life between the pages

“I spent my life folded between the pages of books.
In the absence of human relationships I formed bonds with paper characters. I lived love and loss through stories threaded in history; I experienced adolescence by association. My world is one interwoven web of words, stringing limb to limb, bone to sinew, thoughts and images all together. I am a being comprised of letters, a character created by sentences, a figment of imagination formed through fiction.”
Tahereh Mafi, Shatter Me

Monday, February 22, 2016

Hating America

Innocent children accused of rape who would serve years in prison for a crime they did not commit.
Image froNew York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images via The Guardian.

We can do better than this.

In a thoughtful, engaging piece in The Guardian, Oliver Laughland reminds us of the charade some folks are currently watching in a dangerous flirtation with "what if"?

Donald Trump and the Central Park Five: the racially charged rise of a demagogue

Mr Trump is not funny.

The ridiculously and perhaps initially humorous fact of his claiming to be presidential material and actually throwing his hat in the ring is not funny anymore, if it ever was. It's a narcissistic whomping of our collective social consciousness in a self-centered, hateful attempt at grabbing control of the overwhelming and abusive level of power that odious old white men used to have in this country.

And it just has to stop. We were doing so well in spite of their carping, insidious obstruction to one of the finest Presidents in the modern age. Trump's bid for the presidency must be called out for what it is. It is no longer just okay to ignore the clown car and hope it will fall of the cliff through its own refusal to look where it's going.

See, they think they see where they're going. They have a fixed vision of the world they hope to re-create, and it's very, very ugly.

It's not a world we want to live in again.

And in case this isn't obvious: they don't want us to live there either.

They want the future all for themselves. They have no intention of sharing.

So if that's what anyone believes, we need to disabuse them of that irresponsible and childlike notion.

See, it's pretty clear that anyone who thinks Trump has an answer that will make their own life better who is not a member of the .01% who own most of the wealth in the entire world is not thinking rationally. It's a misguided belief that if the rich are richer, they will share some with us. That doesn't happen in real life, and most of us know that.

There's no such thing as the proverbial Santa Claus. remember? Santa Claus is the people who love you. He's not some fat white guy with bad hair and an eye-popping wardrobe who works his ass off to bring you and all the good boys and girls treats and toys one night a year. That guy is an elf, and There are No Such Thing as Elves.

Except the people who love you, of course. Does Donald Trump love you?

Unless you're covered in gold and are ready and willing for him to take it, then no, Donald Trump doesn't love you. And he's not bringing you any presents.

Donald Trump is the guy who's going to take all your presents and keep them for himself. He's the Christmas Thief. Unfortunately, he doesn't just steal things from people who don't deserve them. He steals from anyone who is stupid or desperate enough to do business with him and a lot of other people who never met him and have nothing to do with him.

We must denounce every single person who thinks what Trump and his ilk are doing are okay. It's so not okay. It's wrong, and it's dangerous to overlook that wrong in an attempt to play nice. He's not going to play nice, he's going to lie and cheat and steal his way forward for the rest of his life. He doesn't know how to do it any other way, poor guy.

And we can't let him have our country. Too many people have died to keep us free. As Yusef Salaam, one of the Central Park Five, says: "What would this country look like with Donald Trump as being a president? That’s a scary thing."

How many more will die if people like The Donald keep committing statutory rape against our economy, our civil rights, and our common good?

What would that world look like, in all reality?

We've been there, guys. We know exactly what it would look like. Please tell me we are too smart to go there ever again.

Compliance is all they ask. It's all they need. All that evil needs to succeed is that good people sit by, and do nothing.

So we gotta aim to misbehave, you know? Every time that golden hair flap appears in public, somebody send some chewed-up bubblegum its way, okay? We need to be relieved of that thing. He's got a thing about baldness. He hides behind the fear and loathing we all have of our true selves. He doesn't have the right to do that, you know - not unless we give it to him.

We need to show that this would-be Emperor is as naked as the day he was born. As naked as we all are.

He's not the leader we need. He's not a leader at all. He's a masthead, a figurehead for perceived wealth and class and privilege. He's a charlatan, a con man, and he's counting on you buying the tinsel-covered pack of lies that he's selling.

He's telling you to help him steal the freedom right out from under you. He wants us to exchange places with those who went before us, and died for that freedom. He wants you to give up, and let him take the reins, so he can drive that golden chariot across the sky while you shiver and dry up below him choking on your mass-produced Turkish Delight.

It's the oldest trick in the book.

Don't fall for that. Be the beacon. Point to the earth, and the sky, and the people around you - the ones who love you - and stand up for the truth and help others do likewise.

It's you and me,
It's you and me won't be unhappy.
"C'mon, baby, c'mon darling,
Let me steal this moment from you now.
C'mon, angel, c'mon, c'mon, darling,
Let's exchange the experience, oh"
And if I only could,
I'd make a deal with God,
And I'd get him to swap our places,
Be running up that road,
Be running up that hill,
With no problems.
--Kate Bush, Running Up That Hill

We all got problems. They won't be solved unless and until we stop looking to rich people in power to do it. We've got to do it ourselves, we've got to hold hands, work together, help each other, and elect people who do likewise -- who really do love us, who have demonstrated by their actions that they love us, and they'll do right by us, and will do their damnedest help us get out of whatever mess we are in. Who won't be one of those people who take what we have and keep it for themselves, even though they already have so much they don't know what to do with it all.

Don't be so blind that you cannot see good when it's right in front of you.

Arrest photo of young activist Bernie Sanders emerges from Tribune archives

In America, we think differently, we act differently, we live and work and play differently from each other, and that's supposed to be okay. We believe different things and our homes and families reflect that. We've come a long way to get here. Today it's okay to love whom you love, and marry that person so you can be happy together for the rest of your lives.

These things irritate some people. They make it complicated. In order to live in this country effectively you've got to have an open heart, open eyes, and open hands. You've got to be willing to accept the fact that your experiences are not universal, that your life is very different from your neighbor's and sometimes an entire world away from someone on the other side of the street. Yet we are all Americans. We belong here. We're part of the system and society.

This is how it should be.

But for those for whom these ideas are complicated, this is perhaps a threat. They feel threatened because part of their way of life is at risk. If everyone really has an equal chance, the outcome they want might not happen - because that outcome benefits them. They see life as a struggle to make sure their outcome happens and their neighbor's does not. They use fear as a tool to try to get you to buy into the outcome where they have all the power and they might give you some autonomy to do what you want - as long as it doesn't threaten what they have and want.

They are very good at using fear. We've got to stop seeing the fear as an adversary, and start using it for what it is: a tool. Turn it around, point it right back at them. Make them see that what they fear is actually you. It's us. It's our freedom to do and give and love whom we want and live as we choose; it's our autonomy.

Strip that fear naked and look at it for exactly what it is.

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

We all know the horrific things nations accomplish because of fear - you know them, you can name dozens. We are better than that.

We are Americans.

The terrible thing about fear is that it is so easily inflamed and becomes hatred. For whatever reason, hatred tends to get things accomplished. It builds walls. It makes rules to control people's differences. It makes wars.

We are better than that. We are Americans.

"Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us." --John F. Kennedy
Berliners didn't build that wall. Fear and hatred did. That same fear and hatred that you and I feel when we think about what we might lose. We need to shun that fear. We need to laugh at the hatred so it will wither in shame and die, writhing.

"Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free." --John F. Kennedy, Ich bin ein Berliner speech

Who benefits when people are not free to live and love and work and play and be who they are? 

Who, indeed? 

The only people who would benefit are those who hate who we are, how we live, the way we love, because it means we think for ourselves, and cannot be controlled.

Who benefits when people are controlled, when choices are limited? 

The people who are doing the controlling, so they can limit our choices to the things they, and they alone, offer.

These people are not, and should never be in, government. Government speaks for the people and does the wishes of the people, not the other way around.

Commerce can be a lively thing, when it's a healthy exchange and is equitable between the parties. It can be manipulated so it draws from one to give to another. When one party is clearly drawing more and more from everyone else it is anything but a healthy exchange; it's a disease. It's a sick system that needs our attention to fix the inequities and the only thing that's going to do this is to elect responsible representatives and keep watch over them.

Government for the people, by the people, and of the people is not something to be squandered because of fear and hate. But it needs a lot of love to counteract the fear and hate, to balance the squandering manipulative parties and to re-distribute things equitably according to need and actual contributions. It's easy to see a successful businessperson as a good and intelligent person because that's who they want you to see, and if they're controlling the outcome by limiting your choices you have no opportunity to vote your conscience. But they cannot limit your voice. They can limit your opportunities but they cannot touch who we are.

We are Americans. Do not hate us because we are different. We can be divided by our differences, but then we will fall, and always have. Hopefully we learn from our failures. 

Hopefully we have not learned to hate ourselves because of them.

Love us, love America, believe in our goodness and celebrate our differences, or we will simply cease to be Americans.