Friday, June 15, 2007

An Early Choice

Funny how things work out. I studiously planned to pay little attention to presidential politics in 2007 since this is way, way early to be making any decisions. But then I met Dennis Kucinich. Actually, I met his wife, Elizabeth, first in early May when she came to town. I know some of the local contacts for the campaign and when I heard they were looking for cheap accommodations, I offered a vacant furnished rental unit for her use, an offer they quickly accepted. I attended one of the events where she spoke and was highly impressed. Elizabeth Kucinich is well spoken and did a good job of conveying her husband's ideals, which sound much like my own.

Last week, Kucinich himself came to Phoenix. During that visit, he met with about 30 of us from the various peace and justice organizations. Once again, I was impressed with what I heard. Not just his opposition to CheneyBush's Iraq fiasco but his recognition that the issue is more than the Iraq war, it's about renouncing war as an instrument of national policy. He's also for single payer health insurance and many other policies I believe would contribute to social and economic justice in this nation and the world.

Kucinich is viewed by the mainstream media as a hopeless long shot. They are probably right. After all, he is challenging what has been the bipartisan consensus underpinning American foreign policy for the past 60 years. Americans these days have no understanding of a world not dominated by our military and economic policies and are unlikely to respond to his challenge. The MSM are probably right--Dennis Kucinich will most likely not be even a long shot candidate this time next year.

Even so, I put a Kucinich bumper sticker on my truck, if for no other reason than I agree with much of what he says and to give his message what little visibility I can. I mean, when was the last time you saw a presidential candidate bumper sticker that included Peace Sign? That alone is worth the space on my bumper.

This year may be too early for a presidential campaign. It's never too early to re-think American militarism.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

For Your Consideration, A Few Selected Posts

These are the posts that appealed to me most while I was looking at my past efforts. They are mostly from the first couple years when I was even more obscure than I am now. I don’t offer any helpful summary or explanation like Mimus Pauly did for blogiversary at Mockingbird's Medley. You’ll just have to look at the headline and decide if it's sufficiently intriguing to make a click worthwhile.

Foot Travel

Patriot Thoughts

Why Vietnam Still Matters

Heart of Darkness

Local Hero

Choosing to Kill

A Morning in Maine

Exploring the Unknown

A Quiet Opening

Hallowed Ground

Hallowed Ground Again

I Believe

Dark Christmas

The Long War

Shooting Positions

Supporting the Troops

On the Border

Honor and Death

The Good News

Soldiers' Words

Memorial Walk

September 11, 2002

Weapons Inflation


Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Not Dead Yet. Not Doing So Well, Either

The collapse of the immigration reform bill in Congress tells me that government failure in America may not be limited to the Executive. All these years the nation and the world has marveled at the inability of the World’s Only Superpower under CheneyBush to seemingly get ANYTHING right: 9-11, Iraq, Katrina, IRAQ!. Now comes Congress, unable to agree on how to deal with the pressing national and international problem of immigration. This setback follows the even more disappointing Congressional cave-in on funding the war. Congress’ great function is debate, compromise and consensus. Congress is also responsible for declaring war. These tasks are not always easy; our history includes times of failure and disappointment. The nation even went to war when Congress, along with the Executive failed to resolve a pressing national issue. Immigration may not be a matter of war (although it looks much like war along the border) but it is an important issue with great consequences for millions of people.

So the Senate’s failure to invoke cloture means that legislators must continue to work on the issues in other venues to craft the legislation needed to create a workable immigration policy. The issue is not going away. I was pleased to see that Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, formerly hard-core “no amnesty” vote, joined with Ted Kennedy to offer the compromise proposal. I would not have expected that from him and even stopped by his office to thank him. (He wasn’t in; a well-scrubbed Young Republican took my message.) I expect the Senate to continue the debate. The matter was only tabled. Like the Executive, however, Congress also appears capable of failure. Congress failed its first test on the war. Losing an opportunity for meaningful immigration reform would be tragic. If the US government cannot address an important social and economic issue, what the fuck good is it?

My own humble plan for immigration reform is simple. Let labor flow to where it is needed at a fair and reasonable wage that affords the opportunity to live in dignity. Ensure that anyone who works in this country has the full protection of American legal rights. Remember, one of our founding documents declares that “all men are created equal”. I would secure America’s borders by investing in Mexico. Not just money but ideas and reform. CheneyBush rants about “fighting over there, not here” and about “building democracy” as a way to lessen threats. Yet on America’s ACTUAL BORDER is a failed state, a state with the forms of democracy but a long tradition of corruption and political control, a society that cannot support it’s population, which then seeks opportunity where it does exist, in the US. It’s like water flowing downhill. Neither the United States nor Mexico can really afford to ignore what is happening.

US intervention in Mexico is always fraught with danger and great suspicion in that nation, with good reason given our shared history . But the ideas of democracy and economic justice do not belong to the US alone. They flow from universal principles, many of which are evident in Mexico’s own history. They did have a revolution in the early decades of the 20th century but it ossified into the cumbersome oligopoly of modern times. I would like to think that the Mexicans will change their own country in the interests of all rather than the few and the corporations. The United States should use its influence to promote regional cooperation and internal reform in Mexico (and throughout Central America). This is our neighborhood. What happens here affects us as much as anything in the Middle East. Economic and social reform are part of any long-term solution. Under the current administration in both countries, fine words about reform and opportunity are about all we are likely to get–nothing real or meaningful. Neither is likely to do anything that harms the profitable (for some) status quo.

I doubt if many of Jon Kyl’s former allies recognize the value of economic justice in addressing immigration issues. For them, the world is simple and those who fail to comply will be punished. They look at America’s southern border as something immutable that must be recognized by all. I recognize another border as well: pre-1848 Mexico, a cultural border that allowed seasonal migration in Mexico’s former lands during much almost eight score years since the US annexed them. I also recognize America as a haven, a place of opportunity and hope, a nation of immigrants. In many respects, our willingness to share our good fortune with others is a step toward balancing the injustices committed by the European occupation of North America.

The United States is not responsible for Mexico’s problems but we are affected by them. Moreover, as the “indispensable nation”, we have resources and influence that can indeed contribute to solutions. If only Congress can see far enough to find those solutions.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

Three Years

Since June is my third Blogiversary, it’s a good time to look back to see what it’s all been about. Looking at my posts doesn’t reveal any stellar, innovative systemic thought that amounts to a hill of bean. I turn a good phrase now and then, occasionally I let my anger rant on but hardly anything to shake the world. Certainly, in the realm of ideas, I don’t see much that hasn’t been said well by many others. I write about my Vietnam experience which offers some perspective to events but in the long run, even that is ephemeral. It certainly hasn’t stopped the war.

So why do I blog? I started for two reasons. I like to write. I’ve been writing my entire career, professionally and personally. I’m pretty good at it; I enjoy the challenge and satisfaction of clearly expressing ideas, of producing good prose and some poetry. Writing is a craft worth mastering, something I will be able to do as long as I have a functioning brain and fingers–I will be able to entertain myself in the nursing home if I have to. Second, putting words into an organized essay requires that I think hard and clarify my thoughts. Letting those same words loose into Blogtopia (y,sctp!) requires even further care–some one may actually read what I write. I want it to be the best ever. A third, unanticipated, reason is the company of bloggers. The community I have found in Blogtopia (see above) is informed, lively, astute, funny, profane, diverse, engaging and endlessly surprising. We share a realm of ideas and hopes and, in this company, I know I am not alone.

Traffic is minuscule here at Unsolicited Opinion. The first week of my blogiversary, the numbers have tanked, as if consciously reminding me of my obscurity. Fortunately, I don’t blog for the numbers. Well, yes I do–I would welcome the success and attention--but I don’t count on a high volume to keep writing. I would have stopped long ago if that were all there was to it. My numbers are pretty low, averaging in the high teens and low twenties daily. I am truly a blogtopian backwater. What does please me is that I’ve made enough of an impression that a few perspicacious bloggers gave me linky-love and one even invited me to join his group blog. So I know someone is reading and appreciating what I write. My work comes up on many search engines and is at least seen by people far and wide, even if the audience is small.

Mimus Pauly
has been particularly supportive. He gave my my first link and big spike in volume in July 2006. He also offered me a space at Mockingbird’s Medley, which rescued me from DailyKos where I was becoming a semi-regular diarist. Despite the lower traffic, Mimus’ numbers are better than Kos’: at Mockingbird I am one of six rather than one of thousands. The exposure had an effect: my volume is up almost three times over last year. I’ve broken 600 monthly a couple times, hardly a hour’s worth of traffic on some blogs but better than before. I also appreciate links from other blogs, all of whom are listed on my blogroll. Visit them often. And tell your friends about them.

Minstrel Boy has been an intriguing visitor to my site and has added some chilling commentary to my relatively placid Vietnam experiences. His three tours as a Navy SEAL put him in a very different war than I saw. Despite the different experience, we both learned that war not only wrong, but foolish and wasteful. Minstrel Boy's comments and his posts at Harp and Sword assure me that I am remembering correctly. We also had the chance to meet since we both live in the Central Arizona’s Large Amorphous Urban Area. Putting a face to his blog adds a personal dimension.

Reading (skimming, actually) old posts shows me to have been correct about the deterioration of Iraq under US military occupation (But who wasn’t right, besides the neo-con fantasyland warriors?), cautiously hopeful and disappointed about John Kerry, even more disappointed with most other politicians and way, way too involved in the Iraq war, reliving my Vietnam experiences in the current war. Occasionally, I post about hiking and living on the Navajo Nation. It’s a mixed bag and, like life itself, is a fleeting moment. But its my moment and I intend to speak out about life, events, policy, ideas and whatever damn well pleases me. That won’t change.

What may change is my frequency and style. With the impending move to Olympia now looming immediately ahead (boxes are piling up all around), I can’t imagine that it won’t reduce my time on-line and posting frequency. It’s a complicated move with much to do in four to six weeks. Now I know why I’ve put it off for so long. I no longer have that luxury. It’s already way too hot here in Phoenix and I have pretty much exhausted my tolerance for large amorphous urban areas. Time to go. I won’t stop blogging but expect fewer posts.

Two manuscripts loom in my near future as well. My Appalachian Trail memoir–all 75,000 words of it–has been sitting on my desk untouched for about a year and the time has come to get off my butt and publish. I'm hoping for international best seller with movie rights but I may just self-publish eat the cost myself. The second manuscript is Vietnam. I have reams of memories, short stories and poetry that have been in the works off and on for 35 years. I think I have a story to tell and may finally have sufficient perspective to understand that story. It’s been a long time coming and I don’t have much time left. Time to move now if it’s ever going to happen.

In the end, this blog has done several things for me. It has kept me writing regularly. Writing blog posts may not as focused and purposeful as writing longer pieces but to blog, I need to stay informed and the regular writing is good practice. Blogging has connected me to a thoughtful, informed community that cares deeply about our country. It has helped me to understand who I am, what I value and to speak well on behalf of my beliefs. Not a bad use of my time at this point in life.

Thanks to all of you who have enlivened my journey.


I’ve put together a list of my blog posts that struck me as different, particularly interesting or whatever as I skimmed through m oeuvre. I’ll put that up shortly and then blogiversary will be complete.