Politics: Do People Really Listen?

I can't hear you!

I was at the park today, doing some homework, when a pint-sized bulldog waddled its way to our picnic bench. He held a brownish-yellow tennis ball in his mouth. He snorted and tried to coax me into grabbing the ball from him. My girlfriend, distracted from her studies, wondered whether it was French or British.
The dog’s owner meandered over to us. He was a plump, smiling man with a white handlebar mustache.
“What are you studying?” He said.
Japanese, I told him, I want to live there. He told me I’d at least be safe there, since there aren’t a whole lot of Muslims in Tokyo.
My girlfriend later told me she’d drawn a red flag right then, but I didn’t see it. After all, plenty of people say plenty of ignorant things, and you can’t argue with all of them. Besides, starting an argument with a smiling gentleman on a sunny summer day is just about last on my list.
Now personally, I’m a big fan of Bernie Sanders, and eventually, I came out with it. I did it casually, with a chuckle that was genuine and conversational. My girl put her head down against the table. Her social senses were more on cue than mine: I found myself in the middle of a political debate, with no idea how I’d gotten there. He really started to talk.
His points about Greece’s failed economy were interesting. I also liked his thoughts on how even if we raised taxes on the super-wealthy, they’d find a way to cheat the system. I wanted to discuss that. But unfortunately, the discussion wasn’t open. He made several errors in his discourse, and whenever I started to answer some of his misinformation with a correction, he talked over me.
Finally, he walked away, saying, “I used to be an idealist, and that’s nice, but I haven’t heard one fact from you.” Of course not. You haven’t tried to listen.
And I think that’s a fundamental assumption in talking politics. We’re all so fortunate to have been blessed with a perfect and infallible set of political views, aren’t we? Why should we listen to anyone else’s points, and keep an open mind? It would seem that we’re all set in our ways. But how will anything get done without compromise and listening?
In kindergarten, I got into a fight with one of my classmates over the triangle blocks. You remember those. He needed them for his roof. But I wanted the last two for the garnishing outside my brand new block house. When he insisted on having them I pushed him on the floor. The teacher came over and asked us to share. After a minute I apologized for pushing, the kid said sorry to me. And I gave him the triangle blocks. They weren’t so important after all, and he needed them more. How else would he keep the rain out? I cared more about being right than the actual blocks.
And you know what? It’s not so different. I would have made mistakes in my argument, too, had I been given the chance. But that’s the beauty of constructive conversation: we fill in the gaps, inform, illuminate each other with new ideas and possibilities. So I challenge you, reader, to question your views in your next debate. If you’re still right, stick by your guns. But listen to the other side. As long as you and I keep that in mind, we will always continue to grow.


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Flagging the Flag

I was poking around Facebook when I found this picture:

Jermaine Rogers.

Facebook took it down.

Jermaine Rogers, the artist, posted soon afterward, explaining that it was not his decision.

He explained that people must have been really offended–he received a lot of nasty hate mail. Maybe that’s understandable. Maybe people saw the Swastika flag and failed to understand the artist’s message. For Jews, myself included, the Swastika connotes an oppressed people who were enslaved, gassed, burned alive.

It is estimated that over eleven million Africans were shackled and processed and forced across four or five time zones in a boat. Nobody knows how many died in total, but the estimate for African deaths on the journey across the Atlantic Ocean is over a million. That’s just during the trip, folks—and if they tried to escape, these people were branded, whipped, or killed.

Slave Auction

Either flag is horrible. Today, the Swastika is illegal in Germany. The confederate flag’s legality is being discussed in the US: it is symbolic of an oppressed people. I’d be scared if there were Nazi flags hanging in my neighborhood. I’m just putting the shoe on the other foot. It’s the same size shoe.

Here’s the thing.

This is getting ridiculous.

Apple pulled the ‘Gettysburg’ game out of their app store “…because it includes images of the confederate flag used in offensive and mean-spirited ways.” It’s a history-based game—and shouldn’t history be preserved rather than denied? Bernie Sanders, who is running for President, recently said of the flag that it “belongs in a museum,” not in public. Can’t call that a bad idea. Apple just went kind of crazy with it.


Take the flag off the streets. Put it in a museum.

It’s still legal to print a Swastika in Germany, as long as the message is anti-Nazi (for example, a flag with the Swastika–and a cross through it–could be interpreted as legal). So this post here gets removed from Facebook. I realize that Facebook is not the government. But I find that its removal implies censorship’s trump over parody. Parody is a vital ingredient in the soup of political awareness (soup: no pun intended–that’s a Jonathan Swift joke!).

“A young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most delicious nourishing and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, …” –Jonathan Swift, a Modest Proposal

Jonathan Swift


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Repairing Time

It’s a new and silly world, here, isn’t it.

What happened to the telegraph, anyway? And how can I miss it if I’ve never seen one? There was something romantic about a quill and parchment, wasn’t there?

Computers, the internet, the ocean of thoughts and softly-lit laptop screens; I’m pretty sure I’m still adjusting to that.

There was once, I think, a satisfactory quality in making it a night out to see classical music play on the weekend, right (they probably just called it music)? …instead of driving out to Wal-Mart in my pajamas for the Redbox machine?

I say that with the birth of advanced technology, and with the introduction of speed, something very human was buried in a pile of undesirable words like uninteresting and slow and unrelateable.

Fine, that’s fine, but time still flows at the same speed as before; one minute is still sixty seconds, and one second is the same second it’s been since the beginning of time (or since we started measuring it, if that’s better to say).

Are we destroying our own potential? I say that what we’re doing is creating a version of time that suits our economic and personal needs. But what’s convenient isn’t always what works (I almost wrote “what’s convenient isn’t always what’s human”–but that would be wrong, wouldn’t it?)

We’re the ones who made and use this stuff. Humans. We’re the ones who chose it, and it’s adaptation time, baby.

Well, maybe for you. I’m going for a walk in the park, and I’m not bringing my smart phone.

Take care

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Part 11

This story is a part of a chain writing game, started here: http://kerrieanns.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/the-chain-writing-game/

Mac? Why? That ugly motherfucker?

There was no time to think.

George probably bent him over
, Cindy thought. One too many times… That was really his weakness–George had grown in power over the last decade. Talking to him, you’d think Superman wasn’t weak to kryptonite. Talking to him, you’d figure some men were simply invincible…

It’s true, she thought, George is a prick; but does Mac have to gain from helping me?

In the end, it didn’t matter. She slipped the screwdriver in her bra.


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Mewtwo, the Cat

2013-12-28 17.46.43

Introducing my kitten to her new home hasn’t been easy. I brought her into an environment with two grown cats who have known each other forever. She’s feisty: when they want to sleep, she’s swiping at them. When they’re trying to sniff our smooth wooden floor, she’s trying to tackle them. When they want to cuddle, there she is, the little thing, half their size, ready for battle.

She’s not mean or nasty or anything; I taught her to retract her claws at a very young age. She’s just playful. But I’m not sure that her new friends are completely up to her speed.

She’s a little warrior. When she was still a stray, she would fight to the death with other kittens. It toughened her up–and, even though I taught her to play, she’s still got that killer instinct. It’s kind of like turning a soldier into a football player, if you take my meaning.

~Ezekiel S.


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The Heart Lock Hustle

2013-12-22 11.27.40
I saw the sunset on the Brooklyn Bridge, yesterday, the winter solstice. I ended the shortest day of the year watching the sun go down behind the Statue of Liberty. It was 52 degrees out; I was comfortable in a t-shirt and my grungy yellow corduroy jacket. Tourists were everywhere, and some genius had come up with the idea of selling them “heart locks,” which are little locks you click onto the bridge, symbolizing, well, whatever you want to symbolize. My friend pointed out that if those locks are as popular as it seemed, there must have been someone coming by, on a regular basis, to cut them off, making room for more. Now that I think about it, they probably just unlocked and re-sold them.
Up at the apex of the bridge, we figured we would grab a pork bun when we got to Chinatown. I’d never had one. They’re supposed to be bread with pork baked into them, the same way some other breads are baked with cheese. Best around, I was told, and I agreed to try one, thinking of how disgusting it must be.
Helicopters were taking off, one after the next, off of a platform in front of the Statue of Liberty. My friend and I decided to go to a pier that was close-by. It would be a good spot to pour vodka into our drinks.
The breeze at the pier was refreshing. The sun had gone down, and the waves reflected all the lights. I made my screwdriver. We caught a buzz, went home, drank again, and passed out. I never tried the pork bun, but I didn’t really want to anyway.
On my way home, this morning, I couldn’t find my damn sunset picture, so I took a snapshot while I was driving. I thought the light and dark contrast on the roof of the tunnel was cool, but my windsheild was dirty, and that kind of messed it up: but, there it is, up at the top of this post.

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The Horrors of Being Horrorless

Picture taken through a clean window

Picture taken through a clean window

It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m in a small town in Rockland County, New York. It’s about 45 minutes from the city, and somehow, the city is eons away. So, here I am, not in NYC but instead watching a brilliant, premature sunset through the stained window pane of a fast food restaurant. It’s not stained like stained glass—it’s stained like someone was flicking ice cream on a spoon at the window. That’s the only way I can imagine those dried-up, white drippy globs ever climbed so high.
The sun’s vanilla on the snow and it looks cold. It penetrates the leaves of a nearby bush. The leaves tremble at the mercy of a wind.
There’s an Hispanic kid eating ice cream and smiling through sparkling eyes; he’s telling his dad what’s what about fire-breathing serpents.
“Fire-breathing serpents aren’t real, anyway” he informs. He speaks between ecstatic bites off a plastic spoon. “Did you know that?” Dad is nodding and chewing on a burger.
I get to thinking that I miss being afraid of ghosts. When did that stop being real? There’s something heartbreaking about a life without belief.
Thing is, we can believe anything we want to…we do have that kind of power. Galaxies emerge from our minds; and those of us who don’t believe in ourselves may find it easy to disprove, to quote Douglas Adams, “god, the universe and everything.” edit: I think I got the quote wrong…:/ Of course I don’t mean god. I was just talking about ghosts. But belief impacts our experience—and I’ll never limit my experience to a sun going down over a bunch of snowy trees in December. It’s a fire-breathing serpent, and he’s going to hibernate before the night gets cold. It’s a giant ball of ice cream. It’s the fucking Egyptian God of the Sun, Ra, for all I care. But don’t bore me with cold facts, kid, okay?
~Ezekiel S.

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