Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

martes, mayo 31, 2011

The Land Of Haiku

The haiku writer
has gone on sabbatical.
Who will stay to work?

Who will write this blog
when I leave with the circus?
Readers: do your best.

A voice in my head:
The birds tweet sweet arias,
The fish know silence.


domingo, mayo 29, 2011

Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky

When you're as lost as we are right now, maybe the best idea is to go back and to find out where we went off course. August, 1969, at Woodstock seems as good a starting point as any. First, there are the iconic performances. This Jimi Hendrix performance set the standard. But as important, everyone, whether they were there or not, has decided that it's ok to lie and proclaim in solidarity, "Yeah, I was there." There were about 500,000 people there. Why is it that 2.3 million or more now claim to have been there? Why indeed. Because it was one of the very few moments when what appeared to be everybody was on the same page. It was one of the few moments when everybody wished they were there. That makes it a good place to begin the search.

I'm not suggesting that you fill your brain with blotter acid to do this. Or some other entheogen. No. I'm just asking you to imagine this. Imagine you are back there, 42 years ago, standing in the mud at the end of Woodstock. What did you want? Where did you want to be in 40 years? Can you remember? Do you remember wanting there to be peace? Did you want the war in Vietnam to be over and for the troops to come home? Do you remember wanting to have a life filled with love? Do you remember thinking about justice and how everyone is entitled to fair treatment and an end to so very many kinds of discrimination? Do you remember thinking about how the nation's vast abundance could be shared so that poverty could be ended? Do you remember thinking about what would later be called ecology and concerns about destroying the earth? What was it that you were thinking?

What happened? Where did you make a turn away from those aspirations? When did your idealism become impracticable? When did you sell out? When did you begin to suck it up and go along? I'm not making accusations. How could I? I'm not pointing fingers. I'm just asking us to wonder: what happened to us? And yes, I acknowledge some of us have kept on keeping on. But those are a very small minority.

Where, I want to know, did so many of us fall into such a deep trance? Where did so many of us become distracted? Where did we lose our way? Where did we give up? Where did we "grow up"? When did we quit? When did we stop hoping?

And I wonder, can we accept all of this and change now? Can we again find in the middle of our chests our beating heart and our battered soul?

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sábado, mayo 28, 2011

What A Surprise! Oh My Goodness.

Back in December, I wrote about my favorite Argentinian cookie Frutigran:

I'm doomed. I brought only one package of Frutigran home from Buenos Aires. These are wonderful cookies. I love to eat them. The yellow package is best. In fact, I may be working on a major addiction to craving for them. And now, to my complete dread and horror, there is only one cookie left in the bottom of the package. Just one. And I have no idea where to find another of these wonderful galletas in the US. This to my now crazed mind is a huge disaster.

Of course, I asked for help. Of course I cross-posted. Everywhere. Of course, I emailed the manufacturer. I even logged on to sites that are for mules to carry things from BA to the US or the other way around. And then, this is the greatest, part in a thread of comments on dailyKos, someone who was living in BA responded to my urgent request for Frutigran. When the family was settled in, I could receive the cookies. Good news.

But the news faded. And time passed. No cookies. More obsessing, more emailing, most posting. No responses. A Porteno was headed to Miami in July, would that help? Yes, but that's a long way away. And then early this month there was an essay on dailyKos about El Galpin, the organic food market in Chacarita, a neighborhood in, you guessed it, BA, where I too had enjoyed shopping. The comments are evidence of my addiction and they are germane to this tale:

OT: but a good place to ask for this. (0+ / 0-)
I am still trying to get Frutigran (yellow package) cookies to the US. I will pay for shipping and the cookies and for the service of shipping to NY from BA. Takers? email me.

I've tried the mule web site, and called friends. So far, no good. Maybe from dKos?

by davidseth on Tue May 10, 2011 at 05:42:03 PM EDT

I have your Frutigrans! (0+ / 0-)
I've been waiting for my printer to be usable (ink arrives this week). The Embassy does have a post office but no easy way to buy postage... I have to use You should have Frutigrans in the mail by next week!

I didn't forget you, really :) It just took forever for our stuff to arrive.

Join me at Military Community Members of DK

by angelajean on Tue May 10, 2011 at 08:36:10 PM EDT

Wow!!! Thanks!!!! n/t (0+ / 0-)
by davidseth on Wed May 11, 2011 at 08:03:57 AM EDT

This was indeed promising. In fact, it was perfect. It was incredible. It was exactly what I needed. But, this strikes me now as extremely strange, and I am hard pressed to explain it in a rational way, I then forgot about the fact that the Frutigran was coming. I forgot about it completely. Poof. Gone. Erased from my brain.

Today, covered in dirt from pulling weeds and excavating the garden, which is filled with rocks, I went to the post office. In the box nothing but bills. And an ad. What a waste of time to drive over there. I started the car to leave. The Postmistress raced into the parking lot with a box. Said she, "This came yesterday." "What is it?" I ask, as if she knows what it is. It's a Priority Mail Box. It has a customs declaration on it. It says one word, "Cookies." I think, that's really odd. I think, "Who could be sending me cookies?" Evidently, my brain does not have the circuit that allows the equation "Frutigran = cookies." I have "Frutigran = ecstacy" and "cookies = Oreos". Then, as I'm pulling out of the parking lot my brain finally performs the appropriate computation. I realize what it is.

OMG OMG OMG! Time for the happy dance. I open the box. And there, to my utter delight and joy, six (6), count them, six (6) yellow packages of Frutigran. Perfect. Wonderful. I am suffused with gratitude. I immediately sent a message with my thanks.

The timing is, of course, perfect. In about an hour I will watch Lionel Messi and Barcelona playing Manchester United in the UEFA Champions Cup Final. What better way to celebrate Argentina's gifts to the world.

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viernes, mayo 27, 2011

MIles Davis's Birthday

Today is Miles Davis's birthday. He passed away in 1991. He was 65.

On November 5, 2009, Rep. John Conyers of Michigan sponsored a measure in the US House of Representatives to recognize and commemorate the album Kind of Blue on its 50th anniversary. The measure also affirms jazz as a national treasure and "encourages the United States government to preserve and advance the art form of jazz music." It passed, unanimously, with a vote of 409–0 on December 15, 2009.

In Celebration, the original "All Blues":

"All Blues," recorded more than fifty years ago, featured these giants:

Miles Davis – trumpet, band leader
Julian "Cannonball" Adderley – alto saxophone
Paul Chambers – double bass
Jimmy Cobb – drums
John Coltrane – tenor saxophone
Bill Evans – piano

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jueves, mayo 26, 2011

Ghost Bloggers In The Sky

Blog death. I’m not talking about this Blog. No. This is about another blog, one I liked.

Here’s how it so often goes. There is what will eventually be seen as a last post. And then silence. That last post often isn’t intended as a last post. It most often doesn’t say goodbye, farewell, or that it’s the last post. Or that the blog is done. It becomes a last post when entropy takes over and whoever is running the blog walks away from the keyboard and never comes back. Then the last post just sits there stupidly. For years. In fact, it might sit there forever, until someone somewhere deletes it from whatever computers it might occupy.

A hundred years from now there will probably be blogs on the Internet that haven’t had a new entry since May 21, 2011. No one then alive in 2111 will have the passwords needed to post a new essay on the blog or to delete whatever is already there. It’s doubtful that any of the search engines will still find it unless Son of Google has Blog History Search (Year 2000 To Year 2025) set up. Regardless, the blog may still exist, in the sense that you could look at today’s final post if you knew the URL, but you wouldn’t otherwise be able easily to find it. “Look, Mabel,” you can hear somebody wearing a Jetson’s outfit shout (Note to Cynical Readers: Mabel may well be a stylish name again by 2111 and the Jetsons will be more important than Sarah Palin), “Look what I found. It’s a blog from 2011, a hundred years ago, and it has lots of dead links in it, but it also has a video of that old poet, Bob Dylan, talking about dogs running free. Amazing.” But I digress.

I am saddened today that Writing In The Raw is apparently on hiatus, if it has not now sighed it's last breath. The last post on the front page is from a week ago, and it’s a digest about The Dream Antilles. I liked this blog and I had high hopes for it. I don’t know what happened to it. But it appears to be on its journey into the vast silence of the Internet. If that is the case, I will help by deleting my last post after a while. I still have the passwords to do that.

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martes, mayo 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bob!

And then there's the Seventieth Birthday Playlist.

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domingo, mayo 22, 2011

This From the Persona Warehouse

Originally, I asked whether I should use this photo for the back cover of my new book, Tulum, soon available as a download and a physical volume wherever classy literary fiction is sold. But I'm getting distracted. It was made with Photobooth, an application the Mac People designed and put in all of their creations, to promote vanity an/or horsing around or recording criminal activity or something. It seems an odd addition to a desktop like mine. Though, as you can see, it does have its uses. And it is immediate.

My fashion consultant, who prefers to remain both nameless and genderless, points out the following: the hoodie is good, but the color should be black. Not to match the hat. No. Black is the only color scribblers like you should wear. And lose that yellow ring on the t-shirt. Well, it's not a t-shirt. I know, I know. You love your Boca Juniors jersey, but lose the yellow and the blue. Lose them both. You need a black hoodie and a black t-shirt. Only that will do. And you have to lose the background. Why? Because we don't want a background. We want empty space in a pleasing color. Black? No. The clothing is supposed to be black, the background can be white. Or beige. Something neutral. And that will remove the tchatchkas. Those are not tchatchkas, they are things I treasure, things I have on my shelves in back of this computer. Good. You can keep on treasuring them as much as you want, and keep them wherever you want them, but they're out of this picture. They are gone. They are the detritus of photoshop.

You could go on and on with this. In fact, it did go on and on. About things like, you're not shaved in this photo are you? Well, no. It' Sunday, right, and I didn't want to shave if I don't have to. I know. But, well there is no date on the back of this book, is there, so people who look at this don't know whether it's Sunday or not, and you have to decide whether this kind of scruffiness should be there. Do you like it? What do you think it might mean to someone who looks at it? Is it about art? Or is it posturing? Or sloppiness? And on and on and on.

There are actually people who do this for a living. They're professionals. I know it's hard to believe, but it's true. There are actually people, many of them, whose work is to deal with the many, many bits of minutiae in each still frame. They are exacting. And precise. And they know what they're talking about, I assume. If today's test run is any indication, they have a dangerous job. They have a very high risk of being victims of homicides or if they're lucky, aggravated assaults and shootings.

I am remembering why my first book didn't have my photo on it.

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sábado, mayo 21, 2011


Graffiti in Palermo, Buenos Aires, November, 2010

How very wonderful. Today I found Julio Cortzar's story, Graffiti. What a masterful short story. It's a love story of sorts. I will not spoil it. It's about drawing graffiti on the walls of Buenos Aires during the military government, and the government's effort to suppress that form of expression. That's all I'll tell here. Except that it is a wonderful story, which was made into a short movie in 2005 by Pako Gonzalez.

I've raved about Cortazar here before, and in fact, in 2006, I posted this, which bears repetition here. It's a blurb written by Pablo Neruda which I at the time pronounced the world's greatest blurb. I still stand by that assessment. It's about Cortazar:

Anyone who doesn't read Cortazar is doomed. Not to read him is a serious invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who has never tasted peaches. He would quietly become sadder... and, probably, little by little, he would lose his hair."

Graffiti is a story worth this kind of hype. Do not miss reading it.

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domingo, mayo 15, 2011

Demonstrations Called For June 10 In Ciudad Juarez

Javier Sicilia has announced a June 10th protest in Ciudad Juarez. CNN reports:

A popular Mexican poet who led a massive peace march in the nation's capital last weekend says he's chosen a new battleground for his fight for justice: Ciudad Juarez.

Javier Sicilia said Thursday that he is planning a June 10 protest in the violence-plagued city, which shares a border with El Paso, Texas.

"We must not lose what Juarez symbolizes. ... It is the symbol that the country is torn," said Sicilia, who has become one of the most vocal opponents of Mexico's drug war since his son's killing by suspected cartel members in March.

But Mexico's government has shown no signs of changing its strategy.

On Thursday the country's national security spokesman announced that hundreds of additional troops would be deployed to the border state of Tamaulipas…and also told reporters that top federal officials were willing meet with representatives from Sicilia's Network for Peace and Justice.

About 35,000 people have died in the drug related violence in Mexico since 2006. The Government is unwilling or unable to alter the strategy it has unsuccessfully followed since 2006. Intractably stuck in its policy, the Government refuses to budge. And the narco gangs continue to fight each other and the Government. The movement led by Sicilia is a people’s movement to end the war and to stop the killing.

The question for those of us presently in the US is this: how can we support this movement and urge the US and Mexican governments to take steps to stop the drug war violence. Ideas? Please use the comments.

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Enough. A Plea To Abolish New York's Town Courts

Austerlitz Town Court, Spencertown, New York

Despite a decades long argument that government should be smaller and more efficient, and despite the use of that argument to cut essential aid for poor people, the sick, students, the elderly, the wasteful government boondoggles persist, and it’s as if they were invisible, or at the very least immune from serious scrutiny. There are doubtless boxcars full of these, but high on the list of wasteful, inefficient, unnecessary spending in New York are the town and village courts.

It’s not a pretty picture. New York’s town and village court system is a huge and incredibly expensive dinosaur. The scope and cost of the system and the amount of duplication in it reveal huge amounts of waste and unnecessary spending. And in general the quality of justice this stegosaurus provides is questionable. There are ample reasons to abolish these courts statewide. But is there the will to do so and to replace these courts with district courts? Or are they to be preserved, a living natural history museum of creatures that deserve to be extinct?

What do all these little courts do? In addition to the many traffic tickets that provide so much money to the towns and the state, they have jurisdiction over misdemeanor crimes and initial jurisdiction (bail, felony hearings) of felony cases. They also handle small claims and evictions and other small civil cases. That means that a town court judge— town court judges do not need to be lawyers and they do not need to be fully trained in a law school-- has the power to remand someone accused of a crime to jail on high bail, and the power, if there is a conviction, to sentence someone to jail for up to a year. The town court judge is also supposed to decide difficult and important procedural and even Constitutional questions that arise in misdemeanor criminal cases and even more arcane, to conduct bench and jury trials in these cases. These judges are required to instruct the juries on the law.

Let’s look at how this system operates in Columbia County. Because Columbia is a small county and because the number of cases is relatively small, each of these courts meets in the town or village hall one or more times per month. Naturally, most of the caseload involves traffic tickets. But initial appearances and bail determinations in misdemeanor and serious felony cases are also decided.

There are 1,281 town and village courts in New York State. Each of these has its own clerk’s office and the expenses of operating it. There are 2,154 town and village judgeships. Each of these positions is paid a salary and in many cases various kinds of fringe benefits, including health insurance and retirement. There is no requirement that the judges of these courts be lawyers. So, statewide approximately 68 percent of the judges are non-lawyers. Columbia County’s town court judges fit this profile. And unlike all other New York courts, which are state-funded, these courts are funded by the local government in which they are situated. Statewide operating this many small courts is very, very expensive.

Take Columbia County as an example. In Columbia County alone there are 21 town and village courts (Valatie recently closed its court). According to the 2010 Columbia County budget, the cost of salaries, capital improvements, and non-salary costs of the town and courts in 2010 was $838,569. That figure does not include any of the fixed costs of operating 21 different courtrooms and the cost of equipping 21 different clerk’s offices with the very same equipment and the costs of postage and mailing and the rest of running an office. It doesn’t include the cost of training judges and recording proceedings and storage of documents. It should be clear that the amount spent on these courts is far more than it would take to operate a district court (or even two) to handle all of the current town and village court matters. Put another way, abolishing these courts would save money. That much cannot be rationally disputed. And, presumably if judges in district court were lawyers, the quality of decisions might be improved. Government would be smaller and more efficient. Statewide the savings would come to millions and millions of dollars. But, isn’t it strange? Nobody at all is clamoring to shrink these courts and to replace them with centralized District Courts, which parenthetically would be paid for by the state with funds collected across the state.

For decades complaints about the town and village courts have been legion. The complaints are in two categories: analytical and anecdotal. A number of organizations in New York have investigated the system and concluded that the town court system should be dissolved. Almost forty years ago the Dominick Commission recommended replacement with district courts. Even then, the Commission felt that the quality of the justice system was not best served by part-time and non-lawyer judges, and it noted that the mandatory training town court judges must receive might not “adequately prepare a justice to protect the rights of individuals” and that having part-time work outside of the court “might present conflicting demands on the judge’s time and by implication, result in a less than zealous or rigorous attention to his judicial responsibilities.” Since then, the State Commission of Investigation, the League of Women Voters, the Institute for Judicial Administration, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the New York State Defender’s Association, and others have all called for abolition of these courts. All to no avail.

Abolition has been resisted by the Conference of Mayors, and to no one’s surprise, by the New York State Association of Magistrates, an organization made up of town and village court judges.

And anecdotal complaints about the system abound. These served as the basis for an award winning, 2006 series of four articles, “Broken Bench", by William Glaberson in the New York Times detailing numerous abuses in the system. These articles caused a brief buzz. And then the deafening silence resumed. Inattention to these broken courts continued with shrugs and further avoidance of the topic. At the time the State’s financial crisis had not yet bloomed. The tendered reasons for abolition had to do mostly with the quality of justice dispensed, not with the outrageous and unnecessary costs of the sytstem. It should also be noted in passing that the Commission on Judicial Conduct spends most of its time and money investigating and disciplining the non-lawyer town and village judges.

There are obvious reasons why these town courts persist. Not necessarily in order of importance, these reasons include that the local political parties like having additional paid positions for which election is possible, the judges enjoy their service to the community, some may also enjoy their power or being called “Your Honor.” Moreover, and probably most important, as with other courts, most voters have no idea what the town court does. They think that the town has to have one just as the town has to have a clerk. When these voters get traffic tickets, they tend to mail them in as “guilty”. And they may have no reason ever to be in the town court unless they or their children get arrested or get tickets. In other words, the town courts’ operations are hardly ever observed, let alone scrutinized by the people footing the bill for them. It's assumed that these courts are mandatory, a cost of having a town. A cost of having a government. But they're not.

Another reason why these courts persist may be the thought that it will take an act of the state legislature to be rid of them. And that that will be a time consuming, expensive ordeal. But that is not so. It’s easier than that. Since 1961, under Article 6, §16 of the New York Constitution, New York’s local jurisdictions have had the authority to replace town courts by establishing a unified district court with general trial jurisdiction and full-time judges. This can be done for the entire county or for one or more contiguous cities or towns in the county. In order to establish a district court system, the majority of the electorate in each town or village involved must vote for approval in a general election. In other words, towns that want to keep their town courts can do so unless a majority of the town’s voters want the savings and improvements a district court system will provide.

Can we expect to see such a referendum in Columbia County to abolish all the town and village courts and to replace them with a district court? I have no idea. But it should be obvious that if Columbia County is at all interested in saving taxpayers’ funds, in shrinking the size of unnecessary government, in providing more efficient, more just services, there is little question that this unnecessary and inefficient should be halted and that these courts should be abolished.

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sábado, mayo 14, 2011

The November Judicial Race In Columbia County

Disclaimer: The author has not endorsed and will not endorse any candidate for any position in the November, 2011 election. This essay is directed entirely at steps voters may wish to take to cast intelligent, responsible votes in November's judicial contest.

"Every nation that has ended in tyranny has come to that end by way of good order. It certainly does not follow from this that peoples should scorn public peace, but neither should they be satisfied with that and nothing more. A nation that asks nothing of government but the maintenance of order is already a slave in the depths of its heart; it is a slave of its well-being, ready for the man who will put it in chains."
— Alexis de Tocqueville

Good order. Which brings me ever so briefly to the upcoming November, 2011 election in Columbia County, New York. The races are just beginning to materialize. This is an off-off year election. There are no national or statewide races. There are only fourth county-wide races. There are no coat tails. And, to nobody’s surprise, there will be very little voter interest. The two most important countywide races are for County Judge and for District Attorney. The others are for coroner and treasurer. In other words, the race, if it’s about anything other than personality and party political power, which is doubtful, is about good order. It remains to be seen whether it is about more than that.

Let’s face it, the electorate doesn’t really know much about either job. If the voter’s house hasn’t been burglarized, or s/he hasn’t been arrested for DWI, or her kids aren’t hauled in for smoking pot, the voter has no direct experience of what the District Attorney does and does not do. And since most people want nothing at all to do with being victims of crimes, somebody who is aggressively against crime—isn’t everybody?—seems to be a good enough candidate to maintain good order. There’s more, but the campaigns will illuminate these additional points.

The County Court job is far more opaque. There are very few people who know what goes on in Columbia County’s County Court. Most of them are participants. Virtually nobody shows up at the County Courthouse just to watch and find out what is going on, to observe the process, and how it is carried out. The stories in the newspaper don’t help educate about this. They discuss the outcomes of criminal cases, which are a relatively small part of the Court’s business, and they don’t talk about Family Court. Ever. That’s odd, because the overwhelming majority of the County Court’s business is Family Court. An unscientific estimate: 2/3’s or more of the Court’s business in Family Court.

The odds are that most voters know absolutely nothing about Family Court. The odds are that they have never been there, know no one who has been there, have no friends who have been there, and might not even know what is supposed to go on there. That’s because although Family Court is the county’s busiest Court, most of the litigants are not “frequent voters.”

Who are the litigants in Family Court? They are almost entirely the County’s poorest residents on one side and the Department of Social Services on the other. Or there are cases between the poorest residents on both sides. It is extremely unusual for wealthy and middle class litigants to end up in Family Court. Why is that? Because they and their lawyers do everything humanly possible to avoid it. At all cost. And because “good order” means different things in different t places, the Department of Social Services tends to ignore the questionable parenting of Columbia County’s most comfortable citizens.

If you’re solidly middle class and you are having a bad day and you had too much to drink before dinner and you throw a plate of spaghetti on the floor and curse and yell and scream and have a meltdown with your children present, the chances that you will ever be charged by DSS with neglect or abuse in Family Court are extremely remote. Nobody will call the cops or Child Protective Services. More likely, you’ll do a mandatory 8-count in a neutral corner, apologize profusely, and try again the next day to do better. In other words, nothing will happen to you. Commit this same conduct when you are poor, and it is far more likely that the event will be reported to some agency: 911, the cops, DSS, Social Services. The report of the event will be your engraved invitation to a Family Court experience.

In Family Court it is likely that your every facet will be investigated. These investigations are legion. You will eventually be told to participate in “services.” Parenting classes, anger management, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment. The list is as extensive as its results are undocumented. And you may end up under the supervision of DSS and the Family Court for years, if not for all eternity, and you may end up losing your children to Foster Care or have your parental rights terminated if you don’t comply. In other words, this is serious business for your and your family. If you are poor, all of this is about good order, though it is more often couched in terms of protecting children from bad parenting.

The coming election is about many things, but chief among them is who will be the Family Court judge who will impose good order on the County’s poorest families. And how, one wonders, do political leaders who themselves have never been to Family Court and don’t know the first thing about it, decide whether someone is or is not a good candidate for this important and powerful position? Short answer: they have no real clue about the job, so they decide this the same way they decide other questions. They ask the circular question: who will be a good candidate, meaning who can get votes. Nothing else really matters.

This means that the voter cannot really rely on the wisdom of the nominations. They might be good; they might not. Nor can the voter rely on the campaigns. Judicial campaigns have rules that prevent the most basic confrontations between candidates on issues. The campaigns are designed to promote clichés about efficiency and justice and fairness and respect.

There is a better idea for voters. It’s about education. Before casting a ballot for County Court Judge in November, the voter would be well advised to take just a couple of hours off, sit in the gallery and watch Family Court churn out its cases some afternoon. Observe the judges (none are running for re-election in November), observe the litigants, listen to the lawyers. See for yourself what’s at stake in these horrendous cases. Talk to litigants in the hall about their experience. Talk to the lawyers too. Once you’ve seen this you’ll be far more equipped to decide which candidate is best suited to the position.

Without that, your vote is just buying a pig in a poke. And as deTocqueville argued, shouldn’t voters really be asking for more than good order? Shouldn’t voters be asking for understanding, wisdom, compassion, restraint, and intelligence? In fact, shouldn’t voters be asking that the candidates have human qualities that bend toward justice?

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viernes, mayo 13, 2011

Visualizing That Tightrope

Here's a piece of weekend entertainment.

Hard to explain, but Philippe Petit has been in my thoughts. His declared occupation: high-wire artist. Mostly, I've been riveted by this image, thinking about and imagining this:

That is a still photo. That's the World Trade Center ahead. There's another tower behind him. The building is 104 stories tall. And that's a high wire Philippe is traversing connecting the tops of the buildings. I love this because I am occasionally immobilized by a fear of heights. That is obviously not Philippe's problem. Nor is cowardice.

That was a while ago. Back in 1974. But when I think of this, it's a moving picture, not a still. And here's the oddest thing about this. It has a soundtrack as he walks the wire across the inside of my mind. It's not a 1974 soundtrack. It's not Rufus singing, Tell Me Somethin Good. No. Hardly.

The soundtrack is Janelle Monae. The song is Tightrope. I'd love to put the embed right here--> <--so you could see it, but it's been disabled (I have no idea why anybody does that). Anyway. Please, please, por favor haz clic, please click the link, turn up the sound and watch what has to be the most insane dance routine. Ever. In fact, play it a few times. Loud. Watch very closely.

Now you're ready. Ready for the visualizing part. The good part.
The part where you do the work. Imagine Philippe Petit crossing the wire between the world trade towers to Janelle Monae's music. Oh is that ever good.

A creative mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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miércoles, mayo 11, 2011

Connecticut Clings To State Killing. Barely.

State killing, the death penalty, isn't the product of rational thought. Never has been. It's about raw emotions, and chief among those are anger and revenge. To no one's surprise, despite virtually worldwide condemnation of state killing, when it comes to killing killers to show other potential killers that killing is wrong, politicians' lack of principle is breathtaking. And all too common. So the news from Connecticut this afternoon isn't a surprise. No. It's just another example of the barbarian illogic that keeps states in the killing business.

The Day reports:

Proponents of capital punishment were declaring victory this afternoon after two state senators from southeastern Connecticut abruptly changed their minds about supporting a death penalty repeal bill.

State Sens. Edith Prague, D-Columbia, and Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington, said they initially planned to vote for the repeal if it came up, but no longer intend to. The bill, which passed through the Judiciary Committee last month, would end the death penalty in Connecticut for future murders.

Several legislators said today that without the two senators’ votes, they didn’t expect the bill to pass the Senate.

For both Prague and Maynard, the deciding factor was a meeting late last week with Dr. William Petit, whose wife and two daughters were brutally murdered in a 2007 Cheshire home invasion. Petit is in favor of the death penalty.

“I just feel that if there is anything I could do to help this man at all, I’ve got to do it,” Prague said, adding that it’s unusual for her to flip her vote. “I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind on something that I had made up my mind to vote for.”

Steven Hayes was sentenced to death last year for the Petit murders. The trial of the second accused killer, Joshua Komisarjevsky, starts in September.

Please pause and look at that. The bill would prevent the state from executing for murders convicted in the future. The bill would have no affect at all, none, on murders committed before its passage, and it would have absolutely no affect on the state's plans to execute Steven Hayes or, should be be convicted, Joshua Komisarjevsky. The proposed law would have no affect on these cases. None.

So what does the learned legislator mean when she says, "I just feel that if there is anything I could do to help this man at all, I’ve got to do it." How, inquiring minds would like to comprehend, does leaving the door open so that the state can execute for murders that have not yet been committed "help" Dr. Petit? It doesn't bring back his loved ones. It doesn't help him get vengeance for the crime committed against his family. That he will unfortunately get soon enough. It doesn't get him closure (if anything can do that). In point of fact, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Dr. Petit, whose family was brutally slain, and with the state's obvious intention to execute the two people who committed those crimes.

How does Dr. Petit's understandable loss, anger, and grief add up to continuing state killing in Connecticut? If you think about it rationally, the victim, the person who has suffered the huge loss of his family, is the last person who should decide what the state's response to murder should be. Ceding to that person's impulses leads to public revenge killings in football stadiums, as if there were Iran or Afghanistan under the Taliban.

And how does Senator Maynard explain his sudden timidity?

“We don’t think the timing is particularly good for Dr. Petit and what he’s going through,” Maynard said. “I won’t vote for a repeal and I hope we don’t actually call it up for a vote this year."

What? The timing? In other words, Dr. Petit's justified grief and anger require that no law be passed concerning future crimes, because, well, because one of the alleged murderers of the Petit family has not yet been convicted. But, you say, but the bill doesn't affect those cases. Well, yes, but well never mind, because Dr. Petit cannot move on from his loss, everyone in the State of Connecticut should also be frozen in amber.

If the best we can do for Dr. Petit and the thousands of other people who have lost family members to murder is to keep on killing convicted murderers, we've got a real problem in the US. Killing these people helps no one. It's a travesty that we continue to argue that it does.

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martes, mayo 10, 2011

Javier Sicilia's Speech At The Zocalo

Narco News provides the following translation of Javier Sicilia's Sunday Speech in Mexico City. Lea Ud. el Artículo en Español. I am producing it here because it is of such enormous importance. It marks an extremely important moment in this Hemisphere's drive toward real democracy.

We have arrived on foot, like the ancient Mexicans did, to this site where they gazed upon the lake, the eagle, the serpent, the cactus, and the stone for the very first time—this emblem which founded the nation, which has accompanied the Mexican people for centuries. We have come to the corner that Tenochtitlan once inhabited, the corner where the State and the Church settled upon the foundations of a past rich with lessons, and where the roads meet and diverge. We have come here to make the roots of our nation visible, for its nakedness accompanies the nakedness of the word, which is silence, and the painful nakedness of our dead are helping us light this path.

We have walked and come here like this, in silence, because our pain is so large and so deep, and the horror it brings is so immense, that there are already no words to describe it. It is also because through this silence we are saying to each other and to those who are responsible for the security of this country that we don’t want one more death caused by this growing confusion that only looks to asphyxiate us, as it asphyxiated the breath and life out of my son Juan Francisco, of Luis Antonio, of Julio César, of Gabo, of María del Socorro, of comandante Jaime, and of so many thousands of men, women, children and elderly murdered with a disdain and a vileness that belong in a world that we are not and will never be a part of. We are here to tell each other and to tell them that this pain in our souls and our bodies must not turn into hate or more violence, but rather be a lever to help us restore the love, peace, justice, dignity, and bustling democracy that we are losing, to tell each other and them that we think it is possible for the nation to be reborn again and to leave its ruins, to show these señores of death that we are on foot and will not relent in defending the lives of all our children in this country, that we still believe that it is possible to rescue and rebuild the social fabric of our towns, neighborhoods and cities.

If we don’t do this our children, our boys, our girls, will only inherit a house full of helplessness, of fear, of indolence, of cynicism, of brutality, and of deception, where the señores of death reign with their ambition, their excessive power, their complacency and their complicity with crime.

Everyday we hear terrible stories that pain us and make us wonder, “When and where did we lose our dignity?” The chiaroscuro is interspersed over time to warn us that this house where horror lives is not the house of our parents, but yes, it is. That it is not the Mexico that came from our maestros, but yes, it is. That it is not a part of those who offered the best of their lives to build a more just and democratic country, but yes, it is. This house where horror lives is not the Mexico of Salvador Nava, of Heberto Castillo, of Manuel Clouthier, the men and women from the southern mountains—from the Mayan people who set their language in this nation—and so many who have reminded us of dignity, but yes, it is. It is not the men and women that each morning get up and work honesty to support themselves and their families, but yes, it is. It is not a part of the poets, the musicians, the painters, the dancers, and all the other artists who reveal the human heart that moves us and unites us, but yes, it is. Our Mexico, our house, is shrouded in greatness, but there are also cracks and abysses that expand into the carelessness, complacency and complicity that have driven us to this hideous devastation.

These cracks, these open wounds, are not the nobilities in our house which have forced us to walk here, interlacing our silence with our pain in order to speak directly into the faces of those who have to learn to look around and listen, those who should name our dead. The wickedness of crime has killed them in three ways: by depriving them of life, criminalizing them, and by burying them in mass graves with an ominous silence that is not ours. We are saying to them that with our presence we are naming the infamous reality that they, the political class, the so-called powers that be and their sinister monopolies, the hierarchies of the economic and religious powers, the governments, the political forces, have denied and want to continue to deny. It is a reality where the criminals, in their dementia, look to establish us as allies through the omissions of those who hold some form of power.

We want to affirm here that we will not accept one more election before the political parties clean up their ranks of those who, masked as the law, are colluding with the crime and those who have the State, which is linked and co-opted to use the instruments of this to erode the public’s hope for change. Oh, where are the parties, the mayors, the governors, the federal authorities, the Army, the Navy, the Churches, the lawmakers, the businessmen? Where were all of them when the streets and highways of Tamaulipas become mortal traps for defenseless men and women, for our Central American immigrant brothers? Why is it that our authorities and parties have accepted that in Morelos and many other states in the country that governors publicly identified as accomplices of organized crime remain unpunished, continuing in their party’s ranks and sometimes government jobs? Why are the deputies in Congress organized to hide a fugitive from justice, who is accused of having links to organized crime and inserting it into a precinct that should be the most honorable in the country because it lies on the pluralist representation of the people, and yet they ended up giving him jurisdiction after accepting his crime in two shameful farces? Why has the president of the country been allowed to, and why has he decided to, bring the Army onto the streets in an absurd war that has cost 40,000 victims and left millions of Mexicans abandoned to fear and uncertainty? Why have they tried to pass a security law behind the public’s back that today demands more than ever a wide reflection, discussion and citizen consensus? The National Security law cannot be reduced to a military matter. It was assumed so and that will always be absurd. The public doesn’t have to keep paying the cost of the inertia and inaction of Congress and the times it has used administrative blackmail and banal political calculations. Why do the parties move away from their visions, stopping political reform and blocking the legal instruments that give the public a dignified and efficient representation that controls any kind of abuse? Why have they not included a recall mandate or a referendum?

These cases—there are hundreds of them even more severe—are evidence that the political parties, the PAN, the PRI, the PRD, the PT, Convergencia, Nueva Alianza, the Panal, and the Verde have become a “partyacracy” from whose ranks emerge the nation’s leaders. In all of them there are links to crime and the mafias across the entire nation. With out a real cleaning up of their ranks and a total commitment to an ethics policy the public will have to ask ourselves in the next elections, “For what cartel and for what power factor will be have to vote?” Do they not realize that they are piercing and humiliating the most sacred of our institutions,that they are destroying the popular will that for better or worse got them where they are today?

The political parties are undermining our institutions, rendering them vulnerable to organized crime and making them submissive to large monopolies; they have a modus vivendi impunity and make the citizens hostage to the prevailing violence.

Before the advance of the underworld linked to narco-trafficking, the executive branch assumed, joined by the majority of the so called political class, that there are only two forms of confronting a threat: administering it illegally as it used to be and is done in many places, or making a war with the army on the streets as it is today. They ignore that a drug is a historical phenomenon that has been decontextualized from its religious uses and now is managed by the market and its consumers. It was and should be treated as a problem of urban sociology and public health, and not as a criminal matter that must deal with violence. This adds more suffering to a society where success is celebrated, where money and power are absolute premises that should be conquered by any means and at any price.

This climate has been a fertile land for crime that has turned to flat rates, kidnappings, robberies, human trafficking, and into complex businesses that offend and appropriate an absurd economic model to always have more of an expense than everyone else.

To this, which is already terrible, US policy is added. It’s drug user market in the millions, its banks and businesses that launder money with the complicity of or own, its arms industry, which is more lethal and more forceful and expansive than drugs, with arms that come into our lands. They not only strengthen the growth of criminal groups, but they also provide them with a immense capacity to kill. The Untied States has designed a security policy where logic depends mainly on the country’s global interests, and where Mexico is trapped.

How do we restructure a reality that has put us in a state of national emergency? It is a more than a complex challenge. But Mexico cannot simply keep continuing, or at least allow that this deepen internal divisions further and fracture us until the heart beat of the nation is inaudible. That’s why we’re telling them it’s urgent that the public, the three layers of government, the political parties, the campesinos, the workers, the indigenous, the academics, the intellectuals, the artists, the Churches, the businessmen, and the civil organizations make a pact, that is to say, a fundamental commitment of peace with justice and dignity that will allow the nation to rebuild its land, a pact in which we recognize and assume our diverse responsibilities, a pact that allows our children to get their present and their future back, so that they stop being victims to the war or a reserved army of crime.

That’s why it is necessary that all of the governments and political forces in this country realize that they are losing the representation of a nation that emanates from the people, that is to say, from the citizens like the ones who are meeting today in the zócalo in Mexico City and other cities in the country.

If they don’t do it, and they insist on their blindness, not only will the institutions be empty of meaning and dignity, but the elections of 2012 will be a disgrace, a disgrace that will be deeper than the graves where the life of the country is buried in places like Tamaulipas and Durango.

We are therefore at a crossroads with no easy way out, because the land in which a nation flourishes and the fabric in which its soul is expressed are undone. This is why the pact that we are calling for, after collecting many proposals from civil society, and which Olga Reyes, who has suffered the murders of six family members, will read in a few moments, is a pact that contains six fundamental points that will allow civil society to timely monitor its compliance, and in the case of betrayal, to penalize those who are responsible for the treachery. This pact will be signed in the centro of Ciudad Juárez, the most visible face of the national destruction, a face of the names of the dead that shows a deep sense of what a dignified peace means.

Before it is known, we’re going to dedicate five minutes in memory of our dead, from a society closed by crime in an ignored state, and as a sign of the unity and the dignity from our hearts that calls for everyone to refound the nation. We are doing it this way because the silence is the place where the true word flows and is collected, it is a profound depth of meaning, it unites us amidst our pain, it is this common ground that nobody owns and that can, if we know how to listen, give birth to the words that will allow us once again to say with dignity and a just peace the name of our house: Mexico.

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lunes, mayo 09, 2011

Estamos Hasta La Madre!

Sunday's Demonstration In Mexico City

It’s really inspiring. And, I suspect, that if you’re a reader of only the front pages of the US Trad Media, you might not know anything about Javier Sicilia and the huge March on Mexico City against drug violence this past weekend. News from Mexico doesn’t often penetrate the border with the US, unless it’s about the extreme violence of the drug cartels. But this story is different. And it’s important. And empowering. We all need to know about it.

The New York Times reported that tens of thousands of people marched in Mexico City yesterday:

Javier Sicilia, the poet who has become an unlikely hero in a movement calling for an end to Mexico’s drug war, asked for five minutes of silence at the end of a Sunday rally in this city’s giant central plaza.

The silence was to honor the dead — more than 35,000 since President Felipe Calderón sent the military to fight drug cartels four and a half years ago. …

… Mr. Sicilia’s grief and fury have resonated with many Mexicans who believe they have become the ignored victims in a battle between organized crime on one side and soldiers and the police on the other.

At the rally Sunday, Mr. Sicilia called on the government to change its strategy in the war, calling first for the resignation of Genaro García Luna, the director of public security and an architect of Mr. Calderón’s battle against the drug gangs. “We want to hear a message from the president of the republic that with this resignation, yes, he has heard us,” Mr. Sicilia said.

The city police estimated that as many as 150,000 people took part in the march, although the number of people who finally gathered in the plaza late Sunday afternoon to hear Mr. Sicilia and other grieving families speak, seemed considerably smaller.

Al Giordano was on the ground in Mexico City with the march. He was inspired:

Javier Sicilia and his merry band (they kind of do conjure up images of Robin Hood and company) walking into the big city from Morelos may very well stop the drug war. They are harnessing a public opinion that has existed for a long time but no one had given voice or form to it. I’m a believer. We’ve been documenting and reporting everything they’ve done and will keep on doing so and see it all the way through. But I observe they are doing something else, maybe something even bigger than that once-thought impossible policy change, as well. They are teaching us how to walk again: Another way to fight. Not with polarization and sloganeering, but with creativity and fun, with a warm heart and a cool head. Heaven knows that if anyone has a right to rant and rail and shout and pound his fist into the air, it is he who lost his son so cruelly so few weeks ago. But here he is, today, in the nation’s capital, handing out sandwiches to reporters and to cops, giving them, too, a shot at redemption, to learn to walk again.

There is, of course, the important, sad story about how a poet became such an important activist. CNN:

Javier Sicilia says he wrote his last poem after his son's brutal slaying. But words are still pouring out of the well-known Mexican poet's mouth.

This time, he says, they have a different purpose: mobilizing Mexicans to speak out and demand action from the country's government.

Since the March killing of his son, Sicilia has become one of the most outspoken voices against Mexico's surge of drug-related violence. His latest effort -- a three-day "silent march" from the city of Cuernavaca to the nation's capital – beg[an last] Thursday morning.

"We are going there to look for a peaceful Mexico with justice," Sicilia said in an online video post promoting the march.

The details of Sicilia’s evolution are remarkable.

[Before his son’s death] Sicilia was known for the poems and literary essays he wrote for Mexican publications. He was an intellectual figure, not an activist.

Less than a week later, Mexican media reported that Sicilia had written his last poem. He read it beside a memorial for his son in Cuernavaca's central square.

"The world is no longer dignified enough for words," he said, according to the state-run Notimex news agency. "This is my last poem, I cannot write more poetry," he concluded. "Poetry no longer exists inside me."

In an open letter "to politicians and criminals" published in the April 3 edition of the magazine Proceso, Sicilia quoted French existentialist Albert Camus and German writer Bertolt Brecht, as he urged Mexicans to take to the streets.

"We do not want one more man, one of our sons, killed," he wrote, calling for "a national movement that we must keep alive to destroy the fear and isolation put in our minds and souls by your incompetence, politicians and your cruelty, criminals."

Javier Sicilia in Cuernavaca in April

And so an important movement has arisen. Will the Mexican Government hear its citizens' voices and respond? Will the demonstrations increase and continue? Will the violence continue unabated? What exactly does it take for citizens to change government policies that are complete failures? What can be done to save lives?

This is the beginning of Mexico's Arab Spring. It's happening right under our noses. But alas. Our often intentional ignorance of Mexico's news deprives us of this inspiration. For shame.

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domingo, mayo 08, 2011

Sunday Evening Inspiration From Amnesty International

Turn it up. Back away from that keyboard. Turn it up. Get out of that chair. Shake it. Shake it. Shake it.

Enough analysis for now. What we do here, what we aspire to: a world of peace and freedom and justice.

major h/t to

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sábado, mayo 07, 2011

Horacio Castellanos Moya's Insensatez (Senselessness)

Horacio Castellanos Moya

Don’t miss this novel. Set in an unnamed Central American country (probably Guatemala), Horacio Castellanos Moya’s Insensatez (Senselessness in English) is a short, first person narrative that will make you quake. It is filled with the menace, horror, corruption and danger of the many small “republics” in this hemisphere where “military intelligence” has been a synonym for death, torture and disappearance, and in which the indigenous population has been decimated by decades long “anti-insurgency” campaigns focusing on them.

There is no spoiler here. That would be unfair. The narrator, a foreigner, is hired by the Catholic Church to edit a 1,100 page testimony of the torture of the indigenous population by the military which the Bishop plans to release to the public. The manuscript is filled with the spellbinding, poetic voices of the survivors. The narrator, like the first testimony he reads, “is not complete in the mind.” Is he paranoid? Is he in danger? Is he both?

I read this book in one sitting; it’s that moving.

Roberto Bolano had it right when he wrote of Moya’s work

One of the great virtues of [his work] is that nationalists of all stripes can’t stand it. Its sharp humor, not unlike a Buster Keaton firlm or a time bomb, threatens the fragile stability of impeciles, who, when they read [his books], have an uncontrollable desire to hand the author in the town square. I can’t think of a higher honor for a writer.

Moya, who was born in Honduras in 1957 and moved to El Salvador as a child, is presently living and working and writing in Pittsburgh.

There are two other works available in English translation. Don’t miss them either.

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miércoles, mayo 04, 2011

The Elephant

When we last saw your Bloguero, he was in the sun, sitting on the deck, and contemplating Macedonio Fernandez’s Museo de Novela de Eterna. A question arose, as your Bloguero was fulfilling his role in that novel as its reader: is this museum your Bloguero lives in different in any substantive way from la Estancia de novela, where Museo takes place?

(Parenthetical Note to reader. Novela in Spanish has one “l”, in Ingles, it has two. Your Bloguero’s computer thinks it is supposed to insert a second “l”. Repeatedly. Despite constant correction. So language hegemony goes.)

Your Bloguero supposes not really. Dreams abound, and they have lodged themselves in some corners of this house. For protection. And longevity. And time has slightly discolored some of the walls, adding shadows, providing camouflage for the dreams’ many hiding places. Sometimes your Bloguero is amazed to find a dream sitting in the middle of the floor, or on the ceiling, there for the viewing.

One recent dream discovered thus:

An elephant has escaped from its handlers, and has run down the beach to escape the intense heat and to frolic in the ocean. It floats in the surf, blowing sea water through its trunk onto its back. On the shore, its handlers grow impatient for it to return. They yell at it, “Come bank, Sweetness, come back!” Sweetness, if that is her name, ignores them. She wallows in the cool water, she swims around in circles, she sprays the sea with her trunk. “Sweetness,” they shout. “Come back.” Evidently, she’ s not yet ready to return to land, to heat, to servitude, and to them. She ignores their shouts and continues her bath. The handlers become more impatient. And angry. One of them shouts at her and in frustration throws a coconut toward her. Sweetness apparently doesn’t care for this. At all. She trumpets and swims farther down the beach, farther away. The handlers run down the beach after her, kicking up sand.

But wait, your Bloguero mutters. Wait! An elephant? What is an elephant doing in your Bloguero’s dreams? Jaguars, tigers, bar flies, gangsters, judges, cops, sure. Spouses, ex-spouses, children, strangers, teachers, sure. But an elephant? How can there be a pachyderm, and a non-circus, domesticated, imprisoned one at that, in this dream? And what is this lumbering, heavyweight dream doing stuck to the slightly discolored wall of this estancia, your Bloguero’s casa, his finca

(A Second Parenthetical Note to reader. Admittedly this sliding from one language into another is not just another affectation your Bloguero has adopted. No. It has a point. Yes, it does. And the point is this: the border between the North part of this Hemisphere and the rest of it is an artificial, mental construct, that in your Bloguero’s opinion has facilitated exploitation and suffering. It needs to be made completely porous and then utterly ignored.)

This swimming elephant is obviously a dream elephant. There is no way that an actual elephant could be standing on the second floor of a wooden, 160 year old house in New England. Or swimming there. But that doesn’t make this apparition less valuable to your Bloguero. To the contrary: dream elephants are evidently rare. And paucity of supply, as the reader undoubtedly knows, increases price.

(A Third Parenthetical Note to reader. Your Bloguero is obviously afflicted with unusual, uncontrolled digressions. Bizarre associations. But never mind that. That is a McGuffin. Any paragraph that can connect the law of supply and demand with dreams of large mammals is worthy of your intense consideration. Is this intended as an illustration of the inter-connectedness of all things? Probably it’s more ambiguous than that.)

Your Bloguero doesn’t know how many dream elephants there are in the Northeastern United States this evening. They are not included in the census. But one thing is sure: there is at least one. And it is dutifully fulfilling its function. What, you may inquire, is its function? Your Bloguero never thought you’d ask. The dream elephant’s function is to be seen. It is to remind the viewer, the reader, of the primacy of imagination, of one’s innate desire to transcend ordinary, waking reality, and to step outside of it.

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lunes, mayo 02, 2011

The Death Of A Mass Murderer

I know the news, that Bin Ladin is dead. And that he was a mass murderer. He will not be mourned in the United States. Or by me. But reaction to his death— the chanting of “USA, USA,” the celebration, the cheering, the delight-— disturbed me. I found it distasteful. And alarming. It is one thing to cheer justice, it is quite another to cheer death.

The celebration was an alarming echo of the reaction in various cities in the Middle East a decade ago when the collapse of the World Trade Centers was reported. This was not a celebration of peace (the wars continue). And it does not end the struggle in the US both to be free from attack and simultaneously to preserve the US democracy. If anything, the celebration signals that peace and harmony are far, far away, and that the past decade has entrenched their remoteness.

This morning I received an email from Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center. I pass part of it along:

How might we address the death of a mass murderer?

The Torah describes Moses and Miriam leading the ancient People Israel in a celebratory song after the tyrannical Pharaoh and his Army have been overwhelmed by the waters of the Red Sea. Later, the Rabbis gave a new overtone to the story: “The angels,” they said, “began to dance and sing as well, but God rebuked them: ‘These also are the work of My hands. We must not rejoice at their deaths!’“

Notice the complexity of the teaching: Human beings go unrebuked when they celebrate the downfall and death of a tyrant; but the Rabbis are addressing our higher selves, trying to move us into a higher place. (The legend is certainly not aimed at “angels.”)

Similarly, we are taught that at the Passover Seder, when we recite the plagues that fell upon the Egyptians, we must drip out the wine from our cups as we mention each plague, lest we drink that wine to celebrate these disasters that befell our oppressors.

…What I myself felt was more like "sad necessity" -- and I would have preferred a mournful remembrance of the innocent dead of the Twin Towers and of Iraq and Afghanistan -- a thoughtful reexamination of how easy it is to turn abominable violence against us into a justification for indiscriminate violence by us.


I agree. Mournful remembrance would be a change for the better. Unfortunately, I do not expect it. Or peace anytime soon.