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Category: News & Politics

When we have finally learned to fully hate who will ever be able to teach us to love ?

May 22, 2016

The Poet, Not the Politician. Please Pass the Idiom.

My mother regularly used the expression you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, an expression I’m sure most of us have heard in one form or another. Its general meaning is that you can’t make something good out of something bad.

I’ve been thinking about idioms lately and where that particular one originated and discovered there’s a lot of conjecturing as to just where it did begin. The range is someplace between the devil and the deep blue sea, from the dying words of Hamlet to the Reverend Jonathan Swift in 1801, but an English satirist named Stephen Gosson seems to have made a like statement centuries earlier in The Ephemerides of Phialo in 1579. But one thing I do know for certain is that my mother used it time and time again. Usually when I wanted something better than what I had.

I have also decided that you cannot make a political essayist out of a poet, at least not a happy poet. I have spent the last few months primarily writing about politics and particularly about my disdain for and fear of Donald Trump who might possibly become president of our country. To be perfectly clear about this, I have in no way tried to make a silk purse out of him and would never insult a pig by any comparison.

In my attempt to convey how I feel about this demon who struts and frets his hour upon the stage, I have all but lost track of who I am. I am a person with a proclivity for poetry, prose, poems, promulgation, and apparently alliteration, and that seems to make me happy as a clam. (If you’re wondering why clams are happy, this may shed some light on that. The original version is “as happy as a clam at high water.” Hide tide is when clams are free from predators.) 

My politics are similar to my religion. I consider myself a spiritual person but almost never go to church, but I pay attention and I do pray. I consider myself a political person but never campaign for anyone, but I pay attention and I do vote.

In last week’s podcast, I had a meltdown. As I said then, I was sick of self-obsessing about Donald Trump, and it was true then and it rings truer now. I also realize that mostly I am preaching to the choir because most of my readers already agree with me and the ones who don’t have left me high and dry. (The phrase “preaching to the choir” probably had its origin as “preaching to the converted,” first cited in the works of John Stuart Mill. He used the phrase in An Examination of Sir W. Hamilton's Philosophy, 1867.)

Now as we approach the eleventh hour of the political process, I have decided to let sleeping dogs lie and return to the poetry, prose, music-loving, storytelling person I am and have my blogs and podcast be what I have always intended them to be, informative and fun. I hope and pray and will vote that Donald Trump is here today and gone tomorrow. 

On the shores of Rambling Harbor, there will be a few more idle thoughts on one thing or another and some rock and roll history, but of course that’s not carved in stone. I hope you’ll join me there. 

May 15, 2016

Don’t Leave Your Country Behind and Let the Fools Lead the Parade

Watching the circus America calls the political process, I remembered one of Mark Twain’s statements about government and country from his piece called the “The War Prayer,” published after his death in 1923. Twain’s family thought it would be considered unpatriotic to publish the piece while he was alive, and he agreed to wait, saying something like“only dead men tell the truth, so fine, publish it after I’m gone.” What Twain said in that piece was, “Patriotism is supporting your country all the time and your government when it deserves it.”

On the Republican side of the carnival, one person has become the barker and the clown simultaneously,and this lunatic has made mind-boggling progress in his ascension to the highest office in the country (and I use the word ascension because he is looking at the Oval Office like a throne).I’m now hearing scuttlebutt (and I chose that word because the last syllable, -butt, seems to fit not only the Republican candidate for president) that people are saying they will leave this country if Donald Trump becomes president, and I say that is butt-head thinking.

When I was resisting the war in Vietnam and raising a banner in protest to stop the madness, people would ask me why I didn’t just pack up and leave if I was so against America, and my answer was and is I am not against America. I am trying to stop the government from doing what is so clearly morally wrong. If you have a child misbehaving,do you abandon it, or stay and try to correct the errant kid? Taking off to Canada or other parts of the world or just shutting your doors and your eyes and worst of all your mind to the horror that would fall on this country if Donald Trump became President would be a coward’s escape and part of what’s wrong with this country to begin with. I say stay and do everything in your power to stop what are likely to be devastating consequences if Trump is elected.

As I said in my March 20 blog,“The White House, Bernie, and Me,“ there is a big difference between those who chose to run to Canada and those like myself who stood up to the military and the courts and were offered many avenues to not go to prison, most of which did not include joining the military, and chose prison instead. If you love this country as you would love a child and America is our child, then you will not leave it behind but stay and help save it by doing everything in your power to prevent a madman from trashing it.

I refuse to be a blind patriot.As Mark Twain said, I support our government only when it deserves it. Some of my ancestors were here long before anyone else, and in spite of the genocide committed on Native Americans, I still believe in what can be, and just like in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, I will stay and organize and I will march and I will refuse to let a madman destroy my country.  

I don’t believe that most people really mean it when they say they would actually leave, but to close your mind while sticking your fingers in your ears and chanting na, na, na, na, na—I hear no evil and see no evil—is the same thing as leaving physically, or worse.Please don’t let the fools lead the parade.

There will be more thoughts on this on the shores of Rambling Harbor and some rock and roll history. Join me there.

May 8, 2016

Rainy Days and Remembering Daniel Berrigan

My mother use to tell me that when it rained it meant great changes were taking place in the universe. She was usually referring to major storms, with rolling, earth-shaking thunder, fire and brimstone lightning, and enough water falling from the sky to send a person looking for Noah’s Ark building instructions. It was from her that I learned to love major storms. I would watch the exploding sky, anxiously expecting that at any moment from the biggest darkest clouds the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—Famine, War,Pestilence, and Death—would come galloping toward me, advancing with sabers drawn, hell-bent for bringing doom on our little home. Somehow we always managed to ride out these great storms without harm to home or person, and even today I love watching the dark clouds roll in, expecting always to see a fire-breathing stallion emerge from one of them, rearing up on his hind legs and whinnying in anger.

It’s been a long life these last few days at Rambling Harbor.It has rained for seven days and seven nights, not earth-shaking rain but a deep sobbing rain of sadness and of loss, no fast-rolling clouds but slow lingering ones deliberate in their movements, like a funeral march, each step a measure cadence repeating gone, gone, gone.

There was a death on April 30 that went largely unnoticed.It was not the death of a rock star nor a music legend. It had no commercial value and was mostly ignored by mainstream media. No one except me and one other person posted anything about it on Facebook, and I posted it twice,stating “I’m posting this again because I refuse to let it go unnoticed.” If my friend had been a rock star, Facebook would be covered with grieving pictures,posters, and songs, and some of those things would have been posted by me. But I never got arrested with a rock star or went on a hunger strike or served time in prison, but I did with Daniel Berrigan. More than that, he was my friend.

I resisted the Vietnam War before meeting Daniel, and my life and sentence was sealed long before I met him. I lived at Jonah House in Baltimore, started by Dan’s brother Phil Berrigan, Elizabeth McAlister, and a few other people. It was my home just before I moved to Boston, and Dan was a regular visitor.

On April 30, Fr. Daniel Berrigan died. Some who did notice his death perhaps tried to ignore it because he challenged everything they try not to see or believe in, which is the outright rolling, earth-shaking thunder,and fire and brimstone lightning call to resist Famine, War, Pestilence, and Death. He was once asked when he would stop. “The day after I’m embalmed,” he said on his 80th birthday in 2001. “That’s when I’ll give it up.”  I don’t believe him.

There will be more memories and thoughts on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Join me there.