TWO DECADES – ONE SPACE

Aquarian Weekly
8/29/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

TWO DECADES – ONE SPACE
How The Hell Did This Happen?

I find that by putting things in writing I can understand them and see them a little more objectively … For words are merely tools and if you use the right ones you can actually put even your life in order, if you don’t lie to yourself and use the wrong words.

– Hunter S. Thompson from a letter to Larry Callen, July, 14, 1958

The godfather of this space wrote that when he was 21. It took me some time to find it this week from the volumes of his collected letters compiled by my friend and film-maker Wayne Ewing at the turn of the century. It is the best way that I can describe how I’ll cobble together these thousand-or-so words to fill out this column I’ve been sending to press for two decades this week. There is a great deal of wisdom the Doctor imparts in those pages, some of them I was lucky enough to discuss with him on several occasions when he was alive. Last time I saw him was in 2004 at the Union Square Barnes & Noble where I was honored to give him a copy of my second book, Fear No Art, the first collection from words written right here in this space. When I first met him in the early 90s I had yet to be a published author. I was still a free-lance geek wrestling with a baseball manuscript that I would later abandon to finish my first book. All the time, somewhere in the ether, was the Aquarian Weekly and what would become this monstrosity we call Reality Check.

To borrow an overused phrase; it was twenty years ago today…I was in New York City to see Sinéad O’Connor (whom I later interviewed for a cover story) at the Beacon Theater, a show I would review for this paper and others. I ducked into the Roosevelt Hotel, where my dearest and oldest friend Master Chris Barrera was toiling in an audio/visual mélange, and faxed (that’s right, kids) a 350-word piece about a riot at a vegetarian rally in Eastern Connecticut. For all intents and purposes it was a “first date” for me and my soon-to-be wife of 18 years and my first stream of words of this run. It was, to say the least, a significant moment on all fronts.

I can’t recall what the segment was called, but it was three commentators taking on similar subjects from different angles. This lasted a few months, maybe close to a year, but at some point, as is my wont, I was the last one hanging around, and this paper’s managing editor at the time, a burly and gregarious biker-scribe named Dan Davis, asked me to just keep writing.

Davis had nabbed me (and by nabbed I mean a phone call that I taped at the time in which he literally threatened me) during my writing of the aforementioned first book, which would become Deep Tank Jersey. That thing, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, provided me the most writing gigs I had ever been offered. I was 32 and I was determined to take on too many stories and go to too many queer places for the bylines. Some of that period ended up in my only novel, completed in 2002 and published 11 years later. It will no doubt stand as my manifesto on the damage inflicted by sending words for a living.

Davis and I concocted some weird shit for many magazines, including the now-defunct East Coast Rocker, where I wrote regular sports and social commentary for two years. Then all of a sudden, Chris Uhl, my second managing editor, came on board and demanded words. Uhl was an ornery but fair bastard with an incredible penchant to locate enemies without much evidence. I found that an enviable trait and immediately took his orders as gospel. It was Uhl who told me not to worry about petty things like censorship or decorum or what Keith Richards once described to a presiding Sussex judge as “petty morals” and to write “whatever the hell you like”, and I took that straight to the core of my terrible being and began to do so.

Uhl was the one who named this space Reality Check sometime in 1998, the year I first “covered” the World Series, which I would do for this space and others for the next four years. I covered the controversial 2000 presidential election and began to build on my “connections” and get access to some of the most bizarre places in politics and sports and entertainment and did not apologize for any of it. There were many warriors I befriended and many deviants to squelch. I once shared these pages with a proud maniac named Bill Roberts, who toiled at this thing for a few years before he had to quit due to dangerous circumstances that I knew all too well. The cover story after 9/11 may have been our proudest moment. It hangs framed in the Reality Check News & Information Desk headquarters at the Clemens Estate. It was high combative times and no one got rich, but there were words, so many words.

It is a tribute to the very point of this existence to find those truths for you, the reader; the one who makes the writer whole.

Somewhere along the line I worked my way through a decade of this nonsense and built an incredible mailing list, abused many interns and assistants, and met some incredible artists and politicians and actors and musicians and you name it. The first time I did something like this on the anniversary of my tenth year, we had many of these people weigh in; Ani Difranco, John Cusack, Ralph Nader (still my favorite interview among many), Pat Buchanan, Eric Hutchinson, Dan Bern and more. It was kind of gratuitous, but how could you blame me? Ten years? That seemed insane then; 20 years is pure madness.

I have been writing under this banner longer than anything I have ever done. Period. Longer than my marriage, longer than my entire schooling, way longer than I have ever lived in one place – Reality Check has outlived Yankee Stadium and many of my favorite places in NYC that have long been turned into banks or Starbucks. I now have a daughter, as many of the beloved people in my life have added to this human experiment. I went from a transient to domesticated (started at the Putnam Bunker in New York through Mount Vernon up in ski country, New Jersey, to my current digs in the mountains) during this run. I have seen myself speed closer to death and somehow understand why it needs to come.

Manning this ship has given me life-long brethren in my ensuing managing editors who carried on Uhl’s edict to “Let Campion go!” and for that pristinely glorious gift I thank the dogged J.J. Koczan, the mercurial Patrick Slevin, and that man for whom I now stand at the parapets and aim high, Giorgio Mustica, the only one of these lunatics I have yet to meet and bend an elbow and close a musty tavern to spit on the universe and thank whatever is up there for the time it takes to crank one of these fuckers out for posterity.

I was able to accomplish here for 20 years a damnable edict; millions upon millions of words to pursue what I had always dreamed of long before I wanted to be a writer – when my mom took me to get my first library card – find a place where you can get it down and get it out and have people read it – unfiltered, undeterred, ample and willing. I am reminded of Ernest Hemingway’s wonderful mantra for the writer with a deadline, “Do not worry. You have written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.”

Here is mine: It is a tribute to the very point of this existence to find those truths for you, the reader; the one who makes the writer whole. We dance this thing together because we must. We disagree, we agree, we debate and we ride the piss-train, but it has to remain so.

Not sure I have much left in me, but as long as the words come I will take pride in putting them together here, like I did this morning of August 25, 2017, nearly 20 years to the day I first sent words to this paper and began this journey that somehow keeps on going. It is my scar, my disease, my elixir and my anguished joy.

Thanx for reading it.

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STUMBLING INTO FATHERHOOD

Aquarian Weekly
6/21/17

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

STUMBLING INTO FATHERHOOD
Dedicated to the Dad in All of Us

I have never written much about my daughter in this space. That is not what it’s for. I do recognize that in its origins nearly twenty years ago this coming August I would pepper these paragraphs with personal anecdotes and even deign to dedicate entire columns to the incredible happenstance of my marriage and the woman that I somehow convinced to love me. But I always saw those more as trite sociological deconstructions than any true profession of emotion that were nonetheless done with great care. Some people were even kind enough to call them romantic, which I think says more about the passing generation’s appalling lack of poetry than anything else.

But I had something happen to me this past week that has never happened before. And for someone only a few months from 55 years of age that is oddly monumental. On Saturday, June 10, Scarlet Moore Campion, nine years-old with a considerable shy streak that would never dare imagine doing anything in front of strangers much less family and friends, performed in her first piano recital. She’s only been playing for what…a year and half at most? And a good portion of it has been accompanied by the type of hemming and hawing and general whining that would make lesser humans than my wife or her lovely teacher, Chloe Nevill crack.

Good thing they didn’t, because despite all of it my girl kicked ass. Of course she did. I doubt I would dedicate a column to abject failure in the face of everything I have written above, but it wasn’t just the ass-kicking that plied me with the kind of bizarre awe that I have only read about. And it was also far beyond parental pride or a relief that this little person that I held in my arms within minutes of her passing through the birth canal was now sitting at a piano on a stage and performing a piece she learned on an instrument I could barely conceive. It was….what? Love, yes, but I would say it was more like a suspended moment of existential truth. It was as if I could grasp the surrealistic concept of joy, or at least understood it was possible. Like maybe if a butterfly had landed on my shoulder and handed me its novel.

Sure I was nervous for her, especially when she clutched my arm upon her microphone introduction and whispered, “Dad, I’m scared.” But I figured that much. Yet, as she walked up there and set her music down (eventually, since she forgot it at first) in front of the keyboard and began to play there was a visceral transformation in my DNA. It was shuffled around and put back together in an Escher rendering figured by William Blake’s dream. I tried to explaining all this to some artist friends the other night and I think we came to the conclusion that I had an out-of-body experience. I am fairly certain that my daughter’s actions distilled my corporal foundation from water and tissue into the ether and back again, leading to the stunning realization that I existed; but not as the guy writing this, but an extension of my daughter’s…let’s say, spirit, whatever the hell that is – I don’t know what it is, but it’s there and I was part of it and it was damned cool.

Better than being published. Better than being alive.

An old friend of mine, Rich Mattalian, who ended up being the participant in my first published book titled Deep Tank Jersey once told me, and I paraphrase here, that you don’t really know love until you have a kid. It sounds maudlin and gratuitous, especially when he told me twenty years ago when the very thought of offspring was silly. I never wanted a kid. Not this myopic, selfish, easily distracted boy/man with rage issues and a penchant for substance abuse. Just putting children around me is dangerous. Making one? Being responsible for its life, safety, personality and overall psychological make-up is to put it mildly pure madness. Then my wife and I had to go and have, and really did want, a girl.

I have come to understand from song and story that apparently fathers are pretty important to young women. So to say terror has been my main go-to emotion during the course of this purported meander through fatherhood for the past nine cycles around the sun is somewhat like saying the Grand Canyon is a hole in the ground.

You see, until Saturday fatherhood was a mystery to me. I’ve had many ups and downs with it, as anyone who has kids must. This is not unusual, I guess. I mean, it took me all of five seconds to understand the scope and depth of the idea of it. I loved my daughter immediately without combing its intellectual aspects from day-one. Strangely enough it is how I found my wife; all instinct and no pragmatism; the entire thing was like a car accident. You look up and you’re in it. No plan there. I have even kind of, sort of understood Scarlet and she may have understood me at some point. This never seemed to coalesce the way it did for me Saturday. There were stolen frozen moments in time, but not like this.

We could dance together and crack each other up, and damn it if we don’t both love NYC. To be fair, I kind of brainwashed her. Whenever we were left alone together from her initial months on the planet I would whisk her down to Washington Square Park or the Bleecker Street Playground and then I’d wheel her around and hell if she didn’t dig the sirens and yelling and cabs and weridos and sensations of the place as much as her old man. But beyond those things, fatherhood was something akin to holding onto a wild animal that at once could take your jugular and explode into a million crystals.

But then…Saturday.

I have no words for this. Epiphany is bullshit. Okay, it’s like that one crescendo in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony (also known as the “Ode To Joy”, because, well, you know he had to know) when it just goes wooooooooooo and takes off and it goes from outside of you where you were listening and burrows deep inside the you that was there before you heard it but is now somewhere in the composer’s head, as if you were fool enough to believe you were the one composing it. And I know Ol’ Ludwig tickled the ivies and it’s a tortured metaphor, but it’s honestly what I thought of…like being inside of something all of a sudden. There must be some kind religious or psychological term for this phenomenon. But whatever it is, I had it.

I still don’t know diddly about any of it. But I know this, seeing Scarlet up there playing the piano under a spotlight amidst the breathing and shuffling of people I have never seen and will likely never see again and having the whole thing suspend in the air of both time and space and then stumble back down into what I now choose to call fatherhood is one of the greatest things I have experienced. Better than being published. Better than being alive. Better than knowing that I won’t be alive at some point so it’s good to be alive.

It was something, man.

Really good. More than good.

And then we got some candy.

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A SEASONAL WISH

Aquarian Weekly
12/28/16

REALITY CHECK

James Campion

A SEASONAL WISH
What You Write The Day Before Christmas Eve With A Crushing Deadline

Hold me in your thoughts
Take me to your dreams
Touch me as I fall into view
When the winter comes
Keep the fires lit
And I will be right next to you

-Warren Zevon
“Keep Me In Your Heart”

I remember it vividly.

I was walking up 14th Street across from Union Square Park staring up at the Barnes & Noble where I last saw Hunter Thompson alive – the place we spoke for one of those short spurts I would get with him. Within a few months he would put a bullet through his brain. And I remember the June sun on my face and being thankful that everyone I loved was alive and more or less healthy. And I was momentarily pleased by this. It seemed right.

12-26_sw

I’m remembering this with only a week left in 2016 because it has been a tough one for a lot of us. Many of my friends and loved ones have had a rough go, like my dad dealing with health problems and my sister-in-law battling cancer, and still others who are gone now. This year, in particular, I lost my beloved mother-in-law, Mary Lou Moore. She was a uniquely gifted artist, and more importantly, loved this column and loved to laugh at its weekly impertinence and to be honest my general impertinence. And that always touched me; how such a sweet, creative, loving soul could get a genuine kick out of this mess.

She died in late June, almost two years to the day that I had my 14th Street epiphany. My wife and I were on our annual anniversary weekend sojourn in downtown NYC and Mary was at my mountain home hanging with our then six year-old daughter, Scarlet, who soon would be eight and find herself without her maternal grandmother.

Later in the year two good friends would lose their parents. This will be their first holiday season without them. My dad had a scare this year; quadruple bypass surgery. He’s had a couple of lousy health years. And the whole thing gets me thinking again of my 14th Street epiphany and I wonder if somehow I’m a jinx.

Or if I was trying to tell myself something that I’m now acutely aware seeing time pass over these two years and how everything that transpired did so in such a shockingly rapid manner that it all seems like a dream.

My dear Uncle Johnny – who has the distinction of two mentions in as many weeks in this space – was not well that summer. I had visited him in a hospital for patients with dementia down in Florida the previous February, and since his dad, my maternal grandfather, had suffered from the same malady, and I seemed to have acquired quite a few of their genes, I only assumed I would be going nuts soon or at least willing to admit I’ve been clinically nuts and not just symbolically so for some time. And I also wondered how long he could last living that way. I got my answer. He died that autumn. And then I pondered how long any of us have and I was just glad that for that fleering moment, just a few steps across from Union Square, that everyone was okay and maybe they would be for a little while longer.

But a little while was not long enough. It never is. Is it?

And I guess in some ham-fisted way I wish that we would all have a 14th Street moment more often and realize how finite all this is and all the bitching and moaning about things we cannot control are merely distractions to those things we actually can, like being kinder to each other and maybe making a phone call or offering a hand or a compliment or a reminder to those we care about to let them know how fortunate we are that they’re in our lives and that they have their health and their right mind for another one of these seasons.

“Hold me in your thoughts, Take me to your dreams…”

You see, when I was younger (Man, you know things have crept well past sentimental into maudlin-ville when someone writes, “When I was younger…”, but I pointed it out, so that exempts me and so shall I proceed), I would fraction life out in summers – like how many summers do I have with these friends of mine, or how many summers will I be carefree and single and penniless and not give a shit until it becomes sad or pathetic? How many summers could a relationship survive or a job or a book project or some other activity that appeared at the time to have an infinite shelf-life?

Now, maybe, I think of this season, this “holiday season”; the one I usually “endure”, and wonder how many more of these Christmas mornings will be left for the kid digging on Santa or how many more will I have with my dad or how many more with my friends that I think will somehow age but not get closer to not having another summer or season?

Okay, so last year I wrote a screed defending Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge and now I’m bringing people down with “loved ones are not going to be here forever, so start acting like it” nonsense that no one needs to hear.

Well, I think that’s bullshit. We do need to hear it. I certainly needed to hear it last year when we still had Mary and never in our wildest dreams did we consider not having her, and maybe that is silly hindsight that humans play with in order to ease their minds that you cannot spend every “season” wondering who will be here next year to share it.

Shit, there’s probably no other reason to bring any of this up except to point out that I work too much and cannot enjoy enough of what its brought me because I’m not sure I’m four or five or less “seasons” from losing my mind or that someone else might not be here that I need to tell how much they mean to me.

Time to rectify that.

Right?

Right.

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SYRIA – JUST SAY NO

Aquarian Weekly
9/4/13
REALITY CHECK

James Campion

 

SYRIA – JUST SAY NO

                                                 Keep on chooglin’.
                                                         – John Fogarty

This is a nation of war junkies. I’m a junky, you’re a junky. We cannot get enough. There isn’t a skirmish, civil war, revolution or upheaval that we can’t comment on, Syriainvestigate, monitor or butt into. It is amazing. Since World War II, arguably the only war this nation has involved itself in that remotely hinted at national security or moral imperative, we have stumble-bummed our way around this globe to horrific results.

Now here comes the nightmare of Syria.

In no way, shape or form should we bother to even nod at this atrocity. It is classic Eighth century madness perpetuated by 21st century weapons. It is a firestorm. It is a quagmire. Most pressingly, it has no direct correlation to the running or defense of this nation. It will end in disaster and huge debt; none of which we can afford after 12 years of this miserable shit.

So, of course, we’re seriously discussing diving right in.

It is important to point out that despite begging the first of our fabulous warring Bushes to not sink us in the Kuwait tomfoolery; this space supported a second move on Iraq in 2003. Never in my most cynical, hell-addled imagination did I think we could fuck that up so spectacularly. I lived through it and reported on it and I still find it hard to believe what an incredible stank fest that thing became, and this was facing a fractured military force which had surrendered to CNN camera man a decade earlier.

Believe me when I write this; Syria is another animal entirely. This is not a good idea now, and never was. Even the humanitarian-chemical weapon excuse our government is pitching is weak when compared to the consequences. We get directly involved in this shit storm and there is a whole bunch of crap to pay.

Believe me when I write this; Syria is another animal entirely. This is not a good idea now, and never was. Even the humanitarian-chemical weapon excuse our government is pitching is weak when compared to the consequences.

Let the Russians deal with this. Syria is their bitch, their oil supply. We handle ours, Saudi Arabia, the right way. We forgive their human rights atrocities, their terrorist activities and toss them tons of money. We bow to their leaders on the tarmac and sell them huge chunks of our major cities. This is how it is done. But Russia is a broke anachronistic lump of atrophied machismo, whose leader is a foul wretch comically under the delusion he still matters. It is sad, but it is their sadness, not ours. We have our own broken Middle East junk; and that’s on the $$$ docket for many generations.

So we need to go cold turkey, turn away from the pure, deadly stuff before it gets on top of us for good and we end up like a bloated Elvis, slumped off his toilet and face down in the shag rug.

Consider this an intervention.

Was Viet Nam not enough of a near-death ride?

Sometimes it’s a party and then it’s that one time – a lethal speedball with John Belushi in a steamy cabin at the Chateau Marmont.

Syria is our speedball.

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EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY

Aquarian Weekly
6/19/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

EDWARD J. SNOWDEN & GLENN GREENWALD: HACKING INTO HYPOCRISY?

If there is one thing that this space has tried to illustrate for the past 16 years is that hypocrites are not the exclusive property of ideological or political affiliation. In the past weeks, as we have been inundated by a phalanx of stories depicting with grand detail one fuck up after the other from the current administration, which whisked into Washington five years ago on a transparent change in government delusion, here come hordes of congressman like Rand Paul (threatening to take the NSA to the Supreme Court after he dismissed the same body as meaningless following the landmark Affordable Care Act ruling) and senators like Lindsey Graham (supporting the government’s spying on citizens’ phone and e-mail records while arguing that gun background checks are an invasion of privacy). It is a wonder you vote.
snowden
I have never seriously voted. Mostly, I backed candidates with no chance to win as a protest against two representatives from massive corporate-backed political parties offering nothing approaching an original thought or concept. Then my mortal enemy, Al Gore decided he needed to be president, so I all-but worked with the Bush campaign to smear his sorry ass back to Tennessee only to watch the dumb-struck asshole who bested him make a mockery of governance for eight long years. Then I decided to vote for Barack Obama, as a member of my own generation in protest against the annoyingly overrated Boomer dipshits who preceded him, only to be once again stuck with another lost idiot acting as if he just woke up and someone told him he was president.

But my voting record and vast disappointment with politics aside, there never appears to be anyone truly minding the store, so it’s back to figuring out exactly how the shit-house will go down this time.

This week the latest in a long line of computer geeks given access to a spectacularly massive cadre of sensitive national security files, Edward J. Snowden has clearly represented why neither political party will ever have the answers needed to quell the rapacious need for the American people to appear free while feeling safe, or other such fairy tales.

Okay, so you would have to be completely in the tank for the sorry butt end of whatever remains of a national Right Wing movement in this country not to have noticed that for two congresses now Republicans have provided nothing in the way of serious legislative rebuttal to what they deem as “socialist, anti-American and freedom-threatening policies”. In place of doing its job, the GOP-controlled congress decided to throw feces against the wall and screech like monkeys to make the Democratic president look ineffectual.

This worked great. He was re-elected by the greatest margin a member of his party tallied to secure the presidency since Lyndon Baines Johnson in 1964. I was two at the time. I was 50 last November. That is a long run with no Democratic dominance at the executive level. And you know what; it ain’t gonna end soon. Not with the current demographics of the country pointing Left and an entire generation of young people fairly certain the majority of the Republican platform is religiously-based nihilistic bigotry.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth.

On the heels of this we have Mr. Snowden, a 29 year-old Booz Allen Hamilton employee (contractor to the National Security Agency) and chronicled supporter of Ron Paul’s anti-government brigade, leaking classified top-secret material to a foreign newspaper. As another quick aside, lord knows the sub-contractor element is not lost on me, the near victim of many hoaxes perpetuated by “businesses” I thought I was hiring to do jobs, only to find they merely fobbed it off to some other dinks, whose only care to the completion of said job was to not get caught screwing up, which in my case, they most assuredly did.

Snowden’s motivations for leaking vital defense intelligence on a lark are best framed by the reporter who broke the story, Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald told the NY Times this week that his infamous source for the British paper, The Guardian scoop “knew that in order for someone to do this story the way it had to be done he had to be in an adversarial posture vis-a-vis the U.S. government.”

Snowden, an “ex-CIA” (once CIA always CIA – ask Lee Harvey Oswald and George H.W. Bush) who claims after making a living working in the business of citizen surveillance suddenly found Jesus and decided this was crazy, wanted to join the “feces tossing task force” and make nasty for what could tactfully be described as a beleaguered president. However, Greenwald’s analysis mirrors the very argument for Daniel Ellsberg’s outing of the gargantuan lies the U.S. government laid on the American public for over a decade of unsanctioned mass murder in Viet Nam.

You see, although it appears as if Snowden is just a radicalized version of say Mitch McConnell, whose failed attempt at turning his senatorial position into the home-base for making Obama a one-term president, there is something far more interesting. Both Snowden and his non de plume Greenwald are Ellsberg worshippers (full disclosure, so is the author). Moreover, Snowden reportedly met directly with the nation’s most cherished whistleblower through documentarian, Laura Poitras this past January.

Snowden’s anti Big Brother Libertarian roots are only outdone by Glenn Greenwald’s ultra-radical attempts at dismantling the American myth. Greenwald’s current post at The Guardian has given the ex-litigator and award-winning blogger legitimate reporter contacts and sources, many of which were used to reveal the “secret wars” both hot and cold the U.S. has been running since 9/11, including the Dick Cheney/Karl Rove/Scooter Libby outing of a CIA agent in 2005.

Greenwald, an ex-patriot forced to live in Rio De Janeiro with his Brazilian partner because of discrimination against same-sex marriage, which consequently disallows similar rights of citizenship to heterosexual couples, has personal as well as ideological issues with the United States government of which he wrote in the preface to his wonderfully cynical 2006 book, How Would a Patriot Act, “the fact that this seizure of ever-expanding presidential power is largely justified through endless, rank fear-mongering—fear of terrorists, specifically—means that not only our system of government is radically changing, but so, too, are our national character, our national identity, and what it means to be American.”

The Snowden/Greenwald partnership in bi-partisan derision for the flimsy foundations of this republic has come at a crucial time, as new and old neo-con voices begin to bellow about dragging the U.S. into another bloody quagmire in Syria – trumped by ex-president, Democrat Bill Clinton and former presidential candidate, Republican John McCain.

Killer drones, Gitmo, an endless war in Afghanistan, the Patriot Act, systemic discrimination and the rank hypocrisy of our times, all neatly wrapped up in one single act of blessed conceit by pissed-off people with a pen.

That is something I can finally vote for.

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Be Careful

Aquarian Weekly
5/1/13
REALITY CHECK
James Campion

BE CAREFUL

Men are qualified for civil liberties in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their appetites: in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity.— Edmund Burke

You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.— Rahm Emanuel

edmund_burkeEdmund Burke is an interesting cat. I like to read him when alarmists shout incessantly about how things are worse than ever. Things are not worse than ever. It is far better. Not everything, of course. Most things are far, far better. Burke understood this concept more than most. Burke was not an absolutist. He was a realist. However, despite things being generally better, we tend to repeat our mistakes, especially ones made in recent history. Like this week, when for reasons understandable to human emotions; fear, grief and hate, but not so much in the pursuit of our intellectual and legal collective known as the United States of America, we are dangerously close to trading on our civil liberties…again.

Suddenly, as two bombs go off in Boston, we are faced, in a far less and entirely different set of circumstances as 9/11 — let’s not detach ourselves completely from reality, here — but with an equally charged political and social dilemma. When confronted with our own (false) sense of safety, how much does protecting the freedoms that separate us from most of the planet matter?

Burke is also an interesting cat because he is simultaneously the “philosophical founder of modern conservatism” and “the font of liberalism”; both forces always at work whenever this nation feels a tinge of vulnerability. We are constantly under siege from these two damaged and discredited notions on how our liberties should be compromised. Oh, they love to throw their aphorisms around, mostly framing the other side as some kind of enemy to “the greater cause”.

Then, ever so slowly, almost without notice, you become indebted to their ideologies and forced to ask their permission to see if you’ve been a good little American.

By all this I mean to say that the discussion (some of it serious, most of it drivel) following a tragedy, for instance, Newtown or Boston, most assuredly veers into the diminishing of our rights; whether it’s to curtail the purchase of a certain level of gun or its ammunition or blithely calling to wave every possible right granted to an American citizen by the amendments to the U.S. Constitution, like Miranda rights or search and seizure, etc. And what makes it all so interesting is that those who defend the rights granted by the Second Amendment in the former case are now the same clamoring about trashing Amendments 4 and 5 and a few more for good measure.

Don’t be fooled. Both liberals and conservatives are always keen on limiting your freedoms, while clouding up your vision of this by arguing that the other has a monopoly on those limits. We’ve discussed these anomalies, or more to the point, hypocrites many, many times in this space, far too many times to fathom. But be very aware and extremely careful when it comes to this bullshit about national security. This is when freedoms always end up on the chopping block.

Don’t be fooled. Both liberals and conservatives are always keen on limiting your freedoms, while clouding up your vision of this by arguing that the other has a monopoly on those limits. We’ve discussed these anomalies, or more to the point, hypocrites many, many times in this space, far too many times to fathom. But be very aware and extremely careful when it comes to this bullshit about national security. This is when freedoms always end up on the chopping block.

The disastrous response to 9/11, all of it still on display today, from airport security, the uselessness of Homeland Security, the ramp up in military action and the tragically tyrannical Patriot Act, was some of the most egregious attacks on our basic civil rights ever enacted. Don’t get me wrong, there were terrible examples of this each time war reared its ugly head in this country, but these were particularly thorny in a time when the expansion of knowledge (the internet and soon to be social media and these now ubiquitous phone/camera/video recorders) was giving us a more penetrating glimpse into our government’s direct role in the robbing of our rights.

The reason many over-shot the presumption that George W. Bush was “the worst president ever”, the way they now deem the current president (mostly through revenge, because Obama has some way to go to be as destructive as Bush) is because we have more information. Now, being riddled with information is not always the best thing, (most of it is paranoid innuendo) but it is preferable to being completely in the dark as Americans were during the War of 1812 or the Civil War or the Spanish/American War or pretty much every war through Viet Nam. It could be said that information was what eventually doomed the criminally insane doings in Viet Nam, or as military supporters will couch it: “We were too wishy-washy about our determined mission there”, which actually means that the government couldn’t quietly get away with the same level of chicanery it did for entirety of the 20th century up to that point.

So that brings us to now, where we have a 19 year-old American citizen incarcerated in the state of Massachusetts, the very breeding ground of the American experiment, for the crimes of murdering and seriously injuring other American citizens. Some want him tried as a military combatant, which would obliterate any case against him, for the simple and binding reason that he is not a military combatant, anymore than Timothy McVeigh, who as an American citizen (not given the title of president), perpetrated the greatest harm to this country’s citizenry ever.
This also bring us to the notion that because the FBI had once interviewed one of the Boston suspects some years ago and let him go, the government is now considering “lowering the bar” on what it means to be “a serious threat to national security”.

Whoa, jack. Hang on there.

Who decides this? What “bar” and who is deciding to “lower” it to what now?
This badly formed but wholly important previous sentence is what should have been asked in 2001, and, quite frankly, before each time the government tried to put its citizens on notice that “well, as long as you are safe (which we’ve already determined is a false premise to begin with) then you can endure a little less of your rights.”

Look, I do not believe gun control could work, or as history shows in the recent past, has worked in this country; however , I have a better shot at making the argument that it is a far more pressing issue than terrorism. Since 1970, when terrorism began to take hold as an effective method for those not fortunate enough to have nukes and ambassadors and a CIA or KGB at their disposal to make a mark on the international violence tote board, about 3,400 people have been killed in this country in “terror-related” deaths. From 1980 to the present, nearly one million people have been killed from a gun.
Either way, no tragedy or crisis, as former Obama Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel once mused leading up to the massively unconstitutional Affordable Care Act, ever passes around here without someone concocting some new way to eliminate a portion of your rights.

Be aware.

Be careful.

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The Lessons of Boston (4/15/13)

Aquarian Weekly 4/24/13 REALITY CHECK

THE LESSONS OF BOSTON

So what will be the monthly flavor of scapegoat now that crudely homemade bombs are the latest to invade our cushy national illusion?

The very week the Senate, as expected, voted down any measure of background checks in the pursuit of our weaponry, we have new villains with new devices in which to wreak havoc.

More shrieks of horror and glimpses of carnage on jumbled amateur video played incessantly across television-land, later joined by the obligatory analysis from “experts” in law enforcement, national security, terrorist activities, psychologists, clergymen, and a parade of stunned witnesses. Tearful tributes from statesmen, politicians, celebrities, and another fanfare-induced appearance by the president, interrupted by half-assed reporting about arrests and suspects – on FOXNEWS it’s the “brown-skinned Saudi running from the scene” and on MSNBC it was TEA Party Right Wing maniacs protesting tax day.

Boston 4/15/13CNN’s John King, who was amazingly not fired on the spot, egregiously reported for nearly an hour that there was an arrest, prompting hundreds of people and media to converge on the city’s courthouse. King, who made a mockery of the only presidential primary debate he was allowed to mediate, is the latest poster boy for knee-jerk uncorroborated showbiz that passes for journalism on every cable news outlet.

Not to be outdone, the NY Post, arguably the worst piece of shit printed on a daily basis since Randolph Hearst dropped dead, not only reported far more causalities than occurred, but later slapped two innocent young men on its front page as guilty.

Shock, panic, disdain, confusion, grief, racism, and erroneous innuendo passed off as news; these are the offspring of what has become an all-too familiar scene of destruction at the hands of some lunatic. But what is it that we’ve learned?

Not the obvious; for instance, it’s fortunate that everyone everywhere now has a camera and the Lord & Taylor’s department store chain has a better surveillance system than the Pentagon. Or two young American brothers (legal immigrants from the Caucuses region of Russia) with baggie jeans, baseball caps and duffle bags filled with basement bombs they probably built with the help of YOUTUBE, were able to pull this off.

Nah, I mean what have we really learned?

To hear Senator John King tell it, (not a good week for people named John King) if nothing else we must continue to dump even more money we don’t have into the sinkhole that is Homeland Security. It doesn’t hurt that America’s favorite xenophobe was formerly the chairman of that aforementioned boondoggle.

One thing we’ve not learned, and no interrogation nor its ensuing trial will shed any light on it; why some kids were motivated to play revolutionaries. This unsophisticated clusterfuck, which ended up more like the dark-comedy plot of a Coen Brothers movie than terrorism, is what happens when the end game for the disappointments, insecurities and general confusion in life is violence. These coddled, selfish, lazy-ass whiners had no better reason to leave explosives in a city street than walk into a school and begin shooting or blowing up a government building in Oklahoma City.

If people were not generally “good” then all the law enforcement and gun checks and Homeland Security would have no shot at keeping you or your family free from the crazies.

It’s only been a couple of hours since they’ve apprehended the surviving 19 year-old little sheetheel who perpetrated this atrocity, and we’re already trying to diagnose insanity. How did he become radicalized? Where did he get this insatiable need to destroy and kill? Hell, I was radicalized at the library. Go into any library, and thank the great notion of free speech and expression there is radical thought -but please don’t equate correlation with causation; that way lies damnation or at the very least the national nightmare we endured the months and years after 9/11 when we lowered out intellectual standards to satisfy our bestial, chest-thumping jingoistic ritualism. It wasn’t the first time, and, sadly, to listen to the maniacal voices that have emerged in the wake of this horror, it shan’t be the last.

Remember, the freedoms we enjoy that celebrate this nonsense of American exceptionalism can create a Steve Jobs, a Jay-Z, a Lebron James, builds skyscrapers, discover cures for diseases, experiment with the cosmos, but it also breeds narcissistic mutants, who believe their little corner of the psyche is more important than anyone else sucking air.

Fortunately, what we did learn is that what happened at the Boston Marathon was actually, considering the odds, a pretty rare event. Why doesn’t this happen more often? Because people are basically good, or if you don’t get into existential reasoning, then people are generally accepting of the societal collective; that everyone has a right to exist, even if it doesn’t jibe with your myopic, bullshit view of the world. If not for the rest of us, this would happen two, three times daily. And if not for us, there could be no more marathons or any public event outside of an arena or theater where they can’t wand, frisk and pat you down every which way.

If people were not generally “good” then all the law enforcement and gun checks and Homeland Security would have no shot at keeping you or your family free from the crazies.

In fact, the greater good was on display the day the crazies slithered through the cracks again. The greater good rushed to help the injured, tying make-shift tourniquets, carrying the fallen, tending to the hysterical. Homes were opened to the wounded and triages set up in parking garages. Boston channeled its inner NYC, circa 9/11/01, and displayed a greater confirmation about our humanity than could ever be torn to shreds by bombs.

I’m not sure how many of these things I’ve written about now, but there really is no lesson to any of it, except, of course, that we are all in this together. Either we act more civilly than not or this whole shit house goes up in flames. Simple as that.

We’re running out of analysis.

We’re running out of laws.

We’re running out of fact-finders.

We’re running out of excuses.

We had better not run out of the “good”.

 

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Springtime For North Korea

Aquarian Weekly 4/17/13 REALITY CHECK

SPRINGTIME FOR NORTH KOREA

Getting hyped about North Korea saber rattling in spring is tantamount to being floored about the flowers budding in the backyard. It is a rite of the season. Many of the nation’s goofy ritualistic observances happen around now. It is a military history. It is a military economy. No one bothered to declare an official peace between the North and the South when we high-tailed it out of there sixty years ago, so it’s a thing. Now, suddenly, it’s a big thing, mainly because there’s a new nut in charge. Big deal. New nut, young nut, means he has to One: Keep the military from sniffing weakness, coup de tat-ing him into small pieces, and dumping what’s left into the East China Sea or Two: Make the citizenry forget its starving to death. But, really, it’s same-old/same-old.

Kim Jung UnIt’s important for tyrannical regimes to wake up the echoes when the seasons turn. The dead tend to stank when the temperatures nip above freezing. Oh, the streets are filled with dead. This is North Korea’s chief manufacturing quotient, specifically since its Central Military Commission finds refurbished Soviet tanks and 1979-era missiles to be just fine. The 80s’ never die in North Korea, it gets recycled like Daryl Hall. This kind of thing is important to imperial lunatic Kim Jung Un, whose humorously non-threatening chubby cuteness never ceases. He’s the soft imp in the schoolyard that has to have the biggest mouth, because if someone begins to tease him, he’s done.

Un was a big fan of Hall & Oates when he was tending to his studies as a boy in Switzerland near a town called Bern, where summer comes but six weeks a year and the temperature barely touches the mid-70s’; an excellent place to preserve street corpses.

Un never missed many meals (obviously) and joyfully learned much of what matters from Western custom; cheeseburgers, basketball, masturbation and acting tough. Much of this was learned outside the classroom, through the bootleg Hollywood films his father sent him in those care packages with the annotated Mein Kampf and a stained Calvin & Hobbs tee shirt.

Kim Jung Il, the previous lunatic, was very fond of Hollywood and its most precious commodity; bullshit. His was a life bloated with bullshit – speaking it, acting it, performing it. Un learned well. His posed photographs gripping binoculars are right out of Patton, as is his strategic pointing maneuvers. He learned the presidential wave from Saddam Hussein, whom the North Koreans affectionately called gaegogi, which means dog meat.

Dog meat is the chief delicacy in Korea, but for North Koreans it is but a dream. Most eat dirt or bug feces, when they’re not eating each other. Cannibalism is up in North Korea. There is talk now among government officials to strike its criminal stigma and begin to offer instructional films on how to prepare human entrails over a barrel fire. Yes, they still use actual film there, digital devices are banned and cannot be eaten, so are ignored by 99.6 percent of the populace. This may all be horrid and morally reprehensible to an over-fed American, but to the North Korean it is simply known as the weekend.

A place for men to be men and phonies to pretend there’s something left to fight for.

But nicknames and cannibalism aside, Un learned another key lesson from Hussein; it’s best to keep telling everyone that you have an impressive cadre of weapons, whether you do or not. Keeps the insiders happy (frightened) and makes the outsiders – for Hussein, Iran, for Un, South Korea, Japan, China, etc. – take notice (get pissed). No one with half a brain after a few months thought Saddam Hussein had more than a matchbox set under his fancy tents and nobody outside of Pyongyang believes the country has much more than antiquated pop guns. This is a show; lights, camera, in-action!

Not even China believes a word Un says, just as they placated his dad’s raving. It’s all part of the plan to keep North Korea appearing relevant, so it can provide a buffer. No one on the mainland needs Western nonsense knocking on the door. Plus, it’s an easy way to sell weapons to terrorists without upsetting the U.S., which it needs to bankroll and buy all of its crap.

And that brings us to another pressing anniversary; it’s been one year since North Korea could barely get a missile off the ground and became the laughing stock of Asia. This cannot stand. Kim Jung Un is using all that Hollywood dog meat to get his dander up and keep all the propagandized worship flowing – and keep the neighbors out of the living room.

As for South Korea, literally 300 feet of living room separates the two warring nations in the DMZ, an ad hoc demilitarized zone where enlisted geeks stare at each other for hours a day. Created when Douglas MacArthur went sideways and Truman got bored, this Cold War relic is a testament to the continuously spectacular stupidity displayed by the human animal. The room has a line running down the middle like something out of “I Love Lucy”. Holy shit, did I just reference “I Love Lucy”? There must have been some sitcom in the last sixty years that had two warring parties divide the goddamn room up.

Shit, I am old.

But not as old as this North Korea/South Korea crap. It is very old; a lot older than a good many people reading this. And somehow, with all the spectacular uninterrupted stupidity and the dog meat and the generations of fancy lunatics, it’s all still there. A place for men to be men and phonies to pretend there’s something left to fight for.

Springtime for North Korea.

Has a nice ring to it.

Should be a musical. Call Mel Brooks.

 

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james campion.com

Aquarian Weekly 4/10/13 REALITY CHECK

READERS RESPONSES

Mr. Campion,

The drone policy of our government and the absolute powers exhibited by this president, as were the last ones by the previous administration, are the obvious consequences of the way we as citizens allowed the zealous deconstruction of our rights immediately after 9/11. (LIFE (AND DEATH) DURING PERPETUAL WARTIME – Issue: 2/13/12) Back then there was at least an excuse: the shock and fear that we were not as powerful and untouchable as we once had thought. Panic set in at the highest corridors of our government and we demanded to we protected and see justice served. We did not seem to care about what would come of it. We went for immediate gratification; we let our principles as a free people go away – torture, spying, invading countries that had nothing to do with out plight. We were damned scared and acted like it – from people to government.

What is happening now is far more frightening. We have learned nothing from the Bush/Cheney years. We have a president who ran against these atrocities, promised to shut down our illegal prisons and to be transparent in our overseas operations. He lied. And by now using drones against American citizens and having an enemies list to rub out while continuing to try and negotiate fairly with rogue nations like Iran in a hotbed of revolt and anti-American fervor throughout a volatile Middle East, things have gone full circle.

We know now, as you say, there is no going back. We are a war nation more than ever before. And while World War II was massive and Viet Nam disastrous, we now may never know a time without our most generous resource and biggest export is violence and death.

Andrew Simon

 

I don’t know who the bad guys are any more. I have to trust that someone does. Who is accountable? Have we evolved to the degree where our inherent need to conduct warfare has honed itself to strategic levels where now only a few will die (compared to past slaughters, ethnic cleansing, holodomors etc.)? We shout for transparency regarding who our government is offing (or planning to off) while at the same time we willingly place all of our faith in those who we feel will protect us while hoping, with all of our might, that they have the wisdom to act in a manner that justifies the authority we have handed them. We curl up in our metaphorical Snuggies and watch the Grammys pausing at a commercial break to briefly take stock of the world that surrounds us before sticking or heads back into the sand. We sleep soundly at night believing that the Good Guys are taking care of business when we know that there are no longer “good guys” or “bad guys”. That there never really was. Just degrees of bad and levels of tolerance. Nazis, Khmer rouge, Stalinistas or Grey Wolves. CIA, IRA, KGB, KFC. Our government has always held the right to indiscriminately kill us (Just ask the American Indian). The saving grace is that, at least now, they have the technology to do it with precision.

Peter Saveskie

 

Where is the Left now that their beloved president is in the same black hole as Dick Cheney, the minister of unlawful hate and destruction? Where is the outrage? The anti-war protests? Killing citizens? How about Rand Paul waiting twelve hours during an inexhaustible filibuster in the senate for an answer from our chief law officer on whether it is legal for the government to murder its citizens on suspicion of terrorism. This is FDR Japanese interment camps and Nixon’s enemies list. It is Bush’s domestic surveillance, and it is wrong.

VV782

 

It’s hilarious. The last president killed innocents abroad – women, children, bombing schools and churches for absolutely nothing, but since they weren’t Americans, it was apparently fine. Now this guy kills one American (a terrorist) and there is wild screaming – especially from the Right that has no leg to stand on after their dismantling of the constitution and destruction of the economy.

I say, drone away.

It is better than sending my son to another duty in a country we had no business being in in the first place. THANK YOU, GEORGE BUSH.

Laura B.

 

Come on, James be real. (JOE COOL BUDGET/GUNS/IMMIGRATION/EDUCATION TOUR 2013 – Issue: 2/27/13) The Democrat Senate and the Democrat President do not pass budgets because they do not have to. The Big 3 networks, CNN, MSNBC, the NEW York Times, the Washington Post, the LA Times and every other major daily rag have never and will never call their guys out and so doing the heavy lifting is left to the next guy. Hence the problem with sequestration. The whole she-bangabang was Barack Hussein’s idea and now that it is blowing up in his face he gets the Palace Scribes to go out and blame the GOP. The GOP on the other hand is not doing themselves any favors by allowing themselves to get butt violated by this President and not fighting back. The fact you haven’t figured out why Barry Soetero is out on tour is rather funny. Don’t you understand it is easier to campaign than govern? He has a media who will support his every whim and never call him on it and he has a free 747 full of Jet A for whenever he needs it. He stays on the campaign trail and will never have to be held to account for his many failures.

It is funny, when there is a Republican President, it is all his fault but when there is a Democrat President both sides are at fault. Oh to be a Democrat at a time when 47% are living off your benevolence….

Peace, Bill Roberts

 

I am positive there will be no gun control laws passed by this or any congress ever. The president can go on all the populist tours he’d like. We love our guns. And by the way we love our shitty fast food and our porn and our reality shows and our beer and pot and NASCAR and there is not a damned thing the northern NY establishment elite can do about it. They cannot touch that. And we don’t care what manner of murdering anti-societal inbreeds you call us either. This is not going to change. Live with it.

GABBA-GABBA

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Supreme Court: Marriage Equality

Aquarian Weekly 4/3/13 REALITY CHECK

SUPREME DECISIONNation’s Highest Court Faces Down Discrimination in Our Time

Congress decided to reflect and honor of collective moral judgment and to express moral disapproval of homosexuality. – House Report on the passing of Defense of Marriage Act in 1996.

This week the Supreme Court hears arguments to overturn the odious Defense of Marriage Act and the anti-constitutional nonsense known as Proposition 8, the California equivalent of the attack on civil rights spread across this nation of so-called liberty. Fourteen times prior this august body has called marriage “a fundamental right”. And so, it is another day in court, the highest court, for the inalienable rights and pursuit of happiness so lauded, so celebrated, so promised by the aspirations of this flawed but unique nation. It is when the antiquated “gay marriage” issue begins to go away, as would any distinction in a right; whether interracial, Jewish, Italian, Muslim, Mormon, whatever, that the argument against the right does not stand.

Supreme Court - Marriage EqualityHere is what the court must hear this week.

This is what the court must know this week.

Once and for all.

The public does not decide rights. The government does not grant rights. The public decides the social order of things and the government upholds our rights. Rights, as in what the court describes as the “fundamental right to marry”, are granted by the very fact that we suck air. That we have a right to live in a free nation fought for, argued over, and put to the test for over 240 years.

It is a basic right; the basic right to exist and to therefore be given the same opportunity to share property and wills and investments and to adopt and raise children. A right. Not something to vote on or debate or discuss in linear, theological, biological, racial, cultural terms. It is a right. My right. Your right. Their right.

Without rights, keep your guns. Throw out your guns. Balance budgets. Don’t balance budgets. Control the rest of the planet. Don’t control the rest of the planet. It does not matter. What really matters, what has only mattered since the conception of America, are rights.

There is a lot of talk about growing public support for “same-sex marriage”, but that changes nothing. A right to marry was just as valid when it was supported by only 19 percent of the public, then 28 percent, then 33 percent, then 42 percent, then 52 percent, and now 63 percent. When interracial marriage was rightfully deemed a constitutional liberty, 65 percent of Americans still opposed it. You want to know how many Americans, many of them women, opposed the right to vote for women? A majority.

In fact, much of the social arguments against gay marriage harkens back to the vote for women; “What’s next? Children voting? Dogs voting? Lamps?” Just like the arguments against interracial marriage; “What’s next? People marrying chimps? Their house?” It’s all been said before and the “fundamental right” has defeated it all.

Here it is; marriage is a public institution that excludes a portion of our society. This will not stand.

The other bogus argument is the threat to “traditional” marriage, as if traditions has ever meant a hill of beans in this nation of fluidity of modernity of progress and constant revolutions; social, moral, economic, cultural, religious, political. We’re into upheaval, not tradition. Tradition is for parades, identifying law above superstition is how things go here, or should and will go here – eventually. There is no threat to marriage that involves society. Marriage is between a man and a woman and also two consenting adults, both sets of whom should not allow society or family or politics or race or religion to keep them for their right, their pursuit of happiness.

Another bogus argument against marriage equality is “marriage for procreation”. In that case why do couples either with no desire for children or are biologically incapable of bearing children marry? Should they then, in this scenario, be denied marriage? I wonder how much outrage you would have if you were impotent and the state denied you your right to marry.

Having beaten the God/Bible thing to death here, we’ll just say, on the occasion of the Supreme Court hearing legal and binding arguments for and against the liberty of our fellow citizens that no one, not the Catholics or the Jews or the Muslims or the Evangelicals know what God wants. Nope. None. Not a wit. Assuming there is a God, when there is sworn testimony from the deity, we’ll deal with that.

In fact, we’ll make this deal: When religions decide on what God supports – what culture or region or NFL football team – then we’ll put that in writing. But for now, there is much to be figured out in the grand scheme of interpreting God, so until at which time there is a consensus of the Supreme Being, the Supreme Court should not and will not force any church into marrying anyone. This is not about churches. Church and state are separate and shall remain so. Let the churches protest by excluding certain citizens from their clubs. It’s fine. They do not belong in this argument; one way or the other. They do not decide the law of the land on traffic issues, nor shall they on liberties.

Here it is; marriage is a public institution that excludes a portion of our society. This will not stand. And the fact that is has stood for as long as it has is criminal and an embarrassment to this country and all that it stands for. I have been writing this since the late-90s’ and I will continue to write it, as sick of it as you are to read it and how exhausted I am penning it. From unpopular to popular, it has not changed here and it should not change in the most important chamber of law this republic has.

It is life.

It is liberty.

It is the pursuit of happiness.

Everything else, EVERYTHING else, is noise.

 

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