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.


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?

A Cold, but True, Shot, Babe…

Had I not been reminded the night of the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s most recent induction-ceremony a certain family member is a fan of his music, I would have kept here from sharing my thoughts on a) John Mayer inducting Stevie Ray Vaughan, b) his approach to playing the blues, and c) his pop/weak-ass speech.  Of course, this proved too difficult to ignore.  (And, I feel safe that said family member will not actually see this post on fb.  …It’s all said out of love.)

I’m aware of the compare-and-contrasts on comment-threads, between the two, but the true contrast is within Mayer.  He still insists on being a pop star.  You can clearly hear it in his more tepid style of songwriting and performing.  Where’s the soul, frightened? The back into the digs and bends, the jazz, the funk, the drive, boogie, or the swing?! The just lettin’ it go?!  Singing the blues, [or just playing it] as Ma Rainey described, is not necessarily as a way to feel better, but to better understand life.  It is the good in a person willing to hash out in some fun or sweet way layers of loneliness.  Mayer seems to be at a point in his career where he could very easily let his colors fly.  But he still chooses to abstain.

He has good technique and fingering, and he most certainly has the performance gene. But this is the nagging contrast between him and more serious blues musicians — let alone when he tries to pick up Stevie Ray Vaughan’s number.  I mean, I’m sorry, if you date women like Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, (supposedly) Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry, among others, you will never know the blues.  This is just obvious.

I could not listen to this speech beyond the :55 mark.  I gave it another try, lasted another fifteen seconds.  …Ultimately, there are some semi-sincere deposits, but as predicted just too skate-along-the-surface, pretty, and pop.  (And not to overlook he is someone who thinks he is charming but isn’t.)  …No, Jimi did not come from out outer-space, he very much came from the ground up, as well, and took it everywhere including the sky.

It is oftentimes quite difficult for a person very spiritual to try and connect with others who themselves all love to be uplifted, but are obviously in many ways not all cut from the same cloth.  The spirit Stevie Ray Vaughan embodied in his music is not at all well represented in this speech.  …Yeesh, how many nauseating times are you going to drop my least favorite word, ‘hero’?  And, hold on a sec, you ‘turned down every drug and drink’ offered to you?!  You must mean this as already having your own because you were an avid burner for years!  You did an interview while puffing!  Define ‘drug’.  …I want-to-keep my eyes from rolling.

No one would argue anyone more fitting to both induct and accept on his brother’s behalf than Jimmie (not the other Jimi, but his brother).  Stevie came from a musical family, and entered into a larger one courtesy of his family and older brother.  I would have loved to hear Jimmie share the story of how he showed his brother a lot of what he knows on guitar, but warned if he asked him to show him anything again he’ll kick your ass.  Well, he asked!  And now here he is getting inducted into the Hall.  ‘Naturally, I don’t mind,’ he might have added.  ‘He obviously in more ways than I just mentioned earned it.’

Wherever you would hear that ululating bend hang up there and then come back down on the note again, your ears recognize it as a Vaughan riff.  One could take from many of the written excerpts from his box-set pages, where there are so many beautiful, highlighted remarks from David Bowie, Eric Clapton, John Lee Hooker, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Buddy Guy, Joe Satriani, Chris Layton, among others — or, not to mention the article reprinted from a guitar magazine, salivatingly entitled, “The Secrets Behind Stevie Ray Vaughan’s Legendary Guitar Tone”: an interview with his guitar-tech, Rene Martinez.

Surely, one of the most profound what-ifs asked around guitar-circles is what if Jimi Hendrix had been alive to hear Stevie Ray Vaughan?  He would have ended up spending a little more time in Texas, to be sure!  (‘Take me to the [physical] place that note came from…’)  The parallels between the two are too numerous and unmistakable.  Jimi said he wanted to create music so powerful it could be a light that could cure cancer.  Stevie often visited and played for young people, and children, stricken with cancer, in their hospital rooms.  It is this generosity of spirit, this habitually gleeful level of sacrifice that puts these two musicians/people in the same camp.

They likely would have played a lot together, surely written and performed songs together, as just as surely there would have been a healthy, competitive friendship for the sake of the musical world.  I once read of Van Morrison and Bob Dylan crossing paths at a club in Ireland, and they sat as the gob-smacked interviewer watched them quiz each other identifying lines from the most obscure folk songs.  You could imagine the two guitar greats doing the same with blues riffs.

But, Stevie played with Buddy Guy, and that is close enough.

He had “technique…by the truckload”, as Steve Vai once put it.  This is evidenced in many, many, many places.  Just one example, one of my personal favorites, is in this version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.  He goes from just strumming away, taking a virtual break, to dropping the pedal to the floor in his solo; like sitting in limbo before the passenger-jet suddenly, very quickly hits full-throttle.  And he stays locked in!  Never for a moment losing focus!  With Double Trouble’s you’re-not-worthy rhythm-playing behind it, it is fun, funky, jazzy, and flawless.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell cites an approximation of 10,000 hours of practice at something makes you an expert.  Let’s see, Stevie Ray Vaughan started playing on his seventh birthday, in 1961, and played everyday until his passing, about 29 years later.  …Minus sleeping and eating.  …Let’s say he played at around 14 hours per day? …Wow!  148,190 hours!  (Plus or minus. 🙂 )

How else can you explain being able to launch into something with so much feel, at seemingly any given point in time, and never miss?  Knowledge, passion, devotion, and drive — sweet and profound — that made him so great and so much fun to watch.

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.

American Brother Malcolm

About 18 years ago, while I was still living in Lincoln, Nebraska, my brother-in-law decided to fly further west from being in Chicago for a Catholic Worker’s conference, for a little visit before heading back to Albany.  During his stay, we rented a car and made a pilgrimage out to Omaha for two reasons: to visit Boy’s Town headquarters — literally in the nearby village of Boy’s Town, Nebraska — for my father who was a fan of Father Flanagan, and to visit the birth-home of Malcolm Little, of course also known as Malcolm X.

Figuring we were very close to the house, we spotted a local social justice center in the city to ask.  We introduced ourselves, enthusiastically shared how we came all the way from New York and, well, Lincoln, and asked about some other possible details surrounding the house.  But the guy’s tone unusually erred towards disappointment.  After we told him the address of the house, he pointed over our shoulders and indicated, well, it “used to be” up that hill.

So we drove up, and from the side of the road all we saw was this plaque…

malcolm x plaque

And for some reason the text of the plaque was not even facing the road, but the woods behind it. “Is that it? (emphasis two different times, on “that” and “it”)!  I remember looking down to my left and still seeing the pole with street-signs for 34th and Pinkney mixed with the trees.  My brother-in-law and I both felt a big sense of disappointment and sadness, while mitigating a sense of outrage.  (I could not help but note the choice of wording in the text of “allegedly murdered”, as well as “became outspoken” as opposed to ‘spoke out against’.)

And with that said, fifty years ago this past February 21st happened to be the assassination of Malcolm, in New York City, at both the non-alleged hands and as a result of having spoken out against its ego-corrupted head of his former brotherhood.

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

I don’t agree with the headline that he ‘rips McConnell a new one’:

…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.)

A Higher Love

In the past, like many do so now, I’ve felt plenty desire to be outspoken against Valentine’s Day. But like all the times you can’t give up on love ’cause it ain’t gonna give up on you, for all the arguments to try and dismiss this holiday, I have found that all can actually be countermanded…

I went as far as wanting to renounce it as a made-up holiday ironically designed to get us to spend cash in this wintry down-season for retail, forgetting (or, I guess, wanting to deny) reading accounts of a martyred saint.

Legend has it in the 3rd century A.D. a Father Valentine performed marriages in direct defiance of the tradition being banned by then Roman emperor, Claudius II. The Father was captured and imprisoned, and from there sentenced to death. Couples whom he had married, however, visited him in prison, and parted with gifts of flowers and notes of gratitude for his brave actions.

He was then believed to have fallen in love with the jailer’s daughter, and on the day he was to be executed — February 14 — had written her a note with the salutation, ‘from your Valentine’.

…Quite the heavy set of underpinnings when thinking of gifting someone chocolates.

Or, the idea that giving romance an international holiday would defy it of one of its principal ingredients: spontaneity.

As life evolves under this and virtually every economic system, trying to mitigate choices and pressures both tedious and necessary, romance to some greater or lesser degree gets ‘banned’.

Yet, if I were able to do something whenever the moment would seize me for my now long-distance fiancée, throughout a whole year, what would be the harm in doing something for her on this day in unison with others?

As you can see, I am still one, and not the sort who thinks Fifty Shades of Grandiose Pretense is. And as long as the gift is simple, creative, and from the heart, you’re good. It is supposed to be kept easy and fun, since not all of us can do it laying down.

I, like so many an undeveloped youth, could not help but develop the notion that the more random the search the more romantic you are. By this route, you are just making things exceptionally difficult for yourself.

The search for love, like with just about everything else in life, essentially comes down to basic math. If you place yourself in a community who are civil to your values and interests, it increases your self-esteem, decreases anxiety, and drastically increases your chances of meeting and establishing something with someone. For in either case, it finds you more often than you find it.

Love, the intimate sharing thereof, is something both the creative and misperceived not-so-creative long for in order to become better at what they do. It is a higher power, for which we can never fight off its mortal wounds but can only free ourselves upon acknowledging we’re never alone in the fight.

So to all esteemed martyrs who may still feel lacking on this day, don’t respond hopelessly or bitterly against it, but bigger about it. The opposite should be wrong with the idea of designating a virtual International Day of Romance, yes?