We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Say It Ain’t So, Bob

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20151022_101834Probably won’t be going back to Chainsaw Bob’s. Went yesterday to get my chain sharpened. They have a new deal, smart, where you leave your old chain and they put an already sharpened one on your saw. Supposed to save time. And it would if the guy putting the chain back on wasn’t trying to sell another guy a saw.

Gave me plenty of opportunity to peruse the new signs hung over the desk between the shop and the front. A picture of Hillary Clinton had these remarks. Hillary Chicken. 2 fat legs, 2 small breasts and lots of left wings. Next to it was a sign that read. Startling news! 25% of women in the U.S. are being treated for mental illness. You know what means? 75% are untreated! Under these signs a woman whom I assumed was Chainsaw Bob’s wife met customers, organized service and took money.

first-they-came-for-the-mexicans-and-i-did-not-10234171Sexism is still raw and unvarnished in many places, like racism on public display in Charlottesville, Virginia. Murica.

We live in our bubbles. The Big Sort, published in 2009, had the subtitle, Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. Yesterday the Denver Post reported that the population of downtown Denver had increased by 3 times since 2000 to twenty-six thousand with 81% single, white and with an average age of 34. This is just a single instance of folks choosing to live among those similar to themselves in race, wealth and educational level.

This from Richard Florida and his excellent website, Citylab:  “Americans have not only grown more ideologically polarized over the past couple of decades, Republicans and Democrats are drawn to very different kind of places. Back in 2004, Bill Bishop dubbed the self-segregation of Americans into like-minded communities, “The Big Sort.”” Oct. 25, 2016

When I grew up in Alexandria, Indiana, during the 1950’s it was segregated by race, one black family in the town of 5,000, yet there were college educated folks living next door to factory workers who had, at best, graduated from high school. As a result, I have a blue collar sensibility that sets as deep in my character as the college-educated one I gained at home. Even this modest class diversity is rarer and rarer as suburbs and city neighborhoods, cities and rural areas grow more and more homogeneous.

electoral map

With a pussy-grabber in chief who sees good folks on both sides in Charlottesville, this sorted and ideological reinforcing America is ripe for a wave of extremism even more shocking than we’ve already seen. Trump’s approval rating is growing, still dismal, but moving up. The 30% or so of the U.S. who are his base may not seem like much, 70% are not his base, but Mao noted that only 3% of a country needed to be active revolutionaries for a rebellion to succeed. And he proved it.

What does this augur for our future as a nation? At a minimum it means a large percentage of the population will be unhappy with the government. At its maximum it could mean a white male populist revolt favoring Chainsaw Bob’s tilt to American politics. That’s close to where we are right now.

The Past is Present

Beltane                                                                        Mountain Moon

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood yesterday. When Colorado throws out low humidity days, bright blue skies and warmth, not heat, the desire to play hooky from whatever it is your doing, even if it’s retirement, is strong. On these days Black Mountain is a tall, lodgepole covered green mass outlined against the blue, a few wispy cirrus clouds far above even it’s 10,000 feet peak.

TexasI’ve been reading a book by Lawrence Wright, God Save Texas. Wright is a writer for the New Yorker, a Pulitzer prize winner for his book, The Looming Tower, and a resident of Austin since 1980. His reporting, at least about Texas, has a wry sense of humor, expressing his obvious affection for the state without losing sight of its many quirks. I especially appreciated two points he made, the first about Texas culture and the second about Lyndon Johnson.

In talking about the distinctive Tex-mex culture that underlies current Texas life, country-western music, big belt buckles, Mexican influenced food, German architecture and antebellum south architectural influences, and the six-flags over Texas history of the Lone Star state, he posits 3 levels of culture. Tex-mex is level 1, the ur-Texas. Level 2 was the invasion of corporate capitalism, homogenized skyscrapers, symphonies, art museums, theaters, shopping malls. Level 2 was an attempt to become more mature, more European, more east coast driven by immigrants chasing oil money. Level 3, happening now, is a return to level 1 while retaining the positive aspects of level 2.

ricoeurIt reminded me, the reason I liked it, of Paul Ricoeur’s notion of second naiveté in which a scholar of religion first distances him or her self from his faith as a result of academic work, then returns to the texts after that distancing with a second naiveté, an embrace of the former belief now informed by reasoned analysis. The result, in both cases, is something new, neither level 1 nor level 2, but an amalgam.

The second point was one about Lyndon Johnson. Wright, who was born in August of 1947, and I share some history as opponents of the Vietnam War and excoriator’s of LBJ. In fact, I remembered while reading this part of God Save Texas that the Hey, hey NRA, how many kids have you killed today chant has its roots in one we used against LBJ Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids have you today? Wright says he wishes we’d been gentler on LBJ. Me, too.

LBJ2Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR and LBJ would be my top five Presidents, no particular order. Yes, Teddy Roosevelt and maybe Eisenhower are in a close second tier. I disagree with historians who rank Truman and Reagan above LBJ. And JFK is overblown. LBJ gave a damn about those in the U.S. who had less. In a commencement speech at the University of Michigan on May 22nd, 1964, he “… called on the nation to move not only toward “the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the Great Society,” which he defined as one that would “end poverty and racial injustice.” Miller Center, UVA

He made real progress toward those goals.* In his legislative accomplishments LBJ recognized that we are not a nation of individuals only, but a community, one in which the privileged, whether by birth, race or wealth, share with those lives were not privileged: people of color, seniors, the disabled among them. Since Reagan the attacks on this vision of the U.S. have come hard and fast, until now that sense of common ground has all but eroded into a grim, mean, racist society. We are poorer, literally and spiritually, for it.

 

*“There were environmental protection laws, landmark land conservation measures, the profoundly influential Immigration Act, bills establishing a National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Highway Safety Act, the Public Broadcasting Act, and a bill to provide consumers with some protection against shoddy goods and dangerous products.

To address issues of inequality in education, vast amounts of money were poured into colleges to fund certain students and projects and into federal aid for elementary and secondary education, especially to provide remedial services for poorer districts, a program that no President had been able to pass because of the disputes over aid to parochial schools.” Miller Center, op cit

This is powerful. Worth your attention.

Beltane                                                                               Mountain Moon

Up in Smoke

Spring                                                                Mountain Moon

A cloud crawls down Black Mountain,

Cotton embraces ski runs, blue above.

A light scrim of snow covers our solar panels,

The sky falls toward us, slowly.

 

four twentyToday is 4/20. In Colorado and elsewhere it’s a pot linked holiday and here’s a brief explanation of its strange origin.* A couple of years ago I was downtown Denver near the National Western Stockshow Grounds on April 20th. Driving to a small taqueria for lunch I passed hundreds of people walking along the road, smoking joints, smiling, lots of dreadlocks under Rastafarian knit saggy caps. Last year the 4/20 crowd made such a mess at a city park that Denver stopped the celebration for this year.

4/20 is also Adolph Hitler’s birthday, my brother Mark reminded me. Hitler is a figure in the childhood dark closet of most Baby Boomers whose parents, like mine, were veterans of WWII. My dad had a beaten up copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. It always seemed strange to me as a boy; but, as an adult, I came to realize how large Hitler loomed over his life, occasioning several years in the military for both him and my mom.

Nazis+on+parade.Now Hitler is mostly a boogeyman, a perfect example of either evil or the potential power of white supremacy. His Nazi party serves a similar function, offered up in movies if an ultimate villain is needed. Just as the Vietnam War, which dominated my life in the late sixties and early seventies, has faded from the memory of millennials, so even the holocaust has begun to fade from memory. Yes, it’s dangerous to lose sight of this horror; but, it’s also human. As an event moves further away from us, it changes, transforms.

Most, all?, religions are an attempt to hold a historical moment close, to keep it vibrant, vital. Easter and Passover. Even these though show the great difficulty in maintaining the urgency of something that has been covered over by distance and lack of direct experience. Max Weber called this the rationalization of charisma. As the charismatic figure or moment recedes, institutions grow up to protect its memory, but that very fact, the institutionalization of a matter of the heart, encrusts the event and eventually depletes it of its power. It becomes covered over by dogma, by tradition, by the ridigities of too much thought.

Emerson'Emerson knew this. “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” From the introduction to his essay, Nature.

We need to discern not only, perhaps not even most importantly, the facts of the holocaust, though they are incalculably significant, but we need to look evil in the face in our time, confront it now, name it now. Stop it now. Evil, like good, does not stop in a historical moment, but gains new, contemporary expressions. If we keep looking for revelation about what it means to be human in sacred texts or historical tragedies, we can easily miss the revelation appearing in the neighborhoods and rural areas of our own country.

 

*In 1971, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, five high school students[4] in San Rafael, California,[5][6] calling themselves the Waldos[7][8] because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”,[9] used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about,[7][10] based on a treasure map made by the grower. wiki

 

Stuff From Out There

Imbolc                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

A few random finds. The first one sent by sister Mary. It appeared in the Guardian.

Romanian court tells man he is not alive      Constantin Reliu, 63, fails to overturn 2003 death certificate because he appealed too late.  Read the whole story at Guardian

And, two from Post Secrets.  The second because it breaks my heart. The first because I recognized the sentiment of feeling guilty because I did not suffer more. The thing to remember is that ignored mine would have done what all cancers do, take over my body and kill me.

cancertalk

Black Panther

Imbolc                                                                        New Life Moon

Black-Panther-Cast-Marvel-Featured-Image-1024x639Kate took one for the team yesterday. She went to see Black Panther with me. I had two reasons for wanting to see it. One, it’s a Marvel Studio movie and, god help me, I really like them. Most of them. Two, it’s become a cultural sensation and I wanted to see why, if I could. Kate gave me a third reason. To lift my spirits.

Nothing like vibranium theft and lots of gratuitous violence in a movie filled with elegant looking black folk, a few Koreans and a couple of supporting white actors to counter the gray veil. Black Panther, with closing and opening scenes in Oakland, home of the Black Panthers, Huey Newton and Bobby Seale, was ok. Not great. Might have been better if I could have heard all the dialogue. Where are my closed captions at the theater?

black-panther-0The plot was less important, I think, than the stage settings and the actors. From Chadwick Boseman and Michael B. Jordan to Lupita Nyong’o and Danai Gurira the young black actors were both beautiful and powerful. Forest Whittaker and Angela Basset added gravitas.

It’s an interesting commentary on our global culture when a single movie, made with high production values, can garner so much attention and be hailed as a “defining moment.” For this white male, certainly born to white privilege though of a lesser amount than, say, Donald Trump, it was not a defining moment. It was a decent action movie. It was not, however, blaxploitation, like those 60’s and 70’s movies with mostly black casts. And, I suspect, that contrast gave it some of its power, too.

Did it lift my spirits? Well, it got me to ignore them for a couple of hours. And, I don’t feel as heavy this morning. Maybe it helped. Time, good ol’ time, will tell.

Flash ride for a flash ride

Imbolc                                                                                  Imbolc Moon

Whimsy. Dreams. Finally, a flying car.

First, a before the launch video, then, live streaming of Starman.

And, then. Buck Rogers!

 

Splitters and lumpers

Imbolc                                                                           Imbolc Moon

splitters2Last night at Beth Evergreen three presenters, a University of Colorado Regent, a newly hired diversity specialist for Jeffco schools and an Evergreen woman, formerly a philanthropist and LGBT activist, now working in corporate social responsibility spoke about labeling and identity. It was, in some ways, disappointing.

Though the focus was on labeling, someone or something else (like census forms, school boards, the dominant culture) describes you, and identity, you describe yourself, the topic veered rapidly into a mode of doublespeak. It’s difficult to describe, but identity politics has become a minefield of careful positioning, trying not to cause offense, and further and further journeys into talking but not changing. Each person in the room last night, presenters and audience included, brought authentic concern and a willingness to be part of a solution. But, to what?

I kept thinking of the hoary argument in plant classification between lumpers and splitters. The same analytical dynamic plays out in many fields. Lumpers look for commonalities, seek to reduce the number of categories in any particular area of study while splitters look for differences, for nuanced distinctions that allow uniqueness to flourish. Neither approach is right or wrong, it’s almost a psychological tendency, I think, rather than a reasoned stance.

splitters3In identity description the nod now goes to splitters. As one presenter last night said, “I see gender like the stars in the sky, some may be brighter, more prominent, but there are many stars in the sky.” That’s breathtakingly broad.

A key word that emerged last night was fluidity. It basically means that the ground shifts frequently in this conversation, not least because people claiming their own identity often make different distinctions as they learn more about themselves and their community. There are, too, regional differences and age cohort differences. It’s a splitters’ paradise.

Here’s why it was disappointing to me. It felt like conversations from the mid to late sixties, though those were blunter in their focus. They were, at least at first, focused on civil rights for African-Americans, or Blacks, or Black-Americans. The power moves involved in labeling versus identifying were in bold relief. We’re not niggers or coloreds or darkies. We’re Americans with a particular historical background.

Remember Black is beautiful? Afros. Kente cloth. Angela Davis. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Last night was the contemporary version: male, female, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, intersexual, asexual. Gay. Lesbian. It all felt depressingly familiar, as if we’d moved in time away from the sixties, but not in content.

beltane2017gorbachevThat’s not to say that “racial” distinctions were absent from the conversation. Not at all. Unfortunately. The strange, weird thing about this is that race is a nonsense category, not supported by genetics at all. So creating a splitters nomenclature for various “races” reinforces a non-existent and damaging conceptual paradigm. Of course, the culture, in diverse ways, uses race as a placeholder for attaching secondary characteristics to others. Of course it does. But how do we move away from that convenient slotting, or lumping of people based on skin color? Does it happen by emphasizing color? It cannot. Does it happen by ignoring the racist who does? No.

And that was the problem I had with evening. There seems to have no movement forward in the land of identity politics, only movement crabwise.

I did not ask my question, because it occurred to me on the way home, naturally. “Has identity politics by the left contributed to, even caused, the rise of populism now roiling our nation?” That is, have we, in slicing and dicing the particulars of personal difference blinded ourselves to the plight of working class Americans? It seems so to me.

A movement against oligarchy, plutocracy and autarchy must be first made of lumpers. These lumpers must find, express and celebrate the commonalities among those who suffer as a result of concentrated wealth, purchased power, dynastic ambition. Right now we have given away our power with a navel-gazing splitter mentality. Of course, we must be able to define and describe ourselves. Yes. But we must not only reach for the unique and particular, but for the broader and more universal. No political change can come without joining hands, so the more difficult, the more necessary task in the Trump era belongs not to the splitters but to the lumpers.

 

 

 

Oops.

Imbolc                                                                       Imbolc Moon

stocksStocks have begun to sink. Good. I hope they go down a full 10% at least, a decent correction and a return to market volatility. This puffed up market, glowing and expanding as if by orange-haired demagogic magic, was never his. It was the tail end of the Obama economy; the one, lest we forget, that he rescued from the worst economic crisis of recent times.

Irrational exuberance. Greenspan may have presided over the last inflation, pumped up by his own Randian version of combover ideology, but he nailed the bubble feeling. How else to explain the glee which has followed the rise and rise and rise of the various indices? And, now, its opposite, irrational anxiety.

Stock-Market-BubbleIrrational because the underlying fundamentals are still sound. We’re adding jobs, inflation and interest rates remain low, and international economies began growing together, for the first time in a while. Fluctuations in stock prices are, and I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Mike Pence here, normal. They represent the ebb and tide of sentiment not necessarily anchored, at least in the moment, to any real world economics.

Trump is a blowhard, a hardcore racist, a not disguised at all white supremacist, a misogynist, a cruel man. And somehow, damn it, our President. His approval ratings, already abysmal, may plummet further along with the Dow Jones. May it be so.

Vintage

Winter                                                                            Moon of the Long Nights

milk man-canada-vancouver

milk man canada vancouver

2018 needs to come to mind now if you still write checks. Remember checks? Charming pieces of paper with which old folks used to transfer money from their bank accounts to someone else’s? Dial phones. Black and white TV. Horse drawn milk delivery. Cars with fins. Poodle skirts and doo-wop.  Electric typewriters. (my personal obsession) Paper newspapers. Newspapers as delivery vehicles for the news.

Nostalgia? No. In most cases what we have now is an improvement, but it’s interesting to consider the cultural and technological distance between childhood and adulthood in any time period, I imagine. Might be an interesting academic discipline. How does the past look from an adult perspective? The gap between adult’s historical knowledge and their children’s immersion in their own time is always a source of entertainment at least.

signoffMy grandmother called cars the machine. “Dad, would you get the machine and take the kids downtown?” We had Ray Carver whose horse drawn milk wagon survived into the late 1950’s. Television stations used to turn off for the night. Just had a conversation with some old friends about the sign off image with the Indian in an eagle feather headdress.

My childhood is vintage now and I have the images to prove it.

May 2018
M T W T F S S
« Apr    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Breadcrumbs

Trails