The Last Memorial Day, I’m Done

Okay, it was an interesting 242 years-if you’re using 1776 as a start date-or you could use 1607, the founding of Jamestown, and maybe that’s more fitting because according to https://www.nps.gov/jame/learn/historyculture/a-short-history-of-jamestown.htm “On July 30, 1619, newly appointed Governor Yeardley called for the first representative legislative assembly. This was the beginning of representative government in what is now the United States of America. In that same year, the first documented Africans were brought to Virginia.”

So there we are in a nutshell, a country founded not on freedom and democracy but on commerce and the allowance that some folks might have the right to a little bit of representation while others were here solely for the purposes of exploitation. Our sprawling country was seemingly founded by imperialists from Europe who sought to reproduce themselves. And now it seems time to call it a day….an exceptional day, but  a day nevertheless.

Ah, I know, we’re also a nation where in our little city of Oakland alone, 52 languages are spoken and one of the few countries where folks born here receive the rights of citizenship by birth (no and it didn’t happen just by passing the 14th amendment but through the struggle of the children of Chinese immigrants. See  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Wong_Kim_Ark.)

We have a Bill of Rights that was truly revolutionary at the time-setting out some important principles but we have to admit that the 4th and 6th amendments are on life support with the current government working hard to pull the plug (google search and seizure, prisoner rights, etc.) The First Amendment is now so contorted and confused-what with certain religionists forcing a new meaning in which their dogma is to be protected while corporations, with the aid of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, contain and control the media what we know about how business and government work.

Well, no conspiracy theories are necessary to see that our huge country of feudal like kingdoms no longer works very well. And I’m not just talking about the failure to prevent a Goebbels-like tinpot dictator from being “elected” president while his less than competent crime family steals our country’s resources in front of our eyes.

We don’t have a democracy. If we didn’t see that before, it’s all too clear now. Two party rule which can so easily devolve to 1 party rule in such a short time, puts the lie to the uses of representative government versus a parliamentary form with all its complex compromises and muddle now seems to offer a little more-at least if it was in bite size form. Our supersized system produces little more than diabetic offspring.

We don’t even have a national voting policy. Each state or municipality can determine (with a few restrictions) who will vote, when and how. More people have lost their rights to suffrage in the last decade than ever gained it after the Civil Rights laws were finally passed. Between voter suppression laws, reduced polling places and times, to say nothing of foreign interference and machine hacking, we have disenfranchised many more by virtue of our zeal to imprison more folks than, well, it looks like, anybody. Here’s a stat from 2013, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_incarceration_rate.

“In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States of America was the highest in the world, at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the United States represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners.”

We can’t even agree with the rest of the world on how to measure stuff or note dates. For those few of us who will get a passport and leave the continent (actually it’s worse than that. Both Mexico and Canada use the metric system,) it’s damn hard to book your stay or apply for visas with our antiquated system. We can’t understand how far anything is or even what time our tour starts unless it’s translated to our so “exceptional” brains. I had to unlearn using my fork and knife in a natural way in favor of swapping them out every time I took a bite after spending a year in Germany at the tender age of 17.

Now we have a rich and powerful country with almost no allies, save Guatemala and Israel. No one much cares about what Guatemalans do-if we’re honest most of us have no idea where it is-and the world over is condemning current Israeli policies in their colonies. [I must assert-no Philistine I-that I have been to Guatemala twice and loved it.]

Everyone gets exercised over national politics but few can do anything at all about them. Do you believe you had any say in who was nominated for president other than feeling personally slighted when your chosen candidate did not get the nod?

But, ok, our local form of democracy has its problems. For instance, in my city when a politician colors outside of the box [by working to get local folks trained for local jobs that local taxes paid for,] she is called a criminal and compared to Trump. She has a predictable reaction to criticism that forces people to chose sides with her or “agin” her (not useful) but when our police chief is caught in a mistake, instead of apologizing, she then lies with charts and drawings (glossies,) she is not compared to GOP characters who do that stuff even better.

Remember Arlo Guthrie (probably not since you’re all 20 years younger than me at least) “Cause Obie came to the realization that it was a typical case of American
Blind justice, and there wasn’t nothing he could do about it, and the
Judge wasn’t going to look at the twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy
Pictures with the circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back of each
One explaining what each one was to be used as evidence against us. ” from Alice’s Restaurant Massacree, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m57gzA2JCcM

Anyway, since that song is about illegal dumping, I better not mention it since in our city, dumping garbage has become a more serious crime than allowing people to live in tents surrounded by their own filth.

Back to the problem, the United States of America. The number of crises we are confronting since the inauguration of 45, widely understood now to be an illegally elected POTUS, have grown so rapidly, the level of cruelty casual and deliberate has grown beyond what your average soccer mom can comprehend. Some of us were already painfully aware of many of them before this stolen or just bungled election and now, what..uh,yeah…what??

in some countries when they get fed up enough like Poland or Romania, it is possible to take to the streets or go on strike where your capital city, like Paris, is also the most important city. You can make things so inconvenient that governments fold or flee or just shoot down enough people to hold off change for another decade or so. But in the US, places like Washington DC, Harrisburg and Sacramento are the seats of government but otherwise, who cares?

Hardly anyone even in little Oakland knows how the government works or why PG&E, a private company, is in charge of our most important utility, doing it poorly. Just read Nextdoor for an hour or so, low information voters also live in the enclaves of the well-educated and well compensated.

So my modest proposal is that we devolve into regional entities. California is large enough and its residents confused enough to immediately become a country of its own. We grow our own avocadoes and weed, almonds, all on gluten-free trees. Really, we could be two or even three states. One for the folks who think like Alabamans, another for the vegans and the rest for those of us moderate meat eaters who like their edibles on the side.

We could conceivably have our own healthcare system once we are done arguing over how to do it with the purest of motives. Ok, so maybe not. But as Californians we know that thinking will just make it so, not to worry your little botoxed head.

Now that Georgia and Texas have real progressive female candidates, they could get elected and ship their Trump voters to Mexico which could turn out to be the biggest joke on us all once they see they how much they like it-beautiful culture, great food and plenty of holidays plus a very top down government.

Yeah, I know, there’s a blue wave a’comin. And there might be. There are lots of exciting and interesting candidates and the soccer moms are furious. Throw in the rest of us who have been pissed off for a long time, things can change. But Trump and his damage won’t go away soon. The Judiciary is being overhauled top to bottom. We might end up waxing nostalgic for the days when we could lambaste Justice Scalia instead of his younger paler technocratic replacement. The blandness of evil, eh, Neil Gorsuch?

That’s it for me. I need a new country. One in which I have some agency and in which there are national programs for healthcare, education through grad school, real public utilities including use of a modernized internet, no prison industrial complex but a renewable energy complex and housing is a right. Oh yeah, and we play the same national sports the rest of the world gives a dam about but not until the Oakland Warriors win another championship.

Yeah, you know I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…https://www.google.com/search?q=imagine+youtube&oq=imagine%2C+youbu&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.5924j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

A Letter from the Democratic Party.. I want to receive

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We need to hear swiftly, definitively and defiantly from our leaders in the disloyal opposition before we let the winner of the Electoral College debacle into the White House. This is what I’m asking them to say, but first they must account for their many failures.

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We recognize that many are suffering in this country and around the world, especially since the economic crash brought on by Republican politics and the wars in the Middle East, terrorism and fears of it also brought on by NeoCon policies during the Bush years.

We accept full responsibility for acquiescing to those policies sometimes with our votes and often with our silence while knowing full well that the devastation wreaked in faraway places would drain our people of needed resources while enraging the residents of those far places.

We admit that no American banker or oligarch was jailed while families lost their homes, their pensions and their hopes for the future. Even as that continues to happen, the bodies of small children wash ashore in the Mediterranean as a result of those disastrous votes and the funds to back them. We never told the American people the truth about how that happened nor of our responsibility in it. We must start now!

The same can be said of  Central American families seeking refuge from murderous regimes while we jail and deport families back to lands they may not know or to violent cities and countrysides from which they fled.

We have been complicit in putting our population under surveillance and lying about it while hunting down those who would expose the rumors as truth-giving rise to far fetched conspiracy theories and the complete loss of trust in our democracy.

There is more in which we have been complicit, privatizing our schools, denigrating our union movement, and ignoring the unfathomable fear that has replaced the American dream. We even told our citizens that education was a necessity while making a profit off of those who have worked so hard to achieve it, along the way, indebting an entire generation out of their birthright.

We spent decades building prisons lest Black Americans attempted to seek their long-ago-earned part of the American Dream-whose only compensation for their hard work has been more restrictions including death for shopping, driving, working, walking, breathing. Many of us never stood up for our first Black president when he sought solutions for all working Americans while taking on all of the old festering problems of a dying republic.

Now that the pathway to facism, destruction of the planet, and targeting of whole swathes of our population has been made manifest, we declare:  2016-11-14-11-51-29

To prevent the acceptance of any court nominee (Supreme or lower) who does not uphold individual rights, voting rights, rights of women and people of any gender to control their bodies, the rights of workers and consumers, and the most basic right-that of the planet to continue to make human habitation possible. We further assert that the 4th Amendment to the Constitution be reinstated-the right to be safe in our persons being the most basic and necessary to survival.

To prevent cuts in funding to any marginalized group (as defined by Dave Chappell) including our elders, our children, our students, and those who have long lived without the protections and benefits others have taken for granted.

To prevent violations of our communal property-parks, schools, housing, and health, including ending fracking, mining public lands and other acts of destruction in order to provide cheap energy and subsidizing communal needs.

To reassess the need for and usefulness of the FBI, NSA, and especially the CIA while eliminating funding for military hardware, including in our cities and for our local law-enforcement agencies. 20161113_153003

To maintain and spread the prohibition against private prisons, indeterminate sentencing, jailing people who cannot pay fines (debtors’ prisons,) cruel and unusual punishment-oh hell-just really read the Bill of Rights and stop trying to limit them-with one addendum that they not be limited to men, or white folks or straight folks or restricted for those with disabilities/differences or those born in other places than these 52 states (which must include Puerto Rico and DC.)

To stop the border wall and close border detention/concentration camps, registration of immigrants or religious groups.

To demand a basic income for all Americans including healthcare, childcare and higher education. We vow to educate Americans to the true cost of privatizing all these needs and the ways in which we can all contribute to the betterment of our country through fair taxation.

To rebuilding our decaying infrastructure and restarting our leadership in innovation including making internet and information access available at low or no cost to our country’s families, families not defined by one type-by training and hiring those at the bottom of the pay scale first.

We refuse just to fight against reaction and nihilism but to demand a better life for all of us, including those in other corners of the globe. We will fight to be the beacon-we-always-pretended-we-were and not-in-some-1950’s-fantasy but as our best angels might envision us.

This is a long expensive list, it’s true but if we really want to be great as never before, we have to tackle a future where everyone can live, thrive, and have the opportunity to pursue even a modicum of happiness.

Signed,

The Democratic Party of the United States of America

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In a Season of Change– a Plea to Our New Mayor

Reemergence Meeting-Occupy Oakland

In October and early November Oaklanders look forward to warm weather, beautiful sunsets, and-fires and earthquakes. Oh, and election season.

This time last year I was walking the neighborhoods of West Oakland and Lake Merritt, flyering folks coming out of BART, and staying up late at night strategizing with other campaign staff, or the future mayor herself.

What a difference a year makes. Jean Quan, who I have known for many years-sometimes argued (loudly) with, strategized and broken bread many times with, is now mayor of this wonderful little city.

Jean Quan and her family have a long history of fighting for peace, union rights, ethnic studies, and human rights. They come from immigrant stock and Jean developed her skills against the backdrop of a single mom who couldn’t speak English.

The new mayor spent much of her childhood in public libraries and attended a renowned public university. She had to obtain scholarships even to survive her college years; and then almost didn’t get her degree due to being jailed in defense of ethnic studies.

Last year after the Mehserle verdict was handed down, Jean was accused by the police department of preventing them from dispersing the crowd down the block from City Hall. She had stood arm-in-arm with Rebecca Kaplan to separate protestors from the police in an attempt to defuse the situation.

Now, while she is out-of-town, after a morning in which the police department destroyed the village in Frank Ogawa- Oscar Grant Plaza-tearing up posters, pulling down a library, and arts and crafts and first aid tents, while manhandling sleeping protestors- OPD is in control of our city. The chief just held a press conference with his staff and Council Member de la Fuente was the only elected representative present.

After a blue tornado hits Occupy Oakland

Where is the rest of our governing council? Why did the most hands-on mayor we’ve ever seen let this happen while she was out-of-town? Why did she entrust our city’s fate to a department that may soon be in federal receivership for its cavalier attitude toward human rights?

For those of us who’ve long loved this city, who’ve worked here, raised our kids here, even sent them to school here-we can’t stand aside much longer while the police and their union runs roughshod over our citizens- good, bad  and the rest- just-tryin’-to- make-it folks.

Children at play at Occupy Oakland

And for those of us who walked and phoned day after day for the mayor-to-be…. Well, let me back up–I’ll just speak for me. When I was young, I spent a lot of time demonstrating against a president who turns out to have been one of the best of our time. He brought us civil rights-long overdue, Medicare- the first installment of single payer healthcare and other additions to the New Deal first promised by Franklin Roosevelt.

But Lyndon Johnson chose to listen to his hawkish advisers and follow counsel that he seemed to have known in his heart, was wrong. The country went to war at home as well as abroad and Johnson left office in disgrace.

Maybe that is a false historical analogy-I hope it is. But I see a police department that is out-of-control, and tonight I see a city under martial law. Come home Jean, and take charge.

We were able to build a caring community during your grassroots campaign, so it is no surprise to me that people, young and old, came to City Hall to design and build a new way of life. Oakland has always been a center of activism and experimentation. Your administration needs to honor that hope and nurture that change or you will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.