We are non-commercial, all volunteer and supported by our readers. Please help sustain the Dew by making a donation.
American novelists have been disturbing comforting denials about the evils of racism since the publication of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Ben H. Winters’ carries on that proud tradition with his latest novel, Underground Airlines, a brilliant exploration of the relationship between political compromise and personal complicity. Winters graciously offered to answer my questions about his writing.
illogical abuse of discourse
With the general election less than two months away, I’m exhausted almost daily putting new batteries into my thinking cap so that I can be a responsible, critical listener to the appeals of all candidates.
I was an English professor for 44 years before I retired in 2001, but I dare not place my brain on automatic pilot given the billions spent to persuade us. In 1958-59, my first year of teaching, without comment I gave to a class at Auburn University, then still under legally mandated segregation, a pamphlet circulated by the Ku Klux Klan …
When I was twelve, my first regular job was working in Dad’s saw shop on Saturdays. Back then the shop was a tin building with no insulation. Summers broiled its tin. Winters chilled its concrete floor. Neither heat nor cold stopped pulpwooders from bringing their dead and dying chainsaws to Dad’s shop where he and Bobby Cooper revived them. Before they could work miracles with vices, screwdrivers, and wrenches, it fell upon me to remove the gummy black pine resin from covers protecting the saw’s inner workings. They couldn’t work on the saws until I cleaned and dismantled them…
can't go home again
Dudley Snodgrass, called “Duddy” was a very intelligent boy. He learned to talk and walk at a young age, and in school his grades were perfect. His mother adored him, his teachers were constantly bragging on him. The other kids called him “Einstein” and “Brain” and some secretly resented him. Some not so secretly.
Painful, crippling shyness was the only chink in Duddy’s armor. When called on in class, he would turn beet red and stammer a stuttering answer. He would get physically ill when he had to stand before the class and give a book report…
By the fourth or fifth grade I knew I wanted to be a school teacher. Before then I had known only women teachers and the thought hadn’t yet taken shape. But after having Mr. Phelps and Mr. Taylor as role models – although nobody was calling them that back then – I was pretty much convinced. They could make English and history seem happy. Besides, I was finally planning to do what had been predicted for me earlier by my kinfolk. I was born a school house; they said I was marked to teach. Predestined, I guess.
justice for all people
The Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions movement (BDS) calls for the international community to put economic pressure on Israel to end its flagrant violations of human rights. It demands an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the dismantling of the apartheid wall; equal rights for Palestinians in Israel; and the right of return of Palestinian refugees. Thus, although BDS does not take a direct stance on the question of a one- or two-state solution, the policies it champions would lay the foundation for a just peace by moving the region closer to a bi-national, truly democratic society.
When a Facebook friend slammed Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton recently as a “godawful (sic) human being,” that triggered images of god-awful human beings like – you know–Adolf Eichmann, Pol Pot and Osama bin Laden. Turns out that the Facebooker wasn’t thinking of crimes against humanity but Clinton’s failure to be entirely forthcoming about her State Department e-mails. Since that didn’t seem to me to make the cut for “god-awful human being,” I thought again, as I often have, about why Clinton inspires such thoughtless vitriol. I think it’s because she’s a victim of her virtues.
Twenty years ago this summer, America was rocked by a terrorist attack. A religious fanatic radicalized by fundamentalist ideas planted a bomb at a crowded location during a major sporting event. The device he built killed one person and injured 120 more. The death toll could easily have been in the hundreds.
That same terrorist planted three more bombs that injured and killed over the next two years; bombs targeting places he arrogantly linked to the causes he felt were worth murdering innocents for…
I know you’ve heard that love will find a way. Me, too, but who knew that a pepperoni pizza could be part of Cupid’s plan? You listening?
He was a boy, 26, from Columbia, South Carolina. She was a girl, 23, from Albany, Georgia. He graduated (English) from the University of South Carolina (Go, Gamecocks!). She graduated (social work) from the University of Alabama (Roll, Tide!). This Southern boy and this Southern girl first met in Charleston, South Carolina, that Holy City of the American South. This Southern twosome fell in love in Charleston…
Riding my bike up and down the hills of old highway 76 in Morganton, GA, in the North Georgia mountains, I come across six churches within a six mile stretch of the ride interspersed between pastures of grazing horses and bovine cows and hills and meadows decorated with farm houses and log cabins. I wonder what the services are like, who the people are, what they believe in and why they survive in our secular age.
It is not unusual to see a church on every street corner in Georgia.
My house is starting to look like Mom’s. Here’s the painting the late Jim Harrison signed for her. Here’s my portrait as a young man that long hung in what we called the “Christmas room.” Over there on the sofa is a shimmering gold, green, and red throw I gave her for Christmas before illness plagued her. By the TV console is her end table and blue china lamp. Beneath the lamp stands a beautiful milky white vase with a pair of partridges painted upon it, and by it are matching blue porcelain music boxes.
social equality and justice
In the wake of the gruesome events of the past few weeks between police officers and black civilians, it’s worth noting that the black community is not alone in their anger and sorrow. In fact, I stand by you and though I don’t and can never understand what you’re going through, I do sympathize with you. My heart and soul hurts when I see the news of yet another young black man being fatally shot by police. The continuous murder of young black men by police officers MUST CEASE. For this to be happening in this day and age in the US is deplorable.
That being said, when we look at the history of America, these events are not isolated ones.
a cry from the heart
We’d likely have less controversy over the slogan, “Black Live Matter,” if we had more of a shared understanding of the relevant American reality.
Sometimes a single clue reveals something big about that reality. There’s the clue, for example, that we white people have heard about in recent times in the wake of headlined shootings of unarmed black men. It’s “the talk” that many black parents give to their children, especially their sons.
Katie Archibald-Woodward is a photojournalist and minister who produces arresting images of resistance to oppression in Palestine/Israel and here in the United States. Katie seems constantly on the move but she can be claimed by both Atlanta and Los Angeles. I caught up with her long enough to ask questions about the power of her art. She was also kind enough to share some of her work here.
John: As your photos remind us, photography can be an extraordinarily powerful medium. Do you have any thoughts about the secret of its power to move us?
Whenever there’s a letter or card in the mail from Mississippi, it’s bound to be inspirational. And it’s bound to be from a guy you might not have heard of but should know more about.
Meet former Mississippi Gov. William F. Winter, a public sector healer whose decency, goodness and vision for a better South gently motivates people to be kinder and more accepting of each other.
Okay, get the handcuffs ready. I’m about to confess:
By day, I am Robert Lamb, famous author of great novels. No, wait! Make that “relatively unknown author whose books were best-sellers in certain quarters,” namely my mother’s bridge club.
But by night I am, by design, mind you, the equally unknown author whose nom de plume is (drum roll, please) Cooper Riverbridge …
no free pass allowed
Yesterday, President Obama said this:
“I think what’s been interesting is the repeated denunciations of his statements by leading Republicans,” he said in a press conference. “The question I think they have to ask themselves is, if you are repeatedly having to say in very strong terms that what he has said is unacceptable, why are you still endorsing him? What does this say about your party …
Khizr Kahn, Muslim father of U.S. Army Capt. Humayun S. M. Khan who died fighting in Iraq, saw his son’s sacrifice, as well as his family’s, in the first definition of the word sacrifice:
1. To give up somebody or something valued in exchange for somebody or something else that is considered more important or valuable.*
ile de ré
Remember when we associated France with popular rebellion against tyranny and individual liberty? The French Revolution, the Paris Commune, the French Resistance and May 1968 provided ideas and imagery for innumerable liberation movements around the world.
To the dismay of many Francophiles, of late liberal democracy in L’Hexagone has gone pear shaped in response to Islamist terrorism. Surveillance was ramped up and the number of prosecutions for hate speech multiplied after the January 7, 2015 Charlie Hebdo mass killing…
not so great
Today, in his third act as President, (the first two are too embarrassing to mention) Donald Trump ended the treaty with the SunGod. He felt that others were not contributing their fair share of sacrifices to the SunGod. At today’s press conference, which was held in the complete dark due to the lack of a sun, Donald stated “America is for chumps if we are going to pay too much for sunlight! I’m not going to sacrifice one more smoking hot virgin that I could use in the Miss America pageant to some SunGod who isn’t an American…
threat to our democracy
For millions of Americans watching the 2016 Republican Party Convention in Cleveland, disbelief and dismay have given way to bemused contempt. They see a GOP in a state of extraordinary disarray and unable to prevent a likely electoral train wreck. Many of its heavy weights simply refused to attend, including two former presidents, six governors, and 21 U.S. Senators. David and Charles Koch are notably absent.
minor celebrities matter
The first night of Donald Trump’s 2016 (Republican Party) Presidential Nominating Convention in Cleveland, Ohio provided more entertainment value than any in living memory. One after another former celebrities, practiced victims and assorted public figures took the stage to throw rhetorical raw meat at a seething pale audience.
Among the highlights were appearances by Marcus Luttrell and Scott Baio. Luttrell because he seemed to call for a civil war here in the United States when he asked, “Who among you are gonna step up and take the fight to the enemy? Because it’s here.”
requires frightened people
In what might be the smartest appeal so far in this otherwise dismal presidential election, Hillary Clinton did NOT call Donald Trump a fascist during her July 13th speech on unity in Springfield, Illinois. Instead she warned about what he might do once in power. Declining to use the “F word” might seem pusillanimous, the sort of rhetorical restraint that conservatives pounce on, but using it could actually blur what is more important point.
attention must be paid
This election cycle is looking like a slow motion tragedy for millions of mostly white, middle age blue-collar workers with only a high school education who’ve been marginalized by deindustrialization. This is roughly the population whose rising death rate was uncovered by Princeton University economists Angus Deaton and Annie Case. As reported by the New York Times last November, they found that “The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.”
recipe for injustice
When I was involved in electoral politics here in Virginia, I was advised by Democratic politicians to stay away from the issue of “right-to-work” laws. Most Virginians favor those laws, I was told. They think that “right-to-work” is a matter of “liberty,” and no one running for office can succeed in explaining to them what these laws are really about.
If that’s wise counsel, it’s a sad commentary on our politics — for it’s doubtful that most of the Virginians who support right-to-work understand how these laws take money out of their pockets.
rise above our fears
E Pluribus Unum or out of many, one. This 13 letter phrase became an official part of the Seal of the Unites States by an Act of Congress in 1782. It was the de facto motto of the United States until Congress officially made In God We Trust the national motto in 1956.
But beyond being simply our unofficial motto, since even before 1782, E Pluribus Unum embodied the very spirit of us as a new country. This simple but profound idea is that we are all many – many different people of different origins, different histories, different religions, different colors, and different races – but all one, the People of the United States.
BREXIT has elicited expressions of wounded outrage from European intellectuals emotionally invested in the current European Project. Some have contented themselves with name-calling by denouncing British voters as shortsighted bigots manipulated by conservative populists. Disappointment in the outcome of the referendum was so great for others that they have begun asking whether democracy itself might be the problem. If people, the British to be precise, are unable to see what is in their own best interests then perhaps …
embrace equality ideal
Abraham Lincoln, were he alive today, would quibble with only one word in the trumpeted slogan, “Make America Great Again,” but it would be a vehement, demagoguery-shattering quibble. He would insist that the sentence be ended after Great. America has, he would solemnly remind us, in practice NEVER been great, only struggling slowly and painfully toward greatness.
In theory, of course, it was another matter. He famously paid homage to “the last best hope of earth” that the truly radical American experiment in democracy …
until the struggle is won
Fear is a powerful weapon. For centuries, threatening people’s lives and livelihoods has proved an effective means of suppressing protest and maintaining injustice. Fifty years ago this month, James Meredith’s March Against Fear sent a ringing message to oppressors everywhere: their tactics would not work! As mentioned in my earlier article, last weekend, a viciously anti-union company, Nissan Canton, whose workers call it an “architect of fear,” tried to appropriate the anniversary of Meredith’s march to suit their own purposes. Their financial sponsorship of this commemoration was clearly an effort to sever the civil rights movement from the battles of labor …
the laws of nature
Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist. — Kenneth Boulding
The mantra of classical economists is “growth.” So fixated are they on growth that recessions are often referred to as periods of “negative growth.”
The dominant economic paradigm: If we can keep growing the pie, everyone’s piece will get larger. Never mind that, as the pie grows, the greedy cut monstrous pieces for themselves and slivers for the rest of us. The foundational assumption itself is flawed. The empty promise of perpetual growth is based on folly …
wrong side of freedom
Gary Webb’s book, Dark Alliance, casts dark aspersions on the United States. In its historical and hysterical opposition to “leftist” thought it has routinely allied itself with criminals. Obvious examples are the regimes it supported in Cuba prior to the revolution, the Somoza regime in Nicaragua prior to “its” revolution, dictatorships in the Philippines, Vietnam and… it goes on and on (just read some Chomsky).
Alfred McCoy in his book, The Politics of Heroin in Southeast Asia, documents U.S. alignment with heroine smuggling mafiosa where said mafia were allowed to import their product to the U.S. in exchange for union-busting and other undemocratic “services” by said thugs …
confession is the first step
NFL football and World War II share certain characteristics that make them, for me, guilty pleasures.
The pleasures come from my lifelong love of good games of strategy and of heroic action.
For these pleasures, no sport seems to me the equal of NFL – largely because of the excellent structure of the game: the series of downs, which can be renewed; the cumulative nature of field position; the balance between offense and defense; the management of the clock; etc.
mexico might take them
In cities across America – New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta and New Orleans – in stunning, giddy numbers, millions of Americans streamed into the streets to celebrate President Barack Obama’s executive order Wednesday calling for a “Texit” vote to expel Texas from the union.
The executive order came two days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Texas law to limit the legal rights of women to abortions, and a week after the shocking “Brexit” vote in Great Britain to sever ties to the European Union.
With the 2016 Olympic Games on the horizon, a group of prospective participants are giving the whole business a snub. Golf is returning as an Olympic game after being away since the word sticks was an accurate description for the equipment being used. And many of the top professional players in the world have announced they will not attend. Most are citing the fear of the Zika virus and family concerns, and some are probably happy they have this as a built in excuse.
a civilization-wide challenge
Some commentators have reminded us lately of what originally inspired the nations of Western Europe to move toward unification. The impetus came after two horrific wars, originating in Europe, within the space of thirty years.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, after tens of millions had been killed and with much of Europe in ruins, some visionary European leaders understood the necessity of weaving the nations of Europe into a more whole order enabling its nations able to live together in peace, and to work together for their common good.