The below blog is my essay that was published by the Maine Writers & Publishers Association. http://p0.vresp.com/ZRfiyq  I highly recommend the U-Tube video near the end of the essay. Per usual, let me know your thoughts. The journal, The Peavey, is named after a tool used by loggers in days of old.

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Detachment.

I enjoy The Peavey. How could anyone who enjoys writing and reading not enjoy The Peavey. One reads about all kinds of writers. They are retirees. They are young like Tracy K. Smith. Then there are all those scribblers in-between.

Scribblers. Yes. Scribblers all. I say it with the very best of intentions. Trying to reach people with the written and spoken word. How important is that? Very important. It is at the essence of culture. It is one of the activities that we do and the content reflects all the other doings of humans.

Still that word surfaces. Detachment.

The genre is all over the place. That’s a healthy thing. Right? Do you agree? Mystery, memoir, fantasy, and sci-fi are there. There are the broadest of categories e.g. fiction, nonfiction, and poetry.

Still, that feisty, somewhat ugly word reappears. Detachment. It’s just around the corner. It won’t go away.

The Peavey celebrates success. How important is that? Extremely important. The big time publishers narrow their production to those who make them the most money. Profit was always part of their motivation. Now it is everything. They celebrate profit. Wealth has concentrated everywhere.

Celebrating the successes, big and small, of the 99% of the rest of us takes on added importance. This applies not only to writers but also to independent publishers as Sophia Khan pointed out.

When you ponder it, none of what is going on in publishing is that surprising. Now you have to be among the 1% to run for political office or at a minimum, have the backing of sectors of that group. Maybe the 0.1% would be more accurate as one climbs the political ladder to “success”. That usually means the fossil fuel boys.

Those last two paragraphs may seem like a digression. They are not. It scares me. Politics is about power. There is a whole bunch of power rapped up in who gets published and who doesn’t. Power is deciding not only who gets published but also what gets published. They go together like the old horse and carriage. It’s about content.

It is also why detachment scares me. It goes far beyond the writing and reading world. But, I fear, we can be participants in separating ourselves so far from this moment in time.

Are we separating ourselves from our readers? Alienation, or is it estrangement, is bad for any relationship.

Detachment. It haunts mind, body, and soul.

And this moment in time is dark, and getting darker. Citizens, rising to protect our youth, Muslim in this case, are slashed to death. African Americans are gunned down in a church. An LGBQ bar is a target.

The President-to-be mocks a handicapped reporter. A Congressional candidate in Montana attacks a reporter. The candidates are elected. What?

Ever wonder where terrorists come from? Ideology? Of course, but what is the material basis for this gobbledygook to stick to ribs? Foreign troops and bombs will do just fine. A President more than willing to stoke racist embers adds to the mix.

“ . . .when you are being attacked, when bombs are falling around you, planes are hovering over your head, when your life is in danger and you are scared, it is so easy to look up to the sky and feel abject, boiling hatred for the people doing this to you, and you curse them out.” (Looking For Palestine, Najla Said, 2013)

Courageous Mainers demonstrate at Bath Iron Works. Their protest is aimed at the product, not the hands that do the work. Aegis Destroyers carry missiles that destroy lives in the Middle East. The President says bombs away. Lives taken. More terrorists created.

A Maine artist objects to it all. He demonstrates and is arrested. He painstakingly explains it all, including the damage to sea life these destroyers wrought through sonic waves. He shows his anguish through his sculpting:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BUQonAjTAA&feature=youtu.be

Mainers are resisting, marching, demonstrating. Do we know it? Do we hear it? Do we see it? Do we write it? Do we feel it? Do we publish it?

It is time to end the detachment. No more aping the big time book sellers and publishing houses. Detachment must be replaced. By what?

Resistance.

Resist what you might say? The content. Resist war, misogyny, racism, white nationalism, and terrorism, especially the homegrown variety. Resist violence, whether at a ball field, in a train, mall, or church. Resist militarism.

A welder has tools. So have we. We’re writers. We’re booksellers. We’re publishers. We’re printers. We’re storytellers.

Unite. Organize.

Detachment haunts.

Resist!

TRUMP – HOW DID WE GET HERE?

“We can either have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” 

  • Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis

How did we get here? There recently was a Trump White House rose garden celebration to inform us that a bill passed that will make healthcare “beautiful”. Then we learned that 24 million people would be cut from healthcare with this bill.

But wait a minute. A bill was not passed! It only squeaked by the House of Representatives by four votes. It still needed a majority vote by the Senate. How did we get here?

In 1984, George Orwell wrote, “ . . .the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of life had got to be accepted . . .” Are we living through a dystopia? How did we get here? There’s more. Much more.

We were told that a Trump Administration would end the cycle of endless wars. Then U.S. Aegis destroyers launched 60 cruise missiles into Syria. This was followed by the military, which seems to have carte blanche from this administration, dropping an enormous bomb, the biggest short of nuclear, in Afghanistan. How did we get here?

Let’s follow this last point with a dollop of latter-day 20th century history. It was the Carter (D) Administration (late 1970s) that helped arm terrorists to overthrow what was then a nascent socialist government in Afghanistan. Oh yeah, who was the leader of those Afghan terrorists? The Saudi Osama Ben Laden.

In the 1980s, the Reagan Administration (R) gleefully picked up the flow of money and arms to terrorists. The USA sold missiles to an extreme religious, ultranationalist government in Iran. Yes, it was illegal. Using those monies, the CIA funded another group of thugs in Nicaragua to overthrow a socialist orientated government there.

Reagan’s Vice-President, George Bush senior (R), said we had to break the “Vietnam Syndrome”, meaning the peace strivings of our citizens in the USA. As president, he led the first, modern day, full-blown military invasion (1990-1) of the Mideast. That was Iraq War I.

President Bill Clinton (D) picked up the baton with the war (mid-1990s) in the Balkans and the break up of socialist Yugoslavia. Gas pipelines were part of the prize there. Entering the new millennia, George Bush junior (R) pushed for yet another war in Iraq. The facade was torn away. It was blood for oil – Iraq War II.

You may have noticed fossil fuels, along with generating failed state scenarios, pop up quite often in our history. It has deep roots. Let’s go to the other side of the 20th century.

In 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vice-president Henry Wallace (D) was pushing for peace with the Soviet Union following the defeat of fascism in WWII. He called for “a Century of the Common Man.” Those who wanted “An American Century” had other ideas.

In the same year, oil millionaire and Democratic Party Treasurer Edwin Pauley muscled Harry Truman into the vice-presidency. When FDR died in April of 1945, Truman, not Wallace, assumed the presidency. The “bomb”, the Cold War, and imperialist policies of “An American Century” followed.

In 1953, the CIA engineered the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran. Why? He was leading the charge to nationalize the oil fields there. The hated and empowered Shah (king) proceeded to destroy the progressive Left. So when the Iranian people revolted in 1979, their choice of who would take power was restricted. Thus extreme right wing religious elements took power.

Why does it seem Mid-Eastern countries have such constrained choices between dictators, religious fanatics and/or terrorists? Because, as the Iran example shows, imperialists worked overtime to destroy any Left progressive parties.

That “story” was repeated throughout the Mid-East. The latest example was the rebellion in Egypt. With the left repressed and too small to be an effective organizational force on the national scene, right-wing military elements took over.

Back to the 1990s.

A peace dividend was to flow from the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. The military alliances, the Warsaw Pact and NATO, would dissolve. The War Saw Pact did. NATO? Imperialism, from a position of strength, did the opposite. NATO remained and expanded. Led by U.S. imperialism, we have the Iraq and Afghanistan wars outlined above. Libya happened. Now add the chaos in Yemen, Somalia, and Syria. More “failed states” to come?

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John Wojcik, editor of the Peoples World and vice-president of the Labor Journalists Association, was in Berlin recently. On a car trip to see a friend, he saw vehicles going at warp speed on an adjoining highway. They were U.S. tanks. Where were they going? To the border of Lithuania and Russia.

So we have two nuclear powers facing each other as tensions grow between the USA and Russia.

With Donald Trump (R) in the presidency, we have a situation even more dangerous than the Truman (D) presidency of yore. Steve Bannon et al have Rex Tillerson, former (yeah right) CEO of Exxon/Mobil, directly in the seat of Secretary of State. More blood for oil will surely follow without a growing and massive peace contingent in the Resisitance movement.

George Orwell, in 1984, also added, “ . . . war becomes literally continuous.” With proto-fascists prowling the White House, the dysfunction (fascism loves chaos) can morph into our children and grandchildren living through a dystopia with us. We can’t let it happen.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

RESIST!!!

P.S. You may have noticed much chaos being reported out of Venezuela. Its developing socialist government has the largest oil reserves in the world.

 

 

My Grandmother’s Radio

My maternal grandmother’s radio was a fascination of my beginning years in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Out of this mysterious box, which was about as big as I was, came “The Lone Ranger Rides Again” and “The Shadow Knows.” I waited every night with bated breath, as if on a magic carpet, to be swept away on some surprise adventure.

Like some creepy Cyclops, the radio had a single eye. It seemed to follow me no matter what corner in our living room I attempted to hide. My gosh, the eye even turned colors!

We were the beneficiaries of this wonderful entertainment because my grandparents were living with us. One day I asked my Mom why they didn’t have a house of their own. After all, I was always told of their business acumen. They had owned a small shoe store. I got a two-word answer. “The Depression.” It was followed by, “They lost everything.”

I grasped the answer easily. I had the evidence in front of me. My grandparents once had a large house on the south side of Waterbury, Connecticut. Now, they lived in one room of our rented apartment in the working class north end. Economics 101. Easy.

 

What I came to know gradually over decades is that both my grandmother and that radio held some other important historical lessons. For more context let’s zoom ahead to 2006.

I was fortunate to be in Oxford, England for a gathering of science educators from all over the world. My wife and I met a Japanese couple whom we exchanged life stories. We were riveted to the woman’s story from her youth.

Tiffany was kept in an interment camp during WWII. She did not dwell on it but the stories made a lasting impact on me. (Don’t miss the impact of the camps on a crew member of the Starship Enterprise https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeBKBFAPwNc   ) My mind drifted to my grandmother, an immigrant of Italy.

In the early 1940s, I’m told secret service agents visited our home. They confirmed my grandmother’s immigrant status. The agents then proceeded to solder a section of the radio’s dial that could pull in foreign signals. Apparently they were concerned Mussolini’s fascist diatribes would reach our families ears. I can imagine my grandmother’s horror and dismay. Did she feel responsible for the chaos and invasive action of those agents?

What those agents didn’t know was that my grandmother was apolitical. She once implied that the Kaiser (See previous blog.) was the reason she left Italy. That’s it. I don’t recall another political utterance.

The latest immigrant scapegoats are followers of Islam and Mexicans. Protecting them is one aspect of save-guarding the constitutional rights of all of us.

The husband of that Japanese couple is, besides a botanist and educator, an accomplished plant photographer. We received a wonderful gift from him. It was a picture of a series of flowers.

Every time my eyes glance at that photograph, I also see Tiffany and sense some of the indignities experienced in those camps. I see my grandmother. Then the millions trying to escape the ravages of war and climate change from Africa, Syria, and points eastward, come into view.

Can we call ourselves human beings if we just continue with our daily lives in face of these human and environmental disasters? Do we sit idly by while a sad and dangerous character, who wants to promulgate all these, walks the halls of the White House?

That’s the misogynist who says he doesn’t believe in climate change as if science was a belief and not about data and theories that congeal out of that data. Climatologists don’t believe in anthropogenic climate change. They accept the inferences that flow from data. The burning of fossil fuels is causing rapid climate disturbances.

Yet the President of the United States does not believe in climate change. In the background, I hear Pete Seeger singing, “When will they ever learn.”

There are many marches and demonstrations now in our country. It’s not just what people know, it’s how quickly they will come to know and act on that knowledge. Much to do.

Generals, billionaires, along with the Alt-Right, are marching into the administration of our country. Smelling the political air, this essay made its way to the surface.

Running With Iron Heels

This past spring I was camping and hiking in the Taconic range with a good friend. We walked and talked while soaking in the beautiful terrain of those green mountains.

Such excursions are important. They transport us physically. They also transport us mentally. The humdrum of everyday life fades as rolling hills and valleys come into view.

We are lucky in Connecticut. Beautiful, green woodlands, rivers, and an ocean surround us. We can choose the company of beautiful, caring people.

What can slip by almost unnoticed is that others are out there. They have a different view of what surrounds us. They see ugly everywhere.

African Americans are shot down, with regularity, in our streets. Some see injustice, others see genetics. Some see the continuance of hundreds of years of oppression and struggle. Others let fear consume them.

Fossil fuel pipelines ram through lands, from New England to Indian sacred spaces. Some see centuries of stealing land, religious violations, environmental degradation, and fight-back. Others see maintaining a lifestyle. More dangerously, the 0.1% sees major profits threatened with protests of the former.

Bombs are dropped an ocean away. People migrate. Some see state terror, a humanitarian disaster, and struggle. Some hear only “terrorists” and seek revenge.

People see, and maybe feel, these differences. The “others” handle them in different ways. A peek into our family’s 20th century histories may elucidate some of this. Let’s try mine.

In 1907, two sets of people made there way from the Apennine mountain range above Naples, Italy, to the USA. One, the Ciarlone’s, had a business orientation. The other, the Iannielli’s, was among the vast peasantry of those times. In relative order, the Scarpitti’s and Summa’s completed each set of the pairings. Children arrived, eight to be exact, from each pairing. Included among those offspring were my parents.

Why did my grandparents leave their homeland? After all, it’s not an easy do. Ever get that uncomfortable feeling when away from the familiarity of home? That sense of place comes into play. No. Not easy.

As a youngster, I asked that question. My maternal grandmother gave me a hint with a wonderful Italian inflection and waving an open hand in the air. It consisted of two words. “The Kaiser!”

That two-word answer and the move across the big pond took a bit of time to grasp in any full way. My experiences on the home front during the U.S. War in Vietnam helped. (For more on those experiences see

https://www.createspace.com/4330714

 

Later I got an assist from famed biologist Stephen Jay Gould. Here’s what I learned.

Before World War I (1914-1918), Vernon L. Kellogg was an entomologist (insects) at Stanford University, California, a pacifist; he became an official in Belgian relief work. In this capacity, he somehow ended up being among the German high command, including the Kaiser. Wilhelm II was the last Emperor (Kaiser) of Germany and King of Prussia (Parts of Germany and much land heading eastward).

Many of the German officers were involved in higher education before the war. They saw the war as a natural outgrowth of human behavior. These officers saw natural selection, a la Charles Darwin and evolution, as dictating violent competition among peoples.

The group of people representing the highest evolutionary stage, in their minds Germans, would prevail. Kellogg was so sufficiently horrified that he abandoned pacifism and supported the war against Germany as the only way, in his considered opinion, to stop them.

What Kellogg stumbled on here is one of the best examples of the perversion of evolutionary theory. It resulted in a crude form of social Darwinism. In other words, war erupts from our DNA.

We now know that redivision of the world for colonial plunder was a driving force for both sides of those wretched trenches. In other words follow the money, or better, the profits. When normal politics could not settle differences, war followed.

History had more to unfold, especially in Germany. In the years following World War I, much of the above crude social Darwinism became incorporated into Nazi ideology with a vengeance. That ideology, mixed with racism, ran amuck with extreme nationalism.

The Nazi Party actually started in the mountains of Germany in the 1920s. They nurtured a crude form of nationalism born of the disaster of WWI, social Darwinism, and with a questing religious fervor. The crash of 1929, unemployment and disgust with “big” government brought them into the cities and looking for a savior. They found Adolf Hitler and bankers willing to solve problems with an iron heel. WWII followed.

 

There is a fundamental difference in the mindset of the groupings of people mentioned at the beginning of this writing. Some hope to peacefully and thoughtfully grabble with war, racism, environmental degradation, and the injustice of it all. Others? They run with iron heels.

Politically, one outlook says let’s protest nonviolently, dialogue, and peacefully negotiate. The others say let’s protest violently, take people off voter roles, and stomp on those fighting injustice with that iron heel, including the use police/military force.

The iron heels, the fascist axis that took state power in Germany, Italy, and Japan in the 1920s and 1930s, were defeated in WWII. Its cost was 60 million lives and many fragmented ones. But hints that the outlook guiding those iron heel states had penetrated the USA were around us. The twin ideological weapons of fascism were at work.

The Soviet Union, an ally and friend during WWII, quickly became labeled an enemy, then later an evil empire. Anyone remotely associated with the recent ally was considered part of the “red menace” and a spy. U.S. State institutions pursued communists with a vengeance as well as others interested in peace and social justice.

Japanese living in the USA, and Japanese Americans, were treated differently from German and Italian immigrants. Internment camps were set up. (Don’t miss this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeBKBFAPwNc ) African Americans remained under intense segregation, with lynchings and other violence visited upon them.

 

Let’s go back to bucolic Connecticut. We bathe in the suave of greenness. We need the caressing arms of nature. We need the company of caring people. The point here is that we can’t get lost in it.

We have to engage other outlooks. Some don’t want the iron heel approach to solve problems but don’t see the danger. We need to revisit the 1920s and 1930s, and shake out the causes, and lessons, of WWII.

There is hope all around us. We do have to take the time to see it. I met a welder recently who had drawn healthy lessons from her work experiences. She adamantly opposed Trump.

A fisherman once told me, “they make you not want to care.” This woman went in the opposite direction. She cares. My hiking friend ventured to Ohio to block Trump mania. We have to find bits of caring among our people and help develop a willingness to fight for caring core values.

We are going to need to put that caring into action. Too many times we didn’t do that when the Obama Administration, and also peoples’ movements, made forward-looking decisions e.g. halting the X-L Pipeline. When that same administration brought backward proposals to the table, as they did in Libya, Syria and elsewhere, a confusion and paralysis followed.

Ask yourself, “What do I care about?” Then ask yourself, “How do I show it?” It means getting outside of our comfort zone.

Here’s two ways. Go out and talk to those who did not vote, those who voted for Trump, and those coming of voting age. Use history, especially intertwined with personal stories, in a calm explanatory way. Then gather with like-minded friends and those who are learning.

We need to walk the talk.

P.S. My Grandmother (Scarpitti/Ciarlone) didn’t totally escape the discrimination meted out during WWII. More on that with the next blog.

It was a disastrous election. There’s no doubt about it. We need to make sense out of the mess in order to move forward. Here’s just a beginning.

The Rs pursued a classic tactic. As soon as Barack Obama was elected in 2008, they declared noncooperation. Massive gridlock followed. These reactionary forces then pointed to Washington D.C. and said, “See. It isn’t working.”

The Rs pursued more antidemocratic approaches. They set up the American Legislative Action Committee (ALEC) and moved at the grassroots and state-level. Taking people of color off voting roles was a major weapon nationally.

There are names that go along with all this. John Piscopo, State assemblyman from Thomaston, Ct, is a former president of ALEC. Assemblywoman Rosa Rebimbas of Naugatuck, Ct, scrupulously followed the ALEC agenda to the tune of a 55% voting record on the environment.

The political agenda had ideological components. Talk radio led the way. A visiting nurse from Watertown, Ct, told me that, “Obama lives in a black house.” Anyone supporting the environment was called an “elite.” And on and on the racism and anti-environmentalism went.

T.V. supplied Donald Trump with ample exposure, no matter how negative. A CNN executive admitted that Trump was good for “ratings.” Ex CIA, ex FBI, and retired generals supplied an analysis that justified every USA invasion and bombing run. Talk radio supplied vile Islamophobia and anti-Mexican rhetoric.

While Hilary won Ct, Trump’s vote total here was 2% higher than Romney’s in 2012. That kind of erosion probably cost State Senator Dante Bartolomeo her election to reactionary Leonard Suzio (R) by 300 votes. Bartolomeo had a 100% voting record on the environment and was very good on union issues.

Now, some rays of sunshine. Myrna Watanabe (D) challenged reactionary John Piscopo (R) for his State Assembly seat. She lost but in the process raised a very progressive agenda, including on the environment.

Maine won ranked choice voting. For example, you could vote for the Green Party. If no candidate wins a majority of votes, in a second round of voting your second candidate choice comes into play with the two top vote-getters. LePage (R), the Tea Party Governor, would never have been elected under this system. (See http://www.fairvotemaine.org)

Lastly, all us gray hairs have to pass on to the Millennials what happened in those rock & roll years of the early 1970s. Richard Nixon (R) won reelection by a landside in 1972. I well remember the impeachment march through downtown Waterbury, Ct, in 1973. Nixon was driven out of office in August of 1974.

Pass it on.

 

This is my shortest blog (450 words) to date and maybe the most important. Having trouble discerning fact from fiction regarding the wars in the Middle East and U.S. Foreign Policy? Read on.

Civilians/Killers and the Middle East

News Flash – A Doctors Without Borders facility bombed by Saudi Jets in Yemen. Nineteen people killed. It was the fourth such facility bombed. The medical group had given the Saudis the coordinates of the medical facilities to avoid such events. The doctors are pulling out of Yemen. A school was also hit.

The NY Times wrote that they were “botched airstrikes.” Really? You don’t even have to read between the lines to get at the truth. Listen to Saudi military spokesman, General Ahmad Asiri. “We would have hoped (that Doctors without borders) would take measures to stop the recruitment of children to fight in wars instead of crying over them in the media.” Really? That is the job of a medical team?

This is the same Saudi Military that the Obama Administration wants to reward with a $1.5 Billion sale of military weapons. Think of all this while some in the USA ask, “Why are they so angry?” How many family and friends of the dead Yemeni want to take up guns against the USA now?

Let’s go back to the Saudi General’s statement above. Is that much different than those by General Curtis LeMay of the U.S. military of the mid-twentieth century? He once said, “There are no innocent civilians.” Could there be a better recipe for state terrorism?

Let’s go to Syria. Have you heard of the so-called NGO White Helmets of Syria? As reported by Vanessa Beeley of 21st Century Wire,

“The White Helmets have been demonstrated to be a primarily US and NATO funded organization embedded in Al Nusra and ISIS held areas exclusively.

This is an alleged “non-governmental” organization, the definition of an NGO, that thus far has received funding from at least three major NATO governments, including $23 million from the US Government and $29 million (£19.7 million) from the UK Government, $4.5 million (€4 million) from the Dutch Government.”

So the White Helmets are hardly a non-governmental organization. And look who they are supporting – the terrorists! It gets worse by the minute. A leader of this so-called humanitarian outfit, Raed Saleh was deported from Dulles airport on April 18th, 2016. Why? He appeared on a terrorist watch list. What?!

Are you tired of the ex-CIA, ex-FBI, and retired generals marched across your screen on CNN and other major networks? Want some relief from all that. Here is a UN August 9th press conference by peace activists and independent journalists who visited Syria a few weeks ago. They were in Damascus and two villages. They interviewed President Assad. Click and make your own assessment of what is really going down.

<http://www.unmultimedia.org/avlibrary/asset/1688/1688742/#.V6pBZ73G0ek.ema

 

 

 

It Can Happen Here

 

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here. It was a warning that fascism can happen in the USA. Jack London presaged the fascist upsurge of the 1930s and 1940s with his seminal book, The Iron Heel (1908). The underbelly of our country has always had these stirrings, with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) being the historic example of fascistic terror.

Do recent events and voices in the electoral arena indicate a qualitative turn to the barbaric happenings of the mid-20th century? Let’s probe.

The “West’s Weimar Moment” by German editor Jochen Bittner (NYTimes 5/31/2016) raised some of the above. He made four good points about Germany before fascism and compared them to present-day realities.

  1. Economic depression (1929) and the 2008 financial crisis.
  2. Loss of trust in institutions e.g. banks, governments, media.
  3. Social humiliation e.g. job loss, homes foreclosed.
  4. Political blunder. You pick ‘em for the present e.g. lack of legislative relief, bailing out banks, immigration, the gun imbroglio etc.

What scares me is what he left out. Where is the continual push toward militarism and never ending war(s)? The Priorities Project says military spending is over 50% of the federal budget’s discretionary spending while federal spending for schools is at 5%. One candidate suggested carpet-bombing areas in ISIS held territory. Another candidate stated that there should be a no fly zone in Syria. All spell out war.

Bittner also say we should set “aside the debate about whether the rise of Nazism was built into German DNA.” What? Was fascism in Mussolini’s Italy and Tojo’s Japan due to DNA too? The fact that this is being raised as a “debate” is a danger signal in itself. It was settled long ago that fascism grows out of the economic and social factors, not biology.

When politics fail to untie the socioeconomic knots, fascist ideology finds fertile ground. Denigrating women, xenophobia, and great power chauvinism – Make America Great Again – appeal to ignoble ways. Who does that sound like?

There are other historical signposts. Ruling circles in 1930s Germany thought they could contain Hitler and the fascist movement. So is the ultra right in our country, represented by Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan (R), now willing to go with the neofascist Trump and the “containment” idea?

Donald Trump’s racist and super-nationalist statements about Mexicans and Muslims are not new to politics. Dividing people, especially white workers against people of color, were the hallmark of Republicans running for the presidency in the 20th century. Examples abound.

In the 1960s, violence was mainly aimed at civil rights and peace activists during the U.S. War in Vietnam. Rebellions in black communities occurred with the assassination of Martin Luther King. President Richard Nixon (R) turned these happenings into a “law and order” campaign in the 1968. It was aimed, ideologically and practically, at white democratic voters in the south. It worked.

President Ronald Reagan’s 1980 campaign gave this racist approach a new twist. He implicitly attacked black males as purchasers of steaks with food stamps while whites ate hamburgers. This, along with megadoses of anticommunism, allowed for the massive increases in the military budget and deep cuts in social spending that hurt everyone, black, white, and brown. It worked.

The 1988 electoral campaign of President George Bush Sr. gave this yet another racist twist. The Willie Horton T.V. ad showed a black man, who escaped jail while on a work furlough and raped and killed a white woman. Bush blamed the Democratic candidate. The criminalization of the black male began in earnest. It worked. He gave us the first oil war in Iraq. Remember “Slam Saddam”?

In 2003, Bush’s son “W” continued the war in Iraq claiming a connection to 9/11 events. He lied. It worked. He was reelected in 2004. Combined with the inability to solve the Palestine / Israeli conflict, this proved to be a deadly combination and a watershed happening. It further enraged an already enraged Muslim world.

Threats against the Presidency escalated with the election of Barak Obama. Militia groups quadrupled, like the one that occupied the wildlife refuge in Oregon. Police violence in black communities has been exposed for all to see.

The racism, brutal trade policies, and never-ending wars have had a qualitative effect. Along with the economic factors outlined above, Donald Trump (R) organized these sentiments into a successful, primary bid for the Presidency. It has worked . . .so far.

Neofascism is knocking on our door. It will be up to the peoples’ movements to prevent that door from opening. The Sanders campaign and the Black Lives Matter movement will be important components. A record 27 million Hispanics will be eligible to vote. All these give indications of a potential mass base to put a collective shoulder against a neofascist toehold on our democracy. Can we build that unity in time? Let’s discuss this here and now. Join in. We need everyone.

 

I almost stopped writing this blog as the awful event in Orlando, Florida emerged in the news. I decided to push forward. Militarism is part of the complex web of problems that we need to address in our country. This blog addresses a piece of that and offers a small beginning of a solution.

KILLERS AMONG US

It’s 1943. The allied invasion to wrest Italy from the grips of fascism is underway. Communist-led partisans have neutralized some of Mussolini’s minions. Germany has sent its troops to keep Italy in the fascist loop.

A Canadian infantryman encounters a German soldier who is in a sitting position in a goat hut. The infantryman hears words from the enemy combatant, at first inaudible, then clearer. The German wants vasser, water. He is wounded. Was it a rouse? What to do?

The Canadian’s head swirls with a rush of tangled thoughts. Should he whip the carbine off his back and finish what war has already done to this human being? His body shook with emotion. He slowly reaches for his canteen, chuck full of rum, and hands it to the German. In a short time, the wounds prove deadly.

Famed naturalist to-be Farley Mowat was that Canadian military man. After the war he would find himself in the far north of Canada where he would run with wolves and get to know and appreciate Inuit Native People culture. He would share with us those experiences with other beings on the tundra through many natural history books.

He had much time to reflect on his military experiences. Fortunately, he also shared the chaos and pathos of war through his little known book, And No Birds Sang.

Let’s go back even further in time. It’s March of 1780. A group of young men, mostly from the Gunntown area of the Naugatuck Valley, Connecticut, are sitting at the Whittemore Inn in Chusetown (Seymour). In the next hour they would be recruited by a secret British agent. Four days later, they would be the shock troops to raid the house of patriot Ebenezer Dayton of Bethany. They would terrorize the Dayton family and make off with a bevy of stolen goods.

The most gung-ho, to use the modern phrase, of this motley gang was the cousins, David and Henry Wooster. Along their escape route, they participated in the kidnapping of a young colonial, Chauncey Judd, who was from a patriotic family. Both cousins were from rabid loyalist families. It would be the irony.

When the Tory gang reaches the banks of the Long Meadow Brook in Gunntown, the British agent decided to kill their captive. But lo, wait; it was none other than the Wooster boys who literally put their bodies in front of the Queen’s gun. They successfully stayed the execution of the young colonial. Their humanity, in spite of their distain for the Judd family and the revolutionary movement, burst forth.

History is replete with stories, like the two above, where the courage to do the right thing bubbles to the surface amid the chaos of war and civil strife. The one I am about to relate is not one of them.

It’s February 25, 1969, Thanh Phong, Vietnam. Navy Seals are on the hunt for a Viet Cong leader. They encounter a hut occupied by three young children and their grandparents. The Seals kill them all using knives so as not to give away their position. More civilians were killed in the main village including 13 children and a pregnant woman.

The leader of this wanton killing spree was Bob Kerrey. The report would read 21 Vietcong were killed. It was a completely false report. Kerrey would be awarded a Bronze Star and the Congressional Medal of Honor. He would, in part, bounce off his participation in the U.S. War in Vietnam to become Governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Senator, now retired.

Kerrey did not divulge this atrocity until a media report was about to do so in 2001. He claimed no direct participation in the killing. That also was a lie. Two members of the Seal team revealed he was directly involved in the killing of a grandfather. Kerrey also gave the order to kill the civilians in the larger village. A survivor, Bui Thi Luom, has corroborated their entire account (NYTimes 6/3/16).

Some say this was different. It was a time of war. The Seals had very little time. They were following orders. All these excuses were debunked during the Nuremberg trails (http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/nuremberg-trials) after World War II. Nazi leaders, as well as guards of concentration camps, were sent to prison or worse. They are still being hunted down and as are those who were involved in atrocities in Serbia, Ivory Coast, and elsewhere.

There’s more. To my knowledge Navy Seals were not drafted. They volunteered. Now Bob Kerrey has been appointed Chairman of the board of Fulbright University, Vietnam. Unconscionable? That is to say the least.

Like Lieutenant Calley of the infamous My Lai massacre (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/calley-charged-for-my-lai-massacre), Vietnam, these killers are walking among us. While former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and those of his Ilk, are culpable for the U.S. War in Vietnam, those in the field are as well. Officer’s expressions of moral injury should not let them get away with murder. Soldiers who genuinely need help with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and moral injury should get all the help they need to recover. That’s not what we are considering here.

There is an important connection to the present. For decades, George Bush Senior has been an advocate of putting the U.S. War in Vietnam behind us. He calls it the “Vietnam syndrome”, which is basically our peoples’ reluctance for military solutions at every turn. He wants a free hand for U.S. imperialism to run rough shod over countries that will not follow the dictates of the fossil fuel boys. Iraq War #1, Desert Storm, put this thesis to work. The other side of that coin is to protect killers from the past and to shield new ones being nurtured by the military.

To a certain extent, the Bushes et al have been successful. The peace movement has been mainly mute, as pictures of heads rolling off bodies have spooked young and old. The mass murders in Florida, Paris, and elsewhere have added to the paralysis. Meanwhile the civilian casualties of U.S. militarism in the Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan also pile up enraging populations there, particularly young people.

If we can’t confront these skirmishes from past, with the Bob Kerrey case an example, how can we ever stop the madness now? Are we to leave the solutions to the Trumps of the world? That would be the path of xenophobia, racism, war, and genocide abroad and repression at home. Sound familiar? (More on this in Killers Among Us – Part II)

Demand that Bob Kerrey (Here & Now – Some Vietnamese recall Bob Kerrey’s… | Facebo

be removed as chairman of the Fulbright University in Vietnam. He needs to have a fair trail with innocence presumed, as is our law. Let justice flow from there. We all need it.

Now we need the discussion to flow here. What are your thoughts?

 

 

 

 

If there is no struggle, there is no progress.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.

  • Frederick Douglass

I want to thank those who stopped and conversed with me at my recent book signing at Stop & Shop, Naugatuck, CT. Sold out in 75 minutes! Whether my latest book, Hurry Down Gunntown, or my memoir, Moon Shadow of War, it shows interest is high in history and in the environment.

Here are some current events, including an environmental battle in Naugatuck with a successful ending.

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Bullies – In & Out Of The Shadows

Have you ever heard “Nobody likes a bully”? It is not true. Some people are attracted to bullies. Why? They appear strong, decisive. They win adherents. They display a shoot from the hip or shoot from the lips demeanor. It is a form of arrogance that attracts the unaware.

The problems bullies spawn escalate if they are not stopped, especially on the local level. There are different kinds of bullies. Quite often the environment is their target. Here are three examples.

The take-over of the wildlife sanctuary in Oregon stands out. Did you think the take-over of the National Wildlife Refuge was a spontaneous act? Think again. It was planned and executed by those in the 3% movement. These are gun toting, so-called super patriots, who claim only 3% of colonists took part in the fighting during the 1770s – 80s.

I checked out the facebook page of one of these self-righteous, armed guys. Guns, big ones, are on display as is the flag. The slogan “Despite what your mom told you, violence does solve problems” is clear. Itching for a fight would be an understatement. There is much bravado amid surface content. Facebook

There are other ways the environment is impacted without the above bravado. This is from Rev. Jim Conn, California, and Capital & Main.

“Most recently, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) upended its mission to clean our air. First the old Democratic majority opposed its staff’s recommendation for tougher rules that would govern the fossil-fuel industry. They watered them down. Then two months later, and with an even more pro-business Republican majority, the board went into closed session and fired its long-time executive officer. Praised by environmentalists, even though they often disagreed with him, he had faithfully pursued the AQMD’s goals while balancing the impact on industry. That was, apparently, not good enough for the fossil-fuel lobby.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the looser rules benefiting oil companies that the AQMD adopted came from a two-page memo written by the Western States Petroleum Association and other business groups. The new plan postpones the installation of expensive air cleaning devices and other efforts to control emissions.”

For our third example, let’s go to Naugatuck, Connecticut. The youngsters killed at the Sandy Hook elementary school are being honored through floral plantings, particularly to attract pollinators. The Wingman program, as it is called, is a noble one. However, worthy causes are often manipulated for ignoble ends. Watch for what lurks in the shadows.

A few anti-environmental elements attempted to misuse this program to make inroads into a passive park and nature preserve with inappropriate activities. One tactical move was not to list an important proposal and vote on the local Park Commission agenda. An alert environmental group, by exposing this anti-democratic activity, prevented the worst results while still supporting the wingman concept. Democracy and the environment won.

Of course, one might conclude that as long as these local bullies are in the shadows – fine. Not so. The challenges that they raise must be met least they emerge energized by the likes of demagogues like a Trump or a Cruz. We’re seeing some of this with the above examples.

Senator Ted Cruz (R) is ready to carpet bomb Muslim towns abroad and ghettoize Muslim communities here. He is responsible for some of the worst Tea Party inspired opposition to any legislation proposed by the Obama Administration. This political maneuver has been a standard Republican tactic for years. Dangerous waters for sure. Cruz was able to grandstand in the senate, run for the presidency, and poison the media for months. We’ll save some historical examples for the next blog.

One key to prevent bullying on a growing scale is by meeting these challenges at the grassroots. No blinking allowed. Whether confronting big bullies, like a Trump (R) or a Cruz, or little power abusers, Fredrick Douglass’s guidance above makes for good advise.

One of my favorite little pieces of awareness is, “The challenge in organizing is to keep a healthy outrage at injustice while maintaining an inner peace.” Merrilee Milstein, who wrote those wonderful words of wisdom, was pulling from experiences in a lifetime dedicated to the labor movement. Thank you Merrilee.

We lose activists on both sides of that sentence because they forget it makes one interconnected whole. Some let their outrage consume them and recovery is never in full. Others get lost in seeking an inner peace that eludes them as outrage at injustice fades.

My “outrage “ side has been working overtime lately. Battling foes of passive open space and struggling with an onslaught of dirty fossil fuel initiatives involving a methane based power plant and new pipelines, head the list. Toping it off are the truly outrageous political events and politicians in the electoral arena.

Republican candidate Donald Trump’s clear racist incendiary statements on Mexicans and Muslims, with Senator Cruz joining him here, are much more than irritants. They are dangerous. The sight of white Trump supporters attacking African American protesters is down right scary. I can remember a veteran of progressive movements telling me long ago that if fascism comes to the USA, it will be on the backs of African Americans. Clearly we don’t have fascism or I wouldn’t be freely writing these words for a blog post. The question is, are we seeing its rolling thunder gathering steam? (More of this on another blog day.)

To take a break from all this, and in concert with Merrilee’s sage advise, I took a walk on Naugatuck section of the bridle trail. For those not familiar, this is a long woodland trail that was formerly a railroad bed stretching from Waterbury to Southbury, Connecticut and beyond. My approach to these outdoor walks is simple. Try to stay in the moment. If my thoughts drifted to the above challenges, I would reorient to be in the present.

While on this little nature excursion, I stumbled upon one of those small but truly magical moments. In the distance I saw what turned out to be a mid-sized bird seemly stuck to the side of a rock-like cliff covered with moss. It bobbed this way and that way while occasionally shaking its head. As I neared, the bird flew off into the surrounding treetops. Then I realized what it was doing there.

Thanks to the I-Phone on my hip, I can share it with you with a 35 second U-Tube video. I call it nature’s sounds of silence

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=xHeJNPt5C-4

Apparently, that bird was taking a shower, shaking the water off as we do in a shower, and getting a drink of water at the same time. Whatever competing thoughts I had melted away.

Ecosystem is a flexible concept. It can be as large as a biome like trundra or small as a knothole in the tree. I was transfixed and enraptured by this micro ecosystem consisting of a bird, moss, water, and rock. It put a smile on my face, accompanied by a satisfying sigh. How basic is that?

Now science has given us data to substantiate what we feel in such instances. In the July 14th, 2015 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, it was reported that morbid rumination is strongly associated with increased activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex. What’s the big deal? Here’s the punch line. Excursions in natural settings quieted that portion of the brain. The outdoors literally improved mood.

We need these green redoubts in today’s world and in our country with their topsy-turvy events. At the same time, or rather after these wonderful excursions in the outdoors, we need to pay close attention to what is going on around us. The reason is the necessary third ingredient to the outrage/inner peace package. That is action.

Activity is where we put our outrage and inner peace to good use. Outrage can eat our insides. Inner peace is an eternal search. Activity is what makes us whole. Win, lose or draw, it is where our humanity is practiced.