Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Raising My Country’s Flag

Today is the 234th birthday of the United States of America and I’m struggling to articulate my feelings and concerns for my country.   This morning like millions of Americans I walked outside to hoist the flag to honor my country and convey support for its principles and ideals.  I still believe in those principles and ideals but I am having a tremendous crisis of faith on how those principles and ideals are put into action.

When I removed the flag from its draw my first thought was a tinge of personal shame because the flag was not properly folded in the requisite three star triangle.  This former Boy Scout knew of the proper way to fold the flag but when I lowered it after Memorial Day I had no one to assist me in the proper way to fold it.    It takes two people working in common purpose to accomplish the task.  One to fold while the other holds the flag taut.  It brought to mind my country’s ossified two party systems inability to administer effective governance.   Its time we call other care takers who have the conscience and maturity to sacrifice partisanship for the greater good of the country.

Holding the flag I was struck by its age.  I date the flag to the late 40’s.  The flag was given to me by my father and has only 48 stars.  When it was sewn Alaska and Hawaii had yet to join the grand union of states.  They would join in 59 four years after my birth. This flag boasts strong double stitches that holds the stars, stripes and blue field securely in place.  A united conglomeration of shapes, symbols and colors manufactured by top notch craftsmen guided in their work by care and skill to assure quality.  I surmise that  the workers who crafted this flag were inspired by a love of country and pride of workmanship now long gone.  Blue collar workers and the unions that represented them have been crushed by the immutable power of global capital.  In the greater cause of profits workplaces have been dismantled and livelihoods off shored to the outer regions of the global economy.  I wonder how the 11,000,000 people who are unemployed today perceive our flag this morning?  Surely most will  bless the grace of daily bread that is placed on their table today.  I  also wonder if the big time financiers who profit from grief will pause with a moment of reflection during their extravagant soirees on the source of their wealth and the price of their amusements.

My flag has but 48 stars.  In my short lifetime of 54 years my country granted statehood to two states.  Fifty states is a rounded number suggesting a divine hand that predetermined a Pax Americana halfway to a celestial century mark.   I worry that this glorious symbol of Federalism is at danger of unraveling again.    Texas, Alaska, Arizona and a few other stars  have expressed a desire to withdraw their stars from the sacred blue field of our flag.  Seditious murmurs from opportunistic politicians.  They eagerly dip their political cookies into the toxic brew stewed up by pissed off  Teabaggers and other deranged Falangists.  This new confederacy condemns them.  They complain that the rights of individual states are being trampled upon by an oppressive authoritarian government.  They shout  prayers from rooftops, wave hand guns, tote rifles and salute the Don’t Tread On Me flag.  They want the right to be left alone to create a personal version of a world unencumbered by responsibility to anything but a selfish self.  They damn the collective needs of the union and condemn its necessity to operate as an interconnected link in a world fraternity of nations.  The ability to express an  unencumbered will in the pursuit of self interest is their idea of citizenship.  They are prepared to defend it with guns and preemptive aggression to assert the right of the stronger.  They prefer barbarity to civility, selfishness to fraternity, personal affectation to civil rights, sameness to diversity, vigilante tribunals to social justice.

With care and reverence I wrapped the flag around my tree, envisioning flag draped coffins being off loaded from C-130 transport planes onto the impersonal gray tarmac of  a military airbase in Dover.  These selfless souls are reunited with the ground of the land they gave their last full measure of their devotion offered up to senseless conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The fallen will receive a reverence in death that our politicians failed to offer them in life by condemning them to a wasteful demise, wholly avoidable and absolutely unnecessary.  No these unfortunate patriots have not shed their blood in vain.  Their stars will forever burn bright on a blue field of valor as condemnation of the blasphemous  chicken hawks whose screaming squawks for war are nothing but hallow patriotic pronouncements spoken to secure political careers and profit financial backers.

Arranging the flag around the tree the bark of the Black Oak clings to the fabric of Old Glory.  It allows me to run a finger along the long red strip at the base of the flag.  The blood shed for the cause of this flag continues to flow.  When will it ebb?  In the cause of this flag seemingly righteous blood mixes with the awful blood of innocents.  Both stain the hands and conscience of our nation.  My two sons just entering young adulthood  are  proud members of the armed forces.  One in the Navy the other in the Army.  Their blood is my blood.  They speak of  deployment to the “Sand Box” a euphemism for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A future raising of this flag lays on my brain like a nightmare, praying that their blood doesn’t stain the grim crimson of our national symbol.

Stepping back to examine if the flag is properly hung I notice a paint stain on the field of stripes.  The splotch of beige paint now darkly blanched was splashed from a careless paintbrush I used to coat the walls of my boyhood bedroom.  I did not take the proper precaution of removing the flag from the wall before proceeding with the task of painting.  It was a small blotch about the size of a couple of 50 cent pieces lying on a dresser drawer.  It reminds me of the gushing oil spill flowing into the pristine Gulf of Mexico.  This catastrophe will forever alter the ecology and lives of the many social and ecological communities that comprise the Gulf.  This stain will remain on our flag for many generations.  The dimensions of this disaster are still beyond measure or comprehension.  It threatens to forever alter the colorful fabric of our culture, economy and political lives.  The inexorable march of corporate power in pursuit of profit threatens to crush a sustainable human habitat.  We the people alone can call them to account and require that human needs take precedence over corporate greed.

Yet today is not the day for a recitation of what I believe to be wrong with my country.  Readers of this blog can click  any subject on the cloud tag a get my doubled barreled critique of America’s behavior in a rapidly changing world.  But I have been struggling for the past few days about a theme for today’s post.  And it finally came to me when I was dutifully hanging the flag on this meaningful day.  I really want to believe in the correctness and goodness of my country and its people.  Its my country warts and all.  The warts are growing big and uglier everyday.  My country and countrymen have lost their way.  Two seemingly endless and pointless wars, the economic debasement of  “The Great Recession”, the egregious assault on the delicate ecological communities of the Gulf of Mexico, a voracious Falangist movement, the juggernaut of corporatism, the continual erosion of civil liberties, careless concern for social justice and rapidly accelerating slide into an aggressive self seeking raises my sense of outrage.

As a boy growing up this flag hung on the wall of my room for many years.  I put it up on my wall when I was an adolescent still playing with toy soldiers.  I was enamored with national pride by America’s WWII triumphs, John Wayne war heroics and Victory at Sea news reels.  I was a staunch Cold Warrior.  During grammar school I imagined myself dying a hero’s death as I fell in the victory over the USSR’s Red Army at the decisive battle of Washington School.  That patriotic zeal would continue throughout most of the Vietnam War springing to attention at Sargent Barry Sadler’s Ballad of the Green Berets.  On Saturday evenings I would watch the  Channel 5 News.  I can still hear the solemn grimness of the haunting trumpet dirge as the weekly Honor Roll scrolled the names of the fallen from the conflict in Southeast Asia.

As we grow the meanings of symbols change.  Symbols can never remain immutably fixed because its subject changes.  Failure to understand  this the symbol becomes a fiction of stale dogma unconnected to a living reality of real living things in an ever changing world.   Inane nationalists content to swaddle themselves in the flag believe their fervor and force of statement is the test of love of country.   But in fact these unfortunates  trod a dangerous path and in fact pose the greatest risk to the continued wellness of our nations ideals.

As the Sixties gave way to the Seventies the meaning of my flag  evolved.  It became a symbol of  imperial power and distrusted authority as the Vietnam war  droned on.  It became a symbol of naked repression as it quelled urban rebellions.  It became a symbol of  reaction when assassins silenced beloved reform leaders.  It became a symbol of deadly suppression when the Ohio National Guard murdered students at Kent State.   this flag would evolve into the sacrilege of a Warholian commercial symbol.  To my horror this flag became a  weapon in the hands of white racists threatening to use it to impale an African American man during a school busing demonstration in Landsmark in Boston.  During college as my political activism grew, Peace flags, Earth Day flags, Liberation flags, Rainbow flags all captured my imagination and had profound personal meaning but they would never replace the preeminent position the American flag holds in my heart.

I wish my countrymen well on this July 4th.  I behold my incomplete, paint stained, 48 starred Old Glory.  Its in a proper place on a good and proper day.   The white colors tinged in a yellow fade its getting on in age.  But I have hope.  I take consolation from  a voice  resonating in my ear.  As a slight breeze ripples the posted colors I recognize the not so distant call of the great abolitionist Frederick Douglas.  He’s whispering “agitate, agitate, agitate”……..

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Born in the USA

Risk: democracy, civil liberties, country, culture

July 5, 2010 Posted by | class, culture, democracy, ecological, Federalism, LGBT, manufacturing, psychology, seasons, unions, war | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

American Evita

sarah-palin-legs-photoIs Sarah Palin the friendly and ever so lovely face of a new American Peronism? Is her resignation from office as Governor of Alaska the first step and necessary precondition of her coronation as titular head and leader of a new political party? Does it signal her desire to lead a movement that embraces the growing number of disaffected middle class Americans perplexed about their plunging standard of living and growing obsessively angered with insolvent and impotent government institutions inability to arrest the decline?

Everyday the institutions of government and constitutional law are being delegitimized by raucous Tea Partyers, abortion doctor assassins, family focus fanatics and political miscreants waving birth certificates screaming that they want their country back. We wrote about this back in October.  Please allow me to quote from our McCain’s Know Nothings post of 10/11/08.

“Sarah Palin’s masterful use of the rhetoric of division and suspicion “who is Barack Obama?” has stoked the ugly side of America’s political angst. The lipstick wearing attack dog has done her job well. She has skillfully tapped into voter sentiment that is frightened about their economic security, fed up with the self serving lies of our political leaders and furious about their powerlessness to exercise control to stop the radical changes occurring in their lives. The stasis of Bush Republicanism is being washed away in a tsunami of world events that is accelerating the pace of change and cultural transformation. Palin promises to change our inability to arrest the changes that are overwhelming Americans. Sarah’s minions just want it to stop. They want it to go away. They want it to stay the way things always were. America is on top. God is in his heaven and all is right with the world. They will accept nothing less then our full entitlement to the birthright of our American Exceptionalism; and unlike Easu we will not sell it or be tricked out of it by a fast talking Jacob that goes by the name of Barack.”

Sarah, “the barracuda” has a whole mythology springing up about her even as her pronouncements concerning vigilant hockey momdom (daughters teen pregnancy), pit bull fighter to the end (resignation as governor), irascible maverick (support of bridge to nowhere), impeccable governance ethics (improper use of state government funds) all paint a very different portrait of the super girl from Alaska. Her identity as the all American girl, who worked, rose and battled an establishment with nothing more then moxie and good old values has captured the hearts, support and imaginations of “real American’s” willing to fight against those seeking to undermine the values and ideals of our uniquely God blessed land.

Palin’s timely resignation stole the limelight from the Michael Jackson funereal spectacle; a nonstop orgy of media affectation that refused to let MJ’s troubled soul depart in peace.  Sarah’s announcement was a perfect foil and counterpoint to the ghoulish parade. Sarah’s photo op complete with overall fishing waders offered conclusive proof of how the still Governor of Alaska was working hard serving the needs of her constituents as her abandoned term of office was coming to a close. Sarah’s image of pulling in the nets bursting with sockeye could not have provided a more dramatic contrast to seeing MJ’s body bag being offloaded from a helicopter and placed into a ambulance for a trip to the Los Angeles morgue. It confirmed for her followers that Sarah’s way is filled with truth, light and a great catch as she stood beaming at the center of attention of a country obsessed with celebrity and a media that affirms their personal ethos du jour.

One of the reasons cited by Sarah for her resignation was that she was constantly under attack by the establishment. Sarah’s victimhood elicits empathy and a deep sense of identification from her countrymen. Middle America’s sense of victimization is quickly becoming its defining pathos.  Home foreclosures, job losses, bankruptcies, community instability and spiraling taxes are combustible issues ripping apart the social fabric of America’s middle class. The crushing pain is being expressed in a growing chorus of cries that Sarah’s political antenna is accurately attuned to. In turn, Sarah’s minions understand and validate her victimization that they believe she will overcome and triumph if she remains true to real American values. Persecuted Christians exhausted from the prolonged war on Christmas feel her pain. Family value proponents that yearn for a constitutional amendment to define marriage so as to exclude civil rights for the LGBT community are down with Sarah. Uber patriots who are convinced that terrorist lurk in the quiet shadows just off Main Street remain willing to cede their civil rights.  They also express a solid conviction to prosecute endless global wars as the only means to eradicate the terror threat  staunchly stand with  Sarah. Real American’s who live in a geography of anywhere USA that is not urban; or resides in an existential state of multicultural exclusion support Sarah. Those who are terrified by the hard edges of modernity and the difficult manageability of our complex society are arming themselves to the teeth to protect themselves from its ghostly specter take a cue from gun toting Sarah. And as Sarah’s supporters scream “drill baby drill” as a rallying cry to defend an expiring mode of life based upon the insatiable and unsustainable consumption of natural resources requiring the imperial projection of power and environmental degradation mindlessly shout “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah”.

Sarah, our self styled, self proclaimed maverick.  American’s steep themselves in the mythology of the outside gunslinger taking on established power elites to effect change. But I sense an alarming correlation that is closer to Leni Riefenstahl’s “Triumph of the Will” then Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea”. Individualism counts and boldness wins out in the end in Sarah’s political morality fairy tale. But I see little in the actual trajectory of her career or her political pronouncements that suggest that she is an unconventional politician willing to lay it on the line to take principled stand against the power elite. Sarah’s principled stances are driven by political opportunism rather then courage.

Yes, Sarah is a perfect victim. White, hockey mom from the rural region. Liberal elite city slickers hate her for who she is. But as Sean Hannity is fond of saying, “let you hearts not be troubled” because as the world continues to hate America for it’s values Sarah remains on watch.  She is a sentinel of our arsenal of democracy protecting the common folk, Joe six packers and wannabe plumbers. This woman who rose to heights in this male dominated world got great legs, sports a nice dew and is quick with a wink and a smile.  She has seduced America and as national dissatisfaction grows with governmental institutions unable to address economic malaise and cultural deterioration, nationalistic sentiment and Sarah’s popularity will rise.  Unlike our current President, Sarah is American to the bone. Palin’s physical place of birth may have been Idaho; but her resignation as governor may have born her again as a new political force to be reckoned with.

You Tube Music Video: Madonna, Don’t Cry for Me Argentina

Risk: politics, Peronism

July 23, 2009 Posted by | Obama, Palin, politics, recession, republicans | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Them There Eyes

“Can I call you Joe?” Sarah Palin asked. A smiling Joe Biden said, “sure”.

The junior partner of the Maverick Luchador tag team had entered the ring. You betcha she was ready.

She did a shout out to Alaskan Third Grade friends and punctuated it with a Garboesque wink.  Sarah saluted her peeps. She offered greetings of solidarity to all hockey moms yearning to be recognized and all Joe six packers apparently looking to get drunk. Its an intriguing political demographic that the party of big money and conservative values needs to bridge to keep hold of the White House. Has the GOP abandoned the Temperance vote and any active AA’ers trying to stay sober today? I question its wisdom given McCain’s abdication of six pack packing Michigan. If the team of Mavericks make their final stand by circling the wagons around the Focus on the Family Headquarters in Colorado Springs no drinking will be allowed.

Another wink and a smile from Sarah that scrappy rascal. She knows something that I don’t and she’s got half the country in on it. I get uneasy for not getting it. But she is a maverick, don’t ya know. And she’s from Alaska. Really, I hadn’t heard. But I do want to know what a maverick is, why we need one and wish to hear fewer proclamations on her governorship of Steward’s Folly. Sorry to be so nosy but I also want a little more information about what she knows about the world, America’s position in it and where Sarah wants to take it.

During the debate I imagined her supporters across the country letting out a collective sigh of relief. Sarah was able to put together a number of coherent and complete sentences. She recited her rehearsed lines with enthusiasm, alacrity and partisan zeal. Not always in the proper order to answer the posed question; but she did recite. It was as if the Arch-Angel Gabriel had grabbed a hold of her and commanded her to recite the gospel of Maverickism. Pull the cord on this Chatty Kathy’s back and hear how Maverickism will save our country from the bad people running the big government while slaying terrorists and assorted evil doers who hate us for our values and freedoms. She stayed on message. The same message that we have heard from W for the past 8 years.

As America watched Sarah on their giant flat screen plasma TVs I sensed a country desperate for an existential connection to a remote government that is more despised then understood, less trusted then condemned, less effective then irrelevant, less pertinent then useful, less representative then self-serving. I believe American’s have transfered its hope onto Sarah because she looks, feels, speaks and thinks more like us then Obama, Biden and McCain. She’s young, brash and ballsy and what American doesn’t worship those qualities? Sarah an American Evita that can tell our story because she is our story.

As Joe and Sarah jawed away, our elected officials were conspiring to flood the public treasury with a raft of IOUs that will accrue debt to generations of countrymen that are yet to be born. So as the politicians redistribute the national debt to future citizens we get to connect to our national destiny with a real life Alice. With Sarah we get to slip through the looking glass to explore a new national fantasy. We seek the banality of the familiar and remain desperate to find ourselves at the close of journey’s end. American’s need confirmation. We demand to be affirmed with a soothing rationalization that we are good people doing good things. Sarah assures us that we have found it in her. She is living proof and our fondest hope of our common American exceptionalism.

Refusing to answer questions put forth by the gotcha liberal media; Sarah repeated her maverick pronouncements. Don’t ya know she’s from Alaska? Sarah choose not to answer. She would only debate on her terms. She claimed her entitlement to live above the rules imposed by the evil liberal media as she asked her countrymen to take personal responsibility for their actions. A bit of a contradiction. I believe it to be an unfortunate contradiction because personal responsibility is a republican virtue that all American’s should emulate. But sadly this lipstick wearing hockey mom’s insistence on her radical entitlement bereft of any responsibility or accountability has been a hall mark of all recent republicanism. It is a dangerous behavior that has led this nation into our current mess of unmanageable debt, economic duress and the growing global isolation of America.

Yes she’s a plucky and sexy lipstick wearing hockey mom who couldn’t drive her kids to practice this week because she’s been too busy rehearsing her lines for this debate. Supported by her husband “the first iron dogging dude” we are regaled with tales of his circumnavigation of the arctic circle with nothing more then a 5 gallon can of hi test and a pound of free range moose jerky cured in his home built smoke house. Such characters of extreme normality performing extraordinary feats make it difficult for us to distinguish legend from myth. Spectacle trumps substance and a parade of heroes is nothing more then a pedestrian tramp through the local strip mall.

At the close of the debate I grew uneasy as Sarah seemed to use her 8 month old autistic child as a theatrical prop. Her older daughter is always seen dutifully carrying her infant brother on stage so she can lift his arm and wave it to adoring fans. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think a political debate is a suitable place for an 8 month old infant at 11:00PM. But Sarah’s a maverick and I guess thats what maverick’s do with their children. I hope she doesn’t mistake the child for a beanie baby and list it on ebay after the election.

So as America looks lovingly into Sarah’s eyes she winks back an impish encouragement. “Drill Baby Drill” Sarah cheers her full commitment to America’s future and extols the virtues of a national amnesia that asks her countrymen to forget about the past. She says let’s not fix blame lets fix the problem. In response, Joe Biden stated the past is prologue to the present. Wisdom is a child of experience, study and contemplation.

Sarah putting aside bipartisan dialog took the opportunity to incant a republican mantra and channel the ghost of Ronald Reagan from the 1980’s. Said Sarah, “there you go again Joe, bringing up the past.” Wink wink nod smile snicker. Unfortunately her timing was off on the delivery of this mother of all cliches. Thirty years to be exact. If only she waited a bit longer. A pause of silence. Some bit of reflection. Without some deliberation or assessment of where we are Sarah is well on her way to building a bridge from nowhere.

At this critical juncture in American history we cannot afford our leaders to turn a blind eye to the mistakes and disastrous stewardship of our past and current leaders. Americans must insist on leaders that have foresight based on an understanding of how we got to where we are and offer a clear vision that can lead America and its partners across a bridge to the future.

Our vigilance won’t allow us to be hoodwinked and suffer the truism that “a wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse.”

You Tube Music Video; Billie Holiday: Them There Eyes

Risk: One Heart Beat Away

October 4, 2008 Posted by | elections, jazz, Palin, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment