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Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Targets of Our Rage

I’ve been thinking recently about grief and about heartbreak and about how a heart does not break all at once, like a glass dropped on a hard tile floor, but over and over and over again. The breakage of a material object is a one-time event. (Okay, maybe you glue it back together and drop it again, but the events are still each singular.) An aching, breaking heart may stop hurting for a while, but new pangs can come unexpectedly, sharply, deeply, at any time. That was one thought. Another is how much anger can be generated by grievous heartbreak, anger which so often has nowhere to go. I might feel anger toward a late friend or relative who “didn’t take care of himself” and/or with whom a relationship had suffered and not been repaired, but if I allow myself to feel angry with the dead I feel guilt on top of grief and anger. So either I add guilt to grief or repress anger. At present I grieve and fear for the future of my country, and there is anger there, too. Third thought: What I’m thinking now is that the anger of fear and grief can be repressed but not done away with by repression, and that means anger – even rage -- can erupt (like the pangs of grief that come on unexpectedly) at any moment. And it WILL find a target. The target will not be appropriate to the feeling at all, but the feeling – justifying itself – cannot be stopped. And so these days we Americans are like blindfolded archers, shooting arrows of rage in all directions. And if that doesn’t grieve you, I don’t know what will.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

If I wanted the expressway, I’d have taken the expressway!

Recently, when I went to log into my New York Times account (the basic, cheap one I signed up for last winter when far from home and ways to buy physical copies of the newspaper), I was urged to “Continue with Google,” “Continue with Facebook,” or “Continue with Apple.” No, thank you. I prefer to log directly into the account I pay for monthly. Why should I have to go first through one of those virtual expressways to get to my account? Ridiculous, annoying – and, to my way of thinking, suspicious.


I also subscribe to a daily book business newsletter called “Shelf Awareness,” and I can either read it as e-mail or click to read it in my browser. Then, for each article, there are further options: I can share through Facebook or Twitter or e-mail. Nice. But this morning when I chose the e-mail (to a friend) option, I was urged to go through Gmail. Again, no thank you. I prefer my own e-mail account through my own Michigan ISP. Why is that not good enough?


Not to mix metaphors here, but I feel as if I’m being railroaded – or, I should say, that attempts are being made to railroad me – onto giant virtual expressways that I have no desire to travel. I like my back roads. And while I value very much both the New York Times and “Shelf Awareness,” I’m disappointed that they seem to have bought into these railroading attempts. There must be something in it for them, but I fail to see what’s in it for me. 


Monday, May 4, 2020

Protests Then and Now

On this 50th anniversary of tragic shootings on the campuses of Kent State University and Jackson State University, I can’t help thinking how different it might have been, and I’m not thinking, as I always have before, that those tragic events could have ended without fatalities. No, what I’m thinking now, in May 2020, is that the death count could have been much higher, had protestors in 1970 been armed with assault weapons, as were recent protestors this spring at the Michigan Capitol Building in Lansing

Think about it. Unarmed students at Kent State faced National Guardsmen armed for war. Those at Jackson State were met by 75 units of the Jackson Police Department and the Mississippi Highway Patrol. Shots fired in Mississippi lasted 30 seconds, killing two; in Ohio, four lay dead after only 13 seconds of shooting. 

Jackson State students had gathered to protest racism, a serious social issue for all Americans and a highly personal one to students at that historically black institution. The Kent State rally, originally organized to protest the war in Vietnam, became also a protest against the military occupation of their campus. It is true that some property damage had occurred in connection with both of these protests. But property damage – not violence against persons

Scenes from the recent Lansing protest showed angry white men, many carrying assault weapons, many not wearing the face masks most of us are wearing these days to protect ourselves and others from the contagion of coronavirus, and some carrying not protest signs at all but campaign signs. The angriest men got right up in the faces of masked police officers who were constrained from any kind of retaliation. Some of the legislators on the floor donned bullet-proof vests. 

No one was killed in Lansing, and that is a good thing. Maybe some think the protestors’ assault weapons protected them. I tend to give the credit to the forbearance of the law enforcement officers. 

If you think I’m wrong and if you believe that the assault weapons carried in Lansing are what prevented the eruption of fatal violence, how do you imagine events at Kent State and Jackson State would have played out if the protesting students had been armed? We’ll never know, will we? But I for one cannot imagine the Guardsmen and police sent to control the situations in May 1970 showing the restraint taken for granted by so-called “American Patriots” in Lansing on April 20, 2020, had they faced students with lethal weapons.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Our Vocabulary Today

What else would you add to this list?

alone together 
at-risk populations 
case fatality rate
“Chinese” virus (Trump)
clinical trial
community spread
confirmed positive
DYI antiseptic wipes
DYI masks
dying for the Dow
essential/nonessential businesses 
essential/nonessential travel
"face time"
“flatten the curve”
herd immunity
“hunker down”
N95 masks
press conference
reaching out
sheltering in place
social distancing 
“Stay home and save lives.”
stay-at-home order
vulnerable populations
walking at a distance 
“We’re all in this together.”
working from home


Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Let Him Go First

I had recorded in my journal last night that the president of the U.S., while numbers of coronavirus cases are still on the rise and we’re nowhere near peak yet, wants to “open up the economy … sooner rather than later,” and I noted that he is "an unstable personality, ruled by ego and impulse." The previous evening, when I had written on the same topic, I referred to “the Economy” sarcastically as “our American god.” As I wrote the words, though, I thought I was probably guilty of hyperbole. Americans do not actually worship “the Economy,” do they? 

Well, now it seems the lieutenant governor of Texas (I mean, wouldn’t you know this idea would come from Texas?), Dan Patrick, age 69, suggests that many grandparents — and he includes himself — would be willing to die in the pandemic so that their children and grandchildren can “keep the America that all America loves,” i.e., the America with the booming economy. Note that this would not be dying for a religious faith or a moral principle or to save a life. He is calling on older Americans to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, in order that the economy can get back to normal.

I too worry about the future for younger generations. I have for decades. But I am convinced that the longstanding economic and corporate rape of nature, including unscrupulous pollution and flagrant mining of water and soil, using everything up as fast as possible with no regard future generations, is a much greater danger to my grandchildren and great-grandchildren's future han a few months of a stagnant economy — and that’s not to minimize the disruption and consequences from it that we will feel perhaps for the rest of our lives. It is a big deal, this shutdown. Perhaps, though, it is Nature’s way of telling us to slow down. We have been overdriving our headlines for as long as I've been alive.

And on that note --

Full disclosure/recommendations: I will be 72 years old in a matter of days and am not ready to be sacrificed on the altar of "the Economy." If Dan Patrick and Donald Trump -- and Mitch McConnell! -- are so willing to sacrifice themselves for future generations, I am willing to see them go to the head of the line. But let the first step not be contracting the virus. Let the first step be resigning from office.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The President Is Ruining My Life

The president is ruining my life!

-- Egocentric? You think? Well, fundamentally, aren’t we all? But note, I’m not singling out the president on this one: I’m outing myself. 

Because of all the ways the president has been ruining my life, starting from way back before he was in office — before he was even the chosen candidate of his party — what rankles most on a daily basis, repetitively and ad nauseum, is how he has stolen my friends’ attention away from the concerns of my. Own. Personal. Life. 

Do you know what I mean? Have you felt it, too?

Okay, sure, my life is ordinary. I get that. I’m not rich or famous, not a TV reality star or a notorious bankrupt or criminal perpetrator of tax fraud or a bold-faced pathological liar. Nothing in my life warrants headlines. I admit it. 

But aren’t we living in an age of democratic communication, where everyone is the star of his or her own life on social media? And don’t I deserve my three seconds a day like everyone else? 

Instead friends scroll past my most recent (admittedly mundane) posts at breakneck speed, searching for the president’s latest outrageous act or utterance, something someone else has already shared that they can decorate with their own little mad emoji. You know, the red face with steam rising from the head. Well, la-dee-da!

Once in a while someone leaves a comment on one of my posts, but even then they may drag in the president’s name! — though he was in no way connected to my post! He is intruding into my personal space!

It’s so unfair! Very, very unfair, I don’t mind saying, and if there were any justice in the world, this gross injustice would be called out for what it is. Because look. The president lives in the White House; he is surrounded for his protection by Secret Service personnel; he tweets! I don’t; don’t; don’t. He holds all the cards, dagnabit! How can I hope to compete?

Thing is, I know I’m not alone. You are out there, my fellow sufferers, you quietly responsible Americans who vote your consciences, work at your jobs, volunteer for causes you believe in, and long for the days when the people we elected to office would just do their jobs and not consume every available sound byte of global attention! You remember a time when we tuned in for the big events and kept weekly track of ongoing issues and still had time for private lives, our own and those of our friends. We had time to sleep, perchance to dream -- and our dreams, even when scary, were not political nightmares! Because yes, he has also invaded my nighttime dreamworld. So unfair! Is this a plot concocted in the White House to discourage us from any kind of political action?

Fellow sufferers, I know you exist, and I know you share my resentment, and we all know this is a very, very bad situation. It is very, very unfair, and we all know it. We want America to be America again — and more and better!

So what’re we gonna do? That’s what I want to know. Your ideas?

Friday, March 6, 2020

Mom and Pop Show: Country Mice in Big City Again

Mom: See what I mean? The city is exhausting!

Pop: That's just because we're not used to it.

Mom: Do you think we would get used to it, if we lived here?

Pop: No. Not any more. We're too old.