Thich Quang Duc and Wynn Alan Bruce

Most people my age and older have some knowledge of, and may have the image (above) seared into their mind of when Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk, set himself on fire to protest the police and Vietnamese army’s massacre of Vietnamese people during a celebration that turned into a protest. At the time Vietnam was 90% Buddhist but the current ruler, Ngo Dinh Diem, was Catholic and wanted to “westernize” the nation and so banned the display of religious flags. On May 8, 1963, they celebrated Phat Dan, or the day of the birth of the Buddha, religious flags were displayed, and the massacre ensued. A month later, on June 11, Thich Quang Duc, a Buddhist monk who was not at the massacre, sat down in the middle of the same street, began meditating, set himself on fire (doused in gasoline) and sat motionless as he burned to death.

An American photographer happened to be on the scent and got the iconic, jaw-dropping photos that exploded across the globe. Thich Nhat Hanh, another Vietnamese buddhist monk, prolific author and teacher, often brought him up in his writings, and while I never committed the man’s name to memory, I never forgot that image since I saw it as a teenager in the 1970s.

Recently, a blip in my online, 24-hour news feed, filled with stories of mass shootings, war in Ukraine, awful American (and worldwide) politicians and people, and the ongoing, ever-expanding destruction of the planet thanks in large part to human-induced burning of fossil fuels, was something about an American who did something similar in Washington DC. I’m appalled and embarrassed how little attention I paid.

Reading the obituaries in the local paper this morning I stopped cold when I saw: “on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse…”

“Bruce, Wynn Alan
Born in Green Bay WI Aug 25, 1971 and died on Earth Day April 22, 2022 on the steps of the Supreme Courthouse in Washington DC. His father, Douglas Bruce (Holly), mother Martha, stepbrother Eric (Jamie), extended family and friends in Minnesota and Boulder, CO and around the country are greatly saddened by his death but respect and honor his commitment to the issues of climate change and the environment.”

Unless you’ve got your head jammed straight up your ass and/or have been fooled by extremely effective but idiotic right wing media, you understand what is happening right now to our climate due to humankind. I’m human and not at all pretending I’ve been doing much myself. In fact, my passion for doing something about this has been washed away, shall we say, having watched the world (and more importantly, individuals like you and me) do absolutely nothing about it.

Scientists have been warning us for decades, and year after year, the climate has been proving them almost exactly right, but to pretty much no avail. So I’m now at this point hopeless we’ll do much about it and wondering what we’ll do about the consequences. How will we handle the flooding of coastal and inland low lying areas? What will we do about the incredible heat waves that will make many places currently filled with humans uninhabitable? How about the massive fires that will only get worse and worse? Who’s going to pay to rebuild after the super storms keep coming and damaging property, farmland, and infrastructure? And in the current pandemic of xenophobia what will we do with the mass migrations due to heat, flooding, fires, storms and water shortages?

Of course, we’re already paying for increasing storm damage, controlling and putting out growing fires, cleaning up and relocating people after massive flooding, but it’s that last one that I really worry about. Here in the U.S. people are filling their pants because there are 60,000 people at the southern border trying to get into our nation of 330 million people. What about when there are 10, 50 or 100 million people clamoring to get in? What big beautiful wall is going to stop them? How about when the entire population of Southwest U.S. starts running north and east? What happens then?

We’ll see. Then, by the way, is only a few decades out, maybe sooner. But here we sit, doing nothing and not even noticing, when Green Bay’s own, Wynn Alan Bruce, sits down in plain view and burns himself to death in an incredibly brave warning to all of us of what’s coming. Blip.

A Little Help?

“When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the Lord your God.”
Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22

Help Wanted

Not sure about you, but everywhere I look I see Help Wanted signs. They are in windows, on restaurant tables, billboards, huge banners draped on buildings, in urban, suburban, exurban and rural areas – everywhere – Help Wanted signs. Some of these are for better paying jobs but most are for line cooks, dishwashers, service industry, construction, fast food, hotel staff and the like. These are jobs traditionally held by new immigrants and people low on the socio-economic ladder. Businesses are desperate for workers at a time when our jobless rate is at an historic low of 3.6%.

In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently at least 11.3 million job openings in the United States. The actual number will be higher due to very small businesses that often go uncounted.

“The Horror at the Border”

The reports are true: There was a record number of encounters with migrants at the Southwest border of 1.6 million in 2021, just over 1 million of those involved single adults. About a quarter of those were repeat crossers, so the number of new people trying to get into the U.S. was about 1.2 million. The number of people traveling in families was 451,087, also a record.

Sixty-three percent of these people were from countries other than Mexico, most from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, another record. Some of these were the migrants we read about or saw on television who walked in caravans hundreds and even over a thousand miles to get to our border.

Republicans among us gnash their teeth, wring their hands, and bellow about the catastrophe at our border. It’s good politics as they can dumb it down, blame it on President Biden and do nothing. Of course, the real reasons these folks are coming in such huge numbers is that there are no jobs in their own countries, they are in mortal danger and/or they want their children to have a better life than they had. The very same reasons every American’s family came to our shores.

I’m sure you’ve already done the math, but here we go: Had we welcomed every single one of those one million single adults at the border and got them each one of the 11.3 million jobs, we’d have filled less than 10% and still have 10.3 million job openings, we’d not even notice the number of Help Wanted signs having gone down, and business owners would still be desperate for workers.

I’m not advocating for that, of course, as it’s all much more complicated, but in general, the average American’s idea of immigration and our borders is shockingly skewed. This is mostly due to misinformation and mostly from right wing media and politicians. They understand that instilling fear into voters, in this case, with “illegal immigrants at the borders,” is extremely effective and distracts voters from the actual issues our elected officials should be focused on – the best education, affordable healthcare, climate change and others that truly affect American individuals and families.

Humanity is the Story of Migration

All Americans are from immigrant families. No matter where you are on this planet at some point your family immigrated to where you currently live. They did not spring from the ground like tulips. Life on earth is defined by migration – constant, ever-flowing migration. Keep an open mind, listen to your heart and don’t buy into the fear-mongering. There are often solutions smack dab in the middle of problems.

The people are woke and global, sorry fatheads

Hearing about Vladimir Putin’s attempts to keep his citizens in the dark about what he was planning and now, what he is doing, in Ukraine is laughable. How is it that these angry old guys really think they can keep information away from people in the age of the Internet? Russia is a modern country, their people are logged in and connected to everyone else logged in. Yes, the state media controlled their message and was telling them one thing but just how many modern educated Russians believe their official state television? Probably about as many Americans who watch Fox News and believe that. (Fox has about 1.5 million daily viewers or about .003 percent of the American population.)

Russians get their news from many sources as do educated and curious people all around the world. They get Russian news, BBC, German news, and on and on – the new perspective is global, which many powerful men and women disdain as it sucks life out of the power to which they cling like deer ticks. Unless Putin could somehow corral the entire world of media into playing along with his lies, or build a dome across his 11 time zones, he is absolutely screwed when it comes to controlling what his people see, hear and know. And we see now how badly he has failed. Brave Russians are protesting in the streets, which to us in America might not sound so amazing, but protesting in Russia is not, shall we say, encouraged by the State. Protesters put themselves and their families in real, sometimes mortal danger.

Even North Korea, a veritable desert of outside news, can’t stop it all. Defectors have reported various ways their citizens still find a way to get western information, usually entertainment, into the country. If the Kim’s can’t do it, no one can.

Here in our own nation, fatheads around the country are banning or trying to ban books, like it’s 1952. This is the absolute dumbest (and dumbing) move the said fatheads can attempt. First, tell a young person with even a modicum of smarts and self-respect not to read a book and they will find a way to read the book. Duh. Second, ban them where? Books are everywhere. You could work to ban it in a school but another school with have it, so will the library, and so will, ahem, Amazon. And third, kids have printers. Got it, fatheads? We know that what you’re doing is merely to make others like you happy to further your political careers, but you look so dumb doing it, that it can only backfire. It seems that you also should read those books, and many more, until you get it.

Young people are woke and global (as are many old people). Your attempts to turn back the clock, jam the toothpaste back in the tube, close the barn door after the cows all left reminds me of the old guy on the 70s television show “Soap” who would snap his fingers and think that he’d become invisible when all the people around him just kind of groaned and went on with their business. You’re ridiculous. You have zero respect for the modern world and for the intelligence of young people. They don’t need you telling them what they can and cannot read. They need you to get the hell out of the way so they can build a new world that recognizes reality, not the wishes of a washed up generation who is handing those same young people a planet that we continue to fuck up on a daily basis.

This is not to mention all of the misinformation perpetrated by these same people around COVID. That led to dead Americans and lots of them. For that, if Christianity is correct, you will all land in hell. Sorry. Well, not really.

Coffee? Tea? Assimilation?

If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see stars and satellites, a line of satellites. This was just about an hour ago. It was a steady stream of satellites – left to right – for at least a couple of minutes. What you see in the image probably replaced itself every 5 seconds or so. It was freaky. First thought: Aliens. This is it. I need to gather the family and head out into the woods. Then I thought of Elon Musk. Oh, yeah, Elon Musk is bringing 5G to all corners of the globe. I mean, I hope that’s what I saw. Because if it was aliens, they’re here, and I’ve just not got the news nor been lasered, probed or assimilated. I don’t think.

Either way, it was a rather unsettling sight to behold stepping out of my garage. Will this become commonplace, or did I just happen to be at a spot where the sun, which had recently set, was angled exactly and lit them perfectly? Weird. Welcome to the future, indeed. That being said, I’ve always wanted to be sucked up in one of those below-flying-saucer light beams, the blue ones. That’s got to be pretty cool. I mean, provided what was on the other end didn’t eat me. 

Yoho’s got a new hole

Congressman Ted Yoho, “proudly serving Florida,” is obviously one troubled man-child. You’ve probably heard the story that this old fool accosted Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term Democrat from New York, also known as AOC. This young woman is quite brilliant, fiercely dedicated to her constituents, a true believer in justice and fairness, no matter how much you agree or disagree with her opinions. Not sure what Yoho brings to the table, but it appears to be not much of anything good.

Yoho, like a pimply eighth grade bully, came after Ms. Ocasio-Cortez ON THE STEPS OF THE CAPITOL, and among many other things, called her a “fucking bitch.” Think about that. An old guy congressman accosted a fellow congresswoman on the steps of the capitol. If she were my daughter, Mr. Yoho would be in the hospital right now.

However, that is not the case and in fact Ms. Ocasio-Cortez herself performed surgery on Yoho with one of the most well-spoken pleas, not for any additional apologies (Yoho tried that and fell squarely on his fat head with the most pathetic “apology” – or non-apology – ever given), but instead a plea that this sort of behavior needs to stop for ALL WOMEN. It’s an amazing speech and if I were Yoho I’d resign now. These guys are dinosaurs and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and all the young people who are growing up to respect one another are the meteor that will end their time here on earth.

Watch it here:

Yoho’s got a new hole.

The Dubstep Show

Okay, so the dubstep show. That was trippy. And I wasn’t even tripping. I had no idea that happened. Picture these young folk with an array of colorful, brightly lit baubles and bangles, hula hoops and hats, glowballs and whatnot, much of which they swung around in slow sometimes erratic orbits in an otherwise mostly dark room.

They wore big furry bear hats, and sometimes that was about it. They wore footy pajamas with hoods. They even wore beaded masks. I’m not sure what that was all about but it was rather disconcerting mostly because it must be complicated to breathe, let alone drink. And they had gloves with lighted fingertips that they wiggled around in front of other dubsteppers faces like some crazed magician.

The deejays pounded out music with their fists in the air. I couldn’t tell exactly what else they were doing up there. A lot of dancing and then stopping to work on something on a table in front of them. But the music pounded the people and the people jumped up and down ecstatically. The ones toward the back, the really trippy ones, mostly just spun around in circles – often well-lit as well.

But it was cool! Kind of Build-A-Bear meets Cabaret Voltaire cool, but cool like that! I wanna go again – and be almost the oldest guy there. There was an elderly gentleman in a straw hat with a handful of glow stick bracelets on each wrist. He rocked back and forth in the middle of the crowd. I was proud.

all quiet on the western front

You know you have those books you were supposed to read but you never did – the great big classics – Moby Dick, anything by Tolstoy, some great early feminist novel, but you never did and while you feel some sort of guilt, you also know that there are a billion books and you cannot be expected to know all of them and if someone wants to call you out on one book then screw ‘em.

That being said, you absolutely HAVE TO READ “All Quiet on the Western Front.” I was obliquely aware of it and especially in the praise of it. I knew it was a “war novel” and while I’ve enjoyed novels with war in them, I was no aficionado. But still it was impressed upon me that this book was IMPORTANT. And it is.

I finally nabbed it from my mother’s bookshelf while we were preparing her move and eventually picked it up to actually read. A slim little book so I figured, might’s well have at it.

This book has changed my life. I think I needed to be transported through amazing language to the dirty, wet, filthy, angry, bloody, stinky, trenches of war. This book does that. And while I know that modern warfare is different, I can only assume that many of the same emotions and fears and bewilderment that Erich Maria Remarque felt are also felt by terribly young, modern soldiers as well. War is war.

It stopped me in my tracks. I always knew war was bad and opposed it mostly as again, a modern, basically aware man, but this flung it all right up into my perfectly safe – thanks to soldiers, and diplomats, and peaceniks, and generally good people – face. I know I can’t know what any soldier in the blaze of war goes through, but this guy gives you a pretty fucking good idea in this book. And to say, it ain’t pretty, would be pantywaist’s clever turn of a phrase. It’s blood ugly.

It shames a person for so many reasons; we’re part of the humanity who creates these situations, we make war. But also because I’ve never had to experience what the soldiers do – not the fucking generals, by the way – but the frontline slugs. I’ve always been basically physically perfectly safe, I’ve never lacked a meal or something to eat, alcohol is always available and affordable. But not for these guys; not at all.

A piece of bread, a sip of cognac is everything. Especially after a day of shelling and explosions, dismemberment and splashing blood, looking into the eye of the man you are about to kill. That’s the cutting edge of life, at its worst.

I read much of this in a comfortable chair overlooking a glistening Lake Superior, safe and sound. But read a book that struck the fear of our manmade devils right into my heart.

 

Nice Windows

So there’s quite the kerfuffle about Pope Francis bagging a bit on the childless couples who act like their dogs and/or cats are even remotely decent substitutes. And I get that that is maybe a bit old school Catholic style. But I’m right there with him! I’m so tired of my childless friends talking about this new restaurant or that great band they saw. Screw that! How about you procreate – as we were all meant to do! That’s the only reason why you’re on this earth – the only real reason! Everything else is window dressing! That pottery you do? Whatever. The music you make? Fun, but ultimately pointless. All those great art shows? You wouldn’t miss them if you never saw them.

And yet the rest of us – the beaten and down-trodden who carry the future of the world on our shoulders and our credit cards – double-down, the women go through the amazing sacrifice of giving birth and the two of us (hopefully) feel the tectonic shift beneath our feet and realize that one now true truth: It’s no longer about me any more, it’s all about you. I live for someone else.

And you with your hip concerts and surprise trips to Costa Rica! You with your spotless houses and planned dinners! You with your facebook posts about all the kidless fun you’re having! You!

Have you ever cupped your hands to catch the puke of a little girl? Realized long after changing a diaper that you had poop beneath your fingernail? Have you ever listened to the banal goings on of a six-year-old orator on a car trip for 2.75 hours? NO, YOU HAVE NOT! And even if you have you could leave the little pains in the ass behind when you head home to your great new awesome HBO series binge-a-thon!

Yeah, I’m jealous. Really jealous. You got it made. I’m screwed. But you got to admit I got it right with the whole evolution thing. Crap out kids – the genetic coupling, halving yourself. Passing on the genes. Only the strong survive. That’s the only real reason we’re here. The rest is window dressing.

But I got to admit that your windows look awesome, god damn it.

I forgot to wear a belt today

I forgot to wear a belt today and lord was I annoyed. I was constantly pulling up my pants, in fact, holding them up at particular moments throughout my day. It was a relentless bug in my bonnet. When I had a belt, my pants sat exactly where they should sit, as they should, and I was free to go about my business. But not today. I was in a constant battle with the level of my pants!

But then someone noted that and said, “Are you saggin’, dude.” And I said, “What?” And then realized that my missing belt made a fashion statement – by me – that I would never make. Look, I’m all about fashion statements, it’s how we physically speak to strangers about who we are. Long hair, short hair, t-shirts and jeans, bangs and rhinestones, fat ties and afros, skinny jeans and speedos, tattoos, caps, hats and mustachios, blue hair, gray hair and hair nets.

But this? Shit, I might as well pluck an eyelash and poke it into my eye so all day I am constantly irritated by the pain and incessant tears.

God bless the dudes that can pull it off – running down the street with the belt line down around the knees, undies flapping, and hopping as if they just crapped their pants, and yet, looking cool, right on, with this new fashion sensibility.

I can’t pull it off, for a host of reasons, the main reason, I will not be annoyed by myself. I annoy myself enough already.