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Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category

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“Rats and roaches live by competition under the laws of supply and demand; it is the privilege of human beings to live under the laws of justice and mercy.”

–Wendell Berry

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Man, I want to rage this morning.

It would certainly be easy to do so. We are going through multiple serious crises right now in this country and the ship of state which would normally lead and assist us through this is being steered by a creature whose attitude towards his duty is self-serving and neglectful, at its best, and traitorous, at its worst.

Maybe even treasonous, given yesterday’s revelations.

But I don’t want to go that route. Like the poet Wendell Berry’s words above, this president*** willingly lives his life in the realms of rats and roaches. Today, let’s focus on the flip side of that coin, the human side that lives under the laws of justice and mercy.

Where most of us are privileged to live.

Let’s have some hope that truth will overcome the many falsehoods and lies. That intelligence will prevail over stupidity and science over ignorance. Let’s hope that a sense of community and good will shall sweep away the hateful and selfish behaviors exhibited so often these days.

Let’s just keep a little hope alive and remember these days when they finally come to an end so that perhaps we can avoid them in the future.

That’s asking a lot, I know. For this Sunday morning music here’s a classic song from the great American songbook. It was written by Stephen Foster (who has local connections to this area) in 1854 at a time when America was going through equally hard times in those years leading up to the Civil War. This is Hard Times Come No More as performed by Mavis Staples. It’s such a great tune that there is a multitude of  wonderful versions out there but I just felt like Mavis’ version fit the moment for me.

Give a listen. Keep your head up and have a good Sunday.

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Hard Times Come No More

Let us pause in life’s pleasures and count its many tears
While we all sup sorrow with the poor
There’s a song that will linger forever in our ears
Oh Hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

While we seek mirth and beauty and music bright and gay
There are frail forms fainting at the door
Though their voices are silent, their pleading looks will say
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis the song, the sigh of the weary
Hard times, hard times, come again no more
Many days you have lingered around my cabin door
Oh hard times come again no more

Tis a sigh that is wafted across the troubled wave
Tis a wail that is heard upon the shore
Tis a dirge that is murmured around the lowly grave
Oh hard times come again no more

— Stephen Foster

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“Inner City Blue”- Now at the Principle Gallery

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Wake up everybody no more sleepin’ in bed
No more backward thinkin’ time for thinkin’ ahead
The world has changed so very much
From what it used to be

–Wake Up Everybody, 1975, written by McFadden & Whitehead

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Another quickie this morning. As much as I love to spout off, I much prefer spending my time in front of a piece of work and there’s some work that is calling out to me for attention even as I write this.

Thought I’d pair the painting above, Inner City Blue, a favorite of mine from my current Social Distancing show at the Principle Gallery, with a song from back in the day that has a message that resonates to this very moment. From 1975, it’s a prime slice of vintage Philly soul, Wake Up Everybody, from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes with Teddy Pendergrass on vocals. Great, great song.

It feels like we have been on the cusp of meaningful and sweeping change for a long time but there has always been a violent reaction that keeps us from achieving it. And the closer we get to real change, the more violent and desperate the reaction from those who cling to a fading past. I think the last four years are evidence of that. Hatred and ignorance never rests. This song is a reminder that if we want to overcome it, we must keep up the pressure, keep thinking forward and keep our eye on the prize– a better and more just future for everybody, not just the few.

No time to rest now, no more sleepin’ in bed. Wake up everybody.

Have a good day.

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I am a child of America.

I was raised believing in the promise of America.

Land of opportunity. Land of second chances.

Rags to riches. Log cabin to the White House.

The land of the free and the home of the brave.

Equal rights for all and all are welcome.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

The Melting Pot, where our great diversity of cultures, beliefs and ideas are a source of strength.

Shining city on the hill. The beacon of hope for the rest of the world.

The Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all…

One for all, all for one.

I was this child for many years. I held on to these ideals, these beliefs, with the hope that the promise of America would someday be fulfilled. That hope has sometimes felt within our reach as a nation.

But this morning, I am a child no more.

When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Yesterday, we witnessed things we never thought we would see in this country. People who were expressing their freedom of speech in a most peaceful and lawful way outside the white house were set upon by mounted police and pelted with rubber bullets and tear gas. The Secretary of Defense spoke in terms of the need for the military to dominate the battlespace when speaking about our citizens and the president*** later authorized use of that military force against our own people.

I have written here about the dangers many people saw in this presidency from long before the election of 2016. I have often worried it was all too hyperbolic, that I was misinterpreting the signs I was seeing and was simply wrong. I can admit to having been wrong in the past so I always have a bit of uncertainty even when what I am seeing seems clear in my mind.

But, yesterday was the culmination, the proof that the warnings that so many of us had been issuing over the past four plus years were not mere hand-wringing.

The threat to our democracy and freedom is real.

We are nearing that point where we will not be able to ever fulfill the promise of America. That point where we are only America in name only.

If you think this is a time to just be quiet, to try to ignore what is happening not pick a side, you are making the wrong choice. And make no mistake, silence is a choice here, one that puts you firmly on the side of those who are trying to steer this country into some sort of military dictatorship.

At this moment, silence is the ally of brutality and oppression.

Silence authorizes atrocity. It has been this way throughout history and we are at a critical crossroads in history.

Will you remain silent?

Believe me when I say that I do not relish writing this post this morning. I know that I am a simple artist, a person who smears paint on surfaces for the enjoyment of others. You most likely come here– especially if you have read this far– for a diversion from the world, a break from the sheer hardness of it.

This week I am normally trying to stir interest in my work for my show that opens this Friday at the Principle Gallery. So writing this is a bit of a tight rope act for me, trying to balance my own self interests with the need to speak up about what is happening in this land right now.

I guess I could at least talk about the painting at the top, The Durable Will, from the show. There is, after all, a certain relevance between what I see in it and the current situation. This is certainly a painting that, for me, speaks to ideals. It is about strength and endurance, about weathering all that comes while still maintaining an air of grace and beauty.

It might well serve as a symbol of what I desire for this country. That we stand up, speak the needed truth, take the blows and endure. That we grow into a better future based in grace and beauty.

Part of that child still resides in me.

And I am glad for that this morning, on a day when I am filled with darkness.

So, for those of you who believe I should just be quiet or that you just want to ignore the situation and remain silent, I leave you with the words of the great abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, a man who definitely refused to turn a blind eye to injustice or remain silent:

“I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.”

 

 

 

 

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The_Torment_of_Saint_Anthony_(Michelangelo)

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A man paints with his brains and not his hands.

-Michaelangelo Buonarroti

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I am a little intimidated in quoting the words of a man who is believed to have painted the piece shown above, The Torment of Saint Anthony, at the tender age of 12 or 13. Pretty amazing. It’s obvious from this, and almost everything created afterward over his lifetime, that Michaelangelo had both brains and hands– the highest degree of craftsmanship along with thought and feeling that brought his work to life.

But his words ring true for any painter. Painting should not be mere craft, not formulaic process nor exact replication of the reality before them. No, it is beyond that. It is how the artist imbues the work with their own thought and emotion, their own spirit, their own essence that elevates the work above craft. It requires a total investment of the self.

Doing that is the trick. At first glance, it seems both a tall task and a simple one. Giving what you think is 100% of yourself seems easy, right? But not holding back something, not sharing every bit of yourself, makes it a Herculean effort. In the end, it comes down to simply feeling emotion in what you are doing and being willing to openly display it without reserve.

Now, maybe I am misinterpreting Michaelangelo’s words to fit my own subjective view of painting. Perhaps in these ten spare words he was speaking about taking a more scientific or mathematical approach to painting and composition. That I don’t know. But when I read it, it made sense to me because the differentiating quality I see in painting, from self-taught rough-hewn outsiders to the highest level of traditional representational painters, is how much of themselves a painter is willing to invest in their creations.

An investment of the self.

It is the thought process of the artist that makes the painting, not the mechanical process.

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This post is from five years back. and is shared again because I love this youthful piece from Michaelangelo along with his words. Whenever I see this painting, or for that matter, anything from Michaelangelo, I am humbled beyond description. And that’s not a bad thing. 

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“Numbers do not feel. Do not bleed or weep or hope. They do not know bravery or sacrifice. Love and allegiance. At the very apex of callousness, you will find only ones and zeros.”

― Amie Kaufman, Illuminae

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Today is May 4th. By tomorrow, or even later today, the death toll from the coronavirus here in the US will hit the 70,000 mark. That 70K is a figure, according to the model used by the white house* to forecast the virus, was estimated to be reached on or around August 4.

We are a full three months ahead of this obviously faulty model’s schedule.

For the past month, we have averaged about 30,000 new cases and around 2,000 deaths per day. It has remained steady and is not moving in any sort of downward direction. Not even close to indicating the end of this first wave. And bear in mind that those figures come even while some states have tried to suppress testing as well as public reporting of the deaths caused by the virus there. The reality is that the actual numbers, both of those infected and those killed by the virus, are substantially higher.

What this means is that we have yet to even approach the midpoint of this event.

We have witnessed the white house* beginning to try to normalize these numbers, throwing out higher figures so that anything lower seems somehow better. They never attach faces or personalities to these numbers.

They only see and present them as numbers with the hope that the public will also begin to only view them in that way, as though these simple numbers are distant and totally unattached to their own very real lives. And so long as they see these deaths as mere numbers and not as flesh and blood, they will view these numbers as an acceptable normal.

Numbers are just symbols and tools to be manipulated. They don’t have lives.

Numbers don’t hold the door open for you or smile and wave as you drive by. They don’t bake you a cake. They don’t do you a favor or give you a hug. They don’t hold your baby or pet your dog or send you a card. Numbers don’t give you a hand when you need it. Numbers don’t cry at a sad movie or dance to a slow song. They don’t catch wedding bouquets or sob at a funeral. Numbers don’t beam with pride at the happiness of those they love.

Numbers don’t love, for that matter. Or hate.

Numbers alone simply do not do justice to the lives they represent.

There are going to be a lot more large numbers ahead of us. That is a certainty. And so long as the more selfish among us fail to see the real flesh and blood people represented by these numbers, so long as they feel it is their right to flaunt the small protections we have against this virus, these numbers will continue to grow. Their very actions against being required to sacrifice anything at all will prolong and expand this crisis, will grow the numbers.

We have become a selfish people, indeed. We see only what we want to see. Hear only what we want to hear. We live in an echo chamber of self that doesn’t have much room for the concerns of others outside of what they stack up to as numbers.

I don’t know how to end this diatribe this morning. There is no good way to end it. I am simply frustrated by the callous use of these numbers and the ugly selfish and stupid behaviors being displayed by those who do not recognize the humanity they represent.

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“[Dona Maria] saw that the people of this world moved about in an armor of egotism, drunk with self-gazing, athirst for compliments, hearing little of what was said to them, unmoved by the accidents that befell their closest friends, in dread of all appeals that might interrupt their long communion with their own desires.”

Thornton Wilder, The Bridge of San Luis Rey

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“Some people think only intellect counts: knowing how to solve problems, knowing how to get by, knowing how to identify an advantage and seize it. But the functions of intellect are insufficient without courage, love, friendship, compassion, and empathy.”

― Dean Koontz

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I’ve never read a Dean Koontz novel and don’t really know much about his work, outside of them mainly being in the thriller/horror genres. And though I couldn’t find which book the words above were from,  I liked his pointing out that so many of the qualities of the intellect that we admire mean little if they are not accompanied by compassion and empathy.

I’ve been writing this blog for over eleven years now (yikes!) and over that time I have often written about what I see as an empathy deficit in this country. Too many of us tend to not be able to recognize the hardships and problems of others, to see only how things relate to us personally. We seem to, more and more, have an inability to imagine how it might be to walk a mile in the shoes of someone else.

Maybe it’s always been that way and I’m just a little late to the show. That could well be the case. But I don’t think so. There’s been an increase of self-centered behaviors and a coarsening of our attitude towards others that is easily observable. Someone acting like a participant on an ugly reality TV show that would have once appalled us is now acceptable behavior..

It’s all I-got-mine now. Winners and losers. Chumps and champs.

Our president*** is but an ugly reminder of this new normal. A symptom that was inevitable.

You see it in his self-aggrandizing attitude and his “the world revolves around me” narcissism. But it’s his total lack of empathy that irks me the most, personally. For example in the totality of his daily briefings during the covid-19 crisis, he has devoted less than 4 1/2 minutes out of more than 28 hours to expressing any concern for the individuals who have fell victim to the virus. Most often, his time was spent patting himself and those around him on the back, saying what a terrific job he is doing.

Little mention of the lives ended or of those living, the families and friends, who have been affected by these deaths.

It’s not that he didn’t have an opportunity. Between March 26 and April 26, one month, approximately 54,000 Americans perished due to the virus. That is an enormous tragedy for these families, for the health workers, for their friends and for this nation. Each of these 54,000 is a story, a life filled with moments of love and laughter, sadness and loss.

He is without empathy, without true concern for his fellow humans. He doesn’t have the ability to place himself in the shoes of others, to a walk a mile in any other person’s shoes.

Whatever it takes, whatever it costs in human terms, to stroke his huge fragile ego is never too much. Take the West Point grads, for example. They have long been dispersed from the campus and plans were under way for a remote virtual commencement ceremony. But this selfish thing decided, without consulting the Army officials, that he would be speaking at the commencement in June. As a result, 1000 grads are going to have to return to West Point, be tested there for the virus then be placed in quarantine for 14 days on campus, all for the vanity of this thing and the fawning adulation he craves so much.

He doesn’t give a damn for the peril in which he places anyone, for the lives he burns through. We are all expendable accessories to him.

Not lives. Not families. Not individuals with feelings and futures.

No, we are assets to be used. Fodder.

Okay, I got off on a tangent there. But it still is in line with the message this morning. We can only measure our success and survival to the extent that it reaches down to the most vulnerable among us. In order to do that, we must be able to see the struggles of others, to envision ourselves in those  same struggles.

We don’t have a leader than can do that so it’s up to us to make the difference needed.

Let’s try to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes for once.

Here’s an old song from Joe South from back around 1970. You don’t hear much about Joe South anymore but he had a nice string of hits in the late 60’s/early 70’s. I always liked this song. Here’s Walk a Mile on My Shoes.

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There could be only one result  . . .  If men insisted on being free from the burden of a life that was self-dependent and also responsible for the common good, they would cease to be free at all. Responsibility was the price every man must pay for freedom. It was to be had on no other terms.

Edith Hamilton, The Echo of Greece [1957]

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Spent the last hour scouring the websites online trying to find some Clorox suppositories.

Or some sort of light bulb I could swallow that would cleanse my innards with its light and heat. I tried it with one here in the studio but burned the hell out of my lips before I could get it down my gullet.

Should have used an LED, I guess.

I thin I’m going to give up for now. Maybe I’ll try again later, after I get a rubdown at Fat Gert’s Massage Hut, a few frames at the Bowlarama and a quick touch up of the tattoo of Robert E. Lee holding a Confederate Flag that adorns my backside. I need to have more white added to Lee’s beard and a little more red on that rebel flag.

In reality, my head just hurts from the sheer amount of stupidity and reckless irresponsibility we’re witnessing in this country, from the alleged leader** of the country to the morons trying to block hospital entrances in protest over the fact that they can’t get their roots dyed or eat fajitas at Chili’s.

They scream out that it’s their liberty, the freedom to do whatever the hell they want to do with no responsibility to anyone or anything but their needs and desires.

It’s a most self-centered reading of that word, freedom. It might have been applicable ages ago, in the time of the Neanderthals or other ancient times but even then, freedom entailed a certain degree of responsibility to the clan or tribe in order to survive and to maintain safety and order.

Freedom always coexists with a responsibility for the common good of whatever form of society in which one lives. It doesn’t supersede it.

Without maintaining the common good of all those in that society, all freedoms were at peril. As the classicist author and educator Edith Hamilton points out in writings on the Athenian empire’s fall: When the freedom they wished for most was freedom from responsibility, then Athens ceased to be free and was never free again.

I understand that we all want this to be over, that people with the attention spans of fruit flies will get crazy anxious to get things moving. But no matter the amount of  Magical Thinking that flows through the addled mind of the president**,  our wishes and desires do not affect not how pandemics resolve themselves.

It takes time and concerted efforts to come up with real solutions based on sound science. It requires the smartest, most capable people trying to balance the common good with allowable liberties.

There are no shortcuts. You can’t say, “Screw this thing, I am going to do what I want to do and anybody that doesn’t like it can go to hell.

That attitude might work in some situations and might even be recommended in some.

But this ain’t one of them.

Now is a time of responsibility, of possibly sacrificing our selfish desires for the common good. I know that’s asking a lot in a country that is led by perhaps the most selfish human alive on this planet but it’s the only way out of this, short of being willing to sacrifice hundreds of thousands more people, maybe your family and friends among them, so that you can feel like a free man in ‘murica.

Okay, I actually feel better after spewing that out. Here’s an old song, The Road to Hell, from an album of the same title in the late 80’s from Chris Rea that fills the bill this morning. It was pretty good album, one that I revisit every now and then.

Give a listen and if you can find those Clorox suppositories– well, you know what to do with them.

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“Schools are a very appetizing opportunity. I just saw a nice piece in The Lancet arguing the opening of schools may only cost us 2 to 3%, in terms of total mortality. Any, you know, any life is a life lost, but … that might be a tradeoff some folks would consider.”

–Dr. Mehmet Oz, April 15, on Fox News/Sean Hannity

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“Appetizing opportunity”

May only cost us 2 to 3%, in terms of total mortality

Syndicated TV doctor and regular Fox News guest Dr. Oz created quite a firestorm with his appearance on Wednesday evening on the Sean Hannity show. He was was acting as the point of the spear for the administration’s new push to reopen the economy.

Because they have absolutely no plans for the comprehensive testing and screening needed to do so with even a modest degree of safety, their strategy is to soften up the American public to the idea that some of us will have to be sacrificed for the sake of the economy. They do so even though they know they risk the possibility of inflicting even greater long term damage to the economy if their actions end up prolonging this crisis and spread the virus even further.

So, out come their version of experts– the Dr. Oz’s and Dr. Drew’s and Dr. Phil’s– pulled directly off the TV screen to convince us that, hey, losing another 2-3% is no big deal at this point, especially if it means that Wall Street is happy.

So we end up with an “appetizing opportunity.”

Yes, when I think of putting other people’s children in harm’s way, appetizing is the first word that comes to mind. As a matter of fact, my mouth is watering a little right now just thinking about it.

Sounds ghoulish, doesn’t it? That’s because it is.

Now, I am willing to cut Dr. Oz a small break here and suggest that he was not talking about sacrificing 2-3% of the population. That would be unforgivably vile, if that is what he meant with his words.

He may have meant that we would be adding 2-3% to the total dead when this all over by doing so.

But even that is borderline ghoulish.

Right now, we have around 32,000 deaths and even that is a suspect number because of the lack of testing for the many who died from similar causes in the past couple of months and as a result were not added to the totals. But let’s say that if we continue as it is currently trending, we may very well end up with 100,000 dead.

That number comes with a continuance of the shutdown that has been in place now for the past month or so in most places. Without that shutdown and physical distancing, that 100,000 number would no doubt be in our rearview mirror by now and we would be heading to perhaps a number with seven figures in it.

But let’s go with that 100,000 number. Under the situation using Dr. Oz’s appetizing opportunity, they have reopened the schools first. Kids and teachers are back in place. So are bus drivers and cafeteria workers and custodians.

Let’s suppose Dr. Oz meant that by doing this we would only be adding 2-3% to the overall death total. That means that, using  the 100K figure, that you could tack on another 2- 3000 deaths.

That sounds yummy, doesn’t it?

And who would we willingly sacrifice to join this elite group?

Whose child?

Which teacher? Or bus driver?

Which parent? Or husband or wife?

If it’s your kid, will you just shrug your shoulders and be happy because the unemployment rate is dropping once more?

How about your spouse or your mom or dad?

Still sound appetizing?

And that is with still giving the good doctor the benefit of a doubt in what he meant with his words.

You have to remember that Dr. Oz, along with Dr. Drew, were prominent voices at the beginning of this who claimed this whole situation was being blown out of proportion, that is was a media fabrication. Dr. Drew has since apologized for being wrong in his judgement. But Dr. Oz has taken a different path and is on the dunce train. He’s now saying that the crisis that he said wasn’t a big deal might kill a lot of folks so it’s no big deal if we tack on a few more for the sake of expediency.

I will believe that it’s truly safe not by the words of a TV personality doctor best known for peddling fringe pseudo-science remedies or a reality TV president*** that displays sociopathic behavior on a regular basis. Or the words of any of his toadying cronies.

No, it will take some sort of action.

I will believe it’s safe when the president*** hauls his svelte 239 pounds, along with his whole clan of grifting cowboys and cowgirls, to the front of a Walmart and act as greeters for an afternoon. They could shake hands and take selfies with all the good, safe people for a couple of hours. That might convince me.

Hey, he could even combine it with a golf trip to his Bedminster, NJ, resort that he is so itching to take. There’s a Walmart only about 15 miles down the highway from it that would be the perfect place for such an event.

Now, that sounds like an appetizing opportunity to me.

 

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No Mail?

I shake my head a lot these days.

And swear. I have always cursed a lot, probably much more than is necessary under any circumstance. But these days, it’s been an unending torrent of blue language. I feel like a gunfighter with my hand forever resting on the six-shooter hanging at my side, all six chambers loaded with curse words of all sorts and in every imaginable combination. Hey, just because I’m crude doesn’t mean I can’t be creative.

But the past day or two, the thing that had me shooting that six gun into the sky is the current president*** and his desire to see the US Postal Service fail, saying that he will veto any emergency bill that adds funds for this most essential service, one that has seen a number of its employees stricken with the covid-19 virus.

There has long been a desire among some on the right to privatize the postal service. In fact, in 2006 under the second Bush administration that was gung ho on privatizing as many government services as possible, they enacted a mandate for the USPS that required them to prefund the employee retirement fund for the next 75 years with a ten year period. It was a measure that added $5-6 billion to the USPS budget each year, sending a service that ran, for the most part, profitably for ages into a financial freefall.

This mandate of funding retirements for 75 years– basically for a generation not yet born– is not done nor required by any or other government agency or any private company. Can you imagine a private company having to pay for the entire retirement of a new employee within the next few years? It is a ridiculous requirement and one that is intended to drive the USPS into insolvency, as it would do for any other company required to follow it.

Why would they do this? Privatization, as I said. There is a firm belief in many on the right that government is inherently inept and can do nothing efficiently. This always strikes me as being funny because these same people often believe that big government is involved in conspiracies that would require it to be the exact opposite of that. Privatization takes them off the books and, sadly, would make them a new vehicle for corruption.

The USPS is often maligned but they are still a wonder of efficiency in my eyes. Throw a letter in an envelope, jot down an address and add a stamp and stick it in the box at the end of the driveway. A person picks it up and a day or two later it is delivered anywhere in this country for 55 cents. The people who complain about this are the same people who bitch that gas doesn’t cost thirty cents a gallon anymore. To me, accessing the infrastructure that can do such a thing for less than buck is perhaps the best bargain around.

The infrastructure to do this is incredible, a force of 600,000 employees who have been the lifeline for many for most of the time as a nation. Some say that most of our messaging can be done via the web now or through private carriers such as UPS or FedEx. Of course, there is a profit necessary in order to accomplish it with private companies. FedEx would certainly never be able to deliver a letter for 55 cents. So, any increase in the price of doing such would be a de facto tax.

I am one of those people who have always loved the idea of mail. It has always been a part of my life, a first life line to the outside world when I was child living in the relative isolation of our rural home. I have friends that I still write to overseas that I befriended through the mail. While we now email more, the hand written letters and notes that I still receive mean so much more to me than a n electronic message read on a screen. The fact that the sender put it in the envelope and addressed it and a different person picked it up and inserted it into this incredible system to get to me makes it a small miracle.

The USPS can easily be saved. Of course, the forces that be and their wealthy friends see it as a cash cow to be exploited. Whether we let that happen is up to us. Call– or better yet, write– your representatives in congress and tell them to keep their hands off the post office.

Here’s an older blog entry about the prospect of receiving mail as a kid. I have done a few paintings that reflect this memory, including the one at the top from back in 2009.

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For me, this painting reminds me of my childhood and the house I consider my childhood home, an old farmhouse that sat by itself with no neighbors in sight. Specifically, this painting reminds me of exact memories I have of trudging to the mailbox as an 8 or 9 year-old in the hot summer sun. There’s a certain dry dustiness from the driveway and the heat is just building in the late morning. It’s a lazy time for a child. Late July and many weeks to go before school resumes. The excitement of school ending has faded and the child finds himself spending his days trying to find ways to not be bored into submission.

The trip to the mail box is always a highlight of the day, filled with the possibility that there might be something in it for me. Something that is addressed only to and for me, a validation that I exist in the outside world and am not stranded on this hot, dry summer island. Usually, the tinge of excitement fades quickly as I open the old metal mailbox and find nothing there for me. But occasionally there is something different, so much so that I recognize it without even seeing the name on the envelope or package label.

It’s mine, for me, directed to me. Perhaps it’s my Boy’s Life or the Summer Weekly Reader. I would then spend the day reading them from front to back, reading the stories and checking out the ads in Boy’s Life for new Schwinn bikes. Oh, those days were so good. The smell of the newly printed pages mingling with the heat and dust of the day to create a cocktail whose aroma I can still recall.

But most days, it was nothing. Just the normal family things– bills, advertisements and magazines. Or nothing at all. The short walk back to the house seemed duller and hotter on those days.

That’s what I see in this piece, even thought it doesn’t depict everything I’ve described in any detail. There’s a mood in it that recalls those feeling from an 8 or 9 year-old, one of anticipation and one of disappointment.

Childhood days with no mail.

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“The Americans have no sense of doom, none whatever. They do not recognize doom when they see it.”

James Baldwin, Giovanni’s Room

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At the bottom of the moods swings that occupy my waking days and dreaming nights as of late. In the studio at 5:30 this morning, a Tom Waits song playing with huge clunking beats and his coarse, smoke burnt voice yelling over it all, And the earth died screaming/While I lay dreaming

Shuffling through things, trying to find something to hold on to and I come across this little painting, one that I quickly did years ago for my eyes only. Never meant to be shared, just a private reminder to myself of those days when the dark crows of doom have flown around my door. Meant to keep me aware of the signs that appear when these crows are coming back, to remind me of the immense fatigue and sense of doom they bring with them so that I might be able to stay clear of them this time.

To avoid hopelessness.

But sometimes hopelessness cannot be avoided.

If you have been at this point, you know there are only two outcomes:  to succumb to the doom or fight. You realize that hope, at that point, has become your enemy, a distraction that weakens your resolve and keeps you from being fully engaged in the battle.

Hope is a tool used by agents of doom, to tyrants and despots who tie themselves to religions that keep the masses passive with promises in lives after this one on earth. Hope makes you look forward when you need to be only in the now. It makes you sloppy and inattentive, willing to surrender to nearly the same terms and conditions that have brought you to this point.

Hope is a promise unfulfilled, a wish without action.

No, in times of doom, hopelessness is your greatest ally.

Hopelessness demands action.

Hopelessness is the greatest agent of change.

Hopelessness is fearless.

I wasn’t planning on writing this this morning. God, I want to be cheery and optimistic and, dare I say, hopeful. I have always preached hope on this blog but that was in times when I thought the future was still a bright sky, not a dark and foreboding one like the one I see now, where the storm clouds have been amassing for the last four years. I’ve watched them gather but hope made me think it would somehow resolve without me engaging, that the sky would brighten of its own accord.

But I was wrong to trust hope. I can’t turn to hope this morning.

No, I am looking to hopelessness as my savior. I’ve have sometimes visited that abject blackness down where hopelessness dwells and it has always sent me back upwards. It has invariably set me in action and stiffened my resolve. It has made me realize that this life is a precious thing that is worth fighting for, against all hope.

Against all hope. I never thought about that term before, though I have used it on more than one occasion. I think we are at that point, where we must struggle against all hope with hopelessness as our great ally.

So, for the time being, I am setting hope aside. Oh, I’ll hope you’re doing well and staying safe because I want us all to have a brighter future at some point soon. But I will not depend on hope or trust that it will bring that desired future.

Only hopelessness can do that.

 

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