"The true civilization is where every man gives to every other every right that he claims for himself."
—Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899)
(Swans - August 1, 2011) AMUSING BUT NOT SURPRISING how the xenophobes, the chauvinists, the nationalists in a narrow sense, the folks who ignore fraternity and are fearful of their next-door neighbors that are not like them, white and "clean," people who indiscriminately throw the other under the bus, are distancing themselves from the Norwegian man who killed over 70 human beings one week ago. Here, in the USA, the likes of Coulter, Geller, Dershowitz, Pipes, et al. (sorry for not including links to their slime) promptly asserted that they had nothing to do with the deadly deed. The far-right movements in Europe joined in. They were not responsible for that lone "lunatic," who literally acted upon the hatred and the calls to killing (of Muslims) they keep advocating. Indeed, it is amusing and not surprising. Call repetitively for destruction of the other -- even nuclear-bomb the guilty countries and convert the survivors to Christianity (cf., Ann Coulter) -- and somewhere, somewhat, somehow, a lunatic, who is going to be defended by his attorneys as mentally incompetent or insane, will act and follow up on their words.
WORDS DO HAVE CONSEQUENCES. In the sewer from which these people operate, spilling hatred with abandon, a fire is being refueled again and again. They indeed are pyromaniacs. Glenn Beck compared the youth in that summer camp on Utoya Island to a Hitler-like indoctrination camp -- "the Hitler Youth." While being careful not to condone the carnage, these filthy characters embrace Anders Behring Breivik's rotten ideology. "He speaks the truth." "Some of the ideas [Breivik] expressed are good...some of them are great." "Freedom-loving anti-Islamization ideals..." On "a climactic conflict between a once-Christian West and an Islamic world that is growing in number and advancing inexorably into Europe for the third time in 14 centuries," the insufferable Pat Buchanan wrote, "on this one Breivik may be right." Pause for a moment to compare this filth with the dignified comments by Jens Stoltenberg, the Norwegian prime minister: "The Norwegian response to violence is more democracy, more openness and greater political participation. ... I think what we have seen is that there is going to be one Norway before and one Norway after July 22. But I hope and also believe that the Norway we will see after will be more open, a more tolerant society than what we had before." Or compare the filth with the words of the mayor of Oslo, Fabian Stang: "I don't think security can solve problems. We need to teach greater respect." Which side are you on -- more hatred, more security-state powers, more surveillance, more violence?
TALKING ABOUT STATE POWERS, you are all aware that the Obama administration, style aside, has been a continuation of Bush's (okay, with the exception of the reversal on stem cell research). But in one domain Obama has been far more aggressive than Bush: the pursuit of whistleblowers. Steven Aftergood of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists has been documenting the virulent efforts of the Obama administration to deter whistleblowers, from Julian Assange to government officers, for a couple of years and with much concern for our fast-diminishing freedoms. One case of particular interest is that of Thomas Andrews Drake, a man who was a senior official at the National Security Agency, a 15-year military veteran, and who went through an ordeal that lasted almost four years as he was accused by the government of having disseminated classified information regarding waste and fraud to a reporter at The Baltimore Sun. He had not.
IN NOVEMBER 2007, the FBI raided Drake's house. In April 2010, two and one-half years later, he was indicted with 10 felony charges. More than a year later, on June 9, 2011, the government dropped all 10 charges. Drake and his defenders agreed to a misdemeanor charge of "exceeding authorized use of a government computer." He was sentenced to one year of probation, 240 hours of community service, and to a mandatory $25 "special assessment" (the prosecutors had asked for a $50,000 fine). Thomas Drake was five years away from getting a pension for his service to the government. He lost his job; he lost his benefits; he lost his military pension; he spent over $80,000 in legal fees; he ended up working as a sales person at an Apple computer store. He and his wife, children, parents, and friends went through four years of hell so that the Obama administration can force potential whistleblowers to remain silent. Drake was innocent. He only wanted to raise the issue of fraud, waste, and abuse. For this, he was destroyed. The judge in the case, Richard D. Bennett, was incensed. He spoke highly critically about the government's behavior, closing the matter thus: "And Mr. Drake, as to that, this matter is closed and I wish you the best of luck in the rest of your life." A decent judge...a life ruined...progressives will vote for Obama in 2012...few, very few care. (Read the transcript of the judgment (PDF), courtesy of Secrecy News.
I'M NOT SURPRISED. The American justice system is about destroying people's lives. I know it. I've experienced the calamity. In July 2004, cops stopped me in Santa Rosa, CA. They accused me of Driving Under the Influence (aka, drunk driving). They made me stand on my right leg, which had been severed in a motorcycle accident and rendered me slightly disabled. They shouted at me. They pushed me back and forth violently because their breath analyzer was not registering any high number in spite of my repetitively blowing in that device. They brought me to a hospital, telling me to sign a consent form before being administered a blood test. I refused because I could not read the fine lines (they had refused to give me my reading glasses). They could have requested to do a urine test. They did not. I begged them to let me drive to their HQ. They refused. "Not on my roads," one of them said. They imprisoned me for a full night. They impounded my loving Priam. They treated me like garbage. I still cannot find the emotional stamina to relate the entire story. It took a year to clear my name. In the meantime my driver license was suspended because I had refused the blood test (but they had not given me a urine test), in the midst of my move from Menlo Park in the SF Bay Area to Boonville, forcing Jan to take time off work to drive me back and forth to multiple court sessions and going through 6 or 9 district attorneys (I'd need to check my file) who were vying for a conviction. We spent something like $5,000 dollars to settle the case; and the settlement made me agree to a lesser charge -- reckless driving -- that tripled my car insurance premium for three years. So, yes, I can empathize with Mr. Drake. The American injustice system is not about improving society. It is about destroying it. And both Mr. Drake and I are very lucky to have a white skin complexion.
LET ME END WITH a more joyful picture. I turned 61 on July 24 -- not a day to be celebrated, but for the fact that it turned out to be a sensational one. First, the day before, Perle and Farzin Shadpour flew from Seattle, WA, to Oakland, rented a car, and drove to our home in Boonville. I've known Perle for the entire 32 years of her life. She is as intimate to me as a daughter would be. I was very close to her father, Bernard Deutsch. When Bernard died in 1984, I helped Perle, her sister Fleur, and their mother Gin as much as I could (Fleur is my goddaughter). Bernard was Jewish; Gin, Catholic; both atheists. Unbeknown to me and for whatever reason Perle developed a Jewish identity, which she revealed to me during a visit in December 2004. I kind of opened my eyes with a shade of incredibility (how do you say soupçon in English?) but took it for granted. Acceptation defines love. Eventually, Perle and Farzin got married. They gave me the joy and the honor to be their witness at their civil marriage in San Francisco. Their religious marriage took place later on in Los Angeles, where Farzin's parents reside. I did not attend, not being Jewish or an otherwise believer. Life, love, and acceptation went on as it should be.
SO, ON SATURDAY, Perle and Farzin showed up. The first thing I noticed once Perle got out of the rental car was her chubbiness. I did not dare say a word -- "keep your mouth shut, Gilles, or as so often you'll put your mouth where it should not be" (i.e., up one's ass). It turns out that she was pregnant and will give birth to a baby boy in September. She wanted to let me know in person, not by phone or e-mail. So, I'm going to become a grandfather (sort of) after all... The next thing was about Farzin. In December 2009, the day before their wedding, Perle and Farzin had dinner at our rental apartment in San Francisco. Farzin would not eat anything when our dogs were around the table. Neither would he eat when brie (a cheese loved by French people) was on the table. I recall being upset and letting Perle know. So, this time around, I wondered how to deal with the dogs. The cheese conundrum was easy. Simply do not serve any. Jan cooked a wonderful kosher meal with sweet salmon, grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes, homegrown salad, homemade bread, sorbet for dessert, and apple tart (baked by Perle). But what about the dogs? I thought. How can I have the dogs and Farzin as far apart as possible?
SURE ENOUGH, Farzin was not comfortable with our canine companions and at first stayed away from them, but he accepted having them around -- just not too close to him. Yet, within hours he began greeting, and even caressing, brushing, and feeding them. Talk about the persuasive power of Perle, and Farzin's acceptation of our reality and discovering the joy of dogs. It was simply a beautiful sight. The next morning was a peaceful and loving birthday. We got delivery of The New York Times, which was deposited in the new blue paper box that I have installed (Jan was supposed to write about the latest saga but could not do it in time due to many engagements). Then, I was treated to the last stage of the Tour de France (readers of mine are aware of my devotion to cycling). Following was the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Germany. By the time Farzin and Perle departed to drive back to San Francisco and catch a flight back home, I watched the Indy car race in Edmonton, Ontario; and the pleasure culminated with the MotoGP race in Laguna Seca, near Monterey, CA. What a day!
STILL, MORE WAS TO COME. The next morning I received an e-mail from Femi Akomolafe. Guess what, the e-mail said: I'm in California, visiting my brother who lives near Sacramento... Femi was 180 miles away or so, much closer than his home in Ghana. A couple of days, e-mails, and phone calls later, Femi, his wife, son, and brother were up here. I suppose that Femi wanted to verify that this Gallic loner with tantrums galore was a real living creature and not some robot in cyberspace. Two and one-half hours later, after much laughter and the sharing of anecdotes, and having noticed that I was indeed a human being en chair et en os and the publisher/co-editor of Swans Commentary, they departed, leaving me once again to my reclusive life with my cats and dogs.
PERLE, FARZIN, AND FEMI, in their incredible diversity, reminded me that there is a life and a world beyond hatred. They epitomize what is possible, the acceptation and embrace of the other -- that is us. Look at their smiles. Look!
. . . . .
C'est la vie...
And so it goes...
La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a difference for Swans.
Feel free to insert a link to this work on your Web site or to disseminate its URL on your favorite lists, quoting the first paragraph or providing a summary. However, DO NOT steal, scavenge, or repost this work on the Web or any electronic media. Inlining, mirroring, and framing are expressly prohibited. Pulp re-publishing is welcome -- please contact the publisher. This material is copyrighted, © Gilles d'Aymery 2011. All rights reserved.
Have your say
Do you wish to share your opinion? We invite your comments. E-mail the Editor. Please include your full name, address and phone number (the city, state/country where you reside is paramount information). When/if we publish your opinion we will only include your name, city, state, and country.
About the Author