Something Quiet and Urgent…

Something quiet and urgent was hanging over the radio this morning soon after I awoke in the darkness at 5:30am.

LAUSD was expected to make an announcement.

It was forthcoming:  a rumor the schools might be closed down here in Los Angeles.

The sun rose, the skies were clear, the winds blew, and it was a cold morning in December, 9 days before Christmas.

Then it was official.

The schools were, indeed, closed.

A bomb threat had been “sent electronically” (how else are communications sent these days?) and over a half million children would not go to school. Which made many of the students happy, but caused those parents, who work at jobs, to work at worrying, about their kids.

Our alerted and nervous minds went to school, where poisons and dangers and societal toxins lined up near the entrance, under the flag, ready to march past the lockers, down the hall and into the classroom. The diversity of fear, one nation under lockdown, forever ready to give up liberty before death.

Internet, Islam and San Bernardino, caution, children, unforeseen terror, substantiated threat, hoax, fear, prayers, moms, guns and explosives.

It was a day of mayoral and school chancellor pronouncements, of the FBI, the White House and the LAPD, all speaking in front of reporters, and the line of authority acting competent when deep down we know that the sick and the violent soul of humankind casts a darker shadow across our nation these days.

No wonder the blurted and un-thoughtful utterances of Mr. Trump lure us into his mad funhouse of revenge and strongman demagoguery. We know or think we know that he knows what we know. When he blurts out what’s on everyone’s minds, we imagine he can fight and win the battle.

In our country, there are many days when children go to school and nobody tells them to go home, but instead someone armed and ill enters a school and kills.

Those are the days we should fear. Those are the days that have already come too many times.

But it is hard to know what to fear first, so paralyzed with dread are we at red blood under the blackboard.

State of the Union

Chicago, IL
South Side

“Tonight, I propose a “Fix-It-First” program to put people to work as soon as possible on our most urgent repairs, like the nearly 70,000 structurally deficient bridges across the country. And to make sure taxpayers don’t shoulder the whole burden, I’m also proposing a Partnership to Rebuild America that attracts private capital to upgrade what our businesses need most: modern ports to move our goods; modern pipelines to withstand a storm; modern schools worthy of our children. Let’s prove that there is no better place to do business than the United States of America. And let’s start right away.

Part of our rebuilding effort must also involve our housing sector. Today, our housing market is finally healing from the collapse of 2007. Home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years, home purchases are up nearly 50 percent, and construction is expanding again.

But even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected. Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no. That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it. Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates. Democrats and Republicans have supported it before. What are we waiting for? Take a vote, and send me that bill. Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home. What’s holding us back? Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.” -Barack Obama, State of the Union Address, 2/13/13

Back to the Future

Once or twice, I’ve implied, on this blog, about the deep conservatism of the car show crowd.

I stand by my intuition and observation, as shown by this Romney bumper sticker incongruously and sloppily stuck on the back of a 1956 Ford at Bob’s in Burbank last Friday evening.

Car people are particular. Engines are buffed, vacuumed and wiped flawless with glass cleaner. A piece of dust under a foot pedal is upsetting. So it must be quite a matter of some significance to deface an exquisitely perfect 1956 Ford bumper with a taped on Romney sticker.

Car shows are also about nostalgia. They represent what we imagine and love about the past, a past that never ages or grows old, whose icons and places, Elvis and Ike, Van Nuys Boulevard and the Hollywood Freeway were once young, promising and fresh.

The machines of 50 or 60 years ago had style, they were adventurous in design and innovation, capable of exciting and seducing us, in a way that new cars do not. They ran fast, they took us to drive-in movies, to midnight picnics on the beach, up the road to hide and make out in the moonlit orange groves in the back of a convertible.

In the car show fantasy, nobody ever sat in traffic on a freeway and commuted to a dull job as an actuary in an insurance company. Everyone had a permanent erection and a pretty young thing next to them. And every night was Friday night.

Now the car show crowd is hot and heavy, excited and worked up over the next new marketing invention, Willard Mitt Romney.

31 years after Ronald Reagan took office, the car show crowd is again hoping that a reassuring old model will be inaugurated, a model whose exterior charms and surface good looks represent the best of what America can be, a model male whose wealth, beautiful children and blonde wife stand as proof of the veracity of our nation’s promise, a leader whose banal aphorisms and smooth clichés may soothe our rotted souls and whose lies and reversals masquerade as moderatism.

Like a new car, the new president promises good times, advertising his suitability for any family, his practical experience on the road, his durability, his proven assets, all dramatized in commercials, on stage, in front of an audience of millions. He is shiny, buffed and prosperous.

But there is one deep, dark pothole, on the road to Romney, which may cause him to lose his political goal.

If, by the intervention of Satan, Obama is re-elected, the car show crowd will grumble and groan. The old, red-nosed, white-haired men with their fold-out, blue, big cup chairs and plastic flags will still gather at Bob’s; but the talk, of taxes and debt, war and health care, the big issues, those will once again go underground in hibernation, for four more years, and the focus will shift back to 1955, 1962, 1969, 1972, a past that never dies, a young and eternal past which the old haunt like a prospector panning for gold in a dried up stream bed.

Kunstler on the Tuscon Killings.

James Howard Kunstler writes provocative critiques about the decline of America, interpreted through the aesthetic ugliness of our strip malls, billboards, and vacuous suburban environment.   He speculates about why young men, facing meaningless work and oppressive debt, might go mad in a nihilistic nation that has destroyed its own character and integrity:

“The rewards of entering the realm beyond college are paltry-to-miserable. Solitary cab rides to the mall. A burrito and a Big Gulp. Later, back home, an hour in the virtual company of the Kardashian sisters via the E-Network on your parents’ cable TV. Where are the initiations into manhood? (Try the channelized dry-wash, courtesy of the Barrio Blue Moon boyz.) I’m convinced that the reason video games and movies aimed at young males in America are devoted almost solely to fantasies about super-heroes and supernatural power (especially the power to kill) is because adolescent boys feel so impotent, so powerless, so unlike real men. The adults in this culture do not furnish any meaningful alternative scripts. That’s the market’s job, I guess.”

Racialism and Obama.

Racialism and Obama

Suddenly, the cat is out of the bag and people are looking at those who oppose Obama and asking if the dislike of the President is formed out of racial animosity.

To an observer and historian of American history, the question should really be asked: What issues in our nation are not tinged by racial prejudice?

Very few.

Welfare reform, tax breaks for the wealthy, home schooling, public transportation, spending for domestic social needs, legislative redistricting, education, jobs, sprawl, the growth of the Sun Belt, immigration reform, the depopulation and decay in the Rust Belt, Christian values, states rights, affirmative action, prisons, law enforcement, guns. Almost everything has some underlying racial preference or prejudice influencing people’s beliefs and behaviors.

Obama is half white, but in this nation, that means he is all black. He married a black woman, and they joined a majority black church and lived and worked among working class black Chicagoans. Obama never lived post-racially but joined the very race based world of South Side Chicagoland.

Despite his immersion in South Side politics, Obama has tried and nearly succeeded in making white people forget that the history of America is as much about the exclusion of darker skin as it about the inclusion of everyone else. For the last two years, the liberal “elite”, if there is such a class, has pronounced, from its well-to-do white habitat, that we are a “post-racial” nation. We are not, and never will be that country.

Who among us, if given a choice, would rather have a black complexion? Who would choose to live in a mostly black neighborhood if they could live anywhere? We are lying if we say that we want to make our life harder. Anyone with common sense would like things to be easier: economically, socially, and racially.

If some sleeping liberals now detect that hostility to Obama stems from some hidden bigotry, they might realize that hatred of the man and his policies all share a common thread, however insignificant: race and color will always inform our policies.

Race and class are sitting in the debate room on issues as small as the renaming of a part of Van Nuys as Sherman Oaks; and as large, invisible spectators in the national tragedy of why we have spent 2 trillion dollars in Iraq rather than rebuilding Detroit, Newark, and Camden, NJ.


Colorful people for a Better World, Barack Obama, Martin Luther King (Ben Heine)

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