Posts Tagged ‘Michael Brown’

Letter From Martha’s Vineyard 08 10 15 Absolute peace vs. absolute violence…

August 10, 2015

Edgartown harbor is awash with golden light; boats are moving in both directions in front of me, to and fro, mostly using power rather than sails as the wind is light this afternoon. It’s been a lazy day; without the wind there is no sailing. I spent the morning on the veranda, reading a book, checking a few emails and taking in the breathtaking view.

Later, Jeffrey and I went down to Behind The Bookstore and had lunch, at the same time a rep was in offering wines to the restaurant. I sipped a very good Muscadet and a lovely Mont Gravet. I had a lamb burger and fries, wandering after lunch into the bookstore to pick up a copy of “All The Light You Cannot See” which had been recommended to me by my friend Neva Rae Fox.

Following that, we returned to the veranda, Jeffrey to do a bit of work and for me to write.

Tomorrow I will leave and go back to the cottage, spend a day there and then head down to the city for a couple of days. It is peaceful here; it is peaceful there.

There is not much peace elsewhere.

The one-year anniversary of Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO was marred by gunshots at the police. Responding, the police shot a man, 18-year-old Tyrone Harris, injuring him critically. He is being treated and has been charged with four counts, including assault on a police officer. Police were pelted with objects; there was another drive-by shooting and St. Louis County has declared a State of Emergency.

In Dubai, an Asian man prevented lifeguards from saving his twenty-year-old daughter when she began to drown. He felt their touch would “defile” her and he would rather her be dead than defiled. He got his way. He was arrested.

Pakistan is wracked by a child abuse scandal in a town near the Indian border. It is alleged a gang of fifteen to twenty men would force children at gunpoint or under the influence of drugs to have sex. They would take videos of them and then blackmail them and/or their families to keep them from being released. If they couldn’t pay, the children were expected to supply another child for abuse. It is estimated in the last years 280 children may have been used by this ring.

It makes me shudder. Yesterday Behind The Bookstore was crawling with children of the age of the abused in Pakistan. All that innocence destroyed.

Bombs have gone off in Afghanistan. That nation’s President blames Pakistan. Two gun-wielding women targeted the US Consulate in Istanbul; one of them was wounded and captured. In various attacks in Turkey, nine have been killed.

Miguel Ángel Jiménez Blanco, a Mexican activist, was found slain in his taxi today. He played a prominent role in the search for the 43 students who have been missing as well as others who have disappeared. There are no suspects at this time.

Two men apparently killed a man and a woman in the cookware department of an Ikea in Sweden, about 100 kilometers from Stockholm.

That’s the sort of day it has been out there in the world. It keeps on with its violence while I sit on the veranda and absorb the peace of Martha’s Vineyard. A sailboat glides by, running on its engine, towing a dingy behind it. It is picture postcard perfect here in Edgartown.

Letter From New York 01 19 15 Thoughts on MLK Day…

January 19, 2015

The sun is setting in New York City, the world outside turning grey and dark. I am back at the apartment for the first time in a week, settling in for a few days in the city.

It is Martin Luther King Day and I came into the city to have lunch with my old friend Kevin, as well as John, his traveling companion. It was a long, leisurely lunch at one of my favorite spots, the café above the Fairway Market on 74th and Broadway.

After lunch, not quite finished visiting, we went to the Starbucks across the street, where I have always found a seat but today it was crammed to the gills and we wandered into the Viand Café across the street. Kevin wasn’t surprised it was full – after all, it was a holiday.

And, yes, it is, a holiday set aside to remember one of the most remarkable men of the 20th Century. As I was sitting, thinking about what I might do for today’s blog, I found myself back in 1968 when I was a teenager and heard that Martin Luther King was dead. I don’t remember where I was, exactly, as I did when JFK was shot but I remember the dread I felt when I heard he was dead.

As I felt when JFK was shot, as I felt when RFK was assassinated, I felt something good had gone out of the world, forcibly and wrongly and before his time. For all the ‘60’s were a swinging time, they also were dark and violent, a time when all our best hopes seem to be taken from us by madmen with guns.

Today in Mobile, hundreds marched; in Philadelphia, there were thousands. The last Freedom Train ran today, sold out, in California.

It is nearly fifty years since his death but Martin Luther King stands as an example for us all. As I was thinking about what to write today, I read an article on The Daily Kos about the real legacy of Martin Luther King. This writer posited that what MLK really did was to end the terror of living in the South, that by facing and experiencing their worst fears, black men and women learned to live without fear.

Not only did he give great speeches and lead marches, he led men and women to an interior place they had never known.

The world in which he grew up is nearly incomprehensible to me. I never experienced it. I barely knew anyone of color. In my Catholic boys high school, there was one African-American, and two Asians out of 1600. Of those, only one graduated with us, one of the Asians. We had no neighbors of color. I lived in a very white bread world and didn’t even realize it until I was older.

But growing up, I was aware of the sea change that was coming to the country. On the nightly news there were the horrific scenes of human beings being bashed and sprayed by water hoses.

Television made it impossible to hide the reality of what was happening, contributing to changes. The whole world was changing before my young eyes. Viet Nam was the first war that was televised and hundreds of thousands marched against that. There was a feeling that nothing would ever be the same again.

Civil rights were part of the changes being wrought.

Today’s march in Philadelphia found many carrying signs that said: Black Lives Matter. The deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner have called into question how far we actually have come. The questions of fifty years ago still have to be asked it seems.

We have come a long way. We still have a ways to go.

It is right to pay honor to Martin Luther King and the best way of paying honor is to continue to work to achieve his goals. His dream has been partly realized. Let us hope the next fifty years sees the completion of that dream, with hopes it will not take so long.

Letter From New York 12 29 14 Solace in the countryside…

December 29, 2014

Yesterday was a chill, dark, grey, desolate sort of day; so dark it required lights to be turned on in the house early in the day. My mood seemed to match the day and I had to forcibly choose not to be as gloomy as the day.

It had been my intention when I got up in the morning to get myself to church but I dawdled too much and my window of opportunity closed. I simply didn’t feel motivated to move.

The day brightened when my neighbors, the Karics, phoned and invited me as well as Lionel and Pierre over for “wine and nibbles” at 6:30. Jim and Pat have the loveliest home on the block and set out a feast of nibbles and we chatted late into the evening, about all manner of things.

This morning there is a bit of blue in the sky but the early morning sudden sun is now hidden behind clouds. I have an agenda of things to do today, one of which is find a birthday present for Pierre. He turns thirty today.

This is an interesting time, this week between Christmas and New Year’s. Many offices are closed or people have taken the time off of work. It feels like a time poised between events, a slow moving week of rest and relaxation.

The NY Times had a breakdown of what Mr. Obama has been doing on his vacation in Hawaii, golfing six times and bowling once. He played golf with the Prime Minister of Malaysia, who is now home and having what must be a terrible time as another airliner has gone down in the region and is probably at the bottom of the ocean. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia are all involved in what might be a hopeless search. The United States is on alert to help if requested.

Ah, the sun has come out and is casting a golden glow across the landscape out the windows where I am writing. My stand of trees glistens in the light. Squirrels are romping across the gravel drive, looking, it appears, for crumbs. It is another day in the country.

It is so peaceful here, in my little corner of the world. I know that the world out beyond ii is not peaceful but I find respite and solace in the quiet of my world.

Twenty thousand strong was the crowd that came out to say good-bye to Officer Ramos, shot down execution style in New York last week. Many of the police officers turned their backs on Mayor DeBlasio as he gave the eulogy. They blame him for having encouraged protests to the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men killed by police officers earlier this year in separate parts of the country, one in Missouri and one on Staten Island, here in New York. The man who killed Officer Ramos and his partner said they were revenge killings.

The NY Times, which I check every morning on my iPhone, is full of things that are sobering. It always is. The world is a sobering place every morning and every morning this fall that I have been at the cottage, I find my solace in the rhythms of nature as reflected in my yard.

Letter From New York 12 21 14 Io, Saturnalia!

December 21, 2014

There was a light dusting of snow when I woke this morning, just enough to return a little Christmas magic to the countryside. It was a usual morning for me, coffee and the NY Times and some household chores. Right now I am doing a load of napkins in the washing machine so I have an ample supply for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dinners.

Things have been organized to go to the cleaners including a couple of tablecloths that need pressing to bring them up to Holiday snuff. Recipes are scattered across the dining room table to put together the shopping lists for the next few days. Everything is humming along.

Household cleaning is scheduled for Tuesday and the marathon of quiche making will happen later today and tomorrow. Marcel, Lionel and Pierre’s poodle, is sleeping on the settee by the front door, quietly waiting for them to come back from church. Jazz versions of Christmas carols play on Pandora.

It’s a pretty good day at the cottage, a soft, sleepy sort of day.

While wanting to shut the world out this morning, I didn’t do it. The NY Times beckoned to me too much and I curled in bed with coffee and my iPad to read the major stories of the day.

They’re not very Christmasy.

A man who had posted on social media that he was out to kill some policemen gunned down two police officers in Brooklyn in an execution style killing. He had just shot his girlfriend in the stomach, who will live. He headed to New York from Maryland and had committed the murders by the time the warnings came to be watching for him had arrived. He said they were retribution for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. He then committed suicide in a subway station.

Kim Jung-un, the North Korean dictator, is threatening us. I’m not sure exactly what he’s threatening us with but he is threatening us. He’s not happy the United States doesn’t want to take him up on the offer of a joint investigation of the Sony hack. So he is threatening us with mighty mischief.

So, the world is still a pretty bleak place out there but Christmas is arriving and thoughts of the Holiday fill the world. Thank goodness!

“Io Saturnalia!” used to be the greeting that filled Roman streets during the weeklong festival they celebrated in the middle of winter, starting around December 17th. They exchanged presents and ate and drank to excess. Sound familiar? Christians co-opted the festival in the 4th Century AD, turning it in to Christmas. Since some Christian historians believe that Christ was actually born in the spring, early Christians moved the date up to coincide with the popular Saturnalia.

Our Puritan forefathers didn’t celebrate Christmas. Apparently you could get in a lot of trouble with them if you had any parties around December 25th. It was a very naughty thing to do.

But the Puritans couldn’t hold down a good party; Christmas became legalized in the 1680’s and America was off and running in making this Holiday uniquely its own. It was a frenzy of gift giving, not to everyone’s appreciation. People were lamenting the commercialization of Christmas back in 1904. People have been lamenting that ever since.

This year I have pulled back some and focused on a few good friends and relatives. I make quiches for other friends and my neighbors. It feels good to be simpler this year. It feels good to be giving presents from my kitchen.

There was, of course, splurging on a few people. For them, I managed, I think, to find things for them that would both be useful and, hopefully, treasured in years to come.

I’d like to think my Christmas gifts would speak to the recipients in years to come, fostering enjoyment and recollection even when I am not present in person.

Letter From New York December 5, 2014 Repeal Day

December 5, 2014

Do you know what day it is today? Well, it’s December 5th and today is the day in 1934 that Prohibition was repealed. The Great Experiment was declared a failure and Utah became the state that triggered repeal though you couldn’t drink in Mississippi until 1966.

The Roaring ‘20’s, fueled by bathtub gin, had long since faded into the Great Depression and it was time for America to have a break. Brother, can you spare a beer?

So today is Repeal Day and there is a Repeal Day Cocktail Conference happening and I guess I will toast Repeal Day when I sit down for dinner tonight. It will be a bit of a celebration and I will mark it on my calendar for future years.

What I won’t be celebrating but will be acknowledging are the myriad protests that are being conducted regarding the failure of the Grand Jury to indict the police officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

Two hundred some were arrested last night in New York and a photo of a spontaneous protest in Grand Central went viral. People began to lie down in the main hall until there were several hundred, imaging the death scene of Eric Garner.

In Phoenix there were marches because an unarmed black man was shot down there. Eric Holder went to Cincinnati to announce the results of a two year study of police there that didn’t portray them well; excessive force was one of the faults found with them.

It was said at one point that the election of Obama was going to usher in a post-racial era. It hasn’t and of late it has seemed the drumbeat of police violence against minorities has, if anything, increased.

The Mayor of New York, DeBlasio, is walking a fine line in being sympathetic to the protestors while being supportive of the police. It’s a tightrope.

But perhaps it is more than minorities. A white acquaintance was mugged on the Upper West Side a week ago and claimed the police treated him very badly when he reported the incident. His take from what he’s heard is that the police are intimidating folks so they don’t make reports so the crime statistics go up. They’re very down this year in the five boroughs, on the way to a record year of lows in most kinds of crime.

But the incidents of police violence towards minorities feels like it is on the upswing because of the high profile nature of Eric Garner’s death and the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson. And they put a pall across the land. Putin’s Russia is having a field day with the stories as I’m sure are other countries less friendly to us. China, too, may be having a day with the stories. We lecture them regularly on human rights.

So while tonight I will be toasting Repeal Day, where we were freed from the yoke of Prohibition, I will not be raising a glass to law enforcement. I will do that on a day when there is a swing in relations and we feel that all are treated the same, regardless of color.

Letter From New York August 19, 2014

August 19, 2014

Or, as it seems to me…

The sun continues to play hide and seek and it is still unseasonably cool in the Northeast; which makes for beautiful weather. I have called these days “Goldilocks” days, not too warm, not too cool, just right.  And today is one of those “Goldilocks” days.  Clear, sharp shadows splatter the gravel circle in front of the cottage.  It is only in the low 60’s with promises of greater warmth for the day.

I am sipping that incredibly important first coffee of the day after having just perused the headlines of the New York Times on my iPhone.  This is the last of the five consecutive days I have spent at the cottage, lost in the thrall of these “Goldilocks” days, able to feel detached from the world while surrounded by green comfort of the countryside.  While I have been here, events move on and I have viewed them dispassionately for the most part.

Yet, even cosseted in the country, I am not able to ignore events here and abroad.  They feel further away but that is emotional distance not real distance – real distance has been compressed to jet flight hours.  Yesterday a woman on her way to treatment for cancer fell sick in Dubai from what might have been Ebola.  The total death toll from that disease is now above 1200 and mounting with the day.  Those who have sickened but lived to tell the tale are treated with suspicion and fear when they return to their villages.

The fragile Gaza ceasefire seems to have been broken by rocket attacks on southern Israeli towns.  While the tension continues there, anti-semitism is rising in parts of Europe.  In France, Jews are leaving for other countries, many for Israel. In Germany, similar things are happening.  Since the war, a place where Jews have lived, for the most part in peace, there is a sense of shadows falling upon a population that once felt safe.  Hungary has been turning anti-semitic for some time now.  Generally tolerant Italy has seen businesses and synagogues defaced.  There are anti-semitic gatherings in the Netherlands.  Britain is on its way to recording its worst year of anti-semitic incidents in years.  Jews were blamed in Spain for the defeat of Soccer teams. A Belgian doctor refused to treat a Jew for a broken rib.  

Ancient hatreds rise to the surface, it seems, when events scratch away choreographed civility.  And it is shame that civility is choreographed.  Why can’t it be a part of the civil fabric?  Because we have not learned that the “outsider” is not the cause of our troubles?

In Ferguson, MO the National Guard was called out to maintain order.  31 were arrested; unrest continues, fueled by an apparently small number of agitators and outside disruptors.  The wounds of racism have not healed in Ferguson; apparently they were only papered over.  Michael Brown’s death ripped that away and fury erupted.  And it is likely that racism’s wounds still remain to be healed in much of this country.  We’ve come a long way but not as far as we could or should.  If we had, Ferguson might not have happened.