Tag Archives: Occupy Wall street

A Great Passing: Stephane Hessel, Occupy Wall Street and the Time for Outrage

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You might never have heard his name, but Stephane Hessel was a great man, like martin Luther King, Emmeline Pankhurst and Helen Keller. This week, the former French Resistance leader passed away at the age of 95. Born in Berlin in 1917, Hessel emigrated with his family to France in and became a naturalized French citizen on the eve of the Second World War.

In 1941 Hessel fled the pro-fascist Vichy Government in France to Join Charles de Gaulle’s resistance forces. He helped organize communications networks throughout France in preparation for the Allied invasion in June of 1944. captured by the Nazis, Hessel was sent to the notorious Buchenwald concentration camp. Hessel faced torture by the Nazis, including waterboarding. After the war, Hessel became involved with the creation of the 1948 Universal declaration of Human Rights.

Hessel remained a champion for Human Rights throughout his life, and appealed together with “European Jews for a Just Peace” in 2006 for an end to Israeli airstrikes in Lebanon. He described Israeli attacks against Gaza in 2009 as war crimes and crimes against humanity, adding that “…this word must be used carefully, especially when one is in Geneva, the seat of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, who may have an important opinion on that issue. For my part, having visited Gaza, having seen the refugee camps with thousands of children, the manner in which they are bombed appears as a veritable crime against humanity.”

His 2010 essay, “Indignez-vous!”, or “Time for Outrage” http://www.amazon.com/dp/1455509728/?tag=mh0b-20&hvadid=1450700429&ref=pd_sl_9jrs1z441u_e#_ struck a dramatic cord, arguably helping to spark the Arab spring and Spanish Inginados as well as the Occupy movement. It sold more than 31/2 million copies worldwide.

“It’s time to take over! It’s time to get angry!” Hessel implores in the essay. “Let us not be defeated by the tyranny of the world financial markets that threaten peace and democracy everywhere. I wish all of you to find your reason for indignation. This is a precious thing.”
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In 2011, the former resistance leader spoke to Democracy Now about the Occupy Movement:

“It is proper for the young generation to listen to the very old ones who tell them, ‘We have been resisters at a time where there was fascism or Stalinism. You must find the things that you will not accept, that will outrage you. And these things, you must be able to fight against nonviolently, peacefully, but determinedly.’ That is why I am so happy about what happens these days in Wall Street, because they’re indeed very peaceful. They are not throwing any bombs or any stones, but they’re there determined to see that their values are to be respected.” http://www.democracynow.org/blog/2011/10/10/stphane_hessel_on_occupy_wall_street_find_the_time_for_outrage_when_your_values_are_not_respected

The importance of Stephane Hessel is that he illustrates, like Mandela, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and so many others who hold human rights and dignity as the ultimate standard-above politics, religion and economics-is that one person can indeed make a difference. Farewell, dear friend. We will pick up your torch and carry on.

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NRA Absurdists and Gun Proliferation in America: time to debate the Ninja Amendment?

This Sunday from 8-9am, Our Town and Revolution and Beer on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT invite you to join us for the first real and honest debate on reasonable gun control, the Second Amendment and the proliferation of guns since the Newtown tragedy. Many are calling this issue a mental health issue and not a gun issue. On both the Left and the Right the rhetoric around the mental health issue has taken a dangerous, wrong-headed, uninformed and regressive tone. The debate over guns in general has taken a decidedly perverse turn.

In fact, within a week of the Newtown tragedy, the NRA’s long awaited statement, following an unusually long silence, was in a word, absurdist. Their answer to the tragedy was not reasonable gun legislation, or even reasonable gun debate and responsibility. The NRA, instead, as a way of prevention for the next Newtown or Columbine was more guns, forcibly armed and trained school teachers, or roving gun-toting guards for every one of the nations 138,900 schools. Militarize the schools!

It is an easy sell to a knee-jerk trained populace, particularly on the Right.A trained man with a gun would certainly have a deterrent effect on a would-be gunmen intent on mayhem, right? But the money-changing marketing on the Right, like the effort by the gun-lobby and the NRA to use these stories as a way to accumulate cash through fear, is flimsy at best. That’s why they have to shout at you, or cajole you through fear and hysteria or false sincerity constantly through the Glenn Becks, Rush Limbaughs or Mike Gallaghers in the media. That’s why they have consolidated and dominated fully their concentrated and fully one-sided message in the media. Drive, as I have done many times,through the south and you will be shocked at the proliferation of pro-Rightwing propaganda, and the absolute desert of unfiltered information.

But under any reasonable thought their absurdist ramblings of the Right and the NRA fall apart quickly. For example, who will pay for the 400,000 sainted and trusted armed guards for our schools who will be necessary to guard multiple entrances, recess, open and large campuses and the fat target of would-be gunmen of masses of kids going to and from buses? Or do we require all kids entering and leaving school straight to secured vehicles to serpentine to cover? All of those armed guards will need sick days, vacation days, mandated lunches and breaks, right? Who will pay that enormous bill? More taxes? Is the Right and NRA now arguing for greater taxation? What would the tea party say?

First and foremost, the ultimate flaw in logic with the gun pimps and absurdists deals with the gunmen themselves. Not a single school gunman has been stopped or brought down by police or anyone else with a gun. They usually kill themselves, or occasionally surrender. Always the would-be gunman comes prepared to shoot, often with greater firepower, more ammunition and body armor, whereas those who may confront them are always reacting.

Perhaps then we’ll simply engender an army of volunteers. Who will oversee and screen them? What if they don’t want to volunteer anymore or one day? Do we use the unemployed as free labor? How will they look for work on school/business days? Or maybe we arm teachers. Would we then require teachers to be armed? As part of teaching degrees would they be mandated to take firearms classes, and pack a weapon to every school and every class on everyday? I could make a joke about how well-behaved classes would suddenly become, but is that the reality and environment we want our children to learn in? Talk about a loss of innocence! 20 children died at Newtown. Does the arming of every school in America now victimize its 55 milliom-that’s million students? http://www.edreform.com/2012/04/k-12-facts/

So, in keeping with that, or in keeping up with the absurdity on the Right, I am proposing what I believe to be an equally workable, and perhaps even more practical solution to the gun issue: 900poundgorilla and Revolution and Beer propose THE NINJA AMENDMENT for school safety?ShinobiNoMono

Ninja’s are all privately funded, apparently. Never have I been at a job and said, “Hey Bob, what are you doing for the weekend?” only to hear, “I’m a part-time Ninja on the weekend.” So, it would seem, there would be no liability to taxpayers. A guard with a gun is also very apparent walking the halls of our schools, whereas a Ninja would drop unseen from a ceiling, burst from a locker or spring from a trash can above, behind or beside the gunman. A gunman could likely hear return gunfire and concentrate his heavier weaponry in hallways or stairwells with little or no cover. A swarm of silent Ninja stars could drop an assailant in the blink of an eye. And there are never costly funerals for Ninjas. Ninjas take care of their own. You’ll never hear a tearful relative at a ceremony lament, “I told Dave this whole Ninja life-style would catch up with him one day, but he just wouldn’t listen.”

Share this with friends, and ask them to send this post to your Congressman and Senator in Washington, the NRA, President Obama and Vice President with a respectful demand to sponsor the Ninja Amendment if they insist on the absurdist course Washington, the Media and the NRA are currently on with regards to guns and our children.

Contact the NRA: https://contact.nra.org/contact-us.aspx, and call, 1-800-672-3888

Contact your House Representative: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Contact your Senator: http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

Email President Obama here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/about/fellows/contact

Contact Vice President Biden: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact-vp

Stay tuned for the exact wording for the proposed NINJA AMENDMENT.ninjacatva11

Listen to 900poundgorilla every Sunday morning 8-9 on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT am820 and streaming live worldwide for the Revolution and Beer show only on Our Town with Mike Sanders.
Catch the beer of the week review with 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck and Brian Murray each Sunday 8-9am only on Our Town, at Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCPT AM and FM, and streaming online. Friend us on Facebook  at Revolution and Beer. And find all of the great beers we review each week at Louis Glunz Beer Inc., http://www.glunzbeers.com. And check out their fine beer glasswear selections  at the “Beerables” link  at the bottom of their page. 


Gender and Revolution: The World from the Outside

I grew up in small towns in the 60s and 70s. There were four types of people. There were boys and girls, which could then be safely and neatly subdivided down into kids and adults. You were a kid until the age of 16, when you could legally drive and hold a part-time job. From 16 to 18, you were kid-ish, until the time you could order a beer, vote and join the military. From that magic stroke of midnight on your eighteenth birthday, a literal blink of an eye, where only a second before midnight you were legally a child, you became an adult.

Somewhere, during those seemingly formative and all too confusing and frustrating adolescent and teen years we take agency in the further sub-divisions of the assumed realities of our lives and our world; Race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sexuality, gender.

Where, as young children we were cloaked in the paradigms of our parents, or the principle adults in our lives, we begin to fashion or challenge those paradigms to fit our perception of reality. We either reject, redefine or redouble those assumptions and paradigms. No small part of that is the rigidity of culture and society, channeling us into a larger paradigm. The constructs of culture and society provides necessary structure, but it can also be a trap. And whether you are an ardent defender of the unwaivering status quo or a radical revolutionary we struggle against  our own innately limited perspectives.

I am no different. I have, and continue to struggle with my own perspective of the world. I do battle daily with assumptions and prejudices that seem to out-pace my desire for better perspective and understanding. In my defense, I have learn to stop mid-judgment and scrutinize my ignorance, tearing  at issues from every conceivable angle, often out loud in the car driving my wife to work in the morning before she has had her coffee.

“How are you that awake?” she frowns. “I can’t think until I’ve had my coffee.” 

On tomorrow’s show our guest will be Rebecca Kling, a trans-gender woman, whose autobiographical book, No Gender Left Behind, http://www.rebeccakling.com/ is one of the bravest and most honest books I’ve read. Our show is called Revolution…Revolution and Beer. But what do the experiences of  a trans-gendered woman have to do with community activism and revolution? It is a valid question, at least within the narrowest constructs and assumptions of society and gender.

First, revolution, at least the positive revolution that preserves and defends individual human rights and dignity, in a sustainable system is not possible without properly enfranchising and including all people in that communal definition of freedom and dignity. And second, no innovative and lasting change is possible without gaining the power to intelligently and sensitively deconstruct the conventions, assumptions and constructs of society, religion, economics, sexuality and gender.

Rebecca is a dear friend, and we have worked together in the theater, but I have lots of friends, all of them far more brilliant than I, but I don’t have all of them on the show. I found something critically important both within and behind Rebecca’s story that I thought merited a greater discussion. That is that gender is fundamental to each person’s identity. The scope and temper of that identity is profoundly imposed by society around us, but also from within us. All too often people stop at their own perspective on gender as defined by their individual reality, and the influence of society around them. The essence of positive change and lasting dignity-based revolution is about shattering all of that.

Reality is a potentially dangerous trap. Whose reality is being defined, and from what perspective? Philosophically there may be absolute realities, but we may never, as sovereign and autonomous, and separated beings, ever truly comprehend absolute realities. Our reality is our own, and ends at the limits of our bodies. It is when we recognize that limitation, and accept the perception of reality for others that we begin to collect shared realities. And that, I hold firmly is the cornerstone of a truly dignity-centered community, and the beginning point for lasting and a sustainable peaceful and positive revolution that humanity so badly needs right now.  

Catch 900poundgorilla’s WC Turck with Brian Murray and the whole Our Town gang every Sunday 8-9am on Chicago’s Progressive Talk, WCTP during the Revolution and Beer segment, and find out more about all of the great craft Beers we feature by googling Louis Glunz Beer, Inc. Like us on Facebook at Revolution and Beer, or subscribe for free to 900poundgorilla.wordpress.com.

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21 Days in May; an Occupy novella, part fourteen

 Cleveland won’t renew Occupy group’s permit

 By THOMAS J. SHEERAN, The Associated Press Updated 9:41 PM Wednesday, May 2, 2012

CLEVELAND — Occupy protesters must ask serious questions about their open-arms policy in light of charges brought against five members accused of trying to blow up an Ohio bridge, a top Cleveland official said Wednesday.

The city declined to renew the group’s downtown encampment permit on Wednesday, a denial planned before the bridge plot arrests were announced Monday, said Ken Silliman, chief of staff to Mayor Frank Jackson. The group, which remained by its encampment tent Wednesday night despite a 5 p.m. deadline to leave, can still gather at a spot across the street day or night. Police are monitoring, but no arrests have been made.

The decision was made with the allegations as a backdrop…Bill Dobbs, a spokesman for Occupy in New York, also said the arrests have nothing to do with the Occupy movement that began last fall.

“This incident has nothing to do with Occupy Wall Street, which explicitly stands for non-violence,” he said. “Before there’s a rush to judgment, facts need to come out. Those charged are entitled to a fair trial and due process.”

The five were charged Tuesday with plotting to bomb a bridge linking two wealthy Cleveland suburbs by placing what they thought were real explosives at the site and repeatedly trying to detonate them using text messages from cellphones, according to the FBI affidavit.

On Wednesday, an attorney representing one of the defendants questioned the role of an undercover informant, saying the ex-con hired by the FBI appeared to have played an active role in the plot…

 

“Jesus, Eva, what the hell is Jack into?” Dan Holman leaned from the window of his blue and white police cruiser. Twenty-five years on the force he’d lived a lifetime on the streets of Chicago, where it was a simple thing to feel besieged by crime and tragedy Holman was a strict law and order cop, but he knew the value of judiciousness and mercy. The law was a guide rather than immovable bars, a fact to working the job and surviving on the streets for a good cop with soul and sanity intact. Politicians and the media often made that fact of life impossible to apply.

“Uncle Dan, I am just asking that you give him the benefit of the doubt. I think he is being set up.”

“Why would someone do that to Jack?” With  a new, almost severe haircut, the hair now silver, and behind dark sunglasses Dan appeared far more immovable than he truly was. The fact was, Eva had always been his favorite niece,  and Jack, despite his “hippie” politics had always been a good and faithful husband and good father.

“I don’t know, but when the police searched the how, they didn’t tear it apart, but they went directly to the three places where they found those things?”

“So, maybe they had a good criminal informant,” said Dan. “It happens. I’ve seen it.”

“They didn’t search anything else in the house. Nothing.”

Dan nodded and thought a minute. A call came in over the radio. Dan hit the key on his shoulder radio. “10-4,” He turned back to Eva, holding up the paper she’d handed him. “And you think this is going to prove all that?”

Eva shrugged, and thought of Jack somewhere lost and hiding in the city. “It’s all I got, Uncle Dan.”

“How did you get all this?”

Eva reached over and rubbed Dan’s arm, gripping it to make the point. “Tomorrow is mother’s day. If someone is messing with my family, I want justice.”

Dan nodded and laid a hand over hers. “To be honest, I found it hard to believe that Jack would be that stupid to put you and Jeffrey at risk like that, and I hear these weird little things coming out of the Cleveland investigation-not that those guys didn’t let themselves get led down a dead end lane…” He took a deep breath. “I’ll see what I can find out.”  

 The world was moving to something. It was moving at the speed of light, for Jack and Eva, for Chicago and the Occupy movement. The summit loomed and the fear grew by exponential bounds, like dogs unleashed against the innocent by the corporate media cage masters, who played at “fair and balanced,” but were anything but.

The rain returned by midday, thrown lightly against the city, dampening streets and quickening steps. There were a hand full of protesters at the corner of La Salle and Jackson. Most attended a day long event at the warehouse Lofts on West Cermak, drawing better than eight hundred people. There was fresh news about a video showing Chicago Police officers intimidating Occupy supporters ahead of the summit, threatening 1968 style reprisals, a reference to the brutal use of batons and tear gas against protesters during the Vietnam war. The video, titled: Police intimidating NATO / Occupy protestors in chicago http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TudIyxxAboA, succeeded in doing nothing to intimidate those gathered, but merely reaffirmed that in protecting the wealthy and powerful, the application of force against the protesters underscored how it had become fully at odds with the constitution.

The rain came heavier by evening. On the seventh floor Occupy Chicago lofts an arts event capped what had been a productive and successful day. Organized by the Occupy Chicago Rebel Arts Coalition, or OCRAC, it drew an eager audience, among them several activists who walked all the way from Albuquerque, New Mexico to lend their voices to the summit protest.  There was music(folk, rap and Punk), poetry and theater. But the  audience was riveted when Matt Sedillo, the national poetry slam champion stood up. Audacious and powerful, Sedillo took over the room as if he owned it, when in fact the audience gave themselves fully to him.

“I travel around doing this for a living,” said Sedillo, broad-shouldered, curly black hair and a beard. He chuckled wryly. “This country has no value for poets. I’m a little worried about my future. But art is more than about selling shit, like Alex said…this poem is called Racism and capitalism…”

If you find the confederate flag offensive

So should you find the nickel

If you find the confederate flag offensive

So should you find the name on this nation’s capital

If you find the confederate flag offensive

So should you find the American flag

They both stand for the same fucking things…racism and capitalism

The poets voice rose, thundering, filled with emotion, setting fire to the room, seeping them into the inferno of unfettered and unrestrained passions…

Like history books that teach our children

To hallow hollow preambles

That include phrases such as

We the people! We the people?

As drafted by slave owners and land barons

Invaders and treaty breakers

Backstabbers and bastards

Enshrined as our founding fathers

But I am told we  are making progress

But to be honest I don’t feel any change

Between gentrification

And trails of tears, Chavez Ravine

Or post-Katrina New Orleans…

 

Eva was exhausted as she sought out several people  she knew from the movement. Teresa Veramendi recited a series of original activist poems at the front of the room. They all related to her about the fight that got him kicked out of the movement. None of them had actually witnessed it. No one that night had really seen what had happened, only that Jack was standing over Angelo. She didn’t let on too much, only that the true story would come out soon, even if she died trying. All she needed to know was that she could count on them when the time came. Eva was setting up a twitter account called “Patsy chronicle123” so they could stay connected. The reply was unanimous and unequivocal; she could rely upon each of them without question.

Eva  started to leave. Miss Veramendi was well into a new poem, assailing, in a way only art could, greed, and the way the national soul have been corrupted and turned by that greed. Eva noted that several in the audience had there phones held out, live feeing the moment to the digital, virtual world in real time. It was a curious note, one that would return to her soon enough, and with the most profound consequences, but for whom was still an open question.

Her uncle was waiting when she arrived home. He looked bothered, and unusually anxious. He led her up the walk, past the house and out back to the garage. She let them in, but he stopped her from turning on the light. Dan closed the door tightly and drew a breath. His face was nearly lost to shadow. A murky light from the alley deepened the tension she discovered in his expression.

“What is it?”

He held up the paper between them. “Who is this?’

“I think he’s the person trying to set up Jack.”

“Well he’s something, what exactly I don’t know, and I’m not sure I want to. I ran the license plates and within an hour I was sitting in the Captain’s office with two guys in a suit and tie.”

“Who were they?”

“They were scary. I didn’t ask, but they wanted to know my interest in your friend here.”

“What did you tell them?” asked Eva, her heart thundering.

“I just said the plate had come up in relation to jack’s case and I was just following all leads to bring Jack in. They told me it was a dead-end and not to pursue it another second, and if did I could kiss my life, career and pension goodbye. Honey, Jack is into something serious. We have to be very careful about this.”

“We?” she asked.

“Sweetheart,” he touched her cool cheek, “I’ve been a cop a quarter century, and you are family. I’m not saying Jack is innocent of anything, and if I see I’m bound to arrest him, but something is going on that raises some serious questions. These people are smart and connected, so we just have to be smarter.”

She hugged him and felt tears threatening, but she didn’t dare concede to them. Uncle Dan left, and she remained in the garage for a time. Eva thought of Jack, and of Jeffrey safely at her parents. Happy Mother’s Day, she said to herself. Eva started to laugh, and this time the tears came.

“oh Jack,” she brushed the tears from her cheeks, “hold on, my love. Hold on.”


21 Days in May: an Occupy Novella, part 10

11 Days to the Summit. Chicago’s skyline, like architectural knights to some great and majestic roundtable, glittered in the clear cool night air. Those myriad diamond lights were reflected in the dark waters of Monroe Harbor. The murmur of traffic along Lake Shore Drive was all but lost to a northerly breeze where Congressman Rand stood with Tom Koffer. Rand was having serious misgivings about all of this. He felt trapped and wasn’t sure he could go through with it.

“There’ll be blood on our hands,” said Rand, nervously taking a long drag on a cigarette. He flipped it away and looked at Koffer, smarting as Koffer’s expression was almost disgusted. Rand pressed the issue nonetheless. “American blood, Tom, and I don’t know if I can live with that.”

They were alone beside Rand’s Jeep Cherokee, looking out at the lake and skyline. A black suburban was parked just up the deserted roadway. Two beefy security men from Koffer’s private detail made sure the meeting was uninterrupted.The dull metal dome of the Adler Planetarium was to their backs.

“Live with it?’ replied Koffer with notable disdain. “Like it or not you are into this up to her eyes, like the rest of us.”

“I don’t know, Tom,” Rand pursed his lips, unable to look at Koffer.

Koffer ran a hand along Rand’s shoulder, gripping the back of his neck. Rand leaned forward a bit. It was more intimidating than painful, which was just exactly as Tom Koffer wanted it to be.

“You think you’ve got better friends on the Left? Because I can guarantee you there won’t be a worse enemy.” Koffer leaned close and lowered his voice threateningly. “You’ll see this through, by god, or you won’t even be able to get a job as dog catcher. They’ll find child porn on your home computer or several former gay lovers will suddenly hold press conferences.”

Rand’s eyes snapped to Koffer and narrowed defiantly. “Who do you think you are to threaten me. I’m a goddamned United States Congressman.”

Koffer scoffed, mocking him. “A man of ideology who still believes governments mean shit anymore. The corporation, that’s where the real power is, Rand. We decide which wars you’ll fight and run them. We decide which candidates will make it into elections and who will win. The biggest economies are corporations, not nations.”

“If that’s the case, why do you need me?” It was a feeble protest, Rand knew. It was true, that so-called trans-national corporations had risen to levels that eclipsed the power of whole nations. The media, increasingly owned by a smaller and smaller number of corporations decided who was a viable candidate in elections-particularly presidential elections simply by manipulating their coverage. It was corporations that had promoted and prospered in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, devouring national wealth while the nation itself fell into near destitution.

“Legitimacy, police, infrastructure, and when we call, a mindless flag-waving army. Now be a good puppet, cash your checks and live a nice obedient life,” Koffer released Rand’s neck, his tone even and controlled, “ and one day they’ll name a school or park or a street after you. Can I count on you, or are you to become a liability?”  

It was a moment in which a determined man who stand on principle, despite the cause to himself. It was a line. To one side he stood with patriots, and on the other despots. In the end it came down to moral courage, not in defending one’s own convictions, that was simple. Instead it was rising to champion the dignity of others. Deep down, Joe Rand knew he wasn’t that man. He hung his head and let out a draining breath.

“No worries.”

 

 


21 Days in May: An Occupy Novella, part seven

The world was just learning that a new president had been elected in France. FOX commentators offered the news gravely, mirroring a corporate media that felt it crucial to mention President-elect François Hollande was a socialist, as if that was an accusation.  A social resurgence was taking hold across Europe, enlivened as more and more people learned the truth behind the financial crisis, and that ordinary people were being burdened with the results of predatory debt schemes or the ever-growing military budgets spurred by a global arms industry that drew a tighter and tighter control around governments and politicians.

In Chicago the media was qui ck to blame the protesters for the security insanity beginning to strangle the city. They never once questioned the unprecedented security apparatus that insulated and hid heads of state and their military servants from any oversight or redress by their constituents. Like the Ponce brothers, whose father Phil was an icon in Chicago journalism, who on the WLS Sunday radio show merely accepted the security measures that even kept a so-called free press at bay. Blamed were the protesters who demanded democratic transparency, which was an absolute travesty.  Perverted in  such a way, it was easy for men like Angelo to lose sight of the truest stakes.

Angelo didn’t recognize the two men with Tom Koffer. He recognized the other man, staring grimly out at the cityscape below. Her was Congressman Joe Rand, the firebrand Republican from the northern suburbs. He was dressed in a plain brown leather coat over a white broadcloth dress shirt. And faded jeans pressed neatly to a crease. He looked back with decided disinterest as Angelo entered. He was as far from the others as possible, the expression telling, as if he’d just taken some distasteful medicine.  Koffer made no effort to introduce or identify him at all.

They met in a corner conference room overlooking the city, still bejeweled despite the overcast. The fast-moving mist condensed in drops against the floor to ceiling windows and ran in crooked rivulets.  It was conspiratorially dark, but for a couple of recessed lights. Congressman’s severe expression was reflected against the dark skyline. Angelo stood at the end of a long smoothly polished oak conference table, opposite the others.

The others carried themselves like men with a professional military background. They were a team, of that much he could be sure, a very specialized sort of team. Both were reserved and severe and kept silent but for the basic courtesies each man shook Angelo’s hand.  There were no formal introductions. There was no need. It was necessary, Angelo gathered, that each man recognize one another, for what he hadn’t figured out yet.  

“This is the rest of your team,” said Koffer. “They will be a part of the security for the summit, and will be placed for the final implementation of the plan.”

The two men barely nodded, and remained silent. Koffer pulled a plain white envelope from his pocket and slid it along the table.  Angelo caught it at the last instant, stopping it with his fingertips at the edge of the table. He looked at it there without picking it up, as if he could decide not to open it and walk away from the whole affair.

“Your final instructions,” said Koffer. “I’d appreciate if you read them and then pass the letter back. There is a card with an address inside keep that, you’ll need it.”

Angelo took a deep breath and opened the envelope. From the letter inside an index card slipped and fell on the table. It only showed a printed suburban Berwyn address. Angelo opened the letter and read it carefully.. he breathed out deeply, gave a nod and pushed the letter back across the table.

“All three attributed to the target?”  Angelo asked.

“Yes, all of them to the same god-damned target!” Rand snapped. “Do you have to be led by the fucking hand?”

The two other men shared a knowing look. Unchecked emotion was a deadly variable. Angelo pursed his lips and looked to Koffer.

“Relax, Joe, said koffer as the congressman turned away again.. “Better we not have any margin for error.”

Rand started to say something, but thought better of it. He rubbed the tension from his brow.

“Registration will be a problem,” Angelo noted.

“It has all been taken care of,” Koffer looked to Rand for a confirmation. “The address on the card is a dealership. They have three vehicles. Koffer lifted a small black backpack and pushed it across the table to Angelo. At the window Rand seemed ready to jump out of his skin. “Twenty-five thousand in cash. In the target’s email account you will find a south side contact who will have everything you need.”

“The trick will be establishing him in all those places,” said Angelo, already thinking through possibilities.

Koffer’s lips thinned, as close to a smile as he could come. “That’s why you were chosen.”

“You’d better be as good as they say,” Rand turned and leaned heavily on the table. “I have invested far too much in this, my life, my reputation. Europe is coming apart at the seams and these punks are taking to the street worldwide, upsetting the balance of things and the way the world ought to be run. The world runs on money, white money, and some communists in the streets think they can change all that? There’s a hierarchy in the world. There’s a reason it is there. We are drawing a line in the sand right here in Chicago to  stop this shit once and for all, and in front of the whole world. My hands are clean on this. I’ve covered my tracks, so if this fails, its your asses, and I will bring the full weight of my office down on you.”

Angelo stepped out onto the street and drew in a breath of fresh air. He weighed the pack in one hand then slung it across his shoulder. Up to now there were chances to quit, to walk away from all of this, but he had slipped down that proverbial hill, and now there was nowhere to stop, no turning back, at least that’s how it looked from his ever-narrowing perspective. There was only the bottom and how hard he would land.

Just up the street, two navy recruits on a weekend pass from Great Lakes rounded the corner, arm in arm with their dates. They looked so young and almost innocent in their dark blue uniforms and bright white covers. He recalled  his pride when he’d finished basic training, following in a family tradition of service back the First World War. Was he still living up to that legacy, he wondered? He’d pledged to defend the nation from all enemies foreign and domestic, but Angelo could no longer tell if he was the enemy or the defender. He was loyal to the mission, as he’d been taught, but had the mission gone so astray that he could no longer tell right from wrong, patriotism from treason? The thoughts felt dangerous and he shook them away, and in stead thought of the money once again.

 


21 days in May: An Occupy Novella, part 2

Chicago was adopting something of a siege mentality as the NATO summit and protests loomed ever closer. It certainly wasn’t the protesters dialing up fear and concern. There had been in recent weeks a purposeful effort to intimidate the population, painting the protests as dangerous and the authorities as protectors. The effort began slowly in February and by the end of April had grown to a near fever pitch. The authorities, state, local, Federal and private corporate interests would manage and stoke that fear with their propaganda wing at FOX, CBS, ABC and even the so-called liberal MSNBC.

It began with leaked reports that downtown businesses would be hiring increased security for the protests, the reports punctuated with images from unrelated riots in Seattle some years earlier. Then came near panicked interviews with police officials clamoring for emergency funding from a cost-overridden city hall to make sure the police all had expensive new protective riot gear. Commuters would be subject to search and trains could be diverted or stopped altogether for “security concerns.” Boats in the harbors would be prohibited as the city became an armed camp. Then, at the end of April the fear was raised to insidious levels, first with front page headlines that downtown Chicago was now considered a “RED ZONE,” and that heavily armed federal agents in riot gear would be guarding strategic  buildings. The next day the local CBS affiliate published a “leaked” memo revealing how Red Cross officials in Milwaukee were preparing for the possible evacuation of Chicago in the event of an insurrection during the NATO summits. No one, in the media at least, questioned the rationale or what possibly would cause a city of eight million to flee en masse, not to the suburbs, nearby Joliet or Gary Indiana in such a catastrophe, but 90 miles North to Scott Walker’s Milwaukee Wisconsin. 

Angelo studied his smartphone, tapping on an MSNBC story emailed to him overnight. His eyes moved across a stunning headline that left him even more conflicted about his part in all this.

  “…agents have arrested five people who were plotting to blow up a bridge near Cleveland, Ohio… Douglas L. Wright, 26, Brandon L. Baxter, 20, and Anthony Hayne, 35, were arrested by members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force on April 30 on charges of conspiracy and attempted use of explosive materials to damage physical property affecting interstate commerce. Also arrested were Connor C. Stevens, 20, and Joshua S. Stafford, 23. Charges are pending… of Hayne, Stafford and Baxter, there were claims that they were affiliated with Occupy Cleveland, which moved swiftly Tuesday to distance itself from the bridge plot… after “we awoke to the news of the arrests,” coordinator Johnny Peskar, 22, told msnbc.com… “We don’t need any implications in this nonsense,” Peskar said… Occupy organizers had seen a few in the plot hanging around earlier events, but their actions were “autonomous,”

He set down the phone and went to the long mirror by the door. Six years in special forces and 4 more as a military contractor with a for-hire firm had placed him is some odd and morally questionable circumstances, but none more than this.  This mission left him awake nights, praying for the respite of nightmares in sleep instead of the nightmare he was living.

He still looked like a college kid, and could pass for his early twenties. Angelo had let his dark brown hair grow long, nearly to shoulder length. His clothes were rough and urban and worn. His cover was a simple one, which was always the best-less to remember that way. Facts and dates were mixed or altered should anyone go prying. He looked the part well enough, but there was something else.

The mission was taking a toll. He appeared haggard and exhausted, which did not lend themselves to a successful mission. But what of the mission? In Afghanistan in a beard and local garb, Angelo passed sufficiently to infiltrate a Taliban group. He tracked a FARC leader in Columbia for  six months without being detected, and was able to worm his way into a Mexican drug lord’s inner circle. Never before had he been asked to spy on fellow Americans, which was bad enough. But this, this mission…

Angelo glanced at the paper he’d been slipped the day before at the protest. He had never seen the contact. The man came and went like a ghost. Now he found himself balanced on a fence, weighing ethics, morality and salvation. They were an operative’s worst obstacles. He thought of the mission once more as he went to the sink and poured a chemical mix over the paper, dissolving it almost instantly. He washed it down the drain with water and recalled the headline from Cleveland that morning.

Nineteen days and it would all be over. Nineteen days and the mission would be complete. Nineteen days and the nation would be forever changed. Angelo steeled himself and nodded resolutely. In the end he made it about the money. He’d made  a shade over a million tax free as a military contractor-the ultimate welfare scheme he sometimes mused to colleagues. Another half million would be deposited in an off shore account for him following a successful conclusion of the mission. Other missions were for country, unit or to bring down truly reprehensible people, but this would have to be about the cash, and that would have to suffice.

 

 

The train, bus and three block walk to he and Eva’s bungalow on Chicago’s Northwest side left Jack beaten. Eva wasn’t home yet with Jeffrey. The house was still and comfortable and peaceful. He practically collapsed onto the chair in the front room. He still had on his jacket and hat. The shoulder bag was in his lap, as if he’d striven for that chair with his final ounce of energy.  Morris, their lumbering Boxer/ Boston Terrier mix, normally a pest for attention, seemed to understand well enough. He sort of flopped to the floor at Jack’s feet and laid his head across one shoe with a heavy sigh.

The family still wasn’t completely settled into the place, and a daunting list of projects left Jack all the more spent. The phone rang, and he hardly had the energy to lift it, let alone answer. He hit the speaker key and let it go to voice mail

“This is Jack, lean Left,” came his recorded message. After a short pause Angelo from Occupy replied.

“Hey, Jack, wanted to know if you could get together later. I have something I need to discuss with you. You’ve got the number. Call me back.”

Jack sighed and  let the phone fall to his leg. He’d been meaning to get back into the movement, especially now as the NATO summit neared. He liked Angelo, at least what he knew of the kid.  Every movement attracted its share of oddities; Occupy, Socialist groups, anarchists, The Tea Party, and certainly the Ron Paul devotees. Angelo seemed like a normal fellow, well informed and adjusted and, for as much as Jack could tell, passionate about the cause. He thought about Sarah as he lifted the phone and found Angelo’s number. As it began to ring at the other end, he was already crafting his sincere apology to her.

“Hey, Angelo, its Jack,” he began. “Brutal day at work, sorry I couldn’t pick up before. Still want to get together?”


Staging a Novel: Vision versus Art

I am better than two thirds through a working draft of The Last Man, with a goal to stage it within the next year. It is interesting re-envisioning something like a novel for theater. There  are the mechanical aspects for one. The novel takes place in my head, moving among expansive and detailed scenes and vistas. In the novel there are shocking battles among the sewers of   futuristic city, chases along city avenues, the great rubbish archives, the Arctic seascoast with the massive city skyline, the Dante-esque breadth and madness of the Reclamation center, the final battle there, and the open sea. It is easy to fling readers through those other worlds,  but the  stage is far more intimate. It draws far greater barriers limiting those huge and complex vistas, focusing the story upon the characters and dialogue.

The novel describes a world in which a single corporation controls the planet with an iron fist, rummaging in each “associates” thoughts as a means of ultimate control: SENTINEL SPIES, SECTION-21 PUNISHES, THE CORPORATION DECIDES. Production is the imperative. Those who do not or cannot produce any more are “reclaimed” from society. Race, religion and individuality have been eliminated, as relics of a so-called chaotic and unproductive past. In this constructed illusion of racial homogeneity, a black child is born. Studied by the corporation as a means of future prevention, the child, now a man, is put on trial.

The main character in the book is a man. As I began the script, I was still intending a man in the part. Then something truly revolutionary occurred. Last Christmas I wrote and produced my first play “Occupy My Heart: A revolutionary Christmas  Carol,” with  an amazing cast and a hot-shot your director. The play received national media attention and saw standing room only audiences for its limited run.  All of the cast from that play went on with their own projects. One of then,  a stunning and gifted African American actress named Donier Tyler, was giving a performance back in March that showed this amazing depth of power. Watching her that night, I had a revelation.  

By then the novel had just been released. As I was watching Donier, I was suddenly struck that The Last Man, not only could, but should be a Black woman! as the subtext of the novel is to assail systems of power and oppression, casting a black woman, a strong black woman in the role seemed the ultimate realization of the story. Last night, rehearsing a scene that Donier and I will perform at an Art show on April 28 here in Chicago Donier found her Black woman’s voice for the piece, bringing a stunning dimension to the work.

What I discovered was that we all live deep within assumptions and paradigms. We understand other perspectives and experiences from the bottom of those assumptions and paradigms. Throughout, from the novel to the stage, the work was intended to escape the assumptions and paradigm of growing up as a white male in the society. It continues to be an exploration and a catharsis about the limits of my own experience.

The story is changing and evolving in ways I could hardly have imagined. What emerges I think is the space between creator and audience, and how what we create remains only ours until we realease it to the world. From that moment, it ceases to be ours. It becomes community. It becomes a negotiation between our assumptions and paradigm with and against those of others, hich may well be the real power of art.


The Black on Black violence myth and Trayvon Martin

It isn’t that racists are for the status quo, but that the status quo is by nature racist by supporting systems resulting in oppression. Mythology created by assumptions, outright fabrications or lazy intellectualism is the cornerstone for those systems, creating the cultural foundations for oppression arising from the pressure and imperative of the so-called status quo.

If that sounds overly precise and academic, it was meant to be. Given the lawyerly and subversive tactics of true racism today, those opposed to it must be as precise as possible in their opposition. But once that mythology takes hold and becomes “common knowledge,” challenging those assumptions can become monumental. The mythology surrounding the Trayvon Martin case is telling.

The status quo culture is constructed to undermine and negate issues and events exactly like the death of Trayvon Martin. Think of a river with momentum more than will. Diverting the river becomes an incredible, often impossible task. The river resists change, in favor of its own blind momentum.. The river that is American culture reflects the dominant power, which is primarily money and commerce, but also historically and primarily white and male. It is not racist on purpose, but most definitely racist in structure as it eschews or erases the individual nature of minority groups. Can’t picture it? Walk into any IKEA and feel your individuality erased as you become quite purposely an identity-less consumer. Now imagine an entire system, 24 hours a day, in every direction you turn designed to erase your individuality.

On yesterday’s Thom Hartmann show, Hartmann, a progressive talk show host, did not challenge a statement by Alan Korwin from gunlaws.com, in which Korwin wanted to know why everyone was so concerned about Martin but “there wasn’t a single story about 70 other black men killed” in black on black violence over the same period.”  This has been the loud and forceful narrative from the Right, and has gone all but unchallenged from the Left.

The nightly news and newspapers routinely carry these stories. Indeed, especially in Chicago, the Right passionately describes inner city violence to assail Obama’s, Jesse Jackson’s and other civil rights leader’s credibility. It isn’t that no one is reporting on those stories, but rather, no one is paying attention anymore. Life for life, all of those whose death receives only peripheral attention are equally as important as Trayvon Martin. All of their circumstances should be equally shocking in a better world. The importance of Trayvon Martin lies not in the context of those other tragedies, but rather of the supreme injustice with which his death was handled in the media and by the authorities.

That the status quo culture and media were so quick to negate that injustice points to the dangerous and inhuman momentum of the river. That millions were able to rise up and lend their voices to a cry for justice, and divert that river, even a little should be cause for hope. It should give us hope that it can carry the culture towards the ocean and greater truths, rather than allow it to die polluted in its mad run to the desert.


The Twenty Year Siege-Part 2

Eleven thousand five hundred forty-one red chairs. There were eleven thousand chairs arranged from curb to curb down Titova Boulevard in central Sarajevo. I enjoy theater and could have swelled at such a display if not for the terrible symbolism behind the display. Eleven thousand red chairs to memorialize the eleven thousand Sarajevans killed during the war. I still recall those days, the morning after a battle or following an attack. The siege hit civilians the hardest. And for the cynics-and there are scores- even among those fighting from the beleaguered trenches around and within the city, most were civilians pressed into a desperate 31/2 year fight to protect their families, save the city and maintain what feeble supply opportunities could be found to sustain the slowly strangling city of 300,000.

Ana. My Ana, was a child of 15 when the war began, still struggling with her own identity in the best of times. Fifteen. An age filled with the naive but eager assertions of emerging adulthood, but imbued and tethered deeply to the innocence, curiosity and vulnerability of childhood. And so she was thrown into the ultimate construction of human cynicism and cruelty, emerging in the incongruous and unsatisfying strangeness of adulthood and something called”the end of the war.”

I won’t call it peace. Peace is a fraud. It is not the end of war, because wars do not end, except for fools and politicians. war only changes character. The dead are still dead. The scarred and still forever scarred. Only the character of war changes, receding as embers to a half buried fire to smolder in the hearts whom it has affected or ruined. 

She cried all day Friday, lamenting and commiserating with friends and family back in Bosnia or scattered by the aftermath of war around the planet to strange and foreign cultures.  There was rage and sorrow, but mostly the injustice of what had been stolen from them. These modern accoutrements of Skype and Facebook make it more immediate for those commiserations and lamentations, but are only bandages to unalterably wounded souls. Ana’s friend Alma in Sarajevo summed it up succinctly, “I feel as if the devil was sitting on my shoulders all day.”

When I climbed aboard that Lufthansa 747 back in 1993, the siege was already better than a year old. I still did not know “my” Ana yet. Nor would I for another year.  I did at least realize that I was temporarily departing a home in Chicago for a war, and that if I made it home from the war I at least had a home and friends, a job and a culture to return to. war, that war, its true implications on personal levels was still very much an abstract, just as it was for all those watching 30 second sound bites and out-of-context reports on the nightly news.

I would never face the rationalization of choosing a new homeland because mine had been destroyed. On holidays, such as this one I would never longingly recall family holidays and reunions that will never occur again, because of those lost or refugeed across the planet. I would never search soulfully for purpose or justice or rationale to the fate that robbed me of my innocence, my dreams or my right to a life unaffected by what amounted to a meaningless tantrum over real estate that swept into cycles of vengeance and ultimately left much of that land unusable for centuries for millions of landmines.

The sun was setting as my plane lifted off from O’Hare that September evening back in 1993. The  future was unknown to me, but I was charting, at least in part my own fate-arrogance in the face of what was happening all across Bosnia. I understood that well enough, but would soon come to find that fate is hardly our own. As I gazed  at the photograph of those 10,000 red chairs in Sarajevo Friday, knowing the faces and names of a good many of those whom each empty chair recalled, that realization became all too apparent.


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