On Independence Day, Black militias arise in the United States…As we have been reading about in Black Against Empire, it’s when Black people arm themselves that they get taken seriously by the white establishment…White liberals, of course, begin to get uncomfortable… Black Power Black Lives Matter Black Love
Huey Newton and Bobby Seale wanted to organize, locally, to resist police brutality in their Oakland communities. But they needed a method and means. They needed a strategy, something that would work in the Black ghettoes, something that would be effective to combat the all-out racist onslaught of police forces like in Watts where officers on the force called their nightsticks “nigger-knockers.” They needed to catalyze locals, particularly those who ran the streets, the “brothers on the block, the unemployed black men seen on every street of the ghetto, the black underclass. These were the people who faced the brutality of the expanding urban police departments.” It proved challenging. Meanwhile there was police brutality. And more police brutality. Their frustrations mounted. Then, after a riot, new possibilities began to emerge.
It’s my birthday today. I took the day off of work, and I also took a day off from closely monitoring the news, setting out for a hike. It was a wonderful and refreshing hike, up Fireweed Mountain just down the road from my cabin. The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining on us in this magnificent valley, making it feel like a cathedral, surrounded as it is by grand mountains, roaring rivers, and a massive glacial field. But the news cycle caught up with me, and I write this with tears running down my face. It may feel like a cathedral here but there is no sanctuary, no place of escape from the violent karma that is currently raging in our streets. But for many Americans there has never been an escape from police violence.
It was August of 2010. I saw the lights of Anchorage from the seat of my plane as we prepared for landing at Ted Stevens International Airport. My family had lived in Anchorage for a few years when I was very young but at age 32, this was my first time back in Alaska, as an adult. This trip had begun in my imagination, about a year before, as I walked around the Indianapolis Zoo. I was fascinated by a placard about grizzly bears, located nearby to a rather sad looking, caged Griz. The placard told of how a woman was attacked by a grizzly bear, in the city of Anchorage no less, while out for a jog in the park. For some reason that resonated with me. It wasn’t a sadistic thing, I don’t take pleasure in the suffering of joggers. I was just completely enchanted by the idea of a state like Alaska, where bears and moose made their presence felt, even in the biggest of cities. It was strange, that moment, but …
I started watching Ken Burns’ 18 hour documentary on Vietnam, and after five episodes I’m hooked in, way more hooked, in fact, that I would have ever thought possible given that this is a war documentary. I’ve generally stayed away from watching or reading about war, whether it’s a novel or a blockbuster moview or a documentary, I’ve tended to find other subject matters. For some reason, though, this series has me intrigued and glued to the tube.
“Drugs are menacing our society. They are threatening our values and undercutting our institutions. They are killing our children. From the beginning of our administration we’ve taken strong steps to do something about this horror.” ~ Ronald Reagan, 1986 speech, with Nancy Reagan by his side
Sagan cuts through the crap in this 2 minute vid. And like many reporters, this one would rather move things along to science fiction rather than deal with reality:
And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. ~ Matthew 18:5-6 Perhaps this verse might be something of a counter to the White House theologians as they weaponize the Bible so as to justify their attacks on the world’s most vulnerable.
I was recently having a conversation on Facebook with a conservative woman about gun control and school shootings. She gave me the typical nonsense: guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Being a writer and not wanting to miss the chance to one-up a cliche with a more truthful turn-of-phrase, I responded by saying that yes, guns do kill people because gun violence is impossible without guns. I went on to say that among developed nations, America had a fairly unique gun violence problem. We can’t continue with business as usual and keep watching students get gunned down. Something needs to change. The conservative responded immediately by posting the Israel teacher meme, it’s a pic of an Israeli teacher standing behind a group of kids with an assault rifle slung over her shoulder. Do we really want that for our schools and for our kids? Most Americans don’t, but if we armed teachers, that sure would be good for gun manufacturers. Profits would boom, stock prices would soar, and the money would come rolling in.
Manhunt is an intriguing series. It dramatizes the story of Ted Kaczynski, aka the UNABOMBER. Those of us who grew up in the Nineties remember the story of bombs that arrived by mail and exploded in the hands of the recipients. It went on for years and years, the FBI’s most expensive manhunt. The new Netflix series, Manhunt, is a compelling crime story, but it’s far more. Before he was caught, Kaczynski was actually able to negotiate to have his manifesto printed in the Washington Post. At the time, the public dismissed the manifesto whose premise seemed ridiculous: The Industrial Revolution and its consequences have been a disaster for the human race. It was easy enough, back then, to reject Kaczynski as mentally insane, but this Netflix series raises the provocative question: was Ted Kaczynski right?
Having read the book, I watched the film — the most recent version of True Grit, done by the Coen brothers. I’d seen it before, but my memory was a bit skewed. In my mind the film was focused on the male cowboys, played by Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. I said as much in my review of the book. I may have been confusing the recent film with the original John Wayne movie, or my recollection may have simply been skewed by my own male-centric perspective. In any event, I’m happy to report that the 2010 version of True Grit is just about as true to the book as possible.
It’s quite clear that for a large segment of the U.S. population, allegations of sexual misconduct by Donald Trump will not deter their political support. As with anything else, for these people, Trump always gets the final word on what counts as fact and what should be ignored as “fake news.” It’s a danger road, to say the least, the road that leads to totalitarianism; however as many have pointed out, the greater harm is the legitimizing of sexual objectification and the normalizing of toxic masculinity. Trump sexually assaults women, and Trump holds the most powerful political position in the United States. The Guardian has published a full list of the allegations of sexual assault made against Donald Trump.
Having recently concluded the last episode in the most recent season of HBO’s Game of Thrones, my enthusiasm seems to know no bounds. I’m ready to declare it the best damn thing I’ve ever watched, of all time. Then again, I’m fresh off the adrenaline rush, so I’ll hold off in making such sweeping declarations.
The kinds of violence that we are seeing in protests, on campuses and in Charlottesville will likely only continue to escalate. I’m surprised that it hasn’t been worse, frankly, but I’m grateful that we’ve been able to hold it together — but the kinds of violence we are seeing are symptoms of a social sickness, and hence the answer is not to condemn the violence itself, despite how affirming it may feel. President Trump does what he always does: heap as much blame for the violence on liberals and the left as is humanly possible (hence “violence on both sides”). The left justifies itself and condemns fascist violence. But condemning violence completely misses the point of what is happening in our society.
Dude I’m talking to says: “Okay okay but what’s wrong with talking tough? It’s refreshing, for me it’s refreshing to see that there’s someone finally willing to stand up to North Korea. And what’s wrong with that?” Me: Look man, I’m old enough to remember the last time America did the tough guy song and dance. It led us into Iraq and Afghanistan, two unwinnable wars that we paid for with borrowed money. It made the Middle East situating worse and led to the rise of ISIS. Dude I’m talking to: Well okay, maybe, but ISIS? That’s a stretch.