|Posted by John Mason on December 30, 2013 at 12:50 AM||comments (0)|
I honor the life and work of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for 27 years during the fight against the Apartheid regime in South Africa; then, after his release from prison and his election to the Presidency of his country, worked to reconcile the racial groups of South Africa-Black, White, Colored (mixed-race) and Asian-into a “rainbow nation.” Much work still needs to be done; there is still a great economic gap in that country (like here is the US of A) between a wealthy elite and workers and other low-income people, due to a reliance on the “free market” , along with a grave crime rate, also like here.
Still the fact that the Apartheid system has been overturned is amazing, due to the perseverance of brave and dedicated activists. I have been impressed by the mile-long lines of people of all races getting ready to vote in the first multiracial election in 1994.
Alas-Our own government has done whatever it could to prop up the Apartheid state. There is evidence that the CIA helped the South African police to capture Mandela and other ANC activists. The Reagan administration’s policy of “constructive engagement” meant that there would be no pressure on the Apartheid state to change or end the system, or to release Mandela and other ANC leaders.
Conservative journalists and activists in this country worked to make excuses for the regime, acting like the only alternative to the Apartheid system would be a Communist takeover. Plus there was the attitude, sounding like Tarzan movies and Donald Duck comics, that the Africans were not ready for democratic self-government-as if the regime would allow them to be! The government and the conservative movement in this country refused to take seriously the horrors of Apartheid, with a “What’s the big deal?” attitude.
Thus, with the fall of the Apartheid system, conservatives have been, once more, on the wrong side of history, siding with a regime that did nothing but hold off the inevitable. William F. Buckley described a conservative as “a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop! ‘“ Well, conservatives have proven to be no more than speed bumps, slowing down the advance of freedom for downtrodden people (maybe), but the conservatives get run over anyway.
Case in point-so far 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage. This is almost a decade after the 2004 election, and the strategy of George W. Bush's political adviser Karl Rove to have ballot initiatives in certain states concerning gay marriage, which brought out the religious conservatives to vote against them and for Bush, thereby “proving” that the US of A is a “conservative” nation where people are only motivated to vote on “moral” issues. Still, same-sex marriage is now being acknowledged as a civil and human right, with even conservative states like Idaho, Utah, and New Mexico legalizing them.
However in Utah, it has been a federal court that struck down Utah's laws against gay marriage, and the conservative argument has been to have the public, rather than the courts, decide the issue; but do people really need other people's permission to have equal access to public facilities, education, housing, veterans' benefits, health care, etc.? How is the existence of a gay-lesbian-transgender-bisexual-whatever-else person working with you, or shopping at your local store, a danger to you?
Once again I performed at PhillyCAM, on the show “Conversations Across Time”; this time I portrayed George C. Wallace, the legendary segregationist Governor of Alabama. From my reading of his career, as a judge he was “moderate” on racial issues, speaking respectfully to African-American attorneys; but after losing election as Governor to a hard-core segregationist, Wallace vowed, “I’ll never be out n----red” again!”
It was out of political opportunism that Wallace became the symbol of racial animus he is remembered as now, with the image of him standing at the entrance of the University of Alabama to prevent Black students from attending-which was a big show, since he had no power to stop them. Still, his fame as a segregationist hero grew, and in 1968 he ran for President under the American Independent Party, and there was the possibility that his candidacy would put the election into the House of Representatives, since he could have had some Electoral College votes.
But after the attempt on his life in 1972, which put him in a wheelchair and in great pain for the rest of his life, he had a change of heart, becoming moderate again and even appointing Blacks to his cabinet. Still, the damage was done to our politics; Richard Nixon saw Wallace's appeal to racist whites, and played into those sentiments during the 1972 election.
How it affected the running of government, and to whose benefit, it didn't matter to Nixon or Wallace; instead of trying to govern for the benefit of all the people, Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, whatever, the idea was to rile up one group against another, not using racial slurs-they could not even do that, which in itself was a victory for liberals-but the tactic was to use such phrases as “welfare bums,” “crime in the streets,” “excessive government spending,” while knowing their core constituents would, in their minds, associate minorities with these things. (At this writing, I recall how Newt Gingrich referred to President Obama as a “fried chicken” President and a “Food Stamp” President.)
I believe the tide is turning in progressives' favor; rolling over and playing dead, or even trying to meet the Republicans half way or trying to reason with them, is no longer an option. In this new year, I myself will continue the good fight, and I know you will too.
Happy New Year!
|Posted by John Mason on October 15, 2013 at 9:35 PM||comments (0)|
How will this stupidity in Washington-the Tea Party types in the House scaring Boehner from doing the sensible thing and allow a bill to raise the debt ceiling-end? The tea partyers in the House are on a nihilistic drive to end the Affordable Care Act-the evil "socialized medicine"- and they act like they don't know or care if the American and world economy both collapse.
We have seen the ridiculousness of the tea party idols, Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, at the rally in front of the White House, protesting the closing of national parks and monuments brought about by the cutting of funding of the federal government caused by their own party-as well as the Confederate flag among the crowd, the classic symbol of racism in this country. Have NO doubt that race plays a role in this mess-the tea party "movement", in spite of the outward complaint about "escessive" taxation, but of a Black man as President, upending assumptions of what it means to be "American."
(Are we really so "overtaxed" in this country? Have we ever questioned that assumption? Or has it been all this time a part of the myth that "non-white minorities don't work but leach off the welfare system, and honest hard working white folks don't want to pay for this"?)
The tea party movement is the latest incarnation of an organized ultra-conservative movement determined to undo the New Deal and every worthwhile social advancement, including Civil rights for African-Americans, women, LGBT people, and laws to protect consumers and workers (mainly the same people). It was the Birch Society in the 1960s, the Religious Right movement in the 1970s and 1980s, and now the tea parties, with the emphasis on "goverment spending going too far" and "oppressive taxes", without questioning the basis of these ideas. It's a matter of repackaging for the ultraconservative movement, finding any excuse to fight what is in reality the effort of formerly trod-upon people from asserting themselves, and trying to preserve any assumed and alleged privilages based on skin color or religion.
|Posted by John Mason on October 5, 2013 at 10:10 PM||comments (0)|
Greetings! I bid everyone L'Shana Tova, a sweet, happy, and prosperous new year-we all could do with one.
On Monday September 2, I marched and rallied and partied, in the rainstorm, with many other Philadelphia area trade unionists in the Tri-State Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration. We deserve the commemoration of our part in developing the country-it is US who are the engines of American prosperity, and without us, the corporate masters would have to do all the mining, manufacturing, and service themselves-scary thought.
I have also celebrated the High Holy Days, Rosh haShona and Yom Kippur, with the brothers and sisters of my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir (leyvhair.org). The idea of the holidays are sinking into me, that we all deserve a fresh start; learn from the past-it has no hold on you at all, you are not bound by it-and start anew.
For Yom Kippur I had the honor of reading the d'var torah on the Book of Jonah; God orders Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and preach to them to change from their wicked ways. But Jonah instead gets on a ship to get away from performing the task God called him to do; did he think he could get away from the omnipresent Deity? Did he think going to another place would get him away from the Ruler of the Heavens and the Earth?
After being thrown overboard and swallowed by the fish, Jonah prays-for himself; he does not follow God's command to preach to Nineveh. Inside the fish, Jonah prays for his own safety in the most terrible conditions, but he doesn't care about the people of Nineveh.
The fish spews out Jonah, and God calls him again to preach to the people of Nineveh. The Nineveh-ites accept the message, and they repent and change from their sins, hoping to avert God's punishment. But Jonah is not happy with the result of his preaching, but is upset with the people of Nineveh repenting-why? Did he desire the Nineveh-ites be punished? Did he not see that God also cared for the people of Nineveh?
There are people who are only concerned with their own spiritual welfare, but not with that of others. We've seen people like that, people proud of their own piety and indifferent to the problems of others.
I wondered, why is this story told on Yom Kippur? It's the story of a people warned of their sins and shortcomings, and they and repent, turning their lives around. That is the message of Yom Kippur, finding out where we've gone wrong, where we've gotten off track from our true selves, so we can realign with who we really are. It also tells of the negative voices, inside and around us, that say you can never change, that voices that don't want you to improve, and so you can recognize them and resist them, so you can find your true, positive, God-oriented state.
On September 26, I went to the studios of PhillyCAM, the public access able channel for Philadelphia (phillycam.org), to act in a taping of a new show of their, “Conversations Across Time,” where historic figures discuss historic events-in this case, the overthrow of the government of Mohammad Mossadegh in Iran in 1953 by the CIA. I played John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, and I did a fabulous job of acting-a nice side gig after I retire, but I’m not giving up writing.
As part of my research, I read All The Shaw’s Men, by Stephen Kinzer, a history of the events in the history of Persia/Iran leading up to the coup, including the effort by Mossadegh to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which was controlled by a British firm, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company (now known as British Petroleum, or BP), the economic sanctions the British government imposed on Iran for this effrontery, the refusal of President Harry Truman to go along with efforts by British intelligence services to overthrow Mossadegh, and of the Eisenhower administration, urged along by John Foster Dulles and Allen Dulles (CIA Director) to pick up on the British plot and carry it through-and of the spinelessness of the Shah through all this, constantly having to be bullied into signing the decree ordering the ouster of Mossadegh.
This was how our government operated through the Cold war era: a government somewhere decides to put the well-being of its people ahead of multinational corporations, and our government, allegedly “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” overthrows it, and in its place is a regime that tortures and murders its people. This also was the situation in 1954, when in Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman took unused farm lands from multinational corporations, like United Fruit, and distributed them among poor peasants. The Dulles brothers had stock in United Fruit, but they treated the Guatemalan land reform as a leg of the International Communist Conspiracy, and supported efforts to overthrow Arbenz, with a combination of training anti-Arbenz troops and propaganda that portrayed the Arbenz government as “Communist.” The coup thus produced a series of military regimes that declared war on its own people, in the name of “fighting Communism.”
I don’t believe we Americans were well-served by our government or by the “news” media during the Cold war era; every regional conflict was explained in too-simplistic terms, as a good-guys-bad-guys scene: it was the United States of America, land of freedom, filled with God-fearing people, as opposed to the Soviet Union, an oppressive dungeon of a Godless nation-which side were you on? There was no consideration of the situation inside these nations, the efforts of their governments to improve the lives of their people.
The same is true with the plot by the CIA, under Richard Nixon, to overthrow the elected government of Salvador Alliende in 1973, and replace him with Augusto Pinochet, who instituted a reign of terror over his people, costing the lives of thousands; while discussing Alliende, Henry Kissinger said, "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much to important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves." If the leaders of our government think this way about the people of another country, I don't think it would be much of a stretch to think they think the same about US, the people of THIS country, in whose name these crimes are being committed.
We are especially NOT well-served in the current debate in Congress over raising the debt ceiling and being able to pay for government functions, such as national defense (including paying our military members, who also have families to care for), national parks and monuments people visit, services like SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), the WIC program, Head Start for school kids-why? To prevent the implementation of the Affordable Health Care Act (the dreaded “Obamacare” which would contribute to helping people have access to health insurance? I agree, it’s not a perfect plan-I would prefer a Canadian-style “single payer” system-but it’s a start, all programs have to work out some glitches.
The very fact that people ARE applying for health care through the ACA “exchanges” shows how important health insurance is to working Americans, of which around 55 million have NO health insurance. This is NOT a luxury, it is a necessity, like education, clean drinking water, and food-and the federal shutdown affects such functions; these are no federal employees to process student grants for education and Head Start programs, no EPA inspectors to watch out for corporations polluting rivers, no USDA inspectors watching meat in the slaughterhouse for unfriendly bacteria, and you can't leave these functions to the "free market."
It was from the agitation, the campaigning, the marching and demonstrating against abuses in the social-economic-political system that we have such mechanisms in place-but the conservative propaganda machine and the commercial news media don't tell you this. In fact, throughout history, governments in this country and throughout the world have erred on the side of the wealthy elite, be they industrial capitalists, bankers, or agrarian plantation owners. Also throughout history, it has been the work of dedicated lower-class people-small crafts people, small farmers, and industrial workers, along with decent upper-class people on their side-that challenged these power arrangements and made governments work more for the benefit of the vast majority of the people.
Do the tea party types in Congress know they are doing the work of undoing over a century of social progress like this? Are they conscious of who their policies are benefiting to the detriment of the greater masses of people? No matter-I urge everyone to continue the fight to make our government more user-friendly, to make it work for ALL of us. Let us educate ourselves on these issues, and learn the appropriate course of action.
|Posted by John Mason on October 1, 2013 at 2:50 PM||comments (0)|
On Tuesday September 26, I got on PhillyCam, the public acccess channel for Philadelphia, to take part in a historical "panel discussion" show about the overthrow of the democratically-elected government of Iran, ruled by Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh, in 1953 by the CIA. In this show, called "Conversations Across Time," I played John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower's Secretary of State, who, with his brother, CIA director Allen Dulles, pushed through this coup. Personally, I did great at this acting gig, and I hope for more to come.
But at a deeper level, we must worry that our government, in the past, overthrew governments that challenged corporate interests in their countries, and propped up oppressive regimes at war with their own people, for the same of corporate investments, profits, and power. Our government must be a government of ALL the people, and not a collection agency for big banks and oil companies.
As part of my understanding of the coup in 1953 for the show, I read the book All The Shah's Men: An American Coup & The Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer. It's a great book, and I recommend it highly.
|Posted by John Mason on September 2, 2013 at 4:10 PM||comments (0)|
I have come back from marching in the 26th Annual Tri-State Labor Day Parade and family Celebration, held today. We assembled at the Sheet Metal Workers hall at 1301 South Columbus Blvd, and we started with a rally in the middle of a torrential rain, but that did NOT dampen our spirits (pun intended). we marched north on Columbus Boulevard to the Great Plaza of Penn's Landing, and we had food and music and fun, even in the rain.
There was a time when workers could never assemble peacefully; corportions owned many state and local governments, and the federal government was no friend of workers either. (sound familiar?) Attempts of workers to form unions were treated by the corporate-owned state as subversive conspiricies, and organizers as criminals. It is quite an accomplishment of the Labor movement that workers could freely assemble, march, and display their pride-let us never lose that.
Labor Day was founded by Peter Maguire, General Secretary of the International Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and who helped to found the American Federation of Labor (AFL). Maguire called for a holiday honoring workers, "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." The first labor Day parade took place on September 5, 1882, in New York City, and the next one took place on the first Monday of September 1884, and the Central labor Union of New York urged labor bodies in other cities to hold their own Labor Day celebrations. In 1887, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado were among the first states to legally hold Labor Day as a holiday.
Do enjoy your cookouts and days at the beach-due to the struggles of workers organizing for their rights, and the rights of future generations-and look into the real history of Organzied Labor.
|Posted by John Mason on August 31, 2013 at 9:35 PM||comments (0)|
I have undertaken a good deal of personal and professional growth. Sometimes it's not noticable, you go on with your life and you don't notice any change in yourself, but it sneeks up on you. You can't order or yell at yourself to change or improve; it's a process, not a one-shot event.
I have a yardstick for measuring your personal growth, I call it the "Five Year Plan." I look back at my life as it was thrity years ago, asking, "How was I doing? WHAT was I doing? Where did I live? Ws I getting my education? How was I sustaining myself?" Then you ask yourself the same question about your life twenty-five years ago-then twenty-then fifteen-then ten-then five-to measure your progress.
|Posted by John Mason on August 31, 2013 at 4:35 PM||comments (0)|
I have been reading the Torah portion Nitzavim-Vayelech, Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30. Moses speaks to the israelites saying, "You stand this day, all of you, before the LORD your God, your tribal heads, your elders, and your officials, all the men of Israel, your chidren, your wives, even the stranger within your camp...to enter into the covenant of the LORD your God...I make this covenant, with its sanctions, nowt with you alone, but both with the thoe who and standing here with us this day before the LORD your God and with those who are not with us here this day." (29:9-14)
I gather two things from this passage: the Torah, the Teaching, the Covenant, is for all the people, all classes, from the tribal leaders to the rank and file, including non-Israelites in the community; the Teachings with its blessing and punishments, is binding on all in the community. Also, the Covenant-Teaching is binding not only on the people listening at that time,but also for future generations.
29:15-28-God, through Moses, recounts how the Israelites passed through among various nations with their own gods they worship. God knows the Israelites are plotting to follow these foreign deities, and God threatens the israelites with terrible punishments if they turn from God and God's commandments.
30:1-10-The LORD promises His people that if they turn from their sin and towards God, God with accept them back in love, and God will punish Israel's enemies and oppressors and restore ISrael's prosperity.
30:11-14-The LORD says the Torah-Teaching is not beyond the comprehention of people: "It is not in the heavens, that you should say, 'Who among us can go up to the heavens and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who among us can cross to the other side of the sea and get it for us and impart it to us, that we may observe it' NO the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to observe it." Lay people as well as clergy can comprehend and read Torah, it is for everyone.
Reading this portion is appropriate just before the High Holy Days. The portion tells of the danger of turning from God, but the benefits of t'shuva, returning, which you can always do.
For further study of Rosh haShona and the other Jewish holidays, I recommend Seasons Of Our Joy by Arthur Waskow.
|Posted by John Mason on August 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM||comments (0)|
I'm getting ready for the High Holy Days, Rosh ha-Shona and Yom Kippur. We are now in the month of Elul, the time of reflection over what we have done right in the past year and what we can improve on-and we CAn improve, so don't listen to those who tell you that you can't. I bid everyone a sweet, happy, and prosperous new year. As is my custom, I have written a series of Rosh ha-Shona resolutions, compatable to New Year's resolutions. They are as follows:
I will continue to be loyal to Jewish religion, history, culture, Kabala, Israel, Yiddishkeit, etc.
I will continue to conduct myself with self- love, self-esteem, and self-respect.
I will continue to be more in the NOW, in the present, not multitasking.
I will continue to be loyal to my various social and political causes.
I will continue to know the love of women and the joy of sex.
I will continue to develop my art, craft, and business as a writer.
I will continue meditation, affirmations, and other psychological and spiritual practices.
I will continue to improve my financial situation.
I will resume learning foreign languages.
I will eat and exercise moderately.
I have recently attended the Delegates Assembly of the National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 (nwu.org). we discussed and debated resolutions on reforming copyright laws and supporeted whistleblower protection laws, along with learning about organizing efforts of freelance writers in Austria. The very fact that we're coming together to discuss our issues is significant, showing that we work together for our mutual benefit.
This past Saturday, August 17, I took part in a cookout at Elmwood Park, 71st and Buist Avenue, as part of the United Steel Workers' Summer of Solidarity Tour throughout the country. Performing at the event was the famous Labor folk singer Anne Feeney. You can find out about the tour on he webste summerofsolidarity.org.
Monday, September 2, is Labor Day, and I will join my union brothers and sisters in the Tri-State Annual Labor Day Parade and Family Celebration. We will start the march at the Sheet Metal workers hall, 1301 South Columbus Blcd in Philadelphia, and we will march down Columbus Boulevard to the Festival Pier of Penn's Landing, where the celebration will take place. We have fun and show our pride in our past, and determination for the future.
|Posted by John Mason on August 6, 2013 at 6:55 PM||comments (0)|
I'm getting ready for my trip to Chicago, to attend the Delegates Assembly (DA) of the national writers Union/ UAW Local 1981. Chicago is rich in Labor history, such as the Haymarket incident of 1886, when seven labor activists were accused of throwing a bomb into a crowd of police during a rally of strikers at the McCormick Harvester works in May 1886, and the founding in June 1905 of the most radical and colorful of Labor movements, the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW).
Currently, Chicago is the focus of such Labor activism as the strike of fast-food workers retail workers, which has spread to many other American cities where these workers are fighting for a decent wage to live on. There are also protests against the meeting, in Chicago's Palmer House Hilton, against the meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the organization of legislators and corporate lobbyists that has set the template for such anti-worker, anti-minority laws as voter ID laws that would keep low-income and minority peopole, seniors, and students from legitimately voting; the "stand your ground" laws that are targeted against minorities-the same kind of defense George Zimmerman used after killing Treyvon Martin; bills supporting privatetived prisons, many of them of low security, to detain immigrants; and "right-to-work" (for less) bills that would hamper workers' ability to organize. Plus, the Chicago Tribune is one of the papers of the Tribune Company, along with the Los Angeles Times, the Baltimore Sun, and the Orlando Sentinel, that the Koch Brothers, the infamous paymasters of the tea parties and other right-wing causes, seeks to purchase.
Yes, it'll be busy in Chicago. I'll let you know how it turns out.
|Posted by John Mason on August 6, 2013 at 6:20 PM||comments (0)|
I had a LOVELY interview on FoMerlot Entertainment, over Blog Talk Radio. I explained my writing art and craft, and a lot of my background. YOu can listen to it on this link, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/fomerlot/2013/08/05/poetry-night-71. Thanks to everyone for their support.