Friday, October 22, 2010

I Thought Of It First

Houston Yard - 1:39 p.m.

"I always try and have my truck worked on here because they're Mexican and they get right on it," one of our drivers, who has a long blond pony tail and is definitely not Mexican, just told me, about an hour ago. He was talking about the mechanics in our shop here.

 I say "our" shop -- I mean this company I am working for. It has a terminal here, or a yard, it's often called, just outside the I-610 loop, on the old highway, US 90, that heads east. I like this part of Houston. Nothing pretentious about it, but then Houston is not pretentious, not like Dallas. If a city can be pretentious, or not.

It's McCarty Drive when you get off the interstate and it soon turns into Beaumont Highway. Out here are the truck stops and parts stores and used truck dealers and junk yards, and trailer parks and simple houses, and the pipe yards, and the Mexican restaurants where people who work in the pipe yards eat lunch. There are lots of pipe yards in Houston, which is why our company has a terminal here. Flat bed. We haul a lot of oil field pipe.

I have wondered about the number of used truck dealers here. They are the kind that cater to drivers who want to own their own truck, and so be so-called "owner-operators. A lot them buy their trucks here, but then a lot of them sell them here, too. I can picture some poor soul; makes it to Houston, gives up, and heads out here, Beaumont Highway, boulevard of broken dreams.

But this guy I was talking to, we were waiting in a line of trucks -- all of whose drivers were waiting to turn their truck in to the shop, or else just get something small fixed quickly, if possible. There is some paperwork, and before that a lot of waiting, and the guy I was talking to was saying he lives in Mexico. I have talked to two or three of our drivers now who live in Mexico. When they take time off, they park somewhere near the border, usually a truck stop, then drive over, or their wife or girlfriend picks them up, and they live cheap down there. I can't say that I have any sense of what it would be like. I have been just across the border, at Laredo and at Nogales, a few times. I just walked around a little, bought a shirt once. Took pictures.

In the driver's lounge here, which is pretty damn ratty, pretty dirty, old couches with the stuffing falling out, wobbly tables and broken chairs, the news on the television was about those Wikileaks. Almost 400,000 daily logs about the Iraq War. When I checked the news coverage of  the leaks last night on the internet, most of the major outlets were trying to cast it as story about Iran. The Guardian focused on the US sponsored torture, which went on long after it was exposed at the infamous Abu Gharib prison, if it's not still going on and it probably is, but most of them latched on to the fact that some of the logs mention that Iran was supplying the "insurgency," as we labeled the people who were trying to defend their country and their homes and their neighborhoods from our armies.

The Guardian noted that Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, in his press conference, "highlighted" the deaths documented by the reports. The deaths of 109,000 people, including 66,000 civilians, 15,000 more than the US government has previously acknowledged.

In other words, the deaths are the main reason he released the documents, but they are only mentioned as an aside, if at all, in most of the coverage, when that should be what is being screamed in the headlines. Each one of those 109,000 deaths, and every one of those 66,000 civilian deaths, wrecked peoples' lives. Imagine coming home and finding one of your children in two pieces, or finding pieces of your mother or father or sister in the wreckage of what used to be your home. Imagine your life after that. There's the death itself, and the effect is has one the people who knew, and loved, the deceased.

What's amazing to me, too, is that more half the people killed in the war have been civilians. We don't even talk about that.

There are several reasons we minimize that part of it. You can look back at how that war was begun, with the demonizing of Saddam Hussein, and the Iraqi people either directly or by extension, by the Bush Administration and their cheerleaders in the media and everywhere else. And there was the demonizing of Islam, the effects of which have now mushroomed out of control. And there is simple racism. The Iraqis are a dark skinned people. So they have everything going against them. They are the wrong nationality, the wrong religion, and the wrong color.

So it's racism, yes, but it's made possible because we have hierarchies, in which some people count more than others, and some people don't even count as people.

In America, we, Anglos, took control of this part of the earth and put ourselves at the top of one, primary hierarchy, and to this day we get up in the morning thinking we are superior to everybody else.

But all of us participate in the kind of thinking that permits this. We find some hierarchy on which we can think of ourselves as being higher up, and we use that to base our self esteem on. We are the best shortstop, or the prettiest girl. We're the smartest, strongest, most successful, according to some idea of success, which is most often based on a hierarchy of accumulation.

It's because we, as people, value accumulation, and beauty and so forth, more than how we treat those around us. So we construct lists. The lists put us in order. The people who have more of the things we value are at the top. We create these lists so we can see how we are doing, what our value is.

Any hierarchy, any, depends on having this ordering, of greater to lesser value. And it means we are higher up on our own little hierarchy only because someone else is lower down. There must necessarily be someone lower than us if there is even to be a list, a list we put ourselves on, and so if we are to feel good about ourselves, we have to think less of someone else.

This is something we've got to fix. We can have no basis for placing ourselves above anyone else, for any reason. We have to just accept the fact that we are all God's children and all equal in his eyes, or, if we can't do that, we have to do it on our own somehow, but we have got to get rid of hierarchy.

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