Dam Cracked

 

Not to diminish the insult or pain caused by Confederate statues, but it strikes me that discussions around them take our attention away from the true horror of Charlottesville. There were Nazi’s and KKK people marching proudly and openly in front of live cameras!  With guns and torches. Quoting first Hitler and then Donald Trump. In an American city.

Take a moment and really consider that.

It demands a response from every thinking person with a conscience. But what can possibly be written that hasn’t been said already by 1000 talking heads and one or two Republican senators?

As my subconscious gnawed on these recent events, a childhood story popped into my head. The one about the little boy who plugs a hole in a dike with his finger and saves the town (or was it the whole country?) I guess I thought of this story because it was somehow the metaphorical opposite of what I want to see happen.

In my three weeks in the States, I detected changes in the vocabulary people used to discuss the latest daily Twump farce. Way back during the campaign we had heard tentative expressions about “false statements”, “untruths”, “misrepresentations” and “distortions” – now people were saying straight out “he lied again”. An earlier “unprecedented outrage” was now yet another “idiotic” stunt. Words like “narcissist”, “pathological”, “obsession”, “unhinged”, etc. were now being thrown around with impunity. Newscasters began to smirk when saying the words “The president tweeted today that . . . .”  and no one talked about his brilliance in business or deal making anymore. And yet, everyone still danced on tiptoes around two topics. The first was his mental state. The second was fascism. Any remark comparing Trump’s playbook to that of historical fascist regimes was immediately pronounced “out of bounds”.

Still, it seemed to me that the vocabulary of dissent was growing in volume and intensity. I discussed this with my sister many times to make sure it was not just wishful thinking or me hearing what I wanted to hear. I was sure this drip drip had turned into a trickle at least. I wondered what it would take to turn this dribble into a stream and then, finally, maybe a torrent. What would make the dam break? Access Hollywood didn’t do it. Nor did the Comey firing. None of his many nasty attacks got his party members running, nor did the fact that he lied five times a day on average since taking office. Could Charlottesville be the thing? – the one that finally could not be simply waited out? When an important senator openly questioned the pwesident’s mental fitness for office and CNN started debating the question the next day, I thought this might really be it. The three words “on many sides” would open the flood gates. I braced myself and . . .

dribble . . . dribble . . . dribble . . .

I should have known that the senator’s words would not equate with metaphorically unplugging the hole in the dike. (His name was “Corker”. It was a sign.)

I googled the story anyway (search terms: boy finger dike) and discovered a lot of confusion. No one seems to know the origins of the story, but it was made famous by an American woman in the 19th century when she included it in her book about life in Holland: “Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates”. This woman had never been to Holland when she wrote it and apparently most Dutch people were not and are not familiar with the story. (This detail doesn’t surprise me at all. I have met literally thousands of Austrians and can only name three who have seen “The Sound of Music”.) Even so, there are (erroneously named) “Hans Brinker” statues in many cities in the Netherlands today. Wikipedia suggests they were put up for the benefit of American tourists.

And now I am back to statues.

It seems our objectionable statues have about as much true connection to our country’s heritage and traditions as the Hans Brinker ones do to Holland’s. Who believes that these ugly monuments, put up during Jim Crow, were meant to glorify a bunch of 19th century generals fighting a lost and immoral cause or the man who occupied a short-lived and illegitimate presidency? No, they had a different purpose and it surely wasn’t to attract tourists. And who believes that the present day defenders of these pieces of concrete are there to honor history? If anything, it is a bunch of 21st century generals fighting a different lost cause they are chanting for, along with the current man occupying a (short-lived?) and illegitimate presidency. The man whose words encouraged them to creep out of the closets and remove the hoods. These people clearly have an affinity to and recognize a common cause with the pwesident.

So . . . it seems that self proclaimed neo-nazi’s can say publicly that “he is one of us” but the rest of us are still not allowed to say “he is one of you”.

I am almost desperate in my need to hear Washington lawmakers and serious news people start openly discussing this man’s true political leanings as well as his mental capacity and health. He keeps going lower and he’s taking the country down with him.

There were Nazi’s and KKK people marching proudly and openly in front of live cameras!  With guns and torches. Quoting first Hitler and then Donald Trump. In an American city.

Take a moment and really consider that.

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Hail to the Chief

hail1

I have no idea where they came from, but we inherited this ancient German encyclopedia set and these books have spent most of their lives since collecting dust in my library. Recently, however, I took one off the shelf on a whim and gave it a closer look. My first discovery was the old Germhail2an script which I find quite difficult to read. Then I looked at the copyright and saw that these books were published in 1937 in Leipzig, Germany. Almost exactly 80 years ago.

 

1937 . . .

If memory and my high school history teachers serve, 1937 was four years after Hitler’s election to German Chancellor and one year before he annexed Austria, kicking off the march toward World War II in the process. I wondered, what was the mindset of the people who let these developments happen? What were the facts of their world? Here on my library shelf were five volumes with the answers to my questions.

I first tried to think of non-political things I could look up. Things that might have been new at that time. My husband suggested “Jazz”.

After struggling a while with the kooky letters, I learned that Jazz “arose out of English and Scottish folksongs and operetta music as well as the plantation work songs and religious singing of the North American negro and their dances which stemmed from Africa. Jazz is foreign to the German music sensibility.”

The word “negro” stood out. In German it was “Neger” and that is a word that is no longer socially acceptable around here. I assume, however, that no one in 1937 Germany had a problem with it.

I looked it up and read about where the negros come from and all the places they were shipped off to as slaves (“See ‘the Negro Question’”), a litany of their – seemingly unattractive – physical attributes, and (dubious) cultural influences, leading to the fact that: “The power of state-building is inherently lacking in the negro.”

Apparently, (I’m paraphrasing now) their industry is limited and mostly agricultural. Only one tribe in Liberia developed a real written language. Their mostly religious artwork only reached any heights in one part of West Africa. There seems to be a general musical talent. “Intellectually they rapidly developed, but the negro quickly lagged behind the people of European cultures; he is not suited to autonomous cultural work but does not die out when coming into contact with higher cultures, rather resigns himself to it.”

This little nugget of wisdom was immediately followed by the term “Negerfrage” (“the Negro Question”), meaning the dangers of racial mixing and the “negro-ification” of white peoples in places where they live in close proximity. It is a long, convoluted, and disgraceful entry which I stopped reading after the third sentence.

Of course there was one more thing I had to look up.

 

hail3I read about Adolf’s youth and long (seemingly heroic) struggle to finally be elected leader (with 36.8% of the votes). I “learned” how “very early on he became a decisive enemy of narcissism as well as Judaism and realized that nationalism and socialism only seemed to be antithetical, and that the German worker had to be restored to his traditional role.” How he turned a small Workers’ Party into a movement. How after gaining power, he successfully dismantled the longstanding dominance of political parties and the parliamentary establishment. “In foreign policy, he stood for a policy of peace and accommodation based on German honor and equal status.” Or, in simpler terms, he promised to make Germany great again. After that, he consolidated all the power and proceeded to get over 90% of the votes for basically everything he wanted. And there the story ended. For the time being.

To be continued . . .

 

I’ve heard we are living in a “post-factual” world – probably because we have become used to powerful people saying things in front of live cameras and then denying having said it two days later.

But that can’t be true because, clearly, facts are not static things – they are the always changing, commonly accepted perceptions of reality as we grow and learn.

I would say we are living in an era where facts are simply buried under a mountain of manure. Sort of like in Germany in 1937.

Our outgoing president reaffirmed his faith in people just yesterday and I agree with him. I still hope and believe that 80 years from now, people will look back at the encyclopedias of 2017 and have no trouble distinguishing truth from today’s transient turds.

Cry Baby

There are things that simply cannot go unsaid. After each police shooting tragedy (or at least each one caught on video – I hear there have already been almost 500 this year) I opened up a blog post I had begun nine months ago and tweaked it some more. For some reason, I never posted it, but now, after this awful week, I feel the need to. And NOT because of the five police officers, or the CD seller or the man with a four year old child in the backseat, halfway between his license to carry and his broken taillight . . . no, the main reason for me is still the 12 year old boy in the park.
So here it is – the post begun in December of last year, rewritten in February, tweaked in April, and now completed in July . . .

 

Cry Baby

I’m not a crier. The last time I cried was on December 28th 2015 at about 9:30 pm. Before that it was December 14th 2012. And before that I had also gone for several years without shedding a tear.

When awful things happen, I brood for days on end, commiserate with like-minded people and write out my feelings, but I very rarely cry. With a well-made tearjerker film it’s the same. I can count on one hand the films that have brought tears to my eyes and only one of them was a sad film: “Cry, Freedom”. And I actually didn’t cry until the credits were rolling – that long list of names of real people who had died or gone missing –it seemed to go on forever. The other films are “The Joy Luck Club” and “Parenthood” – neither of them particularly brilliant movies, but they get me every time. I have no clue why. So, don’t ask.

I have found myself thinking about that third one lately. Directed by Ron Howard. I like his movies, but let’s face it – can a person be any whiter?? Little Opie in Mayberry and Steve in “American Graffiti” and Richie Cunningham in “Happy Days”. “Parenthood” also shows the quintessential clichés of white suburban middle class family life. Puking up hot dogs after baseball games, losing a retainer at the video arcade slash family restaurant, old-timer fetishes and drag racing, little league and school plays gone bad, SAT scores and unsuitable boyfriends, parent-teacher conferences and the vibrator in the nightstand of the single mom worried that her kid is on drugs. But it’s the birthday party scene that’s been on my mind.

parenthoodCowboy Dan didn’t show up and so the father (Steve Martin) takes over as Cowboy Gil and saves the day. Balloons are twisted. Bad jokes are told. A raucous toy/squirt gun battle ensues. American boys and girls playing imaginatively with guns. Cowboys and Indians. Cops and Robbers. Innocent American fun in former, supposedly better and happier days.

 

Why am I thinking about all this? Because Tamir Rice was in the news again today. Apparently, the city sent his family a bill for his ambulance ride to the hospital. And that reminded me of the last time I cried. December 28th. The day it was announced that the policeman who shot him will not be prosecuted.

tamirI had watched that video several times. What I saw was a little, 12 year old boy with his toy gun alone in the park. I wondered what game he was playing in his mind – maybe some more modern version of Cops and Robbers? An edgier one where tough guys hold guns sideways and conceal them in their waistlines. No one else was around as Tamir acted out his fantasy: pulling the gun out of his belt and sticking it back in. Pulling the gun out of his pocket and sticking it back in. If he had been born 30 years earlier he might have had an imaginary side holster. He might have pointed the gun up toward his mouth and blew out a little “whiff” over the tip  and then twirled it around his finger twice before holstering it. The police car careened in, the door opened, shots were fired, the boy dropped. All within a second or two.  The fantasy was over. And I had just watched a child being murdered. In reality.

Apparently it was alright that they used deadly force after arriving at the scene of no apparent crime. Apparently they were justified in feeling they were in danger after racing into the expectation of it. Apparently it is perfectly okay now to “shoot first and ask questions later”.

What I want to know is . . . . . do they ever ask the questions later? And I don’t mean “Why haven’t you paid the ambulance bill yet?”

 

_________________________________________

 

Now, after this horrendous week of murders, my own questions are starting to take shape again. Here are some of them:

  • Why is a white man flaunting a gun exercising his 2nd Amendment rights while a black man with a gun is seemingly justifying the preemptive use of deadly force against him?
  • Do equal rights mean anything when benefit of the doubt remains clearly separate and unequal?
  • And hey, Wayne LaPierre! Will you finally revise your bullshit theory – now conclusively and tragically disproven – to “the only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a robot packed with explosives”?
  • And, hey members of Congress (R)! Where is my well-regulated militia? I have 2nd Amendment rights too. Is holding on to your job truly more important than keeping little kids safe in their parks and classrooms? Can the NRA strike that much terror into your heart or don’t you have one? Tell me, how many news reports or videos of children being murdered are out there in our futures? And who but you can prevent them from coming? It’s time for you to leave Mayberry or whatever black and white cowboy film you live in.

We may be stuck with you for now, but I hope, I hope, I hope . . . not for much longer.