“. . . in our brokenness thrives life, thrives light, thrives the essence of our strength. . .” (Jimmy Santiago Baca)

The Supremes

The Supremes

So. This was the big day. The day a certain portion of society has been awaiting for thousands of years (hyperbole, vanity, or fact?). The showdown between Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsberg. A moment of truth.

One more tempest in a teapot cooled.

In the year 2000, I predicted well in advance that Dick Cheney would somehow manage to steal the election for himself and George Bush. I had read the “Project for a New American Century.” Leading up to the election I emailed friends about it, and they all said, “Oh yadda, yadda, yadda. Don’t take stuff like that so seriously.”

Does anyone remember who was in charge of choosing Dick Cheney as W. Bush’s running-mate?

In July 2000, after serving as the head of then-Texas Governor George W. Bush’s vice presidential search committee, Dick Cheney was announced as the Republican vice presidential nominee. As the vice presidential vetter, Cheney required at least 11 potential candidates to fill out “an extraordinarily detailed, 83-question form” delving into their backgrounds.

Bush’s staff assured the press at the time that Cheney “subjected himself to the same kind of scrutiny” as the other contenders. But a new book by Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman reveals that Cheney “never filled out his own questionnaire.”

“Of the twenty-five people who signed the PNAC’s founding statement of principles, ten went on to serve in the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Paul Wolfowitz.”

And then came Afghanistan and Iraq and all manner of other disasters.

While researching something unrelated, I came across an article by Nilay Saiya, “Onward Christian Soldiers: American Dispensationalists, George W. Bush and the Middle East.” Holy Land Studies: A Multidisciplinary Journal (Edinburgh University Press) 11.2 (2012): 175-204.

That led me (as only a committed researcher—remember, I’m a musicologist at the core—would be led) to an article by Frank Summers, “Violence in American Foreign Policy: A Psychoanalytic Approach.” International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies 6.4 (2009): 300-320.

And that led me to Maria Ryan’s article, ““Exporting Democracy”? Neoconservatism and the Limits of Military Intervention, 1989-2008.” Diplomacy & Statecraft 21.3 (2010): 491-515.

There are more. I’m going to figure out how to post all of them as an annotated bibliography of articles about how we got to where we are as a people (or are we a “people?”)..
Scalia and Wuerl

But back to the great cooling of the teapot today. In point of fact, I never wandered from the subject. It’s all of a piece. Those guys that Dick Cheney got into W. Bush’s cabinet were able to choose two members of the Supreme Court. Well, they didn’t, exactly. W. Bush himself did that, presumably. But if Dick Cheney appointed himself Vice-President, don’t you think he had some influence there?

Those two are Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito. Together they cemented the most monolithic majority the Court has ever known: five conservative Roman Catholic men. They vote in lock-step as consistently as any Court majority ever has—way more than most.

And they’re going to decide, based on arguments they heard today, if marriage is a civil right or a religious privilege.

Guess.

I wonder if they’ve ever read any of Jimmy Santiago Baca’s poetry.

“What is Broken Is What God Blesses,” by Jimmy Santiago Baca (b.1952)

The lover’s footprint in the sand
the ten-year-old kid’s bare feet
in the mud picking chili for rich growers,
not those seeking cultural or ethnic roots,
but those whose roots
have been exposed, hacked, dug up and burned
and in those roots
do animals burrow for warmth;
what is broken is blessed,
not the knowledge and empty-shelled wisdom
paraphrased from textbooks,
not the mimicking nor plaques of distinction
nor the ribbons and medals
but after the privileged carriage has passed
the breeze blows traces of wheel ruts away
and on the dust will again be the people’s broken
footprints.
What is broken God blesses,
not the perfectly brick-on-brick prison
but the shattered wall
that announces freedom to the world,
proclaims the irascible spirit of the human
rebelling against lies, against betrayal,
against taking what is not deserved;
the human complaint is what God blesses,
our impoverished dirt roads filled with cripples,
what is broken is baptized,
the irreverent disbeliever,
the addict’s arm seamed with needle marks
is a thread line of a blanket
frayed and bare from keeping the man warm.
We are all broken ornaments,
glinting in our worn-out work gloves,
foreclosed homes, ruined marriages,
from which shimmer our lives in their deepest truths,
blood from the wound,
broken ornaments—
when we lost our perfection and honored our imperfect sentiments, we were
blessed.
Broken are the ghettos, barrios, trailer parks where gangs duel to death,
yet through the wretchedness a woman of sixty comes riding her rusty bicycle,
we embrace
we bury in our hearts,
broken ornaments, accused, hunted, finding solace and refuge
we work, we worry, we love
but always with compassion
reflecting our blessings—
in our brokenness
thrives life, thrives light, thrives
the essence of our strength,
each of us a warm fragment,
broken off from the greater
ornament of the unseen,
then rejoined as dust,
to all this is.

Jimmy Santiago Baca was born in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on January 2, 1952. Abandoned by his parents at the age of two, he lived with one of his grandparents for several years before being placed in an orphanage. He wound up living on the streets, and at the age of twenty-one he was convicted on charges of drug possession and incarcerated. He served six years in prison, four of them in isolation. During this time, Baca taught himself to read and write, and he began to compose poetry. A fellow inmate convinced him to submit some of his poems to Mother Jones magazine, then edited by Denise Levertov. Levertov printed Baca’s poems and began corresponding with him, eventually finding a publisher for his first book. (More. . .)
GAY MARRIAGE OPPONENT HOLDS SIGN IN PROTEST OUTSIDE STATEHOUSE

“Life isn’t fair, but government absolutely must be.” (Ann Richards)

The Supremes

The Supremes

In a scene of the original stage musical Hair, three black women in identical pink sequined dresses stood together and sang “White boys are so pretty” as a parody of the Supremes (the song was too controversial to be in the film version). At the end of the song they stepped apart to reveal they were in one large dress with three neck holes.

Listen up, Texans. It’s time to take a stand.

This state’s election of smug, pseudo-conservative (read: “selfish”), old, (presumably) straight white men to all of the statewide offices is no reason to shirk our duty.

Everyone knows the Texas voter ID law is un-Constitutional. A court said so. And then Antonin Scalia and his old Catholic men friends on the Supreme Court essentially said, “So what?”

On October 9, 2014, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos held that

. . . [Texas] S.B. 14 creates an unconstitutional burden on the right to vote, has an impermissible discriminatory effect against Hispanics and African-Americans, and was imposed with an unconstitutional discriminatory purpose. . . . The Court further holds that SB 14 constitutes an unconstitutional poll tax.

On October 19, the Supremes—dancing in their one-dress-fits-five à la Hair—struck down her ruling. Every time the five old Catholic men on the Supreme Court hand down one of their rulings without benefit of female or Protestant points of view, that image from Hair comes to my mind, the five of them in one sequined dress singing, “White boys are delicious.”

OK. I know that’s disrespectful. And please don’t say I’m being anti-Catholic or something. I’m simply amazed that the Supreme Court has a 6-3 majority (all of the men and one of the women) representing one segment (and not the majority) of our population.

Of course, a ruling by a Hispanic woman judge could not stand. Especially one appointed by President Obama.

The Supremes

The Supremes

I’m not a Constitutional scholar and can’t explain details of the universal right to vote of Americans. Please go to this article for details (Douglas, Joshua A. “The Right to Vote Under State Constitutions.” Vanderbilt Law Review 67.1 [2014]: 89-149). The discussion of Federal Constitutional rights is pages 95-101. The rest of the article explains the rights guaranteed under the various state constitutions.

(Don’t be put off if you have never read a law review article. It’s clear and easy to read—and you’ll be surprised how knowledgeable you feel when you’ve finished. Read only the five pages I’ve suggested, and you will know all you need to know.)

Those of us who care about the Constitution and our rights guaranteed under it can and MUST make our voices heard.
In Texas that’s easy: When you go to vote and the election clerks ask you for more ID than is necessary, show your IDs, but tell them you want to file a protest. They will give you a form (if they don’t have one, that’s cause for another protest).

In my protest I said that being asked for more personal information than is necessary is a violation of my right to vote under the Federal Constitution, detailed in the 15th Amendment and made universal in the 14th Amendment.

Public announcement, Mineola, Texas, 1939

Public announcement, Mineola, Texas, 1939

Fill it out. Give it to them or take it home and mail it.

Spread the word. Let the state know through this legal protest what you think of the law.

My friend Rita Clark of Dallas, who was an election clerk at a polling place in the last election (the first to use the draconian law), sent me this email detailing the effect of the Jim Crow law. Notice particularly the last paragraph. Even a former election clerk needs investigation.

Harold – You are so right! I worked as an election clerk in the last election and I was so distressed by what I saw happen to authentically registered voters that I decided I’d never take that job again. At least (I didn’t make a precise count) 12 to 15 voters were sent away from our polling place due to some perceived discrepancy in their voting registration or other ridiculous “error.” Of that number, at least four of them were elderly, had problems walking, but somehow, on walkers, made their way to the front desk only to be told they could not vote that day – some said they had been registered at the same address for 50 years – some were just too distressed by the whole ordeal that they left promising never to try again.
I’ve been working on a couple of campaigns this year and when I encounter people out in the neighborhoods they often say they won’t be voting because of the “hassle” or (I suspect) because they “don’t look American.” I am so disappointed in our “democracy.” I’ll continue working on the campaigns this time but I don’t know if I can do it again.
I voted yesterday – and Yep! they had to call downtown to clear me – didn’t like my registration info – I’ve never had it happen before. I really don’t know how we got in such a deep hole with this. I think we’ll hear more stories as the election goes along. The heroes of this story are the people with “foreign-sounding” last names and those who have a certain look—and they still go to vote! God bless those brave folks!
Thanks for sending your suggestion. I’m going to see if I can file a protest today.
Rita Clarke

You can join the group I’ve started on Facebook. But whatever you do. . .

PLEASE ASK YOUR FRIENDS TO FILE PROTESTS WHEN THEY VOTE!

“. . . the outcry of old beauty Whored by pimping merchants. . . “ (a short poetry lesson)

A Nike sweatshop, China. The flunkeys and their Crash.

A Nike sweatshop, China. The flunkeys and their Crash.

Stephen Crane was born in 1871 and died in 1900. Americans who attended public high schools before 1971 read his Civil War novel, The Red Badge of Courage (1895), a realistic picture of war by a man who never saw war. His Maggie—A Girl of the Streets (1893), is the earliest novel in the “American Realist” tradition.

A few days ago someone mentioned Red Badge to me, and I realized I remember it only vaguely. In about 1995 I read Maggie for a graduate seminar at UTD with Professor Harvey Graff in the history of childhood in America.
I Googled Crane thinking I might get Nook versions of his novels and read them again—they’re simply written and short! I ran into Crane’s poetry, to which I had never paid attention—an obvious oversight.

Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetry, on the other hand, I read quite often. Ferlinghetti, last of the “Beat Generation” poets still living, was born in 1919. At 95 he writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Observer and still helps run City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. Crane was one of the “modern” poets when Ferlinghetti was in high school.

The impact of a million dollars
Is a crash of flunkeys,
And yawning emblems of Persia
Cheeked against oak, France and a sabre,
The outcry of old beauty
Whored by pimping merchants
To submission before wine and chatter.
Silly rich peasants stamp the carpets of men,
Dead men who dreamed fragrance and light
Into their woof, their lives (Stephen Crane).

The impact of a million dollars is to create a “crash of flunkeys” (crash: a plain-weave fabric of rough, irregular, or lumpy yarns; flunkey: “a person who performs menial tasks”); that is, the impact of a million dollars is to create a rough or utilitarian fabric of people who perform menial tasks.

The menial task these “flunkeys” perform is to create “yawning emblems.” This “fabric” of menial laborers creates a “fabric” of phony Persian carpets, the “outcry of old beauty, Whored by pimping merchants to submission before wine and chatter.” The reproduction of old beauty (“yawning emblems”), rather than making something beautiful, prostitutes both the workers and their phony Persian rugs.

The merchants who own the means of producing these yawning emblems and who sell them are pimps.

Mark Parker, the pimping merchant

Mark Parker, the pimping merchant

The flunkeys are dead men who “dreamed” that the fabric of their lives would be “fragrance and light.” It is not.

In a poem for UNESCO World Poetry Day, March 21, 2001, which he read at UNESCO’s celebration at Delphi of the prophetic in poetry, Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote

Great Oracle, sleeping through the centuries,
Awaken now at last
And tell us how to save us from ourselves
and how to survive our own rulers
who would make a plutocracy of our democracy
in the Great Divide
between the rich and the poor
in whom Walt Whitman heard America singing.

Unlike Stephen Crane’s poem, this needs no “unpacking.” . . . who would make a plutocracy of our democracy in the Great Divide between the rich and the poor.

Walt Whitman did not hear America singing between Mark Parker, Lloyd Blankfein, Brendan Eich, Mary T. Barra, Virginia Marie Rometty, Stanley O’Neal, Doug Coe, Darrell Issa, or Antonin Scalia.

I know that at least one friend who often reads my posts will now be either be venting about my not understanding how “capitalism” works and how regulation and government intervention are ruining America and destroying the ability to create jobs for the flunkeys, or he will have stopped reading.

I am not writing about government or capitalism or regulation or anything political. I’m writing about greed—corporate greed, small business greed, your greed, government greed, and yes, my greed.

When I was younger I would think about sweat shops making Nike Shoes, and I would think about seats in Congress for sale either to the highest bidder, and I would think about horrid men (I’ve never heard of a woman member of “The Fellowship”) who trample the religious integrity of people around the world, and I would think of the bankers who are making billions simply from making billions, and I would think of judges who have ensconced themselves as the friend of those people, and I would think of myself with six pairs of jeans and fifteen shirts and a pipe organ in my living room and my iPad my iPhone and my two functioning computers here on my desk and a paid-for car and health insurance that keeps me from having seizures and from being suicidal, and I would think, “Something must be done politically; there must be a way to change things.”

After all, by what right do Mark Parker, Lloyd Blankfein, Brendan Eich, Mary T. Barra, Virginia Marie Rometty, Stanley O’Neal, Doug Coe, Darrell Issa, Antonin Scalia, and I have to enough to eat and extra clothes in our closets and cars and homes and luxuries too numerous to name? By what right do we have homes when people are sleeping in doorways—yes the doorways of Neiman Marcus—and in homeless shelters crowded and dirty? And by what right do we have the means to be cared for when we get sick when 50,000,000 people in this country and billions of people world-wide do not. And by what right to we travel around the world having fun and/or making more money—I am determined to see Easter Island—when most people in the world never get more than a few miles from home—unless because of wars and natural disasters they become refugees.

By what right?

It grieves me more than my chronic, clinical, incurable depression does that I can do nothing—or so little it seems to be nothing—to make life significantly better for any one of those people.

It breaks my heart. As it should yours.

“The Impact of a dollar upon the heart,” by Stephen Crane
The impact of a dollar upon the heart
Smiles warm red light
Sweeping from the hearth rosily upon the white table,
With the hanging cool velvet shadows
Moving softly upon the door.

The impact of a million dollars
Is a crash of flunkeys
And yawning emblems of Persia
Cheeked against oak, France and a sabre,
The outcry of old beauty
Whored by pimping merchants
To submission before wine and chatter.
Silly rich peasants stamp the carpets of men,
Dead men who dreamed fragrance and light
Into their woof, their lives;
The rug of an honest bear
Under the feet of a cryptic slave
Who speaks always of baubles,
Forgetting state, multitude, work, and state,
Champing and mouthing of hats,
Making ratful squeak of hats,
Hats.

“To the Oracle at Delphi,” by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Great Oracle, why are you staring at me,
do I baffle you, do I make you despair?
I, Americus, the American,
wrought from the dark in my mother long ago,
from the dark of ancient Europa–
Why are you staring at me now
in the dusk of our civilization–
Why are you staring at me
as if I were America itself
the new Empire
vaster than any in ancient days
with its electronic highways
carrying its corporate monoculture
around the world
And English the Latin of our days–

Great Oracle, sleeping through the centuries,
Awaken now at last
And tell us how to save us from ourselves
and how to survive our own rulers
who would make a plutocracy of our democracy
in the Great Divide
between the rich and the poor
in whom Walt Whitman heard America singing

O long-silent Sybil,
you of the winged dreams,
Speak out from your temple of light
as the serious constellations
with Greek names
still stare down on us
as a lighthouse moves its megaphone
over the sea
Speak out and shine upon us
the sea-light of Greece
the diamond light of Greece

Far-seeing Sybil, forever hidden,
Come out of your cave at last
And speak to us in the poet’s voice
the voice of the fourth person singular
the voice of the inscrutable future
the voice of the people mixed
with a wild soft laughter–
And give us new dreams to dream,
Give us new myths to live by!

The homeless refugees of the Republic of the Congo.

The homeless refugees of the Republic of the Congo.

For the Love of Jesus: Forgive a musicologist’s rant

Rich Young Man

(Please note: a funny thing sometimes happens when you write. I intended for this to be sarcastic and negative. A friend read it and thought I am somehow thanking the church and its homoerotic music. So now I’m not sure. Is that bad writing or ambiguity on a remarkable scale? Dunno. I trace the “rainbow” through the rain . . .)

Pope Benedict will live at the Vatican—perhaps never leave there. The sovereign state will offer him refuge from prosecution by any country for participation in child sex abuse cover-ups. The old guy has some right not to end up in jail somewhere for his part in the hideous scandals of the church. But really now, as an American I firmly belief no one is above the law.

When I was four or five years old (we lived in Worland, Wyoming), my dad went off to Boston for the annual meeting of the American Baptist Convention. To entertain us while he was away, we had a large and complicated picture jigsaw puzzle to work on. Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler (painting by Heinrich Hoffmann). I’ll be the first to admit I missed the point. But look at the hand-on-the-hip pose of the pretty young man. What a gay blade! He’s haunted my imagination since about 1949. And that hat! To die for.

On Valentine’s Day I blogged about learning hymn tunes when I was a kid. One of my favorites my dad never used in the service. He did not like it. He told me so when I suggested we should sing it. I liked it partly because it was so easy to play (key of A-flat with close voice leading so kid’s hands could reach all the notes). He objected to the tune (perfectly banal) as much as the words.

“O Love that wilt not let me go, I rest my weary soul in thee.” I’m not saying the hymns we sang in church had anything to do with my being a gay boy. But they certainly gave me words to go with what I was feeling, as those paintings gave me images.

Another favorite hymn tune was “Jesus, Lover of My Soul.” It may, in fact have been the first hymn tune I ever played. F-major. Tonic, sub-dominant, dominant, tonic. A first-week harmony exercise in a first-year theory class. But the words! “Jesus, lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.” With the Rich Young Ruler, no doubt. And I won’t even mention coming to the garden alone while the dew is still on the roses, and he tells me I am his own.

You think I’m making this up, don’t you?  “O love that wilt not let me go” has been in some pretty important Protestant hymnals**.

I began thinking about all of this because of a picture a friend posted on Facebook. (She did not post it because she loved it!) I’m not sure if it’s a joke. My friend says it’s being passed around by pastors. What that could mean, I don’t know. All I know is it fits right in with love that wilt not let me go. We didn’t revere the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Baptist church, but we did sing about the lover of my soul.65524_10151308245551662_1031495858_n

My Come Hither Eyes?

I just want to raise the question of how mixed a message this is from people who say God and Jesus hate gays. We gay boys were pretty confused. At least I was. Nothing profound or new here. Just saying. I hope Mr. Justice Scalia and Pope Benedict are listening.

**The Baptist Hymnal. Nashville, TN: Convention Press, 1991 (292).
Christian Worship, a Hymnal. Valley Forge, PA: The Judson Press, 1941 (388).
The Lutheran Book of Worship. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1978 (324).
Service Book and Hymnal. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Publishing House, 1958 (402).

O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.

O light that followest all my way,
I yield my flickering torch to thee;
My heart restores its borrowed ray,
That in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
May brighter, fairer be.

O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.