Heed them.

December 25, 2011

What is to be done?

 "Come the fuck on." - Ron Paul

I participated in Occupy, and continue to champion it's cause, because in it I saw a frustration and a hope that I shared. Hope. It's a phrase that's been cheapened by our warmongering president; But I know real hope when I see it. Occupy itself, like all street protests, was a bit of theater. It exposed our growing paramilitary police state and what kind of free speech the U.S. feels threatened by.  It was quite telling. But it also served(and continues to serve) as a confluence of groups with similar interests- A kind of unofficial New New deal coalition. Organized labor from various sectors, Vietnam veterans, retired police, pilots, Iraq veterans, Socialists, Communists, Anarchists, Direct Actioners, Peace activists, Anti-finance activists, Anti-corruptionists, the Wobblies, and Ron Paul supporters.

I was initially annoyed to see Ron Paul supporters. At the protest I went to they had plenty of big, official campaign shit, including a huge blue Ron Paul 2012 banner. On one hand, I knew that Ron Paul supporters are rabid, so I wasn't surprised. On the other hand, I didn't see how supporting a candidate in 2012 should be any part of Occupy. We were taking to the streets because that was the only way to get heard- not because we already knew who we were going to vote for in 2012. Ironically, it didn't occur to me until now, as I'm considering registering Republican and voting for Ron Paul in the primaries, that this is exactly how Grassroots activism works. Networking.

It's not an easy decision I've come to. I was(and still am, to a certain extent) suspicious of Ron Paul. He's a adopted Texas as his home state and made state's rights a big part of his platform- which to me reads as Confederate.(If anyone told you the civil war ended, they're lying) He's a self-identified Libertarian and believes in the free market and deregulation, which to me reads as Idiot. And he has come out against all Abortion. Understandably, these facts mean "check mate" to many liberals, in the Case against Ron Paul.

And this is the space my mind 'occupied' up until about a week ago. O-bomb-a's ramping up of everything bad about the Bush years is a disaster for this country, but there's no progressive challenge within the party, and Ron Paul's a confederate dinosaur who doesn't respect Women's rights. So what is to be done? Absolutely Nothing. Something kept repeating in my head then- "At least he's against war."

At least he's against war; and that's no small thing. Ron Paul(along with only Kucinich, who's not challenging Obama) is so consistently against war, watching him talk about it is like watching some draft-card burner in the World War One era. Honestly, it's quite a sight- and Foreign Policy is an area where this country needs someone with old-fashioned ideas like respect for National Sovereignty, Non-Interventionism, and Nationalism. Unless Globalism has been working out just great for you, and I don't think I'm alone here; I'm only interested in the conditions of this country.

And it's not just these low-calorie invasions and occupations and bombings of poor Arab countries that the U.S. has been doing. The DEA, the CIA and the FBI have also been participating in(on both sides, at times) a war that it's even more laughable and unwinnable than the "war on terrorism; " the War on Drugs. Again, watching Ron Paul speak against these things is like watching a man from the pre-prohibition era of Morphine tinctures in soda and Coca toothache treatments. It's yet another area where 19th century ideas and ideals are vastly superior to whatever the fuck we're doing now- when drugs used to be a matter between citizens, doctors and pharmacists. Again, this is a big deal- even though our culture has become more pro-cannabis, almost no elected official speaks out for ending the drug war in it's entirety.

Ron Paul being against abortion is barely excusable in my eyes. But one thing to keep in mind is simple pragmatism. Roe v. Wade won't be overturned until a series of conservative presidents appoint pro-life supreme court justices(and they're trying) over a series of decades. Paul, if elected, might be able to appoint one. But a nationwide ban on abortion is a long way off. Which scratches the surface of a larger point to be made- When electing a president, it's not important that you like them, or that they be right about each and every thing. You have to look at what they actually intend to do, and their priorities, which very few did in 2008.

Paul's views on environmental regulation are terrible, or I should say his view; get rid of them. More financial deregulation would bring about even more shanty-towns and tent-cities in this country. Paul has said Charity should be left up to the private sector(read, not done.) However, having worked as a physician, he has vowed not to touch Medicare or Social Security except as a last order of business; because he has seen how much people rely on those programs. A Paul presidency wouldn't do any favors for the poor, but at least he's hands-off. Even Obama has "entitlement reform" as a pressing issue.

Instead of nominating and electing the prettiest, least offensive candidate like hopesters did in 2008, and like GOPsters are threatening to do in the 2012 primaries(with Romney,) consider what the president is actually capable of, what he intends to do, and what are his first priorities. You're not electing a king; Ron Paul even mentions a time when when the president didn't have unchecked power- but maybe he's bullshitting.

In the end, for whatever else would come about, a 4-year Ron Paul presidency would mean, right away:

U.S. troops out of everywhere.
The end of the War on Drugs.
The end of the USA PATRIOT act.

Though I'm no globalist- imagine how amazing of a gesture that would be to the rest of the world. And that's why I'm doing the unthinkable, and registering Republican to vote for Ron Paul in the primaries and the election. It's not hope; but it is change.

December 18, 2011

Demilitarize Atheism

 Pictured Above: Armed Atheist, Christopher Hitchens, kicking it with some Kurds.

Born in 1987, my life occupies a unique period in American history. 9/11 happened when I was in 9th grade. The world of adults which I still feel hostile to insisted to me that 9/11 changed everything. I wasn't so sure that it would, but then they made sure that it would, whether I liked it or not. The invasion of Iraq in 2003 happened when I was in 11th grade. I attended a walk-out and protest march in Towson, Maryland. The demonstration was small and I was discouraged by that. (I wouldn't find out until much later on that the worldwide Iraq war protests were some of the largest protests in history) November 2004, when the Bush v. Kerry v. Nader elections took place, I was still 17 and couldn't vote. (That's the only way I can absolve the guilt I feel on behalf of my country) I was shocked when Bush was re-elected.

It was impossible to believe. While I still suspect there was voting fraud(even beyond the electoral college systems existence,) there was more evil at work. The depraved and contrived religious right voting block had been responsible for getting Bush "elected" in 2000, and they showed up in gobs to re-up in 2004, along with those nauseating "independent" voters who voted for Bush again on some ridiculous premise("He's not a flip-flopper!") The religious and the stupid were responsible for this.

This is when I started to interpret my Atheism as something socially important and even revolutionary. The extent of my intellectual position beforehand was "religious people are stupid and brainwashed." That's a fine position, if you're trying to get some blonde female christian classmate to stop telling you that you're going to hell, but not good for debating with religionists on equal terms. After getting out of high school I began to research Atheist talking points and well known Atheist intellectuals past and present. One rose above the rest, in my eyes; Christopher Hitchens.

Hitchens' arguments and debates against religion and fundamentalism were just what I was looking for. It was music to my ears to hear someone of international acclaim debate modern religious figures using his own great knowledge of history and culture. (I always found the scientific arguments from the likes of Dawkins and others to be boring[however true]) Hitchens was a formidable world-class debater against the false claims of religion and it's protected place in society. One thing he never quite convinced me of was anything else that he believed. Namely, that the invasion of Iraq was a good idea.

I'm not the only one. When Atheists aren't psychopaths or soulless objectivists they tend to be humanists; or as the very least, pragmatists. Humanists; or at the very least, pragmatists- can't support crusades and wars. Even in the immediate wake of Hitchens' death,  he was recieving sharp criticism about his support for Iraq and other military conflicts past and present, and rightly so. Most criticism refers to his 'mixed legacy,' since he's such a legend as an Atheist but nuisance as a war-monger.

Atheism is an unusual tradition because there's no way to say that a fellow Atheist is wrong about anything. It's unlike Religion in that there're no texts or traditions to argue over. Hitchens' was a militant Atheist and a militant... militant. The more aggressive takedowns of Hitchens call him and opportunist and an imperialist. I'm not sure they're wrong. I think he saw Afghanistan and Iraq as crusades against Islam. To him it was, as he put it, fighting 'Fascism with an Islamic face.' To his credit, he wasn't picking on Islam disproportionately- he ran his own one man crusade against all religions.

And his militant, but not literally militant, crusade against all religions was the battle I thought was worth fighting, and I meakly tried to fight it myself, by debating young religious people on my friends' college campuses.  Atheism was also a cornerstone of The New Low News Show. In one of our episodes, we confronted the now defunct militant Atheist organization the Rational Response Squad, and came down on the right side of history.

But after a couple of years of fire and brimstone I started to switch gears. The battle against the religious didn't seem as relevant after Hitchens wrote his opus God is not great. It was good symbolic climax, and then I started to think about other things. The religious right voting block seemed to more or less get swallowed up in something else, and the new religion appeared to be hope and change; Obamaism. I was facing new enemies with different false claims and I started to argue for Progressive politics above all else. I was annoyed and angered over the personality cult surrounding Obama, and spoke out against it, but ultimately 'hope' defeated me.

Atheism didn't seem so revolutionary or important anymore. Obama, to his credit, even mentioned 'non-believers' in his inauguration speech.  Obama was a strange enemy- someone who was called a socialist, but was really a financial sector conservative, by international standards. I wasn't sure how I would fight this battle. I found my outlet, eventually, in the Occupy movement. 'What're you guys protesting? The international banking and finance oligarchy which continually exploits the working man and the deprived man all throughout the word? Yeah, I  I could get behind that.'

I was surprised, when I was at the protests, to see dark and light skinned muslims, wearing veils and the traditional garb. I saw Orthodox jews, too. Those were only the religious people I could visually identify. And this is the protest in New York City when 700 people including me were arrested on the Brooklyn bridge. I felt strongly about the Occupy movement and so did certain religious people. I didn't think much of it at the time until I got home and had time to ruminate on the fact.

I had always assumed Atheism to be something revolutionary and extremely important, because of it's implications, and because of the negative implications of religion. I had assumed that every Atheist was an Atheist in the manner I was- a humanitarian, or at least a pragmatist, who wanted to fight the forces of old and evil. It's best summed up in this quote from the wildly unpopular Atheist Madalyn Murray O'hair:

"An Atheist knows that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist knows that a deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanquished, war eliminated."

But that's not the case. Many Atheists are spiteful brats. Many Atheists are greedy. Many Atheists are so 'skeptical' they can't even spare a smidgeon of hope to do something good and righteous. They know who they are. They stay at home, do their drug of choice and get on the internet, figuring that this is their only life, so they might as well enjoy it. I want to to tell them this is their only life, so they might as well use it.

And on the other hand Religious belief is not always a force for evil. The subtitle for Hitchens' God is Not Great is 'How Religion Poisons Everything.' It was only when I had some time away from my Atheistic fervor when I realized that was an imbecilic statement. Religion is make-pretend, obviously, but it doesn't poison everything. I used to revel in a Hitchens quote like "Faith is weakness." You know what? No it's not. Weakness is weakness, and it comes in infinite varieties.

More importantly, courage is courage, and wherever is comes from is righteous. Even if it's not technically factually correct; countless good people use religion as a source for courage or strength. At the risk of contradicting myself, I don't think religious people are bad, in fact; they always seem to appear as if out of thin air when social justice is being demanded. I know that the Atheists personal moral compass is superior to the religionists since the Atheist isn't seeking reward- but that doesn't always translate into doing better(or any) deeds.

I'm not that militant variety of Atheist anymore; I can't be. Martin Luther Kings religious convictions must have and had to play a role in his activism and political progressivism. Interestingly, there were black atheists who were just as committed to the cause(Namely: A Phillip Randolph, Bayard Rustin.) Essentially, I think denouncing political activism just because it comes from a religion, or assuming that  it would've happened anyway- is bad policy. It's better to realize that Religion is but one factor in a persons character and their predilections, and occasionally; a major one.

As Frederick Douglass said:

 "I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong."

December 03, 2011

Occupy Zion

I normally avoid all discussion of the United States, Israel, and Palestine; and the history, conflicts, and issues therein; because the debate is always full of emotion on both sides that I have no emotional stake in. Now I do. This scoop from Max Blumenthal details how Israeli security forces trained United States policemen in their coordinated eviction of Occupy camps.

The United States gives aid, weaponry and preferential treatment to Israel on the premise that Israel is the only democracy in the middle east, and therefore the only middle eastern country that harbors and protects human rights. When Israel attacks Palestinians, or it’s own people, and is called out on its patent human rights abuses; it asserts that those human rights abuses are actually acts of self-defense.

And the logic goes, if you don't support Israel's right to self-defense, you don't support Israeli statehood.
By questioning Israel you are threatening it’s existence- making yourself an Anti-Zionist, and Anti-Zionism is Anti-Jew. Even if you, the supposed Anti-Zionist are yourself a Jew or Jewish-American, you are simply attacked as a “self-hating Jew.”

[Pro-tip: "self-hating" people are more likely to be correct, anyways, since they don't desire to exonerate themselves.)

Is there no way to be Anti-Israel in America without it being misconstrued as racism? I'm not Anti-Jew, since I don't consider “Jew” an important ethnic distinction(ooooh does that make me a Nazi, Anti-Zionist, or ordinary bigot? take your pick.) I'm not an Anti-Zionist, since I don't care one way or the other about Israel or it's right to exist, and I certainly don't care about a Biblical or Koranic mandate. I don't care about any country other than the United States. And the Israeli regime are bad people whose relationship with America, my country, is toxic and deleterious.

The same is true of the United States relationship with Saudi Arabia and other regressive regimes- the difference here is that Saudis aren’t coming onto our land and training our own police officers, on our dime. (although they are partly responsible for some other bullshit)

When a United States Marines Veteran is protesting financial crime and inequality after having fought for Wall Street's(definite) and Israel’s (supposed) best interests; is then critically injured by police officers who've been trained by Israeli security forces, with paramilitary 'less lethal' weaponry- I kind of take it personally.

I'm not and never was very interested in the supposed crimes of Israel against Palestinians or it's own people.  But now, Israel is guilty of conspiring to commit violent acts against American citizens. on United States Soil.

“Fucking Nazis. Nothing ever changes.”- Walter Sobchak, The Big Lebowski