Tag Archives: war

A lovely Garden

Young boys turn to young girls

To whittle away the time,

Young men turn towards war.

Comes a day when but a few young men remain.

In the bars and parks they congregate,

And polish their pain to badges of honor

With  stories so bold.

Comes a time when the stories all sound the same.

And then as old men,

Dog-eared stories put away

They turn towards god…

And perhaps a very lovely garden.

 


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?”


Enough! My response to an email from Illinois Senator Mark Kirk

So what do you want to do, Mister Kirk? Go  to war with Iran? Have the two wars over the last decade not been enough? Has the money squandered, the bad will created, the coffins buried or the thousands maimed and crippled not been enough? Are the war profiteering companies and corporations that pull your strings to the detriment of your constituents and this nation’s reputation and future hungry for more federal tax dollars that you and others like you may parade as patriotism?

 The war industry, of which you are both a pawn and a peddler, is the true reason this nation is racing towards insolvency. You would instead blame the poor, the unions and the working class; those who feel the real impact of your policies and who would almost exclusively feed their children into the death culture you help to perpetuate.

 Let me be clear, I have never supported you, and would never support you. I did say a prayer for your recovery with your recent illness. Like any sudden and catostrphic illness, one would hope that it brings clarity and a deeper humanistic perspective. It seems clear that you are so beholden to anti-humanist, anti-religous beliefs regarding human rights, dignity and freedom, that you remain undetoured from that darker destructive anti-American path. Or, perhaps, you are too entwined in crimes and schemes, and lack the moral fortitude to face them justly.

 This is not a nation of fools and the greedy? Capitalism is not our religion. War is not the natural state of affairs here. Capitalism is an economic theory, tempered by the dictates and values of the society. In practice it is either a tool or an oppressor. You have supported its misuse as an oppressor of millions. But you and your deeply mis-directed party would make it the national religion serving only  a few, while teasing the rest of us with crumbs. We are not a nation of fools, who are tricked into war and hate and destructiveness by the fear you proliferate or the patriotism you pretend.

 Across this nation hunmdreds of thousands have already risen against what you stand for as part of the Occupy Movement. I can assure you millions more support them. And I among them will stand in their ranks as a voice and a body for peace, and to help forge a better direction for this nation.

 As for those who peddle the pretend issues, short-sighted partisan-ship, or outright lies, history will cast you in a shameful light, without doubt. I pray for your health and wish you a speedy recovery with all my heart, but pray that soon men like you will no longer represent this good nation, for fear that having men like you anywhere near the reigns of power will surely wreck and ruin us as a nation beyond repair.

 Most sincerely, and resolutely yours,

 W.C. Turck: Author, Activist, War survivor, Patriot and Illinois voter. 

— On Fri, 4/13/12, Senator Mark Kirk <mark_kirk@enews.senate.gov> wrote:

From: Senator Mark Kirk <mark_kirk@enews.senate.gov>
Subject: ICYMI – WSJ Article Iran Talks Déjà Vu
To: williamturck@yahoo.com
Date: Friday, April 13, 2012, 12:28 PM

Mark Kirk U.S.<br /><br /><br /><br />
 Senator for Illinois

April 13, 2012

 
Obama gives Tehran reasons to doubt his seriousness.
 
American and Iranian negotiators will meet this weekend in Istanbul to try to hash out a deal over Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and everyone says the stakes are high. President Obama is even warning the mullahs that it’s their “last chance” to come to terms with international demands. Or else? Mr. Obama won’t specify, but Iranians can be forgiven if they don’t take the implied U.S. threat seriously.
 
This isn’t the first encounter between Mr. Obama’s envoys (along with the other four permanent Security Council members, plus Germany) and the Islamic Republic. In October 2009, months after the turmoil of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s stolen election, hopes were high that Iran was primed to reach a “grand bargain” with the West.
 
“Iran experts and regional analysts say . . . that Iran finally may be ready to make a deal,” reported the New York Times. “The analysts cite a confluence of factors, from Iran’s internal political crisis to the change in leadership in Washington, and one overriding point: Iran’s leadership may have achieved much of what it set out to accomplish when it stepped up its clandestine nuclear program in 1999.”
 
It didn’t work out that way. After initially appearing to agree to a proposal to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium outside its borders, Iran rejected the offer.
 
Far from being satisfied with its nuclear progress up to that point, Tehran continues to enrich its stockpile of uranium to higher concentrations and in more heavily defended sites. A report last November by the International Atomic Energy Agency all but accuses Iran of hiding the “military dimensions” of its nuclear program, and IAEA inspectors have repeatedly been denied access to suspected military sites.
 
So what hope is there for negotiations now? The Administration insists Iran is feeling the squeeze of the financial sanctions Mr. Obama signed at the end of last year, citing Iran’s depreciating currency as evidence. Then there’s the possibility that Israel may strike before Iran reaches what Israel’s defense minister recently called the “zone of immunity” from attack.
 
As for the terms of the deal the U.S. is prepared to offer, that seems to be changing by the minute. Mr. Obama is reported to have sent word to the Iranians via Turkish channels that the U.S. would be prepared to accept Iran’s civilian nuclear program so long as the Iranians close down their underground Fordo enrichment facility near Qom, relinquish their stockpile of medium-enriched uranium, and offer verifiable guarantees never to build a nuclear weapon. On Wednesday, though, White House spokesman Jay Carney appeared to backpedal by calling for the “full suspension of uranium enrichment.”
 
If we were the Iranian regime, we would probably take whatever deal is put on the table. It would offer a reprieve against the possibility of military strikes and lead to the easing of sanctions. And its terms could always be violated at a more convenient time, openly or in secret.
 
Then again, Mr. Obama has given Iran plenty of reasons to believe they can reject a deal outright and not face any serious consequences. For starters, he has made no secret of his opposition to an Israeli military strike, which could persuade Tehran either that Israel won’t strike after all or that it will do so alone and therefore to less effect. The President also previously resisted the very sanctions he now trumpets as his finest Iran accomplishment and the reason diplomacy may now have a chance to work.
 
That pattern continues in the Senate, where Harry Reid is now pushing a watered-down sanctions bill that gives the Administration wide discretion in applying the bill’s penalties. The Majority Leader also closed the bill to additional amendments, most conspicuously one from Illinois Republican Mark Kirk.
 
The Kirk amendment—which would have more of an impact on Iran than the rest of the bill combined—would close loopholes in existing sanctions, including one that allows a handful of Iranian financial institutions (and the Iranian government itself) to continue to do business with the outside world. It would also strengthen disclosure requirements for foreign financial institutions tempted to do business with Iran, effectively putting them to the choice of whether they want to have business ties with the U.S. or with the Islamic Republic. All but the most rogue operations will choose the former.
 
Economic sanctions are always a game of whack-a-mole, and we doubt they will persuade Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. But the Administration’s unwillingness to ratchet up sanctions as far as they can go at the very moment that they’re supposed to provide the U.S. with diplomatic leverage says something about the Administration’s seriousness—or lack thereof. The Iranians are smart enough to figure that out.
 
In an interview Mr. Obama gave earlier this year on Iran to journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, he warned that “as President of the United States, I don’t bluff.” We were glad to hear him say it, and it would be nice to believe it. The only mystery is why he is giving Iran incentives to call that bluff.
 
A version of this article appeared April 13, 2012, on page A12 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Iran Talks Déjà Vu.
 
###
Chicago
230 South Dearborn, Suite 3900
Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 312-886-3506
Fax: 312-886-2117
Springfield
607 East Adams, Suite 1520
Springfield, IL 62701
Phone: 217-492-5089
Fax: 217-492-5099
Washington, DC
524 Hart Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
Phone: 202-224-2854
Fax: 202-228-4611
 

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.


Naked on a highway in Dalmatia

Hardly more than twenty-four hours earlier I was slogging up a foggy Bosnian mountainside, escaping the war-ravaged Sarajevo valley under sporadic sniper fire. Forced to leave my new wife behind, I made it later the next morning to the besieged town on Mostar, and finally, by mid afternoon to Croatia’s Dalmatian coast.  As night fell, I drifted into an exhausted sleep for the 13 hour bus ride to Zagreb, a full five hours longer since Croatian Army checkpoints and Serb held lands encroached and threatened the two lane highway.

The inky curtains of night, scented with drizzling rain brought a chill through the crowded old Yugoslav Centrotrans bus. I managed a small pocket of warmth beneath my jacket by curling tightly on the worn green vinyl bus seat. i looked up briefly as the bus pulled off the road into the jaundiced light of a road side restaurant. I’d recalled the place from a previous trip. It was an oasis of sorts, miles from the nearest town. I tucked my head under the jacket and went back to sleep.

A short time later I awoke. The bus was nearly empty. A few souls dozed in their seats. Most had gone in for a drink or a meal. Under that jacket, and better than two days since washing, I had even begun to offend myself. I decided a little cleansing was in order.

Leaving my jacket and the rest of my things on the seat, I grabbed my toothbrush, a clean pair of socks and climbed down from the bus, struggling to find my legs at first. I stretched with a yawn and looked back along that dark two-lane highway. To one side lay the Serb-held hills, to the other the sea.

Inside the sounds of diners and the glare of lights were almost assaulting. I paused, looked over to the bus driver, still working on a tiny cup of Turkish coffee, and nodded. In the tiny restroom I grabbed a hand full of towels and stripped to the waist. The cold splash of water fought against the lingering sleep in my body, the tooth-brush and fresh socks brought me a bit closer to humanity. 

 There were  a hand full of Croatian Kuna in my pocket, enough to buy a soda. Stepping out into the diningroom I paused, the realization that the place was suddenly empty not quite taking hold for the moment. Through the plate glass window, just pulling back out onto the highway was the bus!

Swearing loudly, I was off in an instant, bursting through the door, vaulting a short wall and sprinting across the gravel lot after the bus. I yelled, and yelled again, charging into the road, but to no avail. I watched, still running, socks and toothbrush in hand, as the bus went over the hill and disappeared into the black Croatian night.

I kept running, waving my arms. What else could i do? My passport, journals from the war, marriage documents that would get my new wife to America and the one credit card I possessed were on that bus bound for Zagreb. Never in my life, not in the war or anywhere else did I feel so naked and helpless as I did at that instant on that dark deserted road.

A horn blared from behind as a semi-truck swerved around me before it too was swallowed by the night. I kept running, now thinking it was time to head back to the restaurant and call some authority, but as I reached the crest of the hill I was amazed to find the truck driver had somehow signaled the bus. They sat beside the road a little better than a half mile ahead. Shouting at the top of my lungs, I covered the distance in record time, embracing the truck driver and getting a round of applause from all those aboard the bus. 

I collapsed into my seat, pouring sweat, heart pounding madly, more from the thought of what might have happened that night. After a time I started to laugh, and soon couldn’t stop laughing, drawing some odd looks from other passengers. I don’t recall that I stopped laughing that night, only that I awoke the next morning as the bus pulled into Zagreb. Never had that city looked so good.


A writer’s conundrum

I have been to war, in the trenches, under fire and resigned to death.  I have seen death, mock executions, desperation and hopelessness. I have seen seemingly monolithic notions of ethics and morality sifted through uncountable compromises at the very edge of existence. War is a perversion. War maps fully the end of reason, logic and compassion. War defines how far we have failed to evolve as a species.

This morning I heard a story on the news about a Chicago suburb putting up Ernest Hemingway’s boyhood home for sale. For a writer, it was a kick in the gut. I often visited the neighborhood, gazing at the ornate 19th century wood frame, as if it held some clue to his inspiration. As if there was a thoughtful quality upon the front steps or from the tall windows. The thought inevitable leads to other inspirations in Hemingway’s life, large among them, the inspirations he found in war.

Here is where language fails. Thoughts and ideologies, perspectives and awakenings gleaned from war, and there are many, hardly deserve connection with the word inspiration. But other words fail as well. there is, tragically, profound beauty that can be discovered in war, but it hardly justifies the true expense inflicted upon the species and upon the individual soul. There are aspects of humanity that are less notable, or noticeable outside the bitter theater of  tribal violence we define as war. Courage, sex, mercy and family to name a few.

 My conundrum is that as a writer I was tested in war to stand firm for truths I hold to be all but unassailable, even in the face of death or violence. I doubt I could have come to the same understanding of fate without confronting the ultimate crucible of fate that is war, in which all pretense of control and self-determination are called into ultimate question. I believe it has made me a better writer and given me a more resolute voice, but that knowledge is fully tempered in the cruelty that abounded about me, and those now crippled, broken or in graves whose fate was not as fortuitous as mine. In that context I must wonder if any truth I strive to uncover, no matter how profound to myself of the world, was worth so much pain and hate and inhumanity.


THE LAST MAN…an excerpt from the upcoming novel from W.C. Turck and the Occupy Movement

A crippled and tarnished light fell through a row of high windows at the top of the building. These sooty pinnacles shifted slowly around us, chased and eclipsed by smoke pouring without end from the three great brick smokestacks that even here appeared impossibly tall. The light faded steadily, like truth before a well-crafted lie, so that the scene below remained in a permanent dusk. It merged with a monstrous opera, the thunder of machinery, and the roar of the furnaces and the cries of the dying.

The air held its own character as well. The stink of burning flesh, of vomit and waste joined that of singed stone and brick. They joined with the heat of three great furnaces, whose arched and gaping entrances were akin to looking into the setting sun. I lifted a hand to cover my nose and mouth, but with little effect.     

Even in the murky light of the hall it was possible to discern some long abandoned order to this place, to see where Associates arrived for Reclamation. In that order it was even possible to project a sort of perverted mercifulness on the part of the Corporation.  A sort of triage area where Associates were once injected lethally now stood empty and forgotten, but for exhausted and distraught Reclaimers that were scattered about and among simple slabs of stone, some exhausted, others distraught. But order and efficiency could hardly describe the scene below any longer.   

Bethune and I moved closer to the ledge, looking out across this barbaric theater, the capital lie, the murderous hidden hand of the Corporation. The others remained well hidden behind us. Still we had little to fear. Bethune and I remained protected from view by those shifting talons of light.

Below the windows I spied a blue Sentinel safely confused among a flock of cooing and chattering pigeons.  I left Bethune and stepped right to the edge, near enough that with hardly any effort I could have flung myself off. The cruelty and hopelessness the Reclamation Center evoked were nearly enough to compel me to do just that. Oh, Dante you could hardly have conceived of a crueller or darker hell!

Ten Reclaimers met each new group. These Reclaimers reminded me of the faces I had seen in the Low City. A glance to Bethune brought a solemn nod that confirmed that terrible truth. They were stripped to the waist, soot-stained and blood-smeared, their sinewy bodies painted and scarred by their unending task. There was a heaviness in every movement as they led each Associate to the ovens. It was the weight of a soul that has died in a body that has yet to realize the pointless end awaiting.

A single electric jolt to the neck felled each Associate into unconsciousness. Quickly they were carried forward and thrown alive into the flames. But what might have seemed at first to be a merciful, if horrifying end was instead far more nightmarish and chaotic. Most were quickly consumed. Others, as if suddenly awakened from a stupor, flailed and convulsed in the flames. Others escaped fully alight, only to meet their end and be driven back at the point of long iron pikes. A few of these human torches reached their would-be slave executioners in running, murderous battles beyond any human description. One body, so animated by vengeance, flesh curling and blackening from the flames devouring him, fended off stabbing pikes to drag a Reclaimer back into the oven, like some devil come to claim a soul.

This, this was the ultimate outcome of denying the human heart. This was the logical destination along the road of a history followed blindly. It was not that evil resided in that heart, but that it was burdened by this cursed animal flesh, for all its blind intentions. That flesh is far too short-sighted and far too selfish, conspiring to convince the heart that it is the bearer of ultimate sin. Pondering this I pulled gently at my tunic, as though I might tear that flesh away.

I moved a hand across my sorrowful heart and lamented that the will of the flesh was strong enough to turn mankind from the ultimate lessons of history. Man had instead become embroiled in the episodes of history, confusing one for another. Mankind had confused weakness with compassion, control over reason, and in the process had abandoned its own heart…

 


Ongoing violence against Occupy protesters: part 2

Last week Florida Representative Ted Deutch introduced a Constitutional Amendment removing personhood for for-profit corporations and prohibiting corporate funding of candidates. Please encourage your representatives to support this historic measure

Meanwhile, attacks continue against peaceful Occupy protesters as a concerted and systemic effort to crush their constitutionally protected voice. Below is the current list of new attacks against peaceful Occupy Protesters:

November-18 mayors in conference call with DHS coordinate crackdown on Occupy Movement. http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/11/17/1037317/-Could-The-DHS-Be-Coordinating-With-Mayors-s-No-Credible-Evidence

04November- Iraqi War Marine Corps veteran Kayvan Sabehgi suffers a ruptured spleen while telling Oakland police he is a veteran and a business owner. Sabehgi is in intensive care, the second veteran severely injured by Oakland police. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/nov/04/occupy-oakland-second-veteran-injured

November-former US Poet Laureatte, 70 year old Robert Hass and his wife beaten while pleading with police not to beat non-violent protesters. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass & Wife Beaten by UC-Berkeley Police During @OccupyCAL Protest http://t.co/6UoOhT2w #ows

Novemeber- Seattle Methodist Pastor Rich Lang tackled and pepper-sprayed while attempting to mediate between police in riot gear and protesters.

13November-84 year old Dorli Rainey doused directly in face by military-grade pepper spray. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFN307Sn9BU&feature=related 

19November- UC Davis police pepper spray non-violent protesters with bear/weapons-grade chemical. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BjnR7xET7Uo

The illegal and immoral assaults are growing in ferocity across the country, ramped-up by Right-wing talk radio and other media consistently portraying protesters as criminals, scum, communists and treasonous. They must stop before a fatality occurs. Time for politicians to voice support, if not for the protest then for their assertion of constitutional rights. It is time for churches to stop their silence. It is time for all good citizens to come forward and be heard.


Ocuppy Chicago: conversations with a banker.

I scared this poor girl. She was having a conversation with a banker in front of the federal reserve, and I sort of butted in. Surprising, since I rarely have much of an opinion on anything. In my defense, she was struggling. He had facts and knows the system, as he should. it seemed a great opportunity to engage someone on the other side in a friendly and thoughtful conversation. The banker, dressed in a neatly pressed blue shirt had taken the time, very much to his credit, to engage with his fellow Americans. Unlike Congress, he was showing his humility and ,In my opinion, was absolutely  open to what the protesters had to say.

“I’d lower the corporate tax rate, because they are already paying 19%, the highest corporate tax rate in the world,” he said. The girl did not have the figures. This guy lives and dies by numbers. He needed numbers.

A businessman engages protesters in conversation at Friday's protest

“You know, through deductions, loop holes and subsidies, large corporations in this country pay little or no federal tax. When they do, they usually settle for less than ten cents on the Dollar.”

Technically speaking it does have the second highest rate in the industrialized world, just behind Japan. My banker friend pointed that out, but practically speaking they pay much less than foreign competitors, again thanks to loopholes, deductions and subsidies which often do not exist in competing nations.http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?_r=1  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/03/business/economy/03rates.html

“So what would you do?” he asked.

I proposed, first, an international minimum wage, tied to an individual nations GDP, which takes the romance out of playing populations against each other in a never-ending race to the bottom. That would level the playing field internationally, keeping corporations at home, and all but erasing potential trade war issues.. He nodded,thoughtfully, but wasn’t convinced it could be enforced. I replied that I was involved in Bosnia and Rwanda, and that the perpetrators of the genocides are now on trial in an International Court, under International law. There are sanctions that are applied to rogue states, The IMF and World bank, all of which are vehicles for compliance.

“All right, what else?” he pressed, accepting the basic premise at least.

Greater enforcement, I said, in the tax code. Success and wealth and prosperity are fantastic and should be nurtured. Indeed, this country-this country-this nation provides a rare opportunity to encourage wealth and success, and that should come at a cost. No one gets to abuse that privilege. If we take a page from the Right, who famously argues that things like health care are not a right but a privilege, can’t we also say that about wealth, or anything in this society? If rights are now completley negotiable, they all are negotiable-for everyone. Perhaps we defer to the anti-choice crowd and say that being a fetus is a right, after that, it is up to the powers that be to decide what is and isn’t a privilege.    

“But do you just take it from them?” he said, truly with sincerity.

Even if it is only in the short-term, corporations have to understand their responsibility to this society as a condition of the privilege to succeed here. If corporations were suffering, but their profits are historic, while the gap between rich and poor becomes obscene. Fiscally that responsibility is no different that a soldier who risks their life for this nation. “When people are suffering you have that responsibility to the nation that nurtures your success. That is, in summation, is what all of these people are out here saying.”

With that we shook hands with a respectful smile and parted ways.

 


…You might be a racist.

Rick Perry claims he’d painted over the “N#&*@$head scratched on the rock outside his ranch, and that weather wore away the paint to reveal the racist word there. I mean it isn’t like the ranch was referred to as…oh, it was. I guess we should be happy it wasn’t called the Triple K ranch as well.

Honestly, I don’t believe Rick Perry is overtly racist, just as America isn’t overtly racist. Passively racist? Perhaps. Systemically, latently, historically racist? Endemic, institutionalized, smoldering, simmering, unresolved, in denial? Slavery and apartheid -like racial oppression lasted in this country for the better part of two centuries. It is unreasonable to believe it would all be resolved in only generation or two. If you went on a two hundred year bender, how long do you suppose the hangover would last. I suspect you’d be bent over the toilet for the better part of a century, and then the headache! We’re still face down in the bowl on this one, folks.

That’s why the Tea Party’s sudden exaltation of Herman Cain wears so thin. He’s a safe sort of Black guy, kind of like the grandpa from the old Cosby show, who says all the things they want to hear in quick thoughtless, flimsy and folksy right-wing clichés like, if you mess with Israel, you mess with America, or Keep your hands off our Second amendment.

But here’s a hint for the Tea Party, when you say things like, How could we be racist we got a black guy for a candidate, that sounds a bit racist at a minimum, and might reveal some things you might find distasteful buried deep, but oozing out in odd ways.

But strictly in an effort to help Tea Partiers and the Right avoid the label of racism, or of supporting of  a racially imbalanced system, here are a few  potential minefields:

If you ask aloud why Blacks can use the “N” word, but you can’t…you might be a racist.

If you ask why there isn’t a White entertainment network…

If you use the term Post Racial…

If you break down incarceration rates by race…

If you begin a sentence with, “I’m not a racist, but…”

Or, “I don’t agree with White supremacists, but…”

“If you say, I don’t see color…

If you are waiting for Blacks to get over that whole slavery and civil rights thing…

If you think affirmative action is a conspiracy against White people…

If you think Obama is being racially divisive for advocating social justice…

If you use the term Racial Politics…

Here’s the deal, I’ll confess to my own latent racism. I’ll admit that I am a small person in a big world, struggling to make sense of a great many things. We boil the world down to easily digestible and understandable parts, but in doing so we trade details for shades, We trade individuals for groups and trade community for tribalism. In those margins racism grows from fear and ignorance and laziness. It is not evil and it is not a curse, but it is a Human quality that needs to be battled daily, like alcoholism or any other anti-social behavior. But first it must be confronted in each individual heart with n understanding it has always been there and will always be there, and not by painting over a rock.

 


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