Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stop and Watch: The Butterfly Circus

This is not the usual iHandbill post. This is something special and evocative I want to share with you. Something, I feel, that is very much needed in the shrillness of our times. It will take 20 minutes of your time, and it will, I can almost certainly promise, give you a refreshed view of hope and accomplishment.

This is a magnificently produced short film that is magic. It will grab your soul and hold it up to the light for a few moments ... and might even recharge it a little.

At the height of the Great Depression, the showman of a renowned circus leads his troupe through the devastated American landscape, lifting the spirits of audiences along the way. During their travels they discover a man without limbs at a carnival sideshow, but after an intriguing encounter with the showman he becomes driven to hope against everything he has ever believed."

I hope you will watch this amazing short film. It has the quality of a feature film, and if you have a good monitor you may watch it in high quality full screen. Your ticket is RIGHT HERE ... click the familiar "Play" diamond!

"The Butterfly Circus" has just recently won the 2009 Grand Prize in the respected Doorpost Film Project competition.

Monday, September 14, 2009

KKK to Tea Parties: Communicating with the Ignorant and Angry

If angry outbursts and placard waving protesters against health care reform seem heated today, the idea of planned parenthood and birth control in the early 1900's caused a raging bonfire.

Margaret Sanger, an activist way ahead of her time, is credited with starting the idea of planned parenthood. Over the years she was arrested more than eight times for expressing her ideas back when speaking out in public in favor of birth control was illegal. She did time in jail in 1916 nine days after opening America's first birth control and family planning clinic in Brooklyn. But Margaret Sanger's message also supported "negative eugenics" saying, "It is a vicious cycle; ignorance breeds poverty and poverty breeds ignorance. There is only one cure for both, and that is to stop breeding these things."

So, like a modern day Sibyl, her pronouncements could be interpreted by opposing sides, each opting either to hear the positive germ of her message, or to embrace the radical edges of some of her statements as pillars of support for their views ... including white supremacy.

In the mid 1920's she received more than a million letters requesting information on birth control. And she spoke from coast to coast to diverse groups including "cotton workers, churchmen, liberals, socialists, scientists, civic clubs, and fashionable, philanthropically minded women."

In 1926, she was invited to speak to the ladies axillary of the Ku Klux Klan in Silver Lake, New Jersey. After being driven in a curtain shuttered car for almost an hour, way out into a country field, she gave a lecture to the robed and hooded ladies, as well as a smattering of male Klansmen. In her memoirs she described it as "one of the weirdest experiences I had in lecturing," noting that she was forced to use only "the most elementary terms, as though I were trying to make children understand." The KKK ladies and their male attendees were reportedly delighted with the idea of promoting birth control for 'the colored folks.'

Though she remains to this day a controversial figure it is interesting to note that as the nation became more enlightened, birth control and family planning became accepted, championed by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.'s Bureau of Social Hygiene. In spite of allegations of racism, she earned the respect and support of of civil rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Humanist Association named her Humanist of the Year in 1957.

Today President Barack Obama has undertaken the tough task of renewing a demand for universal health insurance legislation for all Americans. For seventy years political manipulation, crass profit incentives of big business and a whipped up mistrust of "big government" as a convenient devil has blocked health care reform legislation.

Medicare health insurance for our senior citizens finally passed in 1965 after years of being protested and assailed as "socialist" and a "government takeover" by conservative Republicans adverse to any change. A high percentage of today's protesters have Medicare cards in their pockets.

The busloads of well fed white folks who angrily waved placards in the nation's capitol last week probably didn't pay for their bus tickets and their mental carry on baggage was not packed with reasoned ideology based upon clear fact. Rather, it was stuffed with anger, startling ignorance of the facts and, worse, their willingness to believe such political purée.

It is daily becoming more and more clear that much, but not all, of what we are seeing is driven by simmering racism, the idea that the most powerful man in the world, the President of the USA is not a white man. That a black skinned, (his white half doesn't seem to count) calm, educated and persuasive man is deciding what will happen to THEM!

The busloads arriving in Washington D.C. and in the town hall meetings, were all for the most part provided a free ride and a sense of indignant importance, banding together to hate, vent frustration and spout utter nonsense. With Rush Limbaugh, Fox News and the endless babble of knee-jerk talking heads on cable TV, the ignorant are rewarded for their ignorance. They are delighted to hear what they want to hear fed to them daily.

Also, today's so-called "Tea Parties" which have no relationship whatsoever to the reasons for the Boston Tea Party are a sad testament in themselves to the ignorance of most of the shouting sign carriers of what the historic "Tea Party" actually was. Similarly, a large number of those screaming "Socialist" would, I will wager, be unable to define what a socialist is. But by God, they are mad!

Today's disgruntled race baiting demonstrators aren't wearing robes or hoods. Most also are not armed with facts or reasoned opposition. They are armed with anger, wild rumors and a sense of empowerment that harks back some 40 some odd years ago when this same mentality produced sneers and shouts of "Boy!" to make a black move off the sidewalk, or to those who carried "no nigger" placards outside public schools while police dogs strained at their leashes as small black children walked past. Fine law-abiding, church going folks then ... and now.

This minority of our citizenry has long been hijacked for cynical purposes. They present a golden opportunity for the struggling, discredited conservative Republican base to recruit and inflame the bigoted and ignorant with poisoned misinformation.

Though this righteous mob is making the most noise and is getting the media coverage that would be bestowed on a fully grown two-headed mule, our elected representatives must hear the louder voice of reason from the overwhelming concerned and reasonable majority. Maybe it would help if we speak to them "in the most elementary terms, as though we were trying to make children understand."

archive photo registeredmedia.com

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Raving Joe Wilson: The Pride of So. Carolina!

Graphic by Larry Ray

When Hugh de Veaux Wilson and Wray Graves Wilson looked at their newborn that July 31, 1947, they knew he was destined for national recognition. They named him Addison Graves, Wilson, Sr., but everyone just called him Joe. The crescent moon in the South Carolina flag was his teething ring as he started a career as a conservative Republican. As a teenager he worked on Congressman Floyd Spence's campaign, and later as an aide to segregationist Senator Strom Thurmond. Joe is a product of South Carolina, and became a U.S. Congressman to represent his state in 2001.

And he did make history last night, stunning a jam-packed joint meeting of both houses in the House chamber as well as millions of TV viewers when he bellowed "You Lie!" as President Obama was delivering his major address on health care reform.

Good old Joe made history because as far as anyone could determine, no one had ever exhibited such crass disrespect for the President of the United States during a presidential address.

Shouting out a crude epitaph in a routine session of the House of Representatives is grounds for a formal reprimand. So what was Joe thinking?

Not quite a year after Joe Wilson became a congressman, during a September 2002, debate on going to war in Iraq, Wilson called Congressman Bob Filner "viscerally anti-American." During the debate, Filner suggested the United States supplied chemical and biological weapons to Saddam Hussein and Joe exploded that Filner had a "hatred of America." Joe said later that he "didn't intend to insult Filner."

White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel, was sitting just a few rows in front of Congressman Wilson when he hurled his insult at his boss, the President. Emanuel reportedly made it very clear to Republican leaders that the congressman doing the shouting be identified and issue an apology immediately, noting that "No president has ever been treated like that. Ever."

Wilson made a beeline out of the House chamber immediately after the end of the President's speech. He must have had a political epiphany and decided to apologize, just like he had to fellow congressman Filner, by calling the President, to maybe again say "I didn't mean to insult you."

Rahm Emanuel took the call and accepted Joe's apology on behalf of the president. A formal letter of apology was hastily issued from Wilson's congressional office but it clearly shows Joe's wrong-headed hubris. While the letter apologized for "a lack of civility," it also pointed out that, "While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate . . ."

This is actually a classic example of the "flipped conservative lie" where a clearly established fact, is ballyhooed to constituents back home as being just the opposite. It is classic GOP "government is lying to you so we gotta fight this" political trickery.

"While I disagree with the president’s statement ..." is Joe's way of continuing to maintain the President is lying to you because Joe wants so badly to believe that his real lie, instead, is true.

In this case the President of the United States was categorically clearing up a totally false Republican claim that illegal immigrants would be provided free health care under a new health care reform bill. Joe's ingrained demagoguery automatically made him shout "You lie!'" For that instant he forgot he was not in a chummy, fired up town hall meeting in South Carolina, but that he was seated among his peers and his president was debunking a large Republican lie.

So, lets look at this. The president unambiguously declares that the illegal immigrants free health care rumor is false. Joe says he 'disagrees' with the president . . . meaning that somehow Joe is convinced the illegals are going to get free health care no matter what the president or anyone else says. That Barack Hussein Obama is the president, calm, collected, and much bigger than a sputtering, defeated southern white man, might be part of what is going on here.

A hometown blog, Carolina Politics Online, reporting on their congressman's ugly and universally condemned outburst, simply asked:
  • "Did y’all hear Congressman Joe Wilson stand up and yell “You lie!” to Obama tonight when he said illegal aliens won’t get covered under government health care? It was clearly audible on the television and it made the Dalai Bama pause for a second or two. It’s already hit YouTube. The look on Pelosi’s face is priceless too."
Yeah, we all heard it, millions of us, and so did your "Dali Bama." In fact, we've all had more than an earful of "Carolina Politics." Your romance novel, philandering governor held the So. Carolina Jackass Award until last night. Y'all also got all that rumor-mongering, betting Governor Sanford's GOP buddies will not impeach him out of fear of putting a supposedly gay man in his place. That is hard to top, but now Congressman Joe calls the POTUS a liar, in prime time, and sweeps the top jackass spot probably for a long time to come. Y'all are in a big steamed up glass house. Time to quit throwing rocks, and worry about our country's real problems don't you think?

FOLLOWUP: People wanting to leave their thoughts about Rep. Joe Wilson on his Capitol Hill site are getting this notice after clicking "Contact Us." Joe really connected with America it seems. And lots of them would like to have a piece of his red neck.