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I dreamed that my husband and I had bought a caravan and were towing it up a steep incline behind his rather old banger. (In reality we bought a caravan twenty years ago and towed it to France.) We felt a judder in the tow bar and he pulled over cautiously to the left of the road, but at that moment the caravan broke free, rolled past us and as we’d just reached the summit, careened at gathering pace down the other side of the bumpy mountain. We followed it with mounting panic, hoping nobody would be hurt as it left the road and ploughed through hedges and fields of crops …
In “We Take Care of Our Own,” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last month about conflicting world views of nationalism and globalism. To these, he added the notion of moral particularists and moral universalists, borrowing ideas from an essay by NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published in The American Interest. Paraphrasing, Brooks describes the nationalist/particular world view: “They’ve built moral systems on loyalty and support for their own kin and fellow citizens…
Whatever happened to simple weddings?
My wife Margaret and I got married 34 years ago in her parents’ living room, in Columbia, with maybe 10 people, tops, in attendance.
This past Thursday, Aug. 25, we drove to Athens, Ga., to make arrangements relating to our youngest son’s upcoming wedding featuring (at last count) 300 guests!
just political applesauce
More than a decade after South Carolina’s Fritz Hollings left the United States Senate, people still talk about how he would talk about things.
Whenever Hollings took the floor of the Senate to make a speech, staffers would often stop their day-to-day business and watch on the Senate’s internal television network to listen to what he would say.
“That’s like delivering lettuce by way of a rabbit,” Hollings could be heard when discussing something dysfunctional about government spending.
no atheists in hell
It was hard to resist the Morganton Baptist Church marquee headline I saw a couple of weeks ago during my Sunday bike ride: “There are no atheists in hell… they believe.” How could a pagan agnostic not walk into that one? Was it going to be feet first into a cauldron of fire? Dante’s Inferno, I wondered?
So last Sunday, I ditched the bike ride because of rain, took a shower and put on my Sunday best to blend in better with the congregation.
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.
the monster – its alive
The seeds of a new revolution are in the ground. If they get enough water in the November election, there’s no telling what will happen. Pundits, who often only seem to talk to each other and read pointy-headed reports and memos written by peers, appear totally confounded about what’s going on in the electorate as tanking GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump continues to foment disarray and discontent. Just when the talking heads think they’ve got Trump figured out, he does something new that bewitches them more – to the delight of his followers.
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.
profits, privilege and power
The Billionaire’s Club is a 28-page political cartoon that is my take on how power works in the U.S. The book portrays billionaires getting together at the club and initiating a new member into the fold. It was a device I used to talk about how the 1% have disproportionate influence on our democracy and so are obstacles to addressing the crisis we face. I didn’t think that the 1% conspiratorially met, save socially – they do run in the same circles – it’s just that their interests overlap and acting separately, supporting similar causes, political candidates etc; it is as-if they acted jointly. This is true.
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.
Madame Secretary, you have said that as president, you’ll “break the gridlock in Washington.” You have also said that you are good at reaching “across the aisle” to get things done.
But although President Obama also reached across the aisle, the Republicans — rather than work in Congress — rather than work with him — never budged from their determination to obstruct everything he proposed. And it didn’t matter what were the specifics of his proposal, The Republicans chose to obstruct across-the-board in order to make him fail.
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 …
feckless and reckless
I’ve always been politically liberal, because – like my parents, who came of age during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt – I believe that government has a vital role to play in making our society what it should be. But at the same time, I’ve always had respect for conservatives because I believed them to be the people who put an appropriate emphasis on “character” and – again, like my parents – I believe the character of a person is what matters most.
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 …
The biggest problem with Josefine Klougart’s One of Us Is Sleeping is that the one asleep is probably the reader.
Even a stream of consciousness novel, which is what this is supposed to be, is supposed to go somewhere – and leave the reader with the impression that he has been there and that the journey, however long, was worthwhile.
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…
our collective narcissism
Let me first try to make sure I’m not misunderstood. I am not saying that I wish the Democrats had done anything different at the convention. As many observed, the Democrats were smart to occupy the upbeat, patriotic, American-exceptionalist, morning-in-America space that Trump’s GOP abandoned with its fear-mongering dark picture of the state of the nation. Those chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” may help some Republicans and Independents, unhappy with Trump…
line that floored me
It is not President Obama’s way to deliver a blow in the ring of the sort that puts an opponent down for the count. (“When they go low, we go high.”) But last night he said something – delivering so unexpectedly powerful a blow – that made me leap from my seat.
I’ve seen several mentions of Obama’s having referred to Trump (without naming him) as a “homegrown demagogue.” But if anyone has taken notice of what a devastating and powerful attack that phrase was in its context, I haven’t seen it.
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.