The Performers enter the stage of alabaster pillars surrounded by a backdrop of green mounds barely seen in some obscured distance. They stand before a crèche in a scene encircled by the pillars, and onto which has been dumped a cache of silver and gold coins littered around the pile of straw that fills a crib in which sits a white, rather phallic mini-monument. Surrounding the crib are donkey ears and elephant tusks.
Trump: I need a Tax Deal...just a Deal...I gotta have a deal!
Pence: I'll get it for you if you give me 7 words. Deal or no Deal?
Trump: Deal! Is there a curtain?
Pence: Just a number, Sir. Seven. Seven is a sacred number.
Pence: Seven is our Heaven. Seven. Six and a Day of Rest. Straight from the Bible, Sir.
Pence: Seven words, then. Removed. Out of CDC.
Trump: What is that? Columbia…District…Columbia….
Pence: It’s Centers for Disease Control, Sir.
Trump: To Hell with that! Deal! Which curtain?
Pence: No curtain, Sir. Just a great, vast veil.
Trump: A Veil Deal? I like it!
Pence: Translucent, but Divisive, Sir.
Trump: Oh, Deal, Deal, Deal!!!! Give ’em to me!
Trump: We are Mighty!
Trump: Lazy Morons, Get to Work!
Trump: Men are Men! Women are Objects! Up for grabs!
(Squealing; Exit Both, Stage Right. A Russian Troll appears and bags all the coins, removes the monument from the crib and puts it in a crossover bag before exiting center front, parading past the Audience. The pillars tumble. Only the crib remains, filled with straw.)
Dear Democrats: A Feminist’s Defense of Al Franken
I think you are done for. I think you have forgotten all about McCarthyism, and you have evolved into a silent membrane that won’t discern the strange perversions twisted up in this new form of Crucible to which you have succumbed by strategy-of-sacrifice and a morality that is blind to all possibilities worth noting, including the possibility that trolls are everywhere, and the reality that, yes, indeed, women can actually lie and utterly usurp the purpose of (say, a movement’s) original intent for ill-got gain.
In this worst of all worlds, when a frenzy is whipped up and there is no one standing up and taking note, this is not just a hashtag me too movement; this is also an ongoing coup. This is a hacking away at the Democratic party from all angles and the Party is so afraid to anger young millennials it so desperately wants for 2020 that it won’t even consider holding its horses long enough to lead these millennials with a good dose of Congressional Hag Wisdom that says: We get it, but let’s not burn all our bridges while we’re standing on them.
When “moral high ground” puritanism mingles with feminist insistence without dissecting beyond theory to underscore dark web machinations, well, we've got big trouble.
Getting rid of Al Franken as an “ethical” strategy will bite the Party back in time, and that’s a bet Bannon wagered on long ago, and so, Dear Democrats, you have just set yourselves up to lose not just 2018 but 2020 as well.
Ethics would have involved standing up for Franken and letting the truth be measured by the Senate Ethics Committee. This point should not be ironic! Instead, you have let that train-of-change become a runaway wreck by allowing critical thinking to be replaced by opinion and lack-of-patience.
The saddest fact is, when Ethics becomes mere utility for Political Strategy then Ethics itself is already quite dead.
Proposal for Charlottesville, Part 2, with Flash Mob Suggestions
August 20, 2017
Meeting hate with hate doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t. Meeting hate with hate feeds hate and leads to war. Meeting anger with anger is okay, but a brief study of Gandhi or Martin Luther King will teach that to exert positive outcome the energy of anger must be transformed into that which is constructive. That is hard to do. When I was protesting the invasion of Iraq under Bush II I was certain the war could be stopped. I was very upset about the presumption of its inevitability, and focused all my energy on how mad I was that Bush would consider yet another war, especially when the non-fake news reports were clear that there were no WMDs.
When the war started, I took it as a failure and fell into despair. That is the only word for it. Despair. I had to regroup. I picked up Gandhi’s autobiography again and read his words about conserving the energy of anger and transforming it for constructive use. I conserved, and continued to focus all my efforts on finishing both HOME FRONT and my JUST WAR CD.
I have since internalized Gandhi’s lesson, and I am slower at allowing my negative emotions to move unchecked, if at all. I have learned not to freely give all my best energy to the near-daily crises that are upon us now as a country. This does not mean I don’t respond. Obviously, I do. I’m responding right now. I am a poet, after all, and poets almost always respond. I may not always get it right in the eyes of some, but I always attempt my best reasoning under straining circumstance.
I read once that the Japanese believe the walls of all houses retain the energies of past inhabitants. I have always liked this belief for its sense of warning regarding taking care over our energy. I recall this now because the energies of malice have come to the surface of our nation; energies that are nothing new, but are now quite visible and vocal. I think this is a good thing in that it provides us who are in disagreement the solid opportunity to respond in ways that could provide mutual benefit, or at least diffuse the tensions.
I think it doesn’t help to confront this malice of Nazism and White Supremacy by matching it, regardless of intent. Yet it must be confronted and countered, there is no doubt. It must be offered an alternative, and that alternative would do well to include a welcome mat for those who are trapped in such negative, hateful groups, but might also be seeking a chance to leave.
I have heard, since my first Charlottesville writing, more and more people talk about the need for education. This is helpful, and necessary. I would like to reiterate my concept behind leaving some of the Confederate statues in place. My argument is simple. I suggest by eliminating all of them, or relegating them to Statue Gardens, we will eliminate the chance to educate the everyday person and especially the young about what happened. By removing the statues we do not remove their power and I would suggest such psychology would only reinforce that symbolic if now false power. Suppression doesn’t work. Suppression encourages people to resist.
I heard a UVA student just this morning (August 19) talk about a ring of students surrounding Jefferson’s statue on campus to protect it from vandals. She said she understood this and that even as a black student she recognized the situation as difficult and complicated. I have heard other black women in leadership roles say the same, and offer suggestions toward education, along with calls for removal to be determined by the varying states and cities.
For people who want to argue no one would put up a statue of Hitler, I will say, true, but they saved Auschwitz, and the public can go there to see it, even visit it, virtually. In fact there is more than one preserved site, including Bergen-Belsen, Buchenwald, Dachau, and quite a few others. The Nazi Enclave at Obersalzberg is an example of transforming horror-imbued landscape while retaining Holocaust History. These places are saved in the interest of education that would prevent repetition, repetition that people like Steve Bannon believe is part of a natural order of civil society that in fact has nothing to do with civility or social order and more to do with a theory of cyclical history known as “reenactments”. All this is searchable on the web through reputable sources.
My call is to leave many of the statues where they are but to disassemble them of their power. This is a suggestion, not absolutism. But with Gandhi in mind, I think restitution might include a counter-narrative made manifest in the very spaces the adherents to the Jim Crow era wished to dominate with fear and intimidation. I envision that counter-narrative as one that lets be the Confederate statue of choice, but reclaims that space with other statues made up of Women Resistors, say, or Heroes of the Underground Railway, many of whom live in the underrepresented totality of story here, which is a story of survival and ultimate victory over oppression and murder. I suggest peace gardens be inserted into these areas by, for example, both Confederate and Slave ancestors. Making visible acts of reconstructing the narrative to its more truthful reality of the U.S. Constitutional guarantee of life, liberty, and happiness is a powerful counter to groups that want to cling to a narrative of hate, oppression, and murder. It strikes me as most powerful to imbue these places that would attract Oppressors with healing actions, with actions of peace, with further history and storytelling that any person walking by could be witness to. After all, if all statues are relegated to museums who will see them? This is public space. It strikes me as ultimately lasting if the larger public were to actually take power over these spaces, turn out for them and assert the narrative that would reclaim these spaces entirely with an alternative energy; the energy of compassion; the energy of empathy, the energy of understanding what really happened. That is just called Truth. For when two sides are at war, two belief systems are also at war. And to deeply change the impact of one belief system’s use of murder and terror we must visually, not just intellectually, but visually show its alternative. That would be Gandhi’s teaching. That would be Martin Luther King’s vision.
Now: About the false equivalency of my remark that no one would want to see the Vietnam Memorial taken down. Yes, I immediately thought of this. Of course it’s more than significant that Confederate symbols overwhelmingly signify White Supremacy. And in my twenties, while visiting a family member in Georgia, I had the most important and fastest education about Civil War Attitude in the Deep South: “Y’all sure’re not from around here are you? (“No; how can you tell?”) “’Cause y’all sure do have an accent.” Laughter and smiling faces hid the real danger for me in an isolated warehouse that served as an antiques store where I bought Mrs. Heman’s Poetical Works in 1981 from two White Men that instinct taught me not to challenge in any way. So I am not under any illusion about the overwhelming realities here. But my point about war memorials in general has to do with the paradigmatic problem overall, and I would like to see a deeper, more meaningful consideration of the dominant paradigm’s addiction to war, hatred, and anger for dispute settlement and biologically-based male posturing, a point I think is often overlooked. In the end, for me, every memorial to war is equivalent as both a lesson in history and an ultimate failure to change that kind of history. War and hatred are beneath our potential as human beings; a potential that comes with consciousness. But if we don’t get it right, the other truth is, in 2000 years all such markers will be viewed as Anthropocentric Iconography. The only problem is, if we do not pull ourselves into serious check right now, they will, most of them, be under floodwaters with no hands to remove, deface, or defend them.
Finally, spurred by Tina Fey’s brilliant skit last Thursday night (a skit so wonderfully satirical in nature it is lost in the land of literalists prone to misunderstanding satire’s function), I have thought of some flash mob suggestions to counter the pro-Nazi, White Supremacy movement. The idea is for these mobs to be as organized and ready to mobilize as any militia group or even Antifa. There is to be singing, dancing, and overwhelming joy to overcome the energy of the hate groups. There is refusal to engage them but to adopt Michelle Obama’s reality: Go high. Do not engage them, but counter the energy of hatred. I don’t believe in shutting down speech. I believe in offering a counter-narrative. Suppression never works. And if we want to keep the metaphorical walls of our country clear of the new ghosts now tempting to charge them with yet more horror, we might consider how we arrange ourselves around the old ones.
Below is a sample list of Flash Mobs that could be possible. Make up your own. Show up. Be present at every moment in your life to say yes to compassion and empathy and no to those things that would ask us to destroy these aspects of our true nature.
ACT: Ancestors Changing Tyranny
CAKE: Chicks Altering Karmic Energies
HOT DAMN: Hot Drummers Against Madness and Negativity
MATCH: Mamas Against Terrorists, Chauvinists and Haters
MUSCLE: Musicians Using Scale and Chords to Laud Equality
POETS: People Opting to Engage in the Transformation of Sorrows
SCIENCE: Standing for Commitment to Integrity and Exercising Nuance for the Climate and Environment
I am not a fan of erasing history. I am neither a fan of memorializing hatred, but history erased is the nothing gained from all the lessons we might take of it. Vietnam was horrific. Should we destroy that memorial? People died for bad politics. What value in remembering it? Robert E. Lee symbolizes the antebellum/plantation era of the South in America, and he incarnates the economy of Slavery and the States’ Rights that were inseparable from the men, women, and children bought and sold to serve the privileged masters who owned them. Today, I learned the park where Robert E. Lee’s statue stands is also very near where Slaves were sold in the market square of Charlottesville, Virginia. I can’t think of a better time than to somehow merge these two points of history by forging a statue of, say, Sally Hemmings where the slaves were auctioned off. Put plaques in both places explaining such events surrounding the lives of Hemmings and Lee. Construct a mini-museum, tiny house style, and fill it with information about Slavery and the Civil War. Surround both environments with white lilies and forget-me-nots. I am a fan of preserving history and rendering its markers into something that encourages empathy instead of division.
In 2009 I travelled to Normandy, France, as part of research I was doing for a novel. I went to Omaha Beach and Pointe du Hoc, and I also visited both the cemeteries there—German and American. I didn’t know there was a cemetery for the German soldiers of World War II in Normandy. Both cemeteries were somber, reverent places. Reading the markers of German soldiers I learned some were as young as 16. Boys. Barely men. Youth, young minds warped by Hitler’s propaganda, having given their innocence to horror, laid to rest not far from where the ground was still deeply pockmarked by bomb craters over which shrub and grass were growing, and where the water of the English Channel pushed itself into shoreline, nothing left to see in it of the blood that drenched France’s coast.
There was an information center at the German cemetery, and one could go in, learn of the war, read real letters; see various photographs, and certain artifacts. While I was in the center a group of French junior high students showed up. They were on a field trip that would bring them to both cemeteries. I remember thinking what a great idea this was and I was impressed with how well they behaved, respectfully, and with quietude. I should add there is also an adjacent peace garden at the German cemetery. It’s made up of maple trees and stands as an important illustration of the need to imbue such memorials of pain with areas dedicated to the literal and figurative manifestation of peace.
I learned today there are barracks at West Point named after Robert E. Lee. History contains much, no doubt. And the dominant paradigm promotes the actors on its stage. War history contains perhaps the most since non-egalitarian paradigms rely on war to maintain their economies and existence while having a pernicious habit of erasing egalitarian cultures from their historic sites and their books. Of course, that basically sucks. Still, for the present moment, I can’t help but think perhaps we would do better to stop arguing about what to keep and what to leave out of America's sordid past and start using that history for focused, constructive and instructive means. Surely, there is no better time to consider the one argument pundits seem adept at leaving out, which is the argument for education. If you render something that is painful into something that can expand our empathy toward those who suffered and spent their lives in suffering, or to those who paid their lives for the oppressor’s undoing, whether it be the pain of war, of slavery, of witch hunt or any other oppression that kept people from their right to life, liberty and happiness, then I can only think the benefit would include site after site where the power of singular images is diffused with the telling of why the very thing such images represent/ed was stopped or changed. In this light such places and images would no longer offer symbolic haven to those who harbor the very ideas that would bring us back into the darkness and fields of death bound to them.
Uffda! And I’m not even Scandinavian! I spent the entire day outside working the yard. I had to hoist up tomatoes that outgrew even the climbing fence I built for them. Lawn cutting…and I decided to plow through some of my grass I’d let go to meadow. Lawnmower didn’t like that. Sour burp. Could be it’s just clogged, but it is old and I’ve asked much of it, so if it’s shot I’ll have to replace it. Not too happy about that. Probably, the engine got too hot, so the circuit breaker popped. I’ll let it cool, clean it up well, and hope to start again with it another day.
The corn field has a fence now, and I put up some bamboo fencing back where I have raspberries to allow a bit more privacy between the bushes and a neighbor’s fence and yard. I had to clean that whole area out of overgrowth. I wish I had gotten non-suckering raspberries. I moved the wood pile, too. It had been laid out wrong and wasn’t as protected from the elements as it should have been, so I finally got around to getting the wood put away into the shed where it will dry out well. It was a day of getting ready. Company will come and stay for a couple weeks. Here’s a poem for that from Without, Haiku: