Friday, January 29, 2016

America, the country that should have been...

     After a long morning of active play, my granddaughter Sofia was tired and needed a nap -- so I read her to sleep with Rosemary Wells' magical book, "Voyage to the Bunny Planet".  This book almost always makes me cry.

     The plot is simple.  After a small girl named Claire has had a very bad day at school, the Queen of the Bunny Planet arrives and takes her away to "the day that should have been".  And this wonderful story of a day that should have been always gets me to thinking about America, the country that should have been.  And that's when my eyes start to well up.

     "In Canada, where I used to live," one mother at our YMCA playgroup told me this morning, "the parents of every single child are automatically given $400 a month to spend on housing, food, clothing or whatever else the child might need.  Every single child."

     In America, $400 per child is automatically spent on cold hard and steely killing machines to blow up and maim babies in Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, Ukraine, Columbine and Sandy Hook.

     "In Canada," the mom continued, "their pre-school daycare is heavily subsidized so that every family can afford to have their children attend quality daycare programs -- so that Canadian children can have a great start in life."

     In America, deadly weapons and hateful politicians and nuclear bombs and industrial pollution and war mongers and corrupt banksters and Wall Street casinos are highly subsidized instead.

     "In Canada, children are highly prized."  In America, more than 16 million children live below the poverty line and/or on the streets, in homeless shelters and in the back seats of hoopties.  Bunny Planet indeed. 

     Please please please, Bunny Queen, take me away now -- to America, the country that should have been.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Ozymandias & me: Lebanon, a crusader castle & The Abyss

     When I was a kid, I always wanted to become an archaeologist and travel to the Middle East to see pyramids and such.  Well, I certainly have traveled to the Middle East alright.  But so far all I've seen there is war, war and more war.  Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Syria, Afghanistan, Egypt and I forget where all else.  War has been going on in the Middle East for a whole bunch of years now.   And Western nations have been enthusiastically attacking the Middle East since way back in the day when Lawrence of Arabia was riding his camel through Hollywood.

     But attacks by the West on the Fertile Crescent and its surrounds have not just been going on since the 20th century.  The Romans also went there.  So did all those medieval Crusaders.  And yet, so many centuries later, there's not much proof left from those times that the West had ever even been in the Middle East at all.  

     And many years from now, there probably won't be any proof left that Eisenhower, Reagan, Bush, Obama, NATO or Netanyahu had been there either.  Sorry, guys.

     But recently I was lucky enough to see some real proof with my own eyes that actual medieval Crusaders had actually been in Lebanon nine centuries ago -- a wannabe archaeologist's dream come true.  I got to tour an old Crusaders' castle!  Wow, just wow.

     The whole castle was made of a quartz-like rock and practically glowed in the sunlight.  Quiet, windswept and lonely, set on top a hill, it was spooky-quiet there, almost like standing in an old-growth redwood forest -- that kind of silence, stillness and hush.  Just like Shelley's poem about Ozymandias, formerly known as the King of Kings.  "Round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, the lone and level sands stretch far away."  Only it was hills with trees on them that were stretching far away.

      And from the top of the castle, you could look down at Israeli neo-colonialists' "settlements" -- stretching far away too.  I was that close to the Golan Heights.

     Next I visited a place in southern Lebanon called "The Abyss," a completely different kind of military outpost.  This one was constructed back in 2006 when Israeli neo-colonialists, seeking to steal land in southern Lebanon, boldly invaded this area, totally confident that their overpowering Goliath-like military complex, one of the largest in the world, could take down some poorly-armed Davids in that region.  But boy was Goliath in for a big surprise.  He truly got his arse kicked.

     "When Ariel Sharon decided to invade Lebanon again, he thought that stealing our land would be like taking candy from a baby," said a former resistance fighter.  "But then Lebanese freedom fighters built tunnels under the hills and the resistance fought the Israeli invaders to a standstill, using only aging weapons from the 1960s and lots of heroism and grit.  70 Israeli tanks were disabled in a place now called 'The Abyss' and Sharon's troops were sent packing."

     So Ariel Sharon wasn't exactly Ozymandias either.  And neither is Netanyahu, NATO, Britain and/or the American military-industrial complex.  It appears that Middle Easterners, even after over twenty centuries, are still sort of touchy about having their land invaded by the West. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The NRA's fondest wet dream: A mass murder in every city in America!

     If I were the CEO of the National Rifle Association (which thankfully I am not because I don't wanna end up going to Hell), then drumming up more business for guns would be the first thing on my to-do list every day.

     First thing every morning, I'd call a meeting of my underlings and yell at them.  "We gotta start pushing the product!  Get off your lazy butts, guys.  Get out there and sell more weapons!"

     "But what about all those wars that we've already started in the Middle East?" asks the vice-underling-in-chief.  "For years now, we've lied through our teeth to get all those wars started and keep all those wars going.  Bosnia, Ukraine, Iran, Libya, Afghanistan, 9-11, Syria, Yemen, Palestine?  Even Vietnam!  We're selling thousands and thousands of guns a day right now.  Boss, you gotta give us credit for that."

     "Not nearly good enough," replies the stern CEO.  "What's a couple of trillion dollars here and there?  We need to sell MORE!"  Obviously there's a whole lot of yelling going on at this meeting.  Underlings shaking in their boots.  Nobody wants to lose their job.  What's to be done?  "In the next two years, I want every man, woman and child on this whole stinking planet to own at least one assault rifle and a couple of Glocks!" screams the CEO.

     "How about that we step up our sales right here in the USA?" suggests the CUO.  "That's a relatively untapped market.  Picture this -- everything this side of the Mississippi could become the new Middle East!" 

     Hmmm.  That could be done -- arrange for lots of lying and finger-pointing on the evening news.  Whites and geezers hating Blacks, Muslims, Lefties, Commies, women and kittens.  Turf wars between Boy Scouts, Mafioso, Sam's Club and Rotary!  Get the crazies stirred up.  "If we played our cards right," continues the CUO, "we could have at least one mass murder happening in every city and town in America!  Sales would skyrocket.  No gun left behind!  They'll have to double the Pentagon's budget just to protect New Jersey!  We're in."

     You've got to be carefully taught.

     "I like your thinking, young man -- guns instead of butter.  Just imagine.  Cold hard steel in every kitchen cupboard from Seattle to Key West!"  The meeting adjourns on a hopeful note and everyone scatters to their cubes, trying to think up which lies they can tell to get this party started.

     But, sadly, nobody can eat guns.

     On the other hand, however, there would be less people trying to eat them.

     And so the NRA rolls out its lies.  And more and more guns are sold in America.  And the NRA's fondest wet dream comes true -- mass murders in every city and town in America and trillions made in profits and America has indeed become the new Middle East.  That is, until the day comes when some disgruntled underling comes to work and shoots up the NRA's main office with his AK-47.  Sigh. 

     Do we really want to go here?  Apparently so.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Where have all the ISIS gone?

      To paraphrase that old Pete Seeger song, "Where have all the ISIS gone?  Gone to Turkey -- every one."  (Except of course for the ones who tried to return to Saudi Arabia, foolishly thinking that just because the House of Saud paid their salaries, they would be welcomed back home.)  "When will they ever learn?"

      American neo-colonialists have supposedly been bombing ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq for over a year now -- and during all that time ISIS has, coincidentally, been getting stronger and stronger.  However, Russia bombs ISIS for only three months and suddenly ISIS is gone!

      But where did ISIS go to? 

     According to journalist Finian Cunningham, "Also missing or downplayed in the Western media coverage of the truces across Syria is the question of where the surrendering mercenaries are being evacuated to.  They are not being bussed to other places inside Syria.  That shows that there is no popular support for these insurgents.  Despite copious Western media coverage contriving that the Syrian conflict is some kind of 'civil war' between a despotic regime and a popular pro-democracy uprising, the fact that surrendering militants have nowhere to go inside Syria patently shows that these insurgents have no popular base....

     "So where are the terrorist remnants being shipped to?  According to several reports, the extremists are being given safe passage into Turkey, where they will receive repair and sanctuary from the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – and no doubt subsidized by the European Union with its $3.5 billion in aid to Ankara to 'take care of refugees'".

     I mean seriously, President Erdogan, do the people of Turkey really want to have thousands of ISIS foreign fighters descending on them in mass -- men who have been raping, pillaging and beheading at will for the past four years?  Once a brigand, always a brigand?  Turkish citizens, sucks to be you.

     But several of the rumors I've been hearing lately suggest that many of these foreign fighters are also being shipped off to Afghanistan to join the Taliban as well.  Which brings up my next point.  After Russia destroyed the weapons supply lines to ISIS in Syria, ISIS was dead in the water within just three months.  So why are the Taliban still fighting on (and on) in Afghanistan after 14 long years?  Who is running weapons supply lines to them? 

     The Taliban aren't exactly manufacturing weapons back in the caves of Tora Bora, now are they?  Hardly.  But those weapons have to come from somewhere.  My guess is that the same weapons-manufacturers who have been supplying ISIS for the past four years have also been supplying the Taliban for the past 14 years.  Now who could that be?  It's definitely not Russia or Iran. 

      And why has it taken 14 years to cut off weapons supplies to the Taliban when Russia was able to cut off weapons supplies to ISIS in just three months?  Who the freak knows?  Certainly not me.  But if it were up to me, I would follow the money.  And I would start by asking myself just two questions.  "Which country is the largest manufacturer of weapons in the world today?" and "Why have heroin sales in Afghanistan increased forty-fold since America invaded it -- and what is that money being spent on?"

Monday, January 04, 2016

Who knows what goes on in the minds of babies

    Babies.  They are the most wonderful and important product we human beings can ever possibly manufacture or invent.  There is nothing in this world quite as wonderful as a baby's smile.  Nothing.

     The other day, I was going through some old boxes and stumbled across something entitled "Our Baby Book," filled with stories my mother had written about my own first few years of life.  Apparently I was a very happy baby.  Can you believe it?  Wow.  Somewhere along the line, I must have gotten the happy knocked out of me -- almost completely.

    Raising a child often just seems like a race to see how long our babies can last before they too get the happy knocked out of them.  In California, sometimes a baby can make it all the way through high school and even into college before that happens.

     In the Middle East, however, a baby's precious smile may only last a week or two before some American weapons manufacturer or oil baron wipes that smile right off of his or her face -- often along with the whole face as well.  But I digress.

     Reading my baby book has convinced me that birthing practices have really changed for the better since the time I was born.  "Daddy insists that our baby was born on a Wednesday," wrote my mother, "but I had too much ether to remember.  All I do remember is that some nurse kept yelling at me to keep my legs shut until the doctor got there, but I fought her off and shouted, 'No, this baby is coming!' and pushed the nurse out of the way."  That's my Tiger Mom for ya.

      And as for breastfeeding, the hospital apparently subtly discouraged that too.   "My new baby was brought in to nurse after three days," wrote my mother.  But then the doctor told her to give up trying to nurse because she was unable to produce any milk.  Yeah, well.  No surprise there.  After stalling around for three days before bringing me in, no wonder.  But then doctors back then thought that nursing a baby was disgusting -- either that or they were trying to sell Nestle's.  Or both.

     "Gave her ultra-violet ray treatments for a month when she was six months old.  Whooping cough shot at six months.  Tetanus and diphtheria shots at one year."  And those were all the shots that I got.  No comment about that.  I also got ten drops of "Oleum Percomorphum" daily.  Cod liver oil.

     Anyway, I obviously survived -- but only after many bouts with bronchitis, according to my baby book.  "At three months, she was underweight, soft and weak.  Every day, twice a day, I would massage her all over to strengthen her.  After four or five months of constant work and care, day and night, we finally brought her out of it.  Every night we rubbed her chest with warm camphorated oil, put on a flannel [shirt?], gave her cough medicine and burned tincture of Benzoin fumes."

     How much of this do I remember?  Nothing.  But who knows what goes on in the minds of babies?  They look into our eyes so intently that you start to think they must be Einstein or something.  And although we adults may choose to believe that babies are only contemplating eating and sleeping, the real truth is that nothing gets past a baby.

     How do I know?  Besides from constantly observing my granddaughter Sofia, the world's happiest baby?  Because I was hypnotized, that's how.  "You are going to remember as far back as you possibly can," the hypnotist told me.  And it worked.  Instantly I was back in the womb -- never wanted to leave.  But then I got unceremoniously kicked out and suddenly became dangerously cold and painfully lonely.  And then suddenly there was my mother, who kept me warm.  And then, later, there were my TOES.  Good grief, how much I loved my toes!  Who woulda thought that toes could make me so happy?

      And then my father came home from The War and my mother became unhappy and my father worked 14 hours a day and yelled at my mother and my older sister beat me up every day and we moved away from my mother's extended-family support system and -- by age seven, there was no more happy.

    Thank goodness the hypnotist brought me back out of that trance just in time!  It was like being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past.

     And now that I actually do know what goes on in the minds of babies, all I really want to do is start being really really nice to babies -- and go back to smiling at my toes.