The lesser of two evils

May 24, 2016

I would like to show you an example of how public speech gets blown up to sensationalize everything that happens and especially everything that has anything to do with politics. First, watch this:

 http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/bernie-sanders-american-people-hillary-clinton-lesser-evils/story?id=39280278

 In one of those split-screen talking heads interviews that you see on news TV nowadays, Bernie Sanders recently told ABC News’ George Stephanopolous,

“We need a campaign– an election, coming up–which does not have two candidates who are really very, very strongly disliked. I don’t wanta see the American people voting for the lesser of two evils.”

George Stephanopoulos, seeming a little surprised at Bernie’s use of this phrase, sought clarification; he asked,

“Is that how you would describe Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump–The lesser of two evils?”

 Bernie answered:

“Well, if you look– No, I wouldn’t describe it, but that’s what the American people are saying. . .”

This statement by Bernie is really no big deal. So he wants to be the Democratic candidate, instead of Hillary Clinton. He therefore wants to present himself as a choice that is better, more likable, and probably more honest than both presumptive nominees who presently dominate the party machinery of Presidential politics. And although his platform is too radical to earn my vote, he probably is more likable and more honest and probably even less evil than those other two contenders.

But here’s what happens in the media; and it shows how things get blown up into hyper-dramatic sensationalism instead of informative, constructive dialogue among the candidates:

The next day after this little televised exchange between Sanders and Stephanopolous, an online political news site, DCCaller, reported on their question/answer dialogue by displaying a headline which read:

“Bernie Calls Hillary Clinton Evil”

Gimme a break, will ya? Is this what really happened?

The headline does not accurately convey what the candidate was communicating. It is a deliberate attempt to sensationalize our contemporary political scenario by subtly distorting the intent of the speaker, in this case Bernie Sanders; this kind of distortion is otherwise known as putting words in his (the speaker’s) mouth.

Such a  headline might have reflected some accuracy if Bernie had flatly declared, “Hillary Clinton is evil.” But that is not what the man said.

The term he used, the “lesser of two evils,” is a figure of speech,  an admissible exaggeration,  commonly understood to mean something like

We have “two lousy choices” here.

People generally understand such exaggerations to be not literal, but figurative, which is to say, a figure of speech, which means. . .

I figure he’s saying we should have better choices than Hillary and Donald.

He doesn’t really mean that Hillary is evil, or Donald is evil, because as someone somewhere once said,

“We’re all bozos on this bus.”

Or, as the old Biblio states:

“We’re all sinners.”

And yeah, I say unto thee whenever we point a finger at the “evils” who strive to dominate us, whether they’re the lesser or the greater, there are three other fingers on that hand pointing back at us. We all fall short of perfection in some way or another.

Disclosure: I will not be voting for any of these three candidates–not Bernie, neither Hillary, nor Trump. I’m hoping to write-in for Romney. He may be dull, and he may be too slick and Establishment. He’s got some credible public administration experience. He’s probably reasonably honest; although he surely is, like me, a sinner damned, except for the grace of God.

And my prayer for him and for myself and for Bernie and Hillary and Donald and every other damned person on this planet includes the phrase: “Deliver us from evil.”

Whether they be lesser or greater.

Glass half-Full

The life song of J Alfred Bourgeois

May 11, 2016

We’ve worked hard for what we’ve got;

maybe we’re smart and maybe we’re not.

Thanks to the courage of long-dead soldiers,

we can grow and prosper and manage to get older.

We’ve read about .gov by the people, republics, and democracy;

we try to stay decent, clean, and free from hypocrisy.

And yes, we’ve heard of that Marx guy, and Lenin and whatnot.

but I’m here to say we aint no proletariat.

We don’t wanna change the world;

we like stars and stripes in the breeze unfurled.

Dinner on Sundays, work on Mondays, weekends for fun days;

this is what we like, and cultivate in predictable ways.

Jefferson said let’s do .gov by the peoples.

We say along with that came letting folks raise their steeples.

Marx, on the other hand said we need dictatorship of the proletariat,

but this home-making bourgeois boy giveth not a plug nickel for all that.

We’re happy to be plain ole boojwazee,

with a washer, dryer, car, and a home someday mortgage-free.

There are plenty out their who wanna die for the Cause;

we just like living in freedom under reasonable laws.

Floral

Glass half-Full

When the green buds are swellin’. . .

May 9, 2016

Spring rushes in; the world is turning;

every impulse sends forth new yearning.

Green sprigs sprout up fresh and tender;

passion’s pangs of love they render.

BudBlm1

Some folks find love and cultivate;

they come together and procreate.

Others yearn and burn and go to town;

instead of loving they just screw around.

For some love works out really well

the passion swells deeper than I can tell.

But some yearnings get nipped in the bud

when careless affairs turn to crud.

While spring is new, passions are old.

In the annals of song a sad love tale is told

of love that budded but ne’er did bloom.

Herein begins the ancient Barb’ry Allen tune:

” ‘T’was in the merry month of May

when the green buds they were swelling,

Sweet William on his death bed lay

all for the love of Barb’ry Allen . . . “

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqHJ4V893e0   

But despair not; some lovers pair faithfully.

Swelling with commitment, they grow up gracefully,

even through ordeals and terrible times;

true lovers do generate inspiring rhymes:

   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4lnJSW-OUyM

“This couple they got married,

so well did they agree.

This couple they got married;

so why not you and me?

Oh. . . so why not you and me?”

And this this works out well.

BudBlm2

Glass half-Full

Beneath the Folds

May 4, 2016

Many and many an eon ago,

the earth upon itself did flow.

Magma splattered; lava rolled,

laying earth in fold on fold.

LavaFlow

While peaks poked up in seismic lifts

valleys formed in with earthen rifts.

Mountains rose up to skyward dreams

valleys settled into watery streams.

MtnValley

When Man wandered out across this earth

his life came renewed in newborn birth;

our legacy rose up in times of old

beneath the covering of Woman’s fold.   

PleatFigr

Together, our human adventure we did form

through thick and thin, through calm and storm.

When man’s stony knob doth ascend

Hallelujah! woman’s cleavage doth transcend.

Glass half-Full

Tale of Two Bridges

April 27, 2016

BridgSCar

That new bridge in the East is sleek and lowly-slung;

she shimmers ghostly against blue sky,

while Ole West, high-tense, from rock to rock is hung;

they had to sling them cables high.

Out where flat marshes meet Atlantic’s swellin’ swale

they’ve stretched a spindly span, ascending high with whitish wispy grace.

But over on California crags where Pacific currents hail

they had strung an iron span of steel-tensed strength in perilous golden space.

Here’s one bridge, laid-back and sleek, steeped in simple Southern style;

t’was formed up in 21st-century streamlined gray concrete;

the other was stretched in cabled steel–in blood-red iron by bloodied rank and file,

strung out in 1930’s grit as some gargantuan steel-nerv’d feat.

GoldGate

When America swoons in futures past and some souls live to tell the tale,

we’ll speak stories of bridges, of metallic spans that tested men’s mortal fate.

Perhaps they’ll mention Charleston’s pride–that span in whitish shade of pale,

but the king of steel-strung cabled bridgedom is that big red one at Golden Gate.

Glass half-Full

The dandy bee lion

April 25, 2016

Little bee, busy bee, buzzing on this flower bright,

I think you always do what’s right.

You  hum around on your little yellow throne

until it’s time to fly on home.

BeeDandl

 I think it’s cool you dance around and do your thing;

your busy dancing makes the flower sing,

and when you’re done the blossom has been fertilized.

In a day or two we’ll get a dandelion surprise.

Dndlion

Your little buzzing celebration makes this field a brighter place,

because the dandy lion sheds its yellow for a fuzzy face;

wispy dandy seeds will scatter in the whirring wind,

and next year sport their dandy blooms again.

Selah.

Glass Chimera

The Inspiration of Harriet Tubman in 1937

April 21, 2016

In the novel, Smoke, which I published last year, a young American businessman, Philip Morrow, accompanies a refugee family through France in the year 1937. Across the border in Germany, the Nuremberg laws had established a set of dangerous restrictions promulgated by the Nazis to drive the Jews out of Germany, and to abscond their wealth.

In the story, the Eschen family has fled Munich in a hurry. Their hasty departure is provoked when their son/brother has been arrested and imprisoned at Dachau.

In this excerpt from chapter 14 of Smoke, we find the Eschens relieved to have crossed the French border into the province of Alsace. Gathered with some newfound French friends, they are sharing a meal and giving an account of their escape. Philip is inquiring about the conditions through which they fled from Munich to the border and then crossed into France. As Philip speaks, Hannah, the older sister makes mention of American woman whose daring enterprise is a benchmark of American history.

       “Harriet Tubman,” Hannah broke in.

       “Harriet who? What are you talking about?”

       “Tubman. Harriet Tubman,” the young woman repeated. “. . . an American Negro woman who escaped slavery about a hundred years ago. She went to the north, to the free states of America, where the practice of slavery had been outlawed. She started an organization for her people to escape the cotton plantations in the south, and go up to the free states in the north, where they could begin a new life.”

       “The Underground Railroad,” said Philip. “How did you know about that?” he asked, looking with surprised interest across and down the table at Hannah.

       “I’ve been reading the Encyclopedia Britannica,” she replied. “It just occurred to me that, in our predicament here, our family is like those slaves who had escaped before the American civil war. “The Negroes were, like us now, a stateless people. They had been sold into slavery in Africa, and shipped across the Atlantic in terrible ships, where they were forced to pick cotton for plantation owners for many generations, until Harriet Tubman escaped and set up secret itineraries for their escape.”

       “But you are not like Negro slaves. You are prosperous Jews,” objected Donald, gently.

       “Not any more, we’re not, Monsieur Satie,” Hannah answered. “This is the enormity of it—of the changes that the Third Reich has imposed. All that my father and mother have worked for—and our grandparents before them—has been robbed, a little bit at a time, from us!—including  my brother. And now the Nazis have built a slave camp, where they intend to concentrate us Jews—Heinrich is not the only one—and  force us into doing work to build up the wehrmacht, so Hitler can exact vengeance against us, and not only against us ‘prosperous’ Jews, but against you, too, you French people, and the British, who imposed the treaty of Versailles on Germany after the war.”

Such was a conversation might have taken place in Europe in 1937.

Looking forward forty-years, here’s a song I recorded in 1978 about yet newer manifestations of the Underground Railroad scenario:

Underground Railroad Rides Again

Smoke

The Wisdom of Eldridge Cleaver

April 20, 2016

I am reading the book that Eldridge Cleaver published in 1978, Soul on Fire.

As I am currently writing a novel about the year 1969, my research has followed many paths of discovery about that period of time in which I was a teenager; One of the most influential dissent groups of that period was the Black Panthers. I’m not talking about the Carolina Panthers who lost this year’s super bowl to the team from Denver.

I’m talking about the militant Black Panthers, revolutionary terrorists of the 1960’s, who were infamously lead by a trio of intrepid militants: Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.

During the course of Eldridge Cleaver’s amazing sojourn through civil rights activism and the minefields of 1960’s black extremism, he had renounced, along with Stokely Carmichael and other leaders, the non-violence that  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had espoused.

Eldridge fled the United States as a fugitive in 1968. In the seven years that followed, he visited the primary communist countries: Cuba, USSR, Peoples’ Republic of China, North Vietnam, North Korea. The young revolutionary, having been driven out of America, sought revolutionary guidance from communist leaders.

Because I’ve got to go to work in a few minutes, I’ll just cut to the chase here. On page 109 of his book, Soul on Fire, Eldridge writes:

“While in overseas exile, I discovered the frequency with which I was lecturing the hard-rock mentality of Communist leaders, reminding them that the world revolution was deeply rooted in the American people. I had heard so much rhetoric in every Communist country about their glorious leaders and their incredible revolutionary spirit that–even to this very angry and disgruntled American–it was absurd and unreal.”

And on page 97:

“I had lived defiantly so long and in such seething hatred of all governments, people in power, people in charge, that when I came under the shelter of Communist powers, I sadly discovered that their corruption was as violent and inhuman as the people the ‘victoriously’ displaced. ‘Up against the wall’ was a trendy slogan of the underground movements around the world–but I later learned that without inner control, a moral perspective, and a spiritual balance that flowed out of Christian love, justice and caring, the Communist promises were to become the largest fraud of all.

“Pig power in America was infuriating–but pig power in the Communist framework was awesome and unaccountable. No protection by outbursts in the press and electronic media–the Reds owned it. No shelter under the benevolent protection of a historic constitution–the Marxists held the book and they tore out the pages that sheltered you. No counterweight from religious and church organizations–they were invisible and silent.

“My adult education began in prison and was ruefully completed in the prison that is called Marxist liberation, ‘power to the people’: that was meant for the party in control, writing the script, and enforcing the rules. I did mean it deeply when I said seven years later that I would rather be in prison in America than free somewhere else.”

And prison in American he did do, when Eldridge Cleaver returned from exile. He did his time, was released in 1976, and lived free, free indeed, until his death in 1998.

King of Soul

Ole Uncle Sammy

April 18, 2016

My uncle Sammy worked hard; he worked every day.

He made good money, and he put some away.

He made a good living; but then he got older

Ole Sam carried the weight of this world on his shoulders.

WorldWait

I was told that in his gathering of wealth,

he had worked the land, done well, and maintained his health.

He managed to save a little more than he needed

so he squirreled it in the bank where his fortune was seeded.

WellsFarg

He figured, you know, everybody’s got to eat

so he opened a burger joint, it was quite a feat,

because his humble, capital enterprise

eventually become a growing franchise.

BurgerOld

And in America, you know, everyone wanted wheels,

so Sammy expanded into more wheels and big deals;

he got things going, built up a good team;

he was riding in style, living the dream.

CarOldIntr

But then ole uncle Sammy, one day, up and died,

so we laid him aside; he went out with the tide,

No longer an icon on tracebook, nor twittee,

maybe we’ll see him in eternity city.

CityBay

Glass half-Full

In the Air I have seen

April 18, 2016

In the air my eyes have seen

more wonders than I could ever dream.

Some loom large with majesty so grand . . .

MtRngUt

. . . while others dangle on delicate strands.

SpidWeb

In the air my eyes have beheld

certain patterns into which my mind can delve

like dappled skies in cloud-swept windrows . . .

CloudDapl. .

.  .  . and divided glass on skyscraped windows.

GlassBldg

In the air I have noticed with my very own eyes

incredible creatures that somehow can rise,

like this simple bird whose lifestyle, so exquisite . . .

BirdEats

. . . surpasses the swami’s contrived solicit.

Levitator

In the air I have observed with my God-given eyes

such incredible scenes which life doth devise

like the sinister mystery of this Paris gargoyle . . .

ParisGargoyl

 . . . and majestic Alps formed without human toil.

AlpsValy

In the air my eyes have seen

more wonders than I could ever dream,

from large to small, from ridiculous to sublime,

between stupid and smart, to stupendously divine.

Glass half-Full


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