Categories
Political

Beating Swastikas into Nose Rings

Recovered from the wayback machine.

I’ve been visiting some weblogs lately where the discussion ranges about the ominous similarity between the Bush administration’s use of PR and spin doctoring and the Nazi’s use of the same before the WWII – with some implications of the awful consequences of said actions on gullible ne stupid populace.

(I’d link all the gentlemen having this discussion but have a suspician that doing so would peeve some of them so I exercised the better part of valor and leave them unlinked – but not out of disrespect.)

This discussion is based, in part, on the assumption that the American voters are both blinkered and easily led – just say the magic buzz words, and we’ll react on cue, like Pavlov’s dogs. More so: Pavlov’s dogs were assumed to be intelligent.

Here’s a flash for you: The American people are not stupid. We may be conservative, or frightened, or insecure, and this combined with our beliefs may make us rigid or gullible at times, but we are not stupid. Nor are we especially self-centered, or no more so than any people in any part of any country on this earth. The only reason that the American people are getting so much attention right now is that the American government is the power, the Bitch with the Pull if you will. However, fifty years ago it was Germany and Japan. About two hundred years ago it was Britain, and about two thousand years ago it was the Romans. Throughout the ages there have been people who have used their superior arms to invade or control, and they’ve usually been led by a man (or a woman) who knows how to use PR effectively. But that does not make the people being led, stupid.

This ability to play on people’s fears or to people’s vanities in order to dominate or invade was not invented by Bush. It was not invented by the Nazi’s, either, and stop giving them so much credit. It was not invented by Napoleon, or Alexander the Great for that matter. It was not even invented by Jesus Christ, Mohammed, or King Soloman.

Og saw that Nu had more meat and fertile women than he did, and he desired these. He told some of his people that Nu wanted their women, and scared them. He told others that they were strong and invincible, and flattered them. He then convinced all of his people to go to war so that he might have this meat and screw these women. Og, you might say, is the inventor of tools used to propagandize war and greed used by men like Bush and the Nazis. Og is also the inventor of brutality, genocide, persecution, fear, avarice, and the death of hope.

We’ve had these traits from Og all along. We know this. We don’t need a swastika to be reminded of this, and the consequences. We are not stupid.

Once we’ve established that the American people are no less intelligent than spider monkeys, dolphins, and Jorge, the bartender at that cute little place on the beach in Spain, we can proceed to have conversations that are not based on assumptions about players following stereotypes – current or past.

Categories
Political

First Off assume Kucinich is not the great salvation…

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

I wanted to get that out of the way, to establish a tone if you will. I mistakenly signed up for something on a Kucinich site a long time ago and have been spammed consistently ever since with fund raising pleas and other support noises for this particular Democratic candidate.

I respected Kucinich for being one of the few congress people to vote against the war in Iraq, but the more I hear from him the less my respect grows because he wasn’t against the war in Iraq specifically – he was following a leftist agenda that’s as old, and yes, as stale, as a moth-eaten pair of bell bottom Navy jeans.

I have news: Kucinich hasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the nomination. Even if he did, I wouldn’t vote for him, as he believes we should just pull out of Iraq, right now, leaving the country to disintegrate as it will. Oh yes, under the UN, and I imagine we’ll leave some money on the dressar as we go, but by gol, we’ll bring out imperialist butt home and promise to be good.

We started this war. We didn’t want it, but we got it. We can’t just leave right now and have someone else clean things up. Kucinich is so two-dimensionally liberal, why bother listening to him speak? Just create a “Leftist” Ken doll with a string that when pulled, plays:

“Hi, I’m Dennis Kucinich. Want to be my friend?”

Oh I know he’s a good man, and he cares. I admire his putting the links to the Diebol tapes up on his Congressional web site. I admire him advocating that voting machine code should be open source and available to one and all, just like the code controlling the comments to this weblog. Howver, this essay isn’t about Kucinich, title notwithstanding. Or only about Kucinich. This is about assumptions and stereotypes, cookie cutter liberals and molded conservatives.

Just when you make assumptions about the American people, any people really, they have a tea party and you know you’re in trouble.

I’ve noticed with Kucinich supporters that they have an assumption that those who disagree with them are either right wing conservatives, usually with a lot of money, poorly educated racist whites in southern states, or Democrats selling out for power. Otherwise, you wouldn’t disagree. How could you? The man’s voice rings out so clear on all these issues. You know exactly where he’ll stand on any of them without even having to ask him. What’s not to love about the perfect ideologically left candidate?

Recently Jeff Alworth at Open Source Politics wrote a story about gay marriage and courage based on the recent Massachusetts high court ruling. Extracting key exerpts from Jeff’s writing (and yes, out of context – go read the whole thing if you want to double-check my use of the quotes):

The Democrats have had a fairly easy go in ‘03. Bush’s policies are corrupt, unjust, or incompetently-executed; Republicans in the House and Senate have been so partisan they’ve done everything but call the cops on the Dems. Oh, sorry, they’ve even done that. So staking out territory hasn’t been fraught with much in the way of ideological confusion.

At Open Source Politics we’re doing our best to be Democratically impartial. But this is one of those issues where the rubber meets the road for me. If candidates do the math before taking a stand on an unpopular issue, I think we have to call them on it – particularly if it’s a failure to protect the civil rights of a small minority.

What we need in response is someone with the courage to stand up for the rights of all Americans, however few, and also to stand up to Republicans who play the game of wedge politics. This election’s going to be about courage. We should be happy Massachusetts ruled on this; it gave us a chance to see into the hearts of the candidates. Lions or lambs – you be the judge.

Leaving aside the outrageous assumption that we Democrats or Liberals or what have you have not had to face some pretty serious ideological dilemmas this year, Jay boils this race down into the most simplistic of terms – we expect our candidates to demonstrate courage, and if they don’t, we’ll call ‘em on this. More, in comments to the post, Natalie Davis writes:

Do you think it is right and just to deny equality – LEGAL EQUALITY – to anyone for politics or any other reason? Do you feel OK with asking people to table their fight for equality – to continue to do without the basic equality too many hets take for granted each and every day – for the sake of elections or politics or expediency or the superiority (ha) of the Democratic Party or for any other reason? If so, all I can say is … wow. And weep.

Bottom line: I will not vote for any candidate who does not support my legal equality. Period. Any candidate who does not support the equality of all her or his potential constituents is, IMO, not fit to serve in a land that claims (mendaciously, alas) that everyone is equal. If that makes me a one-issue voter, so be it. This one issue happens to be so damned massive that it dwarfs all others.

Herein lies the heart of those dilemmas that Jay blithly assumes we’ve only just now had to face. Herein is when one person’s courage is another’s cowardice, and when stereotypes are going to bust apart into little bits and my greatest fear is that the only one left standing at the end will be George W Bush.

I have gays who are friends, and I have gay readers who I cherish and respect, so it becomes extremely sorrowful for me to have to say that the Massachusetts ruling this last week on gay marriage was about the worst thing that can happen at this time. I know that I’m going to be universally ostracized from the ranks of the True Liberals for making this statement.

I wrote in comments:

Natalie, I agree that Gays should have all the rights that Straights have. And they’re not going to get them. This Massachusetts ruling will about guarantee it.

I can’t think of any act more likely to get a constitutional amendment passed specifically stating that marriage is for straights only, than seeing two guys or two women walking down the aisle in Mass, getting legally married.

This decision coming at a time when all three seats of government are ruled by conservative, religious, Republicans is about the worst thing that can happen for my gay friends. Just type “constitutional amendment” into Google news and read the story.

Here’s a scenario: Let’s say Dean wins the nomination. Dean supports civil unions, but he won’t come out and support gay marriage. Tell me: if someone like Dean doesn’t support your concept of complete equality, Natalie, and your concept of courage, Jeff, what are you both going to do? Vote the Green Party? Kenneth’s demographics and projections will probably say Yes.

Might as well hand the country to Bush with a bow and say, party down son. We’re sticking with our principles.

I’ve supported full rights for gays for years, but I can’t this year at all costs – not when issues of this nature threaten to tear apart whatever fragile alliance of voters must exist in order to insure Bush is not re-elected. In comments another person, Kenneth, states that elections are not based on issues in this country, but make no mistake – I see the upcoming election as being nothing but an issues-based election. And the more issues such as gay marriage that arise, the more we risk having Bush for four more years.

I have one and only one goal in this upcoming election – to do whatever I can to insure that Bush and his cabinet is not handed an unfettered four more years in office. To me a Bush unconstrained by worries of re-election is a thought too horrible to behold. I will sacrifice anything to achieve his losing the presidency, including the respect of people like Jay or Elaine, with their demanding and finite and constricted ideologies, or worse: the friendships of my gay acquaintenances who are hurt by my words.

So don’t put me into one cookie cutter or another and think that I’ll link hands with my liberal brothers and sisters and sing around the campfires of left goodness, assuming that my decisions are so simple and clear-cut that I don’t struggle with moral delimmas daily in my quest to see Bush dethroned.

And would someone please stop pulling that Kucinich’s doll’s string? It’s beginning to annoy me.

(Thanks to David W for link to Copyfight for link to the links to the memos. I guess Dan Gillmor’s also linked the page that links the pages. A bit surprised, though, that none of you didn’t test the links first before you wrote that they were posted on Kucinich’s server. Too bad we don’t have the semantic web – it would have checked for you.)

Categories
Just Shelley outdoors Photography Places

The Insignificance of small beings

Before the cold rolled in I took my belated trip to Elephant Rocks today. I was able to avoid the gauntlet of confederate flags along the way by looking at a map and discovering that the road I take to one of the parks I visit frequently is the same road that ultimately leads to Elephant Rocks, but coming from the opposite direction. So I came in the back door.

Near the town of De Soto, I noticed an older woman walking along the side of the road and I stopped to offer her a lift. She was heading home after visiting an herbal shop in town, and her arms were full of bags of herbs.

She was a fascinating woman, probably about 60 or so, currently on disability because of cancer of the breast and diabetes and various other ailments. Born and bred in Missouri and lived most of her life along that stretch of road so she was able to give me the feel of the place — not the statistics or the raw facts. The feel. What the principal did when the last tornado hit the school, or that the owner of the place we just went past was forced to clean up after the last storm but the damage wasn’t his fault, why did the government make him clean it up?

My passenger was religious, which didn’t surprise me. Religion is not an intellectual exercise in Missouri, it’s as much a part of the countryside as the rocks I was driving to see today. What did surprise me, though, was the deep acceptance and trust in God she felt. She had cancer, and from all indications, terminal cancer, but she was healthy and happy and upbeat, hitchhiking into town to get her herbs, taking her homeopathic remedies and trusting to God to do the rest. And if God decided to take her home, well, she’d be content with that too.

“Why worry”, she said. “Worry just makes you look old.”

quarry.jpg

She pointed out the damage along the side of the road from a bad set of tornadoes that hit this spring. Stands of of trees were literally twisted off their roots, or picked up and tossed through the air like a twig. You could see the path of damage clearly as it followed along the highway, sometimes crossing it to hit the other side. I asked her if anyone she knew had been hurt and she said, no, God was protecting over them.

(When I got home, I looked the storm up and sure enough, the tornadoes killed people all around, but it left De Soto residents unharmed. An ambulance driver in the district remarked on this to reporters, saying, “It’s a miracle, isn’t it?”)

rocktwigs.jpg

The rest of the drive after dropping my passenger off was beautiful, one of those almost perfect late fall days with sunlight breaking through dark clouds to frame this quaint old farm house, or that shaggy dirty white bull wading in a creek. I missed the stories though, the glimpse into the people I only know through my car window driving past.

There were quite a few tourists at Elephant Rock considering a storm was rolling in. However, the area is large enough that you can have space to yourself, so for the most part, I walked among the rocks alone, stopping at one point to eat my favorite cheddar and bread-n-butter pickle sandwich.

Elephant Rocks, the park, the experience, how to describe it. From the State Park description comes the following:

Imagine giant granite rocks standing end-to-end like a train of circus elephants. That’s what you’ll see at Elephant Rocks State Park. About 1.5 billion years ago, hot magma cooled forming coarsely crystalline red granite, which later weathered into huge, rounded boulders. Standing atop a granite outcrop, one of the largest elephant rocks, Dumbo, tops the scales at a whopping 680 tons!

Visitors to Elephant Rocks State Park can easily view the granite boulders from the one-mile Braille Trail, designed to accommodate people with visual or physical disabilities. The trail passes by a quarry pond, which now supports a variety of animal life. A short spur off of the trail takes visitors to the top of the granite outcrop, where they can explore the maze of giant elephant rocks.

At first the boulders are small and manageable — they may weight several tons but they are shorter than you and you don’t feel the age as much. One of the rock formations that I called The Worm had two core sample drill holes made oh, a hundred and fifty years or so ago when they were testing to see the quality of the granite.

wormrock.jpg

The rock pile, if this word could possibly provide you a feel for what its like, has little trails all over and people can climb the rocks, and do, especially the younger kids. Being a little older, and a little more cautious, not to mention weighed down with my usual photographic paraphernalia, I didn’t frisk about like a young mountain goat. But I did explore most of the paths, include the wonderfully named “Fat Man’s Squeeze”.

I can say now, unequivocally, that I do not have a fat man’s build. However, I did have to suck in my chest, as it were, one time to get through an opening.

squeeze

According to the guide:

Molten rock, called magma, accumulated deep below the earth’s surface. The magma slowly cooled, forming red granite rock. As the weight of the overlying rock was removed by erosion, horizontal and vertical cracks developed, fracturing the massive granite into huge, angular blocks. Water permeated down through the fractures, and groundwater rounded the edges and corners of the blocks while still underground, forming giant rounded masses. Erosion eventually removed the disintegrated material from along the fractures, and exposed these boulders at the earth’s surface.

It was when you round a corner and look up and see the big rocks, the rocks that led to the name of the park that you’re left breathless. The Elephant Rock, prosaically named “Dumbo” sits on top of a knoll isolated from the other rocks and framed by the valley and mountains beyond.

Inscribed into Dumbo’s surface are the names and dates from the quarry workers over the years, including one from a guy called Murray in 1885. Nothing more than faint irritations by insignificant beasts happening in a split second of time.

elephantrocks1.jpg

The rocks towered over me, with a size that photos can’t capture without sticking some passing kid next to it for comparison, and don’t think I wasn’t considering it. But it still wouldn’t have conveyed the feel of the big rock.

I may think I am tall, and that I am impressive standing there shoulders back and head high, silhouetted against the clouds; but the rock was 27 feet tall and 35 feet long, and as old as earth. I am just that half seen shadow that is past before it’s even begun.

elephantrocks2.jpg

People were all about that rock. A tiny beagle walked by a boy with bright blue hair managed to get itself stuck in a crevice it was exploring. The boy finally managed to free it, calling it “dumb dog” all the time, but the puppy didn’t seem to mind if his wagging tail was any indication.

A woman about my age, maybe a little younger, accompanied by husband and daughter started a conversation with me, telling me about the rocks along the coast of Rhode Island where she was from and how much they reminded her of these big rocks. She asked if the formations were the result of the quarry operation and I said, no, that she was looking at a rock that was formed a billion years ago from the primal matter that makes up the Earth. She looked at me and then at the rock and then at me and said, “Really?”

Yup.

She ran over to her husband and daughter and started telling them about what I said, but he just looked at her and asked if she wanted to go look at the quarry now, and her daughter walked away and she stopped talking and followed them, bright yellow sweater forming a vivid constrast to the pink of the granite.

elephanttree.jpg

The weather got cold enough and the clouds stormy enough that most people were chased away and I was finally alone on that knoll high above the world. I placed my hand on Dumbo’s surprisingly warm surface and just stood there, for the longest time, thinking thoughts you’ll never read. Then I left.

On the way home I again passed the tornado path and it really was uncanny how many trees were down around homes, but not on the homes themselves. I kept looking for homes being repaired, fresh roof tiles and siding, new glass. But all I saw was old houses, rusty mobile homes and a whole lot of downed trees. Maybe my passenger was right and there was a God protecting them. She was serenely confident this was the answer; that God looked down and saw the people of De Soto and said, not today.

That must be what faith gives you — a feeling like you’re carrying a little bit of that rock with you, all the time.

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