Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Preparation for War Should not be Used to Entertain Us

The following is from a mailing to those who are on David Swanson's mailing list. I believe that David Swanson should be the next presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of the United States of America.  I believe that all of us who think we're "progressive" because we're "Democrats" ought to hearken back to George Wallace's pre-assassination attempt 1968 statement that "there ain't a dime's worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats".  

I'm sure most of us were repulsed by Governor Wallace's racist preaching, but the man made an attempt to change once he was shot.  In the case that I mention, he was correct.  The only difference between Democrats and Republicans is what is said during political campaigns. Once elected, they govern the same.

If Clinton and Obama haven't convinced you of that by now, I believe you're a lost cause. Those who believe that if we just get the right Democrat or if we change the Democratic Party from within, the party will become the progressive party that we know it to be, never knew the Democratic Party. It isn't now nor has it ever been a progressive party. Most of the wars of the twentieth century were begun under Democratic administrations. The Glass Steagall Act was repealed by a Democratic president and, although the bailing out of the wealthy was begun by a Republican president, it was finished up by a Democratic president.

The Socialist Party of the United States of America may fail every bit as much as any other party has failed, but it's time to change the choices and it's time to give Democratically elected Socialists their chance. I would suggest that everyone join Mr. Swanson's mailing list.

To friendship,

“Egotism is the anesthetic that dulls the pain of stupidity.” - Frank Leahy



August 13, 2012

An Open Letter to Mr. Robert Greenblatt, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, General Wesley Clark (ret.), Producer Mark Burnett and others involved in "Stars Earn Stripes":

During the Olympics, touted as a time for comity and peace among nations, millions first learned that NBC would be premiering a new "reality" TV show.  The commercials announcing "Stars Earn Stripes" were shown seemingly endlessly throughout the athletic competition, noting that its premier would be Monday, August 13, following the end of the Olympic games.

That might seem innocuous since spectacular, high budget sporting events of all types are regular venues for airing new products, televisions shows and movies.  But "Stars Earn Stripes" is not just another reality show.  Hosted by retired four-star general Wesley Clark, the program pairs minor celebrities with US military personnel and puts them through simulated military training, including some live fire drills and helicopter drops.  The official NBC website for the show touts "the fast-paced competition" as "pay[ing] homage to the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces and our first-responder services."

It is our belief that this program pays homage to no one anywhere and continues and expands on an inglorious tradition of glorifying war and armed violence.  Military training is not to be compared, subtly or otherwise, with athletic competition by showing commercials throughout the Olympics.  Preparing for war is neither amusing nor entertaining.

Real war is down in the dirt deadly.  People—military and civilians—die in ways that are anything but entertaining.  Communities and societies are ripped apart in armed conflict and the aftermath can be as deadly as the war itself as simmering animosities are unleashed in horrific spirals of violence.  War, whether relatively short-lived or going on for decades as in too many parts of the world, leaves deep scars that can take generations to overcome – if ever.

Trying to somehow sanitize war by likening it to an athletic competition further calls into question the morality and ethics of linking the military anywhere with the entertainment industry in barely veiled efforts to make war and its multitudinous costs more palatable to the public.

The long history of collaboration between militaries and civilian media and entertainment—and not just in the United States—appears to be getting murkier and in many ways more threatening to efforts to resolve our common problems through nonviolent means.  Active-duty soldiers already perform in Hollywood movies, "embedded" media ride with soldier in combat situations, and now NBC is working with the military to attempt to turn deadly military training into a sanitized "reality" TV show that reveals absolutely nothing of the reality of being a soldier in war or the consequences of war.  What is next?

As people who have seen too many faces of armed conflict and violence and who have worked for decades to try to stop the seemingly unending march toward the increased militarization of societies and the desensitization of people to the realities and consequences of war, we add our voices and our support to those protesting "Stars Earn Stripes."  We too call upon NBC stop airing this program that pays homage to no one, and is a massive disservice to those who live and die in armed conflict and suffer its consequences long after the guns of war fall silent.


Jody Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1997

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize, 1984

Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977

Dr. Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize, 2003

President José Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize, 1996

Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Prize, 1980

President Oscar Arias Sanchez, Nobel Peace Prize, 1987

Rigoberta Menchú Tum, 1992

Betty Williams, Nobel Peace Prize, 1977

Fall Equivalency? I Think Not

(originally published at OpEdNews) 

I’m sixty-two years old and was raised in a family of bigots.  I have a sister.  So, it didn’t take long before I first heard the statement, “If she ever brings home a (fill in the pejorative - based, of course, on color of skin and/or ethnicity), I’ll kill him.”  Do you know how many times I’ve heard that statement or statements very much like it in sixty-two years?  Well, neither do I.  I just know it’s too many. 

About week ago, while standing in the cereal aisle at my local Safeway, there were two manly men talking at each other and, wouldn’t you know it, one was talking to the other about his daughter.  And, again, wouldn’t you know it, he said those infamous words, “If she brings home a “nigger” - would it mean the same if I wrote, “if she brings home an “n-word” - I’ll kill him.”

I’m five feet two inches tall as well as being sixty-two years old.  The shorter of these two guys had at least eight inches in height on me.  I think that my age equaled the sum of theirs.  Consequently, for these very legitimate reasons, I kept the fire inside inside.
Let me say that, yes, I overheard them, but I’m quite certain that the people at the deli overheard them as well.  I wasn’t trying to listen to what they were saying, I was merely looking for a box of Frosted Flakes.

Again, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard phrases like the one above, but, when I heard it about a week ago, it became, for me, the straw that broke the camel’s back.  I’ve also heard fathers say, “If she brings (one of them) home, I’ll kill her.”

Really?  With all of the violent death that happens on a daily basis not only in The Formerly United States of America, but throughout the world, the catalyst for another killing would be knowing that a man, whose skin is of a hue which is disagreeable to a father, might find that father’s daughter attractive?  That’s it?

July 20 came to mind.  Aurora, Colorado came to mind.  The midnight showing of a Batman movie entitled “The Dark Knight Rises” came to mind.  Some people in that town made the choice to go that theater to watch that showing of that movie.  Another man who obviously feels that the world is falling behind in senseless killings chose that night to enter that theater at that time and begin shooting people.  When it was over, twelve people had been killed because of the choice they made. 

Really?  It was their “fault” that they were killed?

First, let’s get one word out of the way.  That word is “fault”.  Since when is going to a movie theater a “fault”?  Indeed, it was their choice to be there at that time.  I’m relatively certain that, if they knew ahead of time that a man would walk into the theater, aim a gun in their direction and shoot them dead, they’d have chosen another showing.  This isn’t meant to be glib and, for certain, it isn’t meant to be funny.  It’s really meant to relate to what I heard at Safeway only a couple of days after that shooting occurred.

I’ve heard the statement that I referenced above far too many times.  I think that some fathers make such a statement, but probably wouldn’t actually kill anyone.  They may never speak to their daughters again and they may cut them out of whatever will they’ve prepared, but they wouldn’t actually kill a person.

I absolutely know that some fathers I’ve heard make that statement would, indeed, kill the man the daughter brought home or both the man and the daughter.  Killing people these days has become what 1950s and 1960s TV portrayed it to be like in “the old west”.  One person pulls a trigger and another falls dead.  Can you just imagine the killer blowing the smoke away from the barrel of his gun and putting it back into his holster, tipping his cowboy hat and riding off into the sunset?

The people who went to watch Batman chose to attend that particular showing.  I’ve heard people say that those who were killed were innocent victims.  They merely chose to attend that particular showing.  If they chose where they would be at that particular time, where’s the guilt in possessing a characteristic that one had no choice in possessing?

James Brown recorded a song entitled “I’m Black And I’m Proud”.  I love James Brown and, when I was a singer in a band, I tried, without success, to imitate James Brown.  However, James Brown didn’t earn his Blackness and, in no way, could ever truly be proud of that “accomplishment”.  However, the hue of the skin of the late Mr. Brown was not a punishment, either.  To say it wasn’t his “fault” that he was born Black is just as absurd as saying that he should have been “proud” to be Black.  It’s no more a fault to be Black than it is to be Brown or Yellow or White.  It is what it is.  It’s a fact, period!

And for this, there are men, all White in my experience, who, I truly believe, would kill a Black man for accompanying their daughters on a date.  Most people have gone to the movie theater and all people were born.  It hurts absolutely no one to go to a movie theater and, likewise, being born with Black skin hurts no one.  This is not a “false equivalency”.  There’s as much, or as little, logic in punishing people for going to a movie theater as there is for punishing someone because of skin color combined with an attraction to a certain human being.  In fact, and this is to in no way play down the tragedy of July 20, if we absolutely had to choose, it probably makes less sense to kill a person because of the color of his skin and because of who he is attracted to than it makes for a deranged person to walk into a movie theater and open fire.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re both crazed and evil acts.  And, again, this is not a false equivalency.  It is every bit as crazy for a man to kill either his daughter’s date because that date has Black skin as it is for a man to kill people in a movie theater.  In both cases, the killers have never taken the time to know those that they’ve killed.  The victims are obviously thought of by the killers as not human and are merely silhouettes of human beings.  The victims in each case have done nothing, with malice aforethought, to offend the killer.

Fathers who say, “If she brings home (one of them), I’ll kill him” or “I’ll kill them” or “I’ll kill her” are no more and no less crazed than the man who walked into a theater on July 20, 2012 and shot 12 people to death.

I didn’t take any room in this article to address semiautomatic weapons and the NRA’s insistence that they are what those who wrote the Second Amendment to The Constitution had in mind because the mere premise is batshit crazy.  However, British comedian Eddie Izzard uses a line in one of his acts.  The line is, “The NRA says guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but I think the gun helps.”

If we remove the “help”, it will at least become a challenge to kill someone and, as there will always be people who have the need to kill other people, it would be so much better to give the other people a fighting chance to either defend themselves or to get as far away from the potential killer as possible.

To friendship,

“Drugs have taught an entire generation of Americans the metric system” - P. J. O’Rourke