Reflections from the other day

The wind has the trees enthusiastically cheering today. Flags snap to an up-tempo beat. A murder of crows locate haven in a big fir tree’s lee alongside the walking path ahead. I approach. At a silent signal, they rise without cries. The wind’s sounds mask their wing noise. Almost all break for the street’s other side, momentarily forming a crow arch over the road. But a third find the wind’s stiffness too much and retreat into the pine’s coziness. The other two thirds seek shelter down between houses. One brave individual alights on the swaying telephone line over the street and makes a one note announcement.

I can’t blame the winds for my tumultuous thoughts. I usually walk and think, what will I read write? Who is on stage? Lights, please. Today, I go through the characters and situations without settling on a direction. I’m adrift with thoughts on our society and its violence. Then they came for me, I remember, thinking of how many hunker down without thought about America’s escalating gun violence. Most police victims, it’s said, deserved it, even it it sure looked like I'd be found guilty of murder if I did it. But then I'm not the police. They have an expanding different standard than me.

The police tell us because their victims were thugs, or high on drugs, or suspected of a crime. Even when it's the wrong person. Shoot now and ask questions later. The dead don't lie. Many times the police officers just feared for their lives from their victims, who, armed with a toy sword or toy gun, twelve years old, twenty years old, sometimes unarmed but on a cell phone or reaching for their pants, were still a threat to the fearful police, so fearful that officers don’t shoot just once but multiple times, hitting their victims in their arms, abdomen, head and chest, but often with many shots somehow landing in the backs of these people they feared. Or they taser the victims and put them into choke holds, ignoring their human protests that they can’t breathe, ignoring it when they fall unconscious, bent on protecting themselves and advancing justice.

It’s a real fact not an Internet fact with uncertain veracity, that an increasing number of blacks are being killed by the people paid to protect them, an affront to America's advertising campaign that we value life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, particularly that life one. Hard to be free and pursuing happiness from the morgues’ cold tables. I stand with them, the blacks and poors and others suffering these deaths. How can I enjoy my freedom when so many fellow citizens have their freedoms handcuffed with fear?

I remain amazed that the right to bear arms has managed to propel itself to the second most important right or privilege in America, the first being the right to turn a profit. Stunning how both of these have overturned Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. We need first and foremost, apparently, to have guns. I guess being armed that does fit into the fearfuls’ psyche and their need for security above everything else, even above the right s of others to live.

 

We’re marking a solemn anniversary today. Well, no, not solemn. It was an act of war. Not really solemn. I guess some will say our solemn observances are over those who died, not over what was done when another nation attacked us over 70 years ago. Japan, the attacker, is now our staunch economic ally, just like the other enemies in that war, Germany and Italy. This is different from the communist cold war results with the Soviet Union and China. China emerged as an economic powerhouse and we see them as a continuing threat, ala Asimov's wonderful Foundation series. Russia emerged as a major power out of the Soviet Union's breakup and continue seeking more power, which bugs America, since we want all the power.

We weren't pleased when Japan attacked us and we vowed, Never Again. Despite that vow and our arsenal, some other group, pissed at what we’re doing to others and deciding to take us down, attacked us in 2001, sadly scaring us even more. So we live in fear, the most armed and deadly nation in the world, killing our own and declaring ourselves free. Meanwhile, the sniff tests are starting to say another revolution might be in the air in America. I wouldn't expect it to happen soon, but as more and more Americans sing about their poverty woes, and more importantly, have no way out because of the rising costs of education and the jobs moving overseas, the chances of violence would seem to increase. Isn't it the nature of empires to destroy themselves from within? The Powers, and we all know who that there are those with Powers who want more power, who want it all and don't believe others deserve anything because the others are lazier, have been reacting by applying more pressure. That's the best thing to do as pressure grows from inequality: apply more pressure. That's the American Maxim: if some is good, more must be better.

I wonder if there's a doomsday clock somewhere, ticking down toward midnight in America.

Comments 3

 
Anonymous on Thursday, 11 December 2014 03:34

Michael, Where to start? I seem to be in agreement with most of what you say -- maybe all of it; I need to go over some of it. But I usually keep these thoughts to myself, not because I'm afraid to speak but because I feel that it's futile. Throughout most of my life I've heard poor, struggling workers defend the one percent as heroic models we should follow. Maybe I did this myself at one time. I'm sure I did. But I had a realistic model to follow. The guy who started with nothing and put in long days and weekends building a business and sometimes had to continue that lifestyle forever just to maintain what he'd built. Only to be crushed by the system he admired.

I did it myself but couldn't keep it going long enough for it to pay off. Working in a machine shop, putting in ungodly hours and transferring my earnings to the photography business I was, I thought, building. I never would have complained about my own failed endeavors; I tried and didn't have, I guess, what it takes. But while I was at my busiest I sensed something that I couldn't identify, something sinister in the national economy. Years later when "they" sent all the manufacturing to Asia and other places I knew my senses
had been correct. There were many things I sensed in that way over the years and had countless numbers of people telling me I had "a lot of weird ideas." Well, if nothing else, I've learned that my weird ideas were quite accurate and that's in some way comforting. I do notice when wealthy people do generous things with their money and I give them credit. But! I'm frankly sick over what has happened to
the country I was born into in my lifetime. I'm 80 and those 80 years have seen some of the most admirable and honorable virtues of this
nation die. And nobody wants to admit it. The national religion is the bottom line.

Michael, Where to start? I seem to be in agreement with most of what you say -- maybe all of it; I need to go over some of it. But I usually keep these thoughts to myself, not because I'm afraid to speak but because I feel that it's futile. Throughout most of my life I've heard poor, struggling workers defend the one percent as heroic models we should follow. Maybe I did this myself at one time. I'm sure I did. But I had a realistic model to follow. The guy who started with nothing and put in long days and weekends building a business and sometimes had to continue that lifestyle forever just to maintain what he'd built. Only to be crushed by the system he admired. I did it myself but couldn't keep it going long enough for it to pay off. Working in a machine shop, putting in ungodly hours and transferring my earnings to the photography business I was, I thought, building. I never would have complained about my own failed endeavors; I tried and didn't have, I guess, what it takes. But while I was at my busiest I sensed something that I couldn't identify, something sinister in the national economy. Years later when "they" sent all the manufacturing to Asia and other places I knew my senses had been correct. There were many things I sensed in that way over the years and had countless numbers of people telling me I had "a lot of weird ideas." Well, if nothing else, I've learned that my weird ideas were quite accurate and that's in some way comforting. I do notice when wealthy people do generous things with their money and I give them credit. But! I'm frankly sick over what has happened to the country I was born into in my lifetime. I'm 80 and those 80 years have seen some of the most admirable and honorable virtues of this nation die. And nobody wants to admit it. The national religion is the bottom line.
Michael W Seidel on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 21:23

Thanks for reading and commenting.

I’ve been thinking about your comment and my post, grimacing at our assessments. I guess what saddens me is that America managed masterful success for a while, working against inequality and injustice, trying to improve the common standard of living for us all, regardless of who we are. So that became my measuring stick for what we can achieve.

Worse, perhaps, as I noted, as you allude, we lack the political will to regain our footing and push forward again. The wealthy and powerful care only for the wealthy and powerful, with a few exceptions. Race, religion, sex, country of origin, ethnicity, are again rising as factors about what’s happened and what’s to be done, a fragmentation caused by wealth inequality and, well, simple but effective propaganda – we call it marketing – about what’s important to and for Americans today. Wealth over all else, security over all else, energy over all else.

But –

We have opportunities to turn it around again. History has noted the cycles of change that manifest. Like ocean tides, there are patterns. We – the poor, the middle class, the minorities – were all trampled underfoot before in humanity’s progression from the stone age to the digital era. Despite being trampled down, we rose again, and again, and we learned. We learned what it’s like to be free and equal, to live in a land can’t bribe justice, where we do not need to live in fear from one another or our government. Some have learned less than others. They will be followers. Others have learned and are taking their knowledge to feed their passion for true change, change, as someone once said, we can believe it. We’re not satisfied with cautious triangulation from a broad middle of the political road. We want true change, and believe it can found in visionaries like the people that revolted and started this country, and multiple leaders that emerged throughout the years. They challenged the status quo and proclaimed, “This is not acceptable,” and refused to be silenced.

So revolution is coming. It may come through rioting in streets and full firefights between government forces and the people, but I hope not. We’ve seen too many instances of that, too. I hope, instead, it will be through the power of vote that we established, that we somehow, as individuals, rise up into groups sufficiently powerful and organized enough, coherent enough, to steer our nation back to our original dreams of liberty, justice and equality. It takes boat rockers with weird ideas that are deemed so because others are afraid of their truth. But we have done it before. We have overcome the rest before, those who want to worship the bottom line alone.

We will do it again.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I’ve been thinking about your comment and my post, grimacing at our assessments. I guess what saddens me is that America managed masterful success for a while, working against inequality and injustice, trying to improve the common standard of living for us all, regardless of who we are. So that became my measuring stick for what we can achieve. Worse, perhaps, as I noted, as you allude, we lack the political will to regain our footing and push forward again. The wealthy and powerful care only for the wealthy and powerful, with a few exceptions. Race, religion, sex, country of origin, ethnicity, are again rising as factors about what’s happened and what’s to be done, a fragmentation caused by wealth inequality and, well, simple but effective propaganda – we call it marketing – about what’s important to and for Americans today. Wealth over all else, security over all else, energy over all else. But – We have opportunities to turn it around again. History has noted the cycles of change that manifest. Like ocean tides, there are patterns. We – the poor, the middle class, the minorities – were all trampled underfoot before in humanity’s progression from the stone age to the digital era. Despite being trampled down, we rose again, and again, and we learned. We learned what it’s like to be free and equal, to live in a land can’t bribe justice, where we do not need to live in fear from one another or our government. Some have learned less than others. They will be followers. Others have learned and are taking their knowledge to feed their passion for true change, change, as someone once said, we can believe it. We’re not satisfied with cautious triangulation from a broad middle of the political road. We want true change, and believe it can found in visionaries like the people that revolted and started this country, and multiple leaders that emerged throughout the years. They challenged the status quo and proclaimed, “This is not acceptable,” and refused to be silenced. So revolution is coming. It may come through rioting in streets and full firefights between government forces and the people, but I hope not. We’ve seen too many instances of that, too. I hope, instead, it will be through the power of vote that we established, that we somehow, as individuals, rise up into groups sufficiently powerful and organized enough, coherent enough, to steer our nation back to our original dreams of liberty, justice and equality. It takes boat rockers with weird ideas that are deemed so because others are afraid of their truth. But we have done it before. We have overcome the rest before, those who want to worship the bottom line alone. We will do it again.
Anonymous on Thursday, 18 December 2014 04:46

Once more if I may: After WWII, when many Americans, because of the GI Bill, went to college -- mostly men who would never, previously, have had the opportunity -- the industry you mention above, marketing, became a driving force. Few people knew what a powerful force it was to become. Ordinary working people who were beginning once again to prosper were told that these items once considered luxuries -- the more powerful more expensive car, the second house at the seashore, etc. were necessities. Saving rather than spending became unpatriotic. I was young then and easily confused. Only the passage of time revealed the evil of all this.

A member of the Harvard Business School graduating class of 1949 wrote a book some years ago confessing the ways in which that class
designed and implemented the "sausage factory" principle of duping the public into buying into progressively diminishing quality. That author regretted the legacy he had created for his grandchildren. At the time that this was happening the designers just thought it was slick.

I wish I had your optimism about "turning it around". You might be right, though; I hope you are. Remember the movie Easy Rider? I remember one of the "riders" saying, "this used to be a hell of a good country." He was right.

Once more if I may: After WWII, when many Americans, because of the GI Bill, went to college -- mostly men who would never, previously, have had the opportunity -- the industry you mention above, marketing, became a driving force. Few people knew what a powerful force it was to become. Ordinary working people who were beginning once again to prosper were told that these items once considered luxuries -- the more powerful more expensive car, the second house at the seashore, etc. were necessities. Saving rather than spending became unpatriotic. I was young then and easily confused. Only the passage of time revealed the evil of all this. A member of the Harvard Business School graduating class of 1949 wrote a book some years ago confessing the ways in which that class designed and implemented the "sausage factory" principle of duping the public into buying into progressively diminishing quality. That author regretted the legacy he had created for his grandchildren. At the time that this was happening the designers just thought it was slick. I wish I had your optimism about "turning it around". You might be right, though; I hope you are. Remember the movie Easy Rider? I remember one of the "riders" saying, "this used to be a hell of a good country." He was right.
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