Religious fundamentalists are motivated by the sneaking suspicion that someone, somewhere, is having fun -- and that this must be stopped.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
There is a mound of earth near the intersection of Lick Mill and Hope Drive in Santa Clara, California. Right now it is a rather anonymous mound of earth, with nothing to tell what it is, but when the developer sent a bulldozer to clear the brush and scrub off of it the bulldozer hit bones. Human bones.
Nobody knew what these bones were. Speculations were rampant. There was no record of a cemetery in that location. Was it an Indian burial mound? A Spanish land grant cemetery? Or what? The answer turned out to be, none of the above, and shows more about our society than you would think.
This land was the far corner of the Agnews Insane Asylum in 1906, a vast mental hospital run by the State of California where several buildings from the early 1900's are now preserved by Sun Microsystems as part of their corporate HQ (and how appropriate that is). None of the buildings that Sun Microsystems preserved dates to April 17, 1906. On April 17, 1906, Agnews Insane Asylum was a vast three and four story red brick building with multiple wings. On April 18, 1906, one wing of Agnews Insane Asylum collapsed and most of the rest of the building heavily damaged, shaken apart in the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 with the immediate loss of 112 lives and dozens more to die over the next few weeks from exposure or injuries.
While every tent in the U.S. Army inventory was immediately on its way to San Francisco, it was not until days later that anybody outside of the hospital and its immediate community even knew about the problem at Agnews. In the meantime, to prevent disease, the surviving staff organized the surviving patients to dig a mass grave for the victims, who were then unceremoniously dumped in and covered with dirt. The mass grave was then forgotten, left to sit in a tangle of brush at a far corner of the asylum grounds until re-discovered by the developer. It took forensic anthropologists working with historians digging through archives dating to 1906 to re-discover the contents of this mass grave. Because, after all, the people buried in it were only crazies. Mentally unstable. Untermenschen, as you will. And then, as now, most people viewed these people as being failures, as being weak of mind and weak of will, rather than possessing a disease where their brain produces certain chemicals in the wrong proportions for proper functioning, so it wasn't as if they counted as real people, right?
I am in a beach town on the outskirts of a major city. There is a public restroom at this beach, and three homeless men are holding a very loud discussion about something I've deliberately moved out of earshot of. From experience I know that dealing with these men would be frustrating because they are untreated mentally ill and their minds work in ways that are not conducive to normal conversation, so I simply do not deal with them. After a while the men move away, and I move towards the public restroom. Through the door I see the ass ends of two more homeless men, and I know what they are doing -- they are shooting up. Undoubtedly if I continued through the door I would see white latex gloves and syringes all over as they self-treat their illness with a drug that they can obtain without going through doctors, pharmacists, insurance companies, and all those other things that as homeless mentally ill they have no access to. I move away and go elsewhere.
Later I am in a hotel near the center of this beach town. The surrounding houses are small well-kept cottages dating back to the 1940's and 1950's. The cars parked outside them are not expensive cars, not Mercedes and BMW and Lexus and such, but they are relatively new and shiny and proudly proclaim the middle-classness of these people who can afford to live in this beach town. If this were the early evening, I could walk along these streets and see the homeowners outside proudly pruning their landscaping. I imagine talking to one of them about what I saw at the beach. The confused stare at the outset as their suburban mindset is disturbed by the notion of something outside their own existence. The instant dismissal, "they're crazy, there's nothing to be done, they choose to live that way", not seeing the contradiction between saying they're mentally ill and saying they "chose", not seeing that it was the illness that did the choosing here. And of course there are things that could be done, easy access to doctors and medications and showers and secure lockers for their goods so that they can go to those doctors without fearing loss of what little they possess, and for those who will simply refuse to do so at least easy access to clean needles and secure places to shoot up so that the public restroom becomes merely a restroom again rather than a shooting gallery, but all of that would fall on deaf ears anyhow. Because these are only "crazies". Mentally ill. Weak-willed. Untermenschen, if you will. And acknowledging that they are instead ordinary human beings who were born with a problem with their brain chemistry would require actually, like, doing something. And for these well-dressed middle class people precariously hanging on to their pleasant little homes and their relatively new cars in the shaky economy that the Republican looting of our economy over the last 28 years has produced, doing something other than trying to get what little they can hold onto into their own greedy little hands is just too much work, too much effort, requires too much thought. And besides, those homeless guys at the beach? They're only crazies.
It seems to me that the only difference between 1906 and 2007 is that today, we don't wait until the mentally ill die before burying them. We do it while they're still alive. And pretend we're not doing it, as we do it. And when they do genuinely die, make sure it gets marked down as "pneumonia" or "heart failure" or whatever, not as what it really is: Suffocation due to being buried alive in a society that eats its own.
Professor Juan Cole asks, why are we so interested in the details of the imprisonment of Princess Paris Hilton, and not so interested in the details of the imprisonment of Iraqi women and children seized in order to convince their menfolk to turn themselves in?
The reason for the focus is simple: Paris Hilton is *us*. Americans. Overindulged. Pampered. Rich. Stupid. With an overweening sense of unwarranted entitlement based upon nothing more than where and to whom she was born. Paris Hilton is America. Where once America was steelworkers and freedom fighters, today America is... Paris. Vacant empty-headed useless people with no conception of "reality", who mostly spend their days selling things nobody needs to people who don't need them but hey, they're neat things, so buy, buy, buy!
Iraqis... heck, most Americans couldn't even find Iraq on a map, and would stare aghast at you if you even suggested that Iraqis were humans and should thus possess all the rights that the Declaration of Independence assures us were granted to us by our Creator. Americans want us out of Iraq because we're losing, not out of any moral qualms about killing people who aren't, like, Paris.
We might as well replace the eagle on the national seal with a poodle-dog and make it official. Replacing George with a picture of Paris on the $1 bill might be a great idea too. After all, Paris Hilton is a far, far better symbol of America than a man who was willing to give up his pampered existence on a plantation in order to lead an army of independence under horrible conditions through ice and snow with, get this, no catering! Oh the horror!
Paris Hilton goes home, after serving only three days in jail. Apparently she had "medical issues". Rumors are that the "medical issues" are these:
a) The soap made her complexion look, like, just so blotchy, y'know?
b) The food was just so aweful that she just could not eat it, and she just got so horribly hungry without cocaine to kill her appetite.
Meanwhile, thousands of ordinary men and women get to serve their full term despite having medical issues as dire as AIDS, kidney failure, and end-stage diabetes. But look, they're just little people. They're not offspring of the wealthy, like Little Ms. Hotel Chain. The rules only apply to the little people, not to the wealthy elite. Sheesh, what, you believe you live in a democracy rather than an oligarchy ruled by a small wealthy elite? Next thing you'll tell me is that you believe in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus!
-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
Aftermath: The judge, pissed, sent the spoilt little brat back to jail. She was crying and sobbing. Good. Maybe she'll learn something about why driving while drunk is a bad idea. We can hope, anyhow.
No, she was *not* booed, despite the legend that she was "booed off the stage". At 19 years old, she got up there and sang her little heart out.
What brought this to mind was the June 14 edition of Rolling Stone Magazine. It has interviews with Amy Winehouse (another dark-haired Jewish girl who channels Motown and classic pop), and with surviving members of the Sex Pistols. If you want to know what's wrong with the music business, this is it. Scheming managers, exploitive labels that don't care that their "stars" are burning out and killing themselves as long as they get a little lucre in the bargain, and in the end, the "stars" are abandoned, impoverished, eking out a living as radio advertising salesmen and tabloid fodder, if they're not dead of the same demons and obsessions that led to them making music in the first place. It already happened to the Sex Pistols, the surviving members of which bitterly note that they couldn't get signed by a record label today no matter how good their songs. It'll happen to Amy Winehouse too, and her lightweight songs, unlike Linda Nyro's, will not stand the test of time. Some time in the future, I will open the pages of Rolling Stone, and somewhere near the back find out that Amy Winehouse sliced her wrists and killed herself along with her husband. And nobody at the record labels will even remember her name.
This is what we do with our brain-injured in America
This guy is where all the brain-injured veterans from Iraq are going to be in 20 years time -- homeless, wandering the streets in a daze, eating out of dumpsters and sleeping in them at night, and occasionally getting dumped into a trash truck and (usually) squeezed to death.
Yes, we are such a charitable and Christian nation, to do this to some poor guy who is missing part of his brain due to a gunshot...
Yes, my cat. A fluffy innocent kitty that had done nothing wrong except jump up on my computer desk and walk in front of my computer screen and mew pitiably to be petted, as cats are wont to do when their human is not properly worshipping them. But I was too busy, too inconsiderate, too, too... HUMAN... and I yelled at the cat instead, calling him bad names for getting in my way while I was trying to work on my computer. I even picked him up and set him down behind my chair! Sob! Can you ever forgive me? I have damaged my poor kitty for life. Oh I feel so ASHAMED...
-- Badtux the Abashed Penguin
My poor innocent victim asks, "Why, daddy? Why?"...
I always suspected that English professors assigned poetry in their classes as a mechanism for torturing undergrads, but now we find out that it can explode too, causing an entire college campus to be evacuated? Oooh, poetry of mass destruction! How *dare* a professor be guilty of driving while brown and carrying a box of poetry to the dumpster. Doesn't he know that al Qaeda is targetting dumpsters outside of Podunk University for destruction? Why, I think Osama bin Laden issued a jihad just the other day saying "All your dumpster are belong to us." Oh the horror!
So, more women and children die violently in Iraq every day than died at Virginia Tech a week ago, yet VT is all we heard about last week. Racism?
Well, no. For it to be racism, Americans would have to see Iraqis as being human to begin with. They don't. The children in Iraq are just extras in a new reality TV show called "Survivor:Iraq". They don't actually *die*. They rise from their shallow graves at the end of each day's shooting to have warm milk and canapes in the casting shed, doncha know?
Survivor:Iraq is on the verge of being cancelled due to poor ratings, but only because the American public is bored with it, not because they, like, think the Iraqis are actually human or anything...
I mean, dude, it's just a reality TV show, dig?! The producers of Survivor:Iraq are trying their best to keep interest up, like the recent "Surge" thingy, but while folks tuned in for a few minutes in hopes that "surge" meant something sexual, they swiftly tuned right back out. So the ratings continue to sag. Bummer, if you're a producer of Survivor:Iraq. Executive Producer Cheney must be beside himself...
Carl and 42 and Mustang Bobby and a million jillion other bloggers point out that there's a Virginia Tech type tragedy in Iraq EVERY FUCKING DAY. And that's been true for at least three years now, ever since the insurgency started ramping up.
So why the fuck are the goddamned blathering talking heads on television *STILL* talking about some loser doing a one-time slaughter then removing himself from the gene pool, rather than about the continuing slaughter happening EVERY FUCKING DAY in Iraq?
Oh fuggedaboutit, I keep forgetting. One white blond sorority girl at Virginia Tech is worth a million jillion of them overseas darkies who, like, aren't WHITE. Alrighty then! Personally, I think they just ought to provide the white hood and KKK membership upon employment for every major U.S. television news "personality" and every major U.S. newspaper "editor". I mean, c'mon. They push the KKK agenda (white America is all that counts!), why not go all the way and make it official?!
Unless you got kidnapped by aliens, you know that a South Korean college kid shot up a college yesterday, killing dozens of other college kids. As conservative blogger Jon Swift reports, this is all the fault of liberals. Why, if liberals simply allowed college kids to pack heat, they woulda capped that gook before he even got his first dozen kills!
Naturally, as a snarky penguin I must agree. I believe that every American should be armed with an AK-47, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, a RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher, and 100 rounds of RPG ammunition. Then we can be a peaceful and polite society just like Iraq and Somalia. After all, just ask Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, who will be swift to tell you that going to the market in Iraq is safer than going to the market in Indiana. Especially when there's a blue light special on sexy lingerie, in which case you best have your body armor on or a herd of women and transvestites and Rudy Giuliani will send you on to the great beyond...
Remember, gun control is hittin' what ya aim at! As for the notion of a national dialogue on gun control... oh look! Over there! It's a missing young blond girl!
-- Badtux the Snarky Penguin
Below: A couple of shoppers at an Indiana market prepare to obtain the last Playstation 3's in town.
Vonnegut was one of many Americans of the WWII generation who objected to what their country has becoming, bemoaning in his last book that the America he grew up in and loved was dead, that he was now a man without a country, marooned in a foreign land of dead dreams and lies that occupied the same general geographical area as what was once America but had now turned into a mean and vicious place where hope was dead and dreams were tiny little things, pale shades of dreams, a new car or a a few cents an hour raise at your job or hoping you don't get fired tomorrow or don't get sick in this new and meaner America where if you don't have health insurance, you die if you get sick. In his final years, clearly ill and dying, he still made the rounds of the talk shows to thump his book and make his point to national audiences.
And no one listened. Because he was, after all, a man without a country, a man whose dream, the American dream of a better place with liberty and justice for all where no child need go to sleep hungry or cold, is dead and gone and replaced with the dream of a boot stamping upon a human face, forever. A dream where we stamp upon the untermenschen, those who are not like us, those who are poor, those who are children and therefore helpless, those who have done nothing but exist and breathe the same air as us. The dream of a vicious, mad people who will die, in the end, but whose possession of the largest nuclear arsenal on the planet will undoubtedly take the rest of the world with them.
When dreams become nightmares, there is no place for people like Kurt Vonnegut to remind us of an older America, a better America, an America which may not have been perfect by any means but where people were not afraid to dream of a better America and a better world. It is perhaps fitting that Kurt Vonnegut checked out only hours after news of this award in his honor. How better to crack a huge joke upon the people of Indianapolis and elsewhere?
I have absolutely no respect for adults who cannot handle a six year old child without calling the cops. None. This is a complete and utter failure in training. A child seeking attention has been rewarded for misbehavior with a *lot* of attention, and thus will misbehave more in the future. This is the dumbest, stupidest, most ignorant thing I've ever heard of -- and it is rampant today, apparently, from the links at Jurassic Pork's site.
The solution isn't the paddle. As I pointed out in my post "On Violence":
When it comes to the raising of children, or disciplining of children, much the same applies -- violence is never moral. The problem isn't that we've banned the paddle or whatever other rot the tighty righties want to trot out. The problem is that we have a very punitive and violent society that views punishment -- violence -- as the solution to all problems. But while violence can *stop* a behavior, that is all it can do -- it can never add something to a child's understanding of the world. It can never add something to society. Love, encouragement, setting clear goals and expectations and rewards (note I say rewards, not bribes, there's a difference), making life a pleasant and rewarding experience rather than something harsh and punitive... what works for raising a happy child, also works for raising a happy society. Alas, our punishment and violence addicted society seems to have forgotten this, thus why our society is so unhappy, violent, and prone to addictions such as crack cocaine, black tar heroin, and neo-conservative politics.
The solution, rather, is to have adults behave as adults. Physical intervention was necessary in this case because the child was behaving in a way that interfered with the education of other children and refused to leave the classroom, but violence against a child was completely and utterly unwarranted, unnecessary, and totally counter-productive. All that this child has learned is that by behaving like a complete ass, she can get lots of the adult attention that she apparently craves. She should have been gently physically restrained for as long as it took to round up her mother or bring herself under control, then removed to the custody of her mother for several days' suspension, or to emergency foster care if her mother or some other relative was not available to take custody. Then she should not have been allowed back into class without a behavior plan in place, preferably one based upon a "levels" system where she had to earn her way back into the good graces of the school via exhibiting clearly defined and observed desirable behaviors and receiving a specified set of priviliges back. This is how I was trained by the Houston Independent School District to handle this situation fifteen years ago, and H.I.S.D. isn't particularly known for excellence in education or discipline, but this is what worked and it worked even for the mentally ill children that I was charged with teaching.
But that conflicts with the violent and ignorant nature of our society, so these Florida crackers think that "being tough" is the solution. Violence against children is never the solution. Never. Some very limited violence may be necessary in order to stop a behavior that presents a danger to herself or others, but as I have previously pointed out, violence never adds anything to the world. It only takes away. You have to fill a child with something to fill that hole, with joy and love and doing things together and making life a pleasant place for that child the majority of the time, or all you end up with is a child that is unhappy, misbehaving, and violent. We have decades -- yes, *DECADES* -- of behavioral research confirming this. Yet as a violent and ignorant society, we still insist upon violence as the solution to all societal problems...
Is it any wonder that the ranks of the morbidly obese are exploding in the United States? Delayed gratification is seen as an evil by the average American. It's all me, me, me, now, now, now. Stuffing a half dozen Big Macs down your gullet just because you like how they taste? No problem!
This is just a symptom of a basic sickness in American culture, which is that we've become shallow, immature, self-indulgent, and incapable of logical thinking. Logical thinking sez if you're overweight enough to cause health problems, then, duh, DON'T EAT SO MUCH! Instead, fat slobs make excuses -- "oh, it's just my hormones!" "Oh there's nothing wrong with being fat!" blah blah blah. Sigh. Even this pizza lovin' penguin knows better than that...
-- Badtux the Not-morbidly-obese Penguin
(Just pleasantly rotund, mind you!).
Old people these days. They're just no good. Whatever happened to just stayin' home and bakin' cookies and bouncing the grandbabies on your knees and shit? Nowdays old farts are robbin' banks and gettin' 21 innocent people killed while doing a campaign op while runnin' fer President and such. And they're even pirating music, sometimes even after they're dead. Now, you know what this penguin thinks of baby boomers (what have baby boomers born after 1950 ever accomplished, other than scoring a ton of hash during the early 70's and managing to ruin America's economy with their unwarranted sense of self-entitlement?), but sheesh. If this is what old farts are like 'nowdays, I ain't so sure I like old people either. Why, soon 'nuff, we're gonna have to build yet more prisons to house their wrinkled old butts. Ick!
In a previous life, I worked as a librarian. Well, make that "Library technical assistant", since I don't have a MLA thus wasn't qualified to be a full-fledged librarian. Nevertheless, I did work the magazine reference desk several afternoons per week.
I'm not going to post much more on that, just go read. I was there when Reagan was kicking the mentally ill out of the mental hospitals, with the complicity of idiot liberals who insisted that the mentally ill were just "misunderstood". Those were the years when we had to hire a security guard for the first time at the library...
I've got a better idea. How about we let the *IRAQIS* figure out what to do with their country? They live there. They have skin in the game. They are the ones who have to live with any solution. They don't need some self-absorbed white honkies from across the sea telling them how to run their country. It's time to get the fuck out and let them figure this shit out themselves, and then send billions to whatever government(s) arise out of this so they can rebuild the shit that *we* blew up. Blew up because blowing shit up is all that the U.S. of Fuckin' Self Absorbed Incompetence is capable of doing nowdays.
This shit of us pretending to be ubermenschen dictating to the unseemly untermenschen mud peoples as to how they should run their country is just bullshit and needs to stop. Fuck, we can't even provide medical care to our own citizens. Why the fuck do we think we can solve the problems of some folks overseas when we can't even solve our *own* problems?!
You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. ... You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people [...] can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home, is to stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.
-- William Tecumseh Sherman, 1864
At 9:30pm EST on March 19, 2003, the first bombs dropped on Baghdad, part of a massive bombing campaign that coincided with a military campaign to disarm Saddam's weapons of mass destructionprevent Saddam from harboring al Qaeda terrorists liberate Iraqis like these very well liberated Iraqis:
Before the inevitable objections "but we didn't *intend* to kill little girls!", bullshit. When you choose to go to war, you choose to kill little girls. Period. To quote a man who knew war, "War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it". If you intend to go to war, you intend to kill little girls. Period. If you are not willing to kill little girls, then you are not willing to go to war. Those who chose to go to war -- which was some 65% of the American population in 2003 -- implicitly chose to kill little girls. They might claim that this is not what they chose, but they lie. You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable. Choose war, and you choose to kill little girls.
Four years later, little girls are still dying. As are American soldiers, but they are a tiny, tiny tiny percentage of the dead. Over 650,000 Iraqis have died over the past four years -- or more Iraqis than Saddam managed to kill in his entire 25 year reign. As a people we Americans focus on the dead American soldiers only because we are an ignorant, self-interested people who view anybody who is not American as untermenschen, inhuman, just two-legged cockroaches to be exterminated like vermin. As a people we are cruel and heartless towards anybody who isn't part of our own little enclave of hairless monkeys with delusions of grandeur. We are maliciously vindictive towards anybody who points out that we're just monkeys and no better than any other monkeys on this planet and that we're being cruel and vicious. And little girls still die. And little girls still die.
How many little girls will die before our leaders stop the war, which can only be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride? How many little girls must die before the piteous mewling of self-interest politicians more interested in political gamesmanship and bullshit do what's right instead of what's expedient? How many? And for what purpose?
"Freedom isn't free," the wingnuts cry. But it seems to me that it is the Iraqi people who are paying the price, especially the 50% of the Iraqi population that is below the age of 18. They are dying by the hundreds of thousands. They are paying the price. How dare we say that we should choose their deaths? Should not the price of freedom be one that the Iraqis themselves decide for themselves? But I forget, they are mere untermenchen, mud people, just filthy cockroaches. They cannot liberate themselves. They need fine white ubermenschen American GI's to do that.
And so they die. And so they die. For no purpose that anybody can tell me. Stop civil war? It's happening. Stop al Qaeda from setting up in Iraq? They're there. Stop ethnic cleansing? It's happening. Prevent a refugee crisis? It's happening. Even the "war for oil" reason, in the end, fails. There is no oil in Baghdad. Yet our soldiers fight and kill and die in Baghdad. For what reason, other than for the sake of ignorance and pride? How many more young girls must die, before we admit that the war was begun in error and perpetuated in pride, and bring the soldiers home?
The answer, sadly, is too many. Far too many. And the answer of the wingnuts is... clap louder. Ah yes. Clap louder. But this penguin, for one, is tired of clapping.
This Iraqi child, standing in the rubble of her bedroom destroyed by American shells, isn't throwing flowers.
American soldiers justify themselves by saying "the terrorists hide amongst the people." Of course, the "terrorists" ARE the people of Iraq. They aren't "hiding" there. They live there.
Soldiers tell themselves what they have to tell themselves in order to stay alive. Soldiers tell themselves what they have to tell themselves to keep from going crazy. They tell themselves these things, but 25% of troops returning from Iraq suffer PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). They tell themselves they're killing "terrorists", but deep down inside, they know the truth. They can't hide from the truth. They live the truth, every day. And it chews them up inside.
I'd talk more, but American Idol is coming up. If I don't find out who Simon insults today, why... why... gosh, it'll be just the end of the world! We gotta have our priorities straight after all. Why should I bother my beautiful mind when none of my immediate family is in Iraq? It's time to clap harder, harder I say! Dear Leader says so, and Dear Leader loves me and wants only the best for me!
More to follow, after I finish cursing SOB chickenhawks and get my breath back...
"Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don't forget to have fun doin' it. Lord, let your laughter ring forth. Be outrageous, ridicule the fraidy-cats, rejoice in all the oddities that freedom can produce."
-- Molly Ivins, 1944-2007
"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men."
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