Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Bernie Sanders Footnote

For me, a trip down Memory Lane...

When a couple of local activists attempted to take over the podium at a Bernie Sanders event last week they bit off more than they could chew. Not only did their misguided direct action simply fail, it proved, in fact, to be counterproductive. Watching this from a distance, I'm reminded of the chaos of the Sixties when a small but growing minority of civil rights activists competed for influence. The ultimate goal came to pass with the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the years before that saw a chaotic mix of various groups, all ostensibly working for the same goal but hampered as much by infighting and quarreling among themselves as the systemic forces they wanted to change.

Little did we know that legislation was not the end. Another phase of the struggle was underway. When Congress and the White House followed up with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 the magnitude of the challenge should have been made clear. But that was not to happen. Infighting continued as though nothing had happened. I went with a friend to an early meeting of the Southern Students Organizing Committee (SSOC) in Atlanta a year or two later and was impressed with the array of radical literature and AV resources on display. There was a fabulous film featuring interviews with Lillian Smith and tracts from the whole spectrum of leftist groups. I still have my copy of the Port Huron Statement (SDS) I picked up at that time. SSOC was soon absorbed by SDS and quietly dismantled. Not only was it limited to a region, black members were disgusted with the Confederate flag as part of the logo. Wikipedia has some notes. 

Those were exciting and important times. Everyday people and high profile leaders were being assassinated (four children in Birmingham, Medgar Evers, JFK, MLK, RFK) and activists were going to jail in large numbers. Urban riots broke out all over the country. In 1963 my college roommate and I took part in what was supposed to have been a march on the capital (Tallahassee, Florida) organized by local activists to protest segregation, but at the last minute two busloads of better-organized NAACP activists rolled in and took over, diverting the destination to a segregated ball park instead for what turned into a fundraising and cheerleading event for NAACP. Many local activists dropped out, refusing to take part in what they saw as "giving in" to more moderate forces. Some called them Uncle Toms, overlooking the fact that they had been in the struggle since before the newcomers were born. Local activists apparently didn't know (or care) that those two busses had come from Jacksonville where the beginnings of one of those riots had just taken place, and the leaders only wanted to prevent the same from happening in Tallahassee. My roommate and I took part anyway, since we had stayed up late making a banner our of an old bedsheet proclaiming "Discrimination Must Go" and it needed two people to hold it. Only later did we learn that you don't take sticks or poles to demonstrations because they can be used as weapons against you in the wrong hands.

Bernie Sanders and I are about the same age, and I'm sure he knows a lot more about the dynamics of political organizing than most. (A younger Barack Obama might have benefitted from some Sanders coaching as a community organizer.  Bernie seems to have honed his skills to a fine edge.) Meantime, the Web brings about changes much faster than in the good old days. When King wrote his letter from a Birmingham Jail we learned about it as it was passed along by mimeograph copies, sometimes with typos. It was not professionally published until some time later. But now, thanks to the Web, we get information at the speed of light. 

So here are four references to last week's Podium Affair to read and study. Lots of pictures and a few videos can be found at the links. To his credit, Bernie never missed a beat, moving on to tens of thousands of people wanting to hear him. And without interruptions, thank you. 

Questions emerge in regards to Seattle activists’ connections to #BlackLivesMatter
posted by Sky Palma August 10, 2015

After the interruption of a Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle this Saturday by activists claiming to represent the city’s Black Lives Matter faction, many in the progressive sphere were left scratching their heads 
It was an awkward and confrontational spectacle, ultimately causing Sanders to leave without speaking and ending with the mostly liberal crowd booing and hissing the two women who commandeered the podium while speaking for this country’s fastest growing civil rights movement.

Now the focus turns to Marissa Jenae Johnson — the woman who grabbed the mic from Sanders — and story gets downright weird and confusing. 
The Internet is awash in conspiracy theories on Johnson’s motives: She’s a a paid operative from the Hillary camp sent to sow turmoil among Sanders supporters; she’s actually a Sarah Palin supporter (a cursory examination of the comment thread on the Facebook post where this originated, reveals that Johnson was referring to her early political leanings in high school which have since changed); she’s a conservative Christian who supports Sarah Palin (it’s true that she spouts some pretty nutty religious rhetoric on social media — she’s definitely a devout Christian of some sort — but there is no evidence that she is a “conservative” Christian).
Black Lives Matter Seattle Protestor Is A Former Tea Party Palin Supporter
August 10, 2015 Paul Loebe

An interesting development has occurred within the Black Lives Matter movement and it has caused many outside and from within the movement to question the wisdom in the most recent interruption of Bernie Sanders campaign. While no one can deny its effectiveness, especially considering Senator Sanders newest addition to his team is a Black Lives Matter activist, this interruption happened after Bernie had already begun shifting his campaign towards publicizing his stance on racial issues 
When individuals place themselves in the public eye they become scrutinized at every level. While looking into these activists for the Black Lives Matter movement, it became readily apparent that either they were not officially a part of the BLM movement, or they were not organized until just around the time of the incident. 
A pre-existing BLM_Seattle Facebook page put out a statement that initially distanced itself from the incident. The owner of that page also maintained an autonomous Twitter account that published a public apology as well.
BLM Activist Who Shut Down Sanders is Radical Christian, Sarah Palin Supporter
August 9, 2015 by Michael Stone

One of the Black Lives Matter activists who shut down the Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle is a self-identified “radical Christian” and former Sarah Palin supporter.
Marissa Jenae Johnson along with another protester, Mara Jacqueline, interrupted the planned Seattle rally for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Saturday afternoon, preventing the Vermont senator from addressing the massive crowd. 
The rally at Westlake Park ended around 3 p.m. with Sanders choosing to leave after the belligerent protesters took the stage and stayed there, controlling the microphone, and hurling racist insults at the progressive crowd gathered to hear Sanders speak.
After disrupting the Sanders’ event and taking the microphone, a hostile and obnoxious Johnson accused the audience of “white supremacist liberalism” before telling the Seattle crowd:

I was going to tell Bernie how racist this city is — with all of its progressives — but you’ve already done that for me. Thank you. 
As one might expect, the crowd did not take kindly to the childish insults. Perhaps even more puzzling, an obviously confused Johnson said:

If you care about Black Lives Matter, as you say you do, you will hold Bernie Sanders specifically accountable for his actions. 
Apparently Johnson is unaware that Bernie Sanders was marching with Martin Luther King Jr. before she was even born.
The Real Black Lives Matter Wants Activists To Publicly Apologize to Bernie Sanders
By: Adalia Woodbury (more from Adalia Woodbury)

Monday, August, 10th, 2015Black Lives Matter wants the two women who shut down a Bernie Sanders event in Seattle on Saturday to publicly apologize to the Senator and Presidential Candidate. 
Jason Easley wrote about Marissa Johnson and Mara Willaford shutting down Bernie Sanders’ rally in Seattle 
They led organizers and the media to believe they are part of Black Lives Matter. It’s not hard to understand why. BLM is succeeding in its efforts to raise awareness and get action on the multitude of issues that are a direct consequence of structural racism. The Black Lives Matter movement is very loosely structured without a central organization. 
That provides freedom to activists and supporters, but it means that BLM is also vulnerable to groups who may wish to co-opt their national reputation, as occurred on Saturday. Adding to the confusion is the fact that there are many groups who use black lives matter as a rallying call.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Changing Times

Today I used the Facebook feature to hide yet another source from my news feed because it is simply too offensive and irredeemably ignorant to ever change. It's against my nature to shut out anyone, but sometimes I just don't have what it takes to put up with stuff. This is what my Facebook status is today.

I just hate when I use the Facebook "Hide all from [source]" tool. It grates against my need to be flexible and open-minded about all kinds of thinking. Many of my friends are sincere, good people, but hold what I find to be unthinkably narrow opinions. I retain contact in the hope that sooner or later I might find the right words or cite some illustration that will cause them to do a better job of self-examination. Not often but occasionally it seems to work.

It works in reverse as well. By keeping in touch with the undercurrents of many issues I sometimes sense trends and movements that become influential, sometimes way in advance of when they become "prime time." I remember paying attention to the tea party phenomenon years ago when the local radio talk show host was making disparaging remarks about it, blissfully unaware that they were advancing many of the same extreme, ultra-conservative ideas that he was doling out all along. I'm sure he figured it out later and changed his tune, but by paying attention I was able to see what was happening in his world even before he did.

But the trend that now bothers me most is that respectable, polite, thoughtful conservatism is disappearing in a slimy quagmire of sarcasm and hate. The inflammatory rhetoric triggered by the Trump/ Megyn Kelly exchange pushed the threshold of civility to a new level. The wing of American politics that prides itself on decency and morality appears to be marching willfully in the opposite direction.

It's a sad day when messages of the pope himself are greeted with a level of disrespect normally reserved for political enemies. The old saying is that the mission of a preacher is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable -- which is precisely what Pope Francis is doing -- but reactions of many so-called conservatives to the pope are the harshest we have heard since Godless Communism was the enemy du jour.

Those of us on the Left have always had a rag-tag army of down and dirty dregs of society. Ours is the domain of marginalized outcasts -- the ones called lazy moochers, welfare queens, aliens paying no taxes while enjoying the benefits of freedom and prosperity. Just as missionaries to pagan tribes had to teach them to wear clothes and pull up their socks, we still have a sub-class that won't pull up their pants -- and this angers and offends righteous conservatives so bad they can't talk about it without snarling.

I hate to say it, but I'm starting to feel better about being called Liberal. I think it's somehow connected to the presidency of Barack Obama. I read somewhere that when he finishes his second term the family will continue to live in Washington so the girls can finish high school without having to change schools. Now that's family values. And the thousands of people showing up to hear Bernie Sanders is a bellwether indicator for me that the wind is starting to blow in a different direction. As a line from the Sixties said, you don't need to be a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing. Dylan was right, you know. The answer really is blowing in the wind.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

"ALL Lives Matter" is the New "Go Slow"

Black Lives Matter is today's version of the same damn civil rights message some of us have been working to advance for the last fifty years. And those who respond by saying ALL lives matter are today's version of the same old Go slow response we got fifty years ago.
Nina Simone's "Mississippi Goddam" is just as true and powerful today as it was when she sang it years ago.  Here it is again for those who might not know what I'm talking about. Listen for the following lyrics as she says them...
Don't tell me, I'll tell you
Me and my people just about due
I've been there so I know
They keep on saying, "Go slow!" 
But that's just the trouble, go slow
Washing the windows, go slow
Picking the cotton, go slow
You're just plain rotten, go slow 
You're too damn lazy, go slow
The thinking's crazy, go slow
Where am I going? What am I doing?
I don't know, I don't know
Oh, but this whole country is full of lies
You're all gonna die and die like flies
I don't trust you any more
You keep on saying, "Go slow! Go slow!" 
Reunification, go slow
Do things gradually, go slow
But bring more tragedy, go slow
Why don't you see it? 
Why don't you feel it?
I don't know, I don't know
But that's just the trouble, go slow
Desegregation, do it slow Mass participation, go slow

Friday, July 31, 2015

GOP Souvenir -- Race for 2016

This post is the blogging equivalent of a ticket stub from a B-grade movie. 
The following infographic and comments appeared at the Howard Dean Facebook page. 
It has no redeeming value, but this comments thread is a sparkling piece of political kitsch with all the charm of a lawn jockey or cupie doll. One long, easy to spot response sums up the state of the race thus far. 

Facebook does a great job of collecting and ranking comments, 
so the first at the top of the list is best by popular demand. 
Take a look at this.

It's really not THAT shocking that the majority of Republicans polled prefer an outspoken sexist, xenophobic racist. 
Yep. He's the Base's ID. Their new Rush. Donald speaks for them. 
Indeed, it is no shock at all that the most preening nakedly egotistical entitled asshole who inherited all his money and is the raw id and voice of the modern ethos of the Republican Party should be in the lead with his shameless compadres left bleeding cluelessly in the dirt. 
I agree it's not a shock and I particularly agree that he's the new Rush. Rush could have probably beaten Obama. The Republican base is a group of hateful people. They used to be Democrats until the 1960s. A bad bunch. 
 As opposed to a soft spoken sexist, xenophobic racist? 
Geoff, a soft-spoken sexist? Xenophobe? Rascist? I've noticed on fb their sentences are all 5 or 6 words long, with 3 or 4 derogatory words in each sentence. For example, if someone is discussing sexism, their responses will include a lot of words that have to do with bodily functions. 
They used to be Democrats until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 you mean. 
The voice of the wingnut Id. 
You nailed it! 
Geoff I love the large word you used in the sentence. You win a cookie. 
I would love to see Clinton or Sanders debate ( Politically ) with Trump!!!! They would eat him alive! Business Man, Inherited his money and claimed Bankruptcy 4 times, vs. The Politicians!! No Brainer here!! 
I'm not the least bit surprised, either. I was taken aback at first because it made no sense. However, after a few minutes it made perfect sense. The far right via Fox, Rush and the like, have fanned the flames of hate, fear, and loathing against: blacks, Obama, Gays, liberals, pro-choice, gun law reform, women, immigrants, Muslims, and Christians who don't follow in lock-step with what they believe. It is no longer just allowing a difference of opinions, there has to be this great animus, an US against THEM attitude, with plethora of ad hominem attacks.
The right fueled that ugliness as part of their marketing campaign to garner voter, and they've been fanning that flame for twenty years. Now it's a conflagration that's out of control, it's a wild fire that has divided this country. What now lies in its ever growing incendiary path of destruction is a giant chasm. Even the Old Republican Party members have jumped ship or been forced to hide in a corner, their voices being silenced by the din of extremism. It is no wonder a blowhard, with the IQ of an amoeba, like Trump, gets their base excited, he IS their base, they are just like him. Now that they've created that monster and he's out of the box, they don't know what to do with him. Their other candidates are bought and paid for by the Koch's, it would appear Trump is rogue and can not controlled.
The haters now have some one they love. 
You're right Lisa. When you put that way the poll makes sense. 
Trump is all talk and no action. Precisely what the rights' base wants. The base on the right likes things the way they are, because thats what the republicans have told them to think. 
Trump set up this whole thing so that when the real Republican Candidate is picked the nation will breathe a sigh of relief

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Plus ça Change

It's not Christmas but this post from my old blog is not a seasonal memory. I came across it during a nighttime foray into the Web. I don't recall what I was looking for but when I came across this I knew it was something I wanted to keep. This is a re-blogging of something I put together ten years ago. I have not checked them all but a couple of the important outlinks are still working. 

So many words, so little time...

Christmas and the end of the year are a time to lift your head from your work, look around and evaluate what you're doing and where you're headed. Maybe that's where the notion of "New Year's resolutions" comes from. There are a few people who seem never to reevaluate what they are doing or where they are going. Those are the sad ones whose journey through life eventually becomes a tired, plodding existence ending in a correspondingly boring era of "old age."

Being old represents a state of body and mind, and too often the two do not end together. After working for three years now in a retirement community I have been able to witness the decline and fall of a lot of people -- a good many more than the average person ever observes in the space of three years. I have decided that if I have any wish for my own old age it is that my mind and my body will play out at the same time. It is a painful thing to watch someone struggle physically when the mind is still active, and perhaps even more painful to see someone lose cognition long before their body quits functioning. In a few cases both functions phase out together, but at a pace measured in decades rather than months or years, and we can look into a mirror of us all in that protracted end, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

An essay by Joe Queenan in yesterday's New York Times captured a moment of truth for me which helped me come to terms with a preoccupation that has hobbled me all my life: the impulse to acquire and read books. Like a substance abuser or OCD patient coming to terms with a crippling, self-destructive behavior I was able to push past denial. I copied and printed the article, pinched the three pages at the corner with a little paper clamp, installed a hook right in the middle of my library and hung it there to remind me: I already have more books than I will ever read, so getting more is not about reading but ego: owning, displaying and sporting --but certainly not reading. In the same way that shopping in a mall for yet another pair of shoes, shirt or knick-knack for which I have no earthly use is a waste of time and money, getting yet another book must be something that I do with serious circumspection. No need to spend the money if I don't invest the time to read.
Several years ago, I calculated how many books I could read if I lived to my actuarially expected age. The answer was 2,138. In theory, those 2,138 books would include everything from "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" to "Le Colonel Chabert," with titles by authors as celebrated as Marcel Proust and as obscure as Marcel Aymé. In principle, there would be enough time to read 500 masterpieces, 500 minor classics, 500 overlooked works of genius, 500 oddities and 138 examples of high-class trash. Nowhere in this utopian future would there be time for [yet another obscure, uninteresting tome probably "re-gifted" from someone posing as a friend] 
True, I used to be one of those people who could never start a book without finishing it or introduce a volume to his library without eventually reading it. Familiarity with this glaring character flaw may have encouraged others to use me as a cultural guinea pig, heartlessly foisting books like "Damien the Leper" (written by Mia Farrow's father) or the letters of Flannery O'Connor upon me just to see if they were worth reading. (He wasn't; she was.)
I can truthfully say that blogging has become the pastime of choice where my reading is concerned. During the last four years (blogging really only took off in the aftermath of the WTC attack) I have allowed magazine subscriptions to lapse, quit looking so lustfully at bookstores and rarely buy a newspaper, except for local stories. It may be that like the substance abuser who substitutes coffee and chewing gum for another substance of choice I have only redirected a habit, but when I look at that habit in the shadow of impending old age, mentioned above, I think it is a move in the right direction. It has been my observation that the mind is as subject to exercise or neglect as the body. Like it or not, use it or lose it.

Toward that end, this morning's reading starts off with a great new discovery. I have added yet another blog to the aggregator, Words Without Borders Blog: Literary Notes from Around the World. There isn't much of an archive yet. It seems to have started less than six months ago, but two snips I found this morning are enough to get me hooked.
The other day at a function, a woman I hadn't met before came and sat down beside me. She expressed great interest in getting to know me, and to make an acquaintance. Naturally, some conversation is required. She asked me a few questions, such as: [Insert here a tedious list of trivial questions, ed.] 
After nearly an hour and a half of my answering her various questions, she was satisfied that she was acquainted with me. But reader, believe me, I am not making up any of this--that woman asked me absolutely nothing. Who am I, where is my house, who are my parents, what work do I do, even what is my name! A woman who after a whole hour and a half of talking to me doesn't even know my name, but who feels quite content that she has fulfilled her duty of getting to know me.
That is, to coin a line, too good for words. It is a cultural snapshot comparable with that old adage that a picture being worth a thousand words.
Words, like the eyes, are a lens into the soul.
And here are two excerpts from another essay that tells me that what is being advertised as a war between two civilizations, a war that is being waged by conventional military means, is really a symbolic conflict that will be won or lost, not in the streets of some distant land, but in the minds of those taking part in the conflict. As I read these words I could not help wondering how well "our side" does at introspection and reevaluating values.
When I was a child, I experienced the two different rereadings of Islam firsthand. As the child of a single mother, there was a time when I grew up with two different grandmothers. At the first glance these two women were so alike: they were both Turkish, they came from similar class backgrounds, and both were Muslims. Yet, my father’s mother was a follower of the religion of fear. The Jalal side of Allah appealed to her more than anything else. She taught me about the patronizing, paternal, and celestial gaze always watching me from above to then make a note of all the sins I committed down here. I came back from her house slightly traumatized, unable to go to the bathroom for fear of being seen naked by Allah, ashamed of the body given to me. 
But shortly after, I moved to the house of my other grandmother and thus entered an iridescent universe replete with folk Islam and superstitions. This was an old woman who poured melted lead to ward off the evil eye, read the coffee cups and taught me not to step on the thresholds where the djinn danced at night. She was a follower of the religion of love. For her Allah wasn’t a God to be feared but a God to be loved. Indeed, the celestial gaze watched us constantly, she agreed, but it also blinked from time to time, just like any other eye would. Those times of blinking were the moments of freedom when we were invisible to God. “Sure, the religious authorities are rigid, and yes, some teachings are constraining, but do not worry,” she would say, “for they are bricks, you are water. They will stay put, you will flow.” She is the one who taught me all about water. Love and faith could be just like water, so fluidlike. I doubt if I have entirely managed to follow the path of the water in love and faith, but eventually, that was the model my fiction writing followed.
This woman, a Turkish writer, displays a great depth of cultural intelligence. She packs very important ideas into a very tight little space.
...the woman writer chooses to speed up the flow of time because it is easier to be respected as an old woman in a patriarchal society than as a young woman. Thus, we end up with women in their thirties acting as if they were in their sixties. In the Middle East women age quickly, leaping from the category of “virgins” to “old women,” as if there is nothing in between. The quicker the jump, the more esteem and authority a woman writer earns in the eyes of the society.
...I sometimes liken my fiction writing, both in language and content, to walking on a pile of rubble left behind after a catastrophe. I walk slowly so that I can hear if there is still someone or something breathing underneath. I listen attentively to the sounds coming from below to see if anyone, any story or cultural legacy from the past, is still alive under the rubble. If and when I come across signs of life, I dig deep and pull it up, above the ground, shake its dust, and put it in my novels so that it can survive. My fiction is a manifesto of remembrance against the collective amnesia prevalent in Turkey.
Two or three times in the last week I have heard the same theme from unrelated sources: our real enemy is not belief, but fundamentalism, whether it be ours or theirs -- Christians, Jews or Muslims. It is okay to know that you know that you know that yours is the only truth and the truth of others is badly, even sinfully incorrect. But to conclude that the only way to deal with that difference is to anihilate the other believer, is as mindless as that line from the Vietnam conflict that it was necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.

Thanks again to 3QDaily for raising my consciousness.