Peace March

In 1969, I was working for System Development Corporation in Santa Monica, in the job I wound up in after I was almost sent to Vietnam.   (I’ll write about that and about the complicated mix on anti-war revulsion and sense of duty that I felt at the time in conjunction with a forthcoming poem).  1969 was the year I first felt free to publicly express my feelings about the war.  For the previous two years, I had worked at Air Force facilities in Massachusetts and Florida.  In an odd way, I had fulfilled the tour of duty that I had almost spent in Vietnam, and I began to involve myself politically in the anti-war movement that had begun to sweep the country the previous year.  I took to wearing a black arm band at work, and when I heard about the nationwide October 15th Peace March, I joined the one that marched from Santa Monica to UCLA.   At the end of the march, we were treated to a rather banal speech by Candace Bergen, in her pre-Murphy-Brown days.   It wasn’t exactly inspiring, but what the hell; she was beautiful.

Song for the October 15th Peace March

Verse 1:

I went out marching on that day.
Ten thousand people led the way,
Then more joined in, and more, and then
We marched as ten times ten times ten.
And we’ll keep on marching, if it takes us years;
Til someone listens, someone hears.

Chorus 1:

Well, when you get old and gray,
You can’t hold a candle – for peace.
When you get old and gray,
You can’t hold a candle – for love.
But if everyone else lit one little candle,
We’d have one hell of a light.

Verse 2:

My mother called me up next day,
And I really hadn’t much to say,
So I told my mother what I’d done,
And she said: “Is that what you believe in, son?”
“Sure,” I said, “Has been for years.”
She always listens, but never hears.

Chorus 2:

Well, as we all marched along,
We all held a candle – for peace.
Well. as we all marched along,
We all held a candle – for love.
And when all of us lit just one little candle,
We had a hell of a light.

 



 

Slouching Towards Oligarchy

In an earlier post, I said, without further explanation that we are slouching towards oligarchy in this country.   I’d like to explain what I meant

Oligarchy is an ugly word; for that matter, it is an ugly concept, especially to a small “d” democrat like myself – rule by an elite.  Slouching means to move in a lazy manner, and that is exactly the problem – we aren’t as a people, putting any energy into our relationship with our government.  We glide through our lives, shoulders hunched, blind to the manipulations and deceits that are being carried out by those who seek to control and guide the individuals that we ( a few of us, anyway) have chosen to represent us.   Notice how I phrased that: “…those who seek to control and guide..”   The problem is not with the concept of representative government; it is with a system of government that was conceived more than 300 years ago, in a very different context.

Our government, any government, is just  that: a set of interdependent components that form a whole.  Any system interacts with the environment in which it exists, and as that environment changes, the system needs to change, because over time, the oligarchs of this world will exploit its weaknesses, if it is not modified  to prevent them.

So what are the major problems?  Here are a few:
*****a bizarre tax system that taxes oligarchs less per dollar earned that it does ordinary working people
*****an irrational Supreme Court decision that declares that spending money is an act of free speech
*****federal legislative bodies that in effect, require oligarch level wealth before you have a chance for admission
*****legislative redistricting processes that lend themselves to exploitation by the application of money

I could go on multiplying examples, but the only real power the people have in our system is the ability to recognize that is out of sync with its environment, and to take action.   If we are lazy about that, the oligarchs win.   Every time.

 

A Topical Clerihew

I’ve been struggling lately to write the introductions to a set of more serious poems.  I’ll get there, but meanwhile, a brief excursion.  President Obama has been showing a hint of passion lately, but for most of his two terms in office, the following clerihew applied:

Barack Obama
Avoided drama.
When Republicans began to whine,
He replied with speeches anodyne.

Politics Isn’t a Dirty Word

As we prepare for the 2016 campaign season, it’s time for another of my brief essays.   Consider the following conversation:

“Where’ll we go for dinner tonight?”
“I don’t know – where would you like to go?
“Maybe sushi…or pizza.”
“I don’t feel like pizza – let’s do sushi.”
“Ok.”

Sound familiar, even banal?   How many times have you had a conversation like that? I know the answer – a lot.

Well, I’m here to tell you – that’s politics, the decision-making process associated with any form of governance.   Governance is merely the exercise of control over a system or process – in this case, the breaking of daily bread.  Politics in this broad sense is fundamental to our daily lives.  We are all truly politicians.

Why, then, is politics considered a dirty word in some circles, to the point where some candidates for public office are reluctant to reveal their political backgrounds when they publish their ballot statements?   Governance requires that some person or some body of persons be in control.  And those that Roosevelt called “malefactors of great wealth” have engaged in a lengthy propaganda campaign to help insure that they remain the body of people in control.

DON’T BUY IT.  Politics is essential to democracy. Politics is us.

Political Conventions

In the last thirty years, I have attended a number of California  state-wide political conventions, mostly because my late wife, Pat Wiggins, was an active politician and officeholder.  Much useful work was done at these conventions on identifying public policy ideas and in developing relationships, but they had very little effect on the selection of the Party’s nominees for the various state offices.  But there was a time when conventions mattered…

In the summer of 1956, my family had just moved into our new home on Watt Avenue in Sacramento, right across from the bowling alley.    My father had just surprised the family by bringing home a new television set to replace the cheap Kenwood model we had left behind in Beaumont, Texas.   It was a surprise, because Dad had been reluctant to purchase any kind of TV set until about a year before we left Beaumont, and even then he brought home the cheapest possible model.   When we got to Sacramento, and he brought home the Zenith, my sister and I were stunned.

It turned out that my father had an ulterior motive for his uncharacteristic investment in popular culture.  He was a big supporter of Adlai Stevenson, and he wanted to watch the Democratic Convention to see if Stevenson was going to get a chance to lose again to Eisenhower.

I was captivated by the Convention.   (My sister, who was only eight, was not.)  In those days, you had a choice between NBC’s Huntley and Brinkley or CBS’s Walter Cronkite.   My father was a Huntley and Brinkley fan, and for four days we watched them every chance we got.   We listened to the speeches – Civil Rights was in the air, but support was muted because of the Democrat’s need to hang on to the supposedly Solid South.  We heard famous men being interviewed from the floor, people like Harry Truman and Averill Harriman ( a Double Dactyl, but unfortunately, Harriman is too obscure these days for me to write one making fun of him.).

When the roll of state was called for the Presidential nomination on the third day, there was real drama, because no one could firmly predict what would happen.   As the roll call went on, I kept score, as though I were at a baseball game, and when the tide started to turn clearly towards Stevenson, I got so excited that I jabbed the point of my pencil into my palm. ( I still have traces of graphite embedded under the skin.)

We need to find a way to make politics engaging again, instead of distancing.   We should probably start by celebrating people like Elizabeth Warren. who stand for something besides positioning themselves to do well in a partisan primary.

Another Anti-War Poem

Some time ago, I blogged about the cinquain  and what I called the semicinquain.   This little verse, from 2003, is written in yet another variation of the cinquain, which might be called the hypercinquain, or cinquain on steroids.   The syllabic scheme is 2/2/4/6/8/2  as opposed to the cinquain, which is 2/4/6/8/2.   Dilemma is explained here.

 

Dilemma

Why, that’s
No choice
At All.  To choose
A war or Sadaam. Why,
Iraqis must be grateful for
Their choice.

Iraq:
Iraq
Is at the bar,
On trial before the World.
Outside, a lynch mob menaces
Its folk.

Listen:
They say:
We must destroy
Iraq in order that
A new Iraq be built, or so
They say.

I say:
No war
But for defense.
No blood without a cause.
Why can’t the cowboys hear us say:
No war!