Saturday, February 27, 2021

“He Was Bigger Than Life . . . Very Philosophical, Very Warm and Honest”


Filmmaker Merrill Aldighieri
remembers Carl Anderson


Today is the 76th anniversary of the birth of the late, great American singer and actor Carl Anderson (1945-2004), whom I’ve been honoring throughout February – the month of both his birth and death.

This honoring concludes today with something very special: my recent interview with filmmaker Merrill Aldighieri (right) who worked with Carl on a number of projects in the mid-1980s.

Merrill’s first project with Carl was in 1986 when she directed the music video for his recording of “Buttercup.” Later that same year she filmed Carl in concert at Washington, D.C.’s Carter Barron Amphitheater. At that same time she interviewed him in Rock Creek Park, Carl’s favorite place in Washington.

As you’ll see, in my interview with her, Merrill reflects upon working with Carl on all of these projects and more. First, though, here is the “Buttercup” music video that Merrill directed for Carl. Enjoy!






Michael Bayly: How did it happen that you came to work with Carl?

Merrill Aldighieri: I was invited to make a music video for “Buttercup” by his manager Mike Caplan. It had to be done ASAP so we got to work right away. There was no time for him to mail me a copy of the song, so Carl sang it to me over the phone. When he was done, I said, “You sing just like Stevie Wonder.” Carl replied, “You mean Stevie Wonder sings just like me!” It was many years before I learned how Carl mentored Stevie Wonder, and then the conversation came back to me!


Before your professional relationship with Carl, what did you know about him and his career?

I knew nothing, zip about Carl before that singing phone call.


What was Carl like to work with?

Carl was wonderful to work with, very open to direction. His experience working on the soaps [most prominently Days of Our Lives] was a great asset. [In making the music video] he was surrounded by amateurs yet they all blended in an ensemble. There was no script and I was improvising on the spot. It was more like play than work. Carl went with the flow. The shoot went great and we were shooting all over the place, including Grand Central Station. We did the whole shoot in one day and night.


Right: Merrill Aldighieri in 1986 (photographed by John A. Mozzer).



What was he like as a person? What qualities stand out for you, even after all these years?

Carl’s laugh, smile, openess all stand out to me. The interview I did with him by the river was the most challenging, and I asked a lot of him. He had some reluctance, but I won his trust.



The music video you made with Carl in 1986, “Buttercup,” is very much of its time in terms of outfits, hairstyles, colors, etc. . . .
Where did the ideas for the visuals, locations and story line come from? What was it like making the video? What memories of it stand out the most for you?

The ideas came from me. I started with the lyrics and planned scenes based on the words. As I look at the clip, I think there is a touch of Jean Cocteau influence in there. I was friends with the artist who made the furniture. He and his brother also designed the package art for the DANSPAK series. I built one scene around that.

At the time I did not know any tall black women except one I met when I was in Washington D.C. speaking at the Kennedy Center, so I called her and flew her to NYC to play opposite Carl. I just thought they would look good together. It turned out she was the younger sister of [Susan Beaubian] the woman Carl acted with who played his wife in The Color Purple. I thought this was an extraordinary coincidence. The other performers in the video were friends, neighbors, and friends of freinds. One was a 14-year-old boy who just hit puberty and grew about a foot in one month. I bumped into him in my elevator and invited him to be in the clip. He was part of my ensemble from then on.



What is the story behind the 1986 concert at the Carter Barron Amphitheater? What was it like filming that concert? What are your fondest memories of it? Were there challenges that you recall?

The Carter Barron Concert production was the idea of Carl’s manager Mike Caplan. He expected we would be able to sell it to BET, and Gloria Loring's cameo appearance seemed like a great bonus. The production was expensive so we were kind of stressed. The filming I shot during the rehearsal was the most fun I had. The concert was really tough. Very hot, unpredictable. My camera was on a tripod and I was used to doing hand held camera, so I was a bit of a fish out of water. I did the editing from U-Matic working dubs of the Betacam masters. We were very disappointed to never sell the concert to BET. The programmer said Carl was not “Black enough.” I was pretty miffed. This was at a point when rap was huge. So this sat on the shelf for decades.


What was it like to work with Carl on this particular concert project? He seems very energized and animated. Was this how he was most of the time? Were there quieter, more reflective moments for him? What was he like during those quieter times?

The interview by the river is a good example of his more quiet times, and he was very philosophical, very warm and honest. It was a powerful moment. We also were in Washington, D.C. making a fundraising film to save a historical Black theatre, the Lincoln Theatre. I will have to upload that one of these days. The odd thing about that, a wonderful project, is that we were so excited to have secured an interview with the Mayor of Washington DC, Marion Barry. You can imagine our horror and shock when after finishing our editing with the intro by Mayor Barry, he was all over the news after being caught in that awful sting operation. This kind of sunk our fundraising video.


In working with Carl, do you feel you got to know him as a person and not just a work colleague? Did you ever meet or get to know his family? Or did he have clear boundaries around things like that?

We only had a few days together over the years and I did not get to know him, except that even in a few hours I felt like I did get to know him. I was New York-based, he was not, so our paths only crossed creatively. My partner’s parents took a shine to him and went to see him whenever he performed at the Atlantic City casinos, and he always remembered them warmly.


I’ve always felt that Carl never received the attention and accolades that he and his music deserved. Why do you think he never achieved a higher profile in the music industry and thus never became more well-known with the general public?

I think that rap music shifted the audience attention and ballads and traditional melodic crooning was geared to an older audience. I am not really well placed to judge though, as I was involved with experiemntal, no wave, and new wave music which was on the fringe of the market share. But the series I released with Sony was meant to break new music on video and give lesser known artists a foot in the business. Carl was, under this guise, a big headliner compared to some of the other groups in my ecclectic compliations.


When you heard of Carl’s death, what were your first thoughts? As the years have passed, what do you find yourself missing or regretting most about his life so sadly cut short?

I can’t answer. I can't think about him as dead. I know that sounds wierd, but there it is.


Is there anything else you would like to share about your memories of Carl?

He was bigger than life! Speaking with him was like communing with a great whale, some deep sea creature that knows depths us minnows can’t imagine.



NOTE: Merrill Aldighieri has produced a DVD entitled Carl Anderson: The Work Tapes. It contains all of the projects mentioned in my interview with Merrill, including Carl’s live 1986 performance at the Carter Barron Amphitheater, the official promotional video for “Buttercup,” and the “river interview.” All in all, it’s a must-have for admirers of Carl and his music.

To purchase Merrill's DVD, click here.


The Wild Reed’s February 2021 Celebration of Carl Anderson:
Remembering an Artist and Vocalist Extraordinaire
An Electrifying Spectrum of Emotions
“Fare Thee Well, My Nightingale”

The Wild Reed’s February 2020 Celebration of Carl Anderson:
Carl Anderson: On and On
Carl Anderson and The Black Pearl
Carl Anderson in The Color Purple
Carl Anderson: “Let the Music Play!”

The Wild Reed’s February 2019 Celebration of Carl Anderson:
Remembering and Celebrating Carl Anderson
Carl Anderson: “Pure Quality”
Carl Anderson’s Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar: “The Gold Standard”
Carl Anderson’s Judas: “A Two-Dimensional Popular Villain Turned Into a Complex Human Being”
Carl Anderson: “Artist and Vocalist Extraordinaire”
Playbill Remembers Carl
Remembering the Life of Carl Anderson: “There Was So Much Love”


For more of Carl at The Wild Reed, see:
Carl Anderson: “Like a Song in the Night”
Carl Anderson: “One of the Most Enjoyable Male Vocalists of His Era”
With Love Inside
Carl Anderson
Acts of Love . . . Carl’s and Mine
Introducing . . . the Carl Anderson Appreciation Group
Forbidden Lover
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)

Related Off-site Links:
A Profile of Carl Anderson – Part I: A Broadway Legend with Lynchburg Roots – Holly Phelps (LynchburgMuseum.org, May 12, 2015)
A Profile of Carl Anderson – Part II: The Legend Lives On – Holly Phelps (LynchburgMuseum.org,June 10, 2015)
Carl Anderson – Jazz Legend: The Official Website
Carl Anderson Memorial Page
Carl Anderson at AllMusic.com – Ron Wynn (AllMusic.com)
Carl Anderson Biography – Chris Rizik (Soul Tracks)


Friday, February 26, 2021

A Radical Kind of Love

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez [AOC] believes that faith is about more than just spittle from a pulpit. If Jesus came to transform us, then AOC is the living embodiment of what it means to be transformed by the personhood of Jesus.

She isn’t into name-dropping her relationship with Christ. Instead, she has taken to heart the principles that Christ lived by and is doing her damndest to live by the example Christ set. Well, I don’t have to tell you. Listen to what she says about her own faith: “By nature, a society that forgives and rehabilitates its people is a society that forgives and transforms itself. That takes a radical kind of love, a secret of which is given in the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And let us not forget the guiding principle of “the least among us” found in Matthew: that we are compelled to care for the hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked, sick and, yes – the imprisoned.”

AOC believes faith should compel us toward caring for others. You know, the way Jesus did.

– Karen Spears Zacharias
Excerpted from “The Faith of
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

KarenZach.com
February 21, 2021



Related Off-site Links:
The Stunning Political Power of AOC – Chris Cillizza (CNN Politics, February 22, 2021).
New York Democrat “Better at Being a Texas Senator Than Ted Cruz”: AOC Spends Weekend Raising Millions and Delivering Aid – Kenny Stancil (Common Dreams, February 22, 2021).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Doing Ted Cruz’s Job to Provide Texas Storm Aid – Jennifer Bendery (The Huffington Post, February 19, 2021).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Said Something Genuine, So of Course Men Reacted Poorly – EJ Dickson (Rolling Stone, February 2, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Perspectives on the 2020 U.S. Election Results
My Summer of Supporting Progressive Down-Ballot Candidates
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden
To Whom the Future of America Belongs
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Quote of the Day – March 10, 2019
Something to Think About – March 8, 2019
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Quote of the Day – February 6, 2019
Ross Barkan: Quote of the Day – June 27, 2018

Image: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is seen on the House steps of the Capitol before the House passed a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package by voice vote on Friday, March 27, 2020. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/AP Images)


Thursday, February 25, 2021

Cultivating Stillness


The best tool for cultivating a capacity to respond quickly and powerfully to fast moving circumstances is the cultivation of stillness. That’s why meditation is the best preparation for the urgency of [the times we are living through]. It prepares the nervous system to act quickly without wasting energy or leaking life force.

We can’t achieve the transformational possibilities of this moment unless we’re willing to build the internal musculature that will give us the strength to do so.

It’s nothing we can get to by rational or psychological analysis alone, accumulating more data, or by doing more work of any external kind. Inner peace comes from inner work. It builds non-reactivity. It builds detachment. It builds courage. It builds insight and intuition. It deepens the mind. It expands the heart. And through us it will build a new world.

Marianne Williamson
via Facebook
February 19, 2021


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
In the Garden of Spirituality – Hazrat Inayat Khan
Diarmuid O'Murchú on Our Capacity to Meditate
Thoughts on Christian Meditation | II | III | IV | V
The Source Is Within You
Michael Morwood on the Divine Presence | II | III
A Return to the Spirit
November Musings
Carrying It On . . . Into the New Year
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
As the Last Walls Dissolve . . . Everything is Possible
The Most Sacred and Simple Mystery of All
Prayer of the Week – November 24, 2014


Image 1: My prayer shrine, the focal point of my morning meditation.
Image 2: Cultivating stillness in one of my favorite places to do so: nature.


Tuesday, February 23, 2021

“Fare Thee Well, My Nightingale”


Today is the 17th anniversary of the passing of singer and actor Carl Anderson, whom I’ve been honoring throughout February – the month of both his birth and death.

This honoring continues today with the sharing of “Nightingale,” a hauntingly beautiful song written by Leonard Cohen and Anjani Thomas, and dedicated to Carl.

“Nightingale” first appeared on Cohen’s album Dear Heather, released in October 2004, eight months after Carl’s death. The song features the vocals of Cohen, Thomas and Sharon Robinson. Thomas composed the music for the song using an abandoned poem of Cohen’s. Because Anjani Thomas had known and worked with Carl, “Nightingale” was dedicated to him.

According to the official Leonard Cohen message board, Cohen’s poem helped Thomas through a difficult time in her life, and she not only “connected its romantic lines with Carl’s voice,” but “heard the melody immediately.” The album Dear Heather was also dedicated to Carl, along with Cohen’s ailing friend Irving Layton and the late Canadian poet A. M. Klein.

In 2006, Anjani Thomas re-recorded “Nightingale” for her album, Blue Alert. I actually prefer this version of the song to the one on Dear Heather, and so it’s the one I share today in honor of Carl.




I built my house beside the wood
So I could hear you singing
And it was sweet and it was good
And love was all beginning

Fare thee well, my nightingale
’Twas long ago I found you
Now all your songs of beauty fail
The forest closes ’round you

The sun goes down behind a veil
’Tis now when you would call me
So rest in peace, my nightingale
Beneath your branch of holly

Fare thee well, my nightingale
’Twas long ago I found you
Now all your songs of beauty fail
The forest closes ’round you

Fare thee well, my nightingale
I lived but to be near you
Tho’ you are singing somewhere still
I can no longer hear you


Carl Anderson
1945-2004



NEXT: “He Was Bigger Than Life . . .
Very Philosophical, Very Warm and Honest”



The Wild Reed’s February 2021 Celebration of Carl Anderson:
Remembering an Artist and Vocalist Extraordinaire
An Electrifying Spectrum of Emotions

The Wild Reed’s February 2020 Celebration of Carl Anderson:
Carl Anderson: On and On
Carl Anderson and The Black Pearl
Carl Anderson in The Color Purple
Carl Anderson: “Let the Music Play!”

The Wild Reed’s February 2019 Celebration of Carl Anderson:
Remembering and Celebrating Carl Anderson
Carl Anderson: “Pure Quality”
Carl Anderson’s Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar: “The Gold Standard”
Carl Anderson’s Judas: “A Two-Dimensional Popular Villain Turned Into a Complex Human Being”
Carl Anderson: “Artist and Vocalist Extraordinaire”
Playbill Remembers Carl
Remembering the Life of Carl Anderson: “There Was So Much Love”


For more of Carl at The Wild Reed, see:
Carl Anderson: “Like a Song in the Night”
Carl Anderson: “One of the Most Enjoyable Male Vocalists of His Era”
With Love Inside
Carl Anderson
Acts of Love . . . Carl’s and Mine
Introducing . . . the Carl Anderson Appreciation Group
Forbidden Lover
Revisiting a Groovy Jesus (and a Dysfunctional Theology)

Related Off-site Links:
A Profile of Carl Anderson – Part I: A Broadway Legend with Lynchburg Roots – Holly Phelps (LynchburgMuseum.org, May 12, 2015)
A Profile of Carl Anderson – Part II: The Legend Lives On – Holly Phelps (LynchburgMuseum.org,June 10, 2015)
Carl Anderson – Jazz Legend: The Official Website
Carl Anderson Memorial Page
Carl Anderson at AllMusic.com – Ron Wynn (AllMusic.com)
Carl Anderson Biography – Chris Rizik (Soul Tracks)


Sunday, February 21, 2021

That Quality of Awe


I recently shared an excerpt from Katherine May’s Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. This evening I share another one, a sharing inspired by today’s light dusting of snow.

________________________


Try as I might, I can’t produce the adult hardness towards a snowfall, full of resentment at the inconvenience. I love the inconvenience the same way that I sneakingly love a bad cold: the irresistible disruption to mundane life, forcing you to stop for a while and step outside your normal habits. I love the visual transformation it brings about, that recolouring of the world into sparkling white, the way that the rules change so that everybody says hello as they pass. I love what it does to the light, the purplish clouds that loom before it descends, and the way it announces itself from behind your curtains in the morning, glowing a diffuse whiteness that can only mean snow. Heading out in a snowstorm to catch the flakes on my gloves, I love the feeling of it fresh underfoot. I am rarely childlike and playful except in snow. It swings me into reverse gear.

Snow creates that quality of awe in the face of a power greater than ours. It epitomizes the aesthetic notion of the sublime, in which greatness and beauty couple to overcome you – a small, frail human – entirely.

Katherine May
Excerpted from Wintering: The Power
of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

Riverhead Books
pp. 164-165


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Photo of the Day – December 7, 2019
In Minneapolis, A Snowy February Friday
After the Season's First Snowstorm, a Walk Through the Neighborhood
First Snowfall
Winter of Content
Brigit Anna McNeill on “Winter’s Way”
Winter Beauty
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2020)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2019)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
Winter Light
A Winter Walk Along Minnehaha Creek
Winter Storm (2016)
Winter Storm (2012)
Winter’s Return
Three Winter Gatherings
In Wintry Minnesota, An Australian Afternoon Tea

Image: “Skylight View” by Michael J. Bayly.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Happy Birthday, Buffy!


Singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie turns 80 today.

Happy Birthday, Buffy!

As regulars readers will know, I’ve long admired Buffy Sainte-Marie and enjoyed her music. Indeed, I find her to be a very inspiring figure. (I even chose her song “It's My Way” as my theme song when I turned 50 in 2015!)


Left: With Buffy after her August 26, 2016 performance at The Dakota in Minneapolis.


I especially appreciate and am inspired by Buffy’s passion and purposefulness – and by the way she blends her art and social activism. I’ve seen her four times in concert, and had the privilege of meeting and talking with her on three of these occasions. She’s creative, articulate, warm, and funny – a very human human being.


Buffy's most recent album is the award-winning Medicine Songs (2017), about which Buffy says the following.

[Medicine Songs] is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work. These are songs I've been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life.

I really want this collection of songs to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good. Songs can motivate you and advance your own ideas, encourage and support collaborations and be part of making change globally and at home. They do that for me and I hope this album can be positive and provide thoughts and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own.



Above: Buffy and guitarist Anthony King performing at the Big Top Chautauqua, Bayfield, WI on Saturday, August 27, 2016. (Photo: Michael J. Bayly)


In celebrating Buffy today at The Wild Reed I share a 22-minute bio of Buffy, part of the Catch the Dream series hosted by actor Adam Beach.

Directed by Jesse Green, this “intimate portrait,” made just last year, “offers a deeper understanding of Buffy’s relationship to music and the challenges she faced as a blacklisted musician on account of her political activism. Buffy reveals her creative process and encourages others to find and use theirs.” (NOTE: There are short breaks between the three parts of this video.)






For The Wild Reed’s special series of posts leading-up to the November 10, 2017 release of Medicine Songs, see:
For Acclaimed Songwriter, Activist and Humanitarian Buffy Sainte-Marie, the World is Always Ripening
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “I’m Creative Anywhere”
Buffy Sainte-Marie Headlines SummerStage Festival in NYC’s Central Park
Buffy Sainte-Marie, “One of the Best Performers Out Touring Today”
The Music of Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Uprooting the Sources of Disenfranchisement”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Things Do Change and Things Do Get Better”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Medicine Songs



For The Wild Reed’s special series of posts leading-up to the May 12, 2015 release of Buffy’s award-winning album, Power in the Blood, see:
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That “Human-Being Magic”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Lesson from the Cutting Edge: “Go Where You Must to Grow”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power in the Blood


For more of Buffy Sainte-Marie at The Wild Reed, see:
A Music Legend Visits the North Country: Buffy Sainte-Marie in Minnesota and Wisconsin – August 2016
Carrying It On . . . Into the New Year
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “America the Beautiful”
Two Exceptional Singers Take a Chance on the “Spirit of the Wind”
Photo of the Day – January 21, 2017
Buffy Sainte-Marie Wins 2015 Polaris Music Prize
Congratulations, Buffy
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2016)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2018)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2019)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2020)
Actually, There’s No Question About It
For Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Well-Deserved Honor
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Still Singing with Spirit, Joy, and Passion
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “The Big Ones Get Away”

Related Off-site Links:
Happy Birthday to a Living Legend – Ruth Hopkins (Teen Vogue, February 20, 2021).
Iconic Canadian Singer-Songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie Reminisces On An Eventful Eight Decades – Brad Wheeler (The Globe and Mail, February 19, 2021).
For Decades, Buffy Sainte-Marie Has Had to Navigate Systemic Barriers to Cultivate Her Art – Andrea Warner (The Globe and Mail, February 18, 2021).
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Truth, Justice, and Buffy’s Way – Benito Vila (PleaseKillMe.com, February 17, 2021)
Buffy Sainte-Marie Discusses What We Weren’t Ready For In 1988 – Glenn Sumi and Daryl Jung (Now, February 15, 2021).
Buffy the Truth Sayer: An Interview with Buffy Sainte-Marie – Mandy Nolan (The Echo, February 13, 2020).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Named As the Recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award – Ian Courtney (Encore, February 14, 2020).
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Authorized Biography Serves As a “Map Of Hope” – Scott Simon and Ian Stewart (NPR News, September 29, 2018).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Tells Her Life Story, Her Way – Sue Carter (The Star, September 29, 2018)
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “I Constantly Ask Myself, Where Are the Great Protest Songs of Today?”Regina Leader-Post, (February 6, 2018).
Music as Medicine: Buffy Sainte-Marie Talks Politics, Sex Scandals and Her Brand New Album – Rosanna Deerchild (CBC Radio’s Unreserved, November 19, 2017)
Buffy Sainte-Marie Takes a Stand with Medicine SongsET Canada (November 30, 2017).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Makes Music for a New Generation of Activists – Tom Power (CBC Radio, November 17, 2017).
The Unbreakable Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Candid Conversation with the Resilient Songwriter and Activist – Whitney Phaneuf (Acoustic Guitar, January 18, 2017).
What Does Buffy Sainte-Marie Believe? – CBC Radio (December 30, 2016).

Opening image: Photographer unknown.


Thursday, February 18, 2021

Quote of the Day

I love that Audre Lorde is getting attention today (Google is featuring her in a series of graphics at its search page). As a Black lesbian, she lived intersectionality in the very same way James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin lived it as Black gay men – spending time on two crosses, Bayard Rustin called it.

In a talk I gave some years back at an international religious studies conference, I said that, if I had my druthers, the canon of classic works people in seminaries read as part of their education would include people like Audre Lorde and not just Karl Barth and Thomas Aquinas.

Many folks in the audience looked shocked, but I believed that then and believe it now. People doing pastoral ministry need to understand and appreciate lives different from their own, since, as Russian poet Konstantin Simonov said, “There is no such thing as foreign suffering.”

William D. Lindsey
via Facebook
February 18, 2021



Related Off-site Links:
The Essential Audre Lorde – Charlotte Lieberman (Writing on Glass, February 13, 2021).
The Legacy of Audre Lorde – Roxane Gay (The Paris Review, September 17, 2020).
Google Doodle Celebrates Poet and Civil Rights Activist Audre Lorde’s 87th Birthday – Coral Murphy Marcos (USA Today, February 18, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Making the Connections
Remembering and Reclaiming a Wise, Spacious, and Holy Understanding of Homosexuality
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part I)
“And Still We Rise!” – Mayday 2015 (Part II)


Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Heather Cox Richardson on the Movement Conservatism Roots of the Energy Crisis in Texas

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 latest dispatch, reprinted below, Heather examines the connected historical contexts of the current crisis in Texas and the type of rabid conservatism espoused by Rush Limbaugh, whose death was announced earlier today.

The crisis in Texas continues, with almost 2 million people still without power in frigid temperatures. Pipes are bursting in homes, pulling down ceilings and flooding living spaces, while 7 million Texans are under a water boil advisory.

Tim Boyd, the mayor of Colorado City, Texas, put on Facebook: “The City and County, along with power providers or any other service owes you NOTHING! I’m sick and tired of people looking for a damn handout!... If you are sitting at home in the cold because you have no power and are sitting there waiting for someone to come rescue you because your lazy is direct result of your raising! [sic]. . . . This is sadly a product of a socialist government where they feed people to believe that the FEW will work and others will become dependent for handouts…. I’ll be damned if I’m going to provide for anyone that is capable of doing it themselves!... Bottom line quit crying and looking for a handout! Get off your ass and take care of your own family!” “Only the strong will survive and the weak will parish [sic],” he said.

After an outcry, Boyd resigned.

Boyd’s post was a fitting tribute to talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who passed today from lung cancer at age 70. It was Limbaugh who popularized the idea that hardworking white men were under attack in America. According to him, minorities and feminists were too lazy to work, and instead expected a handout from the government, paid for by tax dollars levied from hardworking white men. This, he explained, was “socialism,” and it was destroying America.

Limbaugh didn’t invent this theory; it was the driving principle behind Movement Conservatism, which rose in the 1950s to combat the New Deal government that regulated business, provided a basic social safety net, and promoted infrastructure. But Movement Conservatives’ efforts to get voters to reject the system that they credited for creating widespread prosperity had little success.

In 1971, Lewis Powell, an attorney for the tobacco industry, wrote a confidential memo for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce outlining how business interests could overturn the New Deal and retake control of America. Powell focused on putting like-minded scholars and speakers on college campuses, rewriting textbooks, stacking the courts, and pressuring politicians. He also called for “reaching the public generally” through television, newspapers, and radio. “[E]very available means should be employed to challenge and refute unfair attacks,” he wrote, “as well as to present the affirmative case through this media.”

Pressing the Movement Conservative case faced headwinds, however, since the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforced a policy that, in the interests of serving the community, required any outlet that held a federal broadcast license to present issues honestly, equitably, and with balance. This “Fairness Doctrine” meant that Movement Conservatives had trouble gaining traction, since voters rejected their ideas when they were stacked up against the ideas of Democrats and traditional Republicans, who agreed that the government had a role to play in the economy (even though they squabbled about the extent of that role).

In 1985, under a chair appointed by President Ronald Reagan, the FCC stated that the Fairness Doctrine hurt the public interest. Two years later, under another Reagan-appointed chair, the FCC abolished the rule.

With the Fairness Doctrine gone, Rush Limbaugh stepped into the role of promoting the Movement Conservative narrative. He gave it the concrete examples, color, and passion it needed to jump from think tanks and businessmen to ordinary voters who could help make it the driving force behind national policy. While politicians talked with veiled language about “welfare queens” and same-sex bathrooms, and “makers” and “takers,” Limbaugh played “Barack the Magic Negro,” talked of “femiNazis,” and said “Liberals” were “socialists,” redistributing tax dollars from hardworking white men to the undeserving.

Constantly, he hammered on the idea that the federal government threatened the freedom of white men, and he did so in a style that his listeners found entertaining and liberating.

By the end of the 1980s, Limbaugh’s show was carried on more than 650 radio stations, and in 1992, he briefly branched out into television with a show produced by Roger Ailes, who had packaged Richard Nixon in 1968 and would go on to become the head of the Fox News Channel. Before the 1994 midterm elections, Limbaugh was so effective in pushing the Republicans’ “Contract With America” that when the party won control of the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952, the Republican revolutionaries made him an honorary member of their group.

Limbaugh told them that, under House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the Republicans must “begin an emergency dismantling of the welfare system, which is shredding the social fabric,” bankrupting the country, and “gutting the work ethic, educational performance, and moral discipline of the poor.” Next, Congress should cut capital gains taxes, which would drive economic growth, create hundreds of thousands of jobs, and generate billions in federal revenue.

Limbaugh kept staff in Washington to make sure Republican positions got through to voters. At the same time, every congressman knew that taking a stand against Limbaugh would earn instant condemnation on radio channels across the country, and they acted accordingly.

Limbaugh saw politics as entertainment that pays well for the people who can rile up their base with compelling stories – Limbaugh’s net worth when he died was estimated at $600 million – but he sold the Movement Conservative narrative well. He laid the groundwork for the political career of Donald Trump, who awarded Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a made-for-tv moment at Trump’s 2020 State of the Union address. His influence runs deep in the current party: former Mayor Boyd, an elected official, began his diatribe with: “Let me hurt some feelings while I have a minute!!”

Like Boyd, other Texas politicians are also falling back on the Movement Conservative narrative to explain the disaster in their state. The crisis was caused by a lack of maintenance on Texas’s unregulated energy grid, which meant that instruments at coal, natural gas, and nuclear plants froze, at the same time that supplies of natural gas fell short. Nonetheless, Governor Greg Abbott and his allies in the fossil fuel industry went after “liberal” ideas. They blamed the crisis on the frozen wind turbines and solar plants which account for about 13% of Texas’s winter power. Abbott told Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity that “this shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America.” Tucker Carlson told his viewers that Texas was “totally reliant on windmills.”

The former Texas governor and former Secretary of Energy under Trump, Rick Perry, wrote on House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s website to warn against regulation of Texas’s energy system: “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business,” he said. The website warned that “Those watching on the left may see the situation in Texas as an opportunity to expand their top-down, radical proposals. Two phrases come to mind: don’t mess with Texas, and don’t let a crisis go to waste.”

At Abbott’s request, President Biden has declared that Texas is in a state of emergency, freeing up federal money and supplies for the state. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has sent 60 generators to state hospitals, water plants, and other critical facilities, along with blankets, food, and bottled water. It is also delivering diesel fuel for backup power.

Heather Cox Richardson
via Facebook
February 17, 2021


Related Off-site Links
Severe Winter Storm Kills 23 People, Cuts Power to Millions as Texas Energy System FailsDemocracy Now! (February 17, 2021).
Texas Is Colder Than Alaska Right Now – Brianna Provenzano (Gizmodo, February 15, 2021).
Greg Abbott Blames Texas Power Outages on Green Energy But State Depends on Gas – Darragh Roche (Newsweek, February 17, 2021).
Chimpanzee and Monkeys Freeze to Death After Power Cut at Texas Sanctuary – Ewan Palmer (Newsweek, February 17, 2021).
Fossil Fuel Apologists Crafted Lies Now Heard on Fox, Blaming Wind Power for Texas Blackouts – Robery Mackey (The Intercept, February 17, 2021).
Texas Spent More Time Fighting LGBTQ Civil Rights Than Fixing Their Power Grid. How’d That Work Out? – Bil Browning (LGBTQ Nation, February 17, 2021).
Rick Perry Says Texans Would Rather Go Without Electricity Than Give the Federal Government More Power Over Them – Nicole Lyn Pesce (Market Watch, February 17, 2021).

UPDATES: Failed State: Texas Power Grid Collapse Impacts Millions. Black and Brown Communities Are Worst HitDemocracy Now! (February 18, 2021).
Texas’ Power Crisis Has Turned Into a Disaster That Parallels Hurricane Katrina – Sharon Zhang (TruthOut, February 18, 2021).
Man Found Frozen to Death in His Recliner in Texas as Winter Storm Death Toll Rises – Danielle Zoellner (Independent, February 18, 2021).
Texans Are Literally Freezing and Starving – Except for Ted Cruz, Who Flew to Cancun – Rafi Schwartz (Mic.com, February 18, 2021).
Forget Ted Cruz, What’s Really Missing in Texas Is the Green New Deal – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, February 18, 2021).
Houston Breweries Are Giving Away Safe, Filtered Water for Free – Emma Balter (Houston Chronicle, February 18, 2021).
Billionaire Dallas Cowboys Owner and Oil Man Cashes in on Texas Blackout Crisis – Sharon Zhang (TruthOut, February 18, 2021).
As Texas Deep Freeze Subsides, Some Households Now Face Electricity Bills As High As $10,000 – Leticia Miranda (NBC News, February 19, 2021).
Wind Turbines Didn’t Cause Texas Energy Crisis – Saranac Hale Spencer (FactCheck.org, February 19, 2021).
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Doing Ted Cruz’s Job to Provide Texas Storm Aid – Jennifer Bendery (The Huffington Post, February 19, 2021).
The Texas Power Grid Failure Is a Climate Change Cautionary Tale – Justin Worland (TIME, February 18, 2021).
The Very Loud Voice On the Right – Heather Cox Richardson (BillMoyers.com, February 18, 2021).
Rush Limbaugh Taught Republicans to Rage – Neil J. Young (The Week, February 18, 2021).
Rush Limbaugh Was a Repulsive Demagogue – Ben Burgis (Jacobin, February 19, 2021).
Rush Limbaugh Was Vital to the Conservative Movement – and Paved the Road for Trump – Steve Rendall (Common Dreams, February 24, 2021).

For more of Heather Cox Richardson’s insights at The Wild Reed, see:
Heather Cox Richardson on the Origin of the American Obsession with “Socialism”
Heather Cox Richardson on the Unravelling of President Trump
Insurrection at the United States Capitol
Election Eve Thoughts
Progressive Perspectives on Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee, Amy Coney Barrett
Progressive Perspectives on the Biden-Harris Ticket
“Fascism Is Upon Us”


Pope Francis on Lenten Fasting

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Wolfish


One of the books I’m currently reading is Katherine May’s Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times.

The following excerpt is one that speaks deeply to me. Perhaps it will speak similarly to you.

________________________


In the depths of our winters, we are all wolfish. We want in the archaic sense of the word, as if we are lacking something and need to absorb it in order to be whole again. These wants are often astonishingly inaccurate: drugs and alcohol, which poison instead of reintegrate; relationships with people who do not make us feel safe or loved; objects that we do not need, cannot afford, which hang around our necks like albatrosses of debt long after the yearning for them has passed. Underneath this chaos and clutter lies a longing for more elemental things – love, beauty, comfort, a short spell of oblivion once in a while. Everyday life is so often isolated, dreary, and lonely. A little craving is understandable. A little craving might actually be the rallying cry of survival.

In Of Wolves and Men, Barry Lopez examines the mystery of why wolves seem to kill more than they can eat. “Wolves do not get hungry in the way we normally understand hunger,” he says. “Their feeding habits and digestive systems are adapted to a feast-or-famine existence, and to procuring and processing massive amounts of food in a relatively short time. They are more or less always hungry.” Not knowing when they will find their next meal, they must ensure that their cubs and dependents have all they need. Failure to do this could mean starvation at an unspecified future point.

Perhaps the wolf is such an enduring motif of hunger because we see in them a reflection of our own selves in lean times. In winter, those hungers become especially fierce. [Yet] we can learn to respect our wolves. Despite centuries of human effort, they endure.

Katherine May
Excerpted from Wintering: The Power
of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times

Riverhead Books
pp. 158-159


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Michael Greyeyes on Temperance as a Philosophy for Surviving
Brigit Anna McNeill on “Winter’s Way”
Meeting Truth
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2019)
Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2017)
Intimate Soliloquies
Shards of Summer
The Empty Beach

Image: Photographer unknown.


Skylight

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Quote of the Day


In recent weeks, the impeachment managers assembled voluminous evidence – not least, visual evidence from inside and outside the Capitol building on the day of the violent uprising. Watching images of the mob swarming through the marble halls of the Capitol and baying for vengeance, I was startled to realize how the true nature of the event, the degree of its violence and bloody-mindedness, the calls to capture, even assassinate, leading figures in the U.S. government, was not fully known to the American people in real time. It was sickening to watch men and women lugging Confederate symbols and shouting deranged slogans – “1776!” – pound on the doors of members of Congress, eager for violence. It’s no less sickening to imagine the cynicism required of Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Lindsey Graham, and so many other Republican senators to dismiss the case as outside the bounds of the Constitution or as an instance of political opportunism.

. . . Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader, also proved to be in only temporary possession of a spine. After sending moralistic “signals” to reporters and colleagues that he was repelled by Trump’s behavior, he declared himself on Saturday morning ready to forgive and forget. “While a close call, I am persuaded that impeachments are a tool primarily of removal and we therefore lack jurisdiction,” he said in an e-mail to his Republican colleagues, saying that he would vote to acquit. McConnell’s note insured that there would be no last-minute turn against Trump. It was, of course, McConnell who had scheduled the trial to take place after Trump was out of office.

The trial ended in a sour acquittal. A shamed ex-President would inevitably declare victory.

. . . But it is no victory at all. . . . In his closing argument, Rep. Jamie Raskin [the lead impeachment manager for Trump’s trial] quoted a Black Capitol Police officer who, after being called the N-word repeatedly, after his fellow-officers were beaten, abused, bashed with flag poles, and sprayed with bear repellent, asked, “Is this America?”

History will judge Donald Trump severely for his crimes against the United States.

David Remnick
Excerpted from “History Will Find Trump Guilty
The New Yorker
February 13, 2021


Related Off-site Links:
Senate Acquits Trump in Impeachment Trial – Again – Domenico Montanaro (NPR News, February 13, 2021).
Trump Acquitted in Impeachment Trial; 7 GOP Senators Vote With Democrats to Convict – Dareh Gregorian (NBC News, February 13, 2021).
43 Republicans Condemned for “Cowardice” as Senate Votes to Acquit Donald Trump – Jake Johnson (Common Dreams, February 13, 2021).
After Acquitting Trump, McConnell Slams Him for a “Disgraceful Dereliction of Duty” – Sahil Kapur (NBC News, February 13, 2021).
Republicans Are Now the Party of Lawlessness and Disorder – Christopher D. Cook (Common Dreams, February 13, 2021).

UPDATES: An Escape, Not an Exoneration for Donald Trump – Peter Baker (The New York Times via The Irish Times, February 14, 2021).
Now Is the Time to Really Prosecute the Case Against Trump – By Pivoting to Real Democratic Reform – Jeffrey C. Isaac (Common Dreams, February 14, 2021).
Who Were the Republican Senators Afraid of When They Acquitted Their Own Attempted Murderer? – Juan Cole (Informed Comment, February 14, 2021).
Impeachment Isn’t the Final Word on Capitol Riot for Trump – Colleen Long (AP News, February 14, 2021).
Support Grows for Riot Inquiry After “Heartbreaking” Verdict – Hope Yen (AP News, February 14, 2021).
Nancy Pelosi Announces Plans for 9/11-style Commission to Examine Capitol Riot – Joanna Walters (The Guardian, February 15, 2021).
Lawsuit Accuses Trump, Giuliani and Others of Conspiring to Incite Capitol Riot – Aaron Katersky (ABC News, February 16, 2021).
There’s a “Smoking Gun” Connecting Trump to Capitol Insurrection: An Interview with Greg Palast – Scott Harris (Between the Lines, February 17, 2021).
“No Evidence” of Election Fraud in Battleground States, Statistical Analysis Finds As Trump Continues False Claims – Alison Durkee (Forbes, February 19, 2021).
Law Enforcement Officials Lay Out Evidence Capitol Riot Was “Coordinated” Attack – John Bowden (MSN News, February 23, 2021).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Dan Rather on America’s “Moment of Reckoning”
Acknowledging Where We Are
The Republican Party in a Nutshell
Quote of the Day – January 7, 2021
Insurrection at the United States Capitol
Donald Trump’s Open and Shameless Criminality
Trump’s Legacy
Marianne Williamson on America’s “Cults of Madness”
“The Republican Party Has Now Made It Official: They Are a Cult”
“Fascism Is Upon Us”
Cornel West: Quote of the Day – December 3, 2020
Progressive Perspectives on the 2020 U.S. Election Results
Republicans Don’t Care About Demorcacy
Trump’s Playbook

Image: Rep. Jamie Raskin tears up while talking with fellow impeachment managers and staff after the Senate voted to acquit former President Donald Trump at his second Senate impeachment trial – Washington, DC, February 13, 2021.