Category Archives: Activism

The Lost Legacy of Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair - Public Domain image via Wikipedia

If you’ve ever read The Jungle, which exposed us to the nightmare working conditions of the meat-packing industry in early 20th Century America, there is a scene that is horrifying in many, many ways, where a man falls into a sausage grinder and apparently becomes part of the packing-plant’s product. Well, I don’t know of any workers becoming a part of our sausage or hummus, but with company executives pushing both cost-cutting measures and the skirting of safety regulations (because it’s cheaper to pay a fine than to make workers safe, let alone reasonably-paid) the machines they work on are still killing them.

And though the article about the death of Michael Raper above does not say it, apparently there was a safety violation involved, though the fine was only $7,000.

Is that outrageous to anyone else?

A Principled Left Should Tell You What To Go Do With Yourself.

Over at Common Dreams, there is a piece titled “Why a Principled Left Should Support the Benghazi Inquiry” by Ajamu Baraka.

And if you thought that didn’t bode well, here’s the subtitle:

The GOP want to destroy Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in one fell swoop, but there’s a deeper issue to investigate that deserves public scrutiny: How the US/Nato invasion of Libya unleashed widespread violence across North Africa and beyond.

So basically let me sum this up for you. You can’t understand Boko Haram without understanding how the operation against Qaddafi’s Libya and the weapons we provided the rebels energized all sorts of crazy radicals in Africa. Oh, but Boko Haram is older than that operation. Also, there are emails that may indicate the administration mislead the public, if by “mislead” you mean “pre-emptively PR spin to counter any possible assertion that the attack was a direct result of U.S. policies,” which I guess is true because nothing is completely a result of U.S. policies. Also, if by “the administration” you mean “one guy in the administration.” Oh, and if by “emails” you mean “an email.”

He also says that… oh fuck this, I’ll just quote him.

The response from the Democrats has been predictable. Democrats already lined-up behind a Clinton campaign understand that no matter what comes out this inquiry, Benghazi has the potential to become a permanent yoke that wears down the Clinton candidacy. But in another bizarre display of political and ideological subordination to the Democrat Party and its rightist elite, elements of the left have also expressed opposition to this inquiry.

One would think that those on the left would support this inquiry, as limited and partisan as it will be, on the democratic principle that the people have a right to know what occurred before, during and in the aftermath of the attack. But even more importantly, by demanding a more comprehensive examination of all the activity of the U.S. in Libya in the aftermath of the destruction of that state, including the mission of the CIA in Benghazi, the left can and should raise serious questions that expose the dangerous strategy of empowering anti-democratic, right-wing forces, from al Qaeda-connected jihadists in Syria to neo-fascists in Ukraine.

Holy fucking shit I can not believe a Lefty human being living in the U.S. over the age of 40 actually wrote that. Limited? Really? Like Ken Starr was limited to investigating Whitewater, then spent YEARS digging into every orifice the Clintons had in order to come up with SOMETHING they could use against him? Partisan? You’d better fucking believe it’s partisan. The only difference now is this has race mixed into it, something you’d think Mr. Baraka would understand, since he’s done a whole lot of work talking about racism in the U.S.. He honestly tries to convince us in this essay that he thinks this is aimed at Hillary Clinton, but not at Barack Obama. Then he flips it around again.

I welcome the hearings and could not care less about the implications for the candidacy of Hilary Clinton or the reputation of Barack Obama.

Neither do I.

I am more interested in curbing the right-ward militarist trajectory of U.S. policy.

You’re a little late for that, and if you think that trajectory is going to be changed by a Tea Party-driven investigation centered in the Republican Majority in the U.S. House, you’re out of your goddamn mind.

As an African American the plight of the more than 200 school girls captured by Boko Haram holds a special outrage for me. But I am also outraged by the murder of people defending their rights to self-determination at the hands of U.S.-supported thugs in Odessa Ukraine, outraged by the fact that people are daily terrorized by the constant buzz of U.S. drones that kill women and children in wedding parties and individuals who may “act” like they might be so-called terrorists, outraged that people can call themselves moral and even progressive and support the brutal Israeli occupation and de-humanization of Palestinians.

Yeah, you’re a goddamn clear-eyed humanitarian. Except for the continued inability of minorities in the U.S. to get the benefits they need, especially in states that (in a shocking coincidence) not only have shitty Medicaid benefits, they also refused the Medicaid expansion and are suppressing the shit out of minority voters! By the way: before someone accuses me of valuing the lives of people in the U.S. over people outside of it, read on, there’s a little lesson for you at the end here.

And I am outraged knowing that U.S. policy-makers don’t give a damn about the school girls in Nigeria because their real objective is to use the threat of Boko Haram in the Northern part of the country to justify the real goal of occupying the oil fields in the South and to block the Chinese in Nigeria.

You display a stunning ignorance as to why this is happening, even as you’re so outraged by it.

Exposing the whole sordid story of the destruction of Libya and the role of Al-Qaeda as the “boots on the ground” for U.S. geo-strategic objectives in North Africa and the Middle East represents the only strategy that an independent and principled left could pursue in wake of the fact that the hearings are going to occur. Anything other than that is capitulation, something that the left has routinely done over the last six years, and some of us still struggle against in the hope that one day the “responsible” left will eschew the privileges that stem from its objective collaboration with the interests and world-view of neo-liberal white power and re-ground itself in authentic radical principles and the world-wide struggle against Western domination.

Let me say this in the clearest, most concise manner possible.

ALL POLITICS IS LOCAL.

The Benghazi hearings are about electing Republicans and defeating Democrats. Period. The overthrow of Qaddafi was as much about local politics in the EU as anything else (a big part of it being an attempt to bail out BP because of their massive losses in the US after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which was destroying pension holdings in the UK). We pulled out of Viet Nam because a domestic political shift made it politically untenable to remain there. Same for Iraq. Same for Afghanistan. If you want to make a long-term change in the behavior of people towards something that’s far away from them, find the intersection between the effects that thing produces and how they live their lives and hammer on that. You do not do it – ever – by giving political cover to your enemies.

All that the Left would do by supporting the Benghazi investigations is help the GOP to continue bashing anyone to the left of Ted Cruz. Assisting the party that is actively encouraging the disenfranchisement of your base is not the way to win in politics unless you are attempting to start a revolution. If that’s what you’re trying to do, you’re a horrible human being because you’re (from a position of authority and privilege yourself) saying that you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, and by eggs you mean people who have virtually no power or voice in this world. Way to go!

Finally in the spirit of the title, I’d just like to say this:
bagofdicks

Thoughts from a New Clinic Escort

Those of you who know me personally know that I’ve started volunteering with the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force. I’ve only been doing it two weeks, and it’s already been the most intense emotional experience I’ve ever had that didn’t involve the threat of injury/death or the end of a multi-year relationship. While I may at some point tell the (boring) story of why I started, let me first explain what a clinic escort is and does. Wait, first let me set the scene.

The Planned Parenthood clinic I volunteer at is located in the District of Columbia, which (because of DC’s odd property laws mostly stemming from the city being designed with the then-current tactics of revolution in mind) leads to what might charitably be called an inconvenient problem: everything from the street right up to the building is considered “private property set aside for public use” (this has had some interesting consequences). What this means is that people protesting *ahem* “sidewalk counseling” at the clinic can walk right up to the door. All they can’t do is touch you or block access to the facility. What they can do, however, is subject the patients walking in and out to a barrage of pamphlets, posters, pleading, and (occasionally) invective.

Fortunately, the protesters can’t just walk into the clinic, because the person who works the front desk has no tolerance for nonsense, and generally she won’t buzz the front door open unless you’re walking up with one of the escorts. Yes, the front door is a security door that must be unlatched from the inside. Yes, this is a medical facility. Get this, the door inside that goes to the waiting room (and the restrooms) also needs to be buzzed open by the person at the front desk. I wonder how many more patients could be treated each year if the clinics in the U.S. didn’t have to install and maintain such protective measures?

Anyhow. What a clinic escort does is (with the permission of the clinic) walk with the patients to and from the facility, interpose themselves between the patient and the more zealous of the protestors, talk with the patient to distract from the sounds of the praying/ranting/guilt-tripping going on all around them, and generally try and support access to the clinic. In short, this is the only activism I’ve ever done that has been in support of enforcing a federal law (specifically the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act), rather than an attempt to shake things up or change political dialogue. Both literally and figuratively, a clinic escort is an unpaid volunteer with no authority or powers whatsoever beyond the simple permission of the clinic to be there, who does nothing more than facilitate patients getting in and out with as little fuss as possible.

Now you can’t touch a protestor, but what you can do is slow down while they’re in front of you, or stand where they want to be standing (usually right next to where the patient will be). You can’t tell someone to shut up, but you can provide (with your voice) an alternate thing for the patient to focus on. You can’t touch the patients (as much as sometimes some of them look like they need a hug, reassurance, or even a handshake), but you can apologize for the craziness going on around them. You can’t prevent them from occupying the sidewalk, but you can call the police if they block the path. You can’t prevent the singing, praying, or wailing and gnashing of teeth going on to either side of the walk up to the front door, but you can pick your spot to stand so that the patient’s journey is marked by a friendly, or at least non-confrontational face along the way.

Now this is definitely no fun, but not because of the patients. At worst, the patients don’t acknowledge your existence, which is fine with me. It’s not because of little recognition and no reward, because if you are there for recognition, you’re in the wrong place. This isn’t about you; it’s about ensuring access to medical care. You don’t have enough information about what people going to the clinic are doing there (and living through) to make a sane and informed judgement about it. It’s not even the protesters specifically, because anyone who has spent significant time dealing with crazy people either IRL or on the Internet has tremendous experience with filtering out the crazy. It’s not the ugly orange thingie you wear to clearly identify yourself as a clinic escort (picture from la4choice.org); in fact, the environment was so tense that I forgot I was wearing it almost immediately (I also put it on backwards at first, before another escort pointed that out).

What infuriated me almost beyond reason was how the protesters seem to treat the patients. I can’t pretend to know what they were thinking, but their behavior speaks volumes. Decide for yourself.

I didn’t get affected by much my first day. Mostly, what I did was identify the choke points, ignore things said at (and about) me, and learn the patterns of movement. Not a big deal. Seriously, mad props to the Internet, the Tea Party, and lots of lefty-haters (as well as crazy stalkers) out there for toughening me up for this.

The lone African-American among the protesters, a young woman who appeared to be at least middle class, was there both of the times I have been there. Two weekends ago, she was there quietly praying when I arrived, and she occasionally handed out flyers and tried to intercept the patients as they went in (but was nowhere near as aggressive as Dick Retta, who is dogged about yelling at each and every person “don’t kill your baby,” regardless of gender, age, or why they’re there).

Last weekend, she brought a baby (I didn’t ask, but I’m assuming it was hers), and she and some of the other protesters took turns walking up and down the walk to the door and praying. Not classy and not kind, but still didn’t get me. Children are used for political purposes all the time. It’s disgusting, it’s pathetic, and it’s not surprising. It didn’t even surprise me to see the very white, very middle-to-upper class protesters all crowd around and share in carrying the baby around like some kind of holy symbol. Manipulation through emotional symbols is very characteristic of organized religion and politics, and the protesters were very steeped in both.

There is a woman there who takes pictures of the escorts, and she tries to take pictures of the patients and the inside of the clinic (we do our best to block her from those last two targets). She says all sorts of foolish things about the escorts, such as that when we die, we’re going to see the faces of all those that have been aborted there that we made happen (somehow). She shows up with a large poster of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and tells me that it was proved by Scientists! who were Atheists! that the paint could not have been from this world! That it was supernatural! (not the copy she has, but the original). Last time I checked, crushed beetle shells were decidedly of this world, and she’s worth nothing more than amusement.

Most of the other “sidewalk counselors” rush to meet the patients in front of the clinic, follow them (with us blocking) as they move to the door, thrust literature at them, and then once the patient goes in, stand there and adopt what I think of as “the expression,” staring at the patient’s back until they’re buzzed into the waiting room. Each of the protesters (again, they call themselves “sidewalk counselors”) has their own expression; for one it’s a beatific, warm, and almost forgiving smile, for another it’s an infinitely sad and somber look, for others it’s almost an expression of mournful pleading, for still another it’s an expression of serene sadness, and the list goes on. I suspect they keep it on because the person might turn around, see them, and be moved by the depth of feeling in “the expression,” and come out of the clinic. Who knows. Maybe it’s genuine emotion, maybe it’s cynical manipulation. What I do know, is that the moment the person turns to the waiting room door, the protester(s) stop watching, drop “the expression” like a bad habit, and move to be ready to intercept the next patient.

Overall, the individual protesters gave me the impression that they cared much more about how they felt about what was going on (and about the people going in/out and around the clinic) than anything to do with the people themselves, or the circumstances they might be in (you can only hear “LET US SAVE YOUR BABY” being yelled at women who yell back “I’M NOT PREGNANT; I’M HERE FOR BIRTH CONTROL!”

so many times without smirking). It also surprised me that, having seen some of the protesters in a coffee shop (hey, I like mah mochas and my morale was low), they seemed positively enervated, when the escorts looked like they’d been through a grind. These people actually get a tremendous charge out of what they do, and I don’t think they realize that what they do is make it more difficult for everyone around them to live their lives as they need to. They would argue that they are saving lives, but in my opinion, if you’re going to say that meaningful humanity lies solely in replicating DNA, then you debase everything else that a human being is and can be (and especially debase the woman, whose mind and personality is suddenly subordinated to her uterus in your eyes).

No, the protesters individually are not a problem, and they didn’t get to me with any of their antics directly. What got to me was when a woman with running mascara and tears, followed by her boyfriend, strode toward the clinic with (I think) mixed anger and grief on her face. She was moving fast, and she didn’t say much of anything to anyone. I don’t know why she was there, not my business. She needed to get in, we got her in.

But in the very short time I’ve been doing this, I never saw the protesters so energized, so quick to move, so fervent in their appeals, so confrontational with the aforementioned protester’s baby, and so completely indifferent to the facts of another human being’s life. Did it make a difference that the woman was white, with long blond hair and a tall white man accompanying her? Maybe, but I sincerely doubt it. She was not the only one to show up. But she was the only one crying that day. She was the only one showing pain, and showing it deeply.

What got to me was how the protesters pounced on her like sharks on a bleeding seal. They didn’t know her, they didn’t know anything about her, they just knew she was in the grip of emotion, and lunged at it. Believe me, that’s my polite way of describing it.

I’m shaking a little with an emotion I can’t name as I type this, and it’s been three full days since it happened. The picture-taking lady, apparently thinking she sensed vulnerability* then showed me a poster covered in pictures of babies, and said something to the effect of “this is what you are killing. This is what is dying in there.” I don’t remember what I said back, or what she said to me in response, but I’m grateful to one of the other escorts for saying to me “it would be helpful to the patients if you went back to your spot,” in a relaxed, matter-of-fact voice.

So without even pausing for thought, I went back to my spot and got over myself, because I’m not there for me. I’m very glad that he trusted that enough to think that his simple statement would shake me out of my reaction, and I’m very glad I refocused. I’m still not quite over the experience, but now I know something on an intuitive level that I only intellectually understood before: that the real problem with the protesters is that they don’t care about the full, complex, joyous, horrible mess that is life; they live to serve their idealized fantasy world, and will subordinate that which is human, living, and real to the service of that cause.

I expect most of the escorts will be doing family stuff, so I’ll be going again this weekend. I’m going to be focusing on the patients, being civil to them, and emotionally processing what I saw (they’re always very friendly and polite to us, except for the picture-taking lady), because I don’t think we have the same understanding of what it means to be friendly, or even what it means to be alive.

* A misjudgement that was roughly on par with Dick Morris’ claim that it was going to be a Romney Landslide. Let’s just leave it at that.

Why Participating in your Local Politics Is Important (no, SERIOUSLY)

A possible subtitle for this post would be “A Tale of Two States,” those states being Pennsylvania and Virginia.

I’d like you to look at the maps of their congressional districts (Virginia, Pennsylvania – links open in new windows) and you may want to keep those windows open to look back at what is probably the clearest example of why we re-elect incumbent Representatives in the House.

First, let’s take a look at Pennsylvania. Notice that the five districts that went Democratic this time are clustered near major cities, and that the Democratic districts really don’t cover much in the way of area. Notice on the Secretary of State’s website that none of the races in the Democratic-leaning districts were really very close (in fact, they were very lopsided), resulting in the 5 Democratic Representatives (out of 18 total) being re-elected with solid majorities. The GOP winners won (generally) by much narrower margins. In PA, the Congressional districts are drawn by the State Legislature and approved by the Governor, while the Legislature districts are drawn by a commission balanced between Republicans and Democrats. If you wonder whether the redistricting process, consider that the total votes for Democratic U.S. House candidates in the 2012 PA election was 2,702,901, and the total votes for GOP U.S. House candidates was 2,626,851. So we have a state that’s almost evenly divided (Dem vs. GOP), but the House representation is 5 to 13.

Now on to Virginia.

First, the oddity that is the 3rd congressional district (the blot in the lower-right corner of the VA map linked above that looks like three little districts, but is actually all one district, is something that was put in place after the 2000 census. In Virginia, gerrymandering has been going on so long that it’s simply expected (and both sides cry foul at the other side doing it).

On to the stats. Virginia has 3 Democratic Representatives and 8 Republican ones, with 1,797,905 votes cast for Democratic candidates and 1,873,491 votes cast for Republican ones (aggregated from stats here). Given wailing and gnashing of teeth about Democratic gerrymandering in the link above, I’d say that the GOP is guilty of being more adept at the process.

Really, the only people who benefit from gerrymandering are the politicians themselves, since they’re choosing their voters. So remember, when you feel like bitching about “those elites in Washington who aren’t paying attention to us,” the reason they’re there is because of elites right next door who are deciding which elite you will vote to send to Washington, and in what group of voters your vote will be counted. Your local elections are what decide this, and you fail to participate in them at your peril. Also, I recommend much ranting and raving about the gerrymandering – it’s not cool when anyone does it, and I believe it’s at the root of how our two-party system has become so entrenched at the national level.

May the 4th

From the Chicago Public Library:

Early in 1886, labor unions were beginning a movement for an eight-hour day. Union activists called a one-day general strike in Chicago on May 1 of that year. Two days later a shooting and one death occurred during a riot at the McCormick Reaper plant when police tangled with the strikers. That evening a small group of anarchists met to plan a rally the next day in response.

The rally began about 8:30 p.m. May 4 at Haymarket Square, a open market on Randolph Street between Halsted and Des Plaines streets, but moved a half block away to Des Plaines Street north of Randolph Street. Speakers addressed the crowd from a wagon used as a makeshift stage. Mayor Carter Harrison joined the crowd briefly and then left. After 10 p.m., as the rally drew to a close, 176 policemen led by Inspector John Bonfield moved to disperse the crowd. Suddenly a bomb exploded. In the confusion that followed shots were fired. Policeman Mathias J. Degan was killed by the bomb, six officers died later and sixty others were injured.

Thirty-one well-known anarchists and socialists were arrested and named in criminal indictments, and eight were held for trial. Despite the fact that the bomb thrower was never identified, and none of these eight could be connected with the crime, Judge Joseph E. Gary imposed the death sentence on seven of them and the eighth was given 15 years in prison. The court held that the “inflammatory speeches and publications” of these eight incited the actions of the mob. The Illinois and U.S. Supreme Courts upheld the verdict.

On November 11, 1887, four of the men—Albert Parsons, August Spies, Adolph Fischer and George Engel—were hanged. Louis Lingg committed suicide in prison awaiting the death sentence. The sentences of two others were commuted from death to imprisonment for life. On June 26, 1893, Governor John P. Altgeld pardoned the three who were in the penitentiary.

After Altgeld became governor in 1893, the petitions for pardon that had been presented to and refused by his predecessor, Richard Oglesby, were again introduced. After reviewing the case, Altgeld granted a full pardon. In his remarks, he stated that the jury was selected to convict and the judge so prejudiced against the defendants that a fair trial was impossible.

Worldwide appeals for clemency for the condemned Haymarket martyrs led to the establishment of May 1 as an International Workers’ Day. Although May Day has been commemorated as a labor holiday in many countries, it was never adopted in the United States.

A more comprehensive description of the events is up at Lawyers, Guns, and Money (post by Erik Loomis):

From ibiblio.org:

On May 4, 1919, a quietly determined column of Peking students assembled in Tiananmen Square and marched through the capital. Distributing incendiary pamphlet literature and carrying pointed slogans, the students behaved quietly, arousing little notice among the officials. When they reached the home of pro-Japanese minister Tsao Ju-lin, chaos ensued. In the confusion that followed, Tsao escaped, Japanese minister Chang was beaten, parts of the house were burnt – and all of the students were received as heroes. Bystanders cheered as the students apprehended by late-coming police marched toward imprisonment. The Chinese press was delighted with them; the British Herald made much of Tsao’s “biting the dust.” (p. 348, The North China Herald) The demonstration planned to honor China’s “National Humiliation Day” would be remembered as one of the most important events in twentieth century China. Over three thousand intellectuals mobilized and struck a blow against those they perceived as China’s enemies – the students were doing more than just talking about revolution.

This “May 4th Movement” was so pivotal as a symbol of reinventing China is so important, its echoes were felt all the way through the events on June 3-4, 1989 in the same square. Its effect continues to be felt to this day.

From NPR, an article from a year ago:

Fifty years ago this month, a group of 13 men and women, seven black and six white, left Washington, D.C., on two buses bound for New Orleans.

They never made it. Ten days later, on May 14, 1961, one of the vehicles was attacked by a white mob in Anniston, Ala., the bus set on fire and the riders beaten up. The local police and state troopers made no effort to stop the violence, and the governor of the state, referring to the integrated group of passengers, sarcastically remarked that “you can’t guarantee the safety of a fool.”

That same day, the other bus pulled into the terminal in Birmingham, Ala., where it was met by a mob of 1,000 people who proceeded to viciously beat the riders. But as Freedom Riders, a stunning two-hour documentary being broadcast by PBS on May 16 at 9 p.m. EST (and reviewed by Stanley Crouch for The Root last year) demonstrates, these nonviolent activists never gave up — and, in doing so, managed to effect real change.

From the Kent May 4th Center:

MONDAY, MAY 4, 1970

At 11 a.m., about 200 students gathered on the Commons. Earlier that morning, state and local officials had met in Kent. Some officials had assumed that Gov. Rhodes had declared Martial Law to be in effect–but he had not. In fact, martial law was not officially declared until May 5. Nevertheless, the National Guard resolved to disperse any assembly.

As noon approached, the size of the crowd increased to 1,500. Some were merely spectators, while others had gathered specifically to protest the invasion of Cambodia and the continued presence of the National Guard on the campus. Upon orders of Ohio’s Assistant Adjutant General Robert Canterbury, an army jeep was driven in front of the assembled students. The students were told by means of a bullhorn to disperse immediately. Students responded with jeers and chants.

When the students refused to disperse, Gen. Canterbury ordered the guardsmen to disperse them. Approximately 116 men, equipped with loaded M-1 rifles and tear gas, formed a skirmish line towards the students. Aware of bayonet injuries of the previous evening, students immediately ran away from the attacking National Guardsmen. Retreating up Blanket Hill, some students lobbed tear gas canisters back at the advancing troops, and one straggler was attacked with clubs.

The Guard, after clearing the Commons, marched over the crest of the hill, firing tear gas and scattering the students into a wider area. The Guard then continued marching down the hill and onto a practice football field. For approximately 10 minutes, the guard stayed in this position. During this time, tear gas canisters were thrown back and forth from the Guard’s position to a small group of students n the Prentice Hall parking lot, about 100 yards away. Some students responded to the guardsmen’s attack by throwing stones. Guardsmen also threw stones at the students. But because of the distance, most stones from both parties fell far short of their targets. The vast majority of students, however, were spectators on the veranda of Taylor Hall.

While on the practice field, several members of Troop G, which would within minutes fire the fatal volley, knelt and aimed their weapons at the students in the parking lot. Gen. Canterbury concluded that the crowd had been dispersed and ordered the Guard to march back to the commons area. Some members of Troop G then huddled briefly.

After reassembling on the field, the Guardsmen seemed to begin to retreat as they marched back up the hill, retracing their previous steps. Members of Troop G, while advancing up the hill, continued to glance back to the parking lot, where the most militant and vocal students were located. The students assumed the confrontation was over. Many students began to walk to their next classes.

As the guard reached the crest of the Blanket Hill, near the Pagoda of Taylor Hall, about a dozen members of Troop G simultaneously turned around 180 degrees, aimed and fired their weapons into the crowd in the Prentice Hall parking lot. The 1975 civil trials proved that there was a verbal command to fire.

A total of 67 shots were fired in 13 seconds. Four students: Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder were killed. Nine students were wounded: Joseph Lewis, John Cleary, Thomas Grace, Robbie Stamps, Donald Scott MacKenzie, Alan Canfora, Douglas Wrentmore, James Russell and Dean Kahler. Of the wounded, one was permanently paralyzed, and several were seriously maimed. All were full-time students.

Today is Star Wars day (say “may The Force be with you” with a lisp and you’ll know why – the actual release date was May 25th, 1977). I loved Star Wars (as a little kid I saw the second showing on release day), but I’m just can’t get motivated about “Star Wars day.” I’ll have a drink on the 25th though, and quietly remember staring at the one sheet in front of the theater wondering what those robotic-like guys in white armor were on the poster, while my parents were in line not far away. It’s important to remember these things, though not because they themselves are important. This world is complex and unfair and trying to ward off emotional numbness is difficult without the ability to occasionally feel a childlike joy now and again.

Other than that, I’ll just be keeping on as I usually do.

LOOK_AT_THIS_DUCKNot that this could be considered “serious” by any stretch of the imagination…

My Newest Hero

Now let there be no question about this. Molly Ivins is my favorite hero. What does someone require to be accorded that dubious honor? The ability to reach out to real, factual events and human feelings, and draw them together into a coherent, eloquent, meaningful, and relevant whole. And now I have another hero as well. Maureen Farrell, thank you for being another one of those who, quite simply, says what needs saying, and saying it well.