The Odyssey: Homer’s Retort to Current U.S. Policy

Rubens_The_Feast_of_Achelous_1615Are you as numb to news of war as I am?

We the American public are so used to hearing that our country is acting militarily in yet another place on the globe that we don’t even question whether we should be arming the Saudi Arabian forces in Yemen or “supporting” Syrian so-called moderate rebels.

We’re still fighting (and killing civilians in wedding parties and now even a hospital) in Afghanistan. And, incredibly, we’re back in Iraq: “training” (yet again) government forces. Aren’t they trained by now?

At least there’s a bit of public outrage over the recent disclosures about our drone “kill lists” in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan… [Read more...]

Here at Last is Love: The Poems of Dunstan Thompson

Dunston_ThomasI get tingly with anticipation when I’m about to meet a new poet. I don’t mean the poet in person; I mean meeting the poems of someone whose work had been unknown to me.

And so it was when I opened the new selection of poems by Dunstan Thompson, Here at Last is Love, just published by Slant. But this wasn’t to be my usual sort of first meeting, because first in the book comes Greg Wolfe’s rich biographical introduction. With gratitude, I was truly “introduced” to Thompson: to a man whose life was shaped by opposing desires—for the Catholic faith of his childhood in the 1920s-1930s and for homosexual love.

Around age twenty, Thompson left the Catholic Church and began a series of tormented love affairs with various men. To be gay in the 1940s was to be doubly cursed: by society and by the Church. Thompson felt himself doubly sinful. At the same time, experiencing World War II in London, he was horrified by war’s brutality. [Read more...]

Save the Economy: Read the Classics

booksI was reading Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si when I began an article called “What is Wrong with the West’s Economies?” Published in the August 13, 2015 issue of The New York Review of Books, the article is by Edmund Phelps, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Economics, Director of Columbia’s Center on Capitalism and Society, and author of Mass Flourishing.

What surprised me was that sometimes I couldn’t tell which work I was reading.

“Many people have long felt the desire to do something with their lives besides consuming goods and having leisure. They desire to participate in a community in which they can interact and develop.”

“We were created with a vocation to work. The goal should not be that technological progress increasingly replace human work, for this would be detrimental to humanity. Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.” [Read more...]

What’s Wrong with this Picture?

Rosenthal image

Underlying what’s wrong with this picture is where it resides. Not in a museum of racist caricatures. No, it’s on the popular Dentzel Carousel at Ontario Beach Park in my city: Rochester, New York.

The carousel is a special treasure. Built in 1905, it’s now one of only fourteen operating antique menagerie carousels in the United States; it’s also one of only a few that remain in their original location.

Dentzel Carousels, created by the Philadelphia firm G.A. Dentzel, were famed for their delightful range of animals to ride. Our city’s carousel offers not only the usual horses, but also cats, ostriches, pigs, rabbits, plus a deer, a giraffe, a goat, a lion, and a tiger.

When my granddaughters were young, I took them to ride the carousel. They had fun choosing which animal to climb upon. Did they notice the cartoon-style pickaninnies painted on one of a circle of panels topping the carousel?

Maybe not. Maybe so. Who knows what images a child absorbs unconsciously? And if that child is African-American?

So, what’s wrong with this picture? [Read more...]

Happy Pride Parade

imageI was in tears watching my city’s Gay Pride parade go by this year. Yes, tears. Here’s why.

In the late 1960s, a friend in my graduate school program was gay. But at that time, there was no such thing as “in” or “out” of the closet. There wasn’t even a closet…or there couldn’t have been one huge enough to hold all the gay people who had to keep their sexual lives secret. Not even a barn would have been big enough. Maybe a stadium…

Instead, there were the baths. I don’t know if these gay baths were really baths, or pools, or what. All I know is that this is where my friend Mark would go every evening, picking up each evening a different man to spend the night with. [Read more...]


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