From Above, We
Can See Forever
It’s been said that Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos Dumont died, 80 years ago last July, of a broken heart. An avowed pacifist, he simply couldn’t believe that his lifetime efforts developing a heavier-than-air craft were being used to create the war’s most lethal weapon of the time.
Since it’s International Civil Aviation day, let’s check some photographs, taken from airplane windows, of a few cities dominating the world news cycle. But you’ll see neither mayhem nor excitement about what’s happening on the ground, because they all look peaceful and beautiful from above.
While Damascus remains under siege, people in Gaza Strip and Tel Aviv keep vigil, even as the rhythms of their every day life resume. Egyptians are out in the streets of Cairo, while in Juba, Sudan, another journalist has been killed for criticizing the government.
As for Americans, thousands continue to fight and die in the mountains of Afghanistan, but their sacrifice is hardly ever mentioned in the daily news. It’s much more likely that you’ll be reading about Denver and Seattle and how they’re yet to implode, now that’s legal to smoke marijuana there.
Santos Dumont had no idea how much worse things were going to get before they arguably improved, but maybe that was the idea. Airplanes did become one of the most effective ways for humans to kill other humans, and let’s not get started about drones. They also serve for a variety of great things too, though.
One doesn’t even need to be high to acknowledge and enjoy the fact that airplanes also helped us realize how much closer we’re of each other than our ancestors believe, and how beautiful the world really is, regardless of all stupid and senseless things we do with this knowledge.
Thus, it was probably for the few hundreds of thousands currently flying overhead, traveling from country to country, visiting dear ones or meeting complete strangers, that this day was created in 1996. To mark then 50 years of civil aviation, which undoubtedly brought us a bit closer.
It’s quite possible that Orville and Wilbur Wright also shared some idealism about the future of their invention. We can’t help but reaching a sobering realization though: that the dream of flying is as ancient and immemorial to humans as our will to wage war and conquer.
As if we’re bound to reenact the myth of Icarus over and over again, we’re still led by the same intoxicating, and ultimately doomed, drive: our desire to soar free and overcome our humanity, and ambition to dominate nature and obliterate our adversaries. In the meantime:
‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. In just a few minutes, we’ll be landing on the International Airport of…’
What We Wish We Hadn’t Heard
During the Last Presidential Debate
The final TV clash between President Obama and his GOP challenger gave us all a bitter taste in the mouth. Left with the arduous task of peddling a mostly fact-free campaign, Republicans may be feeling deflated: their millions have so far failed to guarantee the White House.
Supporters of the president’s reelection, however, may be in an even more unenviable position. Though there’s no question about who’s better equipped to rescue the U.S. economy, the number of ideological concessions he’d to make may prove to be too much to digest.
It’s bad enough that, altogether, the three presidential and the sole vice-presidential debates have not dedicated more than a minute, if at all, for the discussion of issues such as the tragedy of gun street violence, the continuous stream of home foreclosures, real job creation, and the rampant credit card debt forcibly contracted by students in order to finish their education.
There wasn’t mention about why Guantanamo is still open, and those held there without a fair trial, nothing about persecution of white collar crimes committed by Wall Street moguls, the wretched role of money in the campaign, and even the lack of legislative reform, to prevent absurdities like senseless filibustering and the need for a ‘majority’ of 60% plus to approve any bill in Congress.
In fact, those omissions, which also include a mature discussion of climate change, or its linked issue of an energy policy to prevent it, however painful, have been perpetrated without challenge by the multibillion dollar media conglomerates. Their failure to follow up any of them only reinforce the idea that their interests have little to do with the common good for the American people.
However, there’s something that’s giving pause to President Obama’s supporters, highlighted on last night’s debate: the scary coincidence of the candidates’ positions in several key issues. Despite all rhetoric about their different ‘styles,’ in substance, they actually agreed about some startling wrong foreign and domestic policies adopted by the U.S. Continue reading
“You’re Welcome But
Can We Crash Here?”
If you’re one of the thousands of veterans returning to the U.S. from Iraq, welcome back. You’ve probably already heard it before, but let’s restate the fact of how grateful we all are for your sacrifice.
Now, there’re a number of facts that can be said about you: you’re coming back from a few tours in Iraq e possibly in Afghanistan too, but you know of many who did not.
You also know of some who did it but with serious physical and psychological wounds; you think you’re fine but perhaps have considered the possibility of seeing someone to help you cope, too. Despite the medals you’ve earned over there, you’re still not sure of what to do with your life from now on; and you’ve already been told at least twice, that there’re no jobs available.
Now, a few things you may not have heard about what’s going on around here, and we must warn you, they may hurt: regardless of what you’ve been told, most people have all but forgotten you were even there.
HOME WHERE YOUR HELMET IS
There’s a record number of Americans living under the poverty line, and the national unemployment levels match those of 70 years ago. Continue reading
The Jail That’s Made
the U.S. Forget Itself
The most shameful remnant of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the detention camp at the Guantánamo Bay’s Naval Station, reaches its 10-year anniversary today, as brutally misguided and utterly unconstitutional as ever.
Now that the U.S officially ended its disastrous military adventure in Iraq, the 171 prisoners still being held there, including the 89 already cleared of any charges, remain the single most eloquent, and tragic, discrepancy between the thrilling Senator from Illinois who promised to close it, and the way more conservative President Barack Obama, now running for reelection.
Worse, his deeply embarrassing failure to enforce the rule of law for allegedly enemy combatants, as an example before the world and the judgement of history, has now officially spilled over to Americans too.
At the dawn of the year, the president signed one of the most authoritarian pieces of legislation ever signed by the U.S. government, with threatens with indefinite detention and with no access to the Continue reading
Soldier Dogs With Same
Traumas as U.S. Troops
We breed them. We treat them as equals, as gods or slaves. We love and we fear them. And we’ve been eating them for ages.
Since we’ve been around, we’ve done with animals as we damn well pleased. Including being killed in our wars, often instead of us.
Elephants, horses and dogs. Dolphins, sea lions and pigeons. Primates and pigs. Even cats and bats have died in wars or in weapon labs.
Now, like the canary in the mine, dogs are sounding the alarm. Some of those deployed in combat are suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
It’s a disturbing, if predictable, consequence of their loyalty to the military. And more so than with the troops, these warriors may have been psychologically hurt for life.
Counseling therapy, of course, won’t work with them. In fact, in many cases, treatment is a guess work, at best, and to expect a full Continue reading
We Owe Them Much
More Than a Parade
Their sacrifice will never be repaid. Their blood will never be recovered. Their lives will never be restored.
We may fill the air with our grandiose words, and bring our families to show support, and cover our cities with flags. Nothing will ever compare with what these people did for us.
We could all have gone, but they were the ones who actually went. We could all have fired but they were the ones who took the bullets. We could have matched their intent but never their courage.
While we safely slept and dreamed, they we’re standing in the rain of gun powder. While we were putting our kids to bed, they were sorting the bodies of fallen comrades.
So many of them have been here for years, but we never told them Continue reading