Category Politics/Culture

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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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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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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