REST AND REFLECTION

It’s my 75th birthday. It’s a monumental day.

Southwest Harbor, Maine, is home. I’m here for another three weeks before returning to Tucson to pack my art work and photos, special books and dishes, and a few colorful Turkish and Mexican rugs.

I’m moving to Minneapolis. My son and daughter-in-law, two grand babies, and grand puppy are there. Going back to the cold, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll have a bigger life.

My Maine month has been so happy. I’ve been hiking with dear friends and by myself.

Why not? I’m feeling so flexible, I’m in such decent shape.

I’ll tackle Acadia Mountain, I thought yesterday. I haven’t been there in at least four years since MTD and I came across a squawking fawn sitting amidst the lush green growth without its mother. Poor thing. I got closer to look for injuries but there were none that I could see.

Making our way down the mountain, the fawn was gone. We called a park ranger when we got to the car.

I’ve been curious about that small creature. What happened? How did the rest of its life go?

Climbing Acadia yesterday seemed so much easier than four years ago…I was so proud of myself. I’ve put in the time in Tucson over the past eighteen years — walking, hiking, yoga, Pilates, short exercise breaks like a recent NYT article advised.

Still, scurrying down those boulders on the way down Acadia wasn’t a good idea. Big rains saturated the island a few days ago. Was I being careful enough? Probably not. I slipped on the slick rock, grounding myself on my right ankle. I heard a crack.

Sitting there, repeating, “Shit, shit, shit,” my faith in humanity was upheld. At least two young couples came along kindly asking if they could help me (what was this old lady with purple streaks in her gray hair doing there?).

I like to think I’m fine when I’m not. These past weeks of alone time and good friend time, taking in the beauty of mountains rising from the sea, feeling my strength, culminated in recognizing a need for change.

“I’m fine, thanks, I’m fine,” I said, but I hadn’t stood up yet. I stood when the next young couple climbed over the boulders. I felt a little wobbly. I could feel my ankle swelling like a balloon. Each of the young folks hooked an arm in mine, helping me back to my car.

Onward to Mt. Desert Island Hospital where 165 Seawall Road, my home for twenty-five years, still showed up in their database. A nurse I knew thirty years ago ambled into the hospital treatment room to chat.

Is this not home? I’m happy to have lived in the Southwest, the heat, all that sunshine.

I’ll return on July 4, Independence Day, to pack up my stuff. Headed toward cold weather again, in my trusty ocean blue Prius. I’ll be in the cold again but near the warmth of family. I’ll be in life.

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Awaiting a Guilty Verdict…I Speak for History

They want you to not believe your eyes, the prosecution said of Derek Chauvin’s defense attorney.

That’s right. Throwing every possible cause of George Floyd’s death into the mix ought to make jury members more disbelieving. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Drug overdose. Heart Condition.

Believe your eyes, People!!! If Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for three and a half minutes after Floyd was unconscious, one might ask why.

Angry bystanders distracted Chauvin. Floyd could have awakened in a violent mood. This large Black man calling for his mama, uttering that he couldn’t breathe, had to be subdued.

This is all bullshit. Pure and simple.

I speak for history.

How many years has it been since entertainment in the Carolinas included watching Black folks being lynched, dangling from the prettiest live oak tree.* Seated on a blanket and munching on Southern fried chicken, a good mother might have asked, “Would you like some sweet tea, dear?”

A recent Saturday Night Live cold open depicted a Minneapolis TV news program. Two Black and two white newscasters agree on Chauvin’s guilt and encourage a change in the city’s policing. But each pair’s experience differs like night and day.

Remember Dylan Roof, the young white man who murdered nine Black parishioners at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015? Roof had planned on killing himself after the massacre. He had hoped to happily start a race war.

No police officer plastered Roof with bullets when he was caught in his car less than a day after the church massacre.

Roof was treated humanely, the way police officers are supposed to treat suspected perpetrators.

How many Black people who have been stopped for traffic violations have been treated humanely in recent years? George Floyd for passing a fake $20 bill, Daunte Wright for hanging air fresheners in his car?

Yet Dylan Roof was brought food from Burger King by the local police who captured him, because he hadn’t “eaten in days.” He was hungry. He wasn’t murdered in his car. He wasn’t ambushed in the middle of the night like Breonna Taylor sleeping in her bed. And he wasn’t crushed by Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes.

I suppose Roof didn’t resist arrest. Plus, he was white.

I speak for history.

It’s time — finally — to treat a white cop like the murderer he is.

*Lynchings didn’t only take place only in the South. I visited Charleston, South Carolina, with my daughter a few years ago. It was there that I read about white families watching Black lynchings, sometimes in the town square in broad daylight. Sorry I can’t cite my source.

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To follow or observe, that is the question

I had an epiphany about politics at the Natural Grocer. On a mundane errand to purchase the purest water, Bunny brand organic carrots, and blueberry oat flakes, it happened.

Finding a parking place near Barrio Bread always takes time. Emerging from my ocean blue Prius –the reason I bought it — I head into the market under a dazzling Tucson blue sky.

Checking out Turmeric gummy prices so I don’t need to order them on Amazon. Strolling through the never-grow-old facial product section. Then I make my way toward the typically long checkout lines.

On the other side of the line backing up to the salad dressing aisle, past the potatoes and tomatoes, I notice a customer packing up her stash at one register, ready to leave.

And it’s the nice cashier’s station, the woman with the flaming red hair and sparkling turquoise fingernails.

Steering my shopping cart her way, I wonder, How come no one is moving to that line?

Finding it difficult to keep quiet, as I often do, I ask the nice cashier her opinion.

“You know what’s what,” she says. “I see this all the time. If there’s a line, customers head over to it.

How odd…

I beckon to a woman holding one bottle of multivitamins. Waiting in oblivion.

“Why are you waiting in that long line?” I ask.

Perhaps she’s hanging out in another world, contemplating an impending divorce or a daughter arriving from college or Tucson’s upcoming summer heat.

She shrugs, waking herself up, crossing the short divide between following and observing to stand behind me.

It’s like politics, my epiphany whacks me over the head. Is it the mindlessness of Melania Trump’s high style jacket message, “I really don’t care, do you?”

Here’s how it goes for many Americans:

I’ve got so much more to think about than some election. I’ll just ask my friends who they’re voting for and vote the same way. I don’t have time for political drivel. Besides, why rock the boat, if anyone asks who I voted for? It’s much easier to be a lemming of complacency.

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I look at all the angry people…and I have questions

WHY DON’T THE POOREST AND THE MOST MARGINALIZED AMONG US RISE UP?

I would. Like Palestinians who hurl rocks at cars sporting Israeli license plates zipping though the West Bank after dark.

If Black Americans attacked the Capitol they would be mowed down in droves, not like the despicable Neo-Nazis, Proud Boys, and other domestic crackpots at our Capitol.

WHY WHITE SUPREMACISTS?

Georgia comedian Corey Forrester shouts, What has this country not given to white supremacist mother**ckers?

Huh, what?

A white supremacist whose mother insists on organic food for her thirty-year-old baby donning a Viking helmet. Or Dylan Roof, who, after murdering nine Black parishioners in Charleston, SC, needed a whopper on his way to the police station.

White supremacists who won’t wear masks to protect others from Covid-19. U.S. representatives who balk at newly installed metal detectors. Did they not hear “Hang Pence! Hang Pence!” as they huddled on the floor of the U.S. Capitol?

What is wrong with these people?

WHAT DO WHITE SUPREMACISTS WANT?

Black people to disappear? A return to slavery, easy access to workers like gardeners, nannies, and cooks they pay a pittance?

So-called Mexican rapists and murderers barricaded on their side of the ugly wall at the Arizona-Mexican border?

Unbridled power for their form of rugged individualism? No restrictions. No responsibility. No laws. Victimhood.

More power, more money, more stuff? How much is enough?

AREN’T WE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER?

A buzz word like “socialism,” is it an excuse for not helping others? Still, they adhere to the Republican health care plan: Get sick. Die?

Remembering some old fart at my Maine annual Town Meeting complaining about the education budget…Eleven dollars more in taxes? Oh no!

While bazillionaire Jeff Bezos recently cut $2 per-hour hazard pay for Amazon workers during the pandemic, his ex-wife Mackenzie Scott gave away $4.2 billion in the past four months. Causes that redistribute wealth. Helping us all rise up.

Enough anger. I’m sick of my own, too. Let’s celebrate a calmer, empathetic, human President Biden and Vice President Harris. And the decency of most Americans. I’m feeling better already.

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A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats

I’m feeling oddly celebratory today. Maybe it’s because a mountain of stressful chaos has been hurled from our national shoulders.

But there’s more…

Maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, all yummy food and no religion.

Maybe it’s because I submitted my first book query to a publisher yesterday — I’ve been dawdling for years.

Maybe I’m just so grateful (or “grated full,” as one of my former students once wrote) for my amazing two children and their loving, supportive spouses.

Maybe it’s my weekly stroll on Douglas Spring trail, where a cheery Tucson breeze had my back.

Or is it Dr. Fauci’s assurance that an effective vaccine is coming, and that my dream of traveling to Sicily will happen?

Could it be a photo of my older brother smiling, holding up a copy of Barack Obama’s memoir that I sent as a birthday present.

Maybe it’s Dan chatting with me this morning as he plays The Bobs’ fun a cappella tunes in the background.

Maybe it’s the great Netflix Korean TV shows, which show some gory murders but mostly portray complex characters, their shades of gray and commitment to kindness and goodness. These shows ruin me for mindless American TV.

Disdain for America’s black and white divisions seems palpable. Where are our shades of gray? I don’t expect unity. But perhaps a bit more compassion for all citizens, regardless of their bank accounts or lack thereof?

Although today feels like it’s mine all mine, this celebratory feeling is also the ever-present hope that ALL Americans can benefit from this rich society, not just a few.

Now for the last few episodes of “The Good Detective,” my current favorite Korean TV show. In a few hours I’ll read aloud William Steig’s “Brave Irene” on FaceTime.

Are you celebrating too? I hope so.

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A Somewhat Entertaining Political Dream

A typical Tucson blue sky sparkles above us. Sipping a glass of Prosecco with a few friends at a pop-up patio restaurant. Other twos and threes sit socially distanced at their tables, respectful of our limited lives during this never-ending covid pandemic. We’re happy to be among people, birds singing on their branches. These days, an hour socializing, these days.

“No one I know will attend Monday’s manic and panicked rally at the Tucson International airport,” I say in this dream of a few nights ago. “Why is he even coming here?” We three book-group pals shake our heads, repeating nasty words.

“I hope they fumigate the airport afterward,” one friend says. “It’s so icky thinking of him being here.”

“Tucson is a Democratic city. The Republican Party didn’t even pick a mayoral candidate in last year’s election,” I say. “They knew it would be a waste of money.”

Sipping more wine on such a pleasant afternoon, I feel lucky. I’m hopeful that a decent man and a smart, joyful woman will win the Nov. 3 election.

Oh please, please, please, my dreaming brain pleads. The dream — or is it a nightmare? — continues.

That’s when I see him. Moving from table to table with two big guys alongside him, their eyes darting in search of Antifa supporters, women with extra-large purses, or regular women like us with brains.

One of the Secret Service guys is carrying a stack of books.

“Who wants to buy a copy? I’ll sign it,” the make-believe president says. “Only $15 each for the most fabulous, biggest ‘Art of the Deal.’ This is your last chance. Who knows where I’ll be after Nov. 3! Putin says I can stay in his guest room for as long as I want.

What about Melania? you ask. She’ll return to our gilded NYC apartment. What’s that?

Oh yes, she’ll be wearing a mask, not because of the disappearing-any-day virus. Why would she want anyone to recognize her in that snazzy ‘I don’t care’ jacket. Yeah, she’s bummed about having to wear the same thing more than once.

Maybe I’ll return to the United States in around three years when we finalize our divorce. I don’t think Russia has an extradition treaty with us. But what do I know, right? Vlad will keep me safe. That’s what he says and I believe him. Such a great guy, so much more honest than Obama! Plus, he’s white!”

I’m staring at him in disbelief. I can’t stand it. Jumping up from my seat as soon as I finish my drink, I run past him. I want to kick him in the balls. Hard. Mostly I want to wake up instead of hearing his voice.

The Secret Service guys pounce. “I hate the fucker,” I keep yelling as they restrain me, thinking how lucky I am to not be Black. I’d be dead by now. I’m only a woman who’s had enough.

This nightmare must end on Nov. 3.

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Fake News!!!

That’s what the crook in the White House says…is anything in the news ever true?

Not to him. Only Fox News.

I picture him lounging on a gold-bordered couch in the WH living quarters, still donning his pajamas at midday, admiring his expensive bleached hairdo in a mirror by his side.

Watching TV for hours when he could get the most up-to-date real reporting at a moment’s notice.

Damn. Then he would have to read it, oh no!

What about his supporters? Do they mind paying more taxes than their mafioso cult hero? I doubt it.

What about Congressional Repugnicans who are unusually quiet today? I wonder what he has on them, his most ardent enablers.

We don’t yet know about his accountability to Putin. Perhaps the $400 million due on his debts during the next few years are tied to his best autocratic pal?

Here’s the thing: If the New York Times is lying https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/09/27/us/donald-trump-taxes.html, as he claims, why not release his tax returns to show “the truth?” Easy peasy.

I’m feeling less angry at the NYT than I’ve been for the past four years. In 2016, they kept condemning Hillary for her damn emails, ignoring Trump’s criminal activities. What a great businessman…the most money he ever made was as a TV star on “The Apprentice.”

He belongs in jail and he knows it. That’s why he’s wreaking havoc on the 2020 election.

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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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