In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"


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Revolution: Ten for Today

Millions will march and fight for freedom, from oppression, from patriarchy, one million women march. I will bring my daughters, and they will know what sacrifice they must make for freedom in this country. Or they will prepare to move out of the country. 

Fight or flight, isn’t that the way of things? After the election, my first instinct was flight. That’s often my way. I never really flee physically, but I leave mentally. I thought about getting my children out of here, college in Canada or France. Thank God for duel citizenship. Just make them grow in a place where women are not objects of hate and self-loathing. Give them promise.

But for me, well, I could close the blinds, darken the room, better to light up my screen to make the words burn into my eyes. Make every word count. Quit my outside job, so I can hole up and never see them, those who ain’t woke, as my daughter would say.

She, one of my two woke daughters, likes San Francisco as a college choice. She wants to be with like-minded folks. We are a bastion of expansive values: free love, not your father’s love, expansion not contraction, possibility not improbability. They would have us roped and tethered to their poles.

I grew up in the shadows of revolution. Missed the big love by a half decade or so. But I have inherited the capital of my foremothers, my powerful free-lovers and Black Power fist pumpers. When love and revolution permeated culture by necessity, a newly emerging consciousness that the status quo needed cracking open–wide. Let the dragons loose.

So many false starts with the Bernie revolution and the 99%’ers before him. So many apathetic revolts that you could hardly classify them as disturbances, more like gastric distress. But the country has turned to the darkness of dictatorial capitalism and extremism. The pussy puppet believes he runs a show. Reality tv via the White House.

And we joke and rage and prod each other with vitriol still. The attacks and protests, where will they collide and start the conflagration. I’ve got my gas can ready. 

Image: tanya-cuba-kgb-revolution (pixabay)


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Five Years Ago–Happy Revolutions


Facebook reminds me that I have a memory from five years ago, a picture of my then 12 year old daughter in braids and new-budding body and me, lean and less harried (the intervening five years ran roughshod over my face and spirit), walking a 4th of July 5k that is an annual staple of my town, that and the parade that follows. A rare photo in that my younger daughter awoke early to participate in this event with me. She has seen me run all of her life, even gone with me via stroller or bicycle. Running and soccer predominated over our home all of her life.

Except my daughter, a soccer player since a toddler following in her older sister’s footsteps, literally, has never enjoyed running. In fact, her particular style of soccer reveals a constant strategy to minimize sprints and chases. She outsmarts rather than outruns. So, this particular photo reveals the rare and typical: the two of us in an early morning race–walking. 

I remember this day vividly. She and I raced to the race, having awakened late. By the time we reached the starting line, the race had begun and we raced along in the throngs of sneakered early-morning celebrators. We ran our race before it began, a well-known mistake for one who had run dozens of prior races, short and long. Pacing. We had not paced ourselves, so the photo captures us walking at the three-quarters mark, me with serious intent and recovery written on my expression and she with discovery and rescue broadcast on hers. We were enjoying the moment of breath and notice, me ever deep inside myself and she with wonder of the street lined masses outside.

The friend who took the picture much to my surprise traveled in a group tour with me to the Costa Rican Carribbean rain forest jungle on a yoga retreat. We became waterfall hiking companions as well as yoga classmates on the trip and afterward at the health club we both attended. I did not know he had taken the picture until he posted it on my wall. That memory and all it blankets coupled with a coffee quiet morning foreshadows a lovely 4th. 

Happy, peaceful revolutions to you all.


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Funeral Song for a Friend


Skinned raw, bleeding, humanity’s keep limps illogically along,

Leaking the source first in torrents, later in eviscerated rivulets.

No tourniquet wide, twisted nor absorbent enough to suck it all.

No One can gather it up, mop it up from the dance floor, untie it 

From the back alley fences or unstain it from the consciences of 

Ignorant name-shamer, tunnel-visioned politician or us cowards.

No formulas, statistics, truths or lies will rescue the dead-harmed

When ends and means are meaningless as exhorted truth-slayers,

When ebony bones shine word shadows projected upon the screen 

Of the inner war we wage, brushing aside ivory clarity like clouds 

dispersed in sneery derision, campaign slogans and catchphrases,  

One mind and only one will change the hearts of all, only one-kind.

When will dress rehearsals end and the real revolution begin–again? 


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Feeling no burn

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Always astounded by the lack of historical fluency of college students, I once again found myself defining terms like ‘conservative’ and ‘progressive’ and giving history lessons on the Constitutional context–revolution, tyranny and power. Most students did not even know from whom America gained its independence judging by the quiz on the first day of class. It’s always a big job to explain the story of America.

But now it’s research paper time and the readings turn political, especially advantageous in an election year: essays on gun control, torture, colonialism, free speech, economics (subprime mortgage debacle) and poverty, to name a few. My hope is that students will attach history to current events, find relevance in the story behind the polarization of just about every issue: guns-no guns, pro-life/pro-choice, as well as examine the apologists for just about everything from torture during the second Iraq war to complaints of reverse discrimination in school admissions policies. 

But after my history and vocabulary lessons, I asked my students about voting. Very few said they would vote this election on the grounds of apathy and disengagement from the process. None felt it made a difference. Where were all the enraged college students riled by the rogue candidates on both sides of the political spectrum? I was hoping to find a few Bernie Sanders enthusiasts in particular to question. From newscasters and social media accounts of his popularity, I was certain I would find a few supporters among college students. I did find one.

She liked his free college and single payer universal health care solutions and felt he was for the people and not big corporations nor Wall Street. Unfortunately, she did not stand up to gentle questioning about how she thought congress would vote regarding free college and universal health care. But she had reached the end of her thoughts on the subject and so I was on my own to speak on behalf of revolution, which is how Bernie Sanders’ words and ideas have been characterized. 

In the end, I worked myself into a lather detailing some of the best known revolutions in American history from independence to unionization to the Vietnam War’s end. They all took people getting hurt, risking life and liberty. They took numbers on foot, in the streets. Short of that, revolutions do not happen, just gradual shifts by attrition, erosion, desensitization and devolution or evolution. The pendulum keeps swinging. But Bernie’s revolution, as inviting as it sounds, is one for the streets, not the ballot. 

I am skeptical about what will happen should he get to the White House and meet with an intransigent congress as has been the trend in recent years. Will he disappoint those youth who came out to get him elected and thereby give them reason to stay home next election? I suppose that is the risk of any campaign’s success–failure to make good on promises.

We read Garrett Keizer’s “Loaded” about guns for today. Keizer is a gun-toting progressive by his own admission. After outlining the traditional camps and characterization of the two sides as either NRA gun violent nuts or tree hugging pacifists, he decries the lack of revolutionary fervor in defending rights, ideas and the Constitution. His last paragraph segued nicely into my drifting English, history and political lecture:

The harvest is great but the laborers are few. Still, if asked to choose between an urban guerrilla armed with an Ak-47 and a protester armed with a song sheet and a map showing how to get to the designated ‘free speech zone,’ I would decline on the grounds of insufficient faith and negligible inspiration. Rather, give me some people with very fanatical ideas about the sanctity of habeas corpus and the length of time an African American or any other American ought to have to wait on line to vote. Give me some people who are not so evolved that they have forgotten what it is to stand firm under fire or even to squat near the fire in a cave. Give me an accountant who can still throw a rock.