Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Enemies List

The beak that wreaked havoc is pressed against brick,
As useless as the pistol of Bloody Bill Anderson
after his last Missouri rampage.
How many dreams in this Hannah-Barbera head
have ended with my fingers in the Gripmaster embrace
that bulges eyes, cuts tweets in mid-throat?
How many times have I roared at my pocket Kissinger
To add the next name, to start the next tape,
To find an effective new alias for vengeance
Only to mumble just under Henry's hearing,
"We could kill him, but that would be wrong."

A wish made manifest is vanity
But so is the hope for patterns in bodies
of dead birds, dead rebels
deleted names in the enemies list.

The funeral no doubt brings friends and relations
Armed with weapons creating a nail-gun chorus
Overwhelming my screams to my pocket Kissinger
Enemies large and small fly as fast as woodpeckers,
Who use strips from the list to line their nest.

Loring Wirbel
April 28, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Pot-Kettle-Black and the Arizona Problem

Some Arizonans were out in force April 25, denouncing Gov. Jan Brewer and thanking Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon for warning out-of-staters not to come to Arizona if they're seniors or under 16. But others, maybe a majority given recent polls, were muttering at that damned Seth Meyers on Saturday Night Live, for having the audacity to suggest that the real Nazis in the debate over SB1070 were not Obama and the Justice Department, but the residents of Arizona that approved the "track aliens" bill. "Hey Arizona," Meyers said. "You know who says 'Show me your papers'? Nazis. Hitler even gets a commission every time someone says 'Show me your papers.' Arizona: It's a dry fascism, but it's fascism."

I get sick of name-calling, admittedly, but I have two bigger problems that loom larger than both the current immigration bill and how Americans fear the unknown and those that are different. My problems stem from the 1992-93 era when Colorado was referred to as the "Hate State" after passing the notoriously homophobic Amendment 2. Rationally, Coloradans should have admitted their stupidity when the nation reacted in anger. Instead, they (I can't say we) circled the wagons. What's happened to the notion of publicly admitting you're wrong, maybe admitting you're a moron?

First, Americans don't easily grasp that democracy does not mean the majority rules. It means majority rules in the context of preservation of minority rights. Therefore, any legislation initiated by legislators or citizen initiative is bound to be overturned if it seeks to take away rights from a certain class of people. As well it should. You cannot take away rights from people by popular acclaim - even from undocumented aliens. I might add that conservatives who defend the Arizona law say that this is intended to make the federal government "get off its ass" in enacting immigration reform. Wait a minute, isn't this the same group of people that don't want any new federal laws, because they want lesser federal government at all times? Seems as confused in the role of the feds as the attitude of many tea-partiers regarding health care.

Second, whenever radicals, liberals, or even middle-of-the-roaders point this out to conservatives, the conservatives are ready to act shocked and talk about "liberal hate speech." The conservatives talk about liberals as oppressors. Is this attitude-projection, schizophrenia, or denial of reality? I am someone who doesn't particularly like liberals as they are traditionally defined, because they are compromising types who are unsure of their own value systems. Thus they are very unlikely to be spewing "hate speech," because they are the ones most likely to say, "Well, you may have a point..."

Closed-minded hate speech comes from people who have a high emotional content to what they are talking about, and those are people who are using fear and anger to point to a group of outsiders - such as illegal aliens. "Hate speech" comes from the likes of Beck, Coulter, Hannity, O'Reilly, Malkin, and Limbaugh. Sure, it can come from the left, I've seen Maher and Olbermann go overboard, but it's native to the right.

I love to chat with conservative friends, but I demand rational-based discourse of the type you might see from Eric Cantor, Rob Corker, Andrew Sullivan, precisely the types you don't hear on Hate Radio because they don't scream really loud. When conservative acquaintances start quoting Beck or Coulter, I say to them "I'm sorry, there's no there there. I'm sorry, but Seth Meyers is right. I'm not trying to engage in name-calling, and I won't call you tea-baggers. But I am telling you my limits of acceptance of crazy rights-denying shit like SB1070, and I am saying that if you reject rationalism and make decisions based on fear and anger, then you are just as mentally disturbed as the Saturday Night Live folks want to make you out to be."

That's not hate speech from me. That's reality-based riffing. Sorry if you don't get it.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Proliferating Sunshine, Navigating Grief

Curmudgeon took a vacation in mid-April, surrounded by sunshine and funny people, visiting Sanibel and Key West with Carol and her good buddy Patty. We hunted gators with Patty's husband Steve, visited old friends Chico and Pam and Annette, went snorkeling and took high-speed ferry service to the keys. You shoulda been there.

I learned a valuable lesson about the discernment between needful things and shiny objects, a key doctrinal distinction in the religion of the Loving Universe of Shiny Things:

Every laugh resonated from moment to moment, yet there were shoals of intense grief visible at every moment. They may not have impinged on vacation time, but they reinforced the idea that this practice of unconditional joy I rave about is something that must become a 24/7 occupation, helping anyone through their grief who can be helped, and recognizing when something is beyond your reach. I made some brief mental notes:


A flash mob of tears coalesces in river blindness
One nematode for the fun drained from every offhand remark,
Another nematode sucking blood from a hospice hand
with grasp so much stronger than any realization
left in clouded eyes
Larvae feed on each frustration
of a body pulled beneath your glassy surface of tears
of a body thrown under the little engine that could

Little engine crests the hill just the same
Telling the brakeman that satisfaction for a job well done,
the maddening flash burn of a joy that will not be extinguished
is the shortest path and toughest task, all at once.

Don't smear on the smile denial that he might be dead by Wednesday
Puncture the river blindness retinas, murmur I-think-I-can
and smile because he is dead by Wednesday
and because each nematode brings a pinprick of relief and joy.

Loring Wirbel
April 18, 2010

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Trucks Enough

The freeway exit two miles from my home was closed for 12 hours on April 7 when a tanker tipped over, spilling a load of gasoline. More than 35 hazardous materials trucks were aiding in the cleanup that evening.

Trucks Enough

Amber winks of welcome home
In cadence of three dozen hazmat trucks
Scarcely seem ominous.
Time for parades and fashion runways
Make way for ducklings.

Could this be a caribou’s backrub instinct,
Demanding shiatsu
From a Rosneft pipe segment?
Chakra release and comfort fuel,
They’re called organic chains, after all.

But then I remember the terror of carrying steaming posole
In a cracked purple tureen
Spillover burns, aromatics on the tongue
And wonder if there will ever be trucks enough.

Loring Wirbel
April 8, 2010

Friday, April 2, 2010

"And My Heart, Isabella.."

It's not like I usually experience any particular shivers in the early afternoon hours of Good Friday, though in previous years I'd try to participate in the Way of the Cross walk for justice. It's not like I care about Pope Benedict's scandals or the stages of Catholic guilt, particularly being a mediocre Protestant for whom guilt is worth little more than a punchline or two. But the sky clouded over at 1 p.m. April 2, and I could feel every effort at trying to slice through the grief experienced by proxy when I heard about Matthew Perry dealing with his Alzheimer's mother in Michigan. Grief is the dragon that unconditional joy is called upon to slay, and this shit's hard.

This was the kind of week that required One Great Big Conspiracy to be resurrected from the dead, to slay Guardians of the Free Republics while keeping one eye out for the Hutaree cult. This was the kind of week that required a rage against the iPad and all the fetishism it implied. This was the kind of week when I sat quietly listening to Bill Callahan sing mournful songs about "no love without obstacle." Obstacles are speedbumps or brick walls to route around or dragons to slay or the schism that makes the difference, and they are blessed. The straight line is the cheat, the obstacle is the path to love.

So stand by for a few hours of grief, no doubt to be followed by a weekend of sunshine and unconditional joy. Isabella, we are rising.