08 February 2007

Counter-Military Recruitment

This may be something you are not aware of.....but you should be. Twin Cities students are national leaders in activism against military recruitment. That's right! And we should not only be proud of their efforts--but we should also help them in any way we can.

Youth Against War and Racism (YAWR) was formed in 2004 and focuses on counter-recruitment, especially in high schools. Last November, YAWR (led by high-school students) successfully organized a student walkout and march in the Twin Cities that ended in front of the military recruiter's offices at the UM. The demonstration attracted over 2000 participants. Did our newspapers cover this event or were they worried about hurting the feelings of the troops?

Isn't it time we made a concerted effort to keep these vultures away from our high schools? This might be a first-step in the dismantlement of the imperialist, military machine in this country. Let's shut off their recruits--let's starve them of their cannon fodder.

The excellent website, Not In Our Name, spells out the clear lies being advanced by the military-industrial imperialist and reveals their insidious tactics:

"If you turn on MTV or BET you'll see the Go Army ads with the claim that if you join the military, you'll be able to travel the world, get nice uniforms, new friends, money for college, and a real purpose in life."

In addition, the funds being spent by the Pentagon are staggering--over $2.5 billion on recruitment. And to make matters worse, most of these recruits (and future front-line soldiers) are poor, minority kids.

In addition, Bush's No Child Let Behind law not only mandates that recruiters be allowed into high schools; but it also states that any school receiving federal funds is expected to turn over confidential information about its students to military recruiters.

Fortunately, there are many groups now being mobilized (good links at the end of this article) to contest the recruiters. But it's difficult to battle the money and power of the Pentagon. One of the strategies being utilized is to get counter-recruitment groups into the schools. If we can't keep the military out--we can at least get our side (the peace side) in!

One more critical political consideration: the military-industrial complex understands what an advantage it has recruiting poor kids with few economic opportunities. Those of us on the left need to keep this in mind. We must continue to work for better schools and more job opportunities for those who would be inclined to accept the Pentagon's imperialistic blood-money. We have to provide a reason to for these kids to "just say no" to the military recruiters.

06 February 2007

What About A Poet in the Oval Office? by M.J. Workman

Another superb essay by M.J. Workman. Could he be correct--did this country, at one time, actually elect presidents who could read.....write.....and speak in full sentences? Makes you wonder why natural selection has been so cruel to that office the past few years.

The question teeters on absurdity, surely. Aren’t poets usually mystical-minded, bookish types with weak eyes or, maybe young girls under the age of seventeen? We want our presidents to be tough, decisive men or women, rough and ready to fight. (I don’t mean swaggering, smirking southern wannabes who find it mighty convenient to use their Pappy President’s influence to skip out of serving in a war when their time comes; but then send others to fight and die when they get their fannies on the president’s chair.)

Say what you will about Andrew Jackson’s massive insensitivity to Native or African Americans, he never shirked his duties during wartime. And in words eerily applicable to today, Old Hickory defeated Harvard-educated John Quincy Adams in 1828 with many of the old soldier’s fans chanting: “Adams can write/but Jackson can fight.”

That’s doggerel--good spin, but not poetry. Anyway, Adams was no poet.

But we’ve had two truly great presidents who were poets: Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln. Say what? Name a poem either man wrote. Neither ever called himself a poet. But each was. They thought and wrote and often spoke (even shy Jefferson, and Lincoln who rarely spoke in public) in a cadenced language. Candor also characterized Lincoln. When stumped by a tricky question, he said frankly, I don’t know the answer. Imagine hearing that today.

But their genius—and Jefferson and Lincoln were in the palm of genius—resulted in part because they were poets with a profound understanding of the heights and depths of language. John Adams told Jefferson to draft the Declaration of Independence in 1776 because of his “certain felicity of expression.” The result was imperishable poetry masquerading as prose, poetry that helps rule our nation.

Listen again to the opening lines of The Declaration of Independence. But put Jefferson’s words in the blank verse most of today’s celebrated poets prefer, and trust your ear:

"We hold these truths
to be self-evident,
That all men are created equal,
that they are endowed
by their Creator with certain
unalienable Rights,
that among these
are Life, Liberty
and the Pursuit of Happiness."

That’s poetry, piercing our hearts, souls, and brains.

Now listen to Lincoln, a truly superior stylist. In his First Inaugural the Rail Splitter summoned the nation to honor our past, ingrained in “the mystic chords of memory” and in “the better angels of our nature.” There was a poet speaking.

Lincoln wasn’t Jefferson’s equal intellectually (who was?) but he was a greater poet. The self-taught Lincoln, said one historian years ago, possessed “a profoundly emotional apprehension of experience.” As a result, his famous address at Gettysburg in 1863 and his Second Inaugural (only one single spaced typed page) are rightly considered among the greatest speeches of all time.

Want more proof? Read Garry Wills’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Lincoln at Gettysburg” (1992). Lincoln’s classical rhetoric “proved” that the American Dream had not and would not die. At our best, we act on the poetry of 1776 and 1863. If natural or self-induced amnesia overtakes us, we’re doomed.

Take my advice, and re-read Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. But read the words, and read them aloud, as Lincoln, the poet, scribbled them on the back of an envelope.

"Four score and seven years ago,
our fathers brought forth on this continent,
a new nation,
conceived in liberty
and dedicated to the proposition
that all men are created equal."

Now turn the last paragraph, so rich in historical irony:

"The world will little note,
nor long remember,
what we do here,
but it can never forget
what they did here."

A few words later Lincoln soars to greatness as a prophetic poet:

"That we here highly resolve
that these dead
shall not have died in vain--
that this nation, under God
shall have a new birth of freedom—
and that government
of the people,
by the people,
for the people,
shall not perish from the earth."

Lincoln’s “profound emotional apprehension of experience” was never more evident than in his short Inaugural address in 1864. The war continued. Rancor raged. The truly hateful called Lincoln a “baboon” and “Abraham Africanus.”

Yet the re-elected president was the epitome of decency and humanity. Again I cast Lincoln as a poet.

"Fondly do we hope—
fervently do we pray—
that this mighty scourge of war
may speedily pass away.
Yet, if God wills that it continue,"

[Lincoln continued]

the judgments of the Lord
are true
and righteous altogether.’”

M.J. Workman says it’s time for another poet in the Oval Office!


05 February 2007

Buddy's Books and Bait.....the future

So I have been a blogger now for a month. When I started Buddy's Books and Bait, I had every intention of using it solely as a classroom teaching tool. I planned to utilize the blog to "communicate" with students--posting assignments, announcements, and other in-class information.

But I soon realized that I was having too much fun voicing my own political opinions. Plus, many of my beliefs are considered extremely "radical" by the higher-ups at my place of employment--and why invite that kind of controversy. Finally, I wouldn't be able to write fuck or use any other expletives if my students were using the blog. So I separated the blog from the teaching portion of my life. One issue solved!

Issue number two--what to do with the blog? If you are a Books and Bait reader, you know that I have included a hodgepodge of articles. There have been book reviews, poetry, political rants, and even commentary on foreign policy issues. While I understand there is no right or wrong way to construct a blog--I am inclined to be a bit more organized in purpose. I have found, to my delight, that Books and Bait has helped me find my political "voice"--and I will keep using it as my personal megaphone. But in the upcoming months, I am planning to push Books and Bait in a slightly different direction--or at least give it more focus.

There are already many excellent national, leftist bloggers. And while I remain interested in global and national affairs--I think this humble little blog of mine might be more useful if I concentrate on state and local affairs.
There are a number of local, city, state, and even regional issues that need to be examined and discussed. And I don't just mean political matters--but even social and cultural issues in the Twin Cities. Let me offer a few examples of what you might see in the upcoming months on Buddy's Books and Bait:

-details of Minnesota legislative issues important to liberals and progressives
-examination of local problems like homelessness, teen pregnancy, domestic abuse
-book reviews by Doctor J and others....maybe more on Minnesota books and authors
-continuing columns on fiction and poetry by M.J. Workman
-restaurant reviews
-coverage of Twin Cities museum exhibits and historic site presentations
-film reviews (only high culture foreign films)

In addition, I plan to use this venue to practice what I might call quasi-journalism. It's one thing to sit here and write about the Bush administration or events in Europe. But writing about state and local affairs will allow me to actually "cover" those events and even interview local officials--something I hope to do.

So thanks for reading Books and Bait. And please contact me at any time with comments or suggestions.