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Monday, June 21, 2010

Stick-to-it-iveness: An issue of political viscosity

Sometimes it feels like progressive activism is the same as having a huge, pot luck dinner party where every dish goes untasted and everyone leaves hungry and disappointed because they forgot they all brought food.

Ah, the salad days of 2008! How I miss them. The progressive jelly was so thick and rich on the good old American marble rye that we could not even taste the goobers scattered like pinheads across the pock-marked, doughy landscape.

The times, though, have changed. The American political appetite has become a quest for the perfect blend of dense, nutty paste and the wistful promise of sweet, fruity spread. Cowering in opposite corners with independently constructed sandwiches - sticky jelly for us and smooth goober butter, for, well, them - leaves a majority of voters hungering for the tasty integrity achieved through condiment cooperation.

It is not that neither side, on its own, offers a tasty sandwich. Indeed, those munching peanut butter will continue to cluck their tongues, and those slurping jelly from the sides of their bread will keep smacking their lips. The real issue is viscosity - busy little molecules of political will, interacting to keep their respective gooey stuff together, lest it squish out from the bread under consumer pressure.

But in that battle, it seems, the goobers have an advantage; it takes a awful lot of pressure to get them to gush from their cushy Wonder® bread slices. Our sweet malleability means the slightest pressure on the whole grain goodness we call America gets too many of us to abandon our positions and ooze toward the exits.

The nuts stay and we just stain, hoping the voters won't forget the promise of our pectin.

We need more gumption to be a flavor for major consumption. Instead, we wait for the people to tire of the stale flavor of goober heads so they have no choice but to see what a sample of smart jelly has to offer. But they don't stick around, because we neglect to create the energy to keep them next to us.

We each have a duty to be extra sticky for the liberal causes of progressive politics. What will you do to get your glue on?


Friday, June 11, 2010

The clowns and the clueless

A story about corporate personality and corrupt policy

Doctor: "Congratulations, Mrs. Private! It's a corporation"

Mrs. P. : "Wow! I think I'll name it Inc."

Mr. P. : "Aw. Look at him. Coo-chee-coo! Ow! Damn! He bit me!"

Some kids don't eat their vegetables. Inc was not one of those kids. He at his vegetables and bread and meat. He ate dirt and flowers and trees. He drank rivers, lakes and oceans of water.

There is nothing the growing Inc would not eat, and the more he ate, the fatter he got.

Some of the other kids stayed away from Inc because they were afraid he might eat them too. Others would actually let Inc chew on their arms and legs - even nibble the nose off their faces - because it made Inc giggle with contagious delight. Indeed, it was said that his laughter was viral. Word quickly spread that a bite from Inc was like a thousand little kisses.

Like most who are morbidly obese, Inc sweated - a lot. Amazingly, it was found that the sweat pouring from his saturated glands was 5.3 times more happy inducing than the toe tickling saliva from his flesh nibbling. People began to clamor for whatever few drops from that stream of Inc's sweat they could get.

An entire industry grew up around Inc's sweat glands. There were the people who had the dangerous task of collecting the sweat (many of whom died from laughing lung disease), and those who's job it was to find the living, willing Public to feed old Inc Private so he would keep sweating his bullets of happy, so those folks could drink Inc's sweat and be very happy too.

It did not take long for the feeders to develop side effects from all that happy. Their noses turned red and bulbous; their hair - the ones that didn't fall out - turned bright orange and exploded like transformer wire from their whitening scalps; they lost so much weight that their clothes began to look old and many sizes too large; and they each developed a permanent, crazy grin behind their smiling, colorless lips. To cover their balding pates, they found hats that were many sizes too small, and they wore flowers in their jacket lapels that squirted happy sweat on as many of the people they met as possible. They were addicted clowns, needing Inc's sweat, and certain that happiness came from everyone not just wanting, but having a little jar of sweat they could call their own.

But there were still many, many people who found that feeding their flesh to Inc was just too high a price to pay for a little euphoria. Don't misunderstand; they loved to be happy. They just preferred to regulate from where, and under what circumstances, they derived their happiness. They were distressed that the clowns who were devoted to Inc had managed to create a policy that made it too easy for clueless crowds to get a touch of happy sweat.

These folks also felt that, while it was okay for Inc to be fat and happy, his sweat was just too big a distraction for the clowns, who were all convinced that what was good for Inc was good for everyone. Even hiring others to pull the clowns in another direction failed, because Inc's sweat was so powerful, that once even rational people got a little sweat on them, they became happy, unaccountable clowns too.

His juice was more powerful than anyone imagined. Under its influence, the catatonic clowns contracted antiperspirant manufacturers to create tons of the stuff that they made others wear, just in case anyone could compete with Inc's special talent for spreading happy. They also started wars to make sure there was plenty of people fodder to keep Inc eating and sweating.

The clowns even managed to convince hoards of people that Inc's unique specialness made everyone else unique and special too, even if they never even saw more than a thimble full of the happy-sweat. The clueless crowds became angry, screaming in blinding rage, if anyone suggested that the clowns had it wrong.

"What's the matter with you," they yelled between clenched teeth, "that you don't want us to be happy? Don't you understand that being fodder for Inc makes us happy? Don't you understand that having Inc sweat makes us unique, special, better and more important than anyone else? Leave the clowns alone! They are great for ensuring there is always Inc sweat."

One day, a stranger came through town, someone who had no direct connection or relationship with Inc or the clowns. The normal folks figured they could trust him to deliver an impartial opinion on what they saw as the corruptive influence of Inc on the clowns.

"What do you think about Inc's control over the clowns," they asked him. "Doesn't his big, unfailingly happy sweat have undue influence?"

The stranger stroked his hairless chin and paced the floor as he deliberated the difficult questions the people had asked him. Inc, after all, was free to be Inc. Everyone is special in some way, he thought, and Inc's talent happens to be intoxicating sweat.

The people who resented his influence, though, also had a point; if Inc's talent is so special that it is distracting, no one would listen to a thing they had to say. Still...

Finally, the stranger confidently grasped the lapel of his coat with one hand and pointed nowhere in particular with the other.

"I think it's obvious," he said. "Yes, Inc's abundance of happiness inducing sweat makes him very powerful, especially when it comes to influencing the clowns to create policies that serve him." The people were encouraged, until the stranger opened his mouth and said, "But." They froze.

"But," he repeated, "he is just Inc. You who are complaining can, I believe, gather your resources form a group to counter Inc. You're free to do that. Pool yourselves, if you want to go against Inc's influence. Won't your clowns allow you to do that?"

There was a general, dissatisfied murmuring. No one seemed to like what the impartial stranger had to say. The clueless hoards abhorred the potential of a united opposition to Inc's special status. They felt that was unpatriotic. Those who could potentially unite in opposition hated that they had to go through a unionization process just to get the clowns to listen to them.

No, thought the opposition, if Inc's happy sweat was going to trump the influence of any tiny, separate, freethinking groups they could muster, then they just needed a prolific Inc of their own. They needed someone whose influence would woo the clowns away from Inc's seemingly unstoppable happy sweat.

Her name was Ink. If Inc oozed a powerful, happy making drug, Ink glistened with pearls of knowledge, and a truth so pure that even Inc's powerful perspiration had no effect on her. Just looking at her made everyone feel smart, confident and secure. Some of the clowns even risked having their picture taken with her, because they thought it made them look smart too.

But a clown with a mortar board and stole is still a clown, and they would have to have many more visits with Ink before it would make a real difference. After all, as far as these jokers were concerned, the powerful bottles of Inc's sweat being delivered to their offices is what kept them in charge. What did Ink have to offer them, anyway? An elitist, thoughtful education? That did not get you hired by the clueless minions. Unfortunately, the clowns never realized how clueless that made them, and that they were the minions.

When it cam right down to it, though, Ink alone was not a strong enough counter. She awakened nothing in the clueless clowns. Holding a mirror in front of them to show them how irresponsible they were being was an unsuccessful tack, because when a clown looked in a mirror, he did not see a clown. He saw a patriot.

Ink had one suggestion. "If we cannot convince the clowns to cooperate," she said, "then we must get to the people, those who are easily swayed by the clueless crowds, the ones who think they have no choice but to give the limbs of their sons and daughters to feed fat Inc's endless appetite for irreverent exploitation.

"If they wake up, stop the senseless feeding of Inc, stand up for their own interests, then the gross perspiration that so woos the clowns will dry up, and they will have to detoxify and disengage from fat boy.

"They will know - in their hearts and their minds and their God fearing souls - that real happiness will come to everyone, even the clowns and the clueless, when the idiocy ends."

Don't be a clueless clown. Be a force in getting the idiocy to end. Be smart people, because the clowns in charge have forgotten how.


Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Abuse of Force

Because one can does not mean one should

July 3, 1988 - The Persian Gulf - A ship-to-air missile fired from the USS Vincennes downs an Iranian civilian airliner, after mistaking it for a fighter jet, killing all aboard. Bodies floated in the water of the Gulf.
January 16, 1989 [MLK Day] - Miami, FL - A policeman shoots a suspect on a motorcycle and kills him. The incident precipitates what became known as the Super Bowl Riots. The officer is convicted by a court in Miami, but acquitted when his appeal is moved to a more force-friendly venue.
March 19, 2003 - Iraq - An immense army invades a country based on faulty (if not manufactured) evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Hundreds of thousands dead - so far.
May 31,2010 - the Eastern Mediterranean - Navy commandos board a flotilla of stubborn idealists on a [provocative (if that's not an oxymoron)] humanitarian mission, and open fire on them, killing at least nine.

In each of the above cases, the use of power, often obscene, was justified as permissible, excusable, by those who exercised it. In each of those cases, the threat was not even real - just a warped perception of the facts at hand, seen through the gauzy filter of programmed enmity. In each of those cases, there were smarter, safer and more reasonable responses available to those who had their fingers on the triggers.

Particularly in the case of the latter, the confrontation did not begin with deck hands swinging steel bars; it began with the navy believing it had no other choice but to board. (It could be argued that it began 43 years ago, but that is a discussion for another time.)

As long as we continue to accept that violence is a reasonable response to any threat - real or imagined - there will be misguided maneuvers conducted by fearful automatons with potentially catastrophic, even deadly, results. Seeing no other way to keep a perceived threat in check, the fearful lace up the heavy boots and grab the ammunition.

This is where we need the United Nations to step up to its potential as an organization committed to abating the threat of war between nations. Too often, the UN reacts to crisis instead of attempting to mitigate it. Then, when there is a crisis, inevitably someone on the Security Council quashes any statements that may potentially threaten the strength and sovereignty of an ally.

The deflective "it's not me; it's them" approach to global affairs is unproductive by its very nature. Suspicion belies a real commitment to peace. As long as the UN works toward supporting toward its member-nations' dysfunctional approach to peace, they assume the posture of the one whose blade is at the end of a sword waiting for blood, not the one whose blade cuts rows in the ground for food.