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The Paradox of Progress

  Months ago, I attended David Swanson’s book signing in Baltimore to purchase his remarkable work, War is a Lie, and to hear Swanson, Debra Sweet, and Andy Worthington speak. During the question-and-answer period, a woman stood and introduced herself. Speaking beautifully, softly, and passionately, she gestured, pointing to lighting in the room, laptops, and cell phones. She said something like this: “It’s cold outside, but the room temperature is warm.  So many here have computers, cell phones, technology….” She paused and, then, continued, “Are people willing to sacrifice for peace?”

Children of War

My senses are soaked still with last weekend’s red, white, and blue after having attended a party at the home of a lovely couple intro’d to me recently by a friend. Their fireworks display, colors bursting in the night sky, was as impressive as any I’ve seen produced and directed by local government via taxpayer dollars. I’m sure the hosts’ guest list covered the political spectrum. I’m also sure that my politics are the most radical of anyone who watched the bombs bursting in air. I sat there, thinking about bombs bursting in air, exploding the lives of people in the growing number of countries where we’ve exported U.S. imperialism.

More sensory overload is the story that’s captured the attention of Americans: Casey Anthony’s murder trial. I didn’t follow, but when I opened Google News, it usually was the lead. After Anthony’s acquittal, I scanned the article titles and saw: “See all 6,083 sources.”

Examining My Head

I hit the pavement today, running a reel of the past few months through the windmills of my mind. I’ve spent so much time, lately, in rooms of joy and sorrow, and hotels, and towns where I catch my reflection in some store window and think: Who is she?

Everything’s askew.

I traveled with one son to visit another. Was sitting outside when the younger said, “Mom, you have beautiful feet. You have the feet of a sixteen-year-old.” Before I could tell him I know this, he continued, “It’s a shame I can’t say the same about your face.”
We laughed.

He and I had been discussing the dollar and what he calls my freak-ass economic doomsday tune. The whole foot thingy probably was an attempt to shift the subject.

Justice Has No Meaning

April seemed to drift in, whimpering and, then, banging shut. Caresses and blows.

Easter slid by. Where was I? North Carolina? Kentucky? Maryland?

Easter’s just candy, anyway, shaped like eggs, and a White House lawn with children on the hunt. Though I do remember something about a rock rolled away from a tomb.

Prince William and Kate were royally rocking and rolling, a circumstance of pomposity.

Now, we’re a week into May, Derby time with a parade of hats and thoroughly bred animals. Oh, and horses, too, racing for the first jewel in the Triple Crown, no thorns allowed.

This is celebration season. And many are celebrating death—the assassination of that mythical decider who claimed responsibility for “inspiring” 9-11 and scared us to bookstores to purchase bibles in freedomville where we can shop and choose a wireless plan with a special friends-and-family rate, radiation exposure, dropped calls, and surveillance included.

When You're Making Other Plans

A few days ago, I drove past the house we sold in 1994 to move to Nashville. There was a “For Sale” sign in the yard. Later, I went to the web, curious about the price. It’s three times what we’d accepted. Then, I scrolled through the photographs. Had I not seen the front of the Tudor row house and known the house number, I wouldn’t have recognized the rooms. Complete renovation. Gone was the breakfast bar my husband designed and built. Gone were the balcony tiles I’d helped him install. All gone, except the memories.

Mostly, friends came to us. It’s what we preferred, because of our children.

We sat around the large table in the octagon-shaped dining room, its walls covered in a moody, almost smoldering coral.

It was the late 80s and early 90s and we called ourselves the Seinfeld gang. I was Jerry. My best friend Joan was Elaine.

We amused each other.

Premediated Murder

Premeditated Murder
By Missy Comley Beattie

I used to joke with my peace-movement friends, telling them I might self-immolate in front of the White House to make a statement about war. And, then, I’d laugh, saying there was just one glitch in the plan—I’d require so much Valium I’d be unable to strike the match.

For weeks, I’ve thought about a 26-year-old Tunisian man. Mohamed Bouazizi, educated, jobless, unable to feed his family, and desperate, doused himself with gasoline and died from his burns. This sacrificial act triggered the uprising in Tunisia and inspired other people across North Africa to do the same.

We are witness to revolution, civil wars, in which ordinary people are demanding basic rights.

Lately, I’ve been obsessing about the catastrophe of Fukushima, a crescendo of events as/more devastating than Chernobyl.

Seismology, Nukes and Bracketology

By Missy Comley Beattie

It’s blue here in Kentucky, true blue, a landscape of royal blue, this altar to basketball and home to the Kentucky Wildcats whose devotees are historically and hysterically frenzied for victory.

The same day I awakened to breaking news of breaking tectonic plates, breaking nuclear reactors, and breaking hearts, I left my sister Laura's house for exercise and heliotherapy. An elderly woman pushed her walker in the middle of a street, a man entered his house with a giant box of Pepsi Cola attached to his arm, and another person was at his mailbox. All were costumed in Big Blue fan-ery.

On Sunday, the Cats defeated the Florida Gators to win the SEC tournament. Often, during the action, we zipped to CNN’s coverage of Japan’s tsunami, earthquakes, and maybe-yes, maybe-no, Chernobyl-like meltdowns.

Zombied

Zombied
by Missy Comley Beattie

My hands are curved, poised above the keyboard. I’m staring at a document, blank except for the cursor that’s blinking to the rhythm of an Annie Lennox song, “Love is a Stranger.” My eyes are focused on this small vertical mark that, at other times, could be a soporific. Just not now. Because the Lennox lyrics are bitter.

It’s savage and it’s cruel
It shines like destruction
Comes in like a flood
And it seems like religion
It’s noble and it’s brutal
It distorts and deranges
And it wrenches you up
And you’re left like a zombie

This describes love but it could be the tune of our times, as harsh as the world in which we live.

AmortiNation

Years ago, I was on my gynecologist’s examining table, feet in stirrups, in need of the morning-after pill. He handed me a brochure—info about the med—and said, “Read this, if you can think in this position.”

“If I could think in this position, I wouldn’t be in this position now,” I told him.

The above was to get your attention. The following is the main work:

I do my best and worst thinking when I exercise. Usually, I stay focused, repeating, “focus, focus,” but occasionally this becomes, “we’re eff’d.” Then, I’m not just detouring down side roads; I’m off-road with thoughts that require serious mind tread.

Of course, I’ve been consciousness streaming about revolution, protests, brutal dictators, and Wisconsin, lately. And while I applaud the occupation of the Madison statehouse, I wonder if people have to be PERSONALLY wallet affected to have their asses blown out of their recliners. What is it about the occupation of countries that is acceptable?

Rubbled Raw

Abusers appear when we are most vulnerable. Mistaking their sweet nothings for REAL somethings, we slowly allow harmony to lose its last three letters.

Among the most calculating manipulators are the men and women we elect to represent our interests—but don’t. They have a vast menu from which to select their tactics.

They speak to our individualism and, then, tell us what all they’re doing on our behalf.

They demand our loyalty. Our servitude.

They juggle fear and hope, throwing sounds to our ears and images to our eyes, pushing beyond the bearable so gradually that the once unthinkable becomes commonplace.

They encourage us to shop and travel but to ALWAYS be alert, and report anything suspicious. “If you see something, say something,” Fascism Security Chief Janet Napolitano says, promoting the psychology of fear with a four-pronged campaign that includes locally run “fusion centers” for intelligence sharing. Fusion?

Cut the Cards

George W. Bush once delivered a speech to a gathering of wealthy Republicans and said: "This is an impressive crowd—the haves and the have-mores. Some people call you the elites; I call you my base.”

Barack Obama could stand at a podium and just as smugly say the same words to wealthy Democrats.

Most of us can’t identify with these “elites”.

Nor can we comprehend our country’s debt. I had motion sickness when I checked the National Debt Clock website (http://www.usdebtclock.org/). We can say trillions. But the number is too huge to grasp.

Have you ever counted and rolled coins into those brown-paper cylinders? Takes awhile. After you’re finished, you do the math. Hmmm, thirty-friggin’-five dollars. Yet, in your palm, it feels heavy.

Doing it Big

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow Americans:

We are the American family. And we are exceptional. This is what sets us apart as a nation. (Applause.)

We measure progress by the success of our people. And because we extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, the ultra-rich can realize even greater success. It was the right thing to do. (Applause.) We could ask millionaires to give up their tax breaks, but we won’t.

Into the Future

Astonishing theater unfolded in Washington, DC when former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and former Vice Presidents Richard Cheney and Joe Biden were taken into custody and transported to a courthouse soon after arriving in the United States. Photographers captured images of the four, revealing that Cheney no longer wore his signature sneer.

Exiled to Saudi Arabia in 2011 during the Justice Revolution in early July, the men rarely were seen in public. Rumor had it that they, as well as family members and their dogs, were well disguised when attending events outside the palace.

The Right Place at the Wrong Time

On Saturday, January 8, 2011, a Tucson Safeway became harm’s way.

For many. Someone’s wife. Someone’s mother. Daughter. Sister. Friend. Someone’s husband. Someone’s father. Son. Someone.

Witnesses to the rampage forever will be changed.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords remains in critical condition, a bullet to the head, fired by a 22-year-old gunman with a Glock. Six people were killed, including nine-year-young Christina Green.

The day after the massacre, members of the House participated in a conference call to discuss vigilance and informing local police of their whereabouts. Both Republicans and Democrats are calling for civility and have put on hold repeal of the healthcare law while they craft a resolution to commemorate the victims.

And discuss how to protect THEMSELVES.

This from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee:

We ought to cool it, tone it down, treat each other
with respect, respect each other’s ideas and even

The Chemistry of Empire

In the beginning, chemicals collided and catalyzed, evolving a system of development from non-living to living things, proteins and nucleic acids interacting--greeting and meeting, dating and mating—in a metaphorical dance of romance. The recipe to make more was born. Now, chemicals portend the end. So much tells us so. An eye for an eye doesn’t just blind the world; it annihilates. The blueprint for reproduction becomes one of destruction.

I’m not relaxed.

Sen. Lindsay Graham advocates permanent military presence in Afghanistan, despite an objection from Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government.

And despite the deaths of thousands of military men and women during Bush’s war—the War OF Terror that passed seamlessly to Commander Obama. Last week, two US troops died in Iraq where combat ENDED months ago. Because the president told us so, even announcing the improved name of the non-war: Operation New Dawn.

A Better Time? When?

It’s been so cold I’ve powered on the elliptical trainer. I prefer running through my neighborhood, in sunshine, observing people, reading bumper-sticker messages, and breathing fresh air.

I was on the exerciser, though, and consumed enough by the monotony (groan) to glance OFTEN at the mounting minutes. I was thinking about cutting the workout short but, instead, decided to reverse and go backwards. Backwards, backwards, my legs worked, and, suddenly, I was struck by a thought--the possibility that I could continue this redirection and undo time. I could accelerate the pace until the mile display indicated a negative as I ellipti-seized the past. Faster and faster, I would retreat to a place in my life that carried the promise of fullness, satisfaction, those days when the children were young and more was right in my world.

The Bankster Merry-Go-Round

Obama apologists are on a low rung of the ladder to hope, hoping that the president will, suddenly, fulfill some of his promises of, yes, hope.

Articles and letters have been composed, direct pleas to the president, by historians, economists, former politicians, retired veterans, physicians, educators, the underemployed, unemployed, and others, all people who just want the man they supported to do something, anything, indicating that he is real, that he works for americaville, for them, for the woe-man on the street.

This week we saw a fired-up Obama, defending negotiations with Republicans. The president explained his position on tax breaks for the wealthy, saying he compromised to insure tax cuts for the middle class. A majority of Americans oppose extending Bush-era tax cuts to the rich.

Friend or Foe?

In the muddy of my mind, the Minutemen are singing “Warfare” lyrics:

Falling down the road
Steeper as it goes
Friend or foe
Nobody knows

In the muddy of my mind the Minutemen are singing “The Big Stick” lyrics: “We learn and believe there is justice for us all and we lie to ourselves with a big stick up our ass.”

On Monday, six US troops, serving in Afghanistan, died after receiving friend-foe fire from an Afghan police officer during a training exercise. Friend or foe (?) must be among the many complexities servicemen, women, and their families ponder.

This wasn’t unique, isn’t an aberration. Similar incidents have occurred. Last December, five British soldiers were killed by an Afghan police officer.

So Many Messages

All week, I intended to write about Nancy Grace and her Veterans Day tribute to our “fallen,” that euphemism for the war-torn dead. I would begin and, suddenly, see her surname with fallen and be Galatians 5: 4’d to “ye are fallen from grace.” I blame it on childhood years of Baptist brainwashing.

It’s just that my mind has been a smorgasbord of images and messages, lately. There’s Bush’s self-masturbatory, ghostwritten diary, along with email pleas for efforts in futility, war and more war, income disparity, and all the people who lead lives of either quiet or screaming desperation.

Soon after W began pushing his memoir, a flurry of requests for petition signing, demanding an investigation of Bush Administration

The Big Universe

I received three robocalls from Barack Obama in the days before the election. I listened to the first and cut short the second and third. The President implored me to vote because so much was at stake.

I had a brief conversation with the man who phoned on behalf of Sen. Barbara Mikulski and Rep. John Sarbanes. He wanted to know if the two could count on me. I explained that I've called their offices many times to ask that they stop funding war. And that I’ve always received the obligatory acknowledgment, thanking me for my input. Then, I told the caller, “But they continue to vote for war, so, no, since I can’t count on them, they cannot count on me.”

Owning the Shares of Shame

In the days following 9/11, the world was told the “official story.” People “jealous of our freedoms” wanted to destroy our way of life.

George Bush said, “Anybody who would attack America the way they did, anybody who would take innocent life the way they did, anybody who’s so devious, is evil.”

Bush was referring to terrorists—and he was right. Because his response to the attack was to exact a Reign OF Terror (ROT) during which innocent lives have been taken since bombing began in a frenzy of vengeance.

As Bush boarded Air Force One in Florida on September 11, 2001, he told an agent, “Be sure to get the First Lady and my daughters protected.”

Laura Bush’s reaction to that day: “I was horrified. I thought, ‘Dear God protect as many citizens as you can.’ It was a nightmare.”

For Afghans and, then, Iraqis, it has been so much more—nightly nightmares and daily daymares.

Nearly Helpless

By Missy Comley Beattie

I call one of my sons and say, “Listen, I have something to tell you."

He says, “As long as it isn’t about bedbugs.”

Expertly, with parental precision, I slickly shift from the bedbug scene in my head to one of the many issues among a plethora of plagues (POP). I talk about the “Emergency Call to Action” email I received about stopping hate, hatred of gays, hatred of Muslims, hatred of anything that is not sliced, white-bread, Bible-thumping, heterosexual America—this climate of shameful rhetoric, leading to violence, even in New York City, the location I love, and the place I see when I think of tolerance.

Politicians and the Prosperity Gospel

I’m thinking of televangelists and pitchmen, even though my television is seldom powered on.

Some years ago, in Nashville, I tuned in and couldn’t believe what I was seeing—Jan and Paul Crouch, founders of Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). The duo hosted a show, “Praise the Lord,” preaching “prosperity gospel,” the religious belief that those who are favored by God will be blessed with material wealth and good health. Of course, viewers didn’t get something for nothing; they were encouraged to not just spread the word but, also, to send a donation to the Crouches’ ministry. Paul once requested $1,000 from each adherent, even those who couldn’t afford it. He assured them, during a “Praise-a-thon,” that the Lord would repay the amount “many times over.”

The Crouches lived lavishly, then, and still do. Jan cried rivers, on air. One almost expected her tears to run gold. Or at least to reflect the garish décor of the set. At some point, the couple took TBN global.

American Graffiti

By Missy Comley Beattie

Had my runner’s high become a hallucination?

Turning quickly, I almost twisted my ankle, but I had to get a better look at the black and white image taped to the inside of the car’s back windshield, the car parked in the lot of my neighborhood restaurant. I ran, in place, staring at what looked like a photocopy. It showed George W. Bush, his arm extended upward, obviously, waving. He seemed to be waving to me. I scrutinized the silly grin and frightened look in his eyes--you know, the body language he wears that fits like uncomfortable underwear.

I’m continually shocked when I see an adoration display of one of the worst presidents in history. But, then, I’m, also, surprised that people aren’t scraping Obama stickers from their bumpers and other locations on their cars.

Toward Justice

Toward Justice
By Missy Comley Beattie

Our experiences and what we do with them shape and determine our trajectory. Often, they change us gradually; sometimes, they are immediately life altering. So much so that months, even years later, a thought, a song, even an aroma can transport us, abruptly, into the past. Some events are wonderful. Others are brutal.

The phone call from my sister, telling me that Chase was killed in Iraq, is among the brutal.

My nephew, Chase Comley, died a little over five years ago. He enlisted in the military because he believed our freedoms were in jeopardy, a message George Bush gaveled into the American psyche after 19 hijackers used planes as weapons to attack US symbols of power on 9/11.

September 11, 2001 is among the brutal.

The Terrorists Have Won

On August 22, I was in Manhattan for the counter-protest to support the proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero. My friend Elaine Brower gave an impassioned speech, talking about the “gentlemen’s" club by the site, and a huge Century 21 clothing store (shop, shop, shop), emphasizing the Constitutional right to freedom of religion and reminding the gathering that 15 of the hijackers who used planes as missiles on 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia, that the US continues to conduct business with that country, that we buy oil from Saudi Arabia, and that bikers, who roared in, joining the bigots to protest the Islamic center, most probably, filled their tanks with gas from Saudi Arabia.

A Kind of Barbarism

Timothy McVeigh, convicted of killing 168 people in the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, was parented by Irish Catholics. He referred to himself as agnostic yet wrote to a friend, prior to his crime: “I have come to peace with myself, my God and my cause.” McVeigh didn’t explain his concept of God. He did, however, request a Mass and a Catholic chaplain as his execution neared.

Are you wondering where I’m going with this?

Straight to Ground Zero and the Cordoba Initiative’s proposed building of an Islamic center within a couple of blocks of the huge hole where the World Trade Center once towered. Straight to confront the firestorm of opposition to a plan that includes a prayer room, an athletic center, culinary school, and art studios.

What if members of the Catholic Church wanted to build a center within a few blocks of the Oklahoma City National Memorial? I doubt there’d be a problem.

But we are living a problemathon.

Needing You

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs believe that more than 6000 veterans will commit suicide in 2010.

According to an article in Foreign Policy, an average of one soldier a day committed suicide in June.

When Barack Obama spoke to Disabled Veterans of America (DVA) in Georgia on August 2, he addressed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), calling it “a pain like no other” and said: "… the hopelessness that has led too many of our troops and veterans to take their own lives. Today, I want to say to anyone who is struggling—do not suffer in silence. It’s not a sign of weakness to reach out for support—it’s a sign of strength. Your country needs you."

“Your country needs you.” Yes, the United States of American needs you.

Your country needs you for imperialist wars and occupations.

Your country needs you to secure the resources of other countries.

Woe: the Politics of Exploitation

The Washington Post online edition headline read: “Obama tells veterans the end of the Iraq war is about to begin.”

“The end of the Iraq war is about to begin.”

I say this like a mantra, and note that there is something absurdly absurd about the language, here. More familiar is the ominous phrase “the beginning of the end.” As in “woe is me.” And, yes, I know some would correct this to “woe is I.” But to say “the end of the Iraq war is about to begin” carries an illusion of hope. Certainly, that’s the intent.

I’ve read the text of Obama’s message to Disabled American Veterans (DAV) and didn’t see this quote, anywhere, so I’m unsure if it is an Obamaism, something he said, prior to, or after, the speech. It is clear, though, that 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq in a support role, training and advising Iraqis.

Devil's Food Cake

President 43 will be 49 on August 4 and Mrs. 43 has e-mailed with a request. I’m sure many of you received the appeal.

Michelle says: “Every year, our family tries to come up with a fun way to wish Barack a happy birthday.”

The hostess of the White House continues with: “This has been a big—and hectic—year for him.” Duh.

Here’s some of the penciling on Barack Obama’s dance card.

A surge of militarism.

A surge in Afghanistan.

A surge in troop deaths.

A surge in suicide among veterans.

A surge in WikiLeak-ing of US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A surge of droning in Pakistan.

A surge in civilian slaughter.

A surge of hatred.

A surge of mercenaries.

A surge in the insurgency.

A surge in war spending.

A surge of warmongering greed.

A surge of rhetoric to attack Iran.

A surge of wink wink to Big Insurance and Big Pharma.

A surge of uninsured.

A surge of oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

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