Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Anti-War Voices

It was cold and rainy and windy here in the PNW. As we huddled together under umbrellas and rain hats and posters turned sideways to keep the rain off, many of us felt that underneath the familiar images of an anti-war protest something else was going on. It felt important and those of us who were there understood something was beginning again in this country--the stirrings of a more persistent voice for Peace. It was different than the ones previous. Those felt calm, subdued, well-behaved. This time there was an underlying anger, an energy to do more than play nice.

But we ARE nice people, nice non-violent people. Our whole reason for being there was to demonstrate against the kind of anger and rage and despair that leads to violence. No one I talked to wanted to put into words what that uncomfortable feeling inside us was. But we saw it in each other's eyes. We felt it in each other's voices, in the fed up tone of enough is enough that seeped through the crowd. We were part of a difference, a very important difference. A difference that grows as a feeling in the eyes that comes from the heart, from the depths of the heart where anger grows a shell around love to protect it from evil.

We were there because we understood The Bush War Machine is the worst of evils right now. It has an insatiable hunger not only to keep enriching itself on wars fought solely for profit, but also a hunger to protect itself from the crimes it has committed and continues to commit in that drive for profit and power. Firing prosecuters. Defaming anyone who disagrees with their addiction to wealth vast enough to buy the silence of every objector, torturing confessions out of everyone they can get their hands on until it sounds like some demented Jerry Springer show: Yes, I slept with Osama Bin Laden! I am the father of Anna Nicole's baby! I blew up the towers! I killed Kennedy!

The vast majority of the country is too disgusted with the lies continually spun by the Bushco War Machine to even laugh at the absurd desperation these sudden confessions reveal about an increasingly trapped administration facing an angry populace that is slowly starting to wake up. It's the rainbow hued terror alerts all over again. It's Karl Rove throwing tainted meat to the ignorant starving masses. Once they gobbled it up in the form of free hotdogs and Coca-Cola and support the troop rallies that were really rallies to stir up blood lust. Once they fed at the pulpit of hate as stereotypes and fear took the place of what used to be sermons and became right-wing propaganda spun doctrine. Once it worked so well and so easily. People fell asleep and became sheeple drugged subservient by the latest feel good mood pill brought to you by a subsidiary of Halliburton-Frist-Rumsfeld Incorporated.

But the stakes are higher now. And so is their desperation. It makes the Bushco War Machine very dangerous. It's a threatened beast spinning around in an ever smaller cage. The room holding it back has grown smaller and more constrained. The indictments are coming. The stench of fear is rising from the White House. From The Vice-President's Office. From those committees within committees within Pentagon death chambers. From the mockery of Justice Department. All inside these halls are desperate caged beasts hungry for a distraction, and that distraction is Iran, or Syria, North Korea or some other poor sap country that will allow itself to be drawn into the Bushco lie machine.

That is why this is the time when people must take to the streets. This is the time when it must be made very clear that the sheeple are done walking subserviently on all fours. This is the time when we must make it very clear that a diet of lies and crap isn't going to pacify the anger so easily anymore. We, who live our lives trying to convince others of the value of playing nice, have to develop a less nice backbone. We have to get louder. We have to get out in the streets every weekend instead of on approved anniversaries. We have to make it clear that we are listening every day, we are paying attention to everything, and we will express our opinion on every damn thing they throw at us.

That is what has been missing and has allowed Bushco to destroy the foundations of this country. Every time the constitution was trashed a little more, we were too busy, too dismayed, too pre-occupied. Every time more money was taken from schools, from communties, from VA hospitals, we looked away because our power was too little, too futile, too subject to being called traitor, troop hater, wimp, weak, and any number of insults those who want to continue to do evil throw around so easily. It's time to remember these are the same people who made the word Peace an obscenity and free speech an impediment.

It's time to take it all back. It's time to take to the streets seriously, not just once a week. Not just when others say so. Not when it's convenient. If you don't, the price is high, so high you may not survive. That price is war and if you think just recyling the same troops over and over again is going to satisfy the War Machine's desperate hunger, then you need to look up the meaning of the word "draft" because that's not a cold breeze closing in on you. It's your indifference, your mistaken and foolish belief that it has nothing to do with you.

Peace Skull design available on t-shirts and other items from Ursine Logic. Changing minds one t-shirt at a time. Visit Ursine Logic for more designs.


Monday, March 12, 2007

The Gift Of Hate

I was taught early in life how to hate. My grandmother would never believe that is what she was teaching me. In her mind she was warning me about bad people who hurt her and her family. The pain in her voice was real as she described the beautiful house with the flower gardens, the many precious herbs tended for decades that both healed and brought in necessary income in times of need. And the team of white horses that identified the family carriage to anyone who saw it.

It was the horses I always remembered because when she spoke of them a shine came into her eyes, the kind of shine one gets when looking upon something so magnificent it literally brings tears to your eyes. And it was the horses, in all their majestic beauty, that was my first lesson in hate.

"So many in town hated my family for those horses," she would whisper to me as if it were such a deep and horrible secret that she didn't dare speak it aloud. And of course I felt the first stirrings of hate in my own belly as she described the injustice of having such creatures and not being able to openly enjoy them without drawing forth envy from those who resented "us" for our good fortune.

I learned these same people, one family in particular, lead the hate. "It was over politics," she would whisper as the sheer filth of that word fell from her lips. Politics. The ultimate bad guy in all her stories. It went hand in hand with hate because you couldn't have politics without hate. "They hated us for not believing what they believed, but our family was unshakable. We believed what we believed and that was it." I felt the passion of that injustice in my stomach and swore always to believe what I believed and I felt angry at these mean people who would deny me and my family that right.

Next came the real killer: religion. I come from a long line of Atheists mixed with a few religious fanatics. My family has straddled the religion fence decade after decade with a sort of blind faith that they will end up on the side that isn't lined up against the wall and shot, so it didn't surprise me that some hated them for their faith or lack of it. Why should the inner workings of my family be any different than the outer workings?

"The bastard hated us because we didn't believe in his Jesus." I felt her anger, her despair and I became ferociously Atheistic. I hated the family who judged us, the father and his son who stopped my family on the street and spit at my family and called them heathens. I could see him whenever she told this story: his hair black as his soul, his cold eyes, his crude language that no gentleman would be caught speaking. By the time I was in my teens I hated him with a passion so deep that I was certain if he was in the room with me, I could easily hurt him and feel no remorse. That is the power of hate, that is what it can convince you to to do: hurt a stranger because he did something to someone else you also never met.

But the worst part of this story was the horrible ending. "They came in the night," she told me with tears in her eyes. "First they poisoned the horses..." We always stopped to cry together at this part of the story. I loved horses as a young girl and this was a crime too horrible to ever forgive. I could see their eyes close in death as they suffered from the poison. I hated this horrible horrible man and his family and all his relatives and all the children he would bring into the world.

And then they came back and burned down the house and tore up the flower gardens and destroyed a decades old garden of medicinal herbs the town depended upon for healing. "We left and never returned," she said with that perfect note of despair that has left me feeling my entire life as if I were a homeless refugee, a displaced Atheist waiting for the first hail of bullets to strike me down for my terrible crimes of not believing in Jesus, of having politics that differed from the most powerful man in town and his evil son, and just being hated for no reason other than for who I was. The injustice of it was so strong, so much a part of how I grew up and why I became the adult I am.

My grandmother is long dead and it wasn't until I was in my twenties that I found out the truth about this family, this horrible man and his even worse son. Yes, they did all that. Yes, they were bad people. Yes, they caused my family endless and unjust suffering. I also found out they died at least a hundred years if not more before my grandmother was born. None of the bad things they did was done to her or to me or to anyone who was alive. They were long dead, but yet they lived on in this perverse way.

My grandmother was only repeating what was told to her. She gave me the only legacy she had left, the memory of an injustice committed on our family long before any of us were born. She gave me hate instead of love. It is a gift that I decided needed to die with me. I do not want to know more about this man and his son. I do not want revenge as a dish best served cold. I want him to die with the all the stories, all the unforgiven wrongs, all the hate he spread far into the future.

It ends with me. And what begins with me is a sense of peace, a feeling of moving forward in time instead of backwards, a reworking of hatred so it becomes love, a reworking of intolerance so it becomes acceptance, and a reworking of eternal and perpetual war so it finally, at last, becomes peace. It begins with me.

Changing minds one t-shirt at a time. Visit Ursine Logic for more designs.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Save The Planet, Save Ourselves

Whenever I need a break from the stresses of day to day life, I go for a walk. It helps that I live in a magnificent part of the world. Within a half hour of my home I can walk by a river, a couple lakes, a saltwater bay, and numerous parks with tall trees and creeks and ponds. By most people's standards, especially those who live in urban environments, I live in a wondrous nature paradise. I show it off to visitors. I live in awe of its stunning beauty even now, a quarter century since I first moved here. It never pales for me. It never loses its magic.

But I can also see the changes. The mountains and hills that surround much of this area have bald patches from the obscenity of being one of the few places in the world that still clear cuts entire mountainsides without any thought to future or even present generations. In the rainy season, which is a good deal of the year here, the clear cut patches become conduits for mud and debris filled flood waters that destroy homes and farmlands at their foothills.

In the out of control greed of slash and burn GOP rule these last few years, the families in those homes and farms become insignificant. It doesn't matter how long they've lived there or if their family homes and farms get washed away in the debris. Only one thing matters and that is how much the corporate clear cutters can get for the mountain's "lumber." There is no thought to the safety and well-being of the people below. The spindly replacements are reforested into the ground using desperate, transient and undocumented laborers willing to work for little money. And then everyone moves on and what the deer don't eat, the winter rains wash away, leaving a few tiny twigs to replace the thick forests that were clear cut away.

The mountains and hills stripped bare by cut and run profit taking are forgotten. They become as insignificant as the human beings whose lives were permanently devastated by the profit grabbing from above. Sadly, in some of the cases, those who were destroyed and will be destroyed are the same loggers and their families hired by the corporations to put their own property in danger. The Corporate Pigs know people don't dare complain or worry out loud when they're desperate for work. They shut up and pray. And they collect their paychecks until the Pigs move on to somewhere else. And then the loggers pray the unemployment checks don't run out before they find more work, and their homes won't wash away, and that mudslides won't turn into raging avalanches of boulders, uprooted stumps, and small trees left to rot because they weren't big enough to put on the truck or small enough to plant back into the ground. In the meantime, the rains come and the hill turns to mud and prayers don't seem quite enough anymore.

I also see this same lack of foresight when I look to the bay. Salmon comes from out of town now. Some of my once favorite fish aren't safe to eat in large quantities anymore. I can't find any fresh mussels in the store and the shrimp and clams come from China instead of from the fishing boats these days. The waterfront is changing from industrial to overpriced condominiums for urban refugees and wealthy retirees. But the train still runs below these condos and parts of the bay are preceded by the words: Superfund cleanup...

It's also impossible to walk from one end of town to the other anymore without crossing a major highway or intersection. The interurban trail system crosses more and more through urban areas and instead of forests, they are part of people's backyards. The traffic is horrendous and the roads are falling apart. There's no money to fix anything and yet new housing developments take over more homeland, and more poor and working poor are evicted from apartments that are converting to condos. The air smells like fuel, gasoline, diesel and continual traffic in many parts of town now. It is noisy and crime-infested in more and more of it. It is a dying paradise.

But the saddest part of all this is what is happening to the wildlife. Unchecked growth has displaced so many of the creatures who live around here. During a cold stretch a few weeks ago when the snow froze on the ground and didn't melt for days, I ended up with squirrels, raccoons, possums, and so many birds they would empty the feeder in less than an hour. I put out pans of hot water that they drank thirstily and quickly before it froze.

And the deer came. Skinny, hungry, thirsty deer who were so desperate they put aside all their fear of human beings. I fed them apples and gave them water and felt both a sense of awe that they were eating from my hands and also a deep sadness that in a place so lush, so beautiful, so filled with plenty, these beautiful creatures were starving because their homes were gone. Their grazing meadows were now condo villages. Their creeks were now in the middle of housing developments. They had to dodge traffic to go from block to block to try and find something to eat that wasn't frozen solid under the snow.

I took a picture of one of them after he hungrily ate three apples in a row and drank a bowl of water. He's tiny with ribs showing through his fur. But he's so beautiful and such a symbol of what greed and a total disregard for nature leaves behind. Look at him good. Look in those eyes. And then get out and do something to reverse the damage being done to our planet because no human should be able to get so close to a wild creature. It's just not natural. And it's our fault.

Changing minds one t-shirt at a time. Visit Ursine Logic for more designs.