Monday, August 31, 2015

the punk singer

Instead of being productive today, I decided to watch The Punk Singer. It definitely gave me a greater appreciation of what bands like Bikini Kill and Le Tigre and the riot grrrl scene were all about. A couple of things I took away from it:

Kathleen Hanna is fucking awesome; and I missed out on a lot of good shit in the 90s.

The riot grrrl movement was an artistic expression of feminism, led by women who looked around and saw that they're not treated or even viewed the same in society. They utilized the labels and extremes that society placed on them and transformed them into rhetorical and visual weapons against things like sexism, violence against women, and gender inequality. They gave a creative voice to the anger and frustration that many women have, empowering them as well as calling out a society and culture that often relegates women to the periphery.

Everyone doesn't see the world the way you do. Everyone has different experiences and outlooks and you shouldn't necessarily give up on a relationship or friendship simply because you're not always on the same page. By being a part of someone's life, even if you have really serious political, social, or religious disagreements, you can help that person grow and eventually see things differently. If you take away an arguably positive influence on their life, you're not doing them any favours, especially if you really care about them.

Changing minds and social structures takes time. Things like racism, sexism, gender and sexuality inequality don't disappear overnight. Each generation needs radical movements to help build on the progressive momentum of the previous generation. Be a part of that any way you can.

It's important to be vocal about these kinds if issues. If you're educated about these issues and keep silent, that silence = consent. Confront discrimination and inequality. And if you find yourself in a relatively privileged position (e.g., being a white male), be a good ally—stand in solidarity with whomever you're fighting with while at the same time giving people and groups their space when they need it. Don't take it personally. Even if you feel like you're not a threat and are 100% on their side, there may be times and places where they'll feel more comfortable talking about certain things without you there, or else would like to speak for themselves as a member of particular identity group.

Friday, July 10, 2015

some reflections on the passing of my mother

On June 24th, I got the call that I'd been dreading for years—the call that my mom was dying. She'd had a lot of health problems, and there'd been a number of close calls over the last couple of years ranging from illnesses to open heart surgery. Each time I thought, "This might be it. This might be the time I lose her." Looking back, I suppose one of the few graces of having a family member with a history of serious health problems is that it can help prepare you for the inevitable. At least it doesn't hit you out of the blue; you have the time and impetus to imagine the possibility, to emotionally prepare, to build up the reserve of strength needed to face one of the most painful experiences of your life, that of losing someone you love, without being completely overwhelmed.

Even still, I wasn't really prepared; I wasn't really ready for the fear, anger, and sadness that was looming over me, and my family, like a gigantic tidal wave about the crash down and all but obliterate my fragile being, sweeping away everything in its path—all of my hope, joy, and faith in the future. As I sat there in the airport Wednesday night, in the midst of struggling to deal with the reality of my mom's situation, I remember being struck by the nonchalantness and even callousness with which we often treat death and dying in our culture. It's as if, in our fear of death, we do everything in our power to deny it, hide it, romanticize it, or joke about it, anything to take away the power of its sting. But while these things may help us cope with its existence and inevitability, they rarely do much to prepare us for the reality and actual experience of watching a loved one die, of holding their hand as they spend the last few hours of their life gasping for breath.

I suppose that death can be beautiful or heroic depending on the circumstances; but in my experience, death is painful, torturous, heart-wrenching, full of monitors, needles, moans, tears, and parades of names and faces who do their best to be compassionate and supportive when they're not too stressed from being overworked, under paid, and/or trying to push your loved one out as quickly as possible in order to free up a bed for the next customer/patient. For anyone who's spent enough time in them to notice, hospitals are revolving doors of the sick and dying, although they could (and should) be more. Money should have nothing to do with caring for the sick, the elderly, and the dying. Money shouldn't dictate the level and quality of care, or the concern with which they're administered. And yet it does. Reflecting on everything my mom had been through and endured, not the mention the mountains of red tape, bills, and collection notices, I was saddened by how we've cheapened life, how we've made life more about making money (mostly for someone else), or else worrying about not having enough, than actually living. All those wasted years...

Suffice it to say that I was lost, heartbroken. My faith in something greater than myself was tested and destroyed before being raised up again like Lazarus. I had nothing to hold onto. All my prayers had seemingly gone unanswered. Any purpose to life I once believed in seemed all but imaginary. Only the pain and sadness I felt were real. I watched Aliens on the flight; and with every bump of turbulence, I thought that at least my pain would end if I were to die. Midway through, they called for a doctor. Someone was having a medical emergency. I'm not sure how serious it was, but after we landed a lady was helped off by EMTs before the rest of us could exit, and I hoped that she'd be OK.

Tracey, one of my closest and dearest friends, picked me up from the airport and took me to my parent's house. I thought it'd be better to go up with my dad, although now I kind of wish I'd just gone straight to the hospital to spend as much time with my mom as possible. As I sat there, waiting for my dad to drive us up to the hospital to see her, trying to let it sink in that we were possibly just a breath or two away from losing her, I felt sick, shaky, alone, wanting to cry and scream at the same time and hating myself for not coming sooner. I felt empty of everything except this sickening fear and guilt. I think I was still in shock, and I imagine that what I felt in that moment was similar to what someone who's just experienced a natural disaster might feel—half confusion and half terror. It was all a blur, and the next thing I knew, I was at the hospital, winding my way down corridors and past room after room while trying to mentally prepare myself for the worst.

No words can adequately describe the sheer emptiness I felt, nor the pain, grief, and despair that came bubbling out of that ineffable darkness. The sadness and tears came in waves that threatened to drown me. I was buffeted by anguish, and it was felt as if some sort of cosmic sinkhole had opened up beneath me, swallowing every ounce of goodness and stability from my world. By then, she was barely conscious/cognizant, but still seemingly in a lot of pain, moaning and what almost sounded like crying at times. I think part of her knew what was happening. When they came in to tell us they recommended putting her in hospice, it felt like everything was spinning. I couldn't think straight. I couldn't talk. I couldn't do anything but hold her hand, afraid to let go, as if she'd drift away the moment I did.

They said that everything was starting to shut down — her kidney, her heart, her respiratory system — and that there wasn't much more they could do. Once my dad signed the papers, they put her on a steady drip of pain medication to help keep her comfortable. I think it was hydromorphone, also known as Dilaudid; and after they started her on it, she slept heavily, which seemed to us better than the alternative. But at the same time, I was afraid, afraid that she'd never wake up again, afraid that I'd never be able to tell her one more time how much I loved her or hear her tell me the same.

My dad and sister were equally as devastated, as was my aunt Debbie. As we all sat there, taking turns holding her hand and talking to her, we were each overwhelmed by grief. A part of me wanted to die with her. Every time I tried to talk to Annie on the phone to let her know what was happening, I broke down into tears. Words would turn into sobs. Trying to find both privacy and decent cell reception, I passed by the gift shop where only a year ago we'd gotten something for my mom when she was in for her heart surgery, and the memory was like a dagger in my heart, letting my sadness bleed out in uncontrollable spurts over the phone. Annie got a flight that night and flew in the next morning.

Tara and I spent the night at the hospital. Neither one of us wanted to leave her side. Orlando, a friend of Tara's from school, came up to visit for a while. The next day, my mom's eyes were open, though she wasn't blinking, and her breathing had become more laboured and shallow. They said, in so many words, that it was only a matter of time, hours or maybe days, but definitely soon. People came and went — her cousin Cindi, her childhood friend Carol, some of Tara's friends who had known her — but what I remember most is sitting by her side and holding her hand, telling her that I loved her and that she wasn't alone. I remember crying a lot. It was like I was stuck in a bad dream I couldn't wake up from. My dad said some really touching, heartfelt things and I wished that she could hear them. At the same time, I was angry at him for not telling me sooner how serious things were. Maybe he didn't want me to worry, or maybe he didn't fully realize it himself, but neither thought comforted me or assuaged my feelings of anger and guilt.

By this time, Annie had arrived, alternating between being a silent watcher, a fellow griever, and an angel of mercy and comfort. She took time with each of us, and seemed to always say or do the right things, having the compassion of a bodhisattva and the patiennce of a saint, enduring her own grief and the burden of ours with a strength I still marvel at. Her presence was my only refuge, the only thing that kept me sane. That night, June 27th, my mom passed away sometime after midnight with Annie, Tara, and I by her side, her hand in mine.

I can't remember who called him, either me or Tara, but we let our dad know, who'd left only an hour before to let the dog out and get some rest. He came and said his goodbyes, signed some papers, and had the chaplain on duty come to say a prayer. I wasn't enthused about the idea of some random person who didn't know us saying generic things and quoting cliche scriptural passages at such an intimate and emotional time, but I figured if it'd make my dad feel better, what's the harm? Afterwards, my dad, who was close to inconsolable, went out to talk to the chaplain alone and, while expressing his grief, also managed to share his theories about aliens seeding life on Earth and possibly being what we believe to be angels/God with him. That poor man. We left the hospital around 3am, and headed home in the somber darkness and mournful rain.

For the next few days, almost every waking moment was consumed by worry and all the funeral arrangement. All I felt like doing was crawling into a hole and crying, but bureaucracy demanded otherwise. And the whole time, I had trouble believing that she was really gone. Her presence permeated the house, and I kept half-expecting to see her sitting in the kitchen drinking coffee. It killed me every time I reminded myself... Making all the arrangements was a surreal, as well as painful, experience; and in between all the phone calls and running around, I was trying to think of something to say at her memorial, but the words refused to come. In some ways, I don't think I wanted to make it final. I eventually settled on Rudy Funeral Home in part because it doubles as a small nautical museum. My mom loved lighthouses, and I love weird things, so it seemed like the right choice. In addition, Kathy was really nice and helpful.

We decided to have my mom cremated. It was her wish, which worked out well since it was also the only thing we could really afford to do. It's extremely expensive to bury someone once you factor in the cost of preparing the body, caskets, burial plots, and all the other related fees and expenses. Cards. Flowers. Food. You also need like a hundred copies of the death certificate (usually $15 each, although you get a discount after the first couple) because everyone will want one. Annie helped out with the planning and cost more than I expected, and I don't think I could have done any of it without her. Looking back, she was like a heavenly messenger, guiding us all through the darkest days of our lives with perfect love, compassion, and patience.

The memorial service itself, which we scheduled for July 1st (inadvertently falling on the full moon), turned out really nice. A lot of people showed up, many that I didn't even expect. Tracey helped pick out the main flower arrangements and paid for them, a pair of garden-variety flowers, one with 'mom' and one with 'beloved wife' on the ribbons, which were lovely. Annie's parents sent roses that were equally as lovely, and a few others sent arrangements as well, including the video game club Tara was the president of at Macomb Community College. We chose a picture of my mom from 1975 to display next to the urn. It was one of her favourites. She was young and beautiful and I know that that's how she'd like people to remember her. Like my dad said, it was more about celebrating her life than memorializing her passing.

It was a solemn occasion, but the day wasn't without humour. My dad's sisters mistook my friend Chris, who can't speak well due to a stroke, for me, and told him they were sorry for his loss while I was standing nearby. I just smiled, declining to correct the error, happy for the temporary respite from the obligatory stream of condolences. Kathy got a semi-retired Catholic priest, Fr. Dennis Nowinski, to lead the service. He was nice and soft-spoken, with a good sense of humour. The service was a lot like daily mass, with prayers, a couple of scriptural readings, and a short homily. The only thing missing was communion. It was a little awkward, though, since most of the people there weren't Catholic or even necessarily religious; but I think he did a good job nonetheless.

My dad, Tara, and I, along with my mom's cousin Cindi, Mrs. Sylvester, one of Tara's teachers from middle school, and Barbara, a long-time friend of my mom's, all got up to say something about her. My dad went first, and was surprisingly eloquent, if a bit long-winded. Next up was Cindi. Between the two, they said everything I'd planned on saying, although I did my best to follow them without being too repetitive. I talked about how my mom was our rock, an extraordinary source of comfort and strength who was always there for us, whether we needed advice or a shoulder to cry on or someone to bail us out of jail (definitely not one of my finer moments). I talked about how the Finnish word sisu (a stubborn kind of courage, strength, and resilience that characterizes the spirit of the Finnish people) summed her up perfectly, how her life was an example of sisu, and how she did her best to instill that quality in all of us. And I talked about how, now that she's gone, it's our turn to follow her example and be rocks for one another as much as possible, regardless of whatever else life decides to throw at us.

It's been almost two weeks now since she passed away, yet I still don't feel like I've had the time or space to let it all sink in, to really grieve or whatever it is that you're supposed to do. Instead, I feel numb, empty, and it kind of scares me. Then again, I've often had trouble expressing my emotions. Everything tends to get bottled up inside, like a pressure cooker, until it eventually explodes in a violent eruption of tears and anguish and self-loathing. It's the way I've always been. Thankfully, some of it came out at the hospital. But the moment she died, it became all about my dad, my sister, and the funeral. Once that was over, though, I was left feeling hollow.

I'm trying to go on with life as usual, taking things one day at a time, but it's not quite working. I can go through all the motions OK, but everything feels different, less real or fun or important. I'm just kind of sad all the time and doing my best to distract myself from the emotional void that's growing inside of me. On top of all that, the world seems even crazier and more absurd to me than before; and the people I find myself increasingly relating to the most are the religious hermits who turn their backs on the world because the world has turn its back on itself. The only thing that's helped to fill the void, the only thing that's helped to heal the hurt and pierce the numbness, has been the love and support of others.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

some tentative thoughts on mad max: fury road

Just saw Mad Max: Fury Road and still processing what I think about it. For starters, it lives up to its name. It's non-stop action from the word go, most of it taking place in, or on, nitrous-fueled hot-rods of terror in a bleak, repressive, post-apocalyptic world of scarcity and barbarism (likely the result of nuclear holocaust and/or environmental degradation due to 'end-stage' capitalism). But in this action-packed world, it's the class and social issues that really take centre stage.

The main plot involves the escape of five women from the Citadel, the base camp of a group of brutal, war-worshiping neo-Vikings. The women are part of Immortan Joe's harem, the leader of this wasteland stronghold. Through a cult of personality and control over a seemingly abundant source of water, Immortan Joe controls the people. And in this male-dominated world where women are mostly treated as property and 'breeders' (except for Furiosa for some inexplicable reason), death in battle in the service of Immortan Joe guarantees a place in Valhalla.

In A History of God, Karen Armstrong argues that religion is in many respects something we create for ourselves, and for it to survive, to be useful, it must be practical. In this twisted world, however, the faith of Immortan Joe's War Boys is one of war, violence, and slavish devotion to the state and an ideal, both personified in Immortan Joe, who holds the means of their material reproduction (natural resources) and their spiritual salvation in the palm of his hands. It's a faith not unlike that of today's Jihadist suicide bombers or the bushido of Japanese soldiers during WWII.

But just as Armstrong demonstrates that, when one idea of God is no longer tenable or useful, it fades away to be replaced by one that does, a reformation/new ideology emerges due to the struggles of a band of unlikely and, initially unwilling, revolutionaries. Through their struggle, they not only take on and defeat patriarchy, but a ruling class that accumulates and hordes resources while the masses survive on the scraps thrown to them from above.

One of the things that I liked about this movie is that Furiosa, not Max, is the main protagonist. She's the real star of the show; and her mission, to free these enslaved women and bring them to the safety of the "Green Place," her childhood home, is the main focus of the story. In that sense, I think, this can be seen a feminist movie: it's the story of one woman trying to free other women from the oppression of patriarchy; and Max, rather than being the hero, is merely one of two reluctant male allies swept up in that struggle.

That doesn't mean the movie is without its flaws. Max's character is flat, as is Tom Hardy's acting. There are huge plot holes and unanswered questions (e.g., how did Furiosa get to be one of Immortan Joe's lead general in the first place?), not to mention cliches, throughout. And the five wives of Immortan Joe are thin and scantily clad, catering to the 'male gaze' no doubt. But I find it encouraging in that such a message found its way into an action-packed blockbuster, the stronghold of cinematic male chauvinism. In some ways, I see it as a more action-packed version of Margaret Atwood's A Handmaid's Tale.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

rape is a tired trope that needs to be put to rest

After last Sunday's episode of Game of Thrones, the New York Times asks, "'Game of Thrones' fans: How do you feel about the show's depictions of sexual violence?" That's a good question; one I think needs asking.

I'm to the point where I can't stomach any rape scene, regardless of the context. I've seen arguments recently re: Game of Thrones, however, that lament the rape scenes but don't seem to take issue with the vast amount of other forms of violence, from murder and mutilation to psychological abuse, which I find somewhat disturbing for a number of reasons.

My issue with one-sided arguments aside, as a quasi-period piece (loosely based on the War of the Roses), Game of Thrones mixes fiction and historical realism, and from that point of view, sexual violence isn't out of the norm. Our history isn't necessarily a pretty one. But the continued and often graphic inclusion of, and in some cases focus on, rape bothers me. Why do we have to continually have movies, music, literature, etc. that vividly perpetuate this form of violence, especially against women? Is it needed? More importantly, is it wanted? I certainly don't think so.

An argument can be made that, at least in the past when they first started showing rape scenes on TV, it was bringing to light an issue that existed was but never talked about. As one person put it:

[Rape] was basically an unreported crime because women were afraid of being branded as unfaithful and 'encouraging' it. Sexism in action. The women that did, and stuck through the criminal litigation were often deemed encouraging and proved the scared women right. In the 70's, Elizabeth Montgomery made a 'made for TV' movie about a housewife who was raped twice by the same attacker and the struggle that she went through to prosecute the man. Those scenes had a 'purpose.' It also brought awareness to the general populous that rape really existed and was a problem for 'nice women.'

Fair point. But I don't think that's the case today; and I question whether there's a need, or even a good reason, for the prevalence of sexual violence against women in pop culture. I also question whether there's an actual demand for it from consumers or if it's being gratuitously dumped on us from above by execs, writers, etc. (most of them male, I'd hazard to guess). They say sex sells, but even if that's true, rape ≠ sex. It's a violation, an act of domination and control that's often meant to hurt and instill fear as much as give the offender (and us 'voyeurs') pleasure.

We don't have to pretend like it doesn't exist, but we don't have to make it an intrinsic part of our pop-culture, either. This, of course, naturally brings up the issue of censorship. People really seem to hate the idea of censorship, but they also seem to fail to realize that things are censored and edited all the time, either directly through editors or indirectly through public opinion. Editors edit articles and books. Studios change movie endings if they don't test well. And even in our own lives, we censor others. Parents censor their kids. Partners censor one another. The list goes on.

In this case, I'm not simply arguing that we need to censor Game of Thrones, but I'm strongly suggesting to all those who wonder why so many people are complaining about these rape scenes and the prevalence of rape scenes in general that they don't have to include such graphic scenes of sexual violence; and they certainly don't have to try to talk their way out of by saying things like 'it's sort of consensual' (i.e., the scene with Jaime and Cersei). You can criticize rape, patriarchy, or whatever without graphically depicting rapes and/or trying to eroticize sexual violence against women.

It seems like more and more people are starting to say, "Hey, I'm getting tired of this. Just stop already, please"; and it's my hope that writers, producers, musicians, etc. will start to listen. I think it's high time we all start to say fuck rape, fuck rape culture, and fuck the perpetuation, even 'artistically,' of sexual violence.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

colour me impressed, pope

While I'm skeptical a two-state solution is viable given the history and logic of settler states, I'll admit to being pleasantly surprised by the news that the Vatican is expected to officially recognize Palestinian statehood soon. At the very least, Palestinians are being put back in the spotlight in an arguably positive way, and their cause given further international support with this announcement—a good thing, in my opinion.

On a related note, I also read that the Pope helped facilitate the US-Cuba deal, which may allow US researchers access to a potentially-effective lung cancer vaccine developed at the Cuban Center for Molecular Immunology, as well as offered this gem to a group of students, parents, and teachers recently: “When we see that everything revolves around money — the economic system revolves around money and not around the person, men and women, but money — so much is sacrificed and war is waged in order to defend the money.” Colour me impressed.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

god doesn't have to be a 4-letter word

Just finished reading Karen Armstrong's A History of God, which goes well with this article I think. In it, Armstrong explores the history of "God" — a word that we come to discover packs a lot more meaning than simply some celestial Big Brother in the sky — particularly how ideas about God have evolved in the three main monotheistic religions throughout the centuries, and how those ideas have influenced religion, art, science, philosophy, and culture in a dialectical way.

Throughout the book, Armstrong routinely steers away from God as an objective reality or being, focusing instead on the role of God as a subjective experience in our collective lives, the product of the creative imagination, much like music, poetry, and art. From her point of view, God, or spirituality in general, gives expression to certain ideas, feelings, and experiences that we all tend to have, and it's likely not a coincidence that, "When people try to find an ultimate meaning and value in human life, their minds seem to go in a certain direction. They have not been coerced to do this; it is something that seems natural to humanity" (394).

She continually stresses the symbolic nature of these ideas, however, since the full reality of the absolute can't be put into words, stressing again and again that they become dangerous when taken too literally and clung to in a fundamentalistic way. Religion is always at its best when this is understood. Our ideas about God, the universe, or anything else for that matter, constantly grow and change, which in turn revolutionizes the way we perceive and interact with the world and one another. She demonstrates that, when one idea of God is no longer tenable or useful, it fades away to be replaced by one that does, illustrating an evolution of consciousness as we expand our understanding of the world and ourselves.

One idea I found especially interesting is that, since the philosophical death of God that's come about in the last couple hundred years, there's been nothing to take its place, leaving a void in our psyches. Armstrong suggests that we create a faith for ourselves to cultivate our sense of the wonder and ineffable significance of life, but "the aimlessness, alienation, anomie and violence that characterize so much of modern life" seem to indicate that that's no longer the case (397-8). We need to create a new focus of meaning, however, not fall back onto fundamentalism, apocalypticism, and 'instant' charismatic forms of religiosity that are currently prevalent in the US and other parts of the world.

Although I know there are many who'd strongly disagree with me on this, I'm inclined to side with Armstrong's assessment. While I think it's important to try and liberate society from its suffering and alienation by changing the material conditions that support it, which includes building on our scientific understanding of the world, I also think there's a spiritual dimension that needs to be addressed. Religion, then, isn't just some kind of spiritual painkiller; it can also be part of the cure.

Friday, May 1, 2015

may day 2015

May Day has been an important day to me ever since participating in my first May Day rally back in 2009, an experience that truly helped to ignite the sparks of my political consciousness. It's a day that unifies the struggles and celebrates the victories of all working people, as well as highlighting the specific struggles of those who are victims of additional forms of discrimination and oppression within our socio-economic system, e.g., immigrants, people of colour, women, the LGBT community, low-wage workers, etc.

I met up with my friend Molly at PSU around 3pm, and together we walked to the South Park blocks to join the May Day rally. I ran into a number of people I knew, including my friend Joe, activist extraordinaire Cameron Whitten, Rebecca, one of my co-workers, and AFSCME Council 75 president, Jeff Klatke. While we were milling about and listening to the speakers, Molly, who volunteers with VOZ, a workers' rights education centre, had me write a short letter to the city council encouraging the allocation of much needed funds for local Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs in Portland.

At about 4:30pm, the march began with the addition of hundred from the Don't Shoot PDX that began at PSU, and we set off towards our first stop, the Justice Centre. We stopped there for a long time, and there were a number of speakers, although I was too far away to hear what they were saying. I'm sure that immigration issues and the death of Freddie Gray were at the forefront. From there, we set off again, but there seemed to be some confusion as the throng of protesters decided which way to go. As it turns out, a smaller group was trying, and eventually succeeding, to divert the march away from its planned route.

When I realized what was happening, I followed the lead of those who wanted to blaze their own trail through the city, disrupting traffic, including Max lines, because I saw it as a powerful message — that the city is our city; that our strength is in our numbers and our solidarity; that these issues are important and people need to take notice; that we, the working people of the world, have the power to shut shit down in simple yet powerful acts of defiance — the rationale being that the inconvenience to a few commuters for one day pales in comparison to things like the struggles of immigrants or the lives of people of colour (as well as the homeless and mentally ill) routinely taken away by law enforcement. A popular chant was, "All night, all day, shut it down for Freddie Gray!" A black lady on one of the stopped buses was hanging out the door, high-fiving passing marchers.

The march eventually made its way towards the Burnside Bridge, with many of a mind to take the bridge. The police were ready, however, and lined up in the protesters' way while firetrucks were used as blockades. Most of the protesters held back and watched, unwilling to challenge the line of police. Riot cops quickly converged and used pepper spray on a small group that may have tried to break through. I was near the front right, and I saw the riot cops charge in and spray some of the marchers, which sent others running, but couldn't quite see what, if anything, instigated it. I did see a group wearing ski masks near the front, though, who may have played a role in that.

I retreated into a bar to use the restroom and down a quick shot of whiskey before returning and finding Molly. I saw one of the protesters, a young girl, having her eyes flushed with water, a victim of the pepper spray. After a somewhat tense and lengthy standoff, marchers started heading north, making their way to Naito Parkway and up Morrison before finally converging in front of the Wells Fargo across from Pioneer Square. On the way, I ran into Hyung, a local high school teacher, activist, and all-around incredible person, who was unhappy with the unplanned route and confrontations with police. He made a great point, which was that it not only endangered the large number of illegal immigrants participating in the march, but it'll possibly discourage them from participating in future actions and rallies.

In front of the Wells Fargo, a frequent target of ire during May Day protests, a group led chants and songs blasting the lack of justice for people of colour and the need to fight social and economic inequality. I ran into my union local's VP, and we chatted a bit before both he and Molly left as things seemed to be dying down. I stuck around as a separate group of marchers converged on Pioneer Square, joining up with ours. I left a little before police used flash grenades on protesters to, in the words of @PortlandPolice on Twitter, "allow police to safely withdraw from violent #MayDayPDX crowd."

In many ways, I think this May Day was a success. There was a great turnout, a lot of support from passersby and people stuck in traffic, and I think that it was a much-needed outlet for the frustrations of many, particularly people of colour. But because of several encounters with police and the inconvenience it caused some people, it may potentially scare away immigrants and others from future protests because they may feel unsafe, not to mention that it'll almost certainly generate a fair amount of negative press and sentiment among those who fail to understand why worker solidarity and direct action is so important.