Escaping the Groundhog Trap

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

I’m not a big fan of Groundhog Day—the holiday or the movie.

As a kid, the holiday just confused me. Why a groundhog? Can’t you just see if you cast a shadow yourself? Or if a bush, a stone, a dog…anything casts a shadow? I wondered at the particular properties of groundhogs, and why their shadows might be somehow different than those of any other thing on the planet. I suppose I never quite felt like anybody adequately explained the magical properties of particular varieties of burrowing rodents for me to really get behind the holiday or its alleged meaning.

The lack of a real explanation is one of the things that keeps me from enjoying the movie, Groundhog Day as well. What caused this to happen? And why is the resolution what it is? What would make any magical powers of time control so interested in getting Bill Murray’s character, Phil, together with Andie MacDowell’s character, Rita? Perhaps a resident of Punxsutawney is one of the aliens from Edge of Tomorrow who accidentally infected Phil with the time control powers. But that can’t be it, because then Phil would’ve had to die every day, and he only died on some of those days.

Beyond that, the movie just follows the theme of so many movies from the 1980s about how great small-town America is, and how some cynical guy from the big city needs to learn to appreciate that. As for Murray’s arc in the movie, it’s rather similar to Scrooged.

The audience is also expected to root for Phil to ‘get the girl,’ even after he uses his powers of time repetition to manipulate one of the local women into sleeping with him, and then trying to manipulate Rita into falling for him by pretending to like everything she likes—information he gathers from her in conversations she will never remember.

Ultimately, Phil has to get through one day being kind and helpful, rather than acting like his usual, egocentric self (but, again, why is this the resolution—and would it really matter whether Rita decided she liked him or not?). But that last, single day of generous Phil doesn’t feel much different from the videogame-style resets that go on through the rest of the movie, or in Edge of Tomorrow, and hardly seems like a long-term change to his character as much as it feels like him resigning himself to being a decent human being for one day if he ever wants to get out of Punxsutawney. How is his decency not just more manipulation—another possible route out of the repetition he is trapped in?

Many people have labeled Phil’s situation in Groundhog Day an “existential dilemma” or otherwise termed the movie as existentialist. Properly speaking, though, if Phil’s was an existential problem, he wouldn’t have a long period of being able to make whatever decisions he wanted with no thought, responsibility, or consequences at all, only to be pushed into making the “right” decisions–as judged by whatever power kept him perpetually trapped in Punxsutawney on a particular day–until he did what was deemed correct by that power and the “spell” was broken. He would be responsible for whatever he did, and nothing would compel him to do anything.

groundhog drive

The most important lesson of all–Don’t drive angry.

Still, it’s something of a tribute to Groundhog Day, the movie, that it has become synonymous in our culture with repetitive behavior or situations. And it is perhaps the fantasy that we could relive a particular day until we did it right, managing to impress everyone around us, and connect with our one true love in the process (as well as the opportunity to indulge in a great deal of irresponsible behavior along the way), that has led it to this level of popular recognition. Or perhaps it’s the underlying idea that we are trapped by our own behaviors in repetitive cycles, and that we can change ourselves in order to achieve a better life—along with the wishful notion that we need to be good people if we really want to get what we want.

After all, the idea of breaking out of repetitive cycles and habits, or perhaps of creating better habits and repetitive cycles, along with being better people…good people…our best selves, is what underlies much religion, philosophy, and, yes, therapy.

We all struggle through our own behavioral patterns, habits, and the potential sameness of our days, the rut of weeks, months, seasons, and years. But no bizarre fluke of time is going to trap us in a loop and push us to do things differently and become better people, or pursue what we want. That’s on us.

Whatever I might think of him, Phil found out that it wasn’t a groundhog, or the celebration that surrounded a groundhog’s shadow, that was at the core of his problem. Rather it was his own shadows, the darkness he threw out into the world.

So maybe Groundhog Day is the perfect time to look around at our own shadows and what they say about our forecasts—how much more winter we may have in store—and then think about what, if anything, we want to do to change that.

Happy Groundhog Day.

 

New Year’s Resolutions 2016

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

In years past, I put my (mostly self-deprecating) resolutions out into the world via fairly constrained social media channels, with limited commentary, where those who encountered them would likely have some idea of what I was talking about. But, since plenty of the people reading this (or rather, the teeming tides of people who could potentially read this) don’t know me personally (unlike most of the tiny trickle of people who actually will read this) I figure some explanation is probably in order. Plus, a list of five short items, presented as a blog post, hardly qualifies as making an effort.

Baby New Year

Resolution 1: Be less informed.

This might not sound like a particularly noble goal. But given that we are under a constant barrage of information, I, like Donald Trump, feel the need to put up some walls. See, I don’t even have to explain that wall comment, because of the useless information we cannot avoid. Of course, knowing about Donald Trump’s litany of offensive statements is, I suppose, important, in that his stupidity is impacting the attitudes and behavior of like-minded idiots—and it’s usually good to be aware of the relative threat level posed by idiots. So, bad example, I guess.

Resolution 2: Take better care of my toenails.

I’m not entirely sure how I’ve made it this far in life without developing a better plan for addressing the menace that is my rapid-growth, super-strength toenails. Generally speaking, I don’t bother to cut them until I’ve, yet again, found myself having to carefully extract the threads of a frayed (by my toenails) sock from the gnarled, cracked, and dangerously sharp tangle of keratin protruding from the ends of my lower phalanges. It’s something of a wonder my wife hasn’t bled out in the middle of the night just from brushing against the things while sleeping.

Resolution 3: Read books, not Internet comments sections.

This is probably self-explanatory as a basic concept. But I’ve developed an unhealthy addiction to reading the comments sections following articles on the Internet—despite knowing exactly what those comments sections hold in store. It has gotten so bad that, even when websites have made it rather complicated to find the button to bring up the comments section, and take inordinate amounts of time to load the comments, I will squander precious minutes of my dwindling time here on Earth to gain access to those comments, even when much more rewarding reading material is immediately at hand. Heaven help me.

Resolution 4: Enjoy what I ingest.

I am extraordinarily blessed to have access to a wide variety of foods, from wonderful nearby restaurants, to farmers markets, specialty shops, and ‘international’ grocery stores, to fruits and vegetables we grow in our own yard. My wife, daughter, and I all know our way around a kitchen—or at least how to follow a recipe. Yet, a great deal of the time, I treat eating like an annoying task to get out of the way in order to avoid passing out in the middle of whatever else I’m doing. I will pause in front of the pantry to choke down a small stack of saltine crackers in order to stave off my hunger and save the time it would take me to microwave and eat last night’s leftovers. (Just now, I would’ve gone to the refrigerator and eaten a couple slices of deli ham if M hadn’t brought me a surprise platter of food). I’m not quite at the point where I think I need to count how many times I chew each bite–but that doesn’t sound like a bad ‘eating mindfully’ exercise for me.

And finally…

Resolution 5: More pretty bows?

It’s something of a tradition for me to include a hair-based resolution each year. Now, I could argue that that’s already been addressed (sort of) by that toenail resolution, given that hair and toenails are basically made up of the same thing—but I’m not sure if my adoring fans are willing to make that leap. I could go really basic, like resolving to get my hair cut at reasonable intervals. But that’s no fun. And anyway, I like the sound of “more pretty bows” as a kind of mission statement. I’m not sure exactly what I mean by that—take a little more time to pretty things up a bit? Imagine the world as if everyone had pretty bows in their hair? I’m not going to actually start wearing pretty bows in my hair, even though I have been known to sport a tiara in public. I guess I have a year to figure out just what I mean by this and to put it into action (or not).

new year me

Happy New Year!

2015 Resolutions in Review

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

Before I can get to that hope-inspiring, joy-filled, forward-looking task of announcing my New Year’s resolutions for 2016, it’s tradition to take a measured look at the progress made toward the resolutions of the past year.

Typically, I would have completed the task of reviewing last year’s resolutions on New Year’s Eve, but I’m starting off the New Year a day behind already, so that I can quickly dispense with any resolve to finally get on top of things.

Typically, I also would have only done this through multiple postings on other forms of social media. But, out of resolve to be ignored more efficiently across multiple social media formats, I also decided to squeeze a blog post out of it. After all, I was going to put in the work one way or the other.

father time

So, without further ado, here’s how I did with my resolutions for 2015.

Resolution 1: I resolve to increase awareness of body image issues, and promote positive body image by championing Unitard Tuesdays (UniTuesdays) at workplaces across America.

Okay, I totally overplayed my hand at this one. I’d only been at my current job for two months at the beginning of 2015. HR shut this down before I even made it into the building that first, bright, shining Tuesday of 2015. But now that I’ve got a bit more experience under my belt—a belt I won’t be wearing with my unitard—it would potentially be a good time to revisit this issue. However, I no longer work on Tuesdays. Guess I’ll have to leave this on the back burner a bit longer.

Resolution 2: I resolve to establish the ultimate matrix for determining whether a ‘Men’s Rights’ Internet account or website is a parody account, or actually intended to be serious.

I plunged into this resolution by mapping out a research strategy. By my second research session, and the seventh or eighth website comments section, I realized that comedy, much like rationality, is highly subjective. At any rate, I had to admit that I couldn’t handle that level of hilarity/unhingedness in my life. Sorry, world.

Resolution 3: I resolve to thoroughly clean the master bathroom at least once this year; the main bathroom–no promises.

A resounding, if qualified, success. I thoroughly cleaned the master bathroom at least twice during 2015, just not all at the same time. You know—sink and mirror now…toilet and floor some other day…shower yet another day. I also fully lived up to the “no promises” aspect of the resolution as it relates to the main bathroom.

Resolution 4: I resolve to get over my aversion to ‘returning’ or ‘reciprocating’ high-fives. I feel it’s completely reasonable for me to not want to engage in high-fiving anybody. I just don’t like the awkwardness of leaving anybody hanging.

An abject failure. Aversion still solidly in place. On a somewhat more positive note, though, I managed to completely avoid all but four situations wherein a high-five was expected of me.

And finally–Resolution 5: I resolve to develop some wicked-cool comb-overs and/or stock up on Ronco spray-hair–y’know, just in case.

In hindsight, it feels like I set myself up for failure here. I mean, who would’ve thought that 2015 would be the year that the hair of male presidential candidates—including an incomparable, but structurally unsound, comb-over–would become a bigger topic than the hair of female presidential candidates—especially since the election isn’t until November of 2016? That said, I did not make any investment in the Ronco spray-hair, and remained pretty conservative with the comb-over styles. If I were to compare my comb-over style to the current batch of presidential candidates, it’s pretty much a Ted Cruz, but with the basic appearance of a Carly Fiorina.

Well, it sure feels great to take stock of all that’s happened, or not happened, in the past year. The unexamined life and all that…

Stay tuned for my slightly late resolutions for 2016, and Happy New Year!

Grousing Into The Void

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

I’m in one of those spells where everything writing-wise is coming out all wrong. It’s not writer’s block, as such. I’ve been writing—some. But I get partway into something and it ends up sounding muddled, or just heads off in its own direction.

When writing goes off in its own direction, it can be a pretty great thing—if it works or is at least interesting. Lately, though, it’s just been frustrating and boring. And all of the recent writing that’s chosen its own direction has just walked away. As in, it’s been very pedestrian.

For instance, a few weeks back, I started in on a piece about how the Fifty Shades of Grey movie promotes gross misunderstandings of human sexuality, along with committing the possibly worse sin of being bland. But what I managed to cobble together sounded almost as ill-informed as the screenplay, and nearly as tedious. Not to mention, Fifty Shades wasn’t exactly a hot topic by the time I got around to it.

Another piece on equating authenticity with a lack of personal growth came across as snobbish—and not in an entertaining way. I set it aside.

Writing on anti-Millennial stereotyping in the media led me to make generalizations nearly as pointless as the ones I was attempting to challenge.

The politically-motivated shootings at a Colorado Planned Parenthood Clinic, followed shortly thereafter by the politically-motivated mass murder in San Bernardino, might normally have prompted me to write pieces challenging pro-gun-violence myths. Instead, I squandered some of my time and energy arguing online with pro-gun-violence folks, some so completely irrational that I fear they might be Trump supporters.

Grouse

Grouse…

void

…meet void.

This is not to say that the time and energy I spend writing my blog is anything other than a squandering.  It’s just one that provides me with some focus and enjoyment—or, rather, some enjoyment when I can actually focus. At some level, we all know that if we stop whatever we’re doing, the world will continue on—although we hope a part of the world might be impacted, or at least notice.

Of course, as I’m puzzling through all of this, perhaps I should mention that I got a promotion at work. I love the new role, but it came with a major upheaval in my schedule. I’m still struggling to functionally organize my time away from the job.  That said, the writing travails started to take hold before I was even offered the new position.

At base, I think it might come down to a fear that the time spent writing is wasted, or at least that its standing in the way of me getting other, more practical things done. More and more lately, the writing sessions, have ended up with frustration, leading me to move on, with the intent of doing something ‘productive.’ Unfortunately, that productivity hasn’t exactly materialized.

So for now, I’m going to go do something really productive—like stringing up Christmas lights (much later in the season than I intended) that I’ll have to take down in a few weeks’ time.

Anyway, thanks for reading.

 

Thanksgiving Greetings from an Ingrate, 2015

by

J.C. Schildbach, LMHC

I’ve got a confession to make. I’ve gone out “Black Friday” shopping. In the past. I’m all done with that now. Or maybe not. But I’m definitely not going this year.

Let me be clear. When I say that I’ve gone out Black Friday shopping, I’m not one of the lot who camps outside Walmart, intent on storming the electronics department to get one of only ten guaranteed copies of Call of Duty Special Platinum Mech War on Sesame Street Edition, or a half-price plasma…or LCD…or LED…or smart TV two inches larger than the one I bought last year. Although, to be fair, one Christmas season when I was in high school, I spent weeks obsessively calling around (yes with a landline, and using a phone book) to toy and department stores until I was able to procure a ColecoVision Entertainment system—only by placing a hold on it at a distant Toys-R-Us, said hold expiring two hours from the time it was placed.

My consumerism over the last decade or so has involved a decidedly less frantic approach than is seen on TV news stories that somehow both criticize and normalize the frenzied crush of shopping. (How shocking people are behaving this way, when we’ve been ginning them up since before Halloween!) In fact, I’ve only ever gone Black Friday shopping while visiting family in Oregon over the Thanksgiving weekend. The draw of no sales tax, combined with the basic boredom of the suburbs makes the lure of low prices at least enticing enough to get me out of the house.

But, more to the point, those shopping excursions have been a chance to spend some one-on-one time with mom. Something about it hearkens back to weekly childhood shopping trips. Mom would check the sales ads and coupons, compile the list—sorted by store and item price—and we would head out. I wasn’t particularly interested in most of the groceries beyond maybe breakfast cereal. And there was always the distinct possibility of a sibling or two coming along with their own agenda. But a chance to split off from the Safeway trip to hit the Sprouse Reitz next-door, or getting mom to swing by Kmart so I could pick up a Star Wars figure, after stopping at Hank’s for milk, ground beef, and canned soup…now that was something.

Thanksgiving trees

The Thanksgiving day view from my deck–for no real reason.

The Black Friday trips, though, haven’t turned out to be all that shopping-oriented. We’ve wandered away from more stores empty-handed than not, and with no sense of urgency or regret. One year, we went a little out of our way so I could get a copy of the PS2 game “Destroy All Humans” at a Best Buy…or maybe it was a Circuit City. At any rate, they had plenty in stock, but when mom and I saw that the line was wrapped around the inside wall of the store, then up and down a few more aisles, that $30 in savings didn’t seem so important anymore. I put the game back in its proper place on the shelf, and we moved on.

Another year, I started to get a migraine—auras and all—in the middle of a Fred Meyer. Mom fished some aspirin out of her purse, and then we went to get coffee and chat, while I mostly kept my eyes closed during that nauseating visual swirl. Our shopping trip ended early that year.

On those occasions when mom and I have ventured out, half-heartedly obeying the culture’s demands to consume, M has slept in, then stayed in bed reading. Why get up and expend that kind of energy buying things you don’t need when you’ve been graced with a day off, after all?

I suppose I should inject something of an apology here. I’m writing my Thanksgiving post about Black Friday, when I do what I can to separate out the holidays, keeping them to their own celebrations. I feel we’ve gotten to where Thanksgiving is turning into some sort of afterthought—a meal we have to get through before we can start the Christmas season in earnest. Black Friday sales now start well before Thanksgiving, too—having broken away from their assigned day.

I’ll skip the list and just say that I’ve got plenty to be thankful for this year. Unfortunately, one of those is not a Thanksgiving visit with mom–M and my work schedules won’t allow it. Of course, no trip to mom’s for Thanksgiving means no Black Friday shopping with mom, no rolling around my sort-of-hometown in a not-really quest for goods, just catching up.  I’m sad for the lack of that opportunity–but I did get to visit with mom, and my sister (who I hadn’t seen in a great, long while) earlier in the month.

This year for Thanksgiving, Ray’s Boathouse is hosting us (M, the kid, the kids’ boyfriend, and me—as well as lots and lots of strangers). Wherever you are, I hope you get a decent meal and steer clear of too much stress.

And if you’re headed out shopping over the next few days, keep it cheerful, and stay out of the news.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Halloween Upgrades, Part 4: Monster Caterpillar

The idea for the monster caterpillar came from one of the kid’s drawings.  I went looking for it, but am not sure where it went.  Usually, the drawings that are used for Halloween decorations end up tacked on the garage wall somewhere or other, but it’s not there.  Nor is it in my other file of potential Halloween decorations.

As usual, the original version was done rather last minute, so the overall look was a bit rushed.  It was also made out of a partially-used piece of plywood, accounting for some of the odd shapes.  At the time I first made it, I posted a picture of it online, leading a co-worker to ask, “What is it?”  That interaction led me to be deeply concerned with higher education in the U.S.A.  If a person with an advanced degree cannot readily identify giant, house-eating caterpillars, then we are truly doomed.  But I digress.

The original, rushed version, with our vicious guard dog looking on.

The original, rushed version, with our vicious guard dog looking on.

The caterpillar needed some fresh paint, so I made it look a bit more like I originally wanted.

With some fresh paint, and our vicious guard dog nowhere to be seen.

With some fresh paint, and our vicious guard dog nowhere to be seen.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Upgrades, Part 3: The Graveyard

A lot of the tombstones were looking pretty shabby.  Also, I still had some store-bought, styrofoam ones that I managed to patch up and keep using over the years.  So, I decided it was time to get the graveyard in order.  The styrofoam ones are finally gone, replaced with tombstones cut from a single, heavy board.  There’s one other new/replacement tombstone cut from the seat of a broken down dining room chair.  The rest–taken from a variety of different wood sources over the years–were touched up with primer, then “Make it Stone” paint, then spray sealer.

The graveyard--along with Murder Teddy and the purple alligator monster that lives downstairs.

The graveyard–along with Murder Teddy and the purple alligator monster that lives downstairs.

The lettering is all done freehand, in a variety of styles, partially depending on how the paint, paintbrushes, and the surface is behaving, but mostly just based on me winging it and hoping I don’t screw anything up too much.  The tombstones, per tradition, all involve the names of various fictional characters from books, comic books, and song.  The only one not visible in the picture (blocked by a zombie) is Caddy Compson.

But first, all of the tombstones and zombies got fitted with hinges or brackets (if they didn’t already have them) paired with a single metal rod to serve as a stake for holding them in place, then got their backs “blacked out” with a coat of primer and a layer or two of black paint.

From the back--all blacked out and much less sloppy--note, I am talking about the tombstones and zombies, not the deplorable state of my landscaping.

From the back–all blacked out and much less sloppy–note, I am talking about the tombstones and zombies, not the deplorable state of my landscaping.

The whole process was rather involved, took several steps, and involved a lot of delightfully toxic fumes.  I really should work on the tombstones in the summer, when I can more reliably use spray paint and sealer outside.  I did all the spraying in our “workshop”–an added-on room where the previous owner used to work on stained glass–but which has no windows.  There’s a definite trade-off between leaving the door open to air it out, and closing the door so that all the cold, wet air doesn’t prevent the paint from curing in a reasonable period of time.

At any rate, I went to all that work, because previously the backs of all the pieces had a wide range of different “looks”–from bare plywood, to various colors, words, and images, from reclaimed wood.  I don’t have a picture of the backs when they were in the pre-blackened state.  I never thought to take one.  Still, it always bothered me that when I opened the door for trick-or-treaters, and when they were walking away, we would see a whole lot of mess on the back of the tombstones, and a weird array of sticks and stakes, and wire and string.  Now, it’s all more uniform, and masked much better.  Fascinating, I know.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Upgrades, Part 2: The Evil Candy Corn Gang

I did some minor updates to the evil candy corn gang as well.  Somewhat hard to make out in the pictures, perhaps.  But they are all seeing red now.

Overall, I had to “update” them by repainting and sealing all of them.  Although they were all cut from the same sheet of plywood years ago, the ringleader is starting to warp and crack.  Hopefully, he holds up so I don’t have to completely re-create him next year.

At any rate, the idea for these came from the kid–who, after seeing a “cute” candy corn decoration in a garden center, said that candy corn should not be all smiley and happy, but should appear as it is–evil.

Done.

With their original look.

With their original look.

I have been meaning, for years, to make a lot more of these guys, of varying sizes, and then throw some actual candy corn on the ground around them, as if some magic spell has caused them to grow, morph, and attack.  One day, maybe.

Newly painted, sealed, and slightly more evil.

Newly painted, sealed, and slightly more evil.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Upgrades, Part I: Monster House Front Door

I’ve been rather quiet on the blogging front lately.  That’s because it’s October.  Priorities shift.

See, I’m one of those weirdos who makes a mess of the house (outside mostly) for Halloween.  And I always push it up to the last minute.

So, as I get down to the house-messing-up wire, I’m also going to make at least a feeble attempt at catching up on blogging by putting up posts/photos of some of the new decorations/upgrades.

For years, the big goal has been to get rid of all the store-bought stuff, and have all-original decorations, with a few beloved exceptions.  Plywood and paint is the order.

Also, this year being the first October in over seven years when I wasn’t working at least two jobs and/or running a business out of my house, I had (what I thought was enough) extra time to update old things that I did on the fly in years past, and which did not turn out exactly the way I intended.

The original version of the unofficially titled ‘monster house door’ used what scrap wood I had, leading to some teeth that weren’t quite as scary as I wanted, but still pretty cool.

The old, little teeth, with the house bathed in green light.

The old, little teeth, with the house bathed in green light.

Here is the updated version, with bigger, scarier teeth, and even some teeth for the lower, right door.  Also, the teeth are now coated in reflective glass beads now, although I’m not sure whether that is really accomplishing anything.  I might be doing an update next year with a different grade of reflective beads.

The new teeth, with the photo taken early in the morning, just because.

The new teeth, with the photo taken early in the morning, just because.

Happy Halloween!

Guns Don’t Kill People. Stickers Kill People!

by

JC Schildbach, LMHC

For decades, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people,” and “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” did the job of letting tough guys/tough gals let everyone know that they viewed more gun violence and the threat of gun violence as the number one solution to gun violence.

But, with the Internet opening us up to increasingly contentious arguments with complete strangers, and with gun violence reaching into more and more corners of American life—claiming the lives of children at school, moviegoers, and people coming together to worship, to name just a few, the National Rifle Association (NRA) had to get more creative in promoting their simplistic ideology that guns are always the answer.

After all, how do you sell mass murder to people? How do you continue to convince people that guns are the answer to guns? How do you adapt the idea of mutually assured destruction—so effective in the global arms race—to the micro level, getting people to think it’s a great idea right in their homes and neighborhoods?

Well, you come up with more dumb slogans that are effectively meaningless, mostly untrue, and promote the continued stockpiling of weapons among the decreasing percentage of American homes where people actually keep guns.

Just read any comment thread on any article about gun violence or gun control, and it’s guaranteed you’ll see the tried and true “outlaws” and “guns don’t kill” slogans in there right alongside the NRA’s other branding strategy updates: killers will find a way to kill even if they don’t have guns; we just need to enforce the laws that are already on the books; Chicago has strict gun laws/high gun violence; mental illness is the problem, not guns; and so on.

One of the latest buzz-concepts is that “Gun Free Zones” are the problem, not guns. Put that little “gun free zone” sticker in the front window of a business or school, and it will attract mass shooters like fruit flies to old fruit.

Of course, just like every other NRA-sponsored motto, it defies logic, and isn’t actually true in any demonstrable way.

First of all, let’s take a quick look at the origins of the “gun-free zone” campaign. Of course anyone arguing on an Internet comments thread could look up the “Gun-Free Zone Act of 1990”—say, on Wikipedia which shows how completely stupid the “gun-free zones kill” argument is, but why bother knowing anything when it’s so much easier to get angry while being completely wrong?

Beware citizen!  Steer clear of this sign or you might get shot!

Beware citizen! Steer clear of this sign or you might get shot!

Basically, the act was put in place 25 years ago to keep high school students from bringing guns to school and shooting each other. Sounds pretty reasonable. Of course, gun lovers jump off at that point and say it didn’t work.  Kids are still shooting each other.  And, of course the only way to make sure kids stop shooting each other is to make sure more kids have the means to shoot each other.

Yet, as much as it may or may not have kept little Bobby from sneaking a gun into school in his Incredible Hulk backpack, one thing that the Gun-Free Zone Act did NOT do was prevent armed security personnel—and other authorized parties—from carrying guns in schools. In other words, gun-free zones are not actually gun-free. Ideally, they are free from guns in the hands of people who are not supposed to have them—just like the rest of the entire country.

That is to say, The Gun-Free Zone Act, and all of its attendant signs and window-stickers, was a politically-motivated band-aid measure that really didn’t do anything except make a few bucks for businesses that print signs and stickers.

Before the Gun-Free Zone Act, it was illegal for kids to bring guns to school and shoot each other. After the Gun-Free Zone Act, it was still illegal for kids to bring guns to school and shoot each other. The big change was that after the passage of the law, kids could get in lots and lots of trouble for bringing a gun to school, even if they didn’t actually get around to shooting anybody with it.

Due to other situations of gun violence, like mass shootings in post offices and office buildings, numerous business officials, and government bodies also decided they would declare their workplaces “gun-free zones”—basically meaning that employees were not supposed to be packing heat at their cubicles, or while stocking shelves, or sorting mail.

Somehow, though, we’ve gotten to the point where the NRA, and all of the people who parrot the NRA talking points, apparently think it is somehow unreasonable to prevent, say, junior high kids from bringing guns to school, or to keep Jerry in accounting from having a loaded weapon tucked in his waistband while he microwaves his Hot Pocket in the breakroom.

Despite the proliferation of numerous “gun-free zone” signs and stickers, schools and businesses were still free to have armed security personnel on site. And, thanks to “concealed carry” laws, which exist in several states, and often contain provisions to explicitly allow concealed carry in gun-free zones, plenty of people can actually take their guns into “gun-free zones.”

And lets be clear. Umpqua Community College—the latest site of a well-publicized mass shooting, if I get this posted before another one happens—was NOT a gun-free zone, as so many pro-gun folk are claiming. That is, concealed carry is allowed on the Umpqua Community College campus, so long as people are legally allowed to have their guns with them via concealed carry permits.

Still, there are plenty of pro-gun folk, even those who are aware that concealed carry is allowed on the Umpqua Community College campus, who inexplicably–even immediately after acknowledging that concealed carry is allowed on the UCC campus–cannot stop claiming that UCC is a gun-free zone. Apparently, allowing guns in a gun-free zone is not enough to appease some people.

Perhaps what the NRA is pushing for, with it’s blame-the-gun-free-zones campaign, is to allow open carry in schools, and everywhere else.

But what the NRA is actually demanding is the removal of gun-free zone stickers and signs. After all, the NRA has already crafted and passed many laws that have rendered the gun-free zone laws moot.

Sure, plenty of mass shootings, and just plain old shootings have happened in areas that were labeled “gun-free zones,” just like numerous shootings have taken place in areas with no such labels.

But there is zero evidence that any mass shooter ever chose a target specifically because it was labeled a gun-free zone.

And despite the frequent existence of “good guys with guns” in the very same locations where mass shootings take place—whether those are labeled gun-free zones or not—there has not been some sharp increase in citizens preventing mass shootings as the number of guns has proliferated in the United States, or some great reduction in the number of mass shootings as mass shooters get scared away at the possibility that there might be people with concealed carry permits on hand.

In other words, as much as the NRA pushes the idea that more people with guns means that mass shootings will be stopped, there are still a huge number of mass shootings, and just plain-old shootings, taking place in the United States. As much as the NRA has succeeded at establishing more concealed carry and open carry laws, the shootings haven’t stopped, or even decreased.

But it’s so much more convenient to for the NRA to launch polly-wanna-cracker slogan campaigns to its ready audience of parrots than it is for the NRA to engage in any substantive reform of laws that might actually improve the safety of all the “good guys with guns,” as well as those of us who really don’t feel the need to keep guns.

Of course, the NRA exists to provoke gun sales, not to concern itself with public safety.

In fact, the good folks at the NRA have gotten so desperate to distract the American people, that they are blaming an ineffectual band-aid law for gun violence.

So, let’s do it. Let’s take down all of the “gun free zone” signs and stickers tomorrow. All of them. Everywhere. And let’s repeal the gun-free zone laws. They’re nothing but a symbol anyway. It won’t do one stinking thing to stop gun violence, just like taking down the Confederate flag did nothing to stop gun violence.

But maybe we can shut down the talking point about gun-free zones a little quicker.

Then all the people who are suddenly so fixated on stickers and signs as the source of gun violence can get back to working on all those fixes for the mental healthcare system.