Tom Raworth’s “Jazz Attitude”

TOM RAWORTH (July 29, 1938 – February 8, 2017)

Since the announcement of Tom Raworth’s death, the obituary news has also added Al Jarreau’s name to the roll-call. Jarreau’s own definition of his “jazz attitude” was quoted in one obituary as “the idea of being open to each and every moment as a chance to create something different.” That aspect of a musical poetics would suggest a strong imaginative kinship between Jarreau and Tom Raworth, whom I heard read only once, at UCSD, and for which I remain grateful; the full-throated rendition of his differences lingers as an encouraging whisper in my daily life of writing and not writing. His blog ends with the notation that “Bits of it all have been fun and it’s been a decent run.” I would describe it as an exemplary broadcast from the self’s anothering.

http://tomraworth.com/nlinks.html

Tom Raworth, 1938–2017

http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/features/the-lyrical-genius-of-tom-raworth

Tom Raworth (1938-2017)

http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com

http://pippoetry.blogspot.com/2011/07/tom-raworth.html

http://lallysalley.blogspot.com/2017/02/tom-raworth-rip.html

https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/mar/31/poetry
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/music/news/culture-stars-died-2017/tom-raworth/
http://www.newstatesman.com/books/2010/06/raworth-poems-flames-windmills

Tom Raworth (1938-2017)

Racism and Standing Rock

Sunday, February 12, 2017

RACISM AND STANDING ROCK: Bismarck, North Dakota and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

“Race is the modality by which class is lived.”

In the case of the Indigenous Peoples of North, Central, and South America, Stuart Hall’s observation should have the word “class” replaced by “subordination.”

Racism is the permeating logic inhabiting the praxis by which the Other, who has already been dispossessed, is further subjected to a quality of life inferior to that which you believe is appropriate for those who resemble you.

On Twitter recently, John Upton retweeted @relombardo3:
“Reminder that DAPL was
re-routed through
Standing Rock because
Bismarck’s residents
feared it could poison
their drinking water.

The Sioux are literally
being forced at gunpoint
to accept ecological risks
that North Dakota’s
white residents refused.”

North Dakota’s residents overwhelmingly voted for Trump; their decision to subject the Sioux to one more degradation recalls a comment made by Michael Lally, “Not everyone who voted for Trump is a racist, but every racist voted for Trump.”

Now I’m sure more than a few people might say, “Well, it’s easy for you in live in Long Beach, California, Bill, and look down on the people of North Dakota.” Actually, it’s not that easy, since I’m talking about a state in which I have had family by marriage, and I like those people. Along with my first wife, Cathay, I remember visiting Bismarck in the summer of 1985, then driving east to Dickinson, and north all the way across the border to Winnipeg in Canada. We had gone to Bismarck to visit her father, brother and nephews, and we took a vacation trip afterwards. The drive north to Winnipeg was one of the most beautiful drives I have ever experienced. The land formations were far different than I expected, and the sky that day had an ensemble of clouds worthy of a master choreographer. I remember how much we enjoyed visiting the museum in Winnipeg. We headed south to Duluth, and then visited Cathay’s sister in Minneapolis. My father-in-law and brother-in-law are dead now, but the time I spent with them has lingered in my affections.

I liked the people I met in North Dakota, and it didn’t surprise me that they would be judicious enough to elect someone like Kent Conrad to the U.S. Senate. That the people I met were all congruent to my wife’s family is the crucial qualifier, though. The color line, as DuBois pointed out over a century over, is firmly drawn in segregating Native Americans from the mainstream of civic, social and political life in North Dakota. The memorials we visited were concerned with preserving the tragedy of dispossession and subordination, and not just commemorating it.

Even given that fracture, however, my hunch is that things have changed there, and in part this is due to the wealth that poured into North Dakota due to the oil boom earlier this decade. Sudden wealth can distort one’s values, and it doesn’t take much wealth to undermine the inclinations toward compassion and community.

Perhaps resistance to the oil pipeline will give a few of those who have hardened their hearts a chance to reconsider, but I doubt it. I admire those who are resisting. It takes more courage than I have at the moment. May they survive, buffeted but unscathed.

The Harvey Haddix Rule And Extra Innings

Friday, February 10, 2017

THE HARVEY HADDIX RULE: An Exception to Extra Innings Change

Even if I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would still say, “Play ball.”

While the Anthropocene is already in extra innings, and might well wrap itself up with one walk-off-into-oblivion Grand Slam, how long a baseball game might last is less speculative. Changes are afoot: A proposal to alter how extra innings (or what would be called “overtime” in other sports) is played in professional baseball has reached the first stage of implementation. Starting in the lowest levels of the minor leagues, any game that is still tied after the ninth inning will have the 10th inning start with a runner already in scoring position.

I can understand the impetus behind this rule change. Professional baseball is a continental traveling circus at this point, and athletes are highly paid performers. With ticket prices at exorbitant levels, one deserves to see them at their best, and to ask someone to play 16 innings and then head to the airport and fly cross-country in order to play a game the very next night tests the limits of reaction times. The rule would accommodate the social evolution of the game’s maturation as part of a globalized economy.

I tend not to favor rule changes in baseball. I savor the continuity of the game. But let us remember that the game itself went through radical changes before it finally settled on its current rules, and even less than a century ago the spitter was still a legal pitch. Like it or not, the DH is now firmly embedded in the game, and some people believe that the National League should give in and adopt that change, too. One recent change has long overdue: the banning of slides into second base outside of the base path.

I would be in favor of the change regarding extra innings, with the following variations:

1) the tenth inning starts with a runner on first. In point of fact, as every manager knows who watches his pitcher walk the first batter in an inning, the odds that that runner will score are uncomfortably high. What this rule will do is increase the value of the utility player who has worked hard at the craft of stealing bases. It will also create immediate tension in the game. Will the runner take off for second base? From the first pitch of the top of the tenth, the game’s momentum will swirl in expectation.
2) in regards to the DH rule, the National League should allow a DH for the pitcher in extra innings only. This will also increase the likelihood of a swift resolution to the game.
3) if the runner on first does not score after starting on first base in the 10th inning, then and only then does the runner start on second base. In the 11th inning, the pressure will truly build.
4) if the runner on second does not score in either the top or the bottom of the 11th, then the 12th inning starts with the runner on third.

There is one concern I have about this rule change. How would it affect the record book in regards to no-hitters and perfect games. As we all know from the sad fate of Harvey Haddix, it’s possible to throw 12 perfect innings of baseball and still lose a game. But let’s imagine a pitcher who has thrown a perfect game for nine innings and still must confront a duet of zeros on the scoreboard. The other pitcher has thrown an eight-hit shutout, and the game must go on to extra innings.

Allowing a runner to start the inning on the basepaths seems an affront to anyone who accomplishes the feat of nine perfect innings. Let’s call it the Harvey Haddix rule: if a pitcher has pitched nine perfect innings, the other team is not allowed a runner on base to start extra innings. This would not apply, by the way, to no-hitters; only perfect games. So my fifth point in the above list is non-negotiable as far as I’m concerned. The Harvey Haddix rule must be a part of this change to the baseball rulebook.

Finally, this rule change would indeed be a concession to those who stand up for tradition in baseball, but let’s talk about the real impact of concessions. The truth is that concession sales no doubt drop significantly in extra innings, and I have no doubt that the owners will be convinced to adopt this rule because it improves the bottom line of concession sales. By the 14th inning, the dwindling sales of soft drinks and souvenirs surely must make the owners go, “Let’s get this over with and start counting final receipts.”

“Time for Another Kent State”: They Are Not Kidding, Folks

Friday, February 10, 2017

As D.T. (Darth Trumper) finishes appointing a roll-call of Koch Brothers-clones to his cabinet posts, I despair for the future of the planet. I am also more than a little worried about my own measly life. It’s bad enough that Steve Bannon would be all too happy if he could taunt the North Koreans into launching a rocket topped with a nuke towards Los Angeles. Fortunately, in terms of life expectancy, however, provoking the ire of the North Koreans and backing them into a corner from which they see no escape but reckless attack will take at least six months, and is more likely to require two years, if not a second term of office.

Unfortunately, this would appear to be an unacceptable, interminable wait for some of D.T.’s adherents. Less than a month after the oath of office was administered, there are already underlings calling for indiscriminate massacres of protestors and anybody in the vicinity.

Let us not kid ourselves: When Mr. Dan Adamini tweeted, “Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery” and reiterated his proposition on Facebook, “I’m thinking that another Kent State might be the only solution,” …. well, only a fool would take his “apology” at face value.

His speculations are meant to test the waters of acceptability, and there are plenty of people in the GOP who agree with him. Don’t let Adamini’s rebuke by officials in the GOP fool you. They know their base, and these people have no qualms about murdering doctors who affirm a woman’s right to choice. They also would seem to have no reservations whatsoever about the possibility of a bystander being killed at a protest. I would like to remind Mr. Adamini that two of the four students slaughtered at Kent State were merely walking to class. They were not part of the demonstration. In fact, one of the murdered students was on the opposite side of the protestors: he had applied for a ROTC scholarship.

I do not know if William Knox Schroeder’s parents are still alive, but there is a fair chance that his siblings, Nancy and Rudy, are still alive. I wonder if they would agree with you, Mr. Adamini.

Of course, Kent State wasn’t the only place that erupted in state-sponsored violence back in early May, 1970.

My tweet:

GOP official advocates Kent State-type repression for protestors. For African-Americans, though, it is always already Jackson State.

“Respecta Mi Existencia o Espera Resistencia” — Victoria Garcia

Political Graphics: Peace Press and the Amplifier Foundation

The Huffington Post is carrying a story about the Amplifier Foundation and its project of feminist posters aligned with the Women’s Marches. Before I provide the links to the foundation and the work of a few of its impressive artists (some of which can be downloaded for free), I want to call your attention to the work of Peace Press in Los Angeles, a progressive printing company that made its facilities available to numerous causes between 1967-1987. The Center for the Study of Political Graphics has an archive of the posters produced at Peace Press, which they have loaned out to various institutions for retrospective exhibitions. Their website link is http://www.politicalgraphics.org. When I went to that site, an invitation to receive a daily poster selected by CSPG popped up on the screen. Obviously, CSPG is not merely the custodian of an archive, but is still active in promoting its cause, which might be summed up in a sentence I jotted down earlier this morning: Progressive policy is the people’s politics.

The L.A. Fine Print Fair in West Hollywood held a benefit for CSPG last night (February 3) for CSPG, and I wish I could have attended. There was also an art opening by Kathi Flood in Burbank, and a performance of a collaboration by Darrell Larson and Rob Sullivan at Beyond Baroque in Venice. Unfortunately, I had to be in a conference call with my brother, Jim, about the situation of our 95 year old mother and was unable to leave home.

Make yourself a cup of strong tea, and spend a half-hour with the following links and artists.

http://lbpost.com/life/12325-art-social-change-peace-press-posters-uam
http://laassubject.org/article/exhibit-opening-peace-press-graphics-1967-1987-art-pursuit-social-change
http://web.csulb.edu/~uam/UAM%20Files/Peace%20Press/PressRelease_PeacePress_August2011.pdf
http://peacepress.org

http://theamplifierfoundation.org/experiments/womens-march/

I especially recommend the following posters:

KATE DECICCIO, “Embracing EachOther”
VICTORIA GARCIA, “Respeta”
LIZA DONOVAN, “Hear Our Voice”
JESS X. SNOW – “Long Live Our 4 Billion Year Old Mother”
ANN LEWIS – The Future Is Now & It’s Female”

http://theamplifierfoundation.org/all-artists/

http://theamplifierfoundation.org/artists/melanie-cervantes/
http://theamplifierfoundation.org/artists/robert-montgomery/
http://theamplifierfoundation.org/artists/cheyenne-randall/

“Spin, Spider, Spin” – Patty Zeitlin’s Songs for Children

Friday, February 3, 2017

“Spin, Spider, Spin” – Patty Zeitlin’s Songs for Children

In the midst of all the turmoil being generated by the bloated narcissism of a master manipulator, I want to offer all those who have very young children in their care a reminder of a very lovely song that they can play for their children. I first learned of “Spin, Spider, Spin” back in the mid-1970s, when I met a songwriter at the Church in Ocean Park named Patty Zeitlin. Influenced by the folk song movement that was popular in her youth, she was primarily interested in writing songs for children, and often collaborated with another woman named Marcia Berman. If I remember correctly, they also were part of a puppet theater company that went around to schools. She eventually moved north to Seattle, and has remained active in working for peace and reconciliation. She put out several albums, including one entitled “My Mommy Is a Doctor,” that offers role models in its lyrics. Her work as an songwriter deserves a lifetime achievement award. Here is a link to today’s featured song (and another one as the “B” side):

From the Archives: Spin Spider Spin by Patty Zeitlin

Women’s Wages (Women’s Marches, Part 2)

Women’s Marches: Women’s Wages (Equal Pay AND Equal Raises)

The question of the moment is: What Next? The discrepancy between what women are paid and how much men are remunerated for the same work will remain a defining issue in the next four years. If I were to recommend a way to channel the outrage, it would be to concentrate on the very thing that Trump has claimed to be concerned about: jobs. One cannot separate jobs from wages, nor can we allow him to make employment and the net pay (after taxes) become a masculine issue. In looking at his cabinet and his own egregious aura, one knows that his inner psychic default is to cater to the brawny voter. As a clarifying rebuke, the mental and physical dexterity, knowledge, and strength that women bring to jobs needs to be in the forefront now. A feminist occupation of occupation itself needs to become a primary outgrowth of the women’s marches. What women do and how much they are paid must be adamantly reiterated, in no uncertain terms.

As Trump puts forth proposals to increase employment, we need to remain vigilant and see how these jobs affect the incomes of working women. His campaign emphasis has been on construction jobs, which range from infrastructure (roads and bridges) to the Border Wall.
It would be fair to demand of Trump that at least 51 percent of the jobs created in anything he advocates result in the hiring of a women at the same rate of pay for that position as a man would receive, given equal experience and training.

There are two things to be aware of, in considering how to put pressure on this particular point. The first is that corporations have been sequestering their profits off-shore for some time now, and quite a substantial kitty of surplus funds has built up. The problem, from the corporations’ point of view, is that the tax rate is “too high,” and I have heard that one political horse trade under consideration is that the tax rate on this offshore money might be lowered to bring in a floodtide of funds, which would in turn be used to pay for these construction projects. It amounts to blackmail. “I’ll give you temporary jobs if you let me keep, on a permanent basis, unmentionable amounts of wealth.” The Republican party refused to let Obama move forward with a public works plan in his second term. Once again, it must be said that Obama failed to work from a position of strength in his first year of office.

Trump is inheriting an economy with more people employed than at any time since the Great Recession started ten years ago. If employment does pick up even more momentum, it will be interesting to see how the work force will sustain it. There is a relatively low rate of unemployment right now, and full employment – or anything near it – is likely to launch inflationary pressure. I wrote about this future crisis in the economy last year.

Once again, the question will be wages, and what women and the men who support feminist visions for human societies need to be vigilant about is not just that women are hired at equal pay, but that when inflation brings about the need to increase pay, the raises must also equal.

Correct Crowd Count: 2,500,000 join U.S. Women’s Marches (“Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious”)

Sunday, January 22, 2017

OVER TWO MILLION MARCH IN CONTUMACIOUS CELEBRATION OF FEMINIST IDEALS

Yesterday’s marches of protest against the FBI-assisted ascendancy of Donald Trump were vigorously attended throughout the nation, in large part because enormous numbers of people were willing to give up their hard-earned personal time to affirm the feminist movement. The rallies in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco and Oakland attracted hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people. No one will have to stand at a press conference today and exaggerate the number of marchers in order to massage the egos of its organizers.

Once again, the ability of social media to mobilize a movement far exceeded expectations. When Teresa Shook first proposed a Women’s March on her Facebook page soon after Election Day. she certainly didn’t stretch out on a couch and immediately begin fantasizing about speaking on a stage in front of hundreds of thousands of protestors in Washington, D.C. And yet, yesterday, she found herself in a line-up of social activists and cultural workers who spoke to a crowd much larger than the one that witnessed Trump’s clamp-down taking of the presidential oath of office the day before.

In an update, over six hours after the original posting of today’s entry, I wish to correct the crowd count. The total number of marchers was over two million people in the United States alone. I am struck by how the mass media refuse to acknowledge breaking this “glass ceiling” of numerical defiance. My own original impression from media reports was that the total attendance at all of the marches exceeded one million, but that is a vast underestimate. It’s one thing to top the one million figure for any given one-day public event. Two million is exponentially more massive. The scale of this “stand your ground” message to Trump, in fact, is on the ominous side of predictions. The attendance seems closer to the number of people who might turn out for an anti-war rally. Indeed, the fear that Trump is already drawing up invasion plans in hopes that a war will “unify” the country is more than amply justified. It should be noted that it was not just the largest cities, such as Los Angeles, that featured enormous crowds proportionate to their population. Smaller urban areas such as San Jose, San Diego, Pittsburgh and Atlanta also had significantly attended rallies.

I was not impressed with the coverage of the mainstream media. I happened to watch a bit of the march on the L.A. Times link to the ABC news, and noticed Maxwell’s rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” erased him from the screen. In fact, a kind of misogynistic voyeurism seemed to take over the control booth. Rather than show Maxwell singing, the camera panned across the dispersal of the crowd, as if to diminish the meaning of Bush’s lyrics. What was really disturbing was how the camera awkwardly swooped across the crowd to find signs with the word “pussy” on them. It was as if the control booth of the ABC network was being directed by young teenage boys who couldn’t get enough of seeing a “forbidden word” being bandied about. What must have attracted them even more was that one sign had a set of curves suggesting the inner and outer lips of a woman’s genitals. That the camera would linger on this sign together with a nearby one on a green board that also featured the word “pussy” in large letters seemed not to be a moment of transgressive affirmation, but rather an attempt to reduce feminist protest to an essentialist taunt.

At least Aja Monet’s performance of her poem, “My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter,” was spared this imposition of male scopic power. Monet, a performance poet who won a major slam contest at a very young age, attended Sarah Lawrence College for her B.A. and has a MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago. The poem she read is the title poem of her most recent collection of poetry. That a poet would be asked to be part of this protest and perform on the main stage is hardly a surprise, though. Writers Resist, an informal collective of protest readings by writers the week before the inauguration, was one of the major preliminary groundswells of protest against the outrageous plutocracy that Trump has assembled as his administrative bureaucracy of American government.

I believe it was in a column by Steve Lopez, the L.A. Times columnist, that I saw a protest sign with the best comment of the day: “Super Callow Fragile Ego Trump You Are Atrocious.” My compliments to the Palimpsest-in-Chief.

President Trump took note of the demonstrations, but seemed to overlook their impetus. “Watched protests yesterday but was under the impression that we just had an election! Why didn’t these people vote?” he tweeted.

Excuse me, Mr. President, but they did vote. That is why you lost the popular vote by a margin equal to the entire number of voters in Arizona. Losing the popular vote has consequences. It means that you failed to win the respect of the electorate, and the daily disrespect has just begun.

Media coverage post-script: As Larry Goldstein noted in an e-mail today, at least CNN refused to act as if it were Fox News light and roll over in accepting Sean Spicer’s outrageous exaggerations about the size of the inaugural attendance. See the following article in the NY Times for a scientific report on the crowd size of these events.

https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/22/us/politics/womens-march-trump-crowd-estimates.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=photo-spot-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Mike Sonksen’s review of “CROSS-STROKES”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Lana Turner, issue number 9
“A Reunion Party of Sorts,” by Mike Sonksen – January 16, 2017

Lana Turner Journal has just published Mike Sonksen’s comprehensive review of Cross-Strokes: Poetry between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the anthology which Neeli Cherkovski and I devoted half a decade to co-editing. Sonksen meticulously acknowledges every contributor to the anthology and provides representative sample of their poems. In a way that I am sure he is not aware of, he has followed the instructions on the permissions form that we had to negotiate with New Directions. No poet was to get a larger billing in any advertisement we would take out. This is to say that we were not allowed to promote the book by putting Kenneth Rexroth’s and Nate Mackey’s names in big type and Kevin Opstedal and Sharon Doubiago in small type. Not that Neeli and I would have ever done otherwise!

The next reviewer should have a much easier task, should she or he be willing to “collaborate” with Mike the Poet, as Sonksen is also known as. This is to say that a follow-up review might well benefit from focusing on a comparison of Cross-Strokes with other “regional” anthologies, including those that do not acknowledge themselves as such. It always amuses me to see anthologies that assume they present a national survey of American poetry, but have far less than ten percent of their contributors based in California.

Here is the link to Mike Sonksen’s review:
http://www.lanaturnerjournal.com/blog/a-reunion-party-of-poets

One very gratifying aspect of the roster of poets Cherkovski and I were able to assemble was their compatibility. If one were to try to put together a chronological anthology, the task might prove to be overwhelming. Consider trying to assemble a volume of poets born in the 1940s, a project that would probably fracture almost at the onset as poets or their executors point-blank rebuffed being associated by juxtaposition with figures inimical to their hopes for the art. Such an anthology, however, is probably needed if one is to understand how “post-modernism” pushed away from the massive influence of Donald Allen’s anthology, The New American Poetry. Maybe the most important part of this potential anthology would be not the poems, but essays at the end in which the poets address their “generation(s)” within that decade’s outset. The time to begin requesting these essays is the next four years, while the surviving remnant of American poets born in the 1940s will still be fairly substantial. This will not hold up indefinitely; after all, we were forced to pause and consider the inexorable attrition of our ranks this past year with the deaths of two poets, Ted Greenwald and Ray DiPalma, who first appeared together in an anthology back in 1985. In many ways, that year marked a turning point in American poetry. Three major anthologies appeared in 1985: In the American Tree, edited by Ron Silliman; “Poetry Loves Poetry,” edited by Bill Mohr; and The Morrow Anthology of Younger American Poets, edited by David Bottoms and David Smith. The Morrow Anthology represented the first indication of the rapid growth of MFA programs in the United States since 1980, while Silliman’s and my anthologies presented a case for writing that centered itself on other questions of poetry’s social value other than academic legitimacy.

I did not ever meet Ray DiPalma, though I certainly remember the first anthology in which I saw his work: Quickly Aging Here, edited by Geoff Hewitt. DiPalma appeared frequently in Invisible City magazine, edited by Paul Vangelisti and John McBride, and continued to be published by Vangelisti throughout the rest of his life. One of DiPalma’s other long-time supporters and allies was Michael Lally, who has posted his recollections on his blog, “Lally’s Alley.” According to Lally, there will be a memorial for DiPalma on Wednesday, February 15, at the School of Visual Arts Gallery from 6 – 8 p.m. (601 West 26th Street).
http://blog.bestamericanpoetry.com/the_best_american_poetry/2016/12/ray-dipalma-rip-by-michael-lally.html

I heard Ted Greenwald read several times over the decades. The first time was at a bookstore called Intellectuals & Liars, which was located near the corner of 11th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. It was an odd pairing: he read with Kate Braverman, who left the reading grumbling about Greenwald’s lack of personal narrative. Although I had published Kate’s first book, Milk Run, a couple of years earlier and was very pleased that she went to become a successful novelist, I was more impressed and intrigued that night with Greenwald’s work, and I was excited when he read in Los Angeles again, at Beyond Baroque, shortly after Dennis Cooper took over the reading series. It was a quarter century before I saw read again, at St. Mark’s with Lyn Hejinian. He was as on key as ever, and his “voice” (which almost always seems like an illusory concept to me) was as pitch-perfect to his vision as it had been when I first heard it.

That I am hardly alone in my profound admiration for Greenwald’s poetry was reflected in the line-up of poets who spoke at his memorial service at St. Mark’s Poetry Project back on September 16, which included Alan Bernheimer, Charles Bernstein, Alan Davies, John Godfrey, Erica Hunt, Michael Lally, Ron Padgett, Kit Robinson, Patricia Spears Jones, Stacy Szymaszek, Chris Tysh, Lewis Warsh, Barrett Watten, and Terence Winch

On the Necessity of Resistance to Submissive Grief

January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day: On the Necessity of Resistance to Submissive Grief

Part One

On the Martin Luther King’s holiday weekend, I reflected once again on how much his assassination changed the course of American history. First, though, consider that if Bobby Kennedy had not also been assassinated, he would most likely have defeated Richard Nixon in 1968; the Vietnam War would then have found its way to a cease-fire of some sorts that allowed American troops to withdraw and for the tragedy of that civil war to resolve itself without dragging Cambodia into its vortex. After Bobby Kennedy’s terms as president, the next obvious candidate to succeed him would have been Martin Luther King, Jr.; Jimmy Carter would have made a great vice-president.

It’s possible, and even likely, that this nation would have experienced a conservative backlash against twelve years of Kennedy and King, but I doubt that trail would have led to the debacle of two terms of George W. Bush as President and Donald J. Trump’s inauguration today as the current President. Let us never forget how much the liberal side of American politics suffered as a result of the targeted executions of some of our most inspiring public figures.

As for the new president, I intent to “honor” his official embrace of power in my first day of classes for the Spring semester (on Monday, January 23) with a reading of Robert Lowell’s poem, “Inauguration Day, 1953” as a reminder of how this nation has been through similar disheartening moments. Whether we will survive Trump’s presidency as well as the nation managed to emerge from Ike’s eight years is a strenuously doubtful conjecture.

“He may look like an idiot and talk like an idiot, but don’t let that fool you. He really is an idiot.” – Groucho Marx

Part Two

I want to thank the poets and fiction writers who showed up at Beyond Baroque on Sunday afternoon, January 15, to participate in a public reading of protest against the oncoming disaster of Trump’s reign. These individuals included William Archila, Aimee Bender, Ron Carlson, Geoff Dyer, Amy Gerstler, Doug Kearney, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Alicia Partnoy, Mona Simpson, Lynne Thompson, David Ulin, Vanessa Villarreal, and Amy Wilentz. (source: https://refusefascism.org/event/writers-resist-los-angeles-public-reading/ )

No doubt these individuals represent the same kind of “professional protesters, incited by the media” as those who denounced the “victory” of a candidate who lost the popular vote by more than two million, seven hundred and fifty thousand votes. The margin of Trump’s “defeat” and his self-satisfied presumption of his right to power remain one of the most profound contradictions in recent American history.

In case you are wondering what a margin of almost 3,000,000 votes means, imagine, if you will, a tie vote between Clinton and Trump, but with the votes from one state still completely uncounted. Dressed as formally as if it were Academy Awards night, two people come out and stand in front of a podium. They are going to reveal the results of the final state, one that is as large as Colorado, Indiana, or Arizona. A man hands a woman an envelope that contains the results of that one state’s vote. EVERY VOTE IN THAT STATE WAS FOR HILLARY CLINTON. The margin of “defeat” for Hillary Clinton is the equivalent of an entire state the size of Colorado or Indiana or Arizona giving every one of its votes to her. It’s still hard to believe that such a significant margin could not result in a triumphant election to the Presidency.

The 2016 general election for the presidency was decided by professional spies and espionage agents. Unpaid protesters are unfortunately no match for the arsenal at their disposal; the fate of the planet has never been more tenuous.