Arik Mendoza


Had I had an eye on my nostalgic marble, I would have parlayed my objections to the other fellow. But I forgot the shimmering tiger’s eye tucked safely in my left, front pocket. Oh, it had been there a year, eight, decades before. It had watched Juan go tumbling off over the bump on my second-hand bicycle flying with his hands spread out about to crash over the low wall into the garden below. It had cooked his hot spicy, Harlem beans for years without him, it appears. And where had the north star of Tunisia gotten us? The lost Arab Spring. The army of tanks stopped by a single man in Beijing. The stem of a white daisy stuck in the long thin barrel of a gun by a peaceful young woman. The glass marbles of the past, these have all rolled away, been swept away by a blind, invisible hand. The coarse, spent, gritty thing called democracy in America was rooted out of the world the way pigs’ snouts dig through the easy dirt looking for a dead man’s finger, a dead man’s hand, and the lost golden ring upon it ingested, too, anything at all there to mounch and mounch and mounch, to eat, to consume, to use up as though the good earth were only their own. Since Bobby died in ’68 it had been gone.

What’s wealth got to do with it?

hanging crow in lilac blooms

In a statement, campaign officials called overturning the controversial decision a key part of Clinton’s plan to “challenge the stranglehold that wealthy interests have over our political system.”

It is important to remember that every media appearance by any person involved in elected government is a self-promoting advertisement. That these may double as platform positions is really secondary. Primary is the purpose to get you, the viewer, the “consumer,” to buy the product—be it potato chip, corn chip, potsticker, or politician.

The potato chip offered in Ms. Clinton’s media appearance in which she vows to, in effect, overturn the Supreme Court’s decision over Citizens United is troubling in three basic ways. The first and most obvious is the mordant irony of a presidential nominee whose candidacy is the direct result of unlimited millions and millions of donor dollars rolling in from super-PACs, today decrying the role played by millions and millions of dollars rolling in from corporations and unions. While it can be argued quite fairly that these are not the same thing, that these are apples and those are oranges, one must also remember that the hand that writes the check from the pile of apples is more often than not the same one that has its fingers in the pile of oranges.

While this talk from Ms. Clinton is somewhat yesterday’s news from 2015, it is also today’s front page headlines. It must be. It has got to be headline news because among the vast swath of the disaffected and on the fence Bernie Sanders supporters, Ms. Clinton has got to sell them her potato chip. She has got to make his potato chip sound as though it is her own chip. By the millions, there are still millions of burned Bernies. Their skin is scorched; the little hairs on their forearms singed; their revolutionary minds are smoldering, if not still aflame.

To get them to buy her potato chip, she has got to offer them something that sounds like a replica of Mr. Sanders’ one-note exhortation throughout his honorable yet vestigial attempt to secure the Democratic nomination. Less money! No money! Money out of politics! Even though, as noted, Ms. Clinton’s presumptive nomination is a direct result of huge sluices filled with gobs and gobs of side-tracked money flowing to her campaign from all directions, from $33,000 dinner plates to similarly priced per capita fundraisers, her verbally disavowing the high stakes role big money plays in the presidential elections, is a salve to the spirit of the millions of sidelined grass-rootsy [sic] American folk, a poulstice on their wounds and bruises, especially the younger under 30 crowd, whose sense of betrayal, abandonment, and their probable ontological guilt of what-to-do pointlessness remains in many of them so itchy all over. As an anti-dote to their nagging consciences, this appeal might make them feel better about themselves again. Hey, she sounds like Bernie! So, I guess I can, despite my misgivings, I’ll vote for her. . .

These, however, are the lesser two of Ms. Clinton’s pandering and self-promoting evils. They are not surprising whatsoever. They are wholly to be expected. They are tactical. Calculated. Predictable. The third and most egregious problem is in the suggestion of the proposal itself. Not thirty days into office, Ms. Clinton is promising to change the U. S. Constitution. This is not just a rebuke to the political process of how laws, for better or for worse, come into being; it is to wipe it right off the table the paper and the document with her arm.

Supposing one feels that there is too much corporate money in politics, one may very well be supportive of what Ms. Clinton as president is declaring she would do within her first month in office. In spite of one’s feeling perhaps the rectitude of this, one must, in order to go along with this “feeling,” overlook a gross error within the mechanism behind what she is proposing. If, she is implying directly, a president does not favor a law which has passed through the review of the Supreme Court, and that law is found by the Court to be constitutional, she will take charge herself and seek to have the meaning of that Court’s holding obliterated.

Obviously, in the country’s past, the Supreme Court has found in its review laws constitutional which in later times were seen to be—gladly and thankfully—repugnant, embarrassing, foolish, reprehensible. Still, the process by which they came to be seen as such was largely through the same political process that had found their mistaken, short-sighted, and ill-advised holdings to have been constitutional in the first place. For the most part, they were undone by the same political process that made them.

Changing law through an immediate act of aggressive political or suggestive presidential fiat is not the way to go about making such change. That this particular issue might to some people pass muster because, in principle, they agree with it, is entirely besides the point. Its danger is that because the notion of limiting campaign financing seems to hold public approval in the way that mobs seem to generally approve of things, it conceals almost entirely the imperious intent Ms. Clinton has to push things whichever way she feels fit, with contempt and disregard for the process that brought such things—whatever they be—into existence, however odious they might in reality sometimes be; rather than allowing for the political system itself to democratically work some of its mis-guided or erroneous decisions out through the prescribed set of powers divided and allocated to the representative branches of government. Instead, she seeks, in effect, to amass all such powers, and would seek to execute them from the seat of the presidency itself.

Again, it might not be obvious because few persons would, on the face of things, be very agreeable to the continuance of huge amounts of money being funneled into presidential politics. That this be not right or that it be undesirable does not offset her underlying willfulness and her outspoken intent to walk into office, take a seat, and start off her administration by abusing in its core and in its political foundations the very system in place for creating or reviewing law. The danger is not in this particular proposal itself, which might very well be a good thing. Rather, the danger is the danger of precedent, the writing of whose presidential narrative would be like the ringing of a dinner bell for further actions to be taken in the future.

She may mean to be pleasing the people. She may mean to be pleasing the Bernie supporters. Tucked under her wing, however, is a barely concealed tyrannical disposition—nestled among the night’s soft feathers—that spells out with greater certainty an intention to disregard, upend, overturn, abuse, and blunt American Law.

Never Cool To Vote Again

nyc reservoir“You got to vote all the time. Not just when it’s cool.” —President Obama

People should never ever vote. And I’m not the sort of guy who uses the word “should.” I avoid it. But voting? It is one thing no one should ever do. Of course there is the mythology of having a voice and that a vote is your voice, and with your voice along with millions of other voters in America, you, collectively, make democracy work. And, by direct implication, that if you do not vote, you do not exercise that voice, and put the brakes on the system of democracy. And, to boot, the undercurrent is that by not voting, you are unpatriotic, un-American, and worse.

Voting gives people that precious little feeling of having a say, of having a voice. And when people no longer have that feeling of having a say, of having a voice, even a tiny one, people begin to get choked up. If you’re at the dinner table and politely ask someone to pass the salt, you expect to be heard. And, in due course, you expect to have that shaker of salt passed your way, as soon as it is practical. You feel heard. And you feel seen. Were you to ask for the salt and nobody did a thing, it wouldn’t be long before you got frustrated, ticked off, unnerved, angry. Eventually you’d build up understandable sorts of resentments and one day, assuming no one ever passed you the salt, meal after meal, month after month, year after year, you’d flip out.

Votes give people the feeling that they are being heard. And it’s that feeling that’s so important. Otherwise you might just explode like that raisin in the sun does at the end of the Langston Hughes’ poem. And the political system, which wants very much to preserve itself, which caters only to the top interests—the top financial and top economic interests—of the folks in charge, at the direct and at the indirect expense of the folks not in charge, by giving voters the opportunity to vote, by creating the satisfying illusion of having a say in the system which really does not care an iota about the millions and millions of lives that are subject to it, the political system very skillfully does preserve itself.

Were it not for voting, people would explode. They would erupt. They might become violent. They would become revolutionary. Voting lets off that steam. Voting makes people blind to the fact that the odds of winning a multi-million dollar lottery twice are less than the odds of a father and son becoming president in a democracy that is actually a democracy. Voting makes people deaf to the fact that the odds of being struck four times in a lifetime by lightning are less than a husband and then his wife becoming president in a democracy that is actually a democracy. But this feeling of having a say, this feeling of having a voice, dulls all the five senses, and numbs completely the brains of the people.

So long as people keep voting, things will keep on being the same. The public theater of Republicans and Democrats, like the Sharks and Jets, like the Montagues and the Capulets, it just goes on and on. The same sides, the same families will stage the same centuries’ old political plays for the public, and by doing this, by putting on these plays between this side and that side, they will always keep their places, their power, their positions. It is these—their places, their power, their positions—which those in the upper echelon of society, regardless of their so-called political affiliation, which they will never under any circumstance give up or risk giving up, that the system is almost perfectly designed to preserve.

Voting is the grease to the machinery of the smoothly running wheels and gears of power, position, and generational entitlement. The American Republic is no different than an Old World landed aristocracy except for the illusion that every few years people vote, by which action the American people at large are completely blinded, deafened, and made completely dumb to the fact that it is they who are the peons, the servants, the crushed and oppressed underclass of this tiny but very powerful overclass of landed and political aristocrats in charge and in power above them. By voting in America all that happens is different branches of the well-established aristocracy of America sit at the long oak table every so often, every few years, while the other branches of that aristocracy, for the time being, eat elsewhere, until it becomes their time to sit at the table again, while the others now sit out. But like squealing pigs made frantic and excited to their own horrible slaughter, Americans keep voting and voting all the time, cycle after cycle, while the true aristocracy in charge, in the name of “progress,” keeps profiting and profiting.

Hecuba M. Sneath

money man close-up dc 2

Having understood the process by which the people had been elected, I had long stood my ground. I would have given no quarter, I would have not flinched, I would not have stepped aside. Readers of the Ark, transcribers of the Infidels, methodologists of Unity, behold yourselves, I had exclaimed. And all, like wooly lovers, had bowed their necks, their heads hanging low near the ground where the trampled grass had once grown. Truly, my at times pilfered run down the cinder path had been stupendous, my knees scarred here and there from my having tripped and healed later on. Still, I could proclaim quite loudly: My votes had been cast for you and for you and for you. Ah, though my chiasmatic cynicism rang like silent bells in the stars, I had successfully enslaved the bright lights of their imagined moments of universal fame household by household by household, like starving potato eaters crumpled around a tabletop too poor to really think on their own beyond the next starvation-sized portion of comestibles, heaps and heaps and heaps of them well-deceived into the sodden belief that they themselves would become earls, dukes, princes, queens, and kings.

American Serfdom

medical cabinet

The future composition of the Supreme Court is the most important civil rights cause of our time.

In the times of Nikolai Gogol, one could work for the State and by doing such become eligible for hereditary nobility. I want you to imagine being a serf then, in Russia, around 1835. Be a serf and imagine you had a voice, and with that voice, imagine that you could bring about change in the way the Regime worked. Imagine that you and other serfs, all of you together, could with your collective voices change the way the Tsar went about affairs of the State. Imagine all of you felt you had had a say in that.

When I read articles such as the one forwarded to me by a dear friend of mine—(see above)—all I hear is an all too familiar bout of petty narcissism—the delusion of a human being who actually believes he (or she) has a voice that matters in the affairs of the State. It’s a benign narcissism—not a malevolent or a malignant one by any means. And all I mean by this petty, benign narcissism is that it is the voice of a human being who falsely believes in the importance over both his place and his effect in and on the world. The reality is this man, this voice, this human being has no more effect in and on the world about him than did a serf over the Regime in the early 1800’s in Russia.

What, however, is particular and even perhaps singular about this American version of serfdom is the fatuous and altogether narcissistic belief that one has, that one is a “stakeholder” in the play of power—be it legislative, executive, or, as in this article, if but once-removed, judicial. And it is this con that keeps down, keeps away any real threat of any real revolt of any kind. So long as people in the United States feel that they have a voice, or a vote, or a measure of selfhood that matters elsewhere—and by ‘elsewhere’ I mean the government or the State that ‘governs’ them—any possible sense of revolt or rebellion is quelled ipso facto. It is that feeling of ‘having power’ versus that feeling of ‘feeling powerless’ that keeps the gristmill going. Really, it’s like gossip—possibly true, but so what? Possibly false, but so what, too? So this guy has loosened his belt a notch, or tightened it up a notch, so what?

The effect is that this man is quieted down, and everybody reading it nodding their heads up and down is likewise quieted down, likewise shut up. Who cares that the peasants, the serfs, the “yeoman farmers” as Jefferson so elegantly put it, grumble? Let ’em grumble and mumble all they want. What matters is that the serfs and peasants, the slaves and servants keep on working; and, moreover, believe in this System, which except for a few who do turn rank and begin—let’s say like Cruz or Obama or Rubio, as well as Clinton 1.3 or Clinton 2.7 (no matter which)—to work now for the State, (and thus become eligible for this inheritance of nobility which they will under no terms ever forsake), are for the foreseeable future permanently kept in their places by. And it is this extant or consequent ‘nobility’ which the Supreme Court, as it pores through any number of pages of any numbers of cases and causes brought before the Bench, will jealously guard and preserve like a dragon in its lair overlooking its treasure.

Walking On The Moon

How property rights in outer space may lead to a scramble to exploit the moon’s resources

pinhole universe

Even the Moon is no longer safe. The foot of mankind is everywhere. The quest for future ownership does not abate. Digging and scratching, we lay waste not just our world, but another. One more plot of land, one more survey to complete, one more war.

Here on Earth we are no longer safe. Ice caps melt. Plastic islands bestir the seas. Cities crumble. Infections spread. As if it matters, some distinguish between these as cycles caused by Nature herself, or Us ourselves.

The painted bench I sat on labeled “Wet Paint” did not ignore me, nor did it invite my body. It was apart from me, as I was apart from it. And when I rose from my cartoon folly, we were both a little bit a part now of each other.

The desire for minerals in Outer Space somehow exceeds the call for groundwater here on this planet. The yearning to find life elsewhere, too, seems to excite possibility beyond life being right here.

Dumbbells get up, left or right, and say whatever slogans and mottos they feel and have been instructed to utter behind wooden podiums will advertise themselves best in the most popular way, hoping to sell themselves as the sweetest slice of apple pie to the stymied American electorate.

Others out of circuit are free to blow our little systems to smithereens. It is not the rebellion from time to time anyone asked for, or could ever conceive. It is rather queer how these folk are labeled masterminds, which formerly had been the province of fictional folk like Sherlock Holmes, and honorable military commanders, not villains.

Why not blow apart the Moon instead? Why not unhinge the rings of Saturn? Were we to find life on our specious sister planet Mars, we would claim, register, patent, and copyright it. Any legal means would be enacted to possess and carve it up like a gigantic turkey farm.

Seas rise. Volcanoes spew blinding ash. Plates shift. The noble idea of being the trustee of the people rather than the immediate agent is gone. Nobody who is anybody alive can be permitted to care beyond an expiration date one day after the numbers branded on the lip of a carton of milk in any refrigerator anymore.

It is rather sad to see our DNA being its own sword in this lifetime alone. Some defect in our nature, I suppose, unapologetic and a bit obtuse. I’d like to blame it on Michael Faraday, Isaac Newton, or Albert Einstein, but don’t.

I’d like to banish from my mind the impulse to self-destruction; I’d like to pin blame on quickened religion, or the avarice of technological progress, but can’t. Instead, I slump back, lay my antiquated pith helmet to its side, and meekly admit the horror that it’s just us.

Our vanity for immortality, for life to be everlasting, this self-minded trip, a dystopian drive par excellence, has been our undoing, whichever be our political or theological party or faction. Mindig ugyanaz. It is all the same. And that’s the wry paradox—must take my leave now, dismissing far more important issues that bedew the Earth for a toasted bagel, a schmear of cream cheese, and several fine slices of Nova Scotia salmon.