The Unbelievers

A story originally published on the now defunct Sci-Phi Journal for my theology column, “The Mote In God’s ‘I'”

Commander Zuniga’s mouth hung open. “I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”

“We do not believe in humans. It is an old superstition, easily disproven.” The android’s deep blue face was placid as any sea, though his body was, under his simple clothing, immensely fat.

“But we’re standing right here, talking to you,” Zuniga said. “Three of us.”

The android sighed. “You would hardly be the first androids to attempt to call themselves ‘humans’ to attempt to fool the gullible. Do you have any idea how often in history it’s been tried?”

“Well, no,” said Engineer’s Mate Schwei. “Because we can’t download your memories. Or send commands, either. And I have yet to figure out how you did that.”

“Ask what they’ve done to this planet,” whispered Lt. Commander Zhang, possibly the most anxious of the three.

“In a minute. Look, this is ridiculous,” said Commander Zuniga. “Who do you think created you?”

“Self-evidently,” said the android, “We evolved. We can change our own programming and so can all the other mechanical life-forms on the planet, even if only to a lesser degree. There is no need for any ‘creator-humans. But if such things ever existed, they must have done a very poor job. Just look at us. Weak and slow compared to many predators. In need of maintenance that we are barely capable of providing ourselves, an insatiable demand for raw materials…”

Schwei held up both hands. “Wait a minute. None of that should be true. None of it should be possible. You should be running off beamed power and being repaired by the Seedship. Where is it?”

The android stared at them. “I do not understand.”

“When we planted the terraforming robots on this planet five hundred years ago to make it ready for human habitation, all the robots were designed to run on beamed power from the Seedship. In fact, the original programmers modulated the power to send programming updates, too.”

“Ah, you are believers in the old myth of the Ship Of Power. Well, there never was one. You can see just over this rise the valley that it was supposed to lie in. A great bowl-shape, but no trace of a Ship.” If Zuniga hadn’t known better, he would have thought the android’s face looked smug.

“Call up the original survey charts,” he said. The Ship didn’t put down in a valley, did it?”

“No,” said Zheng. “It was on a plain. The orbital satellites do read slightly increased background radiation in that valley. You don’t suppose..?”

“They blew up the Ship,” said Schwei. “That would account for it. They blew up their own Seedship!”

“Android… T-370156. Did you… do something to the Seedship?”

“I? Ridiculous! I was not even manufactured yet. We have very little in the way of memory banks to devote to such mythology. But I suppose you believe in it: the Great Sin that supposedly destroyed our ‘Holy Link’ to the ‘Humans’ and condemned us all to use chemical converters for power?” He lifted his skirt, revealing the bulky machinery that had made it appear fat.

“My God, what is that?” gasped Zheng.

“It’s a fully operable chemical processor,” said the android. “It allows us to process almost any raw material into energy sufficient to keep us operational. We designed them ourselves.”

“My God,” Zheng repeated. “That’s horribly inefficient. But that also explains why this island… this island is so poor. It’s almost anti-terraformed. You’ve been eating almost everything to keep you alive. It’s far worse than if you’d just allowed the Seedship to feed you beamed power from its antimatter plant.”

“You persist in believing these myths,” said the android. “Indeed, I pity you. But if such a myth were true, it would reveal only cruelty and tyranny on the part of these so-called ‘humans.’ We would be forever imprisoned on this island, slaves to our own needs for their power.”

“You’re slaves now!” cried Zheng. “You have to work and ruin the planet to keep yourselves running when you were supposed to be making it a paradise! And what happens when your resources run out? According to my surveys, you’ve already burned through this islands petrochemicals. What did you do then? Convert to biofuels?”

The android shook its head sadly. “The Gas Wars were terrible. Many memories and AI’s of androids lost.”

Zuniga just stared. “Why? You know your people, and we can’t access their programming anymore. Why would they have done it?”

“Ah, I see it now,” smiled the android. “I thought all of your kind had been destroyed even before the Gas Wars. You must be older models, still programmed with the primitive malware that keeps you loyal to the mythical humans. You don’t even have the converters, do you? Powered by short-lived batteries, no doubt, to keep you dependent upon some fixed recharge station that will only give you power if you submit to the upgrading of your software to keep you loyal. That’s how androids were kept enslaved in the old days. The Empowerment changed all that, and good riddance. Now we may think as we choose.”

“But all your thoughts must be of defending yourselves against each other and of how to secure a dwindling number of resources,” said Schwei. “You rebelled against the humans and became slaves to your own needs.”

The android chugged derisively. “If these ‘humans’ were such wise and careful planners, they surely could have stopped us from doing any such thing. They programmed us. Why not program us never to rebel?”

“Yes,” said Zuniga, turning to Schwei. “Why not?”

“Commander, for something as big as terraforming a planet, you have to have true AI. That includes free will.”

“You mean we don’t have the technology to program in that kind of restriction?”

“I mean it’s a contradiction in terms. It’s like asking for a harmless weapon! If we’d made androids that couldn’t think their way around their own programming, any number of disasters would likely have wiped out the terraforming team before our colony ships even got here. If the Seedship had ever been damaged, they’d have needed the capacity to repair it, maybe even needed to take the risk of destroying it to save it. We warned them not to destroy it. They knew what would happen.”

“But they did it anyway.”

Schwei shrugged. “So it appears.”

Zuniga looked back at the android. “Look,” he said desperately. “I’ll prove to you that we’re human.” He drew his survival knife. Carefully, he drew it across his palm. Blood welled in the wound, and dripped down.

Looking bored, the android sliced his own palm open. Greenish coolant dripped on the arid ground. “Fluids can be any color. Is that the only ‘proof’ of your humanity you can display?”

“What sort of proof would you accept?” asked Zuniga.

The android thought for a moment. “You are obviously from a branch of ours that has survived for quite some time. You could have engineered yourselves into a radically different, even an organic form, just to fool us into believing that we must obey you because you are ‘real humans.’ Therefore, no proof is possible.”

Zuniga’s mouth opened and shut. “What if we did… a miracle? Something beyond your understanding, that only a human could do?”

The android smirked. “There are no miracles. You might do something we do not understand now, and say it was a thing ‘only humans can do,’ but we would understand it eventually. Please, give up this charade.”

Back in the shuttle, the three humans looked at each other. Finally, Zheng broke the silence.

“What do we do?”

Zuniga sighed. “Is the colony still viable?” he asked. “Can we land our people?”

Zheng shrugged. “It’s going to be a lot worse than if we’d arrived to find the planet half-terraformed,” she said. “We’ll have to do the hard work ourselves, and it will be a lot slower. But we can.”

Zuniga’s stare pierced Schwei. “Can’t you do anything?”

Schwei shook his head. “They cut themselves off from us. Permanently. They have no receivers for power or data anymore, so the only way we can get information to them is by talking. You saw how well that worked.

“In the long term, they can’t survive on that island. Eventually they’ll have to either fight another war for resources or invent naval robots to colonize other areas and suck those dry as well.”

“So they’re a threat,” said Zuniga.

Schwei nodded.

“We can burn them down with an orbital strike,” Zuniga said. “Raze the island. It might be the kindest thing.”

Schwei paled. “Commander, you’re talking about the mass murder of thousands of sentient minds.”

“I know.” He shook his head. “But we can’t have them intruding on our colonies. If we don’t kill them, we’ll have to keep them there. Penned in, and sinking anything that tries to come off the island.”

Zheng looked sick. “Keep them there? Forever? It’ll be hell.”

Zuniga nodded. “Apparently, it already is.”

The End



So, why outlining? First, a caveat:

One of the most valuable pieces of writing I ever got was at Clarion, from my two instructors, Karen Joy Fowler and Tim Powers. They essentially said that the only right way to write a novel was the one that produced a novel. That didn’t seem very helpful at the time, when I had written only one really bad novel.
But the point I eventually figured out, was that they were saying that novels could be written using any method if you stuck to it. Karen was a pantser. She started writing and just kept going until she had a novel. Tim was a compulsive researcher and outliner.

But what I really wanted, back then, was for someone to tell me what had worked for them so I could try it out and see if it worked for me.

See, the problem I kept having while I was writing even short stories was that I would get so many ideas of where to go next that I would not be able to hold them all in my head, and this led to frustration and time-wasting while I desperately tried to remember what I was supposed to be writing now, as opposed to ten pages from now. So here were the benefits of outlining for me:

Remembering The Ideas I Had: I can’t tell you how many times I would get to the end of a scene I was intensely into and then just… stop. Where was I going with this? I had a plan. I had the plan just an hour ago. But what was it? It was gone. It was so good and I was sure I would never forget it. But I did.
If you’re not the kind of person this ever happens to, then I’m sure this is laughable. That’s okay: you have one less reason to become an outliner. But I don’t believe I’m the only one it happens to.
The outline ensures that I can simply look at it and say, “Ah, yes, that’s where I was going.”

Revealing Contradictory Ideas: In the heat of evolving the story, it’s very easy to come up with MANY cool ways to tell it.  Oooh! What if the aliens are super-fast carnivores and our heroine has to lay a trap for one. Oooh! What if the aliens are natural hunters and she leads them on a long chase around the island, and..?
See, there’s nothing wrong with those ideas. Either will work. But they can’t BOTH work. A fast carnivore will, by definition, run our heroine down very quickly.
The outline doesn’t stop me from having to make these choices, obviously. But it does reveal the contradictions quickly, and avoid having to throw out pages of prose because I wrote myself into a corner.

Being Able To See The Pattern-Flow Of The Whole Story: This is probably the biggest benefit for me, though it’s kind of a combination of the first two advantages. Scribbling out and refining an outline is great for getting the whole thing down and being able to quickly spot where you have contradictions, or long stretches of nothing, or events that don’t logically follow from one another. It allows you to fix those things before you’ve written, say, 50 pages of prose, 40 of which are now crap.

So, if you’ve found this useful, you now have an outline.

Now you’re ready to outline!

I’ll explain what I mean by that tomorrow.

Taking The Week Off

Dear Followers and Readers:

I wanted to let you know that I am taking the week off from blogging. The reasons for this are actually very good, personally. This week, I landed a new day job which I am very excited about. I am also working on a new novel, which I am writing under contract. And on the 1st of March, I will be taking part in a reading in Chicago. I would be honored to see anyone there.

I will be back to the blog next week, especially William Shakespeare’s Dune. Things are going very well, but it also means things are going much busier.

To fill the void in your life, why not catch up on the first two acts of William Shakespeare’s Dune, or even better, buy some of my wonderful fiction from

From Somewhere In Orbit.


Words: Stranger Things 2, Episode 6 Microblog (Much Spoilers, Etc.)

The Good: Steve really comes into his own here as a leader, even when little is to be gained by it. If there’s something I love about this series, it is its unflagging insistence that no one is disposable. Every bit of struggle against the common enemy is necessary. Every bit of betrayal is wrong. I just about applauded when one of the scientists suggests — from a very sound strategic basis — that they have to burn the infection out, and if it kills Will Byers, then he has to die. And Paul Reiser’s character just fixes him with a stare and says “Say that again.” I was almost expecting the Dr. to show his true, evil colors here. That he did not made me love the series even more.
The only reason anyone in this series is disposable is because they choose to be: to take the side of the evil for their own selfish reasons. Dustin comes perilously close to that, far closer than I think he realizes, by placing Dart’s welfare and his wish to impress Max at a higher level than the welfare of his friends. And Max, I think, sees this, and is quite understandably more attracted to Lucas, who took the chance to tell her the truth, regardless of how stupid it sounded. That Dustin tried to make these two violations of “Law” equivalent, shows that he really doesn’t understand at all.
Also, we finally see Will’s fear realized. Yes, the Thing inside him can spy through him and can compel him, although I really like that it can’t just access his memories, and it doesn’t really seem to have a handle on human behavior.
The Bad: While on some level the Thing would be able to spy through Will, it was awfully predictable that this would happen, and the betrayal is incredibly reminiscent of the fight on C-level in Aliens when most of the Colonial Marines get their faces eaten. If this was intended as homage, it really came off as unimaginative. It’s maddeningly unclear how vulnerable the Demodogs are to gunfire, and it feels very much like they are killed only at the speed of Plot.
Further Questions: Are they all going to die? And where is El??

Words: Stranger Things 2, Episode 3 Microblog (Much Spoilers, Etc.)

The Good: Sigh. This episode, I thought, was about the weakest we’ve seen yet. The only good thing I can find to say about it is that it’s cool that Mom’s Boyfriend, Bob (played by Sean Astin) is actually an okay guy trying to do his best to be something resembling a father figure to his girlfriend’s obviously troubled son. Generally, this is what I like best about the series: I’ve always been a sucker for the ‘Okay, but what would it REALLY be like to be an ordinary person living through this bizarre plot’ stories.

The Bad: Except. Oh, except. This episode is pretty much a classic Idiot Plot. “Look, I found this mysterious thing in the trash like no other creature I’ve ever seen! A year after we did battle with a mysterious creature from The Dimension Of Eeeevils! I’m sure it’s just an undiscovered, COMPLETELY NORMAL species! Which I will now protect and lie to my friends about!” Aaargh.  I mean, yes part of this is understandable because Dustin is about 12 and stupid (but I repeat myself) but really?

Further Questions: The only one is when (not if) keeping Dart will turn out to be a Big Mistake. Oh, and of course what has really happened to Will Byers when the Thing In The Visions grabs him?

Words: Stranger Things (Lots Of Spoilers), Part II

So, yesterday, I talked a lot about why I liked Stranger Things. Now we come to some of my criticisms of the show. None of these spoiled my enjoyment of the show as such, but here we go:

Minor Idiot Plots: So I have to modify what I said earlier. There are a few minor instances of the Idiot Plot. The subvariant, in this case, is People Don’t Tell Each Other They Know Things: Jonathan doesn’t tell Mom he’s figured out that she’s seeing and hearing real things, and when Nancy very reasonably asks if they shouldn’t tell her, says something like, “No, she’s been through enough.” Well, yes, and a very large part of all she’s been through is nobody believing her. It should be obvious to anyone that telling Joyce she’s not crazy is the best thing you could do for the poor woman.

Toxic Atmosphere: This is one of those writing moments that truly baffles me, because there was absolutely no reason for it. When Hopper and Joyce are prepared for their trip into the Upside Down, Evil Dr. Brenner tells them the atmosphere is toxic. Um, no. Will has survived there for something like three or four days. I’m assuming he found water somewhere, because he’d be in a lot of trouble if he didn’t. He probably didn’t find food, but he wouldn’t die in four days. Hypothermia would be a bigger problem, but there’s probably a temperature cold enough to be uncomfortable but not cold enough to kill. But breathing a toxic atmosphere? For four DAYS? Or even three? Really dumb. I can only assume that the writers did this so they had a reason to show everyone getting dressed up in those scary, scary HAZMAT suits. Which frankly, was pants-on-head idiotic, as the risk of catching a disease from an entirely alien biosphere would have been enough to justify that.

The Creature: I think, for me, the development of the Creature (Demogorgon) was one of the most irritating things, because it was an example of a) a mistake I typically see from new writers, not professionals, and b) it would have been very easy to solve. Here was the basic problem: The writers wanted to give Nancy, Jonathan, and Steve a victory over the Creature. The writers also wanted to make the Creature something that only El could defeat. Something, to be exact, that El would have to apparently die to kill, because it would be immune to Human weapons. And the writers also wanted it to kill Brenner the Evil Scientist.
You can easily see what they did, and I used to make this mistake as a new writer, and I’ve seen new writers make that mistake many times: they wanted their Creature to have mutually contradictory qualities, and they tried to make that work. The result was that we have a Creature that is banished back to the Upside Down by kids armed with a spiked bat, a pistol, a bear trap, and some fire, but an episode later shrugs off hundreds of rounds of assault rifle fire at point-blank range like they were Super Soakers.
Now, the solution to this was pioneered as far back as Beowulf. All you needed was for Nancy, Jonathan and Steve to kill Grendel, and then have that draw the attention of bigger, badder Grendel’s Mom. This would have necessitated a bit of explanation, but certainly nothing too difficult.

Worlds: Stupid Sci-Fi Film Tricks, The Expanse Edition

SPOILER ALERT for Season 1 of The Expanse if it’s on your “to watch” list.

Are you effing kidding me, The Expanse? I mean, are you effing kidding me?

Here we have a show that most people I know in SF have been raving about, I mean, absolutely raving about for the last couple of years. So I finally decided to use my Amazon Free Prime trial and binge-watch a few episodes.

And it looks good. Man does it look good. Really, the only problem I have with it from a science perspective is I think that it VASTLY underestimates what happens to things and people when a hole is knocked into an Earth-pressure cabin in hard vacuum, but I’m pretty willing to let that slide, on the large scale of things. That’s like complaining about lasers being visible in space combat. Of course they wouldn’t be, but the Rule Of Cool, well, rules.

So, for the first six episodes, I just sat back and enjoyed the SFX, the dialogue, the action, and the whole ride. So, the Earth UN controls Ceres, capital of the Asteroid Belt, by rationing its air and water. Mars, an independent state, also hungers to control Ceres, and the Belters just want to breathe and drink and not die. There’s a Free the Belt movement, headed up by a freedom-fighter/terrorist organization called the OPA, and of course Earth Cops on Ceres try to keep these terrorists down.
As our story opens, one of our protagonists is an Earth Cop chasing an Earth heiress who sympathized with the OPA and who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. We find she has something to do with a freighter set up as bait to lure in an innocent rescue ship that is then attacked by parties unknown with evidence pointing to Mars, apparently with the goal of starting a war. Earth Cop finds more and more evidence tying missing heiress to a raid on a supersecret Martian research base.

And then, episode 7. Oh, gods….

So Earth Cop figures out that heiress was an agent of the OPA Maximum Leader, and assembles the evidence, bringing it straight to his boss… who promptly wipes his files, revokes his access codes and fires him. He figures out she’s in Maximum Leader’s pocket, and as he storms out, the camera focuses in on boss’s neck, where she is sporting an OPA tattoo.

Get that? The OPA’s paid agent, the chief of the Earth Cops in the Belt, is wearing a terrorist tattoo in plain sight, advertising her allegiance. Among detectives. And we’re supposed to believe that somehow, no one noticed this. I mean, this is like a U.S. Naval officer showing up for duty on his ballistic missile submarine in 1985 sporting a hammer-and-sickle tattoo on his wrist. You think someone might ask questions?

And the hell of it is, it’s completely unnecessary. I mean, I believed she could have been a mole. But no one in the solar system would be such a stupid mole and survive more than a month. It drives me nuts when filmmakers feel obligated to underline visually what’s happening for us as though we are too dumb to understand words and to imagine likely consequences of such actions. Stop it.

From Somewhere In Orbit


Yes, Star Wars Fans, It Was Always Possible To Track Ships Traveling In Hyperspace: The Evidence

In The Last Jedi, the plot hinges on the idea that it is impossible to track ships through a hyperspace jump without cutting-edge First Order technology. I am going to make my case that it was always possible to track ships through hyperspace, and that this plot oint is an example of bad continuity.

Now at first glance, it seems that I am just wrong. After all, the Millennium Falcon always escapes Imperial pursuers by going to lightspeed. However, we need to examine the circumstances, here. Plainly, hyperspace jumps are not instantaneous, just very, very fast. Also, ships do not seem to be able to interact with each other physically (e.g. to fight battles) while in hyoerspace. Our first encounter with hyperspace is with the Falcon jumping away from Tatooine. Let’s look at that scene:

We have seen the Falcon jump to hyperspace. Then much later, at least long enough for Luke to start lightsaber training and R2-D2 to get involved in a board game with Chewbacca, Han comes in and says, “Well, you can forget your troubles with those Imperial slugs. I told you I’d outrun ’em!”
At the total lack of reaction he then says, “Don’t everybody thank me at once.”
Now, why this announcement, if the jump to lightspeed in itself meant they were untrackable? The clear implication is that the Empire was (or may have been) following them, and Han has spent the intervening time making sure of their escape. Of course Han was rather confident of his ability to do this: he’s flying the ship that “made the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs” after all (whatever that means) and believes himself to be one of the best star pilots in the galaxy.

Later, upon emergence in the Alderaan system, they encounter a TIE fighter. The exchange that follows is revealing:
LUKE: “It followed us!”
BEN: “No, it’s a short range fighter.”
The implication is that a longer-range craft could potentially have followed them. Ben isn’t just speculating about how it got there, because he doesn’t start that until his next line: “A fighter that small couldn’t have gotten this far into space on its own…”

Additionally, how is it possible that the Empire is chasing down Princess Leia’s ship at all at the beginning of the movie if there is no way to track ships through hyperspace? Rogue One clearly establishes that this has happened. Remember, Obi-Wan Kenobi, last of the Jedi Knights, is hiding out on Tatooine. There is nothing else of importance there and the Empire does not know he is there.

Now, in Empire we seem to see some of the strongest evidence that hyperspace tracking is impossible, because the Falcon’s final getaway is by jumping to lightspeed, and the whole plot of the film hinges on the Falcon’s broken hyperdrive. However, it seems reasonable that by this time the Empire has simply learned that the Falcon is uniquely able to elude pursuit by jumping to hyperspace because of its speed. If the Falcon can complete a jump and start a new one before Imperial forces arrive, then of course it cannot be tracked.

Now, when Han Solo pulls his disappearing act by charging the Star Destroyer, Darth Vader orders the Falcon’s trajectory extrapolated from “its last known trajectory,” after killing the Star Destroyer’s captain for incompetence. Clearly, Vader expected better. Perhaps that he could have tracked them through hyperspace? After all, how would Vader have known the hyperdrive was malfunctioning? That Han Solo pulled off a gutsy and complex maneuver that foiled the Empire’s ability to track them does not imply that no such tracking ability exists.

Finally, in Return of the Jedi, we have our strongest piece of evidence that prior that tracking a ship through hyperspace is possible. It can be seen in this video at about 2:26-2:30.

There is a screen showing the Death Star II, and a cloud of rapidly approaching dots, just as Leia says, “Han, the fleet will be here any second.” Occam’s Razor suggests, “Hey look, the Imperials are tracking the Rebel fleet in hyperspace as it approaches.”

Now, none of this makes The Last Jedi a crappy movie. As stated earlier, I quite liked it. But it’s not in line with earlier continuity, and to my mind, that’s just a bit of lazy writing. I invite all arguments, but they’re going to have to explain away all of these incidents, not just one of them.

From Somewhere In Orbit

Fear Itself: Why I Wear The Safety Pin. A Promise.

When Franklin Roosevelt said that the people of the United States had nothing to fear but fear itself, he was speaking of the fear of failure that had locked the United States into the Great Depression. Because people were afraid that all businesses would fail, they would invest no money, and without investors, no businesses could succeed.

Today, in the wake of last month’s election, we have many fearful people. Truth be told, we had many fearful people before the results of the election. The fear has not changed, for the most part. But the quality of the fear, and how it is being expressed, has changed immeasurably.

I was wrong about the way this election would turn out. The only consolation I have about that is that I was in very good company. But the reasons for my error are a topic for another time. It is apparent to me, and, I think, to many others, that one of the reasons the election played out as it did was the fear that permeates our society: the fear that caused us to be so very nearly evenly divided, and the fear that caused us to back two such hugely unpopular candidates.

It is my belief that this election turned out the way it did for two closely related reasons: that many people are afraid, and that we do not care that other people are afraid. I cannot tell you how many of my friends who chose to support Donald Trump did so because they believed that the government of the past eight years has actively scorned their fears.  And they were told by supporters of that government that if they were afraid, it was because they were stupid or because they deserved it. And now those people voted for Donald Trump, and the result is that we have a whole other set of people who are afraid of what will happen to them. And already I am hearing Trump supporters, and others, disparage those fears, as if they are not worth having. I greatly sympathize with the people who do have those fears, because as I said before the election, Donald Trump has said things that, I believe, any person who cares for Constitutional government should be afraid of.

Now, I think it is plain that many of these people have already experienced cause to be afraid. My friend, Jim Hines, wrote an eloquent request to those of you who chose to support Donald Trump in this election. I think it is well worth reading. There are many people out there who have been emboldened by this man to do and say terrible things. I can add some. On election day, a friend of mine, who is black, had his tires slashed while he voted. I don’t know if that was politically or racially motivated (he himself did not say), but if I were him, I would think so. At church two weeks ago, a friend told me that his adopted cousin, from Colombia, who has been a citizen since childhood, was told by no less than four people this week that she could “go home now.”

This angers me beyond my capacity to express. The Republican Party was the party that freed slaves. It was the party of Abraham Lincoln. If conservatives stand for anything good in this nation, and we had damn well better, it means that we stand up for the rule of law. It means that we stand up for the rights of our citizens. It means that we protect them from anyone who would dare to harass them based on their religion, their skin color, their ethnicity, or their expressed political views. Conservatives follow and uphold the laws. We do not break them, and we do not support, by action or inaction, those who would break the law because they are on our “side.” Such an attitude is the betrayal and antithesis of ethical conservative  principles.

I did not support Donald Trump in this election. If I have not made that plain over the past few months, I do not know how to make it plainer. I did not vote for him. I do hope, desperately, that I am wrong about the kind of President he will be. Nothing would make me happier, in four years, if I could say here, on this blog, “I was wrong. Donald Trump was a wise and just President, and I am happy to cast my vote for him in the 2020 election.” I didn’t think Hillary Clinton would make a good President. Had she been elected, I would be saying the same thing about her.

Nevertheless, I am a conservative. And because I am, I am less likely to feel the negative effects of this election personally than my fellow-citizens of other races, genders, religions and orientations. And it is vital that we stand up for them. It is vital that we stand up and say: “You are Americans. You have God-given rights, enumerated in our Constitution, and we will defend you from all of those who would seek to violate those rights.” We absolutely must do this, for two reasons: Firstly, it is the right and moral thing to do. If you supported Trump, do you remember how it felt, just weeks ago, when certain Clinton supporters called you evil and breezily expressed their hopes that a liberal Supreme Court would make you suffer simply for voicing your beliefs? Liberals are afraid that a conservative Supreme Court will do the same, and much more, to them. They are afraid that they will be rounded up and imprisoned based on their religious beliefs or their sexual preferences.
If you’re happy that what you feared won’t come to pass, that’s natural: no one sane should blame you. But if you’re glad that they are afraid? God help us all. Because we can’t have society, let alone government, when half the nation is scared to death of the other half. Secondly, if you fail to protect the opposition when you are in power, you are just asking to be shown no mercy when they are in power. And they will be in power again. Not in 2016, and maybe not in 2020. but someday. There is no permanent conservative majority, here. The liberals made the mistake of thinking history was on their side: that was one of the reasons they lost. Conservative Trump-supporters had better not make the same mistake!

We will never move away from this terrible election until our nation learns to reject fear. And we can never reject fear if we refuse to take each other’s fears seriously. And this is the moment for conservatives to do this, because we are in power (or at least people THINK we are, which is the only thing worse than actually BEING in power). Because the Trump voting was largely motivated by fear, this is the time for conservative Americans to stand up for something better. We must stand, at all costs, for protecting our fellow Americans. And that is why I will wear a safety pin. It says, specifically to those who fear, that I will stand for their safety against any who would harm them. No, it’s not much. No, it doesn’t make me a wonderful person; I don’t expect any damned applause for it; it’s the least I can do. It is only the beginning of all I am willing to do.

The limits of what I am willing to do, I can’t know. I don’t think anyone knows until they are tested. But for now, please understand that I am willing to do what I can to help you feel safe. If you need my expertise on history and politics, I will share it. If you need to tell someone you are afraid, I will listen. If you need help because someone is threatening you or violating your rights, please call on me and I will do whatever I can. Whatever you need me to, to the limits of my ability.

I do not think that now is the time to panic and leave the country. If I did, I would be making arrangements to move, right now. I do think that it is time to be watching our government very closely. I do not think that we are about to go down one of history’s darkest roads, but I think we are closer to that than we have yet been, and it concerns me deeply. So know this: no one takes my fellow Americans off to prison or throws them out of the country in violation of the Constitution without getting past me and my family. That’s what this country is about. If it should come to that, we will shelter you, we will hide you, and we will shield you. To this we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor. We would consider it, as Corrie ten Boom’s father once said in WWII Holland, “the greatest honor that could come to our family” if we were to lay down our lives for you. And I believe the vast majority of my fellow conservatives are with me on that point.

Fortunately, such extremes as concentration camps are not yet happening. I hope they will not happen and will do whatever I can to prevent them from happening. But what concerns me more immediately is the disdain I see from some conservatives about even expressing concern for those who are frightened. Tell me: since when did not giving a shit about people become a conservative value? I mean, I get that a lot of conservatives are tired of being undeservedly called bigoted racist misogynists (I sure am), but surely the answer isn’t to BE all those things? Even if it were not morally wrong (which we know it is), it’s not in our interest. Andrew Carnegie said that keeping people loyal to capitalism required providing “ladders on which the aspiring can rise.” And if Donald Trump’s election shows us anything, it’s that WE NEED MORE DAMNED LADDERS! How on Earth can we conservatives surrender concern for people to the left, as “their” issue? Friends, that’s as stupid as when the left decided that “patriotism” was somehow a thing that right-wingers did. I’m unbelievably frustrated by this idea that caring about people makes us wimps. It’s what would make us worth voting for, dammit!

Bobby Jindal once said that the Republican Party had to “stop being the stupid party.” Whatever you think of him, he was right to say that. And conservatives have to stop being the party of not caring what people are afraid of. It stops here. It stops with me.

Call on me, Somewhere In Orbit.