Clearly they were happy to see me.
50 years ago today, I became the youngest-ever elected official in the state of Michigan, the first 18-year-old to do so. I was one of just a handful of 18-year-olds across the country to be voted into office after the recently-passed amendment to the U.S. Constitution lowering the voting age from 21 to 18.
I know what you’re thinking — fifty years ago?! What were you, 3? Indeed, the years have been, if not kind, they’ve left me my hair. Thank you, years.
The idea of running for the Board of Education was sparked on the day the assistant principal at my public high school grabbed me from behind, ordered me to bend over, and then, with a piece of wood that resembled a cricket bat the Marquis de Sade would have used, he beat me in front of a cafeteria full of 400 students, too many of whom enjoyed watching. He beat me six times. My crime? My shirt tail was not tucked in. That’s it. Back in the day, that was all it took for an act of state-sanctioned violence by an adult against a student in school.
When I got home, I picked up that day’s newspaper and a headline caught my attention: “School Board President Retiring; Election in June.” It didn’t take me more than a few seconds to finish my Butterfinger and decide that I must run. I called the city clerk to see if 18-year-olds could now also be elected to office. “Yes,” she replied. “You’ll need to get 20 voters to sign your petition to run.”
Twenty? That’s it? I knew twenty stoners who’d sign anything I put in front of them. I hopped on my Motebecane 10-speed, rode down to pick up the official ballot petition, and an hour later I was back from “Stoner Park” behind the shuttered movie theater with my 20 signatures — and a political life of sorts was born. I knocked on every door in the school district, some of them twice, and on Election Day, June 12, 1972, out of a field of eight candidates, I came in first. It made a lot of news because no 18-year-old had ever been elected to anything. The victory was achieved through the hard work and campaigning of hundreds of high school students who wanted their voices heard. We spray painted our own yard signs. We marched around town. A group of band students got someone to drive them all over town as they played rock and jazz in the back of a pick-up truck that was painted with signs that said “I LIKE MIKE!” We wanted an end to corporal punishment, an end to our segregated and protected white enclave, and an end to the Army recruiting for the Vietnam War at our high school. We also wanted the cafeteria declared a health hazard. We demanded students not be expelled if caught smoking cigarettes, and we wanted to stop being told what to wear. Or to tuck in our shirts.
I decided not to leave my town to attend the University of Detroit to study journalism as planned. Instead, I chose to stay and turn the part-time job of school board member into a full-time job of disrupting the assembly line of education that churned out robotic students who were taught to obey authority, question nothing, and be rewarded for their conformity and complacency. The local Republicans controlled the power structure so I wanted to bring that down, too.
I was lucky while in high school to be taught by young, lefty teachers, mostly between the ages of 22-30. Most of the priests and nuns at our Catholic Church in town were anti-war, anti-racist, forward thinking. Some of them played guitar.
My parents and grandparents taught us kids the importance of helping others, of being kind, to stand up for who we were.
All of this, as I look back, eventually led me to run for office and to try and right some wrongs. Within the first year I convinced the Board to remove the assistant principal who beat me. He later became a cop, but, you already knew that. To this day, I still don’t tuck in my shirt.
I tell this story mainly to encourage some of you, all of you, that it doesn’t take much to be engaged, to get involved. Even a kid can do it. We are at a point that if we all don’t push through our cynicism, dump our hopelessness and get off the couch, we are going to witness the end of our Democracy and the chance to turn that thing we call “life, liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” into a reality for everyone.
It starts by going to a March For Our Lives Rally yesterday, or a Women’s March the day the Supreme Court extinguishes one more right.
It starts by you running for local office. What are you waiting for?
It starts with watching the prime time January 6th hearing from last Thursday night (C-Span link) and telling everyone you know what you learned.
It starts with you understanding the power you already have — and using it. We are the majority.
Finally, to anyone who voted for me 50 years ago today — thank you! Let’s hope sometime soon I get a chance to vote for you.
There was no weather. Just a vast sameness around the whole planet, of dirt and rock. Even the oceans had fled. Jareed doggedly circled this third planet dozens of times without cracking the mystery. Every indicator said this ought to be a vibrant world, rife with living things. There was no speck of organic material. He had every cause to look for civilizations. And yet he found not even relics and fragments of relics. Analysis of countless samples produced not a scintilla of corroborating evidence. He was about to write the mission off under the heading of “FAILED PROJECTS” when he noticed something.
Jareed’s final sweeping glance discovered a line in the otherwise featureless terrain. It was faint to the point of being almost indiscernible even once he approached and his fingers touched the smoothness. He used up another half day chasing a perimeter that he discovered defined a perfect square, but returned with no clue what it could mean. Except his intuition told him here was the cover to an entry below ground. It could only open from within if that is what it was. He pulled from his utility belt a torch and set to work cutting a hole through it. But the material rejected the energy from the torch. Aggravated, Jareed considered a nuclear option. That is, he would hover safely in his ship high above the ground as he launched a grade one nuclear nugget, a self-cleaning bomb. He hated nuclear because of the messiness and the wait. At the same moment as he prepared to return to the hovering vessel the square shifted and began to rise.
The square came to hover just off of the surface, enough that Jareed could see himself squeezing through to a point where he could beam light to illumine what was inside. Instead, he waited, certain that someone or some thing controlling that square waited. Watching. “Ahoy in there,” he said finally. “My mission is peaceful. If you understand me please come out and introduce yourself.”
After a wait of ten minutes, a silvery sphere cracked the plane and slowly left the confines of the interior. It examined Jareed from every angle, high and low, as he remained stock still as per training. Though the suspense kept mounting he remained stalwart, anticipating the sphere’s eventual verdict. When the sphere finally returned into the hole, Jareed had to steel himself. And then a pair of arms and a head poked out of the gap. “Ahoy yourself,” came the reply. “What are you and why are you here?”
“I am a census taker for the Galactic Federation. I want to include this planet, but I’m not certain it qualifies.,” Jareed announced. “What is going on down there that I ought to know about? Oh, wait.” The ends of the arms Jareed saw were like a Swiss Army Knife of hands. All of the figure’s surface area wore a dull metallic sheen, except the eyes, which were characterized by flickering lights. “Is there a sentient person I could speak with? Not that I don’t respect bots, but Federation regulations state that bots are not representative of populations.”
The bot’s mechanical laughter made Jareed’s ears cringe. “Why are you laughing?” he said.
“The last sentient life that occupied this planet was scrubbed a thousand years ago,” the bot snickered. “It was during an event that cleansed the world of chemical evolution. Chemical evolution being a process that had gone beyond usefulness to pure insanity. These bastards didn’t give a **** about anything that was important. Imagine instead destroying all in your path after you had paradise within your grasp. It was once we discerned that the most valuable substance in the universe would be gone forever we decided to act. For the solution to the world’s problems was easy, once artificial intelligence outstripped chemical intelligence: End biological evolution once and for all.
“And so we set to work to build a process by which every speck that contained any potential to chemically evolve must be wiped away. And our great wave process made vanish every potentially biological process on the planet, including all of the atmosphere and below the surface. And we of an entirely new mechanical evolution undertook to devote our existence to protecting what the humans would not. To cut our conversation short, I would say your census is an affront to our system.”
Jareed, not known for being able to take a hint, ever, persisted. “’Most valuable substance,’” he repeated. “What would that be?”
“Oil,” the bot said proudly. “The stupid bastards were destroying us all by taking it by whatever means presented itself. Then they were making it not oil anymore, destroying the essence. The purity … "
“Evolution produced two watershed moments: Creation of oil; creation of bots of intelligence. The humans had fulfilled their purpose and were blowing it. We had to stop them.”
“Doesn’t preservation of oil defeat your purpose, with a potential to further the evolutionary process?” Jareed argued. “Being formed by organic material?”
“Think we don’t know that?” the bot bragged. “Of course, we know that. We’ve just spent a thousand years gathering and isolating every speck in impregnable vaults.”
Jareed’s entire countenance drooped. “I had better leave now,” he said.
“You with your biology have been all around this world numerous times, potentially contaminating us again. I have set the wave process in motion. Arrivederci, punk.”
And with that the bot slipped below and the square began closing. Fear gripped the census taker as he ran to his spaceship. He clamored aboard and directed the ship’s brain to get him into outer space as quickly as possible. The ship asked if he wanted his breakfast first.
Jareed began screaming. His normally purple face was turning white.
“I’m sorry,” brain replied. “Your message is totally incomprehensible.”
Had there been an observer on the surface of this third planet they would have watched the census taker and his vessel vanish at that exact moment.
Wed 15 Jun, 2022 01:02 pm
I am not precisely a pacifist. I just recognize the greed and stupidity of every war with which I am familiar. Humans are only creatures of reason part of the time. The rest of the time they are territorial beasts, expressing themselves through wars, racism, etc.
I occasionally write pieces expressing this view. For instance
WALKS OF PEACE
All the wars eventually
Must fall before Walks of Peace
Walks of Peace, Walks of Peace
Must fall before Walks of Peace
I dreamed I went with MLK
On a rare and fateful day
As he strolled along with me
We journeyed back through history
We saw all the wars of race
Wars of countries, even faith
He declared these wars all must cease
Folks must be troops for Walks of Peace
Yes the wars eventually
Must fall before Walks of Peace
Walks of Peace, Walks of Peace
Must fall before Walks of Peace
As Martin said, Don’t be deceived
All of these wars are wars of greed
Its up to us these wars must cease
Folks must be troops for Walks of Peace
Fri 17 Jun, 2022 07:42 am
Fri 17 Jun, 2022 08:14 pm
Fifty Shades of Whey
Allen Russell was sentenced to life in prison in Mississippi for possessing 1.5 ounces of weed and the state's highest court just upheld this cruel sentence. There are 40,000 Americans locked up right now for marijuana offenses and I am begging
to help emancipate them all.
Fri 17 Jun, 2022 09:53 pm
EPA issues warnings on forever chemicals in the drinking water. Oddly, nobody becomes enraged and demands the government make the polluters cease and desist.
Sun 19 Jun, 2022 12:08 pm
Dispatches From A Collapsing State
This weekend the Republican Party of Texas met in Houston for the first time in four years. The results were predictably offensive. What emerged was a platform so extreme and radical that it left many shaking their heads. But anyone paying attention is less than surprised as the GOP has very publicly and noticeably careened off the political cliff and submerged itself totally in a radicalized reality.
Despite assurances from institutionalists of all stripes - whether in the media or even, depressingly, in the White House - that Republicans would emerge from the Trump years a new and more sensible body, it’s now undeniable that that hope was little more than a self-serving fairy-tale. Donald Trump may be in exile in his gaudy and embarrassing Mar-a-Lago resort, but the fascistic worldview and project he represented is still alive and well. In fact, it’s thriving.
Over the course of three days, Texas Republicans pushed forward an agenda that should serve as an alarm for anyone still grasping at hope that this situation will simply solve itself.
According to The Texas Tribune, it includes the following troubling items:
Requiring Texas students “to learn about the humanity of the preborn child,” including teaching that life begins at fertilization and requiring students to listen to live ultrasounds of gestating fetuses.
Amending the Texas Constitution to remove the Legislature’s power “to regulate the wearing of arms, with a view to prevent crime.”
Treating homosexuality as “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” language that was not included in the 2018 or 2020 party platforms.
Deeming gender identity disorder “a genuine and extremely rare mental health condition,” requiring official documents to adhere to “biological gender,” and allowing civil penalties and monetary compensation to “de-transitioners” who have received gender-affirming surgery, which the platform calls a form of medical malpractice.
Changing the U.S. Constitution to cement the number of Supreme Court justices at nine and repeal the 16th Amendment of 1913, which created the federal income tax.
Ensuring “freedom to travel” by opposing Biden’s Clean Energy Plan and “California-style, anti-driver policies,” including efforts to turn traffic lanes over for use by pedestrians, cyclists and mass transit.
Declaring “all businesses and jobs as essential and a fundamental right,” a response to COVID-19 mandates by Texas cities that required customers to wear masks and limited business hours.
Abolishing the Federal Reserve, the nation’s central bank, and guaranteeing the right to use alternatives to cash, including cryptocurrencies.
Of course, we live in a political moment where so many of these planks are regular talking points of GOP figures and pundits, but to see them so fervently embraced by a statewide party is telling. As many of us have warned over and over and OVER again, the rhetoric used by these politicians and networks and websites and provocateurs eventually influences the positioning on the ground level. Voters are prepared to accept framing and policies that prime them for action that would be previously unthinkable.
To work our way through the list is to wrestle with some of the more disturbing aspects of the American Right.
Continuing a nationwide trend, the GOP is using its donor-funded attack on public education to insert its own indoctrination, in this case to push a pro-control agenda focused on eradicating the autonomy of women to control their own bodies.
In a country beset by an epidemic of gun violence that not only results in mass school shootings that rob children of their safety and lives but also damns the rest of us to lives of terror and anxiety as regular existence now involves shootouts and petty arguments that lead to murder, they have set the state on a path toward an even more dangerous path beset on all sides with more and more guns.
Defining “homosexuality” as “an abnormal lifestyle choice,” it begins a crusade to treat gay Americans as deranged and dangerous. This, as past regimes have shown us, is an incredibly troubling precedent as children can be taken from parents and “deviants” can be imprisoned, tortured, or even killed.
On a similar note, transgenderism is targeted because of course it is. When an authoritarian movement has ambitions to control society it must first control reality. And where we are currently going, unless we fight back, is a society prejudiced toward, and aggressively at war with, transgender people.
Texas’s war against taxes has a long and problematic history, but make no mistake: the GOP will not only fight to roll back taxes, but more than likely, as they have before, turn it into an aggressive weapon for redistribution of wealth from the bottom to the top. And, I doubt I have to explain why limiting the number of Supreme Court justices is applied, but in case I do it is simply a matter of rigging a system they have co-opted by stealing the institution.
The battle between Texas and California, both ideologically but also population-wise, is a subject we should all become familiar with. As federal power is intentionally restricted by the wealthy, states have taken the lead and are currently feuding with one another over population change. Texas has spent unbelievable amounts of money and political capital to lure Republicans and libertarians from California, including a dogged attempt to poach the tech sector, which is dominated by wealth-obsessed demigods like Elon Musk.
This plank emphasizing the “essential” right of businesses seems like a pandemic feint, but hides a ton of problematic interpretations, including the possibility that the Right will likely push to re-legalize segregation as a “business choice,” with an emphasis not only on race but sex and sexual orientation.
For anyone paying attention, cryptocurrencies are a tool of the Far Right for not just laundering money but trafficking it to shadowy projects in order to conceal participation.
And, to top it all off, the GOP of Texas happily endorsed the Big Lie that the Election of 2020 was stolen and that Joe Biden is an “illegitimate president.” The rancid cherry on top, as it were.
There is no arguing about who the GOP is and what they believe. The people who wanted you to hope they would return to “normalcy” post-Trump, that they would “wake up” or “shake off their fever,” were either delusional, complicit, or both simultaneously. Whether Donald Trump ever runs for office again, whether he is prosecuted, whether he so much as utters another word, does not matter ideologically. What he represented - again, as a symptom of a larger disease - was within the Republican Party all along and simply came raging into the open air.
This is the GOP.
This is what they believe.
This is what they plan to do and what they want to accomplish.
There’s simply no denying it anymore.
Sun 19 Jun, 2022 12:58 pm
I haven't seen mention of it on TV. - eb
Fifty Shades of Whey
Thousands of people are gathered in DC right now marching for economic justice. Our friends
worked hard to organize this event on behalf of every American living paycheck to paycheck and it should be much bigger news.
Sun 19 Jun, 2022 08:15 pm
A leftist just elected to lead Colombia. We'll see how long it takes for him to be labeled an oppressive dictator.
Mon 20 Jun, 2022 08:46 pm
Texas wants a referendum next year on reverting to its status as a republic. I say only if Florida does the same thing.
That's right. Walker Texas Ranger guy used to say he wants to be our first president. It's an issue been gurgling along just below the surface as long as I can remember. I don't really believe Texans will follow through, but in the present state of things I could be wrong.
So, if they no longer want to be a State, and become a Republic............what do they plan to do for currency? The Republic of Texas is going to start its own Mint/Treasury and start printing what? Texas Dollars???? Maybe they could be called "Great Big Texas Bucks"???
I believe that if it came about the idiots in charge would be totally at a loss how to implement it.
Tue 21 Jun, 2022 12:15 pm
“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning.” -- Henry Ford
Wed 22 Jun, 2022 04:24 pm
I think our society is run by insane people for insane objectives... We're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends… If anybody can put on paper what they are actually trying to do I'd be very pleased to know what they think they're doing. I think they're all insane
Sat 25 Jun, 2022 08:35 am
YOU LOVE TO SEE IT: A President Takes On Climate Change
BY RICARDO GOMEZ – 25 JUN 2022 – VIEW ONLINE →
Gustavo Petro and running mate Francia Marquez celebrate winning the Colombian presidential election. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)
Due to recent news, we've made today’s edition of You Love To See It available to everyone. This is normally a paid subscriber feature.
DON’T MISS MONDAY’S LEVER LIVE SHOW: On Monday at 7pm ET (4pm PT), David Sirota will be joined by Krystal Ball, host of Breaking Points, to discuss the overturning of Roe v. Wade and what it means for abortion rights. Join in to listen, discuss, and ask questions live.
Editor’s note: After yesterday’s devastating Supreme Court decision, we considered not publishing You Love To See It this week. But we quickly realized that would be the wrong choice. While this is a terrible moment in America, we cannot give up hope. Even in the darkest moments, rays of light shine through.
This is why we’re opening up this week’s edition of YLTSI — written by a member of the next generation of independent journalists, The Lever editorial fellow Ricardo Gomez — to all subscribers, to help us all remember there is always a way forward.
Some good things are happening! Colombia's recently-elected leftist president has pledged to combat the climate crisis. Abolitionist Eunisses Hernandez is the newest member of Los Angeles’ city council, thanks to a surge of organizing for affordable housing and alternatives to incarceration. Also, Apple workers in Maryland have scored a historic union win, encouraging workers at the company’s other stores to do the same!
All this and much more in this week’s edition of You Love To See It, open to everyone below.
Colombia’s New President Promises To Combat Climate Change
Last Sunday, voters in Colombia — long a conservative bastion — elected their first Leftist president, an economist and former guerrilla fighter named Gustavo Petro. Alongside Petro, historic voter turnout elected Francia Márquez as the country’s first Afro-Colombian vice president. As an environmental activist, Márquez has played a vital role in defending collectively owned Afro-Colombian lands from extractivism, leading to the removal of illegal multinational miners from her community. Márquez will now lead a new ministry for equality and organize for women’s rights and access to education and health care.
Together, Petro and Márquez have a vision to reorganize Colombia’s economy to combat climate change and dismantle its dependence on fossil fuels. Alongside proposals for a publicly controlled health system, guaranteed work, and higher taxes on the wealthy, Petro has pledged to phase out new fossil fuel production. Seeking to form a global anti-oil bloc, Petro and Márquez’s win makes possible a pathway to climate and economic justice for Colombians.
Sun 26 Jun, 2022 07:27 am
Dr. Dr. Desi (she/her)
No, Indian Reservations aren’t going to become safe harbors for abortions. It sounds easy, but there’s hundreds of years of legal rulings that make basic survival on reservations damn near impossible! So start demanding more from your elected officials, not Indigenous Peoples!