Eighth Annual Songs of Summer

“Every day is a good day,” a currently popular refrain among old friends who are also old goes, “when I’m still upright.” All the better, of course, when we are upright with some music close at hand and ear.

Now, halfway through the eighth year of this blog’s existence, I am pleased to observe that it, along with its creator, remain more upright than not, a happy fact for which I will not fail to publicly thank the gods, lest they smote me before I’ve had a chance to scout out the season’s hot new mojito recipes.

And it being summer, it is my not-all-that-solemn duty to honor the season in the traditional manner: by trotting out three summer-themed songs that I trust will put grins on your face (the first song below), maybe teach you an easy loping dance step or two for whenever music venues open again in this corona’d world (second song), and then, perhaps coax a tear out of your eye with the sweet pathos...

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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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A Wilderness Beyond Reason: Lisel Mueller’s “Joy”

I have a dear friend who is given to proclaim, “Oh what a beautiful day!”…in meteorological conditions ranging from 90/90 temperature/humidity combos to bright blue skies with 70-degree temps and a light breeze to slate-gray winter fog where your words form ice crystals as you speak.

It’s the sort of sentiment that reflects a basic gratefulness for merely being alive, whatever aggravations the weather or the news or your kids are sending your way.

Yet lest one think this person a shallow pollyanna training herself like a seal to see life only as a bright shiny orb bobbing at the end of her nose, let it be said that many layers of hard-won wisdom, pensiveness, and grief inform her love for the day that dawns every morning, whatever garments it shrouds itself in.

That is why I am quite certain my friend will appreciate Lisel Mueller’s “Joy,” the poem under discussion here, given the complex de...

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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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