Freeze-dried America

It’s cold in America tonight. It rained briefly here in Santa Barbara today and the clear air behind the little front of wet is pressing on the house. But in America it is more than literally cold. Our hemisphere is blandly tilting away from the sun’s equinoctial rays, but that’s just what it does this time of year, even in times of hope and clarity. The nights are long and clear and the road to anywhere that matters, where hope and consolation can be found, seems longer than it did in October. Or is it me? I look around the Internet for the usual lights of insight and find dark windows…

Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep, dark depression, excessive misery

No joke, serious; so much depression. Many of my favorite poets and writers, bloggers and vloggers – normally uplifted and uplifting people – have stopped generating content. Vlogger Chris Pirillo in Seattle says he hasn’t picked up his camera in weeks. Blogger and actor Wil Wheaton in Los Angeles is working the Kubler-Ross stages of grief like a tautological litany; a long day’s journal into an existential feedback loop.

America the Plum Blossoms are Falling

All through the social networks, there is so much anger. All of the cries of “no, wait, you can’t, he’s insane, he’ll destroy everything our parents built and ruin everything we might have left behind as well” are dying away like a long freight train that took 2 weeks to rumble to a stop. Now the anger is turning from Big Cheeto and the Fetus Funeral Kid to the townspeople who brought this lunacy down around our heads.

I’m experiencing the same kind of writer’s brain-lock by the way; it’s much worse than writer’s block. I can write but do you think I want to be writing this current events drivel? Do I seem to have the talent for it? Hell no. I’m a poet and a writer of the quiet ontological rooms at the back of the house. The dusty guest bedrooms, where the shoes in the closet belong to the beloved dead. I hate what’s happening in the consciousness of the country almost as much as what’s happening in the streets, the schools, and in the dooryards of the mosques and synagogues.

So I don’t blame the angry people; in fact, I have to join them. This wasn’t an election of a new president and vice president for these United States. This wasn’t a shift from liberal to conservative, from tax and spend to budgetary frugality (a myth, anyway). This was a fucking coup e’etat; a putsch. Our country has been illegally overthrown. Trump had help from foreign powers including Russia. And the Director of the FBI interfered with the election. So America the Beautiful has voted – by a margin so slim it raises the specter of  capital crimes- to become a much different nation than we were.

It’s one thing to want a new president for the country, it’s another to want a different country. And instead of a president, let’s let these crazyass racists who hate everybody run the shit. Nope, you can bring in a new pitcher but we’re not switching from baseball to Mayan basketball, where the losers get their heads chopped off. And come to think of it, Hillary won the damn election anyway. But I digress.

No. No. No! I will not accept the United States becoming a racist, fear-mongering land of knuckle-dragging simian celebrants of some misbegotten, pathetic Nazi cult of ignorance. I do not acquiesce; I demur. You don’t like it, bite me. I’ve lost all tolerance for fools. And I pity the next one I hear sneering about sour grapes and poor losers.

[Shit] Here, watch this excellent video and read an old poem. I’m running out of words, pitching a fit or a fever, and I need to make sure the lights of the coastline are still shining in the cold.

 

    “next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims’ and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn’s early my
country ’tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?”

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water

– e e cummings

The Center of the Universe

And then I explained to him how naive we were, that the world did know and remain silent. And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men or women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.

– Elie Wiesel
Acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize

The marginalized people of America are afraid, and for good reason.

I am reminded of a story my priest told me once, from Russia in the years before the revolution. In those days, it was common practice for people to travel to monasteries to celebrate feast days and ask advice from monks, especially from certain elders.

On one occasion, a group of people were taking turns speaking with an elder who was giving them advice on keeping the fast – Lent. One by one they went up and ask his blessing – Batyushka Blagoslave – Father, bless me – and he would bless them and help them and send them on their way. He might tell them certain vegetables to eat, or tea to drink, or maybe for health reasons absolve them to eat eggs or cheese on days when they wouldn’t otherwise.

Finally a man stepped up who was very rich and influential; a man who had spent his life amassing a fortune. He asked for a blessing and the old priest, being insightful and wise, took one look at him and said:

Oh you, I know you. Don’t bother keeping the fast; eat anything you want. Just for the love of God stop eating people.

The people on the margins of American society are afraid because they are the most vulnerable to the people-eating machine that our divided and hate-steeped culture has become. I speaking of the immigrants, minorities, LGBTQ, the disabled and sick and homeless, and the list goes on. They know they’re not alone, but it must still feel that way. They don’t know if anyone – the Congress, the Courts, the churches and their neighbors – will stand with them as the machine grinds on.

It is not morning in America anymore; it is dusk. But the lamps are lit and the streets still belong to us. It is for us, every woman and man of conscience, to stay awake and vigilant. And when we hear that grinding sound in the night, we have to go out, and bring our brothers and sisters into our homes. Let no one be left outside. I’m saying we must keep speaking out.

The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there.
– Robert M. Pirsig

A Breach of Good Faith

I need to get this off my chest so I can move on. I need my clarity back, my peace of mind, my love for other humans and especially for my fellow Americans. I need to tell you what I think and I won’t mince words.

I am angry with many of you. I love you, I wish you no misfortune – though misfortune is certainly coming for you – but I’m pissed off.

This is not complicated and it’s not a matter of opinion. America is built on a set of simple principles; they’re not all that unique, either. Every American has a moral duty to protect these rights and values, because our people have died to secure and protect them for us.

Liberty and Justice for All

This is in our Pledge of Allegiance. Not liberty and justice for me, and my fellow white males; for all. Everybody, no exceptions. Muslim Americans, LGBTQ Americans, female Americans, Mexican Americans, African Americans, Native Americans, all get exactly the same amount of liberty and justice.

Freedom of Religion – The First Amendment.

Also known as The Separation of Church and State, It doesn’t mean freedom to Be Christian but not Muslim. It means any religion or no religion. Religion is not established or prohibited in this country. Religion may never be a principle in our laws or our public policies.

Freedom of The Press – First Amendment.

“The people shall not be deprived or abridged of their right to speak, to write, or to publish their sentiments; and the freedom of the press, as one of the great bulwarks of liberty, shall be inviolable.” – James Madison’s original draft of the First Amendment

Freedom to Protest – First Amendment.

The right of the people peaceably to assemble.

Equal protection and due process of the law. Fourteenth Amendment.

All laws must treat everyone equally, and none of our rights or privileges may be taken away without due process.

When Donald Trump was campaigning, he broke and promised to keep breaking every one of those principles. He promised to treat Muslims differently, he attacked the press in social media and did that again today. He had people thrown out of his rallies for trying to speak, and encouraged his thugs (supporters) to assault them. He belittled the disabled.  He’s attacked people on the basis of gender, disability, race. He’s even attacked our military and our veterans.

I won’t even start on how he thinks about and treats women.

Why is this your fault?

Because when we have any election, whether it’s for president of the US or president of the local sewer district, we owe each other good faith. That means every voter decides according to his or her conscience, based on what they believe – in good faith – is best for the nation or the town. Not according to their personal interests, but in the interests of the community and the future, considering the children. Right?

We’re supposed to find people who have the experience, willingness, and conscience to do good work for everyone, and nominate them to be of service.

And a president is supposed to preside, not rule. He – or she! – is supposed to lead the people, empower their best values and ideas – and continually make the nation better for everyone. Trump just wants to rule. We fought a war 240 years ago to free ourselves from rulers, for God’s sake!

If you vote for someone you know is a threat to the rights of your fellow Americans – even if you believe he’s not a threat to you – are you keeping that faith or breaking it?

If you voted for Trump because he claims to be Christian (he’s not) and you hate Muslims, you broke faith with your nation. Muslim Americans have the same rights you have, and you had a duty to defend those rights when you voted.

If you call yourself a Christian and you voted for Trump and Pence, shame on you! This was no ordinary election and you know it. This was a locomotive of real evil, pulling a long train of hate speech and lies, and you knew it all along. How is that not a sin?

If you voted for Trump and Pence knowing their policies might be a threat to any of your fellow Americans based on their age, sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, or sexual orientation, then you broke faith with your neighbors and your nation.

If you were eligible to vote and you just couldn’t be bothered to get up off your fat ass and even mail a ballot, then you broke faith too. In fact, maybe far worse.

If you voted for evil or failed to vote against it, you’ve failed your friends and neighbors, you failed to keep faith with our troops and our veterans, you’ve desecrated our flag and the nation for which it stands.

But we still love you. And when you’re ready to ask for forgiveness, let us know.

That Man is a Success

When I was young – a teenager – my parents gave me the quotation below – framed – for the wall of my room. It has lived on in my mind for 40 years. I only wish that Emerson had made it gender-neutral, because I have known just as many admirable women as men, to whom its enlightenment applies.

While the day’s calamity for Trump may leave many of us feeling vindicated, outraged, or sickened, I also feel sad. So much that is beautiful and kind, gentle and true about human life is so often and so wantonly demeaned. It goes light years beyond the fact that he is no gentleman. Power is still consistently given to men who think people are possessions, that women and children, the poor, the sick and weak, the marginalized and the outcast, are subject to domination. That is sad, and it’s even sadder that some targets of their twisted, onanistic self-gratification seem to accept this, even to support this particular contemptible and toxic troglodyte.

We may not get another chance to teach such evil, insentient men – once and for all – that they are wrong. And to show the women and girls of America that they are awesome and equal, that their value in the world is intrinsic and inalienable. So no one has the right to grab them or bring them down.

Peace to you Reader, and to the women in your life who have taught you love and strength, intelligence, courage, and dignity.

 

That man is a success who has lived well, laughed often and loved much;
Who has gained the respect of intelligent men and the love of children;
Who has filled his niche and accomplished his task;
Who leaves the world better than he found it,
whether by an improved poppy or a perfect poem or a rescued soul;
Who never lacked appreciation of earth’s beauty or failed to express it;
Who looked for the best in others and gave the best he had
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Memorial

As we Americans once again commemorate our war dead, and pay respect to the families of those who “gave the last full measure of devotion,” I wonder:

Will we ever come to terms with the fact that many of their deaths were preventable?

They not only died for us, they died because of us and our pride, arrogance, and nationalist ego-centrism.

We Americans are sure that we can do anything we set our minds and collective will to do. Why not peace?

Why can’t we learn to treat other people with respect, and so to gain friends instead of making enemies? We are so hell bent in self-righteousness, so mired in fear of others – and so completely confused about who they are – that millions of us want a dictator in our highest office.

Our dead didn’t die so that America would be weak and terrified, but we are. After 9/11 we raised flags and were defiant and strong for a while, until Bush-Cheney told us to be terrorized, and so we were and so we remain.

History will not be kind about the fall of the American Empire. For 15 years we have declined into willful ignorance, the victims of fear and selfishness. Trump is the distillation of that consciousness.

We don’t deserve a new birth of freedom if we deny it to each other.

We don’t deserve safety unless we stand up for the refugees and give them refuge.

We are not worthy to consecrate a moment, let alone a day, in honor of our dead, until we pledge in our hearts and minds that no more shall die in vain.

 

The Internet is Forever

I read on a couple of blogs that UC Davis paid people to try to expunge the Net of all traces of the pepper spray incident that happened there in 2011. This seems ridiculously futile to me, but I like to play. So lest we forget, here are a couple of links to posts I wrote on another blog, on the day of that brutality.

Students Attacked by Cops at Davis

  • November 19, 2011

Open Letter to the Chancellor of UC Davis

  • November 19, 2011

“If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself.”
― George Orwell, 1984

We have met the enemy…

No greater mistake can be made than to think that our institutions are fixed or may not be changed for the worse. … Increasing prosperity tends to breed indifference and to corrupt moral soundness. Glaring inequalities in condition create discontent and strain the democratic relation. The vicious are the willing, and the ignorant are unconscious instruments of political artifice. Selfishness and demagoguery take advantage of liberty. The selfish hand constantly seeks to control government, and every increase of governmental power, even to meet just needs, furnishes opportunity for abuse and stimulates the effort to bend it to improper uses. … The peril of this nation is not in any foreign foe! We, the people, are its power, its peril, and its hope!

– Charles Evans Hughes

Pogo_-_Earth_Day_1971_poster

Cuttlefish

The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns … instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish squirting out ink.

– George Orwell, whose birthday is today.

A cuttlefish looks like this.

I use the quote above to shoehorn my thoughts onto blog topic, but my favorite quote from Orwell is this passage from 1984:

To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone — to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink — greetings!

I sit here tonight look at those words again, amazed at how much Truth there is in them, and wondering if we have finally come to live in that age of doublethink.

Slavery is freedom. The climate is not changing. Guns keep us safe. Rich people create jobs. War is Peace. Immigration is hurting the economy. Iraq is Obama’s fault. Ignorance is strength.

I’ve been watching World War Z. It’s interesting to see what that silly zombie fad looks like with a big budget. …It is a metaphor of American politics, right?

“Until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they they have rebelled they cannot become conscious.” So for us, a zombie apocalypse is more likely than attaining government or, by, or for the people.

only human beings

I love this little video. It’s only a minute and a half long, with no puppies or cute kids. But it gives me hope.

Watch the Los Angeles City Council call for a constitutional amendment to reserve constitutional rights to living human beings.

Marginalia

marginalia (ˌmɑːdʒɪˈneɪlɪə)

pl n

notes in the margin of a book, manuscript, or letter*

Video: When Toys Take a Road Trip.

Video: Dog won’t leave his master’s grave.

News link with comment: Charges dropped against students at UC Davis.

Social comment: Cowards Among Us. Real men face the bullies and stand up for students.

Politics: Where does OWS go from here? (An email from filmmaker Michael Moore.)

* Content from my other blogs; i.e., what I do while I watch TV.

sic semper tyrannis

I received an email from a friend, expressing his dismay over the governance of our country. I have to agree. Again and again, lines of poetry come to mind; lines of the very poem from which this blog takes its epigraph:

    Turning and turning in the widening gyre
    The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.

– W.B. Yeats, The Second Coming

Read the last 2 lines again to yourself, aloud.
Oh yes, so it goes in America these days.

next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims and so forth

A Metaphor merit badge if you know the source of that quote off the tops of your tri-corner hat.

Anyway, I’ll share the thought with which I responded to my friend: to hell with governance. It has done us very little good, ever. Governance is good for building roads and starting wars. Meaningful, systemic, sustainable change doesn’t come from the top. And we should never doubt the talent of a few honest, committed people to bring change to life. Because that’s the only thing that ever has.

What we need now is leadership, not governance. If only we can get governance to stop brutally evicting leadership from the public parks, we’ll be on our way.

Actually, it’s better for the cause of progress if the police keep right on attacking and evicting, beating, teargasing, etc. As always in history, tyranny is the symbol and catalyst of the restoration of freedom.

Here’s a great short video to watch: A special comment from Keith Olbermann, 11.15.2011.