Kindness Generates Kindness

Column by Douglas Herman.

Exclusive to STR

“I’d love to change the world
But I don't know what to do
So I'll leave it up to you”
~ Ten Years After

Memorial Day weekend. Mixed emotions. Sunshine and flowers in bloom and flags flying everywhere. Pretty girls and propaganda on TV and more empty, patriotic slogans from those who want to stir up trouble but never served.

Seemed like summer outside while my emotions skirmished inside. Happens every Memorial Day. The Indy 500 seems to signal a road trip to old veterans like myself and the idea of running away from problems appeals to all of us. We’re old enough to remember the open road and 25 cent gas and our impending draft notices.

Before I left this weekend on a road trip, I wanted to protest. Not protest the VA, but maybe in front of the VA. The West LA branch is my VA. Not that I spend much time there. Maybe a half dozen times in 40 years and I’m always treated well. Be your own healthcare provider is my mantra, even if Big Brother offers a free but flawed health care system. But I decided to protest the Larger System we endorse so sheepishly, almost willingly, almost silently.

The system of empire sold to us rubes as a republic.

But Why Protest?

Personally, I wanted to protest for the sake of nostalgia and as a tip-of-the-hat to the Sixties. Nowadays, the only sign wavers I see are in front of the We Buy Gold stores at the ghost malls. I also wanted folks to see a nutty old guy with a sign. Not that it would make a world of difference, but maybe my tiny act of civil obedience to a higher order might be contagious. Lots of power brokers live in and around West LA. Maybe it would prick the consciences of bigger pricks passing in their expensive cars. So I decided to stick closer to the West LA VA on Wilshire.

I made four signs and taped pairs together. I also enlisted/drafted a beautiful actress/model friend to hold one sign. If you have an eye-catching sign AND an eye-catching sign holder, so much the better. Sadly, she balked at the suggestion of protesting in a bikini and heels.

Talented, funny and smart, Tasha Dixon is a former Miss Arizona. She auditioned for a part in a feature film I directed called “Caution to the Wind.” The movie was going nowhere fast; currently spinning its wheels at the Cannes Film Market in France. Tasha also looked good in a short reality TV pilot we pitched to Discovery, called “Great Ghost Towns of the Old West.”

Tasha agreed to this latest escapade, this latest delusion of grandeur of mine. To hold a sign on a busy Santa Monica street that said: Kindness Generates Kindness,” translated from the Brazilian Portuguese expression, “Gentileza Gera Gentileza.”

We decided to move our protest into the residential heart of the TV and motion picture industry. I held a sign that said “22 Veteran Suicides Each Day: Blessed are the Peacemakers.” Lots of silent gawkers along trendy Montana Avenue for the old geezer. Lots of smiles and admiring stares for Tasha, standing in front of the historic Aero Theater. Lots of quizzical folks probably thinking this was just another crazy scene for a movie.

Freedom Riders? Not by a long shot, no pun intended. Sometimes, though, even a laptop activist needs to step away from the laptop and get into the street. Snarky remarks make us feel good on the Internet, as we strive to outdo each other for up arrows on some blog. Certainly the community of blog posters on Zero Hedge or Kitco or SHTFPlan offer sane advice in an insane world: Get prepped. Don’t feed the Beast. Reject the false Red/Blue agitprop. But sometimes we just need to get outdoors.

Street theater, you say? Perhaps our meager protest caused the tiniest ripple to stir. The softest droplet of water wears away the hardest stone, if repeated over and over. Lots of industry people come and go from Peet’s Coffee on 14th and Montana in Santa Monica. Hollywood heavyweights and nobodies like myself. Maybe, just maybe, a Cameron, Spielberg or Eastwood might get an idea.

On The Road Again

The following week I relocated to Mesa, Arizona, roughly 400 miles to the east. I stuffed my few possessions into my ancient Toyota. I could still see my protest signs where I tossed them in the back seat. So I decided: Why not display one of them to passing motorists?

I could have put the 22 Veteran Suicides sign in the back window. However, the Kindness Generates Kindness seemed a better choice for the freeway. In LA, everyone is a violent sociopath on the freeway, and I’m no exception.

Few people know that driving is a death-defying act in America. In the 1970s, almost as many motorists were killed annually in motor vehicle accidents as died in the entire Vietnam War. More than 50,000 killed annually most years. Maybe karma had something to do with car deaths during the Vietnam era. From 1964 to 1973, over half-a-million people died on American highways. Looking back, I narrowly escaped injury or death on three occasions during that time.

Riding With Ron

If you are my age (64), you may remember a popular bumper sticker: “Don’t Blame Me--I Voted For McGovern.” After the landslide victory for Nixon in 1972, and his subsequent resignation in 1973, the message was a brilliant slap in the face to the status quo. Nixon, a war criminal by any definition, had escalated the war and promised peace with honor. Kick him to the curb? Nope. Instead America voted overwhelmingly to keep Tricky Dick in power and rejected McGovern, a true candidate for peace. Exactly as happened in 2000, 2008 and 2012.

Months ago, I stuck a custom-made “Ron Paul: President 2020” sticker on my rear bumper. I made it as a sly joke. Lots of Lipstick liberals and RINOs stuck in traffic behind me in LA and Orange County got a daily reminder. Even Jon Stewart wondered why Ron got treated like a leper, not only by the media but by his own party, in 2012. I almost want to print a million copies of a “Don’t Blame Me – I Voted for Ron Paul” bumper sticker. Even better would be a sticker that said “Ron Paul 2020: Vision never goes out of Style.”

Motorists sped past me on I-10. I estimated 2,000 would pass me in the 400 miles, or about five per mile. Some waved and others honked. A few flashed the peace sign. Some tailgated for a while and then sped around. I suspected they were shooting photos or video with smartphones.

Kindness generates kindness. Our country drives too fast, smashes things up, countries and cars and lots of lives. Ron Paul was one of the few who proposed we slow down. I hoped the people who saw my sign, and the Ron Paul sticker, would reflect before speeding on.

Halfway to Phoenix, in the proverbial middle-of-nowhere, I passed a car with the trunk raised. An older woman (my age), stood with her cellphone, probably calling AAA, I thought. I drove slowly past and stared at her shredded rear tire.

Then I remembered my sign in the back window. Damn! If I didn’t stop, then WTF was I doing? I pulled onto the shoulder and walked back. Ten minutes later, I finished changing her tire. She did volunteer work in Phoenix at a senior center. Kindness may generate kindness, but it has to start somewhere.

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 136

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman enjoys exploring the occasional ghost town or spooky conspiracy and can be found wandering the back roads of America. Recently Doug finished writing, directing and producing an independent feature film, naturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA.

Comments

Glen Allport's picture

Great column, Douglas! 
Also, I loved the Ten Years After lyric -- "I'd Love to Change the World" is the only track they ever did that I really liked, despite the Marxist portion of the song's lyrics, and it's been a favorite since I first heard it. The song evokes a lot of feeling; it also has some of the best guitar work out there.
But the SLOGAN you highlight -- Kindness Generates Kindness -- and the attitude behind that slogan, is the important thing. Makes sense that there would be a Brazillian saying like that, given the warmth of their culture relative to ours. It is especially critical that kindness characterize our early lives; children born into an infancy and childhood of kindness, love, and compassion don't NEED slogans to remind them (much less to teach them, as a new idea) that kindness is important. Children hurt badly enough early on can't really hear the slogan, no matter how many times they encounter it.
I would love to see more focus and stronger emphasis on the "love" aspect of love and freedom. Love is the yin to freedom's yang, and you're among the minority of those who write in support of freedom who consistently shows that truth in your work. 
 
PS -- I just clicked your photo and saw the full-size image for the first time, with the quote from Smedley Butler. Awesome!
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Douglas Herman's picture

Thanks Glen,
   I saw that slogan all over Rio. Not until I returned did I research it.
Yeah, the Smedley Butler shirt at Monticello got a lot of stares. Hard to argue with it though.