Category Archives: restorative narrative

Back to our sick reality

You can’t get away from it.

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; we know what he eats, what he looks like, how much he cares about us. He likes food in a box, he eats MacDonald’s because he figures no one will try to poison him. 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, how about canned peaches, Kraft cheese, let’s see who can make a buck on a government contract, junk food? Remember when Reagan tried to convince us that Ketchup was a vegetable?

A war on poverty, that’s right, Republicans want to get rid of low income people. If we make poor people  work three jobs and still need food stamps, then let’s take those stamps away – and then the tax payers can make up for Walmart not giving workers a living wage.

So I’m already ranting, trying to keep focus, trying to write, to make sense of this world by writing a novel where people like me are trying to make sense of this world.

Then Robert walks in. He’s the director of a community action program, he runs the food shelf, he knows about poverty, he’s in the conversation of how distributing food is crucial but also enables people staying in poverty, while taking food away will make poor people  work, even if the work offered is dead end servitude without a living wage. 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. We have gleaners, organic eggs, chicks given for families to raise that turn into pot pies. There’s meat in the freezers, whole grains in bulk. All run by volunteers, supported by taxpayers with help from the federal government. This is too good for poor people? The leftovers from non-poor people?

Robert is saying, what a shithole we’ve become. Seventeen teenagers killed at a high school. We can’t bother to keep our kids safe.

He has brought me a valentine’s gift. A recyclable jar of CBD Gummies – 3% THC, great for sleep, inflammation, cancer, arthritis – in a bright red package.

Let’s watch a movie, I say. Let’s eat them all.

The latest in dog evolution

Dog evolution, a dream:

I brought home a dog from the pound. He was large and dreary, with a matted coat the color of slush. We lived in a border town, on a long dirt road.

The dog’s name was  Oscar. The town was at the edge of the ocean. A Dollar Store, some second hand clothing shops across the street from the rocky, littered beach. A desultory craft fair had set up under a tent. Oscar trotted along with me, ignoring what few people or other dogs we encounter. When we arrived at the craft fair, he stopped, composed himself  in the grass and fell asleep on his back with his feet in the air.

So I thought, better get him some exercise. We went down to the beach to swim. He seemed to like swimming underwater, rising up now and then to look around. One time, he came up, paddled over and started talking to me.  For awhile, we’d bob along discussing Kierkegaard or Samuel Becket, cooking shows or dress making, When the conversations lulled, we would swim, and when we ran out of things to say, he would disappear under water, staying there for longer and longer periods of time.

The last time he came up, he had turned into a turtle, also named Oscar.

As a turtle, Oscar had little of interest to talk about. Mainly eggs. I found it hard to follow and soon lost interest. Then he started shrinking. I grew worried, and brought him ashore. On the beach, an Israeli couple were setting up a concession with some jewelry and parts of computers. They called me over, quite agitated; they knew my turtle and were concerned for his well-being. By this time, Oscar had shrunk to the size of my palm. The woman said she could fix him, so I handed him over. He kept shrinking. First his flippers fell off, then his body fell out of his carapace and he was gone.

Equality?

Equality is a great idea unless it means we should all be equal white people.

Nowhere in the culture do I see white people expressing a desire to be persons of color. That said, I do see a growing awareness that people of color are not just victims of white people with whom we need to empathize,  We’re evolving, to be sure; it’s no longer legally possible to enslave, torture, appropriate other people to do the bidding of white people…except perhaps in the way that white people make celebrities out of  black people for entertainment. I experience Beyonce not as a white person in black face, but more as a  black person in whiteface (an imitation of her heritage for consumption by others.)

We’ve evolved to the point – with the help of affirmative action, guilt, fury, activism, pressuire –  of integrating people of color into elitist institutions. As long as the institutions value all imaginations, histories and experiences, this is a welcome step, unless the message is,  “how to be white”.

Equality is possible when the imaginations, histories, desires,  of “other” peoples and cultures are equally weighted with those of white people; when the imagination of an artist of color is of equal interest, on its own terms, without white interpretation, and is a vital participant in the history of art, music, literature, then we have forgotten the word”tolerance”, which is really a demeaning term.

As usual, the arts lead: Here’s a short list of contemporary artists of color with individual approaches to identity:

Bethany Collins
Rashid Johnson
Kara Walker
Ellen Gallagher
Chris Ofili
Ifeoma Anyaeji
Marc Bradford
Kehinde Wiley
Mel Edwards
Kerry James Marshall
Yunka Shonibare
David Hammons

So many more.

Widewalls.com has an interesting conversation: “The cultural identity is defined by both its own members’ living experience and the search for a definition and the perceptions of others, especially those in power. How does the racial identity of an artist affect the way they create art and the perception of it by the masses?

Where My Girls At?  20 black female artists with current solo exhibitions.

Artnet.com: 10 black artists to celebrate.

Culturetype.com: Major AfricanAmerican Contemporary Artists

Hyperallergic: for a take on some 1971 history

 

 

 

 

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.