Monthly Archives May 2024

Profiles in Cowardice: The Republican Rollover for the Would-Be King

Nikki Haley is the latest, but it’s a tight contest as to who is the most craven and cynical of countless Republican Party officeholders who have forsaken all principle and moral authority in embracing a failed insurrectionist and would-be despot who has lied, evaded, bluffed and bullied his way into position to perhaps retake the presidency come November.

Haley’s recent capitulation and endorsement of Donald Trump, whom she correctly and righteously eviscerated as unfit for office over many months on the campaign trail, is particularly glaring on this Memorial Day weekend, when courage and self-sacrifice are held up as the ideals upon which every free society depends.

She joins a long list of her party’s officials who have sounded the alarm over years now about the unique threat Trump poses to our democratic institutions (see below), only to reverse course when they fear his wrath, or their dimming job p...

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A Dream of My Brother From the Great Beyond

My older (by three years) brother will have been gone 14 years this September, felled shortly after he retired at age 62 from a rare, always fatal brain syndrome known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think of and miss his presence in my life. Fortunately, he pops up in my dreams intermittently, always in some strange circumstance (dreams being what they are), but often gratifying nevertheless for the touchpoint they add up to, the real-seeming encounter in which he is alive to me for those moments, moving once again through space and time as a physical presence—until I wake up.

I’ve written here before about the often riotous imaginings of the dream world, the caution against trying too hard to drag them into our current waking life via some great literal “meaning” we can apply to become better, happier persons, all the wiser for our visitations from the Great B...

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Cancellation, Contradiction and Affirmation in Poet Li-Young Lee’s “Arise, Go Down”

It’s been more than a decade and 500+ posts since we last visited in this space the Chinese-rooted, Indonesian-born, American-raised (since age 7) poet Li-Young Lee and his much anthologized, gorgeous peach of a poem, “From Blossoms.” Fortunately, Lee, now 66, remains above ground and has continued to write in the intervening years. Even more fortunately for me, so have I.

So it was a happy accident last week when I came across his poetry again while looking for something else and got thoroughly distracted from whatever that something else was as I landed upon “Arise, Go Down.”

Unlike “From Blossoms” and its ecstatic, sense-drenched celebration of the peach-eating experience as a form of divinity, in “Arise, Go Down,” Lee explores more of the shadowy, yin-yang, to-and-fro of existence...

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Conform or Die: The Maoist Travail of Anchee Min’s “Red Azalea”

There was a saying that made the rounds back in the day (and daze) of the late ’70s, courtesy of the Grateful Dead’s second album, “What a Long Strange Trip It Has Been.” Having now read Anchee Min’s harrowing, urgent memoir of her experience in China during Chairman Mao’s “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” of roughly the same era, I am here to say: The Grateful Dead don’t know squat about “long strange trips.”

Originally published in the United Kingdom in 1993 and the U.S. a year later, “Red Azalea” is the kind of coming-of-age story that is initially much less about triumph than it is about mere survival.

By the end of her tale, that survival nevertheless qualifies as triumph aplenty, given the travails she contends with and eventually escapes from in the merciless, rigidly proscribed world engineered by the personality cult that was Mao Zedong. Mao founded the modern “People’s Republic of China” in...

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