August 11, 2011

La Promisa

Everywhere I walked woodsmoke scented the night air...the night was darker than sin and no electricity anywhere except in the center of the small town from the Sandinista generator that powered the little police station in Bocana de Paiwas...Reagan's "freedom fighters," the Contras, had cut the electric wires a week before, after threatening to kill anybody caught helping the Sandinistas...since nearly everyone was helping the Sandinistas do the necessary things--build and stock schools, man health clinics, food centers, farming help, and some justice--which had been lacking since the Bolivarian other words, since the whole town stood to benefit from the Sandinsta program, helping it to emerge from a state of historic impoverishment, the whole town, excepting the Contra spies within, was on the hit list...nobody was safe.

I felt safe, however, being an American. If the Contra killed me, it wouldn't play well in the US Congress, and if the Sandinistas did it, it would be another "provocation," giving the United States even more reason--if "reason" entered into anything then--to continue the war. I had hitchhiked into the little town in the middle of Nicaragua, catching a distant boom of artillery from somewhere, and had even caught a ride on a six-by with 15 Sandinista soldiers, who were headed for the Front. (A "six-by" is a large military truck for transport of troops and supplies.)

People around the town in the wooded, hilly farm and ranch land had been tortured and thrown bound into the rapid Bocana River to drown. Their friends and relatives told me their stories and I believed them. I went there to hear the stories, but my Spanish was bad, and their English was only slightly better. I did it anyway and understood enough to believe what I heard...nobody lied about the small rancher who wouldn't hand over his 40 cows to the had taken him 40 years to accumlate they gang-raped his daughter and cut her head off and put it on a pole on the road...they also killed his son...then they tied the old fellow up and threw him in the rapid-flowing American man from Witness for Peace translated for me now and then...his group was all over war-worn Nicaragua, documenting, and trying to stop the killing and kidnapping, which the majority of Americans seemed to approve, since the victims supposedly were "communists," and communists weren't really people after all, but demonic, ignorant, evil and deluded sub-humans, who hated liberty, freedom, democracy, God, the American way of life, and the United States of America in particular: communists without good reason hated God's only Nation on Earth (besides Israel) and Ronald Reagan, the God of the Lunatic Right, who conducted His public relations.

Reagan had told a fairy tale about his "freedom fighters"--a bunch of filthy torturers, murderers and being the equivalent of our Founding Fathers...(it was true! ask the Indians!)...and a gullible American public--raised on the corny, romantic, untruthful Death Valley Days, and the even-cornier Leave it to Beaver--bought the story, but missed the irony. Americans, brainwashed to hate anything that contradicted capitalist doctrine, were ready to buy anything, after losing the disastrous Vietnam War, and feeling the excruciating pain of gas lines and gas prices going up a whole dollar, during the Jimmy Carter period. People who know something of the pain Nicaraguans were enduring scoffed at the whimpering and whining American public, brainwashed for 100 years to view leftist ideas as clownish or demonic. The Sandinistas were leftists, but Violetta Chamorro, the widow of the assassinated Pedro Chamorro, the editor of La Prensa, was herself a member of the Sandinista Directorate, and certainly was no communist; and the Directorate acted only after consensus had been achieved; no consensus, no action. This kind of unity had brought down Somoza, and launched the Sandinistas into power. It really is as simple as this: the US and other exploiters rule their subjects by dividing them against one another. Unity is the biggest threat to this system, and "a bad example" for adjacent nation, suffering also beneath what can only be truthfully called "imperialist domination."

The Contra were torturing, murdering bastards, and they were bossed by the worst of the dictator Somoza's terrorist army, the National Guardmen who escaped revolutionary justice...notably Enrique Bermudez, and by his CIA handlers, of course. Those Contra, who had managed to escape the country and connect with the CIA in Honduras and Costa Rica, intimidated, recruited, and kidnapped men and kids, and trained them to attack other Nicaraguans...terrorists by any reasonable criteria...they sowed terror with rape, theft, torture and murder. Ironically, after the war ended, many of these Nicaraguan Contra returned to their home villages only to find that other bands of Contra had done the same in their own villages to their own families and friends...whoever was a friend of the Sandinistas was fair game, and the Sandinistas had a lot of friends. I was one, and still am.

The Contra had to raid from over the borders of Honduras and Costa Rica, because there was no support or sanctuary for them inside Nicaragua. The Sandinista army swarmed them like hornets when they were detected, and the Contra always fled. The Sandinistas were armed with Soviet and US weapons, a few powerful .175 millimeter howitzers...some Cuban training, and a determined revolutionary spirit, that put their long-suffering country under the control, at least temporarily, for the first time in its history, of a true peoples' party, set on ridding the nation of United States dominance once and for all.

But the Sandinista vision was doomed to failure because Nicaragua, unlike Cuba, is not an island, and the character and temprament of the Cubans and Nicaraguans are very different. It is not unfair to say that Cuba's success had doomed the Sandinista Revolution. The US wouldn't be caught short again. Invasion was not only possible, but probable in Nicaragua's case. It would have been a cakewalk for American forces to establish military control of Nicaragua in a way that never could be accomplished in Cuba, where the Revolution has had nearly 50 years to dig in and establish itself, to educate Cuban youth to their true history vis-a-vis the United States, and to train the people for defense, and to make them more social and less selfish, to keep them lean and hard, and dedicate successive generations to Cuba's independence. Fidel's vision for socialism in Cuba was to make "a new man," unselfish, educated, community-spirited, and militant to defend the revolution.

The unfortunate fact for the United States is that Fidel Castro made public health his private obsession. Medical schools were expanded, clinics were established, technical help was sought from advanced countries, and health care, despite the lies of Wall Street and the other capitalist bastards who want Cuba to be a whorehouse again, is free for all. A few years ago, Cuba had 15,000 doctors and nurses treating the poorest people in Amazonia of South America. People come from all over the world to Cuba for free eye operations. Even the CIA will tell you that. In fact, if you are interested or want to be surprised, you might check out the CIA's website, and see what it says about Cuba, most of which is a direct contradiction to the daily litany of anti-Cuban propaganda that our compliant and cowardly Press blathers about.

Despite constant economic and military assaults against Cuba since President Eisenhower (Vice President Richard Nixon was in charge of this program), revolutionary spirit in Cuba remains high. But one Cuban soldier that I spoke to briefly--I had asked him if the Sandinistas were communists--told me, "They are infants compared to us." He meant as far as communism went. The Sandinistas were nationalists first and pre-communists second, but there were many opinions among the Nicaraguan people.

US assaults, sabotage, espionage, and economic blockade of Cuba had toughened and strengthened Cuba's armed forces, and the economic blockade had made lean the people, who, unsurprisingly to all but the Americans, never stopped making music and dancing under the most-harsh, most-dictatorial, most-communistic, most-tyrannical, and most evil dictatorship the world has ever known or heard of (and so on). But Nicaraguans were emerging with bent backs from centuries of colonialism, one of the most brutal dictatorships in the western hemisphere,(really) a devastating revolutionary war period, and a century of America's crippling "dollar diplomacy," which had robbed their resources, denied them education, corrupted their politics, impoverished and cowed the majority, vastly enriched a small minority, and empowered an organization of murdering, torturing thugs under the Somoza family, who ruled Nicaragua for 50 years with a Nazi hand, and with US money, arms and training.

It is an understatement to say the US government never met a capitalist dictator it would not cut a deal with. But there were no deals proposed to the Sandinista government, unless Secretary of State Shultz offered one, during a brief stopover from South America in 1985, when he met President Ortega and other officials at the airport. No one I know of has ever heard or read what Shultz said to Ortega, but it is not hard to imagine.

"Do what we say, or we are going to invade and kick the shit out of you," is what I imagine. Or maybe he only offered money for the Sandinistas to back off their principles, quit spreading literacy throughout the illiterate population, and stop building health clinics and schools. That sort of program, when successful, scares the hell out of the United States Government. Somehow, such programs get twisted around to mean, "communism." The magic word that causes millions of American knees to jerk so hard they slam their owners in the brainpan.

We'll probably learn what Schultz said to Ortega when we learn who really killed John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King.

I was waiting for an American clergyman of Bocana to return from the town of Bluefields so that I could interview him. One sunny afternoon, I was walking around the hilly town with my ex-brother-in-law's Nikon around my neck, climbing a very rocky street, when I noticed an old man standing in the doorway of a shack with a curtain for a door, waving for me to come in. I went in. The room was bare except for a small cot and a thin mattress, a small bedside table with a cloth over it, and a wooden box for a chair. He might have been 40 or 50 or 60. He was shirtless and shoeless and his pants were threadbare and torn. His frame was skeletal from malnourishment. His belly was as flat as a kid's. He motioned for me to sit. I sat. He reached beneath the cloth and brought out a tin plate of cooked red beans with a spoon, and offered it to me. I declined. He offered it again. I declined politely, and he put it back behind the cloth.

He spoke a mixture of halting English and Spanish, beginning with the word, "Por que?" Why? I made out that he wanted to know why the United States was making war on his town. "Por que la guerra?"

I told him that it was because the United States Government was a son-of-a-bitch to poor people everywhere, and that the United States Government did not like the Sandinistas, because they were helping the poor people. That was as well as I could explain what to me was the essence of a simple truth, and he nodded his head in agreement.

"El Presidente Reagan es uno hijo de bitche," I said. President Reagan is one son-of-a-bitch.

"Tell them that we are only poor people. We poor people, we do nothing to them, but they kill us, matar, por nada. When you go home. Solamente los pobres aqui." Only poor people here. "Tu hablas los Americanos, por favor." You tell the American people, please.

That, roughly, was how I translated it with my poor Spanish.

I promised that I would. We shook hands, and I departed. He patted my shoulder as I passed.

"Tell the United States people," he said.

I promised again that I would.

"Promiso," I said.

I have told this story so many times.

August 6, 2011

The Boys of Nicaragua

Sometimes it’s too much to bear.

But we bear it anyway, or stop living or live a life of escapism and mediocrity. Many people don’t know how bad it really is because their feelings are buried. Some bury feelings for self-defense; others never had feelings because they were raised hard by unfeeling people or people who felt only anger, hate and pain. Many of these become sociopaths and psychopaths or misanthropes and haven’t a glimmer of conscience. But even they are redeemable sometimes.

“The Boys” of Somoza’s Nicaragua come to mind.

The following story was told to me by Margareta Nordh, a Swedish woman I met in Nicaragua in 1985, and returned there with in 1986-87. I wish I had recorded her words, because she had a way of telling in a musical voice remarkable and memorable things that stuck in my mind. She had seen much of Nicaragua and other parts of Latin America.

Margareta was a credentialed communist of high integrity and deep commitment to the poor, who worked closely with the Swedish government and had something to do with the FMLN in El Salvador and the Sandinistas of Nicaragua. Sweden at that time enjoyed the popular and enlightened leadership of Olaf Palme (assassinated,) and the Swedes had no fear of communism, having lived next door to Russia for many centuries with the little-known honor of having been the only nation in history to whip Russia in a war, during the reign of Peter the Great. The government when I knew Nordh was a coalition of conservative capitalists, socialists, communists and independents. Sweden has a competent army and navy and has not had a war for about 400 years. It sat WW II out in Neutrality (like Spain and Portugal) and angered Norway because, under the threat of invasion, it had let the Nazis travel through by trains, supposedly without weapons.

She spoke five languages fluently and was a medical doctor who specialized in broken bones. She also was a social anthropologist who had spent much time living with and studying the pre-Colombian Indians of Venezuela, and she had traveled alone in 84 countries, and lived in Mexico for five years.

During the fifty years or so of the dictatorship of the Somoza family of Nicaragua, the National Guard which the United States had set up in the late 1920s as a “constabulary”-- like the one we had established in the Philippines to maintain our rule in absentia-- was a terrorist organization which kept “order” by torturing and killing any Nicaraguan of any rank who opposed Somoza Garcia and later his sons, Luis and Anastasio Somoza Debayle.

The all-male Guard (El Guardia) lived in barracks, enjoying lives of privilege and comfort separate from and unlike the daily lives of most Nicaraguans. Privilege, possessions, all they could steal and unchallenged power was their domain. To say they were brutes is a great understatement. They were torturers, murderers, rapists and terrorists, and were trained by the United States of America.

Somoza Garcia sent his son Anastasio Debayle to West Point. The Guardia periodically filled its ranks by grabbing young men from their homes and families and immersing them in their brutishness to desensitize them and put them to work keeping the Nicaraguan people in line.

They also kidnapped infants and toddlers of their murdered victims and raised them without women in the barracks and trained them to torture and kill. This group of youthful killers was known as “The Boys,” and was widely feared because, having been raised that way, they had no conscience at all. In many cases their depredations were worse than their mentors’.

The later Sandinistas are the inheritors of the rebellion of General Cesar Augusto Sandino of the Twenties, the only general who refused to sign a pact calling off a rebellion against the presence of US troops in his country. The marines had been there in greater or lesser numbers since President William Howard Taft invaded Nicaragua in 1909 with the flimsy pretext that a liberal president was “denying freedom and liberty to his people.” (Sound familiar?) In reality, Taft was stopping Nicaragua from obtaining a loan of 6.5 million Pounds from England to build a railroad to take Nicaragua’s productive agricultural products from the west to the east coast for trade with Europe, which at that time had 60% of Nicaragua’s foreign trade.

The US under its infamous and misunderstood “Monroe Doctrine” had been trying to get England off the Caribbean coast altogether, and the loan was seen as a lingering foothold of a capitalist competitor that had to be ended if US capitalists were to dominate Nicaragua’s trade. The Miskito, Rama and Suma Indians of Nicaragua’s east coast speak English.

Then as now the wishes and aspirations of the Nicaraguan people were as irrelevant to Washington and Wall Street as were the wishes and aspirations of the American Indians, and people of the Philippines, Vietnam, and now Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were only pawns in the great game of great powers for world dominance of resources, markets and profits.

Taft—and Presidents Wilson, Harding and Coolidge--didn’t any more care about the “freedom and liberty” of the Nicaraguan people than for the man in the moon. After the marines ran the president out of the country (he died in poverty in New York) this became apparent to everybody except the American people who, not caring anyway, then as now got their information from Media owned and operated by the same patriotic capitalists who stood to gain much from Nicaragua’s forced submission to the will of Washington. But that is a whole other story.

Sandino, known to this day as “the general of free men,” fought the marines so well that the helicopter was invented to catch him. A Sikorsky copter attempted its first and failed flight from the airport in Managua. The first aerial bombing of civilians was not in Spain as Picasso’s Guernica memorialized, but in Ocotal, Nicaragua, in 1928, when Navy and Marine pilots dropped bombs on the northern town, killing about 200.

Finally the State Dept. and White House admitted it could not stop the rebellion or catch Sandino and his loyal generals and followers, and took a different tack: establishment of a National Guard, and a false peace treaty. The US Navy, which had been in charge of the war, left Anastasio Somoza Garcia as head of the National Guard. Somoza’s grandfather had been a famous bandit in the 1800s and was hanged. Somoza Garcia’s only talents were greed, dishonesty and murder. He, like his sons afterward, called Nicaragua, “my farm.” He took whatever he wanted, but 12 old families also owned large swaths of territory and the people who dwelled in it and worked mainly for them.

After the marines had sailed for home and the shooting had stopped and a peace of sorts had settled on the country and Sandino’s men were settling in lands promised them, Sandino and his brother paid a dinner call on the President of Nicaragua. When the dinner was finished they departed in good cheer and were arrested at the gate by the Guard. The President had nothing to do with it; power had accumulated in Somaza’s hands because he had the guns the United States had provided.

Somoza himself established an alibi by attending a reading by the Chilean poet Gabriella Mistral. Stories about what happened next are different, but it is generally accepted that the two nationalists were taken to the airport and shot, and that their bodies were buried on a runway later covered by tarmac. Somoza’s murderers hunted down and killed Sandino’s generals and men over a period of years as the dictator established his rule by terror with US financing and training.

Prior to WW II Somoza took a fancy to Hitler’s fascist Brown Shirts and established a similar outfit to bully and intimidate the country. When the war started the unit vanished and Nicaragua became a loyal ally. If there were any hard feelings in Washington no one heard about them. When Franklin Roosevelt assumed the presidency in 1932, he is reported to have said to his Secretary of State, “I hear this man Somoza is a son-of-a-bitch,” and Secretary Cordell Hull is reported to have answered, “Yes sir, he is. But he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”

The Guardia was one of the most-feared of all the dictatorships of Latin America. When I visited Nicaragua for the first time in 1985 with Abbie Hoffman’s second tour, we went to the site of the “21 Jail” in Leon. It was about the size of a ranch-type house in the United States and had no roof when we were there. US marines had built it in 1921, thus the name. A guide told us that at times it had contained up to 1,000 prisoners.

During one period in the Sixties, he said, a commander of the jail had the nightly habit of getting drunk and showing up late, picking a prisoner he didn’t like, and torturing him to death. Leon is a rather small town. The guide said that the screams of the tortured men could be heard all over town. This was the nightly visitation of the Guardia in Leon and a warning not to be disregarded.

Anastasio Somoza Garcia was assassinated at a dinner party in 1954 by a Nicaraguan poet posing as a waiter.

Things became so bad in Nicaragua that in the 1960s Carlos Fonseca and Tomas Borge revived the nationalistic Sandinista movement and began another long struggle to topple the Somozas. (Luis had died of a heart attack and Anastasio was chief.) After a hellish struggle that one must go to Nicaragua to hear about, the Sandinistas triumphed in 1979, following the murder by Somoza’s grandson of the country’s most-popular editor-owner of La Prensa, the largest newspaper.

Somoza’s last act before fleeing with his hated father’s bones was to bomb the poor neighborhoods of numerous cities and towns, leaving about 50,000 wounded and many dead. President Jimmy Carter responded to the successful revolution by cutting off medical aid, since some of the Sandinistas had been trained in Cuba.

Fidel Castro sent 500 doctors and nurses and medicine and equipment, endearing himself and Cuba to Nicaraguans who knew the score. I watched Daniel Ortega’s presidential inauguration as Fidel sat behind him, and didn’t see one person in the cheering crowd who looked like he read the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times, and knew that Fidel was such a terrible dictator. When Fidel spoke he got a bigger hand than Daniel.

The Sandinistas’ first official act was abolition of the death penalty, which had been the chief weapon used against them. When Somoza had captured the top Sandinista leadership including Carlos Fonseca in 1967, they all had been tortured and castrated. Thirty years served without parole became the maximum sentence for any crime. Mary Hartman, an American Maryknoll nun who the Sandinistas appointed as Ombudsman for the prison system, confirmed this for our tour when we visited a prison. She was empowered to take any prisoner aside, without notice and without an observer, to learn about prison conditions and whether there was any torture. The Sandinistas forbade it and came down hard on any soldier caught at it.

The Boys who failed to escape with other Somocistas to Honduras or Costa Rica were rounded up and jailed. They were considered beyond rehabilitation. They had learned their murderous trade too early, had never developed a social conscience, and knew not the corrective scolding or forgiving softness of a loving mother. Women to them were only to rape, torture and kill.

As the Sandinistas established their government, and began fighting a defensive war against the CIA and Reagan’s “freedom fighters,” The Boys were left to endure their fate. But eventually, Tomas Borge, the only actual communist on the 12-person Sandinista Directorate, arranged a meeting between them and some of the mothers whose sons and daughters had suffered and died of their depravity.

Margareta wasn’t there. But she knew others who had attended. She related that they told her that the mothers confronted The Boys directly and told them what they had done. They criticized and scolded them severely about their murdered sons and daughters, how this one had been a bright schoolboy who had studied hard and read the Bible and had wanted only to help people; how this daughter had been pledged to marry; how that one had left orphaned a small child, and how their beloved children had brightened their lives and given them a sense of purpose and a reason to live. They cried and displayed their grief and justifiable anger. Some were inconsolable.

Some of the boys cried for the first time when they understood what they had done. Some of the mothers saw that they were, after all, still only boys, that they too were victims, and pitied the vicious children who had crippled their lives. They hugged and consoled them and reached out. Some were reconciled. Some of the mothers forgave. They cried together. Some of the boys apologized and sobbed. Others remained untouchable. But some mothers could never be reconciled to the unspeakable horror they lived with every minute of the day and night, and could not forgive. Margareta said that some of the mothers had found “closure,” and that some of the boys had been transformed by the meeting, finally discovering their stolen conscience.

When I returned from Abbie's tour in early 1986, I went back to driving a cab in New York. As soon as I had about $500 clear and the rent paid, I drove my old Ford van to Washington and camped behind the Jefferson Library of the Library of Congress and began researching Nicaraguan history from 1821 to the present. I read and took notes until the Library closed at nine. But there was a lot of material, and no way could I read it all. After a couple of weeks, my money low, I would hock something for gas back to the City and return to taxi-driving. As soon as I was solvent again, I would return to DC and study some more.

In late 1986 I returned to Nicaragua with Dr. Margareta Nordh of Sweden, and did more research, intending to integrate everything I had learned for a freelance article about Nicaragua and the Contra War. And then my personal circumstances changed.

During this time my former brother-in-law decided to sell the apartment on
MacDougal Street
which I had sublet and paid low rent on for three years, and my rent went from $330 to $1,300. I returned to living in my van and parked for security and privacy in a cemetery in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. I kept going back to Washington for the research for six months. I learned a lot of things that I thought might wake the American people from their customary numbed sleep and political idiocy. But I couldn’t write about it for personal reasons.

I found no mention of The Boys.
[I first published this true story on Nov. 22, 2008; and think it's worth re-publishing, because the American people should hear it, if they are to comprehend the true dimensions of power and its consequences on real human beings, as exercised by the United States Government.]


Freedom to work has morphed into compulsion to work; compelled by our stomachs to labor and toil, seldom with pleasure or satisfaction, for mere sustenance and shelter, from the elemental tyranny of Nature, we are abject caricatures of our stronger ancestors. Machines, greed, fear and ignorance are the masters of Mankind. Here we are at WW I again.

International combinations, financial markets, treaties and Alliances, trade agreements and labor pacts, and centuries-old assumptions about wealth and power, democracy vs. Fascism, science vs. Religion, tolerance vs. Racism, environment vs. Exploitation, war vs. Peace, labor vs. Capital, rehabilitation vs. Torture, and the “innate goodness of man,” all are crumbling, like cookies in a clothes dryer.

Selfish, afraid, violent, submissive, greedy, idiotic, aggressive, ignorant, docile, fanatic, overworked, underpaid, entertainment-loving, and leaderless humanity is divided up, like marbles in a child’s game, a game that is the butt of a high-class joke, and made slaves to the job-at-hand, unless they are of the ruling elite. And even they are slaves to their passions; or the lack of them.

Religion is a tired, masturbatory exercise in crowd-control, and a sentimentally absurd belief in impossible magic. Man defines God as an incredible parody of himself, a mean-spirited entity, sentimental and unfeeling, who “needs our help,” and lays down absurd laws, and demands blood for evidence of loyalty. “Worship” is hocus-pocus, and “a loving God” is the fancy of hopeless romantics, who are blinded by the cataracts of wishful-thinking, each holding legal title to “the Word.”

Liberals and conservatives alike stumble upon each other in a jumble of broken mirrors, cutting themselves on the razor shards of their dishonest and outworn “ideals,” and bleeding their toxic nonsense into the minds of all. The vast and silenced throngs of humanity know them for the fraudulent career-politicians that they are, but feel powerless to do a thing about it. Cow-like humans are herded into cities for slavery in various “enterprises,” and are beaten or intimidated into submission for robot-work, which is excused by Science and Economics, sanctioned by Law and Religion, and rewarded by food and betrayal. They slave to fill bank accounts for the high-class rats, who piously posture and pose as “the best and brightest,” that the human race has ever produced, and who are demonically innocent of all criminal activity.

The best of human history, and of human beings, is almost-entirely hidden from view, and the worst is daily drilled into our eyes and ears, by the relentless lasers of technology and media. Politics is the national religion, and religion is no more than politics in robes. Somewhere in the human psyche, the infant in the cradle of conscience is undernourished and cowed. Its crib is a prison where freedom is lost to embarrassment. The concept of Nobility is hidden, lost or misunderstood. The baby has been bayoneted, and the Archbishop, who pleaded for peace and justice, has been slaughtered at Mass.

No one is responsible. No one is guilty. No one has been charged. No one will be charged. No investigation will be made. No remuneration will be possible. No apologies will be forthcoming, or even implied, because the powerful do not apologize, and the survivors think that they are free, and lucky to be alive.

The act of an improbable God has condemned the major portion of humanity to slavery forever. To slavery forever in the stench of a rapidly decomposing swamp, where all the sewage of history has joined to overflow the lawns and roads, and every word of every power stinks, provoking only excrement and vomit.

The artist can do what he likes with reality, because there are no rules in art. Whatever art is, it is not a device which can be crafted into form by a mere persistent desire to make art, and art can never “make revolution.” The artist makes nothing but his own point, and whatever is done, is done against his will, and through him, as something he merely snatched from the air, and threw to a gang of a thousand monkeys pounding on typewriters, because he found it there (and now it’s gone). In his blind man’s peregrination over an obstacle course of lonely choices, none of which can ever satisfy his original vision, the only obligation of the artist is to truth, ever-elusive, in a world where a thing can be both true and false at the same time.

But the citizen must accept the reality of his or her present condition, and decide whether to act, or not to act, to influence events. Action by non-action is a mystery few humans can grasp, like the holding-by-not-holding, or the insubstantiality of solids.

Right action is impossible without courage and nobility. Only courage can overcome dread, and nobility is not a condition of wealth, but a mode of behavior, and it cannot be inherited. Principles are not happened upon instinctively in the immediacy of crisis, but are taught by example from an early age, by principled mentors. Principles are lines-drawn-in-the-sand, long before one reaches the point beyond which he will not go.

The human being is a wild animal beneath a veneer of custom, civilization, and Law. Fear of death robs us of life. But, “death is not an event in life.” In death, there is nothing to fear, and all fear is a fear of death. Competition did not make us the dominant species; mutual aid did that. This knowledge is nearly lost, but it is all that keeps us alive. It is competition which has impeded our progress, and competition that will destroy us. It is ignorance and fear, and selfishness and cowardice, which makes it possible.

“Freedom” cannot be given; it must be taken, seized, and defended to the death.

Until un-free humanity grasps this simple fact, and acts in concert of “all for one and one for all,” it will remain in slavery to the sweathouses and brothels of earth, believing that it is “free,” in this noxious swamp of “liberty,” and “democracy,” where television substitutes for intelligence, and death rules life in unbelievable acts of war. There is no slave more abject or ridiculous, than one who thinks he is free.

The freest spirits are running the rocky, narrow trails of the highlands, past dangerous and hungry predators, risking life, limb and sanity, and shouting with mad joy, to the amazed herds, chewing in the dying fields, “Follow us! We know where food grows out of the ground and falls off of the trees!”

Does anyone hear their shout? Does anyone even care?

August 2, 2011

Postal Politics

I walked many sun-scorched blocks in my 70-year-old body, cadaverous and winded, to find a small Post Office, off Fulton Street, in my Brooklyn neighborhood . A truck that was servicing the Elevated was parked on the sidewalk, obscuring the flag, but I eventually found it, and went in to mail my letters and buy stamps. I was grumbling about the price, and that stamps didn't seem to come in books anymore, when the African-American clerk surprised me with something I had never heard in an American Post Office: politics.

"Well, you can't blame President Obama for that," she said.

Since I had not blamed him for anything, and, wondering where it came from, I said, "Well, I don't blame him for that. I blame him for doing a lousy job with his domestic and foreign policy."

She broke into my sentence before it was finished, saying, "I know, you will blame him for something, but it isn't his fault. It's the Republicans and people like you, who won't give him a chance."

"You just like him because he is black," I said.

"That's right!" she exclaimed.

"Well, I like him because he is black, too, but I don't like his wars, and I don't like the fact that he won't stand up and fight for the poor, including the black people, who are poor."

But she heard none of it, because she had been talking over me throughout my sentence. I didn't get all she said, either. I have observed that it is difficult for people to transmit, and receive, at the same time. In fact, I wonder if it is possible.

Anyway, she was pretty worked up, and her tone suggested that she felt mighty superior to me. We both raised our voices then, and, of course, mine won, because I have a mighty voice, despite my decrepitude, and need no microphone.

"Ask Representative John Conyers what he thinks of Obama's presidency," I said, loud enough for her, and everyone else, to hear, as I made for the door, wondering if she knew who Conyers is, and pursued by more accusations. I was "just trying to bring the legally-elected President of the United States down."

I went shopping next door.

Yogurt, milk, cake, ice cream, my usual diet. Then, as I was checking out, I remembered my tan cap, which was on my head. I got it from the National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN. It has a threaded logo of black, white, and red. The white is in the shape of a man, who is pushing to the left against an approaching red mass, with a black background surrounding him. Pretty subtle, yet explicit, if you ask me. That's why I like the hat.

No one ever notices it in East New York, although I have seen people looking at it on the crowded J train.

I walked with my groceries back into the Post Office, and waited in line, until she was free of customers, and then approached her bulletproof window. There were three clerks, and no one behind me.

"I want to apologize for raising my voice," I began. She began transmitting immediately, so I don't know if she heard my apology. And then, I took off my cap, and said, "I just want to show you something." I pointed at the logo. "Do you see what that says?"

She ignored the question and the cap, and went on with her diatribe, about how President Obama was not responsible for anything wrong in Washington, and so on.

"Do you see what that says?" I asked again, having her attention for a second.

"Yes, it says, 'Memphis Tennessee'."

"No! It says National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis, TN'."

She acknowledged nothing. I silently wondered if she knew what Memphis means in the Civil Rights milieu.

"That's Dr. Martin Luther King's museum," I said. "Have you been there?" She didn't answer, because she was transmitting again.

I said, "I want to clear something up with you. I am not against President Obama. I had a lot of hope for him. I am not against you, either. I have been in more Civil Rights demonstrations than you know. I've also been in more antiwar demonstrations than I can recall. I think you are judging me on the color of my skin. You don't know me, or my heart. You don't know where my heart is."

"Oh, yes I do!" she exclaimed.

"How can you know, by the color of my skin?" I held up my fishbelly white forearm.

"That's right!" she said.

"Oh? Then it's okay for me to judge you by the color of your skin?"

"That's right! You can!"

I was flabbergasted, and wanted to say something about "the content of one's character," but decided it was time to leave, because I was beginning to feel superior.

"We call that racism," I said, leaving.

Sigh. I hadn't said "black racism." What's the point? I can't change her. She doesn't care to know or understand me. She probably doesn't believe that such a thing as black racism can exist. It was depressing, because the whole, brief encounter had reminded me of New Orleans, my old hometown, where I had spent three depressing years, living in my van, after Katrina, and, periodically, endured the bullying, and threatening, black racism there. A black government had been in power 14 years by then, and blacks comprised most of the Police Dept., nearly all of the bus and taxi drivers, and streetcar conductors, and every office in City Hall, and managed many stores and businesses all over town.

Of course, New Orleans, with its horrible history of slavery, and 20th Century racism, is a different story, to me, because, in my mind, if "justification" is possible, nobody could feel more justified in hating the whites, than those tough black people there. They have good reason to suspect whites, more reason, to my mind, than most blacks in Brooklyn, who had civil rights, before they had been heard of in New Orleans.

"Please don't sell me down the river, massa. Please don't sell me down the river, down to New Orleans." It was the worst place, with the possible exception of the Florida Everglades, for a slave to be sold. Only the toughest survived.

I know that. Does she know that? Would it be childish to ask if she had ever been in a Civil Rights demonstration, and, if she had, had she ever demonstrated for the rights of white people? Probably. But, I have a feeling, that she, like many blacks today, justified or not, thinks that whites have no rights, which a black person is bound to respect.

Of course, one can say, "How does it feel?" It feels lousy, just the way they want us to feel. It feels even lousier, when you know, as I know, that I lost my whole, original family, and their trust, when they thought I had gone crazy, because I took the side of the oppressed, black poor. I don't think I deserve to be treated like a white racist. Naturally, neither did blacks deserve their oppression. It's like Clint Eastwood said, in "Unforgiven": "Deserves got nothing to do with it."

That's the way it is. "We all have our cross to bear." Racism is alive, and thriving, in this world, and all over this world, in every race that I know of. It is co-equal with war as the most-malignant force moving on our pernicious, human planet.

I'm not asking Congress to deal with this. It already tried, and failed.

It's my party, and I'll whine if I want to.