Category Archives: politics

Border Tour: Naco, Sonora

Cochise County, Arizona

I’ve been visiting here for over twenty years, since my parents left the Sierra Nevada foothills community we shared and started a new life here in Abbey Country. For many years, my dad would take us down to Agua Prieta for a fun walk and lunch in Mexico. He died right after 9/11, and the changes in the country at that point included a general opinion that the border towns were unsafe. The media encouraged this conception, and even now Americans are afraid to visit the border. As I’ve made friends down here the last few years, I’ve heard a much different story. This week my friend Tony drove down with me and we walked across the border into Naco, Sonora. As I crossed over, I felt as I always have when I’ve been in Mexico, whether it has been a border town or the natives’ district in Cancun, during the WTO in ’03. There is something so appealing,so genuine, so homey to me about Mexico that I wish I could stay. I feel more at home there, in a way, than I do in Cali. I have no explanation for this. I might be tempted to cross over and stay, except that unfortunately Mexico’s treatment of illegals is not as compassionate as ours. Maybe some day I’ll get a visa and live the ex-pat life for awhile, as so many of my friends now do. The afternoon we visited Naco, a monsoon-like storm had graced the border. It helped put out a fire west of us and gave the May desert a rare, plump drink. Here are some photos of our hour in Mexico.

crossing the border

Naco, Arizona is a ghost town compared to Naco, Sonora.

This handmade sign weathered the rain storm, and speaks to the “homespun” vibe I appreciate about Mexico.

Many, many US cop vehicles on the U.S. side of the border.

The first thing you see after crossing: this mural painted on corrugated steel.

a collective signature

The main drag: Naco, Sonora

One of the few residences on the main drag.

The street sports a large median and walkway with dilapidated statues and parklets.

apartments above, boarded up businesses below

One of the two types of businesses that are prolific in Naco, Sonora. Can you guess what the other type is?

city park

police station

Wide medians–even on the side streets.

Que es esta?

This business is just reopening after siesta. We toured Naco around 3 p.m.

We navigated the streets via the medians.

Two universals: water and politics.

The Catholic church was locked up tight.

CAFO burgers? Who knows.

One of several buildings that spoke of better days in Naco, Sonora.

Another universal: video rentals and sales.

Another residence. No sign of life inside. Siesta?

still another universal

Three p.m. on a Wednesday in May; the school was deserted.

An old building that has stood the test of time: adobe walls and a tin roof.

yet another universal….

…and another…

Feliz Navidad en Mayo. And yes, this is the other thriving business: dental offices. Three on the few blocks we walked.

a typical street corner

Behind a serious chain link fence…

This tile piece tells the history of Naco.

The tile timeline spans from B.C. to contemporary times.

Adios, Naco!

From there we went through the labyrinth of turnstiles and fences, back to the border. Three U.S. border patrol greeted us with serious intensity, reminding me for the tenth time that day of Abbey’s Good News. “You didn’t take pictures of us, did you?” one of them asked without smiling. We shook our heads and made our way back to the van.



Filed under Abbey Country, photographs, politics

My Father’s Flag

I wrote this essay about a month after 9/11, a couple weeks after my dad died.  I’m sharing it today in honor of Monty Earl Essex, Marine private born 11/21/46 and died 11/12/12. He was the recipient of the Purple Heart. His daughter Melissa is a friend of mine. 

My father died six days after September 11th, and he was well enough for many of those days to glimpse the television, which for some reason they encouraged him to watch. He couldn’t speak–first, they thought, because of a breathing tube, but once it was removed, they realized he couldn’t talk anyway, because he’d had a stroke. He was unable to write. So he lay there in his bed, mute, watching the crisis unfold. No wonder his blood pressure went from dangerously low to normal.

My father was an Air Force Colonel. Briefly, in World War II, he was the youngest officer in the European Theater. He spent over twenty years on active duty. His medals are on display at the Pima Space and Air Museum in Tucson, Arizona. He was a Republican his whole life. My father also never stopped learning, never closed his mind. In 1972 he voted for McGovern because he had a bad feeling about Nixon. A few days before he got sick, he was at my house telling me about the book he was reading: Lies My Teacher Told Me. He had a list of three more books like that he wanted to read; he left it with me so I’d know what to buy him on whatever the next occasion. My father respected Jerry Mander and hated the BIA. And the only thing that disgusted him more than George W. Bush was the Supreme Court and his fellow citizens for allowing a political coup without so much as a skirmish.

My father loved the American flag. He’d retired by the time I came along, and when I was a child he flew the flag on special days in front of our house. At the end of the day, he folded it carefully and put it away. I wish I could have driven around with him after 9/11, those final days, and gotten his take on the reactionary epidemic of Old Glory on every antenna and bumper. If the past is any indication, my dad’s reaction would have been thoughtful and hard to put in a box.

That late September day I sat under the awning at his funeral, staring at the six foot cotton flag the Honor Guard had unfolded in front of the four of us–his immediate family. Staring at it, I saw again what I saw as a child: the rich hue in the fabric, the complexity of the weave, the dense energy an icon brings. I saw my father’s flag. The breeze blew faintly and the bugle played “Taps”. The air echoed from the rifles’ three volleys.

When the spokesman for the Honor Guard knelt on one knee and delivered the flag to my mother, he thanked her on behalf of our nation for my father’s devotion to his country. The flag was perfectly folded, a tight, star-studded triangle, when he placed it in my mother’s hands. She nodded, tears of dignity gracing her cheeks. My arm was around her.

As we headed out of the cemetery I was grateful that my father’s care for his country stayed with him until his last breath. I grieved with him and for him about the way things were. I wanted badly to ask my mother for something, felt that child-fear of asking too much. In my little girl voice I ventured, “Mama, could I hold Daddy’s flag?” She turned and smiled. “I’d like nothing more,” she said, handing it to me.  I cradled it tightly all the way home.



Filed under Essays, politics

Flavors of the Festival

Nevada City, California

Some random captures of the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, January 13-15, 2012.

Occupy Polka-Dots: a festive Occupy street performer. Commercial Street, January 14.

One of the student activists who helped collect over 8,500 signatures to keep our state parks open. January 13.

Thematic libations were in abundance. Coopers Ale Works. Friday, January 13.

Street theater performers on Commercial Street, January 14.

One of my favorite people on the planet: Michael Ben introduces John Trudell. January 13th, Nevada Theatre.

Another reason Nevada City makes the news: our cutting-edge parklet, January 14.

Murray Campbell (fiddle, foreground) and Luke Wilson from Beaucoup Chapeaux, touring tables, entertaining festival goers at the Nevada City Classic Cafe on January 13.

Wild and Scenic's Samantha Hinrichs interviews student activists working to save state parks--the See Jane Do media lounge at Wild and Scenic HQ--January 13th.

Commercial Street, January 14th.

An enthusiastic crowd watches Wicked Good Copy's Mike Mooers help "S(h)have the Yuba". January 13, Broad Street at Bel Capelli Salon.

The festival crowd gathers for the puppet show, "The Three Pigs and the Loan Wolf" January 14.

Simple reminder: In the window of Yabobo, a locally owned and operated drum shop on Pine Street, Nevada City, January 14.

Maggie McKaig and her accordion from Beaucoup Chapeaux performing at Nevada City's Classic Cafe: January 13.

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Filed under Community, Education, photographs, politics, Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

Hair-Razing Event at Wild and Scenic!

Nevada City, California

For many years now, residents of Nevada City have understood that people can save a river. Lately, California budget assaults on Yuba River State Parks have spearheaded a new campaign of activism; local students have been gathering signatures and lobbying in Sacramento. This year, as the Wild and Scenic Film Festival celebrates ten years of environmental activism–in our area and around the world–activism remains as pivotal as ever in saving the Yuba River.

On Friday the 13th of January, at 5 p.m., three brave men met at the Bel Capelli salon in Nevada City. Their mission: to shave their heads in accordance with an agreement they made to the community. Activists to save local state parks, Shawn Garvey, Robert X. Trent, and Mike Mooers agreed to shave bald if area residents gathered at least 1,000 signatures to save Yuba River and Malakoff State Parks. A few minutes after five, SYRCL’s Miriam Limov showed up with the latest count.

Miriam's notes show the signature count as of 3:30 p.m. Students collecting signatures chimed in that they'd gathered at least 50 more names since then.

Shawn Garvey, right, discusses with Mike Mooers whose head will be shaved first. Robert X. Trent is behind Skyler, one of the student activists who has been gathering signatures.

Robert Bergman, former mayor of Nevada City, looks on. Robert X. Trent is on the right, awaiting the shave.

The Grant Farm's Shawn Garvey ends up going first.

The crowd chanted "Yuba! Yuba!" during the shave.

Almost done!

Mike Mooers from Wicked Good Copy takes the chair.

The crowd cheers Mike on!

Nervous, Robert X. Trent?

Sierra Commons's director Robert X. Trent negotiates about keeping the sideburns. This is vetoed.

All done--but wait. Former mayor Robert Bergman is inspired to join the party!

Handsome fellows! From left to right: former mayor Robert Bergman, Wicked Good Copy's Mike Mooers, The Grant Farm's Shawn Garvey, and Sierra Commons director Robert X. Trent.

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Filed under photographs, politics, Sustainability, Wild and Scenic Environmental Film Festival

Thwarting Our Best Intentions: A Polemic

It has been a typical couple weeks on Facebook in the land of leftie politics.  Whether I am visiting the group for Save The Scenic Santa Ritas down in Abbey Country, or reading a post from a local food activist here in Nevada City, or perusing the many leftie slogans that litter my news feed, it is pretty much the same. People who care fervently about their causes are driving potential supporters away with their rudeness and their inaccurate and objectifying language.  After ten years of covering left-wing politics as a reporter, this doesn’t surprise me.  There is a reason why our frequent refrain in the newsroom was “fucking lefties!”  There is a reason why it is a cliché that the left forms firing squads in a circle. But what somehow surprised me about what I’ve witnessed on Facebook these past weeks is that the people spouting their venom and lies—spouting them in the hopes of prosthelytizing —know they are venom and lies but don’t care.

First, let’s go to Abbey Country, where Arizonans have been engaged in a feisty debate for months now. A Canadian company doing business as Rosemont Copper Mine wishes to build and operate a mine in what is known as The Scenic Santa Rita Mountains. Thousands of birders, hikers, wine enthusiasts, and other tourists visit these mountains each year and strongly oppose the project.  There is also a great deal of support for the mine, especially with Arizona’s unemployment rate finally catching up with the rest of the nation’s. With publication of the DEIS delayed more than once, the state has been in limbo. Now that the document has been published, public hearings are being held and there may soon be some actual movement.  It’s very much the same story line as Nevada County, gold, and Emgold.

Every few weeks I visit the group page Save the Scenic Santa Ritas on Facebook. When I went there late October, I observed a conversation between two women, we’ll call them Katey and Amber.  Katey was speaking passionately against the mine; I don’t know what her role is with the organization Save the Scenic Santa Ritas, but she posted with authority and obviously a great deal of knowledge. Amber popped in to the group having just been to an informational meeting sponsored by Rosemont Copper; she had follow-up questions.

As typical with Facebook, I saw the end of the conversation first, in which Amber sarcastically thanked Katey for her rudeness, since it had helped win Amber over to the side of the mine’s developers.  Having been to one of those informational meetings at Rosemont, I can see how Amber’s decision might have been made easier. The spokespeople at the meetings are very nice, quite calm and yet passionate, plus they had out free beverages and chips.   Treating people well is a great way to seduce them; Rosemont gets that but Katey doesn’t seem to.  As I skimmed through their conversation, I was stunned by Katey’s rude tone and dismissive approach to Amber’s questions.  Amber and I tried to tell her not to be so rude.  “A little honey with your vinegar?”  I wrote hopefully, only to also be chastised that Katey doesn’t have time for oversensitive people because it was a “fight” so she had to fight.  (I regret I cannot quote Katey more specifically, because she or someone on her behalf went back and removed every single one of her comments from the conversation. I attempted to contact her to follow up, but not only her posts but apparently her profile have disappeared from Facebook.)

In the rhetorical nightmare that embodies the flaccid ineffectuality of left wing politics, Katey has hit the jackpot.  Meanwhile, Rosemont Copper Mine has a new supporter. Amber is a small business owner in Tucson, so I imagine that she already has a sign up in her shop window supporting the mine.  Has Katey won the “fight”?  Hopefully the gorgeous Santa Ritas have wiser spokespeople in their camp—or else it will be Rosemont Copper Mine in Abbey Country.  More jobs, less tourism, American copper sold to China to make more cheap shit we’ll buy at Walmart.  Katey does not see that she is actually fighting for the enemy.  Perhaps she’ll get a thank you card from Rosemont Copper.

(And we need to remember that Katey, Amber, or both women could be on Rosemont’s payroll. Corporations regularly hire shills to infiltrate and affect grass roots groups, and given Rosemont’s manipulative television spots, I wouldn’t be surprised.  I have no evidence of this; I am merely saying it is possible. If either woman were to be on their payroll, I’m sure that the company feels its money is well spent.)

The Scenic Santa Ritas. I took this photo standing in the exact spot of the proposed mine.

Meanwhile, in Nevada City last October, I attended a dinner-and-a-movie fundraiser for a local farm defense fund.  The event was at The Willo, which impressed me, because it’s not a typical leftie venue.  It’s a venerable old roadhouse famous for its steaks and affordable cocktails. And eat steaks and drink cocktails we did, before we watched the film Farmaggedon, which offers vivid evidence and video footage of the USDA raids on artisanal and organic farmers across the country.  In the film, the footage of these raids is frightening to say the least. Machine guns and children in the same room, people’s yogurt, chickens, grains, sheep, confiscated before their tearful eyes. The raids are violent, the technology and firearms ratcheted up to the point of absurdity.  Before the film began, a spokesman for the farm defense fund gave a speech, as is customary at such events. He said there had just been a raid in Placer County, and that soon they expected equally dramatic events in Nevada County. As we listened to him, we were all sobered by the reality that USDA tanks and guns could soon be rolling down Cement Hill Road and Highway 174. It seemed far-fetched, hyperbolic–until we saw the film.

A couple weeks later, about the end of the month, a farm activist posted on Facebook: a food swap organization shut down in eastern Nevada County, in the town of Truckee. The farm activist, let’s call her Sheila, announced the incident with screaming caps on both Facebook and email:  RAID in Nevada County.  I checked in on Facebook with the group who’d organized the food swap, Tahoe Slow Food, and saw that the spokeswoman for the group was already putting out that fire.  “I would like to clarify,” she said,  “There was no raid!”  She went on to explain the relatively polite exchange between the group and the health department, and said they hoped to resolve things with further conversations.  (Not as exciting as a raid, I know.)  I went to Sheila and said, “Look, no raid.”  Her response: “a minor difference to me. Swapping food is still illegal.”

Most people, particularly food consumers who are not activists, would see more than a minor difference between an armed USDA raid and a quiet conversation between health department officials and a slow food group. Those people, who can’t quite grock that the USDA raids are even real, will brand Sheila’s hyperbole as hysteria and say something like this:  “Those left wing nuts. Talking all this shit about raids when there aren’t any. We can’t believe a word they say. Go Monsanto!  Go Walmart!”  Sheila joins Katey in getting a warm, fuzzy, thank-you note from her enemy. The more misinformation is out there, the less mobilized the public will be to engage in causes that are central to their lives.  But, like Katey, Sheila can’t see beyond her strident view to the larger rhetorical concern.

I had been thinking about Katey and Sheila, about the frustrating reality that so many people with profound ideas about the future are marginalizing not only themselves but also the very causes they dedicate their lives to. Incidents such as the two I’ve described are as commonplace as they are polarizing.  Why is this, I’ve been wondering. Meanwhile, on Facebook, I began noticing a trend developing—a trend that began about the same time the Occupy movement went viral.  People began creating and sharing slogans and testimonials through photographs.  One stream of these photos is dedicated to the 99%, one person at a time telling his or her story about their fall from the middle class.  These, at least, have some text and explanation for why they are saying what they are saying.  Less so the slogans, which encapsulate complex social dynamics into dangerously simplistic ideas.  For example: “I have nothing against God, it’s his fan club I can’t stand.”  These slogans seem to make people happy; I think that’s because it does feel good to have one’s philosophies and ideas wrapped nicely and placed beneath the Christmas tree for others to “ooo” and “ah” over. These slogans are as dangerous to the left as are the rash actions of Katey and Sheila. The absurd generalization that God’s “fan club” can be lumped into one demographic is insulting not to the faithful but to the intellectual capacity of the left.

It is easy to fall through the trap door into the soft, pillowy comfort of smugness. Back in 2003 when I was a reporter I remember asking Jeremy Skahill, who’d just returned from months in Iraq, how the Iraqis felt about Americans.  Skahill was as nice as he could be when he told me how ridiculous my question was: “There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, each with his or her own opinion,” he reminded me. When we do as I tried, and attempt to reduce the complexity of a nation into a pat, sentence-long encapsulation, we oversimplify.  When we oversimplify complex issues, we polarize our audience.  “Where is tolerance?” a Christian I know and love wrote on Facebook.  “Why are there so many posts about how evil we are?”  The creator of the “fan club” slogan wasn’t picturing my friend, a hard-working, home-schooling, fair and open minded woman who happens to get strength from a different place than he does. He was objectifying her, oversimplifying the dilemma of organized religion and the harm done on its behalf, and in the process creating more hate and angst. He was, in essence, sabotaging his mission just as completely as Katey and Sheila sabotaged theirs.

Creating animosity, misinformation, and polarization are all ineffective, counterproductive ways out of the mess we are in.  There are mountain ranges to be stewarded, wholesome foods to be protected, and individual choices to be honored. Only when the left begins to treat others with the respect it demands for itself can it truly help the 99% it claims to care about.  Offering faux compassion to a massive body of people is meaningless; we need to care for and respect each individual that contributes to that statistic.  Furthermore, we need to make a commitment as individuals to go beyond the slogans, to challenge the hyperbole, to demand honesty and integrity in our daily conversations. If we can’t do that, how do we seriously think we change an entire planet for the better?


Filed under Abbey Country, Community, Essays, Farming, Mining, Polemics, politics, Sustainability

Drunk Drivers

This week four women I know and love–three of them teens–were hit by a drunk driver while driving home.  One teen was life flighted.  All will, thankfully, be okay.  The sad event reminded me of the essay here, which I wrote over fifteen years ago.  Two years after the events described below, my son and I were rear ended by yet another drunk driver.  I was injured, Forrest was miraculously okay. I will ask you now, very personally: please don’t drink and drive.  Go get your booze, drive home sober, and then whoop it up.  It’s not a difficult choice.  And if I see you trying to get in a car after you’ve been drinking, you’d better watch out.  I won’t be very nice. 

Drunk Drivers

I’m standing in the pediatric ICU at UC Med Center.  I’m holding the hand of my ten year old nephew.  His hand is lifeless, the nurse tells me, because they gave him a paralyzing drug to keep him still.  Common practice with a brain injury, she says.  “So it’ll be a couple days before we know if there’s damage?” I ask.  “Oh, there is damage,” she says, “we just don’t know how much, or if it’s reversible.”  I’m grasping for hope with what feel like talons.  “So, we might need to teach him things again?  He might not remember things?  His brain might not work that way?”  “It could be more basic,” she says, “like his brain could not remember how to make his heart pump, how to make him breathe.”

I look at the ventilator pumping air into his lungs, the two tubes going into his partially shaved head.  One is to gauge the inner cranial pressure, I’ve learned.  One is to drain liquid off to relieve the pressure.  The last 24 hours have been a crash course in how to treat brain injuries.  The doctor, he says, has only seen two worse brain injuries in his career.  “C’mon, kid,” I say, “Fight.”  “It’s not a matter of him fighting,” the nurse says, “it’s simply a matter of how much his brain will swell.”

It was the night before, the night it happened.  He was just riding in the car with his mom.  She was going into town.  She was on her side of the road.  She heard the screeching of the tires, but  those curvy Nevada County roads can be unforgiving.  There was no shoulder, only a bank.  She had no where to go but straight into the car.

The man driving was having a good time.  He was wasted on beer, out joyriding.  He was not hurt on impact.  He got out of the car.  “Help me,” my sister-in-law called to him.  “My son is trapped.  My son won’t wake up.” The drunk guy just ran away.

I had another brother once, too.  He was just going through a green light on his motorcycle when a drunk lady ran the light at the intersection.  Killed instantly, they told me.  Never felt a thing.  I was six.  I wrote him a note and asked my mom for a helium balloon, so I could send it to him.  My family has felt sad ever since.  My nephew is named after that dead brother.  His parents wanted the name to go on, at least.

For forty eight hours I watch the inner cranial pressure on my nephew’s read out climb and climb.  I watch his pupils become fixed and dilated.  I watch his mother, face bruised from the impact of the steering wheel, sob over him, beg God to save her baby.

I think of the times I’ve driven after a drink or two.  Not going very far, I think.  I’ll be extra careful.  I’ll drive slow.  I think of the time a few weeks ago I tried to talk a girlfriend out of driving.  I argued, but I didn’t take her keys away.  Didn’t want to get her mad, after all.  Didn’t want to push the issue too far.

I go in the conference room with the neurosurgeon and my brother and sister-in-law.  They tell us my nephew is brain dead.  We sign the papers for organ donation.  My brother goes to tell my niece, the boy’s twelve year old big sister and best friend, that her brother won’t wake up.  I go hold my nephew’s hand for a little longer.  From now on, I tell him, I’m gonna be militant.  From now on I’ll yank those keys away.  I’ll just picture the ventilator, the fixed and dilated pupils, the readings of the inner cranial pressure. I’ll remember the un-erasable double sadness of my family.  “Get out of your car!” I’ll say.  “You’re not driving.”  I won’t worry about getting anyone mad.  From now on it’ll be easy.


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Filed under Community, Essays, Polemics, politics

Cultural Honesty: A Polemic

“In every culture in decline, the watchful ones among the slaves know that all that is genuine will be scorned or conned or cast away.” Joni Mitchell

Recently, this blurb has been circulating Facebook: “As a child I saw Tarzan almost naked, Cinderella arrived home after midnight, Pinocchio told lies, Aladdin was a thief, Batman drove over 200 miles an hour, Snow White lived in a house with 7 men, Popeye smoked a pipe and had tattoos, Pac Man ran around to digital music while eating pills that enhanced his performance, and Shaggy and Scooby were mystery solving hippies that always had the munchies. The fault is not mine! If you had this childhood and loved it, repost.”

I got a good chuckle out of this.  In the days that followed my reading it, one line kept echoing in my head.  Pinocchio told lies.  Pinocchio told lies.  Like most people I know, I was raised with the ninth commandment in mind.  Yet I’ve grown so used to people—or more likely institutions–lying to me that I take it for granted.  Maybe God should have used simpler language with that commandment.

Take for instance  my sons’ schools.  Two different middle schools, both with good reputations.  One is more alternative; one is more traditional.  Like most schools I’ve visited over thirty years of parenting, volunteering, and teaching, most of the faculty and staff care deeply about their students. Yet both schools lie to the parents.  In the midst of a domestic war on education, I can’t help but wonder if more parents would rise to defend the institutions if the institutions respected parent and child by practicing the virtue of honesty.  (For more on the war on education, see my earlier polemic “Mourning the War on Education” at

The schools lie about different things. One lies about volunteering, changing the very essence of the word to include the connotation mandatory.  Volunteering for school fundraisers is mandatory. Meetings in the evening are mandatory.  Some parents I know put the word in quotes when they use it.  A public school can’t force parents to help, and it can’t single handedly change the definition of a time honored word that means people choose to come help, either for a given project or on an ongoing basis. If I’m choosing to do it, it can’t be mandatory.  This language is somewhat simpler than the ninth commandment, but parents are already confused about the true meaning of volunteer. Recently the school even told parents what they could and could not wear when they volunteered, and that rankled some of them. Personally, I prefer to volunteer for people and institutions that do not lie to me.  (That’s why I don’t volunteer at the community radio station any more.)

The other school is one of many that lies about vaccines, telling parents they are mandatory.  (There’s that word again.) Vaccinations are mandatory in some states, but in Cali parents still have some rights in regards to their children, and one of those is called a personal exemption in the case of vaccines.  No matter where you stand on the vaccine issue, the law is in place that gives parents this right. With the recent alarm about the rise in whooping cough cases, California health departments and most public schools are lying to parents, saying their children are required to get the vaccine and not mentioning the waiver.

Currently AB 499 sits on Jerry Brown’s desk.  If he signs it, my 12 year old and thousands of others in Cali will be able to get injections of Gardasil without parental consent.  The senators and congressfolk who passed the bill didn’t seem to mind that this means that children would be lying to their parents.  After all, the parents might not be good parents; they probably lie, too, or else they might just be clueless.  So the state steps in and manages the lying for the students and the parents.  (If you want more information about Gardasil, one source is the page “Seriously Concerned about Gardasil” on Facebook. )

Many evenings at the farm Mr. Lightcap and I indulge in passionate political discussion.  We can’t seem to help it. A recent focus of our Green-Libertarian frettings and musings could be summed up with one rhetorical question: When should the state step in and manage its people?  We watched Warren Jeffs pick up his child bride to French kiss her.  We thought, hmmmm. Is that a good time for the state to step in?  Wasn’t Jeffs lying to her and the whole community by saying that pedophilia was a normal part of worshipping their god?  Who if not the state should step in? Where does being unconventional intersect with being deviant, and who defines these things for a culture?

Perhaps in this era of cultural decline and economic malaise the meaning of the word volunteer is actually changing to include the meaning of the word mandatory. Personally I’ll dig my heels in on that one, because I like the old meaning of the word.  And perhaps the state needs to step in and force sometimes lethal injections on children because the parents are so incredibly misguided.  In that case, they need to change the law and follow due process. Perhaps AB 499 is a back door to making those changes.

Last night I went to see the San Francisco Mime Troupe for the 7th year in a row. Every year their theme and show is different, but every year it somehow involves how the government and corporations are lying to us.  Last night, with their play “2012 The Musical,” they delved into the greasy world of the green-washed nonprofit, wisely warning their viewers that any institution—any institution—with “Inc.” in the back of its name should be watched with hawk-like eyes.  Having been lied to and manipulated by both profit and non profit corporations alike, I can’t help but start tapping my foot to the old Smokey Robinson tune: “I second that emotion.”

When I was a kid I had a recording of someone reading The Emperor’s New Clothes.  It came with a book, and I’d sit there for hours rereading and relistening.  I couldn’t believe it got so bad that the king was actually walking down the street naked. Why didn’t anyone speak up before the little kid did?  These days, voices like the kid’s  and the Mime Troupe’s are few and far between, voices that dare call the emperor naked and ask for systemic change, voices that dare ask our elected employees to be honest with us, voices that dare ask for truth and not lies in advertising. What will it take, how bad will it get before we all dig our heels in and tell our schools, our government, and our corporations: Enough!  I don’t know to what extent I’ll find the courage.  But I think I can manage the tiny clear voice I remember on the phonograph:  “Mama, he doesn’t have any clothes on. Mama, why isn’t anyone saying anything? “

Misusing words and circumventing laws are two things that hurt my heart.  But the dishonesty the system has us swimming in makes my soul ache.  “Maybe that’s what souls are for,” John Trudell writes, “to take the hurt the heart can’t take.” I hope the next time I have the courage to speak truth in a clear, tiny voice that one of you will speak up with me.  If we all speak together, our voice will not be tiny, and our message will be crystal clear.  I’ll hold out some hope for that for a while yet.


Filed under Education, Essays, Polemics, politics, Uncategorized