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Saturday, June 6, 2020

Mr. President, Take a Knee

("As Trump Rekindles N.F.L. Fight, Gooden Sides With Players")

This country has taken a direct hit Mr. President. A double barrel explosion has wobbled all of us, none harder than the black community.

Covid has ripped at its heart with a grip penetrating and relentless, taking livelihoods and lives in staggering numbers.

And we have also once more been unequivocally informed that whether jogging through the streets or sitting in your car, the essence of being black in America is that disaster may find you in the blink of an eye. 

And this is the best you can do in response Mr. President? Resurrect your American carnage theme against those who kneel in silent scream about the outrages suffered for the unforgivable crime of the color of their skin.

Roger Goodell's change of heart is undeniably too little, too late and too suspect as the NFL treated Colin Kaepernick as pariah for far, far too long. 

As for you Mr. President, you can play only one note, that of outrage, as you with full intent mischaracterize the player's trope. In this our national hour of need, crying out for understanding and compassion, you reveal nothing but outrageous prejudices and unending vitriol. You are an empty vessel without capacity to unite and heal.

Mr. President, take a knee. Please take a knee.

Friday, June 5, 2020

History Lessons



We have been here in so many different contexts so many times before. And to what result?

In the unending struggle to mandate change, no matter the emancipation proclamation, no matter the civil rights act, no matter the protests, no matter if the other cheek is no longer turned and a gloved fist is raised.

No matter if the burning inside is mirrored in the streets, no matter if the injustices long camouflaged appear on endless loop before our eyes. No matter if the blind are forced to see, the deaf compelled to hear, no matter if we shove reality in their mouths and they are made to taste the bitterness of centuries of disregard and disrespect.

Why, oh why, do we believe that today is different, that tomorrow will be different? Why is this the moment when enough is actually enough? Why, given all that has come before, can we possibly think that hatreds will disappear, that ugliness will be sublimated, that the cycle will be broken and minds will be forever altered?   

History informs us of lessons never learned, of distressing perpetual truths. 

I worry about the futility of the moment.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Mr. Trump and His Bible

("The Last Temptation of Trump")

Was he getting ready to testify? With his right arm in the air and his hand grasping the Bible was he there to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you who have no God other than yourself?

As publicity stunts go, this was a doozy. Dispersing a peaceful protest with force worthy of putting down an armed insurrection, this got off on two wrong feet. And then standing there in a pose so unnatural, so unfeeling, so demonstrably without hint or trace of empathy but almost exploding with utter disdain, this scene provided a remarkable visual statement of his contempt for those who dared expose the raw nerve of two and a half centuries of a nation's continuing disgrace.

Donald Trump is the antithesis of everything the Bible would preach. He is a man consumed by his vices, by his greed, by his hatreds, by his narcissism, by his pettiness, unable to produce a scintilla of desperately needed morality or the slightest evidence of compassion.

It disgusts me that in this time of compounding tragedies this charade was Mr. Trump's best response. We are alone in our grief and our pain as our President is but a fiction, a fraud hiding behind a Bible I am certain he has never opened, and its teachings that he has clearly and unequivocally never once in his life practiced. 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

In Desperate Search of God's Grace


There is a great smoldering anger that the unending battle for civil rights remains a war against unrelenting uncivil wrongs. That the presidency of Barack Obama was but a mirage. That the death of Mr. Floyd was a statement of our most fundamental principle that all people are not created equal. That the less things change the more things remain immutably an integral part of the American landscape. That we as a nation are steeped in a prejudice which endures nearly 250 years after our birth just as virulent and omnipresent as it was from the first. That this disease is wholly resistant to the antidote of mercy and compassion.

 And sometimes there is a moment that serves as catalyst for a conflagration. An incident that appears to demand a huge fire in response to this country's enduring legacy of hatred. That words prove insufficient ammunition. That physical destruction is the only adequate means of expression, the only true retort to such pervasive evil. Contemplation in the moment of whether such action is, in the final analysis, appropriate seemingly fully subsumed by the belief that it is necessary.

So from sea to not so shining sea, we burn. America the not so beautiful. In desperate search of God's grace.

Friday, May 29, 2020

My Clothes

I wonder if my clothes are lonely. Or scared.

I left my apartment the third week of March and have resided over 100 miles away ever since. I did not leave a note for my clothes saying I was uncertain when I would be returning. I did not give them reassurance that they would not be forgotten in my absence. I did not remind them how important they are to me.

Actually I am mostly talking about the clothes I wear in warmer weather. I did not consider in my hasty exit that I would remain away from my clothes for such a long time. Thus, my shorts and tee shirts were not even in my contemplation as I bid what I thought would be a relatively brief adieu.

But now that the temperatures have finally climbed, those clothes must be wondering what happened. Did I get sick? Did I have another closet filled with other clothes that they knew nothing about? Had I been in a fight with my wife and just moved away? I wonder if they are worried about me.

Or maybe they are happy for the break. I tend to wear clothes far past what should be their expiration. Much of what now sits idle in my closet has been called to duty for many more years than it could ever have imagined. Maybe these clothes welcome my absence, finding me more of a burden than a benefit in their lives.

My mother in law lives in the same building that I left. I am considering asking her to go visit my clothes. That she gently explain to them what is happening. That she assure them they have not been cast aside. That she let them know that I will be back as soon as I can.

I may even ask her to put together a care package from my closet and ship the same, while I wait in breathless anticipation. But maybe that is not such a good idea. Maybe it is best to let my clothes rest a little longer. Maybe they will be nervous if a stranger gathers them up and boxes them. Maybe this will cause them fear and uncertainty.

Better to let them be. Hopefully I will be able to return in time to wear some of my lighter clothes before the chill of fall is in the air. And that it will be a reunion filled with hugs and joy, with stories of unexpected absences, with grateful smiles, with unbridled enthusiasm for old friends once more together.

Until then I will just say a little prayer for my clothes, wishing them continued good health, peace and contentment. You have not been abandoned. You are forever in my thoughts.

To my black tee shirt: you have always been my favorite.

To my khaki shorts: I miss you a lot.

To all my pants: I have been trying to get in shape since I last saw you and I think next time we are together I may not have to suck in my stomach to put you on. I hope you will be proud of me.

I am coming back to you. I promise.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Agua



"Agua" she says."Agua please." She is 20 months old and agua is the one word in Spanish she uses regularly. She learned it from the little girl downstairs, the one whose door she knocks on every day, the one she hugs so tightly every time they are together. She doesn't know it yet but that little girl is moving away tomorrow. And when she next goes "knock, knock" on that door, the face of her first best friend, the one she adores, will not be there in response. I only hope she always recalls who taught her to say "agua."

Monday, May 25, 2020

Joe Biden Is Irrelevant

("Joe Biden Places Wreath at Veteran's Memorial in Delaware")

Joe Biden is irrelevant.

This election will pit Trump vs Trump. Donald Trump, depending on your point of view is either:
a) The answer to "What's Wrong with America?"
or
b)  The answer to what's wrong with America!!

For anyone who has resided in this country from January, 2017 until today and been able to take sustenance during that period, it is virtually impossible not to have drawn a firm conclusion about the pros and cons of this man who clearly appears to be a pro at being a con.

And so, yes we worry that Joe Biden may have a bit of foot in mouth disease, that sometimes it appears that his best days may be in the rearview mirror. But really, really does anything that Mr. Biden may speak or misspeak between now and November of this year make a hill of beans difference in whether or not you believe Donald Trump deserves his seat on the throne for another four years?

Will anyone be going into that voting booth (if Mr. Trump had his way that would be the only way) agonizing over Mr. Biden's record, or his Vice Presidential selection? Raise your hand if that will be your overriding concern. I only see two raised hands in all of America and honestly Mr. Trump, neither you nor Mitch McConnell should be able to participate in this poll.

Joe Biden, rest until November and save your strength. For if you are elected as our next President there will be an enormous task laid at your feet. After four years of Donald Trump the existential question you will have to answer is how to make America great again.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Imagine

Imagine 100,000
Faces of the dead
No help from Donald 
Dow dancing in his head
Imagine all the people not alive today

Imagine no Corona
Spread across our land
No pain or suffering
If we had better planned
Imagine all the people still alive today

You may say stop dreaming 
What's been done is done
But I think of all the heartache
Of grieving daughters and anguished sons

Imagine there's no heaven
For those who are no more
100,000 lost souls
No matter rich or poor
Imagine its your momma not alive today

You may not have felt the 
sorrow
You may be a lucky one
But just know that tomorrow
There will be 100,001

Imagine 100,000
Faces of the dead
No help from Donald 
Dow dancing in his head
Imagine all the people not alive today



Saturday, May 23, 2020

The Stone Quarry

They stood likely 50 feet above the water at the edge of this stone quarry. And for those that gave me a glancing thought, those that looked in the direction of the old guy with the bandana pulled up over his mouth and nose, they must have thought I was being somewhat ridiculous.

There were probably 20 or so, teenagers I would guess, maybe blowing off some steam after the months of isolation, maybe celebrating their graduation, likely both. The rules of social distancing as distant from this place and their minds as I am from you who are reading this now. This was the start of Memorial Day weekend and the joy in that thought was not about to be taken from their lives, pandemic or not.

The first of the four, standing in their own little pod, turned his back to his destination and then hurtled off the cliff, flipping as he turned through the air,  landing perfectly and with seemingly little effort in the 80 foot deep water that  awaited his arrival. The others followed, seriatim, although in more conventional jumping fashion.

The decibel of the conversation here that of youngsters with various substances coursing through their systems, the adrenaline of this place, the warm late spring morning, the blue skies all joining forces to create an unbridled sense of freedom from the restrictions the world would superimpose upon them. It was impossible to distinguish this moment from any other that had occurred on this weekend in the past in very different times.

For my family, this gaggle proved a slight inconvenience as they inhabited all those spaces where we would otherwise have been perched. The quarry, for us on this day, but something we could view from obscure angles. Its majesty known to us but partially muted by the sights and sounds of life before Covid 19.

For those like me who continue to fear that this disease has not been informed that its time has passed,  I believe we will soon be made to feel outliers, uncomfortable in our concern. That this nation is more than ready to cast off the shackles. That those that continue to remain in the shadows are merely obstacles and we should step aside. Or be run over.

On Facebook one of my friends posted a short video of an open restaurant at a dock, people congregating in their boats and life apparently receiving a green light to resume.

I get it. I know this nightmare has attached to us with a death grip, unshakeable and unending. And that the toll on this nation's collective psyche has been enormous. But I cannot agree that our fatigue, our unhappiness allows us the liberty to ignore reality. 

I read of the number of new cases reported every day around this nation. And while figures seem but abstractions and we all would wish to conclude the illness has moved on and taken up residence elsewhere it has not.

These are dangerous times. We are all standing on the edge of that cliff, ready to dive into cool waters, deep and refreshing. But if we choose wrongly, when we throw ourselves downward we will find not welcoming arms at the end of our journey but a dry hole. And if that happens, the sounds of happiness will be gone in an instant.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

March 4, 2020 - 8:55 AM


March 4, 2020 - 8:55 AM

We thought the Social Security office opened at 9 AM but we were mistaken. As my wife, son and I entered the room it was already filled. There were likely 75 people in here. Within a few minutes, they would start lining up in the hallway. It was on that day that the first case of Covid 19 was reported in my home state of New Jersey.

My wife and I could have applied for our benefits by phone but it might have taken a month or more to get that appointment, we were ready to proceed and our day was open.

As we would soon learn, we were both in the cohort that was the most vulnerable to the ravages of this illness. And our son should never have been accompanying us, especially in his role of merely providing moral support.

I remember being slightly concerned in that room, listening for a cough or sneeze. But no one was social distancing, it was not even a concept yet, and I can recall only one couple who were wearing masks. There were a few children, a pregnant woman or two and many older than my wife and myself. All crowded in, all possible carriers. None of us with but the vaguest notion of what we were facing.

We sat there for four and a half hours before our number was called and our request addressed. I can only estimate that there were conservatively well over a hundred people that I was in far too close proximity with during that time.

I think about that often, but particularly in light of today's story in the New York Times which reported that an estimated 85% of all Coronavirus deaths in this country could have been avoided if preventive measures had been put in effect on March 1 instead of March 15. And that, on the first day of that month, while there had been one reported case in NYC, there were probably actually more than 10,000 people infected.

I will never know if anyone sitting in that room had already contracted the illness.  If it passed through that place, if someone in the chair next to me fell ill in the days that followed.

It was just serendipity that on March 4, 2020 three of us were able to spend the hours between 9 AM and 1:30 PM in the office of Social Security without repercussion.

And it is chilling to contemplate that if our government had reacted more quickly and forcefully the above scene would never have occurred. And maybe, just maybe, someone in that room would not have gotten sick. Or died.