essay

“Do Not Resist” – a movie about the militarization of our police force

As I write this the outcome of the election is unknown. Many people will be happy; many people will be upset. The fact that our country could be so divided has brought about a police force that is now being gifted with weapons of war that are no longer being used in the mid-east.

For some reason, Homeland Security has disposition over stockpiled weapons/vehicles of war and is gifting local police forces and SWAT teams. Local police will be able to crush armed insurgency. Isn’t that nice? They won’t wear body cameras, but they will drive tank like vehicles to the scene of a domestic dispute?

In Concord, New Hampshire, a town of 42, 900 people, city councilors actually voted in favor of receiving a 20-ton military vehicle which is a cross between a humvee and a tank as a “gift” from the Department of Homeland Security. That will come in handy when angry citizens take to the street to express their first amendment rights to protest actions by government that they don’t agree with, like police executing young black men.

This gift is a giant war machine that cost the taxpayers of our country $250,000. To call it a “gift” is misleading. Our police are becoming militarized SWAT teams with weapons of war that put the honest citizens of our country under the boot heel of a standing army.

There was never supposed be a standing army in America. A film just being released, Do Not Resist, will be playing at the Museum of Fine Arts from November 3rd through November 26th. . It shows miles of these weapons of war up for grabs by our local police departments. These vehicles are called MRAP’s, which means Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.

These vehicles can spin around town, piloted by the same police forces that refuse to wear body cameras, with weapons designed to blow away heavily armed insurgents thousands of miles away. Is this frightening you? It should scare you silly. Go to see Do Not Resist, and when you see these vehicles, you’ll know that the Constitution is being violated, as it forbids a standing army on our lands.

Dave Grossman, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel, is holding classes with police departments across the country, telling them to be aggressive with the “enemy.” The “enemy” is us, folks: the citizens of the United States.

In one town the police raided a house that was called “terrorist based”. The people who lived there were a family of color who had a son in his early 20’s who worked as a landscaper. The police came in, viciously wrecked the house, and the only “crime” that was evident, after the fact, was less than a gram of marijuana.

In good faith, the son gave the police $876 that his boss had given him to buy a few lawn mowers and asked them to give the money to his boss so he wouldn’t get in trouble and lose his job.

The police, instead, confiscated the $876 as drug money. It would cost the family much more than that in lawyer fees to get the money back.

These machines, the MRAP’s, are not supposed to be used for riot suppression in the United States. But they made an appearance in Ferguson, MO, where they were used against the people who protested police brutality.

When Dave Grossman lectures the police about the joys of using these weapons, he tells police that “after a tense, “successful” raid you will go home and have the best sex of your lives.”

Grossman also tells the police that after a “successful” raid, they should pull the MRAP up onto an overpass that looks over the city that they “police” and picture themselves standing there with the capes of superheroes blowing in the wind. That makes me sick.

The documentaryDo Not Resist has won the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival Award for Documentary of the Year.

The Most Frightening Election of My Life

When George W. Bush was running for President, it was scary. I couldn’t think of a worse outcome than having George W. become President. Yet I find it even harder to believe that a man as unstable, dishonest and dangerous as Donald Trump is actually being considered to lead our nation at this crucial time. Donald Trump makes George W. seem like a gem. I’m not saying that Dubya isn’t flawed—I’m saying that Donald Trump—a misogynist, a liar, an arrogant bully—is the worst leader we could ever have for President.

Trump is a racist, a fascist, and his goal is to “destabilize” the election by having his supporters act as “deputized” but amateur poll monitors. The people of our nation, even with all its imperfections, need to really consider whether they want a man at the helm who cares nothing for the country but slavers at the power of the Presidency.

It frightens me to think about what this arrogant man will do if he becomes President. When I watch the antics of Donald Trump, I see Mussolini, Hitler and other maniacal leaders that almost brought the world to the brink of destruction.

When Trump claims that the election is “rigged” against him, he is playing to the worst of the worst of his blind followers, who have already shown that they do not care if laws are broken—as long as it’s okay with Trump.

Trump is destroying America’s political norms by claiming that there is a giant conspiracy between the media and the Democratic Party to elect Hillary by massive fraud. What is worse, Trump’s blind believers follow in lock-step behind his statements, reminding me of Hitler’s Brown Shirts.

I can’t think of anything more ridiculous than building a giant wall between the United States and Mexico. Will this be the new Berlin Wall? Trump appeals to the worst in people—people who want to change the country for the better but are blinded to the fact that Trump is a destroyer, not a builder.
Even worse, just think of the type of person a maniac like Trump will nominate for the Supreme Court of our land. Our next President will probably get to choose more than one Justice for the Supreme Court.

Donald Trump does not want to be the President of the United States—he wants to be the Ruler of the United States and we all stand to watch our country’s values shattered by this political upstart.

This is the first time any presidential candidate has ever complained about the system being “rigged” before the election has even taken place. It’s almost impossible to rig a national election because the system itself is so de-centralized that it would be too complex to rig a Presidential election in America.

Donald Trump is crying “poor loser” before the fact—which shows a total lack of character on his part. This is not a man who should sit in the office where “the buck stops.” If Trump loses, and I, for one, hope he loses, it will be because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

Trump will have no one to blame but himself. Maybe he’ll lose because of his expressed racism. Quite possibly he’ll lose the election because of his misogyny. Maybe Trump will lose the election because he’s been caught in too many lies.

Just recently Trump met with the President of Mexico and they discussed a few things, one of them being the wall that Donald Trump wants Mexico to build. After the chat, while being interviewed back in the United States, Trump said that the matter of the “wall” never came up.

The President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, when asked, said that the wall was mentioned and he said Mexico would not pay for the wall. So, already, in an international meeting, Donald Trump did not speak the truth.

For the most part, the United States is working towards becoming a free country. It will be a shame if a man with the nature of Donald Trump steps into the highest office of the land and starts to turn the clock of our country back into a place where racism, misogyny, and bigotry reign.

Donald Trump’s instability is extremely dangerous when I think his finger will be so close to the nuclear button. He is not fit, in my opinion, to be President of our country.

If you’ve read this far and are ready to rip my head off, that’s okay. Just don’t forget to vote. I’d rather see you vote for someone I dislike than not vote at all. That’s what makes this country great.

The Birth of Ar Lain Ta | a Tale of the Troll: Junkies, Angels & Demons


Everyone gets to pay the gatekeeper. In the end we pay with the only currency that we own. The gatekeeper’s desires are simple. All he wants is all we’ve got.

They call me the Troll. I’m a gatekeeper of sorts and I have my own kingdom. Of course, I have to follow the rules too. He’s always watching me. He watches me through the eyes of the junkies that live here. Who’s he? I’ll get to that.

That’s why I treat everyone the same here in the last dope house on the block. No one gets here without paying the high price. Every one of us has opted out of the world as most of us know it.

Have you ever woken up in the morning at first light, heard the birds chirping and then cursed the sun for burning you out of slumber? Have you ever stumbled to the bathroom looking for the wake-up shot that you hoped was still there, knowing full well that at 3 in the morning you had used it because the dreams in your head had grown sharp with yellow teeth that were ripping away the pieces of what was left of your soul? Have you ever come to in the dark alley between mortar and bricks, behind the dumpster, where you had hidden to protect yourself from the young boys out wilding?

No, maybe you wake up scratching the dead skin on your face cursing the job that you must go to everyday where your essence spills out into the ether as you wait on customer after customer. “And what would you like in your coffee, sir? Who’s next? Just jerk the handle, I’m dying, sir. I could use a drink myself.”

Or maybe you sit in a cubicle, one of many in a giant row of them, staring into a computer screen tabulating figure after figure, maybe checking zip codes hour after hour, pressure building up in your bladder, but “oh my god, I can’t go yet, there’s still so much to do and they never stop coming in. I hope I pass that urinalysis, I didn’t know that they’d pick me today. I don’t want to lose this job and wind up homeless.”

Quite possibly you’re a beautiful woman waking up late in the afternoon. Your body aches from running from the tables to the bar in that costume that always makes you feel like a piece of ground round served up steaming in a hog trough. The bruises where you were pinched dot your upper legs, you still smell the drink that someone threw at you because you wouldn’t give them a kiss. “Better the drink than their breath,” you think as you make your way to the bathroom to clean yourself before you are fouled by life once more. You look in the mirror and see the worry lines starting at the corners of the mouth, sparrow-prints at the eyes that are suddenly very wet and you swallow hard and splash water into your face, sobbing deep in your chest.

Just maybe you are the President of the United States waking to the news that another woman claims to know about the tattoo on your penis and you wonder how George Washington, John F. Kennedy, or even J. Edgar Hoover would have fared in this terrible time when everything is grist for the cows at the public watering trough called television? You roll over to hug your wife; she is crying. An emptiness that is full hurts between your lungs. “Maybe a war is not a bad idea,” is the thought that crosses your mind.

Hey, maybe you’re a writer like the guy in the corner there who is between stories or poems. You haven’t written a word in over two weeks and the worry stomps your mind into its own hellish nether regions. We all have them in our heads. Your mind says, “Maybe that’s it. Maybe I’ll never write again. Maybe I’ll just shoot some dope; I know a place where I can go, downtown where all the lights are bright, downtown where I can die tonight, downtown, everything’s waiting for me.”

I could go on and on and on. That’s how life is. Sooner or later we all wind up knocking on the door of the gatekeeper.

I’m a gatekeeper. My kingdom is a subterranean basement where junkies come to dream about what might have been; what should have been; what could happen if only, if only, if only. Sometimes I tell the stories and he writes them down. I’m not the only one here who tells the stories. Everyone who comes here has a story, maybe more than one. The guy in the corner, the Troll points to a bearded junkie sitting at a typewriter, he writes them down. He never tells the stories but he’s always listening and writing or typing. All it takes to shake him out of a deep nod is for someone to say, “Oh yeah, let me tell you a story about what happened to me.”

There are times, in the middle of a story, that he will stop to fix; maybe his hand has started to shake, maybe he just wants to hold off the cold and the cramps until the tale is over. His memory takes over and he’ll play catch-up while he’s listening. He may get to hear the same story a few times but each time it is a little different, depending on who’s doing the telling. It could be different even with the same teller.

He writes the stories but he always laughs and says, “I don’t really guarantee their accuracy, you know. But I don’t have to, see. No one believes a junkie.”

Call him Seth. Last name Morgan. The writer. I’m the teller but he’ll record it. He promised not to lie or change the facts and to write it just like I tell it. Junkies always make promises.

Let me tell you about another gatekeeper. The one who watches me. The one who might very well have his eyes on you. Some people call him the Dustman. Others say he is the king of the dreams that live between the waking and sleep. Still others say that he is just a man who has chosen a path of crime and that he is nothing more than a druglord. I choose not to argue with anyone’s story when it is about him. The confusion clarifies my beliefs. My beliefs? I’ll tell you this story and let you form your own.

I’ll tell you this story about his beginnings. It was told to me by a Harvard professor who comes here now and then for a bit of a rest. Forget about it. I’m not going to reveal my source. You would probably recognize the name.

In the beginning the Dustman’s only name was Ar Lain Ta.

Ar Lain Ta was a man of humble origins. His parents were farmers from the west bank of the Salween river. The terrorist, but legally sanctioned, army of Burma, known as the Tatmadaw, had driven his parents from their farm. The Tatmadaw used what they called a “Four Cuts Strategy” which meant isolating and controlling sources of food, funds, intelligence, and recruits. His father, a farmer named U Hla Pe, had been meditating and his mother had been in the fields slicing the pods of the poppies when the Tatmadaw arrived and began looting homes, gang-banging the wives and daughters of friends, and plundering animals and the croplands. Instead of surrendering to them and becoming unwilling participants in the construction of a one-hundred-mile-long railroad line from Aung Ban south to Loi Kaw in a slave labor camp where cholera, dengue fever, yaws, blackwater fever, yellow fever, amoebic dysentery, and other antagonistic life-forms constantly raided the camps, U Hla Pe chose to slip through the fields and take his pregnant wife to flee across the Salween into Mae Ark, a small Pa-O village which was controlled and protected by a benevolent lord of the opium trade named Chang Te Tzu.

Very little is known about his mother’s origins. She was named Nang Saeng Zoom, yet it is not known whether this was her given name or one that she acquired later. It is said that she loved the fields and, as she worked, she was known to talk to the plants. There were some that said she was haunted by ghosts of her ancestors.

This story about Ar Lain Ta’s mother was passed on by an old farmer in the opium den that he had retired to after his work was done. One day, when Chang Te Tzu was visiting the village he became very ill with all the symptoms of cholera. The diarrhea came on suddenly and violently and his stools were filled with filled with rice like-particles. He vomited and shat simultaneously and the muscles in his arms and legs knotted and contracted spasmodically, literally appearing to be boiling beneath his skin to all those who watched with horror. The man collapsed and virtually seemed to shrink in size within moments. Other observers said his skin turned to light parchment paper and began to rip in places.
At that moment Nang Saeng Zoom appeared and light seemed to shine from her eyes as she lifted Chang Te Tzu as if he weighed nothing and carried him quickly into her dwelling. His personal guard stood well away and did not interfere for they were afraid that they would be stricken with the strange malady that had infected their Lord. Normally they were afraid of nothing and would charge headlong into battle no matter what weapons their enemies wielded but this was something out of their realm.

Nang Saeng Zoom lit lamps, mixed potions from strange herbs that were hanging on the walls of her hut, and soon alien smells and chants mixed with the sound of moaning and the smell of feces, vomit, and death spilled into the air. At first the smells were weak and the chanting was soft, but like a rising wind, they increased in velocity and power. Suddenly they began to diminish and, within hours, the stench of hell was gone and the people nearby the hut heard the voice of Chang Te Tzu singing in harmony with the sweet soprano of Nang Saeng Zoom.

It was told, and there are no villagers that will contradict this, that in the evening Chang Te Tzu emerged from the hut of U Hla Pe with Nang Saeng Zoom on his arm and he was in such robust health that he appeared to glow. When he asked Nang Saeng Zoom what he could do for her, the only boon that she requested was that Chang Te Tzu take her son, soon to be born, and raise him with the best of educational opportunities. When Chang Te Tzu asked her how she knew that the child would be male, she laughed. He began to laugh also; he laughed so hard that his body shook and the laugh leaped from him to his men and coursed through the entire village like a titanic tide that could not be stopped.
Three days later Ar Lain Ta was born on the day when the harvest was celebrated. It was the largest harvest in the history of the village. Soon after that day U Hla Pe met with an unfortunate accident, the details of which are unknown, while working in the poppy fields. Six months later Chang Te Tzu married Nang Saeng Zoom.

To this day the people speak of the wonder and magic of the times when Chang Te Tzu ruled with Nang Saeng Zoom at his side. There were those that said that she wielded the power during this era in which Chang Te Tzu’s influence spread across the land and even reached overseas to the Americas. Of course, this is nothing but rumor and innuendo. Only the walls of their many dwellings know the truth and they are not speaking. Yet, there still remain servants from this era who might talk if they were so inclined.

However, these servants that still live now serve Ar Lain Ta, the birth son of Nang Saeng Zoom and the adopted son of Chang Te Tzu. It is said that he is everywhere at once. There are many stories told about Ar Lain Ta, the man of many names.

Some say that Ar Lain Ta speaks more than eight languages fluently. He did attend Harvard University and, it is documented, now has two post-graduate degrees: a doctorate in International Relations and a doctorate in Ethnobotany.

There are many stories about Ar Lain Ta yet there are not many people who have specific memories of meeting him. Many students say that he was like a phantom and sometimes they noticed him and sometimes they didn’t. Even the professors have different versions of their experiences with him and their stories are always subject to change.

Me, I met him in a church and I’ll never forget that day. Did I ever tell you that story? I seem to remember relating it to you once. But I feel a little sick right now.

The Troll turned in his chair and called out.

“Veronica! Veronica! I need you right now.”

Ron de Voux came bustling over, pulled two packets out of the Troll’s cracked leather bag and cleaned a syringe that lay on the great table.

“Into the kitchen,” hissed the Troll.

Veronica, as she rolled him through the door to the kitchen, glanced back at us. She gave us a great big grin that brought the dimples out on her cheeks and her pinpoint pupils appeared to spray laser beams of light before they disappeared into the candlelit back room.

Changes Over Time

Last night, that would be Monday, October 19, 2015, as my wife, Mary Esther and I, sat in the small chapel at the Weston Priory, I remembered how it was a bit over 10 years ago when the Benedictine Monks invited us up for a 5 day stay. How different it was for us then.

I was recovering from knee surgery and because my illness of addiction never forgets, even if I do forget, I relapsed with my pain pills. I was given a 30-day supply back then and my wife asked me if she could hold the pills and dispense them to me as prescribed.

Well, I was a bit cocky, and I said, “Remember, not only have I been abstinent for a lengthy period of time, but I’m a Substance Use Disorder Counselor. I think I can handle a few pain pills.”

It turned out that Mary Esther knew better and, within four days, my thirty day supply was empty and I was searching the streets for heroin, my drug of no choice, that I had been strung out on from 1964 through 1994. It was a continuous ride , the stumblebum push an opium pellet with my nose around the world ride, and because of the lengthy period of my active addiction my pleasure centers, from one synapse to another in my brain, were totally atrophied.

Many people ask why opiate addicts relapse after the drug is out of their system, knowing what they know about where the drug will take them? It’s quite simple really. The dis-ease continues onward, even though the person has kicked the physical aspect of the illness.

People who take the opiates for chronic pain are excused from this phenomenon because they get no pleasure from the drug; the opiates in their system travel to the pain centers to ease the suffering and not the pleasure centers of the brain.

I know people who take opiates for extreme chronic pain and it always amazes me that they never get high. That is because they are not “using”; they are taking medicine for a purpose. When our “esteemed” Governor Baker of Massachusetts came up with a plan to only give people a 72-hour supply of medication for the first time, it was quite clear to me that he did not understand the difference between people with chronic pain and people with the dis-ease of addiction.

With someone like me, a 72-hour supply of opiates would merely kick my addiction into overdrive and I would be on the street looking for heroin in no time. However, if I were not someone with the illness of addiction, it would be an inconvenience to bother my physician for the medicine I needed.

I also hear politicians, not health experts, talk about mandating people who overdose to 3 days of lock down with the possibility of commitment. This crazy idea could keep people from calling for help when someone overdoses. It’s a good thing that Needle Exchanges give trainings in Narcane administration to addicts so they can save their friends without the indignity of being locked up for overdosing—treating someone with the illness of addiction the same way one would treat a sex offender.

Let me retrace my steps back to our stay, ten years ago, at the Weston Priory. For 5 days my wife prayed and meditated and did research on what to do so I wouldn’t keep relapsing. We stumbled across a drug called Suboxone, a combination of Buprenorphine and Narcane, which re-activated the pleasure centers of the brain but did not get the addict high.

When we returned we searched on the Internet for a reliable pharmacologist who specialized in treating people like myself, who suffered from long-term addiction, with this psychiatric medication that mimicked the opiates in the brain but did not get the person intoxicated.

Suboxone worked. There are other aspects to Suboxone treatment, which must be followed to make it a success. This treatment must be combined with therapy and support groups to keep the person from relapsing. Also, the person with the illness of addiction must be motivated to stay abstinent.

If someone wants to get high, no matter what you do, they will. Remember, addiction is not a crime, although most countries treat it that way, with the exception of an enlightened few. When someone with the sickness is punished for it, the desire to get high increases. However, when a person with the illness is medically treated, with medication, therapy and support, they can recover.

The illness of addiction is a stubborn animal and one does not always get immediate desired results. But when persistent attempts are made to gently place the illness in remission, it takes place, no matter how hard core the person seems.

Do all people with the disease of addiction recover? Unfortunately, they don’t. Most of them, with the right treatment, not punishment, will recover. We have to realize that, like any fatal illness not placed in re-mission, death is one of the outcomes of the illness. The goal of Harm Reduction is to keep the person alive and treat them long enough so that they make a full recovery.

A full recovery is not a cure. Once an addict, always an addict. But addiction is one of the potentially fatal sicknesses that can be successfully treated.

With the disease of addiction, force almost never works. Force is punishment and most people who are prone to this illness have been punished enough, which is what makes them use opiates: to stop the self-punishment in their own psyche.

So my wonderful, patient, loving wife and I are back visiting the Weston Priory, refreshing our spiritual roots that keep me from falling back into a hell of my own creation. I take my medicine as prescribed, I go to therapy because it is good for me and I go to my support group so I can heal daily.

Spare Change News is one way of my giving back to the community, which is part of my healing. So, if you are reading this column, I want to thank you for taking part in my recovery. Also, if you or anyone you know is struggling with the illness of addiction, the good news is that there is hope. Love, treatment and never give up. Together we can do this.