Yearly Archives 2020

American Carnage: 11-3-2020

With one of this morning’s tweets ending with the question, “Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?”, President Trump has confirmed what he has been telling us in almost straightforward fashion ever since the 2016 campaign. Consistently trailing Hillary Clinton in polls back then, he warned in ominous tones about forthcoming election “fraud,” preparing the ground, in no uncertain terms, to contest the election and throw the country into disarray if the results did not go his way.

Four years later, he is now pushing the notion that perhaps the election should not be held as prescribed by law on November 3, after having waged an overt campaign against mail-in ballots over many months. He’s convinced making voting easier and safer in the midst of a pandemic will bolster Democratic turnout more than it will Republicans...

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Batter Up! But What About Everyone Else?

“What Are People For?” asked the farmer-poet Wendell Berry in the title essay of his 1990 collection that largely bemoaned industrial agriculture, mechanization, and the forced migration of millions of rural residents to urban areas in the name of progress and efficiency. The question rings through broad swaths of modern life, and will no doubt occupy the best minds of future generations as they grapple with the continued evolution of robotics and computerization and their effect on human consciousness and self-identity.

The question occurred to me Thursday night in a different context, though: beholding the “Opening Day” of the severely truncated 2020 baseball season that was like no other, ever.

Yes, two teams gathered in their finest new uniforms to do battle in a major league ballpark, but that was about where any similarities to baseball as we know it ended.

Like the old Buddhist koan about whether a...

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Brilliant Songs #14: Mickey Guyton’s “Black Like Me”

Back in 1951, the publication of John Howard Griffin’s “Black Like Me” landed like a bomb on American culture. Griffin was a white man who had spent months working with his dermatologist to turn his skin black before setting out on a bold odyssey from his New Orleans home through the deep South. His intention was to experience first-hand what it would feel like to be a black person in Jim Crow America. The result was a stark, shattering testimony to the virulent racism still prevailing in American life nearly a century after the Emancipation Proclamation. The book’s power resonates to this day.

So much so that country singer Mickey Guyton, one of the few African Americans navigating the sometimes treacherous shoals of her genre with its predominantly white artists and audiences, had it very much in mind when releasing her song of the same title just weeks ago...

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Might Make Things Worse…But Give “Babette’s Feast” a Taste Anyway!

Let’s face it: we’ve got ourselves a full-on feast famine. No restaurant gatherings with their familiar bustle and clinkings and clatters. No coffee joints or cocktail lounges, brewpubs or burrito joints. No concerts or dances, recitals or readings. Big bodacious birthday and anniversary and graduation celebrations: So 2019!

And then heaping insult atop all that injury of absence, we can’t even invite beloved friends and family to gather around our freaking dinner tables for a few precious hours of conviviality. It is a sad state of affairs, and if you note a playful tone underneath these complaints, rest assured it’s just a coping mechanism: I miss the hell out of all the joys the aforementioned settings entail, and long for the day when we give the coronavirus a swift kick in the ass and plunk it into the dustbin of history.

Meanwhile, we have the consolations of memory and the nearness of winsome, joyou...

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He Had a Dream: Langston Hughes’s “Let America Be America Again”

We seem to be tumbling down a long dark shaft toward a reckoning. A reckoning of our history, of the dreams that helped build us, the denial that sustained us, the sins that defiled us, the nightmare of oppression that too many of our people have endured. Our shadow of racism fully exposed, the light from a thousand video feeds burning a hole through our willful ignorance, we stand before the world, and even more grievously, before ourselves, naked and fully exposed.

And now, beset by a pandemic that has been aggressively scorned by the leader of our land, with millions out of work and hundreds of thousands in the streets, we face the furnace of a heating planet and an already overheated political season, a presidential campaign in the offing that will not look or sound like anything that has ever come before.

“Who are we?”, we will be asking come November. Or perhaps more to the point: “Who will we be...

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