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Under Construction
Grand Lake Theater, Oakland

January 12th, 2004

Cheer Them On
I watched the last half or so of The Practice last night and was surprised by how direct and impassioned they were in their statement against The Homeland Security Act and all of it's troubling manifestations. I'm not disturbed by the statement, I think we've got a bunch of wingnuts in charge of the government at the moment, but it's not something you write into a network television series and expect to make your advertisers happy. If nothing else, the Bush administration will make some phone calls.

I'm similarly surprised when my local movie theater makes one of their political statements like the one at the top, but find it more understandable. A local business isn't concerned about national ads or offending a board of directors although they worry about losing customers and making their mortgage. Around here most people nod their head in agreement or with tolerance as they step up to buy a ticket.

Still, I'm surprised, surprised because deep down I'm not sure as a writer I would have had the courage to even suggest that episode of The Practice to whatever powers run that network. I told the army to shove their reserve requirement when I left active duty in 1969 because I was against the war, yes, but also because I had to drive fifty miles to their reserve meetings every other week (which pissed me off) and the penalty for opting out was taking a general discharge (under honorable conditions) rather than an honorable discharge after two more years of service. All of which is to say I'm not all that impressed with my own moral ambiguity: did I opt out because I disagreed with their war or did I opt out to grab back my weekends? A little of both and not one or the other.

Giving your government the right to take you off the street without showing cause is scary. OK, one or two people were grabbed after 9 - 11. American citizens, but American citizens with funny names and darker skin who were grabbed and shipped to Guantanamo. Big deal. Life will not end and, you know, they said they were up to bad stuff, but once it's accepted, once we say yes, then well, how many more? How far down the line will the decision to take someone off the street be delegated? The local mayor? The local police chief? The head of the local office of the FBI? What did he do? Well, he wrote something caustic about that consulting fee I took on the redevelopment contract and posted it on his web site so I made a phone call. You don't think that can happen? You don't think a government flunky can't make a phone call one day and make your life go away once these laws have been on the books for a while?

You get the Fear out there on the street, my man, the capital F Fear and you'll have mobs of people happy as hell to see "not like us" people taken off the street to Never Land. Think how far they've already gone. A dirty bomb, a plane rupturing a nuclear power plant and god knows what could happen, particularly if Bush and his people choose to use it as they've used 9 - 11. That's when standing up to be counted matters. I would like to think I'd be standing with them, but you never know. I'm getting older. I like to take my whiskey in the evenings. Let the youngsters do it I might compromise, pull up the covers, cheer them on.

The photograph was taken near Lake Merritt in Oakland with a Nikon F3 and a 50mm f 1.2 Nikon (Nikkor) lens on Kodak TMAX-400.