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.
A friend recently sent me a link to this article by George Conway in the Washington Post. To say I had a strong reaction is an understatement! I couldn’t understand how reading a list of his bona fides insanity and ridiculousness could possibly be worth my time. Between the pandemic news of the day and the election news of the day, we are taking a battering.
Well, my friends I had to interrupt my reading at Chapter 2 to write to you…
WE ALL NEED TO READ THIS BOOK! It reveals the truth of how the monster made it this far and what we all did or didn’t do to contribute to our current painful reality. It is from this painful acknowledgement that the solution can be found.
And if I didn’t believe there was a solution to the absurd and terrifying situation we are in, then I’d go out without a mask, touch my face, never wash my hands, go to school in Georgia and buy a Harley so I can join the South Dakota Bike Rally.
So while I finish this book, I hope you’ll start it. Then, let’s tawk!
P.P.S. And finally, amidst all this confusion someone speaks how we can understand and come together…
In a recent coffee klatsch with my new very best friend, Voltaire, he reminded me, “Sally-Jane…
In light of this very wise and prescient statement, I am all too aware of how little we know of American History. Of course, it didn’t help that history books until a recent time had a very one-sided version of what happened before, during and after the founding of these United States of America.
I am old enough to remember that my history books taught that many American Indian tribes were our enemies, but not how the enmity originated.
I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Jackson forcing them off their ancestral lands in the East onto the infamous march West… The Trail of Tears.
I don’t remember reading about President Andrew Johnson shredding Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation promises, aided and abetted by Confederate officers and soldiers into proclaiming Jim Crow as the law of the South and founding the KKK.
I could go on but I think I would rather present you with a cornucopia of gifted artists and writers who will, through document and performance, enlighten your way .
It has been spoken. It has been written. You cannot grow… You cannot know…
Where do I come from…?
How did I get here…?
Read on MacEveryone….
Don’t ask me why I chose this book, She Would Be King: A Novel by Wayétu Moore. I knew nothing about it. Maybe because I was celebrating my bookstore having finally come out of its pandemic hibernation. And the title was definitely quirky. I chose a winner. The author is black and beautiful and she writes like a dream. In fact dreams have a lot to do with this magically and very realistic story. I never understood what it meant to read a book of magic realism. I’m not sure I do now but I am beginning to understand this category mixes the reality of the founding of Liberia in the 19th Century and the fantastical but oh, so real journey of the three main characters towards their destiny. Their imprint is indelible in my psyche, my soul, but most of all, my spirit.
In the PBS program, Twilight: Los Angeles, award-winning director Marc Levin weaves, Anna Deavere Smith’s powerful one-woman theater piece of the same name with news footage and interviews to create a portrait of rage, sorrow, loss, and battered hope surrounding the 1991 Rodney King beating, the violent aftermath of the 1992 verdict, and the lasting impact of the L.A. riots on America’s conscience.
I have a confession to make. I am usually not a podcast listener. But I have an investigative reporter feeding me with brilliant podcasts. She also happens to be my daughter.
I don’t know about you but with recent events, I have been witness to friends and relatives clucking of tongues, sighing, and head shaking, saying things like… “This is terrible.” “Shocking!” “What can I do? I feel so powerless.” Then, like the air going out of a balloon, nada! We are not only tongue tied. We are idea tied.
Give me a break! You know about David slinging rocks at Goliath, right? You heard how Joshua outplayed Louis Armstrong at the battle of Jericho, right? Please my friends, use these metaphors to create a new reality of what you, you alone, can do.
Here is an example of what one citizen of the town of Northampton, MA did upon hearing that the town council in response to the recent protests was voting to increase the budget of the police department. OK, OK, so there is a whiff of nepotism in the air, the writer, Pamela Schwartz is my daughter. Hey, leave us not forget, it’s my Blog and I gave myself permission. All right? All right!
So read on and hopefully we all can understand the many ways that we, as individuals, can make a difference and try to change this racist world we live in.
There is no quick fix. There is, however, a very easy and simple way to slow our country’s downward spiral. VOTE!
If you are in doubt about the uselessness of your vote, please go to your PBS Streaming Channel (It’s as easy as it is important to add this app to your TV) and Tune in to the PBS Documentary ‘PBS’ American Experience: “The Vote”
Cluck your tongues, sigh, shake your heads, but understand, the VOTE, is in your not really powerless hands. Right? Of course, right!
P.S. I leave you with a quote from Margaret Mead who struggled against world opinion and condemnation to provide safety and health for women and children …
P.P.S. And here’s another example of creative citizenry:
I feel compelled to send this to my near and dear. I am going to do something I rarely do – allow you to determine for yourselves what you think and feel about the two articles I am sending. The first by Courtney Ariel titled: For Our White Friends Desiring to be Allies
If you have a computer you have already received many emails concerning the whys and wherefores and how-tos of the coronavirus.
I’ve put together my own list with my own introductions to my nearest and dearest. I am sure there will be much duplication.
I think of these emails as the trajectory, the progression, if you will, of my own very late awareness of the virus. And what it means to me and my loved ones and even not to just my loved ones but to all humans everywhere. Yes, even those politicians and leaders who refused to lead us into global awareness as to what was happening. I do not wish anyone ILL. However, it is important to see how the world is leaderless… Oh, yes, there are health workers, and disease agencies that are tirelessly working to correct the politicians-of-every-nation’s inability to gather globally to stem the tide of this virulent virus.
Borders closed. Countries in lockdown. I ask myself. Is that what had to happen before attention was paid?
I do not think you have to be brilliant. I am not. It is now the middle of March and I don’t know all the facts (I truly don’t think anyone ever will) but the Chinese Government began talking about the Corona Virus in the beginning of January. The first reports I ignored. After all, no leader anywhere, except China was saying anything. From my perspective, China is very far away. I keep forgetting. We are all globally connected. In today’s world, Wuhan is next door to Brooklyn.
In this forwarded mélange of advice, take what you want and leave the rest.
1. Important New Dispatch:Dr. Jordan Shlain Reporting From the Front Lines
To my nearest and dearest – Yes, another recipe for continued good health. And if you do nothing else do like it says and keep lubricated. (Take your mind out of the gutter) and drink water. That’ll teach that virulent virus to bugger off.
And always remember. Love will keep us together as long as you don’t touch me…
4. 👆🏼That Widely Circulated List of COVID-19 Tips Is a Hoax
Ok. That does it! No more advice! There’s too much hysteria and panic which looks for answers that just aren’t there. Hey, guys, there’s no magic bullet! Use you common sense until a leader comes along that can lead us out of the wilderness or through the parting of the Red Sea.
Remember when we had leaders who told the truth and in dire circumstances such as we are experiencing now could be there to support, encourage and help? I wish one and all good health as we try to chart a course to safety.
So, I lied! Here’s one more from me to youse. It’s because it kind of explains where I am in thought.
I’m already limited by age and its attendant physical limitations and now I’m being asked to be limited voluntarily in terms of social engagement. I think it requires a major life rethink for me (change my behavior) and if you will help me, I am sure I can do it.
Using numbers paralyzes me. Statistical charts don’t really make a lot of sense to me. But with this article I finally understood what it is that I can do.
Now that you are on information overload let me wish you well on your life journey.
I think if we are careful we can survive and most importantly I think there are some very profound life lessons to learn.
There’s been a great deal said about the human condition. Not all of it very positive.
The worst is the tale of toilet paper. Toilet paper? Really! I never thought toilet paper would be the arbiter of what makes for a civilized society. Who knew?????
I do not want to be thought of as a bleeding heart sentimental fool (all of which admittedly I am), but what an opportunity this presents for us to go beyond the base (toilet paper, really?) human condition into an atmosphere of service and caring and, yes, love.
Of course, I could be writing this because I am vulnerable and if they decide to take us elder vulnerables and put us on ice floes that take us out to sea never to return (of course, because of global warming – which of course “does not exist” – there are no more ice floes).
Here is where I harken back to inspired leadership.
Two Presidents and their speechifying come to mind. Historically flawed, like all of us, they understood the need and the desire to help their citizens aspire to a higher code of conduct.
“We have nothing to fear but fear itself”
Franklin D. Roosevelt
“Ask not what your country can do for you. But what you can do for your country.”
~ John F. Kennedy
Right???? Of course, right!
P.S. Without humor, with or without the virus… we’re dead!
O.K. so I don’t read the news. I don’t listen to the news. Except for periodicals and books, I am beholden to the kindness of friends and strangers for current events.
I think even the stratosphere reverberated with these last mass murders and I heard and felt the earth move.
The Universe spoke: ENOUGH! ENOUGH!
Without moral leadership, what is to be done???
Do I fall back on the “keeping of my sanity” rationale that this is all part of the human condition?
I want any young men who buy a gun to be treated like young women who seek an abortion. Think about it: a mandatory 48-hours waiting period, written permission from a parent or a judge, a note from a doctor proving that he understands what he is about to do, time spent watching a video on individual and mass murders, traveling hundreds of miles at his own expense to the nearest gun shop, and walking through protestors holding photos of loved ones killed by guns, protestor who call him a murderer.
After all, it makes more sense to do this for young men seeking guns than for young women seeking an abortion. No young woman needing reproductive freedom has ever murdered a roomful of strangers.
~ Original Author Unknown
Or do I take this seriously and send it out to my friends and family and pray we can get a groundswell going to press for legislation to prevent the next mass murder.
I opt for the groundswell (whatever that is), right? Of course, right!