Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sanders rally: a blast from the past

Sunday, April 17, 2016

I hadn’t intended to go to Union Square yesterday; I just wound up there.
Months had passed since I had last visited Manhattan, so I didn’t even mind the mid-town madness, tourists and others crowding the sidewalks, pushing and shoving to get ahead.
I simply got into a groove and let the street take me where it would, through Herald Square, then to the Flat Iron Building and then down into the depths of my teen age years that started at Union Square and usually ended up along the parks near Eighth Street.

I was headed to Washington Square when I paused at the farmer’s market at Union Square to get some fruit, and heard the chanting on the 14th Street side of the park – a flash back to a time when we gathered here and elsewhere for anti-war protests, ex-soldiers and hippies locked arm in arm against decisions being made by our leaders.
Not until I neared the Union Square subway station did I realize it was a political rally, but by then, I could not mistake for whom.
Life-sized images of Bernie Sanders floated above the heads of the crowd, as did giant eyeglasses accompanied by giant white eyebrows, symbolic images as rebellious against the political machine as the peace sign was in my time (although there were plenty of peace signs, too.)
A handful of women, who looked dressed for Wall Street, approached some of the female Sanders’ supporters, saying, “You’re betraying your kind,” meaning that they were supporting a white man over a woman, Hillary Clinton.

This was a clear message that women should vote for a woman, regardless of how much that woman (Clinton) betrayed the poor and working class when her husband was president, or how like a reverse carpetbagger; she had run and won a seat in the U.S. Senate representing New York. While some might puzzle as to why so many African Americans support Clinton, any good history book on post Civil War ought to be a lesson about how loyal former slaves were to their former masters – even when it was against their own interests. I understand women’s needs better, how desperate the feminist movement is to move on up into the White House after a black man made it, and how horrible it is to live under a glass ceiling watching others get their turn. But why does it have to be Clinton? Warren is a much more inclusive woman, but unfortunately, the political machine is behind Clinton.
Most people ignored these Wall Street women; many had bad things to say about Clinton’s support for Wall Street.
I don’t agree with Sanders on a number of issues, such as his position on guns. But I felt the wave of his support wash over me, a flood of nostalgia making me more sympathetic for his cause than I had any right.

For one thing, I had half expected the crowd to be dominated by gray haired hippie types left over from my generation. It was not. It was filled with young people as if some time machine had transported them straight from the Columbia protests in fifty years ago, supporters of every color and gender identity, all caught up in a fever that made me sweat just walking around them. Their signs filled with the same mixture of anger and comedy war protestors had displayed, while on the side likes Sanders organizers quietly signed up these people for their cause.
I had intended to spend only a few moments gazing before moving on to my original quest to find my past farther downtown, but I could not drag myself away from a living breathing vision of the past to wander the ghost town gentrification and Wall Street had turned the East and West Villages into.

This was the place to be, here the war was being waged, like a Native American ghost dance, hoping to hold back the tide of political tanks that backed people like Clinton – these people were like those protestors at Tiananmen Square so long ago, standing their ground even as we in the media painted Clinton as inevitable winners. This was the same faith I saw in the faces of protesters in my own time convinced that if they shouted loud enough and stood firm enough, they could change the world, and keep political Hawks like Clinton from regaining the throne of power.
Unfortunately, I have seen too much of the political machine that backed Clinton to have much hope that Sanders will prevail. But in that moment in that historic park where unions fought for their rights for generations and protestors have always stood up against the system, I wished to believe.

Maybe that’s enough.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Good bye, Mr. Grubbles

Monday, April 11, 2016

He wasn’t quite dead when I found him on Saturday morning; but I didn’t know that until after I called Animal Control, and found the office closed.
Apparently animals aren’t supposed to get hit by cars at another other time of day except 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
This being Saturday, the office was closed and the message said for me to call the police, and I did.
“If it isn’t an emergency, they won’t respond,” the dispatcher informed me.
Since I thought the ground hog dead, I hung up.
It was raining. The water gushed down the guttered so that the body was wet. But I left it, and went to do my chores.
When I got back, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to move the body, and when I touched the animal, he moved.
Not much, but more than a nervous reaction.
He was dying, but not dead. But he was near the wheel of a parked car and he was soaked from cold rain.
Monday seemed too long to wait to have someone come.
But I had little choice. So with gloves and a snow shovel, I scooped him up and brought him into my back yard where I have summer cushioned seats under an awning. I put him on the chair. He moved a little. He was still breathing. But he must have been cold.
I’m not certain this is the same ground hog that lived on the cliff behind my house, but I’m pretty sure it was.
I was proud to have him as a neighbor, and his loss struck me hard.
I liked seeing him poke his nose up into the air on warm spring days, liked see him grubble for grubs. For this reason, I called him “Mr. Grubbles.”
Although clearly on death’s doorstep and not completely aware of the world, Mr. Grubbles clearly hadn’t yet passed into the next world. So I covered him with an old hoodie and fixed a lamp above him the way I sometimes did for outside cats – like Charlie.
Charlie had often spent cold winter nights on the same chair under the same lamp, keeping him from freezing.
This winter I brought Charlie inside only to find that he had an incurable disease. I put him down only ten days prior to my finding Mr. Grubbles. So the pain I felt was over the loss of two valued neighbors. Their loss was incalculable. They were part of the fabric of my reality. They made up the last vestiges of the wild world soon to vanish under high rise construction and the chopping down of trees.
I liked to think that ours was an island of wilderness in this insane march towards paving over every thing, and over population by my species.
But civilization is relentless and uncaring, making victims even of those who survive.
Slow moving citizens like Mr. Grubbles cannot possibly survive the endless parade of speeding cars that have turned my street into a highway (as well as a parking lot at night). We seem determined to want to blot out anything that lives free without taxes, whether it is those homeless men who lived on the Palisades or those less human, but just as important creatures who lived here before us.
We seem determined to blot them out of existence, but want them to perish by our time schedule: 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
Mr. Grubbles passed away during the night from Saturday to Sunday.
I hope he realized, he was loved.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

A chill wind

Thursday, April 07, 2016

The chill gets into my bones in particular this time of year.
I expect this in winter, but the calendar claims this as spring and I’ve already sprung ahead to believe it should be – so my bones hurt as if betrayed.
I strolled along the Kill Van Kull late last week feeling the cold air sweep off the water like an invading army.
It takes over the landscape and holds its ground.
And I am helpless to recapture the good feeling the promise of spring usually brings me.
I live my life marked by changing seasons the way my grandparents have, and their grandparents before them.
But we are living in a new era where these things matter less or are less predictable.
Call it climate change or global warming, it has changed the fundamental make up of what it means to be human, and put us out of touch with the natural order.
Bible-thumpers tell us there is no such thing, hiding their fear behind capitalistic greed.
We dare not admit that after God gave us dominion over the earth, we screwed everything up, turning the world into a place that no longer has a time for growing and a time for letting go, a time for being born and a time for mourning.
We the unwise caretakers of the earth have turned the world into a maze of unpredictably we cannot pray back into submission. So we get 70 degrees on Christmas and 30 degrees two weeks after Easter has expired.
This is not to say that a chill this time of year is unnatural. There have been cold spells before.
But it is clear that those who put faith in god have very little faith in the cycles god set up, and could care less about undermining his creation for their own gain.
Behind each page of the Bible is a greedy capitalist, finding holy words with which to justify his or her greed. And there is a host of true believers who get lured into believing anything that comes wrapped up in scripture, too naïve or ignorant to realize that The Bible is a metaphor, one vast poem saying this is like that, and never meant to be taken literally.
I guess we are so lost in this maze of choices that we will grasp at anything that seems to know which way to go, even if it is in the wrong direction, even if it is a map drawn by a master manipulator steering us to ends that do not profit us in the end or liberate our souls.
We are so desperate for miracles to solve problems we can’t or won’t solve for ourselves that we will follow any huckster showing us cheap tricks and misquoting scripture. We are lambs being led to slaughter.
And the chill I feel isn’t merely from the weather, but from seeing massive rallies like the one that took place in Long Island last night, a flock of misguided, misled fools headed off a cliff, willing to drag the rest of us with them.