Wokeness? What’s That?

David Brooks taught me a new word, or at least a new usage, yesterday: woke.

I do a terrible job keeping up with popular culture and modern usages that spring from it. I have seen the word “woke” popping up a lot lately but haven’t paid it much attention. I get along fine without comprehending most popular culture. It doesn’t bother me that I have seen none of the “best of” television series or movies. I take in a good one now and then but generally assume the worst about them and don’t tune in. Is that a form of wokeness?

Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t. But I know with certainty that I am woke to Donald Trump. I don’t try to understand or tolerate him. It should be clear to any observer that everything he does is in his own and not the nation’s interest. Plus, he is rude, given to alternate realities, tasteless, not very smart, lies a lot and is far too materialistic for my value system. I could go on.

Brooks says there is a problem with my attitude and I yield to his wisdom. Brooks sums up the problem with wokeness in this way:

The greatest danger of extreme wokeness is that it makes it harder to practice the necessary skill of public life, the ability to see two contradictory truths at the same time.

And I don’t think he means alternative facts in the way DJT’s minions have attempted to cloak his lies. He gives the example of racism. Our dominant society was built on it and continues to be deep into it. At the same time, we have made some progress in learning to make a racist culture a little kinder to everyone since the days of legal slavery, total denial of citizen rights, and the open veneration of seditious defenders of – I yield to the cause as they prefer to describe it – states’ rights. We have done it by making some uncomfortable compromises along the way.

So what are we to do about this woke old southern white man who is a member of the very demographic that is credited with putting Trump in office? How should I deal with my wokeness problem?

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76 Trombones: The Music Man Tickets Are Now Available

The summer musical is always the big event for Brazosport Center Stages. This year it is Meredith Willson’s The Music Man and tickets are now available to members and the general public for the July 13 opening in the Freeport LNG venue in Clute.

Brazosport Center Stages last presented The Music Man in 1990. Director Wes Copeland thought it was time to do it again and proposed it to the Center Stages season committee and they agreed. It is now in rehearsal.

The Music Man is one of America’s favorite musicals with lots of kids, marching bands, patriotic tableaus and colorful costumes. Six performances are scheduled in the Freeport LNG large theater venue:

  • Friday, July 13, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 14, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 15, 2:30 p.m. (matinee)
  • Friday, July 20, 7:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, July 21, 7:30 p.m.
  • Sunday, July 22, 2:30 p.m. (matinee)

I suggest getting your reservations as soon as you can. Summer shows at BCS typically sell out and this show has a lot of kids on stage which means lots of grandparents in the audience. ACT NOW.

If you come from Houston, head south on Highway 288 and take the Oyster Creek exit in Lake Jackson. Turn left (east) and proceed three miles on Oyster Creek (which becomes College Drive) and The Center will be on the left in front of the Brazosport College campus.

My son played Tommy Djilas in 1990. He is now 46 with three kids of his own. His oldest son could play Tommy Djilas now. Cheryl costumed the show for director Maureen Denver and is assisting Tina Gray in costuming the current edition. Those costumes have been carefully stored and preserved from 1990 and are ready to use again – if anyone will fit them.

See you at The Center.

Fifty Years Ago

I was drafted on April 9, 1968. As a graduate student and never much of an athlete, I was older than most of the other trainees in my basic training unit by six or seven years and not ready for the kind of physical exertion my DS was demanding of me. After checking in for sick call with blood in my urine around the fifth week of our eight week training period, I was hospitalized for treatment of what they thought was a kidney condition but was more likely, now I think, exertional rhabdomyolosis.

The California Democratic Primary had been held June 4. National news was not easy to come by in the William Beaumont General Hospital and I was only vaguely aware of the result of the primary and that Robert F. Kennedy had been wounded and survived an assassination attempt. There was a single television set on the ward and it was usually tuned to sports or sitcoms. We had no news the following day to help us understand how serious Kennedy’s condition was.

I was happy for Kennedy’s win as he seemed the most likely candidate to help us bring the war to an end and maybe even save me from a trip over there. By this time, most young Americans were pretty well hardened to the politics of violence but found it difficult to believe that a brother of JFK would die as he did or that it could happen just a matter of weeks after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. I had gone to bed hopeful he would survive and the war could be brought to an end.

On the morning of June 6, my new and all-too-constant friend the phlebotomist, who had come to do his daily invasion of my vein, shook me by the shoulder and said to me, “He died, you know.”

In my sleepy stupor I was confused by what he was telling me. Then he said in a very sad, quiet voice, “Bobby died this morning.”

 

Another Day of News in Sonnet Form

The day’s news was largely concerned with the evolving U.S. / North Korea summit, The president met in the Oval Office with DPRK’s former chief spy. I could not help but imagine the possibilities.  Today’s News in Sonnet Form is partly true and partly imagined, like many of the official releases issued from the White House lately.

 

News Sonnet II (Only Some Of It Imagined)

Dear Leader sends his most respected spy,
that’s me, to help assure your Twitter feed
is safe from Deep State hackers’ constant pry
to check if you’ve been compromised. Indeed,
allow insertion of this tiny card
in ancient Chinese flip phone you adore.
Your Deep State guys will find it much too hard
to intercept our plans for Singapore.
But, until then, [aside] we get to haul
in data not sent out in daily tweet –
the names and numbers, texts and every call
to baby-cakes and lady friends so sweet.
Perhaps your calls to tough guy Michael Cohen
will help us get negotiations goin’.

Today’s News in Sonnet Form

When I started this journal I intended to stay away from politics and current events. I soon realized that there was no way I would eliminate politics from my commentary. I’m afraid there isn’t much left of me if I abandon political discussion to Twitter and the cable networks.

Yesterday’s sonnet about Hurricane Harvey was fun to put together and even more fun to try to explain. Now I have decided to treat the day’s news in sonnet form. And the good thing is, I don’t have to explain. Just pick up your Washington Post, New York Times or push the buttons to go to Fox, CNN or MSNBC. Any one will do.

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Remembering Harvey

Summer approaches and a subtropical storm named Alberto has already made landfall on the northeastern coast of the Gulf of Mexico soaking Florida and Alabama.

It was late August of last year that Harvey made landfall at Rockport, Texas and dumped heavy rains to its east. Lake Jackson had 24 inches as I recall but some of the best was yet to come as Houston’s 51 inches headed downstream in our direction.  It has only been nine months. We know people in Lake Jackson who are still putting their lives and homes back in order.

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A friend’s home in Lake Jackson after Hurricane Harvey

This was what we saw when we went to visit a friend whose home had been flooded. Virtually everything they owned was piled in front of the house. But there were also about fifteen cars parked in the driveway. People from Chapelwood and The Center were there to do all they could to help with the cleanup.

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Interior of the friend’s home after the damage had been attacked by daily squadrons of friends

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On a More Positive Note: Our Legacy of Hope

Growing up in Jacinto City, Texas, I was well within the urban lasso of Houston, yet I was insulated from its cultural amenities by barriers of transportation and income. Downtown Houston was a 30 to 45 minute bus ride from Jacinto City with lots of stops along the way for pickup and dropoff. We could do a few of the things that were free such as the zoo, the public parks, the art museum, and the free concerts at the Miller Outdoor Theater in Hermann Park. But those were rare occasions and I grew up without an ear for good music, with the barest exposure to the visual arts, and no experience with drama beyond the plays I saw on our high school stage.

My participation in the arts did not improve much as an adult after moving into the city proper and having a better income of my own. This reduced the impact of the barriers of distance and income but did not eliminate them completely.

Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater in the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences
Interior of the Freeport LNG Theater, one of the venues where Brazosport Center Stages performs in The Center

Then, in 1982, we moved to an exurban area of Brazoria County – south of town, Lake Jackson. We were far enough removed from Houston that its urban amenities were virtually out of reach. For the kids in the poorer homes in our area, they were distant dreams if they were dreams at all.

But not long after arriving here, we learned that the performing and visual arts were available, affordable and a quick three mile drive down Oyster Creek Drive to the Brazosport Center for the Arts and Sciences.

My posts have tended to dwell on the things we have done wrong politically, socially and economically and continue doing wrong. Those things form the basis of the pieces carrying the title Our Bitter Legacy. But, of course, there are some things we are doing right. The Brazosport Center for Arts and Sciences is one of them. It argues for recognition that we are also at work on our legacy of hope.

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