The Valley of the Sun: that's what we call the massive area that comprises the Phoenix Metropolitan area, a space which includes such subsidiary towns as Peoria, Glendale, Youngtown, Sun City, all to the west, as well as Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, and Gilbert, being to the east, plus Chandler, Ahwatukee and Sun Lakes, being deep south, as well as several smaller burgs, the names of which happily escape me at the moment. The Valley of the Sun? Certainly there is enough sunlight to earn that sobriquet and no one can dispute that we are in a valley. But the mindlessly merry connotation of that moniker misleads when we are awakened to the ringing blasts of Gilbert gunshots from the barrel of a white supremacist named J. T Ready, the ex-Marine who blew away his family and himself earlier this week.
Ready murdered the following people: his girlfriend, Lisa Lynn Mederos, Lisa's daughter Amber, Amber's fifteen-month-old daughter, and Amber's boyfriend, Jim Hiott. Ready then murdered himself rather than face up to the consequences of his horrible actions.
The FBI got involved in this local tragedy because it turned out Ready was the subject of an on-going federal investigation into possible neo-Nazi and terrorist activities. Acting on a search warrant, federal agents at the crime scene confiscated two computer towers, two laptops, cell phones, police uniforms (!), Nazi uniforms, two assault rifles, as well as a number of letters and bank statements.
Interestingly, the father of the anti-immigrant movement in Arizona, ousted-politico Russell Pearce, felt the need to issue a statement about the shootings. It's interesting because he is not a public official, at least not since being recalled. So one has to wonder if he was perhaps attempting to defer some blame. After claiming that local media had been after him for a statement, he responded, in part: "Regarding whether I knew JT Ready, I did, as did many of us who have been involved in Mesa politics for a long time. When we first met JT he was fresh out of the Marine Corp and seemed like a decent person. He worked as a telephone fundraiser for Christian and pro-life groups, he dated the daughter of one of our District 18 members, and his attitudes and spoken opinions were good and decent. At some point in time darkness took his life over, his heart changed, and he began to associate with the more despicable groups in society. They were intolerant and hateful and like so many who knew him from before, I was upset and disappointed at the choices he was making. I worked with others to have him removed from his local position within our Republican Party because there has never been and will never be any room in our Party or our lives for those preaching hatred. He was angry with me and stayed angry with me, and it has been several years since I have had reason to speak with JT."
In fact, according to reports by Salon.com, in 2006 Pearce praised Ready as a “true patriot, to the real purpose, the limited purpose, to the Republican platform that we have.”
As a member of the so-called U.S. border guard, a self-appointed organization with links to terrorist activities against Mexican immigrants, Ready had announced plans to run for the office of Sheriff of Pinal County.
Lest there be any misunderstanding of Ready's views, the Anti-Defamation League, who had been watching Ready for years, posted some of the vigilante's social media comments: "Hitler was right. . . . And if you are too stupid to see that then you deserve to get pushed off your island into the sea by a bunch of foreigners. Jews like Jack Straw have sold you down the river, mate. . . The Jew parasites want to genocide Whites from the planet in order to enslave the rest of the races. All races should unite against this evil."
So another race-hating rat bastard is dead.
Ordinarily I wouldn't even consider this bit of information worth mentioning. But I've been doing a lot of thinking about decency of late. I think there may be a connection, however strained.
Decency. It may not be the most exciting word of the twenty-first century. However, the subject needs some attention because it is the thing that is most lacking on this here madly-spinning orb. Sometimes I think the way to figure out what's really important is to look around and see what's not there.
I should be more precise. Decency in this case does not refer to matters between consenting adults or, for that matter, consenting children. What I am talking about is far more rare. How rare? For starters, decency demands that we take into account the feelings of other people. Since most of the things we do stand a chance of wounding someone, we need to break things down into a hierarchy. For instance, needs come before wants. A person needs oxygen, nutrition, shelter, good health, and love. A person acting in a decent manner thinks about the impact of his actions and does not violate another person's right to these needs being fulfilled. Taking this philosophy further, we share a responsibility to evaluate what our inaction may cause relative to these same needs. A decent man sees a starving child and does something to help. That means he doesn't rationalize away the problem by saying that the child is so far away or that the child is only one of millions or that the child is of the wrong race.
Another thing that can be said of a decent person is that she does not obsess over balance. Three favors received does not require three favors be granted. That country has been our friend, so must we support their war? He stole from her so isn't she justified in her revenge? I would argue against such rationalizations. In fact, any time I sense myself thinking in any way that attempts to legitimize my behavior, I know I am doing something wrong. Decent actions do not need to be justified. Good behavior requires no legitimacy.
The problem with this, or any other worldview, is the risk of falling into fascism. Just about any philosophy with rules instead of morality stands a chance of turning fascist. Just ask the Moderates from the Southern Baptist Convention, the ones who were kicked out by the Fundamentalists in the early 1990s. The problem with a philosophy with rules is that rules were invented so that people would not have to think. One can come up with an easy example: traffic lights. If everyone piloting a vehicle would think as he approached an intersection, traffic lights would fast become obsolete.
We are humans and we work in groups. Sometimes we are a sect of one, as I suspect Ready was. But that vigilante needed the kind of rules that a Hitler-type was all too happy to supply, knowing, as the Fuhrer did, that even sharp minds are lazy and always looking for easy answers.
I have no doubt that the rancid cesspool on legs that was J T Ready considered himself a decent person, just as Hitler probably saw himself that same way. It was their own rules of propriety that screwed them up, that continue to screw up like-minded sociopaths walking among us today. So we must still be "vigilant" in our guard against those who glow with the certainty of their faith. We must still beware of the man who picks up the gun in the cause of peace. And we must continue to filter out the lies that sound so damned appealing.