Friday, November 19, 2010

A Night in D.C.: They Blamed the Ducks

No way could we sleep. My wife, our youngest son & I were in Washington, D.C. for The Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Even though it was after midnight, we walked around The Mall, beginning with the rally stage set up so the Congressional Dome could be seen through the arch.

I wanted to visit The Lincoln Memorial at the opposite end of The Mall, because that's where Glenn Beck had made his speech that the U.S. "turn back to God," saying "for too long this country has wandered in darkness." If he had meant torturing bad intelligence out of the mentally ill to send over 5,000 dedicated citizens unnecessary early deaths, I would have agreed. 

But what Beck really meant was that the darkness had fallen 18 months prior when the nation elected a president who, according to Beck, followed Liberation Theology, which Beck attributed to Marxism. It's odd Beck should say that because in The American Indian Museum just off The Mall, Liberation Theology is attributed to a Vatican pronouncement in 1962. Beck opened his rally with prayers and references to God  and then distorted Liberation Theology to drive a wedge between us & them. Beck had The Lincoln Memorial as a platform to distort someone's private spiritual beliefs so a political opponent could be isolated, marginalized and defeated.

What follows are some impressions from that night's walk. I wrote these down after the Poetic Justice Reading at CSUSM on 11/18/10.

They Blamed Ducks
October 2010
After the Rally to Restore Honor and
before the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,
we walked around the WWII Monument,
something looked wrong.
The Lincoln Memorial lit in the dark,
the white marble president luminous behind the columns,
but not as bright as a postcard.
A park ranger explained the Reflecting Pool was drained
because migrating ducks had defecated in it and polluted it.
The memorial, less luminous with less reflection of its light.

Gracefully, Lincoln's words were still on the walls,
The Gettysberg Address & his wartime inauguration,
words to fight, die--and as Liberation Theology would have it--
to shoot back and kill over.
I can't say it was sweet.

Unlit between Lincoln and the Jefferson Memorial,
was the unfinished Martin Luther King Memorial.
How difficult to reconcile King's "Where Do We Go From Here?"
with Glenn Beck's cry to "Take our country back."
How impossible to match Jefferson's "progress of the human mind"
with Beck's "Progressivism is the cancer in America."

In the American Indian Museum, beaded Bibles on one wall,
rifles on the other side,
Liberation Theology defined as the poor's right to shoot back.
All around The Mall, ideas Beck cannot abide with.
He'd blow the fourth floor off the American Indian Museum,
grind the words off the eastern wall of the Jefferson Memorial,
dream a MLK memorial silent on militarism.

In caves and condos around the world, terrorists
dream of blowing away as much of Washington as Beck did
during his rally to restore honor. Both begin by invoking God,
then invoking "great men" and "giants,"
then defining President Obama as an infidel God does not recognize.
Beck, however, got close enough to drop the load he'd been carrying
on the steps of The Lincoln Memorial and
shit flows downhill.

Later, they drained the Reflecting Pool.
They did not blame outsourcing, deregulation,
counter-insurgency training for despots,
pipelines for oil & cocaine,
warterboarding the insane for bad intelligence,
land wars in Asia, deficit spending to do so.

No one blamed Becks' tacit compliance with the above
or his faith of division, his dogma deceit or
his blindness to the person in the president.
They blamed the ducks.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Commie Balktalk" as Mask (Every Night Is Halloween, Part V)

I'm not a communist. I'm you.

Believe that? Most voters in Delaware--where early election results show Christine O'Donnell with 39.1% of the vote--seem to want more than that in their political discourse (they also appear to want O'Donnell more than they want the poetic discourse found Light in All Directions).

It was the second part of O'Donnell's infamous ad that gets me. If she is me, then she's got to be a communist because that's what people called me when I objected to Contra Aid. While it was true that Nicaragua nationalized considerable property following the '79 revolution, it would be incorrect to say that Nicaragua had free enterprise prior to that; likewise it would be incorrect that Nicaragua had a communist economy following the revolution. Unlike the truly communist economy in Cuba, the Sandinista-led government maintained a mixed economy. Ironically, it was the investment interest from Japan and other Pacific Rim countries that probably concerned the Reagan Administration in the 80s. Nicaragua's private sector would've accounted for more of the economy had it not been for the Contra War, which drove the Nicaraguan government to go from spending less than 16% on the military in 1981 to 55% in 1988. But perhaps that was the strategy: destroy the Nicaraguan economy through military spending.

Also killed with Linder were
Sergio HernĂ¡ndez and
Pablo Rosales.
In any case, I've been called a communist on several occasions having little bearing on economics and nothing to do with the violent overthrow of my country. One memorable example happened after I published a letter in the Los Angeles Times praising a U.S. engineer who was murdered in Nicaragua by contras who first wounded him with a grenade and then shot him in the head at close range. The engineer was working on a hydroelectric dam at the time. My wife and I received several anonymous phone calls from people who called me a commie, and one even said he'd "get" me on my way home because he knew where I worked and lived. Maybe he became the analyst who later got the intel on WMD. 

And for the record, I'm not a commie. I'm you. Just imagine the following poem as a Halloween mask someone once put on me:

Commie Backtalk

Being the commie you call me,
I’m taking it all back:
Diamond panes of glass for anyone who came to our front door.
I’m taking back Grampy’s rub-downs after football practice.
You don’t believe me? Sit down, let me massage your shoulders.

The glances at Sara Montoya’s house
whenever I rode past. I’m taking them back.
The shine from her brown hair I’d forgotten until just now,
the boulder that Paradise Creek flows under.
I’m taking them back.
Don’t try to stop me.

Every trail Gary Bates and I ever left through the brush,
we’re rolling them up through the middle of homes,
property rights be damned.

The pisses over the canyon ledge every night,
I’m taking back those nocturnal pleasures
to add all together and hit the new casino on the other side.

Being the commie you call me,
I’m giving you everything I love:
the brown mare who carried me safely through childhood, like a mother;
The wedges of lasagna Grammy stacked just the way I liked them.
Everything I’ve taken, I redistribute.

Here, have a couple of notes I took off Jaco backstage at The Roxy
or a couple of rests I stole from Count Basie one night in Montreux.
They lifted them from America,
and God knows where she got them.

U.S. engineer Ben Linder appears in a mural with others devoted to peace & justice.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Morning-After All Saints' Eve (Every Night Is Halloween, Part IV)

There were many more Halloween poems I wanted to post but couldn't because I was too busy traveling to Washington, D.C. for The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (yes, it was color coded that way on signs.

Now the rally is over and so is Halloween. But the struggle to maintain consciousness and identity continues least it does for me. Being born on Nov. 1 might've made me a pensive kid. One Halloween, I dressed up as Popeye because inside I had a rage to be strong enough to knock out Bluto.

I still occasionally have my Popeye impulses. Let's call them, "Punch Theory": the supposition that it's acceptable to take swings at/satirize/critique someone who abuses his or her power over you. In the case of Popeye, it was okay for him to go after Bluto who valued muscle mass and force over love. Punch Theory says it's okay to punch up but that you should be scorned for punching down. Punch Theory is my variation on Finley Peter Dunne's maxim of journalism: "Comfort the afflicted. Afflict the comfortable."

When I grew up enough to know I couldn't knock out the Blutos of the world, I became a kind of Bluto. In the the case of John Blutarsky, it was the right thing to go out in a blaze of youthful glory because in reality the Deltas would soon become part of the system and begin abusing their positions of power although in reality actor John Belushi went out in an infuriating blaze of youthful excess. The story of Belushi's life was so sad because it outlined the limits of play. Ah, there's some more of that pensive morning-after stuff for those of us lucky enough to have a morning after (Did I mention I turned 50 today?).

So on Halloween, many of us play at death because it feels so good to survive. Others play at identities we wish we had, but even these disguises are temporary deaths of self. Sometimes there's just not enough sugar in the world for me.

Morning After All-Staints’ Eve
How good it is to be alive after the horror of last night,
driving the children around the dark neighborhoods,
glad to see the few pumpkins, brainless but luminous.

I check the treats to make sure they’re wrapped and
wonder if it wasn’t an underemployed dentist who
slipped the first razor-blade into an apple.
Could people who open their doors more dangerous
than those who hide on the live side of their t.v.?

We passed a pack of teens in no costumes, unless
they wanted to show us that horrific moment of transformation when
the mask of childhood slips and reveals the cruel grown-up creature
smoking, sulking, hulking, drunken, humping, thumping after dark.

Now in the morning paper, a victim-bites-vampire headline
about a Cuban spy expelled from The Pentagon.
Watching cartoons, my son still wearing plastic fangs
munches a Snickers that contains no embargoed sugar,
and my daughter, still wearing her diaphanous wings,
flits between us, practicing for the after life.