Thursday, August 31, 2006
Oh No, He's Doing It Again
‘Ol George is at it again, making links to things. Any bets that he might be wrong yet again? From Yahoo:
Linking success in Iraq with the future safety of America, President Bush said Wednesday that withdrawing U.S. troops too quickly would lead to a terrorist state more dangerous than Afghanistan in the grip of the repressive Taliban regime.
First of all, if there is terrorism in Iraq it’s because George broke the infrastructure of the country literally opening Pandora’s box. Waiting until George gets this right is like waiting all afternoon while he keeps trying different versions of a fill-in-the-blank test while he plays the law of averages. Time’s up George, put down your pencil.
"If we leave Iraq before the job is done, it will create a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East, a terrorist state much more dangerous than Afghanistan was before we removed the Taliban, a terrorist state with the capacity to fund its activities because of the oil reserves of Iraq,” Bush said.
The Taliban are anything but powerless in Afghanistan unless you’ve had your head under the sand these last few years. What will happen if we leave Iraq any time soon? First we can begin the long road of rebuilding our standing in the world, which sits at an all time low. At the same time the Iraqi people can begin the process of self-determination which will only be possible once we leave. The country may continue in the form of a civil war but since the majority of the citizens want us out, it’s time to let them sort it out for themselves. At the end of that process will Iraq want to have anything to do with terrorists? We have absolutely no way of knowing but we will deal with that as it happens and I for one do not intend to let Bush scare me into swallowing any of his predictions because he has a worse success rate than your local fortune teller.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Tip: Hit 100-Plus Sites A Day!
Back in LSF’s early days (nearly two years ago - we launched on 5 November 2004) we posted some internet tips. They were quite popular.
Everyone is much more internet-savvy now, but here are one or two if you want to press the pedal to the floor. They help me to check out a hundred or more sites for my work (really!) in less than one hour.
You really haven’t lived until you’ve experienced information-overload at that warp speed.... Tips from your end, too, would be much appreciated.
(1) Use the FAST scrolling ability of both IE and Mozilla/Firebird.
1. Click the mouse wheel once.
2. Little device with up and down arrows appears.
3. Move the mouse just a leeetle up or down to start the scrolling.
4. Right-click to stop the scrolling.
(2) Use the tabs in Mozilla/Firebird and, I believe, in the next-generation IE. (And Apple Will?)
If you haven’t seen tabs in action, this takes some explaining - or a little looking if you know someone.
But in essence, you can wheel-click on a single bookmarks folder, and every link in that folder will then open in its own separate page with a tab up the top there.
You can then glance at each page, and click it closed (again via the mouse wheel) if there’s nothing new. The next page will be waiting.
(3) Use the wonderful Goodle News ADVANCED website, where you can set the dates for your search and use phrases.
(4) And use two side-by-side monitors (the larger the better; 21” in my case).
The use of two or more monitors have been proven now to boost computer productivity by some 30-plus percent.
Monday, August 28, 2006
Is anyone surprised? A weak case from the get-go.
Prosecutors abruptly dropped their case Monday against John Mark Karr in the unsolved slaying of JonBenet Ramsey, saying DNA tests had failed to put him at the crime scene 10 years ago....
Public defender Seth Temin expressed outrage at the arrest. “We’re deeply distressed by the fact that they took this man and dragged him here from Bangkok, Thailand, with no forensic evidence confirming the allegations against him and no independent factors leading to a presumption he did anything wrong,” Temin said.
Well, the corporate-owned media managed to get Bush and Iraq off the page for several days and W even managed to sneak in yet another vacation, this one with Daddy and Barb in Kennebunkport. Rove has had a whole week now to come up with new spin, I’m sure you’ll see it later this week as the news turns back toward the Katrina anniversary and the never ending War in Iraq.
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Courtiers Don't Welcome Change
If we’re to believe Democratic Party activists (now THERE’S an oxymoron), all we need to do is return a Democratic majority to Congress this coming November, and we will have change. The blog heelers at the Big Boy Blogs insist that voting for Republicans-in-donkey-clothing like Warner, Casey, Kaine and Webb, just to name a few, will enable the Democrats to take over committee chairmanships, to get subpoena power. Well, maybe not:
As the start of the fall campaign looms and House Democrats remain within realistic reach of reclaiming the majority, party leaders are beginning to explore the delicate question of what happens if they win.
Rusty from being out of power for 12 years, Democrats are rethinking how they should parcel out coveted committee chairmanships and the other plums that would come with House control at a time when the party’s potential chairmen are increasingly being portrayed by Republicans as liberal extremists.
In fund-raising appeals, on the Internet and in stump speeches, Republicans raise the specter of a Judiciary Committee headed by Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, a banking committee steered by Barney Frank of Massachusetts, a tax-writing committee led by Charles B. Rangel of New York, and an energy panel under the leadership of John D. Dingell of Michigan.
Democrats and others call it a tired scare tactic with more than a whiff of bigotry because Republicans often point to gay and black Democrats who would lead committees. But faced with the attacks and pent-up ambitions of rank-and-file lawmakers, Democratic leaders are hinting they might abandon party tradition and award sought-after slots not solely on the basis of seniority, but instead follow the Republican lead of also weighing such factors as legislative record, diversity and work for the good of the party.
“Seniority is a consideration, but merit of course must come first,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the Democratic leader, who has approved a review of party rules so Democrats are not left scrambling should they reach their political goal.
Somehow, I can see the knives being sharpened for John Conyers as we speak.
As former Republicans, now Democrats, take office, do we really expect them to support long-standing, actually liberal, office holders who have been fighting the Bush Administration (and often the Democratic Party leadership) while this country has run so hard to the right? REALLY? Isn’t it more likely that they will do what Reid, Schumer, Clinton and Emmanuel already do, which is to ape the Republicans:
Since winning the majority in 1994, Republicans have not hesitated to pass over senior lawmakers for chairmanships in favor of members more in tune with the leadership’s ideology or more assertive in fund-raising than their rivals.
Representative Joe L. Barton of Texas was handed the Energy and Commerce helm over more senior lawmakers, as was Representative Richard W. Pombo of California on the natural resources committee and Michael G. Oxley of Ohio on the Financial Services Committee.
Representative Jerry Lewis of California was picked to head the Appropriations Committee in 2005 over a more senior opponent after a fierce fund-raising contest that saw Mr. Lewis dole out more than $1.3 million in the Republican campaign effort in 2004.
As for Conyers, those sharpening the knives are whispering in the eager ears of New York Times reporters:
And some Democrats are nervous about the prospect of a Judiciary Committee led by Mr. Conyers, who has raised the prospect of impeaching President Bush, a notion that Ms. Pelosi has sought to bat down.
Anybody who thinks that someone like Conyers will get guaranteed support to unleash the power of Judiciary in today’s Washington is fooling themselves. The Democrats vote for war just as fervently as the Republicans, vote for the destruction of social services, vote for the expanding police state ... they just want to be the new managers. Will people like this, so enriched by the current corrupt system, REALLY want the crimes of the last several years brought to light? They didn’t push for investigations after Iran-Contra, an earlier Constitutional crises which involved many of the same criminals involved in the current administration.
Whisper campaigns like this piece in the Times are just the beginning. As is true of so much that goes wrong in our country, the courtiers at the seat of power will often BRAG ahead of time about how they’re going to screw over the peasants.
Change will have to happen locally, and it will not be helped by rotating the asses who sit at the trough in DC, not right away. It will take a very long time ... maybe we’re too far gone. Don’t fool yourself, though, that Republican-lite will be part of making that change happen.
In the new year, a new Congress will, even if the Democrats win, most likely be yet another Feast of Fools. After all, it is traditional for the procession to be led by an ass when beginning that celebration. We will all certainly be fools if we expect honest change to come out of it.
They will only change if we make them, and we can only make them if we REPLACE most of them. Until the American people are willing to do that, we will celebrate meaningless ceremonies before things go right back to status quo.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Cooties and Cubicle Gangstas.
I heard it said that it was hard out here for a pimp.
Well, he ought to try being a woman. He wouldn’t last a day. The infantilization. The double standards. Red light, green light games with sexuality ... i.e., it’s dirty until you get married, upon which you are to instantly expected to be willing, able and ready to throw down and go down. Working harder, making less.
With all the travails life throws our way, I’m still glad and happy to be an adult woman. I don’t long for my teenage years. I am fine where I am, in the moment, with all the responsibilities and rewards and joy and pain that come along with it. I love being an adult. And in all this time, I thought I was one. Yesterday, the FDA--which of course, is financed by adult citizens like me--finally got around to treating me as one.
After years of wrangling, the FDA finally decided that I was competent enough to make my own health care decisions without a minder. Imagine. Almost three years after an FDA panel voted to recommend that Plan B be available over-the-counter, it has finally happened.
I’d still need to get carded by a pharmacist, which is unacceptable, especially given the fact that some pharmacists believe their beliefs trump my health care decisions. Better to make it widely available to all who need it. And do note the difference in how Viagra, though prescribed, was treated. Surely Viagra and the rest of the ED drugs could easily fall into the hands of someone it’s not subscribed for and only the most willingly naive would believe that all Viagra users would be the married middle-aged guys the drug’s commercial portrays, and that nobody would use the product to have sex outside of marriage.
And the desperate rants of rampant “promiscuity”? Nary a peep. And why? Because no one obssesses about male sexuality. [This free sexual pass void if you’re gay.] It is not questioned, but taken as a given. I’ve even heard doctors on breakfast shows say that a man’s sexual health is important, and no one bats an eye.
That very same statement, if said about adult women, would be suddenly controversial.
But in reactionary times like these, any morsel of good news is like manna from heaven, so I am mostly encouraged.
Relative good news notwithstanding, we are living through a time of relentlessly reactionary dreck, dressed up as a cutting edge or smart or funny. It is not. It is retrograde with a vengence, and these tales of how “our women” should be are driven by cubicle gangstas, worthless and bitter schumucks with mass media access. And it is not coincidental. I knew Larry Summers was merely priming the pump with his warmed over chicks can’t do math & science offerings and such. Who else as hack-idea fluffer than someone with the Harvard imprimatur?
The cubicle gangstas, like the studio gangstas they emulate, are well-paid actors (real-life wimps) who use mass media tools to strenghten a sagging American masculinity (by their definitions and pronouncements) by infantilizing American women. We are either to be pitied or protected and it’s all because some men are feeling mighty put-upon these days. How wretched it must be that there aren’t a whole lot of desperate wife-mommies out there, just ready to put up with tons of bullshit. They have no discernable core; these boys are hollow and lost, but with poisonous veneer. Like their studio gangsta counterpart, they are well-renumerated for pushing product.
Our warped sense of who women should be begins with the active encouragment to be a stupid girl. Be silly, giggly and vapid. Indulge in all things shallow and petty. Strive only to power-shop or position oneself to be the latest star of my My Super Sweet 16. Purposely get that answer wrong in class; care nothing about the world in which you are a part. (Remember ... you’ll never get a boyfriend if you’re too smart). Of course, when she is legal, she can have fun being the writing video ho, or go whole hog and be a “Girl Gone Wild” or a Paris Hilton wannabe. But of course, she can’t be too stupid, or she’ll never catch that high-income making husband. And where to get positioned to find one? College.
Women, of course are doing wonderful things on campus, as student leaders and academic all-stars. But our media chooses to focus on those who want to opt out. And even the few who may only be husband-hunting (or are encouraged to re-focus their attention to do so) might have to use that degree while primping for prince charming. But according to cubicle gangsta Michael Noer, she can’t even do that, because as a “career girl” (awfully close to “working girl” ... again, not coincidental) she is the root of all evil and dirty homes everywhere.
See, all that icky career stuff is getting in the way of her one, true calling, which is popping out as many babies as she can care for and being slavishly devoted to them--because she is to have no life but that. Only she can’t be seen feeding them in public while they are babies, so she must remain locked in her house and away from view, lest she bothers the tender sensibilities of Barbara Walters and random 13-year-old boys. But don’t breastfeed too much, or it will lead to being an uunsexy heifer who use her babies to commit adultery on her husband.
With all the baffling, contradictory advice on how to be a good
infant woman, you’d think that real flesh-and-blood women would just give up and retreat. Remarkably, the non-Stepford majority somehow remain sane. We somehow live lives that are interesting and funny and purposeful. But we still have a hard road to travel and the cubicle gangstas intentionally make it worse. Even while too many women have bought part-way into these memes, feminism is a force to reckon with, even if it dares not to say its name. I’m not happy that feminisim is kryptonite to some women, but its ideas are not, and no one is about to check their brains in at the door.
It’s this maddening time and space where the determined work of the cubicle gangstas proceed apace. They try to introduce more doubt and fear so that women will willingly trade their autonomy for infant status.
Don’t get me wrong. I love being married. The reason why: I am not slave. I am an adult in a relationship freely and wonderfully chosen. A partnership where love, mutual respect, laughter and wonder form its basis. No wonder the cubicle gangstas are pissed. As usual, they are not up to the job. I saw someone write on a comment board that real “danger” of marriage freedom isn’t the “ickiness” felt by some of two women or two men together, nor is it the wholly irrational fear of not being able to pump out enough babies to perpetuate the species. The real fear is the transformation of marriage--from lifetime dependent status to partnership. For losers who somehow feel that they are entitited to sit on their backsides and boss another adult around, it’s fear of losing a good thing. You can no longer expect to be catered to. Uh, oh! Quick--denigrate women to make them believe in divine doormat status.
So how to combat this? I wish I knew definitively. My only advice: talk to boys and girls about real men and women and share stories. Teach them. Equip them (hugs and hosanas to Madman for succinctly stating what I’ve always known to be true).
And fight the misogynist turd cubicle gangstas and ridicule them at every opportunity.
Just Like Theoria Woulda Put It
Please read the funny, angry and superbly articulate column by Mark Morford back here on the Chronicle’s S-F Gate. It sure takes this imaginery but reality-based wingnut argument down a peg or two.
It’s not all Bush’s fault! He cannot be blamed for, say, teen sex and bad sitcoms and Mel Gibson! As for national policy, well, Bush inherited years of complicated problems which clearly overwhelmed his unsophisticated brain and attacked him like a swarm of angry multifaceted mosquitoes which he could only flail and swat at like a terrified child! In other words, Bush is merely one little man swimming in a massive swirling tide of corruption and misprision and difficult-to-pronounce countries. Leave him alone!
See the neat way his argument really slips into overdrive half-way through the full article? When he sees Bush’s toxic plume all around him in rural northern Idaho? Astonishing stuff.
That mode of personalizing the argument has proved really effective in making people finally “see” in some other contexts. We as a movement could use it a LOT more than we do.
[Noon EDT: Yeah, well, the Morford article scrolled, I see, to be replaced by another. Above now is the correct link, to the correct story.]
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Teaching Idiocy In CO Public School
LAKEWOOD — A seventh-grade geography teacher at Carmody Middle School was suspended with pay today when he refused to take down three foreign flags on display in his classroom.
Eric Hamlin said the flags of China, Mexico and the United Nations were relevant to the unit on the fundamentals of geography he teaches during the first six weeks of the semester. He’s used the same display for most of the nine years he’s taught in Jefferson County, Hamlin said.
The foreign flags are in addition to the standard U.S. flag found in all classrooms.
Hamlin said principal John Schalk escorted him from the building Thursday before classes began. He was handed a letter saying the matter is under investigation and warning him to remain off school property.
Jeffco Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said Schalk believed Hamlin was in violation of a state law on display of foreign flags on public property.
Schalk interprets the law as allowing foreign flags as part of a specific lesson, but not for the duration of the six-week unit.
Hamlin has more than 50 flags that he uses during the course of the year. He asks students to consider the symbolism different countries put on their flags, such as the stars and stripes on the U.S. flag.
Pretty threatening line-up there. Can you feel your American soul being sucked out and destroyed just gazing upon them? We might as well just wall ourselves off, if the world is this threatening to us. Sure hope the children have learned their lesson ... the world is scary, and it’s better if you know nothing about it.
In a follow up interview in the Rocky Mountain News, Mr. Hamlin says:
"Since flags are symbols of a nation and the people who live in that nation, if a flag of a foreign nation in a geography class can’t be displayed, and only the U.S. flag can be displayed, we’re sending the message that America is number one, everything else is below that,” Hamlin said.
Well, exactly sir, don’t you GET it? We’re the best, number one, and they all hate us for our freedom, and because our flag is cooler. The principle hides behind some mealy-mouthed procedural point:
Setzer said Schalk believed Hamlin was in violation of a state law barring display of foreign flags on public property.
Schalk interprets the law as allowing display of foreign flags as part of a specific lesson, but not for the duration of a six-week unit, Setzer said.
Superintendent Cindy Stevenson said Hamlin could have removed the flags, then appealed the principal’s decision to higher administrators. By refusing to remove the flags, Hamlin was insubordinate, Stevenson said.
“He defied a direct, reasonable request from a principal. That’s what’s at issue here,” Stevenson said.
Direct, maybe, but I don’t think “reasonable” is a word that applies to that request. It turns out that he gave in and took down the flags the morning they escorted him out, but the principle apparently needed to demonstrate his authoratay to drive the point home. As for the idiotic jingoistic law this thing was based on:
The 2002 law bars the display of foreign flags on state buildings. Among the exceptions are foreign flags used as “part of a temporary display of any instructional or historical materials not permanently affixed or attached to any part of the buildings or grounds . . ..”
Mark Silverstein, the legal director of the Colorado chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that exception would appear to cover Hamlin’s display.
Hamlin said he’s begun drafting a written request for ACLU representation.
“We’ll read the letter and decide what action, if any, to take,” Silverstein said.
Hamlin has more than 50 flags that he uses during the course of the year.
No wonder there are so many idiotic fundie churches in Lakewood, CO ... the soil there seems ripe with bullshit, enabling stupidity to grow and flourish.
When a society becomes overly stratified, when those with the most live lives that are mere fantasies to those at the bottom. the lords and ladies of that culture build themselves fortresses. Paths don’t lead directly toward doors, they become switchbacks with blind turns, usually leading uphill. There are heavy barricades near the doors, sometimes dressed up with flowers, but barricades none the less. Armed guards and other security measures await you when you walk through those doors. Everything is geared up to beat you over the head with the idea that the location is “secure”, though who it is being secured for isn’t always apparent. Our culture, especially in government buildings and corporate headquarters and campuses, has been recreating twenty-first century version of the medieval keep for years now. Since 9/11, they’ve taken the attacks as license to create cityscapes of fear:
To appreciate how America has changed since 9/11, walk slowly through any major city. What you’ll see dotting the landscape is the physical embodiment of fear. Security installations put up after the attacks continue to block public access and wrangle pedestrian traffic. Outside Manhattan’s Port Authority Bus Terminal, garish purple planters menace rush-hour pedestrian traffic. The gigantic planters have abandoned all horticultural ambition, many of them blooming with nothing more than trash and untilled dirt. “French barriers,” steel-grate barricades meant for controlling crowds, ring many landmark sites—including San Francisco’s Transamerica Building—like beefy bodyguards protecting starlets. Then there are the bollards, the cylindrical vehicle-blocking posts that are so pervasive you wonder if they’ve mastered asexual reproduction. In Washington, bollards surround everything. Not since Confederate Gen. Jubal Early attacked the city in 1864 has the nation’s capital felt so under siege.
It’s not just the barriers, it’s also the buildings. Since 9/11, risk consultants working for police departments, federal agencies and insurance companies have wrested control over many new construction plans. “There’s a sense that security experts are acting as the associate architects on every project built today,” says Paul Goldberger, the architecture critic of the New Yorker. Consultants tend to encourage architectural bulk at the expense of grace. As a prime example, Goldberger points to the Freedom Tower, the skyscraper at the center of the proposed new Trade Center site. After the New York Police Department determined that an early design was vulnerable to truck bombs, the building’s architect, David Childs, of the firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, was forced to move the structure far back from the street, and to turn its lower 20 stories into a windowless reinforced concrete pedestal covered in glass. “It’s a pretty grim piece of architecture,” Goldberger says of the tower. “It doesn’t advertise freedom to the world, it advertises fear."
9/11 was only an excuse to ramp up a trend that was already underway. Even our gaze, especially through cameras, is coming under more onerous restrictions. Watch what you say, watch what you look at, watch were you walk and where you travel, and watch what you carry when you go there. If TATP is such a threat, when will we be told that the soda bottle we’re carrying can’t come into the building with us?
The endless hammering of fear coming out of our media, out of our political leaders, out of our business leaders, out of the ring of coworkers standing around the water cooler, that relentless drone of “be afraid” that washes over us everyday for years has increasingly been given physical form, and the majority of the citizenry seem eager to wallow in it. A nation of cowards, running from cover to cover.
But others fear that security measures may be inhibiting urban connections. Setting buildings far back from the street, placing them atop concrete blast shields, crowding sidewalks with barricades, constantly screening people as they enter or exit buildings, electronically surveilling them at every waking moment—these measures push us apart and foster our fears and suspicions. The effect is physical as well as psychic. Goldberger points out that you used to be able to walk around Manhattan, both on the sidewalks and through the lobbies of large buildings, without showing any credentials. Today that’s nearly impossible because entering nearly every building requires passing through a security checkpoint. The checkpoint culture weighs on the soul, reminding us at every point that we live in a dangerous time, and that anyone we see might seek to do us harm.
Make no mistake, the “war on terra”, like the “war on drugs”, isn’t really about all of the wonderful family values that the cabal running this country (and that includes BOTH poltical parties and much of the corporate leadership as well) tells us it’s about. It’s about control. It’s about greed. It’s about manufacturing consent for widening war. When you’re confronted everywhere by blockades and guns and surveillance it erodes any illusion of freedom. The environment we create for ourselves is becoming both a prison and a reflection of how deeply irrational American society has become.
Many designers and planners agree that the practice of setting new buildings back from the street is one of the most troubling security impositions. In “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jane Jacobs told of the “intricate sidewalk ballet” that characterized the stretch of Hudson Street in Greenwich Village, where she lived in the 1960s. The ballet involved locksmiths, shopkeepers, butchers, longshoremen, teenagers, tailors, toddlers—people of all stripes whose everyday interactions on the packed street, she argued, provoked a sense of “casual public trust” in the community. Today’s security installations reduce our chance encounters on the street and risk breaking our casual public bonds.
“Cities basically operate off their street life, and if buildings become just big blank walls because people are afraid of the street, it’s fundamentally contradictory to what cities are all about,” Chakrabarti says. He adds: “You look at the charts that a lot of security people use and they’ll say, ‘The building has to be X-hundred feet from the street.’ You start thinking about that en masse and what you’re talking about is the suburbs. That kind of thinking, when it starts becoming cumulative, could really endanger something that we really want and need, which is a dense urban environment."
This isn’t just a problem in our big urban centers. It’s all across our landscape. A country on a continual war footing can’t remain healthy. We need to take a step back and realize what we’re giving up, realize that we’re blowing these threats all out of proportion while our very infrastructure crumbles beneath our feet. It’s a collapsing freeway overpass that is more likely to snuff out your life than some fanatic suicide bomber. One of our great cities goes unrecovered while we fortify every nook and cranny elsewhere. It’s time to get some perspective, grow back our spines. To continue down this path is to willingly sell out our souls. Perhaps we’re too far gone and we’ve already done so. America the big armed suburb, with frightened eyes peeking out through ballistic glass.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Subterfuge, Scapegoating and Corporate Collusion
Are you as sick as I am of the 24/7 “JonBenet non-story” coverage? Then it is a good time to scratch this surface and see what squirms underneath. There is a fantastic piece at Slate today. Here is a taste:
This story allows us to fulminate against trivial problems while ignoring huge problems close to home, meanwhile wallowing in self-righteous porn babble: We are able to use the half-clothed bodies of children as centerfolds while professing shock that anyone would so display them.
For kids really do not fare very well in our culture: Millions of children are, in fact, abused in unspeakable ways. Five hundred thousand kids every year are classified as “throwaways” (children whose parents or guardians will not let them live at home, as distinguished from “runaways"). As many as 800,000 are beaten horribly. Even more are subject to emotional abuse and neglect. How much attention do they get? Instead, we focus our attention, almost all of it, on stranger-danger: things like abductions, of which there are between 100 and 200 annually. Our carefully controlled outrage is generated for our own purposes, certainly not to protect the children.
Then we get to an all important fact that our society wants swept right under the rug:
And when kids are indeed abused, who is doing it? Mom and Dad and Uncle Ted and Aunt May. As little as 2 percent of child abuse is committed by strangers. Again, why are we exercised over JonBenet?
We know who the boogeyman is, he is us when we are talking about women and children. Most women are attacked by those they know, not strangers. Their muderers are most often their own husbands or boyfriends but this doesn’t play well enough to the media who needs us in fear constantly. People are more easily swayed when they are afraid which is why corporations and our government wants us afraid. They are the ones trying to manipulate us, whether it is to by a new product or a government wanting more power and understanding that fear will be the mechanism by which people will hand it over to them.
Now that corporations own the media and there is little regulation as to how much they can own, a few of them are giving citizens the vast majority of what they ingest. Those same corporations give heartily to the Republican Party and their K Street representatives want more all the time. Right now Rove and the Administration want something, they want Iraq, Israel’s dismal failure and Bush’s fall from grace buried until the November elections and the JonBenet non-story is just the ticket. They are putting a mentally disturbed man front and center in an investigation that was full of holes from the get-go. My hunch is that the news organizations already know how weak the case is but push it loudly and we have every reason to ask why.
There is every reason to believe that the corporate-owned media and their lobbyists want things from the government and right now there is something this Administration wants from them. If there is a deal made in hell being played out right now, it’s best to be on the lookout for it and to me this situation is not passing the smell test.
Monday, August 21, 2006
Proud To Be American
He loved America. He felt that Americans were somehow short-changing themselves. After all his years in that country, he said, he had never encountered a people so fond of pissing in their own pond and then complaining that they had to move because the water was dirty—Michael Moorcock: “The War Amongst the Angels"
I understand wanting a weapon to hunt, or to protect your home ... I may not nurture such needs myself, but I can understand where the impulse comes from. Like any working class American male taken out by his father to hunt and fish, I get that weaponry holds a special place in the American heart. But there really is a point where interest becomes obsession, and slides along into obscenity:
Wearing orange foam earplugs to muffle the nearby thunder of relentless automatic weapons fire, a grizzled man with SS lightning bolt tattoos on his forearms pulls a little red wagon loaded with rifle ammunition. Carefully picking his way through the teeming crowd, he passes table after table laden with machine guns, gas masks, combat knives, war memorabilia and bomb-making guides. The man sheds his camouflage tactical vest to reveal a worn black T-shirt emblazoned with a Totenkopf, the Death’s Head symbol of the Waffen SS. Then he parks his wagon to join a huddle of shoppers surrounding a hard-faced spokeswoman from Valkyrie Arms who’s extolling the virtues of the Olympia, Wash.-based arms maker’s new product, the Valkyrior 556 Rotary Gun.
“It’s .223-caliber, six barrels, basically you’re looking at a hand-cranked mini-gun,” she says.
The man asks, “What’s the rate of fire?”
“Just as fast as you can crank it,” she replies. “We just shipped a load of these babies to civilian security contractors in Iraq for convoy protection. When I go to sleep tonight, I’ll dream of towel heads splattering all over the place.”
“We need to ship a few to the border and start splattering Mexicans," he says.
Then he picks up his wagon handle and continues browsing the wares. Two hundred yards away, around the Knob Creek Gun Range’s lower shooting area, hundreds of men, women and children are lined up like kids at Disneyland to rent and shoot M-16s, Uzis, AK-47s, SPAS 12 full-auto shotguns, vintage Tommy Guns and Heckler & Koch MP-5s. A teenaged boy wearing a shirt with a grinning Jane Fonda and the words “Commie Traitor Bitch” pays $25 to rip 20 bullets through a .30-06 caliber BAR (Browning Automatic Rifle). “Man,” he says, grinning and shaking the BAR owner’s hand. “That’s one hell of a rush."
Is everybody who goes to such events a racist, extremist or member of a violent militia? Probably not, but one has to wonder how much such gatherings are used to enable the mainstreaming of extremism. As the proprieter of Knob Creek puts it:
"I do not think of us as an extremist or militia gathering, but we do not regulate any items sold,” Knob Creek Gun Range owner and festival chief Kenny Sumner wrote, responding to E-mailed questions about booth C-22. “If someone wants to sell white supremacist and neo-Nazi crap, that’s OK with me. If it offends anyone, they don’t have to stop at that vendor’s table. It’s just like strip clubs. I don’t care nothing about them and they can be wherever they want. I have the ability to stop in or drive by. This is America and we do have the right to choose. That’s why I do not restrict any of the vendors at our show.”
Rob Walker, who describes himself as “the fat, happy guy handing out Shotgun News,” has attended the past 15 Knob Creek shoots as part of his job for a New York City magazine publishing house. “I have never perceived an air of hate,” Walker says. “In fact, I’ve seen people of all races having a great time together.”
In past years, Walker says, “The militia groups simply used the huge draw of the KCR [Knob Creek Range] shoot to entice a greater amount of attendance at their little meetings, but they were never officially affiliated with KCR. Now, I’ve never seen anything more disturbing than some truly tasteless T-shirts. While I’d prefer to not even stand next to someone wearing a few of those shirts, it’s the First Amendment and I won’t argue with that.”
Beginning in 2004, Walker has distributed materials on “genocide and gun ownership” produced by the far-right JPFO (Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership) at Knob Creek shoots. “Not only was that well received, it was never scoffed at,” he says. “The materials were well marked as being from a Jewish group. Never have I heard a single anti-Semitic utterance."
I’m sure many of the people there have no patience for OTHER people talking about preserving other kinds of “choice”, but since the Second Amendment is the only IMPORTANT part of the Constitution, it’s plain that maintaining these kinds of choices is of the highest importance.
Knob Creek organizers have for years insisted that the majority of people who come to their machine gun festivals are not white supremacists or militia members. While that’s probably true, a survey of tattoos, patches, T-shirt symbols, and merchandise at the April 2006 events provided strong evidence of a significant extremist presence. Sonny Landham, the 1980s action movie star who now shills for the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens, signed autographs and distributed CCC literature at his booth near a hot-dog stand. Print and CD editions of the racist fantasy novel The Turner Diaries were widely available, along with copies of the U.S. Militiaman’s Handbook, a guide to armed insurrection during “R-2,” the second American Revolution.
"When municipal, township, county, or local area law enforcement agents attack or seek to confine or control the U.S. Militia or its individual members, those agencies should be totally eliminated in the initial attack,” the handbook advises. “Do not allow any law enforcement agents to escape. Kill them all."
I’m uncertain how to react to people like this. It’s hard to reconcile a belief that people should be able to choose how to live their lives when confronted by a large population of people who wallow in ignorance and play at death. How to find common ground with people who’ve been bombarded with more and more rightwing propaganda and the unsettling marriage of American exceptionalism with a doctrine where might makes right? Watch a mainstream movie like Blackhawk Down or Tears of the Sun, at the glorified image of American warriors delivering death on a scale that would have impressed ancient gods from the barrels of hand-held machines, taking out scores of adversaries. That’s what many see in their mind when they think about our actions in Iraq. Righteous warriors, dealing death to a frightening and numberless enemy.
In a perfect world, “live and let live” makes a lot of sense. In a world gone insane, it seems to be a recipe for one-sided civil war. Many of these folks believe we’re engaged in a culture war, and THEY feel that THEY are the victims of the rest of us, filthy-liberal-perverted-godless libertines eager to cornhole their children and turn out their wives. There is a war for America going on, and they’re the ones who’re heavily armed.
Almost makes you want to pick up a SPAS 12 full-auto shotgun yourself and barricade yourself inside, doesn’t it?
Friday, August 18, 2006
fri rdm 10 - sick of scary rightie immigrants edition
Herein your humble Madman will once again forfeit his official membership in the liberal club.
I’m sick of rightwing immigrants.
Yes, that’s right. I have NO patience for for the descendents of former dictators and authoritarians. ANY of them. This is not to say that groups with a grievance don’t have every right to seek recompense, but don’t use the psycho rightwing to settle scores in your old country, and piss all over the legal traditions of this country to do it.
I don’t care if you hate that the communists in Cuba replaced a nasty and corrupt dictator and puppet for the mob. Don’t give a damn. Whether or not a tiny tropical island has a dictator or not doesn’t matter to me, especially seeing as in how he actually provides his people with more access to healthcare than a sizable portion of the citizens of this country, and whose population has one of the highest literacy rates in the world.
I don’t care about Israel. Yes, I know that a lot of people who fervently support zionism aren’t immigrants, but this country has endangered itself and innocent people in other countries for far too long in support of a criminal, bullying nation of perpetual crybabies and the grandchildren of victims of a crime from long ago. Being descended of a victimized people does not give you license to victimize others.
It’s not our job here to fix Southeast Asia, Korea or China. It’s not our job to settle long-standing scores in Central Europe. Fight amongst yourselves over old blood feuds and assignment of charges of long-past genocides. Did leftists in Central America run daddy off of his sugar cane plantation? Not our problem.
We have our own crimes here that we need to deal with. We need to set right our very own genocide, our very own exploitation of the poor ... we need to do something to confront and heal the lingering and festering sores of racism HERE.
So Dinesh Souza, denizens of Calle Ocho, fervent lobbyists for AIPAC ... piss off. I’m tired of blood and treasure here being used to support a war machine and killing industries that are then directed to settle your scores.
The US should be a champion for peace, for fair trade, for open exchanges of ideas and culture, NOT a big bank and source of mercenaries to help you get even for some crime committed against great-granddad. Maybe after we’ve figured out a way to deal with poverty, racism, economic inequities and the theft of assets of the Native Americans we can get to back to working out your centuries-old conflicts.
So there you go. The news is just too much to take, and watching asshole hypocrites like Alberto Gonzales, grandchild of immigrants himself, piss all over the basic freedoms of our Constitution to make political points and serve his war criminal boss has gotten way past old.
Unlike the racist wingers, I don’t hate you people because of where you are from, or what you look like. I’m disgusted by your willingness to import the authoritarian beliefs of your ancestors, many of whom ran here when their own people forced them out of power. This is supposed to be a nation of laws, a nation where individuals come before tribes ... something we’ve never quite managed completely, but something we’re supposed to be working toward. Take your issues back where you, your parents or grandparents came from.
So there you go. Gonna listen to some tunes now and try to cheer myself up.
- "It’s Late” - Queen
- "All Right Now” - Free
- "The Post War Dream” - Queen
- "I Can’t Turn You Loose” - Was (Not Was)
- "Pure and Easy” - The Who
- “Happy" - Rolling Stones
- "State of Love and Trust” - Pearl Jam
- "White Man” - Queen
- “Eulogy" - Tool
- "Do You Know Something (I Don’t Know)” - Webb Wilder
Thursday, August 17, 2006
"Hmmm, I see 'Martyr', 'Virgins' & 'Hair Gel' ..."
Apparently the new reality being created by our friends in the Bush Administration includes mind readers:
As the man approached the airport security checkpoint here on Wednesday, he kept picking up and putting down his backpack, touching his fingers to his chin, rubbing some object in his hands and finally reaching for his pack of cigarettes, even though smoking was not allowed.
Two Transportation Security Administration officers stood nearby, nearly motionless and silent, gazing straight at him. Then, with a nod, they moved in, chatting briefly with the man, and then swiftly pulled him aside for an intense search.
Another airline passenger had just made the acquaintance of the transportation agency’s “behavior detection officers.”
Taking a page from Israeli airport security, the transportation agency has been experimenting with this new squad, whose members do not look for bombs, guns or knives. Instead, the assignment is to find anyone with evil intent.
The article doesn’t say if they are led to an Ordeal by Water if one of these magicians detects any “evil intent”.
Don’t worry, though ... this isn’t MAGIC or anything. Nope, it’s scientific, sorta like a polygraph:
Agency officials said they recognize that the program, which they call Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT, may not yet be perfect. But they added that they were constantly making adjustments and that they were convinced that it was a valuable addition to their security tool chest.
“There are infinite ways to find things to use as a weapon and infinite ways to hide them,” said the director of the T.S.A., Kip Hawley, in an interview this week. “But if you can identify the individual, it is by far the better way to find the threat.”
The American version of the airport behavior observation program got its start in Boston, said Thomas G. Robbins, former commander of the Logan International Airport police.
After the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001, he said, state police officers there wondered whether a technique they had long used to try to identify drug couriers at the airport might also work for terrorists. The officers observed travelers’ facial expressions, body and eye movements, changes in vocal pitch and other indicators of stress or disorientation. If the officers’ suspicions were aroused, they began a casual conversation with the person, asking questions like “What did you see in Boston?” followed perhaps by “Oh, you’ve been sightseeing. What did you like best?”
The questions themselves are not significant, Mr. Robbins said. It is the way the person answers, particularly whether the person shows any sign of trying to conceal the truth.
So, don’t fly if you’re conducting an affair with a coworker. It’s liable to get you a follow-up interogation, if not more.
What spineless wimps Americans are. We let these hucksters piss away government funds on these silly schemes, these Potemkin procedures ... we let them bully us into worthless and ineffectual crap like this BECAUSE WE’RE AFRAID. A nation that was settled by people who crossed oceans in steerage, or chained up in cargo holds, a nation descended from people who set out across unmapped wildernesses, a people who built a nation with other people who had strange ways, often spoke strange languages ... we descendents of people like that are little more than frightened sheep submitting to shepherd’s crooks built out of lies and empty promises. Not only that, far too many of us lash out at people who question, people who refuse to shut up and go along. Many of us who would like to protest don’t, either because we’re afraid of the backlash or because we have people depending on us—friends, family or co-workers who would be hurt if we were locked up or missed an important flight to a business meeting.
Answer their meaningless questions. Pack away that deodorant. Let the wingnut in the next cubicle rant and spew. It’s a scary world out there. Just be careful not to think about how much it sucks, because someone might read it on your face, and then it’s time for the cavity search.
Virginia Is For Racists?
George Allen’s racist comments have received little airplay outside of the cable news shows and the blogosphere this week. That needs to change considering this idiot is a Senator and even scarier, a presidential wannabee. Click HERE to see the video of his remarks. Here are a few choice lines:
“This fellow over here with the yellow shirt, Macaca, or whatever his name is, he’s with my opponent,” Mr Allen said.
“Let’s give a welcome to Macaca here. Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia."
Unless you are new to the story you know the 20 year-old who shot the video is SR Sidarth, an American of Indian descent. To make matters worse Senator Allen now is trying to wriggle out of this by saying he was commenting on the man’s haircut which he termed a mohawk. Not only is this blatant subterfuge, even his cover-up stinks. Mr. Sidarth’s haircut is normal save for the buzzed part around his ears which shows just how hard he and his campaign staff are reaching to try and save face when what they should be doing is copping to the ugliness of the video.
Virginia now has a choice to make and it’s not just whether to vote Republican or Democrat. It’s now about voting for government for all Virginians because Senator Allen has shown himself incapable of leadership. Racism is not to be tolerated in our Congress and we need to acknowledge that this is a Senator, not a film actor/director. Virginia, we’re watching you so let’s see if you’re going to put the white sheet on or throw it in the garbage.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
MoveOn ... 3 Card Monte Progressives?
How exactly does the left, or at least organizations that claim to fight for the left, expect to ever reclaim the Democratic Party if they refuse to even CONSIDER backing TRUE liberal and progressive challengers willing to challenge the Vichy Dems who continue to fail the American people? NYCee asks this burning question:
Jonathan Tasini is the TRUE PROGRESSIVE, antiwar Democratic challenger to prowar, corporate-friendly, and mega-corporate-financed Hillary Clinton. Actually, on all the issues, he is a progressive’s dream come true. Tasini is on the primary ballot in NY. He got almost 3 times the signatures needed to get on the ballot, which is a high hurdle by NY rules. (Primary date - Sept 12).
But, disturbingly, MoveOn.Org, a self-described “progressive” organization, has declined not only to endorse Tasini, but to even give NY progressives a voice. Unlike in the Lamont v Lieberman primary contest, Move On has not even !!! polled NYers !!! on the two candidates.
Is their mission really to offer the left a voice into politics, or are they another confidence trick, offering up the promise of a payoff while rigging the game in favor of party insiders?
Go read the rest of NYCee’s piece, and make sure to savor the high-class fratboy pushback in the threads, from the cadres of kos fan boys and party operatives.
Nope, no real debate allowed in our media, especially as it is all owned by the very wealthy contributors who keep worthless politicians like Senator Clinton in office. Well, worthless to us, but NOT the new robber barons. No real debate welcome on the big “liberal” blogs, and apparently no debate allowed in the big “liberal activist” organizations.
Nope, we must “pick our fights”, and be happy when they throw us a Lamont to support. Norman Solomon makes the point:
The leading pro-war Democrat in the Senate is hoping for a landslide in the New York primary next month. And unless progressives quickly mobilize to dent her vote total, she’s likely to get it.
Hillary Clinton, of course, intends to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. But first there’s her quest to win big for reelection. If antiwar voters cut into Clinton’s percentage in the primary on Sept. 12, despite overwhelming media visibility and a massive campaign war chest, her momentum would take a hit.
After Sen. Joe Lieberman lost to antiwar challenger Ned Lamont in Connecticut’s Democratic primary last week, I thought some more about the fast-approaching Senate race in New York, where anti-war candidate Jonathan Tasini will be on the ballot next to Clinton.
Tasini, a former president of the National Writers Union, is more strongly and consistently antiwar than Lamont. And Tasini is an all-around progressive on issues from trade to economic justice to health care to the Middle East. But his campaign is underfunded. In contrast, the very wealthy Lamont self-financed his campaign with a few million dollars.
One of the biggest boosts to Lamont’s primary campaign came from MoveOn.org, which polled its membership in Connecticut and found a large majority in favor of endorsing Lamont. The MoveOn endorsement brought more funding and people-power energy to the campaign against Lieberman.
MoveOn members helped to invigorate that campaign, as they have strengthened so many other grassroots efforts in recent years. And MoveOn’s leaders have earned respect for their far-sighted work on building a powerful nationwide organization.
Today, this question hangs in the air: Will MoveOn now poll its membership in New York about whether to make an endorsement in the Clinton vs. Tasini race?
I put the question to the executive director of the MoveOn.org political action committee, Eli Pariser. Here’s his full reply: “We focus on the issues and candidates our members are excited about. We’ve heard almost nothing from MoveOn members on Tasini—New York MoveOn members are more focused on winning back Congress, ending the war on Iraq, and Ned Lamont. As for our formal endorsement process, that’s triggered where there are two viable candidates and where there’s a baseline of interest from our members. Right now, this one doesn’t meet that second threshold.”
But the only reliable way to find out how interested New York members of MoveOn would be in a Clinton-or-Tasini endorsement is to ask them. And, evidently, that’s a question that the people in charge of MoveOn.org don’t want to ask.
They act, and apparently they decide WHEN to act, despite their frequent fundraising appeals claiming to represent the left.
Why is it so hard to understand that the conversation in this country will NEVER change if the status quo isn’t challenged, ESPECIALLY within a party that is failing their supposed constituents so badly? In fact, if you think that this is obvious, and if you think that MoveON might need a reminder, LET THEM KNOW IT.
I suppose it shouldn’t be a suprise. The “two party system” is little more than a street con, a confidence game. “Wanna buy some CHANGE? It looks JUST LIKE THE REAL THING! After all, what are you, some kind of purist?”
There will be no chance for change until there is a vehicle for change, and both parties are corrupt and in the service of a very small segment of the citizenry. It is more and more apparent that change will have to take the long, hard climb up from local movements, as possible vehicles for change like MoveON and the Big Boy Blogs sell themselves out for the illusion of “influence” with a corrupt party aristocracy and the chance to be the next ineffective Shrumlike hack.
Tasini is a real progressive. If you’re a real progressive, and you’re registered to vote in NY, VOTE FOR HIM IN THE PRIMARY SEPTEMBER 12TH. For that matter, the same goes in November in places like PA ... don’t let them use fear of the Republicans sell your values short. If you can’t stomach Casey, vote for the Green candidate. Put a scare into them ... keep them from power. THAT is the only way we’ll see change. It’ll take years, and many losses, but you can fight back locally and build for a better future. Quit giving them your future, only to be suprised when you come back and you find they’ve stolen it.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
I'm Afraid of Americans' Fear
Americans like this scare me:
Five miles past the paved road, up on a hill of no name, lives a one-eyed man with a one-eyed cat.
They sleep in a van parked against the patchwork fence that lines the border with Mexico. He is solitary, lean, trying to hold back a tidal wave of humanity. The cat is overweight.
Britt Craig describes himself as a 57-year-old Spartan, a decorated war veteran, a Buddhist, a damaged and lonesome man, a lover of books who can pull bits of philosophy from the corners of his confinement.
“The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made so and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself,” Mr. Craig says in the 100-degree heat, quoting John Stuart Mill almost perfectly.
He is a member of the Minuteman Project, a group of civilians dedicated to fighting illegal immigration from Mexico. He has done his part simply by standing here, watching, for 500 days.
What is so frightening that someone would choose to do that? Where is the line between a patriot standing watch, and a paranoid or racist jingoist keeping out the unwashed hordes? How to confront these fellow citizens?
How to feel when confronted by his view, his motivation?
The son of a Georgia newspaperman, the grandson of a Georgia newspaperman and the great-grandson of a gentleman farmer, Mr. Craig never lived up to family expectations.
He did poorly in school and thought he would prove himself as a warrior. He enlisted as a paratrooper and lost his left eye in Vietnam. By his account, he came home to mockery and derision and this knocked him sideways.
So he drifted. Sailed. Fished. Pounded nails. Made music in Puerto Rico. Knew a few women and forgot a few women. Finally, in his later years, he grew roots on this hill. He makes his morning toilet with a bucket and a shovel.
“I never got that 1945 reception,” he says from beneath the shadow of his canvas brim. “Maybe now I’m doing something the American people appreciate.”
Can someone like this even be engaged, be conversed with, when they are so full of anger, so full of a fear intense enough that they don’t recognize it as fear, so isolated that they can’t even stand to be around those who share their beliefs?
Out here petty jealousies, rivalries and divisions have arisen. Across the country, the Minuteman movement has splintered into a half-dozen factions, Mr. Craig answering only to himself.
There is another man who lives on a hill on the horizon to the west. He, too, is an Army veteran, a retired fisherman and a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week “scout.” He flies a large American flag from a makeshift 30-foot pole, carries a .45 pistol in his waistband and lives in relative luxury in an R.V. with a port-a-potty. That man, Robert Cook, also 57, goes by the nom de guerre Little Dog.
Mr. Cook is annoyed that Mr. Craig will not respect his position as director of Campo border operations for the Minuteman Project. And so he has referred to Mr. Craig as a phony war hero, compared him to male genitalia and rifled off an e-mail message to CNN calling Mr. Craig a swine who lives in a cat box.
I feel part of the problem, a barrier to any solution, because I’m disgusted by people like this. I’m repulsed by homophobes, by bigots, by greedy Wall Street types ... hell, I have a hard time concealing my contempt for denizens of suburban sprawl, folks who extol the virtues of rural life. I can’t engage, because ...
Well, like that man on the hill, I know that my worldview, that what I hold sacred, is mocked and disregarded and unwelcome in what passes for political discourse in this society.
There IS no political discourse in this society.
I chuckled in personal recognition as I read a profile today of Spike Lee:
Spike Lee is not the warmest guy in the world. He may not even be the warmest guy in the Royalton. He cares about people, but it’s unclear how much he likes them.
Misanthropes of the world unite. I don’t have much in common with Spike Lee, except for some broad political beliefs and that fundamental truth. I want the best for people, but I’m not sure I like them very much.
We are stuck, because there is no common language, no civic vocabulary. We all claim the same founding myths, but understand them in utterly different ways, tell the stories with different cadences. Where I see the Founding Fathers as children of the Enlightenment, as Deists and mortal men who chose a system of laws established by men, a sizable portion of my countrymen see a cadre of Christians guided by the hand of God. Where I see genocide and ruthless landgrabs, others see manifest destiny and a simple fact of life when two cultures want the same natural resources. We are demons and ghosts haunting the others’ world, unable to touch or even see each other as sharing any common ground at all. I can point at historical records, at photos and diaries and newspapers. They point at conflicting accounts, discounting any carefully martialed citiations that I or others could gather for their perusal. Different worlds, at war with each other.
We are stuck. We have no structures, no existing institutions to shore up our common grounds. They have all been corrupted, corrupted by money or neglect or apathy or cold, calculating authoritarian design. By all of those things, but by none of those things alone.
We once had authoritarians who built highways that tore neighborhoods asunder, yet somehow they also built civic structures that gave people places to meet and mingle and find cool succor from life’s trials. Now, our authoritarians build businesses and churches designed as fortresses, moats of concrete and security designed to keep the unwelcome out, to make the chosen feel nurtured and welcome.
How to confront my fellow citizens, led around by fear and hatred? How to process my own fear, my own loathing of THEIR fear?
We’re at a time where civil conflict seems inevitable. A lot of issues undealt with for decades, for centuries, need to be fought out, and perhaps a people so enamored of blood and militarism and guns are doomed to eventually use those tools again. As Spike notes:
“What was discouraging to me was, some people—it was like a revelation: I never knew we had poor people in this country,” before Katrina. “I think the United States government has done a very good job of covering up the poor so unless you really, really … You might see a homeless person, you know, on the street, but you can avoid it. You can bypass a lot of stuff,” says Lee, twisting the diamond stud in his ear. He speaks slowly, deliberately, like a professor or a certain kind of pot smoker. It’s a dispensation, not a discussion; he does not look you in the eye.
“Katrina pulled that away, all that cover, left it bare like a raw, exposed nerve,” he says, and starts to pick up a little steam. “And I don’t think we should try to slide it under the rug and act like it doesn’t exist. And I don’t think we’re ever going to get to the place where this country can … I don’t think we’ll ever achieve our true greatness.”
He is silent for a second and stares into space and then, “We’ve still not dealt with slavery!” His words come in a rush. “Black, African-American, and white Americans, we still have not dealt with slavery! When kids are in school and they’re learning about motherfucking George Washington, say the motherfucker owned slaves!” He is still sitting but bouncing, vibrating on the balls of his bright- yellow, brand-new Nikes. “Say what Christopher Columbus did! Kids are still learning in-1492-he-sailed-the-ocean-blue bullshit. George Washington could never tell the truth; he did chop down that motherfucking cherry tree. All right. Get rid of that shit and say he owned slaves. Say the first president of the United States owned slaves! Let’s stop with the lies. Let’s talk about the genocide of the Native Americans! All right, if you don’t want to talk about black and white, all right, let’s leave that aside. Let’s talk about the blankets with smallpox that were given to Native Americans. Let’s talk about the landgrab. I want to make a movie about Custer. I want to show Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull kicking ass!”
For my part, I can’t see how we can solve our problems until we confront them, until we hold them out in the light and listen to the witness offered by the agrieved. I can’t find common ground with that man on the hill if he won’t recognize that it’s not as simple as his border would make it. So much talent that might help us solve our terrible problems is locked up in prisons for petty drug crimes, gay-bashed into silence, screamed at as man-hating, dismissed as soft-headed and naive. That man on the hill is lashing out in his way because he feels he was denied compassion when he returned from a criminal war, and who is to gainsay him his belief? He blames it on a public who held no parades, rather than on the criminal leaders who made parades for warriors feel like celebrations of an obscenity. If more Americans had demanded our government provide him more help, would he have felt driven to that hill? Is the prosecution of a war going to always produce damaged souls who are beyond help? We’ve failed to confront this question throughout our history, turning away from vets who became outlaws, gangsters, suicides, bonus marchers, war protesters, homeless supplicants and yes, even jingoistic hawks and bombers of federal buildings and abortion clinics.
Perhaps I can take hope in another veteran taking a lonely stand on a hill. Ehren Watada gave a speech this past weekend to Veterans for Peace National Convention:
I wasn’t entirely sure what to say tonight. I thought as a leader in general I should speak to motivate. Now I know that this isn’t the military and surely there are many out there who outranked me at one point or another - and yes, I’m just a Lieutenant. And yet, I feel as though we are all citizens of this great country and what I have to say is not a matter of authority - but from one citizen to another. We have all seen this war tear apart our country over the past three years. It seems as though nothing we’ve done, from vigils to protests to letters to Congress, have had any effect in persuading the powers that be. Tonight I will speak to you on my ideas for a change of strategy. I am here tonight because I took a leap of faith. My action is not the first and it certainly will not be the last. Yet, on behalf of those who follow, I require your help - your sacrifice - and that of countless other Americans. I may fail. We may fail. But nothing we have tried has worked so far. It is time for change and the change starts with all of us.
I stand before you today, not as an expert - not as one who pretends to have all the answers. I am simply an American and a servant of the American people. My humble opinions today are just that. I realize that you may not agree with everything I have to say. However, I did not choose to be a leader for popularity. I did it to serve and make better the soldiers of this country. And I swore to carry out this charge honorably under the rule of law.
Today, I speak with you about a radical idea. It is one born from the very concept of the American soldier (or service member). It became instrumental in ending the Vietnam War - but it has been long since forgotten. The idea is this: that to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.
Now it is not an easy task for the soldier. For he or she must be aware that they are being used for ill-gain. They must hold themselves responsible for individual action. They must remember duty to the Constitution and the people supersedes the ideologies of their leadership. The soldier must be willing to face ostracism by their peers, worry over the survival of their families, and of course the loss of personal freedom. They must know that resisting an authoritarian government at home is equally important to fighting a foreign aggressor on the battlefield. Finally, those wearing the uniform must know beyond any shadow of a doubt that by refusing immoral and illegal orders they will be supported by the people not with mere words but by action.
He points out that soldiers can’t do this alone, any more than marchers or hunger fasters can:
I tell this to you because you must know that to stop this war, for the soldiers to stop fighting it, they must have the unconditional support of the people. I have seen this support with my own eyes. For me it was a leap of faith. For other soldiers, they do not have that luxury. They must know it and you must show it to them. Convince them that no matter how long they sit in prison, no matter how long this country takes to right itself, their families will have a roof over their heads, food in their stomachs, opportunities and education. This is a daunting task. It requires the sacrifice of all of us. Why must Canadians feed and house our fellow Americans who have chosen to do the right thing? We should be the ones taking care of our own. Are we that powerless - are we that unwilling to risk something for those who can truly end this war? How do you support the troops but not the war? By supporting those who can truly stop it; let them know that resistance to participate in an illegal war is not futile and not without a future.
I have broken no law but the code of silence and unquestioning loyalty. If I am guilty of any crime, it is that I learned too much and cared too deeply for the meaningless loss of my fellow soldiers and my fellow human beings. If I am to be punished it should be for following the rule of law over the immoral orders of one man. If I am to be punished it should be for not acting sooner. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period … was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."
Decades after this current criminal war we may well have new men waiting on hills, perhaps guarding new boundaries between balkanized formerly-united states. Can we find enough common ground to find compassion for each other, to resist the anger within us that reinforces conflicts with the authoritarian minded? I know I have a long way to go before I can do more than make tremulous promises that I will, because I still haven’t moved past my anger and hate and fear of the lonely men on the hill, of the stressed out winger suburbanite, of the blissed-out believer in coming Apocalypse. When I confront the silouette of the armed man on the hill, it is a reflection of myself that I confront. I and all of us would be better served to honor those who say no, who refuse unlawful orders, who starve themselves rather than remain quiet, who march in streets or who take the frightening step to quitely join a union or walk through chanting zealots to maintain the dignity of their own bodies. Perhaps these meager words are my version of those things, for now that seems all I have to offer.
May we find a way to find peace, each of us on our own hills, and learn to smile across the intervening valleys at our neighbors.