Okay. Obama is a liar, and given he ran in 2008 on an entire platform of lies aimed directly at the American public and especially at the American left, he’s done bad things. He may in fact be a bad person!
NOW CAN WE PLEASE STOP ACTING LIKE HE PERSONALLY SIGNS OFF ON EVERY BAD, STUPID, OR DISTASTEFUL ACTION OF THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT?
Christ. This is NOT rocket surgery, people. He’s not some omnipotent god-king who declares “keep the veterans out of their monuments, make it so!” About fourteen seconds of critical thinking would make that fucking obvious.
And understanding this, and dropping out of the “OBUMMER” mindset, is important. Why?
- If you keep posting shit associating “Obama” with “actions the government took, didn’t take, or failed at taking,” you are diluting the focus on the fact that the system, not Obama, is the problem.
- You are playing directly into the GOP and Faux News “talking points,” which basically equate to chanting “OBUMMERRRRRRRRRRRR” while the government continues to assist bankster robber barons in strip-mining the 99% of their assets, their homes, and their fucking dignity. Your echo of the GOP’s chant gives it a facade of legitimacy; it is not legitimate.
- You contribute to magical thinking. In 2008, a lot of people on the American left were enthralled by Obama: after eight long years of the worst president in history (so far), it was easy for Obama’s substance-free campaign of lies to lead people – even smart people, even a lot of my friends – to believe he actually would change things. So if you repeat the “OBUMMER” meme, you make it easy for people to think, “well, get rid of Obama, and things will change.” That’s bullshit and you all know it.
The truth is, the status quo will never change under our current system of government.
Stop diluting the focus.
It’s Tuesday, September 24th, 2013. I am somewhere in downtown Portland, Oregon, lasering a three-mile stare into the abyss through a flatscreen display convenient for hiding my face. The display is covered with the detritus of work I’m no good at caring about.
I have grey-brown hair in this light. The tips on each strand coruscate silver in the glare of five 15-watt 6500K 96CRI BlueMax® light bulbs, clinically proven to lie most effectively.
The light bulbs say: “Bro, friend, you work outside. Totally! Look, I’m bluish, right? I’m the sky — yeah, I’m the sky part of that whole ‘earth and sky’ thing. The earth and sky thing which would ease your sleep, wake you gently if you just paid attention. If you were just allowed to pay attention.”
“I’m the sky, I’m the sun, and you should get sleepy at ten o’clock tonight.”
I think I just saw something blink, three miles past the surface of that display screen.
Relentless, the light bulbs continue. “You, born in the 1970s, your only true memory of that earth and sky thing — it’s genetic. It’s certainly not a this-life memory, borne of your own experience.” After a pause, though, they’re more cheery. “Fortunately genetic memories are easier to fake out. I’m the sky, remember me? Psych! Am I right?”
The bulbs wink conspiratorially. A few extra blue photons land on cells in my retina, causing a synapse to fire here and there, nudging a balance of chemicals deep in the ancient portion of my brain. Deep in the portion of our brains which evolved to track the earth and sky. Deep in a human brain, still trying to do its job inside a fucking office building.
And that brain, conscious, self-aware, had been complicit: it tried to manipulate its own earth-sky tracker with trickery. It bought a light from Target with five heads and named it “The Squid.” It orchestrated the selection and installation of the BlueMax® bulbs which now vex it with their chatter. It — a brain whose lineage hasn’t even controlled fire a million years, let alone anything else worth mentioning — figured it would trick a battle-tested part of itself designed three hundred million years ago with some fucking light bulbs.
Maybe it’ll work.
“You should get sleepy at ten o’clock tonight,” the 75-watt sky says, showering energetic photons to punctuate its command.
“I should get sleepy at ten o’clock tonight,” I hope to myself, so maybe I can get up early tomorrow and come in to work and catch up on my tasks before I’m fired.
My dad’s getting a pacemaker today. It’s a little box with a battery and a couple wires that dangle in a vein, zapping his heart with electricity to convince it to keep beating within spec after ninety revolutions around the star that birthed it. Its own electricity is getting too weak. Copper-top to the rescue, right?
Things have been rough to deal with when it comes to him and my blood family.
Things have been rough to deal with. With you. With you. With you. With (my internal representation of) you.
Everything is written in sand, I hear whispered from three miles distant.
Everything. Including that.
And then a song comes up on shuffle and I just stop and I don’t cry in my $600 office chair:
i am nothing without pretend
i know my thoughts, can’t live with them
i am nothing without a man
i know my thoughts, but i can’t help it
i still keep my baby teeth
in the bedside table with my jewelry
you still sleep in the bed with me, my jewelry and my baby teeth
i don’t need another friend
when most of them, i can barely keep up with them
perfectly able to hold my own hand
but i still can’t kiss my own neck
i wanted to give you everything
but i still stand in awe of superficial things
i wanted to love you like my mother’s mother’s mothers did
until the end
(until the end)
Everything that ever mattered most to you; everything that mattered most to whoever mattered most to you, even the private things you never knew and wished a thousand times you could know — all of it — will be dust and the faintest expanding bubble of photons in just three generations.
No matter what the abyss whispers when you stare into it, you can affect things for the better, just don’t expect anyone to remember any of it.
Do your best, I guess. From today forward, I’ll probably fault you a little less when you just lay in the mud a while after the 538th time you trip and fall.
MISSING THE MARK
I called my father
and he was happy I did.
He didn’t believe it wasn’t Thursday,
asked me the day and date three times,
and told me he was just sorting through the mail
which the audit said had robbed him
of seven thousand dollars in a year.
I told him I was writing a software project
which would remind him of the day and date
and send him interesting photos and news items
through a special printer.
I was proud.
He concluded that the weather was bullshit,
and thanked me profusely
I sat and I smoked
and after a moment I lay down on the bed
You came with cautious assurance,
and settled your painful old bones
akimbo at every joint
on the pile of blankets next to me.
You offered your love in licks
like a dog might.
“My favorite old man,” I said
my eyes and fingers noting for the thousandth time
that small black patch of fur in a white sea
clearly broken off the adjoining continent
much like Madagascar.
I thought about adopting older cats in the future
as my father went back to his junk mail
a whole continent away.
July 13, 2013
You ever get that thing where you go out walking at 2 o’clock on a Sunday morning, and you’re in a big enough town where there are plenty of people still out from Saturday night because it’s summertime, there are cyclists pedaling home, drunk and yelly pedestrians who you avoid, a canner clinking past with a shopping cart, the dude walking his bike who you have to pass by under the darkest tree. People talking. A young man and two young women chatting about their cats on a third-story porch in a big old house. A couple having a hushed, deeply important end-of-night conversation on the sidewalk. The sound of language, unintelligible, rises and falls at the edge of your hearing in almost every space through which you travel. You’re out walking, thinking, being. You ever get that thing? I got that thing.
And you’re out walking, and then you walk past the house of the woman you used to watch on the bus. You’re almost certain she’s not there any more – you haven’t taken the bus for years but she must have moved away, you mistook your new neighbor across the street for her the other day but no, you haven’t seen her, she must be gone. She’s moved away, you’re almost sure.
And you used to watch her on the bus because she was pretty, and frequently when you were on that bus, when you were not making work by 9 o’clock but she always seemed to be just on time, the world was ugly. But it was more than her body, her face, her physical presence, that special way she had of folding her hands in her lap and exuding composure. It was the way she dressed. Always with visible care. Smart, just ever so faintly old-fashioned, and unique. Very much her. Sometimes blouses. Blouses, not shirts, sometimes. Skirts, simple, fairly plain, she would wear them as a base for three tops layered, nothing fancy, and it just worked. Sometimes, rarely, she wore a headscarf. A headscarf! Thinking back, you pause to look up at a dark window in that yellow house, and you’d swear to anything she wore a tiny bow at her throat once, at the collar of a pale blue sweater.
And one day finally, finally one day on that bus you complimented her boots, a compliment delivered just before your stop, offered at the exact moment to ensure minimum further contact. You did love those boots. And you wanted her learning of your affection for her choice of those boots to just be a pleasant experience. You didn’t want any dead air. So you calculated the time, and told her, hey, great boots. Those are really great. They look loved.
One time after, she said something to you when the bus was really full and you were standing together. The words are gone. Gone. You can see her lips move but you’ll never know what those words were.
You pause at that house. One afternoon you had a different destination and got off at her stop and walked north, and two blocks later she was across the street from you, she was standing near a car in the driveway of that big old house. It was summer, a little further along in the season than now. Someone else was there. You glanced from across the street and she seemed more open than on the bus. Maybe she was happy. Maybe the car was silver colored. Maybe she’d been bringing in groceries.
You look up and wonder if that apartment was cute. You think about what might have existed inside the white door with white trim in that stately old yellow house.
You wonder in a sudden spin of what-ifs whether that woman had at one time made that dark apartment so welcoming, so enclosing, so warm, whether her taste in clothing translated into an ability to weave a palpable feeling of home, whether that still calmness on the surface of her broad kind face went all the way to the bottom. What was she like, who did she love, what was the history that made her, did she have plants or a cat or a record collection? Was she perfect?
Was the cover of that book – her life, reflected in how she appeared on a city bus – accurate?
How did the story go?
How quickly, walking home, I wish I’d known you can turn into I wish I had any answers at all.
First off, this is way late. A lot of Oregonians have already voted due to our wonderful vote-by-mail system. I’ll do it sooner next time.
For anybody not familiar, I’m a cranky left-leaning Cascadia supporter. If I had to festoon myself with labels I’d call myself a Democratic Libertarian Eco-Socialist. I’d quickly make an emphatic clarification that “democratic” is small-D (as in “democratic socialist,” not “Democratic party”) and “libertarian” is small-L (as in “the state can quit telling people who to marry and can quit killing people, k thx bai” libertarianism, not American capitalist style “oops everyone has horrible tumors because we didn’t fetter the uranium miners with government regulations” Libertarianism).
I have some pretty strong beliefs, I think we have a long way to go as a society and as a species before we can call it even close to good, and I don’t vote a straight bleeding-heart ticket; the best way I can think to give an example is that I’m a responsible firearms owner, and while I’m for common-sense gun control, I’m opposed to things like revealing the names and addresses of CCW holders, etc.
I suppose that leads me to my next point. I’m a passionate civil liberties advocate. This colors every one of my positions to some extent: ending Prohibition; enacting comprehensive and tough citizen oversight of law enforcement from the local to the federal level; getting government the hell out of marriage; enacting sweeping patent and copyright law reform for a vibrant idea economy without corporations telling us what we can and can’t say because they “own” ideas; and so forth.
Here are my endorsements in national, Oregon, Multnomah County and Portland races. As a rule, I never cast a vote in uncontested races, so I will not endorse anyone in those races. If nobody will contest the seat, it’s not worth my energy to fill in the little oval on the ballot and thus indicate my approval. We can do better as a society.
I’ve been trying to think of the perfect word for how I feel about what happened at Occupy Portland tonight. I think the best one might be “heartening.” UPDATE: lol no, police are actually violent Machiavellian assholes after all. Imagine that! http://www.livestream.com/occupyptown (original post continues below)
The Occupy encampment in the middle of downtown Portland right next to City Hall, a jail, a courthouse and other areas was set to be evicted this morning at 12:01am.
A large police presence developed throughout the day. When I arrived on scene at 10pm, there were a few hundred people and most of the police were relaxed and some were even talkative. The weather was crappy; gentle rain had turned into windy drizzle with occasional heavier showers, and it was cold. But as the midnight deadline approached, the crowd grew, and grew, and grew, rapidly multiplying from a few hundred to several thousand by my best guess. People from all walks of life. Hardcore supporters, supporters who’d never been to camp before, rubberneckers and bored teenagers looking for a show, union members, even a delegation of about 20 of Portland’s clergy who came down to “bear witness for a peaceful outcome.” Not so much with the drug addicts. These were normal people, come down to be a witness to something historic.
Long story short, because my eyes are crossing and I have GOT to pass out (it’s 8am, I’m still up) — police did eventually line up, a line of riot police facing crowds on either side of 3rd Avenue, mounted officers, and so forth. They issued a dispersal order and threatened chemical and “impact weapons” from a van with a crappy PA system, indicating they needed to clear 3rd and Main to reopen the streets to traffic. Their push failed (or was a tactic), and they eventually had to withdraw to 3rd and Madison, one block south.
Then there was another long standoff. While that was going on, some people in the camp built barricades at either end of the one block of Main Street between the two squares, fashioning them from pallets and furniture and road construction barricades.
And then: the PA van reappeared while riot police held the line at 3rd and Madison.
“Good morning,” said the van. The police then proceeded to politely ask protestors to move out of the streets so that traffic could pass, asking them to return to the sidewalks and to the square from which they had been evicted.
The protestors complied. Back off the streets they went. Then they chanted that it was the turn of the police: time for you to get out of the road, too! And then the police packed up and left. Shortly after, I walked down a block to Main, and the barricades were gone. They’d been dismantled by Occupiers.
I’m incredibly proud of the Occupiers for staying peaceful. They even ejected several violent people from the crowd and delivered them to police to be arrested as they should, exactly the kind of self-enforcement of group standards — nonviolence, in this case — that this article by Sara Robinson implies is a critical need. This is much, much better than the prior weeks in camp where disruptive people were not handled and became an overwhelming problem. And the cooperation with police and the city when it was not only the right thing to do but also the classy thing to do was great to see, too.
I’m also very, very appreciative of the razor’s edge that Mayor Sam Adams has been walking here as well. It hasn’t been easy. The authoritarian types and cheap-labor conservatives have wasted no time in roasting him thoroughly on Twitter and in the absolute cesspool that is the Oregonian’s online comments. But he’s stated that “peaceful” is priority one and then he’s kept his word and made it so. For that I’m very very appreciative.
Additionally, the Portland Police continued to show good restraint, did not make unnecessary arrests, did not antagonize the crowd, and other than the naturally angry reaction to their dispersal order (and the inability to hear it very far from the van at all) they were generally pretty well received.
Of course, tonight’s “eviction” didn’t end up with the campers out of the camp. They’re still there. But almost immediately after the park was temporarily ceded back to the Occupiers, a call went out to everyone on the emergency text message line for today’s events: now that we’re back in the park, let’s clean it up.
I love it.
The camp is still under the threat of eviction, and I believe that many people with a place to go and in the core of the movement will now pull up stakes, head home and plan the next phase of the revolution. There’ll also be a few die-hard Occupiers left that will not go under any circumstance and will have to be arrested. It’s inevitable, and I hope it all takes place peacefully.
But I really hope they all pitch in. There is a lot of debris and trash that needs to be removed. I’d love to see this end in a couple days — Sam Adams wasn’t specific on the informally extended timeframe — but end with a park with the debris and remaining tents largely gone and most of the people having moved to the next phase.