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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 50,469

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Fire

The FBI presented a case to a federal grand jury, resulting in indictments being returned against New York State Senator Thomas Libous. Below are two links to regional newspapers’ reports on this corrupt republican:


http://www.thedailystar.com/localnews/x1927835487/Sen-Libous-charged-with-lying-to-FBI-agents


http://www.pressconnects.com/article/20140701/NEWS35/307010020/Sen-Thomas-Libous-Binghamton-charged-lying-FBI-agents


Why should D.U.ers be interested in this story? One reason is that, a couple of years ago, forum member H2O Man engaged in a hunger strike, to pressure Libous to meet with representatives of the pro-environment, anti-hydrofracking citizens. Will Pitt had authored an article for TruthOut about this. (Link below)

http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/6074:in-the-clearing-stands-a-boxer-one-mans-fight-against-fracking


On the 8th day of the hunger strike, after I spoke to over 1,000 people attending a rally in the State Office Building in Albany, NY, state senator Libous finally met with me. Shortly after that, a group of environmental activists (including myself) met with Libous’s two top aides.

I have been following Libous’s legal and ethical “troubles” for years. In recent times, I had begun an effort to organize a run against him for later this year. Besides this case, he has recently been called out for failure to report his wife’s and his investments in the gas industry. More, he recently sold out upstate public schools.

Although Libous claimed he was going to run for re-election this fall, I have been told -- by way of reliable republican sources -- that he is being replaced by a local assemblyman. He might not know it yet. But the state party considers him damaged goods …..too damaged to back again.

Why should forum members care? For one thing, these news reports note something that I’ve spoken of here before: Libous is a close friend, and political partner, of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Indeed, Cuomo calls him his “mentor.”

That fact should be recognized whenever we discuss the concept of the Democratic Left’s relationship with the Democratic Party. Now, I’m a registered democrat. I voted for Andrew’s father, Mario cumo, in every election contest that I could possibly vote in. I met Governor Mario Cuomo a couple of times, on Native American business. I liked and trusted him. The son, not so much. The fact that he and Libous worked on a plan to make NY’s Southern Tier a “sacrifice zone” for fracking confirmed every bad thing I thought about Andrew.

And finally, I want to say one more thing that is important. At least, I think it is. I wanted to run against Libous. I could easily run 3rd party; however, I wanted to be on the Democratic Party’s ticket -- as well as on a 3rd party that I break bread with. However, it appears Libous is done. More, in discussions with party leaders in a few counties in this district, I found that two others planned to run. I would gladly have followed through on a primary contest, but there is another candidate that I can feel good about supporting.

Obviously, the issues I care about are most important to me. (I even rank them in significance identical to myself!) But we need coalition movements at this time. One candidate, who has experience on a county board, has two qualities that I think are important: she’s female, and a retired public school teacher. Now, not just any female or teacher would have my support. But she does.

So I think this case is important. It highlights the connections between government, big business, organized crime, and the “energy” corporations’ strangle-hold on democracy.

Divided, we are but individual fingers that our common enemy can easily twist and break. United, we form a powerful fist, fully capable of protecting all of our rights.

Peace,
H2O Man

A Toad

Kelly smelled something, from several yards way, as we walked toward the pond. When he pounced on it, I saw what I mistook for a rat jump away. It turned out to be the largest toad that I’ve seen in many years.

Ever since I was a wee-small boy, I’ve loved toads. There is something old and good about toads. It goes beyond the wonderful description of toads (and other inhabitants of the northeast found in books such as the Peterson Field Guides “Eastern Forests,” by Kricher and Morrison (Houghten Mifflon; 1998).

Recently, I’ve seen a number of the tiny toads that are coming fresh from the swamps and ponds that dot this region. It has been a wet spring in the northeast, and toads are among the many living beings that benefit from the excess water.

It is rare, however, that I see any toads of more than medium size. I asked my childhood “best friend” about this recently. He and I studied toads, turtles, and every other thing that walked, flew, or swam in these parts. (I have known him since we were 3 years old. As a young man, he joined the Marine Corps; around this time, he considered me “dangerous.” These days, he is far more extreme in his thinking than I ever was!)

My friend says that part of it is that people have taken over the territory that the snapping turtles had when we were young. Another part is the toxic contamination, I believe, that impact those beings towards the bottom of the food chain. The snapping turtles we see today are not as big as those we used to catch with his grandfather -- with perhaps one exception that lives in a pond at a near-by NY State Park, and that gets a lot of fried chicken thrown its way.

It’s hot and humid today. There are tons of small dragon flies out at the pond, all an electric-blue color. A few larger “mosquito hawks” are also flying about. The humming bird feeder is the most in need of a re-fill; I also place sunflower seeds around the many feeders, and the pond’s shore. Kelly has waded into the pond to cool off. He attempts to eat the bread I toss in for the fish; however, they are more adept to swimming that he is, and soon he steps out on shore and lays down. Within a couple minutes, he had gone to a swampy area, where a spring pushes water out from under a boulder, and was rolling in the mud.

The amount of rain that we’ve had this spring has resulted in all of the plant life growing very well. The flower gardens that my oldest son and I have put in are producing flowers as varied in bright colors as the koi swimming in the pond. A woodland turtle drops off a rock and into the water as I walk around to throw in food. After a couple of minutes, its head came up close to the surface, before grabbing a quick bite, and disappearing again.

With that, I sat down to (re)read a book I recently picked up -- “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution,” by retired Justice John Paul Stevens (Little, Brown and Company; 2014). It’s a short read, in terms of length, but the type of material that makes you stop and think about its implications. The chapters include: the “anti-commandeering rule; political gerrymandering; campaign finance; sovereign immunity; the death penalty; and the second amendment. In a very real sense, it is one of the most important books that I’ve ever read.

If we were living in a healthy society, the changes he advocates would not be necessary. But we live in an extremely diseased culture. By and large, the wrong people hold social-political power, including too many in elected office. From the local to state to federal level, most people in office are among the wealthy. If they aren’t rich, they serve those who are; if they are rich, they serve themselves.

There are good men and women who are ethical, and enter the political arena with good intentions. Yet, politics is the “art of compromise,” and far too many politicians compromise their own value systems. More, the nature of the beast today provides more opportunity for those who are unethical to begin with -- greedy, cruel, lying, self-justifying, judgmental, vile snakes -- with Dick Cheney and George W. Bush as prime examples. Would a healthy society consider such thugs as leadership material? No! In a healthy society, both were be incarcerated for murder.

Changes to the Constitution are likely required. At very least, we need to have a national discussion on this. One area I find potentially beneficial is recognizing that, in its entirety, the Constitution addresses both group and individual rights. Too often, we focus on the individual aspects; without question, the 1% focuses on groups (when the pretend to honor the Constitution). Our culture has become high-tech feudalism. Serfs, unite! We have nothing to loose but our poverty.

The sun begins to go down. The frogs are singing songs that other frogs like. Soon, lightening bugs begin their lift-off from the swampy area. Kelly runs ahead of me, as I make my way back to the house. I am thinking about how the Iroquois and Lenapi peoples would meet to talk shop near a giant Elm that still stood in the early 1900s. The first public meetings in this area, shortly after the Revolutionary War, were held outside, under that Council Elm. Our culture is so cut off from the mental state these days.

Peace,
H2O Man

Change

“I had money, and I had none
But I never been so broke
That I couldn’t leave town
I’m a Changeling
See me change”
-- Jim Morrison

There are some discussions on DU:GD regarding change: some people think DU has changed, while others think it has not. I think that both positions are correct.

As a long-retired social worker, I still tend to view everything from a “systems” approach. Families are systems. Schools are systems. The work place, group homes, social clubs, jails, and neighborhoods are all systems. In my mind’s eye, I find it useful to view each system as being engaged in an attempt to find balance, much like a mobile that hangs over an infant’s crib.

DU is a mobile. It has a curious balance. When it was formed about 13 years ago, it hung over the crib of the Bush-Cheney theft of the White House. In 2008, the election of Senator Obama to the presidency promised change in the crib. Since the presidency is the most visible source of political power, it would be impossible for DU to remain exactly the same.

No living organism can remain exactly the same. Those which come the closest are, by definition, stagnant. Organic systems that stagnate soon decay, as evidenced by the republican party.

All organic life on Earth -- and, indeed, the Earth, herself -- either grows, or wilts. That is the cycle that even the smallest of organisms share with the sum total of the entire organism. Cycles within cycles within cycles. And while the life-force within living organisms is “energy,” the material of life always follows that mechanical cycle.

The only thing that can “change” in a non-mechanical way is people. And that type of change is distinct from the reality of the evolution of life forms on Earth. It’s the inner-evolution that all of the enlightened “leaders” from various eras, around the globe, have spoken of. It’s not limited to religious or spiritual theories. Rather, it is what it means to be fully human, to reach one’s potential.

If anything can “save” our society, it can only be people. It won’t be a supernatural remedy. It won’t be Santa God or Stained-Glass Jesus. It will be human beings harnessing that growth potential within themselves.

Now back to DU.

The membership of the forum has obviously changed. Some of the good people from way back when have died, or moved on to other places. Other people have joined. One of the biggest changes, in my opinion, is that more of the people from the organized Democratic Party have attempted to use DU as a resource to promote the party line. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing. It suggests that people in the party take internet discussion sites somewhat seriously. Still, in the long run, they seek to make change by way of elections -- by getting people to the voting booth. And that is a good thing; if one needs proof, just consider the republican party’s on-going effort to keep people from voting.

There are, of course, some tensions that are bound to arise when people who always and only vote for democrats attempt to convince those who recognize that not everyone who is registered as a democrat makes a good politician. Those who are inhabiting Washington, DC’s halls of power tend to have far less in common with the grass roots, than they do with many of the republicans that they work with. For the corruption of things political also follows a mechanical route.

Thus, the highest potential for DU is not found in producing cogs who will limit their political activity to voting every few years. It’s how we spend the time between election contests. That includes our political and social activism -- and arguing on the internet should not be mistaken for activism.

If a person has been on DU for 10-plus years, and they think just the same as they did on the day they joined, it suggests that they have wasted a lot of time. If their other efforts have remained identical to what they were 10-plus years ago, they have become stagnate. It means that they have used DU as a sedative.

DU should be a stimulant. It should be used to increase the scope of our thinking. That doesn’t mean it should change our values. Rather, it should assist us in learning how to communicate our values to others, and to increase our willingness to engage in grass roots activism. That’s how real change can be made -- not mechanically. And that’s the real value of this forum.

Peace,
H2O Man

Strawberry Fields Today

">>>No one I think
is in my tree; I mean it
must be high or low.
That is you can't, you knw,
tune in, but it's alright.
That is I think it's not too bad."
-- John Lennon; Strawberry Fields Forever

I went for a walk this afternoon. Probably the time could have been better spent had I invested my energy into working on my lawn. Or cleaning the house. But I had a lot on my mind, and needed to spend some time talking to myself.

Walking near the Susquehanna River in the summer is an adventure. The paths along its side are the same that human beings have walked for ten to twelve thousand years. I’m sure that, at different points in time, other people have walked the same trail that I was on today, trying to clear their heads. And in the future, others will do the same, looking for answers to some of the same existential questions that I asked myself today.

(The name "Susquehanna" comes from a phrase regarding the strawberry fields along its edges in Chenango County.)

At one point, I noticed the dark soil that indicates that, long ago, there was a fire pit on the first terrace above the river’s bank. Upon closer examination, I found some scarlet-colored sand stone, shattered by the fire. Inside the pit were two broken, pocked arrowheads. A hunter had no doubt had success in killing his prey; perhaps his family sat around the fire while their meal was cooked.

Upon closer examination, I found four decorated sherds of pottery, another four arrowheads, and a flint drill. The arrows were all of a type known as Levanna. They are thin, well-chipped triangular points. The pottery is from the same cultural phase; it had been decorated with a net that would have been the type used for fishing the shallow rapids of the river.

The 11 artifacts all date back to approximately 900 ad. Maybe the individual or family using them had enjoyed the warmth of the early summer’s sun, much as I did. The sounds of the river’s rapids would have been much the same, though these people would not have had the background noise of automobiles driving in the distance. Nor would they have watched an airplane in the distance, circling around a small airport that is found on a field that, in colonial times, was the site of an Iroquois village.

Whatever those people were thinking about, and perhaps discussing as they sat near the fire, are long forgotten, no matter how important a topic it may have been at the time. Likewise, the issues demanding my attention will pass, soon enough. But they are real to me today.

In mid-May, my younger son called me from a hospital in Binghamton. He and his brother were there with their mother. She had been misdiagnosed in February, and had just been told that she had cancer. Thirty days later, she died.

I’m very proud of both of our boys. They are young adults, living busy lives -- work, college, girlfriends, and all the other things that fill young men’s lives -- had cleared their schedules, and taken good care of their mother. Their two younger sisters -- mine by way of a second marriage -- had also provided much-needed support. Although the boys’ mom and I split up more than a quarter of a century ago, we were good friends in recent years; my daughters really liked her, and she enjoyed spending time with them.

The day after she died, one of my close friends had a couple of medical tests come back bad, and he is going to have open-heart surgery in a couple of days. Then, the day before the funeral, one of my siblings had troubling news, and was diagnosed with yet another serious illness.

In theory, everyone who is born will eventually die. I leave room for myself to be the exception to this, but I try to be realistic, by assuming there is at least a 50-50 chance that I will die before reaching 200 years of age. I keep in mind a Woody Allen quote: “I’m not afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

After picking up the artifacts, I turned to walk back to where I had left my automobile. As I looked at the river, I thought how human beings had enjoyed an intimate relationship with it for thousands of years. Even in the time period when my childhood took place, lots of people were connected to the Susquehanna. They fished, canoed, and swam in its waters. Today, most people in my area don’t tend to notice that river, unless its waters are either extremely high or low. They see it through their car’s windows as they drive by it.

I try to make a conscious effort to take nothing for granted. Not people, not water, not anything. We are all part of a bigger cycle, involving a bigger system. At times, it is filled with pleasure; at other times, its painful. But its all part of the miracle of life. We shouldn’t take it for granted. Nor should we view it from a disconnected seat, through the false lens of the mechanical world.

Peace,
H2O Man

A 2016 Question

While the most pressing issue on DU:GD seems to be related to the Prude Pundit and bad words -- including the obsessive-repulsive need of some to sneak in words that are only intended to insult others, and reflect the inability of the user to communicate meaningfully to serious conversation -- I thought it would be fun to talk about something less important.

Older forum members will recall that a group known as the “neoconservatives” gained political power in the Bush-Cheney years. This group had been around for some time, but would have their greatest influence upon American foreign and domestic power from 2001 through 2008. By the end of the Cheney presidency, they were widely held in utter contempt.

Today, a mere six years later, these same neoconservatives are attempting to exploit the religious civil war in Iraq to promote their agenda. Briefly, the neoconservative agenda can be defined as being “liberal” on domestic policy, and hawks on foreign policy. In other words, while they enjoy the benefits of the stratified economic realities of the USA, they like to give lip service to “helping the most needy” in our nation. That is especially true if they get a write-off on their taxes if they make a charitable contribution to ease what they mistake for a conscience.

On foreign policy, they are hawks. They have shown an intense focus on the Middle East in particular, where they have two primary interests: one is supporting the military of a specific country; the other is insuring access to the natural resources of the US, that somehow ended up being placed in the Middle East. The neoconservatives are so interested in protecting US energy interests’ access to our oil there, that they will engage in “perception management” to arouse the anxieties, fears, and hatreds of the American public, and send other people’s sons and daughters to kill or die for access to our oil.

During the past week, the news media -- television in particular -- has featured the same gang of neoconservatives that ruled the Bush administration, advocating for a third military invasion of Iraq. Now, as funny as that may sound, it really isn’t funny at all. Admittedly, it lacks the long-term significance of a Rude Pundit sentence about Dick Cheney and his daughter, but it is still something to consider.

The neoconservatives definitely want to exploit the tragic events in Iraq, to promote the neoconservative agenda. And that includes both this year’s elections, and the upcoming 2016 presidential election.

Several times, during DU:GD discussions about the 2016 contest, if a forum participant voices concerns about Hillary Clinton, one of the responses is that those who do not support her candidacy will help elect a republican snake. For example, a Rand Paul. Now, while I think that this is a weak response, I am sure that we can all agree that Rand Paul should never, ever, be the President of the United States.

Yet, those very discussions raise another question, one I think is both interesting and important. If the 2016 contest is between Hillary Clinton and Rand Paul, who do you think the neoconservatives would favor?

Change the World: Today

“Libby had reasons beyond politics to be obsessed with Matthews. …Libby called Russert on July 10 to complain about Matthews. For Scooter, it would be a fateful call. …Russert suggested Libby call the president of MSNBC. Russert promised to call Neal Shapiro, the president of NBC. …Russert told Shapiro that he viewed Libby’s call as an implicit warning …. Shapiro spoke with Matthews’s executive producer, and urged him to have the talkshow host throttle back a bit. ’Hey,’ Shapiro recalled saying, ‘this guy is still the vice president’.”
-- Michael Isikoff & David Corn; Hubris; Crown Publishers; 2006; pages 266-67.

Two weeks ago, while driving on a local highway, I saw a snapping turtle attempting to cross the road. I’ve long stopped to assist turtles during their egg-laying season. For snappers, I have some tools to help me avoid their powerful beak. As I was getting the shovel out of the back of my vehicle, a lone car approached. The driver purposefully swerved, to kill the turtle, and continued on his way.

Watching clips of Dick Cheney’s rant against President Obama last night -- covered on MSNBC -- I found myself questioning if the former vice president reminded me more of the dead snapping turtle, or the guy who killed it for no good reason?

As obscene as it is to see the vile thugs like Paul Wolfowitz babble on about U.S. “national security” interests in Iraq, Cheney is by far the most toxic. Everyone on “The Last Word” agreed that Cheney’s contribution to the national conversation damages the republican party. In part, this is because while many republicans wish Cheney would just shut u, another segment of the party views Cheney as a wise elder statesman.

Anything that creates a divide among republicans is, by definition, a good thing. And every time that Dick Cheney’s evil mug is shown in association with that party, it’s a really good thing for all non-republicans. For when he opens his beak, everyone recognizes that lies are his language, and death and destruction roll from his tongue. You go, Dick! Straight to hell.

Recently, I posted a short essay on DU, urging people to become active in a non-violent movement to counter the republicans’ call to yet more “military intervention” in Iraq. It is important, in my opinion, to express support for NOT getting involved in yet more violence and warfare at this time. No matter if one supports President Obama or not is immaterial. He is definitely being pressured by the necroconservatives to attempt to secure energy corporations’ access to the resources of the Middle East -- no matter how many middle class and poor young American soldiers would be involved in killing and dying, or the horrors that the Iraqi people would suffer.

Cheney provides a vehicle for the Democratic Left and Democratic Party to make progress in areas beyond Iraq itself. This is obviously important in the context of this year’s elections. I’d like to discuss this in the context of some of the negative responses my last OP got -- not as an argument, an insult, or pointing fingers. Rather, we should be focusing on the potential benefits for all of us.
First, some people believe that, at the national level, politicians from both parties serve the same master. I am among those who thinks this way. That is not to say that I don’t think a President Obama, or a President Clinton, isn’t better than any George Bush or Ronald Reagan. Obviously, both Obama and Clinton are superior beings than Bush or Reagan, and are hoping to make positive contributions to the lives of ordinary citizens. But our nation has not only become an empire that colonizes, but it has been in the post-overreaching phase of empires. And it has for far too long been based upon a military-industrial economy, to provide for a military foreign policy. More, it is turning against those very ordinary citizens, fearing that they will practice democracy.

Others believe that no meaningful progress can be made, until Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Donald Rumsfeld are prosecuted for war crimes. Again, I am among those who advocate prosecuting those hoodlums. Yet, I do not believe that no significant progress can be made until such prosecutions take place. Indeed, I would say that until progress begins to build steam, there will be no accountability for men I rank among the most terrible criminals in human history.

In his 2008 book, “The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder,” Vincent Bugliosi made a strong case for the criminal prosecution of Bush, Cheney, et al. Interestingly, he noted that such a prosecution could take place on a “local,” county level. A prosecutor could indict any one (or all) of them, charging them with the murder of any military person from their district. It would seem more likely that this could take place, than the Justice Department from any administration ever seriously considering taking the case in the name of justice.

Is that totally unrealistic? Muhammad Ali once said that he believed that anyone who didn’t believe in miracles was totally unrealistic. And, as friend Rubin “Hurricane” Carter told me on July 4, 1976, “Miracles DO happen -- they just take a dog-gone lotta work.” I believe both of these men accomplished the impossible here in America.

What would it take to elect a District Attorney willing to prosecute a Bush or Cheney? It would definitely require a coordinated effort by the Democratic Left and Democratic Party. And what would that require? You. You and me. And the next person. And the next one. It is possible to elect such a District Attorney, and fully support her effort to seek justice. But it isn’t possible if we do not assume other progress is impossible, until that somehow happens upon its own.

Others questioned if non-violent action could accomplish meaningful change. That’s a fair question. I recognize that everyone is entitled tio their opinion. But if your opinion somehow locks you into a position where you identify yourself as helpless and hopeless, you might want to get rid of it. If your opinion reduces you to simply complaining on the internet, get rid of it.

How effective is non-violence, either as a tactic or a way of life? We need to consider that for ourselves, as individuals. Surely, the victories of a Gandhi or a King provide evidence that non-violence can work. Likewise, we can identify times where non-violent groups were crushed to earth.
It would be easy to mistake the efforts of those who have been crushed as failures. There are actually two types of related failures, however: the moral and ethical failures of those who participate in the crushing, and the failure of those who, for whatever reason, choose to turn their backs and say that nothing can be done, the opposition is too powerful, and accept the conditions inflicted upon them.

Non-violent activism includes public rallies, marches, and sit-ins, but it is not limited to those things. It includes everything associated with Amendment 1. We need voter registration and education campaigns. That means going into those neighborhoods that are taken for granted by politicians -- either because so few residents participate in the election process, or because they typically vote in a routine manner for machine candidates -- and exposing them to new ways of thinking.

I understand why some people honestly believe that the Cheneyites are too powerful to confront. But they have been lied to. They do not understand the Power of Ideas. Thus, they can not fully appreciate that the Truth is stronger than any lie.

We have an opportunity, now, today. Let’s not waste it. For if we allow it to pass us by, it will never present itself again. Another opportunity that looks kind of like it may come our way, but it can not be the same as we have now. It can only be more difficult to exercise.

Let’s get to work.

Peace,
H2O Man

America

"Oh, and I say it again, you've been had. You've been took. You've been hoodwinked. Bamboozled. Led astray. Run amok!" -- Minister Malcolm X; Speech in Harlem.


“Well, I see hands, and shapes of faces,
Reaching up, by not quite touching the Promised Land.
Well, I hear please and prayers, and
Desperate whispers sayin‘,
‘Oh Lord, please give us a helping hand’.”
-- Jimi Hendrix



It is pretty clear that, once again, dark forces within American society are attempting to involve the US in war in Iraq. That it is entirely about who has control over Iraqi oil reserves in obvious. But if one listens to republicans in Congress, or flips on Fox News, the “real” story is that that gosh-darned secular, radical Islamist, atheist President Obama is at fault.

And threatening our national security!

What’s happening in Iraq today poses a threat to our Home Land! It’s mushroom clouds and yellow cake on steroids. The Iranians!

There have been many times when I’ve wished that President Obama would channel the strength of LBJ in getting things done in DC. Today, I worry that those dark forces will attempt to get him to make the error that kept LBJ from being among the very greatest of American presidents.

We need to engage in a serious effort to keep the nation out of Iraq. That means making phone calls and sending e-mails to the White House and to Congress. And writing letters-to-the-editor of the newspapers in our area.

We need a Peace Offensive. Are you in?

H2O Man

Old White Folk Story

I’ve read a few O.P.s/threads discussing old white people here over the past few days, with great interest. Some of my best friends are old white folks; there are several living in my neighborhood; and even some of my extended family members have included old white people. So, while I admittedly do not have a Ph.D. in old white people studies, I have studied them closely.

My father was an old white man most of my life. He was a “first generation” Irish-American. His father came here from the Old Sod in the 1870s (white folks from another island stole the land our family had lived upon since at least the 1200s). My father was always older than me while I was growing up, and he rarely wore shorts. Hence, on those few summer days he wore shorts, his legs were painful to look at without sunglasses on.

My father was a very old white man when he died. The curious thing is that my siblings are about that same age today, and they don’t seem so very old to me.

This alone may not convince the skeptic that I know a heck of a lot about old white folks, so I’ll tell two true stories to remove any and all doubt:

Two weeks ago, while in a grocery store, an old white man said, “Hi” to me. I felt a wave of anxiety as I thought, “Who is that old white dude? He looks familiar.” Suddenly, about ten minutes later, I realized that he had been two years behind me in high school. The anxiety was replaced by sheer panic. I did, however, get home safely.

In a closely related true story, in the 1980s, I spent a day with Abbie Hoffman in Oneonta, N.Y. He was speaking at the state university there that evening. I remember that a lot of old white folks seemed disappointed that Abbie wasn’t exactly the same as he had been in 1968. Oh, his values were much the same, but his tactics were different. Some of the college students seemed surprised that he was mellower than the historical character they had read about.

I’m convinced that, by now, all readers except perhaps the most paranoid and/or troubled have concluded that I know about old white people. Now that my credentials have been fully established, I would like to talk about old white folks in the context of the struggle for political, economic, and social justice. Please pay attention while I’m speaking -- there will be a test. But you don’t have to take notes.

The struggle for social justice is on-going. It started well before the American Revolutionary War, and will continue in each decade and in every generation. It is not something that is won and done. Rather, it is a living entity, a living force that we participate in, either as an advocate or an enemy of social justice. Thus, those who attempt to sit upon the sidelines -- who “aren’t interested” and suffer from the delusion that their life isn’t impacted by the problems of the larger society -- add dead weight to the negative force, making it more difficult for good people to make progress. Yet that does not translate into their being “the enemy” in the same manner as a Dick Cheney or a corporation that destroys the natural world.
Every generation has had good and sincere participants in the struggle for social justice. But even within that large group, we can identify competing sub-groups. Let’s consider the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. It was, to be sure, an outgrowth of the same struugle in the 1950s, and the 1940s before that, and on and on. In the ‘60s, there was the NAACP, the SCLC, the Nation of Islam, the Black Panthers, and more. At times, the leadership of these groups didn’t coordinate their efforts. But when they did, they harnessed much more power than the combined totals of each group. Synergism is a very real force in social struggles.

In fact, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover authored an infamous memo in the 1960s, ordering his agency to destroy any and all attempts at uniting the various civil rights groups, preventing such a synergism. Students of that era know that, in late ‘64, there were efforts by Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X to unite. This would have resulted in the domestic civil rights struggle to evolve into an international human rights movement, where it properly belonged.

The Civil Rights Movement won a lot of important victories. Obviously, that struggle is far from over. The enemy has become more sophisticated and system’s-wise than it was in the 1960s. At the same time, it is no longer defined as exclusively “white vs. black”: there are also brown, red, and yellow peoples involved.

Both leadership and tactics have changed. The young leaders of that past era are now the Elders of today. That doesn’t mean they do not participate in the struggle. Their values are the same. But their tactics -- indeed, their role -- has changed. And that’s a good thing. It’s the right thing. For there are few things as sad as a 60-year old, male or female, attempting to compete with 25-year olds. (I am not, however, opposed to the Rolling Stones going on tour.)

When I was young, I was a student of the Elders. That doesn’t mean I was in total agreement with each and every one. But I could learn something from each one, and a heck of a lot from a few of them.

Today, I am old. My children are convinced that I am the oldest living human in history. Still, they and their circles of friends never hesitate to ask my opinion on current struggles for social justice. I interact with plenty of other young folks at group meetings in the region of upstate New York that I inhabit. And I get to meet quite a few young activists when I speak at high schools and colleges.

Certainly, not all of these young folk agree with me on everything. Nor should they. If, in my current role as -- for lack of better words -- a teaching Elder I found that any one of them agreed with me on everything, I’d have failed in my duty to encourage them to think for themselves.

Tensions within groups, and between sub-groups, is a good thing if it is used to fuel creativity. The opposite potential -- for tensions to be destructive -- is not a good thing. As we all contribute to the potential outcome, by way of our individual beliefs and actions, how we view others, especially those “different” from ourselves, plays an important role.

Keep an open mind.
H2O Man

Men

There are certain topics that never seem to go well on DU. The reality of sexist influences in our culture is one of them. Indeed, the ugliness of the 2008 presidential primaries pales in comparison -- at least to the extent that such debates did not include attributing Senator Obama’s victory over Senator Clinton in a male vs. female context.

The recent tragic mass-murder would seem to provide common ground. The killer was a freak. His primary target for his hatred was women. In reading the shit head’s manifesto, the rage that he aimed towards women is the most outstanding feature. Without that hatred towards all women, his rant would simply be a pathetic example of self-pity. In my opinion, but for that hatred of women, it seems unlikely he would have ever killed anyone.

That he had extremely little contact with girls while growing up, and almost none with women as he reached adulthood, did not keep him from defining females into a “one size fits all” group: the enemy. In particular, his perverse and inadequate ideas about sex made him dangerous to women -- for he convinced himself that women owed him sexual gratification. Thus, he was exactly the type of creep who, had he ever dated, would be at high risk to react violently if a woman told him “no.”

The fact that he had some connection to a “men’s rights” group has been mentioned as evidence that he hated women. Indeed, considering that he was never involved in a relation with a women -- except his mother and step-mother -- raises the obvious question: what “right” did he believe he was being denied? One that never existed. He wanted sex. And he wanted to be seen, on the beach or in a college classroom, holding hands with a beautiful woman. So yes, his hatred of women was his sole reason for relating to any men’s right group.

Yet, this in no way provides proof positive that men’s rights groups are bad. The fact that we are a patriarchal society, where maleness provides many advantages, does not mean that all men’s groups are focused on denying women equal rights. Surely, many such groups are not seeking equality, just as some of the members are flaming assholes. However, men do not have a monopoly on being scoundrels, and the number one focus of men’s rights groups is the area in our society where women, as a group, have long held an unfair advantage.

I live in New York, and hence what I have to say here applies to this state. However, it has been the general case in other states, as well. In the context of Family Court, where issues such as separation, child custody, divorce, support, and dividing assets, fathers have not found a level playing field. I’m friends with a number of the lawyers in my region (and a few judges), both male and female. They all say that women have had an advantage in this context.

Adults who are involved in divorces, especially where children are involved, do funny things. That includes men and women. The process sometimes involves two adults who are able to objectively put the well-being of their children first. But such cases do not end up being fought bitterly in court. Even if one parent is capable of putting their children’s needs first, it can end up in ugly court hearings, which tend to continue until the youngest child reaches maturity. And that still leaves many, many cases where both parents, to some degree, view the court as a competition, in which one side “wins” the children, property, income, and other resources.

The main focus that I had was my two little boys, ages three and six. In court, I got custody, and their mother got visitation. However, she also got the house, two of three automobiles, and support -- even though her income was more than mine. I told my attorney that I did not think this was fair. He said it wasn’t fair, but that I had gotten what was most important to me.

After I moved into an apartment, I found that two other guys living there had similar stories -- although neither had custody of their children. At first, we discussed this informally. Soon, we all began inviting other men to our discussions. Thus began a men’s rights group.

It is important to note that it wasn’t simply an organized meeting to trash women. To be fair, there were times when that took place, per an individual woman. But the primary focus was on father’s rights, how to navigate the family court system, and the responsibilities of fatherhood.

New York had changed some of the rules in family court, to make it fairer for men who wanted to be active participants in their children’s lives, back in the early 1970s. I was aware of this, because Governor Rockefeller had pushed the issue, largely at the request of the man who headed his security detail -- one of my uncles.

Our group approached one lawyer in each of the three surrounding counties. These gentlemen, who did not like to be involved in divorce/custody hearings, for the same reasons that many police do not enjoy being called to “domestic disputes,” were open to providing general information to our group. A couple were also willing to reduce their fees, if I prepared all of the paperwork needed for court. I’ve authored the appropriate paperwork in a couple dozen cases in the quarter century since then, and have “won” every case thus far.

Word spreads quickly. Soon, men who had no interest in being responsible parents came to us, seeking assistance. This included men who despised women. A few of them bragged about being able to intimidate the mothers of their children. One was mighty proud that he had hurt his wife, as if that was something to brag about.

In each and every instance, our group moved to kick that type of thug out of our meetings. We would try, as a group, to confront the guys that they were creating problems for themselves, and their children. Very few were willing to recognize the role they played. Instead, they became angry with the group. And, no surprise, one fellow mistakenly believed he could change our minds by threatening the two group leaders (which included me). That was a serious error on his part: he suffered the consequences.

Being pro-fathers’ rights does not translate to being anti-woman. Earlier tonight, I spoke with a woman from across the country, who leads a group of women who had the misfortune to marry psychopaths. I serve as a volunteer for that group. My tasks include assisting these ladies in how to best present the information they have, first to their lawyer, and then in court. I also spend time talking to individual group members, to help them win back the self-respect and dignity that has been stolen from them by ruthless thugs. The woman that leads this group is in the medical profession; she married a doctor, who turned out to be a snake. She and I have been friends since grade school. She knows that I try to help men going through divorce. But that doesn’t impact her trusting me to help the women in her group. The only thing that I ask in return, is that these people try to be the best parents that they can be.

Being the best parents we can be should be the focus of both men and women who are dealing with the family court system. And that’s not pro- or anti- either sex. If our society could come to terms with that aspect, we might be better equipped to deal with the numerous other problems that are caused by sexism in America.

Today, I am pretty good friends with my ex-wife. She is the mother of our two boys. And neither of us is the same person we were when we split. We enjoy each other’s company at family events. My daughters both are good friends with their brothers’ mom.

Life is a process.

-ism

“Intolerance betrays a want of faith in one’s cause.” -- Gandhi


Discussions about “-ism” have frequently been acrimonious on this forum. Issues that involve racism and sexism tend to be the most divisive and emotional here. In a very real sense, this is expected: American society has never come to grips with the cultural pathologies that infect most communities across the nation.

No infant is born hateful. It is learned behavior. If you watch itty-bitty children interacting with others, you find that they are aware of differences among people, including a person being male or female, and with different shades of skin color. I remember my older daughter, at age three, rubbing my brother-in-law’s arm, and saying, “Oh, Uncle Keith, you’re black. That’s so pretty!”

At our extended family events/ reunions, she saw people who were black, brown, red, yellow, and white. As a young adult, although she is aware that some people have hang-ups about what is incorrectly referred to as “race,” she knows that the racists own the problem. Obviously, the systematic racism also causes problems for too many people who do not own the problem. For racism in the United States is real, and contaminates the fabric of our society with ignorance, fear, and hatred. An obvious example of this is found in the hatred for President Obama; this is not to say that everyone who disagrees with his actions is racist, of course, but racists -- especially white racists -- continue to refuse to accept that he was twice elected to the highest office in the land.

The other major “-ism” -- sexism -- has more entrenched roots in our society. It is a sibling to racism, so entangled that it can be difficult to separate the two completely. And while like with racism, there have been advances in our cultural attitudes, we are still a long way from the Promised Land. While my daughter’s generation is intellectually and ethically advanced compared to my own, when it comes to issues involving marriage equality and the like, some of the ignorance, fear, and hatred between the sexes remains.

Hence, it seems worthwhile to consider how positive changes are accomplished …..more so, for goodness sakes, than the arguing, accusing, and finger-pointing that too often takes place on this forum. For we must do more than simply define the problem. We have to identify how change is made, and then use this information to decide upon the most meaningful approach that we can take -- as individuals and groups.

Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that it is a myth that it takes “time” to make meaningful change. “Time is neutral,” King said in the last Sunday sermon he was to deliver. “It can be used either constructively or destructively. ….Somewhere we must come to see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through tireless efforts and the persistent work of individuals …. Without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation …”

Thus, when I have the opportunity to talk with my daughter and her friends, I am aware that the changes I see reflected in their view of the world, is largely the result of the environment that they were raised in. Obviously, this starts with the family unit in which they were raised. Yet it also includes the schools they attend, and the communities they inhabit. More, it includes all of the negative aspects of the child’s upbringing, as well.

The second avenue to change is the individual. People can and do change -- often, for the better. In fact, those people who do not change over the years they spend on earth, tend to stand out more than those who do evolve in their thinking. We all know people who channel the social stagnation King spoke of.

It seems to me that one of the greatest stumbling blocks that prevents meaningful discussions on this forum is a failure to recognize -- and respect -- that people change. It would seem unlikely that a person who was raised in a household where females are not valued, is going to be at the same location on the path, as one who was raised respecting both male and females.

We need to be patient with individuals, and equally impatient with “the system.” You can’t curb anger with more anger, or hostility with more hostility, when dealing with individuals. You can’t force a person to see things differently by insulting them. Rather, people are more likely to be open to viewing things differently, when you approach them civilly, and use logic, facts, and rational thinking. Likewise, by creating tension in a larger social setting, one can open minds to different ways of thinking.

The potential good that can come from helping a person to think differently -- to understand and appreciate that there are other, better ways to relate to both male and female human beings, and to put the old, toxic “-isms” in the past -- should not be underestimated. For a person must think differently, before they will act differently. And our culture needs to be transformed, in thoughts and actions, in order that we can confront the other serious issues that confront humanity today.

Peace,
H2O Man
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