Symbolism

It has come to many an outright, disturbed concern, in rural and suburban parts outside of the southern United States, how many folks seemed to have adapted a certain symbol to represent rather present-day, secessionist ideas, as well as the plain honor of fighting for an idea. Any a flag can symbolize many different things to many different people; polar opposite things, even — dependent, of course, and entirely as always, upon context.

An American flag can freely wave outside a front-door anywhere in the country. It can represent freedom of opportunity and freedom from oppression to those who live within or outside its borders. It can also powerfully serve as a testament to soldiers who fought and died in its past or current wars. On the opposite hand, say, for those who humanely support U.S. troops but not the reason(s) given by an elected majority to enter a war, and/or among those who oppose the imperialism they feel is being inflicted in some economically abject and violent way, foreign or domestically, it can be seen burned in an immediate show of protest.

These opposite ideas are understood and justified in a plurality.

We obviously don’t talk about race nearly as much as we should, or any significant prejudice we all have nearly as much as we should. We don’t talk about a lot of things we should talk more about in an adult and civilized manner, on or off comment-threads.

The simple truth, in all the talk of this 20th century adaptation of the Confederate flag representing ‘heritage’ — listening to Skynard or watching the “Dukes” as two major popular-culture southern icons I can think of off the top of my head, who both casually adapted it — the origins of this particular symbol was a means to fight for what continues to be a dark, ugly, deeply bloody, misunderstood, and unjustifiable idea: the violent oppression and (for the most part) free exploitation of an entire race of people, by want to immorally expand its states’ economic growth to the newly, militarily obtained west.

Slavery.

For it is in its very name: the “Confederate” flag, adapted from an original, few Confederate flags which represented the Confederacy of 11 states that seceded from the United States over wanting to maintain and expand slavery. The definition of a slave is “a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant”. And the very people the Confederacy wished to continue to enslave: Africans.

The Klu Klux Klan adapted this modern-day adaptation of the flag, as well as skinheads in other white supremacist organizations headquartered in the southern states (not to exclude of course everywhere else in the country), as had southerners in segregationist rallies and against peaceful integrationist demonstrations during the Civil Rights movement, all in dedication to the ideals it originally signified and vehemently defended: that African-Americans need never be perceived as equal to white-America. …This unconstitutional idea exists today even without the help of a Civil War symbol! A twenty-one year-old recently used it according to said original heritage to mass-murder nine African-Americans in a universally, morally understood place of peaceful prayer and community worship a whole one-hundred-and-fifty years after the original copies ought to have been outright designated as relics!

Indisputable facts are just that. One cannot rewrite history, nor selectively and terribly unthoroughly copy and paste historical chronology in order to accommodate some manifested, personal pain to the hateful origins of this flag. With all due respect, these actions are weak-minded, lazy, and painfully, bitterly insecure. So, it ought to be rendered impossible for this flag to have such detached, denied, and harmless meaning.

“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history,” wrote George Orwell. Whose history is more important?

Impediments versus Inevitabilities

Are most conservatives Christians? Because many of them say that they are. I am not naïve in thinking all – what’s the number everyone is throwing around, 11 million – of the illegal immigrants in this country want to do right by others in seeking immigration. But, I do believe many if not a great many of them wish to. First off, people from both sides need to stop speaking of immigrants synonymously with Central or South Americans. Immigrants come from all over. When you consider in certain countries teenage girls having to move hours away from their families, from villages, to a factory in a big city so that they could make peanuts working twelve-hour-plus days, live in a veritable closet upstairs from the factory-floor, get minuscule breaks, and even go as far as having a supervisor close-pin their eyelids to their eyebrows so that they don’t fall asleep while stitching hems on jeans that we end up buying for $27, why would they want to readily escape this for a better life in some first-world haven? Granting asylum to everyone just as putting all immigrants currently here illegally on a line of buses that would comprise of most of California’s coast is not the answer if we are going to base the seekers upon amoral policies, or obviously if they themselves are amoral.

And when it comes to expressing religious perspective, the views of the Jeneane Garofalo’s on the left and the Phil Robertson’s on the right both piss me off. If you do right by yourself, and others, whether your morality stems from God, or not, it’s all good. This, for now, is the one and only right thing to believe.

It is perfectly valid for anyone to express any view, but it is not accurate to say when we speak about religion in this country, as well as abroad, that we are speaking in terms of moral relativism. Quite simply, rather, it is a fear from moral cohesion. …I read the Bible. A LOT of crazy stuff going on in the Old Testament (difficult to get through, in fact), which of course led to among other laws the creation of the fifteen – oy – ten! commandments. Just as many so-called Christians should not ignore a whole section between the Old Testament and the book of Revelations, they simply cannot cherry-pick what to believe in as good for business. Why aren’t there more chains like Hobby Lobby who remain closed on Sundays in recognition of Exodus 35:2, or who fight like they had and won to legally disallow providing birth control in their health care plans in interpretation of Exodus 20:13 (or, Exodus 23:7, Leviticus 24:17, and so forth)? Because, those other organizations choose to remain morally flexible.

Regardless, there is no apocalypse. We are not heading back to those pre-Ten Commandments days, because we all live according to the laws of a democracy. Freedom of religion certainly includes freedom from religion. Yet this all goes beyond so-called Christians ignoring the teachings of Christ. The governor of Indiana is now getting the hint on this, for instance, though naturally he also blames ‘the media’ in a flimsy attempt to safeguard his political aspirations. He actually signed into law what the governor of Arizona vetoed, and is also being tossed around in other states. I never heard of conversion therapy until just the other day, which several states legally allow therapists to practice. But whether it is a legal form of child abuse, discrimination, or murder like the wacko-lawyer in California is looking to propose indiscriminately against gays in that state, there is a simple solution here. Has any legal authority in the history of this country put to death someone for wearing a garment made of two different threads; a homeowner for planting a vegetable and a fruit side by side in their garden; for working on the day of the Sabbath? Either be willing to re-introduce these things because the Bible says so or stop discriminating against LGBTs.

Homophobia, at the bare minimum, is fundamentally not a bad thing to fess up to. So many kids these days have gay parents. Therefore, like all social phobias based on skin-color, gender, as well as religion and sexual orientation, they are all easily, fundamentally defined as just a lack of familiarization with someone different than you.

When it comes to seemingly every issue in this country, we live in a moral haze. It is making me cray. I cannot blame the mainstream-media for being shallow, when you consider the source of both candidates and incumbents who ‘debate’ for public office treating us like children. So, we go on laughing and crying in a nation afraid to debate actual ideas. With short attention-spans, we largely prefer to live moment-to-moment; prefer not wanting to upset advertisers, campaign-donors, whom we work for, or the general fear of becoming unjustly discriminated against in our delicate communities. We largely tend to keep shallowly entrenched in our extremes, with little regard towards a middle ground, as it becomes increasingly more difficultly and crazily about money over morals. I cannot help but not believe in this.

A Nine Year-Old Boy in Texas Deserves a One-Year Supply of Ice Cream Sundaes

This story is one of those big bangs of lunacy, irony, and hilarity that deserves every picogram of mockery it has been getting

…Where to start. Poor Bart Simpson might have been long since burned at the stake by this school, but this is not intentionally satire. Neither the original act nor the outcome is based in reality.

Given the persistent stories of kids obtaining irresponsibly stored firearms, one would merit indefinitely suspending a child for bringing to school one and waving it around like a toy, or for repeated vandalism, swearing, or acting out aggressively against another student.

But this boy, who brought in said encyclopedic-book to share his fascination with the solar system with another teacher, which just so happens to include another section on human pregnancy, containing scientific diagrams, this boy…

nine year old

is a race-baiting, precociously pornographic terrorist?!

Nine year-olds have little if any sense of reality. Thankfully. This is the fruits of being nine. Most nine year-olds don’t know what terrorism is. Do we want to prompt one to inquire as to what actual terrorism looks like?!

I have known children under nine to have a marvelously better grasp of context when hearing playful intent of the words ‘make you disappear’ to another child, in this case, with a replica of a ring from a fantasy-fiction story (wherein, when slipped onto a finger can make a person invisible).

And these people/adults are educators.

According to the boy’s father, had his son discovered he had the power to make another boy disappear he would have immediately made him reappear.

“The Empire Strikes Back” came out when I was about nine or ten. I could not imagine going to school one Halloween, getting singled out for engaging in a pretend laser-gun fight with friends on the playground, and then suspended for terroristic [an actual word] activities. I don’t know if the system there allows for the father to be able to transfer his son to a different school. I mean, if it were my parents? My mother would have flipped her shit on this school!

Incidentally, the day news of this story became widely published, February 2, happened to be former Vice President Sauron’s — Cheney’s — birthday. The former sociologically based-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, neoconservative Congressman turned executive power-meets-paranoia vice-leader of the free world, to the much tragic woe of our world history, turned 74. Happy belated Birthday. (…Paranoid ass would probably approve of this school’s action.)

Let this child, and others like him, be nine, free from the amoral, neurotically absurd, and downright otherworldly imaginations in the mainstream-media. And, certain administrators for this elementary school ought to consider it better to reappear from a world far, far away into actual educating.

Money Talks, and where does ‘the Right Thing’ Walk?

I don’t agree with the headline that he ‘rips McConnell a new one’: http://www.addictinginfo.org/2015/02/20/obama-trashes-mcconnell/

…I wonder, when it comes to the issue of fiscal irresponsibility if Democrats and Republicans on the ground are mad at the same thing, but just choose to label it differently.  The labeling is of course a result of disinformation and misinformation, from the right-wing, to which I wish The White House and/or Democrats in Congress would put together some sort of widely publicized, ‘round-the-clock or just a daily effort to more concertedly, transparently inform the public regarding what they are actually trying to do for the middle-class.  Let me just clarify that our economic progress has been a credit to those beneath and between all of the ballyhoo from above, but it could have been improving at a faster pace.  And, I suppose this may still answer the question behind “genuine ideas”, as mentioned in here speech.  But I still wonder if both sides agree we are living in a corporatocracy (or, plutocracy), and both sides blame the government for allowing corporate money to continue to do its damage, and thus just label who is right and wrong differently.  The lack of civilized conversation between red and blue states of mind still foster this stitched-in-Cambodia blanket of runaway greed.

The GOP, in their continued attempts to label themselves as the GNP, are simply still a long ways worthy of our trust, in both message and spirit.  ‘How many more election losses is it going to take?’, can safely be the new Democratic campaign slogan.  We cannot have all-out Social Darwinism if, for one, many on the right still insist on living in the 1950s as far as many a social value.  As former Speaker of the House during Reagan’s tenure, Tip O’Neill said it, their economic policy is all theory and no practice.  It sounds lovely and just, all in the name of liberty.  In theory, we can all individually push to create our own opportunity, and create communities in order to foster any and all various fields of opportunity, without the help of ‘big’ government.  Everyone can do the right thing for one another, and compete fairly against one another, in theory.  But you gotta somehow share the wealth.  (And, for any who want to label this as preaching socialism, bear in mind of course how any ‘ism’ can work just fine so long as it is not corrupt.)

Black and Blue, All Over

In the early 1950s, President Eisenhower needed to nominate a new Chief Justice.  His attention ultimately centered on the three-term governor of California, Earl Warren. Warren, the more conservative Eisenhower felt, on paper, like a political moderate, and was enthused the two would relate.

However, as David Halberstam put it in one of my favorite books, The Fifties: “If Dwight Eisenhower had decided from Earl Warren’s record that the two of them shared similar attitudes and values, then he was wrong. They could not have been more different. They might have come from similar backgrounds, but Eisenhower had long ago removed himself from the complexities of contemporary American life by going off to the military; there he was largely isolated from the changes in the society.”

I loved this insight when I first read it.  One of my closest friends for almost thirty years has been a Marine now for about twenty-five of them.  And reading that paragraph instantly reminded me of the many rifts between civilians and many of his military friends and peers when we often hung out.

I can’t speak for them but I nor my friend were ever easily accepting of such rifts.  Marines can adapt a very clique-ish, walk-on-water attitude when out and about among civilians (and not to mention, among other branches in the military).  Such instances paid towards myself, I would quietly resent how all they pretty much had to do was sign their names on a dotted line and obtain an instant career — along with obtain future benefits like free travel and a free college education.

As an artist, I have always felt among the lowest scrapping along the opportunity totem-pole, with an ego just as big but an even bigger — that is, recognizable — inferiority complex.  So, in this sense, I know what it is like to feel shunned.  But, unlike regular folk, the common fear/point of view military and law enforcement people are trained for and more accustomed to is the enormous, practical responsibility of having to think in terms of enforcing general safety, every day.

However, it has become very easy to sense how this social disconnect has now drastically widened as police forces in unheard-of small towns and cities across America have become inexplicably militarized — courtesy of hand-me-down equipment like tanks and grenade-launchers, from our most recent wars.  Having been at war for now over thirteen years, we as a nation have certainly become very accustomed to it.  And these weapons have certainly handed down a tangible, offensive sense of amoral over-dramatization — and, overcompensated imagination — to tellingly drama-free areas.  I mean, there are reasons, say, here in upstate New York one can only see ‘Repeal the SAFE Act’ signs out on cricket-laden suburban and rural lawns — largely populated by whites — and only ‘Stop the violence’ signs posted around poor, inner-city neighborhoods — largely populated by minorities.

Meanwhile, and by absolutely no means to underscore, the real ‘thieves’ — the lobbying powers anchoring the revenue of guns, et al — continue to go about business as usual.

 

In the immediate aftermath of his death Eric Garner’s widow and daughter both expressed believing race had nothing to do with it.  A very wise declaration — as wisdom is yet again stubbornly lacking on both sides of this matter.  For one, saying this of course downplays any a potential riot that could spring at any time, any place, and under any circumstance, under their family name.  And on the flip-side, we can all see how difficult it can be to reasonably rule out race as a factor, in the abstract, upon gathering the facts from one such incident to the next.

We’ve all seen the video and read the key components about the Eric Garner incident:
– Why go to such great lengths to arrest a man for selling tax-free cigarettes?
– The local police had a history of verbally harassing Garner, over this, according to both what he kept saying in the video and in later accounts from his family.
– The two officers questioning him initially appeared as calm as can be.  It was in broad daylight, and there was no chase to get their adrenaline revved up.

And so when they finally motioned to make an arrest Garner backed up a little, held his hands back, and up, insisting, “Please, do not touch me.”  Then the one officer from behind slipped a choke-hold on him.  (Now, if one sustains an object while applying some type of force this can be referred to as a ‘hold’.  And if such a hold happens to be an arm wrapped around a person’s throat, then this can literally be referred to as a ‘choke-hold’ — which is illegal in the NYPD.)

At no point was Garner physically resisting arrest, even after he was pulled face-down, head pinned against the pavement, repeatedly heard pleading, “I can’t breathe”, while several officers now jumped in, and at some point as a result of all this, dying.

This is a very clear case of police-misconduct.

Trayvon Martin: in one particular defense of George Zimmerman’s character, he was among the few protesting a police beating of a black homeless man, Sherman Ware, in 2010.  By all accounts, it seems reasonable to assess that Mr. Zimmerman simply should not have created his own ‘Ground’ […sigh] by getting out of his out of his car, as a result of, well, manifested boredom.

Michael Brown was an upsetting result of differing eyewitness accounts.  But, later, in nearby Berkeley, Missouri, was a clear case of an actual armed [black] man having pulled his gun on a [white] police officer and the officer justifiably engaging in self-defense.  And in between, we have this interesting, recent post by a retired St. Louis police officer.

Tamir Rice is an extraordinary case of incompetence, immaturity, poor training and conditioning.  I mean, of course with complete respect to Tamir’s family, but this fool of an officer must have gone to the Reno 911 academy.

Akai Gurley is yet another clear case of lack of common sense.  If officers — in this case, an Asian-American officer — are ordered to patrol a housing project of poor residents, very late at night, as a result of some recent homicides, but there is no lighting in the building, then YOU CANNOT PATROL WHAT YOU CANNOT SEE!

Jerome Reid: despite being very loudly, clearly, and repeatedly warned not to move, with a gun pointed at his face, he started to step out of his car with his hands raised about shoulder level.  The officers then opened fire, killing him.  Reid and the man driving the car were black.  The Bridgeton officer who spotted the gun, Braheme Days, is black; his partner, white.  Reid had spent about 13 years in prison for shooting at three state troopers when he was a teenager, and officer Days knew who he was.  Days was among the arresting officers last year when Reid was charged with several crimes, including drug possession and obstruction.  Both officers have been placed on leave while prosecutors investigate.

Since the Rodney King travesty, in spite of the LAPD’s decision to undergo sensitivity training as they continue to largely, successfully conduct community outreach, there was the recent case of a California officer pummeling a homeless, black great-grandmother alongside a highway.  This did end up with a $1.5 million settlement in her favor.

 

There are countless scripts, even in our recent history.  Take the Central Park Five case from the not-too-long-ago 1980s: five black teens with five different, video-recorded confessions, charged with the rape of a white, female jogger, one night, in Central Park.  With each different video-confession presented in front of the jury, each of the five were still convicted of the same crime.  Or, personally, the stunning dozen or so instances my one friend rattled off in one conversation of being pulled over for DWB.  I never knew it was illegal, for one, to have something like an air-freshener hang from your rearview-mirror.  I suppose, because I never ‘fit the description’.  The perennially high percentage of mistrust minorities have towards law enforcement in cities and towns throughout the country reflects the high percentage who have a decreased confidence in our legal system.

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, there is a chapter towards the end entitled, “Seven Seconds in the Bronx”.  This chapter I strongly urge reading for the sake of here conversation.  It extensively deconstructs — and proposes ideas and solutions, analyzed and practiced, among some local police forces — details surrounding the Amadou Diallo shooting.

The four officers in this famous case made a string of instinctively shallow and profoundly regrettable decisions: no real second-guessing of the subtly influential elements surrounding them, and very little precaution taken to better ensure self-defense.

Towards the end of the chapter is a quote by a psychologist, Keith Payne, that pretty well sums up everything here: “When we make a split-second decision we are really vulnerable to being guided by our stereotypes and prejudices, even ones we may not necessarily endorse or believe [my italics].”  The word ‘prejudice’ of course never automatically refers to racial-prejudice, but you can see how race can still be considered a factor, both directly and indirectly, in every case involving a law enforcement official shooting a usually poor, black civilian.

 

We are all very busy people, continuing to go about our daily lives business as usual.  And this does not forgive how easily sensationalized we can be from being more generally bored than we would care to admit.  And, so long as we are here, journalistic leads ought to exclude mentioning race in their initial reporting of these instances until more of the facts are gathered.

 

One of the first Supreme Court cases Chief Justice Warren presided over was Brown v. Board of Education.  He sought amongst his associates a clear, unanimous 9-0 decision (unheard of in today’s Court) in favor of desegregation as a means to signal at least a legal balance between liberals and conservatives alike. Naturally, a more conservative justice wanted to write his own concurring opinion and another continued to hold out at 8-1.  But, by May of 1954, the unanimous decision was reached.

This decision was long deliberated over, as a result of being very long overdue.  For later in life, a few years since retired now, Warren would be brought to tears when asked during an interview about his decision as California governor to intern 110,000 Japanese-American citizens living in the state, during WWII.  As a strong advocate throughout his career for young Americans to have a decent education, and to be treated with equity and respect, fear and misunderstanding obviously overtook reason at this point in time.  Oh, the inestimable power of conformity, and the difficulty — if ever — to think for oneself in the face of it.