Live History

Historic statues and landmarks may beckon some. Usually not me, but visiting family in Minneapolis a few weeks back I had to see it: Chicago Avenue where one George Floyd was put to death for being Black. His life kneed out by a white cop.

That part of Chicago Avenue was blocked off by the City of Minneapolis as a memorial, although the police kept trying to reopen the street, or so I was told by a few activists handing out water to “tourists.” The Minneapolis City Council has jurisdiction over the police and the two are at loggerheads.

Hanging out in front of the convenience store on the corner were two young men smoking cigarettes, observing the scene as they’ve probably done for years. When this man George Floyd lived and breathed like the rest of us.

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Black Lives Matter signs are ubiquitous around Minneapolis.

Two Black men, one old and one young, stood in the middle of the street arguing.

“What makes you think you can take over a street?” the older one raised his voice, gripping his perfect Siberian Husky’s leash.

“We’re oppressed,” the younger man, wearing an African motif scarf around his neck, hollered. “We’re oppressed!”

“You haven’t answered my question,” the retired cop, or perhaps a professor, said. “If you’re oppressed does that allow you to take over a city street?” The two men went on like that the whole time we were there. As a former reporter I wanted to interview them, but my former journalist son urged me not to interfere.

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My 3 1/2 year-old grandson walking around the makeshift memorial. Yes, he wanted to know what it was all about.

The Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously to “end policing as we know it.” According to this Aug. 8 New Yorker story we know that Black Lives Matter has shifted public opinion more quickly than any activist organization in the last fifty years.

I like to think that protecting all human life matters more to Americans than spewing hate, that as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said in his acceptance speech, we’re poised to move from “this season of darkness.” Let’s hope so. We’ll soon find out.

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‘Good Trouble’ makes me feel better

I felt better as I watched Real President Obama eulogize John Lewis today. “We Shall Overcome,” belted out at the end of Lewis’s memorial service in Atlanta. Jumping to my feet dancing, clapping, and singing, I recalled participating in 1960s demonstrations.

On this day that the historical aberration in the White House floated the postponement of the November presidential election, this woo-woo thought popped into my head: Did John Lewis know the Oglala Lakota quote “Today is a good day to die?” Did he know that during his memorial service Obama and others would push the absolute necessity of voting on Nov. 3?

Who was this man, a saint of American History? I’m not religious but I believe in the sanctity of John Lewis. His head was bashed in marching for voting rights in 1965. Marching across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Marching across a bridge named for a KKK leader.

Marching for equality every day of his life. For more than 30 years as a U.S. Congressman from Georgia, engaging in “Good Trouble” to right 400 years of inequality in this country. Who else would have led a sit-in for support of gun control legislation on the floor of the House of Representatives?

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Democratic members of Congress, including Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-Conn.(seated left), Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga. (center) as they participated in a sit-down protest seeking a vote on gun control measures in 2016, after 15 hours. (NPR)

A few years ago I walked across the Pettus Bridge in Alabama. Halfway across I felt the presence of those ’60s Civil Rights activists. So powerful was the sensation, I turned around and walked back to where I started. I felt better. Had a few of my memory cells traveled back and mingled with the marchers, somehow adding support to their cause?

In a remarkable NYT op-ed destined to be published the day Lewis died, the voting rights hero encouraged young people to “[lay] down the heavy burdens of hate.”

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of living in a shithole country.

I feel better aligning with John Lewis’s optimism. I feel better imagining a Democratic electoral landslide on Nov. 3. I feel better visualizing a Democratic U.S. Senate takeover, so that some “Good Trouble” can create a new normal for all Americans.

 

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“History has its eyes on you…”

I’m angry. It’s one thing to denigrate political opponents who expect it. It’s another to cast doubt on an accomplished scientist who has saved numerous lives over a decades-long career.

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If anyone will save us from this pandemic it’s Dr. Tony Fauci!

How will history judge a criminal president who has done nothing to save Americans from Covid-19? He’s an aberration, to be sure. When I and my friends compare him so negatively to Richard Nixon you know we’re in political hell!

I’m a little OCDish about politics. I pay attention to the incompetent one’s tirades. If he wasn’t so dangerous his outrageous lies would be comical. Yesterday it was some gobbledygook about Joe Biden’s energy plan, that it would be the end of windows and suburbs?

Millions of Americans, I’m sure, feel the same way. How can we make it through this terrible one-of-a-kind time?

As a history person (former U.S. History teacher), here’s what I do to deflect my anger, even convert it to a more positive state.

   Self, I say, We’re living through a historic time. We have no idea how this pandemic and presidency will turn out. In a way, it’s exciting to watch and hope for the best. Soon we’ll have a new, nice president. Instead of deteriorating in a Herbert Hoover do-nothing phaseof our history (but way meaner and more corrupt), we’ll move forward into a 21st century FDR phase, helping and caring about all Americans

Thinking of History as surprise helps.

 

 

 

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SCOTUS, WTF?

Wearing masks during a pandemic violates their rights, say right-wing naysayers. Taking away contraceptives from women who work for religious employers that disapprove of birth control doesn’t? Why does a boss decide if a woman can afford birth control?

Justices Kagan and Breyer sided with the conservative justices that the case should be sent back to the lower court. Only Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayer dissented.

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“Today, for the first time, the Court casts totally aside countervailing rights and interests in its zeal to secure religious rights to the nth degree,” Ginsburg wrote.

Viagra is covered in health insurance provided by religious employers because it’s for erectile dysfunction. Perhaps more men will be able to impregnate women if they take the drug? And that’s a good thing for Catholics and other religious types.

I’m guessing that many men sure as hell don’t care about adding more babies to their families. Well, maybe if they snagged young trophy wives and hope to show the world they’re capable of impregnating them.

But WTF?? It’s hypocrisy to claim that men consuming viagra generally want more children. Some do. But some women take contraceptives for reasons other than birth control, severe acne for one.

I don’t care if men take viagra or not. This Supreme Court decision deprives women of their reproductive rights. The war on women’s health care continues…

 

 

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America WTF?

Today’s NYTimes editorial says it all. All the policy changes to bring about the promise of America, what white Americans have mostly paid lip-service to these past four-hundred years.

Read through the list of essential societal changes, such as NO Child Left Behind, Health Care for All, Affordable Housing, Equal Pay for Equal Work, and more. I would add Learn American History. Check out Harvard history prof Jill Lepore’s The Last Archive podcast.  “Who stole the truth?” is a recurring theme. I can’t wait for each entertaining radio-like history mystery to show up every Thursday.

So, I’m adding a new category to my blog posts: “AMERICA WTF?”

It will include questions, musings, new directions for our traumatized country, in my humble former journalist, former educator, former bookstore owner view (Please scroll down for a few superb titles.)

With liberty and justice for all? Nope. Not yet. But Americans are in the mood for change. The Pew Research Center reports that 67 percent of Americans polled support Black Lives Matter.

And haven’t we had enough of the biggest mistake in American History? An incompetent traitor watching Fox make-believe news instead of reading his daily briefings? And his  slumlord son-in-law Jared and daughter Pocketbook Ivanka (necessary to carry a bible for a photo-op, after spraying peaceful protestors with tear gas)?

I want a nice president, don’t you?

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Wish I had gotten this young woman’s name when I accosted her for a photo at Starbucks pre-pandemic.

DISCUSS: Would you support reparations for Black Americans, and if so, who, what, when, where, and 

FOR FURTHER READING/Black History:

Fiction — “The Vanishing Half” by Brit Bennett, “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd

Nonfiction — “The Warmth of Other Suns. The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson

Kids — “Pink and Say” by Patricia Polacco, picture book, age 8+

“The Antiracist Baby” board book by Ibram X. Kendi

*I’m not thrilled by the illustrations, plus I tend to think that board books don’t require serious messages. Not totally decided.

 

 

 

 

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Pandemic Choices

Sabino Canyon was packed this morning. Umpteen Cars lined the road. A scary scene because half the walkers, in my experience, don’t wear masks or practice social distancing. I don’t know what they’re thinking, that they’re invincible, that nearly 100, 000 American lives lost from Covid-19 is a lie, or that the United States can beat a virus despite our unpreparedness (We’re number 1!).

    Because an incompetent president announces that the virus “will go away without a vaccine?”

Not true, no matter what politicians tweet. Mother Earth is stronger than politics.

“The good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it.”
― Neil deGrasse Tyson

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Twisting and turning every which way,  relief from Covid-19 and the future of the economy are inextricable.

I chose to avoid the gaggle of humans and set out on a trail not taken. No mountain lions, no rattlesnakes, no bipeds anywhere.

Unadulterated nature is my peaceful place.

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Back at the overflow parking lot and in my car, I turned on NPR. Dr. Anthony Fauci was being interviewed. He sounded a little excited speaking of Moderna, a Cambridge-based biotech company. Their very early Phase 1 positive results for a vaccine included only eight subjects, which some news media and doctors are pooh-poohing.

Fauci noted that Moderna’s quick announcement was only a press release, and that a full peer review of their science will be available within the next few weeks.

The Good Doctor is optimistic about the possibility of a Covid-19 vaccine being ready by the end of December or early 2021.

I choose to listen to Dr. Fauci.

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Finding Common Deliciousness

Ahh Istanbul…the city swirls in my memory. Three years ago, my magic carpet ride across the Atlantic landed me in an epitome of contrasts: secular or religious, ancient or modern, hijab or no hijab?

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On my way to the Grand Bazaar these Turkish tweeners pegged me as an American, and asked me to take their photo. I’m not sure why. 

I passed a Starbucks, Gap, and Coach stores on the street leading to the Grand Bazaar, one of the largest and oldest markets in the world, constructed in the 15th century to please an Ottoman sultan.

Five hundred years later the bazaar is closed, part of the worldwide battle against the coronavirus.

Our Tucson social distancing crusade includes an occasional takeout dinner from a neighborhood restaurant. My favorite is Istanbul Mediterranean Cuisine, run by a local Turkish family.

A few days ago I hopped into my ocean blue Prius to pick up our treat: Dan’s Istanbul plate, consisting of a giant homemade lamb sausage, a crisp Middle Eastern salad, tasty rice pilaf, pita bread, and the yummiest tzatziki sauce made of Greek yogurt, lemon juice, fresh dill and other spices.

I chose chicken skewers this time, which came with all the same sides. They were good but not as flavorful and tender as the lamb skewers. The chicken and lamb were similarly marinated in lemon juice and spices. So much food, and so reasonable! My dinner lasted for two nights.

One of the two brothers, who’s holding down the fort, came out to deliver my order. Chatting, both of us wearing masks, I asked how business was.

“Next week we’re opening inside,” he said excitedly, acknowledging that Trump had visited Phoenix that day.

“We’ll keep ordering takeout,” I said. “Gov. Ducey announced the opening of restaurants because he’s Trump’s puppet.”

The brother mumbled something. He may support Trump for “economic” reasons. Perhaps opening indoors will bring the restaurant more business, I don’t know.

He and I disagree about the need for continued social distancing.

We agree that a delicious dinner brightens any day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fifty years since Kent State…

For me, Kent State was the end of hoping government could do the right thing. As a college student during the Sixties I supported a social revolution, a hippie consciousness of equality for all. Yeah, all Americans were human beings who deserved respect, a decent job, safety that  included health care and hope that a kid wearing a hoodie wouldn’t be shot.

For fifty years we’ve been arguing and speaking out for seemingly obvious citizen needs — not  privileges — encompassing equal pay for women and minorities.

Government support still hinges on social class/how much money is hidden in your Cayman Islands’ bank account. Corporate welfare reigns, not citizen welfare.

“This [pandemic] crisis is exposing the class savagery of American democracy and the economic carnage that it has always countenanced.” charles blowimages (1)

As a journalist, years ago, I interviewed a 92-year-old sociologist toward the end of her life:

“Looking back over your lifetime what concerns you the most?” I asked.

“That we’re still fighting over the same issues,” she replied.

How can that be? I Don’t want to be lamenting our lack of progress if I’m lucky enough to live for twenty more years. I’m haunted by that possibility.

“Words matter” or “The pen is mightier than the sword?” That’s why I keep at this blog. “The Little Engine That Could” comes to mind. That’s me, although I have no idea if my posts matter.

Then I recall former students who have written to me, spanning decades, reminding me of a teacher’s impact.

“You care for us like a mother, which is part of the best teaching,” one wrote. I had no idea.

So I keep on keepin’ on.

Thinking of our history and all the shit that’s gone down physically hurts: Slavery and its aftermath still lives; women earn less on the dollar and black women even less; the US is the only developed country without nationalized health insurance; scared old white men will do anything to stop progress; gun deaths proliferate; mental health means you’re on your own — in prison or under a bridge.

But today I’m thinking about Kent State. As Harvard historian Jill Lapore writes in the current New Yorker, “Did we ever leave it?”

 

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“We ain’t goin’ nowhere…”

For the last two weeks an empty carton waits on the floor by my office closet, ready for me to fill it with stuff I no longer need. But closet cleaning isn’t high on my agenda these days.

During these strange days of social isolation, as we attempt to flatten the coronavirus’s exponential growth, I need to talk with family and friends. I need to see their faces. Zooming and Facetime are essential to my well-being. Yesterday an online “visit” with my grown children, their spouses, and my two grandbabies took place in three time zones.

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My granddaughter is six months old today!

The Internet is my friend. I’ve participated in yoga and Pilates classes with teachers from my closed Tucson gym. Today I watched a lovely performance of “Stand By Me” on the rocks surrounding Lake Powell (I’ve never been and now want to go). Walking through our neighborhood is essential, checking out the latest wildflowers popping up daily.

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A cactus in bloom is magic. Every time.

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Reading sparks the highlight of each day: “Sapiens. A Brief History of Humankind” enlivens my thinking in the late afternoon, along with a snack of Trader Joe’s olive oil popcorn; the novels “Disappearing Earth” and “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” transport me to the Russian Kamchatka Peninsula and New York City, respectively, in the evening.

We’ve stored plenty of food but a big diversion from our own cooking will be to order from Tito & Pep’s one night this week. Last night, we discovered a gem on Netflix: “Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories.”  A tiny diner tucked into the gigantic city is open from midnight to 7 a.m. An array of fascinating, quirky, believable characters show up.

I miss experiencing life with my grandchildren, also anticipating travel. We planned a trip to Washington’s Olympic Peninsula in late May. Most likely not going to happen.

Every day it becomes more obvious that we’re all in this nasty pandemic together, and that we each have a responsibility to ourselves and to others to stay healthy. Let’s do it.

“Hearts open. Hands washed. Love on.” — Brene Brown

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Bopping Around Tucson, Family Matters, Fight wimpiness, Old friends, Out West, The Rest of the World, Visual Entertainment | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I want a nice president!

Last week I was heartbroken that Elizabeth Warren, our supreme presidential candidate, dropped out of the presidential race. Electability felt like a dirty word. Would I see a woman president in my lifetime?

We walked to Starbucks to meet friends for coffee, as we do every Tuesday and Thursday morning. A young woman in a t-shirt walked in. She changed everything for me. I asked to take her photo. I wished I had asked her name.

Her message lit up my brain. I’m sick of the daily onslaught of lies from the narcissistic thug in the White House. I’m sick of a bone-deep fear of losing any democracy we’ve traditionally claimed. I’m sick of a make-believe president who cares about the stock market more than the health of millions.

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An influential voter

I’m feeling relieved. Joe Biden isn’t a sociopath. I like his talk about restoring our values, caring about other people, and connecting with the rest of the world.

Standing with black voters who have had it, too, I understand why many are so supportive of Biden. They watched him stand behind Barack Obama for eight years. At what other time in our history has a white man so sincerely sang the praises of a black man? It’s primal for African Americans, not a political tool like when Biden tossed in Barack’s name during the debates.

So what happens next? Bernie gets one more opportunity to test Biden at the Phoenix debate this Sunday. I hope Biden preps sufficiently. I hope Bernie influences Biden on health care, a wealth tax, and equal rights for all.

Biden correctly calls himself a bridge. I’m betting he’ll choose Sen. Amy Klobuchar as his vice-presidential candidate. I’d support Minnesota’s Democratic governor appointing former Sen. Al Franken to her seat. Hasn’t he been punished enough for having been an obnoxious comedian in his previous life? A fifth-generation Minneapolis woman told me Franken was the best senator Minnesota ever had. Bring him back.

Bring on Minnesota nice. I’m all for it.

 

 

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