Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Diet Occupation

This is actually my first commentary on the Occupation in LA. I've taken quite some time to gather my thoughts, take in the various vibes, events and stories. End result: It's a diet occupation.
How fitting for LA to have a light, sugar free, decaf version of a political movement. Mind you, I don't want to completely discount it. There are some people that are working very hard to get things done, and to move forward.'s not moving forward. It's actually not really moving - it's a quite stationary movement.
Occupy LA is disorganized, discombobulated and too varied to make an impact. And that really sucks.
I live downtown and I've been down to the "campsite" several times. As you walk towards it, a myriad of signs and messages blast you. And they are all different. The Ron Paul fanatics have their chem trails signs searing blue against the dirty, grimy tents. You have the greenies hoisting tibetan prayer flags and imploring people to love their mother earth and recycle. You've got anarchists, socialists, communists and an arbitrary drum circle all clouding the political stage outside city hall that's already rank with compost, weed and B.O.
I spoke to three different tents regarding a presentation on corporate control and personhood that I wanted to give. It was like being on the phone with, ironically, a corporate help center. You need to talk to this person - oh, no not me, talk to this person - you know, whatever's cool, we're open to ideas, but talk to this person...AHHHHH!
I don't care how equal and PC you wanna be, but movements have to have a centralized leadership. The General Assembly that they hold every night at 7 is more like a come and air out your issues support group. No one is taking responsibility for this movement. No one is in charge. And in that same vein, this movement has no central focus.
Now, everyone has an issue that is the most important to them, that they feel trumps all others. That's fine. But understand the source of your issues. And no, I don't mean mommy and daddy. I mean corporate America. All issues: environment, education, health care, foreign policy, infrastructure, economy can all be traced to the corporate control of our government. Sound too simple and a little too conspiracy theorist? I don't want you to believe me. I want you to find out for yourself. Don't trust me - you don't even know me.
Ask Google. Ask Noam Chomsky. Ask Naomi Klein. Ask Amy Goodman. Ask former politicians, bankers, economists. Ask people that have more experience, more knowledge. I'm always searching for more information - always questioning the "facts." Read up and dig in. It's our country and that's our duty - to know what's going on with it.
And again, if on your way you find an issue that speaks deeper than others. Awesome. But know where it comes from, know the source.
Don't put a band-aid on cancer by screaming at politicians over troops in the Middle East. Understand that this thinly veiled democratic corporate crusade began on September 11, 1973 in Chile and has been ongoing ever since. Similar patterns arise in all the aforementioned issues.
This source connect, this common goal, is starkly missing from the Occupy movement. If leadership does not step up and claim a straight direction, this movement will fester and die in the muddy grass outside of City Hall.
And that would be a damn shame. Bringing people together is a feat, but mobilizing and effecting change is another battle that needs to be waged. And it needs to be waged now, before fleeting momentum crumples and the drone of nay-sayers and dark chuckle of corporate kings drowns out the intentions and passions of we, the people.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Death: black and white?

I imagine last words are all the more weighty when you've had 20 years to think of them. "I am innocent...May God have mercy on your souls." Those were the last words of Troy Davis just before he received lethal injection for a crime it's pretty clear he didn't commit. In 1989, he was convicted of killing a white off-duty cop in Georgia. No physical evidence was ever found to link him to the killing, and seven of the nine eye witnesses who placed Davis at the scene later recanted, some saying that police had pressured them into the conviction.
Over 1 million people signed a petition to save him, but to no avail. His case was never reopened, his innocence only questioned by those who did not have the power to answer.
It is a staggering example of the inefficiency and corruption within our justice system.
The same day that Davis was killed, Texas executed Lawrence Brewer, convicted in 1998 of dragging James Byrd, a black man, behind his truck and killing him. He was tattooed head to toe with KKK symbols and burning crosses. His last words? "I'd do it all over again."
So, here's the question. Did they both deserve to live?
My take: no. Now, I'm not willing to go full Hammurabi here, but I do feel that certain crimes are so senselessly horrific and some people so hopelessly warped in the head, that they do not deserve to live. The retort - who am I to make that call? Who is anyone to make that call? Who are 12 people to make the call to put a man in prison for 120 years? Who is anyone to make the call to send thousands of troops overseas? Let's not kid ourselves. We make that call everyday. The how-dare-you argument is defunct by our own human ways. We, as a people, have already taken lives into our hands. It is naive and sick to suggest that the sanctity of life should apply to convicts and not to 18 year old soldiers. The death penalty should not be abolished from our justice system. Corruption and trigger happy decision making should be.
And the argument that countries without the death penalty are safer and have less crime. Yeah, because these countries also have better education, economies, infrastructure and justice systems. We have a shit ton of work to do before we get to talking about the death penalty as the most shining example of our hedonism.
People like Brewer, or take Brian Steckel, put to death in 2005 for raping and setting a woman on fire in Delaware - even his defense attorney said that he was a "gruesome man," that his actions were calculated and made to serve his own thirst for fear and power over people. Steckel sent sick and menacing letters to the girls mother from jail, gloating and proud of his crime. So, here's the alternative: Brewer and Steckel and countless others stay alive, continue getting three square meals a day, shelter, continue gloating, continue living. Is that justice?
You tell me.
As I sat and discussed this with my friend, he made the comment that the problem isn't the death penalty, it's the justice system that enforces it in cases that don't deserve it. I hesitate to say that I'm pro-death penalty because the connotation there is that it's available to use, like a multiple choice question. No. The death penalty should only be an option in the most extreme of cases. Of course the problem there is defining "extreme case." Put simply, a case where the perpetrator shows no remorse, no admission of fault. A case that shows no evidence of self defense or extenuating circumstances to suggest some reason or logic in the crime. The logic behind raping and setting a woman on fire? Nope, none. The logic in tying a man to the back of your truck because he's black? Nope, sorry - none there either.
And I can hear the arguments now, so let me go ahead and reply before you ask. 1. How is it right to kill someone in order to show that killing is wrong? Well, it's not. It's not right to kill at all. But that argument is crap in my opinion, because it's just not that simple.
In nature, when an animal is unfit to live amongst its group, it doesn't survive. We put down animals for attacking humans. Is that right?
Despite the colors of the men in these stories, death really isn't that black and white. Nothing in life or death is. The problem arises when we treat things so strictly. He shot a cop. He did it. Die. Ummmm...what?
Again, the problem isn't the death penalty itself. It's that this country has severe issues with the center - the grey area. It has severe problems with looking at facts, looking straight at events and problems without trying to skew them left or right, black or white.
And just to show you some consistency not available either in this country...I'm pro-assisted suicide and pro-choice as well.
Let's step off our pedestals, our ideological high horses, and treat life and death with some justice, some logic, some fair and honest intelligence, you know - maybe some of that grey matter...