All posts by John R. Hall

No Country for Old Protest Marchers

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death.
— from Shakespeare’s Macbeth

The first time I got involved in demonstrations was back in 1967, and concerned what I considered to be a crime against mankind, over in a little country in Southeast Asia called Vietnam.  Along about the same time, providence led me to drop out of Arizona State University, and enroll at the Phoenix campus extension of The Kesey College of Psychedelics.  There, I devoured the curriculum, and graduated summa cum laude with a solid “A” on the final acid test within a single semester.

Unfortunately the local draft board didn’t recognize my chosen educational institution, so there I was, a mere lad of 19 and about to lose the coveted student deferment.  Now old acidheads like me, who’ve managed to survive this far into the next century, well understand that the massive protests against The Vietnam War would likely not have happened at all, or at least not have been as widespread and successful in helping end that abominable slaughter, had it not been for two factors:  one was the only non-toxic gift given to mankind by the C.I.A….that being the empathetic power of L.S.D., and two being the instinct of self-preservation within millions of young U.S. male citizens, who were prime cannon fodder for the C.I.A./U.S. Military.  Make love not war, Dude.

The counterculture anti-war protests of that time were arguably the last successful, legitimate demonstrations to take place on U.S. soil, and likely worldwide.  But I didn’t understand that until recently.

So over the years I picked up my protest signs with vigor and enthusiasm, marching several times against Arizona’s blatantly racist legislation, known as S.B. 1070.  Thousands flooded into the streets of downtown Phoenix.  Speeches were made.  Mass chants were shouted to the heavens.  A small band of heavily-armed skinheads showed up in counter-protest.  Police presence was everywhere.  “The people united will never be defeated!” we cried.  But in the end Arizona, not surprisingly, passed the bill which mandates racial profiling from all law enforcement agencies in the state.  The people united didn’t have a chance.

Then, of course, there was the Occupy Wall Street fiasco, and maybe it’s just me but I haven’t seen any apparent change as a result.  The 99% of us remain the feudal serfs of the 1%, fighting their wars, paying their taxes to fund those wars (now fought in so many ingenious and creative new ways), guarding their national borders, overflowing prisons, banks, and gated communities, mowing their lawns, mopping their floors, swallowing their incessant media swill, and wiping their asses.

On Maui, where Monsanto Biotechnology Corporation routinely poisoned both The Valley Isle and its population with impunity, we carried out several tepid, police-directed demonstrations.  “Stay on the sidewalk!  Cross intersections only on green lights!  Keep moving because if you stop, you’re loitering and subject to arrest!”  All with Monsanto goons watching and recording from their signature nondescript beige Chevy trucks.  They were festive, fun, weekend events, complete with dogs and children, and guess how much good they did!  At any given moment in the U.S. of A., we are all being exposed to untold millions of gallons of Monsanto’s Roundup Weed and Sentient Being Killer.  Glyphosate:  The gift that keeps on giving.  You can’t walk into a Lowe’s or Home Depot without stumbling over a few thousand plastic jugs of the malignant carcinogenic fluid labeled “Roundup”.

It occurs to me now that all those protests were just good physical exercise, and little more.  Even less successful if you were among those who got arrested, gassed, or had their heads busted in the process.  The thing is…fixing one small piece of a system that’s already hopelessly broken is an act of futility.  Women’s rights?  Forget it.  Gay rights, minority rights, immigrant rights, gun control, equal internet access…all just lounge chairs on the deck of the Titanic, and no matter how you arrange them…you know the rest.

Somehow, the C.I.A. must have been too involved with moving drugs and weapons in Southeast Asia, back in my youth, to pay attention to how well Wall Street’s media circus was covering the protests on U.S. soil.  Thanks to nonstop, uncut film footage, the anti-war movement grew from the overt actions of a small minority into something popular with a majority of citizens.  The scale was tipped after Kent State, and the Vietnam War ended with a whimper.  The 1% learned the lesson well, and subsequent civil disobedience in the streets has been marginalized or ignored, as per official government directives to all mainstream “news” sources.  During the Vietnam days we’d chant “The whole world is watching.”  Today most U.S. citizens don’t have a clue what their government does in their names, and their reality consists of so-called reality television shows.

Above all else, the media’s job is to keep the 99% from suspecting that there are some basic flaws in the so-called democracy we’re instructed to worship like a god and love more than life.  Voting?  A completely ineffectual act.  There is only one party to vote into office, and whether red or blue, the result will always be the same.  Trump is Obama.  The media trick is to keep the circus running seamlessly in all three rings.  Keep the military lions and tigers leaping through fiery hoops, squeeze two dozen republican clowns into a tiny car, and leave the audience breathless with death defying feats of D.N.C. trapeze artists.  Punctuate all this with a few beers and hotdogs, a heartfelt, teary-eyed rendition of The Star Spangled Banner, a few disabled veterans (preferably with missing limbs), and an earth-shaking flyover by The Blue Angels, and you’ve got the perfect combination for keeping the masses forever clueless with an overdose of bread and circuses.

Those of us who refuse to attend the circus have a thankless task ahead of us if we attempt to spoil the illusions for the vast majority.  We Americans have been assured that we are God’s (the Christian god’s) chosen ones.  We live in the land of the free and home of the brave.  We are Obama’s exceptional people, and superior to any and all of the lesser folks in inferior countries.  Our government reserves the right of Wall Street to worldwide resources, regardless of where they might be located.  Our warfare now includes mass-starvation and death through sanctions and embargos, bought and staged foreign government crushing demonstrations, assassinations, and whatever it takes to maintain power and control over our underlings and their valuables.

Protesting for causes is a completely worthless act, unless you just need to blow off some steam and shout in the streets without being locked up for insanity or for disturbing the peace.  The only possible way to end racial profiling is to open the borders of all nations to every earthling.  Ending S.B. 1070 would be the equivalent of pissing on a forest fire.  Occupying Wall Street might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the only way to end hunger, homelessness, poverty, obscene wealth, and voracious greed would be to take control of government out of Wall Street’s hands, placing it firmly into the embrace of all citizens.  Even poor ones.  Monsanto’s crimes against humanity are only one tiny facet of the injustice perpetuated by thousands of predatory corporations which claim both personhood and immunity from responsibility for their crimes.  And if you still believe that marching in the streets for social issues will do any good, perhaps you should be locked up for insanity.  Your voice goes unheard, and makes no noise at all, falling upon absent ears like a tree in a remote, unoccupied forest.

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death, claimed the Bard of Avon.  People who agree with my assessments of the foolishness of mankind have been warning about nuclear holocaust and the end of the world for my entire life.  Now it appears that the arms race with a reluctant but goaded Russia is kicking back into high gear, and that the end time may indeed be at hand.  I don’t usually like being wrong, but in this case I don’t want to be right.  And buying a portfolio of stock in corporations specializing in the manufacture of W.M.D.’s would be no silver lining in that dark cloud.  I hear that rich folks bleed just like you and me.  Let’s do everything we can to avoid finding out.  Hasta la victoria siempre!

16 Tons of Madness

You load sixteen tons, what do you get?
Another day older and deeper in debt
Saint Peter don’t call me ’cause I can’t go
I owe my soul to the company store.

— Chorus from the song “Sixteen Tons”, written by Merle Travis, and performed by Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1955.

Those who know me understand that my life has been all about loading U-Haul trucks and trying out new places to live.  Like my recent move to Arizona’s second largest city of Tucson, which is also the U.S.A’s 33rd largest city.  The previous year of 2018 was spent in the heart of the country’s most conservative congressional district in the outskirts of Empire’s fifth largest city of Phoenix (District 6), and I figured that “liberal” Tucson would be a breath of political fresh air.  But, as it turns out, the air here stinks just as badly here as it does elsewhere in the rotten heartland of Empire, and blood money flows freely through the streets.  I’d forgotten that within the existing rigged and owned political system, there is no room for meaningful change.  In fact, it appears that this desert metropolis would dry up and blow away without an economic system with its foundation firmly embedded in wars, prisons, and border surveillance for profit.  There’s a story here somewhere.  “How I learned to stop worrying and love the police state”?

Don’t get me wrong.  I love Tucson as much as I could possibly love any god-forsaken town here in the belly of the beast.  The Mexican food is the best on earth, in a dead tie with Santa Fe, New Mexico, and you don’t really need to drive a hundred thousand dollar car or live in a mini-mansion in order to feel at home.  But the presence of unabashed and unapologetic militarism here seems even more obvious than it has been in any of the several dozen towns and cities of the U.S. of A. which I’ve previously occupied.  Every new person I meet seems to have a connection to the violence which powers and is the most prominent product of Empire.  Not having been born yesterday, and having a pretty clear understanding of the ways of the world, I came to slowly understand (I can be a little slow) that the reason must be economic.  Otherwise why would nearly everybody have a direct connection to the blood.  Follow the money…follow the blood, my unwavering intuition told me.  And sure as hell…

Number one employer in Tucson with roughly 11,000 employees:  The University of Arizona.  The U. of A.’s Defense and Security Research Institute works hand in hands full of hundreds of millions of blood bucks with the #2 employer: Raytheon Missile Systems (9600 employees), and #3 employer: Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (8400 employees).  The State of Arizona comes in at #4, and an unknown number of its employees run the bloated State Department of Corrections.  Border Patrol is #7, U.S. Army Intelligence at Fort Huachuca is #11, and Freeport McMoran Copper and Gold is #10.  I include the mining operation because its continuing profits and success in Chile, Peru, and Indonesia must be constantly monitored and protected by the likes of #1, #2, #3, and #11.  In other words, an extremely large percentage of my new neighbors’ lives depend upon the continuation of the sick-ass system of wars, violence, resource theft, border walls, and incarceration for fun and profit.  Why the hell couldn’t I have ended up in Camelot…Pleasantville?  Since they don’t exist, I guess I’ll have to settle for Margaritaville instead.

Back about this time of the year, a half century ago, I had just refused induction into the U.S. Army, and told the U.S. Government and my local draft board that I wouldn’t be attending their abominable undeclared War in Vietnam.  Not under any circumstances.  My Dad, who’d always done his level best to provide life’s sustenance for mom, my sisters, and me during those years of hope and abundance following on the heels of WWII and the Korean War, worked in the “defense” industry.  He bought bearings for jet engines, for a little company which would later be bought by blood-money behemoth, Honeywell.  Bearings for jet engines designed to power the war birds which would deliver bombs, bullets, and napalm to the rice farmers of Vietnam.  It was inevitable then that we would eventually stand face to face on opposite sides of the line in the sand.  He was embarrassed because of my actions, and afraid of losing his top security clearance and even his job with an unruly son who refused to do his duty to God and country.  Those were interesting days…no, those days sucked right up there with some of the worst I can remember.

But what’s a poor soul to do when the only available jobs are designed to deliver bombs, bullets, and hell on earth to others?  What could possibly awaken the social conscience in the average Joe, who wants only to provide for his/her family?  The operating manual for Empire is clear:  Others must suffer and die so that we may eat and prosper, you don’t shit where ya eat, and you don’t bite the hand that feeds you when you owe your soul to the company store.  Fact is that Tucson is located seventy miles from the Mexican border.  A large number of its citizens live in the shadows.  Mexican immigrant invaders, desperately seeking asylum and salvation from a fucked up economic system created by the very country in which they now aspire to find fame, fortune, and maybe a roof and three steady meals.  For gods’ sake…if there was an ounce of justice in the world, this militarized bastion of Empire would still belong to its rightful owners:  the slightly less toxic Mexicans…along with the rest of Arizona, California, Nevada, and parts of New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming…which were “purchased” for ten million measley bucks via The Gadsden Purchase, after the U.S.A. kicked ass and purloined real estate, back in the mid-1800’s, after the Mexican-American War.  “Purchase”, my ass!  I’d bet that Mexico would gladly “purchase” it back with a fair amount of interest.

Tucson’s large population of desperate Mexicans and Central Americans, many of whom must constantly look over their shoulders for fear of incarceration and deportation, are prime cannon fodder for the likes of the city’s top employers.  In fact, the presence of so many “undocumented” po’ folks is the very reason why the strong arm of Wall Street has chosen this picturesque little city in the Sonoran Desert as a major center of operations.  Capital seeks cheap labor, and there’s an army of hungry, somewhat nervous brownish people out there who’ll do anything for a pittance, and do it gladly.  Remember The Dream Act?  I’m not certain, and don’t really care what happened with that insane idea.  The way I understand it, the proposal was:  A few years of U.S. Military duty as a paid assassin in exchange for a path to U.S. Citizenship.  Such a deal.  Mercenary armies have helped power many a declining empire into oblivion.

The hellishly hot Sonoran Summer weather has arrived, and I’m plodding up the paved trail/restricted road leading upward to the seven hundred and some odd feet of elevation gain and the summit of Tumamoc Hill here in west Tucson.  An escape from all the turmoil and bizarre goings on inside and out of my troubled mind.  From this lofty perch I can see all that Tucson has to offer, the Santa Catalinas to the north, the Rincons, the Santa Ritas, the Tucson Range, and the Tortolitas.  A giant potholed grid of asphalt, a few hundred thousand mostly baked adobe brick residences with barred windows, security warning signs, mean-nasty canines, dilapidated chain link fences, and rusted cars and appliances strewn among the cacti and weeds.  Waddling across the cityscape, a mostly morbidly obese population of electro-zombified, tattooed, green/blue/pink-haired, mindless minions.  Desperate professional sign-bearing panhandlers at every busy intersection, a handful of skyscrapers in the downtown and U. of A. neighborhoods, non-stop incursions of F-Whatever-the-fuck fighterjets and military helicopters, commercial flights, and hourly freight trains full of the neccesary raw materials of war.  Stately, multi-phallic, 30-40 foot Saguaros by the tens of thousands decorate the hillsides and arroyos.  Millions of white blooms of Spring have transitioned into brilliant red fruit, feeding the local birds and insects, who will insure the future of the giant cacti population by carrying the seeds to fertile desert soil.

I find myself wondering whether the Saguaro forests will survive beyond the collapse of the uncivilization in rapid decay, spread out below me.  For certainly the voracious, blood-sucking behemoth of the USA will continue its demise, and fall just as all empires before it.  And those unanswerable old questions constantly bubble to my mind’s murky surface.  What would it take to awaken a population which is fed and clothed by international piracy?  How do you convince a schmuck with a two hundred thousand dollar high interest student loan debt and an engineering degree from the University of Arizona that working at Raytheon is tantamount to mass-murder?  Who’s going to tell that testosterone-charged, fresh out of high school young buck that joining the U.S. Marines isn’t going to build him into a man, but, like so many boys before him, turn him into a fiend, a killer, a rapist?  Who among the struggling masses will picket, blockade, and burn the Company Store, to which they owe their souls?  How many of my neighbors can imagine a world without borders, wars, poverty, prisons, and fear?  But more importantly, who among us has the temerity, charisma, and the ability to deliver a fresh narrative capable of convincing a deaf and blind populace that there’s a better way forward?  Who?