Posts Tagged ‘Oregon’

EUGENE ON THE GREYHOUND

February 11, 2013

Hacienda

Excerpt, COMMON LIVES, an unpublished novel.

There was a clean Latino man in the seat beside Eugene on the Greyhound bus, who alternately dozed, or read from Antoine Saint Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars.  His clothes were clean: dark new Levis and a good blue cotton denim shirt.  He also had a clean white straw cowboy hat with a sedate blue and white band.  Tucked under his elbow, between his body and the window wall of the bus was a new black leather jacket – not the kind bikers wore, but a skirted coat a gentleman might wear to take a lady out.  He also had a small brown paper bag with food for the trip – sausage and cheese, baguette of French bread, small condiments, crackers, fruits and vegetables in sealed plastic sacks.

Eugene met him when their bus driver narrowly avoided collision with a highballing semi-trailer headed north in a hurry.  Eugene banged into his seatmate as the bus made a wild swing onto and off the shoulder of the road.

“Sorry!” Eugene yelped, more frightened than he wanted to be.

“No problem!” the man said, clinging to the seat in front of them with one strong brown hand.  Saint-Exupéry was clutched securely in the other.

“Some drivers,” Eugene said as their driver regained control.

“Guess he has to make some time.”

“Eugene Formsby,” Eugene introduced himself on impulse, holding out his hand.

“Armand Garcia,” Armand said, shaking Eugene’s hand.

“Headed for Portland?” Eugene asked.  Armand’s hand was hard as horn.

“Wilsonville,” Armand replied.  “I follow the crops.”

“You’re a migrant worker?” Eugene asked in disbelief.  Armand fit none of the stereotypes.  He was clean and neat.  He wasn’t traveling in a caravan of scruffy dirty brown men.  He wasn’t drunk.

“Somebody’s gotta do it,” Armand said reasonably.  He smiled.  He had even white teeth, obviously well-cared-for beneficiaries of good professional dental attention.  “It’s a good livin’, if you don’t blow it all on booze and women.  A lotta the guys do that: make a little money and piss it all away.  They’re stupid.  Sure, it’s a little bit of money here, but it’s a lot where I come from.  I send my money home.  I got a wife and kids in Mexico.”

“Did I see you reading Saint Exupéry?” Eugene asked, fascinated.  He was meeting an industrious Mexican migrant farm worker – a clean one with a sense of responsibility.  The world was truly a marvelous place.

“Yes,” Armand said promptly.  “Would you like to hear a passage?”

“Well…?”

And suddenly,” Armand read, “I had a vision of the face of destiny.  Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame.  No one ever helped you to escape.  You, like a termite, built your peace by locking up with cement every chink and cranny through which light might pierce.  You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conversations of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars.  You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man.  You are not the dweller upon an errant planet, and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers.  You are a petty bourgeois to Toulouse.  Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time.  Now the clay from which you were shaped has hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.’

“Good stuff, ain’t it?” Armand asked, smiling.

“It’s uncanny,” Eugene replied, nonplused.  Did someone send you here to read that to me?  He wondered, imagining all sorts of divine interventions and messages from Beyond.

“I’m tryin’ to improve my mind,” Armand said amiably.  “I don’t always wanna be pickin’ crops.  That’s stupid.  Gonna kill my back one day and then I won’t be able to do it anymore.  I’m thinkin’ of studyin’ book-keepin’.  What do you think?”

“Well, book-keeping is a reliable occupation,” Eugene said seriously, dismayed that the reader of Saint Exupéry was going to intentionally crash land in the desert.

“I was thinkin’ more along the line of tax preparation, ya’ know?”

“Uh-ha,” Eugene replied, nodding. 

“You’ve got a family?” Armand asked politely.

“No.”

“You should have a wife and children,” Armand said reasonably.  “They make your life mean something.  A lot of those guys I work with, they don’t know that.  They don’t work for the family.  They come up here and get drunk and wild and land in jail, or get run outta the country by the INS.  Stupid sonsabitches.”

“INS,” Eugene said, “that’s Immigration Naturalization Service?”

“That’s them.  They’re not too bad if you don’t get stupid.”

“You get hassled?”

“Sometimes, but I travel by bus and keep pretty much to myself.  Some of those other guys all chip in, ya’ know?  Buy an old junker car.  They get a little drunked up and ride along about a hundred miles an hour and get busted by a local cop.  Man, that’s stupid!  Local cops can be real mean.”

“I didn’t know migrant workers came all the way up to Oregon.”

“Sure, all the time.  We follow the crop right up into Canada.  We’re chasing the harvests, don’t ya’ know?”

“Well, yeah, sure, I know that.  That’s what migrants do.”  Eugene felt stupid.

Sometime around noon, the bus broke down.

“I always bite off a hard chunk,” Armand said as they stood by the side of the road.  The bus was disabled, its rear hatch open, smoky steam clouding up into the cool Oregon air in thin wet tendrils.  Passengers stood straggled along the roadway, or seated on their luggage, which had been removed in preparation for a relief bus, which was expected “momentarily” for the past two hours and twenty-three minutes.  Passing motorists speeding by on their way north glanced curiously at the stranded bus riders.  No highway patrolman appeared.  The driver smoked cigarettes, paced and scowled, stopping periodically to deal with impatient frustrated passengers.

“A hard chunk?” Eugene asked disinterestedly, holding Armand’s dog-eared Saint-Exupéry, which he’d asked to see.  He longed for the relief bus.  He leaned into its vision, hoping that it would soon put an end to his seemingly endless return to Portland.  Perhaps the fates were trying to tell him something – like, maybe, you’re a loser, go no farther.

“If it’s hard to chew,” Armand continued, “I try to spit it out.  If it don’t spit out, I have to tough my way through.  Life is like that; you don’t get to spit the damn thing out, until you croak.”

Reassuring, Eugene thought.

“I been thinkin’ lately on how man is an animal,” Armand said seriously.  “Unlike the other animals, he’s the only one who gets to remember much of anythin’ – includin’ hates and discontents – and the only one who knows he’s gonna die.  Pretty depressin’.  It’s also the human condition which everybody reads about – which some people think died out with those Frenchmen, sittin’ in Paris cafes, stickin’ knives in their hands to make a point durin’ the Nazi occupation; or walkin’ the beaches in self-exile in plague-ridden Morocco.  Camus had it bad.  Malraux and Sartre, all those thoughtful Frenchmen.  All life’s absurd.  It’s the human condition.  Man’s fate.  It all comes home.”

Eugene stared at Armand.

“Hey, who are those guys?” Armand asked with sudden concern.

Eugene looked around.  There were about a dozen, furtive men trying to slip into the small crowd of stranded bus riders.  The men fit Eugene’s stereotype: dirty, rough-looking Latino laborers, wearing faded jeans, straw hats, black mustaches, flannel shirts and heavy, thick-soled shoes.

“Shit,” Armand said furiously.  “Fuckin’ wetbacks ruin it for everybody!  Stupid motherfuckers!”

“What are they doing here?” Eugene asked nervously.

“I don’t know,” Armand replied angrily.  “Catchin’ the bus, I guess!  The stupid mother fuckers are gettin’ tickets from the mother fuckin’ driver!”

Sure enough, Eugene saw the newcomers line up, clutching their money in grimed hands, pressing it on the surly Greyhound bus representative in his surly-gray bus driver’s suit.  As he watched, a trio of official white sedans pulled off onto the shoulder of the road behind the bus.  A second trio of sedans and a large white van pulled up in front.

The next few moments were bedlam.

The laborers began running in all directions.  To Eugene’s horror, Armand went with them.  Men in dark blue bulletproof vests and matching ball caps ran past Eugene in hot pursuit.  The pursuers wore badges and the large letters INS were stenciled across their backs.  They were armed with batons and carried side arms at their belts.  Within minutes, the laborers returned, singly and in pairs, their hands handcuffed behind them, escorted by officers into the back of the white van.  Eugene saw Armand among the last herded up to captivity.  Armand did not see him.  The van was sealed, the officers returned to their vehicles, got in and drove away, leaving a gaping busload of passengers still stranded at the side of the road.

The surly Greyhound bus driver looked furtively at all the ticket money he’d just collected and pocketed it.  He glanced nervously at the passengers and smiled at a nearby older woman, who looked at him disapprovingly, thinking his unctuous smile the most terrible anomaly thus far in a terrible trip.

My God! Eugene thought. Armand is a wetback!  A goddamned literate wetback! How do I meet these guys?  Why do I meet these guys? What the hell?

The relief bus arrived almost immediately thereafter and Eugene climbed aboard gratefully, still carrying Armand’s copy of Saint-Exupéry.  He sat down with the book in his lap.  Armand would stay on his mind for a long time, maybe for life; he had only touched the surface.   He wished him well, commending him to his Catholic or Indian gods, or Sir Isaac Newton, perhaps.  Impossibly, he hoped he would meet him again.  He looked down at Saint-Exupéry and opened it to the part Armand had marked.  He read:

“No one ever helped you to escape.  You, like a termite, built your peace by locking up with cement every chink and cranny through which light might pierce.  You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conversations of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars.  You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man.” 

Eugene turned to the first page and began to read.

UNITED FARM WORKERS :

To provide farm workers and other working people with the inspiration and tools to share in society’s bounty

http://www.ufw.org/

Friend of the Poor

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WAR and PEACE reprise

August 6, 2010

Older Letters to elected Officials and speculations on and about the subjects of war and recession, with links to today’s realities.  Not much has changed, except for some of the faces of the players.  Some issues are career opportunities for foot-dragging, do-nothing profiteers and cowardly politicians.  It is plain that the People must lead. 

ARAB-ISRAELI LOVE-FEST:

Ltr to Ron Wyden, Senator, OR. – January 8, 2009

The ancient Arab-Israeli confrontation is not worthy of support on either side.  Only some radical change of policy will break this savage inhumane cycle.  The Senate‘s recent unequivocal support of Israel is disgraceful.  Why do we support violence from anybody toward anybody?  Why not give peace a chance?  It has never been done, and we seem instead incapable of overcoming our religious, ethnic, and other generational prejudices.  We support people who coach their children to kill their enemies’ children.  This is madness.  It is insupportable.  The morass of the middle east does not reveal a champion for the United States to support, and Israel cannot claim the Holocaust as refuge or excuse for a holocaust of its own making that it refuses to stop.  Hamas‘ despicable actions are not an excuse for Israelis to murder, and the dead children they describe as collateral damage are not an acceptable cost for their security.

Murder and violence are what they are, not the stuff of virtue, right, or decent national policy – Israel’s, Palestine‘s, or the United States’. I urge you to re-think this issue outside of its historic insanity – and the personal blindness of culture and peer pressure.  Help devise an alternative approach to international murder and mayhem.  Help, too, to take the United States off its century-long war status.

Yours in sorrow and regret.   j

EXIT STRATEGY:

I am a veteran and senior citizen.

Ltr to Representative Earl Blumenauer, OR –  July 26, 2005   10:32 AM 

Subject: Please support House Joint Resolution 55, toward ending the Iraq occupation.

The war in Iraq has been a personal project for George Bush using American lives and treasure.  I believe he is ruining the world’s finest military.  For what?  He fights like the boneheaded English general Kitchener at Gallipoli, who observing the troops running uphill against Turkish guns said, “Stout fellows these Englishmen, they always run for the thickest part of the fence.”

Added to which, Bush’s war toys don’t work?  They do if they’re just designed to fill the pockets of his war-profiteering cronies; that’s what they accomplish.

I was glad to see that Rep. Jones is leading a bipartisan effort to press President Bush to create an exit strategy and timetable for withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.  Being an occupying force with no end in sight only fuels insurgency there.

I ask you to join the thirty other members of Congress already cosponsoring the resolution, and to support it by voting for it.  Thank you for your consideration.

IRAQ DEBATE:

Personal historical view – February 14, 2007; 3-1-08 rev.

Colin Powell said, “Don’t get into war unless it’s absolutely necessary, and when we do, go to win, no half measures,” but it doesn’t apply very much in real life.

As a Vietnam veteran, I know Johnson‘s phony Gulf of Tonkin Incident fished us into war (I was drafted).  He bought into the radical right’s communist containment scare.  The Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars wrote:

“In part, the process of deception has also been unintentional.  Much of the rhetoric and many of the actions that have accompanied our… involvement have been ad hoc responses to situations of stress: a cumulative series of reflex moves and lunges produced by deepening executive anxiety, defensiveness, alarm, desperation, and even a sensed state of siege.  Similarly in rhetoric, our ‘national honor,’ ‘[enemies] with nuclear weapons,’ and the goal of ‘peace with honor’ – all have misled the public.  At the root of executive deception is a vast amount of executive self-deception – or, .to put it bluntly, stupidity.”

America blithely ignores offers of friendship and makes enemies as fast as we can throw the first sucker punch.  This is not military sense; it’s a bad case of ideology and invention over reason and fact.  But, Americans don’t run out when the fight’s tough – see: Khe San.  We stood nearly twenty years (dating from Eisenhower putting the first American boots on the ground in the Fifties when the French got tossed out) while our military-industrial complex ruined Vietnam.  Our prolonged stay, and side invasions of Cambodia and Laos, generationally disrupted and destabilized Southeast Asia, distorted America’s rule of law, and led directly to the Bush leadership miasma.

We are now fighting a war for the health and life of the republic. Look at how the radical right Republicans and Tea Party and War Democrats have warped the nation they want us to fight for, die for, and honor. The self-destructive insanity of the radical right way of war makes it looks as if the bad guys have already won.

These are politically motivated wars, fought to extremes because of ill-informed egos and profit.  Bush’s indefensible “give war a chance” was disgusting; so is Obama’s current pursuit of it.  End the war now, no matter how wimpy it looks to arrested-adolescent bullyboys.

We’ve got a lot of positive work to do, and one dollar spent on peace really is worth ten wasted in war!

COST OF DOING WAR WITH YOU: – 3/21/08

Ltr to Rep Blumenauer; Recession and the War

The recession will force states to cut back their budgets.  Most likely, the cuts are going to affect the services that working families need to survive.

The Iraq war costs Americans more than $338 million a day.  We borrow $343 million every day to finance it.  Gas prices are close to double what they were before the war.  Oil hovers around $100 barrel [sic].

That money could help people who are hurting.  For less than we spend on the war, we could pay for affordable housing, healthcare, or education scholarships for hundreds of thousands.

Our skyrocketing debt is a growing drag on the economy, slowing recovery and robbing generations of a secure future.  Iraq sucks up the resources we need to make our economy work again.  MoveOn writes, “The tradeoffs are stark: bombs or unemployment insurance, billions for Halliburton and Blackwater, or help for people on the verge of losing their homes because of the sub prime meltdown?”

Economic forecasts will be grim as long as we continue to dump billions into a reckless war that has no end in sight.  The excessive and increasing degradation of our domestic economy is an attack on the nation.  Thank you for continuing to oppose this excessive, costly and ultimately criminal war.

LAST WORDS:

A secret reformation helped to create the United States of America; it eradicated many of the weeds of prejudice; a spirit of freedom and moderation was diffused.  The liberty of conscience was declared a common benefit, an inalienable right; the free government introduced the practice of toleration; and the narrow allowance of the laws was enlarged by the prudence and humanity of the times.  In the exercise, the mind understood the limits of its powers, and the words and shadows that might amuse the child can no longer satisfy adult reason. – Paraphrase – Gibbon, p1937.

Maybe human civilization has progressed; it depends upon what you’re measuring.  Human progress and perfectibility are two man-made ideals without much moral evidence to support them.

“One crowded hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name.” – Travis at the Alamo quoting Thomas Osbert Mordaunt, Verses Written During  the War, 1756-63.

“Sin sangre, y sin lagrimas, hay no es gloria.” – Santa Ana (“without blood, and without tears, there is no glory”).

“The urgent consideration of the public safety may undoubtedly authorize the violation of every positive law.  How far that or any other consideration may operate to dissolve the natural obligations of humanity and justice is terrible to contemplate.” – Gibbon, p830.

Politician 1:  “Why do politicians treat everyone else like idiots?”  Politician 2:  “Probably, because they voted for us in the first place.”  — Poirot, “The Incredible Theft,” BBC, David Suchet.

INTERESTING LINKS:
An American Hell: Don’t Turn the Page on History.  Facing the American world We Created, by Tom Engelhardt, www.TomDispatch.com. http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/24

San Francisco Dems Tell Pelosi to Support McGovern ‘Afghan Exit’ Bill, by Tom Gallager, www.commondreams.orghttp://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/24-3

Can America Prevail on Afghanistan/Pakistan Front? No! It’s Obama’s war now, and a Vietnam-like quagmire is dead ahead.  by Helen Thomas, www.Minneapolis/St.PaulStarTribune  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/23-13

Blackwater Seeks Gag Order, by Jeremy Scahill.  www.thenation  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/23-2

Biden: Afghan War is ‘Worth the Effort’.  www.bbcnews  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/23-0

RADICAL and NOT RIGHT:
http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/07/23-2  Christian Right Aims to Change History Lessons in Texas Schools.  State’s education board to consider adding Christianity’s role in American history to curriculum [and dump all reference to labor unions among other exclusions; the larger issue is that Texas textbook decisions affect every state in the union; textbook monopoly ONLY consults Texas education board!], by Chris McGreal in Washington, The Guardian/UK
End of the World!

AMERICAN DUMMIES

September 5, 2009

doodoocaacaapoopoo

 RECENT NEWS FROM THE FRONT:

Published on Thursday, September 3, 2009 by the Associated PressWe Are Heading Towards an Abyss’ U.N. chief tells 150 governments that time running out on climate change.  GENEVA – U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon told a meeting of some 150 governments on Thursday that time is running out for a new climate deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/03

Published on Friday, September 4, 2009 by The Guardian/UK Global Warming Has Made Arctic Summers Hottest for 2,000 Years. The Arctic has warmed as a result of climate change, despite the Earth being farther from the sun during summer months by Ian Sample.  Warming as a result of increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has overwhelmed a millennia-long cycle of natural cooling in the Arctic, raising temperatures in the region to their highest for at least 2,000 years, according to a report.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/04-3

Published on Friday, September 4, 2009 by The Guardian/UK Current Economic Growth Model Is ‘Immoral’, Says Prescott. With the world’s population growing to nine million by 2050, Britain’s former deputy PM predicts far more crucial and complex talks in Copenhagen than in Kyoto by Jonathan Watts.  John Prescott, the former UK climate negotiator, called on developed nations today to accept a new model of economic growth that would create a more equitable spread of carbon emissions in the world. Speaking to the Guardian in Beijing, Prescott said talks at Copenhagen would probably not be decided until an 11th-hour crisis, but that no global consensus could be reached without a fairer spread of emissions.

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/09/04-8

Verizon Wireless Faces Ire Over Mountaintop Removal Rally

Currently, Verizon Wireless is cosponsoring a pro-mountaintop-removal, anti-climate, anti-union Labor Day rally — and the Center for Biological Diversity is leading a pressure campaign to compel a quick about-face. Massey Energy’s “Friends of America” rally, to be held atop a former surface mine in West Virginia next Monday, will cheer for the devastating practice of mountaintop-removal coal mining, which blows up mountains and chokes waterways with debris in Appalachian habitat. The rally, organized by coal giant Massey Energy, will guest-star global warming denier Lord Christopher Monckton, and boasts an on-site anti-climate legislation petition to sign. Further, the rally’s Web site homepage shockingly features the company’s CEO on video accusing “environmental extremists” of destroying jobs by opposing mountaintop removal. (Meanwhile, the rally is competing with the nearby 71st annual United Coal Workers of America Labor Day celebration for attendees.)

But thanks to the Center’s immediate leap into action and bold national grassroots campaign, Verizon Wireless may be losing more than a few of its 87 million customers: Thousands of them are asking, Can you hear us now? and pledging to spend their money with their conscience. On August 30, the Center notified Verizon Wireless’ CEO in no uncertain terms that Verizon must withdraw support for the rally and mountaintop removal or we’d have to tell our 225,000 supporters why we left their pro-coal, anti-environmentalist, anti-union company. Now we’ve joined forces with CREDO Action, and in just three days our concerned citizens submitted 69,000 letters and made hundreds of phone calls to Verizon telling it to drop the rally.

Join us in commanding Verizon Wireless to withdraw its sponsorship and read more about our opposition in Advertizing Age. Help submit more than 100,000 letters by Labor Day — join the cause on Facebook, tweet about Verizon, and learn why Grist magazine calls Massey’s CEO “the scariest polluter in America” in this New York Times piece.

CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY.

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/

Tip o' the hat to ALL HAT NO CATTLE: Watching the Cons in Conservatism.

Tip o' the hat to ALL HAT NO CATTLE: Watching the Cons in Conservatism.

ONE NIGHT

July 30, 2009

Old Glory

Here is a tale from “Sidelong Glances:

One night while I was a Third Class Petty Officer in the Naval Security Group, stationed on Guam at Anderson Air Base, doing courier duty during the Vietnamese War, we briefed the usual officer – a lieutenant jg (junior grade, USN) to carry the manifest for the security messages in their canvas bag; and chose a First Class Petty Officer (USN) who was 8 hours out of the Mekong Delta to carry the .45-caliber Army Colt automatic to guard the materials.  It all went bing-bang-boom.  Routine stuff.

It was the mid-watch: midnight to 8 a.m., my least favorite.  I was on duty with Lieutenant J.G. Hardman, a Rear Admiral’s son in a concrete cinderblock building with a great big, massive steel vault to hold the security material, when suddenly, there came a banging on our door.

I looked through the peephole to see a Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Air Force and six APs (Air Force Police) armed with M-16’s.  The Lt. Colonel looked pissed and the APs looked grim.  I told Hardman what was out there.

“For God’s sake, open up!” he said.

I did so.  The Lt. Colonel glanced at me and said to Hardman,

“I’m the Duty Officer tonight.  I have nine aircraft to get in and out.  You people have a man on an aircraft with a .45.  He’s threatening to kill anyone who comes close to the plane.  If you people don’t take him out, I will.”

Hardman gulped and said,

“Legry, handle that.”

I gulped.  My mind was going a mile a minute.  We had just been issued .38 “Police Special” Smith & Wesson revolvers – the enlisted got long barrels, because we were supposed to hit something, and the officers got Jack Webb Dragnet stubbies because – I figure – they were just supposed to look cool.  But stubbies now had an advantage over the long barrel.

“Mr. Hardman, can I borrow your .38 stubby?” I asked.

“Of course,” he said, “Sure.”  He practically shoved the piece at me.  I had the hit he wanted me to go do the job as fast as possible so the Lt. Colonel wouldn’t yell at him anymore – echoes of Admiral Daddy?

I stuffed the stubby into the right pocket of my work jacket, my finger an instant away from the trigger, and (I hope to tell you) the cylinder fully loaded, and went down to the flight line.

I was the center of interest as the Lt. Colonel, APs, and Hardman watched with bemused excitement (maybe somebody would get shot!), but I wasn’t interested.  I was focused on not getting shot.

You have to make an effort to see this scene.

It’s dead black on a warm tropical Pacific night – the heart of the graveyard watch, maybe three in the morning.  The only illumination is electric spots on the airfield.  Inside a circle of light is the aircraft with the First Class poised in front of the cargo hatch, alert as a spooked cat, the .45 held in ready position.  Outside the circle of light are the baggage carts (there are a lot of fellows going home on this flight, lots of baggage), half-circled like a wagon train awaiting Indian attack, and behind all of those vehicles are crouching, cringing Guamanian baggage handlers, praying to god that they are not tall enough to be the outstanding target for the first round.

What to do?  I sauntered – yes, literally sauntered – out into the circle of light to reveal myself.  Inside, I’m ready to hit the deck.

“Do you remember me?” I asked the First Class.  “I’m one of the guys who just briefed you.”

“Yeah,” he says, and I can tell he’s relieved.  I think, he thinks, the Guamanians are VietnameseAsians, yellow-brown men are all suspect.  This guy just came out of the hottest zone in the Delta nine hours ago; he’s still in combat.  These baggage guys could be Cong.

“Can I come over and talk?” I ask like a friend.  All this time, and all throughout, I’ve got my finger on the trigger of that stubby .38 in my right coat pocket.  It’s pointed straight at his heart.  I’m thinking if I get close enough, I will put this guy’s lights out, if he makes a fraction of a hostile move.

“Please!” he says, and I can tell he’s truly scared.  My sympathy for him charges.  I walk straight toward him –slow and measured – I don’t want to spook him.  I get close.  I say,

“Hey, I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I guess they forgot to tell you something when they briefed you.”

“Oh?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I say.  “I’m supposed to come down here and relieve you and you’re supposed to go back to the shack and do whatever.”

“Oh?” he says.

“Yeah,” I say.  “I’ll take the piece and stand the guard until you get back.”  He looks incredibly relieved.  He surrenders the piece gratefully and I resist a heartfelt sigh.  That damned big-barrel .45 has been in the middle of my chest since I started this walk.

He walks away to get whatever he “missed” at the briefing.  I watch the APs close around him like bears around raw meat.

I signal to the baggage handlers.  Come do your thing and they come, relieved, happy.

It nags me.  I think, the poor SOB.  He just got out of hell, he’s trying to do his duty, he’s scared out of his mind, and now his countrymen are arresting him.

I feel sorry for him to this day.  I hope he got in and out of the bear’s mouth fast and clean, but I will never know.  I hope he got home okay.  I did give my own back to Hardman later, but that’s another story.

So, many years later, waiting in Coos Bay for a snowbound bus to arrive from Bend, Oregon, I struck up conversation with a young veteran who was working in a Veteran’s Hospital.  He was an Iraq War vet – a mortar man with two tours behind him and a discharge for medical reasons.  His nerves were shot.  He was helping other vets struggling to recover some semblance of normalcy after shocking physical injuries.  He told me that he did not go to therapy.  He’d gone through a tough time and he had nightmares and that was just the way of it, wasn’t it?  So, I told him about that night on the airfield so many years ago.  Told him about my own trauma.  Told him about the genuine relief it was to share those things with others who had endured similar or worse – definitely worse, for those people knew things that made my own experience dim in comparison.  I told him about wondering if that young sailor had ever made it home from the Mekong.  It touched this young Iraq War vet in ways I could not feel.  I saw it in his eyes, and later, when I stood in line waiting to board my bus, I saw him looking at me, and our eyes met, and he smiled, and I saw the same relief that had been in that First Class Petty Officer’s eyes so many years before when I took the .45 from his hands, and sent him to his fate.

I guess that’s what inspires me to recall this today: my own responsibility, my own need to lay down the spear and come home.

It really is time to end the war.  All war.  Jl: 7-09

ONE LINK:

Sen. Russ Feingold: White House Is Whistling Past Afghan Graveyard By Jeremy Scahill, The Nation. Posted July 30, 2009.  In 2001, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., famously and courageously stood up as the lone senator to vote against the Patriot Act.  On July 21, 2009, he did it again, casting the lone vote opposing Sen. Joe Lieberman’s, I-Conn., amendment to the 2010 Defense Authorization bill that immediately authorizes an expansion of the military by 30,000 troops. In an exclusive interview with The Nation, Feingold says he “did not believe it was in the best interest of our troops or our national security.” The measure passed 93-1.

http://www.alternet.org/world/141606/sen._russ_feingold%3A_white_house_is_whistling_past_afghan_graveyard_/

Never Again!

ENVIRONMENT-POPULATION JUMBOPAK

July 6, 2009
Rising Tide.

Rising Tide.

Today’s post is a letter submitted to the Editor of Willamette Week in Portland, Oregon, January 21, 1999 – a time capsule from the last millennium.  It reveals how far we have come in such a short time.  Ya think?

Dear Editor: 

On the eve of the Year 2000 there is no doubt that environmental alarms are well founded.

The front page of the Friday, July 25, 1997 Oregonian announced, “Scientist delivers warning on climate.”  President Clinton launched a “nationwide campaign about the issue, saying the ‘overwhelming balance of evidence and scientific opinion is that it is no longer a theory but now a fact that global warming is real.”  Complete with “rising sea levels and glacial melting.”

Seen from outer space, poor, old Earth has mangeDeserts replace forests and lumber interests tell us they must cut more trees to keep the economy alive and loggers’ jobs; we must “balance” economy and environment; but it’s easy to see who’s got the biscuit.  In truth, the lumber interests eliminated jobs by automating destruction of the forests.  Industry ‘experts’ know that fact is disposable to theory.  They tell us that ‘careful management‘ will replace Old Growth; timber company t.v. ads show vast green stretches of pristine managed forest.  What we should know is what do all of the forests managed by all of the timber companies look like in aggregate?

Taken in cumulated terms, the timber companies are working against posterity around the world.  In fact the Old Growth forests are almost gone in Oregon and California as well as in Brazil.  The last clear-cut rape of all the Old Growth left will not save the logger’s lifestyle, but once the forest is gone, so goes the breathing apparatus for the entire planet.

In 1994, the Smithsonian‘s Wilson Quarterly stated, “Some of the environmental changes may produce irreversible damage to the Earth’s capacity to sustain life.”  The island of Tobago in the Caribbean is being inundated by 3-4 feet per year (ten times faster than ten years ago) and is expected to lose 30-40 feet per year in the next ten.  “Science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world.”

Which brings up the appalling fact that many cities are developing public housing in floodplains.  It may be just in time for property developers to cash in before the land goes under.  Will we, the dense public, be invited to bail out subsequently sinking subsidized housing?  Will we eventually build seawalls thirty feet high at public expense to protect uninsurable money pits?

As to population, experts predict twice as many people in the United States by the year 2050.  More babies are being born today than during the so-called “Baby-Boomer” generation and we ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!  The ridiculous taboos around the issue of human population – usually “politically correct” arguments of small practical value – are a direct threat to our own dear, precious, misdirected, unthinking selves.  We’re breeding ourselves out of room.

Our planet has a limit to the life it can sustain.  It must function within a specific and fairly narrow range of environmental limits. In this constraint, the majority of Americans trashes rather than recycles, and eats, drinks and drives too damned much, ignorant of context, and in absolute poverty of conclusion.

No brainer: unchecked growth demands greater and greater amounts of shrinking resources.  The scale of many of our dilemmas – e.g. public health and housing – is attributable to too many people competing for too few resources in too small a space.  It would seem, therefore, that some education and some action on this issue might be in order.  Yet, religious institutions militantly urge membership to procreate, and sponsor armies of child-producing sectarian immigrantsBusiness leadership focuses on lower wages, larger markets and plentiful cheap labor.  Timorous local, state and federal elected leaders bicker over tax-funded population education, and resist tax-funded birth prevention.  We argue over sex education, birth control, and abortion while our overcrowded house burns down.

However, the nation has embarked on the biggest prison-building program in its history, even as the hard crime rate falls.  This may be due to “effective community policing,” but it is also systematic suppression of a youthful surplus male underclass without family wage jobs.  Statistically, economic development largely benefits a relatively small group of players: three-fourths of the people grin and bear eroding livability, falling wages and rising prices in a rat race fueled by non-productive speculation.  We have, created whole new crimes – e.g. “simple” marijuana possession – and longer “minimum” sentences to keep our disaffected unemployed off our city streets.

For many leaders, there is no apparent alternative.  Most business, elected and mainstream media leadership extols an almost mystical faith in “growth,” pursuing mythical future taxes that can never catch up with the infrastructure stresses the growth produces – particularly as corporately manipulated voters cut off tax money via “popular” ballot initiatives.

In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote in the Power Elite: 

“Two things are needed in a democracy: articulate and knowledgeable publics, and political leaders who, if not men of reason, are at least reasonably responsible to such knowledgeable publics as exist.  Such a public and such leaders – either of power or of knowledge – do not now prevail, and knowledge does not now have democratic relevance in America.”

The rich are generally blind or indifferent to the social consequences of ignoring the welfare of the general citizenry.  In the end, we all pay for their selfish indifference.  If we, the people don’t get smart pretty quickly, we, the people will perish much sooner than expected, and NOT due to any particular plan, but simply because of plain old human selfishness and self-deception.

The time for each one to teach one, each one to reach one, is NOW.

 July 6, 2009:

 Act.  There may be no result in your lifetime, but without action, there will be no result at all.” – Mahatma Gandhi.

 

Light at the End of the Tunnel.
Light at the End of the Tunnel.

INVOLVED AND INFORMED (essential links):

http://www.wunderground.com/

Weather Underground is committed to delivering the most reliable, accurate weather information possible. Our state-of-the-art technology monitors conditions and forecasts for locations across the world, so you’ll always find the weather information that you need.

http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/

The Newseum displays these daily newspaper front pages in their original, unedited form. Some front pages may contain material that is objectionable to some visitors. Viewer discretion is advised.

http://www.poodwaddle.com/worldclock.swf

World Clock: time, and real-time statistics: population, death, illness, environment, energy, us crimes, food, more.

http://www.nrdc.org/

The Natural Resources Defense Council works to protect wildlife and wild places and to ensure a healthy environment for all life on earth.

http://www.sierraclub.org/

Since 1892, the Sierra Club has been working to protect communities, wild places, and the planet itself. We are the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organization in the United States.

http://www.wecansolveit.org/

WE are 2,313, 499 people determined to Solve the Climate Crisis and Repower America with 100% clean electricity within 10 years.”  The We Campaign is a project of The Alliance for Climate Protection — a nonprofit, nonpartisan effort founded by Nobel laureate and former Vice President Al Gore.  The goal of the Alliance is to build a movement that creates the political will to solve the climate crisis — in part through repowering America with 100 percent of its electricity from clean energy sources within 10 years.  Our economy, national security, and climate can’t afford to wait.

http://www.defenders.org/index.php

Founded in 1947, Defenders of Wildlife is one of the country’s leaders in science-based, results-oriented wildlife conservation. We stand out in our commitment to saving imperiled wildlife and championing the Endangered Species Act, the landmark law that protects them.