Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

Eleanor’s Daisies

In Decisive, Experimental, Goat, Marsh, Vehement on March 31, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Farm Debt Adjustment Committee meeting with farmer who has appealed for assistance. He has been threatened with foreclosure and loss of farm. Ozark Mountain town of Harrison, Arkansas

“Farm Debt Adjustment Committee meeting with farmer who has appealed for assistance.  He has been threatened with foreclosure and loss of farm. Ozark Mountain town of Harrison, Arkansas.  June, 1939”

For how many decades have politicians been declaring, “the future is now”?   So in order to “win the future,” we must return to “when the future” was now:  “now” tying historical nows to today’s nows in a contiguous tapestry where history palpitates and breathes in the deceased as simultaneously as in our longings today.

Though there are numerous well-publicized patches and evasions to the New York Times pay-wall, the fast-dwindling numbers of commenters and recommenders suggests few are willing to use the patches, or to pay.  With the losses of Herbert and Rich, and, my mythical favorite, the possibility of thousands of unemployed people logging in at their local libraries, bringing their voices to the same platform as the self-absorbed privileged and avid astro-turfers, the Times is feeling like the dispersed embers of a campfire that had only a few hours earlier emblazoned its crackling glory….

The populist roar and glow was feeling at times almost too good to be true: an earnestness too out-of-step with the party-line divisions and cynicism on which our system depends,  a system that by default encourages a status quo where the likes of Newt (salamanders scuttling under rocks) Gingrich makes a thirty-year career out of threatening to run for president, rather than doing so, because that is the most lucrative option (which forever trumps any public option).  The inter-changeable Palin Parades of Candidates are the constrained options of a deliberately cynical system that intentionally tries to weed out authenticity, and attempts to banish real choice from synthetic displays of elaborate ruses….

Were the reader comments too subversive a  reversal of such calculated cynicism that lines many a private pocket off of public welfare, by evincing a  shared, perceived, and nurtured, “common good”?  Never mind that such a rare pocket of genuineness was a unique “product,” seemingly exclusive to the deeply moderated comments:  the Times has seen fit to cut it off and impose the same austerity measures that everyone, equally, these days encounters, turning the “land of the free” into the “land of the pay-per-view.”   Not even taking a tiny glimpse at the mood of a fellow citizen is permitted any longer without paying first…all roads shall be toll-roads, whether on our interstates, subways, or in cyberspace, and Whitman’s “Song of the Open Road,” won’t waft to any idle wanderer’s ears anymore.  You could try it on the sidewalk, but in a nation where few walk anymore, those few seem deaf at best, and unreachable at worst.

What scandal!  To have beggars and thieves, prostitutes and politicians, rich men and middle-class women, all wandering on the same road, each carrying labels in their heads for their fellow citizens that do not match the labels given to them by their fellow travelers!  It had to be stopped, and the Times is just doing its level best to help ensure the “unwashed masses” aren’t heard from.  I am sympathetic to the plight of their loans, but  they are balancing their books on the backs of their readership, and not passing the hat among obscenely paid execs at the Times offices, and amongst their realtors, advertisers and creditors…if they could extract justice from those rocks, there would be actual hope on so many other fronts, like for the millions drowning in home, school, and health debt.

Given that Gingrich formed a group named “American Solutions for Winning the Future” in 2007, then awarded President Obama an awkwardly long-winded “prize” in 2010, which in turn generated $10 million in revenue for the group, the Obama administration was merely proving political deftness by further capitalizing on what had just been proven a lucrative phrase by rolling out their own “Win the Future” strategy.  Both sides capitalize on using the same nebulous phrases and are happy if Republicans and Democrats are able to create the illusion of  distinct agendas in their minds–politicians profit every bit as much from love mail as hate mail, so they try to generate both, excessively, always counting on few to notice that they are helping few at the expense of many.

A pity that President Obama uses his precious leisure reading time to mire with Reagan and Lincoln, when Eleanor Roosevelt could imbue him with the spine that she was also credited with demanding of FDR.  (See this website for extensive online archives: http://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/documents/)

I also recommend the PBS Home Video of Eleanor Roosevelt, which may be obtained from your public library.

From, “If I Were a Republican Today,” 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt writes,

“In this country we believe in a two party system, but in the past few years it has [… been] difficult to form a clear-cut idea of what the two political parties actually represent. I believe it is important to always have a strong opposition party no matter which party is in power and that is why the issues should be clear.

Senator Wiley of Wisconsin, a short time ago on my television program, read me the new Republican Party platform, and I could not help thinking that it had some curiously reminiscent planks that might almost have made their first appearance in the New Deal.  The Republicans say they are for a reduction in taxes but they are not for a reduction in any of the services rendered the people!  The services are all to be met by more economical administration of government.

That, of course, is always the slogan of the party out of power because it is not in the position of administering these agencies of government and when you are not actually doing the job, it is always easier to say it could be done more economically, but the history of the Republican Party is not the history of retrenchment in government personnel or expenditure.”

(However, today, perhaps  with the Republicans slashing services and firing people, they may at last be maintaining their word, with only the minor casualty of immense poverty, suffering, debt and suicide in its wake.   Next comes my favorite–apparently the phrase “socialized medicine” can be traced at least as far back as the 1920s, if not earlier.)

“If I were a Republican today I think I would ask my Party to take a clear-cut stand. At present it is not clear cut. They say, for instance, they are against the Administration’s health bill because it is “socialized medicine,” but they acknowledge that we need more medical care throughout the country, and so they are vaguely for better medical care without specifying exactly how it is to be accomplished. They are for freedom as against Socialism, but no one in the Democratic Administration is a Socialist.”

1950-2011.  The exact same debate in the exact same terms.  When was the future, again?

“It used to be said of the two political parties that the Republican Party believed in looking after the interests of the people at the top. If they prospered, the prosperity would carry on down to all the people. On the other hand, that the Democratic Party believed that they had to look after the well-being of the people at the bottom and that if they prospered and had a satisfactory life, the people at the top would also prosper.”

Next, from, “How to Take Criticism,” November, 1944,  perhaps too many people have this dubious “enviable” stance:

“Many people feel there is an advantage to doing nothing. It is rather comfortable, you do not have to exert yourself physically or mentally. You can accept all of the privileges that come to you, and have no responsibilities. You are to be envied if your conscience lets you do it!

No human being enjoys being disliked so it would be normal to try to avoid actions which bring criticism. When it comes to deciding on whether you will be a Dresden china figure, daintily placed on the mantelpiece, and thus avoid any criticism, or lead a strictly personal life when the world is rocking on its foundations, or of facing criticism and at least trying to live as an independent citizen of the United States, considering it your duty to use such opportunities as come your way for service as you see it, then the decision for certain people will be easy. They will do and be damned, but the others who won’t do, what of them? You might expect them to be praised but that is not the way it works. In these situations you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t!

I think it is salutary to read criticisms, even unkind and untrue ones. I do when they happen to come my way in the natural course of events. I do not seek them out, but they certainly tend to keep one from being overconfident or getting what is commonly known as the “swelled head,” but all of us must be wary not to have our confidence in ourselves completely destroyed, or we will be unable to do anything. Some criticisms I read and forget. Some remain with me and have been very valuable because I know they were kindly meant and honest and I admired and believed in the integrity of the people who expressed their convictions which were opposed to mine.

Friendship with oneself is all important because without it, one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.”

And, worth reading in its entirety, in “Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education,” April, 1930,  Mrs. Roosevelt shows how our “current” education debate has been traveling the same path for generations…but she flips the blame right back to how teachers can and must inspire:

“We entrust the building of our children’s characters and the development of their minds to people whom we, as a rule, compensate less liberally than we do the men and women who build our houses and make our day-by-day existence more comfortable and luxurious. These men and women teachers, paid from $1,200 to $5,000, and in extraordinary cases $10,000 a year, mold the future citizens of our country, and we do not treat them with the respect or consideration which their high calling deserves, nor do we reward them with the only reward which spells success according to our present standards.

One of our hard-worked businessmen said to me not long ago, “Why, these teacher fellows have a snap. Look at their long summer holidays, and you can’t tell me it’s as hard to tell a lot of youngsters about logarithms or Scott’s novels as it is to handle my board of directors at one end and my shop committee at the other.” My thought was that if he and his fellow members on the board of directors and the men on the shop committee had had the right kind of teaching his job would be easier because at both ends he would have men better able to understand the whole problem of industry and realize the necessity of cooperation.

Teachers must have leisure to prepare, to study, to journey in new fields, and to open new sources of knowledge and inspiration and experience for themselves. You cannot impart what you have not made your own. You cannot engender enthusiasm if you have lost it. Teaching is dead when the subject does not inspire enthusiasm in the teacher. Then there must be leisure to cultivate your pupils. The best teaching is often done outside of the classroom.”

She opened the essay with this exhortation:

“Theodore Roosevelt was teaching by precept and example that men owed something at all times, whether in peace or in war, for the privilege of citizenship and that the burden rested equally on rich and poor. He was saying that, no matter what conditions existed, the blame lay no more heavily on the politician and his machine controlling city, State, or nation, than on the shoulders of the average citizen who concerned himself so little with his government that he allowed men to stay in power in spite of his dissatisfaction because he was too indifferent to exert himself to get better men in office.”

And Russ Feingold is leading us the way to do just that.  I was happy to donate to his group, but getting rid of Immelt is but a tiny chink.  Each of our tiny hearts have to keep beating in justice, too, to be part of the waves of Democracy in which every molecule of water makes a river or an ocean.

Eleanor would surely want us all to call her by her first name, and she would surely eschew roses for daisies.   So for anyone locked out by the Times pay-wall, I suggest you can stay every bit as current on today’s politics by visiting her writings and those of the Depression era.  The bloom of her daisies remain every bit as fresh so long as we keep watering them with our aspirations.

One generation sings “We Shall Overcome,” and “Kum-ba-ya,” and the next generations bastardize them as more tools for exploitation of individuals.  But the seeds of unity can stay apparently dormant for generations, resting in the hearts of individuals who know that even if it is not we, but our children, or children’s children children, who resurrect  fairness, honesty, unity, and wholesomeness from the ashes of corruption, greed, cynicism and selfishness, the pendulum never stays in one place for very long.

Jack & his Worms

In Firm Without, Frugal, Hollow Within, Lace, Shell-Bearing on March 25, 2011 at 2:18 am

There are places so far away in time and memory, I don’t know how to get you there.   The best way in may be to walk the last mile on foot…let the car drop you off and go on ahead.

Now you can smell the crazy-rich-loamy, wood-clay smells Earth puts out all the time, when she’s not covered in concrete.

Just inhaling them, these wood-spirit smells, starts me to trembling, palms sweating, barely breathing.  I couldn’t understand why this idea never occurred to anyone else…you want to remain with the noisy pack and miss this?

The perfume of oak and fern shrouds my steps that scamper madly on, then halt, to, suddenly, at last, hear pure and total silence.   A silence that will become so loud over the next two weeks that my ears will hurt to return to the city.

An unnamed breeze that comes and goes as it pleases leads to the gurgling ford…could never quite make it to the last stone without my feet getting wet, but my shoes were in hand before the dust had ever settled as the van roared up the road…

This is the formal entrance to the camp, a 2×3 hand-painted sign, over a bleached pine-post fence, no-longer-mended, like everything else let to return to its natural state on the old farm…old pasture returning to meadows of grasses, mullein, lambsfoot, and an Indian paintbrush or two…downed trees devoured by thickets of wineberries, new homes for Spring fawns…old growth forest on mountains on three sides forming  Cooper’s cove, in this little 500-acre parcel that was almost Heaven….

Long days and dreams to spin, but the dinner and friends and banjo, stars,  sleep-outs, stories, spring-fed pond, all-night nocturnal hikes and occasional all-day hike, wove in and around Jack Shaffenaker and his worms.

Jack lived a few hollars from Shaffenaker mountain, on the side of one of the large hills called mountains in West Virginia…he lived in a cinder block contraption that would have had stumped both Laura Ingalls Wilder and the editors of the Foxfire anthologies.  You could almost touch both walls with one arm span, but it was a tunnel with haphazard edges, that held wood-burning stove, coffee-cans-turned-spittle-cans, cardboard houses designed specially for his cats, army cot with sleeping bag, cookpot, guitar, and stacks of newspapers for his worms.

The worms lived in round, metal washtubs out in the yard, like mercury tears shed by an inorganic god on a lush hillside of green.  Plastic trashcan lids held the improbable newspaper in place, but by-gosh, when you lifted a few layers there was nothing but black soil and wriggling brown-pink-white worms.

We had earlier been told by our camp counselor that Jack had been offered the proverbial promise of being a “very rich man” for some invention (a type of shoepolish?) he had designed, but he had long ago refused the idea of patenting because he wanted to stay rooted to his life just as it was.

Jack had real-life large ears, like the kind you see in Depression-era photographs of farmers, miners, and people who live around dust.   They heard and saw things in the mountains that don’t emerge for city-dwellers in a mere two-week vacation.   But those wood-spirits danced in his fingertips when he picked the guitar.   The fire dancing on the wood and the bowls of stars were the extension of what he didn’t need to say:  just like the woods, he told you everything just by being silent.

He was as much a part of the mountain while he was alive as he has most likely returned to by now.  He didn’t have a car…he walked to town or relied on neighbors for rides.  He gave of himself in the humblest, quietest way, picking the guitar, telling us stories around the campfire, in exchange for good company and a frugal meal…because, we, the camp, were his new neighbors, and he was neighborly to the all the scattered few who lived in those parts.

A transistor radio may have been his deepest foray into technology, though I’m not even sure he had that…no t.v., computer, typewriter, phone, let alone iphone, Jack was the living legacy of the oral tradition…a tradition that may be dying unnoticed in our world of omnipresent computer-connectedness.  This was thirty years ago, I was a teen, Jack appeared then to be at least in his 60s or early 70s…

I was too young then to know what questions to ask, but now of course I would ask for days…or just sit, also like in those old photos of  people resting on porches from who knows what trials and toil….

But keeping his wants simple, he gave himself and those around him the opportunity to even partially see how primordial, at essence, everything is.  He looked so salty, he literally looked dusty, he looked like you might scrape his skin off right while he was alive, and it would mold right into a clay ball.  You felt he was more than content alive, and would go on being every equally bit as content to have his body mold right back into the side of the mountain and become food for his next batch of worms.  Joyfully!  I can see his sheepish grin and marbley brown eyes twinkling in the soil I dig in right outside my door…


In Hope, Small Planet, Swiftly Tilting Planet, Uncategorized, Worry on March 16, 2011 at 3:52 pm

11 months after the fateful rig explosion of April 20, 2010, the planet, once again, feels suffocatingly small and fragile.  Yet again, news seems limited, untrustworthy, as we let slip to the periphery of fear what no headline is saying.  The biggest lesson learned from the BP oil disaster, if we didn’t know it already, is that the scope of the disaster will leak out in inverse proportion to the magnitude of the problem, after the fact (as do wars, financial crises, covered up abuses of the church, ad nauseum).  The ones on the ground don’t need to be told, and those of us far away intuit horrors that puny words can’t mitigate.

As ever, much is encompassed in a sigh. Worry, thought and prayer radiate invisibly, much like radiation itself. Thich Nhat Hanh’s “Message to my friends in Japan” may be of comfort…

But, anything from compassion to biting sarcasm to resignation to perseverance seems to miss the mark. There is something so extremely intrinsic about existence that just can’t be captured by identity, politics, religion, language. It is this angst against which I ever railed, having to complete writing assignments for school. And still against such “freedom” that I now struggle to summon the appropriate response to events that stupefy, but affect every molecule on the planet, living or dead, inert or energized.

Some cherry blossoms and crocuses have made their first appearance on blocks here. Life very much goes on in our particular crevices of the world, and maybe the power of computers is misguided to magnify problems far beyond our control, but which certainly add to our worry.

Though I especially appreciate the new media like Twitter, which explode mythologies of Murdoch newscorp and other monopolies–if you only believed Murdoch’s empires, and had no other source, you’d never know that Yoko Ono has three times more followers than Glen Beck on Twitter. And, she reciprocates to virtually all of her followers, unlike so many seemingly egotistical “stars.” So many confirmations that hope and reciprocation trump blind egotism and bigotry can be made by asking your own questions and reading the tea leaves of new media….

… and is why I cherish my favorite bloggers, who manage to grasp a sphere of concern of appropriate proportion and treat it judiciously with probing examination, illuminating the way for us grateful ones…usually far more formidably than even the dear paid writers of “dinosaur” media I have long enjoyed…

Ending with an excerpt of Pete Seeger’s ever-timely song, “Talking Atom,” which is also worth listening to in full on YouTube…

You know life used to be such a simple joy
The cyclotron was a super toy
Folks got born, they’d work and marry
And atom was a word in the dictionary
Then it happened
These science guys from every clime
They all pitched in with overtime
Before you knew it
The job was done
They’d hitched up the power of the doggone sun
Put a harness on old Sol
Splitting atoms right and left
While the diplomats were splitting hairs
‘Course the cartel crowd up and put on a show
They’re gonna turn back the clock on the UNO
Grab a corner on atoms
And maybe extinguish
Every damn atom that can’t speak English
“Down with foreign-born atoms,
America for American atoms”
Step right up folks, let’s atomize world peace

Ahh, but the atom’s international,
In spite of hysteria,
Florida and Utah, also Siberia
The atom don’t care about politics
Or who got what into whichever fix
All he wants to do is sit around
and have his nucleus bombarded by neutrons

Yes it’s up to the people
‘Cuz the atom don’t care
You can’t fence him in,
He’s just like air
And whether you’re white, black, red or brown
The question is this, when you boil it down:
“To be or not to be,”
That IS the question

Yes, and the answer to it all
ain’t military datum
Like who gets their firstest for the mostest atoms
But the people of the world must decide their fate
We gotta stick together or disintegrate…
We hold these truths to be self-evident:
All men could be cremated equal.

Freedom of Sting

In Freedom!, Uncategorized on March 9, 2011 at 6:55 pm

After Shirley Sherrod and ACORN, yes, we can definitively answer, we (and especially The New York Times) have learned nothing.

Ummmm….update…not looking like the apologies for the apologies are coming anytime soon.  Looks like The Times has not looked at how extremely this tape was edited, nor have many readers.  Some readers brought up the excellent point that  Mr. Schiller’s opinions had nothing to do with NPR policy, and  Mr. Schiller even qualified all his remarks as being “without my NPR hat on”–ALL OF THEM.

James O’Keefe deserves some “muck-raking” (as his website claims to be) journalism turned on him.  Isn’t mis-representing who you are to an organization against some kind of law?  And stinging someone while lying about yourself…this is what we are teaching our kids to grow up to be?  Interesting that Mr. O’Keefe has once been arrested on felony charges for attempting to change the phone system in Sen Landrieu’s office…http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_O%27Keefe

But distressing that the New York Times is apparently not vetting its sources, and relies on right-wing sources they hyperlink to, like blog “The Daily Caller,” and The Washington Examiner, both obviously highly tilted rightward, as the “primary” sources for the initial story.


Reader of  NYTimes Jonathan Cohen says it best:

Scarsdale, New York  March 8th, 2011   1:50 pm

A few questions:

Why is anything James O’Keefe made into a news story?

How come anything James O’Keefe releases is not held-up until full story and video’s come out?

How come James O’Keefe is not in jail or at the very least under investigation(s)?
And: How many other people, public and private, have said the very same thing about Tea Party? Why is it news?
Recommended by 169 Readers
If you watch the full 2-hour video (http://www.theprojectveritas.com/nprjudge), you see, once again, heavy and judicious (vicious) editing at work to make a man, Ronald Schiller, who, while busy lamenting the loss of the differentiation between fact and opinion in our society, is led into a trap of opinion and spin, which he tries to politely dodge, but inevitably gets pulled into.
The edited version makes implications that were not there–Mr. Schiller’s laughter did not indicate he had any clue that his interviewers’ website promoted a “return to Sharia law,”– among many.  It leaves out Mr. Schiller’s lengthy discourse on how he himself has been a lifelong, “proud” Republican, and how not just he, but other lifelong Republicans have ended up voting Democratic recently because the current Republican party is not the one he grew up with and recognizes–one that is for fiscal responsibility, and government staying out of people’s personal lives. (And indeed, just like with Clinton, in President Obama they have ended up with a a Republican president exceeding their wildest dreams).
The fake U.S. head of the Muslim Brotherhood then says on tape to Mr. Schiller, “See, as a black Muslim, I am truly and highly offended by the racism and the bigotry and the Islamaphobia that is coming out of the tea party, the teabaggers, whatever you call them. What is NPR doing, and what can we do to help to make sure this kind of situation can be curtailed and stopped?” Mr. Schiller had made NO remarks up until  that point about racism or the tea party.
Mr. Schiller immediately replies, “Well, I think NPR’s point of view, always, is to be an independent voice of reason and to report news, fairly, and so on..[then starts mentioning the Juan Williams scandal]…Our feeling is, that if a person expresses his or her opinion, which anyone is entitled to do in a free society, they are compromised as a journalist.  They can no longer fairly report.  And the question that we asked internally was, can Juan Williams, when he makes a statement like he made, can her report to the Muslim population, for example, and be believed? And the answer is, no, he lost all credibility, and that breaks your basic ethics as a journalist.  And, NPR is one of the few news organizations left that stands by that kind of code of ethics. And so much news…I sort of bristle at the idea that these other organizations call themselves news, because they really are opinion, and they don’t pretend to be other than that, except they call themselves news…NPR tries to avoid that at all costs…”
Indeed, they do.  But apparently it is simply not reasonable to have a society with even a tiny closet of reason, when we are only supposed to have 2 walk-in closets of “left” and “right”….we have to be sure to eliminate middle ground like public t.v.  and radio, under the guise of not supporting “leftist propaganda.”
Griot Walter Rhett helps transform the wound of daily politics with parables that transcend time and mortal flesh:
Just think, the man was cured and Jesus got into trouble for helping him out! What a God! People were mad at him for working a miracle, for using his supernatural skills. In restoring the man’s health with only a spoken word, he broke all kinds of religious laws and rites because his saving grace didn’t rest on the day proclaimed by religious authorities.

Such misguided condemnation by a mob towards Jesus’ healing is  what this feels like…Mr. Schiller was defending his commitment to truth and ethics, which ultimately lead to healing of broken spirits in our society, and his words were twisted out of his mouth to suppose he was spewing bigotry, racism, and disdain for “non-intellectuals.” A liberal arts college/education is not to be confused with being politically liberal, as some of the Republicans like to blur and intentionally confuse, was one of the points Mr. Schiller also implied.   He was wincing at the statements about Jewish people at the end, but he kept emphasizing NPR doesn’t take sides or express opinions.
Republicans are all around me, and many are my best friends, (especially because they don’t pontificate like Mr. Brooks!)….but, guess what?  They want clean air, clean water and hate traffic and wish there was an alternative. They are upset by the BP oil spill and sad dolphins are dying and are uncertain whether or not it is really safe to eat fish anymore, still…upset they might inadvertently start treating (or causing)  their cancer by drinking radioactive runoff water from hydro-fracking in the Pittsburgh, PA municipal water supply, while hoping it will be the right type of radiation for the chemoradiation they can’t afford…They are members of the National Guard and are the most warm-hearted, giving, chatty, friendly neighbors in the world.  They are heavily involved in animal rescue work, etc…. As Brook loves to say, not in so many words, people are complicated! (And, no matter how you vote, the corporations stay in power and get their way with us, and the environment).
But agendas are simple.  And to see one public institution after the next punched in the face, and, rather than fighting back, just giving up?  Really? Apologizing? Really?  Calling Social Security an entitlement? Damn right! IT’S OURS!  We paid for it! Don’t steal it from us!
The only spine in evidence in the U.S. is in Wisconsin…as the horrifically undemocratic warfare of the Republicans continues…will this stripping of public unions by last night’s illegal vote stand?  Or will a combination of legal appeals and massive protest restore their rights….will recalls be successful?  Or will the next election cycle somehow magically reverse the corporate will that was manifested in the 2010 elections, despite no obvious check to the unlimited flow of billions of anonymous campaign cash?
The best punctuation to this post is to go watch jasiri x’s “What if the Tea Party Were Black? ” on YouTube.    He takes every single tactic that has already been done by the Tea Party, he shows the Facebook page, the Fox clips, and asks, what if black people had done the same thing?  How long did the Black Panthers last in America, versus the Tea Party today?    What is freedom of speech…is it freedom of sting? Freedom of spin?   Will people give up talking because everything is twisted to accuse everyone of mean-spirited hypocrisy, of non-cooperation with the authorities?   Can anyone speak without looking like a hypocrite?   I would love to hear a conversation between Martin Luther King, Jr, and Congressman Peter King.   What if the Tea Party was black?  Would all of this look different?

Good Will’s Miss Deborah

In Freedom!, Random Life on March 6, 2011 at 11:30 am

Whenever I do believe I might go crazy, falling right into the crazy-making trap our politicians love to stir up, I go to our Good Will store just up the road.

Chances are, Miss Deborah is going to be there, greeting you with a smile full of teeth that dazzle away the most toothless leaders of our world, and a voice that sails across the room as if it was meant for your ears only, exactly as some of us felt sitting in the third row in first grade, hanging onto every word of our teacher.

Her voice is crisp and gravelly all at once, and to watch her in action for just a few minutes, you would come to believe she wasn’t at work in what is supposed to be one of the world’s drabbest places, but at a family reunion, where every fresh entrant through the door is bringing platefuls of homemade deviled eggs, and other goodies.

She remembers everyone.  So if she’s seen you once, the next time you walk through the door, she’ll  say,  “Oh, hello!  It’s so good to see you again….how can I help you today….”

People above age 70 reading this post might be looking at me like an alien from another planet.  Yes, this is how the world used to be quite a bit more, in the “old days.”

In the old days, there was no such thing as “customer service.”  There were no canned scrips that the managers were monitoring their employees for repeating…As soon as that happened, customer service died, because people rightfully balk at being controlled.  So the employees have a dual fight in themselves to see how much they can get away with rebelling at the boss, while also genuinely wanting to serve people, but, according to their own way, not the script.

But Miss Deborah brings it all home.  Not just me, but many of her customers marvel at her spirit.  “Where do you get your good attitude?” they ask.   “It is just God shining His light,” she simply answers.   If anyone has had trouble with faith, be it God, Allah, Buddha, or Mother Earth, Miss Deborah smooths the troubled waters.

My daughter sometimes marvels at things I do, and says to me,  “Mom, they should put you on the news! ” …how little does she know, the people who least represent the best of our spirit and the best of our possibilities make it to the news.

So in homage to her, I am putting Miss Deborah in the news today, right here in this blog post.   This is the citizen’s news, and Miss Deborah deserves the top center blazing headline.   We should stop paying attention to so many kooks, and start noticing the Miss Deborahs of the world, who give out so much love to all of us, unnoticed.

Individually Rapped

In Freedom!, Random Life on March 4, 2011 at 1:42 am

“This revolution has transformed Libyans, has made us feel that there is a thing called freedom that must be won, and that one should not enjoy it alone, at the expense of others’ happiness, toil or lives…

…Our revolution is a revolution of the people, people who can no longer stand the stench of tyranny, who cannot be healed by handouts.” — Mohammad al-Asfar, “Libya’s Patient Revolutionaries,” NYTimes

“real gangstas make billions making slaves of civilians
making slaves of ya children making slaves do the killin
really the game’s brilliant create the pain and the illness
then sell you the medicine that they claim will heal it
Real Gangstas don’t need guns to leave ya brains on the ceiling
they teach ya self hatred and leave ya chained by ya feelings”

~ jasiri x, “Real Gangstas”

Are we individually wrapped in our feelings like a plastic spoon? Or can individually rapped dreams soar into a collective swoon?

“The hollow cry of broke” is at least half true, not because we lack money, but because our society is broke when it divides me and you.

Tomorrow (March 4, 2011),  the nurses of Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C. are holding a one-day strike for better staffing ratios, and to attempt to resolve a now year-long dispute over shift differentials and firings of senior nurses during the “snowmaggedon” storm last year .


“Executives at the hospital have said that they are under enormous pressure to trim costs. Admissions at the hospital are down, as they are elsewhere.”

Maybe people are too scared to go to the doctor for illness…they realize it is a gamble on either their home or their health if they don’t have insurance…even with insurance, the cost of premiums and high deductibles is an effective tax…countries with universal health care only appear to pay  higher tax rates than we do because we accept healthcare as a cost of living.

Sometimes we pay the health insurance executives twice, as in the case of another 8% rise in our condo fees after a 10% rise last year…due to a staggering projected increase in the cost of our condo maintenance workers’ health insurance over the next 2 years, to  7/10 as much as payroll itself.  Wow–the cost of health insurance for the workers almost equals the cost of water for the entire condominium community.  We pay fully for their insurance, as well as our own private health plans, if we have them.

Not just our community, but condo associations and towns all across the U.S., would be relieved of an immense burden if we had a medicare for all type system funded by our taxes.

So, _The Washington Post_  article cited above also undermines the nurses with a strategy similar to the events in Wisconsin and Ohio…they are well paid, what are they complaining about?  The problem is, the median income for this area, which Fairfax County, VA, is a big part of, is $150,000…which has pushed home prices to such astronomical levels that a majority of people are paying upwards of 60% of their incomes to their homes….and is why nurses are driving in from 2 hours away, as noted in the article.

I cannot find the article I read from 2010, but this one from 2007 states a problem that continues:

“For example, a medical services manager who earned $87,300 a year could afford only 14 percent of the homes in the Washington area last year, compared with 49 percent four years earlier, the study said.”


But the issue is as much about unity, dignity, and the power to control their work environment–the hospital– as about specific wages…it is heartening to see that the pastor of the church recognized that his congregants had been served by these nurses…and as a community member, I plan to join their picket line too…I could only be there in spirit in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, and Wisconsin…but tomorrow is the day to lend my voice in the flesh to unity, in defiance of the dominant narrative of division that plays throughout our media, that may as well be “state-run,” since it is wholly “corporate-run.”

And if we were really successful tomorrow,  it would dovetail into a much larger community movement for a more affordable health care system paid through our taxes…not only eliminating health insurance companies, but also restructuring the non-profit/for-profit hospital system, creating more community hospitals, and also focusing more on people, with high-nurture, low-tech delivery of care.  Ah, to return to the days when nurses really did give you a warm bath, a soothing back rub, fresh, sweet-smelling sheets, and held your hand…couldn’t you be cured of almost anything if you had the right nurse doing so? And even if it didn’t cure,  you wouldn’t mind enduring the insult of illness so much?

We were just in the hospital twice in the last 3 months, and this op-ed by Dr. Verghese rang so true, as our nurse, also, had  her back to us while she filled out a computer screen and asked my daughter to rate her pain–not even making eye contact, let alone holding her hand! (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/27/opinion/27verghese.html?scp=1&sq=treat%20the%20patient,%20not%20the%20ct%20scan&st=cse)

As Mr. al-Asfar sang above, this thing called freedom not only should not, but cannot, be enjoyed alone…it shrivels if we have all the freedom in the world to raise our voices, to collect in the streets and at the doors of employers, but rather than uniting and exercising that freedom, we remain dispersed…and, worse, divide ourselves in a petty blaming that keeps our wrath from the rightful targets.

Tomorrow is a day to bring all the high-spirited idealism nourished by the revolutions of the last weeks to our own streets.   If they can overcome all fears and obstacles, so can we. We will one day rejoice in proportion to our efforts.  Now is the time for those efforts!


re: Friedman, “This is Just the Start”

In We are a foreclosure away from revolution on March 2, 2011 at 4:31 am

“Americans have never fully appreciated what a radical thing we did — in the eyes of the rest of the world — in electing an African-American with the middle name Hussein as president.”

That is because we were equally blind as to how the canker-sore of racism at home would rear. The newly-radicalized conservatives, who used the name “Hussein” as their coded rallying cry, warred against the 60s-radicals-of-yore, who saw in candidate Obama the chance to at last perfect unfulfilled dreams of true equality, in bouquets that would scent the streets as completely as boardrooms, across America.

We were too busy in-fighting to notice spiritual forces larger than us taking flight, and now soaring in a beauty that leaves us looking up enviously from the ground.

“Chinese had to give up freedom but got economic growth and decent government in return. Arabs had to give up freedom and got the Arab-Israeli conflict and unemployment in return.”

And Americans are free to complain as loudly, and as often, as they want: on street corners, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and these beloved pages of Reader Comments on the New York Times…but the one thing we are absolutely NOT free to do is to define the looting of millions of taxpayer dollars as crimes in a court of law with prosecutory authority.  We shall neither investigate, nor define as criminal, the transactions that daily ransack each and every one of us in our mortgages and pensions.

But our thirst for justice in such quest is by no means simply about money.  It is about fairness that leads to a freedom that begets more freedom, more fairness, more creativity…and whose spiritual dimensions would be so profound as to release us from the consumerism that is as destructive to the environment as to our souls.  An energy solution that Mr. Friedman so craves would emerge in such a world.