Archive for June, 2020

Letter from the Vineyard 13 June 2020 Beware the reckoning…

June 14, 2020


           The morning breaks, sunny sky, promising warmth, wind rustling bushes outside my window.  Michael Blanchard, Vineyard photographer of great repute, probably catching a stunning shot even as I type; if not he, then Paul Doherty, who blesses the Islanders Talk Facebook page with stunning shots most days.

            Untroubled though the Vineyard may be, “back in America,” it is not untroubled, anything but.

            Born in Minneapolis, the place where violence splashed out onto the planet, raised there, graduated high school, college there, taught there, my recollections are bucolic; walking unafraid, romping, lazing summer grade school days away at Lake Harriet’s 47th Street beach, meandering over to confections by the Bandstand for “pop” and popcorn, a world where bad things really didn’t happen, which, of course, was not true.  

            What I didn’t realize was the world in which I lived was not the world in which the whole town lived, nor the world.  I was white, middle class, lived in the part of Minneapolis you wanted to live in if you were in the city; the part in which you still want to live if you live in the city. 

            The only people of color I knew were ones who worked for us, yard work, or labored for my father in the plant he managed; Jessie being one, who, not often, but enough I remember, came to my father for advice; still remember them sitting in our glassed-in three season porch, father smoking cigarettes, L&M’s, Jessie leaning in, softly talking.  It would not surprise if father slipped him money as he left.

            The summer of my college graduation: a recollection, standing in the yard, people mingling, cocktails flowing, a question asked, mother responding, “Why not? He’s free, white and twenty-one,” a phrase haunting me since, the moment I understood, though did not quite comprehend, whiteness as a privilege, a gift, opening doors, parting seas.

            On May 25th, a white police officer in Minneapolis, knelt on the neck of a black man, George Floyd; after nearly nine minutes, Floyd was dead; the globe catapulted into unrest, a demand for a reckoning for centuries of black oppression by white oppressors, a demand scouring not just America but the whole world.  A statue of a white slaver was dumped into Bristol harbor; England and Europe are agonizing over aftereffects of colonial empires, subjugating nations, continents, dehumanizing millions.

            For days now, I have struggled to find words to describe my own agonizing, my attempt to make sense of a hometown death, to find, shoulder my responsibility in creating change more than cosmetic.

            President Trump marched across Lafayette Square in DC, violently cleared of mostly peaceful protesters, to hold a bible in the air, threaten the use of the military to clear the streets in front of an Episcopal church. General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, regrets his presence there as it sent the wrong message. At last Mattis and Kelly have broken their belligerent silences to condemn the President.

Seeing him perform that act, his way of addressing protest following the death of George Floyd, caused me an internal disruption I have struggled to manage.

            The Episcopal Bishop of D.C. has expressed her outrage at his using one of her diocese’s churches as a backdrop for a photo-op, which is what it was. 

            It, however, led me to better understand this man we call president.  He wants to be a Romanov, to stand on his equivalent of Notre Dame de Kazan, tell the world he will hear no cries for justice.  That failing resulted in the Russian Revolution, with which we are still dealing.

            It was a despicable performance for the man caught on tape saying, “you can just grab them by the p***sy;” Evangelicals who glorify Trump remind me of nothing so much as Pharisees in Jesus’ time. They are not what Jesus was about.

          Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, did not hold back as he addressed comments President Trump made about protests sweeping the nation, including Boston, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

          “I heard what the president said today about dominating and fighting,” Baker said. “I know I should be surprised when I hear incendiary words like this from him, but I’m not. At so many times during these last several weeks, when the country needed compassion and leadership the most, it simply was nowhere to be found. Instead, we got bitterness, combativeness, and self-interest.”

          Other retired generals have broken silence to decry the president, at long last, long overdue.

           We have had a paucity of Federal leadership since we have been hit with the pandemic, worse than paucity when it comes to the civil unrest in this country, led by a man who cannot lead.

         “If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower, March 6, 1956

            President Eisenhower is describing the Republican Party of 2020. 

            In my life, the Republican Party has been stolen, perverted. Starting with Reagan, Republicans have retreated from its ideals, espoused by Eisenhower in 1956; in my mind this administration is the worst, populated with mendacious men and women, wanna be mobsters with a predilection for thuggery.

            Color me ashamed.  

            Last night, on Fox, Trump said Lincoln’s legacy was questionable.  What?

            In the last three months, America’s billionaires have gained a half a trillion dollars plus in wealth.  Such inequity will doom the American experiment.  No need for them to worry just yet; Biden, if elected, will not rock this boat but if it continues unaddressed, there will be a reckoning; it will not be pretty.

          Remember Nicholas II and his family in the basement of the house in Ekaterinburg.