Monday, July 19, 2004


I just saw "Touching The Void" on the shelves of our local Safeway Store. Let me tell you to run as fast as you can and rent that film. My daughter and I saw it while I was visiting her in Tacoma not too many months ago. "Touching The Void" is a spine tingling re-creation of an actual mountain climbing experience. I know! Mountain climbing! What fun is that unless you like to do it yourself? I wasn't expecting too much when we went in, but I was greatly mistaken in my initial judgment. Not only was I spell bound by the action adventure, but so was the entire audience. It was a small art house where we saw the flick, and during the film, I looked around, and I have never seen such an intent, intense response to any film in my life. I swear we were all holding our breaths.

Anyhow, "Touching The Void" re-creates the true experience of two mountain climbers in South America who nearly lose their lives in a series of accidents and mistaken judgments. One of them leaves the other behind with a broken leg. How that man gets down the mountain by himself is all the adventure you'll ever need in a movie. Take my word for it, it's a breath taking adventure. And the filming is a magical re-creation of the adventure.


The issue of homelessness dovetails nicely with reports of Bush’s cutting funding for Housing and Urban Development next year which will put even more people on the streets permanently. The Inlander (an excellent Spokane, Washington weekly) reports 8500 people are homeless in Spokane. Spokane Housing Authority numbers 4000 people on their waiting list for help to affordable housing. These figures arise in a long time conservative city and are only the tip of the iceberg which awaits a conservative America in the coming century if we don’t get our priorities straight and end the Republican plan to destroy every vestige of Roosevelt’s liberal America. Conservatives hate everything about Roosevelt’s vision of a nation in which no one is hungry or ill, wears ragged clothing or is homeless.

The problem of low wages and consequent poverty and homelessness in 21st Century America will be even worse than it was in late 19th Century America which is the target era Republicans aim to return us to by creating horrific wartime budget deficits which can only be met by cutting social programs. In 19th Century America, 90% of citizens lived on farms. Even when they couldn’t meet mortgage payments, they could at least garden, can, hunt and fish and keep starvation from the door. They didn’t have to dress up to go out to jobs either, and their heating needs were met by the wood lot on their own properties. Nowadays, only 3% of Americans farm. Most of us are entirely dependent on wages to keep the wolf from the door and cold from the hearth. Without good wages and social programs, America will flounder into terrible poverty.

Finally, we are not only turning our backs on Roosevelt’s vision for a fair America, we’re failing Jefferson too. Jefferson’s chief hope was that universal education and literacy would yield an electorate which could meet any difficulty. Bush’s conservative supporters are fundamentalist Christians (many home schooled and ignorant of modern science) and poorly educated white (specially Southern) males who are not readers or happy in a modern, progressive America. Sadly, they’re discontent and reactionary, dangerous to themselves and to America’s future. Without knowing what they ask for, they support Bush’s return to an old fashioned America where economic inequality was rampant and social injustice commonplace. Illiterate, they’re easily duped by the unscrupulous rich and their talk radio and Fox lackeys.

A recent National Endowment for the Humanities’ report in Newsweek projects from recent trends that in 50 years no one will read for pleasure. Only reading stimulates the synapses for extended and expanded capacities to reason through complex problems. Picking up a few facts on TV and being emotionally influenced by talking heads will not lead to citizens who are able to meet their obligations as “informed” voters who understand complex issues.

One sign of conservative times in history is a large, illiterate populace unable to see through the false claims of their “betters” who use their own superstitious fears against them to keep them down. (Today, think of the gay issue with which the rich conservatives in Congress distract fearful, ignorant white males and evangelicals from the really important issues in America.) Unless, we rededicate ourselves to being a literate, scientific, fair and just, fearless modern society, I don’t see anything but a gloomy, Taliban-like, Christianized intellectual and economic impoverishment for all of us.


"It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong." —Voltaire (1694-1778)

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