“There are some people who think that to understand something allows them to put it in the drawer of nicely arranged memories and let it rest. They are the lunatics who think that a ghost can be exorcised by inviting it to dinner and requiring it to use table service and a napkin.”
—from Calling All Heroes, by Paco Ignacio Taibo
Red Emma appreciates the unguarded confession, the unintended verity, the irony which cannot speaks its name because it cannot look down at its jacket lapel and read its own nametag.
Back when Emma was just a little activist, he packed into a room at UCLA with a crowd of other Central America peace types to shout down some invited members of the ruling El Salvadoran government (“Hi! My name is Death Squad”), a bunch of thugs in tight-fitting suits who took it quietly enough from us for a while (they were getting a stipend, after all) until one of them stood up, walked to the edge of the stage, pulled out his index finger, aimed it at us and warned, “It is easy for you to be Socialists in this rich country, but it is not so easy in mine.”
No, in his rich country we would have been shot and raped and our bodies dismembered, the guns and bayonets provided by Ron Reagan, the killers trained by the U.S. military. Get it? In fact, in his rich country, he would have killed us. Ironic, huh?
My favorite recent admission: “Hmmm, I’m unfamiliar with IVC.” Here is where I’m supposed to cop authorially to one of those, my emphasis added, deals or a nifty “(sic),” but the emphasis was there already, and all theirs. This elegant admission erupted from the lips of a higher ed academic colleague, one of that variety of apparent political innocents who have somehow either avoided the news, missed it, refused to embrace the argot of the moment (“IVC” = “disaster”) and who now consider anybody with a bee in their bonnet (like Red) so outside the realm of acceptable discourse as to perhaps be lying to them about everything, perhaps even about the very existence of Irvine Valley College, and generally to be a big fat bummer.
In conversation with these folks, I never know how much I can assume, and so I never quite know how much to explain toward making our jolly conversation make sense at even basic sentence level. It’s like my own lapel, and the button on it. If at this point in the war you don’t, for instance, understand what “He Lied, They Died,” means, where to start?
After pretending not to know, there’s the effort to equalize, balance and smooth all things out, to reconcile and to accommodate, to deny an analysis, and to always, always, see both sides to every argument. It causes me to think that maybe these gentle people were busy that day at college twenty years ago and didn’t show up to hear the representatives of the Moral Equivalent of Our Founding Fathers threaten a bunch of kids at a university campus. Maybe they were pledging a frat or going out for cheerleading. (More on that later.)
To review: The “He” in “He Lied, They Died,” is George W. Bush (and possibly his toady, Colin Powell). It refers to the administration’s lie about the purpose and motivation for overthrowing and occupying Iraq, and starting a civil war. (Get your own button at www.thenation.org)
More review: Our community college district has been the locus (I almost wrote "locust") of, in no particular order, the ascendancy of a first-class maroon to the office first of IVC presidency, then district chancellor, attacks on gay rights, dozens of lost lawsuits by a district which hires lawyers for kicks, and, yes, a weirdo conspiracy theorist Holocaust denier, not to mention the declaration of war on Spain by the former chair of the OC GOP.
Now are you familiar with IVC, you big dope?
And there’s more IVC in the news, if you want to find it. A fews weeks ago one Earl Krugel of the Jewish Defense League was sentenced to twenty years for conspiring to blow up a mosque. Perhaps some are not familiar with Earl and the late Irv Rubin, who took his own life in Metropolitan Jail, both of the JDL, a far-right Zionist hate group likely responsible for the murder of activist Alex Odeh and linked, as it happens, to our little district from hell. Searching Dissent on-line archives will scare up an unlikely “appreciation” of Irv by Yours Redly, where the Zionist-Palestinian-Frogueian Nexus of Historical Incredulity is explained. Really, it is.
Meanwhile, I just read Paco Taibo’s Calling All Heroes, a startlingly imaginative, wonderfully disjointed and moving novel about the massacre of Mexican students by their own government in 1968, which Taibo himself witnessed, if by “witnessed” you include being beaten on the head and shot at. This little book provided me some inspiration for my trip on a recent Friday morning to the campus of Santa Ana High School, where I encountered a whole squad of administrators. Let’s assume that they were not there to welcome me as I distributed anti-military recruitment fliers to students on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild. No, the Security Lady, principal, and football coach told me to leave the private property of their public high school. I walked across the street, and distributed about 1,000 fliers. Sure, I had thought, it was odd that the journalism teacher warned me administration was “so conservative here.” But then, as if to prove it, she hid her face—I kid you not—and whispered to me before fleeing, “Oh, no, the principal.”
A brief internet search identifies the principal as a deacon in a religious outfit called the United Church of God and points to his hosting of, yes, candidate George W. at Santa Ana High School. You can’t make this stuff up. It’s comforting, in fact, how easily one’s impressions are confirmed here in the OC. Check out Wikipedia for kooky religious groups. Remember Herbert Armstrong? It turns out that the principal of a giant public high school in Orange County is a right-wing, pro-military, pro-W. religious goof who digs the GOP, and believes in:
√ The Premillennialist belief in the return of Jesus Christ to rule the earth from Jerusalem.
√ That the dead are unconscious after death awaiting a resurrection at Christ’s return.
√ The existence of Satan, who currently has primary influence over the world.
√ The identity of the United States and Britain as the descendants of the Israelite tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. This belief is also shared by the Christian Identity movement, of which the UCG is not generally considered a part.
√ The rise of a European Beast power as the revival of the Roman Empire who will conquer the United States and attempt to fight Christ at the latter’s return.
√ Abstinence from pork and other meats, and declining to observe holidays such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day, New Year, and St. Patrick’s Day.
No wonder they hate me. I recognize the Antichrist’s return to Downey to rule the world, using zip codes and fluoridation. I believe the dead are unconscious but that they are also Republicans. I see the identity of the United States and Britain as descendants of the Stoogist tribes of Moe and Curley but definitely not Shemp. And so on. (I hope these folks like Halloween, but I kinda doubt it.)
The high school kids I met that morning were amazing, wearing a uniform hipster blend of old-school punk (Ramones, Dead Kennedys) and heavy metal black, always black (viva 1968!) t-shirts, tight-fitting blue jeans, friendship bracelets and long hair. They all stopped to talk, and to take more brochures inside. A self-identified ROTC student told me he hated his ROTC instructor. I explained fragging. The MEChA students said they’d invite me in for a debate.
I returned to my car after an hour, illegally parked in the Visitors Space, just in time for the Security Lady to give me a ticket. She observed my IVC parking sticker—“IVC, huh?” and I wondered what she meant, but mostly I thought about the Taibo novel, which is not to say that I am equating the reactionaries and Unfamiliaristas of our county with the crimes of a state against its children thirty-five years ago. Except that I couldn’t help but think I had sure been going in that direction as I joked and chatted with sixteen year olds who knew exactly why the military wanted their souls and understood exactly what my lousy button meant.
All of this to say that my editor at Dissent encouraged me to write about the proposal by some cheerful IVC students—and the apparent assent by instructors and administrators!—to initiate or continue a cheerleading group or club or whatever, but who find themselves faced with the vexing problem of leading cheers absent a genuine mascot. For those of you unfamiliar with Irvine Valley College, our school’s proud mascot is, yes, the Laser. That’s right, the LASER, probably the only mascot in the country that is actually an acronym (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation). Wikipedia is again helpful here, if helpful means confusing, but I liked this bit a whole lot: “The verb ‘to lase’ means ‘to produce coherent light’ or possibly ‘to cut or otherwise treat with coherent light,’ and is a back-formation of the term ‘laser.’”
Red Emma eschews organized sports, but I swear I recognized the term “back-formation” from childhood days when I was forced to watch television football war-play as the uncles digested their turkey and drank Coors and the US of A dropped tonnage on Laos, Cambodia, Viet Nam, and so on. Back formation seems to me the way in here, Dear Reader, toward satisfying my editor, toward helping out the big IVC team (not that we even have a football team), toward familiarizing the unfamiliar and generally contributing to a discussion about history and its ghosts. It’s possible there is an IVC basketball team. I know that there used to be a petanque court, so that, whether b-ball or p-ball, you’ll want to forget everything you ever knew and instead cough up some of that ole’ school spirit on behalf of the nation’s unlikeliest mascot.
Lasers, lasers, we’re all right!
We’re a coherent beam of light!
Got no football, got no team!
We’re a bright red laser beam!
Pass that photon! Stimulate emission!
We’re on another PR mission!
Vision correction! Muscle repair!
Remove unsightly body hair!
We’re the district that hates the Spanish!
Our mascot makes glaucoma vanish!
Who’s the district that had the Denier?
And a Chancellor who’s still a liar?
Dave Lang sometimes voted fairness!
Now he votes to keep his Chairness!
Fool, this ain’t no low-enrolled school!
It’s an expensive hi-tech tool!
Put on your goggles, cover your cornea!
We was number one in California!
You think right now your eyes are burning?
Wait till we use Distance Learning!
WE WILL, WE WILL
Attack the Senate and governance shared!
Keep the faculty stupid and scared!
2, 4, 6, 8!
WASC will not accreditate!
Irvine! Irvine! Irvine!