A friend writes:
What’s happening in the gulf is a sign that things are just a horrible mess, and I don’t just mean the oil spill. The stuff BP is pulling is just criminal, totally criminal. But, as usual, corporations get to do whatever they want and the people have to put up with it, and do the suffering. What I don’t understand is why isn’t there mass outrage? A 20% real unemployment rate? The destruction of thousands of miles of coast line? Corporations that are allowed to do what ever they want in the political arena? It’s madness, but it hasn’t run its course yet. Not even close.
Let’s recount a little bit more: US government assassinating American citizens overseas, Katrina, Gitmo still open and a stain on our nation, a renewed push to bottleneck the internet by corporate interests, the Financial Crisis and subsequent bailout without any accountability, two ongoing and pointless wars, corporations and police departments cooperating to prevent journalists access to the disaster in the Gulf, degrading and faltering transportation and energy transmissions infrastructure, failing schools, rising crime rates, distressed and poisoned food supplies, and American is a country that is not ranked number one in anything, in any real global survey of education, health, manufacturing, etc. . . except for military spending.
Have I missed anything?
Apparently it is.
Now, I’m not opposed to violent protests. There is a time and a place, but in contemporary America it simply won’t work. Why? Because we live in the most violent country on the planet and violence would be met with a brutality few of us could imagine. The only way to change America is to engage in serious and sustained non-violent protest.
What I’m not for is non-violent, weekend outings with guest appearances by people like Joan Baez. If protest is to work, it has to be serious, deadly serious. And Americans have to be willing to sacrifice. And die. Because there will be deaths. It has to be something more than a ‘Million’ whatever march on the Mall in Washington or a carnival.
We need protests on Monday.
We need protests on Tuesday.
We need protests on any day of the week that ends in a ‘y.’
Weekend outings won’t get it done. It has to be more, much more than just a march. A march is a culmination. Marches didn’t bring civil rights to the South. Sit-ins and civil disobedience did. In our time we need the following:
Freeways have to be shut down.
Government buildings surrounded. Access blocked.
Schools shut down.
Airport security lines halted by travelers unwilling to undergo the indignity of being x-rayed.
Television stations surrounded.
Sit-ins at Wal-Mart, COSTCO and Target.
People have to be inconvenienced. They must be challenged.
“But this stuff is illegal, and it will just anger people, more than change their mind,” you might say.
Well, give me other ideas? How else do we challenge people? How else do we prove to Americans of all stripes that our country is being driven into a ditch. A little inconvenience in exchange for an end to some seriously egregious abuses done in our name every day seems like a good trade-off to me. Besides, picking up a gun is illegal too!
People must be challenged everywhere. Not just in DC, or NYC, or Berkeley.
It will require real sacrifice on the part of the protesters.
Why? Because the reaction of the Establishment powers, even to non-violent protests, will be violent. It will be brutal. It will be unjust. And it will make Kent State look like a picnic. Protesters will be jailed and others will be harassed. Groups will be infiltrated.
They will tell us we are hooligans, but will will not destroy. We will protest to rebuild our nation. They will tell us that we are unpatriotic, but our love of country will be richer and deeper than the faux-patriotism of the corporatists on Wall Street or the torturers in our government. They will tell us that we are fraying the fabric of American society. But they will be wrong, we will be weaving it together even stronger.
There is no other way.
If it is to succeed it will have to terrify the Establishment, but more importantly, it will have to cost them.
There is simply no other way.
Alas, it won’t happen, because our outrage is drowning in an ocean of cheap Chinese goods and anti-depressants, bad cable television and fatty foods, fat-cat banksters and mendacious politicians.
But you know what? I’m willing. Are you?
All is right in my world this morning as I sit on the patio of my favorite coffee shop reading the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books. I only recently renewed my subscription, as I was uncertain how long I was going to remain in the US upon returning home in late June of last year. But here I am, and while I do hope to travel again in the near future, it’s strange to say this, but I think I’ve found a home in Austin–or at the very least, a home base.
In my opinion it is the single finest magazine in English. Where else can you get esssays on particle physics, Dickens, a detailed deconstruction of the baleful influence of Israel on US foreign policy, a lengthy exposition on the differences between Justices John Paul Stevens and Antonin Scalia? All of which are grounded in reality, not Fox News fantasy?
The New Yorker is a fine magazine as well. But my problem with it is that it’s not nearly as comprehensive, nor, in a sense, is it as curious. Generally speaking I think the flaw with the New Yorker is it sees the world from the prism of New York City (in itself not a bad prism, just limited.) It’s gravitas comes from the City, not the world, like the New York Review of Books.
Of course, the New York Review of Books is most certainly not a propaganda mouthpiece for the neocon/Likudniks like The New Republic is–and Walter Lippman is spinning in his grave, I tell you. I was a subscriber to the New Republic for ten years. It was the first serious magazine I read in college. It was hard to let it go, but by 2003 the magazine had changed so much it wasn’t worth my time or money only to read one or two essays an issue.
I also subscribed to the New Yorker for a few years, but canceled my subscription when I realized I was only reading one or two articles a week from it. Not a good return on my money. As a general rule I read the New York Review of Books from cover to cover every two weeks. And with that I don’t need to read the newspaper and all its attendant noise, daily. I get signal from the New York Review.
And that’s the beauty of The New York Review: I read it from cover to cover and I learn something new every two weeks. Where else would one read an essay on Tennesse Williams followed by an excellent essay on the emerging food movement? Or a long essay on biology, or the glaciers, or evolution, followed by an expose or sorts on George W. Bush? You don’t get anything like the intellectual diversity in the New York Times, much less the Austin American-Statesman.
And don’t get me started on McPaper: a simple paper for simple minds if ever there was one.
How many of us have had the thought that somewhere in the universe, or perhaps in an alternate reality we have a doppelganger, an identical twin, doing the exact same things we are doing, making the same mistakes and pondering the same thought of a doppelganger at exactly this moment?
Perhaps it is a measure of the new relationship I find myself in that makes this particular bit of graffiti reach me, but I confess: the idea of doppelganger poetry is too fun not to comment on.
They are not poems written by “us” but poems written about “us.” As if they exist on their own, in their own reality–and perhaps all good poetry does this?
And do “we” really exist? What is it that happens when two individuals collide on some random Tuesday afternoon? How do they manage to break through the inevitable small talk and reach a deeper understanding of each other? It’s all so random, but like a virtuous circle it feeds on itself until one of them takes the ultimate risk and says, “I love you.” And then that love is reciprocated.
Perhaps somewhere in the vastness of existence, the dual reflections of these two people reflect off a mirror and then by chance their visages carom into some alternate reality where a poem writes itself.
Where can I find this cosmic archive of doppelganger poetry? Who’s the publisher? More importantly, who’s the editor?