Thursday, December 30, 2010

Francesca should have opened that door!

(What follows is a movie review I wrote on in 2002 concerning the film adaptation of Robert James Waller's book, "The Bridges of Madison County". My review was named one of the top seven for the movie out of hundreds some years later. -- DGH)


I viewed Hollywood's adaptation of Robert James Waller's "The Bridges of Madison County" last evening. I had seen the film initially some years ago and regarded it as much ado about nothing for the most part at that time.

But I was struck in this new viewing more than before by the universality of Francesca Johnson's dilemma. Perhaps maturation and recent life experiences have generated a heightened understanding and awareness on my part.

Robert Kinkaid possessed a few of the qualities that have both inspired and dogged me during my middle years.

He was a rootless writer and photographer, as well as a keen and cynical observer of the human condition. Kinkaid had been far and done much. He had seen and experienced multiple facets of life and love and possessed limitless anecdotal knowledge of the world. He offered much to Francesca in terms of sensitivity, understanding, appreciation of beauty and companionship that she would never find on an Iowa farm.

But Kinkaid lacked Middle America's major indicators of success and worthiness--roots sunk deeply in one geographic location, a home and real estate, and most importantly, a traditional Cleaver family mind set.

Francesca reluctantly opted for the Cleaver family syndrome, choosing security and safety over fascination, inspiration and love. She lived out her years with a boring Iowa pig farmer, remaining a lonely and empty woman with nothing but tattered memories of her brief encounter with Kinkaid.

Had I been writing the screenplay, I would have had her fling open that truck door and dash through the rain storm to head west with Robert Kinkaid.

For better or worse, that's the impulsive sort of decision that has governed my life more often than not.

But such actions and those who take them do not comfort the psyche of Middle America's puritanical heartland.

Though they know better from their own experiences and those of others, the majority of Americans--middle class protestant ones especially--prefer to keep their heads safely in the sand about life and the human condition, pretending still in a little house on the prairie dream world that probably never was--one that most certainly doesn't exist now.

All is well in this delusional world of make believe--one that's filled with Little League games, soccer moms, church suppers and PTO meetings. Marriage and family are still the rocks of civilization and the ostriches are "saved" and bound for Heaven. Their president, George W. Bush, is a worthy man with a commission from their God to root out homosexuality, abortion and Islam.

In my opinion, such as they dwell in the outer limits of utter darkness, living and dying without a clue about the past, the present, or the future. They're not living--they're merely existing in a state of perpetual denial, awaiting the flat line and the rude awakening that will likely follow.

Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is termed resignation is confirmed desperation."

Francesca Johnson completed her life journey in this condition of quiet desperation. I think that's a damned shame. I wanted more for her. I wanted her to go with Robert Kinkaid and seek a few years of happiness and joy while they each had the time and opportunity.

D. Grant Haynes

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sheeple

The people have spoken, goddamn them. -- Mo Udall

Chapter 2

This brief section in which I decry the apparent collective stupidity of the American electorate in giving George W. Bush fresh mandates to continue his madness at home and in the Middle East in 2002 and again in 2004 is the one segment above all others that my fainter-hearted friends have advised me against including in this volume. “You will only alienate readers and cause them to close your book by publishing such ire and rancor”, I have been advised. Perhaps so in some cases, though I hope not. But I do not seek to win a popularity contest anyway.

No record of the Bush administration-induced anguish that has dominated my thinking and emotions for the last six years would be complete without an honest expression of what I felt at moments of greatest despair and disgust during these terrible years. I am not dishonest enough to omit these statements. Or, alternatively, I am foolhearty enough to include them.

Americans could have rebuffed Bush in the 2002 mid-term elections, but they didn’t. This was inexplicable and unforgivable, I thought. My statements at the time reflected those sentiments.

And after the presidential election of 2004 when blindered Americans had voted Bush into office still again, thereby expanding his mandate to drag our nation ever deeper into the worst domestic and international malaise since the Great Depression, at least, I was, frankly, livid.

At that point Bush had established an indisputable track record of lies and double dealing about Iraq.

At that point he had expanded his unrelenting plutocratic attack on the middle class of America with more tax breaks for the wealthy, diminution of welfare funding, and relaxation of environmental laws to favor his fat cat contributors from the energy and other sectors.

Nothing had gone well since his appointment as president in December 2000, but here we were four years later facing four more years of the hell he had already put us through.

This, because Americans had not displayed enough collective intelligence to kick the bums out in the 2004 election. Rather, too many Americans were still crouching in dark corners expecting the Bush administration to protect them from “terrists” from without when, in truth, Bush and his cabal were the worst terrorist in America and in the world at the time. Or so I felt and wrote.

The tide is finally turning in the spring of 2007. Bush has few friends on either side of the congressional aisle and the most lethargic American couch potatoes are willing, finally, to listen to criticism of their president.

The corporate media whores are even finding a voice and daring to speak out after years of cutting Bush slack and presenting White House press releases as the gospel.

But it’s too little and it’s too late. The darkness from which our nation and the world must recover in the post-Bush years will linger for decades. It did not have to be so.


Excesses of blind patriotism annoying, dangerous

November 17, 2001

Dear Post-911 Flag-Waving Fellow Americans:

After reading your newspapers--after listening to your corporate media's propagandistic version of the so-called "War Against Terrorism" now under way in Afghanistan--after seeing your flag-decked SUVs with the Pisces emblems on the one side and National Rifle Association stickers on the other--after enduring this national adrenalin rush daily for the past two months--I have concluded that you are, by and large, a shallow, callous, insular, naively manipulable and infinitely self-righteous lot.

You are dangerously intoxicated at this time with a virulent strain of myopic ethnocentrism approaching Third Reich fanaticism--one that is most unattractive to the quiet minority here who can't in good conscience join your sloganeered, bumper-stickered, anthem-singing, flag-flapping, Arab-hating hysteria.

You are riding the crest of a wave of blind arrogance, egocentric hedonism and aggressive nationalism that cannot last--one that will inevitably lead to a cataclysmic fall in time.

I do not know how these things will evolve. I am no prophet or seer. But of this I am reasonably certain. You will be--you must be--humbled. Karmic laws are inexorable, inescapable and universal. America is ripe for a humbling as the 21st Century begins.

I do not wish this to be the case. I live here, as have my forebears for at least six generations. I have children and grandchildren who will suffer when the collapse occurs. But I see this national adjustment as inevitable.

You as a people are not better than--you do not deserve more of everything than--any other group on the planet.

You do not possess an inherent right to abuse--to show utter disregard for--other human cultures and groups, as well as every other species with which you share this tiny blue orb.

You do not possess an inherent right to destroy the very Earth that has nurtured you with your outsized contribution to global pollution--one that will bring catastrophic climate changes and sea level alterations within the present century.

You are not so very special and unique as you may imagine, flag-waving Americans. Deity has not singled you out for preferential treatment and predestined dominance. You are merely the current bully on the block--an ephemeral thing at best. Bullies come and go.

In the longer view of history, you will go the way of other civilizations that became overly extended, overly aggressive, overly confident, overly materialistic, and overtly abusive toward all that did not embrace unflinchingly their narrowly defined interests and values.

I have thought often during recent days of Thomas Jefferson's remark regarding the institution of slavery--a gathering storm in his time.

He said, "... I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

Indeed, I tremble today for my country because I know my fellows are on a course that cannot end well.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Nature's children dying so your fat ass can ride in air-conditioned luxury

They've kept the pictures from national circulation for over six weeks, for the most part, but the Huffington Post first, and now the Boston Globe, have shown the courage to expose the horrors being visited on wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico as a result of the British Petroleum oil disaster.

Each of the thousands of life forms dying daily in the Gulf of Mexico from crude oil poisoning possesses as equally an inherent right to exist and be happy on this planet as do you, Homo sapiens.

You may be the dominant life form here for now, but you are also the darkest life form and the one most deserving of extinction.

Your day will come, Homo sapiens, as the Earth cleanses herself of your foul presence and begins again the pageant of life.

D. Grant Haynes

If BP capped the well today (June 3, 2010), what the hell is that belching forth in the Gulf of Mexico on this allegedly live camera feed?

Dead sea turtle that washed ashore on Mississippi coast May 5

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Alien landscape?

Alien, indeed, for creatures of the Gulf of Mexico that are floundering and dying in choking crude oil now coming ashore in Louisiana.

Pea soup smog presided over an oil slicked and dying Gulf of Mexico May 7--an altogether fitting commentary on man's blindness, self-centeredness, and greed.

Men, nations and worlds are subject to the universal cosmic law of karma. Modern industrial man will reap what he has sown in destroying the Earth over which he was given stewardship.

D. Grant Haynes

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth's day will come only when men and their machines are gone

The first meaningful Earth Day will come when men and their destructive technology are rusting, deteriorating relics from another time.

Until such time, all the rest is so much falderal about nothing--a feeble attempt by a few to tap into the collective guilt of the many and sell posters, tee shirts, and trinkets on the side.

Earth Days mean nothing to the politicians, industrialists, and assorted greed hounds that dominate every industrialized society on the planet.

These evil men continue to destroy ecosystems and life forms at an accelerating pace, even as their public relations arms churn out an Earth Day press release or two each April.

D. Grant Haynes

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Prince tragedy should represent a wake-up call to public educators

I have followed the tragic story of the Irish teen, Phoebe Prince, who hanged herself in January after a period of merciless bullying and harassment by her peers at South Hadley High School in Massachusetts.

The incident has drawn national attention and has prompted many in public education to discuss adoption of anti-bullying policies for their districts or schools. Whatever changes may come will, of course, represent too little too late for Phoebe Prince and her family.

Phoebe, 15, had enrolled in the freshman class at South Hadley High in September. She was a new immigrant to Massachusetts from Ireland.

Phoebe’s hazing and endless cruel harassment by certain fellow students is said to have begun after she dated a South Hadley High School varsity football player, and later another senior male, in the fall following her arrival at the school. Several apparently jealous female students set about to make Phoebe’s life hell each day thereafter. And they did so in full view of other students and, reportedly, teachers and administrators on occasions.

Phoebe was repeatedly threatened with physical violence from her tormentors who verbally assaulted her, calling her an “Irish slut” and worse in the cafeteria, the school library, the halls, the girls restroom, and wherever else she went on her daily rounds at the school.

Finally, on January 14--after an especially difficult day for Phoebe in which jeering vehicle-born students had thrown a beverage can at her as she walked home from school, she hanged herself in the stairwell of her family’s apartment.

No counselor, principal, or teacher employed at South Hadley High School had intervened effectively to halt the unspeakably cruel ritual destruction of Phoebe Prince that had been unfolding in their midst for several months.

Having been a high school student in the mid-20th Century and a high school teacher several decades later, I can well understand what Phoebe Prince probably encountered.

An American high school can represent a highly demoralizing experience for the well-adjusted and wholly accepted freshman student. But for an introverted student--or a student that represents in any way a deviation from the common denominator social, intellectual, and cultural “norm” of a given community, the high school experience can be overwhelming.

Such was apparently the case with Phoebe Prince.

She was an Irish immigrant and culturally different. She was also an attractive girl who had early caught the eye of a vaunted and likely predatory football player. These were reasons enough, apparently, for her tormentors to seek to destroy her.

But they weren’t reasons enough for the adults charged with Phoebe’s welfare while she was at school each day to permit the cruelty to have continued until her self-destruction.

Every teacher understands the in loco parentis concept. A teacher or school administrator has the duty, right, and obligation to assume parental prerogatives and responsibilities in the absence of a minor’s parent. Someone should have intervened to end the harassment of Phoebe Prince in time.

The careers of those teachers, counselors, and administrators that permitted the Prince tragedy to occur at South Hadley High should be reexamined. These callous men and women are probably unfit for their alleged calling as educators.

But more--much more--is wrong in America and in the American public education system than a few ineffectual or indifferent secondary school personnel in South Hadley, Massachusetts.

A child deriving from Ireland or any other European or Asian nation where life is simpler and children are still under some cultural, parental or institutional restraints in their adolescent years would probably be unprepared for the insane circus of mindless assemblies, noisy pep rallies, bon fires, homecomings, football games, crushes, “steady” couples, achy-breaky hearts, endless pettiness, fights in the halls, and the not infrequent verbal and physical bullyings of the timid or the different that occur daily at an American high school.

Unfortunately, that’s what American high schools are at this point in time--frenetic and hellish places more notable for violence, aggression, cruelty, blatant sexual posturing, and sports-related hoopla than for learning.

And where did the students attending a typical public high school in America learn the violence, aggression, cruelty and sexual posturing they bring to school?

From the larger society of which they are an immature part, of course.

Not infrequently students have learned many wrong lessons from parents who are often still more into their own gratification than into rearing their offspring.

Nor are the news and entertainment industries of America without fault.

Violence, aggression, cruelty, indifference to the plight of others, and blatant sexuality are part and parcel of almost all Hollywood flicks and of much television programming nowadays. The negative influence of these mediums on impressionable children cannot be exaggerated. It is pervasive.

What American child whose first memories were of trashy women slapping one another and pulling hair on the Jerry Springer Show could grow up with an abundance of decorum and respect for their peers--with a sense of love, peace, and goodness in their hearts as they enroll in high school?

And what American child might be inclined to display kindness, compassion, and decency toward a freshman girl from a faraway land--one who had some problems of acceptance in her new environment--after that American child has grown up seeing Simon Cowell’s callous verbal cruelty that is directed without compassion at the untalented and the faltering on American Idol?

The entire genre of so-called “reality television” has desensitized impressionable young viewers and others to cruelty, violence, and an indifference to the suffering of others--perceived “losers”, especially. Americans have been taught by their dog-eat-dog capitalist culture of excess to admire winners and to shun and dismiss without compassion so-called “losers”.

What American child might refrain from physical coercion and violence toward a fellow student after growing into adolescence to the background din of news programs on which reportage of torture, murder, and mayhem being visited daily on Iraqis and Afghans by Americans in uniform is a nightly occurrence?

We have been told by former vice president Dick Cheney that water boarding is acceptable. We were told by various Bush administration spokespersons that stress positions, sleep deprivation, and other torture techniques clearly in defiance of the Geneva Conventions were justified because the victims were terroristic “others“.

What adolescent Internet surfer in America has not seen and possibly been impressed by the terrible Abu Ghraib prison photos in which grinning young Americans gave the “thumbs up” after beating an Iraqi prisoner to death?

An unjust war is the greatest moral evil in which any nation or society can become involved, and today’s American teens have seen their nation pursuing cruel and unjust wars for the majority of their lives--almost a decade now.

In truth, an American high school represents nothing more than a hormone-laced adolescently volatile microcosmic distillation of the pervasive American culture that has shaped students and made them what they are when they enroll in high school. The nation is reaping an inevitable whirlwind nowadays with the young.

But these hard truths about our nation and its shallow, hedonistic culture of violence, disrespect for decorum, and lack of compassion do not mitigate the guilt of every South Hadley High School teacher, counselor, and administrator who might have intervened to prevent the death of Phoebe Prince. Teachers, counselors, and school administrators should be exemplars. Rightly or wrongly, more is expected of them than of most others. They should have been more alert to what was occurring and more assertive in wading in to stop it.

The “kids will be kids--let them work it out” admonition is a cop out at any school. It was not good enough at South Hadley High School and it is not good enough at any other public secondary school.

Despite their swagger--their occasional athletic prowess and popularity--their new vehicles--their familial relationships to influential school board members in some cases--high school students are minors in need of much direction and imposition of definite limits on their behavior. They cannot be left to their own devices and youthful excesses.

Phoebe Prince is gone, but in the wake of her tragic story, schools across America should adopt as soon as practical whatever rules of so-called “tough love” are necessary to enforce decorum and bring an end to hazing and bullying in all its forms.

During the six or more hours students are in the care and under the supervision of teachers and administrators, they should be supervised and controlled at all times. If this necessitates a higher degree of security on campus--professional security guards, guard dogs and metal detectors--less “freedom” for students--so be it.

What is more important than rescuing the public schools of this nation and the students that pass through them during their turbulent adolescent years from the hell that was Phoebe Prince’s lot?

If this nation is to be saved, that redemption must begin with the young. Now is the time.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Anthropocentrism and ignorance

Humans are, by nature, largely pissants without merit. And Fox News panders to the worst instincts of the worst pissants of the species.

A specimen of a newly discovered deep sea crustacean should have prompted interest, fascination and renewed awe that the Earth's children are so vast and varied in their adaptations.

But no, according to Fox News, the new creature (Bathynomus giganteus) is "terrifying" and "horrifying" to many humans. Fox described the creature as a "terrifying sea critter" in a sensationalized headline.

I can well imagine the submarine that invaded this harmless isopod's territory 8,500 feet below the surface of the deep was equally as terrifying to him and his kind.

I am sick of anthropocentrism in all its forms.

D. Grant Haynes

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hedge fund manager gets $4 billion bonus while 1.5 million Americans are homeless

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

And if that's not a testament to the need for a socialist revolution in America, you'll never find one. The inequality gap between the haves and the have nots in the United States has grown alarmingly since the 1970's. No man is worthy of a $4 billion bonus. The individual in question should be striped of his excessive income and it should be used to feed and house America's 1.5 million homeless people. An amelioration of such blatant inequities must come--peacefully or otherwise.

D. Grant Haynes

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Our Earth cannot sustain present human onslaught much longer

I recently acquired Hervé Kempf's book, "How the Rich Are Destroying the Earth". I would recommend this work to anyone concerned about present galloping planetary degradation.

In a reassuring bit of synchronicity, a day after I received Kempf's book, I ran across the following URL which, though in no way related to any sales promotion for the Kempf work, conveys in a way only photographs can that about which Kempf is writing.

The human species is destroying its only home in the Cosmos at an alarming rate, as the photographic imagery here attests.