Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why I Went to the Bernie Kickoff and Why I Left Early #feelthebern

I have been a long time supporter of Bernie Sanders. I have voted for him for US Rep and for Senator. I donated to his campaign for Senator even though I know and like the person he was running against. The moment he announced he was running for President, we donated (the very first day). I like Bernie. I think he'd be a great President, but after attending his supporter kickoff today, I don't think it is going to happen. I didn't have a lot of hope before, now I have none.

Democratic Socialism is the way to go for our society, I have little doubt about this. Our society is becoming fractured across economic lines and our environmental problems seem insurmountable. Government can and does work provided that you have people who believe it can work and have the leadership ability to get it done. If you have read this blog in the past, you know there is no chance that I will be voting for a Republican, not even for dog catcher at this point. I find Hillary Clinton to a capable person and would probably make a fine president. If she is the Democratic candidate, I will probably vote for her. But for now, I remain with Bernie. While Hillary is a hawk, Bernie is a dove. In being sick of war, I am not alone. I will stand with the dove. With Bernie, what you see, is what you get. He speaks his mind and he follows through. You can't ask for more in a politician. I don't always agree with him but I trust him.

I had the day off today and I was excited that Bernie was announcing his candidacy today in Burlington. I had a doctor's appointment in the morning so I could go early and attend the supporter's meeting before Bernie's rally.  I went to the supporter meeting and was so turned off, I just left.  They started off by holding hands. This is a political event, I did not want to hold hands and I didn't. They formed a circle, I stood outside. They widened the circle so that I could join and I refused. I got dirty looks. I didn't care, I came to a political event not a prayer meeting. Then they started the Occupy Wall Street stuff ... the microphone test.  If you don't know what I am talking about, I included a video below as an example. Every time someone talked (in a tiny crowd of 20 people or so), everyone repeated each word to amplify it. I felt like I was in a Borg cube. The political grand standing started, people making empty speeches probably making themselves feel really good about themselves.  I was out of there. 

(example of Occupy's mic test - not from today's meeting)

In order to win the Presidency, you need mass appeal. This approach failed for Occupy Wall Street, why would it work here? This approach will never have mass appeal. They almost lost me and I love Bernie. How are they going to appeal to rest of the country, most of whom don't even know him? I fear that if they they continue this way the rest of the campaign, then it will fizzle miserably.  I am holding off writing any more checks to Bernie for President. It is time to get real. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

Internment Camps and Racism

I find most of the conversations that we have about race to be quite shallow. They usually end in finger pointing or someone saying something like "you don't think I'm a racist, do you?" or my favorite "I'd hate to sound racist but ..."  As an American that knows a little bit about history, I start off with the default setting in that I assume if you are an American, you are a racist. How can you help not be? Our history is so seeped in racism, just by the the virtue of you being born here, you cannot help but have some sort of hang-up about race. Racism is in our Constitution. We ended slavery not by decree like other countries, we had to have the bloodiest war in our history to do so. The man on the US $20 bill was responsible for the force marching of 16,000 natives into relocation camps (we called them reservations). They were taken from their ancestral homes in Florida and Georgia and marched across several states to land west of the Mississippi River. I could go on about Jim Crow laws, voter suppression, mass incarceration or the Tuskegee experiments. Is that all in our past? Are we post-racial? Fuck no! The idea that we are post-racial was put forth by guilt ridden suburbanites who wanted to feel good about themselves because they voted for a bi-racial president. We are an inch up the yard stick of racial progress, empty conversations are just marking a notch on stick or a ditch on the road of progress.  In light of all the racist bullshit I've been seeing on the news lately (of Ferguson and Baltimore etc.), I would hope that the only people talking about a post-racial society, are only doing so ironically.

I do realize that if you overuse a word, you belittle its meaning. If every attack of violence or rebellion is called terrorism, we belittle real terrorism. Therefore if everyone is a racist, then no one is racist. I understand the semantics. I am fine with this. Consider it a bump on the road of progress, once we get over the name calling, we'll be thrust into a real conversation.

You ready? Let's talk ...

When it comes to Presidential acts of racism, we usually don't think of recent history. We usually think of the aforementioned Jackson and his Trail of Tears or John Adams and his Alien and Sedition Acts or one of the slave owner presidents. We don't think of FDR. Can you imagine Americans being taken from their homes, put on buses and put into camps? It is something that our liberal icon, Franklin Roosevelt, did. The internment camps of recent past is a crime we talk little about today. It is difficult to understand how this could happen.  Americans have a tendency to overreact, like the Patriot Act and two unsustainable wars after the 9/11 attacks. Obviously, we don't learn a lot from our history. The racism I witnessed after those attacks may not have been as bad as what the Japanese went through after Pearl Harbor, but it was pretty gross nonetheless .... and it still lingers. Since we still haven't gotten over slavery, I expect this isn't going away anytime soon.

Let go back a few years before the war. After President Arthur passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which forbade anymore immigrants from China, Japanese immigration greatly increased on the American west coast. Due to laws passed in 1907 and 1924, it completely stopped. This is relevant in that by the time the Japanese government attacked Pearl Harbor, all the Japanese families living in the US (mostly California) had been here for over 30 years. They were still forbidden to be citizens, couldn't vote or officially, own land.  The devastation caused by the 1906 earthquake, gave rise to more segregated schools during the rebuilding boom. A small isolated population was easy to demonize.  On February 19, 1942 Executive Order 9066 was signed by President Franklin Roosevelt initially giving the Secretary of War the authority to treat parts of the US as war zones. This started with curfews and other restrictions to everyone of Japanese ancestry and lead to interment camps.

We often hear them referred to as Japanese interment camps which is deceptive because it wasn't just Japanese but Germans and Italians were interred as well. About 60% were Japanese. The difference being that only certain professions were interned of Germans and Italians (ranging from photographers to engineers). Entire families of Japanese were interred. After their homes and business were taken, they were carted like cattle, we then asked them to sign loyalty oaths. Due to the 1924 Immigration Act. when they owned land, they often had the names of white men on the deeds because they couldn't own land in their own names. After internment, their property easily was taken. Even when they were released, they had to start over. This was the perfect storm of racism.

Most of the camps were segregated as well. Most of the Germans and Italians were sent to Camp Albuquerque in New Mexico. The only camp that housed a significant mix was Crystal City in Texas. Multiple nationality camps were against the Geneva Convention. Crystal City was mainly used to house detainees who were expected to be used in prisoner exchanges. Roughly 50 camps existed scattered throughout the Western states. The idea of interning more Germans and Italians was unpopular, for one, there were over 50 million Germans in America at the time and some of America's most popular people were Italian.  Joe DiMaggio was Italian. After all, they looked like us. Not like those damn slanty-eyed Japs! (**deep sigh**)

If you are looking for something to ponder on Memorial Day.  Here is something:  At the start of World War II we didn't allow Japanese Americans to serve in the military. But Roosevelt changed his mind shortly after the war started and they formed the 442 Infantry Regiment of the Army. They recruited from the camps. They fought mostly in the Italian campaign. It is one of the the most decorated units in American military history with 14,000 men earning 9,486 Purple Hearts and 21 metals of honor. Even a sniveling peacenik is impressed by this. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Avengers: Age of Excess

I was excited to see the new Avengers movie yesterday. I went to see it alone. I was quickly disappointed. It was choppy, uneven and difficult to follow at times. Having grown up reading Marvel comics, I await the newest installments from the Marvel Cinematic Universe with too much glee for a 50 year old man to admit. The technology did not exist to set these books to film when I was a kid, so I welcome the excess usually ... provided that the excess is well done and worth the money I spent to see it.  I can't say that Avengers: The Age of Ultron was worth it .. the wait or the money.

The Avengers were never my favorite comic. I read it and enjoyed it, but I was more into the more angst ridden heroes like Spider-Man, Daredevil and the X-men. The more cavalier Captain America and Iron Man were too perfect for me to wrap my little head around. A war hero loved by all and an obnoxious millionaire with high tech toys didn't really resonate with this post-hippy working class teenager. The Hulk was the only member of the Avengers that had any appeal to me, but he had his own book so The Avengers book took a back seat. But when Marvel came out with the first Avengers film a few years ago, they pulled me in again. It was one of the best comic book movies ever made. Most of them are stinkers, but when a good one comes along, I have to really embrace it. Among the better ones I would put Spider-Man 2, The Watchmen, Guardians of the Galaxy and Batman Begins. The Avengers joined that list. The follow-up to it, did not. Expectations were high and they fell miserably.

Most of the members of The Avengers already have their own film franchises (Captain America, Ironman, the Hulk) so no time is wasted on their back stories in this film.  The remaining two, Black Widow and Hawkeye don't, so screen time had to be wasted on character development. This isn't usually a problem if it is done well, but it isn't in this film. Hawkeye's back story, well, who cares? He is not a very interesting character. An archer just doesn't seem to make a lot of sense in this group. It didn't seem to make a lot of sense when I read the book as a kid. I wouldn't have been upset if they killed him off. Black Widow is a different story. She has an interesting back story and has always been an interesting character. She is the only woman in the group, so of course, her back story had to be a romance (of course not) ... with David Banner, a guy who can't get excited or he might hurt somebody. It was a bit too much like Twilight for me and just seem to be stuck in the film. It went no where. The one joy of the film is the introduction of The Vision, always one of the more elusive and mysterious characters. He was so well done in the film. His presence almost saved the film for me.

I haven't even gotten to the biggest problem with the film. It was just really hard to follow. For one, I couldn't tell what was going on in some of the action sequences. I had no sense of who was where in some of the scenes and who was fighting whom. They were so choppy that the moment I thought I understood what was happening it would cut to another shot or another scene altogether. This type of choppiness continued throughout the film, not just the action scenes, making the narrative difficult to follow.

As far as plot goes, I don't ever expect profundity or anything to challenge any of my ideals. I simply expect good fun and a few hours of pure entertainment in comic book films.  But I can't say I am entirely sure what our villain, Ultron's, evil plan was or what his motivations were. He was trying to destroy the human race so we could evolve into something new. What? When he couldn't get the nuclear codes, he decided to take some East European country, make it fly and turn it into a meteor to destroy us like the dinosaurs?  Uhm, what?  Am I right about this!  Did I get that right?  I am still unsure. Lets hope the next Avengers film is better and less of a muddle.  Hopefully, we'll get less excess and more clarity as to what the heck is going on.