2019

Escape

World events of the past two weeks have been quite extraordinary, not that the years and decades before that were short on drama either! However, it seems to me as if things are going from bad to worse and are more turbulent than they have ever been. Anywhere I looked, and all across this planet of ours, there were disconcerting things going on. What to do? I could either allow myself to go into a depressed state, or I could choose to momentarily step away from it all and escape into my world of music, crossword puzzles, entertaining television programs and books! After all, none of the troubling events depend entirely on me for their resolution, and I am quite sure that they will still be going on with the same intensity and absurdity for the foreseeable future, which is quite sad!

I looked through the stack of books on my bedside table and picked one that my friend Gaby, who owns the Booklink bookshop, had sent me. It is a signed copy by the poet, Ocean Vuong: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, and it is the author’s first novel. The title is so beautiful, I thought, and, therefore, I presumed that it would be an uplifting read to draw me away from this very troubled, and troubling world.

Wrong! While I don’t regret my choice, it presented me with a different kind of troubling! Oof!

The book comes heavy with its own beautifully depressing aspects. It is written in a prose that is pure poetry at times, but is mostly sad, happy, haunting and quite heart-wrenching. The story is about a Vietnamese family: Grandmother Lan, who left Saigon a few hours before it fell, her Daughters Mai and Rose, and Rose’s son: Little Dog. When her grandson arrived, and believing in the superstition that evil spirits tend to take away children with beautiful names, Lan had named him “Little Dog,” hoping to protect him so he may survive. Superstition abounds in all cultures, doesn’t it?

The main themes that I took away from the novel evoked realities from my own experiences, ones that I had personally lived through, others that I was familiar with. Vietnam is the backdrop of this moving account, and one of the themes that I strongly identified with. It was a painful reminder of the US War on that entire region and the lies, ruthlessness, heartlessness and criminality with which it was fought; the extreme agony and death that the Napalm bombs and Agent Orange caused; the fires and the destruction of the soil; and of how the uprooting, displacement, refugees and trauma still, after all these years, manage to bring on deep suffering to the lives of so many, whether they have become US citizens such as the Vietnamese family in the novel, or whether they are still over there. Recently, and amongst all the horrid events on our planet, a study has come out about the lies that the American Government has been propagating regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. The “successes” that our military and sub-contracted projects have achieved are not true at all, as the report states. Not surprising, since the entire Iraq war was based on lies, after all! Yet, we destroyed and traumatized these two nations, as well as the entire Middle East region, and are still doing so! Unbelievably merciless! Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and the wars continue. There has to be another way for us to coexist on this planet without destroying it in every sense as we are doing!

The other theme in this heart-wrenching novel is the fact that Little Dog falls in love with a boy, and the dilemma that this causes him on how to tell his mother that he is gay. I have known five guys who have been through this: one of them, with whom I worked in a civil rights organization and whom I really cared for, died of AIDS during the early nineties; one waited until his parents passed away and then told his siblings who embraced and accepted him; three have never come out of the closet, so to speak, and their mothers have no idea, which is a constant and nagging pain of having to live a double-life of pretense. That’s why Little Dog’s predicament and how agonizing it must have been, touched me deeply and reminded me of those dear fellows I know.

Flitting through his memories and going back and forth between his Grandmother and her experiences; his Mother and how her life unfolded and his own life, Ocean Vuong compels us to share all the tableau of his 28-year-long journey and the incidents and experiences that he remembers from his own vantage point after having graduated from university and becoming a writer. It is his memories that finally allow him to reconcile his deep love for his Mother and Grandmother; his sexual awakening and acceptance of himself; and the necessary acknowledgement that his Vietnamese heritage with all its pain and instinct for survival are, and will forever be, a part of himself. I strongly identified with that theme of reconciling the pain of our memories, one that I share with the many millions of uprooted humans from all over war-torn countries. And, the fact that Lan and Rose did not even realize that so much of their behavior was due to PTSD, was so poignant as it reminded me of how I had to deal with so much that was, and still oftentimes is, very painful. The ache of memories is what remains with us for as long as we are alive, but, as Little Dog realized, it is only through reconciling with the pain that we achieve an inner peace with ourselves.

And then there is another terrifying theme of the opioid crisis and of how the pharmaceutical companies benefited in the billions of dollars from an addiction epidemic that they proliferated through, and with, their abetting doctors and sales representatives – an epidemic that I do not think would have raged as horribly had we not been illicitly importing all that cheap heroin from Afghanistan while our politicians were either complicit, or asleep at the switch! Money Talks, Integrity Walks! How corrupt!

Yes, I wanted to escape into the pages of a book, however, I ended up reliving many personal, traumatic and sad experiences all over again. Yet, it was worth every moment of my time, and of the touching effort of one Ocean Vuong who is a remarkable writer and a beautiful person.

2019

Among Other Things . . .

He is a young man, an actor and a comedian, among other things, who was elected President of Ukraine, and, same as Donald Trump, he seemed to be just as surprised that he had become President. Volodymyr Zelensky was even more flabbergasted recently to find out how many times his name and Ukraine’s were mentioned during these past weeks of the ongoing Theatre Of The Absurd that is called an Impeachment Inquiry. He had never anticipated anything like that! Nor, I believe, had anyone else.

However, as I was listening to the proceedings, I couldn’t help but think as to why those same resolute political figures, and that same corrupt mainstream media, never thought of initiating an Impeachment Inquiry into George W. Bush, his cohorts, and all the evil figures who had waged a cruel and relentless war on Iraq, thus causing, not only Iraq, as Bush had promised, but the whole region to go “back to the Stone Age,” even though, and only in much belated retrospect, there is almost unanimous agreement that it was an egregious undertaking? I, for one, consider it a Crime Against Humanity, among other things. Despite that, we and our despicable War Allies, the Brits, continue to hound Julian Assange and want him thrown in jail for the rest of his life – or, preferably die there since his health has been failing anyway – electing to punish him for exposing the war crimes that Bush had caused and is responsible for. Here is a refresher history published by The Intercept.

https://theintercept.com/2019/11/20/ghosts-of-mossadegh-the-iran-cables-u-s-empire-and-the-arc-of-history/

Who, pray convince me, is more culpable: Assange, or Bush? Assange is one more reason (out of several) why many people have come to distrust the mainstream media. After all, they drank the Bush Kool-Aid that had borrowed a principle from Lenin’s book: A lie told often enough becomes the truth. And they told one lie after another reiterated lie about Iraq! And lies, bias, hypocrisy are what they peddled to us at the onset of the Iraq War, and have been every single day since then, whether it is regarding Ukraine, Venezuela, Ecuador, Syria, Yemen etc. etc. Then they are surprised that they have lost the people’s trust! Putin didn’t cause that! Their cherry-picking of issues, lies, bigotry and arrogance did!

Thinking of Our Allies, the Brits, among other things happening in our world, brings me to the scandal of The Prince! There again, a privileged, narcissistic, elitist, spoiled royal child goes cavorting with Jeffrey Epstein and having sex with young “Lolitas,” and then denying his culpability! His picture with a young female, as Epstein’s revolting enabler and pimp, Ghislaine Maxwell, gazes on was all over the papers and, yet, he denies, as did Bill Clinton when he was caught with his pants down, and as did so many others throughout time! What is wrong with them?

However, the British Royal Family is the richest and most powerful institution in the world. They remain, though, a dysfunctional family that has had scandals throughout their royal history, but have succeeded through social engineering in rehabilitating and obfuscating every disgrace regarding all their wayward members. We’ll wait and see how they will do that for The Pedophile Prince! This ability to manipulate facts and gloss over wickedness are preventing humans from being able to reconcile all these dichotomies, scandals and malfeasance going on in the upper echelons of society with their own daily realities. And when Trump entered onto the world stage such contradictions increased multifold causing the world’s blood pressure to go up, and the American people to be utterly stressed! It behooves me how one man, one election can drive the whole country and the world into this exhausting frenzy! Quite appalling really!

Thinking of stress, Recovery Diva (an interesting blog by Claire B. Rubin) reports that The American Psychological Association in their annual survey concluded that what the majority of Americans are mostly stressed about are the upcoming elections, health care and random shooting incidents. This sounds quite understandable considering our sorry state of affairs on all three issues. It also seems that psychologists and scientists have determined that stress, arising from horrific incidents and experiences occurring to an individual, within a family, or to a society, are so damaging that they can even change the structure of our DNA, thus ensuring that our children will inherit impaired genes. I thought that was pretty scary! What on earth are we subjecting our children to? Climate Change and a Burning Planet; Industrial and Chemical-filled Food Products; Mass Shootings; the Uncertainty of our Political Landscape; and the tragic list goes on and on.

Speaking of children and among other things happening recently, are issues that those students headed for universities are having to seriously think of other than a mass shooter, or rape etc., and, especially, those interested in joining fraternities. Hazing Rites are one of them, because they are a major part of the initiation process into any fraternal chapter. According to news sources, Indiana University recently suspended a fraternity for “allegedly performing a hazing ceremony that involved sexual misconduct” and are conducting an investigation. In 2010, two-thirds of the members of this fraternity were kicked out for hazing and alcohol violations. And they are still in business? Likewise at Ohio University nine people were indicted for the alleged hazing death of an 18-year-old student who died after being beaten with a belt, pelted with eggs, deprived of sleep and forced to take drugs and drink a gallon of alcohol during one hour. Attorney Rex Elliot told ABC News “our goal is to eliminate hazing in its entirety so that no other mother or father have to lose a child.” These are only two recent incidents of such crimes. There have been many more over the years, and I would like someone to help me understand how lawmakers and university bigwigs across the country have not yet eliminated this horrific ritual! What does it take? Tragic!

Also among other things and while scanning my news sources from here, there and everywhere I came upon an item informing me that the famous Victoria’s Secrets whose yearly show is anticipated by multitudes has been cancelled for this year. I was delighted, because I have for long believed that a major part of the “MeToo” movement has to encompass all aspects of sexualizing females and presenting them to the world as commodities, which is exactly what Victoria’s Secrets is all about. As a civilization we ought to be way past that! We have not yet realized that as long as we continue to peddle sex whether we are selling pharmaceuticals, food, vacations, or absolutely anything else, then predators will continue to use women, to abuse them, traffic in them, deny their victimhood and continue to allow the likes of Weinstein, Lauer, Moonves, Ailes, The Prince and all other men of their kind to keep on doing what they do! Epstein, who was a cad and more, lived off the sex trade, and although I do not think that he, or anyone else, deserves to be gruesomely murdered as he was, he, too, was a privileged narcissist who preyed on women, and who had a female enabler as his pimp! She, I believe, is even more disgusting than he was! Women like her do not even deserve anything but scorn!

Yes, these are among other things  – so many! – going on in our world, and so much that requires our immediate attention much more than the theatrics of an Impeachment Inquiry. Many of those things are truly disheartening! They are also a dire warning that when the agitation, immorality, double-standards and injustice in the world continue as they have been one of two things is liable to happen: either we straighten up and begin paying attention and reversing course, or we bury our heads in the sand. So far, and in the absence of any Supermen or Wonder Women, we have mostly chosen to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that the Apocalypse is not going to happen! Very sad!