Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Keeping Hope Alive

I decided to turn off CNN before it aired the police car videocam of an officer shooting bullets execution-style into a prone African American teenager. In a segment before the release of this video, Don Lemon spoke about being based in Chicago for CNN. Surprisingly, he spoke with unbridled passion about his treatment at the hands of the Chicago police who call themselves "...the toughest gang on the block." He also let the TV audience know that incredible brutality is the calling card of that city's force, gone unchecked for decades and with full knowledge of city officials. For him, it was no surprise that this latest travesty of justice had occurred.

Add to this two films I saw in the last few days:

1) The Hunting Ground, a documentary that describes rampant rape and sexual assault on college campuses that are covered up unilaterally by the administrations. The motive - to protect the reputation of the school while the victims are victimized twice; once during the assault and again by the institution.

2) Spotlight, a feature that untangles the machiavellian coverup of pedaphile priests by the Catholic church. Same story as college rapes. No regard for the victims but consummate efforts made to protect the system.

Given the above examples among countless more that could be called to mind, only one thing occurs to me. If we let ourselves feel helpless, hopeless, depressed or explosively angry, the defeat is ours. Given the systemic nature of the problems, keeping hope alive seems like a tall order.

On the other hand, if not for hope and a desire for humane solutions, no freedom fighter or arbiter of justice would ever grace this world. Injustice can only be countermanded by justice and it is people who deliver justice, not God. So it behooves us to think and then act...in whatever way small or large.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pretty Boys of the Jihad

The rugged, wind-whipped faces of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani jihadists bespeak of hard lives etched in the rock and sand of inhospitable landscapes. But the pretty, soft facial contours of Western jihadists confound the average onlooker.

These young men could be students at an Ivy League university, albeit with a closer beard shave to match the au courant look of every hip male around. They have not been caught between the fire and the frying pan, suffering Western fire-power and the repression of ruthless dictators. 

Hitler Youth sported the same fresh-faced killers, which leads to the conclusion that mind control trumps personal experience. 

In terms of trumping one thing over another, it appears that Donald Trump is still trumping all the other wackos for the lead in the Republican candidacy. Since he uses the internment of American-Japanese in WWII as a model for how we could handle "the Syrian" problem,  we Americans now have a bigger problem on our hands than ever imagined.

If the jihadists want to throw the world into chaos, they have found the perfect patsy in Trump; he has waltzed into their trap with the ignorance of a card-carrying narcissist.

If Americans want to avoid the chaos and terror of the Middle-East please wake up. It is not Syrian refugees who will threaten our beautiful land. It is the right-wing body politic that could do us in if their toxic brew prevails.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Oh How Things Change

On the local news today, a jubilant family welcomes home its young male adult with hugs that say, "Thank God you are home, safe and back in our arms." An all to common visual gracing the airwaves over the years, these vignettes usually refer to soldiers coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan.

But oh how things change. This manchild was returning from Paris.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Anti-Testosterone Shot.

A salient theme when viewing photos of jihadists is that the vast majority are young men circa 20ish to 30ish. An age range when normal, virile young man hunt for food, procure a wife to bear his children and protect the cave, these fellows have used their testosterone-soaked cells to maim and kill instead.

Perhaps the solution would be to take those young men on the "S" list in France, or the "watch" lists of other countries and give them large doses of estrogen to counterbalance that unholy surge of testosterone. With the slow development of breasts and belly fat, the urge to shoot kalashnikovs and shout "Ali Akbar" while mowing down the innocents might transform. Perhaps these young men would then take to planting community gardens and knitting wool caps for the needy.

Alas, no such injection method would be considered ethical or humane. Black humor aside, a more logical conclusion might be to train the disaffected for real jobs and real life skills that give them a greater investment in the social order. 

While it may be impossible to eradicate all the bad seeds, at least the vast fields of noxious weeds might wither away.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Flora Technician and the Family Assistant

Language evolves to reflect shifts in culture. The hi-tech age has infused our zeitgeist with euphemistic labels to "spin" occupations. After all, if you are a red-blooded American boy/man, it wouldn’t be cool to reveal at cocktail parties that you babysit for a living wage or take care of houseplants.

Recently, a young man told me that he was “a family assistant” a.k.a. baby sitter with a driver’s license. A day job while he hones his skills as a filmmaker, the title gives him some semblance of dignity. When asked to give the details of “the family assistant,” it turns out to be something us women have done with our eyes half-closed for millennia. Formerly the domain of housewives and spinsters, this fellow of the brave new world must dignify his work with a quasi-technological ringtone.

And then, meet “the flora technician.” Low and behold, this gentleman explains that he tends to potted plants in the corporate environment. Now this is impressive! Keeping great big plants in an oxygen-deprived environment does require a certain je ne sais quoi. After he fumbles around to define his work more accurately, I interject, “I know! You are a plant whisperer.” He nods in agreement, apparently relieved that unmasking his role as “the flora technician” does not diminish him.

In fact, tending to children or plants with consciousness and care is nothing to sniff at. These are noble endeavors indeed. Yet, in this fast-paced modern world, one must find a new language to legitimize existence. How sad. How amusing. How evolutionary.

Between the Frying Pan and the Fire

When the first inklings of a pandemic started brewing in late January, I was in Bodgaya, India, the place where the historical Buddha attai...