Thursday, September 02, 2004


The Importance of being Mouthy

(news links are dead in this one...the last, random link is still active, and still, I think, fun. I'm scooting the DA stuff over, have two more to get to this blog and then I can consider myself unpacked. In the meantime, hole you're enjoying the oldies...p_g)

So among other headlines is this one: ‘Talking Reagan Doll Orders Surge After Death’

I love headlines. (Pulls string, causing a plastic facsimile of Reagan’s jaw to swivel on a small metal screw, and a tinny voice to issue forth from the doll) “There he goes again. Surge! That’s an order, soldier.”

Okaaay. So I’m going to ease into this one in my own space, cuz I spose I’ve been watching a lot of the tributes, etc., emanating from the many quarters, seeing a whole lot of the Gipper’s face, and generally being a good guy by keeping my mouth shut at the funeral. Now, I’m gonna pull punches, just because I’m that good guy, and although 93 is more years than most of us will get, the death of another human being is never something to gloat about. That said, I gotta say, attending this particular funeral, is, to me, a bit like being the middle-aged step-son of a wealthy ranch owner who, as far as everyone else at the funeral was concerned, was one helluva good guy, but who beat hell out of me when nobody was looking. I’m a little raw about the man, and there’s no love lost between the two of us.

Put it this way: Reagan gets a lot of credit for ‘ending the cold war.’ Even assuming that this feat was somehow pulled off by one man, even dyed in the wool conservatives will generally accept that the way this was pulled off was by earmarking a far larger percentage of America’s resources to the manufacture of an even bigger arsenal—an arsenal that frankly, I don’t like having around. And before I go on along this vein, I have to make a couple of caveats: I was a loony liberal even during the 80’s. There are people reading this who can testify to this fact—and I was probably MORE loony back then than I am now. Change for change sake, I believe, and I remember spouting off with more than one ‘youthful indescretion’ during that time (for example, responding to news of race riots by entering the local community theatre exultantly saying ‘There’s a rrriot going on’ to anyone who engaged me. I wouldn’t do that today. I’m too attuned to the fact and face of human suffering to take any pleasure out of such things—but back then, well, I was into punk, and chaos was a good thing, unreservedly.) So, for me, the 80’s were a very stultifying time to grow up, and they were made the more so by the particular environment I grew up in—a small town in Oklahoma. Stultifying enough that when I found myself in Chicago, during the 90’s, listening to music played by bands that dressed much as I did (to much ridicule) during my high school years, I very much thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Youth was the 90’s, grunge, and having a Democrat for a president, so far as I’m concerned. Reagan was something we’d overcome. Which isn’t really true anymore, is it?

That said, I’m more reserved about such matters these days, and that has something to do with having been around folks who too easily go in for conspiracy theory. I tend to reserve judgment on such matters, though of course, there is that time when the weight of the evidence does tip in the direction of suspecting the powers that be. Case in point, and a good portion of the reason that I tend to approach the whole question of politics on a much more local level (i.e. trying to hammer out policy for a child-care co-operative, to take but one example), is my own experience with a too-little discussed (of late) episode of Reagan’s tenure as president: The Iran-Contra affair. Now, for those who have forgotten (or are too young to remember), one of the targets of Reagan’s struggle (I hesitate to use the word ‘crusade’) against Communism was the legitimately elected Sandinista government of Nicaragua. Why? Well, that could be argued. Reagan, and political thinkers aligned with him, would say that the Sandinistas were in fact not legitimately elected, and that they perpetuated truly horrendous atrocities on the Nicaraguan people. Maybe so. Those on the left have opined that the reason was that the people of Nicaragua had freely chosen a government more aligned with Communism, that this constituted a threat to U.S. interests, in terms of cheap produce, among other things, and the very real possibility that a truly Marxist government might well decide to ‘nationalize’ industries that had heretofore been sources of profit for American businessmen, but also because the government might succeed, and thus provide a bad (read: good) example to other Latin American countries, thus producing a ‘domino effect,’ in which, one by one, Latin American countries would fall to the ‘evil empire’ of Communism, potentially bringing this scourge right to the borders of the USA. So, as has happened too many times in American history to count, the United States, with superior firepower and a lot of money to buy more, if needed, made a decision to help, in this particular case by funding a group of paramilitaries that went by the name of the Contras. These were not, need it be said, terrorists. They were freedom fighters.

This decision was one that I did protest, as a teenager, albeit very ineffectively. That is, I stood on the steps of the local courthouse of my hometown and tried to pass out leaflets with about three other people, leaflets that detailed our opposition to US policy in Nicaragua. We didn’t get much for our efforts, except for the odd ‘good feeling’ for being out there and trying to spread this word around. As with most such political efforts, even this 'good feeling' didn’t last long, because we weren’t even one hundred per cent sure we were right. More often, we just fielded mild abuse from the locals, most of whom were firmly in line with the prevailing policy. And here's where the personal political lesson enters: after a few weeks of this thankless work, there came a weekend when we could not attend. The following week, we approached the organizer, a rather earnest woman who might have had more insight into politics than she did human relationships, only to be told that we should ‘get our priorities straight.’ We did. We never went back. Of considerably more importance, though, is the fact that it later emerged that the US had funded its support of the Contras by selling arms to Iran. Where this gets a bit spooky is when one realizes that, at that time, Saddam Hussein was a good guy—or, at the very least, he was ‘our’ bad guy—a leader who was receiving at least political support, and maybe more, from the US, because his was a ‘secular’ government, one that was meant to counter the Islamic fundamentalist regime then in power in Iran. To which Islamic fundamentalist regime we were, by all appearance, selling arms.

I do, of course, draw conclusions in the face of such evidence, but I’m not going to detail them here. Probably anyone who is reading this already knows all this shit (minus the gratuitous personal asides, but hey, this is MY journal, yes?) and anyone who can actually read this far through my rather lengthy screeds doesn’t need just too much help connecting the dots. Suffice it to say that the above situation, to my mind, taken from an Iraqi perspective, might be enough to make a certain residual resentment, if not justified, at least understandable. And yes, I do think this but the tip of the iceberg. Much of this was, after all, covert operations, which suggests that perhaps we weren’t privy to just every facet of the actions of those who were exposed to the light of day.

Point being? That the period of mourning, so far as I am concerned, has now and henceforth been properly observed, and that any appeal to the humanity of this man to excuse those actions of his that I honestly do consider to be wrong is no longer applicable, especially in my little corner of the web. I have heard it said, elsewhere, that others no longer actively fear the bomb. I do not join them. I am more worried about it than ever. I am confronted on a regular basis by news stories suggesting that Al Quaida may already have the capability to launch a ‘dirty bomb,’ capable of wiping out up to 20,000 humans in one go. Do I make a leap from the above, heavily moderated observations to the belief that this is all Reagan’s fault? No. But to say this is a safer world after the ‘fall of Communism’ seems to me a bit short-sighted. This is to say nothing of the question of just how well those nuclear weapons that were once under the control of the USSR are accounted for or controlled by ‘trustworthy’ people (and I don’t really think any person is trustworthy with that sort of firepower). Those weapons didn’t just disappear, and I don’t think even the most virulently optimistic anti-Communist out there could put forth a persuasive case that they are all accounted for. And the present day conditions in DC do nothing to put my mind at ease on this score.

So. Rant over. Before I start getting really depressing.

Interesting case, though, and a bit of a coincidence: for those who might not know, I took an undergrad degree at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I did all right there. I also supplemented my official ‘course work’ with many, many hours producing and djing shows at the student radio station there, under the call letters KSUA. Some were music oriented, but my real baby was the poetry show, Free Verse. This started because I was listening, early on in my stay there, and happened to catch the weekly poetry show; half an hour of poetry being read on Sunday evenings by a couple of girls who weren’t particularly good at reading poetry. It didn’t take much convincing, at least in those days, to get the powers that were to let me take the show over, but I wanted a solid hour. That hour turned into 2, and later 3, and still later, became two shows, one during ‘regular’ hours (a ‘sanitized’ show) and one during ‘safe harbor,’ which meant I could play (but not say) poetry that had the dreaded curse words in it. This meant running a poetry show in the middle of the night, essentially. Probably, not many listened. But I did learn a lot. Anyway, bopping by my e-mail today, I noticed this headline: ‘DJ Reassigned After Feting Reagan's Death.’ So I clicked, of course, to find out what sort of case was involved, and lo and behold, where did it happen? At the only radio station that ever saw fit to hire me, that’s where.

Quick one, and wrap it up: I might have mentioned before, I don’t think anyone’s death merits celebration (unless, like me, they are the kind of person who would prefer the funeral take the trappings of a drunken orgy of friends whose only lasting memory of seeing me off is the naaasty hangover it left them with). That said, there is some reason to be uneasy about the state of one’s freedom of speech in America, and there have been a number of extremely questionable cases floating around of late. I probably don’t have to say this to anyone who’s read this far, but folks, fight for that. That freedom of speech is what many of those soldiers in Iraq have been told they’re fighting for. It’d be a pity to lose it while they’re away.

Mouth off. Early and often.

(the author of this blatantly political diatribe would like, now, to offer you a random link, to cleanse your palate of ill-feelings, should you need it. Given the nature of the random link in question, perhaps the word ‘cleanse’ would be better replaced by ‘annihilate’. Viel Spass, foax.)


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