Sunday, August 24, 2014

#BlameObama

   


Wow, those of you who think the president takes too many vacation days must really be pissed at Congress. Obama has so far taken 141 days off since he's held office. Let's say he even takes 20 more yet this year which he probably won't but we'll say he does. That is 161 days or about 32 days a year and of course, you have to remember that all presidential vacations are working vacations. (He's come back to the White House from Martha's Vineyard twice on this latest vacation but I still counted them as vacation because, you know, maybe he played a round of golf or took a bike ride when he got back to Massachusetts.

By contrast, The Senate has taken 60 days off this year (I didn't count weekends, just weekdays). And the House has taken so much time off, it is actually easier to tally the days they worked which was 103 in 2014.

Normally, presidential and congressional vacations aren't a big issue with me but it does look as though we might be heading into a really serious situation with ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Obama made the decision to bomb the hell out of them in Iraq but they scurry back and forth between Syria and Iraq, not recognizing the border. That means to go after them hot and heavy, we might have to consider military operations in a whole other country. And perhaps we'll have to expand what we're doing beyond the air strikes we're conducting now. Are we about to get in another war? Is that what we have to do to eliminate the threat that ISIL poses?

Geez, you'd think Congress would be rushing back to Washington to put their two cents worth in, wouldn't you, especially the Republicans? I mean, they are freaking suing Obama what they say is taking too much responsibility upon himself when it involves kids crossing the border or poor people getting healthcare but now when we are talking WAR, they are "ho hum, don't bother us, we're at the beach."

Matters this grave beg for Senators and Representatives to get involved. Legally, they are supposed to be involved. It's not fair to the president to carry a burden this momentous on his own. They either need to give him the authorization to take military action or forbid him from doing it. Which do they want? We have no idea. They can't be bothered to tell us.

I think they are doing it purposely....making him the scapegoat. That way if it turns out badly, they can say it's all his fault. Of course, even if it turns positively, the Republicans will still piss and moan and declare everything is awful.

What a bunch of self-focused gutless wonders they are. I'm 68 years old and I honestly never thought I'd see the day that America's government couldn't even bring itself to come together over matters of war. It is absolutely sickening to watch.  

Friday, August 15, 2014

What Would Your Reaction Be?

              

I always try to imagine myself in controversial passion-filled situations to see how I would feel if I was actually part of the story.  On the occasion of Michael Brown's shooting by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, for instance.....

I'll use my own small town of Wabash as an example. Wabash consists of Wabash proper and the south side, separated by a river. In this scenario, let's say, the south side is the poorer side of town and includes 67 percent of the population of Wabash. There are often hostile feelings between the two sides, with the northsiders feeling contempt for the southside and the southside feeling resentment toward the northside.

It really isn't difficult to see why the southsiders feel as they do. Everyone on the school board is a northsider; 50 of the 53 police officers on the Wabash force are northsiders; the mayor is a northsider; the prosecutor is a northsider.

Some (maybe even most) of those 50 northside police officers have a low opinion of the southsiders. Sometimes, it is announced right out in the open at roll call - "let's go out and have a southside night", which means let's go arrest a bunch of southsiders". And this prejudice shows itself statistically. Even though only 67 percent of the population is made up of southsiders, they make up 87 percent of the arrests. The vast majority of speeding tickets written are given to those from the southside.

These aren't just perceptions of a disgruntled community. They are facts as compiled by the state over the last 14 years. So we know for sure that profiling and targeting by police is rampant. And we also know that, despite clear evidence, absolutely nothing has been done to try to correct the situation. The officer who made the comment about having a "southside night", and well as many other racially charged statements, has now been terminated but that didn't happen until he was hit by a media spotlight. As long as no one but Wabashians were aware of his rank prejudice, it was ignored.

So, pretend you are a southsider. You see the people in your community getting citations for speeding and other minor infractions at a much higher rate than northsiders. You son comes home with a story about being hassled by the cops when he was doing nothing wrong. You are called ugly names. Your neighbors get stiffer sentences than northsiders for the same crimes. You get stopped by the cops because you have a tail light out, a tail light that magically comes back on by the end of the stop. You've heard and seen and experienced this happening your whole life. And, yet despite efforts to complain and sue and draw attention, it just goes on and on. The Northside power structure isn't interested in changing. They're fine with things the way they are.

And then a police officer shoots Michael Brown, an unarmed teenager who was due to leave for college. Shoots him down in the street. You're stunned but you wait to see what the reaction from authorities is going to be and what that reaction is, it seems to you, is stonewalling. They don't release the name of the shooter. No one is charged with a crime. They don't even interview Michael's friend, who was with him and saw it all. Nope, there is no car video, they tell you. And you believe, as a southsider whose been through this movie before, that once again, you are going to get screwed. Only this isn't about a speeding ticket or a joint, this is about a dead boy, one of your own! This is your last freakin' straw!

So you gather in protest and you're met, not by police trying to calm the situation, but tanks and Humvees and assault weapons and a freaking MRAP! It looks like they'd love nothing more than the slightest invitation to shoot you. And so you're pissed, yeah, really pissed. And yep, there is some looting and vandalism until Michael Smith parents beg for it to stop and it does. But still, there is no statement from the state apologizing and declaring a really serious investigation will be done because this kind of incident is flatly unacceptable and intolerable. The streets are still filled with police officers lobbing tear gas into your midst, spraying your children with mace, calling you "animals".

The chief of police warns that you may gather but you should be off the streets by dark. Why? The First Amendment is not only in affect in daylight. It is a 24/7 amendment. Because you are a southsider and southsiders have a particular experience with being told to leave town before dark, that order strikes a painful chord northsiders might not recognize.

All you know, is your're goddam sick, sick in both senses of the word - sick as in "sick and tired" and sick as in "sick at heart" - of seeing your husbands and fathers and sons being arrested and bullied and even shot down in the streets like dogs for doing nothing more than northsiders do every single day with no consequence. You could go back and compile a list of names and it would stretch on endlessly.

So what would you do if you saw yourself and your family and your community being subjected to injustice that went on for years with absolutely no response from the people in a position to change it? Do you think you're be angry? Do you think you'd be resentful? Do you think its possible you might act out?

To tell you the truth, I'm not sure I'd have as much self-restraint as most of the southsiders in situations such as this one and the Trayvon Martin shooting and....

It always amazes me that some northsiders' (not just in this little story but in all these similar cases) first reaction is to be judgmental about the behavior of the victims instead of the perpetrators.

What if someone smacked you in the face every day for 14 years (probably more but that's how long we have evidence for) when you'd done nothing wrong? And one day you smacked him back and people told you, "oh, no, you shouldn't do that....just be quiet and take it and someday, by magic, it will stop"?

No, things don't change by magic. They change when attention and outrage are brought to bear. You don't convince people who are treating you badly into doing a 180 by "niceness". They change when victims rise up and say, "no more". Does that sometimes mean physical violence. Yep, sometimes it does. You call people animals, don't be surprised if they throw it back in your face.

So, we'll see what happens next but if the powers-that-be think that they can whitewash it and then it's back to business as usual, I think they are wrong. If the response to cries for justice are Humvees and assault rifles and tear gas, then this certainly won't be the last of it.

Friday, August 8, 2014

The Paranoid Majority

                                  



I keep seeing posts like these on Facebook implying that it takes courage to stand up for the American flag and boldness to admit you believe in the Bible. Really? Are there hosts of Americans being attacked for their patriotism or their faith? Do you risk getting punched in the nose if you fly the flag or kicked in the groin if you profess your love of Jesus? Am I not watching enough news because if this is the case, I must have missed the reporting on it?

Honestly, the American right has such a defensive chip on its collective shoulder. Come on, People, you are in the majority by about a gazillion to one. There is no need to be afraid...really. The odds are big-time in your favor.

You appear to be trapped in the throes of a persecution complex fueled by paranoia. You see yourselves as perpetual victims as your enemies try to take away your Christmas. (You've probably noticed how Christmas ads and sales and television specials and shopping has dropped off to almost nothing. Oh, you haven't? You say it is all about semantics - Happy Holidays versus Merry Christmas. Really, that's your big piss-off?)

And whites are being overpowered by minorities until we're barely even represented in our own government anymore.  Here, this picture of the House Committee chairmen might ease your mind a little.



And what do you want to bet that these white men are all Christians too?

And oh, my, God, the gays are coming out in droves and they actually expect to get married AND force you to bake their wedding cake too! And Obama is dictating that you must carry health insurance and if you're a business, you have to pay for your female employees' contraceptives.

Actually, you right-wingers really should be pro-contraceptive and pro-abortion. You're always excoriating liberals and wishing they would disappear off the face of the earth. Commonsense would seem to indicate that most women who have abortions probably lean liberal while more women who have babies lean conservative so if you just let us manage our own reproductive business, we might fulfill your wish for you and pretty soon most little babies will be raised in conservative homes!

Of course, some of the fetuses liberals terminate are being replaced by undocumented immigrants so that might turn out to be a wash. They are definitely threatening your lifestyle because damn, you wanted that dishwashing job at the Lowlife Cafe!

And poor people. The terrifying unwashed masses of them. They sort of remind you of zombies, don't they? Coming at you with open mouths and staring eyes, wanting to steal your stuff.

Although the fact is that most people on food stamps work. They just don't make enough to survive without assistance. (Thank you, Walmart and McDonald's and Papa John).  And the ones who don't work are children or the elderly or the disabled, including veterans. And most illegal immigrants work too and pay in to help subsidize your Social Security though they'll never collect themselves. (And, in addition, most of them are Christians.)

Despite your concerns about the flag, I watch NASCAR every week where they wave the flag and sing the Star-Spangled Banner (not to mention saying a Christian prayer). And flags hang from lots of homes in my town and flies in front of the Sheriff's Department and the Courthouse and City Hall and the city parks. And the cemeteries are a sea of red, white and blue on Veteran's Day. So far, I haven't heard of a single person being beaten up by anti-flag thugs or one Christian being mugged by a gang of atheists.



The reality is, of course, that it is still much more dangerous to be anything but a hyper-patriotic white straight Christian American. You're way, way more likely to be shot coming home from the store if your name is Trayvon Martin than if it's Mitt Romney, Junior. You're way more likely to be arrested and sent to prison if you're any color but white. You're way more likely to be discriminated against if you're gay. You're way more likely to suffer hunger and homelessness and illness if you're poor. And try running for any office in the next election after admitting you're an atheist and see how far you get.

So, sorry, but I don't think it takes any particular guts to fly the American flag or profess your Christianity because that simply makes you a member of the norm. It's coloring outside those lines that takes a certain amount of nerve.    

 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Songs of My Life - A Totally Self-Indulgent Blog

Blackfoot - Train Train                                                     Image result for images band blackfoot



Spirit - I Gotta' Line on You                                    Image result for images band spirit 

I'm generally not in favor of ignorance but sometimes, ignorance really is bliss. That's the way it is with me and music, about which I know absolutely nothing. Sometimes, I read my musician friends' comments about certain songs and most of them are over my head. They scorn the guitar part or hold the drummer in contempt but when they try to explain about the chording or the beat and why they are less than excellent, my eyes glaze over.

I only know what makes me happy. If a song makes me want to get up and dance, I like it regardless of the quality of the musicianship. For instance, Mony Mony  (Tommy James and the Shondells) which has been a staple "get people on their feet" song for as long as I can remember. This song is my own personal age test. The first time I hear it and don't start moving my hips or tapping my fingers on the steering wheel, I'll know I'm truly old. Yes, I know its simplistic and kind of silly but I don't care. It gets my juices flowing.

In my first years of becoming an aficionado of music, it was all about Elvis. (That's All Right, Mama.) He not only made feel-good music but it was all wrapped up in one beautiful man with a glorious smile. I wouldn't be surprised if he was also the first to get many of our pre-teen hormones stirring.

Many times, songs are associated with times and places and feelings and that's what makes them special. When I think of my first husband, I still smile at his penchant for wanting the latest high-tech toys. I believe we had the first eight-track tape player in our car of anyone in our crowd. He knew nothing about music so the two tapes he bought with it were Loretta Lynn -  You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man  and Aretha Frankin - R.E.S.P.E.C.T  We often laughed about the odd duo he chose but we listened to those tapes a million times.

He had two cousins, Jimmy and Vernon Staggs, who had a band. I went with them to practices and to gigs and loved every minute of it. Many songs make me think of those guys but their warm-up song was Honky Tonk by Bill Doggett and that is forever and indelibly "their" song.

My second husband and I fell in love to the strains of Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands because we were astonished to discover that we both loved Bob Dylan when most people in this area didn't know he existed.

Every place I ever worked or spent time in has one particular song that brings it to mind. The first song above, I Gotta' Line on You, by Spirit was popular when my parent's owned the Club Royal, THE place to go in Wabash on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights when we featured live bands.

I heard I Gotta' A Line on You the other day on the radio and I was instantly transported back to my early 20's, looking good in a min-skirt and go-go boots, reveling in the deafening music and the loud and lively sound of customers packed shoulder to shoulder, joyfully celebrating their weekend.

Oddly enough, on the same day, the radio played I Gotta' Line on You" they also played the Blackfoot song, "Train Train". Shortly after Mom and Dad sold the Club, it closed for good. I didn't hang out in the bars much then. Too busy being a worker and a Mom but then my friend, Linda, called needing a waitress. Linda managed The Warehouse. It had become the Club Royal of its era, the chosen place of music lovers and dancers and bikers and drinkers who just generally wanted to have fun. We'd made a tape of the best-loved songs of our customers and ourselves and played it while we were cleaning up. One of those songs was, "Train Train". 

I can hear the 3:00 a.m. sounds of it now blaring across a huge empty room except for us workers and a few regulars at the bar finishing up their last Jack and Coke, as well as the band roadies loading up equipment. I remember the tired sense of relief and satisfaction that another night of rowdy customers and screamed orders and caterwauling guitars and cracking pool balls was finally over. I can't even imagine how many tables I wiped down to the tune of  "Train Train" or how many glasses and bottles I carried back to the bar to its rhythms.

We associated all of our favorite bands with certain songs too. To me, Roadmaster was Stay With Me (Faces) and C.I.A. was Santana and Empire was Van Halen's, Jump and Slayer was Led Zeppelin - Rock and Roll.

The Warehouse closed and once again, I didn't go much to taverns until I got a job working second shift at a factory. Then my friend, Arlene, and I got in the habit of hitting the bars until closing time after our shift. We had a music age test then too. If we could still dance all the way through Ole Rocky Top without having a heart attack, we were still in our prime!

The staff at Market Street Grille always told us the Sheriff's Department had the jolliest Christmas parties of all. Those times are what I now consider the glory days of my working life when we all respected our Sheriff, loved our jobs and felt a feeling of kinship with our co-workers. This was the signature song Keith Walters played at those parties - Boogie Woogie Choo Choo Train. If you don't remember those years the same way, don't tell me, because I like my memories as they are, thank you very much.

Of course, there are thousands of other recollections associated with songs. Some I remember from live music some from albums, some from 8-tracks, some from cassettes, some from cds. I have followed music through its various incarnations (though I have so far resisted getting an I-Pod). I haven't even mentioned the Beatles or Janis Joplin or Jefferson Airplane, Peter Frampton or the Stones or Bob Seger, or, or, or......

I admit I have fallen behind in keep up with modern music. Even songs I consider "new" like Drops of Jupiter are now "old".

If I were going to have a funeral when I die (which I'm not), this is the song I would choose to play - I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash) - is it a "good" song from a musician's professional judgement? I don't know. I don't care. It makes me happy. It captures my point of view. It brings back good memories. That's what makes it a great song...for me.