Friday, March 23, 2012

Tibetan Monks Burning Bright, Skittles: Fear The Rainbow

"This is America. We must defend the principles symbolized by Lady Liberty – unless she's on the pill, in which case, she is a giant green tramp." – Stephen Colbert

"President Obama said he's set up a task force to look into high gas prices. He'd look into it himself, but he's busy working on those NCAA tournament brackets." –Jay Leno

"Rick Santorum says if elected president, he'll crack down on Internet porn. You thought he was alienating female voters with that birth control thing? Oh, guys are gonna be leaving in droves." – Jay Leno

"Yesterday Rick Santorum greeted the locals by telling them if Puerto Rico wants to become a state, they need to start speaking English. Only Rick Santorum would go to someone's native land and tell them they're speaking the wrong language." – Jimmy Kimmel

Certain images can contain strong personal messages for us, ones that we may carry with us for the rest of our lives. When I was a kid, I remember watching a news broadcast where a Vietnamese monk had set himself on fire to protest the coming war. That image keeps coming up in my mind whenever I read about our current crop of wars, and the emotional hell they create.

Setting yourself on fire seems to be an extreme and powerful image for us all; a young Tunisian vegetable seller lit himself aflame in protest of a beating and treatment by the police. The resulting protests spiraled into the removing of the governments in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen, and sparked protests in Bahrain and a civil war in Syria. The governments of Morocco, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia made some reforms in the treatment of their civilians.

Now, the practice of self-immolation has come full circle back to Asia, with young Tibetans and Tibetan monks under the age of 30 using it as an act of public protest. This last year, over 29 people have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule and insensitivity to their culture. Basically, the Chinese are trying to wipe out all things Tibetan, and replace them with Chinese traditions, after having invaded Tibet and ruled it for the past 50 years. The immolations are driving the Chinese government crazy, and they have dispatched 21,000 cultural workers to fight against this growing trend. They worry that citizen protests may grow in China and spark demonstrations that would ultimately topple their flimsy government. So, in the best traditions of Mao, they announce certain reforms and freedoms, then dispatch the military to kill and put in jail anyone trying to express those freedoms.

But there are indications that the world may no longer tolerate repressive regimes and totalitarian states, if the civil war in Syria,and the anti-Putin and anti-corruption protests that have been happening in Russia is an indication... Hopefully, the experiments in voting and representative governments in the Middle East will work out and help show how it can be done, and not devolve into a theocracy or more ruling by political strongmen, like in Iraq and Afghanistan and Iran. What would really help is if the Saudis would get rid of their fake royal families and stop supporting the ignorance of Wahabism. Perhaps then they wouldn't have created all of this jihad crap and Osama bin Laden, nor supplied most of the 9/11 conspirators...

The tragic fuck-up that happened in Sanford, Florida, with the shooting and killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer, has sparked outrage and protests that also seem to be growing. Sparking the outrage are the facts that the shooter, George Zimmerman, seemed to be stalking Trayvon as he was walking home from the store, carrying a cup of iced tea and a bag of skittles, and that George so far has not been arrested and charged with murder. The Sanford sheriff has had to step down until this mess gets cleared up. The company that makes skittles may have to change their advertising and catch-phrase, from Skittles: Taste the Rainbow, to

Skittles: Fear the Rainbow

I know, almost as bad as Geraldo Rivera saying that it was wearing a hoodie that was responsible for Treyvon Martin's death...There are two issues at the heart of the debate over how this could all have been avoided, the first being the stand your ground law passed in Florida in 2005, and is a license to kill if you think your life may be in danger. In this case, it epitomizes every black man's fear of walking where there may be skittish, whacked out white men, or hispanics around. The fear that the streets, no matter where they might be, are not safe for a teenage boy to walk safely and alone, ultimately encouraging gang behavior... does this parallel a white man's fear of walking through a black neighborhood? My grandmother lived for a long time in Compton, and walked to work every day with no problems. As a young kid, I walked around the neighborhood every time I visited. Whenever I travel, I like to walk around the places I visit, and I've only received kindness from Beijing to Hong Kong to Bangkok, in neighborhoods I was later warned about...

More important is how do we deal with our increasing alienated population? It will come out that George Zimmerman is also a "cop wannabee," and was not hired when he applied to become a police officer. He probably was so socially retarded that he couldn't even get a job as a security guard, hence his volunteering as a neighborhood watch guy. Driving around all day with a gun on your hip makes you fantasize about using it, and in George's case, also fantasizing over the situation to use it in. Which explains why he ignored the instructions of the 911 operator to not use force and to let the kid walk on by. George created the situation in his mind, and it didn't matter who the victim was, what color their skin was, someone was going to get shot so George could be a hero...

I've had to deal with kids who were "cop wannabees," and they are a pain in the ass to deal with. They are lonely social misfits who respond to authority, so much so that they want to become the authority. One kid was hired by the local private security outfit to help patrol our public bus depot, where I worked. One afternoon, when he first began work, he said to everyone, in a public statement: "Oh, I can just feel that there is going to be trouble today!" Sure enough, three hours later I had to extricate his butt from getting beaten up, one of several incidents that he created. Thank God we didn't allow him to carry a gun... 

These misfit folks also try to join the military and become officers, join jihad groups and become suicide bombers, and join the tea party to become followers of Rick Santorum... We, as a society, have not figured out how to educate and transform that loneliness, lack of self-worth, and alienation into a more fulfilling role. We don't teach it in school, and arming every citizen with a handgun is a crazy path to go down, though here in Colorado we now allow college students to bear arms. So far, there haven't been any teachers shot by disgruntled students who flunked a quiz, or innocent by-standers shot by frat boys on a drunken beer run, but it will be only a matter of time. Perhaps then we will have the kind of meetings and debates that the good citizens of Florida are now having. And, because we are ruled by human nature, those debates will also happen after the fact, when it's too late...

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