Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Hollywood victim myth-making of the gender-correct kind

The last film I saw in a theater was Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Daniel Day-Lewis, in 2002. Since the advent of digital video formats and the outrageous prices attendant to going to a theater, if a film was any good (usually involving a director and actors who are true stars, not Ken and Barbie cutouts), I’d prefer to wait for the DVD. Bur sometimes I miss the boat; the Scorsese/DiCaprio pairing in Shutter Island— was a film I should have seen on the big screen, and ignored until I saw the DVD in a retail store for $5, and I’ve wasted more money on junk food on any given day. I recalled that the film received generally positive reviews, with the notable exception of the Washington Post and the New York Times. One has to point out, however, that these reviewers completely missed the boat, but for a different reason: Plot points inside a “delusional” man’s head aren’t supposed to make “sense.”

Shutter Island turned out to be an intense psychological thriller, following DiCaprio’s federal marshal (Edward Daniels) and his first time partner to an island prison/hospital for the criminally insane to investigate the mysterious disappearance of one of the inmates, a woman who drowned her three children. At first the marshals receive little cooperation from the staff, and Daniels receives a cryptic message from one inmate, who advises him to “run.” But for one reason or another, the marshals cannot leave the island, and eventually Daniels decides to remain until he discovers what he assumes is the terrible truth about what is going on in a certain mysterious ward, and even more dastardly crimes being committed in the lighthouse upon the inmates.

But since this is a psychological thriller, nothing is as simple as that. Daniels cannot escape the island not because of some evil being perpetrated there that cannot be revealed to the outside world, but because he himself is an inmate. Although many reviewers claimed that this was the kind of film whose intricacies, red herrings and “shocking” plot twists were only evident in retrospect (much like films such as The Sixth Sense and The Ninth Configuration) and demanded repeat viewings, I “got” everything on the first viewings—save for one nagging problem: Why Daniels was incarcerated there in the first place.

Daniels has several flashbacks that are meant to justify what several characters claim to imply “violent” proclivities—and what Daniels calls being a “monster.” The first, coming early in the film, show Daniels as a World War II soldier entering the Dachau concentration camp, appalled by the thousands of corpses he sees. Soon afterwards, he and his fellow soldiers in a state of vengeance line-up the camp guards against a fence and shoot down every one of them. Midway through the film, Daniels is obsessed by a ghostly image of a young girl who asks him why he didn’t “save” her. Another inmate tells him that he won’t “escape” unless he accepts the “truth” and goes on with his life. 

The final flashback sees Daniels returning home to find his wife soaking wet, and his three children floating dead in the lake beyond, drowned by their mother. After carrying the children back to the yard, Daniels—in an obviously understandable state of shock, is approached by his wife (apparently insane) who embraces him. We then hear the report of a gunshot, and she falls dead. Now, in the “real” world, Daniel’s actions may have been interpreted as a “temporary” state of insanity (and if gender roles were reversed, to be “justified”), and he might even have been acquitted of voluntary manslaughter if he had a persuasive attorney. 

But that is not what happened. We are supposed to believe that this action made Daniels “insane,” that he is a naturally violent “monster” who has injured (and even maimed) some fellow inmates (although he is the only one we see attacked by others in the film), that he has invented a fictional persona for both himself and his dead wife (the “missing” inmate) to psychologically “escape” from his “crime”—and  worst of all, he is made by the script writer to shoulder the blame for the death of his children (“I killed my children,” he “confesses”). 

In a state of “acceptance” of the truth, Daniels admits that he “murdered” his wife, whose own actions were the product of a creeping insanity brought on by some mysterious “syndrome” that only women seem to suffer, and that her husband should have seen the “warning signs” and “saved” his children by sending her away for psychiatric help before she acted on her murderous “intentions.” Because he didn’t suspect this, he was a “violent monster.” The irony, of course, is that if the prison’s psychiatrists actually wanted to “cure” him, it was their obligation to convince him that in fact he was not—that his actions were an “understandable” reaction to the horror he was confronted with.

If you’ve heard this all before, you are quite correct. Texas “mother” Andrea Yates drowned her five children in a bathtub, the horror of the act itself can be left to the imagination. This isn’t shooting, drugging or gassing in carbon monoxide, either a quick or painless death; this is waterboarding to death. Yates had to actually hold down her struggling children (all boys) in the water. Yates claimed that she was sending them to “heaven,” and had “intended” in killing herself, but she of course didn’t. Perhaps she knew that there is something strange among Texas jurors, who seem to have such a high regard for “mothers”—white ones, anyways—that the only possible reason for committing such a heinously disturbing act is insanity, which of course is what the jury found her “guilty” of in her retrial.

But the sanctity of motherhood inspires other myths, like the father “ignoring” the “warning” signs of an impending slaughter, just as the Daniels’ character was “supposed” to. The deceit of this is part of the current myth that men are beasts and women are passive “victims”—even by their own children. Yates’ husband was vilified for “ignoring” the psychological “signs” that she was devolving into a state of murder. Yet we are supposed to assume that he is some kind of “mind reader,” that he is to imagine that his wife’s occasionally strange behavior is supposed to tip him off that she has something so horrific in mind that he must “assume” the worst? There are those who might even accuse him of being “crazy” and “misogynistic” for even suggesting it.

This politically-correct myth-making that asserts that women are “victims” even in the commission of such a horrific crime of murdering a child in a most agonizing fashion is used in Shutter Island as a difficult to tolerate justification for everything that transpired. By ending that way, what was until the last 10 minutes was a mesmerizing thriller turned out to be an overlong justification for male guilt for the crimes of women, particularly by mothers against their own children. 

I don’t blame Scorsese for this mendacity, but the writer of the story. I’m sure the victim myth premise was seen as “contemporary,” but for me the falsity of it destroyed the rationalization of the film itself; I didn’t believe for one minute that Daniels was the true “bad guy” in the film, but a scapegoat for the crimes of others more deserving of scrutiny.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Hypocrisy on the march

Will this coming presidential campaign season be a referendum on serious policy questions of importance to all Americans? Hah! Who is kidding who? It has already turned into a “referendum” on hypocrisy and gender politics. Take for instance the Fox News-sponsored Republican debate (or so it was styled) some weeks ago that turned out to be little more than Donald Trump-bashing affair—not, of course, that he didn’t have it coming to him. For his part, Trump thought he “won” the debate of 10, although if moronic histrionics full of lies, fiction and race-baiting is what moves the Republican base, let’s just say that wouldn’t surprise me. 

As might be expected, a debate hosted by a right-wing “news” network was more interested in conservative social issues than actual policy that means anything. Other than Sen. Ted Cruz’s pathetic and failed effort to prostrate himself before the Anglo voting gods, the “star” of the show was of course Trump, who followed up his claim that all Mexican (male) immigrants (and “probably” those who are not) are “rapists” with the assertion that  all immigrants coming across the border are basically the scum of the earth: "They (the Mexican government) send the bad ones over because the stupid leaders of the United States will take care of them and that's what's happening, whether you like it or not.” He “elaborated” that all Mexican immigrants are hardened “criminals” and the U.S. government is allowing them to run wild in the streets robbing and killing.

Now to his credit, Fox co-debate moderator Chris Wallace took Trump to task on this insinuation, demanding that he supply evidence in support. Eventually, Trump could only lamely say that he was told this by unnamed border agents, as if they had an unbiased opinion on the matter. But CNN in its post-debate “fact check” never actually addressed the claim that “all” immigrants are “criminals,” instead lamely pointing out that “The Pew Center shows that the number of undocumented immigrants coming from Mexico has actually declined after the recession of 2008 and the undocumented population is stable at 11 million people. The Pew report also notes that the deportations hit a record high in 2013, around 400,000 per year, and many were criminals.”

Nothing here about the fact that the vast majority come here for work to support themselves or their families—unlike some “natives” who do nothing if it is not given them, and expect someone or something else to “support” them in their miserable indolence.  Of course, it would be too much to expect CNN, which has contributed to the poisonous propaganda against Hispanics as scapegoats, to actually address what Andres Oppenheimer of the Miami Herald wrote after the debate:

“None of them (the Republican candidates), with the possible exception of (Jeb) Bush, made a thorough argument that the majority of the 34 million people of Mexican origin in the United States are good, hard-working people. Bush said most undocumented immigrants ‘want to provide for their family,’ (but) immediately added, ‘but we need to control our border.’”

On the other hand CNN, like its counterparts (with the exception of Fox News), continuously kowtows to black political propaganda, since blacks have a monopoly on the racism trade. I frequently hear whites and blacks “commiserate” about the “common enemy,” the “Mexicans,” and I recall once listening to some disgusting caricatures of “Mexicans” when I called out the (white) person making the comments which I considered racist, and he and his listeners claimed that they didn’t believe the comments were saying was “racist,” to which I reiterated my belief that I thought they were. The point, of course, is that negative propaganda against Hispanics has gone unchecked and unquestioned by the major media, and while CNN has numerous black talking heads to talk about racism, all the network allows for the largest minority group in the country is one toadying Republican political commentator.

So where are we to find media willing to discuss the “truth”—say, one of “liberal” Seattle’s two “alternative” weeklies—like The Stranger? It has lately taken to publishing a weekly “airing” of Elvis Presley’s “dirty laundry,” as if 95 percent if its current readership has ever heard of him or the slightest bit familiar with his music. What’s the point? Are there not more important things to discuss? I’m sure that everyone has done something that they cringe at the thought that someone might actually remember it, or have done things that people can “construe” to be strange if viewed from a particular angle. I’m sure that Madonna has done things she wishes that she never did, like putting out that “Sex” book with the metallic cover; on Amazon’s review page, someone named “Wong” wrote this: “Me hate this book. It have Madonna undressed and she horrible and grimey. Me no want see that slob with clothes on, but with no clothes, me had to rinse eyes with bleach after seeing that mess. If you like upset stomach, then this book for you. Ah-so, me no likey. Me want shove spoon in eye after that.”

Anyways, The Stranger further emptied its credibility into the privy stool by joining the ranks of the media and other so-called “progressives” in providing a stool load of lame excuses for the contemptible behavior of three “black lives matter” women who put their ignorance on parade at Westlake Center. One of the Stranger’s apologists claimed that Bernie Sanders wasn’t the “straight shooter” that many take him to because he didn’t “address” the BLM incident directly at a later UW event. OK, I’ll give you some “straight shooting.” Sanders shouldn’t have been expected to degrade himself by mentioning the embarrassing behavior of BLM folks; their actions spoke for themselves, and he was doing them a favor. 

Other commentators justified the behavior because of longstanding racial prejudice that hasn’t gone away, and white “progressives” don’t “get it.” Maybe what they don’t “get” is why that justifies rude and obnoxious behavior, obliviously to the rights of others; I see that all the time at the Kent Public Library. I agree that many white “progressives” are only interested in their own “right” to do whatever they want to do, and are only interested in minority concerns insofar as it doesn’t interfere with their own. But BLM folks should know that there is a difference between those who do bad and those who at least don’t make things any worse; that was a lesson that should have been learned in 2000. 

Someone named Rick Smith complained that Sanders’ didn’t “apologize” for “talking over” some BLM and lesbian “protestors” shouting inanely at him at that Arizona event, who again just saw an old white man challenging the favored one. Maybe that’s his secret “point.” Interestingly, Hillary Clinton has not been subject to these actions; at one recent event, Clinton was “warned” of the arrival of some BLM people, and rather than having an embarrassing video clip of a shouting match to explain, she had the protestors physically barred from entering the campaign event, promising to talk to them “privately” later. There has never been any information provided given the nature of that “private” discussion; one wonders if a “deal” was made, and its nature. It wouldn’t be difficult to deduce.

Meanwhile, you shouldn’t be surprised by how many black commentators on the Internet who attack Sanders because he is “old,” has “white” hair and is, well, an old white man with “old” values. Oh, and Hillary isn’t an “old” woman? Well, at least we can say her “values” are “new,” insofar that she will eagerly kowtow to angry, hypocritical people who never ask questions like “Do black lives matter to the blacks who are responsible to 90 percent of the murders of other blacks?” Please answer the question; some of those killed were innocent people killed “accidentally” in random drive-by shootings. The attitude toward life these killers display is no doubt the same one that police encounter every day—yet only what they do is worth “discussing.” At least Sanders is talking about solutions to the problem of having too many angry people on the street with nothing “better” to do.

If the “alternative” media can’t muster up any credibility (and don’t even get me started on the right-wing variety—which includes Ron Paul and his racist and “doom and gloom” propaganda), then surely the “mainstream” media is giving us “just the facts”? I think we already discovered what to expect, but it doesn’t hurt to add more grist to the mill. As if Sanders’ candidacy doesn’t have enough problems with the BLM hypocrisy on one side, there goes the media trying to keep the focus on gender rather than issues that affect most Americans. Why must we be assaulted for refusing to genuflect in fear before the demands of a small but accusatory rabble rather seek substance? When Barack Obama was elected president, many people expected “big” things to happen, and we can say that healthcare reform was the “biggest” thing the federal government has done positively for all people since the New Deal. What do we expect from Hillary? Does it even matter? Is just being elected enough for some people?

Apparently so. Sanders supports and has supported for at least 50 years many progressive policies, yet the mainstream media, as expected, isn’t interested in the “issues” that effect most people, particularly in the sub-median income range; after all, they are all owned by gigantic corporations too with executives in need of fat paychecks. No, they’d rather keep Wall Street-friendly Hillary afloat by allowing its (mainly white female) commentators to talk about—hair. Even the New York Times’ Ana Marie Cox through objectivity to the wind, unable to conceal her pique that anyone would have the temerity to “challenge” Clinton’s unquestioning media-greased path to the White House. Cox asked Sanders why he thinks that Clinton’s hair is getting more “attention” than his; Sanders, confused, asked her to repeat the question. 

“Hillary’s hair gets more scrutiny than my hair? Is that what you’re asking?” Sanders clarified. Cox confirmed that was indeed what she was asking. Sanders went on

O.K., Ana, I don’t mean to be rude here. I am running for president of the United States on serious issues, O.K.? Do you have serious questions?

 Cox: I can defend that as a serious question. There is a gendered reason…

Sanders: When the media worries about what Hillary’s hair looks like or what my hair looks like, that’s a real problem. We have millions of people who are struggling to keep their heads above water, who want to know what candidates can do to improve their lives, and the media will very often spend more time worrying about hair than the fact that we’re the only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee health care to all people.

Cox: It’s also true that the media pays more attention to what female candidates look like than it does to what male candidates look like.

Excuse me, but isn’t that the media’s problem, not Sanders? The American people don’t care about Clinton’s hair, her pantsuits or the ton of face powder she uses to disguise her prune face. They care about the “issues”—or at least some of them do.

And if anyone doubts that this has become a “gendered” election months away from the first presidential primary, get a load of all the fallout from Trump’s harrumphing about Fox’s Megyn Kelly, who he accused of having “female problems” in asking questions that some could interpret as being nothing more than personal attacks—not of course that Trump doesn’t deserve to be personally attacked, but just that the person making them has little credibility on any issue, and that includes gender issues. Oh sure, Kelly has the same self-obsession and pomposity as other women (alright, and men too) in the media business, but I found it odd that while it was true that Trump may have made some politically-incorrect gender observations, many on the left have said worse about Kelly and her habit of making inane comments and giving a hearing for the views of all sorts of far-right bigots and anti-government fanatics, while continuing Fox’s usual policy of avoiding the airing of alternative viewpoints. 

Of course, those people unexpectedly defending Kelly did so for “gendered” reasons, not for the actual “issues.” That’s a surprise?  After the Trump blowback, Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, was suddenly being described as a “alternative” to the pick-em’ white males currently on the Republican roster, with some in the media (mainly females) salivating over the possibility of both parties nominating a woman for president. Again, it has nothing to do with the issues; while Fiorina has been publically critical of the terms many Republicans use, she is by no stretch more “moderate” than, say, Ted Cruz. 

It is still early in the process, but that may be the point: The media is trying to “shape” the “message”—or lack of one—to try to “influence” the course of the “debate”—or lack thereof—to satisfy its advocacy for conceit. What matters in the average person’s life is not important.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

"Benign" little building in Kent that gave me the "creeps"

The photo book Lost Detroit: Stories Behind the Motor City’s Majestic Ruins chronicles the demise of some magnificent buildings in the city of Detroit, built when the automobile industry was virtually unchallenged and the executives had delusions of imperial grandeur. But with the demise of that dominance and massive job losses, “white flight” and the subsequent loss of income and tax revenue—reducing the city’s share of the metropolitan area to a mere fraction—the magnificent theaters, hotels, office buildings and even the grand Michigan Central Station were gradually left abandoned for lack of patrons and funds to maintain them. 

Today, most of these structures still stand, because of the lack of funds to level them, and because white developers simply don’t see any profit in developing in the city. Save for an unkempt look, the interiors of many of these buildings have that ghostly look of just having been vacated for mysterious reasons; but most appear to be simply crumbling away, as “nature” takes over.

There are abandoned buildings in Seattle, perhaps not as grandiose as the ruins of ancient Rome. But an abandoned structure doesn’t have to be grandiose to arouse curiosity. Take for example that windowless gray-painted building adjacent to the old Metro Park & Ride in Kent, since relocated and renamed Kent Station, to accommodate the Sound Transit commuter trains. This used to be the location of a temporary employment agency called “Command Labor,” and I can recall some 15 years ago that it was still a going concern. But at least a decade has passed since it was shut down, and it has just existed in place, apparently unused, abandoned and forgotten. I always assumed that it was locked up like a drum, its interior bereft of any sign that it has been used for anything. 

The building was too commonplace a sight for me take interest in it besides the wonder if it was ever going to used again. I had never actually walked past the building at close range until the other day, when I noticed that it wasn’t as tight as a drum as I thought it was. Although there was still a padlock on the glass front door, adjacent to it someone had punched a hole in the wall large enough to squeeze through it. I poked my nose through this hole and viewed a very uncared for interior, full of garbage and peeling paint. There was another door at an angle to my right. I assumed it was locked, but to my surprise the door opened; apparently someone had climbed in through the hole and unlocked the door from within. So I just moseyed in to take a look. The interior to the right had several small rooms, the walls pealing and crumbling, with loose trash piling up everywhere. 

It was the same story as I explored the building to my right. Everything in sight suggested that all of the furniture and appliances of business had long been removed, but it had not been entirely “abandoned.” As I walked through assorted refuse, and mounds of something that looked more “organic” that I tried to avoid stepping in, the shuttered, dark atmosphere started to give me the creeps, without knowing exactly why since I saw no one and heard nothing. I walked past a large mirror in a short hallway that led to a large room with a long counter which I assumed was used as a reception area to dole out work assignments and fill out paperwork. Beyond that was a large space which seemed to have once been a storage area that reached high to the ceiling, with an upright ladder that now was reaching somewhere to nowhere. A few metal pipes were stacked in a corner, and more mounds of garbage was heaped over every square inch of available floor space. I suspected that the building had been “occupied” over the many years, and vagabonds had brought in food and other items and simply left their leavings to pile up over time. 

I saw no evidence of permanent habitation, which surprised me a bit until I wondered how anyone could find anyplace to “bed down” in all of this filth. I saw nothing more of interest and backtracked out of the place. But walking past that mirror in the hallway I noticed that it was actually attached to a closed door, with a knob. Since it was the only room that was shut off in this way, I grabbed hold of the knob and gave it a twist. It opened into an even darker void, and peering inside I sensed nothing before me, but I also loathed to explore it too deeply. 

Still, my curiosity forced me to linger a moment longer than I should have, for suddenly I heard this low, ghostly voice say “Hey, what’s up?” or something of that nature. I am not ashamed to say that I shuddered in alarm by being confronted by someone or something in the darkest void of this building, especially in the middle of the day. What “human” could possibly be sitting in there in such complete blackness? The “voice” didn’t sound as if it had been aroused from slumber, but perfectly in a wakeful state. It was all really “creepy” indeed. I closed the door and abandoned the place posthaste, my “curiosity” sated forever more. 

So it is that if anyone else shares my curiosity about what lies within that old gray building that has stood “empty” all these years, consider yourself duly informed. The only question in my mind is why the city of Kent continues to allow this haunted, festering little boil to exist, despite its “benign” appearance.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Bernie Sanders’ Seattle visit turns into an “ignorance matters” affair

I haven’t felt like writing lately, but events over the weekend have made it imperative that I make a statement. Now let’s get two facts straight. One, Bernie Sanders has been the most progressive member of the U.S. Senate for many years, and probably in the entire Congress. He is authentic; people haven’t heard much about him because his voice tends to be drowned out by the partisan bickering that the media regards as good for ratings.  Two, Hillary Clinton “stands for” whatever she thinks will get her elected, whether conservative or liberal. She says the “right things” to Democratic interest groups, even though we know that what she is doing inflames irresponsibility and victim myths. In short, she is a phony.

Now, what happened last Saturday at Seattle’s Westlake Center proves that there are plenty of people ignorant on both counts. Sanders stopped by for a campaign rally, and like the recent event in Arizona, he was hounded and harassed by the “black lives matter” fanatics who apparently don’t think anyone else’s lives matter (most people shot by police are not black; it just “appears” that way). Now, if these people actually had any sense or sense of personal responsibility, and had taken the time to educate themselves about Sanders and his political and social views—and compare them to Clinton’s—they would know that Sanders has their interests very much in mind. 

Let’s face the truth for just one second. We saw the one year “anniversary” of the Michael Brown shooting; he was a thief and a thug. He wasn’t gainfully employed. His actions before and during the attempt to arrest him (he had, after all, just committed a crime) suggest that he was one of those gangsta “tough” guys, and a stupid one at that. We can “discuss” whether he “deserved” to be shot by a police officer, or who his life mattered too. But Sanders’ vision that the working people “matter” and his policy positions concerning the unequal distribution of wealth and lack of adequate job creation because of the way income is dispersed is something that those ignorant protestors at Westlake should know would help themselves find jobs that pay a living wage, instead of being on the street in the occupation of thieves, dealers and thugs. That is just the simple truth.

Of course, it is Clinton who benefits from all this mendacity meant to beat down the authentic candidate and put the fraud on a pedestal. What Clinton says to appease the “black lives matter” mob does nothing to solve their problem; as I said before, all it does is inflame the sense of victim “entitlement” and failure to take responsibility for the failure of civilized norms in their own communities. That’s it.

It goes without saying that the media has also inflamed this irresponsibility, and has taken every opportunity to demote Sanders for his audacity in giving the fraud a run for her money. Deep down, we know that people are playing the gender game, believing that Clinton is “owed” the presidency. Clinton was the only person who could have benefited from that farce at Westlake, and I wouldn’t be the least surprised if some in the crowd were Clinton stooges who wanted to embarrass and hound Sanders out of the race. Authenticity doesn’t matter to them; ignorance and phoniness does.