Friday, September 29, 2006
The long journey of Anglo-American civilization, the drift of the emergent idea that INDIVIDUALS are the fundamental unit of civilization, grew at least partly from the Writ of Habeas Corpus:
It is a writ which requires a person detained by the authorities be brought before a court of law so that the legality of the detention may be examined.
The name is taken from the opening words of the writ in medieval times.
The Writ has been the lodestar which guided the intricate, often perilous trip toward western democracy. Yesterday, the United States Congress destroyed the sextants, shredded the maps, burned up the sounding lines that enabled us to follow that guide on our journey.
It does not determine guilt or innocence, merely whether the person is legally imprisoned. It may also be writ against a private individual detaining another.
If the charge is considered to be valid, the person must submit to trial but if not, the person goes free.
The Habeas Corpus Act passed by Parliament in 1679 guaranteed this right in law, although its origins go back much further, probably to Anglo-Saxon times.
Sir William Blackstone, who wrote his famous Commentaries on the Laws of England in the 18th Century, recorded the first use of habeas corpus in 1305. But other writs with the same effect were used in the 12th Century, so it appears to have preceded Magna Carta in 1215.
Its original use was more straightforward - a writ to bring a prisoner into court to testify in a pending trial. But what began as a weapon for the king and the courts became - as the political climate changed - protection for the individual against arbitrary detention by the state.
It is thought to have been common law by the time of Magna Carta, which says in Article 39: “No freeman shall be taken or imprisoned or disseised or exiled or in any way destroyed, nor will we go upon him nor will we send upon him except upon the lawful judgement of his peers or the law of the land.”
Over the next few hundred years, concern grew that kings would whimsically intervene on matters of detention, so it was enshrined in law in 1679.
We’ve never applied it completely, of course. Tom Shipp and Abe Smith, dragged out to the hanging tree, weren’t people who could apply the writ to the mob reducing them to strange fruit hanging from the bent bough. Big Foot’s cries for the charges against him would not have been recognized by any court. The internees at Manzanar weren’t considered worth the paper to bring the matter before the magistrate. However, to recognize human beings as legal persons, with this most fundamental of rights, is the light with which enlightened Democracies illuminated their way. It has been there for centuries, flickering off above the far horizon, a guide to making a more just and fair society possible.
We have no need for it anymore, apparently. Captain Quieg knows best, and sadly on the ship of our state all of the officers called Republicans and the cabin boys called Democrats have no interest in mutiny. Instead, they cheer. They feast on their ill-gained booty, whip the unfortunates in the galley, and the cabin boys happily submit to the whims of their betters.
After all, beyond the horizon lie monsters. Terrible, ravenous beasts who will kill us all, if we don’t submit to the better sense represented by our good Captain. If he needs to randomly pick one or more of us to keel haul to make the rest of us safe, who are we to complain?
As we drift further off course, headed toward the rocks, remember this week. This is the week we abandoned the North Star of freedom. The only questions left are, how many of us will sink beneath the hungry waves or be split upon the jagged rocks?
The Great Divider
There is a piece at Think Progress about the anti-gay and hate speech filled event just held:
This weekend, some of the nation’s leading conservatives — from Tony Snow and Attorney General Gonzales to Sen. George Allen (R-VA) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AK) to Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity — appeared at the Family Research Council’s “Values Voter Summit.”
As Right Wing Watch notes, another speaker at the conference later claimed “the gay rights movement was inspired ‘from the pit of hell itself,’ and has a ’satanic anointment.’ … He suggested that the anti-Christ is himself gay, citing a verse from the book of Daniel saying the anti-Christ will have no desire for a woman.”
The anti-Christ will be gay? oh puleaze.... if you want to see an Anti-Christ in action look no further than our own Great Divider.
He divides the United States over his warmongering, corruption, total disregard for the poor and devotion to wealth.
He divides the United States from its Allies.
He divides the races and gives racists cover in his own Party.
He divides Christianity from Islam instead of building bridges.
He divides the Middle East by making relations between Palestine and Israel much worse since he acquired power.
He divides heterosexuals from homosexuals by his hate-filled posturing and policies.
Care to add any more to the list?
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
The Scarlet Letter: 2006 Edition
This article in today’s NY Times made my Texan-born blood boil. Here’s the main gist:
Peggy Lee Penley’s marriage was going sour when she turned to her pastor. They had been friends for years and had started a Bible church together in Fort Worth. He was more than Ms. Penley’s spiritual shepherd, also serving as a licensed professional counselor, and had helped her before.
But Ms. Penley says that after she confided her sexual relationship with another man and her plans for divorce, the pastor, C. L. Westbrook Jr., disclosed her “biblically inappropriate relationship” to church elders. Mr. Westbrook eventually informed the full congregation of the church, CrossLand Community Bible, she says, shaming her publicly and urging members to discipline her by shunning her.
This hideous man abused his position as pastor and confidante and now wants protection for his ethical wrongdoing. What’s even worse is that the courts are on the whole refusing to get involved in such cases like these:
In Mississippi, the former wife of the governor sued her Episcopal priest and her church after learning that the priest had taped her admission of adultery for use against her in a custody case by her ex-husband. The case was dismissed. In Royal Oak, Mich., outside Detroit, a man who had left his church sued his pastor for revealing the confidence that he had been with prostitutes. That case was also dismissed.
Courts have had no trouble convicting religious figures of sexual misconduct, since the charges involve clearly secular actions that by their nature fall outside accepted religious practices.
Thank goodness these parishoners are refusing to lie down and be trampled by these faux-Christian wildebeasts. If we don’t stop this and stop it soon, 5 years from now I’ll be writing about the congregation that stoned a member and thinks they are immune from prosecution.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Pique Over Principles
I was going to leave this alone ... just another instance of flash and noise, with no real meaning. All over the lefty Blahgs, huzzahs ring out across the land. President Clinton sure told off that wingnut talking head Chris Wallace:
WJC: What did I do? I worked hard to try and kill him. I authorized a finding for the CIA to kill him. We contracted with people to kill him. I got closer to killing him than anybody has gotten since. And if I were still President, we’d have more than 20,000 troops there trying to kill him. Now I never criticized President Bush, and I don’t think this is useful. But you know we do have a government that thinks Afghanistan is 1/7 as important as Iraq. And you ask me about terror and Al Qaeda with that sort of dismissive theme when all you have to do is read Richard Clarke’s book to look at what we did in a comprehensive, systematic way to try to protect the country against terror. And you’ve got that little smirk on your face. It looks like you’re so clever…
WJC: I had responsibility for trying to protect this country. I tried and I failed to get Bin Laden. I regret it, but I did try. And I did everything I thought I responsibly could. The entire military was against sending Special Forces into Afghanistan and refueling by helicopter and no one thought we could do it otherwise. We could not get the CIA and the FBI to certify that al Qaeda was responsible while I was President. [Not] until I left office. And yet I get asked about this all the time and they had three times as much time to get him as I did and no one ever asks them about this. I think that’s strange.
SIX YEARS into the Bush/Cheney Kleptocracy, SIX YEARS of the theft of blood and treasure, of the national soul, of the last glimmers of decency, dignity and any version of the commonweal, AND IT TAKES A PERSONAL CONFRONTATION TO GET CLINTON MAD. He got mad because it was about HIM.
Yes, it was nice to see that oligeanous weasel Wallace slapped down. Why is it that Fox only gets this kind of response from a Donk to yet another attack from the right WHEN THE QUESTIONING GETS PERSONAL? Even then, it seldom happens, but you can bet that when you see Bill or Hillary or Harry or Joe (Biden or Lieberman) or Chuck or Rahm or Steny get angry enough to make at least the appearance of fighting back it’s almost ALWAYS about their “legacy”, or their perogatives as a seat-warmer of whatever place at the corporate table they hold.
Heard anything from the “leading” Donks on the recent “debate” between the right and the far-right over torture?
So far, we have heard nothing - nothing - from Congressional Democrats about the torture deal between the White House and the McCain Patsy Crew on torture. If you want to read up on just why this “deal” is nothing more than an utter and complete cave to the White House, here are the details. While there are lots of details, the basic idea is that we will continue to use torture, and we will continue to deny anything resembling due process to those that George W. Bush has decided are terr’rists.
And where are the Democrats? Hiding. No statements, no press releases, nothing. My guess is they’re desperately trying to figure out what to do. Gee, if we come out against this, people will say we’re weak! How many times have we heard that before?
Paul Waldman has got it exactly right. As Wilfred quoted Feingold saying:
"There is too much timidity encouraged by these consultants."
I don’t know if it’s just timidity. I think the Clintons, Biden, Reid and the rest are fine with 90% of the rightwing’s corporate agenda. Reagan might have made the poor women of this country targets by calling them “welfare queens”, but it was Clinton who kicked women and children out into the street. As Robert Reich says on the anniversary of Bubba’s “reforms”:
I’m baffled by the way the press has covered the tenth anniversary (this week) of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform—full of praise for a policy that has led to more poverty in America among single mothers and their children than before. I keep reading that welfare reform succeeded because welfare rolls were reduced. Of course they were reduced. People were kicked off welfare. How could they not be reduced?
The Dems are seemingly fine with the shrinking of the middle class, as they’ve done little or nothing to fight back. Dems helped to pass the Bankruptcy Elimination and Credit Card Company Corporate Welfare Act.
They’ve rolled over on extremist judges obtaining seats of the federal bench for DECADES now (thanks Joe Biden for your fine work when Clarence Thomas came before your committee), including to the Supreme Court. They couldn’t rush to support Bush quickly enough when he launched his illegal and immoral unprovoked attack on Iraq. They back the continued corrupt spending on unneeded and wasteful defense projects, on American bullying and belligerent behavior toward Central and South America and the Caribbean. In the main, the foreign policy beliefs and policies of the Leading Burros is all-but indistinguishable from the Republicans. They are nicer Republicans, but Republicans nonetheless.
So yes, it’s good to hear one of Roger Ailes’ propagandists get some pushback for a change, but until I start to hear not just anger and pique over PERSONAL slights but some RIGHTEOUS INDIGNATION over the real crimes and outrages taking place daily in this country, until I hear them raise their voices to fight for the people, and not just for their hobby horses and personal reputations, THEN I will be impressed. Until more of them start to sound like genuine fighters for the people, like Russ Feingold, John Conyers and Tim Ryan, I refuse to get too excited over these brief flickers of fight that crop up from time to time. As Keith Olbermann put it (once you get past the celebration of Clinton’s brief display of spine):
The Bush Administration did not try to get Osama bin Laden before 9/11.
The Bush Administration ignored all the evidence gathered by its predecessors.
The Bush Administration did not understand the Daily Briefing entitled “Bin Laden Determined To Strike in U.S.”
The Bush Administration did not try.
Moreover, for the last five years one month and two weeks, the current administration, and in particular the President, has been given the greatest “pass” for incompetence and malfeasance in American history!
President Roosevelt was rightly blamed for ignoring the warning signs—some of them, 17 years old—before Pearl Harbor.
President Hoover was correctly blamed for—if not the Great Depression itself—then the disastrous economic steps he took in the immediate aftermath of the Stock Market Crash.
Even President Lincoln assumed some measure of responsibility for the Civil War—though talk of Southern secession had begun as early as 1832.
But not this president.
To hear him bleat and whine and bully at nearly every opportunity, one would think someone else had been president on September 11th, 2001—or the nearly eight months that preceded it.
When I hear Hillary or Reid or one of them bluntly put forth such a recitation of the crimes of the Bush Administration, THEN I will rejoice. THEN I will actually believe that they FINALLY GET IT, that they get that we are slowly succumbing to an anti-American, inhuman regime that seeks to establish autocracy and hegemony over the globe. When Bill and Hillary stop hanging out with Rupert Murdoch and taking his conscience money, THEN I will stop criticizing these betrayers leading the so-called “opposition” party.
When Bill quits running around with George Sr., giving his criminal son political cover on his horrible foreign policy and his abandonment of AMERICAN CITIZENS when their city was destroyed by corrupt government indifference, THEN I’ll be impressed. When Bubba and his pals in the DLC quit holding their hands out in bipartisan friendship to a corrupt and reactionary party that is seeking to destroy the Writ of Habeas Corpus, to a party that is shitting all over the Geneva Conventions, THEN maybe I’ll admit that they deserve our support. When the Donks quit acting like good Germans, looking the other way as this country becomes more and more of a danger to the world and to the citizens of this country, THEN I will join in the cheering. When they quit marching to AIPAC’s tune and campaign contributions and quit uncritically supporting every fascist thing that the Israeli government does, then perhaps some excitement for the Democratic Party will pour forth from my keyboard. When they stop stop pandering to religious women-hating extremists, then I’ll actually believe that we have a functioning two-party system again.
So President Clinton, WHY NOW? They have been attacking you, lying about you, distorting your record, distorting the beliefs of the left, lying in general about everything, attacking the fundamental values of this country for seemingly ever ... why were you suddenly raising your voice NOW? Is it just about your personal feelings? Was it a cynical attempt to get publicity for your meeting of self-righteous rich people last week? Was it an attempt to try to fool Americans begging for a real opposition party that you and the rest of the Donks are going to do your jobs? Hell, did you really MEAN any of it? An American city has been destroyed and, except for a football stadium, goes without any real signs of reconstruction. The next couple of generations will be paying the growing national debt for decades. The army and marines are broken, the country’s infrastructure is crumbling, the media is no longer either independent of the government or corporate leadership (thanks for the consolidation you pushed through, by the way). We have the worst healthcare system in the industrialized world, yet proudly host one of the most expensive and brutal prison systems on the globe. People’s votes are suppressed or stolen. Corporations OWN our government, and the people have less and less influence on its policies. Women are losing their rights at a frightening pace, and children go uneducated, unfed, unclothed, untreated and unsheltered. We have one of the highest infant mortality rates in the developed world. Why the anger now?
Maybe this incident will produce some willingness for people to talk back to the right, finally. I hope so. I don’t believe that it was about anything more than YOU, to you, but maybe something good will grow from it. Maybe as more people raise their voices, leaders will appear who will fight back out of PRINCIPLE, not out of personal pique.
Maybe, but I’m not counting on it.
Russ on Do-Nothing Dems
Russ gave an interview full of good things so I thought you all might be interested. He spoke with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and addressed the Democrats who don’t take the hard stands:
Feingold’s criticisms weren’t aimed solely at Republicans. Asked by an audience member why “more Democrats in Washington don’t stand up like you do,” Feingold blamed (but did not name) Democratic insiders and operatives.
“There is this cadre of consultants, frankly people that are from the previous administration, who are bright people, who always urge caution: ‘Be careful, or they’ll say you don’t support the troops. Be careful, the censure issue is a loser. Be careful, you can’t really talk about a timeline’ “ for getting out of Iraq, Feingold said. “There is too much timidity encouraged by these consultants.”
He also has some choice words about Bush so check out the whole article.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Making Connections in a Broken World
There is a slow, steady movement building to resist the aggressive, divisive militarism and corporate exploitation being pushed upon the world by the United States of America, Israel and the United Kingdom. This past week, members and leaders of the North American Indian Nations met with the Aymaran president of Bolivia, Evo Morales:
The meeting was hosted by the secretariat of the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and the AILA, an indigenous peoples’ nongovernmental organization with offices in New York City. Alex Contreras, Morales’ press secretary, stated that ‘’the meeting was set up at the request of President Morales, who seeks to initiate a substantive exchange between indigenous leaders from the North and the South to discuss the issues shared by Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere.’’ Lebsock added, ‘’The election of President Morales is an historic event for all Indian peoples. For him to honor us by meeting with our traditional Native American leaders is another step in the undeniable presence of indigenous peoples in international advocacy, especially human rights.’’
There was discussion of the shared experiences of the indigenous peoples of the north and the south when confronted by their conquerors:
‘’I was really satisfied,’’ White Plume noted. ‘’And he [Morales] was very impressed.’’ The Lakota leader recounted how Morales had thought that ‘’American Indians were imperialists like the rest of the country, but we cleared that up.’’
‘’It was interesting that the way he grew up was similar to how it was for us in the beginning of our colonization, but he kept to the old ways,’’ White Plume continued. ‘’And we agreed that all indigenous people need to bring back some of our old ways.’’
That many North American clans were intact and that the old languages were being preserved were among the things that impressed Morales, he stated.
‘’But we also discussed how the earth, the air and the water have been ruined in the last 500 years, in both our countries,’’ he stated. ‘’We also want to work on getting the Vatican to rescind the Papal Bull of 1493 which declared us heathen and savages ... we unanimously agreed to work on that together.’’
The North American leaders were asked to help Morales draft a few comments about the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which were to be included in his speech to the United Nations.
‘’It has been a rewarding day,’’ Lebsock said. ‘’We asked him to urge the General Assembly to pass the Declaration unamended, as-is, and to remind them that this is a new beginning for the human rights of indigenous peoples.’’
He noted that certain articles of the declaration dealt with many of the issues discussed at the meeting; Article 3 on self-determination, Article 36 on treaties, and Articles 21 - 28 dealing with access to and control of natural resources. (More info on the declaration can be found at the AILA Web site, http://www.ailanyc.org. ) (CLICK HERE for a .pdf of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples)
Here at the end of this latest cycle of time, on the cusp of great change and dangerous upheaval, what lessons can we find from this meeting, and from the growing movements calling for change, for more opportunities for the poor, the oppressed and the suffering around the world?
Well, first lets throw away any of the “noble savage” tropes that are all-too-often slathered over the top of meetings like these, declarations like these. Indigenous people are only people, after all, subject to the same jealousies and corruptions as anybody else. Instead, lets look at the ideas that form the mythical basis for so many so-called “pagan” or “primitive” cultures, ideas that are being carried forward by leaders like those above. What so many of these cultures hold to be true, hold in common, is the idea of CONNECTEDNESS. The Lakota phrase for this belief is Mitakuye Oyasin, “for all my relations” or “we are all related”. This isn’t an idea limited only to indigenous peoples. Connectedness can be seen in idea of the Golden Rule that is found in so many of the world’s ethical and religious systems. The interesting thing about this version is that it includes the Earth itself, the animals who walk upon it, the species who fly through our skies, the creatures who swim in the waters, and the generations yet to come.
Even though this idea crops up in some of the teachings and founding documents of various societies of the “West” (yes, it’s a clumsy label, but it’s generally understood, so I’m going to lazily use it here), the overriding foundation of the march of the dominant cultures on this planet has rather been a belief in atomization, in separation, in separating the world into either/ors, this or that, inside or outside, primitive or civilized. The operative foundation of the past many centuries has been on of a “war” of “all against all”.
There is no need to get mystical about the truth underlaying connectiveness. One can make utilitarian arguments for it. It is also important to recognize that the humankind has obtained great insights by breaking a big, complicated universe into smaller, easier to understand pieces. The problem is our inability to knit those insights into a healthier wholistic view of things.
Similarly, and more importantly, I don’t think the American people, as a group, are going to alter their flawed habits and inaccurate worldviews unless and until we face a disaster of Great Depression proportions. But that is another idea for another post; I’d really like to hear what Madman has to say on that and discuss it with all of you.
This is a good observation. I think such a breaking apart is baked into the way this country BELIEVES in itself. The ONLY values we seem to agree to share are surface values, the mindless flag waving and empty words about how “we are all Americans”. We can see how empty talk of an American “community” is in the growing calls for Houston residents to arm themselves against the “dangerous” hordes of Katrina refugees who suffer with little or nothing in a city that doesn’t welcome them. A huge diaspora of American citizens flounders, spread out all over the country, dependent on charity or luck or the kindness of family and strangers, while the national government manages to accomplish ONE major piece of rebuilding ... an outmoded football stadium. From this expression of the importance of commerce over basic needs, we’re all supposed to see signs of a resurgent New Orleans. It’s actually a corrupt symbol of what this country ACTUALLY stands for ... money-making expressions of how we all MUST compete with each other, always.
So if we are headed toward a breaking comparable to the Great Depression, and it seems increasingly that the right is PUSHING for more violence, more hunger, more economic dissolution, then what are our chances of coming out the other side of it with anything resembling a better country? Can we even remain a country? Should we?
The only hope for getting us off this highway to hell is to look more closely at the value to be found in connectedness. After a long history of killing and exploiting the indigenous peoples of this hemisphere, it may be our salvation to listen to this long tradition. Perhaps we can allow this gift to redirect how we look at one another, at our relationship with the environment and other nations. We’ve done it before. The Depression showed many Americans how much we had in common, although it took many of us having our lives all-but destroyed to find those commonalities. Even then, the movements that provided the political impetus to create the New Deal were attacked as traitors, race-baited, beaten in the streets. The idea that there is a “good American” and an invading or dangerous other is a long tradition here, and moving past it will be very, very hard.
I hope we have the ability to find those connections within us, or we’re more likely to come out of the upcoming economic and environmental trials with a much more dystopic society, one with little vestige left of any sign of democracy. It is to our south, and to those quietly working within our borders, that I look with the faint hope I can muster for a better future beyond our avid pursuit of our own destruction. If we can’t learn a better truth, that in believing and living the idea Mitakuye Oyasin we can build together, rather than exploit apart, then I fear that we are headed for a dark future indeed.
Friday, September 22, 2006
fri rdm 10 - Friends of the Devil edition
It’s a good thing that the Dempublicans have their priorities straight. Nope, no hard words from them about the REAL outrages being carried out by
Lucifer our Commander in Chief, torturing poor souls right here on Earth, but they’ll rush right to the nearest microphone to tell President Chavez to shut up. As Pierce says:
You worthless passel of cowards. They’re laughing at you. You know that, right?
The national Democratic Party is no longer worth the cement needed to sink it to the bottom of the sea. For an entire week, it allowed a debate on changing the soul of the country to be conducted intramurally between the Torture Porn and Useful Idiot wings of the Republican Party, the latter best exemplified by John McCain, who keeps fashioning his apparently fathomless ambition into a pair of clown shoes with which he can do the monkey dance across the national stage. They’re laughing at him, too.
The New York Times has the right of it here, limning the pathetic gullibility at the heart of the “compromise.” There is nothing in this bill that President Thumbscrews can’t ignore. There is nothing in this bill that reins in his feckless and dangerous reinterpretation of the powers of his office. There is nothing in this bill that requires him to take it—or its congressional authors—seriously. Two weeks ago, John Yoo set down in The New York Times the precise philosophical basis on which the administration will sign this bill and then ignore it. The president will decide what a “lesser breach” of the Geneva Conventions is? How can anyone over the age of five give this president that power? And wait until you see the atrocity that I guarantee you is coming down the tracks concerning the fact that the president committed at least 40 impeachable offenses with regard to illegal wiretapping.
And the Democratic Party was nowhere in this debate. It contributed nothing. On the question of whether or not the United States will reconfigure itself as a nation which tortures its purported enemies and then grants itself absolution through adjectives—“Aggressive interrogation techniques”—the Democratic Party had…no opinion. On the issue of allowing a demonstrably incompetent president as many of the de facto powers of a despot that you could wedge into a bill without having the Constitution spontaneously combust in the Archives, well, the Democratic Party was more pissed off at Hugo Chavez.
This was as tactically idiotic as it was morally blind. On the subject of what kind of a nation we are, and to what extent we will live up to the best of our ideals, the Democratic Party was as mute and neutral as a stone. Human rights no longer have a viable political constituency in the United States of America. Be enough of a coward, though, and cable news will fit you for a toga.
However, because I know it is vital for the Democrats to “recapture” the good Christian folks, there’s a passage from Scripture that seems apropos: “When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it."
The only hope for a genuine left in this country, the only hope for peace in the world, is to turn our backs not only on
Old Scratch President Bush, but on his enabling friends in the center-right Donk party. They are pathetic, pathetic in a way even more spineless than the Vichy traitors, worse than Chamberlain ... they are “good Germans" in the saddest, most horrifying meaning of the phrase. Those principled leftists who still append a “D” after their name should run for the door, ASAP.
Oh, to live in such ignoble times as these. Some solace, perhaps, in some tunes?
- "Teacher Don’t Teach Me No Nonsense” - Fela Kuti
- "Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns” - Mother Love Bone
- "(Keep Feeling) Fascination - Human League
- "The Popcorn” - James Brown
- "Sultans of Swing” - Dire Straits
- "There’s A Tear in My Beer” - tHe THe
- "It’s Not Easy” - Jessi Coulter
- "September Song” - Lou Reed
- "Downtown Train” - Tom Waits
- "Bobby Brown Goes Down” - Frank Zappa
Oh, and in honor of that idiot over at the Huffington Post, the one who apparently knows nothing about Roger Waters despite his insistance that he’s a Waters fan, I offer these lyrics from “Amused to Death"
We did as we were told
We bought and sold
It was the greatest show on earth
But then it was over
We ohhed and aahed
We drove our racing cars
We ate our last few jars of caviar
And somewhere out there in the stars
A keen-eyed look-out
Spied a flickering light
Our last hurrah
Our last hurrah
Grouped ‘round the TV sets
They ran down every lead
They repeated every test
They checked out all the data on their lists
And then, the alien anthropologists
Admitted they were still perplexed
But on eliminating every other reason
For our sad demise
They logged the only explanation left
This species has amused itself to death
This species has amused itself to death
Amused itself to death
Amused itself to death (repeating)
Here, at the end of our civilization, with few American politicians willing to speak truth as easily as it rolls off the lips of the President of Venezuela, this song feels more and more like the voice over of a documentary produced sometime in the future.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
LSF Review: The Ground Truth
The new documentary “The Ground Truth” packs a whallop in its short 85 minutes. The film consists of interviews with Iraq War vets who have returned and are relaying their experiences on a whole range of things. This combined with footage from Iraq makes for a compelling and emotional experience.
The Website has photos of many of the soldiers and a trailer that are worth looking at. The wives and/or families of the soldiers are also interviewed and their stories become even more fleshed out through them. Their contributions illuminate the plight of the Iraq veteran when he/she returns home. The PTSD they deal with is much discussed and your heart goes out to these people when you see what they have endured. Many of the veterans are part of anti-war veteran groups now and doing everything they can to stop the war.
One of the soldiers relayed a study saying that three quarters of the soldiers in Iraq think the war should be stopped within a year and the soldiers brought home. He said if people are truly interested in “Supporting the Troops” they should be doing everything to make that happen which certainly sounds good to me.
In a time when the mainstream media demonizes those who want to bring our troops home by saying we aren’t supporting the troops, here is a number of those troops saying the same thing we have about the futility and wrongheadedness of the Iraq Occupation. This film is a heartbreaker as you watch the amount of lives ruined as these soldiers come home a shell of their former selves, and even worse, those who don’t come home at all. There are also the stories of the innocent Iraqi’s killed every day by these men and women and the soldiers awareness that what they are doing is destructive to this country.
There are alot of great documentaries and films that have come out recently, most likely in time for the elections in November. Catch this one, it’s worth your time.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Would You Buy a Used War From This Man?
Sunday, September 17, 2006
The Ties That Bind ... Severed
So many pressing problems, so many divisions ... do we correct them one issue at a time, or should we try to find a way to see what connects them all? It’s seems that the second tack, finding connections and global solutions, has been rendered all-but impossible. With our defanged and ineffective public education system, it doesn’t seem that escaping this trap is in the offing. As I’ve stated in the past, I believe that there was a movement to destroy broad, liberal-arts based learning that began in earnest after Brown v. Education. Better to destroy this vital foundation of the public square rather than to share it.
Plainly, fighting each carefully chosen battle one at a time isn’t working. This isn’t true only for our problems with education, but also in the challenges that we face regarding race relations, the environment, the widening gaps in our economy that are dragging us once again toward a feudal caste system, as stated so well by the Oxymoronic Philosopher:
But America, as these pieces illustrate, has failed her working class. One can no longer pick herself up by her bootstraps and fight for a better life. We make it impossible for the sons and daughters of blue collar labor to get a college degree. Not to mention the fact that the blue collar labor that once meant a hard working job in a mill or factory that provided the family with benefits and a pension now means a job flipping burgers or stocking shelves at Wallyworld for meager pay and little or no healthcare. But what has led us into these precarious waters? Is it a fault of the system? Maybe…if we look to Marx we find capitalism playing out in just this way: a growing proletariat becoming more dissatisfied by the day eventually overthrows the whole shebang. Is it a fault of the people? Most definitely, for we define the system and the institutions. We created the laws that now allow corporate giants to create the laws. We’ve allowed families to maintain fortunes far beyond necessity…because if you earned it you get to keep it, right? Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “What is the most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands. In that way there are rich men, but they do not form a class.” In this we have failed and failed miserably. We have allowed a class to emerge and now they act as any reasonable ruler would…they protect their power and hoard all other power available. They band together and grow their fortunes. Maybe we’ll get lucky and it’ll trickle down, but I doubt it.
Yes, I’m throwing a lot up against the digital wall here, but I think that this is all related. Our system is broken at least partly because so many of our citizens have NO idea how it works. They were trained to be corporate drones, not taught to be citizens. When these workers are wooed by the political elite in the course, they are fed small problems that act as foci to narrow the debate, to leave the monied classes to carry on with their gaming of other parts of our society. Steve Gimbel over at Philosopher’s Playground calls this trick caging:
Caging is a way to defeat policy proposals on a set of related issues by designing public discourse in a way that makes sure that those issues never get raised. This is the rhetorical version of an intentional walk in baseball—you don’t deal with the next batter in the order, you decide who you want to pitch to. You take a whole segment of the political discussion and put it in a cage, letting out only that single issue you want in front of the public. As long as the chosen topic has an air of contention and you can spark passionate debate around it (the louder, the better), the single issue will draw all the attention and no one will notice everything you’ve artfully kept off the table.
As I’ve noted before, there are issues and political viewpoints that are completely unwelcome in the current political debate. The Professor has given me a word to describe how this happens. As he continues:
We discussed a couple of examples a few weeks ago (see the link for the difference between caging and framing). On the morally wrong side of the civil rights movement? No problem, just make sure that the only discussion around race and justice that you let out of the cage is affirmative action. That will be enough to use up all the activist oxygen in the room and the rest of the concerns just disappear. Getting your moral butt kicked over questions of gender fairness and women’s rights? Just take all of it and put it in a cage, only letting out abortion. In order to defend abortion, women’s organizations and advocates will devote all their time and effort to that fight and not push forward on other fronts. In fact, within the abortion debate itself, we’ve seen caging. Don’t discuss all of abortion, the only procedure worth talking about is D&C that is done in the last trimester. Reduce the whole reduced matter even further. How low will you go? Seen as bad guys for preferring corporate profits at the expense of God’s green Earth? No biggie—just put all ecological issues in a cage and only let out National Parks and drilling in ANWR. All those green groups will have their focus pulled off of the other nasty things the contributor to your campaign are doing to save a piece of land in nowhere Alaska.
The corporate/theofascist right has been playing this game successfully for quite some time, and as of yet NO ONE seems willing or able to break out of this still strong rusty cage they’ve locked the polity into, enabling the kleptocrats and zealots to run free, plundering everything they can get their hands on. Instead of finding common ground, of working together to bend the bars, saw through the barriers, find a way to bust free in mutually beneficial ways, the plebians at the bottom turn on each other, driven by the divisive and meaningless debates that the upper class tosses at us like red meat before starving dogs.
Fighting little battles one at a time over piecemeal problems isn’t going to get us anywhere. It plays into their hands. It keeps worthless Vichy Dems in office to provide fake fights for us as more and more of our infrastructure, our communities, our children and hopes and dreams get crushed by the relentless aquisition of MORE STUFF at the expense of planning for the distant future.
As the situation becomes desperate, the growing bottom of our society will eventually lash out ... the question is how. The Lords and Ladies in the halls of government and the boardrooms of the corporate keeps know this, and their Praetorian guards eagerly discuss ways to deal with the eventual backlash. How this counterstrike comes will determine if this country remains a representative democracy. If the left doesn’t find the will or leaders to build a new progressive populist movement, (a REAL one, not the faux “liberal netroots” being pushed by the Democratic Party’s blogheeling snake oil salesmen), someone to the right will emerge as a reactionary demogogue. This eventuality will only strenthen the right’s hand, leading to further dismantlement of the public square, more oppressive policing, more abuses of power. Make no mistake about it, the next two elections look to be contests between the corporatist right represented by the Bush Administration and the further right-reactionary fringe of the racist, nativist present day know nothings. The feeble center-right also-rans being pushed by the “leaders” of the DC Democratic Party will only help solidify the damage done by the Bush-Cheney cabal, and thus offer little hope.
How we on the left do this, how we break free from the caging of vital issues into fake proxy debates is the hard question? The first step toward answering it is to ask the question in the first place. One of the exciting things about the growth of the blogs was the social experiment in broadening the debates that they represent. That broader debate isn’t happening in the bought-and-paid for world of the connected blogs, but in individualistic, creative outlets like the ones I’ve linked to here. Go forth, find some new connections, don’t just run with the pack after the latest bloody chunk of red meat. Down that way lies continued dissolution.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Pope Causes Worldwide Furor- Where Is the US Media?
Where indeed is this story? I finally found someone besides the BBC and the international media who have been covering this for over a day. The CS Monitor finally put this one up:
Roman Catholic Pope Benedict XVI returned to Rome Thursday from his home country of Germany, and was greeted an increasing international furor over remarks he made about “historical Muslim violence.” The Times of London reports that Muslim clerics and community leaders around the world condemned his remarks, accusing the pope of displaying “of displaying ignorance and bigotry.”
The president of Germany’s central council of Muslims went further, saying that Catholicism’s murderous and compromised history left it with no moral leg to stand on to criticise other religions.
“After the blood-stained conversions in South America, the Crusades in the Muslim world, the coercion of the church by Hitler’s regime, and even the coining of the phrase ‘holy war’ by Pope Urban II, I do not think the church should point a finger at extremist activities in other religions,” said Aiman Mazyek.
The Los Angeles Times reports that the uproar came after the pope attacked the Muslim concept of holy war (jihad) as “a violation of God’s will and nature.”
He used the word “jihad,” a politically and emotionally charged Arabic term for holy war or struggle. And he quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who derided Islam and its founder, the prophet Muhammad. The emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, said, according to Benedict, that Muhammad had introduced “things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” Benedict, in the same speech, held up Christianity as the “profound encounter of faith and reason."
Relations between Muslims and the West have never been worse. We need as much information and news coverage as possible to gain understanding of all that is happening in this area. Seeing the US press bury stories that don’t reflect well on the West and it’s leaders is preposterous and an abuse of their obligation to serve the public.
Friday, September 15, 2006
fri rdm 10 - "We'll Never Get Real and Face Reality About Race" Edition
I’m a suburban white boy. I grew up without any minorities anywhere near where I lived. My parents emphasized that we were supposed to judge how we treat people based on how they act, not what they look like. My father was a good, decent man who treated everybody who came into his orbit fairly.
My father also campaigned vigorously for Gov. Wallace for President when I was a child and LOVED Ronald Reagan. My mother is descended from transplanted Europeans (French and German) and the Lakota they married.
So, as you can guess, I have a complicated relationship with the issue of race.
I think I’ve resolved this problem, as I’ve detailed in the past, by becoming a devout misanthrope. Start with a baseline expecting to be disappointed by everybody, then there is nowhere to go but up.
Like a lot of white boys of a certain age, I LOVE the blues. There is a certain frisson, a certain self-satisfaction, that many of us got from being “open minded” and embracing old blues and rhythm-and-blues music. We LOVED black people, were proud of how WE supported the work of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and others when they had gone past their time within their own communities, when the music business no longer needed to bleed the market for “race records”. While one can appreciate that the Rolling Stones and other English bands had championed the blues revival of the late sixties, early seventies out of a genuine appreciation for the ART of that music, we must face that much of it was the thrill that we got from embracing the “primitive”. The same thing happened not long ago with the neo-primitive movement in the late nineties, the growth of Fat Possum Records and the whole idea that pose mattered more than musical prowess, that bands like Jon Spencer Blues Explosion were nothing more than an updated version of the Stones, faux primitivism, white boys aping their idea of juke joint musicians.
We won’t talk about this stuff. We won’t face our complicated history of dealing with our racial differences, our exploitation of each other, ESPECIALLY not the exploitation of black bodies, black creativity, black art, black heart and blood and ... black EXPERIENCE.
I’m so fucking sick of the differences, and the exploitation. It would be so easy to say “fuck you” to our entire culture.
Take the outrage being expressed over the latest season of Survivor in many places. I can see where those concerns are coming from. It’s dangerous to risk opening these wounds, as so much evil has been built on these separations. I’m with Heather Havrilesky when it comes to THIS little moment in low pop culture, and no it’s NOT all that different from the way the music business suckled these differences dry:
So, let’s summarize, shall we? The white people grab the most loot, some of it out of the hands of members of one of the other tribes, sum it up as “kicking ass,” then squander the pilfered loot, blame one another, and the two hottest tribe members pair up. Next week, we can only assume the hot couple will sharpen some sticks and gang up on the big one named Piggy. Is this really “Survivor,” or some kind of ominous fable depicting the rise and fall of Western civilization?
But of course, it’s incredibly racist to say so, isn’t it? And God forbid we declare the white team a bunch of greedy honkies. Right? Because if we made similar statements about the African-American team, we’d sound just like Rush Limbaugh. Or am I allowed to generalize about white people, since I’m white, just like the Asians and African-Americans and Hispanics on the show generalize about their own races? What are the rules again? Almost immediately we’re anxious to extract ourselves from this sticky mess, pretend to be above it, pretend it’s just a TV show pandering for ratings, pretend that it’s irrelevant or crass or nasty, but most of all, we, in all of our enlightened glory, are utterly above such small-minded pap.
Or are we? However crass and deplorable “Survivor’s” new season may seem, no matter how many times we’re told that the editors or producers or the host is pumping up the hype or straining to tell stories about race, let’s just review what they’re actually doing: merely separating groups by race. You might remember that process from your own life, you know, when you refused to shop at the Mexican grocery store right around the corner, opting for the Vons more than a mile away, or when you neglected to give a second glance to any of that bargain-priced property on the black side of town? As Americans, we separate ourselves by race all the time—this is what makes Stephen Colbert’s repeated assertion that he doesn’t see race so funny: Everyone sees race, and not only that, we act on it, despite our best intentions. Pretending otherwise doesn’t make us more enlightened; it just keeps us all in the dark. [...]
“Survivor: Cook Islands” may not be some groundbreaking social experiment, but it is interesting, and anyone who says otherwise is taking pains to sidestep the stickiness of it all. Sure, there’ll still be the same old boring physical challenges and repetitive puzzles to solve, and the same old conflicts between individuals with clashing personalities—it’s just a reality show, after all, one that’s been around for years now. And yes, viewers at home will jump to conclusions about black people and white people and Asians based on everything they see—but they’re doing that anyway, aren’t they? What reality show hasn’t created its own Omarosa, either through casting directors in search of serious personality disorders and racial stereotypes or through merciless editing? By comparison, “Survivor’s” premise seems relatively benign. Merely opening up the question of race doesn’t encourage racism, and it doesn’t make people any more racist than they already are. Like Hurricane Katrina, it exposes those attitudes, assumptions and misconceptions that lurk beneath the surface. It’s not always pretty, of course, but that doesn’t mean we couldn’t benefit from taking a closer look.
We are ruled by a political party that exploits racial hatred with relish, yet it is a TV show that garners outrage. We’re so disconnected from the idea that we can use politics to engage with each other that it is only by arguing about TV or music that we can even deal with these problems. While our complicated history of running away from our country’s exploitation of blacks is something that we eagerly avoid, so many in our country, including African Americans, fan the flames of hatred toward illegal immigrants, toward Latin Americans, toward Muslim Americans. We pass along these un-dealt-with issues into new imprecations, new hatreds.
It’s so damned hard to write about this without sounding sanctimonious, without owning up to the way that our culture soaks into all of us. As someone who enjoyed the advantages of of being my father’s son, while NOT having grown up in my mother’s reservation, it feels a little WRONG to even raise these issues. Who the hell am I, someone who hasn’t paid the price for this history? When I went through my recent unemployment, the little “ins” that my pasty-faced, college-educated life gave me to survive my brush with economic oblivion leave me feeling a little hypocritical TALKING about this.
However, it’s the lack of talking that is killing us.
Who knows? Are we too far gone to find common ground, to be honest about these problems?
I don’t know. Let me know what you think. As it is music that has informed so much of my understanding of the American experience, I’ll leave you with a random ten:
- "Tell Me Baby” - Allison Moorer
- "Party on Your Pussy” - Red Hot Chili Peppers
- “Convict" - Queensrhÿche
- “Salesman" - Stan Ridgeway
- "How To Be Invisible” - Kate Bush
- "Angels of Deception” - The The
- "Laura Palmer’s Theme” - Angelo Badalamenti
- "Don’t Blame Me” - Hound Dog Taylor
- "Ziggy Stardust” - David Bowie
- "This Wheel’s On Fire” - Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees
Thursday, September 14, 2006
So, do you think there will be large scale round-ups of poorly-shaven white men?
A man accused of driving his car into a women’s health center and then setting the vehicle on fire thought the facility was an abortion clinic, Davenport police said today.
“He was using his car to torch the building,” detective Mike Bowers said.
David Robert McMenemy, 45, of Sterling Heights, Mich., is charged with second-degree arson. He is accused of driving his car into the Edgerton Women’s Health Center about 4:30 a.m. Monday.
McMenemy remains in the Scott County Jail.
The car has been impounded and officials are examining its contents, including whether any explosive-type materials are present.
The center does not perform abortions and does not provide abortion referrals, said Tom Fedje, the president of Edgerton. He said the center does advise pregnant women on the various options available to them.
Bowers said McMenemy has no ties to the Quad-City area and has been driving around the Midwest since August.
“He has admitted looking them (abortion clinics) up in phone books and online,” Bowers added. “I have no idea why Iowa.”
Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa is monitoring the incident, spokeswoman Kathi Di Nicola said. Planned Parenthood is the only agency to provide abortions in the Quad-Cities, performing the procedure at its women’s health clinic in Bettendorf.
Bowers said McMenemy apparently thought abortions were performed at the Edgerton center.
“He drove into the clinic and set his car on fire using an accelerant. He knew what he was doing. He planned it. It wasn’t an accident,” the detective added.
Of course not ... because he’s trying to save the “BABIES". Religiously or ideologically driven violence is not treated seriously in this country if it is directed at clinics that provide for women’s health. It’s NOT called by it’s proper name ... TERRORISM.
Since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal, there has been an organized campaign by anti-abortion extremists which has resulted in escalating levels of violence against women’s health care providers. In an attempt to stop abortion, anti-abortion extremists have chosen to take the law into their own hands.
What began as peaceful protests with picketing moved to harassing clinic staff and patients as they entered clinics and eventually escalated to blockading clinic entrances.
This foundation of harassment led to violence with the first reported clinic arson in 1976 and a series of bombings in 1978. Arsons and bombings have continued until this day. Anti-abortion extremists have also used chemicals to block women’s access to abortion employing butyric acid to vandalize clinics and sending anthrax threat letters to frighten clinic staff.
"What I’d really like to do is have the opportunity to sit down and visit with this person and let him know how much he inconvenienced hundreds of pregnant women for obstetrical care. I’d like to let him know....I’d like to let him know hundreds of kids who need immunizations."
Not that the bastard would care. No, what matters is HIS motivations. What children need, what WOMEN need ... these considerations aren’t even on the radar of people like this. While we have no reports yet of his religious affiliation, one wonders what else might have motivated him.
While the FBI directs it’s attention toward so called “eco terrorists” (who attack what this government REALLY cares about, PROPERTY), the Republican party ramps up it’s adoption of the hateful rhetoric of the far right, people who are genuine dangers to the public are treated as common criminals at best, ignored at worst.
Like the white supremicists caught in Texas, an arrest all-but ignored by the media, and NOT trumpeted by the government, we can only call someone a “terrorist” if their attack, plot or violent fantasies encouraged by a government agent provocateur fits the narrative of scary brown people or muslims aching to blow up suburbanites and eat the flesh of their dead children’s corpses. Or who will steal their jobs ... or burn up their SUVs. The “be afraid” story MUST be maintained and stoked.
Luckily, no one in Iowa was hurt physically by this latest domestic terrorist. It’s only a matter of time before someone is, while our politicians and law enforcement professionals continue to look the other way, too busy cashing in on fearful jingoism, prejudice and zealotry.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
LSF Review: This Film Is Not Yet Rated
The terrific new documentary This Film Is Not Yet Rated takes us into the murky world of American censorship. Not only is it murky because it’s critirea is so arbitrary but it is done entirely in secret, or at least it was until this film was released!
The director (the wonderful Kirby Dick) is on screen in the film as he hires a pair of detectives to find out who these people are and how they make their ratings. He and the detectives do a great job of finding out who these people are and Mr. Dick then weaves this in to other information he uncovers and puts it all into context. Why the secrecy? It’s because they have something to hide of course.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) run for decades by Jack Valenti is a group in the film industry with government ties that self-regulates supposedly so the government won’t. This is really a joke because as it explained, if the government got involved there would be a judiciary branch to oversee abuses. As it is now there is no recourse if the MPAA gives your film an R or a NC-17. You can appeal but if you lose and get an NC-17 newspapers and television stations will not carry your ads so you have no way of reaching the masses. The same corporate entities that own the film industry also own much of that media.
Also important is that the media is now owned by 6 entities and their parent companies, they now literally own 90% of all mainstream media in the US. May I add yet again this is why we desperately need to bust media consolidation hard, we all lose with no competition and the power it gives these corporations is everything our Founding Fathers would weep over.
We learn so many things in the documentary, like who views and votes on the films and who sits on the appeals board. One of the most shocking is that there are 2 clergy members on the board and they vote even thought we are told officially that they don’t (always an Episcopalian and a Catholic priest). We also learn via the South Park co-creator Matt Stone that independent films are treated much worse than Studio films (he has done both) and we learn that it is sex and not violence that is censored. There are so many horrendous scenes of violence in PG, PG-13, R and NC-17 films but it is the sex that freaks these censors. They say that one is not considered worse than the other but Mr. Dick shows that sex is 75% of what is objected to and violence only 25%.
There are wonderful filmmakers from Kimberly Pierce (Boys Don’t Cry) to John Waters as well as the actress Maria Bello who take their careers in their hands by talking on the record about their problems with the MPAA, the very board who will rate their next films. These brave people are to be applauded, in a time when people are afraid to speak out these people tell their stories.
A few former members of the ratings board speak out (although now they are made to sign something forbidding them from ever talking or writing about this, a true abuse of power in asking people to give up their first amendment rights). We find out there have not been any openly gay members of the ratings board and the director shows instances of gay sex in exactly the same form as straight sex side by side on screen, only the gay sex is always carries a stronger rating. Love is love and sex is sex but the ratings board thinks same sex is dirty or more objectionable (anyone sense the clergy here?). There are loads of film clips all throughout the film to illustrate and since many of these are explicit this documentary is given an NC-17!
Please check this film if it comes to your town and if it doesn’t then look for it on DVD or cable. It’s entertaining and incredibly informative. Here are a list of Theaters and Dates where the film will be playing.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Crossing the Border Into Bushland
Today is an important anniversary for me personally, in addition to the shared anniversary of the attacks on this date five years ago. Three years ago I finally abandoned my quest to revive my career in NYC and headed out across the George Washington Bridge and into Bushland, into the heart of darkness.
The mood in the city had been subdued as the second anniversary arrived. To my surprise, as we drove west, that began to change. When we left New Jersey and entered Pennsylvania, the tone on the increasingly terrible radio got scarier. I’d known intellectually how many people had bought into the Bush Administration’s lies, but experiencing the strident jingoism, the aggression ... that was something else all together. I remember seeing a sign advocating the nuking of someplace A-rab hanging off of a highway overpass. Especially jarring was the sick conflation of aggrieved victimhood, the hallmark-like maudlin invocations of the dead with strident militarism.
I had gotten so used to the way people gave each other space in the city. I’d gotten used to hearing the chorus of different languages, of the panopoly of colors, both in skin and in dress. I knew that I’d made the right decision, a strategic retreat to find a fresh start in a new city where my sisters had settled, but I was getting a quick reminder of the things I’d run away from when I’d moved away from the midwest. Those things, the myopia and the strident “patriotism” and the racism, fear and prejudice were on display, only amplified. I could find all of them in New York, of course, but there was always someone else to balance it out. NYC was America as social experiment writ large, a place where everyday life was a process of finding compromises to get along with others. The very things which Bushland was rejecting wholesale.
There has been plenty written the last few days about what happened that day five years ago. There has been plenty written about what it means. There has been plenty of ink and hot air spilled out justifying the screaming beast that we’ve become striding across the world, spreading death and destruction. The mass grave has been used repeatedly to support our current authoritarian regime, and too many of the people out here have cheered them on. That destruction reminded too many of us of all of the various apocalypses we’d seen on our screens before, and so many of the denizens of Bushland want to be extras when the heroes save the day.
It makes me want to scream when I think of the spirit of possibility that filled the streets of the city that I love that has been squandered, that has been co-opted by base and fanatical reactionaries. While my move west has been personally a good one, my newfound opportunities are bittersweet as I look at the country I live in now.
Two days after we drove the rental van across the GWB, new bad news came over the radio. I stopped on a station somewhere in Ohio when I heard the great Johnny Cash playing on some country station. One of my favorites, one of the BEST things about the great American middle, that voice comforted me as continued on, only to have the DJ announce at the end of the song that Cash had died that morning. So much had passed away that was good about this country, and now this great man who’d been so open to new people, new music, new possibilities was gone too. A voice that had sung out so strongly against an earlier criminal war, against the base inequities in this country had gone silent. So many voices had gone silent, either out of fear for their jobs, fear of reprisal, fear of losing their cozy sinecures in Washington ... and now his voice had been stilled as well.
Three years ago today I crossed a border, but at least now I can see that it isn’t just Fox News spreading fear and Rovian manipulations. So much of what has been ugly and frightfully bubbling under the national veneer is now out in the harsh light. I had ended up heading to that biggest of big cities (in spirit if not population) to try to escape the darkness at America’s heart, but there is no escape. Out here in Bushland far too many are willingly cooperating in the destruction of the great potential that this land has.
Heading west and into the heart of darkness ... it is that memory that intrudes on my mind today, adding a layer of sadness of the already great sorrow of that clear September morning, half a decade ago. More than nearly three thousand people died on that day ... decency and the rule of law followed them to the grave.
Out here in Bushland, darkness rules ... and grows.