Friday, October 23, 2020

Moments of Wonder

It’s been called “timeless,” “bittersweet,” “seductive” . . . even “holy.”

I’m referring to the song “Wonderful Life,” and, yes, it’s all these things and more.

Written and performed by Colin Vearncombe (1962-2016), who went by the stage name Black, “Wonderful Life” was an international hit in 1987.

Perhaps you remember it. If so, I’m sure you’d agree that there was nothing else quite like this luxuriantly melodic song at the time, and nothing quite like it before or since.

How is this possible? Well, I think it’s to do with the artful blending of a number of very special things that all came together just at the right time and place.

First, there is Vearncombe’s voice, one that’s been described as a “slightly frayed baritone.” Then there’s his melancholic delivery of lyrics that actually speak of resolution and hope. It’s a combination that’s quite mesmerizing. The singer once said that “I was really being ironic. . . . Most people took it at face value,” which just goes to show how a song can take on a life of its own. I mean, people chose to not hear it as ironic; they chose instead, perhaps even subconsciously, to project onto Vearncombe’s song humanity's capacity for hope and fortitude, even within dismal settings and circumstances. Finally, there’s the song’s music video directed by Gerard De Thame. It too, with its striking black and white cinematography and at times surreal visuals, is hauntingly unique and unforgettable.

Commenting on all of this, one YouTube viewer remarks: “Everything about this is evocative – the vocals, the music, the video, and the mood. Totally unique and incomparable.”

So why, you may be asking, am I sharing all this today?

Well, today I turn 55, and as has been the tradition at The Wild Reed, I mark the occasion of my birthday by sharing a song or prayer or reflection that I find particularly meaningful; that somehow speaks to where I’m at on my journey.

On my 44th birthday, for instance, I shared Stephan Gately’s performance of “No Matter What,” and when I turned 45 I shared “Where the Truth Lies” by the band Exchange.

In 2012, when I turned 47, I shared a prayer for balance at a very trying time, not only for myself, but for many of us here in Minnesota.

Six years ago, on the first day of my fiftieth year, I shared a “guidepost on the journey,” and then one year later on the day of my 50th birthday, I shared Buffy Sainte-Marie’s rousing “It’s My Way.”

In 2017, when I turned 52, I shared a beautiful poem by John O’Donohue; while on my 53rd birthday, I shared vocalist Carl Anderson’s “Love Is,” a beautiful and powerful meditation on the mystery of love.

Last year, when I turned 54, I shared “This Is the Time,” a beautiful song by Senegalese singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Daby Touré.

This year, as you’ve no doubt ascertained, I’m sharing Black’s “Wonderful Life.” And after the music video below, I’ll say a little about why I chose this particular song to share on my birthday this year.

Here I go
Out to sea again
The sunshine fills my hair
And dreams hang in the air
Gulls in the sky
And in my blue eyes
You know it feels unfair,
There’s magic everywhere

Look at me standing
Here on my own again,
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life
No need to laugh or cry,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life

The sun’s in your eyes,
The heat is in your hair
They seem to hate you
Because you’re there
And I need a friend,
Oh, I need a friend
To make me happy,
Not stand here on my own

Look at me standing
Here on my own again,
Up straight in the sunshine
No need to run and hide,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life
No need to laugh or cry,
It’s a wonderful, wonderful life

Now, to be honest, what with all that’s happening in the U.S. and the world right now, I’m having a hard time with the whole “wonderful life” thing.

Between the global coronavirus pandemic and the possibility of Trump winning a second term in next month’s presidential election, I find myself constantly fighting off debilitating feelings of anxiety and dread. It’s a real struggle to not let these feelings weigh me down, and it's a struggle that I find emotionally exhausting.

There is also another reason why I’m not feeling particuly wonder-filled right now, or even celebratory today on my birthday. Earlier this week I was told that my friend Mahad had suffered a massive stroke while undergoing surgery and is now on life-support. According to his brother, he is brain dead.

This news has been devastating for many, and I continue to experience a deep sense of grief around the loss of my friend, a young man who had experienced many hardships and set-backs, and, yes, who had made mistakes, but who had finally began putting his life together in good and hopeful and healthy ways. I’m feeling grief too around some very simple, uncomplicated things related to my friend and his loss, like realizing I’ll never see Mahad’s beautiful smile again, at least not in this world.

Given all of this, is it any wonder that I find myself drawn to the mournful melody of “Wonderful Life.”

But you know, I’m not a pessimist. I value and seek to embody hope and proactivism. So I'm drawn to the words of this song as well.

That both sadness and hope are integrated so beautifully and powerfully in “Wonderful Life” reminds me that in my own life, I too can integrate them in beautiful and powerful ways. Indeed, I've come to believe, to trust, that such integration is key to forging and experiencing a life full of wonder.

I don't have to “run and hide” in the face of anxiety or grief, but can open myself to these feelings and allow them to make me a more compassionate and empathetic person. I can also surrender them to the Love that infuses and sustains all things, to the “magic everywhere,” trusting that this Love will gift me in return with a new perspective (which is one way to understand a miracle) by which I can view and live with my anxiety and grief in ways that make them less overwhelming.

I can recognize when I need a friend, and can reach out to people in my life whom I trust will listen and provide solace and care. At the same time I know that at my deepest level I do indeed “stand alone,” but also upright and in the “sunshine.” I perceive this sunshine as a beautiful and powerful metaphor for the Divine Love within all of us; a Love that consoles and strengthens, illuminates amd transforms.

Speaking of sunshine, my happiest memories of Mahad were when we spent time together in nature. I recall how such times were like a healing balm for him, for both of us. We were never more open and honest in our talking with each other than when we were in nature. These experiences not only grounded us, literally, within the natural world, they also grounded us in the deepest truths of our lives and our friendship.

This is how I choose to remember Mahad . . . and how I'll be celebrating my birthday this year: by taking quiet time to recollect and cherish those all-to-brief moments of life we got to share. Moments of beauty, of heart-sharing, and, yes, of wonder.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
This Is the Time
With Love Inside
On This “Echoing-Day” of My Birth
Turning 50
A Guidepost on the Journey
In the Eye of the Storm, a Tree of Living Flame
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course
No Matter What

See also:
Time By the River
A Longing and a Prayer
Now Is the Time
You Will Know It
Ride to Sundown
Out and About – Spring 2018
Out and About – Summer 2018
Out and About – Autumn 2018
The Prayer Tree
From the Palliative/Spiritual Care Bookshelf
“Call Upon Those You Love”
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Autumn Snowburst

Writes Paul Huttner of MPR News “Updraft” blog:

Our unusually cold and strong October low-pressure storm dumped heavy snow on much of Minnesota as expected Tuesday.

It also shattered some early-season snowfall records. Many spots around central and southern Minnesota will likely set all-time records for the heaviest, earliest snowfall of the snow season.

One amazing feature of this storm is the intense snowburst that rolled through the Twin Cities late Tuesday afternoon. . . . This burst produced snowfall rates of 1 to 2 inches per hour. Many locations from St. Cloud through southern Minnesota including the Twin Cities picked up more than 6 inches of snow.

Related Off-site Links:
Twin Cties Upgraded to Winter Storm Warning – Paul Huttner (MPR News, October 20, 2020).
Hundreds of Crashes and Spinouts as First Major Snow Slams StateStar Tribune (October 20, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
After the Season's First Snowstorm, a Walk Through the Neighborhood (2019)
Just in Time for Winter
Winter of Content
Winter Arrives! (2009)
First Snowfall (2010)
Winter Storm (2012)
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek (2013)
Winter's Return (2014)
Winter Storm (2016)
Autumn Snow (2017)
Winter Beauty (2017)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
December's Snowy Start (2018)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2019)

Image: Michael J. Bayly.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Meeting Truth

Writes author Colin Fleming:

We fight for so much control in our lives, and we feel frightfully unmoored without it. We have voices in our cars directing us when to bang that right turn, devices on our wrists telling us how many steps we’ve taken. We deal in constant analytics, sometimes evaluating the quality of our own thoughts and words by how many likes they rack up on social media. Everything is a comparison with something else.

Humans can surprise themselves when they’re untethered. Thoreau advised that we should walk in the woods as though “never to return” – which is to say, being cool with getting lost – and that our heart comes back in a purer form than when we left.

When we get lost, we necessarily forsake control, all but saying to nature, “Here I am, funnel me in.” In those moments there’s a good chance you’ll meet a little buddy of yours, who often shows up only when your guard is down. He’s not a bad guy, but people have a knack for driving him away when they’re hyperfocused on daily tasks – even tiny ones, like trying to go the “right” way based on what the map says.

Who is he? The truth. Sometimes it’s the reality of things you’ve done, things you’re great at that you don’t give yourself enough credit for, or changes you should make.

It is impossible to walk purely in the moment, without worrying about what turn to take, and not encounter the truth at least for a while. He comes unbeckoned, but sans surly attitude. The truth’s like a traveling companion as you crunch leaves underfoot.

Spending time with reality is a lot less scary and stressful than trying to duck him. But we often have to meet the truth in spite of ourselves. Being lost in the woods cuts out the difficult part, making that formal decision to face things.

– Colin Fleming
(from “Take a Hike and Get Lost”)
The Wall Street Journal
July 29, 2020

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
I Caught a Glimpse of a God . . .
Holy Encounters Where Two Worlds Meet
Meeting (and Embodying) the Lover God
The Landscape Is a Mirror
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
In This In-Between Time
The Mysticism of Trees
Celtic Spirituality: “A Fluid, Transmutable Affair”
The Prayer Tree
Journeying Into the Truth . . . Valiantly, of Course!

Image: “Mahad at the Threshold” by Michael J. Bayly (2018)

Monday, October 12, 2020

Something to Think About . . .


Related Off-site Links:
Columbus Day: Trump Accuses “Radical Activists” of Trying to Undermine Explorer’s Legacy in Holiday Proclamation – Courtney Subramanian (USA Today, October 12, 2020).
Trump's Praise of Columbus Omits Dark History – Holly Yan (CNN News, October 9, 2017).
The Real Christopher Columbus – Howard Zinn (Jacobin, October 12, 2015).
These States Are Ditching Columbus Day to Observe Indigenous Peoples' Day Instead – Scottie Andrew and AJ Willingham (CNN News, October 12, 2020).
Indigenous Peoples’ Day: The Latest U.S. Billboard Project to Send a Message – Nadja Sayej (The Guardian, October 12, 2020).
This Tribal Map of America Shows Whose Land You're Actually Living On – David Grossman (Popular Mechanics, October 12, 2020).
Indigenous Peoples’ Day: Two-Spirit Native Americans Bridge Genders – Kittredge Cherry (Q Spirit, October 12, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Trump’s America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
Something to Think About – October 9, 2017
Words of Wisdom on Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Michael Greyeyes’ Latest Film Provides a “New Understanding of How History Repeats”
Something to Think About – October 13, 2015
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Quote of the Day – September 27, 2015
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That “Human-Being Magic”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “America the Beautiful”
Something to Think About – February 23, 2017
“It Is All Connected”
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
Standing Together
Visions of Crazy Horse
Come, Spirit . . .
North America: Perhaps Once the “Queerest Continent on the Planet”

Sunday, October 11, 2020

About Those Militias

Like a lot of people, I was alarmed by news last week of an alleged far-right plot to kidnap Michigan's governor, Gretchen Whitmer, a plot that included plans to attack the Michigan state capitol in Lansing with the intent of starting a civil war.

Thankfully, such violent and treasonous plans were foiled, and on Thursday the FBI announced that 13 men with ties to armed anti-government groups in Michigan are now facing charges related to the alleged plot. According to the FBI affidavit, much of this plot was foreshadowed or advanced via social media and other online platforms.

Of course, these developments come at a time when armed individuals and groups are becoming an ever more visible presence at public demonstrations, intimidating and even killing those gathered to protest racial injustice and police brutality.

Emboldened by the increasingly authoritarian rhetoric of President Donald Trump, some of these groups are even planning to show up at polling stations on Election Day to “guard” the voting process.

Yesterday while out driving, I heard a very informative segment on NPR's All Things Considered program, one that focused on the legality of the numerous private militia groups we’re seeing springing up around the country. In discussing this issue, some crucial questions were raised:

Are these groups actually permitted under the Constitution?

Are they legal under the Second Amendment, given its provision for a “well-regulated militia”?

Here's how one of the show’s guests, former CIA analyst Cindy Otis, answered these important questions:

[W]ell-regulated means well-regulated by the state, by the government. So even pre-independence in the colonies, when there was an antipathy towards standing armies – they didn't want to have a standing army – so what they did is they said, we will have a militia.

Militia means all able-bodied residents between certain ages who are available to be called forth by the government in defense of the state. And once called forth, they answer to the government. They're trained by the government. They're directed and regulated by the government. That was, of course, baked into the Second Amendment, and it's baked into the constitutions of the states as well. So there's no ability for groups of individuals to sort of call themselves forth.

Another guest on the show was Mary McCord, the legal director of the Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law. From 2016-2017, McCord served as acting U.S. assistant attorney general for national security. Here’s what she said about the issue of militias:

[These groups are] very prevalent, unfortunately. I mean, more and more new ones are springing up, including, you know, we have nationwide organizations. And, frankly, I’m just not going to mention their names on air because I think it just helps them with recruitment, and it helps them to feel normalized. But we also have small, like, county groups that are self-organizing.

And many of them are doing this because they fancy themselves as patriots. They will refer to themselves as patriots and say it’s their duty to defend and protect the Constitution. But, of course, they’re the ones deciding how the Constitution should be interpreted, and they’re doing so completely outside of government accountability and outside of, you know, any actual authorized authority.

Related Off-site Links:
Michigan Domestic Terror Plot Sends Shockwaves Through Militia World – Hannah Allam (NPR News, October 9, 2020).
Extremism Researcher On Prevalence of Militia Groups in the Pandemic – Audie Cornish (NPR News, October 8, 2020).
“A Threat to a Fair Election”: Experts Warn of Danger Posed by Armed Pro-Trump Poll Watchers – Kenny Stancil (Common Dreams, October 9, 2020).
How We Should Defend Against the Impending Trump Coup – Jeremy Brecher (Common Dreams, October 9, 2020).
America's Cold Civil War – Marianne Willianson (Newsweek, September 28, 2020).
Patriot Games: A Brief History of Militias in America – Sara Rathod (Mother Jones, 2016).

UPDATES: Trump Rally Crowd Chants “Lock Her Up” About Michigan Gov. Whitmer, Target of Alleged Kidnapping Plot – John Fritze (USA Today, October 17, 2020).
Michigan Gov. Whitmer Says Trump Incites Domestic Terrorism – Barbara Sprunt (NPR News, October 18, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In Charlottesville, the Face of Terrorism In the U.S.
“Fascism Is Upon Us”
“New and Very Dangerous”: The Extreme Right-Wing Infiltration of the George Floyd Protests
Trump’s America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
Rep. Ilhan Omar Responds to President Trump’s Authoritarian Threats
Shaun King on White Privilege in America
Something to Think About – January 4, 2016

Image: Members of the West Ohio Minutemen Militia outside the Republican National Convention in Cleveland (2016). (Photo: Rex Features via AP Images)

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Heather Cox Richardson on the Unravelling of President Trump

Heather Cox Richardson is a political historian and the author of the book, How the South Won the Civil War: Oligarchy, Democracy, and the Continuing Fight for the Soul of America. She also regularly publishes a dispatch via Facebook in which she “uses facts and history to make observations about contemporary American politics.”

In her most recent dispatch, Heather examines President Donald Trump’s ongoing erratic behavior, especially as it relates to the coronavirus pandemic and the rapidly approaching presidential election. She also draws a comparison between Trump and President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln. Following (with added links) is an excerpt.

The major, obvious, in-your-face story of the day is that the president is melting down. He has spent much of the last two days calling in to the Fox News Channel and Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and ranting in a manic way that suggests he is having trouble with the steroids he is taking for his [COVID-19] illness.

. . . Congressional Republicans are wildly silent about the president's behavior, except for inklings they are distancing themselves from him and focusing on the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Even this, though, does not suggest great support for Trump. To the contrary, Republicans appear to be determined to jam her through because they expect Trump to lose the election. Although 59% of Americans think the next president should fill the seat, and although the Senate is ignoring a desperately needed coronavirus relief bill, they are planning to shepherd her through to a seat on the court before November 3.

Today, the second debate between Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was cancelled when Graham refused to take a coronavirus test despite the fact he was exposed to the virus on October 1 at a meeting that included Mike Lee (R-UT) who has since tested positive. Graham is the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and a positive test would delay the start of the Barrett hearings, slated for Monday.

Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked Graham to postpone the hearing in light of the positive tests of two Republican committee members, Mike Lee (R-UT) and Thom Tillis (R-NC). Concerns about the spread of the disease have made Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recess the Senate until October 19, and the Democrats have noted that “no plausible public health or scientific rationale justifies proceeding with Senate Judiciary Committee hearings next week.”

Americans were already upset over the administration’s handling of the coronavirus and the resulting recession, but the [White House] superspreader event and Trump’s manic behavior since have made his polls crumble further. Republican strategist Ken Spain told Sahil Kapur of NBC News, “The president has had possibly the worst two-week stretch that a candidate could have going in to the final month of an election.”

He appears to be planning to combat his low numbers by spurring his supporters to violence and by rigging the system. Yesterday, he told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that Pence’s “best answer” at the vice presidential debate was when he refused to commit to a peaceful transfer of power in January. He is now saying that Biden committed “treason” and “shouldn’t be allowed to run.” His rhetoric is stoking radical fires, as extremists hear his advice to “Stand back and stand by” as a rallying cry.

The president is pushing the idea that, unless he is reelected, the election will be fraudulent, and that he will not accept the results. His campaign says it has recruited 50,000 volunteer poll watchers – polls already have certified watchers from both parties – who seem likely to try to disrupt the election in swing states. Republican leaders have tried to limit voting, with varied success: Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered all Texas counties to have a single ballot drop box (Democratic-leaning Harris County is bigger than the state of Rhode Island), but today, a federal judge ruled against him.

The Trump campaign is also looking the other way as Russia again interferes on his behalf.

In all of this – except the Russia part – Trump looks oddly like President Andrew Johnson, who took over the White House after Abraham Lincoln’s death at the hands of an assassin. Johnson was a former Democrat, and could not stand the idea of the Republican government ending systemic Black enslavement and leveling the playing field among races. He wanted to reclaim the nation for white men. Convinced he was defending America from a mob and that his supporters must retake control of the government in the midterm election of 1866 or the nation was finished, Johnson became increasingly unhinged until he began to compare himself to both the martyred Lincoln and Jesus Christ. He called his congressional opponents traitors who should be executed.

Egged on by the president, white supremacist gangs attacked Black Americans and their white allies, convincing Johnson that his party would sweep the midterms and he would gain control of the government to end Black rights.

Voters heard Johnson, all right. They were horrified by his attacks on the government and the violence he urged. It was an era in which only white men could vote, but even so, they elected to office not Johnson’s white supremacists, but Johnson’s opponents. And they didn’t just elect enough of those reasonable men to control Congress . . . voters gave them a supermajority.

Heather Cox Richardson
via Facebook
October 9, 2020

Related Off-site Links
Trump’s Erratic Behavior Sparks Fears Over His Physical and Mental HealthDemocracy Now! (October 9, 2020).
Will Amy Coney Barrett Stand by Her Man? He's Betting a Second Term On It – Bill Moyers and Lisa Graves (Common Dreams, October 9, 2020).
Donald Trump’s Loopy Self-Pity Tour of Conservative Media Outlets – John Cassidy (The New Yorker, October 10, 2020).
Taking Page From Authoritarians, Trump Turns Power of State Against Political Rivals – David E. Sanger (The New York Times, October 10, 2020).
How You Can Stop America’s Slide Toward Tyranny – Robert Reich (Common Dreams, October 8, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
David Sirota: Quote of the Day – October 2, 2020
The Lancet Weighs-in on the Trump Administration's “Incoherent” Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
The “Freefall” Continues
“Fascism Is Upon Us”
A Means to the End (of the Trump Presidency)
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden
Rep. Ilhan Omar Responds to President Trump’s Authoritarian Threats
“The Republican Party Has Now Made It Official: They Are a Cult”
Trump’s Playbook
Progressive Perspectives on the Rise of Donald Trump
Progressive Perspectives on the Election of Donald Trump
On International Human Rights Day, Saying “No” to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Trump’s America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence

Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Autumn: Season of Transformation and Surrender

This past Sunday (October 4, 2020) I went for a walk with my friend Carol along part of the Winchell Trail, a largely unpaved trail that winds about 2.5 miles along the west bank of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, from Franklin Avenue to Minnehaha Park. Named after Newton Horace Winchell, Minnesota’s state geologist from 1872 to 1901, the Winchell Trail is touted as Minneapolis’ “first rustic hiking trail.”

As you can see from the images I share this evening, last Sunday was a beautiful autumn day to be out in nature.

Accompanying my photos is an excerpt from a reflection on autumn by Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr. Enjoy!

Autumn is a wondrous metaphor for the transformation that takes place in the human heart each season. When we notice a subtle change of light outside our windows, we know the dark season is near. Everything is being prepared for winter. Autumn calls us in from summer's playground and asks significant questions about our own harvest: What do we need to gather into our spiritual barns? What in our lives needs to fall away like autumn leaves so another life waiting in the wings can have its turn to live?

It is easy to read the human story in these autumn pages between summer and winter. This is the season that evokes nostalgia and pours longing into human hearts. Autumn speaks of connection and yearning, wisdom and aging, transformation and surrender, emerging shadows, and most of all, mystery. This is the season that touches our longing for home, for completion. We are invited to let go, to yield . . . yes, to die. We are encouraged to let things move in our lives. Let them flow on into some new life form just as the earth is modeling these changes for us.

The season of autumn will not stay with us forever. It will fall into the womb of winter. In this dark resting place another dimension of growth will reveal itself. Each season’s entrance and departure is part of the gracious turning of the circle of life. Autumn will return to the land and to our lives when it is time. The wheel keeps turning.

– Joyce Rupp and Macrina Wiederkehr
Excerpted from their book, The Circle of Life:
The Heart’s Journey Through the Seasons

Sorin Books, 2005
pp. 168-169

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
O Sacred Season of Autumn
“Thou Hast Thy Music Too”
A Prayer of Autumn Welcoming
Autumn’s Wordless Message
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2018)
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2016)
Autumn Psalm
Autumn Beauty
Autumn Leaves
Autumn Hues
Autumn by the Creek
From the River to the Falls
Autumn Dance
An Autumn Walk by Minnehaha Creek
Autumnal (and Rather Pagan) Thoughts on the Making of “All Things New”
The Prayer Tree . . . Aflame!
The Last of Autumn’s Hues
“This Autumn Land Is Dreaming”

Image: Michael J. Bayly and Carol Masters.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Something to Think About . . .

In related news, the The Washington Blade reports:

A hashtag used by the far-right fascist group, Proud Boys has been hijacked by gay men to the delight of thousands of people on social media.

The male-only organization, which is affiliated with white supremacists, gained notoriety last Tuesday after Donald Trump refused to condemn them in the first presidential debate. [NOTE: Trump later denounced the group and “all white Supremacists.”]

Now gay men around the world have taken over the hashtag #ProudBoys to make it trend for different reasons.

Related Off-site Links:
Asked to Condemn White Supremacists, Trump Tells Proud Boys Hate Group to “Stand By” – James Rainey and Melissa Gomez (Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2020).
Trump's Proud Boys Debate Shoutout Energized the Entire Far Right. The Damage Is Done – Cynthia Miller-Idriss (USA Today, October 2, 2020).
The Proud Boys Are a Far-Right Gang. Trump Boosted Them on National TV – Shannon E Reid and Matthew Valasik (The Guardian, October 3, 2020).
In Debate Aftermath, Trump Denounces “All White Supremacists” Including Proud BoysAl Jazeera (October 2, 2020).
Twitter Users Take Over Proud Boys Hashtag With Photos of LGBTQ Love – April Siese (CBS News, October 4, 2020).

Friday, October 02, 2020

Quote of the Day

The lesson of Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis is not that he deserved it – it is that you cannot ignore reality forever. The basic laws – of science, of medicine, of the economy, of humanity – always eventually express their will, whether we like it or not.

This, of course, is a truism for all of us who live ordinary lives out here in the actual, real world – but it is a revelation for a Republican Party whose entire political identity is defined by scoffing at and mocking what GOP Karl Rove infamously called “the reality-based community.” Indeed, for decades, Republican leaders have operated as if you are a fool to think reality even matters – because in their view, nothing matters and new realities can just be manufactured.

Trump is the avatar of that attitude – he has spent the last seven months trying to defy the basic axioms of biology: during the pandemic, he downplayed the disease, refused to wear a mask, insisted on holding crowded campaign rallies, and demanded the economy open back up as the virus spread. He ignored science, but ultimately science caught up with his reckless behavior – and he became one of the millions who have been infected.

Trump suggested to Bob Woodward that he tried to downplay the virus because he wanted to avoid creating panic. But there’s been something deeper than political calculation at work – something more innate. Trump is a guy who has been taught his entire life that he does not have to play by the rules – and that gravity will never bring him back down to earth.

. . . [T]he virus is the polar opposite of Trump. As much as he personifies the belief that reality doesn’t matter, a virus is the embodiment of the idea that reality will always have the last word – because a virus can’t be spun or lied to or negotiated with or emotionally manipulated. It is a ruthless biological machine that abides by ironclad scientific laws that perhaps you can get away with defying for a while – but not over the long run.

Obviously, we shouldn’t celebrate Trump (or anyone else) getting sick – the disease is horrible and shouldn’t be wished upon anyone. But we can learn from this important parable.

If anything good comes out of all the disasters in this terrible year, maybe it is that our society will finally stop pretending we can ignore reality.

Maybe we can start rejecting the fantasies that have led us to this awful moment.

Maybe we can create a new reality-based community – before more unfolding cataclysms make things even worse.

– David Sirota
Excerpted from “Trump Could Only Ignore
the Reality of Coronavirus for So Long

October 2, 2020

Related Off-site Links:
Trump Tests Positive for the Coronavirus – Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman (The New York Times, October 2, 2020).
Trump to Stay at Walter Reed Hospital Following Positive Coronavirus Test – Alana Wise and Scott Hensley (NPR News, October 2, 2020).
Election Season Upended: Trump’s COVID Diagnosis Could Reshape Race, Debates, and Supreme Court FightDemocracy Now! October 2, 2020).
How Donald Trump's COVID-19 Diagnosis Could Change the Presidential Race – Charlotte Alter (TIME, October 2, 2020).
“Not a Tragic Accident – A Crime Scene”: Critics Say Trump COVID Diagnosis a “Culmination” of His Deadly Pandemic Response – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, October 2, 2020).
Naomi Klein: I Fear Trump Will Exploit His COVID Infection to Further Destabilize the ElectionDemocracy Now! October 2, 2020).
It's Not Karma. It's Not Justice. Trump Got COVID-19 Because of His Own Lies, But He's Not Alone – Mark Sumner (Daily Kos, October 2, 2020).
Trumpworld Delighted in Cruelty. Now That Trump has COVID, It Demands Empathy – Anthony L. Fisher (Business Insider, October 2, 2020).

UPDATES: Reality Bursts the Trumpworld Bubble – Maureen Dowd (The New York Times, October 3, 2020).
The White House Is Spreading Virus and Lies – Olivia Nuzzi and Ben Jacobs (New York Magazine, October 3, 2020).
Trump’s Chief of Staff: Next 48 Hours Are “Critical”Paper ) October 3, 2020).
Donald Trump Is Facing a "Critical" Few Days As He Approaches His Second Week With Coronavirus – Here's WhyABC News (October 3, 2020).
“This Is Spiraling Out of Control”: Allies Panic About Trump’s Hospital Stay As White House Deflects – Gabriel Sherman (Vanity Fair, October 3, 2020).
Panic and Confusion Permeate White House After Trump's COVID Diagnosis – David Smith (The Guardian, October 4, 2020).
Another Member of Team Trump Tests Positive for COVID-19 After Flouting Public Health Guidelines – Laura Clawson (Daily Kos, October 5, 2020).
We Can’t Trust Anyone on Trump’s Health – Mary Harris (Slate, October 5, 2020).
The Weirdest 90 Seconds in Presidential History – Tim Miller (The Bulwark, October 5, 2020).
Infectious Conspiracies: Donald Trump, Coronavirus and Reality – Binoy Kampmark (Australian Independent Media Network, October 6, 2020).
White House Staff and Secret Service Eye Virus With Fear and Anger – Jill Colvin, Deb Riechmann and Colleen Long (AP News, October 6, 2020).
Getting COVID-19 Didn't Help Trump Evolve His Thinking – Thomas Ken Lew (USA Today, October 6, 2020).
“What An Anti-Everybody Agenda Looks Like”: Trump Excoriated for Walking Away From Covid-19 Relief Talks – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, October 6, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Lancet Weighs-in on the Trump Administration's “Incoherent” Response to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Ed Yong: Quote of the Day – August 3, 2020
An Infectious Disease Specialist Weighs-in on Covid-19
Marianne Williamson: In the Midst of This “Heartbreaking” Pandemic, It's Okay to Be Heartbroken
The Calm Before the Storm
The Crisis Is Not About the Virus
Examining the Link Between Destruction of Biodiversity and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Something to Think About – April 22, 2020
Marianne Williamson: “This Is a Time of Transformation”
Ken Butigan: Quote of the Day – March 17, 2020
Hope and Beauty in the Midst of the Global Coronavirus Pandemic
A Prayer in Times of a Pandemic

Image 1: Donald Trump exits the Oval Office on October 1, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo: Drew Angerer / Getty Images)
Image 2: Michael J. Bayly.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Honoring An Icon

It’s been a month since news broke of actor Chadwick Boseman’s death at age 43 from colon cancer. Unbeknown to all but his family and medical team, Boseman had been living with the disease for the past four years.

I must admit I can still find myself experiencing a catch in my spirit whenever I am reminded that he is gone from this world; when I realize that apart from his posthumous appearance in the soon-to-be-released Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, we won’t see him again in a new movie. And most incredulously, we will never see him again in the role with which he will forever be celebrated, that of King T’Challa of Wakanda, aka Black Panther.

I’ve been giving some thought as to why Boseman’s death has had such an impact on me. I think a big part of it is that I’d developed a deep admiration for him as both an actor and a human being. He was a very humble, thoughtful, and caring man. I also resonate with both the story and the queer appeal of Black Panther, the film that made Boseman an international star.

In the weeks since his passing, all kinds of tributes and memorials have been made and created honoring Chadwick Boseman as both an accomplished actor and a generous and compassionate human being.

For instance, the image that opens this post depicts a recently unveiled mural in Disneyland that celebrates Boseman and the way he would visit and interact with children living with serious, often terminal illnesses – even as he himself privately struggled with cancer.

Boseman made a real difference in the lives of these children and their families, as numerous photos show (right and below) and family members themselves attest.

He truly was a living icon, which is to say that his life served as a window into the deeper meaning of why it is we're here.

To be an icon is to also choose to live in such a way that one’s life and example serve as a trail marker or guidepost for all who are longing to embark on any type of journey of transformation – their own and the world’s. In his all too brief life, Chadwick Boseman chose to work to become the hero of his own story, his own journey. And in doing so, he inspired others to become the hero of theirs.


Following are words and images that pay tribute to Chadwick Boseman – icon, guidepost, hero.

In a tragically brief but historically sweeping life as an actor, Boseman played men of public life and private pain. Before [news broke of his death], we didn’t know he, too, was bearing such a burden. That has only magnified his accomplishment, bringing him closer to the great figures whose shoes he wore on film. He played men who advanced a people’s progress, a trail he helped blaze himself. He played icons, and died one, too.

“There’s a lot to learn from Jackie Robinson. There’s a lot to learn from James Brown. There’s a lot to learn from Thurgood Marshall,” Boseman said [two years ago of the icons he has played]. “I would like to say that some of those qualities have infused themselves into me at this point.”

– Jake Coyle
Excerpted from “Chadwick Boseman Didn’t Just Play Icons. He Was One
Associated Press News
August 29, 2020

Each time [Chadwick] stepped on-set, he radiated charisma and joy, and each time he appeared onscreen, he created something truly indelible. He embodied a lot of amazing people in his work, and nobody was better at bringing great men to life. He was as smart and kind and powerful and strong as any person he portrayed.

– Kevin Feige
Marvel Studios Creative Officer

I always marveled at how special Chadwick was. Such a pure hearted, profoundly generous, regal, fun guy. My entire job as Okoye [in Black Panther] was to respect and protect a king. Honor his leadership. Chadwick made that job profoundly easy. He was the epitome of kindness, elegance, diligence and grace. On many an occasion I would think how thankful I was that he was the leading man I was working closely with. A true class act. And so perfectly equipped to take on the responsibility of leading the franchise that changed everything for Black representation.

He made everyone feel loved, heard and seen. He played great, iconic roles because he possessed inside of himself that connection to greatness to be able to so richly bring them to life. He had a heroic spirit, and marched to the beat of his own drum; hence his excellence as an artist and the incredible courage and determination as he faced life’s challenges; while still guiding us all.

– Danai Gurira
Quoted in Christian Spencer's article,
Danai Gurira: Chadwick Boseman Was Exactly Like Black Panther
The Grio
August 30, 2020

Sometimes it’s the small things that let you know the character of a person. There have been two times that I’ve been out in public where [Chadwick went] out of his way to say hello. This is after the major success of Black Panther. One of them was at the airport. I was coming in, he was coming out. Another time, we were literally on the street. He was just always sending love and sending vibes and checking in on you. I’m like, there must be 10,000 people in your life every day, but you would still take time to reach out to people and to connect with them.

– Aakomon Jones
Quoted in Matthew Jacobs's article,
How Chadwick Boseman’s Humility Made Him A Star
The Huffington Post
September 2, 2020

Above: Brooklyn artist Kenny Altidor stands alongside his latest mural, one dedicated to Chadwick Boseman. According to the Brooklyn Paper, the mural, on the wall of Family Altagracia Caribbean Crusine on Clarendon Road and East 56th St., East Flatbush, gained wide praise from the community. (Photo: Lloyd Mitchell)

Below: The mural of Chadwick Boseman that appeared in Cambridge, MA’s “Graffiti Alley” in early September. (Photo: Erin Clark/The Boston Globe)

I thought back to all his performance and all those incredible people he’s played, and I realized I don’t think you can do it as convincingly as he did if he did not possess that same grace in real life. You can’t act that.

Above: The “Be Your Higher Self / Chadwick Boseman / Black Panther” mural by Rahmaan Statik, located at 89th and Commercial SE in Chicago IL. (Photo: Rahmaan Statik)

Murals dedicated to Chadwick Boseman have not only appeared in cities across the U.S., including Nashville and Dallas, but have also been created across the globe – in Brazil and the United Kingdom, for instance.

One of the last times we spoke, you said we were forever linked, and now the truth of that means more to me than ever. since nearly the beginning of my career, starting with All My Children when I was 16 years old [taking over a role from Boseman], you paved the way for me. You showed me how to be better, honor purpose and create legacy. . . . Everything you’ve given the world – the legends and heros that you’ve shown us we are – will live on forever. But the thing that hurts the most is that I now understand how much of a legend and hero YOU are. Through it all, you never lost sight of what you loved most. You cared about your family, your friends, your craft, your spirit. You cared about the kids, the community, our culture and humanity. You cared about me. You are my big brother, but I never fully got a chance to tell you or truly give you your flowers while you were here. I wish we had more time.

Above: Chadwick with Rachel Robinson, the widow of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, whom he portrayed in the 2013 film 42.

He brought grace, elegance and power to everything he did. He always seemed to carry our ancestors with him. And now he joins them far too soon.

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Black Panther Star Chadwick Boseman Dies of Cancer at 43 – Ryan Pearson (Associated Press, August 28, 2020).
Ryan Coogler Pens Powerful Tribute To Chadwick Boseman: “Chad Is An Ancestor Now”Shadow and Act (August 30, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman's Career Highlights and Personal AchievementsABC News (August 29, 2020).
How Chadwick Boseman Embodies Black Male Dignity – Reggie Ugwu (The New York Times, January 2, 2019).
Danai Gurira: Chadwick Boseman Was Exactly Like Black Panther – Christian Spencer (The Grio, August 30, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman in His Own Words – James Doubek (NPR News, August 30, 2020).
How Chadwick Boseman’s Humility Made Him a Star – Matthew Jacobs (The Huffington Post, September 2, 2020).
Chadwick Boseman: The Lasting Impact of a Life Well-Lived – Tiffany Johnson (Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder, September 3, 2020).
Remembering the Joy, Strength and Inspiration of Chadwick Boseman – Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times, September 13, 2020).
This Will Be Chadwick Boseman's Final Movie – Shane O'Neill (Looper, August 29, 2020).
Disneyland Unveils a Beautiful Mural Honoring Chadwick Boseman – Tonja Renée Stidhum (The Root, September 28, 2020).
Sienna Miller Says Chadwick Boseman Gave Her Some of His Salary on 21 Bridges So She Could Be Paid Fairly For the Movie – Jason Guerrasio (Insider, September 28, 2020).
First Look: Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – Kyle Buchanan (The New York Times, September 30, 2020).
“A Man With a Purpose”: Chadwick Boseman’s Life’s Work Is Far From Over – Kate Storey (Esquire, October 6, 2020).
Spike Lee on Chadwick Boseman in Da 5 Bloods: “If I Had Known, I Wouldn't Have Made Him Do the Stuff”Shadow and Act (October 7, 2020).
Could Chadwick Boseman Be the First Person to Earn Two Posthumous Oscar Acting Nominations in Same Year? – Clayton David (Variety, October 15, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Remembering Chadwick Boseman
The Important Cultural Moment That Is Black Panther
Celebrating Black Panther – Then and Now
“Avengers Assemble!”
Jason Johnson on Stan Lee's Revolutionary Legacy
Another First for Black Panther
“Something Special,” Indeed!
Queer Black Panther