Flying the flag

The flag at our house, a symbolic reflection.
The flag at our house, a symbolic reflection.

Almost every car dealer will be flying the American flag today.  It’s Veterans Day.  And there seems to be a war among them who can fly the largest flag.   For the dealers, it is not about patriotism.  It is of course about selling cars to those who call themselves patriots.

It is a different deal for American conservatives, particularly the addled right-wingers of the Tea Party.

These ultra-conservatives would have you believe they are the only segment of U.S. society that is truly patriotic.  Even if they are racist and fail to understand the true meaning of democracy.   Their idea, these “patriots,” is to have a subtle apartheid.  A democracy of white people in which some blacks and Hispanics are allowed to participate.  Poor people, you’re on your own.

You can bet all Tea Partiers worth their Lipton’s bag will fly a flag today.  And do it not only with pride, but with arrogance, nasty suspicions and condescension for anyone who does not fly.

The conservatives have a flawed view of the landscape.  Many on the left, progressives or liberals or whatever you want to call them, are patriotic by questioning the traditions and myths of the past.  They may or may not fly the American flag today.

At this left-wing house, the flag is out and flying, a symbolic joust at conservatives.

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The Arizona goose-step: Not everyone does it

Vince LaRue's "Tarothority"
Vince LaRue’s “Tarothority”

It’s the goose-step, all right, Arizona’s favorite dance.  But not everyone in Arizona is a budding Nazi.  You say what?

There’s Joe Arpaio, the Maricopa County sheriff who has been elected six times now and continues his war on Hispanics?  And the very popular and conservative governor, Jan Brewer, the very one who wagged a finger at the President and who is only a baby step to the left of  the vaunted sheriff?

Paul Wilson's "Wicked Witch of The West"
Paul Wilson’s “Wicked Witch of The West”

Despite the state’s extreme right-wing Tea Party flavor, strong alternate views exist and pop up in varying ways.  Like last weekend’s art exhibit at the rear of a small building on West McDowell.

It was called “The Jan and Joe Show.”

Sixteen artists were brought together by Robrt (no “e”) Pela to express their views on those magnets of left-wing disgust, Arpaio and Brewer.

Robrt Pela under the spotlight.
Robrt Pela under the spotlight.

Pela had tried to do this once before at the Willow North Gallery up 7th Ave a bit.  That’s where he was once the curator.  Nebra, who follows such things, told me the show was cancelled in late January after Pela handed in his resignation effective March 31.  The owner said, no, you resign now and the show never got off the ground.  One of the artists, Vince LaRue, had flown in from Paris for the exhibit,  or was about to, when the show came crashing down.  Some suggest the closing was politically motivated, but Pela doesn’t know that, Nebra said.

A montage of Joe "The Finger" Arpaio.
A montage of Joe “The Finger” Arpaio.

Anyway on Sunday, March 3, the show’s last day, a few hep patrons of the arts wandered around the little studio, admiring the work and a few shooting photographs while Pela himself was being interviewed and photographed in a well-lit corner.

Eric Cox's "Wicked Witch of The Southwest"
Eric Cox’s “Wicked Witch of The Southwest”

For my money, although the exhibit was free, the Brewer renderings were the best of the bunch.  But I liked too the mat at the front of the door.  The one with a mug shot of Arpaio that you had to walk on to get in.  The price of admission, I suppose, but well worth it.

Joe Arpaio as door mat.
Joe Arpaio as door mat.

Many here in the U.S. think it is patriotic to walk in lock-step with our leaders.  Support the wars, support our troops no matter what.  This view has worsened of course since 9/11 and one can easily argue that the Arabs with box-cutters have actually won the war.  It seems to me, though, it is far more patriotic to be alert and criticize the government when it oversteps.

The honor roll of exhibiting artists.
The honor roll of exhibiting artists.

The biggest surprise, perhaps, about “The Jan and Joe Show” was that Arpaio and troops did not stage a high-profile raid of the joint with TV news cameras ablaze.

Lies, distortions and disappointments in a sinking America: No. 1

Distortions:  Rush Limbaugh, the far-right radio talk show host, said on August 11 that a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Limbaugh was correct up to a point.  The percentage of Republicans voting for the legislation was at least 16% greater than Democrats in the Senate and House.  What Limbaugh  failed to tell his audience was that the Republican Party of today bears little resemblance to the party in 1964.  The Civil Rights Act was passed on July 2 of that year, and in less than two months, the Democrats and LBJ faced revolt by their white-supremacist Southern wing during the nominating Convention in Atlantic City.  Southern whites defected to the Republican party  which welcomed them with open arms.  The “Southern strategy” has long been a big part of the GOP’s election plans and is no more than a thinly-veiled attempt to attract racists to the ballot box.  Limbaugh knows that but tried to paint Republicans as the best friend of all Americans, even blacks.  (8/11)

Disappointments.  Obama’s bland speech on Monday, August 8.  In an attempt to calm financial markets about the S&P downgrade of the government’s credit rating, he only increased the fears.  The Dow was at minus 400 when Obama began his speech and dropped almost 235 points after it.  The speech caused Joe Nocera of the NY Times to remark in an op-ed piece, “When did President Obama become such a lousy speech-maker?”  (8/9)

Not credible.  Standard & Poor’s down-graded U.S. credit rating.  The agency has a shady past of greed and protecting Wall Street interests as the financial crisis hit.  For example, subprime loans were given the agency’s highest AAA rating until disaster struck in 2008.  See Chapter 9 of the Gretchen Morgensen and Joshua Rosner book Reckless Endangerment for an objective and damning look at the rating agencies’ role in the debacle on Wall Street.  (8/9)

Lies.  arizonateaparty.com:  Headline on Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. rating says, “S&P Executive:  It Could Take 18 Years to Repair Progressives’ Damage.”   No where in the article beneath does that executive, John Chambers, blame Progressives.  In fact, he blames the dysfunction of government, both Republicans and Democrats, for the agency’s downgrade. (8/8)

Tom: Anatomy of an `elitist’ and an enemy of America

I met an elitist a few days ago.  You know.  One of those well-educated liberals the Tea Party claims to hate.  To the Tea Party base, almost anyone who is capable of critical thought and analysis is an elitist and not to be trusted.  Almost anyone who has an original idea is an enemy.  If you can’t touch it, actually feel the gun or the border fence, or it doesn’t come out of the mouth of Limbaugh, Hannity or Beck, it can’t be real, they say.  

I hadn’t met an elitist before, not one I knew was an elitist anyway.  But surely Tom is one.  He is a blunt-spoken man, a graduate of Georgia Tech with a degree in engineering.  He hates what the Tea Partiers have done on the debt-ceiling crisis.  He calls them “radicals,”  and grumbles about the Republicans and George W. Bush causing all the financial woes the nation is facing right now.   He must be an elitist, surely.  I will describe him the best I can so he can clearly be identified and possibly shot.   Remember, “Don’t retreat, reload” is the cry from the far right.

I was sitting in a buffet in north Phoenix when Tom hobbled over to a booth near me and sat down.  He was wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt.  Wisps of uncombed gray hairs escaped from under an old  ballcap pulled up high on his forehead.  I hadn’t seen him for a while.  He walks now with the aid of a cane to support a short, slumping body.  He will be 90 years old on November 1.    Tom  tells me he grew up on a farm near Cairo, Illinois, near the juncture of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.  It’s where the Ozarks end, he says.  Beautiful country. 

It was almost about nine months ago that Tom first told me about his life.   His mother was an immigrant from Scotland. Tom worked as an engineer for NASA and also Remington Rand and helped build the original UNIVAC, the first commercial computer made in the U.S.   Said he worked beside and was a friend of Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who developed COBOL, one of the first programming languages.  Amazing Grace, they called her.   He gave me a list that day of other computer scientists with whom he was acquainted.  Konrad Zuse, the German inventor of the first programmable computer and John W Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, developers of the ENIAC computer and Alan Turing, the cryptoanalyst. 

I assume he’s one of those leeches who takes Social Security.  Probably has the Medicare B too. 

Although Tom is retired more or less, he often arrives at the buffet carrying a study book which he pores over between bites.  Usually it’s physics or calculus. 

“Gotta keep up,”  Tom says.  He still uses a slide rule to make his calculations.  In fact, Tom says, he has a collection of slide rules at home.

So this is the enemy, the worst kind of American.   They are everywhere and must be smoked out, just like Communists in the hey-day of the John Birch Society.  You can even find these leftists posing as ordinary citizens in your local buffet.

Doomsday and the aliens on this planet

Well, I think it’s safe to say, almost six hours after the zero hour of Doomsday, nothing has changed in Arizona.  There was no earthquake.  No one I know has disappeared from the face of the earth.  Not that I ever thought for the slimmest of a second that the end of the world was at hand.  But then again I don’t believe in a god that would destroy his or her own work without at least a Tweet from on high:  “Get ready, y’all, this here human experiment is over.”

On the other hand, I do believe the human experiment a failure.  We are a flawed and doomed species, all right.  And we will eventually do ourselves in one way or another.  But nothing cataclysmic.  Nothing that will end abruptly.  If there be gods, they will let us do the deed while they sit back amused.  It will take many, many years for it to all play out, those years, though, a belch in the total length of time.  And then the gods will be on to something else.  Perhaps another experiment with yet another kind of species.   Maybe they will get it right eventually. 

But before then I wonder.  So who are these species that believed in Doomsday on the 21st of May?   They are so different from me that I do not recognize them as the same species.   In truth, I do not know who is the alien here.  Them or me.  Let’s just say the differences we face are mammoth and without solution. 

And I’ll tell you a little secret.  I believe the Tea Party madness in American politics is the fine thread that separates the aliens from the not aliens.  A slight misstep, I think, and the Tea Party people will slip into the Doomsday crowd.  Or a slight upward swing and the Doomsdayers will switch their extremism from God to politics.  It’s wild down here. 

Beam me up, Scotty.

Tea Partiers awakened — too late

There is too a real Rip Van Winkle.  In fact there are many of them.  You see them everywhere in the sleepy hollows of America.  They are the Tea Partiers and other born-again conservatives.  Asleep for decades, now suddenly awake and full of fight and hate and all-knowing. 

You know who you are, you latter-day Rips.  You are the ones who say you want your country back.  You want an America as it used to be.  Whatever that was.

But I ask, where were you 30 years ago when “your country” began to unravel with the false-god of the right, Ronald Reagan?  Reaganomics and its corporate afterbirth have killed the soul of America.  We are little more now than a nation of sheep, following the bidding of giant corporations and try to amass personal wealth by slitting the throats of our neighbors. 

While you slept, Your Country grew a heart of ice, a mind more than ever filled with meaness and hatred and irrationality, its eye focused on material gain.  Your Country has become the epitomy of the  corporate world.  Dog eat dog.  It is all coming to fruitition now.  None of you knows about teamwork.

And where were you after 9/11 that you turned listless and scared, and sang “God Bless America” and did not ask for a full accounting of how a few fanatics with box cutters could commandeer airplanes and easily strike at the heart of Your Country, the so-called greatest country in the world?

Where were you when Your Country promised to bring down the perpetrators of 9/11 in Afghanistan, then suddenly veered to a needless and tragic war in Iraq, killing our children and grandchildren for no other reason than oil and political gain?  Iraq offered better targets, we were told.  Yes, while Bin Laden dwelled unpunished in Tora Bora.   

Where was your outrage when conservatives on the Supreme Court decided the presidential election in 2000? 

Where too was your outrage when Your Country used their corporate friends, the telecoms, to spy on you in the name of fighting terrorism?  Where was the outrage at torturing prisoners, at allowing one of the footstones of democracy, habeas corpus, to be swallowed up again in the name of terrorism?  If you were not asleep then you had pulled the pillow over your head.

Where was your outrage when in 2008 the Bush administration began doling out vast amounts of taxpayer money to save the big banks, the very institutions conservatives had allowed to go unchecked and were “too big to fail?”

Where were you all these years when Your Country’s addiction to drugs got so out of control that the cartels in Mexico threaten now to take over the U.S. border?

Where were you when the lawn needed mowing and you decided to hire it done, turning a blind-eye to the possibility the workers may be illegal immigrants?  Where were you when your neighbors, the small business owners, hired illegals to make their Reagan dreams come true?

Sean Hannity, the patronizing ultra-right wing propagandist and radio talk-show host, recently played a tape in which an 35-year-old woman in Pennsylvannia confronted her seantor, Arlen Specter, at what I believe was a townhall meeting.  She was new to politics, she said, and railed at Specter.  Liberals, she said, had raped the Constitution.

“You’ve awakened a sleeping giant. We want our country back.”

The gall of this woman, I thought, to think she had suddenly arisen from her deep sleep as a full-blown constitutional scholar. 

Where are you now as Hannity and the right-wing propagandists suck up to  you, eager to bring you into the fold, into the party of the few, the party of the big corporations, the GOP?  Where are you now that you don’t see whose policies really brought on the economic crisis, the huge deficits?   

It seems so very strange that the sleepers among you have developed into political activists only after Your Country elected a black president.  I understand  your fears, the panic of facing the fact that America is not as white as it used to be, that you may soon lose the superiority you once took comfort in, that you may have to blend in and someday, oh my god, racially inter-marry on a grand scale. 

I’m sorry.  You slept too long, you latter-day Rips.  You awoke naive and now, unable to think clearly, you do more damage to Your Country than you can imagine.  It is too late.  Even if your silliness and naivete win in the  short-term, you will never be able to take back Your Country.  It will never be the same.