As I discussed in my last post, I’ve embarked on an effort to memorize stuff that interests me. I’m finding that the more I memorize stuff, the easier is to memorize and retain new stuff.
So as I just finished up memorizing the poem Invictus, I decided to go large and take on the grandest, and perhaps greatest, of all letters penned on behalf of these United States, The Declaration of Independence.
Yeah, maybe I am getting a little cocky/in over my head taking on such a significant body of work — significant as in packed with meaning, and, especially, significant as in packed with a lot of words. One-thousand, four-hundred and fifty-eight of them to be exact.
President Trump visited our nation’s newest national museum today and provided a few remarks afterwards, a video of which can be found below. I have not yet visited the museum so I spent some time learning a bit about it. I found several interesting videos that provide a narrative insight alongside a look inside the museum; however, I feel this non-narrative video accompanied with a groovy soundtrack from JUKEBOX DC speaks best to me about what the museum is all about, and what I look forward to seeing when visiting in person.
We all have our stereotypes, prejudices, and other indelible insensitive and less-than-helpful outlooks on life regardless how hard we might try to suppress them or convince ourselves otherwise. Often, these insensitive outlooks on life and our inability to suppress them put very heavy assumptive blinders around our thinking.
And narrowly-focused thinking can, while unintended, often lead us into insensitive and hurtful acts of behavior.
And its in this such context that I muse upon the “good old days…”
Back in the wonderful Nineties (Nirvana, 2Pac, The Matrix, Fight Club, etc…), I took a break from my normal Navy telecommunications gig to spend a few years in a special assignment as an Equal Opportunity Advisor.
Let’s just say becoming an EOA is not the typical choice of an extremely White and WASPy dude like myself; so, due to the lack of other white, WASPy dudes like myself enrolled at the institute, it was one of those rare times in my life where I was in both the racial and gender minority for any significant amount of time.
Remember when we as a people wrote and spoke with informed eloquence?
Yeah, me neither…
But I was reminded such a fairy-tale time did, in fact, exist when watching former senator and Secretary of Defense William Cohen introduce retire Marine Corps General James “Mad Dog” Mattis to the Senate Armed Services Committee prior to its hearing regarding the general’s selection to be President-elect Trump’s Secretary of Defense. At the end of his introduction, which was eloquent in its own right, Cohen quoted from the famous 1884 Memorial Day Address delivered by the renowned law scholar, author, and orator Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
I may occasionally write the junk, but rarely do I read it.
And it is not because I don’t like it that I rarely read it…
It’s because it, the really good stuff anyway, is so durn hard to read.
I’m talking Poetry here…
Poetry with a big, bold capital P.
And it is so hard for me to read (And by read I mean read. I mean really digging into the poem and fighting through the initial confusion and the complicated and often archaic words. I mean, not just reading the poem, but studying it and trying to close the gap in time from when the poem was written to when the poem is being read by learning about the poet and where and when and why and how he or she is from and where and when and why and how he or she lived and then coming to my own understanding of what I think the poem means and then trying to apply that meaning to my own life and where and when and why and how I live it. That’s what I mean by read.) because it takes more than a little bit of effort to read it.
…excerpts of two rather aged yet seemingly, and sadly so, germane posts of mine. They are quite lengthy so to read the full posts, click on the “more” links.
The first is a political poem I penned long ago:
It’s the bottom of the ninth.
We’re down and in desperate need of a two-out rally.
So what are we waiting for? Should we go
for the win and swing for the fence?
Or should we just drop our bats,
grab our crotches,
Just wait for someone else to come along and bat clean up?
Just wait for them to come along and clean up all of the shit
our silence has created?
Should we wait?
Just wait for the president and the congress and the
governors and every other sleazy politician to knock
the dirt out of their spikes and lead the rally?
Or should we, instead, wait for Wall Street and the
chambers of commerce and the boards of directors
and the unions and even the goddamn Junior Achievers
The second is a satirical attempt at humor by poking fun at the U.S. military and the American way.
IN DEFENSE OF THE AMERICAN WAY OF LIFE
It always struck me as completely ironic (and if I think about it too hard it verges on the sardonically so) how so many Americans join the military to defend the American “Way of Life,” and, as a reward for their patriotism and service, they are provided for by the American government and funded by the American tax payer with a “way of life” that is so completely different and diametrically opposed to the “Way of Life” they gave up to defend.
Once someone joins the military, their new “way of life” becomes part of one of the most successfully socialist ways of life that has ever existed on this irrational planet of ours…more
[NOTE: this article was written when I was thick into my GVHD issues and strung out on prednisone and dealing with steroid psychosis. While it rambles greatly, I think there still are some relevant points to be found somewhere within. Maybe?]
Many of the haiku and other poems in Short Verses & Other Curses were written as a therapeutic balm in response to my cancer. I don’t know why or how I survived all that nonsense but I suspect writing the poems helped at least a little.
Recent events make it seem to me that my country is suffering such a life-threatening and cancerous disease so I was naturally drawn to some of the poems I wrote for the collection. To some degree they helped again, if only as a temporary distraction from present reality.
I doubt if these poems have any healing power potent enough for all the ills sickening my nation; however, it is out of love and desperation that I shall share them with you now.
For the next day or so, please feel free to download the collection. If any of the poems move you in any way, I ask that you share your thoughts here in the comment section. If you have any other poetry that you believe will help relieve a troubled soul, I ask that you also share those with us as well.
You may download the collection by clicking on its book cover.
Thank you to all who downloaded a copy of the book and especially to those who left me such kind, encouraging comments. They mean very much to me.
First off, I’m not anti-Second Amendment (if you’re an American (of the U.S. persuasion) and you don’t know what the Second Amendment is then that’s a problem)…
See, I live out in the sticks and I had to call 911 once because I thought there was a gas leak somewhere in my house and all I got to say about that experience is that our military overran countries faster than it took the emergency responders to get to my house.
It’s not their fault – I just live out in the sticks.
Heck, I found out then that I can’t even call my 911 operator direct. My 911 call goes to somewhere across the border and that operator has to re-direct it back into my state to a different operator.
I can only wonder what would have happened if that 911 call wasn’t for a gas leak (a false alarm, fortunately) but for a home invasion instead?!
You can feel me, right?
So yeah, I’m all about owning a gun as a means of protection of last resort.
But then again, I’m a nice guy.
I can be trusted with a gun.
When I say I am a not a gun-slingin’, trigger-happy nutjob with “adequacy issues” you can take my word for it…
But as for the rest of you all…
I’m beginning to wonder.
What the heck is going on out there?
Unfortunately, it has become my unfortunate belief that we, as a nation, are now just too mean and too rude and too disrespectful and, most dangerously, too short-tempered (what’s up with all the road rage?) to have so many guns – both legal and illegal – locked and loaded and at the ready out there, just itchin’ to mediate our every issue and altercation, however slight.
Something has got to change.
I mean, come on… There were over 11,000 murders committed with a gun in 2013 (according to the Centers for Disease Control (via Wikipedia)).
That’s a lot of humans made dead from mean assholes with guns.
So if we, as a citizenry, are so danged mean and so danged armed, just think what it must be like to have to try to police all of us in an effort to maintain good order and discipline in a society where that kind of anachronistic, Mayberry-like behavior is now shat upon.
Nowadays, it must be pretty darned scary to be a cop.
No wonder they all jack themselves up like Special Forces operators gone wild.
Have you seen some of these Rambo cops?
In-f’n-tense, they are…
It’s hard to believe – and even sadder – that it takes so much firepower to patrol our streets.
Seriously, we have an Intra-Arms Race going on between we angry civilians and the feeling-threatened-and-under-fire Po po, you know, the overly-aggressive-stoppin’-and-friskin’, tank-drivin’ Five-Oh.
And then when you throw race into the mix of a messy situation where the police are a majority of the time of a majority skin tone and the citizenry they are bringing their good order and discipline to are of a minority skin tone…
These days someone usually ends up shot.
Just like last night at the protests in response to the first anniversary of the Michael Brown killing.
Look, I’ve written about these things here before and, like then, I don’t have any answers.
But when it comes to race and racism, I do know, despite what my Merriam-Webster dictionary app says, racism is all about power and who has it.
And the fact is, White male Anglo-Saxon Protestants have and, for the foreseeable future, will continue to have the power in this country.
For the record, here is what my app says racism is:
1: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race
2: racial prejudice or discrimination
Now, I don’t disagree with what the app says, but in the national grand scheme of things, whose racism is going to hurt more – a WASPy dude’s* or a Black female’s?
Sure it may hurt our WASPy dude feelings that others not like us don’t like us just because they don’t look like us because they are racists of the first or second order, or both. But overall that’s all their racism will do to us – hurt our Privileged and Guilt-ridden White feelings.
Unlike our racism, theirs won’t keep us out of a job.
Or out of a loan.
Or out of a home…
Their racism just doesn’t have the power to do all that harm like ours does.
And sorry to burst your bubbles white racist females, you may think you’re superior to others because of your skin tone, but thanks to our historically patriarchal and sexist society (a subject worthy of a post of its own), you just don’t have as much “clout” to harm as we WASPy dudes have.
Man**, this is depressing.
What is most depressing about it all is how it all feeds off of each other…
The racism increases anger.
The anger increases violence.
The violence increases fear.
The fear increases gun sales.
The gun sales increase death rates.
The increasing death rates increase police presence.
And on and on…
Like I said, I have no answers.
But I do have a voice…
And, for what it’s worth, here I am using it to, if not provide solutions, at least discuss the problems.
This entire unfortunate, depressing post reminds me of that intense scene from the movie Grand Canyon, starring Danny Glover and Kevin Kline, where Glover’s character, a tow truck driver, comes to the aid of…
Ah, what am I trying to explain it for? Just go ahead and watch it…
And remember, Being Nice is a skill that, to be effectively employed, must be continually practiced.
I have no idea what race or culture to identify with.
My blood is mixed. I don’t fit into any one category. I’m Aztec, Spanish, Scottish-Irish, English, German, and little slivers of many more.
It was difficult growing up, not being able to relate to one side. Not being able to deny or fully embrace one or another. I can’t speak Spanish. I don’t feel Irish or German. When I lived in North Dakota and was the only person with a last name like Rodriquez, I was known as “The Mexican.”
Being a mixed blood did nothing to help me find myself as a teenager, either. But as an adult it’s helped me to relate to more cultures and races than I ever thought possible.
I belong nowhere. And everywhere.
I know I’m not the only one.
After a thoughtful pause during a recent conversation with my mom, as she contemplated what else is in my blood, she said, “There’s going to be a little bit of everything in everybody at this point.”
She’s right. It’s rare to find someone of only one race or culture. America and the Americans in it are as much of a mixed blood as I am, yet we have some of the worst cultural, religious, and racial clashes.
Indian and the white man. Black and white. Muslims and Christians. The list goes on. Look at the news. Cultural clashes are among the top headlines.
America has a big opportunity to prove peace can be real, that cultural divides can be conquered. But we’re too busy concentrating on what one side of ourselves we want to identify with most – just as I did as a teenager.
It reminds me of a passage in the Bible my mother pointed out:. “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”
Does America not want to stand? Do we not want to accept the truth staring us in the face?
We are all related.
Imagine what America could be if we embraced that. Imagine if the United States was actually united. Imagine the potential to excel for our children — for the mixed-blood child growing inside me now.
Let’s get out of the teenage mentality and grow into adulthood as the people of this country. Let’s admit that each race, culture, religion has done something — many things — wrong, and move on with breaking down the walls that divide us.
Let’s acknowledge, as I had to, that we are no one side. We are all.
It drives some of you bonkers when we Americans do that…
Just as I know that, thanks to the long-established American cultural propaganda machines of Hollywood, McDonalds, Levis, and Coca Cola, as well as the newcomers Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and Starbucks, it drives some of you just as bonkers, if not more, that you do understand so many American cultural references.
(Not to mention the madness it causes Canada and Mexico and all the thirty some odd other American countries North and South to know that “America” has come to mean only one country out of all of them.)
Ergo, it is with humility that, in an effort to make amends for my all-too-often ignorant assumptions, I attempt to explain for those of you who aren’t an American “of a certain age” who just don’t get my cultural reference point for these “Ain’t That America…” posts that I’ve been posting lately…
So, it is for all of you who aren’t hip for whatever reason to American culture that I am pleased and proud present John [Cougar] Mellencamp’s wonderful song “Pink Houses”…
Obviously – #freddygray #ferguson #gunviolence #etcetera – there is a lot more to America than just apple pie Americana, all of which, I spend a great deal of time criticizing and complaining about – out of a deep true love, of course – some here but mostly on my @KurtBrindley twitter account.
But a lot of (United States of) America is apple pie Americana and when I find myself out and about and I come across something that makes me shake my head, smile, and say to myself, “Shucks, ain’t that America…,” I am happy to be able to take out my phone, take a photo of it, and share some of that down home American “Pink House” propaganda that I love so much with you all…