And it’s about cushions…
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day here on the blue fringes of Jesustan and I was out filming a symposium at the university. While I’m doing this, Laura is discovering Rachel Stevens of S-Club 7 so, y’know, the world has started spinning off its axis. Poptastic. Anyway, I now type to the sound of “Sweet dreams, my LA ex!” Bizarre really, when just a few short months ago I was putting out S-Club TV shows on the BBC kids channels. I digress.
Yesterday was Martin Luther King Day. And I was out filming. A symposium. Some people lecturing, if you will. One of them was Mary Sue Coleman, the president of the University of Michigan in who’s office, you may remember, I left one of my business cards a few months back. In her dictionary. Anyway, she’s just taken a case for pro-active admission of minorities all the way to the Supreme Court. And won.
I’ve no idea if Mary Sue has found the Ascalon Films card yet but there she was, looking right into the camera every so often, as she described the UofM’s commitment to equal opportunities. Also on the panel was Henry Cisneros and he mellowed me out. Henry cracked some jokes, described how he was once introduced as “Henry Cheesenachos” and then spoke about Martin Luther King.
MLK, said Henry, didn’t change the message for different audiences. He believed in everyone’s ability to achieve more than they expect of themselves, to stretch themselves. MLK gave the same message wherever he went. He didn’t talk down to people. He expected them to keep up or find out for themselves what he was about. He believed people could be taught. So does Mary Sue Coleman. And I find this at odds with my rant of the other day. At least generally. Which is a good thing.
Henry, unfortunately, blew his wad several years ago by cheating, lying, and helping the FBI waste money in unneccessary investigations, although I suspect his political enemies were just looking for an excuse. Which is a shame. Because some of the things Cisneros said, when quoting MLK, were right. And they might get ignored because of the aforementioned. You need character, belief and optimism to change things. And more, we all need to learn “the simple art of living together”.
I think I, like most people, have slipped into sloppy thinking. The kind of sloppy thinking that’s led to the dumbing down of the BBC and the news media in general. I remember Grelle White asking me what veridian was and I explained it was a shade of green. She changed my copy because the readers of the Watford Observer were expected to be dumb. I still regard that as an error, although Grelle as a person is terrific. I prefer to think people are capable of more.
Which makes it hard to live in a world where people do so many dumb things. Take Ariel Sharon, for instance. Please. Sharon is the leader of the world’s most evil regime, without any doubt. His latest call to crackdown on Palestinians because their new leader hasn’t done enough is a sick joke.
“Despite the change in Palestinian leadership, we have yet to see them taking any action against terror,” Mr Sharon told his cabinet.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had been elected less than a week.
I find this kind of behaviour disgusting. Ariel Sharon is clearly trying to force armageddon. It behooves us (and I think I can say “behooves” because I think you, dear readers, are smart), it behooves us to stand up in the face of people like this and say, “No, you’re behaving in a self-serving, violent way. We won’t sell you arms. We won’t buy goods or deal with your country. We don’t recognise your authority and we are issuing sanctions against you. You are a malicious occupying parasite which trades on a bankrupt stock of pro-semitic sympathy that Israel no longer warrants.”
Then last night, I viewed more films for the Ann Arbor Film Festival. We get a lot of one hour documentaries, clearly geared for TV slots. They’re usually forgettable, dull, unimaginative and easily ignored. One of them wasn’t. It was about environmental activist Judi Bari, arrested for allegedly causing an explosion that almost killed her. Earth First campaigned for nearly 12 years to clear her name, fighting stalling by the FBI as the logging companies decimated thousands of acres of ancient redwood forest and loggers milled away their children’s futures.
What impressed me was Judi’s ability to change things by actually working with the loggers, rather than against them. Pointing out that the forest is a limited resource in small communities and enlisting support from the loggers themselves. That’s incredibly powerful. Change can happen, although the mill owners switched from creating planks to pulping the wood, which is less labour (spelled correctly) intensive while hugely more destructive. Change can yet happen. Bari showed it happens when the protestors work with–not against–the people they want to change. The art of living together.
What also impressed me was the determination of Earth First as they fought their civil suit against the FBI. They showed that people can make a difference, right can triumph over wrong, good over bad.
There must be good people in the FBI who roll their eyes every time cases like these come up. Equally, there are good Jewish people in the world who abhore violence done in their name in the middle East. I was reminded of that today–that large organizations and groups are not homogenous entities to be tarred with broad brushes–when I read a report in the New York Times relating to a story carried on Laura, Alex and Joseph’s website, Martini Republic. I thought the NYT piece was well-written, accurate and balanced. And it reminded me that there are good journalists out there, reporters with integrity. The publishers and broadcasters might be out to make swift bucks or gain some kind of political capital, but most reporters are just doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. Likewise, I’m sure, most FBI folks. It’s a few idiots who’ve got positions they shouldn’t have who erode the credibility of the rest.
Which kind of brings us back to Prince Harry, doesn’t it? Maybe. Or Sarah Ferguson, who’s dopey visage yet grins dimly from the brightly lit magazine racks at the book shop in the mall. I had to avert mine eyes lest I be struck to somnabulance. I found both respite and inspiration in the pages of this month’s National Geographic, my favorite (spelled USA correctly) source of photographic inspiration. Last night I felt much more positive about the whole stupid world things than I had felt the other day. And I too had a dream. But I don’t think it will help anyone because, unlike MLK, I’d had a beer. Or two.
I dreamt I was learning to be a judge. The court was convened in a branch of Woolworths and my teacher and I were sat on a stage atop the cushion display as we dispensed justice. At one point I stood up–and some bastard nicked my cushion! When I sat down, boomf, hardness. I checked and the cushion cover had been replaced. They’d just stolen the filling. I leapt down to the floor and found these two guys walking out with what was clearly an overstuffed cushion that they’d only paid a regular price for. I grabbed it, unzipped it, and three cushion fillings came out. I immediately sentenced them for contempt.
If you can explain this. Please. Don’t bother. Laura is now playing, “For what it’s worth” originally by Buffalo Springfield and the pop has ended. I think Buffalo Springfield originally formed on my birthday in 1964. They sang about a pointless war, which shouldn’t have been waged. And the world changed. The world can still change. It takes a whole lot of optimism, and less sitting on the cushions, but the system is actually good and we can all use it. It’s not the stupid people make me angry. It’s callousness where responsibility should be the norm. We still need to learn that simple art of living together.