Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thankful for....

This is a rough time for a lot of folks. It could be worse, and I'm thankful that it's not, at least not so far.

Of course this is a Day of Mourning for Native Peoples, who apart from sheer and bare survival, have too little to be thankful for. Nevertheless, not only are they still here, but they continue the struggle against the forces lined up to take from them what's left. Their bodies and their spirits are strong and millions of allies around the world stand with them. How can we not be thankful for that?

"Thanksgiving Day" is for the White Folk. It's a folk holiday for the Invaders, Colonists and Settlers, who see no reason for everyone else not to celebrate with them... after all, it could be worse! Ha ha.

Yea and verily, it could be worse.

From a personal point of view, I'm thankful that I'm still here, and that despite my increasingly frail physical state, I don't feel like my end is nigh. It may be, but the doctor I saw yesterday disputes it, and my treatments took a step up, both palliative and corrective. Because I have a "complicated" condition that can affect all kinds of organs besides my joints -- and is currently doing so -- it's going to be a challenge from here on in. Well, I've certainly faced those before and somehow got past the worst of them. How this one will go I can't know in advance, but I'm up for the challenge.

That has a lot to do with the Light of My Life, Ms Ché, with whom I just celebrated our 47th year of marriage, our 49th together. What a wonder. You think I'm not thankful for that? Oh, but I am. Nothing in my life prior to becoming Mr. Ché to the Missus came close to the feeling of love and devotion and mutual regard we have for one another, nothing over such a long stretch of time has given me so much education (let's say!), extraordinary commitment, and so much serenity. She continues on, despite her own conditions -- diabetes being the main one, the chronic settler-disease of so many Natives -- setting a pace and an example for the young ones at IAIA that is nothing short of amazing. She may be an Elder, but she out performs many of the young pups there, many of whom have become part of her "Posse."

Even our elder friends are astonished at her strength and endurance, but that's who she is, that's who she's always been. God Bless Her.

It's hard for me to express how thankful I am that we live in New Mexico rather than California. Every now and then I have a hankering to return, to see friends -- before they pass on -- and to sort through the things we left in storage there, selecting what few items we need to bring back to New Mexico with us and disposing of the rest. But each time I get to the point of scheduling a trip to CA, something comes up, and whoopsy, I can't go. And  here we go again. Something has come up -- RA lung disease in this case -- and it's not looking much like I'll be able to go back to California anytime soon.  if ever. C'est la vie.

I prefer New Mexico, out here in the country, in the middle of nowhere when it comes down to it, where there are more prairie dogs, cattle, and antelope than people, living in an old and beat up pioneer (settler!) adobe, with friends we can count on, salt of the earth neighbors -- who largely voted for Trump, and I'll try to get to that  -- but with whom we have little or no animosity, despite our Outlander/Outlandish California ways. This is our home place, and it really feels like it, and like we've always been here.

California had its merits to be sure, but for us it became almost unlivable.

The California we knew, Ms Ché and I, when we were young (she born into it, I being brought from Iowa when I was 9 months old) had a population barely 20% of the current number, actually closer to 15%. There were big cities, yes, but there was a lot of wide-open country too, and the seashores and mountain retreats were not the exclusive playgrounds of the rich. In those days, too, the rich -- or at least some of them -- had a social conscience which appears to have gone absent in the contemporary conception of California, despite occasional efforts at pretense.

Population density kept increasing. Ms Ché was born out in the country, but her family's place became surrounded by suburban development starting in the 1950s and was finally absorbed by the suburbs they'd held at bay.

I first lived in a little town north of Santa Barbara, a kind of idyllic place, full of flowers and surrounded by strawberry and broccoli and sugar beet fields, where everyone knew everyone else, and... well, things happened that I won't go into now. I'll only say that it wasn't easy for a single mother like my mother to cope with both making a living and looking after a squalling brat like I was, heh. Even though this was her home place from the time she was five years old. It wasn't easy, and she did what she had to to get by and get along.

That meant moving to Los Angeles, albeit suburban Los Angeles, out in the San Gabriel Valley, which was at that time, mid 1950s, still out in the country, and it was filled with orange groves. For a little while more, anyway.

Sam Shepard wrote about the transformation of the San Gabriel Valley in his trilogy of Family Plays, "True West," "Buried Child," and "Curse of the Starving Class." It was the strangest thing. I didn't know what his background was, that he'd been raised on a country place in San Dimas, a few miles from my home(s) in Baldwin Park and then La Puente. And he lived through the traumatizing transformation of these little towns and outposts in the Valley into tracts and tracts of post-war suburban housing. And that's a big part of what he was writing about in those plays. I didn't know about that when I first encountered "Curse of the Starving Class" -- I just knew that I immediately related to the characters and the story. Oh yes, I knew these people. They were neighbors, friends, people down the street and across from my school. I knew them well. And when I later worked on a production of "True West," it was as if I were being transported back to where I once lived, hard against the San Jose Hills (I think they have a different name now, "South Hills" or something) which was still very wild country when I was a lad. He lived hard against the San Gabriel Mountains -- which formed the stunning view (on clear days) out my living room window eight miles to the north. Oh my yes. I could feel the connection but at the time, I didn't know what it was, and when I mentioned it during the production, no one could understand what I meant because they hadn't been there and didn't know. Those who lived through it, as I did and Sam Shepard did, knew. But for others, it was like peering into a telescope at an alien land populated by strange and incomprehensible entities.

I'm thankful that I eventually came to understand Shepard's understanding of what we in our separate little child-worlds knew for a fact was true.

But I'm also thankful that I've been able to find a whole lot of documentation about my family and ancestors that I knew little or nothing about when I was young, partly because either my parents didn't know much either, or if they did know, they didn't want me to know. My father told a grand fib about our ancestors which I believed -- why not? -- until I found out the truth (only a few years ago) which was quite different. In the process of research, I was contacted by a cousin I didn't know I had who corrected some of my information and shared some of her experiences, including the bogus story my father told me about our ancestors. Her mother, my father's younger sister, had told her essentially the same story of prominent Irish-American ancestors who were pivotal in the Revolutionary War, blah, blah, blah, and how we were their direct descendants.

Only the fact is, we aren't. We couldn't be. They emigrated from Ireland in the 1600s. Our direct ancestors arrived in or about 1850 according to the records. The best I could come up with -- and the information is spotty -- is that we and they have common ancestors back in the 1600s and before in Ireland, but who they were and how we are (or aren't) related is a mystery we may never solve. When I told her that, she seemed momentarily nonplussed, but when I explained that the story we'd been told could not possibly be true, but the actual story (so far as I could piece it together) was if anything even more interesting, she seemed to be mollified. Somewhat.

Then it got more interesting for me. I thought my mother was of Irish ancestry -- she wasn't sure but she had red hair like me -- and that therefore I was probably 3/4 Irish and 1/4 German (through my father's German American mother). Turns out no. My mother was actually of British ancestry all the way down. Her father, her biological father, may have had some Scottish heritage, but that's uncertain. At any rate, on his mother's side, she was every bit the English dame. On my mother's mother's side, all of her ancestors were of British origin, going back to the deepest mists of time, and most of the early ones arrived in America if not on the Mayflower (apparently some might have), then shortly afterwards. Oh.

There is also an Indian Princess connection on my mother's side. Yes, she's really called "Princess" *Snowflower* but whether she was actually an Indian or not is subject to some dispute. The story that she was an Indian Princess is told in great detail in lore and legend, but those who dispute it say the tale was made up in the 19th century years after her death, and is not backed up by fact. It was just a romantic something or other to pass the time away.

People did that in those days. As was demonstrated by my father's family's tale of colonial ancestors.

And so, while I probably know far more "truth" about our ancestors than my parents did, there's a whole lot I don't know and may never know. That's quite all right!

Trump voters, yes. Let's consider that a bit. One of the established myths of the (s)election was that "rural, white male voters" were the deciding factor, and it was the failure of Hillary to appeal to that constituency on economic or other terms that lost her the presidency.

It's a convenient myth, but I think it's wrong. First of all, there aren't enough rural voters, period. The United States has long been 80% urban and 20% rural -- just about the same split as in New Mexico, btw.

[Note: I got my county's demographics wrong, thanks to misremembering an outdated City Data chart. According to the Census Bureau, my county reports  a decline in population from 2010 -- from 16,383 to 15,485 in 2015. The bureau also reports that 90% of the remaining population state that they are white, while 42% state that they are Hispanic. 53% say that they are non-Hispanic white. There are 4.2% Native, 2.2% black and .05% Asian. 2.8% claim two or more races. Median household income is $34,720, poverty rate, 27.6% in 2015.

My rural county, like many in New Mexico, is 70% Hispanic *mostly citizens*, not Anglo at all, and many of the other rural counties in the United States are nowhere near as white/Anglo male as the current mythos of the (s)election makes them out to be.

My rural county in New Mexico is relatively poor -- as it has always been. People get by however they can, and that can take some clearly or potentially illegal routes. Oh well. If there are no other viable economic activities available, then that's what people will do. Too bad, so sad. The primary economy here is based on ranching and farming, and there are a few very wealthy and prominent "ricos" in the population. They are mostly Democrats. Some of them are High Party functionaries, former electeds and so forth.

On the other hand, most of the party registration in the county is Republican or Libertarian. Gary Johnson, for example, got 11% of the county vote. Trump got 60%, and Hillary just under 30%. That's pretty much what I expected.

So why would a largely poor 70% Hispanic rural county, vote 60% Trump and 11% Johnson (I was one of 66 voters who voted for Stein in the General, whoo-hoo!)

Isn't it obvious?

This is what the myth-makers of the Rural White Rural voter revolt typically ignore: what the majority of the people in my rural county want and wanted was to be left alone, first, and not to have to pay for other people's well being -- or incarceration -- when they can barely get by on their own. Hello? Isn't this obvious, for criminy sake?

Their racial/ethnic origin (ie: the much derided "identity politics") doesn't make nearly as much difference as is widely believed under the economic circumstances for rural voters in general, which for too many, for too long has been a form of imposed poverty and extraction of any surplus to pay for the well being of others (not just welfare recipients, oh no) and the incarceration of their friends and family. Hello?

That's not to say that racism has nothing to do with it, because for some it does. Of course it does. This is America, racist at its foundation, racist to its core. But that's not the sole or the chief reason people voted for Trump or Johnson over Clinton or Stein in my county. I would extrapolate that to many other counties as well.

It wasn't primarily racism at all. It was much more that Democratic political and economic policies, whatever their intention, simply made life harder for people on the margins and in rural areas with little or no mitigating effort or even mitigating thought for that matter. Trump and Johnson at least said they wanted to lighten that burden. Ok, then. Easy to understand, no?

But even if every rural voter voted for Trump or Johnson, there wouldn't be enough of them to cancel out an urban vote for Clinton.

Not only are not all rural voters white and male, not nearly all the rural voters voted for Trump or Johnson, not even close. Except, interestingly, in those counties in Pennsylvania and the upper Midwest where -- at least initially -- more votes were recorded than were cast, and other peculiarities and anomalies, such as 90% or greater turnouts and so forth were reported. There "whiteness" -- even if only phantoms -- may have been a determining factor.

The myth of what happened is false, through and through, but it's the Narrative that's being sold to Americans in order to explain how Trump "won" when in fact he may not have.

Jill Stein is raising money to challenge the outcome in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, simply because there are too many questionable anomalies to accept without question. Good on her. Somebody has to do it, and according to what I read last night, she's already raised enough money to begin the challenge process in those three states. Whether it will change the results is highly doubtful, largely because there is no way to be sure the counts or recounts are accurate. In many cases there simply aren't any reliable audit or checking mechanisms -- and that is by design. Our voting and tabulating systems are too often grossly and deliberately opaque. There's no way to know for sure whether the outcomes reflect the will of the voters or not.

But if Jill does challenge the outcomes in those states, and the issue is aired thoroughly, regardless of the ultimate result, then I will be thankful that it has been brought to public attention once again that too many voting systems in this country cannot be veritfied and because of it, Americans cannot be assured the outcome is actually what they voted for.

This has been true for a very long time, and it's long past time for it to change. But given the way the outcome seems destined to go, the situation is likely to get worse, not better.

So. We'll see. It's going to be an interesting few months, that's for sure.

Meanwhile, I'm thankful for the Water Protectors in North Dakota who will not give up the fight. I'm thankful for the people in the streets who refuse to accept the results of the (s)election without question or resistance. I'm thankful in fact to be living in such interesting times, even if there isn't a lot I can do any more to change things.

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