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Thursday, August 3, 2017

Trump's Negotiating Tactics Per Prime Minister Trumball Phone Call

Now that someone has leaked the transcript of Trump's first phone conversation with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, I thought I'd let you hear the unredacted version--see above. 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Sinclair Lewis' Passing Novel--Kingsblood Royal

This is a photograph of George Bonga, a Minnesota fur trapper and one of the first African-Americans born in Minnesota. He was the grandson of two slaves brought to Mackinac by a British officer and freed there, and his mother was an Ojibwa woman.) 

In 1947, Sinclair Lewis published, a satirical novel that was nominally about George Bonga and much more directly about America's complicated relationship with race. The novel's hero is a very white man in a very white suburb doing research to prove that he's descended from royalty, who discovers, instead, that his ancestor was essentially George Bonga--which makes the hero of Kingsblood Royal, a man of color--at least according to the one-drop rule. 

The hero is shocked by this discovery, but as he starts telling people, his world falls apart, leading him to wonder what life is really like for those poor black folk who live so separately on the wrong side of town. 



The white press couldn't stand Lewis' novel. There's no way, they said that any such well-to do guy would have been so stupid as to claim his hidden heritage. The black press loved it and thought it was very astute. Paul Robeson's wife, Eslanda, said she appreciated Lewis' approach to material "from the white side," and--get this--said that she was working on a novel about somebody passing for white from the "other side of the medal." You may not know this--I did not know this--but Paul Robeson's wife was an author, civil rights worker and anthropologist. 

I wonder why most of us have never heard about Kingsblood Royal, or George Bonga or his father, Pierre or his Ojibwa mother? And why the heck have we never been taught about Paul Robeson's wife, who--by the way--co-wrote a book with Pearl Buck? I also want to know how to find that manuscript of Eslanda Cardozo Robeson's the one approaching this material from the other side of the medal.  Oh, how I would love to read that. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Those Who Can Say, "Give Him A Chance."


Ida Fink's spare and powerful novel, The Journey, begins on a golden, gorgeous autumn morning, the day that typically, the author and her family would harvest apples from a tree that adjoins both properties.  

But on this morning, the father has left his girls in hiding, watching as their neighbors harvest all the apples. They are Jewish and their neighbors are not, and it's Poland in 1939, and the Nazis have just told every Jew in town to come to the town square to be shipped off to an "internment camp." So, the sisters, terrified, listen to the screams coming from the town square, while their neighbors move the ladder and pick bushels of apples from the tree.

I've been thinking about apple-picking as we enjoy these extraordinary, golden, unusually warm days of autumn and recover from the shock of the election. I keep thinking of those apples every time someone says to me, "I'm just going to trust it will be okay and enjoy this gorgeous day." Because those people, like the Ida Fink's neighbors, can do that. Not from any ill-will, not because they're evil, but because they can go on picking apples while others fear that they will be shot, or harassed or rounded up in the town square or shipped off to some unknown location, or go into hiding, their identities stripped from them as they scurry from place to place, terrified.

After all, I'm sure that on many days, during many raffles, (what the Germans called the roundup of Jews,) many decent people longed to hope for the best, to enjoy the beautiful weather, to pick those apples and try to believe that it would all be all right. Maybe it will be all right. As long you're not one of the targets and you're willing to pick apples while others are targeted.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Allure of a Despot

The real fascination of a character like Henry VIII is that we all know him. We've all had a parent like him or a spouse or a boss. Someone who rules by terror, who likes to watch people hop, {who loves the freedom to grab women by the pussy} and who doesn't care whom he beheads.

The parallels reflect more than a liking for sumptuous decor and the habit of multiple wives. Like Henry VIII, Trump was raised with an abusive father who coupled rage, emotional neglect, and velvet gloves. Like Henry, Trump was the younger son, his older brother supposed to be the heir. As the darling of his father's empire, Henry VIII had a whipping boy, someone who was punished in his place whenever he misbehaved. Trump had a teacher who he punched in the face when he was only twelve--with no real consequences afterwards. 

Like Henry VII, Trump's father was a man so crooked it was probably hard for him to walk straight and he passed onto his son an empire where his word was law.  Roy Cohn was Trump's Cardinal Wolsey, a man behind the scenes who turned the scion of an empire into a unrepentantly immoral fighting bastard. With Cohn as his teacher, Trump, like Henry VIII, learned that it was perfectly acceptable to cheat the commoners who work for him, rage at them, cut their pay or stiff them completely--with everything based on a whim. 

I have always thought that watching the Tudors was a lot more fun than living among them must have been. And it wasn't just people at court whose heads rolled. Millions of commoners had their lives uprooted, destroyed or brutally ended simply because Henry wanted to divorce his wife and couldn't do it, and nobody--but nobody--could say no to the man. 

Now, with a Republican Congress and Senate willing to ignore all evidence of wrong-doing, and a Conservative Republican Supreme Court, Donald Trump is set to rule our Land. 

May God Save America. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wisdom of the Father's, transformed to include the Mothers.

In a time of great stress, we sometimes turn to older wisdom. So, I give you this, from a book of Jewish wisdom called the Pirkei Avot, (Words of the Fathers) modified slightly to make it words of the Mothers, too:

“In a place where no one is human, one should strive to be human.” – Pirkei Avot 2:5

And this: 

Rabbi Tarfon . . . used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

(My apologies--I cannot find the artist to credit for this image.) 

John Steinbeck pegged it, back in 1952



John Steinbeck pegged it, back in, in East of Eden (1952)--discussing America's need for demagogues.

“It is argued that because they {Americans} believed thoroughly in a just, moral God they could put their faith there and let the smaller insecurities take care of themselves. 

But I think that because they trusted themselves and respected themselves as individuals, because they knew beyond doubt that they were valuable and potentially moral units -- because of this they could give God their own courage and dignity and then receive it back. Such things have disappeared perhaps because men do not trust themselves anymore, and when that happens there is nothing left except perhaps to find some strong sure man, even though he may be wrong, and to dangle from his coattails.”