Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘racism’


Chief Inspector Morse (John Thaw) and Sergeant Lewis (Kevin Whateley) (1987, first season)

Friends,

Times being what they are, I’ve taken to watching Inspector Morse. I started last week, at my usual witching hour for self-indulgent TV series, 11:30 to midnight, and it took a couple of nights for me to realize these shows go on for an hour and 45 minutes! That’s part of why they are so good: they develop the situation and characters slowly, with nuance, clever dialogue, and continually deepening in curious ways the character of our man of integrity, compassion, with his love of classical music, and extensive reading in high culture texts, Morse. Lewis is no fool and has his own personality, but he is the stable “ordinary” usual ethical person to Morse’s enigma. The fourth was a little more conventional than the first three, but all of them have recourse to corrupt politics (ultimately someone is making money off harming or exploiting someone else’s vulnerability) in the context of deeply observed individuals in complex fraught situations. I first watched these in 1987; they were a way for me to spend some of Thursday evening with Laura as she watched too. Now I think to myself I must’ve missed a lot. I was then more naive than these shows seem now. I’m sure I have confused notion or who did what and why and wish there were a wikpedia site explaining it all to me. This is common for me with mystery/thrillers and especially contemporary ones which are aggressive, have short scenes, un-nuanced, ratcheted up. I am drawn to the pain and real life predicaments of the people in the embedded stories. I like the tone of this 1987 Inspector Morse series.

I know it’s a kind of gimmick but I do find appealing and can identify with Morse’s brand of despair as seen in his favorite poem, A. E. Housman’s The Remorseful Day.

Here is YouTube of Thaw reciting the last lines:

To be appreciated, you do have to know the full text:

How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day.

To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
I never kept before.

Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
Falls the remorseful day.

Housman is another of Jim’s favored poets (he had many), we even own Housman’s edition of a classical Latin poet, Manilius. Jim used to quote from the introduction.

I also watch the HBO My Brilliant Friend (1st book in the Neapolitan Quartet), Second Season, The Story of a New Name twice a week.


Elena (Lenu) (Margherita Mazzucco), Lila (Raffaella) (Gaia Girace) and Pinuccia (Giuliana Tramontano) arrive at the beach

This seems to me just now the best contemporary TV story program. What is so striking is the intense felt reality of the film experience. I’ve not seen or felt anything like this in a long time. It’s not just that all the actors and actresses project real feelings fully that we can enter into, but the whole ambiance of the situations.

For example, we first see them on Ischia as they trudge down the beach. In an other film it would be all surface, glamour, here we feel how tiresome beaches also are, how heavy the umbrella, how weary the walk, hot the sun, and a sense of sticky sand. I put it down to not magazin-ing everything. The house is like a house I would stay in, the curtains thin, the stone steps hard, the doors ugly and off-center, painted in such a way that the shades are not perfect. All the surroundings are like this — a boat is not super expensive, perfect in way but messy, slosh slosh.

Their dialogues are what people might say: not elevated into top wit or reflection, but such wit and reflection as comes out is from offhand, slightly spiteful distrustful talk, the way people do ever one-upping one another — a real sense of contingent interaction.

The fights every one has, the ambiguity of positions only once in a while made explicit: Lenu who is treated as a servant and yet is the educated person there with books with her. The mother says I’ll be blamed. When a quarrel happens, the debris and then how sordid things can be — yet the beauty of the air, light. When they swim, they swim as awkwardly as I do — I mean the girls, as feeble in the sea and yet moving along.

What the film does is give us in a way what book can’t — the viscera through sound, music, real presences — the series fulfills the book. Much enjoyment in the photography of the island of Ischia and the waters, the colors, the sunlight. A movie can do so much more than a book in presenting this — it’s like the pleasure of watching the Durrells. I have no screen shots of the water, but I do the beach

As with Outlander, the increase of monopolization, with only a few companies owning everything means I can’t buy DVDs of this series (the 5th season of Outlander is not available except if you buy a membership for the fascistic line-up of Starz). Now the site that offered scripts has been taken down too. One result is less wide popularity, but finally to those with the money to make such a series, the ratings far count less than sheer numbers of dollars. Worship of dollars everywhere.

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


Last night months after I bought them my Bernie Sanders T-shirt and yard sign arrived. How sad this felt — it’s tragic for the people on this globe, that’s how powerful the US president has become

One needs to try to escape when one lives in a nation whose federal gov’t is controlled by a man whose activities show him to be engineering sickness and death throughout the people said to be those he is serving; doing what he can to milk their taxes to make himself and other friendly billionaires and wealthy corporations richer, refusing to let the federal agencies do anything constructive (like testing, like helping them to have medical equipment), to let people get online to by desperately needed health insurance. It is an stunningly shameless perverse performance. Everyone afraid of him because he is so vindictive and will castigate publicly anyone who asks relevant questions, lies egregiously (“we have the best testing system in the world”).

I don’t know why but when I realized he was determined to destroy the post office I became especially distressed. I was shocked 40 years ago when during Reagan’s administration the direct attacks on the PO began. It was and continues to be one of the most selfless and apolitical of our institutions, a rare one that serves all people equally very reasonably. During Bush’s administration they cooked the books to put the department in egregious debt and still they survived.

Now they are singled out as excluded from these trillion dollar bills. I read Trump himself openly intervened here (when he has his thugs and gangster types outbid states trying to get medical equipment he does not personally intervene) and insisted no one answer phone calls from the Post office. Now they are not to get any money like any one but only a huge loan at very high interest rates.

All my life I have depended on the post office to send out my bills and when I send checks to send them back. No interruption of mails The 1916 rising was about the PO as a central place for communication. A friend described this in these words:  “destroying simple ordinary dedicated people’s modest middle class jobs, destroying a perfectly good and worthy government (though I suppose in our country now mostly private) institution.”

In the US it’s also racism: the PO is a place where many minority people work. And now to try to destroy them will prevent voting by mail which we may need to do in November. I have today bought two sheets of stamps at the online Post office; I opened an account. I have discovered many people are buying. If millions of us bought stamps, in this area we could stop Trump. It is a quasi-separate corporation.

This to me is peculiarly stunning. As a faithful reader of Trollope who delivered a paper on Trollope’s use of letters throughout his novels to the Trollope society in 2001: Since Trollope was a postal employee for 37 years, and then on and off again was a negotiator, and gave up years of life to a devoted service to creating a public unbiased efficient group imagine my horror at what is now being done to the US post office. Imagine his. The committees of correspondence were essential tools for reformists in the 1790s. I was just so horrified by this one. Is there nothing this man can do which will be seen as grounds for removal? just nothing? No powerful person stops him. It is the fault of the republican party which has decided he can do no wrong no matter what and no lie is too much for them to utter. They continually act in bad faith.

Trump and his important allies do know when to back off. They have to keep the military on their side and when they thought (these evil people who recognize one another) they could fire a captain for trying to protect his men against utterly senseless sickness and death, they backed off. The man who fired the captain has now resigned and there is talk of re-instating the captain. If there is a coup and no election and whatever is left of democracy or any social conscience is thrown out, Trump will have to have the military to back him so as to force people.

I don’t know when it will be time to dust off the old joke, “Praise God/Marx and pass the ammunition.” It is no longer funny. He is making war on the people of the US. the NYTimes reports 17,000 have died in the US since the start of this pandemic in January, that Trump was warned again and again, and instead had Fox News sneer and deny what was happening, that China did inform the UN and early. We are in the worst condition of all the developed countries of the world because of our incompetent hateful hard capitalist government. Tonight I witnessed long food lines across the US.

Saturday I was also personally distressed. Again I shopped at the Giant and saw my young African-American woman friend Monica. She is usually so controlled but not Saturday. She was distraught and angry with over-work, fear, and from being lied to. She had on a two part mask, gloves. What is happening is she can’t stay home at all, and the way her boss is getting her to work all five days in the DC prison office is by lying to her and her co-workers. They are continually promised tests and none emerge. Trump’s lies as a way of being have spread. Monica is lied to about all sorts of things. The virus is spreading in the prison and hardly anything is being done to help these people, many of them there for minor non-violent law infringements, most African-American. I saw on Amy Goodman how 1800 African-American prisoners in Louisiana were transferred to some infamously punitive prison, many of the infected, a place which will have almost no health care. Taken there to die. Louisiana is more than a thousand miles away. Monica was standing in front of me, her face fraught. I wished I dared to hug her. It took me a couple of hours to calm down.

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


Frits Thaulow, Stream in Spring (1901)

I try not to think about what will happen — especially if Trump manages to steal the election again. I am joining in on Zoom sessions some three to four times a week. I am registered and attend two classes sent out by the OLLI at AU (on Italian-Jewish writing, mostly WW2, but some more recent texts; on Hamlet, sources, different texts, different films, reception, critical history) and one by the OLLI at Mason (19th century existentialism up to today — who knew the earliest thinkers were fanatically religious, throwing over the crucial insights of the Enlightenment?). And I’ve joined in twice with my Aspergers group online. There are of course joke pictures (click to enlarge):

This is a generic picture of what I see in two of them:


Gallery it’s called

In the two at OLLI at AU I’ve been a participant/class member seen in one of the many boxes stretched across the zoom rectangle. I’ve now been told by three people that I don’t “fill the screen” when it’s my turn to talk and my small square in a room becomes the central picture. I know I sit an angle, putting my laptop on the corner of the desk and using a chair where one of legs is missing so I swerve it to the side so it leans on two books, and that sometimes my cats are on my chair with me. They tell me and I have experienced this too that the instructor fills or usually fills the screen — they say that’s because these people sit up close, have a big screen, and also stare directly out into the space (of their room).

In my case, those seeing me see a book-lined room! I didn’t realize that because the cases are very much to the side and my workroom or “study” is not so book-lined as others in my house. My desk to the other side of the room is seen, a table to the back. Also some of scotch-taped pictures on the walls. It seems I am at a distance from the screen, I am seen from a side sort of, so I’m unclear as an image but my voice is loud – and very recognizable because of my accent. Many of the other participants (discussants?) “fill their screen,” so now I know they are using bigger computers and sit up close.

For a few people I can see their surroundings; one woman appears to be in a sort of child’s nursery: there is a cradle near by, a roll of toilet paper as part of a kit to take care of a young baby. Another in a huge modernized kitchen in the round. Several contrive to or naturally have a row of books in shelves behind them …. de rigueur on TV.

An online friend who has not participated in these asked me more about it, and I tried to explain more — last week I tried to say how odd is the experience, not like a classroom in some centrally important ways (we are not there altogether). So I wrote this:

I’ve thus far experienced zoom with four sets of people; one (OLLI at Mason, Existentialism) I could see no one but the instructor and have been told she cannot see us; and everyone is muted until she un-mutes someone! two (OLLI at AU) have this have this gallery effect with the teacher in the middle and larger and they leave everyone un-muted; you are asked to raise your hand. A third, the Aspergers friends, has the leaders/friends (who are paying for it) with everyone else as part of a whole screen gallery. So I actually see just about everyone joining in. I am too anxious to hit an arrow which might let me see more rows of people at a time; I am told that the instructor at OLLI at AU can see all the rows of people. The center is sometimes used for a text or film clip. Most people are more like David Brooks on PBS; just side glimpses and now I’m told they sit up to their computer or it’s a big screen. A few like me or Mark Shields on PBS, you see far more of the room. I’ve seen people using false background — it’s very unreal. Maybe it’s the people I’m with but like so many of the people on TV many have bookcases behind them. I have seen a dog or cat to the side but no one but me with a pet on their lap. I’m not quite semi-profile just my face and body to the side — partly I’m sitting in a chair one of whose wheels came off so I have it perched against the near by case and I keep my laptop sort of catty-cornered to me and it feels close as I’m trying to hear what’s being said. It’s a strange, experience, you do have more information but the people are not there with you and they are behaving in differently controlled ways. The person at the center is very powerful. Three of the four I participated in there was a site assistant on line to help too – I only saw that person where all the people but the instructor could not be seen.

I believe I’ve said here that I volunteered to teach on-line for both places this summer: The Bloomsbury Novel. I will use the method of myself in the center, with all the people able to see one another and me see them, and everyone unmuted. I’ve been reading Forster and Wendy Moffatt’s wonderful biography of him (we’ll read Maurice), started LaSalvo on Woolf again (we’ll read Jacob’s Room); my third choice is the novella by Vita Sackville-West, All Passion Spent;. And I’m reading more about the Bloomsbury circles, and started the delightful Francesca Wade’s Square Haunting: Five Women, Freedom and London between the Wars.

There are now many places offering live-streaming of classics, operas, movies, some for free (as an advertisement for themselves). Actors and actresses reading books aloud. Other ordinary people trying to reach us and cheer us and themselves up. I do get more letters from friends and I answer them all. I am grateful to those who write me once a day a note — more more. Who chat with me. There are funny jokes too, meant to lighten and cheer:

The most endurable, and at moments comforting and yet truthful of the news shows is PBS reports, with Judy Woodruff at “the helm.” I am finding during this stressful crisis that along with factual truth I care about tone more than usual. Most of the time I appreciate gratefully the news Amy Goodman reports on her DemocracyNow.org, which no one else does, but lately her tendency to try to be so dramatic in order to entertain is getting on my nerves, her repetition and showing of Trump, and the leading long-winded questions (speeches in themselves), and I prefer the simpler direct questions, and the attempts at uplifting stories Judy Woodruff tries to include. I like her crew, especially recently Malcolm Brabant, William Brennan. I am laughing at myself, but honestly I find myself feeling better after an hour of Judy as opposed to an hour of Amy.  Click on the image to make it way larger and look at her after a half century of TV journalism:

Ellen

Read Full Post »


Marianne Werefkin (1860-1938), Without Roofs

Dear friends and readers,

While I was going to amuse you with my stories of my experience as a participant in zoom experiences this past week and the one before (I have on my Macbook Pro managed to download Zoom and access its webcam and microphone — who knew they were there?), and tell you of how I have volunteered to teach an online class this summer, and also what it’s been like “sheltering at home” for fear of a virus that kills young as well as old, and mention personal worries over savings and investment accounts, I saw today (as is so common) on face-book one of these posts where people put pristine, set-up camera ready fancy meals as a symbol of their experience of life in the pandemic just now — it was a gourmet meal, not the first of such pictures in the last two weeks on FB. This trope bothered me more than usual

In context, I thought of a young woman I’ve known for years who I saw today for the scant five or so minutes I ever get with her weekly at a nearby Safeway. She’s an ex-student of mine, now aged 36, just Izzy’s age, and was at TC Williams High School when Izzy was there. (Laura went there too only she was threee years ahead of them in grade.) Monica was in two of my classes at Mason, and I see her weekly because Izzy and I shop on weekends, mornings, at that supermarket. We manage to talk a little. Weekdays she has a job in an office, in a DC prison. So she works seven days a week.

Recently she and her husband (they are recently married) bought a house. I should say she is African-American, very intelligent, very capable and her job situation is the (I am sure) direct result of being African-American and (I think) heavy. I know she is capable of a far better job and ought to be doing work more to her abilities. She looked exhausted and stressed today. She is working full-time in that office because she has not been declared non-essential so if she takes off she will not be paid. The prison population is beginning to have people sick with COVID-19. The medical staff is of course inadequate, four people in the offices have become sick with COVID19, and one has died. She has a daughter, age eight, and the daughter is home so Monica’s mother comes over to help the child read and do some studying, homework. But Monica’s mother works in a retirement home — she can’t take off or will not be paid — and she is needed. But she is at risk — she is not young either — though at least 20 years younger than me. She comes to Monica’s house risking infecting the people there. I have met Monica’s mother once. I used to look much younger than she. I don’t have good photos of them. But Monica is not infrequently on my mind.

Both my biological daughters are working from home, getting paid (Laura is in fact getting more work than she can handle because the world seems to have come online), both doing jobs commensurate with their abilities & educations. Another young woman, also 36 (Izzy is 36), Vietnamese Canadian, Thao her name, not that long ago married, I do regard as a third daughter has Ph.D in psychology, she is working from home, paid — so too Jeff, her husband who however as a physician goes in too. No fear of not getting paid for him. Thao was at Mason and took 3 classes with me; we spent one summer in close proximity. I’ve spoken of her before here, put her photo on this blog. Since this quarantine and spread of a serious disease, we have had face-time, talking to another (all three, Izzy, Thao and I) through ipads and cell phones, and I have seen Thao and Jeff sitting next to one another, two computers in a row, two computer tables … by a large window.

Having told this story on my three listservs, because we have been discussing the sharp class and gender divisions in Italy in the 1950s (and probably still) as dramatized on a HBO series, My Brilliant Friend, Season Two, or The Story of a New Name, the second of Ferrante’s Neapolitan Quartet novels — how what opportunities, what kind of person you become, the experiences you can have are pre-determined by where and to whom you were born, and your gender — a friend, Diane, put on the list a letter and URL to another blog called Corona Crimes and I want to to share that with you.

Dear Friends,

Please check out and share my new blog, Corona Crimes. In it I am documenting the omissions, greed, incompetencies, and acts of callousness and cruelty that have enabled and are enabling this epidemic to become so bad when it could have been prevented, leading to the loss of thousands of lives, especially among the most vulnerable and marginalized in society (the frail elderly, inmates, refugees/immigrants, those in poverty. This includes actions/neglect by all levels of government, corporations and other powerful people/groups who profit off or contribute to the misery of this historical period. As this administration daily tries to change its versions of past events and moves toward a dictatorship-like deletion of the truth I think it’s important to have a central place to record and witness to the truth of what is happening, which grows more precious daily. The blog is very basic at present as I am new to this, but I am hoping to include interviews, reporting, maybe video and audio. I am open to suggestions on subject matter, so forward me news stories or other sources of information. Please help me spread the word about this blog.

In order to also celebrate the stories of heroism and selflessness big and small coming out of this pandemic, in a few days I will be launching another blog dedicated to people sacrificing for and helping others. I would welcome leads for that blog as well. Please read and share!

Peace and love,
Andrea

Enough said for this evening. More on this angle can be found in my Sylvia I blog.

Ellen

Read Full Post »

dickcavett
Baldwin on the Cavett show

It is very nearly impossible…to become an educated person in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.

It is rare indeed that people give. Most people guard and keep. They suppose that it is they themselves and what they identify with themselves that they are guarding and keeping, whereas
what they are actually guarding and keeping is their system of reality and what they assume themselves to be … both from Nobody Knows My Name

Dear Friends and readers,

As the Oscar Academy awards are given out tonight I thought I’d dedicate most of his week’s blog to a movie I saw this week: Salesman was duly awarded but I doubt I am not Your Negro will be noticed to the extent it should be — for someone having to live in the United States (as I must — for where could I go, since Jim’s death I have no second place I could belong to, return to –Teresa May has rescinded right of abode to spouses and widows of British citizens and yesterday a woman living and married for 37 years in the UK with grown children there was snatched up and deported) it is an important film: I am not your Negro, words by James Baldwin, produced and directed by Raoul Peck, mostly spoken by Baldwin in TV interviews, one of them on the late night Dick Cavett show, with Samuel L. Jackson supplying the narration and voice-over of those passages written or spoken by Baldwin which there is no film or audio for.

For quite a number of years I assigned texts by Baldwin in my classes. “Stranger in a Village” was once often found in textbooks for freshman composition: Baldwin comes to a village where all are white, where the environment is all snow, and he stands out as this terrifying object. It is a parable of growing up in America as a black man. I assigned his Notes of a Native Son; Nobody Knows My Name [More Notes of a Native Son]; The Price of the Ticket. I never did one of his novels or his memoir but rather his essays because I wanted to be sure his ideas got across. Mostly these are semi-literary criticism (the very great “Everybody’s Protest Novel”), sociological, and autobiographical. In reading his is an eloquent noble voice. So I was particularly eager to see which strings of quotations, which narratives were chosen.

This film gives us his life story, through an astute weaving together of film clips, it takes us through a history of black people in the US from the time they were forcibly brought here in huge numbers, enslaved and treated abhorrently so the whites here and in Europe could grow rich from their free labors and exploit their bodies, through the civil war (not much time on that) to where in “reconstruction” they were re-enslaved on new terms, through the early civil rights era, with film clips of the 1990s (the savage beating of Rodney King by a group of police officers) and now the common knowledge (though videos and cameras from cell phones and ipads) that every week in the US black people are murdered in the streets, in a mass incarceration system. The focus of Baldwin’s narrative are the murders of Medgar Evers (president of the NAACP), Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X. Baldwin knew them all, the latter two to talk to. None of them lived until 40. These three men, their lives, why they were killed with impunity, is partly what he is telling us about in what seem to be mainly three live films: one where he, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X were interviewed on TV; one of him interviewed by Dick Cavett, and one of him giving a speech to at Oxford University in England. He is also seen talking in front of a fireplace before a group of fellow black people. We see photographs of the murdered men, clips of King speaking, leading marches. All three are seen dead.

medgarevers
Medgar Evers

The thesis is basically for black people their position has changed very little since reconstruction. Yes a middle and tiny upper middle class has emerged; individuals with gifts, especially in music have lived fulfilled decent lives — Baldwin knew and we see clips and photos of Sammy Davis Junior, Harry Belafonte. The black man is given no place in American society; bitterly Baldwin says once he was not needed to pick cotton, he became superfluous and it’s astonishing, there are any black men left. Surely this is a nightmare vision, my reader might say, an exaggeration. Only somewhat. Baldwin is angry: how is it Bobby Kennedy has no trouble being Attorney General and has the gall to say as if this were progress to be thankful for that 40 years from now we could have a black president. We did, and we see clip of Barack and Michelle Obama walking down Pennsylvania Avenue hand-in-hand after he won the presidency. But it seems this was a blip in history and Obama was able to do very little to improve the general condition and status of all black people. Baldwin left the US to go live in Paris in order to protect his life, so that he should not have to fear murder each day as he goes forth on the streets; Ta Nehisi-Coates now lives in Paris for the same reason (he is also protecting his son).
So many photos of lynchings, so many clips of police in the streets beating black people up — some from Fergusson. The photos of so many young children, boys murdered. No police held accountable. How education is denied them; how the real estate and banking industries have prevented them as people from accumulating any money in most individual families.

One can only face in others what one can face in oneself. On this confrontation depends the measure of our wisdom and compassion.

The question is what we really want out of life, for ourselves, what we think is real… has to do with our social panic, with our fear of losing status. One cannot afford to lose status on this peculiar ladder, for the prevailing notion of American life seems to involve a kind of rung-by-rung ascension to some hideously desirable state — again from Nobody Knows My Name

The one caveat I have is it’s the story of black men and not black women. So Baldwin himself is guilty of exclusion, of (in effect) othering. Black women appear only as sisters, mothers, wives of murdered men. They have had an analogous history: used and abused horrifically sexually as slaves, kept as cleaning women, laundresses, cooks, housekeepers. Because their men were prevented from heading their families, many became perforce independent, and educated householders. They have held high office: we have had a black attorney general (under Obama two, Eric Holder and then Loretta Lynch): Truman integrated the military and we have had high ranking military officers, generals (Colin Powell) on down. Black women probably are by percentage doing remarkably well vis-a-vis white women who are not driven in the same way to provide for themselves and their families. But it has been and continues to be a very hard life for most: high mortality in pregnancy, huge percentage desperately poor.

I also regret that nowhere enough was given of his subtle readings of the texts and art and music of black culture. He is no false flatterer and delivers stinging criticisms of Richard Wright’s fiction, of the reasons for the respect given Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He was apparently close to man black artists, among these Lorraine Hansbury, who died so young from cancer. She is the one black woman given individual treatment in the film. You can see her play in YouTube form on the Net.

lorraine-hansberry
Lorraine Hansberry

It’s important to see this film in this era of Donald Trump’s attempt at a (thus far) semi-dictatorship. It is now unsafe to be black, Muslim or hispanic on the streets of the USA. You need not do anything and you can be stopped and frisked, and harassed and humiliated into answering back or doing just anything to justify the officer killing, imprisoning, accusing you of a felony. Then you lose your right to vote. If you don’t have papers to prove you have the right to be here and have been here for two years you are in trouble. You are at risk in schools if you are gay; if you are a disabled person far less understanding will be encouraged by school policies.

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

homerblindrescuecat
A rescued cat

It’s been a very hard week. As I am a powerless individual in an as yet republic with a few understood human and civil rights — I have the vote, I can blog, I can speak, I have taught undergraduates. This past week I went to a rally in Northern Virginia in Senator Warner’s office: #resistTuesday where goals are being sought through pressure on Warner and his activities. I am now contributing regularly to ACLU, Southern Poverty Law Center, Planned Parenthood, Common Cause beyond my membership in WETA (small amount each month), DemocracyNow.org (ditto). But I have to watch the most vulnerable in our society at risk (literally, snatched up in the streets, in churches, meeting places, airports), under attack and know I and my daughters are targets in attempts to deny us our rights to form a society and together make life better for us all (through social security, medicare, public education, arts and science facilities). There is an on-going attempt to destroy a whole way of life, destroy the press, suppress truth. Each day I get upset when I read the latest news of who has been appointed to head an important agency (with the aim of destroying it). This morning the Sierra Club an ancient forest in Alaska is about to be cut down; Trump rescinded an order to protect an area in Alaska where there is much left of the natural world, with many animals, plants. I joined the Sierra Club.

Here are the first 100 lies Trump has managed to promulgate across US life

irst hundred lies: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/donald-trump-administration-lies-100_us_58ac7a0fe4b02a1e7dac3ca6

This is what we are in danger of from him: Timothy Snyder, NYRB: how the Reichstag fire was set and used.

A new attempt to let loose predators to fleece and cheat at will. No more protections anywhere — every effort is being made by the republicans to prevent all consumer protection and allow corporations and businesses to fleece the individual at will. Money for opportunity and self-improvement only at high rates of interest. I feel sick with new grief, anxiety and pity for people — wanton unnecessary cruelty for none of these people have hurt anyone. The super-rich will be more super-rich.

As to what’s called social media: while enjoying friendships and sharing online, one must remember on places like face-book there is a great deal of falsity, of showing off an acceptable social identity to make others admire you, to fit in, to reinforce conformity. Photos of people as successful surrounded by adoring families and friends, sometimes absurdly idealized, with money and ordeals left out. Pay attention to ordinary every day life insofar as it gets through. Pictures of our now hot February.

The center of my life used to be, its staff, was Jim; I have fought a hard fight to make a new life and have realized this is out of the question for a 70 year old woman. I cannot re-make myself and have learned how alone a widow in our society is made. In order to remain calm because this fourth year of being mostly alone is making me worn, so I must focus my mind on that some stable secure center of existence. I would like to reach people like myself but I’ve found travel deeply anxiety-producing and unless I have a companion, I suffer a great deal. The longer and further away the trip, the worse. Sometimes when I am there the experience is ambiguous; alone at night in a hotel is hard on me. Tiring. This is what people need one site I trust tells me: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom. Others might make a slightly different list, but the important concept is that meaning stems from addressing real human needs. Where it’s tenuous for me as yet is affection, understanding, participation. So for me what can I hold onto: books, writing, movies, study. In these I find some peace. In sharing them with others — reading online with others, talking, friendships, art I can find understanding, participation, friendship. How other widows fare I pay attention to also as I find many analogously like myself.

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

goodactors
Tom Story and Jacques Aaron Krohn were strong — melancholy the one, funny the other

I went to As You Like It (see Marshall Bradshaw’s far too favorable review) at the Folger Shakespeare Library this past Saturday. It was not a successful production: the director seemed determine to ignore the bitter and hard meaning of many of the words, the whole difficult framework in which the characters have to live, that the time in the forest is an interlude. Thus its kindness, generosity, love and forgiveness lose their heft and context. The actors did not know what to do with the enormous amount of wit; at times the play felt like Love’s Labor’s Lost without understanding. But some of the actors played their roles very well: especially the Touchstone, Jacques, and Rosalind.

goodmoments
Lindsay Alexandra Carter carried the play (Rosalind) with Lorenzo Roberts as Orlando and Antoinette Robinson as Celia her supports

It was such a relief to hear sentiments of trust, friendliness, cooperation in public after outside the building having to endure the continually spouted spite and threats of the US gov’t attempting to torment the majority of US citizens with fear. And it was lively, without pretension, with wit, music that was contemporary and effective dancing.

By contrast, my first attempt to go to the Shakespeare Theater Company the Sunday before landed me in front of Charles III: ludicrously reverential, so tame. The comedy was we were supposed to laugh at “Harry” as having unacceptable (black) girlfriends and being given the most juvenile advice by a street vendor. It was about Charles taking power he didn’t have in a good cause (on behalf of immigrants) but the slightest real knowledge of British politics would tell you he couldn’t begin to get away with it, of culture he wouldn’t care about was he was said to. It was for a naive complacent American audience. Embarrassing. I left after the first act.

My books for this week included many on the picturesque, Penelope Fitzgerald’s Human Voices, Virginia Woolf’s The Voyage Out, Kenneth Johnston’s Hidden Wordsworth. I’m watching Donald Wilson’s 1978 Anna Karenina, brilliantly well done, moving, adult (about 10 parts). I’m studying ekphrastic poetry by women. Adrienne Rich’s Matilde in Normandy, Love in a Museum. Marianne Moore’s Sea Unicorns and Land Unicorns. I spent an hour this afternoon reading her very great Transcendental Etudes. I was moved and comforted as I drank wine.

My pussycats are well. Nowadays Ian does not hide in the morning though he goes off to have his quiet private time: on his cat tree high in the front room where he can see what’s going on. The assistant to my IT guy came this Thursday to update my garmin (a GPS) for me and Ian didn’t run away! He growled as the young man walked up the sidewalk, but then quieted down. Around 2 each day Ian comes into my room to sit on my lap and for the rest of the day be with and around me.

Miss Drake

Read Full Post »

harmonylabraorcoasttinselglasscarrington
Dora Carrington (1893-1932), Harmony: Labrador Coast: painted tinsel on stained glass (for Bernard Penrose)

In every government, though terrors reign,
Though tyrant kings or tyrant laws restrain,
How small, of all that human hearts endure,
That part which laws or kings can cause or cure.
— Goldsmith’s The Traveler, attributed to Samuel Johnson

Dear friends and readers,

This past week I passed my 70th birthday. The hardest thing about the Day itself was it seemed to take such a long time. I felt it as hours of endurance to get through because I felt Jim’s absence all around me. So it helped enormously that over the 24 hours I had continuous “happy birthdays” from face-book, most by people I have a friendship with, some of which I’ve met f-to-f, many of which I’ve read and talked of books with, whom I like and like to think like me, with whom I’ve shared and had shared generously all sorts of sustaining thoughts. People like to make fun of face-book friends, to dismiss or jeer who are not on face-book with friends. Closer friends wrote letters and I had funny and sweet e-cards. Two phone calls with two family members (a cousin and aunt — aunts are important people Austen said) and in the evening at the Kennedy Center, supper in the cafeteria with a friend who insisted on treating me and buying cheese cake pastry cups as a way of celebrating. The concert afterward was a long modern composition by Detlev Ganert, a tonal dissonant, a calmness in despair left room for a few beautiful melodies (for lack of a better term). Then Mahler’s 5th, the first two movements done appropriately ominously. Home again to read, write and receive letters, another episode the 1972 Pulman War and Peace, and at long last bed in peace, release from consciousness with my cats.

ianwithcatnipmouse
Ian Pussycat with catnip mouse (photo taken by Izzy this morning)

I have been thinking a lot about immediate danger Donald Trump and his reactionary crew represents with respect to me and Izzy. Republicans in the house are just salivating to privatize, which would destroy, social security, to abolish medicare on the false theory it’s bankrupt (it can’t be as it’s supported through general taxes), with other delights decreasing the number of federal employees (this is called draining the swamp). These could affect me and Izzy directly. I reminded myself of four general modes of conduct Jim followed as a way to survive safely:

1) if it concerned money, sit on it. Wait. Don’t jump. He might have said, “Don’t enclose the old empty screened porch now,” except that he would have been against having the porch enclosed anyway. It’s a waste of money. I and Izzy don’t need another room. I can keep it swept, with the two ladders, the rake, the broom, the pile of wood no one will ever burn in a fireplace now. Even after I inherited my mother’s money he was reluctant to re-paint the house. He’d say the mortifying blue had long ago faded. I admit I know that one of the reasons he was unwilling to go to the super-expensive specialist outside Kaiser when he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and we had the advice for him to have an esophagectomy and then chemotherapy an radiation within Kaiser was he didn’t believe that doctors who charged hugely and about whom so many believed they were infallible were any better than others not so adulated and he was aware that the expense was going to be outrageous. Months of treatment would have bankrupted our savings. I mention this to say how deeply in his psyche was the need to be careful about money — from his life and all he knew of life and his family background. He believed in any situation the most money won out. My mother believed that in money was an individual’s only safety — the only one.

2) if you have to do a thing, face it and do it. He did say when he was first trying to retire, we might have to leave this house. Realize that. That did not mean he would not retire nor listen to me when I had objections. So if I should have to sell the house, sell it. De-accession somehow or other a large proportion of the books, store them. Jim and I followed the idea that if we had to do without a thing, do without it. And we did that all our lives. No college for our daughters out of state. We had years of no vacation away, no book buying (would you believe), eating cheaply. This point of view enacted helped keep us safe because out of debt. We took on debt three times, twice for a car (Virginia has such poor public transportation and twenty years ago in places it was non-existent) and for this house. Otherwise, not and never.

I may become a nervous having to deal with realtors who I loathe as a species but I’ve a pile of money with Schwabb and that goes a long way in obscene America. I wanted to stay in England all those years ago, stay in Yorkshire but money won out – at the time Jim got a job paying 9 times as much; there were jobs galore. Today we might not have returned to the US. I think at this point, today, Jim would have applied for emigration papers for himself; he would not be able to take me right away (no longer as the spouse or widow of a British citizen no longer has right of abode) but there might be a mechanism for VISAs for a wife. If not, he would not have left me behind but would have said it might come in useful if he had this kind of document in place. He did want to go back to England when he first retired.

3) Don’t think too far ahead. He never did. He’d make budgets for the next year but that’s it. For people at our income and class level to think too far ahead is to live a deprived life in fear of what’s to come. I did try to qualify this attitude of his (in the sense of let’s not move into X unless we figure out we can pay for the heat and water and all the rest of it separately we didn’t have to in an apartment), but I was grateful for it. It was responsible for our moving into this house, and most of our trips. Indeed I think I married him partly because I knew he would spend for what I loved and let me spend too in a daily kind of way.

4) Finally what you can’t do, you can’t do. That’s it. You can’t do it. It’s a lie we can do anything and everything. Not so. Live with it.

So sit on it. If I have to sell the house, get rid of or store the books, do it. So don’t look too far ahead, take each set of weeks as it comes. Live with it. My father didn’t live according to No 3 and lost out — but then he hadn’t a partner to live a good life with. But the other maxims were his. None but the first was my mother’s.

That is really Jim — how he lived and I lived it with him and have to hold to that. If I can do that I can stop feeling such dread and anxiety when I awaken in the morning or read the name of the latest Trump appointee (what he’s doing is filling this metaphoric swamp with alligators). I sometimes can’t control myself and phone my congressmen. Jeff Sessions (set for what? attorney general? or maybe health and human services or maybe it’s education) mocked disabled people and derided special education. I phone three people demanding they speak up and speak out because silence is consent. At the OLLI at AU luncheon today it was good to hear a decisive “despicable” said by someone at the mention of Sessions’s name.

lilycarrington
A Lily, another drawing this time by Carrington

This is not the hardest year I’ve known but I am losing some more illusions hard to part with (probably many people have divested themselves of these by the time they are in their 20s); as each one vanished I have catalogued it. But tonight I tell myself if any of the most intolerable above comes to pass, I should not seek to kill myself — that’s to give Trumpism what it wants. What the 53% (to use Romney’s formulation) want is the silence of those who object to the destruction of the New Deal, the 47% it helped (Romney’s layabouts). They have hated it since it was put in place in the 1930s. Not that it would deprive them of any luxury but it’s the principle of thing. My father told me what life was like for the elderly before social security: begging bowls, dependence on adult children who didn’t have money to help them. When I moved to this neighborhood and had my first conversation with one of these local upper middle people, an old woman told me how her black gardener didn’t rush over to do her bidding now he had social security. She resented that openly before me. Shameless. I’ve met rich New Yorkers who say the pleasure of being high in the hierarchy is seeing the the marginalized lives of the working class. When they want to take health care away from older people, they are indifferent, just hoping they have to die quietly out of shame. One reason to privatize the Net (beyond reaping a bonanza of profits for corporations involved) is to silence people, cut off information and communication.

An adult response is to hunker down and wait for the spiteful mischief-maker with his fake storm and real possible catastrophes to happen or pass by. I will not follow Carrington though I so feel for her.

So, what I need to do is return to the above and read and re-read it periodically.

I said in my last that Elinor Dashwood has been a model character for me: I’ve tried much of my life to come up to her, her self-control, her steady facing of deprivation, her holding firm in the face of loss, anguish, frustration. So this is said as what I’d like to come up to: a weird (using that word in its original sense too) clearness (out of reading Margaret Oliphant of late), no longer fooling myself about what to depend on, no longer reaching out to what I don’t want (which only ends in corrosion of the soul in various ways), recognizing what don’t like (and that if there is no alternative to that, stay home with my books, cats, and favorite movies), facing I don’t respond such-and-such a way even if most people do (so being more careful where I go to for what’s called entertainment), keeping that, staying in it, cold, cool enabling me to live more steadily.

The penultimate sentence of Margaret Oliphant’s Autobiography: “And now here I am all alone.” I mean to go on to read as many of her novels and non-fiction as possible.

largesizedshoessylviaplathblog
Drawing by Sylvia Plath

Miss Drake

Read Full Post »

johnnashthegardenundersnow1924
John Nash (1893-1977), The Garden under Snow (1924)

“And what with the high price of coal … “

Friends,

My blog is morphing again. I began it as a more or less daily account of my and Jim’s life in our retirement. When he was diagnosed with cancer, it became a cancer blog where insofar as it was humanly possible for me I told the story of his suffering and death from cancer. It morphed again into a widow’s diary. Now I must change again. It would be in bad taste for me to write as if I am indifferent to the political destruction of the US republic and any security and prosperity for 95% of its population. That is how countless Trump supporters are behaving from Wall Street and the Republican leaders and elite to those who may not have voted for Trump but don’t mind now that he’s gotten into power. I must assume from Trump’s rhetoric and quoted statements by his supporters that others are gladdened by the appointments of racists, sexists, intolerant religious people (a supreme court decision made intolerance, a right to discriminate, a religious liberty), preferably inept people as long as they are fiercely personally loyal t him, and fearfully war-mongering inefficient people at the head of agencies, a Verizon lobbyist to head the FCC. The Washington Post reported yesterday his appointments were greeted by widespread applause by his supporters.

What unites all my Sylvia blogs is I tell what is on my mind, what I am feeling as my daily life unfolds. I’ll reserve the old Sylvia blog for political activity and political arguments and essays I’ve come across, as last week I went to a rally near the Senate building. This will be thoughts affecting my general behavior, from the conversations all around me, from what will be forced on me in non-political events and spaces after say January 20th. This Friday night I went to dinner with a group of friends and we discussed the election intensely, and most places I’ve gone (teaching for example), the unfolding fascism is the topic, what forms it will take, fear over how it will affect each and every person there.

So, a central new insight I’ve had (which startled me) has been how the American Constitution is susceptible to be taken over by a dictator. It’s an 18th century document with an elected king at the center. It depends on his decency and good will to elect expert and socially conscious people to the departments and many other agencies which control many aspects of our lives. In the Parliamentary system as evolved in the 19th century the PM has to be elected by people within the party who are independent entities and have some real knowledge of the person and how the gov’t works so a Trump could not take over there, and the outspoken Brexit people didn’t and couldn’t. Here’s a story (how true it is I don’t know) placed on an 18th century studies listserv: “Kurt Godel, perhaps the most important mathematical logician of the 20th century, settled at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in the 1930’s. When Godel went for his US citizenship oath, Einstein was sent to accompany Godel, as Godel was known to speak tactlessly. When the judge asked Godel to swear to uphold the Constitution, Godel rose and said that there was a logical path which allowed a dictator to emerge. Einstein quickly intervened and smoothed the process, so Godel got his oath … ”

This is partly the effect of citizens united. Quite a number of these republican wins were done by huge amounts of money. Then when they get in power they gerrymander the state so it becomes very hard to take it back. While in power they ruthlessly turn back the clock — as in North Carolina. I think the US system is now rotten because it is in effect obsolete: made for conditions that no longer obtain. Like the UK at the beginning of the 19th century, the American system is now a hollow pretense. It was never one-man one vote but now the popular vote is readily overturned and every effort being made to suppress the vote further. This fairly weak (as the writer admits) set of tactics show in just what desperate straits we are: how to resist Trump and his extreme agenda.

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

Trump has used this development to pull off an extraordinary con trick. He’s is totally nerveless, daring and has instincts of social cunning that seem uncannily effective. Tolstoy would say he is being thrown up by forces of history much larger than himself which made his personality and now power grab possible. Yes he enacts racism, boasts of sexual assault, and so on — or he wouldn’t have been able to delude his constituency. But why this is not business as usual is all about is “the money, stupid.” Read his first 100 day plan. Trump is simply turning everything over, tax payers dollars, their internet, everything to corporations and the wealthy. That’s what he’s doing. And cutting their taxes too. All the talk about racism and yes horrible coming ruthless killings imprisonments wars even — are a distraction from what he is planning explicitly. Yet more massive tax breaks for the wealthy, the privatization of social security, abolition of medicare, repeal of Obamacare, destruction of federal jobs. I read his infrastructure plan: it’s a bonanza give away with no obligations on any corporate part to hire people even. He continues to engineer it as in the NYTimes and Post they are going on about the wrongness of identity politics – he is engineering this conversation with his appointees. Or on face-book people argue with tweets over the planting of Pence at Hamilton to engineer a provocative scene so he can hit out against Broadway, also Saturday Night Live (he holds a grudge against them for over 10 years when they dared to make fun of him) — militarized police were in the street nearby to intimate. He now plays these people on twitter and off. The ultimate aim is to repress freedom of the press and speech.

He holds no news conferences, no where he is questioned and must respond to give-and-take. I presume he will never hold a news conference with the press if he can avoid it. And there is nothing in the constitution which requires it (not that a requirement like this would necessarily bother him).

From the point of view of what vitally matters, multiculturalism (whether it can exist as a feeling which binds people together or not) is not just beside the point, but a distraction. I know (as I’ve said) how dire the situation is for the targeted people and that theoretically, ideologically (&c) whether identity politics works, is feasible, is possible (do people really identity outside their narrow cultural worlds?) but in the present time they don’t except as useless for deluding and distracting people, i.e.g, the Pence at Hamilton theater was a plant and there is a parallel in the history of Hitler’s regime. So an article like Lila’s in the New York Times saying political action dependent on group identities doesn’t work gets attention when such arguments are unimportant when it comes to what we are facing: this 18th century constitution allows for a dictatorship to emerge.

werefkinindustrialvilla
Marianne Von Werefkin (1860-1938)

The corporations of other countries, their thug dictators and the rest of the louts and globalized factories are watching to see Trump carry this out. The more decent leaders (Angela Merkel) are being pushed out by money, war, refugee crises; their whole agendas mocked and repealed (Obama); they themselves end up colluding and yet are thrown out (Dilma). Here and there a temporary win (as in Venezuela) but it’s holding actions. I understand the real terrors of US black people who face killing and imprisonment at will. I understand how crucial must be these issues to Muslims in the US who face registration, internment and deportation anywhere. People demonstrating for animal rights have long been considered eco-terrorists, and some thrown into prison and kept in solitary confinement too. How much worse each punishment will be — as the threat to resort to overt torture is realized. People disappearing. Giuliani Attorney General. Already with the high costs of lawyers, going to court, fearful demands the accused negotiate his or her way (plea bargaining) by threatening draconian sentences if you don’t give in and say you are guilty. But all these issues are secondary to stopping redistribution of income through taxes, ending all social programs and reinforcing the prison system to back it up.

What this means is the number 99% becomes irrelevant: the operative number is Romney’s 47%. He was seen shaking hands with Trump and photographed by the press (from afar). Romney said 47% of the US population are layabouts. What he meant is all these people (including me and probably some of my readers) are collecting “entitlements” (which word Romney would scoff at as a euphemisms). The plan is to cut all subsidies (as these might come to be called) from this 47%. To turn over their “entitlements” (as packages) to Wall Street to govern and use. The 47% can demonstrate, protest; the newspapers will tell the truth of what is being done to them, but can they stop it?

I read somewhere that five years ago someone predicted Trump could win the presidency. So I am behind-hand in this insight. Lots of people have had it well before me. Trump changed parties because he knew he could not take the Democratic constituency.

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

A quite different insight and one not new, just reinforced: how men will not give up central power or authority to a woman. A woman can win a coterie vote of a group of politicians who she will be dependent upon (a Prime Minister) but not a vastly powerful presidency from millions of voters who cannot know her personally. All those men who refused to vote for her and professed themselves not to want Trump to win could live with him in power as a man. I don’t believe they didn’t want Trump; they are glad he has won rather than she and insist on how shaking things up will now produce a positive result. Delusionary and human life is short and what counts for us all is that short run, say 90 years. Reading and writing today on domestic abuse of women and children in 19th century fiction by women, I suddenly remembered how Hillary Clinton had worked hard for the rights of children and a recent case where a man brought to trial for beating a child defended himself he had the right to choose this punishment; it had been inflicted on him and so on. How sad that she couldn’t begin to convey this sort of thing at all. What was it? cowardice on presenting such a woman’s issue. Men didn’t vote for her anyway. She didn’t dare because it was controversial (how dare children have rights?!) and yet had she managed to think of some way to show it, how appealing she might have been to many. Would she have been too womanly on such an issue? She lacked the courage of who she is. No progress for children now. Oh no.

I will be giving another feminist course in 19th century novels, teach more women of letters: I was asked to at the OLLI at Mason this Wednesday. Be more outspoken in my women artist blogs. But now I see it was shooting themselves in the heart by the democrats to run a woman for president.

mark_gertler_-_merry-go-round
Mark Gertler (191-1939), Merry-go-round (from the 1920s), he was a lover of Dora Carrington who tried to get her to devote her life to him

Miss Drake

Read Full Post »

Syrianchildwashedup

This photo of a Syrian child’s corpse, dressed so tenderly by someone, and still whole as the body washed up on a short, was everywhere on the Internet yesterday; today it’s being removed. But before people can forget and early this morning, someone put this poem on one of the sites I frequent:

“HOME,” by Somali poet Warsan Shire:

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here.

by Somali poet, Warsan Shire

Last week’s New Yorker had a worrying essay by Evan Osnos on this man who utters vicious obscenities and has become a media and campaign star. Trump with his beads for eyes in a fat face, false blonde-wig, baseball cap. Can he now buy the Republican nomination, can he win the US presidency by vilifying people fleeing the horrific wars around the earth?

Drowned with Aylan Shenu were his mother, Rihanna (she dressed him) and brother, Ghaleb. I watched on DemocracyNow.org a Muslim man rush at and wrestle down his pregnant wife, who was holding a baby and refusing to get on a hideously-over crowded train on the borders of Hungary said to be headed for Germany; he began to beat her to force her to get onto that train. She was crying hysterically that she did not want to, did not want to take her child onto that train.

BenCameron
Cartoon by Ben Cameron

Ellen

Read Full Post »

CezanneTreebytheBend1881
Early Cezanne, Tree by the Bend (1881)

Mid-summer. Daily dreadful heat in Virginia, heat indexes at over 100 degrees fahrenheit

A paraphrase from Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby: ‘Look here, old man [old sport] what are we going to do with all these corpses?’

Dear friends and readers,

Last night I managed to find a small hotel outside Dulles Airport where my Florida friend was staying for the night, as a stop-over on her trip to South Africa (2 and 1/2 weeks) and then on to Frankfurt, Germany (4 days) for a 3 week tour this summer. She’s using one of these tour groups, in the first case with a nearby neighbor, in the second to visit an old friend.

We enjoyed a long dinner together and then shared a chocolate ice cream dessert. We had a kind of talk that I’ve not experienced for a long while and had hoped we would reach last January when I visited her. After all our life stories have such curious parallels: utterly working class backgrounds, became stenographers upon finishing high school very young, went back to college, and then onto to do a Ph.D., married men of sensitive disposition, had a period of going out as a couples, visited, she eventually when retiring from her high income job (there not alike, her degree being in economics with a mathematical emphasis, finance), turning to teaching in colleges. We did for one day when we went to the beach for a second time together and stood by the shore with our legs wet up to near the knees and walked along. We had done that 50 years ago when we were 18 and 19 at Rockaway. Somehow the memory of that old time, previous moment came back. Austen says in Mansfield Park that siblings can mean so much more to one another than spouses because the time known between the two, the shared life, experience rooted, past goes much deeper and somehow that counts. It is one of her usual ironic moments, because the meaning or thrust is about how such bonds can be broken and even so easily: as is so common it’s misquoted here on the Net and in scholarly works too, to omit the full bleakness it ends on:

Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply, and it must be by a long and unnatural estrangement, by a divorce which no subsequent connection can justify, if such precious remains of the earliest attachments are ever entirely outlived. Too often alas, it is so. Fraternal love, sometimes almost everything, is at others worse than nothing (Mansfield Park, Chapter 24)

My friend and I were not siblings and had a long parting on and off, but we were able to talk and reach down to say things about being a widow in ways that resonated and how we are coping (similarly) that was again rejuvenating. She even half-remembered a line from Mansfield Park (“a hole in the heart” forever there)

***********************
Personal loss. How it occurs and what it means in the US today. Last week mass graves of dead immigrants, corpses, found in Texas. This is the anniversary of several black men killed last summer by police. All gone, close relatives and friends’ lives ruined, desolated

For two days Amy Goodman has conducted meaningful, splendid interviews on her DemocracyNow.org. Two days ago it was Ta Nehisi-Coates on being black, on having to live with fear all the time, in the violent US, from his new book, Between the World and Me. Yesterday she interviewed the actor, Theodore Bikel, which one of the members of Wompo (a woman poets’ listserv) paraphrases as “On being an ‘artist’ (yes, a poet…) in our world… yes, it needs saying, and saying, and doing…with care as ever”

‘I am an artist, but I do not stand apart from the world. I am a part of the world. And I keep on insisting, when I speak to students, for example, always, always, always be part of your surroundings. I do not trust theater students who only read the theater pages. I do not trust the financial people who read only financial pages. A financial wizard needs to read the arts pages, and an artist needs to read the political pages, in order to live in the world in which he or she functions. And that’s an adage that has not changed. I am an activist because I’m a human being. And I am, as the Greeks have said, a political animal. I live in the fabric of a society that forces me to partake in whatever it is that the society presents me with. And I cannot divorce myself from it. I am not—I cannot say to myself I’m a lofty person engaged in some mythical remove, and I’m not, because I’m part and parcel of everything that there is.’

” And there were some who did not participate in any of this, but they also did not open their doors and windows, either, to call a halt. And today, neither I nor you nor history itself can absolve these nice people next door of guilt and complicity, because silence speaks very loudly, and non-action is also an act.”

Sandra Bland, a black woman, was murdered because she recognized that a policeman had no right to pull her car over; because she protested when he demands that she come out of the car, one of the fundamental liberties (protest) the US constitution is said to afford every US citizen. Here is the mainstream news report, calling what happened “a mystery:” notice what she was indited for, notice the police officer(s) have not even been taken into custody. US citizens are also said to have the right to life and liberty, to exercise a right to protect themselves (see my paper on Liberty in Winston Graham’s Poldark Novels).

This summer in my class on Trollope’s Framley Parsonage (just concluded), we went over one of the political passages in the novel which drills down to the level of understanding where a character recognizes he has or has not the right to exercise a right supposedly given him, that liberty and power is contingent on who you are in a group, and what powers the others in the group are allowed to exercise over you.

Each of us should understand that such incidents corrode all our safety. This police officer and those who work with him in Texas have been trained to act on the assumption that US citizens may be subject to the total annihilation of life and liberty on his impulse — with impunity. That they will NOT be prosecuted or punished for such crimes in any meaningful way or at all. Each time such an act is not indited we are all more deeply at risk. Each of us should speak out in whatever way available to us.

Imagine Sandra Bland’s mother — how she feels. I saw her the other night on a podcast — she was half-apologizing for her daughter’s conduct in a church (!), the agony of this woman. In Texas mass graves of murdered and dead immigrants have been found. This is all beyond monstrous: the killing fields are now in the US. I lost but one man to the cancer epidemic which no group of people with power, money, expertise to work out fundamental causes is doing anything fundamental about (only money-making techniques to prolong life, the agony), my friend another man to years of Parkinson’s Disease (the last four very bad while she took him where she could and nursed him herself).

Yvette is working on a new arrangement out of Snow Patrol’s contemporary Run which she will produce a video of and put here on the Net:

Singing, making music are Yvette’s way of speaking out herself.

Miss Drake

Read Full Post »

AtEthelLancesFuneral
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

Read Full Post »

19charleston-victims-largeWidescreen573
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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »