Friday, February 3, 2017

The Bowling Green Massacre

Sung to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

We all will remember the place that we were when we heard of the carnage forgotten,
Said media lied, but Kellyanne provided the name of the place folks weren't shot in.
A massacre nobody knew of took place and the media didn’t explore it.
She mentioned the name, but Chris Matthews took pains to move on and completely ignore it.

She won't live it down, in Kentucky they frown when you mention the time Missus Conway
not knowing a thing ‘bout the history she brings in to justify acting the wrong way,
“I said massacre, I meant terrorists.” Does she know the difference? Just ask her.
You can’t ask the dead, because you’ve been misled ‘bout the fictional Bowling Green Massacre!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Subconscious Activism

Last night, I woke from a nightmare.  There were fires in the trees right next to a what my subconscious mind had created - a combination of my son's high school and the local state university. I somehow sensed that arson was to blame, but there wasn't time to dwell on the cause. I knew that the fire threatened the buildings and the people inside.

I ran in, but all the fire extinguishers were spent, missing, or broken. I pulled the fire alarm switch, but it came off in my hand without any effect. Panic-stricken, I searched for a solution. I discovered a tool shop, and found an old pump-type extinguisher. I quickly popped the lid and filled the large tank with water. Acutely aware of the precious time ticking away, I grabbed a rusty hand cart and lugged the huge heavy canister outside.

The flames were climbing higher into the branches and licking the sides of the buildings. I pumped the handle and sprayed from the nozzle at the conflagration until the stream dwindled, then pumped again. The heat was like nothing I've ever felt. I had to be close or the water wouldn't reach. It felt as if I would melt. The flames seemed indifferent to my efforts.

I pumped and sprayed, pumped and sprayed, My muscles began to cramp, but I couldn't stop. I was so relieved when people joined in, taking turns pumping and spraying. The progress was painfully slow, but we began to make some headway. Our combined efforts were diminishing what was once a seemingly unstoppable conflagration. We turned that destructive force back. Even though the trees were damaged, a botany professor in the group thought they could be saved.

When I told my wife a little bit about my dream, she said with a hint of sarcasm, “Really, so you had that  dream? I wonder where that came from?” She's brilliant, and she saw it for what it was. I was too close to see the allegory of my subconscious mind.

My daughter gave away the other seven hats she made the week before the march.

On Saturday, my wife, my daughter, and many of our friends participated in our city's women's march. I was excited and grateful to participate. The feeling was electric. The message was life-affirming. So many people were demonstrating how much they cared about each other, and the world we share. There was anger, too.

People have devoted their lives to advance causes of equality and the environment. Turning back the clock on the progress they have fought for is a goal of those in power. Our institutions are being threatened. Cabinet picks are so averse to the functions of their posts that the great John Cleese compared the nominations to “Assembling the crew for a pirate ship.” Science and facts are disregarded in favor of inflammatory campaign rhetoric even in a “presidential” inaugural speech. The arson has reached the branches of the trees begins to threaten the core structures of our system.

People reacted. They came together in the largest nationwide protest in the history of our country, but it transcended borders and oceans. This is a global phenomenon. It is inspiring to be just one small part of something so important and historic. The key, is the power of one. The numbers are impressive in size, but would not exist without each and every individual who participated, and it is a demonstration of the sheer number of individuals who will be acting as one.

We'll be watching, demanding accountability, and contributing to those individuals and groups fighting along with us to turn back the destructive inferno roaring before us.

We have the old reliable tools that still get the job done like rusty carts, antique fire extinguishers, editorial pages, local organizing efforts, and postcards and letters to representatives. There are comparatively new tools as well such as email campaigns, social media, and even the seemingly ancient form known as the blog post. With a concerted and consistent use of these tools a committed group can win the day and prevent disaster. Trees, buildings, and lives can be saved. We can protect a community, a culture, and a nation that values knowledge, diversity, and equity.

My subconscious didn't create a perfect analogy, but this is an incredibly imperfect time. There is always room to strive for a more perfect union. It feels like there's more room now than there has been in a very long time.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Unintended Instrumental

Sometimes, you can just be going along, doing something you've done hundreds of times before, and suddenly you are not around anymore. It can happen. It happens many times every day. It could even happen when you are reading something on the internet, for example. Granted, it's more likely to occur, if that thing that you've done so many times before is sitting alone in a motel room shooting heroin, but it can happen any time.

Suppose that you have lived the equivalent of many peoples' lifetimes in a relatively short time. You have accomplished much and overcome even more, yet you feel that you are only just reaching your potential.

One day, you complete a day of work in the recording studio. You sing an a cappella song called Mercedes Benz. It is the ninth in a set of excellent tracks you've already completed. You have finally found the right group of musicians, a producer you like and respect, and one who reciprocates those feelings. Everything is falling into place. Soon, maybe tomorrow, you plan to revisit the studio to lay down the vocals for a tenth song called, "Buried Alive In The Blues." You really like the instrumental track that's already been recorded.

"Buried Alive In The Blues" will become a part of your most successful release ever. A set of songs that is destined to echo in the world of music far into the future. It may be timeless. Many will consider it your finest work; although, who knows what the future may bring? You are in the middle of something great, something that you will never see come to full fruition, although your absence will not impede its ascension.

There are two big lessons to take from this. They are both nearly impossible yet vital missions.

1) Don't be like Janis Joplin.

2) Be like Janis Joplin.