Archive for August, 2008

A LOCAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE DEMOCRA(P)TIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
PART II: Who Are These Protesters And What The Hell Do They Want?
Conventions and other political gatherings typically generate some kind of protest from some group or another, so in light of this year’s Democratic National Convention, I was curious as to who are these protesters and what are they protesting, anyway? Are they protesting the Democrats? Are they protesting the fact that the convention is being held in Denver? Protesting Hillary’s outing, or is it just that time of the month again?
In today’s political climate, there are certainly a lot of issues on the table to be addressed, such as the economy, the war in Iraq, whether a black man should be allowed to run the country, etc. Well, actually, Senator Barack Obama is technically bi-racial, so does that really count? I keep having these visions of thousands of racist political operatives descending upon the Pepsi Center in white robes and carrying a thick rope. Scary. Aside from the yahoos that were arrested Tuesday, for plotting to assassinate Obama (mainly because of his race), I hope that it is safe to say that the racialists are safely in the margins. Some issues seem more valid than others, so I decided to go out and interview some of the protesters to see what these protesters were about and if they were debating real issues.
Most of the groups seemed to be pretty warm to the idea of Barack Obama becoming president. Some were protesting to try to bring positive attention to areas mostly ignored by Obama and the Democrats, such as immigration reform and Veterans advocacy. Not all groups however, were singing the praises of the Democratic front-runner. Some groups, such as the Communist Party, were trying to bring awareness to the analogousness of the Democratic and Republican parties, and bring light to Obama’s entrenchment to the system.
The more I walked through the park, the more the event seemed like an orgy of weirdness. There were scattered groups of protesters ranging from marijuana advocates (they were all passed out in the grass surrounded by Twinkie wrappers), various war protesters, Jesus freaks, Jesus geeks, the Communist party, Ralph Nader supporters, the usual voting advocacy groups such as “Rock the Vote,” and of course, plenty of cops. One particularly strange group was promoting the idea of reproducing the Hispanic population to start an uprising.
One protester caught my eye as she held a modest cardboard sign that read: “Who Represents Me?” She was by herself and decided to demonstrate without the support of any group. She was protesting the lack of current representation based on the issues that were important to her, such as the divisions between the rich and poor and how influential rich politicians are. Even though she does not believe that she is represented, she still plans to vote.
Overall, the general mood was amiable enough. I only saw a few hecklers trying to rile up the crowd with bigoted slurs, but they were mostly ignored and the park was alive with conflicting ideas and agendas being reasonably discussed among groups. One thing that I did not see was a great unifying movement or idea to homogenize the crowds. Also, ostensibly, no overtly pro-Republican protesters.
It was pretty neat to walk through the park and see all of these ideas being exchanged in an open manner, and without police involvement. The protesters have mostly thinned out as the week has gone on, but the police force has remained ubiquitous. There is a major immigration march set for Thursday to end at Invesco Field where Obama is scheduled to give his acceptance speech. Many Denver Hispanic residents are disappointed at Obama’s failure to adequately address the immigration issue. The hope is that this gathering at the doorstep of who could potentially become our next president, will bring them into the spotlight so that Obama will have no other choice but to respond. Is the worst over or will there be an escalation during the last hurrah?COMING NEXT:

FINAL SEGMENT:
WELCOME TO THE POLICE STATE

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A LOCAL PERSPECTIVE ON THE DEMOCRA(P)TIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
PART I:
Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?

Having been somewhat of a Capitol Hill fixture over the last five years, I thought I would be in a relatively good position to get a feel for the Democratic National Convention (DNC). After this week, I won’t be living in the city anymore, so I decided to spend my last week as a City of Denver resident smelling out the aire of the Mile High City during this national security event and how it is impacting the city. Since most of the “action” would be taking place in and around Civic Park, I could easily maneuver my way into the crowds and get the scoop, hence the title, “A Walk in the Park.” In addition to my centrality to the protest movement, my job at Auraria Campus would ensure that I could be close to the security perimeter and perhaps get some close-ups of the event.

At the college campus I work at, classes have been suspended and has been turned into a sweeping security perimeter, allowing parking access for the odd 2,000 delegates, with a ramped-up security force ranging from local cops to F.B.I., C.I.A., and Secret Service. Buildings and classrooms are locked down, as they are essentially at the doorstep of the Pepsi Center where the convention is taking place.

As the event kicked off on Monday, the police and other security forces present were prepared for the worst. An estimated 20,000 protesters were expected to maul their way through the selected parade route ending up at the designated “free-speech zone,” or as some like to call it, the “Freedom Cage.” Despite the anticipation, however, the number of protest participants numbered around 2,000. Other marches have been scheduled, but are mostly sparse and un-unified.

Word around the street is that the protesters didn’t want to be confined to a “free speech zone,” and had, at the last minute, tried to organize a walk through the trendy 16th St. pedestrian mall where, incidentally, they would have made much more of an impact. Security was formidable, however, and failing to obtain a proper permit, the scant protesters were forced to say their piece (peace) on the sidewalks after the parade route was re-opened to traffic. This had the effect of disorganizing the main movement and leaving a residue of rag-tag protesters that gathered in Denver’s Civic Park.

So with all of this hype built around these protesters and beefed-up security, the question that I have is: Where have all the cowboys gone? Where are the gunslingers, the shoot-from-the-hipsters, the new revolutionaries that pledged their fidelity towards civil disobedience? From my view, it was a pretty disappointing day for the tour de force that protest organizers were hoping for. One force that was present, however, was the police presence. And they have given assurance that they will continue to remain a very solid presence throughout the event, which has some citizens wondering if the saturation of cops is justifiable. The question is, are these cops there to serve and protect, or to deter the public from engaging in protests, peaceful or otherwise?

COMING NEXT: WHAT ARE ALL THESE PEOPLE PROTESTING, ANYWAY?

What is this mysterious force that brings two people together? In all the vastness of the wide world we live in, all of the myriads of possible partners that we may encounter, why do we gravitate towards certain individuals, and why do we stick with them? With so many people that have different pasts and different value systems, what ends up being the glue that binds us together?

I always hear stories about couples that have all kinds of things in common; ice cream flavors, shoe brands, similar tastes in movies, bible verses, travel destinations. These commonalities, however, seem to reside on the surface level. I have encountered relationships where I have had plenty of these superficial things in common with a person and still it did not work out. So I must ask: How much of relationship compatibility is dependant upon how many things you have in common with the other person?

Sometimes opposites attract. You may encounter someone who is so shockingly different from what you are used to that you can’t help but be attracted to them. You are a dog person and they are a cat person. Your favorite food is peanut butter, which your partner happens to be allergic to. They may have quirks and idiosyncrasies that rub you the wrong way, but ultimately they have won you over. What is it that holds these people together?

It is rather easy to get along with someone who presents themselves as an easy match. Most people are on their “best behavior” when they first begin a romantic pursuit. Eventually, the proverbial honeymoon is over, and the novelties of superficial commonality fade and take the backseat to more substantial concepts of compatibility such as: Does he/she support my pursuit of happiness? Do they help to center me when I’m way out? These issues can only be proven through time and experience, so what determines if a person is worth sticking around for?

They always say that you’ll know it when it happens. When you meet that special someone, you’ll just know. Sparks will fly, angels will sing choruses from the heavens, and everything in life from that moment on will make sense. But what if that is all just a bunch of romantic twaddle? What if the rapid racing of your heart at the sound of your beloved’s voice is essentially the equivalent of eating too much spicy food before bedtime?

Don’t get me wrong. I believe that lasting relationships should have a fair measure of passion, but can a healthy relationship be measured by its level of passion, and can such passion be sustained? I had a friend once who admonished me to never start a relationship at a 90% level of intensity, but rather to start somewhere in the 70% level. The effect would be more draining than uplifting in the long run. That way, she explained, you can eventually raise the level to a sustainable 80% over time. At first I thought her approach to relationships was a bit too mathematical and strategic (I always believed that both people should give 100%), but after thinking about it, she may have been on to something. No couple can reasonably operate at a 90% level of intensity. Both persons would eventually get burned out and lose energy. This example is synonymous with the idea of a flashbulb versus a long-life incandescent light bulb. The former burns bright and hot for a very short time, while the latter burns at a dimmer but more steady and long-lasting duration.

I have experienced feelings of deep infatuation and romantic empathy before in relationships, and all have ended, for various reasons, in failure. I wonder if the common thread was the fact that I relied too heavily on the “feeling” part. I felt like she was the “one.” I had a good feeling about the way I felt when we kissed, and so on. Was I dazzled by the flash of the bulb, the sparks of the Roman candle, so much so that by the time the brightness was gone and the after image faded, the show was over before I realized it?

Looking back, I can see how most of my ideas of what a relationship should look like was formed by others usually trying to sell a certain way of life. Commercials on T.V., books, magazine ads, and even friends and family illustrated a type of relationship that was not ideally realistic for me. Society paints a glowing picture of endless happy couples usually tied to some product line or another, while the reality of everyday relationship life is more complex and conscious. And similarly, the version of my coupled friends that I get to see is rarely the same as the subterfuge that I am presented with.

I think that most people get hung up on the expectations associated with the labels given in relationships. Deeper levels of commitment bring greater levels of status and entrenchment, which naturally come with labels attached, which, in turn, carry connotations that people associate with the images they are presented with in society and social circles.

Every relationship is its own creation, each bond between two people unique and irreplaceable. Whether the bond lasts for a season or many seasons, it is unfair and often inadequate to reduce these bonds to mere labels.

Perhaps the measure of a healthy relationship is in the substance of the amount of harmony that person brings to your life. Whether you are compatible on an analogous or on a complementary level, the person that you call “significant other,” should bring a measure of sanity, support, and challenging influence to the table. I’m not talking about the person becoming your identity or losing yourself in the identity of the relationship, but rather your significant other enriching your identity by filling a gap that exists in your life. How can it be anything but good if that person “frees” you up to be yourself rather than placing unwarranted restraints on your natural personality? Oh yeah, and you have to be good for them too. Now that’s what I call compatibility.

The Thrill Is Gone…

Posted: August 4, 2008 in Uncategorized

I used to drink in the romance of the city, fascinated by the sights and sounds, the mystique of its life-pulse. I used to want the city to want me, to incorporate me into its mythos, to graft me into its glass and concrete skin. I used to look at the city through carnival eyes and stroll through its streets on escalator shoes. Now it is the back alley stench of urine soaked bricks and ancient dog turds petrifying on the sidewalk that I smell, the endless string of bums with their endless string of hard luck stories, the ubiquitous cannon-blast of dumpsters falling open, glass bottles rolling, scattering, not quite breaking, Roman-nosed metrosexual females hiding behind bug-eyed sunglasses, every hair on their bodies carefully manicured to the precise configuration of the goddesses they worship, glum, dainty, and utterly lacking in personality. I can feel the oppressive heat of anger and selfishness trapped between the tall buildings, impersonal buildings which stand as sentinels over the swarming ants below. I can hear the manic buzzing of 10,000 voices competing for my attention, vying for my affections like a late-night prostitute. The city presents its case, all razzle dazzle and solicitous melodrama. The life-pulse of the city has become a sales pitch, a con, a cleverly constructed subterfuge designed to bankrupt me, but it is my soul that has become bankrupt. I pass by familiar buildings without even seeing them now for I am a ghost to this place and the plane that I walk on carries me beyond these dusty and forgotten passageways. Now that it is time for me to leave, I can feel the city holding on to me, threatening to suffocate me with its sweatsocks smell and its loathsome nagging, its signs and omnipresent traffic lights, its promises of hollow thrills and delivery of well-worn madness. It is time for me to go, to find that place my heart has already set out for, and where I lie, the murmur of the city will be only a distant echo in my mind…