IT'S ABOUT DAMN TIME . . .
I woke up yesterday morning, turned on "Morning Joe" and learned that the evening before, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass) had delivered a blistering critique of Donald (t)rump's controversial housing comments at the Center for Popular Democracy's annual gala. From the Washington Post:
The line that is driving all the attention this morning is Warren’s suggestion, in the context of Trump’s 2006 comment that a housing crash might enrich him, that the Donald is a “small, insecure money-grubber.” But Warren isn’t merely dissing Trump’s manhood. Warren — who went on to note that Trump “roots for people to get thrown out of their house” because he “doesn’t care who gets hurt, as long as he makes a profit” — is making a broader argument. Trump is not just a small, greedy person, but a cruel one, too.
But wait, there's more:
“Donald Trump was drooling over the idea of a housing meltdown because it meant he could buy up a bunch more property on the cheap,” said Ms. Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts. “What kind of a man does that?”
She went on to argue that Mr. Trump was rooting for people to lose their jobs and be kicked out of their houses.
“I’ll tell you exactly what kind of a man does that,” Ms. Warren added. “It is a man who cares about no one but himself. A small, insecure money-grubber who doesn’t care who gets hurt so long as he makes a profit off it.”
And even more . . .
On Tuesday night, Ms. Warren also suggested that Mr. Trump pays no taxes while reaping the benefits of American public infrastructure. And she hit him for saying that he would undo the Dodd-Frank financial regulation legislation, wondering if Mr. Trump could even name three things about the law.
“Donald Trump is worried about helping poor little Wall Street?” Ms. Warren said. “Let me find the world’s smallest violin to play a sad, sad song.”
I don't know about you, but I'm relieved that SOMEone is saying (and tweeting) what we all know: "Let's face it. Donald Trump is about one thing and one thing only: Donald Trump."
When the "Morning Joe" segment about this ended, co-host, Mika Brzezinski said, "I don't care, but give that woman (Warren) a microphone and whatever else she wants."
Preach it, sister.
GOSH, I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER!
INTRODUCING . . .
WHAT I READ OVER THE WEEKEND THAT GAVE ME PAUSE . . .
DARK THOUGHTS . . .
From the New York Times magazine cover story, "Mr. Trump's Wild Ride" by Robert Draper:
On the TV, Fox had moved on from the election to footage of the smoky aftermath of a bombing in Baghdad. Trump rose from his seat and walked over to the screen for a closer look. “Boy, this ISIS,” he murmured.
I asked Trump if he had ever been to Iraq. “Never!” he said, sounding horrified by the thought.
“What’s the most dangerous place in the world you’ve been to?”
He contemplated this for a second. “Brooklyn,” he said, laughing. “No,” he went on, “there are places in America that are among the most dangerous in the world. You go to places like Oakland. Or Ferguson. The crime numbers are worse. Seriously.”'
(t)rump said it. Seriously.
LIVES ONLINE . . .
From a New York Times editorial, "How Facebook Warps Our Worlds" by Frank Bruni:
The Internet isn’t rigged to give us right or left, conservative or liberal — at least not until we rig it that way. It’s designed to give us more of the same, whatever that same is: one sustained note from the vast and varied music that it holds, one redundant fragrance from a garden of infinite possibility.
I'm still getting daily pop-up reminders (no matter what webpage I'm visiting) about the latest model of New Balance work-out shoes.
SINGING HEARTS . . .
From a New York Times editorial, "To Write Better Code, Read Virginia Woolf":
THE humanities are kaput. Sorry, liberal arts cap-and-gowners. You blew it. In a software-run world, what’s wanted are more engineers.
At least, so goes the argument in a rising number of states, which have embraced a funding model for higher education that uses tuition “bonuses” to favor hard-skilled degrees like computer science over the humanities. The trend is backed by countless think pieces. “Macbeth does not make my priority list,” wrote Vinod Khosla, a co-founder of Sun Microsystems and the author of a widely shared blog post titled “Is Majoring in Liberal Arts a Mistake for Students?” . . .
. . . in my experience, programming lends itself to concentrated self-study in a way that, say, “To the Lighthouse” or “Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction” do not. To learn how to write code, you need a few good books. To enter the mind of an artist, you need a human guide.
For folks like Mr. Khosla, such an approach is dangerous: “If subjects like history and literature are focused on too early, it is easy for someone not to learn to think for themselves and not to question assumptions, conclusions, and expert philosophies.” (Where some of these kill-the-humanities pieces are concerned, the strongest case for the liberal arts is made just in trying to read them.)
How much better is the view of another Silicon Valley figure, who argued that “technology alone is not enough — it’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the result that makes our heart sing.”
His name? Steve Jobs.
My heart sang after I read this editorial.
CURING ANXIETY . . .
From a New York Times editorial, "Among the Healers," by Diana Spechler:
We live in a world where people cite Jesus as their inspiration for denigrating the poor, for hating immigrants and gays and women, for rejecting refugees and accumulating wealth, but in a corner of this world, down a cobblestone street in the middle of Mexico, lives a man who spends his days emulating Jesus: He takes in the sick, the haunted, the marginalized, the wicked (cartel members, corrupt priests and politicians, murderers). He offers hope to those who can’t afford the health care they need. He faces those who have so little and listens to their stories of hardship. He touches them and lets them know that their lives can get better, that good can overcome evil. And maybe most important, he tells them, you’re going to be O.K.
“What do you do to take care of yourself?” I ask Rafael.
He gives me a look that says that’s a ridiculous question, dismisses me with the wave of his hand.
But then he spends the next half-hour telling us animated stories from his childhood, how he found his sister when she was lost, how he knew when his uncle’s car broke down, how he met a pregnant woman who wasn’t yet showing and announced that she would give birth to twins. “I’m not pregnant!” the woman had protested because she hadn’t wanted anyone to know.
Maybe this is what he does to take care of himself. Maybe this is what I do to take care of myself, what the people in the waiting room do to take care of themselves: We trade stories. We use them to impose meaning on our lives. Maybe that’s all spirituality is: imposing meaning on our lives.
Back in the waiting room a few people shoot us dirty looks: Who are we to consume so much of Rafael’s time? Of theirs? The lights have been dimmed. The woman in the pink pantsuit is leading everyone in prayer. The woman who brought balloons and mopped the floor is on her knees, her hands pressed together, her lips moving silently, urgently, in a language I wish I knew.
Sometimes, you aren't going to be okay. Sometimes nothing is the answer.
I WOULD HAVE GIVEN MY EYE TEETH TO WRITE THIS SENTENCE . . .
Erdrich is a poet of lists, placing like and unlike together as if they were a series of Christmas lights, each individually illuminating, each gaining luster and brilliance from its placement, the whole blazing, incandescent.
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
ON THIS DAY . . .
"I'M SUCH A HAPPY CHEWBACCA!"
You know who I'm talking about. If you don't, you are among a half a dozen Americans who don't.
Last Friday, a Texas mother of two, Candace Payne, did a live video on Facebook of her opening and trying on a Chewbacca mask. The video, embedded in this article* from the New York Times has garnered nearly 138 million views since it was posted. A social media star was born. [If the link in the article doesn't play, try the link included in the comment Judy posted at 6:43 a.m. in the sass stream.]
Candace has been interviewed on the Today Show and by the BBC and NPR. She has had to hire a publicist to handle her calls. I confess that I've watched the video at least three times a day since Friday evening, and it's done wonders for my depression and the hopelessness I've felt about this political season. The pain of this country needed the Payne of Texas.
Come on . . . admit it. You want to watch it again. So go ahead, click on the "this article" link in the second paragraph above and get ready to laugh until you cry.
Thank you, Candace! The force is clearly with you and now with us.
What brings you simple joy or
makes you laugh until you cry?
ON THIS DAY . . .
FAREWELL . . .
Jane Little, world's longest-serving orchestra musician, who died this past Sunday during a performance of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. The symphony was performing a pops concert called, "Broadway's Golden Age." Jane was 30 seconds from the last measures of "There's No Business Like Show Business" when she collapsed.
"THERE'S NO SETTLING DOWN WHEN YOU HAVE KIDS . . . "
Following is a portion from an interview I did with playwright, Allison Gregory. This summer the Contemporary American Theater Festival (CATF) is producing Gregory's play, Not Medea. It is a modern, quirky take on Euripides famous play, Medea, in which Medea kills her children in an act of vengeance when her husband, Jason leaves her for another women. Here is how CATF describes Not Medea:
What if the show you came to see is not the show you need to see? A working mother escapes to the sanctuary of the theater and encounters a play she desperately doesn’t want to watch, so she hijacks the show—and the audience—leading them through her own very personal story. A synthesis of myth/magic/real world, NOT MEDEA is a funny and fierce slap-down about love, lust, motherhood, and forgiveness. And something else entirely.
CATF: Here are some lines from Not Medea: “There’s a certain insanity to being a mother.” “Children are sometime a burden.” “Parents are most of the time filled with dread.” Are you a stressed-out mother?
ALLISON: Is there a mother who isn’t stressed out? I think that’s part of the territory.
CATF: Kathryn Hepburn once said: “Being a housewife and a mother is the biggest job in the world, but if it doesn’t interest you, don’t do it. It didn’t interest me, so I didn’t do it. Anyway, I would have been a terrible parent. The first time my child didn’t do what I wanted, I would have killed him.”
ALLISON: I completely identify with that. Steven, my husband, and I talk about our bad parenting moments or days. The moments often stretch into days. We’ll talk about it and say, “Yeah, I wasn’t proud of that.” We are parents who everyday are trying to be better parents. Luckily, kids are hopeful and forgiving.
CATF: Let me follow up with an Anne Sexton quote: “All I wanted was a little piece of life, to be married, to have children. I was trying my damnest to lead a conventional life, for that was how I was brought up, and it was what my husband wanted of me. But one can’t build little white picket fences to keep the nightmares out.”
ALLISON: That’s really powerful. There’s this assumption that when you settle down and have kids, you somehow fall into these conventions, and frankly, my experience of it was and continues to be that there’s no settling down when you have kids. Everything comes up and everything falls apart. It’s a huge disruption on a daily, often minute-by-minute, basis. And I’m not talking about losing a child. I’m talking about the day-to-day of trying to be a parent.
Losing a child is so unfathomable to me that I was able to go there in this play because I knew it wasn’t me. I hoped in writing it, I would take part of that experience with me and have a little bit more occupying the whole of what life is. God willing, we don’t all lose a child, but we might have a bigger footstep in the world if we did.
Is parenting a huge disruption -- day to day?
Are parents, most of the time, filled with dread?
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
ON THIS DAY . . .
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY BIG SISTER!
Date of photograph: July 22, 1970
WHEN SKIN IS A PRISON . . .
A week ago, I shared a portion of an interview I did with playwright Christina Anderson on the question of post-racial America. Today, I am sharing a portion of an interview I did with award-winning playwright Chisa Hutchinson about her play "The Wedding Gift" -- one of the plays at this summer's Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Following is a summary of "The Wedding Gift" that will help to put this portion of her interview into context:
Doug is an average guy with an average life. Until, that is, he finds himself at a wedding, not as a guest . . . but as a gift. Surrounded by those that speak a language he's never heard, Doug realizes he's little more than a pet. And when the bride grows dangerously fond of him, the prospect of returning home becomes even more remote. Chisa Hutchinson's provocative and uproariously funny new play asks: What does it mean to be the only "outsider" in a community? How does it feel to be the "other"?
Here is that portion of my interview with Chisa:
Two years ago you said that you “wrote plays to make myself and others like me more visible.”
When I wrote “The Wedding Gift,” I had in mind all these movies and plays that depict slavery in a hyper-literal way, i.e., “This is EXACTLY what it was like! Here are the scars and here is the blood . . . look at it!” That’s one way to come at it. But, ironically, I feel like it’s desensitizing and distancing. It makes it very safe for folks to respond, “Oh look how horribly they were treated so, so long ago. Isn’t it great that we don’t do that anymore?”
Black people are still chained today. Look at all the police brutality. I recently wrote a short play that was intended to be a reading of the names of women fatally brutalized by police, or women who had mysteriously died in police custody. After extensive research, the list turned out to be all women of color. I thought, “Wow, that’s telling. You cannot be in your skin without being targeted. Your skin makes you a bulls-eye; a magnet for that kind of violence.” It’s really hard to be confronted with the fact that my own skin is a prison.
At one point in the play, Doug says, “You consider me an animal, something less than you, but I’m supposed to trust you with my life?”
I’ve definitely been in that position, maybe not with the police, but definitely with doctors. Recently, I had a horrible reaction to some MS medication. I had palpitations and trouble breathing and was drifting in and out of consciousness because I couldn’t get oxygen. My face went numb, my hands went numb . . . I actually had to be carried into the ER. The nurse in the emergency room said out loud – she probably thought I couldn’t hear her – “Ehhck . . . drama queen junkies.” I wanted to say, “Hey, I can hear you.” This person was supposed to be saving my life, but was making a quick judgment about whether or not my life was worth saving. You trust your doctors, you trust police officers, you trust firemen, you trust teachers – these positions come with inherent trustworthiness. When you see someone you’re supposed to trust thinking, “that doesn’t apply to me,” it’s sobering, it’s discouraging, to put it kindly. It’s infuriating.
That’s where the character Doug is in my play. He’s confronted with this reality, “I’m really helpless here. I have no power here.”
So “The Wedding Gift” is also about power and the fact that none of us can really control anything?
For Doug and for a lot of us, especially brown folks, it would be enough just to be in control of our own bodies; to not have our bodies policed or tampered with. It would just be enough to be in control of our own personal situations, to have some agency, if nothing else. I don’t need power. I just need the freedom to be me.
What must it feel like to be a prisoner in your own skin;
to not have the freedom to be you?
ONE THIS DAY . . .
WHAT DISTINGUISHES THE 21ST CENTURY?
Canadian novelist, visual artist and designer, Douglas Coupland has, for several years been making a "consistent effort to try and isolate what is already different in the twenty-first century mind as opposed to the twentieth." For Coupland, that difference is best expressed in slogans which he has hand painted on lacquered apple plywood so they "have heightened immediacy."
“If you were to attach a stick to each of these slogans and carry them in the street, would they read as protest or would they read as complicit guilt? For example, twenty years from now, were I to look at a picture of someone holding up a slogan reading ‘being middle class was fun,’ would that read as heartbreaking prescience or as rational acceptance of a by-then sociological certainty?”
His highfalutin' questions, aside, Coupland does make a point with these things. All weekend, I've been coming up with my own 21-century slogans. I'll post them as comments. What would be some of your 21st-century slogans?
TODAY'S TRUTH . . .
May 6, 1921 - April 30, 2016
"THE DAY AFTER I'M EMBALMED, THAT'S WHEN I'LL GIVE UP" . . .
. . . so said Daniel Berrigan in 2001, on his 80th birthday. The Jesuit priest and acclaimed poet who for decades famously challenged U.S. Catholics to reject was and nuclear weapons, died on April 30 at the Murray-Weigel Jesuit Community in the Bronx, New York. He was 94. Priest, poet, retreat master, teacher, and peace activist, he was the author of more than 50 books on Scripture, spirituality and resistance to war.
I had the honor of meeting both Daniel and his younger brother, Philip (who died in 2001) on the steps of the United States Capitol on March 24, 1996. I was with a friend protesting the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation. (Don't get me started on this name change -- that is another conversation and this post is to honor the life of Daniel Berrigan. Thank you.)
In my journal, I wrote: "My friend, Judy, introduced me to the Berrigan brothers today. This sounds kinda weird, but light seemed to shine from within them. They both blessed me, then bowed and said, 'Namaste'. I didn't use any profanity the rest of the day."
One of Daniel Berrigan's books was Ten Commandments for the Long Haul. Following is a summary:
1) Call on Jesus when all else fails. Call on Him when all else succeeds (except that never happens).
2) Don't be afraid to be afraid or appalled to be appalled. How do you think the trees feel these days, or the whales, or, for that matter, most humans?
3) Keep your soul to yourself. Soul is a possession worth paying for, they're growing rarer. Learn from monks, they have secrets worth knowing.
4) About practically everything in the world, there's nothing you can do. This is Socratic wisdom. However, about of few things you can do something. Do it, with a good heart.
5) On a long drive, there's bound to be a dull stretch or two. Don't go anywhere with someone who expects you to be interesting all the time. And don't be hard on your fellow travelers. Try to smile after a coffee stop.
6) Practically no one has the stomach to love you, if you don't love yourself. They just endure. So do you.
7) About healing: The gospels tell us that this was Jesus' specialty and he was heard to say: "Take up your couch and walk!"
8) When traveling on an airplane, watch the movie, but don't use the earphones. Then you'll be able to see what's going on, but not understand what's happening, and so you'll feel right at home, little different then you do on the ground.
9) Know that sometimes the only writing material you have is your own blood.
10) Start with the impossible. Proceed calmly towards the improbable. No worry, there are at least five exits.
Here is poem written by Daniel Berrigan:
A DARK WORD
As I walk patiently through life
poems follow close --
blind, dumb, agile, my own shadow;
the mind's dark overflow, the spill of vein
we thought red once but know now, no.
The poem called death
is unwritten yet. Some day will show
the violent last line,
the shadow rise,
a bird of omen
snatch me for its ghost.
And a hand somewhere, purposeful as God's
close like two eyes, this book.
Namaste, Father Berrigan.