They knew from the very first
this would be a job
only a woman would do.
Standing through the seasons
in this harbor over a hundred years
offering what we French call hospitalité.
This wasn’t for haute cuisine and wine.
I was put here, an immigrant myself,
to welcome refugees
from famine and oppression,
asking only that they do their part
to protect the ideals and way of life
that moved always
in the direction of freedom.
Sometimes my presence
served to remind this
congregation of immigrants
that only a few can call
this their native land – and they never
owned the land so much as respected it
and kept it friendly to all creatures.
History knit us together in community
when natives and newcomers rose up,
fought together and died to remove
dictators from power –
declared enemies of liberty.
I don’t know if I can bear
this flame much longer.
He makes his home here now,
and would build a wall,
cage the children who would
give us the next generation of freedom.
For all I have seen from here,
watching the towers in flames,
seeing the bodies falling –
none of it drove me to fits of crying.
But lately, seeing the dream of democracy
reduced to a cruel
farce staged by and for one vain man –
I am so alone out here.
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?
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.”
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’.
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.
Thirty-five miles northeast of where I sit this morning, ten people lie dead in mortuaries in or around Alvin and Santa Fe, Texas, victims of a teenager who had easy access to guns and potential victims. We know little about his mental state or motives. But we do know that it was senseless and preventable.
Yesterday, during the saturation news coverage from the Santa Fe High School grounds, local officials ushered our governor outside to the press area that had been set up in the school’s parking lot. Governor Abbott offered some words of comfort and some information the media had been awaiting. And of course he offered up the requisite promise of listening sessions, town halls, round tables and such.
Then he introduced two people who had no particular reason for being there — Dan Patrick and Ted Cruz, Lt. Governor and U. S. Senator, respectively. Cruz informed us that “Texas has once again seen the face of evil” and that there have been “too damn many of these [mass shootings].” Continue reading “IV. Our Bitter Legacy: Fear in the Classroom”