Thursday morning, we had intended to wish everyone a Happy Bastille Day. But this edition of the Guide wasn't yet ready to go Thursday morning. We would have included links for music videos of good French acoustic music, some of it iconic. We would have noted, because our political revolution had just failed in its challenge of the banksters and the predatory one-percent here in America, that the French provide hope. That France, in celebrating Bastille Day, still provides the historical example that oligarchs and plutocrats can be deposed from their demigod reign and game-playing with people's lives.
But then the day in France became evening, and thoughts of the opportunities life should bring were replaced by reports of sudden confrontations with death, from out of nowhere. In an instant, the fun and joy and celebration of a fireworks show just concluding were amidst screams of pain and people being crushed in a continuous heavy impact. All the celebration of happy families, couples in beachfront restaurants and sidewalk cafes, streets crowded with people enjoying bands, all of it, was replaced by the murderous act of someone in an 18-ton truck deliberately steered into the biggest concentrations of people on the street and its sidewalks, for over a mile, before he could be stopped, himself killed, by French police. The street had been barricaded for a pedestrian street fair.
It was the same unreality of Ferguson, of Baltimore, of Sandy Hook, of Oklahoma City, of San Bernardino, of Dallas, of too damn many other places in America. This time, it was in another previously nice place whose happy identity will be altered for a generation. It was a city named Nice, pronounced "niece" (like the counterpart of "nephew"), the city of Nice, France. A beautiful beachfront city in the fabled South of France, lapped by the warm waters of the Mediterranean, a place probably targeted by its attacker specifically because it is famous, and nice, and beautiful. And now it is a scene of horror.
That endless roll of statistics that distills human carnage into numbers has a new line in the compilation, as anonymous as traffic highway deaths, as impersonal as any numbers too big to associate with individual human persons who are suddenly dead.
And that endless roll of statistics that distills human carnage into numbers has a new line in the compilation, as anonymous as traffic highway deaths, as impersonal as any numbers too big to associate with individual human persons who are suddenly dead. As a result of this attack, there are 84 people dead, 10 of them children. There are 52 people in critical condition, 25 of them in comas. Over 200 people, altogether, were left injured, in addition to all those dead. A Texas father and his 11-year-old son, a kid who was a Little League baseball star in Austin, were among those killed.
And suddenly a thread of reality we can grasp. We can all think of parents of other 11-year-olds who don't have anything to say to make it go away or to make it better or to make it make sense for their kid. Because who can explain it to a kid. Any of it. Ever. Whether we are the one struggling to look into that child's big, innocent eyes after a news report -- or after someone was killed on that kid's own sidewalk where they'll see the blood stains the rest of the summer. Any more than we can make sense for them of the massacre of police by a sniper in Dallas. Or the endless procession of cell phone videos of shootings or beatings of unarmed people by police.
Nor can we explain the tragically aberrant cultureless subcultures that foment violence or bring loaded guns as the default solution to everything. Whether those horridly unacceptable subcultures derive from a few who were not screened-out, then went on to find warped fulfillment in armed professions for their need for power over the rest of us.
Nor can we explain to that child the outrage that becomes warped power and how it's amplified when others don't see others validating the truth of it for them in their religion, so they prove its strength by making that religion the ultimate excuse for killing others; all others that they refuse to embrace as brothers.
We don't know how to tell a child that we can't answer what it will take to end the exploitive destruction of the planet, our shared home whose systems we all need for our shared survival. We don't know why no one will stop the extermination of entire species when they are in the way of the greed of extraction of resources or any ruinous exploitation. We don't know how a child can understand how any kind of power can come, for the few, by successful pursuit of greed for the candle-flicker of a single lifetime that permanently erases the irreplaceable that survived everything else for millions of years.
We don't know how to convey that we have seen awe-inspiring natural wonders they will not see, and that, if they're lucky enough to get there in time, they will see things that will not be there for their children. But we do believe that all these things -- natural, cultural, societal -- are very much the same: they have all become disposable commodities for manipulation and consumption for the same forces. For greed. Egomania, Power. Control. Arms deals. Cheap labor markets. Proof of power over other species by destroying the natural world. Proof of power over other people by subjugating them, and that failing, by killing them.
In the end, all we know is that the answer requires more than society is doing, and seemingly more than we are willing to do, since we will be the ones paying for it while the rich get a free ride, as usual. We know many solutions will require understanding beyond what we have now, and things altogether beyond what we have done, and rejection of much of what we are doing.
We need more than sociologists and psychologists and mental health experts; certainly more than open-carry gun nuts; more than beleaguered law enforcement authorities that put their officers in robocop gear; more than for-profit incarceration that drives America to having more people locked-up than any nation on Earth; more than mindless addiction to endlessly looped fake blood on tv series and real blood on cable news that blur into a single unreality; more than the small support we give those brave few who are losing everyday battles for individual rights; more from a media that fails to alert everyone just how spied-upon and cyber-monitored and measured and categorized and packaged we all are by those who greedily exploit our "helpful" devices; more support and understanding and help for those trying simply to keep the people in their neighborhoods alive; and more voices demanding change and emphatically saying "no" as they face loaded guns held by people too ready to point and shoot them.
We know that activists who engage the hearts and spirits of the people can often find a way to reach the grieving hearts among us and help find a new sense of purpose. Even when that purpose is based on righting a wrong that should never have been committed. We need to recognize the important challenge is to find and guide in directions for a better future, and that each and every one of us has a part in that. We can play our parts in helping outcomes, or we can abdicate our roles, and either is powerful in very different ways.
We need to remember that the future, whatever it is to be, starts in the very next moment. Because anything we do can last and grow as signals and symbols and signposts for the next generation. Every day, we determine in countless small ways what we leave, as legacy to inspire, or as piles of garbage to be stepped-over. Those 11-year olds who look into our eyes to understand the incomprehensible can inherit a better world than we are in the process of leaving them now.
Government, with elected officials so subject to ownership by corporocratic forces and interests, will continue to fail us in the name of austerity that lets the rich keep everything for themselves. Sadly, we must accept that very little will change until enough people wake up and become majority voting blocs. Majorities so formidable that we make fraudulent paperless voting machine results impossible. Majorities capable of overwhelming the propaganda of corporate media's spun interpretations and select presentations. Majorities who reject the well-financed political ads crafted by psychologists to produce emotional reactions rather than thinking responses.
It is both the activists and the artists that offer hopes. We know that the arts and our songwriters and musicians all have proven capabilities to redirect our shock and horror into positive, purposeful, meaningfully powerful ways to go on. We know our artists can move us away from anger and vengeance, and put us on a path to peace, and love, and understanding. We know our artists, as a special kind of activists, can become the common voice of outrage against exploitation and incarceration and extermination and destruction and disregard for the planet and disrespect for each other.
Our activists and artists have a formidable task. They must caution us and rouse us, as calls grow for the necessity to monitor and surveil us, more and more, for our own protection. We need their warnings in song as ever more calls are heard for military force projections to achieve regime change in distant lands. Because these are becoming the default solutions offered from certain quarters to protect us from attacks like Nice and Oklahoma City and Columbine and Sandy Hook and theatre shootings in Colorado. Because if we don't remember on our own, their songs can remind us that all of those listed except one, and nearly every other terrorist attack on America, has been perpetrated by a fellow American. And we need to break-up the media empires that homogenize messages and lock-out music that doesn't meet formulaic corporate approval.
We need our activists and our artists more than ever. And we must invest time and effort into being wary, not just of menacing persons with deadly intent, but of those who craft or interpret the nature of the messages we are fed.