Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Making The Best Of The Toxic

The photo, taken by my daughter Ilona, is of the toxic iron/aluminum mix constantly flowing out of an abandoned coal mine at Snow Fork, Ohio. Snow Fork is the most heavily polluted stream in the Monday Creek watershed. A look at what it takes to clean it up is at this pdf .

There is pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is rapture in the lonely shore,
There is society where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music is its roar.
I love not man the less, but nature more.

---Lord Byron

In my middle years I became fond of the Way
And made my home in the foothills of South Mountain.
When the spirit moves me I go off by myself
To see things that I alone must see.
I follow the stream to the source,
And sitting there, watch for the moment
When clouds rise up. Or I may meet a woodsman;
We talk and laugh and forget about going home.

---Wang Wei

To establish ourselves amid perfect emptiness in a single flash is the essence of wisdom.

---Dhammapada Sutra

When the company moves on to---uhhh, greener pastures and meadows, it seems as if the taxpayer gets handed the bill for cleanup and care for displaced workers. I don't know who thinks this is such a great system. I know there's nobody cheerfully cleaning up any mess I may leave out from day to day. But then, I guess I don't provide wages to people for jobs that create my mess. I guess that must be the secret of success and wealth.

I suppose there are some companies that clean up the mess, and maybe even do it out of gratitude to a community that provided workers---rather than for a tax incentive. But the coal companies didn't in Appalachia, and the people left behind, many lured from homes elsewhere, sometimes struggle for generations to get back on their feet. That people eventually drink the water from Snow Fork is a testament to what can be done---but it's costly.

In other areas where coal was king around where I live, people are turning their legacies into historical projects. At New Straitsville, there's a cave where disgruntled workers huddled to form a union, and the United Mineworkers was born. Now there's a park and museum at the beautiful site. Inside you can learn about a misguided job action that purposely set a fire in the mine 125 years ago, and it's still burning today.

Up the road apiece at Shawnee, a place that once was a boom town is rebuilding. Grants are needed and slowly they are gathering. The architecture at Shawnee is unique and amazing, but the town is very poor and first the people need to become inspired. An astonishing theater at Shawnee is being restored, but it takes years and hundreds of thousands of dollars to do something like that. If it gets done it will be a showplace for the whole region. The owners run a giftshop across the street, and you should stop by.

These are a couple of the towns of a ravaged area becoming known as the Little Cities of the Forest...or of the Black Diamonds. Chunks of coal used to be called black diamonds when they were the main fuel of US industrialization. Since the State ended up with a lot of the land, Ohio has established state forests these past 70 years for recreation and hiking. The museums and restorations are coming along as people regain the pride they have for these towns, many of them built by the companies but now Home for 3 generations.

In neighboring Pennsylvania we hear about another approach. Erik Reece, who teaches at the University of Kentucky, has written about radical strip mining over the last few years. Most people in coal country know his name by now, because he has brought so many Appalachian problems to national attention. He has a new article in the current issue of the Orion magazine, and it's about turning the mess into art...which transformation takes quite a stretch~~~'s a photograph there to illustrate the article, and some nice comments. There's also a column of ways you can get involved in such restoration if you're interested.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

An Open Letter To Amy Goodman

The photo shows David Rockefeller at the 2005 annual Bilderberg conference held that year in the Dorint Sofitel Seehotel Überfahrt in Rottach-Egern, Bavaria, Munich, Germany.
They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.

---Benjamin Franklin

Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the accidental opinion of a day. But a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and pursued unalterably through every change of ministers (administrations), too plainly proves a deliberate systematic plan of reducing us to slavery.

---Thomas Jefferson

For more than a century, ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as "internationalists" and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure---one world, if you will. If that's the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.

---David Rockefeller
from his Memoirs, p. 405
Poor Amy Goodman. People look to her, as we do to Bill Moyers, to speak unfettered truth to us. There are not many these days, who can punch through the myriad barriers to stand free and clear above the media storm. Like Moyers, Ms. Goodman has managed to get herself an interview kind of broadcast, which can be seen or heard in limited areas where demand is great. She's on the cover of The Progressive this month, and an interview with her is inside. Democracy Now! has a website where the programs can be streamed.

One man who has supported her and Public Radio for many years is Sean Madden. He's an American expatriate living now in East Sussex, UK, where he maintains an interesting blog called Mindful Living. His impressive credentials are listed there too. He blogs his concerns about the States, particularly political and economic, at, and it was here yesterday that he unloaded a pile of frustrations in an open letter.

I think he is not so much attacking Amy Goodman here, as he is sending her, and us, a perhaps startling wakeup call. Mr. Madden is not alone in doing this. Many of us have been screaming about Iraq, Bush, Dubai, global warming and all that for years. But with the bursting of the American housing bubble, talk of impending recession...and maybe worse, and yet another opportunity to bail out some banks, the scratchy voices of economists are joining the chorus of doom. Madden's rant (and a rant it is) to Democracy Now! is along these lines, but without a lot of jargon for which you need an accounting degree. I've included a couple links which I encourage you to follow. There are more hyperlinked at the original, all of which should explain why David Rockefeller illustrates this article.

Friday, January 25, 2008
An Open Letter to Amy Goodman

Sean M. Madden's open letter to Amy Goodman is in response to the following January 23rd Democracy Now! headline:

Economics Journalist Robert Kuttner on the "Most Serious Financial Crisis Since the Great Depression": "This is the Result of Rightwing Ideology and the Political Power of Wall Street"

Is it? Or is it the result of a one-world ideology shared amongst the elite of the so-called Right, the so-called Left, and not just Wall Street but an internationalist cabal of financiers, industrialists and in-pocket politicians who game everything from world financial markets to governments to the media, left, right and center? Conspiracy-deniers, read on and follow the links provided herein to refer to David Rockefeller's own admissions of just such a one-world internationalist cabal.

Dear Amy,

So many who are actively engaged in the search for truth in these turbulent times, as opposed to the overwhelming generality of "journalists" like yourself, have seen the (sociopolitical)economic collapse coming for ages.

Where were you?

The fundamentals were always there: finite energy resources peaking globally; a house-of-cards stock market dependent upon the myth of perpetual economic growth to fuel equity gains; a consumer society kept ignorant and deliberately divided in very large part by way of unspeakably cynical media obfuscation; endless military, covert and economic warfare designed to bankrupt the United States while transferring its (our) formerly great wealth into the hands of war profiteers who place politicians on a pedestal from which we are, ostensibly if not truly, free to choose every couple of years; a housing market which resembles the stock market already mentioned and which is, likewise, propped up by financial fraud; and, finally, unsustainable national and consumer debt levels meant to cripple the country and its people.

Where were you, Amy, to inform the public of these glaringly obvious fundamentals? Why were leading thinkers on such topics precluded from your programming, folk like Catherine Austin Fitts, Richard Heinberg, et al.?

You deign to give your goodhearted listener-viewer-readers the symptoms, never the fundamentals which would empower them. But isn't this exactly your role as a foundation- (and perhaps intelligence agency-, though as these share the internationalist foundations' one-world mission this is but a trivial distinction) funded media star? That is, to add yet another layer of obfuscation to keep Americans firm in their blind belief that the media is doing its job.

I learned this week that even your fellow phony progressive Gloria Steinem was funded by the CIA from her earliest days, and it would seem she remains unrepentant. Who'da thunk it from the Smith College-educated lefty?

But so goes the divide and conquer imperative.

Own (or create) both sides of any story and set one side against the other, at least in appearance, and so via this modern-day bread-and-circuses game of deception, keep the masses under heel.

One final fundamental which would empower your faithful followers if they were to do their own research:

The same high-finance internationalists who give us the sort of "philanthropic" foundations which fund Democracy Now!, Pacifica Radio and a host of other gatekeeper-of-the-left media outlets are, in the time-honored tradition, carrying out yet another (cf., 1929) "pump and dump" of the stock market -- brought about via the classic boom-bust business cycle deliberately cast by bankers and their Federal Reserve -- to loot the people.

In closing, here's (in Bill Moyers' words) "the unelected if indisputable chairman of the American Establishment" and "one of the most powerful, influential and richest men in America" who "sits at the hub of a vast network of financiers, industrialists and politicians whose reach encircles the globe", thanking servile "journalists" like yourself:

We are grateful to the Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine and other great publications whose directors have attended our meetings and respected their promises of discretion for almost forty years. It would have been impossible for us to develop our plan for the world if we had been subjected to the lights of publicity during those years. But, the world is now more sophisticated and prepared to march towards a world government. The supranational sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries.

~~~ David Rockefeller, Baden-Baden, Germany, 1991

Given the reach of Democracy Now!'s programming into the hearts and minds of millions of well-meaning Americans who think they're getting the real deal from you, and which of course makes your programming all the more insidious in its effect, there's little doubt that David Rockefeller must be oh-so-pleased to have you in hand as well, as he and his Council on Foreign Relations, Trilateral Commission and Bilderberg cohorts conspire to fulfil their vision of a one-world fascist tyranny by way of which they intend to lock in their power and profits by locking out democracy, national sovereignty and the world's people, including, yes, we the people of the United States of America.

For this cabal's loyalty lies beyond nationhood and patriotism, the latter being expedient in its pettiest form, however, as a means to keep the masses at their beck and call. Their loyalty lies, instead, in direct contraposition to the American dream and a world free from an elite cadre of power- and profit-obsessed tyrants.

Where, Amy, does your loyalty lie?

Sean M. Madden

In case you've never heard of Bilderberg and are doubting its relevancy and importance, here is a partial list of attendees to the 2007 conference last alphabetical order:

George Alogoskoufis, Minister of Economy and Finance (Greece)
Ali Babacan, Minister of Economic Affairs (Turkey)
Edward Balls, Economic Secretary to the Treasury (UK)
Francisco Pinto Balsemão, Chairman and CEO, IMPRESA, S.G.P.S.; Former Prime Minister (Portugal)
José M. Durão Barroso, President, European Commission (Portugal/International)
Franco Bernabé, Vice Chairman, Rothschild Europe (Italy)
Nicolas Beytout, Editor-in-Chief, Le Figaro (France)
Carl Bildt, Former Prime Minister (Sweden)
Hubert Burda, Publisher and CEO, Hubert Burda Media Holding (Belgium)
Philippe Camus, CEO, EADS (France)
Henri de Castries, Chairman of the Management Board and CEO, AXA (France)
Juan Luis Cebrian, Grupo PRISA media group (Spain)
Kenneth Clark, Member of Parliament (UK)
Timothy C. Collins, Senior Managing Director and CEO, Ripplewood Holdings, LLC (USA)
Bertrand Collomb, Chairman, Lafarge (France)
George A. David, Chairman, Coca-Cola H.B.C. S.A. (USA)
Kemal Dervis, Administrator, UNDP (Turkey)
Anders Eldrup, President, DONG A/S (Denmark)
John Elkann, Vice Chairman, Fiat S.p.A (Italy)
Martin S. Feldstein, President and CEO, National Bureau of Economic Research (USA)
Timothy F. Geithner, President and CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of New York (USA)
Paul A. Gigot, Editor of the Editorial Page, The Wall Street Journal (USA)
Dermot Gleeson, Chairman, AIB Group (Ireland)
Donald E. Graham, Chairman and CEO, The Washington Post Company (USA)
Victor Halberstadt, Professor of Economics, Leiden University; Former Honorary Secretary General of Bilderberg Meetings (The Netherlands)
Jean-Pierre Hansen, CEO, Suez-Tractebel S.A. (Belgium)
Richard N. Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations (USA)
Richard C. Holbrooke, Vice Chairman, Perseus, LLC (USA)
Jaap G. Hoop de Scheffer, Secretary General, NATO (The Netherlands/International)
Allan B. Hubbard, Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, Director National Economic Council (USA)
Josef Joffe, Publisher-Editor, Die Zeit (Germany)
James A. Johnson, Vice Chairman, Perseus, LLC (USA)
Vernon E. Jordan, Jr., Senior Managing Director, Lazard Frères & Co. LLC (USA)
Anatole Kaletsky, Editor at Large, The Times (UK)
John Kerr of Kinlochard, Deputy Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell plc (The Netherlands)
Henry A. Kissinger, Chairman, Kissinger Associates (USA)
Mustafa V. Koç, Chairman, Koç Holding A.S. (Turkey)
Fehmi Koru, Senior Writer, Yeni Safek (Turkey)
Bernard Kouchner, Minister of Foreign Affairs (France)
Henry R. Kravis, Founding Partner, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (USA)
Marie-Josée Kravis, Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute, Inc. (USA)
Neelie Kroes, Commissioner, European Commission (The Netherlands/International)
Ed Kronenburg, Director of the Private Office, NATO Headquarters (International)
William J. Luti, Special Assistant to the President for Defense Policy and Strategy, National Security Council (USA)
Jessica T. Mathews, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (USA)
Frank McKenna, Ambassador to the US, member Carlyle Group (Canada)
Thierry de Montbrial, President, French Institute for International Relations (France)
Mario Monti, President, Universita Commerciale Luigi Bocconi (Italy)
Craig J. Mundie, Chief Technical Officer Advanced Strategies and Policy, Microsoft Corporation (USA)
Egil Myklebust, Chairman of the Board of Directors SAS, Norsk Hydro ASA (Norway)
Matthias Nass, Deputy Editor, Die Zeit (Germany)
Adnrzej Olechowski, Leader Civic Platform (Poland)
Jorma Ollila, Chairman, Royal Dutch Shell plc/Nokia (Finland)
George Osborne, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer (UK)
Tommaso Padoa-Schioppa, Minister of Finance (Italy)
Richard N. Perle, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research (USA)
Heather Reisman, Chair and CEO, Indigo Books & Music Inc. (Canada)
David Rockefeller (USA)
Matías Rodriguez Inciarte, Executive Vice Chairman, Grupo Santander Bank, (Spain)
Dennis B. Ross, Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (USA)
Otto Schily, Former Minister of Interior Affairs; Member of Parliament; Member of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (Germany)
Jürgen E. Schrempp, Former Chairman of the Board of Management, DaimlerChrysler AG (Germany)
Tøger Seidenfaden, Executive Editor-in-Chief, Politiken (Denmark)
Peter D. Sutherland, Chairman, BP plc and Chairman, Goldman Sachs International (Ireland)
Giulio Tremonti, Vice President of the Chamber of Deputies (Italy)
Jean-Claude Trichet, Governor, European Central Bank (France/International)
John Vinocur, Senior Correspondent, International Herald Tribune (USA)
Jacob Wallenberg, Chairman, Investor AB (Sweden)
Martin H. Wolf, Associate Editor and Economics Commentator, The Financial Times (UK)
James D. Wolfensohn, Special Envoy for the Gaza Disengagement (USA)
Adrian D. Wooldridge, Foreign Correspondent, The EconomistRobert B. Zoellick, Deputy Secretary of State (USA)
Klaus Zumwinkel, Chairman of the Board of Management, Deutsche Post AG (USA)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Getting Drunk For Dr. King

This rather infamous picture was taken last year at a Gangsta Party on Martin Luther King Day at Clemson University.

Beginners, make your will firm and strong: twenty-four hours a day, wield the sword of positive energy to overcome demons and curses, cutting off psychological afflictions. Look continuously into a saying, and you will spontaneously discover the light of mind, containing heaven and earth, every land completely revealed.


When you try to set your mind to it, you miss it. When you stir your thoughts, you turn away from it. If you do not try and you do not stir, you are living in stagnant water. What do you do?

---Zen saying

The world is a passage back to God, that is the only reason it is here.

---Michael Murphy

A couple weeks ago I wrote on an interest that developed in childhood about faraway places and people of other nationalities and races. I titled it Full Frontal Feminism, after Jessica Valenti's book, because I credit that interest for my involvement in civil rights from the late 1950s on. Almost immediately I heard from a friend of mine here in Athens, who teaches American National Government, The Politics of Law, Constitutional Law, Constitutional Politics, Civil Liberties, and American Political Thought at Ohio University. She urged me to join college faculty around the country to ask students to stay away from "Race Parties" that were being planned by kids. Since they get a day off, why not party on and get loaded to celebrate?

I thought about it for a while and took a look at an invitation to one that was being set up off campus here. It said there'd be plenty of fried chicken and 40 ounce cans of malt liquor, and all the party-goer had to do was dress up as his or her favorite Black stereotype. OK, sounds very American collegiate...but is it any more wrong than that? Were people of Greek derivation angry about Toga Parties? Would I be mad about an Erik The Red party, at which kids would dress up as Swedes in fur rugs and helmets with buffalo horns sticking out---even though I know no Swede actually ever wore such a helmet? Didn't all peoples have to go through this crap when we came to the Land of the Free?

What was the intention of the party? That's what I wanted to know...I mean, besides an excuse to get blasted. Martin Luther King DID like fried chicken, and college kids like to dress up for theme parties. What's the harm---as long as there is a kind of tribute to the culture honored in some way? It bothers me that the minstrel tradition and Amos 'N' Andy, where whites dressed up in black-face (and even some blacks did to emphasize stereotypical features) and spoke in dialect, are looked down on. I mentioned in the previous article about the banning in the United States of Disney's Song Of The South. Isn't all that going too far?

But isn't this different? I admit that I've welcomed the Martin Luther King holiday to finish cleanup from Christmas and recover a bit more from that hectic season. However, our family always spends time listening to the words of Dr. King and usually music inspired by the work that he did and the mission of his life. We reflect on the fact he was assassinated for this here in this country, murdered as were other leaders who advocated Change during that time. I'm not at a place where I could go to a party about such things, unless it were a pretty serious gathering.

Nevertheless, I still wasn't ready to raise a stink about kids having parties. There is something to celebrate about what progress has been made for civil rights. I can get into partying about the contributions of Black Culture. I like it better if there are Black people there and we all enjoy each other. The best parties I ever went to were the mixed explorations we enjoyed in the mid-60s. Will I ever forget 50 people packed in my living room, dancing to 45s until dawn, and then out came the vacuum cleaner and everybody cleaned the whole place before going home? How about that barbecue at Shugie's front lawn in Greenwich, and the low lights and Arthur Prysock LPs indoors? Man, celebrating race can be beautiful!

But then I read an article in yesterday's Athens Post, the student newspaper of OU. It was written by a junior at the School of Journalism named Alissa Gilbert. It moved me. I emailed her at once and asked permission to paste it all over the Internet. She graciously consented. Here it is~~~

Maybe its Just Me: ‘Race parties’ stall progress, regardless of intentionPublished Wednesday, January 23, 2008.

Senseless, irrational, uncouth, disrespectful and appalling are just a few of the words that cannot begin to describe the numerous “race parties” thrown by Ohio University students this past weekend. The newsfeed on Facebook revealed that some students took the long weekend as an opportunity to have parties and dress up as “gangstas, skanks and broskies” celebrating the 40-year anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s April 1968 death with forty ounces of beer and fried chicken. “Hooray for MLK!” … really?

Where are we as a country, a generation and a school when students are that grossly inappropriate? Has education missed some students completely? I can only assume that students who live off-campus are at least juniors. That means that the people who host these parties are nearly out of college and still lack good judgment. Scary thought. Corporate America should be wary of the graduates who held these parties in the name of “harmless fun.” That’s right. Some hosts claimed the parties were severely misconstrued and, in actuality, just for fun and not intended to insult anyone.

However, “good intentions” are hardly an excuse for what is obviously insensitivity and ridicule (or plain racism, depending on the interpreter). I don’t see how the host of a race party could possibly imagine it to be anything other than offensive. The all-white invitees were asked to dress up as stereotypical black people. The intention is pretty clear. The impact has yet to be determined. Regardless, it sounds like a page ripped out of a 1940s history book, not a 2008 Facebook page.

Personally, I do not profess to be a gangsta, and I am certainly not a skank, but the purpose of the parties is to portray black people as a whole in a negative light during a weekend to commemorate one of the most famous African-Americans of all time. As a black person, no matter what weekend it is, I think this is absolutely shameful. Furthermore, if the hosts of one certain party were ignorant of the impact (how it would be received by the black community), they would not have promptly cancelled the party once their little festival was made public and questioned.

Again, I have to ask: Where are we? These outrageous parties are hardly exclusive to Ohio University. The Athens Messenger recently reported that these types of parties go on at Clemson University in Greenville, S.C, the University of Connecticut, the University of Texas at Austin, John Hopkins University and Tarleton State University in Texas.

Still, people young and old shrug their shoulders and claim that as a country we have to move on and forget about the past. I’m all about progress. However, when the past is roaring like a train to the present, it must be confronted. Parties like this will not be tolerated. They won’t be brushed aside as “students just having fun” or their hosts and attendees given the benefit of the doubt. These parties are not a joke.

What is the mind-set of students who know better? I will not insult the intelligence of a host or attendee by claiming that he or she had the best intention and didn’t foresee a conflict. No, I will determine that everyone involved knew exactly what he or she was doing and who would be offended. They knew. They didn’t care. OU’s latest race parties were boldly advertised on Facebook for the entire country to see.

If OU’s goal is diversity, if most students are striving to unite, if change is really what most Americans desire, then why are race parties like these going on and forcing people to drink the bitter water of the past? Maybe this past weekend will serve as an opportunity for students of all races to come together and determine not to let the ignorance of a few damage the bridges built by the many who have stepped out of their comfort zone while enrolled at this university.

There is a lesson here to be learned about intentions and being able to think through actions and the possible impact those actions will have on others. Malicious intent is rarely cited in the majority of offensive actions. Most of the time, the perpetrators “didn’t mean to offend anyone.” However, “not meaning to offend” is more of a reason to educate ourselves and think through our words and actions to ensure that our “good intentions” don’t result in a negative impact. We can’t always please everyone; some are easily offended and sometimes mistakes are made. However, I do believe there needs to be a continued, concerted and deliberate effort to unify because, clearly, carelessness and ignorance only tear apart. But maybe it’s just me.

Alissa Griffith is a junior journalism major. Send her an e-mail at .

Alissa also is E.W. Scripps School of Journalism Student Ambassador, a reporter and newswriter for WOUB, Chaplain and Public Relations Chair for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Vice President of the National Pan-Hellenic Council, and a member of the Black Student Communication Caucus. You can read another article by her from last week about Hillary Clinton here~~~

Miss Griffith mentions an article in the Athens Messenger about Race Parties. Here are 2~~~

There is an article in today's Post on this topic
and a letter to the editor

Friday, January 11, 2008

Full Frontal Feminism

The picture is of author Jessica Valenti and her book of last year which was written especially for young women of college age. The image illustrates an interview with her at Salon .

A man met a lad weeping. "What do you weep for?" he asked.
"I am weeping for my sins," said the lad.
"You must have little to do," said the man.
The next day they met again. Once more the lad was weeping. "Why do you weep now?" asked the man.
"I am weeping because I have nothing to eat," said the lad.
"I thought it would come to that," said the man.

---Robert Louis Stevenson

If you don't find God in the next person you meet, it's a waste of time looking for him further.

---Mohandas K. Gandhi

Drinking his morning tea
the monk is at peace.


I've been trying to think how I got interested in civil rights. I know it was all the way back in early childhood, even though there was no "movement" to speak of then nor was my normal white family particularly involved in politics or social problems. What I think did it was a Walt Disney movie from 1946, which would have put me in 1st grade. Anything Walt made was OK, even though Mom worried about the scary parts in every one. To this day my worst fears can be traced to Snow White running and lost in the forest, or the disappearance of Bambi's mother, or especially the transformation of Lampwick into a mule in Pinocchio---all done with animated shadows...and sound. Neverthless, as a family we saw everything that came out, and so it was with a film called Song Of The South.

By '46, Disney was experimenting with live action and much less animation interspersed. Song Of The South is about a little boy, played by Bobby Driscoll, who lives on a big plantation in the South, although I don't remember that it was exactly slavery times. At any rate, he wanders one day into the area where his father's black workers live and meets a man known as Uncle Remus, played by James Baskett. The whole situation is a setup for Remus to tell the kid 3 of the stories about Brer Rabbit, collected in the writings of Joel Chandler Harris. Of course we shift to cartoons then, but it's the only animation I remember...except for the bluebirds when Uncle Remus sings the Oscar-winning song from the film Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah.

OK, if you're wincing at some thoughts of stereotype here, you're not alone. In the 1960s, the NAACP protested to Disney about the movie...and it was withdrawn. The song and the Brer Rabbit sequences still can be found here and there, but apparently the full movie only can be purchased in Japan. A friend of mine found a couple of copies of video from there up in Canada, and smuggled them in. As a result, I can report I've seen Song Of The South fairly recently---and had the chance to share it with my kids. What impressed me as a child was the racial interaction in the movie, how Remus and the boy came to love each other, and the social repercussions their relationship eventually produced. But isn't this strange---that the very movie I credit with developing an interest in me in the civil rights of American citizens, and people around the world, is banned as being prejudicial?

Well leaving all that aside, what happened back in first grade is I became open to friendships with people of other races and nationalities. At the same time we were beginning to learn folk songs in music class at school. My uncle, who was essentially a farmer and a United Brethren, got me started in stamp collecting. The whole world and its peoples were opening up to me and I loved it. But I was made aware of problems. A black school friend named Ronnie followed me home one day, and Mom gave me a talk about different people staying and playing with their own "kind." I didn't like that, and so a year or 2 later I went home with another black kid named Morris. When we got to Metallic Avenue, I saw there was no street there at all. In fact, 10 feet in front of the house, which had no door on it by the way, there was a tall wire fence...and 10 feet beyond that were the tracks of our town's major railway, the Erie. I guess I was pretty scared, and I went home.

Even more disturbing to the quiet 1950s lifestyle of the Carlson residence was my musical evolution into jazz and rhythm 'n' blues. I learned that jazz had started among black people in New Orleans at the turn of the century, traveled up the Mississippi with musicians employed on riverboats, and developed among whites in Chicago during the Roaring Twenties. Never mind that we now view this story as too simplistic, it got me to know who Benny Goodman was and his importance as a white man with an integrated music organization. By the time Martin Luther King was inspiring us college kids to hit the bricks in the late '50s, I was ready.

In the early 1960s we began to hear about feminism and a sexual revolution. The combination of the Civil Rights Movement and invention of something called a birth control pill---and of course the inequalities college-educated women were encountering in the workplace---brought us plunging into a whole new era. I found myself developing a sensitivity and consciousness that never would I allow my white maleness to be of some unfair advantage in my life. But by the late '60s it all became more complicated with a Black Backlash. Now I found I needed to be secure and strong in my white maleness, while ready to confess many crimes of history. Then there was a Feminine Backlash in the '70s---and I guess I just sorta dropped out for a while.

During the 1990s I found myself resentful of racial groups and women who seemed to be playing both sides at the same time. Like, there were women who boasted they despised "housework" and wouldn't do it because their careers took up their creative time---but always needed big, strong men to come in to "take care" of their maintenance problems. I began to see myself as a second-class citizen as payback for sacrifices in "social standing" I thought I had been making for 30 years. I see the predicaments differently now, and the fact today that Democrats seem to be supporting Obama and Clinton as potential presidential candidates feels really good to me. As a nation we're beginning to face many of the issues of race and gender that have been such a major part of my whole life. I like what's happening.

From now until the election The Nation magazine online is devoting its blog, called Passing Through, to a different writer each month. That blogger can post whatever he or she wants as often as desired. Kicking off the whole thing is somebody named Jessica Valenti. I hadn't heard of her, but her star seems to be rising quickly. The Nation has a lot of assertive women in it, so I'm not surprised Valenti is the first choice. During her first week she already is stirring things up, having written entries about political paternalism and Bush, women who put down feminism and the "sex education" they shove into public schools, and violence against females and what Romney knows about it. Miss Valenti uses very strong language when she writes (one might even say foul language, but I have to be careful) so comments coming back are pretty tough too.

I guess I have to say I like her style. Since she's 29 I think, she represents a generation that's increasingly refreshing. She's grown up through all these "wars" and has her own version...and a message certainly that's helpful to me. Last April when her book came out, ELLE magazine, which I subscribe to, did a little feature on her. It concluded with the note that her site,, was first to publish that the sale of vibrators is banned in some states. Miss Valenti wrote this is an issue "that overwhelmingly affects women. In Mississippi you can buy a gun without a state background check, but you can't get the Rabbit. How f--ked is that?" Yeah, wake us all up Jessica!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The Catastrophic Support Circle

The Opening of the Fifth Seal of the Apocalypse, 1610-14
El Greco

When you meditate, invite yourself to feel the self-esteem, the dignity, and strong humility of the Buddha that you are.

---Sogyal Rinpoche

The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.

---Tennessee Williams

This year, yes, even this year has drawn to its close.


I had a night of foreboding Monday night. No, it wasn't the champagne. In fact I went to bed very early. I felt it when I awoke around 3 AM, with fragments of a dream still flickering. People were coming up the hill, closing in...and I needed to decide whether or not to shoot. Rather a moot question, since I didn't seem to have any guns.

Maybe the wind, which by then was battering the house, had shaken me up. The cold front had arrived, bringing the snow from further west that fell yesterday. We expected about an inch, and I put down the potash before the relatives arrived for a Hungarian New Year's feast.

It couldn't have been the hospitality I enjoyed Monday noon at Kathy's remarkable home. She and her partner Constantine had invited a few people for a delicious lunch of soup, fresh bread, salad, deviled eggs, cheese and some Crumb's special crackers that I brought. The land is high on a hill of natural oak forest, with amazing outcroppings of huge boulders, possibly shoveled there by the glacier which chugged to a stop just north of there.

When Kathy first acquired the land, she found a cave among those rocks and there she lived until she could build a tepee, and eventually more comfortable shelter. What they have now is a model home, for me at least, that is self-sustaining and off-the-grid. You can see it here and go there to find out more if you're close by. There are more and more energy-efficient and alternative houses showing up around here. People move here especially to try their hand at living this way.

That was the purpose of our lunch and the 2 hours of conversation that followed. The people who come here are often fiercely independent. They don't know anybody here particularly and aren't that eager to get terribly involved. But maybe it's time we began to open up more to each other. Oh not a lot necessarily. Not some big organization with meetings and committees and all that. There are plenty of those...and more splintering off all the time. No, what we were considering was a loose network of preparation for emergency, catastrophe, even apocalypse. Not your cup of tea for after dinner conversation? Now you know why I woke up troubled in the night.

If the few of us there, at least half seemed to have formal medical training, either in nursing or doctoring. Clearly they had branched out into other pathways, such as those of the shaman and midwife and into different kinds of bodywork and feedback. Constantine is interested in nutrition, growing and preparing food. While we all are fed up with the government's failure to provide care for the people in times of emergency, I still held up memory and hope for the citizenry to come to its senses and rebuild our society's responsiveness.

We came at the topic from 2 different but connected angles. Within the last decade the psyche of the nation has suffered 9/11 and Katrina. We are learning to live with attacks we call terrorism and the natural disasters perhaps caused by excessive carbon emission. We have federal Security agencies, lavishly funded, but strangely ineffective. Money is available, and obviously private contractors are out there getting it. But what of local communities? Are there groups downtown, politically appointed or otherwise, prepared with stockpiles of food and medicine...just in case? Are there evacuation plans?

What if there's a big earthquake? A series of hurricanes and tornadoes? What if Baltimore and Washington are flooded out by a sudden rise in sea level? We know that our town is designated as a "host" in the event of such a catastrophe. People will be told to come here---and maybe even given transportation. Is our town ready for this? What of all the WalMart people, a perfect herd of consumerism brainwash, who may not even think about what would happen if there's no gasoline or electricty for an extended period. Now you're on foot and hungry...and nothing stockpiled except your shotgun collection. Can we help those people? Can we count on any protection if matters become unruly?

What we were considering is whether among our individual friends and associates, there might be households that could share in emergency preparation. I can stuff my crawlspace with bags of rice and beans and some big bottles of water...but maybe one family could store rice, another beans, and somebody else canned goods. Within shouting distance of our house---across the "holler"---are 3 or 4 families whom I might be able to engage in this activity. Up the road apiece are a couple more places. We're talking about this kind of network...local to your neighborhood, whether in town or country. It means reaching out in ways maybe many of us haven't done in a while---or possibly ever.

When we closed out our gathering New Year's Eve, we sort of reflected on how we felt. I said it was cleansing and healing for me to talk together this way. Often at work and in casual conversation, people resist conversation headed in this direction. People seem in denial or ignorance or dependence on some outside power to come with the care. It was a relief actually to address this topic as the whole reason for getting together. But later---in the middle of the night---it came to me there is a lot of work to be done. And it's urgent.

Oh...nearly forgot: if you need some extra motivation to get started in your neck of the woods, I read something this morning in the new Old Farmer's Almanac. An English businessman named Sir Richard Branson has started the Virgin Earth Challenge. It's a contest to come up with an effective way to remove billions of tons of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. First prize is 25 million dollars.