Friday, March 27, 2009

“May you live all the days of your life.” Jonathan Swift

   For Diana

Bare winter lattice
Carpet shadow fragmented
Surprise after sleep

Stiffened fingering
Rasping slumberous surface
Wakeful underneath

Tiny bells herald
Stained glass sunshine on the earth
Raining light on you

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


There was a time
when you looked at me
full of light & love & free
loved making time
for crazy old me
we’re laughing over jam & tea
english boy
american girl
looking for the way back because
life just gets away from me
gets away from me

Love puts a dent
in the best laid frown
your tiara my old crown
i say we can’t
and you say we can
brittania pier is burning down
english boy
american girl
looking for the way back because
life just gets away from me

There was time for an english boy
to find his way to america
there was a time for an american girl
to bring that boy to america

Still keeping time
with the beat in me
full of light & love & free
still looking for
the crazy in me
we’re laughing over royalty
english boy
american girl
looking for the way back because
life just gets away from me
gets away from me

Thursday, March 12, 2009

"I drink to make other people interesting." George Jean Nathan


Last Sunday I spent an hour or so online perusing the Observer before heading downtown to meet for the first time the members of CEDP’s prison letter writing group; and especially to personally introduce myself to Rebecca Kurti who heads it.

There was one article in particular in the Observer—described as a ‘national Sunday quality broadsheet, sister paper of the Guardian, specializing in in-depth analysis and comment on UK and world news and politics’—that caught my attention. Not so much for the thrust and content of the short piece, but for the fact that it was published in the Observer, which I’d come to appreciate as the Sunday extension of a rather lefty intellectualism that covered the rest of the week in the pages of the Guardian.

“So what if older people like to drink”, says Christopher Manthorp, “don't judge them for indulging.”

Now that’s a headline I expect to see in the Daily News or the UK equivalent, the Daily Mail. I have to say I have noticed the odd bit of yellow journalism making it’s way into the venerable pages of the Guardian and even the New York Times. Well, maybe not yellow exactly but soft journalism to be sure. The edgy snark of the blogosphere once derided by print journalism has, I think, begun to be embraced with a great big catch-up hug from mainstream media. Articles like the one that appeared in the pages of the Times on February 15 (Bad Economy? Good Excuse)—which is having its own game of dodgeball over bankruptcy rumors—are giving the Gray Lady a jaundiced pallor. I used to think these self-serving tales about the shallow rich suddenly deepening with soul were meaningless in the overall potential for popular revolt, but as the Bernie and Ruthless Show has widened the viewing arena of the fiscally disenfranchised, perhaps these frivolous mots will be more of a spark than they bargained for. Got a long-time nanny whose perfectly reasonable request for time off irritates the heck out of you? Let her go! Blame it on the recession. Then—hire a new one! Don't really want to shell out for a Tiffany bauble or a watch from Cartier? Well, then it’s time for creative gift giving for your love who’s like a red, red, tomato and celebrate Valentine’s Day with a nice ripe (cheap) love apple.

Photographs at demonstrations on Wall Street of protesters hoisting placards declaring “Jump You Fuckers!” won’t make the evening edition of the Times. And you can bet the popular protest on Wall Street slated for April 4th won’t be televised. But if statements from a terribly overindulged bunch who feel they’re going against the recession and doing something wrong by throwing a party, and other equally profound witticisms from otherwise financially secure persons that chirp: “It’s the silver lining in the recession cloud,” don’t agitate the newly poor into the streets to protest, then I don’t know what will. Articles like those might just provide the seeds of foment for people who actually have lost their jobs, have actually been hugely affected by the recession—and as a result of Madoff’s bombshell will enlist in a class war between the same classes. (Does one capitalize recession? Is it that stage yet? Can we, in fact, call it the Great Recession and leave room for its sure follow up: The Even Greater Depression?).

It’s enough to drive a person to drink.

So, on Sunday afternoon, I was thinking about this on the downtown No.6, still mulling over the piece in the Observer. Later I would hear from friends weighing in with their opinions on the Observer piece I’d sent to them. Snug between passengers on the train, I was distracted from reading the autobiography of Assata Shakur (a.k.a. Joanne Chesimard of the so-called Black Liberation Army) when a man at the other end of the car crooned the all too familiar refrain: “Ladies and gentlemen. I don’t mean no harm. I am homeless and I need something to eat.” He then launches, acapella, into a doo wop favorite: “Under the Boardwalk.” What he couldn’t see was that another man had entered the car nearer to where I was sitting. This man had a blank expression, worn at the edges like an old rug that had been trod over countless times until the pattern had faded. A twine necklace was attached to a hand lettered sign on a bit of cardboard: Homeless. Hungry. HIV Positive.

The two met just in front of where I was sitting and I watched to see where this interaction would take them. Would they ignore each other? Or, as I have seen before, would one silently surrender the begging terrain to the other and back off onto the subway platform at the next stop?

“Hey Snake,” the singer greets the man with the cardboard sign, who only just raises his eyes to him as they tap their paper cups. “Been uptown for the meatloaf. You got to sit through the preacher’s talk—new rules—b’fore you can get to eat.” Then he tells him about a guy in front of him in line who bought a scratch off and won six hundred dollars. “Just like that. I coulda bought that ticket.” The singer pushed off at the next stop and the man with the cardboard sign called after him: “One day at a time, brother.”

My father was homeless for a while. He was a drinker, an alcoholic in fact, who was never, as far as I can recall, not an alcoholic. His first life ended virtually homeless between two faulty heaters in an abandoned factory building in Hartford Connecticut on a freezing night. He was a man who restored antiques and he once handled fragile leaves of gold with reverence. With his trusty gilder’s tip of—if I recall correctly—squirrel hair, he laid each golden leaf with utmost care upon the object to be gilded, always mindful of the enormous expense of it. I treasure still that bit of antique. In Wim Wenders’ film The American Friend, Bruno Ganz’s character, Jonathan, believes he is dying from a blood disease. In the defining scene of the movie that still resonates whenever I see it, Jonathan—who is a framemaker—blows a delicate square of gold leaf into the air, debating his next move and then swoops down and smacks the gold around a telephone receiver before he makes that fateful call.

My father’s shorter, healthier stint in Seniorville came in his second life after he had been rescued from the detritus of his ruined shop in that abandoned building. He lived for some revitalized years in the Veterans Home in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, deprived of the dubious pleasure of being a sozzled senior.

The contributing writer to the Observer, Christopher Manthorpe, is a director of older people's services for a registered provider. He wrote in his online piece (though in a personal capacity):

“I genuinely wouldn't want to minimize the dangers that this (senior drinking) involves, of course. I am all for educating older people about the dangers inherent to drinking, its likely impact on livers, brain cell count and bones less resistant to falls than they once were, and the ease with which bored, lonely or bereaved older people can be tempted.”

“But that's precisely the point. The reason why older people are tempted is because they have more troubles and fewer pleasures than they used to. Few older people are so wealthy that they can float themselves on seas of champagne but most have enough money to have a few drinks and forget about their troubles once in a while. Good for them, I say, and if they happen to fall, may they bounce right back and have another drink for luck.”

When I asked some friends for their reactions I got the full range of responses. One, who is a Clinical Professor at a major medical institution, replied:

“I always find pieces like this problematic. Sure if older people want to drink, why should they be different than anyone else - they should be permitted to drink. But what I wouldn't want to see happen is to unintentionally contribute to the enormous problem of health care services for the elderly being atrocious, especially in the two areas of: mental health, and medication management. Little is known about how medications really work in the elderly-the impact of simple meds, even aspirin, on their bodies is very different, and potentially lethal in combination with other drugs, and/or alcohol. But more troubling is how neglected the emotional and mental health life of seniors is. It’s as though you're either supposed to age as a tough old bird, or a depressed whiner who will slowly closed themselves off from life— the old "disengagement" model of aging. We know that heavy drinking for anyone is a symptom. We just seem to be shamefully uninterested in what it means in the elderly.”

And my very dear, supremely talented friend Leon with whom I have shared many deliriously fun (though perhaps now forgettable) rounds of drinks in our younger days replied that he really didn’t feel that he had a say. “I’ll be falling off a barstool in a few years myself.” But he did urge me to follow up, see what I could find out about older drinkers. What about the issue of driving? What changes in drinking habits between the middle and senior years?

Rachel, who is my age and has her own successful business said, “A drink at the end of the day is quite simply the cherry on the icing on the cake. And some days when it’s hard to find the icing, or the cake, it’s the thing that makes the evening wonderful.”

Wise old sage that he is, our dearest friend whom we call Fairy Godfather returned with a snappy poem:

Reagan to Bush
Reasons to lush
The wine, beer & booze!
What's to lose ?
Who wants to live longer
To see the economy get stronger?
Will it ?
Pour me another
Pity US brother.

And there is always a wag in the bunch that replies: “I'm too drunk to read it.”

My father’s connection to gold was passed on to me and I have often used gold leaf when I was painting in oils on canvas. When I had to clear out the war zone that had become his shop I trekked cautiously over a glassy green field of empty gallon jugs of cheap wine. I saw where his creative life had stopped in unfinished projects covered in dust. A little rusting safe held his store of gold leaf and with not much effort I was able to crowbar the door open. The gold that lay in that safe was transplanted onto a canvas in a portrait of my father, which hangs over my desk. A portrait-in-progress of The Mister’s father will be imbued with that gold.

My father’s connection to drink was also passed on to me. No excuses. I aligned myself with the drunken literary and artistic heroes of my youth and dragged them with me kicking and screaming into adulthood as I fought to maintain a painter’s life and still earn a living. I found reasons everywhere to crack open the bourbon and fight the power: being once young and pretty and rarely given serious consideration from men or women; an alien in my first marriage; flailing in a corporate sea of women with whom I had absolutely nothing in common and everything seemed to anger me from the warped political system to the systematic takeover of entitled outsiders who were (to my mind) ruining my city.

But things change. They have to. The city has changed and I have changed. My wounded heroes remain with me but thanks to, among other things, reading books like one in particular by Linda Leonard, a Jungian analyst who wrote Witness To the Fire; Creativity and the Veil of Addiction, I’m happier to keep them up in the sunlight with me and avoid their darker routes.

Drinking with friends, a good bottle of port paired with carefully chosen cheeses and glistening black olives, or sharing a bottle of wine with The Mister is a pleasure I should not want to lose if I didn’t have to.

I jumped off the train at Bleecker Street looking forward to the meeting with the anti-death penalty people, spending a couple of hours stuffing helpful information into envelopes for incarcerated citizens and adding personal handwritten notes to some. The lure of cherry cheese knishes proved too strong and I ducked into Jonah Schimmels bakery on Houston Street on my way. Waiting my turn at the counter I overheard a delightful exchange between a man whose age and decidedly New York accent reminded me, again, of my father, and the middle-aged, round-faced Russian woman serving him.

“You want the gelt now or later?” he joked with her. “My wife likes everything hot. It’s coming back if it’s not hot.”

The Russian woman smiled wryly with thickly painted red lips, “Oh, it’s hot. It’s very hot.”

A pair of student types dickered beside me, clearly first time customers. Should she have the potato knish? “No”, he chided all lean and spikey-haired, “Yuck—get the spinach.” She protested meekly, “But I think the potato one is the original.” He prevailed and they got two spinach knishes—unheated. Normally this couple would have irritated me no end. I would have ruminated on how NYU was wrecking the heart of this city with entitled young transplants that just don’t get it. But I thought of the little bit of gold I had just been given from a man who reminded me of my father. It was all a gift.

"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul." Mark Twain


Wednesday evening The Mister and I headed uptown to Riverside Church—a congregation that holds strongly against the death penalty—for a program that would include Mr. Thomas Cahill and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Cahill is the author of “A Saint On Death Row: The Story of Dominique Green.” The evening was filled with glorious musical performances and theatrical readings from the book. Thomas Cahill moved us profoundly in his telling of a friendship with Dominique Green and when his voice cracked with emotion, every one of us in the audience felt that same twinge in our hearts. He told of a friend, a former prisoner, who said he had never met a man in prison who had not been beaten by a father or a mother or brutalized in some way as a child. Cahill called prison that dreadful syndrome of man’s inhumanity to man. “If you’ve never been allowed to be a child, you will never become an adult.”

One of four who represented other faiths, a monk who spoke for the New York Buddhist Church, Sensei Nakagaki told of his struggle with America’s embrace of capital punishment. “When I came here and hear so much the word justice, I came to hate the word justice.”

When the elfin, self-deprecating Archbishop rose to the pulpit not a sound was heard in the packed pews of the cavernous church. Desmond Tutu spoke at length in a soft voice that never wavered from its gentleness and never shied from its purpose. He reminded us all that we, as a country, would never be admitted to the European Union which condemns capital punishment, making us, a leader of nations, a crippled outsider.

“Why do you do this when you are such lovely people? This is a mistake you won’t be able to correct. Tough luck? We made a mistake man. Why? Why?”

“What are you doing to yourselves, you wonderful generous people? What are you doing to yourselves? You are such a fantastic bunch of human beings.” And here he interrupted himself to chuckle, that he was not looking for anything from the audience, “…just now.”

“Whether you like it or not,” he continued still tenderly, “you are part of the system and it’s turning you into a violent people. For your own sakes, for the sake of the world: Please, please, please.”

“You destroyed Iraq on the basis of a lie.” The audience rippled with assent. “Reverence for life by taking a life? It’s one of the greatest obscenities. It is making you an obscene nation.”

“Gentleness, compassion, love will make our world a better place.” He looked across the crowd of faces, each upturned gaze riveted on him, and he scolded us tenderly. “You don’t give up on anyone. Please, please, please.”

The Mister and I left with the crowd, hearing his words all the way home: “Please, please, please.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

“Thus conscience does make cowards of us all.” William Shakespeare: Hamlet


Am I a coward?

February was Black History Month and on its designated page in the calendar, below illustrations of African American heroes like Sojourner Truth, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, Shirley Chilsolm and the newest, most notable addition of Barack Obama, there were dates that had scrawled across them challenges to the notion of America as a pot capable of brewing up a racial and ethnic stew that wasn’t too spicy; a recipe of many ingredients that didn’t cause heartburn. Melting pot? Pressure cooker, more like.

There was newly appointed Attorney General Eric Holder’s half-baked remarks surely intended to get a rise out of the population. He declared, “…we are a nation of cowards” on matters of race. “Saturdays and Sundays, America in the year 2009 does not in some ways differ significantly from the country that existed almost 50 years ago. This is truly sad,” said Holder.

To a large segment of the country the idea of a weekend—a Sunday-go-to-church, family ’round the dinner table, kick off your shoes and take a load off and talk about race kind of a weekend—seemed foreign enough. Many American citizens as well as the undocumented laborers have jobs outside the nine-to-five, Monday through Friday constraint: kitchen workers, housekeepers, security guards, actors, doormen, museum workers, nannies, and traveling salespersons to name a few. Many have not spent a Sunday with their families, much less seen the inside of a church, or any religious meeting house for a long, long time because of those schedules. More even than we can take on have no jobs at all, many have no homes, rendering the structure of time and date a job gives them irrelevant as they slip into a despair that has no visible hands on their clocks.

In all fairness Holder’s remarks were delivered before a gainfully employed audience at the Justice Department: “…in things racial we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards….” His contention was that we simply do not talk with each other about race. Actually he said we don’t talk enough with each other about race. We may have voted with each other, flocking in record numbers to voting booths to elect the country’s first black president, but apparently we don’t talk about it. There are those who sabotaged the charge from Holder, like an anonymous blogger who vented online: “I believe that most people who voted for Obama were afraid not to. The word “racist” has a lot of power, and the people who voted for Obama because they were afraid are cowards. So he has a point.” I did not vote for Barack Obama because I was afraid not to. I did not vote for Obama because he was the candidate of my choice—I lost heart when Dennis Kucinich dropped—or was forced—out of the race. Nor did I vote for a ‘Black’ man. I voted for Barack Obama because the last eight years had left the country bruised and sore and the specter of Sarah Palin was harrowing indeed.

I have a conscience. Though I am not exactly sure when my conscience, as such, began to intrude its didactical self and exert pressure on my thoughts concerning right and wrong.

I grew up in a housing project in Astoria. If such a thing is possible I think I grew up mostly around passive racism. We kids called Brazil nuts ‘nigger toes’ with nary a step missed in our Double Dutch rope skipping marathons and though I can’t recall anything about the exact moment, I was still a pre-teen and it was suddenly an awful thing to say. I hula-hooped and knelt on the pavement to flick bottle caps in games of "skelley" with the neighbor kids who were both white and black. If there were race wars in the projects then we didn’t know about them. Neighbors’ doors were left open for kids to wander in and out of, knowing the adult inside—usually the stay-at-home mom—would keep an eye out. The most tension I experienced between the races came from Junior Mosley who delighted in a kind of taunting chant and whenever he saw me would launch into: “Lina-dan-fahta-ga-ah-baw-hed.” (Translation: Linda Danz father’s got a baldhead, which was true.) The most anxiety I experienced period came from the Catholic school girls—all white—who lay in wait for me every morning as I made my way to high school in the city. The oversized black portfolio I carried as an art student was like a red flag to that clique's teased hair, pleated uniform skirts rolled up at the waistline and the cigarette wedged into a snarl and I rose earlier and earlier to avoid them until I guess they just gave up.

In the public school I first attended for a couple of years there was one black classmate in Kindergarten, so I don’t know where the other black kids in my neighborhood went to school. The Lutheran church we belonged to had no black parishioners that I recall and the church school my parents switched me to was also snow white. High school brought me close teen friendships with black girls when I was at Art & Design. It was a racially and economically integrated student/teacher population. I adored that school and was heartbroken when we moved to Hartford, Connecticut for my senior year. Astonishment added to heartbreak on my first day at Hartford Public High School. Approaching the entrance I couldn’t miss a squadron of yellow school busses parked along the curb in front of the school. “How quaint,” I thought—a veteran subway traveler—until the doors of the busses opened to release a swarm of kids, every one of them black. This was my introduction to “bussing.” I made friends with the ‘outsiders’ in the school (aka the art students) and cherish still a moody abstract painting from a black classmate named Hugh.

My father’s most bitter mouthful was saved for pinkos and commies, the ones both real and suspected to be hiding under our beds. No nationality was spared when the guys at the VFW were making jokes that came in waves, like boatloads of immigrants—Italians, Polish, Jews, Germans, Greeks—jokes bandied about by wise-cracking, beer drinking guys who were Italian, Polish, Jewish, German, and Greek. My mother complained bitterly about her job at an insurance company that her black co-workers were out to get her. Pointed racism was most prevalent in my extended family. To Aunt Fran, African Americans were known as “the coloreds.” In her later years I engaged a home aid for her, cringing every time my aunt referred to the competent and caring middle-aged black woman—who seemed to turn a deaf ear—as “the girl.” My paternal grandmother was not thwarted in her insult of Jews even in the presence of The Ex, who merely rolled his eyes. My sister believed I had become “one of them” because I married a Jewish man. The Evangelical aunt in New Jersey seemed to draw from a deep well of overtly racist jokes. And despite the fact that her sons were living deeply closeted in her presence and out in mine, she did not spare the homophobic vitriol. Praise Jesus, have you heard the one about the homo and the rabbi? Before I heard those jokes from her lips I confess to having indulged in a kind of smart alecky bird flip to political correctness (before it was called that) among friends black and white. I suppose I have to thank her for ripping the scales from my eyes. Her eldest son, now dead as is his brother, had a long time companion, as the family knew him. Dan’s last Thanksgiving in New Jersey was memorable mainly for the wide berth the rest of the family gave him in his nearly final battle with AIDS, which we were told was the flu. My sister’s all black cat was named Snicker. At least that’s what I thought until I uncovered a note she left for a neighbor charged with taking care of her cat—named
S’nigger. I was at constant war with family members and felt myself to be a courageous guardian of my cousins’ secrets and a champion of racial equality. When I was old enough, I drank at family gatherings. A lot.

The ex-in-laws, who were Jewish, presented another conundrum. The mother-in-law, a vain, pretentious Park Avenue dame who would readily shove Narcissus from the riverbank for a better look at herself—there was never a shop window she could pass without gazing admiringly at herself—and often reflected aloud that she was sure she could pass for Northern Italian. She was confounded when after she had met one of my friends and smirking conspiratorially, asked if he wasn’t a fag, and I reacted with a righteous anger. She was forced into a ludicrous flummoxing over the origins of the word faggot. ‘Oh, but darling,
it’s a bunch of sticks!’ Blacks were ‘schvartzes’. I was not a woman they would have chosen for their son but she was relieved that I was not a Catholic. Often I was discussed as if I was not in the room, as one does when taking in a deaf mute street urchin. The one time my poor father was invited to their showplace apartment she treated him as ‘the help’, never once calling him by his first name; repeatedly addressing him by his surname. She fairly commanded him to kneel on the marble floor of the foyer to inspect some bit of repair on an antique table while I fumed silently, knowing how hotly embarrassed he would be if I made a scene.

I dated African American men. One evening, sometime in the 70’s, while walking through Central Park at a rapid pace to get somewhere on time and dressed up, my date and I were stopped by two cops in a patrol car. They told us to halt and for my friend to move away from me. Then one of them asked me if everything was all right. As it dawned on me what their motive was, it also dawned on my friend that I could literally explode and he shot me a look that said, “Be cool, fool.” I learned quickly the circumstances in which a black man could be stopped: Driving while black and when a criminal was on the loose then
all black men looked like the suspect and any one man could be pulled from a bus or a subway car for questioning.

When The Mister’s family visited New York for the first time—coming from a small village in Leicestershire—I took them to Brooklyn to kind of decompress from the culture shock of Manhattan. As we made our way through the streets of comfortable garden-fronted brownstones I assumed their inquisitive gazes were taking in the serene beauty of the neighborhood. It was only after some telling comments in a coffee shop—delivered over well done burgers (hold the bun), tea and cigarettes—that it was revealed they had not known so many black people could look so successful.

In the corporate publishing world—a sentence I served for nearly twenty years—the designers, editors, graphic freelance artists, and the bosses were all white. Contact with a black person was in the mailroom, maintenance department, and with the secretaries for the white guys in accounting. Despairing of anything more than the endless rounds of bitching, backbiting, gossiping exchanges with white coworkers that never rose much above the level of comparing notes on films, food or men or other coworkers I jumped at the opportunity extended from one of the secretaries I had become friendly with to be invited to join a book club; their first white member. In no time I was in the middle of endless rounds of bitching, backbiting, gossiping exchanges that never rose much above the level of comparing notes on films, food or men and other book club members.

My then roommate and I were in a group of friends—all white—on the eve of 1987, celebrating the New Year in Harlem at La Famille. The relaxed crowd was mixed, the music jazzy and the atmosphere friendly and mellow. At the close of the band’s performance, the leader (a horn player as I recall) stopped and made a small, pointed but temperate speech. A young black man named Michael Griffith had been attacked by a gang of white men for simply walking through their white neighborhood of Howard Beach in Queens. He was killed by a car when he ran into traffic to save himself. The news coverage was explosive. The bandleader didn’t have to mention this for us to understand when he quietly implored that we think about the fact that certain people can walk into any neighborhood without question. Afterwards, the owner came to our table and apologized profusely, ignored our protestations that we understood completely and told us he had fired the performer.

I asked some friends what their experience of racism had been.

Kalev grew up in a homey enclave on Long Island: “I was discriminated a lot when I was young, usually through epithets like "chink" or "nip". I was physically beaten up by people who thought that I was too uppity (i.e., I was a bit popular with certain girls at North Shore High which resulted in some jealousy). I never felt that my ethnicity was a sign of inferiority, but superiority. Hence, I never took discrimination and racial hatred to be anything less than a confirmation of my superiority over those who attempted to diminish me. I also was a bit naive about it all and never had a crowd of other people like myself around me to re-enforce any ill feeling through group identity with my ugly ethnicity. Of course, when people asked me what my ethnicity was, they were very put off by the fact that I didn't say Chinese or Japanese, but simply Kalmuck and Estonian, two words that no one knew and thus had no ready associations of hatred or discriminatory speech to associate with.”

Isabel wrote from Barcelona that Spain was an isolated country when she was a child. Racism was directed against Gypsies and poor people because there were no Blacks or Asians or very few. “Now racism is against Africans, Equatorians….”

And recently we had as our guest the teenage son of old friends of ours who live in Paris. When I put the question of race to him, he simply shrugged in that noncommittal French manner and said “Abject poverty in Le Banlieue keeps North Africans quiet since the riots because they are beaten. But we
hate the Italians. As we say in France, all the Italians are liars.” And then as if explaining the obvious to a perplexed child he added: The Italians cheated at the World Cup.”
“To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards out of men.” Abraham Lincoln

We have an African American man in the White House. Still, Jesse Jackson got burned by a hot mic and was heard using that disparaging word when he complained that Obama was “…talking down to black people…telling niggers how to behave.” He publicly apologized for what he called a “crude and hurtful” remark. An ugly political cartoon sparked days of protest outside the offices of the New York Post by citizens who did not think the image of a crazed chimp shot dead by two white policemen was not directed at our president. The artist’s tell tale sign of his real racial motive lay in the purposefully placed “Beware of Dog” sign. In a statement published in the newspaper, Rupert Murdoch—the newspaper’s owner—said he wanted to "…personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted."

On a hot summer night on a stoop in Brooklyn I was the only one of a group of friends—apart from The Mister—over the age of thirty, 
way over. I was the only one of the females who was not in some stage of pregnancy or early motherhood. I was the only native New Yorker. And at some point I listened as the conversation turned to the idea of New York seceding from the United States because we were different from (read: better than) the rest of the country, where presumably most of them had come from.

Those differences will be played down even more since the Pentagon has relaxed its ban on media coverage of returning U.S. war dead by allowing families to decide whether to allow photos and television footage. Red, white and blue will be the only colors draped over the identical gray coffins.

And I suppose we can take heart that advertising has solved the racial quandary and will come to the rescue—via the children—with a new campaign for Play-Doh, making even the Ku Klux Klan adorable.