Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

**********************

“Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’… must someday lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing – each act is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join you in resisting somehow.

You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone; you don’t want to ‘go out of your way to make trouble.’ But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That’s the difficulty. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays. But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves, when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. You have accepted things you would not have accepted five years ago, a year ago, things your father could never have imagined.”

Milton Mayer, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-45 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955)

*********************

Yesterday, like the day before that and the day before that and like nearly every one of the 1001 days since Trump– yeah, I wrote that freaking name– took over our government, was a day filled with outrages.

It was a day that saw Trump crowing ( in his typical word salad comprised of baldfaced lies, the bombast of an ultra spoiled eleven year old and a level of stupidity that so far exceeds any other world leader that it borders on being a form of art) about a faux ceasefire that gives Turkish president Erdogan everything he wanted with absolutely no ramifications and was a final and absolute betrayal of the Kurdish people.

It all but assures an ethnic cleansing of some degree.

It was an Orwellian performance, one where the words are so far removed from the reality of the situation that one is left to wonder if they have somehow stumbled on a new dimension in time and space, some new place that they do not know from any of the life they have led to that date. It was also a remarkable display of profound weakness and defeat on his part even though he tried to sell it as a victory.

If that had been all for the day, it would have been momentous but it was only one small part of the day. There were several other instances in the day, all so outrageous that would have set any other presidency on fire in a way from which they could never recover.

But here , it was another Thursday.

It reminded me of the evolution of the evil that overtook the German people in the 1930’s, culminating in the atrocities of the Nazis during WW II. We in the present tend to think that that thing they became was there in that same form from the very beginning. But it wasn’t. It started in an innocuous, political way. It came in small, subtle changes that involved the normalization of behaviors and thought processes that would have been unthinkable in the not so far past.

Journalist Milton Mayer went to Germany after the war and interviewed a large number of ordinary Germans who lived under the Third Reich. It resulted in the book, They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, published in 1955. The small excerpt at the top captures the spirit of the book, describing an environment in which each day pushed a bit further towards the evil end but in such small, baby steps that one didn’t even notice the changes taking place, both in the country and in themselves.

This situation is often described by a frog being put in a pot of warm water on a stove. It is comfortable at first and nothing seems out of the ordinary as the temperature of the water slowly increases. It swims as it always did and adjusts easily to the temperature increases, so gradual are they, until it is too late and it finds itself being cooked alive.

It feels like the water in our pot is nearing a boiling pot.

I am not alone in believing this. I urge you to read the op-ed, Our Republic Is Under Attack From The President, in yesterday’s New York Times from Admiral William McRaven, the former Commander of the United States Special Operation Command and the architect of the Osama Bin Laden raid. He tells of many senior military leaders as well as regular troops who are alarmed at what they are seeing from this president, witnessing as they are the betrayal of our allies and our long stated national mission. They see Trump’s actions as an attack on our republic, feeling that they are under fire from within.

This is not a partisan political attack from a liberal pundit. This is a man, battle tested and committed to serving this nation, who can see the clear and present danger. It is a stunning statement from a lifelong soldier committed throughout his career to being apolitical.

He can feel that the water is boiling in the pot in which we swim.

And we’re nearly cooked because it’s boiling right now. Not weeks or months or years down the road.

Now.

We must get out of that pot.

Now.

Please read the Admiral McRaven editorial. I also urge you to read a larger excerpt from Milton Mayer’s book which can be seen here.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Despairing.

It’s the first word that comes to mind this morning. I wanted to turn to other things, wanted to crow a little about the Yankees’ victory last night. Maybe talk about painting, music, the weather.

Anything.

Anything but face the ugliness of what one infinitely weak man’s decision has unleashed on people who saw the US as their ally and believed the promises and assurances we gave.

But it’s something I can’t turn away from and still believe that I have an iota of humanity left in my soul. I see the reports and videos of men being shot while being on the ground along the roads in northeast Syria with their hands tied. Of mothers crying over dead and severely injured children.

Of the report of the rape and stoning death of the Hervin Khalef, the Kurdish human rights activist. The image above on the right is from a tweet that includes a video with a boot kicking at her to see if she is alive. Her body is mortified and simply rocks from the push of the boot.

Or of the reports from our forces still on the ground there ( huh, is it possible that the president* lied when he said they had been withdrawn?) that the situation has deteriorated rapidly and that they are being bracketed with shelling from the Turks. Bracketing is a term for using artillery fire to either move opposing forces in a desired direction or keep them from moving at all. It was severe and close enough that the leadership on the ground requested permission to respond with fire. It only subsided when US planes approached the Turkish artillery positions and set the lasers from their missile guidance systems upon them as a warning that we would soon be firing on them.

Or of the mass escapes of ISIS fighters from the prisons where Kurds once held them. Or of the emerging reports that Russian planes have been specifically targeting civilian hospitals in Syria in recent months.

Or so many other reports, all while the cretin slumps around one of his golf courses for the umpteenth time then later in the evening whines about how he is so unfairly treated, all the while heavily slurring his speech while threatening those who dare to hold him accountable. And the idiots of his audience cheer.

Maybe I shouldn’t care. It is 7000 miles a way after all and maybe these people, these Kurds, need to finally stand up for themselves. What have they done for us lately? That’s what you hear on social media from those who are willing to turn their backs on our promises and throw away all the credibility of this nation as a loyal ally to any other nation.

People who can somehow believe that atrocity committed on any person anywhere because of our inaction is somehow okay. People who can simply shrug and say it doesn’t affect them.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Maybe that’s the reason I feel compelled to air my despair and anger this morning, again. I am not willing to let people shrug it off and ignore it. I want to keep it in your sight and in your mind. I want you to see that dead Kurdish woman whenever that horrid creature opens his vile mouth because he is complicit with his inexplicable actions, if not directly responsible, for these atrocities and must be held accountable.

You must consider that if he is willing to tolerate and ignore the suffering his actions have inflicted on these people, it is not a stretch to believe that he will do the same when and if it comes to this land. He is not moved by the suffering of others, doesn’t have the ability to see himself in the faces of those less fortunate than himself in any way.

He is devoid of humanity.

Maybe that’s why I do this thing this morning– because I need to know that I do possess humanity, know that I am a creature of compassion and refuse to close my eyes to the horrors we have wrought upon the lives of others.

I don’t have much. I am powerless in many ways to affect real change. But I am a fucking human being and I will not turn away from atrocity or try to make it less than it is. I have eyes and ears and a mind and a voice that won’t be silenced.

So do you. Use them.

Here’s this Sunday morning music selection. It’s from the Kurdish singer Aynur Doğan who is considered a cultural icon who is keeping the traditional music of the Kurds alive. It’s quite a beautiful piece. While I don’t understand the words, it translates.

Have a day.

Read Full Post »

************************

“And you really will have to make it through that violent, metaphysical, symbolic storm. No matter how metaphysical or symbolic it might be, make no mistake about it: it will cut through flesh like a thousand razor blades. People will bleed there, and you will bleed too. Hot, red blood. You’ll catch that blood in your hands, your own blood and the blood of others. And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. When you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”

Haruki MurakamiKafka on the Shore

***********************

And it begins.

Many of us believe it should have started long ago. The foreboding darkness has been hovering around us for some time now but maybe Fate wasn’t ready to unleash the fury of the storm until this precise moment in time.

Part of me is relieved, even happy, to have this beginning because I know we must endure the storm if we are to get past this somehow. But part of me fears what it may bring, what damage the aftermath might reveal.

And another part is sad because it is a storm of our own making. For too long we have neglected our duties as citizens, distracted by those shiny things and flashing images that fill our modern lives. It was too easy to let others choose the direction in which this country would go.

Unfortunately, those who took control made a beeline for that place where the darkest clouds sit. That location where they could operate in obscuring shadows, that place from where an angry storm would no doubt come.

And that is the place where we are now. And a mighty storm has begun there.

We will get through it. And years from now, we will hopefully have vague memories of it and the toll it will take on us. But, as Murakami writes above, we will be somehow transformed coming out the other side. We will be forever changed, perhaps in ways we could never foresee.

And this change, this transformation we are about to undergo, is a scary thing for many of us. The optimistic part of me wants to believe we will be better for it, that we will shore up those supporting foundations of our democracy that have been eroded through attacks and neglect in recent times. But the darker, more pessimistic part of me sees us coming out in a world that thrives on the uglier aspects of ourselves– greed and hatred and anger.

I get the feeling that when we come out of this, we will have more fully embraced our better angels or our darker angels. I am not a religious person but I pray that we fall toward those angels of light.

Read Full Post »

“Pondering Solitude”- Part of the West End Gallery show ending Friday

Around this time of the year, I always want to apologize to the folks that read this blog. Much of the content revolves around promoting of the work in my shows or my talks. Though I know it’s a necessary evil and part of my job, it’s still something I would rather not have to do. With two shows hanging and two more talks coming in the next few weeks, which means more promotion here, I thought I’d run a post from 2015 that includes a post from 2011. It sums up pretty well what I feel about the whole thing.

*************************

The time just before the solo shows and gallery talks that are a big part of what I do is the hardest time for me, by far the most stressful and difficult part of this whole art thing.  There’s a direct conflict between my internal need need to seek solitude and the external need to discuss and promote my works and the galleries where they hang.  For weeks leading up to events, solitude is pushed to the rear and the act of promotion takes center stage.

The ego becomes a foe at this point and I am soon tired of hearing my own voice and experience a bit of self-loathing at times. But I feel compelled to persevere out of the duty and loyalty to the galleries that represent me and the need to make a living for myself. It is the part of the job that probably is the hardest hurdle for any artist to clear, a sometimes unsavory task that keeps many artists from reaching their largest audience.

Here are a few other thoughts on the subject from a few years ago, right around this same time in the 2011:

I was asked yesterday what I was going to speak about in today’s gallery talk at the West End Gallery. I kidded that I was going , of course, to speak about me.

Me, me, me.

I went on to explain how I approach these talks, trying to read the group in attendance and finding something of interest in the work that sparks a dialogue where they participate. The hope being that they leave with a little more insight into the work and I leave with with a little more knowledge of how they view it. But that offhand joke yesterday about me has stuck in my craw. Just joking about it has bothered me somehow. 

One of the conundrums of art is that you are expressing a sometimes very personal aspect of yourself in a public forum, exposing one’s weaknesses and flaws to the world for all to see. The need to do this is the need for an affirmation of one’s own existence in this world. I know that this has been the case for myself. I have often felt insignificant throughout my life in this world, unseen and unheard. But it seemed to me that my life, like all others, had to have meaning of some sort and that my feelings and thoughts mattered as much as any other being’s.

If I was here and thinking, I mattered.

Cogito ergo sum.

Until I fell into painting I never found a way to affirm this existence, an avenue to allow my voice to be finally heard. But having found a method of expression, the question becomes: What part does ego play in this? Where is  that line that separates the need for self-expression from base self-glorification?

This has always bothered me. Even though I want to express myself and want my work to hopefully affect others, this constant self-promotion puts one at least on or near this dividing line. For me, that’s an uncomfortable position. Don’t get me wrong. When it comes to my work, I certainly have the confidence of ego. It may be the only part of my world where I have supreme confidence though, on many days, even that is shaky.

But on days like today, when I have to talk about “me, me, me,” I always get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach both before and afterwards. Before because of the dread of exposing myself as a fool and afterwards from the fear that I did just that. 

Oh, well.  All just part of the job…

Read Full Post »

13 hours yesterday. 29 dead.

You don’t have to be a psychic to see that this was coming.

No, any thinking, feeling person with a lick of sense and their eyes open could see this.

Let’s see, we have:

A nation that was built on immigration based on the lure of opportunity, religious and political freedom for all.

An almost unlimited access to every known type of firearm, protected by a wealthy lobby ( propped up in recent years by an influx of foreign money) that seeks to sell more and more weapons with even fewer restrictions. They have bought the silence of lawmakers for decades.

A growing white supremacy movement that, according to the FBI in a report from over a decade ago, has infiltrated local law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. The vast majority of acts of domestic terrorism in this country come from white supremacists.

An economy that is becoming more and more unbalanced. Wage growth for the lower and middle classes has been sluggish at best while there has been tremendous increase in wealth for the the higher end. The poor are getting poorer and the rich getting richer.

An online social media culture that allows people to live in insular bubbles that allow their worst inclination to fester unabated. It is a world often filled with paranoia, conspiracy and unfettered hatred.

A president** who uses the rhetoric of racism on a level never seen in this nation. I believe, based on thirty plus years of evidence, that he is racist but it doesn’t matter at this point. Either he is a racist or he isn’t and is using racism as a divisive political tool to maintain power. Both are equally repugnant and evil as well as being disqualifying for him as the leader of this nation.

He uses racism that plays to the sense of grievance that resides in much of the less affluent, less educated white population of his base, putting the blame for the shortcomings in these people’s lives squarely on the shoulders of “the others.” The way they see it, they are poor because every job that should be their’s is being stolen by an immigrant. They’re afraid because they believe black people want to rob and assault them while murderous latino gangs run wild on every street. They see every person of Middle Eastern descent as seeking to destroy the white nation they love so that sharia law can be established here. White opioid abusers in poor states are victims in their eyes who need help while black drug users in cities are criminals who deserve severe legal punishment.

I am going to leave it right there. I could go on but what does it do? Yesterday, we had 29 dead in two separate shootings in El Paso and Dayton within 13 hours. Unsurprisingly, the El Paso shooter is linked with white supremacy. Don’t know about the Dayton assailant yet. Though in body armor, he was killed by the police within a minute of the beginning of his killing spree. Yet, with a military style weapon, he still managed to kill 9 people in that short time.

I’d like to be optimistic here but I am afraid that we’re in for a lot more of this, folks. These young white males who feel they are somehow being screwed over by “the others” and are entitled to lash out at the world with violence are not going away anytime soon. They have the weapons, they have someone to blame, they have a community online that endorses their hatred, and they have a person at the helm of the most powerful country in the world who will never speak out against them, someone who will actually seek to rationalize away their deadly actions so that the blood doesn’t show on his tiny, spray tanned hands.

I wish I had answers. I do know that there are none on the horizon so long as we keep electing spineless, amoral slugs who only seek to help their biggest donors and themselves. We want courage and boldness in our leaders but when it is shown, we often seek to destroy those people because if they succeed, we might have to actually address the problems we face. So we settle for the mindless twats we have and the downward spiral they have enabled.

At some point, it has to come to a reckoning. What will it take before we rise up and demand a different outcome?

So, here’s my song for this Sunday. Fitting the day, it is I See a Darkness from Bonnie “Prince” Billy. I have played Johnny Cash’s cover of this song here before but the original feels right today.

On a dark day, I have no more thoughts and prayers to share. I used them up long ago.

********************

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

There is just way too much to do this morning as I am finishing up work on my upcoming July show at the West End Gallery. But even though my time is spent on this work, the events taking place in this country occupy my mind a lot of this time. I am not going to go into it at this point but I wanted to share a video that speaks to it in a way.

It is from one of my favorites, the ultra talented Rhiannon Giddens, and was produced in the aftermath of the Charleston, SC church shooting in which 9 church members were murdered. It’s probably hard to remember, there have been so many mass shootings in the years since that we barely notice anymore when only 3 or 4 or 5 people are killed.

The song is Cry No More and the words at the top appear at the end of the video. They serve as a powerful reminder that we get what we put up with and that to be silent is to accept this status quo. All the tears in the world accomplish nothing unless they are followed with a powerful and unified voice.

So, cry no more. Know your history. Know your mind. Speak up. Be loud.

 

Read Full Post »

Hmm…

********************

An honest man always values earning honor over wealth.

-Rembrandt

********************

This is as true today as it was 350 years ago in Rembrandt’s time. Acts of honor seem rarer and definitely less valued in this modern world.

Just saying.

Much to do so I am off to work now.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: