Choctaw Reader Replies

Mr. Moses,

I just read your article
on "Bill Bennet’s Book of Cracker Virtues." I am what is called a
Native American, and while I try to eschew bitterness (it’s not easy
once you learn real history), I still appreciate the sarcastic humor
you employed while stating the present reality.

I especially liked the paragraph, "In Bennett’s concept of the
American crime rate, of course, genocide never counts. Neither does
theft of labor. With these two great and obvious categories of crime
dismissed, the souls of white folk may then be quite easily imagined to
have worked their way to Democracy in America by means of honest trade,
fair elections, and saintly patience, never bothering no one, and only
occasionally dismayed by inappropriate displays of ingratitude."

Larry Battiest
Bernalillo, NM

Heroes of the Local Road Earn Their Pay (And Then Some!)

By Susan Van Haitsma

In the grand scheme of things – we’re just travelers.
Never kings, never queens – we’re just travelers.

— from Big Moon Shinin’ by Chip Taylor

AUSTIN, TX (Sept. 23)–I boarded the bus with renewed appreciation.
Capital Metro operators were back after a one-day strike, and I was
grateful to be able to take my usual route to work. When I told the
driver that I supported the strike, he smiled and said with some
excitement, “I think we made a difference!”

I know that Capital Metro operators have made a positive difference
in my life since the year I stopped driving a car. In 1990, I began
using the city bus for most local transportation, and because my work
takes me to different parts of town at different times of day, I’ve
used almost every
route at one time or another. I feel at home on the bus. It’s a small community on wheels, more
richly diverse and more representative of the city as a whole than the
neighborhood where I live. Buses are street-going vessels of the
lifeblood of Austin, carrying workers, students, children and parents
through arteries all over town. Bus riders learn about each other in
ways that automobile drivers cannot. We talk to each other or just

On the bus, an atmosphere of helpfulness tends to develop that
contrasts with the everyone-for-him-or-herself attitude often typifying
automobile travel. Bus passengers lend one another a hand with bags of
groceries and strollers, and pool their knowledge of routes and
schedules for those who are new. When someone lacks the fare, riders
dig in their pockets for change.

My heroes of these rolling communities are the drivers. They carry
precious cargo. They often begin or end shifts in the wee hours and
handle the pressure of arriving at a day’s worth of stops neither too
late nor too early while accommodating unexpected delays or detours.

Drivers serve not only as navigators of large, complex machines,
but they also interact with a large, complex public. I doubt whether
the pay raises they are seeking take into account their roles as
counselors, assistants or public relations representatives, but they do
that work all the same. They
assist new passengers with bike racks and fare boxes and help buckle
seatbelts for riders in wheelchairs. They give directions to passengers
who don’t have their bearings and may listen for miles to a talkative
person in the front seat.

Drivers take the heat when a bus is late or when a rider is just in
a grumpy mood, but they’ll also wait a little longer at a stop when
they see someone running, and they’ll signal a connecting bus so that a
passenger can catch a transfer. I have seen drivers disarm disruptive
passengers or expertly calm a bus full of rowdy students by stopping
the bus and offering a few firm but respectful words.

Some non-riders who have complained about the bus strike have taken
union leaders to task for the timing of the strike, but those who
criticize the union should note that their argument against the strike
– that the services of transit union members are too vital to be halted
– is also an argument in support of what the union is asking. Because
the work of bus drivers
and mechanics is essential to providing fair, sustainable and safe
transportation for Austin area residents and visitors, these workers
should have a contract that is fair, sustainable and safe for
themselves and their families.

Non-riders often refer to “empty buses,” yet in 15 years of riding
Capital Metro, I have observed that the majority of cars passing
alongside the bus are three quarters empty, an occupancy rate below
most of the buses I ride. I am convinced that the bus is the more
efficient people mover, especially considering the many hours those
seats in cars remain vacant in parking lots while bus seats continually
refill as buses circulate.

Work stoppage is a time-honored, nonviolent negotiation strategy
that highlights just how much we value the service that is withheld. I
could not do without Capital Metro drivers. I trust them to take me
where I need to go, and I trust their determination of what is fair
compensation for that ride.


Van Haitsma is a regular bus rider living in Austin.

Reader Replies to Bennett OpEd

Note: this email is in response to an article called Bennett’s Book of Cracker Virtues published at OpEdNews:

No one could say it better than you did here.

Just want to add, that Bill Bennett is a contradiction, an oxymoron,
and is true to his neocon ilk. Pro life he say he is. Not on your
life!Especially if a person is black or of color.Abortion? White
collar’s broke every law in the book.Picking what fetus should live or
die? Indeed!

Senior Citizen..Phila. PA

What’s Makara?

In Chapter XV of Indian Sculpture and Iconography, V. Ganapati Sthapati describes a composite animal figure with “a fish-like body, elephant trunk, feet of a lion, eyes of a monkey, ears of a pig, plumage of a bird and prominent teeth.”  The image “defies classification.”

“Thus,” writes Sthapati, “it can be taken to represent the confused turbulent state of nature during the age of cataclysmic upheavals.”  From the mouth of the Makara, creation emerges as a kind of breathing out.  When the Makara breathes in, creation is totally renewed.

“The whole process,” writes Sthapati, “evolves under the guidance of the Divine Being and hence, the archway is placed behind the image of God.”

Blavatsky reads the symbol as a simultaneous representation of microcosm and macrocosm, the ultimate star of the universe as outward manifestation and the star of the human spirit as intuition.  But the association of this symbol with the Winter Solstice and Egyptian crocodiles emphasizes that all things must experience beginnings and ends.  A world that eats will be eaten.  Capricorn, the goat, has a dolphin tail.  From under water, the crafty animal rises up, again.  Like love, too.  There was the submerged form, now the horn.

Already, Blavatsky sees the Makara in the context of a fifth creation, indicating possibilities for yogin consciousness, beyond passion.

Or with these hints, we think of Jung’s great fish, the self, and Jonah, who was once upon a time swallowed whole.

So, what is Makara exactly?  It is an indication that all cannot be lost, even when things seem impossible to find.  Have you read Marx’s dissertation lately?  There, doesn’t the great materialist find indestructible self-consciousness as the puzzle that exists?