Sliding to the left

8 05 2008

I know that it’s a common trope that the older one grows, the more conservative one becomes. It’s not working like that for me, though, I can tell you that. The older I get, the more leftist I become. Let’s all say it together, kids:

It’s not ‘he who dies with the most toys wins’. It’s ‘if we all fail to cross the finish line together, we all lose’.

The world is getting smaller every day, and all the ways in which we are each utterly, inextricably interconnected are becoming ever more apparent. Us versus them is such a common, socially domineering concept that it’s almost impossible to raise kids with a pluralistic outlook in this culture. Different is not bad, same is not always good, when you see something on the surface, look under the covers at the whys and the hows. There is always, always more going on than you think there is.

This is also the virtue of teaching history. The world around us does not emerge from a vacuum afresh every morning, but so many people in this country lack even a fundamental grounding in history that it seems as though it did. Every day is a brand new day on Fox News! Don’t notice the pattern, don’t remember alllll the way back to the 80s when we funded kill and rape squads in Central America, or when we gave Saddam Hussein the wherewithal to fight and kill Iranians (and his own people, of course). Don’t pay attention. Paying attention is unAmerican! Just ask all the critics of Jeremiah Wright, who, while lacking in tact, has at least been paying attention to how things work in this country.

Don’t think about how all those ‘leeching’ ‘illegals’ are ‘pouring’ over our borders as a direct consequence of the actions of US big agribusinesses combined with NAFTA to strip hereditary protections from family farms in Mexico while simultaneously removing price controls on tortillas and corn. Don’t even KNOW that, much less think about it.

The truth is painfully simple, and as such, inescapable. We’ve sown the seeds, and now we’re reaping what we’ve sown.

Don’t know, don’t think, don’t pay attention, and don’t question. Just buy. Buy crap you don’t need, but feel like you’ll die if you don’t have. Feed the machine. Feed the march to oblivion. And don’t ever ever ask a hard question, or even worse, demand an answer.

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Pentagon refuses to investigate KBR gang rape charges

13 01 2008

This immensely infuriating piece of news came down the pike on January 8th.  It looks like there will be no justice for Jamie Leigh Jones, despite a testimony that should have absolutely reduced anyone to tears and motivated normal human beings to action. Alas, it looks like the Department of Defense is only interested in defending the profits of its highly-place, no-bid contractors, and not in defending the right to bodily integrity of a young woman who’s trapped in a Sisyphian hell where everyone looks at her plight, shrugs, and says ‘not my problem’.

The Pentagon won’t investigate. There can be no criminal charges. There won’t even be an official inquiry into how the Army violated the chain of evidence to give the SAE kit to civilian contractors from the same company who went on to lock her in a shipping container under guard. If the guard had not given her his cellphone, would she still be alive today? Or would she have found her way into a vehicle that tragically ran over an IED? Would she have just disappeared forever? Speaking of disappearing, what is that guard’s name, and has anyone heard from him recently? I sincerely hope he quit and turned tail and ran back home before he ended up dead himself. And did you all know that Jamie Leigh’s ordeal has been going on for two and a half years?

What really troubles me most here, and it may be just me, is this: is the threat of jail and prosecution (spotty though those threats might be here in the States) really all that holds many ‘ordinary’ guys back from becoming gang rapists? Is it really just rule of law? You take them out from under its gaze and…what? They turn into men who could do this? Does the same hold true for mercenaries like the fine, upstanding men of Blackwater? Give them power, give them carte blanche, give them big guns, and they choose to become monsters? Was there no one raising them to use their ‘gentle hands’, to look at violence only as something used to protect those who are weak and in danger? What the hell kind of home training is this? I don’t understand. I’ve known a lot of guys in my life, intimately and not. In fact for much of my life most of my friends were guys. I liked their straightforwardness, their bluntness. I liked how they were protective, and sweet, and mostly very gentle. I see guys today who work at my son’s after-school daycare who are patient and wonderful with kids of all ages. What’s the difference? What turns one guy into a rapist at the first hint of opportunity, and what turns one into an early childhood educator? I may be more or less done with men forever as intimate partners, but I do have a son. And that son will have friends. That son will end up in the position of being around a bunch of drunk people – what will make him the guy who walks the girl safely home, and not the guy who listens to his friends telling him it’s ‘okay’ to rape her? I love my son so much – and I think he’s got a very gentle heart, and a very kind soul. How do you protect that?

Sorry about all the questions. I see stories like Jamie Leigh’s and I start thinking, going from specific to general and trying to figure out what it all MEANS. Maybe the answer is that all it means is our society is fucked. Maybe the answer is that there are good people, and bad people, and you can’t teach a bad person to be good, only to act good as long as no one’s watching. I don’t know, but I wish I did.