Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

25 May, 2018

Memorial Day: For all the Fallen Fathers (and Mothers), Real and Imagined

On leave in Florida. 
I am 45 years old and I'm still coming to terms with the impact my father's death had on my life.
Just when I think I've caught all the ripples and echoes created by the absence of gravity Dad instilled in my life, I end up finding just one more thing. One more ripple. One more echo. And it never stops.
The impact of his death on my life when I was 17 has been and is incalculable. It set into motion virtually all the circumstances that my life now is built upon, from my own fatherhood that has long defined the geography of my life to my writing which has long been the compass I've used to make my way through map I draw with every step I take and every line I write, to the deep anger that drove me towards self-destruction,  the weight of guilt and obligation that tore me away from self-destruction, and the imparted wisdom that eventually drew me back to the greatest love I could ever imagine. 
My father was a complicated man, though I don't think he wanted to be one. Then again, it's possible that men placed on pedestals always look complicated. Through the years of learning more about myself, I've been able to humanize him a little more... especially as I am now the age he was when I was small and  I was in and out of the hospital -- the age he was when he became my hero and the archetype by which I still (whether I mean to or not) judge all would-be heroes, real or imagined.
It also happens that my father was a veteran of two wars (Korea and Vietnam)  that America has
consistently overlooked. I would say that he part of the ignored generation of American Veterans -- but the truth is that our government has historically ignored those who risk life and limb in defense of the ideas embodied in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. Our government breaks bodies and spirits, but it does not buy what it breaks. And while my father was fortunate enough to come back physically intact and mentally steeled, it's impossible for me to say exactly what the impact of his military service was -- which started when he was 17 and continued until he was almost 40.
It's impossible for me to understand the impact it had on him because I have never served and because he died before he felt like he could share those stories with me. 
I feel the absence of those stories almost as acutely as I feel his.
It's also impossible for me to understand the loss felt by sons and daughters whose fathers -- and whose mothers --did not come home alive or in one piece. And although I've long held the opinion that war is a travesty perpetrated by cowards too far removed from the devastation to feel its impacts, as time goes on I find that I see it even in starker terms. War is a sin, and a tragedy with an impact so devastating that it's easier to make more war than it is to examine the impacts.

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15 January, 2018

Every day is a title fight, Part 3: A Winter's Tale

 The snow doesn't give a soft white damn whom it touches. - e.e. cummings

Only a few go mad.
The sky moves in its whiteness
Like the withered hand of an old king.  
God shall not forget us.
Who made the sky knows of our love. - Kenneth Patchen
Since we hit black ice a few weeks back and totaled (effectively) my car, I'm finding myself more reticent than usual to go out into the weather. It's nothing near the random anxiety attack I experienced before crawling up into the eaves spaces of our house to fix a hole in the roof. No lights spots, heart palpitations and sweating, or vertigo. Nothing like that. Something like that might be acceptable ... at least more acceptable, anyway. An anxiety attack feels more like a condition -- and therefore not my fault --  than just having to admit that I'm scared.
It's not like I haven't slid on black ice before. I once spun a car 360 degrees on black ice in in the middle of a major intersection (if there is one that can be called that) in Mount Carroll, Illinois. My only saving grace then was that  
  1. it was a small car
  2. it was late and so there was no traffic, and
  3. I didn't hit anything.
I was in the car with my second ex-wife. We were driving home from having dinner out (I think) and when we hit the ice, I did what I always do in that situation: I took my foot off the gas, avoided the break pedal and tried to steer out of it.

Luckily, we did. But we did rethink going out in weather after that... if for no other reason than that Chevy Aveo was not built for northern winters.

I remember that one being more fun than frightening, though. It's not that there wasn't an element of danger. We were close to houses and electric lines and things that make little plastic cars crumble when hit head on.  I suppose I could blame bravado on my part, or the fact that my second ex-wife never really knew how to handle any displays of fear or sadness -- probably because I used to police those kinds of reactions religiously and when I didn't, she was taken so aback that she thought I was a pod person. It could also be that the only thing the men in her family cry about is when the University of Kentucky loses, and I've never been much on college basketball.

This wreck, in some ways, not much different. We were in what is normally a high-traffic area (I-71 southbound near the Kentucky River) , when we hit a spot of black ice and the rear end of the car spun out in front of me. Luckily, there were no other cars around, but there was a guardrail that stopped us before I could manage to spin out of it entirely and straighten the car.

Amanda and Stella were both in the car with me, and other than a few bruises, we all walked away from it without injury. And for that, I am eternally grateful,

But I find myself more than a little hesitant to go out when there's even a little snow or ice. Not having a vehicle with 4WD is part of the reason. Mostly, I worry about other people's driving to the point that my stomach turns into a rock and I have to avert my eyes from road just to stay mostly calm.

I've had nightmares since in which the incident did not have such a positive outcome. And I find it difficult to block them from my mind when the topic of going out into the weather, even for the best of reasons, comes up.

The part of me that wishes I were wired a little differently tells me I should just be grateful and embrace the fact that we are all still alive. And I am grateful. I'm even more grateful that Amanda and Stella weren't hurt.

Perhaps the oddest thing about sorting through my emotional reaction to the incident is the fact that the only thing I'm afraid of is losing them. Politicians and powermongers don't impress or scare me, in spite of their reach and in spite of how difficult my indifference to their perceived authority sometimes makes my life and the lives of people I love.  What scares me the most is losing them. That's not the same as being alone. Being alone doesn't bother me. Being without my family -- or even the thought of it -- scares me more than I can articulate. I'm scared of losing them, and scared of the rage that loss would unleash. A rage that, like love, is all consuming and would burn the heart and soul right out of me.

Which is why, when pedantic, small-minded people like Vicki Aubrey Welch try -- badly -- to wield political power like a Tammany Hall gangster, my initial reaction is incredulity.

That's also why it doesn't surprise me that the local Democratic Caucus, now bound to support the incumbent that was not groomed for the position like a puppy farm poodle, is working on every back door plan it can to make sure they don't have to support him.
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15 December, 2017

Every day is a title fight, Part 1: the applicants

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you.~ Pericles

Politics is the attempt to achieve power and prestige without merit. ~P. J. O'Rourke
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight part 1
The day of the interview, we sat in the 3rd floor conference room at city hall along with the other distinguished candidates.   Everyone -- well, mostly everyone -- was friendly and polite. Chase Gardner had his game face on, and John Witt ... a notorious Beechmont crank -- sat in the corner as if he was worried about something rubbing off on him. But the presumed front runner, Nicole George, brought a box of chocolates, which showed not only a certain amount of class but also that potential political appointees and recovering addicts have something in common; namely, both groups rely on chocolate as a way to curtail the cravings. And apparently chocolate works both for booze and for blood cravings. 
I mean, who could have guessed? It does give a kind heart hope.
The pleasantries dissipated quickly after initial greetings and meetings the hopefuls broke off into their subsets: the political movers, the local activists, one crank, one cop's wife, and the rash outsiders. George and former horseman Bret Schultz, the lone Republican, commiserated over the ineffective advocacy of $500 per plate political fundraisers. The activists banded together to talk about everything but politics and the unspoken competition for a metro council appointment that might, if levied correctly, help any number of causes. Witt sat in the corner and spoke very little, except on points of procedure. At one point the topic of South End economic development came up and Witt said only that he was opposed to more traffic and liked being able to get to the grocery store without dealing much with it.
The rash outsiders -- Amanda , me, and Nikki Boyd  sat over at the end of the table, having very little to say about $500 plate dinners or the various and noble projects and organizations we should be involved with that the three don't know about because we're ensconced in our own projects and organizations.
Mick Parsons, every day is a title fight, part 1I knew I didn't have a shot. Not really. The odds were so far out there that only a gambling addict would put a borrowed quarter on me. Amanda didn't think much of her chances either, though I thought that between the two of us, she would have the better chance for a whole host of reasons. Nikki Boyd just seemed genuinely happy to be there and was, from what I could tell, a very nice person who also questioned her chances simply because of the number of politicos in the room.

Then the interviews started. We were sequestered until our turns so no one would know the questions asked by the metro council members who came out to see potential appointees kick at the clouds as they hanged.
I was nervous when it was my turn. I don't get nervous speaking in front of politicians. I've spoken before Metro Council twice before as a concerned citizen, most recently in response to the city's treatment of the homeless population. But I wanted to put a more conciliatory foot forward. After all, I wasn't there to try and admonish or cajole them. In spite of the long odds, I felt like there was a real opportunity to be in a position to help not only the neighborhood I live in, but the homeless population I serve.

Of course, this would be no Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. But what really is, after all? Life isn't a Frank Capra movie.


When it was my turn, I introduced myself and answered a couple of thoughtful and useful questions. I was nervous, but I was doing ok.

And then spake the Wicked Witch of District 13, Vicki Aubry Welch, who had already come out for the presumed, chocolate-toting front runner.




Now, did she attack my lack of political experience, my past and current activism, or some perceived questionable moral fiber?

No.

Instead, she decided to focus on the fact that both my wife and I were applying for the same political appointment.


I'm still not quite sure why she would find it difficult to understand that each person in a married couple might be interested in applying for the same political appointment. I can only assume that such thing would never happen in her marriage -- which would make me feel sorry for her if it wasn't clear from the rest of the video that she found some way to go after almost every other applicant ... except her pick.


 
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31 January, 2017

Letters from Trumplandia: laying the groundwork

Self-erasure is a harsh religion. - from travel journal


I have to remind myself sometimes that in spite of what I think of my general sense of discontent, my own life is pretty good.

When I was younger, and probably smarter though not as wise*, I told myself that my sense of discontent was what drove my writing.  I blamed a small town childhood filled with social isolation and religion. I blamed the death of my father. I eventually cast wider nets and blamed my discontent on the state of the world, the sense of decay I saw in everything around me. I blamed my high school guidance counselor for the Three Card Monte fashion in which she preached about the importance of a college degree to achieving the American Dream. I blamed the American Dream for being fake.

Something in me when I was younger insisted on seeing the worst in things, and I would silently condemn my elders for acting as though nothing was wrong when everything seemed ravaged, burned, and abandoned. I wrapped myself in anger and discontent and I wrote about it. When I was writing about how angry and discontent I was, I would drink and think about how I'd somehow missed the train that every American boy was supposed to catch. At times, I blamed my father for having the audacity to die before imparting any of the wisdom I thought I was entitled to before being pushed into the world.

Yes, pushed. I was pushed. 

Because left to my own devices, I would have cloistered myself off years ago, wrapped in my self-righteous blanket of anger and discontent, ranting to the silence for its own sake. I would not have faced the world on my own because I'd drawn such a dim view of it that it I would have dismissed it out of hand.

Next month I turn 44 years old, and the world has become the world of monsters I imagined it was when I was young.  The culture wars are on fire, thanks to the gasoline poured on by our Fascist-in-Chief.  His supporters are loving him now because he has moved on pretty much every single campaign promise he made. To be fair, I don't know if he's signing more executive orders in the first 100 days than any of his predecessors or if he just signs them in front of television cameras. But I do know that politics is a three ring circus and Trump is the Ringmaster of all Ringmasters; and whatever is going on, I feel like making him roll up his sleeves to check for an arm full of aces.

The art of the deal is pretty much the same thing as the art of the con. It's all slight of hand and misdirection. And while Trump and his lackeys embolden the Proud Boys and Alt-Reich Evangelists to do the dirty work of cultural purification, he is slowly whitewashing America with one hand and jerking off with the other.

In spite of all this, however, I think it's important to remind myself that even as monsters walk the earth in human skin suits, that my life is pretty good. My primary goals have pretty much always been the same since I was 19 or 20:

  • write,
  • reject workaday time clocks and the masters behind them,
  • walk through the world at my own rhythm,
  • try to be useful,
  • work to be honorable, and
  • stand up for what I believe.

Along the way I've also found the love of my life and figured out how to be an ok father.

One of the most challenging parts of it all is to accept that while I could easily cloister myself and ignore the world, that my desire to do so is fueled by ego. To turn away and dismiss everything would mean that I have it all figured out. There's an arrogance to that notion which is toxic to not only the world, but to myself and to the life I am continuing to build.

The internal workings of my life are actually pretty good, and I'm grateful for that. I am lucky to be married to someone who loves me as I am and who I adore with all my strength and the marrow in my bones. I'm still writing.  I have clients and deadlines, but these are things I establish and set for myself. I am trying to be useful and I work to be live an honorable life (although it's more challenging for me than maybe for some other people I know).  Because the internal workings of my life are what they are, I have the ability to stand up for what I believe and do what I think is right.

These are the rights and privileges of a free person, and I have taken my freedom back from those who would take it from me -- bosses, politicians, punks, thugs, and lackeys of powermongers. And it's only because I understand that freedom is something we must take back -- not something that is conferred upon by the high offices of human institutions -- that I know it's not just about me, and never has been.

___________________________________________________________________
*Not that I'm all that wise now. Most days I vacillate
between feeling incredibly stupid and three steps behind enlightenment.

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10 January, 2017

A question of faith and the problem of a proportional response

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. - John Adams

When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams — this may be madness. Too much sanity may be madness — and maddest of all: to see life as it is, and not as it should be! - Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

 

Lately I've been thinking about my father, and what he would say if he were still alive to see the state of the world... or if he would say anything at all.

He was a retired Air Force Master Sargent. When I talk to people about him, I most often begin with that detail. This sometimes gives people the impression that I grew up a military brat. But I did not. It would be incorrect to assume, however, that just because the old man managed to get his walking papers* that his 20 years of military service had no impact on him or his family.

He was also 16 years older than my mother. He was born in 1935, and grew up in a very different America than the America most of the parents of most of my school mates grew up in. He grew up during the end of the Great Depression World War II. He entered the military -- the Navy first -- when he was 17 years old, during the Korean War.** He entered the Air Force in time for Vietnam.

The Old Man never really talked about his military experience, except for a few funny stories. He didn't talk about a lot of things. He was waiting for his sons to be older, I think.

He never said much about his politics, either. I did ask him once about how he voted and he told me he was a Republican but didn't always vote that way. Another time, during an intensely religious phase of my life***, we spoke about abortion. He posed a question to me that has continued to inform my thoughts on the matter. That question was "How many women AND children died from back alley abortions?"

My father believed in a nation of laws. He believed that democracy meant something and it was worth defending. He believed that you didn't have to be the loudest in order to stand up for what is right. And even though he took a very practical approach to the world, he believed that some things were right and some things were wrong.

I try very hard not to paint him into what I would prefer him to be. He was not, in a way, a radical. He was not a simple man, either, because he understood that life could be very complex. He strove to be a simple man, I think. He lived based on a set of ideals, and he lived quietly in as much as his large personality and his considerable vanity would allow. He loved his family. He did what he thought was right.

The most difficult part of being a son is forging yourself away from your father's shadow.  As a son, I want to live in such a way that were he still alive, he would be proud of me. This takes me down some interesting paths. I may never know if the Old Man would like who I am now and the ideals I strive to live my life by. Like him, I strive to be a simple man. A man of substance. A man of use. A man who holds certain principles as absolute, but is willing to embrace the idea that life is rarely as absolute as our ideals.

I find myself looking the America I am living in now and I cannot help but think the core ideas my father lived by have no place here. I live in a state where its elected officials have proven they have no regard for people's lives, people's safety, or people's health. I live in a country that has embraced a cynical lack of faith in democracy and our natural rights by electing a egotistical megalomaniac that has set his sights on fighting personal vendettas, fueling hate, and pushing people on with pyrite delusions and calling them the golden future.

I find myself in place where I am worried about my family, my community, and my country.  If I were a solider, I would fight. But I am not a soldier. I am an artist and a a dreamer.

These are fronts I understand.

_______________________________________________________________________
* It took him a long time to get released from the reserves after he left active service. 1975, if  I am remembering from his records correctly. Apparently the military didn't want to let him go.
** He was "asked" by his high school principle to leave.
*** To paraphrase, I was far more interested in the letter of the law than the spirit of it. 


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08 September, 2016

Betrayed Testament: et schola vitae

Without realizing it, the individual composes his life according to the laws of beauty even in times of great distress. - Milan Kundera

Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that worth knowing can be taught. - Oscar Wilde 

Life is a perpetual process of erasure.

This is the first fall semester since I moved to River City that I haven't had a single class to teach. When I went back to higher education I knew it was a safety move. Amanda and I talked about it more than once -- usually after the semester started to wear on me.  There was a point when I even thought that I could make myself happier as an academic worker by organizing with like-minded colleagues to address the problems I saw in the system: primarily, the exploitation of adjunct instructors as part of the corporatization of the last institution I could ever claim to love and respect.  

Well, that didn't work out, for a variety of reasons that I have already written about (Check the archive from last year for the  rundown on all that.) Kentucky labor flirts with Right-to-Work legislation like a $20 hooker who gets her price haggled down to $5, and because the Kentucky legislature interprets the NLRA as including higher education academic workers as exempt from basic labor protections, I had no real recourse when the legal department at the Kentucky Community Technical College System ordered my firing and banishment from every single KCTCS campus in the state of Kentucky.

This time last year I was teaching at the University of Louisville, where, in spite of the fact that only 17% of the total budget comes from state education appropriations, everyone was worried about the inevitable impact of Matty Bevin's budget hack-n-slash.  I had a schedule, but I was increasingly isolated from semi-like-minded colleagues. The semester wore on me. The lack of action, or reaction, and attempts to push forward any labor actions to improve the plight of my fellow academic workers. The internal politics of "the movement" were a grind, too; and so I came face to face with the number one reason why organized labor takes it in the back more often than not:

the radical left eats its own in the name of pointless ideological disagreements.    

Trying to manage a conversation or a planning session is, most of the time, like sitting through your basic department meeting.  Utter drudgery.

When the left is successful, they are because they set aside what can be considered deeply held convictions in order to focus on common goals and take on common enemies. Here in Kentucky, organized capital (READ: coal operators especially, but also corporate giants like General Electric and Yum!), with the help of now Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, has done such an effective job of convincing the working class it doesn't need unions that there isn't a single union coal mine in the state and both GE and YUM! have been complicit in driving down wages and maintaining an anti-labor culture.

Academic labor here in the Commonwealth, of course, has an even deeper issue in that most academic workers -- adjuncts -- refuse to acknowledge that they are a labor force and demand the same rights that trade unionists have fought for and kept for generations.

My permanent separation from The University of Louisville, and from higher education, was inevitable. When I wrote about it, I pointed out I was not given the bum's rush like I was from KCTCS. One adjunct with a (justified) paranoid streak was not a budget priority. Then again, students really aren't the priority there, either, so it was not surprising. 

I decided to walk away rather than let them leave me hanging in the perma-gray area of  "contingent labor." I haven't regretted that decision, though it does make for interesting conversational gaps with my father-in-law, who, to his credit, has not badgered me about my continued unemployed status. 

I cast a lot of nets these days. I work on my writing. I am putting together episodes for my new podcast Alidade: an audio map, that will start dropping around the middle of next month. I apply for jobs at least daily, none of which will probably call me back because even though I'm qualified they see a decade plus of a career in academics and disregard the fact that the first thing a neophyte scholar learns is how to learn. I'm exploring the limits of my incompetence in regards to general home repair, plumbing, and small engine repair.  The garden has been producing a lot of peppers and okra this year, and we're making plans to expand and alter our garden plans next year. We managed to go camping once this summer and I'm hoping to get out again before it gets too chilly. I've honed my backyard grill master abilities, and I'm on a regular workout routine. I build my life around embracing beauty and truth and creating a deeper and more meaningful connection to the larger and smaller world.

I miss teaching sometimes. But mostly, I like what I'm doing. When I say I feel like the institution of higher education betrayed me, I'm not talking about KCTCS or my decision not to allow the University of Louisville dictate my life to me. There was a time when a college campus was a safe space for me. I thrived there in many respects. I gained more than the education I went to get, and I learned more than I probably taught when I was teaching. 

The institution broke faith, but not just with me. They've broken faith with everyone -- with students, with full and adjunct faculty, and with staff.  And I don't really believe there's anyway to fix it from the inside, especially when the largest part of their work force keeps its collective head down and accepts being exploited as the price for being a "professional" instead of a "worker."







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26 July, 2016

Evolution for the hell of it

Pliny the Elder, who when Rome was burning requested Nero to play You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Lucille, never got a dinner! - Red Buttons 


The problem with most revolutions is that they end up crushed under the weight of their own sense of nostalgia.

If the political season has reinforced anything for me, it is that I should be leery of political leaders crying out for revolution -- especially leaders calling for "revolution" within the structure of an institution (read: voting) that was meant, from the beginning, to avoid the previously aforementioned revolutions.

One friend of mine, whose political astuteness I respect even if I don't always agree with him, has been talking about the problem of ideological purity in the DNC. I was not able to make it to Philadelphia for the donkey circus like I did  to Cleveland to sit sideline and watch corporate media facilitate the very frenzy The Orange Il Duce described in his 75 minute prophesy of doom (read: nomination acceptance speech). The Bernie or Busters are busting a gut and threatening to go Green.

This is bringing the Nader bashers out in Memeworld -- poor, statistically inept souls who think somehow that Bush II only won the first time because Nader had the temerity to run for President in spite of the two party system. Claims by Bush I supporters that  Texas billionaire crack pot Ross Perot cost Bush a second term have been roundly debunked.  The problem with any recent third push, as far as a I can tell, isn't in the desire for a viable response to a broken two party system. The problem is that they never try and build from the ground up. The Green Party doesn't spend money on local, state, and federal elections. They go for the Big Chair on Pennsylvania Avenue. The problem isn't that Jill Stein will split the progressive vote. The problem is that the Green Party lacks a strong enough base to knock either corporate party off it's feet.

There are a lot of calls for unity behind the now coronated presumptive Queen Hillary, whose only smart move has been to pick a VP who at least knows how to play the harmonica. Meanwhile, journalists are arrested the DNC -- which, for all of it's circus and foreboding fascist themes, did not happen at the RNC.  Having seen how local law enforcement tone can have an impact on these situations, I am more inclined to put this off on Philadelphia's Police Department than I am the Democratic Party. Then again, corporate media outlets, the blogosphere, and memeworld have been brewing up a fight since Bernie Sanders first conceded the race and endorsed Hillary Clinton.

I'm more inclined at this point, rather than calling it for one political hack or another, to pick up my guitar and play a little music. Then I'm going to go write a poem. Then I might weed the garden. I could get angry at politicians behaving like politicians, or at corporate media acting like corporate media. I could sacrifice my ideological stance in the name of being on the winning team*.

Or, I could go camping.

Yeah. Camping sounds good.

______________________________________________________________________________
* #GoTeamFascist


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19 July, 2016

Dirty River on the road: selfie activism

Quality is the greatest enemy of mass-leveling. -- Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Polar Protesting: Near Quicken Loans Arena
I spent yesterday in downtown Cleveland trying to find the dire narrative the political extremists on both ends and all major media outlets have been pedaling. True to the old adage "If it bleeds, it leads," it seems as if FOX, CNN, and MSNBC are determined to create a causal connection between the recent killings and the implosion currently happening inside the GOP.

I saw one mini van full of guys in olive drab who were clearly not military, not police, and not connected to any government agency. There were a few people taking advantage of Ohio's open carry law, and if you follow the media story about the "rally"*  in the Public Square, it would be easy to believe that downtown Cleveland is looks like the setting for a Phillip K. Dick novel.

People deserve better than the narrative they're being fed about the actual state of things. 

Yes, there were a lot of cops around. A few of them were wearing bullet proof vests. Most of them were wearing their regular uniforms and carrying their normal firearms. There were also the usual brand of Jesus freaks, megaphone doomsday preachers, and political protests. As I mentioned in one of my video updates yesterday, the polar bear is probably my favorite. Not only is it on message, but I have to give kudos for the person in the suit's dedication to the cause, because not only did that person walk around for several hours in a hot polar bear suit in July, but that person did so around Public Square and E 4th Street -- the hub of activity outside Quicken Loans Arena.

There were a few radical speakers at the free speech mic, some hate mongers posing as Christians, and
two other protest marches against Trump and the GOP: a pro-immigration march that made creative and not market intended use of a sex blow-up doll, and a parade of women wearing pink in protest of Trump's outright misogyny. There were some lone protesters, each with their own cause, ranging from a call to treat Syrian refugees fairly to one of the sanest people I saw, an old man with a t-shirt that read  "END POVERTY NOW."

I was also hoping to find a few of the more radical left marches to include. Tom Morello showed up to wear his IWW hat and punch the air with the Northeast Ohio Wobs... but the march took place at 7pm -- long after any delegates, GOPers, and major media outlets had filed into the Quicken Loans Arena compound to listen to Chachi spout and Trump's wife plagiarize. Moreover, the march took place from E 47th to E 12th Streets.

The hub of pre-game activity for Day 1 of the convention happened between 8am and 1:30pm at the Public Square and E 4th Street. 

Free speech is crucial to a free society, and dissent is the marrow of a healthy democracy. But I have to wonder about the purpose of a protest no one sees except those who would know about it anyway.

I've participated in marches and protests before because while voting is a civic duty, it is the exact opposite of revolutionary action. When people are organized and have a unified message, dissent can change the direction of The State run amok. But the most successful protests, the most successful forms of dissent, also take risks. 

If the radical left is serious about changing the direction of things and taking on the damage done by late stage capitalism, then it's not enough to march somewhere "safe" because they buy into the media myth of a militarized zone at Public Square. Having a radical message means doing more than bird calling it back and forth with people who agree with you. That's the failure of social media activism. 

People deserve better than dissenters who don't want to take a risk for what they believe. If we leave the megaphones for the hate mongers, we are enabling the hate and violence, not standing against it.

_____________________________________________________________________
*If the media outlets covering the "gun rally" had used a wider camera angle, they would have had to tell the story of five people that no one paid any attention to. But a close camera angle is the best way to create a crowd to fit the narrative they walked in wanting to tell.
 

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13 July, 2016

My Last Sermon; or, why I don't play Pokemon GO

 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. - Book of St. Matthew, 5:6 (DRV)


Lately I've been thinking about the last sermon I gave. I was 14 years old. The minister of the church I attended while growing up supported my decision to dedicate my life to the ministry* by working with me to explore the nature of the vocation. I studied biblical and theological texts; I went on hospital and home visitations; and I was allowed to give a couple of sermons.

Let me add that stepping up into the pulpit for the first time is a uniquely terrifying experience. There is a kind of invested authority there which does not exist anywhere else. There also a special kind of isolation there, too. People generally do not like their preachers to suffer from the same human failings everyone else does. It's as if those who hear the call are supposed to be suddenly touched by the divine in such a way that all manner of arrogance, fear, greed, hatred, and ignorance are washed away like a hard day's won dirt.

Clearly, that is not how it worked out for me.

I chose Matthew 5:14** as my subject -- what is referred to as the "City on a Hill" section right after the Beatitudes***. The verse is one that gets a lot of treatment and a lot contextualization and re-contextualization. My focus was on how, after the Beatitudes earlier in the chapter and before the call to action that comes after, that it isn't enough to simply identify as a Christian. Mere existence and religious self-identification is not enough. Through his life as recorded in the New Testament, Jesus helped the poor, broke down the false caste system that elevated Pharisees above tax collectors and prostitutes, and preached against greed, hollow words, and empty works. He also acted out in righteous anger at the money changers in the temple. To be the light of the world is more than wearing a name tag, and more than walking into a building on Sunday. To be the light of the world, the salt of the earth, the city on a mountain means DOING, not just BEING. Being a follower of The Christ is an ACTIVE VERB, not a PASSIVE one.

As a student of history, I watch current events through the lens of someone who has read not only Pliny's history of the fall of the Roman Empire, but also about the rise of Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy, and Pinochet in Chile. I've also read about and watched the long history of nationalism in America, the violent power play of capitalists, as well as the divisive and violent racism and sexism that have long run the undercurrents of America.^  I have made my position clear about certain current events: Trump's neo-fascism, Clinton's neoliberalism, and Sanders as NOT a revolutionary figure.

The violence last week with the death of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and the five Dallas Police Officers make one thing very clear: the rhetoric is far more important to the powers that be than any of the blood spilled.  Wisconsin is next in line to suggest "Blue Lives Matter" Legislation -- which would make the killing of a cop a hate crime. The very same people who rally against increased gun legislation, pointing out that more laws won't solve the problem, are themselves calling for more laws.

And, true to form, the far right is trying to co-opt the wording of protest in order to change its meaning.^^ Blue Lives Matter laws not only insult the purpose behind hate crime laws, but is an attempt to negate the essential message behind the Black Lives Matter -- that systemic racism puts Black Americans at a higher risk for violence at the hands of The State.  While it's important to keep in mind that economic violence impacts people of all ethnic backgrounds, there is nothing wrong with people within the black community trying to organize and defend their community.

The other big ticket media item over the last week, besides Bernie Sanders' capitulation to the Clinton Political Machine, is the Pokemon GO explosion. Between the phenomenon surrounding the new hunt for Pokemon in real time and Samsung Galaxy's VR goggles, augmented realities are becoming... well, a reality.

Not that augmented reality is anything new. Italian writer Umberto Eco wrote about hyper reality in 1973. Reality TV and the myopia created by being able to fine tune our online experiences to a specific and individual reality have already cemented our cultural interest in being distracted by an augmented reality. Simply retreating to the movies or to television -- streamed or otherwise -- is not enough.

I don't have anything against playing games. I probably majored in Grand Theft Auto in graduate school as much as I did writing. There's a lot in the world that drives me to want distraction and avoidance. I'm an expert at avoidance. And there's a lot I'd rather avoid.

But there's no action in avoidance. There is no beauty in passivity. There is no flavor when there's no salt.

_______________________________________________________________________
*I've written about this time in my life at length in other places, so I don't feel like going through all of that again here. Let's just say my life took a different turn.
**You are the light of the world. A city on a mountain cannot be hid. (DRV)
***What I like to call The Revised Ten Commandments.
^They were here in the beginning. They have always been here. "Before the settlers. Before the Indians. It was here. Waiting." - W.S. Burroughs.
^^ See also, Pat Buchanan's upending of the Reform Party. See also, the "Trump Revolution." See also "All Lives Matter." 
 
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06 July, 2016

Notes from Outland

To steal from a brother or sister is evil. To not steal from the institutions that are the pillars of the Pig Empire is equally immoral.  -- Abbie Hoffman  

The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike. -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Liberating education consists in acts of cognition, not transferrals of information. -- Paulo Freire 

from: Contemporary Art on Human Bodies by Yung Cheng Lin
 I have long suspected that the purpose of such a long political season is to ensure that the American Public is just so tired of hearing about it, talking about, and thinking about it, that to vote seems pointless. All the lines are drawn. Everyone has decided who they're going to bet their children's future on. It's not quite time for the betting window to close; but at this point, only the lines are filled with the neophyte gamblers who are still trying to decide whether they want to box their trifecta or not.

In the middle of this political year -- in which my own opinion was formed even before I saw the thoroughbred parade -- I'm marking a sort of anniversary. This time last year, I was battling what I saw an as unfair termination from JCTCS. I knew then it was politically motivated. I know it now. At the time, though, I saw a way through it, a way to some kind of victory. There was still momentum from The Louisville Teach-In. We created a connection, a community, something that might turn into a movement. We got the word out. People were starting to listen.

And then -- it disappeared. KCTCS began weeding out the most vocal activists (I was not the only one)
and those who remained kept their heads down out of fear of similar reprisals. The institutional power play worked.

And even with the recent shake-up, in which KCTCS fired more than 100 people in reaction to our tin pot fascist governor's budget cuts, a few of those who remained silent, who would not stand up for themselves or for their peers, still have jobs.

I suppose that counts as some sort of victory. Only time will judge that.

But even though I'm on the outs with the institution of higher yearning, I find it difficult to let go. Anyone who knows me well knows I can nurse one hell of grudge. I can grow iguanas into full dragons with bellies full of an unending fire. I'm actually pretty good at compartmentalizing the negative feelings, the anger, because I am trying not to feed all my hungry demons. The truth is, though, that some demons grow best when they are shut up in the dark and ignored, locked up in my subconscious. This morning during my workout, my thoughts turned towards people who I thought were friends and comrades, and people who were not but whose betrayal was so profound that I still have violent revenge fantasies about them.*

I am trying not to feed those demons, but it's more difficult than you might think. I know all the canned memes about how grudges are just weight you can drop if you want; but the truth is, my grudges drive me, too.

Yahoos, from Gulliver's Travels. Or, Hillarites.
It's hard to let go. But I'm trying. I can't help but feel like I was deserted by what adjunct movement there was in Kentucky, and that what labor movement there is here is too busy trying to find a Democrat to believe in to actually change anything. The Bernie or Busters are holding onto the illusion that their candidate is actually the start of a revolution that none of them really wants.** The Hillarites are celebrating because Ol' Buddy Bill scared the FBI and DOJ away. The Trumpians are complaining about the corrupt politics, co-opting the language of the Bernie or Busters in an attempt to attracted pissed off "progressives" who would rather vote for a fascist than another career political criminal.

Brobingnagians. Or, Trumpians.
While everyone is crying for or against Hillary,

The dark powers are amassing power -- and we, the American People, are more focused on the whether the cherry on our shit sundae is maraschino or bright red sour.
Sanders is capitulating and Trump is marching forward like he already bought the White House. Meanwhile, the Koch Brothers are shaping public policy and increasing their cultural footprint simply by spending money on advertising, on influencing our infected institutions of higher education, and by pushing political candidates who will make their policy interests more of a priority than those of the constituents they were theoretically elected to represent.

In closing, I'll offer some track advice: if the horse you're thinking of voting for is carried around by yahoos, think twice. The handicap will hurt us all.
__________________________________
* #respondent53 has a playdough face. 
** Elections are not, by definition, revolutions. Democratic elections are meant to AVOID revolutions. If Sanders supporters really wanted a revolution, they wouldn't mess with the elections process. Neither would Trump supporters. Or Hillary supporters. Or Greens. Or Socialists. They would take to the streets.


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24 June, 2016

You say you want a revolution


 We are a puny and fickle folk. Avarice, hesitation, and following are our diseases. - Ralph Waldo Emerson
Modern folk like acronyms. They're a kind mnemonic, except that instead helping someone to remember more, they make the memory flaccid. Grammar purists rail against texting shorthand, but linguistic tidbits like LOL are the natural outcropping of an language that grows organically by assimilating bits and pieces of other languages. Language is itself a reduction -- an attempt to precisely describe internal observations and experiences to an outside audience -- even if the only audience is the self. 
The problem comes when this natural tendency to reduce the intellect and the imagination to simple utterances expands to attempting to reduce complex sociopolitical concepts into soundbites and slogans. George Orwell illuminated this phenomena quite clearly in 1984. Unfortunately, no modern political season would be quite the cluster fuck it is without jingoism to propel the masses:

MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN
GIVE 'EM HIL
BERNIE OR BUST
This political season, like every political season, is developing with an operatic flair. In 2008 it was marriage equality and war that drove the bases of the two major American political parties to spin narratives and drive people to the polls. This political season, we're worrying about which public restroom people use -- which is being used to fuel a fascist culture war masking itself as a wanna be religious crusade*. 
The other tent poll spin doctors on both sides of the isle are using to muster and manipulate the voting public is still war. Of course, the war has come home -- as war always does, one way or another. 

The Orlando massacre was just the latest in what a long string of horrific acts that have given both gun toters and gun moaners plenty of ammunition. Our own burgeoning Il Duce, Donald "The Don" Trump**, in wake of more facts about the Orlando shooting coming out that contradict his hip-shot twit tweet about being right on terrorism, declared that if everyone at Pulse had been carrying a gun, the shooting wouldn't have happened.*** 

Violence is the symptom of another sickness. Sometimes it erupts and makes the international news cycle. Sometimes it slides in and out of memeworld, like the San Diego cheerleader who helped her boyfriend kill George Lowery.  A lot of it is lost in the local police blotters and crime statistics.

People who have signed on for Trump and who are shuffling in line behind Hillary each have a vision for the country and they're selling their visions to an American public that is soul tired and looking to blame anyone or anything they can reach out and touch. For the Trumpites, Mexicans, Liberals, the LGBTQIA Community, and "terrorists"^ are to blame. For the Hillarians, the jingoism has been honed down to a single hashtag:

#nevertrump

An interesting thing is happening, though, as this election year rolls on. Instead of creating new jingoisms and slogans, both the Democratic and the Republican Party are using pretty much the same language to move their armies into action. The rhetoric on both sides is steeped in nostalgia and historical inaccuracy. If there is a difference, it is that Trumpites believe to core. Hillarians have embraced the very cynicism that many on the left have accused the republicans of for years. They want the status quo -- which, in this case, is the very same Neoliberal economic policy that has destroyed South America, is ripping apart the European Union, and will eventually decimate what's left of the Democratic impulse in American culture. Trumpites want their America to be pure, unfettered, and held unaccountable for any of backlash caused by xenophobia, nationalism, warmongering, and greed -- all of which are avenues of violence.

Each sides claims it wants a revolution. But the options they are giving us are not worlds I want my grandchildren to inherit.

If there is a revolution worth having, it is a revolution that rejects violence, rejects, greed, rejects warmongering, and rejects petty hatred based on culture, on sexual orientation, or even on language.

On the whole, however, revolution is almost a complete waste of time. Nearly every battle engaged in ends in loss. You see people's strong words shrink to cowardice actions. If you hold your ideals close, you'll risk losing everything on a long shot gamble that history will vindicate your losses. But losses are never vindicated. They are only counted or ignored.

However, revolution is not a total waste of time for the simple fact that a lot of people have to lose in order for the right people to come along and win it for everyone.
________________________________________________
*For those of your unfamiliar with the Aryan Paragraph, you may want to read up on it.Here's a bit pulled from the Wikipedia Page on the Confessing Church -- or the German Lutheran Church that defied Hitler:
On 13 November 1933 a rally of German Christians was held at the Berlin Sportpalast, where — before a packed hall — banners proclaimed the unity of National Socialism and Christianity, interspersed with the omnipresent swastikas. A series of speakers[29] addressed the crowd's pro-Nazi sentiments with ideas such as:
  • the removal of all pastors unsympathetic with National Socialism
  • the expulsion of members of Jewish descent, who might be arrogated to a separate church
  • the implementation of the Aryan Paragraph church-wide
  • the removal of the Old Testament from the Bible
  • the removal of "non-German" elements from religious services
  • the adoption of a more "heroic" and "positive" interpretation of Jesus, who in pro-Aryan fashion should be portrayed to be battling mightily against corrupt Jewish influences.[30]
** For those who might think that I, like Dear Bernie, am declaring my allegiance to Hillary Clinton, nothing is further from the truth. The Don could very well be our first unfettered fascist leader if he's elected. Mrs. Clinton is no salve to solve the problems that have led to the resurgence of far right extremism in America. She is a product of the very same system. That she is simply an uninspired Neoliberal (read: disaster capitalist) rather than someone who can inspire and feed every violent human impulse, wrap it in nostalgia and patriotism, and call it America.
*** Because guns, booze, and sexual energy are really very good together.  Sounds just like a Dick Cheney hunting vacation.
^As defined by whatever segment of the population is more poplar to hate at any given moment.
 
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01 June, 2016

Roar of the leisure class warrior - something towards a draft manifesto (Or a more thought out explanation for my daughter)

What we spend our time on is probably the most important decision we make. - Ray Kurzweil

In our production-oriented society, being busy, having an occupation, has become one of the main ways, if not the main way, of identifying ourselves. Without an occupation, not just our economic security but our very identity is endangered.  - Henri Nouwen

My kids are in hock to a god they call work
spending their lives out for some other jerk. - Utah Phillips



Lately I've been thinking about the indicators people use to define success.

This topic is not a new one for me, and those of you (if indeed, there are any among you Dear Friends and Readers) who have been reading me for more than a few posts and more than a few blogs have probably picked up on that.  If you're one of those who used to read my American Re:visionary blog* and have followed me down here by the river side, you know good and well that I rejected the specter of traditional success, along with all of it's pomps, circumstances, and traps and dropped it somewhere between Butte, Montana and Boston Massachusetts.

Some men** define their success on their income. Some on the kind of house they live in. Some on their golf swing, or what percentage of -- or how many -- cases of beer it takes before they get shit-faced. I've known men who define their success within the parameters of their level of education, their lack of formal education, the length of their beard, and the size of their gut. I have seen men who I suspect define success based upon how big their truck tires are ***. I've known men who defined their success based on how little they slept.  Fathers sometimes mark their success by their children's general happiness and appearance of "success."+

The problem I find with these measuring sticks of what is and what is not success is that they don't really change, and I have found that success -- like every other aspect of life -- changes.

I have at various times, defined my success by my education; by the number of political figures I have annoyed and offended; by the number of bosses, department chairs, and people in socially constructed positions of authority over me I have pissed off; and by the ability to play the trumpet well.++ I thought I reached a measure of success when I was writing for the local-dining-and-concert-guide-that-shall-not-be-named-here.+++

Time is the only yard stick that matters, and the only currency that has any real value. While it's true that I'm not employed^ at the moment, my time is occupied with those things that matter most to me: my art, my family, my garden. I've never particularly felt the need to maintain regular employment as a condition of deserving dignity.  I agree with the idea that a man needs to DO something. But I question the assertion, often made by people who are terribly concerned that they are doing all the heavy-lifting for humanity^^ that everyone needs to go out and "get a job." I see that sort of noise a lot, generally in regards to anyone panhandling. The long history of vagrancy, anti-vagrancy laws, and people general  ooky-ness about people living in some other reality other than that of a worker bee for the capitalist state aside, I have chosen to reject the yard stick for success that measures me against the number of zeros in my pay check -- or, indeed, if I make a paycheck at all.

Yes, I have to find a way to make a living and meet my obligations to the home I'm making with Amanda (love you!) and to my art. Yes, I do like to have a little cash on hand to buy a cup of coffee, to rent movies, buy books, or go argue politics^^^ at the neighborhood watering hole. But I don't need to make piles of it prove anything. And I don't need the trappings of success as defined by the larger cultural imprint that would have judged me as a failure years ago if I had bothered to listen.

I do have my methods of measuring my success, though.

The first is whether I can sleep soundly at night. Most of the time, I sleep pretty well.

My other measure, at least lately, is whether or not my nosy, rude, and overall obnoxious asshole of a neighbor, Chalkline Larry, spies on me. He spies on us a lot. Just this morning, I caught him watching me as I watered our front yard garden. The expression on his face was one of disgust.

From this, I can only conclude that I am living right.

______________________________________________________________________________
*Sorry, no link... it's indefinitely archived until such a time when art, science, and religion can somehow figure out a way to reanimate the corpse of the American Dream without it turning into another zombie.
**While many things are true of all people, I am, probably to my detriment, sticking to a group I feel I have some understanding of. It's true that I have met men who claim to understand women; but as far as I can tell, they are either deluded or liars, or both.
***More often than not, I feel sorry for their love partners. Not because size matters -- but the inability to understand proper proportions leads to someone going to sleep unsatisfied.
+It's the rabbit hole. Success is, in the way, often described with the same terminology as pornography,  i.e.,  "I know it when I see it." And generally, in both, someone ends up getting screwed.
++I was a pretty good trumpet player once upon a time, back in high school. I had trouble picking it up after high school, though. 
+++Yes. I hold grudges. It's a failing, but I'm working on it. You can google it. I wrote some pretty good stuff that they didn't, in the long run, deserve.
^ According to the powers-that-be, I am one of the great unwashed masses. But don't worry. I'm sure that Bevin's inhumane policies will somehow lead me to a better billet. These things just take time, I guess.
^^Martyrs All. Without their self-crucifiction, the homeless could use the wood for heat. 
^^^ Or sports. Around here, that pretty much boils down to the same thing.

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29 February, 2016

RE: Donald J. Trump in Louisville versus The Empty Seat Coalition

I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.- Genesis 3:15

My body is my ballot. - Utah Phillips quoting Ammon Hennacy  

Mab J. Trump, Queen of the Pixies
In case you missed it or live under a rock, Presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is going to be here in River City tomorrow. The rally at the Kentucky International Convention Center has promised to be jam packed full of people looking for a leader who can deliver the sort of America they say they want.

There's also a protest building that I call The Empty Seat Coalition. The plan is this: people are supposed to go through Trump's website, reserve two free tickets to the event, and then not show up.  This is an apparently popular form of protest, or so my Facebook feed would have me believe.  Many of my lefty/progressive Facebook friends have embraced the idea that Trump will get the idea that Kentucky doesn't like him and his dangerous rhetoric if he shows up to a rally full of empty seats.

 Now, if that actually worked out, the visual impact would be amazing. And given that many of my lefty/progressive friends pretty much only talk to other lefty/progressives, the idea has gained momentum. And naturally, one form of free speech is orchestrated silence, and there's nothing necessarily wrong with that.

There's only one problem.

A lot of people DO want Trump to be President.  A lot of people have bought into the violent and
Hillary J. Trump: the ultimate neoliberal
dangerous rhetoric.

He's built a campaign on anti-immigrant venom, machismo, and a brand of anti-populist anti-establishmentarianism that only a millionaire can pull off.  He refuses to reject to the endorsement of the KKK. He promises to build a wall between us and Mexico and make Mexico pay for it. He promises deep corporate tax cuts. He is not as critical of national health care as the traditional GOP thinks he ought to be, and stumbles over religious questions.  Most recently, he quoted Benito Mussolini -- who was another anti-populist,anti-establishment, self-described successful business man (he published a newspaper.) He's not a conservative in the traditional sense .He is, in short, a neoliberal ... just like the presumptive Democratic Candidate.

The problem with ignoring Donald J. Trump away is that ignoring him only feeds the fever tide he is rising in front of. Let me be clear - Trump did not create the tide of fascism he has made himself leader of. It was here already and, like a smart opportunist (a good businessman) he took advantage of it and has built it up into an irrational fervor.

It's in these kinds of situations that I think of a cheesy Merlin mini-series I watched as kid. It starred Sam Neil as Merlin, the last wizard. Mab, who created him to wield magic against humanity, tempted him perpetually, much in the same way the serpent tempted Eve and the way Satan tempted Jesus in the biblical tales.  Merlin eventually defeated Mab by ignoring her into non-existence.

Such a nice story. Except there's a reason it was made-for-tv fiction.

It doesn't work.

I have a ticket to the rally, and I'm going. There is nothing that could ever compel me to embrace the fascism Trump is preaching. I'm not going because I'm considering voting for him. I'm going because voices like mine need to be there, and because someone needs to be there to give an actual report of the event.  I'm going because if my body is not my ballot, nothing else is. Democracy is not supported by the piece of paper or computer screen in a voting booth. Democracy is  supported by people showing up -- to vote, and sometimes, to protest.

If you are reading this and you bought tickets in order to leave them empty, let me suggest that you go to the rally. Let's all sit together and sing "This Land is Your Land." Let's all sit together so our voices are represented, not ignored.  Imagine if Martin Luther King decided to address America's racial and economic inequality by not Marching on Washington. Or if Rosa Parks decided to protest racist policies by not riding the bus. Or if Big Bill Heywood and Joe Ettor had decided to speak out against the treatment women in New York City sweatshops by NOT going to New York and instead telling the strikers to go back to work.

It's not enough to wish evil away. Evil must be faced directly, without hesitation, and be banished. Otherwise, you're just making yourself feel better by cooking marshmallows while the world burns. The only people who win then are the arsonists.

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11 February, 2016

The cold settles in: more on activism, Quixotism, and the drive for a better life

and I ran back to that hollow again
the moon was just a sliver back then
and I ached for my heart like some tin man
when it came oh it beat and it boiled and it rang..it’s ringing

ring like crazy, ring like hell
turn me back into that wild haired gale
ring like silver, ring like gold
turn these diamonds straight back into coal. 

- Gregory Alan Iskov, "The Stable Song"




Every place I've lived, regardless of the general climate, is home to the same joke:

"If you want the weather to change, wait five minutes."

Given that River City was enjoying some comfortable daytime temperatures last week, the re-emergence of winter-like weather this week is yet another reminder that Ohio River Valley Weather will find a way to refuse a more optimistic seasonal categorization.  

Now, before you think I'm complaining, Dear Friends and Readers, please know that my memories of #ZOMBIESNOWPOCALYPSE2015 are still fresh.The truth is this winter has been, so far, a fairly typical winter. It would be easy to call it too cold (because right now, it sure as hell feels like it), but given Metro Louisville's inability to handle any kind of inclement weather with any aplomb it is difficult to see the winter as anything but a catastrophe waiting to happen.

I love it for all it's follies and foibles, though. Louisville has embraced me as much as any place can embrace an itchy-footed, semi-domesticated, rarely-do-well with a better than average vocabulary.

Wherever home happens to be, it's perfectly normal to find attributes about the place that make it special to you. For example, I call Louisville home. It helps that my wife lives here, and that I'm close to family. The thing I love about Louisville besides that is that it's still basically a small town... or, at least, it behaves like one. For the most part, people here do too, though anyone who hasn't been to a city that knows its a city and behaves like one would maintain that a large population and a few tall buildings are all that is required to make a city.

This is untrue.

A city has a different heart and a different soul. Not better. Different. Cities move fast and leave the past buried in dust -- at least, until it can be resurrected to turn a greasy buck for some carpetbagging capitalist. *

Louisville still has that small town heart. It's true that the carpetbaggers are at the door -- Omni Hotel, Google Fiber -- but it's difficult to not let them in after you've already invited them in and allowed them to shit all over the furniture.** I love it hear because in spite of the efforts of people to polish it, the underbelly of the city is still -- well, a turd. River towns are always a little grimy, and they need to be. All manner of things come up and down river and are deposited here. People. Goods. Art. Pollution. A sacred connection to something older, deeper, more meaningful, and fundamentally human*** that you simply don't find in other places. Yes, there is humanity in other places. Yes, there is a way to the sacred and the divine in other places.

But a river is an ancient artery that records every age. As a matter of fact, where I sit right now is nothing more than a long dry riverbed. Waters move and cut and focus the geography, leave behind something for people to use and live and take care of. The riverbed is a living thing, recording and remembering the history we don't take time to notice.

It will be this history that sits in judgement over us long after we have become the very fossils we ignore in the name of profit.

Lately I've been trying to figure out ways to leave a positive mark on the rocks instead of a negative one. Some plans have fallen through -- working to organize local adjuncts to demand better from their masters has lost serious momentum^. Working to maintain a radical labor union has also proven nearly impossible, as I am apparently too caustic and hurt people's feels^^. This has caused me to have rethink my relationships with people and remember that most relationships are transitory. But as long  as my marriage is good and my close family still embraces me, life is good.


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__________________________
*Read: locally, the "Democratic" mayor and metro council's clear disregard for working people by allowing Omni Hotel developers to not hire union carpenters. Read also the vote in metro council tonight that, if it goes through will go against a standing union contract to bring Google Fiber to town. Yes, this town still has a small town heart and a small town soul... but Mayor Fischer and his "economic development team" are trying really hard to murder it.
**Read: 4th Street Live
*** To be human is to be of the dirt. We are a grimy bunch. And there's something sacred in that, too.
^Everyone agrees that change is necessary, but they're waiting for someone else to do the lifting... which never works. It's all of us or none of us.
^^It's true. As eloquent as I can be, I'm also an asshole sometimes. But don't mistake that admission for an apology. Having a difficult personality and being wrong are two different things. And I'm not wrong.