Monday, January 21, 2013

Let Freedom Ring


A White Man in America:  How to Remember Martin Luther King, Jr.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.  Hate cannot drive out hate.  Only love can do that.
                                                            -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

So the 26th annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is upon us and the blogs, commentaries, and social media outlets are once again spouting off the pressure cookers of America’s racist ideologies.  I’m actually relieved I’ve taken a break from social media just so I won’t be exposed to the views of many ‘friends’ who obviously hold resentment over Dr. King’s memorial.  For a host of reasons, there is nothing like MLK, Jr. Day when it comes to pushing the white American male over the edge of insanity, not least the shameful reflection of how qualitatively thin the landscape of white male spirituality.   It’s never easy to look in the mirror and notice an obvious blemish that interferes with the more esteemed way we imagine ourselves to be.  Dr. King is that reflection, and the fact that he lived and died as a testament to establishment inequality casts a continuing shadow over everyone who still holds any form of inequality in heart and/or practice.
            In 1995 I enrolled in Dr. Peter Paris’ class at Princeton Theological Seminary:  “Martin and Malcolm”.  Dr. Paris was the only African American on faculty at the seminary, and Cornel West was one of the token black professors just across the street on the University side of things.  Dr. Paris and Dr. West were friends and in usual fashion, were quite busy around the time MLK, Jr. Day rolled around.  It was the single day on the American calendar where black voices were sought on major media outlets.  That previous autumn, the O.J. Simpson not-guilty verdict revealed the depth of white male resentment towards blacks in America.  For the first time in large-scale fashion, white folks sensed an injustice that was simply an everyday experience for American blacks.  The local result had been several campus debates on Racism in America and the consequential buzz of water-fountain diatribes.
            This morning -- while reading through the online news’ sites – I felt ashamed to be a white man in America.  For 364 days a year, I can pretty much get through my morning world news updates without being exposed to explicit, vehemently hateful white male spew.  On those 364 calendar days, the online spew is more subtle and couched in nuance.  But every MLK, Jr. Day, angry white males come rushing out of their racist closets considering themselves ambassadors for the white race.  They attempt to use logic to dismantle this particular holiday.
            Whatever the internal contradictions of Affirmative Action, or the economic costs of an MLK, Jr. Memorial Day, or the personal shortcomings of Martin Luther King, Jr., it all pales in comparison to the daily confrontation of injustices the American black encounters.  And even more so, this rage of white male insecurity is the very reason this day is still so resoundingly significant because it continues to shine light on the dark spaces of our hearts with regard to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, and homophobism.  This is the one day on the American landscape that confronts every American tactic still actively used to suppress difference:  stereotyping, assumptions of mental inferiority, tactics of invisibility, tokenizing, physical revulsion, and self-segregation.   I know for one that I need this day-- much more than I need any other holiday of the year.  Without it, living in a predominately white rural American town, I am rarely confronted with my own handful of isms still consciously and subconsciously ringing in my spiritual conscience.  Today is a day committed to both action and reflection.  That’s how this white man will remember Martin Luther King, Jr. today.  Not some white-guilt driven token-day annual parade of giving blacks a voice and presence, but rather a white man who understands and needs the presence of a strong moral voice to confront any social injustice I still hold deep in my heart.  Unfortunately few white men exist as this voice for me.  Martin Luther King's voice still rings as a force for my personal freedom from the dark chain of isms.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Keeping the Fires of Justice Rolling

In the mid-90's, I remember Professor West being one of Princeton's favorite professors amongst the student body.  Here is a little taste of what it was like to be around this colossal figure.  I will never forget his passion and true commitment to MLK's legacy.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gun-Control: More Smoke and Mirrors


            On Friday, January 11th a man walked across Main Street in New Martinsville with an uncased rifle in his hand.  A woman across the street was pushing her two children in a stroller, traffic was heavy, and I was standing on the front porch of Baristas chatting with a customer.  It all seemed so natural.  No one seemed to care.  Looking both ways and waiting for a pause in traffic, the man with the rifle walked across the street and into the pawn shop.  A few minutes pass and out he walks again with the rifle in hand. He opens the trunk, lays the gun down, and shuts the trunk.  Really … no one seemed to care.
            President Obama is currently pushing legislation to ban assault gun rifles, and is threatening to use executive power to do so.   Perhaps such a sideshow will in fact decrease homicide rates via assault rifles, but what’s more problematic is the distortion of political energy being utilized to take our eyes off the bigger issues.  It appears, once again, that the media’s distortion of the recent assault weapon massacres is more persuasive to Washington than the actual statistics.
The Media Version Of Events - Smoke And Mirrors            The Newtown, Connecticut massacre will go down in history in much the same way that the Aurora massacre, the Columbine massacre, and the next massacre in a town near you.  Each of these public slayings will go down as opportunities for talk-show pundits to spill and spread their thin ideologies across the American mindscape, extrapolating rare incidences into a common ideology, thus solidifying the current political bases that form an ignorant America. This adolescent display repeats itself time and time again on the American stage and continues to divide the country into convenient columns of pro and con.
            And while these public rants continue to focus on the means by which these massacres occur, what isn’t being discussed is the more pertinent ‘why’ question.  To be sure, I am neither a member of the NRA, nor an anti-gun advocate.   But I am a concerned and curious by-stander who is subject to the repetitious cycles of history, capable of watching the latest news and predicting how the media will unfold with it’s usual knee-jerk, stuck-in-the-mud pattern of mindless protocols.
            For decades, the NRA has pissed off the Left with its slogan, “Guns don’t kill people.  People kill people.”  And in response, the Left retaliates by holding up 30 clip automatic gun paraphernalia and shouting, “why in the hell would someone need this on the streets of Manhattan?”  This cycle will repeat itself again and again, and if Obama has his way, we will soon see a ban on high capacity ammo clips. 
            But it doesn’t take a genius to figure out just how much of a side-show this whole gun debate is considering the more likely causes of gun violence in America.  A few clicks on Google and anyone can find an article backing any position they want on virtually any issue.  What is often lacking in most articles is critical thinking and hardline data pointing to specific classifications of gun violence.  So I spent a few days looking at charts and graphs and came up with the following conclusions relative to the current debate.  Here is what I found:
1)   Since 1988, 60 school shootings have been perpetrated by people under the influence of prescription, psychiatric drugs  (http://ssristories.com/index.php?p=school); in case anyone is interested inquiring further into why pharmaceutical companies are not being held accountable, see which politicians benefit the most from pharmaceutical donations. (http://www.opensecrets.org/industries/indus.php?Ind=H; http://money.cnn.com/2008/03/04/news/companies/pharma_votes/index.htm)
2)   According to the FBI’s 2011 analysis of homicide in the U.S., out of 8,583 U.S. gun-related homicides, only 323 were committed using rifles.  6,220 were handguns.  In fact, knives, bare hands, and blunt objects collectively weighed in nine times more in homicides than assault rifles. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8
3)   The U.S. homicide rate is the lowest it’s been since 1963, and one of the lowest in the past 110 years.  And the widely reported mass homicides followed by suicide are by white, middle-class males with virtually clean criminal histories: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2012-12-19/lifestyle/35929227_1_homicide-rate-randolph-roth-gun-control
4)   In 2011, out of 12,664 murders in the U.S., 5,595 murders were caused by arguments with family, friends and acquaintances, whereas 390 murders occurred due to narcotic drug wars; 673 murders were gang-related (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-10)
5)   California and Texas had the highest gun-related murder incidences in the country, 1,790 and 1,089 respectively (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-20); California has one of the strictest gun policies in the nation, while Texas is one of the most lenient
6)   The overwhelming murder rates by use of firearms occurs amongst males between the ages of 18 and 30 (http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-9)

            Each one of these statistics could become a college thesis with more minutiae getting to root causes.  But the primary reason I’m writing this particular blog is to point out how distorted Washington politics and the media are in evaluating public issues and creating policy.  Violence (including gun-related violence) is driven more by socioeconomic and cultural issues than the mere presence of guns. 
            Take for instance two nations who have unarmed societies – Japan and the U.K.  According to the UN's study, which includes the most recent annual data available, Japan, with a population of roughly 130 million, had a mere 506 homicides over the stretch of a single year. Conversely, the UK, with less than half of Japan's population (53 million) had 722 homicides. The rates per 100,000 people for Japan and the UK are 0.4 and 1.2 respectively. The UK, despite being an unarmed population, and having virtually no gun violence, still has 3 times the murder rate than the nation of Japan. (http://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/homicide.html)    
            These figures only scratch the surface of things anyone could say about a number of cultural and socioeconomic facts and the failure of politicians to utilize them for policy.  But looking at facts takes away the fun of playing politics, and politics is a fun game when you’re in a position of protecting party-line ego and pulling the wool over the eyes of gullible Americans.  Afterall, when is the last time you’ve seen public policy pay attention to data.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Preparing for the End of the World (as we know it)


“The gigantic catastrophes that threaten us today are not elemental happenings of a physical or biological order, but psychic events. To a quite terrifying degree we are threatened by wars and revolutions which are nothing other than psychic epidemics. At any moment several millions of human beings may be smitten with a new madness, and then we shall have another world war or devastating revolution. Instead of being at the mercy of wild beasts, earthquakes, landslides, and inundations, modern man is battered by the elemental forces of his own psyche. C.G. Jung   

         
As perhaps the last date draws nigh where a large portion of the population keeps one eye open for the apocalypse, it would be wise to use this moment to seriously consider a collective inward movement for authentic transformation.  And though the Mayans were not predicting the end of the world with the impending end of their calendar this coming Friday, they were indeed forecasting a radical change in consciousness.  A time where transformation takes place at a pace unparalleled in history. 
            Carl Jung spoke of the ‘collective unconscious’, a universal psychic-inheritance we all possess that is neither acquired by education nor other conscious effort.  I’ve always imagined the collective unconscious to be that sense of myself I see in others, whether good or bad.  It comes and goes, but when I’m more fully aware, I sense a greater empathy with my fellow humans.  Attaining and maintaining a higher sense of awareness is the platform from which transformation takes place, both individually and collectively.
            In Africa, there is custom amongst certain tribes called ubuntu, the premise of which can be stated:  “I am because we are”.  A story illustrates this concept: 
An anthropologist proposed a game to children of an African tribe.  He placed a basket of fruit near a distant tree and told them that the first one to reach the basket gets all the fruit.  When he told them to run, they all held hands and ran together to the basket.  Upon arriving at the basket, they enjoyed the fruit together.  
“I am because we are” -- there's something about this that feels 'universal' in scope, something akin to Jung's collective unconscious.  
            The question, however, is how change can occur amongst a large portion of the population.  One might ask, “If I change, what guarantees others will change also?  If I wait for everyone to hold hands and run toward the basket of fruit, I will probably just get left behind, and have no fruit at all.”  A good question, to be sure.
            However, the question we might want to truly consider is what we have come to believe is ‘real’ fruit.  In this age, it seems as if money is the only item that walks and talks. The proverbial ‘money grows on trees’ appears to assume money is the only fruit we’d desire if we had our wish.  Everything one sees in ads and media -- and subsequently desires -- has a price-tag on it.


            Well, perhaps this is where transformation most readily needs to take place:  decrease the value of money and increase the value of things that are truly priceless.  It’s a shame that Mastercard seems to have attached money to every ‘priceless moment’ we share.  But here’s a radical departure from this type of thinking:  create a list of priceless ‘fruit’ where money (or large amounts of it) is not necessary.  Things that become lifestyle rather than 'one-hit wonders' in your life.  Here is a list I’ve been working on personally for the past year (and by no means have perfected).

1)   A hike in the woods, alone or with friends:  priceless.
2)   A bike ride on a country road or to the store:  priceless
3)   Every month, giving 10 items away I no longer use:  priceless.
4)   Refraining from saying anything bad about another person:  priceless.
5)  Eating less and becoming more grateful for the food we have:  priceless.
6)  Building small, personal, sustainable homes that keep us rooted in nature:  priceless.
           
       

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Politics from the Pub (Pint 1 -- Part 1)





            I grew up in a West Virginia town where there were two local newspapers:  The Wetzel Democrat and The Wetzel Republican.  I suppose one could say the choices were pretty cut and dry – with an emphasis on dry.   Like most 1970’s towns in America, its citizens wore their political buttons with pride -- whether on hats, lapels. or fastened to purses.  They were statements of faith, expressing one’s personal allegiance and political philosophy.  All one had to do was get dressed up for a Friday night high school football game or town picnic, and you’d see those buttons adorned like military stripes.   I was too young to know whether or not the people who wore them could wax eloquent on their political philosophy, but they were no doubt making a statement.
            If I could wear a political button these days, it might read something like:  Political Theatre . . . pick your Kool-aid; or Vote Your Conscience . . . too bad it’s not on the ballot.  I realize -- like Heraclitus – that everything flows, you can’t step in the same river twice, change is the only constant, panta rei . . . yada yada yada.   But with the increasing grip of money on the powers-to-be in Washington, there seems to be an iron-curtain damming up any possibility of change.  At least change for the middle-class and poor – i.e. the majority.
            Despite the increasing demographic cluster of different ethnicities across our American landscape - not to mention the widening gap between rich and poor - it appears the representation is focusing more and more on the lusts of corporate interests, and less and less on citizen’s needs.  The new political buttons of today are brand-names and company logos.   Under Bush, one could imagine the Halliburton flag waving over the White House porch.  Under Obama, it has been the flag of Wall Street banks like Goldmann Sachs and J.P. Morgan.
            My tolerance for talking politics wanes in the shadows of a Jack Abramoff era, a Karl Rove spin-factory, and the pundit kitchen marriage of James Carville and Mary Matalin.  In 2009, I lost all my political-air as Obama’s balloon of hope turned into a Bush: Take Three shrivel.
            Unlike my childhood, button-wearing upbringing, it seems that a growing number of people are reluctant to share their political stature.  The ones who actually vote are more and more whispering their preferences.  Even WV Democratic senator Joe Manchin wouldn’t publicly express for which candidate he would cast his ballot for president.  No more Texas style, belt-buckle and political-button showcasing.  There seems to be a slow fog of shame rising over our political culture.  A sense that we’re all being duped by Washington.  Over 100 million eligible voters stayed home November 5th.  Why?
             A few weeks before the election I Googled ‘Independent Party’ and discovered it was the largest and fastest-growing political affiliation, capturing 40% of American-voter registrations.  More than democrats: 31%.  More than Republicans: 29%.  But the current Presidential Debate Committee prevents third-party candidates from participating.
            Twenty-four years ago, the League of Women Voters stopped sponsoring presidential debates "because the demands of the two campaign organizations would perpetuate a fraud on the American voter.  It has become clear to us that the candidates' organizations aim to add debates to their list of campaign-trail charades devoid of substance, spontaneity and honest answers to tough questions.  The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American Public . . . . the selection of questioners, the composition of the audience, hall access for the press and other issues are outrageous and a closed-door masterpiece." (http://www.lwv.org/press-releases/league-refuses-help-perpetrate-fraud)
            In short, the interests of the largest voting population in America are not represented during campaign time.  Wow!  That really is a 'closed door masterpiece'.  And with Congress at a staggering 89% disapproval rating, it is an American-wonder that any American even shows up to vote at the charade.  But this also speaks volumes of the political ignorance of American citizens.  Over the past six months, I've had my fair share of listening to political conversations in the pub.   I'd guess a whopping 90 percent of those wouldn't pass a fact-check.  
            Our contemporary, political-representational powers have nudged out any possible coup by the American people, and our milquetoast backbone sheds any notion of a national revolution.  Soooo . . . if any hope exists -- it looks like it’s going to be up to the states themselves to determine our future.  Liberals are condemning the Texan threat to succeed.  But I'm not so sure I oppose this.  Screw that clich├ęd threat of fleeing to Canada or France.  Just pack the U-Haul and haul ass across the state-line.  Gay marriage was approved in several states; the right to assisted suicide nearly passed in Massachusetts; and Colorado and Washington slapped the feds in the face by legalizing recreational use of marijuana.   Those are good moves for people in my political-thought campground; and though it’s a touchy matter on Facebook these days, even a liberal like myself sees more hope in a threat of state successions than in this continual drain on my political sanguinity.  I know that civil war sits on the horizon of state successions, but it's really not that different than watching the current, continual disrobing of our nation's middle-class and poor.  Civil wars happen for good reasons.  Wall Street succeeded from America's interests many years ago, and has controlled the flag for well over a decade.  It's time for a revolution.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Nutsack


     When I was 37 years old, the phone rang in the middle of the night.  
            “This is your old man.”   
            We hadn’t talked in years, yet I could still detect that familiar vodka slur.   
            “Hey dad . . . what’s up?”
     He said he needed my help on something and I repeated, “Ok, what’s up?”          
           “Your grandfather is in the back of an ambulance headed to Moundsville.”
            I asked what had happened and dad said that grandpa’s nut-sack had burst open.   I paused and thought perhaps I was still asleep, so I asked him to repeat that again.
            “Your grandpa’s nut-sack burst open,” he repeated with more gusto.  I guess I heard it right the first time.
            “Well, what can I do?” I asked, and my old man said he was in a pickle because he had lost his license a few months back for driving drunk.  I was surprised -- not that he had been drinking and driving -- but rather that he had been prosecuted.  A retired, decorated undercover state trooper, I figured he could get away with anything.  I remember us going well over the speed limit on our way to Surf City, NC when I was about five years old.  A Virginia cop pulled us over and my dad flashed him his WV State Trooper ID -- and off we went to the beach.  No citation.  I brought that up and he said some goddamned rookie-cop didn’t believe him when he said he was a retired lieutenant.   
       Anyway, it was 3am, dad was drunk and couldn’t drive even if he was legal, and grandpa was in the back of an ambulance with god-knows-what going on with his nutsack.
       “Your grandpa needs some clean underwear.  I just got off the phone with him and he’s yelling at me to get him some goddamned clean underwear.” 
     "I'll take care of it, Dad," but before hanging up the phone, that never-a-good-idea, but-ask-anyway urge surfaced.
     "How in the hell did grandpa’s nut-sack burst open?"
     “Well, your grandfather has been walking funny for about a year.  I figured his arthritis was just acting up, but he must’ve had an infection down there for a long time.”
     “Wow!” was about all I could manage. 
     “He said it was the size of a grapefruit.  I guess he was taking a shit when the goddamned thing busted all over the place.  He says his bathroom looks like a warzone.” 
      Grandpa served during WWII and saw a good bit of frontline action in Germany and France, so if anyone knew what a warzone bathroom would look like, it was grandpa.
       The next morning I got up early and drove to Hill’s department store and purchased three pairs of XXL Fruit of the Loom (Grandpa was a retired block-layer.  6’5” 330 lbs).  When I arrived at the hospital, a doctor from India was lifting a white sheet and staring at Grandpa’s disaster area.
       “Are you a relative or a friend?” he asked, and I told him.  He motioned me to the hallway for a private chat.  Although his English was broken, his vocabulary wasn’t.
       “Your grandfather is a derelict.”  
        Something within me wanted to defend my lineage from such derision, but a glance back into the hospital room where grandpa was getting his wound re-bandaged sort of left me tongue-tied.  “Touche” would have been about the best I could muster, but instead, I just turned and walked away in shame.
        Later that day my old man called again and wanted to know whether or not I’d delivered the underwear.  I said yes and he said he needed my help again.  “Uh . . . ok,” I replied with intentional hesitance.  He offered me fifty bucks to clean up grandpa’s trailer and the old veteran’s trail of blood.  I wasn’t too happy about this proposal, so I suggested we pay a professional to do it.  My old man wasn’t happy about my counter-proposal, but realizing his new-found son was about to go AWOL again, he consented and asked me to find someone to do it.  I did and a few days later my old man called and told me the cleaning company charged $800 to clean up the nutsack collateral damage.  I felt bad, but really, I didn’t care because I’d have paid double that to not have to look at it.   Besides, when he was drunk, my old man had already informed me that Grandpa had 40,000 dollars in savings and that he’d try to get Grandpa to pay him back as soon as he was released from the hospital.  I figured 800 bucks was money well spent.
       Somehow, Grandpa recovered.  Months passed, and later that year, my old man called again and said he had come up with a great plan.  He would sell Grandpa’s trailer, buy a new one with that $40,000, and they’d live out their golden years together in the same Morgantown trailer park my dad had lived in for years.  This would have been a good move for my old man.   He had recently downsized from a mobile home to a 20 foot camper trailer.  Apparently, his ex-girlfriend got the mobile home in the parting of ways, so he was now living four spaces down from her – in a matchbox.
       But while these plans were getting hashed out, Grandpa got sick again and my old man called me from a motel about five miles from where I was living. 
       “Your grandfather’s sick and in Wetzel County hospital.  He’d like to see you.” I agreed, and then I asked my old man where he was staying.
       “Traveler’s Inn, near the hospital.”
       I knew the place well.  When dad left mom in 1971, a divorce followed, and once the divorce was over, the trailer was moved from Welch, WV to the back lot of the Traveler’s Motel.  I used to steal my older brother’s newspaper route money and buy pop and candy from the front desk of that place
       When I pulled into the motel parking lot, the wind was whipping snow over the road and creating white dunes in the parking lot.  I was looking for Room 214, which is strange considering it was located on ground level.  Anyway, I knocked on the door and my old man yelled  “the door’s unlocked,” so I opened the door and found him supine on the bed in a pair of sweat pants and an old football jersey.  In the corner was a wastebasket the size of a car battery with a Bud Light carton smashed within and 20-plus crushed cans lying around it.  He was self-medicating again – for reasons both physical and emotional.
        For years my old man was an exercise freak.  He lifted weights and ran 3 to 5 miles a day.  As an undercover officer, he had to stay in shape because the undercover assignments demanded a bit more physical labor then handing out speeding tickets.   To his own demise, being in good shape his whole life gave him a delusional sense of physical omnipotence.  A year earlier he had developed sciatica and replaced his daily jogs with walks.  He really believed -- just like everything else in his life -- that this too shall pass.   Eventually the walks were too painful -- and stubbornly believing it would heal on its own -- he simply failed to seek medical attention.   He would sit on the couch, watch television, drink beer and vodka, and gain 60 pounds. 
        Alongside the motel bed was a gray aluminum walker -- the kind you see people use right after hip replacement surgery.  Curiously, he was watching the BET station (Black Entertainment Television) and sipping on a can of beer.  Watching him lie there -- drunk, relentless pain, and dreadfully lonely – I suddenly realized that I really did have a father, and he was right here in this seedy motel in my own hometown losing his best friend – his father.  We talked for about an hour.  He told me stories about Grandpa -- how he could hold two cinder blocks with one hand, play the organ for hours with his drinking buddies down at the Paden City Eagles Club, and how he could make a bowling ball spin to the envy of everyone.
        When I was preparing to leave, I leaned down to my dad, kissed his forehead, and told him I loved him.  I turned and slowly made my way to the door. 
        “Wait son,” he told me.
        As I turned back, he was grimacing in pain, pulling himself up out of the bed.  Pushing the walker to the side, he sat on the edge of the bed, grunted hard and with shaking legs, stood without help and held his hand out in handshake formation.  I clasped his hand, and looking me in the eye, tears welling up and dripping down his cheeks, he said, “I fucked up son.  I’m sorry.”
        The drive back to the farmhouse that night was the longest drive in my life, because for the first time in 37 years, I realized -- perhaps just a bit -- what all I had missed by not having a father.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Surveillance



            In third grade I had a crush on Diane.  She was in a different classroom down the hallway.  The only times I got to see her were bathroom break, recess, and in the cafeteria.   She was the recipient of my very first love letter – or should I say the intended recipient.  It was just another regular bathroom break and I had written one of those deeply-moving, compact, questionnaire-style love letters typical for 8 year olds in love --                                        
                  Will you go with me? (circle one)
 yes
 no

Standing in line, holding the folded note in sweaty palm – I was a bundle of nerves.  The plan was to slip the note into her hand as we passed in the hallway.  As her line approached, I stepped out of formation and handed her the note, quickly stepping back into position.  At that point, all hell broke loose.  My teacher, Mrs. Ripley, witnessed the exchange and immediately pulled us both to the side, grappled the note out of Diane’s hand, and proceeded to read it aloud.   By the time the public humiliation sideshow was complete, I was standing in a puddle of pee -- before God and all my classmates, not to mention my now-lost-forever potential elementary heart-throb.  Afterwards, I was sent home to change into a dry pair of pants.
           Two decades later I was taking an independent study at Princeton on the French philosopher/historian/activist Michel Foucault.  One of Foucault’s books, Discipline and Punish, discussed the use of 18th century surveillance technology in the form of the Panopticon – a new architectural structure where a circular prison surrounded a central tower.  This surveillance technology made it possible for one security guard (who could not be seen by the prisoners) to keep watch over an entire prison -- each prison-cell exposed to the tower -- but whose cell walls also kept the prisoners from seeing one another. 
Over time, this architectural efficiency conditioned the minds of all the prisoners, psychologically imposing an embodied sense of always being watched, thus shaping institutional behavior -- ‘stand in formation,’ ‘toe the line,’ 'bow to the king'. 
Today, this panopticon-effect has surfaced again, this time on a global scale -- enveloping practically everyone who participates in technology.  Not only do corporate web-hosts have access to our online privacy, but so do government auspices.  Currently, Google is cooperating with government and police requests for access to personal emails 90% of the time.  Facebook is following suit.

        What effect is this having on us? What does it mean to live in a world where privacy is becoming an antiquated value?  What happens to a society when its citizens lose that sense of having a secret to tell?  Take the General Petraeus/Paula Broadwell scandal for instance:  at what point do we believe two consenting adults have the right to privacy without someone in the corporate/government tower shining down the flood lights?  Small model spy-airplane drones flying over neighborhoods are currently in an experimental phase in some local police departments.  At what point do we value this surveillance in exchange for security?  Or do we believe this is not really about security, but something altogether different?  How we answer this question will inevitably work it's way into our social psyche and forever shape our behavior, our values, and who we imagine to be 'the god's eye' of our conscience.