#BlackLivesMatter to Poets

15776028730_4963de50d0_zPoets are rising to the cause, hands raised (“Don’t shoot!”) but hands also holding pencils and paper or at the computer keys, writing poems.

The cause I refer to is clear to anyone who has lived in this country since August 9, 2014, the date of Michael Brown’s murder. It’s not a new cause, alas; racial injustice has never been absent from our land.

But what’s new—and hopeful—is the depth and breadth of public outcry. It had actually begun a couple weeks earlier, with the caught-on-camera police choking of Eric Garner, then swelled as Michael Brown’s dead body lay for four and a half hours in the street.

Then in late November-early December, the swell became a roar of indignation, as black Americans felt slap after slap after slap on the face of their worth as human beings: on November 22, the police killing (“when will they ever learn?”) of twelve-year old Tamir Rice, playing in a public park; on November 24, the non-indictment of the police officer who killed Brown; on December 3, the non-indictment of the police officer who had choked Eric Garner to death. [Read more...]

Renouncing the Gridiron

onionI gave up sports for the same reason I gave up politics and pornography.

I was once in a political party, not because I felt any great affection for it, but because the aims of its chief opponent constitute a recipe for civilizational suicide. I still suspect as much, but I long ago became an Independent, because I concluded that associating myself with a political party was a moral act, or rather an immoral one, given the criminality, corruption, and prevarication engendered by its leaders.

This is also a reason I stopped watching porn—because viewing it not only corrodes one’s soul, it sustains the market for predation and debasement. The same, I’ve reluctantly concluded, can be said about viewing big-money sports.

[Read more...]

Detonating Jonah

jonahWhen news broke this summer that Sunni extremists with ISIS, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, had blown up the tomb of Jonah after capturing the Iraqi city of Mosul, the shockwaves left a piece of me in the rubble from halfway across the world in Brooklyn.

Not that the trail of massacres, beheadings and forced expulsions by ISIS haven’t made for far more shocking news before and since then, as the gruesome executions of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff recently attest.

I can watch the online video of Jonah’s tomb blown to bits in a cloud of dust; but the beheadings of Foley and Sotloff I cannot.

Yet when I watch the former, I am revolted and I cringe. There it is one second, there it isn’t the next: the alleged resting place of my beloved Jonah.

Our beloved Jonah, inasmuch as he is equally revered in Islam as he is in the Judeo-Christian tradition: the Qur’an includes its own version of the book, “Yunus,”and Muhammad is said to have proclaimed, “One should not say that I am better than Jonah.”

Hence the “tears and anger” in Mosul, as reported by The New York Times, where the Sunni population’s initial embrace of liberation by ISIS from centralized Shiite oppression in Baghdad gave way first to resentment, and then resistance, as the city’s trove of treasured holy sites and rich tradition of interfaith compatibility were destroyed. [Read more...]

Righteous Minds Left and Right

religionpolitics__432x324The orthodontist’s new office has a waiting room tricked out with video games—even a genuine old tabletop Mrs. Pac-Man. Grace and I were racing cars—and she was winning by more than a lap—when the woman in purple scrubs called her name.

“Hey Grace,” she drawled, as Grace approached her. She had frosty blond hair and friendly blue eyes, and cool running shoes under those purple scrubs, rocking the hip-grandma look. She swung her arm in a wide come-on wave and said, “You’re coming too, Mom and Dad.”

Later, when Gracie’s mother complimented her on how easy she makes her job look, she said, “I’ve been doing this for forty-five years.” She joked and teased in just the right ways to put Grace at ease as she lay back and opened her mouth for the light stretching on its long arm toward her.

After the orthodontist examined her and discussed the braces—and oral surgery—our hip grandma was back with the pricing sheet. She was just as good at this part, had the numbers written neatly, the math done, clear and simple. She said, “You have good insurance. Insurance usually doesn’t cover this much.” [Read more...]

The American Divide

This is not an essay about politics but I have to begin with politics because it stands between you and me and what I want to say to you, which concerns our darkened hearts and our dreadful tribalization of a country whose motto is E pluribus unum.

The politics are this: I have an unfashionable view of human rights and nature. I stand for localism and classical education and reverencing life; I stand against warmongering and utilitarianism and corporate cronyism. As a consequence, I have no place among Republicans or Democrats or Libertarians. If your guiding lights are not restraint and community and Holy Scripture, then I want no part of your goddamned party.

None of which is to say that you are a bad person for being a Republican or Democrat or Libertarian, or even one of those undecided Independents journalists like to interview before elections, as if inability to commit is evidence of wisdom. One or both of us is wrong, and it doesn’t matter; I’ve retreated to my rural corner and you may have the world for all I care, just leave me and my family out of it.

All this is to say, however, that I have no fondness for our current president’s worldview. Nor the one before him, nor the one before that one. It’s not their fault; they are harbingers of the times. They give us what we want, because our wants form the standard of justice. Politicians cobble together electoral majorities with empty words because we will tolerate no less and no more.

My lack of fondness for President Obama is only relevant because it accentuates the praise I want to offer him—while perhaps in the process damning a fair portion of the rest of us. [Read more...]


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