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Monday, August 23, 2010

Edmond Burke: “Never despair, but if you do, work in despair”

Over 140 years ago a French sculptor created a masterpiece that today sits sadly in the Paris Musée d'Orsay.

Jean-Joseph Perraud simply called his statue, "Despair."

It's no mystery.  Look carefully at the picture.  The thousand words are clear, with all the power and pain that could possibly be spoken.

Tribulation.  Dejection.  Anguish.  Was it one of these themes perhaps haunting Perraud's soul, moving him to create this?

I don't know.  What I'm sure of is how we experience varying temperatures of despair in our lives.  Sometimes it's brief, attacking early on.  Maybe it's later, where it can stay longer and sink its burning hooks right through your heart.

Tonight the summer cricket symphony outside my window is louder than usual.  I'm sinking deeper into some contemplative space, lots of churning reflections, things and places and people, some right here, and some very far away.

My mind runs all through it, a roller coaster car navigating every twist, turn, rise, and fall.  Even upside down.  And the ride sometimes ends with me sitting there, feeling just like Perraud's morose friend.

It all starts, I know, with just that one root thought, germinating instantly into The Feeling.  Feeling then wraps around and tosses me into mood.  Enough mood will ensure the newly created--or repeated--disposition.

The thought is key, at least that's what CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) gospel says.  I'm more and more becoming a true believer, though.  I think.

After some painful rumination, I received a wonderful thought from a Facebook friend that changed my direction.  He had posted a clip, a very special one.  Made me cry like crazy.  But it was one those good cathartic cries, the kind where you are deeply reminded about what some of the important things really are.

Immediately afterwards I visited my father who was working quietly in his office.  Went over and embraced him, saying softly, "Thank you for all you do, Dad."  The look in my teary eyes had him wondering out loud if "all was alright," which he always says.

I couldn't speak so I just nodded, and walked away.

Tonight, faith restored.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reverse Racism Rears Its Ugly Head

Make no mistake, please.  I don't like this woman one bit.

Like the rest of that herd of broadcasting right-wing "pundits," Laura Schlessinger is unbearably self-righteous and rude as hell.

I'd lose absolutely no sleep if I never saw or heard another obnoxious word from her ever again.  But as we've all seen this week, one word in particular got her in a whole lot of trouble on Tuesday.

Schlessinger had scintillating "Mama Grizzly" Palin later swim to her aide, too.  The Huffington Post reported last Thursday:

Sarah Palin has used Twitter to share some advice with Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the talk radio host who apologized and decided to retire from her highly-rated program after using the N-word on the air 11 times in 5 minutes.
Palin's advice: "don't retreat...reload!"

It's a breathtakingly tone-deaf bit of provocation -- even by Palin's standards.

Dr. Laura, as she's known on her radio program, quickly came under fire for her remarks of a week ago. She immediately acknowledged the mistake and soon announced that she would end the show once her contract expires later this year. She currently commands the largest audience of any woman in syndicated talk radio and overall her ratings are among the top five hosts in the nation.

Palin, once the governor of Alaska and Republican nominee for vice president in 2008, has been using social media sites like Facebook and Twitter to push her messages in recent months. She fired out two messages about Dr. Laura on Wednesday night, the first reading:

"Dr.Laura:don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence"isn't American,not fair")

That was quickly followed by:

"Dr.Laura=even more powerful & effective w/out the shackles, so watch out Constitutional obstructionists. And b thankful 4 her voice, America!" 
I'd likely join a multitude and "b thankful" if Constitutional Law Guru Palin would kindly suffer some regular bouts of both laryngitis and arthritis so there might be some blessed relief from her insufferable blathering and tweeting.  Just maybe Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Glenn Beck, and the other neocon troglodytes might do the same.
But there's a bigger elephant here in this room and I think a whole lot of people can hear it roar even louder than "Dr. Laura's" apparent capital crime.
That's the very much whispered-about issue of REVERSE RACISM.  Yeah, let's put it in upper case so we can at long last cut all the damn whispering and start talking about it.
For instance, is it any mystery, indeed, how this clever little double standard works?  Simple, really; you just need to have the correct skin pigment (tan or brown or black, etc.) and ya got an automatic license to sound out "Nigga" to other black people, be it in private or public settings.
No, I realize you've never, ever seen this REVERSE RACIST occurrence, right?  
Notice the modification of this offensive word.  My PC is clearly alive and kickin'.  After all, do I want to take a chance gettin' pilloried like that upstart honky girl, Dr. Laura?
One of the things she did say in her "rant" was:  "If anybody without enough melanin says it, it's a horrible thing. But when black people say it, it's affectionate. It's very confusing...."
Hmmmm, confusing it is.  Take Chris Rock, as our favorite case-in-point.  This wildly hilarious man will scream that "Nigga" word 100 times plus in his stand ups, then the laughs (from aggrieved black audiences) will continue all the way to one of his many favorite banks.
Oh, of course, it's cause he's a comedian, with the required skin color.  Just like those "gangsta" rappers, who stick the word into their charming little raps with a vengeance.
Again, while Schlessinger IS an insensitive, meglomaniac talking head, you can bet the farm that had she looked like Oprah, or Chris Rock, it wouldn't have been The Problem it turned out to be.
And The Problem is the one called reverse racism.  I experienced  first hand racial hate politics as a white kid growing up in the 60's & 70's era San Francisco Bay Area, as a student in one of the most racist school systems in creation, my hometown of Berkeley, where those ever-thoughtful left-wing politicians imposed forced busing to try an instant experiment to change the racial atmosphere. 
The black woman caller, "Jade," who was mistreated by her oafish host made the outrageous claim later to CNN that ONLY minority people could ever know what racism and discrimination felt like.
Not quite.  My experience was five years of a "Burn, Whitey, Burn" living hell in the Berkeley Schools Unified District, perpetrated by militant administrators, teachers, and a whole lot of hostile black students.  I got heaping servings of racism, each and every nightmarish day.
Reverse racism.....that nasty ol' elephant is still rampaging around our national living room.  Go on, you can keep on looking away.
I'll conclude with this important link to some perspective from a black man who I'd enjoy sitting down to coffee with to compare notes on the pathology of both racisms. 
Maybe you'd like to join us.   

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Balancing The Kiss Of Life's Highs And Lows

"How did it happen that their lips came together?  How does it happen that birds sing, that snow melts, that the rose unfolds, that the dawn whitens behind the stark shapes of trees on the quivering summit of the hill?
A kiss, and all was said...."
                                                 -- Victor Hugo

The anguish of witnessing a world's endless tragedies and atrocities--refugees or floods or corruption, genocide, famine or persecution--sometimes throws me to the deepest part of a dark well.

In the throes of that moment, I know I have choices:  Remain there, head hanging in swirling gloom, is one of them.

Another is just look straight up to the distant light, finding something that will renew my spirit so much that I'll fly out from that dank prison like a falcon.

We human beings are such a curious lot.  One of the most simple but dramatic observations made was in a precious film called "Starman."  

"He has traveled from a galaxy far beyond our own.  He is 100,000 years ahead of us.  He has powers we cannot comprehend.  And he is about to face the one force in the universe he has yet to conquer.  Love."

That was what the 1984 movie poster read.  But it was a line that Jeff Bridges' extraterrestrial said just before the end that really captured something.  A blog writer for Explore Science Fiction noted:

"And when at one point toward the end of the movie he says, 'You humans are at your best when things are worst,' that is not just another sop to the audiences, a piece of ready-made Hollywood wisdom that should make us feel good about ourselves. That line comes from a creature who was shot at and hunted down, and who experienced persecution and hate at the hands of humans."

Monumental ironies all over the map.  That's our fate, it seems, so much of the time, this co-existance of the most wrenching contrasts in our human condition.

Sometimes, too, it boils down to just the extremes of elation and despair.  The heart-warming "VJ Day Kiss In Times Square" photo  at the top of this post well illustrates the former.   

  Something even more horrifying than despair shimmers in a quite different portrait showing us what happens to sisters of Palestinian boys murdered by Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

Again I feel myself plummeting to the bottom of that dark place.  I ruminate, maybe weep like them for a good while. Then I grab some resolve as to what I can do in my own limited path.

But comes the time to look up to that light once more.  It's still there, in the priceless vision of a kiss.  Or a song.  

Or perhaps both.

"In this world of extremes, we can only love too little."
                                           -- Rich Cannarella