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read the warning label
There’s a pill for everything, you know. Not that that puts pharmaceuticals in any special category. There’s an anything for everything—just a click away. Still, all those meds you see advertised on TV, targeted particularly to people who look to be about my age, people who are “having trouble” breathing or peeing or digesting or remembering. It’s become a cliché: all old people do is take pills.Well, that ain’t me. I have no prescriptions and take no medications. At least that’s what I say every time I fill out medical history forms. In fact, I’m just about a perfect human specimen, according to such documents, and I’m generally able to hold on to the notion that when I fill out these forms I’m conveying the spirit of the truth if not all the boring minutiae.
all tangled up
There have been hundreds of thousands of words written and spoken about the unspeakable tragedy of the nine people gunned down at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. In time, there will be many more; books will be written and countless analysis will be presented seeking to find some meaning in what happened. In time, the events of the tragedy will become a permanent part of the history of Charleston and our people, indeed the whole state and nation.
seem a fetish
There is a store in the North Georgia Mountains called “Drug and Gun.” I’ve been meaning to revisit the shop to ask the cashier if customers buy their anti-psychotic drugs before or after they buy a gun. But when I walk in and see the word “prescriptions” behind the gun counter, I ask the clerk jokingly, “Do I need a prescription to buy a gun?” A man behind me says, “actually that would be a good idea. “ And I agree: if Americans need a prescription for Prozac, why not for pistols?
But there is one problem: changing the mind of people entrenched in a culture of guns.
Number of people killed by gun violence in South Carolina from 2001 to 2010 alone: 5,991
Percent by which that exceeds all U.S. combat deaths in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined: 15
Rank of South Carolina among all states for aggravated assaults with a firearm: 2
For the rate of women murdered by guns: 4
Not only that, but that this move to bring the Confederate flag into the discussion would be one that reverberates all across our country, making that symbol of the Old South a new rallying cry for all sorts of people of this country? Who would have thought?
In effect, it was the human heart speaking to our country, recognizing the sufferings of the people of Charleston, and in particular, the suffering of black people. We remember how our country has itself suffered from those who won’t give up a lost cause….one that brings division, not union, to our nation.
beneath the american flag
That my first visit to the Lincoln memorial in 48 years would bring tears was unexpected. Yet on a sunny September Sunday in 2012, at the feet of his massive marble likeness, staring solemnly upon the chiseled words of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, salty drops dot my face.
There is poignancy simply in standing where I scampered a lifetime ago as an unknowing four-year-old. But, my tears this day are for something more immediate – at least for me. This moment, the text of our 16th President’s second inaugural speech, and especially his Gettysburg Address fall this day upon a heart still moved by a different visit two days prior.
breakfast over hard
“Ol’ Obama knocked it outta the park yestiddy didn’t he?”
“Sumbitch always does. He always does.”
“Big O was fuckin’ magnificent in Charleston. I can’t believe he actually sang ‘Amazing Grace.’ I think he knew Clementha Pinckney…”
The conversation was on-going at a table across from where I’m taking refuge from ominous weather. As near as I can tell, their names are Stan, Roy and Tommy. All three are African-American. They are gray-beards, firmly ensconced in the demographic labeled ‘active seniors…
marriage equality. life.
Thomas Wolfe was wrong: We can go home again!
As two Suthunahs living in exile in New Joisey — one from Georgia, the other from Alabama — we share a photo essay of our 41-year marriage which today the Supreme Court made legal in every state of the union.
Samuel A. Ward was organist and choirmaster of our parish in Newark, NJ, when he wrote “America the Beautiful.” “Thy fruited plane” indeed. “Thy liberty in law,” Amen.
I recognize some Americans still feel threatened by gay marriage. I don’t understand that fear, but I respect it. I also respectfully suggest if you believe gay marriage is about what happens in the bedroom, you really don’t understand marriage at all.
I’m 55. I don’t remember my age when I first realized I had gay friends in high school. It’s certainly not something anyone was open about at the time. It wasn’t something we talked about.
But, I remember the moment I knew it was wrong to deny two loving, committed people the same respect we give married couples solely because they are the same gender.
My wife and I attended An Evening of Prayer Tuesday at Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Pawleys Island. The special event was an ecumenical vigil for the victims of the Charleston massacre on June 17 at Emanuel AME Church at the hands of a moral idiot.
For some reason, the vigil brought to mind the opening lines of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, one of the most famous openings in all of literature: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” …
This spring, my wife and I recently spent a lovely weekend in Dahlonega, Georgia. For the uninformed, Dahlonega is a small town just over an hour north of Atlanta in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. Dahlonega is best known for the gold rush that started there in 1828, when rich veins of the stuff were discovered in the area. It was the second significant gold find in the young United States, and within three years, Dahlonega’s population soared to some 10,000, almost all of whom were seeking their fortunes in the rocks and caves and streams of the region.
bad for business
The S.C. General Assembly put the Confederate battle flag in a place of prominence on the Statehouse grounds. Now after nine deaths in the horrendous Charleston church shooting, the legislature must take it down. Today, as the body of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the slain Jasper County Democrat and pastor of the church, lay in honor at the Statehouse, imagine the feelings of those who had to pass the Confederate flag before they paid their last respects.
More than seven years after the Great Recession began in 2007, many Americans are still struggling to put their economic lives back together. Factors such as low wages, high interest rates on credit cards and a mediocre job market continue to make a lot of families feel like the recovery passed them by. It doesn’t have to be this way.
The main cause of our troubles is monopoly capitalism, which is a system dominated by giant companies that charge high prices, pay low wages and extract huge productivity from employees.
are we there yet?
I clicked on this topic, interested to expand my ingenuity to distract children on a long drive or transatlantic flight. We played games to keep five boys from fidgeting and fighting during road trips when my (now middle aged) sons were small, growing up in England. We visited distant grandparents, camped in France and Spain in a Hiace van because we couldn’t afford air fares for seven…
grief and fear
The Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote many years ago in The Second Coming that,
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
First, yeah this is long, but just maybe, it’s time for long, cuz it’s been a long time comin’.
I suppose it all started with Michael Jackson and his desire for a “white” nose, which didn’t turn out so well. Why a really handsome, very talented guy would willingly fuck up his face is truly beyond me. Michael was said to have lightened his skin, while Rachel Dolezal is said to have darkened hers.
time for action
Most South Carolinians don’t know a lot of out-of-the-closet, vociferous racists. They’re probably around, just like they have been since two people who didn’t look like each other first met. But in our society — here and in other states — they generally live on the fringes.
A hundred years ago, racism was institutionalized in the South with Jim Crow laws and separate but equal schools.
people will die
As the American public recognizes, our political system has become dysfunctional. A big component of the problem is that disgraceful political conduct has become acceptable, and is often even rewarded. The rejection of Medicaid expansion by the Republicans in many states in which they have the power is a case in point.
That includes my own state of Virginia, where the Republicans in the General Assembly have steadfastly rejected Medicaid expansion. It is hard – perhaps impossible – to find a way that this rejection is good for Virginia for its people.
racist act of terror
These past few days I have been frantically trying to wrap my brain around the slaughter of nine African-American men and women at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston S.C last Wednesday night.
The crime was heinous, profane and an extreme act of cowardice. It was pre-meditated, mindful and calculated. Above all — it was a racist act of terror.
As I headed to bed Wednesday night, a white gunman shot and killed nine people in an historic black church in the center of town just four blocks from where I used to live. Unaware of the evil, sleep came quickly. But in the wee hours, the ping of a text from an Australian colleague woke me. I didn’t want to read it and tried to go back to sleep. But after tossing and turning, I read the text, only to learn the heart-wrenching news about what was going on a few miles away. I was dazed.
southern life circa 1944
While I, Louie Crew Clay, narrate the story as if fiction, it actually is nonfiction and I have changed only the names. I wrote it to expose to myself as to any readers the arrogance racism taught me. Childhood is not all that “innocent” when the privileged teach our young to devalue and disrespect others. I hope that by my preserving the privileged little boy’s insensitivity, we will see what he saw but with our thinking caps on and our eyes wide open.
I did not personally know the beautiful souls who were massacred while gathered in prayer with a stranger at Mother Emanuel on June 17, 2015, but I can’t stop weeping. In part, my tears are the product of troubled introspection. I am a proud southerner with deep roots. My father has always been puzzled by my “ancestor worship.” My husband and children mock my addiction to ancestry.com with quips like, “did you know Mom is 99.9% Anglo-Saxon and cousin of the Queen?” But I can’t help but feel pride when I find another link on my family tree confirming my forefathers’ presence south of the Mason-Dixon line before secession.
“We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are between stories.” — Father Thomas Berry
I’m not Catholic. Nevertheless, fond of this pope, I’ve eagerly awaited the release of Laudato Si’, Francis’ encyclical on ecology and climate. Immediately after its June 18 release, I paged wildly through it and was blown away. Laudato Si’ is absolutely stunning in sweep, depth, and wisdom. It is exactly the right document, at the right moment, by the right person.
mystery of joy
As the ruffian used force to carry her out of the convent because her family needed her for an arranged marriage that would increase their fortune, this thirteenth-century nun and member of (St.) Clare’s Order of Poor Ladies of San Damiano saved herself and preserved her vows by suddenly and miraculously growing heavier and heavier. In the end, her assailant had to put her down and abandon the abduction. As he said, it was as though she had been eating stones.
environmental paul revere
“You just can’t burn in one night, a million years of buried sunlight, and think you got it all for free.” — from lyrics of Long Has the Earth by Doug Hendren
avatar of the silly people
You’ve noticed it, right? The triumvirate? The Big Three? Come on, try to name one. Yep, you got it: the impossibly adorable golden retriever. Another one? Right again: the acoustic guitar leaning against the wall. Third . . . easiest of all: a yoga class in the background. What do they add up to? Sales. Today’s mad men (and women) have identified these three cultural markers as bankable touchstones of the contemporary zeitgeist, as images of health and happiness that can be counted on to reverberate pleasantly in the shared subconscious of a key demographic — that is, people with money. Trying to sell financial security? Pain-relieving drugs? A new line of active-wear? Throw this shit at ‘em.
this i believe, i think
At the Unitarian Universalist church I attend I was asked to speak on Sunday about My Spiritual Journey. Oh God, I thought. Where to begin? When I was young I supposed that by forty all my opinions – political, religious, ethical – would be decided. At 78 I’m politically consistent but still adrift about a lot of other stuff.
Growing up in a Catholic family in England, the nuns at school told us we were lucky to have been born in the One True Faith; I enjoyed this certainty for a while, but in my teens was already uncomfortable with rigid dogma. Papal Infallibility didn’t fit with the history of the Borgias or the Inquisition. When I was 15…
Worthy of Comment
Also on the Dew
Back during WWII, there was a manpower shortage in the east Alabama cotton mills, and my Grandfather, Jim Strickland, sold his backwoods Randolph County farm, and moved to the Chattahoochee Valley still seeking his fortune. Even at his advanced age, and with failing health, he easily found a job as an armed guard, watching the truck gate at Fairfax Mill. Whether the nation’s Intelligence Services had uncovered an Axis plot to destroy Alabama cotton mills, I couldn’t say. But Papa Strickland spent WWII making sure NAZI saboteurs or Kamikaze pilots didn’t sneak into Fairfax Mill through the truck gate. Suffice it to say, Read on →
We’ve been down to two cats now, Sophie and Dolly, for over two years. The last two lads, Tucker and Sneezer, took their leave a couple of summers ago, one otherwise healthy gentleman on the operating table to have his teeth cleaned and the other a poor devil who had suffered far too long from a debilitating disease. Now we have two aging dowagers who think they’re still debutantes. They barely tolerate one another, however, and share a porch space during the day as though they’re on opposite sides negotiating a treaty with Iran. Feline peace is not easy to maint Read on →
Richard Rose, President of Atlanta's NAACP, advocates that we sandblast the bas-relief of Confederates Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee from the face of Stone Mountain. Months before the havoc wreaked on September 11, 2001, many of us cringed as the Taliban government of Afghanistan destroyed multiple Buddhas. How can destroying icons of another group increase respect and appreciation for your own icons? In March 2001, the government sent envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi to Washington to contextualize the destruction: "The Islamic government made its decision in a rage after a foreign delegation offered money to preserve the ancient works while a Read on →
The outcome of Christie's recent auction of General Robert E. Lee's precious navel lint left even the most jaded “Lost Cause” memorabilia mavens gobsmacked and whistling Dixie. Not to mention afflicting many frustrated, heart-broken losing bidders with a temporary paralysis that baffled emergency physicians compared to the old-timey Southern Belle "vapors." This dream-crushing auction loss brutalized their very star and barred souls. The awestruck winner of General Lee’s coveted navel detritus, said that he did not consider himself to be the “owner” of the singular holy Rebel artifact; only its humble and devoted caretaker until the treasure is passed on to the next wors Read on →