The Town Scryer is a mixed bag of humor, socio-political observations and ephemera from the perspective of a eclectic Pagan veteran of the counter-culture.

Monday, January 31, 2011

A Phoenix is Born in Cairo

   I am totally addicted to Al Jazeera now. I must have watched 25 or 30 hours of live feed from Cairo and Alexandria since I found the live link Friday. How can you not want to watch? It's like watching a baby being born. It's beautiful and wonderful and mysterious and magical. It is all those things and more. It is a people rising up spontaneously and taking to the streets and saying to a despot, "We refuse to be ill-used and neglected any longer. You have cheated us and lied to us and taken what was not rightfully yours from us. You have imprisoned us without due process. You have tortured. No more. You will go away now."

     They have stood up to the secret police and the riot squad and the jack-booted thugs fled.

    I missed Tunisia but now it has begun in Egypt and the under-class is winning and how wonderful it is! The old men in power turned off the telephones and the internet and imposed curfews and still more took to the streets. Now it has spread to Algeria and to Lebanon, and to Yemen and to Jordan.

    The people have risen up because the rich run the government.

     The people have risen up because emergency powers that were invoked 30 years ago are still in force.

     The people have risen up because the men in power have done nothing about rising unemployment and prices.

     The people have risen up because the President keeps promising change but change never comes.

     If you listen to the leaders here and in Europe talking about a "peaceful transition" you can tell they are afraid. They are afraid because the guns and the tear gas that are turned on the crowd were made in the USA. They are afraid most of all that their own people will notice that all too many of the sins of President Mubarak are to a lesser degree their own as well. If it spreads to Italy or to France people might remember 1968 in America and in Europe.

     In 1968 there were riots in hundreds of  cities all over the world.


    One hundred and twenty-five in just one week in America.

    All that is necessary is to give people hope...and then make them angry.

    I will be posting regularly as this phenomenon progresses.

    More tomorrow.

    Be seeing you

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Musings After the Horror in Tucson

   The saddest thing for me, after the  carnage and the loss of life, was that I was not particularly surprised. I was saddened, but somewhere deep inside me I had been expecting this. I think most of us who remember 1968 were. For those of you who weren't around then, 1968 saw Martin Luther King assassinated on April 4th and then Robert Kennedy Assassinated only 63days later. Anyone who watched in horror as those two tragedies unfold on television has been holding his breath ever since Barack Obama was nominated for President by the Democratic Party.

   So now it has happened once more. The usual Lone Nut appears to be responsible...and absolutely nobody else. No sir! Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin and Glen Beck are all scrambling to clean up all of the incitements to eliminate people who don't think right in 'murika from their respective web sites. At the same time they drag out the activities of the Weather Underground 40 years ago and  whine "But the left does it too. See?" That the only example of violence on the part of the Left in America that they can think of is a fringe splinter group that spun off of the SDS when Lyndon Johnson was still president ought to indicate how weak that false equivalency is. Still, it sounds much more reasonable coming from a carefully groomed talking head on the news at eleven. (By the way even the Weather Underground made a practice of calling in a warning to evacuate the buildings they bombed. Not justifying it, just saying the radical Left tends to make war on property. They know what their enemy values most)

     Meanwhile, the debate on gun control is about to come back from the grave that the Bush administration had buried it in with indecent haste.  (My personal views on gun control are relatively unique and will be the subject of their own column...and are far more complex and nuanced than most of you would think.) This will happen frankly because the only time the people who support gun control of even the most tepid sort can get enough votes from conservatives of either party is right after there is a lot of blood on the street somewhere in America. It is as difficult to have a meaningful discussion about handgun control as it is to have one about abortion. The subject comes up and many normally rational people suddenly retreat to speaking in slogans. To be fair, this is true of the Left as well. There are compromises to be had but good luck getting anyone to see them. Add to the mix the clout wielded by the gun lobby in Congress and what remains is a zero sum game.

     In the next few months a lot of talk will hit the airwaves and a lot of ink will hit newsprint. A lot of exited electrons will hit cathode ray tubes on the TV and on the internet. None of them so far have said what to me is the central fact of this sad event. It doesn't matter that the killer shows all the signs of being a paranoid schizophrenic. It doesn't matter if he never even listened to Glen Beck or Ann Coulter. For the last ten years we have been force fed a diet of fear that has left each and every one of us in a state of constant agitation. We have had color coded states of terror alerts and anthrax warnings and body scans. We have lost our jobs, and our pensions and our health insurance. We have been told to fear and mistrust our neighbor. Is it any wonder that those among us with a tenuous hold on reality should snap and lash out in impotent rage?

    If our leaders don't learn to lead through an appeal to reason rather than fear I fear we will be seeing this sort of thing again. The theme of the dramatic violent gesture runs through much of popular action film. It has become part of our culture. It is a short step to high opera.

    Be seeing you.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Huck Finn and "The N Word"

     New South Books is coming out with a new edition of Samuel Clemons classic, "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". What makes this item newsworthy is that in this edition all of the racial slurs have been replaced. For example the offending "N word" has been replaced with "slave". A lot of people will be talking about this for the next few days. Most of them will rush to judgment and few will give the matter the nuanced exploration it deserves. I am going to try.

   Of course a lot of people will once again complain about "Political Correctness". The people who complain the loudest about "Political Correctness" always remind me of older versions of the kids who used to make fun of the girl with the brace on her leg. I suspect they miss those days. I firmly believe in a persons right to be called what they want to be called. That's really what so called "political correctness" is about. Good manners...or, to put it more simply, not being an asshole. The majority of my friends are Witches. Many of them prefer to be called "Wiccans". They chose this because twenty years of Hammer Films have given people a rather unrealistic idea of what Witchcraft is and a totally erroneous idea of who they worship. Makes sense to me.

    A few years ago my old friend Jason went to Thailand for sexual reassignment surgery. S(he) now prefers that I call her "Janessa". If she is willing to fly half-way around the world and undergo expensive and painful surgery to make her body fit her self image, the least I can do is call her what she wishes to be called.

    In spite of all of these things, I am opposed to mucking about with the work of a great writer, or any other kind of writer for that matter. Let me explain why.

    First of all, as a semi-professional writer I am opposed to censorship on principle. I put a lot of thought into the words I choose.  Most of the greatest works of literature have been banned somewhere at some time. It is my fondest desire to publish a book and be banned somewhere, preferably Texas. When Gore Vidal's "Myra Breckenridge" was ruled obscene he replaced all of the offending words with the names of Supreme Court Justices. I think it is a great pity this practice didn't catch on.

     In particular I am opposed to historical revisionism. Sanitizing the brutality of our past is a very bad idea. Santayana was correct when he said that those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it.  How can we ever find a clear path to what we wish to become if we persist in lying to ourselves about who we were?

     Finally, there is the feeble excuse of protecting the children. Bull. When I was bedridden for a few weeks as a child my grandmother read to me. The book she chose was, "To Kill a Mockingbird". It was new at the time. She read it as it was written. She left in "the N word", although if that work ever passed my lips my doom was sealed!  She even left in the part about the charge of rape and attempted to give an explanation that a nine year-old would accept for what that crime was without having to explain sexuality. It didn't scar me as a child. I grew up wanting very much to be Atticus Finch when I became a man. I still do.

     In the course of my fifty-odd years we have come from segregated drinking fountains in some states through the marches and the murders of too many good men to this place at last. We want to get it right, or at least most of us do. We get that a lot of good people were the victims of America and that we owe them some simple courtesy at the very least. Now even web sites that will cheerfully say "F**k" won't use "the N word". I suspect that may be due in part to the fear of being flagged by filtering software, but it leads to an amusing thought. Rule #34 of the internet says that if you can imagine it, porn exists of it. Somewhere a bunch of old peckerwoods in white sheets who can't get it up any other way are probably paying a hooker to say all the old racial slurs.

                          Be seeing you