Daily Archives: May 4, 2004

The Other Shoe Drops

My mother, who turns seventy next year,
four days from now is driving from LA,
alone across almost two thousand miles
(she plans between ten and twelve miles a day)

to visit us in New Orleans — she says,
for just a day or so; and then, she’s off
towards the north. Next stop is Tennessee.
My younger sister’s been there just two months

and barely settled in; she moved away
to close the West Coast chapter of her life.
Of course, that book includes my brothers and my mom.
I understand her motivation well,
although to mom it’s not so cut and dry.

She wonders what would cause someone to split
away from hearth and home, leaving behind
the everything your life has ever been
in search of something else – something else real.

But she and Dad did much the same thing:
they put a state, at first, between their life
and where they came from, cutting free the past.
It worked for about seven years or so.

And then they were dragged back into the fold,
or close enough to be within the web
of sibling politics and watchful eyes;
they tried to make a go of it, and failed.

Next, they tried the whole damn continent —
uprooting us from the dull, complacent life
that was in store if we stayed on the farm,
and ran three thousand miles, to Western shores.

The family back at home, in the Midwest
still wonders why they left, dissatisfied
with close-knit clan surrounding on all sides
and little opportunity for growth.

But it was dad that needed space, and change,
and his decision to break with the past.
Mom never spoke of it, but now, I think
she has regrets that they struck out alone.

And sis and I, the two like the old man,
have likewise flung ourselves out and away —
with breathing room to reconstruct our lives
in different ways, by rules that we define.

How could mom be surprised? Our exodus
was fated from the start. There was no force
of nature, blood or even divine will
that could have keep us California-bound.

The Art of War on …

Poverty, Illiteracy, Hunger, Drugs, and ultimately what I’d like to address, Terrorism.

Does it appear to anyone but myself that our great “national” causes (that we cast as decisive “battles” since Johnson’s Great Society and its War on Poverty) deal primarily with the symptoms, and not their underlying causes? Let’s take Terrorism, for one. Terrorism is violent action taken to bring attention to one’s issues. To me, that makes it a last resort. A final desparate parley when all other avenues have been exhausted. I can think of one absolutely sure way to eliminate Osama bin Laden as a threat: sit down at the table with him, with an open mind, willing to admit where he is right, and willing to prove where “we” are right. As Marshall McLuhan put it in his book “The Medium is the Massage”, propaganda ends where dialogue begins. But the problem is that in the world political arena, there is an “adult’s” table and a “kid’s” table. And those that sit at the “adult” table take it for granted that because they are sitting at that table, that they are doing everything right.

There is an old saying: “There are four kinds of people in this world. Those that like you for the right reasons, those that like you for the wrong reasons, those that don’t like you for the wrong reasons, and those that don’t like you for the right reasons. The first three groups need not command your attention — but you must address the last.”

Part of the problem with eliiminating terrorist threats is that we have not provided terrorists with any other viable means for communication as equals. As a result, they are left desparate enough to use “whatever means necessary” to wage their own “War on Hypocrisy.” Part of that hypocrisy might be, from a Muslim perspective, that so-called Christian countries, who are not interested in having anyone step into their lands and tell them how to behave or treat their subjects or interact with their neighbors, or control their national industries and elections, seem very interested in doing those very things in other places – which is a direct violation of the Christian truism “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” If you aren’t willing to take advice from parties that are diametrically opposite from yourself ideologically, then stay out of their business, too.

The point is that dissidents, to become dangerous, must feel that no one is listening to what they have to say, or that any dialogue in which they participate is a farce. Having a “dialogue” on how to best address global tension, for example, without any interest in or commitment to changing your own national actions as required to resolve conflicts, is hypocrisy; just like waging a war on drugs and focusing on the ghettos is obvious hypocrisy, as the only people capable of large-scale importation of drugs typically are not ghetto residents.

With respect to the “current” war on terrorism, which seems to be focused on Islamic Terror: that is a war we, as a “Christian” nation will never WIN, so long as we deny that there are things about Islam (and every other religion other than our own) that are worth learning, and learning from. And there are things to be learned from non-democratic nations that are applicable to our dear Democracy, particularly as we see it slipping away, eroded by the very “rule of kings” that we were supposedly founded as a bulwark against.

Back briefly to the adult vs. kid table. The problem is of course that who sits at which table, globally speaking, is largely defined by military might. We as a global community seem to believe that all other ideologies aside, as long as you are well armed, you deserve attention and respect. Of course, that’s part of the problem — we are basically telling anyone disenfranchised, alienated, ignored or otherwise marginalized that if you get your armaments together (remembering that about 75% of the world’s high tech weaponry is produced by the USA), and prove that you will use them, then and only then will you be worthy of notice. And then we wonder when the guns are pointed at us. Hmm…