Monday, June 29, 2020

Fourth of July, Celebrating What? Part one.

Celebrating white supremacy, that’s what. Count me out.

Supposedly, slavery and the wars of genocide against Native Americans were over in the nineteenth century. Lincoln declared slavery to be illegal in 1863, even though the slaves in Texas were not told about it until “Juneteenth” in 1865. And, officially, the last massacre of Natives by whites in America was at Wounded Knee in 1890.

But, even with the official ending of slavery and of Native massacres, the slaughter continued in other forms. You could even say that the peak year was 1921, and the best place in the world to be a white supremacist was near Tulsa, Oklahoma, where I live. I am writing to you as an almost-white man in Tulsa in 2020.

The year 1921 was when the Tulsa Race Massacre took place, in which whites killed blacks with a ferocity and determination that they would never have used against slaves. The 1920’s were also the peak of lynching, of which Tulsa was a local capital. I will say nothing more about this.

But 1921 was also the official start of the Osage Murders just west of Tulsa. The Osages were the richest people in the world at that time. The U.S. government had forced them to live in dry, rocky hills that were considered to be of no value. But the Osages managed to keep, in writing, their control over the mineral (including oil) rights to their lands. When it was discovered that the Osage Reservation had the richest oil reserves in America, the Osages became very wealthy. They even had white servants. But then white men began killing Osage Natives, after marrying into their families in order to get control of their mineral rights.

The most famous example was five Osage sisters, who died one by one (by gunshot or poisoning) until only one remained, as explained by David Grann in Killers of the Flower Moon, one of the most gripping books I have ever read. The white murderers killed their own Osage family members. This started in 1921. By 1926, the murderers (led by the richest white man in Osage County, William Hale) had been identified and the case appeared to be closed. This photo is of the surviving Osage sister, Molly Burkhardt.

But Grann’s book also presented evidence that there were a lot of other deaths that were never recognized as murders. The murders orchestrated by William Hale were simply the most spectacular, culminating in blowing up a house with dynamite. But there were many other cases in which white courts appointed white guardians for Osages, who were considered incompetent to handle their own affairs; and in scores of cases, the Osage wards died at a much higher rate than the general population. These were probably poisonings.

These were not just isolated instances of bad white people. They were indicators of a widespread and murderous hostility. The Osage Murders were not simply a few evil white men. The Oklahoma soil is drenched with the blood that whites have shed from black and Native victims.

(In case you have heard of Osage County before, let me tell you where. Tracy Letts’s stage play about the incredibly dysfunctional Okie family was August: Osage County.)

It wasn’t just the Osages. My own tribe, the Cherokees, had our land allotments taken away from us by white judges and swindlers. This included by grandfather’s land. Today, hardly any Cherokees have their original land allotments. I have always borne resentment toward the governments of the United States and of Oklahoma ever since I learned this aspect of my family history.

But, at least, the Cherokee land grab was peaceful. It happened in courtrooms and bank boardrooms, and did not involve murders, as it did with the Osages. Or, at least, that is what I always thought, until I read Grann’s book.

Grann describes, among many other things that whites did to the Osages, cases in which doctors would pretend to treat Osages for ailments by giving them injections they claimed were insulin but turned out to be poison. Murders by poison were undoubtedly much more common than by more violent means. Usually, no inquest was made. In some cases, the victims died of “consumption.”

“Consumption” is tuberculosis, or TB. In the early twentieth century, lots of people had TB. One of them was my grandfather’s brother William. He died at a sanatorium in 1917. My family has always accepted this version of his death. But what if he was actually poisoned? And what if his white overseers got his land as a result of it? The photo is of Great Uncle William Carroll Hicks.

Another aspect to the white oppression of Native Americans is that maybe my grandfather was lucky to be swindled. If he had managed to hold onto his land and whatever oil it might have contained, might he have been murdered? Maybe the swindle that took his land away from him was what allowed his family, and ultimately me, to exist.

Presumably, such murderous oppression is no longer going on today. But maybe it does continue. The American government used Vietnam War military equipment against the Pine Ridge protestors in 1973, and had them ready to use against the Standing Rock protestors in 2016. Native Americans are considered to be enemy combatants by our own government.

This is the background against which white police shootings of black men take place. It is impossible for us humans to be so logical as to see each shooting independently on its own merits. It is inevitable that the world—everyone except white Americans—see this as a potentially murderous oppression of black people. But it isn’t just blacks. The rate at which Native Americans are shot by white police is greater even than the rate at which white police shoot blacks. Each year, white police shoot an average of 2.9 Natives per million population. For blacks, it is 2.6; for Hispanics, 1.7; for whites, 0.9; for Asians, 0.6. See here for more information. Every time a Native or black person is shot, we inevitably see this against a background of slavery and genocide.

You don’t even have to be completely black or Native to suffer oppression. My grandfather was only one-quarter Cherokee, but he had no more rights to his land than did the full-bloods. And don’t forget the famous civil rights case of Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the “black man” Homer Plessy was seven-eighths white.

Go ahead and celebrate freedom, if you are completely white.

This essay has appeared in a blog about evolution primarily because, from an evolutionary viewpoint, human races do not actually exist.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Taking the Extremists Seriously

Back in 1975, I was a new student at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I wandered through the library, enthralled by the huge number of books. Guided by my interest in Japan, I ended up in the World War Two history section. I found a book by Otto D. Tolischus, Through Japanese Eyes. Written during the war, the book used the words of the leaders of the Japanese Empire to show that they were every bit as bad as the Nazis and deserved no better treatment from us after their inevitable defeat.

But I also found a book entitled, Are Germans Human? I am quite sure I saw this book, though I can find no online record of it. The author answered his own question: “Are Germans human? Probably not.” His reasoning was that Nazi leaders could spend the day committing mass killings, then go home at night and speak lovingly to their caged birds. Could a single human contain such different feelings at the same time?

The frightening thing is that, yes, people can be good at one time and bad another. Germans today are very peaceful and polite, and even during Nazi times most Germans were not true, converted Nazis. But enough of them were that they produced the greatest evil in history. Moreover, the same individual human being can be loving at one moment and bloodthirsty the next.

The brief conclusion I want to draw, following on the last two entries, is that we should not assume that extreme right-wing people are, despite what they say, actually very nice people and could not possibly rise up and damage or destroy society. Paul Harvey would not have been violent, nor would James Miller. But today, thousands of right-wingers openly display threats of violence. We see them wear camouflage, mask their faces, and bring their weapons to protests. We think they could not possibly turn their guns against the rest of us. While this may be true, we must remember that the slightest perceived insult might cause otherwise nice rednecks to take the actions that they say they are ready to take. Even if only, say, ten percent of right-wing extremists become violent, America might be so severely disrupted that it cannot survive in a hostile world.

My point is simple. We should not dismiss the extremists by saying, “Oh, they wouldn’t actually use those weapons.”

Sunday, June 21, 2020

A Kind of Republican You Will No Longer Find: Example 2

Chances are you’ve never heard of James Miller, whom I described in the previous essay. But you have probably heard of Paul Harvey. Many radio stations carried his fifteen-minute program in which he gave his conservative Republican version of the news. His introduction sounded like, Stand by for news?

For him, mainstream media were intolerably liberal. He would give his right-wing reinterpretation of everything, building up to a climax that often contained the word con-damnation. But he never, ever went to the extremes that you find nearly every moment on Fox News today. And he never propagated conspiracy theories, like Tucker Carlson saying that the metric system was an instrument of world domination which America must oppose. Paul Harvey was, compared to nearly every modern Republican, a reasonable and even a nice guy.

And something Paul Harvey had that almost no conservative has anymore is empathy. Harvey cared about people. This was illustrated in a frequent segment that he had called The Rest of the Story. He would tell the stories, usually of overcoming adversity, behind many famous people past and present. It was invariably an uplifting message.

I ran across a book with 82 of his stories in it. Here were some of his stories:

  • Agatha Christie faked her own murder before she became a famous writer.
  • Patrick Henry kept his insane wife in his cellar.
  • Mark Twain had a dream in which he foresaw his brother’s death.
  • A novel entitled “Futility” described the sinking of a huge ship, called the Titan, which had proclaimed itself invulnerable. This was in 1898, fourteen years before the Titanic sank.
  • Wagner played music for his dog, and waited for his dog’s approval before finalizing it.
  • Adlai Stevenson shot a little girl when he was a little boy, and lived his life in remorse.
  • French detective Henri Latour’s final case was one in which he discovered the guilt of his own son.
  • Charles Lindbergh designed an artificial heart before he went on to become a famous pilot.
  • Sarah Winchester built a huge mansion to house the ghosts of those who had been killed by the rifle marketed by her late husband.

Back in the 1970s, Paul Harvey was the voice of conservatism. Now, Rush Limbaugh gets the Medal of Freedom. Somewhere along the line, Republicans have become the voice of evil.

Evil, but increasingly of impotence. Trump’s Tulsa rally yesterday was supposed to be a bang-up start to an exciting re-election campaign. He chose Tulsa, where I live, because it is the most reliable of Trump’s support bases. He expected to ride a Red wave of support, and wanted to see violent protesters spewing hatred at him and destroying public and private property, so that he could appear to be the great Savior of America. None of this happened. There were a lot of empty seats at his rally inside the BOK convention center, and there were no crowds outside, so his campaign staff dismantled the outdoor stage. Trump blamed the poor turnout on rioters, of which there were none. The protests were peaceful, and their mood turned festive toward the end.

Perhaps worst of all for Trump was that he had nothing to say about any major issues in the nation or the world. Nothing about the economy or economic competition with China. He had an opportunity to call out for racial unity, and to proclaim himself the president of all Americans, not just white Americans. He could have so easily said these things, and he would have had an outpouring of admiration. Instead, he chose to call everyone who protested against Confederate statues as being “maniacs who want to attack our country,” and an “unhinged mob who want to erase our heritage.” In both cases it was clear that by “our” he meant Confederate. Trump’s hour-and-a-half speech was so uneventful that even the protesters decided to just chill out and watch the gradual demise of Trump’s boastful self-image.

This blog is dedicated to science. This includes the evolutionary science of altruism, about which Republicans used to know a thing or two but about which they are now clueless.

Makes me wish for the days of Paul Harvey again. And as he always signed off, “Good day?

Saturday, June 20, 2020

A Kind of Republican You Will No Longer Find, Example 1

On the day that I am posting this, Donald Trump is visiting Tulsa for his first big rally leading up to the 2020 Election. VP Mike Pence is going to wander around Greenwood, the district in Tulsa where, 99 years ago, whites massacred blacks and destroyed one of the most prosperous black communities in the United States. Pence, an evangelical Christian, is going to meditate on how wonderful a peacemaker and reconciler Trump is, and how all black people should love Him no matter what He says or does. Thus far, as of two hours ago, no violence has erupted, despite the expectations of the white racists that blacks would massacre white people or at least destroy their businesses. Al Sharpton spoke at a rally last night, but the associated demonstrations were peaceful and positive—a Juneteenth celebration of black progress, rather than a violent blast against ongoing white racism. I will keep you posted about what happens next.

(Photo from Radio KWGS website)

There are many moderate Republicans who are ashamed of Trump, but Trump is such a powerful voice of hatred that these moderate Republicans maintain their silence and fall in line behind Him.

But this has not always been the case. There was a time when the Republican Party was not as full of hatred as it is today. I have fond memories of Republicans who, even though I now believe they were wrong, were constructive. I will share their stories with you in the next two essays.

When I was in fifth grade, it became abundantly clear to me that I needed glasses. The teacher wrote test questions on the board for us to answer, and I could not read them, nor would the teacher allow me to approach the board. A straight-A student, I was a little upset, though my final grade was hardly affected by it.

I got my glasses in sixth grade. The optometrist who examined me and prescribed them was James O. Miller of Exeter, California. I almost immediately revered him. He was a practitioner, not a scientist, but he found all aspects of science fascinating. He got most of it from a little magazine, The Griffith Observer, published by the Griffith Observatory, to which Miller was drawn by his interest in optics. Dr. Miller explained everything to me, even though I was just a little kid. He drew a diagram to show me what caused my nearsightedness (the focus from the lens was not on the retina). In a larger measure than I probably realize, he set me on the path of becoming a scientist.

Dr. Miller was a staunch Republican back in the days when Richard Nixon was running for president and Ronald Reagan was governor of California. One of my eye checkup appointments was during the 1968 Republican convention. He had the radio on in his office, and his assistant, as instructed, told him who the VP nominee was. He had never heard of Spiro Agnew. (Have you?) Miller was also what we would today call a Quiverfull Christian. He had so many kids that they had their own basketball team. I am not making this up. He joined bus trips to Sacramento to lobby for conservative causes. I was on one of those buses with him.

But his Christian views would be almost unrecognizable by modern evangelicals. Like Loren Wilkinson (see previous essay), Dr. Miller considered everything in the natural world to be joyous evidence of God and something that Christians should protect and cherish. Most modern evangelicals consider the Gaia Hypothesis to be paganism, but when Dr. Miller told me about it, he said, “I never saw such clear evidence of God in my life.” Christians like Miller are now rare, or at least obscure.

James Miller died of a sudden heart attack while he was jogging. He was enjoying health and nature until the last moment.

Friday, June 12, 2020

How to Make Your Day with Citizen Science!

How can you make an ordinary hike into an odyssey of the mind? Do some citizen science, of course!

It was a nice day in early summer, so I decided to take a hike. In Tulsa, there is really only one place to do this: Turkey Mountain, so called because it is not a mountain and has no turkeys. I could have gone to Red Bud Valley, which is a really nice place northeast of Tulsa, but the only road into and out of it is one across which trains park for hours at a time, blocking access in and out. In contrast, Turkey Mountain is near my home and is accessible.

But I have been there so many times! I almost know every trail and every tree and every rock. Of course, I always need the exercise and the fresh air. But there must be something more I could do, I thought.

There was. First, I told myself that I would deliberately look for interesting things that I might have previously overlooked. I am a botanist and I know a lot of plants, but there are quite a few that I don’t know. I did not want to carry a key with me (a big book which allows plant identification). Therefore, for many years, I just ignored the plants I didn’t know.

All of that changed with the advent of iNaturalist. Get the app on your phone; take a photo; the app will identify the species of plant (or fungus or bird or scorpion or even bacteria in some cases; it identified Nostoc commune for me, the star jelly, a cyanobacterial mat); upload it to a database with millions of observations. Therefore, I deliberately looked for new things. iNaturalist can identify plants even from crappy phone images; I verified them when I got home. Perhaps the best part is that your observation is added to the database right away, and anybody in the world can look at it, though it appears to be limited to North American observations. Within seconds you can contribute to a worldwide scientific database. Such is the power of citizen science! Bring it along with you on your hike. Participate in citizen science.

(I know you are wondering. Star jelly is mat of single cells that looks like black dried snot except that it comes back to life whenever it rains. Way cool. For centuries, it has been considered extraterrestrial in origin, e.g. asteroid poop. And an article in the magazine Fate, to which I am afraid to link, still says this. If I wrote horror novels, I would have a giant star jelly attacking Godzilla. How about, Attack of the Killer Star Jelly?)

Here is an example of how participating in citizen science helped me learn things. I had always wondered what the grass was that grew along the trail in the forest. I found out it was a panic grass (genus Dichanthelium). But as I looked, I saw the “grass” was mixed in with a rush, Juncus tenuis. They look alike until you look closely.

But this is not, so far, actual science. Somebody might use the iNaturalist database to conduct scientific research, but if I just uploaded images, I was still a participant rather than an actual scientist.

Then I noticed something. It is the peak flowering time for wild carrot, Daucus carota, also called Queen Anne’s lace.

One of the strange things about the bunch of little flowers (called, in this case, an umbel) is that in the very center there is a purplish-black knob which is actually an undeveloped flower. Why is it there? I remember us botany students discussing it back when I was in grad school. Maybe, I thought, I will look it up when I get home. But instead I decided to do some science.

I noticed, first, that some of the umbels had the knobs and some did not. Second, I noticed that there seemed to be more pollinators on the umbels with knobs than those without. The hypothesis popped into my head: the knob looks like a pollinator, and it attracts other pollinators. The insects think that, if there is already a pollinator present, the umbel must be a good place to eat.

Nice idea. Now, to test the hypothesis. I needed to find a big sample of umbels with knobs, and umbels without knobs. Just looking at some of the many umbels along the trail, I found a total of 232 umbels: 136 with knobs, 96 without. I then counted the number of pollinators on each flower, and recorded these numbers on my phone notebook. (I stopped using paper when I found that sweat would destroy my paper notes.) These are the results I got:

Percent of umbels without any pollinators
Average number of pollinators per umbel
Umbels with knobs
Umbels without knobs

The results seemed clear: flowers with the black knobs attracted more pollinators: there were fewer knobbed umbels without pollinators, and the average number of pollinators was greater.

Notice some things I had to take into account in designing this little survey.

  • First, I had to avoid bias. I really had no idea if my hypothesis was correct when I started; I was not trying to get a certain answer. I even did the analysis itself before reading any background material, so as to not let other people’s results bias my analysis.
  • Second, I needed an adequate sample size of umbels with knobs, and those without. If all of the umbels had knobs, I could not have tested the hypothesis. The explanation would then be lost in the evolutionary past. But there were plenty of both kinds of umbels.

I needed a large sample size because there are many other factors at work in this system. Pollinators do not behave independently of one another. They tend to move in groups, which means that, inevitably, some knobbed umbels will remain unvisited, while some un-knobbed umbels will have pollinators, even if the pollinators have a clear preference for knobbed flowers.

The next step was one I did not have time to take, and is beyond the reach of most citizen-scientists: statistical analysis. Almost any result can occur by chance. This result does not seem to be due to chance, but a statistical program on a computer (if you can afford one) will calculate the probability that the results are due to chance. You can’t do this on your cell phone. Not only do you need a program, but you need to know what you are doing. With all of those zeroes (39% and 47% of the observations), you cannot do regular parametric statistics. If you do, and get a very significant result, it is probably okay, though. But unless you have a computer program, you can’t do either parametric or nonparametric statistics. Back in grad school, we did it laboriously by hand. On clay tablets (just kidding).

Okay, now it’s time to look at the literature. Why is there a purplish-black spot in the middle of the umbel? Legend has it that Queen Anne, an avid lace-maker, pricked her finger and left a drop of blood in the middle of the lace. But, let’s stick to science. My hypothesis, that the black knob attracts insects, is the leading explanation, according to The Carrot Museum in the U.K. (You read that right. There is, in fact, a Carrot Museum, although it is online. It is dedicated to the history, evolution, science, sociology, and art of the carrot.) If I had not stopped to do some citizen science, I would never have been provoked into searching online and discovering the Carrot Museum.

But according to a 2013 article in Plant Species Biology, the dark knob in the middle of the umbel does not attract pollinators. This study used videography and triangulation. So, who is right? Me, or those authors? This raises an interesting possibility: maybe the dark knob attracts pollinators sometimes, but not others. I just got lucky. We were both right.

Then there is the possibility that the dark knob is simply a developmental oddity that is harmless and that neither natural nor artificial selection has eliminated.

Now, was this an interesting hike or what? Oh, those poor people who run or walk along with earbuds, thinking that the natural world is not interesting enough for them! But if you are reading this you probably don’t have this problem.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Non-Primordial Ocean Depths: More Thoughts from Loren Eiseley

In previous essays, I have written about things I learned from reading essays by Loren Eiseley, a science writer who is now largely forgotten. In his essay The Great Deeps, Eiseley told the story of how nineteenth-century scientists believed that the bottoms of the oceans, many miles deep, contained the ancestors of all life forms. That is, life evolved at the bottom of the ocean, then moved up into the light. Some of them, such as Ernst Haeckel and Thomas Henry Huxley, believed that the entire ocean bottom was covered with a layer of protoplasm that was an intermediate between life and non-life. Huxley even gave it a scientific name, in honor of Haeckel: Bathybius haeckelii. The biggest oceanographic expedition up to that time, the voyage of the Challenger, was intended to discover the ancestors of all life forms at the bottom of the sea.

They were very disappointed. They found that the deep waters contained very few life forms. Not only that, but Bathybius turned out to not be protoplasm at all but a chemical precipitate formed by the process of preserving marine specimens with alcohol. Huxley quietly admitted he was wrong and went on with his life.

In retrospect, this should not have been surprising. If the entire ocean bottom was covered with a living slime (which they also called the Urschleim, or primordial slime), what did it eat? Almost all food comes from photosynthesis, of which there is none in the deep sea. The only food in the deep sea comes from the slow rain of dead stuff falling from the surface.

Instead, life began in shallow waters. These are the places where cells are happy living by themselves. They can stay moist and absorb all the molecules and sunlight that they need. As life continued to evolve, it invaded the land. As it did so, it had to take the oceans with it. To do this, they needed multicellular structures that maintained homeostasis (regulated conditions) within their bodies, thus keeping the inside cells as happy as they had been in the shallow seas. The leaves of trees have chloroplasts, which make their food; nearly everything else of which a tree consists is a structure that helps keep the chloroplasts happy. The same is true for your cells. Your skin, your kidneys, your heart all help to keep your inner cells close to equilibrium.

Life moved into the deep waters, not up from them. That is, the deep waters do not have primordial life; they have life that has moved into them from the shallow waters. That is why so many of the deep sea animals, such as squids and angler-fishes, are clearly the evolutionary descendants of higher life forms from the surface waters.

(National Geographic photo)

Eiseley wrote at a time before the deep sea vents were discovered. How he would have been thrilled to find out that, in some of the deepest waters, life is abundant. Microbes live by oxidizing the hydrogen sulfide from volcanic eruptions. Giant worms live by hosting these microbes inside their cells. A whole food chain of crabs and clams and such like live there. But all of these life forms are descendants of animals that live in the surface waters and on the seashore. This exciting discovery would have only proved his point more clearly than he knew. He died about the time these vents were discovered.

What scientists once confidently assumed was primordial turns out to be derived.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Saving the World—For Whom?

There are numerous ways in which I try very hard to help save the world. Many of these ways have become habits I hardly think about. What are some of these ways, and why do I do them?

  • I try to keep myself healthy. I eat healthy, and I exercise—no fancy diets or exercises, just healthy food and hiking. Why? It might seem obvious: I want to be healthy. But there is another reason. If I get sick, the insurance companies and, ultimately, the taxpayers will have to foot part of the bill. Insurance premiums go up for everybody, not just for me, if I get sick a lot.
  • I am “environmentally responsible.” I drive a fuel-efficient car, I recycle almost everything, I do not waste energy and water. Why? Very little of it is for my own personal benefit, though I admit that I really, really like my Prius and enjoy paying less for gasoline. Most of my environmentally responsible actions, however, are for the good of society and the world.
  • I have also been responsible during the ongoing (yes, folks, it’s ongoing) pandemic by doing what I can to prevent the transmission of the virus. The benefit should seem obvious: I am less likely to get sick. But the major reason is that I am less likely to transmit the virus, even if I do not have symptoms.

In all three cases above, the major beneficiaries of my actions are other people. Not only are they other people, but they are people I cannot choose. When animals, including humans, are good to their offspring, their own fitness is enhanced. And when animals, including humans, are good to other animals from whom they expect goodness in return (evolutionary scientists call this direct reciprocity), they can specify who the recipients are. But the three cases above are examples of, at best, indirect reciprocity: at most, the only benefit that I can receive is a good reputation. All of you out there can admire me for practicing a healthy, environmentally conscious lifestyle. But actually, this doesn’t matter a whole lot to me. While I want you all out there to like me, I will never know whether most of you do or not. I will have no opportunity to cash in on the financial and material benefits of a good reputation. Therefore, the major reason I do these things is to help other people. I’m not bragging; so, I gave away an old waffle iron to Goodwill? How hard was that? Certainly not a sacrifice. Some poor person may benefit; I will never know whether this happens, or who benefits.

The purpose of this essay is to point out that there is something different about indirect reciprocity. And that is: the altruist cannot choose the recipients.

  • When I reduce my medical bills, thus reducing everyone’s insurance premiums, I cannot choose whose premiums will go down. I wish the premiums of only people who try to be healthy would decrease. But even if you are a smoker who sits in front of the television, you benefit, even if only a little, from my good health. You’re welcome.
  • When I reduce my environmental impact, I cannot choose who will benefit. I wish that my reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, my reduction of the overall use of pesticides (by buying from a farmer’s market when possible) would benefit only my fellow environmentalists. But those of you who drive big pickups around, spewing pollutants from a huge vertical tailpipe, and throw hundreds of thousands of pieces of garbage onto Oklahoma highways (I’ve made numerical estimates of how much), and who viscerally hate environmentalists like me will also benefit. You’re welcome.
  • When I do my part to reduce the spread of coronavirus, I wish that the only beneficiaries were others who, like me, restrain themselves from lurid contagious activities in public. But if you are one of those people who take your guns and occupy state capitols to protest against wearing face masks, people who hate responsible citizens such as myself, you will also benefit. You are also less likely to catch the virus, because of what I and people like me are doing. You’re welcome.

Oh, by the way, don’t try occupying federal land or state capitols unless you are white. Just sayin.’ Native Americans tried it in North Dakota a couple of years ago, and many black people are rioting right now in response to the death of...I think his name was George Floyd, but so many black people get killed by cops that I can’t keep them all straight. You have heard about the big riots, but there have been many peaceful protests, such as the one this past weekend in Tulsa. This, despite the fact that the majority of white cops are good people.

People like me, who use every opportunity to act against racism, contribute to a better society. Who benefits from this better society? Even people who hate everyone except their white buddies and who show us their guns will benefit from this better society. I wish I could round up all the racists and put them on a ranch in Nevada and let them shoot each other. But this will not happen. Even though I hate it when this happens, my good actions will benefit assholes. I wish I could snap my fingers and all the assholes would get beamed up to outer space and materialized inside a nebula, where they would burst open and their blood would spew out into the galaxies. But it doesn’t work this way. Once a good deed leaves my fingers, I lose all control over it. The good deed diffuses into the Giant Karma Machine only, unlike real karma, if there is any such thing, what goes around comes around to everybody.

And the same is true of all of you good people who are reading this, since assholes don’t read anything not written or spouted by other orange assholes, whether on certain networks, or in blogs, or via Facebook and Twitter. We all have to just get used to the fact that, by the laws of nature, all our good deeds will end up benefiting, if only a little, the people who least deserve any benefit from anybody. And all of us good people can collectively say, even to those who would rather die than thank us, you’re welcome.

I have one more essay about Loren Eiseley to post, but this essay is timely.