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

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

Il Duce’s Ghost

duceIl Duce’s ghost is restless. Summoned by the phantasmagorical fear of a people suffering from the multiple illnesses of a very sick nation, Il Duce’s ghost stalks the land. Raised from the grave by the craven babble of Talk Radio shills, pernicious corporate interests and a ruthless ruling oligarchy aided and abetted by complicit politicians bought on the cheap to act as their bagmen, Il Duce’s corpse twitters back to life.

As we count down to Harold Camping’s rapture date of 5/21/11, the frenetic fear of a collapsing world increasingly terrifies the masses. Religious fundamentalists of all stripes cry that modernity’s embrace of science and a culture of relativism is an abomination to the sight of God. The “Children of God” pine away about the erosion of the old values of the Old Time Religions; while the “Children of Enlightenment” fear that reason is quickly disappearing into a broken Hadron supercollider’s black hole of ignorance. One side is busy arming themselves in preparation for the coming battle of Armageddon while the other side lays up assets in their bank accounts to ride out the coming Day of Judgment. Il Duce is truly one of God’s favored. Anointed by fundamentalist TV preachers, he honors their creed and receives funding by Bible thumping wealth gospel believing businessmen because he promises to protects their God given fatted coffers. Only Il Duce can bring both sides together to sing praises in a divinely inspired choir.

The Federal Treasury paid a rich ransom to bankers to free our imaginations from the dread of the collapse of free market capitalism. Lately we hear murmurs that the nuke button still remains painfully close to the twitching fingers of fidgeting bankers. They threaten to shut down our tired and poor ATM networks and revoke our credit limits yearning for more debt. A strong dose of TARP II is the only known medicinal cure. Frenzied Tea Baggers scream their anger at a government intent on taxing the life blood out of its citizens so fat cat bankers can cash stupid money bonus checks. This insures that the syncopated beats of our capitalist heart continues to rock on. Il Duce is a skilled and gifted physician. He knows how to conduct the delicate procedures necessary to prevent coronary arrest. Il Duce alone knows the recipe to concoct a special brew of herbal teas. Its a powerful elixir that alleviates the caffeine induced head aches of Tea Bagger’s while keeping the circulation of our cholesterol challenged free markets flowing.

At town meetings, people in junk food fueled schizophrenic rants rave at impotent senators going through the motions of participatory democracy. The constituents insistent diatribes profess a love of country while they eagerly profane and condemn its democratic institutions. They say they are concerned about all the money being spent by the Feds. As deficit spending spirals into the trillions they shout “Who will pay for this?” and “Its unconscionable to saddle my kids and my grandchildren with this burden.” Perhaps. But we should also ask what are we doing to increase peace in a world rife with conflicts. Its just as unfair to ask our grandchildren to fight wars for which they had no grievance. Its also equally unjust to ask them to breathe air we polluted with chemicals or to drink water we spat in. I believe it is just to ask them to pay for our country’s infrastructure that all future generations will benefit from. They’ll need roads, water, hospitals and schools. I still cross bridges and traverse high ways and attend schools that were built by earlier generations. I drink water from aquifers and water systems that were built 100 years ago. New Yorkers ride in subways that were built by our great great grand parents.

Birthers are eager to de-legitimize the institutions of a democratic republic. They scream at congressmen that their actions are UnAmerican. They advise their representatives that they should read the constitution. Undoubtedly the culture of corruption consuming our politicians is a systemic disease badly in need of eradication. But emotional outbursts of Birthers shouting down representatives as they wave facsimiles of birth certificates, crying out “I want my country back” weakens the legitimacy of our government. The vehemence seems driven more by the fear of a person of color as president and the cultural transformation radically altering the ethnic landscape of America. Il Duce understands this anguish. It grieves him to see real Americans in such pain. He knows an ethnicity other then his own is unworthy to hold supreme office. The image of Il Duce is a venerated prism that must reflect the complexion of true Americans.

Federalism is not based on a two party system. It is based on a constitution complete with a Bill of Rights. It includes three independent branches of government that serve to check and balance the power of each branch. It is a system in dire need of reform but it has through our country’s history demonstrated its resilience and value as the best model to assure the semblance of a participatory democracy. It is the worthy expression of a free democratic peoples and it is certainly worthy of preservation. Federalism is not the problem. The problem lies in a compromised political process that elects entrapped representatives to office. Il Duce prefers obfuscation. Tyrants need to hold all the cards of power to smooth over the messy and uncomfortable edges of democratic republics. Its better and more expedient for a benevolent philosopher King to make the hard decisions that need to made.

The wisdom of Il Duce would be immediately put to use to make the hard choices to solve the health care problem vexing our country. The debate has stoked the howling yodelers of Talk Radio to turn up the volume of their vitriol. They have energized a nation of Valium saturated minds. They have woken millions from the torpor of ambivalence induced by the pharmaceutical industrial complex. This industry suspected of playing a role in the pharmacide of such cultural icons like Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson buys spots that run in continuous loop on the grim reality TV shows. The ads hammer home the lesson that instant relief from the nausea of daily life is just a shot away. Mothers little helper dispensed en masse is as close and quick as the drive-in window at Walmart.  All for a small deductible of $5.00.

There is something in the water. America’s rivers are polluted with bio active elements people discharge from their bodies due to the use of products from the pharmaceutical industrial complex. It pollutes our aquifers. Il Duce takes a long cool drink, as he marvels at the wonder of our industry and invites more to freely imbibe.

The twittering nonsense and bold Facebook lies Sarahcuda’s minions are willing to swallow so as not to be out of goose stepping rhythm with other Dittoheads clearly comforts Il Duce. The Confederacy is rising again. This confederacy transcends the easy boundaries of geographic definition. This confederacy consists of state militiamen, libertarians and ad hoc communities springing up and thriving along the fracture lines of the urban and rural divide. They are seeking an ideology that is palatable enough to coexist with armed militias, Tea Baggers, Christian Falangists, nationalists and other malcontents. Throw in an assortment of skinheads, Nazis, White Supremacists and other national socialists and you have the semblance of a profile of the new confederacy for a new millennium. They worship force and the right of the stronger, believing that militarism is the supreme arbiter of all things. They are eager to project that power.

Il Duce’s ghost is awake and walking across the land like Goya’s Colossus. Summoned by the sycophants of right wing Talk Radio, encouraged by the Bush administrations use of the constitution as toilet paper, risen by the growing militarism and nationalist sentiment and fed by the militant anger of a people that can no longer suffer the abuse of power by the ruling oligarchs, Il Duce’s ghost has awakened, complete with freshly pressed Blackshirt.   It is ever listening, waiting for the right moment to fully materialize amidst the savagery of a savage nation.

You Tube Video: Benito Mussolini

Risk: fascism, Federalism, democracy

August 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Hamilton Mortally Wounded in Weehawken Duel

We would be greatly remiss if we failed to mark this day, the 204th anniversary of the famous duel that mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton – our inspiration and the founder of the original SUM. Alexander Hamilton was an important visionary whose actions and ideas played a pivotal role in creating America. Alexander Hamilton was a forward looking progressive force, considered the father of industrial capitalism and an author of Federalism in the United States.

Hamilton along with James Madison and John Jay wrote the Federalist Papers to outline the form, function and philosophy of a strong central government and the necessity of Federalism to assure the survival of our yet to be born republic. Arguing against Federalism was Thomas Jefferson who advocated a more decentralized government that favored state sovereignty.

Sum2 takes its name from the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures (S.U.M.), S.U.M. was founded by Alexander Hamilton in 1793. The purpose of S.U.M was to promote useful manufacturing by using the water power generated by the Great Falls. S.U.M was the first planned industrial city in North America and should rightly be considered the cradle of industrial capitalism in North America. The area of S.U.M.’s founding was later incorporated as the City of Paterson New Jersey, which would grow to become a major industrial center from the 1800’s through World War 2. Paterson was a key munitions, textile and locomotive manufacturing center during the Civil War and thus played a pivotal role in helping preserve Alexander Hamilton’s conception of a Federalist Union of States.

Though the landscape of industrial capitalism has changed, Sum2 was founded to continue the useful and visionary work of the original S.U.M. Sum2 recognizes the strategic importance of manufacturing and will seek to build our business by creating proprietary content, innovative delivery capabilities and mission critical products to implement corporate sound practices for our clients.

How about some dueling banjos.

Risk: Federalism

July 11, 2008 Posted by | Federalism, folk, history, Sum2 | , , , , | Leave a comment