Not Your Typical Reunion: Spike Lee’s “Da 5 Bloods”

A few minutes into Spike Lee’s newest film, “Da 5 Bloods,” there is a lovely scene of old pals, African American Vietnam veterans, reuniting in the lobby of a Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) hotel after an unspecified long hiatus from each other’s company. The mood is jocular, joshing, loving, full of huge smiles and secret code handshakes, all of which engendered a gushy inner glow in this viewer, reminding me as it did of warm-hearted reunions of my own.

Then I got a grip on myself and interrupted my reverie with, “Oh crap, this is a Spike Lee movie!”

Which is when my thoughts shifted instead to donning some kind of emotional flak jacket and tension reduction helmet, the better to withstand the next two and a half hours of what I knew would be Lee’s visionary provocations, challenges, goads and questionings of the American experience, particularly with respect to race relations and the centuries-long ...

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R.I.P. Ruth Bader Ginsburg…Now What?

It had already felt like this country was fraying like a worn and long unwashed jacket. And now this.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is dead.

The very words rocked me back on my heels last night as I climbed the few stairs to the utility room after depositing some recyclables in the blue bin and my phone lit up and those words presented themselves from a “Washington Post” alert and my mind groped for a few seconds to make sure I was reading and comprehending correctly and to my horror I realized that I was and I knew, with sudden and absolute certitude, that I would always remember this moment, just as I do the President Kennedy and Bobby and MLK and my parents’ and my brother’s moments of passing.

I also knew, with equal certitude and immediacy, that as bad as things appear to be now, they are about to get very, very much worse.

That’s because I had zero doubt that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would wa...

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1968 Redux? The Moral and Political Case for Non-Violence

In my fever dreams about November 3, 2020, I see the summer of 1968 having unfolded all over again. Donald Trump, like Richard Nixon then, will have been elected to the presidency (Nixon on his second try, Trump re-elected) by parlaying a summer of urban riots, racial discord and the fear they engendered among threatened white voters to eke out an election victory despite attracting less than a majority of voters, and in Trump’s case, by once again losing the popular vote to his Democratic rival.

This is every Democrat’s and disaffected moderate Republican’s worst nightmare, and it could unfold exactly that way unless Democrats get very strategic, very measured, and very sober—very fast.

Central to that effort will be making their peace with the few hundred thousand swing voters in a few purple states who decided the 2016 election and will very likely do so once again.

And what will making that peace ent...

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An Homage to Durham Weather, One Year In…

When I went out at 10 p.m. last night to walk the dog on our evening constitutional, my phone told me it was 90 degrees with 95% humidity. I didn’t catch the “Feels like” temperature estimate below that data because my head was by then lolling down around my navel somewhere as I prepared to drop down to all fours.

My intention was to see if I could clear a path through what felt like thick, suffocating butter so my dog could follow in my wake and we could stagger safely back to our air-conditioned house, despite the threat of a heart attack which could easily ensue from the shock of crossing the threshold from the hotbox on one side to the icebox on the other.

And you know something else?

I really, really love living in North Carolina, and am very glad I came (a year ago as of September 1).

And some of that love has to do with the weather.



See that snowman at the top of this post? It was not 90 de...

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Rhyming Hope and History With Seamus Heaney’s “Doubletake”

The late Irish poet Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) sounds like the Buddha himself in the first line of his poem, “Doubletake,” published in 1991. “Human beings suffer,” it begins, and we suspect we are in for it now, another journey through melancholia borne of downtroddenness as only the Irish can express it. The second line elaborates on one form that suffering takes: “they torture one another…”

And so they do.

The poem’s 39 lines go on for a couple more stanzas in that vein, which you can read in full below. But fear not: Heaney doesn’t stay submerged in the dark depths for long.

This is a “Doubletake,” after all, which will involve a reconsideration, a reframing, an elaboration that takes an “On the other hand…” approach to chronicling the vicissitudes of the human heart.

The poem is from the volume, “The Cure at Troy,”  in which Heaney adapted Sophocles’ play “Philo...

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