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Entries in imperial culture (14)


Jesus the Shape Shifter +20

This year of 2011 is drawing to a close and with it the +20 (years) aspect of it leading me to weigh what was going on twenty years ago. There are a few reasons 1991 is worthy of a look now twenty years on; it was the year of my high school graduation and then starting school at Mesa College after that; working at Subway where I met Matt Zuniga and where our status as exiled suburban drummers led me toward recording and all that; and a year where I traveled to Europe for the first time; and in some ways, some early brushes with a deeper level of life outside my comfort zone.

It was in the middle of the year of 1991 when I pretty much began my personal journal that now has gone on for two decades. The kinds of long form, introverted, and exploratory posts now on this site are not all so different than what I wrote in the early years (though they are far more legible and generally better composed). My friend Shelby, still causing me to spill pixels for as I process some of these earlier instances with a bit more perspective, was a huge figure that year, though never for the reasons I had hoped for. A completely mixed mind is sprawled out over various loose page journals from the second half of the year, and of course, she continued to shape things for years to come, until the crash.

One of the foundational experiences occurred on August 2nd. It was just a week or so after she got back from a trip to Russia that lasted a month. Her trip was quite a boldly timed thing, given the fact that the Soviet Union was only then in the process of becoming a historical nation. When we had this conversation on August 2, Gorbachev was weeks from losing his place as leader. When she was there, she saw the collapse as a citizen of the republic would have—empty store shelves, long lines for what could be had, and all that. For a 17 year old only nine days my junior, that was world wisdom that even this old man did not have. And, in America in the early 1990's, living as a suburbanite, even as a son of a working man, I only knew a baseline of what constituted comfort by the standard of about 98% of the world's population. But I didn't really know that. I didn't grasp it at any existential level. So Shelby was my rude awakening. She saw to it.

For the two weeks smack in the middle of her trip to Russia, I was in Europe. She saw the bread lines and empty shelves. I landed in Geneva and was met with absurdly common instances of Swiss watch shops, chocolatiers, charcutiers, and everything else that constitutes the enviable European good life in one of the most well-off nations on earth. About as much friction as I perceived there was some graffiti on the outside wall of one such shop. It read, "Yankee Go Home!" and was a kind reminder to my nation to not let let the fall of the Soviet Union become a power-trip, a stimulant. We had just "won" the war against Saddam Hussein in February after the six week campaign. I was in Geneva in June. If not for that bit of vandalism—totally out of place in Geneva, which has to be the cleanest and nicest urban space I've ever been in—then my trip would have been just a little bigger a deal than a trip to Disneyland. The places my old man/tour guide selected were pretty controlled sights to see—largely places that cater to tourism. For my time there, I spent all my time, heart aflutter for Shelby, thinking I'd be in a new golden era with Shelby once we came back. I got her a Swiss watch—rather dainty, comparatively speaking. She got me a Soviet one. It was big and manly with Cyrillic marks in red and black. Of course, not too long after, it broke and never worked again! 

But while our reunion in the late-middle part of July was met with my heart thumping out of my chest after not seeing or hearing from her for a month (and the hype associated with entering that period is a whole other story), she had just come home marked for life by her experience of seeing the dark side of the empire, getting to know real people. Maybe she's a bleeding heart liberal in a way that I can't relate to. Sometimes her rants did sour me, mainly because I was raised in a quite Republican/conservative setting and really had little idea what she was talking about. It was one of those rants that reshaped our history for years to come.

So on August 2, 1991, we went to breakfast. We scheduled it several days before. I was thinking we'd go to Denny's or something. That was breakfast at a restaurant, right? And maybe we'd go out at 10 am or something? Nah. She wanted to go out at 7 am! This was a jarring thing since I was getting to be later and later during that summer. But since I was so nuts for her, I was ready to do just about anything to get near her. She came over and picked me up. We had no idea where to go, but she said she'd like to go to Old Town. WTF? That's kind of far away, isn't it? There's nothing in Old Town but Mexican restaurants that cater to tourists. There's a Denny's just a few miles over in the other direction... Furthermore, she accosted my sensibilities by wanting to go to a Mexican restaurant for breakfast. Mega-WTF? Breakfast is eggs, bacon, pancakes! (The thing is, I was hyper sensitive to breakfast foods then. I tolerated cereal. Too many instances with "institutional" eggs that made me grimace. Cereal was breakfast for me.) I talked her out of that, so we went to downtown, some miles more. Didn't find anything appealing and agreeable. Her patience was thin and I was aware of that in a totally guilt-ridden, I ain't making no headway here kind of way.

We turned back to Old Town and the same Mexican restaurant we had just left. I felt like I was doomed in every way. I ordered something I thought would work out—a total gringo copout in the form of pancakes—and tried to eat some. All the pent up anticipation of seeing her again (I'd seen her a time or two since our return) and a wild case of nerves conspired to ruin this day, starting with the wrecking ball to my appetite! I took about three bites of these pancakes and pushed the plate aside. Then the browbeating came. I felt sicker than ever. 

Watching the news and seeing the state of the USSR at that time was one thing. It was safely at a distance. But sitting there with a friend who had actually seen past the Iron Curtain and was a new convert to what reality was, even in the lives our our arch-enemies, all that was mercilessly demolishing my ignorance. I don't know if she was rehearsing such a rant as I got that morning over pancakes, but she delivered it with passion, and I pretty much melted into my seat. I knew she was right. "Americans take everything for granted. I'm never again going to take anything for granted." I could tell I pissed her off. I made some vague offer to do something responsible if it made her think any better of me. I don't know if that was to take the food and donate it or to pay double or what, but it was what came to mind. 

I was well clammed up about this and a lot of other things in that great summer of transition. The thing is, a moment like this was golden, even as it was painful. But I'd have to wait nearly a decade before I actually got out what I had to say all those years before. It had nothing to do with Russia or food. I just wanted to be with her. She lit up my life. I could tell even the hard times were ones to learn from. But she never wanted the same and I never had the fortitude to get that message across without equivocation. When I did, it collapsed like a house of cards. But that is well discussed in the link above.

Skip ahead a couple months to the end of the year. I started working at Subway a few weeks later and by this time in December was about three months in and had progressed (by attrition) to be a "senior" employee, if not by age (18), then by the fact that I had outlasted the others and was now essentially the longest tenured closer, training other characters like Matt and Sarah. (You can read about my early Subway experiences here.) By the start of December, I was weary. I had already given Subway my nights and weekends. I noticed that working so late on Saturday was making it hard to be in church on Sunday, so I stopped going. In a time of transition out of high school and into my little experience with community college, I was rather foolish to isolate even more by dropping out of church. My social life, such as it was then, was largely shaped by returning to Subway on my days off so I could get dinner (which at that time was total culinary liberation compared to the garbage available at home). Or maybe I went in half an hour early and made my sandwich. By the time this journal of December 11/12 was written, I was newly faced with the reality of having turned my drums over to Matt just two weeks before. I was depressed. I think I got the flu. I was feeling pretty low.

Then I guess Jesus was out there to greet me on the way to work that day. He came in the form of a 40- or 50-something woman standing out near my Subway shop, but closer to the McDonald's driveway. As I biked in, I saw a sign that in 2011 would not shock me so much: "Homeless, Please Help, God Bless You" or something like that. I biked past her originally but as I was parking inside the Subway, I realized with a few minutes I had before shift-start, I could go out to offer help. I felt like maybe my own employee sandwich for the night would be the most reasonable thing to offer. So I walked back out and made an offer if she needed some food or to get out of the cold for a while. She did come in. I did get some food and drink for her. She said she was sleeping in a canyon with her husband. I don't know exactly what canyon, but that message was clear enough. Even in San Diego, a December night spent outside is no one's first choice.

My journal from that day recognized that this experience was the fruit of the seed planted by Shelby a few months before at that terribly uncomfortable breakfast. Okay, but I know that celebrating this is rather self serving. And I've perhaps done more in the time since, and without the kind of Shelby-is-watching self consciousness that accompanied this deed. But what surprised me about the original journal entry was what followed.

August 2 wasn't the day but December 11 was. [...] Christmas has come to mean less and less to me, especially after last year [a family Christmas blowout concerning a power struggle about which store to buy from, signalling decay in Lucas Land], as I usually can't stand the commercial shit out there, and there is little family unity. Sometimes, I feel better if I'm doing something for someone. But it's usually because I'm told to do something, not spontaneously, like today. Doing something like that seemed to be the only right thing to do that would make me feel a little better about this season that so often gets me down. I saw this opportunity and took it. Hell, my Christmas is made. I've got my CD player [a big thing that year that I know was bought a few days before], but not everyone is so lucky. Some people need to rely on donations such as the one I made today. Not because I was told to, but because I do feel a bit guilty about getting so much handed to me "on a silver platter," as it were. 1991: Ed's material year: bike; trip to Europe; CD player [CDs were a form of music playback device in the 1990s, LOL]; a job; way too much spending money; new cymbal [interestingly bought just an hour or so after the notorious August breakfast with Shelby]. And what did I pay for? Only a $100 cymbal! Everything else was given to me! It's about time I give back, or give away.

[Snip some musings on how I'd model my ideal self on some key people I respected then...]

I think the whole key to being such a person that I'd like to become is to take a walk in the other person's shoes, to live by the golden rule, and to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me. I was happy with myself.

A mixed bag of degrees of consciousness. I originally titled this entry "Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons" but I was thinking of how Jesus appears to people at various stages in the evolution of our consciousness. Some people respond better to the coercive Jesus who is the law man, the enforcer, the one who shames you into right action, and maybe it takes hold. Others respond to invitation. Jesus enters the room and at some level, one can only respond in the best possible way with one's being and presence. In this story of mine, I was a bit more responsive to the latter, the woman with her sign was more motivating than being browbeaten with Shelby's guilt, even as right as she was.

I'm still a bit embarrassed to post this bit of naive and rather condescending self-reflection. Such is a mind in transition. But I was really surprised to be reminded of the fact that even in 1991, I was already moving along one side of the fork in the road with regard to holidays and commercialism. I can still sense the revulsion and disgust at watching how my family was grappling with missing Eda (for several years by then), aging (both grandparents less and less able to host much for the holidays), and the strife surrounding which bargain department store should be used to buy stuff for me (my old man, a staunch K-Mart man, bitterly opposed my grandmother's more lenient purchase of a gift certificate from Mervyn's. He knew that could only mean I'd go buy Levi 501s which he seemed to have made a personal crusade against for a few years prior). Christmas 1990 was a new low point where I was beginning to see behind the veil of false joy that the holidays typically wear in this culture. Even doing the bit that I did for the woman at Subway was an early way to grapple with finding some alternative, even if it was a mechanical and self conscious act for me. As my father Richard Rohr says, we have to act ourselves into new ways of thinking, not think ourselves into new ways of acting. Baby steps.

In those days though, my world was rather small, and I had not really left the figurative apron strings, expecting the care to flow toward me rather than the other way around, or ideally, in a circular fashion. That was rather distant still. One thing that Shelby's method did not really account for was that I was not ready to come out of a shell that I was raised within. Granted, she delivered a few critical blows to it. She had her iconoclastic tendencies and got to make some real black and white statements, even in those earlier years. I guess she did provide me with the "nag" in a nagging conscience about my place in this Earth-scheme. She did that in the same way as my step mom Eda gave me a steady dose of God-talk that I was not ready for, and then when I was, I still had to adapt her language and vision to suit my vision of the world. (Interestingly, the reopening of my in-person contact with Eda was just around the corner from this date in 1991. Only a month later I was I saw Eda on the down-low for the first time in years. That's next year's drama, folks!) 

A lot is made about Christmas being a time of giving. If you read your biblical stories without a contemporary American/consumerist mind, you don't really see it that way. (You could read Lee Van Ham's perspectives.) Christmas is a time for hope in the darkness, and the symbol of hope, the symbol that God really gives a shit about humanity is that a helpless baby bore the divine image. The baby Jesus is, as Richard Rohr says, a divine lure to a deeper humanity for all of us. The incarnational aspect of divinity merging with the stuff of the human being—the dust, as it were—is the miraculous message of Christmas. The scandal of the birth of Jesus was that God hid among us, among the most helpless and simplest of our kind, so that our hearts could be softened and our minds transformed. I'm probably not alone in being rather slow to get it. My journal reminded me that there were some awkward and clumsy steps along the way. Giving is important but it is not the real nature of Christmas. Giving flows from the transformation of one's mind and the softening of one's heart, and that doesn't happen with lightning bolt clarity at all times, if my slow progression is any indicator. But using the model of a divine lure, that isn't the point. The point is to keep moving in the right direction, as Christmas draws us toward Easter: the lure of divinity draws us to the cross of pain and heartache and the death of self and ego, but that paves the way for the next wave of life, and ultimately that patter is one of repetition.

Who knew how the cosmic tide was rising for me twenty years ago? I barely knew I'd get theological as this when I started this very entry! Shelby, the sometimes cantankerous bleeding heart liberal who usually identified as an athiest-agnostic (and who ironically I met in a church as she explored religion as an anthropologist or student of comparative religions would), and the poor woman begging on the corner at Subway both figured into effecting transformation in me. Seeing it now, both had the shape of Jesus, with different levels of my self being able to interpret it as such. All the years later when I was delivering veggies in the commercial food industry, the seeds that these two women planted in me all those years ago were grown up. Working in the food industry, I did see a huge amount of waste at the very same time I saw growing numbers of homeless people almost literally outside my warehouse doors. This time around, for the three years at that company, I was far better prepared to act. I suppose I was making good with Shelby after pushing my pancakes away.

This time around, having more organically absorbed a sense of the pathos of the world at international and domestic levels, but also the pathos within me, it was easier to respond not because of Shelby's looming presence over my shoulder, but because it was inside me. I don't know how much food I tried to divert from waste heaps by literally grabbing and going on my own parallel mission to serve. I only know there was more to grab and more people to serve and that I could never do it all. Some food (veggies, milk, bread) went to the couple social agencies I was connected to; some went from me to homeless at the street corner. What I could not give away that specifically, I literally just dropped anonymously in known hotspots where it would all take care of itself. With it came this surge of the divine spirit that comes with doing some of these counter-cultural things like doing both my boss' work and God's work on the very same trips. I don't know if the company ever knew of that, or if that was exactly what led to my dismissal, but for much of the time there, I was regarded by facts and figures alone to be one of the best drivers there in terms of actual "productivity." I just don't know if my little charitable operation was known of! Maybe it was. I did things of this sort even as I was training new hires, in part to shape their own consciousness of how our industry was so wasteful, and to set their minds thinking of how to do something useful however they could.

During that period, 2008-2010, I have to say that there were so many of these opportunities that I began to feel the presence of Jesus at each of these corners. Each became a sheep-and-goats moment for me, as my pastor preached on a couple weeks ago, instead of it being a matter of judgment, the sheep and goats story is one of a reality check we could always have in our mind. Are we attentive? Do we pay attention to the world around us? Do we know who is in need? The America I am in right now is a different place than I think it was in 1991. But I recognize the signs. It was almost that that woman at Subway was brought forward in time by a couple decades, a vision of 2011, a vision of what America's own collapse will be like. No wonder people turn away. I didn't want to see it. After that instance, I went back to sleep for I don't know how long. I hit snooze. Being reminded of this first instance though, it brings to mind a few other moments where I acted just as awkwardly in years to come. Jesus kept appearing and it took a good long time before I recognized him and was prepared to act. 


Military Intelligence

I saw this puzzling little bit of local trivia in the San Diego Reader. In Coronado at the Navy Amphibious base, there is a bit of 'splainin' to do about the layout and construction of a certain building complex there. Apparently there was some flap about how it coincidentally resembles a swastika when seen overhead. Anyhow, here is the image on Google Maps to help illustrate the matter.


Memorial Day

the dead heroes quote from Gore Vidal, overlaid upon a stylized photo of the military standing around a flag draped coffin inside a C130

Memorial Day once again. Today is the day when we attempt to consume more than our shares to keep the ol' machine going even as it crushes some of our sons, fathers, brothers (and now, because of the magnanimous politicians we supposedly elect, our daughters, mothers and sisters too). We consume because said kin are not here to do so anymore so we must pick up the slack and carry on in their absence. This is how we are good citizens now—by being good consumers.

What a great nation, eh? Consume at all costs, at all times, even on the national holiday. Just makes you wanna go throw yourself in a thinly-armed Hummer and go die in a foreign country, doesn't it?

I'll stay home and tend my garden instead. Call me unAmerican.



Stan Goff Says Hold On To Your Humanity

These are the words of Stan Goff, a great American. I want to reprint it here so I can pair it with my posters that came about a couple years ago. The original post is here.

stark cutout silhouette image of the hooded iraqi with caption of cruel and unusual, america must do betterI am a retired veteran of the army, and my own son is among you, a paratrooper like I was. The changes that are happening to every one of you—some more extreme than others—are changes I know very well. So I'm going to say some things to you straight up in the language to which you are accustomed. In 1970, I was assigned to the 173rd Airborne Brigade, then based in northern Binh Dinh Province in what was then the Republic of Vietnam. When I went there, I had my head full of shit: shit from the news media, shit from movies, shit about what it supposedly mean to be a man, and shit from a lot of my know-nothing neighbors who would tell you plenty about Vietnam even though they'd never been there, or to war at all.

The essence of all this shit was that we had to "stay the course in Vietnam," and that we were on some mission to save good Vietnamese from bad Vietnamese, and to keep the bad Vietnamese from hitting beachheads outside of Oakland. We stayed the course until 58,000 Americans were dead and lots more maimed for life, and 3,000,000 Southeast Asians were dead. Ex-military people and even many on active duty played a big part in finally bringing that crime to a halt.

When I started hearing about weapons of mass destruction that threatened the United States from Iraq, a shattered country that had endured almost a decade of trench war followed by an invasion and twelve years of sanctions, my first question was how in the hell can anyone believe that this suffering country presents a threat to the United States? But then I remembered how many people had believed Vietnam threatened the United States. Including me.

When that bullshit story about weapons came apart like a two-dollar shirt, the politicians who cooked up this war told everyone, including you, that you would be greeted like great liberators. They told us that we were in Vietnam to make sure everyone there could vote.

What they didn't tell me was that before I got there in 1970, the American armed forces had been burning villages, killing livestock, poisoning farmlands and forests, killing civilians for sport, bombing whole villages, and commiting rapes and massacres, and the people who were grieving and raging over that weren't in a position to figure out the difference between me—just in country—and the people who had done those things to them.

What they didn't tell you is that over a million and a half Iraqis died between 1991 and 2003 from malnutrition, medical neglect, and bad sanitation. Over half a million of those who died were the weakest: the children, especially very young children.

My son who is over there now has a baby. We visit with our grandson every chance we get. He is eleven months old now. Lots of you have children, so you know how easy it is to really love them, and love them so hard you just know your entire world would collapse if anything happened to them. Iraqis feel that way about their babies, too. And they are not going to forget that the United States government was largely responsible for the deaths of half a million kids.

So the lie that you would be welcomed as liberators was just that. A lie. A lie for people in the United States to get them to open their purse for this obscenity, and a lie for you to pump you up for a fight.

And when you put this into perspective, you know that if you were an Iraqi, you probably wouldn't be crazy about American soldiers taking over your towns and cities either. This is the tough reality I faced in Vietnam. I knew while I was there that if I were Vietnamese, I would have been one of the Vietcong.

But there we were, ordered into someone else's country, playing the role of occupier when we didn't know the people, their language, or their culture, with our head full of bullshit our so-called leaders had told us during training and in preparation for deployment, and even when we got there. There we were, facing people we were ordered to dominate, but any one of whom might be pumping mortars at us or firing AKs at us later that night. The question we stated to ask is who put us in this position?

In our process of fighting to stay alive, and in their process of trying to expel an invader that violated their dignity, destroyed their property, and killed their innocents, we were faced off against each other by people who made these decisions in $5,000 suits, who laughed and slapped each other on the back in Washington DC with their fat fucking asses stuffed full of cordon blue and caviar.

They chumped us. Anyone can be chumped.

That's you now. Just fewer trees and less water.

We haven't figured out how to stop the pasty-faced, oil-hungry backslappers in DC yet, and it looks like you all might be stuck there for a little longer. So I want to tell you the rest of the story.

I changed over there in Vietnam and they were not nice changes either. I started getting pulled into something—something that craved other peole's pain. Just to make sure I wasn't regarded as a "fucking missionary" or a possible rat, I learned how to fit myself into that group that was untouchable, people too crazy to fuck with, people who desired the rush of omnipotence that comes with setting someone's house on fire just for the pure hell of it, or who could kill anyone, man, woman, or child, with hardly a second thought. People who had the power of life and death—because they could.

The anger helps. It's easy to hate everyone you can't trust because of your circumstances, and to rage about what you've seen, what has happened to you, and what you have done and can't take back.

It was all an act for me, a cover-up for deeper fears I couldn't name, and the reason I know that is that we had to dehumanize our victims before we did the things we did. We knew deep down that what we were doing was wrong. So they became dinks or gooks, just like Iraqis are now being transformed into ragheads or hajjis. People had to be reduced to "niggers" here before they could be lynched. No difference. We convinced ourselves we had to kill them to survive, even when that wasn't true, but something inside us told us that so long as they were human beings, with the same intrinsic value we had as human beings, we were not allowed to burn their homes and barns, kill their animals, and sometimes even kill them. So we used these words, these new names, to reduce them, to strip them of their essential humanity, and then we could do things like adjust artillery fire onto the cries of a baby.

Until that baby was silenced, though, and here's the important thing to understand, that baby never surrendered her humanity. I did. We did. That's the thing you might not get until it's too late. When you take away the humantiy of another, you kill your own humanity. You attack your own soul because it is standing in the way.

tortured looking art with gravestones, cattle road sign, and other chaosSo we finish our tour, and go back to our families, who can see that even though we function, we are empty and incapable of truly connecting to people any more, and maybe we can go for months or even years before we fill that void where we surrendered our humanity, with chemical anesthetics—drugs, alcohol, until we realize that the void can never be filled and we shoot ourselves, or head off into the street where we can disappear with the flotsam of society, or we hurt others, esepcially those who try to love us, and end up as another incarceration statistic or a mental patient.

You can ever escape that you became a racist because you made the excuse that you needed that to survive, that you took things away from people that you can never give back, or that you killed a piece of yourself that you may never get back.

Some of us do. We get lucky and someone gives a damn enough to emotionally resuscitate us and bring us back to life. Many do not.

I live with the rage every day of my life, even when no one else sees it. You might hear it in my words. I hate being chumped.

So here is my message to you. You will do what you have to do to survive, however you define survival, while we do what we have to do to stop this thing. But don't surrender your humanity. Not to fit in. Not to prove yourself. Not for an adrenaline rush. Not to lash out when you are angry and frustrated. Not for some ticket-punching fucking military careerist to make his bones on. Especially not for the Bush-Cheney Gas & Oil Consortium.

The big bosses are trying to gain control of the world's energy supplies to twist the arms of future economic competitors. That's what's going on, and you need to understand it, then do what you need to do to hold on to your humanity. The system does that; tells you you are some kind of hero action figures, but uses you as gunmen. They chump you.

Your so-called civilian leadership sees you as an expendable commodity. They don't care about your nightmares, about the DU that you are breathing, about the lonliness, the doubts, the pain, or about how you humanity is stripped away a piece at a time. They will cut your benefits, deny your illnesses, and hide your wounded and dead from the public. They already are.

They don't care. So you have to. And to preserve your own humanity, you must recognize the humanity of the people whose nation you now occupy and know that both you and they are victims of the filthy rich bastards who are calling the shots.

They are your enemies—The Suits—and they are the enemies of peace, and the enemies of your families, especially if they are Black families, or immigrant families, or poor families. They are thieves and bullies who take and never give, and they say they will "never run" in Iraq, but you and I know that they will never have to run, because they fucking aren't there. You are

They'll skin and grin while they are getting what they want from you, and throw you away like a used condom when they are done. Ask the vets who are having their benefits slashed out from under them now. Bushfeld and their cronies are parasites, and they are the sole beneficiaries of the chaos you are learning to live in. They get the money. You get the prosthetic devices, the nightmares, and the mysterious illnesses.

So if your rage needs a target, there they are, responsible for your being there, and responsible for keeping you there. I can't tell you to disobey. That would probably run me afoul of the law. That will be a decision you will have to take when and if the circumstances and your own conscience dictate. But it perfeclty legal for you to refuse illegal orders, and orders to abuse or attack civilians are illegal. Ordering you to keep silent about these crimes is also illegal.

I can tell you, without fear of legal consequence, that you are never under any obligation to hate Iraqis, you are never under any obligation to give yourself over to racism and nihilism and the thirst to kill for the sake of killing, and you are never under any obligation to let them drive out the last vestiges of your capacity to see and tell the truth to yourself and to the world. You do not owe them your souls.

Come home safe, and come home sane. The people who love you and who have loved you all your lives are waiting here, and we want you to come back and be able to look us in the face. Don't leave your souls in the dust there like another corpse.

Hold on to your humanity.

Stan Goff

US Army (Ret.)



Today I was in my credit union which is only about a mile from my house. I drove there because the trip itself was my drive for the day and the credit union was the third stop on that trip. So it is from upon my high horse that I write this...

The teller I was greeted by was a small Filipino looking girl of maybe 22 at the most. She looked at my address and noticed that I lived not far from there, and then said, "oh, I live just over on So-and-so street about two blocks over. To which I say with a little chuckle as I egg her on, "oh, close enough you could walk!" And just as smoothly and almost in the same breath as mine, she chuckles and declares, "but of course I wouldn't do that!" I smile with that sort of smirk that you have to make when you realize that in this short exchange, we both were on totally opposite sides of the issue, and that this is a dead engagement. It just became I-it, in a big way.

In the course of this failed chit chat, I noticed a picture of a young Filipino looking Marine friend or husband or brother of hers. It was there among the other few things she was allowed to keep up to make her seem like more of a human being than a machine (part of her 15 pieces of flair, I guess). I wonder, was this Marine guy in Iraq? Is he embarking on some imperialist adventure in resource rich parts of the world? If so, would he and this girl ever stop to contemplate that they are sort of at cross odds with one another? Would there be anything that would lead them to that discussion? I've walked that distance from the Clairemont Square back home a few times, or biked it more often. It's the perfect distance for either mode. I wonder, if she knew that the wild addiction to driving even the shortest distances was causing us to have to expand empire into regions that don't like us much, would she persist in driving even such an easy distance? Does this kinsman of hers understand the connection between his profession and her leisure?


Letter to the Local Realtor

Mr. Luis Galdamez:

Hello. I am a resident of Clairemont who wants to return some flags I found in my neighborhood with this note to make a few points. I find the flagging of most of the houses around here to be tasteless on a number of levels, and particularly at the time in which we find ourselves, with regards to the world scene. Usually, I am very intolerant of short sightedness and small mindedness, but I will spare you the vitriol.

First off, some of these flags are made in China. I find it decidedly ridiculous that the Chinese now make our flags. I would gamble a guess that some American workers are put out of work making such things out of far more durable materials than plastic and bamboo. What happened to American pride in their workmanship? I highly doubt that there are American factories making Chinese flags and “We Will Never Forget Tiannenman” stickers. Why insult Americans with the centerpiece of American identity with cheap knockoffs that will only get thrown away in a few days or weeks?

Next, let me remind you these flags are made out of plastic, which is made from nonrenewable petroleum resources. The last thing we need to do is to use petroleum in frivolous ways. I don’t expect everyone to know this because the media and ‘leadership’ have done a dismal job of helping the public to become aware of the biggest mess that humanity has known in eons. The world petroleum extraction rates are nearing their all time peak, and this resource will soon be on an irreversible slide, taking a huge swath of human history with it, as everything we now use that either runs on petro fuels, or is made from manipulating petrochemicals will be in jeopardy. The suburban market you now enjoy as your financial playground stands to lose most of its value in an age when people can’t afford to drive places, and transcontinental and international shipping can’t supply food and consumer goods (like Chinese made flags).

I think you might have just had your best year yet, so enjoy the party while it lasts. But if you cozy up with a good Google search on “peak oil” you will find a mountain of info on the matter and how it will undermine everything in America, and the suburban lifestyle will take quite a beating. In fact, you might want to watch and contemplate a DVD called “The End of Suburbia” which will detail out a range of topics surrounding the inevitable peak in oil extraction and its effects for everyday people who think that everyday life should go on as it has for the last 60 years. I don’t think there is an upside to it, my friend. You should turn your millions into Euros and/or gold and go enjoy life where people won’t have a “shitfit” when they realize that their daily systems fall into dysfunction on account of oil prices. I think they will rage at their government to do something about it, only to find the best the government can do is… launch war to get more oil, which in turn invites more Arab anger and terrorism, which in turn invites more invasion into privacy and robbing of personal liberties, which of course means that the America you wish to celebrate with your flags is really just nostalgia. That flag doesn’t mean what it used to mean, and the combined folly of using a plastic flag made 10,000 miles away to celebrate American might and apple pie is just a joke. The fact is, calling the Fourth of July “Independence Day” is a joke too. This nation is a slave to oil addiction. Waving a Chinese made petro-derived flag does not amount in any way to independence.

Sir, I’ve been getting your ads on my door for seven years now. I never really liked them because I have no love for the real estate industry. I happen to think that real estate prices have killed America, if my story is a microcosm of the American experience. Let me tell you a story.

My father has decided to pull a nuclear option of his own. The house I live in was his parents’, and I have lived here for seven years now. We have had an utterly disastrous family collapse because of the perception that property in San Diego is actually worth something. The thing is, my life is no more special now that my house is supposedly at about $550,000 over when the house was supposedly worth $400,000. If I had to say when my best times were had in this house and my family seemed to work best, I would say it was when the house was valued at less than $100,000—maybe in the early 1980s or so. But now that my father wishes to cash in quite greedily now that both my grandparents are dead and I have offended him by calling the city to protest his illegal and utterly crappy additions and modifications to the house (while he justified his work as “raising the value of the house”), my quality of life here is mostly miserable. I certainly don’t reap $550,000 worth of quality of life out of this place. And now I am about to lose it, so I can move with my wife to some other overpriced box of stucco, wood, and carpet in another place that is as faceless and dysfunctional as Clairemont. My father will be proud of his accomplishment. He has outlasted his parents, and has swiped his son’s residence, and will have pocketed a handsome sum of money too. What could be more American than profitting off someone else’s loss? American corporate capitalism does it every day! And what’s good for business is good for America, right?

Luis, when you talk about the value of a house, do you ever say, “this land is quite fertile and you can grow a garden here, and there is enough of it to feed some sheep, and a nice place here to keep chickens” (?) Do you realize that a piece of land that can’t sustain life is nearly useless? When people are starving, they won’t care about the pool, and they won’t care about canyon scenery or being close to freeways and malls. If you can’t sell houses that permit people to live without the use of cars, industry, corporate goods and services, and everything else that makes up the way of life you and I “enjoy,” you might find yourself out of a job, my friend. Who will want to buy what you have to sell? I bet you too are living the suburban “dream” of sitting in traffic, cursing at parking lots, paying insurance, and worrying about gangs taking over your kid’s school. Luis, I don’t think your business has a leg to stand on, I am sorry to say. I believe the dollars you move from one place to another are really just imaginary. True wealth is in stability, and the suburban buildout has relied on a resource that is inherently unstable. Ergo, suburbia must crash before long. Biology shows this repeatedly. Oil is the food source for suburbia, and it is getting harder and harder to find and extract. No reliable food source means that whatever relied on that food source will crash. We now fight wars to arrange for this stuff to let us drive our Hummers, Tahoes, Expeditions, Excursions, Yukons, and other ridiculous vehicles around from one house to the mall and back. A war to secure a food source is a desperate act.

So might I suggest you spare us the cheap plastic flags made in China that mock the once-great United States of America? I’m sure people are touched by it somewhat, but really… they probably don’t know the shitstorm that will hit them as the global game turns deadly serious in a big way when every industrialized nation wants to dogpile on the last of the oil reserves in the middle east. But for those of us who keep a little more abreast of the situation, things like this are needless and crassly commercial. If you really want to pass out flags, take some of your real estate earnings and reinvest them in the community. Open up a small shop where some out of work San Diegans can make flags of real cotton, and made with the genuine pride that should accompany such effort. There is no reason to send our money to China to show our “patriotism.” We have people who need to work here. I think if you want to sell houses that are valuable, you should sell the ones with good arable land, clean water from underground, and places where it legal to keep some animals, because life isn’t going to be a trip to Vons and Wal Mart forever.

Hope this adds perspective to your day.


Okay, the Muslims are going to love us now

It seems acts of God are now good opportunities for America to show how great she is. Maybe we can totally eradicate fears within the Muslim world that we are out to kill them all, by offering a few hundred million dollars and some MILITARY men to help out the tsunami stricken regions.

What will $350 million dollars in aid do for raising the image of America that $200 billion isn't accomplishing as we "win the hearts and minds of Iraqis" by bringing democracy and freedom to the region? It would be hard to match the level of destruction that the tsunami has wrought, but it seems like levelling Iraq is a good start. Then maybe we can take that party over to Iran so we can take out some brown skins there too.

But all will be forgotten because we helped out some Muslims in the Indian Ocean. Oh, let's get a picture of Bush and Powell and co. doing such fine work.

The USA needs to figure out what side of the fence it's going to be on. Are we gonna be the nation known for its killing prowess or its saving prowess? Its greed or its compassion? I'm just waiting for a memo to be leaked from some high up Washingtonian that says 'damn, we gotta send money to the fucking Indian Ocean??? We got some Arabs to blow up!!! Will the distractions never stop???' All this humanitarian aid shit just gets in the way when your first national priority is to figure out how to possess or control all the oil in the world, to fuel a machine that has near total disregard for treaties and agreements of all sorts meant to protect the people of the world. But maybe giving $350 mil is a good loss leader—maybe it buys us good will. Maybe when we want a pipeline or offshore drilling rights, or an LNG terminal, the now-grateful Muslims will just give it to us. Saves a lot in launching "preemptive" war.


Evolution of Ed

I wasn’t always so discontented and radical minded. Really this much came from the last year or so, and particularly in the time since I have written this blog. It has just been a real political year for me. I’ve had a few topics brewing in me for a while, but the last year or so has been pretty charged.

I came from a nuclear (not noo-kyu-lar) family of Republicans. My grandfather was right there with Reagan and Bush. He used to get the Republican Task Force propaganda. Grandmother was also republican, presumably for different reasons. She was a classic grandmother–full of virtue while not being a total prude, and a navy wife who spent a long part of her life in indirect service to the government. My grandfather was an armchair investor and long time navy veteran who was in WW2 on the Yorktown when it sank. He probably appreciated the Republicans because of the capitalist leanings of that party.

My dad, on the other hand, is of no particular affiliation and doesn’t vote. But the thing is, I can’t even tell where he resides on the political spectrum. He’s basically conservative, but is liberal enough in his head to welcome the age of the electric car and other alternatives along those lines. He is independent. I think he would run on the outside of the law more of the time if he needed to. He just wants to do things his own way, damn everyone.

My mother is a bitch who thinks of me as a dead child of hers but she was a Kennedy worshipping democrat. Nothing wrong with that. She and I were in each other’s life when the 2000 election was happening, so I got a dose of perspective from her around then. I wanted Gore to win too, so we had a rare spell of solidarity around then.

My step mom is a way out conservative Christian fundamentalist. I love her, but damn, some of that right wing shit is really a drag after a while. She is a great person inside and out, so I just take the bible literalist/inerrantist talk in stride, but she just isn’t mentally prepared to understand what a fuckup Bush is. But, being in her 80s, she won’t be here for long, so I don’t really hold it against her.

And then there is me. By osmosis, I would be a Republican. My views as a younger man were not really formed too well but a long time ago around the first reign of King George Bush the first, I spent summers over here at the grandparents’ house, and often read the stuff that was around here. The first Gulf war was fought not long after that and I, not being too critical an observer, sort of went along for the flag waving masses. I never really understood that war before this new war got started. As a youth who liked to build models of military equipment and loved to be regaled with tales and speculation about the power of such gear, I sort of was on the edge of being one of those dudes who was gung ho about joining the military. But I was too much of a fuckup, a smartass, a slacker to get the coveted spot I always wanted: to be an F-14 pilot. I really spoiled that in eighth grade. So I was content to get together with buddies and talk about planes and tanks and aircraft carriers, and maybe nukes. I was a misfit in school.

When the US bombed Libya and shot down its planes, I was happy to hear it. It wasn’t often a young man gets to actually feel the power of this military gear put to use. But then again, just as in the Gulf war, I had no real sensitivity to the suffering. I mean, just as planes and tanks blowing up stuff, I still think that shit is impressive. Who can’t marvel at firepower? It's amazing. Fighter jets in a dogfight with Sidewinder missiles are amazing. Nukes are amazing. For a 10-18 year old who was raised in a sort of sheltered environment, the concept of suffering is not really too easily grasped. The thing is, I was a young man coming of age when video games were pretty tame, and clearly fictional and entertaining. There is nothing inherently gruesome about PacMan, Donkey Kong, or even Space Invaders. The bombs and bullets in the Gulf war were real. People really died, no matter how “precise” or “smart” the bombs were. But the television did not show dead people. The television did not show the bombs that exploded not in bunkers or ammo factories and depots, but in city centers and parks. The TV didn’t show army hospital footage of amputees and the men who got hemicorporectomies from devastating explosions. I never wanted people killed. I was just impressed with the fact that an F-15 could go over Mach 2.5 or an M1 Abrahms tank could get up to 70 mph, or a Phoenix missile could go a couple hundred miles. I thrilled that a C-5 Galaxy could get off the ground. I marveled that an aircraft carrier could float. I thought the F-14 was a sexy plane (still do—it’s a really voluptuous piece of work). Even in 1999, when I was finally able to do a USO gig on the USS Constellation, I was excited. I was excited because a tailhook landing was exhilarating, and watching from the bridge while two squadrons of F-18s did cat launches was just an over the top experience. I didn’t marvel at how fine and efficient our killing machines were. I walked from one end of the carrier deck to the other—nearly 1100 feet—and marveled at how so damned much steel could float and be home to 5000 men for months at a time. (I was seasick and/or asleep for 15 of the 20 hours I was on the ship, which made it more amazing that guys could live on it.)

I don’t remember when I decided that the military was not all it was cracked up to be. Or when I decided that all military death was wrong except in the most dire need. I don’t remember when I was awakened in that way. I never had any buddies come home in body bags. I never saw the death and destruction myself. But in 1997, for the sake of speculation, I began to turn off my TV and more steadily relied on public radio. I don’t know about the real impact, but I often listened to it in my truck while working. There is something about radio that makes you think, and calls your imagination into service in a way that TV doesn’t or can’t. I suppose that hearing the voices of people from war torn areas made me think differently about the power of death, and the senselessness of it all, just so one leader can prove he has a bigger dick than another (as George Carlin would muse on). Maybe my involvement in music put me around people who were a little more sensitive to the finer subtleties of life, or even people who were more radical and outspoken, or that music is inherently a device of togetherness or whatever sort of metaphysical stuff like that.

I have been voting Democratic since I first voted in 1992. Somehow I felt a kinship with that party’s values. But I always professed myself as a moderate, which was really a way of saying I didn’t really have an opinion, but I wasn’t going to be branded as an idiot by either side. I do remember that by 1996, the republican line was increasingly creepy, and Robin and me were in solidarity for Clinton again. I think the religious bullshit parading over women’s rights was the issue then that was a clear turnoff. I think the clear sign I needed that the Repugnantcans were up to no good was in the way the Lewinsky scandal went. My position then was that these fuckers should get out of the way and let the president do his work, and work he was obviously good at, given that he got another term! I remember day after day of Ken Starr just being a leech on Clinton’s energy and ability to do the work he was elected to do. And then obviously once that was over, the 2000 election left no doubt in my mind that these assholes were up to no good. After that, I have just been trying to relearn all the stuff I never really learned in real time. And in my travels, I have come to regret that I ever could have been aligned with those sorry excuses for Americans. I did fall from that noble belief shortly after 9/11 and in the fearmongering season that lead up to the Iraq war. But I, sort of like John Kerry and a lot of other people, wanted to believe that I was getting the truth from the leaders. I mean, what else should we expect?

A critical turning point for me and my understanding of how Americans are perceived in the world came a month or so after 9/11 when I was severely chastised by a Finnish friend who warned me that a little thing I said on a newsgroup was just the sort of inflammatory shit that makes people hate us. But on my end, I was just sort of playing along with the others in my nation who thought that we had been wronged and we could meet that wrong in a decidedly American way—by totally kicking ass. But alas, I was told that that was not the answer and that we were not friends anymore. I felt really stupid after that. Since then, my willingness to look deeper into things has grown by leaps and bounds. I also started to go to church where I can put myself in touch with a force that doesn’t lead me to feeling the only way to handle these things is to just go out and “nuke the Arabs back into the stone age.” No, that sort of talk now sounds so fucking callous and ignorant to me now, and when I hear it my ears burn, much like what must have happened to my Finnish friend three years ago. Now I take it as my mission to get in the way of that sort of thinking and talk.

I have said I go to church, and I do, and have for a while now. But not all churches are created equal; mine is the polar opposite of what you expect from churches now. Mine is very liberal and encourages free thinking and personal interpretation of scripture, and more importantly, a call to actually adhere to the intent behind it. And that intent, as I have come to understand it is that killing is wrong, oppression is wrong, lying is wrong, and indifference to suffering is wrong. The biggest boon to my understanding of how Christianity fits into the world today came when I finally realized that Jesus was a dissident. He was not a patriot or an insider. He spoke truth to power and dared people to do things like actually acting with humility and compassion. Things started to come together for me when I came to understand that (with some compelling examples of such behavior in historical and modern lives, and these examples come from all walks of life—Einstein, MLK, Gandhi, Jesus, Nietzsche, and more who really got into the heart of the matter in trying to figure out this life and what it takes to live it).

My political affiliation and my church affiliation do intersect; but they intersect in a place where I will never want people to die for a cause I would not die for myself. Or even more radically than that in these times, I try to understand why these people we call terrorists do what they do, and even more radically than that, I allow myself to subscribe to the idea that they are humans too, just trying to get by, just trying to get along in the life they want to lead, sort of like anyone over here would want. I don’t want them dead. I don’t have any enemies in Iraq. I didn’t vote for the war. I didn’t pay tax so that we could destroy someone else’s country under any pretense. There is a difference between being thrilled at the destructive potential of a bomb, and the saving potential of helping someone live in peace. As my minister often says, even a thing as small as giving a thirsty person a glass of water could have cosmic significance. Fiscally speaking, it costs a lot less to feed a person than it does to make and deliver a bomb to kill that person. Those billions and billions of dollars could be so much better spent on anything but this war, and maybe if we did just that, we could be heroes in the eyes of the world again, but no, we just gave all that up, just to prove we could kick more ass than the next guy. Knowing this is what makes me do and say what I do and say now. Two things that resonate in me now are “speak truth to power” and “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Both have political and spiritual implications, and both are in too short a supply in this world. To find these basic sentiments in other non-western, non-Christian thought just delights me. Small-mindedness is taking over our world, and particularly my country. You know, every major faith system has a form of the Golden Rule. But putting blinders on will get us nowhere.

My options for political party representation are very limited, but in the realization that Republicans stand against virtually everything I hold dear now, there is only one guy I could vote for this year. I am not sure he is the best guy for the job, but there is no way in hell that I will vote for the guy who is offensive in every way I can imagine. Every ounce of my intellect and emotional being is crying out against Bush. Humans aren’t too much different than other animals except that we can think and emote. I plan on doing that in this election year, with a lot more conviction than ever.


Ten Pounds of Dumb in a Five Pound Sack

There is this broad who I talk to a couple days a week when I deliver to one of my seniors. Let me not mince words. She is dumb. But she is dangerous because she doesn't know she is dumb. She is a Republican. But alas, I repeat myself.

She is about as dumb as any Republican could get, I reckon. She takes the Rupert Murdoch party line hook, line, and sinker. Let me restate this. She is dumb. No, I mean dumb. There is a world of evidence now that almost anything she can possibly say in defense of the Republicans can be dispelled with even a few sources. Did I say she was dumb? But her real problem is that she can't listen worth a damn at all. She is the master of the red herring; I could be talking about peak oil issues and she will ask me why I am a socialist and believe that welfare is good. But to indulge her, I ask her about this welfare. I say 'Marie, you say that welfare is bad and that the government should not give handouts. But what do you think of corporate welfare, like the sort that is being offered the airline industry—do you think that is any different? Should a business be allowed to prosper before a single mother can feed her kid?' Then she wants to say I am just like Michael Moore—a communist and America hater, and that all of us who watch Dan Rather are in a big plot to destroy America. She can't imagine a world where a person can think on his own without the influence of Dan Rather or Michael Moore or George Soros. We're all alike. Compassionless America haters who don't support our troops, that's me and the guys. The idea of supporting our troops by avoiding war is totally lost on her. She says if I were a true Christian, I would go over there and fight for Iraqi freedom. When she feels really cynical toward me, she challenges me on why I don't support those poor people in Darfur. I counter with something like, 'See, I got this odd belief that maybe the government should spend its money on the American citizens.' Darfur sucks, but so does rising unemployment and corruption and civic breakdown over here. Maybe I could be a good American and support action here, because we need it pretty badly.

Another classic thing Marie goes for is that 9/11 and Al Qaeda connection that is so evident. Oh, I could bring her ten books and articles and the fucking Commission Report and she would say it's all lies. Did I mention she was dumb? I tell her 15 Saudis were to blame and she tells me they were paid for by Saddam. I tell her the war is for two reasons only—oil and Israel, and she tells me the usual party line and cannot even come to think that oil and Israel have anything to do with it. She is so eager to support Israel because it's a "tiny little country" surrounded by all those savages. Oh, well it's a tiny little country that has managed to royally piss off a good 1/6th of the world's population for doing some of the same things that were done to them 60 years before back in Europe. Oh, that one gets her blood boiling. I tell her that maybe if we are fighting a battle as a favor for Israel, maybe they could be nice enough to finance it or at least spill some blood along with us. Sure, when did our young men have to go fight a battle so that the Israeli swine could have the region crafted according to their plans? I'm sorry, I don't see the patriotism in that! Then I remind her that back in Iraq, they got oil for us. Oh, I tell her 'you know we aint there for the sand, or for the sun, or for the pretty girls, or for the fine quality of friends we keep there. There is only one stinkin' reason we have to be there!'

Getting some facts wrong is one thing, but for her, I think she has a total failure of imagination. She could work for our "intelligence" services with qualifications like that. The thing is, she is about 40 and has two kids. I offer that some of the stuff she is saying now is supporting a system that is going to totally consume her kids' future. And she totally cannot stretch her feeble mind to imagine what lies behind all these things. I tell her corporations are self interested and she calls me a socialist and tells me to go to Europe. But then I tell her that her precious Republican party is the same party that allows these entities to do all this reckless stuff, but they call it "free market" activity. Well, that is a good excuse for most of the failures today. I go for the heart and tell her capitalism is the thing that is wrecking all of America today, and even the world. Greed celebrated, I call it.

I bring her some copies of articles or books to back up my shit and dare her to do the same. Not one bit from her. She is dumb. She's like a plaything for me. She says I learned all this stuff in school, and that college will do that to a person. Um, well, no. I was away from school for a decade, and when I returned, I didn't learn content as much as I learned how to find it and form either my opinions or my arguments or speeches. No, there is something to be said for reading all sorts of things, and well, actually thinking this shit through. My favorite line now is proclaiming the US is the biggest investor in terrorism. Denial abounds. But then I say, 'well, if you spend nearly 200 billion on making war and pitting Muslim against Muslim for a few decades, isn't it reasonable to expect a return on your investment? How is that different from any other investment? We got ourselves into it, all because of our greed.'

She is dumb. I could only do this justice if I had a recording to play for you. One day...



Every now and then in life, something goes right.

I was listening to NPR's All Things Considered today. There was a story about the new museum of the American Indian in Washington DC. Apparently there were 20,000 people from over 400 tribes all across the USA, and some from Canada, Mexico and even as far down as the Andes! There were parades of tribes from everywhere. Some were in their traditional garb, playing traditional music. Some were in blue jeans and T shirts. All these people were in the US capitol celebrating the opening of the museum. I mean, just think of that. Washington DC used to be the root of all evil for the Indian population in this land. Treaties signed, treaties broken. There are 500 years of troubled emotions that, for a day at least, were put to rest. For once, the white man did something basically good, and gave the native people a place to shine. The museum is not some white man's telling of the history; the tribes were given a massive amount of input, and from what I have heard, the stories told are real ones told by real people living today. First person accounts are what make this museum special. I'm amazed that congress let that one slip by.

Yesterday, when there was an hour given to the museum's opening on Talk of the Nation, one of the men who called up wanted to sing the praises of Richard West, the main man behind the project. This caller just yelped out his joy that West had seen this project to completion. He wanted to call and say that Richard West would go down in tribal history and folklore, and how would he (West) like to be remembered, in his own words, for doing such a great thing for so many people? This caller was just totally overcome with emotion. It's not too often you hear a grown man cry on the radio.

Another thing I don't think I ever took to consideration was that there are Indian veterans. There were Native American Vietnam vets there too, which if you think about it, is a mindbender too. The thought of these people joining our army is still bouncing around in my head. I don't know if that is a sign of resignation to the white man or not. But these vets were marching along in the parade nonetheless. I wonder what it takes to join the army that killed your ancestors and eradicated your lifestyle. And then I wonder what it is like to not only do that, but to go out and fight people in a foreign country which lives a life not altogether unlike the one that your ancestors once lived. Vietnamese and the Native Americans weren't too different in some regards.

I got a bit of hope out of hearing these two shows about the museum. The museum is trying to be assertive and honest. They could have taken the opportunity to use it as a white bashing forum, but they used it to try to be an educational opportunity for their own people and non-Indians alike. Richard West put it in perspective. He said that the last 500 years of their history was only about 5% of their history here in this land. He wanted to show that these people are a resiliant bunch. I guess that you gotta find hope in that kind of thinking.