Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A Distant Drummer

It was just supposed to be a visit to the museum… nothing more. But it became something more, purely by accident.

Oh sure, there’s lots of mind-numbing activities one could enjoy in Las Vegas, and for sure The Artist and I partake in many of them, both banal and bizarre. But come on... a museum of natural history? IN LAS VEGAS?!!?!?!?!?!

Come ON.

But it’s true. There we were, on one of our many trips to that dazzling burg in the blanched desert to celebrate our wedding that took place on The Las Vegas Strip back in the far-away year of 1986. I know, Las Vegas in July is just insanely hot, but we really don’t spend that much time outdoors anyways, and we both hate blistering by the pool.

So to make the anniversary trips more fun, The Artist does something that always makes for an interesting and enjoyable time for when we’re not sexing up in our room or playing the slots.

In the weeks prior to an upcoming journey into the Vast Hotness, she searches the intertubes for alternative LV activities. There’s lots of really cool things to do that don’t involve slot machines, alcohol or endless foot travel. Recent side trips included the Ethel M Chocolate Factory (she of the M&M Mars Family), the Pinball Hall of Fame (500 machines from vintage to modern), the Bellagio Hotel Gallery of Fine Art  (world-class art is there if you can find the place), Frankie’s Tiki Room (a genuine hard-core tiki lounge, darkest bar I’ve ever been in), and the King Putt indoor/Egyptian-themed/black-light miniature golf course(!?!?!).

This trip found us sweating outside of the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art on the campus of UNLV, which was hosting a gallery exhibit of ceremonial masks from the indigenous peoples of the West spanning almost 2500 years. She thought it sounded intriguing, so one stifling weekday morning after we roused from the hotel room sexing bed we made our way out to the campus, the place literally abandoned for Summer break.

We arrived just before the museum’s 10AM opening, which allowed us the chance to walk the small but excellent desert foliage garden out front, grabbing whatever shade was available. Natch, we were the first (and only) people to walk in when they unlocked the doors and were almost knocked over by the arctic air blasting from inside.

The gallery exhibit of ancient masks was simply breathtaking. Displayed on a timeline, it was stunning to see how long-dead hands had lovingly formed these avatars of ancient peoples, fabricating and decorating them in a way that would exalt their ancestors, their spirits, themselves.

But something else grabbed my attention, dragged it away from those beautifully symbolic masks. It was sitting there, in the literal center of the gallery, waiting just for me.

A giant American Indian pow-wow drum, easily 4 feet in diameter.

The moment I saw it, drumsticks leaning all around the side, surrounded by empty benches, I looked over at The Artist who was already looking at me with an expression that said 'You're not really going to, are you?' She knew what was in my head, but she also knew it would be impossible to prevent the inevitable.

Remember, we're the only people inside this museum gallery on a weekday morning. I walk up to the drum, sit down, grab one of the drumsticks, and begin to softly drum.

"bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum hum bum..."

A steady, even cadence, not the made-up Hollywood drumming that everyone thinks is real.  You know:

"BUM bum bum bum BUM bum bum bum BUM bum bum bum BUM bum bum bum..."  

That's a fake drum cadence, and only a very few non-American Indians know the difference.  

But I do.

I sat there, drumming with my eyes closed, hearing the echoes bounce around in the empty gallery, filling the place with an ancient sound, and in that instant I was transported through time and space to other moments in my life.

"bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum hum bum..."

I traveled to my performances of the Eagle Dance at many Boy Scout ceremonies celebrating a Scout's achievement of the Eagle Badge, the highest award in Scouting. I wore my dance costume without the large feather bustle on my shoulders or the horsehair roach on my head, replaced by a set of feathered eagle wings and a ceremonial Eagle headdress, dancing and spinning and flying across the stage, at one with the moment.

"bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum hum bum..."

I traveled to one of the many Indian pow-wows our Order of the Arrow dance team was invited to attend, REAL pow-wows replete with women and children and youth and elders, all dressed in their finest costumes, dancing around and around and around the drummers in the center, all drumming and singing ancient songs of the Original Americans. I even met Iron Eyes Cody once and he shook my hand and thanked me for being there.  I danced for hours in those circles with Original Americans.

                                                       Iron Eyes Cody

"bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum hum bum..."

I traveled to another pow-wow, dressed in my completely handmade costume, a Modern Oklahoma Fancy Dancer, with my bells ringing and fringe flying and feathers swooping and my head roach tossing back and forth, and then the drumming became more insistent and we youth, we Fancy Dancers, began to dance even faster to keep up with the drumming cadence.


Faster and faster we danced and spun to keep up with the beat, and on each heavy beat we'd either bounce in the air or drop to the ground and bounce right back on the beat, each and every time, faster and faster and faster.


                     Modern Oklahoma Fancy Dancers, circa 2016

As is typical of time travel, I was only drumming there for a few minutes, but it felt like I'd been there for much longer. Eventually The Artist begged me to stop because I was prolly getting the docent angry, so I stopped drumming, put down the stick and waited for the echoes of the past and present to fade away.

I love time travelling.

We finished our gallery visit and decided to head out to another weirdo non-gambling Las Vegas activity. As we started to leave, I veered off and went over to the museum office where the docent who let us in was doing some paperwork.

Me: (peeking my head into her office) "Hi there... many thanks for the really great exhibit. I'm glad we made the trip out here."

Her:  "Oh, you are most welcome!" (Brief pause) "By the way, was that you drumming in there?"

Me: (highly embarrassed) "Ummm... yep, that was me.  Hope I didn't make too much noise on this quiet morning for you."

Her:  "NO NO NO... your drumming was amazing! It's nice to hear someone drum who knows what they're doing with that wonderful instrument.  Thanks for that!"

Me:  "Oh, OK, you're welcome. Thanks again!" (head swells to ten times its normal size)

Out into the Stoopid Hot we walked, into the sunshine and mindless excess that typifies Las Vegas. However, I left something important behind, something that was a part of me, and I was glad to leave it.

I had punched a hole in the time/space continuum, stepped through and went for a stroll with a drumstick in my hand, an ancient beat in my heart, and the memories of a joyous time paying homage to the Original Americans in my mind's eye.  That hole was still in there, exactly where I left it, waiting for someone else to peek through.

I will always be grateful for those formative youthful years communing with Indian spirits at pow-wows, dancing for hours around and around the drummers, singing their ancient songs to their ancestors, who were swirling all around them.

I will always be grateful for the chance to participate in such a singular and special activity, accorded to me by the Boy Scouts of America, the Order of the Arrow, and My Father, without whom none of it would have been possible.

                    My first Indian dance costume, circa 1969, fabbed by Dad

The same Father who spent hours and hours fabricating my costumes while I sat at his side, watching and reveling at his skill with needle and leather and feather and bell.

The same Father who spent countless hours carting our dance team around from one show to another, giving up his time and energy to allow us to fulfill our Scouting dreams.

The same Father who cheered me on at competitions, soaking in the success when I won, consoling my broken heart when I didn't, but always showing me that my efforts were valued nonetheless.

The same Father who watched as I took possession of a set of amazingly beautiful Fancy Dance feather bustles hand-made by a Real Indian, complete with Cloud Eagle feathers, from the son of the man who made the bustles and wanted to see me compete in them.

And yes, the same father who I railed against as I grew older and decided I didn't need Scouting or Indian dancing or any of that stuff, but stayed silent anyways.

That Father.  The Best Father Ever.

To this day, I am always thanking that guy for all the things he gave me as a growing, obstinate, fickle youth. Especially the chance to dance with feather and bell, around and around the giant drum, honoring The Original Americans.

"bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum bum hum bum..."

Lead image gracias de; INFP Fancy Dance and Red Eagle 'Song of Survival' videos gracias de; first costume image Muchismas Gracias de Mi Padre

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Anatomy of a Murder

“Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.” -- Martin Luther King

Donald J. Trump is set to become the 45th President of the United States of America.

He will be my President.  I'm not happy about it, but that's how politics and elections work sometimes.

A large number of us are still mystified as to how and why Donald Trump defied the odds and snuck away with enough electoral votes to move into the White House.  

My standard answer is: it didn’t just happen. It took almost a decade for us to get to the point where a racist pussy-grabbing tax-cheating scumbag like Trump could con and lie his way into the Oval Office.

It's no secret that Donald Trump, a pathological liar, murdered Truth as a pathway to his electoral success, but there were many accomplices in this murder. Each in their own way, with their own agendas, conspired to murder Truth as a means to an end that they held as Most Important, moreso than their citizenship or civility or decency. They lied about facts, lied about their motives and intentions, lied about reality, lied lied lied about everything they could think of to generate a reality we now refer to as ‘post-truth’.

And guess what?  IT WORKED!!!

I knew trouble was brewing a few weeks before the election.

I had a conversation with an elderly fellow who, for the sake of all involved, will remain nameless.  We were talking about the upcoming Presidential election and he made it very clear that he was voting for Donald Trump. This is just a small sample of how the entire stupefying conversation went:

Me: “You realize that he’s wholly unqualified and unfit for that job, right?”

Him:  “It doesn’t matter. He’s going to make America great again. He’s a successful businessman and knows what he’s doing.”

Me: “Does a successful businessman claim a billion dollars in losses and file for bankruptcy multiple times?”

Him:  “That’s not true. Where’d you hear that?”

Me:  “Ummm… yeah, actually it is true. So what exactly is he gonna do to make this country great again?”

Him:  “He’s gonna bring back law and order to stop all the riots going on.”

Me:  “Which riots are those?”

Him:  “Well… the ones all over the place, those riots where all those blacks are destroying property and killing cops!”

Me:  “Surely you’re not referring to the civil unrest over indiscriminate police shooting of unarmed black men?”

Him:  “Yeah, those riots.”

Me:  “Riiiiight… OK, what else is he gonna do to make this country great again?”

Him:  “I forget, but I know that I knew and I agree with everything he says.”

Me:  (incredulous, eyes bugging out) “Come ON… he’s a racist and a bigot and a sexual predator! He’s a tax cheat and a pathological liar!”

Him:  “No he’s not! Who says that?”

Me:  (eyes narrowing, throwing a sideways look) “What news shows do you watch?”

Him:  “Well… mostly Fox News.”

Me:  “Any others?”

Him:  “Nope… don’t need to.  They’re the only ones who tell the truth. The rest of the lamestream media are liars.”

Me:  (head explodes and launches brains all over the walls, body falls into a twitching heap on the floor)

Congressional Republicans Murdered Truth

From the moment Barack Obama announced his run for the Presidency in 2007, the latent racism and bigotry bubbling just below the surface of our national skin spewed out like a ripe pimple being pinched. It didn’t matter that he was an American citizen, a Christian, a public servant, a Harvard graduate, a constitutional law expert. The GOP and Congressional Republicans would seek to de-legitimize and destroy him because they could not and would not allow a Black Man to be President.

They lied about his heritage. They lied about his faith.  They lied about his education.  They lied about his family. They lied about his politics. They lied about his qualifications. They lied about his patriotism. They lied about everything pertaining to him and they never stopped lying, not even once.

When he won the Presidency, they lied about his intentions. They lied about his motives. They lied about what he would do.  And on the day of his inauguration, a group of powerful Republican liars met in a Washington DC restaurant and developed a strategy to destroy him. They agreed to obstruct, delay, stonewall, obfuscate, slow-walk, deny, torpedo and sabotage anything and everything he tried to do. 

Don't believe me?  Go look it up.

They wanted to teach that uppity Black Man a lesson for thinking he could make things better for Americans. Their guy W had spent the previous eight years destroying the very fabric of our country and left a smoking mess for Barack Obama to somehow fix (which he eventually did), and that just would not do. And they would be damned if they’d give the uppity Black Man a single solitary win, so they enacted their plan to do just that, as only Republicans can do because they are inveterate liars.

If Obama was for it, they were against it. Didn’t matter what it was, who it would benefit, how right or fair or just it was.  They objected to every single thing he tried to do. From rescuing the economy to providing affordable healthcare to creating a more just legal system, they dug in and stood their ground.  NO NO NO to everything.  And then they lied about it.  They refused to govern and became the Disloyal Opposition, sabotaged everything he tried to do, and then blamed him when the results weren’t as successful as they could or should have been. They even shut down the government based on lies and blamed that uppity Black Man for it.

They lied about the economy even when it revived and thrived.  They lied about the Affordable Care Act even though it dramatically lowered the costs of healthcare, reduced the Federal deficit, provided 20 million Americans with coverage and dropped the number of the uninsured to historic lows.  They lied about unemployment even though it was reduced to the lowest rate in decades. They lied about a lack of jobs even though millions and millions of new jobs were created.  They lied about his foreign policy even though he ended two illegal wars and rebuilt trust and admiration from around the globe that had been squandered by his predecessor. They lied about the federal deficit, claiming it had skyrocketed when in fact it had been lowered by two-thirds.

They went on Fox News, the most popular ‘news’ channel ever, and lied and lied and lied. Every time they were in front of a camera or reporters or constituents, they lied and lied and lied.

And guess what?  IT WORKED. The unthinking and incurious masses of Americans who watched Fox News night after night, lie after lie, believed the lies and started to blame that stinking liberal Obama for all the bad things that were happening, for the inability for Congress to get anything done, for the stagnation of job creation and the skyrocketing crime rate, even though it was all based on lies.

Those ignorant Americans didn’t bother to think about whether or not their single source of information might be lying to them because it was too much trouble to check other sources, to use critical thinking about what they were hearing, to weigh facts against hyperbole and lies. They bought the lies hook, line and sinker.

And here we are.

A Compliant And Weak Media Murdered Truth

When Donald Trump announced his candidacy in the Summer of 2015, his speech was filled with lies and racism and unhinged insanity, but the mainstream media slavishly covered every single minute of it.  Oh sure, they chortled and guffawed at his obvious stupidity, but... no one came right out and called him a liar, nor would they.

They couldn't, and he knew it, because he is a Master of the Universe, an entitled celebrity asshole with wealth and power and influence. Someone who spent his entire life supping from a gold-covered chalice, shitting in a gold-encrusted toilet, demeaning and insulting and degrading everybody else because he could... always had, always would. And NO ONE would ever be able to tell or show him otherwise.

The mainstream media both craved and feared Donald Trump.

They would enable and embolden this pathological liar because regardless of how insane he might be, they wanted to make sure he would always give them what they craved most:  ACCESS and RATINGS. His incoherent ramblings were ratings gold, and they would never EVER do anything that would jeopardize access to the fountain of stupid that is Donald Trump because he is a Master of the Universe.

What they didn't realize is that a massive number of Americans had been pre-conditioned to believe the lies he was spewing each and every day, because they'd already been brainwashed by the incessant lying of Congressional Republicans.

The very same Republicans that had been lying and lying and lying in front of every camera that would point in their direction. Access is key, and any reporter or media that questioned them on their lies was immediately cut off from access to the Lying Republicans. No more interviews, no more quotes, no more access... so a decision had to be made. Maintain access by glossing over the lies, or question the lies and suffer the consequences.

Guess which one they chose?

And here we are.

An Ignorant and Brainwashed Public Murdered Truth

"If a nation expects to be both ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be" -- Thomas Jefferson

In the weeks leading up to the election, it was obvious that we had already entered the 'post-truth' era. The lies and bullshit being spread about Hillary Clinton were unbelievable, but a huge swath of the public believed the lies because they had been preconditioned to think that way. They loved the lies, and what Grade-A Quality Bullshit the lies were! For example:

"Hillary lied about Benghazi and purposefully allowed the embassy to be overrun and burned and did nothing while the staffers were murdered."

"Hillary lied about her e-mails and server."

"Hillary suffered a stroke and is barely able to stand on her own."

"Hillary is a crook."

"Hillary has never done anything positive during her time in the public sector."

"Hillary is sick and hiding it from the media."

"Hillary is a secret lesbian."

"Hillary profited from The Clinton Foundation."

"Hillary is involved in a child sex ring run from the basement of a DC-area pizzeria."

"Hillary is responsible for the civil wars in Syria and Iraq and civil unrest throughout the Middle East."

And yet... rather than try and analyze these statements to see if there were any facts to bolster them, the Ignorant Public that loves to not think swallowed the lies whole, without hesitation, without a single thought given to the notion that maybe... perhaps... possibly... the lies were actually LIES.

Nope.  Didn't happen. They swallowed the lies whole like a carp sucking down a mayfly. Didn't even taste it going down. Sustenance.

There's a popular meme that says 'If you think education is expensive, wait until you see how much ignorance costs.' And make no mistake, a large swath of the American electorate is 100% USDA Grade-A Select ignorant. It starts with the watering-down and elimination of high school Civics and Social Studies and History and Political Science courses, allowing students to whip through to graduation without ever thinking... even once... about their civic duties and responsibilities, or How Things Work.

Then the semi-ignorant students are allowed to swim through college (if they go at all) without ever knowing the most basic facts of American Citizenship or American History. Those who don't attend college become Diploma'd ignoramuses with no critical thinking skills or the ability to reason fact from fiction, ripe for the picking by Lying Liars.

And here we are.

Does this seem a bit harsh? Am I being needlessly cruel or caustic or otherwise unfair to those mediocre students who, through no fault of their own, become dim adults lacking the capacity to think for themselves without their spacephone?

Well, harsh is pretty much all I have in me right now, because one of the best parts about getting old is that I've stopped giving a diddly-fuck about what others may think of my opinions. I've stopped worrying about the delicate fee-fees of the vast swath of Ignorant Americans who can't think their way out of a paper bag, who can't be bothered to educate themselves about their world, who are as incurious and bereft of context and contrast as our new Asshole-In-Chief.

As an adult trying to navigate the vast ocean of life, I've always tried to fall back on the meaningful brilliance of the many fine teachers I had in junior and high school, along with my years as a Cub and Boy Scout.  It was all of a piece, and among the most important things I learned to strive for are:  

Be truthful, no matter what. 

Treat others with the respect they deserve. 

Call 'BULLSHIT' when it's obvious. 

Question everything, and be prepared to deal with the hard answers. 

Don't be afraid to ask questions or admit you don't have all the answers.

Give everything you can to the benefit of others.

Never ever stop learning.

Truth is easily lost in the blaring reality we all share, but we gotta keep our eyes on it at all times or it becomes obscured, shaded, hidden from view. I've opined before that we have so much information flooding into our lives that it becomes almost too much to bear, allowing facts and truth to be lost the fizzy reality cocktail we drink deeply from every day.

Don't let it happen. Don't let Truth be murdered right in front of your eyes.  I know it's hard, but you gotta weed through the noise and keep looking for the hard-nuts Truth about what is meaningful and important.  Otherwise you'll become just another American Ignoramus, calmly feeding on the radioactive pablum that suffocates Truth in a thick layer of bullshit.

As a Boy Scout, I had to memorize and try to live by the Twelve Scout Laws:

"A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent."

These weren't meant to be hard and fast rules, but instead goals to strive for, to achieve in order to be a Better Scout, a Better Human Being, a Better American.  Little did I know that as I grew into Adulthood and Curmudgeonhood, those very same laws would guide me in my world view, in my interpersonal relationships, in my understanding and treatment of others.

Trustworthy is the first Scout Law.

trust-wor-thy -- (adjective) -- able to be relied on as honest or truthful; synonyms: reliable, dependable, honest, upright, principled, true, truthful, ethical, virtuous, incorruptible, unimpeachable, above suspicion, responsible, sensible, levelheaded, staunch, steadfast... "a trustworthy citizen".

Maybe this is why I'm so unbelievably angry with the Lying Republicans, the Lying Media, the Ignorant Americans who lie to themselves. I know it may be too much to ask that other citizens try a bit harder to be more truthful, more honest about the things that affect us all. I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I really try hard to be honest and trustworthy in everything that I say and do, every single day.  

Why can't they at least try to do the same?

Actually, I know why... and so do you.

Lying is easy. 

Lead image, gracias de; 'Politically Challenged' and Rollins Band 'Liar' video, muchismas gracias de; todas mis gracias y alabanza a Carlos Magallanes, Los Boy Scouts de America, y Mi Papa.