Burroughs Adding Machine

Social justice, arts and politics, life in New York City

Making the world go round

world-money-7497271It has occurred to me lately that money does, indeed, equal power. Seems like common sense, right?

But for me, it’s been the convergence of many distinct places that I’ve noticed this privileging of money: in the irresponsible actions of mortgage companies and Wall Street bankers, of course; in the  evolution of shopping malls as the public square instead of parks and community centers; and in the decision-making processes of my undergraduates, who must (unfortunately) choose between private employment, public service, graduate education, or, literally, unemployment. That personal choice often boils down to the workforce (“Finally! A living wage!” they cry); volunteer organizations like Americorps (“I’m not making any money, but doing something good” as a palliative to their lack of choice); more higher education (“Putting off the real world”–a choice motivated, hopefully, by the desire for greater knowledge rather than fear of not finding a job), or a route afforded only to the very affluent or the very down-and-out: Unemployment. What’s a person with only four years of college to do?

This morning, I learned of the announcement of the FOX Network (that bastion of liberalism) that they wouldn’t carry President Obama’s address. At first glance, I chalked the decision up to politics as usual. Then I learned that in the past, the FOX Network had turned down the request to televise former President Bush’s address. I put two and two together: FOX has its own business interest in mind. The network is less about right or left ideology, and more about the millions of dollars they would lose in advertising revenue in exchange for the common good. For the cable network, broadcasting is less about providing some public service (e.g. information, public policy, education about our nation’s state of affairs) and more about the gains and economics of their corporation.

We need to find more opportunities for individuals to combine interest in the public good with a living wage. Even I’m not that naive to think that Americans are not driven by an individual, liberal, Capitalistic approach to life. “It’s the American way,” we say, shrugging our shoulders. Or worse: “What are we going to do, become Socialists?”, echoing fears of the 50’s Red Scare.


A Buddhist monk that I met at a temple in Bangkok. His vocation was not one of materialism, but rather enlightenment. Interesting to reflect on the ways that his nation has shaped his individual pursuit.

A Buddhist monk that I met at a temple in Bangkok. His vocation was not one of materialism, but rather enlightenment. Interesting to reflect on the ways that his nation has shaped his individual pursuit.

When I was travelling through Thailand a couple years ago, I remember being in awe at the sheer numbers of young monks on the street, carrying books and bunching their loose orange robes. So many men had chosen to commit themselves to learning, and this was awe-inspiring to me. Only later did I learn that this was part of their national agenda: many Thai men commit to sanctified religious training. It is not required, but highly encouraged.


In contrast, some nations have set a militaristic agenda: young women and men must serve the security interests of their countries. I have taught undergraduates from Israel or Korea who must interrupt their studies in the states to return to their home countries for a year of required military service.

What would the U.S. look like if we required our young people to serve one year in a religious school or the military? Public outrage, for sure (maybe even the burning of draft cards like in the 60’s). But maybe also an alternative way of thinking, a diversion from the pursuit of materialistic desires. Let me be clear, I’m not advocating for required religious or military service. However, I am asking what else is out there besides the pursuit of money?

Dr. Martin Luther King once gave an impassioned speech against the Vietnam War, asking for this shift in our nation’s priorities: “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

It is the last bit of King’s words that have always resonated for me: the ways that we, as a people, privilege “profit motives and property rights” more than people.

Filed under: economy, government, world, , , , , , , , ,

Has gay marriage turned a corner?


In yesterday’s Times, Frank Rich wrote a reasoned, “over it” commentary on the Right’s lackluster response to the marriage equality victories in Iowa and Vermont. Rich begins with a critique of NOM’s spoof-ready commercial against gay marriage, and then builds his argument to include the lack of media attention from conservative outlet Fox news and the abrupt about-face of religious leaders like Rick Warren and conservative talking head, Dr. Laura Schlesigner. 

It seems to me that the debate is shifting from “Should gay marriage be legalized?” to a larger dialogue about the separation of church and state. Beneath all the strong emotions of both the most liberal folks and the most conservative ideologues has been a resistance to disseminate the real meat of the debate: that marriage is a civil right, separate from the religious institution so narrowly focused upon.

Episcopal bishop Gene V. Robinson invoked this argument today. As did Governor Paterson in the legislation he put forth last week.

Reminds me of the recent words of Sean Penn at the Oscars, chiding the bigots who continue to rail against gay marriage. “For those who saw the signs of hatred as our cars drove in tonight,” said Penn, “I think it’s a good time for those who voted for the ban against gay marriage to sit and reflect on their great shame and their shame in their grandchildren’s eyes if they continue that support.”

Here’s his speech in case you want to view it again (it’s really moving, as is Milk screenwriter Lance Black’s acceptance speech):

Filed under: gay rights, politics, , , , , , ,

Miss California: No to Gay Marriage

Here’s one Californian who we can assume voted for discrimination in her home state.

In last night’s Miss USA Pageant, Miss California, Carrie Prejean, was asked her opinion on same-sex marriage. Needless to say, she’s not a fan.

Prejean says, “We live in a land where you can choose same-sex marriage or opposite marriage. And you know what, I think in my country, in my family, I think that I believe that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. No offence to anybody out there, but that’s how I was raised.”

What troubles me most about Miss California’s response is that she implies that we–and I believe that with “we,” she’s referring to all U.S. citizens–have the choice to marry someone of the same-sex. Unfortunately, this is not true for all U.S. citizens: only those in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, and Vermont have the choice.

In the rest of the 46 states, no “choice” for marriage is offered. And in her home state of California, marriage for same-sex couples is illegal.

Filed under: gay rights, , , , , , ,

Colbert satirizes anti-gay commercial

22348_topnews_colbert469Stephen Colbert satirizes the anti-gay marriage ad by the National Organization for Marriage. As he puts it, the ad is “like watching The 700 Club and The Weather Channel at the same time.”

One of my favorite lines from Colbert–on Iowa’s sanction of gay marriage and its domino effect to New York’s gay marriage legislation introduced by Gov. Paterson: “The same-sex chickens have come home to gentrify their roost.”

Filed under: entertainment, gay rights, iowa, , ,

Maddow: Republicans are teabagging and want you to teabag, too


Last night, whip-smart (and comedienne-in-training?) Rachel Maddow reported on the new conservative movement to teabag Washington on April 15.

Ostensibly, the goal of the GOP loyalists seems to be to rail against taxation without representation. After all, it’s been a whole ten weeks since the Democrats have been in the majority. The solution?


Teabag Obama! Teabag the White House! Teabag the liberal dems before they teabag you!

As Maddow implies, with all this “non-consensual teabagging action,” the conservatives seem to have no idea about the many meanings of the term “teabag”. Later in the segment, Ana Marie Cox of Air America Radio, asks, “Well who wouldn’t want to teabag John McCain?” and “You know, it’s gonna be teabagging 24/7 when it comes to midterm [elections].”

Enough said.

Filed under: economy, politics, , , , , ,



» "Pinays," AGNI, Spring 2016
» "Dandy," Post Road, Spring 2015
» "Wrestlers," Fifth Wednesday, Spring 2014
» "Babies," Joyland, August 2011
» "Nicolette and Maribel," BostonNow, May 2007
» "The Rice Bowl," Memorious, March 2005
» "The Rules of the Game," Screaming Monkeys: Critiques of Asian American Images (Coffee House Press, June 2003)
» "Deaf Mute," Growing Up Filipino (Philippine American Literary House, April 2003)
» "Good Men ," Genre, April 2003
» "The Foley Artist," Drunken Boat, April 2002
» "Squatters," Take Out: Queer Writing from Asian Pacific America (Asian Am. Writers' Workshop, 2001)
» "Deaf Mute," The North American Review, Jan 2001
» "The First Lady of Our Filipino Nation," The Boston Phoenix, 1999
» "Paper Route," Flyway Literary Review, 1996
» "Brainy Smurf and the Council Bluffs Pride Parade," Generation Q (Alyson, 1996)
April 2009


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Ricco Villanueva Siasoco is a Manhattan-based writer and non-profit manager. More

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