August 21, 2016

Some things never change

Ramblings on the value of a life and the perceived differences in humans...
It wasn't unique to Dallas, although the city's recent past reputation as a Klan haven brought much attention to the white-bread communities north of the Trinity. In those days the financing behind the fear mongering and hatred came from a pair of born-into-privilege brothers from an oil rich family (sound familiar?). Dallas was their home, but the virulence was all around. Dallas north of downtown was friendly territory for the John Birch Society. What was going on in Big D didn't come to my home. It was revealed to me later as I learned to dig deeper than the pabulum fed to us in carefully edited textbooks.
I grew up out in West Texas; in the middle of it all, or so it seemed at the time. Everywhere you looked across the dusty Texas ranch land and oil fields there were hand-scrawled placards hanging from barbed wire fences and professionally painted road signs shouting "Impeach Earl Warren!" I didn't know who Warren was or what impeach meant at the time, but I did know the seething hatred that could be found whenever a group of old, white men got together over cups of coffee down at Star's Cafe. It was a little later as I haired over and learned to drive that I learned how widespread was the evil. Just to the east of Dallas was a town with a banner hanging over the main street... bragging that it had "The Blackest Dirt, The Whitest People." Just to the west a diminutive but well cared for sign under an oak tree on the courthouse square made the bold claim that "The Last Nig*** Hung in Texas Was Hung From This Tree..." These are gone now, but the fear and hatred from which the emotion was born is still evident. In their place we see anti-Obama and increasingly anti-Hillary signs; we hear a constant barrage from the pulpits and from hate radio about the Muslim usurper in the White House and the greedy wench wanting to force "four more years" into our bleached white existence. It isn't a whole lot different now than it was in 1963. Only the targets have changed... the hate remains the same. Considering the seemingly never ending hatred of the "others" endemic in this state, in retrospect the Kennedy assassination seems almost inevitable. Much analysis has been done on that dreadful event... the murder of a president and the days immediately following that fateful November morning in 1963, but there hasn't been enough attention paid to what lead up to it. The linked article entitled A Month Before JFK's Assassination, Dallas Right Wingers Attack Adlai Stevenson - Remembering the ferment in the "City of Hate" was penned for the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy Assassination by Bill Minutaglio, It offers a glimpse of how it was then. I don't see it being much different five decades later. Who will die, when and where seem to be the only things left unanswered. Dallas has mellowed much since those hate-filled decades, but the hate-filled people are still with us... they've just moved to the suburbs and surrounding counties. Witness the witless politicians they send to the Statehouse and to Congress; interesting folks like Louie Gohmert, Joe Barton, Dan Patrick, and Tony Tinderholt. Children aren't born hating. Hatred is learned, and in Texas it is learned at the knee of the father, from all the hate radio jocks, and in the pews on Sunday. ~~~

June 10, 2016

Bernie has more progressive ideas, but Hillary is too important an opportunity to miss

The Most Polite Debates on Record

The conversation I had a few weeks ago prompted me to pull out the soapbox. As I’ve made obvious in my many status updates on Facebook and the material I published in the Op Ed pages of various newspapers, I detest inequality and the suppression of humans based upon some mythological superiority system. It may make me sound socialistic, and of course I *am* socialistic on many fronts, but the truth is that I’m simply humanistic. Demographically, being an old, Caucasian male, I fall into the most common category of the oppressor. Life would be so much simpler if I was to just go with the flow and be just another echo chamber WASP… but I can’t do that.

We briefly discussed the role of women in society. The person with whom I was speaking felt sad that her friends, two long term progressive judges, lost their jobs to primary opponents. In a way it’s a shame, because they *were* quite progressive, but I still feel that raising the profile of their female and minority opponents should be a prime concern. The way to defeat Stone Age thought is to drive the Stone Age thinkers back into the caves from whence they emerged. The old, white, male, while progressive, were… well… they were old, white males. They lost to primary winners will have a larger effect on our society… if they manage to get elected… just because they are female and of minority origin. The day will come when that won’t be as important, but today… this election… is not that time.

It is very, very important to advance the historically oppressed into positions where they cannot be oppressed. Women and minorities in the background won’t get it done. We’ve got to get those demographics out front and center. Women, Hispanics, LGBT, the disabled, the non-dominant religions, and anything else that isn’t old, white male. The status quo has got to be busted down. If you don’t understand why, pull up any major newspaper’s web portal and read the comment to the articles and editorials.

In that conversation we also briefly talked about minorities in science and technology. Let me ask you, if you were forced to come up with the names of 10 female or minority scientists, could you do it? 10 white, usually European male scientists would be easy, but it seems the accomplishments of minorities are either kept quiet or usurped by a white male colleague. As an example I offer the Pythagorean Golden Ratio. This simple mathematical principle has been used by scientists, engineers, architects and artists for centuries and Pythagoras gets the credit for its discovery. But did he really discover it? Look up Theano, Pythagoras’ wife and see what the math historians say about it. Why do we not already know these things? Why are the accomplishments of women and minorities buried?

Other unheralded minorities have accomplished fantastic feats, developed vaccines, eliminated plant diseases, designed large buildings, made great advances in medicine, and generally contributed to our human society… all in relative anonymity. Had they been white males there would be books written about them. The list below was gleaned from Smithsonian websites. Each of these people made large contributions yet still suffered persecution for the crime of being different.

Sind ibn Ali – 7th century Muslim, developed the first known astronomical charts
Bertha Parker Pallan-Cody – Native American archeologist
Doris Cochran, herpetologist and Doris Blake, entomologist. Lesbian lovers married to men.
Janet Bashen – First black female software developer to receive a patent on a web-based application.
Harlean James – landscape architect and huge promoter of the National Park System
Valentina Tereshkova – Russian Cosmonaut.
George Edward Alcorn Jr. – Black male who gave us the Xray.
Libby Hyman – Textbook author and zoologist with the University of Chicago. She couldn’t get any other job because she was Jewish.
Keith Black – Black male who was doing neurosurgery before Ben Carson

And then there is Penelope Jo (Maddy) Parsons. She is my age and won the national Science Fair as a teenager with an amazing demonstration of mathematical aptitude. Four years later she was awarded some kind of recognition by a European group, and then she disappeared into the crowd never to be heard from again…because she is a woman… and women don’t do science.

I’ll summarize by saying that mankind has managed to shed many of the chains that have bound us to the past, but we still have a few we must address. The knuckle-draggers, perhaps fearing a loss of power or stature, have made an astounding resurgence over the last half-century (Taliban, Evangelical Christians, Neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Fox News viewers).

From my perspective those efforts are going to backfire and right now the time is ripe to push back. Minority children being born today should, by the time they reach my age, be enjoying equal stature with white men of the same age… with 100% equality… and no foolishness about some kind of supremacy based on stupid reasons. Society should be able to look back in shame at the way we treated our fellow humans over these previous decades, just as many of us do now with the genocide of Native Americans, slavery and civil rights.

President Obama shattered the myth that kept blacks held down… now is the time for Hillary to break the next barrier. In 30 or 40 years… who knows? Maybe a transgender, black, Muslim, woman will be judged on her merits as a leader and not considered inferior because she isn’t an old, white male.


An old, white male who refuses to hate someone simply because they are different than me. 

March 13, 2016

Short Memories and the Ignorance of History

A couple years ago I found that an old friend had become dyed in the wool Republican. I guess it took me back a little, considering we’ve been pretty close since meeting in 1969. We were both street freaks in those early days… if you know what that means you get a gold star. The “man” called us hippies, and the man hated the way we lived. So yeah… it kinda shook me to learn that he’d gone GOPer. There were gaps in there, and I just don’t know what happened to turn him this way. Then just a few days ago I found that he was not only Republican, but also in Trump’s corner. I don’t think a poke in the eye with a hot iron would have hurt me as bad as learning that. All the old memories keep dancing in my head. And all the history of the man makes it all the more difficult. I didn’t react too well.

JFK was murdered when I was a freshman in high school. The world seemed so full of hate right about then. Reminds me so much of this election season. Living in Texas I knew well the effects of hate and racism, but I couldn’t figure out why JFK had to die. Even though I’d gotten started politicking at the ripe old age of 10, I didn’t know much about Kennedy other than what I could read in our little paper and the speechifying I heard on radio and TV. I liked him… impressionable I guess… didn’t like Tricky Dick, so I picked up some flyers and bumper stickers and went around offering them to folks. LBJ needed help too, so I did it again.

What I didn’t know was that Kennedy or Johnson had a hand in what would eventually happen at Kent State. Every president from Woodrow Wilson to Obama has had a part in it, but the deed that changed me happened on Nixon’s watch. But we can’t pin it on him any more than we could LBJ or JFK before him. No, this got started in 1919 with a group called the GID, some very controversial operations identified as the Palmer Raids, and a man called Marcus Garvey. This snip from the Biography website identifies the roots of the surveillance culture with which we still suffer today.

“… In 1919, [J. Edgar] Hoover targeted Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey, naming him a "notorious negro agitator," and began searching for any evidence that would allow Garvey to be charged with a crime. In December of 1919, afraid of Garvey's growing influence, Hoover hired the first black agent in the Bureau's history: James Wormley Jones. Jones was sent to gather intelligence on Garvey, and the resulting information led Hoover and his group to sabotage Garvey's Black Star Line, a series of ships meant to transport goods between the black communities of North America, the Caribbean and Africa. Hoover [ … ] spent much of his career gathering intelligence on radical groups and individuals and "subversives," Martin Luther King Jr. being one of his favorite targets. Hoover's methods included infiltration, burglaries, illegal wiretaps and planted evidence, and his legacy is tainted because of it. He died in Washington, D.C., on May 2, 1972…”

Two years and a day before his death, the culture this man begat killed four kids for nothing more than exercising that which is guaranteed to every citizen and is enshrined in the First Amendment to our Constitution… and now I find that someone I believed to understand the reasons why we cannot go back to that history… is actively working to perpetuate it. I wonder if he can even conceive of the pain this causes.