Thursday, July 9, 2009

Things I don't understand...

There's a number of things I don't understand. I don't understand fake boobs that look like water balloons. I don't understand why so many people wear their pants below their asses. And, I don't understand the need to wield will.

Ok, so maybe some things, I do get, like people who campaign against fur as fashion. Their will is to end the needless suffering of animals for the sake of vanity. But at what point is wielding will an imposition? And why do some have the need to wield will more than others?

Take China for instance. The Chinese government has actively campaigned to eliminate the culture of Tibetans and Uighers alike. Why? What does that really accomplish? It doesn't create a pureness for China, but an imperfect history, just as this country has a blemished history with the genocide of the indiginous cultures that were here before the land was invaded by Europeans.

It makes me wonder if maybe will is wielded as an incarnation of denial that perfection is in fact an abstract. Denying the abstract, as something that is essentially only perfect in concept, but not in the imperial world, is to deny the imperfect human condition, thus it is a denial of self.

So is this why some choose to wield will? Is it simply a manifestation of an inner rebelion to fight against what we cannot control?

Are those who wield will simply just in need of the Serinty Prayer?

Could be.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Shot across the bow? Ok you've got my attention now. Game On!


Since the election of President Barack Obama, Sarah Palin to me has been largely inconsequential. She wasn't someone I railed against. In fact any mention of her in the news, was typically met with a roll of my eyes and an exhasperated shake of my head. I was more concerned with how she portrays women in politics than anything. Her delusions of grandeur, I concluded to myself, were the product of being the inhabitant of an extraordinarily small pond. She simply didn't know any better, than to make absurd statements, and do absurd things, like spend $150,000 on herself and her family in high end department stores. And the fact that Right Wing Conservatives still flocked to her Political Action Committee (PAC), just reinforced my opinion of her ineptness.

But then she got my attention in a press release cited by, dated on the 4th of July no less, warning news outlets not to print speculations about possible Federal investigations into some of her dealings in Alaska. Yes that's right America, lets celebrate the birth of the Country and all of it's values such as Free Speech and Freedom of the Press, with a news release that says, don't say bad things about Sarah Palin.

The last paragraph of the letter reads,

"To the extent several websites, most notably liberal Alaska blogger Shannyn Moore, are now claiming as “fact” that Governor Palin resigned because she is “under federal investigation” for embezzlement or other criminal wrongdoing, we will be exploring legal options this week to address such defamation. This is to provide notice to Ms. Moore, and those who re-publish the defamation, such as Huffington Post, MSNBC, the New York Times and The Washington Post, that the Palins will not allow them to propagate defamatory material without answering to this in a court of law. The Alaska Constitution protects the right of free speech, while simultaneously holding those “responsible for the abuse of that right.” Alaska Constitution Art. I, Sec. 5. These falsehoods abuse the right to free speech; continuing to publish these falsehoods of criminal activity is reckless, done without any regard for the truth, and is actionable. "

So here's why I can't just shake my head at this one. First, not all bloggers are journalists. And even if bloggers are journalists, it's a blog, not an edited publication, thus, opinions are allowed. If a blogger wants to write the sky is orange, they have the right to do so, because that is an opinion. Second, bloggers' opinions and observations are sometimes used as a barometer or jumping off point for journalistic organizations. Recognizing the value in what bloggers have to say is part of the new media landscape. Does it mean that news organization should use blogs as a single source for a story? Of course not, but bloggers do have a knack for bringing things to the forfront. As a blogger, I commit myself to keeping it real, read: tell the truth, but also assume that those who read my words recognize that these are opinions. A news organization that repeats such an opinion is simply citing a source. It doesn't mean that the opinion is valid, it is a method of considering that opinion for further investigation. Third, it is the job of journalists and citizens alike to present arguments and ask very tough questions and discourse amongst themselves in considering these questions, opinions, rumors and whatnot, allowing the reader to determine the value of such things. Threatening action against those who do so, is to me, quintessentially unamerican.

So here's my opinion. I think Sarah Palin needs to realize that she stepped into a much larger pond full of people that do know better. And as for Shannyn Moore, let me know if you need to start a legal fund. I'm more than willing to donate merely out of principle.

4th of July, Then and Now

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. This was mostly because I was always actively involved in one sort of celebration or another.

In my home town, we have had a parade for the last 156 years. I can only remember watching the parade, maybe two or three years at most. Every other year, when at home, I was a participant, part of one contingent or another. I rode on floats, marched in bands, rollerskated in a blue sequined vest and rode my Hello Kitty bike passing out voter registration cards. Last year and the year before, I was the Executive Producer of the local Access TV coverage of the parade.

During the years I was away from home, particularly years spent in the military, my participation was far more patriotic. We shined our boots to look like glass, wore helmets and carried weapons onto a parade field where we stood as a Howitzer gun was shot off in tribute to each of the 50 states. Those field ceremonies always ended with the order, "Pass and Review," which meant we would march in formation past the presiding officer, usually a General, to a series of Sousa Marches. My favorite was always Stars and Stripes Forever, and I'll freely admit that the first time I marched in such a formation to that music, I did so with a lump in my throat.

This year was a little different. I wasn't in the parade. In fact, I didn't even attend. Instead we had a very low key barbecue at the house, with a couple of friends. We made homemade wine coolers, skewered shrimp onto bamboo sticks for the grill, and socialized. My oldest son schlepped his drum set onto the driveway where he beat to his heart's content under the shade structure we had erected. And later, after we ate, the kids played soccer on our speck of a lawn using chairs as goal posts, providing laughter to us all.

Instead of going out to see fireworks, we watched the PBS special from the National Mall, that included Barry Manalow, Aretha, the 1812 Overture (with live cannons) and of course fireworks over the nations capital to Stars and Stripes Forever. I smiled the whole time.

Why the change to a more passive celebration? Good question. I suppose that it's partially because of the work I've been doing lately around independent voices and their contribution to democracy. The work is grueling to say the least, but not since my time in the military have I been so convinced that what I do on a daily basis, really makes a meaningful difference. So maybe I'm not as inclined to make such a grandiose gesture to show my patriotism. Right now I am very lucky to do work that emphasizes the value of good journalism that is not part of the mainstream corporate media conglomerations. And, I'm quite proud to be a voice in a larger conversation that really focuses on E Pluribus Unum, and by this I mean gaining a genuine understanding of what that phrase means, specifically in public discourse.

So, yeah, it was a nice low key celebration yesterday. Mostly because today, I am focused on my real work, which goes beyond celebration to really trying to make a difference.