Freedom and the assertion of the true self

We are all prisoners, bounded by the limits of our skin and our society. Anytime we take liberties with our self-determination, there’s always someone to say we are being reckless, stupid, naive, brave. My own mother, may her memory be blessed, who felt the cold hand of murderous oppression at the hands of the Nazis, often warned me to be careful in my criticism of government, to be wary of the direction my literary fingers pointed, lest there arose in our government an enemy of free thought.

While I’ve always been somewhat dismissive of those concerns, given our country’s promise of liberty and free expression, I respected the dire circumstances from which her fear arose. Truth be told, I’m more afraid of the unpredictability of the populace than I am of our government, and that is a direct result of her experience.

Perhaps paradoxically, another important lesson I learned from my mother, through her own behavior, is if something is bothering me about the actions of my community, I will not let it pass. With some discretion, I echo her words. “What am I supposed to do,” she would ask, rhetorically, “sit there and say nothing?”

I started this blog ten years ago, this month, in reaction to the reelection of George W. Bush. Although I did some campaign work for the Democrats in 2004, I felt that I didn’t do enough, say enough, risk enough, to have a part in changing the direction of a government lassoed by our cowboy president and his chortling arms tycoon, Cheney. I could no longer “sit there and say nothing.”

That brings me to the tragic events in Paris, Wednesday, when Stéphane Charbonnier, the editor of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hedbo, and a team of committed cartoonists were murdered, just for presenting a wry view of the relationship between fundamentalism and a free society. He refused to stop, even after the paper’s offices were firebombed in 2011.

“I’d rather die standing than live on my knees,” Charbonnier famously said, a few months later, when he published another provocative issue.

They had something to say, these journalists. They could not say nothing, even though it was obvious their government could not protect them. Like abortion doctors in America, who continue doing what they believe is right, despite the threats and website “most wanted” lists, they took precautions and kept publishing. It was their nature. “You cannot say, ‘I will not fight,'” the Bhagavad Gita advises, “Your nature will compel you to.”

Being true to one’s nature is being true to one’s self, to an inescapable purpose. That is the freedom for which all who express through words and pictures strive. For ten years I’ve wanted Prose and Thorn to be “the prick that makes you think.” My pricks are bumps compared to the gang at Charlie Hedbo, where the skill of the witty provocateur is not only in holding a mirror up to the foibles of a dysfunctional society, but in the fear and the worry that runs beneath the drollness of a phrase like, “100 lashes for you if you don’t die laughing.”

Laughing is a good idea, or crying or dreaming if it helps you. Just express, and assert your true self.




America’s most embarrassing moments

It’s not a TV show – yet. Our governments and societies enact some of the most shame inducing police actions, laws and traditions, all in our name.

Are you embarrassed to be an American, sometimes?

What do you think America’s most embarrassing moments are?

Black Holes: No One Dies Alone

“Saddam Hussein’s execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops.” W

How Does One Death End the Turmoil of Others?

It is as if a trio of black holes opens in the earth to swallow each, single soul, and the vast expanse of light and life in their influence is sucked in by their gravity. Now I stand over these hungry, dark funnels, holding on to the pieces of myself being stretched by the heavy pull of a dead Entertainer, a dead Ex-president and a dead Dictator.

In the universe of the Entertainer, there is joy in the loss because even those who slide into the gravity of his void hear his music echo all the way down. When he was laid out in a famous Harlem theatre, the Apollo, it seemed impossible that his repose was not just an act, that he would not just leap out of the box, the house lights go down and the kliegs light the stage as he shook off his slumber, and he would assure us that he feels good. We knew that he would.

Meanwhile, the strained, expanding funerary experience of the Ex-president kept growing to suck us in, like a sad reality show, even if we didn’t want it to. Politics may know how to throw a party, but they really know how to throw a funeral. In all the platitudes of the week-long cortege, the one that sticks in my mind is my wife’s. “He was the last, least scary Republican president,” she said from the slick footing on the edge of the black hole where we stood before we too were sucked in by coverage that lasted almost as long as the man’s term as president.

Finally, a quagmire has quickly become a black hole deeper into which we are drawn by the death of the Dictator. As if the field of black holes begun by the deaths of more than 3,000 American service men and women, and astronomical numbers of Iraqis and Afghans killed in the last five years wasn’t enough, their universes have now converged to suck in the Dictator’s noosed carcass like a snake eating a watermelon.

The problem is, though, that the black hole is even bigger than before, and unfortunately, it is poised to swallow even more bloody fodder the White House now proposes to feed it. We can only hope that Feeder-W (Fiddle-gee-doo) and Feeder-DC (Fiddle-dee-cee) stand so close to the edge as to succumb to the gravity in a pit of their own design.

And because of the expanded gravity created by the Dictator’s death, Fiddle-gee-doo’s claim that it marks the end of a terrible year unfortunately means it is the beginning of a worse one.

So you best secure all your values. Fiddle-gee-doo and Fiddle-dee-cee are claiming no responsibility for any loss or damage to your values due to the dark vortexes while your ass is parked in their country.