Beloved M(X)LK, Raggedy WaPo

Two giants. Two martyrs. One so sanctified he’s made it to Paradise Porn. The other mixedbagged and boutiqued into Niche Noesis. Maybe, for each of them, a second martyrdom.

Now comes the Washington Post with a very, very fine “Malcolm X Redux”. But it’s the Washington Post, so the pretext for publication is another 50th anniversary. But it’s the Washington Post, so it dominates the Style section. But it’s the new, beleaguered with all its print siblings, Wapo, so it has about as much graphics as text.

And what, you may ask, is the problem?

The only photo of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X together was a photo op  taken outside of Congress, March 26, 1964. (Henry Griffin/AP)

It is that we need the ancestors, and we very much need these two precious, dead, thinkers and activists. Krissah Thompson’s article is a valuable contribution, but it is so desperately necessary because the mainstream assumptions reflected by the Post and other “leading” media for these 50 and more years have as a whole served to attack, obscure, misrepresent and sanitize the images of these two men.

Let’s take a whirlwind tour of the borderlands between three gigantic domains: citizenship, journalism, and schools. I’ve hopped on my blog-scooter, so I beg you to hold on tight and forgive me my shortcuts. What for some will be harder to forgive is the overall perspective: what does any citizen or kid-potential-citizen need, to “mature” into an at-risk world that dearly needs his or her input. I.e., where is the groundwork for being/becoming – if one so chooses – an intelligent activist.

Okay, so kids of all ages learn about Saint Martin. With precious exceptions, teachers peddled that in 1980, and still do, in classrooms elementary and otherwise. But from where do they get it, these dutiful ones who don’t get it? Above all, they get it from the dishonest “American Dream” culture that has only a small, sanitized place for minorities. (And denial or worse for those of God’s creatures who were here before Europeans and their slaves). Top-tier newspapers such as the Post are essential elements of this culture, and especially of its transmission to teachers and middle-class parents, who are the main infecters of children.

This remains true (with beloved exceptions) despite all of the intelligent pluralism of editors. They got to be editors because of their ability to present the richest and most literate versions of mainstream assumptions of reality. Otherwise they land on the “fringes,” like Chris Hedges and Noam Chomsky.

Where they belong, you interject, and have ample opportunity to address their following.

Naw. But I am not going to do what I would prescribe for every journalism teacher and media critic. Google Malcolm and Martin for the past year (or 10 or 40 if you have the time) and “Washington Post”.

Then tabulate relative frequencies. And if you want a PhD or something as a media critic, assemble a composite picture of each of these leaders, based on what you find. Or limit yourself to coverage for the year or two preceding each of these precious individual’s assassination.

I’ve done none of that. But once, while driving to Baltimore (where my friends the Women in Black march in the MLK parade) I listened to WPFW reading New York Times contemporaneous coverage of Martin. Makes you wonder what the Jerusalem Post would have thought of Jeremiah.

And I suspect that Malcolm-the-pimp-turned-rabble-rouser (vs.-Saint Martin) was a more prominent tale 1963-1970 than Alex Haley’s Autobiography of Malcolm X. Another challenge would be to see what – if anything – primary school administrators and their employees have made of Malcolm all these years.

It has taken 50 years, but maybe Krissah Thompson’s insightful and comprehensive Post piece would be a good starting point. And yes, your humble servant the present author, who became a ghetto schoolteacher in the 1990s when he was 47, should add Manning Marable’s biography of Malcolm to his already hopelessly long reading list.

I only wish that too much to read was our biggest problem. And when I say ‘our” I mean simultaneously some public intellectuals and academics, all teachers at all levels, and really, all the citizens of these United States – whether they have “stepped up” to what citizen means or not.

From Ferguson: Dark Blessing

.

An attempt to respond to more murder, more injust, more misery. With something other than a thrown verbal rock.

If you read it at all, read it slowly.  For Tamir, even in the last few weeks, you could substitute the names of maybe a dozen others:  many of them, like Tamir, children.

.

Lament for Darren Wilson and Tamir Rice

(Thanksgiving, 2014)

.
Precious, precious, precious.
The lives of killers are precious;
they are prisms of truth.
The lives of killers are as those sacred books
we ignore at our peril. And when we read,
woe to those who indifferent read,
or live athwart the words.
.
Killers, listeners, I said killers.
.
The lives of killers are precious
whatever you think you have heard
about the image of God,
our murderous imperfections,
or that voice saying in Hebrew
Ehyeh asher ehyeh.
.
They are because they are.
They are as all lives are
precious, sanctus, precious,
the lives of killers –
and the lives ended,
.
oh listeners in whom they must live.
.
Precious the armored humans.
Precious the shaking children,
as ashes in wavering ranks, precious,
from smokestacks once ascended.
 
  

Flowers of War

 

 

 22 July, 2014….. The Wahington Post:

 

Gaza deaths: ‘ Women and children first’.

For this Ameican Jew, a nightmare…  from which I am trying to make something.

This is a transformation of a well-known Israeli song:

 

 

 

Evening of Warflowers (A Hebrew Melody)

 

Evening and flowers of fire:
Let us go out to the fields,
far from the scent of tank-treads,
metal and burning flesh.

Night is slowly falling
over my glowing heart.
Let me whisper you a song
of lovers that never part.

Dawn and the mourning dove:
your hair alight like phosphorus.
If I cannot lie with you, my love,
then I will lie to both of us.

 

 

 

 

For echoes of other struggles, you can watch performances of the song I disfigured:

Miriam Makeba    

and  Harry Belafonte 

were both dedicated political activists as well as great popular performers.

 

 

That The Washington Post features the ‘kiiled breakdown’ graphic may be a sign of a sea change in “mainstream” perceptions of this calamity. If you want the whole WaPo thing from today, it’s  HERE

  But remember the graphic when you read about Hamas’s intransigence (first paragraph) and Israeli claims that the goal of their assault is “the return of the quiet in the whole of Israel”  (5th paragrap, right after Gaza deaths.). And “weep, for you may touch them not”  as Wilfred Owen wrote just before he, too, was killed in the Great War.

 

 

 

Crimea and I

My  “commentary”  on today’s news:  Crimean war and rumours.

 

 

 

Krim i Moi

             2 March, 2014

 

 

I’m scared. Again.

Not as usual, but again.

 

I want to write “September 1, 1939,”

but really don’t even want to think that.

I’d like to hold a candle to Auden,

but not sit in some dive reflecting

on a newish, dishonest jackbooted cybersnooping

Hellfire droning millennium.

 

Do Putin’s crewcut minions wear jackboots? Overcoats?

(Gogol’s usually there when you need him.)

Does it matter that I’m Jewish

and haven’t made a minyan since before

our Iraq war.

 

I sit in a dive my own dining room.

On the table, by tart coincidence:

Inferno…1939-1945 (My dad was there,

barely got singed, unlike mom’s family —  ashes.)

The Collapse of Complex Societies (Do we have time

to fall apart, for global anaphylactic carbon, or will it be

we dinosaurs, monster asteroid, Sakharov cocktail?)

and This Is Your Brain on Music ( O tempora! O B-flat sonata,

Oh neuroscience and Mercedes Sosa.)

 

Munich Potsdam Yalta (There it is: Stalin-Churchill-

Roosevelt in their Black Sea overcoats, Sochi

Olympics just ended another resort. The human race

courting of last resort but for us and our exceptional

President “endangered species” means the middle class.

How quaint. How fatal. An angle

to make the lovely First Lady obtuse.)

 

Budapest, 1956.

 

Forgive me e.e. Cummings and Allen Ginsberg.

I presume to sit in a dive with you and Auden

crying in my beer for Wilfred Owen.

 

Forgive me, my fellow- humans,

one way or another

refried-beans-to-be.

 

Forgive us our trespasses

as we have forgotten how to forgive

those who have institutionalized

their fear, avarice and violence.

Give us this day our vision within

the translucent scrim of lies.

 

For if we can forgive the unforgivable,

we may also forgive ourselves

for the fathomless wound we have made

and allowed fashionable in our name.

Amen. God freaking damn.

World without end

or otherwise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Life, Music… and Difficult Memory

 

 

 

There was a man who kissed me the day we met. He was already 90; his musician wife stood smiling beside him.

 There was a woman whom I never met. One day I saw the words “Music saved my life,” and I knew that we were connected, close. That was this winter. Last week I found a DVD on my disorderly desk, and got to know “The Lady in Number 6” a bit better.

 Harry Jagoda, 100, and Alice Herz-Sommer, 110, both died this week.

 

 

 

 

Lady6PHARRY_J

 

 

 

 Although it visits us all, grief is a strange, strange bird – different at each appearance. Perhaps because I knew neither of them intimately, perhaps because of the Holocaust, I am grieving publicly. Certainly because of music.

 In Italy a lifetime or two ago (few years before I was born) Sgt. Harry Jagoda had an employee named Flory. Her mother, her first music teacher, put her on a train saying Don’t talk with anyone; just play your accordion.

Flory Accordion Her mother’s last words were like a charm. No one asked the charming accordionist if she was Jewish. She made it to Italy. Soon the Gis were presenting their sergeant  with wedding dress, made from a parachute, for his new bride.

 Meanwhile Alice, already a concert pianist, was sent with her son Raphael to the showcase Nazi camp at Terezin. Her husband was put on another train, and disappeared into Dachau. “Every day in life is beautiful,” said Alice a few years ago, in Malcolm Clarke’s beautiful and modest documentary about her life. [ http://nickreedent.com/ ] She had earned the right to say that,  in a way we would wish on no one. Yet her voice rings more true for that.

 My grandmother, no musician, sang songs like the ones Flory Jagoda still sings and writes. One day I will ask Flory if Harry fell in love with her songs, when he fell in love with her. Sixty years later I was fortunate to become a minor voice in that counterpoint of love. Even now, in grief that the rest of us can barely guess at, Harry and Flory are circled’ round with love.

 My grandmother sang “Los Bibilicos” and the other songs because she, like Flory, grew up singing and speaking Ladino, Djudeo-Espanol, the language of those Jews who thrived in Al Andalus (Muslim Spain) and fled the Inquisition at the end of the 15th century. Their descendents were, like my grandmother’s family, thriving in Greece in the 1930s. And in Bosnia like Flory’s family. (When Their Catholic Majesties declared the Expulsion in 1492, the Ottoman Sultan welcomed Jews into his North African and Mediterranean empire.)

 As I said, I am writing this because grief is a strange bird. My grandmother survived a stillborn child, her entire family from Salonika swallowed by the Holocaust, and years later her only granddaughter. But after a minor accident she told me, her only grandson, that she had had enough. She died two days later.

 In 1955, I think, we all shared her one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx. We shared it with a couple from grandma’s home town. I was eight, and I didn’t know what the blue numbers on their arms were for, the tatooes that enrolled them at Auschwitz.

 While my father– another sergeant –served in t North Africa and Italy, the world of European Jews ( like his fathers Polish parents and his wife’s Greek ones) came to an end. Although blissfully or willfully ignorant of that fate, other Americans in 1941 were looking at the possibility that Hitler’s war of conquest would succeed – and maybe that the world as they knew it would also end.

 “You don’t have to be Jewish” to believe in 2014 that are entire world, our planet itself, is in deep danger. Political violence and climate change are both products of human arrogance and domination, that now appear in the clothing of corporatist transnational Power.

 Some will say that to mix politics and personal grief is a sin, a desecration, or at best a sad delusion.

 But I reject all pious complacency, all denial – however sympathetic and understandable –- of the magnitude of our danger. Harry and Alice both lived long, beautiful, life-affirming lives. They chose affirmation as does Flory, in her life and her music. They know at what cost the preciousness of life is maintained.

 They knew and know (I imagine Alice Herz Sommer nodding here) what Franz Schubert somehow composed  before dying at 31. What the young officer and poet Wilfred Owen left us before the last guns of World War I stopped his mouth.

 Goodbye Harry whom I knew for a few mere hugs and kisses. Goodbye Alice whom I knew only as a voice, an image, a smile. Who said we should thank Bach and Beethoven and Schubert for making us happy.

 Through my tears I say thank you Harry Jagoda and Alice Herz Sommer. You are gone and you remain, while we remain.

Lay6cara

 

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/alice-herz-sommer-concert-pianist-and-holocaust-survivor-dies-at-110/2014/02/26/f3f38f40-9e6a-11e3-a050-dc3322a94fa7_story.html

Waste/ Water

 

When I graduated junior high school in 1961, the tag under my yearbook photo read “at home on the launching pad”. And indeed, both my imagination and my then career-goal had been formed by a combination of NASA, The Hayden Planetarium… and science fiction.

The specialized public high school I started later that year was considered part of the USA response to Sputnik, and to close “the missile gap”.

Neither my boyhood dream, nor those of visionary scientists and engineers –never mind the geopoliticians— came to pass. You could say that was because a 14-year-old’s techno-utopia was always improbable. It would be equally true, however, to say that the prevailing optimism about science, progress and our country – rested on shaky foundations.

We are marvelous imaginers and builders. We are also a society that quantifies the value of life into a number of dollars. We call the ability to increase that number “freedom,” and believe that (in democratic principle at least) each person’s honest, free effort will be reflected in some amalgam of net worth and family security.

But we have always cheated in that calculation. Capitalism banishes as “externalities” many of the greatest costs of industrialization and the construction of the American Dream: Short shrift as we displaced and decimated the peoples who lived in North America before Europeans arrived. Short shrift for our darker brothers and sisters who were legal property. Short shrift for miners and countless others, who paid for the transcontinental behemoth with their health, immiseration, and stunted futures.

Are you worried about the national debt? Probably the shortest shrift – the biggest unpaid bill – is to our sustaining Mother Earth. But just as with indigenous people, human chattel and exploited workers, the “reckoning” is a matter of life and death. To put it baldly — it is a matter of empirical as well as moral interest to know how many times you can rape your mother – before she dies.

(Transition. Deep breath.)

Sunday’s Washington Post brings us in-depth journalism about a remarkable piece of engineering: a 4.5 mile-long, 23-foot-wide tunnel currently being dug under Washington, DC. It’s supposed to be complete in 2025 – to remedy the current ancient system, that disposes of human waste and storm runoff together, often into local waqterways, and so into the Cheasapeake Bay and the ocean.

Image

Do we like this? Ashley Halsey’s extensive piece

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/meet-lady-bird-a-massive-machine-digging-out-a-solution-to-dc-wastewater-woes/2014/02/15/e20b1c60-8dc3-11e3-98ab-fe5228217bd1_story.html

does a great job – with really useful graphics – of explaining what its for, how it will work, and especially the the massive, slow, hi-and lo-tech construction process featuring an engineering prodigy “longer than a footbal field”. Towards the end she gets into the conomics – which reminds us that DC’s sewage mess is part of a much larger picture. Public Infrastructure in the land of the free – roads, utilities, euipment etc. – had been under-maintained for decades, or longer. Even here, the free market has disinvested in the long run. Or, you could say, cheated the future. (Whether one agrees with a carbon-spewing industrial future – catastrophic, I think—or not.)

Halsey also does a good, if too-cute, job of explaining how we got here. It seems that in the 19th-century “combined systems” that carried both waste andf rainwater we “all the rage”– and still used especially in large East Coast cities. The bottom line for such systems is that when there is a high flow of wasftewater (snowmelt or a rainstorm, for example) the overflow is – by design – sent to ou rivers and other waterways. Happens “hundreds of times a year”. Swallow that, consumer. But do not try to drink it.

And it sure sounds like the original problem was not an engineering mistake, but rather the assumption that just as the earth is a free source of wood, ores etc., our waters make a great garbage can.

So: What’s Love got to do with it?  Love nature — or at least respect our planet. Figure our what makes sustainable economic sense and more beautiful light into our world. Or else you can exploit it, benefit from corporations and governments that do, and huddle in the “big , mainstream tent” with the other abusers.

 

In Praise of Our Torturers

In these troubled times, a crazy-superficial balance can be constructed by marrying two unlikely elements.

Such as the pretext-inspiring Washington Post newspaper and the deeply inspiring poet-songster Leonard Cohen.

Wherefore I offer you the following, provoked by http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/the-hidden-history-of-the-cias-prison-in-poland/2014/01/23/b77f6ea2-7c6f-11e3-95c6-0a7aa80874bc_story.html

 

.

 

In Praise of Our Torturers

.
What??!!
Am I nuts?

Of course I’m nuts.
I live in the greatest democracy in the history of the known world.
I live in the shadow of the Holocaust, slavery, and those who lived here before us.

I live in the shadow of Franz Schubert and Wilfred Owen.

Wanna come live with me, and be my love?
Or with the folks who got wash boards and surfboards and waterboarding confused?
Who told the soldiers and patriotic geeks that the world was our oyster,
and we’d better crack the goddam shell before bad actors got there,
before it is too late.

It is too late for KSM, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
the “self-declared mastermind” of 911, waterboarded 183 times,
and it is too late for you and I, whether
we want to extract intelligence,
send a message,
crush his soul,
or none of the above.

As I’ve heard,
and Leonard Cohen sang:
Democracy is coming
to the USA.

 

 

 
            -- David Almaleck Wolinsky

 

 

The Map of Syria: Another Graveyard?

In Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book, a ghostly old couple adopt a baby that has been in desperation left in their cemetary. Thus the dead again care for the living – as we must care for the dead. Neither of “us” have done such a good job.

Such were my thoughts after reading Liz Sly’s brutally comprehensive front-page Washington Post piece this morning. on the history of the “map” – political, sectarian, religious – of the former Ottoman empire. After three years of war and no end in sight, Syria is of course the focus.

Here are some quotes taken, but re-arranged,  from the article. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/syrias-civil-war-tests-whether-borders-drawn-less-than-a-century-ago-will-last/2013/12/26/6718111c-68e2-11e3-997b-9213b17dac97_story.html)

+++

We never had borders…. a long time ago, the French came and drew these lines. —  Mohammed Shamas,  shopkeeper near the line between Syria and Lebanon

If Syria is partitioned, there will be war for 100 years to come. The Alawites will have the coast, the Kurds will have the oil, and the Sunnis will be in the middle with nothing. — Abu Zeid, 37, Syrian refugee.

They made sure when those borders were drawn to maintain trouble between us forever. —  Mohammed al-Jamalhis farm in Syria and Lebanon.

The wars will change, but there will always be wars. — Issam Bleibeh, deputy mayor of Hermel, Lebanon-Syria.

The only solution is to share everything. Abu Zeid.

…it is all very difficult to predict.  Fawaz Gerges, London School of Economics.

+++

Gravedigger, pt.2

Here is the poem I misremembered a line from, in my sleep, in my grief, in the previous post (“Gravedigger”).

It was written over 40 years ago, after my sister died. Her maternal Grandfather, Sabbatai (“Sam”), died in 1950 or 1951, some months before Susan was born.

.

.

Sandy Among Angels

Who are these gauze-and-bandage
diaphanous birds squatting in clouds?
I fell out of green,
I fell out of green! Nothing
but to search among the dead
for grandpa Sam’s grey eyes.
My face is bruised in the torn cotton.
Sam, grandma, any-
one, where has the world gone?
It fell from behind my eyes
in a hospital, in a quivering
rosepetal on the sill; someone said
Her pulse fluttered like a just-born bird!
and then it leapt
still blind, white, still-born
among the eternal corrupt angels.

.

.

.

.

Susan&Sadie

Susan and her grandma Sadie, c. 1960

Gravedigger

Tuesday afternoon I dug a hole in the rocky clay hill behind our house. It was a small hole, but difficult for my unlimber body to dig into the spot I had chosen beneath a laurel bush. I knew the grave was large enough when I carefully laid the stiff body of our cat Pooh alongside of it.

We were away for three days. It seemed as if Pooh had waited for us, because when we found him he started to cry, and then howl as Lilia tried to give him water within eyedropper. He was our baby, and his howl was a baby’s puzzled protest and cry for help. We could only comfort him and cry ourselves. He vomited and then rattled terribly for about a minute. I got up to look for some antibiotic. When I returned, Lilia said He’s gone.

Pooh was 19; we learned from our niece who was feeding him while we were gone that he had bled from his nose and begun stumble sideways. So the shock was grave, but without much surprise. During those few minutes Lilia mobilized like the caring skillful nurse-mother that she is. Her own expressions of pain cause me to sob harder, from a place beyond words. Later I thought of my father saying It wasn’t supposed to be like this, as he lay dying in my arms. In the middle of the night I awoke thinking “Her heart fluttered like a just-born bird,” which is a misquoted line from a poem I wrote over 40 years ago, after my sister had died.

My mother, who is 91, through the first handful of earth into the grave; I had to help her remain standing. Lilia’s mother Florinda, who is 99, was also there. Her mind is often in the past, but never more in the present then with our baby grandson, and the animals who live in our home. Florinda used to pick Pooh up like a baby and wrap him in the blanket on her lap.

In my mind, lives and deaths have always flowed merging and separating like streams of water. I think of one, I think of many. The warm rising and falling of Pooh’s chest that I could no longer find as I kneeled on the living room floor. Hospitals and the Holocaust. Baltimore and Africa. Frederick, Maryland and Falastin. That is who I am. Almost – maybe – like a professional mourner. Brother. Teacher. Grandpa. Gravedigger.

Life goes on, “they” say, usually leaving out that death, too, goes on. So, for now, our family goes on – without one beloved creature that added so much to it. On top of the mound of earth I placed a round plaster plaque that had been in our garden: Kindness is the greatest wisdom.

Image

Image

 

Image

Image

Hiroshima, My Love

author’s note;  *On August 6th, 1945, the atom bomb was dropped on Hiroshima , Japan. Three days later, the American B-29 found its primary target, Kokura, covered by clouds. The bomb was detonated on the city of Nagasaki instead.

Kyoto had been removed from the target list by Secretary of War Stimson because of its beauty and cultural significance. Tokyo was scheduled for destruction on August 19, but on August 15 Emperor Hirohito announced the capitulation of Japan.

Nazim Hikmet is the great Turkish poet who wrote “I come and stand at every door.”

The “sisters” of Hiroshima and Nagasaki speak. I wrote this poem as an act of witness — more so than other poems, though all poems are, against forgetting.

Hiroshima Mon Amour*

for Nazim Hikmet

Kokura

Oh no. Oh yes.

Some are vaporized

that others may rest.

That day, the clouds

played lesser gods,

and a B-29,

American Wotan.

We are still whistling Dixie

in the cockpits of F-16s,

while the big boys deploy

the children machines

into targeted Gotterdammerung

like a line of thunderhead engines

rumbling to the end of the line.

(Kyoto speaks):

O my sisters! What can the lovely one say

as she stands in the sun in her tresses and lace?

Yes: In the company of rapists are cultivated men

who would not disfigure beauty. One spared me.

Yes: Before the smiling countenance of the sun

I stood, as bitter fire fell down from heaven

until I longed to throw myself over the bodies

of my spindly sisters upon the violated earth.

And all who did not shut their doors in the face of that day –

boys, graybeards, retired colonels and courtesans, became,

all became, sisters: mute, unmoveable, griefstruck

as oxygen fled from air.

August 19 (Tokyo speaks):

What is it to you

if I do not come and stand at every door

as my little sisters do?

Who is it that cannot see their ghosts?

Sister H., honored in all heavens

and all hells — the eldest, the first —

smooths her torn gray dress.

God has truly blessed

America.

Sister N., forever condemned

to walk in a sister’s fiery shadow,

forever wrapped in sister-love

and the love of all who love the dead,

smooths the isotopes from her faded dress

and stands at your door.

Do you not see them there,

the two sloe-eyed girls?

Do you not have a door?

Do you not have eyes?

I come now to stand with them.

We will stand here forever, and longer,

with our sad eyes and black hearts,

like triplet invisible sunflowers

climbing the steps of the sun.

And you. What are you doing there

in your backyard with its brushed-metal grill,

its razor-wire, its fire, with your progeny

that speed over oceans, brighter than a million suns?

All:

We forgive where there is nothing

We forgive where there is nothing

to forgive. We forget nothing

dead or alive or dead. We live,

a sisterhood of ashes

smearing love-characters

on doorsteps and pale skin.

______________________________________________________________________

Stupor Bowl XLVII

Did you watch the Big Game? I did not.

I used some of that time to do some quick research instead, because of what I have been thinking about schools, the Pros, and the everylovin’ fans.

So: What would happen if every school PE and Health class included something like the following information? If you make it to the NFL you will have in any year a 1% chance of injury leading to permanent paralysis, a 5% chance of permanent brain damage, and a 15% chance of spinal cord injury., also permanent.

Well. The large insurance companies who are in a legal battle with the NFL might have more precise numbers. Mine are broad estimates,  based on an NFL roster of maybe 1500 players, and a study of these pro football injuries 1977-1998. (Try looking up “NFL health issues” on Wikipedia, or a broader inquiry to Mr. Google for a better picture.)

I ask this question to suggest that, given its huge audiences, football on all levels is a cultural issue– even before we look at health or education. You can imagine what howls a sportscaster would provoke, for example, if he or she broadcast my question.

Among the many counterarguments to my “football as gladiator entertainment” screed, I only want to address one: Of  those whose say something like “It’s a personal choice. The players know the risks and want the ($$$) rewards,” I would ask that they look closely at what the players — present and retired– and their representatives including the Players Association, are themselves  saying.

Some of the readers of this post may be bigger football boosters than their favorite linebacker. And for some — both players and fans — the Stupor of my title will not be metaphorical.

Inaugural

Presidential Politics
 
In 2008 I worked hard to elect him.
In 2009 I was heartbroken,
in 2010 — numb.
In 2012 I “threw my vote away”.
 
On inauguration night, 2013, I dreamed of Barack Obama.
It was anxious, conflicted, and short.
Second chances? Maybe.
But I am again heartbroken,
that even now  my dreams
are strangers to audacity.
 

The Killers of Children

For those who read “The Right to Bear Airliners” , and just had to get something similar  or anyone else who cares to see this, written in the 1990s and inspired by apologists for the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands, here is:

The Killers of Children

To stop the killers of children
We will hunt them down
Wherever they are
Destroy their safe houses
And kill them.
We will stop
At nothing. Demolish
The outrage. Stop nothing.
No they shall not hide
Amongst the frail, or behind
The young. No, not prevent us,
They, god-cloaked assassins!
Killers of children!

The Right to Bear Airliners

I just read about the NRA press conference in response to the Newtown school massacre. Wayne LaPierre and his organization want school staff to carry guns.

Great! I’m as much for killing child-killers as the next guy. I even wrote a poem about it, “The Killers of Children, ” years ago But on reflection I see that the NRA has not gone far enough.

Think about it: It’s 2014. Teachers have guns. The principal has a gun; the secretaries and maintenance folks have guns. Sig and Glock are right up there with Dr. Seuss  and Shakespeare. But what are the spoilsport nutjobs and terrorists thinking? The place is well-defended. Maybe even my Bushmaster and 50 rounds won’t do the trick. Better get seriously locked and loaded!

So what can those malefactors reach for? RPGs? A tank? Well if he or she or any citizen does, they would be breaking the law. But that’s wrong. The right to bear arms doesn’t say what kind. Maybe in 1789 a well-ordered militia could make do with rifles.   Modern assault weapons have come a long way, but not far enough for the 21st Century.

The NRA should immediately change its name to NHAHA, the National Heavy Artillery Helps Association. It should launch a full-bore lobbying and publicity campaign — so that the next time there’s a pitched battle anywhere, the average citizen will have a fighting chance at self-defense.

Yes, it could get ugly.But  it’s already ugly: They want to take away our guns. They want to decide what arms (maybe just our own two hands!) we have a right to bear.

Countries that discuss what kinds of weapons they should be allowed, sign treaties, are losers. But Bin Laden was ahead of his time. He taught us that Freedom is nothing without Power — and the meaning of The Right to Bear Airliners.

Reborn

I’m back, for what it’s worth. With a modified blog name. And inspired by a WordPress blog more important than this one, Virtual Vita Nuova, linked here at the right.

Limbaugh nabbed by Epic Poet!

Noetic Justice

When Dante Alighieri arrived in the  21st century, he found in Washington one institution, and one fortuitous circumstance, that gladdened his exile’s heart. The institution was the Supreme Court; the circumstance was named Rush Limbaugh.

Dante had become, as ages had passed, saddened by something he had in fact helped popularize: the practice of consigning to Hell persons who were still nominally alive. He also noted that 700 more years had not improved the fruits by which the self-professed pious could be known.

But Dante did not wish to cease passing judgment on the living: He had simply learned a modicum of compassion, and needed a mechanism to temper his judgments. That mechanism was Rush Limbaugh.

Our poet had observed the contemporary practice of tagging everything from transportation to software with the word “express”. Just what he needed, for a world with always-on computers and an always-on news cycle. Thus Rush Limbo was added to the 2009 edition of the Divina Commedia, revised.

What could a master of moral epic do, for example, when conservatives both nerdy (Newt Gingrich) and not (Limbaugh) branded a Supreme Court nominee a “racist”? Or when a journalist (whose writings had dignified a U. S. President ‘s speeches) accused a sitting Supreme Court Justice of  “simplistic pro-choice rant”? And that the objects of both of these slanders were women? Even Dante had to blush.

Dante put Socrates here; the neighborhood has since deteriorated

Dante put Socrates here; the neighborhood has since deteriorated

It is said that God needs merely to think something, for that thought to become reality. Authors claim the more modest capacity to turn their thoughts into books. As much as some citizens could wish to whisk Limbaugh, Michael Gerson, or most of the Republican Senate leadership off to an insane asylum, this is not feasible. (Indeed, liberals had closed many of those institutions in the name of compassion. The ranks of the homeless then swelled with an influx of former psychiatric inmates.)

But neither venomous pundits nor legislators risk homelessness, nor lack of medical care or other material comforts. With poetic justice, however, Dante Alighieri now hustles these malefactors onto the Limbo Express, which takes them almost instantly to the land of the undead, the Rush Limbo, where they can do no further harm.

A Dream Deferred?

Maybe an official of some Asian consulate has read Harold Meyerson’s column on the President’ s untapped army. “A paper tiger,” the bored functionary sighs.

What is... and what should be

What is... and what should be

That reader might be more perceptive than anyone at present realizes.  An e-mail  list is not an army. A year ago millions of people like myself were indeed “fired up and ready to go” knocking on doors,  and telephones,  and credit cards. Electronic networking was a terrific tool for turning ferment  into  political mobilization.  But I believe that Obama’s first six months in office has demobilized —  or at least immobilized — a significant part of his army:

Health care — If a “government option” is the extreme left of the debate (possibly even to be sacrificed through negotiation, and subject to mixed messages from the administration) the battle is already largely lost. Sure I favor single payer, but if it’s not even in the discussion, then the “progressive” side is at the mercy of insurance companies and related forces.

The Economy — The effort and money devoted to saving capitalism from itself dwarfs everything done for everyone else.  ’nuff said on the subject, except that…

War and Peace issues are  proceeding as promised, with a shrinking mess in Iraq and a growing one in Afghanistan/Pakistan. The economics of this “smarter”  superpower warfighting will cripple  progressive domestic initiatives, i.e.,  those that get past the snarls of Republicans, blue dogs, and the lobbyists they pay attention to.

Hope, by its nature, never entirely dies. Obama tapped into and became the symbol of a pwerful impulse. In office, he has blunted it.  Meanwhile the raving Right has increasing become the respectable opposition. This foretells failure at the top and dangerous mass polarization below. I do not want this to happen. But it seems that at this point Obama’s vaunted confidence  has led him into dangerous waters, and perhaps blinded him to necessary corrections of course. Read more…

The Washington Post and Israel

Today’s lead Washington Post editorial rejoices over the withdrawl of the putatively pro-Arab Charles Freeman as appointed head of Obama’s National Intelligence council. As the post now has online “debates” with the editorial board, I jumped in to say “shame on you” to the Post:

First read Post editorials every day, noticing the even tone and careful writing, even on positions you oppose. Then notice the patronizing slop that begins with “latest failed nominee peddles a conspiracy theory” in this editorial

Why? Because all debates start with assumptions of what is reasonable and respectable. And the best “spin” is that which reinforces a desired environment of assumptions.

It is only in the past few years that challenging what the Israeli Government and AIPAC et al. say is good for Israel has become even half-respectable. That is why the editorial can smugly equate the Israel Lobby (supporting muscular democracy — for Israeli Jews) and “Americans who support Israel” (I am one), going on to call Freeman’s statement “grotesque libel”.

And so the usually impeccably dressed editorial board drops its pants on this issue. It’s a good sign that consummate professionals and old-timers like Pincus and Broder can keep their heads — and belts — when the topic is Israel/Palestine.

The real story is a vicious tragedy in which the leaders on both sides embrace arrogance, hatred, and violence. American cheerleading for “Israel” a la the Post editorial makes things worse — but American political support and money have almost always sustained the catastrophe.

Perhaps Freeman meant “change” on this fundamental level. Then perhaps he was unseated by the combination of fear, influence and self-righteousness that can reasonably be called “the Israel Lobby.”

World, you are ridiculous!

In between” being heartbreaking, inspiring and very, very interesting,  the world is a ridiculous place.

Here are two examples from todays Washington Post (both of which that journal delivers with a straight face.

1. (verbatim from a teaser on the front page):  “Research suggests that animals are indeed capable of planning ahead, like one dominant male chimpanzee in a Swedish zoo who stockpiles stones to throw at human intruders.”

People who live in glass houses shouldn’t,  but maybe those we put in cages should….”

2. There is a boom in books by Colombian ex-hostages et al., after the dramatic freeing of a group by the Army last year. The wife of  former senator and hostage Jorge Gechem wrote “The Love That Kidnapping Kills”. Lucy Artunduaga claims that her husband, who announced their separation soon after being freed, lied publically about the reasons.  The prologue to her book was written by the wife of the President of Colombia. Gechem wrote his own book (without details on the captivity)… with a prologue by the President of Columbia.

We live in houses of glass.
The stones crash like thunder.
Yet still you wonder
why there’s a shard in your ass.

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: