Paul Haeder, Author

writing, interviews, editing, blogging

Miseducation and the Trail of Tears Daily Exacted

beware of the child who is taught the ways of the brown shirts and Hitler Youth — lie, steal, snitch, plot against, unlearn Golden Rule

by Paul Haeder / January 16th, 2020

Writing a Book in the Trenches

I am marking this blog post with an unusual challenge to myself — writer it from beginning to finish, one sitting, with the objective to get under the skin of  why and how and what is so messed up in our PK12 system. Extrapolate to the messed up muck home schoolers in general get. Forget about those so-called charter schools. And, as we move into this polemic, we might as keep in check the mis-education of entire generations in the post secondary realm, AKA, college and university.

It’s 1411 PST, and I am of course licking my wounds: I have mentioned a hundred times that I am working on this book — not your typical book — on the good bad and ugly of PK12 education in the USA. Part of that research — mostly — is ground truthing: going into the schools and substitute teaching. I’ve done it in five states, and now, alas, after more than two dozen schools, I have a global view and typical view of what is, is not, will never work in the realm of US public education.

Think of this as prefatory material for the book — not a deeply footnoted thing, not super long, not scholarly (that’s a good thing), and not steeped in the billion books, papers, speeches and policies around pedagogy and curriculum; around organizing public education in the urban centers, suburbs and rural locals; and all the rules and regulations and outcomes and data fields collected and parsed by the so-called policy wonks, educational lobbies, the think tanks, the politico, and the like.

Listening to Band of Horses and other groups (light fare, man), while cranking this out in record time (not for me). Is this stream of consciousness, magic realism, diatribe, polemic, reactive, angry steeped, precipitated rant?

Yep.

Crazed Method to the Madness

And here is the precipitating event horizon that got me on my laptop here in Waldport in Lincoln County in Oregon in the Pacific Northwest west of the 100th meridian, and drawn by so many cultural, geographic, geologic, ecosystems influences that, hands down, no student in K12 or beyond really has any surface understanding why they are here in someone’s else’s territory, homeland, spirit land, creation place.

Substitute teacher, and today, halfway through third period as substitute for a high school language arts class, the burly, idiotic, uninitiated, reactionary, dense, illogical, broken, un-teacher of a vice principal stood out that door at Waldport High School and summarily told me to “grab your belonging and we want you to leave.”

Okay, Joe from Merced, I know you will and should retort soon and tell me,

Paul, you of all people know how rotten the capitalist society is, so why would warehousing and propagandizing and dumb-downing and spiritually drawing and quartering young people be so far from the goal of American education? Why would you believe that administrators and deans and provosts and principals and their vice petty officers have anything in mind tied to real educating? You of all people want the classroom walls torn down and want the ceilings smashed. You of all people want community gardens, want students outside in long-houses, and want students to learn crafts, micro-home building, ways to make organic cheese with their own goats on campus. You of all people want students to go into the communities and work their youth magic in foster homes, retirement homes, and the like. You of all people want to see young people do that drive-by-shoot — with digital cameras: 48 hours; shoot your community; come back and talk about what you shot; edit; research your community; write songs, poems and blurbs so this photo montage of the community through the eyes of, say 6th graders, or high schoolers, can be presented to the communities, to parents, grandparents, other students, city council. You of all people want elders in the community to come in around a fire circle and talk about life, about struggle, about success, about careers loved, lost and reviled. You want peace studies with people like Veterans for Peace to come to school and give the alternative to the lies of US MIC and US DoD and the red-white-and-blue lies of invented history. You of all people want youth to intermingle with other youth, from other countries, via Skype, and to have cross disciplines emerge as the leading edge. You of all people want professionals, both ex and current, to describe what went right and wrong with their own aspirations. You, again, Paul, are asking for revolutionary politics, sciences, social studies, arts, history, political sciences to be introduced at a young age. You of all people want outside the box teaching and learning opportunities. You of all people want alternative classes, alternative design, a reimagining of what oppression is. You of all people, man, you saw this writing on the wall.” — Make Believe Comment from Joe from Merced (the farmer)**

He’s right, for sure — I have been frog marched out of jobs, social work situations, other schools, protests, and community events. Is it that chip(s) on the shoulder? Is it that ODD — oppositional defiance disorder? Is it that disregard for authority? Is it the entire life cycle I have flowed through and created that has turned me into a defiant one, a Cool Hand Luke, a revolutionary thinker?

Language arts. This teacher had no lesson plans. Typical. He called on the school phone. He wondered who I was, and after I told him college English-writing-journalism-literature-poetry teacher, and that, yes, I know Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm and Ethan Frome  like the back of my liver-spotted hand, he took a big breath. He wanted me to leave my home phone. That was 8:15 am.

This gig was to be a 7-hour assignment. What, $23 an hour, so around $175 for the day? I had just taught the day before at Waldport High, in a math class, half a day, 8, 9, 10 graders. The teacher came back at noon and asked how they were.  That’s why I am doing this, besides making money I need in my coffers to survive this messed up predatory capitalism land. Living on the coast, EVERYTHING, costs more, yet pay is less. That’s capitalism 101.

So, yes, the half day reaffirmed much of what I have learned in five states: managed chaos; one or two really disruptive students killing learning; distracted students; off task students; students who do not respect teachers or the thought of school; students who don’t connect the dots why reading and writing and history and science and math and arts connect. This is not news to most DV readers, for sure. But when you ground truth in the places we are researching and writing about, the echo chamber is large, the complaints are looming, and the reality is the same old tune is being played by student and teacher alike.

The level of disrespect for teacher and themselves is certainly something folk like me predicted 40 decades ago when I first started teaching English at the University of Texas-El Paso. OF course, things were not as bad then as now. The book I am writing is going to be human-based, not research based. It will be about the bright lights that shine through the miasma of stupid public education delivery systems, and it will look at what is bad and ugly. The good is strained, and much much work must be done — the entire system must be dismantled. Maybe dismantling it would be one generation’s teachable moment. Maybe we need the schools designed as Joe the Farmer from Merced has reminded me (in my brain).  Design schools based on the circumstance, the prevailing future dynamics, based on what youth need, want, dream of.

I get how broken the administrators are, how harried the teachers are, how disconnected the support staff are, how unrealistic the city fathers and mothers and state politicos are in the entire mess that is public education.

Today, this morning, Of Mice and Men and Animal Farm, well, we talked about bullying, about the themes — man v man; man v god; man v society; man v self; man v nature. We talked about man v AI as the newest dynamic for story telling. We talked about man being replaced by man/woman. Talked about Lennie in Of Mice and Men having special ways of seeing the world, about his unique nature, developmental disabilities. We talked about bullying and how bullying is cyclical, and how bullying can be anything — groups of religious people not liking those un-Christians, et al. We talked about the bullying they themselves had gone through. We talked a lot, and the books were drawn into the conversation.

Second period, at the end, this burly dude in his fifties came in, sat down, while the student raised their brows. For me, that meant some teacher counselor,, but I suspected Vice Principal, even though we had never met.

Student leave, he asked third period to hold off coming in, and then he tells me several students came into the office crying and others said I was talking bad about religion (I wasn’t –that is stupid in a redneck community and redneck high school). This punk said there was talk about communism (as if that’s bad). I talked about how the world is not on lock step –capitalism and communism; Muslim or Christian or non-religious. We talked about what trigger warning meant, and we talked about the value of fiction and poetry to be transformational.

Yes, I said I was a diver, a traveler, journalism, photographer, novelist and social worker, and much much more. We talked about prison and homelessness. This all related to the literature they are supposedly exposed to (though these school districts take out tons of books from the library ont he whim of a parent or community member).

We talked about Sapphire the poet who wrote Push which ended up as a movie, Precious.

Yes, thin ice is the purview of every teacher who has a dynamic instructor. More so for a substitute coming into literally a battle zone without the tools of the head captain, the teacher.

I tried to tell this punk VP that, no, there wasn’t any anti-religion talked about, or pro-communism rant. I am sorry, but certain youth — 15, 16, 17, 18 — are not fully formed, are malformed, are misdirected by shitty parents, are wrapped in their world of, yes, snow flake-ville.

Several students went to the office crying? Oh my god. I had to get the third period going so trying to extract something smart out of the vice principal was impossible (he thinks disrupting a class and taking class time away is the appropriate thing to do).

Befuddled? Shaken? Not really, but pissed off. I can’t hate upon the poor sop children who are brought up this way to have no ability to see the light, to understand the holism of a teacher like me.

Third period, small class, mellow, and yes I stuck to the themes of fiction and getting the students to relate that to what they had learned in Of Mice and Men.

Then this piece of pablum outside the door before class was over, telling me to gather my stuff and leave.

He thought he was taking me to the office, but I quickly gave the idiot the badge and keys, and he intimated he was going to talk with me, but I said — “You speaking, mister. There is no dignity here. This is how you run your school.? This is how you expect visitors to be treated?” Before that, he said a child of an administrator came into his office  crying. That tells me that that parent demanded I be tossed.

Ironically, students from the day before recognized me in the hallway and gave me high fives. My final words — “This is not how you run a school. And, mister, you have just begun to hear from me.”

Nah, singling out Waldport High School, is too easy. The fact that we are in a monkey muck mentality, and this proven guilty on the word of one, two or several students, without a hearing or public airing, well, you get it. Kangaroo court mentality.

Why boys and girls are expelled for challenging teachers. Why SWAT teams come to school weekly. Why students have no respect for teachers and administrators. An idiot like this VP has no clue.

And, the way this broke public school system runs is that they have idiots in these fake levels of authority. And, they rely on substitute teachers, because, one, a lot of teachers I have talked to can only teach four out of five days. The level of chaos and mayhem and behavioral issues and acting out and youth with home-grown trauma, well, they are not wired as adults to last long. Two, they get sick and, three, they have in-service and continuing education to attend to.

And, a rural county has no big pool of substitute teachers. The drive to and from a school back home is expensive. Add to that winter weather.

You get the broken picture. 50 minutes in and I have only 2140 words. I expected twice as many.

Emoting, catharsis, dump, purge. Call this what you may.

The reality is I have been teaching writing almost my entire 62 years. I believe in stream of consciousness, in free writing, in free association, in purge, catharsis, fugue states.

Mixed media — drawing, poem, song, three-d image, and essay, as well as spoken word.

Invisible Mists Holding Children Like Ghosts

empty vessel
ready for words and worlds
to flow into their hands
children of a lesser god
the child inside
finger painting and murals
real syncopation with eagle
king tide

children captured in retail
space yet blocks away
crashing waves, Seal Rock
Devil’s Churn, black eye
of gray whale
eagle couple over football
field, children held in gulag
four walls like moat
tables chairs lined up
DMV driver’s license test

unholy is imprisonment
unworldly is bumbling
teacher as police officer
dead time half the day
bells and announcements
medium security
old men at 39
women heavy with bulging
hips, hunched over at 50

you are what you eat
what you read
what you say
what you do
what you watch
what you hope
what you dream
what you think
what you don’t do
don’t eat don’t read
don’t say don’t dream of
don’t hope for
don’t watch don’t believe

you are that

the truncheon evil
enforcers of codes
rules regulations grades
assignments deadlines
do’s and don’ts

will they rise above
riptide of stupid
adults stale concepts
misanthropic ideas
mean patriotism
lunatic nationalism
fanatical Christianity?

Is this survival of
fittest dog eat
dog small fish
big pond follow
the crowd don’t
make waves stay
in box?

School.

+–+

This is more than snowflake, more than entitled child, more than pedagogy of the oppressed. More than unintended consequences. This is more than a few hysterical children engaging in tattletale. We talked about frontal cortex, executive function, decisions not made from the bright light of recognition but through the lives of the the oppressed, the beaten and raped and discarded.

Maybe the administrator’s child didn’t get the connection to epigenetics I was talking about and explaining how decisions are made based on a whole lot of backstory, context, baggage and family and nature. George kills Lennie. Why? Those sad weak children of the parents that allow for snow flake behavior are products of that nature-nurture. Why did George kill Lennie?

In the novella, Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck , George killing Lennie is a merciful kill to save others from Lennie’s unintentional acts of aggression, to spare Lennie from suffering a cruel death, and instead ensuring a peaceful and quick departure one that will cause George the least regrets.

That’s one take, uh? Merciful killing? And there we go. A real high school class allows for those words to be parsed and diced and cogitated and facilitated into real conversations. Waldport High School, is not the place. Maybe almost all schools in the USA are not the places to talk about themes, hidden agendas, reading between the lines, and interpretations. Or bringing real life to the classroom.

I talked about teaching in prisons, teaching gang-influenced youth who were actively taking inhalants. I talked about former soldiers of our immoral wars coming home and attempting to navigate a “real world.” I attempted to discuss what is merciful to one is a sin to another.

This is it, though, I believe, for my teaching gig. I’ll see if I get a phone call, not from Lincoln County School District, but from the education service for-profit outfit that just took over hiring, paying out, managing, assigning and I guess canning substitute teachers.

Yep, in less than half a year of teaching I went from being an employee of the district to being an employee of some redneck for-profit staffing agency stated in Tennessee. They make their shekels  hiring all school staff, bus drivers, para-educators, even administrators, classified staff, janitorial, food servers, and, yes, vice principals and principals. Not full time teachers — yet (something about a union).

This is the system of oppression and inefficiency, the system of the Peter Principle in Full Force. This is the corrosive belief system, ideas based on opinion and a world of unbelief, of banning books, and, me, banning substitute teachers. This is the time of extrajudicial murder and now the world of fear and loathing.

I know I am Hunter S. Thomson-like,  and radical, and way outside the coloring book lines. But I have enough common sense to know where to draw the line teaching K12. Now, the line is moving, and the field of possibilities for everyone in Capitalism is shrinking. The dictates of the oppressors and middle managers, and thug vice principals, yes, are insane, coming from their colonized minds.

These middle managers are collecting time, doing time, collecting retirement points, and in that process, they are making sure the children do not get out of line or cross the line. They have the power of the police, of the suspension,of the expulsion. Yet, they are just paper tigers, held by the short hairs from community members who are lunatics of religion, Trumpism, foolish liberalism. These days are the end time days in the minds of many Americans. This country’s schools are on the chopping block, and the teachers are leaving, and the substitutes are in more demand, and the sick adults are pushing their diseases onto children. And, the snow flakes win, while common sense and realism and creative cohesion dies like the weeds the idiots spray with Round-Up.

Kill kill kill collectivism. Push push push individualism. Drain the heart with hyper-competitiveness and competition at all costs. Get a gold star for putting name and date at the top of the blank and undone assignment.

Children of a lesser god!

I remember working around Mark Medoff at NMSU in Las Cruces.

Yes, I’m a terrific teacher : Grow, Sarah, but not too much.
Understand yourself, but not better than I understand you. Be
brave, but not so brave you don’t need me any more. Your silence
frightens me. When I’m in that silence, I hear nothing, I feel like
nothing. I can never pull you into my world of sound any more
than you can open some magic door and bring me into your
silence. I can say that now.

― Mark Medoff, Children of a Lesser God

This is about a deaf student, Sarah, and her former teacher James Leeds. But oh so relevant to my teaching experiences — I am not so big to think I am a super super-terrific teacher or know it all or embodied in perfection incarnate. It’s about mentoring and about learning and adapting to each group. But also expecting the genius of youth to be regarded, and to celebrate and coax  out creativity.

This realm is now codified in my brain — the good and bad and ugly of public education.k The book will flow as easy as this short essay did.

You betcha the good will be highlighted in this screed — and so many others before me and contemporaries know how to get the best out of students, even the not so neuro-normal or behavior-compliant or mainstream-learning kind of student.

We have to hear when there is silence. We have to teach them to understand themselves better than anyone in their lives might think they understand them. We want them to grow very much, beyond our own limited growth. We want them to be braver than any of us are brave.

This punk VP and whatever prescripts in his demented toolbox he goes by, and whatever this pressure the board member’s and administrator’s children put on him, and whatever the asinine phone calls that transpired from redneck parent occurred,  this is not a dignified way to treat a fellow human being.

The punk VP, well, he was another washed out white guy, so I might not recognize him in the very very small community we both live in. He is what we call a meaningless bloke, but he has enough control over youth, and the power to quell their natural rebellion.

As many students in Lincoln County, Oregon, or in Seattle, or in El Paso or Spokane or Vancouver said to me, “We just can’t wait to be done with this school . . . we aren’t learning anything, nothing much that will do us any good in real life.”

They are of course are wrong, but the system of oppression and broken pedagogy and the powers that be are certainly happy to accommodate that belief system.

Fear and self-loathing and disconnection and lack of creativity rule the public school systems in many cases. The one bad apple, they think, can be removed to save the bushel. They are wrong, or so wrong, because that “bad apple” is in reality the only hope these youth have in self-discovery and meaningful learning and rebelliousness. Everything else is just going through the motions, and busy work, and disconnected information, and nothing deep, no deep deep meaning.

Bye — 1600 PST.

Quoting myself and Cornel West as a kicker!

Cornel West praises Occupy Seattle movement at Green River Community College

by Paul K. Haeder | November 23rd, 2011

Princeton professor, author and activist Cornel West urged the 300 people who gathered for his Nov. 16 talk at Green River Community College to go beyond getting credentialed and pursue a “deep education.”

It would not be easy, he warned his audience, about half of them students: “In the process of being educated you have to learn how to die in order to live.”

Drawing on Plato and Malcom X, West said the death process is part of real education — paideia — a concept developed by Socrates that means deep, critical thinking.

It is the antithesis of contemporary culture: “The problem in American society is we are a culture of death-denying, death-dodging… a joyless culture where pleasure-seeking replaces what it means to be human.”

Fresh from a trip to Occupy Seattle earlier in the day, West praised the movement, which he said represents “a deep democratic awakening where people are finding the courage to find their voice.”

Greed has corroded society, he said.

“Market moralities and mentalities — fueled by economic imperatives to make a profit at nearly any cost — yield unprecedented levels of loneliness, isolation and sadness. Our public life lies in shambles, shot through with icy cynicism and paralyzing pessimism. To put it bluntly, beneath the record-breaking stock markets on Wall Street and bipartisan budget-balancing deals in the White House, lurk ominous clouds of despair across this nation.”

West said that in this age of fear, economic instability and employment challenges, young people must learn “to have a love of wisdom, love of your neighbors and love of justice.”

Such love, embedded in our cultural and social justice traditions, is powerful, he said.

“That Coltrane love, that subversive love. It’s there in the Occupy Wall Street movement. … When it’s organized and mobilized, love is a threat.”

Note: I was also summarily dismissed from this college gig, Green River College, at the winter break, during their Christmastime joy to the world time, by the powers that be, for speaking out for students, for unionizing part-timers, for breaking the locks and unholy walls of the oppressors. Another dollar, another gig gone south!!

**

**I got this one from Joe the Farmer after submitting this: 

Paul– I can’t improve on what you wrote in your imaginary comment from me. I’m not going to try. I wish I had some wisdom to give regarding your circumstance but I’m wise enough to know I don’t have any. What you have penned is what Chris Hedges referred to as the wages of rebellion. I too have been paid those wages. Anyone who stands up and fights will sooner or later get paid in that currency.

For me it was a wife taking the kids and leaving, which in itself wasn’t that bad had she not turned my daughters against me. Most of who I thought were friends,(most of them teachers), turned against me in the same way. My crime! I challenged the placement of the University of California in Merced. I participated in five lawsuits to try to stop the UC and the environmental carnage that went along with it. Damned near everyone I started the fight with to stop the UC fled like rats from a sinking ship and most won’t even talk to me now. 

That is the price I paid and I don’t regret it what soever. We are living the collapse. I don’t know where it’s going to end up but apart of me is very excited about it. As I’ve told you before I was always drawn towards older people rather than the peers of my own age. The older people knew things I wanted. I respected their knowledge and creativity. I gave up on the people you describe as snowflakes and the vice principal long ago. I worked to stay away from them. It’s funny because I’m not even certain I have a high school diploma because of one of those assholes.

Yet when I was fighting the UC several times I was asked by University officials where I went to college. I never told them. I got jobs in professions where most had degrees in engineering or were MBA’s and found I’d be asked for my input to situations I guess because I ran a contracting business successfully for twelve years. I locked horns with attorney’s for an environmental non profit that was representing us in one lawsuit who wanted to settle for a ridiculous figure. I and the others demanded a meeting with the opposing lawyers in a settlement hearing. The environmental  lawyer representing us knew I was the one demanding the meeting. He chewed on my ass for an hour before the meeting with a high priced attorney the other side had hired and let me as well as the others with me know that we were on our own, that he wasn’t going to help us. Immediately after the meeting started I got into it  with the other sides attorney.

Their side called for a recess and went into another room to discuss the situation.At the end of the day we were well north of 15 million in a settlement agreement. Far from the paltry figure our environmental nonprofit lawyer wanted us to settle for. I really don’t know why life took me into those circumstances and even though damn near everything I’ve done and fought for in life would be considered a failure by societal measurements I don’t regret them. I took the shot for the things I valued. At this point of my life I find myself going back to my roots.

Reconnecting with earlier life. I find solace and comfort doing the things needed to be done to live a simple life. I listen better to the nature around me. I’m taking time to learn things that I passed by before. My only regret is I don’t have the body I had twenty years ago. I know you’re going to land on your feet Paul, You might not be facing the direction you thought your were going in when you land but I’m not sure that’s important. You have the gift of being able to write and have a hell of a background. I’m sure at some point some gangly kid is going to approach you because…well…you know stuff. Keep up the trudge.

 Joe

“Social capital provides the glue which facilitates co-operation, exchange and innovation.”

— The New Economy: Beyond the Hype

“The Chamber shall strengthen the identity and enhance the image of our business community.”

— Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce vision statement

It’s important for the reader to remember these numbers for later reference:

• 30.2 million

• 99.9%

• less than 500

Last October, Lori Arce-Torres, executive director of the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce, and I met at Chinook Winds Casino Resort for a half-hour interview on her radio show.

It was her once-a-week venue to interview business owners, local movers and shakers, and blokes like me — talking about my work heading up an anti-poverty program in Lincoln County, Family Independence Initiative.

I’ve been “doing journalism” for a long time: since my late teens in Arizona. I’ve had my own radio show. I’ve won press awards for my newspaper and magazine writing.

Lori does a fine job laying down questions to get to the heart of the initiative I am helping the State of Oregon head up in order to determine the reality of working and struggling families in our county from their point of view. She gets into background questions, and looks for context not only for the project I am involved with, but also dives into my own narrative.

Social IQ

In one very elegant sense, Lori Arce-Torres is establishing yet another layer of her own social capital network — the very essence of how communities and individuals weather the storm of a tough economy and limited resources.

One might say Lori is all about social capital as the head of the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce.

She has only been at the helm of the chamber for three years, but her life — starting out in Blackfoot, Idaho, 56 years ago, to today — is defined by real-world links between groups and individuals. Her networking acumen — with friends, family networks, networks of former colleagues and so on — must have been front and center of how she landed the job in November 2016.

If there’s anything easy to understand about a small-town chamber it is how its unstated goal is to foster a divergent business community, which in turn creates shared norms, values and understandings in order to support local businesses.

Lori and talk about the relationship of businesses to their workers and, of course, how consumers — who make up the third leg of the “enterprise stool” — are the engine driving a successful business.

Back to the numbers

Lori shows me the carving (Lovell’s Burlworks) of the chamber’s tree for the Angels Anonymous event held on Dec. 8. The artwork is amazingly intricate but solid — a wood carving depicting “angel’s wings growing out of a twisted trunk.”

“The idea is people will take selfies in front of it,” she said, “acting as the trunk to the wings. Our chamber tree is around the theme, be an earth angel: Reduce, Reuse, Rejoice.”

The event in question, The Angels’ Ball, is an $85-a-ticket black tie auction to serve the poor in Lincoln City.

The idea is to help people in our community in need by raising money from dozens of business participants with their own unique themes. Some of the gifts under the chamber’s carving will be live plants and ornaments designed and made by 4th grade students at Sam Case — all from recycled materials.

Okay, back to those numbers: In the US, there are more than 30.2 million small businesses with 500 or fewer employees comprising 99.9 percent of all businesses.

Don’t think Amazon, Walmart or McDonald’s — but rather imagine all those hotels, restaurants and standalone businesses, including those in strip malls, providing goods and services to the very people who make Lincoln City tick.

Supporting local businesses in turn strengthens the very fabric of a community through relationships with families dependent upon work. This in turn weaves a cultural, educational, recreational and spiritual web that we all hope envelopes our community in the form of public health, safety and well-being.

The idea behind a group of 300 business members with the chamber — all dues-paying participants — is to facilitate both networking opportunities and hands-on economic development. The very thread of how well these small businesses do is predicated on the well-being of their employees, Lori emphasizes.

Interestingly, when I ask her what she wanted to be when she was growing up, first she said, “a singer . . . Barbara Streisand was my mom’s favorite.” But then as she got older growing up on a farm near Idaho Falls, she decided, “I sort of like the idea of being an activities director for a nursing home.”

She ended up regularly visiting her father who was in a nursing home for Alzheimer’s patients for eight years before he died.

Now fast forward — we are talking about the three legs to the other stool challenging young and not-so-old workers and families in Lincoln City: lack of affordable housing, lack of day care and lack of things to do.

One of the initiatives Lori is undertaking is studying the idea of siting day care facilities inside nursing facilities and retirement homes: “It’s good for the residents to be around these young children, and it helps our struggling families continue to go to work and stay here.”

She’s quick to point out how the chamber is always evolving to support different businesses. She also professes how millennials are not big into going to meetings. So new tools are being developed to lure more members and to gauge their businesses’ needs and wants.

For now, though, her husband Joey (from Puerto Rico), their 19-year-old track athlete son Gabe (at Western Oregon University), their two daughters Kandis (34, in McKinleyville, California) and Kamile, 32 (in Cloverdale), and now two recent additions — grandchildren — will continue to grow Lori’s social capital we have in the form of family and friends.

The reader can tune into Lori interviewing her own social capital network: “Chamber Chat,” on Monday mornings from 8:30 to 9 am on KBCH-1400 AM.

Why local matters now more than ever

Lori talks about Idaho and her early LDS upbringing. Lori reiterates she has not been a practicing Mormon for her adult life.

There are, however, many in her family still wedded to the conservative groundings of the Latter-Day Saints.

Her formative years were pretty idyllic. “My job was to sing to the animals,” she says with a laugh. That was on a dairy cow farm, with all the Old McDonald’s livestock: calves to feed, horses, chickens, dogs, cats. They grew corn and wheat, and tilled one of those big quintessential gardens.

That was in Blackfoot, southeast of Idaho Falls. They were near the Blackfoot Indian Reservation.

Her mom came into the relationship with two children while marrying a man with two of his own from a previous marriage.

They had Lori and another child. Lori said that her mother, Melba, did not like the farm. At age 10, Lori saw that marriage end. It was the first case in Idaho where there was joint custody granted the mother and father.

She grew away from the Mormon faith and its attendant conservatism. She laughs and says her dad who was a practicing Mormon said, “The older I get, the nuttier the religion seems to get.”

She met her future husband Joey while both worked at the Bon Marche (later bought out by Macy’s) in Idaho Falls where he was the visual manager and she managed the kids and lingerie departments.

Lori sees her life in phases of the number “7”: she was with the Bon Marche 14 years; then, 14 more years with Maidenform; a solid 7 years with American Family Insurance; and, finally, 7 months with a mortgage company. For now, the three years she’ has been with the chamber is not near any iteration of that magic number.

It started with lingerie

Lori and Joey went on scouting trips to see where she might end up managing a Maidenform outlet. She asked him what he thought about Denver or Utah, and he told her both were too much like Idaho, geographically and weather wise. California was off the table.

“We’d never been out here, and it was Saint Patrick’s Day 1994 when we went west to visit Portland and then Lincoln City.” Two months later, they were living in a studio apartment at the Surftides with the girls — second and fourth graders.

“My older daughter Kandis told me I had ruined her entire life moving out here. I remember that huge storm, the one that blew off the roof of Izzy’s. I remember the rain was hitting us sideways.” Two months later, they found a house in Lincoln City. They have been there ever since.

It was that job and promotion as district manager that finally precipitated her change of careers. “I had been missing out of so much of the kids’ lives. My weekends were traveling and training for Maidenform.”

She recounts how one Friday she was driving south on I-5 coming from Seattle when she got a call from the Lincoln City day care saying her son Gabe had not been picked up. However, it was a family reunion in Joseph, Oregon, that convinced her it was time to leave retail — she had to get up at 3 am to drive from Joseph to staff the Troutdale store.

“The universe tells us you have to be happy,” she said. “Change was inevitable.”

Baseball and Field of Dreams

Lori was at her son’s baseball game when she was looking at the banners encircling the outfield. “I saw my banner on the field.”

American Family Insurance kept calling her, and eventually Lori went into the insurance field. She was on paid salary for four years. Three years later — for a total of seven — she quit and then tried her hand in the mortgage game. That lasted seven months.

Luckily for Lori, she had been a member of the chamber for five years prior and had served as the chamber board president.

“I thought I knew what a director did. Boy was I wrong. It’s a really diverse job not just focused on one thing. We are pulled in many directions.”

The challenge of the job — deciding what the priorities should be day to day, month to month — is also what puts spring in her step, so to speak.

We talk a bit about the local chamber versus the US Chamber of Commerce, a rather onerous conservative lobbying agency (my take on it). I mention my own background in urban and regional planning working with economic developers, land developers, community and neighborhood organizations and all the other stakeholders in a small town such as Spokane where I did this sort of work and research.

I have always believed in the local multiplier effect having worked with some of people at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (LSR) and others who fight to keep local businesses local, as well as staving off the concentrated corporate power in order to strengthen local economies.

According to LSR, small businesses — which by definition are locally-owned — create two out of every three jobs in the US, employ half the private workforce, and generate half of private GDP.

Lori and I talk about keeping that Lincoln City business community robust, not only for stores to keep their doors open, but also because keeping money circulating locally — that’s called the local multiplier effect — becomes the foundation for a healthy and diversified local tax base.

More and more (and this might possibly be why millennials and younger folk are not engaged in Rotary clubs and local chambers) the local enterprises that used to give the places we call home their special character and identity — your favorite café, coffee shop, hobby shop, furniture store or bookstore — are succumbing to online powerhouses like Amazon, Walmart and even Target.

Ownership does matter. Lori’s very task as chamber director is to support locally-owned businesses as stakeholders in our community. If the owner lives here and raises a family here and sets down other roots here, there is a good chance he or she will have more at stake in Lincoln City than just the bottom line — profit.

Tourism is our industry

It’s obvious hotels and restaurants drive the tourism economy, and so everything radiates out from that center to all other businesses. Lori’s role is a bit different from that of the director of Newport City Chamber of Commerce, which gets financial support from the city.

Lori says the Lincoln City Chowder and Brewfest was a flashy event for three years running, but this year marked its first hiatus. These are costly events for any entity to put on. Most soirees like these leave the organizers in the red. The concept behind them is to attract people and future businesses to the area. That costs money her chamber doesn’t have.

More value for the buck, in a sense, is manifested in education and business conferences where breakout sessions and panels on marketing strategies, advertising, tourism and media outreach make much more sense. Those business conferences are called “Kick off the Season” and are held in May through the chamber.

Small towns traditionally have trouble keeping young people because there isn’t much for young single and family residents to do. Sure, visitors spend time eating out, beachcombing, lounging around, participating in certain seasonal events.

For young struggling families, however, these are not activities that keep the brood happy and engaged.

Lori also knows “small things” like city sign ordinances can take up a lot time from businesses and others in the form of meetings and hashing out old regulations and proposed changes. The feather banner is one such issue.

Technically, those wind-billowing flag signs are not legal in Lincoln City, but they haven’t been regulated. Some see them as unsightly, tacky, while businesses think they provide inexpensive and effective means of attracting the tourist’s eye.

Even the Oregon Department of Transportation gets into the conversation around sandwich and feather banner signs.

Another hot button issue for Lincoln City is the food truck debate — the city conducted a visioning study and the city discovered food trucks/food carts were on everybody’s list of wants and needs.

The current ordinance says that a restaurant truck with a motor (self-contained like an RV) is prohibited. Setting up food carts — trailer style food serving venues — are also somewhat contentious because brick-and-mortar food establishments feel they have an unfair advantage due to lower overheads.

Maybe an outdoor food truck area near the old Goodwill would be a win-win for both tourists and locals, as well as for the food truck vendors and the permanent restaurants. These are the issues Lori thinks about.

Travel takes off the blinders

Lori says she has not done a lot of overseas travel, with trips to Mexico pretty common. Just this past April, she ended up in England and Paris for 10 days with her two sisters. She was there when the “yellow vests” and others were protesting austerity measures by the French government. Huge protests and police responses that could be characterized as “riots.”

“What I learned on that trip was I wasn’t afraid to go anywhere,” she said. “And, we’re all basically the same. Their (Parisians’) lives are more condensed — smaller homes, cars and even food proportions. But they want what we want.”

In five years, the house will be paid off, she says, and Gabe will be on his way to some career tied to physical therapy or exercise science. She tells me she wants to travel more. Her husband Joey grew up in Puerto Rico, and she’d like to go there, too.

For now, though, she says she “is slowly being sucked in as my husband’s grease monkey.”

They ended up purchasing him a 1982 El Camino which he is putting his all into so the rig is “car show ready” by next summer. That was his Father’s Day gift. Lori said if she had her preference for her own classic car, it would be a 1969 Camaro or Mustang.

In the director’s own words

Paul Haeder: Your life philosophy in two sentences?

Lori Arce-Torres: Treat others how you want to treated…my kids heard this often growing up.

No News is Good News…meaning, don’t worry about something until you need to.

I also love Ellen Degeneres’ saying, “I pick my friends based on how they treat their waiters, and where they leave their shopping carts.

PH: What do you like about the coast?

LA-T: There are so many things that I love about the coast; of course the unprecedented beauty, but not only in our surroundings, also the people that call Lincoln City home

PH: If you weren’t doing what you are doing, what might you also want in your life?

LA-T: I’ve always wanted to work as an activities director in an assisted living facility.

PH: Who are big influences in your life — names and reasons why.

LA-T: My dad taught me to work hard and to be ok with whatever life throws at you, but never stop trying to make it better.

PH: Define “community” for me in your own words.

LA-T: A sense of belonging and acceptance.

PH: Give an example where you have helped someone in this line of business, in this role you have.

LA-T: My passion is to help businesses grow and get noticed. Sometimes just a simple reminder to look up and get outside of your businesses and meet new people. You never know who you’ll be sitting next to at a chamber luncheon, or who you’ve just met at a Business After Hours that are in need of your services. People do business with people they like and trust. Not everything is done over the internet.

PH: Who would you like to interview on your radio show, and why?

LA-T: My dad. He was wise in so many ways, but I’d love to hear his take on our current political state.

PH: Where will you be mentally, physically and career wise in five years?

LA-T: I hope to be able to travel more. I believe traveling is the best way to expand your horizons, understand different cultures, all while helping to appreciate what you have at home.

PH: Define “hope” as you see it.

LA-T: To me, hope is the belief that things will get better.

PH: Define the word “Success.”

LA-T: Success is when you get to the point of contentment. Being OK with where you are in life, whether it be with family, friends, or career.

•••

200117_oct_78861185_3256930801000514_7713761409644888064_o.jpg

Note: First Appeared in Oregon Coast Today.

reflections on the poverty of one’s life and the richness of one’s character

by Paul Haeder / January 11th, 2020

I’m watching the Pacific heave up a king tide in the tiny town of Waldport on the Oregon Coast. Houses right above the beach line are now soaked, their back and front yards littered with driftwood, logs and tree stumps.

And water. The power of that expanding ocean and the rising tides lend pause for any sane person realizing that this yearly cyclical event is a premonition: what I am seeing now is going to be the new normal. Everything shifts with one-three-nine feet of ocean rise in the next 20-30-50-100 years. The winds are pushing up more sea spray, and the entire scene is both amazingly beautiful and dangerous to the future of my town, a million towns across the globe.

That “normal” is no more beaches, or, that is, until the ocean takes out homes and front and back yards to sweep away more of the land to deposit beach materials to create beaches.

The idea of humanity is to deploy hard mitigation techniques to fight the tide of rising oceans — dikes, boulders, trillions of tons of earth, cement, sea wall, diversion conduits, stilts, bloated and expensive channeling and walling off wetlands.  You know, more and more busy bees, busy ants trying to push back on the forces of nature. Then there is retreat and abandonment. Obviously, we see how well retreat works when so many investments in capitalism are tied around the real estate and infrastructure of so many of their industries and businesses being so close to the impending ocean inundation. Forgot about abandonment for a long while, as we can see for obvious reasons beach community after beach community rebuilding after powerful hurricanes, that will look like rain storms under the impending new normal of heating ocean currents, etc.

There are other ways to plan for a world without ice, but we are an insane species who have let overlords control every blinking, swallowing, thinking, defecating, urinating, masticating, breathing, bleating, REM-ing moment of our lives. We have been so brainwashed and colluded and controlled that we can’t think even though we should and are capable of fixing the mitigation plans. Retrenchment is out of the question when it comes to capitalism, USA all the way, arrogance, and war making against people, planet, species. Ecosocialism!

Unless we change the conversation. Unless we get people to start thinking about and talking about and working for a viable alternative to the market-driven collapse of civilization. Our job, as ecosocialists is to put forward a practical plan to slam the brakes on emissions, an emergency response to the climate emergency. This plan has to begin with brutal honesty:

We can’t have an infinitely growing economy on a finite planet.

We can’t suppress emissions without closing down companies.

We need to socialize those companies, nationalize them, buy them out and take them into public hands so we can phase them out or retrench them.

If we close down/retrench industries then society must provide new low- or no-carbon jobs for all those displaced workers and at comparable wages and conditions.

We have to replace our anarchic market economy with a largely, though not entirely, planned economy, a bottom-up democratically planned economy.

The environmental, social and economic problems we face cannot be solved individual choices in the marketplace. They require collective democratic control over the economy to prioritize the needs of society and the environment. And they require national and international economic planning to reorganize and restructure our economies and redeploy labor and resources to those ends. In other words, if humanity is to save itself, we have to overthrow capitalism and replace it with some form of democratic eco-socialism.

Yeah, I know, we didn’t all sign up for the pollution, the massive surveillance, the penury, the ecosystems destruction, the addictions promoged and promulgated by consumerism, the predilections of greed, the gentrification, McDonaldization, Walmartization, Facebook-Google-IZATION of our worlds, for sure. But all of that didn’t just happen, since this country has a DNA-warp which allows for almost complete deification of the rich and the powerful and the controlling. Celebrity cultism doesn’t even scratch the surface of how colonized the Western mind has become.

Yep, we were sleeping when all the psy-ops, info-wars, algorithmic predictive shit came barreling into our lives. And complicit in the entire colonization of our minds, bodies, hearts, souls, futures and fates by a Brave New World corporate SOP and a big brother government.

Wet, Wild, Unpredictable

I’m talking to a few people who are here in Waldport photographing with phones the king tide phenomenon, and they dance back and forth out of the surge of high tide and the sneaker waves pummeling parking lots, cars and yards.

Some say, “Well, this is man’s doing. Or it will be more and more each decade. Amazing we think we are the highest forms of life in our universe.”

Yes. this is a direct quote from one of the bystanders who also told me she plants as many trees on her five acres, and she sees the little town of Waldport sort of vanishing in the coming decades because she knows there is no will of the people to work together to move it, or to put in hard barriers, which in the end won’t do that much.

Oh, those 7 R’s: retrench, retreat, regroup, reorganize, reassess, reinvent, revive.

In my slow (by many of my friends’ standards) life here, I am faced with a lot of time to write, a lot of people who are precarious, faced with poverty and with people who end up in my column for a little rag on the coast. Some of those pieces end up in Dissident Voice.

Not exactly tinged with revolution and Marxism and anarchy and ecosocialism and hard left zeal to at least give a decent run at this perverse society of exploitative and predatory capitalism, the columns are my emotional and intellectual Prozac, man, insulating me for a few nanoseconds from the madness of this world and the reimagining of my own sanity. I’ve got a friend out there who sees the scientists and others I feature in this rag of a column as sell outs, as reasons for the many precipitates  the communities and the cultures within those communities are failing.

Scientists and capitalism, an old pairing that has done wonderfully destructive things to people, planet, ecosystems big and small. And I get it, really, as I plod through slipstream after slipstream. Man, I am on the thin ice of aging (63 next month) and being made anachronistic daily by my idiotic dream of still getting something out there on some mainstream best sellers or notable list for my brand of literary fiction.

Reimagining Sanity - Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (Paperback): Paul Haeder

I daily have fights on various channels and in person about how people like us, like me, give zero to society.

What great invention or engineering feat have you done? What contribution to the good of humanity have you done? I bet everything you do — including typing your idiocy on your computer — is the result of engineers and technologists and doers. Take your poor ass liberal teaching (indoctrination) and Podunk writing (who the hell reads your irrelevant stuff?) and crawl back to your tie-dyed, smoked out Oregon. Another libtard/turd . . . Living in Oregon? ‘Nuff said!

This is the hard-wired brain of many Americans — and the so-called left and the wavering liberals are part and parcel part of that mindset because so many in my lifetime have denigrated my brand of revolution, perspective and analysis as way too extreme or radical. Irrelevant. Utopian. Impossible. Foolish. Something along those lines, as tempered as the above quote really is since most people I run into who label me commie, socialist and libtard are threatening my life, want my expulsion from love-it-or-leave-it-in-a-coffin USA. It gets worse what these pigs of capitalism and red-white-blue Military Industrial Complex say to me on-line and sometimes in person.

They are here to wear us down . . . 

Nothing works, it seems. Each big, small, tiny, gargantuan community is flooded with takers, and the leavers of the world, the givers, are not only out-gunned, but the entire fabric of capitalism and consumer culture and this military-might-makes-right society is flooded with those Yankees.

Begging for a countywide warming shelter, no free clinics, not dentists, reckless law enforcement hobbling the poor with more violations and court dates and jail time. The RV-with-Jeep-in-tow-and-vacation-home America against the very people who do the oil changes, the plumbing fixes the burger flipping, the road . . . .

Have a beer and celebrate when the video of Saddam’s neck is snapped by a rope. Celebrate with tailgaters when Osama bin Laden’s supposed dead body is sealed upin body bags  by those magnificent SEALs.

Despair is easy in this country, with the wide gape of peering into the belly of the beast, which is really us, US, USA.

I work as a substitute teacher and also work for a national non-profit that has designed this anti-poverty program around social capital and unconditional cash transfers. I am daily struggling to see how my two books that are coming out will make a drop in any bucket, and I am plagued with the fear of lifelong bad decisions, with a general anxiety disorder, and my own form of collective Stockholm Syndrome just daily slogging along in this messed up culture, society and country.

Let me reframe here — Any creative artist who is revolutionary and communist in purpose is going to be wacked hard in this competitive, superficial, predatory, hard-boiled, violent, usury-drawn country. Every single monetary interchange and human exchange is filled with duality after duality. Contradictions. Counter-intuitive thinking. Equivocation. Rationalization.

Daily it’s as if I have to fight very hard to stave off the insanity from surfacing, or at least battening down all those mental duress points from congealing. Daily, I have to quell the anger. Daily, I have to resort to looking toward some spiritual  formula to stay sane, pacific, and within the constraints of the social contracts laid out to keep me from going ballistic.

And yet . . . . I also work with people in complete struggle against all aspects of capitalism — shitty jobs, low pay rates; shitty vehicles or vapid public transportation; shitty local culture for people with no money, or no places for children to gather without throwing in dollars for the ride; shitty schools for their kids; shitty housing situations; shitty social capital and community resources; shitty backgrounds; shitty family dynamics; shitty physical and mental health; shitty credit scores; shitty prospects; shitty people controlling their shitty lives; shitty air and water.

Then, it’s up against this backdrop of drive-in fast-food culture, in this homogenization of every mile of roadside attraction country. Little things like — Did you know that the 7-11 corporation is directly responsible for all those bodegas and cool little family holes in the wall in places like New York going belly up? Colonization, like cancer . . . page from the playbook of Starbucks, Walmart, Amazon, the lot of them. Flipping 7-11 “convenience” stores flooding neighborhoods using economies of scale and the power of billions to push out the mom and pop’s, the little guy or gal. Rents go out the roof, and that’s it, RIP small town/big town America.

Yet . . . but . . . however . . . hold on a minute! Many of these people living under shitty circumstances can muster some sense of positive daily outlook. Sure, many have false hope, and many believe that hype and propaganda of the American Dream, that anyone can be a millionaire — forgetting that there is-will be-was always a million suckers born every minute in this stolen land.

Given that, though, my whole life has been compelled to understand that survivable character in these people — how they can get a can of sardines and believe they have caviar. You know, the old lemons made into lemonade axiom.

That’s what the new short story collection coming out, Wide Open Eyes — Surfacing from Vietnam, galvanizes in the 17 short stories: the will to survive, and not always thrive. Like that coyote chewing leg out of trap to limp on three legs to still live another day and another. Three-legged Americans, these characters in this collection are all somehow tied to the Vietnam War, plagued by their own survival or someone close to them. It’s not thematic, and each story is a stand-alone. I didn’t even try and thread this or that juxtaposition to make the collection super cohesive or interlinked. Alas, though the book is a stand-alone in that all the stories have that atmospheric and gritty demarcation between failure and giving up and just going on, moving ahead . . . no matter the circumstances of past, present or future.

In that sense WOE is an American book, like the wide scope of American literature. That’s Wide Open Eyes from Cirque Press, available, gulp, on Amazon, my arch nemesis. There will be a review of the book here soon. Looking at maybe four sales from my DV crowd. Oh well.

That little detail is like death by a thousand cuts, and, coming around the bend to 63 years old, I am having a difficult time having my principles stick. Everything about Amazon, about Bezos, about the people who plan the company from coder to software and logistics engineer, who develop AI and flood the world with the non-competitive shit that is the company, I despise . . . and yet, here we are, Year of the Rat, 2020, and I have just given over my soul in a Faustian Bargain to Amazon hawking my book with their bloody cut of the deal.

Checking out isn’t an option, and the fight is now for the little guy and gal, the child, the wordless old man with Parkinson’s, the bent over old lady checking items at the Safeway. There may be MAGA in some of those struggling souls, and that’s a whole other deal. For now, though, what is this country, and what is the ordinary man-woman-child?

Country as an idea, country as something that doesn’t exist, country as something continually changing because of outside forces. Country as a word from the enemy, meaning the empire. — Roque Dalton, Salvadoran poet

Joseph Campbell (“The Power of Myth”) quote roiling around my busy mind:  I don’t think there is any such thing as an ordinary mortal. Everybody has his own possibility of rapture in the experience of life. All he has to do is recognize it and then cultivate it and get going with it. I always feel uncomfortable when people speak about ordinary mortals because I’ve never met an ordinary man, woman, or child.

Fiestas, Virgin Mothers, Machetes, Incredible Lightness of Quetzalcóatl

”Who the hell are you?” B. Traven replied, ”If I knew, I think I would not be able to continue writing, or wouldn’t have written the books I have written.”

by Paul Haeder / December 26th, 2019

From the far distance sounded the muffled howling of a family of monkeys, monos gritones, passing the night in the crowns of the mighty trees. It echoed through the jungle like the roar of an angry mountain lion. Gruesome and terrifying, it seemed to tear the night apart, but it did not disturb the jungle. It sang and fiddled, chirped and whistled, whined and whimpered, rejoiced and lamented its ever-unchanging song with the constancy of the roaring sea.

 B. Traven, “Trozas”

Note: This is part two in a series on Mexico and the passion and the glory of an American (me) rejiggering his relationship to finally yawn out of the swill of this sick North American consumer fiesta and move away. We’ll see how that unfolds, as I too am in the grip of viscous repeated battered country abuse syndrome!

*–*

She holds onto her role as daughter in this patriarchal land — Mexico. Not sure how patriarchal it would have turned out if the Spanish sword, swine, syphilis, santos, holy see, germs had never set root in this New World.

She’s 52, unmarried, unable to birth progeny. She spent years in the USA to gain a stake so she might get a sliver of her father’s property for which to build a little casita.

Her brothers get the father’s and deceased mother’s land and small houses, small parcels. Claudia has a small school supply store in Axochiapan (her deceased mother’s for years) but she can’t make a living at it thanks to Sam’s Club, Target and Walmart and other box store cancers. She has her younger sister in Cuernavaca, and she works three jobs to barely survive with her technical degree in computer repair and IT. These two women — Claudia and Alejandra — have more “la capacidad” in their pinky fingers than all of America has in its jowls. Claudia was so broke she ended up buying 30 buenas noches (poinsettias for the Christmas time) to sell on the street in upscale neighborhoods in Cuernavaca. She made no sales as Land Rovers and Lexus coupes zoomed by.

The plague of propaganda, low prices, low quality, and brand loyalty has run rampant in this southern land, like dengue mosquitoes lighting upon the children while still in vitro.

Years ago, both Alejandra and Claudia spent time in a print plant in Gresham, Oregon, and most of their siblings had also thrown in around Portland, and many more hoofed it through the causeway to Minneapolis. Many made it to the El Norte without proper papers from the US Gestapo.

Claudia thinks sometime in 2020 she might be eligible to return to the USA. For Alejandra, that’s five years down the pike. We’ll vouch for and sponsor both of them.

Both are proud, smart, feminist, and self-determined. They are full of empathy, and would give the shirts off their backs to help friends, family, anyone in need.

They worked hard in El Norte, conjoined efforts, lived small, and saved money. Mexico was always in their dreams, and they were here to try and build something back home.

Back home, 90 years of bastard politicians in the two parties  — PAN and PRI —  literally have ripped off trillions from Mexico’s coffers;  and the bastards’ bastard, USA, El Yanqui, and the other financiers and the dirty industry honchos, all have a history of theft and murder, and are still readily staged to exploit, which is another word for steal.

Very little is allowed to be manufactured in Mexico — cars, buses, equipment, more. NAFTA allows for a pipeline of US-made and US-provisioned stuff that the Mexicans could easily produce. We all know what the NAFTA two-step American gut disease is.

Claudia’s hardy but sad, admitting to bouts depression; and her friend, my spouse, came to see her for the very first time for a visit to Claudia’s homeland. To her small pueblo where cane fields, corn forests and a few cows populate the land. All of that, plus me, new in my spouse’s life with a trainload of history with Mexico, Latin America, La Raza, hatred of El Yanqui, created a unique mix of ingredients that bonded us quickly as we went through by car (a friend of Claudia’s rented a new KIA Sole to us cheap) and saw many parts of Morelos and Guerrero.

These are powerful rendezvouses you’ll never get from Holly-Dirt Netflix originals. This story is not closed, but it’s universal.

In the chaotic Stockholm Syndrome lives of North Americans, nothing about the struggle to overthrow the chains of Capitalism and crony corruption resonates since North America is one flagging mall-dragging country, where the population is compliant in the workplace, but mad as hell on the troll worlds of on-line “discourse.” Sort of the salt peter of revolution and real deterministic radical action — the world wide web; Holly-dirt; Youtube; the infantilism and Chlamydia of mainstream pop culture;  wacko political correctness; the four seasons of  24/7  violence for younger and younger males with their sweaty warped joysticks; the endless joke-joke of Americans relishing in their own stupidity and air power; the endless useless pedantics in academia, the courts, and the state department.

It is so real, how falsely revisionist the North American concept of history for this Turtle Island. Trump is the culmination of all of the superficiality, all the Ponzi schemes, all the bankruptcy courts, the insipid hubris of the stupid, all the PT Barnum hustle, all the smoke and mirrors, all the self-aggrandizement, all the narcissistic syndromes, all the puffed-up faux bravado of a man (and many MAGA men) who would last 10 seconds in a field with some of my former veterans who are mad as hell at the lies of empire, the lies at the top, the failure of ALL POTUS’s.

Not one has the capacity to understand “third” world people, or people in Mexico, or the races, the Indians, the tug of the white supremacists who launched their hairy bodies into Mesoamerica to play their swindle for King-Queen-Captain-Cardinal on a people who had pretty much figured out things for several millennia before the hordes of hustlers and rapists and murderers from Iberia and the Anglo lands penetrated their soil and jungles and bays.

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Cuernavaca

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry was one of my top 100 books a while back. It shows the anachronistic debased values of a British envoy, drunkard, impotent, and the the emerging pathogen of Nazism embraced by the industrialists and that included some in Mexico. The Power and the Glory, too, by Graham Greene. The passion, impassioning, and possessiveness of men. Macario and Treasure of Sierra Madre (B. Traven and John Huston books and scripts respectively) and Night of the Iguana.

Contemporary writers in Mexico and some of their well-known titles also inspire:

In Search of Klingsor by Jorge Volpi.
The Body Where I Was Born by Guadalupe Nettel.
Diablo Guardián by Xavier Velasco.
Down The Rabbit Hole by Juan Pablo Villalobos.
The Uncomfortable Dead by Paco Ignacio Taibo II & Subcomandante Marcos.
Leaving Tabasco by Carmen Boullosa.

More here, Mexico’s Finest Contemporary Writers: Tracing a Cultural Renaissance

More authors I’ve danced with during mescal-induced jaguar nights: Luis Spota, Carlos Fuentes, Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, Jaime Sabines, Martin Luis Guzman, and Valeria Luiselli.

And the simple poetics of Mexicans who were determined to break the yoke of the oppressors:

My sole ambition is to rid Mexico of the class that has oppressed her and given the people a chance to know what real liberty means. And if I could bring that about today by giving up my life, I would do it gladly.

–Pancho Villa

In that first blow to the deaf walls of those who have everything, the blood of our people, our blood, ran generously to wash away injustice. To live, we die. Our dead once again walked the way of truth. Our hope was fertilized with mud and blood.

–Subcomandante Marcos

Like all of Latin America, Mexico after independence in 1821 turned its back on a triple heritage: on the Spanish heritage, because we were newly liberated colonies, and on our Indian and black heritages, because we considered them backward and barbaric. We looked towards France, England and the U.S., to become progressive democratic republics.

–Carlos Fuentes

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My good friend from Tucson, John, who became bi-lingual early in his life before his three years as an Army LT,  ended marrying a woman from Cuernavaca. I was at the wedding 33 years ago. He’s got three daughters, and he’s been divorced a while. She came from upper class environs, and he was a Navy commander’s son living in the desert. He and I like our motorcycles, and he is now a translator on the international market, from home, via Skype, phone, what have you. He’s single again, living the desert rat life of many a gringo who has gotten a taste of Mexico in their blood and entwined it into his children’s DNA.

He forewarned me to not head to Cuernavaca or the State of Guerrero or anywhere away from the quintessential tourist zones. He was citing US State Department provisos, whichever news feeds he reads, and the broken down minds of his fellow Arizonans.

Of course he and the State Department are dead wrong, as was Reagan’s idiotic ambassador to Mexico, Gavin. But with Trump and idiotic millionaires like Maddow and the like, the USA is one starched up Marvel comic book world of good and bad, light and evil, where the highest thinkers (sic) are at least a couple of notches below Lex Luther’s mental prowess, for sure.

The result of this xenophobia is a large city, Cuernavaca, that in December had very non-Mexican few tourists. The city is looking tired and worn, as is most of Mexico, excluding the industrial complexes, mining operations, smelting outfits, et al.

The ebb of life, though, even in the threadbare places in Mexico, is compelling. Laughter and hands held. The peek-a-boo amazing sights, sounds, and smells around every corner and in every walkway.

Our second largest trading partner behind Canada, Mexico is a shell of a country in many ways. Ugly Botoxed white women and men on billboards, their green and blue eyes like a cold lizard’s, and on TV, in positions of power, while la gente is continually denigrated and spat upon by the elites.

Axe

We are hatchets of steel and fire.
We live to reap and illuminate.
With the metal,
we fell the trunk.
With the flame,
we illuminate the cut,
the felling of what we are.

Carmen Boullosa

Diego Rivera, Liberation of the Peon, B. Traven

Invasions

Trump told the previous president of Mexico that he would be sending in the American cavalry to take care of “those bad hombres.”

He accused Peña Nieto of harboring “a bunch of bad hombres down there” and warned:

You aren’t doing enough to stop them. I think your military is scared. Our military isn’t, so I just might send them down to take care of it.

But there is a history of US meddling, both through “diplomatic channels,” through the economic structural violence our hit men are known for, and with troops:

When Woodrow Wilson took office in 1913, he inherited a chaotic diplomatic relationship with Mexico. Two years earlier, the country’s longtime head of state, Porfirio Díaz, had been deposed. Over three decades in power, Díaz had been strongly aligned with American economic interests, which came to control 90 percent of Mexico’s mineral resources, its national railroad, its oil industry and, increasingly, its land. Resentful of the “peaceful invasion” from their northern neighbors, in 1911 middle-class and landless Mexicans overthrew Díaz and installed a noted public intellectual and reform champion, Francisco Madero, in the presidency. Not long after, the military, under the leadership of General Victoriano Huerta, deposed and executed Madero.

Displaying his deep piety and moral conviction, Wilson declared that he would never “recognize a government of butchers” and declared his intent to “teach” Mexico “a lesson by insisting on the removal of Huerta.” To that end, he sent two personal envoys to Mexico City to instruct the country’s political leaders—“for her own good”—to insist on Huerta’s resignation. The mission fared poorly. For one, the envoys—William Bayard Hale, a journalist, and John Lind, a local politician from Minnesota—spoke not a word of Spanish. Lind privately regarded Mexicans as “more like children than men” and conducted himself accordingly, to the detriment of the mission.

[…] At first, Villa sought to align himself with Wilson, but as his grasp on power became more tenuous, he sought to raise additional resources by taxing American corporations and through general banditry. He took matters a step too far when his forces confiscated the sprawling Mexican ranch of American publisher William Randolph Hearst and briefly invaded a New Mexico border town, crying “Viva Villa! Viva Mexico!”

Incensed, Wilson raised a “punitive expedition” of 10,000 soldiers under the direction of General John J. Pershing. Equipped with all the modern trappings of war—reconnaissance aircraft, Harley Davidson motorcycles—the invading army searched high and low for Villa. It was like finding “a needle in a haystack,” Pershing would soon complain. Though Villa’s forces continued to plunder and maraud, the Americans proved incapable of finding and capturing the rebel leader. When Villa surfaced briefly in Glenn Springs, Texas, with his troops, only to disappear soon thereafter, the Wilson administration was left mortified and bereft of an explanation.

American entry into the Great War allowed Wilson and Pershing to save face. In February 1917 the expedition returned to American soil. Within weeks, Pershing sailed for Europe to command the nation’s war effort.

Trump has now warned the new Mexican president that he will deem drug cartels as terrorist organizations, igniting the TNT of war and invasion. This was on all the people’s minds when I was traveling just days ago in Mexico; even in the conservative mass media. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) said:

But in these cases we have to act independently and according to our constitution, and in line with our tradition of independence and sovereignty.

War is irrational. We are for peace.

AMLO’s comments came after Trump fired off a series of tweets Tuesday morning offering Mexico “help in cleaning out these monsters.” Trump:

The great new President of Mexico has made this a big issue, but the cartels have become so large and powerful that you sometimes need an army to defeat an army!” Trump said. “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth. We merely await a call from your great new president!

No matter how barbaric the cartels are, and how in bed they are with the police, army, government, the barbarism of the US is in line with the Spanish and Portuguese slave traders. Each and every weapon manufactured and sold in the USA that gets south of the border is part of that barbarism. Every line of coke and hit of Meth consumed by the great happy USA population is a bullet to the head of the innocents of Mexico.

Like Italy, Mexico is at the whim of the Church and Mafia. Like Western Culture, every blinking moment in every individual’s life is determined by the billionaires, their cabal of financial and retail felons. We are at the whim of the heads of Boeing, Exxon, Raytheon and any number of resource extractors and consumer bombers. Fortune praises the millionaires and billionaires and their disruptive industries, technologies, financial instruments. All of it is still American sodomy of a race, a culture, a place, a land.

In Mexico, the juxtaposition of Nestle bottles everywhere or the VW’s and the Dodge’s is easily supplanted by the hard lives of Mexicans still eking out livings and conjugating their traditions, no matter how deeply Western Plastic Culture and Consumer Goods have infiltrated their land.

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Family Wedded to Culture, Land, History

Yanquis and Stars and Bars flag wavers are the sum total of their genocidal roots destroying First Nations’ peoples and the enslavement of Africans, but also the deep racism and bigotry perpetrated against not just Filipino and Chinese and Japanese, but against the Jew, Eastern European, German, Irish, Italian, et al.

Drowning women deemed witches, complete decimation of the grasslands, the wetlands, the bayous, the slaying of buffalo and wolf and grizzly, and the metal machines cutting into earth and stoking the flames and smoke of today’s generation of cancer-riddled people. I have these trolls attempting to harass me, trolls who listen to that ape of a man, Stephen King of Iowa, who drivels his white supremacist crap on how the white Christian lands/peoples have contributed 90 percent or more of the marvels of modern humanity — from the internet to microscopes, from splitting of the atom to cinema, from supersonic jets to soda pop. These pigs are on the airwaves, both of the Tucker Carson kind and the liberal Hollywood and media types continually showing the great boom of intelligence in the Western White World, or in many cases, the great achievements of the Judaeo-Christian.

“Shit-hole” country may have come out of the racist whites’ moldy mouths decades/centuries before Trump’s bloviating (how many US presidents have shown outright racism against  ALL nations of color?), but it’s in the minds of liberals, democrats, those so-called professional class, the college educated, and the journalists and diplomats. Most Americans see the words “backwards” or “not evolved enough” or “heathen” or “simpleton” when they see Mexico or Mexicans.

[link] The irony is that Trump’s own ancestors came from Africa, as did all mankind. In the book and documentary “The Journey of Man: A Genetic Odyssey,” the geneticist and anthropologist Spencer Wells traces the human migration out of Africa. He travelled the world for a decade to trace genetic markers by taking blood samples—from Bushmen in the sweltering Kalahari Desert and the Chukchi in icy Siberia to the Hopi in the American West—to prove the trail of the human migration. Wells concludes, “Old concepts of race are not only socially divisive but scientifically wrong.”

In the end we know which country is the shit-hole, the shitty one, and its collective stupidity and infantilism continues to lobotomize the masses. I teach k12, and the food these kids eat and then waste is criminal, but emblematic of the American project of exceptionalism and the right to pollute, throw away, discard, waste, over-consume. The youth have no culture, no art, no interest in anything but making a few dollars fast.

The reality is this throw-away society is right now generating, through this corrupt capitalism, more and more discarded peoples in this country and in other countries. The AI-Robot-GIG-Uber-ization-Amazon-ification-Economies of Scale-Centralization will again generate more and more disposed of humanity — in the USA, and elsewhere.

We know socialistic systems of organizing are the only way to stem this destruction. Read or watch below.

What capitalism has done is gut Mexico, forcing families to break up sisters and brothers, sons and  daughters, uncles and aunts, grandkids and cousins, friends and lovers, husbands and wives to head to El Norte tob e exploited by capitalism on steroids and to weather the scourge of racist Americans, police, policies, bureaucracies, attitudes.

The amount of hate against Mexicans or Latino/a people is high in USA.

In their own country, the people of the land in Mexico are now sugar coated, eating crappy food, drinking soda, and hauling their bodies full of hormone disrupters, full of petro-chemicals, GMOs, nitrous oxide, and a million other particulates created by the full-scale NAFTA exploitation and the theft of their own culture, land, resources by the white devils in their own country — the elites educated in the Milton Friedman school of destruction.

Brotherhood

I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.–Octavio PazNetflix, Patria

Netflix, The 43 — This docuseries with Paco Ignacio Taibo II in it, disputes the Mexican government’s account of how and why 43 students from Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College vanished in Iguala in 2014.

Paco Ignacio Taibo II—leader in the 1968 Mexican student strike, journalist, social activist, union organizer—is widely known for his crime novels, and is considered the founder of the neo-crime genre in Latin America. One of the most prolific writers in Mexico today, more than 500 editions of his 51 books have been published in over a dozen languages. Taibo has won many awards, including the Grijalbo, the Planeta/Joaquin Mortiz in 1992, and the Dashiell Hammett three times, for his crime novels. His biography, Guevara: Also Known as Che (St. Martin’s Press, 1996), has sold more than half a million copies around the world and won the 1998 Bancarella Book of the Year award in Italy. Taibo organizes the Semana Negra (Noir Week), a crime fiction festival held every year in Gijón, Spain.

Taibo: Yes. I wanted to destroy the old idea that history is science and fiction is fantasy. Everybody knows that is not true. It’s a game: Just Passing Through starts asking if it’s really a novel, if it’s rather a history book, because of this and this and this. And then, in the second paragraph, it says: this is a novel, this cannot be a history book, it’s full of fiction. Then, in the third paragraph, what the hell is a novel, what the hell is a history book? The game is trying to destroy this secure attitude of historians to history and this secure attitude of fiction writers about fiction. There’s nothing secure in history. I don’t like security. History shouldn’t be a secure space, a comfortable space. Comfortable for whom? Readers? Writers? It’s the opposite.

We’ll go deeper in this reclamation of what it means to be in, live in, be with, hold onto Mexico and Mexicans!

Patching a Bridge to Climb into this Place of Fire, Dream, La Gente

by Paul Haeder / December 25th, 2019

to say it’s holy means
hands held toward the sun
corn lifts ancient stories
the hard stalk of cane sketches
men and women’s lines etching
eyes, markets like a heart held
high, dogs and cats holy too
they kneel to food, seeds, even
roasted scorpions, but you rejoice
fish out of water, sort of
Mexico of old, the new, the plastic

you are baptized again and again,
shadow and light, hues and colors
of fruit and vegetables, the walls
we touch, barricades against
flagging lives stuck in America
El Norte, where a plague of racists
leave smudge and oil skeletons behind

here you are happy, I can tell
even in the face of poverty, desiccated
horses, feral children, you are engaged
elixir is real, held in volcanic peaks
shadows, silver and clay, flower
and mescal, you come out
of metal shell

fold into the soft corn of women
push and pull kernels
you amaze people, engulfed
in the flow of things
broken down Mexico
pure soul in sounds
even under clouds of ozone
you find a new place
roots pulsate on cobble
reach any crack for soil

you are remade daily, there
each sun lifts new vision
scales drop from your eyes
you sew a thread of family
mounted on horse, in home
stitching time, mending history

oh you are free for a while
moments rejoiced in the riot
the carnival, the riot which is life
vida y Mexico, your sisters hold
court, await your return
as you sink into the ether
slowly realizing life is south
everything north is now dead

for Lisa

Cuernavaca, Municipal Museum

Why ‘Go Home Yanqui’ is that Shit-Hole USA it Has Always Been

as in s-hole populated by Puritans, KKK, Robber Barons, Thieves, Snake Oil Salesmen, Barkers, Grifters, Cavalries, Stars and Bars, the entire white race mess

Los Dias de los Muertos are highly stylized rituals grounded in Aztec mythology when those who had passed on during the year migrate to the darkness of Mictlan in the north – the 1st is reserved for the innocents, the children, and the 2nd for the rest of us poor sinners. Traditional altars, garnished with cempaxeutl (a kind of marigold), photographs of the “difuntos” (deceased ones), jugs of tequila and mezcal, the favorite cigarettes of the dead, steaming bowls of turkey mole, and spun sugar “cranios” (skulls) blanket the land from border to border. Thanks to Calderon and the drug war that he launched to please his handlers in Washington which has triggered the cartels’ murder spree, the newly dead are dying faster than such altars can even be assembled.

Unlike the persona of Santa Muerte, the macabre cult around which the drug cartels have consolidated and who purportedly protects the true believers from the Grim Reaper, los Dias de los Muertos are designed to accept and mock Death, rendering it less terrifying for those of us who teeter on the brink. This year, I will wander the allies of our make-believe Mictlan disguised as my own cancer-ridden liver. We shall soon see who gets to laugh last.

“A Ding-Dong Year for Death in Mexico,” John Ross

**Part I of a Thousand**

They say in America that everyone wants to be American. Everyone wants to come to the United States of America. The world – especially third world or partially-developed peoples – envies this Anglo colony of mutt-infested Englanders.

But the lot of them – in academia, media, politics, business, the average Joe and Jan, as well as the governmental trolls – thinks Mexicans, Indians, et al have not only a hankering to leave behind their homelands and families and cultures. But to assimilate, and strip all history and the fingerprints of their terra, or land, from their very being.

They are wrong.

I’m in Cuernavaca now, after being with a young woman – 52 – and her 30-something sister and my spouse. This is the place of the rich, the tourists, the indulgent, the traffic, even the Walmart’s and Costco’s and IHOP’s.

Writing about Mexico has been an avocation for me over the years having lived and worked here, and having lived and worked on the border, in El Paso, the world’s largest border city in the world adjoining Juarez.

Over the years — from the first overlay of my being at age 16 going to the Sea of Cortez as a recreational diver, to my work as a faculty member in El Paso’s University of Texas campus, to my own back and forth relationship with Mexico and Central America — I have had to confront the racists of the world spewing their hate against everything Mexico, anyone from down south of the border.

In this country I call my birthplace but not my aligned place, USA, I have confronted the most vile, ignorant and hateful “people” surrounding what they consider their legitimate prejudice and judgement against Mexico. Some facts:

In 1925, Franklin D. Roosevelt wrote that “Japanese immigrants are not capable of assimilation into the American population…Anyone who has traveled in the Far East knows that the mingling of Asiatic blood with European and American blood produces, in nine cases out of ten, the most unfortunate results.”

Woodrow Wilson, a southerner, opposed postwar Reconstruction because “the dominance of an ignorant and inferior race was justly dreaded.” He opposed giving blacks the right to vote, claiming “it was a menace to society,” and as president he oversaw the re-segregation of the federal government. He lived in the White House a century ago.

Calvin Coolidge signed an immigration bill aimed at keeping out “the yellow peril” — i.e. Asians, along with Africans and Arabs. “America must be kept American,” he said in 1923.

Donald Trump said once Nigerians have seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts.

“Laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control,” Trump said in a 1997 Playboy interview.

Over and over and over, I have had to confront family, friends, students, strangers with their idiocy and racism, both soft and hard, prejudice and bigotry, over and over and over. Ruben Navarrette Jr. of USA Today wrote after the El Paso murders:

Only in the past decade has there been a surge in books that expose this hidden history, including “Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence against Mexicans in the United States, 1848-1928” by William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb. In the 19th century, Mexican Americans were beaten and run off their property; in Texas and elsewhere, thousands were lynched. The World War II generation put up with segregated schools and being barred from public swimming pools, restaurants, barber shops and other establishments.

And within the country’s color scheme, Mexican Americans are in between black and white. In the 1960s, the saying was: If you’re white, you’re all right. If you’re black, stay back. And if you’re brown, stick around. The idea was that the country would accept Latinos as full participants in society, if we would just wait for our moment.

Well, we never got our moment. What we got instead, at a Walmart in West Texas, was mayhem and bloodshed and heartache.

Mexican Americans have been defined by ambivalence. But after what happened in El Paso, that is a luxury we can’t afford.

It is both a strange time and a point in this country’s disgusting history that is easily understood by and through history:

El Paso shooting: ‘Open season’ on Hispanics in America thanks to ‘racist in chief’ Trump/Trump has utterly failed in the president’s traditional role of uniting the country. His legacy will be stained by his deadly xenophobia and racism.

Two weeks in Mexico is never enough, but part of the purpose of my trip was to assimilate my partner (with Mexican family roots but no deep  Mexico experience) to Mexico. She went back in her life to visit a friend who she worked with (together 11 years ago), or in some sense, who she managed as an employee in Oregon.

In either case, we introduced ourselves to her 30th high school reunion in a town called Axochiapan (look at this story on the brain, people, labor, cultural drain of this small place surrounded by cane (sugar), cattle, corn, and hard working people stripped of agency by USA NAFTA, corrupt banks, corrupt presidents, all on the line of the financial theft of a developing country going back way before the United Fruit Company, Exxon, and the other Fortune 1000 corrupting felonious corporations making a dime on the gallons of blood and sweat of the people they deem as disposable, purposeless (push them off the land where the gems and metals are) and below that white DNA mutating set of genes that has for centuries put the world on fire.

Way North of the Border by Eduardo Porter and Elisabeth Malkin

Mexican mecca in Twin Cities by Eduardo Porter and Elisabeth Malkin. This was written 15 years ago, 2005:

They call Minneapolis the new Axochiapan, said Ramiro Hernandez, a successful businessman who arrived in the United States illegally 20 years ago from Axochiapan, a small town in the central Mexican state of Morelos.”Ninety percent of the population there has people over here. Kids come here as soon as they come of age.

There are so many men from Axochiapan in the area that the village priest came to visit.

“Father Miguel came to look for the husbands and take them back, but he didn’t manage to get any,” Enrmquez Navarro said.

Migration is leaving a deep mark on Axochiapan, a county seat at the center of a cluster of villages with a population of some 30,000.

In Quebrantadero, one of the villages, people talk of closing the primary school because there are so few young children left.

Municipal officials in Axochiapan estimate that at least a third of the population has moved.

The places we went to (some) were not on the gringo trail, the expat’s travel log, or the tourist trap. We stayed in homes where the water was iffy, where the toilets had to be swamped with buckets of water to flush, where the chickens and cocks and dogs all hung out while we ate peanuts and drank mezcal under the stars and bats and sounds of a small dying town still spasming to life at night.

It just so happened we were in Mexico during the days of saints, the days leading up to Christmas. Young and old people making the pilgrimage to genuflect to the Virgin of Guadalupe, which were long hikes along roads and highways. Days of walking to show tribute to the religion of the conquerors, the religion of biting repression, misogyny, and endless Byzantine corruption all the way from Rome to a two-bit Mexican village of peasants.

In the true character of a writer, artists, photographer, teacher, radical, and systems thinker, this was not contradictory or destabilizing for me since I have grown up in the Azores, lived overseas in poor towns in the UK, France, and then many of backpacking venture to Mexico, Central America, Vietnam, elsewhere.

The closer I got to Claudia’s 87-year-old father, who rides his horse, Muneca (doll) through the town into the milpas to tend to watering his 25 cows, the more I went into the cellular level of wanting nothing more than the entire western project, ramshackle as it is, razed, burned and vanished.

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Rodolfo Hernandez, Vaquero and cane grower, at 87 years young.

MAGA freaks I have met daily and who troll me on my websites, on my Linked In, in my life, well, they are the mutants I dream about — German, English, French, Slavic, et al. The pathogens who send their criminals (like Canadian mining outfits) into the high sierra or forested mountains or hardscrabble deserts of this land I call a second home.

The compassion, loyalty, love of life, connection to family, no matter how disheveled or fractured it may be, in these people’s pinkies is a thousand times more than the attempts at solidarity or cohesion I have experienced in many many a time with countless families in this country — United Snakes of America.

People daily ask me why I am still here, in the US of Israel. Why I am so discontented and so critical of this land of loafers, charlatans, cheats, racists, delusionals, arrogant fools AND still I live here? I get Stockholm syndrome and battered spouse syndrome and unnecessary attachment phobia.

As Andre Vtlchek says sometimes — I believe it too — that Westerners going to live as expats Haiti, Vietnam, Mexico, all those South American countries, what the hell do they bring, give, contribute to?

I was shocked by the state in which I found the United States.

I left many years ago. I left New York, which was, for more than a decade, my home. I never returned, except to launch my books and films, and to see my friends. I never stayed for long time. Two weeks, this time, was the longest in years.

This visit broke me. It exhausted me. It thoroughly depressed me.

I saw clearly how grotesque pseudo-morality, disgusting religious concepts and hypocrisy influenced and ruined entire nations, client states, worldwide, especially in Asia and Africa.

Yes, I believe in collective guilt. Holding US citizenship, I share the guilt. And therefore, I work non-stop, not to wash my hands, but to stop the madness.

I am convinced that the West, the white race and its lackeys abroad, have no right to rule over this Planet. I saw enough to back my conviction.

The West is finished, its culture dead. What is left is unattractive, even horrifying. There is no heart, no compassion, and no creativity. And those billions of people beyond the Western realm should not be dying, while forced to support the aggressive individualism of the post-Christian, post-Crusade colonialism and fascism of Europe and the United States.

He says the same here at DV —

The citizens of the Empire were eager to describe themselves as “victims”. Did the same spectacle appear in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s? Most likely yes! “Defeated Germany was hit by hyper-inflation, reparations, therefore it was a victim!” It felt it became a victim of the Bolsheviks and the Jews and the French, and the Roma… The United States was not defeated externally, only internally. The two settings are different. Yet there are many similarities, especially in how two empires have treated “un-people”.

“Do you believe in collective guilt, in collective responsibility?” Someone challenged me from the public.

“Definitely!” I shouted back. “The responsibility and the guilt of the West, of the white race, of Christianity, of the Empire! Collective responsibility and guilt for hundreds of millions of victims defined as un-people. Victims gassed, bomber, starved, mutilated… Collective guilt and responsibility for raping the free will of billions in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Oceania. Collective guilt and responsibility for the ongoing global apartheid!”

I can leave anytime, and I have on many occasions, but I am needed here, for a bit more time. I teach, I write, I work on an anti-poverty program, I live, I suffer, I engage. Now on the Oregon Coast. But of course there is more to this world than tap water, dish washers, lighted streets, order, lawless law, hegemony, reckless capitalism, penury, the lies of the empire, the rot of the professional class, the lies of the academic class, the tricks of the financial barons, the putrid propaganda of Hollywood-DoD-CIA.

Definitely, suffering and supplication and oppression are in the eye of the beholder. What more can life be than the relationships we hold dear, the simplicity of breathing in and out, the reality of one chopped-up coconut and one finely browned tortilla and endless laughter and guacamole and bits of cheese and papayas and mescal?

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Toritos –Mexican firework production include a number of explosive objects such as “rocas” (rocks, a kind of powerful firecracker), “vampiros” (vampires), “patas de mula” (mule hooves) and “bombas” (large rockets) as well as frames with pyrotechnics called “castillos” (castles), “toritos” (little bulls), “canastillas” (little baskets) and Judas figures . Castillos are generally large wooden frames covered with brilliant flares, which can cost between 20,000 to 250,000 pesos depending on size and complexity. These are most often made to honor patron saints or Mexico’s patriot heroes. Toritos are smaller frames in the shape of a bull, designed to be worn or carried by a person as they are lit, chasing passers-by in the street during festivals. A version of the torito is designed to released candy when set off, which as the effect of having children run toward it, instead of running away. Toritos run about 800 pesos in the market.

I didn’t have Trump of Sanders or Warren or FOX News or Holly-dirt or NYT or Bezos or Forbes or Economist or Military Industrial Complex on my mind while hoofing it to the field where 87-year-old Rodolfo went daily to water his cattle.

Horse and old man and two unmarried daughters taking care of the father whose wife died of cancer years ago.  Adrian, his brother, laughed at my horsemanship, and in the end I didn’t give a shit about macho-macho man (I know horses fairly well). He laughed and cajoled and razzed me, and it was all in good fun.

That night, after taking shots (photos) of the church and the band and the youth doing the toritos (paper mache bulls rigged with Roman candles and crazy fireworks) thing, Adrian was on his motorcycle, in his cups beyond anything an American might approve of, and he held me in his grip and just went on and on about being brothers with this crazy American with the Einstein hair. He laughed, we chugged tequila, and he drove off with the cycle’s light turned off.

So this friend (now family) in Mexico who wanted so much to impress my partner with the value of her own friendship with a gringa but also to show us a good side of her country. Claudia knew I was already deep into Mexico from an early age. What Claudia wanted was for my partner to enjoy the deep sense of her gratitude as her former boss in in the USA and a sense of renewed and energized friendship.

What Claudia and her sister Alejandra and her father Rodolfo and the entire clan did was they introduced us to people of their clan, their tribe, and they wanted to impress upon us a sense of belonging in their country.

Hands down, the country is saddened about and steeled  against the Donald Trump School of Racism spewed out against their country. Saddened still by the huge number of MAGA followers who despise Mexico and Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and anything Chicano or Latino.

Mexico’s at crossroads, too, again and again. Many in the state department and parasites of the bumbling media tell/report to people not to come to Mexico, or warn of wandering at night as a ticket to the grave Ross talks about in the epigraph above.

You can’t count the times in one or two blocks of driving here where neoliberalism and consumerism haven’t taken over the people. If you think the chains and Home Depots have colonized every pathetic place in the USA, we are seeing it at every turn in Mexico.

Yet this land of eagle and snake, blood and fire, church and conquistador, virgin mother and narco-trafficker, child and historian, baby and hunched over old man, pyramids and basilicas, pottery and plastic has something deep ingrained in most of the gente, the people of the land, pueblos, cities and villages.

In a span of a few days, I have returned to my other mother country, to the place where I learned how to think and write and feel and love and dispel all the chains of my mother and father countries.

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Cholula — Church on top of remains of largest pyramid (base wise) in the world — Tlachihualtepetl (Nahuatl for “made-by-hand mountain”). Toltec!