Posts by jameslloyddavis

James Lloyd Davis, a Vietnam veteran and former electrician, shipfitter, pipefitter, boilermaker, ironworker and engineer, currently lives in Ohio. He has returned to writing after a long absence, is working on two novels, and experiments with short fiction in various forms.

Peoples’ Daily Brief – 14 June, 2020

The Weekend Edition – “Defund the police”

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(Ragan Clark / AP Photo)

Law and order.
Crime and punishment.
What do these phrases really mean?

Without sinking to the over-simplified and nouveau cynical sophistry of a second year Philosophy Major at the University, how do we go about deconstructing the bases of our failing system of justice and the institutions of law enforcement that have purported to serve us in that regard for so long that we can scarcely manage to consider an alternative without some sort of populist panic attack at the mere suggestion thereof…

“Defund the police ?!?!”
“Are you insane ?!?!”

Well, no, actually… and even the staid and somewhat conservative corporate media in America have begun to take a second look at what might have been considered the pipe dream of anarchists only two weeks past.  For instance… in an article from Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR) which organization is dedicated to serving as a watchdog for the media and calling out its pretentious bias, I read about a Washington Post editorial that surprised me, because the Post seldom embraces even normative progressive notions much less so radical a concept as “defund the police”…
From the FAIR article…
“The Washington Post editorial board (6/9/20)—not known for its friendliness to revolutionary ideas—called the “provocative slogan…a welcome call to reimagine public safety in the United States.” The editorial asked whether police really ought to be responding to mental health emergencies, dealing with homelessness, and funding local governments by “extracting fees from citizens,” and opined that “onlookers are rightfully alarmed at plans to slash social services while sparing police budgets.”

Even though the conversation in the media at large is not being ridiculed as a rule, the “defund the police” concept is more often “described” in ways that tend to remove its more startling implications and the coverage often downplays its radical intent.   Here is the link to the full article from the website at  FAIR.ORG

It always makes me nervous when people begin to talk about the times we live in as one of those mist-inducing “historical moments”… an evocative phrase that often serves to presage decades of disinterest… or, at the very least, an accelerated blowback of regret following what I like to call “conceptual sticker-shock.”  Cultural paralysis sometimes accompanies radical movements like a shadow.  It’s brought on by the eventual recognition of the cost, the enormity of the tasks involved.  It’s a process.  First, there’s a brief period of euphoric dialogue replete with bright, new, shiny buzz words.   “Experts” start to emerge from the wainscoting like Carolina cockroaches in a house afire and they are everywhere, writing books, showing up on MSNBC.  There is a fervor that lasts for a while, but the harsh reality of the hard work that’s needed eventually triggers mind-numbing public apathy.  Yes, every good and worthy idea has its moment, but it needs more than champions or enthusiasm.  These days, new ideas need a think tank and think tanks are funded by people who piffle and tosh at the mere mention of those pulse-quickening, often revolutionary phrases and slogans that clash with their privilege.

“Defund the police ?!?!”
“What… are you some kind of anarchist ?!?!”

The concept is not new by any means, but it’s not a subject that has reached the public discourse until recently and, as often happens when the public is made suddenly aware of a new and radical concept, especially as it pertains to extreme alteration of existing institutions, the public is more immediately exposed to explanations about what it means by the people who are opposed to those ideas at the outset because they are unsettling to people whose lives derive purpose and a sense of security within existing circumstance.  They enjoy enormous benefit and privilege from the status quo.  Because they oppose it, their interpretation is distorted to fit the negative frame through which they would like us to view it.

So… back to the question.  What is actually meant by the words, “defund the police” when they are used by protesters against police aggression and the seemingly constant threat and growing incidence of violence from law enforcement officers, more specifically to black men almost everywhere in America?  More importantly, when you hear those words… defund the police… what do you think it means?  Sometimes the answer is obvious, self-evident, but not in this case… or rather, it’s meaning may be obvious but it is also an incomplete statement.  The people who advocate the concept within the larger context of its origin in the prison abolition movement… what do they say it means?

“Say what ?!?!  Prison abolition?  Now you want to shut down all the prisons ?!?!  What?  You wanna put Charlie Manson back on the street?  What’s with you people?”

Not really. 

Let’s take a look at the movement and what it is trying to accomplish.
Angela Davis, a longtime advocate for both the abolition of prisons and radical alteration of our policing institutions, speaking with Amy Goodman during an interview on DemocracyNow! said this about defunding the police and what is meant in terms of the abolitionist movement…

Angela_Davis_en_Bogotá,_Septiembre_de_2010

By DILINHOS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

“Well, the call to defund the police is, I think, an abolitionist demand, but it reflects only one aspect of the process represented by the demand. Defunding the police is not simply about withdrawing funding for law enforcement and doing nothing else. And it appears as if this is the rather superficial understanding that has caused (Former Vice President and Democratic Presidential candidate) Biden to move in the direction he’s moving in.
“It’s about shifting public funds to new services and new institutions — mental health counselors, who can respond to people who are in crisis without arms. It’s about shifting funding to education, to housing, to recreation. All of these things help to create security and safety. It’s about learning that safety, safeguarded by violence, is not really safety.”  (Italics used for emphasis here are mine.)  Here is a link to the full interview with Angela Davis at  DEMOCRACY NOW!  It’s an excellent discussion.  Worth the time it takes to listen.

Meanwhile… let’s get down to simple things… facts unimpeded by rhetoric.  An honest assessment informs us that we employ the police to do our dirty work.  We expect them to handle the people who embarrass our sense of civility and order. 

What is the nexus of the circumstance, though?  Where do we derive our justification for the punishment of crime as opposed to the social failures that create behavior and circumstances, conditions we define as “criminal”?  Is our perception of the problems even based on truth… on the substance of facts?  For instance… is there a drug problem?  Or is there a hole in peoples’ lives they seek to fill with narcotics of every description… with or without a prescription?  Is there a homeless problem with people sleeping in doorways, parking lots, abandoned homes and alleyways?  Or is there a growing number of people living on an economic edge… such that every economic crisis bumps more of them out of their jobs and out of their homes, renders them desperate, friendless, and out on the street in far less time than it takes most people to recover?

Isn’t it simpler to skip the research, grab a handy answer and ignore the real cause of any embarrassing segment of the population than to solve the problems that create their loathsome situation?  It’s definitely more profitable for some people when we look the other way and let someone else do all the work.  And considering the optimistic projections of growth in the for-profit prison industry, the business of crime and punishment is indeed a lucrative investment. 

We’ve made the victim of our social failures a criminal by way of laws invented for that purpose.  We put him in prison and… voila!  A ready-made profitable source of cheap captive labor.  Never mind that with our lack of interest, we’ve enabled an institution that could be called a twenty-first century brand of slavery, but hey… talk like that would be too honest.  Nobody wants to imagine they bear any responsibility for something like that.  However, in a government that purports to be of, for, and by the people, we are very much responsible for the perverse actions of our institutions.

Don’t l;ook to Congress to do anything about this.  They are… and they have been the enablers.  The prison-industrial complex has lobbies that are financially outgunned by no one else on the Hill… other than those who work in the military-industrial complex, but that’s a whole ‘nuther smoke.  To be sure, for-profit prisons have many friends in Washington… and in both major Parties.

So… this is the endgame.  If you outlaw poverty… outlaw drug dependency… you can build an entire and uniquely profitable industry.  It’s the American way.  Capitalism in its highest form.

But times and perceptions are changing.

Perhaps the most obvious sign of that change that I’ve seen is a trend that popped up in the last few days… that of cable networks cancelling the cop shows, those real-life, light-em-up, chase-em-down cop shows, you know.  You’ve seen them yourself, the ones where a cast of somewhat photogenic, but genuine cops are shown forever tagging people for suspicious behavior.  They tag people driving, tag people walking, tag people standing on corners… forever tagging people with conditions that more often than not include being poor… or a POC… or both.  These cops are lighting them up, pulling them over, checking them for wants and warrants, “smelling” marijuana in their cars, calling in Officer Bruno with the biceps and his drug-sniffing pup… dismantling the people’s cars on the side of the road while the people sit handcuffed, perplexed on the curb.  Entertainment.  It’s been going on for years… cops arresting people, driving them off in the cubicle cage on seats without cushions in the back of their squad cars.  Driving them off to the labyrinth of plea-bargaining, intimidation, exploitation, and endless incarcerations that we have the stones to call our criminal “justice” system.

Non-violent crime mostly.
“Bad boy.  Bad boy.”  Really?
Petty crime.  Pay the fine or do the time.
But if you don’t have any money, you’re screwed.

People have problems, but instead of helping them deal with their circumstances, we hold them to standards that require them to have some measure of personal wealth.  Poverty is a crime.  Homelessness is a crime.  Dependency and just plain bad damn luck… all crimes.  We criminalize their conditions, circumstances that are a reflection of our own disinterest… the result of society’s failure.  We can no longer deny the violence and the racism that exists as a serious and dangerous problem in many police departments and in many law enforcement agencies, some of which have an institutional flair for bigotry. 

It’s out there and it is self-evident… an uncomfortable and nagging presence in our public discourse.  It’s in your face, America, now that cameras are everywhere and it can no longer be hidden by lies.  Though some may be willing to condone the oppression, the violence… the greater majority of Americans, the people who either understand their own culpability or, by virtue of the color of their skin, they see their own present danger in that very real threat and are no longer willing to tolerate the injustice.  Their voice is loud and their demands will be heard.

“Defund the police.”  What does it mean?

Only this… and it’s not a mystery… deconstruct the failing institution and replace it with other and better and more focused institutions(plural) that serve humanity, not the sacred pillars of American exceptionalism, profit, and privilege.  Address the problems not the symptoms. Help the people who are presently oppressed by our laws and the enforcement thereof instead of criminalizing their existence and their needs. 

It’s really that simple. 

And for those of you who think the Founding Fathers were using their Bibles as a foundation for our Constitution, you’ll be pleased to know that this kind of a fix is right in line and in perfect agreement with the ideas and precepts that are outlined in your leather-bound King James Edition… especially the parts that are printed in red.

It’s really rather simple.  Well, maybe not so simple to get it done, considering how much work is involved and how difficult it is to gt people to act… but it’s easy enough to understand.  The hard part is overcoming the fearful reactions of people who are not now affected by the injustice inherent in the system, the ones who want to know if their property will be safe without an army of men suited up, locked and loaded, ready at the drop of a dime to kill or be killed in order to protect what they have.  Safety… as though what we have at the present time comes anywhere near to a condition that could be described as “safe.”

“Okay, enough.  I get it… so how do we fix it?”

That’s not something we can cover without some background in depth.  A sound byte won’t do the job.  We’ll talk about that some more next week on the Weekend Edition of The Peoples’ Daily Brief, but for now, let me leave you a link to a recent op-ed that explains the thinking of activists who are involved with fixing the problem today… right now… in Minneapolis. 

Here is a relevant extract from an op-ed describing their work, from Jae Hyun Shim, as it appeared in Truthout…
“No sweeping, structural change can happen overnight. And the transition to a police-free Minneapolis will be intentional, measured and collaborative. Right now, it is important to understand that Minneapolis residents have already been taking care of each other, and we will continue to. It’s also worth recognizing that prison abolition is not a reaction to a moment, but a long-time movement backed by decades of Black radical thinking and experience.
“In the past two weeks since Mr. Floyd’s brutal murder at the hands of the MPD, Minneapolis has seen community members step up to fill the gaps where our city, state and county systems have failed us. We’ve created community fire brigades, a people’s ambulance, a transit support system, food banks and hot meal bars, and community safety and defense teams. There have been informal teach-ins, and petitions to cut MPD contracts from museums, business events and schools. Neighbors are talking to each other and actually getting to know who lives on their street.”
Want to know more?  Here is a link to the full article on-line at TRUTHOUT



TXT061120_noor_police_webIn Baltimore, similar movements are underway as expressed in an article by Jaisal Noor in the REAL news network online.
He writes…
“…activists argue grassroots-led efforts that operate on a shoe-string budget have far better results in reducing violence than Baltimore’s scandal-ridden police department.
“’We know for a fact that programs like Safe Streets, community mediations…work, and need to be brought to scale,’ said Hayes.
“Studies have found the Baltimore Ceasefire movement, which fights violence through outreach, connecting vulnerable populations with resources and by building community,  reduced shootings by 52 percent. Meanwhile Safe Streets has been credited with reducing shootings by over 50%.
“Hayes says opposition to defunding the police is rooted in racist views that Black communities need policing instead of the investment in education and other social services given to affluent, white communities.
“’It shows that they are not ready to redefine what public safety looks like,’ says Hayes. ‘I challenge them to follow Black leadership, and trust we have thought about this for a while and that we’re ready to create a pathway to make that happen.’”
Here is a link to the full article at The Real News

People are dying.  Too often, black men are being murdered by the very people we have ordained to “serve and protect” them.  The old message of reform has proven to be little more than lip service that results in more funding, more police, more weapons, more oppression, less safety, less service, less protection, less justice and, now… murder.

That’s enough of that.  Get radical.  Get real.

Defund the police.  It’s time.



Creative Commons License Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Peoples’ Daily Brief – 12 June, 2020

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AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

Is the Seattle protest becoming the modern-day equivalent of the Paris Commune?  President Trump seems to think so.  While the protests there are turning peaceful after the police decided to tone down their aggressive tactics against protestors, Trump appears to be threatening a military invasion to stem the “anarchists” who dare to declare their  Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, a two city-block area in Seattle a “No Cop Co-op.”

Oh, anarchy !!   However, according to an Associated Press news release, the most dangerous activity these anarchistic terrorists are engaged in presently is a “…street fair with political discussions and a drum circle.”  Oh, yes, and a few vendors.  What is a street fair without a few vendors supplying the utter essentials, eh?

They are, however, setting up street barricades, à la manière de Les Miserables, the Victor Hugo classic novel that finds its climax in the revolutionary Paris Commune that ruled large portions of the city of Paris for a few months in the spring of 1871.  Alarmez!

Although I am reasonably certain Donald Trump is not aware of historical references, he is, apparently, alarmed that the sane, though to him seemingly cavalier response by local leadership is not “dominating the battlespace” of those two city blocks.  He is distressed to the point that he issued a Tweet, threatening… or so it sounds to me… to send troops, saying, “Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will.”

He said that, really.  Here is his full Tweet… verbatim:

“Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump
Radical Left Governor @JayInslee  and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before. Take back your city NOW. If you don’t do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!  2:08 PM · Jun 11, 2020”

“…ugly Anarchists…”
Is that even a thing?

Read the full story here at the  Associated Press

Donald Trump’s dangerous stance on the use of the military for the enforcement of “law and order” within our boundaries is a clear indication of more than misunderstanding their role in line with the Constitutional provisions for the nation’s defense.  It’s not a matter of ignorance.  Simply put, and like all tyrants, he simply does not care.



Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the Treasure Island Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas

REUTERS/David Becker –

So… given the President’s predilection for pomp, hyperbole and theater, is it real?  Should we be alarmed or merely shake-of-the-head and cluck-of-the-tongue bemused, saying, “Christ on a cupcake, Donald, go play with your toys and leave us alone.”

That tendency on our part has given him infinite license over the past three and a half years and he has taken use of our bemusement and distraction in the interim to dismantle our government and even to deconstruct the norms under which our government has operated forever.  Maybe it’s time to take this man at his word.  Maybe it’s time to start worrying.  Better yet, maybe it’s time to get serious enough to impeach him and…. No, wait…!!

Marjorie Cohn has written an excellent analysis of the current situation.
Read it here in  Truthout



Creative Commons License Peoples’ Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Coming Soon -The Peoples’ Daily Brief, news & analysis from your very own CIA

download (1)“Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”

James Madison

We sometimes forget this essential truth, but… in a nation whose government purports… or at least aspires to be, as stated by Abraham Lincoln in his brief, but continuously relevant Gettysburg Address, a “…government of the people, by the people, for the people…” the American electorate is infinitely more important than the people they choose to represent them.  Even more important than the one they choose for the White House.  Those Presidents we elect are afforded the very best relevant and timely information gleaned from sources around the world, summarized and provided daily with analysis in a concise but comprehensive report from professionals in the Central Intelligence Agency.  That report is known as “The President’s Daily Brief” or the PBD.

z01Should not “We, the people…” also be as well-informed and as often, in similar depth and by analysts of our own, people who are willing to cull the infinite sources of news and provide a concise report on the issues that affect us… especially when it is “We, the people…” who will judge this President according to what we know about him at the ballot box every four years?  We used to have such a report and it was called the “daily local paper”, available in just about every town and city in America.  These newspapers have declined in number and significance and are disappearing at an alarming rate, creating “news  deserts” and forcing many Americans to rely on media increasingly controlled and dominated by people who use them to propagate an agenda.  Be it political, social, or financial, the motivations of these journalistic conglomerates do more to contribute to disinformation than small independent dailies could have ever accomplished, which generally they did not because their integrity was a huge part in the sum of their value to their readership.  For those of you who weren’t there when daily papers were the main source of the news in this country, the words “journalism” and “integrity” were once synonymous, a thing we quite took for granted, if not true universally in fact, at the very least in universal aspirations.

Today?  I mean today, this day… as opposed to yesterday.  So many “things” are going on and grabbing the attention of the corporate media which is available and on line 24/7/365… a flood of troubles and strife… such that so many other “things” are slipping under the radar. In order to remain intelligently informed, the average American would have to have an analyst on staff in the kitchen just to keep up with how their government is slowly slip-sliding away into oligarchy.

Consider me your own personal Kitchen Cabinet CIA analyst. And when I say CIA, I am saying that I will be an analyst of events from your very own Citizens’ Intelligence Agency and I will cull multiple news outlets and give you considered analysis of what the media seems to be missing.  I’ll do it as often as I can and if it catches on, I will do it on a daily basis

These reports will be posted here my web site and it will be known as the CIA/PBD… or more specifically, the Citizens’ Intelligence Agency’s report, the People’s Daily Brief… your very own CIA/PBD, not unlike the President would get if our President bothered to read anything at all beyond a Tweet or a headline.  It will be comprehensive, complete with links and references to relevant and timely articles from multiple news sources at home and abroad… and not merely links to those sources but a perspective and thoughtful analysis of the events as I perceive them.

Follow my reports and I will keep you informed.

Watch this space.

Creative Commons License The Citizens’ Intelligence Agency’s Report and The People’s Daily Brief by James Lloyd Davis are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

New stuff is on the way

Presently working on an anthology of published and unpublished short fiction, a 2guysonballpersonal selection of my best work, going back as far as 1973… including a new short story that has never before seen the light of day.

My wife, MaryAnne Kolton and I have both been widely published in literary magazines, in the USA and abroad.  I know the market, follow the vicissitudes of the industry, so of course I know that short story anthologies these days are just about as hot as a minor iceberg… and as welcome in the slush piles of book publishers as Covid-19.  Agents?  Forget about it.

Accordingly, I’ve done some research on the available alternatives and will likely self-publish one anthology of my work and one of hers as well sometime this year.  KDP Amazon seems, for us anyway, the best venue, since there is no real investment involved, no cost to us other than our time, though a lot of time is required.  I have plenty of that and I want to get a collection out there for the least reason that everyone who knows my work is hounding me to do something.

This seemed like the answer to that small demand… plus, I am fascinated by the possibilities here.  Were I a young man, I would probably start a publishing company:

1:  Because I’m crazy.

2:  Because writing is my passion.

3:  The industry is fundamentally changing, quite ready for a tectonic shift… and now is the time to leap into it, when everybody is moaning about the demise thereof and one can define the way forward, for better or worse.

4:  The available technology is incredible and anyone who possesses the least technical capability can literally launch an empire with little or no capital or resources other than a decent desktop and a willingness to learn new ways of doing things.  Add some creativity and an artistic predilection and you too can be a media magnate.

Or something like that.

New short story from James Lloyd Davis

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My new short story, “Way Cross, Georgia, 1937” is now available in Thrice Fiction Magazine Issue Number 26.
It’s a different kind of story, hard to describe or categorize.  The style? “Faulkner, Ray Bradbury, and Steinbeck walk into this bar… get drunk… write a screenplay.”
Definitely mumblecore.
Two con men come to an unhappy end in Georgia.
Thanks to RW Spryszak and his friends at Thrice Fiction.

Letter to Virginia – 8/31/2019

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Dear Virginia,

Been a nostalgic week for some reason.  Who knows where these recollections come from, how they are triggered, but there it is… the Sixties.

Although I faked it whenever it suited my purpose, I never was a flower child… you know?  1968… I’d already been to Vietnam and back, tried acting like I’d never been there, since nobody really cared… just wanted to blend in and start all over from scratch.  Did I ever tell you what I wanted to do when I got back from the war?  Don’t laugh, but I was hot to be and really tried to become a photo-journalist… tried going back over there to Vietnam because life back home… life Stateside… was like a vacuum, a round hole and I was utterly square-shaped with very hard edges that simply seemed never to quite fit into place, though God knows I tried.

No… I guess I never told you about that, since I never had the chance.  I left Norfolk shortly after I heard you got married.  Nothing to keep me there, so I left.  Moved across the river to Newport News.  I know you knew I’d been back, but… who knows?

Me?  James the Recently Returned?  He wanted something exciting, something dangerous, something different in his life… but all he got was the sporting goods department at Sears & Roebuck and they fired him… long story.  Not worth telling.

I bought cameras, took pictures… got pretty good at it.  Sent letters to newspapers all over the country, told them I’d be willing to work for them as a photojournalist overseas… in Vietnam or Israel, wherever there was a war because… I don’t know… adrenaline?  Told them I’d work cheap, but nobody offered me a job and after Sears fired me, I pawned all my cameras and guns… and my television set, my stereo.  Took a four-month sabbatical and tried to write a novel.

When the money ran out, I got hungry… so I went to work for the shipyard.

Was living in a tenement then, three-story brick buildings… right across the street from the yard.  While I was living there, I went through about three lifetimes in a year… a crazy year… long story, but it was during one of those lifetimes that I tried becoming a flower child, hanging with a group of people who lived in my building, in a huge basement apartment where other people, kids mostly, down from Richmond and DC would party every weekend.  The group was led by a guy from California, a guy whose name I can’t remember… some rich guy who’d been to Vietnam and was knocking around the country with another guy… from Minnesota, I think.

They were trying to start an urban commune… called themselves “the Real People.”

Long story.  But I didn’t fit in there either.

Two years in Newport News… then Ohio and three or four more lifetimes in a couple of crazy years before I finally caught my breath… Readers Digest condensed versions of a life each… little novellas just waiting for an ending that never quite arrives.  Lifetimes that felt a little like Purgatory, or like waiting for a bus in a Greyhound station that never, ever comes.  Purgatory… Greyhound waiting rooms… they are interchangeable, I think.  You meet interesting people, but you’re forever in transit, like those little eddies of current in a river, that circle and circle and circle for hours before they ever slip back into the mainstream again and get on their way downriver.

Don’t know where you went after you and what’s-his-name got married.  I know you guys didn’t stay together.  I don’t know why.  God knows… he was a pretty good guy.  I knew him pretty well, but your life was a total mystery to me, a book I’ve always looked for, but could never find.

The Sixties.  I’d always imagined you’d get caught up in the whole flower-child thing… but in a good way.  Not the whole drugs and sex and the Green Tambourine thing, the me-me-me culture, but something like that quintessential catcher-in-the-rye rejection of self-aggrandizement, that higher place… a role you seemed born to assume and I know you were looking, always looking… so many did.  Somebody had to find it.  Not many would, but I always thought that if anyone could, you’d be the one.  I hope you did.

Best always… your old friend,

James

 

Creative Commons License Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Letter to Virginia – 8/17/2019

002

Dear Virginia,

Haven’t written in a while, but I thought about you today.
I’m reading again that novel we both read in high school, though I can’t remember whether I bought it first and you wanted it because I had it… or whether I saw you reading it and went out that weekend and bought it myself, so I could flash it at study hall and you’d notice… and we could talk about it together in a corner because… I looked for excuses back then, reasons for us to talk about things for which you had such a passionate interest… just for the pleasure of hearing the fire in your voice.
It was an old book then, old and somewhat obscure. I remember the jacket said it was a very big deal in Russia, in Europe… everywhere. Millions and millions and millions of copies sold.
The Gadfly… remember? A novel first published in the late 1890s by Ethel Voynich, not well known any more, but for some reason it experienced a brief resurgence in the early 1960s, so that anyone with half a brain for books… anyone with a capacity for intense intellectual notions had to read it… tried to read it, tried to understand why people said it was important, meaningful, even timely, though it wasn’t really timely… not yet, though it would be soon enough… in the latter years of that decade, in fact.
It was about revolution, a thing we did not yet ever think about, except for the thrill of the concepts surrounding rebellion… like the Victor Hugo book… the Paris Commune, the barricades, the red flags, the romance and the fire of a time we could only imagine… as it was historic, a prop, alien then, at least to us.
Eight years later, you must have felt it as I did, the possibility, the passion in the air, the word itself tossed around like so much excess… excess of guile… an excess of promise unfulfilled… revolution this and revolution that, until the word itself lost all meaning, ended up cynical and droll.
The revolution that was televised, commercialized, marketized, costumed and produced, packaged and seduced, but… before we knew it? They won. The revolution? Our revolution? It went right into reruns.
So… The Gadfly… I’m reading it now… again… because I need to remember what it was like to be hopeful and passionate… and I’ll admit it… I remember so little about it now, and I wonder if I ever really finished reading it. My head was already full of notions then. I’d read so much… more than I had the capacity to grasp, but tried anyway… Dostoevski, Tolstoi, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Voltaire, and I’d just started Don Quixote when I saw you carrying The Gadfly and knew I had to be reading it as well.
So there… I remember now… you had it first, didn’t you?
You had it, so I had to have it as well
God, but we were young.
Impressionable.
Naive.
We went off in totally different directions, didn’t we?
Really lost track.
I hope you’re well.
So damn many times over the past decades… years in which I’ve not seen or heard from you… or even known where you’ve gone, I think about you often, unable to imagine how life might have received you… rewarded you for the visions you had so long ago. I’ve wondered how you fared, if you were happy, if you found the things you wanted, the things you wished for…
Most of all, I miss the things we shared.
So maybe that’s why I’m reading that book again
And thinking about you.

Your old friend,
James the Least

Creative Commons License Letters to Virginia by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Night Letters to America – 8/11/2019

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The purpose and the spark of a humane and civilizing influence is some ineffable quality for which we strive… and its existence serves as foundation for all of our religions, our liberating philosophies, our governing documents, our laws, our visions and our dreams.  We labor above all to attain first, but thereafter to retain that quality in our culture, in our lives, if not for ourselves, then for our children.  Call it innocence… call it grace… call it joy… it springs from a desire for peace and safety.  It thrives in love and it is the goal of every good gesture, every act of courage and every evolving, intelligent impulse within our social constructs, a product we will call… for the sake of definition, an observable innocence of mind.

Innocence is a delicate and a finite resource, however, difficult and… at times… impossible to regenerate once it has been destroyed.  It can be mimicked, but only at the cost of what is true, since every time we produce some false sense of security in safety, it requires the dismantling of innocence in proportions dictated by some unwritten metaphysical law.

The “right to bear arms” in the twenty-first century is the perfect example.

One of many justifications used to oppose the regulation of firearms in America is the manufactured illusion that an armed citizenry creates a safe and secure society, requires the same sort of delusion, though on a global scale, that drove the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union in the decades following World War II, each nation arming itself to the degree that each could destroy its rival and the entire population of the world many times over and in so brief a period of time, the very notion of this competition was called a “balance of power” through the capability of “mutual destruction.”  The cost of this tenuous purchase of national security was a generational nihilism that essentially destroyed the innocence of its participant nations and robbed all neutral parties of their own safety and security and the incessant ignition of small proxy wars in the Third World.

Let’s put that horrendous example into the perspectives that have evolved through the auspices of the National Rifle Association and their benefactor, the gun manufacturers of America.  Based upon a premise within the vague wording of the Second Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and fueled by money supplied to them by gun manufacturers, the NRA has become one of the most powerful propaganda agencies, marketing influences, and political lobbies in the entire free world, convincing a huge swath of the American population that they need to live like their pioneer forebearers, who, at least in popular fiction, were surrounded by hostile populations of men and beasts… a dark force in a lawless frontier that perpetually threatened not only their fortune, but their lives.

In the name of this… heritage… they have convinced Americans and bribed their politicians to vindicate the notion that our freedom, our “heritage” and our personal safety demands that every American has the right to bear arms without regulation, license, or constraint.  The result?  One hundred Americans die on any given day by way of gun violence.  Think about that… one hundred people… human beings, men, women, children.

What does that look like?  One hundred people.

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X  X

Every one of the Xs above represents a human being murdered by a gun… one hundred Xs, a fair representation of the sum of any one day’s average slaughter by guns in America.  However, it is not a fair representation of the victims themselves, nor the broad expanse of grief, hardship and loss that each death implies.  These Xs stand for people… individuals with lives that affect others.  They represent mothers fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters all… baby girls, baby boys, sweethearts, friends, lovers, the innocent and the not so innocent, but each one of the was a living human being one moment and a nameless cipher in the news a day later.

For me?

X = Charlie

He died, according to a police report, on 06/25/1991.  His death caused by ”… a single gunshot wound to his head while sleeping.”  Charlie was the youngest of four siblings.  He was my brother.  He was 35 years old and apparently on the upswing after hard times.  Hopeful.  His parents, my mother and father, were forced to do that which any parent shudders to imagine… to bury one of their children.  He was loved by many people, and by everyone in his family, each one devastated and unalterably affected by his sudden and violent death.  But it’s one thing to bury your brother after the devastating effects of some disease… quite another in the wake of a senseless murder by person or persons unknown, a random crime with no apparent motive, no witnesses, no suspects.

One hundred violent deaths every day of every week of every month of every year in America causes a rippling effect touches the lives of others, such that each single death must surely effect at least a hundred others, friends, families… a hundred times one hundred lives affected in the wake of a death by gunshot.

What does that look like?

I won’t waste the space just to give you a visual representation of 10,000 Xs, but I think you can imagine page after page after page… and I’m willing to wager that most people in America have lost someone to gun violence in their lifetime, but how many more who are wounded, physically and mentally traumatized.  The numbers reach incomprehensible proportions.

Today?  Mass shootings are becoming more frequent and occur in places where none would expect… classrooms, movie theaters, concerts, festivals, churches, synagogues, mosques, temples… anywhere people collect and expect to be safe from harm.

America is a war zone.

How did that happen?

It would take volumes to describe the perfect storm that has culminated in this age of violence and insecurity, where no parent can be certain that their child will not be killed on any given day in a classroom… where no one can be certain that their prayers in any church, any synagogue, any mosque, any temple, any sacred place of worship will not be suddenly and violently interrupted by the sound of gunfire.

When do we say, “Enough.”

Not this time… apparently.  Here it is, but mere days following the murder of 22 people and the injury of 24 more in a Wal-Mart in El Paso by a lone gunman armed with a military assault rifle and, the news cycle changes, the outrage takes a back seat to the suicide of a storied, sex trafficking billionaire, whose life has launched a hundred rumors… and whose death has launched a hundred more.

And so it goes.

No one will long remember El Paso.  Who’s fault is that… if not yours and mine?

 

Creative Commons License Night Letters to America by James Lloyd Davis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

I hope you will become a regular reader and I heartily invite you to comment below.  I love your feedback, even when it’s criticism.  It makes all the trouble worthwhile and it keeps me honest.

 

What can I do? They own the media…

 

It is bad enough when bigotry and ignorance prevails in the nation of your birth… worse Untitledyet when the institutions that serve it are corrupted… when they become the authors of deception.  Last night on Fox, Tucker Carlson stated that white supremacy is a hoax perpetuated by Democrats.  He said, “They’re making this up.  It’s a talking point, which they are using to help them in this election cycle.”

Fox News dominates cable and the networks. Consistently, more Americans watch Fox News than any one of the other cable or broadcast networks. Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson have a bully pulpit for their corrosive, dangerous lies. Theirs is a huge audience and this is the kind of propaganda they feed them on a nightly basis. Is it any wonder that so many Americans have no concept of what is happening around them? This is the very reason that an amoral, bigoted, utterly incompetent, and dangerous criminal sits in the White House today.

Someone asked me today… “What do you do to stop it?”
This is what I do:  wherever I can, whenever I can find the time… I seek out the truth, write what I find, and I put it out there on the internet, the only place where ordinary Americans can possibly be heard beyond the confines of their social influence.
And so can you.

The power of disinformation, the strength of a lie resides in constant repetition within an unchallenged venue. The greatest weapon against it is truth. Just as it is in violent warfare, the battle for dominance between truth and a lie depends upon the power and the strategic application of the armament involved. If the lie enjoys a position of power, then truth is an insurgent… and it must be everywhere at once and unrelenting.

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“If the truth shall kill them, let them die.”   Immanuel Kant

It’s not really death for such a one as this… call it transcendence

d3d5f99cb910d8a66bbac7348a4da827635af288Every writer knows the truth about words… that of themselves and in their studied form… they are limiting, vague… that they can be chains that hold you back. A writer like Toni Morrison is able break the binds and strictures of language in such a way that the words become a liberating force within the reader… permitting a depth in simplicity that could never be otherwise achieved except within her flawless style. Such a writer is rendered thus immortal.

“No one ever talks about the moment you found that you were white. Or the moment you found out you were black. That’s a profound revelation. The minute you find that out, something happens. You have to renegotiate everything.”
Toni Morrison