Monday, March 12, 2018

Western Civilization...who needs it?


The other day I heard some guy going on about how great western civilization was and I kept quiet as I'd been relatively indifferent but gave it a little reflection and realized my ambivalence towards it.            
   We have to study it in school no matter what continent we live on and acknowledge it's greatness if not it's superiority, but lets think about it for a moment. If we examine the nature of Western Civilization it is one of victors and victims of the weak and strong. Strength is determined in the western world by NUMBERS. Either you PHYSICALLY outnumber someone with other people or you have more of something else than he has e.g. gold, diamonds, weapons resistance to a particular disease.
         European history and the governments founded by those of European ancestry are about the survival of the fittest and the amassing of power by any means. This is hardly a secret, but I find it peculiar that whenever someone mentions these concepts they are immediately treated as pariahs. Niccolo Machiavelli outlined it in his work "The Prince" when he obsequiously attempted to curry favor with the Florentine power brokers that were the De Medici family. They found him a bit too ruthless for their liking and deemed him untrustworthy.  By contrast Charles Darwin mention the concept of "Natural Selection" i.e. "survival of the fittest" and was criticized openly. To this day there exist organizations whose sole purpose seems to be a dedication to Darwin's work.  Why? My theory is that the true nature of western civilization is the amassing of power and maintaining it by any means at ones disposal.
       Feudalism existed in Europe as well as Asia and in both those in charge used fear to govern those they considered beneath them. They kept them ignorant of the world around them and illiterate. The logic? The less people know the easier they are to control.  Look at any feudal society or modern dictatorship and you'll see a handful of landed literati lording over superstitious masses.

      In the United Kingdom a class system was created that was so strong that one of the questions one might possibly be asked (and judged by) remains "What does/did your father do?" Translation? Your self worth should be determined by how useful your family has been to those with money.  In the United States we claim to be a nation of laws where all are created equal, but ARE we?  The United States like MOST western nations was founded by very wealthy men who convinced the very poor to venture west to take land from the Indians then when that had been accomplished ventured forward, bought as much land as they could from them and took their places of power.
     Western civilization didn't CREATE genocide and slavery but certainly had no difficulty exploiting them as "the ends justified the means" as Machiavelli once stated.
   
        Is western civilization xenophobic, genocidal and racist?  I would argue no, because  exploiting racism does not make one racist, it's a mere strategy to attain an advantage.  What's racism? A system by which one group (usually a majority) asserts its superiority over a minority which is more than likely of a different race. If they're the SAME race but of different nationalities ethnically then it's nationalism, same horse...but of a different name.  Racism and nationalism were created by the powerful not because they hated anyone, but because they loved power. Consider something if you are the person in charge and paying pittances to your employees your fear is them uniting to demand fair wages. You need wedges between them to maintain power. If you get one group to resent another for something as stupid as the color of their skin or which arrived in the country first there will be no unity and you remain in power.
           If you're in a homogeneous society they you use religious beliefs or occupations and class differences but there must ALWAYS be a wedge. If you were to meet the richest people in the world you'll note that they would happily associate with rich people from any other culture before they embraced someone of their race and nationality who was impoverished.
          The rich harbor only one prejudice and it is against poverty and the poor which is very ironic. The rich detest the poor but NEED them. If one considers the comparative and superlative world in which we live, if there were no poor people, there would be no rich. If everyone had the exact same amount of EVERYTHING...there would be no classes. I'm not speaking out on behalf of "communism" as it doesn't work, but consider something, in order for what you have to be worth something you must control the supply thereof. If you don't have all of something or at least most of it you're just like everyone else whether that commodity is land, cattle, goats, gold, diamonds or pieces of paper with images on them.

           "What about political systems and elections"? Those with the money and power create political systems to give the masses who now have some degree of literacy the illusion of running society as a whole. It's like adults giving a noisy child a toy to silence them. When the Chinese Exclusion act was passed in 1882 it wasn't because wealthy Americans had issues with the Chinese any more than the late 19th century Jim Crow laws had anything with the wealthy and influential hating blacks. Both laws were examples of the power brokers allowing the poor to sow  divisions among themselves to their benefit both Jim Crow and the exclusion of the Chinese remained until both like slavery before them became economically unsustainable. There was a point in Australian history when there were literally bounties on the skulls of it's indigenous aboriginal people, but much as with America's natives there came a point when those pointing the guns when told by those signing paychecks that they had to realize that they had "won" and killing no longer served a purpose.
         
             In conclusion, I would tell those who wish to call western civilization "racist" to consider that racism and every other "ism" is a device used to maintain power. Prejudice and hated are easy tools to use on the simple minded because thinking for one's self requires effort.


Thursday, February 22, 2018

Where's Ralph?

When I was eight years old my brother and sisters and I were going to Lake Charles to spend time with our cousins.  My cousin had a buddy named Ralph who lived next door with his brother whose name I can NEVER remember. Going to visit our cousin was always fun because Ralph's brother was around my age and all of us enjoyed playing together. We'd even chase fire flies to see which of us would be lucky enough to get one in a jar to use as a night light.
           A trip to Lake Charles is maybe a two hour drive unless my dad was behind the wheel. Dad loved to stop EVERYWHERE along the way so the two hour trip usually took AT LEAST FOUR. All the way I ignored my older sisters fighting and just thought of playing with my cousin, Ralph and his brother. When we arrived at 10 pm however, something just wasn't right.  My cousin wasn't home and his mother (my aunt) pulled my mom aside and made sure we kids stayed in the car. Ralph's house next door was dark and mom got us all into the house quickly. My cousin showed up but wasn't his cheerful self. He looked distressed and as if he'd been crying. I asked "where's Ralph?" He was trying to speak to us, but couldn't, he simply couldn't talk. We turned on the television and the first thing we saw was our cousin's house and 10 seconds into a reporter going into a script she'd written my cousin started crying and said: "That's not what happened! That's not how it happened!" before running into his room and sobbing.
             What we didn't know was that prior to our arrival that our cousin and Ralph had been snooping around the house and found my uncle's shot gun and my cousin accidentally shot Ralph, killing him. I didn't know how to react I was saddened and shocked. I would never see my friend again. My cousin eventually regained the spring in his step years later, but I think on some level he never forgave himself.  He hung with a rough crowd when he grew up, but never carried a gun that I knew of.  He was with one of our cousins when he was gunned down and someone murdered him with a knife a few  years later.

           Guns were omnipresent in my childhood. My mother carried a derringer in her purse, my father carried a snub-nosed 38 in his truck and had a shotgun in the house and I would see guns everywhere. The neighborhood where I grew up wasn't the worst in Houston, but it wasn't the best. By the time I was in High school there were more guns and some crime. I would see people on Fridays and not see them on Monday and when I asked about them I was told "Oh man. You didn't hear?  Oh, he got SHOT Saturday!"  I was once sitting on a city bus when some disturbed man took out a 44 magnum which he fired into the air as we drove off.  I attended more than one house party where someone pulled a gun and started shooting and I WISH I could say I never had a gun pointed AT me or had to hit the deck because some imbecile insisted on shooting in the general direction of a crowd in which I'd been standing at someones home or some club.
 
          As a stupid young Marine I had to carry a rifle while in combat training. We LITERALLY had to take it EVERYWHERE with us. If you went to the head (rest room) your weapon was with you. if you had to take a shower, your weapon was with you. If you went from point A to point B you had your weapon WITH you. You ate with it,  it was in your sleeping bag and if you misplaced it, corporals and sergeants humiliate you by dressing you down in front of anyone within ear shot, then would make you scale a huge, steep hill the following morning while everyone else was eating chow. Their logic? It was important and knowing where it was would mean life or death. They made me realize that a weapon wasn't a toy, it was a responsibility and not one to be taken lightly.

         A couple of years ago I was at work when I learned that one of our honor students, an eleventh grader had been shot and his body had been left in a ditch. He had attended a party and the rumor was that some imbecile was angered by the fact that his girlfriend was looking at our friend so he shot him to get back at his girlfriend for daring to cast her eyes on another guy. He was never apprehended.

      I'm often asked my views on the 2nd amendment and my views are complicated. I own a weapon but don't hunt, however I do go to the range a couple of times a year, but wouldn't feel lost if I didn't.  I think if someone WANTS a gun he/she should have the right to own one; however, I'm of the opinion that there are certain members of society as a whole who shouldn't be trusted with with forks and spoons much less a firearm.
       Owning a gun IS a right for Americans but it's also one hell of a responsibility. Should people have to pass some kind of psychiatric screening before getting a gun? No, but if a guy has been in and out of prison or mental institutions, we should PROBABLY try to come between him/her and a gun. Someone points out America's founding fathers and their "wisdom." I respect the founders but take them with a grain of salt.  After ratifying their constitution James Madison had to add a Bill of Rights to it comprised of ten amendments including the much debated Second Amendment giving all Americans access to a weapon. The founders for all their good points DID NOT see free men of color OR Indians as "people" as evident that they were NOT to be counted as part of the country's population. Black men weren't recognized as citizens until 1865 and native Americans weren't until 1924. There are many who scarcely acknowledge the citizenship OF men/women of color much less think they should have guns. In fact many of the earliest restrictive gun laws were put into place SPECIFICALLY to prevent men of color from getting a gun.
       Do I have a concealed handgun permit? I do NOT. Why? In California until 1967 frontier gun laws were on the books which allowed ANY citizen to openly carry a weapon, The Black Panther Party For Self Defense did precisely that and conservative lawmakers drafted the Mulford act and Governor Ronald Reagan happily signed it saying: "There is no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons." At the time of the law's passage the National Rifle Association SUPPORTED the law.


 http://time.com/4431356/nra-gun-control-history/


Mass media has long painted heroes as being white knights on white horses with guns.  I'm not trying to sound like a racist and apologize if someone sees the following as such, but all to often, it looks like in these United States a white guy openly carrying a weapon is simply exercising his 2nd amendment right; whereas a man of color is suspect. IN 2016 a deranged former soldier from the upper levels of a parking garage opened fire on police at what had been a peaceful protest.  There had been a man of color on the ground with an AR-15 on his shoulder at the protest and lots of film and video of him had been shot. He was shown on news channels, but a conservative news outlet called him a "person of interest" and one commentator even called him a suspect until he saw himself on television and contacted police to assure them that he was in NO WAY involved. A Minnesota cafeteria manager named Fernando Castile who had a concealed handgun permit was shot by a traffic cop and died at the scene. Castile had no criminal record, but conservative media outlets began to say that he was a suspect in a robbery.



 https://theconservativetreehouse.com/2016/07/08/confirmed-philando-castile-was-an-armed-robbery-suspect-false-media-narrative-now-driving-cop-killings/



 It was later revealed that he WASN'T and that the officer involved simply pulled him over because the ACTUAL robber (like Castile) was a black man with dreadlocks.  By that logic I'm a suspect in that robbery as that's a very generic description of me. I've never been to Minnesota, but it's nice to know that if I go there and get shot my face will be flashed across tv screens and I'll be called a "robbery suspect" so that my killing will be justified. Actual media outlets later revealed this deadly mistake.



 https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/officer-thought-philando-castile-was-robbery-suspect-tapes-show-n607856



I don't carry a concealed handgun because it's yet ANOTHER thing I'd have to explain and honestly I just don't want a REASON to get shot because someone thinks I MAY be someone else and happen to be armed, which I know could happen regardless of my race.
              I KNOW the counter argument to everything I've said. The shootings that were part of my life as a young man were committed by criminals who more than likely had illegal weapons. Okay I'll give my critics that.  MOST gun owners are law abiding citizens, YES MOST gun owners ARE law abiding citizens and SHOULD NOT be punished every time some crazy a-hole goes on a shooting spree.   I like guns but wouldn't wither and die if I never fired another one. Does that mean I want to take others guns away? No.
          The Swiss made military service compulsory. Two years in the military and soldiers are sent home with their rifles and made part of the militia in the event of an attack.  Most adults in Switzerland own a weapon but when was the last time there was a shooting in a theatre there or a school?  They are an educated people and educated people are less likely to commit crimes. I don't advocate banning guns and think we as a nation simply need to be more EDUCATED, not just about GUNS but in general. As an industrialized nation we don't have a great literacy rate.     
                The number of Americans who are functionally literate is NOWHERE near as high as it SHOULD be for the world's LEADING economy. American drop out rates are high and unlike our counterparts in Europe and Asia we're taking money FROM education.  Does that mean there are no crimes in these countries? No, every country has prisons, but the rest of the industrialized world doesn't balk about educating its citizens.
       More over, American school systems spend more on football stadiums, and coaching staffs for baseball, basketball, football and hockey than they do on LIBRARIES and books.  Here in Texas when there was a budget shortage education suffered and the first people fired were school librarians.  One would swear that schools were supposed to be places of LEARNING or something rather than training grounds for men who want to play a sport for a living.
              Our mass media tells us the man with the gun is strong, the man with the book is weak and little is done to dissuade that belief.  Shoot first, and ask questions later seems to be a popular American belief, but when everyone has access to a gun, but education has little if any value you've a recipe for disaster.  For what it's worth, we may examine a warrior culture which believed a man's weapon to be so inseparable from who he was, that it was LITERALLY considered part of his SOUL. The culture which held that belief was the samurai.  The warriors in question also took pride in their knowledge of  Chinese culture, their ability to appreciate and write poetry, their ability to paint/draw, the ability to play an instrument, knowledge of dance, their appreciation of the theatre and the number of written materials they owned.  Their abilities exceeded the ability to use bladed weapons and archer's bows. The samurai took pride in being warriors who appreciated scholarship and the arts, why can't we?

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Great American "Dead Pool" (Satire)

I write this blog on Wednesday February 14th, 2018. It's Valentine's day and the VERY first news story I heard upon turning on my television when I walked into  the house wasn't about someone buying a ridiculously expensive gift for their significant other, or of some elderly couple who've spent the past 70 years together and never let the romance leave their union.
       
              Rather than hearing about the candy, floral and greeting card industry holiday that IS St. Valentines day, I heard about some kid in Florida who showed up at his old high school with an AR-15 and decided to shoot up  the place. Over the past few years I've turned on my TV immediately after work and heard about guys with handguns and AR-15s and AK-47s shooting up shopping malls, movie theatres, colleges campuses concerts and work places and my law makers always have the same reaction. They all come out and offer their prayers and condolences. They all show up at memorials and candle light vigils, then they go back to their legislative bodies and argue over what should be done. The arguing turns ugly then is forgotten until a month later when it happens again and they repeat the process.
            Let me give my reader a little more perspective here. Men (the shooters are RARELY EVER women) have shot up hospitals and clinics,  ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS and even a public park where the members of the United States Congress were playing baseball. Those SAME Congressmen then went on to argue about existing and possible gun laws and ultimately changed the subject two weeks later.

        There are those who try to politicize the shootings. I will NOT attempt to do so in this essay.  I will NOT blame a religion, ideology, nationality or ethnic group for all these shootings. I will simply say they are a symptom of an apathetic society which would rather watch our citizenry die than even contemplate enforcing existing gun laws OR attempting to put safeguards in place to make sure that the handful of people who SHOULD NOT have access to spoons to consume pudding (for fear that they could kill some with one) don't ever get to possess a fire arm.

        I imagine the cynics among you will ask me for MY solution. Well I have one. All of us can bitch and say that something should be done, but who can come up with an actual solution.  Well to silence my critics I DO have a solution. My solution is THIS, a nation wide DEAD POOL!


We will pass NO laws infringing upon ANY citizen's right to own ANY fire arm, pyrotechnic, ordnance or other deadly device. In fact we should allow citizens to own FULLY automatic weapons, hand grenades, land mines, artillery pieces, anti tank guns, anti aircraft guns, mortars, flame throwers and even the elusive exploding and rarely seen exploding herring of Ecuador.

Our dead pool? Well, It will operate like a lottery, and be headed by British bookmakers who have NO STAKE in American gun policy or violence as our OWN Las Vegas odds makers MAY be a tad biased.

Participants have to fill out forms  and answer the following questions about the shooting.

A Weapon: What was used? Gun? Knife? Sherman tank? Banana?

B. Sex of the shooter:  Man? Woman? Tran-sexual? Maybe the shooter's a hermaphrodite!

C. Location/Geography: Is it in the north, south, Midwest. southwest, Hawaii? Guam? Puerto Rico? come on pick a place!

D. Location: School, house of worship, work place, concert, restaurant? Maybe you'll pic a ball pit at a pizza place and luck up!

E. Religion/ Nationality/ Ideology: Why did the shooter do it? Was he a Muslim? A Mexican? A Mexican Muslim with a bad haircut who got tired of being called "Dukakis"? Was the shooter a racist? A member of a group that wishes to popularize ball room dancing or just some guy with a bad overbite who felt he wasn't being fairly portrayed in national media?

F, Reason: Did the shooter claim some deity made him/her do it? Did he blame society as a whole? Was some institutional 'ism" to blame?  Did he/she simply want to be on TV for shooting someone?

If you get all six correct you get a HUGE pile of cash to be paid out by the state in which the incident occurs, the individuals serving as their District attorneys and ALL of their elected officials on the local, county, state and FEDERAL level!

Since we can't STOP our countrymen from slaughtering one another with high powered weapons, let's AT LEAST allow citizens who are law abiding win fabulous prizes guessing when a group of their fellow Americans will be used as target practice! No one gets their gun taken away! No one with a six foot, psychotic, imaginary rabbit as a best friend has "big government" tell him/her they CAN'T have a gun or any OTHER deadly device and we all get a new game of chance, and the best part is our government gets tax revenue from every "winning entry!" It's a HUGE win win!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Dog Whistles...

There was once a brilliant man named Lee Atwater. May he rest in peace. Atwater was a political strategists who is most famous for getting George H.W. Bush elected with one of the most reprehensible campaign ads in American history.  In the 1988 election then Vice President H.W. Bush was running against Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Dukakis' predecessor initiated a prison furlough program which allowed certain inmates to visit their families for a weekend with good behavior. During he first month of Dukakis' term as Governor a felon named Willie Horton who while out of a furlough raped a Massachusetts woman.  Atwater immediately made a campaign commercial showing a prison with a revolving door and a second simply showing a photo of inmate Horton.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTdUQ9SYhUw

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Io9KMSSEZ0Y

The Ad showing Horton was said by many at the time to have been a racial dog whistle given that studies showed that many rural voters associated crime with people of color. Atwater admitted as much. He once said:

"You start out in 1954 by saying, "Nigger, nigger, nigger." By 1968 you can't say "nigger" — that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states' rights and all that stuff. You're getting so abstract now [that] you're talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you're talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I'm not saying that. But I'm saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, "We want to cut this," is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than "Nigger, nigger."


He also joked in the early 90s that his biggest accomplishment was convincing that a Connecticut born blue blood was just a "regular guy" from Texas and even said that his job was to get people vote against their own interests.
               My issue here isn't racism in America, but rather our VILE political landscape and how the unintelligent are manipulated and seem oblivious to it. In the  1980s Ronald Reagan introduced something called "trickle down economics".  The logic behind "trickle down" was that when the rich get richer it helps the economy because they SPEND more money.
            Most economists have shown that when the rich get richer they simply save more or buy stocks and bonds. They don't really do much for the average steel worker or farmer but the popular spin always seems to be that when big companies get more money or have fewer regulations to deal with they give raises. This has proven to be false as American wages have frozen since the Reagan administration. By that I mean they have NOT kept up with either the cost of living or inflation.

       When huge corporations have most recently gotten huge tax breaks, rather than hiring more people they FIRED people and bought their own stocks to manipulate the prices. Amazingly whenever someone mentions raising the minimum wage, certain politicians fight it saying it would crash the economy and have convinced their followers of it, and the same politicians have convinced their followers that the SAME wealthy men and women who control Wall Street will simply make them richer rather than giving top executives bonuses.

      I'm no expert on the economy, but I've always thought that the purpose of any company was to make money.  Companies hire people because they need jobs done, NOT because their purpose was to "create jobs". How many companies have moved jobs to other countries OR simply replaced people with robots because it meant more money? This wasn't done because regulations or high taxes forced them to do so. Huge companies are not known for their "compassion" their sole goal is to make as much of money as possible. Recent relaxation of regulations and a huge tax break are being sold as a boon for the economy. I don't see it, but then again the under educated do sadly tend to respond to dog whistles.



Monday, January 15, 2018

Martin Luther King

Doctor Martin Luther King staged protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963 and upset the city fathers who then turned to the city's black clergy and pressured them to publicly distance themselves from Dr. King.  The ministers complied and told Dr. King in writing essentially not to rock the boat for those who lived in Birmingham as they would have to deal with the repercussions of his actions long after he was gone.
        Not being in a position to pick up a phone and call the men in question, or to dictate a letter to them he found the ONLY paper available to him, the April 16th days newspaper. He got a pen from a guard and in the margins of the news paper sat down and wrote a letter to his fellow clergymen which became the now legendary "letter from a Birmingham jail."

      In this now legendary epistle Doctor King explained WHY he'd come to their city and why he had to do what he was doing. He explained how simply being passive was the best way of insuring that the black man's position in the south would never change and how it was the best way to assure continued second class citizenry.

       I write this on the day Americans set aside to honor Dr. King and racial tensions in America in the year 2018 most certainly have NOT disappeared. I doubt they ever will. While there IS hope I can honestly say the America in which I live is NOT the same America in which my parents and grandparents lived. I will not be denied entrance into restaurants, hotels and restrooms simply because of the color of my skin.  I can vote without fear of the Ku Klux Klan coming to my home to "send me a message" and I can interact socially with whomever I please without fear of groups of violent bigots setting upon us.
     
     In 1963 Dr. King gave a speech in the shadow of the Lincoln memorial which became known as the "I have a Dream" speech in which he envisioned an America in which "his children would "be judged NOT by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." He admitted that in 1963 "a negro in the south can not vote and a negro in the north feels he has nothing for which to vote." My grandfather couldn't vote in rural Louisiana for the better part of his life. When I turned 18 one of the first things I did was register to vote and have never missed an election. I have two nephews who don't vote at all and figure it serves no purpose. One distrusts all politicians the other thinks the system is "rigged" to where his voting for president won't make a difference.

      Does racism still exist? I know of ONE job I KNOW I didn't get simply because of the color of my skin.  I have been called racial slurs by people who either didn't think I heard them or simply didn't give a damn how a person of color felt about anything.  I've had people tell stupid jokes based on stereotypes in my presence because they didn't think I possessed the intellect to know I was being insulted and I've most certainly been treated differently for simply being a black man.

     Things for which I'm simply ostracized now are things for which I would have been either jailed without cause or LYNCHED for years ago so I have to say things are MUCH better than they were.  If Dr. King were alive today, had he NOT been assassinated in 1968 his character would have been daily on Fox News and in conservative news outlets the way his lieutenant John Lewis' is now.  While he was alive conservatives in both parties OPENLY called him a "communist".
    Truth be told, today isn't the day in which I honor and remember Dr. King, for me that day is April 4th the anniversary of his death.
        I believe Dr. King's work was not so much about race in America, but rather us reaching a point where every American would enjoy the same rights and privileges regardless of his/her race, religion or where he or she might have been born. Do I believe his dream his been realized? Hardly. Do think it will be one day? I have hope and would love to live to see it.



Sunday, November 12, 2017

Coming in from the Cold War

Czar Nicolas II of Russia was overthrown by Vladamir Lennin and the Bolshevics in 1917 shortly following the first world war and was subsequently assassinated by them. My grandparents were born into a world when the "Soviet threat" was seen as a danger to democracy or at least to free market economies.
           My grandfather was beyond the draft age when world war two started and was more concerned with raising his young family. At that point the United States and Soviets were ideologically juxtaposed, but united to fight a genocidal, xenophobic Austrian nationalist who had convinced Germans they were a "master race." My parents were small children when Julius and Ethel Rosenberg gave the Soviets plans to replicate the hydrogen bomb that we'd used to destroy the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and were tried, convicted and executed for treason.
      
        The Soviets would bankroll a civil war in China and we supported the opposition. They supported a communist dictator on the Korean peninsula and we sent young Americans there to fight and die in a proxy war  there which never actually ended but rather turned into a lengthy "cease fire" which is still in effect. When my parents were in high school, the Soviets allied themselves with southeast Asian nationalists in Northern Vietnam and America's response was to send the men of my father's generation to give their lives. it became a quagmire which cost us billions and tens of thousands of American and South Vietnamese lives and went down as the only war the United States ever "lost". In the midst of that a young man named Don Trump. the grandson of an immigrant who'd become wealthy as a slumlord used a mysterious medical deferment to avoid going to the war in question. In 1980 the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and we sent weapons and money to a group of guerillas who would later become a terrorist organization that ultimately attacked us and turned Afghanistan into their "Vietnam".
          Over the better part of a century the United States and Soviet Union spied on one another via our Office of Strategic Services which would later become the Central Intelligence Agency and the Soviet KGB.  We had various standoffs in central and south America, the Caribbean, Asia and Africa via proxy wars, coup de tats, revolutions and counter revolutions. We'll probably never know how many Americans whose names we'll never know died in back alleys in Berlin, Helsinki and nameless tropic jungles in attempts to gather intelligence on our then enemy.

     I often tell people one of the happiest days of my life was as a young marine standing in an airport in a class A uniform watching Germans chipping away at the Berlin wall which had been a symbol of the cold war since before my birth. I smiled so hard my face hurt because I knew it meant that there would never be another war between us and the communists. While communism as a form of government vanished in Europe (it still exist in China, Vietnam and Cuba) Communist did not.
             Vladamir Putin a former head of the KGB and Russia's current leader has started wars in former Soviet republics to make them Russian spheres of influence again. He's used cyber attacks to cripple their economies, assassinated journalists and political opposition leaders in the case of the Ukraine sent soldiers (who weren't in Russian uniforms but used Soviet equipment) to simply take the country over and called it a "people's uprising."

      In 2016 Hillary Clinton a former senator and Secretary of State and one of Putin's old political enemies ran for president and according to the world's intelligence community, his machine went to work via a series cyber attacks and fake news stories to effect the outcome of America's election.
The election was won by Clinton's opponent a man named Don Trump whom you may remember was the grandson of an immigrant who became a wealthy slum lord and used his family's connectios to avoid a Soviet proxy war in Vietnam.
             President Trump while ironically IN Vietnam took advantage of the moment to not only deny Russian involvement in our election and to claim that he "believed" Vladamir Putin's denials,  but to attack the men who spent their careers in out intelligence community as "political hacks". He went on to say that we should strive for BETTER relations with Putin and the Russians.

         I can't help but wonder, at what point did attempts to subvert our government become acceptable. Over the years many American politician's careers were built or destroyed because they were either "tough on" or "not tough enough" on the Russians.  Julius and Ethel Rosenberg felt it wasn't fair that we had a weapon that could destroy cities and the Russians didn't and it cost them their lives.  Many Americans were sent to prison for selling seemingly trivial "secrets" to the then Soviet Union.
       Why is an American president so enamored with becoming an ally to a government which openly and aggressively spies on us and attempted to influence one of our elections?  Why does that same president seemingly have so little regard for the very intelligence community whose work protects and has protected him and all Americans for the entirety of his life? What is the future of the republic that is the United States of America when our elected chief executive seems to admire a totalitarian oligarch?

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Help not handcuffs? What the hell?

"Drugs have been in black neighborhoods for years, but as soon as a bunch of white people start doing drugs: 'Oh GOD it's an EPIDEMIC!' " :Richard Pryor

I was a teenager in the 80s and the first time I saw a rock of crack cocaine I didn't think much of it. I'd seen people do powdered cocaine and thought it was stupid and knew cocaine could be smoked, but still didn't see the allure of getting high. I still don't.  When I saw my first crack rock, at 14 I didn't realize the  devastating impact it would have on my community and even members of my own family
        I saw intelligent young men and women throw away their futures, families, dignity and even their lives chasing the fleeting high and saw the working class neighborhood I grew up in slowly decay into a ghetto.  When I turned on my television every other TV show was telling me about the perils of drugs and even first lady Nancy Reagan (may she rest in peace) was telling me to "Just say no" to them.  I also noticed that law enforcement decided they would find a way to deal with our drug problem, they would impose harsher sentences for selling or possessing crack cocaine than for powdered cocaine. The irony of course being that you NEED powdered cocaine to make crack but I guess that escaped my law makers.
        I didn't realize it at the time but MOST of the people addicted to powdered cocaine were white and affluent and most of the users of crack tended to be black or hispanic. Essentially a stock broker living in a huge house on the right side of the tracks could be caught with a couple of grams of cocaine and get far less time than a kid from the neighborhood who was caught with two grams of crack. I'm not trying to say those being arrested for drug crimes didn't DESERVE to be, but looking back I'm wondering why the affluent were given a pass when kids from the city were sent to literally fight for their lives in America's prisons.

           Flash forward to 2017 and America again has a drug problem. This time it's not cocaine, it's opiates AKA pain pills and drugs like codeine.  Many become addicted to pain meds then when they can no longer get them, go to the streets where they become addicted to heroin.  The addicts by and large are kids in the suburbs and in rural communities all over America. The response has been swift. Drug treatment centers have sprang up everywhere. Insurance plans under former President Obama's Affordable Care Act include rehabilitation programs, politicians are getting on cable news shows in tears begging for more money to be placed into programs to treat drug addiction. I saw a sheriff in Ohio saying he sponsored a program called "help not handcuffs" and another pundit on a cable news panel saying "These people have souls and should be treated with compassion because they've succumb to an addiction."
        As I see this genuine outpouring of compassion I'm conflicted. As an American I'm proud to see my country taking positive steps to solve a serious problem, but as a man of color who has seen his friends sent to serve lengthy jail sentences for the EXACT SAME THING in the 80s and 90s my response is WHAT THE FUCK!?  I want those who are addicted to drugs to be treated as if they have a serious problem and we want them to resume normal lives and I've always wanted that, but where the hell was this compassion in the 80s and 90s when the majority of these people were men and women of color?  I'm not one to play the race card, but those who WOULD call the great country in which I live "racist" could EASILY use this as an great example to illustrate their point. The criminal justice system was more than happy to demonize young black and Hispanic men and women who became addicted to crack cocaine by throwing them in prison, but when it happens to some kid in a small town or in the suburbs suddenly they've decided that drug abuse should be treated with compassion?!
     What burns me up more than ANYTHING are some of the voices calling for compassion. The men and women who are saying that this is an "American" problem were the ones calling for the stiff sentences for drug offenders whose compassion seems quite odd in light of policies they had for "cleaning up America's streets".
       For the record, I do NOT think that we should warehouse men and women in prison for drug use. We SHOULD have programs for drug treatment and I think a national health service (like the British, Canadian or Australian models) would greatly help implementing one, but we as a nation need to OWN our hypocrisy on our "war on drugs" (as Nixon called it) for what it was overt racism and selective prosecution, then we can move forward and treat all our addicts not as denizens of small towns, suburbia or even the "inner city" but as Americans.