There’s not much left on my personal bucket list. That’s especially true when the dreamiest, yet most implausible items (e. g., hitting a homer against baseball’s Evil Empire in Yankee Stadium) are subtracted.
But one hope, after so many decades, still dances tantalizingly on my horizon: living to see a king of England named after me.
Chuck The Third. By the grace of God, yada yada.
Not, let me hasten to add, that I fantasize about being king in his place. The royals are periodically interesting to watch, but would be purgatory to be. I’d rather be stuck preparing a tally of all the times You-Know-Who said “incredible” to describe something he knew absolutely squat about.
Nor am I counting down the days. After all, I know his queenly Mum is merely 94 & evidently immortal.
But still, it could happen, in my remaining span. I turn 78 next week, and that’s old enough to have seen the Cubs and the Red Sox win the World Series, and Mike Pence lose a race for re-election as Veep.
And just in time to put more flies in the ointment, the hit Netflix series “The Crown,” I gather, has been doing its best to besmirch my royal namesake as the Bad Guy of Balmoral, the Weasel of Westminster, the Cad of all the Castles, not to mention the Doom of Diana.
There’s a very interesting commentary on the Bulwark blog, about Pfizer and its new vaccine. Not about the medical aspects but the financial side: Pfizer completely steered clear of the administration’s “Operation Warp Speed,” with all its hoopla and federal money, paying for all the experimentation and trials solely with its own funds.
why Pfizer opted to front its own costs when the federal spigot was open, and why it raced to distance itself from Operation Warp Speed once the clinical trial findings were released. For answers to those questions, we have to review the long, sad tale of the Trump administration’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis over the past nine months.
You know the outline of what’s next, but bear with us:
Except for brief interludes, President Trump more or less fumbled pandemic policy and communications from the get-go. In service of his re-election campaign, he sought to downplay the seriousness of the threat. He has encouraged resistance to public health measures like masking and business lockdowns, leading to huge, rotating disease spikes first in the South and more recently in the Midwest.
His overheated rhetoric against social distancing and restrictions on business (“Liberate Michigan!”) culminated in FBI-thwarted plots to kidnap the governors of Michigan and Virginia. Finally, his resolute refusal to adhere to, or allow those around him to adhere to, basic disease mitigation practices resulted in a mini-epidemic for the first family and dozens of members of his administration. Back in August, even Mitch McConnell started avoiding a White House that looked every day more like a scene from The Hot Zone.
[Trigger Warning: Quaker jargon ahead] I’m just finishing a book about the demise of North Carolina Yearly Meeting, which came about in 2017 after the group’s 320 years of existence. [Watch for a book announcement soon.] That long, unQuakerly process was covered in detail in this blog as it unfolded, and the story will not be rehashed here. (But if you want to go over it, click this link.)
The book was supposed to be done by now. Yet what with the seemingly endless succession of calamities and catastrophes this year, completion was delayed until this week.
That meant there were now election results to take account of. So I just wrote an “Election Postscript” for it.
Eric Trump was one who sneered at the pandemic in late Spring, and said media attention to it was no more than a Democratic Party campaign ploy. As reported in Forbes(a respected, business-oriented journal):
During an interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro on “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” Eric Trump, the son of President Donald Trump said, “And guess what, after November 3 coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”
The following tweet includes a video of this segment: [ text: “Biden loves this,” @EricTrump says, talking about agonizing shutdowns during the pandemic… “They’ll milk it every single day between now and Nov. 3, and guess what. . .”
He repeated the talking point in a TIME report:“They think they’re taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time…,”Trump said. “And you watch, they’ll milk it every single day between now and Nov. 3. And guess what, after Nov. 3 coronavirus will magically, all of a sudden, go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”
Trump added in the TIME report that that Vice President Biden “loves this” because [Biden] is not able to draw comparable crowds to his campaign events. He said that Democrats are trying to take away the President’s “greatest asset”— his ability to connect with the American people, and appear at campaign rallies.
Reading this morning’s comments from my Facebook friends, you’d think the election was a landslide win for the other guy: so much gloom, doom, depression & lament.
To which I feel obliged to reply sternly:
Friends — GET A GRIP.
Sure, I didn’t get everything I wanted from the election results; not even close.
But there was one thing, one BIG goal that was reached — or is about to be.
What’s that? It’s summed up in a poster that was attached to a podium from which Obama preached us the word a week or so ago; and some other places before that.
It’s this: Behind all the hoopla and hype, we’ve been in a dead-serious battle that goes way beyond politics. What battle? (See below.)
I first saw such a motto in the office of Dr. King, in 1964 when I signed up as a rookie civil rights worker. I was then secular-minded and anti-religious, but I soon figured out that Dr. King and his crew, with all their shortcomings, were dead-serious about it.
And before too long, I realized that they were also dead-right. There is such a thing as “the soul of the nation” (but don’t go all metaphysical and ask me to define it). And that soul was and is poisoned and imperiled by racism (and poverty and war and other evils Dr. King preached about).
But they believed it could be saved, or redeemed. And they knew something else that took me a long time to get: that “saving” this soul wasn’t a one-and-done thing. America had been saved before, and would likely need to be saved again.
Like now, for instance.
I wasn’t sure what they were talking about, though soon, in the unforgettable song:“A Change Is Gonna Come,” by Sam Cooke, I started to get the beginning of a clue. White readers, listen to it; and if you still don’t get it, listen again.
“Soul” music, brought it home with more potency than any philosophy book I’d tried to read in college. With that and the movement, I ended up a peacenik Quaker. (Your mileage may vary.)
Dr. King and the crew are almost all gone now. And their “battle,” while it won some big skirmishes, was far from a total success. In fact, we’ve just come through another big round of the struggle. And it isn’t over.
So when this motto reappeared last spring, I resonated to it at once: there was more than an election underway in the USA in 2020, and one candidate knew it. Despite not being a great orator, he closed in on the essence.
And speaking of closing in, that’s what’s happening this morning. Like the headline says, the soul candidate is closing in. He could even cross the electoral college finish line today. (Or tomorrow.)
Which also means, that the door is closing on the other guy, the Nemesis who has trashed so much, and corrupted so much.
Oh yeah, there will be plenty of desperate bombast and last-ditch bullsh*t before he’s escorted out of the oval office and off the grounds into 14th Street’s “outer darkness,” where much “much weeping and gnashing of teeth” awaits. I confess, that aftermath will be fun to watch.
But before that, when his rival crosses the finish line, maybe today, I don’t want to hear any more moaning and groaning. Take a break, and give yourself some credit.
For at least fifteen minutes.
In fact, if you can read the signs of the times with even a little insight, that will be a time to celebrate. Do something that pleases and nourishes you.
I know I’m going to.
Hmmm. Celebrate. How will I do it?
If I was a drinker, I’d get drunk.
If I was a doper, I’d get stoned.
If there wasn’t a pandemic, maybe I’d party.
But as I’m old and boring, not to mention sleep-deprived after the longest freekin Tuesday of my nearly 80 years, I’m more likely to take a nap.
But mind you, it will be a VICTORY nap. One from which I can expect to wake up and find that the Orange menace is still on the way out.
Or if I get really wild and crazy, I might even write a poem. A VICTORY poem.
In fact, I feel one coming on right now. So stand back, and stand by:
To 270: A Concise Ode on the Rescue of the Soul of the Nation
Battered, tattered, nearly shattered.
But it’s still here, While the Superspreader’s Scattered.
If you drove west on the Chapel Hill-Greensboro Road through Snow Camp, North Carolina on Sunday, November 1, 2020, at about eleven AM, you would have passed a white chapel-looking building on your left. A few cars were parked outside, on the grass under the big old trees, which are shedding their wrinkled brown leaves after a hot green summer.
That was Spring Friends Meeting. From the outside, it looked quiet, secluded, and almost deserted. Easy to miss amid the wooded stretches and dairy farms of southern Alamance county.
But inside, it was none of those. Yes, just a handful of Quakers, or Friends, were sitting, widely-spaced and mostly masked, on its long benches. And they weren’t loud. But a lot was going on.
Diane Di Prima was an anarchist feminist Beatnik poet, who died this past weekend at 86, in San Francisco.
I didn’t really follow her work or career. But I was an early long-distance fan of the Beats, and one of her poems, part of a series of “Revolutionary Letters,” caught my attention. For my second book, Uncertain Resurrection, about the failure of Dr. King’s 1968 Poor Peoples Campaign, I included it as an epigraph and opening lament. I can still feel its sting half a century later.
Here it is, along with an excerpt from her obituary in the Washington Post:
Revolutionary Letters #19
if what you want is jobs for everyone, you are still the enemy, you have not thought thru, clearly what it means
if what you want is housing, industry (G. E. on the Navaho reservation) a car for everyone, garage, refrigerator, TV, more plumbing, scientific freeways, you are still the enemy, you have chosen to sacrifice the planet for a few years of some science fiction utopia, if what you want
still is, or can be, schools where all our kids are pushed into one shape, are taught it’s better to be “American” than black or Indian, or Jap, or PR, where Dick and Jane become and are the dream, do you look like Dick’s father, don’t you think your kid secretly wishes you did
if what you want is clinics where the AMA can feed you pills to keep you weak, or sterile, shoot germs into your kids, while Merck & Co. grows richer
if you want free psychiatric help for everyone so that the shrinks, pimps for this decadence, can make it flower for us, if you want
if you still want a piece a small piece of suburbia, green lawn laid down by the square foot color TV, whose radiant energy kills brain cells, whose subliminal ads brainwash your children, have taken over your dreams
degrees from universities which are nothing more than slum landlords, festering sinks of lies, so you too can go forth and lie to others on some greeny campus
THEN YOU ARE STILL THE ENEMY, you are selling yourself short, remember you can have what you ask for, ask for
A year ago, on October 10, 2019, I had a stroke. And I saw a vision of my future.
It started in the living room, about 7AM. I was in my battered recliner, reading newspapers on an Ipad. Across from me, on our long couch, grandson Calvin was stirring. His mom worked nights at Waffle House, so he often stayed over. It would soon be time for him to head out for the school bus.
I glanced up at him, and then something else stirred to my left: A bright metallic blue curtain had appeared, and seemed as if it was being drawn to the right, across my field of vision.
There was no pain, in fact no unusual sensation at all. But clearly something was wrong. I called out to Wendy, asleep in our bedroom. “I think I’m having a stroke!”
Calvin had to get himself up and out that morning. Shortly I was walking into the Duke ER, which is barely a mile away. And immediately I discovered one of the upsides of my condition. Having spent many bleak and painful hours in that ER waiting room, when I calmly answered the reception nurse’s “May I help you?” with, “I think I’m having a stroke,” it was like waving Harry Potter’s most potent magic wand. Continue reading A Whole Year In One Stroke→