Monday, October 14, 2013

Can you lead me beyond the nightmare to the shoals of clarity and shores of reassurance?

Can you lead me beyond the nightmare to the shoals of clarity and shores of reassurance?
By Daphne Muse
 All morning despite a great swim, I’ve been trying to gain my footing, secure my spirit and release the terror within.  I feel like I’m drowning in the murky rip tides of 21st Century Fascism and there is no clear shore in sight.  With every passing minute, I’m more and more terrified by the debt default deadline and the two-hundred and thirty-two Republicans in the House of Representatives controlled, and forty-nine domestic terrorists in the Tea Party, holding our country of more than three hundred and nineteen million people hostage.  They also are about to take billions around the world hostage as well, if they take the country into default.
The Civil War, which has been on simmer for well over a century, has now been brought to a boil and like Gettysburg and Chickamauga, these 21st century battles are brutal. From changing standing rules to up ending laws, the storm trooping Tea Party and Right Wing Republicans have extorted their way into power: are immune to any name calling, attempts to bring well reasoned mindsets to the seats they hold or look past tomorrow at what the take down of the country by their own hands really means.
While continuing to refer to the president as a Muslim to demanding he be impeached, they would rather take it all down than be told what to do by any black man, but especially President Obama.  Even the Koch Brothers, the money and architects behind the TeaPubs are now reversing their strategies and pleading to shut down the shut down. The Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert skits now grate against the rawness of my nerves. The shutdown of sane voices, seeking to prevail, is deafened by silence, which has become a deadly weapon of mass destruction.  There is no poem, piece of art or person in this moment that seemingly can reassure me.  Despair looms large in the air I’m trying desperately to breathe.  
Transformation of any sort can be painful, but the mass assault on this social order is eviscerating the soul, spirit and vision of a country that by decree but not sustainable policies and leadership could have been an inclusive and viable Democracy.  Though founded in treachery and structured on the bones of colonialism, there were so many components from which a real Democracy could have been forged and sustained.  For the sake of my grandchildren, your grandchildren and all these young people working their way into the future, I don’t want to be locked down by this terror.  I entered struggle as a social activist in high school and joined with millions of others across the decades to invest in creating an amazing future for them.  This is not the inheritance I wanted to leave the children pushing back from tables where plates are empty, black and brown teenagers being frisked out of their freedoms and girls being rendered in cauldrons brimming with sexism and exploitation.  I ask to be lead to the shoals of clarity and shores of reassurance, so I can engage in struggle and conduct resistance beyond the lockdown of fear. This is not the world I dreamed, but the nightmare I’ve felt coming on for a spell now.
Daphne Muse is a writer, social commentator and poet.  Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, Portside and Atlantic Magazine, and aired on NPR. You can read her blog at

Friday, October 4, 2013

Might you know where I can find a rehab center for our country? (Originally posted in 2010)

Might you know where I can find a rehab center for our country?
By Daphne Muse
As a result of Democracy being eviscerated, the country known since 1776 as the United States of America is now steeped in the throes of a political, social and moral nervous breakdown.  As a country, we’ve barely broken the barriers of adolescence.  China (a country to whom we appear to be abdicating ourselves through outsourcing and the US Chamber of Congress), Nigeria and Chile can trace their national lineage back multiple dynasties, kingdoms and centuries.  As we grapple with the infancy of our nationhood, some days I think maybe we’re having a serious case of the terrible twos:  Congressional tantrums, the mayhem of mid-term elections, pandemic foreclosures and mind boggling phobias based on people’s racial, ethnic, gender and class identities continue to demonstrate just how underdeveloped we are.
Tea Party candidate Christine O’Donnell campaigns on tectonic plates of lies, representing herself as a Constitutional scholar, while remaining delusional and incapable of discussing even one amendment to the Constitution. With thousands of intelligent and well-informed women who are Democrats, Green Party members, Republicans and Independents, shrewd Sarah Palin (with some real McCainsian muscle behind her), continues positioning herself to wear the “imperial presidential crown” in 2012.  Women like O’Donell and Palin so fit the stereotypical paradigm of pretty but not necessarily intellectually substantive or historically informed.  I’ve yet to see even one interview with Grace Anne Baltich of Hanover, Minnesota, Lynna Lan Tien Nguyen Do of Fremont, California or Tara Andrews of Baltimore, Maryland.  These women have studied diligently, devoted serious time to civic engagement and are preparing themselves to become the next generation of presidential candidates. All meet the age qualification to run in 2012.   Their work and aspirations are documented in She’s out There! Essays by 35 Young women Who Aspire to Lead the Nation, a book and film by Amy Sewell and Heather L. Ogilvie.
In concert with the billionaire Koch brothers who continue the legacy of their father Fred Koch, founder of the John Birch Society, Political Analyst Karl Rove and US Chamber of Commerce CEO Thomas J. Donahue have sunk their talons into our electoral system and clawed the life out of it.  Groups many naively thought extinct, including the John Birch Society, Ku Klux Klan and the Traditional Values Coalition are being fueled by infusions of money and personnel to reignite protracted conflicts based on people’s racial, ethnic, religious, class and gender identities. We’re being marketed into supporting the surgical industrial complex, altering our bodies molecule by molecule and fighting aging with a vengeance, placing way more attention to our VQ’s (Vanity Quotients) than or IQ’s.
An MTV reality crew tapes a full throttle domestic violence incident involving reality show star Amber Portwood.  She pummels her boyfriend Gary Shirley, as their two-year-old daughter sits only a few feet away.  Not one member of the crew stepped up to stop the violence. The moral anchor has been wobbly for a spell, but now it almost seems to have corroded, totally.  People also have no problem killing someone over tennis shoes or, positioning themselves for high hair pulling drama by displaying multiple levels of egomaniacal dysfunction in the media.  Humiliation has become a national sport leading to untold numbers of young people choosing suicide, snuffing out their futures on an almost daily basis.  The stress of American Exceptionalism, a two centuries long, unsustainable practice, has taken the country to the brink and kept us from focusing on the hearts and souls of our own citizens.  As Toronto Star Columnist Richard Gywn notes, “It’s (America) exhausted its quota, a very large one indeed, of bright, confident mornings.” 
We’ve bombed millions of others, as well as ourselves, into a psychotic state and evidence of the walking wounded surround us daily: maimed and homeless vets, many of whom are women trying to raise babies while still dancing on the remains of their adolescence; banks hiring hairdressers, teenagers and Walmart greeters to sign-off on loan modifications for mortgages; unemployed college graduates saddled with six-figure debt.  With rare exceptions, the voices of progressives are barely audible in the blast of the media.  And the ongoing stupefying demonization of President Barack Obama ricochets like the “Theatre of the Absurd” plays of Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet and Tom Stoppard.
In Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America, by Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi, a brutal portrayal of the financial industry services is rolled out on a canvas that paints a neo realistic image of the fiscal dysfunction of the country.  While I have my own long-held concerns about the size and function of government, their deep reach into my privacy and layers of incompetence (with the exception of the efficient employees at Social Security), social orders need governments to implement laws and policies that make them possible to get food on the table safely, provide necessary maintenance of infrastructure and provide essential services that get us water to drink and paid for our work.  But the jockeying for running the country like a corporation has taken hold withwe the people being fired at will by empire builders committed to clearing the landscape of the growth of Democracy.

So, where do you take a country for rehab?  Certainly not the Jersey Shore; Nor is this work that falls under the purview of media therapist Dr. Phil or celebrity rehab Guru Dr. Drew Pinsky.  While Jon Stewart’s Rally for Sanity is an invitation to engage in civility, everyday across the centuries Americans have organized, fiercely fought for social justice and worked right at the dinner table to rehabilitate our country.  These efforts are now minimized and overshadowed by the drama and madness of the racial, ethnic, gender, class warfare and religious vilification.  They are also being derailed by strategically forged policies to use debt and foreclosure as tools to suffocate millions of Americans who were called abominable if they didn’t “buy” into the American Dream. Along with humiliation, demonizing the poor by religious leaders and politicians has created a real societal disconnect reducing us to random acts of compassion.  But acts of oppression have been far from random.
Children around the rest of the world may soon read a “Once Upon a Time” tale about a country that died before its time because “Dr. Biggy Greedlove” and a select cadre of corporate troops dismantled the Democracy millions of workers on assembly lines, poets and artists, surgeons and teachers across the United States once worked diligently to try and build.
Daphne Muse is a writer, social commentator and poet.  Her blog is or email

Copyright Oakland, CA 2010