The Doctor is in

(Photo credit: Brandi Korte)

(Photo credit: Brandi Korte)

Yertle the Turtle

by Dr. Seuss

On the far-away island of Sala-ma-Sond,
Yertle the Turtle was king of the pond.
A nice little pond. It was clean. It was neat.
The water was warm. There was plenty to eat.
The turtles had everything turtles might need.
And they were all happy. Quite happy indeed.

They were… until Yertle, the king of them all,
Decided the kingdom he ruled was too small.
“I’m ruler”, said Yertle, “of all that I see.
But I don’t see enough. That’s the trouble with me.
With this stone for a throne, I look down on my pond
But I cannot look down on the places beyond.
This throne that I sit on is too, too low down.
It ought to be higher!” he said with a frown.
“If I could sit high, how much greater I’d be!
What a king! I’d be ruler of all that I see!”

So Yertle the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And Yertle, the Turtle King, gave a command.
He ordered nine turtles to swim to his stone
And, using these turtles, he built a new throne.
He made each turtle stand on another one’s back
And he piled them all up in a nine-turtle stack.
And then Yertle climbed up. He sat down on the pile.
What a wonderful view! He could see ‘most a mile!

“All mine!” Yertle cried. “Oh, the things I now rule!
I’m the king of a cow! And I’m the king of a mule!
I’m the king of a house! And, what’s more, beyond that
I’m the king of a blueberry bush and a cat!
I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!”

And all through the morning, he sat up there high
Saying over and over, “A great king am I!”
Until ‘long about noon. Then he heard a faint sigh.
“What’s that?” snapped the king,and he looked down the stack.
And he saw, at the bottom, a turtle named Mack.
Just a part of his throne. And this plain little turtle
Looked up and he said, “Beg your pardon, King Yertle.
I’ve pains in my back and my shoulders and knees.
How long must we stand here, Your Majesty, please?”

“SILENCE!” the King of the Turtles barked back.
“I’m king, and you’re only a turtle named Mack.”

“You stay in your place while I sit here and rule.
I’m the king of a cow! And I’m the king of a mule!
I’m the king of a house! And a bush! And a cat!
But that isn’t all. I’ll do better than that!
My throne shall be higher!” his royal voice thundered,
“So pile up more turtles! I want ’bout two hundred!”

“Turtles! More turtles!” he bellowed and brayed.
And the turtles ‘way down in the pond were afraid.
They trembled. They shook. But they came. They obeyed.
From all over the pond, they came swimming by dozens.
Whole families of turtles, with uncles and cousins.
And all of them stepped on the head of poor Mack.
One after another, they climbed up the stack.

Then Yertle the Turtle was perched up so high,
He could see forty miles from his throne in the sky!
“Hooray!” shouted Yertle. “I’m the king of the trees!
I’m king of the birds! And I’m king of the bees!
I’m king of the butterflies! King of the air!
Ah, me! What a throne! What a wonderful chair!
I’m Yertle the Turtle! Oh, marvelous me!
For I am the ruler of all that I see!”

Then again, from below, in the great heavy stack,
Came a groan from that plain little turtle named Mack.
“Your Majesty, please… I don’t like to complain,
But down here below, we are feeling great pain.
I know, up on top you are seeing great sights,
But down here at the bottom we, too, should have rights.
We turtles can’t stand it. Our shells will all crack!
Besides, we need food. We are starving!” groaned Mack.

“You hush up your mouth!” howled the mighty King Yertle.
“You’ve no right to talk to the world’s highest turtle.
I rule from the clouds! Over land! Over sea!
There’s nothing, no, NOTHING, that’s higher than me!”

But, while he was shouting, he saw with surprise
That the moon of the evening was starting to rise
Up over his head in the darkening skies.
“What’s THAT?” snorted Yertle. “Say, what IS that thing
That dares to be higher than Yertle the King?
I shall not allow it! I’ll go higher still!
I’ll build my throne higher! I can and I will!
I’ll call some more turtles. I’ll stack ‘em to heaven!
I need ’bout five thousand, six hundred and seven!”

But, as Yertle, the Turtle King, lifted his hand
And started to order and give the command,
That plain little turtle below in the stack,
That plain little turtle whose name was just Mack,
Decided he’d taken enough. And he had.
And that plain little lad got a bit mad.
And that plain little Mack did a plain little thing.
He burped!
And his burp shook the throne of the king!

And Yertle the Turtle, the king of the trees,
The king of the air and the birds and the bees,
The king of a house and a cow and a mule…
Well, that was the end of the Turtle King’s rule!
For Yertle, the King of all Sala-ma-Sond,
Fell off his high throne and fell Plunk! in the pond!

And today the great Yertle, that Marvelous he,
Is King of the Mud. That is all he can see.
And the turtles, of course… all the turtles are free
As turtles and, maybe, all creatures should be.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Occupy Main Street

(Photo credit: Evan Lavine)

(Photo credit: Evan Lavine)

ma chère penchons sur les filons géologiques 
(my dear let us lean on geographical veins)

As February draws to a close, the long, cold winter is finally releasing it’s grasp on the sweet land of liberty. Even Punxsutawney Phil has had enough and was last seen sporting Speedos while looking for his shadow in sunny Boca Raton. Although, winter may be loosening it’s icy grip, there remains a chilling worldview that continues to remains firmly entrenched in the psyche of the American people. It is the notion that they are an exceptional people and not merely a privileged one. The colonial mindset has allowed generations of Americans to glorify the Revolutionary, Civil and World Wars, while conveniently ignoring the wars on indigenous people (genocide), black people (slavery) and brown peoples (deportation) through the years. But, at it’s core, it allows groups of people to lay their heads down at night with the sincere belief that they are a better, more honest-to-Godness, human being than another. This paradigm has taken it’s logical course into foreign policy, where the U.S. imposes it’s will and quasi-Puritanical beliefs on sovereign nations around the world. It seems you can take the people out of the British empire but you can’t take the empire out of the people.

(Photo credit: Toban B.)

(Photo credit: Toban B.)

Though many non-Native Americans have learned very little about us, over time we have had to learn everything about them. We watch their films, read their literature, worship in their churches, and attend their schools.

The colonial mindset affects every aspect of our lives as our children are taught from an early age by the public schools to venerate Presidents and captains of industry with one concessionary month allotted for black history. It is a critical notion that Brazilian educator Paulo Freire understood well, “The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom.” This cradle to grave conditioning leads us to identify with our captors rather than our fellow captives. Then, we are ripe for the plucking as we are easily convinced that the interests of the chosen few are aligned with the interests of the unwashed many. Americans would do well to look to countries such as Greece which recently elected the anti-austerity Syriza party and Venezuela whose President, Nicolas Maduro, has been fighting U.S. hegemony in the Americas. The resistance in the corporate media and entertainment outlets to embracing cultural viewpoints outside of the American fishbowl is deliberate. As long as we are an exceptional people, it is far easier to rationalize and justify our actions towards foreign citizens, no matter how grotesque or unlady liberty-like these deeds may be in reality.

(Photo credit: Jeremy hunsinger)

(Photo credit: Jeremy hunsinger)

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.”

As neocolonialism adapts to the 21st century, globalization has become it’s mantra. Here, at the nexus of corporations and the state, we see their fused interests become one. British journalist Martin Jacques observed, “At the heart of globalisation is a new kind of intolerance in the West towards other cultures, traditions and values, less brutal than in the era of colonialism, but more comprehensive and totalitarian.” In Canada, the battle over the Alberta tar sands and hydraulic fracking has collided with the land rights of the indigenous First Nations peoples. The Harper government is preparing to double down on environmental and indigenous activists by painting them as “radicals” and eventually, wait for it…terrorists. Whether capitalism is the end game for neocolonialism remains to be seen but it doesn’t take a great cognitive leap of faith to see that it will take a movement unlike the world has ever seen to slow it’s roll. We can occupy Wall Street in body but as long as Main Street is occupied in heart and mind, the battle cannot be fully won. Every voice is needed and every voice counts in the struggle for a world where all people are seen as exceptional and deserving of the dream rather than the nightmare.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 31 Comments

A nation at-risk: A solitary life

(Photo credit: jmiller291)

(Photo credit: jmiller291)

You’re in a grave and you’re trying to live. That’s how to best describe it: trying to live in a grave. You’re trying to live ’cause you’re not dead yet, but nobody hears you when you call out, ‘Hey, I’m alive!

― Megan Sweeney, The Story Within Us: Women Prisoners Reflect on Reading

It is February in the land of homogenized milk and honey and all is disquieting on the western front. The U.S. sanctioned and taxpayer funded drones are flying fast and furious over Muslim skies and domestic law enforcement is doing it’s part to keep the homeland secure. Yet, there is still another level of barbarism spoken of only in impolite circles, whose members are not subservient to the corporate media juggernauts. It is in these furtive circles one hears whispers of a special circle of hell that even Dante could not have imagined, where cruelty is the theme and the state is the overseer of it’s minions. Here is where the doctrine of necessary evil meets the axiom of the slippery slope. Due to the American public’s willingness to allow pithy cliches to drive it’s criminal justice system, the “get tough on crime” and “zero tolerance” maxims espoused by officials at federal, state and local levels has morphed into a moral lawlessness recognizable to those familiar with the Soviet gulags. In this context, the rise in the use of solitary confinement is the logical outcome of such a punitive, arbitrary system.

Isolation

(Photo credit: CEBImagery.com)

The use of ad seg, or administrative segregation, has become an increasingly utilized form of social control within the sprawling, labyrinthine U.S. prison system. While most are held for hours or even days for disciplinary reasons, the number of prisoners being placed in “the hole” for years or even decades is growing. The American Psychological Association has testified to the Senate Judicial Subcommittee that, “Segregation over prolonged periods of time may produce harmful psychological effects, including anxiety, anger, cognitive disturbance, perceptual distortion, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis.” Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits the “cruel treatment and torture” of prisoners of war. Many of the inhabitants of the prison system could be deemed prisoners of the unyielding wars on drugs, poverty, minorities, immigrants and political expression. Chelsea Manning, the Army private who disclosed diplomatic cables and video footage of U.S. soldiers gunning down journalists and civilians in Iraq, was subjected to such conditions during his pre-trial detainment.

(Photo credit: ann harkness)

(Photo credit: ann harkness)

The case of the Angola Three offers a stunning indictment of the use of solitary confinement by prison officials on a number of levels. In 1972, three inmates were found guilty of the death of a prison guard at the Angola prison in Louisiana. These men spent a combined 112 years in solitary confinement before their conviction was overturned. Herman Wallace, who was in solitary for 41 years, died within days of his release due to liver cancer. Robert King was released after 29 years in solitary and continues to campaign for the release of fellow prisoner, Albert Woodfox. The Louisiana Attorney General is still fighting the release of Albert Woodfox, who was in solitary for 42 years. Woodfox holds the dubious distinction of being the longest-serving prisoner in solitary confinement in the U.S. It was surely a mere coincidence that the three prisoners had helped to organize one of the first Black Panther Party chapters in prison history. It is this common thread that has earned the Angola Three international recognition as political prisoners for their time served at the hands of an unmerciful state.

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

(Photo credit: Steve Rhodes)

In the summer of 2013, California’s largest hunger strike ever was undertaken to protest the inhumane treatment and conditions at the hands of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The hunger strike began in Pelican Bay State Prison and the resistance spread to other prisons in California and even to other countries. The prisoners had five core demands including calling for an end to solitary confinement in the SHU (Special Housing Unit). One of the most telling aspects of the movement was the racial unity where rival gangs called truces in order to raise their collective voices in unity rather than as a fragmented whole. This is the ruling class’s worst nightmare come true as the policy of divide and conquer in the “national discourse” has been so devastatingly effective in neutralizing dissent outside of the prison walls. We have been thoroughly conditioned from the cradle to the grave to believe that the present structure is for our best interests and that we are shareholders and not sharecroppers. It is the prisoners who are finding their voices, despite the system’s best efforts.

(Photo credit: WFIU Public Radio)

(Photo credit: WFIU Public Radio)

For women in solitary confinement, the prospects are even more debilitating. It does, in fact, get worse…much worse. An American Civil Liberties Union report was released, in 2014, entitled “Worse Than Second-Class: Solitary Confinement of Women in the United States”, that documents the degrading effects of solitary confinement on female prisoners. The findings include high rates of preexisting mental illness, physical and sexual abuse among the women who are often retraumatized as a result of their prior histories of abuse. The humiliation begins upon intake to solitary for women who are strip searched and videotaped by guards who are typically male. A federal, class action lawsuit was filed in 2009 by a group of female inmates. Suicides and attempted suicides are prevalent for women held in the SHU. In yet another cruel irony, when women are placed in solitary, the children who are unable to visit and communicate with their mothers end up serving time with them. Once again, the state reminds women, in no uncertain terms, who wears the pants in the family.

(Photo credit: Professor Bop)

(Photo credit: Professor Bop)

Elementary teachers have long known that context is everything. Torture is about the breaking of a person’s will through physical and psychological means, no more and no less. The recently released and ridiculously redacted Senate report on the use of torture by the CIA of foreign citizens was meant to put the homeland on notice that the state is both willing and able to break us by any means necessary. As long as we believe that solitary confinement is a tool solely reserved for those prisoners, it will be difficult to put our ourselves in their marginalized shoes. Police states around the world have been historically established to protect the elite from the people they rule. Eventually, the velvet glove must come off to reveal the iron fist. Solitary confinement is, by definition, cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of a prisoner’s Constitutional rights and internationally recognized human rights. Every voice counts and every voice is needed in the struggle to right these wrongs.

This is the fourth installment of the nation at-risk series. Peace and solidarity to all readers.

______________

A nation at-risk series:

American hustle (Part 1)

The hardest lesson (Part 2)

They ain’t heavy (Part 3)

A solitary life (Part 4)

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Complications

(Photo credit: Kevin Krebs)

(Photo credit: Kevin Krebs)

Who holds the keys
to the kingdom
of blood and tears
and tax deductible sweat

What is the method
for decoding the hidden messages
that distinguish those who rule
from those who are ruled

When did the truth
become so complicated
no way to unravel
the threads to their source

Where does compassion
go to wither and die
buried under the weight
of memory and loss

Why does the road to democracy
buckle under the strain
of the army that serves up
it’s marching orders

How do we reform
what never worked for all
it is better to tear down
than to fade away into the eddies…

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

They say it’s your birthday…

alice-walker-31

We Alone

by Alice Walker

We alone can devalue gold
by not caring
if it falls or rises
in the marketplace.

Wherever there is gold
there is a chain, you know,
and if your chain
is gold
so much the worse
for you.

Feathers, shells
and sea-shaped stones
are all as rare.

This could be our revolution:
to love what is plentiful
as much as
what’s scarce.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

First Edition: The Unedited True Edition of Black History

Jeff Nguyen:

Move over Howard Zinn…there’s a new historian in town and her name is Shelby Courtland. The only thing missing is a big feast filled with all of the native crops the beautiful dark ones taught the pale skins to grow. Bravo, Shelby!

Originally posted on shelbycourtland:

blackandwhite

Introduction: First of all, forget everything that you have never read in the non-existent history books about Black History as this book will replace no books on Black History.

 

One day, while sailing the oceans blue, pale skinned creatures happened upon the shores of a most beautiful land, filled with the beautiful dark ones. The beautiful dark ones were prized for their obvious beauty, gracefulness and strength since the pale skinned creatures hid behind giant lions while watching the beautiful dark ones as they ran and jumped and danced and stomped. Once the lions moved gracefully aside and the pale skinned creatures were no longer hidden from the view of the beautiful dark ones, the beautiful dark ones were very much afraid as they had never seen such pale skins before. They were overcome with awe and wonder and so they immediately ceased their dances and jumps and timidly…

View original 1,071 more words

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Jeffster Awards #39

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

(Photo credit: skulzstudios)

This is the next installment of an ongoing series at Deconstructing Myths…the Jeffster Awards! This award will be given on an ongoing basis to five outstanding blog posts that caught my wandering eye. There are no strings attached or requirements for reciprocation. I don’t have time to comment on other blogs as much I’d like to so the least I can do is direct readers to some of these outstanding writers, poets, and visual artists. Please direct all feedback (likes, comments, follows) to the blogs themselves. I hope you enjoy these exemplary posts as much as I did. So, without further ado, here are the recipients of this week’s Jeffster Awards…hot off the (Word)presses.

Through the Rear-View Window at Sanchismos

On Charlie Hebdo and Perspectives at anaïs charles

chains at Mad Catz

Dazed, Bloody Faces at Perception

Mixed Kids Cope Different by Maestro Gamin at Mixed American Life

_________________

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Mic check: DesertAbba

The Sad State of the Union

by DesertAbba

To say that our State of the Union is strong is like insisting that our marriage is strong because we’re sticking together for the kids. Most anyone can see through the facade of such marital union and recognize that something lurks behind the veil of normalcy. Such a union is not strong, it is sad.

Something is lurking behind a facade that we are not supposed to see when the President in his Address: insists that, for him, war is a last resort, when he has proven that it is not the last thing to which he resorts; says that combat in Afghanistan is over, when he knows full-well that 15,000 troops remain there and the new Afghan leader says publicly that he’ll need ‘troops on the ground.;’ asks for even more money to combat ISIS/ISIL when it has been demonstrated that broadening our killing capacity does not lessen threats to us or make us more friends. This list could continue but it should be obvious that something is lurking behind the veil that droops unseen behind President Obama’s dais.

The AP photo, by Mandon Ngan, of the President’s Address, displays plainly that something else is drooping just behind the President on the dais. It is the man who is third in line for the Presidency. There sits John Boehner, eyes closed in an apparent reverie of boredom, indifferent to the plight and promise of the nation.  If that is not sad, I do not understand so simple a three-lettered word.

It is sad to see, that so many years later, yet another President can take to his bully pulpit and announce without a quirk of conscience, “Mission Accomplished.” It is sad to see that two heart-beats away from having executive power sits a indifferent and bored legislator.

Perhaps they both, Boehner and his Presidential nemesis, know what we are so hesitant to recognize. Neither of them really represent power. They both recognize that countries, nations, are not the real centers of power. They know that behind the veil behind them are multi-national corporations. This is not an organized conspiracy that Obama and Boehner know has the better of them. Rather it is an economic dynamic guided by a vast horde of individuals, each with a simple ideology:

a.) that human society is, at heart, survival of the fittest and that society is advanced only through self-interested financial competition;

b.) that a person is acountable only to her/himself and the fellows on his/her side.

c.) that wealth is the measure of accomplishment, representation and worth;

Since none of the world’s religions espouses such an ideology, I can only conclude that these religions have been ineffective in having real impact on societal values. Such loss of soul is indeed a sad state.

_________________

DesertAbba can be found at his outstanding blog…Sanchismos. This work is part of the Mic check guest blogger series.

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

How sweet the sound

Long time readers at Deconstructing Myths know that the arts have been a lifelong refuge for me during many of life’s struggles. Without music, poetry and books, I shudder to think where I might be now. May those of you going through hardships find that place of calm within the storm and may you know that you are not alone. The daily grind of making ends meet can sometimes cause us to forget that life was meant to be savored. So feel free to take a moment to kick back, relax and enjoy the smooth, laid back tones of BF&F’s interpretation of the gospel classic Amazing Grace. Victor Wooten is a virtuoso bass player and longtime member of Béla Fleck & the Flecktones. Amazing bass…how sweet the sound. This is one you want to crank up to 11.

Peace and solidarity to all readers.

Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 34 Comments

Longform: Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.

Continue reading

Posted in Social Justice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments