Read this article first to put this in context
When I read this article in the wee hours of Monday morning, November 8, I became so distraught I couldn’t catch my breath. I went hot and then cold and then hot again. I felt faint. I felt like crying. I felt like screaming. My face flushed hot and my vision blurred. My mind went into a tailspin. I don’t know how long I remained in this state but the tempest in my soul, which temporarily churned my body’s chemical equilibrium, passed as suddenly as it arrived. I was left with one of those rare moments of extreme clarity. The confliction, which had been blocking my creativity for years--locking my words inside a molten cauldron of anger, shame and fear--resolved itself in that instant. I saw how my whole life had been leading me to this moment of decision. I knew then what was required of me if I was to maintain integrity and progress any further on the spiritual path that I set out on in November of 92. Before this moment of clarity could cloud and cause me to reconsider, or give my fear time to marshal rationalizations for caution, I immediately began an email to my sister, who was the one family member I had kept in the loop during my decade long quest and re-creation of my spirit. But I knew that I was about to move way beyond her comfort zone and I needed to let her know this. And I needed to have just one more heart to heart exchange with someone who had grown up in the same petrie dish as I had. The following essay is based on my side of the resulting email exchange over the next several days:
This is the last straw for me. It proves that theocracy is already here. This war has become a Christian Jihad--even worse, a Christian Crusade in the tradition of those fought in the Middle East a thousand years ago. But if this is Christian in any way shape or form, I can no longer even think of myself as Christian. If I must believe Christ countenances this, I opt out. That would make this hell so what do I have to lose? I can no longer keep my mouth shut or my words bottled up about it. I now feel compelled to participate in the ranks of the dissenters. Which is not an easy choice in this political climate. It may well become a criminal offence before long and dissenters be subjected to open ended confinement without legal representation, harassment, torture and even death a la the Inquisition of 600 years ago. My only hope against that was for Bush to lose the election. The right wing has been pushing hard to have dissent in a time of war criminalized as treason and since the war on terror is a forever war which cannot be won (which I can’t help but believe is designed to be un-winnable) the Bill of Rights will be eviscerated and this will no longer be the America of Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.
But I know this will be the final straw estranging me from the family. I got my Joywrite web site up again and initiated my blog, Joystory. Will soon have Joyread posted too. I was excited about it and about sharing my triumph with the family. Now I don't think so. I need to feel completely free to speak my mind. So, since everything I think about, read about, and write about now is related in some way to these issues, I won’t be sharing the URLs to my websites, in order to keep my mind free of the anxieties of causing pain to my family. This breaks my heart because it means that I can no longer hope to be truly known by anyone in my family in this life. If they were to adhere to Scripture as we understood it growing up, they would have to forswear fellowship with me. As I can no long either love, worship, praise or surrender to a god defined as having any part in these things.
I repudiate the Dispensational theology which purports to explain this. They call the past 2000 years of soul slaughter the Church Age! AKA the Age of Grace?! There are nearing 7 billion souls on the planet right now and my heart breaks for each and every one. War, famine, flood, extreme weather and a global economy that is about to tank because the American economy was the main thing sustaining it and now it is about to collapse under trillions of debt. I empathize with the Iraqis as much as the Americans. And with every other nationality, religious or ethnic group. I cannot understand any world-view--philosophy, theology or doctrine--that writes off 99 percent of every soul born as a matter of course. I cannot imagine enjoying heaven if I were to retain any knowledge of the existence of those souls suffering in hell. And if the knowledge was removed from me that would be a kind of rape of my soul.
Nor can I understand, how the theology of redemption can countenance war, even a so-called just war. For it involves the killing of a soul who might have made a different choice in the next minute or the next day or the next year or even the next decade... How can that be justified by those who believe that the un-reborn are going to be tortured for eons and eons beyond comprehension with no further chance of changing their mind? How could anyone who believed that have a hand in the taking of their lives and then glorify it in the name of their god? They are reverting to the Old Testament and completely negating the New Testament message of forgiveness, redemption, and metanoia--repentance or change of heart, the possibility of a new life set on a radically different course. They set aside Jesus’ own words regarding those who live by the sword also dying by the sword as irrelevant. And with that, they have mutilated the Gospel. Thus I can no longer assent to it without mutilating my heart and mind.
Let me clarify some things. Note that I did say 'if' in several places. The weight is on the 'if'. I had found peace in the understanding that there was more than one way to understand certain doctrines and that one could have a personal and private understanding of them and a personal and private relationship to the Ultimate Other, the Source of All, the Ground of All Being. No matter how you name it a name cannot define it. Names by their nature delimit. Words in any language accrete new meanings over time as snowballs rolling down a snow-covered hill gather snow, gravel, twigs, leaves, gum wrappers, etc. The English word ‘god’ has acquired so much baggage, I find it difficult to use it at all without wanting to write whole pages of clarification, thus I avoid it when possible. It would be a misreading of what I admit was an emotional rant to assume that my disgruntlement is just a result of my filling my mind with things that support a false sense of the ‘True God’. The definitions of god that I was ranting against are not mine. Mine are rooted in the Fruits of the Spirit which are my guiding principles. I weigh all that I read, see, hear and experience through the lenses of love, joy, peace, patience, temperance--balance, equilibrium, tolerance and self-control are all concepts embedded in the Greek word translated as ‘temperance’ in the KJV--goodness, kindness, gentleness and faithfulness. Also grace, mercy, justice, hope, liberty of body and mind, truth, logic or reason (though it has its limits) understanding, redemption, healing, forgiveness, compassion, beauty (as a spiritual concept) among others. I rooted my faith in my personal experience with these Fruits of the Spirit and a relationship with that Spirit as it was and is exemplified in the life of Jesus and the Living Christ.
I began to relax when I finally understood that the Brethren of our meetings did not have any power over my life, my mind or my spirit. What is disturbing me now is that men like them have maneuvered themselves into power in our country which was founded on the principle that freedom of conscience was a profound human right. But these men do not believe that. I heard one interviewed on CNN shortly before the election. He said 'truth is not a democracy.' This statement scares me. I can not disagree with its plain meaning: that truth by its nature is not something which can be determined by majority agreement. But that was not the context in which this man spoke. The only ‘truth’ he was interested in was that which is defined by his Fundamentalist Doctrine and his implication was that those ‘truths’ needed to be imposed from above on all citizens. I remember how painful, how damaging to personal, familial and community relationships the power of excommunication was when the Bible Meetings I was raised in were disintegrating twenty years ago. It gives me shivers to imagine any of those Brethren having the power of life and death over those who disagreed with them? It has happened before in the history of the church. Many times. It had happened within the memory of America’s founders, which is why they created the separation of church and state. The state should not have power over people's consciences.
But the Fundamentalists who are now gaining power in the government have as their highest priority to abolish the separation of church and state. Once they have done that it won't be long before they begin to use their power over other Christians who disagree with them. The state has the power of the death penalty. They have other powers as well. Excommunication used at the level of the state would mean that dissenters could be denied things like jobs, voting rights, food stamps and other government aid, passports, bank credit, mortgages, public office, positions as teachers, civil service and other government jobs, business licenses, building permits, custody of their children, etc.
It is the Fundamentalist theology that I cannot assent to. It is their definition of ‘god.’ their definition of ‘doctrine,’ and their definition of ‘Christian’ that I opt out of. As long as they did not have the power and as long as their version was not the common understanding of the meaning of 'Christian' I still felt safe to think of myself as Christian. Now I feel a shame attached to that name. And not because I am ashamed of Christ or Jesus. But because I am ashamed of the arrogance, the mean-spiritedness, the narrow-mindedness, the hate-mongering, the warmongering, and the fear-mongering of those who have currently commandeered the common understanding of the meaning of 'Christian'--at least here in America and thus how American Christians are being perceived world wide.. And that is why I feel the need to join the ranks of the dissenters while it is still possible to do so without incurring dire consequences. Since word craft has been the gift I have been entrusted with and coupled with my strong sense of justice and my empathy with the vulnerable it could be a powerful force for re-awakening the American conscience. Not to mention the Christian conscience. I now feel obligated to use it thus.
I have been watching developments in America over the last twenty years--Reagan's second term on--and I have been seeing a pattern developing that is very similar to the rise to power of the Nazi’s in Germany after W.W. I And I am tired of just watching with trembling bones. It may be comforting to think that this fear is generated by my being hoodwinked by my sources of information--books, Internet, mainstream media etc. But, having once had to take back by force of will the authority over my own mind from inimical ideologies, I have been sensitized to the potential, which makes it unlikely. As does my extensive research into how knowledge is communicated in its various forms from the structure of language to the ligaments of rhetoric. I have studied logic and the uses of logical fallacies in propaganda and I have learned how to tell the difference between fact and opinion. I am a cynic and a skeptic when it comes to these things. That's why I like to trace the source material as far back as possible to primary sources or primary established facts before I solidify my opinion. But my opinion seldom gets solidified beyond the stage of Jell-O since I do not believe that humans have the capability of knowing anything with absolute certainty. I have learned how to get a sense of the underlying philosophy of a writer from the way they organize and present their material, how they use facts and the spirit that infuses their words. I am not easily snookered.
Having an open mind does not mean agreeing with everything your mind encounters it just means being willing to consider a thesis or hypothesis in light of presented evidence. But evidence can often be distorted or irrelevant and I understand that. And knowing that today's mainstream media is nearly 100% owned by corporations that also own defense industry or energy industry companies, I realize that although some facts still make it into the news they are always skewed to favor the interests of the owners. Then there is the fact that all mainstream news sources are supported by advertisements and this also effects what gets reported and what does not. As the media corporations’ bottom line is about profit before it is about truth. That is why I do not depend on them for facts or understanding. I only continue to watch and read those sources to keep myself informed on what most other Americans are being told, and to follow the trends in the propaganda. I have other sources online and elsewhere who add other facts that help me put information from the mainstream media in wider context. And it is some of those sources which have convinced me that our American liberties are in dire danger: Thom Hartmann, Orcinus, the Yurica Report, Public Eye’s watch on the far right, Alternet’s Rights and Liberties are just a few.
It just finally hit me that I needed to put up or shut up. That my unique experience could be of help in the struggle to maintain those liberties for all. In any case, I need to make my stand where my conscience is rooted no matter the cost. Isn't that the quintessential Christian concept? It is time for me to join the dialog because I have important insights to contribute to it. It was my fear of my family's alarm and disapprobation when they come to learn of my views on certain things that was holding me back. Thus I understood that my conscience was still constrained by fear of disapproval. That is unacceptable. That is as much a prison as the old doctrines. The moment I concluded that, the words that had been dammed up in my heart in a molten lake of dismay began to flow and they have not stopped flowing since. Day and night, asleep or awake, they flow. I can't catch them all on paper or keyboard. But this seems to indicate that I have found the meaning of my struggle--my personal Jihad--and my purpose. Maybe it is a futile endeavor. But many thought David's duel with Goliath was too. Sometimes the little people with an insight need to have the courage to stand up and speak truth to power. In a way, that is what every one of the O. T. prophets were doing.
Friday, December 31, 2004
Read this article first to put this in context
“At the hospitals he saw youngsters dying from the lack of medicine and learnedDoes anyone still have any illusions that this is a just war?
that a number of others had been killed picking up unexploded cluster bombs or
when trying to hand them in to U.S. soldiers.
“The bombs look like tennis balls or beer cans, Suarez explains. And when the children try to give them to U.S. soldiers, they are shot on the spot -- military orders.”
Read the rest of this article about the efforts of the father of one of the first U.S. Marines killed in Iraq, (killed by unexploded U.S. cluster bombs, weapons which are illegal under the Geneva Conventions) to bring medicines and other aid to Iraqi children affected by the war. Read how the Bush administration tries to paint his efforts as giving aid and comfort to the enemy. And ask yourself, if Iraqi children are defined as the enemy, where does that leave our consciences as a nation? Where does that leave hope for an end to the war? Especially an end to the war on terrorism?
And consider what it ought to do to the psyche of a ‘good’ guy, a soldier under orders, to shoot dead a child trying to hand him what looks like either a toy or a soft-drink, and then ask yourself if ‘support the troops’ necessarily means ‘support the war’? For if the ‘good’ guy follows orders and kills the child, he ought to be plagued day and night by nightmare producing despair. But if his ‘excellent’ military training has trained the compassion out of him and he is able to justify such an atrocity--then what kind of a human being have we had a roll in creating? What kind of a citizen of our nation? Of our world? And if you don’t like the answers to those questions you should consider that the best way to support the troops is to bring them home so that they are not subjected to moral dilemmas they are unequipped for while under the leadership of those who have trashed the moral compass of compassion.
And let’s go even further and ask yourself, if you need this kind of action on the part of your government in order to feel safe? Does it take the murder of another mother’s child in order for you to feel your own child is safe? Do we still live in the age of blood sacrifice?
Thursday, December 30, 2004
This essay taken from a talk given by Susan Sontag last April, ends with her declaration that we need fiction to stretch our world, as a response to the dilemma she presents above: how to live with the knowledge of the simultaneity of existence--the knowledge that terrible misfortunes and evil occur in the world at the same time as wonderful goodness, contentment and joy. This couldn’t have been republished at a more opportune time in the wake of the tsunami in Indonesia. It helps me reassert my own commitment to my fiction writing, which I had been struggling with this week, trying to justify its relevance in the light of everything else that has been capturing my attention and my angst. The war, the tsunami, the threat of lost liberties at home. All of these ‘serious’ issues seemed to mock my continued desire to express my understanding of the world through fiction. Thank-you Susan Sontag. We will miss you. And may the legacy of your stories continue to inform us for long and long.
I feel less alone in this world when I read essays like this one.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Conservative students are suing for the right not to be subjected to ideas that offend them. They accuse profs and admin of liberal bias, of bullying in the classroom and of grading with liberal bias. The profs accuse the conservative students of not wanting to be exposed to new ideas, which is the purpose of a college education. I remember the mindset of these students. And I remember what it was like to feel abused by the teachers who required proof of an understanding of the course material for a passing grade. I remember flunking Genetics in high school because I refused to give the answer I knew the teacher was looking for in a multiple choice test. I do think that was power abuse by this particular teacher. He could have worded the question in such a way that I, and a number of those like me, could have given the answer he wanted with a clear conscience--by qualifying the response with a phrase that put the burden of belief onto the scientists, researchers or other sources, instead of making it sound as though I subscribed to the truth of the answer. (i.e. so and so hypothesizes, or so and so maintains, or such and such an experiment seems to prove that…) But instead he set a trap for all the Creationists in his class and he knew there were at least half a dozen in this class of nearly thirty. And he mined the test with several of these so that missing them required getting a perfect score on the rest of the test just to pass it. I think this was uncalled for in a small town high-school (Longview, Washington) where you are dealing with students who are still minors and thus still living at home and still under the authority of their parents.
But college and university is a whole other proposition. That kind of power abuse would still be uncalled for but at the same time, the intransigent mental insulation that fundamentalists of all stripes practice is also uncalled for in a forum whose whole purpose is to expose ideas to each other in open debate. Learning how to differentiate fact form opinion and to use the first to buttress the second is the whole point of a post-secondary, academic education. Learning how to think for oneself is a mark of adulthood.
The disturbing thing about this development is that it isn’t a few isolated cases but seems to be a concerted and organized movement with a prominent public figure promoting it--David Horowitz, a conservative commentator who was once a liberal activist on campus. Beware the zealotry of converted zealots!!! I daily guard against a similar phenomenon taking hold of me. So I sympathize to a certain extent with Horowitz and his disciples but am deeply concerned that their movement will succeed in subverting the last institutional bastions of freedom of thought for the cause of enforced consensus of conservative agendas.
See also Dr. Teresa Whitehurst’s essay: Careful not to get too much education…or you could turn liberal.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
This is a small excerpt from a lengthier essay I’ve been working on since April when the Abu Ghraib scandal first broke in the news. I hope to publish the full version with quotes, links and citations on my web site, Joywrite in the not too distant future. But I feel moved to put this out there right now. Partly, I suppose by the incongruous juxtaposition between the plethora of traditional holiday images and icons with those images of the war and of the prisoner abuse that have held uneasy cohabitation of my thoughts for the last several weeks. Partly too because I am just plain impatient and incredulous that, with all the bloviating about values and morals associated with the election this year, that no one has made this connection which seems so obvious to me. Now suddenly it feels urgent to me to get this meme out there and I know myself well enough to anticipate it could take me several more months to get my more formal essay whipped into shape--I wrestle with excruciating perfectionism sometimes. So here it is in abbreviated and informal condition:
I was not surprised by the revelations coming out of Abu Ghraib. I’ve been reading about similar incidents associated with the CIA and the School of the Americas, and those that have become almost policy at many American prisons and jails for nearly twenty years. This is one of those issues that is a sticking point for me. I have been waiting in vain for a massive reaction of revulsion and repudiation from the moral values crowd who claim to be the spokesmen for God and Jesus. The fact that they have not stood up and roundly condemned this atrocity with the same passion they promote prayer in school and pro-life causes, brings me about that close  (picture a piece of paper between my thumb and finger) to renouncing my own Christianity and giving back the gift of eternal life. If (please note the if) I have to believe that God and Jesus and the Gospel have any part in the theory that justifies such things, I have no wish nor desire--even an active repulsion--at the thought of spending eternity with such a pack of bloody handed, bloody minded, soul-sucking hypocrites or any god who desires their love and praise.
It’s not like there isn’t plenty of scripture to support a stand against such abuse of power, such egregious injustice. Matthew 25 has Jesus say that ‘what you do unto the least of these you have done unto me.’ He is referring to the good deeds--the giving of a drink of water to the thirsty, clothes to the naked and the visiting of the imprisoned. The logical corollary of the proposition that showing kindness to a prisoner is the same as showing kindness to Jesus, is that abusing a prisoner would be the same as abusing Jesus.
Jesus didn’t differentiate between the guilty and the innocent which implies that neither should we. In the world-view of Jesus and his followers and of most Christian’s today there is no such thing as human innocence anyway. But this can be viewed from within two different contexts and the real world application of the logical consequences of each view are diametrically opposed--matter and anti-matter. The first, rooted in the ancient Law of Talion-- retaliation, vengeance equals justice, eye for an eye--requires revenge and punishment and cruel coercion to enforce conformity to standards of behavior and it encourages seeing ones own sins relative to another’s and taking solace and even pride in being guilty of only ‘lesser’ sins and not of those ‘heinous’ or ‘evil’ crimes of ones neighbors or enemies.
The second, rooted in the gospel and the parables, sermons and life of Jesus and espoused by his early followers, is a leveler of hierarchy. It emphasizes that ‘all have sinned and come short of the glory of God‘, that all sin is equal, that all sin disconnects us from our Source. It encourages forgiveness, bowels of mercy, empathy or compassion, and posits the possibility of repentance or change of heart. It proclaims that only the sinless can cast the first stone, which implies that only the sinless can enforce death penalties. It requires us to forgive, even the same individual, beyond 70 times 7 times. It warns that we must not judge if we do not wish to be judged, that we must remove the lumber from our own eye before we attempt to remove the sliver from our brother’s eye. It affirms that kindness, patience, forgiveness, humility, gentleness and joy are among the highest virtues with which to engage life. It constrains us to think of each other as a brother or sister or even better as one’s self and thus to treat one another as we would wish to be treated and to refrain from treating each other as we would dislike being treated. And, most relevant to my thesis, it enjoins us to conduct every encounter with another as though it were with Jesus himself.
So here we are 2000 years after Jesus walked the earth celebrating the advent of the Prince of Peace, and we are bombing the manger in Iraq and applying electrical shock to Jesus’s testicles. All in the name of bringing peace on earth and security to the children of Empire. Rome REDUX. And just as in the age of Constantine, those who claim to be disciples of Jesus are espousing these values and glorifying the empire, trading the gospel of Jesus back in for the law birthed from a belching volcano. Jesus would say to those who perpetrate and perpetuate these things--whether they ordered, carried out, condoned or complacently sat by thinking ‘what is it to me’--”I never knew you ye workers of iniquity!”
If you need to refresh your memory, here are some of the photos & more photos.
Saturday, December 25, 2004
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
The month of November was once again full of significance for me. Not only did it begin with the event of the election full of such profound symbolism for the path I’ve been on for twelve years, but it was one of the most productive in terms of new attitudes, new skills acquired and most important of all, the highest word count of new material other than my journal in this first year of rededication to my avocation after the two year hiatus imposed by the loss of my computer and paper files in 2001. I am most pleased with the rebirth of my two web sites, Joywrite and Joyread and this, their newest sibling, Joystory. And now that they are posted and I find I am not ashamed of them, it is time to learn the new skill of promoting them. But that is going to have to take second place always to the imperative of producing new content for them
And for a time, I need to declare securing the safety of my work product a very close second to new production. The events of November 17 re-sensitized me to the fragility of paper files and the ephemeral nature of computer files. I need to dedicate some serious attention to finding ways and means of backing up my files in multiple formats and multiple locations so that I am never again faced with such a serious loss of morale that work stops and life loses its passion for years. Nor ever again forced to risk life and limb to rescue my files. This time it turned out I was not in real danger (at least from fire, though in my panic I could have seriously injured myself even fallen and succumbed to hypothermia before I was found) but I believed I was and chose the safety of my files over my own. So, in honor of the first day of winter, I have declared this the Winter of My Disc Content and am requiring of myself to have solved the problem before the crocus break ground in February.
Even as I make this commitment I am feeling overwhelmed by it. My time on the computer is so limited and my projects are proliferating as well as word count. And just as I got the ball rolling so well on my three web sites, my use of the computer, which is not mine but my in-laws, became even more curtailed when the living room couch became my sister-in-law’s bed. Now I am working only by the light of the screen and typing slow and careful to minimize the clicking of the keys on this noisiest keyboard I’ve ever worked with since my last manual typewriter. This makes it quite difficult to compose new material because I am forced to type soooo much slower than I think. Slower even than writing by hand. (Which is why I have been spending most of my sessions reading articles and occassionaly blogging them. It is not my intention for this site to be primarily an amature pundit zone.)
Although my sister-in-law has graciously said that my working at the computer doesn’t bother her, I’m not so sure that is true and I can’t help but feel that her paycheck-job trumps what is essentially my hobby at this point. But in spite of my guilt feelings I continue to work several hours each night. And sometimes on into the morning hours after those with paycheck jobs leave for work. When I can get a few tasks requiring light and/or rapid typing done. But then I am contending with a very loud TV as my father-in-law enjoys his Westerns and Game Shows. Nor can I be online except for very brief excursions after six when phone calls become more likely. This forces me to split my sleep schedule into two or more naps instead of one normal length sleep. Don’t know how long I can keep that up without doing serious damage to my mood and energy levels which are essential resources for my work. If I believed in Santa I would ask for a laptop and a connection to the net that doesn’t share a line with the phone so that I could work at my own discretion. But wishing for that is about as helpful as wishing for a cure for my RP in my life time. And I must keep in mind that I still have things better than many. I think especially of one of my favorite bloggers.
Ghostwriting the Law:
"In another instance of profitable policymaking, ALEC drafted a model 'truth in sentencing' bill that restricts parole eligibility for prisoners, keeping inmates locked up longer. One of the members of the task force that drafted the bill was Corrections Corporation of America, the nation's largest private prison company, which stands to cash in on longer sentences. By the late 1990s, similar sentencing measures had passed in 40 states."
And so it begins. Now that there is a profit motive for keeping prison sentences longer, how long will it be before profit motive decides which crimes require incarceration. Debtor prison anyone? These are not things that should be decided by corporate lobby lawyers hobnobbing with elected representiatives behind closed doors.
Read this article to find out more about ALEC and the other stealth laws they have helped draft.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Sometimes you just gotta smile through your tears.
Read H. D. S. Greenway's take on this old fable and then read my poem.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Celebrating the advent of the Prince of Peace when our country is waging war in this encroaching dark age.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
A Nation’s warden of Justice who espouses torture and subverts law? Shame, shame and shame on any congress person who votes aye! Especially if your motivation is to garner votes from your minority base. That very minority base should be the first to cringe at the very thought of such a one as him set up as a sop for their allegiance. They would be the ones most familiar with the reality of government sanctioned torture and unbounded power to bind men over to indefinite internment.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
The case of Jeremy Heinzman a CO seeking asylum in Canada.
Some wars demand of heroes an uncommon courage. The courage it takes a soldier to “Just say NO!’
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
R.I.P. Gary Webb -- Unembedded Reporter
There are so many issues raised in this article I can’t even offer a synopsis of it. You have to read it. And then read it again. And then ask yourself, ‘If this is the Government I am trusting to protect me from world wide terrorism and this is the media I am trusting to keep me informed on the issues that relate to my life and to my duties as a citizen of a democracy, where does that leave me?’ I am also asking if anyone is taking a real hard, skeptical look at the suicide of Gary Webb, hero journalist. It seems much too convenient to me. But I probably watch too much CSI and X-Files. And read too much Ludlum, Le Carre and Koontz.
Michael Moore presents an essay of a friend of his who likens the progressives to victims of abuse who keep blaming themselves for the abuse and trying to please the abuser.
Bill Moyers, in a speech as he accepts Harvard Medical's Global Environment Citizen award, sounds the alarm for journalists about the unique challenges in covering enviromental issues in an era when more than half of the Legislators, Most of the Executive administration and nearly two thirds of the voters who put them in office, believe that the destruction of the enviroment is a prophesied precursor to the return of Christ and that it is their mandate to 'bring it on' so that the rapture of the righteous can commence and the rest can be judged with pestilence, quakes, famine, draught, storms, plague and war until the earth and all its oceans are all but lifeless. And then God will restore the Earth with a wink and blink to the condition of Eden for the 1000 year reign of his Son. How does one move their reader's to act on behalf of the enviroment when they tend to believe it is already a foregone conclusion, and anyway they and theirs are not subject to the repercussions for of course they are among the righteous to be rescued before it gets too nasty?
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
The Price of Fear Is Paid in Lost Freedom
And in another good follow-up Joel Agee talks about the difference between fear and danger. And about the ease with which we are giving up our rights to assuage our fear. And about how today’s America is beginning to look and feel a lot like the Soviet Russia he was raised in. Not only does he raise some of the issues I am most concerned with, he has a literary voice with which to do so. He also has a new book out. In the House of My Fear. In this essay, Joel Agee explains better than I can just what the significance of incidents like the one in my previous post--10 year old children handcuffed for possession of school project implements suddenly labeled and treated as weapons. When would that kind of re-labeling stop? After all there are a great many everyday items that could double as weapons. One could put out someone’s eye or impale their brain with a Barbie Doll’s foot! Strangle someone with a shoelace. Who gets to make the lists. And who decides when or if or how we are notified an item has been made verboten?
A good follow-up for the preceding post is this book review I've recently written:
By Francine Prose
An eerie story. A kind of parable of what is going on in America at large. The sense of something incredibly off key was reminiscent of the state of affairs in our nation today. It is high-school as microcosm and metaphor. The something wrong slips up on you bit by bit and by the time you realize you are royally screwed it is too late. A Columbine type incident happens at a high school fifty miles from the town of the teen narrator of the story. And the next thing that happens is their school implements a whole slew of new rules. Metal detectors and bag and body searches. Random drug tests. Clothing codes like no red except the red in American flag pins. No cell phones. No chewing gum. Books start disappearing out of the library. A list of disapproved of books and music which they cannot have on school property. Catcher in the Rye among them. Holden Caulfield is suddenly a bad role model for teenagers. (This sentiment I can sympathize with; but not the censorship.) They put TVs on the school buses that spew out alternative history lessons. Like claiming that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were desolate unpopulated areas when the U.S. dropped the atom bombs on them. But the TV’s also masked cameras that were monitoring the kids. One of the narrator’s friends is caught making a dissident comment and is shipped off to reform school. The school inundates the parents with nightly emails that seem to hypnotize them to the point that they were unable to contradict the authorities at the school or stand up for their kids. Kids that defied the rules were sent to reform camps and never came back. A teacher that defied the rules one time also disappeared. No explanation. And something was definitely strange about the ‘retirement’ of the principle. All the enforcement of the rules was done by the new ’grief’ councilor provided free by the state after the tragedy. Altogether a spooky situation. And it ended on a spooky note. The narrator risks loosing everything by sitting his dad and his dad’s fiancé down and explaining the situation in graphic detail. He is hoping that his dad had not been captured by the school’s emails and the fiancé had not been exposed to them. The three of them decide to go check out the high school where the tragedy had happened to see about the rumors that the student body and all but disappeared. While they were on that school’s property his dad’s cell phone rang and it was the grief councilor suggesting the father and son meet with him at his office the following day, Sunday, to discuss their unwarranted interest in the other school. This convinces the father that it is too far gone to get help inside the community. They return to their house and pack as for a long weekend camping trip. His father asked if he had friends that might be interested in going. There was his girlfriend and the last of his buddies not already sent away. His buddy had to sneak away from his home as his parents were already snared by the school’s email brainwashing but his girlfriend’s mother had been like his father who had not given the emails much attention. His father had stopped reading them because they were too time consuming, she had stopped because the theme of whittled away freedoms and the justifications for it made her uncomfortable and angry. She asked to come along. So the six of them piled into the fiancé’s van and left town. And that is how the book ended. It may seem I have given away more than is proper for a book review that hopes to entice readers to pick it up for themselves. But this synopsis cannot take the place of the experience of reading the story and being immersed into a certain milieu, familiar to anyone who ever attended high-school in America, and then experience that milieu being deformed out of all recognition in such slow increments that most were like frogs put into cold water that is slowly brought to a boil--they never bestirred themselves, having no sense of danger. Someone should make a movie of this story. It is a parable of what is happening with America since 9/11.
Philadelphia Inquirer 12/11/2004 Scissors get girl in legal trouble: "The 10-year-old was handcuffed and taken to a police station after scissors were found in her book bag."
This is not OK. Not even a little bit OK. This is what a police state looks like. It is imposed by incremental steps like this. You are brought to believe that certain things must be done to ensure our safety or our children's safety and so rules or laws are put in place and the discretion of the individuals on the scene to react to the unique situation and the unique individual is removed in the name of 'fairness' or 'procedure' and you end up with small children, handcuffed in the back seat of police cars for the 'crime' of having implements for school projects in their possession.
This reminds me of an article I encountered several months ago, which I cannot relocate, the story of a woman treated in just this manner at an airport when a bookmark--a short leather strap with lead weights on its ends--was found in her purse. You can imagine how I indentified with that woman! I may never fly again. And not because I am afraid of terrorists but because I am afraid of being arrested for possesion of something I could have no prior knowledge of it's 'illicit' nature. I would also fear being forced to disgard such items or forfeit my ticket. I tend to be attatched to the items in my purse. Or they wouldn't be there in the first place.
My point is that if these kinds of scenarios do not boil your blood, then America could already be lost. Because that must mean this is already the new normal in America. And that is not just sad. It is terrifying. And no amount of military superiority, no amount of megatonnage of bombs, no amount of 'free' elections imposed at gunpoint on the other side of the globe, is going to alleviate that terror for me.
Monday, December 13, 2004
My Bloody To-Do List
I feel a kinship with the heart of this young adult fiction author and Assistant Professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State U., Lisa Rowe Fraustino, as she finds her attention to her work in fiction and to the mundane task of daily living is compromised by her obsession with the Iraq war--needing to hunt for the truth that mainstream media denies us, needing to find a way to do "something to stop senseless wars", feeling like personal needs on her 'to-do list' like calling a dentist are meaningless in light of the enormity of Iraqi kids dying and suffering by the hundreds in a meaningless war.
Would taking pages from the Radical Right's playbook give Progressives a winning game plan? Ruth Conniff of The Progressive contemplates how that might work and shows how some have started running with the idea already.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Guarantee the Right to Vote:
John Nichols encourages all who care about the right to vote to get behind the list of suggested reforms to our voting system presented by the group Progressive Democrats of America:
'--A Constitutional amendment confirming the right to vote.
---A required paper record for all electronic and electronically tabulated voting systems.
---Same-day registration for all Americans.
---The creation of unified federal standards for national elections.
---Meaningful equal protection of voting rights by such means as equal voting systems, equal numbers of machines, and equal time to vote.
---An end to partisan oversight of the electoral process.
---Extended voting periods to allow all voters a meaningful opportunity to vote.
---Instant Run-off Voting and Proportional Representation.
---Publicly financed elections for federal offices.'
This should be a bi-partisan activist agenda. It can only be to the benefit of all
concerned that the process be accountable and guaranteed to be fair and just. The article also presents the proposed amendment to the constitution proposed by US Rep Jesse Jackson Jr. D-Illinois which is worth a serious look.
This is all especially important in light of the allegations of fraud in the last two presidential elections. See Professor Theodore D. Graves explanation of the evidence.
What does it say about the wealthiest nation on earth that
So far in 2004, 35 percent of Americans have had to choose between food and rent, while 28 percent had to choose between medical care and food. Others, forced to stretch their budgets ever further, are buying less expensive but often less nutritious food.?
What does it say about the values of a people willing to spend $150 billion dollars on a war of choice while
...an estimated 13 million children are living in households that are forced to skip meals or eat less due to economic constraints.?
What does it say about an economic system when the laborers whose job it is to put cheap produce on the tables of others, go to bed hungry and cold in substandard housing often within sight and smell of the bounty in the fields they labor in?
Saturday, December 11, 2004
Playing Politics With Intelligence Reform
If you don’t get the chills the first time you read this article by Senator Robert C. Byrd, read it again. And again. Until you understand all the implications. Like the fact that the bills our Congress vote on are not written by them but rather lawyers lobbying for corporate interests. That the bills they vote for and pass are then taken into closed door sessions and re-written by a partisan committee and then presented for vote with a pressing deadline that cannot accommodate the reading, review and debate of a several hundred page document. Did you know that your representatives regularly vote for bills they have not even read? If that doesn’t give you chills you must be comatose.
The US Administration and The ICC
Congressman Dennis J. Kucinich advocates for suport of the ICC as the best hope for addressing global terrorism:
"In times when principles of international unity are under attack, it is urgent
for all those of us who appreciate the endless ways in which the people of
the world are interrelated and interconnected to stand up, to assert and to
enact principles which respect, assert and codify the imperative of human
unity. Each of us has the responsibility and the gift to work within our sphere
to construct a world where all may survive and thrive in peace and justice"
Friday, December 10, 2004
The Smoketown Six: Anti-Bush Protesters Plan Lawsuit Over Arrests Watch our civil liberties going up in smoke.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
US Media Still Hiding Bad News From Americans Re the media coverage of the war and the controversy over whether there is enough coverage of good news. The take on most journalists who are on the ground in Iraq is that there is precious little good news to report. Meanwhile reporters are being trashed and sidelined and their reports belittled for telling the truth as they are witnessing it.
The Limits of "Man Bites Dog" Stories Media critic Norman Solomon advocates more ‘dog bites man’ stories, saying:
"The dogs of top-down class war keep biting men -- as well as women and children. Those humans shouldn't need to bite back before such daily realities are newsworthy.
And, as a practical matter, journalists are part of the story. Their reporting decisions can shift the public view, if only momentarily. They shouldn't wait for some flashy or unusual event before proclaiming a Really Big Story. The momentous news about the typical is right in front of us, every day, hidden in plain sight. "
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
'The Power of Nightmares': Hyping Terror For Fun, Profit - And PowerAbout Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz perpetrating a similar WMD scare on America during Ford’s administration which led to increased defense spending with money going to defense contractors who later gave jobs to the government employees who directed the money their way. deja vu anyone?
Monday, December 06, 2004
Announcing the re-birth of my fraternal twins, Joywrite, which features my stories, essays, poems and occassional musings about the art and the heart of writing to live and living to write; and Joyread, which features bookreviews and occasional musings on the work and the wonder of encountering the world in story and the story of the world via a multitude of voices across millenia. Enjoy.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Is Scalia senile? That seems to be the most generous interpretation of this. Else I would have to believe he is a completely Machiavellian manipulator. I hope his audience knew their history--there own story--better than he pretends to. Surely, even in America, an Orthodox Jewish Synagogue audience would not be taken in by this scabrous gloss on history less than a century behind us, history Scalia himself lived through in his own youth. Surely memory is not so fragile as that in an information-rich, high-tech civilization?
But as long as some remember, or at least trouble to inform themselves, there is hope. At least as long as we are allowed to tell the story and as long as enough of the primary sources exist and continue to remain accessible. When the primary sources are lost (including eyewitnesses lost to time’s inevitable creep) or locked away, the memory hole is deep and the dark ages long.