Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wide, Wide River

Writing that last post, I remembered this song alienation from four decades ago. The lyrics here don't include the ad lib on my copy about "a system, supposedly democratic, where we always choose between the lesser of two evils" but it's pretty clear we are in way over our heads drowning in flapjacks of sorrow.


Fair and Balanced in '08

Fellow blogger Jim Yeager is opting out of the political process this year. “Call me disabled”, he says. I call him sane, realistic and balanced. No doubt because he thinks like me. I, too, am alienated from the political process in this country. I still sign some petitions and make noise but less and less these days. I rarely call Congressional offices despite the cascade of email alerts from groups I support. I called Dennis Kucinich’s office last week to thank him for reading the articles of impeachment against George W. Bush, for being one Democrat willing to call this administration on its lies, manipulations and perversions of government and policy. But otherwise, I don’t have much faith in Constitutional government or democracy in the United States these days.

So why bother to excite myself about a political campaign that has already disappointed me?. The mantra from all sides is “Change” but that’s just a word that means pretty much more of the same. Continued domination by the corporate-military state in the United States and in the global economy. Rampant capitalism rapaciously exploiting the planet. Leaving behind a second hand world to future generations.

Jim’s disability will serve him well, especially if it frees him to explore his musical interests. He’ll find more purpose and satisfaction in that than spending time worrying about who wins another choreographed election filled with meaningless words and pseudo-issues that come nowhere near dealing with the challenges facing America in the coming years. He can still care about his country and the world. He doesn’t have to obsess about a meaningless horse race. He can smell the roses. And like me, he will vote, most likely for Obama. Certainly not McCain. So why waste time trying to make sense or purpose from something whose only sense and purpose is perpetuating the power elite?

Four years ago, I supported John Kerry enough to stand on a corner for a half hour during morning rush hour once a week waving signs at the passing traffic. It was fun and little effort. I phone banked, too. Arizona was not really in play but it had some potential. My support for Kerry was primarily that he was Not Bush. I still respected for him from 1971 but after 20 years in the Senate, I knew he was a cautious, conventional politician. I had no illusions. And, of course, he lost. That sucked. I phone banked a lot for Harry Mitchell two years later. He won as part of the Democratic surge but that turned out to suck, too.

This year I’ll vote. Washington has an August primary and my district has a progressive activist candidate challenging an entrenched Democratic Representative in Congress. The primary is a single primary where the top two candidates (regardless of party) advance to the general election so there’s some interesting possibility there. I’m pretty sure I’ll give some money to progressive candidates. But that’s about it. Not wasting time on pointless exercises will also allow me to take time to explore and experience this wonderful place where I live and spend time with people I love.

If that is disabled, I’ll take it.

Labels: , ,

Friday, June 20, 2008

So This is Summer

Happy Summer Solstice, everyone. Depending on your philosophical outlook, you might be celebrating today as: Alban Heflin, Alben Heruin, All-couples day, Feast of Epona, Feast of St. John the Baptist, Feill-Sheathain, Gathering Day, Johannistag, Litha, Midsummer, Sonnwend, Thing-Tide, Vestalia. I'm partial to the Pagan celebration of Litha but to each their own. Today is also Hike Naked Day.

Here in the Northwest, I am still waiting for warm weather. Olympia might make 80 degrees today and I may get to wear shorts until it cools off again in a few days. Everyone here agrees that this has been an unusually cool spring. I do recall from previous hikes in the Cascades that temperatures can be warm in July and August. Even with the cool temperatures, the UV index is high here.

Still, the rather slow to are summer here is better than Phoenix, which is forecast to reach 114 today. At least I can go outside during the day without the sun burning my eyeballs to a fine ash. But even in the summer temperatures of the Arizona deserts, today is worth celebrating as the sun begins to slowly move toward the south again, bringing cooler temperatures in...oh, say, late September or October.

I'll celebrate today by opening all the windows, riding my bike and studying for the certification test to become a Department of Veterans Affairs claims agent. As a claims agent, I will have standing to represent veterans seeking benefits from the VA. I plan to do so on a volunteer basis, putting to good use the bureaucratic skills I've honed over past three decades. All I have to do is plow through about 10 pounds of laws, regulations and procedures.

Time to hit the books.


Monday, June 16, 2008

A Family Affair

My cousin graduated from the Seattle University this weekend, completing a masters degree in nursing. I attended her graduation party after through a mostly chance encounter with her aunt, also a cousin, that resulted from a weekend bicycle ride with my brother, Neil, and about 3,000 others in Redmond, Washington. All of which was within about 75 miles of here. For the record, my brother rode the century (100 miles) route on a fixed gear road bicycle, probably the only rider who did so. I rode 25 miles on an 18 speed mountain bike, quite enough for one day and my first ever organized ride with lots of other people.

Meeting my cousin, her friends and other family members was fun. Lots of grandkids and other young children were about. The graduate was one of my cousin Pat’s three daughters and a son, born mid to late 60’s. Among the other guests were father, grandparents, fellow graduates and a member of the Washington National Guard 81st Brigade, on orders to deploy in Iraq for his second tour. He said he was infantry, a reality that always gives me a start. Someone asked “what is infantry?” another startling thought. His answer was “we chase the bad guys”. I wanted to ask how he would know the bad guys but did not want to use this occasion to initiate a serious discussion of the psychological and moral issues involved in “chasing the bad guys”, which I understand involves exercising brute and lethal force against other human beings. (I would very much like to have that discussion with an active duty combat soldier who has deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan previously and now faces a second or third tour.)

Instead, I offered the classic infantry mantra of “stay low” and my own “Godspeed”. On the drive home, I realized how lame “stay low” is as a strategy when you travel in large, mechanized fighting vehicles or charge into someone’s home at night. I also came up with a better definition of the infantry mission:

to close with and destroy a designated target using a combination of maneuver, and lethal force delivered by individual and crew-served weapons.

Of course, infantry soldiers do not designate targets; they capture, repulse, destroy or otherwise neutralize those targets. That’s their job. Someone higher up—“above my pay grade”—designates targets. That “someone” is the chain of command and is fully responsible for all the violence inflicted by soldiers under their direction—all the way to the very top. (I’m talking to you, Dick Cheney. And you’re little sidekick, too.)

The soldier is also responsible for that violence, if only to answer to himself or herself (yes, some women do pull the trigger on a human target). Given the nature of America’s volunteer military and swelling patriotism after 9-11, I can understand why soldiers were reluctant to even think about questioning the wisdom of their missions. Maybe that’s the difference between me and these soldiers; I don’t think sacrifice for one’s country should be unlimited. The nation must offer a valid reason for that sacrifice; soldiers and their families have every right to ask why?.

The young soldier I met also said something very true. I listened in as he told my cousin, whose husband (an Afghanistan veteran) departed that very morning for two weeks of Navy reserve duty, about his active and National Guard experience, all infantry. He went on to think out loud about changing his military career because infantry deployment is not good if you are thinking about starting a family. I couldn’t agree more.

Labels: ,