Author Archives: Kenn Orphan

About Kenn Orphan

Kenn Orphan is a social worker, artist, and human and environmental rights advocate.

The End of the American Brand

After far right fascists and supremacists stormed the Capitol this month, it is little wonder that the American Empire would ramp up the security state. It is on steroids now, with more troops in DC than there are in Iraq. But whatever one might think of the necessity of increased security at the Inauguration tomorrow, it should seem pretty clear by now that, although democracy never really existed in any true form in the US republic, the very pretense of it is now officially dead.

The American Empire has long used its power, at the behest of wealthy corporate interests and in a bipartisan manner, to disrupt, dismantle and suppress democratic governments all over the world, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to Iran, to Honduras and beyond. It has used its military to decimate nations and regions that dared defy its hegemony. And it did all of this while employing platitudes about its own supposed democratic greatness. The alleged “city on a hill” trope.

But the American Imperial brand has been tarnished. Given the state of our world, it is unlikely to recover. No platitudes can erase what has happened. No corporate media whitewashing can sponge away what we have seen. No political speech can steer the American Empire clear of the looming cliff of climate catastrophe and its myriad ramifications for society in general.

And perhaps that is a good thing. Trump, as vile as he is, may have served as a catalyst for tearing the veil from the noxious falsehood once and for all. And if there is any lesson to be learned, we don’t have any time left for the empty mythologies of the past.

Kenn Orphan January 2021

*photo is from MSNBC

The Corporate State is Not Our Friend

Some thoughts on the corporate silencing of Trump and the far right. I understand the urge to silence and censor. After years of lies and racist tweets and cruelty and calls for violence, Trump being silenced feels like justice. But we should remember that the corporations doing the silencing are no friends to democracy. They aren’t friends of the left either.

Over the past few years, progressive and leftist websites have been shut out by the algorithms of Google. Pages and groups were shut down and removed by Facebook. Zuckerberg isn’t some kind of hero here. He is a corporate capitalist. And Trump’s brand was becoming bad for his business. Same with Twitter and others.

Another thing to consider is this: censorship never truly extinguishes dangerous elements in society. It merely drives them further underground. Many of the people involved in the storming of the Capitol were at or went to Parler, but most of the serious planning was going on in the so-called “dark web.” At least on Twitter and Parler, we could keep track of Trump. We could keep track of the feelings and sentiments of the far right. Now that they are forced onto the dark web, we are in the dark.

In addition to this, I am concerned about liberals calling for more “security” and more action by agencies like the FBI or Homeland Security, etc. These institutions have a long and sordid history of infiltrating and cracking down on groups who dissent, especially Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ, women, environmentalists, antiwar and anti-capitalists. After 9/11, the surveillance/intelligence state grew even larger, and it led to gross infringements on civil liberties.

The corporate state is no friend to us. So while we condemn what happened at the Capitol and are vigilant about the rise of fascism, we should be careful not to put our trust in this wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Kenn Orphan January 2021

*Title art by Banksy.

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Warnings from Weimar

Without a doubt, the people who stormed the US Capitol on January 6th are not ashamed. They have been emboldened. Egged on by a wannabe proto-fascist, his endless stream of lies about a stolen election, and driven by a relatively new cultish religion called QAnon, this mob breached the Capitol of the wealthiest and most powerful imperial power in human history. This mostly white crowd, already coming from a place of enormous privilege, did something no Black or Indigenous person could ever dream of in America. Yet there they were, being allowed into the historic building by members of the Capitol police, who some would later take selfies with. At the end of the day, four people would be dead, including a woman who was trying to break into the building. She is being referred to by some on the far right as a “martyr for the revolution.” A police officer would be dead a short time later from his injuries.

What occurred at the Capitol was not an insurrection. It wasn’t a coup either. But it was most certainly an attempt at both. Trump, himself, has already tried this several times. He only recently agreed to a peaceful transition of power; but has doubled down on the lie that the election was stolen, sans evidence. On the far right, however, Trump is only a symbol of their cause. With or without him, they have pledged to “retake” the republic.

In some sense, this is all rather karmic. After all, how many democratically elected governments have been overthrown via coups orchestrated by American intelligence agencies in concert with corporations? How many mass graves, massacres and atrocities have been committed by rightwing militias and death squads armed and trained by the United States military and the CIA?

But there is no reason to celebrate what happened at the US Capitol, not even smugly. What the world witnessed was a visible resurgence of overt fascism. A Confederate flag waved in the corridors of power. People proudly wearing “Camp Auschwitz” or white supremacist symbols took selfies as they sought out lawmakers. A mock gallows was erected outside. And make no mistake, these people are not ready to stop any time soon. As Trump was banished from Twitter and Facebook, far right groups like the Proud Boys have been organizing on Parler and other places on the so-called “dark web.” They are openly talking about a “second revolution,” and Inauguration Day may be the time they put this to the test. Censoring them, as in most cases, will only alienate and enrage them further.

All things considered, it is unlikely that Trump will succeed at a coup given the fact that the military establishment does not appear to support him. Their job is to protect the American brand. They safeguard the economic interests of corporate America, aka the coffers and trading status of the ruling class. And a coup, or the hint of one, within the world’s most powerful empire would be bad for business. But regardless of this, there were many members of the military and police officers amongst the fascist mob that stormed the Capitol. And the damage to that American brand has been done.

Attempts to remove Trump via impeachment or the 25th amendment should proceed, but these efforts face enormous obstacles and must be done quickly to have any meaningful effect. Thanks to sweeping powers granted to the executive branch, mostly by the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, it is extraordinarily difficult to remove or curtail the powers of a sitting president. And Trump still has some rather terrifying tricks in his bag. A strike on Iran? North Korea? Even China? None of this is beyond his capacity and can be done with little to no authorization from either military brass or Congress.

Even as Trump faces his last days in office, he still has the power to start a nuclear war. This is a man who took the so-called “nuclear football” or briefcase with the nuclear codes, to a cocktail party in Mar-a-Lago. And just this month, the USS Nimitz was ordered to return to the Persian Gulf as tensions rise between Washington and Tehran. This comes as a US war ship was sent to menace China in military operations, and nuclear capable B-52 bombers were sent to the Middle-East, prompting one senior Iranian military adviser to warn the president in a tweet: “not to turn the New Year into a mourning for Americans.” Recently, the governments of both Iraq and Iran have issued arrest warrants for Trump, for his illegal use of drone strikes that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani last year. If there is one thing the last four years have demonstrated, it is that Trump does not take threats of arrest calmly.

The next few days will undoubtedly be tense. And even if the Trump presidency ends without incident or he is removed, we should not be ready to rest. Fascism has always simmered just below the surface in American society and within its economic and political institutions. But what is rapidly unfolding in the United States has precedent. History is replete with tragic examples of how fascism is born and nurtured; as well as how it spreads. And there is one solid lesson: we cannot afford to get comfortable with it, or collaborate with it, or even negotiate with it. It didn’t work in Weimar Germany, or in Franco’s Spain, or Pinochet’s Chile, or anywhere else that it reared its ugly head. Its root causes, which lie squarely in economic, material privilege and its deprivation, must be met head on. Empty platitudes like “this is not who we are,” or “we must embrace a spirit of bipartisanship” are nonsensical and dangerous, because they ignore the societal maladies responsible for fascisms’ rise.

To be sure, if things go as planned and Biden takes control of the American Empire, we should not expect any massive shift to the left either. The Democratic Party establishment is still staunchly neoliberal. Diverse in color and gender as his cabinet might be, it is almost completely beholden to military and corporate interests. In fact, Biden has made it clear that he will reach out to Republicans even more than progressives or leftists. We will undoubtedly see more money allotted to an already bloated military industrial sector. And following recent events, we can count on increased surveillance and brutal crackdowns on dissidents and protesters, most of whom will be people of color, Indigenous, environmentalists, and antiwar activists.

In addition to this, we cannot forget the fact that over 70 million Americans voted for Trump, almost half of the voting public. In fact, Trump received 10 million more votes than in 2016, which is astonishing given his atrocious record with the pandemic. And a huge swath of these people fervently believe that the election was stolen from them. Biden and elite Democrats, who have spent enormous time and money deriding anyone left of them in their ranks, will not enter into office with any strong mandate. In fact, if they continue to alienate their base, they will risk becoming irrelevant in a very short space of time.

And leftists should not kid themselves that by continually attacking liberals they will somehow succeed in swaying most disenfranchised voters on the far right. This is the mistake that Ernst Thälmann, chief of the German Communist Party (KPD), made in the final years of the Weimar Republic. His hatred of liberals only distracted him from an ever strengthening Nazi party. And he, along with many of his comrades, were among their first political victims as a result. After years in a concentration camp, Thälmann was killed on Hitler’s order in 1944.

There are many similarities of current day American politics to the final years of the Weimar Republic of the early 20th century: a bureaucratic plutocracy governed by out of touch liberal capitalists, incapable of understanding, let alone meeting, the needs of ordinary working people, in a nation where factions of the left foolishly downplayed the looming threat of the far right. This terrible recipe created the conditions that led many Germans to feel increasingly alienated from public life, and thus easily manipulated by nationalism, racism and the scapegoating of all of their problems.

In the coming months and years, we will likely see more platitudes about unity, all while civil liberties are ruthlessly crushed by an already bloated surveillance state in the name of stopping “domestic terrorism.” It is not likely, however, that we will see any meaningful economic reforms, or the radical change that is needed to stem the rising tide of fascist sentiment, from the incoming administration either. No living wage. No universal healthcare, even in the midst of a pandemic. We will also likely see erstwhile or confused leftists attempting to align with elements of the far right. A venture which will only lead to tragedy. And without a mass movement to disrupt this trend, a reincarnated Weimar Republic may serve as a handmaiden for a more terrifying fascism to come.

Kenn Orphan January 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Things That Keep Me Up At Night, January 2021 Edition

“There are two problems for our species’ survival— nuclear war and environmental catastrophe.” Noam Chomsky


“We should indeed be worried,” – Kingston Reif, a nuclear expert with the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C., regarding Donald Trump and the nuclear codes.

 

This week, Trump ordered the USS Nimitz, via his acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, to remain in the Persian Gulf. He said this was due to supposed Iranian threats “against President Trump and other U.S. government officials.”


In a statement, Miller said he had “ordered the USS Nimitz to halt its routine redeployment.” The carrier will now “remain on station in the U.S. Central Command area of operations,” Miller added. “No one should doubt the resolve of the United States of America.” In the last days of 2020, Trump ordered nuclear capable B-52 bombers to the Middle-East, prompting a senior Iranian military adviser to tweet directly at Trump, warning him “not to turn the New Year into a mourning for Americans.”


At this same time, congress has gone home for two weeks, while the governments of both Iraq and Iran have issued arrest warrants for Trump, for his illegal use of drone strikes that killed Iranian General Qasem Soleimani last year.

Trump’s most loyal base remains the fundamentalist and far right fringe of evangelical Christians in the US, whose sole reason for believing in him lies in uncritical and unwavering US support of Israel, regardless of human rights abuses. Many of them see support of this country as key to scriptural prophecy. Many see our times as the “Last Days,” and Trump as a biblical King David. In addition to this, he has been under increasing pressure from both the Israeli and Saudi governments to take action on Iran.

To sum up: A deeply disturbed and increasingly unhinged Donald Trump still has complete control over the nuclear arsenal and submarines until January 20th. One senior adviser told the New York Times that he “has lost it.” And that he has been “impossible to talk to all day.

The laws of the US have been written such that the Commander and Chief has sole power over the use and launch of such weapons. Only impeachment or the 25th amendment to the Constitution stand in his way from launching a nuclear strike.

According to Forbes: “America’s roughly 6,200 nuclear warheads—and Trump’s sole command of them via a portable “biscuit” control system—hung like a specter over the proceedings. “The way our nuclear command and control works, all it should take for a nuclear launch order to be executed is that it be valid and legal,” said Ankit Panda, a nuclear expert and author of Kim Jong Un and the Bomb.“Any order issued by the president, provided he is properly able to authenticate his identity through the so-called ‘biscuit,’ would be regarded as valid.””

Up until the insurrection at the Capitol yesterday, Trump was refusing to accept defeat. He told the mob storming the building to go home, but couched it in the lie that the election was stolen from them. He has since agreed to an orderly transition. But his history is one rife with deception.


His words have often been somewhat cryptic, as if to send a secret message to his followers, who are appearing more and more like a religious cult than a political voting bloc. QAnon is not as weak as some might wish it to be. If he has any chance of retaining these fanatical followers without having to do a lot of work over the next four years, he must make good on some promises now.


Perhaps, he will be pushed back into the corner. Perhaps he will see this as detrimental to his future as a former president, reality star.

We can only hope.


But if this doesn’t make you tremble, or at least give you pause, you have no idea just how serious this current moment in history actually is.

 

Kenn Orphan January 2021

 

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Georgia on my Mind: Notes from the Margins of Empire

What is unfolding in the US state of Georgia and in Washington DC are indeed historic events. I am beyond pleased that it appears that the proto-fascist Trump has once again lost. But, as we can see unfolding in the capitol right now, I don’t see him leaving office without sowing, or at least trying to sow, maximum chaos and damage.

He has already attempted an actual coup several times, even though the US corporate media would never characterize it as such. And he is still refusing to accept a Biden victory, holding maskless rallies with his feckless fans. Trump still has some rather frightening tricks in his bag. A strike on Iran? Calling on police or his white supremacist fans to become violent? None of this is beyond his capacity. Some of it is already happening. And any of it should make a sane person nervous.

If the military establishment feels the need to voice their opinion on a presidential election, which they have recently, you know it has to do with a coup or the attempt of one. Their job is to protect American economic interests, aka the coffers and trading status of the ruling class. And a coup, or the hint of one, in the world’s most powerful empire would be bad for business. So it is unlikely any coup attempt will succeed. In any case, the damage to confidence in the American imperial brand will have been done. In many cases, it has already been done.

And even with the Democrats taking the presidency and the senate, we should not expect any massive shift to the left. Over 70 million Americans voted for Trump, almost half of the voting public. In fact, Trump received more votes than in 2016, which is astonishing given his atrocious record of 357,000+ deaths from Covid 19. And we should remember that the Democratic establishment is still staunchly neoliberal capitalist, with a penchant for war.

Schumer, Pelosi and Biden all have long histories of aligning with Republicans on hawkish militarism and foreign policy, and blocking progressive reforms. And the Democrats will not have a super majority in the senate. Indeed, progressives have their work cut out for them, because centrist, corporate Democrats, along with their Republican colleagues, will throw up every barrier to economic change, and halts on an ever expanding American militarism, they can.

To be sure, the world is a different place than it was four years ago. It is vastly different than it was just a year ago, largely thanks to the global pandemic. But also due to mass movements that have taken place around the planet, from Minneapolis to Beirut to Santiago. And if there is any lesson to learn about pandemic politics, it is that the US imperial hegemony is irredeemably corrupt and incapable of leading in any way that is beneficial to humanity and the living earth, and this is true no matter which ruling class political party is at its helm.

In short, if this empire cannot even muster up the most meager provisions for its own struggling populace, including financial support and universal healthcare in the midst of a global pandemic, there can be no hope that it will do anything useful for them, or the rest of us, as we face the looming shocks of catastrophic climate change, economic collapse, ecological devastation, and the ever present threat of nuclear war. Its first and only priority was, is and will always be, the welfare of the wealthiest at any cost.

I hope the best for progressives in the US, because they will likely have to fight even harder against a tide of apathy that generally comes with liberal governments. I hope the best for my American leftist comrades, who must now traverse a neoliberal landscape where they will likely be chided for any dissenting stance they might take.

But I am more hopeful about the world on the margins of the American Empire, even those parts which lie within its artificially imposed borders. Not in the empty, self-serving platitudes of politicians, or the policy platforms written by and for multi-billion dollar conglomerates, or toxic nationalism either, but in solidarity with each other, where it counts.

Kenn Orphan  January 2021

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

Headlines and Stories from an Imagined 2021

The Pandemic is Over! As Ground Breaking new Vaccine is made Free to the Public. It was produced with complete transparency by a cooperative pharmaceutical collective, and without questionable practices. After hundreds of thousands perished, there is finally hope. Critical universal healthcare infrastructure is now in development to be ready for future outbreaks and the health needs of all people. In related news, as Big Pharma is dismantled, massive efforts are underway to tackle habitat loss, overdevelopment, factory farming, climate change and systemic poverty; factors that most likely contributed to the mutation and spread of the deadly pathogen in the first place. Scientists and policymakers are hopeful that the immense profits once hoarded by corporations will aid greatly in these efforts.

Billionaires Banished? Investigators are baffled by the disappearance of several prominent billionaires who were last seen boarding a small yacht in Hawaii for a three-hour tour, prior to rough weather. They reportedly packed a few bags full of cash, and some evening gowns and jewels, before fleeing aboard the tiny ship. This comes after Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos reportedly fled in a capsule bound for Mars. The billionaires were facing charges of aiding and abetting a coup to seize lithium in Bolivia and making obscene profits off of human misery during the pandemic.  

Following Massive General Strikes and Demonstrations, world leaders Agree to Meet the Demands of Billions of Workers. After mounting rage at the excesses and corruption of the capitalist class, the means of productions were successfully seized through organized dissent and sustained protest. Preparations are now underway for the permanent dismantling of the corporate, police/surveillance/war state, prioritizing large scale protections for the biosphere, immediate assistance for the impoverished, implementation of a living wage, free, quality healthcare, education and housing, support of the arts, an end to racist policing and incarceration, and the formation of the first Global Peoples Congress.

As Pentagon Budget Slashed, Economy is Revamped for the Benefit of All Humanity. Following major disinvestment in the police/surveillance/war state, money has been allocated on retraining troops for rebuilding infrastructure and communities across the country. All foreign US military bases are to be turned over to the nations where they are situated, as all weaponry is destroyed or transformed into medical and other useful equipment, machinery or even art work.  One of the last surviving veterans of World War 2 expressed his joy this way: “I fought in a war that was supposed to end all wars. It didn’t. But now my grand children and great grand children may have a chance at having a world free of militarism. A world where peace is imaginable.”

“The Occupation and Apartheid are Over!” declared one young Gazan, as Jews and Palestinians begin final negotiations for a transition to a secular, Democratic state for all people. Preparations are underway to allow for the right of return for refugees, guaranteed under international law. Spontaneous parties erupted across the West Bank, Jerusalem and even in Tel Aviv, where Jews, Palestinians and people of all ethnic and religious backgrounds were seen singing, dancing, sharing food and embracing. Related: Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly collapsed after hearing the news, while he was visiting the partially submerged resort, Mar-a-Lago in Florida, which was overtaken by sea waters recently. He was apparently with his friend, and owner of the soggy hotel, the disgraced reality star president Donald Trump, at the time. The two are also facing imminent indictment at the Hague for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“Justice, at Last!” exclaimed one elderly Iraqi after hearing Bush, Cheney, others to face charges for War Crimes at the Hague. Erik Prince and other mercenaries for the now defunct American Empire will also face similar charges in coming weeks. George W. Bush was said to be despondent. He was last seen painting portraits of world leaders on his toenails in his cell prior to trial. Other charges will eventually be brought against Hillary Clinton for her role in the destruction of Libya, and Barack Obama for his deadly drone program.

“The Welfare of the Earth and All of Her Children, human and non, will Once Again be made Humanity’s First and Only Priority,” said one Native elder, while from the Americas, Australia to Africa, Indigenous peoples celebrate massive return of stolen lands and resources. Restoration and reconciliation ceremonies were conducted by Indigenous healers in various locations around the world, as musicians, artists, dancers, poets and other artisans joined. In related news, heads of the most lucrative corporations reluctantly relinquished their stranglehold on economic and political power, as most are facing charges for the crime of ecocide, neo-colonialism, and the plunder of indigenous resources.

Scientists Decipher Message from Intelligent Civilization just Lightyears from Earth. Apparently, after observing our planet for decades, the more advanced beings have offered critical assistance with our planet’s massive ecological crises. “We would not have been able to reverse the terrible damage of climate change, save the rainforests, the oceans, or humanity and billions of other species, without their knowledge,” claimed one biologist, as he broke down in tears of joy.

One can dream…

Kenn Orphan   January 2021 

As an independent writer and artist Kenn Orphan depends on donations and commissions. If you would like to support his work and this blog you can do so via PayPal. Simply click here:  DONATE

And thank you for your support and appreciation!

A Tribute to John le Carré

I wanted to write a tribute to a person who was very instrumental in my writing, and who died just this month, John le Carré, author of several famous spy novels, but I couldn’t find adequate words to describe this man. So I have decided, instead, to repost his epic essay “America has Gone Mad.” It was written in 2003 when the American Empire, under the war criminal George W. Bush, lead a war of destruction against Iraq, a country that had never attacked it, yet sat on the world’s second biggest oil reserves. Nearly two decades later and that war based on lies is still reaping carnage in the entire region. Sadly, I have yet to see any concrete evidence that any of what he has written has changed in the least.

“America has Gone Mad”

America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.

The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded. The combination of compliant US media and vested corporate interests is once more ensuring that a debate that should be ringing out in every town square is confined to the loftier columns of the East Coast press.

The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place; Enron; its shameless favouring of the already-too-rich; its reckless disregard for the world’s poor, the ecology and a raft of unilaterally abrogated international treaties. They might also have to be telling us why they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.

But bin Laden conveniently swept all that under the carpet. The Bushies are riding high. Now 88 per cent of Americans want the war, we are told. The US defence budget has been raised by another $60 billion to around $360 billion. A splendid new generation of nuclear weapons is in the pipeline, so we can all breathe easy. Quite what war 88 per cent of Americans think they are supporting is a lot less clear. A war for how long, please? At what cost in American lives? At what cost to the American taxpayer’s pocket? At what cost — because most of those 88 per cent are thoroughly decent and humane people — in Iraqi lives?

How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America’s anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history. But they swung it. A recent poll tells us that one in two Americans now believe Saddam was responsible for the attack on the World Trade Centre. But the American public is not merely being misled. It is being browbeaten and kept in a state of ignorance and fear. The carefully orchestrated neurosis should carry Bush and his fellow conspirators nicely into the next election.

Those who are not with Mr Bush are against him. Worse, they are the enemy. Which is odd, because I’m dead against Bush, but I would love to see Saddam’s downfall — just not on Bush’s terms and not by his methods. And not under the banner of such outrageous hypocrisy.

The religious cant that will send American troops into battle is perhaps the most sickening aspect of this surreal war-to-be. Bush has an arm-lock on God. And God has very particular political opinions. God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy, and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.

To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell you which is which. What Bush won’t tell us is the truth about why we’re going to war. What is at stake is not an Axis of Evil — but oil, money and people’s lives. Saddam’s misfortune is to sit on the second biggest oilfield in the world. Bush wants it, and who helps him get it will receive a piece of the cake. And who doesn’t, won’t.

If Saddam didn’t have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart’s content. Other leaders do it every day — think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.

Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain. Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction, if he’s still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America can hurl at him at five minutes’ notice. What is at stake is not an imminent military or terrorist threat, but the economic imperative of US growth. What is at stake is America’s need to demonstrate its military power to all of us — to Europe and Russia and China, and poor mad little North Korea, as well as the Middle East; to show who rules America at home, and who is to be ruled by America abroad.

The most charitable interpretation of Tony Blair’s part in all of this is that he believed that, by riding the tiger, he could steer it. He can’t. Instead, he gave it a phoney legitimacy, and a smooth voice. Now I fear, the same tiger has him penned into a corner, and he can’t get out.

It is utterly laughable that, at a time when Blair has talked himself against the ropes, neither of Britain’s opposition leaders can lay a glove on him. But that’s Britain’s tragedy, as it is America’s: as our Governments spin, lie and lose their credibility, the electorate simply shrugs and looks the other way. …

I cringe when I hear my Prime Minister lend his head prefect’s sophistries to this colonialist adventure. His very real anxieties about terror are shared by all sane men. What he can’t explain is how he reconciles a global assault on al-Qaeda with a territorial assault on Iraq. We are in this war, if it takes place, to secure the fig leaf of our special relationship, to grab our share of the oil pot, and because, after all the public hand-holding in Washington and Camp David, Blair has to show up at the altar.

“But will we win, Daddy?”

“Of course, child. It will all be over while you’re still in bed.”

“Why?”

“Because otherwise Mr Bush’s voters will get terribly impatient and may decide not to vote for him.”“But will people be killed, Daddy?”

“Nobody you know, darling. Just foreign people.”

“Can I watch it on television?”

“Only if Mr Bush says you can.”

“And afterwards, will everything be normal again? Nobody will do anything horrid any more?”

“Hush child, and go to sleep.”

Last Friday a friend of mine in California drove to his local supermarket with a sticker on his car saying: “Peace is also Patriotic”. It was gone by the time he’d finished shopping.

John le Carré (19 October 1931 – 12 December 2020)

Rest in Power.

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

It’s true. 2020 is a year most of us will be glad to bid farewell to. For frontline workers, those in healthcare and essential services like grocery store workers, delivery, and transportation, the year has been the most difficult and terrifying. Government and corporate services have been scant and fall far short of the adequate protections working people need, especially in the midst of a global pandemic. But artists, poets, musicians, writers and independent journalists have also found this year especially challenging because we are all too often forgotten or marginalized within the ranks of society’s labour force. The contributions and services we provide for mental, emotional and spiritual health, as well as toward continued independent, critical thought and analysis of our political and social landscape, are generally looked at with an indifferent eye under the paradigm of late capitalism. And many resources have been either reallocated elsewhere or simply do not exist.

Therefore, it is with great humility that I ask for donations this year. I understand most of us are struggling; and there is absolutely no obligation or guilt implied with this request. As with previous fundraisers for this site, this one does not place any requirements upon the reader. Whether one is able to donate or not, all articles and access will remain free, and there will never be any government or corporate advertisements, sponsorships, or underwriters. Also, my editorial support from the exemplary Elena Baudelaire and technical assistance from Patrick Hanaway will continue.

We are all looking forward to 2021 as being a fresh start. We look forward to an end to the pandemic, but also for a beginning of meaningful dissent and liberation from our existentially devastating status quo, including militarism and endless wars, economic disenfranchisement, political and corporate tyranny, social oppression, and the ecocide of our precious biosphere. Personally, I look forward to working with other writers and activists, continued writing and critical analysis for this site, more guest writers, poets, thinkers, philosophers, bards and other artists, as well as a few other exciting and fascinating prospects, including a fiction I am currently working on.

I wish you all a truly magnificent Solstice and New Year. And thanks in advance for your support, whether it be in sharing my pieces, the contribution of ideas or informed criticism, monetary assistance, or any of the above.

If you would like to donate monetarily, simply click on the link below and use PayPal.
https://kennorphan.com/donate/

Kenn Orphan December 2020

*Title art piece is The Novel Reader by Vincent Van Gogh, 1888.

Only the Broken Heart can Expand

My heart is sore today. The pain is raw and it feels as if a giant chasm of emptiness stretches out in front of me. The loss of my gentle companion, a feline that provided me immeasurable comfort and joy for years and in some of my darkest hours, has struck me deeper than I imagined. There are layers to this pain, indeed. But our modern life often robs us of the agency to express our pain or sorrow out of fear of judgement or ridicule, especially when it is related to the loss of a non-human being. It is all too often trivialized. And this trivialization has become normalized.

But of course, I am reminded that this is the same societal paradigm that has trivialized the living biosphere itself. It is a pathology which has allowed for its wholesale destruction for the accumulation of coin and the lure of convenience for the few. If the cries of the billions of species it crushes under its busy, productive feet were made audible, the entire human species would be permanently deafened from the colossal lament.

Whenever I am in pain, I retreat to the world of imagination, and music, and art. Today I came across this self portrait of Frida Kahlo done in 1940. I have a small replica I bought as a souvenir in Mexico City years ago. As is the case with most of Kahlo’s paintings, this one is drenched in symbolism.

The hummingbird, usually a symbol of life and vitality, is dead and hanging from a necklace of thorns. Thorns which pierce Frida’s delicate skin. Perhaps it is reminiscent of Christ’s crown of thorns and the pain he suffered carrying the weight of the world’s sorrows. Or perhaps it is Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war, and perhaps it is its weight that is causing her injury. And the butterflies and dragonflies on her head may be symbols of resurrection or renewal. But the neckless is being held by a black monkey, perhaps a symbol of the indifferent torment she endured throughout her life. And a black cat, one very much the appearance of the dear loved one I just lost, stands just to the back of her. Although she is undoubtedly in pain from the thorns, Frida stands calmly, stoically, as if daring the world to hurt her more.

As I pondered the meaning of this portrait I thought about her life, one fraught with disappointment, rejection, grief and extreme physical pain from a horrendous streetcar accident when she was only 18 years old. Along with a tumultuous relationship with artist Diego Rivera, she had to endure at least 35 agonizing surgeries on her spine and body throughout her entire life. She was often bedridden for months at a time. And yet there she is, staring it all down. Through the pain into quiet dignity. Frida actually had a monkey and a black cat, among other animals, birds and plants. I marveled at the many photographs of her holding them and caring for them when I visited her home, Casa Azul, in Mexico City.

Frida lived her life as an open wound, open for the world to see. She displayed her pain as one would display an accessory to wear out to the market or to a concert. It was beautiful because it was true. And this gave me a peculiar sort of strength. We cannot traverse this terrestrial plane without facing pain, and loss, and sorrow. Again and again and again. Bursting through the walls of our heart. These are the very signatures of life and of love. And in a time of unprecedented ecocide and endless assaults on our biosphere by a society unable to face or grapple with its demons and shadows, continuously numbed by distraction, and spectacle, and avarice, and substances, and cruelty, and materialism, unable to feel its pain, we are called to do just that. Face it. And express our pain, and loss, and sorrow. Publicly. Daring the world to hurt us again. Because, without a doubt, it will. It will break your heart. But remember this, it is only the broken heart that has the capacity to expand.

Kenn Orphan December 2020

Epilogue for a Dying Star

Today, I am deeply honoured to feature a poem by one of the most prolific, talented and graciously human thinkers of our time: poet, singer/songwriter, playwright and political journalist, editor, and activist, Sandy Leonvest.

 

 

          Damn the world

and all its pain.

 

          I am feeling light

at the moment,

so just let me be.

 

          Lighter

than the child

with a gift for song,

who spent

long summer nights

spinning threads of sorrow

into grace notes,

and weaving

bright white lies

into snowflakes,

while dancing

for her life;

 

          Lighter

than the moth

who once imagined

herself

a butterfly

in the fleeting reflection

of a mother’s eyes …

 

          Lighter than dust

drifting amid the soaring souls

of the newly departed,

where I once followed

my mother

into the womb

during a moment

of dreaming;

 

          Lighter even

than a cloudless sky

just after a summer storm,

giving rise to a brand new star,

Or the first moon of December

waxing faithfully

over a war-weary world,

to share its luminous nature

with snow-capped mountains

and rivers of melting ice.

 

~Sandy LeonVest has, over the course of her writing career, been a poet, playwright, singer-songwriter, political journalist – radio and print – and the editor/publisher of SolarTimes (solartimes.org), a groundbreaking energy publication and newspaper distributed throughout the San Francisco Bay Area from 2006 through 2013. Today she spends most of her time writing poetry and fiction, which she believes was “who she meant to be all along.” Sandy’s poems capture the spirit of the 21st century, with all of its circularities and contradictions – fathomless beauty and incomprehensible ugliness; infinite joy and endless grieving; and the inevitability of “the ever-spinning circle.” Sorrowful endings followed by new beginnings. Her poetic voice seems to channel the poets of long ago, at once emanating from another era, yet echoing universal and timeless themes.

 

Title photo is the Helix Nebula, a dying star that is 650 lightyears from our world. Source: NASA.