Boogeymen, Burgers & Bullets

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Much shouting happens over guns every time something big hits the news. But g
uns aren’t the issue – even as they are obviously the issue. Gun control won’t work simply because we aren’t Australia. We’re America, with 88.6 guns for every 100 citizens per capita. No one. And I mean no one is going to take them away. It’s just reality. In fact given the overall psychic state of America’s emotional and mental health they’re increasingly seen as an answer by a public slowly drowning in debt, poverty, fiscal disparity, fraudulent government, a quiet dread that their retirement plan will consist of moving in with their kids or robbing a liquor store so they can spend their golden years at scenic San Quentin By the Sea, with a media that daily, almost gleefully points to how “they” are coming to take what little resources we have away. We’re all scared shitless and pole-vaulting over mouse turds. It’s not that bad. At least not where you’re being told to look.

When Stef and I left New Orleans we felt a tension building around us. Something nefarious shifted in the feel of our neighborhood. Two weeks before we packed up to go, a mother’s day parade got shot up 6 blocks from our house in broad daylight. A couple of weeks before that a neighbor stepped off his porch and fired rounds at a guy who’d been trying to break in. A week before that a guy got robbed at gun point a block up across from the Ruby Slipper and it didn’t work out the way the robber planned. Since then things have gotten worse. The Quarter has seen such an uptick in violence that Quarter merchants have banded together for security.
Here’s why it’s gotten worse; New Orleans is a beautiful, eccentric, mess of a second world city. That said, there was always a strong sense that we’re all in it together. Hurricanes happened no matter which neighborhood you lived in. Entergy loses power for days at a time whether you live uptown or in the 7th ward. Everyone gets to boil their water a few times a year for several days at a time because the pumps backed up sewage into the municipal water. Everyone suffers the heat and humidity. Everyone gets rained on. Everyone relishes in it’s music, food, corruption, and colorful characters. No one’s immune. That’s what made it’s gumbo work. It was unspoken and completely understood.
Only now gentrification is pushing the poor out of traditionally lower middle to poor neighborhoods. Pushing them further out of their city. That camaraderie is being replaced with “Fuck you, we aint in this together no more. Gimme your damn wallet.”

That little story was okay as long as it was happening somewhere else. Not affecting my quiet little middle-class life. Let the poor brown people tear at each other far away on the news. But that’s not how it is anymore. The middle-class is feeling just as shut out and disenfranchised as the poor and brown have always felt. And we’re being told to blame the poor and the brown for it. But by all means PAY NO ATTENTION TO THE MAN BEHIND THE CURTAIN!!

It’s happening everywhere. Here in the bay area it’s becoming less and less possible to live if you don’t work in tech with a double income. Hell, if my father wasn’t a smart guy back in the 70’s and made it possible for me to own a house, my wife and I would’ve been forced to leave awhile ago. We barely live month to month as it is. Our answer is to hang in and hang on as long as possible and in the meantime practice that “we’re all in it together” mentality. All the things we do here at the house are a part of that belief. We help. We ask for help. We share. I was raised that way. A part of me scratches my head and wonders why everyone doesn’t do just that too. Because opening our house fosters a small town mentality where people feel safe. And it enriches the fuck out of us to do it. Love and service baby, love and service.
We’re in it together here. I own 5 firearms. The thought of giving them back is ridiculous. I’m not worried about poor people robbing me. They’re in it together, just like me. We all keep this sanctuary afloat. I worry about the people telling me I need to worry about my neighbors. And how easily Americans buy that narrative.

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Choking the Shit Out of Jell-O

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So we’re at war again. And we get to use our new F fighter! Which, with this plan appears to be leading us to level 264 of Middle East Whack-a-Mole. Newsflash – there is no final level.
The more daunting question is how do we combat an idea? We’re facing a mostly backwards religious culture twisted into its angriest form by soldiers pissed off over 100+ years of colonialism, ‘nation building’, pillaging of resources, and being completely fucked over by the CIA and MI6 most every time they backed whatever play we needed that year.
Short of accessing a dirty bomb or nuke the best they’ll ever do to our homeland is incite small scale chaos and get in our heads. And if they ever did use a nuke on US soil you can guarantee that the offending region would be a glass plate.
So how do we deflate the idea? By coming up with one without a hammer and lip service at some point.
In geopolitical terms we’ve been a very abusive husband to a slightly slow wife and now we’re indignant that she’s become a crazybitch. Some day we’re going to have to own up and do something different. I just can’t see it happening until our own national psyche grows the fuck up.

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)

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.

A More Perfect Union

This morning I got to watch the most important speech of my generation. The frankest dialog on the state of race in my America that I’ve ever heard. Spoken by, of all people – a politician during a campaign. The Truth in his words brought tears to me several times. Tears I never thought I’d get to shed because no one would dare say them for everyone to hear. Tears of a hundred half finished, frustrated ideas in my own heart being spoken back to me to fruition. This was a turning point on par with remembering where I was when the Towers fell, Armstrong stepped onto the moon, and when OJ was found not guilty. It was that important and that affecting.

Please, pour a cup of coffee, get comfortable and read Barack Obama’s honesty. I promise, you havent heard Truth like this before.

Obama on Race relations in America:

(Mar. 18, 2008)