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H2O Man

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Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
Number of posts: 64,834

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Thursday Night at the Fights

“Sir, I’m not commenting on what you did. It’s immaterial to me. No, your line of reasoning, sir, doesn’t fit me.”
-- Malcolm X; WINS radio debate; February 18, 1965.


Since my youngest graduated in June, I’ve been slowly re-entering the local social-political arena. A speech here, another there, and a local government board meeting. Because I like to think of these in a context similar to my competing in the sport of boxing as a young man., like an old fighter returning to the ring, I’ll engage in relatively easy events, to prepare for future competition.

On Thursday past, at an open meeting, a woman took the opportunity to verbally attack me, saying that I am “unethical.” She was representing a group that have named themselves the “land-owners” and the “tea party.” They dislike me, because in their minds, I am largely responsible for organizing the environmental community in opposition to hydrofracking.

She also called another woman there “unethical,” among other things, for simply expressing support for my positions. This led to the attacked lady getting upset by the viciousness of the verbal assault that she began to cry. I assume the rabid lady mistook this for weakness, as she continued to harass the other woman in the parking lot, after the meeting had ended. The lady who supported me told the other that she was the lowest form of human life she had ever encountered.

I have no problem in saying that I like the woman who supported me, better than the other one. But it would be wrong if I only listened to people who like me, and support my beliefs, while ignoring critics. I have no difficulty in hearing out those who disagree with me. I’m not afraid to debate important issues. Still, I think the one person went a bit too far. No one else appeared to want to be associated with her, once she started talking.

I know that social-political activism isn’t a pillow fight. I try to understand people’s motivation. In this case, there is a group who -- upon the advice of the head of a regional energy corporation -- invested their life-savings in land ….land they bought, believing that they’d soon be wealthy, as a result of drilling for gas. They dreamed of being the next Jed Clampett, but it didn’t work out as they had hoped. Yet, while I do not feel responsible, I’m not taking any pleasure in their current difficulties.

However, they are running a tea party candidate against a local District Attorney, for that county office. I am assisting the DA’s campaign for re-election. And the tea party associates me with several recent political contests, in which I assisted Democrats in defeating the tea party candidates. So I’m likely to encounter them again, between now and November.

While I’m proud of my role in local, regional, and even state politics, I am the first to recognize that I haven’t accomplished what is being attributed to me. At best, I’ve been an active part of a larger effort. But, for a variety of reasons, I’ve come to symbolize something larger than myself in these people’s minds. In that sense, I realize that they don’t really “hate” me -- for they don’t know me; they hate the projected image they have created of me, which exists only inside their minds.

What is at times difficult for me -- and those “times” can include in public situations, while I’m being attacked -- is trying to find the balance required to respond correctly. Again, I am okay with going after their “politics” in a firm manner; however, I do not want to attack them as individual human beings. I’m not suggesting that I want to be friends with them. Or that I like them. They aren’t the type of folks that I’m going to invite over to my house, to socialize with.

I think it is good enough to not respond in kind, not to trade insults with, or attempt to out-do with half-witty debaters’ points. I would prefer to treat them with respect as fellow human beings and community members, who have the right to express their opinions openly. That proved difficult Thursday, in part because I had not expected the outbursts in that setting. Twice, I had to struggle internally, to keep from delivering an insult myself.

Instead of fully engaging her in a debate -- I had no interest in attempting to change her mind -- I focused my responses on communicating with the others in the room. I believe that her aggressive and hostile presentation worked against her. The others appeared sympathetic towards me, and very willing to listen closely to what I was saying. On our ride home, the friend I attended the meeting with said he believed the hostile woman had behaved in such a manner that she isolated herself from the crowd.

I thought a lot about this today, as I sat out near my pond. I thought about the amount of hostility that poisons the atmosphere. I remembered my friend saying that he was surprised that I didn’t (verbally) go after the lady aggressively. I don’t think any good purpose would have been achieved in my doing so. I’m not sure what the ultimate answer is, obviously. But I think marginalizing her tactics is the best bet. What do you think?

Thanks,
H2O Man

On Free Speech TV Now (10-12 pm/est)

The 2012 documentary "The Prosecution of an American President" is on now. It's Vince Bugliosi's case for prosecuting George W. Bush et al for murder.

I strongly recommend watching it!

Trump Question

This will be my first OP on DU’s GD: Primaries forum during the 2016 contest. Like previous primary contests, the current one too often seems the source a lot of nonsense, than can get in the way of meaningful discussions. Add to that, this: the topic that I am writing about was the source of some debate between myself and my younger son.

So, let’s start with something that everyone here can agree upon: Donald Trump will never be president. I doubt that he has not entered the republican primary contest because he believes that he will be the republican nominee.

Now, maybe he hopes that there is some tiny chance. But only late at night, moments before he drifts into unconsciousness, does that thought enter his mind. Thus, the question: why did he enter?

My son says it is for the most obvious of reasons -- to get his name in the news, and to use that profile for some future capitalist venture. Fame and money, nothing more, nothing less.

I disagree. I think that Trump dislikes the Bush family -- likely in large part due to financial interests -- and is looking to damage Jeb Bush in the republican primaries. In a sense, what he is doing is similar to Ross Perot in 1992.

My son does not believe that Trump has the intellectual or emotional capacity to play such a role. I think that his public image is largely an act. Running in the primaries is part of that act, and damaging Jb Bush may well help him financially. But I think knee-capping Jeb is his primary motivation.

Your opinion, please?

Thanks,
H2O Man

Days of Rage vs 4th of July

“During an eighteen-month period in 1971 and 1972, the FBI reported more than 2,500 bombings on U.S. soil, nearly 5 a day.”
-- Bryan Burrough; Days of Rage; Penguin Press; 2015; page 5.


One of my birthday gifts this year was the new book by Bryan Burrough about “America’s Radical Underground, The FBI, and the Forgotten Age of Revolutionary Violence” (subtitle from front cover). The 550-page book is well-researched, including the author’s extensive interviews with people from the “underground” and retired federal investigators. It actually offers far more information about many of the violent incidents and participants than any previous book on the general topic. Indeed, it may contain more “new” information than the sum-total of the previous books.

Burrough seems an unlikely an author on this subject. As a former reporter for The Wall Street Journal, his focus tended to be finance. However, one of his five previous books -- “Public Enemies” -- was about organized crime and the formation of the FBI. Although I have found one factual error so far (not a huge one), the author definitely takes an objective approach to recording the events of the late 1960s-’70s.

Still, I find myself questioning the timing of this book: was the author perhaps influenced by the right-wing attacks upon Senator Obama in 2008, regarding his association with Bill Ayers? Though it was well-documented that Barack Obama knew Ayers casually, at best, the right-wing -- and the corporate media -- attempted to smear the Democratic presidential candidate with ugly “guilt by association” tactics.

Perhaps that is merely something that political activists of a certain age are sensitive about: I have met, and had casual friendships with, a few of those mentioned in the book. Even when I first ran for something as low-key as the local school board, one principal assisted in my tea party opponent’s campaign, telling people that I am a “wild-eyed radical” and “nothing but trouble.” Maybe he believed that, but I’m also the parent of two of the best behaved, highest achieving students in the district’s history.

It may be that the author recognized that he had an opportunity to interview people who: [a] felt comfortable, with the passage of time, to address issues that quite frankly have never been fully documented; and are reaching the age where they won’t likely live that much longer. Strike while the iron is hot, but has also cooled off, so to speak.

I suspect that many rational individuals, on all sides of the social-political spectrum, believed at the end of 1968 that this country was experiencing revolutionary dynamics. More, the majority of individuals identified with, and acted as part of a group ….and group dynamics tend to be less stable, in important ways, than individual behaviors. The tensions between groups -- be it Democrats vs. republicans, male vs. female, young vs. old, white vs. non-white -- were tearing American society apart at the seams.

Rubin Carter used to tell me that a wise man learns from others’ mistakes; most of us have to learn from our own errors; and that fools -- well, they just never learn. So, looking back now, it is easy for me to say that attempting to create a more just society by using violence was a foolish tactic. However, based upon my own value system, it was wrong, even if it had achieved some temporary gain (which it really didn’t). The violence committed by the left was not somehow more moral or pure than the violence committed by the right-wing thugs. Yet, I can understand how some people, caught up in the madness of that era, believed they could actually use violent tactics for good purposes.

The group from the left that has become most closely identified with “violence” in that era was the Weatherman/ Weather Underground. However, they were hardly the only “leftist” group that would use violent tactics. It is interesting to note -- though I’m unsure if the author speaks to this, as I haven’t finished the book -- that the use of violence frequently made groups easier targets for infiltration and disruption, than those committed to non-violence. The exception would be the Weather Underground; They were a very small, tightly-knit group. Only one police informant was able to penetrate their group, and it was more of the Weatherman, than the later Weather Underground.

There has been a tendency to romanticize some of these groups. Frequently, the attribute that they sought to damage “the machine,” but not human beings, is incorrectly applied to them. When a group is small and closely-knit, such as the Weather Underground, relatively little information has been made public over the years. As a result, people often made things up -- for example, Richard Nixon had paranoid ideas about the Weather Underground, which in and of itself could create support among young folks.

Having President Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover obsessed with catching them; releasing revolutionary manifestos; and even robbing banks (one has to put this in the context of coming after the powerful 1967 “Bonnie and Clyde” movie): all of this began to build appeal, at various levels, among those who were growing frustrated by the seeming inability of the anti-war protest marches, etc, to not only end the war in Vietnam, but to bring about much-needed changes in the social fabric.

However, even if one accepts the right of a population to use violence to expel a foreign colonizer -- for example, the fight in Vietnam -- those same potential dynamics simply did not exist inside the United States. It is also important to understand that ending the war in Vietnam was not the primary focus of the various violent groups of that era -- although it certainly was a related factor -- but, rather, the central issue was racism in the United States. (The numerous arsons aimed at ROTC buildings on campuses across the country were perhaps inspired by the Weather Underground, but were not organized, group efforts.) In fact, the Weather Underground tended to look down upon the “hippies” and the peace movement at first, and would only later attempt to gain from their resources.

From a sociological viewpoint -- including from the book’s documentation, as well as life experience and related education -- journeying down the paths of violence in the US included several common features. First, as noted, it made various groups easier to infiltrate and disrupt. Second, and extremely important, it created circumstances where potentially great leadership was killed (the police murder of Fred Hampton being an example); next, it allows for the most violent to rise to positions of authority (including the sincere and insincere); and, of course, it justified the most harsh retaliation against not only those groups, but anyone that the public associates with them (Kent State).

[Note: Over decades of activism, like many D.U.ers, I’ve been in groups that the “dark side” has attempted to infiltrate and disrupt. As a rule, it is easy to recognize the highly energetic new guy, who volunteers for everything, and advocates some type of stupid, violent tactic. I can’t begin to count the times I’ve pulled such fellows aside, and let them know that I am aware of who they are, and what they are attempting.]

It may all seem like ancient history now, especially to young folks. But there are some definite connections. An great example, and one that I’ve documented on DU:GD numerous times over the years, is that the domestic intelligence program that the Nixon administration created, known as the Huston Plan, was the exact model used by the Cheney administration for its Patriot Act. The only difference is today’s greater computer technology.

On the eve of the national holiday celebrating the Declaration of Independence, its troubling to note the many, many similarities between that era, and today. From the foreign wars, to the anti-social diseases of racism and sexism, we really have not made nearly enough progress in the last 40 years. The social Novocain that saturates our national consciousness tends to be prescribed by doctors, rather than distributed by local dealers; it numbs, rather than expands, our thoughts and feelings. And the enormity of the “machine” discourages far too many good people from actually attempting to create and institute change.

Yet our culture is speeding headlong to a Townhouse ending -- environmentally and more -- and so it is vital that individuals dedicate (and re-dedicate) themselves to becoming agents of peaceful change. It must include everything from the most obvious -- voting -- to becoming organized in non-violent confrontations with social injustice.

Happy 4th of July!
H2O Man
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