Renting the American Dream on $15/hour (Caution: Harsh Logic and Adult Reasoning)

Earlier Brian and I showed on a simple level, using a company’s own numbers how a better world and livable wages were possible. By paying just a couple of pennies more for food that is essentially toxic waste we showed that society would benefit, poor people would benefit and that corporations would get to maintain their profits. We did that to shut up Righties who filter ethics, morality and social evolution through the prism of “profits.”

Before I get to the reality of living on minimum wage, there is one more issue I would like to dispel. Again and again comes the refrain from Righties arguing against the minimum wage. These are the same people who throw around vague terms like “market” and “capitalism.” Maybe this is why our economy isn’t fucking working, except for the wealthy. Keep pumping pennies into your 401k, though, that’s the lube for the 77% of the stock market owned by the wealthiest 10%.

If I’d heard this on FOX or from Limbaugh, Hannity or hundreds of others on the Right just once I might have let it go. But when they repeat again and again and that raising the wage of a mother who works for shit at a lunch counter then returns to a homeless shelter at night will double the price of your hamburger I begin to understand a bit why as an economy we are screwed. If you believe that the 6 people making and serving 1000 hamburgers at lunchtime will cause the price of that burger to double because their wage doubles, you should have taken the special bus to school. With news this week that the most popular degree is the MBA, what the hell are these schools teaching?

One thing obviously is not critical thinking. And where is the media in helping to clarify the issue over fight for 15. Revolution and Beer showed that a few pennies would transform the nation by putting 100% of that communal investment back into the economy and community, unlike the stock market or other investments that are simply non-productive vehicles to further enrich already wealthy people. In fact, the numbers seem to indicate that $15/hour might not be enough, and that the real number might be closer to $17-18/hour.

The key is, what does $15/hour purchase? In a word; nothing, really. What we’re after in this exercise is not to impoverish rich folks, but rather to illustrate that economy runs like an engine, in which capital must move efficiently throughout to maintain the efficiency of the engine. Currently we have a growing pool of fuel, about 80%, collecting in about 7% of the engine, while the engine must run on less and less fuel. Come on all you mechanics out there! Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for a disaster?

At 40 hours worked per week at $15 bucks an hour, that works out to $600 gross/week, $4800 monthly or $31200 annually. That presumes fulltime work, with paid sick, holiday and vacation days. Now, no one takes home the actual amount of money you are paid. Social security, State and federal taxes all come off the top. Even if you get all your state and Fed taxes back at the end of the year, you still have to budget to that weekly deduction. SSI is just gone. A refund for most working people is simply damage control, and doesn’t help much with that brutal 11 month budget before the refund. At 2014 tax rates those total deductions are about 7500, give or take a hundred or so. From your $600 weekly you lose $121 right off the top. You are effectively living off of about $1920 a month.
In Chicago, as of April 2014, the average rent for a 1 bedroom apartment is $1508http://www.rentjungle.com/average-rent-in-chicago-rent-trends/. Add to that tab, $30 each for electricity and gas, $100/week for food, $95 for a CTA or Metra Pass, $60 for the phone and $40 for internet. These are simple basics in surviving in modern society. Your furniture will be second hand and you’ll be restricted to buying only a few clothes/underwear and one pair of shoes throughout the year. Good luck buying a television or a computer, but then again, you’re a dreamer…an American dreamer!

Then maybe you got lucky and found an apartment in a bad neighborhood for a thousand a month, and as luck would have it there are no bed bugs because the rats ate them. So now you can afford an extra pair of shoes a new coat and real food, instead of the high fructose, high sodium, low nutrition crap you’ve been buying all these years. You can also afford the high blood pressure medicine because of years of unhealthy eating. But, hey, that’s what you could afford. And then you got mugged for your rent money, because you don’t make enough to keep a bank account, and the thugs followed you home from the currency exchange. So see, all of that $15 an hour really does go to the community. Luckily though, the rich people are still okay.

Truth is, it is less about the dollar amount paid as it is the efficiency of the economic engine. Instead what we’ve seen are so-called capitalists who view the market separate from the economy. That is fundamental. They talk of one in specifics and the other in abstracts, despite that they are one in the same. That is insane. It also should exclude them from any reasonable discussion about the economy, the same way we’d pass on the guy with the tin foil hat giving you fashion advice. Then again…

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left, he can be heard Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Revolution and Beer Memorial Day Show with Patrick Putze of the National Veterans Art Museum

On this show we’re talking about Art, War, and Memorial Day. We’re joined by Patrick Putze, a veteran and an artist, from the National Veterans Art Museum(NVAM). He’s coming on to tell us about what we can expect to find at the upcoming exhibition “Surrealism and War.” The Memorial Day opening of the exhibit marks the NVAM’s second Memorial Day at their home in the Six Corners neighborhood.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Endless Solar! The end of Fracking and Coal…A Revolution and Beer exclusive

“Struggling coal company Patriot Coal (PCX) has filed for bankruptcy, citing a coal industry “transformation” that made its financial position untenable… Patriot Coal’s bankruptcy comes as the coal industry faces major challenges including high debt, slumping natural gas prices, and new emissions regulations that have made it a less economic energy source for utilities…” Source: http://www.thestreet.com/story/11609935/1/patriot-coal-prepares-for-bankruptcy-report.html
solar
There are two fundamental questions to the issue of replacing one technology with another: The first is, can the new technology succeed and become as sustainable as the one it is replacing, and second, are those currently making money willing to concede that their cash cow is obsolete. In modern America the answer to the second question is not one of logic, but politics. Dead, destructive and dirty technologies like coal have seen their logical conclusion and are prime to be replaced by clean technologies, except that their opulently wealthy patrons have a stranglehold on government as a means of perpetuating their absurdity.

Too harsh? In 1985 57% of all power generated in the US came from coal. Last year that number fell to about 35% or almost in half, while natural gas produced nearly 35%, up from 24.6% in 1985. One finite and filthy source of energy hammered towards the brink by a new one. And there is one word that is never uttered, despite it being a near perfect source of energy: Solar.

You might have missed the news. IBM, you know that liberal, commie tech company, announced a breakthrough in solar technology. A research team is working on a solar dish with the potential to collect and convert 80% of incoming sunlight. Harnessing and absorbing enough solar radiation to melt steel, the large dish will be capable of producing roughly 504,000 kWh, or kilowatt/hours of energy. That is enough, at an average annual use per household of 8,000 kWh, that would fully power 63 homes.

Now, to be thoroughly ridiculous, and because I am your source for inane and obscure facts, there are roughly 160 million households in the United States, according to the 2010 census. If IBM’s breakthrough represented the end of innovation in solar tech, to meet the nation’s home power needs with the cleanest current technology possible would require about 2.5 million dishes. But that’s absurd, you say! We might as well be building pyramids! Who could achieve such an impossible technological and engineering feat? Ask Verizon or T-Mobile. 10 years ago there were virtually no cellphone towers in America, comparatively. Now there are more than half a million.

The point is simple. Dangerous and low paying coal jobs would go the way of history, replaced by production, construction, tech and maintenance jobs across the nation to serve every household. I have not even touched on factories and businesses. Coal factories could easily and quickly, without loss of jobs switch to generating and transferring to communities across the nation clean solar power, leaving the environment unmolested while maintaining profit and economic growth. In fact, the conversion to the new technology would see a net benefit to the economy in jobs for the long term. Current estimate concede that we will run out of energy from the sun in only about 4.5 billion years-so stock up. Consider this from the replacement energy causing havoc with coal(Hint, it isn’t solar or Obama):

“The world’s proven oil reserves of 1,383.2 billion barrels will last for only 46 years if oil production and consumption are to remain at current levels, according to BP Statistical Review of World Energy. The world’s natural gas reserves will also last for just 59 years if production is to continue at the 2010 rate… “http://topforeignstocks.com/2011/08/15/how-long-will-the-global-oil-and-natural-gas-reserves-last/

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left, he can be heard Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

$500 mill of debt’s a-burnin – More great action from Chile on Student Debt

As we demonstrated on a previous show, in an interview with Chilean Anarchists, Chile has some strong grassroots mojo. Due to our concerns over student debt, and the quality of education in general, this story caught my eye.

This act of political fire sports pairs nicely with Strike Debt’s Rolling Jubilee initiative, to student debt relief. But this action has a distinct 1971/old-school flair.

Headline from the 1971 break-in of the Philadelphia FBI office.

It’s inspiring to see a multifaceted set of tactics coming together to address the grossly disproportionate debt that exists within our culture of higher education. If you’re curious about how school debt resistance is carried out, be sure to check-out Strike Debt’s “Debt Resisters’ Operation Manual (DROM).”

If you want a good introduction into what the grassroots student movement is doing in Chile, check-out our interview with Melissa, Gabriel, and Pablo, three Chilean organizers visiting the US.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Army Krishna: The cult of militarism

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty and democracy?” Mohandas Gandhi, “Non-Violence in Peace and War”

I want to be careful here. Not for fear of offending the oversensitive, or deriding the American military. This really isn’t about the military as much as it is a skewed perspective. It is a dangerous road the American public is being rail-roaded down in the manufactured hyper-exultation of the American military. The media derides the politician and statesman while placing the military on an artificially prominent pedestal.

"Thanks for your service! Appreciate your sacrifice so I can Just gonna stroll over and enjoy a hot dog and cold beer today!"

“Thanks for your service! Appreciate your sacrifice so I can Just gonna stroll over and enjoy a hot dog and cold beer today!”

Even now I feel an overwhelming pressure to couch my criticism of the media’s manipulation of reality, with some sort of obligatory “thank you for your service,” refrain. That refrain is most often uttered by various partisan pundits more as some sort of sub-conscious confession for their own failure to serve, as much as it is an essential condescension to their own political angles. That the American public has mostly allowed themselves to be fooled for so long is testimony to the slickly-polished marketing of modern media political manipulation that has learned to deftly mask itself as populist.

But to be clear, this is not about the military, nor is it a criticism of the American men and women in service to the nation. It is not. It is about a manipulation, a sleight of hand, the so-called shiny key syndrome. It is a distraction and a grand lie with both civilian and soldier caught in that trap of manipulation.

When I was a child in school I recall a social studies teacher remarking about the priorities of our nation, and what distinguished us from other nations. That was during the height of the Cold War and a time of heightened tensions with the then Soviet Union. What distinguished us from so many other nations, she said, was that America builds monuments and statues to statesmen, not generals. The reason, she explained, is that as a progressive nation, we value reason and diplomacy, law and process over war. War, when imposed upon us is for defense and to free the oppressed.

That was in the 1970s, or, in current timeline of American political history, about a million years ago.

The point is, George Washington is a founding father, not a founding conqueror. There is a Lincoln monument, not a Patton monument. Andrew Jackson was just a jerk.

The military monuments which we do uphold and revere are, or were designed to be subdued, solemn recollections of the sacrifice of American soldiers drawn from the common citizenry. That long established legacy always remained the standard.

Then something changed. While there has always been a struggle to balance the rights of the common citizen against the influence of money interests, those interests have endeavored through the later part of the Twentieth and start of the Twenty-first Centuries to secure their prominence and power. Those interests painted themselves as victim and moved aggressively to seize control of the government.

Too strong? In 1971 Lewis Powell Jr., corporate lawyer(surprise, surprise), wrote a confidential memorandum to key members of the US Chamber of Commerce. It is commonly referred to as the Powell Memo. For space, only the relevant information is below, edited from the original:

“The most disquieting voices joining the chorus of criticism come from perfectly respectable elements of society: from the college campus, the pulpit, the media, the intellectual and literary journals, the arts and sciences, and from politicians. In most of these groups the movement against the system is participated in only by minorities. Yet, these often are the most articulate, the most vocal, the most prolific in their writing and speaking.
Moreover, much of the media — for varying motives and in varying degrees — either voluntarily accords unique publicity to these “attackers,” or at least allows them to exploit the media for their purposes. This is especially true of television, which now plays such a predominant role in shaping the thinking, attitudes and emotions of our people.
What Can Be Done About the Public?
Reaching the campus and the secondary schools is vital for the long-term. Reaching the public generally may be more important for the shorter term. The first essential is to establish the staffs of eminent scholars, writers and speakers, who will do the thinking, the analysis, the writing and the speaking. It will also be essential to have staff personnel who are thoroughly familiar with the media, and how most effectively to communicate with the public. Among the more obvious means are the following:
Television
The national television networks should be monitored in the same way that textbooks should be kept under constant surveillance. This applies not merely to so-called educational programs (such as “Selling of the Pentagon”), but to the daily “news analysis” which so often includes the most insidious type of criticism of the enterprise system. Whether this criticism results from hostility or economic ignorance, the result is the gradual erosion of confidence in “business” and free enterprise.
This monitoring, to be effective, would require constant examination of the texts of adequate samples of programs. Complaints — to the media and to the Federal Communications Commission — should be
Other Media
Radio and the press are also important, and every available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks, as well as to present the affirmative case through these media.

One has only to look at the state of contemporary media, the political system and the disparity between the top one percent and the bottom 70% of the population to see the success of that seminal idea. President Nixon nominated Powell to the Supreme Court. His memo is cited as influencing the Koch brothers, Joseph Coors who helped found the Rightwing think tank heritage Foundation, and the DeVos family of Amway fame, who were on the US Chamber board of directors. Blackwater CEO Erik Prince is brother-in-law to Rich DeVos.

And then there is the good Mr. Christopher Cline, a mining billionaire who resides in North Palm Beach Florida. With a record of environmental violations a mile long, Cline ran into trouble at a proposed mining operation, Gogebic Taconite, near Ashland Wisconsin. Opposed aggressively by local tribes, activists, state lawmakers and environmentalists, the mine hired the unlicensed Bulletproof Securities armed security contractor, whose combat-style hired guns were sent to intimidate protesters. Based in Scottsdale, Arizona, Bulletproof bills themselves as a “No Compromise Security Force.” Interesting. But finally public pressure forced the withdrawal of these paramilitaries from the area.

What these stories show is an entire culture becoming psychotically militarized. Worse, that economy and mindset are becoming woven deeper and deeper into the culture and society. Take, for example, a recent ad campaign about the National Guard, describing them as ready and on scene to natural disasters, environmental disasters and for policing. There was a time they needed to be called out when, and only when the local authorities were in danger of being overwhelmed. Now they are virtually on the other end of every 9-1-1 call!

For many, the presence and existence of mini-militaries around the nation, swathed in combat arms with a fundamental disdain and distrust of the average person goes almost unnoticed any more. We find them everywhere now, a legacy of two wars and showers of virtually unrestricted cash flowing to a daunting list of companies draining the nations of hundreds of billions of dollars (how is your local school doing?). One of these military contractor outfits even showed up just feet from one of the explosions moments before the bomb detonated in Boston. Hmm?

This was the stuff of fiction when I was young

This was the stuff of fiction when I was young

And while all of that is very interesting and conspiratorial, none of it really answers the ultimate question; why is the military so important to the Rightwing? I could thrill you with a grand tale of treachery and a dramatic scheme by the right to rally the military and march across the proverbial Rubicon and seize control of the country in a coup of some sort. I could, but that would be foolish, and it isn’t the reason.

First, it has always amazed me how poor and working class people who send their children off to war can be swayed so easily by the insincere wave of a flag or manufactured patriotism. I will not proclaim here that no war has ever been justified, though certainly it can be argued that it represents an absolute flaw in humanity. But if I am to send a loved one or a child to war, I want to know that war is the final option, and there truly is an urgent national interest in the cost in human life and national treasure.

But without pandering, co-opting and obfuscating their truest nature, the former Republican Party and Post-Republican party could hardly hope to keep the vote beyond a few affluent suburbs, a hand full of fringe trailer parks in the Deep South and a mumbling minority in retirement resorts.

The truth of it is, they factually or actually do not represent really any free thinking people in this nation. They certainly do not represent minorities, and their policies and the policies of their big-money allies have all but driven the middle class to the point of daily terror for the future by pressing them ever closer to the poverty line. Of course Republican propaganda has sufficiently, at least for a time, convinced many of them it is because immigrants are stealing their jobs, and that terrorists and criminals are lurking behind every bush.

It is a slight of hand, a distraction while the Republicans and their big money patrons continue their looting of the nation. But that slickly polished marketing fraud, wrapped in an American flag costume, buys them access to middle and working poor classes. Through a near virtual monopoly on media, in no small part thanks to the 1996 Telecommunications Act under Clinton, the Right is able to comfortably and completely continue their illusion and fraud.

It’s sort of like showing you a sad-eyed puppy while they are drowning your cat in a bucket. When you find out about the cat, they convince you that a Muslim neighbor, let in the gate by an undocumented immigrant, was responsible.

That’s what the Occupy movement was about. The Right created a “Tea Party” made up of sadly informed victims of Rightwing policies, who argued passionately and from a grassroots level about all the things the Right has tried to accomplish; less regulations on big corporations, access and cuts to your social security, no criminal liability for fraudulent mortgage loans, lower taxes for the super wealthy, who predominantly own better than 90% of all media in the country. Seeing a pattern here?

Occupy up-ended, for a time, the Right’s attempt to distract and confuse what truly is the bottom 99% of the nation from the real crimes and real injustices that stymie the nation from moving forward pursuant to the promise of the Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The Cult

So confusing the issue isn’t always the easiest or surest trick to play on Americans. There is an inherent risk in convincing parents to send their children off to war, or in convincing young men and women to potentially sacrifice their lives and futures for a war that truly only benefits weapons manufacturers. Imagine the blowback should hundreds of millions, or tens of millions of Americans realized the injustice heaped upon them through false wars, or the pilfering by hundreds of military contractor companies sucking away of tens and hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars, many in no-bid contracts?

These military contractors appeared before, during and after the Boston Bombings, at the blast site. They have never been explained or identified. The media simply ignored their presence. Maybe if they'd been at Benghazi...

These military contractors appeared before, during and after the Boston Bombings, at the blast site. They have never been explained or identified. The media simply ignored their presence. Maybe if they’d been at Benghazi…

Imagine if the American people really understood the true nature of just how deeply those contractors and manufacturers influenced national policy to the detriment of the American people and the nation’s standing and legacy in the world. Most are paid in the low to mid six digits, mostly if not entirely tax free. The case of Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower and a government contractor making better than Two hundred thousand annually, is a case in point. Those are your tax dollars. They are performing jobs that could be done cheaper by government workers and soldiers.

The media in this country has created, through games, movies, the tones of advertising, fear, unending propaganda a network of charities and selective news a cult of militarism a tribal mentality throughout our culture. And remember, the root of culture is cult.
In that cult, reality has been reshaped and twisted beyond cajoled by heartfelt ads for injured soldiers, or to help the families of the fallen. They are stirred and plucked from despair by grandiose stories of innovations in technologies to restore or replace limbs. For true threats those innovations are a blessing. For wasteful conflicts such as Iraq, which drew substantial focus and resource from arguably necessary conflicts such as Afghanistan, in the wake of September 11th, those innovations are window dressings to a crime.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Victims not Heroes

It was October of 1994. I was standing between the frontlines of the war-battered Bosnian city of Mostar. There was a ceasefire in place and I took the opportunity to cross over and look back upon the positions I’d been in with a Bosnian unit the night before. I recall the absurdity of a world and war that would allow me that moment. It spoke to the fakery, the perverse theatre of war. As I travelled through the war, aghast at the destruction wrought upon the country and people I grew darker and cynical. War was never about lofty ideals, freedom or the dissolution of an oppressor. War is the illusion the wealthy and powerful inflict upon the masses and innocent as a means to a selfish and greedy end. Their constructed systems of control such as media sells us the war and sells us justification in its aftermath.

The last truly just war?

The last truly just war?

Hitler and the Emperor raged across the planet over money and resources. The rubber tree groves of Vietnam were off limits for both the Vietcong and the US military. Afghanistan was less about airplanes flying into towers as it was a refusal by the Taliban to negotiate terms over a Unical pipeline 4 months before September 11, 2001. Iraq, well, WMDs, right? http://www.ringnebula.com/Oil/Timeline.htm Of course, a trillion Dollars, hundreds of thousands dead in Iraq, regional destabilization, and the American casualties. Worth it over some rusty shells FOX News still parades as justification. If we go to war in Ukraine, remember. Ambassador Victoria Nuland is married to Project for a New American century’s Robert Kagan, which led us to war in Iraq, and that Joe Biden’s son is now working for a major Ukraine gas company. Modern War is a fraud and a crime, and does not breed heroes, but instead sows victims.

Here is what I mean. The nation and its media are outraged over the so-called recent Veterans Administration issue, despite being flooded now with millions of new veterans. For thirteen years our nation has been at war, first over a crime, as with Afghanistan, and then over a lie in Iraq. One was unnecessary in its duration, the other just unnecessary. And the dividends paid to our nation? More than 50000 Americans were wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, 16000 of those suffered severe injuries. It will, over their lifetimes cost the nation as much as $10 trillion over the course of our wounded warriors lifetimes, although we are told a trillion spent on Obamacare in 10 years will imperil our children. New medical and lifesaving procedures helped save, according to the defense department was credited with saving many grievously wounded who might have otherwise died on the battlefield.

And that becomes the justification. We rarely look at the perverse perspective that revolutionary new medical procedures simply support the mechanism of war. Rather than flag-draped coffins and tearful families who we will never hear from again, we are instead paraded with the reality-show guilt-trip of limbless, sightless crippled young men and women. Because what person can look a young man without arms in the eyes and tell him he was crippled for a lie. Their suffering becomes our eternal burden of debt that they should have suffered for us, like Jesus on the Cross. They are lofted as heroes, showered with the condescension of a media-industrial complex, when they should be the evidence that leads to the dismantling and destruction of the purveyors of war.

No technological advance has ever given mankind anything that equals the value of mass graves, of wholesale catastrophe, and treacherous betrayal by the wealthy and powerful who profit from war. If that was ever true, that would mean that as a species the only way we can push ourselves forward is by first toying with our own collective destruction. That is a sickness not a virtue. It is a flaw not an attribute.

So, you’ll forgive me if I am not paying homage to the fallen and wounded from the nation’s modern wars. I am instead outraged over the interruption of their peaceful life. I am sickened at the young man condescended by a wealthy media personality who has only sucked off the working class of the nation, and who perpetuate the propaganda of butcherous greed, only to say at the culmination of the young man’s physical destruction, “Thank you for your service.”

I cannot consider these fellow citizens, neighbors, friends and love ones as heroes or saviors. They were forced, cajoled, tricked, blinded or lured into a crime, as we all were. I would wave the flag and honor the fallen for a just war, if I could find one. Memorial day is a slight of hand, a distraction from the real crime perpetrated by the rich and powerful. As for this moment, and at this point in our history I am more animated to finding justice, not for heroes, but for victims!

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left, he can be heard Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

BRIDGE ON THE DRINA: A Postscript

Original image courtesy of Luigi Torreggianni

Original image courtesy of Luigi Torreggianni


In 1961, Yugoslav writer Ivo Andric received the Nobel Prize for his most famous novel, “The bridge on the Drina”, which tells the story of the Visegrad Bridge spanning the Drina River through the centuries. The work, which leaves off at the beginning of the First World War has transcended war and division these latest tumultuous decades. The book was the first piece of literature I consumed before visiting the fractured nation beginning in 1993. This postscript continues the saga, with ultimate homage going to the author and with love and respect for all those I have come to know, love and cherish across the Balkans. This was been a piece in the making for sometime, the recent tragedy across the Balkans has only made this moment all the more fitting.

Adnan Spahic stood on the spot where Hodja had died. Yes, he was certain this was the place. His father had told him it had happened here. The story was legend and kept him awake considering, even as a boy, the finite nature of his own existence. That lesson had carried him through those dark days when the Vezir’s bridge had become a parable for the cruelty rendered in war by men. The story of old Hodja, his final days counted in dramatic description time and again in his father’s words, had blossomed in proportion to Adnan’s young imagination. It remained there now as a cherished treasure for Adnan the man. It concealed the scars still and perhaps forever too painful to confront without dissolving to bitterness and tears, where he might then run away among the ancient stones of the bridge.

Alas, the bridge had suffered the ravages of history since the passing of Alihodja. Nothing in the world is without end. General Putnik’s Serbian mud had seen to The Austrian hordes, and Adnan’s own grandfather had watched as a boy as Nazi divisions descended towards the bridge on their way to Sarajevo; waving as they neared and pissing in their wake. Those terrible years of World War had seen three spans destroyed of the bridge, only to be restored at last to the original builder’s exacting standards.

It was raining. It had rained forever it seemed. The clouds were fat and full, sweeping low over the valley, tearing themselves from the blue-green mountains and hills westward towards Sarajevo. The whisper of the cold rain was lost to the roar of the river rushing through the great masonry arches, thundering such that he could feel the bridge tremble beneath his feet. The umber waters boiled and drove unstoppable among the arches. Not since the great flood of 1896 had the waters of the Drina ever come this high where they threatened to spill over the high banks and into the town or even accomplish what two world wars and the last could not and sweep away the bridge.

It was a scene repeated across all of Bosnia, the product of a fevered world. In Sarajevo the Miljacka ran unstoppable through the town, inundating Illidza and threatening Bascarsija for the first time in nearly two centuries. Maglaj, on the river Bosna had to be evacuated by the Army. Zenica was in peril and Mostar strained at a burgeoning Neretva. But fevers, Adnan knew served a purpose, purging the body of toxins and invaders. He turned slowly, comprehending the magnificence of the world and his own miniscule nature.
Adnan was a doctor by profession and a pediatrician by practice. Something in that vocation reaffirmed a belief in the hope and possibility of humanity. Each new wail, as the child emerged fresh and innocent from its mother’s womb, felt to Adnan a new beginning to the world and his own tattered heart.

A lone figure approached from the Serbia side of the river. The man was tall and thin, his dark figure narrowed in the funnel of a long black raincoat. His hands were tucked deep in the pockets of the coat. A thin white lease strained from the right pocket with a golden terrier at the end; sniffing along the low bridge wall in a gadabout sort of fashion.

There was something about the man that Adnan recognized, and which rendered him cold for a moment. Not in a fearful fashion, necessarily, but that which threatened to release a flood of long buried memories with all the tumult and catastrophe of the river. Perhaps it was the character of a slight limp, softened by the years and deepened by age.

Not that the years had been a great deal kinder to Adnan. In moments he might recall the face of the boy before the war and all that was to follow. That boy could afford to squander the eternal energy necessary to the vigorous obstinance of arrogant youth. In the mirror that chiseled and glowing pale face was replaced with taunt cheekbones and darkened eyes. The boy’s lips had thinned, the flesh lined and weathered. The image, and all that befell the boy in the ensuing years, evolved an awakening realization of mortality more as spouse than adversary. The hair that fell reddish brown across youthful shoulders was now thinning. It was trimmed and the hue of unpolished pewter. His feet and hands now ached constantly, and Adnan wondered just when his thumb lost the ability to turn a page without first being wetted!

The stranger drew nearer. It was not a deliberate intention, though something about it felt to Adnan as fateful. Adnan’s sense was that they had somehow met before. He couldn’t be sure, and for now it remained hidden behind the steel wall around a place in his mind that he had attempted to seal off forever.

The stranger stopped beside the wall a few yards from Adnan. Now and again the man snuck furtive lingering looks in Adnan’s direction. He too had a strong sense of recognition, and like Adnan it appeared to cause him some distress. Still, the man nodded politely enough, then turned his attention to the dog scratching at something near his feet. The tension built, however, until it was too much for Adnan to bear any longer.

He drew a pack of Drina cigarettes from his coat pocket. They weren’t Adnan’s favorite, but were affordable enough. The thin cellophane covering the white, red and blue packaging crinkled it as he opened the top further with his fingers before, with a snap of the wrist, pushing a cigarette to the top. Adnan plucked it from the pack with his lips, while his left hand fished for a small silver lighter in his trouser pocket. He lit the cigarette and dutifully held the pack towards the stranger in offering.

“Cigarette, mate?” said Adnan, drawing the man’s attention.

Tugging gently on the leash, the man bridged the gap between them in a few shuffling steps.
Just up the river a moment of blue sky and sunlight surprised the valley, sweeping silent down sodden slopes and across the churning rain-fattened waters. The moment was serenely poetic. Its occurrence remained to both men in stark contrast to villages swept away by crumbling mountain slides, or those fleeing to tents in the hells above Zenica.

The stranger stretched and pulled a cigarette from the pack, holding it up in his fingers with an appreciative nod. Adnan moved closer, lighting the man’s cigarette. The stranger gently cupped his hands around Adnan’s, puffing out a cloud of white tobacco smoke that was quickly swept away by the wind.

“Thank you,” said the stranger, straightening.

There was something in the stranger’s voice that unleashed a torrent of emotions, as tumultuous and chaotic as the river thundering against the bridge. They came through him with a cascade of emotions so powerful they almost robbed the breath from his lungs. Both men now stood nearly shoulder to shoulder looking out across the river.

“I think that Visegrad has seen the worst already,” said the stranger.

“I don’t know,” said Adnan, taking a darker view.

“They say ten thousand are fleeing Bijeljina. Serbia is sending help. And Croatia as well,” he added almost out of some forced obligation.

“And who helps Bosnia?” Adnan posed, with a mix of fatalism and accusation that the stranger wisely ignored. Adnan conceded the moment. “The newspaper said a special fund for flood protection is missing.”

The stranger nodded knowingly. “When will we learn, eh? Maybe all those rabble-rousers in Tuzla were right all along.”

“I’m not so certain burning down government buildings ever accomplishes anything.”

“Ah, but you must admit when mothers blockaded parliament in Sarajevo with baby carriages, that was really something.”

“Yes, something,” said Adnan.

“We could learn a thing or two from you Bosnians in Belgrade.”

Adnan smiled to himself. He studied the cigarette burning away in his fingers. Images and memories came stronger now. In flashed Adnan relived the terror and panic of a warm June morning slightly more than two decades earlier. Adnan felt that oppressive weight of an unfolding crime once more, heard the gunfire and screams. There was a face in a doorway, crutches and a saving nod.

On the Bosnian side of the river, as if to punctuate the bitter resignation of Adnan’s words, the clouds burst suddenly. Sheets of blue-gray rain briefly erased the nearby hills and distant mountains. The stranger looked at Adnan for a long uncomfortable moment.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” the man asked.

Adnan studied the man’s eyes a moment, looking for a way to escape the issue. Instead he looked back over the river and gave a deep breath.

“You still have a problem with you leg.”

“Hardly noticeable anymore,” the stranger paused. “I always wondered if you made it.” His voice lowered and softened. “Dark days.”

“I don’t prefer to revisit them,” Adnan replied, without taking his gaze from the river, “But I remember what you did.”

There were volumes that passed between the men, and volumes they might have said to one another. But there was nothing that needed to be said. They had, like the land and the nation shared a history, but history is a perspective and not entirely compatible between hearts. For now what resolutions, what questions lingered from those dark days found sufficient satisfaction and perspective in this happenstance. The stranger found more discomfort in the resulting silence than Adnan, who defended it as a bulwark.

“I am in the same place,” said the stranger, nodding to the Serbian side, and the town blanketing the hillside there. “You will come sometime for coffee. Perhaps we can put the past behind us, eh? Talk of better days?”

“History is indeed a perspective,” thought Adnan.

It was not so simple for him to sweep aside the past. He had lost too much. Some scars cut too deep.

From the hills on that June morn he’d watched friends and his family murdered and thrown from the bridge over differences in how one comes to god.

“I think maybe, yes,” replied Adnan without any real conviction.

With that the two men shook hands. It was a firm and satisfying shake that the stranger took heart in. With a respectful nod the stranger turned and started for home.

It’s a nice dog,” Adnan called out.

“I’ll see you,” the stranger replied and continued on his way.

Adnan watched until the man was nearly to the far side of the bridge when he at last turned for the Bosnian side. It had begun to drizzle once more. The air was colder now against his cheeks and ears. On a rise above the bridge he paused to look back. The stranger was just climbing into the town, favoring his limp a bit more than before. In a moment he was gone, disappeared among the shops and houses.

The gulf between the two sides of the bridge seemed immense. Once it had seemed a greater and even impossible void. After pondering that a moment Adnan turned and continued up the hill to where he’d parked his automobile. The river was louder here, drawing in a crescendo of sounds from all along the valley.

Adnan’s step felt lighter now. Those seemingly meaningless hospitalities with the stranger had unchained the iron gate around his heart. Opening it, after all that had occurred, solidified by the cement of grief and distance, would be the harder task. Time was the only possible elixir for rapprochement, and Adnan was not certain there had been or ever could be sufficient time. Still, he could not deny the saving power of the thought.

“Maybe,” he said aloud, without realizing.

Adnan paused once more, this time pondering the trip across the river with intention. The bone-white arch and spans stretched like a beacon, beckoning him. Through those arched expanses the churning brown waters of the Drina continued unabated, rampaging south through the valley. For the first time Adnan Spahic saw the bridge for its true self. It was indeed a relic, a cosmetic span between the assumptions of east and west, of the Muslim and Christian world. And all at once, against the majesty and power of the land, all of those pretences fell away as mere costumes of history. Even the bridge took its true place as something so infinitesimally small and fleeting. It was an accoutrement to the one true religion of a fractured people.

That religion was the land. That religion was always the land. It was always the land, the only true enemy, and the ultimate salvation.

The revelation almost made Adnan cry out. There was a moment now he considered turning back and crossing that bridge. Adnan would find his way to the stranger’s door and have that coffee and begin the work that must be done between hearts and souls. He might have but a sudden swell in the river washed heavily across the road at the far side of the river. The rain came harder now, driven by a stiffening wind forcing a retreat to the automobile. In an hour Adnan would be back in Sarajevo. Soon, he told himself, soon he would return and have that coffee.

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left, he can be heard Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

On Today’s Show: Memorial Day, War, & Surrealism: The National Veterans Art Meuseum

“Surrealism and War” opens Monday, May 26th, in observance of Memorial Day.

This Saturday on Revolution and Beer, broadcasting on AM1680 in Chicago; streaming on Que4.org, we’ll be talking about Art, War, and Memorial Day. We’ll be joined by Patrick Putze, a veteran and an artist, from the National Veterans Art Museum(NVAM). He’s coming on to tell us about what we can expect to find at the upcoming exhibition “Surrealism and War.” The Memorial Day opening of the exhibit marks the NVAM’s second Memorial Day at their home in the Six Corners neighborhood.

“Surrealism is an attempt to revolt against the inherent contradictions of a society ruled by rational thought while dominated by war and oppression. Surrealism seeks expression of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason and free of aesthetic and moral preoccupation. It is this same absence of control exercised by reason that many combat veterans seek to explore and express after their experiences in war.”

The exhibit, curated by Aaron Hughes, opens on Memorial Day. In addition to Jim Leedy and Aaron Hughes, the show features nine other veteran artists that intentionally and unintentionally use and explore Surrealist processes and concepts. Here’s the facebook event page. Event details are below.

A group exhibition of exquisite corpse drawings by Chicago artists and veteran/artists.Come see the collaboration of Mary Lou Zelazny, Lisa Boumstein- Smalley, and Geoffry Smalley, among many others.
Opening Memorial Day, Monday, May 26, 2014
National Veterans Art Museum
4041 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60641
11:00 AM Color Guard, 2:00PM, Artist Talk
Exhibition runs from May 26 to November 1, 2014

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

#BringBackOurGirls: An open letter to men

So Boco Haram kidnaps three hundred girls for slave-wives, while women in America are accused of contributing to their own rapes. Of 1325 candidates for Congress in India in 2014, from the 3 major parties (BJP, Congress and AAP) only about 12% were women. Senegal, Liberia, Kosovo, South Korea and Malawi are among a number of countries with women leaders, but still less than 10% of the total. The Right-wing in America, in solidarity with Uganda, is apoplectic about gay marriage but totally silent about forced, arranged and kidnap marriages; which I guess somehow fits into their concept of marriage between one man and one woman.

Women make up half of the planet but only account for 20% of news stories, 29% of print journalists, and are nakedly discriminated against in TV and cable news once they pass the age of 35. There are more than 230,000 women age 12 and older who are victims of sexual assault in America each year. Texas congresswoman Wendy Davis and Hillary Clinton have been mercilessly attacked by the Right-wing media over their looks: Hillary’s pants suits and worse… Michelle Obama has been relentlessly impugned for her looks. The examples of those insults would be far too numerous to list here. FOX News sacrificed untold hours to explain why women in this country deserved to be paid less.

Getting the picture here? Do I need to talk about rape camps in Bosnia and elsewhere? There were no male rape camps. The history of human conflict is replete with stories of mass rape by conquering armies. Women in America could be considered the property of their husbands well into the 20th century and Saudi women still cannot drive automobiles. Here women are denied rights of sovereignty over their own bodies. Please don’t get started by those creepy cult-like Purity Balls! Purity_ball_ritual

I could write volumes on the subservient, oppressive and abusive way woman are treated in every nation, every religion around the planet. An evangelical minister recently argued that only men of a household should be allowed to vote. Women are half the species, but men have made them the bottom half, with women like Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin and Michelle Bachman gleefully and profitably helped men maintain their hegemony. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t buy the kidnapping by Nigerian Boco Haram misogynists as yet another example of Islamic zealotry.

The horror in Nigeria, first of all, is a far more complex issue that the cartoonists in the corporate Press would like you to know about. More than that, it is not a product of Islamic extremism or the fault of a religion. It is, in my very informed and secure opinion a consequence of and a failure by men. We do not, as a gender hold other men accountable for crimes against women, except in instances when it truly feels like arguing over property rights.

I have been told by my wife and numerous female friends that they are constantly aware and concerned about being alone on the street, in a dark place, on an El platform of on public transportation. I nearly got into a physical confrontation with three men on a nearly empty train car some years ago who had a young woman in tears. We managed at the last moment to both slip out the door at a stop. Every woman I know has been groped, grabbed, shouted or whispered obscenities to, followed and sexually harassed by strange men. I can walk down most any street in this city without fear, and with no fear of being sexually assaulted. A close friend, a former sheriff’s deputy, who carries a weapon, worries about being surprised, jumped or cold-cocked before she can reach her weapon. It is a fundamental difference between men and women that level of fear, anxiety, or simply having the thought of the possibility of assault at all.

All men, by silence, ignorance and action contribute to the global environment that allows, excuses, ignores or perpetuates a culture of threat and violence against women. The evangelical preacher who would deny his wife the vote as head of the household opens the door to a subservient and oppressive environment. While he may be on the fringe of that cloud and distant from the most oppressive and dangerous center of the cloud, he is still a part of the cloud. The FOX news pundit who argues for women making less than men has already begun the work of degrading the value of women, or defining them purely by their gender. Simply the negation of a woman’s sovereignty over her own body and future already draws a distinction between the character of a man’s freedom and that of a woman’s, and that degrades any assertions in any holy book or national constitution of freedom is at best a hypocrisy.

Boco Haram did not kidnap boys or men. They only kidnapped young women for brides, sex and sexual slavery. Those are not tenants of any religion. They are the time worn history of our species enacted through every culture, race, nationality and religion by men. It is the habit and practice of men, affirmed by the silence of other men. When and until that is honestly confronted by both men and women nothing we face collectively as a species will ever properly be solved.

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” The most dangerous voice on the Left, he can be heard Mon, Tues, Thurs and Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post

Smart Ass! A come back for every right wing talking point

If there is one redeeming quality I’ve learned growing up in a big , hard-drinking, small town Midwestern family, and working a tough blue collar union job is that you learn to give it as well as take it.. And by “it” I mean when someone throws a shot your way, your return shot should put them on their ass. It has helped me become the most dangerous emerging voice on the Left.

On my radio show I am always talking about messaging and how Progressives and Liberals always are at a general disadvantage to the Right. Their arguments are simple, but loud and repetitive. They appeal to base instincts and lazy people who only wish to be validated in their firmly held ignorance, and appeal to their laziness in actually becoming informed, or worse, that they actually have to consider other people’s existence. The Right yawns at too much information. They want it simple and easy. That represents their world.

On the Left, the center Left and for much of the center-the vast majority of this nation, our messaging is usually far more nuanced, necessarily encompassing a spectrum of perspectives. We like details and science and understand a world in shades of gray, in which the continuum of perspectives among the lives of people is not black or white. Despite that facts and truth are fully on our side, that doesn’t translate well in a media world. We must do a better job, which is why the itinerate smart ass in me decided to help with comebacks to beat the Right…

CORPORATIONS
RIGHT: “Corporations are people, my friend…”
LEFT: A corporation is a person the same way the forest is a tree or the Navy is sailor

ABORTION
RIGHT: That baby you abort might one day grow up to cure cancer.
LEFT: That baby might one day grow up to kill the person who would have cured cancer

FRACKING
RIGHT: Graduates from the South Dakota Institute for Mining Technology earn more working for Fracking firms than most university graduates.
LEFT: Crack dealers make more than most high school graduates, Bank robbers earn more than bank tellers!

GUNS
RIGHT: Forcing gun owners to register their guns and have IDs doesn’t stop criminals from having guns.
LEFT: registering your car and having a license doesn’t stop car thieves…

KEYSTONE PIPELINE AND CLIVEN BUNDY
LEFT: Where are the gunmen supporting deadbeat racist millionaire Cliven Bundy’s “property rights” for thousands of Americans having their land stolen for the XL Keystone pipeline?
RAND PAUL: Cliven who?

MUSLIM TERRORISTS
RIGHT: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists are Muslims
LEFT: Not all white people are KKK, but all KKK are white people ( White supremacists have killed more than 200 people in the US over the last decade.; Muslims 2)

BENGHAZI
RIGHT: fOuR AMerIcaNs dIEd iN BeNGhAzi FOUR On 9-11-2011!!!!
LEFT: 3000 died on the original 9-11 due to the incompetence of Bush’s administration, 3200 over a lie in Iraq, 11 incinerated in the Deepwater oil disaster and no one has gone to jail. No, wait, I’m only getting started…

GLOBAL WARMING
RIGHT: If there is global warming, how come it was so cold in Intercourse Pennsylvania (There really is an Intercourse Pennsylvania!)
LEFT: While you were sleeping, the Egyptians and Columbus proved the world was round.inter

GAY MARRIAGE AND THE BIBLE
RIGHT: Says right there in the bible ‘bout gays bein’ ‘gainst god…
LEFT: Reading cliff notes again, I see. There is far more in the bible in the bible about tending your own garden, minding your own business, greed, gluttony and selling your daughter into slavery being okay

WELFARE AND THE FREE MARKET
RIGHT: We can’t afford welfare, but we need to let the free market work for business!
LEFT: The US spent $500 billion on welfare for the poor. It spent in 2013 $576.4 billion on giveaways to corporations; local, state and federal combined-double that for tax forgiveness. Who are the real welfare queens? Sounds like even the free market doesn’t believe in the free market!

VOTING
TOO MANY AMERICANS: Voting changes nothing!
LEFT: A car dealership offers a warranty for your new car, however, that warranty doesn’t cover misuse or neglect

Add a few of your own. I’ve got more. Call into the show Mondays-Fridays from 9-11am in Chicago on AM1680 QR radio, www.que4.org and feel free to share your suggestions, or argue with mine. Bring it, I’m ready.

WC Turck is the author of 4 books, including the critically acclaimed Bosnian War Memoir “Everything for Love,” and Broken: One soldier’s unexpected journey home, at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. Turck wrote and produced two critically acclaimed plays, “Occupy my Heart: A Revolutionary Christmas Carol” and “The People’s Republic of Edward Snowden.” He can be heard weekdays from 9-11am, and 1-3pm on the Revolution and Beer show with partner and cohost BL Murray.

Use Facebook to Comment on this Post