Posts Tagged ‘Ta Nehisi-Coates’

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

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