Tuesday, October 16, 2018

KAVANAUGH: A TARDY REVIEW

I have been gone these past couple of weeks--not the best time to be away, in view of the upcoming election, but plans were made long ago...

I return to find Brett Kavanaugh appointed to the US Supreme Court after an insultingly skimpy "investigation"--an appointment for which we shall all be paying dearly for decades to come. That he was the wrong man was evident not because he had behaved badly as a teenager, but because he was unable to acknowledge even the possibility of having behaved badly when confronted with compelling testimony to the contrary. Instead, he chose to play the irate victim, lie before the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American people, prevaricate, fulminate, and blame everyone but himself--especially the real victim--for his bad behavior.

What could a man worthy of that elevated seat have said, had he had the dignity and integrity required of that position? He could have acknowledged openly that, as a teenager, he drank too much; that, in a state of inebriation he might well have committed acts of which he had no memory; that he might well have been responsible for the long suffering of his accuser, and that he was profoundly distressed to hear of it today; that he would wish, if it were possible, to make it up to her in some way and, failing that, to regain his integrity by proving himself to be honest and compassionate in this moment of real challenge.

He might even have wished to withdraw from his nomination and commit himself to righting such wrongs in his further work as a judge.

The real disgrace is that Republican Senators were so desperate to confirm the appointment of another reliably right-wing Supreme Court Justice that they were willing to overlook what were serious character flaws and rush to confirm the lifetime appointment of a man so obviously lacking in integrity.

It is imperative that Republicans learn, in the coming days, that they cannot get away with such behavior with impunity; that there is a cost to ruthless partisanship and riding roughshod over the express wishes of their constituents; and that voters still have the ability to exercise the ultimate power they were given by the Constitution.

Our "Congressman" is no exception. I am not yet up to date with the state of politics in the district in which I vote, but I trust the Harley Rouda is roaring forward to defeat the deplorable Rohrabacher.


Saturday, October 6, 2018

A PYRRHIC VICTORY

From a visit with family in my native England--and in deep distress and anger for my adopted country across that Atlantic--I note that henceforward every decision of the United Staes Supreme Court will be tainted by the stench of Trump-era Republican corruption, coercion and misogyny. A Pyrrhic victory, indeed! Through their implacable chicanery and radical partisanship, Republicans have succeeded only in casting a long shadow of doubt over the last remaining institution constituted to protect American democracy. May they live to regret their action, as future generations of their fellow citizens must now do.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

CHARLES WHITE AT MOMA

Attending the opening of the Charles White retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art last night, you could be forgiven for basking for a couple of hours in the pleasant illusion that we are living in a post-racial society. The ugly alternative of racial hatred and divide that is promoted by the current unworthy denizen of our White House and his band of noisy worshippers was replaced for this evening, at least, by the real-life experience of real people, "black" and "white," gathered to honor the work of a true American master. In his life Charles White was a black man who, with his wife Frances, pioneered and embodied the notion that our two races share but one humanity, and that we can live together in mutual respect and love.

It was Charlies White—everybody called him Charlie—who helped me discover my own racism, and the inherent racism of the "art world" in which I was engaged. Privileged to spend two years, back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, on a Rockefeller Foundation supported research study of the life and work of this African American artist, I soon discovered that the traditional rules of academic research simply did not apply. There was little to be learned from libraries, prior research documents, or articles in art historical journals. To find out anything about Charles White, I discovered, I would need to travel the country—from the Chicago of his early years to Jackson, Mississippi, where a handful of fellow artists lived, who knew him well; from the African American museum in Harlem to the University of Washington in Seattle, where I enjoyed a long interview with Jacob Lawrence.

I acknowledge having experienced some trepidation—a white man venturing into the heart of black America—and an acute sense, for the first time in my life, of my own whiteness. And there were frequent questions—justified, I thought—about the propriety of a white man receiving funds from a foundation for the study of a black artist. And yet I was universally received with warmth and eagerness to help me with a project that was embraced with enthusiasm by those who understood even more than I about the importance of this man's work in the broad context of American culture. It was in many ways a humbling experience, and one that taught me more about the prejudice of academia and the art world than I would have dreamed possible before I started.

And here was Charlie, last night, in all his glory, at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the mecca of the Western art world. I was astonished by the breadth and depth of the work that Esther Adler, the curator, had managed to assemble—I'm sure with the assistance of Charlie's son, Ian. The work filled several large galleries, and the sheer mastery of this artist, once side-lined by history, by racial prejudice, and even by an art scene that for many years shunned representation, was on full and indisputable display. I was reminded of the fact—I'm pretty sure that this is true—that Abraham Lincoln was the only white figure amongst White's many stunning portraits… and even he looks black!

CHARLES WHITE

Monday, September 24, 2018

NO BAD MINDS

As any dog trainer will tell you, there are "no bad dogs."

I was reflecting on that this morning as I sat in meditation and my mind went off, as it tends to do, sniffing eagerly in all directions. When I take my Jake out first thing in the morning and he's too excited to walk nicely, I give him permission to "go sniff."

Not a bad idea to do the same with the mind--allow it to go sniff for a little while before asking it to calm down and walk nicely in the direction you've decided.

There are, indeed, "no bad minds"--just minds that still could still use a bit of training.

Come to think of it, that would be a nice title for a book. Perhaps someone already wrote it!

Friday, September 21, 2018

BUNKERED

From what I read and hear, Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh has been bunkered in the White House for the past three days. (I like the pun, evoking the memory of that arch bigot, Archie!) I suspect he has not been engaged in the kind of self-reflection and self-examination that is called for at a moment of personal crisis, but rather plotting ways in which he can exculpate and extricate himself from the threat to his candidacy brought about by the accusation of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.

Here's what I'd want to see from a man I could vote for, were I in a position to do so, to serve for a lifetime on the Supreme Court of the United States: rather than deny, blame, and attack, I'd like to see a man chastened and humbled by the story of a woman that so obviously has not only the ring of truth but the evidentiary support of at least three witnesses. I'd like to see him ask her to confront him with the story in as much detail as she can muster, listen attentively and without defensive reaction to the events as she remembers them, and repeat back to her what he has heard, to be sure that he has fully understood and registered the facts.

I'd like him then to acknowledge that, if he himself has no memory of the event, it is likely because he was too drunk at the time of its occurrence--but that this is no excuse, and is not offered as such; or that his conscious mind repressed it as being too onerous to bear--again, no excuse! I'd like him to accept the truth of her experience and to ask, in all humility, if there is anything he can do to make up for a past he is unable to change and for the pain and suffering his action caused. Should she reject his offer, I would like him to publicly propose his own act of compensatory service, proportionate to circumstance, and commit to its completion.

That, in my view, would be a man who might yet be worthy of confirmation, no matter how despicable the action of his youth. Instead, he is bunkered in the White House--the very place that has become the epitome of intrigue, calumny and lies--presumably plotting out a course for enough exculpation and justification to gain the minimum of votes needed for "success." There is no place on the Supreme Court for one who follows this course. Nominated by a man whose legitimacy as president is in serious question and supported by a band of shameless co-conspirators in the subversion of the laws upon which we have stood for centuries, Judge Kavanaugh could possibly redeem himself with an unsparing and impartial search for the truth. Otherwise, we shall all be witness to a monumental travesty of the justice he is privileged to serve.