The beating heart of my community is Puerto Rican – today that heart BLEEDS

This is Puerto Rico

And this is my street, and it is also Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico with some Irish, & both throw badass parades.

But the streets, the feel, the beating heart of my community, is Puerto Rican.

And today that heart bleeds.

The very reason I chose this place – along with the incredible apartment – is because it is Puerto Rican.

understand what that means. It means safety and family and humanity. It means everyone knows everyone. It means new faces – definitely including my white one – will be treated with a great deal of suspicion – at first.

But I understand the flip side of that. And I have learned that the surest investment in the whole universe is the investment into a community of what “Poppy” calls, simply, “the Spanish people.”

He is not speaking of people from Spain. It is not literal. But he is right when he broadens it in this way concerning me, because I spent close to my entire life in areas with high, high concentrations of Latinos. Southern California, Texas, New Mexico, and even Oklahoma City. (Although most people not from Oklahoma don’t automatically think of it as a place with a lot of Mexicans, but it is.)

But I have, after a lifetime of being a nomad, dug in. Very purposefully. Very deliberately. I have sunk my roots down into this soil, and the deeper those roots sink, the more I bloom.

THIS is my HOME

And that home, at its heart, is Puerto Rican.

Every morning a group congregates on the corner, speaking mostly Spanish. It is mostly men, mostly old, and I can say with certainty that I was more than mostly not welcome.

Not that I ever let that stop me.

my Puerto Rico - where the old men talk and I interrupt

Behind that parking sign is a fairly decent sized – hell, I don’t know what it’s called – it’s not really a stoop, but it is a totally covered space with plenty of room to sit (I cut off most of it in the photo) and it’s hard to tell from the picture, but it is raised to a perfect height for sitting. When the weather is nice, there will be crates pulled up as well. Sometimes people sit on nearby cars.

It’s awesome.

*BTW, this particular Bodega is actually not owned by a Puerto Rican, but instead a Dominican. Nonetheless, it is – as is he – part of the community of Puerto Ricans. More than part. He is central. Also, he used to charge me too much for everything and never, ever smiled at me. He tacked somewhere between ignoring me and open hostility. It may sound contradictory and impossible, but he managed it.

Now, it is just the opposite. I love his wife, everyone loves their son. Every non-white loves their son, at least. Some (mostly older male) whites here, not many, but some, are still a bit less friendly to the non-whites, but not many. It was his son; an adorable, cocky, sweet, rapping, shit-talking, smiling, laughing, and all around incredible 19 year old, who first made some of the hostility from those who live in and around that store all the time, thaw a bit toward me.

Francisco, a very prominent Puerto Rican, and a powerful influence in my neighborhood, first let down his guard – and his guard was in many ways equivalent to everyone’s guard – in a moment of us just loving this fucking kid. We love him. And at that moment, with Francisco saying, “he’s a good kid, huh?” and even now, when I think of The Kid, I feel my chest swell with a very familial love. And Francisco and I, talking about The Kid, were suddenly family through the shared bond of love for this child. Francisco then said something that I think sums up what this community I love is about. He said – of a child that he, in fact, is not related to by blood:

“That’s what it’s all about, right? FAMILY.”

I would love to tell you that after that I was swept into the fold and not only Francisco, but everyone else, as well, welcomed me as one of their own.

But that would be a bald-faced lie. I had been here about a year then. And I still had a long way to go on that particular corner.

Things were a bit different at the other corner. Still not easy by any means, but circumstances bordering on extraordinary helped me along there, not once, but twice.

Puerto Rico - my Bodega

Poppy

Poppy was never as guarded as La Favorita Crew, but he was guarded enough. A few happy accidents, however, helped me at his bodega. The first, smaller one, happened early on. The street headed toward the canal was closed to traffic, starting right past his store.

“Why is the street closed?” I ask.

“Oh, I don’t know. Something going on with the white people. Some sort of party or something. There is music and beer, I think. You should go.”

“No thanks.”

Poppy smiles at me. We’ve gotten just far enough for him to know that I don’t eat the “white people” food. I snack on Puerto Rican snacks, eat Puerto Rican bread, and drink – mostly, at least- Puerto Rican drinks. He has a bit more trouble with understanding the whole vegetarian thing. I am very skinny when I move in. VERY skinny, and Poppy desperately wants to feed me.

“What about hot dogs? You eat hot dogs?”

He sets aside Mangoes for me. Convinces me that these big, odd-looking green things are, indeed, Avocados. (Until living here I’ve never seen Avocados look like this.) I think he worries that I am starving to death. This, I think, makes him slightly more protective of me, whether consciously or not, than he might otherwise be.

I have never, ever felt any threat on my streets, so on this night, the night with the blocked off road for the “white people thing” I am caught off guard at the sudden reek of alcohol beside me. Stunned at the immediacy of the white face just inches from mine. His unwelcome white hand reaching toward my chest. There’s a big blind spot from the inside of the store to the sidewalk, and the streets are deserted. Except for this man, backing me up and away from the bodega.

I remember his face well.

Remember his expression turning from leer to fear.

Remember his staggering run back to where he came from.

Remember Poppy’s satisfied smile as he turned and walked back into his store.

Remember the feeling of roots, my roots, sinking down and taking hold.

Remember the feeling of home.

(I’m not telling about the second thing. I have already written too much about things that involve others. I will only say that it was unlike the first thing and more time had passed. That, and the odds of the remarkable chain of coincidences lining up to make its occurrence possible still seem to me about like the odds of hitting a lottery jackpot; and it had an impressive reveal.)

Fernandez Familia - not on vacation

Fernandez 

Almost everyone I know has many, many family members still on the island. Yes, Puerto Rico is American, but it is not just the island that is American. It is here. My neighbors, my friends, my roots, my home, my people –

are HERE.

And I understand that there’s been so many hurricanes and so much destruction that the news is worn out on it, mostly because viewers are, and that means that advertisers are,

but that’s no fucking excuse.

I almost puked last night when a gleeful Rachel Maddow encouraged everyone to use the commercial break to “call right now” and subscribe to “your local newspaper.” To “spend that money because it matters.”

And then sounded bored, if not annoyed, in a call from Puerto Rico telling her that 70% of all the buildings’in Puerto Rico had their roofs torn off. To the news that there was no power anywhere on the island nor is there expected to be, for months, Maddow’s response was the multilingual “Mmm” universally recognized as the sound of someone on the phone who isn’t listening to a word being said. She certainly didn’t encourage weary hurricane donors to use the commercial – or any other time – to spend money on aid for the devastation in Puerto Rico.

The same damn people who criticized – rightfully, I think – Trump’s completely non-empathetic and completely tone deaf response to the victims of Hurricane Harvey have outdone the biggest asshole president we’ve ever had, and shown total hypocrisy and inhumanity in the process.

I am ashamed.

I love my people. I love them. There are no better neighbors. There are no better friends. Perhaps, just perhaps, we could be better neighbors back.

 

“I am not a spy”

 dont be an idiot. i bugged the scotch.

“I am not a spy”

Five words I never, ever thought I would have cause to say.

Sometimes I think in metadata.

No one like me can help it. And just in metadata terms, I cross-hatch at a whole lot of points that necessarily place me in a fairly narrow pool. But I don’t need to assume, because  last summer I was made aware that I am “selected.”

It almost sounds flattering. Instead, it makes me concerned that my friends and allies around the world might get hurt or compromised by their proximity to me. It makes me afraid to communicate with them because I know that could put them at risk, and these are courageous people who have already put themselves at risk and don’t need me adding to it.

It’s hard to believe that only a year and a half has passed since I was asked to review an enormous amount of Putin media – stretching back to his Munich speech nearly a decade ago – causing me to became extraordinarily concerned at how intently “we” were ignoring Russia and Putin. The media never mentioned Russia. No one did, except for the occasional jab at him shirtless on horseback or his repugnant repression and aggression toward gays and women.

And until I spent that month or so watching and listening to Putin so much that I couldn’t turn his voice off in my head even as I went to sleep, I hadn’t noticed that we were ignoring him. Because you don’t notice that. And now, for anyone without that  “X” of demarcation in place and time, I understand that me simply stating the opinion that we were ignoring him and Russia probably carries little weight. And for me to go one step farther and say that it was purposeful must seem quite thin, indeed.

However, there is no way for anyone, even an American with no knowledge of Russia or Putin, to take even a small sampling of Putin over the last decade, translated into English – as much of it is – and not be fully convinced that to not cover Putin as anything but a caricatured villain could be nothing but purposeful. Because he has been making a case to the world at large during that time, and it is a damning one, because it is true.

Let me repeat that. The case that Putin has been making in any and every forum possible, is damming. And it is damning because

 it is TRUE.

So when Russia, who I understood we were fighting in proxy-wars across the Middle East – as, of course, did every Russian and Middle East scholar – finally came rushing back into the headlines in the way that it did, it was scary.

Most Russia experts were both dismissive and concerned about the sudden turn and propagandist tone of the media following the election. For anyone still harboring even a shred of trust in our supposed “news” outlets before the Democratic primaries, after them, we had no doubts about just how venal and untrustworthy our sources of “news” were. They proved it with their shameful and duplicitous “coverage” of the election. They were not, and have not been actual “news” for a long time.

And as they now continuously – and rightly, by the way – point out in referring to Donald Trump, once you’ve lost your credibility, it’s a bitch to get it back.

With hindsight, I recently decided to go back and watch some of the coverage I was too disgusted to watch before, beginning around the time of the inauguration, and it wasn’t just bias and anger on my part that made it seem so over-the-top propagandistic.

It really was bad. The only reason that it appears better now is that they aren’t forcing a story, they’re covering a story. Sort of, at least. Of course, they’re ignoring really important things and fanning flames that need not be fanned, but nonetheless, there is “there” there.

But even that requires some context. From the start both media and politicians alike acted with a ridiculous amount of self-righteousness for a country that has been overthrowing leaders, rigging elections and staging bloody coups since at least the mid-20th century. But of course, one need not go back that far. Our fingerprints are all over the death and destruction in the Middle East. We overthrew Saddam Hussein because we wanted to.

Which leads me back to where I started.

First, a disclaimer. Although I think the demonization of Russia for succeeding in doing what we do all the time in other countries is hypocritical bullshit, that does not translate, in any way, to Americans helping, approving of, or having knowledge of any foreign government or non-foreign actor seeking to act in any way contrary to the best interests of our country and its institutions, fucked up though they may be. And I have no doubt at this point, from my own sources and the overwhelming barrage of public evidence, that that is exactly what happened in this case. 

So, we are through ignoring Putin, but appear more determined than ever not to understand the situation, and understanding the situation is vital. 

As usual, instead of taking on all the data points to make my case, I will choose just one big, bold target that most Americans actually know about, at least in passing.

Russian President Vladimir Putin: Speech on Crimea

Address_by_President_of_the_Russian_Federation_2014

Кры́мская речь Влади́мира Пу́тина
Crimean speech of Vladimir Putin
March 18, 2014

I remember him making this speech live, and I remember it so well because I happened to be online when it began streaming – in Russian with no translation – and remember my ex demanding to know what the hell Putin was saying, and demanding it of me. 

 

(He had a PoliSci degree from Boston University with a focus on Russia. Yeah, totally useless, I know. Nevertheless, I guess it explains why we were both too riveted to leave it and go in search of the same speech, live, with a proper translator.)

So that’s how I ended up frantically attempting to translate a speech by Putin that the U.S. would “cover,” but not really. Because the meat of the speech was directed right at America. 

The whole point, really, of the speech – which can be read in full at a million sites by anyone –

was an indictment of America.

It was Putin, saying

“Who in the hell are you, America, to condemn us for this?”

(I don’t think we have an answer for that. If we have one, I’ve yet to hear it.)

Putin went down a laundry list of American wrongs. American arrogance. American aggression. And unlike some other times in history, he didn’t need to make any of them up. He didn’t need to inflate the facts. The facts were damning enough on their own.

So, now, with a few years having passed, and with our wondrous and free internet of information, surely all this is easily found by just going to Wikipedia, right?

No, not really. This is as close as the English Wikipedia article comes:

Putin condemned the West’s reaction to the events in the Crimea and sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian politicians. Russian President expressed gratitude to the people of China, praised the restraint of India. Appealed to the U.S. freedom-loving people, stressing that freedom of the Crimean population is the same value. Referring to the fact that not all allies sympathized with Germany in 1989, it merged with the German Democratic Republic, Putin said that while the USSR supported the Germans sincere desire for national unity. The President expressed confidence that German citizens support the aspirations of the Russian world to restore the unity of ‘Crimea will remain Russian and Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar. It will be home to the representatives of all the peoples living there. But he will never Bandera‘.

Putin assured that Russia will not seek confrontation with the West and the East, and stressed that Russia and Ukraine — are one people. Ukraine will continue to live millions of Russian citizens, which means that Russia will always defend their interests.

Putin’s speech lasted 45 minutes. During the speech, Putin used the term “natsional-predateli” (“national-traitors”) which is a calque from the German term Nationalverräter.[6][7][8] The refusal to accept the new Ukrainian government he explained in the unlawful events on Euromaidan: Groups “wanted to seize power and would stop short of nothing. They resorted to terror, murder and pogroms. Nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites executed this coup. They continue to set the tone in Ukraine to this day.” Nevertheless, he expressed appreciation to those protesting peacefully against corruption, inefficient state management and poverty.

So, as a non-Russia hating, radical, subversive hacker whose formal education was in Chemistry, speaks the wrong languages, thinks Israel commits war crimes and that America does as well, is embedded in the center of the proving grounds of the Military Industrial Complex and whose entire life was spent under the tutelage of a father that essentially made the Surveillance State possible, I just want to say, for the record:

I am not a spy.

 

Translated speech, starting part way into the “fuck you, America” section, because it’s pretty much all “fuck you, America.” I just trimmed off some of the windup.