Tuesday, August 18, 2009

the last stand of american racism

I watched the news reports and my jaw literally dropped. This was more than a wacko with a leg holster and one handgun; this was a crowd of people, and some were carrying semi-automatic rifles. The kind that should be illegal if you don't happen to be in Afghanistan or Iraq. And they were conspicuously protesting outside of a building in which the President of the United States was appearing.

This is what we have come to? This is our new political discourse? This is the way we protest now when we disagree, by bringing weapons within firing range of the President? And what happens when one man becomes twelve becomes fifty becomes five hundred? Are we really supposed to wait and, in the name of the Second Amendment and the fear of the NRA, allow this lunacy to build until, with all of the intensity and hatred and frenzy in the air that has been whipped up by the hatemongers on the right, one of these gun-toting loons does something irreversible?

Is this who we have become?

I do not think that it was all that long ago when it would have been unthinkable to anyone that an American would bring a weapon to a Presidential appearance. I'd say you'd have to go back...maybe nine months. Truly: would anyone on the left have even considered showing up at a Bush rally with a gun? And would anyone on the right have tolerated it if someone had? The Bushies didn't allow you to get anywhere near them if you disagreed with them, shunting you off into "free speech zones" and forcibly removing you from town halls. (Yes, back then, if you protested loudly at Bush town halls, you might find yourself under arrest.) Bring a loaded gun? I don't think so!

The man who began this gun nut protest was a New Hampshireman who, disgracing the state of my origin and simultaneously showing its independent and creative spirit (I'll give him that, anyway--once is creative), strapped that weapon to his leg and walked down the street in plain view of everyone with a t-shirt on which he referenced the Thomas Jefferson quote, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants." the same quote that Timothy McVeigh wore on his shirt when they captured him after the Oklahoma City bombing. McVeigh's shirt also said "Sic Semper Tyrannis," a reference to the statement that John Wilkes Booth shouted as he fled from the scene after killing Abraham Lincoln.

What are we supposed to take from this? With the hate speech ratcheted up to unprecedented levels and protesters showing up at town halls carrying signs bluntly equating President Obama to Hitler (something that only months ago would have been seen as so over the top as to be almost unimaginable), and with dozens and dozens of hate sites springing up all over the web to allow people to vent the venom that right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are fomenting in them, who exactly are we to assume the "tyrant" in the Jefferson allusion is?

The online hate groups spew their bile and swell in size. Earl Ofari Hutchinson, in a diary on Huffington Post, says that most are just delusional loonies. But there are indeed, he says, others.
The majority of the hate groups and the conspiracy spinning anti-Obama websites, however, spout hot air talk and are filled with the stock delusional conspiracy stuff about sinister forces taking over the government. Most vehemently deny that they advocate violence, but not all. Some openly scream about taking back the country and arming for an Armageddon type showdown with the government.

And the fact is that, as Hutchinson point out, old fashioned hate groups such as the KKK and the Aryan Nation are also in resurgence. Far from being a post-racial era, the start of the Obama Administration is becoming the Last Stand of American Racism.

The only questions remaining to be resolved involve how this is all going to play out. It is abundantly clear that a great deal of the unrest right now is the result of the racism remaining in much of America. It may be buried under code words like "socialism," but it is racism pure and simple. (When protesters claim that Obama is both a socialist and a fascist, you can't really accept that they are all that well schooled on political theory.) So there is a potentially benign way this could play out: like those who initially claimed that gay marriage would cause the sky to open and fire to rain down and swallow us all and chickens to lay poisonous eggs and disco to rise from its mirror-balled grave--I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like that--they could slowly but surely begin to realize that none of that bad stuff actually happened and just begin to fade away. We haven't won the war about gay marriage yet, but we're starting to pull ahead, and the other side is fading. This too may fade.


If the embers are not allowed to burn out gently, as they naturally do in all fires, but are instead artificially stoked by the continued lies of the right, fanning the flames, something might burn out of control. That too is the nature of fire. You can use it for heat or for cooking or just to look pretty, but it has a mind of its own. It will do as it will do. And if someone in one of those armed crowds gets it into his crazed head that there is a reason to pull a trigger, all hell will break loose, whether or not the President is involved. And if the demonizers on the right continue to pour gasoline on the fire, the chance that some crazed and demoralized loser will do something historically outrageous increases every day.

A year ago, it happened in a Unitarian church in Tennessee, as a man filled with righteous anger by the likes of Rush and Bill O'Reilly finally snapped and took two innocent lives. It happened in Pittsburgh, where a gunman (with many other issues, to be sure) expressed concern about the current administration taking away his guns. (Where did that idea come from?) It happened in Washington at the Holocaust Museum, where an angry 80-year-old, fueled by hatred and racism, killed a security guard. Despondent people, desperate people, angry people...people with guns.

And now these people, in numbers, are gathering where our President is speaking. The Last Stand of American Racism is coming. I pray that it does not go down with a bang, but with a whimper.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

the left and the loons: why i am a liberal

Every once in a while it's nice to reflect on why you believe the things you believe and why you feel the way you do about them. Some of us are unfortunate enough to have personal experiences that directly connect them to left-wing causes. Some do not. But all of us have examined the political dichotomy in this nation and have come down on the Left side of the spectrum.

Why is that?

At the end of a long, thoughtful, interesting discussion about health care on facebook with several of my former students (now all in their thirties), we turned our thoughts inward a bit, and I found myself exploring what happened in my life that led me to feel these things so strongly.

Took me a long time to get to this point. Though I have personal issues (GLBT) that would naturally incline me to lean Left, I spent much of my life trying hard to ride the fence, trying hard to be "independent." In high school--at least before Watergate--I actually leaned right. (Good old NH upbringing.) But every time I did anything as foolish as vote for a Republican, I ended up regretting it big time.

As I watched them systematically refocus America on religious nonsense and economic philosophies that have (in yesterday's news) ended up creating the biggest divide between rich and poor in the history of this nation, and then do everything in their power to thwart a democratically elected President, including hounding him into impeachment, and following that steal the next two elections so that they could finish the task of reframing America into their vision of what it ought to be (a Christian oligarchy) and instead managing to disregard or outright shatter the very Constitution that their Supreme Court appointees claim to hold in such high regard, my disenchantment became disrespect became distaste became disgust.

If the true conservatives still ran the GOP in this country, I'd have no problem. We need two parties for balance, and there are indeed times when conservative ideas need to be heard, and even followed. But they don't. The neocons and the religious right took over in the eighties and nineties, and all that remain today are the wackos. To be fair, there are a few who sincerely try to hold true to the historical tenets of their party. Both Maine senators come to mind, as well as quite a few congressmen I could name. But when there is no room in the GOP for Arlen Spector, well, this is not your father's Republican Party.

In response to something someone posted, I said that we no longer have conservatives in any positions of power in this country; we have the Left and the Loons. I ought to amend that, pithy though it is. We do have conservatives. The thing is: they are now in the DEMOCRATIC party. The GOP had no room for them, so they migrated over to the only party that actually accepts alternative viewpoints. And that, BTW, is why Dems have such a hard time coming to consensus on things. The GOP is lock step because...well, LOOK at them: they could be the IBM folks in that famous "1984" Apple commercial. Better dressed, but still...

The Dems look, sound, and act like America, and it gets pretty sloppy out here sometimes.

Those folks in the town halls are scared, but they are scared because they are being fed lies and distortions by a well-honed lie and distortion machine that has been getting stronger and stronger since Willie Horton proved its effectiveness. It makes the disinformation in the Big Brother commercial look tame. Today it includes FOX NEWS as a media outlet (a channel with the word "news" in its misleading name to confuse people into believing that it is "fair and balanced"), most of the GOP leadership, and such pseudo-celebs as "Joe the Plumber," as well as a mind-bogglingly effective and well-financed behind the scenes group of lobbyists and PACs to do the real dirty work.

Dems don't keep their hands clean. They are not "holier than thou." (The single greatest unfair attack ad of all time is still the "daisy ad," after all.) But these days they look like a church choir next to the garbage that the right pulls on a daily basis. And there is something to be said for motive as well: when the right wing pulls this crap to retain or regain power, its goal is to pad its already plentiful bank accounts (or to wage random unnecessary wars to prove it does not collectively require Cialis). No one claims that left wingers are immune to graft, but I think it is pretty clear that the goals of the Left are far more altruistic.

So, after many, many years of just too much, I learned my lesson from, ironically, FOX NEWS. You can't be "fair and balanced" when one side is clearly wrong. You've just got to say it is wrong and speak up. Anything else is just a lie.

Back when my students were in school, I rarely spoke politics in the classroom, and whenever I did I always felt the need to give time to the other side. There were plenty of students who were unsure what my affiliation was (and I myself would have said "Independent" if asked). During the Bush years, though, that changed. If something is wrong, you can't just look the other way. I acknowledged (always) and respectfully listened to those students in my classes with dissenting opinions--though, as the years wore on, their numbers dwindled to almost zero--but I made no bones about where I stood and why. My bulletin board last fall filled up with Obama For President paraphernalia. I attended the Grant Park celebration. (So did several of my students.) I didn't preach politics in the classroom because that would be wrong--it's not my place or my job--but I didn't back down when the topic came up as I might have in the past. Not this time.

I'm holding this administration to a very high standard. It has already done a good job in some ways and disappointed me in others, but I'm a realist. It's only been six months, and the job is tough. And this is politics: the solutions will neither be pretty nor perfect. But if I look back on this President after his terms (yes, I'm assuming two terms) and fail to see Hope realized, then I will know that the American Experiment is truly waning, and I will begin to consider spending my retirement years in some other place.

Maybe France. That would piss off the neocons.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

my email to senator durbin

"ANOTHER BLOW TO PUBLIC OPTION," the headline on Huffington Post read. "Durbin Open to Dropping It."

I read that and my first thought, which should have been WTF!?, was instead, alas, more along the lines of, {{sigh}}.

"So we'll see how this ends, but I don't want the process to be filibustered to failure, which unfortunately, many senators are trying to do," Durbin added. "I want to make sure that we do something positive for the American people."

And I say again: {{sigh}}.

Why do we always seem to roll over and fall down just when everything seems truly possible?

Then, however, I started getting mad. These are the people we elected to do, among other things, this job--this specific job--passing health care reform, and they are about to let the minority play them yet again?

So, though I actually am not the kind who writes many letters to my congressmen, I could not allow the moment to pass without making some kind of statement. This is what I sent to my senator:

Dear Senator Durbin,

The Huffington Post today has a front page article that states that you are now open to abandoning the public option in favor of co-ops as a measure for "compromise." I sincerely hope that this is not true.

Along with millions of others, I have pushed hard during recent elections to provide for a Democratic majority--and now supermajority--in order to make amends for the disastrous policies that have been visited upon this country by your colleagues across the aisle. Now that Democrats are firmly in place because of a promise--a PROMISE--for "real change," how do you expect to hold onto those voters who put you there if they see that you cannot follow through on that promise?

The GOP, with a weak President, managed to get its bills passed *even when they were in the minority* because they stood their ground. They continue to stand their ground today. They do not believe in compromise. Personally, I feel that it is a worthwhile and positive goal, but that it is not as important as the "real change" that was promised to the American people.

Please, Senator Durbin, do NOT back down from the public option. Encourage the President to take a firm stand demanding that the bill contain such an option, and then rally the Senate--YOUR Senate, regardless of the GOP or the more conservative among the Democrats. If you need to use conciliation, use it. But *don't* let this historic opportunity pass us by with yet another empty promise, yet another failed effort at real change.

I have voted for you every time I have been asked to, Senator, and I have never written to you before. Now, as one of your constituents, I am asking that you remember why you are there and why millions of people replaced the GOP majority with a Democratic one. The ideas of the other side are what my fourteen year old daughter would call "epic failures," but I'm terrified that, if you and your colleagues let us down at this crucial point in time, the result might be a backlash that will end up ultimately restoring them to power.

I am not naive. I know that you are a politician and that politics is, as they say, "the art of the possible." But why, with the GOP reduced to making reprehensible claims about "Obama Death Panels" and other bits of made-up insanity just to get a foothold, is it not, at this moment in history, POSSIBLE to do something truly historic?

I don't know if the message is any good or if it has any hope of doing any good, but I feel better having sent it.


it's your hair that i notice first
streaked with morning
it frames your face
you lying there eyes closed
soft breath not quite there
i follow its path as it bends the sheet
and i can touch you there
touch what i feel is you
in the spark of daylight
you'll rise
pull on the wrinkled shirt from last night
say something you think is beautiful
drink some coffee
from behind my paper
and drive away,
leaving a kiss on my lips
and a hole in my heart
where a fire ought to be

Favorite Films

  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Amelie
  • The Princess Bride
  • Casablanca
  • Annie Hall
  • The Lord of the Rings
  • All That Jazz
  • Citizen Kane
  • Love Actually
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Big Fish
  • When Harry Met Sally
  • Almost Famous
  • Bull Durham
  • Notting Hill
  • Apocalypse Now (Redux)
  • Magnolia

All-Time Favorite TV Shows

  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Gilmore Girls
  • M*A*S*H
  • The West Wing
  • The X-Files
  • The Daily Show
  • Ally McBeal
  • Picket Fences
  • All In The Family
  • Seinfeld
  • The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  • Star Trek
  • Firefly
  • Wonderfalls
  • Northern Exposure
  • Get Smart
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Twin Peaks
  • The Larry Sanders Show
  • Monk
  • Felicity
  • St. Elsewhere

Current TV Shows I Enjoy (in no particular order)

  • Perception
  • Major Crimes
  • American Horror Story
  • Louie
  • Suits
  • The Newsroom
  • Falling Skies
  • Franklin and Bash
  • Veep
  • Scandal
  • Fairly Legal
  • Girls
  • Don't Trust the B---
  • Justified
  • Portlandia
  • Psych
  • The Middle
  • Person of Interest
  • Happy Endings
  • Hart of Dixie
  • Real Time with Bill Maher
  • Nikita
  • Raising Hope
  • Castle
  • Drop Dead Diva
  • Covert Affairs
  • Elementary
  • Rizzoli and Isles
  • Revolution
  • The Last Resort
  • Alphas
  • SNL
  • Revenge
  • Community
  • Suburgatory
  • New Girl
  • Once Upon a Time
  • Grimm
  • Nashville
  • Downton Abbey
  • Smash
  • Homeland
  • Fringe
  • Glee
  • Haven
  • Community
  • Warehouse 13
  • Modern Family
  • Vampire Diaries
  • The Daily Show
  • How I Met Your Mother
  • The Colbert Report
  • Parks and Recreation
  • Leverage
  • Rachel Maddow Show

xkcd - A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and