Archives for posts with tag: politics

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!

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.

 

 

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.

An Open Letter To David Harris

Note to readers – This essay was written while researching my memoir Moon Shadow Of War.

Link –http://www.amazon.com/Moon-Shadow-Of-War-ebook/dp/B00CCJB5QA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1370705016&sr=8-1&keywords=yannielli

Dear Mr. Harris,                                                                                                   July 2013

Thank you for your principled stand on the United States War in Vietnam through the years. I just finished reading your book, Our War – What We Did In Vietnam And What It Did To Us (1996). As elements of the media play a constant drumbeat for war in Iran, Syria, Mali and elsewhere, your experiences and conclusions involving the U.S. War in Vietnam are as relevant as ever.

I also want to thank you for the explanation on how militarism has inculcated our culture. You feel it contributed to sustaining the war effort in Vietnam. Agreed. With some students, I helped start a Culture Of Peace Club at a community college out of a similar understanding that the country needs a vast cultural revolution.

Before I continue, it is important to know we are about the same age. The atomic bombing of Nagasaki happened a month after my parents brought me into the world. Through the years, those events, along with the Dresden bombing and others taught me that even the so-called good wars might be necessary, but not good.

We share some other experiences. I was brought up in the cowboy, John Wayne era. I have some wonderful pictures all decked out in the regalia of the wild, Wild West. Little did we know, as we went about shooting native peoples and other so-called bad guys, that we were being culturally trained to do the same to Panamanians, Dominicans, and a multitude of Asians.

I look in horror as I see young people subjected to ultra violent computer games, especially as advertised on T.V. sports channels. I’m sure you do too. There is certainly overlap also with the way sports are conducted and presented to young people. That “way” is intertwined with the military and violence generally. A mentality of win at any costs is part of that ”way.”

I also struggled through the Vietnam period. You took the draft resister route and prison. Mine was a different approach – avoid the military draft at all costs. I was drafted four times but managed to escape the grasps of the military. Some of it was luck. For example, I drew a relatively high number when drafted for a third time around in 1969.

Like you, I was a quiet, reserved young man. Unlike you, it took me longer to grasp the underpinnings of the U.S. War in Vietnam. I was a young teacher when I became a rank and filer in the anti-war movement. Passing out leaflets and petitioning were my forte.

I led nothing. The closest I came to a leadership role was when I worked with some students on a high school underground newspaper as a neophyte science teacher. More educators were fired during the late 1960s and early 1970s than during the height of the cold war. I was fired in 1972.

I also married and divorced in the 1970s. Like you, I then met the love of my life. I have two beautiful boys . . .’err young men.

Like you, I also visited Vietnam well after the war. In 1997, I attended a Math, Science and Technology conference there sponsored by Australians and by the Vietnamese. As the plane circled above Hanoi, the marches, the demonstrations, and the family conflicts during the U.S. War in Vietnam surfaced and swirled in my head. I thought the emotions of those early years were behind me. I was wrong. Tears welled up in my eyes as we descended out of the clouds.

What did puzzle me was a number of points in your fine book. I found the use of the word “we”, including in the title, both confusing and wrong.  You seem to include all of us and, in essence blame all of us, for the war.

You are a shining example of the inaccuracy of the “we.” In fact you proceed to name some of the real political culprits e.g. Henry Kissinger.  The worst part of the “we” approach is that it must be very confusing to younger generations who did not experience the U.S. War in Vietnam. It is important to clear this up in that young people need to learn similar forces, with different names, are at work generating wars in the Middle East.

The second point is the missing economic underpinnings of the war. Let me give just one example from Fortune Magazine in the mid-1960, as quoted from Victor Perlo’s pamphlet, The Vietnam Profiteers.

Herbert Fuller is an American promoter who wants to set up a $10 million sugar mill in South Vietnam. He is a “fervent believer in South Vietnam’s future. When the troops arrive to clear the area, as they sooner or later must, this American capitalist will literally be one step behind them . . . ‘I am in it for the money,’ Fuller says. ‘We could get back our investment in two years.’ “

Certainly the military industrial complex and all their “toys” you refer to in Our War were part and parcel of the economic thrust for the war and in sustaining it. Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Kelly Brown and Root (KBR) were part of a long list that profited mightily from war. Contractors, like Blackwater now, and think tanks, like Rand Corporation and Project for a New American Century, were also part of the mix. The Iraq War has many similar examples. We need not go further than the former vice-president Dick Cheney’s company Halliburton.

Your fine book, The Last Stand, stares down at me from a shelf above my desk as I write this. The Last Stand can be used as a parallel example of how U.S. transnational businesses work abroad. Maxxam Corporation of Texas saw that the small timber company in Northern California controlling a large forest was, in their lingo, an undervalued operation. The mauling of the old growth forest and the valiant struggle of environmentalists there are history.

Halliburton really did the same thing but with an entire country. In this transnational company’s eyes, Iraq was undervaluing its oil resources, especially reserves in the ground. The U.S. military moved in and cleared the way for Halliburton to start sticking pipes into Iraqi desert sands.

There is no mystery in any of this. But it is scrupulously kept from our people in a mass, effective way by the media. Your books get some of the same mistreatment.

Whenever I feel myself slipping into inaction around these crucial issues, I take out an issue of Reader’s Digest, March 1968. The lead article is by Hanson W. Baldwin who is described as the, “distinguished military editor of the New York Times.” He states unequivocally, “There seems little doubt that Hanoi has abandoned hope of conquering South Vietnam by military force, . . .” So much for the distinguished Mr. Baldwin, although how can “conquering” be used here when a people are trying to unify their own country?

The piece ends with a statement by Clark Clifford from his confirmation hearing as Secretary of Defense, during the same period. He stated that, “The Vietnam war is a different kind of war and that is one reason why it is difficult, perhaps, for the American people to understand. We are fighting a limited war. We are not fighting to destroy our enemy.”

What was the result of this “different”, “limited war” and not trying to “destroy our enemy”? As you delineate well in Our War, over 3 millions people killed, multitudes injured, and an environment so polluted that babies are still born there with deformities.

Lies, as you well demonstrate in “Our War” concerning the U.S. War in Vietnam, have become part and parcel of politics. These extend right through the Iraq War. Cries of Al Qaeda in Iraq and weapons of mass destruction turned into so much hokum.

Concerning your DO Theory, it seems to treat all U.S. citizens simultaneously as perpetrators and victims. This extends to your WE GOT WHAT WE DID concept. Given the above, it is more THEY GOT WHAT THE U.S. GOVERNMENT DID. In fact if we are all indeed responsible for the war in Vietnam and the Iraqi War, really another U.S. War, that would seem to justify 9/11 and other such heinous acts. Why not then wanton, random attacks on any and all civilians if we are all to blame?

Unfortunately, the flip side of your WE GOT WHAT WE DID concept is a justification for terrorism as a strategy. I disagree.  U.S. imperialists and their puppets in Congress have names and addresses.

 You mention anti-communism once. This struck me as an understatement. The U.S. War in Vietnam was an extension of the cold war and the enormous profits realized by the military industrial complex. Remember the proliferation of the pro-war, anticommunist comic books in the 1950s? I’m sure we were both reading them if on opposite coasts. The so-called war on terror can now be added to anti-socialist, anti-communist rhetoric used to justify the military expenditures that constitute over 50% of the U.S. budget and keep the profits flowing.

The U.S. War in Iraq conjured up a different kind of bad guy and, as one example above explicates, it kept the profits sluices flowing for U.S. companies.

A looming question is, can those of us dedicated to peace and social justice stay the hand of this profit hungry, industrial, military, political cabal from going to war with Iran? The leadership there may be even loonier than Sadam but we cannot allow such characterizations to be used to bludgeon our people to accept another war in the Middle East. Israel, and the potential for the use of nuclear weapons, is in this combustible mix.

A million people marched in Tehran as a show of solidarity with our people and for peace after 9/11. We need to remind our people.

Again, I appreciate your books and your principled approach to life generally.

Respectfully, Len Yannielli