My recent blog post has provoked responses that mean so much to me. Who’da thought….
I have been having stimulating dialogue with friends and family that hopefully will move us to rethink who we think we are. For me doing that might lead to some deepening of my sub and conscious awareness.
The two pieces below are particularly thought-provoking.
I have a new
friend. He is nice. He is black. I am white. I didn’t mean to but I offended
Here is the
In December 2018,
I saw the film, Green Book. I flipped. I loved it. No, I mean I really
loved it. I was in the local movie art house and there was hardly anyone
else watching with me. I would say maybe 10 people at most. I laughed. I cried.
I thought Viggo Moretensen and Mahershala Ali were beyond brilliant. I ached for
each of them in the many cathartic moments of the film. I was enraged at the
America that made it necessary to publish a horror like Green Book.
I was beyond the stratosphere at the music. Don Shirley’s classical music background blending with a jazz originality to create a sound that kept my head, my hands, my feet, and my heart moving constantly every time he played. (Just so you have all the information… the pianist, Kris Bowers, composed the movie score and played the piano parts and he too is brilliant.)
I’m glad the theatre was empty. The way I was swinging with the music, I may have been asked to leave.
And when it was over, I stood up as in those rare standing ovation moments at the theatre. I say rare because for me to stand means to know you have witnessed a genius rarity not likely to happen again. I yelled, “BRAVO!” I applauded. I was ignored as the very few fellow audience members left, walking rapidly, perhaps nervous that some cuckoo was on furlow for a matinee.
I practically danced up the aisle. As I left the theatre, the ticket taker was standing at the door. She is black. I stopped. I took her hand. She withdrew it. Undaunted, I gushed my enthusiasm for the film. I asked if she had seen the movie. She looked hard at me. She said in a very clear voice. “No! I don’t watch rubbish.”
I guess that should have been my first clue. But, I ignored it. I couldn’t wait to get home and call my near and dear ones. If they ever wanted to see or speak to me again they needed to pass the test of seeing this movie.
Fast forward to the next day after the Academy Award ceremony…
Don’t hit me. I didn’t watch. I never watch. They
always leave out the one movie I thought was really great or the actor or the
writer…and basically, I am not sure about awarding best anything to any
artist. The competition is within the artist. Don’t tell me
someone is better than someone else. I don’t believe you can compare
apples and oranges. However, God forbid the money men and women don’t
make their money back on their product. And for them, it isn’t about
art. It is about “product”.
All to say, if they called my name for an Oscar, I’d probably be there.
My new friend and I were talking about the Oscars. Those who know
me know. Those who don’t know me are pretty sure. I have an opinion
on everything. Ask my daughters.
I had read Spike Lee was angered by Green Book’s big win. I opined that it might be sour grapes. I had seen his film, BlacKkKlansman and thought it was great. The perfect example of trying to compare apples and oranges.
My friend said he enjoyed Green Book, but he was also in agreement with Spike Lee. For him, the Academy was doing its usual thing. Rewarding the white man as he rescued the black man. Another movie to make the whites feel good.
I don’t often keep my own counsel. I continued on and on about how Green Book detailed the possibility of a bigot changing his tune. And isn’t that what is needed in a world gone mad with so much hate and bile. A world growing more and more into “them and us”. Separating humans of ever color from each other.
As I pontificated, I assured him, I knew what he was feeling.
There came a very pregnant pause. A close
to delivery pregnant pause. The pause was so awkward it actually shut my
After some time, we broke the pause with
banal conversation. Not going near the subject, we talked awhile and then
After we parted, I recalled what I had been saying. What was it that brought about the pause that did not refresh? As I did, I realized my new friend had been trying to tell me something without telling me something. No matter we are both minorities. I am Jewish and a woman. But I am white. He is black. I cannot and will never know what it feels like to be black.
Later that same day, I wrote an apology. I wrote that of course I could never know how he feels. I have had some of the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune thrown my way, but against being born black in this world, past or present, not comparable.
He acknowledged my apology. We have not continued the discussion. Hopefully someday we will. Slow and steady as the friendship deepens, anything is possible.
I don’t know. I do know there are those who want to see a better world. Me, for one. And for me, a better world would be one where we all wake up one morning and find we are color blind. If that were true, then Green Book and BlacKkKlansman and all movies about race would be Fairy Tales. A collection of very Grimm Fairy Tales.
Is it possible?
As long as we are still breathing the world of possibilities will always exist? Right?
Of course, Right!
P.S. It seems no matter where I turn, going to the movies, reading a book, I am surrounded by with racism, bigotry, and the inherent anger, resentment and frustration.
In a recent biography of Frederick Douglass, David W. Blight writes of an event which occurred in Washington, D.C. on the 11th anniversary of the end of the Civil War as well as the 11th year anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. At the unveiling of a monument honoring Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, with President Ulysses S. Grant and all of official Washington present, Frederick Douglass spoke:
It must be admitted, truth compels me to admit, even here in the presence of the monument we have erected to his memory, Abraham Lincoln was not, in the fullest sense of the word, either our man or our model. In his interests, in his associations, in his habits of thought, and in his prejudices, he was a white man…
He was willing to pursue, recapture, and send back the fugitive slave to his master, and to suppress a slave rising for liberty, though his guilty master were already in arms against the Government. The race to which we belong were not the special objects of his consideration… My white fellow-citizens… you are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children; children by adoption, children by forces of circumstances and necessity.
Excerpt from oration delivered by Frederick Douglas at the Unveiling of The Freedmen’s Monument in Lincoln Park, Washington, D.C., April 14 1876
That speech was given in 1876. It is 2019. Have
things changed? Externally, yes.
However, haven’t I been reading how the Executive Branch, the Congress, our Supreme Court are colluding and searching for ways to limit and deconstruct the civil rights legislation LBJ pushed through after JFK’s assassination.
Isn’t this what happened to the promises of Reconstruction after the Civil War?
I think this is the time to bring out my favorite Voltaire quote (a very dear, very old, very close friend of mine),
When the stock market takes a 600 point dive and there is no depression and there is no war… and there is also NO REASON… EXCEPT????
Time to get out the old movie from 1997, Wag the Dog. Simply put it is about a President just prior to election time becoming embroiled in a sex scandal. The brilliant spin doctor of the administration and a major Hollywood producer collaborate to create and promote a war against Albania. This will take the heat off the Scandal and the oversexed President will be elected.
It is a brilliant movie and ridiculously relevant.
From the door of the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Turkey, which the Crown Prince’s assistants walk through with their body saw in full view, to the Campaign of Bombs on Broadway, to accusing Democrats of doing-in Democrats.
They’re coming at us along with every other trickster. Wait a minute! Two weeks before the mid-term election???
This is very familiar. Did this happen before? Wait, let me think! Two weeks before the election 2016, the guy from the FBI… forgot his name. Didn’t he do something similar concerning Hillary Clinton which the next day he took back… something like that.
If you remember what it was, would you remind me?
Could it be happening again?
If you believe you cannot fool all the people all of the time, please, have a good laugh, and then go out and VOTE!
Look for the Silver Lining was one of my mother’s favorite songs so we know this is an ancient tune. Praise the internet for shortening research time. Look for the Silver Lining, written in 1919 (the year my mother married) by Jerome Kern and Buddy DeSylva for the Broadway show SALLY.
I was not a child until at the very least, 1938. I remember my mother telling me how she went to see Sally in the 1920’s, falling in love with the star of that show, Marilyn Miller and the Silver Lining song she sang.
As I write this now, I ponder, was that the reason I was named Sally? Then why did my mother add the hyphen and the Jane? Since she is the only one knows the answer, I shall add it to my ever-growing mountain of unanswered questions. Am’t I supposed to get smarter as I get older? I used to think so. I think whatever intelligence I thought I had has definitely reversed direction and is heading towards oblivion. And I have to tell you, on certain days I am mightily relieved… oblivion is so much nicer than the news.
But I digress (my favorite pastime and present-time, too)!
Here are my suggestions… I chose the song, Look For the Silver Lining because of two recent movies I was privileged to see, both documentaries.
Now for those of you who don’t know me – give me good trash! As a friend of mine once said, “Oh, Sally-Jane, she can be had by the commercials.” That was before I became addicted to streaming. And now I don’t know from commercials… so I save myself for the trash. That is, until seeing these two documentary films.
RBG, the title of the documentary about Ruth Bader Ginsberg, our Supreme Court Justice, who like Atlas single-handedly holds the world safe to keep it from spinning out of orbit. Well, that’s what it feels like for me, my friends. In future history books, she will be known as The Great Dissenter. And I feel, every dissenting opinion she writes will, when we straighten up this mess, be turned into laws that will help not hinder the people. It is also the very candid and real journey of a woman climbing a female sand mountain. I would like to think it’s not as high a mountain as it used to be. But the verdict isn’t in yet, I fear.
This is not just another dance company looking for funds. (Tell me any cultural organization you know that isn’t having difficulty getting funding for their programs. Museums, orchestras, non-profit theatres they are all in trouble). This dance company has a very unusual program. As someone put it quite succinctly, ”this documentary titled, Moving Stories, shows dance as soft power supporting people that political and social failures have hurt.”
The film profiles the Dancing to Connect program of Battery Dance Company. Six empathetic and inspirational dancers from the company each travel to 6 different locations around the world – New Delhi, Bucharest (Roma children), Busam (where traumatized children escaped North Korea), and defectors from China mix with South Korean teens to create motion through their emotions, and a young Iraq hip-hop dancer, given lessons through Skype moves towards his destiny.
Moving Stories is about far more than how Dancing to Connect teaches stigmatized, abused, frightened children to dance. It is about how the children learn to unlock their hesitation and dance together. Together…. oh, what a lovely word!
Just so we are clear. I have not given up my good trash viewing. However, what I have done, for myself, and hopefully, for those who are interested is to signal for all who are depressed by a world gone mad – a light at the end of the tunnel. Otherwise known as hope (and I don’t care what you say this is not a dirty word… another lovely word… how’s this – “Together hope”?) Hey guys, who knows maybe the world has always been mad. Yet another question for my growing mountain of unanswered questions.
Maybe that is why the song popped into my head. Sure the lyrics are cornball and cliché, but isn’t it written somewhere, it’s only a cliché because it is true. Well, if it isn’t written somewhere, it is now.
Here are the cornball cliché lyrics:
Look for the silver lining Whenever a cloud appears in the blue Remember, somewhere the sun is shining And so the right thing to do is make it shine for you
A heart full of joy and gladness Will always banish sadness and strife So always look for the silver lining And try to find the sunny side of life
One more suggestion… Won’t you join me as we sing together in hope?
Reckless Endangerment by Grethen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner (And old/new story of the 2008 Financial Debacle)
Texas in The New Yorker
What do these three subjects have in common?
These disparate topics indicate (and by the by, something I have always known but kept hidden from friends, family and passersby) that this mind of mine is a gathering place for wool, webs, and much flotsam on the jetsom.
It is also a repository of eclectic interests and sadly, there is no connective tissue.
First, let us look at the new book Churchill and Orwell by Tom Ricks. I must admit I stared at it on my coffee table for a good two weeks before I picked it up to read.
Talk about no connective tissue… Orwell… Churchill… The author was surely stretching the point by putting them together in one book. And yet, as I read further, it was there.
They were as distinctly different. Churchill was a public school, inherited wealth product and supporter of The Empire. Orwell, on the other hand went to fight along with the communists and Republicans against Franco’s Spain. They both almost got themselves killed. They were politically divided, but brilliant wordsmiths and extraordinary writers; they believed in freedom of expression, both of them willing to put their money where their mouths were.
It was interesting as I read the book, approving of Churchill and then disapproving. And following the same pattern with Orwell. The pages of the book came alive as Rick wrote their stories.
In this day and at this time, I don’t remember reading any modern writers equaling the passion and commitment of these two men. To make a difference and to persuade people to our way of thinking or allow others to persuade us, we might consider doing so not with loud words and name calling, but with arguments, reason and most of all, WORDS.
Novel idea, isn’t it?
OK, in 2010, Michael Lewis wrote what I had thought was the defining book on the 2008 financial debacle, The Big Short. I barely understood the book and I loved the movie but I had to see it twice to only begin to understand how they did it. (They being the financial community…banks, investment houses, and everyone else from Wall Street to Washington to strip mall storefront financial entities.)
In 2011, Gretchen Morgenson – New York Times business reporter – and Joshua Rosner – expert on housing and mortgage – finance issues wrote Reckless Endangerment, a detailed report on the cast, characters and plot of the worst financial crisis of our time.
I am asking you. Have you ever heard of the book? I never heard of the book. I was in a discussion with a friend… all right it was a heated discussion – about the 2008 debacle. Not to worry, we kissed and made up. But in response to our discussion, he sent me this book. Now I love Michael Lewis… great writer, interesting subjects, but Morgenson and Rosner…. they nailed it.
They started at the very beginning – 1995 – and probably even before that. You do not know the heroes and heroines of this saga. Why? Because they were unknown Government watch dogs that took their jobs seriously and had to pay the price for that dedication when they went against the big guys. Their work was buried. The shocking revelation of those who were supposed to be our heroes… Clinton, Barney Frank, and many more, were asleep at the wheel or were looking out a different window. Facts and shocking. Why? Because they got away with it.
Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find out about where Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, Robert Rubin, and hundreds of others are in the world of finance today. None of them had to pay the price for their collusion and corruption. Hey, guys, it’s 2017… if not now, when?!?!
Texas in the New Yorker
The latest New Yorker July 10-17 contained an article by Lawrence Wright titled, America’s Future is Texas. Many things, events, people and Presidents have been frightening me. I have been trying to bring my heart rate and blood pressure to normal levels. So I have devised different plans to hold back on the rhetoric and calm the spirit. As a reader of history I try to understand that nothing that is going on hasn’t already happened at one time or another in the very short history of this country. Different cast, different hair cuts, different inventions, but essentially naysayers, rumor and hate mongers. Bile is bile. That’s the truth of it. From the Old Testament to Twitter, nothing new.
And then I read the article. And I am thrown. So if you decide to read it…. (which I really recommend you do) you will understand why I am back being frightened again.
In 1961, I went to Houston, Texas to perform in a cabaret. Now, I’m a Brooklyn girl. And way back in 1961, I thought everyone thought the way I did. What can I tell you guys… I was young… very young. I had never been to Texas. I checked into the hotel where I was staying in the evening and when I awoke in the morning and looked out of the window of my room there was this big billboard with a huge sign that read, “IMPEACH EARL WARREN”.
At first I thought I must have taken a wrong turn and ended up across the border in some foreign land. Once it was established I actually was in Houston. I silenced my head and got to work rehearsing for the opening that night.
The show seemed to go well. There was an opening night party. I was talking to a very nice Houstonian and before long I just had to share what I saw that morning. I asked her if she saw the sign outside the hotel that said, “IMPEACH EARL WARREN”. She said she had. I asked her if it wasn’t illegal. She asked me why. And I said, it’s almost as if Texas isn’t part of the United States. She took another sip of her bottle from her paper bag and with a big Texas grin said, “It isn’t!”
My friends, that was 1961. It is now 2017. Nothing has changed. I mean nothing.
I am always telling my friends, “The human condition doesn’t change. History doesn’t repeat itself. People do.”
But secretly I want someone to tell me I am wrong. A leopard can change its spots. A human can change his or her mind.
I am trying to figure this one out! It isn’t easy!
And I can’t afford to lose any more hair. Any suggestions???!!!!
To understand that we have a commitment, too and that we can and will make a difference is very important right now. We don’t have much in the way of assurance. We need to know that what we are going through is extreme, but also that we have overcome things like this before and will do so again. It’s just that we live in a tech world that has taken us speedily and in shorthand to another dimension. Too fast. Too quickly. Too across the board.
I know it is against the modern ethos of society, but it really makes a difference when you can stop and think and think and pause and sometimes just STOP. Not give up, but realign our thoughts to make the difference we all want to make to correct what appears to be an apocalyptic trajectory.