The month of February has been designated annually (since 1976) as Black History Month in the United States. In his proclamation address announcing the designation, President Ronald Reagan noted: “understanding the history of Black Americans is a key to understanding the strength of our nation.” Indeed. In 2019, the Census Bureau estimated the Black population to be about 48 million individuals, approximately 15% of the entire US population. This year’s theme focuses on the Black family. It’s fitting to honor Black Americans whose presence has enriched our country.
During our childhood, my brothers and I often played Cowboys and Indians. (This was an era before political correctness.) One of our favorite heroes was The Lone Ranger, a fictional character who (with his Native American sidekick Tonto) fought against injustice. The Lone Ranger wore a mask. At the end of each episode, the Lone Ranger and Tonto rode off on their horses as another minor character would ask: Who was that masked man?
Back then, only criminals and thugs wore masks … for concealment. In stark contrast, the Lone Ranger’s mask represented good. When people needed his help, they’d initially greet the masked man with suspicion, believing his mask signified evil intent. Though the mask concealed his identity, it also served as a warning to bad guys. They recoiled in fear knowing this legendary masked man was determined to uncover their evil deeds and throw them in jail. Preferring anonymity to fight lawbreakers, the Lone Ranger embodied silver-bullet dedication by serving law-abiding individuals selflessly.
The recent passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has elicited reams of commentary on her life and her legacy. Recognizing the deep affection she had for fellow Justice Antonin Scalia (who died in 2016), I could respect how two esteemed colleagues from divergent philosophical backgrounds remained close friends.
The day after Ginsburg’s death, Harper’s Bazaar reposted a piece (originally published in January 2019) describing the Justice as “our feminist hero,”“a towering force to be reckoned with,” and “a pop-culture sensation.”NPR (online) described her as a “Champion of Gender Equality” and a “demure firebrand.”The Brennan Center for Justice was equally effusive: “small, mighty, relentless and unforgiving.”
When my parents married in January 1946 after the briefest of courtships, there would have been an ample supply of newlywed adjustments for both. This union was the joining of two individuals from vastly different backgrounds.
My dad’s forebears were mostly no-nonsense, hard-working midwestern people of German descent. Upon arriving in the US, Dad’s grandfather had settled in St. Louis. He and his family led lives of predictability – work, family, church, work some more – with few distractions or embellishments. They were ordinary folks leading quiet lives.
In contrast, my mom’s east-coast (Philadelphia) upbringing turned her into an independent, free spirit, a woman eager to embrace the waiting world. From age six (when Mom entered boarding school), familial attachments had mostly evaporated; only her mother remained and mother-daughter visits were infrequent. Living at school was doubtless a happy and wholesome environment, but sans family. Continue reading “Driving Miss Ruthe”→
“Every day has been as dark or darker than the previous one.” So says the opening paragraph of Jeffrey A. Tucker’s recent post on lockdowns. Tucker notes a host of concerns (some economic and others emotional) causing stress levels to rise beyond the breaking point. The oft-used catch-phrase “we’re all in this together” (an absurd bromide, if you ask me) seems woefully inadequate for individuals crushed by loneliness or economic disaster (or both). Aloneness tends to produce dark days with the potential to become darker.
Search the internet and observe the number of pandemic-related stories highlighting dramatic increases of both drug overdose and suicide rates. The dismal details are distressing enough to turn one’s perfectly sunny day into clouds and rain! Continue reading “Locking Down Hope”→
Almost a decade ago, I launched this blog. The nameplate has changed slightly but my general high regard for Flannery O’Connor (from whom the blog name was admittedly plucked) hasn’t diminished. I don’t recall our first meeting (in the pages of a book), but my philosophy as a young writer was partly formed thanks to her insights.
Her book Mystery and Manners set in motion my lifelong interest. I borrowed the book from the library. We were casual acquaintances then. By the due-date, I realized I couldn’t relinquish the book! In those pre-Amazon days, I scrambled to find a hard copy to purchase but found none.
As a last resort, I located a photocopier and proceeded to copy over 200 pages, dime by dime. (The above photo shows that well-worn copy.) I omitted the first chapter (21 pages) which relates O’Connor’s tale “The King of the Birds.” It was an amusing story but not worth the extra buck. Continue reading “A Peculiar Crossroads”→
Experts. We rely on them. We make life choices based on the advice of experts. Before having a vehicle/appliance/roof/computer repaired, we consult the expert, someone who by reputation has achieved a level of knowledge and expertise worthy of respect. In fact, we so highly value their abilities, we pay them.
We crave the wisdom of medical experts. A highly-respected figure who’s both a physician and immunologist, for instance, would logically command attention and even admiration. Or a government official (less an expert but we listen nonetheless) may yield information worthy of consideration.
Unfortunately, mistakes happen. A physician could remove your leg instead of your appendix. Your computer guru could delete 30,000 emails instead of a virus on the hard drive. (It could actually happen!) In the real world, human beings – yes, even experts – can be miserably inept. Continue reading “Educated Opinions”→
Here we are … 8, 10, 12 weeks in with this crazy (and seriously overheated, if I may offer my personal opinion) pandemic. Have you enjoyed this bizarre social experiment as much as I have? (Granted, one of my last posts noted my comfortability with self-isolating.)
It’s been relatively easy for me to follow the guidelines. We live in a state where stay-at-home recommendations (for the most part) were modest, mostly respectful to sensible adults listening and heeding medical and government guidelines. Truth be told, my Beloved has trudged off to work every single day. It’s what he does.
Still, we’re adjusting here. And the good news I’ve been reading about – seemingly everywhere – is that rioting, looting and pillaging cures the spread of COVID-19! It certainly takes the spotlight off all the dreary predictions and public shaming (when someone isn’t wearing a mask … or sin-of-sins, failing to maintain proper distancing).
Long after a range of normalcy is restored across the world, the awful effects of COVID-19 will remain. So many individuals have lost their livelihoods and scores of businesses have been crippled beyond return. I’m no doctor, but even I can see this virus will go down in history beyond the number of people who died from the disease itself. I can’t help but think of its long-lasting psychological impact on children.
Further, the ease with which government encroached on personal liberties was stunning. (If that doesn’t bother you, maybe take some time to read the US Constitution.) Measles, influenza and smallpox were serious concerns for the founding fathers, but somehow they managed to secure our nation and enumerate certain rights of citizens … despite the numerous health challenges they encountered.
Don’t misunderstand, I know the virus was (and remains) a notable threat, especially for elderly folks with other health complications. As various states continue to transition through phases of re-opening, I’m optimistic we’ll see states and the country as a whole flourish and regain some economic and spiritual wholeness. But please, let’s not forget the essential freedoms previous generations fought and died to uphold; let’s hold them close, close enough we won’t let go.
In the meantime, a sonnet reflecting my thoughts on the lock-down.
Stir-crazy yet? Some people have more tolerance than others, I know. Still, more and more people are expressing similar frustration: how long must this go on?
As I read back through old posts, I was reminded we’ve been here before. Back in October 2014, it was Ebola, another virus of considerable risk. At that time, my concerns centered on my elderly mother as well as my mother-in-law who passed away in 2017. Right now it’s my mom (now in her 94th year) who remains foremost in my thoughts. Continue reading “Been There, Done That”→
In mid-March, a group of celebrities posted an online video singing their rendition of John Lennon’s classic song Imagine. The stated purpose was to “raise morale” as the Covid-19 pandemic spread across the globe. (Their effort was not well-received.)
In the midst of this situation, imagination isn’t our primary aim. Reality reminds us daily we’re smack-dab in a real-life global pandemic. Things changed overnight. People died and countless others have been hastily quarantined. We don’t have to imagine grocery shelves picked clean nor the bewilderingly low supply of items like toilet paper and paper towels.
With amazing prescience, Netflix released (on January 22, 2020) a 6-episode docu-series titled, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak. Though I haven’t watched it yet (too soon), I’ll probably do so eventually. One reviewer called it “visually stunning” and “a great piece of storytelling.” The series features caregivers who work the front lines when crisis occurs.
Since the dawn of time, mankind has faced disasters, some caused by disease, famine or flood. However, if there’s anyone with personal experience in dire circumstances, the biblical record of God’s prophet, Elijah the Tishbite, lays it out perfectly in I Kings 17. Continue reading “Imagine”→