»
S
I
D
E
B
A
R
«
OH DEAR NO NOT AGAIN DAMN IT.
Apr 15th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

via theverge.com

This did not have to happen.

In a more epathetic world it would not happen.

In a world that was less overrun by sociopaths and their media/political enablers, it would not happen.

WE ALL SCREAM FOR WE DAY
Apr 4th, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

The setting: KeyArena, 2:20 on a Wednesday afternoon. The place is filled with 15,000 middle- and high-school students and their adult chaperones. I’m in a staff lounge, preparing to start working on the tear-down crew at the end of this event, watching the on-stage action from a video feed.

From the elaborate stage, event hosts Craig and Marc Kielburger tease an already hyped-up crowd with the promise of a final surprise guest. Then they introduce said guest.

This is followed by the screechingly loudest human noise imaginable, as the young crowd screams in unison.

It is only due to the miracle of modern amplification that local hereos Macklemore and Ryan Lewis (with their full live band) can be heard.

Thus ended the first non-sporting event I’d been to in KeyArena since presidential candidate Barack Obama’s visit in the spring of 2008. That event, like this, was a rousing call to action.

But the Obama rally was a mere toe-tapper compared to the rafters-shaking experience that was We Day, a five-hour celebration of kids getting involved in their communities and in the larger world.

We Day has been staged in cities across Canada for the past six years. This was the first one held south of the border.

Its parent organization, Free the Children, was started by the Kielburger brothers when Craig Kielburger was age 12. Their original intent was to crusade against forced child labor in Pakistan.

Since then, the organization has grown and evolved. It supports activities in 45 countries from Ecuador to India. These include schools, clean-water projects, and cottage industries making craft products. These projects’ overall goal is to “adopt” whole villages, helping create a sustainable infrastructure of education, health, and livelihood.

On the home front, Free the Children works to get kids involved in social change. It encourages kids to raise money and volunteer their time for overseas projects. And it empowers kids to work in their own communities against hunger, abuse, bullying, and dropping out of school.

Every part of Free the Children’s outreach to North American students is about positive empowerment. Burnout, or “compassion fatigue,” has no place in this outfit’s mindset. Everything’s about getting up, getting involved, doing things, speaking out (or, in the case of its forthcoming Day of Silence project, deliberately NOT speaking).

We Day is both a call to action and a celebration for those who’ve already been active. Kids got to go to it by having volunteered for both local and global causes.

In return, they got to spend a day out from school among kids bused in from all over the state. They got gift bags containing motion-powered light up plastic wristbands (donated by Microsoft, one of the event’s local sponsors). They got to partake of an extravaganza of entertainment and exhortation, of high-energy rally speeches alternating with live music and video segments of kids making a difference.

I worked on a part of the setup and teardown crew, and found a highly efficient organization behind it. Perhaps no recent event at the Key had needed so much stuff placed in so many places throughout the building. Besides the huge main stage (with two video walls) on the arena’s south end, a secondary stage with a video floor was set up on the north end. A gift bag was placed on every seat in the auditorium. Booths selling T-shirts and giving away promotional flyers were set up along all the concourses. Some lounges and luxury suites were reconfigured to welcome event staff, volunteers, adult supporters, and sponsors. Ground-floor dressing rooms had to be spiffed up at least a little for all the celebrity guests.

Those guests included Sonics legend Gary Payton, Mia Farrow (Payton Place meets Peyton Place!), Martin Sheen (delivering a rousing secular sermon about making a difference), MC Hammer, Martin Luther King III, Nelly Furtado, and local breakdance stars the Massive Monkees.

The most enthusiastically-received of the announced guests, “Dreamgirls” star Jennifer Hudson, performed two high-energy song and dance numbers.

But even Hudson couldn’t raise louder screams than Macklemore, wearing a replica Sonics jersey embossed with the slogan BRING ‘EM BACK. (A men’s pro basketball team bearing that name may indeed show up in KeyArena later this year.)

But this day was not about sports fandom, despite the presence of Payton, Magic Johnson, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and several of his star players including Russell Wilson.

What We Day was all about was getting involved in things bigger than sports, things bigger than yourself.

And having a raucously good time while doing so.

(Cross-posted with City Living.)

RANDOM LINKS FOR 3/22/13
Mar 22nd, 2013 by Clark Humphrey

  • When bad covers happen to good novels….
  • The (beautiful) wooden Elvis statue outside Mama’s Mexican Kitchen was stolen. We who all adore it need it back.
  • Every now and then, civic boosters talk about bringing the Olympic Games to Seattle. Such efforts have traditionally been quashed quickly by locals worried about traffic and local-government subsidies. But this time (for the 2024 Summer Games), could the boosters have the upper hand over the NIMBYs?
  • City Councilmember Richard Conlin says housing for poor people should be kept in the south end, away from all the nice-upscale people.
  • (Meanwhile, it’s good to remember that America’s urban ghettos were the historic result of specific policy/planning decisions. Do an online search for “redlining” and “blockbusting” to learn more.)
  • “Tiny houses” are all the rage in certain circles. But wanting to plop one down inside a city, well that’s news.
  • At least one ESPN pundit predicts the Seattle Mariners will be “this year’s surprise team.” In recent years, as you know, the M’s have provided too many of the wrong kind of surprises.
  • Wash. state is Number One! (In making higher education unaffordable, that is.)
  • Seattle teachers’ protest against standardized testing has reached the eyes and ears of the New Yorker, which notes that this particular test is not used so much to evaluate students as it is to evaluate the teachers themselves.
  • The Catholic Northwest Progress, the regional archdiocese newspaper, is the latest grave in the print-media cemetery. The paper’s incessantly anti-gay-marriage stance probably didn’t help.
  • The years-in-the-promising Bell Street “boulevard park” project is finally starting construction. When it’s done, Bell will have one lane of traffic and one lane of parallel parking; the rest of the right-of-way will be extended sidewalks and planters.
  • The thing about the Vancouver BC company’s inadvertently see-thru yoga slacks: The women who attend these classes and wear these clothes are often trying to show off their figures, not to men but to other women, not to attract desire but admiration/envy. But that doesn’t work if the “exposure” is too blatant.
  • In the ten years since the Iraq War, the buildup to same, and the almost unquestioned media cheerleading for same, have we learned anything (except to distrust the media)?
  • In the Internet era, news readers have umpteen sources for big national/global stories, but far fewer people reporting local events or investigating local dirt.
  • Montana may make roadkill legal to eat: On tonight’s dessert menu, chocolate moose.
  • After testing the waters in commercial book genres (romance, mystery, etc.), Amazon’s getting into the “literary” book racket.
  • While the “people of the book” were making their usual noisy gripes that everything was going to hell, independent bookstores have staged a quiet comeback.
  • Speaking of naysaying the naysayers, Bono would like you to know that many worldwide trends (poverty, AIDS, etc.) are actually on a positive swing these days.
  • Is Jay Leno finally being pushed into retirement? For real this time?
  • Urban-planning pundit Richard Florida made big bucks from instructing cities how to pursue “the creative class.” Now he says (sort of) that that doesn’t work.
  • Following Chris Ware’s acclaimed Building Stories, local art-book press Marquand Books is putting out another “box set” graphic novel, containing objects of different sizes and shapes telling one meta-narrative. It’s The Magician, by onetime Dallas arts promoter Chris Byrne. It’s an ultra-limited-edition product. Its artistic ambitions, if anything, are greater than those of Ware’s work.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 3/13/12
Mar 12th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

Learn how we and our immediate forebearers ate!

I’m participating in a History Cafe session about old Seattle restaurant menus. It’s 7 p.m. Thursday at Roy Street Coffee (the off-brand Starbucks) at Broadway and E. Roy on curvaceous Capitol Hill. It’s sponsored by KCTS, HistoryLink.org, MOHAI, and the Seattle Public Library.

Be there or be yesterday’s “fresh sheet.”

  • The World Trade Organization (remember them?) sez Boeing gets unfair subsidies from the U.S. gov’t.
  • Are an ad agency’s “homeless hotspots” at the SXSW music festival really more demeaning than the Seattle company that  still calls itself “Bumvertising“?
  • No, Michael Medved. We’re not secretly jealous of Rush Limbaugh and his awesome power. We’re disgusted by his puerile stupidity, bullying, and bigotry (and yours too).
  • The Oregonian won’t run the Doonesbury comics about the GOP’s war against women. A local cartoonist responds by depicting the paper’s readers choosing to “abort” their subscriptions.
  • Is there really something particular about the training of soldiers at Lewis-McChord that’s led to these dreadful stories about abuses of power in the Afghan field? Or is it just a coincidence, based on the fact that the base has grown so big, with so many troops transferring in and out of it?
  • One of the 1980 American hostages in Iran would rather not see history repeat itself thank you.
  • Blogger/editor Maria Popova believes websites should formally adopt a “curator’s code” identifying direct and indirect links via special unicode symbols.
AGAINST A SINGLE-COLORED ‘RAINBOW’
Feb 28th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

A self-described “white gay male” guest writer at a feminist site re-introduces the allegation, made previously by others, that Dan Savage is an implicit racist, and that Savage cares more about homophobia than about racism or any other form of injustice.

The writer, Kirk Grisham, points out that Savage’s “It Gets Better” campaign gives several examples of horribly bullied white gay kids, but hasn’t said much about bullied black or brown or working-class gay kids.

(The campaign also neglects kids who are bullied for any reason other than being gay, but that’s not part of Grisham’s argument.)

Grisham goes on to cite two things Savage has written, but which he’s since rescinded.

One was a rant against African Americans in California who voted for the first time in 2008 to support Obama. Savage originally, partly blamed these voters for the success of the anti-gay-marriage initiative that was also on that state’s 2008 ballot.

The other was Savage’s endorsing Christopher Hitchens’ Iraq War defense, along the line that U.S.-forced regime change would propel social progress and freedom in the Middle East.

He’s since gone on the record contradicting both previous opinions.

I’m not in the business of defending or decrying any ex-boss of mine.

But I will say that “It Gets Better” is built on top of standard, unquestioned liberal notions of “identity politics.”

And that “identity politics” is the continuation of demographic marketing by other means.

It divides, when we should be uniting.

We need to make a better world for everybody. Not just for people in “our” category.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 2/16/12
Feb 15th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

tinyprints.com

…the last places in America where books are still a dominant part of the culture, consumed, discussed, pondered, and critiqued with gusto.

  • Amazon reportedly still wants more Seattle office space.
  • Liquor privatization starts phasing in on March 1, when restaurants and bars can buy booze direct from producers and out-of-state distributors.
  • That $340 million state budget “windfall”? A lot of it’s due to past slashings of social service programs.
  • The state Legislature still doesn’t have a plan to halt horrendous budget cuts. But it is working to bring back incentives for out-of-state film productions.
  • It’s the end of the smelting line for the Fremont Fine Arts Foundry. The longtime site of statue-making, and home base of the first efforts to save the ferry Kalakala is going to become a restaurant, a bar, and a restaurant-bar supply house.
  • Forget about radio, the printing press, penicillin, the wheel, or even gum with flavor crystals. The Internet is “the greatest thing that mankind has ever created.” Or so says the don of crazy cat captions.
  • Is Microsoft helping fund a creepy right-wing campaign to force “climate change is just a theory” curricula in K-12 schools?
  • In reality, as opposed to right-wing-media fantasyland, there is no war on religion in this country. And wrestling is fake too.
  • Sean Hannity held a panel discussion about the birth control pseudo-controversy. The panel included men of several races and religions, and not even one woman. (Has even one woman spoken for the anti-birth-control side in any public forum, other than Sarah Palin?)
  • Nancy Grace has become, if it can be imagined, even sleazier.
  • Lest We Forget Dept.: It’s the 70th anniversary of the forced detention of Americans of Japanese descent.
  • One anniversary not commemorated by many, except by Noam Chomsky: The 50th anniversary of the start of the Vietnam War. (Or rather, of U.S. involvement in same.)
RANDOM LINKS FOR 11/29/12
Jan 29th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

  • All right, fans of glass buildings and obscure dangerous plants, you all have one year to figure out how to save the Volunteer Park Conservatory.
  • Update: That 83 year old activist Tacoma priest, who was on a hunger strike while in federal detention? He’s still detained, but off the hunger strike.
  • Another of those silly surveys claims Washington DC has surpassed Seattle as the nation’s “most literate” city.
  • A Republican state legislator introduced a bill to scuttle any enforcement of the feds’ prescribed remedies concerning excessive force by Seattle police, and shunt the matter over to “a bipartisan taskforce.” Where, presumably, Republican politicians would hold veto power on any policy changes.
  • In other legislative news, farmers and farm workers both back a bill to slow the local spread of “E-Verify,” the federal background-check program for immigrant workers.
  • The new Businessweek’s cover story discusses Amazon’s latest move into publishing its own e-books—the opening of an NYC office intended to issue bigtime books by bigtime authors. The headline (“Amazon Wants to Burn the Book Business”) and the cover image (yes, a burning book, straight outta Fahrenheit 451) depict the viewpoint of an NY publishing cartel both scared to pieces and smugly defensive of their old time business-as-usual, now threatened by this dot-com upstart. And just as you’d expect, the piece quotes the industry’s Big Six conglomerate-owned mega-publishers defending their wasteful, slow traditional practices by hyping their “role as nurturers of literary culture.” As if the commercial book biz had ever been about that.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 1/26/12
Jan 25th, 2012 by Clark Humphrey

delamar apartments (built 1909); from queen anne historical society

  • The Seattle Transit Blog would like you to know that, despite our politicians’ continuing paeans to the preservation of the sacred single family neighborhoods, the “majority of housing units in Seattle are multifamily” (apartments, condos, townhomes, et al.).
  • In a related trend, more Americans are now single than ever before. Only 51 percent of U.S. adults are married (even with the slow expansion of the right to get married).
  • Same sex marriages: At various past times and places, Christians loved ‘em.
  • A note to all our transit usin’ friends. Check out Metro’s proposed 2012 route changes while you can still give feedback about ‘em.
  • A cash-strapped state? Not if you listen to the construction lobby.
  • Is Amazon out to compete head-on with Netflix?
  • An 83-year-old peace-activist priest was sent to a Federal detention center in SeaTac, after he participated in a civil-disobedience action at a nuclear weapons plant site in Tennessee. He’s reportedly being held in solitary confinement, and has been on a hunger strike for two weeks.
  • Amy Goodman talks to people who see an “Occupy” influence in Obama’s State of the Union speech.
  • But then again, lotsa folk are trying to get a ride on the Occupy ____ bandwagon. Even anti-Semitic fringies, conspiracy-theory propagators, and radical libertarians. You know, the guys who believe business somehow doesn’t have enough power.
  • During this age of the incredibly shrinking newspaper, the Washington Post Co.’s main profit center has been the Kaplan “educational publishing” operation. That company’s bought a chain of for-profit colleges, now collectively known as Kaplan University. The Post Co.’s CEO has admitted, in now-revealed documents, that Kaplan U. used federal student loan funds and “predatory accounting” to jack up tuition costs to poor students.
THIS TIME, DEATHS DID COME IN THREES
Dec 18th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

This weekend, three major figures from world affairs left us.

  • Christopher Hitchens was an erudite and outspoken essayist/commentator on world affairs, peace/war, justice, and religion and all he felt was wrong with it (which was just about everything). But, like several of his ’60s radical-intellectual forebearers, he became seduced by the siren song of right-wing righteousness; specifically, the Bushies’ meme that there was one big “Islamofascist” conspiracy to overthrow Western society, and that the war in Iraq was a valiant counter-crusade rather than an imperial power-grab. But then, his chain-smoking and chain-drinking already proved there were limits to his wisdom.
  • Vaclav Havel was one radical-intellectual who never changed his ways, even when it was might inconvenient not to do so. The herein-linked BBC obit lauds him as having brought “free markets” to what was still Czechoslovakia, following the collapse of the Soviet empire. But that wasn’t even among Havel’s chief priorities. He was foremost a thinker and writer. He began by writing satirical plays, which were promptly banned once Soviet forces crushed the “Prague Spring” of 1968. Arrested several times, he never gave up striving for freedom, democracy, and independent culture. When the Slovaks split off into their own nation, Havel oversaw an amicable civic divorce. May we all remember his life’s motto: “Truth and love will prevail over lies and hatred.”
  • Kim Jong-Il, with his tinhorn self aggrandizement and his obsession for military ultra-precision in all public spectacles, was regularly depicted as a living joke—at least among those who didn’t have to live under North Korea’s abject poverty and repression. The best hope for the failed state he left behind is that his heirs sell it to the south, in exchange for a cushy Kim family compound in some equatorial land.
RANDOM LINKS FOR 10/8/11
Oct 7th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

from geekgirlworld.com

  • The first ever Seattle GeekGirlCon happens this weekend at Seattle Center. Why are geek girls so cool? Because they ask questions. They investigate. They seek solutions. They get things done. (Though personally, I like real-life geek girls more than the fictional action-fantasy ones.)
  • Mayor McGinn now says the city will “work with” the Occupy Seattle protesters, whatever that means. (It might not mean much.)
  • Environmental advocates want the Duwamish River cleanup to be cleaner than what the feds have claimed would be good enough. How clean? Clean enough that fish caught in the Duwamish would be safely edible.
  • Why would anybody lobby against a Tibetan-themed retail development in Kirkland? It’s not like it would be worse than what used to be on the site—a burger joint and a dry cleaners.
  • The Tri-Cities’ regional history museum might close, after the feds withdrew funding for its Hanford nuke exhibits.
  • Ex-Seattleite and professional gadfly Mike Daisey has some less-than-reverent words about Steve Jobs, in advance of the NY debut of his Jobs-themed performance piece (which already played Seattle in shakedown-cruise form).
  • It’s the end of the road for Mazda rotary engine cars.
  • In a sane world, the folks who bleat about “supporting the troops” would do more for the 1 million jobless Iraq/Afghanistan veterans. Then again, in a sane world those wars wouldn’t have been started.
  • Paul Krugman sees signs of hope from the Occupy ____ movement, and sees nothing but growth in its immediate future.
  • Annie Lowrey crunches the numbers behind the Occupiers’ claims, and finds that, indeed, the top 1 percent have gotten immensely richer while most everyone else has struggled to stay even or worse.
  • Atrios suggests an alternative to big bank bailouts:

…you could give free money to everyone else assuming some of that money would be deposited in banks and/or used to pay down debt owed to those banks.

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE IS WRITING ABOUT TODAY
Sep 11th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

scene from antiwar protest downtown, march 2003

After all the recycled bluster about the police and the firefighters and especially the troops, about the valiant politicians and the flag waving celebrities, about the need to never forget the horrible day which begat the horrible decade of the endless wars and the mass intimidation and the institutionalized fear mongering and the ugly racism and the corruption of democracy, what more is to be said?

Quite a bit.

We can remember the World Trade Center’s Seattle architect, Minoru Yamasaki (1912-1986). His local works include Puget Sound Plaza, Rainier Square, the Pacific Science Center, and the IBM Building (based on his early WTC design work).

Yamasaki didn’t live to see the towers attacked. But he knew the consequences of war-inspired fear and prejudice.

It was only the intercession of an early employer, and the fact that he was working in the northeast at the time, that got him exempted from the WWII internment of western Americans of Japanese ancestry.

We can remember the opportunities for international cooperation to build a safer world. And how those opportunities were deliberately quashed by the Bush-Cheney regime.

We can remember the Patriot Act, the TSA, the “total information awareness” domestic eavesdropping scheme, the media’s ignoring of an initially strong antiwar movement, and all the big and little ways the regime waged war on its own citizens.

We can remember the Americans troops still in harm’s way in Afghanistan and, yes, in Iraq. And those who didn’t make it back. And those who are back home but seriously harmed physically and psychologically, and who have received insufficient care.

We can remember the thousands of Iraqis and Afghanis who had nothing to do with the original attacks but died in the ensuing wars and occupations.

We can remember we still need exit strategies from both occupations, strategies that will protect Iraqis and Afghanis of all sexes and ethnicities.

We can remember the terrible damage wrought on the U.S. budget by war spending, combined with the millionaires’ tax cuts and the rest of the neocon economic misadventure.

And remembering all that, we can say, yes, “never again.”

Never again will we be manipulated by fear, either by foreign civilians or by our own leaders.

Never again will we let peace and reason be treated as dirty words.

Never again will we invade first and ask questions later.

Never again will we strike against entire nations over the horrendous crimes of a few dozen individuals (most of whom had never lived in either invaded nation).

Never again will we allow fear of “Islamic” fundamentalist repression to become an excuse for “Christian” fundamentalist repression.

Never again will we sacrifice our freedoms under the excuse of protecting them.

RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/29/11
Aug 29th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

  • Those of us who were looking forward to that separatist, elitist Burning Man institution’s imminent demise are outta luck. A nonprofit is being formed to take over future annual festivals. Among other effects, it means those who go there this year for the first time will get to annoy everybody back in their hometowns in subsequent years, with sermons about how much more “pure” the festival used to be.
  • Ex-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld held a book signing in Tacoma. Antiwar activists, including the widow of a Ft. Lewis soldier who committed suicide, tried to disrupt the proceedings and got roughed up.
  • Can something really be done to stop drug selling in Belltown? I say, it’s not likely as long as the First Avenue glamour-bar scene keeps attracting so many affluent drug buyers.
  • Ain’t them Sounders something? Well, yes they are.
  • Despite the elimination of state tax breaks for filmmakers, one production is underway on the Eastside—a horrific true-life drama.
  • As Wash. state’s government payroll gets smaller, it’s also getting whiter. Gov. Gregoire’s response: more “staff reviews” and talk about the importance of diversity.
  • Gay marriage—here next year?
  • For reasons I won’t get into, I witnessed the closure of the (high level) West Seattle Bridge late Saturday night. Sadly, it wasn’t due to road work, but to a jumper, who eventually “succeeded.”
  • Gawker’s unsupported rant that Seattle was “a very annoying place” has made Seattlest’s “Seattle stereotyping hall of shame.”
  • Qaddafi, Gadaffi, Gadhafi, however you transliterate the name—he lived the typical dictator’s opulence amid public squalor. And his son and daughter-in-law were grotesquely brutal to the household staff, in ways unimaginable outside of a Japanese gore movie.
  • Megabucks campaign financing just continues to get bigger and more corrupt. But you knew that.
  • And Republicans increasingly bind themselves around an anti-science, anti-thinking ideology. But you already knew that.
  • Ad Age lists some lessons from past recessions, for those businesses that still need to sell tangible products to U.S. consumers.
  • I keep getting asked about this, so for the record: The L.A.-based chain In-N-Out Burger is not, repeat NOT, opening in Bellevue. Not this year, not next year. It was just an Eastside food blog’s April Fool’s gag. Need proof? Just look at the link in the story for “View renderings of the new restaurant here.”
RANDOM LINKS FOR 8/7/11
Aug 6th, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

from gasolinealleyantiques.com

  • Just a reminder: I’ll be reporting (perhaps even “liveblogging,” just perhaps) Sunday from the hydroplane races.
  • And another reminder: The hydroplane boats are the stars of Seafair Sunday. The Blue Angels are the intermission act, and as such are expendable.
  • Today’s sermon against the waterfront tunnel project comes from activist Cheryl dos Remedios, who implores “Seattle’s arts and heritage community” to oppose the scheme.
  • You know when the Uptown Theater closed, and I said it was too bad SIFF didn’t take it over? Guess what—SIFF’s taking it over.
  • An AIDS remembrance billboard on the Broadway light-rail station construction fence was censored, because it showed a small blurry image of a guy’s butt. It’s another example of how our civic establishment prides itself on accepting alternative sexualities, but only as long as people don’t get too, you know, sexual about it.
  • An Army vet claims he was tortured by his fellow Americans as a prisoner in Iraq. His suit against former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld cleared a legal hurdle this week.
  • Michael Moore remembers when Reagan fired the air traffic controllers. Moore calls it the start of the war on the middle class.
  • Paul Krugman asks why the heck anybody still trusts those mortgage-bubble-crisis abettors at Standard & Poor’s anyway.
  • Catch-22 of the week: Employers only hiring folks if they’re already employed somewhere else.
  • Now that you’ve read this (and perhaps the articles linked hereto), go look at something real for a few moments to reduce “computer vision syndrome.”
IS EVERY DEATH TRAGIC? ACTUALLY, YES.
May 2nd, 2011 by Clark Humphrey

Like many loyal Americans, I was watching the 14-inning Mets/Phillies game last night when the first text messages came in on cell phones around the bar, followed by the scrolling news on ESPN’s “bottom line.”

My first thought: THIS is considered big news? Hadn’t bin Laden been unofficially declared dead four or five times now?

My second thought: Even in non-sports breaking news, ESPN’s “bottom line” managers were true Disney corporate loyalists, by referring their viewers to turn to ABC for the details.

My third thought: Just what was bin Laden’s organization responsible for in recent years, besides their own survival? Afghanistan’s networks of warlords and insurgents are basically home-grown. The revolts against the Middle East’s corrupt monarchies and dictatorships are also largely home-grown, and largely intended to replace those regimes with democracy or something like it, not with Iran-esque theocracies like bin Laden wanted.

Then, once the game was over (and two of the old Big Three broadcast networks had returned to regular programming), I saw the footage on ABC and the cable news channels of the small crowds gathering in NY and DC, well after midnight Eastern Time, whooping it up and chanting “USA! USA!”

Tacky, I thought.

David Sirota, as is to be expected, has more lucid thoughts:

…We have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys. Indeed, an America that once carefully refrained from flaunting gruesome pictures of our victims for fear of engaging in ugly death euphoria now ogles pictures of Uday and Qusay’s corpses, rejoices over images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging and throws a party at news that bin Laden was shot in the head.

This is bin Laden’s lamentable victory — he has changed America’s psyche from one that saw violence as a regrettable-if-sometimes-necessary act into one that finds orgasmic euphoria in news of bloodshed. In other words, he’s helped drag us down into his sick nihilism by making us like too many other bellicose societies in history — the ones that aggressively cheer on killing, as long as it is the Bad Guy that is being killed.

A few days ago, I sent out another of my occasional desperate Facebook messages asking if anyone knew of a day job I could take. I said specifically I wasn’t looking for a writing gig (even if it didn’t pay); I was looking for a paying gig (even if it wasn’t “writing”).

As always happens when I try this, most of the responses were either in the form of snide “humor” or of “You should write about…” topic suggestions. Exactly what I didn’t want.

And, of course, one of these topic suggestions is usually that I should write murder mysteries.

I hate murder mysteries, at least of the formula genre variety. The heroic (or anti-heroic) detective. The clues as a big puzzle; the admiration at the hero’s ability to solve it. The utter lack of mourning or any other authentic emotion. The wanton destruction of human life, depicted as light entertainment. (This last attribute is also why a lot of shows on Adult Swim don’t appeal to me.)

Today we have something ickier. We have people “celebrating” the killing of a man who was best known for “celebrating,” and taking credit for, thousands of others’ deaths.

If there is anything positive to note on this day, it is the more heartfelt responsed by the likes of Sirota and, at Huffington Post, by Paul Brandeis Raushenbush:

All humans have the potential for grace, but we also all have the potential to sin and do evil. It is a tempting yet dangerous practice to look around the world for evil people and target them. That is just what Osama Bin Laden thought he was doing. We must be vigilant that we do not become what we despise. We must be careful in the way we use religion and the name of God to further our own causes or to ever manipulate people into hate or hate.

So, let us mute our celebrations. Let any satisfaction be grim and grounded in the foundation of justice for all who have suffered at bin Laden’s bloody hands. And also justice for crimes against God — for using God as an instrument of terror and and promoting distrust between peoples of different religions and nations. Let us put bin Laden’s body in the ground, and in doing so bury his disastrous and blasphemous religious legacy.

HEY BABY, IT’S THE FOURTH OF JULY!
Jul 4th, 2010 by Clark Humphrey

Once again, we celebrate the anniversary of colonial business bosses’ forcible  secession from the government that had made their success possible.

And once again, the American ideology of bottom-line-above-all has us in a mess. Several messes, in fact, and huge ones at that.

We now have a national economy based on, as Intel cofounder Andy Grove puts it, “highly paid people doing high-value-added work—and masses of unemployed.”

We have wars for oil, or more precisely for geopolitical alliances based on oil.

We have massive amounts of this self-same gunk polluting a seabed of incalculable value. We now know that it’s not one company’s fault. The entire industry was spending as little money or effort as legally possible on safety and cleanup (expenses which don’t immediately contribute to profits). The particular two or three companies behind Deepwater Horizon were simply the ones that happened to lose at this very American version of Russian roulette.

And around the country, state and local governments spar over how many social safety nets they can get away with letting rot—because, after all, asking anything from Sacred Business just isn’t done. Especially not here in the state By the Upscale, Of the Upscale, and For the Upscale.

But still, there is hope.

There is always hope, so long as America’s primal contradiction continues to hold.

I speak of the contradiction between America’s ugly realities (a nation built by financiers, conquerors, slavers, and merchant middlemen) and its lofty ideals (a nation professing devotion to freedom, justice, and democracy).

We came dangerously close in the Bush era toward resolving this contradiction in the worst way possible, by junking the ideals and becoming unabashed, unshameable mega-hustlers.

It didn’t work.

Even the furthest reaches of the Far Right found they could not win even core base support for their assorted schemes without making at least nominal appeals to citizens’ more noble natures.

That’s what the professional organizers and corporate lobbyists behind the faux-populist “tea party” nonsense understand. That’s why they disguise their ultra-corporate agenda in images of patriotic kitsch.

Even the money-grubbers’ and power-grabbers’ last remaining loyal followers believe in (at least the symbols 0f) America’s higher ideals.

This is an opportunity for those of us who wish to promote a more progressive agenda.

It’s why I still believe in what this land can become.

»  Copyright 2012 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia.com)   »  Substance: WordPress   »  Style: Ahren Ahimsa