Tuesday, December 02, 2008

R.I.P. Jdimytai Damour

A man was STOMPED TO DEATH BY MAD SHOPPERS in a WalMart on Long Island in the early morning of the day after Thanksgiving.

I keep trying to write more about this, but each time I sit down at the keyboard to take another crack at it I just stare at the screen and shake my head; speechless in astonishment.

Right now I'm playing my own little collection of iTunes Christmas music, something I generally start as soon as Santa comes riding along Broadway at the end of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Watching the parade is for me a sort of guilty pleasure every Thanksgiving. I love the hour of Broadway previews and dancing that takes place in Herald Square as the parade inches its way toward Macys. By the time the Rockettes literally kick off the parade presentation itself I am already a hopeless mark for the forthcoming orgy of marketing miasma, and I know it. Nonetheless I watch, I tear up at the programmed moments, and I grin stupidly at each hyper inflated balloon soaring above the street like the hopes of retailers everywhere.

I am a hopeless shill for the capitalist holiday season. I'm not really comfortable with that, but it happens... and it happens every year. Most of the time, the way I shop for Christmas is to look at things along the way and then go out in a last minute shopping frenzy that makes me feel like one of Santa's elves. It's a stupid personal tradition, but it's me.

This year I have seen a number of people, like my old friend Rev. Billy, call for not buying and for learning a new way of caring and festing, and I've listened, and at least partly agreed with, the desperate call for people to shop enthusiastically in order to bolster our stumbling economy. To me BOTH of these perspectives have validity.

At the same time, I absolutely agree with Rev. Billy when he declares that "you don't have to BUY a gift to GIVE a gift."

But this thing that happened on Friday... It's a whole different beast. People in a feeding frenzy at a "door buster sale" who literally busted the doors and trampled the man standing behind them. There are calls to stop such sales and there are attacks on WalMart (and heaven knows that I am no friend of WalMart) but to me, this isn't about stores, or sales, or shopping... it's about people and greed and an uncontrollable addiction to STUFF.

Something is desperately wrong in our brains when this kind of scene can be played out so easily and with so little astonishment.

I still haven't figured out how to respond to this, but I know that I, somehow, must respond.

What will YOU do? Give it some thought... Let me know.

In the meantime, from Bruce Cockburn's album "Life Short Call Now" here's a song for your Xmas Shopping Pleasure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Erase My Name... Or Write It As You Will

Last night Keith Olbermann made comment on the collapse of Prop 8 in California and it's worth SEVERAL watchings.

I have been mulling over some kind of response to the issue of prop 8 in California since it first appeared on the ballot (along with laws which passed in Florida, Arizona and Arkansas as well), and I have yet to come to terms with the wording to explain how I feel. Most basically, I feel like Olbermann hits the nail soundly on the head. It is completely incomprehensible to me how people can begrudge other people the very basic reality of acknowledging, with full celebration and heart felt joy, LOVE.

I am particularly at a loss when considering the response of people who claim to be followers of the "Prince of Peace," a man who specifically declared the fundamental basics of loving one's neighbor as one's self.

I agree wholeheartedly with my friend Zach, who writes this morning of the need to remove the concept of marriage from the constitution entirely... though I disagree with his proposed methodology. THAT however is for a different (and perhaps shared) blog.

As for me... I take heart from the words of Clarence Darrow (and Omar Khayam) that Olbermann uses to close his commentary (and posted in the title above).

After a lifetime in "the church" I'm done. You can remove my name... erase it from the book... I want nothing to do with a community of people that choose to live with such hypocrisy and hate, and I want no more to do with trying to "bring them around." I would prefer, for all time, that my name be written "in the book of love" rather than in any book of exclusivity and division. I will not join in fellowship with those who choose to exclude people for who they are while claiming to love and welcome all.

I will continue my personal spiritual quest, for that is a part of who I am and I most certainly can't let go (whether because of temporal lobe epilepsy or a deeper apprehension of the truth remains to be seen). I will continue to fellowship in the churches like Glide Memorial where I am a member and Grace Cathedral where I regularly attend because they are open and affirming and welcoming to all, but I will not even darken the doorways of "houses of worship" who seek to exclude - by sentiment, declaration, or vote - those whom they have chosen to disfavor.

No more... I will not sit at a table where others whom I love are not welcome.

ONE Nation (and one world please)... with liberty and justice for ALL.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The Debate from A to B

Thursday, May 15, 2008

On Giving Up Golf...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Tide IS Turning

Bob Cesca has created an amazing video mashup from Barack Obama's recent speech in Pennsylvania and Roger Waters' song The Tide Is Turning.

There is really nothing more that needs to be explained. Just watch it

THIS is what art, politics, and life in these United States is SUPPOSED to be about.

It is what they CAN be about if we accept the challenge and go forward in HOPE.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Taco Benders Beware!

So the last of the Taco Trucks is barely hanging on in Jefferson Parish. The big solution to post-Katrina “blight” in the suburbs west of New Orleans is to get rid of the taco trucks that have moved in to serve the Mexican and Mexican-American workers who have arrived to do work, and to make money, helping to rebuild during the recovery. These are the folks who came in pretty much before anyone but the true die hards came back. They stood on the street corners surrounding Lee Circle in downtown NOLA and at intersections and vacant lots in the outlying areas as well. The taco guys, like the ubiquitous vendors in California, followed shortly thereafter. Of course… at the time they first arrived you couldn’t find too many “legitimate” places that were actually open. If you wanted to find a grocery store oor a restaurant, well… good luck. Best check the times an dthen subtract about three hours. A number of times I went hungry in those first months after Katrina because I didn’t make it to the store before it closed and I couldn’t afford to eat in the only places that were open. In a grand American tradition, the Taco Trucks found a need and filled it.

In an area where getting any kind of business up and running is a challenge right now, the answer by the Jefferson Parish city council is to outlaw the mobile entrepeneurism of Mexican food vendors, primarily because they remind city council members of Katrina. The good news is that, at least for now, there seems to be a little bit of clarity (dare I say sanity?) on the part of New Orleans politicians. They’ve decided to let the trucks stay for the time being. Perhaps they’re still formulating a plan for a personal benefits program from vendors rather than forcing them out of business. Perhaps someone should consider making Oliver Thomas the Taco Truck Czar for Orleans Parish. That would solve the problem for all concerned and Oliver could raise the money for his fine.

In California (and elsewhere) the trucks represent a market force to be dealt with. They face competition, restrictive health department regulations and the like, but they are at least seen for what they are, a driving economic force and an interesting culinary reality. If there was ever a food enterprise that reflected the American tradition of ambition wedded to necessity it’s the reality of the Taco Truck. In Southern Louisiana, where the bizarre commingling of gastronomic traditions has resulted in some of the most interesting food on the planet, one would expect a certain amount of understanding, cooperation, and even welcome. Instead the businesses are seen as a blight, as a reminder of Katrina (as if without the trucks everything around New Orleans would be sparkly, productive, effective and “normal”) And perhaps that is really the underlying reality of the battle in Jefferson Parish. It’s certainly not for nothing that the trucks were all fine until earlier this year as their more established competition began to return and reopen. Could it be that the trucks represent an imaginative approach to problem solving that the more established and entrenched businesses, citizens, and “city fathers” of the area are just simply not prepared to deal with?

It seems to me that this is the reality of the immigration debate throughout the country. The overarching response tends to be something like “how dare they?” How dare they come in here and work harder than “we” do? How dare they come in here and change the way “we” eat? How dare they come in here and try to do the very same thing that everyone who has ever come to America (which on some level means ALL of us, for even “Native Americans” came from across the Bering Straits) has tried to do?

It’s time we started to recognize – as local citizens, as Americans, as HUMAN BEINGS – that everyone of us, on some level, wants the very same things. We all want that basic trio of elements offered up in The Declaration of Independence: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We need to start remembering that the best way to get that for oneself is usually to help someone else get it for themselves (I think that’s in The Secret somewhere… I know it’s in the Bible). Like Robert DeNiro, as the crazy mercenary repairman in Terry Gilliam’s movie Brazil, comments just before zip lining off into oblivion… “We’re all in it together kid.”

There is no place on the planet where that is more true right now than in New Orleans and the surrounding area. The fact is it’s true about the rest of the country (and world) as well. If we don’t start seeing each other as companions on the journey and assistants to the task we’re going to drive each other into the ground. The battle between taco vendors and “real” restauarants in Jefferson Parish is not that far removed from the battle between Shiites and Sunis in the neighborhoods of Baghdad and the guys (for they are indeed mostly guys) who are making money hand over fist by keeping us all separate and unequal just love it when we bicker. So how about we throw em a curve?

Anybody want a taco?

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Send in the Clowns

We are less than three weeks away from the second anniversary of Katrina and the related disaster of the levees.

Harry Shearer has an, as usual, excellent piece on the current situation and the soon to be photo op of presidential candidates in The Huffington Post this morning. In that piece he points to an article in the Times-Picayune that details the people - important people - in Congress who have not been down to see what happened (and is happening). One could make the case for the fact that with tv and news coverage a person would not have to be in New Orleans to see what's wrong, but if yo made that case you'd be wrong.

The difference between what you are able to pick up from even the best news coverage, or from films like Spike's "When The Levees Broke" is not even a fragment of what you see and, more importantly, feel, by actually being here. For congressional leaders, elected fro, and charged with, managing the funds that run the country to simply skip out on the responsibility of viewing what government mismanagement (at all levels, but most aggregiously at the Federal level) has done to this city is absolutely shameful.

Additionally... today's TP, also features articles on the Corps of Engineers continuing acknowledgement of failure pre-Katrina, and its problems with coming up with a system to protect this city post-Katrina.

The later piece makes reference to a National geographic article in the August issue of that magazine, which offers the suggestion that New Orleans should perhaps no longer exist.

What the F@#K!?!?!?

Does anyone (especially The National Geographic) ever suggest that perhaps it's time for Venice to fade into the sunset? Or The Netherlands... or London?

Or Sacramento, where the same Corps of Engineeers has built similarly unsatisfactory levees? Or... any of the long list of problematic levee locations in every state of this country?

I have a friend in California who only half jokingly suggests that we should not spend money to protect people who live below sea level, but he's never really answered my corresponding question about people (like both of us) who choose to live in a place with a very high probablity of a huge and catastrophic earthquake.

The fact is... we are all... and I really do mean ALL... in this together. And it really is well past the time for people to start actually paying attention to something besides baseball.