Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Hey buddy, got any shoes you're not using?

What's been bouncing around in my head as the year comes to a close:
Yeah, I've got a lot of problems compared to your average wealthy white asshole in the Bay Area. But when I look back on this year, I feel like I don't get to be that mad about it even though I can tell myself a hell of a sob story about 2014. Sure, I had some setbacks, made some mistakes, and had some total not-my-fault, victim-of-circumstance bullshit go down. The part where a friend of mine died then 12 weeks later I had to pay some dude to mercifully kill my cat was also suboptimal to say the least. But I stayed married, we made all our house payments on time, our health problems were minimal, and we both had jobs. Maybe I'm just getting easier to please as I get older, but that's a pretty good baseline. Maybe suffering really is optional. Wouldn't that be nice?

Sing it loud, I'm "all" and I'm proud?

1) Back in LA when I was a distance runner my friend Aaron at work told me he misses running outside but he had to join a gym. Why? Because the LAPD kept pulling him over asking him what he was running from.

2) Back in high school, I was involved in a feminist student group called the Women's Issues Club. Some boys showed up to a meeting once and said our name was sexist and we should change it to the Human Issues Club.

If you pictured Aaron as a young white man or you think "Human Issues Club" is a good name for a group of females talking about gender inequality, then by all means keep arguing that "all lives matter" is a great rallying cry for talking about racism and police brutality. At least you're consistent.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Old woman yells at cloud, or, it's time to talk strategy

Here comes a rant with some nuance in it. Try to read the whole thing and think about it before we start the next round of knee-jerk name-calling in either direction.

I'm getting a little worn down by the brand of socially-conscious person who keeps defending (mostly white, as far as I can tell) hooligans breaking windows, setting fires, and generally fucking shit up in the name of drawing attention to a cause. If I say I don't like people tearing up Oakland and claiming they're doing it for The Movement, I'm some kind of white supremacist who thinks private property is more important than black lives.

Hold the phone. There is not one type of protester. There are protesters who've suffered a lifetime of racism, both subtle and blatant. There are protesters who haven't, but who care about the issue. There are also faux-anarchist assholes and Cal kids who are pissed off they missed the 60s and looking for a little excitement. While we're on the subject, there are people who become cops because they grew up with violence in the inner city and want to make things better, there are people who become cops because they're amoral gun-nuts who want a license to kill, and many there are many people in between. Do we really have to go over this? I guess we do. Okay.

I don't like people destroying property in Oakland not because I think property is more important than poor black men's lives (are you fucking kidding me?) but because it punishes the wrong people and distracts from the message of the protest. Every time we have to talk about this, we are NOT talking about police overreach or racism in America anymore. If I was a tinfoil hat type, I'd say the "protesters" trashing our cities are sent in from up above to discredit the movement. They are not doing black men any favors.

I very much understand that right after a heartbreaking fuck-you of a "not guilty" verdict, things might get out of control. I've lost my personal shit over much less important issues so I'm not judging anyone who loses it the heat of the moment of getting beaten down by a racist system YET AGAIN. I don't get the vibe that this is what's happening here.

Shutting down freeways, okay, that doesn't hurt anyone. I still think it's a distraction that disproportionately affects poor people of color. (Who mostly has the types of jobs where you work at night and therefore use the highways at night?) If you're mad about freeways you're not, at least at that moment, mad about cops murdering kids.

But back to the subject at hand. I'm getting tired of the "if you don't equate trashing Oakland with By Any Means Necessary Malcom X history-making greatness, then you would have been some Jim Crow dude during the civil rights movement" kind of rhetoric going around. Let's talk about the civil rights movement, because THAT movement altered its protests to be more palatable to the masses. The first black person to refuse to give up her seat on the bus was a pregnant teenager, and the **NAACP** for god's sake didn't want that to distract from the message, so they sent in a more middle-class, broadly-appealing Rosa Parks to do the exact same thing. Google "Claudette Colvin" if this is news to you.

So please. Let's stop turning this big, important topic into petty back-and-forth about who's more progressive than who. If you don't like someone complaining about broken windows, fires, or blocked freeways, redirect the conversation back to racism and police overreach. There's a LOT to talk about. If I get off subject because "protesters" are screwing up a city I like, you can always get me back on message by asking me what happens to the poor kids (mostly nonwhite) who end up in America's most disadvantaged public schools. DON'T ask me to care about some UC Berkeley kid who thinks (or pretends to think) busting up a Trader Joe's somehow draws attention to that.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Kein Mensch ist illegal

I had this to say about undocumented immigration while working in East LA in 2006. Not fully-formed, but still about right.
We can't keep turning a blind eye when we need people to do our dirty work, then sending them away when our economic needs are met and we start getting nervous about overcrowding or, god forbid, living in a city with more brown people than white people. It's not right (and this isn't the first time). It's not that they "do the jobs Americans won't do." It's that they do them in horrible conditions and for horrible pay that Americans, as first-world people, won't tolerate (and good for us). THAT is the first thing that needs to stop, and that's going to be hard, because corporate greed and exploitation is pretty much a cultural norm in this country at this point, with the treatment of migrants and immigrants being only the starkest example, not the only example.

Yet, you can't get upset at someone who's lived in dire poverty their whole lives thinking $7 an hour is huge money, and breaking their backs in violation of all labor laws (not just immigration laws) to earn it. Can you imagine that peddling oranges on the side of the freeway gives you more money than you've ever seen in your life, enough to save some to wire to Mexico so your kids back there can eat a little better? That's nuts. If you want to bitch about people coming here illegally to make a better life for themselves or their families, go read or hear about what daily life is actually like in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala. Then tell me you wouldn't be in someone's trunk headed for the border as soon as the opportunity presented itself. 

Yes, the whole situation sucks. It sucks for our infrastructure, our health care, our schools, and probably a few areas I haven't thought about. But we let it happen. Now let's fix it - and fix it in a more humane way than we created it, por favor.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Better living through absurdity

I've been a longtime fan of the odd rural Canadian hip-hop/alternative-or-whatever act Buck 65. How did I put it last time this came up? Oh yeah: "You know those CDs you love that you are careful to only listen to while ALONE in the car because it doesn't seem worth explaining why you like it?" Dude likes to rap from the point of view of, like, centaurs and shoe-shiners. Good times.

This guy's about my age and his midlife crisis was his wife moving out suddenly and leaving a note that said "don't forget to feed the cat." He went into such a deep depression he had to make to-do lists that said things like "shower." (Been there.) His new album is called "Neverlove" and it's about as cheerful as you'd expect.

The story goes that he got so tired of being miserable all the time he decided to write the silliest song possible and do it on tour to cheer himself up. He'd apologize to the crowd first. In the end, enough of the fans also found it amusing that he recorded it. Then, to further make himself laugh to keep from crying, he made the most ridonkeykong video he could think of. I have no idea if this story is true or if Buck 65's divorce was a convenient excuse for him to make a terrible EDM song, but I want it to be true. I was not in the best headspace either the first time I saw this and it DID give me the first good laugh of the week. I still giggle every single time.

I want to get messed up and get laid and cake on my birthday! Well, who doesn't?