Author Archives: billmohr

“The Ancients Did Not Think of Themselves as Ancient.”

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Several years ago I discovered the website EarthSky.org, which keeps me up to date on the latest explorations of Mars and other planets, as well as recent hunches about the origins of the universe. Today, I saw the following posting in which researchers are speculating about the astronomical purposes of cave art:

Prehistoric cave art suggests ancient use of complex astronomy

Reinterpretations of cave art have been part of the discourse of avant-garde poetry for several decades, primarily due to the extended labor of one of the most important poet-editor-translators of the past half-century, Clayton Eshleman, who has led the way in contemporary poetry in exploring the imaginative implications of cave art for contemporary civilizations.

You can read an interview with Clayton Eshleman, published in 2009, at:

http://www.bookslut.com/features/2009_01_013889.php

A short review of Juniper Fuse appeared in the New Yorker (March 14, 2004):

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2004/03/15/juniper-fuse-upper-paleolithic-imagination-and-the-construction-of-the-underworld

Finally, should you wish to have an aural equivalent of a quick palate-cleansing, here is a soundtrack you might enjoy. Perhaps “the ancients,” with ears less deafened by electronically magnified soundtracks, could hear a version of this as a Winter Solstice approached.

Listen as Saturn and its moon interact

“Sidebend World” — Charles Harper Webb’s Return to Stand-Up Form

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

I was recently putting together a syllabus for a “survey of poetry” course and had arrived at the spot where I was going to discuss the students’ final project, a paper on a single volume of poems. The book had to be a distinct installation of one poet’s efforts in a discrete period. No “New and Selected”! No “Collected Poems”! I wanted students to have the experience of reading an entire book of poems, ranging from 48 pages to 82, in the same way that one might listen to an entire album of music. In this era of downloading individual songs, this might seem an outmoded apprehension of a songwriter’s efforts, but many of our best artists still work on a scale that interweaves their songs around a given trope, and it behooves us to encounter it on their terms.

When I typed “Robert Frost” into that list of recommended candidates for specific volumes, I realized how rarely anyone refers to one of his specific books. Individual poems are cited at a rate far above the canonical average, but today’s working poets don’t bring up his books of poems as inspiring models for their own work. Frost is probably the single most important influence in academic American poetry of the past century; his skill in recounting compelling stories in conversational meter that dances with an ingenue’s pluck is unparalleled. Yet somehow, even though North of Boston is at least the equal of any novella ever written in English, and far surpasses most novels, the book as a book somehow fails to gain pervasive traction among anyone other than specialists in Frost’s poetry.

I fear that may well be the fate of Charles Harper Webb’s books of poems. Among contemporary poets, he is the prime popularizer of comic poems, and he is frequently anthologized. I wonder, though, if his individual books will end up being templates for future poets. Jim Daniels, in a back-cover blurb, claims that Webb’s most recent volume, Sidebend World, is “his best collection to date.” I’d have to disagree with Daniels, if by that assessment he means that the best poems in this new collection displace the best poems from previous volumes. There isn’t any new poem that seems a major advance for Webb. On the other hand, there are poems that will enrich his poetry readings for years to come. For instance, a poem such as “Snails” would make the perfect follow-up poem to his poignant commentary on species extinction, “The Animals Are Leaving.” In its own way, “Snails” is a poem of hope, an insurrection against the ecological genocide perpetrated by those for whom the playful imagination is equally an enemy. Then, to complete the “trifecta,” he could slam it home at a reading with “Animals in the News,” which is an equally fine poem.

I’m pleased to say that Sidebend World does represent a serious bounce-back volume. Brain Camp, his previous book was as weak a collection as I’ve ever read by a major poet. It was almost on a par with James Tate’s nadir, Viper Jazz. Sidebend World demonstrates that he is as capable as ever of producing memorable poems. Some of my other favorites in this collection are “Parasites,” “Stinging Tree,” “Daddy,” and the last four stanzas of “A Far Cry from Eli Whitney.” I would also give a special round of applause to “Turtle-Hunt,” which circles back to “Building a Turtle,” a poem in an early section of the book.

Since a significant part of Webb’s poetic vitality comes from his unyielding faith in the idea of a poem having a theme, one benefit of reading Sidebend World a second time is that one notices how this book is perhaps his most integrated in a thematic sense. His tropes weave in and out, in an intriguing choreography. “Isn’t the concept of subject out of date?” is a comment overheard at an AWP convention that Webb uses for an epigraph. “Yeah, sure it is,” I want to say, “and that’s why so many poems in current lit periodicals meander into meaningless recitals of self-absorbed pondering.” Webb counters this diffidence with an undaunted enthusiasm for his subjects and leaves us more knowledgeable than we anticipated.

Ken Brecher’s ALOUD “Explanation”

Monday, November 25, 2018

https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-brecher-library-foundation-aloud-controversy-20181123-story.html

Mr. Kenneth Brecher has finally made a public statement about his recent decision to “change” the ALOUD program at the Los Angeles Public Library. In this statement, which can be found at the above link, he first attempts to demean the audience that has attended ALOUD events for the past fifteen years as “literati (who are) at the heart of a small sector of the writing community.” In contrast, Brecher presents himself and the Library Foundation as populists who want to reach an audience that reflects “the library system’s 470-square-mile service area.” Unfortunately, his statement does not distinguish between his own personal agenda and the responsibility of the Library Foundation to act in a manner that serves the common welfare of L.A.’s reading public. The first person singular and the first person plural are disconcertingly conflated in his argument:

“The truth is we at the Library Foundation are changing ALOUD, and we’re changing it because we must.”

“I decided to restructure the program and fold ALOUD into a bigger portfolio.”

“I regret that the Library Foundation hasn’t been more forthcoming about the reasons for changing ALOUD. We kept silent out of respect for the former ALOUD managers, whose valuable work created a signature program.”

To put it bluntly, forthcoming “truth” needs to be more explicit about Mr. Brecher’s decision (“I decided…”) and the role that the “we” at the Library Foundation played in arriving at his decision.

Mr. Brecher’s expresses “regret” for his delay in presenting reasons for the changes he implemented, but the lapse does not seem to have been used well. His reasons hardly add up to making a case for imperative change. If this statement is the best he can come up with, he needs to rethink whether he is qualified to lead the Library Foundation.

Let’s begin with a promise he makes about the future of ALOUD’s core programming: “You can expect to spend many nights each year at the Taper Auditorium listening to compelling authors discuss their works for free.”

To whom is he making this promise? Given the limited seating, I doubt that even a tiny fraction of those who read his article will actually be able to attend the events. Nothing will have changed. It’s an empty promise, in part because it’s not really free. Tickets are first available to those who are members of the Library Foundation, which costs minimum of $50 a year. Attendance turns out to be one of Mr. Brecher’s main complaints about the discharged founders of the ALOUD program. I must say that he has a peculiar sense of gauging audience size. Over 70 percent of the seats were taken, on average, were filled. The fact remains that “no shows” are quite common at “free” events. After all, if something comes up, what is a person’s loss if one reserves a ticket and then doesn’t attend? Anyone who throws a party knows how lucky one is if even half the invited people actually show up. Brecher’s statement does not present any analysis of this kind of factor in relationship to attendance.

Furthermore, and more importantly, what is the viewership of the podcasts? How has that changed the nature of the event? Yes, there is a certain pleasure at seeing a cultural event “live,” but given how many people in Los Angeles do not own homes, but rent – and how much that rent has escalated in recent years – and how much people have to work to pay that rent — is it any surprise that more people might be watching via technology than showing up to watch it “live”? My guess is that exponentially more people now watch the interviews on-line. If they end up buying the book on-line, I suppose that cuts into the Library Foundation’s direct revenue, but isn’t the job of the library to promote literacy, first and foremost, and to concentrate on that rather than retail distribution?

Perhaps one of the most puzzling parts of Mr. Brecher’s argument, in fact, is that he is counting on book sales to raise money for the Library Foundation’s programming. This makes very little sense in terms of this project’s feasibility as cultural work. Your job, Mr. Brecher, is to raise money from those people and corporations who most benefit from the high profit endeavors that are central to major urban areas. No one at LACMA would ever claim that the program the museum runs in which people can rent a painting for several months should be a significant part of its fundraising efforts.

All this leads me to ask Mr. Brecher to provide a link in which the Library Foundation’s budget is put on line for all to see and study. I await his transparency. Given how long it took him to put together an “explanation” for his decision about the ALOUD program, I’m not exactly expecting any serious gesture in this direction. Until we see that budget, however, I don’t think anything he says should be taken as other than self-interest multiplied by defensiveness.

NOTE: On ALOUD’s website, the following answer is provided to the question, “Why do programs fill so quickly?”

“Library Foundation Members have the benefit of reserving for programs in advance of the public. Consider joining as a Member to receive this benefit,….”

Membership requires a minimum expenditure of $50 a year.

It would be interesting to know what percentage of those who are “members” have attended at least one ALOUD event during the past year, the past three years, and the past five years. This kind of detail is what is needed in order to assess the decision that Mr. Brecher made.

R.I.P. — Professor Alexandra “Misty” Jaffe

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Yesterday evening, I checked my e-mail account at school and found an announcement from a colleague in another department that the professor who has done the most to keep my spirits up during the past dozen years of adversity, in the College of Liberal Arts at CSULB, died this past Tuesday. Alexandra “Misty” Jaffe was a colleague in the most complete sense of the word. Not only was she an scholar who contributed to the conversation in her field, she empowered all of us who worked with her on various committees that define the notion of self-governance in academic life. Many people outside of academia do not understand, for instance, that faculty serve as a de facto human resources department in the institutional life of higher education. Faculty, in fact, evaluate the performances of those who hold esteemed rank in the educational bureaucracy. Misty Jaffe never hesitated to serve on committees that were fraught with the potential for unexpected consequences. She possessed an unflinching integrity. Not only did she have the most vigorous intellect that I have encountered in my professional life, but she had a generosity of spirit and a kind ear that was always ready to reassess any suggestion I might have for how to improve things on campus, and then to reassure me that my request for her valuable time was not a hindrance to her own needs as a teacher and scholar.

My friend Brooks Roddan once quoted a quip he’d heard: “The graveyard’s full of irreplaceable people.” The wit of that line wiggles in the turn of events in which it does turn out that most people can be replaced much more easily than we would like to fantasize. In the case of “Misty” Jaffe, I see no way that she can be replaced in my professional life. There is no one else at CSULB who has my trust to the degree that she did. There are a handful of others who do continue to inspire me, but there is not enough time left in my life to build a shared history with someone else on committees that affect the entire college.

Her death comes only days after the first anniversary of my sister-in-law’s death, and now this time of year has become even more heartbreaking. Since I have been on sabbatical, I have not been on campus much and have had little contact with others at CSULB, and so had no warning whatsoever that she was confronting her peremptory mortality. I know I am not the only one who feels this loss in a manner that might strike others as extravagant in my praise; so be it, for like all gifts to our lives, the return aches with reluctance, and this one pierces. Maybe we need to learn to say “farewell” with all the spices of appreciation well in advance of the departures.

Two Poetry Videos

Saturday, November 17, 2018

I arrived home tonight to find that Phil Taggert has sent me a link to the video recording he made of my reading in Ventura on Thursday evening.

You can also watch KCET’s “Venice” (Season 3, Episode 5 of “Lost Los Angeles”) by going to the following link:

https://www.kcet.org/shows/lost-la

I want to thank Elena Secota for presenting me in a poetry reading with Leon Martell and Beth Rusico on Friday at the Rapp Saloon. That was an equally fine occasion as the reading in Ventura. This afternoon, I gave a short talk about the early days of Beyond Baroque in the company of S.A. Griffin, Pam Ward, Suzanne Lummis, Laurel Ann Bogen, and Jack Skelley, Lummis gave a great reading of Gil Cuadros’s poem, “Sight.” It is a poem that deserve the same audience as those who appreciate Derek Jarman’s “Blue” or “Angels in America.”

Initial Gala Report and Tour Info

Thursday, November 15, 2018

I have a fair amount of driving time ahead of me the next three days, and will post a report on the “tour” when I get back. In the meantime, I want to send out a vigorous “thank you” to everyone who attended or supported the Beyond Baroque Gala Celebration this past Saturday. It was an extraordinary gathering: Will Alexander, Kamau Daaood, John Densmore, Viggo Mortensen, Exene Cervenka, John Doe, Julie Christianson, and Chris D. I also want to thank the artists who donated work for the silent auction. The first standing ovation, though, went to George Drury Smith, who founded Beyond Baroque in 1968. As a fundraiser, the event was the most successful ever held in Beyond Baroque’s history. While the legendary concert in the mid-1980s by the band X that raised over $10,000 will never lose its luster because the fundraiser saved the organization from folding, this event will also be savored because it was not done out of fear and desperation, but rather as a testament to the ongoing maturation of a cultural institution. I am not at this point free to reveal the amount of money raised, but I assure everyone that the Board of Trustees is almost giddy as it looks forward to its next meeting. I hope to post some photographs of the event in the near future.

I made a breakthrough yesterday in how to handle some of the documentary materials for a sequence of poems I am working on, “The Winnowing of ’47,” and hope to have a solid draft of the project finished by the end of my sabbatical. I do wish to thank CSU Long Beach for this one semester sabbatical, which has also enabled me to imagine what it would be like to be “retired,” and able to devote myself entire to my artistic projects.

This past Tuesday, KCET broadcast its show on Venice as part of the “Lost Los Angeles” series, and considering how little time and money the producers had to assemble this documentary, I thought they did a superb job. The inclusion of the long tracking shot that is supposedly at the U.S.-Mexican border (but uses Venice as its set) was a lovely touch; the multitude of factors that made Venice an intriguing cynosure for the Beat poets in mid-century included the presence of an African-American neighborhood within its purview. Other factors affecting the use to which “the slum by the sea” was put to use included the impact of oil production on Venice. I wish some of the photographs of the artists had been identified: Charley Newman, Stuart Perkoff, Wallace Berman. Many viewers will never have heard of these names before. I also wish that a cover of the paperback edition of The Holy Barbarians and Donald Allen’s New American Poetry could have been shown, since those books were important vehicles for making Venice West more visible.

Well, I must get ready for my brief tour. As if the case whenever I head out, I feel nervous about the traffic. With luck, I will write you again in a few days.

Ventura Artists Union presents
Bill Mohr
Thursday Night Poetry Series
Hosted by Marsha de la O and Phil Taggart
EP Foster Library – Topping Room
651 E. Main Street
Ventura, CA 93001
Thursday, November 15, 2018; 7:30 p.m.

The Rapp Saloon Poetry Series
Hosted by Elena Secota
1436 2nd Street
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Bill Mohr with Beth Rusico and Leon Martell)
Friday, November 16, 2018 – 8:30 p.m.

BEYOND BAROQUE
Southern California Poetry Festival
Saturday, November 17, 2018
4:30-6:30pm – ReVerse: Beyond Baroque in Retrospect
A reading and discussion focused on the poems and poets shaped by Beyond Baroque over 50 years. Bill Mohr, Laurel Ann Bogen, Pam Ward, Dennis Phillips, Suzanne Lummis, and S.A. Griffin share memories of Beyond Baroque and read poems by Wanda Coleman, Dennis Cooper, Michelle Serros, David Trinidad, Bob Flanagan, Michelle T. Clinton, Akilah Oliver, Paul Vangelisti, and many more.

Venice West Spotlighted on KCET’s “Lost Los Angeles”

Sunday, November 11, 2018

KCET has been producing and broadcasting a series of shows on “Lost Los Angeles,” the third season of which will feature programs on Yosemite and the deserts to the east of the County of Los Angeles. Several weeks ago, I was interviewed for two hours about Venice West by the producer of an upcoming show on Venice that will also examine Venice’s origins as the real estate fantasy of Abbot Kinney at the beginning of the last century, and how real estate has become the only game in its vicinity in this decade.

I have no idea how much of the footage KCET will use from the interviews it did at Beyond Baroque with Richard Modiano, George Drury Smith, and me, but I am certain the program will be worth viewing. Here are the broadcast times:

Tuesday, November 13, 8:30 PM PT
Wednesday, November 14, 1:30 AM PT
Wednesday, November 14, 11:30 AM PT
Thursday, November 15, 5:30 AM
Thursday, November 15, 12:30 PM
Saturday, November 17, 2:30 PM

KCETLINK
Saturday, November 17, 6:30 PM

Beyond Baroque Gala Celebration Schedule – TONIGHT!

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Due to the extraordinarily devastating fires in both Northern and Southern California, as well as the recent massacre at the Borderline Grill, this will be a more somber event than I anticipated a mere week ago. Nevertheless, the affirmation of our community of writers is taking place as scheduled.

Beyond Baroque
681 Venice Blvd.
Venice, CA 90291

Beyond Gala: Bohemian Bacchanal Schedule

5:00 – Doors Open

5:30-6:30 Beyond Art Auction in the Theatre, Reception in Poet’s Courtyard

5:30 – Performers Arrive

6:00 Emcee Hosts, Fernando Pullum Community Arts CenterBand arrive

6:45 Procession to Beyond Gala: Bohemian Bacchanal Tent led by Fernando Pullum Community Arts Band

(Silent Auction and Raffle in tent is open)

7:00 Welcome with poets (hosts) Brendan Constantine and Puma Perl

Councilman Mike Bonin

7:15 Dinner
Dinner music by Lisa Finnie, Host of the Dylan Hour, 88.5 (Puma)
(Dinner is buffet, two bars, fine wines, and a coffee cart)

7:45 Award Presentation

George Drury Smith, Beyond Baroque Founder, introduced by William Mohr

Viggo Mortensen, Alexandra Garrett For Service, introduced by S.A. Griffin

Will Alexander, Lifetime Achievement in Poetry, introduced by Kamau Daood

8:00 Performances

Froglab with Mike Watt, Joe Baiza and Brian Christopherson – guitar, electric bass, drums

John Doe & Exene Cervenaka – Read

Bobby Bradford (trumpet) and Lester McFarland (Bass)
Dwight Trible (with Bobby, Lester backing)

All Sing Happy Birthday to Beyond Baroque and George Drury Smith with Cake

Eliza Duran, Carlos Segovia Scholarship Winner in partnership with Get Lit – poet

Chris Desjardins and Julie Christensen,
with Divine Horsemen guitarist Peter Andrus

John Densmore – reading with handeld drum

John Doe and Exene Cervenka – music, close the show

Beyond Baroque’s Gala Celebration Week

Friday, November 9, 2018

Around a dozen years ago, I told the artistic director of Beyond Baroque that the institution needed to do something to celebrate its upcoming 40th anniversary. I had returned to Los Angeles County in 2006 to take up my teaching post at CSU Long Beach, and was happy that Beyond Baroque was still managing to survive. In the five year stretch between 2003 and 2008, for instance, there would have been little point to anniversary party. The place was barely keeping its doors open. Twice during that period I arrived at 681 Venice Blvd. on the last day a grant application was due, and worked until midnight to help Fred Dewey get the grant to the post office in time. Twice, we arrived at the post office to get in line for the postmark with less than ten minutes to spare. I was hardly the only one that had to endure demands from its artistic director for assistance made necessary by his improvised planning, but I remember the second time as being especially exasperating. I had told him the first time, “Don’t ever do this to me again.” And of course, he did. Needless to say, there was no special observance of Beyond Baroque’s 40th anniversary, but the place did manage to hobble along until Richard Modiano took over in this decade, and things began to improve; Beyond Baroque is now poised to take a much deserved bow as one of the most deserving cultural resources of Los Angeles.

On Saturday, November 10th, there will be a sold-out gala celebration of Beyond Baroque’s 50th anniversary. Its founder, George Drury Smith, will be honored along with Viggo Mortensen, and John Doe and Exene Cervenka (who met at Beyond Baroque’s workshop) will perform together. In addition to the banquet on Saturday to be held in an outdoor tent in the parking lot beside the SPARC building, other events and honors include:

Thursday, November 8, 2018 – 7:30 at Beyond Baroque – “Beyond Mr. Smith”
The premiere screening of Peter Fitzgerald Adams’ documentary about George Drury Smith. It also includes a discussion of Beyond Baroque’s early days moderated by Richard, and featuring George, Exene Cervenka and Jim Krusoe.

Friday, November 16 – Beyond Baroque Proclamation Day at Los Angeles City Hall.

An official proclamation honoring Beyond Baroque will be made at the Los Angeles City Hall on Friday, November 16. The proclamation will be made at 11 am.

November 16,17, 18 – Southern California Poetry Festival

Nov.16 – 8 pm – Anne Waldman & Will Alexander
Anne and Will will read together in celebration of his lifetime achievement award. They’ll be joined by Janice Lee and Justin Desmangles.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2426449977582707/

Nov.17 – 4:30 pm – Beyond Baroque in Retrospect.
Bill Mohr and Laurel Ann Bogen will be joined by Amy Gerstler, Dennis Phillips, Suzanne Lummis, and S.A. Griffin. They’ll discuss they’ll read from the work of some of the key poets – including their own – to make Beyond Baroque their home over the years. It will be followed by a potluck.

https://www.facebook.com/events/193570338204455/

Nov. 17 – 8 pm – Kimiko Hahn, Morgan Parker, and Vanessa Viillareal
The second edition of the New Series. Three poets read work that Beyond Barqoue commissioned specially for the festival.

https://www.facebook.com/events/287707972074254/

American Massacres: From Pittsburgh to Thousand Oaks

Thursday night, November 8, 2018

It’s been a week since I’ve posted on my blog, and some things have changed, and others keep somersaulting in the same predictable arc.

Linda and I drove up to Santa Paula this past weekend to attend the wedding of her niece, Sarah, and her beloved, Margaret. The event was held in a large, open space adjacent to the cottages in which the vineyard’s workers live. Well over 100 people from both sides of the couple’s families attended, ranging from Linda’s nephews (Mason and Luca) to the son-in-law of Linda’s sister, Karen (who is Sarah’s mother. In the late evening, we drove back towards Thousand Oaks and stayed at a motel on Thousand Oaks Blvd. The next morning we visited Linda’s sister, Sharon, and her mother, Noreen, who live in a house that is also occupied by a young student from France named Margot. We chatted briefly before the student left for her Sunday morning jaunt.

The traffic on the way home was heavy, and we were quite tired when we arrived back in Long Beach. In addition to dealing with wet bedding from Rupert’s decision to urinate on our bed to express his displeasure at our absence, we also had to address the fact that we had been rear-ended on the way to the wedding, and it turned out that the other party had a “coverage problem,” according to the person at the second company who called us in response to our inquiries.

This morning, I woke up early to learn that a massacre had taken place at a bar that was less than 1000 yards from the motel where Linda and I had slept on Saturday night. When I called Sharon around 7:30, it turned out that she had been awake for five hours. At 2:30 a.m., Margot had knocked on the front door and rung the door bell until the noise roused Sharon from her sleep. Margot had gone dancing at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks and had been in the bar when the shooting began. She had gone there before she was heading back to France to celebrate the holidays with her family on Friday, and her friends had wanted to see her before she left. In escaping from the bar, she left behind her purse with her keys and cell phone, and was unable to make her way back to her residence until 2:30 a.m.

President Trump wrote in a tweet that he had been “fully briefed” about the massacre, and ordered flags to be flown at half-mast in honor of the victims. “God bless all of the victims and families of the victims.” That is the sum total of his public leadership in response to the latest massacre, which follows all too closely on the devastating murders at a Pittsburgh synagogue by an anti-semitic follower of President Trump who seems to have felt empowered by the innuendoes of Trump’s rhetoric. The tepid, boilerplate response of the Commander-in-Chief is hardly of a caliber that will persuade the mentally ill in our society to refrain from acting out their pathological scenarios of revenge. “God bless all of the victims….” What the living hell is that supposed to mean, Mr. President? What does trotting out words that you don’t actually believe in accomplish for any victim? To start with, put a number on “all” in that statement. My guess is that you don’t have a clue.

Linda and I have spent a considerable amount of time in Thousand Oaks during the past two decades. In fact, we were married in Sharon’s backyard on May 19, 2001. Somehow, the airplanes that flew into the twin towers in NYC a few months later seem to have obliterated more than just an architectural landmark. The still billowing dust has corroded the capacity of this country to breathe the truth without choking on it.

The haze seems unlikely to grow less hazardous.

I mentioned at the start that some things have “changed.” The Democrats may have retaken control of the House of Representatives, but that political shift is just a twitch. Yes, there are 100 women in the House of Representatives. Yes, one of them is the first lesbian Native American. Yes, the state of Maine has its first woman governor. Ask those who died at the Borderline Bar how much difference these “changes” will make in forestalling the spread of this epidemic of violence. They know all too well the extent of our indifference to their fate.

Part Two: The Massacre at a Pittsburgh Synagogue

Sunday, October 28, 2018

In the past week, several packages containing potentially explosive materials were mailed to prominent political figures, all of whom were associated with the Democratic political party. On Saturday, a gunman entered a synagogue and murdered eleven Jews.

It is Sunday morning, 9:52 a.m., in Long Beach, CA. I look outside a side window of the house my wife and I rent. It is still slightly damp and chilly outside, and there is little traffic. It seems like an “ordinary” Sunday in my neighborhood, and I suppose that many of my fellow citizens will find a way in the coming weeks and months to absorb the news of this massacre in Pittsburg and somehow relegate it to the status of an “aberration” in the American social fabric. I’m afraid it is inherently part of this country’s social DNA; if this is a democracy, its normality can only be described as “differently abled.”

I think back to various points during the presidential campaign of 2016, and how Trump as a candidate cultivated those who promoted violence against those with whom one disagrees. For instance, “Mr. Trump praised his New Hampshire state co-chairman, State Representative Al Baldasaro, who said recently that Mrs. Clinton deserved to face a firing squad over the F.B.I.’s investigation of her use of a private email server while she was secretary of state.” This is not fake news, just as Trump’s suggestion that those who support the Second Amendment should take matters into their own hands, should Hilary Clinton be elected. The failure of the Secret Service to release a transcript of its interrogation of Mr. Trump on suspicion of threatening the life of a presidential candidate is a dismal reflection of how little power citizens have in moderating civic life and discourse. We had a right to such a transcript. Where were the Russian hackers when we needed them?

Trump cannot disclaim responsibility for generating a virulent pathology of antagonistic moods, although he began to do so before the yellow tape around the synagogue had been taken down. He blamed the incident on the victims themselves, in claiming that they should have had an armed guard at their place of worship. Among a multitude of other things Trump misses, he fails to note that it is his manipulation of ideological fanaticism that has fanned the embers of anti-semitic hostility and permitted their volatility to incandesce.

“Climate change” will have to find a way to become plural in its encompassing of the political ecology, if we are to have any hope of tampering down this conflagration of hideous animus.