Sunday, February 21, 2010

Justice and the School of Assassins

(the "goings on" in Eastern Europe at the time of the drawing was the overthrow of dictatorship, thus the nervousness of dictators in our lil sphere of influence)

The Salvadoran army officers who murdered Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and young daughter n 1989, were pardoned in El Salvador. In outrageous contrast the thirteen U.S. citizens who reenacted the 1989 murders, as part of a demonstration against the School of the Americas (S.O.A.) (School of the Assassins) where the officers were trained, were sentenced to prison. This has happened every year since the murders and is planned to continue until the school is closed.

The pious, if sleepy, Judge Elliot, who found the defendants guilty April 29, 1998 or thereabouts, also imposed on them a telling anecdote: if a man steals bread for his starving children he has good motives but criminal intent, has broken the law and therefore should go to prison. Apparently the learned judge has not read Les Miserable, or perhaps did read the sad tale and identified with the sociopathic prosecutor, cheering on his obsessive pursuit.

The defense took two basic strategies: to call for dismissal of the charges (engaging in banned political activity at Fort Benning where the school is located) on the grounds that only those opposing the S.O.A. were banned while those in favor were allowed to express their support; and that a higher moral law justifies the "illegal" action taken by the group. The analogy was drawn that citizens would have been breaking German law if they had stopped the death trains to Auschwitz but a higher moral law would have absolved them.

Reverend Bill Bichsel, in his eloquent pre-sentence statement, said, " We are not afraid of your jails or your police. We will be back to demonstrate on each anniversary of the murders until that school is closed. I hope one day you (Judge Elliot) will join us." Spontaneous and sustained applause erupted in the packed court room.

The S.O.A. claims that its instruction aims to instill "American" values in its students. Critics claim that the school actually teaches torture techniques (verified by the leaking of a manual). That aside, the fact is that many of its graduates have engaged in undemocratic activities, coups and assassinations, such notorious figures as Manuel Noriega and El Salvador death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson. It is a dubious proposition that a rigid hierarchical military is the appropriate teacher of democratic values. The school’s unspoken mission, and one of the reasons it should be closed, is to establish relationship with Latin American military officers so as to have coup-influence when leaders down there get the idea that democracy is more important than U.S. corporate interests.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Letter to the Editor

Responding to an activist call I wrote the following letter to the editor (the drawing I used on a previous post but it seems apropo):

The most obvious solution to our health care crisis is clearly the single payer, medicare for all, system that works so well for the people in the other industrialized nations (Western Europe, Australia, Canada). This is not even on the table in the U.S. due to special interests who see such a system as a threat to their continuing robbery of the U.S. public - health insurance and drug companies (cartels). There is also the ideological contingent who shout down any rational discussion with cries of socialism! Then there is the medical establishment who seem to be motivated by the same end, profits. This same element opposed the original creation of social security and had they prevailed we would have a huge population of the elderly living and dying on the street. I don't think we should be listening to them this time either. It seems the most we can hope for currently is an expanded medicare and we should not allow undemocratic fanatics and profiteers to stop us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Triumph and Defeat

I lay on the floor of the empty gallery, fairly drunk, savoring the evening, my first serious one-artist exhibition opening. I had stationed myself behind a painted screen with peek-holes and watched the crowd come through, walk along the row of paintings in which was inserted several live tableau – the Sappington twins dressed as elegant society woman and bag lady, Dan Basso in green face and tux sipping martini, Jesse Robertson Altman, at his feet, as housewife in red face, all on pedestals a la Gilbert and George.

Prior to entering this room the viewers encountered art opening food and drink and the first of the chronologically ordered paintings (above). An audio recording, consisting of layered, echoed readings from various of my writings, provided sound track for the experience. The seriousness and obvious respect which greeted the exhibit had my tender ego soaring in triumph.

So is this it? Is life a series of mostly mundane daily experiences dotted here and there by major and minor triumph and humiliation? Probably yes, if the ego is allowed the role of dictator. But dissolve ego in the alchemy of awareness and stand indifferent to outcome, whether success or failure but rather bask in amusement at the fleeting earth dance and the enjoyment of simple being… and in the celebration of creativity.