Category Archives: ethics

Rusdie and the “Rubble of Truth”

I start this new day indoors with a warming fire, dog in the vicinity of my feet. Outside it rains hard. I look at my planet from the safety of my window and marvel. How the brown earth is a skin with the color green bursting from every pore with haze sweating off the surface of the pond, how tears flood the gulley, how the lilacs have been and are now gone without protest, how the swallows investigate the eves of my house as further nests, and how I wish they would accept my invitation to stay.

This is from Rusdie in the New Yorker. I’ve always disliked him, but this version of “why we write” reminds us of possibillities beyond ego and mood.

“In Germany, after the Second World War, the authors of what was called Trümmerliteratur, or “rubble literature,” felt the need to rebuild their language, poisoned by Nazism, as well as their country, which lay in ruins. They understood that reality, truth, needed to be reconstructed from the ground up, with new language, just as the bombed cities needed to be rebuilt. I think we can learn from their example. We stand once again, though for different reasons, in the midst of the rubble of the truth. And it is for us—writers, thinkers, journalists, philosophers—to undertake the task of rebuilding our readers’ belief in reality, their faith in the truth. And to do it with new language, from the ground up.”

 

If you see this woman, call….

So, say the perpetrator returns the rock to its rightful owner, the river. Does the river owe her $17,500? Does Yoko owe the river for the rocks she took? If  she took 200 rocks from the river, that makes $3,500,000.00 minus gallery rental, transportation, labor, taxes, adjusting for inflation.  Still, not bad, for a river.

 

Woman Steals $17,500 Rock from Yoko Ono Installation

 

The new songbirds of North America

Today I read there are people who net pigeons in New York City and drive them away in minivans. Where do they take them? Here, in the country, the dawn is empty of sound. Now and then, a pair of flycatchers darts across the lake. A robin rests on the lawn studying my next-door neighbor who is riding around on his lawnmower masticating worms, slugs, grubs, grass, frogs, all their eggs and the footprints of his tiny little granddaughter who runs before the machine trailing a balloon. Four Senatorial black crows shoot across the blades, scream off to the beach where thousands more convene. In the evening, the bunnies show up and my next-door neighbor shoots them from his porch. He also shoots the cormorants nesting on the island off his boat dock because they slime the teak on his 1924 Chris Craft Cruiser that he drives across the bay twice a year for dinner. Also, the raccoon families residing close to his garbage, these he catches in have-a-heart traps and carries them off to shoot in the woods. We still have racoons, but my sky fills with bird song.  Sixty-eight percent of the songbirds have vanished. I have been wondering about their replacements. I mention this to my neighbor, who has invited me over for a cocktail. My neighbor doesn’t understand why I am pessimistic. No birds were missing at his place, he tells me. Ditto for the bats and mosquitoes. I ask him, how then does he explain the muteness of the dawn? The lack of Birds on the Wires? The lonely morning dove mourning on my roof?  Hasn’t he read Ferlinghetti, I ask, smirking, because I know he believes all poets, like annoying animals, should be shot.

They were putting up the statue of St. Francis in front of the church of St.Francis
in the City of San Francisco In a little side street just off the avenue
where no birds sing
and a lot of old Italians were standing all around on the little side street

just off the Avenue watching the wily workers who were hoisting up the statue
with a chain and a crane
and other implements

and a lot of young reporters in button-down clothes were taking down the words of one young priest who was propping up the statue
with all his arguments

and all the while, while no birds sang any St. Francis Passion
and while the lookers kept looking up at Saint Francis 
with his arms outstretched
to the birds who weren’t there

a very tall and very purely naked young virgin
with very long and very straight straw hair
wearing only a very small bird’s nest
in a very existential place

kept passing through the crowd all the while
and up and down the steps in front of St. Francis
her eyes downcast all the while
and singing to herself

 My neighbor’s daughter came to my garden to help me pick off the red beetles eating my lilies. She’s hiding from her father because he is teaching her child to step on newborn baby voles. They went for a walk in the woods where he demonstated how to do this. I imagine a giant vole with a mouthful of poisoned teeth scurries up the path to the porch where her father sits drinking gin and tonic. The rodent will climb up his legs, hoist itself on his shoulders and squirt a stream of baby voles up his nostrils.

Then all the songbirds that used to be will open their beaks to sing their hallelujah for everyone in the world but my neighbor to hear.

 

Food In A Box

This afternoon, on NPR’s On Point, I’m listening to a conversation about Trump’s idea to feed low-income people meals in a box. Trump wants to tell us what to eat? How crazy is that? Look at him, listen to him – do we want to eat what he eats? We know that he likes food in a box, that he eats MacDonald’s because the food is in a box so no one who wants to poison him will know it is his food. The box will keep him safe. Does it follow that by giving poor people their food in a box, they too will be kept safe?

I don’t think so. I think they’ll be kept malnourished. There’s tons of food waste in America, and he wants children to eat, what? A box of what? No choice of fresh vegetables, fruits. Instead, how about canned peaches, Kraft cheese; remember when Reagan tried to convince us that Ketchup was a vegetable?

I’m thinking about the Republican war on poverty, which more accurately means a war on poor people. The rules are: don’t build affordable housing, take away fuel assistance, refuse a minimum living wage, make sure health care and pharmaceuticals stay unaffordable, get rid of food stamps, legal abortions, contraception and keep them in jail.

I’m standing in front of the stove listening to this conversation, scrambling eggs when Robert walks in. He’s the director of a community action program. He runs the food shelf, he knows about poverty, he’s at the heart of our regional conversation about food. The conversation goes like this: when people are hungry, we have to feed them, but feeding them also encourages people staying in poverty. If we don’t feed poor people, the argument goes, they will have to work,  even if the work offered is dead end servitude without a living wage and they will be hungry anyway,

Do we have to ask why people self-medicate? Opioids?  Alcohol? Junk food? Suicide? Prison? Join the military? Become twitter trolls?

What if we offered all our people a decent life? We live in Vermont. Here, we encourage gleaners, we distribute organic eggs, we give away chicks to families to raise, chicks turn into chickens who turn into pot pies. At the food shelves, there’s meat in the freezers, whole grains in bulk, food that otherwise will be thrown away. This delicate, crude system depends upon volunteer labor, supported by taxpayers with help from the federal government.

This system is shameful, difficult, unreliable, self-perpetuating – but this is what we have. People – more and more each day –  come to the food shelves, and sometimes the food is fresh from the farms because we produce more food than non-poor people can eat. Why would it please us to make it worse?

Robert has brought me a Valentine’ gift. A recyclable jar of CBD Gummies in a bright red package. Let’s watch a movie, I say. Let’s eat them all.

What’s in a parade?

Our great leader wants a parade! He deserves one. After all, he stopped our American Carnage, just as he said he would in his  inaugural speech.  And  didn’t he vow to bring back our borders,  (although he never said where they went)? Also to get back the wealth that the world ripped away from the middle class, at least get it back to him, and make “America First”, although this last has not gone over well with some, but hey, they’ll figure it out? And didn’t he invent that great phrase “alternate facts”? Get that old failed Washington Post to add up all his 2000 lies, falsities, misleading statements? Fire an FBI director? Decide to deport a home grown gang? Grab pussy because he could?

So much to celebrate, America.

He didn’t get a military parade for his inauguration, so let’s make up for that. Remember that his inauguration was the biggest crowd ever, that he won the popular vote, but someone stole it, and maybe those are the people who should  pay for the parade, like they will for the border wall, although that’s Mexico.  Beside, that  fatter guy, Kim Jong-un has parades all the time, so why shouldn’t he? Bigger ones, because of his bigger button.

So while it’s will be heartening for us to see all his hardware, and know our great leader and his generals will be there to protect us, I still wonder, is there anyone around to stop him?

Let the people decide

Tonight, avoiding the (not my) president’s State of the Union, I’m realizing (again) that without systemic change, our country’s governance will only sway from left to right, consolidating power from one party to the other; elections will be determined by the party establishment over the will of the people.

I’m writing a novel, part of which takes place in the sixties, so I’m researching, rehashing, reliving the times.

In 1968, after Robert Kennedy’s assasination, his now non-committed delegates which, coupled with those of Eugene McCarthy, had a combined majority. These candidates were the favorites of the anti-war and pro-civil rights left. Instead of acknowledging this, the delegates were assigned to Hubert Humphrey. He was a man of corny wholesomeness with a perpetual smile, he sounded sane on civil rights, but he was associated with LBJ’s highly unpopular Vietnam policy. He had no charisma, had never campaigned in any primary and was unwinnable, even against the equally untelegenic Richard Nixon, who handily won. Another way of saying this was that we got Richard Nixon because of the machinations of the Democratic party.

All these years later, it’s 1968 redoux.  The DNC assigned its uincommitted “super delegates” to another unwinnable candidate instead of splitting them with the increasingly popular Bernie Sanders, and now we have Donald Trump. Of course Sanders might not have beat him, but again, the machinations of the party, turning its back on its growing progressive wing, refused to give his canditacy a chance. Of course one could argue that Bernie was not “really” a Dem (he did call himself a Democratic Socialist.) But his running as a Democrat, rather than as a progressive third party candidate, prevented a splitting of the vote, which could have ensured a Republican win. 

Who are these super delegates? Quoting Mark Plotkin in thehill.com, March 2016,: “The whole deal stinks. It’s wrong, unfair and undemocratic. The central element of democracy is elections. Why, oh why, should the supposed “party of the people” reserve nearly one-thirds of their delegates for a select group of individuals who don’t have to stand for election?” 

Getting rid of the College won’t solve our screwed up election system: there’s still the enormous power of big money, of corporations as people, of special interest lobbying, of corruption, of dispicably immoral candidates, of kleptocracy – in short, what we got.

So, Queen Oprah?

I think of Oprah in the White House, not as a president but as a sort of Matriarchal Queen elected for life.  Opulent, corpulent, magnificent. She won’t govern, she will inspire, bequeath, prophasize, cajole, praise, and propose. Should she start cutting off heads, she will be sent to the space station. Actually running the government will be Prime Minister Bernie, Elizabeth for Labor Secretary, Robert Reich for Economic Development, John Louis running Justice, Michelle Obama heading the  newly formed department of Womanhood. Bill McKibben for the EPA. Barack as State, for Health and Human Services. Congress will morph to a Parliament, the electral college disbanded, lobbying made a felony, all guns banished. And universal health care. A living wage, a minumum monetary guarentee for all paid for by the billionaires. 

Yes, I  do notice everyone named here is a Democrat. Yes. Let us assume that, In this scenario, the DNC has been transformed into a transparent organization no longer able to manipulate candidates via super delagates. In this scenario, Republican party is confined to Alabama until it comes up with an agenda favorable to the human race, the planet and agrees that corporations, really, are not people.

We will be Norway with a better climate.