Cloyd Campfire
(April 2002)

 The desert was a-crunch with distance & thorny miracles when Davy Crockett, reincarnated, unintentionally sunk his wheels into a dry wash. 

Next, he went a-drift looking for any tools nature might provide & cracked his head in a deep hole. Dazed, he built a roof on the hole & now had his very own kiva & a new home - alleluia! 

A new stage in his life had begun. 

All the critters on that particular slope some months ago had dug-up themselves a leader - the desert squirrel, Yahtzee. Yahtzee declared peace & nobody ate anybody else anymore & low n' behold, manna had been falling from the crystalline sky ever since. 

This particular slope of rocky ravines & colorful views, for Crockett, was heaven ~ but then a rattlesnake full of hell dropped down into his earthical room & declared the both of them to be ~ 


The snake, whose name was Paragon, was a fair-minded roomie, but told Davy he'd spent some time in the pen & warned him that he, Paragon, wasn't past biting someone's eyes out in the middle of the night if crossed. 

I got a real nice critter on my hands, sardonically mused Davy to himself & turned over to go to sleep. 

But over in the lower corner, scaly Paragon wouldn't stop rattling. He couldn't help it. His tail had emphysema, which, in denial, he referred to as "bronchitis". Incidentally, Paragon was also being tested for diabetes & ate 10 tons of sugar every night. But that's beside the point we're trying to get at here. 

Later as Davy was dozing off, suddenly, Paragon was standing on the tip of his rattler & towering over him, declaring, "Democracy doesn't work!" 

Roused, Davy hollered, "Get out of my face! I'm trying to sleep!" 

Bitterly, Paragon stalked back to the lower corner and continued to thunderously rattle thru the nocturnal hours. 

As the world turned & the desert whispered its endless beatitudes, Paragon informed Davy, & re-informed him day after day, that just about all the other critters around weren't doing their duties & were constantly brown-nosing Yahtzee, while he, Paragon, was the only one who was worth a 10-dollar blanket. "And there's gonna be race wars in this country before you and I are dead!" he added one evening. 

Paragon didn't approve of Davy's ways either, & continuously whittled away at him too. One afternoon when they were both sneaking a quick nap after a bite of manna, for example, Paragon whittled, "I doubt you can work a full day." 

Davy winced and quoted, "Our doubts are traitors and makes us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt." 

"What?" hissed the snake. 

"That's a quote from Measure For Measure by Shakespeare," grinned Davy. 

"And I'm an elf owl's uncle," spat Paragon. His venom soaked into the earthen floor as he slithered up the ladder, disappeared in the blazing light outside and went back to work. 

After several weeks, the fortress walls of Crockett's peace of mind were completely whittled down, & all the eternal frontiersman could think about was how hard it was not to hate his roomie, the incorrigible rattlesnake who possessed, it seemed, a colossus contempt for all critters other than himself. 

Then, one morning Davy burned the beans. "Oops," he muttered, exhausted after another night of electric jolts in his head caused by Paragon's miserable rattle. 

"Everything you do is wrong," hissed the snake. 

"And everything you do is right, so who cares?" groaned Davy. He stirred the mess in the pot & thought & finally aimed & shot, "You know, Paragon, when a critter believes he's better than everybody else around him, I'd say that makes him the most low-down of all." 

Paragon blinked once or twice after Crockett's sly remark, & quit talking. For several weeks the snake didn't say a word. Whenever he was in the Kiva, all he did was read. Which Crockett soon got used to & before long, he no longer hated Paragon. In fact, he was growing kind of fond of his scaly roommate who was always crawling around on his belly here, there and everywhere. 

But something was brewing inside Paragon's reptile head. And finally to Davy he said, "The difference between me and most everybody else around here is ~ I got integrity." With that said, Paragon sprang out of the kiva that pretty red sky morning & complained to Yahtzee, the wise desert squirrel, about everything & everybody, & even threatened a couple coyotes, & came back & started packing his bags. He'd just gotten himself kicked out of the community. 

Of course, there's a moral to this tale ~ a little piece of wisdom that you can apply to your own stay in the transitional zone of Veterans Campus. And that moral is: if you don't like the roommate you got now, don't worry. Be happy. You'll get along just fine, sooner or later, like Davy Crockett & Paragon did ~ Paragon, that poor old rattlesnake with the negative aura so thick around him that it was downright impossible for him to see through it.

"Paragon was hard-working & honest tho'," added Davy, sitting cross-legged in his kiva & sipping coffee ~ as a few days later, yours truly was interviewing him.  Davy sat there quietly for a long moment.  Finally he concluded, "And, believe it or don't, that rattlesnake did have some integrity."



photo above:




It's The Oil, Stupid!

by Johnny Angel
(date unknown)

In the orgy of examination of who and what is to blame for the events of September 11, we must have heard every conceivable explanation. The American right, as exemplified by President Bush, Fox News and the opinion page of the The Wall Street Journal, blames envy of American values and success. The extreme right blames secular humanism, gay rights and the other bogeymen they love to flog. The center faults lax airport security and a general lack of preparedness, while the left, all but ignored by the corporate media, blames American imperialism and in some cases our unconditional support for Israel.

Yet for all the noise generated by partisans and centrists alike, no one is willing to accept the blatantly obvious, the real underlying factor behind America's involvement in the byzantine labyrinth of Middle East politics. What could possibly motivate the propping up of repressive non-democracies like the Saudi and Kuwaiti royal families, or murderous regimes like that of Reza Pahlavi, Shah of Iran? Or pouring billions into the coffers of Saddam Hussein in the '80s, or even creating the monster that is possibly the mastermind of these attacks, Osama bin Laden, beneficiary of CIA lucre and training?

It's the oil, stupid.

Once again, America's twin addictions, that of its people to cheap gasoline and its corporations to billions of petro-dollars, has led us right into the proverbial pit. Having learned very little or forgotten a lot in the wake of the oil embargoes of the 1970s, America is as strung out on the fossil-fuel jones as any Bonnie Brae Street junkie is on Mexican tar heroin. Even though American dependency on oil from the Middle East has fallen to about 17 percent of national consumption, Saudi Arabia remains the cornerstone, producing 50 percent of the whole world's supply. So in order to keep this economic balm flowing, to keep the status quo static and the balance sheets of the major oil companies brimming, we've installed our military as a kind of mega police force in the region. Our official reason for being there is to ensure "stability," one of the great buzzwords in the history of business, but this is nothing more than spin -- the military is in the Middle East to guarantee that whatever comes out of the ground is exploitable and controlled by American multinationals.

And it is the simple fact of the presence of American soldiers on the holy soil of Islam that has so enraged our new nemesis, bin Laden.

Speaking to British journalist Robert Fisk in 1996 Afghanistan, bin Laden made clear his agenda. "When the American troops entered Saudia Arabia [after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait], the land of the two holy places [Mecca and Medina], there was strong protest from the ulema [religious authorities] and from students of the Shariah law all over the country against the interference of American troops," bin Laden told Fisk, who published the comments in The Nation in 1998. The Saudi leaders made a "big mistake," bin Laden said, when they responded by suppressing the protests and cementing ties to the U.S. "After it had insulted and jailed the ulema . . . the Saudi regime lost its legitimacy," bin Laden said. And so began his deadly fatwa against the United States.

Oil has been the prime mover behind any and every political decision in that region since the First World War, when trucks, tanks and planes replaced horses and camels. Once the internal-combustion engine became the technological centerpiece of the century, keeping it going by any means necessary became a most profitable business venture. And despite the myth that has been rammed down America's psyche for eons, American business loathes competition and aims for monopoly. Sure, they'll partner with the Saudi royal family (because the government that they dominate owns all of its oil), but in exchange, anyone in the region who actually believes in the rights of the people of that country to share in the wealth of their homeland is shut out. And forcefully, with the aid of the American military and CIA, as we saw in Iran and during the Gulf War.

This dusty, empty part of the world was basically nothing more than a bedouin crossroads for 1,300 years, between the end of the Crusades and the early 1900s. During the period when America endured revolution and a civil war, and Europe tore itself apart, the Middle East was downright peaceful. Tell me why the United States and Great Britain reflexively back the state of Israel in its battles with its neighbors. Were it not sitting strategically close to vast pools of viscous crude, no one would give a rat's ass about either side.

It's the meddling in the internal affairs of the indigenous people of the region to ensure that said oil stays in the hands of the privileged few that has led to an enraged underground movement of terrorists in these lands. And oil is all we're there for -- what else of value comes from that part of the world, what strategic value does it have otherwise?

That may seem as obvious as the nose on our collective face, but it's something no one wants to acknowledge. Especially given the ties between the media and the oil companies: ABC is tied to Texaco, NBC to British Petroleum, Time Warner to Mobil Oil, as revealed in the marvelous media-watchdog flier Censored Alert in the summer of 2000. And now the oil industry is entrenched as America's No. 1 player with Bush and Cheney, two oil men (one failed, one successful) in command.

Eliminate the oil, and the American presence ends in the area; the resentment aimed at our land and our people also ends. Out of sight, out of mind, remember? Never mind the bollocks about how the Arabs envy our wealth: I don't see them terrorizing Monaco or flying jets into the side of the Big Ben. The simple fact is, our armies piss them off as colonial enforcers. Much in the same way that our forefathers loathed Hessians in the American Revolution.

If anything, the leaders of the Middle East are terrified of our abandonment. Like savvy survivors, they play both sides at the same time. Just as an American corporation will donate money to Republicans and Democrats both, so these strongmen pay lip service to America while nodding, winking and (in the case of Yemen and allegedly some Saudi businessmen) donating money to terrorist cells on the side, just to be safe.

It's our own greed and need for control that has led us into this petroleum quagmire. Ross Perot, hardly the voice of progressive politics, made the canny observation in the first presidential debate of 1992 that the Gulf War was fought solely for control of oil and nothing more. He made the further point that American blood wasn't worth shedding over a product that Saddam would have been glad to sell us himself.

Too late for that sort of pragmatism. The war we're about to wage will surely be protracted and costly, with profound repercussions, and all because we decided that dealing with our enslavement to gasoline via conservation, alternative energy sources and the like was just too incon-fucking-venient. Feel that way now?