Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Late night cleaning

I was scrubbing my toilet around 11:00 p.m.— don't ask, I do that sometimes, clean the house at night— and I started thinking about the Southern Poverty Law Center's Anti-Muslim Inner-Circle: a list of far-right, ultra conservative activists who have ratcheted up the anti-Muslim rhetoric in the past few years. Two on SPLC's list, Pamala Geller and Robert Spencer, were mentioned in Anders Behring Breivik's 1,500 page rant, which was posted online shortly before his killing spree in Oslo. 

As I cleaned, I wondered if any of the ten listed ever scrubbed out their own toilet? Did David Horowitz—who was once a Marxist, and now hater-of-everything Muslim and everything liberal, who runs the David Horowitz Freedom Center and, this is only a wild guess, was instrumental in coining the term, "Islamofascism," and Pamela Geller, who has captured the imagination of nationalistic, anti-Muslim followers worldwide in her black-hearted Atlas Shrugs blog— ever bend over to scrub? Probably not, for if they did, they might not be spewing such bile into the blogosphere, where they wield an inordinate influence amongst their ilk. If they cleaned their own shit once in awhile, I reasoned, they might be a little less provocative with the hate speech, a little more humble with the accusations. 

But you have to admit, Muslims make the perfect "other," like Jews of yore. Along these lines, I was surprised to learn that anti-Semitism among the far-right has fallen out of favor, replaced by hatred for Muslims. Geller, who the NYTimes and other media outlets have linked to Breivik's actions, denied any responsibility for the killings, calling any criticism of her, "patently ridiculous." But words have power as we know, and intolerant, furious, hate spewing words seem to have the most power of all.

What is amazing to me is how alike the anit-immigration, anti-tax, small government Progress Party, of which Breivik was a member, is to the Tea Party. Although no longer a force, the Progress Party served a small contingent of Norway's far-right, and, well, this profile fits the Tea Party, doesn't it? Breivik soon dropped out of the party and went on to develop his own ideas, the outcome of which we know. But we see it now in the GOP, in bed with the devil, standing on their principles— uncompromising, unwilling to listen or to reason; they announce their views as the only true religion. If you squint, the Tea Party could almost be the Progress Party, pre-Oslo, before Breivik lost his mind.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

To Whom It May Concern:

To Whom it May Concern:

I will get right to the point. Please, and you know who you are, do not encourage me to draw. Not that I don't like your comments; in fact, your comments make me weep with joy, but I'm weak and undisciplined and your words go to my head. I come home after work and get out a beer and if I can afford it some good scotch and round up my colored pencils, pens and charcoals and make a mess. As I sit there in a haze of alcohol and lots of pencils, it occurs to me I should be attempting something useful, like setting up my new IPhone which I've had for over a week, but have yet to record a voicemail message or transfer my music or email or photos (pitiful I know). Or continuing in this vein, I should be looking for a real job like I keep threatening, instead of dragging my ass home every night at 10:30 and staying up to all hours...drawing. 

So I put away my colored pencils.... but then something catches my eye, and I can't help myself again. 

For instance, on Monday, in the Health & Wellness section of the LA Times, the focus was on service animals. I had just written about a service dog whose job it was was to make his master laugh. What caught my attention this time, and which I didn't know, is that there is very little oversight for service animals: anyone can buy a service vest online and slap it on their dog, or, as Karen Ravn wrote in "What Service Animal Means," slap it on their "cats and rats and parrots and ferrets and llamas [!] and iguanas [!] and at least one snake." This was too much; the next night I had to spend a few more hours drinking and making a mess, the results of which I present to you here. 

I know I should probably end by saying thank you to those whose kind words have gotten me to this precipice, but please don't take that as an invitation for more encouragement; it's the last thing I need. 

Yours sincerely,

The Rat's Nest

Service Animals in Focus

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Train full of Crazies....

We'd taken the Gold Line downtown on Saturday night, an uneventful ride, but on the way back, a few hours later, it was a whole other trip. Among the late night wanderers with nowhere to go, we sat with a train full of crazies. 
I'd first noticed the couple on the platform at Union Station, the dog rolling on the ground, with red sunglasses on his head, and his master, a hipster in a gray porkpie hat. 

The dog, a beautiful velvety tan pit bull, was a service dog, wearing the official blue vest, but his master treated him like a clown. The dog was the man's therapy, I heard the hipster say, to keep him entertained, to keep him laughing. The dog attracted attention like crazy, and so did the mutterings of his master. As they walked through the car, the dog dragged his muzzle across the sweaty laps of passengers who reached out to pet him. All eyes were on that laughing dog; once seated, the dog fell asleep under his master's feet, his day job as a clown done. 

At the other end of the train, a middle-aged woman in a makeshift hijab talked in tongues. She sat with her arms across her body spewing nonsense syllables, religious incantations of her own making.

When some kids made fun of her, she pulled her scarf over her head, covering her face entirely, and repeated those sounds even louder—she wasn't going to be intimidated. She carried on as though her prayers would really protect her. Between her incantations and watching the laughing dog, my head pingponged back and forth from one end of the train to the other. 
I know it's rude to stare but on this train wherever you looked got you in trouble. Seated directly across from us was a Dodger's fan with severe OCD. The  kid wore a Dodger's ball cap, a Dodger's jacket and underneath, a Dodgers T-shirt. 

He looked kind of normal, except for his repetitious counting, his fingers striking the palm of his hand, adding and subtracting, accompanied by him mouthing random numbers, as he too might find an answer. From Union Station to his destination in Chinatown, he never stopped counting.

One sees the deep divide more clearly on the Gold Line at night. On one side of the cliff, there are those of us who have cars, riding the metro to "take" public transportation; it's an effort but at least we do our civic duty once in awhile. 

On the other side is the "public," a wide swath of humanity who use the metro as their only form of transportation. Call me naive, but there seem to be more riders these days. Among the normal and hard working who pay the high fees to get to a job, there are those—and at night you realize just how many there are in this city of widening gap between rich and poor—who ride the metro because they have nowhere else to go....and no place to sleep...and nothing they own....and no one to stop them from going crazy. 

Update: On July 18, the LA Times published a complete guide to service dogs in their Health & Wellness section. What caught my attention was the mention that anyone could order a service vest online, making it easy for some to get creative and anoint their own pets—cats, rats, parrots, llamas! iguanas and one known snake—for therapy. Makes me wonder if laughing dog wasn't such a dog...