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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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Part 11

This story is a part of a chain writing game, started here:

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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Dust, Thoughts, Dusty Thoughts

                There’s dust, here in Texas.

                It’s unfortunate, that I often miss the beauty in dust, that I can station behind the wheel of my Honda and see the world, and the whole time, never see anything at all.

                It’s amazing how I can trek an entire day without remembering a single detail.

Does responsibility do this to me? Responsibility: the ticking of a clock, the need to put gas in my car, or make educated purchases, or hoard enough weekly quarters for laundry? Maybe…I don’t like being forced to do things, and when I’m unhappy, or in a rush, I drop out of the world. The tug of duty, it’s heavy, and can tether me to ‘the grind.’ But that’s not the answer; how many couch potatoes do you know who are actually content? What if sat and did nothing each day? At the end of my life, would I have even lived at all?

                My thinking: the happier I am, the more I can pay attention. The mind tends to reject the unpalatable. And, rejection: if you reject an event, did it truly happen? Did you experience that event, or did you experience yourself wishing that the event was over already? It’s the tree, too, falling down in the forest with no one to hear it.

                It was freezing this morning in my tent. The zipper broke a couple of days ago, and I bought a big yin-yang drape to cover the empty space. And I sleep on the floor, to boot: I have an air mattress, but I just never want to sit there and blow the damn thing up by mouth. I always have more important things to do—like indulging in my favorite video games, for example, or picking my nose. But I’m veering off topic.

                It’s freezing, and even though I’m on the floor, my open sleeping bag (the zipper of which is also broken) is under me, a second blanket is wrapped around my feet, and a thick one is on top of me. I’m wearing my fluffy bathrobe and Long Johns, and it’s really warm as long as I stay under the covers.

                My kitten is in there with me, and my laptop is at my side, so we watch some Japanese Anime— but, eventually, I have to break the cocoon—which is when my toes go cold and numb. So, miserable but determined, I decide to exercise, stretch, and go for a run.

                Halfway through the run, the heavy metal rumbling into my ears and propelling my legs, I’m hot enough to drop the jacket. The rolling up of sleeves follows. I’m breathing, and the breath feels good. Oxygen, I love me some oxygen. It’s how I stopped smoking cigarettes. Air tastes so much better. It’s like drinking Fiji water versus drinking mud. I get into a rhythm, in and out, left foot right foot; I notice a little hop I have on my left side. Have I been sleeping funny, or is my body a little unbalanced? Is my energy funny this week? I can feel my toes, and the sun is warm, now, too, and I’m happy.

                Then I start getting texts.  

                It happens slowly.

                This phone, this machine in my hand, the thing I’m using for music, the thing I’m using to move my blood and experience the world, it’s taking my happiness, my world from me. It would be easy to say ‘don’t respond, it’s that simple;’ it’s hard, though, to use moderation, when the thing I want and the thing I don’t want are both a part of the same device. I like the people who are texting me…what is it, then?

I don’t know how to be alone, I think. I’m always connected—and, is it a real connection, or is it a pseudo kind of understanding, a sharing of ideas and words and thoughts, without any actual human interaction?

                I’d rather look you in the face and tell you something. I’d rather watch your reaction and see the color of your eyes, or notice that disgusting pimple under your left nostril, the one that’s ready to pop, and tell you so, and probably make fun of you a little. Texting is okay, I guess. But tell me: what happens when someone relies too heavily on a crutch? What happens when someone buys a Rascal, say, or a Scooter and then they use it so much that they stop exercising and, in the end, getting up just to go to the kitchen?

                Why walk when you can be carried?

                Actually, I’m writing this in a restaurant, right now, and the janitor is talking to me, mopping. What am I doing with this keyboard when I could be connecting with a human being? It’s killing me, right now, as I write this. He took a look at my computer and told me he can’t use ‘one of those things’…wants to, but doesn’t know how. Can’t read, matter of fact, he shares, his left eye twinkling, the sun hitting it at just the right angle from its low place through the window in the parking lot. His eyes are blue.

                “It’s gonna be cold tonight,” he says, “and I gotta come back to work on my bike.” I tell him about my tent, about my blankets, and get to thinking it’s funny how life takes care of you and gives you what you need—like a conversation with a janitor that completely sums up what you’ve been writing about for the last page and a half—and, I come to a conclusion—it helps to be in the world to hear it.  


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The Road, The Quiet


For those of you who may not know, I’ve been on the road since late September. I’m in Texas, now, with their Renaissance Festival. I figure this is a good a time as any to start blogging about my experiences. I wrote this content early this morning.


It’s Monday morning, and, behind the scenes of the Renaissance Faire, our Monday is your Sunday, in that most of us are off the clock.

It’s quiet. The birds are distant, their chirping sweet. There’s a series of bells blooming somewhere, the sound of beautiful metal playing soft, probably not too far away. They are hitting different notes, and it’s stringing into a song. It’s a little out of the ordinary, and in an ordinary town, I’d wonder. But this isn’t an ordinary town—this is the street where the Renaissance Faire community lives.

A gentle breeze lifts a nearby hammock, fluffing it. It makes a soft sound as it inflates, then sighs.  I’m sitting on a white plastic chair in my neighbor’s yard. As the breeze dies down, and the hammock is left, rocking so slowly, hypnotically, between a tree and their trailer.

She’s boiled herself a coffee, my neighbor, on her propane stove, and a cup of tea for me. The tea’s my own invention. The main ingredients are cinnamon sticks and orange peels. It’s bitter, tangy, delicious.

Must’ve rained last night. Little beads of water dot the empty chairs in her yard. It’s fortunate that my kitten doesn’t seem to mind the moisture. She’s happy as a clam, content to prowl around the drowsy yard among the recently fallen leaves.

Word around the sewing circle is, she saw a cat fight down by the dumpster last week, and that’s why she’s been imitating a move she saw the other cats use. It’s sort of a prowl, the kind where the she is all caution, creeping sideways, back arched, toes full of stealth.

Now she’s started jumping around, like a little spring toy.

A zipper opens, which means someone has woken up, is leaving his tent. I can hear the trees’ remaining leaves in the wind. They pick up, for a moment, and the rain’s hanging leftovers slide off, drop down, and touch the earth.

An upside-down, dangling rose, it’s next to a pirate flag, and they’re breeze-bobbing under a red NO TRESPASSING rectangle, which is next to Christmas lights,  which is just under their trailer’s window, which underlooks the gray sky. Gray, indeed. The gray was on the ground, too, this morning, was ubiquitous, was monochrome, but then the fog lifted early.

There’s an empty bottle of Mead on the ground. It’s next to a blue ice cooler, and surrounded by fire ant hills. Beyond this is a rusted crowbar, matted in a thick cake of dirt. It’s hard to tell the dirt from the rust from the indents in the metal. A long piece of dusty rope is tied to the end of the crowbar.

It’s a beautiful day off, here. Tomorrow, I’m destined for Oklahoma for a couple of days, where a new and interesting job awaits me. It’s funny how having nothing but loose ends can lead to the formation and tying of knots.

Anyone want to take care of my kitten for a couple of days?

~Ezekiel Strawberry



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She Remembered Her Name

    A Very Short Story For You

      Once upon a time, there was a ghost. The ghost did not think that she was a ghost. After all, how could that be? She felt warm when Aden kissed her. She felt sad when he neglected her. She laughed when he called her a ghost.

     She loved Aden very much and one day she followed him to work even though he was being mean. When Aden saw her, he was on lunch break. He was very upset and he  told her that she only existed because of him, and that she was a nobody. After that day, the girl was sad for many years.

     But stories are never that simple, and one day, she remembered that she was not really a ghost, and that Aden was the one who was lost. Then, she remembered her name.




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This is in response to Aaron Yavelberg’s article, found here:

“if I do make a mistake, that just gives me a new experience to learn from and to use to teach others.”

 Pioneer on! It’s the job of an oldest sibling, too. Or, anything. Say, technology. Think about the first irrigation systems on the Euphrates: canals lined with limestone. When I think of how many times they must have dug those canals before they thought to line them…how many times did they dig those canals in between flooding seasons, just to watch them melt into the desert?

But they did it, and now we have micro USB and Candy Crush.

Everything’s moving and changing and evolving and that kind of makes me think there’s hope for humanity.

New generations I’ve been in and witnessed, and the old ones that were new at the time, they’ve evolved with the times. American culture evolved every ten years or so in the 20th century.

Look at America’s evolution. Just for a minute. See us as we were at the turn of the century, as relatively isolated. See how we weren’t as able to learn from others, because we were so far from the world, physically and otherwise, for a long time. We’d just spend our first 100 years of existence in fear and war, expanding the country coast to coast, and fighting everyone along the way.

The 1920s, rebellion, crime. Hollywood’s glory. In France, they were painting naked ladies. Here, no. We were much too Christian for that. Which was part of why rebellion was so damn cool.

The 1930s were like a national hangover. Sure, there were still the screwball comedies to cheer people up, but only when they weren’t having their money taken by the bank.

You get the idea. Just see how paranoid and strange we were, how we evolved, how we did drugs as a nation and the drugs got stronger as a nation and how we tossed our oddball music out the window again and replaced it with relaxing alternative rock, and how the chaos of internet rage and trolling seems to be calming down.

Just because the hippies were sabotaged by war and Charlie Manson and things that were beyond the scope of their drug-addled peace-minds, that doesn’t mean that the world won’t eventually get that peace that they wanted.

This whole article is a mess, but I wanted to touch on the fact that I think evolution seems to have a will of its own. I think this is the case because no matter what the situation is, adaptation happens, if for no other reason than because those who do not or will not adapt will not survive.

So humanity is making decisions about what’s right and wrong, and we’re all learning from each other, and eventually everyone will just have a pretty decent life.

It just sucks we still got a ways to go.



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