Monthly Archives July 2013

Trayvon Martin and the Bitter Legacy of “Strange Fruit”

None of us, save for George Zimmerman, will ever know exactly what happened the night he shot and killed Trayvon Martin at close range with a bullet from his 9 millimeter semi-automatic handgun. Reactions to the killing and Zimmerman’s eventual acquittal fell along the usual and predictable faultlines of American life: African-Americans and white liberals decrying the verdict as racially tinged, with most other whites and conservatives pointing to inconclusive evidence in supporting the acquittal.

According to a Pew Research Center poll conducted early this week and cited by NPR, “86 percent of African-Americans expressed dissatisfaction with the verdict, compared with just 30 percent of whites.”

Determining Zimmerman’s legal culpability was a matter for the jurors to decide, and the jurors have spoken...

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Reflections From the Abyss: The God Quest of Poet Christian Wiman

Poets are by turns lyrical, expressive, rhythmic, and profound, but perhaps most of all, they are intense. Their intensity manifests in the sharp eye they cast on the world and every detail in it, the careful, sustained scrutiny they give to every object, person or situation in front of them, and to every resultant thought in their mind and gut that is yearning for expression.

It is this intensity that perhaps most shines forth from poet Christian Wiman’s recent memoir, “My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer.”

If poetry has a way of concentrating the mind, then a wretched and ostensibly terminal disease befalling the poet no doubt does that concentration one better. Wiman has been suffering/benefiting from this fate for nearly eight years now, holding at bay a rare blood cancer that struck him at age 39 and which his initial prognosis suggested would kill him long ago...

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The Glories and Narcissism of Sports

In 1966, following a humiliating 51-0 thrashing by longtime intersectional rival University of Notre Dame, University of Southern California head football coach John McKay consoled his dejected team in the locker room by telling them, “There are 750 million people in China who don’t even know this game was played.” (McKay, one of the wittiest football minds ever to pace a sideline, reportedly later said, “The next day, a guy called me from China and asked, ‘What happened, Coach?'”)

McKay’s comments are what’s called “putting things in perspective,” and let us at least hope and imagine the insight helped to ease his players’ minds for the briefest moment, before enduring the rigors of the post-mortem on the practice field the following week...

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Walking and Wandering

I have been off my beloved streets and more homebound than not for three days now, hobbled by what I fear is a broken little toe and amused hardly at all by the irony of every physical step being a pain while immersed deeply, from my reclining position, in the literature of walking. And while reading about walking is never as good as an actual walk, at least it does not require 10—or even any—functioning toes to go about its business.

These are the consolations a devout walker clings to when denied his daily wanderings.

Such a simple thing, a walk is, yet with such overwhelming evolutionary force behind it. In her Wanderlust: A History of Walking, Rebecca Solnit traces the invisible evolutionary string pulling us aright from our four-legged ambulation to our eventual “bipedalism.”

After this life- and consciousness-shattering development, nothing was the same for homo sapiens and the earth we came ...

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