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Archive for August, 2006

Justice is beginning to unfold for the ardent war supporters of congress: Lieberman endured the first step of becoming ousted from his senate seat when he lost the primary election in Connecticut to Ned Lamont, an event that spurred the mouth of our Vice President to share the following insightful wisdom: that Lieberman’s loss encourages “al Qaeda types” who want to “break the will of the American People”. To which I have only the simple rebuttal, “Are you feeling encouraged, Dick?” Oh, Cheney. Your terroristic tendencies are becoming more and more undeniable with each moronic thing you publicly say. Let’s ignore this al Qaeda reference, since the words ‘al Qaeda’ are essentially meaningless to everyday Americans like myself and may rightfully be seen as shameless prods of push-button style fear-inducing politics. Can anyone explain to Cheney, in words he will understand, the function and application of popular vote? How about the citizens of a state expressing their collective desire to dispose of a politician they no longer wish to have represent them through practicing the democratic process? I believe these activities lead to an expression of the “Will of the American People”. So what’s our VP talking about? Who are these “types” that are trying to “break” precisely what took place in Connecticut recently? I suppose they’d be anybody who runs interference against our citizenry’s efforts to behave democratically, and do you think this includes those who do so through manipulative tactics capitalizing on the people’s fear? Sure it does; after all, that’s exactly what terrorism is. Fear-driven politics.

I have admittedly never spoken with or read the words of an “al Qaeda type” before, though my government leads me to believe they are mostly of Middle Eastern descent. Perhaps this is true, I don’t know, but I don’t think their ethnic background much matters; I’m more concerned with their motives and ambitions, their methods and such like that. For this reason, I have ascertained that this Dick Cheney, whom also I have never met or spoken with, must be an “al Qaeda type”, despite that he does not resemble Middle Easterners at all, but looks more like he’s descended from white privilege. Appearances matter less than character qualities and personal ambitions, or so any sensible person can figure out. In attempting to impede willful action through appealing to the fear of the American people willful action as demonstrated by these Connecticutians and prevent its imitation elsewhere in our country, Cheney must be self-encouraged.

— Dan Black

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I invite everyone whose critical thinking skills have survived the unprecedented barrages our civil liberties have sustained through recent years to envision an abstract scenario:

“Any social structure that shunts out critical perspective and slams shut the eyes of right skepticism is condemned to the undoing of itself through its imprudence and self-instilled ignorance.”

Still with me? Try this one:

“Any participatory society that consciously leaves behind any of its potential participants, essentially barring them from the democratic process, is fundamentally weaker for its practice of exclusion.”

Sound about right? They’re sort of self-evident truisms, aren’t they? (as if the opposite scenarios could possibly be true) I think by common sense these are proofed from corruption or distortion, but sadly, they are apparently not impregnable from assaults brought on by present-day power. Private power that serves no end other than to sustain itself is inherently anti-democratic when it intrudes into the domain of it’s parent country’s government; this is nevertheless commonplace in the modern world, and with the advent of globalization, the destructiveness of its antisocial side-effects is exponentially intensified. It is for this last self-evident truism that the utter necessity for activism has reached a state undeniable for those concerned about the world.

The more one sees, the more one understands; but there is very strong social pressure against both of these activities applied by those who possess inordinate amounts of power. An individual must resist these pressures and make a conscious effort to see and to understand; failure to do either of these is symptomatic of chronic failure to be truly free. One can easily become wrapped into an unsustainable routine of thoughtless consumption and operate under the false presumption of freedom without realizing how much freedom and personal power they have passively ceded. The freedoms to see, to feel, and to believe are the most hard-fought and precious freedoms we have, but they are also the most seldom used, and this is truly a tragedy. If you cannot effectively stand against what our corporate-driven consumerist culture suggests you ought to do and still maintain your comfort and contentedness as an individual, how can you honestly believe you have freedom?

“Support our Troops”
“Freedom isn’t free”
“Proud to be American”
“9/11 – Never Forget”
These are all examples of mantras repeated unceasingly throughout America nowadays that most mouths utter them without examining their denotative meaning with the brains behind them. In short, what do all these bumper stickers actually mean, does anybody know? I Do!

“Support our Troops” – a few hegemonic, ethnic-intolerance based wars are raging throughout the third world and are being fought by young American boys and Girls. I honestly don’t give a shit that these young Americans are getting killed, or for that matter, that families living in these countries are routinely slaughterer by the thousands solely for being born with the wrong shade of skin. Besides, my life is too inwardly-focused to take action on their behalf; that would disrupt my daily routine. I did, however, spend a couple bucks on this magnetic bumper sticker because then I can say that I haven’t done absolutely nothing about American-borne global injustice and, as a consequence, I sleep more easily at night. It’s pretty cool looking too, isn’t it?!

“Freedom isn’t Free” – this one I honestly have not even thought about at all; I just purchased the bumper sticker, probably without even reading it (thought the flag on it looked really trendy). If I had contemplated it a bit, I would have realized how laughably self-contradictory it is. Freedom is, by its very definition, free; anything else isn’t freedom (hence the root word ‘free’ -see how easy that was!). The expense precluding this bumper sticker’s unstated antecedent from being free (for clearly ‘freedom’ is this grossly misplaced scapegoat) is ‘aggression’. I’m not talking about the sort of aggression most of us are somewhat guilty of in our adolescent or young adult years; I mean grand-scale aggression, the sort that Gestapo agents and Nazi death squads were executed for at Nuremberg. In that sense, there is a good deal of truth to this sticker’s true meaning: unprovoked-genocidal-behavior-directed-against-the-defenseless-
civilians-of-the-third-world isn’t free.

“Proud to be American” – more truthfully translates to ‘Embarrassed to be chronically insecure about myself’. I take pride in being American, even though all that ‘being American’ theoretically entails is being born within a specific set of legal circumstances and topographical boundaries. My feelings are hurt and I become hostile when someone implies I am (gasp) “un-American”. My knowledge is probably completely amiss of the Constitution’s words, or the fact that my America’s health care system is counted the worst of any industrialized nation (effectively meaning the ‘America’ I am proud to be a part of is slowly killing me), but identifying with this spirit of nationalism works wonders to compensate my serious shortcomings in self-esteem.

“9/11 – Never Forget” – this is a tricky one, tough to nail down, really. If I forget 9/11, my mind will become entirely destitute of any dimensional depth with regards to current events, politics, and contemporary history because it is the only fragment of any such understanding/awareness I now have. That would be bad. I think also that if only I can devote all of my attention exclusively to the memory of one isolated historical event which took place five years ago, I can successfully tune out all of the U.S. borne injustices that obscenely dwarf the tragedy of 9/11. I’ll also never piece together the naked truth that U.S. foreign policy preceding that event literally invited commercial planes into skyscrapers as the only means of a disenfranchised global community capturing the world’s attention to assert its distaste for economic slavery and American hegemony. I’ll keep staring at those fallen towers and perhaps 200,000 Iraqi citizens weren’t brutally killed in their homelands, as subsidized by my own tax dollars -9/11 – never forget; and nothing else in history ever happened.

Ahh, the satisfaction of comprehension. I’m glad all that fog has finally been chased from our virgin minds; now we can get onto correcting the errors we, as a country, have made. Let’s prioritize countering the activities that endeavor to kill people on an industrial level. We are still left with many choices! Protecting the environment is a good one, or the removal of trade sanctions and embargoes directly responsible for wide-spread famine and epidemic levels of diseases and illnesses which are easily vaccinated in the industrial countries. Or how about standing against this grotesquely inhuman “Global War on Terrorism”; we can argue against its persistence on the pretence of its absurdity, realizing that any comprehensive, worldwide campaign against the manifestation of terrorism in the global context would begin by bombing the Whitehouse and the Pentagon to dust. I don’t mean to sound snide or sarcastic; such action would adhere precisely to the Bush doctrine on combating terrorism. All of you who fancy to brand me a Godless liberal and call it a day would be well-advised to consult a history book while bearing in mind the immortal words our beloved commander-in-chief had stated on the eve of the war on terror: “no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support them, because they’re equally as guilty of murder” (or something to that effect). Reconcile that bold declaration of policy with realities of U.S. policy resulting from the Dili Massacre in East Timor; reference the 12 November ’92 Boston Globe for an article about the civil court case Todd vs. Panjaitan. Connect these two for an interesting perspective of United States terrorist-harboring behavior. Of course, to do so, we need to agree on a few ground rules. 1) Murdering defenseless civilians who are peacefully gathered constitutes terrorism. 2) “Defenseless Civilians” are entitled to life irregardless of their ethnicity or nationality. 3) Legal statues of limitations will be upheld (there is none on murder; the Dili Massacre occurred in 1991). 4) The United States must hold itself to the same standards of moral conduct that it impresses upon the rest of the world; failure to do so incurs defiling the nobility of any of our diplomatic endeavors, a practice essentially shifting what we call ‘acts of terrorism’ to something more closely resembling ‘resistance of foreign imperialism’.

Browse these sources if you wish; accept your role as passive perpetuator if you don’t. Comment if you feel there is a third course I’ve overseen; I would be delighted to hear it. Don’t allow yourself to become discouraged, in any case. Whichever of these three categories you identify with (of the two I’ve described or the third, unknown), we can all contribute to the causes of justice and peace. While I don’t feel that repeating hackneyed bumper-sticker wisdom accomplishes anything, I feel that a sharpening the senses, thinking critically and with motivation for conscious, calculated action, can.

— Dan Black

 

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I am admittedly, at least for the moment, not up to speed on the latest rhetoric circulating around Washington D.C. concerning Medicare and Medicaid. I will assume that little has changed and the issue is barely considered an issue amid allegedly more pressing affairs: the legitimacy of current wars, the urgency of upcoming wars, the denial of yesterday’s wars, and whatever fear-motivated political causes our “leaders” consider more worthy of their time and our tax dollars. Domestic issues, such as the health and well-being of our nation’s citizenry, don’t seem to garner political support or press attention as maybe they should. Whether this results from politicians’ “gold-fleece” health care benefits -an odd initiative that distances our decision-making “men created equally” from participating in a defunct public health care system that they, themselves, mismanage, or from an outright disregard for the non-wealthy, those who are unable to sway the perspectives and affect the hands of politicians, and therefore may as well die, I am not entirely sure. I believe the specifics of the cause is of little significance when we consider the magnitude of its consequence. My assumptions borrow from patterns of previous policy, in a nutshell the systematic fund-slashing which grinds social programs to a halt both at home and abroad. The efforts of government-subsidized humanitarians working to aid the impoverished at fulfilling their universal right to live are crippled by government-sanctioned fiscal starvation. I am confident my assumptions are accurate.

I can account for my unawareness, my being forced to assume: I was a bit cut off from the political world while volunteering at the RAM (Remote Area Medical) event that took place this past weekend at the Wise County Fairgrounds in western Virginia. RAM is an annual, all-volunteer event that provides medical, optical, and dental services to the uninsured/unable to pay, free of charge. Sixty-six hundred patients received services in one weekend that they’d otherwise be forced to live without. Involvement in the event I consider a privilege because I have never, in my life, seen anything like it. A gathering of thousands of strangers in the mountains of rural VA, coming together to provide or receive the goodwill that sustains life, in the physiological and spiritual sense; there are few things in the world like RAM.

Outlining the positive side to RAM is a pleasure, but I cannot distract my thought process from the negative side, the omniscient, ugly reality that has necessitated RAM.

RAM captures, in essence, the largest single piece of America’s social programs inadequacies that someone can view all at once. Thousands of people drive from distances sometimes hours away to wait several hours through the night, uninhibited by rain or cold, to receive medical care that they cannot afford and that is performed entirely by volunteers with equipment and supplies that are donated. Why is this necessary in such a wealthy society? Why are provisions of these services so sparsely available to the economically disadvantaged that they have to negotiate such obstacles to acquire them? Why is it necessary for such a tremendous outpouring of selfless goodwill by nearly a thousand volunteers in order for the poor to get basic medical services that the state and the privileged citizens of that state take for granted? These questions have no answers because they’re seldom asked; they probably cannot be explained logically and rationally without conceding that this country has become a veritable cesspool of socioeconomic injustice and class over-stratification. These words sound harsh, but there is clearly no other way to rationalize RAM. It exists because a small but growing unrepresented faction of the U.S. populace is literally left to their own meager resources for survival, and they are unable to achieve survival without the altruism of those volunteers acting in defiance to the social/economical schematic of American Society.

This assessment, though appropriate, is too depersonalized to effectively convey the myriad of unforgettable images I confronted and that, indeed, ought to confront the national conscience. I was faced with people, a very great many people, people of a widely diverse spectrum of backgrounds, all with one thing in common: they are the people you never see discussed on the floor of political debate, receiving the needed attention of government. These people were, from epidemic levels of marginalization and apathy, dead to the state.

At a personal level, I can share one of those images that may help give my assaults some grounding context. The most disheartening thing that I saw was a young adolescent girl, perhaps 15 or 16 years of age, in tears, in pain, and unable to speak because she had recently had teeth pulled. I couldn’t tell how many; her mouth was full of blood-soaked gauze. I think some must have been front teeth, judging from how the gauze was arranged in her mouth, but I can’t be sure. The expression on her face spoke of a girl whose life was changed, permanently and regrettably, for the worse. I was awestruck and unable to think of anything else for a while after. At such a young age, she has lost her natural adult teeth, her appearance altered and her hopes of growing into adulthood with a naturally beautiful smile were compromised. The question I could not stop asking myself was why had this happened? Why was this not prevented? I couldn’t understand; I still cannot understand. I believe she doesn’t either, or anybody else for that matter, but she is the only one who paid for this indiscernible injustice; I have all of my teeth even though my grasp of this is no better than hers. Are her teeth merely an expense of free-market capitalism? Perhaps they’re an abstract and unusual casualty of the Global War on Terrorism? Maybe the protection of her dental hygiene is in conflict with the right of grotesquely overgrown international corporations to expand uninhibited by the needs of individuals to whom they’re not responsible? (Devil’s advocate for a sec) Her parents should just be more economically successful, I suppose. The provision of her proper growth and development as a child by social programs would only stagnate her parents’ efforts to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and contribute to the consumption-driven economy. We, the affluent members of society, would have to work harder; better to let her teeth rot. (Devil’s advocate, stop!) These perspectives, though never overtly stated, express what must be the nation’s collective thought-process. Of course they’re unstated, they self-discredit immediately when spoken aloud. The idea that our economic system is anything even resembling a free-market is illusory and quickly unravels when critically examined; the GWOT cannot logically be tied to domestic social issues by any freethinker that has averted the Bush-indoctrination suggesting any injustice is tolerable provided it brandishes the label “combating terrorism”. Lastly, it is important to reconsider the rights we presume entitled to corporations. Corporate right does not supersede individual right; the idea that corporations even have rights at all is a fallacy. Corporations are not people, so when we justify the suffering of people as an inevitable but acceptable consequence of protecting the rights of corporations to grow and prosper, we are speaking an entirely different political language, one alien and not interpretable to the idealisms of American Democracy.

Grassroots activism is, as in nearly every other case, desperately in order. Acting in the interest of others in this case is actually, in the long-run, acting in one’s self-interest . You may consider yourself non-poor if you have that luxury, but consider this: poverty may never be more than arms-reach away. What I have learned so far from the speaking forums at the National Coalition for the Homeless is that homelessness affects only one group of people along with their children: those who never expected it. If you think you’re safeguarded from the unfathomable trials of poverty, you’d be well advised to think again. And if you’re curious to know whether or not someone with privilege will advocate for your cause should you discover poverty first hand, the answer is easy: ask yourself, will I advocate for the cause of someone in poverty? If you don’t follow reading this blog post with conscious activism, I guess you have your answer. Good luck avoiding the far-reaching claws of disenfranchisement/disempowerment; they’ve been known to affect some high-flying, unsuspecting individuals. If you do, however, become active in reversing the struggles of so many unsuspecting and undeserving victims, then you will come to know the adventurous joys that I have experienced and referenced previously as a privilege, “few things in the world like it”.

— Dan Black

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