pleading with the Congressional Parental Undersecretary to authorize an increase in the household defense budget.

imageLater in 1984, as I was planning a series of waterborne creek assaults on a backyard Cobra cave complex, my father burst in with a VHS tape containing information that “everyone” needed to see. The Soviet Union’s war in Afghanistan had expanded to America and it was time to open our eyes. The tape was a newly released copy of the John Milius film, Red Dawn.

Eyes wide, I was engrossed with the concept of American children rising up against the Cobra-like invaders and I instantly identified with them. From my parents living room, I witnessed Hollywood destroy previous records for depiction of on screen violence and loved every blood soaked minute of it. I wasn’t the only one of my generation who suddenly became aware of the Communist invasion, and it also began to play out in the back yards and playgrounds, running concurrently to that of the battles against the Transformers and Cobra: The Enemy. But, despite even the bloodiest fighting against the commie forces, the war against Cobra still managed to intensify in some sectors as generals like Wyatt added elements such as the fucking U.S.S. Flagg aircraft carrier to his arsenal.

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Official toy of the Spoiled Bastard

Unequitable distribution of war resources often led to jealous sectarian clashes, with well funded warlords such as Wyatt being accused by rival factions of back room talks or flat out collusion with the communists and thus militarily engaged in conventional cap gun and motorized squirt gun combat. The truth is, we could have, and maybe should have used nukes against guys like Wyatt but found ourselves concerned with global fallout. That is to say, no one kicked his ass for being a stuck up spoiled prick because he’d have told his commie mother and there’d have been hell to pay.

Back in Afghanistan, the Soviets were starting to pay like that. As money and manpower flowed freely into the mujahideen’s ranks, their effectiveness as a fighting force against the invaders increased. Victories against the Soviets prompted further tactical shifts. Soviet offensives became more brutal, incorporating heavy aerial bombardment of civilians and militia alike, as well as the use of chemical weapons.

During the heaviest fighting of the mid eighties, when troop strengths were the greatest, a young Saudi jihadi with a degree in economics created a splinter faction using money inherited from his billionaire father. His name was Osama bin Laden and his group was the forerunner of Al Qaeda. Between his own cash and some outside help, Maktab al-Khidimat, became a notable contributor to the resistance. Bin Laden himself began to gain notoriety of his own following the Battle of Jaji.

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Hamster not included.

On the Carolina front lines, my own army had grown dramatically. In addition to a small fleet of assorted armored vehicles, planes and helicopters, Santa found my war efforts and ideology worthy enough to provide me with the Mobile Command Center. The MHC changed the war against Cobra altogether. It was a rolling, three-story, unfolding monstrosity that took a team of technical experts until New Years to assemble. It contained a repair bay, missile command, brig and on the top level, there was a trap door large enough to accommodate a marauding yet very confused hamster as it swooshed down an eighteen inch escape slide. Cobra simply couldn’t compete with heavy, mobile firepower like that, not even by weaponizing giant hamsters.

In 1985, mainstream America finally became aware of the true scope of the Cobra invasion when Sunbow Entertainment produced a 95 episode series of animated documentaries about the conflict. Weapons sales soared and plastic man recruitment was at an all time high.

The fighting was also the heaviest during this period (1985-86), and many of the G.I Joe generals began to show their true colors. While some welcomed outside factions such as the Transformers, many generals were distrustful of the giant robots and felt there was “more than meets the eye” going on. As a result, Transformers and their leaders were more often than not targeted for persecution and or elimination.

Heavier ordinance, of the Chinese pyrotechnic sort, was becoming widely available to anyone brave enough to cross the border into South Carolina and obtain it, and its use soon became widespread. In a struggle for neighborhood supremacy, some despotic fartknockers committed what accounted to genocide against Transformers and other minority groups including M.A.S.K., The Masters of the Universe and those Voltron cat things. The only thing more devastating than using an M-80 to destroy a disloyal Joe soldier is using six of them to blow Optimus Prime into more pieces than that crying kid who owned it could ever realistically pick up. My Little Ponies were slaughtered wholesale and melted down into something that actually sort of looked like soap.

Indeed, playground warfare had evolved significantly since the days of beheading Barbies in windows and door jams or simply using stones to drive those snug scrawny bitches up to their necks in the cold, red North Carolina clay. By the end of ’86, even those of us commanding the most modest armies had become drunk on our own power, and this arrogant aggression soon spilled over into our ongoing war against occupying Soviet forces. The first real hard shots sounded like the ultra realistic rob-a-liquor-store-with-it cap guns we were all packing, but as it turns out, Wyatt had introduced South Carolina bottle rockets into the fray and was in fact firing them towards our position.

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The Stinger, a gift from Allah and whitey

About the same time, a new weapon was introduced into the arsenal of the mujahideen, not entirely dissimilar from a bottle rocket, called the Stinger missile. Afghan fighters were being butchered, at this point, by the Soviet use of areal bombardment and attacks by heavily armed helicopter gunships.

The west, apparently as tired of fucking around as Wyatt was, just gave a whole bunch of the Stingers, shoulder fired, laser guided and capable of dropping an aircraft from 6 km away, to the Pakistanis. Pakistan, of course, did their best to arm those who were most committed to mad dog Islamist policies, like bin Laden and the assholes who would become the Taliban a decade later. Many Stingers, however, found their way into the hands of fighters commanded by Ahmad Shah Massoud.

Massoud was an old hand in the war. A native Afghan, he’d been one of the subversives who’d bristled under the Soviet thumb since even before the invasion. He commanded a large contingent of rebels in northern Afghanistan, where most of the heavy fighting took place. The Stinger missiles were the wind that turned the tide for the Afghans, giving them a much needed edge against the superior Soviet air power that had been driving them further and further towards defeat. Massoud’s men, with the precision of surgeons, used these wonderful American toys to drill new assholes in the Russian hardware, as well as the Russians themselves.

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“Yes we can.”

As 1986 began to lean towards 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev assumed effective control of the U.S.S.R. and announced, much as Obama did, that the Red Army would soon be returning to the mother Russia. Although at great cost, the Afghan and Arab mujahideen conglomerate had succeeded at driving out the great and powerful Soviet war machine. Contrary to popular western theorists, the Golan-Globus contrived character of Rambo had nothing whatsoever to do with it.

The victory was the product of a home field advantage, surgically applied firepower and a whole hell of a lot of religious, self-righteous indignation. Unfortunately, as the cease fires set in and the Russians prepared for withdrawal, the commanders of the mujahideen armies realized that a power vacuum was developing in Kabul and began to view each other not as allies, but as rivals.

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Cobra Commander…a snake?!

The North Carolina battlegrounds were evolving as well. By 1987, Cobra seemed pretty well done for. Cobra Commander had gone to the North Pole and been turned into a snake by weird mutants (WTF??). Most of us simply didn’t buy the official story. Around the NC campfires, the theory was that Serpentor had assassinated Cobra Commander on the shitter and gone on to turn Cobra into a live Miami drag show comprising elements of Shakespearean thespianism and down home Tijuana livestock lovin.’

Hasbro began reissuing old equipment, repainted and rebranded, a shiny example of the military industrial complex at its most money-grubbing pathetic best. Without Cobra Commander, the once powerful G.I. Joe armies fell into decline. Repairs ceased and the thundering war machine slowed to a crawl, a weekday after school rerun.

The decline resulted, as in Kabul, in a vacuum, but ours was resource based. As armies of plastic men took up less space in war budgets, more funds became available for the same resistance leaders to focus towards the ongoing struggle against the communist occupation of the playgrounds and increasingly, against each other. Arms makers like Hasbro and Mattel fell away from prominence and were slowly replaced by the likes of Crosman and Daisy. Christmas weapons shipments changed shape. Instead of large square packages filled with unassembled plastic bits, we began unwrapping long rectangular boxes containing the 4th grade equivalent to the Stinger missile.

By spring of 1988, the Great North Carolina BB Gun Wars had begun. The Soviet menace was losing face and strength in the eyes of the world. It showed in our battles against them on the playground, which became fewer and fewer. The Soviets were withdrawing, much as they were in Afghanistan, and like any post-war army, we still needed someone to shoot at. Luckily, we still had our old rivalries from the Cobra wars and it wasn’t long before someone shot someone else in the ass with a pellet gun.

Everyone thought it was really funny, because it was, and not a week passed before new alliances were formed and we began actively engaging in open live combat. Our new weapons equalized us on the battlefield. Wyatt could bring all of the bottle rockets he wanted, but he still had to stick his head out in the open to fire them.

The Afghan mujahideen had won, sort of, against the Soviets, but their fight, just as ours, was far from over. As Soviet forces exited to they north, they paused and spent three days in the Panjshir Valley violating the ceasefire with Massoud’s army by steadily shelling and firing rockets at them. The attack, which inflicted substantial casualties was a preemptive effort (rightly so) aimed at protecting the Soviet installed puppet leader, Mohammed Najibullah, formerly the head of the Afghan secret police. Najibullah was tasked with basically continuing the same policies that lead to the war in the first place.

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Massoud and his homies

With continued outside aid, mujahideen fighters united under Massoud and in 1992, the communist presence was eradicated from Afghanistan and hopes were high for democratic elections in the near future. In the meantime, civil war raged. By 1994, a generation of hardline Pakistani radicalized refugees returned as the Taliban. Within two years, the Paki and Saudi backed group had driven Massoud and his hopes for Afghanistan into exile and instituted their oppressive form of authority. Massoud’s forces remained loyal, later becoming known as the Northern Alliance.

A year before the Soviet evacuation, bin Laden’s modest force had gained its own autonomy. Bin Laden saw al Qaeda as sort of an Islamist jihadi version of the A-Team and declined to officially integrate himself into the Taliban. When Iraq invaded Kuwait and moved dangerously close to the Saudi border, bin Laden eagerly offered the services of his mujahideen army to his native Saudis. When they declined in favor of American intervention, bin Laden’s focus shifted and ultimately, he found his new war.

Much information exists to suggest that bin Laden’s al Qaeda was responsible for the car bomb that killed Ahmad Shah Massoud on September 9th, 2001, the first shot fired in a war that bin Laden felt the 9/11 attacks would render inevitable. The Soviets, withdrawn from the situation and destroyed from within, have offered the best perspective on what the foreseeable future of Afghanistan holds in a statement made by former Captain Tarlan Eyvazov:

“Children born in Afghanistan at the start of the war… have been brought up in war conditions, this is their way of life.”

The boys in North Carolina, like our Afghan counterparts, had succeeded in driving out the invaders. But, also like the Afghans, we found ourselves continually engaged in the throes of all out civil war. Our newly acquired pellet rifles amounted to being little more than muskets, low powered and slow to reload, but when they’re the best thing available, they’re certainly sufficient. Our fathers, who’d ultimately planted the idea in the first place were surprisingly cool with it all, but the Maternal Oversight Committees labeled the use of pellets and BBs as atrocities and war crimes, which forced the fighting out of the neighborhoods and underground, into the forests.

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The Crosman AR-17

Hidden fortifications were quickly constructed and the evolution of our fighting became evident. Gone were the flimsy twig forts of the Soviet/Cobra wars and in their place rose cobblings fashioned from old pallets, used lumber and anything we could find that would stop an air rifle that had been pumped up 46 times. Cardboard and duct tape were adapted into crude forms of body armor and used to cover exposed patches of pellet susceptible flesh.

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Daisy Model 45 Semiautomatic pellet gun

As the fighting again intensified, I signed a secret treaty with a collector of Cobra war relics and used the subsequent profit to purchase a CO2 powered semi automatic handgun, modeled after the Colt 1911. It complemented my Crosman AR-17, a pellet firing cousin of the M-16A1 rifle. I kept the new weapon a secret, tucked under my combat clothes in a vintage canvas shoulder holster and waited for just the right moment to deploy it. The wait wasn’t long.

The summer of 1990 was accentuated by the Battle of South Springhaven Court, the last major military engagement of my adolescence. The small cadre of fifth graders, of which I was a part, found ourselves out manned by forces loyal to Wyatt, who had slowly morphed into a tyrannical seventh grade version of Stalin himself. There were only five of us in the tiny fort and the bigger kids were unleashing timed volleys of pellets and BBs, balancing their rate of fire with reload time so we had no safe window of escape. A fourth grader named Richard suddenly screamed out that a BB had penetrated the skin just behind his ear. The shooting stopped and except for Richard’s wailing, it all grew silent. After a moment, we heard Wyatt’s voice clearly.

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They don’t hirt THAT bad.

“You faggots better brace yourselves,” he yelled in a way reminiscent of the Soviet nerve to hand Afghanistan a bill for their invasion services. “Because we’re coming in and that little kid owes me money for my pellet that’s in his head.”

We were screwed like the pooch. The woods began to fill with thick, white smoke. The smell of South Carolina pyrotechnics filled the air. Wyatt and his men were using a smoke screen. They were going to storm our fort and fuck us up. The BB guns were ineffective in close quarters and those boys were much bigger. The mountains grew silent, save the crackling of leaves as Wyatt and his troops closed in. Our only chance was to use the same smoke as cover and we knew it.

Rifles pumped up, we assumed a triangular formation and pushed right down the center, hoping the enemy had fanned out enough to make their lines week. The older boys were too cool for protective snorkel masks and cardboard, so the first two we encountered got hit close range by the aforementioned 46 pumps, which stopped them cold. Although our rifles were empty when we encountered Wyatt and Heath, our crude body armor easily absorbed their hastily fired shots and all that was left was to get away. Wyatt and Heath, thinking us unarmed, attempted to close in for the kill.

They stopped suddenly and began to back away, however, when I whipped out the CO2 pistol. That awful fascist son of a bitch Wyatt got a look on his face like he was about to get shot sixteen times with a pellet gun.

I shot Wyatt sixteen times with that pistol, center mass, at a practically point blank range. And then we ran, reloading on the move, all the way back to the relative safety of home. It was the closest thing we could have achieved to victory, but it was ours, as we hadn’t been wedgied or beaten up, and so for the moment, it was enough. But like the Afghan kids, it had become what we knew and as Iraq war veteran Michael Prysner put it,

“G.I. Joe was my first recruiting officer.”

 

*This edition’s highly offensive comic strip has been posted to Facebook.

A wise man once said: “People who to try to crucify and behead you…those people are not your friends.” In fact, when people act this way, it’s best to strap your shit to the top of the old Family Truckster, tie Aunt Ester’s dog to the bumper and high tail it for Wally World. And whatever you do, don’t stop the convoy…for anything.

Thousands of people have been doing this in Iraq and Syria. Except they’re not heading for Wally World and they’re a long fucking way away from the sarcastic humor of Chevy Chase. Orthodox Christians, Kurds, Alawites and Shi’ite Muslims are vacating their homes the same way the middle class abandoned Detroit.

That way is the fastest possible and like I said, just pass the kid a Gatorade bottle and whatever you do, don’t stop the convoy.

All those folks are wise to leave. I’d leave too if I were in their situation, especially given the alternative. The things ISIS does to people are…medieval. I’ve got to admit, I’ve actually found myself a little disgusted at what’s been going on. That’s saying something, considering that I’m of the opinion that atrocities and brutality are entirely acceptable tactics when a force is overwhelmingly outmanned and out gunned. I’ve also got to admit that, until last week, I knew virtually nothing about what was going on with ISIS.

That being said, I predicted U.S. entry into Syria a couple of years ago. I expected it within the Obama years, and so far, it looks like I might meet my spread. Will I be a prophet…I think not…but if I were, I wouldn’t be the only one. Mark Danner predicted what we now understand as the Islamic State back in 2004. In a published essay, he basically outlined how the televised atrocities that emerged as Abu Gharib and Gitmo would serve to crystallize a mindset in radical Islam that would nurture a nationalist movement like the Islamic State.

Danner wasn’t the only one to have this epiphany. Nor was he the first.

In 2003, the thinkers at the Pentagon screened a film called The Battle of Algiers, an Italian film about the Algerian struggle for independence from the French. Often used as a recruitment tool by insurgent leaders, the film depicts how the French utilized tactics of brutality, false imprisonment and torture to extract information about resistance fighters who hid amongst the civilian population. The film was billed thus:

“How to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas. Children shoot soldiers at point-blank range. Women plant bombs in cafes. Soon the entire Arab population builds to a mad fervor. Sound familiar? The French have a plan. It succeeds tactically, but fails strategically. To understand why, come to a rare showing of this film.”

Apparently, what’s happening is only a surprise to the people who haven’t been paying very close attention. There is a South Park episode where Professor Chaos discovers that no matter how ingenious and dastardly his plan, it has in fact already happened on the Simpsons. History is sort of like that. It’s all gone down before.

To understand what is happening now, you have to go back a bit, at least as far as World War I. In those days, the Ottoman Empire encompassed what we now know as Turkey and Greater Syria (Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Israel). It was ruled by the Ottoman Sultan and he was called the Caliph of Islam. At the end of the war, France and England abolished the position of Caliph and divided the empire into territories and drew boundaries that simply looked good on paper. The kingdoms of Jordan and Iraq were promised as prizes to loyal local leaders. Lebanon was created as a haven for minorities that really didn’t work out too well. Turkey became Turkey and Israel came later.

The point is, the borders of the modern day Middle East were drawn by the French and English and based upon their own interests, as opposed to the natural state of social evolution that had been previously attained. By the end of World War II, when France and England were tired and hungry, they basically withdrew support from these countries and proclaimed, “Happy Independence Day, motherfuckers!” And there has been strife ever since.

ISIS is challenging these borders and, if history is of any indication, has designs on the aforementioned Greater Syria. What we are seeing are the early stages of the decolonization of the region. History teaches us that this process is often, in fact, very ugly. It’s worse, in this situation, simply due to the ugliness that kicked it to life. Assad’s destabilization during the Arab Spring was certainly a prerequisite to ISIS’s grab for territory, but the movement would not in fact exist were it not for the brutal tactics used by Westerners in the last decade. ISIS is an example of violent nationalism fueled by anger, hatred and revenge. And while certainly made up of men hardened from fighting the West and steeped in radical Islam, it attracts outsiders too. They are globally recruiting and enlisting the equivalent of ideological crusaders.

Even in Jersey.

A 74 year old German author named Jurgen Todenhofer spent ten days in Mosul and Raqqa with ISIS forces. Part of this time he spent in a recruitment facility. There, he met people from both New Jersey and the Caribbean. He also traveled extensively through the territory controlled by ISIS. Of course, his interactions were tightly controlled, but according to the Iraqi civilians, ISIS is no worse than Saddam, maybe better even. So far, no one from ISIS had used any mustard gas on anyone. The Syrian civilians he met seemed to prefer ISIS over the Assad regime, at least I got that feeling. But then again, the name Assad is associated with transforming towns to parking lots overnights, the people still inside, blood oozing through newly laid asphalt. Neither Assad nor Hussein ever set the bar particularly high.

Apparently if you’re a good God fearing Sunni Muslim, you are indeed, to use a beloved expression from the American Deep South, shitting in high cotton.

The civilians left in ISIS controlled territory are almost exclusively Sunni Muslims. If I’m mistaken, it’s only because some minority groups have thus far failed to leave and have not yet been exterminated. What’s happening is natural. It’s normal. Think back to the dissolution of Yugoslavia back in the 90s. I saw and smelled that shit firsthand. The Serbs needed Serbia something terrible but they had to pay for it. Same for the Croats and the rest. Think even further back to the fall of the USSR. Or look at Africa. Any of it. Places like Somalia have never even begun to recover.

The Sunni Muslims need a place to be. So do the Shia. And the Alawites. And the Orthodox Christian Arabs. And the Kurds. The thing is, these guys have to work all this shit out for themselves as it was devilishly mishandled outside intervention that formed the genesis of the problems we, and especially they, face today. The atrocities and ethnic cleansing we are exposed to in the media is simply the result of availability of media. This behavior is not out of character for what is occurring and only seems worse because we are able to see more of it on our computers and big assed 52″ flat screen televisions. Displacement is a consistently occurring effect of decolonization. You don’t separate previously integrated groups by sending invitations to refugee camps. You motivate unwelcome parties to flee by fucking them up. Like I said, everyone needs a place. As an unofficially Christian nation, however, it’s hard for people not to somehow take it personally when the news reports that ISIS has “beheaded 21 Orthodox Christians.”

That, in itself, makes me ask if someone wants us to take it personally. And why. But that’s another thing altogether.

Americans also seem to be as terrified of the concept of Sharia law as they are misinformed about it. The fear is righteous. Sharia is decidedly unfriendly to non Muslims. It is, however, a necessary element in social hierarchy of Islamic culture. Islam, fundamentally, is legalistic and lends itself in many ways to theocratic forms of government, which is how the Islamic State is trying to present itself. Arabic culture not only fails to place the value on democracy that westerners do, but they also fail to draw the sharp line between government and religion.

On a side note, I find it side splittingly funny that no one seems particularly bothered by the fact that the Saudis implement Sharia or by the way they go about it. The Saudis are, in fact, known for having a poor reputation regarding human rights. When a women’s school in Saudi Arabia catches fire in the night and the fleeing women are not appropriately covered, exit is barred by authorities. It’d be awful to burn to death because you couldn’t find your ninja mask when the smoke woke you in the night and the Jesus police barred the doors. We still trade with these savages. Does that make my sense of humor twisted?

If it weren’t for my twisted yet well read sense of humor, you’d never have known that really happened. And not so long ago. So there.

I’m curious to see how the events unfold this year. Much is at stake, on all sides. Western interests seem to be gambling on ISIS doing some or all of the heavy lifting when it comes to ousting the Assad regime and establishing a friendly government, essentially a sort of recolonization itself. The gamble is based on how hard it will be to control or oust ISIS after and if ISIS is able to rout Assad completely.

ISIS is, essentially, placing all of their eggs into one big ass sandbox and hoping like hell that sheer numbers do the trick when the bigger richer boys show up to play and bring tanks and trucks.

Again, this not the first time this has happened. Back in the first century BC, about sixty miles south of Rome proper, a gladiatorial training center was overrun by about 70 enslaved gladiators and all the Roman citizens involved in the operation were slaughtered.

For a year or two, this group looted and pillaged Roman towns, killing Romans and freeing slaves. Slaves jumped at the opportunity to join this small movement, which swelled to a force of over 70,000 by 71 BC. Up until this point, Rome had utterly refused to take seriously an uprising of slaves, deeming it only worthy of being handled by poorly trained and equipped local militias. A steady stream of victories against the poorly lead local forces bronzed the egos and courage of the resistance. And they actually thought they had a chance against Rome.

At that point, enough was enough. A rich asshole named Crassus was appointed to deal with the uprising. He engaged the army of slaves with a force of 40,000 highly trained, highly experienced Roman centurions and the army of Spartacus was wiped away forever like a turd on a wet wipe.

The moral is…you don’t fuck with Rome. Because Rome will fuck you up.

The fighting force that, essentially, is ISIS, seems to have evolved much in the same way as the army of Spartacus. ISIS is primarily lead by men freed from coalition fingernail factories. Guys who were dangerous and pissed off before being tortured and humiliated. Gladiators and slaves. Both groups utilize(d) similar personal demographics, those of people with a basic ideological need to resist what they perceive to be injustice.

Furthermore, they grew battle hardened and emboldened through successful military engagements against inferior forces, like the Roman citizen militias and the Iraqi army. In addition to increasing territory and available resources, shortsighted victories such as these boost morale and when human resources are available, recruitment numbers.

For Spartacus and his army of slaves, victory was in fact short lived and defeat was spelled out across the Roman countryside by men stapled to wooden crosses driven into the ground by their inevitable conquerors. So far, the only occupied crosses have been driven by ISIS themselves, but the new war is still young and Rome has not yet mobilized it’s more effective methods of extermination.

The only protection ISIS has, fundamentally, are the millions of non combatant civilians that they hide amongst to eat and sleep, and the fact that Rome has not yet been able to convince its citizens to foot the bill on a flat out Caesarian cleansing of the proverbial slate.

Not since Hiroshima at least.

This foul new year will indeed be a fine one for those who like to observe history as it happens, especially when it’s through a magic porthole in a living room, several thousand miles away. I can’t say that for those who see it first hand, but I’m sure they’ll be just as engrossed as I am.