12/11/12

Thanksgiving in Retrospect


One afternoon, my friend and I walked fifty odd blocks through Manhattan to reach the home of an old friend who had been gracious enough to invite us over for thanksgiving dinner. The guests of the evening included: Two elderly white gay men, an elderly black German actress, one Jewish male neighbor, One black middle aged insurance executive and my friend and I, both of whom are straight, middle class and white. It was a relatively diverse gathering of people who weren’t particularly intertwined in their lives or familiar with one another as a group. And yet, despite our differences, as miniscule and irrelevant as they were, we came together to celebrate the occasion and share one of the strangest thanksgivings I’ve ever had.

            Obama had just won his re-election campaign and the country was either beside itself with joy, devastated to it’s very core, or fully aware of the fact that the political process within the US is just a puppet show to perpetuate the illusion of democracy. Of those present, myself, my friend, the Jewish neighbor and the two elderly gay men, we were all, more or less, of the same political exasperation regarding the recent pointless-election. However, both the elderly black actress and the middle aged black insurance executive were extremely happy that Obama had won. I asked why? What has Obama ever done for the black community while he’s been in office? And, apart from an ‘anything but Romney’ mentality, how could anyone condone his betrayals over the past four years? I too had once foolishly believed in and voted for the man. But, despite my naivety and false hope, the reality of his corruption and lapdog nature to corporate and financial interests, had since left me disillusioned—had since left me aware of what’s really happening.

            And, so, it was on that note of ‘what’s really happening’ that I had posed my question of ‘What has Obama done for the black community?’ A question clearly targeted at race. For, prior to that point, and for much of the earlier evening, a debate had erupted between the Jewish Neighbor and the middle aged black executive about the contemporary state, and continued practice, of racism in America. About the fact that Romney had, suggestively run on the idea of ‘what America used to be’ of ‘bringing back the good old days’ of ‘with or without expressly saying it: telling white voters to vote for the white guy’. A deplorable and pathetic notion, not unlike the entirely of the man’s campaign. It failed. As it should have. And, for that, both the middle aged black executive and the elderly black actress, felt proud of their country—for being more multicultural—for evolving. That, ultimately, is what Obama had done for the black community, they said: “He managed to be black and get into the white house. That’s what he did for the black community.”

            The discussion continued and branched off. At various points people took some offense to what was being said, based on the various known differences between us. In a room full of the young and old, of Jewish, of gays, of blacks, whites, Europeans, Canadians, American’s, and nearly every variety of prejudice that exists in our world, we engaged in a serious discussion and debate about the matter. Because, as many of us emphasized, and as slowly became apparent through the progression of the subject, it is our prejudices and emotional strings that determine the electoral process nowadays, and, in doing so, obscures the very point of those elections—to nominate a leader, not a mascot.

            The elderly black actress told a beautiful story of being back in Germany in the seventies. She was walking down the street one day and noticed a little white German girl approaching her. The little girl seemed apprehensive for some reason, and, in response to her apprehension so too did the, then, young black actress. The two stopped before one another, sensing something was to be said. Then, to her surprise, the little white German girl leaned forward and stated in a slightly whispered tone: “Nigger”.

The black actress stood stunned, neither particularly offended nor provoked by the little girls statement. Just stunned. She took a moment and, eventually, responded: “Deutsche.”

The little girl recoiled, surprised and confused by what had just been said to her. She took another moment before responding again, slightly louder than before: “Nigger.”

The black actress maintained her composure, staring into the eyes of the belligerent little white German girl. She responded, as she had before: “Deutsche.”

The little girl clenched her fists and became noticeably upset. She leaned forward and once more, used the only tool at her disposal, her hatred: “Nigger!”

The black actress smiled, refusing to indulge the little girl’s emotional demands. She responded, once more, just as she had before: “Deutsche.”

At this the little girl deflated. Her anger melted from her eyes and she stood bewildered, slowly crumbling to tears. She covered her face and ran away, crying for her mother, scorned and embarrassed by her own contempt for those unlike her that she did not know, nor whom did she dare to introduce herself to.

                The elderly black woman finished her story and I smiled, sitting on the couch, appreciating her reenactment. Her point was well heard—racism only survives if you let it—if you feed it or foster it. Pass it through the generations or use it as a political tool for good or bad. Racism is a part of this countries history, one buried by half assed attempts to amend the damage it’s done, or, to pretend that it still doesn’t exist. But it does.

The middle aged black executive told a story too. During hurricane Sandy he had gotten lost in his girlfriends apartment complex, navigating the underbelly with a flashlight in complete darkness. In doing so, he had come across two black women, also lost from the confusion of the storm, and asked a question: “Excuse me. Do you know if there’s a stairwell around down here?”

The two black woman scowled at the middle aged black executive. They responded to his amazement: “Well, if you lived in the damn building you’d know, wouldn’t you?!”

The middle aged black executive was stunned, utterly stunned. He looked at the hatred in their eyes, listened to the contempt in their voices, and realized that despite the fact they were both black too, despite the fact that they were all in the same boat trying to navigate the storm together, he had just been labeled and discriminated against—he recognized their racism.

The Jewish neighbor told a story—an account of Martin Luther King Jr. being punched in the face by a racist white man. In the middle of his followers, in the middle of a heated racial era, a white man had walked up to Dr. King and punched him square in the face. To this, Dr. King, briefly tended his wound, took a breath and instructed his enraged and livid friends and followers to unhand the man and let him go free. For, after all, he is as much a victim of his hatred and racism as we are.

               By the end of the night, we had all either managed to mildly offend, inspire, or be mildly offended and inspired by one another’s words. We had all told stories, shared wounds, broken bread and enjoyed our thanksgiving discussing something genuinely important. At times, I was worried people wouldn’t keep their composure, or, that they might disagree so much as to consider one another enemies. At times, it got heated. At times, it got tense. But, despite that uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty that accompanies any substantial and honest debate, by the end of the night, our embraces and heartfelt goodbye’s were not marked with scorn or malice but rather a deep appreciation and love for having listened to one another—for understanding and valuing one another’s opinions. Because, although we may not like to admit it, racism is still very much alive in the United States and in the lives of it’s citizens.

              Ironically, that night made me reflect on the mythology of thanksgiving—of, long ago, a similar bringing together of divided people’s, through culture, custom, language and, race. To share a meal, break bread and, in doing so, mend wounds born from the differences between us by giving thanks to the ties that bind. 

9/18/12

Puzzles of Lies and Half Truths


I have supported Occupy Wall Street from day one. I believed, and continue to believe, that the people united can never be defeated; that the American Government and the international-banking-cartel needs to be held accountable for their criminal acts and lies of epic proportions. But, most of all, in the fledgling birth of the OWS movement and the sudden explosion of support that came to it after the horrifying conduct of one Anthony Bologna, I had hoped for the idea that a true democracy could be built on the shoulders of everyday people collectively reaching for the stars. There was momentum. There was promise. And, then, as there always has been, there was a blowback from the powers that be of such magnitude that it robbed the movement of it’s access to public grounds, it’s capacity to effectively reach the masses and it’s ability to continue forward without brutal repercussions, whether they be publicized or not.

OWS was not killed or disbanded. It was not crushed or forgotten. Instead, it was neutered and defanged. The spirit of the movement and the collective anger and frustration with political and financial corruption remains as strong as ever. However, the masses of cattle that are the politically complacent or viciously misinformed, which OWS had hoped to inspire, have not yet become so starved or agitated as to begin their stampede for justice. And, unfortunately, until they do, I believe that the OWS movement will fail time and time again—endlessly throwing themselves, without sufficient weight, against the still far too powerful arms of the contemporary American-police-state. Put simply, things will have to get much worse before there will be enough incentive for average citizens to wake up and fight back together.

Unfortunately, I believe that there is, in addition to the continued frustrations of those within OWS, other reasons for the stagnant progress as the one-year anniversary of it’s founding has now come and gone. I went down to Zuccotti park yesterday on the anniversary to talk to people for a few hours, both officers and protesters alike. Those in attendance varied greatly as has always been the case within the movement despite the mainstream media’s wishes to categorize it as involving only those on the ‘fringe’ or ‘without direction’. For, underneath the subtle nuances of each individual’s drive to collectively gather, I believe there is a unanimous desire to remove money from politics and return the power to the people. This is, by no means, the entirety of OWS’ demands or beliefs, but rather, an underlying component of the core disease facing America today of which people too often get caught up in debating the symptoms thereof.

I, as many of you already know, am fundamentally a 9/11 Truth activist. And while the 9/11 Truth Movement has been plagued by misrepresentation and internal division, equivalent to many of the problems facing OWS today, it remains in my mind, paramount to being able to understand the bigger picture of the geopolitical and economic stage. However, despite this clear and transparent truth to anyone who has invested the time in researching both the events of that day and the greater implications of corruption and lies as a result of said events, there remains, both within the current anti-war movements and the OWS movement, a visceral refusal to incorporate the puzzle piece of 9/11 truth and the phoney/deliberate ‘war on terror’, of which 9/11 was the catalyst for, into the equation of what is wrong with America. For, as is often the case with the truth, both the American government is keeping it’s citizens from seeing it, and, far more damaging, our patriotism as American’s is keeping us from believing it. Thus, until the collective will of the people is unsettled to their very core, until those who seek to stand up and fight for justice are informed in full and are able to pull the blindfold’s from their eyes and reveal just how deeply corrupted and nefarious those in power are, the underlying truth will be misdiagnosed in attempting to treat symptoms rather than the disease. The bigger picture of a puzzle, without the right pieces, is as misleading as the lies that have been told to keep us from discovering the truth. Until this changes, nothing significant will change. And while I continue to support OWS, I, and other 9/11 Truth activists understand how much worse it is than even their worst fears. 

3/3/12

Cognitive Dissonance


The avalanche of emotion, conjured by politicians and the media, by way of their countless lies and omissions, has all but buried the average man’s ability to wade through the depths of misinformation, or, think rationally about the direction we as a species are headed. Frankly, it’s starting to scare me. I don’t know how much longer people will be able to live in this world if the true nature of what’s transpiring in it is kept from them, either by the media, or their own foolish desire not to know—to remain ignorant and just not think about it. And that, ultimately, will be what paves the way for further violations of our civil liberties; for greater force, used against our ‘enemies’, both foreign and domestic. It is this compulsion, to ‘save ourselves’ and lie down in the face of oppression, that will, consequently, see us become oppressed, exploited, impoverished and desolate. And, if you think this is an overstatement, if you think the future of the industrialized world is nothing but a bright, sparking technological wonder in which everyman is a God and every God showers man with love and forgiveness despite the hubris of our society, and the blissful naivety that has allowed things to get this bad, then I’m sorry, but you need to wake the fuck up.

The slow creep of extremism from the far right has swallowed the fledgling cries of rational minds—silenced their pleas for progressive causes and legitimate change and, instead, has left them stunned and frozen in the wake of an ever expanding abyss of hatred and fear—alienated and ostracized, as if being a moderate intellectual has suddenly become synonymous with being in a freak show. Journalists are a dying bread. Instead, pundits plunder our hearts and fill our minds with bullshit more fit for tabloids than headlines. It’s suffocating us—it’s pulling the air out of our lungs and the truth out of our hearts. And, now, stranded under the weight of the avalanche we scream for someone to help us, to make it all better and protect us from where we find ourselves. But the truth is, only we can pull ourselves out of the abyss. Only we can stand up and fight for what we’ve taken for granted for so long. And only we can change the world before we’re buried under the weight of it.

As always, I retain some semblance of hope that mankind can recognize the error of its ways before it’s too late and change the course of history. But I am not so hopeful as to believe that we will do so before things grow far worse than they already are. I am not so hopeful as to believe that greed and power will fall broken at the feet of love and equality. They never will, for they never have. And, despite the luxuries we enjoy and the brutal past that we have endeavored to leave behind us, we are no better now than those who have fallen victim to similar fates in the pages of history. We the people are still we the people, just as those who have seen fit to assume power parallel infamous dictatorial figures, using the timeless tactic of emotional avalanche to crush descent and burry their opponents. And while many have managed to miraculously surface from the cold, dark, depths of ignorance and fear that would have seen them buried and forgotten, they, nevertheless, stand on uncertain ground poised to crumble beneath them if they so much as make a sound.