Doubling Down and Drowning

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In the wake of yesterday’s turkey shoot in San Bernardino, which eclipsed last week’s Planned Parenthood shootings, does anyone even remember the community college in Roseburg Oregon? It was exactly two months ago. My friends on the left rage that meaningful gun control must happen. My friends on the right demand that an armed citizenry would diminish bodycounts. From my perspective they’re both wrong.
The raw facts on sheer numbers of weapons in the U.S. dictate that it is no more possible to limit guns in America than it would be to follow through on Trump’s half baked idea to round up and deport 11 million illegal aliens. They’re here, they’re queer, get used to it.

The concept of a good gun owner taking out a bad gun owner is why nearly all of us have a pistol in our castle to protect our family. The right likes to trot out an occasional incident where that actually worked out for the home owner but they’re quaint when put head to head against the huge numbers of accidents, suicides and domestic violence killings they’re actually used for. The strategy of conceal carry is already an unmitigated disaster in every poor gang turf in America. Sadly our movies and television reinforce the fantasy that we’re all potential antihero bad asses, exacting righteous one to one head shots against hapless, aimless storm troopers. Newsflash Mister Eastwood: It’s. A. MOVIE!!! (Or tv show or video game). We’re fed that imagery a dozen times a day. Never the reality of being so coursed with fear and adrenaline that you lose coordination, can’t hit the side of a barn and probably run out of bullets in your panicked first five seconds. Stop it.

From where I sit the enemy is fear.

As a citizenry we’ve always had guns. That’s a constant. The real variable is hope and the lack of it. Always a constant in poor areas where killing is a regularity and doesn’t make the news is a perfect microcosm of what “normal, white America” is sliding towards and we’re freaking the fuck out in the worst possible ways.

I grew up with a small dog named Burgie. She was an unusually well tempered Dachshund. She got along with everyone, four legs or two. She even showered our Culligan man with kisses every month. As she got old and couldn’t walk well, went deaf and her vision was clouded by cataracts she became increasingly snappy. Everything started scaring and threatening her. She didn’t feel safe and felt helpless to cope with her circumstances.

My childhood pet is a perfect corollary for America. The middle-class is being choked out into a paycheck to paycheck existence. Far from the idealistic dreams of Babyboomer bra burners choosing to have careers outside the confines of “Domestic Engineer”, no one has a choice anymore. The traditional fabric of a stable family and neighborhood is all but gone. Everyone is from somewhere else and no one has time to get to know their neighbors. My last decade of employment was with a company who stubbornly held onto the classic 40 hour workweek, health benefits and retirement fund blueprint. We were small so it was easy to watch in real time how, through privatization, increased shareholder over worker focus, pressure to jettison classic employment packages for temp, contract or part time workers not qualifying for benefits increased anxiety. Job security was replaced by “be grateful you even have a job”. I watch it play out louder and tighter, at every level. Thank goodness the media is here to point at our neighbors as being the culprits and cause of our personal collapses. Out of neurotic frustration and pent up impotent rage we’re all too happy to buy in and lash out. At the exactly wrong thing.
My friend Kevin posted a comment last night suggesting 2 Chronicles 7:14 as our hope. I’ll spare you the peek at google.

“if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

As an atheist it would be super dooper easy peazy lemon squeazy to roll my eyes and dismiss any verbiage from my favorite fiction fantasy book. But Kevin is a christian and that passage provides direction, focus and comfort for him. My decidedly irreligious eyes read this as hope. Inner reflection. Reinforced by better action. Toward myself, you, and my neighbors. What influences you in a positive way? When was the last time you fed your heart by reading, practicing, and expanding your better self? What do you do to be a part of any sense of community? How do you help yourself by helping others? These aren’t fluffy, esoteric questions. They’re the only things that keep the claustrophobic terrors of day to day life from killing hope.
Another law, another gun, another person or people to blame won’t make me feel safe. Only hope. And hope comes directly from what I think, say and do every day. Fear or Love – which am I worshipping right now, this very second? Because that thought, idea or action is the life I’m choosing moving forward.

Baguettes, Not Bombs

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What we’re experiencing politically in America with the popularity of candidates like Donald Trump on the right and Bernie Sanders on the left is a response to disenfranchisement. Whether you’re a liberal or conservative you know that your government isn’t on your side or any side but that of corporate power. You’re being drawn to purist forms of your ideological beliefs that would feel unnecessary and rather fringe in times when things are good for you. You feel strongly about your personal disconnection from any ability to make your life better and it inspires you to rally, vote, make speeches against your foes on social media and post increasingly harsher sentiments regarding them in the form of snappy memes. No matter the side you’re on you have a sentiment of “Taking Our Country Back!!!”
Corporations have owned America lock, stock and barrel for decades. Lulling us to indifference because commercial consumerism dangled carrots and fed our fears in measured doses to keep us distracted and entertained as long as we were getting our fair share (and kept an eye on the Joneses to make sure we kept up or that they didn’t steal ours). That formula has finally stretched so thin as to be transparently disingenuous. And we’re pretty pissed.
Now picture that same co-option without the carrots. Picture Canada accessing our resources and installing presidents that were favorable to their policies and whims. Picture decades of increasing poverty contrasted by extreme wealth for small swaths of pampered Mormons who shared religious or cultural ties with that installed government. Imagine massive corruption favoring that sect, suppression of dissent and your relatives disappearing to Mormon political prisons. Think of Canada invading us with near impunity when their preferred balance of power and resources slips.
Guess what happens. Hopelessness breeds extremism borne of desperation.
Islam was once an evolved way of thought – that never left the seventh century. The extreme interpretations of the Koran fueling the madness in the middle east are a reaction to a 100 years of British, Russian and American intervention and manipulation, keeping minority populations in those regions in ruthless power over the rest of their neighbors. People like to point out that these tribal feuds have been going on for centuries but that only absolves ourselves of our complicity in the giant mess.
I read an article sometime just after the Charlie Hedbo attack that pointed out that the reason why we see relatively little actual terrorism in America by Muslims is because our policies help immigrants to incorporate themselves into America. To have a stake in the American Dream. France’s policy has been to do precisely the opposite. The French are very nationalistic toward immigrants and Muslims especially are pressed into ghettos. Breeding grounds for desperately repulsive purist ideology. France is a petri dish with all the components that made the Paris attacks possible.
When people hate you it is human instinct to immediately justify why your foes are full of shit. To deny-deny-counteraccuse. It is almost considered weak to look in the mirror, to own our part in a thing. Yet that introspection is the very thing – and the only thing that will bring us all back from the brink. We can’t bomb and invade our way out of it. That would be the “throw flour on a kitchen fire” strategy followed by surprise when it makes the fire exponentially bigger.
Baby boomers never fail to get mad at me when I point to their all consuming, self absorbed locust id being the greatest factor in the decline of America. And Americans get mad at me when I point out that we are the Baby boomers of the planet.
Al Queda and ISIS are reactions. Doubling down on the reasons they grew in the first place is madness. Religious extremism is madness. Mindless, lazy consumption without consequence or conscience is madness.
We need to grow the fuck up and look in the mirror before we make our next move. But we won’t do that. We’ll just turn up the volume on Nationalist rhetoric and be indignantly surprised at the results because thinking is weak.

The Whitewash of Blackface

269614_2125700498792_1134296117_2405887_3679363_n I have a style of posting on Facebook that encourages audience participation. I throw something out there, often it’s inflammatory. But posed in a way that makes people think. Above all else I want people to think, whether they agree with me or not. I want them to be awake to where they stand on a thing. To own what they believe, not merely recite it like pulling a string in their back. I encourage discourse and opposing views. My only rule is you can’t attack anyone else’s beliefs. You can’t bully. Yesterday after reading the teaser for an article someone posted which had three photos of President Obama, Eric Holder and Al Sharpton with the word THUGS in the title. Behold, my topic for the morning: You *do* realize that when you use the word “thug” we all know you actually mean “nigger”, right? The discussion that followed was interesting and at one point it was suggested that by posing this rhetorical question I was exasperating the racial divide in this country. Now I’ve been chewing on just that idea for the last month. And this is what fell out. I’m not furthering any divide. That divide is plainly there. I’m just calling out the fart in church. The etymology of the word “thug” is of little relevance to the discussion. Very pertinent is it’s popular usage. I’m reading things encouraging conciliation in the wake of the cops getting shot over the weekend. I say the opposite needs to happen. Not an out and out race war but for the topic to not be hastily stitched closed by people saying all the right things to smooth egos, hurt feelings, and retain status quo. We NEED to talk this out. We need to be made to see our willful blindness that keeps things comfortable for us and not for everyone else. (see: U.S. population NOT white, straight, male) The isms in our country are institutional, pervasive and part of every bit of it’s fabric so much so that it is stunningly easy to be blind to it, akin to a fish being asked to describe water. There is much talk about women, brown people and all the other crybabies of society sucking America dry one welfare check, crack pipe and illegitimate rape at a time. That they need to get over it, get a job, stop with the victim mentality. Every meaningful social statistic says that societal opportunity is stacked against them, from birth forward. Blacks, asians, women, hispanics are rarely shown in any media as anything but stereotypes. Caricatures. If they’re strong, capable, smart, well they die to save our white hero (who avenges their death). Or the white savior makes a stand to save them. Educational resources are funneled away from poor neighborhoods. Police arrest nonwhites at 4 times the rate of whites even though drug usage rates are equal. No one except double digit I.Q.ed neanderthals actually say “nigger” anymore, they say “thug” and everyone in the club knows which side of the fence they’re on. All levels of any meaningful career is still firmly a good ol boys club. Even Silicon Valley only has maybe a 25% female employment rate. It’s bullshit. The protesting going on didn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s been brewing for a long time. Most of it isn’t being done by people breaking windows and setting fires. Hell, protesters outed a cop in Oakland undercover as a protester breaking windows – instigating chaos. When confronted he drew on them. It’s insidious. And the media is all too happy to produce the narrative. One crackpot shoots two cops sitting in their car and it wipes away decades of police abuse. I don’t accept the “a few bad apples” argument regarding rogue cops the very same way I don’t accept the “not all men” tactic. It conveniently hands the worst characters over as appeasement to keep everything the same. it looks absolutely nothing in the eye. And that desperately needs to happen. I am not a race traitor, a gender traitor or a closet homo. Those aren’t filters I see through usually and whether you think I am speaks a great deal about you, not me.  What I am is awake. And being so makes me sick. The consciousnesses that need to be raised are *ours*, not the people we keep held down by the fiscal, social throat, insisting that if only they had more character they’d be just like us. Everything about our society is rigged to favor me. Ann Richards, governor of Texas once said of George Bush, “Poor George, born on third base and thinks he hit a home run.” That’s you and I. Maybe you’re relatively poor and you aren’t feeling that statement at all. But the word “relative” is significant. You probably work your ass off just to get by. The people I’ve listed at the outset of my post – they work just as hard, for less, with even less hope of leaving their station in life. The consciousness that needs to get raised is mine. Ours. Step out of your comfort zone. Pay attention to how you get access, privilege, a basic assumption of benevolence simply by nature of your gender, race or orientation. It’s easy to do. Think of the superlatives you use reflexively to describe a black person, even complimentarily, that you find unnecessary to use to describe someone from your tribe. Try it with a woman. A gay person. Those words are unconscious prejudice. And deeds follow words. America is at a turning point. “All lives matter” is a worthless rebuttal to “black lives matter” because we already know white lives matter. Acknowledging that black lives matter brings them into the equation. It has to happen first before “all lives matter” is a truth and not literally a whitewash. I don’t lose a damn thing by offering women, blacks, asians, hispanics, and gays the same humanity, dignity, opportunity, access and rights that I receive simply by virtue of half my bloodline (I don’t have the energy to get into what’s been done to the Native American part of me). We all gain by bringing as many great minds to the table as possible because America isn’t doing well. We need one another.

#Not All Men (Are Cowards)

You probably think the guy who shot up Santa Barbara because women owed him is a psycho. But if you’ve pressured a woman for sex, exclaimed “I’d hit that!”, called her a whore or a slut when she didn’t act right, made her feel creeped out or unsafe by how you look at her, touched without permission, scorned or punished her for not putting out, or lack the ability to hold a conversation that isn’t rife with innuendo then you’re part of the same psyche that felt the need to make women pay.
NEWSFLASH women are human beings, not a life support system for a pussy. Stop for a minute and flip it backwards – what would you think of a person who treated you the way you treat the women in your life? Think about it.

UPDATE: I caught massive shit for posting this. Even so far as to be called a traitor to my gender. I couldn’t be prouder. I am not a traitor. I want to shove my gender kicking and screaming into the 21st century that it might earn the dignity of being humane.

44 and Pulling Narcissus from the Mirror

caravaggio_narcissusWatching Obama give his acceptance speech last night i was awash in the enormity of what was happening. I wept, happily for the candidate that I’ve been rallying for through endless blogs, frank discussions with friends and aquaintances, especially when they disagreed. Vigilantly guarding my Obama ‘o8 lawn sign, donations to the campaign, donning my Obama shirt at inappropriate places and teaching people how to be a part of our elective process regardless of their voting inclinations, all come to fruition. It felt amazing to have been in it instead of warily bemused as I cast my ballot for once.

I love America. I always have, though I have often been aghast at some of our choices and behaviors. I’ve often scratched my head at the rediculousness that says to Love my country is to blindly follow its policies without question. In my mind to Love something is to care enough to also challenge it to greater heights and call bullshit, yet stand with while doing so. Abbey’s edict, “A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.” has always rung absolutely true in my soul. That questioning those I’ve entrusted to be my voice is the epitome of patriotism. In fact it is my obligation to keep them on their toes.

So when I watch Mr. Obama give his acceptance speech and I’m filled with inspiration and Hope at what might be, my tears are as much for the rest of the world as they are for we as a nation or for my black neighbors, friends and coworkers. Over the last couple of days I’ve found myself eavesdropping on dozens of conversations in restaurants, in line at a store, wherever, all abuzz about the prospect of an Obama presidency. And what the chatter was about is what makes me giddy. While I was watching that speech last night the scenes that made me weep tears of joy, and relief, and pride, and communion was the exuberant reactions of crowds in the streets and pubs in London, Madrid, and Hong Kong. It was as if the world was as relieved as i was that maybe now America was going to be a neighbor it could work together with again after so much hubris and myopia over the last several years.

What I’ve seen in the wake of the economic meltdown of the last two months wasnt so much an indictment of Trickle Down and deregulation (okay, yes it was) but more so a loud, screeching wake up call for us to see clearly just how interconnected all of us are; coworkers, neighbors, states and countries. When those lending institutions buckled under the weight of unfettered greed and selfishness it didnt just effect an easy to blame, faceless Wall Street. We all watched as the world’s economies got knocked to their knees. The chatter around me that I’m excited about was of Americans talking of issues and circumstances outside of Us and pondering what we can do to make it right, to fix it, to move forward.

In this respect i am so grateful that we’ve chosen a pragmatist who knows something of the world. That has lived in poverty and risen past it’s empty consciousness and realizes very tangibly that he didnt do it alone. That we must work together as a world community to rise above the challenges that are not respectors of Nationalism or colors. Economy and climate are equal opportunity apocalypses in the making. Or like for our grand parents, challenges to be overcome.

Churchill wrote that Americans will always do the right thing – after they’ve exhausted all other options. I think we’re all pretty exhausted. Fired up and ready to go.

That’s Hope I can believe in.

(Nov. 5, 2009)

Why Some Black Guy’s Name is in My Yard 101

I’m a tactically registered republican though socially and politically I vote by issue, not party and am as apt to take a liberal as conservative stance depending on the small print on an issue. I registered (R) mostly because the far right scares me a lot more than the far left and it’s important for me to be able to vote for the more moderate republican in the primaries.

Through the early election season after McCain was clearly the presumptive nominee I told my girl that if Obama won the other nomination it was win/win for me and i could practically close my eyes and poke a hole in either slot on election day. I have a deep distrust of the clintons, they’ve shown me over the last years that they’re very passionate about themselves and that’s about it. Obama appeals to both the very loud pragmatist in me and amazingly even dares my quiet, battle worn, prozac needing idealist to finally raise up again and kick the shit out of the cynic that’s been sitting on his chest for decades.
My girl’s response has been to fill me in on McCain’s real voting record, especially since losing the primary in 2000 to Dubya. I’ve been a big fan of Mac for many years but I’ll be damned if he remotely looks like the guy who’s books I read in the 90’s. His increasing erratic and impulsive, reactionary behavior on the campain trail, to me, speaks to some personal instability that I dont want dealing with foreign governments.

Finally, my choice in Obama over McCain is about their choices in veeps. I cant recall an election when a veep pick was more critical. Each one of these men stands an incredibly high probability of dying in office; mccain at 72 is the oldest man to ever seek office, with two rounds of melanoma under his belt. (the fastest moving of all cancers) And Obama of course because he’s black and instills a robert kennedy-sized crosshair on his back. These undeniabilities make me look much longer at their number twos. And that’s where the choice becomes much starker. In biden I find a windbag, yes but also a stable, capable steward who would likely manage the country’s affairs here and abroad in a way that would still allow me to lay my head on my pillow at night without an anxiety attack. Mrs. Palin? Watch the most recent interview with katie kouric and while you’re listening to her, know that she speaks in tongues, charged women for the cost of post-rape kits while mayor of wisilla, doesnt believe in a woman’s right to choose under any circumstances (with as many as 3 positions opening up in the supreme court in the next presidential cycle), rejects global warming, believes the iraq war was sent to us from god, and most frightening of all – believes in the rapture. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapture

Oh hell no.

But hey, that’s just me.

Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead!

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Yes, I know it’s childish. Aint it great? Fuck you Hillary, and your little dog (er, husband) too.

I was hesitant to post this for fear that it would cue Hillary grabbing Obama’s ankle and dragging him down after he’s killed her 5 times already, ala Jason. Apparently though it appears the Congressional townsfolk have lit the torches and glommed their pitchforks. Enough’s enough.

The real horror for me through this whole primary has been the specter of sexism. It was pointed out to me awhile back that slaves technically got the right to vote 60 years before women in this country. (though Jim Crow shut that down) That comment, watching Hillary wield the charge of sexism as a weapon and using it to court favor in a blink got me thinking. I watch my boss, a 60yo white woman who runs a company, a fervent 2nd wave feminist (thanks Shannon) turn on the southern charm at will, bust balls in boardrooms and reflexively (and angrily) take the politically accepted feminist stance on everything, come hell or high water. She, like Hillary seems almost cartoonish to me in her rage and manipulativeness.
Now being ‘white guy’ I am absolutely positive that I am blind to and propagate sexist behavior all the time. Sexism has been brought front and center at the national watercooler. I see it more than I used to and it also makes me aware that it isnt even close to striking a socially conscious nerve in our society yet as other civil rights groups have done.
The 3rd wavers I know seem to have tossed the ‘Woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle’ mantra. They’re mellower. As Obama and all of us who support him see the world a little less color-focused, 3rd wave feminists seem to have reclaimed some classic femininity and owned it as a choice, not a duty hoisted upon them while still working towards raising awarenesses and breaking ceilings. Hillary is to feminism what Rev. Wright was to race relations; as Obama pointed out in his amazing speech on race a couple of months ago www.youtube.com/watch they see the injustice. They fight against it. But they can not envision a society without it. At some point that makes them a liability to their own cause. Einstein said “I can not solve my problems with the same level of thinking I had when I created them”. Hillary and my boss exemplify the old way to me. Like Rev. Wright, they both still fight the battles of the 60’s using activism tactics from the 70’s.
The horror for me though has been in listening to and watching Hillary supporters reactionary vitriol. They have seemed hell bent on backing Mrs. Clinton as a messiah in spite of the facts: She parses and sidesteps as good as Bill and refuses culpability as bluntly as Dubya. The Clinton’s are as insular and paranoid as the current administration and with the upcoming landslide in congressional seats would’ve created similar disasters inherent with a dynasty with no checks and balances. It has boggled my mind that they can not see how deadly this combination of traits; her ease with lying, inability to admit she’s erred, and paranoid us v. them mentality would’ve only continued to harm our national psyche. Consequences be damned – she’s our girl!
No better than the jury in the O.J. trial.

The only way i see us not ready for a woman as president is that no 3rd waver has made it to a place of political prominence yet. I just bet President Obama helps pave that way and I cant wait to vote for her 8 years from now.