August 28, 2014 Editor:
What is happening in Ferguson, MO is just the most recent symptom of the cancer of America’s soul. We are long past the delusion of “the Greatest-Country-In-The-World” and rapidly descending to violent third world status. After reading Naja and Arnaud Girard’s piece, Friday, August 22, in The Blue Paper on KWPD’s brutal and dehumanizing treatment of the people it is charged to serve and protect right here in our little city, I have no choice but to protest. As an American citizen it is my civic duty to protest. As a human being I am compelled to protest.
Of any city or town in the US, Key West is in the envious position to be a living, shining example of our One Human Family credo and show the rest of the country how it’s done. Key West is a unique blend of international culture, multi-generational locals with ties to Cuba and the Bahamas, a creative and vibrant gay community and US military history and an on-going military presence. We are a microcosm of the US in a beautiful tropical setting. It is a tragedy our leadership doesn’t have the political will or the imagination to celebrate and promote our diversity, but instead plods along shrugging its shoulders in clueless ambivalence as our police behave in such brutal fashion.
I’m getting worn out repeating the standard excuse for police brutality, “The majority of cops are great people, it’s just a few bad apples misbehaving, etc, etc, etc…” I’m sorry, but that isn’t working for me anymore. In truth, the “blue wall of silence” screams culpability. The archaic tradition of looking the other way and protecting psychopaths in uniform needs to end. Now. This goes for the tacit approval of the same by the city commissioners, the mayor, the city manager and the Chief of Police, Donnie Lee.
Please, let us be the city to emulate. We are so close, but until we cull those few bad apples we will be no better than those killer cops in Ferguson and St Louis.
I have a personal policy of avoiding main stream corporate news outlets like I avoid The Weather Channel. I don’t need to know about hurricane Gertrude from the minute it forms off the coast of Africa. It might be weeks before it crosses the Atlantic and actually becomes a problem. When it gets close, IF it gets close, then I will hear about it at Five Brothers over café con leche. That way I avoid those weeks of needless anxiety and nail biting. The same goes for watching, listening and/or reading corporate sponsored propaganda, aka the news. Continue reading
Somewhere Karl Marx is shaking his shaggy head and smiling. When a bastion of the capitalist right, Time Magazine, publishes an article validating ANYTHING Karl Marx said can Armageddon be far behind? I am most definitely not an economist. Show me a budget report or some financial spread sheet and my eyes glaze over in stupor, but lately I have been reading with some fascination many unflattering reports on the sacred free market. The imaginary capitalist guiding hand of self-regulation and its sister, the imaginary self-leveling playing field are, all of a sudden, being called into question. What is going on?! Continue reading
I just finished reading an enlightening article on “Reparations” in the June 2014 issue of, The Atlantic. The piece was titled “The Case For Reparations” written by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor at The Atlantic. Reparations, in this context, is referring to amends for past treatment of African slaves and their descendants. The reaction to the word reparations has a predictable knee-jerk effect on most Americans of European descent. “Who is going to pay and who is going to be paid and how much are WE expected to come up with”, are the usual defensive and dismissive questions.
This article attempts to address those questions, but is more focused on the necessity for an open rational dialogue on the subject. As the copy on the cover of the magazine states in bold print: “250 years of slavery. 90 years of Jim Crow. 60 years of separate but equal. 35 years of state-sanctioned redlining. Until we reckon with the compounding moral debts of our ancestors, America will never be whole.” Recovery begins with an admission that there is a problem. Continue reading
Apropos of last week’s heartbreaking article in The Blue Paper by Naja and Arnaud Girard on the personal stories of three local homeless, two families and one single person, I came across a story making its way around the web. It’s the miraculous human-interest/feel-good story of Rashema Melson, an eighteen year old homeless young African-American woman who graduated with a 4.0 GPA and valedictorian of her class at Anacostia High School in Washington DC. Ms. Melson will be attending Georgetown University in the fall with a full scholarship. She accomplished this miracle in spite of living in a homeless shelter with her mother and siblings for the last two years after a tumultuous existence of moving from place to place previous to landing in the shelter. She is an attractive and poised young woman and will no doubt go on to greatness and I salute her.
There is a fascinating trend in seemingly well educated liberal America that has common roots in less educated conservative America. That trend is mistrust and denial of science. The folks that feel faith based solutions are the answer to just about any problem facing our society have an unlikely ally in the upper middle class suburban crowd. Many of the latter have, in spite of overwhelming scientific data to the contrary, decided that vaccination against measles, mumps, rubella and polio is the cause of afflictions such as Autism and Attention Deficit Disorder. Thanks to the likes of the pulchritudinous (love that word) Jenny McCarthy and Michele “Jesus Wrote the Constitution” Bachmann, the anti-science, anti-vaccination crowd have a national voice. Add the interweb and it’s an ignorance fest extraordinaire. Continue reading
You may or may not have heard of the trial of Cecily McMillan in the New York City courts. She was arrested for assaulting a police officer and after a skewed trial that suppressed video of her treatment by the police and suppressed evidence of the “assaulted” officer’s history of violence, was found guilty on May fifth. She and several hundred Occupy Wall Street protesters were at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan enjoying St. Patrick’s Day 2012, voicing their first amendment right to peacefully express discontent with Corporate and Wall Street’s ownership of the country. The NYPD descended on the park and arrested seventy people, including McMillan. When a plain clothes police officer grabbed McMillan from behind grasping her right breast she instinctively elbowed him in the face, not knowing who was grabbing her. She was then taken down and beaten by several police officers. She lost consciousness and went into seizure. Her next sensation was the feel of rubber tread on her face from the floor of the city bus commandeered by the NYPD to transport the arrested, then an oxygen mask over her nose and mouth, finally regaining full consciousness in a hospital where she was handcuffed to a bed. Continue reading
I thought I might take a break this week from chronicling the latest abominations of our pathocratic paradigm and talk about a positive personal experience instead. The abominations will be there when we return.
This past week has been revelatory for me on a couple of levels. This revelation began when I attended a talk by Kadampa Buddhist meditation teacher, Anika Trancik, titled “Seeing Kindness” at the Yoga Sanctuary here in Key West. Anika is a student of Buddhist monk, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, and she read from one of his books, “Eight Steps to Happiness”. FYI, Kelsang Gyatso means “Oceans of Good Fortune” and Geshe is an academic title meaning “virtuous friend”, both given to him upon his ordination as a novice monk at age eight. Anika explained the first step of the eight steps in Kelsang Gyatso’s book was the need to see kindness in others. This sounded rather simplistic at first, but Kelsang Gyatso’s interpretation of kindness in this context doesn’t mean “niceness” as in someone being pleasant or generous, but rather the opposite. He advocates being happy when someone is rude or argumentative because we “benefit” from this “kindness” by learning patience and in turn wisdom; happiness, if you will. Continue reading
Have we seen enough Cliven Bundy coverage yet? How about Basketball’s Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling? I am going to go out on a limb and assume everyone but the comatose know Cliven and Donald by now. I find it extremely ironic that, as these two old white guys reveal to the world their archaic putrid festering racism, one voluntarily and the other involuntarily, our Supreme Court [SCOTUS] has been busy neutering the seminal civil rights accomplishments of the sixties. Last year, declaring racism dead in this country, the SCOTUS killed section 4 of the voting rights act of 1965 that was implemented to keep certain states with a rich history of race hate from imposing any discriminatory or otherwise restrictive voting laws such as literacy tests or today’s photo I.D. requirements that discriminate against the poor and racial minorities. Continue reading
The human brain is infinitely intriguing and as complex as the cosmos. The question of what makes us tick is in good company along with “what is the meaning of life?” Psychologists, Psychiatrists and Neurosurgeons are making headway (apologies) into the mysterious realm of the mind, but are far from unlocking and fully understanding that odd three pounds of gray matter floating around in our skulls. I am humbly awed at how I can simply type these letters without any real intentional exertion beyond gently willing my fingers to hit the proper key in the proper order to create each word and sentence. Miraculous, really!
Our brains cooked up writing itself 5000 years ago and before that, speech and we haven’t looked back! Those are the two main ingredients of the recipe that allowed us to develop agricultural settlements and form organized cooperative civilizations that, in turn, allowed some in that society to pursue the less physical, more intellectual avenues of governance and organized religion, leaving the hunter/gatherer life to those “less fortunate” living in regions and climes not conducive to the farming culture. This agri-society also gave rise to the warrior class to protect the food producers and said governance.
But that isn’t what I want to write about today. I want to write about another amazing talent the human brain possesses. Continue reading
Periodically I ask myself why I write these essays. Perhaps it’s because by the exercise of writing I might accidently stumble across some action that could modify or even correct some wrong somewhere. Sort of like when John Kerry made that flippant off-hand remark about how the only way the U.S. wasn’t going to invade Syria was if Syria agreed to get rid of their chemical weapons. Kerry thinking, no way that would happen and we could get on with the business of war as usual, but no… Kerry had accidentally stumbled across a peaceful alternative to invasion of a sovereign nation and inadvertently talked our empire out of yet another war. I guess we could call this accidental diplomacy. Continue reading
I can’t seem to shake the haunting images of two famous classical orchestras. They aren’t famous for who they were, they are famous for where they played. One played on the deck of the Titanic as the unsinkable ship sank. The other, even more nightmarish musical venue I had in mind was the Nazi concentration camps. One of the first camps formed, as soon as Hitler gained power, was Theresienstadt or Terezín, as it was called by non-Germans. Classical, along with original works composed in the camp were played to give the illusion of civility and normalcy in an environment of satanical horror. Terezín was the first camp to utilize professional musician prisoners, a policy all the camps eventually adopted. Many in Terezín would die by disease, malnutrition and outright murder, but they would die with music in their ears. Terezín, for some, was only a temporary stop over on their way to the death camps of Treblinka or Auschwitz, where the bands played on. Continue reading
Note: Unfortunately my attempted mountaintop retreat from the world was a bust and I was forced to cut it short. Who I thought was a Yogi Zen master turned out to be a delusional manic depressive failed hedge fund manager that had lost his mind when some bubble or other burst leaving him penniless or was he a time share pitch man? I never did figure it out…So I came back home and decided to see a shrink instead.
I have been given strict instructions by my therapist, Dr. Heisenberg, that I am no longer allowed to research and chronicle any negative local, national or global issues. I was told, if I must write about something, it should be on light and happy topics that lift the spirit, no matter how Pollyannaishly delusional I think they are. I am paying this guy $ 250 an hour so I am heeding his advice. Then let us tackle some soft friendly issues together, shall we? The sun did come up and as Annie tells us, it will come up tomorrow. That is comforting to a guy like me. Here I have been focusing on the likelihood of it rising one day only to illuminate a barren Mars-like landscape that was once our blue and green planet due to our blind love affair with fossil fuel and pathological consumption of natural resources. Oops, sorry. “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” is my new mantra. Continue reading
This might be my last contribution for a while. I’m going on a retreat, a literal and figurative dropping out. Don Quixote, I’m not. I enjoy posting my thoughts and some are well received, others, not so much. What I gather from research about government, politics, extreme climate, economy, corporate finance/banking, etc. mostly turns my stomach and I simply cannot continue looking at the big picture of our proverbial hand basket to hell, state of the state without experiencing spiritual and psychic damage. As my wife points out frequently, I am a delicate flower.
I am convinced that the majority of people in this country as well as the global community naturally want what is best for their families and their communities at large. The devil is in the details and that is where we lose sight of our commonalities and get intentionally side-tracked by those in power that want and must stay in power. An example of this loss of sight of our common interests was demonstrated by a reader’s response to my last essay on the marketing of America. My take is the current Pathocracy that is our governance is most assuredly a well financed corporatist right, in the literal sense of corporatism. Conversely the reader is convinced it is leftist caused, muttering something about collectivism, but not disagreeing with my description of the deterioration of our Republic, just the perpetrators of said deterioration. So I would conclude we are essentially on the same side in the sense we are both very unhappy with the current paradigm. Continue reading
One of the downsides of getting old, besides aches and pains and boring young people, is witnessing little changes only an older person notices. Whatever is going on in the moment has “always” been going on in the eyes of the young. The fact is they have no point of reference and are not responsible for succumbing to the sometimes subtle and other times not so subtle insinuative political/corporate propaganda of our daily lives. The only way to avoid this toxic nonsense would be to turn off your TV and computer, stop reading all corporate media (aka. media), stop going to the movies and take yourself to some remote mountain top and become a subsistence farmer. It’s never too late.
This deliberate manipulation is evident at the movies. I love movies. I love all aspects; the writing, acting, directing and editing all fascinate me, a true communal effort and a miracle of sorts when they are successful. When I go to the movie theater I arrive early because I want a good seat, but unfortunately that requires that I sit through a twenty minute audio/visual barrage of corporate crap telling me the answer to life can be found in some colorful sugar water product that can make me “fly” or I must watch some empty headed fluff on TV as soon as I get home and/or I should feel awful because soldiers are coming home horribly damaged from places they don’t belong and that our government abandons them to the charity of people going to see a movie on a Saturday afternoon. Does anyone else remember movie shorts and cartoons before the feature? Continue reading
As we approach the beginning of the New Year, traditionally we reflect on the one that is about to end. That is all well and good, but might we be better off to stop and reflect more often than once in a calendar year? To more frequently stop and take the time to assess what we are about and why we do what we do. I know it is much easier said than done, but daily reflective thought gives us a freedom from expectations and is a release from a poor choice or a wrong path. Rigidity has the opposite effect. Digging in our heels and refusing to admit our errors in judgment will cause us unnecessary pain and suffering.
The simple interjection, “oops”, should be uttered more often so to allow us that opportunity to change course without remorse. Why wait until a “New Year”? To paraphrase John Lennon’s lyrics, “Imagine there’s no judgment for changing your mind….” As new information comes to light, what made sense yesterday, may no longer make sense today. This reminds me of the pot roast story. A daughter was watching her mother prepare a pot roast for the oven. The older woman cut off the ends of the roast before she placed it in the oven. The daughter asked, “Why did you cut the ends off?” The mother said, “Because that’s how my mother did it.” So the young woman went to ask her grandmother the same question and gran told her because that’s how her mother did it. So the young woman went to the ancient great grandmother and asked why. Great gran explained that years ago, when she and her husband were first married they had a very small oven…. Continue reading