Residents in Albuquerque fight unsustainable development

the latest from Kapitalist Kitty!

Kapitalist Kitty

A story from my own city, in which residents of a “Northeast heights” (a nice, suburban type district of the city for those not familiar with it) neighbourhood express great concern that a new development plan involving a proposed highway and senior centre will detract from their views, and perhaps property values.

And while this is a clear cut example of white, upper middle class, suburban, and old privilege (you wouldn’t see this turned into a story if it were people in the less affluent ABQ parts like Barelas or the SW quadrant had their own views threatened), I have to applaud the efforts of homeowners to resist uncontrolled and ultimately unsustainable development in a city already plagued by water issues, crime waves, and wealth inequality.

We’re always hearing about how the public sector should “live within its means”, but that line of reasoning is rarely applied to the activities in…

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New York Times chimes in on how Trump travel ban affects travelling Muslims

This quote, from the article, which is written by a Muslim Brit with family in Somalia who is in the United States as a student, is quite powerful:

That sentiment is shared by Farrah Hassan, 27, a biomedical scientist in London. Ms. Hassan, who also was born in Somalia, was set to fly to the United States during the second week of September for a three-week vacation to Virginia, where she has family, and to New York, which she has long wanted to see. “ I was about to book my flight on June 27, but then I got a call from my aunt in Virginia. She told me not to book the flight, because I might be rejected.”

Ms. Hassan said she had been saving for the trip for two years. “I had the budget to go,” she said. “But I don’t want to spend all that money on a flight, get my hopes up and then get turned back to the U.K. There is no point in trying my luck to go to the U.S., if there is a possibility of getting rejected at the airport. It’s an unfair situation.”


There are always two sides to policy as sweeping as Trump’s travel restrictions, some of which are in effect until the Supreme Court decides on their constitutionality. One should take heart to remember, however, that it is easy to support such policies when neither oneself, nor those they care about, are part of the groups to which they pertain.

Putting a face on those affected by bad policy is the best weapon to pull it out of favour. Show this article to a conservative or otherwise pro-Trump friend today!

Unpacking my invisible knapsack

Great post on privilege, and what it means to have it and not know it.

Surviving the Trump Era

invisible knapsackDuring the school year, I met with a group of educators regularly during lunch. We started a white cohort to discuss racism. And because we were brought together by the school that was our community, our first natural focus was on our students. We purchased Black Lives Matter t-shirts and pledged to wear them to school on Fridays to show our support. We discussed how we might be able to include more structured anti-bias curriculum. Sometimes we got sidetracked by other kinds of social injustices or just shared personal stories from marches, workshops, and our classrooms that were of interest to us all. But it wasn’t until the end of the year that we realized we hadn’t really talked about our own white privilege.

No doubt you’ve already read Peggy McIntosh’s now-classic piece, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” If you haven’t, you can read it on SEEDS’ web site

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Not All Defectors are Free: James Joseph Dresnok, Defector TO North Korea

Not All Defectors Are Free

 

The recent death of U.S. student Otto Warmbier has left the American public in a state of shock and sorrow, with many now discussing the dangers of traveling to what is arguably the world’s most repressive nation. At present, at least three detained American citizens are still in North Korean custody, and the reclusive nature of the country and regime means we can’t know the full extent to which the totalitarian state has their own citizens under the iron fist.

It’s then only natural that the free world celebrates the plight of defectors from the DPRK and countries like it. As members of a free society, we bask in the presence of prominent escapes, whether from the old Soviet bloc or Nazi Germany many decades back, by people who dared to flee tyranny for the beckoning freedom of Western liberal democracy. But what is to be made of the uncommon, but nonetheless noteworthy occasion that someone raised in the good fortune of the West defects towards a country that remains lacking in the good fortunes of democratic capitalism?

One of the most jarring examples of this would be the unusual case of James Joseph Dresnok, an American soldier in the Korean War turned defector to North Korea. For reasons that will probably remain somewhat unexplained, Dresnok defected in 1962, and thereby remained for the long haul. Mr. Dresnok, called “Jim” in some contexts, and curiously referred to by local friends as Arthur after playing a villain by the same name in a North Korean film, crossed the Demilitarized Zone into North Korea after facing being court-martialed for forgery. Dresnok had enlisted to go to Korea after his first wife had an affair with another man:

 

“I was fed up with my childhood, my marriage, my military life, everything. I was a finished. There’s only one place to go,” Dresnok said in an interview. “On August 15th, at noon in broad daylight when everybody was eating lunch, I hit the road. Yes I was afraid. Am I gonna live or die? And when I stepped into the minefield and I seen it with my own eyes, I started sweating. I crossed over, looking for my new life.”

 

At some level the rationale for the crossover is clear: a seemingly upstanding good citizen plays by the rules of his own country, he’s saddled with some unexpected setbacks and in a state of feeling left in the cold, he flees for the icy North Korean winds he perceives to be the antithesis of the society he believes has so thoroughly failed to compensate him. This is a tune we’ve seen played elsewhere in the world; one calls to mind the radicalization of people struggling to find identity in their immediate societal institutions and their actions explained in part by their failure to do so.

Despite Dresnok’s disenchantment with the United States and his defection across the DMZ, he showed some indication that he was not intent on staying in North Korea for the rest of his life. He, along with four other men attempted, unsuccessfully, to flee to the Soviet Union in 1966. The suggestion here is that even among the repressed nations of the world, there exist those which are relatively tolerable (so long as you keep quiet about politics, we can presume) and those which are manifestly miserable. A Soviet bloc citizen born in Czechoslovakia or Poland at the height of the Cold War years would probably have jumped at the chance to instead be in Moscow, where they could enjoy a better economy, escape brutal crackdowns such as that seen in the Prague Spring, and receive a better education. In the end, however, Dresnok remained in the DPRK, and by all accounts appeared to have attempted to make the best of a life in the least free nation on earth, even starring in a number of propaganda films overseen by the North Korean government. Dresnok was featured on 60 Minutes for his unusual situation and remained in Pyongyang until his reported death in 2016.

While attempted defection from the United States to the DPRK is not well appreciated by the North Korean government this day and age (just ask Matthew Todd Miller how it worked out for him), it can be reasonably assumed that the North Korean government made Dresnok relatively comfortable, if nothing more than for the sake of attempting to gain some sort of superficial moral upper hand against the United States. Countries unfriendly to the United States and to the West in general have a way of seizing on the opportunity to claim even a modicum of political superiority. This is precisely why Dresnok claimed to be well fed during the 1990’s famine, when large portions of the North Korean population had nothing to eat for themselves. It’s almost certain the DPRK’s regime instructed him to make such announcements.

In the end, did “Arthur” really gain a life of fulfillment beyond what he could have had in the United States? When he went AWOL, he escaped then imminent legal issues, caused by irresponsible personal decisions. He also averted, at least for the moment, facing up to the challenging questions of what led his marriage to fail. But ultimately, James Joseph Dresnok did not escape the societal limitations he believed to be eschewing when he risked life and limb to brave the less inviting side of the Korean Peninsula. And all said and done, Arthur spent the rest of his life in the clutches of a brutal dictatorship, perhaps better off than the average North Korean citizen, but scarcely better off than a coal miner in West Virginia. For the West Virginian coal miner remains free to defect in the first place, and one cannot overestimate the power that freedom will always have over any level of prestige that could ever be offered for its relinquishment.

 

Sources:

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/joe-dresnok-an-american-in-north-korea/

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30086069

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/6267645.stm

 

Write Along with Me…

A post about documenting experiences I high recommend my followers read!

Ramblings by a Retired Nurse (in Sioux Falls, SD, USA)

IMG_7351The fun is yet to be! Come with me, in spirit, to the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. I’m getting ready to attend this retreat next week. And oh, what fun it is to prepare.

I want to remind you, as I’ve done before, that your words will pass away when you do, UNLESS, you’ve written them down, the most important reason for you to write some of your life story. Imagine how your grandchildren and all your descendants would love to read your words. What was it like to live during the early 2000s? Did we have toilets yet? Did we have TVs? Did we have smart phones?

If I could have a chat with my grandparents, three of whom died before I was born 75 years ago, I would ask related questions. What was life like when you were growing up?…

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Anyone else worried about Better Call Saul – Season 3?

I’m happy to say that the issues between Netflix and AMC for Season 2 have been resolved and that Season 2 is now available on the streaming site. However, as I remain tuned in faithfully to the third season, I’m beginning to feel as though things are fizzling, rather than heating up. The show is spending a disproportionate amount of time dealing with mundane aspects of Jimmy/Saul’s life, such as picking up trash for community service and trying to pay for the commercial time he bought when he hadn’t anticipated getting suspended from practicing law for a year. Even the side plotline involving Mike, Hector, and Nacho seems to be dragging its feet.

Friends & family who watch the show, as well as myself, are starting to worry that too many people will lose interest and that Vince Gilligan will entertain the notion of cancellation. It could happen if they don’t tighten things up. There are only three episodes left of the current season, which was delayed multiple times for production reasons. That in itself is often a sign of creative difficulties, and three episodes won’t be enough to wrap up the many loose ends, not least of which pertain to the insufferable Chuck McGill’s pending insanity. If the show doesn’t get another season, we’ll be left completely in the dark.

So in that case, yes, I worry. I am not of the position that just because Better Call Saul is based on the Breaking Bad universe that it will find itself safe from the cutting block despite not delivering what we should so reasonably ask! I hope the writers know what they are doing!

If you watch 2016 backwards, it’s a very positive year.

Here’s why:

A demagogue resigns from the post of President-elect, giving way to a much better President. People become less divided and decide Americans should set aside their differences. Online trolling and harassment decreases, with people saying

“Hey, maybe it’s wrong to bully people on the internet, let’s go do something more constructive with this mountain of information we have on our fingertips.”

Scores of Americans reject isolationism and prejudice against immigrants, chanting at rallies: “Take down the wall! Take down the wall!” and the country’s attitudes towards Muslims and immigrants warms.

But there’s one big exception, one negative, the international community lifts its assertions that Israel is violating international law and says “Those settlements on Palestinian land?! Keep ’em comin’!”..it was Trump’s parting gift against Obama.

…2016 backwards.