JUST MUSING: “Another crazy billionaire from New York…”

If the Republican administration and Congress repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement, the former status quo revisits us, meaning twenty million people will be without insurance, possibly incapable of affording a market-based replacement policy.  I am not sure the administration or Congress cares.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) makes clear the Act represents a fundamental sea-change in health care in this country, particularly as related to the treatment of mental health and substance use disorder:

The Affordable Care Act provides one of the largest expansions of mental health and substance use disorder coverage in a generation, by requiring that most individual and small employer health insurance plans, including all plans offered through the Health Insurance Marketplace cover mental health and substance use disorder services. Also required are rehabilitative and habilitative services that can help support people with behavioral health challenges. These new protections build on the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) provisions to expand mental health and substance use disorder benefits and federal parity protections to an estimated 62 million Americans.

Years ago, during a Saturday meeting with students enrolled in a trial advocacy class at the University of Houston Law School, the pre-meeting discussion moved from gossip, classes, to regional differences.  Listening, not listening; unfamiliar with any of the names, never part of the conversation, waiting on the clock to strike the anointed hour before beginning.  One of the students was an African American female from Detroit.  She started down the ill-advised road, meaning she turned the conversation toward regional differences.  I attempted to stay out the conversation, listening, not listening; diverting my attention to the traffic below, casting periodic glances at the time, the oleanders swaying in the medium, counting the number of boards interwoven/interlaced in the alcove.  The sun remained affixed on the other side of the room, staring, not yet making its journey over, across the room.

She didn’t stop at any of the visible stop signs.  Continuing, never taking a breath, openly questioning, “I don’t know why I’m here”, “I was accepted to at least two other law schools located in the northeast”.

Interspersing choice words, “backward”, “different”, “in the North we” … words designed to invoke a difference, assertions of superiority; driving a chasm.  Directing words at the six other students, five females, one male, all white Southerners; erecting walls, using truths, half-truths to evoke myths, northern myths, as much a part of America’s historical lore and the War of the States.

Dividing to strengthen her sense of self-worth, ignoring commonalities, not recognizing everyone has a crazy Uncle Donald, irascible, stupid; forever a tad bit narcissistic.  Tortured accents, fly-away, fly-over hair (blue-grey, black-grey-dirty white, brown/grey/black/blue), commonalities not seen solely in the South.  Generations’ past styles, mouthing the inappropriate, crazy, stupid-crazy souls, a universal commonality, as common as the universe of males suffering from male-pattern baldness, our crazy Uncle Donald, everyone got one.  Digging and picking inappropriately, wrong place, wrong time, from crotch to ear, to nose, to mouth.  Shocking everyone by the choice of movie, “Has anyone seen Finding Dory”, with the rest of us remaining perplexed, not able to tell if he is serious or not, or if it’s just more craziness.

Telling stories thirty years old, always beginning with, “I use to”, followed by and the word, “boy” and too many exclamation points.  Forever non-hip, even when trying to be hip; two steps forward, five back, stumbling over the table, breaking the table on step three, every time, every time, step three.

Touching every female relative the wrong way, a generational repulsion, none willingly to ride with him, stay in the same room, hastening a retreat when he smiles and moves one inch in their direction. “Uncle Donald” … always followed by that exclamation point, slanted eyes, and a look of disbelief, directed at anyone who would dare suggest any other conclusion than crazy; crazy yesterday, today, tomorrow.  My, my, my … I’ve digressed.

The African American female never crossed the line of attempting to compare her relatives to theirs.  No she didn’t go that far.  She might as well have done so; hers were the words of myth-making.  Somewhat akin to “Mexicans will cut you”, “Black people will shoot you”, “Southerners are backward.”  Seeing their eyes and body movement, the appearance of pride (in their southern heritage), causing her to abruptly change course, seeking support and affirmation, searching the room, turning to the only other African American in the room, me.  I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  I didn’t, lend support, suggesting instead she should look at transferring to Wayne State.   “If we’ve that stupid, move back.”

Years ago the New York gifted the rest of us another billionaire scion.  Traversing the country in disguise, living a vagabond’s existence, dressing out-of-type, hiding, secreting his wealth, killing, discarding the body, possessing enough money to structure more than an adequate legal defense – yes, he did.  He sure did.  Killing a white man, oddly named Black, cutting him up in discrete parts, discarding the parts against the wind, into the surf … Lord knows where ….  His acts, actions, conduct were never identified as “not as sophisticated.” No one categorized the behavior as the fundamental character trait of rich white men from New York. Never distinguishing them from others, refusing to apply the adverse label to the region, the small sub-group (rich white men existing in the unique world of the nano-percent).  Everyone agreeing, even those who have a tendency to trend toward urban myths, the conduct was that of a demented soul, and nothing more.

Myth-making represents the blending of facts, half-truths and flat-out lies.  Sometimes working to type, other times against type; always working toward a desired end, casting aside “the others” in order to bind a targeted group.  Done both orally, in writing, consciously and subconsciously, part tradition, evolving and perfecting over time; dividing, driving wedges, sustaining itself against logic to make the myth-maker more confident in himself/herself/themselves.  Oftentimes packaged differently, combed-over, dyed – the packaging matters not – the message is essentially the same, to convince the listener of the difference.  “We will be great again.”  “They’re different from us.”  “We are superior.”

Sometimes we have to just say no, and work against type.  Other times we have to ignore the persuasive messaging, no matter how wonderfully packaged.  No matter how well delivered, even when our conclusion seems illogical at the time.  A crazy Uncle Donald with money doesn’t mean he is any different than other crazy fools showing up at family affairs.   No one, in none of our families, dare assume our Uncle Donald is anything but crazy.  Crazy, always has been, always will be, crazy, money or no money.

“You are kidding me, right?  Please – that’s Uncle Donald – enroll him in the Affordable Care Act, get him help while we still can, and pass the peas.”

*          *          *

Today the oleanders remain in place, swaying gently against the southern breeze.  Last time I checked, the sun still tracts east to west.  Today, tomorrow, the day after, we must cast aside half-truths and lies, no matter how discomforting; a necessary elixir to protect “the others”, to protect ourselves.  If not, we should be free to believe that all billionaire white men from New York are crazy.

JUST MUSING: “My view of the inaugural address – now, say something nice” …

A habit I have had for as long as I can remember; digging inside my ears with twigs, molding paper into a cone, reshaping the paper clip, any object deemed safe at the time – removing wax, satisfying an itch, nervous energy.  Pencils, pens, nails, a blade of grass, the same purpose; each having a different feel; each serving the same purposes.  Watching others winch, putting the instrument of comfort aside; sneaking, secreting, soothing, turning away when detecting, those interfering in my quest, attention wane.  In middle school, the point on the pencil broke.  I think it broke.  The point was no longer there, sitting there trying to remember whether there was a point, telling myself there wasn’t a point.  Touching the side of my ear, feeling something, something I didn’t remember being there.  It is said we discover our bodies at that age, let’s say I was no different than any other child.

My definition of a habit is “an act done habitually.”  Regularly, conducted at no particular time, schedule.  Mine cued by no setting, mood, act of others.  Digging while others talked; to satiate a non-existence itch; exploring around the ear canal, directing attention elsewhere; feeling the non-existent itch.

The same as those who place objects in their mouths, outside other’s knowledge, directing energy elsewhere, supporting the habit, much like supporting any other habit.  Dare say a habit safer than alcohol, narcotics, jaywalking in Mexico City – See the cars – count – count- count … on two … go, go, go … run – run – run!

Digging deep, twirling, pushing as close as possible to the ear drum – clinching the muscles around the mouth, tightening, muting sound, so as not to bellow like a hound, preserving a tradition, a persistent, long-held habit.

Straws, keys, the point of a small screwdrivers inserted over, “Don’t do that!”

“What!!!”

Knowing what he/she/they were screaming about. Hearing, not hearing, knowing, absolutely, having seen that face before.  Knowing I shouldn’t do what I was doing; still doing it, a habit.  I did.

Never confessing about the lodged pencil lead; telling no one.  Couldn’t be that bad, could it?  Passing physicals, not as if I took many, never hearing a complaint about wax in my ears, or any strange object; moving forward, nodding, thanking the health care provider, reaching out and securing the papers handed to me, moving out of the line.

“Ears look good.”

“You’re sure?”

“Yep, I’m sure.”

“Thank you … .”

“Give this paper to the school.”

“Okay, thank you.”

Tiring of the irritant, making one more attempt.  Dislodging the point three/four years later; dislodging with the point of another pencil; lifting the tip, recognizing immediately the central nervous system was intact, radiating pain, filling the cranial cavity, sending a message to hands, feet, a synchronized pain, extending them, separating them, as if shocked.  Struggling to remember the anatomical chart for the head; seeing images instead, consequences of pushing too hard, piercing the brain, forever dumbed-down.

Can I say … no harm, no foul?  Of course I can.  Of course, I will.  I do.  I do.

Lifting, rolling, winching, stopping, working up additional nerve, waiting for the pain to dissipate; touching the lodged object again, lifting, rolling in the opposite direction, taking a deep breath; stopping, putting the right hand over the right hear, realizing sound still carried in the left ear channel, taking a break – I did.  I did until I succeeded, removing the gift I gifted to myself years before.

I had tried oil on past attempts; water at other times – to no avail – the object of my attention remaining secured and secreted in the recesses.  The success – that time – came after the third attempt.  Refusing to quit, desiring comfort on both sides, digging, twirling, pushing a little deeper until I succeeded.

On today’s date (January 20, 2017), I dislodged an eraser.  A rattle at first; forward, backward, seeming to disappear, causing renewed memory, , rebirth, and wonderment, “What on earth?” A journey down the familiar; this time caused by shaking too hard, while listening during the inaugural.  The same shake I heard my elders exercise when hearing foolishness.

A … “My, my, my” … shake.

A, “Bless your heart” … shake.

A, “You’re kidding me, right” … shake.

Incredulity, disbelief, hostile words scrolling out before my eyes, invading in another mode and manner, entering both ear canals, touching the left first, the right, the uncoordinated shake followed.  Like a dog, with a tic lodged in the inner ear canal, engaging immediately in distressed behavior.

Too many unexpected/expected words, a rapid invasion, pushing the foreign, forgotten object backward, forward, in the other direction again, compelling the unanticipated reaction; shaking violently came first, words of damnation followed.  Listening, shaking rapidly, tilting leftward when the movement was felt, extending both hands, capturing a pink eraser.  Now darkened, ossified, retaining its’ identified molded form.

When it occurred? – I don’t know.  How it occurred? – That’s obvious!  Every now and then there was a dull spot in the ear, causing another habit – the lifting of my left paw, scratching the unknown irritant, dislodging from thought the reason, justifying the self-inflicted tic’s presence.

Listening to the speaker push the envelope, pleasing his base, encouraging hate, dividing, doing what he said he would do.   Wondering why I was shocked.  Admitting the source of my anguish after the election, grinding my teeth during sleep, writing and tearing the mythical paper into pieces at the same time, awakening; arguing with the imaginary, questioning whether I was being unreasonable, irrational.  I didn’t think so.  I hoped that I am not – being irrational.

Why do I muse?  Not because of the eraser, not because of my historical, disturbing habit; digging to make the heart content.

I muse to say what I learned.  Say something nice sometimes, even to those who wish your demise.  That’s it – that’s my dose of niceness, the contribution to civility.  Words of carnage, dislodging another foreign object, showing the nightmare is real.

JUST MUSING: “Nat Hentoff: Rest in peace my friend…”

Some years ago, I received a call seeking my agreement to represent an anti-abortion group in the State of North Carolina.  The caller was making the call on behalf of the Free Speech Coalition.  I recognized his name, searched in the recesses for his facial features, seeing, not seeing, seeing, remembering, having met him when in Washington, D.C., speaking to the group the year prior.  The call was made because the State of North Carolina was seeking the membership lists of an anti-abortion group.  The caller believed the stance in representing the Klan and the protecting their membership list was the same issue faced by the anti-abortion group.

“Don’t you agree?”

“Yes sir, I agree.”

“Good.  We believe the abortion protesters are within their constitutional rights to protest and thought of you.”

“Am I going to represent their interest in the Free Speech Coalition’s name?”

“Our group is not prepared to put our name on the defense unless we can achieve unanimity of our membership.”

“Unanimity?”

“Yes, unanimity.”

“You will not achieve unanimity, not on abortion.”

“We are going to try.”

“Aren’t there women groups part of your membership?”

“Yes, there are.”

“You’re not going to achieve unanimity.”

*                *          *

 On today’s date (January 8, 2017), the news services announced the death of Nat Hentoff.  The New York Times aptly describes Hentoff, “an author, journalist, jazz critic and civil libertarian who called himself a troublemaker and proved it with a shelf of books and a mountain of essays on free speech, wayward politics, elegant riffs and the sweet harmonies of the Constitution… He was 91.”  Nat never denied being a troublemaker, bragged about his riffs, and reached out to other troublemakers around the country, telling their stories, interviewing, sharing, encouraging.  Prone to tell on himself by admitting to following others’ action; laughing out laugh, as they talked, as he talked.  Wondering why opposites never understood “free speech for me meant free speech for thee”, instead knowing well they believed Free Speech for Me – But Not for Thee.

Writing, poking, sending copy, asking for comments, always listening, seeking better, wanting better, plying his trade until late into life, all Nat’s wont.  Correcting enemies, chastising friends, expressing opinions, taking contrary positions, even if those positions differed from the approaching crowds, yelling for his scalp, while standing his ground, holding the Constitution aloft in one hand, a pen in another, laughing all the while.

“Mr. Griffin.  How are you doing?”

“Mr. Hentoff.  How are you doing?”

Such were his words, the last conversation with him.  A conversation which took place the day after argument at the Supreme Court (Santa Fe v. Doe), made early, taken early, 7:00 a.m. on March 30, 2000, meaning he made his call at 8:00 a.m.  He didn’t introduce himself.  No introduction was needed.  I recognized the voice, the laugh.

“They underestimated you; the other lawyer, the ACLU, the press.”

I didn’t ask him what he heard.  I didn’t ask him what he meant.  I didn’t need to.  I had learned to trust him over the years, the instincts, his commentary, writings, books, having interacted at that point for fifteen years.

“I think so.”

“One day when you are in New York, let’s sit down and talk.”

“I will.  I will.  Thank you for calling.”

Nathan Irving Hentoff was born in Boston on June 10, 1925, the son of Simon and Lena Katzenberg Hentoff.  His parents were Russian-Jewish immigrants, and he grew up in the tough Roxbury section in a vortex of political debate among socialists, anarchists, Communists, Trotskyites and other revolutionaries.”  Worlds apart from my existence, separated by decades and landscape didn’t mean we didn’t periodically share our views on the world, the Constitution, disregarding distance and time.

Mr. Hentoff wrote for The Village Voice for 50 years, and also contributed to The New Yorker, The Washington Post, Down Beat magazine and dozens of other publications.  He wrote more than 35 books — novels, volumes for young adults and nonfiction works on civil liberties, education and other subjects.”  In 1998, Nat wrote Living the Bill of Rights:  How to be an Authentic American.  The book’s publication was too preceded by another call.

“I have a new book coming out.”

“Wow, wonderful.”

“I’ve dedicated the book to you.”

That’s it; that simple.  Other than telling me he would call me when the book hit the stores; that’s it.  He did both – dedicated the book to me (“To Anthony Griffin, for whom the Constitution is a daily and demanding companion”), and called when the book was published, talking to a staff member, conveying the message.

I picked the book up the same day, standing in the aisles of Barnes and Noble, struggling to contain embarrassment, tears, repressing any attempt to act like a groundhog, burrowing, burrowing, burrowing into the carpet, attempting to disappear.  I called when I returned to the office, thanking him … hearing his voice, knowing the laugh, envisioning him pulling on that distinctive beard, intermingling salt with pepper, pepper with salt, laughing, laughing, laughing-out-loud, at those who would as soon decree his demise.

Absolutely, I traveled to New York over the twenty year period of my repeatedly telling, his telling, and retelling.  We never had that lunch.  I didn’t need to.  Always understanding the representation of the Klan; laughing louder when I retold the call of the Free Speech Coalition and their not being able to obtain unanimity (Free Speech of Me, Not for Thee); supporting my arguing the prayer in school case when others sought to remove me from lead counsel in order to substitute another of a different hue; reading my work, offering constructive criticism, when he was under no obligation to do so.

Always comforted by his writing, periodic calls, verbal support, and the extended hand crossing boundaries, states, jurisdictions and municipalities, affirming worth, holding the Constitution high reminding the rest of us to continue believing.  There was no need to meet.  No need to have lunch.

Rest in peace my distant friend, rest in peace.

Just Musing: “Happy New Year” …

With time’s persistent march into the New Year, celebrations unfold around the globe.  Resolutions in all probability outnumber the celebrations and are more firmly grounded.  Be it resolve.  I promise.  I promise.  I really promise.

The first part of my statement is readily understood (resolutions outnumbering the celebrations).  The second part (more firmly grounded) is a bit more obscure, more appropriately explained by the use of metaphors.

One definition of a metaphor is “a thing regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract”.  Be it as it may, let sports be our metaphor.

Last night (December 30, 2015), Ronda Rousey suffered a first round defeat, failing in her comeback attempt in a mere forty-eight seconds.  For the uninformed, Rousey is an American mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter.  She was the first woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo, and at one time, in her world (MMA), she was deemed invincible.

On November 15, 2015, Rousey suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of Holly Holm.  A defeat which stripped Rousey of the mantle of invisibility, exposing her weaknesses, taking away the fear which possessed others when they entered the ring to scale Mount Everest.  Her defeat last night was a byproduct of the 2015 fight.

On January 8, 1990, Iron Mike Tyson entered the ring as the heavy weight champion of professional boxing; holding WBC, WBA, IBF titles.  Tyson was invincible in the eyes of the public and to those who dared challenge his pugilist skills.  He was undefeated at the time (37-0).  Betting odds against his demise? – 42-1; master of the sweet science of boxing.

History tells us Tyson was defeated in the tenth round, one of boxing’s greatest, unpredicted upsets.  A defeat which stripped Tyson of mantle of invincibility, casting aside the notion he was made of iron, certitude, hardened, incapable of defeat.  The defeat exposed Tyson’s weaknesses, stripped the fear from other’s eyes, contributed to Tyson’s downfall and hastened his exit from the game.  Bear with me.  I will attempt to make sense out of this musing.

By the time Rousey and Tyson achieved greatest, they had already tasted defeat.  Defeat is as much part of life, as victory; standing in our paths, grounding doubt in our souls, shadowing the possible, mirroring possibilities, sowing doubt.  To reach the point of critical fights – Rousey – Tyson – any of us – have to overcome defeats, while dedicating time to a chosen crafts/professions, in turn utilizing skills, talents, and our gifts from the Gods.  No matter how talented, no matter how prepared, skill and preparation falls to the wayside unless accompanied by belief.

Be it resolved … next time will be different.

Rousey may never fight again.  The second defeat may compel her to walk away; wipe the tears away, recognize time has spoken.  She may well elect to return, stepping back in the ring, accepting her weaknesses, while also seeing something new, confidence in the eyes of her opponents.  They – her opponents – flat out believing they can defeat her, having seen the last two fights, smelling doubt, fear; believing, knowing, they are just as good as the last opponent, willing to take on the challenge.

Both Tyson and Rousey elected to come back after their first defeats.  Tyson was never the same fighter.  The same seems to be Rousey’s fate.  Whatever path Rousey takes going forward, after the second defeat, is her decision to make, part of life.  Be clear however, Rousey, Tyson, the fight game, is not why I muse; digressing a little too far afield, too many references to blood sports, one too many metaphors.

Be it resolved is more than a promise; as real as blood, sweat and tears.  Whether the promise is broken the first hour, first day, or on day 364, it matters not.  Resolving promising, looking to the future, celebrating a new year, is a method by which we renew of belief in life, the possibilities, a belief in ourselves; stepping back in the ring, accepting the challenges no matter the disappointments, no matter previous accomplishments, starting anew.  Promising to do better, resolving, no matter the frustrations, fears and odds against us – living life, part of life – budding, flowering, enlightening.

World events, local politics, wars, deaths, hate notwithstanding, renewal.  “I resolve.”  “I promise.”  “I resolve.”  “I will continue living, fighting, challenging.”

Taking the next step, stepping over and around disappointments, making decisions, living because living means hoping for the best, a New Year, resolute.  Wanting the same for others, for ourselves, our cultures; over obstacles, accepting humility is much a part of life, resolving, believing, in different forms, across cultures (Nowruz (Persian New Year), Spring Festival (simplified Chinese 春节; traditional Chinese 春節; Pinyin: Chūn Jié), Tết Nguyên Đán or Tết (Vietnamese New Year), Enkutatash (Ethophia), New Year’s Day (for those whose follow the modern Gregorian calendar as well as the Julian calendar)),  … through song … poems, … dance … words … love … stories, believing in life.

Ghosts of New Year’s pass? – Maybe, sometimes, a possibility.  Anything is possible.  So be it resolved … Happy New Year.

JUST MUSING: “Bad movie…”

I believe I have figured out the disturbing disconnect which continues to rage after this last presidential campaign.  You’re familiar with what I’m talking about, aren’t you?  … Aren’t you?

You know:  “Our president” versus “not my president”; “You voted for hate” versus “I didn’t trust Hillary”; “He is a nincompoop” versus “Make America Great Again.”  The variations are multi-fold, driving fissures throughout the country, dividing America, causing confusion in the republic.  Are you getting my point, as to why I muse?  Are you?

Merriam Webster’s defines fissure “as a narrow opening or crack of considerable length and depth usually occurring from some breaking or parting.”  My analysis has little or nothing to do with elections concepts we have all become familiar with:  within the margin of error, suburban housewives, firewall states, battleground states, predictive analysis, working class-whites, blah, blah, blah.

Beware, mind’s eye differs, remaining slightly slanted, eschewed, after the fog and anger cleared, offering a different perspective.  Are you there yet?  Not yet?  Let me continue.  Please let me continue.

No matter what side of the theater you sit, you are familiar with the script.  The predictable, reliable theme:  an attractive couple living in Any Town, U.S.A., loving, caring, patriotic, believing in the America dream; existing in a dangerous, imperiled world.  Profound evil existing, side-by-side with pure and utter goodness, who would ever believe, who would ever dream such?  Perplexing evil so all-encompassing that law enforcement is befuddled, undermanned, and out-numbered; invoking the need of a higher power, a savior.  Are you feeling me?  Of course you are not.  Please be patient.  We are almost there.  An unidentified Volvo is destroyed.  A row of suburban homes are blown apart.  At least ten police officers are killed within the first fifteen minutes of the movie.  Flashback to our couple:  Still loving, caring, dreaming the American dream; unwittingly going about their day-to-day routine, predictably marching into harm’s way; America imperiled; the world imperiled.  Now look stage right – the savior, the hero!

Social scientists use to conduct word association tests to determine our views on race, sex, money.  In such tests, the participants are given a word and asked to respond with one word to what they see, what they think.  By way of example to simply the subject, I will use “race” as the identifying marker.  The word “rapist” is given.  The subject is requested to identify the image he/she sees, “the rapist’s race?”  The writers and producers, of the genre of movies I discussed earlier, aptly apply social science; using knowledge from past studies, pulling us in, applying words to images.  So it matters not where you are sitting in the theater, the city of your venue, the state you reside, the time the movie runs.  None of us – hear me – none of us need any additional prompting during the movie.  Seeing the image of the hero coming to save the day; a clear image, defined racial features, gender specific, embedded in the recesses of our brains; possessing the same neurons, as if we have all been cloned.

The problem is this – we are fracturing as a society, no longer seeing the same image.  Words of starkness still bring forth images of James Bond, John McClane, Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Peter Parker, running, flying, soaring, shooting away – to save the day.  No matter how belittling the words are to other groups – the rest of the world – the hero’s language, promise, and bold proclamations are designed to reassure.  He did promise to save the day, didn’t.  He did promise to make us great again, assuring the mythical (and real), attractive couples, living in Any Towns, U.S.A. their safety,  their survival.

During the elections, some commentators who knew this Super Hero (Señor Trump) told us his was all an act and that his racists and sexist words didn’t mean what they meant.  Assuring us that he was a good guy, like Bond.    Telling us, “you just got to trust James Bond, get pass the sexism, the racism.” They invited us to share a good laugh as the camera continued to roll.

In November 2014, Newsweek published an article reminding us of a long standing finding, that we are no different biologically. “In 1950, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) issued a statement asserting that all humans belong to the same species and that ‘race’ is not a biological reality but a myth.”   I get that, I do.  My point is different however.

We all possess the same memory neurons, the ability to retain information, symbols.  I believe that history and time has now re-programmed the others.  Of course, they still see Bond, McClane, Batman, Superman, and the other heroes.  They are no longer convinced these characters are on their side.  Seeing the same pattern, “they” (the hero) sleeping with the erotic woman before she dies (she always dies) (and then having their way with any other woman he wants).  Okay, I will concede this is primarily the Bond plot-line and I digressed slightly.  My point is the others now see differently, no longer believing the means justify the end.

The others still seeing the heroes ability to fight, maintaining super human abilities, in fact always winning, against the enemies, who happens to also be labeled others, who by chance, by happenstance, looks like them (Chinese, Africans, A-RABS, MESKINS, “the blacks”).  Always winning, always winning – always winning.  Hearing and seeing the hero’s message, making American white again, I mean great again, protecting others … but not them.

An election in which the participants (the audience), saw different movies.  As if the movie theater was divided in half, straight down the middle.  When the closing credits rolled, half of the audience cheered, crying with relief with their hero’s victory.  Thanking God.  Thanking only their God.  Comforted by their hero’s words, not at all insulted, taking him at his word, accepting the promises.  The other half  secured in their seats, seeing the credits, seeing but not seeing, locked in place, as if lashed in place, crying in sheer disbelief, frightened by the hero’s words, pulling back, curling inward, taking him at his words, accepting his words, frightened with their prospects; seeing and remembering the words of another great white American hero, Jay Prichett, “How that work out for you the last time”  (slightly paraphrased … you get my drift though).

See life is rather simple when you think about it.  We forever remain participants in a social experiment.  Seeing the same movie, hearing the same words, seeing the same characters – even crying at the same time – collectively moving uncomfortably in our seats during the show, all worried about the Attractive Couple, wanting the car, the house, the lifestyle, exiting the theater debating what we just saw, and the meaning of the hero’s words.  Still a hero to some, no longer a hero to most, all wishing the mythical heroes would come, could come, appear magically to save us all.  Unfortunately, they will not.  They cannot.

JUST MUSING: “Rock-paper-scissors” …

I never was good at the game rock-paper-scissors.  I can’t explain why.  Either I lost interest after one or two rounds, ultimately conceding, agreeing the other person was the winner, or I simply didn’t have the requisite skills to compete.  Wikipedia describes the game as “a zero sum game in which each player simultaneously forms one of three shapes with an outstretched hand.”   A simple fist (rock), a flat hand (paper), a fist with the index and middle fingers extend forming a V (scissors).  Rock beats scissors, paper cover rocks, and scissors in turn cut paper.  If both players choose the same shape, the game is tied and is usually immediately replayed to break the tie.  Maybe my inability and unwillingness to compete was because the game seemed to reduce winning to a simplistic absurdity.  Corrupting the game’s rules for me involved displaying the same form repeatedly.  No, I don’t know whether my chance of winning increased or decreased by forming the same figure.  No, I can’t give you any mathematical probabilities.  Opting out, choosing not to play – which I did, always, walking away, worried little whether rock-paper-scissors won.

I disagree with Wikipedia defining rock-paper-scissors as a zero-sum game. To me a zero sum game, in life, is a hand which is played when all else fails; occurring when there is a total loss of hope, followed by a be-damned decision, an act of defiance.  It is when life becomes unbearable, thus reducing winning to destruction, annihilation.  I am not sure I am making sense.  Let me try explaining with real world examples.

Palestinians strapping bombs onto their bodies to kill themselves and Israelis represents a zero-sum game – “my loss is your loss” – winning by losing, reducing life to an absurdity; an act which is clearly not a game of rock-paper-scissors.

A Tunisian vendor (Arab Spring), standing in the middle of the plaza and setting himself afire, taking his own life, is a zero sum game.  Rock-paper-scissors, ha!

Prisoners electing death over living is a zero sum game; indefinite detention, no hope of formal charges, or trial, in an isolated setting, invites hopelessness.  The game played at Guantanamo Bay is not rock-paper-scissors.  It is a life-game played against the backdrop of the total loss of hope causing the prisoners to react, taking power away from their captor, giving all, forsaking all to win.

*           *           *

I have been in a state of daze since the presidential election.  No, not because my candidate lost.  No, not because the United States continues to limit its highest office to a limited class of persons (Just Musing:  Babble, babble, babble …”).  No, not because of my health is failing, allergies, the change in seasons, or because I just realized, at this late date, that elections have consequences (Just Musing:  “No longer a chameleon”…).  No, no, no … this haze is different, much different.

When Barry Goldwater ran for the office of the presidency (1964 election), I was nine/ten years old.  Mr. Goldwater was a United States Senator from the great state of Arizona.  I remember, even at that age, being insulted by his words.  He was talking about me and people who looked like me.  His picture of America, cast under the umbrella of conservatism was much like the black and white television sets of my youth – clear – black and white – pitting white folks against black folks.  Telling his fellow America to follow his lead, give him their vote, to protect “us from them.”  The American public didn’t follow his lead, rejecting Goldwater’s call to hate.

In 1968, George Wallace, the Governor of the great state of Alabama, ran for the office of the presidency.  He, Wallace, was an avowed segregationist.  His image remained ingrained in the minds of every southern black child, standing in front of the school house door, telling the rest of America that America was a white man’s country and he, and he alone, would remain principled to protect America from us.  The American public by and large rejected Wallace’s message, affirming that hope remained part and parcel of the American dream.

Oh sure, part and parcel of any election is an “us against them” message; encouraging citizens to vote for a particular candidate, showing contrast, extending a hand requesting “the privilege of your vote.”   Absolutely, communities of interest become important, even when those communities of interests invoke race, sex, nationality, religion.  But this election seems different.  A tactical invitation to separate “us from them”, played masterfully from beginning to end, an in-your-face display of hate.  The results of this election caused the haze to roll over the hill, clearing the horizon, making it clear the American public accepted this candidate’s words and lead.

When he moved down the escalator and cast aspersions against Mexicans, a good friend of mine who is a White female, a liberal most of her life, told me she thought the candidate was funny; as if he didn’t mean it, as if he was play acting.  I listened to her hearty laugh, curled my mind around her words and laughter; curled my body around my anger and anxieties.  I explained then that his invoking race and racism could never be funny to me; it is always personal.

He never stopped his supposed joking – grabbing and reaching – touching any many disparate groups as possible.  But he was not joking, not at all a play of symbolism, no, no, no – his were direct words – directed against “the Muslims”, “the African Americans”, those lying women (whom he promised to sue), the disabled (whom he openly mocked and then said he wasn’t mocking; sort of like others contention of his joking, play-acting).  The consequences of his actions however were clear – causing others to laugh, point, cheer and jeer.

*           *           *

Americans stood up in 1964, a time our society was under fundamental pressure to do better; truly a zero-sum time in the country’s history.

Americans rejected Wallace’s attempt to import his hate to other states – Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin – and white women – said no – but not now, but not now.

No, this time was different.  They laughed at him while gifting him as much press time he needed to import his hate.   As if making a point, they remained silent, saying they were undecided.  Ginger-flexing (if ginger-flexing is a word), self-reflecting, assuring the rest of us he didn’t mean a word he said, while casting their ballots in the privacy of their homes, in voting booths throughout the land.  Not like Goldwater.  Not like Wallace.  Not like the rest of nation who rejected the hate – then.  Not this time.  A stark reminder we do have something to lose, while they closed their doors in the rest of our faces, to finish their hearty laughter.

JUST MUSING: “It never rains in southern California…”

Years ago Roberta Flack hosted a radio show which originated out of New York – WKRS, KISS FM.  The show aired in Houston at 4:00 a.m. each Sunday morning.  As with her music, so was her hosting; soothing, instructive, invoking memories.  Laying a marker in time, before and after, educating her audience how music, life, and time remain forever interconnected.  I religiously rose, turned on the radio to participate in Roberta’s music appreciation class.  One particular morning, Roberta seemingly isolated us by age, instructing the listeners of a certain age not to ignore new artists.  Marveling over “those artist under twenty five,” before introducing the musical group Tony! Toni! Toné!

Roberta spoke of those who influenced Tony! Toni! Toné! ’s sound, imploring the rest of us to listen to their voices to hear the voices of others.  Playing the song, stopping, allowing silence to invade – one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three – before speaking again, forever soothing, pulling us closer, rewarding our joining her so early in the morning.

“I am going to do something I normally don’t do.”

Playing the song again, allowing the voices of the artists to instruct the class.  Making the point, bridging the gap, making sure those who arose each and every Sunday morning understood why she rose each and every Sunday morning to share with the rest of us.

So that I am clear, this musing has little to do about music, less about Roberta Flack, and absolutely nothing to do about Tony! Toni! Toné!  It is, this musing, is written to discuss the dance the mind does to make sense of nonsense.

In listening to presidential candidate Donald Trump explain away his conversation with Billy Bush, my mind tried to make the sense of what I heard, what I saw.  Bragging, pointing, ogling (in front of others), caring little what others said, thought, or heard.  Allowing their handlers to depart the bus, while they remained seated, continuing to share their views on women, assessing their figures (“move, move”), comparing (“the short one”) as men or wont to do, then reaching for the tic tacs – not caring their mikes were hot – behavior which had normally been protected.

My mind did that dance, jumping over logic, not hearing the voice of a grandparent, parent, or theorist, ignoring the political pundits, instead hearing Roberta Flack’s voice, while Tony! Toni! Toné! ’s lyrics rang in my head.

It may never rain in southern California –♫ “They tell me.” ♫ – Trump’s voice, and Bush giggle, said that it didn’t.  At least they have never experienced such rains.  Their setting was no different – the comforts of luxury, surrounded by handlers, protected, sunny California weather, privileged – allowing them to let down their hair, to share a commonality; and share they did.

Perfect, perfect for ten years, until someone told.  Putting NBC in a bind; causing them to hold the tape for a week, refusing to tell the rest of us (my paranoid surmise), suddenly hit with a stark realization – sometimes it rains in sunny California.  Sometimes you have to tell, even if it hurts the franchise.

Perfect, perfect weather, until someone got angry at NBC’s refusal to tell (the tattle-tale among us strikes again), sending the tape to the Washington Post – the Post told, telling the rest of us.

♫ “It never rains in Southern California.”♫

Trump apologized – “if any of us were insulted.”  Bush suddenly became “embarrassed and ashamed.”  It felt if both were actually apologizing for getting caught (as men are wont to do) before he – Trump – instructed the rest of us to dismiss what we heard, saying it was not what we heard.

♫ “It never rains in Southern California.”♫

Of course it doesn’t (never rains) – so they assumed.  So we were told.  So we have always been told.

Explaining bigly styled – as if life experiences and time suddenly became irrelevant – so he says.  So his handlers say.  So they will now tell us?

Hearing the explanation causes me to hear the voices of others.  Life and time forever remains connected.  Playing life’s song, stopping, allowing silence to invade – one thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three – knowing what we heard, hearing Roberta’s voice, soothing us, knowing it finally rained in southern California.

JUST MUSING: “Calling a sumbitch a sumbitch when you see a sumbitch …”

Years ago a colleague promised to move to Canada, “if George W. Bush is elected President of the United States.”  Hers was not the only promise heard.  Others made a similar screed – promising, promising, promising to move, – flat out leave.   When she (Debora Perkey) drew her proverbial line in the sand, I questioned her decision, not at all looking askance to the Canadians; mind however was a different concern.  “How on earth are you going to survive during the cold months?”  Her tale of why she moved to the Houston area from Pennsylvania burdened my memory, forever ingrained as the core of my question.  She cared little for my concerns, curtly responding, “I will tolerate it.”  I must admit however, Debora differed from others, making good the promise, changing professions, moving after the Canadian government approved her papers.

I always wondered, but never said it, what would moving accomplish? I saw what she saw.  I heard what she heard.  I lived her frustrations.  Fearing the continual assault the election results wrought, seeing the nation move to the right, then backward; seeing the familiar mask, masking true intent, talking in code, invoking class and race.  Compelled to take flight, taking flight she did, moving from Galveston to Vancouver, changing professions, tolerating Mother Nature’s differing breath.  Always questioning, always wondering, what did the move accomplish?

There have been a number of stories reported recently of celebrities making similar declarations – Lena Dunham, Samuel Jackson, Molly Cyrus, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Griffin, Cher – are some I remember reading making declarations.  Declaration designed to make a point, at times the speaker seemed deadly serious, a few casts humor with their declaration, others seemingly made their statement to direct attention their way.  Each capable of moving, each blessed with the fruits and rewards of their industry, promising to flee while ignoring societal truths and life’s persistent dance.  Whether one, two, any of them moves or not is not why I muse.  The gnawing which existed when Debora said what she said still exists, wondering still, what will the move accomplish?

All politics is local” has been assigned to the late Tip O’Neill.  I always interpreted Speaker O’Neill’s adage to mean that no matter the office occupied, the position held, the issue before his body (United States House of Representative), politics reduced to its most basic level percolates locally, extending, reaching and touching the daily lives of each of us – you, me, them – friends, enemies.

Recently a British publication (Independent) reported that Texas’ infant mortality rate is the highest in the developed world.  An article published by Mother Jones described Texas as “one of the most dangerous places in the world to have a baby.”  A New York Times’ article assigned the increase to drastic cut of funding for Planned Parenthood by the state, “The study did not offer a clear cause for the dramatic increase, but the spike coincided with a 66 percent slash to family planning funds in the 2011 state budget. The cuts forced 82 family planning clinics to close — a third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics — leaving Texas women’s health programs able to serve less than half the women they served previously.”

When reading, I again saw what Debora saw.  I also found myself repeating her frustrations.  Seeing politicians obscene aversion to the poor, refusing federal dollars for health care; seeing her State government send back to the federal government money designed to address housing for the poor (both urban and rural families); seeing abortion made a political position, watching the shifting, turning which takes place when the fetus is birthed, pretending the State possesses a magic wand that allows it to meet the needs of its citizens solely with volunteers, prayer, Texan mojo and waving the wand at a ninety degree angle.

Texas’ Low Income Housing and Information Service in a December 2009 report entitled, USDA RURAL HOUSING SERVICE IN TEXAS: TURNING AWAY FROM THE POOR explained:  “In 2008 and 2009 Texas was one of only a handful of states to return unused federal funding for the 502 Direct loan program.  We estimate Texas returned as much as $14.2 million of funding in 2009 and is on track to return additional funds allocated to the state through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Texas ranks between Rhode Island and North Dakota in spending Recovery Act Direct funds.”  The report further provided:  “[t]he purpose of the Direct Rural Housing Service single family housing loan program is ‘to provide low- and very low-income people who will live in rural areas with an opportunity to own adequate but modest, decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings and related facilities.’ This is referred to as a ‘direct’ loan program because USDA Rural Development funds the loan directly from its appropriations and directly services the loan. The program is often referred to as the ‘502’ Direct Loan program because it was authorized in Section 502 of the Housing Act of 1949.”  We can pretend Texas has no poor, and that since 2009, the problems has been solved – it has not.  We can also pretend that decedent, safe and sanitary housing exists in the State for all of Texas’ citizens – we can also pretend Harry Potter is real.

The second societal truth can’t necessarily be assigned to anyone.  It is a life lesson.  Run – move – quit – the problems will still exists.  Babies will continue to be birth.  Life, time, fate means we will continue to die – ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  Somebody, somewhere will say something, do something, take an action designed to insult the most of us, while pretending to be one of us.  You will be able to see their clothes under the wool – other may not, seemingly blinded – and no matter how many times you scream wolf, they will ignore you.

With births and deaths, we are permitted, if we are lucky to continue the fight, no matter the consequences, no matter the results of a given election.  So that you are clear, this muse is not designed to hate on anyone capable of moving, nor is it designed to express a position seeking to prevent ones right of right of free movement.  No, no, no, I dare not be so short-sighted.

The status quo will continue to be the status quo unless we extend a foot preventing the door from shutting.   Absolutely, we are free to place one foot in the front of the other (instead of the crack of the door) and flee, moving from one particular locale to another – even to the supposed safe confines of Canada; apparently the favorite country of attribution.  Proclaiming, declaring, exculpating the wrong, stating our intent to move post-haste – fleeing.  Yes, we can.

The last of life’s lessons – some can’t move, deprived of the freedom of movement – history, class, race – trapped.  For some moving is outside of the world of possibilities – satisfied, blinded by their station in life, seeing nothing wrong, sublimely content.  Then there are the others – flat-out refusing to move – unwilling to acquit the sins of life, and history because of an election loss.  Continuing to slip a foot in the works; pointing, screaming, participating, yelling, calling a sumbitch a sumbitch when they see a sumbitch, hearing Tip O’Neill’s admonitions ring in their ears as they wish their fleeing compatriots well.

So I muse.

JUST MUSING: “Parental Advisory…”

When first reading of his transgressions, our mouths grew agape, wondering how could he?  Tweeting, posting, flashing, showing, and sharing intimate details, varying his routine, wittingly making his child a participant.  His habit, his ritual; once, twice, now a third time – same picture, same color underwear, sharing, sharing, sharing, is his addiction.  If he had been the inventor of the Polaroid camera, he would have pushed, zipped, and pulled, turned to someone, to anyone, requesting they take possession of the picture.  Because of his insistence, the invention would have been ignored, someone – anyone – we – concentrating instead of what he took a picture of – “See, see, see.”  But I digress, he was not the inventor of Polaroid; such is not his generation.  The reach out and touch generation requires no printing, developing, waving, blowing – no, no, no – such is not their encumbrance.  His generation only has to aim, push, type a message and forward.

Most commentators expressed sympathy for his spouse, knowing she stayed, suffering the public embarrassment of the wayward one.  Seeking to maintain the union, pleading to the rest of us to allow her and her spouse to work out the details in private – once, twice – she plead.  Her embarrassment seemed to compound itself when he didn’t exactly deny he had ceased sharing his Polaroid.  Whether he thought the press in New York was not going to ask, or whether they were going to stop being the New York press, or whether he had magically created another invention – privacy in a sphere where there is no privacy – I don’t know the answer to any of the inquiries into the world of mythical possibilities.  I like most instead thought – What was he thinking?

An addiction is defined “as the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.”  During the comedian Richard Pryor’s struggled with his addiction – cocaine – he joked the first thing he noticed during sobriety was he wasn’t what he thought he was.  “Hey I have been robbed.  Somebody stole my dick and left me with this little child’s wee-wee.”  His personification of the penis evoked laughter, while stating a matter of fact life truism – “Damn straight, men have dick hang ups.”  But Richard’s generation was a couple of generations before Anthony’s. Richard’s Polaroid was not Anthony’s Polaroid.

Whether an addiction is modern day addiction or not, it matters not – it is an addiction.  Threatening Anthony meant nothing to him.  Demanding he not do again what he did before were hollow words.   Anthony is an addict, addicted not to Dr. Pepper, Pepsi or Coke.  Not to coffee.  Not to alcohol or tobacco.  Not to cocaine.  He is still an addict.  Always denying the addiction then once cornered promising to correct his behavior.  I’m sure he promised.  I am sure he did.

His wife could have cut through the years of heartache by giving him a Polaroid camera the next day, reaching for his cell phones, pads, and computers and walking him through the process of closing all of his social media accounts.  No Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), WhatsAppTumblrInstagramTwitterBaidu Tieba, WeChat,  Line, Google+,  Skype, or Snapchat.   Reading off the list, asking yes or no, “do you or do you not have an account?”  Demanding any and all assumed names, and passwords, watching his eyes, his hands, listening to his words and anticipating the utterance of the words, “I don’t have a problem.”  If those words invade the room, get up and leave!  He is an addict.   If he delays, and says he will think about it, then refuse to give up the cell phone (“Step away from the cell phone!”) – leave!  He like most addicts will always take the side of that which possesses him, capturing his soul, imagination, and reasoning.  If he says he doesn’t remember his assumed names – he’s lying – has the information written somewhere or has subjected the passwords to memory – leave!  He is addict.   Pointing, shooting, typing, sending – he still an addict, “as the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.”  Read the definition over and over again, this will help you ward off self-doubt when it visits your cranial space.  After you are safe, secure and separated, send him a link of Lil Kim’s How Many Licks [look – don’t click on this link if you are easily insulted or have no idea who Lil Kim is!]  He will find no humor in tit-for-tat.  He will call you crazy, and will never call again.  You made your point and will have your peace.  Remember, you can’t cure him.  He has to be willing to change, admit his addiction and seek help for Anthony and Mr. Polaroid.

JUST MUSING: “Thank you baba…”

Their first interview after awakening the rest of us; telling Lawrence McDonald their son called him baba; always touched his left shoulder, “the side the heart lies”, assuring us; forever remaining present.  At best I can tell, baba means dad, or daddy, in the following languages:  Albanian, Arabic, Hausa, Swahili, Mandarin (informal), Mandarin Chinese and Turkish.  A variation is seen in Modern Greek, babbas; in Indonesian, bapa; Italian, babbo; Malay, bapa.

No interpreter was needed, the explanation, gestures, his words were universal.  In the McDonald interview Baba revisited his speech where he placed a hand over his heart, held his wife close with the other hand; owning the camera, the audience, providing a full-throated defense of family, faith, the Constitution.  Reminding the rest of us how isolating words can be, particularly when coupled with the impetus, strength, and threat of governmental policy.  Challenging the bully among us, knowing full-well the dangers of now being considered a public figure, accepting Justice Ginsburg’s challenge to the rest of us, not to remain silent – not now – before she stepped back, never really apologizing.  So thank you – Baba.  Thank you.