Sunday, December 19, 2010

Oh, Do Tell.

The United States Senate has just voted to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", the 17-year old controversial law that prevented openly gay people from serving the causes of empire and injustice in the United States Armed Forces.

I imagine indigenous people around the world at this moment, gathering at the gates to a thousand American military bases and torture chambers, cheering in relief that now, along with other Americans long denied their civil rights, homosexuals will legally be among the invading, occupying, destabilizing, violating, murdering forces of empire.

The military strength of the civilized has always relied on the disenfranchised to do its killing and become its cannon fodder. It doesn't surprise me that racist America is happy to have Blacks and Hispanics and Asians and Native Americans in its armed forces. It doesn't surprise me that patriarchal America is happy to have women in its armed forces. It doesn't surprise me that pseudo-Christian America is happy to have Muslims and Jews and Hindus and atheists in its armed forces. It doesn't surprise me that plutocratic America is happy to have the economically depressed in its armed forces.

But I have found it strange that a government willing to deny civil rights to gay people--that must therefore hate gay people as much as it does non-whites, non-males, non-Christians and the non-wealthy--did not want all the objects of its hatred to serve as its cannon fodder. One would think the government would want to out those to whom it accords lesser value and send them directly to the front lines.

But they didn't. Until now.

To be more accurate, it wasn't that homosexuals could not kill and be killed for the American empire. Rather, they were to do so without revealing their sexual orientation. That was the great compromise that noted friend-to-the-disenfranchised Bill Clinton made in 1993. With the law repealed, gay people in the US Armed Forces can take pride in who they are: trained killers.

Another clarification: it's not that now gays and lesbians will merely be pushed to the front lines. Sure they'll be allowed to murder and die for empire. But also, along with non-whites, non-males, non-Christians and the non-wealthy, non-heterosexuals will be welcome to perform support roles as nurses, doctors, clerks, engineers, and communications [sic] and language experts. They will be able to write press releases and fabricate stories. They will be able to operate drone aircraft from comfortable control rooms thousands of miles away from their targets. They will be able to spy on people. They will be able to negotiate the transportation and use of land mines and chemical and nuclear weapons. There are so many ways for devalued and marginalized Americans to join the racist, plutocratic, patriarchal, pseudo-Christian empire in devaluing and marginalizing people all over our beloved planet.

So congratulations to gays and lesbians in the United States, who are now poised to legally and proudly join the racially, economically, and religiously marginalized in openly participating in the American worldwide imperial bloodbath. You've come a long way, babies!

Monday, October 11, 2010


The United States still celebrates "Christopher Columbus Day," which makes a ton of sense to me. Columbus was a savage conquistador, after all, and the legacy of the conquistador is alive and well in the way the US perceives and treats the world.

So if we hate on that murderous bastard Columbus, we might equally hate on all conquistadors, regardless of where they killed and raped and infected and indoctrinated their way to bloody supremacy: Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine. It's all the same.

A more recent celebration on the same day, initiated in the US but celebrated in a number of other countries, is National Coming Out Day, centered on awareness of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues and civil rights for LGBT people. Even in places touted as "tolerant" LGBT people still find themselves marginalized, harried, denied equal rights, and subject to violence. Recent events in the US attest to this sad fact.

I imagine that an individual from any marginalized group would feel a particularly intense hatred of conquistadors in all their guises. What are conquistadors anyway but madmen who run roughshod over the lives of others, attempting to subjugate or destroy populations they fear, rob them of their identities, livelihoods, lifeways? Whether the endgame for conquistadors is real estate or religion or bloodsport or politics, the attitude is the same.

I believe that all people, regardless of their sexual orientation (or race, or gender, or age, or nationality, or ethnicity, or creed, or physical abilities) have equal rights in - and similar obligations to - their communities. These may be usurped by force, but that does not obviate them. So I am always confused when marginalized groups fight passionately for their rights at the expense of others: when they succumb to the consciousness of their oppressors.

This is a very real issue for the gay community in the US, where people struggling to be free (from violence and to openly express themselves and to enjoy the same rights and benefits of society as others) also struggle for the right to join the US Armed Forces. The USAF is always a force for subjegation and violence, irredeemably so, always, always, always. To conquer others is wrong. To agitate for the right to do so is also wrong.

I am an ally to LGBT people struggling for liberty, and to all people struggling against the conquistadors.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Less Mellow, More Harsh

I never do this, but I am posting an addendum to my previous piece "Harshing Your Mellow". I am posting this for anyone who considers my position to be somehow pessimistic (the epithets have started to flow in) or feels that small victories should be celebrated to help urge others on.


Though I often agree with the formulation of Antonio Gramsci: "I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will" I don't think the label pessimist is appropriate in this case. You call my opinions pessimistic because I am not cracking open champagne over the New York State Senate's vote in favor of an 11-month moratorium on new hydrofracking drilling permits. For you, this is a victory.

I think writing what I wrote--because someone, somewhere, may be comforted knowing there are others who see through the smoke & mirrors--is actually an act of optimism. Humankind is better than the shit we are in. It is civilization that is fucked. Witness cultures that are tens of thousands of years old interacting & surviving. I have great "faith" in humanity. Pessimist is a lazy epithet that I get over & over from people who hold me & my convictions at arm's-length, who are quicker to identify with our young culture (industrial civilization) than our ancient species. They mistake comfort for love.

Imagine, friend, that instead of soil & water & air we are discussing a person, perhaps you, perhaps your child. And instead of multinational drilling & extraction corporations we are discussing a serial rapist that you, or your child, is in some sort of relationship with.

The abuse has happened, is happening now & will continue to happen. We want it to stop, so we take our case to a judge, who rules that it must stop temporarily to study the ill effects the abuse has on you, or your child. It must stop IF a second & third judge agree. The second judge will consider this matter in a month's time. Meanwhile you, or your child, continue to be abused by this monster rapist. If the second judge rules in favor of temporarily halting the abuse (again: to study its ill effects!) a third judge will consider the matter. If the third judge agrees with the first & second judges (this could be months from now, meanwhile you, or your child, are being violated by this monster) you will have a legal respite until May. It is now August. You might have rape to look forward to in late spring.

But there will be loopholes. "Exploratory" abuse will continue. "Conventional" abuse will continue. You have friends in other states, where the laws are different, who continue to suffer from completely legal abusive relationships. The laws do not protect the victims, you see, they protect the abuser.

Drilling leases are still being signed. The abuse continues. I cannot & will not celebrate a sham victory that allows something that I love--in this case the soil & water & air--to continue to be abused. It is twisted pessimism to think so small as to celebrate, now, to think that this slap in the face is a sign of hope. Such thinking is why we're in this mess in the first place: we too often celebrate sham victories & fail to fight for substance. People around here are still drunk from celebrating Obama's campaign victory (to take one of my least favorite examples). So drunk, they fail to notice the torture chambers are still active (those are not screams of delight, friend), the bombs continue to drop (those are not celebratory fireworks), the prisons are overflowing, the deceit compounds.

If you or I were involved in a genuine struggle to prevent these multinational corporations from turning our planet into toxic swiss cheese, we would not stop to celebrate now. (I am reminded of what Bob Marley said when he chose to perform two days after being shot: "The people who are making this world worse are not taking a day off. How can I?") As I wrote yesterday, this possible moratorium, this sham victory, is written into the script for us. We decide if we want to change the script. All we have to do is wake up to the abuse that continues around us, call it what it is, & stop it.

There is so much to do & we have the power to do it. What could be more optimistic than that?

Thursday, August 05, 2010

"Harshing Your Mellow"

Interesting conversation with a stranger today. Cooling off with a $1 beer on the stoop of one of my favorite locals, I was asked how I felt about the August 4th passage in the New York State Senate of an 11-month moratorium on new hydrofracking permits in the Marcellus Shale. Hydrofracking is something that I have thought deeply about, and intermittently acted and advocated against, since I first learned of the issue late last year.

(To summarize: Hydrofracking (high volume slick water hydraulic fracturing) is a particularly toxic method of natural gas extraction. The Marcellus Shale formation, stretching from northern New York State to Pennsylvania and West Virginia, has been identified as especially ripe for drilling. In Pennsylvania (and many other states) where the laws have been more lax, residential tap water has been shown to be flammable due to the effects of gas drilling. Hydrofracking uses a toxic mix of secret, proprietary chemicals (owned by the vile assholes at Halliburton, of course), sand, and millions of gallons of water to fracture gas pockets in the shale and force precious fossil fuel to the surface. In the process, a portion of the toxic fluid remains in the ground, while most of it returns to the surface. This fluid is industrial, radioactive waste that is known to cause birth defects, brain damage and cancer. And so on and so forth.)

So what did I say to the stranger who wanted my opinion? I said that the drilling continues. So-called "exploratory" drilling, which is presumably not covered by the moratorium, allows ecocidal corporations to drill without environmental oversight. But whatever. The Senate vote will first be reviewed by the State Assembly in September. Who knows how long they will discuss the matter, while current and new drill sites poison the water table. When they are done discussing, the Governor will review the issue. (The current Governor, by most accounts, appears to be a bought-and-paid-for, inept dick.) Meanwhile, if I am deciphering the insane politics correctly, the moratorium does not go into effect. At all.

The stranger who had asked for my opinion of this wonderful news countered with something about how "we did all we can" and "it worked" and the Senate vote "offers some hope." To which I responded that "we" did not do all we can. The main thrust of public effort on this issue has been political, and is moving in typical sludge-like political time. But the Earth cannot wait. I responded with the thought that "we" did all we wanted. Were we to do all we can, "we" might have slashed the throats of ecocidal maniacs willing to drill (to go to one extreme), or "we" might have set their machines on fire, or monkey-wrenched them to uselessness, or blockaded drill sites. I was not overtly advocating such behavior. I was pointing out the gulf that exists between what was done and what could be done. What was done was legal and sanctioned by the same forces ready to destroy the soil, water, and air tomorrow for a buck today. Calling for a moratorium, and maybe getting it passed (later, maybe, and perhaps with a shit ton of loopholes, why not, that's how this garbage always goes down) was already in the script.

There is a bottom line. What is it? It is clean air, clean water, and clean soil. That is the minimum requirement for species survival (our species and the various species with which we interact). The fraudulent, corrupt, make-believe, quote-motherfucking-unquote democratic process is a wholly inadequate channel for protecting the bottom line. How many tragic reminders do folks need? How many oil spills? How many "severe climate events?" How many extinctions per goddamn day? How many asthma sufferers, cancer patients, victims of brain damage? It is not a victory when the ecocidal corporatists that would readily sell your survival down the toxic river set the terms of your victory. (Hope & Change, anyone? I bet the hundreds of thousands of mothers and children killed during the Bush/Obama Imperial holocaust in Iraq are celebrating in their irradiated graves over President Peaceprize's announcement earlier today of the end of U.S. combat operations in their former Earthly home.)

Back to the stoop, and my friendly conversation. I added that there ought to be in place an "underground railroad" for heroic people dubbed "eco-terrorists", animal liberationists, monkey-wrenchers and so on. Not everyone will stand up, bodily, to the engines of war against the Earth. But when such folks do, and when they are on the run, they deserve our protection physically, legally, rhetorically, philosophically, spiritually.

The stranger, who claimed to be a 30-year veteran of anti-nuclear activism, then announced (like a perfect, left-liberal fauxgressive) that I was "harshing his mellow." Which was just fine by me. Fuck his fucking mellow. People sometimes ask me why I am so angry. I want to know why those same people aren't.