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Posts Tagged ‘police behavior’


My front yard this morning after a night and morning long rain of icy-snow — daffodils in snow!

If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day, so I never have to live without you — A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh [he speaks for me now when I think of Jim whose Latin copy of this book I have in my house]

Friends,

About a month ago I wrote about an Iranian film by Ashgar Farhadi, English title, Salesman (2016); I praised it highly and urged people who wanted to begin to learn something of Iranian and Muslim culture to see it. Last week I watched another earlier film by Farhadi, A Separation (2011). It won many awards, and is a better film because it’s not shaped by a “whodunit?” format (who assaulted the wife), and there is no climactic pathetic denouement. In this case I had rented a DVD which enabled me to change the language so I could listen to the actors speaking in French and as the film went on began to pick up a good deal (as I cannot from Farsi) partly using the subtitles. Reviews more or less uniformly credited the film with presenting a portrait of a modern nation during a troubled period attempting to live under Islamic or religious law


The opening shots: the two are facing the judge, she reasoning with him …

The story is quite complicated because so much nuanced reality is brought out: we have a couple whose marriage is shot; Simin (Leila Hatami) wants to leave Iran in order that her daughter, Termeh (Sarian Farhadi) be brought up in a culture with different norms; Nader (Payman Mooadi) sees his father’s needs as primary (the old man has advanged Alzheimer’s disease). When she files for divorce and it’s not granted (her complaints are said to be trivial), she goes to live with her parents as she does not want to leave without her daughter. Nader hires Razieh (Sareh Bayat), a devout Muslim woman desperate for money to stay with his father and care for him all day; the work is arduous, she has a small daughter with her and it emerges is pregnant. He comes home in the middle of the day to find her gone, his father seeming near death tied to a bedpost to prevent him wandering out of the house, and a sum of money equivalent to her salary gone. He goes into a rage and when she returns and has no explanation, he shoves her out of the house. A little later Razieh’s sister informs Simin that Razieh has miscarried. So this is the core event about one quarter into the film. The rest is consequences.

Razieh’s husband, Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), a violent man initiates a prosecution for murder. A long series of scenes brings a number of witnesses to a judge (a teacher, neighbors, the daughter) and among other suspicions, it may be Hodjat hit Razieh, she may have gone to a gynecologist on her own (regarded as very suspicious); we learn Hodjat is vitriolically angry at his lack of a job and incensed at his wife at every turn (she never asked permission to work), and he is pressured by his family into accepting “blood” money, only to lose it when Nader asks Razieh to swear on a Quaran that she believes he caused her miscarriage. Razieh cannot get herself to tell a lie lest God punish her. Continual bickerings go on, the judge’s attitudes towards the men (Nader begs the judge not to jail him), the inflexibility of the laws, all around these people the busy streets, cars and bikes everywhere, the run-down buildings, the expensive schools (with girls kept in), everyone else seeming to be on the edge of quarreling, male shouts, women in burkas following behind men in modern clothes; little girls with covered heads following the mother. As with Salesman, these people live in these tight-knit groups, almost never apart. As with Salesman we see how human nature works its way through and is exacerbated by Muslim norms. No one is seen as criminal (in the way the man who assaults the woman in Salesman is). The film ends with similar ambiguity: it seems the old father is dead, Simin is again asking for divorce and permission to take her daughter out of the country; this time divorce is granted and Tehmen is asked which parent she chooses. She won’t speak in front of them. We see them waiting on the opposite side of a corridor with a glass wall between them. The film has come to its end.


Razieh — characteristic shot


She also stands so silently and often from the side

The characters are granted a depth of psychological reality, the circumstances fully developed sociologically and culturally; it’s superior to the American trilogy I saw in January, The Gabriels, because there is no urge towards allegory; you cannot fit what is happening into a particular political point of view. For my part since the wife was not centrally part of the action much of the time, I didn’t bond with her as her intimate self was not seen; it was Razieh who occupies the center of many scenes of around whose conduct or presence everything swirls. One is driven to enter into the mindset of this Muslim woman who herself tells as little as she can get away with.

I mean to rent his The Past next. This also a critically-acclaimed film, and it too can be listened to as a French film with subtitles. The very least one can do now is to try to understand Muslim culture in the middle east. I have read the monster who is now the US president is hiring yet another 10,000 immigration agents to prosecute the military action of ejecting 11 million people from the US, and banning as many Muslims as the law allows him to from ever entering.

I’ll mention in passing that on Saturday night I managed to drive to see at an Arlington Theater a black spiritual music rendition of Sophocles’s third Oedipus play as The Gospel at Colonnus. I say manage because when I arrived, I discovered the wrong address, a different theater had been cited, and to go I had to rush out, using my Waze software on my cell phone (programmed by a young woman at the box office) following directions half-madly (it was dark and I kept not being able to read the street names so missing turns) to reach another theater where it was playing. For similar reasons to A Separation, everyone, especially everyone of white-European heritage should see it.

I got there late (really just on time with several others rushing over) and one of the ushers actually helped me to a much better seat as I could not see from the back, and then another patron exchanged seats with me so I could have a chair with a back (I do not look young or strong, gentle reader). It’s not great, but the depth of earnest emotion and intelligence, the strong reaching out in song, the beauty and well-meaningness of the anguished lines and powerful acting (they gave it their all) should be experienced. It’s not Hamilton but surely some of the feeling of a black ensemble was so analogous. They wore typical suits one sees young black men sometimes wear, church gowns for the choir, Ismene and Antigone exotic kinds of headgear with gorgeous gowns, the preacher well preacher-clothes and Oedipus clearly blind, a heavy man, with gravitas. I feel so profoundly ashamed to be a white person living in America today and stood to applaud as my way of endorsing all of us to live as equals, equally safe together.

So much harm is planned: to deprive 24 million slowly of health care. To cut off mental health services yet more. Many more people will now kill themselves: separated from their families and friends and lives with no recourse or help; snatched out of churches, streets, for paying their taxes; isolated. At least three Muslim and/or Indian people have been shot dead by white supremacists. Bomb threats and desecration of Jewish graves and institutions occur daily. The Ku Klux Klan wants a public rally in a major town center in Georgia. LGBT people and children in public schools now going to be subject to bullying and given less funds. This is what Trump and his regime (this is no longer called an administration) want: the Syrian president directly murders, bombs, tortures people who live in the land he wants to control; this new rump are more indirect but just as unfazed, unashamed and determined. Destroy as far as they can a whole way of life. I’ve known for a long time the Republican point of view is one which disdains compassion (why Bush fils called his brand compassionate conservativism); their scorn for protest is caught up in the word whine. Joy only for the super-rich. Beneath it all hatred for people like us.

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Emma (Kate Beckinsale) painting Harriet (Samantha Morton) (1995 Emma, scripted Andrew Davies)

This has been a very stressful week. My doctor suggested to me a 10 hour trip was dangerous; consider the 8th hour of driving, consider, he said, the 9th; how easy to tire, how easy to lose your way, and then tired and anxious, it’s a risk; even a 5 hour trip on two days was something I needed to think about and plan for by being sure to have a comfortable place to stay overnight half-way. Then when I finally looked again into taking a plane, I discovered that there was one flight to and from Burlington, Vermont, on Saturday it occurred half an hour after I was to give my paper; and I had to go through Expedia to buy the tickets. And someone from the conference drive there to pick me up and deliver me back. I worry about my cats again as a contractor and his workmen may be here while I’d be gone for 4 days. I might have to board them. Still, I almost bought that ticket but was advised by the conference head as “an older sister,” maybe not. So I finished my paper, “Ekphrastic Patterns in Jane Austen,” and think it is splendid and sent it to the organizer of the Jane Austen and the Arts conference at Plattsburgh, New York. She offered to read it aloud, sparing me a difficult arduous trip.


A watercolor by Turner of Lyme Regis seen from Charmouth (as in Persuasion)

I am turning my attention to my teaching, delving the Booker Prize phenomena in the context of modern book selling. I might set aside some of my on-going projects — though I will still write a full summary review blog of an important book, Julie Carlson and Elisabeth Weber’s Speaking of Torture and feature it in my central blog as something I can do against the present deeply harm-causing regime.

I am seriously thinking of trying a new book project, even begun work on it: a literary biography of Winston Graham, author of the Poldark books and by extension, the films; and am doing preliminary reading before writing his son to see if he would be agreeable to such a project and if he would help (for example, I would need to see Graham’s letters or private papers, the life-blood of biography). I would focus in the second half on his Poldark novels, so relationship to Cornwall, and finally the films.


The lizard, full sunlit — a paratext for season 2 of the new Poldark (2016)


One of the actresses’s cloaks …. for Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson)

The man I hired as a general contractor has begun work on my house, and already the porch is at long last enclosed by four walls, and has two windows which match the other windows in front. The whole process, all that needs to be done, will take about 2-3 weeks he says. (At most?) My beloved cats have to be put away once more in Izzy’s room while he and his workmen are about.


Kedi (2017, film about hundreds of thousands of Istanbul cats, genre: post-modern historical)

So I end on another film I saw with Izzy and my friend, Phyllis, this Sunday. I liked it so much I’m going again on Thursday with another friend, Vivian: Kedi. Kedi is ostensibly a film about the thousands of cats who live on the streets of Istanbul. We are told the story of at least 20 different individual cats and/or groups of cat (mother and kittens), usually (this is important) by the person who is providing food and care and often affection. The emphasis in some stories is the cat, in others the cat-lover and why his or her deep kindness and the good feeling and love he or she receives in return. I imagine much filming was necessary to capture the cat’s lives, and real social effort to get the caring people to talk to the director and film-makers .The film tells as much about these individuals and why they have taken it upon themselves (some of them go to vets for medicine or seemingly regular check-ups) to keep these cats alive and thriving — as far as one can thrive while living on a street: most of the adult cats look thin, and the babies are tiny, feeble. It’s really about Istanbul and its culture: vast areas of the city are impoverished, people living on the edge in a modern city. Erdogan’s name everywhere. A thriving garbage culture. The sea central to the feel of the place: I remembered reading Orphan Pamuk’s wonderful book about this world of Istanbul he grew up and lives in now.

It’s a movie made out of a deeply humanitarian spirit: real compassion for those who need the cats (the cats are therapy for some), identification and pity for some of the cats’ actions (one grey cat never goes into the restaurant, just bangs on the window in his or her need, stretched body reaching as high as possible). One of the sweetest moments (for a person like me who values language) was when one of the cat-caretakers in talking of the cat says in the middle of his Turkish a word sounding much like our English meow. So to Turkish ears cats make the same sounds. We watch cats doing all sorts of things, climbing high, fighting, eating, drinking, seeking affection, seeking prey, far too high up on a building, hiding out in cardboard boxes set up for them. By the end the cats are us; they stand for our own hard and at times fulfilling existential lives. I loved the one man on the ship who said he was so grateful for his cat’s love. Another who felt some divinity in the whole experience of life with cats in Istanbul. I, my friend, and Izzy were touched, vivified; for myself I knew some moments of shared joy as I watched so that tears came to my eyes. I just felt better about life after it concluded.

Of course I told Izzy about Christopher Smart, wrongly put into an insane asylum, treated cruelly, his only companion, a cat, Jeffrey, and read aloud to Izzy the famous lines:

For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider’d God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.


One of Laura’s cats looking at her with loving eyes (very well taken care of)

Miss Drake

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From Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1990 film, scripted by Harold Pinter, featuring Natasha Richardson and Elizabeth McGovern)

Dear friends and readers,

It’s probably not a pure coincidence that a new version of Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is going to be screened on Hulu, a new computer channel which shows movies, that they have chosen this distopian tale for their first venture. I’ve read that top sellers for this week at Amazon (which by the way operates with Trump businesses, so if you want to boycott these you can at least try to find other online stores to buy your books from), as listed in the New York Times Book Review include Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. If you want genuinely to understand what we are living through, what we appear to be watching happening at its final visible phase (it’s been mostly stealth or only seen in local instances for some 40 years) — the setting up of a dictatorship, you might do better to read a serious history of the first hundred days or say six months of Hitler’s regime.

I’ve not read It Can’t Happen Here, but have read the others, probably with the mistaken impression in my mind that in fact this is a democracy, people, real individuals in the millions, believe in voting and having their votes properly counted. I have now seen how such a certainly in the mind (I thought) of every American citizen makes it hard truly to believe in the dystopia of your choice. Trollope wrote one: The Fixed Period, taking place on an island that seems coterminous with New Zealand. All people at age 67 are required to “deposit” themselves in an asylum, a year later they will be killed. (His New Zealander, first published in 1972 in an edition by N.John Hall, is a somber analysis of 19th century British political culture as he so lucidly understood it.)

The roll out of destructions by the Republican rump and their ignorant malevolent shamelessly self-centered leader has been and continues to be done piece-meal. He’s putting it together with remarkable ease. His vicious people in the powerful places. Firing the staff just below. Slowly felt contradictory vague executive orders are an attempt to divide people by when they are hard hit – all the while lying. So I have not yet personally felt anything economically critical gone. Just heart. Just. The grief is hard to characterize. This morning I tried Dance Workshop again: they have a new woman, just relentlessly cheerful. Talks about the 45 minutes as a party. I wilt under such treatment.

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Kathryn Schulz

I recommend to my reader Kathryn Schultz’s “Losing Streak,” or When Things Go Missing, in this week’s New Yorker (13, 20 February 2017): she begins with the word loss, which apparently goes back to “Old English” and means “perish;” it was in the 13th century that “lose” meant failing to win; in the 16th century we began to lose our minds (so mental distress, trouble), in the 17th century our hearts. It’s been expanding so now it includes all those hundreds of losses of things we endure over the course of our lives, from “mittens” to money, to beloved people. Now we are feeling our whole future has been stolen from us, robbed by the gerrymandering, politicization of our courts, electoral college, insane campaign against Hillary Clinton; all that we could had in improvement is now reversed and our very republic, safety from all-out war, civil and human and women’s rights about to be lost and in a way that might be irretrievable for decades and more to come. Losing a beloved, losing her father, she talks of death, not of losing friends, which has been part of my losing streak this year.

But in the meantime I’ve met an honest man! My neighbor-friend recommended as a contractor, a German man, semi-retired, and he has offered to do all I want (enclose porch, and make a fully functioning room, paint outside of house cream color, update electricity in house &c&c) for what may come out to be less than the kitchen renovation cost. It seems the demand I have the foundation dug out is a way for builders to make huge sums; the way veterinarians to clean a cat’s teeth want to put them under anesthesia and stick a tube down them (risking their lives) in order to make $500. So after all I’ll have what I’ve longed for for so many years. Too bad Jim is not here now. I’ve no one to take pleasure in it but myself. Izzy approves but it does not mean for her what it does for me. The neighbors will like this as it will help property values. I will have more space for my books 🙂 and not be ashamed any more.

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I can link the two entertainments I’ve gone to over this week to our present dystopia. I was finally able to remember the name of the woman who ran an inexpensive and sometimes innovative and intelligent repertoire company in DC: Carla Huber; her group, The In-Series, located in DC just off 14th Street, a walk along U Avenue (from the Metro). It was a show made up of songs of Irving Berlin with a narration carried on by the performers situating songs in his life, his career, the particular musical or just song cycle. The songs were chosen to reflect some characterization of a type in one of his musicals, the actors and singers people one knew would put the material across. I conquered driving there and back by car, so learned where it was, and then going there by Metro on Saturday evening. One song prompted long, strong and extended applause: a black woman singer-actress, Krislynn T. Perry, sang “Supper Time,” in a deeply moving way, belting it out. I did not know before this that it’s a song by a black woman whose husband has been lynched. Here’s Ethel Waters performing the song:

I attended the first of our Washington Area Print Group’s lectures for this spring: Deirdre Johnson discussed popular series fiction by two American women: their circumstances and what they produced are typical of the era: Adelaide F. Samuels (1845-1941) and her much more upper class sister-in-law Susan Caldwell Samuels (1846-1931). Middling educated white people with connections to publishers, especially through a father, Emanuel Smith (1816-86, zoologist, botanist, collector) and Susan’s husband, Edward Samuel (1836-1908, naturalist). The stories focus on central characters who live individualist successful lives, attached to churches, looking now and again to their family for help. Although strongly teleological, the titles tell an occasional tale of lives stranded and broken (Adrift in the World). Susan and Edward’s divorce led her to concentrate on how the power a husband has can inflict cruelty and failure on those in his charge. Adelaide had come from much poorer people and when she was widowed, with one son, she listed herself as a “writer” and attempted to live off her earnings. Her stories are less moral than Susan’s. But (what the lecturer didn’t say) all these stories are a depiction of a large (taken as a whole) ceaselessly on the move culture treating itself as ever so moral. We got to talking as a group about children’s literature, how it’s changed in the last half-century, and how in contrast to American, British books for children were a melange of fantasy and realism (e.g., The Borrowers). What American children were give was imagined communities. British children were offered an escape from local reality.

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Robert Southey’s desk in Greta Hall as drawn/painted by Caroline Bowles Southey: it’s the world as seen from her husband’s desk; he had the biggest best room in the house; not entirely unfairly as he supported himself, his nuclear family and Coleridge’s, as well as women and children attached to other romantic and dispossessed poets and writers when needed

On Trollope19thCStudies we are into Wordsworth’s Prelude and I’m reading Kenneth Johnston’s excellent The Hidden Wordsworth (it’s really a history-biography of the realities of intimate oppression in the later 18th and early 19th century in Cumberland), and I’m trying to accompany it with reading a fine woman poet’s autobiographical poem, much less well-known, Caroline Bowles Southey: The Birthday: A Life in Verse. I hope by the time we finish I can wrote my first foremother poet blog in a long time. For now, in case you’ve never heard of her (talk about the enemies of promise), here’s a brief literary biography by me:

Caroline Bowles’s years were 1786-1854 so she crosses the 18th and 19th century eras. She was born to people with money but as when her parents died her guardian absconded with the money that was to support her, she grew up very poor. She was educated (she was a genteel hanger-on in a big family and I imagine might have loved Jane Eyre and identified readily with Lucy Morris in Trollope’s Eustace Diamonds or Kirsten in Oliphant’s wonderful novel of that name). She published other books of poetry; The Birthday was originally compared with Cowper’s Task. She does write in the poetic diction of Cowper. Wordsworth’s greatness is based on his original use of a natural spoken English not seen before. At the time Wordsworth’s Prelude was hardly known. Robert Southey met, introduced her to Wordsworth, and they collaborated on a poem called Robin Hood. It never saw the light (was not completed). When Southey’s wife died, Southey married Bowles, but he was very ill by that time and his illness blighted her later life. She received a crown pension in 1854. Unhappily too she has been blamed for marrying him, blamed for somehow getting between his wife and him (she didn’t) and then her own work seen as super-influenced by him — which it wasn’t.

There’s a wonderful essay on Bowles Southey in Romanticism and Women Poets: Opening the Doors of Reception, edd. Harriet Linking and Stephen Behrendt: Kathleen Hickok, ”’Burst are the Prison Bars: Caroline Bowles Southey and the Vicissitudes of Poetic Reputation,” pp. 192-213. There has been an edition of Caroline Bowles Southey’s poetry and a biography by Virginia Blain:, Caroline Bowles Southey, 1786-1854: the Making of a Woman Writer .

“The Birthday” is a longish blank verse poem telling of the growth and development of a poet’s mind through retelling her story. It’s called “The Birthday” because it’s imagined that she begins to write it on her birthday one year. “The Birthday” gives us a woman’s version of Wordsworth’s Prelude. It’s shameful “The Birthday” is not better known. Unlike Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh as it hasn’t got a melodramatic story at its center, but a real one. In the excerpt I sent the poet goes to a filthy shop in London where she meets a laboring man who loves to read and has aspirations to write. He can’t. He can’t begin to get the books he needs (shades of Hardy’s Jude the Obscure) and hasn’t got any time to himself at all. He must work from early morning to late at night. Wordsworth refers to poor people but does not give them reality; in her Aurora Leigh, Barrett Browning gives us this melodramatic story of the seamstress in love who has a baby out of wedlock and (in the poem) deserved to be dropped. Not Caroline’s heroine, herself.

To the reading and papers I’m working on (described in previous diary entries), tonight I begin the second of my chosen books for the course I hope to teach at the OLLI at Mason, Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop (short-listed), a kind of distilled Cathy Come Home, starting late March. I’m now listening to Nadia May read aloud Virginia Woolf’s first novel, The Voyage Out: it focuses on the coming into maturity of a super-sheltered, minimally educated intelligent young woman, Rachel Vinrace. Much water imagery. This from The London Scene which I read with someone on Wwtta last week:

A group of sketches, all at most 5-7 pages or so; like much of Woolf’s work, it’s a posthumous publication carefully staggered/staged and packaged by Leonard. I have separate thinnish books of non-fiction by her and for the first time I understand how they came to be and why they are so heterogeneous. This is a late book, first published in 1975, put together by Angelica Garnett and Clive Bell, niece and brother-in-law, published nominally by Hogarth Press but really a small press hired and in a limited edition. These feel bright, seemingly cheerful excursions — the sort of thing one sees in a magazine. I say seeming because the undercurrent leads us to her The Waves. Time is doing its work across the centuries and in single hours, days, weeks, years, all is going to rot or was once (so relics, remnants)

What strikes me as I’ve finished The Waves, and begun The Voyage Out, how water (as in Shakespeare) is central to Woolf, waterways of the world, oceans, rivers, streams. While the sun controls the seeming 24 hour structure of the Waves, the imagery is watery or about stream, life as ooze. Orlando crosses time as in a reverie: Eva Figes’s greatest novella is The Seven Ages of Women. Here we have a eye going through the river recording different phase sof English history by different classes at different times – in 8 pages the eye bypasses very different ships and boats, from Liner and streamers with crowds of ordinary people on the shore, to a dingy warehouse area (very Dickensian), to left over village, with a desolate pub (note desolation), church, a cottage or house gone to ruin, trees, bells once rung here. Then barges, rubbish and Indian, next to the Tower of London, commerce, the city, factories with chimnies. On we go to indefatible cranes unloading and loading according to exquisitely understood plans by mazes of peple. (Le Carre’s Night Manager shows all this replaced by these intensely dull boring containers and very few people employed.) I have read the ships which carry these containers can be dangerous for passengers if not enough of them. Jenny Diski traveled on one in one of her books. Then the beautiful things packed, the oddities, the jewels, sports of nature – Woolf imagines all this. Now we realize if we didn’t before this is a kind dream. Then the wine-vaults: Cask after cask. Customs officers. No smuggling here: stamped out in the mid-19th century by England’s first determined army of police effort.

The phrase “use produces beauty as a bye-product” could sum up all Jane Austen on the picturesque … Then words have been invented out of all we see.I don’t understand a couple of them, nor understand why flogging is there but that sailors were once flogged to get them to do this work, flogged if they mutinied and disobeyed. (Will Trump bring flogging back; there is nothing he can do which bothers his followers or the Republicans. I am waiting for him to beat the hell out of his wife, and the tweet: “I lost it – my temper.” ) Last: all we see is the result of us, of our bodies. All the things and animals that made these products were created and used by us – Australian sheep say. And this rocking rhythm and final peroration. L’ecriture femme with the full stamp of Virginia Woolf

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From my window where I sit most of the time there has hardly been any snow: very summery days, so here to remind us of winter: Pytor Konchalovsky’s Poet’s Window (1875-1956)

I handed in a proposal for teaching at OLLI at Mason for this coming summer (how relentless is time and it’s been just about accepted:

Romancing 18th century historical fiction

Our topic will be the nature of recent post-modern post-colonial historical fiction as well as how as a genre historical romance differs from historical fiction, and what happens when the two subgenres mix. We’ll read as examples the older traditional The King’s General by Daphne DuMaurier (1946) against the recent innovative The Volcano Lover (1992) by Susan Sontag. Bringing in as part of the discussion, other popular novels set in the 18th century (from Poldark to Outlander) and 18th century historical films (from Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon to Scola’s That Night in Varennes), we’ll explore these questions: How do such books use documents and relics (e.g. houses and paintings) from an era; landscape then and now, history, biography, life-writing; biographical fiction and fantasy, to reach and recreate the irretrievable, the unknowable past, to persuade us to imagine we are in the past as presences with the author. Why do we want to do this? Why is it important for the text or film to be authentic and yet familiar? For us to bond with the characters? And be fascinated by their era?

I end on yet another woman poet-writer, 19th century, American: Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1850-1919). In Cox’s case what’s telling is she was very popular, and part of the 19th century progressive or populist socialist movement (Bernie Sanders is a rare unashamed modern representative), which has been crushed since the advent of the FBI and ceaseless repression from the 1950s on.

Protest

To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law,
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many. Speech, thank God,
No vested power in this great day and land
Can gag or throttle. Press and voice may cry
Loud disapproval of existing ills;
May criticise oppression and condemn
The lawlessness of wealth-protecting laws
That let the children and childbearers toil
To purchase ease for idle millionaires.

Therefore I do protest against the boast
Of independence in this mighty land.
Call no chain strong, which holds one rusted link.
Call no land free, that holds one fettered slave.
Until the manacled slim wrists of babes
Are loosed to toss in childish sport and glee,
Until the mother bears no burden, save
The precious one beneath her heart, until
God’s soil is rescued from the clutch of greed
And given back to labor, let no man
Call this the land of freedom.

I just thought that I’ve never focused on Scarlett Johansson’s eloquent speech at the Women’s March, on January 21st:

It is still hard and brave for most women to speak before a huge audience, and she’s telling intimate realities of her life. Elizabeth Robins’s The convert is about how hard it was for the first suffragettes to talk before a crowd. It is harder yet to be sincere.

Miss Drake

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By the Potomac on the Virginia shore, July 9th

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Oroonoko Park, facing the other way, July 9th

Dear friends and readers,

I am not sure why I keep this diary-journal up but either I carry on, or I quit. Considering these past two weeks, I am so aware that there is a boasting, possibly show-offy element in my writing up the good times I’ve had, or seeming successes, or just what I’ve enjoyed every couple of weeks, a feeling or characteristic I find is sometimes so falsifying, egoistic, and policing (of the reality of ambiguous experience) on face-book where this sort of thing goes on all the time.

Maybe not so much this last week or so: since Brexit and its aftermath (I was for Remain) and now another two clear-cut ruthless murders of black men by US police in Louisiana and Minnesota (apparently trained to shoot to kill even before any threat or wrong-doing occurs) and a retaliation in Dallas by another of these single young men, this time black and trained by the US military, to use assault weapons accurately and efficiently to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time — face-book has had less of this kind of thing; all of these popular social media have been filled with commentary on hatred and violence towards “minority” and immigrant populations in the UK and US. They’ve driven from the news the latest Trump ugliness, the results of NATO setting up military zones upon Russian borders after Russia secured the Ukraine, to say nothing of the killing fields of the middle east and the latest suicide bombings in public places around the world where large groups of people congregate.

I was thinking of presenting the way I, Izzy, and our friend, Vivian, spent a second Alexandria Birthday Party together in Oroonoko Park, out under the stars, picnicking, listening to a band play popular movie scores and a few famous military marches and symphonies, especially Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as prelude to, at 9:45 an outburst, flowering of 20 minutes of fireworks in the sky. In a large park at the edge of the town part of the city, next to the Potomac, a couple of hundred thousand people from the city show up, most of them with picnics, sitting on blankets, or lawn chairs. There are concession stands with ice-cream and pizzas, hot dog, and for free, cupcakes with icing (the “birthday cake” of Alexandria). Speeches from mayor and people like that, music and then fireworks. We parked with greater ease this year, Vivian and I tried for ice-cream (but the line was too long), Izzy wandered along the river. It was good to see this huge bunch of people, black and white intermingling (as well as Asian and Hispanic), sitting together within groups too. All peaceful, no guns. I’m not much for anthems but remarkably when the anthem begins to play, without any one policing all stand up in a group and seem to sing along. It was mostly democratic throng; they would have most of them lit up had Bernie Sanders come. We had a good time. It felt like the city had come out when we drove home as the streets were overwhelmed by cars. It took over an hour for us to drive back to where we live off Little River Turnpike, where it is usually a 10 minute drive. People were walking every where home too. All seeming cheerful.

But on the following morning I was brought up short. Each week I make an effort to shop in the morning at Giant because on weekends, an ex-student of mine, a young black woman, aged early 30s, is a cashier, and we manage to have quick but good talk together. She remembered me first (she was in my class some 13 years ago): she has a good degree, and even a masters but has to work 6 and 1/2 days a week it seems to make ends meet: she supports her mother, her child, herself, and now her coming wedding to a long-time boyfriend by 5 days in a local prison where she has an office job, and on the weekends at Giant. I told her about the fireworks in the context of quick comments about the week’s dire events: her reply was she didn’t go to, and would not take her small daughter to such large community events, stays away from this “sort of thing.” I heard her and replied, “Better safe than sorry.” I then thought a bit and realized that the number of black people at the July 9th event was much smaller proportionally than our black population. Those there were fully integrated, but they were decidedly in the minority. Hardly any Muslims. More hispanic and Asian people.

How white people do not begin to imagine what a black person’s life is in the US on a daily basis. I just know were this young woman white she’d not be working 6 and 1/2 days a week and would have a job more commensurate with her education. It is sad to think that this young woman is shut out. She knew about “the birthday party.” This keeping away has been her policy since a young girl. This is the life of an intelligent highly educated black young woman in the US

For the fourth of July I had listened to James Earl Jones reading Frederick Douglas’s “What to the slave is the fourth of July?”, listen to Howard Zinn on the “three holy wars” (showing that no war is a good war, none worth it, all started by, shaped, and in the end benefiting only the wealthy and powerful), and then the nearly 4 hour Hamlet with David Tennant as Hamlet, Patrick Stewart as Claudius, and Penny Downie as Gertrude.

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As with HD opera, and the Hollow Crown series (R2, H4, H5; H6 and R3), it made such a difference to have the actors close up; I saw what a great leap into subjectivity Shakespeare had made when he made Hamlet’s psyche the play itself, and from some Net talk with a friend realized the breaking down of stereotypes for men (so that they are vulnerable) and for women (individualistic, strong) in the Tudor Henry VIII and Elizabeth I plays is found in Shakespeare’s history and tragic plays too.

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My proposal for a paper on “Men under Pressure in Tudor plays: Overturning Gender Stereotypes,” was accurate, and maybe next summer I’ll get back to the subject as a project. Another Net friend who spent her July 4th watching the Hollow Crown, play after play, wrote me that she came to a similar argument: Hillary withstood another humiliation; strong and individualistic women then and now are punished — in these Tudor plays and Shakespeare too.

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A Bluer shade of blue; my new 2016 mini-Prius

Le pièce de rĂ©sistance: what felt like and was a bold daring act (for me): I bought another car, a second one on my own. I invented its name: mini-Prius. It’s a PriusC Type 2. I have for quite a while been dissatisfied with the hatch-backed 2010 Prius I bought so hastily in January 2014 after I totaled the 2013 grey PriusC Jim and I had bought together as a car for the two of us to use in our retirement together. The 2010 HB Prius was just too large; there is no proper back window; the right side view is utterly obscured. I never got a sense of where it ended; it rattled. The last straw was I finally hit my right fender on another car in a parking lot: I didn’t realize the damage I’d done to my fender until I got home. I had thought it a light tap. That smash on the right back side came from not seeing properly and not having a good sense of where the car ended.

I had gone to have an oil change and scheduled check-up (like one does for one’s cats) this past Friday and was told I had a $500 bill to fix the body and do other things. I said, I was thinking of buying a new small Prius and could they show me one if they had a new or used one. Within a half-hour the salesman had produced a car that was just what I wanted: I wanted the same car or as close as I could to what I had in order not to have to learn a new dashboard. It’s much smaller. I could see out the back window; I had full vision from the right back; he took off those high head rests. I have room in the front which I didn’t before. My dashboard is simpler (I actually have less gadgets). I have a gear box again. A key, a real key with the computer gadget as part of it. And it’s even more efficient on gas than was the 2010. $14,600 after I traded in my 2010. This new one lacks a GPS system, but then so did the 2010, and today I bought myself a new garmin as the old one has been failing. I’m much more comfortable driving it. I’ll grow to have a sense of where it ends. Calm. It’s as close to the compact Chevy Cavalier I had for 20 years.

I did make a fool out of myself by falling for another $400 (!) sealing-in of my car’s color: I was told some malarky story about how water-based paint will fade, insects and leaves will get struck, the rain is acidic and I will just have to have it waxed once a month, and this wonderful sealing will do the trick. I know how I begin to panic when I am inside the machine car washes and waxes inside my car. I did it once and never will again. But as the salesman phoned for the mechanic to do this in another part of the store, I realized how silly this was perhaps, I’d been had, but it was too late. However I resisted all other add-ons and proposals.

There is a larger context, another final impulse. It is now difficult (time-consuming and awkward) to get into DCby train. If there is to be no Metro for however long I will have to drive into DC, and this past Saturday I was stopped by a police officer for a traffic violation in an encounter that resembled Sandra Bland’s except there was no escalation into violence. On the contrary, the police officer gradually became polite. Still it was scary (read about it here). So I need a car I feel comfortable in and can feel safe from police because I can drive it calmly. It’s not my old Chevy Cavalier but it may be the closest thing I could get in a modern car.

You might say these are successes but this time I am providing a genuine larger social context.

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ClaryCat waiting inside

My last not very significant adventure has a context too. I lost the key to my house for the first time ever in 33 years of living here. The context here is I hadn’t taken measures to provide for someone having a key to let me in now that Jim is not here. I have vague memories of having to phone him for help like this; it might have been I was locked out for some other reason. As I told the two women I was having lunch with before going home that day, I remember at no time when Jim was not traveling (and he traveled very rarely as most of the time he didn’t care for it) that he was unavailable to help me. He would leave meetings: I could phone him and he’d pick up; I could drive to wherever he was and he’d come out. He’d drive to me if necessary, drop everything. I suppose my not sleeping deeply or more than 4 hours at a stretch because I didn’t feel I needed to as he was doing that sleeping for me, and if I grew tired or needed a nap, he’d be there was an analogous stance. We were utterly intertwined, our existences functioning as part of a pair.

What happened was I left my house to go to teach, and as I climbed into my car, I felt my house and car key entangled and disentangled them. I thought I put the house key onto the dashboard and then used the car key, but as I drove away and looked I saw the house key was not there. Panic and upset driving to teaching. I told myself I dropped the house key on the car park. Still I was somewhat distracted while teaching, and then the anxiety and worry grew during the lunch so driving home I found myself going faster and faster so as to get the experience over with when I arrived. I get there and no house key on the car park.

Suffice to say I broke in. I knew what window was openable and climbed in over the piano. The cats were startled. I remembered a time years ago when pregnant with Izzy, I locked myself and Laura (with me at the time) out of my car. I didn’t phone a locksmith or police. I went over to a nearby cleaner’s when I was able to push one of my driver’s side windows slightly askew. I took a hanger and made a tiny circle and after about an hour’s effort had opened the car by myself. That key was on the dashboard.

But it was upsetting. Later that day I had two more sets of keys made, and now my friend, Phyllis, has one and I can call her if I lock myself out. I put the third in my car permanently.

On the house: I finally saw my contractor and went with him to buy a new front and back door, and screen, and found him to be an honest decent man, I am now looking forward to a decently priced renovation of my kitchen, new front and back doors, a smoke detector system, two of the doors in the house removed, the other five painted (they are a mess). By August he’ll have painted the kitchen, I’ll have new cabinets I can reach, a new sink and working faucet, and a newly painted room.

I’ve a hunch I’ll be satisfied with the price and ask him to enclose the screen porch and make a modest room which is usable. The early years we used the porch for when it was super-hot and we didn’t have central air-conditioning: we ate on that porch (scandalizing the neighborhood), but since we have had central air, it’s a lost space. I feel a bit absurd as there is only me to use the room and maybe Izzy. But I have wanted to enclose it for some 20 years: it gets so filthy, the screens tear, the cement slab gritty and soaked. With a floor, walls, heat, electricity, it could be another small area for an exercise machine. A radio. More bookcases. A small TV or computer screen. Maybe I’ll put a large window facing out.

I will also at long last have the house painted a sensible color. I will remove the mortification of living in this light blue house. I’ve lived with this color (it has faded somewhat in 23 years) since 1993 when the contractor refused to do blended colors and when I saw the color, Laura made fun of it, and Jim said we’d spent the money. To try to get rid of the paint often made things worse, he said. Another $5000 thrown out. My choice will be a cream color that one of the contractors I’ve hired over the years to renew said porch painted the brick wall that separates the house from the porch. I will be sure to write into a contract, blended color.

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Izzy, a photo taken on the morning before she holidayed briefly in NYC

The degradation, danger and failure of the Metro system prompted Izzy to take off the first three days we lost a major connective piece of our yellow and blue lines here in Virginia. She stayed at the Larchmont where the air-conditioning was discovered not to be adequate for the heat the city was having. But she found that the cafe on the corner that I liked so did have scrumptious breakfasts, and she enjoyed her three hectic days in NYC: Tuesday night when she arrived, all day Wednesday and Thursday.

Here are her photos of the park after she reveled for a couple of hours in the Pegamon and Hellenistic exhibit.

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The Met by the side of the park as the sun begins to set

On Wednesday she waited for hours in lines to see the last live 5-10 minute show in the street. “If you have a slip and you’re not moving, you’re doing it wrong,” she said. With Lin-Manuel Miranda reading aloud a letter Hamilton wrote to Eliza Schuyler. She was exhilarated by the experience and will remember the brief skit and reading for a long time to come. She did enter the on-line lottery to see Hamilton but like most entering, was not one of those chosen by chance. See A farewell to #Ham4Ham

So that’s the news from Lake Potomac where in our house we have no men but Ian pussycat and all our women are surviving as best they can.

Miss Drake

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Jackson at Ethel Lance’s funeral

… the progress of reformation is gradual and silent as the extension of evening shadows; we know that they were short at noon, are long at sun-set, but our senses were not able to discern their increase … Where a great proportion of the people are suffered to languish in helpless misery, that country must be ill policed, and wretchedly governed: a decent provision for the poor, is the true test of civilization — Samuel Johnson

Dear friends and readers,

I know in this small blog (with 99 followers) I reach few people, but I do what I can. I just listened to Jesse Jackson’s response to this heinous murder of nine black people, I am prompted simply to copy and paste the words and link in the podcast, hoping more people will read and/or listen:

Click here for the podcast

Here is the transcript:

Outside the wake for Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Amy Goodman interviews civil rights leader and South Carolina native Rev. Jesse Jackson, who says of the massacre at Emanuel AME Church, “The question is, is this an embarrassment, or is it transformational?” Jackson argues efforts to remove the Confederate flag from the state Capitol shouldn’t stop there. “If you still have less access to voting, it’s not a good deal. If the flag comes down and you still have racial profiling … it’s not a good deal,” Jackson says.

TRANSCRIPT

AMY GOODMAN: So many people have gathered in this Southern city. I wanted to turn now to Reverend Jesse Jackson. We saw him last night just as he had come out of the church paying last respects to Reverend Pinckney.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I think that the emotions are high. People seem to be rallying to each other in unusual ways. The question is, is this embarrassment, or is it transformational? If this had happened in the next state over, would there be the same amount of fervor? Black men, unarmed, are being shot down. We see in this state, for example, Brother Pinckney was fighting to deal with too much easy access to guns.

In this state, 350,000 people have no health insurance, and one quarter of the state is in poverty, and yet they reject $10 billion in Medicaid, with one again in the Supreme Court just today. Twenty-five percent of the population is African-American, and 75 percent of the prison population is African-American, and 20 percent of those do prison labor for 30 to 80 cents an hour. South Carolina state is on the verge of closing because of lack of state investment.
So it seems to me, if we’re going to deal with the issue of poverty and the issues that matter, it must be a transformational moment, not just a kind of embarrassment so we can keep a false face on good news and tourism.

AMY GOODMAN: And your thoughts on the Confederate flag?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: The Confederate flag must come down, or trade must go down. It must be a substantial boycott. And it just can’t apply to South Carolina. You know, the flag represents secession from the United States of America. It represents sedition, an attempt to violently overthrow the government; slavery as a form of economic development; states’ rights over federal rights; and suppression of the rights of women. It’s racist to the extent that it’s white supremacy, male supremacy, anti-black, anti-gender equality, anti-Semitic, because of religious supremacy. So this thing is a little deeper than just racism. It is anti-semitic, anti-women, anti-labor, a symbol of the secession and states’ rights.

And the Confederates won some significant concessions when the war was over. First concession it won was the right to maintain their dignity. None of them were indicted, all were pardoned, though they tried to overthrow the government. The second concession they won was the right to control—the right to get paid for the slaves they had to give up. The third concession was they got the right to control the votes. We got the vote in the 1870s, didn’t get it back ’til 1965. The right to control the rights of women. They got the right to control healthcare, education and labor and voting. So that the concessions that the Confederates won were substantial.

And to this day, there’s not a — just this state is 45 percent African-American, not one black-owned business in downtown Charleston. So I am not impressed with the “Kumbaya” moment unless there is some plan for financial investment and a budget alteration. If the flag comes down, but you still have less access to voting, it’s not a good deal. If the flag comes down and you still have high race profiling and blacks go to jail at a rate three times that of whites, it’s not a good deal. The question is, are the bankers out here—or will they increase bank lending, and a more effective use of pension funds? What will it be to become cretinous beyond this moment of passion?

AMY GOODMAN: Now, but as people came to Columbia to the state House to see Reverend Pinckney, the state senator laying in state, first African-American since Reconstruction to lay in state in the Capitol rotunda, they had to pass the Confederate flag. Do you think Nikki Haley, the governor, could have just taken it down like the governor of Alabama did?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: I’m not sure she could do that technically. I think she’s taken a very public position, which I think is a very decent position that Nikki Haley has taken. It’s the right position. Now Senator Graham has taken that position, and Senator Scott has taken that position. Romney has taken that position. But we must not only change the Confederate flag. We must change the Confederate agenda. The agenda is anti-black, with white male supremacy. The agenda is anti-Semitic, with religious supremacy. The agenda is anti-female, will not pass the Equal Rights Amendment for women. We must have an agenda.

The Confederates need to rejoin America. They need to rejoin the Union. They must make a bigger decision than take down the flag. They must rejoin the Union of states. Three hundred and fifty thousand people without health insurance in this state, a quarter of the state in poverty, and they reject $10 billion in Medicaid on a nine-to-one ratio? That’s a low investment for high returns. There is so much [inaudible]. This is the same state where the congressman, Wilson, called the president a liar, and where the congressman went home and raised $2 million that weekend, where Susan Smith killed her two babies in the water up in Union, South Carolina. And —

AMY GOODMAN: Where were you born?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Greenville, South Carolina.

She killed those two babies and said that a black man did it who didn’t even exist. So that we cannot settle for cheap rates when the matter is so serious.

AMY GOODMAN: You’re standing on Calhoun Street right in front of Mother Emanuel.

REV. JESSE JACKSON: Another slaveholder, and it runs right into Meeting Street, where they sold our people. This place is dripping with a kind of indecency, a kind of barbarism. I mean, slavery, 246 years, was real. And the extension of slavery was even worse, in many ways, because at least slavemasters tried to protect the health of their slaves enough for them to work and reproduce. But after slavery, when slavocracy lost to democracy and kept the political and military power, 4,000 blacks were lynched, 163 lynched in this state without one indictment, often carried out by judges and police. And so the depth of resentment and meanness and toxicity here must not be played down.

AMY GOODMAN: Your thoughts on Dylann Roof being in the Charleston jail, as is Officer Michael Slager, who gunned down Walter Scott, the African-American man who was running away from him, and he shot him in the back, in North Charleston?

REV. JESSE JACKSON: One man shot in the back running, another nine more shot in the church across the street, so 10 blacks are dead, two white men in jail. And we do not know what the outcome will be, in a judicial sense. We know the result is in, that these men are dead, and we know who killed them. But the question of what will be done concretely beyond using these two guys as posters to represent the culture. The culture is much deeper and much wider than two men. Much deeper and much wider than two men.

AMY GOODMAN: The Reverend Jesse Jackson, standing in front of Mother Emanuel church as thousands pay their last respects to South Carolina state senator and the Reverend Clementa Pinckney. Today, the funeral for Reverend Pinckney. Thousands are lining up to attend.

*********************

I voted for Jesse Jackson at every opportunity I was given. In 1984 he was running for President and supported by the Rainbow Coalition. In Alexandria City, we had caucuses for the primary and I actually went. (I don’t go to political-social stuff like this often. I was secretary to our tenants’ association on 200th street in the 1970s, but then I had a practical function; I took the notes.) I was enormously pregnant with Isobel (Yvette) and Laura Caroline sat with me.

There were three sections, one for Mondale (which was not clearly the largest, by which I mean to say it did not clearly have the most people), one for Gary Hart (Jim sat in that one) and a middling one which appeared to be larger than that for Hart and maybe as large as that for Mondale (I sat in that). Hart’s was all white, Mondale a mix, and this third one was mostly black people. I remember I was interviewed by someone from the Philadelphia Inquirer. This seems to me wrong but I understood she was interviewing me because I was a rare white person there. I remember feeling intimidated lest I say something the black people around me didn’t like. But when I finished answering her questions, all the people around me were so pleased, they shook my hand, one gave Laura Caroline a sign of some sort.

There was much political maneuvering and somehow Mondale had it. So I remember I went to sit in the back as the formations of people became two caucuses.

Another time there was some state-wide primary and I voted for Jackson and he won. Alexandria City went for him. Whatever that primary was for, there was never another one held.

I remember in 1984 Jackson giving an interview on TV and someone asking him, if he regarded the white people who voted for him as “really white.” What an astonishing question. Jackson replied, “they white! they really white.” I am really white.

What a better world the whole earth would be had in 1972 McGovern won (whom I voted for, sent money to, signed voters up to vote for in NYC) or in 1984 had Jackson won.

Miss Drake

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Eight of the nine people destroyed, their lives taken from them

Dear friends and readers,

I suppose everyone who comes here to read this blog has at least heard of the latest slaughter in the US of a group of people, this time (once again) of African-Americans, 9, again as in so many of these repeated massacres, by a young white male who we are told is mentally ill. Dylan Roof was welcomed into a black church in South Caroline, sat with a group of black people studying the Bible together; at the end of the hour, he pulled out a gun and rounds of ammunition and murdered them all, stopping to reload, gloating, telling them he would let one live so they could tell what happened. He said he would kill himself. He did not.

It’s admitted he is a racist and many US people who come forward to speak in the media are eager to separate themselves from him, put him away, inflict the death penalty on him. Here is a brief description:

Twenty-one-year-old Dylann Roof was detained Thursday morning during a traffic stop in North Carolina. A friend of Roof’s said he wanted to start a new civil war. In a photo posted on Facebook, Dylann Roof is seen wearing a black jacket that prominently features the flags of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, and apartheid-era South Africa from when the two African countries were ruled by the white minority. Another photo appears to show Roof posing in front of a car with a front plate that reads “Confederate States of America.”

Sylvia Johnson: “I spoke with one of the survivors, and she said that he had reloaded five different times. And her son was trying to talk him out of doing that act of killing people. And he just said, ‘I have to do it.’ He said, ‘You rape our women, and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.’”

He is not an aberration; he is in the American grain, a direct product of the culture; the US aggressive colonialist wars from mid-century on are an extrapolation.

Since the spread of cell phones and ipads which permit people to film what is going on around them, we know that for an indeterminate number of years now on average two black people have been murdered every week each year by police, often beaten severely (remember the then rare video of Rodney King beaten so badly by the LAPD?). The bringing forth of videos with undeniable pictures has brought before us all sorts of realities of life. We learn about the victims and discover just about all the police officers are let off with impunity, and that this is something they expect to happen and is part of the training that leads them to shoot black people on the US streets and disabled people if you call them to your house (do not!) with deadly weapons and not worry about any consequences to themselves.

It was in Charleston that Walter Scott was gunned down by a police officer because in Scott’s terror he ran away.

Last night I learned more African-American history, the sort of knowledge not included in US schools. The continual violence, the hysteria of gun power led to the assassination of Martin Luther King’s mother, Alberta Williams King shot down while playing an organ in a church; this time the assassin was a young black man, six years after the murder of her son.

On the church in which this slaughter occurred you can listen to an informative video on DemocracyNow.org, in interview of the Rev. Raphael Warnock, senior pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, which was the spiritual home of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and the Rev. Mark Kelly Tyler, pastor of the Mother Bethel AME Church in Philadelphia, founded in 1787 and the mother church of the nation’s first black denomination. Reverend Tyler recently interviewed Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was killed in the Charleston shooting, as part of a documentary on the AME movement in South Carolina.

If you don’t want to spend the time, listening and watching, here are a few items you would learn:

The church attacked in the Charleston, South Carolina, massacre that left nine people dead is home to the oldest black congregation south of Baltimore. Known as “Mother Emanuel,” the Emanuel AME Church was burned in the 1820s during a slave rebellion and has stood at its present location since 1872 … other Emanuel, like Mother Bethel, like Bethel AME in Baltimore, like Mother Zion, for the AME Zion Church in New York City, all of these congregations began the late 1700s, early 1800s as a result of what became known as segregated pews. The Methodist movement in America initially was very welcoming and open to African-American worshipers. It was not unusual to see enslaved people preaching …

they turned their back on their abolitionist roots and decided, in order to keep and appease slaveholding Methodist members who were very wealthy, that they would allow blacks to become segregated in worship. As a result, these persons, like Richard Allen and Morris Brown, led walkouts. And they began churches, sometimes without even a building to worship in. And so was the story of Mother Emanuel.

By the 1820s, Denmark Vesey, who was a class leader in the AME Church, a member of Morris Brown’s church, decided to lead a slave insurrection in Charleston, and he took advantage of the fact that having your own building prevented whites from coming in and overhearing you. And as a result of him using the buildings in such a way, when the plot was discovered and when he was hanged along with co-conspirators, the churches were destroyed, and the AME Church was banned. But as Reverend Pinckney so well says, the church didn’t disappear, it just went underground. And it re-emerged, for everyone to see, at the end of the Civil War …

When Morris Brown’s church was burned down, he was initially accused of being one of the co-conspirators. When his name was cleared and it was clear he had no involvement, he didn’t want to just stay waiting around, just in case they tried to try him, you know, or bring him up on charges again, so Morris Brown left Charleston, moved to Philadelphia and then began to work with Bishop Richard Allen. But many others took that same trek—William Catto, Octavius Catto’s father; Bishop Daniel Alexander Payne, who used to teach enslaved people and free blacks in the 1830s, who 10 years after that event, because of the Nat Turner insurrection and laws that then became repressive throughout the South, also found himself leaving and ending up in Philadelphia. So there was this long-established relationship where the free black community in Charleston and the free black community in Philadelphia had this constant interchange

There is apparently nothing that can stir US people to vote against their representatives when these representatives refuse to enact any gun control legislation. It is not true that the millions of guns out there cannot be stymied. Bullets decay and if today a law was enacted to control the sale of bullets within a few years, these guns couldn’t kill. We can still stop the sale of ammunition. Right now. It would be effective.

See David Remnick in the New Yorker on Charleston and the Age of Obama.  Across the day all flats in the capitol of South Carolina were lowered to half mast, except the confederate one. That remained flying high.

There is such a thing as a national identity, and while I tend to believe Bernard Anderson that these amalgams are imagined constructs, there is too much likeness across people in a culture to dismiss the notion of general encouraged accepted behavior. A group of us on my Women Writers list-serv at Yahoo have been talking about national identities. National identities as projected often are not pleasant things, group identities the psyche out there in large common denominator social life. The US national is racist at its core and increasingly militarist — the word American itself shows hubris as it’s just one country in the western hemisphere; there are two major languages, Spanish and English. Several others are spoken by a large group of people: French, Portuguese, some German; there are still some Indian languages. A review of the Whitney exhibit by Ingrid Rowlandson in the NYRB (which I didn’t get to see as I came on the day of the week the museum is closed) talked of the swagger of the pictures across the 20th century: she was glad to note in this word that the US from the opening of the 20th century knew it was a fully formed and dominating culture (hardly a woman mentioned). We are told individualism is central; is it?

While Frances Trollope’s Domestic Manners of the Americans (mid-19th century travel book) is an angry book, hard satire, often egotistic, snobbish, unfair, she did identify early on that an intense religious emotionalism is central to the culture. I’d add violence near the surface, a strongly violent culture from its outset (we went to war to take Canada as one of our first ventures). On face-book I regularly see people put photos of themselves teaching their children to shoot guns. Face-book is a place where people put up messages about what they are proud of: I’ve heard people call it happy pictures (see how happy I am), as boasting pictures (“see what I did and am doing” — how lucky I am, how privileged, what I have rightly gained), values and norms it is assumed all will be cheered to see.

Think about it. Two years in Boston a central cultural event most Bostonians are so proud of, and two Muslim-Americans come in and blow up bombs with bullets in barrels, destroying many people (killing, maiming) ruining the event, the city is then under a hysterical curfew while a manhunt goes on by police armed as if this were a central war-site; they gun down one of them. Before that a kindergarten where the upper class send their children in Connecticut subject to a massacre. Before that one of these mass outdoor moviehouses in the western US showing a violent action-adventure movie to thousands — a massacre by a weapon no one would use for hunting, bought by mail-order. Now the governor of South Carolina stands in front of an audience, begins to cry, another powerful white figure shakes as he tells what has happened, a church central to what some South Carolinians are proud of, is desecrated, bloody disfigured hideous corpses all over its basement floor.

And nothing done. No pressure on lawmakers (except locally here and there) to put a stop to these events. No law makers stepping up to do the right thing as an effective leader either.

Bernie Sanders whose numbers are going up, posted this to the Net just a couple of hours ago:

King

Miss Drake

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sanders_2016_election

Dear friends and readers,

I wanted to celebrate this ancient ritual day which the international socialist, labor and workers’ movement around the earth took as their commemorative day by linking in a blog I wrote here during the high point of the Occupy Wall Street era, when (it seemed) all over New York City there were parades, picnics, singing, speeches in honor of the day, and as a mode of strengthening ties among the 99% as the OWS movement so memorably called us all. But like Amazon (no longer a place you can go to to see what books are in print, available from all booksellers registering with this company), Google has so corrupted its engine I can no longer find my blogs by typing in strings of letters — or for that matter research any topic generally (all I get are the commercial sites Google hopes to make money from or are tied to Google to generate eyeballs). I’m sure I did write such a blog here.

This was discouraging, but I did find a blog I wrote on LiveJournal May 1, 2012. And I found this record of a full day’s schedule in NYC on May 2012. But I resolutely told myself there was a time I could not reach anyone at all beyond those in my house or a few friends I might see around May 1st.

So some signs of hope: Bernie Sanders declared his candidacy for the president of the United States. I’ve sent him a small donation, endorsed him, and shared one of the announcements. Even if he does not win (and in the New Yorker he was characterized as someone ineligible to run as the laws the US are set up to prevent anyone of integrity running), he will bring into the public conversation central issues and move Hillary Clinton (we may hope) to make promises and shape her agenda to a more humane decent one. From the mainstream online press, the CNN interview, and from Amy Goodman’s interview of Ralph Nader on this.

Today 6 of the police officers who together were responsible for the hideous death (screaming in an agony of pain as his spinal cord was severed) of Freddie Grey in Baltimore last week were indicted for homicide. Even if the later trial does not result in a conviction, this is significant. It’s apparent for a number of years now police have been trained to shoot first with impunity (not worry about the consequences to themselves). This is a moment to feel some hope for change from murdering black and minority people — and treating any poor or white people with disrespect. Read Ta Nehisi-Coates on where the plunder and invisible violence lies everywhere.

Mothers day for a portion of the thousands of women whose sons are dead from police killings:

code-pink-valerie-bell-police-violence-baltimore
Read about Valerie Bell’s son’s murder, November 25, 2006

A whole host of issues may be brought in to change: the mass incarceration of black men, the horrible conditions of our prisons for anyone in them, the draconian sentences which destroy lives. I saw the first article I’ve seen by a respected judge questioning the idea that apparently enough middle class white people believe and the priorities acting on such a judgement assume: that locking up for life or decades black people will directly decrease serious or trivial street crime: “The Silence of the Judges” by Jed Rakoff (NYRB, May 21, 2015).

In a world wide bleak landscape, these developments are small and local, but they are signs that the huge percentage of people so suffering in the present economic and political climate can make their will felt through the legal and judicial and electoral systems of given countries. I’ve not mentioned (as I’ve not been writing anything about politics lately) how Syriza winning Greece is significant and the courage they have shown in their attempts to turn back the clock on the punitive austerity measures that the people now running the EU and World Bank are perpetrating.

Words matter of course. Here in the US the some few years ago now supreme court defined money as free speech (Citizens United) so the more money a group can give to a candidate or use in an election the more free speech they’ve exercised. Then this past year they defined discrimination as religious liberty (Hobby Lobby) so now in many localities in the US Republicans are passing laws on behalf of people’s right to discriminate. This past week the Republicans in Congress tried to pass a bill they can impose on DC to allow employers not to pay for women employees’ health insurance; on that principle they could fire her for private decisions with her doctor). We know the 8th amendment (bill of rights, anyone?) where the gov’t is forbidden to bankrupt individuals has been gutted; the 2nd perverted, the 1st and 4th nullified.

Muriel Rukeyser did not give up hope and in August 2012 I wrote a foremother poet blog about her, quoting some of her greatest poems, including the famous “I lived in the century of world wars” and from “Kathe Kollwitz.” To these I add another:

This morning

Waking this morning,
a violent woman in the violent day
Laughing.
Past the line of memory
along the long body of your life
in which move childhood, youth, your lifetime of touch,
eyes, lips, chest, belly, sex, legs, to the waves of the sheet.
I look past the little plant
on the city windowsill
to the tall towers bookshaped, crushed together in greed,
the river flashing flowing corroded,
the intricate harbor and the sea, the wars, the moon, the planets,
all who people space
in the sun visible invisible.
African violets in the light
breathing, in a breathing universe.    I want strong peace,
and delight,
the wild good.
I want to make my touch poems:
to find my morning, to find you entire
alive moving among the anti-touch people.

I say across the waves of the air to you:
today once more
I will try to be non-violent
one more day
this morning, waking the world away
in the violent day.

ClaryMarch2015
Clarycat last month

Sylvia

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Image: FRANCE-ATTACKS-CHARLIE-HEBDO-SHOOTING
Street scene in France yesterday

Dear friends,

I have not been posting on political issues, but thought I might post an alternative wider view on the killing of 12 people at the Charlie Hebdo headquarters, and then the next days the killings in retaliation and hostage taking because I have hardly seen this perspective on the news media and discussions on the Net.

On Amy Goodman’s DemocracyNow.org, she has had two different Muslim French people to argue while of course this killing was so wrong as to beyond speech even. Human beings like us, beloved by friends and family members, precious and destroyed. It was a travesty of Islam, one man, a Muslim French cleric said. He also talked about the how Muslims do poorly in French society, and attempted to show Charlie Hebdo was not aimed at everyone: he had some numbers to show hardly ever is a Jewish person or even mocked, rare Christians, though by no means wide statistics. Everyone talked in terms of impressions. He was strongly debated with when he argued it was the afflicted being afflicted. The other man, a Muslim French scholar, likened Charlie Hebdo to South Park (they mock sheerly to mock; they provoke without a serious agenda) and talked (as one should have heard elsewhere) of the hundreds of people murdered by drones, since 9/11 other mass murders involving the deaths of Muslims, the incident at Norway, what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq. Gilbert Ashcar, yet another called the two days the result of clashing barbarisms.

What struck me was the sight of France as combed with fiercely armed soldier-police, not as feroicious and not as heavily armed as we saw Boston, but along the same lines. There does not appear to have been a curfew (as there was in Boston in the night and day), so the situation again was not as bad, but the French police-soldiers did not hesitate to kill as a kind of retaliation. So we had police-soldiers killing suspects — who did flee; another situation emerged in a Jewish supermarket where hostages were taken and four died. These scenes really taking place are of murder begetting murder in the context of world-wide murders. Boko Hamar murdered hundreds of people the other day, nearly 2000 in one report; the head of that state supported by the US does nothing. He’s complicit.

There was a bombing in an old NAACP building in Colorado two days ago; no one killed but it got hardly a mention anywhere in the public media; Al Sharpton brought it up on his half hour on MSNBC.

The role of satire could be said to be the irritant, and the cartoonist himself murdered as well as the long-time chief of the magazine, but it is true (as these two murders show) that the Hebdo slaughter was a professional job — so it could be the organization supporting these men wanted to ratchet up the conflict in France which has a strong anti-immigrant party and where many Muslims are assimilated. To give Gwen Ifill and Judy Woodruff some credit on PBS they had a 20 minute segment on how badly Muslims are treated in Marseilles where they are a very large minority and they interviewed a French man who inveighed against feeling swamped (a la Mrs Thatcher) and Muslim woman who in a supermarket has been the target of hostile gestures, and mockery partly because she wears a burka and is originally French; that is, she is a convert to Islam.

Finally anti-semitism. If it’s true Hebdo almost never satirized Jews, the context here is this past summer’s slaughter of Palestinians. Just now Israel is withholding huge taxes from the Palestinian people for themselves because they have dared to be recognized as a state. Art Seigelman was on Amy Goodman and he could not come up with one satiric cartoon on Jews: he made a forceful presentation on the importance of cartoon satire.

Goodman has someone on her hour who appears to know the Hebdo cartoons well and he said the day after Charles de Gaulle’s funeral Hebdo mocked it as one person died yesterday (like one satiric jibe headline two summers ago on the fuss made about “Kate’s” or the Duchess of Cambridge giving birth to the presumed heir to the British throne: “Woman gives birth”), then the offices were briefly closed.

Satire set this off but was it about satire?

Just an alternative view I have not heard much; only on two nights DemocracyNow.org (Goodman had Tarif Ali talking too) and on one segment on PBS reports.

Miss Drake

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