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

Join the Friday Vigil at the Federal Building-We Refuse to Tolerate Ethnic Cleansing

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Press Advisory

Federal Building Vigil this Friday–We Refuse to Tolerate Ethnic Cleansing

Oakland, CA: On Friday, January 19th at noon the California Sanctuary Campaign, the Alameda County Immigration Legal & Education Partnership, Mujeres Activas Y Unidas, the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, CAIR-SF Bay Area, Haiti Action Committee, the Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque, Haiti Emergency Relief Fund, the Oakland Justice Coalition, Latino Task Force, Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the East Bay Young Dems, and the Coalition for Police Accountability will come together in front of the Oakland Federal Building to stand vigil against current White House policies which directly threaten the lives of people of color in this country and abroad.

According to Rev J Alfred Smith Jr of Allen Temple Baptist Church, “the president’s stated policies and actions will promote the ethnic cleansing of whole swaths of Black and Brown people whether native born, immigrant or refugee, seeking opportunity and the ability to raise their families in dignity. The president repeatedly makes racist and misogynistic statements which result in directives from his DOJ and the Congress while families are separated by federal authorities, children are left without healthcare, jails fill with our youth, and refugees are refused asylum.  We must take a moral stand against the president and his party before these destructive attitudes and actions do any more damage.”

The vigil is being held the day prior to the historic Women’s March which will take place in cities and towns across the country to assert that women’s rights are human rights. The vigil calls attention to the special jeopardy that women of color face as a result of current policies which threaten not only their economic well-being but their safety in the streets, at their workplaces, and in their homes.

We call on other cities to protest outside local federal buildings at noon on Friday, January 19th. If we cannot look to our president or the Congress to uphold the moral authority of our country’s stated values, then we must do it ourselves.

Contact: Pamela Drake, pamelaadrake@gmail.com, 510-593-3721

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The Mother of All Mistakes

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I started a blog last week and this was the headline and first paragraph-

Chronic Trump Fatigue Syndrome or what to do about Syria, Sessions, Gorsuch, Russia, the courts and more…  download (5)

On another dark and stormy night in Northern California reminiscent of the night before the Trump inauguration, Trump launched his biggest success since his election and installation-which-you remember was the biggest in history-period. He sent 59 cruise missiles onto a Syrian airfield (which remains mostly undamaged) and a few more children died as collateral damage but he won the ratings war.   I didn’t finish it before..

More crap happened

20170414_125740Fast forward to Thursday- I went to lunch with an expert on immigration law and while my comrades and I were learning how to combat the inhumane way our long term undocumented fellow citizens-I’m using that word quite on purpose-are being treated, our White House commander-in-chief told HIS military to go ahead and play with the best toys they got, firing off the MOAB-mother-of-all-bombs.

After the first missiles were launched to such rave reviews-while doing nothing to stop Assad’s attacks-our Hollywood president, decided to go bigger; and this time in a place where even fewer people would be there to document the damage.

He did this on the day after we all watched a man being casually brutalized for wanting to use his ticket to fly. It’s even kind of amazing that we still have the ability to be shocked when authorities take total advantage of us with impunity.

Some facebook friends of mine were startled (running out of words for this phenomenon) that the Chicago police so offhandedly described how the passenger had injured himself. But we see those videos all the time, cops firing at innocent drivers into cars with children in Black neighborhoods. (Heaves sigh, maybe it’s good that we still are somewhat in touch with our humanity.)

And while all this is going on in full color with terrible soundtracks, the new #Hollywoodtroll administration is threatening to unravel Obamacare which you may find out while trying to make a doctor’s appointment. They have also set course to defund Planned Parenthood so that the remaining care for women may disappear, amid discussions of cutting the payroll tax as a way of killing social security. And, of course, they are delegitimizing science and data collection in hopes that everything they do can be excused as necessary.

There’s lots more, this is just a short list from the last couple of days and doesn’t even refer to the rants by the #GhostoftheConfederacy Jeff Sessions who’s running the Department of No Justice for You, you filth (by the way, he didn’t actually say it, but it was in his transcript.) http://www.marketwatch.com/story/jeff-sessions-changes-prepared-speech-to-not-call-criminal-illegal-immigrants-filth-2017-04-11

So, what about the possibility of starting a war with North Korea? I almost had in-laws, or my son did, in Seoul and I can’t help but think of a little girl there in the bosom of her family. While Kim Jong Un is a human rights criminal, he is not stupid. Any small country who wants to oppose ours, would do well to arm themselves to the hilt-except, of course, when the US is run by a criminal too, one with no concept of humanity, oh well.

Phew, it may have helped me to get all this down, but now it’s out of my head and into yours. What to do, what to do…?

I’m thinking that maybe we’re lucky that he has gotten, the #Trumptroll I mean, so crazy so fast. Americans of heart, Americans with brains, hell, Americans with any sense at all, have just gotten Woke and will hopefully, Stay Woke, https://www.bustle.com/articles/134893-what-does-woke-mean-theres-more-to-the-slang-term-than-you-think. They are rallying, marching, making signs and art, hashtags and laws to oppose this crazy shit.  Watch this for some fun.

 https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2017/04/12/you-lie-constituents-just-used-rep-joe-wilsons-own-line-against-him/?utm_term=.092ef17ca9f9

Attitudes and Info for our times-

*Stay skeptical but resist cynicism

*Recognize absurdity and laugh at authority, media and yourself.

Check this out-  http://www.vox.com/2017/4/3/15163170/strikethrough-comedians-satire-trump-misinformation and this-  http://www.danajerimaier.com/writing/resist

*Resist authority when you see it taking advantage of the vulnerable, in a plane, on a train, in town, in a gown (where is Dr. Seuss when we really need him) and everywhere your eyes and mind take you.

*Try saying “Stop that,” at casual abuse.

**When cruelty becomes fashionable, remain kind.

Oh this one is so hard. I wanna go to Berkeley tomorrow (April 15th, if you don’t know, I won’t clue you in) and punch a fascist but then I remember 1) I don’t know how to throw a punch and 2) it would probably just make me angrier and not change a thing. But, I didn’t say I don’t fantasize revenge….  195bbff98d0c993afffae301f74ac97c

*Self Care is important but planetary care is even more important

*Or How I learned to Embrace Anxiety Disorder and Love the Chaos...

We in the First World, whose homes are not being blown out from under us and whose air is still breathable-we who spend more hours worrying about obesity and eating right- than watching our children starve, well, we already know about long walks in nature and booting up our kindles to a good mystery.  20170414_125826.jpg

Naivete is OK but Ignorance is not.

*My best antidote to being overwhelmed is information. For a couple years now I have been very disturbed by the conflagration in Syria and our ability to ignore it-it’s going into its 7th year!

I saw Progressives taking sides without really knowing how it all came about-it’s not all false flags, folks. Then I looked up Phyllis Bennis, wise, kind but full of hard knowledge. Read this-  https://www.thenation.com/article/the-war-in-syria-cannot-be-won-but-it-can-be-ended/  I’m also reading journalist, attorney and Syrian-American, Alia Malek’s new book which I got out of the Oakland library,  http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25898173-the-home-that-was-our-country The Home That Was Our Country.

*Watch https://news.vice.com/ . If you don’t get HBO, just check out Vice News online. They have brief and in depth stories from all over the world. It is really important to get news that’s not straight #MSM, main-stream-media.

*Social media is important-

Sequestering yourself may work for a time, but jumping into the political fray works better for me. Instead of yelling at the TV, I yell or joke or carp on twitter or instagram. Yeah, I work, I’m active in  many organizations, read, go out to dinner, well, maybe I let 20170414_125435the dishes sit a little longer-but there is still time for social media and it’s a necessary part of participating in politics.

 

Except for this-

Stop wasting time with the Hillary vs Bernie argument, progressive puhllease

I’m glad Bernie is still in the Senate and taking an active role but he’s not my hero. I’m also glad that Hillary speaks out, given her knowledge and background, but she will never be my candidate again. That’s all over and we’ve discussed what went wrong ugh nauseum.

In all the bad news, I forgot to promote our progressive California legislature-doing things like making California a Sanctuary State, working to rid of us the unfair bail system,  promoting single payer healthcarehttp://www.latimes.com/politics/essential/la-pol-ca-essential-politics-updates-spring-break-in-canada-california-1492029238-htmlstory.html . Rather than isolate us from other states, we should use this struggle as a model and, btw, New York just passed free college, well kind of   https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/11/nyregion/new-yorks-free-tuition-program-will-help-traditional-but-not-typical-students.html?_r=0. 

**Let’s breath deeply, let’s hug each other and take in a movie together, and then let’s fight like hell in the most creative, outlandish and life affirming ways we didn’t know we had in us**

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A Common Sense Primer for Candidates and Newly Electeds in Oakland and Beyond

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We’re in the midst of the silly season, the heartless fall festival of campaigns, consultants, pundits, endorsement battles and, oh yes, the candidates themselves, trying to find a way to survive it all. Someone recently said, a good campaign consultant should study marketing, not poli sci, so true. It’s the Gotcha Season!

Make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

1)So here’s some basic advice from an old hand at local politics.Yeah, I know with 24 hour social media and in an atmosphere where a candidate for president gets excoriated for being off line for 90 minutes, it all seems local and there’s some truth to that. But, again, first off, make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

If you suspect that they have already stereotyped you or taken a dislike based on your race, gender, political leaning or just your inability to smile for 2 or 3 hours straight, your instincts may be right.

In fact, they probably are-all the more reason to woo them. Pretend they are puppies or babies or your mother-in-law (okay maybe not that) just coo gently and share a not too intimate but just intimate enough anecdote so they know you’re human and that they’re in on the joke.

Do not make enemies of the press or ignore their importance now if you hope to have a political future. I have seen it happen again and again and so have you. Your grandmom was right about first impressions, you can’t make them later.

Having grown up with a mom in the biz, I happen to enjoy working with reporters. And remember, they’ve been downsized too and have to do the work of many nowadays. Make it easy for them and they will bless you.

And whatever you do once in office, don’t run complaining to a reporter you haven’t thanked twice or given at least one scoop to. Don’t demand a retraction, just give an appropriate reaction. You’ve developed a relationship so you might say-more in sorrow than in anger, why, my friend?

Do you have an  elevator pitch? Are you ready with a soundbite?

2)Why are you running? Can you explain it to your teenage daughter? Ok, maybe that’s too hard but do you have an  elevator pitch, a sales talk that keeps the door from being slammed in your face? If not, why do I care?

And, if you’re running against an incumbent, why should I even bother to consider you if you can’t differentiate yourself from the guy or gal I already know, and though I may dislike her, I know what he cares about, what they can do for me. So practice that 30 second, 1 or 2 minute blurb in the mirror or use your phone to record it and get ready with a soundbite or two that a voter or a reporter can take away from any meeting with you.

3)How’s your voice? Don’t talk down in your chest, no froggy throat, don’t talk softly or engage in uptalk (mostly a woman thing-always questioning ourselves). It goes without saying-cut out the ums and yaknows-or does it?

Stand up and speak with authority but warmth. As we’ve learned, all this is double edged for women, be authoritative but not a know-it-all. Smile but don’t seem flirtatious, sigh.

You’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds.

You may have a lot of knowledge of the intricacies of say, the budget or the park department, but no one wants to see the engine, they just wanna know that you can drive the machine. And, for all you helpful friends, writing campaign pieces before the consultant gets hired. No, you’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds. Yeah, I said that.

What are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it?

Here’s the thing, voters may be wowed by your knowledge and some voters will be able to glean that you know something about what your are proposing to do–BTW, I’m not one to suggest pivoting away from tough questions because that’s dishonest and I hate that-a surprising number will not be able to tell. The bottom line for voters is always-what are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it. Make sure you’ve told them, and they can go home and tell their roommate, spouse or doggie pal (elevator pitch.)

Every teacher learns how to read her classroom, so read your audience-eyes glazing over, move on or punch it up a bit.

What’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park?

3b) So yeah, everybody loves their kids and you’re here to make it better for the little ones but remember-between the cost of rent and the cost of college these days-lots of the little ones are dogs, cats, ferrets, whatever, what’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park. Do you have a picture with your pet?

4)Learn to delegate BUT, the first calls for endorsements are yours to make. If it’s someone you really need, absolutely don’t delegate. I thought everyone knew this but, no, they don’t. Sorry to tell you, but even a great fundraiser will order you to make the big money calls and lots of the smaller ones (Yeah, they’re the boss on that.)

5)Oh, endorsements, they’re so important. Actually, not really. Now some are very useful. In these parts, it’s Barbara Lee’s. Get to know her Advisory Committee members, nuff said. And BTW, don’t make up any endorsements you don’t have.

Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

6)But, all the clubs and organizations out there can’t win it for you, they won’t probably give all the time, money or volunteers they sorta promised you. If a voter is in that organization, ok, that works for them. So make the rounds but don’t freak out about it. Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list. Wait let me say it again-Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

Ok, now you’ve won, you’ve got a pile of debt, you’re exhausted, your family is done with you and your neighbors are wondering what they should call you.

7)First, thank everyone by name who did anything you know about in your campaign. As soon as you’re done thanking them and not before, start asking them to help you pay off your debt OR ask them to volunteer to help set up your office depending on their skill set, wallet.

8)You’ll need an advisory committee and maybe a kitchen cabinet too. While it may sound like work, it’s like making preparations for a trip and this experience is just that-trippy. So while your volunteers are still happy that they got you in office (cause they did, without them you wouldn’t have made it) ask them to join your advisory group, transitional or permanent, whatever. Get someone to head up your office volunteers now. Ask her yourself and make sure he knows how much you rely on them, etc.

You will find that once you are in office, you will be loved by some, hated by some, avoided by others, but most of your constituents will NOT hang on your every decision. They will however, hone in on your every mistake, perceived mistake (perception is reality in politics, it’s a law of nature) or faux pas. Maybe I should have mentioned this item first but you knew this wasn’t for the faint of heart, the lazy or those lacking in ego.

You, of course, want to make bold decisions, take us in a new direction, invent the cure for cancer, uh, got carried away there but you will too. Then you find out that no one knows what the problem really is and why they should care or that the solution eludes you and the 200,000 people who came before you or it is made at the county, state, federal, or cosmic level.

If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet, you need one now.

9)So now you learn that even bold decisions that can work, can have some effect and– those that can get another 4 or however many votes needed, may piss off a lot of folks. So here’s what you do-get your advisory committee to hold neighborhood hearings-of course you’re there but you’re listening. If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet-your most trusted advisors who love you but won’t take your shit-you need one now. Cause they have your back but will also give it to you, right between the eyes when you least want to hear it.

You’ve made that decision, moved ahead on that project, you’ve even invited your harshest critic in the press into your office for a picnic lunch with you, just you,  to explain why you did it and why you need his/her/their help to get the word out there.

If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

10)Now, it’s time to remember that your constituent work is the most important work you can do. If you came into office as a policy wonk who was gonna reorganize the world or just your town, start with the problems in the neighborhoods that you can fix. If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

Here’s where your volunteer coordinator pays off as she wields the phones in your office with knowledgeable neighbors who can make sure everyone’s questions got answered, their problems got to the right person or the issues got reported to you and at least acknowledged-acknowledgement, it’s what everyone wants, what everyone needs.

If you got elected to an office with staff…

11)And one more thing. If you got elected to an office with staff, unlike, say, the school board (then see item 8) make sure to hire staff that complement you and each other. No, no, I don’t mean they say, “you must’ve lost weight, you look great,” nice though that is.

If you’re a wonky guy or gal, it’s tempting to hire a know-it-all just like you but don’t. Now you need that people person who remembers everyone’s name or at least is willing to chat folks up when you don’t feel like it. But if you’re a warm-hearted soul with no mind for details, then hire the wonky know-it-all to help you with complicated policy, don’t shy away from it because of your discomfort.

Remember not to make them mirror images of you.

Just make sure your office is well-rounded, yes the genders, ethnicities, and neighborhoods/districts should be considered first.Not only should your office reflect your constituents, it should reflect your potential constituents, but just remember not to make them mirror images of you. Too much of a good thing, etc..

Now, go out and make us all proud and don’t forget where you came from or you’ll be back there sooner than you think.

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Contradictions R Us

Design by Rha Bowden, "Co-Exist"

Design by Rha Bowden, “Co-Exist”

It’s head exploding time in these United States and maybe in Venezuela, too. As Rachel Maddow declared it’s another day “in which all of this news does not seem possible.” I started writing about about the various and opposing views of Hugo Chavez who just died and whose legacy is being discussed on the social media and the MSM (mainstream media), but social media, as usual, is more interesting and more nuanced.

But only just. Being “friends” with so many folks on the Left or at least left of center, wherever the hell that is now in times of challenging women’s right to birth control and the right to vote for folks who waited for hundreds of years before even getting to register, I have read a lot of tributes on my news feed. Then a bunch of disagreements started to pop up and as one wag, radio critic, Matthew Lasar wrote, “Hugo Chavez was a wonderful monster who destroyed and saved Venezuela, which will never recover from his life/death.”

Now I am not, I repeat, not, an expert on Hugo Chavez but I did admire his chutzpah and his ability to completely change the conversation in Venezuela and around the world. As the first person of Native and African origins to be elected in his country, he gave the populace who looked like him a reason to hope.

He told the world that the most valuable resources of his county, oil, belonged not to international corporations, but to the people of that country. He thumbed his nose at baseball owners who were used to running a plantation system where young players were treated as commodities not people.

He also shut down newspapers and went after opposition press. He spent his country’s wealth on literacy and health clinics AND goodies for his friends and family(so they say). For Americans, for whom the MSM’s version of a dictator or strong man who terrorized the (wealthy) newspaper owners who fomented  (funded) a failed coup against him, he wast billed as both scary and a clown. Well, if the first image didn’t work to belittle him, the other surely would do the trick.

For many of us regular viewers of the MSM who don’t read the Nation as often as we watch cable news but hated Bush-he was a breath of fresh air. When he told the UN, “Yesterday, the devil came here. Right here. Right here. And it smells of sulfur still today.” Well, Mastercard, that really was priceless.

Now that he is gone, no matter what he did or did not do, many of us fear for his countrymen and for the help he lent to other countries. But we have enough problems dealing with our own politicians and the policies of two parties beholden to corporate CEOS and their boards.

Now along comes Rand Paul and more head exploding politics, personalities, and contradictions. I listened to part of his filibuster against possible murderous drone strikes in the US on KPFA. Rand Paul on KPFA should have been enough to hurl me into migraine territory much less the fact that I found myself nodding along with him.

When I later caught Lawrence O’Donnell on MSNBC haranguing against Paul’s long speech and describing him as a mad man, I got more confused and bewildered. Then O’Donnell asked his guests to join him in berating the “stark raving mad” Paul; but they declined and went on to talking about the president giving out his secret list of terrorists who may be killed (Ryan Grim, HuffPo) and bringing attention to the use of drones (EJ Dionne). Then we got to hear Republicans like John McCain and Lindsey Graham denouncing Paul for implying this president was that horrible??

At that point I had to finish eating my whole day’s ration of chocolate before my brain shut down. This morning I read that Eugene Robinson agreed with Rand Paul and almost went into a coma writing it (I’m only imagining that).

At least Eric Holder has now stated that no, we won’t be doing that unless of course there’s a little caveat to that statement like, unless necessary. I never even got the wonderfulness of drone attacks in other countries against people without my grocery-store-surfing-third-world-exploiting-talents-and passport-owning-non-burka-wearing-music-downloading rights who might be attending a wedding with the wrong entourage, never mind the bad bridesmaids dresses. I never really felt good as an American about our apparently god-given technologic advances that are making this all possible.

It seems that now some Americans are waking up to a few of these new threats. Back to facebook and twitter, and tumblr, and whatever else they invented last night that I haven’t found out about yet, there’s Bradley Manning and Aaron Swartz, and, oh for those of us in the Bay, KPFA’s contradictions could fill, well, many a book-as they already have.

One thing I want to know though. If we voters elected Barack Obama, he of the brightest smile since JFK, and of the drones, and the I-could-cut-a-little-out-of-your-social-security-checks for the sake of the deficit which happened because people are out of work , which happened because the investment bankers ponzied us all out of a living, not our greedy grannies and grandpas buying their cat food; if we (yes, this is the definition of a run-on sentence) could vote for him because we recognized the scariness of the other guy or just because the other guy wore mom-jeans, then why can’t we learn to live with the contradictions??

I, for one, maybe you for another, don’t want to be caught using all my energy hating a president the way I did in the 60’s who turns out to have been probably the best one in my lifetime. After all, LBJ gave us Medicare and food stamps, and the Voting Rights Act which we may now be losing.

I don’t want to be in long arguments against a now dead president of a country I have never visited.

I don’t want either to read about my mayor (you knew I’d get around to that) and wonder  if she were either a head breaking, proponent of police violence or a criminal-coddling-cry- baby-liberal, neither of which comes close to the person I know who has ably engineered a budget that has maintained our libraries, youth and senior services through a deep Recession.

What’s my point-ferkrissakes-how would I know while my head explodes?!The only guess I have would be that these are tough, volatile times. They come close to the polarization of the 60’s which means I am now too old to be trusted anyway. Sometimes I don’t trust myself so I have to back up, study a little more, write it all out or paint it or whatever works and then be responsible for what I say, write, and do, how I am in the world.

I need to figure out how to live with the contradictions of loving my president while fearing his power, his mentors, and his isolation from people like me. I need a place to mourn the loss of a charismatic leader who spit in the eye of the world’s most powerful states. I need to listen to my enemies and, more importantly, resist the need to have enemies and the desire to have heroes.

By the way, Happy International Women’s Day!