Wednesday, November 30, 2016

All politics are local and visible.



Kind of old news, Nazi rallies in favor of their national leader. But, I’ve been thinking a lot about last week’s Alt-right gathering where Trump was Seig-Heiled by his followers.

On the Tom Hartmann show, last week,  Thom was reading from a book written right after WWII -  They Thought They Were Free. The author, Milton Mayer, a Jewish American, went to Germany right after its surrender to get an idea of why some people just went along with the Nazis. The old adage of “At first they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist…Etc.” comes from this book I believe.

The gist of it is that, in local communities, the infiltration of the Nazi agenda was so gradual and nonthreatening, it was a surprise for most to wake up one day confronted with what they let happen. One of the interviewees said that all the old institutions had remained - church, the cinema, markets, but the soul of their town had changed and by the time they noticed this, it was too late to do anything about it.

When you look around Spokane, right now, it’s hard to remember a more prosperous time. Our local economy is doing well. Eight years ago, we were deep in recession and all of us homeowners had lost a lot of value in our homes and our retirement plans. Now things have reversed. It’s a head-scratcher to me why we want to go back to where we were eight years ago. But the minority in our country has spoken, so looking at Trump’s cabinet picks, we will do just that.

It’s hard to wrap our heads around national problems and solutions. But, looking at the economy of our local area, it is apparent that national politics have had a real effect on our local economy. Likewise too, the recent pro-Nazi, pro-KKK graffiti spray-painted on buildings, the accosting of local minorities by pro-Trump supporters certainly are a reflection of how national politics infect a local system almost seamlessly - thanks to the 24-7 news cycle and social media. Also, our responses to these crises remain local (PR events). No one can make the connection of these reprehensible actions to the beliefs they hold for our nation. I am reminded of my father’s worries/excitement about the upcoming race wars, and his disdain for African-Americans on a national level. My best friend was African-American and after my dad lectured me on the evils of "the Blacks," he would always exclude my friend’s family because they were unlike most Blacks and were “good people.” He could not make the connection.

Speaking of good people, I had a falling out of a sort with a relative by marriage of mine. He kept posting articles that were blatantly untrue about Hillary Clinton, stuff we now know were intentional disinformation pieces. I Snoped them and they were easily refuted. Yet, he persisted. And this, to me, was a curious thing. He has a job, like mine, which makes him a trusted member of our community. He also has a skill set, like mine, which is continually updated as we learn new things about medicine, fire behavior and other parts of our jobs. We work hard to know the truth. We easily change our minds and our practices to better serve, and we want to remain credible to our community. Yet, here he was willing to sacrifice his credibility for a national figure, Donald Trump, and this is what I find puzzling. You can dislike Hillary Clinton all you want, love Donald Trump all you want, but why would you discard your credibility by spreading things that were obviously false? Now if he was being satirical, I get that. But, he wasn’t.

I presented three hypotheses to him on why this might be. I went back this morning to copy and paste them here. But, he has sanitized his Facebook page of all things political. So, the great forgetting begins! Mine and his.

In a nutshell, I think folks are willing to sacrifice their credibility by perpetuating what they know are lies because: 1. They figure the stakes are so high for their team, they think it’s worth it. 2. It’s only a game, only a team, nobody takes politics seriously- they’re all crooked and there is nothing you can do anyway. 3. “I can find any ‘truth’ I want on the Internet and it’s just as  good as the real truth.” In any case, the underlying cause is not having enough energy or enough caring to pursue the truth because the truth might conflict with your worldview, the truth is not that important or there is no truth - only relativism. All these attitudes we would reject in our personal and professional lives. Also, these same  attitudes were prevalent in the build up of Nazi Germany, if one believes what the author of They Thought They Were Free has to say..

I really don’t remember if this is exactly what I said to him, but needless to say, I did not receive a reply!

So, if you participate as a cyber Brown Shirt by posting untruths to win one for some guy who is worshipped by NeoNazis and the Klan, someone who will now set up shop on the other side of the nation, I hope you take responsibility for your actions when they migrate here. Again, my hope is that you will remember what you did; that you will notice what effect your choice has made on your life, the ones you love and our nation; and that you will rethink your beliefs and the way you do business.

As I sit here in a prosperous Spokane, one that lay devastated eight years ago, when I think back to your support of George W. Bush (twice) and the build up to the Iraq War (both things that you now disavow), I have my doubts you will remember, that you will take responsibility and that you will change. It’s not just you, it’s the people we have become - incapable of self reflection, ignorant and arrogant. It will be our undoing. And you’ll have a front row seat for the unraveling - right here in the Lilac City.

Nazis worship Donald Trump
Thom Hartmann
They Thought They Were Free

Monday, November 21, 2016

Turkey Update!



“How are the turkeys doing?” I get that a lot from people who followed the great turkey invasion and our steps to quell it, last year. Well, that was last year and this is this year.

I went to harass one off the lawn last week and I just didn’t give a shit anymore. Which is funny because they have literally shit all over my roof and sidewalk a lot this fall. The inundation is an insurmountable problem for now, so I am taking a more live and let live approach. Candice from Fish and Game hasn’t contacted us this year to set another trap up. I think she is disheartened too.

In some ways, it’s a good metaphor for what is happening now in Spokane and all over the United States. We have been invaded by turkeys, and they are shitting all over! It’s not that we shouldn’t take a stand against all the racism, homophobia and trans hatred that the fascist/racist turkeys now feel safe to shit upon us. It’s just that, personally, I am going to be more involved in some soft-spoken (witness televangelist/politician Mike Pence) politics and discourse, hopefully stemming the feelings where a lot of this hatred comes from.

I am reading about political systems again, especially the work of MLK and Gandhi. I believe in nonviolent change. That changing people’s hearts through education and empathy always wins over change by a gun barrel. I am subscribing to political magazines, again. Sarah and I just bought Bernie’s book at Aunties - where we probably paid more than we would have on Amazon, but buying this book in our local bookstore means more to me than saving money right now. By the way, I still have one of my poetry books still on sale at Aunties - bottom shelf - hard to find.

Sarah and I are back to, at least part time, veganism. We were led back to the straight and narrow by two of our boys whom we had introduced vegetarianism and the ethos behind it when they were very small. Thanks guys.

I am listening to more Thom Hartmann. And reading one of his books. Obviously, I am writing more. I have also been busy dealing with, since this summer - a kind of mixed-bag thing which will all get sorted out.

I know to my Conservative friends this may seem like a lot of Liberal hand-wringing and a totally intellectual egghead response to the rising of The Right. Believe me, the stakes are higher than you know for me - from seeing the ones I love lose fundamental freedoms to the elimination of my labor union to the destruction of our state’s rights. All these concerns are very tangible and very expected. But, I stand by my earlier observation, that no matter what the election result, we are still on the correct long-term trajectory (if you are interested, I will send you my article). Now unfortunately, the truth is that Sarah and I are probably going to be on the downward blip during the rest of our lifetimes, and we will have to work hard to stop the downward momentum so others can start the climb up again.

There are more active steps coming from me, but right now, I am preparing and you should be too. For me, despite the rhetoric, despite the chilling appointments to his cabinet, I still hold out some hope in the Trump Administration. Why? Because I have to. And you never know.

When it goes south, when the real bad stuff starts happening, it will be something that I have trained for. I used to be there, years ago, fighting. I have gotten physically old and intellectually flabby. I am back in training. I didn’t think I would ever have to get back in the ring again. In a way, I am thankful for the rekindling of the flame.

My hope is that those of you who voted for this will own it, and that you will reflect upon your decision in the coming years. But, I am pretty sure that won’t happen. I can point to two terms of GWB and your amnesia regarding wanting the Iraq War in the first place. As someone who was jeered at and booed at during an anti- prewar rally, I know there are so many of you out there in Spokane. But in the meantime, I will have empathy for you, especially the poor government-assisted, white men who hate government whose order at Starbucks takes too long. Making nice to the literal turkeys of destruction is teaching me how to do just that.

Friday, November 18, 2016

A new direction

As Facebook became more of an obsession with me, I have been neglectful of this blog - a blog that is in its 13th year.

When I first started posting here, my aim was to share quirky and beautiful things about Spokane. I also wanted to share in some of my adventures.

Over the years, it seems like I have had less to say on Spokanarama and more on Facebook. I have had other creative distractions - books of poetry, crocheting, painting, ukulele songs and Haiku Friday. I was promoted at work and have stepped up my professional game. Believe me, there are a lot of other things going on that I haven't written about, and won't write about for a while.

One of the things I tried to do, was to steer the best I could away from political rants. I didn't want to turn anyone "off" by what I had to say. We are all living in our own bubbles of reality and I didn't want to burst anyone's bubble.

Here's the thing, though, I am reflecting upon after this election. I expended a lot of time countering fake news stories and memes from my Republican friends. I appealed to any sense of self-credibility that they wanted to safeguard by documenting and providing proof for the errors in their postings. But, I quickly found out that they were willing to risk their self-credibility, hell - throw it away, in order to win one for their team. My efforts meant nothing. Just as much as when Trump was confronted with videos of him showing things that he swore he never said, my friends could do the same. We live in a post-truth world. The end justifies the means and the mean lying.

I am weaning myself off of Facebook proselytizing. I am going to put more effort back into Spokanarama. I want my posts to be more personal and, I hate to say it, political. My world is political and so is yours. My future pension, my current pay, my safety, my health, my life span, my work, my freedom are derivatives of policies, of politics, of funding, of Supreme Court justices and the law. So are yours. You can root for your team but when your team shows up to punch you in the face, you should stop rooting for them. But, some of you won't.

I will switch over to more Instagram or Twitter posts. Some of these will be automatically forward to Facebook.

I want to delve more into long form statements. I want to invite you along and I will ask for your participation. I might even resurrect some podcasting.

I look forward to being more personal, more political, more participative and more thoughtful in the future on Spokanarama. I have some statements to make and surprises coming, probably in the next year. I will need your friendship and support. Please count on mine. Thanks! John "Spokanarama" Griffith.



Haiku Friday!

Haiku Friday, November 18, 2016

There is no justice
Only winners and losers
Some don't know the game - Phyllis

          Oh say can you see
     All the hate filled graffiti
            America now
                                    Rikosan

With the moon this close
  I'm tempted to catch a ride:
    fly me to the stars.
--- Stine

Losing your pronoun
–like losing your religion–
    brings enlightenment.
--Stine

My future was set
This month’s chaos changes that
Now, it’s hero time - me

Watch the video here.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Yesterday and Today. Two similar Spokane news stories with very different treatments.

Wednesday morning's Spokesman-Review had this headline and this front-page story. Wait, two front page stories related to the incident.



Today,  this story is on page 8. This happened in Spokane too. It took place the day after the first story ran.



There was no photo in the paper, but here is a photo that appeared on the S-R website and was shown on broadcast media.



Two deplorable similar events that occurred in Spokane within hours of each other, with some very different priorities of response from the Spokesman-Review and, it looks like, from the community.

Why? Any takers? I have a theory (or two).

Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds

If you have one millimeter of Star Trek fan in you, you need to see the Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds show at Seattle's EMP. Personally, and a little embarrassingly, I was moved by this display and not because of nostalgia. I have a few pictures to share, but first I have a confession, of sorts, to make.

OK... When I was seven years old, I was a bigger Lost in Space fan than a Star Trek fan. It wasn't until I was 8 0r 9 that I came to watch Star Trek as a prime time show. But, I fell in love with Star Trek probably the next year, when it went into syndication and I have remained faithful to the original series ever since.

To a young person, it would be hard to explain what television meant to me as a kid. I was kind of an oddball. I would like to say I was a nerd before there were nerds, but I wasn't that smart. I was kind of ridiculed in grade school. I found a lot of solace in watching heroic stories unfold on TV. I also read a lot of biographies and science fiction for the same reason.

TV gave me something to talk with with classmates. There were only four VHF channel and, maybe, three UHF channels. But everyone at school tried to watch the same show the night before. It gave me something to talk about and I discovered that I could make people laugh. Sometimes, satirizing Kung Fu, Land of the Giants or whatever else we all shared in common the night before. I became a pretty good impressionist after learning that was a thing from television.

Television provided a common truth. You could not change channels to get a different spin on the Vietnam War from the evening news. It was impossible to shop around for news that conformed with way you felt. Everyone was open to modifying their views on a subject when presented with information that conflicted with the way they felt. Was there bias in the news? I am sure of it. But, the news didn't have to make money and didn't have to kiss anyone's ass. Told you those were different times!

Television also provided me a glimpse into how normal people lived their lives. How other families might interact with each other, even if they were fictitious. I remember breaking out in a cold sweat watching a TV show where a child talked back to their father. My house could be a violent place and I really thought I was going to get physically punished for just witnessing this play-acting upstart. Same with watching race relations, and, again heroism.

I have dawdled on too long, but let me close by listing what Star Trek meant to me:

People can get along even if they are not remotely alike as long as they aren't complete assholes. And uniting people together on a heroic mission, could even win over the assholes and make them less so.

No matter how serious things became, you can always find humor in the situation. Others value the person who can instigate that action.

No Kill I.

A code of conduct, or a prime directive, might seem like a constraint. It isn't. It provides some sort of pry point to open up a story, a life. Without this, life would suck.

Have a mission. Make it five-years or not. This mission can change. I mean the Enterprise was on a mission of exploration, but sometimes it had to kick some ass. Know philosophy. Engage in self-examination of consciousness and conscience.

Surround yourself with not a lot of close friends. But the ones in your close circle, should contribute to the mission. Oh and you're going to fight. Why? Because you give a shit about each other and the mission - and you are different human beings. Well, some might not be human or maybe just half-human.

Know when you are being logical and when you are being emotional, or a combination there of. To do that you're going to have to learn how to think. Again, back to philosophy, logic and self examination. Math, science, woodshop, literature and art weren't just random classes we had in junior high. They, no-shit, built living thinking machines. Always keep the machine tuned.

Stay physically fit. Not just because you might have to fight a Gorn to the death, but, damn, you want to look good in your Star Fleet uniform, don't you?

Technology can be good or evil. Hey, Facebook! Technology can help make you more human or make you more of an automaton. It can send you on a mission of exploration and discovery or you can grow a goatee and enlist on a mission of plunder and destruction. It's the same Enterprise. Only one is evil and the other is good. One has agonizers and the other has Vulcan plomeek soup.

Take action, or contemplate your options. Get more information or press the button. You're the captain of your life. You own what you do. Cultivate self-reflection and practice decisiveness. If you keep making bad decisions, hopefully you can see that's what you are doing and, you might even stop doing it. Maybe. 2000. 2004. 2016.

Captain Kirk always seems to score, but women really go for Mr. Spock. Well, that's just my opinion, and I hope it's true.






Monday, October 24, 2016

2016 Chinese Lantern Festival Pictures

You know the drill. Click the picture. Make it big. Cross your eyes until a third picture is formed in the middle. Stare at it. It's 3D!

Really enjoyed this down at Riverfront Park. It was really uncrowded because it looked like it was going to rain all day and night. But it didn't.

More information here.







Monday, October 17, 2016

A study in contrasts...

Today was inspection day at my station. The station is right next to a convenience store. Often, customers discard wrappers and bottles in our front yard. So, I went in today to harvest the litter and I found these two on the lawn. Whatever you want to be, the convenience store next door will help you get there. And it's convenient. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My two cents on the usual sad news...

Another day and another act of violence caught on camera. Another black man killed. I have been thinking a lot about this. I am not a police officer. I am not a black man. I am unqualified to make any kind of suggestions on how we are going to get beyond this. I can make a few observations. I am making them more as an attempt to clarify my own thinking, and not as an attempt to preach about something I know little about.

The old joke that we firefighters like to tell ourselves is "Do you know what firefighters and police officers have in common?" The answer is that both took the firefighters' entrance exam.

The truth is police officers and firefighters have a lot in common. We get to interact with people who are having a very bad day. We see horrible things that people do to each other. We see the effects of a broken system where mental illness and addiction have become  manifest in so many folks' lives. More than anything, we are all people who took our jobs because we wanted to help people. Yes, there are bad apples, like any profession. Only our bad apples' actionscan have a pretty big impact on our communities.

Racism is alive and well in the USA, as well as a lot of other "isms," but our country, and its economic underpinnings were built on racism. That's my opinion. But it's an opinion built on historical fact. This is a legacy which we will be dealing with for a very long time. Every generation gets a little better but we have a long way to go. I get why "Black lives matter" trumps "All lives matter."

As I mentioned before, untreated mental illness and alcohol/drug addiction are an epidemic that makes encounters on my job sketchy at times. When my crew and I show up, it is always to help someone, never to arrest anybody or get someone to cease a bad behavior. Yet, because of some behaviors brought on by mental illness or addiction we often find ourselves in some tense situations. I can't imagine how it must be for a police officer who might be dealing with the same person when she arrives to enforce a law.

There are more guns in our country than there are people. At least that's what I've heard. And I can believe it. A handgun or two, a shotgun and a rifle for hunting and... Well, it adds up fast. Until just recently, if you called 9-1-1 and told the dispatcher that you were worried because you haven't heard from grandma in a couple of days, the response would be typical. The fire department would get dispatched. We would ring the doorbell. We would talk to the neighbors. We would look for a spare key under the doormat. Then, with no other way in, we would pry open a window and crawl into the home to see if grandma was incapacitated or worse. That none of us in our fire department were ever shot by a resident that we were checking up on is a miracle. Guns plus Alzheimer's/other mental illness/substance abuse was a  potential tragedy that we climbed through windows to encounter on a daily basis.

Prevalent guns, racism, citizen impairment are now colliding with a renewed vigor to reassert our rights as human beings. I had a conversation with a younger person the other day. Now this guy is one of the smartest people I have met. I was saying that when a police officer tells you to get down on the ground you are required to do so. He disagreed. "Not if I didn't do anything wrong, I don't." I found the statement absurd. We allow officers of the law to do things like this to us if necessary. It is a compact we have with them. It is for everyone's safety that we let them do this. If police abuse this authority then they have violated that compact and should be dealt with. He still disagreed. I think I am right. He thinks he is right. So do his friends. So do a lot of people.

I am not a cop. I would guess a lot of their training has to do with what we expect of them. If they encounter a suspect who they think has a gun and they tell him to drop the gun and the suspect just drifts away,  I would think that they would think that people in that neighborhood would not want this person to be wandering around. Maybe 99.9% of the time nothing bad would happen, but that one time that it did, the officer who did not stop the guy with the gun would be vilified. This puts officers in a tight spot.

I think we are on the verge of something wonderful happening in this country. It is a shame that all the sons, husbands and brothers who died because of their skin color died to get us to this point. It is a shame that it took "bad apple" police officers to get us to revisit our system. It is also a shame that some good police officers made honest mistakes because our expectations of them put them on that razor's edge. If you think it doesn't bother a cop to kill someone, even a person who is truly a "bad guy," then you don't know the police officers that I do.

I think, thanks to social media, public debate and voters fed up with firearm violence we are now entering into a long overdue conversation on racism, civil militarism, individual rights, mental health, drug addiction and gun control. More that that, I think we are all going to have to decide what our expectations should be for police officers - normal people who we have granted superhuman powers to go along with our superhuman expectations. Maybe, in the future, an officer will not pull the trigger even if it means a community might be more endangered by not doing so. Maybe, in the future, expectations for us, as citizens, will change too. Maybe we won't be getting down on the ground when an officer tells us to. I don't know.

We are on the verge of something great happening in our country. I am happy that this is going to happen and I hope I am still alive when we get there.