Posts Tagged ‘protest’

Those Two Brave Men

January 27, 2019

Once, but maybe never again,

two men

standing in the cold

one young and one old;

TwoMen

they meet

but decline to greet

in the middle of a confrontation

on hallowed ground of a dividing nation.

They do not speak,

for all around them arise a peak

of anger and resentment—

a country devoid of contentment

in the cauldron of history.

Seems now it’s become a mystery

what has become of our unity,

as now we’re obsessed with impunity—

blame the younger, not the older one

as the chieftain wordlessly beats his drum;

but while the young man struggles to maintain a smile

the world wide web spews a viral pile

of all the blame that’s fit to hint

as talking head trolls make their dent

in the warp and woof of the data tide

in which we slavishly slouch to hide

the downing of civility

and the haughty thrusting of hostility.

We ride the wave of accusative gestalt—

let us assign a verdict who’s at fault.

But whose fault it is I think i know;

let’s blame it on the undertow

of madmen on the right

pulling young men into the fight,

or maybe let’s blame it on the leftist cadres

who would depose those maga padres,

while all the while the widening gyre

spins up in streaming twitter fire.

Hourly it whirls higher higher

while all the while it was nothing more

than a clueless kid who for one moment tore

our torrent stream of data angst asunder,

generating for a moment some online thunder.

So what once was our peace and tranquility

slips beneath the dearth of our virility.

’Twas on a cold gray day, I say,

we beheld it— but  for never again—

those two brave men

standing in the cold,

one young and the other old.

Glass half-Full

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The Calling of Anarchy

January 5, 2016

The calling of anarchy says:

Tear down, tear down the Old way, for when it is destroyed, the New way will be brought in, and when the New way is set in place. . . when the New Order is instituted, then all things will be made right and wise people such as yourself will be in charge of things, and your troubles will be over.

But that surely is gobblydeegoop. I mean, isn’t it?

I myself have, in my life, encountered the power of this deception. I have heard that Siren call of anarchy. It is a cry familiar to me. It arises not so much in me as in the world out there somewhere, with some instigator’s persistent call to rage, rage against the machine. Somewhere in between my ears, it beats a drum of discontent that would compel me, if I were to follow that terrible summons, to do terrible, destructive things.

Although I have never succumbed to it, I know its voice. It is the insidious voice of rebellion that would compel men into the abyss of anarchy, and women into the chasms of despair.

Harken not to it, my brother. Heed it not, my soul. For it leadeth not where thou wouldst want to go.

I’m not making this up; this is a very real thing in the world today. But it is nothing new.

In the final chapter of his 1971 journalistic book, Kent State, James A Michener describes the strange experience of a troubled young woman. She’s a runaway teenager; she had forsaken the comfort of middle-class life to wander the streets and cities of America in search of something, possibly a magical place called “California.” But during her journey to the elusive place, the girl found herself one brisk Friday night in Ohio, kicking around in Kent, looking for some excitement, or some meaning in life, or just something to do, when, about midnight, she came across some “trouble on the street.” As Michener describes the scene in which rioters were protesting Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia:

” ‘Cambodia,’ she says, ‘Cambodia did it. They built a fire out there (on a downtown street, ed.) and were circling around, chanting’. . . (She) joined them, dancing about the trash fire in the street. It was what was happening and she wanted in.”

And so the young women was caught up in that moment, and caught up in the excitement and the gravitas of the protest, having answered the call to meaningful action, which can, in the heat of human manipulations, sometimes slide into the calling of anarchy, and so one thing did lead to another and then a couple of days later, the young woman found herself suddenly fallen upon a parking lot, with shots ringing in the air around her and when she looked up there was a young man lying next to here with his head down but blood flowing out of it because of the fatal gunshot. But then  she dragged herself up. In the misery and tragedy of that moment, she cried out. . .

Also in that moment, the photographer who happened to be nearby quickly snapped a picture. A little while later, through a series of electronic wonders beginning with the photographer’s pic as published in his paper’s next issue, the mournful, confused face of the wandering teenaged girl was flashed around the world for all the world to see.

The look on the young woman’s face documents the utter dismay of a generation, my generation. Millions of people around the world have seen, and wondered about, that picture. James Michener calls her the woman with the “Delacroix face.”

Her face does resemble the face of Lady Liberty, as rendered in “Liberty leading the People,” a famous painting by Eugene Delacroix that depicts an idealized image of the French Revolution.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_Delacroix

I guess there is a fine line somewhere between Liberty and anarchy. Only those who have suffered in the fog of war or in the great Struggle for justice can know the difference.

The poet W.B. Yeats mentions this dangerous tendency of our world in his poem, The Second Coming:

“Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned”

The “ceremony of innocence,” is, in our present American culture and this historic time, the ritual of going to college or university. In our case study above, Kent State, the “ceremony” was not drowned, but rather, mortally wounded. This happened when duty-bound Guardsmen, who were generally the same young age as the students, were pressured, in the midst of frantic, anarchic circumstances to fire into a wildly unpredictable, rock-hurling crowd. Historic research reveals that “somebody” had fired a first shot, the fatal result of which that anarchy was suddenly catapulted  into tragedy.

Tragedy. Life is tragic. This is one outcome of anarchy.

It makes me wonder, and I find myself thinking of that old Moody Blues tune, Melancholy Man. . .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uO3IG-oRpis

In our present day and time, anarchy could–and already has–generated tragedy. . .in Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston, Paris, San Bernadino, Riyadh and its aftermath, and in many other places. I am reminded of the prophet whose words still ring true after after twenty centuries:

“Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another which will not be torn down.”

His words were spoken about a religious building, but it seems that the anarchic spirit of our age is bent on terrorizing and destroying  many diverse persons, many places near and far, and a multitude of buildings and things.

It’s the calling of anarchy. Don’t get sucked in.

Here’s a better response: Do what is right, and pray.

Glass half-Full

The Sacred Place

September 26, 2015

This world is a wonderful place, but it’s also a terrible place. We are not in agreement here about a lot of things. The human family is all torn up as a result of our disagreements. So what else is new.

Well here’s something new for me, but it’s actually a reshaped experience of an old conundrum.

It started yesterday when my wife and daughter I, who are presently on the big island of Hawaii, took a drive in the rental car up onto the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano.

It was a large experience: there we went crawling, in a mid-sized automobile as any tourist would do, up the slope of this massive hunk of hardened magma, which had piled up 32,000 feet from the Pacific Ocean floor, to a peak 13,796 feet above sea level.

We didn’t go all the way to the top, because having no 4WD limited our ascent. Of course, as tourists, we wouldn’t be taking the time to hike the rest of the way to up, so we satisfied ourselves with what was available at the Visitors’ Center, as most “visitors” or tourists probably do.

We arrived at this little outpost/equipment store/educational display that is the the Visitor’s Center, and bailed out of the car to have a look around. It’s at about 9300 ft. above sea level. With some disappointment at not having reached the summit, I decided, as most tourists who stop here do, to check out the what was inside the small building.

I learned a lot up here, three quarters of the way up Mauna Kea. There were two information sources:

~the instructional video about the Mauna Kea volcano itself, its history, and the scientific station up on top with very high-tech telescopes.

~the vigilant We Are Mauna Kea representatives, across the road, who were protesting further developments on the summit.

The video inside was very impressive, and informative. You can probably find it online somewhere. For my purposes here, I’ll say merely that the big picture for the scientists seems to be exploring, visually through super-telescopes and scientifically through electromagnetic data collection, the outer regions of our solar system and beyond. I can appreciate this, find it interesting, but its pretty much beyond my down-to-earth curiosities.

The protesters across the road had set up a small Hale, a special shelter made of stones and leafy coverings. At its entrance was a stylized artistic rendering of Queen Liliuokalani with her fist raised high in the air. This was interesting to me. Having developed an interest in Hawaii’s last reigning monarch, I had read her biography during a previous trip to Oahu. Queen Liliuokalani’s life was so interesting to me that I had included parts of her story in my 2007 novel, Glass half-Full. But I always thought of her very regally, as a queen, not typically standing with her fist in the air. But that’s the position in which she was depicted at this protest site.

ProtestKea

A cheerful, young woman there explained to me that they especially want to prevent construction of a newly proposed 18-story high observatory. She handed me a printed page which was quite professional-looking and concise, with an explanation of their We Are Mauna Kea objectives. My reading of it later unearthed another objection of theirs– the disruption/excavation of 8 acres and 64,000 cubic yards of public lands. The basis of their protest is stated with several points listed. The first one is:

Mauna Kea is a Wao Akua, a holy realm, a sacred piko.

About an hour later, as we departed that place of instruction and confliction, my heart and mind were disagreeing with each other about the controversy between these two camps of human beings– the Sacred Place Savers who were protesting, and the Knowledge Gatherers who were erecting tall telescopes in order to learn more about the expanding universe.

This is a little bit like the ancient dilemma of mankind: choosing between the Tree of Life or the Tree of Knowledge.

Who is to say what place is sacred?

Who is to say what place is useful?

The protesters’ plaintive objections reminded me of a song I wrote and recorded many years ago. It’s a tuneful lament that touches on this great divide between two different people groups of mankind:

Sitting Bull’s Eyes

I wrote the song In 1978, which was about the same my time my life fell apart in a big way, and I turned to the Creator of the Universe for some help. I then returned to the faith of my fathers and mothers, which is Christ.

As my walk with the Lord through this life has progressed for lo, these many years since that time, I have from time to time studied the sacred places and beliefs of different people. In human history, we can find thousands of incidents of one trive desecrating the sacred places and beliefs of another tribe, or one religion destroying the sacred places of another religion. Rather than trying to cite them all, I’ll just mention one particular example, which is the one I know the most about.

In the history of my own faith heritage, for instance, I find:

~Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar desecrated the Jewish temple in Jerusalem

~Seleucid conquerer Antiochus Epiphanes desecrated that same temple

~Titus the Roman general/emperor destroyed that temple

~Muslims later occupied the sacred mountain in Jerusalem where the temple had stood

~Christians  took that site from the Muslims

~Muslims took it back

~In 1967, the Jewish people regained possession of their sacred temple mount in Jerusalem. But being sensitive to potential destructive forces of politics and religion, they wisely decided to maintain the Muslim ascendancy that had fallen upon that holy place, leaving their own people, the Jews, to pray at the sacred wall beneath.

~Here’s my spiritual attachment to that sacred site in Jerusalem. It started with a man named Paul in the first century AD. He was Jewish, but had a new vision, based on the work of Jesus the Christ. Paul was the primary expositor of the Christian faith (which I later accepted as my own). He traveled all around present-day Lebanon, Turkey, Macedonia, Greece and Rome preaching that the truly sacred place of the most High God is found not in the temples erected by  men, but in the souls of men and women who believe in Jesus the Christ.

Sacred is not found in a place or thing, but in the hearts of men and women who believe, and act in accordance with their faith.

So from my Christian perspective, or perhaps any other person whose values were influenced by being raised in the post-Christian Western culture, who cares about whether a place is sacred or not?

Well, there is a very important attribute of human relationships that I have come to admire when I see it in people: Respect.

Respect for others, and for their traditions. Respect others as you would want to be respected.

Meanwhile, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaiians of ancient heritage strive without success to prevent the high-tech wizards of our modern age from desecrating their sacred place. Who is going to win out here?

I think you know who will prevail in this Mauna Kea situation. It seems it has always been this way. The strong throw their weight around like bulls in a china shop and destroy all that is holy and sacred of what remains among the indigenous and weakened peoples.

Has it always been this way?

Yes. This is the history of the world as we know it.

Will it always be this way?

Who knows? Not me. But a wise Teacher wrote long ago:

“I again saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift and the battle is not to the warriors, and neither is bread to the wise nor wealth to the discerning nor favor to men of ability; for time and chance overtake them all.”

We shall see about that.

And the greatest Teacher of all said: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

But who is a peacemaker anyway? Is it a person who lives peacefully. . . or a person who shuts down troublemakers by imposing peace on their violent schemes?

Whatever your answer to that question is, please consider this: Take it upon yourself as a sacred duty to do the best you can to respect others, and to obtain respect for those who are unable to retain it.

Glass half-Full

Walking into Maelstrom, 1969

January 3, 2015

I graduated from high school in May of 1969. Then I left home and went to college. What a change that was. There was a lot going on at the university.

I think most kids who leave home at the tender age of 17 find out that there’s a whole ‘nother world going on out there, and it seems quite different from what they grew up in. It’s exciting, like turning over a new leaf, or starting a new chapter of life.

Now that I’m past sixty, I’ve gained some perspective that I didn’t have then. And since reading and doing historical research are pursuits I enjoy, I’ve decided to study that decade in which I lived as a teenager–the 1960’s.

I have a feeling I’m not the only boomer who is doing this, which is why the stuff of my research will eventually be written as a novel, my fourth. It is named King of Soul.

Back in September ’68, when my senior year in high school had just begun, I addressed our student body as the incoming President of the Student Council. I remember telling them something about there was a lot going on out there in the world, and that our generation seemed to be discontented. But we, as responsible young adults at a Catholic high school, could certainly change the world by acting reasonably and playing by the rules. The students rewarded my innocent positivism with a standing ovation at the end.

About a year later, when I was a freshman at LSU, I began to see (although not necessarily understand) that my well-received idea of playing by the rules was not so simple as I had presented it.

There was, indeed, a lot going on in in 1969, and a lot of that change was being propelled by kids, not much older than I, who were working against the system with organized resistance, rather than “playing by rules.” There was an authentic reason for this.

The Vietnam War.

One of the things that happened to me while I was discovering all this angst and protest in my g-generation was the draft lottery. My number came up 349, so I didn’t have to worry about being drafted. I would be able to stay in school without being called to go fight the Viet Cong.

Nevertheless, all that ’60’s stuff was not just about the war. There was something happening here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5M_Ttstbgs

Among the war-protesters, there was a wide array of strategies being implemented to end the war–everything from pacifist Episcopalians, to SDS “bring the war home” agitators, to outright Weatherman revolutionaries.

In the research I am now doing, here is something I have come to understand clearly:

The seeds of antiwar, anti-establishment resistance tactics were sown into the American experience during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s-60’s.

Oppression breeds Resistance, which leads to Tactics.

You know what I’m talking about–Little Rock Schools, Rosa on the bus, Dr. King’s courageous, nonviolent leadership, Selma, Greensboro Woolworth’s sit-in, voter registrations in the deep South, etc. It was mostly black folks getting organized.

Medgar Evers had fought in the Great War, in Europe. He was a hero, like all them Americans and others who had run the Nazis into the ground back in ’45. But when Medgar got back to Mississippi (where I was in the 1950’s a clueless white kid living in suburban Jackson), he got on a bus to ride back to his hometown, and the driver told this war hero– who had risked his life for our freedom– to go the the back of the bus!

Say what?

Medgar, being a man of peace, a Christian–well, he got through that humiliating incident–but he quietly went about his bid’ness. But he got to thinking he might try to help his people make some changes (and he was playing by the rules) so he started working with the NAACP to get black folks registered to vote in his home state.

But in June, 1963, brother Medgar was shot dead, near midnight, in his own front yard.

Now that–along with all the other injustices being brought into the light of day– got the attention of a lot of Americans.

So some of us honkys started to see the light and get involved.

The next year, 1964, saw a flood of white folks headed from up Nawth, going down South, to help black folks get organized and register. The whole movement was called the Mississippi Freedom Summer. It was a great event in American history, except for when Andrew Freedman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner got murdered.

During that sweltering summer in Mississippi, the seeds of American antiwar, antiestablishment resistance were sown. White kids from Boston, Philly, Santa Monica and Sausalito and everywhere in between went down south to help black folks.

And the black folks taught ’em how its done–civil disobedience to resist injustice, in the streets of America.

There were hundreds of white kids who went. To name just one: Mario Savio, who went down South to do civil rights work, then returned to his home in California. Later that fall, 1964 he climbed on top of a car so he could be heard while making a speech about a local issue to his fellow protesters.

And the Free Speech Movement was born in Berkeley.

Now, go back to the future–the year I was telling you about when I started this piece–1969:

While the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley was still rattling the ivys at colleges all across the nation, including the campus at LSU were I was a clueless freshman . . .

The administrators of the University of California at Berkeley had bought a vacant lot very close to campus. It was, according to David Obst, in his book, Too Good To Be Forgotten, a “three-acre field the school had bought a couple of years before.”

http://www.amazon.com/Too-Good-To-Be-Forgotten/dp/0471295388

David writes:

“In mid-April a number of street people decided the field would make a groovy park. They decided to reclaim the land from the university and give it back to the people. All this was to be done under the doctrine of squatters’s rights.

For the next few weeks, hundreds of students and street people, folks who wouldn’t work if their parents or employers begged or paid them, worked for free at the park. They transformed the mud-splattered field into a grass-covered park by bringing together a weird collection of sod, shrub, and seedlings. A grove of apple trees was planted and and a brick walkway was laid. Swings and a sandbox for kids were put up; there was even a fishpond, and a . . .’revolutionary cornfield.’ “

Now, I, reading this, thought that was a pretty productive, creative way to make good use of a vacant lot.

But of course the Berkeley admins didn’t think so, so the chancellor called Governor Reagan, who called in the National Guard, and things got ugly, kind of like, you know, Selma, or you know–but this was a bunch of white kids.

By ‘n by, I later came to appreciate Ronald Reagan, when he was President. But this was not one of his shining moments.

Which gets to my point: there are two sides to every story. Confusion is the order of the day when you’re a freshman.

When I walked into the college maelstrom of 1969, I was entering a storm of controversies. . . with both sides right and both sides wrong. How was I to make sense of it all?

As I later learned from Scriptures: “There is not one right, no, not one.”

The long, collegial tradition of free thought and orderly discourse was being challenged from both sides–left and right–during those  tempestuous days.  On the left, the “Movement” was being split. A huge rift was tearing the violent-prone revolutionaries apart from the “play by the rules” nonviolent protesters.

David Horowitz, years ahead of me, had been, along with David Obst (quoted above) in the very thick of the antiwar, antiestablishment resistance during those days. But later, in the 1970’s, he changed his tune and his political affiliations. In his book, Radical Son, Horowitz wrote:

http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Son-A-Generational-Odyssey/dp/0684840057

“Although the Panther vanguard was isolated and small . . .its leaders were able to rob and kill without incurring the penalty of the law. They were able to do so, because the Left made the Panthers a law unto themselves. The same way the Left had made Stalin a law unto himself. The same way the Left makes Fidel Castro and the Sandinista comandates laws unto themselves.”

“. . .the best intentions can lead to the worst ends. I had believed in the Left because of the good it had promised; I had learned to judge it by the evil it had done.”

Such is the electrifying commotion of ideologies and tactics that I walked into while starting college in 1969. And I am still trying to figure it all out–who is right, who is wrong.

More about all this later. Film at 11. Book in, probably, about three years.

Glass half-Full 

Kent State 1970

November 9, 2014

While doing research for the novel I now am writing, King of Soul, I read James A. Michener’s non-fiction book entitled

Kent State: What happened and why.

http://www.amazon.com/Kent-State-What-Happened-Why/dp/0449202739

Toward the end of it, here are some thoughts that came to me:

Oh, the insanity of those days,

shrouded in tear gas haze:

our dutiful young Guards, slogging in sweat-drenched gear,

moved against fellow-students erupting in fear.

They eyed each other across grassy knolls

while the crowd mocks and the clanging bell tolls.

Our ragged nation was ripping apart at the seams,

as confusion conspired to assassinate our dreams.

Sandy and Allison, Bill and Jeff didn’t know;

they never looked back when the bullets laid them low.

The shock and the awe, the plan and its flaw

could offer no reason to explain which law

had judged them worthy of martyrdom, sentenced to death:

a sinnish twist of fate  fired right, but hit on the left.

Things were never the same after that.

The movement waned thin; the bitter got fat;

America was laid low when those four  lives got spent

on that deadly tragic Mayday at Kent.

Smoke

Happy to be a Radical Centrist

November 1, 2014

Thank God, the autumn years of my life have landed me in position of being a radical centrist.

The Democrats are fixated on entitlements, victimhood and income inequality; the Republicans are obsessed with guns, selfishness and romanticizing what this country used to be.

Here’s news for you Democrats: Roosevelt (may peace be upon him) died, a long time ago.

And news for the Republicans: Reagan (God bless him) also died, a little while back.

Lately, the residues of these two legacies have polarized toward two extremes: wild-eyed progressives on one end, chubby conservatives on the other. But what the world needs now is, as Dionne Warwick sang, love, sweet love, whhich means, politically: people in the middle like me, lest the whole dam American experiment fall apart. Blessed are the peacemakers.

As a 63-year-old boomer, I identify with the protest that was raised by young whippersnappers in the streets of Chicago during the Democratic convention of 1968. I would love to have been there, but I was a student doing a summer job. Even so, I also appreciate the protest that Tea Party people have raised, in recent decades, against our debilitating welfare state. I probably shoulda been there too, at the tea party, but I had to work that day.

Both Movements have their legitimate, appreciable place in the history of this great free nation. And both have their respective bowel movements to dispose.

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done, regardless of who pays or doesn’t pay for it. We gotta keep the planet clean, while keeping things together on the home front.

It’s time now for both sides to acknowledge that the other side has a right to be here too, because, you know, none of us are just going to “go away.”

Although each of us will, in due time, go away from  this life.

I find myself, as a maturing centrist, continuously fascinated with and appreciating the legitimate talking points of both extremes, left and right. So I offer some advice for you all you extremists out there, all ye SDSers and John Birchers, all ye libertines and libertarians:

To you Occupy activists, and all ye who are so progressively inclined: I feel your pain, but its probably best that you just find a job instead of hanging out in the street with a sign. If you can’t find a job that suits you, get a part-time gig and then start creating, on the side, a job of your very own design. Maybe it’s a garden on a vacant lot or in your back yard. Maybe it’s just helping old folks and kids cross the street, or collecting sunshine. That would be better than waiting for the government or the dreaded corporatacracy to generate the right job for you. Your mission to improve the world begins with providing for, and managing, your own household.

To you Libertarian preppers, and all ye who are conservatively inclined: Don’t be dogmatic. Dismantling the federal behemoth too abruptly would put thousands or millions of workers on the street who are probably not prepared to pull their own weight, and then we would have a real mess on our hands. I know that you yourself are self-sufficient, or wannabe. You think you can do it all on their own and you do understand that you didn’t build that road and all that, but the days are coming when you will find it expedient to share a little of what you’ve got with others who are less fortunate. And it just may turn out that it’s not the tyrannical feds, but rather God himself ,requiring this benevolence of thee.

Come ye, all Americans.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Focus. Find your center and say: Om ready to be the best that I can be today, and the world will be a better place as a result of it.

Glass half-Full

Zeitgeists and the King of Soul

October 21, 2014

People talk about “the zeitgeist” of an historical period as if it were one spirit.  But in reality, the events of any particular epoch reflect several spiritual compulsions or visions that hover amongst the human hearts and minds of that age.

With that in mind, I have begun writing a new novel, my fourth, which is named King of Soul. The story will examine the teen years and coming-of-age of a young man,Donnie, who is growing up in the South  during the 1960s. The novel is only mildly autobiographical.

Donnie’s personal development is of course shaped by the familial, political, philosophical, economic and spiritual condition of that era. Within these influences, I Identify four zeitgeists that are especially potent during the turbulent 1960s. They are what might be called “spirits of the age”, or what Gordon Lightfoot called the “visions of their days.” But I like to think of these historical forces, each one, as collective “Souls. ”  For the decade in which I was a teenager, they are:

~Soul of Bounty

~Soul of Discontent

~Soul of Escape

~Soul of Anarchy

So that you can better understand my “Souls” concept, here are some earlier “Souls” that were dominant in former ages of the American Experience:

Soul of Exploration, Soul of Liberty, Soul of Slavery, Soul of Industry, Soul of Reform, Soul of Progress, Soul of Labor, Soul of Consumption, Soul of Entertainment.

As the story develops in my novel, King of Soul, the reader will detect in Donnie’s experience:

~The Soul of Bounty, which thrives on security and wellness. It favors the individual, rather than a collective, although its community aspect is based on abundance: plenty for everybody. The Soul of Bounty values Family, Faith, and Work for Gain. Religion is beneficial. Heaven is a good ending. Hierarchy and authority contribute to Law & Order, sometimes at the expense of equality. Self-discipline and smart work are admirable.

It is a conservative attitude. Leave well-enough alone. Soul of Bounty manifestations for the 1960s may be: Republicans, the “Establishment”, the “Powers that Be, Young Americans for Freedom. On its fringe are the John Birchers and the Ayn Rand group. Prominent movers in the Soul of Bounty during that time were: Nixon, Buckley, Reagan, Mayor Daley, Gov.Rhodes of Ohio, most suburbanites.

~The Soul of Discontent, which struggles toward justice and rightness. The collective will is higher than the individual; society is based on ideology, not religion. Activists within the Soul of Discontent are forever striving toward progress. Utopia is a real possibility.The Marxian version includes a dictatorship of the proletariat. Equality of all will be achieved  at the expense of Order. These people are purposeful,  existential in their motivation. Disruption of the established order is necessary for societal correction to be imposed. Organizations of the period include: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Southern Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Students for Democratic Society (SDS), Free Speech Movement and the generally widespread Antiwar movement. Leaders of the 1960s manifestation include, among many others: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, Malcom X,  Mario Savio, Tom Hayden, Joan Baez, the Berrigans, Daniel Ellsberg, Betty Friedan. The Soul of Discontent was most clearly expressed in: Civil Rights movement, Feminism, Berkeley, Chicago protests at 1968 Democratic convention, lethal uprisings at Kent State and Jackson State, student movements at San Francisco State U, Yale, Columbia, and eventually the Democratic party and 4th estate of 1970s-200. . .s

~Soul of Escape, which craves pleasure, ecstasy and distraction.  Expressions of this Soul are both collective and individual. Community is hoped for to afford leisure, pleasure, celebration, art and expression.  Minimal work is tolerated for the sake of these fulfillments. Utopia is cool, and Love-in is even better Serendipity is prized, at the expense of structure. Enjoy. In the ’60s, these people were known as hippies, who followed in footsteps of their 1950s predecessors, the Beats. You know who they are, even if you were not one of them for awhile, because you read about them in Time and Life: Timothy Leary, Ken Kesey, Allen Ginsberg, most rock musicians, but most notably Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead. They sought a trippy kind of stoned-out degenerative sensuality that occasionally masqueraded as spirituality. Summer of Love in ’67 and Woodstock in ’69 were their high points.

~Soul of Anarchy, which struggles to tear down the old order so that a new something can arise. Destruction is not only necessary, but cool and glorified. These people were the epitome of  Shiva Rage: Panthers. Weathermen, Yippies on a bad day. The catch-all was “Revolutionary.” John Lennon sang about them but only skirted along their fringes. “. . .but if you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.” (They didn’t make it.) Their flash in the pan came late, in ’69 and the ’70s. Heroes were Eldridge Cleaver, Huey Newton, Stokely Carmichael after he got tired of moderation, Rudd/Dohrn/Ayers. They were violent revolutionaries who might have done much more damage if the Establishment, personified by Richard Nixon, had not decided to wind the Vietnam War down and follow through with some serious programs to fulfill Johnson’s Great Society before going down in a blaze of humiliating presidential glory.

In a turbid decade called “the ’60s”, my young protagonist Donnie attends middle school and high school, enters college in 1969, avoids the draft, checks out a few antiwar happenings and tries to make sense of it all, in a nation being torn apart by the interference patterns generated when these four (Bounty, Discontent, Escape, Anarchy) encountered each other. That’s the scenario of King of Soul.

I should have it ready for you to read in a year or three.

King of Soul

SFMuni Bus #48

September 29, 2014

Yesterday I took the #48 SFMuni bus ride from the Mission district over Diamond Heights to the West Portal.

I ambled around a bit, wandered lonely as a cloud through a corner of Golden Gate Park, then strolled straight up Haight, past Ashbury to Masonic, then northward through the Panhandle to Fulton and by n by took a long jaunt back  to mid-town and the San Francisco Opera house.

This morning, Pat and I hopped on the #48 and rode out to West Portal. Now we are kickin’ around, having taken a trolley(modern version) over to catch a view of the Pacific, which we had seen earlier this year, but that was down the coast a bit, in Costa Rica.

I like the #48 bus. I was surprised to see it depicted in this mural, which we were viewing yesterday afternoon on Balmy alley in the Mission:

ProtestMural

At the present moment, early Monday afternoon Sept. 29, 2014, I am sitting at a Starbucks preparing to send you this little digital communicado. You may see the skullish fellow in the painting. He is is typing away on a laptop, as I am at this moment, and probably hoping to connect  cyber-cytizens of the world to some idea or story that will lead them to hell or heaven or somewhere in between. I hope the artist did not have this old white guy (me) in mind in that detail.

That cannot be me in the pic anyway, because I am not wearing a black robe. I’m wearing a Carolina blue shirt.

As for the excellent painting jpg’d here, I recommend you study it closely. It is very well done. But somehow I feel not entirely empathetic to its angstish message. On the other hand I can tell you that the painting itself is evidence that not all is well in this present arrangement of things: this truth I acknowledge.

As for the worldy injustice that is alluded to herein, I could write a book (yet to come.) It would be a long book, the fourth I have written, a labor of love, an opus, although others have probably done it better than I.

Nevertheless, If I may offer one brief advisement with which to leave you, it would be: read Matthew 5, 6,7. The message there is, I believe, even more powerful than, say, Marx, Mao or Che. And even more revolutionary than this painting, but not as colorful.

Glass Chimera

Jackson Mississippi 1963

April 20, 2014

 

In 1954, I was three years old. In that year, my parents moved from Louisiana to Jackson Mississippi. Our family of four, soon to be six souls, stayed in Jackson until I was in the sixth grade, 1962. Then we moved back to Louisiana.

All around us at that time the world was changing big time. I was, of course, clueless, being just a kid. Living in a humble, GI-bill enabled suburb, l and my whitey neighborhood playmates were quite insulated from the maelstrom of civil rights-fueled social change that was gathering momentum in Jackson and in the whole state of Mississippi and the South, and later the North.

I was in a Catholic school; it was nice enough, and I had some good friends there. Although the US Supreme Court decision,  Brown v. Board of Education, had established a legal  path toward school desegregation in 1954, I never saw a black classmate until I was in junior high school in Baton Rouge a few years later.

My first impressions of black folk in Jackson came mostly through our maid, Aleen. She was a very nice lady. Many an afternoon, my sister and I would accompany my mother as she drove Aleen home from her day-job at our home. Aleen’s home was what we would politely call the “other side of town,” although it wasn’t really in town, but seemed to me to be out in the country somewhere nearby. The vivid image in my child’s mind was of a dirt road lined by houses that I later learned are called “shotgun shacks.”

In 2011, Dreamworks released a movie about what was developing in Jackson at that time. You’ve probably seen it: The Help. It is an excellent film, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett and it absolutely confirms all my juvenile impressions and memories of Jackson in the 1950s. But of course, as I said before, being a kid I had no idea of what was really going on behind all that docile southern comfort status quo.

Recently, I have decided to write a fictional historiography about growing up in the South during that time, and about how being a born-n-bred southerner interfaced with what the rest of our country was becoming. This novel, my fourth, is tentatively named King of Soul. (Preview: I am not “the King.”) The book being written  follows the novel Smoke, which I have just published.

I do a lot of historical research. Learning about history is what propels me as a writer. I turn the research into fiction that, I feel represents a certain time period or zeitgeist. Finally I am doing one now on the actual time and place of my growing up.

My daughter Katie, who nobly attempts to be my editor, tells me that my protagonist’s depth suffers in the midst of all my fictionalized history. She is of course correct in this critique. Certainly I will learn the lesson of satisfactory protagonist development in this next project, instead of obsessing with making the history itself the main character.

To begin research I have picked up several books at the Belk library, Appalachian State University, here in Boone NC where I live, where Pat and I have raised our three grown young’uns. This researching will be my modus operandi. Before King of Soul is finished in a few years, I probably will have consulted with a hundred or more sources from that library, as well as our local Watauga County library.

The Kindle, and Wikipedia, and real historians posting online, and so forth are also major components of my publishing projects.

To get into the King of Soul, I am reading, among other things, Michael Vinson Williams’ opus of history research, Medgar Evers: Mississippi Martyr, and also A Circle of Trust: Remembering SNCC, by Cheryl Lynn Greenberg.

So, by doing, I am finally getting the back-story of what was really going on while I was growing up in Jackson Mississippi in the 1950s and Baton Rouge Louisiana in the 1960s.

I graduated from high school in 1969. What does that tell ya? Should be a fascinating period to reflect upon.

All of this to say: at the present moment I am here to share with you three of the most interesting historical facts I have learned in preparation to writing the fictional historiography.

1. From Williams’ book on Medgar Evers: When Medgar returned to the USA after soldiering to defending our country and Europe in 1946, he had to “go to the back of the bus.”! What kind of a welcome was that for a man who had survived D-Day and World War II in Europe? Mr. Evers went on to do very persistent, determined work in voter registrations in Mississippi in the ’50s and ’60s, and became a great leader in the civil rights movement before he was shot down in the dark of night by a white supremacist in his own front yard in Jackson in 1963. That was just a few months before they got Kennedy.

2. From Greenburg’s book on the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC):  Through volunteering in the civil rights movement in the South, empathetic activists from other areas of the country learned how it’s done. For instance: after working with the blacks down south, Mario Savio took his SNCC experience back to Berkeley, where he lead the Free Speech Movement that soon initiated protest against the Vietnam war. Also, after working with blacks down south, Tom Hayden returned to Michigan and authored, with his SDS comrades, the Port Huron Statement which was the beginning of Students for a Democratic Society.

3.What I am seeing now about the time period is this: As the civil rights movement gathered steam in the mid-’60s, a rift developed between the moderates (such as Medgar Evers, the NAACP, Dr. King, SCLC, John Lewis, Julian Bond, etc.) and the radicals (such as Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, SNCC, Panthers, Malcolm X, etc.) This parting of ways is similar to what happened among the anti-Fascists and also among  the anti-Communists in Europe of the 1930s, a subject of my new novel, Smoke. The peaceful v. violent disagreement is also, I believe, indicative of protest movements generally, such as the two biggies: the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution. Probably the next revolution, too, whatever becomes of that.

As for me, the kid growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, well. . . shut my mouth, I’m a child of the South. But I’m a commencin’ to write about it. Thank ye for your time.

Glass half-Full

 

Not your father’s parade, booby

September 2, 2012

Americans do love a parade. We revel gloriously, don’t we, in their ambient festivity. We get excited, turning into regular yankee doodle dandies, when we hear the brass band Sousa strains wafting on a summer breeze from the other end of Main Street.

It’s Labor Day! Surely that’s what this parade was all about today in Charlotte.

Not exactly. Absent from this Labor Day parade were the marching bands with their brass flashing in the sunshine. No Sousa phrases of Stars and Stripes Forever were floating on this uptown Charlotte breeze. We heard no clarinets proclaiming harmonies to complement their sassy trumpet cousins; we felt no sultry saxes. Gone were the young girls spinning their batons and tossing them high into the air to celebrate Americanity, as sequins sparkle and  children harken.

No. That Main Street thing was so old school. It was like, Ozzie and Harriet, for crying out loud.  I’m here to tell ya that somewhere between Ozzie and Harriet and Ozzy Osborne we got all turned around. Everything now is whoop-fizz, wooby-shooby hip-flip city, not to mention protest. Well, I just did mention it: protest.

That’s why today’s parade in Charlotte was a horse of a different color, or flag of a different color. What used to be red, white, and blue flapping on the summer breeze is now a kind of shredded rag of tattered and torn ideological fabric, flapping on the sound-bite hot air. What we got now is what the talking media heads have termed fragmentation.

Down there in Tampa you had the red stripes. Now, here in Charlotte, just before the Democrats meet, all the blue stripes have come out in full force.

But this new color-coding of political stripes is backwards. You know that don’t you? I mean, back in the day, communists were “reds,” and American patriots were true “blue.”  How did this get turned around?

If you don’t believe me, check out that old ’70s movie, Reds, starring Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton as a couple of yankee Soviet-sympathizers supporting the Bolsheviks when the revolutionaries killed the czar and his family in Russia in 1917.  Now them was reds, the kind of reds that the John Birchers used to dis when they grumbled, back in the ’50s, better dead than red! 

But here we are now, in 2012, in Charlotte, across the street from Bank of America corporate headquarters, for crying out loud, in this so-called (in the new newspeak) redstate because of it bein’ in the bible belt, and in this red city because of all the republican bankers, and here comes this band of rag-tag bunch of occupiers from every blue state and blue neighborhood in this here nation.

But them’s reds if I ever saw one. I mean, the first sign I saw said: Capitalism is holding back the human race.!

I fear this is not your father’s parade, booby. I’m thoroughly confused. Furthermore, the Code Pink contingent passing by has totally intensified my redwhiteandblue colors schizoshmizz.

Actually, that Capitalism is sign was the second sign I saw. The first one said: Vote now Jail bank execs Jail oil execs.

And these are definitely signs of the times. They were preceded by no traditional  drum and bugle corps. Instead we had a lone drummer at the fore. (behind the myriad of police escorts, of course.) He looked like ZZTop. They made him stop beating the drum when the ragtag Occupy Wall Street South ensemble stopped in from of Bank of America headquarters to let the world know exactly why they had come here, by making speeeches and flashing their signs and strutting their stuff.

These days,  we fragmented Americans  are like birds of a different feather, strutting the stuff. These here are  the wispy-wing’ed fringes of the blue flock. I suppose if you went to a Tea Party gathering a while back, you’d have gotten a view of what they’re calling the red flock. Tea Partiers don’t strut, however; they tend to sit in lawn chairs that they themselves brought from their back porches at home.

These Occupiers, I don’t think they have back porches, but more likely, fire escapes.

The last time I saw a parade like this was in the streets of Florence, Italy, several years ago.

There were some similarities with that Italian procession and what we see today approaching the DNC arena. You could just feel, back in the old country, that those old ideological lines had been drawn long ago. The onlookers just kind of yawn, like oh here comes another socialist parade; it must be Friday. The paraders were very organized, not like this bunch I’m looking at now. And those Europeans are more obviously labor-centered, not like here where the unions are just kind of hovering around the perimeter, waiting for their opportunity to organize the occupiers when they run out of steam.

And these fledgeling protest movements in the USA, they’re like only a hundred and twenty years old or so, still young and whippersnappin’, not like those European ones that seem so mature and classifiable and with their own political parties and stuff.

And I need to mention before I go that the ratio of protesters to police to onlookers was, from my sidewalk perch, something like 1:1:1. Not very efficient, from a banking city’s spreadsheet standpoint.

The long, steady stream of fire trucks at the end made it seem a little like the old days-style parade, with hints of orderly garnish, and an official finish, as the coffee-slurpers might say here at Starbucks where I’m now knocking this little ditty out.

And guess what, Labor Day is tomorrow, not today. What was I thinking?

 

Glass half-Full