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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 07:49 PM
Number of posts: 65,362

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Media, PA/ FBI Office Burglary/3-8-1971

“According to its analysis of the documents in this FBI office, 1 percent were devoted to organized crime, mostly gambling; 30 percent were "manuals, routine forms, and similar procedural matter"; 40 percent were devoted to political surveillance and the like, including two cases involving right-wing groups, ten concerning immigrants, and over 200 on left or liberal groups. Another 14 percent of the documents concerned draft resistance and "leaving the military without government permission." The remainder concerned bank robberies, murder, rape, and interstate theft.”
-- Noam Chomsky on the Burglary at Media, PA.

I just got back from bringing my youngest daughter up to visit her sister for a few days, at St. Lawrence University. One of my favorite things at SLU is the campus book store. In the past couple of years, I’ve been able to pick up some outstanding books there. Certainly, one of the less attractive features of living in the sticks is lack of access to a good bookstore.

It’s always tempting to purchase a stack of books, but I can’t afford that these days. So I decided upon the 2014 book “The Burglary,” by Betty Medsger, The break-in at the FBI office in Media, PA took place on the same night as the March 8, 1971 “Fight of the Century,” between two undefeated heavyweight champions, Smokin’ Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. (For younger DU readers, that was the most significant sporting event, in terms of the US social and political world, in history.)

The book includes a great deal of information about Daniel and Phillip Berrigan, the radical Catholic priests of that era. The brothers were friends with, and house-guests of, NYS Senator Robert F. Kennedy. I had the opportunity to become acquainted with them in the 1980s. They would be among the most important influences in my thinking, and my social-political activities.

So I’m happy tonight, to have a book on a topic that fascinates me. Pretty soon, my youngest will be graduating. I’m planning on moving into my one-room cabin out near my pond and sweat lodge. No electricity. Just peace and quiet. Of course, I’ll also be free to engage in the social-political activities that I know need to happen.

H2O Man


We all know the parable of the elephant and the blind men. Like all good fables, it uses an entertaining, easily understood story as an educational device to shed light upon human nature. This one originated in ancient India, and became a staple of numerous eastern religious belief systems. The wisdom and insight it provides has allowed variations of the fable to spread across time and distance.

Western culture tends to be most familiar with the Jain version: the blind man who touches the elephant’s tail describes the animal as being like a rope; the leg, a tree; the side, a wall; the trunk, a tree limb. Each is correct, yet none appreciates the others’ description. The parable provides a powerful metaphor for the human condition.

In 1872, a political cartoon used an elephant to symbolize the republican party. The image stuck, which is a shame, since elephants are intelligent, wonderful beings. Indeed, everyone likes elephants, and respects their right to live -- everyone, that is, but those who seek to exploit elephants.

Now, who do we know that fits that description? Who doesn’t respect an elephant’s right to live an elephant’s natural life? Who would seek to exploit elephants as a source of cheap labor; as a vehicle in warfare; and to be slaughtered for their tusks? Who might we describe, using the biblical metaphors of “deaf, dumb, and blind” to definite their attitude towards the elephant’s natural rights? By gosh, would that not be our beast fiends, the republican party?

All that may sound like an amazing coincident. Yet, because I do not believe in “coincidence,” it is not why I’m writing this. Rather, I want to make a point -- minor as it may be -- about a dynamic in the DU:GD descriptions of the republican elephant. It’s something that many, maybe most of us, do from time to time. I’m certainly as guilty of it as anyone else. It’s easy to focus on its tusks, and identify them with the republican military aggression in the Middle East; or its ears, and identify the government eavesdropping on citizens; or its feet, as crushing the middle class. And all these are true.

The potential problem, however, is one person/group sees only their issue as “big,” and of greater significance than some or all of other people’s issues. Who gains, for example, if there is a divisive debate on what is “more important” between, say, women’s reproductive rights and marriage equality? Between the environment and anti-war movements? Police violence and public education? Racism and economic justice?

By no coincidence, each of those four examples includes distinct issues, that are at the same time closely related. So much so, that it is an error to think that we can fully resolve one, without fully addressing the other. Why? Because that is the nature of the republican elephant -- which is not a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood creature at all ….but is instead an unconscious, destructive machine.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that every time one posts something about a cause they are advocating, they need to include a laundry list, in alphabetical order, of all other related issues. But it does mean that it is an error to insist that your cause is The Cause, of far more significance than those of others. If, for example, we take the issue of violence, it is a mistake to believe that the violence perpetrated against one group is more important than the violence committed against any or all other groups. Indeed, doing so misses the higher point that all of that violence is actually connected, like the features on the elephant.

It is in our ability to make the connections between the many issues that the Democratic Party should be taking a firm stance on, that helps to unite us. It is our understanding of these connections that enlightens us to the true nature of the beast. And more capable of protecting us from it.

H2O Man
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