Category Politics/Culture

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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On Lives Mattering

Domestic tranquility has been taking a beating lately. Ditto the “pursuit of happiness,” and any number of other noble sentiments enshrined in the United States Constitution and the Declaration of Independence that preceded it by 11 years.

“In a dark time, the eye begins to see” wrote the poet Theodore Roethke in 1960. Assuming he was right, what we are seeing now is the eye of a hurricane, only metaphorical at the moment, in which there swirls interpenetrating currents of a pandemic, a violently imposed upheaval in race relations, a worldwide economic slowdown, and a presidential administration defined by chaos, conflict and calumny.

And an election (in less than five months!) that will surely be among the most bitter and strange ever conducted.

People die every day in horrid circumstances, but to behold it specifically, visually, individually, is to move beyond abstraction and thrust it into the particul...

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“Defund the Police”: The Republicans’ Dream Slogan (for Democrats)

Increasingly, it looks like it’s the Democrats’ election to lose, given the ever more deeply revealed, abhorrent character of Donald Trump, which has combined in a perfect storm over the past weeks with his profound, gross incompetence. But if the dizzying turn of events over the past few days are any indication, the Democrats might just be up to the task.

If the catastrophe of Trump’s re-election comes to pass, we will likely be able to lay it at the feet of the well-meaning but utter stupidity of cries to “Defund the Police.”

Just three words, but fully capable of changing the course of human history if, as a result of their careless, ill-considered release into America’s public conversation, the world is forced to endure another four years of Trumpian chaos in a sort of new Dark Age.

Let me be clear: I have no argument with the call to revision the whole gamut of police services and intervent...

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Taking a Knee

Just as we cannot truly love ourselves until we reckon with the whole of ourselves—our wounds, conflicts, vulnerabilities, aggressions both overt and passive—neither can we truly love our country until we have looked long and hard and beheld its shadows. This is where the “Love it or leave it” sensibility has always been so woefully off base, revealing a shallow patriotism, bathed in stagnant waters of denial.

To acknowledge faults is not weakness but strength and fortitude for the long haul, putting us in right relation with others and the world. This redounds ultimately back to ourselves, the circle of love, acceptance and forgiveness complete.

Yet here we are, 50+ years along, eight of them under a historic first black president—and the catalog of martyrs to the cause of liberation continues to expand.

Willie Brandt knew this, and he carried that knowledge into one of the historic moments in histo...

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Social Distance Is None Too Social

A modest proposal: Can we stop calling the current, epidemiologically-sanctioned six-foot social distance “social?” I find it to be anything but social in the way that we know that word, unless “social” has been relegated exclusively to the adjective phrase, “socially conscious,” which a six-foot separation from other human beings indeed is in the context of protecting others and ourselves from the ravages of the coronavirus.

But “social distance” seems an almost cruel phrase in a time when all manner of sociability is, however justifiably, under siege, laid low, terrorized by a sub-microscopic virus that has ironically grown into a gigantic political football, bobbled back and forth between the left and right spheres of our political divide, both of whom are sounding decidedly anti-social notes of disdain as they watch, with mounting disapproval, the other side go about their lives.

Sigh…

It becomes obvio...

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