An Artist’s Reaction to Today’s Politics

“Art, an enduring record of man’s emotional response to his existence…the communication of emotion rather than of information.”— Peter Hurd, Artist1

It’s been a while since my last blog. Not so much because there was nothing to write about in the turbulent aftermath of Donald Trump’s election and subsequent inauguration as our President, but more because events have occurred so rapidly that it has been hard to stay up with them either intellectually or emotionally.  I have left it to others to put their words on paper (or computer or video) to describe and dissect the immediate events as they have occurred this past year. I think all of us, regardless of our political leanings, felt beset by the almost daily revelations of scandal, bigotry, racial slurs, personal attacks on individuals or entire groups (Democrats, Republicans, Muslims, Blacks, etc), abrupt changes in leadership and policy directions, “fake news”, lies and distortions, etc.—much of which has been fueled by incessant tweets and incendiary remarks by the President. I for one have felt helpless wondering what if anything I could do that would be more constructive in trying to participate in today’s political discourses and debate.

As an artist I have tried to find the answer in my art—to paraphrase Peter Hurd, by communicating emotion rather than simply information. With that in mind I am using this forum to present three recent pieces of my art that, hopefully, convey a sense of the emotions and concerns felt not only by myself but many of us that reside in the southern regions near our border with Mexico. Continue reading

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A Leap Into Political Oceans

Filing Candidacy Papers in Dona Ana County

Filing Candidacy Papers in Dona Ana County

Yesterday, I submitted my formal petition to run for public office as a Democrat for New Mexico State Representative for District 34. While many may not be surprised at my decision to run for public office I’m sure many others would think I am crazy given: the costs just to mount a reasonable campaign, the likelihood of an Anglo (gringo) to win in a predominantly Hispanic district, the challenge in taking on a well financed incumbent , the public exposure, and resultant stresses to my private life.  All of this should I get elected for a job that will require much work, long hours, endless travel and absolutely no pay.  It is hard to justify why I am running in a purely logical sense but I’ll give it a try. Continue reading

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Mein Kampf Revisited

hitlerIn 1925 Adolph Hitler’s Mein Kampf was first published and outlined in vivid detail Hitler’s philosophies and plans for world denomination. As noted by famed author William L. Shirer in his epoch treatise, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, “The blueprint of the Third Reich and, what is more, of the barbaric New Order which Hitler inflicted on conquered Europe in the triumphant years between 1939 and 1945 is set down in all its appalling crudity at great length and in detail between the covers of this revealing book.” Hitler’s racist views on Jews and non-Aryans, their “treacherous acts” against German society and the need for what became the “final solution” were clearly outlined for all to see, assuming they were able to work their way through this rather ponderous and tedious book. While history and the Allied armies of World War II ultimately rebuked Hitler’s attempts at a new world order under laid by nationalistic and nihilistic racism, unfortunately, we continue to face ongoing assaults on our basic liberties and freedoms both within and outside of our country. Continue reading

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For a Healthier Planet and People: Don’t Have a Cow, Man

2013-07-05 12.02.27Numerous questions have been raised in recent years about animal-based farming and the consequences for people, the environment, and the animals themselves. The news about pending recommendations to eat less meat for environmental reasons may now bring this issue to the front page. Continue reading

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Je Suis Charlie

Je Suis Charlie supporters in Paris following the terrorists attacks on Charlie Hebdo

Charlie Hedbo supporters in Paris

Like many of us I was shocked by the horrific killings that took place recently in Paris where more than a dozen staff and editors of the French publication Charlie Hebdo, as well as some innocent bystanders, were viciously and cold-bloodedly gunned down by Islamic terrorists.  In a separate but related incident a policewoman and five other Parisians were killed. Ultimately, the French authorities found and killed the perpetrators of these killings, but not before they had succeeded in bursting the illusionary bubble of security and safety thought to be enjoyed in this modern city and, in fact, in Europe and much of the west. The terrorists, young French citizens apparently trained and supported by Al-Qaida, purportedly acted in revenge for cartoons and articles published in this satirical weekly newspaper seen as insulting to Mohammed and the Islamic faith.

The Western world responded swiftly in showing support and solidarity to what was seen as a vicious attack on freedom of speech and liberty in our modern society—”Je Suis Charlie—I am Charlie,” resounded around the world as thousands took to the streets in protest and support against the terrorists. The intent of the rallies and the protests was to show Islamic extremists/terrorists that we will not be bullied by armed threats, and we will continue to live as free and open societies. To underscore this, the January 15 publication of Charlie Hebdo sold out more than 5 million copies. (Their normal publication rate previously only amounted to about 60,000 copies!) In the end though we are left to reflect on what could cause such a violent and visceral reaction to simple cartoons in an obscure publication. From my own travels I recall an experience that may offer some insight as to what drives these extremists. Continue reading

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A Christmas Wish

Rome's Ancient Colosseum

Rome’s Ancient Colosseum

This past September while standing in a long tourist line to enter Rome’s ancient Colosseum I was mesmerized by a little boy held in his mother’s arms right in front of us.  I had just taken out a banana to maintain my failing strength (tourism is tough!) when I caught sight of the youngster eyeing my banana as I slowly and now very deliberately peeled it with a devilish grin in my own eyes.  The youngster squirmed in his mother’s arms as I teasingly ate the banana while wondering if it would be impolite or taken wrong if I offered the child a bite.  Before I could make up my mind to share (or not) the young mother, alerted to her child’s awakened appetite, cleverly pulled out her own banana to give the child!  As he eagerly grabbed the proffered banana from his mother I mimed my need to have a bite.  He wisely ignored my growing, silent entreaties to share that which I had refused to share only moments before.  We both laughed when he dramatically finished off his snack leaving me looking desperate and famished—a fun moment to pass the time in a long, boring line.  Having broken the ice we introduced ourselves to the young couple. “Where are you from?” we asked.  “Russia,” they replied.  “And you.”  “We’re Americans.”—only a slight hesitation but I could sense for both of us conflicting thoughts, “But you’re the enemy.  You seem so nice.” Continue reading

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The Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight–Part II–A Culture of Corruption

Main Street Sunland Park, NM

Main Street Sunland Park, NM

In an earlier blog I wrote two years ago I discussed a rather tawdry story of election fraud and corruption in the border town of Sunland Park, New Mexico.  The then mayor pro temp, the city manager, and a number of other officials and council members were indicted and sent to jail. Apparently, millions of dollars were misspent, including questionable trips to Mexico by various city officials. The Governor had the city’s finances taken over by the State’s Department of Financial Affairs. Fast forward two years to today. Sunland Park, having just regained back control of its finances from the DFA this past summer, now seems bent on expanding its budget and power by the time-proven method of annexing adjacent properties. In this case the City Council, facing bankruptcy and looking for new avenues of revenue, has cast its eyes on the local community of Santa Teresa, hoping to add this more affluent community to its overall tax base. Continue reading

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Illegal Immigration–A Global Problem

Surge of undocumented children immigrants overwhelms border facilities

Surge of undocumented children immigrants overwhelms border facilities in Texas

Recent headlines in the U.S. have focused on a major influx of undocumented immigrants crossing our southern border with Mexico, many of them children either traveling alone or with single mothers seeking refuge. According to Homeland Security some 52,000 children have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border since October of last year, most coming from Central American countries including Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala, looking to escape the upsurge in violence and destitution threatening those countries. Some, apparently, are trying to take advantage of special treatment afforded children and families that cross the border illegally which they believe, mistakenly or otherwise, will allow them to stay. The paid “coyotes” smuggling them encourage this misinformation in promoting their services throughout the perilous journey from their home countries to the border. This is only the latest in the influx of undocumented (illegal) immigrants from the south that have looked to the U.S. for shelter from economic and/or violent social oppression in their homelands. While the details may vary, the problem of illegal immigration is not limited solely to the U.S., but is in fact a global problem that requires a far more comprehensive approach than we or any other nation is taking. Continue reading

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The Ugly American

 

Poster from "The Ugly American" movie starring Marlon Brando

Poster from “The Ugly American” movie starring Marlon Brando

In the book The Ugly American (1958), the authors Eugene Burdick and William Lederer describe Americans living in a fictional, Southeast Asian country that was a thinly disguised Vietnam.  Popularized by a movie starring Marlon Brando, the book’s title came to symbolize the view of Americans as often seen from abroad—arrogant, loud and ostentatious.  The title actually alludes to an American government worker who, while physically unattractive, lives and works closely with Southeast Asians in improving their daily lives by bringing small scale, innovative technology into their local villages (a bicycle-powered water pump, improved chicken coops, etc).  The fictional hero of the book was actually a real person, Homer Atkins, who worked in Vietnam with the International Cooperation Agency—now the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)— in the 1950s.  Our efforts of civilian aid to Vietnam then were obviously overwhelmed by the ensuing military conflict of the Vietnam War of the sixties and seventies, leaving scars and tragic memories still felt by many Americans to this day.  Arriving at Hanoi International Airport recently I was curious, if not somewhat apprehensive, as to how an “ugly American” might be met.  The following describes my own personal experience and thoughts about going forward in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. Continue reading

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The World is Not Flat

iPhone 5

iPhone 5

Thomas Friedman, author of the best seller The World Is Flat, argues that information technology has leveled the world’s competitive markets and made access to finance and products more dependent on understanding that technology and its opportunities. Technology had made the world “flat.” However, anyone who has traveled twelve time zones away from home elsewhere in the world knows that the world is not flat, not even in the sense that Friedman suggests. Among other things infrastructure, policies (public and private) and cultural differences ensure that while we may indeed be globally connected, the world is definitely not flat. Though my experience in traveling over the past six months may only provide anecdotal evidence, I think I can illustrate that using information technology—your smart phone, your iPad and/or your laptop—while abroad may not be as simple or as inexpensive as one would hope. That is staying “connected,” essential in the type of travel I was doing, was challenging to say the least. Continue reading

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