Iconic things I have grown tired of

“a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual”

imsotiredParticularly in the past year or two, there are certain songs, a famous speech, and a cliched term that I have grown tired of. I feel as though that saying so is almost a betrayal of the culture.

There are songs played/sung too often. This includes Imagine, the John Lennon song, played whenever we have a “Can’t we just get along” moment. Gal Gadot admits her cover was in “poor taste.”

Leonard Cohen’s great song Hallelujah is another. I’m partial to the version by k.d. lang, but there are others. I don’t even watch music competition shows on TV. But when I flick through the channels, someone is emoting that song. A 50-year moratorium would be nice; OK, 20 – give another generation a chance to rediscover it.

Also on the list is the hymn Amazing Grace. This is definitely a COVID thing. I ADORE Amazing Grace, especially Aretha’s version. Yet, after too many deaths, from disease, disasters, and other tragedies, it’s become the go-to song. And not always done well. I could use a break from it. Sacrilege, I know. Though when it’s played on bagpipes, it STILL gets to me; go figure.

Promissory note

I’ve said this before, but it’s the “I Have a Dream” speech by MLK. (sigh.) No, not the WHOLE speech. “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.” Good stuff.

Or, “In a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

“It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.”

The summer of our discontent

Or “This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality… Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.”

That’s all in the first third of the address. Instead, all we hear is the ending. Specifically, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

To that end, the takeaway by too many is that we’re all now equal, those who were born on third base and those in the on-deck circle with a broken bat. No, one can’t talk about the latter part without fixing the former. (n.b., we ain’t there yet.)

Free speech

The term “cancel culture” has, to my mind, been rendered meaningless. The culture has always “canceled” people, whether it be Hester Prynn in fiction or Copernicus in real life. It is almost “them” doing the canceling, whereas when “we” do it, it is to create “standards.”

As this article states, “Cancel culture is built into the fabric of documenting history. Implicit in the phrase ‘those in power write the history books’ is the notion that stories, victories, and pain of everyone but the winners are erased or greatly diminished.”

In my lifetime, there was a group called the John Birch Society. Its critics, such as old-line conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. and the magazine National Review, considered it a fringe organization element of the movement. They were certainly “canceled”, in modern parlance.

Yet, Politico noted in 2017, The JBS is back. “Bircher ideas, once on the fringe, are increasingly commonplace in today’s GOP and espoused by friends in high places. And the group is ready to make the most of it.”  And has. 

If so virulent an organization has become the “mainstream”, then “cancel culture” is, at best, not nearly as monolithic as some have suggested.

“Content of their character”

History is not a feel-good story

I know that I have railed against people using literally one line from one Martin Luther King, Jr. speech out of context. You have heard it, a lot. “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

This was, obviously to me, an aspiration. I came across an article from 2013, a half-century after the speech, which addressed a cultural debate.

“The meaning of King’s monumental quote is more complex today than in 1963 because ‘the unconscious signals have changed,” says the historian Taylor Branch, author of the acclaimed trilogy ‘America in the King Years.’

“Fifty years ago, bigotry was widely accepted. Today, Branch says, even though prejudice is widely denounced, many people unconsciously pre-judge others.

“‘Unfortunately race in American history has been one area in which Americans kid themselves and pretend to be fair-minded when they really are not,’ says Branch, whose new book is ‘The King Years: Historic Moments in the Civil Rights Movement.'”

Two of King’s children, Martin III and Bernice, offered similar sentiments.

The “real” anti-racists?

Conversely, “Conservatives feel they have embraced that quote completely. They are the embodiment of that quote but get no credit for doing it,” says the author of the article [in the RightWingNews.com blog], John Hawkins. ‘Liberals like the idea of the quote because it’s the most famous thing Martin Luther King said, but they left the principles behind the quote behind a long time ago.'”

For me, the latter sentiment suggests, not only have we’ve all been to the mountaintop, but that we’ve gotten to the Promised Land. This is a reference to MLK’s speech in Memphis the day before he was assassinated. He says, “I MAY NOT GET THERE WITH YOU.” We had not, and have not, yet overcome.

Jim Crow

So how do we assess this conundrum? We look at the data. And I’ve suggested before that we set aside slavery in the discussion because most people agree; Slavery Was Bad. (And those who think otherwise… well, I’ve got nothing.)

By looking at it, we see the failure of the 40 acres and a mule to come to fruition. And 4000 lynchings of black people, often as public spectacles; let’s have a picnic! Voter suppression still happens today. Property loss from New Deal policies that didn’t apply to black people to the GI Bill that didn’t apply to black people to roads going through neighborhoods where black people lived. Oh, and mass incarceration. And why Black Lives Matter. (RIP, Trayvon Martin. Ten years gone.)

Or we can talk about the lack of black representation in many areas and not just NFL ownership.

There is evidence that the information is easily retrievable. But we can’t talk about this because it might make us “uncomfortable. It especially might make our poor, innocent children, “uncomfortable.” So we build boogie men, such as Critical Race Theory, and shut down discussions about race. Because we’re all equal now.

And while we’re at it, let’s not talk about gay people or transgender people or the Holocaust because, if we do THAT, it’ll be traumatic for our children! (I’m talking about YOU, Florida.)

Jaquandor

I’m recommending a post by Kelly Sedinger, which he wrote at the end of February 2022. It’s titled “History is not a feel-good story.” And touches on some of the issues I’ve addressed here. It links to a very good John Oliver video on the wringing of hands over CRT.

Kelly notes, correctly: “History isn’t about feeling bad or feeling good. History is about learning what we’ve done, the good and the bad, so we can make better decisions later.” OR we can just ostrich our way through life.

The death of a public figure

Ask Arthur Anything response

Harvey Milk.George Moscone
Harvey Milk and George Moscone

For Arthur’s Ask Arthur Anything feature – I wonder where he got THAT idea? – I asked him one or two questions. One was “Other than Nigel [his late husband], whose death did you most mourn? Also what death of a public figure most affected you?” I’m going to focus on the latter.

Arthur wrote: “Two deaths affected me well afterward: Harvey Milk’s assassination in 1978 and Matthew Shepard’s murder twenty years later.” And it is true for me as well.

At the time, I thought Harvey Milk was the “other guy”, a city councilman killed along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone by colleague Dan White. This happened only a short time after the Jonestown massacre, in which a large number of Bay Area residents died, traumatizing the community. Congressman Leo Ryan was also murdered in Guyana, tearfully announced by Moscone.

But by the time I saw the 2008 film Milk, I knew how important Harvey’s leadership was in LGBTQ+ rights. And that he went to school at the University at Albany.

I discussed Matthew Shepard in a comparison with Emmett Till, about whom I’ve written often. “Neither victim was a publicly known person; they weren’t activists in their respective civil rights struggles. Yet because Emmett’s mother had his battered body photographed in an open casket, because we saw the fence upon which Matthew was symbolically crucified, they were remembered nationally far beyond how the average murder victim is recalled.”

And yes, I protested in Albany against a certain ‘religious” Hate group, which came to town some years ago to complain about Laramie Project performances.

Dead musicians

Unlike John Lennon’s assassination, which hit me immediately, George Harrison’s death didn’t have the same instant impact. I knew he was dying. It was after 9/11; in fact, he was on the cover of TIME magazine in late November 2001, the first cover that wasn’t about 9/11 or Afghanistan in a couple of months. As I played George’s music, and later, when I heard the  Concert For George, his passing developed a greater resonance.

Sometimes, I’ll point out to Brian Ibbott, host of the podcast Coverville, which music stars had birthdays the following month that were divisible by five. I noted that David Bowie would have been 75 on January 8, 2022. Someone commented, “There hasn’t been a David Bowie cover story since the tribute in 2016. January 10 will also be the sixth anniversary of this sad day. So, please!”

Weird thing. I was recently watching that bit with Bowie and Bing Crosby on the latter’s holiday special. You know, the one with the fascinating dialogue. I was thinking, “Crosby died [on October 14, 1977] before that thing aired.” And suddenly, I realized, “Bowie’s dead too!” This is obviously something I knew intellectually since I had written about it more than once. Yet it took me by surprise and made me quite sad.

I’d count Prince, especially since my niece Rebecca Jade started singing with Sheila E. in 2017, and they cover so many of his songs. They both appeared in the televised Let’s Go Crazy — An All-Star Grammy Salute 2020, with Sheila as a musical director.

Martin

The person, though, whose death has hit me more at a later date is Martin Luther King, Jr. I remember when he died in 1968. However, I’ve learned SO much more about him subsequently. I’ve tried to make a point in the past decade to write about him every year around the dates of his birth (January 15) and death (April 4).

This is particularly true since certain people have hijacked his message into simplistic tropes. I wrote in 2013, What Would Martin Do, which is pretty representational of what I’ve been going for.

There are many others. For instance, several late entertainers and athletes I’ve admired, from Ella Fitzgerald to Hank Aaron, who had to endure Jim Crow.

Coincidentally, the very same day Arthur debuted the aforementioned post, Kelly shared For Carrie,  noting Carrie Fisher, gone five years. It’s worth checking out.

January rambling: dn ǝpᴉs ʇɥƃᴉɹ

Ameristan

The UN Security Council’s Counterterrorism Committee says there’s been a 320 percent increase in right-wing terrorism globally in the five years prior to 2020.

Confronting Two Crises: The COVID-19 Pandemic, the Opioid Epidemic, and the IH by Jonathan Rosen and Peter Harnett.

Martin Luther King Jr. Defended Democracy Against Racism and So Must We.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali’s Surprising Secret Friendship.

The Quest to Unearth One of America’s Oldest Black Churches. First Baptist Church was founded in secret in 1776. It’s been hidden under a parking lot in Colonial Williamsburg for decades—a metaphor for the failures of archaeology and American history.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom draws a direct line from the Bible to the blues.

Why Do People Keep Going to Church? — Even during a pandemic, it’s important to realize why worship is essential.

Lost touch: how a year without hugs affects our mental health

The Sycamore Tree – John Green.

There’s a right and wrong way to be bored.

The Happiness Project: Finding Joy in Tough Times.

NOVA  – Secrets in our DNA.

parts-of-the-skeleton-in-the-closet
From https://wronghands1.com/2021/01/08/parts-of-the-skeleton-in-the-closet/

Wikipedia at 20: last gasp of an internet vision, or a beacon to a better future?

The Orwellian Misuse of Orwellian.

JEOPARDY!: Ken Jennings Get Trolled by a Recent Contestant and the Guest Hosts Scheduled in 2021 So Far.

The Hollywood Con Queen Who Scammed Aspiring Stars Out of Hundreds of Thousands.

The best Gibson guitars were made by the ‘Kalamazoo Gals’.

Now I Know: The Imagination Library and The Blessing of Overpriced  Orange Juice and A Bridge With Some Firepower and The Bridge That’ll Flip You and Why Harriet and Duncan Weren’t Allowed in Iceland and The Internet Scammer Who Won.

What makes for a good flag!

dn ǝpᴉs ʇɥƃᴉɹ, created by the upsidedown text site.

ON THE WAY OUT

One Last Trump Dump, all of the folks he insulted on Twitter; why it’s clear Biden won; his campaign promise tally; the full list of the last-minute pardons; and more

Chomsky: Coup Attempt Hit Closer to Centers of Power Than Hitler’s 1923 Putsch.

Ameristan: Did He Bring the War Home?

Republican House members who voted for impeachment: Liz Cheney (WY), Anthony Gonzalez (OH), Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA), John Katko (NY), Adam Kinzinger (IL), Peter Meijer (MI), Dan Newhouse (WA), Tom Rice (SC), Fred Upton (MI), David Valadao (CA)

US Reaches Grim Milestone of 400K COVID Deaths.

Never Happens Here – Lincoln Project.

Jaquandor: Dear 45.

Cartoon: The end of an error.

Yes, He Can Be Convicted by the Senate After January 20.

Music

Seasons of Trump – Randy Rainbow.

With a Song in Her Heart – Laura Benanti as Melania.

One Day More  – James Corden.

Bye Bye Bloatus – Rufus Wainwright.

K-Chuck Radio: Some 45s  for 45

Right side up!

Transcript of Amanda Gorman’s inaugural poem

Joe Biden: “We Must End This Uncivil War”

Executive Order on Ensuring a Lawful and Accurate Enumeration and Apportionment Pursuant to the Decennial Census

Executive Order: 1776 commission rescinded.

I watched this year for Nigel.  

Enjoy the world’s greatest palindrome: 1 20 2021

MORE MUSIC

I Need You – Jon Batiste.

Fanfare on Amazing Grace composed by Adolphus Hailstork.

A Musical  from Something’s Rotten.

I Say A Little Prayer – H.E.R.

Coverville 1342: The Madness Cover Story II and 1343: The Motels and Sam Cooke Cover Stories.

Close To You – MonaLisa Twins.

Seasons of Love – Broadway stars.

MLK: When Peace Becomes Obnoxious

If peace means… I don’t want it.

MLK 1956
Per the Smithsonian: 2008-2128, Photographer- Addison N. Scurlock, 1883-1964, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. at Howard University, December 1956, from 4″ x 5″ silver gelatin on cellouse acetate bw film
When Peace Becomes Obnoxious was a sermon delivered on 18 March 1956 at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church by Martin Luther King, Jr. This is roughly the second half.

“In a very profound passage which has been often misunderstood, Jesus utters this: He says, ‘Think not that I am come to bring peace. I come not to bring peace but a sword.’ Certainly, He is not saying that He comes not to bring peace in the higher sense. What He is saying is: ‘I come not to bring this peace of escapism, this peace that fails to confront the real issues of life, the peace that makes for stagnant complacency.’

“Then He says, ‘I come to bring a sword’ not a physical sword. Whenever I come, a conflict is precipitated between the old and the new, between justice and injustice, between the forces of light and the forces of darkness. I come to declare war over injustice. I come to declare war on evil. Peace is not merely the absence of some negative force—war, tension, confusion, but it is the presence of some positive force—justice, goodwill, the power of the kingdom of God.

Peace, peace, when there is no peace

“I had a long talk with a man the other day about this bus situation [the Montgomery boycott]. He discussed the peace being destroyed in the community, the destroying of good race relations. I agree that it is more tension now. But peace is not merely the absence of this tension, but the presence of justice. And even if we didn’t have this tension, we still wouldn’t have positive peace. Yes, it is true that if the Negro accepts his place, accepts exploitation and injustice, there will be peace. But it would be a peace boiled down to stagnant complacency, deadening passivity, and if peace means this, I don’t want peace.

1) If peace means accepting second-class citizenship, I don’t want it.
2) If peace means keeping my mouth shut in the midst of injustice and evil, I don’t want it.
3) If peace means being complacently adjusted to a deadening status quo, I don’t want peace.
4) If peace means a willingness to be exploited economically, dominated politically, humiliated, and segregated, I don’t want peace. So in a passive, non-violent manner, we must revolt against this peace.

“Jesus says in substance, I will not be content until justice, goodwill, brotherhood, love, yes, the Kingdom of God are established upon the earth. This is real peace–a peace embodied with the presence of positive good. The inner peace that comes as a result of doing God’s will.”

Part of the problem

My blogger buddy Thom Wade wrote this some months ago, after George Floyd’s death: “It is frustrating to watch fellow white people constantly appeal to MLK while using the very arguments used to condemn him to condemn protesters today. I remember how some folks responded to non-violent protests just a few years ago. It was not good enough. Some people in my own friend and family sphere posted disdain for athletes peacefully kneeling. No form of protest was appropriate or good enough.

“When MLK was marching peacefully, he was met with gas and beatings. He was ultimately murdered. And you are going to complain NOW? When you would not listen before? When no protest was good enough for you? You are part of the problem. Crying out for peace when peace was not good enough over the past several years? I look at this city and my heart breaks. Mainly because people want to decry the results of their unwillingness to face the problem.”

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