Criticizing and judging is no longer satisfying to me. What is satisfying is exemplifying what I as an American citizen and a human, empathetic, compassionate being have been missing. I could write reams about it, but it has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words.
So, why don’t I shut up and let you see what I mean…
P.S. You can view the full documentary on your favorite streaming service.
I challenge you to finish that pledge without going to your devices for the answer…
Why the challenge? Thank you for asking. God Forbid I should give you a to-the-point answer. Not my style.
Here is the circular path of my reasoning as I struggled to remember the words myself… and this after all the years of my generational elementary, junior and senior high school days of the daily rote repetition of the American pledge of allegiance. Certain phrases were embedded, but for what has been roiling around my brainball I needed to get it absolutely word perfect.
Let me begin with a metaphor of my experience since Election Day, November 3rd, 2020.
On that day, I went to my imaginary theatre to see my new play, The Mystery of The Pandemical-Electional Follies of 2020.
The first act was brilliant. Hero and Heroine unmercifully pursued by a psychotically narcisistic villain defeat that very villain.
Hallelujah!!! I wondered why we need a second act. But, since the first act was soooo very satisfying I had to stay for the second.
In the intermission I stood at my seat and along with my fellow audience members turned on my phone to check for messages and calls. We were all so in sync checking our devices, we looked like robots from a dystopian planet.
Suddenly, stepping from behind the curtain is our hero and heroine announcing that a very technically complicated piece of machinery necessary to the continuation of the play has locked tight in place and will not move. If we, the audience, will just have a little patience, the technical folk are working like crazy and as soon as they get it moving, we shall continue and all will be well.
With a sigh of relief from our protagonists’ assurances, we robots go back to our devices.
It is now November 22nd, 2020. I am tired. I am hungry. The charge is gone (and not just from my cell phone). I believe that the hero and heroine will be reunited in my play and I can once more breathe free from the constant tension of waiting. And then I can go home, wake myself from my metaphor and plan for a better day.
But before I do, I want every elected official – Republican, Democrat, Independent – to start their day with the Pledge of Allegiance as a reminder of who they work for. And it ain’t a political party! It is… WE THE PEOPLE… who find these truths to be self evident… You don’t just work for a blue state or a red state in the Congress. YOU WORK FOR THESE UNITED STATES.
We know this country needs a great deal of work, but in the world of countries we are young and able and we have the tools if only politicians will use them for the good of all peoples. I do not care if you are an elected official or plain people like myself, if you find your vision is myopic and narrow for goodness sake get a pair of glasses. I’m going to organize a fund for a wider vision to include all humanity. Please join me!
❤️ Love ~ Sally-Jane
P.S. This is so powerfully joyous. Such a reminder of how art is a powerful agent for bringing us together.
No matter which political party, our citizens voted!
The largest number of voters EVER participated in the democratic process. Whether you agreed or disagreed with their choice is irrelevant. The naysayers (and I confess at times I vacillated as one of them) proclaimed the downfall of Democracy.
Of course the division in the country exists to make life complicated and difficult. Just stop for one moment and think about it. Together we exercised our rights as citizens. No matter our differences, we stood on line together, we waited for hours together and in certain states and locations we kept our distances and were masked. In other locations not so much… but it didn’t matter. Either way we voted. There was not a single instance of violence or disruption throughout the country during this largest of voting turnouts.
For Miss Pollyanna here, I see a light. If we can be together in one action, maybe in time together we can learn to hear what the “other side” is saying and find our way towards if not reconciliation, then perhaps agreeing to accept our disagreements.
As a wannabe 87 year old Talmudic Scholar said:
On the one hand a leopard cannot change its spots.
On the other hand a good spot remover can do wonders.
I don’t know what to do with myself. My nerves are frayed. My ability to focus has sharply declined. AND… I feel a little like my tv set when it goes into its “buffering” state. You know… the picture and sound disappear and there is that little circle that goes round and round. I imagine that this buffering circle is running after the sound and the picture… and I sit there praying it catches them before I forget what it is that I was watching.
In both worlds of the pandemic and election craze daze, we have reached the stage of repetition in the stories and warnings and expose’ and charts and statistics and rallies and tallies that only brings numbness and confusion.
Sooooo… in an effort to distract myself from myself I want to tell you a story about my dance audition for The High School of Performing Arts.
How’s that for an oxymoron! (Oxymorons exist… I know few of them…sorry, it was just sitting there and I had to.)
I was 13 and full of myself. I thought I was a gift from the muse Terpsichore.
For my audition I was asked to prepare two different kinds of dances.
My second choreographic choice was to the Boston Pops version of the popular tango, Jealousy.
I thought each one reflected my brilliance as a dancer and choreographer.
Come on, guys, give me a break. I was a 13 year old who dreamed of stardom. If I became a star, I would be loved like I loved Betty Grable. Love and stardom were intricately and undeniably linked.
On the day of the audition, I changed into my leotard, walked into the big bare room with my two recordings, covered my nervousness and insecurities with a solid slice of bravura because I knew any minute I was about to be “discovered”.
Imagine my surprise as I discovered, there among the other people who were auditioning us, sat the High Priestess of Dance herself, Martha Graham. And I knew for sure the only reason she was there was to “discover ME”.
And so I danced with a fury as if my life depended on it. And for me, in a way it did. At 13 I knew family and home had a shelf life. I needed to begin my climb sooner rather than later. I moved to The Blue Danube increasing the tempo with speed of dips and turns never once looking in HER direction. And of course the ending was an overdramatic leap into the air with a slide flat out onto the floor. The thought of that move today would be the end not the beginning.
I immediately rose up from the floor and changed the record before they had a chance to say, Thank you and usher me out.
My interpretation of Jealousy followed along the lines of the movie The Red Shoes. I used the dramatic orchestral flourishes to interpret going “crazy” as I tangoed through the morass of a troubled mind… The everything and the kitchen sink approach…
I’m not going to keep you in suspense. I was accepted as a student in the dance department. I had also auditioned for the drama department. Of course, I was hedging my bets. It was not quite as dramatic as my dancing. I think I did a scene from something I wrote where I played all the parts. Over-the-top defined me then as now.
Many years later when I could bear to think about what I put Martha Graham through, I tried to imagine what she thought. I had spirit and energy. I had an intense desperation bordering on insanity to succeed, which is absolutely necessary for any budding wanna-be artist. And she had to have been amused or at least distracted from her problems for those few moments.
Phew! That felt good. There is no question about it. Distraction was definitely needed. In spiritual terms, I really want to believe that no matter what the outcome during this pandemic and after November 3 … All will be well. And honestly, my friends, in the deepest part of me, I do believe that is true. My sense of life is as long as I have it… life that is… all IS well.
I am the microcosm in the macrocosm. No Republican or Democrat or Libertarian or Anarchist or Nihilist brings the sun up and good old Mother Nature laughs (and lately cries) at those who think they can.
Right??? Of course, right!!!!
Love, Sally-Jane 💗
P.S. I promised I wasn’t going to get into it… but I had my fingers crossed… So, if you are so inclined, give this a look:
I feel a little bit like Peter Finch in the film Network. Remember he played a television broadcaster who amidst the pressure of his work world and the world around him, had a mental breakdown on television screaming, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!!!”
Well, as I watch the media play into the hands of Trump as they did in 2016… not realizing, or maybe conspiratorially they are aware that by their incessant Trump coverage bad, good or indifferent, they are going to get him elected. In this day and age, the PR pundits from P.T. Barnum to Rush Limbaugh, are right: There is no such thing as bad publicity.
I cannot hear or see about anyone except Trump. If I were someone who watched a great deal of television and I wasn’t sure about my vote I wouldn’t even remember who the other guy was so, “what the hell…”. For those who think I am exaggerating, I AM NOT! And at the same time, OMG! I hope and pray I am wrong.
But like Howard Beale, Peter Finch’s character in Network, I can’t take this anymore!!
So I’m going in another direction where the human experience offers an opportunity to alter a self destructive path to planet annihilation. And you thought I was going to make a funny.
Well, in the hopes of the return of my sense of humor, I want to offer for your consideration, two fantastical documentaries on Netflix:
This is about Craig Foster, a videographer living in South Africa, fast approaching a Howard Beale-esque burnout and how he saves his life, by making a 180 degree turn, removing himself to a hut on the Atlantic Ocean near the Cape of Good Hope. He begins a daily swim and dive in the cold and stormy Atlantic. \He encounters an Octopus. He makes this discovery the center of his daily dives for almost a year.
OK, my only experience is watching other people eat the poor animal. Not an animal I would consider pet worthy. But I’m a Brooklyn girl and not too many pet Octopuses in my experience.
This is not about pets. This is about our relationships in what is left of the world we live in and I promise you… in a time of pervasive meaninglessness you will find meaning and purpose in his journey. And here is the best part: You can apply his journey to your life. Of course it’ll be different because we all are different. Basic human geshrai is basic… and it needs to be visited… NOW!
This gentleman… and literally he is a gentle man… at 93, takes us painfully through the decimation of our planet from the year of his birth through today. When he was born, 1927, our world was in what was called the Holocene Era where there appeared to be a balance between wild places (aka nature) and modern civilization (the industrial revolution gone mad).
For me, it was extremely painful to watch the not so-slow-destruction of our planet because during most of my particular generation we gave very little thought to other geographic spaces that held the natural balance. Oh, yes, we wanted to travel to foreign, distant and unique places around the globe, but never thought about what was happening in these habitats; the flora, the fauna, the air.
For those who want to see what and how it happened and most importantly what we can do to reverse the death of earth planet, David Attenborough gives a balanced, measured and simple accounting. It’s not about climate change. Although, that is in it. It’s not about blame. Although, it’s impossible for you and I and all us humans not to acknowledge our responsibility. He explains how we are losing the battle to save the planet and at the same time, he gives us hope. I’ll run with that. Actually at 87, I shall walk with that. Join me!
I chose these two documentaries because in each we have an opportunity to correct some negative, hopeless, scenarios. I don’t want to feel shamed in front of my children and grandchildren that I left them such a crappy place to live.
This is my response to a special feeling of being pelted by media negativity. As a mere mortal, I have a limited ability to withstand the slings and arrows of the outrageous fortunes of their depressing onslaught.
Repeat with me what Howard Beale of the Network said:
Too many of my friends and relatives watched the debate last night!
Was there any intelligent HUMAN who didn’t know which way the evening was going to go?
Didn’t you know you were tuning into a new version of The Apprentice?
I want to be clear, I never intended to watch, I do not watch reality TV shows. They have never appealed to me. I don’t enjoy watching my fellow humans humiliated and belittled and shamed in front of millions of other humans. In my own life, I have experienced all of the above (thank goodness, not in front of millions). Why would I ever want to watch anyone go through such a negative, dehumanizing, and belittling experience? It never made sense to me. No, I don’t want a medal. This was my choice.
What I do not understand is why was I one of the few who knew it was going to be a bloodbath for Democracy. If you had the slightest knowledge of either candidate, how could you think this debate could go anywhere else? And please, let me not give the debacle last night the title of “Debate”. It was no debate…shouting match! personality clash! forget issues and points of law!
Where in the aftermath is the compassion for both gladiators? The lion being starved and prodded within and without by forces who were determined to have a bloody spectacle. And the lamb, prodded by forces within and without who insisted the lion’s natural instincts for devouring his prey were tamable. Nero would have been proud.
I for one hope there is not another one.
But if there is going to be another one… do yourself a favor so you can be prepared to understand the two candidates clearly. Watch PBS Frontline program Election 2020: Biden vs.Trump. It is an in-depth look into each of their lives. It may appear to be biased. Personally, I do not think it is. There is not a single human being, including the Pope, without yin and yang or as I prefer zits and warts. The program illustrates the zits and warts of each candidate. For me, it’s a personal choice of which zits and warts are acceptable.
In my world, I will hopefully choose humanity over human nature. In reality (God, I’m getting to hate that word!) I realize until I have been truly tested, I will never know what my choice would be.
However, I do have brilliant role models who help me find my way. On my 80th birthday I asked a friend to find photo portraits of these role models to hang from the ceiling at the party. Here is just a partial list:
William Shakespeare, Sigmund Freud, George Gershwin, Ulysses S. Grant, Sandra Day O’Connor, Billie Holiday, Abraham Lincoln, Marlon Brando, Doris Lessing, Virginia Wolfe, Mary Wollstonecraft, Martin Luther King, Thomas Merton, FDR, Leonard Bernstein, Martha Graham, Charlie Chaplin, Maria Callas, Eleanor Roosevelt, Buster Keaton, Marilyn Heit Leibovitz, Georgia O’Keefe, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Albert Einstein, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Dianne, Lori, Pamela, Rainer Maria Rilke, Frederick Douglass Gustaf Mahler…
Not one of these beautiful people are without his or her zits and warts. However, everyone of them, when confronted in life – as we all are – chose their humanity over their human/animal nature.
On Friday night, September 18th, after returning home from a life affirming and joyous outdoor Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) celebration with seven others, a lovely mix of family and friends, a friend texted me about the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg. I went into a tailspin (aka depression).
What was my problem? Her imminent death had been a foregone conclusion for years. Her heroic mission kept her alive beyond the miraculous. Her staying power was Herculean. Knowing what her demise would mean to Affordable Care, Roe v. Wade and so many other issues of humanity, she left a request to the American people:
“My most fervent wish is that I will not be replaced until a new president is installed.”
Mitch McConnell used the same rationale while Obama was President. But that was 15 minutes ago and he changed his mind… again.
All right! All right! From the moment I heard of her demise, I found myself wallowing in dark and dangerous thoughts.
Always at these times, I go into a dialogue with myself. Here it is.
Me: (in fear of the future) OMG what am I going to do? What’s going to happen now? Is there going to be a Revolution…Civil War…do I have to join a gang of vigilantes. Is America going the way of Job? First the Pandemic, then the Election, now RBG!
I have to leave this country. Where? Where can I go? Any country I want to go to doesn’t want Americans.
Me: (in the moment): Calm down. We have a lot of grieving to do. Your fears are diminishing her story. Who she was? What she accomplished. Her strength and tenacity as a woman, a wife, a mother, a lawyer, a jurist and ultimately a role model for men and women. If you stay in this minute, I promise, ultimately it will show you how best to live in a world that throws the best curve balls ever.
I GO DOWN TO THE SHORE
I go down to the shore in the morning and depending on the hour the waves are rolling in or moving out and I say, oh, I am miserable, what shall — what should I do? And the sea says in its lovely voice Excuse me, I have work to do.
You know what? This staying in the moment thing is really hard. If I stayed in the moment, felt the grief, felt the power of this petite woman’s life to change what had previously been thought impossible to change , yeah, right!!! What is it about staying in the moment which I know is really the only way to live but, oh, my friends, it is soooo difficult.
I have spent a lifetime believing that to believe in God is to believe that all things are fair and there will be wonderful surprises.
The best surprises come out of not knowing! I think there is a lesson in this.
I have no idea what the fallout will be from this cataclysmic event. It doesn’t make any difference. Whatever happens we will always have RBG’s strength, tenacity and perseverance to keep up us in the light.
I had a recent unsettling experience… let me set the scene:
Two acquaintances on my porch for morning coffee and croissants. As we settle down and begin discussing the topic du jour… our various adventures in and around the pandemic and the election, eventually, in my own inimitable voice of authority, I bring up the wearing of masks.
“If only we had some Federal leadership that would create a national program for the wearing of masks and other safety issues that are necessary for our protection,” says I.
Let’s face it, my friends, I am old enough – barely – to remember the Federal programs during World War II that were necessary to help us survive and help the war effort… ration books for food and gas, meatless days, paper and metal drives.
Oh, sure there were always people that didn’t join in that effort… and there were many Black Market organizations. But for the most part, most everyone came together as part of the civilian war effort.
People died in the war. People died in the pandemic.
End of the aside.
Expecting to have both guests nod heads in agreement, I was heartily disappointed. The female of the duo nodded. The male said,
“I don’t think it’s fair to blame him. We are a country founded on States’ Rights and each state should have their own laws about how they want to handle the pandemic. I think, considering what he has to deal with, he is doing a very good job.”
Shock! Dismay! Disbelief!
I know a few people (and relatives, too) who think he is doing a good job. However, I am not in close proximity with them. You might say we really have perfected long distance social distancing. This was the first time I was sitting near enough where I could see the whites of his eyes. I was struggling to be polite. But when he started quoting Fake News items I realized there could be no discussion.
I quickly looked at my watch, which I forgot to put on, and told them that I had forgotten I had an online class in a few minutes. You didn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that time had just run out… the party was over.
They left. I was angry. But worse than that I was shocked. This manis a cultured, educated, sophisticated upper middle class white human male. How did this happen? I racked my brain.
And it finally came to me…
After a self-organized reading program of black non-fiction writers like Isabel Wilkerson and Carol Anderson, I realized they were right all along! The white majority is disappearing. I had just been witness to an example of this fact. This white upper middle class man in fear of losing his white majority is going to vote for the man who will guarantee that majority against all odds. As time goes on the white majority will be no more. I am not rabble-rousing. Check the statistics (I can’t believe someone who hates statistics as much as I do is saying this).
And before I let go of this bone, in 1970 you could substitute the silent majority of the Nixon era with the white majority of this era. And never forget it was this silent majority that allowed the wannabe tyrant Joseph McCarthy to flourish.
So alright already… What is this white majority that is being written about and exemplified in books, movies, television, podcasts, editorials, and just plain life? Obviously, I am going to have difficulty explaining it because I am so apparently part of it. I am of the white/caucasian persuasion. Black, white, brown, orange, purple… we are all part of this human condition… with differences. As part of the human condition/nature, consciously or unconsciously, we each strive to be better than someone else. A human animal popularity contest, if you will.
I know as the seventh of eight children I do not remember a day when I didn’t strive to be better than anyone of my brothers or sisters. My parents actually promoted that competition, thinking the competition would push us to excel in our various gifts, which personally I am happy to say it did, but they used it also as a control of a sometimes uncontrollable large family. And because of my race, I could move more easily in the world. And here is the big word that explains how I could do it:
ASSIMILATE – that’s what I could do.
I was acceptable… up to a point… being a Jew kept me back many times in my life and I can still recognize a slur when it happens… even in jokes… but basically, if I chose to I didn’t have to say I was Jewish and then I would always be acceptable because I could assimilate into this amorphous white majority. See how easily it works???
If you are black, this is not possible. A black person is always black. Except of course, black people who look white and then they have to decide whether to pass which is another word for assimilation. So how did the white majority control the black population? During the centuries of black slavery this was easy. Blacks were property, not people. There was no white majority because in fact whites controlled everything and therefore, obviously it did not need to be stated.
It was after the Civil War with emancipation, voting rights, human rights, and civil rights, when whites, most obviously in the South and more subtly in the North, felt the thunder and fear of change.
A brief dream time of Reconstruction was systematically squashed by the new Jim Crow laws of the south, created and enacted by the vanquished losers of the Civil War and legislators of the treasonable former Confederacy.
Ghettos, incarceration, proliferation of drugs, low service jobs, sharecropping (another version of slavery), limited and segregated housing and education, unequal voting and civil rights… all the negative control factors used by the white majority to control black lives.
Whites fear that black lives not only matter but that they will race ahead, leaving white lives in their dust. They certainly have done it in the world of sports and popular music.
Obama’s two-time win (accomplished without the white majority) put the white majority into a tailspin and is the most probable cause for the continued bitter (and what I personally consider un-American) politics of Republic Congressman, Senators and Judges – A black president in the White House? Never again!
The white majority is and will disappear. That’s a fact! The mix of nationalities which, to me has always been the backbone of America’s strength will now add a new strength in the form of mixed colors… HOORAY!
And let us not forget, the President’s National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders known as the Kerner Commission, headed by Governor Otto Kerner of Illinois, appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson in July 1967 to uncover the causes of urban riots and to recommend solutions. The report, which declared that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white – separate and unequal,” and warned that unless drastic and costly remedies were undertaken at once, there would be a “continuing polarization of the American community and, ultimately, the destruction of basic democratic values.”
There is a slate up for election on November 3rd that exemplifies a necessary and overdue recognition of this reality.
My reckoning is that this person who came to my porch for coffee and an abrupt departure doesn’t even realize he is part of that fearful white majority. I am sorry for him. But I am happy that his partner will cancel out his vote. I worry about others who don’t have anyone to cancel out their vote. So I ask us all to do what we can to give us back a country with some basic civility and caring to help us heal.