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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Empty Nesting, Mallard-style

It's early autumn, the days growing shorter, the nights cooler.  School has started for everyone. I stopped my bike ride around the lake to watch this lonely female, brooding. Clearly, she has Empty Nest syndrome. 




Tuesday, August 7, 2018

After the verdict, Officer Geronimo Yanez.

I wrote this blog post a year ago. I'm not certain why I didn't post it. It's late, but I'm going to post it today.

Yesterday morning, I had to tackle a complex cat box problem involving a dog, a closed litter box, coats and scrubbing the front hall floor on my hands and knees. It haven't been able to watch the video yet, the video where Philando is shot within four seconds of the interaction beginning.I have the luxury of not watching it happen, of refusing to witness, of sweeping up kitty litter and wiping the floor. Diamond Reynolds doesn't. She must see it happening again and again. Her little girl doesn't. she must wake from nightmares of seeing that "pretty good guy who cared about us" get bullets in the heart, because somebody was terrified of his skin. 

I put it off as long as I could. I folded laundry and watched a sit com. I took the kids swimming. I made mashed potatoes from scratch. Finally, though, I sat down and watched the video Diamond Reynolds sits handcuffed in the back of the car, stunned, wailing, numb, horrified, while her little daughter tries to comfort her--and keep her calm, "so you won't get shotted, too." 

I made grilled cheese sandwiches.  I swept the kitchen floor. I pickled some watermelon rind--an experiment with a recipe from 1870. Then, I watched, very tiny on my phone, a small section of Diamond Reynolds being questioned by police--the part where they told her that her boyfriend, Philando Castile was dead, the part where she wailed, that hoarse, painful wail with all its overtones, the one you make when everything is lost, when you have nothing, when you feel once again a helpless child--like the helpless child her daughter was in the police car. I quickly hit the side button that switched my phone to darkness.  

In the afternoon, I heard the interview on NPR--the one where the juror explains how they reached their not-guilty decision. I was slicing apples for the kids, a steady chop, chop chop. "We took the emotion of out it," the juror said, before explaining that once they deadlocked, once that judge sent them back, they figured he wouldn't let them go before they reached an agreement. 
So they found the officer not guilty. They didn't want to be stuck in the deliberating room for any more days.
The juror said,  "Well, he seemed like a pretty honest guy."
"Wait," said the interviewer, startled. "You mean Philando Castile?"

"No." The white juror's flat Midwestern accent sounded ordinary and calm. "The officer."

He meant Jeronimo Yanez, the police officer with the puffy, young face, the one who changed his story from "I couldn't see it" (the gun) to "He was pulling it out," to "He had a c-grip." The officer who cried during his testimony, saying he feared for his life. The officer who, he testified, thought he had to shoot Philando because there was "second-hand smoke" in the car, and if Phil would smoke around a child, he was dangerous. 


But the juror's take from all that confusion, from watching the video of Yanez panic, tell Philando contradictory things and kill him within seven seconds of the mention of Phil's concealed carry, was that Yanez "seemed a pretty honest guy." 


My child came in and turned off the radio. I kept slicing apples, and sobbing.  
I had the luxury of sobbing in the kitchen over apple slices. My child could come in and turn off the radio mid-interview. My kids didn't see their dad shot because of the color of his skin.  My husband doesn't have to worry, as the father of the adorable baby we met at a protest does, "Now that I have a baby, it's not safe for me to drive anymore. I can't afford to have a cop shoot me because of a broken tail light." We are white, and in this country, we are (mostly) safe.

A reporter that I much admire wrote today, "I can't take all this depressing news. I'm only looking at images of cute cats and adorable puppies." I can relate. I'm certain that during WWII, many in Poland, in France, in Germany turned their backs on the news and decided to look, instead, at cute cats and adorable puppies. Jews didn't have that luxury there. People of color don't have it here. Why should the rest of us?

We have to watch the dash cam. We have to turn the radio back on. And more--we have to leave our comfort zone, let the anger when we hear the phrase "All white people" roll off our backs. We have to remind ourselves there's abundant reasons for it. We have to stay in the room. We have to hit the protests, join the organizations, we have to make absolutely certain that every family, brown or white, has the luxury of driving their cars, slicing their apples, folding their laundry, without fearing that one phone call or one broken tail light or one bad interaction with a police officer will leave us--or someone we love--dead. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Christian Martyrs?

About forteen years ago, a white, Middle-class woman told me that whites were on the run and Christians were terribly persecuted. We were both in the gym at a nice hotel in the major city of our state--I, visiting for a family celebration, she for a football game and to see her son off to the military.
"Christians in this country, we're all being persecuted," she said as we plodded away on the stair master.
I listened, my face carefully wide-eyed. "Wow. That's terrible. What was it like? You were refused a job because of your religion? Or forced out because you're Christian?"
"Oh, no," she said.
I tried again. "Then--somebody wouldn't rent you an apartment? Or sell you a house?"
"No, no no," she said.
I was pretty sure this wasn't the case, but. . ."Then, they called you names and threatened you?"
"No. Of course not," she said.
"Well then how have you been persecuted?"
She leaped on it, her face redder than ever, and not from the exercise. "It's these judges.. These activist judges. Telling us we can't say Merry Christmas, taking away prayer in school. It's terrible. It's a sin."
I took a deep breath so I could reply without audible sarcasm. "Oh. You mean they won't let you tell other people how *they* have to live?"
"Yes." She was so relieved. Finally somebody understood. "Yes. Absolutely. These activist judges are persecuting us."
Just like Saint Euphemia, (above) supposedly thrown to the lions for refusing to sacrifice at the altar of Ares, this woman is being forbidden to throw others to the lions. Persecution. Right?

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.