District 9: A Blockbuster of a Small Retro SciFi Flick

District 9 is a throwback of a movie. Yes, there’s lots of explosions, and special effects, neat CGI aliens, and of course the now obligatory giant hovering ship (remember when space ships used to actually land?); but it is in many ways a throwback to the thinking man’s scifi movies of the 50s/60s. It manages to be two movies in one, on one level the big blockbuster you expect, but at the same time it’s a very small personal film.

The main hero/antihero of the movie, isn’t really played up in the trailers, so I was surprised just how much this was a movie about one man. He’s not your usual space cowboy, not a tough space marine or anything you’ve come to expect in this sort of summer blockbuster sci-fi flick. In fact, he’s just this sort of mid-level cubicle bureaucrat, who plows his way through his job with somewhat questionable motives and competence. He’s light years from being the gun-toting, hard as nails, take-no-prisioners iconic Ripley from the Aliens Movie. Yet there’s some odd parallels, right down to a kick-ass body suit that helps our hero/antihero bring down the bad guy and the transformation of an “everyday joe” to a armored protector of family and child. Yet here the roles are reversed, you have the hero fighting off evil humans to protect aliens.

The movie borrows heavily from other movies, though I’d hate to say borrow so much as it uses the language of the genre to help move things along. There’s the alien slum and aliens living uneasily among us (Alien Nation), there’s the menacing hovering giant ship (Independence Day), the human/alien enemy to buddy act (Enemy Mine) and the aforementioned body armor (Aliens). It also borrows heavily from the fake documentary style for a gritty realism and grounding, as well as the home movie shaky camera immediacy of movies like Cloverfield. Surprisingly though, if anything ,these references help us to set up what we expect this movie to be, so that it eventually can take these twists and turns, play off and play with our own expectations, then turn them on their head, and in the end move on to tell it’s own story. Movies always use the language of our collective movie-going experience, I’ve always admired the ones that can do that well.

To it’s credit, it quickly handles the shock and awe of encountering an alien species and fast-forwards 20 years. It sets us how the news cycle and pop culture embraced the aliens, but how quickly they became “prawns” a dehumanizing derogatory term based on their looks, and their foraging habits. It paints just how much people can get used to, where everyone lives in a world where aliens aren’t really news anymore, they’ve been quartered off into a slum – sound familiar? However, there are whole economies at work here as well, criminal as well as this whole government/weapons complex that develops around the aliens and their secrets.

Of course you can’t miss the racial and immigration issues it raises. In many respects the movie is a critique on how we treat those who are not like us, how we “dehumanize” those that are different. I was particularly stuck by how brutal and even monstrous some of the scenes around the evictions were. (After 20 years the aliens are being moved to a more out of the way, more politically-expedient settlement camp. Though we’ve all seen these techniques they use. There’s intimidation through violence, police brutality, prejudice and bigotry, forcing individuals to defend themselves so you can shoot them, even threatening to call child custody to take away children, hiding behind legalities, all these were in people’s playbooks long before the aliens showed up. Just setting it in South Africa reminds us of what’s at stake.

One of the most effective and terrifying scenes in the movie, comes from human against human violence. This shocking and disturbing twist where someone crosses that line to become no longer human but a “specimen” only an object for study for the above mentioned soulless government/weapons complex. This subject is tied to a gurney where he’s being discussed with some excitement and detail about just how he’s about to be sliced and diced for valuable (as in money making) scientific research. You see this one hand keep reaching out for someone that used to be a coworker, friend, and family member, only to realize that no one, even this person, is about to show a drop of humanity. In many ways though this movie is about those sort of turn of events. How people go from being seen one way then another, how people are perceived and defined. At a deeper level though, and to the movies credit, it is also ultimately about how we see ourselves, and are capable of dramatic internal transformations as well. The movie in the end comes down to the battle between being human and inhuman, what motivates us — but in that larger sense that has nothing to do with being from earth. It’s all about how we treat each other and who we are inside.


Day 4: Poet’s Road Trip: Borderlands and High Desert



I’d been told earlier about how El Paso was a “unique” situation being such a border town. I didn’t realize just how much that was true until I drove through downtown in the morning light. It’s right there. There’s Mexico. You have El Paso’s high rise downtown district next to its sister city, staring at each other over the border, like two sisters one that married well and one that didn’t.

Just outside the city there’s miles and miles of intensive livestock farms. The kind where you have lots of cows in small areas. There’s huge giant shelters built to hold the massive amounts of hay needed for he operations. You also have a fairly lush green valley where they grow crops. If youve ever flown over this area of the country, you’ve probably seen some of these large green circle and patches even from high altitudes. You have to wonder though just how sustainable over time these water-intense farm industries are over time. In this part of the country water is king – and scarce.


I was soon reminded how close the border is again, when the entire interstate is channeled over to an inspection station. There border guards wave some into another line to ask questions and vehicles inspected, the drug dogs are there waiting. I get waved through. I would make an excellent drug mule (though I’m not applying for the job) I never get pulled over in those kind of situations.


When you drive to El Paso, in that little pointy part of west Texas, then up towards Phoenix, when you get to Arizona, you’re pretty much over half-way through the state. That was a good thing, though the state is breath taxingly beautiful, it gets boring after a while. I was actually much more engaged after Tuscon, with it’s big expanses of monotonous suburbs. From Tuscon to Phoenix, that’s more what I’d come to see.

And yes, there were outlet malls over half empty. I made a couple of stops, one to get gas, one to check out an outlet mall parking lot to check vacancies and pretend to shop. The tone here was a little different – open concern.

In this area you also come across the famous jetliner graveyard. It’s way off in the distance, but you can’t miss it. Sort of an elephant graveyard where old jetliners come to die and have their bones bleach in the sun. Wish I’d time (and permission) to visit. Lots of visual metaphors for the airline industry to be found there I’m sure.

I have to admit, I sort of have a prejudice against Phoenix, I’d been here before on conferences and business. The question I always ask myself is “why is this city here?” It just doesn’t seem to make sense. It seems to be that example of a small city who’s civic pride and politics overrode any good sense of how and where a city should work.

Then finally, Arcosanti, my destination for the evening, I got here an interviewed their PR person, and got a tour. Walked around took pictures. Even hiked across the little canyon to take a video. (Separate Post).



I’m up early, heading to LA with a brief stop in Palm Springs to visit an old Fraternity brother.

There’s a poety reading in Redondo Beach, perfect way to celebrate, hitting the West Coast.


D4: Poet’s Recession Road Trip: Arcosanti, Yesterday’s Tomorrow, and Lesbian Theology


There’s an old saying that comes to mind, about how nothing dates faster than one’s vision of the future. That seems true for Arcosanti. Though it manages to feel classic, new, and stuck in the 70s all at the same time. The master plan (there have been many) has a city built on a grand scale, where thousands of people would live and work, yet they seem happy being a small eclectic community. I overhead the morning staff meeting, and they seemed more concerned about keeping construction dust out of the cereal bins than working towards world peace. That seems an apt metaphor though, cause even in the course of working on the big picture, the devil is in the details. This place feels isolated and insular, yet the place is full of international students. It’s a lot to take in, with it’s contradictions and complexities. I’m just here a day though so am going for a crash course.

They don’t like the word “visionary” used, though that’s the reason I came here, and there didn’t seem to be another word that applied. It was hard to pin down the plans for the future and expanding their mission beyond what seems at times to be a dogmatic following of Paolo Solieri’s teachings. Another way in which they seem to be stuck in time. They’ve just celebrated his 90th birthday, and it seems the only place that rates AC is his archives.

There is the perception that this is a sort of hippie commune, that the place has some mystical or spiritual energy, yet they like to like to promote themselves as more a practical laboratory for a better way of life. The hippie commune image to shake though when you have four types of granola on the breakfast bar, as well as both soy and rice milk.

Things seem pretty simple here. They’re fairly insulated from the main economy here and strive for self-sufficiency. Though I have to wonder how many sets of $80 brass wind bells they can be selling these days.


My main question though seemed to go unanswered. What is the purpose of the visionary, the dreamer, in these tough times. It seems this place was founded to answer that question, but the approach seems to be “well we’re going to sit up in the mountains and work on it, we’ll get back to you.”


Then the answer did present itself. In a rather unexpected surprising way. Though it seems the way the universe works. The guest rooms only had me and one other resident. And since part of the brochure speak of “embracing a holistic approach to energy needs” means no AC. I found myself sitting out on the little landing in my plastic patio chair, overlooking the little valley Arcosanti sits over.

The other resident, a 30ish young lady comes over and pulls up a chair.

What followed was a near two hour conversation, about our histories, journeys and what we were looking for in life. Seems I had an awful lot in common with this lesbian theology student. We were both questioning where we were in life, looking for answers, trying to figure things out.

This was why I came to Arcosanti, that is the purpose of the visionary of the dreamer. To pull people together, to explore, to ask big questions. That two hours sitting in the dark, overlooking the desert, under a milk way sky. Those are the moments that help define us all and make a real difference.



D3: Poet’s Recession Road Trip: Don Quixote in West Texas


Highway 10 through Texas doesn’t have any of the large oil fields, but you do spot the occasional lone rusty well or sometimes a small cluster. What you do see though are the massive wind farms of Central/West Texas. Driving west the first batch are off in the distance behind hills, you can’t really judge how many. What’s striking is the sheer size of these monsters. There’s nothing to judge it against in this dry rocky landscape, but they tower over the landscape. At first you think there must be dozens and dozens, then you see another farm, and another, then some distant plateau that’s completely covered in them. You think there must be hundreds, then realize after a while, there’s literally thousands of these behemoths scattered all over this part of the Texas desert.

They are quite spectacular, and one is hit with the fact seeing this engineering marvel, that yes, this is the shape of things to come. This is what the energy industry is coming too, slowly but surely. Here it’s not quite so theoretical, here the green economy has becomes bricks and mortar, or in this case aluminum and steel.

It’s amazing too the juxtaposition, how in the midst of these fields you still have this sprinkling of rusty old dinosaurs of the industry, the oil wells churning and pumping away, sucking away at the bones of dinosaurs.


In the distance, the dinosaurs of the old energy economy, oil wells, sucking away at the bones of the dinosaurs that came before them dinosaurs.

What you also see here too is the occasionally old school wind mill. The kind you see in old cowboy movies, and you realize that in this windswept part of the country, they’ve known for centuries the power of the wind here, and it helped drive some of he original settlement of area. So the wind farms are in some ways returning to an old tradition.


DAY 3: Poet’s Recession Road Trip: The Texases

Texas Hill Country

Texas Hill Country

El PASO, TX: Texas is a big f’ing state. I’ve just spent one long day traveling across most of it. I got to watch the relative lushness of the Austin Area and it’s oaks, yield over time to scrub, then prairie, then just out right desert. Likewise, the sandstone canyons west of Austin over time, open up into wide dry valleys, often with huge dust devils dancing through them. The canyon walls, opening up to for wide swaths of valley cliffs and then eventually plateaus then buttes.

I didn’t get to talk to many people today, mainly because there just aren’t many between Austin and El Paso. It would probably surprise some of my friends and exes though that I’ve become quite the chatty cathy. I’m usually painfully shy, but I’m a man on a mission, and what have I got to lose, I’ll never see these people again. I’m also glad there’s not a microphone in the car, since I spend most of the time scribbling notes on blogs, essays, or poems on a handy pad. Then try to work through them talking to myself (in my large public speaking/poetry voice) writing that tape in my head, so that later when I write up my notes those all come back to me.

Some highlights though were the people in White Mountain, TX. I think this is an old prison town according to the signs, but I couldn’t find out much information about what goes on their now. There is an old blues song though I found called “White Mountain Prison Blues.” I stopped for gas there, cause in this part of the country you don’t dare let the tank get more than half empty. This is the part of the country you see in all those horror movies where people get stranded in the middle of the desert and attacked by crazy inbred mountain people that come down from the hills. I did get to hear a 20 minute story from an old local, about how he was trying to get his old truck running, apparently from scavenged parts and a lot of trial-and-error jury rigging. I guess he didn’t have much else to do out here, this simple story took on almost a Wagnernian epic quality to it, after 20 minutes I finally had to excuse myself.

Almost to El Paso I had something scary happen, in fact, probably one of the scariest things that can happen when you’re out on long road trips like this. Fortunately, I was through the most remote areas, where I could have died of thirst, and have vultures picking on my bones – or worse, been attackd by mutant cannibal hill people. A whole bank of warning lights came up on the dashboard. With warnings and symbols I had never even seen before. A quick pull over and search through the operating manual, revealed it to be a Electronic Stabilization System error. I have no ideal what that actually does though (stablizes something I’m sure). One of the warning lights was a car with squiggly tire tracks coming out behind it, I was really concerned that perhaps the tires were melting in the desert heat after the long drive (can they do that?)

It didn’t help that the manual painted a dire picture, they can flash on occasionally and you’re okay. But if they stay on continuously (which they were) you weren’t supposed to drive over 30 mph, and were to seek immediate assistance. So I limped into El Paso, and got to my hotel, then called the rental car company. What luck, they said I could just take it to the airport and swap it out (just an exit down). So what could have been a disaster, wasn’t so bad – in fact, I got a free upgrade out of what was already a big discounted deal.

Now in Georgia there’s always talk of the “two Georgias” basially the wealthier, developed Atlanta area and then every one else. It leads to some odd politically scenes. Atlanta being the business hub and engine of the state but the state actually being controlled from the rural congressional districts, where popular, lifelong legislators hold an iron grip on the capital.

I thought maybe the same was true in Texas. Maybe the feedback I got in Austin was particular to Austin, a fairly well to do, state capital, university town, with a diverse economy. Maybe there were two Texases as well. But El Paso was saying some of the same things I was hearing in Austin, that they’re doing okay.

One thing I still didn’t understand, and I first heard it from a teenager and had to ask more people about it, was that El Paso benefits from being a border town, and has a huge economic driver in the retail and services trades from Mexicans that come over the border. This isn’t something most people would think about. I still have to do more research on that..

I realized though, that there really aren’t two Texases, but in fact many, it’s pretty much a country in itself (and some would actually like to see that) with it’s own regional interests and makeups. It’s own interest groups.

As someone who is miserable in his unemployment and current job prospects, I expected more people in the same situation, people I could moan and commensurate with. All these happily employed cheery people are just getting on my nerves. Not only is the recession regional, and taking on different looks and feels in different areas, even in the same areas, it’s all relative. If you have a good job still (as most people do) sure there’s an air of uncertainty about, but things are cheap, you can cut deals, it’s can actually be a plus. If you’re unemployed though you live in a different america, a different state of mind.

This applies to the whole U.S. as well though. Mass media often portrays “the country, “ “Ameirca,” or “The U.S.” as some monolithic, homogonous creature. I’m sure it’s easier for them that way, not messay asterisks to deal with or fine print. So in many areas we’re sold a story of what the nation is going through. And one thing that this journey is already teaching me is that this is a huge diverse country, we tend to forget that.

Even in my previous consulting job where I traveled extensive. I got that feeling for the sameness of this country. The airports, the Marriot Residence Inns, the rental cars, the strip malls and business parks that most businessmen see are pretty much the same across this cou ntry. I’ve often bemoaned the soulless, halogenation of our society, the strip malling and WalMartification of this great land.

I’ts comforting to be reminded that as a country we’re still a crazy quilt sort of tapestry.


Couldn’t resist this one: maybe a book cover?

Poem for the Day


Don Quixote in West Texas

Not the coarse and rough
brutes of his homeland.
These are elegant giantesses,
goddesses of the wind.
No flapping of canvas
or rough crumbling stone,
just the slow quiet
elegance of white metal
measuring the wind.
Perhaps here in Texas
along the dry plateau
even Don Quixote
could find love,
far from his fevered
rough mauraders.
These guardian spirits
of wind, they sing
they hum, they resonate.
“Don Quixote,
lay down your sword.”


Day 2: Poet’s Recession Road Trip – Austin, The Promised Land?


STARBUCKS, AUSTIN – After leaving Gonzales, LA hit the road through southern LA and TX, This is a land of bridges, being down in the wetlands and where so many of the great American rivers come to the Gulf (see poem below). I’m reminded of the power of rivers and water, not so much in the old romantic traditional sense, transportation, but in operations of refineries and large industrial complexes.

Over time as the road turns more inland, the wetlands of the rice country recede and the trees grow smaller and vegetation becomes grasslands. By the time you get to Austin you find yourself among these scrub plains where the cows all hunker down under the meager shade of the small oaks.

I arrived in Austin just in time for the poetry reading at the museum here. A huge group of poets had been invited to do readings around pieces in the collection and other works of art (separate post on this all later). It was a great group of readers and the main gallery of the museum offered a great backdrop for the event.

We then went in mass, to a local TX BBQ place near the campus. Where I was able to get some of the local TX brisket. I then stayed with some friends who run a local press (separate post later). Then made a run to the local Ice Cream parlor (Amy’s).

In Conversations I’ve had though, I keep hearing that Austin just isn’t doing so badly, not like the rest of the country. They see to know this to. I heard that when people get laid off, they find jobs fairly quickly, that there’s more freezes than layoffs. There are layoffs though, and that sort of lingering uncertaintly. Like when publishers cut back on printing runs, just out of uncertainty.

I’m reminded too of how recessions are a relative deal. If you personally have been laid off, or have a loved one or friend, that’s been laid of it’s a very real thing. If you’re secure in your job, or retired – it’s all a bit more theoretical.

I understand people are still moving to Austin. There’s still construction. Austin seems to be biding it’s time.

This is just a short post, since I’m off to a long drive to El Paso. More later.

Poem of the Day


Bridge to River

Sorry mother
for I seem
the vengeful son.
My iron trusses
steel girders
hard cold angles
against your soft
flowing forms.
I know you hate me
your currents gnawing
my foundations.
They placed me here
so they could ignore you
make you irrelevant,
they fear your power.
And yes I will fall in time
to be replaced or not,
we will all fall in time
Only then to know
your dark embrace
as you cover our bones
in river sand.


Ricelands of TX


Riverside Industry

Amerciana of the Day


Vintage bathroom with a vintage in-wall heater.


Day 1 (Cont’d) The Gulf Coast: Casinos, Katrina, and Space Capsules


New post-Katrina bridge construction on I-10 coming into New Orleans

GONZALES, LOUISIANA – I’ve had to come up wiht a new cover story. In striking up conversations with people, the whole “I’m a writer and blogger” thing has been a conversation killer, people don’t know how to relate. Plus with the scruffy beard stubble, the Andy Rooney eyebrows and what the humidity does to my longish red hair–I think I’m just scaring people. Now my story is that I’m laid off (true) and having to drive across country for some interviews. Not that I want to move, but you know “whatever it takes,” this isn’t far from the truth. People can relate to that and open up better.

I’ve also realized that — I really have no business making this trip. I’m not actually a “writer” in the professional sense, certainly not a journalist. I like the way it sounds, I like saying it, but in many ways it feels sometimes like an affectation. Especially out on the road. I have business cards that actually say “poet/writer” but I’m certainly no Hunter S. Thompson. I’m more a Kerouac wannabe, and like yeah, the world needs more of those. Also, being unemployed and with limited resources, this trip makes no sense, and though I have some leads on seeling an article or two, it’s certainly not a going to help my financial situation at all. My reasons for making this trip seem to be equal parts, mid-life crisis, crisis of confidence, trying to rediscover myself, and just plain desperation.

Theoretically, if my unemployment continues for a long period, I could be facing foreclosure. I could lose everything I’ve saved up, and be facing crushing debt and bankruptcy. It’s that sort of sublimated panic I think a lot of people are facing now. I have to believe a couple of things though, panic and fear can be crippling. I also have to believe that getting yourself out there, whether it’s blogging or even poetry has to count for something.


From Moblle, I decided to go down and take hwy 90, instead of Interstate 10. 90 takes you through Pasagoula, Biloxi, and Gulfport. I’d done it ages ago and it’s a beautiful drive with the road going right along the beach. It was nothing like I remembered it. Biloxi is now a gambling mecca, There’s a Hard Rock, and other big name casinos, lining the street now, it’s apparently big business, though I have to wonder how it fairs in hard times.

You can still see the occasional old condo highrise from when this area was just a sleepy retirement and summer beach condo area. Those days are gone.


Just what the world needs a Jimmy Buffet Margarittaville themed mega casino.


I’d seen all the damage in New Orleans first hand, but wanted to see what was going on in the coastal areas east of there, that were actually hit much harder. It’s amazing still. Expecially between NO and Gulport. There’s still whole areas, where block after block, there’s nothing left. It’s all cleaned up, but there’s block after block in places where the only thing left, are abandoned streets and concrete pads where houses used to be. There’s occasionally a raised foundation, with grand stairs leading up to nothing, maybe a set of piers on which a house used to sit. Old strip malls are just overgown lots and empty building pads, sometimes a tall rust skeleton of the old street sign stands guard and that’s it. There are For Sale signs everywhere, but still only sporadic redevelopment.

I kept noticing these odd sort of “public art” sculptures, often quite large, 20-30”, these sort of odd twisting sculptures of schools of dolphins playing, flocks of seagulls., even a large group of Marlins breaking the wave. It finally dawned on me, that there were all dead oaks from the hurricane. I guess in an effort to make the best of things. Someone’s been busy turning dead trees into these public artworks.


George Ohr/O’Keefe Museum heavily damaged in the hurricane is being rebuilt with a new Frank Gehry design.


The Gulf Beach along Highway 90.


Poem of the Day

Between New Orleans and Baton Rouge

Headights cut sharp into the night
barely keeping back the blackness
of the tall oaks and wetlands.
Eerie glows from the horizon
the trees occasionally giving way
to distant abstractly industrial
necklaces of light .
It would almost be pretty
if the fumes didn’t burn the eyes.

Americana for the Day


Here’s an old mock-up of the landing module that landed on the moon, this one was actually used to train astronauts. Now It’s a sculpture in the rest area near the NASA Stennis space center. I remember the landing in 1969 (I was 10) and what kid didn’t order this model kit from his favorite comic book?


DAY 1: Poet’s Recession Road Trip, GA, AL, LA – Riding the Kudzu Wave










STARBUCKS, MOBILE AL -I got little sleep last night with final technology glitches and coordinating trip details, but my friend Collin was nice enough to pick me up and drop me off at the subway station pretty much at the crack of dawn.

I was surprised to see the main subway station in downtown Atlanta literally covered in advertising for a new AETNA campaign. The hook? The fear of losing your job, losing your insurance. What an appropriate recession themed sendoff. Then it was down the Airport and over to the rental car lots to pick up the car.

Along the way I found several reminders of the South’s economic changes over the past decades:

Here’s the big KIA plant in S. Georgia. I’m sure the people in Detroit and Flint love seeing this thing popping out cars. They’re even expanding the plant now.










 Just down the interstate from the new Kia plant, is this old shell of a mega textile factory, it’s now been empty and looking forlorn for years.










These places remind me that the South could be considered the first wave in the outsourcing jobs trend. Years ago the South started growing economically riding largely on NE companies wanting to take advantage of the lower wages and lack of labor organization – sound familiar. But eventually southern states started falling victim to the same thinking. Especially in the textile industry with jobs being exported once again to cheaper and easier to manage labor markets. This time out of the country altogether.

Almost invisible now, you have to look hard, you can still see abandoned old packhouses and barns, a reminder that just a generation or two ago, this whole area was still mainly an agricultural economy based on the family farm system (like my family). That economy is long gone now as well.

Eventually though even in the bible belt gambling,s becoming a whole other economy booster, as shown in this new gamgbing complex in AL under construction.













  Poem for the Day:










Kudzu Wave

Driving through inland seas
I cut cresting waves of kudzu
formed by unending coarse vine.
Blowing in the barely there breeze
and shimmering in the heat.
The wind whips up white caps
the underside of tossing leaves
fllipped all grey and white
lapping at my bumper.


ater today New Orleans, and then on to Austin tomorrow.


Best Line of the Day:

Gas Station Attendant in Satsuma, Alabama.

Attendant: “where you coming from?

Me: “Atlanta”

Attendant: “Oh, you’re one of those big city boys.”


Best Shot of Americana:

They still love em some George Wallace in Alabam.



Don’t Cry for Me South Carolina


How fitting that Mark Sanford’s career would now be so tied to a country that gave us one of most famous political divas of all time – Eva Peron.

Below is a found poem, combining the lyrics from “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and the Governor’s now famous steamy emails to his latin lover.

The poem starts and finishes with the song, and the lines alternate beween the song and the emails (in italics).






Don’t Cry for me South Carolina

It won’t be easy, you’ll think it strange
my heart cries out for you, your voice.
I had to let it happen, I had to change,
your lips, the touch of your finger tips.
I still need your love after all that I’ve done
your body, the touch of your lips.
They are not the solutions they promised to be;
impossible situation of love.
And as for fortune, and as for fame,
in the faded glow of the night’s light,
they are illusions,
so fitting with your beauty,
my mad existence,
the tranquility that comes with being.
Have I said too much?


Remembering the Fallen – Atlanta Candlelight Vigil for Iran



Last night there was a candle light vigil held in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park for those who have fallen in the recent violence in Iran. It’s interesting as an outsider (non-Iranian) to bear witness to the pain and suffering felt by this community. I feel though that as an activist it is important to uphold basic human and civil rights wherever they are at risk. This struggle is important to any who care about basic civil and human rights.


It was an interesting group, organized by students from some of the local universities, as well as members of the local Iranian community. At it’s peak there were easily 350-400 people. It was an evening of community bonding and outreach as well as solemn remembrance to those who had fallen in the violence. It was covered by most of the stations, but mostly by support teams, so I’m not sure what ever made it to the air. Neda photos, posters and candle memorials were very much present. She’s become a rallying point even for Iranians in this country.


While I know a few Iranians, this is not a community that I’m that familiar with, so it was interesting to observe this group in action. You have the older guard, those who used to actually live in Iran, who fled the revolution and obviously despise the current government and it’s dictatorial and repressive ways. Then, since the Islamic revolution is some 30 years old now, there are a whole new generation of younger adults and students who are American born and thoroughly Americanized and only know of their home country though their parents. In addition there was a strong presence across the board of some very strong-willed dynamic women. They seem particularly engaged in this debate, probably since they have so much at stake in these cultural wars. In many respects, the generation divide, the role of women, it reminded me of the Cuban exile community, which it shares a lot of similar history and characteristics with.


This generational divide was most evident at the rally when the student’s tried to rally a chant of “Allahu Akbar” as a show of support and solidarity with the nightly roof chanting in Tehran, the old guard wanted nothing to do with it, some actively booed it down and the attempt faded quickly. Though “Allahu Akbar” is a safe way to stealth protest in Iran and avoid seeming anti-revolutionary – free Iranians here in the U.S. seem to want no such reminder of the Islamic Revolution.



 There was also a split in the group between whether this was a candlelight vigil and memorial or a protest. In honor of the non-violent spirit of the Iranian protests, the occasional “death to Khamenei” or “death to the dictator” chants were always met with pleas to not stoop to their level, and to honor the spirit of the protestors and those who had fallen. (Note to Self: When organizing a candle light vigil, schedule lots of speakers, singers, poets, clergy.)


It’s hard to keep these emotions bottled up, and tensions and emotions were running high. There got to be a split between the “we want peace” camp and the “we want freedom” camp. Words were exchanged, someone threw a drink in someone’s face, but cooler heads prevailed and stepped in. This was a split I quite honestly didn’t understand. I think the freedom crowd was seen by some to be too militant and out for blood, while the peace crowd was seen by some as perhaps naive. I was reminded again, that this is a community that is new to this sort of thing. I’m not quite sure they’ve worked out for themselves what they do want, or that sometimes freedom, justice and reverence for fallen victims all sort of goes hand-in-hand.  It was all a reminder though just how charged this situation is. These people have a country and possibly relatives and friends that are suffering at the brutal hand of a repressive country. They’re experiencing a bloody crackdown in the middle of a commutations blackout so it’s understandable that nerves are raw.


I definitely came away with a new respect for this community though. I wish more non-Iranian’s had been there to show there support. It’s always good to put real individual faces to a community. It also humanizes and brings down to a very human level what can be admittedly overwhelming world events and issues.