Category Archives: Heroes

True Heroes Don’t Die: Their Hearts Get Eaten again and again

Today’s hero in popular culture is a corrupted version of Milton’s Satan, a collaborator with the rigged game of a tyrannical God. His errors are the violations of God’s law, but God does not really mind since he knows that humans could never follow these arbitrary rules. Satan is God’s deniability.1

Shelley (and Mark Twain)2 recognized this and therefore sought a heroic character who does not pretend to compete with God and refuses to deny his alliance with humanity.

This mistake denies him a simple death and condemns him to the punishment of repetition.3 The inability to prevent the recurrence of history and all the pain this brings.

In Portugal, the parliamentary budget debates of the past years – at least as reported in the national media – gave more attention to the German finance minister (as representative of the richest EU state and the banks domiciled there, who are leading creditors to subordinate member-states like Greece and Portugal) than to the vocal complaints of Portuguese citizens.4 This is even more bizarre when considering the preliminary conclusions about the catastrophic fires in our country in 2017.5 For decades now we have been told that the failures, the mistakes, of European democracies (especially in Southern Europe) have been caused by the absence of heroic leadership (whether by individuals or parties). Such heroism would mean that elected representatives and governments would make the hard choices against the will of their electorates needed to remedy the “errors of fiscal irresponsibility” that are the cause of our misery. Of course, discretion or good taste impede calls for “heroic autocrats” these days.6 The “heroism” is supposed to be more anonymous and perhaps less accountable. This raises the questions of what are those “errors” and what “heroism” really means in this context.

1. The Portuguese national poet Luís Camões wrote a sonnet in which he says that he would have been ruined by “love alone” – his errors were incidental.7

Camões, however, was a pre-Revolutionary poet and we might assume that he was lamenting failed love, more than history. The point is that while all love fails—it is the pre-condition of humanity and therefore it is reborn.

  1. What does ERROR mean? ERROR can be best understood today as the inadequacy of the human individually, and as a species, to respond perfectly to the environment. Sometimes error or creativity is just what is needed by a stagnant culture. This is the central thesis of Morse Peckham’s Man’s Rage for Chaos.8 In this book, Peckham began to ask the question “whether there is a biological explanation for the arts?” Any answer to this question must begin with the fact that humans are born into a world in which they are dependent on others (in particular, adults) for food and protection for a rather long time compared to other animals. Furthermore, virtually everything humans do to survive must be taught and learned. And as anyone can observe it is virtually impossible to learn anything perfectly – so humans spend most of their time making “mistakes”. We have learned at least since the 19th century to distinguish between mistakes that are errors, mistakes that are crimes, and mistakes that are “creative”. Therefore it probably makes more sense NOT to ask “do we learn from mistakes?” but what do we mean when we say we have “learned” anything?
  2. Consider the meaning of “hero” and “heroism”. Heroism is a role.9 In Western culture the basic models for heroes are derived from interpreting classical Greek and Roman mythology. In fact Os Lusíadas, for which Camões is most famous, is also an explicit comparison with ancient Greek heroism. The hero, as we all know, is by definition an exception. Something she or he does has to be beyond what the majority do – otherwise it would be indistinguishable from the behaviour of that majority. If the majority follows conventional rules of behaviour, then heroism is and heroes are unconventional – that is to say first of all mistakes, failure for whatever reason to behave in accordance with conventions.

However the heroes of classical antiquity – at least as conventionally presented – were part of what might be called the divine universe. Their acts were mistakes – violations of the conventions among the deities, errors made by gods and demi-gods. Man was at best a conduit, not an agent. To the extent that heroism was relevant to humans it was by virtue of human submission to the gods. One of the best examples of this is the myth of Sisyphus.10

  1. Until the late 18th century this divine drama – at least in Europe had been transferred from the celestial to the terrestrial monarchical system. One can see this in the arts of the period. The transfer of divine law from the ancient gods, to the Church and then to monarchies, did not go unchallenged, as the English Civil War demonstrated. Milton defended his staunch republicanism by turning Satan into the hero of his Paradise Lost.

However by 1789, the convention of divine law – whether vested in the Church or in the monarch – was threatened by what turned out to be a major cultural crisis, but exploded in the French Revolution. Critics of the Revolution, both contemporary and since then have blamed the mass violence and wars triggered by the overthrow of the Bourbon monarchy on a massive error: the belief that human equality and democracy could substitute for what was now called “natural law”. Opposed to this was a wide spread optimism that having swept away the obstacles of kings and priests, it would be possible to create a religion of humanity. In fact, in the first years of the Revolution there was a movement to reorganise religion in France by creating a cult with appropriate rites and festivals as a substitute for the Catholic Church. What is important here is that significant participants in the Revolution recognised that the abolition of the monarchy and the secularisation of the Catholic clergy were negative acts and that a culture, especially one undergoing change needs positive acts. So while opponents of the Revolution preferred to focus on violence and destruction, the most dedicated – in this sense, “heroic” – participants knew that a revolution had to be creative to survive. They had to be unconventional in the creation of new conventions.

Two major English poets were especially known for their support of the French Revolution. Both wrote works, which interpreted the heroic role and thus created new ideas of heroes and heroism. However, they came to disagree profoundly both on the consequences of the Revolution (in their day) and the meaning of heroes and heroism.

For purposes of simplification, there was a negative and a positive form of heroism. These were exemplified in the works of Byron (negative) and Shelley (positive).

Shelley introduced his positive hero by contrasting Prometheus with Satan, who was the hero of Milton’s Paradise Lost. In his introduction to the play Prometheus Unbound he wrote:

The only imaginary being, resembling in any degree Prometheus, is Satan; and Prometheus is, in my judgment, a more poetical character than Satan, because, in addition to courage, and majesty, and firm and patient opposition to omnipotent force, he is susceptible of being described as exempt from the taints of ambition, envy, revenge, and a desire for personal aggrandizement, which, in the hero of Paradise Lost, interfere with the interest. The character of Satan engenders in the mind a pernicious casuistry which leads us to weigh his faults with his wrongs, and to excuse the former because the latter exceed all measure. In the minds of those who consider that magnificent fiction with a religious feeling it engenders something worse. But Prometheus is, as it were, the type of the highest perfection of moral and intellectual nature impelled by the purest and the truest motives to the best and noblest ends.11

The hero imagined by Byron — today we still have the term “Byronic hero” – was very different. Although recognising that the conventional rules of behaviour were no longer adequate, the Byronic hero sees this as an individual error. In the end this error is incorrigible and can only bring death. The development of this conception of heroism can be seen in the four cantos of Childe Harold. In this narrative poem Byron effectively describes his transformation to an enthusiast of the Revolution to one who laments its failure and the defeat of Napoleon and finally resigns to death in the belief that the Revolution was futile, pointless, that nothing can be changed.12

Shelley completely opposes the view Byron espouses in the Canto IV.

To suffer woes which Hope thinks infinite; To forgive wrongs darker than death or night; To defy Power, which seems omnipotent; To love, and bear; to hope till Hope creates
 From its own wreck the thing it contemplates; Neither to change, nor falter, nor repent; This, like thy glory, Titan, is to be
 Good, great and joyous, beautiful and free; This is alone Life, Joy, Empire, and Victory.13

  1. A century ago another revolution shook and shocked the West – the October Revolution. It too was a signal of the crisis and an attempt to transcend it. Again the roles of heroism had to be reinterpreted. The reaction to the October Revolution was at least, if not more, violent (because of technological developments) than that triggered by the French Revolution.

The negative heroism (Byron) became violently opposed to the positive heroism (Shelley). Attempts to understand this conflict have been distorted by what can only be called a sloppy use of the terms and an even sloppier explanation of the forces and political entities involved. For example whereas the history of the period from 1917 until 1945 was seen as a collective struggle for socialism in Russia and wherever it was supported in the world on one hand. The alternative explanation has been that the struggle has been for individual liberty. Thus the hero in the West ostensibly fights against all forms of social control, which inhibit his individualism. The hero in the “East” on the other hand fights for the integrity of the society and the strength of collectivity.

The principal theorists of what might call Byronic heroism in politics were Isaiah Berlin in Britain and Leo Strauss in the US.14 The complement to this Byronic form of politics has been an economic doctrine called the Austrian School15 but also neo-liberalism. There was a negative reaction to the French Revolution, which only saw the violence and the anarchy. And there was the negative reaction to the October revolution in the 20th century. Strauss and Hitler were right in line in hating communism. So was Churchill. Berlin too. They hated the optimism and hope of the October revolution. They had to worry about their own masses, who wanted to be free and to benefit from their own labour.

In fact, after 1945 it was still communism/socialism, which enjoyed the enthusiasm of most of the masses in Europe and rest of world. Contrary to the images created by Hollywood, most people in Europe knew that it was the Soviet Union that had defeated Hitler’s empire and communists who had been the most disciplined resistance to fascism in the occupied territories. 70 years later the record is public about how much money and political pressure the US had to devote to persuade Europeans not to vote for the optimism of the October Revolution.16

  1. In 1989 the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it the so-called “socialist bloc”, left the West with what might be called a “Byronic victory”. Ostensibly this has been the triumph of the individual over all forms of collectivity/disparagingly called “collectivism”. But what does that really mean? What is the actual end of Byron’s notion of heroism and its derivatives “negative romanticism” and negative liberty?
  2. The apparent victory of negative heroism has actually left us with the death of value. The hero’s acts are violent, fervent and ultimately futile – and what is worse, he knows it and accepts the destruction as the price.

This was an answer by those for whom the revolutions had failed and although revolt may have been inevitable, in the end it was necessary to admit that “god was right”, “monarchy was best” and “humans are incorrigible”.

The consequences of this collapse could already be seen in the ascendancy of Austrian/neo-liberal economic doctrines beginning in the 1970s. This was coupled ironically with an abandonment of any pretence that democracy – in the sense of popular rule for the general welfare – was an acceptable social system. This is ironic because from 1945 until 1974, nearly the entire world was engaged in struggle to obtain the promises of democracy whether that inspired by 1789 or by 1917. Just when more countries became independent than at any time in history, democracy and a social state were abandoned as the primary model of political-social order. The hero in all of this was the entrepreneur or politician or even military officer who was willing to take the hard decisions needed to suppress popular, democratic aspirations for the sake of the supreme human objective of personal profit.

Despite numerous economic crises, not to mention endless wars, there is still a widely propagated belief that the problems will be solved by more heroism, negative heroism that is. The heroes in our society are supposed to act deliberately against their own interests or against the interests of those they ostensibly represent. This is the Byronic heroism which if carefully analysed can be seen as the font of nihilism – not creativity or humanity. The Byronic hero has resigned to defeat, accepts the world as hopelessly corrupt and therefore the gods/ potentates as the least possible evil. It is the heroism of suicide.

In fact, many ordinary people resist this kind of heroism because it is obvious that it is a death wish.

The contrast to this heroism is positive heroism that for purposes of simplicity can be identified with Shelley – in particular, Shelley’s reinterpretation of the Prometheus myth in his dramatic-lyric poem Prometheus Unbound. This enigmatic poem is a deliberate response to Byron’s underlying nihilism. It poses the conflict between individualism and society as a pseudo-problem – one created by subservience to the gods. In other words he says that the game between god and man has been rigged and there is no way out except to stop playing on god’s terms. It is god (the gods) who creates the conditions under which man is opposed to himself and to his fellow creatures. The individual that Byron described and supposed he lived was a product of his desire to be reconciled with authority to be happily submissive. Shelley’s Prometheus refuses to play god’s game. In doing so he becomes emblematic for the refusal to be divided and exploited by the gods.

Shelley’s freedom is exactly Berlin’s positive liberty – the ability to create one’s own systems and structures or what is generally called in political science self-determination. Negative liberty, which Berlin from his sinecure at Oxford espoused as the only defensible form, is merely freedom with in a system one cannot change, as freedom to buy and sell in the free market or capitalism.

In Act IV, Shelley does not describe a utopia – a nowhere in which there is nothing to do and all questions are answered, all problems are solved. That is the usual opposition to the vision of Shelley and the positive Romantics or the committed revolutionaries of 1789 and 1917. Instead Shelley shifts from a drama in which Prometheus has had to deal with his oppressor and tormenter as punishment for bringing man fire (knowledge), to Prometheus as the emblem of all human potential when knowledge is attainable by all and can be used to live in the world. The meaning of the heart that grows back each time it is consumed is precisely the opposite of Byron’s song of futility in Childe Harold. It is the heart – the love of man – that is renewed in the struggle to live and use the knowledge attainable. Prometheus has not sacrificed himself. It is not a Christian parable because Shelley’s Prometheus is not a surrogate – he is everyman, unmediated in life itself and without god or any other tyrant to dominate him. Prometheus is not everyman as an individual. One ought perhaps to say Prometheus is only comprehensible as Man or Humanity. The liberal individual of the Enlightenment was the imitation of god, god the autocrat, the tyrant. Shelley believed that this individual was an insidious fiction – and for humanity a very destructive fiction.

From 1789 until 1918 the key social event for humanists was the French Revolution. From 1918 until 1989 the key social event was the October Revolution. The October Revolution magnified the French Revolution to a global scale. 1989 can be seen as the final collapse of the French Revolution as the central ideal of what is paraded as “Western humanism”.

Of course that does not mean that the ideals of the French Revolution and October Revolution were extinguished, only that the potential of Western states to promote humanism in whatever form collapsed.

One of the reasons for this collapse can be seen in the prevalence of what has been called “negative Romanticism” and its negative (nihilistic) hero. Nietzsche anticipated this, essentially arguing that the Byronic hero – the possessive individual (in the sense of defined by property, rather than humanity) – was a destructive ideal. In that sense Nietzsche did not promote fascism, as is often supposed – although his sister did – but prophesied its destructive power.

The October Revolution globalised the French Revolution and it was met by globalised fascism leading to the Second World War, which was an even more violent reaction than the wars against Napoleon. Although the Soviet Union, led by its own Napoleonic figure in the form of Stalin, was able to defeat the centre of European fascism, it was only at the cost of a kind of “Congress” solution in 1945 with the NATO under US dominance emerging as the power to isolate the Soviet Union and prevent the expansion of the ideals of the October Revolution.17

WWII destroyed European control over its empires and ironically magnified the influence of the Soviet Union beyond its own ambitions for change in the world system. Thus from 1945 until 1975, revolutions continued to threaten the new “Congress” dispensation.18

By 1989, however, the Soviet Union was exhausted and so were all the countries that had struggled to become independent based on the ideals of 1789 or 1917.

1989 marked what must unfortunately be seen both politically and economically, but also socially and ecologically, as the consequences of the “negative liberty”, negative heroism, and above all the nihilistic response to the French Revolution – a return to divine despotism and clerical domination.

“Heroism” is by definition an act that violates convention, an error – at least in the eyes of those who feel compelled to follow conventional rules of behaviour. That heroism is an exception. So how can human society be organised “heroically” when that would mean constantly violating any conventions – any rules that might be agreed for the benefit of human life?

The hero as we have learned to appreciate him has always been a part of the deity – his violations were always within the confines of what the gods decreed – and priests interpreted.

For Shelley there were no gods. Prometheus joined the human condition, the human species. He took fire to share with humanity. He did not bring divine perfection—the gods were never perfect either. Shelley’s Prometheus was chained to the Earth like humans are as a species. In his view the renewing heart, is not a brief illusion.

However the potential of positive heroism has not been exhausted. It has merely lost its historical agents. Prometheus has had his heart consumed and now must bear its slow but sure replacement.

  1. Plausible deniability is a concept attributed to the US national security policy to characterise the imperative of covert action. The principle is simply that any covert action should only be performed if, should it be exposed, it is possible to deny official responsibility for the action. Then CIA director William Colby explained the doctrine as understood by the Agency in hearings before the so-called “Church Committee”, (US Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with respect to Intelligence Activities) on 16 September 1975.
  2. Mark Twain (1909/1962) Letters from the Earth. Twain’s satirical treatment of the Creation is presented in the form of correspondence between Satan and his heavenly brethren, the archangels.
  3. Another version of this article was delivered at the VI Conference of CITCEM, University of Porto, expected publication in 2018. The conference theme was derived from the Camões Sonnet No. 193.
  4. At the time, the German finance minister was Wolfgang Schäuble (from 2009-2017) Schäuble has been a CDU member of the German federal parliament since 1972, the longest serving active member of the party that has dominated German politics since 1949.
  5. 2017 there were massive forest fires throughout central Portugal. In one notorious case, Pedrógrau Grande, many people were burned alive in their cars as they tried to escape via the few roads in that rural area. Preliminary investigations showed that aside from the natural conditions conducive to fires, the failure to invest in training and equipment for local forest management and fire departments and the chronic neglect of the rural areas by national government aggravated the damage immensely.
  6. Portugal’s autocrat (1928-1968), António de Oliveira Salazar was initially invested with wide powers as finance minister on the pretext that courageous fiscal authority was needed to save Portugal.
  7. Camoes, Luís. Erros meus, má fortuna, amor ardente Sonnet CXCIII (My errors, cruel fortune and ardent love, trans. Richard Zenith, 2006.)

    Erros meus, má fortuna, amor ardente/
    em minha perdição se conjuraram;/
    os erros e a fortuna sobejaram,/
    que para mim bastava o amor somente.Tudo passei; mas tenho tão presente/
    a grande dor das cousas que passaram,/
    que as magoadas iras me ensinaram/
    a não querer já nunca ser contente.Errei todo o discurso de meus anos;/
    dei causa [a] que a Fortuna castigasse/
    as minhas mal fundadas esperanças./

    De amor não vi senão breves enganos./
    Oh! quem tanto pudesse que fartasse/
    este meu duro génio de vinganças!/

  8. Peckham, Morse. Man’s Rage for Chaos: Biology, Behavior and the Arts, (1965).
  9. Carlyle, Thomas. On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and The Heroic in History, (1841), James Fraser, London. All societies set up heroes who embody their values. Heroes are essentially a religious way of looking at life. Jesus is a hero, too. Prometheus is a type of Jesus.
  10. Camus, Albert (1955) – The Myth of Sisyphus (first published in French in 1942).
  11. Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1927). Complete Poetical Works. Published by Oxford University Press. London, p. 201.
  12. Byron, George Gordon (1936). Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and other Romantic Poems, Published by Doubleday. New York, p. 173. For example, Stanza CV (Canto IV):

    And from the planks, far shatter’d o’er rocks,/
    Built me a little bark of hope, once more/
    To battle with the ocean and the shocks/
    Of the loud breakers, ad the ceaseless roar/
    Which rushes on the solitary shore/
    Where all lies founder’d that was ever dear/
    But could I gather from the wave-worn store/
    Enough for my rude boat, where should I steer?/
    There woos no home, nor hope, or life, save what is here/.

  13. Shelley, p. 264.
  14. Berlin, Isaiah (1958) Two Concepts of Liberty. Leo Strauss was a German-American political philosopher and proponent of “natural law” doctrine, who while a professor at the University of Chicago has been credited as the intellectual mentor for what is called in the US “neo-conservatism”. Although Berlin is often considered a “liberal” whereas Strauss is considered a conservative/ reactionary, a principal historical motivation in both is their venomous reaction to the Russian Revolution.
  15. The Austrian School of economic dogma. Its most notorious contemporary propagandist was Milton Friedman. However Friedman was simply a populist acolyte of the economic theorists who were spawned in the ruins of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and after WWII found their home in the United States, many of whom gave birth to what was known as the “Chicago School” since it was spawned at the University of Chicago (along with a host of unsavoury German-speakers from north of the Salzach river).
  16. Agee, Philip/Wolf, Louis (1978) – Dirty Work: The CIA in Western Europe. Lyle Stuart and Dorset Press. New York,  This is just one of several books/collections which drew attention to the covert operations of the US government to manipulate elections throughout Western Europe after World War II, principally to prevent popular European communist parties from winning elections.
  17. See NSC-68, promulgated in 1947, this policy document defined the US national security strategy and objectives. It remained classified until the late 1970s.
  18. Of the three key US diplomats of the so-called Cold War era, Dean Acheson, John Foster Dulles, and Henry Kissinger, it is telling that Kissinger’s academic focus was on the political order created by the reactionary Congress of Vienna, designed to suppress democratic and revolutionary movements after the defeat of Napoleon.

When an Alien is Our Brother, Son, Friend

I think that most of us instinctively avoid people with mental illness.

I think in many ways what my films are about is that search for my grandpa’s dentures: for that humanizing narrative that bridges the gap between “us” and “them” to arrive at a “we.”
—Brian Lindstrom, documentarian

I first had my real run-in’s with “the law,” in Tucson, Arizona. Pima County Sheriff’s deputies in three vehicles were chasing me on my Bultaco 360cc, as I was cutting through dirt roads and gullies as a 15-year-old unlicensed motocrosser. The mayhem those deputies created, going after me as if I was a mass murderer.

It took six months and probably a few snitches at my high school before the knock on the classroom door of my physics class when the vice principal and two deputies greeted me. The two weaponized cops, in the hallway, handcuffed me and walked me away.

I was charged with driving a motorcycle without a license, along with 18 moving violations.

All of the charges were dropped, as my mother was well-connected to both Tucson Police Department captains and the chief of police, as well as a senator in the Arizona legislature.

Bottom line was the deputies were humiliated, over a one-year period, by my smart-ass ripping up the desert and eluding them. Without evidence that I was actually the one on the Bultaco each time I eluded them, the judge threw the cases out the window while admonishing me to wear a helmet and get a license.

It didn’t take much longer in my life to have more interfaces with cops, as I became the police reporter for both the college daily in Tucson and eventually several dailies and weeklies in Southern Arizona along the US-Mexico border.

My first real live reporter’s story on a cop shooting was when I had to cover a killing of a person with bipolar effective disorder who was in distress near Ajo, Arizona. A mother calls 911 about her son, a Vietnam veteran, drinking a lot and standing in their fenced yard talking to and yelling at ghosts. He had a six-inch Buck knife, and a tall boy PBR in the other hand. Deputy skids to a stop, comes out of the patrol car, pulls his gun, and while in a shoot-to-kill stance, mind you, on the other side of the clear demarcation of the property line to the son and mother’s double-wide trailer and shed set up, he shouts at the man to put the knife down and lay on the 120 degree desert ground with fingers laced and around his head.

The mother pleads to the cop to just back off, to not yell; her son yells back, cussing out this dude, telling him, “Don’t you come onto our property or I’ll stick you.” One thing leads to another, the distressed man charges, while still in his yard, the four-foot high fence between the police official and him. The deputy yells stop, and the Vietnam veteran tells him to fuck off and get away.

At the property line, on his family’s side of the line, the veteran waves his beer and his knife. Fifteen seconds later, the cop fires three rounds, pumping metal into the 42-year-old’s chest.

That was my first foray into investigating police policies around distressed and mentally deranged and emotionally flagging citizens.

One way to end the mental health crisis is to “shoot them out of existence” said one asshole El Paso deputy to me off the record.

Jump cut almost four decades later: Portland, Oregon. Pearl District. Daytime. Man who is deathly afraid of police is confronted by cops, runs away, is subdued, and in less than 120 minutes from the point of confrontation and while in police custody, said perpetrator is dead.

Watching Brian Lindstrom’s Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, I am reminded of my forty plus years in and around cops, with mentally distressed clients, as a social worker with homeless and re-entry and veteran clients, and as a teacher in many alternative high school programs, community college, prisons, with military students, and with adults living with developmental disabilities.

I viewed the five year old film with homeless veterans and their family members in Beaverton, Oregon. Three in the audience (including me) had heard of the James Chasse case of Portland Police slamming to the pavement a skinny 42-year-old while also kicking him, applying a Taser, and hogtying the man with schizophrenia and letting him turn ashen gray while standing around sipping Starbucks.

Lindstrom’s film is powerful on many levels, notwithstanding the filmmaker’s ability to ply through the historical record to humanize this interesting and buoyant son who was known around Portland for many years. The quintessential peeling back of the biographical onion peel is what’s compelling about the filmmaker’s approach.

Here, a quote Lindstrom, lifted from a 2013 Portland Mercury interview:

With Alien Boy, our main goal was to honor Jim and really to kind of restore the depth and dimension to Jim’s life. We wanted to restore his humanity and depth. When he died his whole existence was reduced to this headline, 42 Year Old Man with Schizophrenia Dies in Police Custody, and that’s just such a desolate interpretation of his life. Actually, it’s really just an interpretation of his death not of his life. So we painstakingly researched his life, and found friends, family, his old girlfriend, his neighbors, all these people that could talk about him and give him the kind of fullness he deserved. He lived a life of hardship. He was dealt a hard hand but he played it well. He had a lot of integrity and drive. He built a meaningful life and we really wanted to show that in the film.

Mr. Chasse was living in an SRO (subsidized single room occupancy apartment) in downtown Portland, with his own little space from where he positioned his life to survive the voices and the hardships a schizophrenic lives through attempting to be accepted and left alone as an atypical in a neuro-normal and highly judgmental world.

The promontory idea my audience participants who viewed the film expressed was how a person who lives their life disheveled and as a loner with obvious atypical clothing and demeanor can end up at the blunt end of the macho and violent world of a police force. What is really compelling are the eyewitnesses to the event – people who did not know James at the time of the brutal and misanthropic and cavalier way he was meted out injustice – and the stake they had in reviving the 42-year-old’s humanity.

As is the case in all these incidents of police brutality, overreach, and killing, the victims are rarely treated as sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, uncle and aunts, friends and neighbors. They are un-people, aliens, reduced to their prior run-ins with the law, their rap sheets, their mental states, and their resistance.

Lindstrom takes this case, and builds a life, and in the process of reportage, he is able to elicit the emotive power of those of us bearing witness to injustice, a crime against humanity, and any warped expression of the human condition vis-à-vis a cliquish and many times felonious police force. Bearing witness, we as the documentary’s viewers are compelled to see a man, Jim, whose origins are a boy, a child, a son, a boyfriend, a character in the community, and a citizen of not only Portland, Oregon, but of the world.

Image result for james chasse jr

Image result for james chasse jr

James Chasse, Jr., was a fixture in the early punk rock scene in Portland, and Lindstrom allows a kaleidoscope of memories to enter the milieu of his film. One might expect the fury of the chase, or the fear of a dark alley and known crack dealer’s crib. In the case of James Chasse, Jr., he was minding his business in his grimy state in an upscale part of Portland. That was his crime.

“I think we’re used to viewing a lot of police tragedies that are unfortunate one-time decisions about pulling a trigger,” Lindstrom says. “What’s so disturbing about this [case] is that the film reveals this cascade of deceits, omissions, and lies that lead to this terrible death, which was preventable.”

Alien Boy premiered in February 2013 at the Portland International Film Festival after six years of production. The architectonics of the film peers back into our own souls – many of us have experienced videotaped depositions, court documents, and witness interviews up close. September 17, 2006 police approached Chasse, believing he was behaving suspiciously. Herein lies the universal truth of community police forces – if you run away, you most probably will be maimed or injured by officers.

In the case of Jim, he ended up with two dozen breaks on 16 ribs. The policemen signed a waiver denying the EMT unit authority to send him to a hospital.

I’ve seen this shit in Guatemala, in Mexico, in El Paso and Spokane – a hog-tied and writhing-in-pain screaming suspect thrown in a cell, whereupon the person stops breathing or has a seizure, and then slow-to-respond jailers and deputies load the suspect into a police vehicle headed for a hospital. Jim’s level of pain was captured on video and audio, and the viewer sees the brutality of group think in the jailer-cop mindset as people stand around inside the Multnomah County Detention Center as the dying Jim Jim went white and cyanic.

Jim was dumped in a squad car where the cop who pounded him to the pavement drove him to Providence Medical Center. He died in transit, a few minutes away from the emergency room.

This film does not hearken back to some episode of Law and Order, and instead we get a wonderful and human portrait of not an alien, but a life of a man who was a seeker of art as musician, writer, and cartoonist.

Here’s the rub – men and women can live lives of dignity and worth even with mental illness and the so-called hearing voices effects of schizoid disorders. They have friends, they believe in things, they are many times artists, and they can be creative and have meaningful relationships. Lindstrom calls Jim Jim “an amazing success story … a beautiful, sensitive, fragile-yet-resilient nature.”

As a practitioner in the social services world, I have worked with hundreds of people who are looked upon by mainstream society as broken, damaged, suspect and unworthy of all the rights embedded in a democracy, part and parcel what it means to be a citizen. I’ve had clients who lived in the same subsidized apartment building Chasse lived in. This world of neuro-atypical people living in our communities is a success story when social services and the full suite of programs come in and help people like James Chasse function in the world.

Jim Jim was part of our world, and given that, we have a responsibility to honor and respect the individual. Our versus his, or us versus them, are not paradigms in 21st Century USA, and Brian Lindstrom plays out that criticism through the people he interviewed and the narrative flow of his powerful film. Unfortunately, police departments, jailers and prison authorities, and now ICE against undocumented immigrants believe that the men and women with the weapons, military gear and new super powers to harass citizens are the “us” and we are the “they.” For people with developmental, psychological and intellectual disabilities, they are at the bottom rung of “humanity” in the minds of many street-level cops.

Lindstrom has spent years confronting the stories of people he says “society kind of puts an X through.” When the audience finishes a film like Alien Boy, we come away as better people in that same collective community, many times with a greater sense of empathy.

For some, it’s not a cakewalk as this filmmaker is challenged to “expose some grit and grace, that otherwise you might not know was there, in the people you may walk by every day.”

The filmmaking involved many sealed documents and gag orders since the city and police bureau were being sued by the Chasse family. “It was an exercise in faith,” he says. “We would just show up and do the work and hope that a way would be revealed.” The floodgates of evidence opened in 2010 when the Chasse family settled for $1.6 million from the City of Portland.

The viewers last week in the homeless veteran shelter where I work asked if things had changed, and some in the audience answered:

“Hell, no. The Portland police have gotten worse. They attack protesters against ICE detention camps. They give me no evidence that they know how to deal with people in mental health crises.”

A bit of a Lindstrom’s biographical underpinning points to a Portland kid who was thinking all the time about stories he wanted to tell, and he came to the conclusion that it was film as a medium to express those narratives.

Lindstrom was the first member of his family to attend college, paying for this education at both University of Oregon and then Lewis & Clark University by working summers at a salmon cannery in Cordova, Alaska. A linchpin to Brian’s transformation into believing he would be a filmmaker occurred when communications professor Stuart Kaplan screened Edward R. Murrow’s 1960 documentary, Harvest of Shame, about the hard lives American migrant farmworkers faced producing America’s food.

“Brian was really captivated by that, and thought that that’s the kind of thing he would like to do,” Kaplan says. “Documentaries that could bring about social change.”

After graduating from Lewis & Clark, Lindstrom got into Columbia University’s film directing program, where he produced educational videos for the New York City Department of Transportation. His thesis films included a short drama adapted from a Charles Baxter short story and a five-minute documentary about the famous schoolyard basketball player Earl “The Goat” Manigault.

Brian Lindstrom

He’s connected to the NW Film School, and he’s worked with one of my old stomping grounds, Central City Concern, a Portland nonprofit that provides housing, health care, and addiction-treatment services. The fruit of his labor includes Kicking, a half-hour documentary that follows three drug addicts through the medically supervised detox process at Central City’s Hooper Detox Center, and then Finding Normal, about CCC’s Mentor program, where recovering drug addicts get housing and a peer mentor to bust the cycle of addiction, sobriety, relapse.

Today, Lindstrom works intently on other projects while also spending time with his two children and wife, writer Cheryl Strayed, author of the best-selling memoir, Wild, which was turned into a Hollywood film.

My quick mini-interview of Alien Boy‘s Brian Lindstrom:

Paul Haeder: What’s the lesson you take away in 2018 after making the film Alien Boy, and after the screenings, the interviews, the passage of time from that 2006 killing?

Brian Lindstrom: We need to do more to support and protect people dealing with mental illness. I naively thought, way back in 2013 when we were finishing Alien Boy, that the Justice Dept. would come in and make everything better. That hasn’t happened. I want to think the opening of Unity is a step in the right direction and takes pressure off of PPB in terms of dealing with people in mental health crises, but evidently there are some issues at Unity that need to be worked out. I want to be clear that just because I’m advocating for anything that takes the burden off of PPB dealing with people with mental illness, I am in no way condoning or excusing what the PPB did to James Chasse. What is clear to me is that we have to figure out a way to support and protect people with mental illness so that PPB isn’t the defacto mental health services provider.

PH: You make documentaries. What influence do you want these films to have on audiences? The old conundrum is as artists who cover social/environmental/cultural/community injustices we get both the 35,000 foot perspective and the two inch POV, yet in the back of our minds we say, “Shit nothing has changed … in fact, it’s worse.” Riff with this in terms specifically with how you see not only PPB dealing with people they come in contact with living with mental health diagnoses, but writ large in the USA?

BL: I have a confession to make. If I’m truly honest with myself, I don’t make films for audiences. I make them for the people in the film. It is my small way of honoring them. That doesn’t mean I don’t delve into dark areas or that I ignore that person’s struggles. I’m much more concerned with trying to achieve an honest depiction of that person’s life than I am with any potential audience reaction.

PH: Why do you focus on the subject matter you have thus chosen in your documentarian body of work?

BL: It chooses me. I don’t know how else to explain it.

PH: Which story that hasn’t been told but for which you would like to see be told by anyone, or you yourself?

BL: Hmm… So many. I will go with the first that comes to mind: I’ve always wanted to make a documentary about an adult overcoming illiteracy.

PH: What advice do you give young or nascent filmmakers who want to make a difference and tell those stories that might spark a difference in our world?

BL: Grab a camera and go for it. Learn to get out of the way of the story.

PH: Anything you learned in the making of Alien Boy that you have just come to grips with?

BL: We must keep fighting for those whom life has dealt a hard hand.

PH: Why do you make documentaries?

BL: The camera is a bridge of sorts that allows me to get to know people I otherwise might never get to meet. I’m forever grateful for the brave people who have let me tell their story.

I Went to Flagstaff for a Commencement

What is explained can be denied but what is felt cannot be forgotten.

Charles Bowden

What do you say, at age 61, as I am rubbernecking the constant superficial, seedy, consumer-caked world now as someone considered a major failure – a few dozens jobs, mostly sacked from, and a few dozen careers, and, I am slogging away at a homeless shelter trying to save myself from the constrictor of capitalism, that strangulating system that gets us all complicit in the crime, making us all little Eichmann’s in this murder incorporated killing, complicit in the hyper exploitation of man, woman, child, ecosystem?

Consumerism as a psychological wedge to allow for the synchronized event horizon of finance-government-surveillance-media-military to work on the masses as a suffocating fog pumped out across the globe by an elite bent on total dominance.

We can jump onto the global stage and see the battering truth:

Diagnosing the Empire with Sadistic Personality Disorder (SPD)

Western culture is clearly obsessed with rules, guilt, submissiveness and punishment.

By now it is clear that the West is the least free society on Earth. In North America and Europe, almost everyone is under constant scrutiny: people are spied on, observed, their personal information is being continually extracted, and the surveillance cameras are used indiscriminately.

Life is synchronized and managed. There are hardly any surprises.

One can sleep with whomever he or she wishes (as long as it is done within the ‘allowed protocol’).

Homosexuality and bisexuality are allowed. But that is about all; that is how far ‘freedom’ usually stretches.
Rebellion is not only discouraged, it is fought against, brutally. For the tiniest misdemeanors or errors, people end up behind bars. As a result, the U.S. has more prisoners per capita than any other country on Earth, except the Seychelles.

And as a further result, almost all conversations, but especially public discourses, are now being controlled by so-called ‘political correctness’ and its variants.

But back to the culture of fear and punishment.

Look at the headlines of the Western newspapers. For example, New York Times from April 12. 2018: Punishment of Syria may be harsher this time.

We are so used to such perverse language used by the Empire that it hardly strikes us as twisted, bizarre, pathological.

It stinks of some sadomasochistic cartoon, or of a stereotypical image of an atrocious English teacher holding a ruler over a pupil’s extended hands, shouting, “Shall I?”

Carl Gustav Jung described Western culture, on several occasions, as a “pathology”. He did it particularly after WWII, but he mentioned that the West had been committing terrible crimes in all parts of the world, for centuries. That is most likely why the Western mainstream psychiatrists and psychologists have been glorifying the ego-centric and generally apolitical Sigmund Freud, while ignoring, even defaming, Carl Gustav Jung.

The reality is, though, most of the revolutionaries like myself in this cesspool of capitalism have to slog ahead in the belly of the beast, without the rarefied air of being an international journalist like Andre Vltchek. The reality is most of us know that when 11 million babies under age two die of treatable maladies each year, or when bodies are shot through and extremities are shattered by the sadism that is the Gestapo-Apartheid “state/religion” of Israel, we push through the fog of rapacious consumerism and consort with our deep empathy for our brothers and sisters under the thumb of despotic regimes like USA, Russia, Israel, China, India, et al.

Because, now, no matter the level of melanin in a collective people’s skin or the desperation of the people, the globe has been infected by a virus called Capitalism-Finance-Unfettered Exploitation.

Exploitation is a pretty tame word for what I am hinting at: destruction, annihilation, extinction. As is the case with me, a rant percolates from the bowels of the commonness of my life, the microcosm of traveling from point A to point B. What happens in Vegas happens in New York City. What unfolds in little town USA is unfolding in San Fran.

Whatever it is, here I was, back in Arizona, first Phoenix, the cancer, the cancer, and then up to Flagstaff, oh that place before white man invasion sacred healing cloud island peaks. Arizona, as I’ve written extensively, is where I cut my teeth as a small town newspaper reporter, learned directly the value of radical conservation, became a brother in arms for Chicanoism, tried my hand at diving and helping bring across refugees of the proxy wars of USA in Guatemala, etc.

I’ve written poetically about the place – here and there, and have inserted the value of those formative years into almost everything I’ve written, taught, done in my 48 years since coming to Arizona young, 13:

Wrestling the Blind, Chasing Apache Horses, and Unpacking the Vietnam War – (September 4th, 2013) or page 12, Cirque

But this most recent trip, a weekend, I went to celebrate my 22-year-old niece’s matriculation, with bachelor of science degree, from Northern Arizona University. The old days when I was young, 19, and a journalist, and then, activist, like quicksilver in my brain, taking over not only my senses, but memory. Many of us saw the writing on the wall 40 and 50 years ago – this barely inhabitable place (a place of migration for Papago and other indigenous people’s), with a blitzkrieg of outsiders plowing the desert and eventually corralling the Colorado River into brackish canals to feed the malls and mayhem of winter baseball leagues and out of control military complex tax cheats. Three state universities, and then this new cheater, University of Phoenix . . . headquarters for the bizarre U-Haul . . . dry mothball arenas for the USA’s killing flying machines. Odd as hell place, with the likes of Edward Abbey running amok. I hear now Noam Chomsky is visiting prof at U of A in Tucson.

Humans build their societies around consumption of fossil water long buried in the earth, and these societies, being based on temporary resources, face the problem of being temporary themselves.

— Charles Bowden, Killing Hidden Waters

I kind of think of Charles Bowden from time to time, who was a reporter and novelist living in Tucson and covering the Southwest and northern Mexico. When I go into the desert, after looking at some shell of a rag that we now call daily newspapers, I feel this guy’s haunting – now dead going on four years:

When he got a hold of a story, he wouldn’t let it go, said former Citizen copy editor Judy Carlock. He had a very generous heart and a lot of compassion … he didn’t mince words.

The way I was trained up, reporters went toward the story, just as firemen rush toward the fire. It is a duty.

He was compelled to work; he had to write … in vivid imagery and concrete detail, Carlock said. Every Monday morning, the (Citizen) city desk would come in to find a long, brilliant masterpiece they had to find room for in the paper.

He lived at full tilt, fueled on caffeine and nicotine, said Carlock. Bowden had stopped smoking about two years ago, Carroll said, and was lifting weights, working on that second wind in his life.

He was no saint, but he was true to himself, said Carlock. I think he secretly relished being thought of as a rogue.

This amazing ecosystem, with syncopated Native American tribes and amazing Mexican communities turned into a wheezing series of six-lane freeways and spiraling communities for the infirm, the emphysemic and the insane.

It’s really difficult to find a place to start.  Sedona and the vortices? Flagstaff, from one-horse town to bedroom (climatically cooler but fire prone) to Phoenix? The 365 days a year fire pit danger, as heat comes earlier, rain disappears quicker, and the landscape is peppered with suburbia’s faux Mexican-Italian-Spanish-Greek designs as the ubiquitous 20-mile caravans of cars and trucks push the hot tunnel of air which is Arizona?

As a former newspaperman, I am compelled to read the dwindling local news anywhere I go, even five and dime advertising things, or corny local monthlies, and so just a few minutes with the Arizona Republic show me where the mass delusion, mass magical thinking and mass ignorance get set in. But, compelling, the stories slugs or ledes:

• Border Patrol punk who murdered 16 year old for throwing rocks, and the jury convicting him of involuntary manslaughter gets hung

• Animal abuse claims against the Havasupal Tribe’s section of the Grand Canyon – you know, animal lovers saying the pack animals used to ferry the tourists into the Canyon are treated like shit (abused) . . . . oh those do-gooders, just how many of them are animal-free product users . . . how many of them know how every stitch of clothing, every chemical smeared in their lives, every product of the modern age are placed in their realm with millions of rats, mice, dogs, and apes murdered for that consumer entitlement . . . ?

• PK12 teachers on the march for wage increases, class size reductions, more counselors, more money for staff and support personnel . . . and yet many of these Arizona scallywags want them to eat shit

• Flagstaff keeping homeless people from living – camping – on public property through ordinances from hell

• A great female representative from the state wanting dreamer children – undocumented – out of the Copper State, more of the same Trump et al giving children the boot while Trump’s monster wife calls for no more bullying

• God in the classroom, a civics literacy bill, more report cards for schools (to fail them so the charter schools get more easy pickings), and this drive for charter (for- profit, hedge-fund lined) schools to take from the public coffers and teach absolute shit

• More gigantic housing developments planned in the Sonora desert without any water delivery plans, without any water!

• Raytheon Missile Systems breaks ground on an expansion of its Tucson facility – 2,000 more Little Eichmann’s added to the already large 10,000 workers designing, testing, manufacturing and delivering via Amazon dot Com killing systems to include Tomahawk missiles and this new Stormbreaker small diameter bomb

• Mexican-American female columnist for the Arizona Republic newspaper bashing the possibility of socialist former Mexico City mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador making it as president of Mexico . . . “he’s a Hugo Chavez-style authoritarian tropical messiah who would turn Mexico into another Venezuela”

• The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community building lavish baseball stadiums for professional teams like the Diamondbacks

• HBO plans to debut John McCain documentary on Memorial Day – “John McCain; For Whom the Bell Tolls”

• soda or sugar taxes outlawed in the state
• non-English contracts will be voided in all insurance transactions, and beyond

• Abortion patient questions are now mandatory

Oh the compounding blasphemy. If this were a thematic essay, well, here are the components:

• Wanton excess in the state, with brand new, freshly washed expensive SUV’s, power cars, pick-up trucks

• Endless strip mall after strip mall and faux Spanish colonial kitsch and after faux Hacienda kitsch which propels the dribbling consumerism of 24/7 Superstore Grand Openings

• Zero tribute to the peoples of the real Arizona – Chemehuevi, Chiricahua, Cocopa, or Xawitt Kwñchawaay, Dilzhe’e, Apache, Havasupai, or Havasuw `Baaja, Hopi, Hualapai, or Hwal `Baaja, Maricopa, or Piipaash, Mohave, or Hamakhava (also spelled Mojave), Navajo, or Diné, Southern Paiute, Akimel O’odham, formerly Pima, Quechan, or Yuma, San Carlos Apache, Nné – Coyotero, or Western Apaches, Tewa, Tohono O’odham, formerly Papago, Southern Ute, White Mountain Apache, Ndé – Coyotero or Western Apaches, Xalychidom, or Halchidhoma, Yaqui people, Yavapai, or Kwevkepaya, Wipukepa, Tolkepaya, and Yavepé (four separate groups), Zuni, or A:shiwi

• Redneck clashing with wimpy liberal clashing with snowbird clashing with old Mafia clashing with Hispanic-Latino/a clashing with senior citizen Trump lover clashing with new money clashing with the Raytheon mentality clashing with the endless cancer spur that is Arizona

• My old stomping grounds, now despoiled by in-ground pools, putrid man-made lakes, endless track homes like carcinoma, endless twisting cul-de-sacs where minds end up mushed up in mojito-ville

• Hatred, man, the Trump way, McCain way, Goldwater, putrid former Maricopa County Sheriff and Minutemen militias on the border, and the Gestapo Border Patrol and the rot which is a state in the union emblematic of red state loafers and the hard-working people like those teachers

• A college, NAU, broken by a president who cheats faculty and luxuriates in the money thrown her way and the attention the local yokels give her

• Students fighting this female NAU president Rita Cheng who wants cuts to all sorts of important programs (in the liberal arts) so she can court those wanton criminal corporations and alt-right Koch Brothers

• The graduation I went to was embarrassing, dead, nothing in the way of speakers, controlled by this president, and was ten times more lackluster than a Missouri Synod Lutheran Sunday meeting

• Peter Principle of incompetents rising, as in the case of Rita Cheng and thousands of movers and shakers (sic) that run the state

• The inarticulate middle and upper classes of society exemplified in Arizona

• A state with more sun per year with nary a solar panel in sight

• The rotten belief that infinite growth, infinite in-migration, infinite giveaways to the corporate leeches will lead to prosperity

• The Caucasian and other Whitey people’s insipid Trader Joe’s-Dutch Brothers-Bed, Bath and Beyond systematic lobotomizing of the masses

• Sprayed-on lawns and Astroturf backyards scattered around the desiccating real lawns throughout the entire Phoenix and Tucson metroplexes

• Daily reminder of the old adage of “who the fuck thought white people and their poodles settling in Arizona made any sense”

• Like anywhere else, Arizona has no worthy newspaper of note anymore, and the news is not to be seen in the light of day

I’ve always said, that one slice of life is a microcosm, that splice onto one of the big fat four-hour reels of 70 mm movie film depicting the universality in the absurdity of being Homo Sapiens under the thumb of money changers, militaries and grand exploiters. Example: One shit-hole sugar cane fucker and his sibling (Fanjul Brothers) and his fucking family destroying the lives of thousands of slaves, upsetting the natural world, and sending the sweet sting of death to millions. One fucking family owning billions of dollars and billions of people and draining the Everglades. Something along those lines – just look at history of rubber, gold, oil, wood, fruit, minerals, raw labor, animals.

This arithmetic is as clear as the day is long, in a world where this time, the so-called now time, is bereft of no logic, no ethics, no depth of knowledge, no truth except the rubbery huckster kind. While NAU had zero commencement speakers for all five graduation sequences, we now have to read about a world of Rex Tillerson — that son of a bitch lying, thieving, fossil fuel thug — now at a graduation for a military institute (what the fuck are we still living in a world of military academies – sic).

You can’t make this shit up in a work of fiction:

In a commencement speech at Virginia Military Institute, the camera-shy former secretary of state gave his most public remarks since President Donald Trump ousted him from the White House in March.

“As I reflect upon the state of American democracy,” he told the Class of 2018, “I observe a growing crisis in ethics and integrity.”

Tillerson’s emphasis on integrity echoed his parting words to colleagues at the State Department in March. Then he went even further:

“If our leaders seek to conceal the truth, or we as people become accepting of alternative realities that are no longer grounded in facts, then we as American citizens are on a pathway to relinquishing our freedom.”

Tillerson’s time in Trump administration was marked by tension. He reportedly called the president a “moron” eight months before he was fired and replaced by then-CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

But the oil industry veteran has yet to directly criticize Trump. His speech, which began with a discussion on the globalized economy and stressed “the value of friends and allies,” is the closest he has come to attacking Trump’s rhetoric and “America First” policy.

This from the moronic Huffington Post. Alternative realities, sure, Mister Exxon. The reality of propping up dictators, of hiring murderers to take over land, of stealing oil from any number of countries, and the complete environmental despoilment created by the great Exxon-Shell-Chevron-You-Name-It soul and soil eating machine. Imagine, this guy’s a thug, Tillerson, who has no concept of realities, except his thuggery, and a billionaire mentality. Yeah, Exxon and the alternative reality of climate change and the bullshit destruction of the earth from fossil fuel burning. What great record this keynote speaker Tillerson has, and, in the end, he’s as ballless as the lot of the millionaires\billionaires, afraid to criticize the deviant, stupid and reckless Trump.

Where do these people come from? Which DNA-warped womb do they exit from? Which felonious family raised them? Which two-bit schools educated them? Which insane people hire them and then promote them?

A two-day trip back to Arizona is like a two-year LSD trip, floating around with mushrooms on the tongue daily, as bottles of mescal run through the veins. I am telling you, when you get out of your routine – I am a social worker in a veterans’ homeless shelter, where the word “chaos” describes the totality of my time there, daily – and this rushing hot wave of air sucks the oxygen from the lungs for a minute or two. Arizona is California is Oregon is Washington . . . .

And exactly what is the US of A, with so much junk, so much materialistic droning, and yet, poverty is growing, big time, and the fear of the future in terms of no one achieving affordable housing and clean public transportation and free education and decent jobs is like us all whistling as we walk past the graveyard which is Western Capitalism.

Arizona, like any other state, is defined by the kleptomaniacs in government, on boards, in corporations and in the political class. Arizona is defined by a schizophrenia of faux opulence and real indebtedness and our fellow citizens struggling, dying, really, in a world that is upside down when it comes to clean air, clean water, real medicine, and affordable life.

Arizona is the mix of Eastern seaboard accents and southern twangs and amazingly mean people who are in it for themselves, for their backyard in-ground pools, for the 6,000 square foot Barcelona- style triple-decker home. We are talking about leathery skin from all the sun and leathery pools of empathy in the hearts and minds of most Arizonans.

Yet, here I am, 61, wishing my niece good tidings, as she embarks on the journey of medical school applications, and then, what? What world is it we have to give or anoint our children with? I am flabbergasted at the stupidity of the NAU graduation, the bloodlessness of the speakers, the lack of verve, the paucity of an event that for many has cost a pretty penny in debt for parents and children alike.

I end with 2011 commencement speech at Olympia’s Evergreen State College, Angela Davis:

Commencement speakers frequently assume that their role is to encourage graduates to go out and conquer the world. The task I have set for myself is much more modest. I want to urge you to be able to retrieve and sort through and rethink and preserve memories of your time here, which may very well turn out to be the most important period of your lives. Like the philosopher Walter Benjamin, I emphasize the past as the key to your future.

And so as you move on, some of you will go to graduate school, right? Some of you will find jobs. Unfortunately, some of you may not find jobs. Some of you will make families, some of you will engage in activism, some you will be involved in cultural work, and there are all kinds of permutations and combinations of all of these. But I would like you to periodically stop and reflect about the extent to which your lives were radically transformed by your experiences here. And I hope that you will have courage to draw upon the education you have received here from your most challenging professors, as you try to imagine more equitable ways of inhabiting all of our worlds. If you continue to think and act in the tradition of your college you will respect all of the inhabitants of our environments, and not simply assume that the environment must be preserved for the sake of future human generations, but rather for all the future generations of plant life, future generations of all animal life.

How do we extricate ourselves from enduring hierarchies, class, race, sexual, religious, geopolitical? This question, I think, is the question that needs to be posed. Posing that question is the mark of educated human beings. So I might then ask you to think about education as the practice of freedom. Education is the practice of freedom. And so freedom becomes, not an imagined condition in the future, not the set of achievements that will fulfill some desire, but rather an unrelenting, unending, collective effort to reconstruct our lives, our ways of relating to each other, our communities, and our futures. Congratulations to The Evergreen State College class of 2011.

Heroes and Villains – The Daily Show in a Homeless Shelter

Now, during our catastrophically idiotic war in Vietnam, the music kept getting better and better and better. We lost that war, by the way. Order couldn’t be restored in Indochina until the people kicked us out. That war only made billionaires out of millionaires. Today’s war is making trillionaires out of billionaires. Now I call that progress.
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

These ain’t popular topics, for sure, brother/sister American. You see, the entire homeless problem in America is a bigger problem of the almost homeless, the disposed, the enslaved youth heading to State U, the Amazing Theft of Wages (Tax Day, Man), Theft of the Commons by Bureaucrats Working the Soft Shoe Corporate Game — kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves), and representative government has been rejected in favor of a kakistocracy (a government run by the most unprincipled citizens that panders to the worst vices in our nature: greed, violence, hatred, prejudice and war).

There is no skip in the beat with Boss Tweet, fawning over military hardware hustled to Saudi Arabia, Israel, the entire Empire Protecting Planet. This fawning this fourth-grade thinker does is a lot like his days at Studio 51 or the Playboy Mansions or the Pageants where his spittle lubricated his huffing and puffing orgasmic dead space between his ears. He is the leader of the pack, sad-sack of a playboy and land baron, thief, who gets the book deals, TV contracts, cameos in movies, his brand plastered all over Madison Avenue – make no bones about it, Trump is America. He is Dollar Store plastic and Neiman Marcus glitter. He is the freewheeling liberal lover of money and play things and parties, and he is the mean-assed inexperienced one, yellow belly, calling for war, a hater of soldiers, a hater of my people I serve daily – military veterans, not retired NCOs and Officers, but mostly those ending up in the Poverty Drafts and some drafted in Vietnam, Korea. A few years in and bam — total physical and mental calamity!

All PTSD-living, poverty people (most are poor). Trump would lambaste my work serving as social worker and finder of funds, and he’d laugh off PTSD as “nothing but an entitlement dream in your white cracker and people of color case loads’ heads.” Trump or his filthy generals, all of them, even cabinet-level creeps running all systems foul in DC, they hate the poor, the misbegotten, the broken, the addicted, the mentally cracked, the physically cleaved.

Make no bones about it, gents and dames, Trump is Obama is Clinton is Reagan. These people would love to see Soylent Green is People scaled up, now, and they openly love the $5 a day prison labor, and they love the stock maximization of everything private – drugs, prisons, health care, education, water-sewer-lights, and every bureaucratic thing that makes this tax time a time of death and loathing in a time of absolute penury cholera.

There is one hell of a lot of Non-Trumpers — those oh-so racist, rotten to the core Democrats or liberals or whatever creepy foodie-hot sauna-farmers’ market going folk that gentrify, who end up as WASP-Jew heads of every-self-loathing non-profit – absolutely holding onto the glory of the dollar, of the endless jujitsu that is standing for the anthem and going on and on about a few Trump loyalists and Alt-Right scoundrels being bad hombres too. Remember, these whites are voting against the people, the 80 percent, no matter how many pet projects they may undertake or scramble for Sundance documentary glory or big-time book glory, and they can go onto Amy Goodman’s show, talk the talk, but in the end, the people who should be talking or yelling or attacking, the very victims of the theft – grand theft of agency-past-future-progeny – they never get on that “liberal media.”

Make no bones about it, Democrats, with or without life coaches, all solar-powered up, bamboo floors and kids doing secular missions in third world depravity before going onto college and those non-profits, they are voting for war, voting for more jobs in the death industries, more and more work holding up the death machine of capitalism that eats at the very soul of their own, yet, for the time being, these 5 and 15-percenters, they sigh and get all Rachel Maddow like when they think they are caring about another black woman in jail, shackled during labor, or when some deranged (mentally challenged) black youth jaywalking gets mowed down by the police. The police – ahh, the variations on a theme when we say police, as in the HR departments, the school boards, the city and country code enforcers, the law firms, the forced arbiters, the endless thuggery of tax-levy-fee-fine-GAT-toll-penalty-surcharge makers and collectors, the endless Little Eichmann lever pullers and auditors, all those regulators and deregulators, all those heads of the departments and sub-agencies of all those alphabet soup Government Agencies – the grim reaper of compliant consumers, the toasty 15 and 20 percenters who make either a killing or a cool million from the depravity of these systems of usury and penury and PayDay loan-sharking.

Okay-okay – heroes and villains, part one:

Hero in Merced, California, way past mid-sixties, Joe, who has worked the land as an agricultural purveyor, and he’s seen water rights go the wrong way, seen the endless corporate theft in his neck of the Northern California woods ramp up yearly. He knows the crimes of school boards, the crimes of the big businesses, big ag, big energy, big everything.

I’ve been in communication with him for several months, and his wisdom and ire, his history, and his perspective over time, and his heart and soul, and his humor, man, well, this is a hero. He just sent me some links to Counterpunch and Global Research and came up with this quick reaction, triggered by Tax Day, and comments on a great writer’s works, stuff that has been published at Counterpunch and Dissident Voice to name just two – John W. Whitehead. Here’s Joe’s take on Whitehead’s most recent:

An electorate as indoctrinated as the American people are by corporate media would have a hard time distinguishing between shit and a poor grade of mush. This country’s citizens have never experienced war except for the fantasy war that Hooligan-wood and the latest X-box crap-app subjects them to 24/7. The public’s minds have been Disney-fied and fried by corporate media. The sad thing is that even Europe has few citizens left that remember the horrors of war. I’m afraid we are going to have to relive that lesson all over again. Maybe after the idiot populace of this country experiences the ravages of war right here in the land of easy credit, fantasy and denial, they won’t be so stupid as to support idiots that lead them into this misery. I don’t hold out much hope though. This country has been electing these corrupt war mongering bastards from both parties as long as I can remember. I don’t think it will change until the American public is walking around with their flesh dripping off their bones. Even then the public is so indoctrinated with this endless military crap brought to them as patriotism they will still be clamoring for revenge and more war. Stupid, ignorant and arrogant rules in this country, whether it be from Democrats or Republicans.

I hope some of the wildlife I hold so dear makes it out alive.

Hero, versus villain – I’d say anyone looking to bullseye Joe for being cantankerous, for being old and critical, for pointing out the futility of a country prostituted by both parties and ravaged by the stupidity of its populace, for having a keen sense of humor (not this one blurb, but he has some hilarity in this series he’s been writing – Letters to Cousin Linda) that person is the villain.

Hero – Three strikes and you are out. Now, out at age 64, African American, in prison for using drugs, and, whoops, when you use drugs, well, the excess is sometimes bartered off, traded and sold. Black man with cocaine equals the villains’ mark – criminal courts, public defenders, bail bondsmen, lawyers, municipal departments, prison systems, PayDay crap, probation officers.

This man is working at my shelter, a veteran, though he doesn’t pull that card much, and he is doing some amazing work making music, electronic stuff, sampled and using his own keyboard. There is no way in hell this fellow isn’t a hero: he is looking to reconnect with his sons and daughters in California. He ran the streets of Portland, and the villains – cops, judges, prosecutors, the entire carnival that is the criminal injustice system and its auxiliaries, including some social service non-profits – are a constant reminder to me that the white class – whatever that is – has ensconced itself into this people-killing, African-American defiling, people-of-color-community-imploding monster.

My hero and I talk about the way of the black man, the way of the white racists, this supremacist shit-hole that is America, and he calls me his advocate, his rare white man on the side of real justice friend.

Hero, 78, calling himself the gravedigger’s son, grew up in Massachusetts, near Boston, and he’s been a vagabond, man, and I am helping him get his studio apartment, getting him some free furniture, helping him think outside the meth-amphetamine box. Fucking 78, and he relapsed, recently, one day bender, and, he’s got COPD and hallucinates – talks about the people around me he sees and I do not.

He’s well-read, not college educated, and grew up in an Irish Catholic family, and he’s been to Ireland and parts of Europe. He hates the military, and talks about being in Korea, and seeing the shit hole America created in both zones. He is Irish and socialist, but he has been wandering the world, cook here and dishwasher there. Imagine, he’s been wandering the country and the world for more than 40 years, and, alas, Portland is his home.

He’s been throughout the Pacific Northwest, to encampments of hard-living people in the  Cascades, living hard and off the grid. Story teller, gift of gab, and he’s the typical detritus of America – whether Trump or Hillary, whether young or old. People do not listen to him.

Villains? Think of the thousands of people who have shut off when he’s been around. Think of the hundreds of people lording over him in the social services and government agencies. Think of the hundreds that look right through him on public transportation or when he’s at the side of the road.

A dignity in drifting, and he’s kipped in more than just a few cemeteries around the country and the world. He attended a poetry workshop I was holding, and his memory is amazing, and his son of the gravedigger narratives are more amazing. Pure poetry!

Villains – not one soul would want his stories published. The American attention span is all hooked into Zombie-Land, faux memoir writing, Marvel Comics thinking, absolute shit-hole narratives and fiction.

Hero – Irish American socialist who questions every step of the military might of this messed up country.

Villains are the takers, the judgers, the ticket givers, the processors, the CPAs, the balance sheet coveters, the liberal social services folk who talk like HR people and who know shit what it’s like being old or imprisoned or full of meth nightmares. It’s the villains who soft-shoe through the DSM-V and saunter through workshop after conference on what it is to be trauma-informed social workers, or what harm reduction principles are, or what it is to be middling people and middling social workers.

Heroes are the ones that live it out in tents, on the road, under overpasses, who crunch down in old cars and pick-up trucks, who cardboard surf in warehouses and in friends’ garages. These people are heroes in the sense that my social services non-profit believes everyone who served their country in the armed forces is a hero.

Heroes know that’s bullshit. Golden ticket for what? So, that family of four, mother with children, mother who works two jobs and has friends watch the kids, whose husband booked – yes, military veteran dude – so she’s not worthy of the golden ticket because she sweated over hamburgers and cleaned up feces of the rich and decaying, or she turned beds and sheets at the multi-billionaire’s chain of hotels?

Heroes and villains. Not difficult to spot the true hero, the survivor, the ones with a sense of dignity or perspective or time on the road, versus the ones who cut homeless programs, who vote against more food stamps, who demand drug testing for the shit pittance one might get in benefits.

Villains who gutted social security and gutted the post office and who closed the libraries and who Dread Scott-ed the world, who attack the good schooling public schools used to give. Villains are the militarists, Lords of War, the heathens and devil worshipers in the military industrial complex.

I am working with veterans who have been shot up with bullets, shrapnel, chemicals, toxins, propaganda, debasement, demands. Soldiers who were put on military bases/forts where the water is so bad, so polluted by solvents from military machinery and laundry (dry cleaning) that the Veterans Administration even has a name for the Parkinson’s — Camp Lejeune  Parkinson’s: various chemicals, including the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) known as PCE (Tetrachloroethylene aka Perchloroethylene), TCE (Trichloroethylene), DCE (Dichloroethylene), Vinyl Chloride and BTEX (Benzene, Toluene, Ethylbenzene, and Xylene). These chemicals are either known or suspected human carcinogens. Many Marines, Sailors, their families and loyal civilian employees have been affected by the contamination in various ways including, but not limited to: liver cancer, kidney cancer, breast cancer, bladder cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer, leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, liver disease, miscarriages, birth defects (cleft palate, heart defects, Choanal atresia, neural tube defects, low birth weight, and small for gestational age),etc.

Heroes are the one’s shaking so hard at 65 they can’t even sign their names on forms that will get them subsidized housing. Heroes who are homeless, misbegotten, broken, incapable of navigating systems and job markets and economic hoops with Parkinson’s and the other effects associated with the decay caused by the military pollutants.

Villains? Just imagine the cadre of corporatists, the protectionists, the Little Eichmann’s, anti-whistle blowers, the lock-step ones fighting the science behind the disease and destruction and decay and denuding of humanity and ecologies because of that profit margin, and that grim reaper’s scythe chopping off the heads of us, the 80 percent. How difficult is it to see those lip-less white men and women, hear their ameliorating, their HR bullshit, listen to their shallow and pedestrian articulation?

Facts – the systematic lack of affordable housing and the Draconian limited scale of housing assistance programs all contribute to the current housing crisis and to homelessness. Foreclosures? In the hundreds of thousands each year! Result? Homeless.

The 2008 recession forced two million more people into homelessness over the following two years, according to estimates by The National Alliance to End Homelessness.

One or two out of 50—or about 2.5 million—American children are homeless each year, according to a 2009 study by the National Center on Family Homelessness. These are nine year old stats.

Here are some of the causes of homelessness:

For persons in families, the three most commonly cited causes, according to a 2008 U.S. Conference of Mayors study are:

• Lack of affordable housing
• Poverty
• Unemployment

For singles, the three most commonly cited causes of homelessness are:

• Substance abuse
• Lack of affordable housing
• Mental illness

Veterans are more likely than other populations to be homeless.

We are talking around 40% of homeless men being veterans, although veterans comprise only 34 percent of the general adult male population, according to research on veterans by the National Coalition for Homeless. On any given night, 200,000 veterans are homeless.

Do wages count? The National Low Income Housing Coalition estimates that the 2017 Housing Wage is $21.21 per hour, exceeding the $16.38 hourly wage earned by the average renter by almost $5.00 an hour. This $16.38 an hour exceeds wages earned by low income renter households. In fact, the hourly wage needed for renters hoping to afford a two-bedroom rental home is almost twice ($13.96) higher than the national minimum wage of $7.25.

What about the food insecure. It’s 51 million people in the United States living in food insecure households, 15 million of whom are children. While the magnitude of the problem is clear, national and even state estimates of food insecurity can mask the nuances that exist at the local level.

Here: Feeding America; Foreclosures; Minimum Wage; Wage state-by-state; True Minimum Wage.

What is the real unemployment figure for US of A?

The U-3 unemployment rate is the monthly headline number. The U-6 unemployment rate is the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) broadest unemployment measure, including short-term discouraged and other marginally-attached workers as well as those forced to work part-time because they cannot find full-time employment.

The ShadowStats Alternate Unemployment Rate for March 2018 is 21.7%.

Heroes and Villains? Rage and reckless indignation. Anger and attack, those are the hero’s tools, and the villain’s tools are based on hierarchy of consumption, the power of the people who have and the impotence of those who do not have.

What is it to have anything, that’s what many of my heroes ask, those who are homeless, on $1,200.00 a month for Social Security? Imagine this world with heroes. One hero, oddly, is the lady doing my taxes. She despised what has happened to this country, and she knows the true figures for saving and investing in a social security system – average person would come out at age 65 with $250,000 or $500,000 in his or her retirement account based on social security deductions. If this fact came out, parsed and discussed daily at the water cooler and forklift bay, we’d be pounding constantly how this country is one giant theft-creating/theft-inducing continuing criminal organization . . . then would more people revolt?

Heroes are guys like Whitehead or Nasser!!!

Whitehead: All of those nefarious government deeds that you read about in the paper every day: those are your tax dollars at work. It’s your money that allows for government agents to spy on your emails, your phone calls, your text messages, and your movements. It’s your money that allows out-of-control police officers to burst into innocent people’s homes, or probe and strip search motorists on the side of the road, or shoot an unarmed person. And it’s your money that leads to innocent Americans across the country being prosecuted for innocuous activities such as raising chickens at home, growing vegetable gardens, and trying to live off the grid.

Just remember the next time you see a news story that makes your blood boil, whether it’s a child being kicked out of school for shooting an imaginary arrow, or a homeowner being threatened with fines for building a pond in his backyard, remember that it is your tax dollars that are paying for these injustices.

So what are you going to do about it?

There was a time in our history when our forebears said “enough is enough” and stopped paying their taxes to what they considered an illegitimate government. They stood their ground and refused to support a system that was slowly choking out any attempts at self-governance, and which refused to be held accountable for its crimes against the people. Their resistance sowed the seeds for the revolution that would follow.

Unfortunately, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in the 200-plus years since we established our own government, we’ve let bankers, turncoats and number-crunching bureaucrats muddy the waters and pilfer the accounts to such an extent that we’re back where we started.

Once again, we’ve got a despotic regime with an imperial ruler doing as they please.

Heroes are students trying to solve this shit-hole’s problems, hitting the books, and attempting to coalesce around strong thinking, critical solutions-generating thinking, and holism. Villains are the ledger counters, the money changers, the actualizers of debt.

Nasser: The burden weighing like a nightmare, to coin a phrase, on 44 million indebted current and former students will haunt these people for a good portion of their lives. The average student debtor graduates owing close to $34,000 and is projected to spend 21 years paying it off. At present, the average monthly payment for those between 30 and 40 years old is $351.00. It is not uncommon for repayment obligations to be borne by underwriters of these loans, typically the primary borrower’s parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Taking these co-signers into consideration, we have about 100 million people adversely affected, directly or indirectly, by the difficulty very many have repaying these loans.

Because the serving of warrants and jailing of debtors has begun picking up steam in recent years, and the financial situation of these potential prisoners has been gradually deteriorating, we have reason to expect that student-loan debtors could come to make up a significant portion of the growing ranks of those threatened with debt prison. Arrest warrants have been issued in California, Florida, Minnesota, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts and Texas. Arrests have been heaviest in California, Texas and Minnesota. In many cases there was no announcement of court orders or that the debtor was being sued. U.S. marshals in Minnesota conducted “Operation Anaconda Squeeze” to arrest student-loan debtors who had failed to appear in court for a “debtor’s examination.” Whether they had received prior notice was often thought by the court to be beside the point. As with the cases described earlier, often defendants are ordered to pay much more than the amount of the original loan. A Texas man, who received no prior notice about the debt or the court case brought by a private collection agency on behalf of Uncle Sam, was arrested by seven armed U.S. marshals for an unpaid $1,500 student loan he had borrowed 29 years earlier. He was ordered to pay, after interest and court fees, more than twice the amount of the original loan. $1,258.60 was added to reimburse the marshals for his arrest.

Genuine Progress Index Be Damned! Grow, Displace, Submit!!

Rapacious. “They got theirs, so I better get mine. Yes, things change, and, sure this sleepy town is about to boom but that’s the way of the world…. Might as well be part of the winning team – that money making side of things. That’s all you can do.”

I just finished talking to white guy in his late forties, gassing up excavators and huge dump trucks. We’re near the Estacada High School, and he tells me the scrapping is to make room for more ball fields. The school already has fields and a football stadium. This is a town with 3,000.

The day before on the very same spot I was walking with Canada geese lighting on the marshy part of the tract of land. I was with flickers, robins, raptors, and bee catches and swallows and maybe 15 other species of birds, including hummers.

The crows were squawking their disapproval of all the rumbling trucks and blades sawing up plywood and siding for the new crop of homes coming to fruition near the spit of land. These few acres with a creek running through them were their paradise, their wintering quarters.

Foreboding, those corvids rallying their ranks in the sunny bluster, really, for me, living in a county with no native American signs, tributes, museums, nothing, left on the surface, just the name, Clackamas River in Clackamas County. There are 99 percent whites here, and many cruise with American flags and Confederate ones as big as trampolines fluttering behind their jacked up Jeeps and pick-ups.

The California invasion is lamented daily, with now sputtering-to-a-stop superhighway commutes, and the constant building and the housing and rental stock vanished into thin banker’s air.

I’ve had someone recently tell me to stop whining about the cost of housing in Portland . . . . “Try San Francisco out, buddy boy.” Yep, I never whine, and the “buddy boy” is to me like a Harvey Weinstein glowering at his secretary.

In calm terms, the stupidity of his statement is torn apart. First, I am with clients as a social worker who are straddled because of the long-arm of injustice pinching them for Driving While Black or Dealing While Latino or Walking While Young. My client load is trying to do something with their lives and get off the endless hamster wheel and rat pipe of addiction, and many are old, and some are very young.

The young are told to go to community college or rip-off trade schools; go get some shitty warehouse job for $12 an hour; and then admonished to find a dozen other Homies and get a two-bedroom crib for the lot of them, anywhere, somewhere and shut the fuck up.

Mr. and Mrs. California, oh, baby, many are leaving their Orange County haunts because they HATE the brown people, the crowds, the traffic, and the cost of living there. Again, the white hoards are the destroyers of entire civilizations (Spain and Inca and Aztec), or the slavers of Puritanical Puerile needs, the entire project of White Hegemony, the white hope for the rest of human kind five hundred years ago, 300, 30 and now.

“Try the roads in LA. You want to see real bad traffic!”

These are cancerous times in a deadening world of people that see barely an inch beyond their noses. I have a graduate degree in urban planning and there is no way in hell I could get a job in that field, one that really doesn’t mean much in the scheme of radical planning, radical design, regional and biological planning. Each entity is vying for those workers, those big ass companies to site in their municipalities or counties, those tax dodgers like Nike, Intel, Apple, Uber, Amazon, you name ‘em, the next big half empty convention center, or how about a casino on every corner . . . . Towns are haphazard, and draining our lives with the noise, the traffic, the same-same sameness.

Back to Estacada and my mind-clearing walk, near a blackberry-plagued stretch of land adjacent to the tract home I live in, in the planned development, HOA included, in a town named after a place in Texas, Spanish of all things, in a county that hosts lots of immigrants from Mexico pounding nails, landscaping and flipping gorditas, but a county where many in the white population support sending “all of ’em” back a la Trump-Obama ICE expressway.

Llano Estacado (staked plain or palisaded plain) is a region in the Southwestern United States that encompasses parts of eastern New Mexico and northwestern Texas. This ain’t the Southwest, where I spent many years cutting my teeth as reporter, college teacher, writer, and itinerant environmentalist and novelist.

The old acreage to my north is now graded-over for a whopping 350 homes – times 2.5 people per house and you have 875 people, and, well, that’s 875 more vehicles, plus the motor-homes, ATV’s, boats, and 4×4’s.

The white guys grading and paving and setting it up for the next phase of wasps coming in for the footings and framing – Mexicans mostly – they seem slap happy gleeful. One side of mouth, “I hate those Cally-forn-i-cation-ers,” and then other side of mouth, “Man oh man, keep on coming and show me the money.”

My mind clearing is tied to the fascism of our times – I just got sacked (yet again) for my mouth, but this time it was nothing, really, but again, non-profits are all living hell these days, and social workers like myself (former teacher, real journalist and urban planner of sorts) are in high demand but with low regard, and the turnover rates are terrible. Read here, and here about that part of my life.

I’m trying to collect unemployment, and I am busy applying for jobs – employment opportunities all over the map: executive director for a non-profit giving free med services to pets; development director for a street newspaper; tutor at the local community college; and plenty of social worker jobs, too. Even a job with the Center for Biological Diversity on a renewable energy campaign tied to population and sustainability. My chances are a snowball’s chance in the Arctic . . . Hell!

Hitting the streets at 60 years of age is both surreal and bile-drenching – my grandparents from Scotland and Germany never would have thought this great country (neither sets of grandparents really thought of USA as a great country, but we’ll pretend . . . .) would dish it out this hard to one of its own.

No retirement, man, as each billionaire laughs harder and harder at the idea of retirement for the masses at age 65, let alone 70. Health care cut off at the knees three days after getting the AX.

I talk to this fellow grading the land, and he’s paunchy in his forties, the tell-tale signs of engorging beer and whiskey sessions on his face. The big fellow running the excavator is fifty and has a belly and shirt size that could tarp a family of 12 in Haiti. The 25-year-old pushing the gearshift of the huge dump truck is surly looking. These are big times for these fellows — $35 to $75 an hour, easy. They have blood relatives and high school friends and in-laws working with them in this locked-up market.

Sitting on their fat asses (except for the young guy grinding gears) making twice as much an hour or more than that over what I was making running ragged helping homeless and addicts find some pathway out of that shit (many of my homeless addicts were once in the trades, in construction, welding and excavation!) is one aspect of the insanity of wage inequity, wage unfairness, and what the market should bear!

Here, a little ditty on Estacada from some web site:

Estacada’s History has been a wild road of ups and downs some might say is a reflection of the roaring rapids of the adjacent Clackamas River. In the mid 1800’s small communities of pioneers popped up in the foothills of Mount Hood wiping out the Native Clackamas Indians with disease. Then railroad tracks serving the dam builders of the early 20th century pushed through the foot hills up the mountain creating dams that still power Portland to this day. As the building slowed, the workers left and the work camps turned in to a small tourism community that became Portland’s play ground known as Estacada Oregon.

Imagine, “settlers popping up wiping out the Native Clackamas Indians with disease” as the one liner in America’s great forgetting, great amnesia. We walk the land in a daily forgetting!

Imagine, this anti-Mexican-Muslim-Person of Color hysteria stoked up in the flames of the dying white race, the dying capitalist race, and then think hard about the constant lies the youth and the old hold about the land of theft, US of America/Israel. Genocide!

Sir Jeffrey Amherst, commander-in-chief of British forces in North America, wrote to Colonel Henry Bouquet at Fort Pitt: “You will do well to try to inoculate the Indians [with smallpox] by means of blankets, as well as to try every other method, that can serve to extirpate this execrable race.”

A war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.
– California Governor Peter H. Burnett, 1851

In 1949, however, the U.S. government took a step back towards 19th century bigotry, as the Hoover Commission urged the assimilation of the Natives, “The basis for historic Indian culture has been swept away. Traditional tribal organization was smashed a generation ago .… Assimilation must be the dominant goal of public policy.”

I talk with the manager of the True Value Hardware store, and his store’s been at it for more than 30 years here, but the council and chamber and economic developers approve of a National Dollar General Store opening up right in the middle of downtown.

The anchor now of the town that was trying to look funky, post logging years. Out in the bushes and the hills there were once progressive back-to-earthers, hippies, and a few shops in town sell artisan stuff, but now the Dollar General is the cancer in downtown Estacada.

The planners and the tax men and the elected officials, again, incapable of looking beyond their noses. True Value Hardware, locally owned, now looking to compete with a shit store with a shit CEO with shit values and shit for brains and shit worker rights and shit locales to store offshore profits.

In the old days, no out-of-towner with Tennessee and NASCAR roots would ever have been accepted, but hell, just hitting Wikipedia, here, the low hanging goods on the company trading $80.50 on NYSE:

Financial irregularities

On April 30, 2001, Dollar General Corp was liable for making false statements or failing to disclose adverse facts about the company’s financial results, and paid $162 million for settlement.

On April 30, 2001, Dollar General announced to restate its earnings for the past three fiscal years, due to accounting irregularities including allegations of fraudulent behavior.

On March 3, 2005, Dollar General announced to restate its results for 2000 through 2003, due to a clarification of lease-accounting matters issued by the SEC.

OSHA 2014 and 2016 fines

In November 2014, Dollar General was fined $51,700 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) following an inspection of a Brooklyn, MS branch of the store. The statement from OSHA notes that Dollar General has had repeated health and safety violations: “Since 2009, OSHA has conducted 72 inspections of Dollar General nationwide. Of those inspections, 39 have resulted in citations.” In April 2016, OSHA reported that further citations had been given to the store for exposing employees to the risk of electrical hazards due to missing face plates on electrical outlets. The store was fined $107,620.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, unlike many tribes does not have a central reservation, but consists of eight tribal communities in Mississippi. Those communities are on land held in trust by the U.S. Government for the benefit of the tribe.

Beginning in 2000, Dollar General has had a lease from the tribe to operate a store on tribal land, and obtained a business license from the tribe. In 2003, a 13-year-old tribal member, identified as John Doe in court documents, was working at the store as part of a joint tribal-Dollar General internship program. Doe alleged that the store manager sexually abused him in 2003[5] causing “severe mental trauma.” The tribe took action to legally exclude the manager from tribal lands, but the United States Attorney did not criminally prosecute him.

Tribal and District Courts

In 2005, Doe sued the store manager and Dollar General in the tribal court. The defendants tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that the tribal court did not have subject matter jurisdiction over non-Indians. The tribal court refused to dismiss the lawsuit, and the Choctaw Supreme Court affirmed, noting the case of Montana v. United States allowed tribes to exercise civil, as opposed to criminal, jurisdiction over non-Indians on tribal land when the non-Indians had entered into a voluntary relationship with the tribe.

The store manager and Dollar General then sued the Tribe in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, seeking to stop the suit in tribal court. The manager was dropped from the case by the district court but Dollar General was held to have been in a consensual relationship and subject to the tribe’s jurisdiction.

Court of Appeals

The defendants then appealed to the Fifth Circuit, which affirmed the decision of the district court. The case was heard by a three-judge panel consisting of Judges Jerry Edwin Smith, Catharina Haynes, and James E. Graves Jr. Judge Graves delivered the opinion of the Court, finding that the facts in the case met the first exception noted in Montana, allowing the tribal court to exercise jurisdiction of Dollar General.

“Unexpected/untamed/unforgettable” is the City of Estacada’s motto, 2017, and the state of the world is in a microcosm, anywhere I go. I have been able to peddle my theses easily since the entire mess of capitalism is tied to the leech, the tick, the parasites, the slimy octopus of hostile takeovers and forced arbitration and tax havens and lobbying.

Could have been a Walmart or Costco — Amazon Fresh — Anything to make a city or township beholding to the transnationals, their blood soaked dollars yanked from the bellies of the rest of us. A town that gets this big cancer in downtown, one giant footprint, and you have to wonder at the lack of creativity, thinking and slight understanding of the history of bad economics. Box Stores. The whole nine yards.

The California Land Rush has been on for a decade up here, reaching into Hillsboro, Estacada, Gresham, Hood River, Wilsonville, Beaverton, up to Vancouver and Longview, WA. They come in with hard real estate cash, and buy up homes – three or four to a family. They do their house flipping and rental hording. These people are California, in every way.

Trucks in a constant black smoke snake, in a Valley already deemed ripe for the taking; and the mythology states that the native tribes called this the Valley of Death, Willamette, but indeed, now, maybe, the “death valley” was meant for when the white man and woman came in with diseases, diseased values, diseased honor, diseased treaties:

In remembrance of the Kalapuyan and Clackamas (lower Columbia Chinook) indians who lived and died here, and in honor of those who still live here; please stop saying “no one lived here.” Please stop saying that Willamette means “the valley of sickness and death.” Please know that if the natives later referred to this valley as one of “sickness and death,” it came from the biological genocide inflicted on the natives by this civilization. Please go to the library, or better yet find a living native, and learn the real history of this place.

This sorry thing called unlimited growth, this Diaspora of whites going back and forth looking for some place to set down roots, this constant fear the white race has of the wild, of undammed rivers, of grizzlies and open plains, and trees and forest fires.

The microcosm I see in El Paso and in Las Cruces, Albuquerque, in Tucson in Phoenix in Spokane in Seattle in Vancouver — every place now that the roiling white race in a constant flurry away from something, away from any place while landing in a new land where the same leeching machines and excavators roam the land like monster metal ungulates.

Earth movers, earth eaters, earth desiccators.

Imagine a city council and rotary club and an American Legion and school board and citizens groups and county agencies and big-players like OHSU and Nike throwing in — those scraped and raped acres turned into some of the most sustainable and strong growing fields. Food . . . . And young and old learning how to grow it and sell it and package it. Imagine a town investing in deep ecology and permacultue. Imagine this little town turning all those old farmsteads and hay operations and wolf-grass filled plots of land into interconnected mushroom farms, cat-fish farms, bonsai centers, kale-broccoli-bean fields. Imagine a city that brings native healers and native educators to their land — cultural centers, and places of social concern. Imagine this town named after the Spanish “stake plain” turned into a going concern, where people come to study real rural and small-town design. Imagine sustainable low impact centers for aging, centers for teaching youth with autism how to live. Among those gardens and fields, all those flickers and stellar jays and black-black crows, alive, yappy, the angels of Native cultures past, a chorus singing about Homo Sapiens  finally doing something right for the now, for the future, for the past.

Imagine.

Postscript: Vortex I was held in Estacada at the state’s expense, where in 1970 100,000 came to a rock concert after the Governor of Oregon, Tom McCall, believed the lies of the FBI saying 50,000 anti-war activists were going to march against the American Legion’s supposed 25,000 attending their convocation in downtown Portland.

Note: Ecological FootprintEcosocialism;   Carrying Capacity; Radical Urban Planning; Marxist Urban Planning;  Redefining Progress

Che: Viva! Hasta la Victoria Siempre!

Che! You are one of the greatest revolutionaries of the 20th Century. You inspired tens of millions of people throughout the world to fight for justice, for their freedom and civil rights. You have left a vision of hope, of never giving up – a legacy of solidarity and of Venceremos! – we shall overcome. You have been murdered by the most criminal organization of the most evil empire, the CIA of the United States of America – but your spirit lives on in Latin America, Africa, Asia and even in vassal Europe, inspiring generation after generation for class struggle, that there is universal justice that must be fought for and will be won. Che, you are a true Hero, an icon for the poor and powerless!

*****

Ernesto “Che” Guevara was born in Rosario, Argentina, on 14 June 1928 and was assassinated in Higuera, Bolivia, by CIA-led Bolivian forces on 9 October 1967. It was a summary execution – no trial, no questions asked – 50 years ago. What has changed in five decades? At the surface, one might say – not much. The world is still divided between the capitalist, neocolonialist west and the much more visionary and peaceful east.

However, moral consciousness is rising everywhere. There is slow progression; the vessel is slowly veering towards a more peaceful multi-polar world. Not just the ascent of Russia and China are bringing a new wind of consciousness to millions of people, but the sensation of change is noticeable everywhere – from South to North and from East to West. It is still brittle and weak – but it is growing and gaining strength. And Che, his unquestioned determination to fight for a better world, was instrumental in this awakening.

Che left Argentina in the early 1950s as a medical student, accompanied by his pal, Alberto Granado, a young doctor, on a single-cylinder sputtering 1939 Norton motor cycle.  They called it “La Poderosa” (“the Mighty”), exploring the Latin American Subcontinent which they knew only from books. Granado was probably the first one to give Ernesto the famous nickname “Che” – an Argentinian equivalent to ‘buddy’ or ‘pal’. They travelled through South America and discovered misery, poverty and disease. Combining Che’s “The Motor Cycle Diaries” and Granado’s “With Che Through Latin America”, Robert Redford turned the diaries in 2004 into an epic movie that has since become as symbolic for young revolutionary rebellion as has Alberto Korda’s famous photography of Che.

The film portrays the two friends exposed to utmost destitution throughout South America, turning Che gradually into the revolutionary, who eventually was instrumental in freeing Cuba, at the side of Fidel and Raul Castro, from the deadly oppression of US-supported dictator, Fulgencio Batista.

During their trip, the two friends served as doctors in San Pablo, an isolated leprosy colony near Iquitos, in Peru’s Amazon region. They went their separate ways at the end of their trip in 1953 in Venezuela. Granado stayed on in Venezuela, where he felt his raison d’être was to be a medical doctor, working as a leprosy specialist in a Venezuelan hospital. It took eight years until they met again in Havana, when Che, who by then was second-in-command to Fidel, invited Alberto Granado to Cuba, where he was to teach biology at Havana University and in 1962 created the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Santiago in Cuba.

As a medical doctor, Che saw often hopelessness and misery. When he treated once a woman dying from tuberculosis, he was horrified by the public health system:

How long this present order, based on the absurd idea of caste, will last is not within my means to answer, but it’s time that those who govern spent less time publicizing their own virtues and more money, much more money, funding socially useful works.

And he continued:

It is at times like this, when a doctor is conscious of his complete powerlessness, that he longs for change: a change to prevent the injustice of a system in which only a month ago this poor woman was still earning her living as a waitress, wheezing and panting but facing life with dignity. In circumstances like this, individuals in poor families who can’t pay their way become surrounded by an atmosphere of barely disguised acrimony; they stop being father, mother, sister or brother and become a purely negative factor in the struggle for life and, consequently, a source of bitterness for the healthy members of the community who resent their illness as if it were a personal insult to those who have to support them.

Ernesto Che Guevara moved on from Venezuela on a cargo boat to Miami and from there through Central America to Mexico. He later learned about Guatemala’s President Arbenz’s assassination by a CIA-led coup d’état in 1954 on behalf of United Fruit – which Arbenz wanted to nationalize. Che became increasingly a revolutionary, whose goal it was to fight for justice and equality, for a better world and to free oppressed people throughout the globe from nefarious capitalism, starting with Latin America.

In Mexico, Che met with Fidel and Raul Castro. Together with a small revolutionary armada, they sailed on the now famed yacht Granma, participating in the historic 26th of July 1953 Movement (M-26-7) against the Moncada army Barracks in Santiago de Cuba. The assault failed. Che was injured, Castro was captured and sentenced to 15 years in prison but freed after two years in an armistice. They then returned to Mexico, where they organized and planned another, better prepared attack on the Batista regime.

In 1955, together with others by now renowned Cuban revolutionaries, like Camilo Cienfuegos and Juan Almeida Bosque, Fidel, Raul and Che formed a disciplined 82 men-strong guerilla force, aiming at overthrowing Batista. They left Veracruz, Mexico in late November 1956 and targeted the small town of Niquero, Oriente Province of Cuba. However, they were discovered by Cuban air force helicopters and had to land on 2 December 1956 on a beach called Los Colorados, about 25 km south of the designated spot where Celia Sánchez, a comrade revolutionary in Cuba, waited for them with jeeps, petrol, weapons and food. Due to the emergency landing, they could not benefit from this essential guerilla war materiel.

They fought hard against Batista’s troops and lost 70 of the 82 men that sailed aboard Granma. But they did not give up. They regrouped in the Sierra Maestra mountains, where they attracted hundreds of young Cuban volunteers. They won many battles against Batista’s army. These battles became the Cuban Revolution and eventually ended on New Year’s Eve of 1958, when they marched victoriously into Havana. In January 1959 Batista fled to the Dominican Republic.

Following the triumphant Cuban Revolution, Che Guevara gained prominence and was soon promoted to second-in-charge to Fidel. He occupied several key roles in the new government, like instituting the agrarian land reform, leading a successful countrywide literacy campaign; he was Minister of Industry, Director of Cuba’s Central Bank, instructed Cuba’s armed forces. As such, he also trained the militia forces who repelled the Bay of Pigs Invasion and was instrumental in bringing the Soviet nuclear missiles to Cuba which prompted the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Che also toured the world as Cuba’s chief diplomate, representing Cuba’s socialism at the United Nations in both New York and Geneva, as well as everywhere he traveled.

In 1965, Che decided to leave Cuba. His major contribution to the Cuban Revolution, though ongoing to this day, was done. He was heavily influenced by Marxism-Leninism and saw the so-called Third World’s underdevelopment – poverty, destitution, disease – as a dependence on the abusive exploitation by the west – that which, in turn, is the inherent result of imperialism and monopoly capitalism. The only remedy to fight it was socialist internationalism, a world revolution.

Che left Cuba for Congo-Kinshasa, now Zaïre, where he was unsuccessful in fomenting a revolution against Joseph Mobutu, one of the most corrupt and murderous dictators Africa has known until this day. Che Guevara was particularly inspired to help the people of then Congo (a former Belgian colony, today neocolony), because his comrade Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected President of the Congo in 1960, was overturned in a coup d’état by Colonel Mobutu, helped by Belgian forces. Mobutu ordered Lumumba’s murder by firing squad in January 1961.

After a second coup, the brutal authoritarian Mobutu assumed power in 1965. With the help of the neocolonial US and the UK, he stayed in power more than three decades, until 1997, putting the extraordinary riches of minerals and petrol basically at western disposal (against a hefty fee, of course, for his own (Swiss) bank accounts, not for his country), to the detriment of the Congolese people. Che Guevara was powerless against these boundless and ruthless military forces – forces that continue to protect also the Kabila dynasty that followed Mobutu in 1997, first by Laurent Kabila, and after his assassination in 2001, by his son Joseph – who to this day is ruling mineral-rich Zaïre, while sustaining bloody civil war-like conditions that has killed millions of people, including women and children, all for the benefit of western – mostly US – mineral giants feeding mainly the US military industrial complex.

Back to Che. After his unfortunate experience at revolution in Africa, he went back to his roots – Latin America, a culture which he was familiar with and where he believed a true and lasting revolution was possible – to bring dignity and sovereignty back to the peoples who were miserably oppressed by Washington-backed military regimes for decades. On November 4, 1966, Che crossed the border into Bolivia under false identity. He thought Bolivia, the center of South America, was ideal to start and spread a revolution throughout Latin America.

Che formed a small army of 47 fighters from Bolivia, Cuba, Peru and Argentina, the ‘Ejército de Liberación Nacional de Bolivia’ – ELN (The Bolivian National Liberation Army). Che and his people fought on several occasions the army of the cruel military dictator, René Barrientos, (1964-1969), who came to power in 1964 by a coup helped – by whom else – Washington. Che and his troops had also a non-fighting network that kept them informed and supplied them with food and water as their hardship and information inaccessibility made them vulnerable in the jungle of Bolivia.

Two members of Che’s support team, Regis Debray (French) and Ciro Bustos (Argentinian), were captured and tortured. It is said, but has been often contested, that they revealed Che’s whereabouts, which allowed Barrientos’ army to intensify its battle and eventually by the end of September 1967 have a clear advantage over Che’s guerilla army. Che and his men fought their last battle on 8 October in the Churro gorge, when they were captured and taken to an area called La Higuera, in the Department of Santa Cruz in Bolivia. Che was executed on 9 October and his body hidden by the military, though his diary made its way into Fidel’s hands. Fidel eventually published it.

In 1995, Fidel Castro initiated with the President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozado, also called Goni the “Gringo”, a search for Che’s remains. They were found in Vallegrande near La Higuera and sent to Cuba, where they were laid to rest in Santa Clara in a Mausoleum especially built for Che.

On 17 October 1997 CNN reports: “Cuba paid tribute to revolutionary hero Ernest “Che” Guevara … with a pomp-filled state burial and a ringing tribute from Fidel Castro, the man he helped propel to power nearly four decades ago. He said: “His inerasable mark is now in history, and his luminous gaze of a prophet has become a symbol for all the poor of this world.””

Fidel’s words still keep ringing through the ether of the universe. Undoubtedly, Che, Fidel and Hugo Chavez were among the most influential revolutionaries of the Western Hemisphere in the 20th Century. Their legacy keeps emitting signals of peace and justice throughout the world.

Haiti and the NFL: Toussaint Tyler and Battling TBI

In exile at St. Helena, when asked about his dishonorable treatment of Toussaint, Napoleon merely remarked, “What could the death of one wretched Negro mean to me?”

The Black Napoleon, or that’s what former slave Toussaint L’Ouverture was called. Get this, historians – the leader of the only successful slave revolt in modern history in effect defeated the genocidal white trash that is part of France’s legacy.  Haiti – that French colony, and he was the son of Gaou Guinon, an African prince captured by slavers. Sent to that white French genocidal colony of Saint Dominque.

Toussaint, born May 20, 1743, under the Code Noir, that black code that legalized all the harsh punishment (treatment) of slaves. Property. L’Ouverture was allowed unlimited access to a library of the manager of the Breda plantation. His godfather was a priest, Simon Baptiste, a kind fellow who taught the young Toussaint to read and write.

I’ll come back to L’Ouverture in a minute, first moving to a new friend, Toussaint Tyler, named after L’Ouverture. Mr. Tyler and I met recently, coming into the office at my day job as social worker for homeless folk, stuck in a system of addiction, criminal charges, mental health challenges. Portland, Oregon, and Mr. Tyler and I are quickly brothers in arms, looking at our six decades on Planet Earth as one of struggle, triumph, exasperation, recrimination, rejoicing, repulsion, anger, happiness, and revolt. I am more settled into my anti-Capitalist fervor than is this man of god, myself having declared anarchism and socialism and communism as the only way out of this warring white Capitalism that has decimated tribes and cultures and entire races of people. Early in my scattered life.

My friendships with men like Toussaint Tyler, Sr., are based on deeply held respect for the individual coursing through capitalism’s hall of horrors.

Mr. Tyler, homeless, in a shelter, introduces me to his older brother who had just gotten out of prison, 25 years straight time. His brother is the gifted and focused one in the family. Mr. TNT Tyler says his brother, who was just released from McNeil Island Corrections Center in Pierce County, Washington, is the smartest and ablest fellow around, who entered into a life of crime ripping off rich folk and faced the music here in Oregon with some hard-hard time in prison in Washington. Where his brother learned the law, learned his own new mission in life, and who is now more than just an inspiration for Toussaint.

Toussaint Tyler, once the leading rusher as fullback for the University of Washington Huskies. He was born in Barstow, California. His nickname was TNT Tyler, called one of the greatest fullbacks in Husky history. Punishing running style and bone-crushing blocking. We are talking about a 58-year-old man who has seen the gridiron since age nine, a man today who is forgetful and now homeless, who has been couch surfing for years, who once had glory and wives, and who is now awaiting a brain scan, ordered by the National Football League.

TNT and I talk about the Will Smith movie, “Concussion,” a flick Tyler saw when it came out two years ago. “Man, I just started crying when I saw my life in many ways depicted on the screen.” This is the rotten NFL, the elite owners, the chosen few paper jockeys and lawyers and MBAs, who watch mostly people of color slam bodies and craniums into each other for a multi-billion dollar entertainment industry akin to Roman times gladiator exploitation.

Enslavement. Boys hitting each other in Barstow or Compton or Baltimore or Toledo.

The NFL, a non-profit shit-storm of Predatory Capitalists using the dumb-downing of America to fill stadiums, land TV/Cable contracts and sell the junk of faux celebrity. Tyler had his own trading card with the New Orleans Saints. Tyler traveled the country and the world as a football hero. Over six feet two inches, 240 pounds, a hard-hitting man who has admitted to more than a dozen concussions.

He’s been in and out of recovery – pain pills, cocaine, opioids, and booze. He was riding a wave of limelight as a former player in the NFL, including the Saints and Minnesota Vikings . . . decades of Traumatic Brain Injury depression and outbursts of angry, physicality.

I run my life around narratives, around the people who have intersected with me as dive master, photographer, journalist, teacher, social worker, traveler, and activist.

His story now, after my sixty years on planet earth, hits me hard – heavy on a personal level, both positive and negative. Exploitation of the black man by the elite, by the worthless white men in suits and ties, those golf-loving whites, the money men, the tribe of shekel collectors, the very tribe of men who that mythical Jesus Christ went to town on upsetting the money changers’ money tables.

Harvard, Yale, law schools of the elite, MBAs from large Division One schools, running poor whites and blacks and Latinos into the ground, to the grave, through the psych wards, under the belly of the beast of drug addiction, homelessness, and the halls of criminal injustice.

Tyler tells me about his father, an amazingly talented man, self-taught, who was a lightweight boxer, who had seven kids. Mother who worked for the government. Their United States of Israel roots not from California but from Arkansas and Baton Rouge. Tyler traces his African roots to Sierra Leone.

“I never understood why I was crying all the time, and depressed.” He has had a knee replacement. Tyler shows me both wrists – big surgical scars from massive fractures from defenders slamming helmets and face-guards into his body. “I am beat-up, for sure. I forget things. The NFL knew in 1954 that head trauma from pounding gridiron players hitting each other caused permanent brain damage – shrinking, permanent atrophying of parts of the brain, a sloshing of parts of the brain.”

This is the American way – full-throttle exploitation, on the field, in the workplace, in neighborhoods. The elite, polluting cities, our air, the water, our children’s minds, the dreams of adults, and the hopes of the aged.

We are one giant Trumplandia Casino Capitalism Continuing Criminal Enterprise. Signing our death warrants. Tyler, lasting four years in the NFL, and ending up as a juvenile detention officer for King County (Seattle), working with 12 to 17 year olds locked up in a county lock-down facility.

He was in his addiction then, as a county official, and he worked hard on gang-prevention and working with troubled youth in King County, Washington.

Tyler today continues to talk about living a lie most of his life – chasing women and fame, drugs and money. “I didn’t need football to make it in life,” he says. He is so sure that youth should not be playing football until their brains are fully developed. Tyler tells me that he was at Roosevelt High School in Portland recently, and saw a little kid, an eight-year-old, laying on the ground, crying about his head hurting after taking a hit on the football field.

I’m glad my sons didn’t play football. If I could do life all over again, I would have never played football, gone into basketball.

One son, Toussaint Tyler Jr., played college basketball for Central Washington University. A story was written up about the sixth man for the men’s basketball team, Mr. Tyler’s son. Tattoos all over his body – rib-cage, wrist, knee, shoulder. Each inscription plays a significant reminder to TNT’s son about where he comes from, where he is going and where he doesn’t want to go:
• Me Against the World
• Respect Few, Feat None
• Family Forever
• Brotherhood
• Only God Can Judge Me
• Tha Truth
• All Eyez on Me

Toussaint Tyler Sr. is talking about the class action lawsuit against the NFL, a party of over 22,000 claiming NFL negligence, asking for money to cover years of drug abuse, psychiatric breaks, incarceration, broken marriages, failed relationships, split-up families, and internal anger-confusion-dementia.

These white so-called leaders, elites going to their elite children’s Christenings and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, going to their dear children’s graduations from elite universities, law schools and business colleges, they are demons, felonious, as criminal as criminality can come, laughing all the way to the bank, living it up in their five homes each, jet-setting the globe with the blood and brains of the real workers, the real heroes, wiped all over their zero escape clause contracts. All those One percenters and their Little Eichmann agents and riffraff controlling the lives of the sacrificial lambs.

Sure, we can Google (another massively screwed up project of control run by another set of war-loving elites) Toussaint Tyler and see he was the only one in pro-Football to knock out Lawrence Taylor. Sure, Toussaint is gunning for getting onto various boards – Urban League, YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, etc. – and wanting to help turn lives around. Sure, Toussaint wants the homeless in Portland – some really raw characters that make Charles Dickens’ novels seem like Mister Rogers Neighborhoods – to be helped. Toussaint Tyler asks me to stay with the non-profit I was working at. Wants me to meet bigwigs and help sell programs to the elite in Portland (Intel, Nike, adidas, et al).

I want to throw in with Toussaint Tyler, Sr. – I want to hit up these metro sexuals, these gentrifying elites, these bourgeoisie, these Bill Gates and Paul Allens and Phil Knights types to get down to real business, to getting their bullshit philanthropic ideals into real gear. We need to help the homeless and the drug addicted get on their feet with REAL programs, with solid recovery, where they can get SPECIAL treatment, in a time of Neoliberalism and Trumplandia. We are running non-profits with genuflecting and begging, hoping for social workers to get to work with shitty pay and tons of on-the-job trauma. My non-profit gets grants, and we are hobbled by the constraints of the millionaire class, and the state and county and city agencies.

Being homeless usually means trauma in each and everyone’s lives – beaten down in families, drugs, sexually abused, the physically kicked down, psychic knockdowns, punished into the criminal justice system, hobbled by the debt levelers, controlled by the broken education system, held down by the business community, the exploitation class, and held back by bureaucracies of evil.

College bowls for Toussaint – Rose Bowl and Sun Bowl champion; in another Rose Bowl, Hula Bowl, Japan Bowl, San Diego Hall of Fame. Second-team Pac 10 running back for two years. Honored as a Huskie Legend, NFL Alumni.

“None of it matters. I am in a new life, starting new.” He ended up dead on arrival, in Pullman, Washington, three years ago, 60 pills swallowed in a suicide cocktail. He had done a lot of crack to make those head blows and shitty life decisions and all those mammas to his six kids sort of go away, or at least level out the pain of all those valleys and rock bottoms which are the geography of his spiritual and psychological life.

Ahh, Haiti, and the despicable French, then, now, forever – defeated by a slave, who read voraciously, especially Enlightenment thinkers such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, one member of early moderate revolutionaries who considered seriously the question of slavery. As is the case of most French thinkers, these moderate revolutionaries were not willing to end slavery.

Applying the “Rights of Man” to all Frenchmen, including free blacks and mulattoes (those of mixed race), the so-called revolutionaries gave into the plantation owners in the colonies who were furious and fought the measure. In 1791 the measure was retracted.

This betrayal triggered slave revolts in Saint Dominique (soon called Haiti), and Toussaint quickly became leader of the slave rebellion. L’Ouverture (the one who finds an opening) was added to his name, as he led a rag-tag army. For anyone listening to the unheralded voices of the people’s history, he or she can take his hat off and honor Toussaint who successfully fought the French, whose numbers were also decimated by a yellow fever outbreak.

He fought seven battles in seven days and defeated the French. As is the true DNA of the white race, the French wanted business as usual, desiring Haiti to go back to slavery and colonial rule. In 1803, Napoleon Bonaparte wanted Haiti out of his hair, agreed to its independence and Toussaint agreed to retire from public office. Eventually Napoleon, as is so true of many of the French’s DNA code, invited Toussaint to a meeting under the promise of his protection. The French Army arrested Toussaint, put him on a ship headed for France, and Napoleon ordered D’Ouverture to suffer in a mountain dungeon where he was starved to death with all number of depravations put upon the Haitian hero.

Getting Haiti off his back, Napoleon gave up Haiti to independence and sold the French territory in North America (the Louisiana Purchase) to the United States.

Toussaint Tyler, Sr., named after the great Haitian hero, sits with me in my office, and we go over his plans to get his driver’s license back, plans to get him a job at $11 an hour, and plans to come back to life as a community organizer. He’s forgetful, having left his satchel on the Portland light rail (MAX) with his photo IDs and social security card inside.

He tears up when telling me about his granddaughter, Serayah McNeill, who plays Tiana on the hip-hop TV series, “The Empire.” Daughter of his eldest son, Serayah is a talented musician, athlete, and can do anything, Toussaint tells me. Her very presence on TV, her thriving life, her existence is a testament to her succeeding and a reminder to her grandfather that he once was in her life as a child and now he’s been MIA for years. “She reminds me of how I screwed up so many people’s lives.”

This is the story in America, one I touch daily, with men mostly, and the years taken away by drugs, by incarceration, racism, shitty employment, all told, millions of lives destroyed by the white man’s bad seed, fall from his and her own grace. The decades and centuries of structural and mitochondrial determinants in the success and failures of an entire group of people who made this country, built the fucking White House, put the land to work, harvested and swaddled the white woman’s children, what a travesty.

Repeated daily from sea to shining sea, exploitation after exploitation. And the NFL, microcosm of the chosen ones’ destruction of almost anything good, tribal, hating all people’s who live lives far from the money printing presses, the coin of the realm – slavery for enriching the few, the fattening up of these voracious people eaters, these lovers of anything close or aberrant to what the entire Trump legacy represents: the people who run the rackets of college sports and professional gladiatorial athletics, or replace sports with big pharma, big business, big military-surveillance-punishment complex, big ag, big food, big medicine, big media, big education. These people are the ones that deserve a million slave rebellions run by the likes of Toussaint D’Ouverture.

The rabid dog, ahh, the beheading is necessary for the safety of the village. Yet, it’s all flipped backwards – the elite, the weakest, the minority of all minorities, the Chosen One Percent living out their blasphemy until old age, while the good and best the world can offer, murdered, slowly, quickly, at the moment of birth. America – the racket, the thug nature of this warring nation, the disharmony of the children sucked into diabetes and mental stasis created by the chosen few’s tools of control: food, consumer popular culture, Hollywood, media, digital dumb-downing.

Here, from the movie, Concussion, the doctor, Bennet Omalu, asking why the world doesn’t want to know about his research into football head injuries and players’ deaths, suicides, incapacitating pain, drug addiction, incarceration, murders:

Dr. Bennet Omalu: What do they want?

Dr. Cyril Wecht: The NFL wants you to say you made it all up.

Dr. Bennet Omalu: I made it up?

Dr. Cyril Wecht: They’re accusing you of fraud.

Dr. Ron Hamilton: If you retract, you’ll be fine. This all goes away.

Dr. Bennet Omalu: Why? Why are they all doing this?

Dr. Cyril Wecht: They’re terrified of you. Bennet Omalu is going to war with a corporation that has 20 million people on a weekly basis craving their product the same way they crave food. The NFL owns a day of the week, the same day the Church used to own. Now it’s theirs. They’re very big.

Note: A forensic pathologist, Omalu conducted the autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster, which led to his discovery of a new disease that he named chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. He is currently the chief medical examiner of San Joaquin County, Calif. and a professor in the UC Davis Department of Medical Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

These one percenters and their 19 percenter Little Eichmanns holding up their universal Capitalist scam, they are perpetuating the chronic traumatic encephalopathy onto all aspects of society with each experiment deemed necessary to create legions upon legions of marks, the exploited, the punished, the destitute, the near homeless, all of us shoved into their consumer prisons for the pleasure of their sin upon humanity. Greed, prostitution, elimination.

At eight years of age, I knew I was going to be in the NFL. I was the fourth all-time leading rusher for UW. But my life is more than that, I know now. I’ve lived a life for and about Toussaint Tyler. It’s been a selfish life. I want to work to help this community, these people on the streets outside. Man, all messed up on meth, dirty, on the streets, sleeping in alleyways. We have to find a way to help them.

So continues the dilemma of the One Percent, the Churches, the Poverty Pimps, all those non-profits run for the pleasure of a few at the top. So goes the journey of Toussaint Tyler, invoking just a little bit of his Haitian namesake’s rebellion.

Each day it becomes clearer to me that those in state capitols and on K-street, Wall Street, in the corridors of power, peopling the think tanks and commissions and secretive world of the bankers and bankrollers of pain, shame, war.  They are the giant tapeworm eating at the soul of humanity. Clearer and clearer that the exiled, the broken, the incarcerated and just let out, the Toussaints and a million others, they have the power of lucidity, the power of perspective, and the power of seeing outside the miasma of this country’s madness.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if the magic wand pushed a giant interstellar vacuum onto the earth that sucked up all the detritus on this planet – those buttoned up thieves lusting for their gigantic thefts, uniformed weapon lusting hoards lusting for war, all those coders and money changers, the renter class, the bankers, the technologists, the entire army of takers.

Toussaint and I hug, as I say good-bye on my last day at one non-profit as I move to another. Life is slipstream, the sum total of serendipity, these chance encounters, as my brain folds more of what I know is social justice and revolutionary focus. He and I come from two different worlds, and belief systems, yet, well, what more can a brotherhood bring than the joy of understanding those who are different but cut from the same cloth of wanting justice and seeking enlightenment.

A Tribe is Syncopated with One’s Own Journey into Restorative Humanity

Because the tribe is its members, the tribe is what its members want it to be—nothing more and nothing less.

― Daniel Quinn, Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure

The shape of my life is the daily intersections of the people I have come to integrate into part of my total life clan – sources as journalist, people in academia who have inspired me, students, the places in my mind from countless travels out of this culture, USA, and the many I have worked with as both instructor and social worker. And many more.

The foundation of my “man lost of tribe” conveyances is based on not believing in the structures and status quo of the place I hold in US society – male, now 60, denuded of agency, really, in the scheme of capitalism’s storied stories of what it is to be successful and valued in this nickel-and-dimed culture. What we hold to his health and harmony, blended learning and giving, not taking. What we hold is the breath and the memory, and the expansiveness of memory and experience to put spark and ignition to rebuffing of the daily slide the society puts precarious workers like myself into . . . by the tens and tens of millions in the USA and billions worldwide.

We grasp at straws sometimes as social workers, gasping at the daily witnessing of humanity at its best, singularly, and the culture at its worse, collectively. The day opens in the dark and ends with a bright lightness of being in a world alight by the hopes, dreams and smarts of people who have hit rock bottom and under that, but still, everyday, attempt to thrive and survive. Comedy in tragedy and the entire shooting match of my life are held by the thread of the threadbare social services this society and the philanthropies have deemed as handouts, doles, welfare, for the growing legion of homeless, rudderless, drug and booze induced. “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”1

*****

Uncle Bob,

My father told me to be expecting mail from you but I didn’t take him seriously. No one writes me except my mother and girlfriend. You’re right we don’t know each other very well but fortunately we at least know “of” one another. What’s your Zodiac sign? Me being a Taurus does make me very stubborn. But being in jail has given me a lot of time to think, analyze and more aware of my actions, decisions and overall reason I’m spending 50 (months) and counting here. If you want honesty, I’ve been struggling with addiction since 8th grade. Started with drinking, cigarettes and marijuana. By the end of freshman year progressed to Ecstasy, Xanax, cocaine and meth. Now a days I’ve overcome using needles (5 years now) and only partake in meth. What have I learned from meth? It destroys not only your social life, family, occupational living and physical life. But also you as a general human being.

My personality, character, attitude, physical appearance, everything went downhill. Along with that, I picked up an overbearing and controlling gambling habit. Lottery, scratch offs and video slots. I refuse to continue living my life that way. I’m better than that and have a complete understanding in knowing my family deserves more from me. My parents gave me nothing but the best life they could and my hard-headed, stubborn ways let them down.

I never did any of this to be cool . . . I really have a problem and finally I’m past the first step of admitting and allowing myself to accept help. So help me all you can with words of wisdom and past experiences and hopefully I will succeed on my quest of sobriety. Until paper and pen meet again,

Love always, Tonya

Bob, 69, mean streets of Chicago, still smart as a whip, Black Panthers for a while, now complete AA recovery, god and bible, but as cool of a cat as any Zoot Suiter, style and class. Bob is fighting addiction and a rap sheet 57 pages long. Last time in trouble with the law — possession of controlled substance, that lover, heroin, like no other lover, though. Bob is still a randy guy, 69, wears the coolest hats around, shined shoes and uses a soft voice.

Imagine my job, social worker, playing with the mean streets of Portland, where Bob has resided for a few decades . . . job after job, the stolen wages of the punishment society – fees, fines, restitution, legal financial obligations, garnishments, pending debts.

What is a man but his way of living now after tumultuous days and then weeks and years, decades, some way to make sense of senseless rudderless displacement. The struggle of boys in Chicago, nothing but bad cops, bad renters, the souls of the drugged and beaten, like ghosts emitted from the smokestacks of fallen industries.

Bob knows the work of “The New Jim Crow” and “I Am Not Your Negro.” We talk about Malcolm X and brother Evers, all that is Billie Holiday, all that could have been the raging Black Panthers. The jostle and hustle of deals, robberies, strong arm and smash and grab, the night streets with heat, women, men, throbbing, something other than suit and tie, briefcase and the murdering stock broker-lawyer-manager-office worker-CEO. Politicians as dirty as sewer rats, and the entire Chicago inbred scene a place where a young Bob flows with the only things he knows, the kids, older boys and women, street walkers and pavement pushers, the occasional big murder spree and the endless wars between the sexes, generations, oh where oh where have all the role models gone?

The letter above is from his 26-year-old niece in Illinois, incarcerated for possession and intent to distribute of a controlled substance – more than four years thrown at her, his niece he had never known, just through the photographs and early in her adolescence, a trip or two back to Chicago. The mean streets and elegance of survival, pushing through, all those addiction blocks put up to stop you from even getting out of the quagmire that is poverty, racism, isolation, gentrification, bad schools, bad peers, addiction and running and gunning.

African-American lesbian, aged 26, in prison, awaiting some lawyer’s jujitsu to reverse sentence, illegal search and seizure, same old tricks of bad cops and really bad prosecutors, Chicago style, and yet, Bob, Uncle Bob, sees the light, and seeks some absolution by contacting his niece who had never known him, precipitating the above beautiful appeal for love and family and rejoining in his niece’s heart..

Personal prison appeals never publicized, not on mainstream TV, nor in the bowels of Hollywood; not in the night tremors of the politicians, no mayor, maybe no one in the political class, certainly not Mrs. Super Predator Clinton Super Predators or Donald Kill the Central Park Five Innocents Trump, in their guffawing toasts in Manhattan with the other nematodes fawning over killers like Kissinger or Greenspan, all of the elite (sic) class (sic) could ever understand the force of those two simple uncle-to-niece prison correspondences.

Let them eat cake, be damned . . . . Let them eat shit . . . . Force-feed the shit of the privatizers into each and every orifice.

That digression comes from decades of witnessing the shit of politicians, businessmen and now businesswomen, the city and county meetings, planning and zoning, all the cop shops, all the feds and border thugs, all the displays of ignorance and smarts, tied to exploiting the exploited, the super predators are the banks-mortgage holders, are the Repo men and women, the charter school tycoons, the retailers and the ever-expanding middle middlings wanting some chunk of the pie so they can continue to see their navels pop out like nascent boas, popping out to one day be the gator-eating 50 foot constrictors, which is what almost every white upper echelon family produces:  offspring, the seeds of more and more maximizers coming at the exploited, as these soldiers of Goldman Sachs and Data Mining Industries and purveyors of bad schools, bad psychology, bad criminal law, bad tort law, bad food, bad literature, bad movies and bad medicine come at us all, even those of us who went to schools and post-graduated, coming at us, calling us the “saps of and drains on the economy,” “the lazy ones,” “the ones sucking up our potential lifetime of profits!”

But I digress again, easily captured by the sirocco of bad policies tainted with the ions of disturbed minds. Bob is my client, and we work on learning, my own learning, as he seeks me as a social worker, and in his full personal class, he’s announced at big meetings, his gratitude for my very presence not only in his life but on planet earth! Here’s his letter to his niece.

*****

Tonya,

Hello there. I hope this finds you in the best of health as well as spirits. I know this is a surprise to you, that I am writing you. You’re my niece, and believe it or not you are special to me.

I know we don’t know each other very well, but I know you are very intelligent and very stubborn, like me (ha-ha). Tonya, I have a lot of knowledge, experience, and information inside my head and heart. For me it is not being hip, slick and cool anymore. I have tens months clean and working on tomorrow. Let me try and help you and be a friend. Let’s get to know and be straight with each other. Be strong and take care of yourself.

Your loving uncle, Bob

P.S. Shock me and reply to this letter!

*****

Easy to pooh-pooh this as an old man seeing the errors of his ways, on the back slide of life, in a recovery program (his 20th) and in that point in American life – poor, on food stamps, at the whim of county, state and non-profit programs housing him and hiring people like me to do social work with him – to find humility. Bob is a worker, and has worked for a year with a temp agency, and now the chain hotel wants to hire him on directly, and we have worked with those restraints; i.e., what the faceless, nameless and heartless HR department will do with his rap sheet that goes back to age nine, those mean streets of Chicago not a damned thing David Mamet or the other chosen one, John Malkovich, both Chicagoans, could even fester up in their wildest “liberal white Jewish dreams.”

Poignant? Sure, but more importantly a sign of the design of breaking up neighborhoods, family units, extended tribes, the very fabric of some large swath of African American lives . . . survival.

Bob gave me both these letters, after I asked, telling him that in some way, I might be able to riff on, or run with these words – simple, personal, an awakening of a 26-year-old woman and her 69-year-old uncle. Chicago and Portland, two racist cities for the record books.

Bob donates time feeding the homeless, even though he is technically chronically homeless, but now in transitional housing my organization provides. Technically, Bob is a prisoner in his own neighborhood, city and state, but in his mind, Robert is free, and he sails above the ugly smoke spewing from his past, every single day, relishing in the light, the sun, the surly clouds and gutters full of rain, trash and needles.

Evidence of life in the American Homo Consumptipithecus, is the struggle and the triumph of these former users, always an addict, always tied to the very mean streets that brought them to the rock at the bottom of the fall. These people are the signals of humanity in an inhumane business world, transactional climate, where numbers and screen icons and hedging onto and into lives are about maximizing the money made off the backs of uncles and nieces, off the continuous punishment systems, each bureaucrat a Little Eichmann in the Making! Banality of Evil, and the force of collective indifference. Like a thousand hydrogen bombs dropped in the middle of America.

  1. Fyodor Dostoevsky in a letter to his Niece Sofia Alexandrovna, Geneva, January 1, 1868.