It was near dark by the time I got out to feed the horses, and fully dark by the time I’d finished. It was a beautiful night, unseasonably warm. Sky as clear as a saint’s conscience. A half-moon, grinning down like the last of the Cheshire Cat.
Stars lay on the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear -- or a swath of diamond blood-spatter, if you’re feeling melancholy.
I picked out the constellations I know: Draco, Orion, Ursa Major….
The two stars forming the front of the dipper of the Big Dipper, point you to the North Star --- something good to know if you ever get lost. In the northern hemisphere, anyway.
I had one of those Billy Pilgrim moments and remembered a pony I’d met once, a long time ago….
His name was “Star.”
Good name for a jet black horse with an almost perfectly diamond-shaped star on his forehead, and not another white hair on him.
Everybody loved to ride Star.
A real good horseman can make even a “green-broke” horse look like a schoolmaster. That’s what Star did for green-broke riders. You could put ANYBODY on that old boy and he’d make them look good.
Hell, he even made ME look good and that was no easy task. But even if you weren’t very good at being a horseman, Star was very, VERY good at being a horse.
Star’s actual name, on paper, was “Son of the North Star.”
The North Star appears to be immobile in the heavens, with the other stars rotating around it. Likewise, Star was a calm constant, with riders rotating around him. Different riders, but he was always the same, steady and reliable. He would take care of you. And like the North Star, he could help you find your way.
I came unstuck from that moment with old Star, and found myself back in high school, Robinson Crusoed in a sleepy little burg where they were so un-hip that they thought “The British Invasion” had to do with the War of 1812. I found myself longing for the rats and roaches that represented civilization.
It was at the start of my first (and last) year in that smelting pot of brain-death-through-mediocrity. I had a certain style, I did. It involved a black leather jacket. (Not a motorcycle jacket – that was for jerks unless you actually HAD a motorcycle. Mine was a nice ¾ length carcoat, stolen from the goodwill store.)
It also involved hair. Long hair. Slicked into place with generous helpings of Old Spice brilliantine, a neat name for scented Vaseline. I had a pompadour that crested and broke onto my forehead like the surf at Maui and a DA in back that ended waaay below my shirt collar.
This style haircut was believed to incite boys to hooliganism and the sight of it to drive girls into unrestrainable promiscuity. When coupled with the black leather jacket, ever the uniform of the defiant, street-fighting anti-hero, this haircut was deemed a threat, not only to national security, but to the future of western civilization, and, perhaps, even to all humankind.
So, naturally, I dug it.
I don’t know how many times the Dean of Boys or the Principal threatened me with “get a haircut” or ELSE. What these daisies didn’t know was that my old man had already done everything to me that they could possibly ever do and lots more – and I had survived that. It was like them expecting a guy who had made it off the beach at Normandy to be afraid of a water pistol.
Anyway, about the British Invasion.
The Beatles had hit the beach, boys, followed by the Rolling Stones, The Byrds, The Dave Clark 5 and about a zillion others. Guys from fucking TEXAS were wearing little Dutchboy caps and faking a cockney accent just to get laid. And barbershops were going bankrupt by the barrelful – no mega-billion dollar bailout for THEM!
It was shaggy and shagging gone wild.
The “straightest” guys around, I mean the damn JOCKS were letting their hair grow as long as it would grow. Even sheepdogs were getting jealous.
Now these big men on campus who had previously sneered at my daring- do and muttered “faggot” and “queer” and such because they’d considered my hair unacceptably long, now THESE guys were growing their hair down to their shoulders – and referring to me as “narc” and such because my hair was too SHORT.
In fact, I hadn’t changed my style by so much as a hair.
Like the North Star, I had remained constant while the world revolved around me. But anywhere in the rotation, I was behind the 8 ball…
Fast forward a couple of decades…
Glenn Greenwald, constitutional scholar and author had this to say in an article published on Sunday, February 22, 2009 by Salon.com:
“Bill Clinton's election in 1992 gave rise to the American "militia movement": hordes of overwhelmingly white, middle-aged men from suburban and rural areas who convinced themselves they were defending the American way of life from the "liberals" and "leftists" running the country by dressing up in military costumes on weekends, wobbling around together with guns, and play-acting the role of patriot-warriors. Those theater groups -- the cultural precursor to George Bush's prancing 2003 performance dressed in a fighter pilot outfit on Mission Accomplished Day -- spawned the decade of the so-called "Angry White Male," the movement behind the 1994 takeover of the U.S. Congress by Newt Gingrich and his band of federal-government-cursing, play-acting-tough-guy, pseudo-revolutionaries.
“What was most remarkable about this allegedly "anti-government" movement was that -- with some isolated and principled exceptions -- it completely vanished upon the election of Republican George Bush, and it stayed invisible even as Bush presided over the most extreme and invasive expansion of federal government power in memory. Even as Bush seized and used all of the powers which that movement claimed in the 1990s to find so tyrannical and unconstitutional -- limitless, unchecked surveillance activities, detention powers with no oversight, expanding federal police powers, secret prison camps, even massively exploding and debt-financed domestic spending -- they meekly submitted to all of it, even enthusiastically cheered it all on .
“They're the same people who embraced and justified full-scale, impenetrable federal government secrecy and comprehensive domestic spying databases conducted in the dark and against the law when perpetrated by a Republican President -- but have spent the last week flamboyantly pretending to be scandalized and outraged by the snooping which Bill Moyers did 45 years ago (literally) as part of a Democratic administration. They're the people who relentlessly opposed and impugned Clinton's military deployments and then turned around and insisted that only those who are anti-American would question or oppose Bush's decision to start wars.
“They're the same people who believed that Bill Clinton's use of the FISA court to obtain warrants to eavesdrop on Americans was a grave threat to liberty, but believed that George Bush's warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in violation of the law was a profound defense of freedom. In sum, they dressed up in warrior clothing to fight against Bill Clinton's supposed tyranny, and then underwent a major costume change on January 20, 2001, thereafter dressing up in cheerleader costumes to glorify George Bush's far more extreme acquisitions of federal power.
“In doing so, they revealed themselves as motivated by no ideological principles or political values of any kind….”
Back during Bush’s first stolen term of office, some people ridiculed him because he was tangle-tongued, or funny-looking, or a “moron,” which was an insult to morons everywhere.
At that time, I started speaking out against the Supreme Court election intervention, against the 9/11 scam, against the Patriot Act, against the war in Afghanistan, against the war on Iraq, against the shredding of the Bill of Rights and against all the other, ugly nasty illegal things the Torturer-in-Chief had wrought.
A few other people spoke up, too.
I criticized the things Bush did, not because I didn’t “like” him, but because I believe those things are undeniably, fundamentally, self-evidently wrong.
Immoral and illegal.
Not just because Dubya did them.
Those things would be wrong no matter who did them.
Some of my self-described “liberal” “progressive” or “democrat” friends applauded me for insight and courage and integrity, for being a true patriot and a really swell guy.
Of course, the Bushvolk considered me a “unpatriotic” at best, or, at worst, a communist, terrorist-sympathizer, traitor, coward, faggot – take your pick.
Ad hominem attacks are the bread-and-butter of folks who can’t rationally refute your arguments. They can summon up nothing more than a mindless chant of ‘U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A…..” to drown out truths they don’t want to hear and that passes for discourse.
Now power has shifted.
There’s a new sheriff in town.
And the closed-minded intolerance of those who had made an irrational commitment to Dubya has been replaced by the closed-minded intolerance of those who have made an irrational commitment to Obama.
Mr. Obama has surrounded himself with a host of familiar faces and names, making it clear that on the most important ways it will be business as usual.
He espouses the same “war on terror” baloney of his predecessor, which in itself, makes him a liar or a fool. He wants to “bail out” the economy by steeling from the poor to give to the rich, as if scooping water from the shallow end of the pool and dumping into the deep end would make the overall level of the water rise. He’s defending Bush excesses that his supporters had previously reviled and is even, as of this moment, giving Bush et al a pass on all their crimes, high, low or middle, and continuing many of the most egregious policies, himself.
Instead of “change you can believe in,” it’s the same old, same old.
But he is a pleasant chap, well-spoken with a darling family, and let’s not forget, for godsake, let’s NEVER forget that he’s (half) Black, that his election was HISTORIC, that he’s the culmination of Martin Luther King’s DREAM, so no matter what kind of rotten double-cross he pulls, that’s still a “good thing.”
“Give him a chance,” his simpering sycophants cluck, like old hens protecting the world’s last virgin. They fawn, and coo over his every word, as if these shallow platitudes had never been uttered before by every slimy political hack who ever mounted a stump.
“It’s up to us to keep the pressure on so he’ll keep his election promises,” they prattle, forgiving him his trespasses in advance.
Got news for you, m’darlin’s: a good man doesn’t need to be pressured by anyone to keep his promises.
Any hint of criticism is met with the same brain-dead intolerance these self-described “progressives” had heaped scorn upon when demonstrated by the Bushvolk. By measuring the Obamessiah by the same standards I applied to the late, lamented Dubya,
it seems, I have magically transmogrified from a unrealistic, bleeding-heart, terrorist-loving traitor into a pessimistic, right-wing racist --- a feat unparalleled even by Siegfried and Roy.
Trouble is, too many people look at the world with personal taste, personal opinion, as their only moral compass. They either “like” someone or something, or they don’t “like” that someone or something. If they “like” it, then they believe it must be “right,” and if they don’t “like” it, they believe it must be wrong.
This is, of course, the whole purpose behind political campaigns that pander to the emotions with bumper-sticker rhetoric.
Once people believe something is “right” or “wrong” they cherry-pick (or fabricate) evidence to “prove” their position, and disregard any evidence that contradicts it.
And since they, like Plato’s prisoner in the cave, know of no other way of being, they cannot conceive of anyone who doesn’t do likewise.
But not everyone does likewise.
Most, maybe, but not everyone.
There are people – granted, very few --- who believe in one standard of right and wrong to be applied fairly and impartially to everyone without exception, friend and foe alike.
One set of rules, one code of laws for everyone, rich or poor, black or white, male or female.
If something is wrong, then it’s wrong no matter WHO does it, doesn’t matter if it’s my best friend or my worst enemy.
And if something is right, it doesn’t matter who does it, my best friend or my worst enemy.
Some folks would say that they’d rally behind a friend who was treated unjustly, let’s say, deprived of their legal rights.
But I say, a man of honor would also rise to the defense of an ENEMY who was treated unjustly.
When I assert that my belief in justice would require me to do exactly that, personal feelings aside, a lot of otherwise good folks laugh in my face or come right out and call me a liar.
They just can’t comprehend what I’m talking about.
It’s as if I’d said pigs could not only fly, but operate the space shuttle with pinpoint precision.
I believe that standing up for the rights of people you don’t like and don’t agree with, that’s the measure of your belief in those rights. That’s the measure of your sincerity and integrity.
For me, justice, truth, honor – that’s like the North Star.
It’s a constant, no matter what changes take place around it.
Fashion may change, and so laws may change.
Laws are made by people.
But justice, that’s something more, something universal and immutable, the truth of which is not determined by a majority vote.
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