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Entries in death (24)

Monday
Nov052012

Electile Dysfunction

Walking Buber the Dog tonight I was pondering my place within the nexus of the intersecting, competing, bewildering array of economic, political, and religious philosophies vying for my attention each day, but particularly on a day like tomorrow when every one of their voices reaches a fever pitch, screaming into my ear, tugging my heart, stabbing my back, and generally clamoring for my attention.

The irony of a Thanksgiving race for the hungry... Some have too few calories, others too many.A thought came over me, combining Einstein's insight with Jesus' commitment to those typically forgotten and trampled by social systems: the system that creates the "least of these" can't serve the needs of the least of these.

Sadly, it's not on our menu of options tomorrow, any way to stall and eventually starve the system that creates "the least of these." As it is, my horse isn't even in the race so again I'll vote for second best. To the polls I go, heavy of heart that I too am just an extra (actor) in the political theater, at least for that one day, in that one role, on that one stage.

This blog has been around since 2002 and my interest in writing on things political was rather hot in 2004-2005. I was fired up in that year since it was the first year after my rebirth of sorts, seeing the world with new eyes, making vital but naive statements. I was pretty devastated in the wake of that election. I was gladdened four years later, but a lot more sober and heavy hearted, knowing Barack Obama, an individual man of demonstrated principle, was bound for a situation that inherently demands compromise and outright deceit. How could a relatively wet-behind-the-ears non-insider turn the table on the system? It didn't make sense, but I had hoped his commanding presence would inspire people to act from better places in themselves. I'm sure it happened in pockets all over. His election brightened my mood for a while. But I did watch as step by step he had to admit the way to stay in the game is to play by the rules that have been written long ago and vetted over time. Sad. Very sad.

Papa John's next to a Curves for Women. It's kind of like the two party system but really, there is a symbiosis that is apparent if you have the eyes to see it.Papa John's next to a Curves for Women. It's kind of like the two party system but really, there is a symbiosis that is apparent if you have the eyes to see it.

I've said for years now that the new republic isn't what we want to believe it is. It's still representative, but less and less does the representation signify a relationship between the people and the elected. It's found in two other relationships: how we spend our money determines what companies or industries we support. And in turn, how their power is channeled through the officials we think we elect. Corporations or industrial-commercial blocs such as Pharma, Oil, Biotech, and Defense of course can shout louder than us when it comes to spending. But those are powerful because most of us tend to demand their products and services with some kind of allegiance or pathological dependency. True, you and I don't pay our money at a cash register to support the defense industry, but a time like September 11 does tend to trigger some feeling of acceptance or even outright welcome of things that "defend" our freedoms, even while the stiff taxation and government debt to fund that kind of standing military works counter to our best values, and even our beloved freedoms.

But more and more I realize there is less and less representation for what are emerging as my more beloved values and convictions. I have to admit, I doubt America could ever really be the stage where they are played out. To be honest, the closest representation of what sounds right to me is within countries that are often sneered at and derided for being "socialist." You know—the places where there is a reliable health program. Where cities are charming because of their respect for aesthetics and mixed income integration, and where other elements of the manmade landscape do not presume the automobile is the only means to transport oneself. Where the defense budget doesn't assume the world is out to grab your ill-gotten gains, and where the same budget doesn't guarantee taxation on your hard-won gains. Where the work week leaves time to be a citizen and community member, or just a family person with dignity and energy to engage in the real stuff of life.

The commute around Temecula, CA, about 70 miles from San Diego. Aint that the life?The commute around Temecula, CA, about 70 miles from San Diego. Aint that the life?

Yeah... I guess that's socialism. What misery it must be! Here we could work ourselves to death for no gain, get stranded in traffic, eating junk food, and then go to our pathetically alienating suburban dormitories and numb ourselves on TV "reality" shows that show people more pathetic than us—but who get a TV show on which to present their mock misery, in turn mocking our real miseries.

And as Richard Rohr says often, those who don't transform their hurt are certain to transmit it. There's no shortage of that going around. I'm quite frankly surprised there has not been an attempt on Barack Obama's life. With the insanity and vitriol that fills the air, the anger and scapegoating in a nation of over 300 million, it's frankly hard to believe that some bipolar, unemployed, domestic terrorist has not gone totally off the rails, or that his demise was not ordered as some kind of inside job. I guess I should be thankful. But one day at a time. We haven't re-elected him yet. I hate the thought of such a thing on a man so well meaning but under the sway of other forces beyond his control, but the cauldron is bubbling over and this is too obvious a contingency to ignore.

Sam and george, two penguins, have their usual blame game argument about global warming. They're standing in the desert where Antarctica used to be.

I've reduced my soapbox activity in the peak oil range of topics but I haven't discarded them. Facebook threads tend to be where I take up the topic, usually when people are caught in some back and forth about why the economy is stagnating. There are more voices recognizing peak oil/energy and asking the questions of what it means for daily life. But it's still kind of veiled. I see more mainstream talk but it's never really asking people to think of how to live another way. It's still up for debate and questioning, or presented as some novelty. But that Barack Obama has dropped the ball with the matter of global warming/climate change, there's not a lot of hope that he's going to be a voice to echo Jimmy Carter's "turn down your thermostats" message of restraint and true conservation. An article by Resilience asks why transportation in particular has not changed to electric because oil is so damned useful for other purposes that it's absurd to allow it to be burnt! Alas, we shall look to no elected "leadership" for a path out of the energy crisis since those characters have their fingers placed most deeply in their ears. I frankly have to admit—still—that we're pretty much going to smack the wall of all these limits to growth with as much force as we could muster. As long as the notion of a growing economy trumps all other concerns, we'll get nowhere beneficial. And in the end, the economy will be dead in the water too, having never made a plan to really rein it in to sustainable levels. What will be sustainable will be a return to gathering and recycling the artifacts that still have use. And digging through trash heaps. Even a hack like me was making the case for addressing this in 2004. It doesn't need to scare anyone in 2012.

Hey, I didn't want that for my future, either. But where is the clear voice of leadership with a soapbox high enough and a megaphone wide enough to really do the job of changing things? I doubt that is anything to look forward to. It will come through the cracks at the bottom. If the political system isn't already seen to be irrelevant now, I suppose the next four years—no luckier in producing a thriving economy or a return to middle class comfort, or no firm convictions of the financial vipers—will show that neither a two term Democratic president nor a Latter-Day Satan of a vulture capitalist Republican will produce the goods. The fact is, neither party is able to control the bus going off the cliff. But they can change the in-flight entertainment and assure us of air conditioning on the way.

Smug mug of Alan Greenspan with my sarcastic caption, don't worry Al, we didn't need that economy anyway

I can't just blame the two candidates. No one but a handful of concerned scientists, educators, and activists in various disciplines is really prepared to envision a post-growth world. Certainly we shan't look to our elected officials to tell the truth, else that's their own pink slip they're signing, and that's just not how it goes in politics. But we are at a world-level paradigm shifting moment if we are to take seriously the message of Richard Heinberg and his peers in the Post Carbon Institute. Or a bit less shocking than his talk about "peak everything" and "the end of growth," there's the folks at CASSE—the Center for the Advancement of Steady State Economics. These are just some of the voices that I read to get a less varnished perspective on the news, and to help understand the holes of logic that riddle the mainstream arguments.

After a couple years of working extensively with Jubilee Economics Ministries, and being rather involved in a progressive church, but more so after being initiated into the Christ mystery of life and death, the state of American politics has less and less sway for me. Even within those three shapers of my spirituality, there are some conflicting thoughts. As much as I like the progressive ideas that would emerge and be supported in and around my church community, there are blind spots that I don't like. JEM doesn't always make arguments that accept a post-collapse reality (instead there tends to be a more easygoing adoptions of a grassroots transition that would gain more cred as its virtues are discovered). But the deepest level of understanding, being initiated into the mystery that permeates all we know as mortals in a universe of constant change, says that while I can and must throw my lot in with all the other madness, the patterns of death and resurrection are larger and more immutable, and therefore, I can't control things, nor am I at any advantage to try.

jesus and god stickers all over a trash can in san diegoSeriously now? You love God so much you have to invest in bumper stickers in order to put them on your trash can? Is that the best American Christianity has to offer?

That seems like cosmologically isolationist hocus pocus but really... the systems that define my day and age are brittle. Politics as we know it is cracking. Economics as we know it is imploding. The environment itself is in jeopardy in a particular way that has never been seen before. The great philosophies that shaped the industrial era are themselves not able to explain or contain what is happening. Something profound is happening. As one might fly above the storm to see its eye and the territory it spans, we can't be within the storms of our time to get perspective on its might and ferocity. The systems and philosophies we've relied on are weakening and the water is cresting those levees. A larger view is needed. I've found that the pattern we are loathe to accept is that of death for the sake of rebirth. Is it any surprise there are so many apocalyptic scenarios out there? We fear the death because we don't see how this could be reborn. Sadly, a huge number of Christians, not strangers to some vivid images of death, are also missing the rebirth that awaits in the wake of whatever purging and cleansing has to happen as things radically deconstruct and are eventually sorted out and put back into some order according to new values.

If the Christian myth is that of death and rebirth, then that means those two components must be present and intrinsically bound. Hope is to be found in the very things we can't understand. And usually, we can't understand death. Faith is to be able to progress, even in the seeming darkness, with some assurance that things are as they should be, and our job is to move forward somehow. But you see, a faithless, death-phobic society will tell itself every lie and apply every blame if it means not facing what is right in front of it. Right in front of us.

Inauguration day 2009, my razor knife on the truck window, peeling up the anti-bush not my president sticker that had been there for yearsJanuary 20, 2009... but really, Obama soured me too.

So our elections are exercises in political theater, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I wish it wasn't so but as much as I liked Barack Obama in 2008, nudged along because he was a member of my denomination, and perhaps because we shared a bit of common faith territory, I have long questioned his walking away from his congregation and pastor for the sake of political expediency. And then after that, I have not heard him talk about the United Church of Christ, though to his credit he has spoken some words that I think compensate for that, couched in terms of a world-wise view that religion is vital to humanity, and a plurality is good and should be protected. But then he surrounds himself with Goldman Sachs people and doesn't push to prosecute the gross financial crimes that wrecked the nation. Y'see what I'm saying? I wish Obama would have accepted his special place as the first black president and seen that even one term put him on the map, but then he seemed like he had what it might have taken to do a real expose of what is going on. Sure, it's political suicide, but being as beloved as he was, it would be quite a deed to name and prosecute the misdeeds that put us where we are. He could have come out with a fully transparent explanation of peak oil and a vision for how to meet it with dignity and resolve in a way that echoed JFK and the moon mission. But I guess he wasn't prepared to fall on his sword. I guess I could hope he's able to man up in a second term.

Of course, Mitt Romney is dismally worse. His main ability is talking from two sides of his mouth at once. He's not even worth a mention, really. Pathetic beyond pathetic, he. Shoot me if he gets "elected."

For the first time, this year I decided to join the Green Party. I'm torn because of course I have to make that sickening decision to vote a real conviction or to settle for what might suck less than Mitt Con-me. Of course I barely know who "my" candidates are. Even now I can't recall their names. I'm sure even the Greens have their issues and blind spots that would turn my gut, but they are as close as anything to what I'd support.

Unfortunately, I'd like to find a party that reflects the kinds of values I have adopted under the influence of the lived teachings of Jesus. But it will never gain traction in this land. And the kingdom of God is never meant to be a matter of actual, dirt-under-the-nails activism and political life. It's meant to be more than that, at a deeper level. It's meant to be the thing that turns people's hearts into things of compassion and generosity and acceptance of contradiction and that is able to hold the tensions of existence. It's not a right. It's not a responsibility. It's not electable. It's there and ready to be turned on and is ready to be the shaper of lives in this nation or any. It's outside the systems of the world at large because it is latent within us. Even though I voted for Obama the first time, it was still up to me to volunteer at a social service kitchen serving meals to people with AIDS, or sneaking around at work grabbing food discards and distributing them to people in some need or position to do the same.

These days, I'm experiencing some reawakening of my musical interests that have gone dormant for a decade or so. I look forward to putting that to some use, either as a songwriter with themes that I've blogged on for all these years, or just playing and seeing the harmony erupt between players, or the joy that listening brings either in the contexts I've been involved in lately: the pub and a church.

In some ways, it doesn't really matter who wins the election. Or who steals it. Not to me. It's not that I won't erupt in righteous indignation if the wrong guy gets in (either by theft or the sad realization that idiocy and short sightedness in my country has tipped the balance), or if the right-enough guy does another of his appointments that is a handout to the party I tried to avoid electing. I'll keep harping somehow. But the bigger patterns are at work. The wheel is more than I can wrap my hands around and turn. I guess my options are to do my part in the band to serenade while the bus goes off the cliff, hoping to awaken something, or I could blog or write songs that live in the tradition of Pete Seeger, putting a spanner in the works of thought systems. Or I could keep inviting people to eat together, even if it means finding the discards—the stuff relegated to the death-bin—and doing my small bit to reinvent it as the stuff of life. I guess those are my options, whether or not I vote, whether or not my horse is in the race, or whether or not I vote for the lesser of two evils.

Tuesday
Sep272011

Goodnight, James

You were right, brother—
We just don't have five years more
Time's up for you now.

No more barbeques,
No more beers and water slides,
No more super bowls...

You were right, my bro—
Five years more? what are we then?
Time's up for us now. 

Friday
Apr222011

With Death, Resurrection

It isn't that I had nothing to write for a journal in the last month. I did. I kept my notes in my old journal book that I started in shortly after it was given me by my mom for Christmas 2000. I wrote in that book for about seven months or so. The last entry was dated just days before I received my first computer. The rest, obviously, is history, mostly done on this site, or with a record of sent emails, and only a few short bursts of paper journal writing around special times like my stay at Halcyon or during the Rites of Passage last year. So that book that mom gave me sat empty for nearly a perfect decade. I knew it was only half used and was often left to wonder when I might pick it up to write again. What was going to be exceptional enough, or different enough to warrant using it again?

The book was the one where all the deep dark secrets of family were falling out of the various places they had been hiding. At the age of 27, the life I thought I had led and the life I thought I was about to lead were radically upset with outrageous revelations of a family life that preceded my arrival on the scene, and the early days of my life. The first half of this book contains within it my discovery and the worst of the news, and my response—anger, depression, grief, denial, and the whole sickening soup of it all. In some ways, it is clear to see, particularly on this Good Friday, that experience as a death of one version of myself, though of course, it was far from my imagination that a resurrected life awaited. At that time, there was plenty of darkness to go around.

me, 1978 with the table in the backgroundMe, c. 1978 with the table in the background at the Quapaw house

me and virginia 1981.Virginia and me, Christmas 1981Clearly there was no computer to be used while I was on my trip, nor was I interested in using one. So I took this journal along. What more, I took the table that I used to write at! The table, a dining room table that was at my house on Quapaw for as long as I ever went there, was the place where I sat for family dinners, sat to build plastic models or assemble puzzles as a kid, or to read or be read to by my grandmother. I typically was seated at the side up against the giant sliding glass door, facing the wall of the dining room with the kitchen on the back of that wall. I used to provoke some sharp responses when I leaned my chair back against the window frame, lest I fall through and shards come down on me and cut me to pieces or something.

When, in late November 2000, my grandmother fell and later got taken out of the house for the last time, I had the house to myself for six months before the situation changed and I got roommates. I took to writing at the dining room table instead of in my room, this time taking the spot my grandmother used to take, just opposite my old spot. It afforded me the view out the window instead. Usually I wrote after midnight when the world was quiet, but that seat at the table would otherwise be the place to look at the patio and the garden-like back yard with its terraced hillside overgrown with ivy. On a good day, it was a delightful suburban back yard with color and life. There were citrus trees and another pretty big tree.

the patio as seen from the vantage point of the old table. shot after it got turned into a jail cell, but after the jail cell got partially knocked out to be within compliance.From the dining room, summer 2005, as we were moving. The modified patio is now reduced back to something reasonable but it was still dark. The orange tree is starting to show some life nearly two years after it was hacked to a stump and primary branches.

That was, on a good day. G-ma died ten years ago tomorrow. After she died, and for a couple years, no one really took care of the back yard so it was on auto pilot. I guess I raked and cut a few things, but really I was in another place and so the back yard withered some. Then, in early 2003, the landlord-father of mine came over and began to knock out the wooden and colored-fiberglass patio to replace it with one that was dominated with block and steel, essentially replacing the open feeling, sunny enclosure with what I called a jail cell. It made the dining room and the living room quite dark and shady since the window faced west. So all the southern and western was essentially lost to this project. I never wanted it. I protested. I lost that battle too just like another equally hairbrained idea to hastily enclose the carport and fashion a garage. All of this was tasteless and illegal work. But the business of ignoring my requests and ideas was what helped push me toward depression and angst. At the same time, the roommates I had, two lazy and thrill-seeking guys of about 22-25 were trashing what left of the back yard with their slingshot and BB gun target practice. The owner, the man who once fancied himself father of mine, took saw to the oleanders on the fence and the lemon tree, leaving ugly oleander "trees" when they were nicer as fence-concealing shrubs, and just a stump and main branches on the lemon tree! It was outrageous. He didn't live there! He didn't have to see how ugly it was once he left!

When eventually the fissures turned into giant faults in the ground between us, and he evicted Kelli and me, all our furniture became a ball and chain. We had two dining room sets (one from a donation from a friend's family, and the one I am writing about), and so much else, some stuff duplicated needlessly, but that once fit in that large house. We've moved several times since that summer of 2005, and while we've had our ways to force things into place, or to store them at friend's houses or a garage, finally I found that I could donate the dining room table to the Red Mesa camp in New Mexico. Along with it went a pair of end tables that had taken a bit of a beating and were a bit awkward to fit places, and were essentially replaced by others that fit within the overall scheme of our natural wood furniture.

I got to Red Mesa on a Sunday night and put the three tables together in the living room of the bunk house, a double wide modular trailer house that was in a state of extensive remodeling. Bare wood floors, partially removed wainscoting on the walls. No real kitchen cabinetry, and no oven. Minimal furniture. Dusty with ranch dirt and fireplace ash and cat dander. It was a pretty stark place and I wondered what I got myself into for almost two weeks!

the table now at Red Mesa, New Mexico.The table, at its new home at Red Mesa

I was able to sit at the old dining room table on Monday. The journal was there for me to write in. Almost a decade had passed since I wrote in to log this trip. Then a remarkable thought sprung to mind. I realized I was once again at the table, with the journal, and once again at a giant window, but this time the window was not the window to the jail cell my father created in his uncanny knack for erecting walls, fences, gates, and other barriers. This time it wasn't even the parochial vista of my suburban back yard, not even in its beautiful incarnation with plants and vines. This was an even bigger view, facing south out of the trailer house and looking across the rolling hills in the foreground and maybe a hundred miles more to the mountains.

This realization about the table and journal, once brought to mind on my first full day there, gave me a way to view other happenings at Red Mesa. The ones that stick with me are similar realizations of death and resurrection are the stuff of life. The most potent of these chart a distinction between deeds and attitudes I was raised around, and new chances to respond to analagous situations. I may have to keep the lid on some of that for a while to let it sink in and teach me more, but sooner or later, I'll notice it affecting words and deeds of my own.

Monday
May312010

A More Complete Memorial Day

It is Memorial Day once again. And once again, I went to skim the older entries so as to not totally repeat myself, even if much of it still resonates the same for me. I guess this year I want to memorialize the undignified deaths faced by people who are essentially forgotten, some because they are of no seeming consequence before death, maybe even deemed as nuisances, and therefore their deaths are somehow okay. This is by no means comprehensive; just enough to sketch the idea before running off to do laundry with the wifey. Mourn as you see fit, if you can find it in your busy day between the backyard grill time and the sappy TV specials glorifying our dead national warriors. Let it suggest a fuller picture of death in America.

  • Car accident victims and other traffic deaths, including bike accidents, drunk driving, red light running
  • Gang members
  • Drug addicts and murder victims (domestic and foreign) linked to the pursuit of self medication to dull the existential pain of our postmodern society
  • Foreign born workers who fall into industrial machinery in "industrial accidents"
  • Suicides
  • Medical experimentees at the hands of death-defying doctors giddy with technology
  • The uninsured people who can't get medical service access, medications, while other nations get the stuff donated when in need
  • Homeless people dying on the street
  • Latin American "illegal immigrants" crossing the desert to find a better life after being economically displaced from their homelands
  • Violent deaths from hate crimes of homophobia, racism, domestic violence
  • Slow deaths associated with increasingly toxic environments for kids, workers, 9/11 clean up crews, others
  • Coal mine and oil rig explosions, a comment on our addictive love affair with hydrocarbon power
  • Plane crash victims, flown around by woefully underpaid professional pilots working with little rest or dignity

I don't suppose any such victims will populate the TV news tonight. Even most churches will fall prey to seeing this day as a time to give a little "rah-rah!" to the lost ones of war on foreign shores (mainly, of course we had the Civil War) as they fought Caesar's battles. But what about all the people who die fighting for their own lives and dignity or their own vision of the great American Way, or who are up against the domestic enemies so vast they stand little or no chance of even knowing what hit them? Some are forgotten before they die; deaths of social neglect; others are deaths by social commission it seems. Economic deaths. Industrial deaths. Deaths driven by the needs of individual's egos. They come in all varieties and happen all day and every day. There is no holiday to remember deaths such as these, at least not to bring them all under one umbrella so we can get a fuller picture of death in America. Today is about the best opportunity we have to do that.

Tuesday
Sep232008

Wisdom To Spare

In early 1996, I started my admittedly shameful record of dental appointments. Well, that is if you ignore the three year interval between the previous visit whilst on my old man's work insurance, and the self-funded trip of May 1996. It was at least that far back when I was first told I would need deep scaling and also got a recommendation (but not a prescription) to get my wisdom teeth pulled. At that point, I am pretty sure they had not erupted at all, but given that I had already had orthodontics done some years before, he cautioned that that work might be undone in part due to shifting geography. These two suggestions really just put the fear of God in me and so I met them with utter contempt and did my best to stay away from dentists for eight years. I did so well indeed that I never went once until maybe the middle of 2004. And then it was that the scaling that I avoided in '96 was finally critically necessary. It got done shortly before my wedding in August of 2004, thanks to my job then offering an effective dental plan. I remember it being far less agonizing than it had been made out to be. I don't want to minimize it; but it didn't seem so bad except in sheer volume of crud. Nothing was said about the gums, but they were in bad shape then.

Then there was that three year interval until last summer when basically the whole thing had to be redone, and this time the gums were far worse off for that added time. I had to face it: it was this or start watching teeth go. (At least I had some insurance through my job then, and then the COBRA after they cut me free almost as soon as I even got eligible.) And of course you can read in this journal how I had to get the surgery done to make that right. And from the periodontist, the message was reiterated: I need to get those wisdom teeth out. This time is was not speculative about the damage they might do. Three had long since erupted. Two on the right came in in remarkably good form, but the left top is not erupted at all and the bottom left juts forward and upward and has forced other teeth around a bit and made it hard to clean between it and its second molar neighbor, possibly leaving a cavity at a point where they meet. Between this one that was an obvious problem and the two that are otherwise fine but almost impossible to reach with regular cleaning tools, it was time to move to plan B. My way hadn't worked.

I've been getting regular non-insured cleanings on two or three month intervals to stay ahead of things. (The better way to go since HMO plans are crap and give only the basics. So I agreed to pay out of pocket like I always should have been doing all along so I can get more time in the chair.) This last time around, the dentist told me to get the wisdom teeth out finally and prescribed me a consultation at a wisdom tooth-harvesting surgeon—where Kelli had just gone to get one of her wisdoms taken out a month ago. It was a mixed feeling to hear this. All the apprehension of my 22 year old self revisited me. But the present, post-gum surgery me said, ah, finally dude, get that shit behind you. So here I am.

I got a few days off from work so that I might finally get past this ordeal and at least put some of this dental drama to rest, and I reasonable expect, to raise some new issues. So far I haven't been jumping out of my skin at the prospect like I was about the gum surgery. Maybe it is because wisdom teeth extractions are so common, but maybe it is because I've offloaded a great burden in just getting past the first wave of surgeries last year and adopting some new habits, and that this new procedure is just part of that trend. At least with the four-at-once procedure, it won't drag on like it did for two weeks of repeated surgeries because my blood pressure was too high to do the gum surgery in two passes instead of four. Last time I was jumping out of my skin, even on the second-, third-, and final stages, despite knowing the routine. This time, it is all done in an hour and I get to go to sleep for it :-)

Maybe now that I have all these wisdom teeth, I am a bit wiser. But the irony is not lost on me. It would have been wiser to get this done 12 years ago. Grrrr. Oh well, you don't get wise by making the right decision at all turns.

Friday
Sep122008

The War Against Terrorism (TWAT)

the hooded iraqi in silhouette and iconographic starkness, with the words cruel and unusual, america must do betterHow's that war going, Georgie? Oh, which war, you ask? Well, how about all of them? I guess there are too many to really keep straight these days. After all, if you want to keep battling terrorism until you squash it like a bug, you gotta go to war with the whole world now, because there are terrorists behind every rock and tree and dare I say, every computer keyboard! Well, if you think on it hard enough, there are people who support terrorism in your neighborhood. There might even be some in your house right now! I happen to think they have infiltrated the White House and are acting as our nation's leaders even now as we speak. Never mind the hunt for Osama Been Laughin', the real terrorists are operating within (nearly) full view, doin' dirty deeds like they are.

Who now can see the "war" in Iraq as anything but terrorism by a different name? According to IraqBodyCount.org, we leveled the score of 9/11/01 by going to town on Iraq, to the tune of about 90,000 dead civilians. Let's see here—about 3000 of our people is cause to wipe out 90,000 of someone else's. But of course, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 anyway. Hell, even our dead soldier count is out of whack with the 9/11 civilian count. Man, oh man. I really don't even know where to start with that one.

But for years now, I've come to believe that we have to pat ourselves on the back for this one too. We all have to admit that we as regular Americans enjoy the fruits of a lifestyle that is war-based. I include myself in that assessment. We don't just have a "war president," we have a war economy that itself is backed by a war- and expansion-based national mythology that has allowed us a free pass to taking what we want, when we want. War is just the visible tool that is needed (increasingly so) to live out the national myth. I guess now that we expanded to our western coast, and have scored Alaska and Hawaii, it is time to set our sights elsewhere, and Iraq is but part of that push to appropriate what we want to live a certain way. We don't need to turn it into a state; just a place that plays by our rules.

a densely edited and layered photo collage with odd imageryFin de Siecle, French for the End of the CenturyAll our purchases somehow are linked to this tragic mythology. Even the anti-war crowd is as guilty as the pro-war crowd. We all shop. Ergo, we all enjoy the benefits (from this perspective) of the world being arranged the way it is—with Americans enjoying a place at the top (more or less) while violence props up our lifestyle. Violence, I say because a sweatshop in China or Indonesia is another way of destroying lives of promise, not all unlike what is happening in Iraq as a result of our purposely mis-aimed attack and occupation there to make our nation feel better after 9/11. A life robbed of its potential is violence, and the economic arrangements we enjoy now are not ours to have forever because no one will like to live under such arrangements for any longer than necessary.

The national rhetoric about "getting back" at those who carried out 9/11 is preposterous. Those people are dead because their mission was a success—and, I might say, has been quite a return on their investment of a half-million dollars. Meanwhile, we watch billions and billions go away—hundreds of billions now, and have nothing to show for it but economic wipeout with whole commercial sectors bombing out, an energy crisis looming, whole cities and towns being wrecked by natural disaster, failing infrastructure, deficient education, etc. It is preposterous in so many ways what has been traded away so we might have some "homeland security." I guess we didn't need those hundreds of billions. We have the money to destroy an innocent nation, but not to make ours greater.

I don't kid myself in thinking that this is just a series of unfortunate mistakes. Men who hold power like to hold it for as long as they can. Drive it like you stole it, the saying goes. To that end, anything goes. It is almost as if the bull ride is to hang on for the full eight years, and never mind what damage is done while the bull bucks and tries to buck old Georgie and Dicky off. What will be left after this eight year party thrown by the (grand old) party that wrecked America? I sort of wonder if this year's October surprise will be the news that we have Osama bin Laden in custody. Great! Then the idiots will vote GOP again because the picture will be painted to portray these GOP assholes as heroes and all these years as righteous effort toward defeating evil, yadda, yadda, yadda. The mind boggles.

I lament the loss of life on 9/11 and the videos still shock me. But I can't let that lead me to justify killing so many other people who also did not deserve it. Shame on America for being the leading terrorist state in the world today and having the gall to claim that of others. I repeat again: you and I don't have enemies in Iraq or most other places. (At least none that our government or corporations didn't create for us.) What there is out there is a growing population that is losing its patience with the double standard inherent in our economic structure—and we can't expect people to wipe our asses for ever and still call it progress. Some will break. And should we actually be surprised when another 9/11 type event happens, if this nation has not changed the way it relates to the world?

Sunday
Aug242008

Samuel Barber's Adagio For Strings

The mournful elegy, molto adagio
Speaking out of the deepest grief and confusion
Too sad for words, the strings must weep in their stead
The bittersweet taste of Pyhrric victory
The heave and sigh of life itself
Deeper now, higher now, and back around
A slow marching band playing almost silently until the fortissimo-forte
Teetering at the crest of the ethereal arch
A pregnant, breathless pause—
Suspending our disbelief that we are still alive
The blood begins to flow once more; the spine tingles
A sigh and a glimmer of hope to keep going
We can begin our climb back down the mountain of our own devising
The tears seep from places within, hitherto unknown
Drawn out by vibrating strings of mysterious power and grace
Driven by horsehair and the enigma of life

Wednesday
Mar192008

Five Years In Iraq

The USA isn't as good at war as it once was
Now it takes five years to reach a quagmire
Once we knocked out the Axis on two fronts
It only took three-and-a-half years

Four thousand men and women who tasted death
It must be great being free that way
Freedom and liberation sweeps across the land, yeah
While others just know it by its other name—
Death!

The inner ring of empire decays and rots
Leaving nothing to fight for back home
The myths of valiant soldier-saviors
Die hard but not hard enough to change the equation

Freedom felt at the pump is delusional
The asphalt highway beckons and speaks
Of freedom, of individuality, of joy and abandon
But oh the nasty secrets that lie beneath the hood
Death!

To the servant we have become the slave
The greedy system commands our every move
We call it non-negotiable and inevitable as if
God really wanted it that way

Cycling, spiraling, spending our way down
The endless techno-hole, our proven god over all
God that needs food, god that needs fuel and
God that needs our total devotion— God that brings—
Death!

Five years chasing the wrong bad guys
Five years blowing the grandkids' futures
Five years showing our total commitment to
A dying way of life

Check your reason at the door upon your entry
The games we play here are for the hardened
Love and grace aren't understood or welcomed
Fighting and dying aren't seen to be lies that bring
Death!

The real war is on the human spirit; death within our souls
The soul that must have an enemy is a house divided
The greater evil to be lamented is the one thing we fight hard for
Success no matter how its won, will only have one true name:

Death!

Tuesday
Dec182007

The Exorcism (4 of 3)

Yes folks, you read right! The Exorcism, part four of three! It was all so good, there would be an encore!

I've sort of gotten out of the habit of getting up with normal people at a reasonable time close to when the sun comes up. But today was no problem somehow and getting up at 7:00 was no problem, even considering the day I had ahead of myself. I was vaguely excited. I slept well and would finally get the last of this surgery business out of the way. I decided I'd drive myself and let Kelli get some rest. After all, she has been doing amazingly long days during her season of finals—all take home essays and research papers. So for the first time in weeks, maybe a bit of sleeping in would do her some good. Since I wasn't taking valium today I could drive fine. In lieu of the tasty king's breakfast of yesterday, my breakfast today consisted of three cans of Costco's version of Slim Fast shakes. Hey, that way it's about 750 calories and a bunch of other stuff that isn't too bad for me. I meant to make a smoothie but thought it would all be too cold for the newly discovered spot on my top right molar area. With all the work now accumulating in one mouth, it was also sort of hard to chew with conviction. The shakes did fine for the morning.

You can read the routines of the first three surgeries to get an idea of what was going on. Today was essentially the same, but somehow I was nervous like on the first day. I was shivering in the seat. It was a cold morning, but that wasn't all there was to it. I think what was at work was that I was now facing that all my mouth would be affected for a few days. Even yesterday's work made it hard to talk and I avoided eating for the remainder of the day. All I ate yesterday was that nice breakfast. On top of that, my front bottom teeth, always a very sensitive few for me, and the worst affected of the bunch before I got cleaned up in July, were giving me a feeling of strain or weakness. One is a bit mobile. It has been quite a psychological ball and chain for a long time, but certainly in this whole process, it has been brought to the fore.

I can't believe how much I was shivering, even with a long sleeve and collared shirt. The day I actually needed valium I didn't have it, and today, when you would think that I had the confidence of an old champ, I lost it. However, there was not one gag reflex today compared to about five yesterday when I actually did have valium. Today felt like there was a lot of tooling around with pick-axes and chisels. The grinder thing too seemed to pierce my bone matter and get right to the center of my head. I wasn't liking today. But I survived.

A small bit of the silly putty dressing was taken out on the lower right (last Wednesday's work) and it revealed the very low gumline between two front teeth, and it was a bit of a shock. Even though yesterday's work got included the removal of the top right's dressing and stitches, I was quite tentative about investigating the look and feel of my newly shaped mouthscape. But a glimpse of the lower front (offset a bit to the right) with the stitches still in was a bit of a startling thing. I didn't know it all could be taken so low. Yow.

I was on my own today, so I just drove back home. Kelli was up and about, and even though I left at 8 am or so and was back by 10, she was buzzing around cleaning house with the doors open and the TV on. I threw a stack of pillows together and listened to Keneally's Wooden Smoke CD for the thousandth time this fall season. Then I listened to some more of the Joseph Campbell/Bill Moyers Power of Myth audio, which gives me a far bigger thing to think about than my present situation. And between songs or disks, it's rinse, rinse, rinse with lukewarm water. Today the drugs were not hitting me in the way I needed, so I ended up getting out the big ice pack and while Kelli took a break we napped in the afternoon. The icepack did more good than the drugs but I can only really get what I want from it by laying down. For my lunch, I drank another couple shakes like in the morning. Five of those is a new record for me, but I haven't died yet, and the past few weeks seem to have lost me about 12 pounds from the average of recent years. I guess that is an interesting benefit from having my mouth increasingly incapacitated for almost two weeks now.

I finally got hungry enough to conjure up some tasty, somewhat real food by about 6 pm. I had some soup and a bunch of cheese & spinach raviolis. Mercifully it was nothing much to masticate. We went to Costco to get some more stuff that might give me reasonable nutrition without having to chew much. A giant pack of V8 helps counterbalance the shakes—now I can have chocolate flavor or tomato flavor shakes! In reality though, I think in a couple days I shall be eating real food again, at least some bread and stuff dipped in soup, some lunch meats, and the like. Friday I get all my dressings removed—three at once—and the remaining stitches will dissolve on their own. Days later, it's Christmas at the Calabrese compound, so I am looking forward to eating tasty food there, hopefully with no "event."

We went from Costco to the Calabrese compound for another Urantia book reading, and contrary to my better judgment I did some readings, but it was sore, sore, sore, and hearing certain syllables made me cringe. I don't know yet if it's all the soreness that makes me not enunciate, or the physical stuff like goops of silly putty dressing and newly shaped gumlines, but some syllables just don't get articulated right. I might need to practice speaking. Grrr.

I got home and finished watching Patton, and now this. I shall survive. The demons are gone. A few weeks from now we shall see what condition they left me in.

Friday
Dec072007

The Exorcism (1 of 3)

Finally, today was the date of the first surgery on my gums. Last night Kelli drove down from school a day early to hold my hand like a total sweetheart. We got to bed late. It must have been almost two in the morning before I was really out. I awoke to my phone alarm buzzing before the calm opening notes of the Brokeback Mountain theme music. I use that music because it doesn't come crashing in, and it actually sort of sounds like it is meant to sound, even on a speaker about the size of a thumbnail. And, if I don't actually get up, the tune is a beautiful way to start off the day. I usually awaken to the vibration that comes first though, and today it was at 7:55. I had about an hour and fifteen minutes to get ready. So I fixed myself up a nice eggs, bacon, and toast breakfast, knowing full well such a hearty meal would not be had for hours if not days. Outside it was raining; not ferociously, but delightfully so after a very dry year. It was one of those days that was made for staying indoors.

I had other business to tend to that would keep me indoors today. Kelli drove me down to the periodontist not far from our old house. This doctor's office is a place I love and hate now. I hate it because I had all the opportunities in the world to avoid the place. I love it because there is salvation with the doctor-priest who will wave his magic wand over me, and mutter a few words, among other things. I have had a cough for the last week and a half, and today it decided to make itself known in the hour or so before I went under the knife (or whatever the hell he used). I was tense and sort of shivering in nervous anticipation. (Buber the dog shivers that way before he goes for a walk, but I think he does it from delight.) The receptionist took my "money" before the procedure, good for half the total work to be done. Then a trip to the bathroom to collect myself, and into the chair I went.

They were trying to take my blood pressure reading with a digital device and it kept reading too high. Then they tried another device which had fresh batteries, and it too was not satisfactory. The doctor got wind of this and said that maybe I was not ready, or that today would be better off if we only did one quadrant instead of a whole side, top and bottom. I didn't really want to hear about that. This tension was enough and I already had at least one other appointment to look forward to, and dividing the job further was not happy news. There would be three of these mornings? He said since my situation was as bad as it was, this might be a big enough project to take on at this time. The assistant took a bit of time to calm me down with a bit of small talk about mothers in law who beg for grandchildren. I never thought that would calm me down, but it must have worked, though I think that establishes my fear of dental surgery is greater than that of a mother in law who might "get her way" (sorry, Kay).

Anyhow, the first half hour from 9:30 to 10 was pretty much that sort of thing—calming me down so they could work. They had to fumble with some software on a screen behind me, but it sounded like they had a map of what was to be done. Shortly before 10 am, the chair went back and the syringes fired off their magic elixir into my gums on the top right, and we were off and running. The coughing stopped too, for some reason. I think my brain was allocating resources to what had to be front-and-center for the next hour or so. I had nifty face-surrounding shades put on to keep the bright light from fatiguing me, and to keep any blood splashes away. But I was content to just shut my eyes, try to breathe, and fight the urge to climb up the walls.

Some of that was unfounded though. The anesthetic was pretty damned good. I don't know the real order of events, but I do know he first cleared my gums out of the way which on my end felt as if he was bumping them with a rubber spatula. Then there was some time with a motorized/electronic grinder thing which he used to grind down irregularities on the exposed bone, to smooth out the pocketing and rough edges from the random bacterially-induced loss that was the chain I forged link by link over the last years. This part of things actually didn't hurt at all. The tone was piercing but mostly consistent. The time I was there last, doing the general planing work in July, was much more insane in the way the tone resonated my teeth and bones, sometimes hitting a real hotspot of sympathetic vibration in my head. He did about 20 minutes of this bone carving work and then it was on to something else, which I think was the gum work itself, which involved cutting back the parts that had to go, and I guess some other work to give the gums a clean start, so they might have a chance to reattach to bone and teeth now shorn of their toxic and random surfaces.

The next thing I know was at work was that he was putting me back together again. I opened my eyes just a few times and before I knew it, it was time for needles and thread. He worked quite fast, and not much was said even to his assistants, so I didn't have the benefit of narration. As it was, I was more at ease in part because the white noise roar of the vacuum tube and water spritzer nozzle masked the more articulate sounds of speech. When the vacuum was taken out and shut off, it was like having a blanket taken of my ears. I sort of wanted it back in so the clang of tools on enamel and muttered phrases wouldn't register as real sounds. I had far fewer gag reflexes today for some reason. The general "blind" cleaning in July was full of such responses, which slowed the thing down some. My tongue is a staunch defender of its territory so being pried open and having three or four tools bumping around is just too much usually. But today it was manageable, more so considering the cough was lying in wait the whole time.

Then it was over. Considering how months of dread, a short night's sleep, a cough, and more than a $500 copay (for half the work—after a credit from an earlier visit—ultimately the total bill is $1300 not including prescription and other incidentals) all conspired to make it hell, upon leaving, it was actually okay. The dressing they gave me was like silly putty that was pressed all along the row of teeth. It is inside and out, sitting just astride the boundary between tooth and gum. The stitches will be in for a week. This means that my third appointment will be on the the 17th, with the stitches ostensibly due to be taken out on Christmas Eve. We'll see how that goes. In between the originally scheduled dates of today and the 17th, I will have another surgery date next week on the 12th to get the stuff that wasn't done today.

Kelli drove me home, and the rest of the day was just hanging around. For her, this is finals week with many papers to write. For me, bed with an ice pack and some reading or tunes. Today got more and more sore as anesthetic wore off (it's about 9 pm now). Minimal talking. I haven't eaten anything, but I did get some diet-friendly shakes down, which aren't anything to chew of course, and don't have to be flossed out afterwards. Maybe a few pounds might be shed in the process. That wouldn't be a bad thing; I need to keep the general practitioner doctor at bay too.

While chilling out, I got a call from Mitch who offered me a gig for tomorrow. Interesting timing, considering that I was just told not to do any lifting or straining. Man. Mitch's timing is impeccable that way! Even last week would have been good. Or maybe in three days. Or in January!

Time for ice again.